Nail Art: From lipstick traces to digital polish

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From Charlie Engman's Tumblr.

For several weeks in August, news of an anti-date rape nail polish circulated on blogs and social media, igniting new debates with each posting. Created by four male university students, the nail polish was designed to be worn by would-be rape-victims; when dipped into a drink, it would indicate if it had been laced with one of three common date rape drugs by changing colors accordingly. Articles about this new prototype were irresistible to social media users—the way it tackled a trending, yet serious issue: the allure of staving off predators with fashion and the gimmick of seeing the colors change before your eyes.

Critics pointed out that the product reinforces the notion that it is the woman's responsibility to protect herself from sexual assault, serving as a reminder of the social acceptance of male aggression. A solutionist stopgap, it seems most likely to spur date rapists to change their lacing methods, while giving users a false sense of security.

One question that did not emerge during this discussion was the material form of this innovation, and its relationship to the body. As Lizzie Homersham and I wrote in a recent article for Rhizome, hands "problematize the boundary between organic human and inorganic tool." In the case of the date rape nail polish, the polished nail is deployed as a sensory device, a technological prosthesis that is also a part of our bodies.

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Thank You. Now, we have work to do.

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Tracy Jeanne Rosenthal and friends. 

After a successful conclusion of our 2014 Community Campaign yesterday, there are many positive feelings, and many things to say.

The format was an experiment. Our annual campaign, which is a significant part of our income each year, was shorter than ever before. We recognize that nature of online giving has changed since we started our appeals in 2001, and are sensitive to this now-crowded space. Inspired to innovate with our format by the success of 2009's $50,000 Web Page (which is still online, and well worth a look), we hoped that a grand finale, the 24-hour Internet Telethon, would carry us over the edge of our $20,000 goal. It did, in dramatic fashion. With just 20 minutes left, longtime Rhizomer and Telethon participant Tom Moody made the donation that carried us over the finish line.

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Rhizome's 24-Hour Telethon: Lineup Announced

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For 24 hours from 11am on Wed, March 19 (EST) on Rhizome.org, and broadcasting live from Lu Magnus. 


Our volunteers will be manning the phones.

Our campaign still has some way to go to meet our $20,000 target, but our friends around the world are going to help drum up donations via our home, the internet. Donate in advance to receive a special thank you during the telecast! 

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The Week Ahead: Conflict of Interest Edition

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Jeremy Bailey, Importrait Portrait of Michelle Kasprzak, 2013. Courtesy of Pari Nadimi Gallery.

Earlier this year, "Famous New Media Artist" Jeremy Bailey ran a Kickstarter campaign in which he offered backers an augmented reality portrait of themselves, updating the time-honored tradition of creating portraits of one's patron for an era of crowd-sourced funding. New Yorkers can see 50 of the results in person from Friday, June 14 at Devotion Gallery as part Jeremy Bailey: Less Important Portraits.

The big question: will the exhibition feature an image of Rhizome's own Heather Corcoran, who is listed as one of Bailey's backers? By writing about this event, am I inadvertently increasing the potential resale value of an artwork in Heather's collection? 

After the jump, more of the week's events and deadlines, all culled from Rhizome Announce.

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Life Feed: Webcams, Art, and People

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On Friday, June 24, Rhizome is presenting new projects by Jeremy Bailey and Antoine Catala as part of the New Silent Series. This post elaborates some of the ideas around the event.

Image: Antoine Catala, Antoine according to Dean by Antoine, 2011

The future never comes looking like it used to. Science fiction's universal hallmark of technological advancement was the videophone. While you can buy a device as slick as a Gene Roddenberry prop, most people make video calls with the same thing they do a thousand other things with, using a streamlined version of the computer-camera-modem combo that Jennifer Ringley set up in her dorm room in 1996. Her site JenniCam (now archived) did not stream a live feed of her life. It updated still images— black-and-white, at first— every three minutes. Traffic leapt whenever word spread that Ringley was undressing, or having sex with her boyfriend. But JenniCam was never meant to be an illicit site. As Ringley explained, she was broadcasting everyday life, and in everyday life sex and nudity happen. Her webcam was like a piece of furniture, a mirror that blankly took in the image of the room it faced. It was connected to the line of the telephone, a device that philosopher Avital Ronnell has described as a superhumanizing prosthesis, a machine that empowers the ear and voice to operate across great distances. The webcam's mirror/telephone hybrid— as used by JenniCam and its lifecasting progeny, from Ustream.tv to Chatroulette— is a messy sort of videophone that captures a reflection at its physical location and disperses it to whatever channel that switches the packets.

Rosalind Krauss called video "the aesthetics of narcissism." Her 1976 essay of that name describes Vito Acconci's Centers (1971) as a reflection on art's indexical function: he looks in a television monitor as a mirror and points at himself. One of her other examples was Richard Serra's Boomerang (1974), which locks Nancy Holt in a prison of feedback. She speaks and listens to her own words in a "collapsed present." "[V]ideo's real medium," Krauss writes, "is a psychological situation, the very terms of which are to withdraw attention from an external object— an Other— and invest it in the Self." What do her words mean thirty years later, when video, thanks to webcams, has become part of everyday life as a telecom device? Marisa Olson's remake of Boomerang offers an easy starting point. The webpage juxtaposes a video of Olson listening to and repeating the text of Boomerang with a copy of the old video that she saved on her YouTube account. Serra's tightly constructed frame excludes everything but Holt's face and the audio apparatus. Olson (who did the tasks of both Serra and Holt: the tech set-up and the on-screen performance) lets her webcam show her studio; we can see a doorway, artworks, a bookshelf, the glare of sunlight on a framed print. For Olson, the real "frame" isn't the field of her webcam's lens but the window of the browser, which subsumes both the art-historical past and the webcam's collapsed present in the empty space of default whiteness. She's not only creating a reflection of her own image, but connecting it to an artifact of another place and time by echoing its call.

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