Artist Profile: Daniel Bejar

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"Get Lost! (Breuckelen)", site-specific intervention, photographic documentation, variable, 2009-ongoing

In your project Daniel Bejar/Destroyer (The Googlegänger) you re-stage pictures of yourself mimicking the the poses of Destroyer’s lead singer who shares your name and a similar likeness. Now your images appear confusingly side by side with those of the famous singer in some of the top Google Image Search results. In describing the project as a “search image intervention” can you say something more about the project’s concept? 

Well, the concept took some time to solidify after intercepting the initial fan mails, but it evolved out of ideas where I saw Google’s Image Search or even the web as a space that Daniel Bejar and I would share for the rest of our lives. There was also the idea that as an artist working in visual culture you would ideally like images of your works to appear somewhere near the top of search results, and with images of the other Daniel Bejar dominating the search results I saw this as a contested space.

This led to the idea of somehow trying to intervene in the search results, so I guess it was technically born out of an effort to alter search results, but conceptually for me the piece really questions the idea of the original and the copy, and if these questions could be applied to one’s identity, personal history, or even a biological name, inside the context of the internet. 

A lot of my work is inspired by Walter Benjamin, in particular his essay “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduciton” and his ideas of the mechanically reproducible image, so I wanted to apply some of these ideas towards the internet, new media and identity and try to blur or weaken the aura of images and identity through the multiplicity of bootleg images.

Additionally I saw Google’s Image Search as an archive, and as long as the images are “live” living in the network of Google’s servers they would be in the archive, and I liked the idea of producing a new search result and corrupting the archive and history ever so slightly.

Get Lost! (NYC) is another piece where you’re playfully changing images to affect the perception of a place. The New York City subway maps, signage, and route change notifications that you install subversively ask people to rethink the history of the city by disrupting everyday informational objects. What inspires you to reveal histories and re-frame the everyday?

I love history and the idea of time travel so I think I’m naturally drawn to origins and histories. I once read a quote about history that stated “history is written by the winners”, this quote really got under my skin and is one thing that inspires me to question and critique histories, in the hopes of revealing alternate realities or possibilities. In “Get Lost!” I saw a similar situation, where there was a history that was buried underneath the contemporary user-friendly maps and signage of the MTA that could be restored.

I wanted to utilize the historical residue of the city to create a rupture inside of the subway system, in turn restoring a history and place that was no more due to the acts of war and colonization...

 

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Artist Profile: Brenna Murphy

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Your piece Enchanted Loom is described on your flickr as a self-portrait and shares an aesthetic that seems to be captured by many of your recent tableaux of being a sort of digital cabinet of curiosities, with an obsessive arrangement of openings and secret compartments. How do you see it functioning as a portrait?

I like to think of a lot of my work as portraiture in the sense that making a portrait means exploring the essence of an entity by representing it in an alternate form. I play with the idea that reality is a trippy entity that I can learn more about by making poetic models of it. I take long walks every day and try to focus completely on the textures of the sidewalks and plants and the arrangements and sequences of all the sensory elements that i encounter. Then I use my computer programs to craft textures and shapes that correspond with those observations. Obviously I approach the whole thing really playfully, which opens me up to recieving all kinds of wacky imagery through my inter-dimensional-entity-radar. 

Your physical installations do an extraordinary job of capturing the feeling of your digital images - or perhaps vice versa? How do your installations and digital compositions inform one another, and is there anything you hope to find in one that is absent in the other? 

Working in a variety of mediums is really important to me. My digital collages, physical installations, videos, websites, sounds and my collaborative performance projects are all completely intertwined. Each mode of working has a special structure to it that resonates my mind with its unique frequency. Regularly working in multiple mediums crosses those frequencies and expands the complexity of my mental framework! For instance, if I’m working on recording sound, my brain molds itself ...

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Artist Profile: James Howard

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data-encrypt-127.5x103, (2011)

Images in online scams and phishing schemes can seem as artificially generated as the text — like botnet generated folk art. But there is a human hand at work. What do you think is the human element that draws people into these schemes?

People are like machines - their brains react to temptation like a computer does. Most people are able to recognise a scam, but if someone pulls the right string, sooner or later all that subconscious stuff inside you is going to lead you down the wrong path. Scams  get people by playing on insecurities, desires, fears, greed, whatever - it's uncontrollable and causes one in a thousand people to make a snap decision and pay up.

What do you consider the visual clues of this kind of kitsch of deception? Any interesting patterns or trends you've spotted over the years of collecting examples?

Squashed grinning businessmen looking into fisheye lenses, sunsets over serene oceans, happy families, sexy nurses- it's an endless and totally recognisable global visual language. There's a gruesome image of someone hooked up to a life support machine that keeps landing in my junk-mail folder these days -it always comes from a new person, with a different story every time.

Your installation "Black Money" is based a well known email scam — displaying what is said to be millions of dollars dyed black to go through customs, alongside call cards offering chemicals for sale which could clean the cash. When I look at the sort of unboxing video that was posted to DailyMotion, the site suggests I might also like videos with titles like "Make $100,000 Now" and "How to Win the Lotto." Did anyone email cleaningmoneyATgmail.com looking to clean some dirty dollars with "SSD solution"?

Loads of people contacted ...

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Artist Profile: Petra Cortright

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So Wet (2011), installation shot at Preteen Gallery


Nearly every video piece of yours seems to have the distinct aesthetic of webcam footage, from the fluttery movements to the unusual compression artifacts and use built-in filters and effects. Is there something in these particular 'defaults' that you're drawn to?

i like webcam bcause the vid files are a small size and i can make many tests because most of my outtakes are stupid. they arent filling up the harddrive and slowing down the computer. also it renders faster. and its not high def so its not a magnifying glass its a veil. also the effects on the webcam softwares are very beautiful and fun to work with. also i can see myself and i dont need any help to film the webcam video, i can see myself an what i am doing so then i can see what is failing / working.

A great deal of your video work is posted on Youtube, often practically right alongside the videos that seem to inspire some of your performances (from random vloggers to the ubiquitous home videos of people dancing and lip-syncing). Do you think it's important that your work is presented in the same environment? Do you consider the 'baggage' of youtube (aggressive commenters, a somewhat intrusive user interface) when making the work?

i just use youtube as a tool, i cant say i am like "philosophically" into it. its convenient. but i have to say though that the comments are a special gift. always a highlight to get them because they are really real. also they are very funny. theyre all over the board, its more much intersting and more reflective of the internet and what its about and its more constructive and useful. and entertaining.

In an interview ...

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Artist Profile: Aram Bartholl

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Aram Bartholl is a 2011 Rhizome Commissions winner for his proposal, Dust.

Map, public installation (2006-2010)


Turning a digital object into a physical one is often part of your practice. Dead Drops  and the 2004 version of de_dust blurs the boundaries between the physical environment and digital worlds. Do you think that there is a place anymore where one world 'ends' and the other begins? Can we ever stop playing Counter-Strike?

In 1995, I had to walk over to the Technical University TU-Berlin campus to get my first email address. I was permitted there to use the UNIX computer pool while studying Architecture at the UdK (Art School Berlin). I only had one friend in Hamburg I knew who had an email address I could write to. Back in the day a lot of people were like  “Yes that is cool, but what really do you need the Internet for!?”. Today it is more like  “You are not on Facebook, why?!?” being asked from more or less the same people. Obviously there was a rapid development over the last 2 decades in terms of Internet and Computers. The digital space grew bigger and bigger and takes over big parts of our life today. It becomes more and more the extension of ourselves, like McLuhan put it. And yes, you are right:  One can’t tell anymore today where one space ends and the other one starts. The classic distinction of digital-analog, real-virtual and online-offline doesn’t work anymore. Those worlds mix up and leap into each other and we are in the center of it. Everything I do every day is my reality. 

While studying Architecture in the 90s my focus was bound to the early web, computers and games. Working in these worlds was much more attractive with all ...

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Artist Profile: Laura Brothers

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slip ohno, 2011

Browsing through your work it becomes clear that iteration is an important part of your process. In one of your more recent works, titled cathy drawl, you create six versions themed around the same formal elements. How does the process of iterating around a particular element contribute to your work?

I assume that the way in which my work is normally viewed is through the action of scrolling. You’re on a computer and you are gliding the images in succession past your gaze. I liken this to a sort of super slow motion film strip. It’s a way of storytelling. For a post, each individual image is viewed in relation to the one that comes before it and the one that follows. Meanwhile, they are all sort of floating in an endless black space. There’s no real clear-cut definition between the images in this context. So to me, within each post, each distinct image is really part of the same piece; the same story. In the case of cathy drawl, it was a matter of showcasing the underlying elements of the images and then building on them; transforming them like characters in the panels of a comic. I find the basic formal elements of the images to be what dictates the inclusive mood of the more elaborate pieces so I tend to want to pull them out and show them in isolation but still in conjunction with the compounded imagery. It’s usually about trying to find a gentle balance within my work for how the principal imagery is rendered; spreading from a subdued minimal execution to an overkill of maximum complexity.

In truth, the iteration is also largely a result of my tendency to want to post too much. The blog began as ...

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Artist Profile: Angelo Plessas

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Monument to Internet Hookups, performance sculpture (2009) at the 2nd Athens Biennale, Splendid Isolation (in collaboration with the Athens Pride) - video documentation


Some of your work exists offline as performances, but the majority of your works are unique websites that present and interactive experience for the viewer. Do you have a preference for exhibiting work online or offline, and have you ever had a title in mind for a work and then had to change it after finding out the domain was owned by someone else?

My priority is to create works that exist online. Having my work online automatically reaches a far greater audience in great speed, creating a powerful social and open condition but I am very much interested in the online-offline interplay. Since the late 90's - when I started creating online, I felt a strong energy and curiosity for the spatial physical outcome of my works. Now we live in the post-internet era and I feel this divided line of the online and offline conditions is almost diminished. This is why extending my pieces beyond the boundaries of a computer screen and present them in physical forms it's a very normal act for me. I am interested in creating an inter-experiential process, a meta-perception of these works but keeping at the same time their internet entity. Regarding exhibiting them in contemporary art spaces I feel are important in terms of historicity but also allows for a moment of sharing the work together with other people in a live space and audience getting a different feedback. The titles of these pieces are their unique domain url's and are registered in the most popular extension which is dotcom. I usually register complex phrases and rarely used, taken from something I read or something I invented like ...

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Artist Profile: LoVid (Tali Hinkis and Kyle Lapidus)

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LoVid is a 2011 Rhizome Commissions winner for their proposal, iParade: Unchanged when Exhumed.

VideoWear, (2003), Mixed Media Sculpture and Performance


Given your interest in revealing electronic circuitry and conduits as a symbol of the body, do you feel that your wearable pieces like Coat of Embrace are extensions of your own body's natural electric currents? Also, reflecting on early sci-fi and cyborg culture, what is your future vision of human interactions with electronics?

All of our instruments, wearable or not, act as extensions of our bodies. Our tactile relationship with the technologies that we use includes building our instruments by hand and designing them around our bodies. Despite or as a result of their origins, these instruments modify how we move while we play them, in ways we cannot predict in advance. They change not just our use of technology, but also the communication between us and our audience during the performance. In some of our work, we amplify natural electrical signals from the human body when we invite our visitors and audience to touch exposed electronic components that are connected to our instruments. This allows the live signals from their bodies to affect the final audio/video. We like creating this circuit between natural and man-made signals as it fits with our vision of a conglomeration of media/technology/electricity with natural and organic systems. In terms of past/future visions, we tend to think in terms of alternate possibilities for both present and future.  We envision co-evolution of natural and man-made systems where interactions are innate and automatic.

Many of your pieces include live performance and video that feed into each other. When creating these types of pieces with feedback loops, do you start by searching for a particular visual you are trying to achieve or ...

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Artist Profile: Duncan Malashock

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Birthstone Puzzle, 2011 Performance documentation, digital video, 11 mins 47 sec.

I noticed one of your pieces is called Glass Bead Game. A reference to the Herman Hesse novel, perhaps?

How did you know?  I’m totally fascinated by that book and its implications, especially when it comes to culture and the Internet.  In case you haven’t read it, here’s the basic idea:  

It’s a science fiction story, in the distant future on Earth, in a European province named Castalia.  Castalia is the archetypical ivory tower, an academic sanctuary where students practice a form of abstract cultural study called the Glass Bead Game.  The game operates on the principle that every field of knowledge can be broken down into its component parts, and so the “beads” which make up the game are each symbolic of a “unit” of cultural knowledge or accomplishment from the arts, humanities, sciences, history, etc.  The idea is that these beads can be linked and juxtaposed together, the goal being for players to share their revelations of cultural insight through making connections between elements of all the arts and sciences.

“...a passage from the Bible, a phrase from one of the Church Fathers, or from the Latin text of the Mass could be expressed and taken into the Game just as easily and aptly as an axiom of geometry or a melody of Mozart.”

It seems like a utopian idea, the accomplishment of uniting the disciplines, but the story deals with the complications of studying culture while being removed from the necessities and urgency which made that culture possible in the first place; and in a way, it’s about that detachment and privilege symbolizing the end of culture.

I’m sure lots of readers and writers have seen the connection since the Internet was created.  Remixing, memes, “supercuts”, reblogging, and the hyperlink all bear a resemblance to this idealized mode of analyzing and resynthesizing cultural material at a distance.  Even the act of using the Internet, of having a peek at the total field of global culture via the network of information, can pretty easily give you the impression of an ex-cultural experience.  So to me The Glass Bead Game is a really thorough critique of that way of interacting with the world.

Anyway, I think about it a ton, although you’d never know it from that tiny video I made except for the name; it happened to fit in with the series of performance documentations I did, and I couldn’t resist playing around with the idea.  So thanks for asking.

Recently you gave a talk about your early experiences with computers and the tools that you used growing up. Would you still be exploring ideas about technology in your art without this background?

A lot of my work deals with interfaces, either making them, using them, or automating their use.  Those mediated experiences, you could say, are a tech-oriented phenomenon, but really the way I figure it, you could just as well say that any experience can be mediated through anything else that’s a “medium”.  Personally, I tend to explore ideas that come about through my personal relationship to technology as a medium.  And I think that’s pretty normal for an artist, no matter what materials are involved, because I see the creative process as basically being made of two interacting mechanisms.  The first is your own ability to manipulate what you’re working on, and the second is your ability to be emotionally and intellectually affected by the results.  It's a feedback loop, where the results of one process affect the tactics of the other; you see what “works” and what doesn’t “work”, whatever that happens to mean at the time, and you go back and change it until it does.  

From what I can tell, that’s how to play the game, and that’s the way it’s always been done.  I think it applies no matter what your medium is, even if your practice is very conceptualist or driven by critical theory; you’re still manipulating something and being attuned to the result.  Whether it’s paint, or sculpture, or JavaScript, or basket-weaving, or conceptualist declarations, or Facebook performances.  

So even though technology got my attention at a young age, and I’m of course interested in all the ways technology has transformed our society, I think some of the most valuable ideas artists explore are going to be informed by their relationship to the medium they use; I try to stick to that.

 

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Artist Profile: Tabor Robak

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Tabor Robak is a 2011 Rhizome Commissions winner for his proposal, Tunnels.

Screenshot from Carbon (2010.) Interactive Virtual Enviroment (download.)


 

There are pieces available on the web that are no longer on your own website, something that is fairly common with artists whose maintenance of an online presence is part of their work. Having developed your work in the public sphere do you hope that the pages and links with your own work are maintained? Would you be bothered (or would you prefer) if some of them fade away?

Yes, I think it is great that some of my work that I am not currently linking to via my website is still available for the dedicated viewer to find somewhere out on the web.  I will frequently remove a link to a piece that I am tired of only to find that I feel differently 6 months later and put the link back up. 

Many pieces on your site, such as Mansion, Explosions and Tidepool each isolate certain 'special effects' from various media (video games, action films and the psychedelic respectively to these three works) and push them to their logical, almost transcendental extreme.  Do you see these works as an expression of the failure of the original media to live up to their promises of transcendence and ultimate entertainment? 

I don’t see it as failure, just a buffer.  I truly believe in the transformative potential of technology but I am also trying to be a realist.  As eagerly as I await the singularity I also think it is ridiculous to hope for a techno-god to save us. There are 2 feelings I frequently find that reflected in my work that express this attitude.  One is a complete, hopeful, teary-eyed love of the glittering special effects and commercial aesthetics ...

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