DIS Magazine's "Labor Issue"

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DIS Magazine are killin' it again with their newly released "Labor Issue" which examines work in the culture industry in an unstable, recession-ridden world. Jenna Sauers recounts how her modeling career kicked off her descent into debt, W.A.G.E share some of their propaganda, Marco Roso's photo essay shows how one can travel if a "fetishized commodity," Paul Mpagi Sepuya documents Chelsea gallery receptionists, and much more.

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Required Reading

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We do not think that taking a stand for or against WikiLeaks is what matters most. WikiLeaks is here to stay, until it either scuttles itself or is destroyed by opposing forces. Our point is rather to (try to) assess and ascertain what WikiLeaks can, could — and maybe even should — do, and to help formulate how “we” could relate to and interact with WikiLeaks. Despite all its drawbacks, and against all odds, WikiLeaks has rendered a sterling service to the cause of transparency, democracy and openness. As the French would say, if something like it did not exist, it would have to be invented. The quantitative — and what looks soon to become the qualitative — turn of information overload is a fact of contemporary life. The glut of disclosable information can only be expected to continue grow — and exponentially so. To organize and interpret this Himalaya of data is a collective challenge that is clearly out there, whether we give it the name “WikiLeaks” or not.

-- EXCERPT FROM "TWELVES THESES ON WIKILEAKS" BY GEERT LOVINK AND PATRICE RIEMENS

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Turbo Sculpture (english) (2010) - Aleksandra Domanovic

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Required Reading

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Marina Abramović, view of The Artist is Present at the MoMA. Photo: C-Monster.

Inevitably, the fast pace of consumerism is accompanied by the tantalizing promise of slow time—Allen Ginsberg once complained of a heart attack en route to his weekly meditation.

Just as the arts were reinvented in the age of the camera, so too must they be in the age of accelerated time. If the internet and the touch screen represent the apparatuses of our age, then the material and the prolonged have become a niche for the discursive and formal role of the arts. Much like a spa, the arts play host to a malnourished subject eager to experience something nostalgically other. Slow time and tangible bodies become so rare experientially that their aesthetic value finds a home in the cul-de-sac of scarcity that is art.

Since the advent of mechanical production, the arts have been the space in which the hard-to-find seeks refuge. And while the art market has been much discussed, we now find another form of scarcity in forms of experience. At times in tension, at times in collusion with capitalist scarcity, the scarcity of experience encourages forms of art that are not as easily distributed as—and thus more distinguishable from—the mass produced goods of the broader market. Massive installations, sculptures, performance, civic institutions (the museum), time-based relational aesthetics all find value in their experiential distinction from larger markets. Museums offer special opportunities to experience the body in space. In this spasmodic era, we find the arts recalibrated as a temporal, spatial, and bodily escape.

This kind of shifted aesthetic disposition resists not only the pace of the information economy, but, perhaps more importantly, our very ability to consume our experience. If we are frantic, it is only because we need to ...

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Required Reading

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This rich pamphlet grew out of The Internet as Playground and Factory, a conference organized at The New School and held in November 2009. In this seventh pamphlet in the Situated Technologies Pamphlets Series, Trebor Scholz and Laura Y. Liu reflect on the relationship between labor and technology in urban space, where communication, attention, and physical movement generate financial value for a small number of private stakeholders. Online and off, Internet users are increasingly wielded as a resource for economic amelioration, for private capture, and the channels of communication are becoming increasingly inscrutable. The Internet has become a simple-to-join, anyone-can-play system where the sites and practices of work and play, as well as production and reproduction, are increasingly unnoticeable.

Norbert Wiener warned that the role of new technology under capitalism would intensify the exploitation of workers. For Michel Foucault, institutions used technologies of power to control individual bodies. In her essay “Free Labor” (1999), Tiziana Terranova described what constitutes “voluntarily given, unwaged, enjoyed and exploited, free labor on the Net.” Along these lines, Liu and Scholz ask: How does the intertwining of labor and play complicate our understanding of exploitation and “the urban”?

This pamphlet aims to understand “the urban” through the lens of digital and not-digital work in terms of those less visible sites and forms of work such as homework, care work, interactivity on social networking sites, life energy spent contributing to corporate crowd sourcing projects, and other unpaid work. While we are discussing the shift of labor markets to the Internet, the authors contend that traditional sweatshop economies continue to structure the urban environment.

The pages of this pamphlet unfold between a film still from Alex Rivera’s Sleep Dealer on the front cover and an image by Lewis Hine on the back. Set in the near ...

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A Report from Trust: Media City Seoul 2010

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The first physical art work that you encounter when entering “Trust: Media City Seoul,” the sixth edition of Korea’s international media arts biennial, is Willem de Rooij’s Bouquet VII, a collaboration with local florist Kim Da Ra. A large-scale spherical gathering of blossoms in various hues of pink stands on a pedestal, resembling a centerpiece at an upscale wedding or a museum benefit party. The floral arrangement seamlessly integrates natural and synthetic flowers, blurring the boundary between the real and the artificial. Innocuous and timeless, this work sets the tone for this year’s Media City, an exhibition that eschews the embrace of new technologies in visual art in favor of a return to more traditional media and a broader definition of the term “media” itself. Bouquet VII also subtly introduces a method utilized by many of the artists in the exhibition: the conflation of fiction and reality.

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Required Reading

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YoHa (Graham Harwood and Matsuko Yokokoji), Coal Fired Computers, 2010.
(Installation view at Discovery Museum, Newcastle, courtesy the artists. Photograph: Louise Hepworth)

This interview follows on from a project called “Coal Fired Computers (300,000,000 Computers - 318,000 Black Lungs)” carried out in Newcastle in spring 2010 for the AV Festival. The project, by Graham Harwood, Matsuko Yokokoji with Jean Denmars involved a means of producing a physical diagram between components in production as they undergo transformations across different kinds of time, politics, matter, knowledge, and vitality. The project found a way of working with such things that was particularly powerful. The interview begins with a discussion of CFC but also moves off into databases and a certain understanding of their material force. One thing we don’t cover in the interview is the detail of the Coal Fired Computers project’s work with miner activists, including the inspirational Dave Douglass. (See information on his memoirs here ). More of this can be found in a booklet about the project here, including links to all the groups involved. The interview was carried out by email in May and June 2010.

-- EXCERPT FROM "PITS TO BITS, INTERVIEW WITH GRAHAM HARWOOD" BY MATTHEW FULLER

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In Search of Reality at the Berlin Biennial

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This disjunct between reality and its illusory other, the world of privileged consumerism, was at the heart of the 6th Berlin Biennial. In the exhibition catalog, curator Kathrin Rhomberg wrote that there is a growing "gap between the world we talk about and the world as it really is." In an effort to close this gap, the Biennial wrestled with contemporary issues and realities far beyond the gallery walls - an all-too-rare impulse in the hermetic field of visual art.

Unfortunately, this Biennial may well have convinced many of its visitors that artists should stick to the studio; too many of the works lacked any nuance in their portrayal of external realities. There was a highly unpleasant video of a horse being knocked off its feet, subtly titled Problems with Relationship. There was Bernard Bazile's inept installation of shouty protest videos from Paris. There was Sebastian Stumpf running into private garages just as the doors closed behind him, Indiana Jones-style.

Yet there were also moments of brilliance along the way. At its best, the Biennial yielded keen insights into the conditions of contemporary capitalism and the relationship between the personal and the political. Without further ado, here are some of the highlights.

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A Conversation with Graham Harwood and Jean Demars on Coal Fired Computers at SPACE, June 1st

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YoHa, After Coal Face, 2009

On June 1st media theorist Matthew Fuller will interview Graham Harwood and Jean Demars at SPACE in London for the Coal Fired Computers project by Harwood and Yokokoji (YoHa) that recently premiered at the AV Festival in New Castle, UK. For Harwood, every media used has a series of power relations that comprise its media ecology. The thread that seems to bind his oeuvre is exposing these power structures. (For more, read an interview with Harwood by Michael Connor, published last year to Rhizome.) Continuing with his examinations into the conditions of the marginalized and working class, Coal Fired Computers speculates about the "global fuel reliance, the price of a computer measured against the lives of 318,000 miners with choked up lungs." The work consists of a bank of computers powered by a coal-fired boiler.

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Graham Harwood and Yokokoji (YoHa), Coal Fired Computers, 2010
[Installation at the AV Festival, Source: Jon & Alison]

By placing the boiler and computer side-by-side, Coal Fired Computers brings to the fore the “invisible” work force needed to supply the fuel and raw materials necessary for this technology to function, as well as the environmental impact of these energy sources. Laborers from countries like China, Vietnam and India toil in coal mining fields to enable the production of energy to run technology - outsourcing the health and environmental risks of this method to elsewhere.

See below for a video of Graham Harwood discussing Coal Fired Computers:

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The Representative (2005) - Carey Young

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The Representative is a ‘portrait’ of a call centre worker that can be accessed by telephone.

Call centres are an increasingly ubiquitous and technocratic interface between large organisations and the public, and their spread has been described as endemic to a globalised world. With The Representative, visitors are invited to sit within an installation of domestic lounge-type furniture and use a single phone to connect direct to a call centre agent working at a remote location. The callers are offered the chance to ‘get to know’ the agent, and thus to experience a ‘portrait’ of the call centre agent accessible via a call centre interface. Young hired the agent and defined a ‘vignette' of them by agreeing a generic script of topics for possible conversation to be offered to callers at the start of each call, based on interviews with the agent about their personal background and experiences of call centre work. Following these initial options, calls were unscripted and based on the conversational interests of the caller.

The Representative is a development of Nothing Ventured, an earlier work by Carey Young which was staged at fig-1, London in 2000, in which she hired a call centre to ‘represent’ her. The Representative, at its simplest level, offers a view of the life and experiences of a call centre operative whose individuality and identity would normally be denied to the caller. The calls would exist somewhere between a personal chat, an interview, the reality-TV style exposure of a ‘civilian’, a script, an exposé of working conditions, a piece of journalistic research, a portrait and a service, with the caller put in the position of researcher, audience, voyeur, client and potential friend.

-- FROM THE ARTIST'S STATEMENT

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