Artists are often credited with inventing new languages, but of course the building blocks of these code hacks, if you will, are the letters of the alphabet. A new online exhibition entitled "Abecedarium:NYC" takes the Modern English alphabet as its starting point. Curated by Susan Agliata and Lynne Sachs and appropriately hosted by the New York Public Library, that longstanding database of the alphanumeric, the show invited artists to imagine readings of the city of New York and its boroughs, based on their interpretation of a word beginning with their assigned letter. The twenty-six final pieces construct overlapping narratives about the city and its denizens, as portrayed in interactive maps, videos, and audio works. Each entry takes a different approach as to the genre of story told, ranging from noirish mysteries to nonfiction historiographies to humorous character studies. Start with your favorite letter and see if you're able to resist the other twenty-five. - Marisa Olson
What is new media without networks? Better yet...What are networks? Academics and technologists are fond of saying that "we now live in a network culture," meaning in part that whether they are manifested online or offline, our social relationships, the objects we make, and our worldviews are inherently informed by the conditions of life in the era of the internet. New media art would then certainly fall under this gestalt, as it not only comes out of this era, often explicitly addressing it, but it is also a social movement or art community influenced by the merger of computer networks and social networks. This is the precise point of entry for an exhibition entitled "New Media - New Networks," at the Galzenica Gallery in Velika Gorica (formerly Zagreb), which bills itself as "the first retrospective dedicated to the new media art and culture in Croatia." Unlike most gallery exhibitions, the curators aspired to keep the presentation of art works to a minimum. Instead, the show is truly a context for the production of timelines, the writing of important timelines, and the nurturing of relationships revolving around the history of networks in this region. Thus, included in the checklist are defunct Bulletin Board Systems, DIY zines, documentation of art festivals, and even the archives of a university department's research efforts. The result of this unique initiative is a heretofore unseen picture of art initiatives and collaboration in an area often painted as "off the grid" of the contemporary art world, but obviously deeply engaged in contemporary practice. As a starting point for those outside Hrvatska, visit the gallery's timeline and link collection. - Marisa Olson
Replacing the white cube with an off-white browser frame, Harm van den Dorpel's Club Internet provides an ingenious, minimally-invasive strategy for the online presentation of a gallery-style group show. Eschewing the thumbnail and commentary of surfing clubs and art blogs, van den Dorpel offers instead a thin toolbar top-border that allows the reader to cycle through full pages by the 24 artists assembled for Club Internet's inaugural show, "First Selection," running until June 14. The exhibit itself has a zeitgeisty greatest-hits quality; some of the work on display by the likes of Paul Slocum, Guthrie Lonergan, Jodi and Oliver Laric will be already familiar to Rhizome readers. But the selection serves as an excellent showcase for Club Internet's full-screen format, as many of the works require the entire browser frame, and in some cases, their native domain name displayed for full effect, and none go deeper than a single page each. The disorientingly distended jpegs of Constant Dullart's blown up balloon and blown up explosion, or the similarly large-scale, low-res flash animation of Damon Zucconi's Form Over Communication (Do not go gentle into that good night), for example, would be difficult to translate to a bite-sized blog post--likewise Michael Guidetti's glorious full-page text-and-image jumbles. Similarly, works like Thomas Traum's walking and neon, Petra Cortright's . . ..~ <[-/=^=-]>~.. . ., and van den Dorpel's own Sleepwalker I live up to their quasi-cinematic potential when allowed to flourish in full frame. -- Ed Halter
Image is an excerpt from Harm Van Den Dorpel's Sleepwalker I, 2007.
Imagine an art collective whose practice--on the surface--revolves largely around inside jokes, self-congratulation, and the unabashed display of consumption. Throw in a fine balance between fearless experimentation with form and a general disregard for traditional aesthetics. Sounds like international biennale material, right? In fact, it's "Double Happiness," the net art collective who today celebrate their first anniversary of online rabble-rousing under the moniker of this popular Chinese calligraph. When the group was invited, via email, to ruminate on this auspicious occasion, "Dub Hap" co-founder Borna Sammak replied, "I've noticed that those outside the art community seem much quicker to 'get it' than art people." Then again, he also boasted, "I pride myself in having the worst website on the internet." Indeed, the group's site--also managed by artists Eric Laska, Evan Roth, Jeff Sisson, and Bennett Williamson--is chock-a-block with the fruits of inordinately long websurfing sessions: frayed gif mashups, hilarious if sometimes unnerving audio loops, shameless resizes calling for inconsistent page widths, ekphrastic word/image paradoxes, and very often beautiful collages of similar images (graffiti tags, gummi bears, umbrella hats... Google Image Searches are their friend) that not only signify through combination and quantity but overwhelm the viewer with a sheer cascade of visual awesomeness. In many ways, the blog recalls the motto of OG net artists Jimpunk and Abe Linkoln's classic site, Screenfull.net, "We crash your browser with content." Double Happiness has the fresh spirit of a sketchbook alit--a sort of exquisite corpse in which no age or end is predeterminate of today's chaotic link-dump. Ultimately, if Double Happiness revolves around an inside joke, then the joke is shared by all of us. As Williamson reasons, "I enjoy using the internet as a medium for dubhap because online we already view so many disparate ...
Artist Paul Klee once described drawing as "taking a line for a walk," though he could have just as easily been referring to ASDF's A Wikipedia Reader (2008). Assuming two forms - a limited-edition printed book and open-edition .PDF - this project stems from ASDF co-organizer David Horvitz's invitation to a handful of predominantly Los Angeles-based artists to play a "small game" with Wikipedia's navigational structure. The advent of digital information systems, Horvitz argues in the project's introduction, has made heretofore standard methods of categorization "almost irrelevant." Indeed, a virtual user's mode of accessing information relies upon the contingencies of a given search, a vastly less hierarchical mode of navigation that broadens the associative potential of a topic, instead of whittling it down. Horvitz invited eleven collaborators, such as Uta Barth, Laurel Nakadate, and Emilie Halpern, to choose topics reflective of their artistic interests and document their paths through related links. What ensues are relatively straightforward yet frequently lyrical journeys into the web�s collective memory hub, as Barth travels from "Dusk" to "Dawn" and, eventually, reaches "Polar Night"; Halpern grazes "FBI Ten Most Wanted Fugitives" and "Fibonacci" in a search that originated with "Esperanto"; and Horvitz, in a rather appropriate summation of the project's enterprise, encounters "Dérive" and "Flâneur" on a stroll that began with "Boredom" and ends with "Balloon Mail." Given the amount of time we spend in the virtual sphere, it's fitting that ASDF would deploy the methods of Situationists and psychogeographers to generate a permanent archive of a specific moment, topography and state of knowledge that, by the nature of Wikipedia, will continue to change and evolve. - Tyler Coburn
This past February, renowned experimental composer and harpist Zeena Parkins curated an eclectic series of events at New York's avant-garde music venue The Stone. During the last week, Parkins invited a number of guiding lights from San Francisco's experimental media scene to perform. One highlight was the synthesizer trio Phase Chancellor, an improvisational group who have made memorable, yet infrequent appearances at various art and music spaces since 2005. Comprised of video artist Nate Boyce, musician J. Lesser, and Matmos's M.C. Schmidt, the outfit channels the early investigations in electronic art and video carried out by John Cage, David Tudor, and Nam June Paik. Phase Chancellor distance themselves from their predecessors through their integration of digital technology. The backbone of the performance is Boyce's mesmeric imagery, prepared mostly through the processing software Jitter, but altered and added upon live using a hacked video mixer fed oscillations by his Korg Mono/Poly synth. (In the accompanying video, imploding circles in the center of the image are generated by the arpeggiator function on this device.) The Mono/Poly is also part of the sound mix, to which Lesser and Schmidt contribute a rich counterpoint of electronic textures, avoiding the concept of drone altogether in favor of a perplexing and ever-shifting sonic environment. - Nick Hallett
Video: Phase Chancellor at the Stone, February 22, 2008
The lyrics in "World Peace" (1999), an early song by the Japanese multidisciplinary art collective Delaware, praise a celebratory vision of seemingly disparate cultures finding unity in difference. Jumping ahead eight years, this theme reaches a nice materialization in Delaware's practice with the release of the YouTubeHarmony videos (2007). The Harmonies are four-corner, international jam sessions featuring musicians, dancers and random people talking or goofing around with friends, all remixed into solid, often surprising mixes by Delaware. In YouTubeHARMONY 4 Apple Pie, for example, Liz Luttinger plays a dreamy melody on a Casio SK-10 in the lower left corner while YouTube user paulagloria gently talks us through the process of making her mother's apple pie in the upper left. Another user, holaitsmak, demonstrates some ballet pointe work in the upper right while Peahix demonstrates the functionality of an early beat box in the lower right. As the mix progresses, Delaware insert a couple more ballet dancers, Sean Ray's banjo picking, and the duo of Ichi and Ichi's sister playing the Beatles. The most effective element of Apple Pie and all of the Harmonies, however, is the detachment of the audio from each visual component. As the audio plays at the originally recorded speed, the video drastically slows down, rendering the visuals as something like ghostly mnemonics for personal histories. The overall impact of the videos serve to abstract each individual component into a larger whole, aptly echoing Delaware's call for world unity. - Gene McHugh
Move over, ink jet, it's time for Junk Jet! If you think the era of DIY zines has withered in an age of electronic reproduction, think again. Junk Jet is an online fanzine and lo-fi print publication concerned with "tinkering (bricoler, basteln), with forms and found objects, with theories and (small) narratives, with fashions and styles, and of course with computers and other electronic devices." The point of the collaborative project is to discuss the status of piracy and potentials for subversion in the era of digital media. With contributions by the likes of Amy Alexander, Kim Cascone, Jaromil, and Olia Lialina, readers can expect fun, politically-engaged, visually and aurally stimulating content with which Junk Jet lives up to its promise to distort the digital hype and collapse the technological seduction. - Marisa Olson