From the Archives

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Video of "Spacewar"

Ready or not, computers are coming to the people.

That's good news, maybe the best since psychedelics. It's way off the track of the "Computers - Threat or menace? school of liberal criticism but surprisingly in line with the romantic fantasies of the forefathers of the science such as Norbert Wiener, Warren McCulloch, J.C.R. Licklider, John von Neumann and Vannevar Bush.

The trend owes its health to an odd array of influences: The youthful fervor and firm dis-Establishmentarianism of the freaks who design computer science; an astonishingly enlightened research program from the very top of the Defense Department; an unexpected market-Banking movement by the manufacturers of small calculating machines, and an irrepressible midnight phenomenon known as Spacewar.

Reliably, at any nighttime moment (i.e. non-business hours) in North America hundreds of computer technicians are effectively out of their bodies, locked in life-or-Death space combat computer-projected onto cathode ray tube display screens, for hours at a time, ruining their eyes, numbing their fingers in frenzied mashing of control buttons, joyously slaying their friend and wasting their employers' valuable computer time. Something basic is going on.

Rudimentary Spacewar consists of two humans, two sets of control buttons or joysticks, one TV-like display and one computer. Two spaceships are displayed in motion on the screen, controllable for thrust, yaw, pitch and the firing of torpedoes. Whenever a spaceship and torpedo meet, they disappear in an attractive explosion. That's the original version invented in 1962 at MIT by Steve Russell. (More on him in a moment.)

October, 1972, 8 PM, at Stanford's Artificial Intelligence (AI) Laboratory, moonlit and remote in the foothills above Palo Alto, California. Two dozen of us are jammed in a semi-dark console room just off the main hall containing AI's PDP-10 ...

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Interview with Olga Goriunova, Curator of Fun with Software

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Humor, fun and nonsense often figure greatly in the current modes of communication on the web, whereby memes and sardonic blog comments are commonplace -- if not expected. Such trappings have found their way into media art practices from Cory Arcangel’s cover of Arnold Schoenberg’s op.11 Drie Klavierstucke using cat videos on YouTube to F.A.T. Lab’s Kanye West Interrupt bookmarklet. The question that these works and others like it raises is this: does humor appear to be a synergistic outgrowth of technology (and how does it relate to its development)?

In the latest exhibition "Fun with Software" at Bristol’s Arnolfini, curator Olga Goriunova seeks to document and explore how humorous approaches to software lead to innovation. Working with early net and media artists from JODI to Graham Harwood, the exhibition is a retrospective of peculiar approaches to computation. I sat down with Goriunova to talk about the show’s premise and how that premise contextualizes and contrasts the current era of humor and technology.

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Required Reading

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Angelo Plessas, TheHistoryOfADecadeThatHasNotYetBeenNamed.com (still), 2007

Greek-Italian artist Angelo Plessas’ interactive websites (Angeloplessas.com) integrate elements of drawing, sound, Flash animation and innovative HTML coding. Each of his online two-dimensional “sculptures” is sealed with a domain name that playfully evokes the language of philosophy, literature and drama. Challenging concepts of space and ownership on the Internet, Plessas’ websites are, like graffiti bombed on a public wall, the acts of a guerrilla artist intervening in public space.

Plessas has come a long way since his first and ongoing aesthetic project: documenting face-like compositions he discovers in random configurations of objects and architecture (InternationalPortraitGallery.com). He officially launched his artistic career in 2001 when artist and curator Miltos Manetas selected his work for the Internet-inspired group show Biennale.net at Deitch Projects, New York. Now, the artist is exploring projects that take on a curatorial scope, including the recent one-day video projection extravaganza Bring Your Own Beamer at the Kunsthalle Athena.

With the lines between his online and offline work becoming increasingly blurred, Plessas is evolving in the manner of his medium. As the Internet expands, so does Plessas’ practice, and as the artist matures, perhaps he might shed light on where the Internet might take us. Sitting at his seaside apartment in Athens, Plessas takes me on a journey through his virtual universe, which ultimately leads right back to reality itself…whatever that might be, or could become.

-- FROM THE INTRODUCTION TO "ANGELO PLESSAS: LIFE THROUGH A WEB BROWSER" BY STEPHANIE BAILEY IN ART LIES, ISSUE 67

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GLACIER (2010) - Mark Beasley

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You can submit new youtube videos by supplying the video id via a ?watch= querystring.

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Code Eroded: At GLI.TC/H

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In the inverted world of glitch art, functionality is just a sterile enclosure of creative space and degradation an agent of renewal.

Such was the spirit in the air at GLI.TC/H, a five-day conference in Chicago organized by Nick Briz, Evan Meaney, Rosa Menkman and Jon Satrom that included workshops, lectures, performances, installations and screenings. Intuitively, most people involved with new media know what glitch art is - it’s art that tweaks technology and causes either hardware or software to sputter, fail, misfire or otherwise wig out. Narrowing in on a more precise definition can be perilous, though. Purists would insist on a distinction between art that uses actual malfunctions and art that imitates malfunctions, but the organizers of GLI.TC/H took a catholic approach to their programming.

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towards and beyond .com (2010) - Rafaël Rozendaal

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ie6 (2010) - Ricardo Cabello

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All Over the Map: Conflux 2010

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The 7th edition of the annual New York psychogeographic festival Conflux kicks off on Friday and will run through the weekend. This year's program is eclectic, expansive and diverse - ranging from cinema accessible by scanning dispersed qcode stickers on web-enabled camera phones (Barcode Cinema by Kristin Lucas and Lee Montgomery) to a panel on public space art and Foursquare with Foursquare Founder Dennis Crowley to a bike ride exploring the geology of Manhattan to hidden transducer speakers throughout the East Village. If you want to explore how artists and technologists are currently integrating public space into their work, look no further than Conflux. See the full schedule here.

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Open Seas (2010) - Mitch Trale

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tessellation/javascript (2010) - Dylan Fisher

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