Posts for November 2011

AIDS 3D interviews Jon Rafman

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In Kaleidoscope, AIDS 3D interviews Jon Rafman: 

Aids3d: As an artist you’ve got a lot of different things going on. Do you think it’s important as an artist to have a seemingly cohesive body of work, or at least some kind of delineation between different sub-practices. Could you outline some structure that organizes your practice as a whole?

Jon Rafman: What ties my practice together is not so much a particular style, form, or material but an underlying perception of contemporary experience and a desire to convey this understanding. One theme that I am continually interested in is the way technology seems to bring us closer to each other while simultaneously estranging us from ourselves. Another one is the quest to marry opposites or at least have conversations between them, the past and the present, the romantic and the ironic, even though these conversations often end in total clashes. All my work tends to combines irony, humor and melancholy.
Rafman donated two prints from A New Age Demanded (2011) series for Rhizome's Community Campaign. Check out the other great artists who donated limited edition artworks available only during the Campaign, which ends January 14th.

 

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Virtual Spectacle: A Conversation with Wafaa Bilal

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Wafaa Bilal, Domestic Tension (still), 2007

For the past ten months, Iraqi-born New York–based artist Wafaa Bilal has been documenting everything that happens behind him. A camera has been fastened to the back of his head that automatically takes a photograph every minute. The project, 3rd I, is an attempt to capture the mundane, to create an archive of the everyday we leave behind, and put it all online. Two months before 3rd I culminates and becomes an inanimate archive and a few days after Bilal changed the mounted camera he has been using for the project in favor of a new one, designed to match a plaster cast of his skull, we met to talk about it and some earlier works, and talk about ideas concerning the archive, online and offline space, and slowness.

When considering the extreme nature of some of Bilal's works, like Domestic Tension, where the artist lived in a gallery for the duration of the performance, allowing online viewers to direct a paintball gun at him, or Virtual Jihadi, where Bilal casts himself as a suicide bomber in an Al-Qaeda version of a videogame called "Quest for Saddam," it may induce viewers to discuss these in terms of spectacle. In fact, the spectacle here is part of the performance and should not be confused with the point of the performance. In conversation, Bilal—an artist who thinks about his work complexly and discusses it eloquently—talks about his recent work 3rd I, as well as past works, in terms of his dialogue with the history of art, with the public, and with his personal engagement with politics and history.


 

You talk about 3rd I in the context of ideas of "slowness." This term is becoming increasingly commonplace, especially among people who work with new media. But your idea of slowness includes an intense, long-term commitment too, that is political, physical, and emotional. Now that the project is nearing its one-year finishing line, do you talk about slowness differently?

You're right. In the last few years, a lot of people are trying to slow down technology, I think this nostalgic notion of technology or interactivity is disappearing. I don't know if it's a fatigue or if the medium exhausted itself because there was such a great promise for interactivity and I think artists found their limitation with it making it increasingly complicated. In terms of slowing things down, we are so overwhelmed with these images that we lost any still moment in personal space, so a lot of us are wishing, I don't know if it's possible, to slow things down and shield that personal space.. 

 

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Weekend Clicking

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“Secret Society,” installation view, CAPC, Bordeaux

  • Escape the Map, a Google Streetview interactive short sci-fi film made by Mercedes-Benz (via Kill Screen)
  • The phone hacking scandal exposed the failures of traditional institutions to maintain boundaries, distinctions and thresholds against the spectrallike entity of contemporary corporate media. - Sam Jacob in Domus on "The Architecture of Corporate Media"
  • N+1 editor Keith Gessen was arrested yesterday morning during the protest. The Awl lists other reporters who have been arrested during Occupy Wall Street.
  • “I think that speed is part of the innovation process. If ideas aren’t built on with a sense of urgency, time can pass you by.” Fast Company talks with DARPA director Regina Dugan...

 

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Sade for Sade's Sake - Paul Chan (2010)

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Sade for Sade's Sake (2010) is a data CD containing 21 truetype fonts and a collection of digital artworks by artist Paul Chan, which Chan donated for Rhizome's Community Campaign. Words correspond with individual letters turning what might be ordinary sentences into coded—and often erotic—poetry. 

Over the summer, Rhizome contributor Sarah Hromack interviewed Paul Chan asking about his work considering books, language, and text: A Thing Remade: A Conversation with Paul Chan.

Rhizome's Community Campaign ends January 14th. Please donate today!

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Artist Profile: Steve Bishop

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Detail of 16:9 II, 2011, LCD screen, Astonish 'Jasmine & Wild Berries,' glass, wood.

You have a very interesting relationship with objects and things. A slight touch, for example in Kicking Me When I'm Down of 2008, where a laundry drying rack is compiled from strip lights with white underclothes hanging from it, changes the meaning of what we see as an object—be it neon light, drying rack, or drying clothes—and how we perceive material, things, and art historical tradition (which is my way of saying Dan Flavin). Can you talk a little bit about the use of found objects, and whether or not you see your work as part of a growing discussion of the "thing" (or animism, or thingness, as it has been referred to as well) in the art context?

Aside from those drying rack pieces which were about strip lights coming from a design background to art and back to design, I don't really think about the history of objects in terms the art lexicon of used material—but rather something more in tune with its position outside of the artwork. I feel it's best to talk about the material in my work in terms of pre-fabricated or fabricated objects because sometimes I'll find something and use it but just as often I'll find something and have it remade slightly different, so it's slippery referring to things as a 'found object'. I think either way, made or re-made, it still comes to me at my studio as something new that I have to work out in the same way. And as long as the object operates in the way of a found object—has a previous social use or familiarity but is somewhat impersonal in its making—then ...

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Revolutionary Convergences: History and Symbolism in Anonymous and OWS Art

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Left: United Nations Officials with an unofficial U.N. flag, 1947, Right: Anonymous members with flags in the UK from flickr, 2008

Anonymous operates under a well-designed logo. Does it belie their dispersed identity or siphon power from historical symbols to disrupt our own associations to them? The aesthetics of past revolutionary movements point more towards the second possibility. We see this link to history in the poster designs of Occupy Wall Street — new digital tools under visual constraints produce an early 20th century screen printer’s aesthetic with formal motifs of the same era.

New technology and historical technique are converging, and so are the symbols being used to deliver the message. The visual traces of current aesthetics draw on the deep roots of history and the powerful associations images and symbols therefore possess, allowing us to make quick associations to the power of the Roman Empire or the strength of the Greek Gods all in a glance at a tiny logo. Turning back to Anonymous —What can we learn by systematically decoding their symbolism? And how do their aesthetics relate to their actions as international and anonymous activists? 

Searching for these convergences online often reveals infinite Platonic shades of nearly identical images. But occasionally, if you sift past the first helping of results, you can uncover some remarkable connections.

Born in part from the image boards of 4chan, internet image culture was Anonymous’ early stock-in-trade. But above the rabble of trollish GIFs and dinosaur ASCI art they have developed themselves into a brand. Their logo, which dramatically leads many Anonymous affiliated YouTube videos, is wrapped in screen interference, reminiscent of military surveillance cam signals, and backed by equivalently dramatic classical sound clips. On the AnonOps blog the logo lives in static forms; black and white, ironically layered against a sea of 1s and 0s, and as the favicon...

 

 

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Review: Jack Strange at Tanya Bonakdar

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Jack Strange, “Deep Down”
Tanya Bonakdar through Dec 22

Normally, if one were to ask whether it’s possible to successfully create art by smearing your own blood on a gallery wall, and to evade coming off like a desperate emo teenager, I would respond with an unequivocal “absolutely not.” Blood is one of those materials that you not only want to avoid hanging out with, but also, in an art context, it comes with the most exaggerated eye rolls and “what-the-hell-were-they-thinking”s imaginable. Yet, in his latest exhibition British artist Jack Strange reveals a trick or two to convince us that bloodbathing a white cube, among other head-shakers, may in fact be a right step in considering the art of the present.

Jack Strange’s second solo show at Tanya Bonakdar, “Deep Down,” peregrinates through various media. The show coheres by way of an overarching curiosity for the slippery human consciousness, and the all-too-common instances in which we as people project our image onto dumb objects and animals in order to better understand ourselves. Beginning with the aforementioned over-the-top cloudy smear of his own blood (replete with HA HA HA’s inscribed in pencil), the show meanders through overly slick Neo-Dada assemblages of fruit pits suspended in vitrines fitted with earbuds, to cutesy cross-sectioned vegetables seemingly springing off the wall, and perhaps even less predictably, a curiously dry sound installation that may have well as been made in the 60’s. Strange also dabbles with some “new media,” encasing an iPod Touch in a ceiling-hung plastic bag, which houses another plastic bag filled with water. The works, titled “All Fish,” “All Sharks,” etc., play cartoon aquatic animals on the encased iPods, the animations originally created for an e-card. The e-card animation is then programmed to utter its stream of ...

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Rhizome's Director of Technology on Why You Should Give Today to Help Rhizome Innovate!

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We're almost midway through our annual Community Campaign and grateful for the generous support we've recieved from our members. However, we are still far from our $25,000 goal so we ask that you please make a donation today to help support Rhizome into the next year!

Below, Nick Hasty Rhizome's Director of Technology, provides insight on how our community's support is vital to innovation at Rhizome.org.

Technology-wise, with the launch of our new website and art archive, 2011 has been a transformative year for Rhizome. This kind of ambitious, large-scale development is a massive challenge for an organization with Rhizome’s staff size, and we couldn't have done it without support from our membership.

http://rhizome.org/support/donate/

The Rhizome website is a complex platform, containing some 220,000 lines of code and, with over 15 years worth of content, more than 125,000 individual pages as indexed by Google. These numbers are a considerable sum for any website, but for a non-profit with a single developer / sysadmin, they represent a challenge that's simultaneously both exciting and daunting. Like the rest of the staff, I am motivated by the daily engagement the site receives, whether by artists, academics, or technologists eager to learn more about our field.

Since launching the new site, community engagement has boomed. From overall site traffic to announcements to portfolios, we've seen tremendous growth in all the service we offer, and we're thrilled to know that our community finds great value in Rhizome. We plan to continue listening to your feedback, improving our offerings and creating innovative tools for documenting, archiving, promoting, and researching digital art.

In the coming year, I anticipate growth and innovation in the following areas:

+ More collaborations with artists to create ...

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Projected Projects: Slides, PowerPoints, Nostalgia, and a Sense of Belonging

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The discipline of art history used to have a sound, the click and growl of the slide projector. It had a look, too, that was composed of darkened lecture halls and sometimes-blurry images of a unified size.

Kodak stopped manufacturing 35mm slide projectors in 2004, a decision in line with the company's current focus on digital photography. The website dedicated to Kodak slide projectors has been archived as a frozen version, current as of November 2004. Soon enough, that website would seem as old fashioned as the famous poster celebrating the invention of the carousel slide projector.

ABC's "Mad Men" credited Don Draper, the head copywriter at the ad firm the show focuses on, as the inventor of the term "the carousel," for Kodak's then-cutting edge technology. In the scene where he pitches the term to Kodak, he states, "The Greeks call it nostalgia. [...] It's a twinge in your heart, far more powerful than memory alone."

The fact that slide projectors are now becoming a technology on the verge of death invokes a new feeling of nostalgia. Slide projectors were commonly used for varied purposes, from the family slideshow through the business meeting display, and up to illustrated lectures. These devices were commonplace and their aesthetic, sound, and use bring up familiarity and a certain tradition.

In 2005, shortly after Kodak's announcement that it will no longer produce slide projectors, curator Darsie Alexander at the Baltimore Museum of Art organized the exhibition "Slideshow." Featuring nineteen works made between the 1960s and the early 2000s by artists such as Robert Smithson, Dennis Oppenheim, Ceal Floyer, and Dan Graham, "Slideshow" celebrated the medium itself. It was presented in a series of darkened rooms where the only light came from the slide projectors and the sound of the changing slides echoed throughout...

 

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"Cosineve and the Old Internet": Ed Halter in Red Hook, Journal for Curatorial Studies

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Usenet's interface


 

Red Hook is a new online journal that originates at the Center for Curatorial Studies at Bard College, NY. The new journal considers online readership on a number of levels, such as its self-reflexive discussions on what an online journal on curating could be, its consideration of other online platforms, and its relationship to the online image.

In his text for the journal, Ed Halter, visiting faculty at Bard's Electronic Arts Program (and Rhizome contributor) recalls the early days of Usenet, a collection of internet discussion boards, and focuses on alt.cult-movies, an active film discussion board. The essay looks into the character of Cosineve, an unknown writer who appeared on the discussion board, writing reviews under numerous online identities but in a consistent style. Cosineve's texts, about twenty in all, spanning between 1996 and 1999, are faux film reviews, the titles of which all used the word "fish," and—as Halter points out—may have referenced real movies. 

Halter surveys a certain culture of online cult followings before it had permanent homes that "domesticated" these phenomena on dedicated (more or less so) websites:

I was not the only fan of Cosineve's work. Within days of Cosineve's first flurry of posts in October 1996, responses began to appear from other readers. Following up a review of Death Fish, one user asked "Does anyone else think this guy's actually way ahead of his time, and is spouting something that we, as mere mortals, just can't comprehend?" "He's definitely on the Cutting Edge (of something) and should be encouraged to continue," replied another. "He could be the next Tarantino, for all we know." A self-described "recent convert" suggested that "there should be a separate newsgroup for the fans of the fish to ...

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