Alexei Shulgin's pioneering works in internet art are collected on his site easylife.org, but many of the links there are empty or obsolete; one called Insanity Notification sends visitors to a site indicating that Shulgin went insane at an unidentified point in the past. It has been more than five years since Shulgin left the online environment to focus on the production of tangible, marketable objects. His collaboration with Aristarkh Chernyshev began in 2003, and two years later the artists founded Electroboutique a gallery-slash-gadget shop selling distorting screens and other high-tech toys. Shulgin and Chernyshev called it "Media Art 2.0," and wrote a manifesto saying the plug-and-play nature of their new work liberated them from a "media art ghetto," adding that their manipulation of familiar screen-based interfaces contained a nugget of criticality. Their work was recently featured in "Criti Pop", an exhibition at the Moscow Museum of Modern Art (along with interactive installations that Chernyshev made in collaboration with Vladislav Efimov). - Brian Droitcour
Machine Project, since its inception in 2003, has grown to become one of those mythic, playful and gloriously idiosyncratic spaces -- on the map alongside destinations such as the Museum of Jurassic Technology, the City Reliquary, or the Pirate Store at 826 Valencia. An interdisciplinary non-profit art space run out of a storefront in the Echo Park neighborhood of Los Angeles, Machine Project host events and exhibitions, which span lectures on the aesthetic cultivation of bacteria to a 3 day banjo performance in their front window. I interviewed founder Mark Allen about his involvement with the space and some of their upcoming projects.
In this interview, conducted by Rhizome Editorial Fellow Gene McHugh, artist Kevin Bewersdorf discusses his philosophy toward surfing the web, the spiritual dimension of his work and his upcoming show "Monuments to the INFOspirit" at the New York gallery V&A.
Tools of the Trade is an ongoing feature on Rhizome. Here, we invite artists to discuss the nuts and bolts behind their projects. Justin Downs worked with David Byrne in the design and fabrication of his Playing the Building installation for Creative Time (on view until August 24th). Below, Justin discusses how the work was created. Justin is an independent fabricator and a recent graduate from NYU's ITP program. His website can be found here.
As any techno-cultural aficionado will enthusiastically tell you, the 21st century is the century of "convergence", in which the communications industry progressively rolled out its own rendition of the Swiss Army knife: pocket-sized, hand-held, wireless devices which function simultaneously as movie and music players, mobile phones, gaming engines, internet connectivity devices, still image and video cameras, musical instruments, calculators...with so many functions now capable of being handled by little equipment and energy expenditure, visions of the future both Utopian and dystopian have flown off the shelves at a hitherto unprecedented rate (and wireless electricity is just around the corner as well.) Prophesies abound that this synthesis of communicative modes and cross-pollination of technological functionality is a stepping stone towards realizing some kind of fully-integrated Übermensch; eventually our ability to communicate with and comprehend each other will accelerate to the point where humans morph into sophisticated telepaths. More grandiose yet, there are the fantasies of some ultimate "awakening" along the lines of the "Omega Point" suggested by rogue priest Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, an ultimate synthesis of human intelligence with cosmic consciousness- the inventor Ray Kurzweil calls the same "universal awakening" phenomenon the "Singularity," albeit with a much more technophiliac gloss to it.
Bloomberg Tower, the headquarters of New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg's global business news and information corporation, Bloomberg LP, is a sleek, glass and curved steel skyscraper in midtown Manhattan which forgoes cubicles and executive offices for an ostensibly non-hierarchical and sans-wall flow of physical and digital information. As an allegory for globalized information dispersion, this opening-up of interior space reflects the much-discussed contradictions of globalization, itself. Since the building's completion in 2005, the downtown art nonprofit, Art in General, has partnered with Bloomberg LP to produce five contemporary art exhibitions that reflect on this space as well as the model of business practice that it nurtures. The current iteration of the partnership, entitled ONLY CONNECT, features work by artists Larry Bamburg, Tom Kotik, Heather Rowe, Mafalda Santos and Patrick Tuttofuoco that, according to curator Cecilia Alemani, "infiltrate" Bloomberg Tower and offer alternative "systems of communication and exchange that rely on basic materials, fragile geometries or simple, sometimes even natural forms." Given the overwhelming environment of the office building itself, I had to ask what kind of critique could productively challenge or transcend the complex ideas embedded in its surroundings.
"My whole art practice and art world grew out of intense Internet surfing, collecting and trading links on del.icio.us… Part of it is the feeling that there's so much stuff out there already that it seems pointless to make something new, from scratch-- which is perhaps a bit of a cliché response, but not untrue. The ephemeral nature of the Internet inspires a kind of disrespect for objects-- for for whole, perfect, "created" things. I'm really happy that, when someone comes to my website, my "portfolio" or whatever, they're basically just confronted with a list of lists-- and I like that they might leave thinking, "what did that guy really even do?" Even the word "collecting" implies too much physicality or weight; it's more like pointing or listing. In this way it's different than pre-Internet appropriation, because there's absolutely nothing precious or special to me about my specific source materials."
"There's an aspect of the larger scale of the works- as far as physical size is concerned- which is simply about putting the works on an experiential par with paintings and other large scale pictures. I didn't want the digital-ness of the pieces so tied to the experience of a personal computer, because ultimately the ways in which technology affects the way we view and process images- my main interest- extend way beyond the computer screen. So the scale is partially a gesture towards saying this is about more than personal computers, the internet, or video games."