Interview with Herbologies/Foraging Networks

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Photo of a plant from Herbologies/Foraging Networks expedition to Kurzeme (Photo: Bartaku)

In Bernard Stiegler’s Technics and Time, I: The Fault of Epimetheus, Stiegler makes the following statement, “Innovation is inevitably accompanied by the obsolescence of existing technologies that have been superseded and the out-of-dateness of social situations made possible...adapt or disappear.”1 Applying this statement to the current network systems that we engage with on a daily basis, one might say that online network culture has transformed our relationship with people as much as industrialism had done so with the land, mediating our experience of each other through data, text messages, and on-demand catalogues of our personalities. But, the flow of information through network systems is not a new instance. In Albert-Laszlo Barabasi’s Linked: The New Science of Networks, Barabasi cites the spread of Christianity as a major instance of social networks at play – albeit all executed orally.2 If this is true, it begs the question: how does today’s incarnation of network systems transform oral technologies? Does it render them outdated, or does it have the potential to take on a new incarnation?

The Herbologies/Foraging Networks occupies a critical space in trying to transform oral traditions/knowledge associated with foraging for what would seem to be increasingly disinterested generations. Initially instigated by Andrew Gryf Paterson as a Scottish man’s way of learning about the cultural heritage of his resident country of Finland (as well as the connections between the surrounding Baltic region), Paterson and cohorts Ulla Taipale and Signe Pucena have established an open architecture project that has included iterations of the WindowFarms workshop to exploratory installations on folk pharmacy.

You might ask yourself why focus on oral traditions and foraging? Foraging has previously been an important cultural touch point for Nordic countries, illustrating many social and political relations. The displacement of this knowledge marks a fundamental change in the socio-economic conditions at hand as the following discussion between Paterson, Taipale and Pucena further explains.

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Homebrew Electronics: A Studio Visit with Phillip Stearns

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An example of one of Phillip Stearns' instruments

I met with artist Phillip Stearns last weekend, who took me around his studio. Phillip is giving a class through Harvestworks beginning Monday titled DIY Synth Building Intensive, and he began by showing me the kind of projects he intends to teach students to build in the workshop.

Phillip explained that he enjoys the opaque process of working with CMOS logic integrated circuits, which he finds to be more physical, user-friendly and transparent than working with Arduino. CMOS allows him to essentially program without a computer. Sounds in the instrument below can be modified by moving the patch cables around the breadboard. Phillip demonstrates:

There is one single oscillator, and the pins control the octaves. In his workshop, Phillip will instruct students on how to build an oscillator. Once one learns this basic step, they can then take the instrument further by making multiple oscillators or by mixing or dividing signals.

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Langjökull, Snæfellsjökull, Solheimajökull (2007) - Katie Paterson

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Sound recordings from three glaciers in Iceland, pressed into three records, cast, and frozen with the meltwater from each of these glaciers, and played on three turntables until they completely melt. The records were played once and now exist as three digital films. The turntables begin playing together, and for the first ten minutes as the needles trace their way around, the sounds from each glacier merge in and out with the sounds the ice itself creates. The needle catches on the last loop, and the records play for nearly two hours, until completely melted.

-- FROM THE ARTIST'S STATEMENT

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Touch My Body (Green Screen Version) (2008) - Oliver Laric

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Removed Landscapes (2006-2009) - Marina Gadonneix

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seasight seats (2007) from the series "Removed Landscapes"

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The Niagara Falls (2006) from the series "Removed Landscapes"

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Tribune on an Icefield (2006) from the series "Removed Landscapes"

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GreenScreen (extrActor) (2005) - Benjamin Lee Martin

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GreenScreen (extrActor) (2005) is a greenscreen made of hydroponically grown grass which allows the viewers to insert themselves into virtual video backgrounds, which they can choose via remote control.

Originally via VVORK

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A Report from Repair: Ars Electronica 2010

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The theme of Repair for this year’s Ars Electronica festival was apropos, as the festival moved to the Tabakfabrik, a former cigarette factory and sprawling complex of buildings that was churning out cartons of Marlboros as recently as last year. The smell of tobacco was still heavy in the air, and evidence of the factory’s work continued to linger: ear plugs still available in dispensers, pneumatic tube carriers still sitting in baskets, and boxes emblazoned with cigarette logos being used as exhibition design material. The factory, which is a protected historic landmark, is beautiful and perhaps deserved a Golden Nica of its own -- for best representation of the festival theme.

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Interview with Katie Paterson

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Katie Paterson is an artist whose work spans installation, sculpture, transmission, and sound. Her work presents the viewer with a deeper sense of the passage of time and the evolution of nature and the cosmos. Technology often factors into this line in her practice, where it is used to bring about an awareness of its own restrictions as well as our limited ability to sense and experience natural cycles and movement. She is currently showing History of Darkness in the group exhibition “Cage Mix” at BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art in Gateshead, up until September 19, 2010. Her series "Every Night About This Time" also opens this weekend at the Whitstable Biennale.

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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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Field to Desktop

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Field Broadcast, which kicks off tomorrow and runs through May 17th, will present unedited, live streams of a series of artworks from thirty-three artists captured in fields (yes, the green, earthy kind) to your desktop. When I first read about the show on Networked Music Review, it reminded me a bit of David Claerbout's Present, a work he created for Dia's Artist Web Projects in 2000. Present is an application that allows the user to watch the full lifespan of a flower on their desktop. Like the Field Broadcast exhibition, it inserts a semblance of the natural or the organic into the virtual environment. With so many artists involved in Field Broadcast, it will be interesting to see how they interact with their surroundings -- if the fields will factor in as a component or simply become a backdrop.

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