Required Reading

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Image: Boris Groys, Medium Religion [Medium Religion], 2006.
video lecture (color, sound), 25 min., loop. courtesy Boris Groys.

The general consensus of the contemporary mass media is that the return of religion has emerged as the most important factor in global politics and culture today. Now, those who currently refer to a revival of religion clearly do not mean anything like the second coming of the Messiah or the appearance of new gods and prophets. What they are referring to rather is that religious attitudes have moved from culturally marginal zones into the mainstream. If this is the case, and statistics would seem to corroborate the claim, the question then arises as to what may have caused religious attitudes to become mainstream.

The survival and dissemination of opinions on the global information market is regulated by a law formulated by Charles Darwin, namely, the survival of the fittest. Those opinions that best adapt to the conditions under which they are disseminated will, as a matter of course, have the best odds of becoming mainstream. Today’s opinions market, however, is clearly characterized by reproduction, repetition, and tautology. The widespread understanding of contemporary civilization holds that, over the course of the modern age, theology has been replaced by philosophy, an orientation toward the past by an orientation toward the future, traditional teachings by subjective evidence, fidelity to origins by innovation, and so on. In fact, however, the modern age has not been the age in which the sacred has been abolished but rather the age of its dissemination in profane space, its democratization, its globalization. Ritual, repetition, and reproduction were hitherto matters of religion; they were practiced in isolated, sacred places. In the modern age, ritual, repetition, and reproduction have become the fate of the entire world, of the entire culture ...

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Get Your Giggle On

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The popularity of the English expression "no laughing matter" might imply that funny things aren't serious and serious things aren't funny. But the organizers of ROFLCon would seriously beg to differ. Put together by a Boston-area brain trust, the conference series explores the history, tactics, and social relevance of internet memes. This weekend in NYC they will present the second iteration of ROFLCon, after a very successful convention at MIT, last year. That version featured classroom panels and backroom parties featuring such internet-famous folks as xkcd, Jay Maynard (a.k.a. The Tron Guy), and Leslie Hall. Saturday's events will still keep you rolling on the floor laughing, while arguably stepping-up the critical discussion. Speakers include the creators of You Suck at Photoshop, Improv Everywhere, Rocketboom, 4Chan, MAKE, YTMND, and all-around internet celebs Bre Pettis and The Obama Girl. While participants like nerdcore DJ MC Frontalot and Ian Spector, creator of the Chuck Norris Fact Generator, are sure to keep the chuckle factor high, there are serious discussions to be had on such topics as Firefox browser plug-ins as artistic media and the cultural impact of the Comic Sans font. No doubt the audience will also offer a star sighting or two. So bone-up on your meme history and get your ROFL on. - Marisa Olson

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100% Fun

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Claude Closky is a French artist living in Paris. He works in a variety of media, including painting, installation, video, and net art, in a signature style that revolves around the concept of conveying information and the connection between ideas and objects. The artist maintains three personal websites and a YouTube channel, each of which is copious in its offerings and yet mysteriously evasive in synthesizing his practice. What one can tell--almost instantly upon looking at his work--is that Closky has a serious sense of humor. He is best-known for his paintings of pie charts and other graphs but has impressed audiences beyond the art world with public installations like his 100% which tallied percentage points, one at a time, in a series of silkscreened flags, or his collaboration with Adidas and Colette, which looked like he'd taken a Sharpie to a blank white slate to convey the brand by making the simplest marks possible. The latter was a poetic gesture of giving back to the visual language of advertising whose vocabulary his work often critiques. He's by no means the first to do so, but whereas many such bodies of work revolve around autobiography or accounts of commodity fetishism, what is unique to Closky's commentary on this lexicon is his sharp analysis of language itself. Whether through an inversion of the relationship between word and image or the hyper-literal illustration of one-liners, this is Closky's most discernible signature and it is best played-out in his use of the list as a medium. By alphabetizing, counting-down, running odds, and exploring exhaustive variations on various categories of categories, he produces the wittiest possible metacommentary on the bond between form and content. And he is certainly not afraid to give viewers myriad examples of the beauty of saying nothing at all. In this interview, Closky discusses his internet art work and his love of both language and numbers games. - Marisa Olson

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Internet Delivers People (2008) - Ramsay Stirling

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More work by Ramsay Stirling

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Credits Never Ending (2006) - Li Xin and Eirik Fatland

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""Credits NeverEnding" is an interactive TV program, created for Finnish television channel Dina. Credits NeverEnding is intended for television's off hours, and was developed as part of a project to produce intentionally boring TV... The names and titles on the list come from the viewers themselves. A viewer with the right mix of attentiveness and time to kill will eventually discover the URL of the website where new credits may be entered. Viewers enjoy nearly total freedom to shape the neverending credits, including promoting themselves. Nothing is true until it is on television."

More work by Li Xin and Eirik Fatland

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Dot Star Generator (2006) - Les Liens Invisibles

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"Beyond the infosphere, the stars again...
Browse the net as a new, mysterious and complex constellation of meaning.
Dot Star Generator is a web-based artwork by d3dalus and the imaginary art-group Les Liens Invisibles"

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THIS IS NEVER GOING TO STOP (2007) - Billy Rennekamp

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THIS IS NEVER GOING TO STOP
THIS IS NEVER GOING TO STOP
THIS IS NEVER GOING TO STOP
THIS IS NEVER GOING TO STOP
THIS IS NEVER GOING TO STOP
THIS IS NEVER GOING TO STOP
THIS IS NEVER GOING TO STOP
THIS IS NEVER GOING TO STOP
THIS IS NEVER GOING TO STOP
THIS IS NEVER GOING TO STOP
THIS IS NEVER GOING TO STOP
THIS IS NEVER GOING TO STOP
THIS IS NEVER GOING TO STOP
THIS IS NEVER GOING TO STOP
THIS IS NEVER GOING TO STOP
THIS IS NEVER GOING TO STOP

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More work by Billy Rennekamp

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Readymades by Constant Dullaart (2008)

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Click here for more work by Constant Dullaart

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Well-Written Pictures

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Chris Ashley's HTML drawings are tightly-executed formal expressions that demonstrate the beautiful things that can be made with code. Drawing on simple elements such as 90-degree angles, shadows, and gradients, Ashley writes strings of code that appear to viewers as solid images. In fact, the often maze-like circuits that snake around in these images might read as optical illusions or even futile labyrinths if one tries to see each piece's components as anything other than part of a cohesive whole. While they initially read as very formal and perhaps even rigid, seeing the HTML drawings in relation to Ashley's paintings and watercolor drawings allows viewers to realize the sense of play that can emerge from rule-based work. In fact, Ashley very precisely pushes the envelope in what might be considered coloring between the lines. The artist posts these images to his blog and has managed to overcome the frequent challenge of translating digital works into the physical realm and shows his drawings on paper and glass in galleries. At the moment, his work can be seen at San Francisco's David Cunningham Projects. - Marisa Olson


Image: Chris Ashley, La Passeggiata, 20080809, HTML, 350 x 390 pixels

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A Happy Medium

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Currently on view in an off-beat neighborhood in the off-beat art city of Louisville, Kentucky, is an exhibition of nine very up-and-coming media artists: Justin Clark, Petra Cortright, Thomas Galloway, Michael Guidetti, Jacolby Satterwhite, Hayley Silverman, Will Simpson, Dan Wickerham, and Damon Zucconi. Curated by artist Ilia Ovechkin, co-founder of Loshadka--a group net art site of the "surf club" variety, the show (open at Plexus Contemporary through August 8th) includes many artists who work primarily on the internet or with web-derived materials and themes, but whose work for the show demonstrates a fluidity between online and offline forms. "The common thread between these artists is that they are all comfortable with being multidisciplinary and working across media," Ovechkin said, in Lousville's local Velocity Weekly, "but the conversation becomes even more interesting when you focus on the individual works and the topics they address." The familiar title of the Weekly piece was "The Medium is the Message," but Ovechkin seems eager to zoom further-in on the works, not prioritizing their form over their content. For instance, Jacolby Satterwhite's video, Model It, in which the artist is seen vogueing in front of the camera, might initially read as just another artist's response to YouTube culture, but the song in the piece was written by his mentally-ill mother and acts as a sort of empowerment anthem backdrop for Satterwhite's bigger commentary on "African American male patriarchy, sexuality, and material culture." Damon Zucconi's video Slow Rave (last minutes of trance energy), effects a spiritual experience on a well-lit dance floor by slowing down found footage of dancers at a rave. As the subjects gesture slowly and silently, the viewer identifies with the trance-like feeling they must be experiencing on a higher level. The binary "on" of a strobe ...

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