Fun Is Back

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Those three words are the declaration of Manuel Buerger, a young German artist whose practice encompasses graphic design, fine art, theory, and music. Buerger did his graduate studies in Media Art under the direction of pioneering internet artist Olia Lialina and this reveals itself best in the humor Buerger directs at his projects that are often just as goofy as they are subtly, intelligently deconstructive of media culture and its conventions. His Master's thesis was an artist book-cum-manifesto on the cultural and economic imperative towards newness, with the figure of a UFO used to navigate the philosophy of novelty. Buerger followed this project with an A5 fanzine that was, in fact, a critical examination of the role of individuality in the Microsoft software platform. Designed in MS Word, I doc. you will! both celebrates and critiques the rigidity and dominance of this environment, pointing to the strict adherence to publishing protocols written into Word, despite the seeming emphasis on personalization within tools and templates. Predicated on a reading of Deleuze's theories on societies of control, Buerger argues, "The last 25 years have rapidly changed the means of computer aided self-portrayal. 'Individualization' is the product of this development--consumption stresses our uniqueness." That said, a number of Buerger's projects end up focusing on consumer culture, or the fine line between that culture and its production. While net-based experiments like his Nostril Karaoke leave us a bit speechless, his Designerz is a clever, gif-based trope-popping of the archetypal designer-holding-poster portrait, reflected in the style of a permanent zoom into a hall of mirrors. The artist is currently at work on a MIDI-album called "10/10," in which "the idea is to take ten ultra-cool midi-instruments (10 of 128) and dedicate a song to each instrument," and he's an active ...

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On Top of the Fold: Art

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Steve Lambert's Add Art project (a 2008 Rhizome Commission co-developed with the artist's colleagues in the Eyebeam R&D lab) offers home-delivery art exhibitions in the form of your Firefox browser window. Internet users who download Lambert's free open source plug-in will see an aesthetic overhaul in the sites they visit, as advertisements are replaced by visual art created or curated by a different guest, every two weeks. The project is a perfect outgrowth of Lambert's involvement with the Anti-Advertising Agency, who work to co-opt "the tools and structures used by the advertising and public relations industries" to call into question "the purpose and effects of advertising in public space." These efforts have manifested in forms ranging from bus shelter ads and stickers to ideologically-bent think tanks and objects of propaganda. With a keen awareness of the impact of advertising on public space, the move to the internet--where so many of us dwell and encounter a daily barrage of ads--is a thoughtful one. Rather than offering yet another software tool for blocking-out advertisements, Add Art fills this space with something more intriguing, and the biweekly exhibits that have thus far been presented successfully generate discourse about value, aesthetics, and the contextual frameworks within which we receive information about the world. The current show (imagine each ad box in your browser window as a gallery) is a rather humorous and almost absurdly literal take on the context of adding art to your field of vision by replacing ads with it. Charles Broskoski essentially blacks-out the ad boxes on sites with his contribution, which is a collection of digital reproductions of famous black monochromatic paintings, cropped, resized to the proper specs, and optimized for the net--meaning that these paintings by the likes of Rauchenberg, Kelly, Malevich, Marden, Reinhardt ...

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Erase You

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As a compact but cogent set of explorations on governmental secrecy, censorship and other forms of knowledge control, the exhibit "For Reasons of State" consequently doubles as a menagerie of information technologies: projects on display feature microfiche, voice mail, tape recording, 16mm educational film, printed books, photography, surveillance video, card catalogs, typewritten documents, and good old pencil and paper-- though, perhaps significantly, there's not a computer monitor in sight. Ben Rubin's Dark Source (2005) comes closest via perverse analogy: a bank of microfiche readers displaying copies of documents that appear to be nothing but hand-scrawled bars. During a 2002 security snafu, Rubin was able to acquire the software code for Diebold's controversial voting machines, but then blacked out each line--in accordance with corporate trade secret laws-- before exhibiting it. Rubin's self-imposed censorship mirrors Jenny Holzer's Redaction Paintings (2006) mounted nearby, comprised of enlargements of classified US government documents released via the Freedom of Information Act, still containing large swathes of darkness. Other pieces deal less with active suppression of facts than their effective loss through lack of proper indexing: Lin + Lam's Unidentified Vietnam (2003-Present) series recreates a sloppy card catalog from the Library of Congress's collection of hundreds of propaganda films produced with the help of the American government for use in South Vietnam, while Mark Lombardi's Neil Bush, Silverado, MDC, Walters and Good c. 1979-90 (2nd Version) (1996) serves as an example of the late artist's obsessive sketches of conspiracy-style flow charts linking together powerful individuals, government bodies and corporations in tightly-bounded nests of sometimes inscrutable interconnections. The more exhibited and obvious choices for the show's theme (Trevor Paglen's photos of "black sites," Julia Meltzer and David Thorne's oft-programmed video essay "It's not my memory of ...

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Rhizome Commissions 08: Conversation with Rafael Rozendaal, Evan Roth, Eteam and Steve Lambert

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The Rhizome Commissions Program was founded in 2001 to provide support to emerging artists working with new technologies. The forty-four works commissioned to date represent some of the most innovative, pioneering efforts in the field. At the New Museum on May 22nd, several artists who received support in the 2008 cycle will present their finished projects as well as other select projects. Artists to present include Evan Roth, Eteam (Hajoe Moderegger and Franziska Lamprecht), Steve Lambert and Rafael Rozendaal.



Thursday May 22nd, 7:30pm
the New Museum, New York, NY
$6 Members/ $8 General Public

2008 Commissioned projects:
http://www.rhizome.org/commissions/2008/

Image Credit: Rafael Rozendaal, JELLOTIME.COM, 2007

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Round and Round

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Starting this Friday night and running through April 28th, Mudam Luxemboug will host a series of events organized by Candice Breitz involving artists who "explore the logic of call-and-response" in their practices. Many of these artists, including Cory Arcangel, Matthieu Laurette, and Pierre Bismuth, have been previously categorized by the use of appropriation or recycling in their works, a characterization Breitz believes to feed into a false dichotomy, in the discourse surrounding contemporary art, between "original" creative production and critical responses to culture's reserves. For Breitz, "all creative acts are responses to other creative acts," and her curated program aspires to locate the practices of the participating artists in the history of call-and-response, which many musicologists trace back to oral cultures on the African continent. Call-and-response is a mode of creative expression that necessarily emerges "between people," in that it entails the participation of multiple speakers and listeners, thereby departing from "the traditional western separation of speaker/performer and listener/audience." Over a series of daylong sessions, Breitz will engage artists on a series of topics: "Art Goes to the Movies" will focus on the cannibalization of mainstream cinema in the work of Paul Pfeiffer, Bismuth, Martin Arnold and Breitz; "After Images" explores Surasi Kusolwong, Jonathan Monk, and Kaz Oshiro's use of other artists' works of art in their practices; and "Mondo Youtube" will find Arcangel, Laurette, and Bjørn Melhus discussing "the participatory potential of mainstream media such as advertising, the Internet, reality television, video games, Myspace and YouTube." As these types of mainstream media double as sites for corporate marketing and trend-appropriation - a topic Breitz has frequently addressed in her career - the question of the possibility for innovative, critical gestures becomes of paramount importance. Thankfully, one would be hard-pressed to find a better panel of practitioners ...

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No Holds Barred

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After a standout contribution to Postmasters' summer 2007 group show - which caused even tough cookie critic Roberta Smith to advise New York Times readers to "take notice" - Kenneth Tin-Kin Hung returns to the gallery this month with an accomplished solo turn, "Residential Erection," running through May 10th. Spanning the space's two rooms are the artist's recent video contributions to his brand of twenty-first century baroque, Residential Erection (2008) and Gas Zappers (2007), as well as digital prints and monumental pop-up displays, all deriving imagery from Residential Erection. While the pop-ups offer interesting translations of Hung's collage-heavy video practice into the sculptural realm, they ultimately feel secondary to the videos themselves, which interpolate political hubris and prop-like flatness with a greater level of sophistication, evoking theater sets, commercial advertisements, image search refuse and one-on-one combat video games. All of these references (and countless others) make a turn on Hung's digital stage, collectively giving a performance as critical of contemporary American politics as it is symptomatic of the artist as capitalist-schizophrenic par excellence. In one of the choicer scenes from Residential Erection, for example, an infantile Barack Obama suckles from the teat of mega-advocate Oprah Winfrey (in Virgin Mary attire), only to transform into a variation on Ali G's Borat, emblazoned with the logos of Verizon, UBS and a handful of his other corporate campaign sponsors. At another moment, a cadre of conservatives roll out the "Straight Talk Express," led by Republican cheerleader John McCain - replete with tutu - and proceed to erect a chain-link fence, hoard burritos and manufacture "Minutemen Salsa." Hung's garishly Pop take is thus no disguise for our nation's unsavory realities, but rather uses the aesthetics of mass-culture to dispel the sleek, rhetorical surface of American politics and tease out its dirty ...

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Baltimore Rising

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metropolis-robot.jpg

The Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) is home to a very interesting set of new media artists--both faculty and students--and exhibitions like "sight.sound [interaction] 2.0" are securing the space as a breeding ground for new ideas. An annual exhibition curated by Jason Sloan and open through March 14, the show brings together local and international artists whose work--much as the title implies--explores audio/visual interactivity. "sight.sound" doesn't aspire to a much tighter curatorial theme than that, but this allows viewers to create associations of their own, ranging from labor commentary to the aesthetics of experimentation. For instance, Nashville-based collaborators [Fladry+Jones] and DJ Black Noise meditate on collage theory, as it has shifted from the era of expressionist film to the present, by offering a 30-minute remix of Fritz Lang's film, Metropolis. The original film comments on the relationship between workers and the ruling class in an increasingly mechanized society, and the artists' remix offers a contemporary take on this evolving narrative. Baltimore-based artist Colin Ford conducts an experiment in color psychology, asking visitors to identify the hues that represent business brands, such as "Starbucks Green" and "Verizon Red," and each subsequent visitor's selection is averaged with their predecessor's, which Ford believes turns corporate power on its head by allowing consumers to " alter the meaning that the brand holds." Local artists Dan Huyberts and Will Rosenthal bring play into the fold with their fun projects. Huyberts's Circuit Bent Video Sculpture Aural Vision 1 allows viewers to "watch" nature recordings on a television, using a photocell that triggers the screaming of a circuit-bent smoke detector. Rosenthal's Cideslide is an interactive video game inviting users to choose their own adventure in navigating what Rosenthal describes as a surreal "Lynchian" world by using ...

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To Tell You the Truth....

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The Yes Men are now famous for excelling at the art of parasitic media. Led by two artists whose pseudonyms are Andy Bichlbaum and Mike Bonanno, they often work with numerous secret collaborators to pull-off interventions that expose corporate and governmental injustices--frequently revealing the fuzziness of the lines between the two. Following in the footsteps of their previous projects (concocted with fellow tactical media peers) under monikers that included RTMark, the Barbie Liberation Organization, and etoy, their grandly ambitious initiatives rely on the art of parody. Copying the source code of corrupt entities' websites and carefully adjusting the text and images to reveal embarrassing truths about their respective atrocities, the group has been able to successfully convince web surfers that they were agents of George W. Bush's first presidential campaign staff, the World Trade Organization, the US department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), ExxonMobil, Halliburton/KBR, and other groups. Perhaps their most successful coup was being invited to speak on behalf of Dow Chemical, on the BBC television news, prompting Dow to reply that they were not, in fact, taking responsibility for the disaster in Bhopal, as the Yes Men erroneously claimed. Such works make everyday, otherwise unspoken injustices front page news, and the group continues to succeed in pulling off what some dismiss as "pranks." Recently the Yes Men took a step that many of their subjects have been unable to take: They made a major apology. A representative of the trademark group at oil company and general environment-hurter BP recently emailed them to complain about the unauthorized site at http://www.theyesmen.org/agribusiness/beyondpetrol/ which bears "a remarkable similarity to the genuine www.bp.com website.... include[s] multiple reproductions of the BP logo," and possibly poses "a real risk... that genuine visitors could be ...

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Art World Data Visualization

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Jennifer Dalton's work very often takes up the art world as its subject matter. Art about art--and the world that revolves around it--can often be cheeky at best, but Dalton manages to pull it off with grace, wit, and originality. She also tends to merge newer and more traditional media in doing so, ranging from internet art to paintings to temporary sculptures. On March 8, Brooklyn-based alternative art space Smack Mellon will open a solo show of her work, entitled "Jennifer Dalton is a Scientist--Not!". This moniker comes from an entry written by a gallery visitor on one of the surveys Dalton facilitated over the last year, in preparation for the show. As the gallery notes, the project puts a unique spin on the concept of site-specific art by revolving the work around the space's audience. The show will include a Powerpoint-style DVD infographically presenting the results of a survey entitled What is the Art World Thinking? (2007-Ongoing), in which "this particular slice of New York's art-going public has been invited to take a short anonymous survey consisting of a few simple questions on topics ranging from art to feminism to philanthropy to politics." The results of a previous poll, entitled How do Artists Live (2006) will also be presented in a slide show, along with a new "'insta-survey" asking viewers to respond to a pressing question by taking a candy." These questionnaires raise interesting unspoken questions about the attention spans and consumptive habits of contemporary artists and patrons, as well as the lack of demographic information we have about these individuals, despite the fact that we now live in what many have called a "database society." If you can't make it to Brooklyn but want to participate in the Q&A festivities, check out Artsurvey ...

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