Posts for January 2013

A Compromise: Bring Us to $20,000 and We'll End the 2013 Fundraiser

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It's been a big year for worthy, interesting projects and causes for you all to support. With Hurricane Sandy relief efforts all along the east coast, many great projects on sites like Kickstarter, and the countless other ways our community gives, we understand if you're a little tapped out this year.

Arts organizations like ours survive year in, year out, on the support of the publics we serve. Since we became a non-profit, we've been running our campaign annually and thousands of people have donated over the years – we are thankful for the support we've received. Though we promote the fundraiser online, it's not crowd funding in the way most people have come to understand it today. It's not a one-time project, there's no end date or cut-off for the work we do. Rhizome's fundraiser is an annual ask, rooted in a tradition of public support for arts organizations they deem critical and necessary. Rhizome's mission – to examine, and sometimes challenge, the role that technology plays in culture, from the unique perspective of contemporary art – is one that our readers and audiences believe in.

We know you'd like to get back to regular programming at Rhizome. Let's compromise – take us just a bit farther, to $20,000, and we'll cap off the campaign knowing we've got to work harder than ever this year to make sure your investment goes as far as it can to reach our goals. We're willing, if you are.

Please, donate today.

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MRAs and WTFs: A Context for "Nice Guys of OKCupid"

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''We're not psychologists. We're math guys,” remarked Sam Yagan, the chief executive of OKCupid. He wasn’t being self-deprecating.

OKC suggests romantic pairings based on information gathered from a sprawling, seemingly endless questionnaire. When filling out the questionnaire, users are also asked to rank the relative importance of each question and to say which answer or answers they would prefer in a partner. Users, in other words, describe to the OKCupid database their ideal “match” as a set of data points.

Because users are generally able to intuit the basic parameters of how the system works, they upvote the questions most likely to be useful in narrowing down a pool of millions of strangers—that is, the questions most likely to be incredibly divisive. A good OKCupid question is like a good question in a game of “Guess Who?”--one that eliminates the most candidates.

The questionnaire asks users to provide their own definitive standards for in-group and out-group belonging. Then, in their profiles, users are expected to distinguish themselves within their chosen group or groups through a combination of photographs and prompted text.

OKCupid profiles are sort of like really long pick-up lines pitched at an imaginary “perfect match.” In general, they show humanity in a humiliating light, and various OKCupid users have taken it upon themselves to liberate the profiles of others, condensing them into image macros and sharing them outside the context of the site. The ethics of this are out of focus, because the culture has not yet decided where sites like OKCupid fall in terms of public vs. private space, and what reasonable expectations people can have when they join these sites.

The found OKCupid profile has become one of the Internet’s most unsettling genres. Part Cindy Sherman film still, part Robert Browning monologue, the best found profiles match the uncanny visual embodiment of a cultural type with an elliptically unraveling text of unconscious self-revelation.

For example:

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For Aaron

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Aaron Swartz’s passing affected us all at Rhizome. We’re grateful to Artinfo for writing the piece that, in our sadness and confusion, we couldn’t quite write ourselves – about our work with him, how much his work meant to those in our field, and how artists found a like mind in him. We on the staff and Board are grateful to have had the opportunity to work with Aaron through Seven on Seven. We put this here as a fitting profile and tribute, alongside the documentation of his Seven on Seven presentation with Taryn Simon, in order that he might continue to inspire us.

Ben Davis writes:

Last year, Swartz was one of the figures invited by curator Lauren Cornell to take part in Rhizome.org’s “Seven on Seven” event at the New Museum, which pairs technologists with contemporary artists to brainstorm productive collaborations. Of the various pairings, Swartz’s work with photo-conceptualist Taryn Simon was particularly impressive. In fact, in a blog post, I dubbed it “The Coolest Art-Tech Project From This Weekend’s Seven on Seven Conference.”
What it amounted to was a prototype for “Image Atlas,” a website that ran simultaneous searches on locally preferred engines in a variety of nations around the world, and displayed the results side by side. Thus, you could compare what images represented “freedom,” or “death,” or “America” in different countries — a simple and surprisingly effective device to make the point of how our local contexts shape our view of the world.
Introducing the results of their 12-hour brainstorming session onstage, Swartz explained the impulse behind it in a way that suggests the moral vision behind the project:
"One of the things that people are paying more attention to… is the way that these sort of neutral tools like Facebook and Google and so on, which claim to present an almost unmediated view of the world, through statistics and algorithms and analyses, in fact are programmed and are programming us. So we wanted to find a way to visualize that, to expose some of the value judgments that get made."
Last August, the work was launched on the New Museum’s website as part of its “First Look” series of Internet art. It remains online, now serving the added purpose of standing as a tribute to Swartz’s sensitive and critical mind.
“Watching him program was akin to watching a magician in speed and ability,” Taryn Simon wrote in an email today. “I’ve never witnessed anything like it. It looked like a court stenographer, but he wasn't recording something, he was constructing and creating.”
Curator Lauren Cornell described Swartz as “a wonderful collaborator, warm and enthusiastic, excited at every aspect of participating in the event, and at every step of realizing the project in the months afterwards.” She described herself as “devastated by the loss.”
Aaron Swartz’s work, Cornell said, “represents incredibly important values and goals that are urgent in our time.”

An interview with Aaron from Steal This Film II, 2007, directed by Jamie King.

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Prosthetic Knowledge Picks: Typewriter

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A collection of examples from the Prosthetic Knowledge Tumblr archive and around the web on creative projects and installations which employ the typewriter as part of the work.

On Journalism #2 Typewriter

Installation piece connects computer to typewriter that generates stories about journalists who have died since 1992. By Julian Koschwitz:

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Chimera Q.T.E at Cell Project Space, London

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Chimera Q.T.E at London’s Cell Project Space draws its curatorial theme from a collagist interpretation of the Internet – a view that sees the web as a collection of orphaned, mashed and re-mashed digital fragments, or a kind of infinite patchwork quilt. For inspiration and the exhibition title, London based curator Attilia Fattori Franchini nudged aside contemporary similes to pull a monster from Greek mythology. The chimera, like that other Grecian mashup the griffin, is a beast composed of several animals, and both its status as an organic mishmash, and the common use of its name to denote fanciful pipe dreams, provided Franchini with a comparative reference for what the web is like.

Luckily the beast’s double status as a hybrid creature and linguistic unit is also a useful tool for interpreting the show. For while the fragmented web model (i.e. the body of the beast) is popular and necessary for those who see contemporary artists as nomadic remixers and postproducers (see Mark Amerika’s recent remixthebook), it is an idea built on fragile conceptual foundations that tumble down beyond the aggregated world of Tumblr and BuzzFeed. Hence the idea that today’s artists are cut-and-pasting their way towards a liberatory new praxis could be mere chimera. What Chimera Q.T.E captures then is not a mediation of the Internet as it is – because nobody really knows. It captures an aesthetic sensibility informed by the fragmented web model and its proposed utopic possibilities. When formalised this sensibility, shared by the eight international artists on display, becomes a hybrid mix of lurid color palettes, errant geometry, and vivid, startlingly flat, digital precision. What the viewer sees in each work is essentially a dispatch from an abstract digital territory, an ambient landscape of the hyperreal.

Chimera Q ...

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Artist Profile: Ed Atkins

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    Still from Warm, Warm, Warm Spring Mouths 2013, HD video with 5.1 surround, 13'. Commissioned by Film and Video Umbrella and Jerwood Visual Arts.

Your video installation Us Dead Talk Love, currently on view at MoMA PS1, makes use of hi-def and surround-sound technologies. How do you approach these in your video installation process? How did you approach the installation specifically for Chisenhale?

It's predicated on immersion, I suppose. An attempt to address the body whole, rather than privilege sight, hearing. This might begin with a redressing of the balance between ocular and aural, and pan down to take in the whole wobbling form, up to some emotional affect – the surround sound penetrating, the visuals interrupting and shifting themselves between depths of field and vast cosmic spaces; infinitesimal motes of dust. These technologies are corporeal in their totalising address, which I see as dichotomous to the material reality of the technology – which seems to be dissipated or perhaps simply deferred to some desperate mine in some OTHER continent. The combined effect being one of possession – the work finding its home entirely within the body of the audience.

You've spoken of the tension between text or writing and filmic realization in your work before. How did this tension come into play during the production of your work in Us Dead Talk Love? Was it exacerbated or sublimated by your chosen technologies?

If I had to choose, I'd say sublimated – though I think that it's more straightforwardly performative. The one to and of the other. New media as a home for these things. Whether that's somewhat apologetic for the a failure of these things to stand alone is moot, I hope.

You've mentioned before your exposure to Hollis Frampton. What influence did Frampton have on ...

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Recommending Reading: Post-Digital Print

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Image via Post-Digital Print: The Mutation of Publishing since 1864 from Everyday Science and Mechanics magazine, 1935

Artists have often been at the forefront of technological innovations in publishing media — experimenting to push boundaries in new directions. They create new ideas about interactions with emerging media and spark fresh conversations about legacy practices and formats — think; David Horvitz, Metahaven, and Paul Chan’s Badlands Unlimited, to name only a few. This phenomenon of experimental publishing isn’t new, but Alessandro Ludovico puts the enterprise into a unique and digestible perspective in Post-Digital Print: The Mutation of Publishing since 1864. His research reveals the deep history and early seeds of current publishing media remix in their original surroundings — from Fluxus promotions to the rise and fall of zines and up to the interventionist work of Julian Oliver and Danja Vasiliev’s Newstweek and beyond.

In our present digital era, the ‘death of paper’ has become a plausible concept, widely expected to materialise sooner or later. The ‘digitisation of everything’ explicitly threatens to supplant every single ‘old’ medium (anything carrying content in one way or another), while claiming to add new qualities, supposedly essential for the contemporary world: being mobile, searchable, editable, perhaps shareable. And indeed, all of the ‘old’ media have been radically transformed from their previous forms and modalities – as we have seen happen with records, radio and video. On the other hand, none of these media ever really disappeared; they ‘merely’ evolved and transformed, according to new technical and industrial requirements.

The printed page, the oldest medium of them all, seems to be the last scheduled to undergo this evolutionary process. This transformation has been endlessly postponed, for various reasons, by the industry as well as by the public at large. And so the question may very well be ...

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Painting by Numbers

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Bruce Sterling recently suggested that it no longer makes sense to talk about “the internet” as a whole. Instead, we ought to refer to the distinct corporate structures that define the topography of experience online: Apple, Google, Amazon, Facebook, and Microsoft. These companies provide users with similar services and, increasingly, they organize them in self-sufficient “silos” to encumber disloyal users with incompatibility issues. Sterling’s claim that there’s no more internet sounds premature and calculated to provoke buzz (cf. Wired’s September 2010 cover story, “The Web Is Dead”), but it’s useful nevertheless as a reminder of the limits on the user’s agency as these companies attempt to consolidate their control over information and bind the net to their devices.

With that in mind, Michael Manning’s Microsoft Store Paintings might be seen as a proposition about what happens to internet art when doesn’t make sense to talk about the internet. The digital abstractions are painted at locations of the retail chain named in the series’ title, sometimes at the first-ever Microsoft store in Mission Viejo, CA, which opened in 2009. Microsoft’s retail outlets are, of course, a riposte to the success of Apple’s stores, launched after two decades when the software giant happily dispersed its products through Best Buy and CompUSA. They herald the non-internet seen by Sterling.

An image of a Microsoft Store from Michael Manning's Instagram

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The Artifice of Videography at 24 Frames per Second

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From Rodney Graham's Torqued Chandelier Release, 2005, 35mm film loop shown on a custom 48 FPS projector

As of November 2012, the last packages of light-sensitive film vanished from the racks of my local department store. The meager supply of 35mm roll film and disposable cameras disappeared, and with it came the reality that the changeover from analog to digital image acquisition is finally wrapping up. Equally visible changes are happening in the cinemas, where video projectors have slowly replaced film projectors. However, there is one curious, rarely questioned holdover from the analog era that persists among many motion photographers to this day.

The current trend of using digital filters to artificially age or alter one's snapshots has been criticized extensively, but this editorial is not about the artifice of premature aging or planned glitches. It is about an odd trait of motion picture film that lives on in the many digital cameras, video cameras and smartphone apps whose superior functionality quickened the decline of film in stores and cinemas.

From an advertisement for the Canon 5D Mark II

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Prosthetic Knowledge Picks: Surveillance Painting

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Being Digital by Enda O'Donoghue (2008)

A collection of examples from the Prosthetic Knowledge Tumblr archive featuring artists who have inserted the visual grammar of new media technology into painting.

Enda O’Donoghue

wow, my stomach looks really great! (2010)

The 1604 (2006)

Reflection (2010)

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