The deadline for Rhizome's 2011 Commissions cycle is coming up - May 1st! Make sure you get your applications in. Full details here. Hop to it!
R-U-In?S is a project initiated by artist Kari Altmann in 2009 as a call for collaboration and participation in a new form of critical visual practice. Concerned with a set of future-driven, embodied, and often commercial aesthetics, the project has evolved from a tumblr feed to a network of multiple sites, artists, and identities. Below, Jacob Gaboury interviews Kari Altmann in collaboration with Sam Hancocks of Visual AIDS on just what R-U-In?S is and what it has become.
JG: How would you describe the vision of R-U-In?S?
The artist Kota Ezawa meticulously transforms found footage from television, cinema, and art history into simplified two dimensional vector-based animations. In City of Nature, a video commission for Madison Square Art currently installed in Madison Square Park, Ezawa appropriates and deconstructs excerpts from popular films including Jaws, Fitzcarraldo, Deliverance, and Brokeback Mountain. Removing all human presence, Ezawa concentrates on nature as the work's subject, and its relationship with our visual representation of it. Decontextualized and stripped of any narrative content, the film clips are recognizable, yet untraceable, emphasizing the pervasive and subconscious influence of popular visual media on our collective unconscious. The installation of the four screens in the center of the park's natural but constructed environment further accentuates the dichotomy of real and artificial landscapes.
How is folk culture defined in the digital age? This is the question that renowned artists Olia Lialina and Dragan Espenschied set out to answer in their new book, Digital Folklore (2010), an anthology that examines an emergent kind of amateur, popular art: the kind made by computer users. The artists write: “Users’ endeavors, like glittering star backgrounds, kittens, and rainbow gradients, are mostly derided as kitsch or in the most extreme cases, postulated as the end of culture itself. In fact this evolving vernacular, created by users for users, is the most important, beautiful and misunderstood language of new media.” At this talk, part of the monthly New Silent Series, Lialina and Espenschied will present their groundbreaking book, and their new definition of contemporary folk art.
Join us for Rhizome's 15th Anniversary Benefit on April 21st. We'll be honoring Rhizome's founder Mark Tribe. Live performances by Title TK and Ducktails. Art installation by Ryder Ripps and a display of 15 works from Rhizome's Artbase.
7pm VIP Cocktails
1. Glowing Rectangles
For all the diversity of the contemporary media ecology - network, broadcast, games, mobile - one technical form is entirely dominant. Screens are everywhere, at every scale, in every context. As well as the archetypal "big" and "small" screens of cinema and television we are now familiar with pocket- and book-sized screens, public screens as advertising or signage, urban screens at architectural scales. As satirical news site The Onion observes, we "spend the vast majority of each day staring at, interacting with, and deriving satisfaction from glowing rectangles."
Formally and technically these screens vary - in size and aspect ratio, display technology, spatiotemporal limits, and so on. They are united however in two basic attributes, which are something like the contract of the screen. First, the screen operates as a mediating substrate for its content - the screen itself recedes in favor of its hosted image. The screen is self-effacing (though never of course absent or invisible). This tendency is clearly evident in screen design and technology; we prize screens that are slight and bright - those that best make themselves disappear. Apple's "Retina" display technology claims to have passed an important perceptual threshold of self-effacement, attaining a spatial density so high that individual pixels are indistinguishable to the naked eye (below - image Bryan Jones).
The second key attribute of contemporary digital screens is their tendency to generality. The self-effacing substrate of the screen is increasingly a general-purpose substrate - unlinked to any specific content type; equally capable of displaying anything - text, image, web site, video, or word-processor. This attribute is coupled of course to the generality of networked computing; since the era of multimedia the computer screen has led the way in modeling itself as a container for anything (just as the computer models itself a "machine for anything"). The past decade has simply seen this general-purpose container proliferate across scales and contexts, ushering us into the era of glowing rectangles.
However over the past decade in design and the media arts, a wave of practice has appeared which as this paper will argue, resists the dominance of the glowing rectangle. Given the near-total cultural saturation of the screen, this is unsurprising, given the ongoing cultural dance of fringe and mainstream in which this practice participates. This is not simply a story of resistance however. In proposing and describing two particular strains of "post-screen" practice, this paper aims firstly to outline the shared terms of their relationship with the screen, and in the process develop a more detailed sense of these conceptual devices of generality, outlined above, and its opposite, specificity. Secondly, and more briefly, it outlines a theorisation of this practice, invoking transmateriality, an account of the paradoxical materiality of (especially digital) media, and Gumbrecht's notion of presence.
-- EXCERPT FROM "AFTER THE SCREEN: ARRAY AESTHETICS AND TRANSMATERIALITY" BY MITCHELL WHITELAW
[Note: Whitelaw explored some of the ideas in this paper previously in his "Right Here, Right Now - HC Gilje's Networks of Specificity" republished in Rhizome News on December 20, 2009]
In a fundamental sense, technology is deeply non-human. While we might apply a humanist logic to the function and workings of technological systems, and view technological objects as extensions of the human body and its capacity for adaptive prosthesis, the very purpose of technology is to be that which the human is not or to achieve that which the human could not otherwise do. As such, technology exists beyond the humanist understanding of the individual, the body, and the subject, particularly in contemporary network culture in which technology is in part transformed from concrete and material objects into molecular, adaptive, and often invisible systems. Much as with the animal world, technology seems to suggest a mode of communication and media beyond that of human language, a mode of being or becoming that exceeds our own.
In Insect Media (University of Minnesota Press, 2010),1 Jussi Parikka traces an archaeology of non-human media. More specifically, he is interested in the relationship between animal and machine, and the unique history of the insect as a technological model from the late 19th century through to the present. While insects are often viewed as models for contemporary media practices such as swarming, smart mobs, and collaborative forms of production, Parikka makes insects the object of his media historical project, transforming "media as insects," into "insects as media."