Interview with Eddo Stern

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Image: Still from "Amongst Fables and Men"


Tonight artist Eddo Stern will host "QQ More", a screening he curated of offbeat fan-made machinima dealing with real-life issues such as drugs, pornography, and death at Brooklyn's Light Industry. The show begins at 8pm and will be followed by a discussion between Stern and Alexander Galloway. I conducted an email interview with Stern about his interest in the phenomenon and its relevance to his own art practice. - Ceci Moss

In gaming parlance, what does "QQ More" mean? How does this relate to the concept behind your program "QQ More"?

QQ is an emoticon that means crying or sobbing - think two big round eyes with lil' tears. The program contains a few real tearjerkers hence the title "QQ More."

When and how did you start working on "QQ More"?

I've spent quite a few too many hours watching fan made machinima from MMOs on fan sites, most of which I would call "vanity videos" -- short films of players' tributes to � themselves, set to emotionally charged music. Then one day I stumbled on a video called Rest in Peace Ignoramus -- a Norwegian World of Warcraft video made by a few guild members to commemorate a fellow guildmate's death -- the video's intended audience appears to be Ignoramus's family and his online friends. The video is uncomfortably intimate, and the production is very amateurish - it runs way too long, has terrible camera control, sappy music and no editing whatsoever but it still will bring you to tears. (Oh pathos, I cannot resist thee!)

After unearthing Rest in Peace Ignoramus and watching the infamous video by Serenity Now about the memorial massacre, I started a more systematic search through fan-made WoW videos and found a few other oddballs -- the selection for QQ ...

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Pong In Action

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When the Atari video game Pong was released in 1972, it was instrumental in establishing what many today call computer culture, by virtue of its popularity and accessibility. The first product to find success as both an arcade game and a home console staple, it became a seemingly-ubiquitous touchstone for the members of a DIY generation empowered by play and home-hacking. In the 35 years since its release, the first generation video game has retained this mythos, even as technology has evolved around it. Lisbon-based artist André Gonçalves's new project, Pong--the analog arcade machine comments on the increased use of technology by artists seeking to address cultural or historical epochs, such as the one in which the original game participates. Gonçalves has created an installation that mimics the original arcade version of Pong, recreating it in analog form and giving it a live-action spin. Using a network of arduino processors, infra-red sensors, printer head guts, and a variety of other materials including some old-fashioned wood, the visual similarities are uncanny, even as they create an ironic "post-digital" tension between 1970s-era analog techniques and a markedly-digital icon to emerge from that era. However, the wit and finesse of Gonçalves's project lies in his use of hairdryer fans and a ping pong ball to carry out game action. What viewers actually see, when they look at his installation, is a real video-monitored, joystick-controlled table tennis game. Gonçalves is hardly the first artist to find inspiration in Pong, but he seems to be among the most successful at achieving the physical interaction and social fellowship originally intended by its creator, Nolan Bushnell. On that note, the game was meant to be played and Gonçalves's prototype will be presented March 28th at the Lisbon chapter of ...

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Women's Work

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At times, identifying a group of artists' work under one broad umbrella can be homogenizing or even censorious as it pushes their practice into the preformed box of genre conventions and limited identifications. This has certainly been the case with so-called "feminist art," not lastly because the very notion of feminism has shifted over time, along with the concerns of contemporary women. Nonetheless, the moniker has been an important vehicle for a variety of voices, and like all social movements, feminism depends on the participation of a multitude to thrive. These are the tensions (and opportunities) that inform the organizational logic of "The Way That We Rhyme: Women, Art & Politics," an exhibition that will open at San Francisco's Yerba Buena Center for the Arts on March 29 and run until June 29. The show indeed includes a multitude of artists whose work ranges from live performance to DIY publications to street art to new media installations, thus testifying to the diversity of channels now used to address the issues faced by an equally diverse population that identify as women. These artists include Nao Bustamante, Vaginal Davis, Eve Fowler, MK Guth, Taraneh Hemami, Miranda July and Shauna McGarry, LTTR, Aleksandra Mir, Shinique Smith, subRosa, SWOON and Tennessee Jane Watson, The Counterfeit Crochet Project organized by Stephanie Syjuco, The Toxic Titties, and others. The explicit mandate of the exhibit is to present "the politically charged work of a new generation of women who use creativity as a form of empowerment and a means for making social change," and the ultimate argument is that "the way that we rhyme" is not only by raising hot topics, but by forming collaborations and coalition to swarm the root of these issues. This recalls the original definition of "radical," getting at the underlying fibers of ...

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In Print

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Artists Olia Lialina and Dragan Espenschied have produced a body of work that focuses on the vernacular visual language of the web, one that revels in its gaps and imperfections. Works such as Olia's and Dragan's: Comparative History of Classic Animated GIFs and Glitter Graphics and Midnight explore the evolution of digital imagery in tandem with the changing conception of the web's ideal appearance. Currently exhibited in Montage: Unmonumental Online, Lialina's Some Universe (2002) engages one of the most classic and widely used digital images: stars.

The latest iteration of Lialina and Espenschied's project Online Newspapers (2004-Ongoing), developed for the Madison Square Park Conservancy, follows this distinct direction. Shown on four outdoor video screens on the grounds of the Shake Shack, Online Newspapers: New York Edition is a series of scanned front pages of four New York daily newspapers. All have been rendered illegible by flashy animations and glitter graphics that evoke the look and feel of the early web. The papers imagine how websites for New York's major newspapers would look if designed not by the slick designers whose work dominates the web now but by the early users of the web who had a more homegrown aesthetic. By elevating these early styles and graphics, Online Newspapers suggests that the forward movement of the web does not necessarily amount to cultural improvement and that this assumption of progress is, in itself, an over-hyped and inaccurate piece of news. The exhibition will last from March 20 through April 27, with the works shown daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. - Dennis Knopf

Olia Lialina and Dragan Espenschied, Online Newspapers: New York Edition, 2008

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That's Bananas!

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banana1.png

Montreal-based artist Cesar Saez has an interesting labor of love. He wants to launch a Geostationary Banana Over Texas. For three years, he's been researching the technology to do so and he's now ready to begin fabrication. All that stands between him and his dream is a fundraising goal of $1.5 million. Once launched, Texans will look up to see a banana that appears to be one-tenth the size of the moon. The 1000-foot, fruit-like assemblage will be composed of bamboo and balsa wood and will run on hot air, much like a blimp. Saez says he wants to think about space as a "canvas for expression" and to explore "territory as sovereign within the social context of today's global society." The territory of which he speaks is not simply Texas air space, it's the space for technological research into aeronautics currently "monopolized by wealthy governments and large corporations." In some ways, the artist likens himself to a cowboy, defiantly sending a rather phallic foreign object (bananas don't grow in Texas) into an orbital pattern above a state marked by a legacy of corporate pollution. Though Saez admits that the banana, itself, is simply and "oddity with a sense of humor," he's hoping that this intentionally "unthreatening intervention" can appear like a message in the sky to inspire community growth. In many ways, Saez's banana is just an arbitrary symbol for something much bigger than itself. His development process is one that has involved far-ranging and ground-breaking collaboration between artists, researchers, and locals. He hopes that the next step, after this major DIY feat is accomplished, will be regional community members stepping up to create their own DIY communication networks, allowing them to evade profit structures in "monitoring forest fires, the weather ...

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Unraveling Digital Media

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German artist Margret Eicher works in "traditional media," but don't let that fool you... Her tapestries, watercolors, and paintings are digital art in every sense of the phrase, employing digital weaving and printing tools and techniques to comment on information society. Eicher appropriates vernacular imagery of pop cultural figures, as well as news photos, video game images, and iconic art historical images to craft unique digital collages that then get translated into their "traditional" form. In an upcoming show at [Dam] Berlin, called "SHE," Eicher will present three tapestries that play off of the tropes of sensuality, irony, and provocation to explore femininity. Her images range from stills of the TV show "Desperate Housewives" to photos of "young bored couples." The tapestry medium is one with an important history, touching upon wealth and industry as well as early computing, in the era of Jacquard's Loom. Eicher is precise in recalling this history and using it as a vehicle to fabricate semiotic and psychological analyses of figurative gestures and their political implications, in mainstream visual culture. Her exhibition will be up from March 14-May 17 and more images of her work can be found here. - Marisa Olson

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Fashion Forward

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The LilyPad Arduino


Demonstration of a shirt made with a mounted motion-responsive LilyPad


At first glance, it would seem that wearable computing and traditional craft operate in distinctly different realms of cultural production. However, Leah Buechley, a University of Colorado at Boulder PhD student working with the Craft Technology Group, bridges this gap by taking a homemade approach to the use of computation in clothing or jewelery. The LilyPad Arduino Kit allows for the construction of simple, but aesthetically innovative, computational jewelery made out of the environmentally responsive open source platform known as Arduino. According to Buechley's site, the LilyPad is "designed to empower novices to work with electronic textiles. Using the kit, you can build your own soft interactive clothing." Along with the necessary tools, the kit also includes a highly instructive tutorial that will provide those without a strong background in technology with the know-how to build their own arduino and apply it to their projects. Leah Buechley will lead a lesson on the LilyPad Arduino at Mediamatic's Designing Wearable Hybrids workshop from February 19-21 at Mediamatic, Amsterdam. - Gene McHugh

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The Junk Set

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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

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Crafting for a Cause

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Reacting to rampant industrialization and increased division of labor at the end of the 19th century, a group of artists, designers and architects founded what would become known as the Arts and Crafts Movement. William Morris, Charles Rennie Mackintosh and others denounced the machinations of industrialized production in favor of the more romantic and socially responsible ideal of the craftsman. Although predominantly an aesthetic impulse, the ethos behind the Arts and Crafts Movement has inspired more overtly political and ecological movements in recent history. For example, in the 1960s and 70s, the suburbanization of the United States prompted increased interest in "back to the land" movements. The Foxfire community looked to the mountain culture of the Appalachians as keys to more sustainable and community oriented lifestyles, and the Whole Earth Catalog both advocated and provided tools for ecological and socially responsible living. In recent times, against the backdrop of globalization, unprecedented corporate control, and war, an interest in grassroots craft-based movements has emerged in full force. Shedding their predecessor's suspicion of technology, today's crafters realize the political benefit of the immediate access and increased connectivity afforded by new technologies. The New School for General Studies in New York City will examine the strategies of a new generation of craftsmen in the upcoming talk "Crafting Protest". Scheduled for Saturday January 26, panelists will discuss the "role of craft in forming national identities, especially in times of political turmoil or war; notions of patriotism; feminism and the domestic sphere; and economic models that circumvent conventional market models." Moderated by art historian Julia Bryan-Wilson, participants include Sabrina Gschwandtner, artist and founder of KnitKnit, a periodical that celebrates the convergence of craft and contemporary art, and Cat Mazza, whose software KnitPro was developed in opposition to sweatshop labor practices. Artist and Designer ...

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Masters of Manipulation

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The term "manipulation" comes to mind when discussing the vast and varied practice of artists LoVid (Tali Hinkis and Kyle Lapidus). For years now, the duo have created an impressive, diverse body of handcrafted video work, spanning from performances, installations and tapestries to sophisticated image processors. Their creative image and sound distortion is deeply informed by the work of a previous generation of video artists, not only luminaries like Nam June Paik and Steina and Woody Vasulka, but also the lesser known creators of image processors and synthesizers such as Dan Sandin (of the Sandin Image Processor) and Dave Jones. This influence is pronounced in LoVid's wearable image processor Coat of Embrace and pseudo minimalist sculptural instruments such as Sync Armonica. In their most recent work, a Turbulence Networked_Music_Review commission, Hinkis and Lapidus took a new approach to manipulation. Rather than create an elaborate machine from scratch, they transformed the physical constraints of the web and a home computer into a vehicle for distortion. More of the Same (2007) starts simply enough: a single pop up window, a photograph of the artists and their broken laptop, and a few lines of dialogue, ("What's up with this computer? Is it the browser? The connection?")- and from there multiplies exponentially with each successive pop up window. Window #1 loads one image and one audio file, window #2 multiplies the image and loads the audio twice, and on and on until your computer is simultaneously trying to load 514 audio files to sometimes cacophonic, sometimes eerily silent ends. Don't worry about your processor, the artists give thoughtful instructions to avoid any serious computer crashes. - Caitlin Jones

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