Required Reading

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"Art and social media" -- this topic is all anyone wants to talk about these days. The discussion extends from the staid -- the National Endowment for the Arts released a report titled "Audience 2.0: How Technology Influences Arts Participation" -- to more spicy ruminations on what "social media art" offers as a new category, as in the artist An Xiao’s recent three-part series for Hyperallergic.

On the one hand, this faddish obsession with "social media" is understandable. The Facebook Corp. has begun to wrap its fingers around every other aspect of life, so it is clearly logical to ask what effects social media might have on art-making. But at the same time, I find the chatter somehow sad, as if visual art’s power to inspire passion among a larger audience is so attenuated that it has to throw itself on whatever trendy thing is out there, to win some reflected glory for itself.

So, the question for me is this: Is there any more interesting way to think about the topic than the loose and impressionistic manner that it is currently framed? Maybe it’s worth noting that, of all the buzzwords of the present-day lexicon, "social media" is perhaps the only one that is more vaguely defined than "art." Let’s begin, then, by clarifying terms to see if we can get to a more interesting place.

-- FROM "SOCIAL MEDIA ART" IN THE EXPANDED FIELD BY BEN DAVIS IN ARTNET MAGAZINE

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Commitment Radio (2006) - Dave Chiu and Alexandra Deschamps-Sonsino

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Commitment Radio examines radio presets and what it means to make a choice. Instead of using unmarked generic buttons, presets on Commitment Radio create permanent marks. Over time, Commitment Radio will become personalized with your changing musical tastes, political leanings, locations, and age.

The functioning physical prototype of Commitment Radio allows you to scan for stations by moving a dial along the tuning strip. To listen to a station, however, you must push the dial into the radio, leaving an indelible mark.

Over time, Commitment Radio will become personalized with your changing musical tastes, political leanings, locations, and age. Because the radio has a finite amount of space, Commitment Radio encourages deliberateness in your choices and actions.

-- FROM THE ARTIST'S STATEMENT

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Fold Loud (2007) - JooYoun Paek

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Fold Loud is a (de)constructing musical play interface that uses origami paper-folding techniques and ritualistic Taoist principles to give users a sense of slow, soothing relaxation.

Fold Loud interconnects ancient traditions and modern technology by combining origami, vocal sound and interactive techniques. Unlike mainstream technology intended for fast-paced life, Fold Loud is healing, recovering and balancing.

Playing Fold Loud involves folding origami shapes to create soothing harmonic vocal sounds. Each fold is assigned to a different human vocal sound so that combinations of folds create harmonies. Users can fold multiple Fold Loud sheets together to produce a chorus of voices. Opened circuits made out of conductive fabric are visibly stitched onto the sheets of paper which creates a meta-technological aesthetic. When the sheets are folded along crease lines, a circuit is closed like a switch. Thus, the interface guides participants to use repetitive delicate hand gestures such as flipping, pushing and creasing. Fold Loud invites users to slow down and reflect on different physical senses by crafting paper into both geometric origami objects and harmonic music.

-- FROM THE ARTIST'S STATEMENT

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A Conversation with Samson Young and Yao Chung-Han

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The exhibition "Resonance" was initiated in early 2010 as an experiment in the conceptual underpinnings and practical manifestations of sound art as a genre and form in contemporary greater China. Growing out of a series of readings and conversations in Hong Kong with artists as varied as Yan Jun, Feng Jiangzhou, and Zhou Risheng, the final exhibition program included two installations by artists Samson Young, an artist and composer based in Hong Kong, and Yao Chung-Han, a sound artist based in Taipei. This selection of artists allows the experiment to step beyond the mainland sound art and experimental music scene, which is largely incoherent in its current free-for-all exploration of new sonic forms--a site of artistic freedom indeed, but also a difficult territory in which to reflect on the modes of sound already in use in the contemporary art community. Samson Young contributed a piece entitled Beethoven Piano Sonata, nr. 1 - nr. 14 (Senza Misura) (2010), a series of open circuit boards hung in rows on the gallery wall. Each board houses two LEDs and a speaker, each marking the tempo of a single movement of fourteen of Beethoven’s early piano sonatas. In the second gallery room, Yao Chung-Han installed an audiovisual piece entitled I Will Be Broken (2010), a suspended column of circular fluorescent lamps tied together with power cords that illuminates in a semi-random fashion and emits a prerecorded sequence of sounds. The two pieces engage in a dialogue of light and sound that confronts the tension between sound as aesthetic spectacle and sound as conceptual material, opening a productive conversation between styles and historical developments in the trajectory of sound in art. "Resonance" is on view at I/O Gallery in Hong Kong until September 5, 2010.

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Ghost Throne (2007) - AIDS-3D

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IX (2008) - H3X3N

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H3X3N is a group of Computer Witches who have built an enchanted cube that casts magical spells on computers. This cube, called IX, is a New Media Artwork that will be shown at DEADTECH, an art and technology center and gallery in Chicago, this Saturday May 10. The IX cube casts spells on Windows, Macintosh and Linux computers, hacking and hexing these operating systems. IX combines traditional stage magic tricks and irony as elements of Hacker culture to create an Interactive Installation and Software Art project. IX has been exhibited previously at the Interactivos? exhibition at the Media Lab Madrid in Madrid, Spain.

-- DESCRIPTION FROM THE H3X3N BLOG

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Les 400 Clicks (2008) - Adam Sajkowski

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Les 400 Clicks is a multimedia project referencing Francois Truffaut's 1959 French New Wave classic, Les 400 Coups (The 400 Blows). The original film has been reduced to 400 still frames taken arbitrarily from throughout the entire film, which can be played through in order by clicking the mouse, 400 times. This action is also synchronized with the film's original title score.

-- DESCRIPTION FROM THE ARTIST'S STATEMENT

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A Visit to Babycastles

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The setup downstairs at the Silent Barn.

Yesterday Ceci and I went out to Silent Barn in Ridgewood to meet with Kunal Gupta and the other guys who run Babycastles. Babycastles is a DIY arcade space with a rotating set of independent games curated by local artists and game designers. The space is usually set up for play during shows at Silent Barn, but they'll turn the machines on and let you play if you come by any time they're around.

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Dismantled laptop for a costume in Babycastles "Indie Game Cosplay Music Video Shoot Machinima" party

When we arrived, the guys were prepping for a big "Indie Game Cosplay Music Video Shoot Machinima" performance/dance party with CHERYL that they are throwing this Saturday, part of Game Play at the Brick Theater. Upstairs they were disassembling old laptops so that could be attached to the costumes of cyborg dancers that would double as playable arcade games. While they tinkered with soldering guns and laptop guts we played a few rounds of Tristan Perich's 1-bit game KILL JET on a small portable TV about the size of a car battery. The game is operated using two buttons, one to move the plane up and the other to move it down. For previous installations the game was played on a larger TV with the buttons attached to the back, so that the player had to hug the screen in order to play. Kunal showed us some of their costumes in progress and discussed some ideas for interactive dancing machinima gifs before we headed downstairs to see the arcade.

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Jacob playing Tristan Perich's KILL JET

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Glamour shot of Tristan's circuit board for KILL JET

The current series of games on display at Babycastles is curated by Zen Albatross ...

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The Chill Zone

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"Time doesn't exist when you're... just chilling!" Topping an administrative page on the site of curatorial collective Jstchillin, this slogan rephrases a familiar bit of folk phenomenology: Time flies when you're having fun! But in denying time's existence, rather making its perceived acceleration a metaphor for losing yourself in the moment, the slogan suggests a swap of the trinity of past-present-future for something else -- a sense of time that (until the end of this essay, at least) I will call "chill time." Jstchillin is concerned with the internet, and my description of chill time will be, too. It entails an awareness of parallel threads of messages, ordered by clock-time sequence and subjective assignments of importance (cf. Facebook's feed settings: "Top News" and "Most Recent"), and the knowledge that these messages will wait until you find them (in your e-mail, in your RSS aggregator, etc.) but might be irrelevant when you do if you wait too long. Chill time is simultaneity of the recent past and lagging present, the sum of attempts to track some threads into the past and push others toward the future. Awareness of physical surroundings tends to be fuzzy as you sift through old layers of digital sediment and deposit new ones. Jstchillin founders Caitlyn Denny and Parker Ito describe it like this: "[T]o chill is to live in a constant state of multiplicities, a flow of existence between web and physicality."

Jstchillin encompasses a number of initiatives, including the gallery show "Avatar 4D," but its flagship project is "Serial Chillers in Paradise," an online exhibition that has featured a different artist every other week since October 2009. Chill time, I think, is the central theme of "Serial Chillers," one that many commissioned artists have approached through conventional associations with chilling. Video games were the subject of an illustrated short story/film treatment by Jon Rafman, and Jonathan Vingiano's browser add-on Space Chillers was a game. Ida Lehtonen's contribution folded soothing ocean sounds into a video of exercises that computer laborers can do to stay limber during breaks, while Eilis Mcdonald's sent you scrolling through bits of pat, New-Agey advice and then to a page with equivalent visuals; both artists drew on packaged relaxation. Zach Schipko and Tucker Bennett's feature-length movie Why Are You Weird?, parceled into YouTube uploads, is a story of art-school students who spend almost all of their onscreen time at parties or hanging out in their dorm rooms, rehashing crits.

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388 (2010) - Andrey Yazev

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