Journalist Quinn Norton explores ideas relating to privacy, secrecy, and self in an age where nothing is ever forgotten.
Journalist Quinn Norton explores ideas relating to privacy, secrecy, and self in an age where nothing is ever forgotten.
In this series of posts, we will be reblogging content from Rhizome's Archives, available here. This interview with Cornelia Sollfrank, conducted by Florian Cramer, comes from Rhizome's former publication, the Rhizome Digest. It was published on March 31, 2002. You can peruse old editions of the Rhizome Digest here.
Big thanks to Rhizome's curatorial fellow Natalie Saltiel for help with this post.
Date: 3.15.2002 From: Florian Cramer (cantsin AT zedat.fu-berlin.de) Subject: Hacking the Art OS--Interview with Cornelia Sollfrank Keywords: net art, hacking, gender, design
[This is the English translation of the original-length German interview. Copyleft and publication data is given at the end. -FC]
Hacking the art operating system
Cornelia Sollfrank interviewed by Florian Cramer, December 28th, 2001, during the annual congress of the Chaos Computer Club (German Hacker's Club) in Berlin.+ + +
I have questions on various thematic complexes which in your work seem to be continually referring to each other: hacking and art, computer generated, or more specifically, generative art, cyberfeminism, or the questions that your new work entitled 'Improvised Tele-vision' throw up. And of course the thematic complex plagiarism and appropriation - as well as what can be seen as an appendix to that, art and code, code art and code aesthetics.
Surely code art and code aesthetics are more your themes than mine. I think I should be the one asking the questions here. (laughter)
...no, this refers very specifically to statements made by you, for example in your Telepolis interview with 0100101110111001.org, which I found excellent because of its rather sceptical undertones. If that really is more my area though, then by all means we can bracket it out of the interview.
No, no. I didn't mean it like that. Quite the opposite in fact. However that is what is so interesting and difficult about the relationship between these complexes - and which I often find myself arguing about. A lot of things appear to run parallel, or better put, one invests more in one area for a particular period of time, then returns back to something else. To keep an eye on how these various activities link together is not easy.
“From Nethack to play-by-post forums on the WWW,” an Ars Technica blogger wrote in 2009, “the first thing that computer geeks do upon inventing a new medium is play Dungeons and Dragons with it.” With this half-joking riposte to conventional wisdom that new communications media are appropriated first by pornographers, the blogger introduced a roundup of instructions for adding dice rollers to Google Wave to make it a platform for turn-based role-playing games. Of course, links between computing and RPGs predate networked technology. Some of the earliest computer games were made by programmers who played D&D; and saw the connection between dice and digits. Another parallel might be drawn between the do-it-yourself culture around computing in the 1970s and the amateur storytelling demanded by RPGs. Even while computer use leaves less to the imagination today than it did thirty-five years ago, it still shares more characteristics with RPGs than older forms of entertainment do. The creator(s) of a novel, movie, or drama have combined details into a whole by the time it reaches an audience; those media come with spatial and temporal guidelines for consumption. But just as network connections are constant and pervasive, RPGs are open-ended, played with regularity and long-term commitment. Gaming (like, say, tweeting) doesn’t have the same distance between medium and audience as reading or film-going – there is a constant awareness of the self’s participation in a bigger system, and a feeling of contribution to it. RPGs, like internet use, move at the speed of life.
I think this affinity is what has prompted many artists to include allusions to RPGs in their works. Whether they adapt the forking structures or the surface details of fantasy and science fiction, whether those references are direct or oblique, references to the culture around RPGs can be shorthand for reality’s mediation by immaterial systems. Some examples: Brody Condon’s remakes of medieval paintings with game graphics, Eddo Stern’s animation of a gaming-forum flame war, Deb Sokolow’s choose-your-own-adventure drawings, the arcane protests of the Center for Tactical Magic, Sterling Crispin’s scrying devices, and the occult forms behind altar .gifs on dump.fm. These artists a have relationship to fantasy that’s distinctly different from ones who make monster portraits and fantastic battle scenes – a genre that’s also become more visible in contemporary art the last few years. (That trend, I’d say, comes because popular and critical approval for Peter Saul and Tim Burton has emboldened a younger generation of “outsider artists” who grew up with RPGs.) Indie fantasy art, like the illustrations in novels and gaming manuals, that inspire it, is about virtuosic draftsmanship and imagination. It showcases fine renderings of dragon scales and weaponry. The examples I listed above have rough edges where processes of imagination and play visibly collide with other frames of reference. Often, they achieve this by bringing technology to the foreground.
This interview originally appeared Video Vortex Reader II: moving images beyond YouTube (Institute of Network Cultures, Amsterdam, March 2011) edited by Geert Lovink and Rachel Somers Miles. The Video Vortex Reader II launches this week in conjunction with the Video Vortex #6 conference at TrouwAmsterdam in Amsterdam on Friday March 11th and Saturday March 12th.
Natalie Bookchin and Blake Stimson first met in New York in the early 1990s when they were both affiliated with the Whitney Independent Study Program. This exchange took place over email, for the most part between their respective homes in Southern and Northern California during the summer of 2010.
Although she has a rich and varied artistic background, one theme that has regularly come to the fore in Natalie Bookchin’s work is a concern with documentary. In some of her early work, this concern seemed to emphasize the inhumanity of recording machines in the way that Andy Warhol’s, or perhaps Gerhard Richter’s, work did. In a different way, the entire ‘found object’ tradition associated with Duchampian indifference, and still so manifest in much contemporary art, also seemed to feature in Bookchin’s work. Here, we might recall an early piece for which Bookchin photographed everything she owned, object by object, down to the last paperclip; or perhaps, in a different sense, the Universal Page she created with Alexei Shulgin in 2000, which promised an algorithmically derived objective average of all web content. In one sense, her recent work of gathering videos from the internet might be said to continue in this vein—at least insofar as she is functioning as an aggregator of existing content drawn largely from YouTube, in a way similar to a service like Digg or any of the many interest or attention measuring functions of the web (not the least being Google and other search engines).
On the other hand, Bookchin’s work possesses a strong, even impassioned, activist element of the sort consistent with the reportage tradition extending back to John Heartfield and Sergei Tretiakov, or Jacob Riis and Lewis Hine before them. For example, in the interview Bookchin and Shulgin published in conjunction with the exhibition of Universal Page, Bookchin spoke of that time as one that demanded ‘superactivity’ because ‘there are vitally important things that need to be done’ to ‘resist total corporate, technological, and institutional takeovers’. In addition, her multiplayer game agoraXchange was created in collaboration with the political theorist Jackie Stevens, and called for ‘an end to the system of nation-states, the demise of rules rendering us passive objects tied to identities and locations given at birth’, and the elimination of ‘those laws requiring us to live and be seen largely as vessels for ancestral identities’. And finally, there was her very funny announcement, in 1999, of her intention for a journal titled BAD (standing for Burn the Artworld Down) that was ‘committed to the documentation of acts of terrorism and agitation against the institutional art world’. All of these works have performative dimensions to them, and as such call up a sense of tongue-in-cheek detachment from the subjects they purport to represent. Yet, to varying degrees, they also seem earnest and forceful political statements.
Throughout the 1990s, digital computing and network technologies were largely employed in office work, their cultural implications confined to niche realms for enthusiasts. If that decade’s new media art formed a vital artistic subculture, it was mainly isolated and self-referential, in part due to the artists’ fascination with hacking the medium, in part due to its position as the last in a long line of Greenbergian interrogations of the medium, and in part due to its marginalization by established art institutions. Artists like Vuk Cosic, Jodi, Alexei Shulgin, and Heath Bunting replayed early twentieth century avant-garde strategies while emulating the graphic and programming demos of 1980s hacker culture, before computers left the realm of user groups and became broadly useful in society.
Today, in contrast, digital technology is an unmistakable presence in everyday life and is increasingly inextricable from mainstream social needs and conventions. Network culture is a broad sociocultural shift much like postmodernity, not limited to technological developments or to “new media.” Precisely because maturing digital and networking technologies are inseparable from contemporary culture — even more than the spectacle of the television was from postmodernity — they must be read within a larger context. All art, today, is to one extent or another, networked art.
This investigation can’t be limited to online venues, but it also can’t be limited to “art.” Postmodernism called high and low into question (think of Warhol as the quintessential early postmodern artist, or later Barbara Kruger, Cindy Sherman, Jeff Koons, and Richard Prince) by bringing in products of the culture industry into art, but network culture levels that distinction utterly. Art under network culture dismisses the populist projection of the audience’s desires into art for the incorporation of the audience’s desires into art and the blurring of boundaries ...
In protest of the Smithsonian's decision to pull David Wojnarowicz's A Fire In My Belly from the "Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture" exhibit at the National Portrait Gallery after pressure from the Catholic League, Rhizome's sister organization, the New Museum, will screen the work in the lobby until January 23, 2011. Many other museums, galleries and universities around the country (and world!) are following suit. Check HIDESEEK.ORG for a full listing of screenings of A Fire In My Belly organized in response to the controversy.
Ultra-red is an activist art group founded in 1994. The group proposes an alternate model for art and activism, one in which it is not the artist's critical intervention that serves as the source of cultural action, but rather that art might contribute to and challenge the process of collective organization and relationship building itself.
Jeremy Bailey is a Toronto-based new media artist whose work explores custom software in a performative context. Powered by humor and computer vision, his work wryly critiques the uneasy relationship between technology and the body while playfully engaging the protocols of digital media. Over the last decade Bailey has exhibited and performed at a range of international festivals and venues including the 2010 01SJ Biennial, HTTP Gallery, Subtle Technologies and in 2001 he co-founded the (now defunct) 640 480 Video Collective. I conducted the following interview with Bailey over email and we used our conversation to delve into a number of his projects from the last five years.
Britain, under the Conservative government in 1974, slowed to a government-mandated three-day week: not an immense gift of extended vacation, but a foreshortening of the working week based on the amount of electricity available. From January to March of that year, businesses, shops and services were only open for three consecutive days, and television companies were forced to end their broadcasts at 10:30pm. The remarkable visibility of this retrenchment is perhaps an apposite introduction to the fiscal circumstances of Britain at that time, as it was counterbalanced by extreme activity in the visual arts, with a burgeoning moving image practice taking place in various underground clubs and cooperatives in London and other regional centers, and mainstream television ("mainstream" being redundant; except for some regional variations, there were only three channels at the time) airing artists’ film and video, primarily on Channel 4, which was established in 1982.
This is the period revisited by Raven Row’s current show "Polytechnic" - the late 1970s and early 80s, when artists began using the new medium of video to reflect upon and deconstruct codes of representation, politics and social mores. It’s a smart and striking choice for an exhibition, as the legacy of this time is ambivalent and is still in the process of being settled: art-historically, it’s been partially eclipsed by what preceded it (the medium-specific investigations associated with the London Film-Makers’ Co-op) and by what followed - that is, the yBas, who pretty much turned around and rejected the commitment to politics, collective production and art as labor (not commodity) that this group stood for. At the same time, many of the artists included in the show - Catherine Elwes, Susan Hiller, Ian Breakwell, Stuart Marshall - went on to teach in various art schools (many of them former polytechnics, hence, perhaps, the title) and showed their work on Channel 4 during the 1980s, meaning they have had a much more dispersed, though less visible, impact on art and the wider sphere of culture. Have had and have: Elwes, for example, has recently founded a journal devoted to the moving image (MIRAJ), so the territory contested in this earlier period continues, to a certain extent, to be contested.