In Print

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Artists Olia Lialina and Dragan Espenschied have produced a body of work that focuses on the vernacular visual language of the web, one that revels in its gaps and imperfections. Works such as Olia's and Dragan's: Comparative History of Classic Animated GIFs and Glitter Graphics and Midnight explore the evolution of digital imagery in tandem with the changing conception of the web's ideal appearance. Currently exhibited in Montage: Unmonumental Online, Lialina's Some Universe (2002) engages one of the most classic and widely used digital images: stars.

The latest iteration of Lialina and Espenschied's project Online Newspapers (2004-Ongoing), developed for the Madison Square Park Conservancy, follows this distinct direction. Shown on four outdoor video screens on the grounds of the Shake Shack, Online Newspapers: New York Edition is a series of scanned front pages of four New York daily newspapers. All have been rendered illegible by flashy animations and glitter graphics that evoke the look and feel of the early web. The papers imagine how websites for New York's major newspapers would look if designed not by the slick designers whose work dominates the web now but by the early users of the web who had a more homegrown aesthetic. By elevating these early styles and graphics, Online Newspapers suggests that the forward movement of the web does not necessarily amount to cultural improvement and that this assumption of progress is, in itself, an over-hyped and inaccurate piece of news. The exhibition will last from March 20 through April 27, with the works shown daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. - Dennis Knopf

Olia Lialina and Dragan Espenschied, Online Newspapers: New York Edition, 2008

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Where From Here?

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Clever internet sourcing may be a common practice for a younger generation of artists, but rarely is it deployed with as much sinister aplomb as in the work of Cliff Evans. In Evans' skilled hands, a veritable parade of pixilated characters - from trade show women to stormtroopers, politicians to smiling couples - are reconstituted as the spokes, gears and pistons of ubiquitous, twenty-first century war machines: at once eerily futuristic and all too reminiscent of recent neoconservative empire-building initiatives. The resulting look of these photomontage animations is "excessive, flat, quasi-random, and circuitous," Evans describes: "all qualities inherent within the environment of the web." In Road to Mount Weather (2006), a three-channel installation spanning a 32-foot wide screen, fragmentary image groupings produce an unexpected narrative, increasingly assembling into secret military sites, underground testing facilities and others domains of the political id. Complicating what could otherwise be the somewhat conventional propagation of conspiratorial lore is Evans' self-conscious conception of his own authorial role. The artist alternately labels himself "a co-conspirator with the powers presented" and "a paranoid heretic attempting to subvert the powers of control," a bifurcated position he believes to be inevitable to a creative process reliant upon the appropriation of countless photographs - and, implicitly, lives - from the internet's vast reserves. In a way, Evans-as-author performs an overly dramatic version of our own complicity, as virtual navigators and political subjects, with the powers that be; but in lieu of fatalism, he offers animations too epic and interpretatively open to not suggest that there are more than a few routes into the future. - Tyler Coburn

Image: Cliff Evans, Road to Mount Weather (Image Stills), 2006

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Tom Moody's OptiDisc at Art Fag City

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Tom Moody, OptiDisc, animated GIF.

Art blog Art Fag City have a fantastic new masthead designed by artist and blogger Tom Moody, pictured above. See below for a description of the work from Art Fag City:

"The piece is meant to be big, dumb, and iconic, a moving, pulsing symbol of both the promise and failure of technology," said Tom Moody of Optidisc during Geeks in the Gallery, a detail of which now resides in my masthead. Aesthetically the gif looks just as Moody describes it, the rings klutzy yet mildly hypnotic; though past this, its life as a meme underscores the artist's excitement and reservations about the web as a medium. Referencing artists such as Kenneth Noland and Jasper Johns, without reiterating color field painting or Minimalism, Optidisc speaks as clearly to a tradition of Fine Art painting, as it does regular surfers looking for something "different" for their myspace page.

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Norwayweb (2007) by Bjorn Magnhildoen

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Artist Bjorn Magnhildoen in Norwayweb creates a "carpet" made of numbers derived from Norwegian tax payer information. Accessing roughly 4 million databases via "web scraping", the "carpet" is immediately triggered upon each visit to the web site, forcing the visitor to become a participant in the collection and redistribution of "private" information. Magnhildoen comments, "While the police earlier put goal-oriented tasks to suspected individuals and groups, now the whole population will be surveilled."

Marc Garrett of Furtherfield wrote a fascinating review of the work last month where he discusses the piece within the context of widespread digital surveillance.

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Flat Earth (2007) by Thomson & Craighead

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Image: Earth from Space, Apollo 17, 1972


After hearing rumors concerning the existence of secret NASA photographs of the Earth as seen from outer space, the writer and future digital-utopianist Stewart Brand fought to have these images released to the public. The hope behind Brand's 1966 campaign was that these "blue marble" photographs of the whole Earth would for the first time tangibly allow the planet to appear small, conceptually graspable and very much alone in the wilderness of space. Forty years later, the London-based new media artists, Thomson & Craighead, created the video Flat Earth (2007), a visualization of Earth that refers to a different perceptual moment.


Image: Thomson & Craighead, Flat Earth, 2007


Commissioned for Animate Projects in 2007, their project is not an unveiling of the spheric, "blue marble" image of the Earth as viewed from outer space but, rather, an attempt to describe the "flat" Earth as viewed from the membrane of the Internet. Blog entries and flickr photos interact with freely available satellite imagery to give a re-shaped conception of what space and distances between people effectively means in a networked world. The video begins in the tract housing of the American suburbs where we hear a performance of an actual blog entry from the angsty, young dancer, "teenangel." A few seconds later, we zoom into the sky above San Francisco as the bemused "patriot2000" informs us that he just read a translation of one of his blog posts into German and he's now curious to learn German. We travel across the globe to Zimbabwe, Iran, and Europe. It's a great seven minutes and it gets at something amazing about the Internet: if, according to Walter Benjamin, the technologies at the beginning of the 20th century allowed for perceptual reproduction to "keep pace with ...

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noplace (2007) by MW2MW

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noplace is an installation and website by artist group MW2MW (Marek Walczak and Martin Wattenberg). Drawing on the constant production and organization of information online, the artists developed software that arranges hundreds of feeds according to categories such as "fantasy," "paradise," "dreamscape," and "limbo."� This grouped material is then composited and projected, producing an overwhelming visual environment. By tangibly manifesting the contemporary experience of information inundation, the project proposes to generate "a browser in physical space". The work was included in the group exhibition Video Vortex at the Netherlands Media Art Institute, and will be in the upcoming China New Media Arts Exhibition 2008. - Ceci Moss



Image: Installation proposal for noplace at China New Media Arts Exhibition 2008.

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Transmediale @ Twenty

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Over the course of its twenty-year history the annual Berlin festival Transmediale has undergone multiple transformations. Originally an offshoot of the Berlin Film Festival, it grew into Video Fest, then Transmedia and now Transmediale- an evolution that reflects the trajectory of the medium from a specialized activity to a ubiquitous component of daily life. Organized under the theme of "CONSPIRE", this year's festival seeks to, "question, subvert, undermine and bypass the unspoken rules, hidden codes of conduct and assumed truths entrenched within our information driven communication cultures and ideological belief structures." A large and truly international exhibition interprets the conspiratorial through a series of thematic 'clusters' including "Bio-Organic Systems," "Twisted Realities," and "Alternative Science / Science vs Fiction." The annual conference and keynotes includes papers by an equally diverse cast. Of particular interest this year is the session "Web 3.0: Conspiring To Keep The Net Public," which will focuses on the question of "who controls the rights, identities of the users therein" and the increasing commodification of online data and personal expression. Moderated by runme.org co-founder Olga Goriunova, the panel is composed of an international group of theorists, activists and artists including Seda Gurses, Fran Ilich, Felipe Fonseca, Michelle Teran and Simon Yuill. In addition to the exhibition and conference, the festival also hosts a series of film and video screenings and performances. The conference as a whole will be streamed live for the duration of the festival. Transmediale runs from January 30th to February 3rd. - Caitlin Jones



Editor's note: Rhizome will run a comprehensive review of the festival next week by correspondent Michelle Kasprzak.

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Panoply, Please

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Panoplie.org is a French "web magazine" which, true to its name displays a great diversity of projects. The site is run by a collective of artists and "aims to be a platform for exchange between artists and Net surfers." The group highlights emergent, risk-taking practices while also collaborating with art institutions and galleries to broaden the horizons of "traditional art" discourse reflected on the site and, in turn, presented in these spaces. Panoplie is particularly interested in internet-based work and has recently been commissioning online performances that challenge the artists and push the medium. The organizers kindly leave the question of archiving webstreams of live works to the artists, in an effort to free them up and give them permission to fail, but recent works by MTAA, Igor Stromajer, and Anne Laforet are all preserved online. Up next is Helen Varley Jamieson's piece, "a gesture through the flames." On Monday January 28 at 8pm (Paris local time), the Australian writer, theater practitioner, and digital artist will begin broadcasting a performance that "will touch on the impossibility of having a frank conversation about loneliness with the dead." That sounds challenging, indeed! The piece is the last installment in Breaking Solitude, a project of artist and Panoplie co-organizer Annie Abrahams. - Marisa Olson




Image: MTAA, Still from web performance "Frank (Again)", 2008

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