Posts for March 2011

Big Reality

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Eddo Stern, Creative Anachronism, 2004

“From Nethack to play-by-post forums on the WWW,” an Ars Technica blogger wrote in 2009, “the first thing that computer geeks do upon inventing a new medium is play Dungeons and Dragons with it.” With this half-joking riposte to conventional wisdom that new communications media are appropriated first by pornographers, the blogger introduced a roundup of instructions for adding dice rollers to Google Wave to make it a platform for turn-based role-playing games. Of course, links between computing and RPGs predate networked technology. Some of the earliest computer games were made by programmers who played D&D; and saw the connection between dice and digits. Another parallel might be drawn between the do-it-yourself culture around computing in the 1970s and the amateur storytelling demanded by RPGs. Even while computer use leaves less to the imagination today than it did thirty-five years ago, it still shares more characteristics with RPGs than older forms of entertainment do. The creator(s) of a novel, movie, or drama have combined details into a whole by the time it reaches an audience; those media come with spatial and temporal guidelines for consumption. But just as network connections are constant and pervasive, RPGs are open-ended, played with regularity and long-term commitment. Gaming (like, say, tweeting) doesn’t have the same distance between medium and audience as reading or film-going – there is a constant awareness of the self’s participation in a bigger system, and a feeling of contribution to it. RPGs, like internet use, move at the speed of life.

I think this affinity is what has prompted many artists to include allusions to RPGs in their works. Whether they adapt the forking structures or the surface details of fantasy and science fiction, whether those references are direct or oblique, references to the culture around RPGs can be shorthand for reality’s mediation by immaterial systems. Some examples: Brody Condon’s remakes of medieval paintings with game graphics, Eddo Stern’s animation of a gaming-forum flame war, Deb Sokolow’s choose-your-own-adventure drawings, the arcane protests of the Center for Tactical Magic, Sterling Crispin’s scrying devices, and the occult forms behind altar .gifs on dump.fm. These artists a have relationship to fantasy that’s distinctly different from ones who make monster portraits and fantastic battle scenes – a genre that’s also become more visible in contemporary art the last few years. (That trend, I’d say, comes because popular and critical approval for Peter Saul and Tim Burton has emboldened a younger generation of “outsider artists” who grew up with RPGs.) Indie fantasy art, like the illustrations in novels and gaming manuals, that inspire it, is about virtuosic draftsmanship and imagination. It showcases fine renderings of dragon scales and weaponry. The examples I listed above have rough edges where processes of imagination and play visibly collide with other frames of reference. Often, they achieve this by bringing technology to the foreground.

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Call for Applications: Harvestworks' New Works Residency 2011/2012

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Harvestworks is looking for applicants for their New Works Residency Program. More info below, deadline is May 1, 2011.

The New Works Residency Program offers commissions of up to $4000 to make a new work in our state of the art digital media facility. The artist works with a project manager, engineer and programmer (if required). New works may include multiple channel audio or video installations, interactive performance systems, data visualization or projects involving hardware hacking, circuit bending or custom built interfaces, as well as projects that use the web. Emerging artists and artists of color are encouraged to apply. Residencies run from July 1, 2011 - June 30, 2012.

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it's all about the lighting (2011) - Jacob Broms Engblom

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Stripes (2011) - Florian and Michael Quistrebert

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Niodrara (2010) - Sara Ludy

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Aquarelles (1980) - Tom DeWitt, Vibeke Sorensen and Dean Winkler

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Video by Tom DeWitt, Vibeke Sorensen and Dean Winkler. Music by Vibeke Sorensen.

Originally via Diamond Variations

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Scroll Tone RGB (2011) - Travess Smalley

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Produced for Constant Dullaart's Public Interfacial Gesture Salon

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Seven on Seven, May 14, 2011

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Presented by AOL, Seven on Seven is a major conference that pairs seven leading artists with seven game-changing technologists in teams of two, and challenges them to develop something new --be it an application, social media, artwork, product, or whatever they imagine-- over the course of a single day. The seven teams will work together at locations around the New York City on May 13th, 2011, and unveil their ideas at a one-day event at the New Museum on May 14, 2011. Seven on Seven is organized by Rhizome.

This year's participants are:

ARTISTS:
Michael Bell-Smith
Ricardo Cabello (mr.doob)
Cao Fei
Liz Magic Laser
Zach Lieberman
Rashaad Newsome
Camille Utterback

TECHNOLOGISTS:
Andy Baio
Ben Cerveny
Jeri Ellsworth
Kellan Elliott-McCrea
Bre Pettis
Chris Poole (moot)
Erica Sadun

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Note: The hashtag for Seven on Seven on twitter is #AOL7on7


Video Vortex #6: Beyond YouTube

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The sixth Video Vortex conference was held in Amsterdam at Trouw, a building that used to house the printing presses where the eponymous newspaper was created. These days, Trouw is a restaurant and club and occasional conference venue. The venue’s former purpose reinforced the passing of the torch from old news media to the online media being discussed, alongside other relevant topics, at Video Vortex. Michael Strangelove, the first speaker of the day, referred to the “holocaust of capitalism” and how online video enables a subversion of the notion of culture as private property. As newspapers struggle to redefine themselves in this online era - the New York Times’ new paywall being a prime example - the war of ownership over content resonated not only throughout the conference sessions but even in the venue’s inkstained floors.

The initial speakers of the day, Michael Strangelove and Andrew Clay, made salient points about the notion of “compulsory visibility” (Foucault, via Strangelove) online, the “douchebag effect” induced by online video platforms (Strangelove), and the communities and revenue streams which develop around online smash hits such as Annoying Orange (Clay). Talk of douchebag effects and inane chattering fruit was unfortunately juxtaposed with the gravity of the tragic earthquake and tsunami in Japan, unfolding at the very same time. All morning, YouTube quickly populated with shocking videos of the damage, and it seemed immediately inappropriate to ponder how many millions Annoying Orange makes.

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High Five (2011) - Niko Princen

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Originally via today and tomorrow

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