Posts for 2012

GIFABILITY

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Last winter, Dan Harmon, who was then the executive producer of the television sitcom Community, shared that he tried, “many times a season” to put star Alison Brie “in a situation, wardrobe-wise, that I know is going to end up as an animated GIF file!”[1] Those GIFs, which circulate on Tumblr and other social media networks that traffic in images, are frame-capture GIFs. Unlike other GIF types, frame-capture GIFs plainly collect and endlessly repeat a single pop cultural moment from movies, TV shows, sporting events, political occasions, newscasts, cartoons, or even video games. As GIFs are silent, text is used to share dialogue or help shepherd the meaning of a GIF. Frame-grab GIFs are low-quality, incessantly mobile things, they can be awkwardly cropped and their focus is always obviously legible. Somewhat counter to this are what Daniel Rourke has termed art GIFs,[2] which, while also frequently sourced from movies or television, contain higher resolutions and have a self-consciously highbrow pretention, usually focusing on subtler, “artistic” moments.

A frame-grab GIF

Writing in the early 1990s, Susan Stewart observed that “with the advent of film, interpretation has been replaced by watching … Here we see the increasing historical tendency toward the self-sufficient machine, the sign that generates all consequent signs, the Frankenstein and the thinking computer that have the capacity to erase their authors and, even more significantly, to erase the labor of their authors.”[3] Stewart's diagnosis of the filmic watching-state returns, in a modified form, with the frame-grab GIF. These GIFs are in some sense the ultimate in self-sufficiency, not merely in the eternal return of their endless loop, but also within what Rourke has called the co-ordination of “their own realm of correspondence.”[4]

The quality of the frame-grab GIF is important. Borrowing insights from Hito Steyerl’s analysis of the poor image, the creation and distribution of frame-grab GIFs “enables the user’s active participation in the creation and distribution of content, it also drafts them into production. Users become editors, critics, translators, and (co)authors of poor images.”[5] Perhaps due to their quality and size, frame-grab GIFs have necessarily abstracted authorship. They are deployed in variable contexts, as reactions, illustrations, or expressions. Art GIFs, on the other hand, are circulated to be admired. Their authorship is also more consistently policed, as their authors demand credit for their work.

 

An example of what Daniel Rourke terms an "art GIF" (via)

While Stewart’s description of “the sign that generates all consequent signs” is one that erases authorship, the vernacular of frame-grab GIFs does something different. Instead of completely erasing authorship, the creation of frame-grab GIFs rearranges its tenets. Generally centered on a performer, framing the actor/actress in a context removed from the narrative flow of their source media. With their behavior on display, they carry a kind of performative authorial focus within the GIF. While the GIF is not by them, it is of them...

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Five Videos: Ofri Cnaani's YES YES YES: Five Guests and Their Jouissance

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“She was not suffering … imagine! … not suffering! … indeed could not remember … off-hand … when she had suffered less … unless of course she was … meant to be suffering … ha! . . thought to be suffering … just as the odd time … in her life … when clearly intended to be having pleasure.” (Beckett, Not I, 1973).

Open lips take some interesting manifestations on screen and stage and become a convention of representation. From Bernini to Beckett, silent to scream, physical to spiritual, pleasure to pain. Five Videos, five guests, and their source for supplementary jouissance:

“In his hands I saw a great golden spear, and at the iron tip there appeared to be a point of fire. This he plunged into my heart several times so that it penetrated my entrails. When he pulled it out, I felt that he took them with it, and left me utterly consumed by the great love of God. The pain was so severe that it made me utter several moans. The sweetness caused by this intense pain is so extreme that one cannot possibly wish it to cease, nor is one's soul then content with anything but God. This is not a physical, but a spiritual pain—though the body has some share in it—even a considerable share”. (Teresa of Ávila, 1510).

The angel that pierces Bernini’s Teresa with an arrow is “not only the most beautiful angel in baroque art, it is also the most beautiful face in the entire city of Rome.”[1] Under his beauty, Teresa’s face—open lips, fainted eyes, milky cheeks—are the face of the petite mort meeting the big death. Marbled in her ecstasy, Teresa refused to accept the binary opposition between physical love and spiritual love. Her out-of-body experience reinforces man’s fantasy of seeing a woman surrender but not for any man’s trick. Her speechless lips call for so many readings. Refusing to speak, the lips become both the receiver and the transmitter: between inner body observation and external knowledge, between the lower lips and the upper ones, between being overly alive and the virtually dead.

What is she reaching for? Yes, seriously, the outlawed barefoot Carmelite…What is she getting off on? Lacan knew the answer was not the phallus. He said, “all you need but go to Rome and see the statue by Bernini to immediately understand that she’s coming. There is no doubt about it.”[2] But knew she does it for no one phallus…. Is Teresa experiencing something more than an orgasm? Can it be that women experience greater pleasure then men? Will that pleasure be an ecstasy?

 ....

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Don't Give Me the Numbers—an interview with Ben Grosser about Facebook Demetricator

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Ben Grosser is an artist, composer, and programmer based in Urbana-Champaign, Illinois. His work is highly attuned to the role of computation in changing and producing aesthetics, knowledge and social formations and much of it is available to view online at http://bengrosser.com/. Recently, Ben made a new piece of software available. Facebook Demetricator is a tool for adapting the social network's interface so that the numerical data it foregrounds is removed. No longer is the focus on how many friends one has or how many comments they've gotten, but on who those friends are and what they've written. The following interview took place by email in September 2012:


 

Facebook Demetricator demetricating likes, shares, comments, and timestamps.
Original (top), demetricated (bottom).

Facebook uses numbers as a key part of the information provided on its interface. Things, or what are there rendered as things, such as likes, friends, comments waiting, events, are all numbered as are the relation of several other kinds of things to time. Facebook Demetricator suggests that Facebook users might step away from enumeration as a way of understanding the service. What role, for you, does the number play in Facebook, and what does the Demetricator propose?

As a regular user of Facebook I continually find myself being enticed by these numbers. How many friends do I have? How much do people like my status? I focus on these quantifications, watching for the counts of responses rather than the responses themselves, or waiting for numbers of friend requests to appear rather than looking for meaningful connections. In other words, these numbers lead me to evaluate my participation within the system from a metricated viewpoint.

What's going on here is that these quantifications of social connection play right into my capitalism-inspired desire for more ...

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Rhizome's Annual Community Fundraiser

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Today, Rhizome kicks off the annual Community Fundraiser. Every year, we reach out to our community for a piece of financial support that is critical to our overall funding mix. This year, we need to raise $30,000 by January 14th and we ask that you consider making a contribution today to help us meet this goal.

 
This year marks a particularly exciting year for Rhizome, with new staff and new ideas that will help us to build on our rich history and programs. 

Your donation will help:
 
•Expand our editorial team – bringing in more writers from around the world.
•Host Rhizome events and exhibitions beyond NYC – reaching our international community.
•Secure crucial tools and equipment for preservation – preserving works of art with a strengthened conservation program.
•Commission new works of art – directly supporting artists through grants.
•Improve development of the Rhizome website – making it easier for you to use.
 
The biggest reward we can offer is knowing that you've helped Rhizome continue. On top of this, seven artists from the Rhizome community have generously donated limited-edition artworks for this year's fundraiser — a gesture of their support for the organization.

Donate now and receive as our thank you, works by Sebastian Schmieg and Silvio Lorusso, ReCode Project, Tabor Robak, Adam Harvey, Phillip Stearns and Matthew Plummer-Fernandez.

As a non-profit organization, Rhizome relies on the community to help realize our mission and goals. We are a small but extremely passionate group of people dedicated to supporting art engaged with technology. If you’ve visited the Rhizome website, discovered a new artist, used the Artbase to view seminal works, posted on the community boards, read and shared an article, come to our events, or engaged with Rhizome in any number of ways – please consider donating this year.

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Blurred Images: Lana Lin at Gasworks

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Taiwan Video Club

Lana Lin’s work, on display at Gasworks in London, confronts us with a number of topics: translation, identity, cultural production, and familial reflection. In doing so, her films seek to destabilize our assured hold on what we imagine we understand. In Taiwan Video Club (1999), Lin presents a Taiwanese subculture that records, trades, and holds dear, video recordings of miniseries that are shown daily on television. As we watch a participant in this practice explain her life with her collection of recordings, Lin cuts in clips and sound from the series, providing insight to a specific time and place, not to mention a specific medium which dominated it. As we come to understand this unit of Taiwanese pop-culture, Lin engages in a running commentary of sorts, provided through visual metaphors and homonyms.

Recording from TV to VHS could be seen as an apt analogy for the process of translation and cultural production that Lin seeks to examine. The final “product” in each case is a copy of the original, inevitably tinged by the process. As anyone who has spent time battling with VHS can tell you, no copy is ever pristine; there remain in the copy the battle scars of mediation: warped sound and image, deterioration of picture, the familiar markings of “CUE”, “STILL”, and “CH-3” all mark the material as part of a process and mode of production unique to video. The lens of Taiwan Video Club operates as a check on the lens of the viewer. Though we come to understand a great deal about this world of VHS-naughts, and Taiwanese daytime television, Lin maintains a field of formal intervention never lets us settle on any one interpretation of what we see.

Mysterial Power (1998-2002) projects four different short films on each of four ...

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Drone's Eye View: A Look at How Artists are Revealing the Killing Fields

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Jaar, Yemen, October 18 2012 / 7-9 killed.
Image from Dronestagram by James Bridle

The unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), or drone, has become one of the most potent weapons of contemporary warfare. Remotely controlled by operators thousands of miles away from the theatre of war, drones carry out aerial attacks which leave hundreds of people dead. The increasing amount of ‘collateral damage’ from US drone strikes on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, recently lead prominent politician, Imran Khan, to lead a high-profile protest against their use.

Drone Vision by Trevor Paglen

Artists have been actively documenting the impact of the use of drones in warfare for some years now.  Trevor Paglen’s Drone Vision, recently on show at Lighthouse in Brighton, provides us with a chilling “drones-eye-view” of a landscape, enabling us to see what drone-operators see.

Five Thousand Feet is the Best by Omer Fast

The utterly compelling and disturbing film installation, Five Thousand Feet is the Best by Israeli artist Omer Fast, tells the story of a former Predator drone operator, recalling his experience of using drones to fire at civilians and militia in Afghanistan and Pakistan. At one stage of the film, he describes the use of what marines refer to as “the light of god”, the laser targeting marker, which is used to direct hellfire missiles to their intended target.

“We call it in, and we’re given all the clearances that are necessary, all the approvals and everything else, and then we do something called the Light of God – the Marines like to call it the Light of God. It’s a laser targeting marker. We just send out a beam of laser and when the troops put on their night vision goggles they’ll just see this light that looks like it’s coming from heaven. Right on the spot, coming out of nowhere, from the sky. It’s quite beautiful.” (quoted from Five Thousand Feet is the Best).

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Five Videos: Angelo Plessas' Materialization

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Since the early days of the web, some of us have tried to re-contextualize materiality in the vast territory that is the internet landscape. But nowdays, it does not sound irrational to point out that online artifacts, like webpages, gifs, bots, software, or applications have material properties. Digital "objects" are physical because they are embedded either in "physical" and tangible containers such bits and bytes in local hard drives somewhere in middle America, or they take up server space in the cloud of virtual sandboxes during their journey of uploading or downloading.

Tim Berners-Lee envisioned the semantic web as the “‘intelligent agents’ people have touted for ages will finally materialize." In other words, the visionary founder of the World Wide Web was saying that the semantic web will enable users to find, share, and combine information more easily. Our machines are the intelligent agents. Since then, we all became hospitable to these "intelligent agents" using them to search for online content. Each one of us is linked with images, with associated stories, which are building a mental scape responding to our emotions.

The selection of these videos are an amalgam of these notions, offering a metaphorical and poetic view on materialization and existence either by their aesthetics, their creative process, or their conceptual meaning. Watching them in this sequence, the departure point is nature as physical reality continuing more spiritually with more metaphysical notions of life.


"The Solar Film" (excerpt) by Saul + Elaine Bass



An excerpt from the short movie created by the famous designer and his wife. A thoughtful and beautiful film about the sun and its meaning for the future. Although a film about energy and technology can be didactic or mundane, the directors did not use enviromental cliches and propaganda. Instead they used fascinating images which conveyed positive messages and thinking...

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Guide to Future-Present Archetypes Part 5: Schematic Maps

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UCSD robot mouse.

When attempting to map out the Future-Present, there is not just one map to consider; there are three. These three categorical types of map—our mental maps, symbolic maps, and broken maps--are each a schematic layer in our effort to perceive the world, and it is in their dissonance that the world actually exists. We must identify not only what these maps are, but what they are when they fail. In the fractures, one sees the spidering web of weaknesses, the many possible scenarios of rupture that select without warning. Reality is unpredictable, bursting from its constraining archetypes. And yet it is uncannily similar to all the breaks we’ve seen before, like a river delta resembling a tree.

The first category of map resides somewhere in the brain, perhaps in the hippocampus. It is through these networks that our neurology gives us a sense of space that we might try to express, record, and share with others. In studies performed on mice, “place fields” have been identified in their hippocampal neurons. Everytime the mouse passes through a particular known place in its terrain, a burst of action potential fires through the same neurons. We know less about the human brain, but it is clear that our hippocampus is important to forming memories, and that larger hippocampi correlate with people who have more detailed place knowledge, London cab drivers, for example. Somewhere, lurking inside the chemical differences between the inside and outside of neurons, in the minor voltages and in the ever-changing and evolving cell pattern of our neuroanatomy, is a material record of what we mean when we sense our geography. We cannot read this map— we can only think it. We express this map’s imperfections via our senses. When this map fails, we feel lost.


The second map is spoken aloud, in the possibility of uttering a symbolic map. Humans are never content at forming schema and just keeping them to themselves. Our schemas are meant to be shared, explained, inscribed, and signified. But the topology of these symbolic maps are as complicated and multifaceted as our neurology. It was Alfred Korzybski who constructed the phrase so relevant to our contemporary times, as the second part of a statement first spoken in 1931:

A) A map may have a structure similar or dissimilar to the structure of the territory...

B) A map is not the territory.

...

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Artist Profile: Amalia Ulman

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Weeping Mountain (2010)




What prompted you to take an anthropological or almost ethnographic approach to studying the lifestyles of (in your words) contemporary middle class Southern Europeans? How do you find it to be a helpful or destabilizing methodology for subverting what might more typically be discussed as issues of class and taste?

Most of my contemporaries whose work I enjoy the most are American and I always felt like there wasn't too much of a discourse regarding Europe, especially not about countries like Spain, Portugal, Italy and Greece - their lower middle classes, youth and the NINI generation; because of their aesthetics being considered as bland, boring and unappealing.

Their lack of exoticism was the reason I started to feel attracted to these topics. As someone with dual-nationality, in England everyone would always try to exploit the Latin-American side of me and, even though my upbringing took place in Spain, this fact was always to be hidden and neglected in favour of an exotizised biography. Because Spain is a boring country, with most of it's population living on a welfare system which doesn't even come from its own government but from an idealised Europe, where youth is forever studying due to unemployment and lack of prospects, where everything is a simulacra. After being forced to drive my attention to an idealised, flashy and colourful idea of the third world, I decided to focus on duller representations of the second world, mainly because it is what I experienced throughout my life, what I know about and what I feel in the right to analyse.

I'm interested in class differences: how they affect social interaction, emotions, attraction and relations. I'm fascinated by class imitation, con artistry, and how humans utilise fashion to define themselves within a circle ...

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Prosthetic Knowledge Picks: Web Toys

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Online browser-based projects which you can play or create with from the Prosthetic Knowledge Tumblr archive:


 



YATTA!

Developed by Emilio Gomariz and Kim Asendorf (under the guise MAADONNA), you can drag an image from your desktop into the page to be transformed into a matrix of animated icons. There are various sets including classic animated emoticons (both Western and Japanese) and sprite blocks from old Nintendo games (such as Super Mario Brothers, pictured above).

You can try it out for yourself here.
[PK Link

Neticones


Similar to YATTA! is this piece which can convert your image into a matrix made up of Facebook icons (Webcam needed).

Try it out here.
PK Link

Streetview Stereographic


This webtoy takes Google Streetview photographic images and turns them into 'Little Worlds' style fisheye panoramas. It has even been used to create videos, here by Halcob

You can try it out here
[PK Link
]

ASCII Streetview




Another Streetview project, this one turns it's photographic panoramas into ASCII text characters (including new data which is captured inside buildings)

Texter




Made by Tim Holam, this tool allows you to draw with words, sentences and paragraphs. You can choose whatever text you wish to use, change it's colour, and save the results.


You can try it out here and view Tim's other projects here.

WebcamMesh


Fun webcam toy by Felix Turner turns your visual feed into a trippy 3D mesh, running on HTML5 in your browser (Note: Only works with Chrome and Opera).


Try it out here
[PK Link]

Webcam Displacement



Another webcam toy, this by Mr.doob (aka Ricardo Cabello) which turns the visual feed into pseudo-3D forms (Chrome required).


Try it out here
[PK Link]

Other Links:

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