Posts for September 2012

Rhizome in Brighton, Liverpool

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Joanne McNeil, the editor of Rhizome, will be in the UK over the next two weeks, speaking at these upcoming events:

 

Improving Reality, organized by the Lighthouse Foundation, part of Brighton Digital FestivalSept 6, 2012

Session 1. The Edge of Reality: How do speculative fictions, alternate realities, and radically new conceptions of time help shape our experience of reality? Today, writers, designers and artists are working with techniques and ideas which only a few years ago would have been considered science fiction. This sessions presents tales from the edge of reality, near-future designs, unlikely inventions, time travel and atemporality. Speakers include Warren Ellis, Anab Jain, Leila Johnston, and Joanne McNeil.

Artist Talk, organized by FACT, part of the Liverpool Biennial
Sept 13, 2012

Come and join artists Anja Kirschner, David Panos and Jemima Wyman who are exhibiting at FACT as part of Liverpool Biennial. Alongside Joanne McNeil, Editor of Rhizome, they will explore and respond to provocations set by the Biennial's 2012 exhibition, The Unexpected Guest

 

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An Interview with Superlative TV

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As part of England’s nationwide switchover from analog to digital tele-broadcasting, London’s official analog signal went down on April 18, 2012. While dumpsters citywide filled with old TV sets, a flurry of commemorative activity sprung up in the art world. Most notably London’s Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) staged Remote Control, a large survey show examining prominent artists’ responses to television; and across town pioneering British video artist David Hall staged 1001 TV Sets (End Piece), 1972 – 2012, an epic installation in which 1001 sets, tuned to one of five UK analog channels, gradually transitioned from color broadcasts to snow and noise.

Against this backdrop of retrospection and nostalgia the politicised London-based pirate television group Superlative TV formed. Set to begin broadcasting the evening of September 14, Superlative TV will be available to anyone in the city who can unplug a TV digital receiver and tune into the yet to be designated frequency. Inclusive, liberal, and egalitarian, the channel will run a program consisting of community led documentaries, artists’ works, performance, news, and film. Tackling subjects like the 2011 London riots – civil unrest that saw unprecedented looting, arson, and violence in the city – Superlative TV are distancing themselves from the post-modern tendencies of contemporaries like South London’s Auto Italia South East and Lucky PDF. In other words, it is not all about VHS generation loss and ironic distance. Instead Superlative TV seek to offer a politically active model of public access television: an enfranchising, free television service in dialogue with its users, as opposed to a paid for service that is not. Recently I spoke with Superlative TV co-founder Anne Tennor about the upcoming broadcast.


 

How did Superlative TV start and why?

I think it started because we saw a need. Not that there isn’t a lot of “art TV” out there, because there is a lot, but art TV seems to have almost become about a brand. A brand in which an individual’s voice might get lost in the crowd. So what we're facilitating is a kind of open platform that is missing from British broadcasting in general, and the idea is to fill the gap of open access television as well as produce art TV.

We have a background working with lots of artists in London, doing various projects with moving image and broadcasting whether that is radio or television. Then the digital switchover happened and it just seemed like the perfect time to subvert an old medium that people aren’t using anymore. We see it as a redundant space that can be completely free, completely uncensored, completely unrestricted. Not even the Internet can provide that opportunity, for artists especially. But if you look at last summer’s riots the government was trying to shut Twitter down. So we’re still being controlled, in spite of the idea that we use modern technology to have a voice.

It’s interesting that you’re talking about issues of control; because what you are doing you have to do covertly as it’s illegal. 

We’re hoping through our activity we’ll eventually not be seen as criminals, but as people offering something which should be made legal. Eventually the idea is to have an open access television station in the UK as there isn’t one, but it’s happening all over the world now, of course in America, but also in parts of Eastern Europe you’ve got artists who are offered half an hour on a local channel. That said, open access isn’t the extent of what we plan to program. We’d like to commission relevant programs that national TV doesn’t seem to cover. Also, given the current political situation in the UK, there’s a feeling that some parts of society are being targeted by Conservative policies and not being given a voice at all.  So this goes beyond just offering young artists, or people with nowhere to show work, a space.

I was thinking about the fact that it’s on analogue television, which means people will have to detune their sets to watch. First of all you’re getting an active and engaged audience, because their making a big effort to find out what we’re broadcasting; and second it’s like time travelling, which is how it feels in the UK at the moment. I just think that a lot of what’s happening has happened twenty, thirty years ago with Margaret Thatcher, and even before that. Things seem to go in cycles and it would be nice to offer some hope.

So can you tell me a bit about where you’re at with the project at the moment?

Well you’ve come towards the end of phase two. Phase one has been collecting content, practising camerawork, assembling equipment, and we’re ready to go live. We’ve been trying to collect shows together, and ideas for formats. We have a show that we’re advertising now, which is called Prime Time: we’re asking artists and curators to submit three videos to us, one that they’ve made, one they have influenced and one that has influenced them. We’ll screen those after we’ve launched piratically on the 14September.

We’ve also been filming and documenting events for the last year: working with PAMI (Peckham Artists Moving Image festival), and a radio show on Resonance FM called The Gravy.  They have a great bunch of weird and wonderful musical acts, that we filmed and put our live mixing over, and we have a whole catalogue of them now. We’re also commissioning new works with artists, so a lot of great young talent is going to be shown via our channel. On top of that we’re working on more documentary style content about the political situation now... 

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The Download: Kristin Lucas

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Screenshot of The Sole Ripper in Google SketchUp, courtesy of the artist

This month The Download features Kristin Lucas's digital book The Sole Ripper (2012).

The Sole Ripper is a digital book containing a 1:132 scale architectural view of a fictional pedestrian roller coster modeled for an empty lot in Manhattan discovered by Lucas on Google Maps. The architectural plan arrives fragmented and out of order, given its shape through a process of software conventions and workarounds. It is a visual corollary to the download process in which files are broken down into packets and transmitted over internet pathways from one computer to another, and reconfigured at their final destination. Only, Lucas leaves the task of file reconfigurability open to the viewer, and opts for an alternative view that features a 352-page vertical drop and bears likeness to a filmstrip. Recalling Luis Borges's hyperreal map that was as large as the empire itself from "On Exactitude in Science," Lucas's plan for The Sole Ripper is too large to see in its entirety even when reassembled.

The Download gives a first look to great art for Rhizome members. Start your own digital art collection by becoming a member today.

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Artist Profile: Julian Oliver

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Transparency Grendade (pre-assembly), 2012 by Julian Oliver

You've been participating in the tech and art community for over a decade now. You're work spans everything from establishing an artistic game-development collective to pushing the boundaries of privacy on public wireless networks with custom hardware. Just this past year you published the Critical Engineering Manifesto with Gordan Savičić and Danja Vasiliev. Was there a specific event or moment that inspired its creation and were their any earlier iterations of the ten statements that didn't make the final cut?

Danja, Gordan and I felt a long standing need to frame our respective practices a little more acutely, foregrounding the languages and cultures of Engineering, rather than Art, in the creative and critical process. We'd each found ourselves frustrated under the vague, ballooning term of Media Artist - like trying to swim in a bathrobe. This came up in conversation enough times to explore alternatives. Afterall, it didn't seem to matter whether we called what we made 'art', even ourselves 'artists', people were quick to do it for us anyway.

One thing that regularly came up in conversation between us is that Engineering, not Art, is the most transformative language of our time - informing the way we communicate, move, trade and even think. The reach of Engineering is so deep that it's hard to disagree it has become part of our environment, with vast impacts on human culture, the Earth and how we understand it. So it follows that to ignore the languages, logics and ideas that make up this thing we call Engineering is to assume a critically vulnerable position - we become unable to describe our environment.

As thinkers with technical abilities in several areas, we want to take on our built and increasingly automated environment by the terms in which it's given, opening it up for post-utilitarian conversation, for play and interrogation. If there's ever a time to be doing that, it's now, especially with opaque and hidden infrastructure in the telecommunications space deeply impacting diplomatic relations and civil liberties world wide.

The Critical Engineering Manifesto grew directly from conversations along these lines and was generally very well received, soon translated into 14 languages. A couple of people wrote in that they wondered why we didn't include or reference 'hacking' as a critical practice to draw upon. Admittedly none of us had an instinct to include it, as it is also a term that has an increasingly vague meaning. I think Danja and Gordan would agree that those that hack in a way we appreciate are already Critical Engineers!

The Transparency Grenade and Newstweek are projects that are designed to disrupt traditional systems of information distribution in news organizations, companies, and governments. Do they achieve your desired affects on the systems they are designed to criticize? Have you been satisfied with the results of the two projects?

It's true that both projects are real implementations with tangible and disruptive effects. That said Danja and I developed Newstweek primarily to spur critical attention to the vulnerabilities of our increasingly 'browser-defined reality', to return an eye to the network infrastructure that plays an integral role in the distribution of fact. If you can control the infrastructure, you can control what's understood to be fact. Newstweek has certainly achieved what we'd hoped in this regard, inciting plenty of productive, healthy paranoia - helped along by us releasing a full HOWTO so that others can build their own Newstweek devices.

The second dimension to the project surrounds an intervention on the top->down news distribution model. We know that our news is being 'tweeked' anyway - an endemic symptom of the (rather bizarre) fact we traditionally depend on privately owned news corporations to inform our summarial view of the world. Newstweek seeks to intervene on this model, an on the ground solution for civilians to have their chance to propagandise or simply 'fix the facts' they know to be untrue.

The Transparency Grenade has been a tricky project as all of sudden some people think I'm in the cyber-weapons business, which I'm not. Like Newstweek, it's first and foremost a conversation starter. It seeks to directly manifest the fears we have, whether state, corporation or individual, around the increased political volatility of data. Indeed it is an implementation that can be used but I'm not selling grenades to be used as weapons. In fact they're limited edition finely crafted objects that look enough like a grenade for you to /not/ want to take with you into a corporate meeting. The Android application I'm still developing will mimic much of the functionality of the grenade and is better suited for such purposes, though I certainly will never suggest it be used and nor will I use it myself. That would put me in a very different legal position.

Many of your works challenge the implicit trust people have in the wireless networks they use - from cell phones to public wifi. In that same way your pieces often blur the boundaries between gallery space and the public sphere. Why is revealing and breaking these boundaries of trust and perception important to you and your work?

Again it comes back to infrastructure and how our inability to describe and understand reduces our critical reach, leaving us both disempowered and, quite often, vulnerable.

Opacity is an important word here too, as is the term 'black box'. Most of our engineered communications infrastructure is not just extraordinarily abstract for people to come to grips with but is actively kept hidden. There are some valid reasons, of course, for keeping infrastructure hidden but the fact is it out of sight is being increasingly exploited in and out of supposedly democratic contexts, largely by surveillance initiatives we were never told about.

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A Tribute to John Cage on his Centennial

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In tribute to John Cage on his 100th birthday, we've gathered a collection of archival footage, interviews, and collected works – presented in reverse chronological order, beginning with Cage's final work, and only feature length film.

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One11 with 103 (1991-1992) (via UbuWeb)

 

1992

 

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"American Masters" John Cage (1991) via UbuWeb

 

1982

 

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For The Third Time (1978) via UbuWeb

 

1973

 

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John Cage and Rahsaan Roland Kirk - Sound?? (1966) via UbuWeb

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Announcing: Artist Selected "Five Videos" in Collaboration with Liverpool Biennial and FACT

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Rhizome has collaborated with FACT, Foundation for Art and Creative Technology, and the Liverpool Biennial, to develop a new series: Five Videos. Responding to theme of the Biennial — The Unexpected Guest — Rhizome is "hosting" the online programming. Further relating to the theme, Omar Kholeif (FACT) and Joanne McNeil (Rhizome) invited internationally renowned artists to submit five videos considering issues relating to hospitality, which will run each week throughout the duration of Liverpool Biennial 2012. The artists include: Jemima Wyman, Judith Barry, Kristin Lucas, Lucky PDF, Jennifer Chan, Anahita Razmi. Ming Wong, Queer Technologies, Angelo Plessas, Ofri Cnaani, and Adham Faramawy.

 

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Five Videos: Adham Faramawy's Leave the Ordinary Behind

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Five Videos is an online series "hosted" by Rhizome, in collaboration with FACT, responding to the Liverpool Biennial's theme, The Unexpected Guest. Each week throughout the Liverpool Biennial, an artist will curate five videos about hospitality. We begin this series with Adham Faramawy's selection, considering science fictional luxury and hypercapitalist imagery from hotel adverts in Dubai.

Burj Khalifa, Dubai

In response to the Liverpool Biennial’s theme of ‘Hospitality’, I decided to take a look at an aspect of the hospitality of a city that has become important to me, Dubai.

Dubai is one of the emirates of The United Arab Emirates. It is both a city and a corporation where the government has set up industry specific free zones exempting companies from the usual tax laws. As a city, Dubai exemplifies neoliberal business and culture. Watching the development of this emirate has been like watching a myth in process.

I’m Egyptian, based in London, born in Dubai just before the economic boom. My mother and sister both live in Dubai and work in the Media City free zone. Some of their work as journalists involves attending product launches and receiving corporate hospitality in the hope that they will cover new products, spas and beauty treatments. For me this has meant looking at a lot of Facebook pictures taken in hotels and the occasional chance to tag along for an interview with a businesswoman or the first lady of Malaysia at Atlantis on The Palm.

Some of the videos I’ve selected were produced by the Jumeirah Group to advertise their facilities. All the videos employ utopic science fictional visual language to display spectacular ‘luxury’ experiences.

In these videos, the hotel experience is constructed in terms of the superhuman. With the laissez-faire attitude of Randian capitalism, the idealism of an athletic body post-Riefenstahl is sublimated, defining the very character of the building it inhabits. The architectures in these short narratives are set up, as with every successful advert, to create a (potentially phallic) lack in the prospective consumer. As such the neoliberal luxury experience of the spa is offered as the filler to satisfy that lack, a near spiritual solution to the stresses and speed of corporate business.

It is here that I would like to point out the similarities between the video adverts for the Talise Ottoman spa in the Zaabeel Saray hotel and videos of the Damanhurian Temples of Humankind, located inside a mountain north of Turin, Italy. Both spaces appear to refer to an arabesque style in their backlit stain glass windows, which alongside their skyscape frescos act as a nexus between Islam, ancient Rome, and new age spiritual systems.

As much as these spaces and the videos advertising them draw on a nascent spiritualism to attract consumers, they also use images of the active body and celebrity.

In 2008 Andre Agassi and Roger Federer played tennis on a specially turfed court on the helipad at Burj Al Arab. In an exciting and peculiar display of integrated spectacle, the content produced is part advert, part celebrity reality-curio fashioned for television. The pair ascends the building in a glass elevator, invoking the childlike awe of Charlie and The Chocolate Factory, as they discuss the impressive scale of the hotel to a soundtrack of The Never Ending Story, appealing to childhood fantasy narratives more directly...

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Prosthetic Knowledge Picks: CurAudio / DocuMP3

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A collection of audio content from the Prosthetic Knowledge Tumblr archive and around the web.


 100 years of the computer artscene - Talk by Jason Scott and Rad Man at Notacon04 

 

Recording of a talk by Jason Scott (creator of textfiles.com) from NOTACON 2004 discusses the history of computing and creativity. 

Since the first time that machines could calculate, people have twisted, modified, hacked and played with them to create art.  In a fast-paced hour, we're going to do our best to capture 100 years of computer art, the magic of the art scene, the demo scene, and a dozen other "scenes" that have been with us as long as computers have.  Prepare yourself for a roller coaster of visual and audio history as your two over-the top scene pilots take you on "the story so far" to the artscene. 

Unfortunately, there is no accompanying visual collection to the examples mentioned in the talk, yet it is an enlightening primer on creativity and new technology. (PK link)

DJ Food - Raiding The 20th Century




DJ Food's classic mix from 2004 curates and documents the growth of 'The Cut-Up' (also known as bootlegs or mash-ups), forming a creative alternative world of popular music. It also features spoken audio from Paul Morley, critic and former member of the Art of Noise and ZTT Records, reading from his book 'Words and Music: the history of pop in the shape of a city.'

Tracklist on DJ Food's website. (PK link.)

Dreams - Delia Derbyshire and Barry Bermange





Narrations of recollected dreams recorded and collaged with the distinct audio style of BBC Radiophonic Workshop musician Delia Derbyshire:

 
"Dreams" was made in collaboration with Barry Bermange (who originally recorded the narrations). Bermange put together The Dreams (1964), a collage of people describing their dreams, set ...

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An Interview with Philippe Morel

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 images via EZCT Architecture & Design Research

Philippe Morel is an architect and theorist, who cofounded EZCT Architecture & Design Research. Recently, I interviewed him over email about computation, internet data centers, and natural terrain:

Alessandro Bava: You outlined an urban theory that accounts for the internet as a powerful territorial/urban agent, could you expand on the idea of oceanic/porous urbanism?

Philippe Morel: I started to be interested in such an evolution of the world while working on my Master’s thesis from 2000 to 2002. The title, “Living in the Ice Age”, was coming from the fact that I considered the contemporary changes associated with the advent of computation not just as “another media-based revolution” but as a “geological” shift; a kind of a global earthquake produced by “computational drifts”, drifts that are opening a new age in human (post)history. I was speaking about a more extreme coldness than the one theorized by Andrea Branzi in the “Cold Metropolis”. The coldness of the liquid azote used for supercomputers cooling or sperm cryopreservation as well as the coldness of extreme abstractions produced by computational processes and formal languages. In fact the freezing of any kind of social life, and a freezing that is by the way asking as much energy to us as it does in air conditioning systems! In the introduction of my thesis then, I wrote that “what our civilization gave birth to after unreasonable efforts is a new kind of compound, something like the summation of the dynamite or nuclear energy power, of the intrinsic capacities of the human brain for conceptual abstraction, of the raw power of the computers for calculation and of the sensory performances of the human body.” I added that “my work would only be about trying to unveil the genesis of ...

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Guide to Future-Present Archetypes Part 4: The Commodity Swarm

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"Bomb the Drone" (Demilit project)

A certain thread of theology holds that angels are not actual entities; they are human characterizations of god’s infinite will, manifested in singular points of time and space that we can only represent as corporeal actions by supernatural beings. Drones are the same. The Unmanned Aerial Vehicles themselves are made of very real alloys and composites, flown with very real bands of electromagnetic energy emitted from satellite and ground station, launching weapons with exothermic warheads resulting in very real deaths. But “Drones”, as we have come to know them, represent an intensely collapsed political, economic, and social cosmology. They are singular points of world-historical militarism, state control, and technological specialty, orbiting high above our heads, the new astrological wanderers of our mortal fates. Dare we ask the rhetorical question: how many drones can surveil the head of a pin? MQ-1 Predator, MQ-4 Global Hawk, MQ-9 Reaper, RQ-170 Sentinel: these names are the basis of a new hierarchical choir of angels, as cataloged by Jane’s All the World’s Aircraft.

Drones function in our current Future-Present, as a category conglomerated from many components. A MQ-4 has very little to do, technologically, with a smartphone-controlled quadrocopter. The relationship between them, which we fetishize into the category of “drone”, is a composite of factors and values so intricate as to border on the cosmological. It is true that they both fly, with different types of remote control. They both contain cameras, so that a person can see a visual field from the vehicle’s perspective. They both contain technological advances that are not entirely new innovations, though their widespread use and public recognition is a relatively recent event. And yet, one is an expensive toy, while the other changes the geopolitical landscape as a weapon of war. It is only when their use, political significance, and market value are networked to their technological construction that they become equivalent in the Future-Present cosmology. 

If angels are too metaphysical a means of getting at the cultural function of such a unifying concept, let us utilize a more atheistic church, another sort of holy ghost. Drones are technology, commodified. Commodities are objects, abstracted from their strict material origins, and invested with a surplus of market-meaning. An automobile, for example, is not so much the frame riding on four wheels; it is not pivotal object of the American Dream; it is more than a single class of “Sport Utility” use-case or a particular brand name. It is all of these things. It is a history of technological advancement, a society’s main means of transportation, and a set of cultural value signifiers, condensed into a single object. What does precision milling equipment have to do with “Tell Laura I Love Her?” Everything and nothing. Technological commodities exists in multiple dimensions of technology, culture, economics, and politics simultaneously. What we perceive is the object, but behind it, is its cosmological network. We watch a video of a drone swarm in a college laboratory. We hear a news report about a drone strike on the other side of the world. We dream about the future of airspace regulation over drone-like inventions that don’t exist yet. We interact with all of these threads when we think, talk, or work with drones...

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