Posts for 2013

Cyborg Humanism: Wangechi Mutu at Brooklyn Museum

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Wangechi Mutu, A'gave you (2008). Mixed media collage on mylar, 93" x 54".

The violent and ambiguous encounter depicted in A'gave you (2008) encapsulates the force and intent of Wangechi Mutu's collages, the highlight of her ongoing retrospective at the Brooklyn Museum. A blue, thick-rooted, and out-sized version of the New World monocot bends to a violated female pseudo-cyborg. Her eyes, cheap black speckled pearls, are replicated in the plant's ovary. The kneeling figure's torso, head, and left arm are thrown back in disinterested submission; her right arm is lost to perspective and/or trauma. Gold sparkle and blood explodes from her chest as she births, or pisses, a long, fat strand of bright yellow-orange which forms a new root-system beneath both her and the plant.

Mutu's strangely lucid mixed-media mylar pieces contort the sexualization of black women in consumer society into glittering, gorgeous grotesques. The twin pieces 100 Lavish Months of Bushwhack (2004) and Misguided Little Unforgivable Hierarchies (2005) feature female figures hobbled with hippo hands, faces stitched together from pornographic images, golden skin, and exploding motorcycle high-heels. They also depict differing levels of power among multiple exploited figures. The End of Eating Everything (2013), Mutu's first foray into film, features the head of Santigold gnashing a gyring flock of black birds with bloody chompers. Slowly, the plane Santigold exists on expands to reveal that her face leads a massive she-planetoid, comprising writhing limbs and embedded, useless machinery, powered by her/its own gaseous effluent. The piece is truly disconcerting and accentuates Mutu's often overlooked theme of ecological disaster.

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Art Criticism in the Age of Yelp

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Thomas Struth, Hermitage 3, St. Petersburg (2005).

I. Amazon 

Amazon used to have literary ambitions. In the late '90s, the company hired professional editors who commissioned and wrote thousands of reviews a week, as well as features, interviews, and previews of forthcoming books. Later on, when the retailer began to intersperse the paid reviews with user-generated content, it retained this vision, thinking of user reviews as submissions to a literary magazine that would give the site the aura of an independent bookshop, populated by an erudite staff and clientele. Rick Ayre, then Vice President and Executive Editor of Amazon, described the tone and use of the content on Amazon.com to the New York Times in 1999: "If you spend a lot of time on the site, I hope you get a sense of the quirky, independent, literate voice, and that behind it all you're interacting with people, and that it's people who care about these things, not people who are trying to sell you these things. My mantra has always been 'the perfect context for a purchase decision.'"1

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ATHENS, BABY: A Conversation with Poka Yio

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The Beggar's Opera at the 4th Athens Biennale, AGORA . Source.

If you thought the Greek economic crisis had faded into irrelevancy, think again. Greece may not dominate headlines as it once did, but here, issues of value, capital and labor are fermenting, combusting, imploding, and reforming in ways that have international significance. The 4th Athens Biennale (AB4) has broached this reality head-on by installing a biennale in the old Athens Stock Exchange building that closed in 2007, and by taking as its title the word AGORA, which has come to mean "marketplace" in modern Greek, but which, in ancient times, referred to a gathering space that had overlapping social, commercial, and political uses. In order to create a space of true and viable exchange in a building once defined by power imbalance and manipulation, the biennale was organized according to a radical system. Instead of a single curator, the exhibition was organized by some forty people who responded to an open call put out only six months ago. The result is an electrifying example of networked culture in practice; of collective action enacted within what is arguably still an institutional frame of the art world itself, an agora. To get a deeper understanding of AB4's aims, and to learn how this all worked in practice, I caught up with Poka Yio via email after visiting the exhibition during the opening days. An artist himself, Yio is co-founder of the Athens Biennale along with Xenia Kalpatsoglou and Augustinos Zenakos, and a co-curator of the current biennale. 

Stephanie Bailey: Can you talk about how the 4th Athens Biennale was organized in only six months, and through an open call inviting not one, but many curators? 

Poka Yio: When asked what, in our opinion, a biennale is, our answer is: "an X-ray of today." But what is today? In the past, the two-year period was perfect to put together such a big endeavor as a biennale, but this has changed dramatically. Now we are witnessing an unprecedented acceleration of history, and creators, theorists and all sorts of analysts fail more and more to grasp it. The financial analysts have failed to overcome the crash, the political theorists have failed to arm us with the political means to withstand the social pressure without the loss of civic and human rights, and art fails to present "today" in its meta-language.

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This Thursday, A Fresh Start

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This Thursday, the Rhizome community will come together in the New Museum Sky Room to re-imagine its future. A future less bound by the nitpicking criticism of the past, the hand-wringing, the self-doubt. This is our promise to you: a profound sense of human connection, an art that can bridge the cultural gaps in an interconnected world, an app for every social problem, a better wave, a more sustainable and democratic glass of champagne. Are you brave enough to come with us on this journey?

Tickets begin at $50 and are on sale here. Follow us on Instagram for continuing updates. 

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What's Postinternet Got to do with Net Art?

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Courtesy grouphab.it and Harm van den Dorpel.

An extended and altered version of this text will be published in... You Are Here: Looking at After the Internet (Cornerhouse Books 2014), edited by Omar Kholeif.

Earlier this month, Rhizome presented a panel discussion at the ICA in London titled "Post-Net Aesthetics." Following in the wake of prior panels (titled "Net Aesthetics 2.0") which were organized by Rhizome in 2006 and 2008, this edition was precipitated by the recent discussion of postinternet practices by a number of art institutions and magazines, including Frieze. We invited a longtime Rhizome collaborator, critic and curator Karen Archey, to chair and organize the panel, and what emerged was a wide-ranging and extremely generative conversation in which participants began to articulate some of the shifts they'd seen in artistic practice in recent years, while critiquing those shifts and their framing as "postinternet."

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Lingering Patience

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Jon Rafman, A Man Digging (2013), Single channel HD video

Jon Rafman uses the intricate tableaux of Rockstar Games' Max Payne 3 as cinematic source material for his new machinima work, A Man Digging (2013). In this meandering and Robbe-Grillet inflected narrative, Rafman ruminates on the simulated sunbeams glinting through favela windows within the game, a melancholy sunrise in a deserted subway car, a heavy fog over a slate grey harbor. He can only do so, however, after killing every character—whether enemy or bystander—in the scene. In this way, Rafman makes visible the tension between the game as object of contemplation and the game as a continuous stream of connected events.

Although many makers outside of the industry have used video games as source material—Peggy Ahwesh, JODI, Eva and Franco Mattes, and Phil Solomon, to name a few—A Man Digging highlights a particularly frustrating issue in contemporary game design: namely, a pushy Artificial Intelligence system that goads the player into constantly responding to the checkpoints, achievements, and goals that are all in the service of what tends to be called a game's "narrative." Although these events don't necessarily develop plot or characters, they are seen as central components of driving (or forcing) the player toward a sense of completion and finality that can only be accomplished through linear gameplay. As a result of this insistent narrative-centric design, players are prevented from exploring the potential for triple-A games to take on the unique, interactive potential to create contemplative and self-reflective video game environments.

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Wherever You Are: Watch Seven on Seven London Live on October 27th!

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Rhizome is pleased to announce that Seven on Seven London, at Barbican Centre on October 27th, will be streamed live, 7AM through 1PM8AM through 2PM EST. The particpants in this first international iteration of the annual event include many notable practitioners that Rhizome has supported over the years: 

Susan Philipsz + Naveen Selvadurai (Foursquare, Oscar) 
Jonas Lund + Michelle You (Songkick) 
Mark Leckey + Daniel Williams 
Graham Harwood + Alberto Nardelli (Tweetminister) 
Aleksandra Domanović + Smári McCarthy (IMMI) 
Cécile B. Evans + Alice Bartlett (BERG) 
Haroon Mirza + Ryder Ripps (OKFocus) 

Through the development of collaborative proejcts, Seven on Seven aims to promote ongoing dialogs between art and technology. Remember to stream the conference online on October 27, or find it archived at that location anytime thereafter

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Artist Profile: Steve Roggenbuck

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The latest in a series of interviews with artists who have developed a significant body of work engaged (in its process, or in the issues it raises) with technology. See the full list of Artist Profiles here.

 

Steve Roggenbuck.

LD: You recently posted AN INTERNET BARD AT LAST!!! (ARS POETICA) on YouTube about your vision of poetry on the internet. You talk about the importance of poets harnessing social media as a powerful way to change the life of someone else, anywhere in the world. Why is it so important for you to share this message at this time?

SR: the importance of sharing this message now is that our whole society is currently struggling to determine the role of these social platforms. corporations are trying to learn how to make money from them, families are trying to learn how to stay connected through them, everyone is asking "what value can there be in a 6-second video?" and it's all moving so fast, Vine blew up to 40 million users in its first 7 months. but the poetry world has largely been ignoring social media, mainly just using twitter and facebook to post links to standard, plain-text poems. my message is this: if our job is to move people with our language, these platforms give us endless and powerful new ways to do that. the tools to make our language visual and auditory have been democratized; the ability to maintain actual relationships with hundreds of our closest readers across the world is now a reality. i have no publisher, i've only been working at this for ~3 years, and my poems reach thousands of people each. i think social media represents the biggest set of new opportunities for poetry since the printing press.

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The Age of Drones

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Detail from ESSAM, Drone Campaign Poster (2012).

If the epoch of a technology is signaled by the simultaneous appearance of new potential uses and looming ethical questions, then without a doubt we've entered the age of the drone. In mid-October, individuals from the drone industry, aviation policymakers, lawyers, engineers, makers, activists, and artists gathered at the first Drone and Aerial Robotics Conference (DARC) in New York City to draw together the swarm of questions and possibilities that this technology engenders.

Defining "drone" is no small part of the problem. Those who work in the industry shy away from the "d-word for many reasons, not least of which is the image of the "drone strike." The US government is using the more innocuous acronyms of UAV (unmanned/unpiloted aerial vehicle) or RPA (remotely piloted aircraft) to simply evoke the technology's long-accepted use as surveillance tools—with which to guide other weapon strikes. But an acronym makes for crappy branding, and it seems the word drone is here to stay.

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UBERMORGEN at Carroll/Fletcher, London

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UBERMORGEN, Perpetrator i (2008) detail. Pigment Print on Paper, 220 x 146 cm.

Edward Snowden, MMO gamming sweatshops in China, torture as participatory art, madness, and the troubled life of a Guantanamo Bay prison guard. The diverse research-based practice of Swiss-Austro-American duo UBERMORGEN makes a sustained assault on the notion that individual autonomy, liberty, privacy, and agency remain intact in advanced capitalist societies. Birthed in the mid-'90s heyday of highly politicized net.art, their project shatters the myth that democratic freedoms are being facilitated or enhanced by modern network technologies. Userunfriendly is Hans Bernhard and Lizvlx's first major solo exhibition in the UK as UBERMORGEN. Ambitious and impeccably installed, the duo has assembled a collection of shocks and reveals: projects that expose the surreptitious methods of coercion, and the subtle mechanisms of control prevalent in institutions of authority, from hospitals to supermax prisons. 

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