Artist Profile: Kari Altmann



Preview image from "XOMIA" (2015) which debuts March 27th at Ellis King

The latest in a series of interviews with artists who have developed a significant body of work engaged (in its process, or in the issues it raises) with technology. See the full list of Artist Profiles here.

Your work functions on two different, related, levels. The first is the macro, or the meta—the way that images or systems are linked together, a concern that is present throughout your practice. The second is the micro—for example, tracing visual similarities between survival tools and credit card designs or reptile claws and the Three Mobile logo in Soft Mobility (2014-ongoing). Your practice is as much about workflows as individual works, which allows you and your viewer to trace connections between these macro and micro levels. What prompted you to start thinking in this way?

I've been asked this a lot lately, I've been trying to figure out some moment. I can only nail down a rough timeline that's still running. Too much content? Which led to too many tagging tools and algorithms? Too many aggregational platforms? Too much curation? Too many blogs? Too many new projects? Too much art direction? Tropes and genres just became super easy to notice, reveal, nudge, merge, produce, and reproduce. Also to deconstruct. Conceptual and cultural tropes as much as the nuts and bolts stuff. Art became about accounts and feeds just like music did. Images became meta images. Objects became meta images. Everything could be linked. Everything was part of a stream, then a mass. Everything became fractalized. Tags became crucially important. You could make other people's art, you could predict what everyone was going to post next, faster than they could post it. Your ideas and personalities became brands instantly. You started viewing everything in situ with similar and related content around it, which in art always included other work that was copying it or at least was uncomfortably similar. It also included products, artifacts, architecture, and selfies. The line between the research, the idea, the art product and the resulting trend and community blurred. One image wasn't enough. The timeline from thought to post diminished. All content sources became equalized. Resources were scarce. Memes dominated. People had their first feelings of AI. It's a story for another time.


Ana Maria Uribe, Anipoems


 Ana Maria Uribe, Escalera 3 (1999).

Ana Maria Uribe (1951-2004) was an Argentine visual poet who made work online beginning in 1997 after working in other media for many years. When she passed away in 2004, Jim Andrews (who runs Visual Poetry website posted a moving tribute to her work on Rhizome's mailing list, including this quote in which she recounts her formative experiences as a poetry: 

I started with visual poetry in the late 60's after seeing some of Apollinaire's poems and Morgenstern's "Night Song of the Fish". Shortly afterwards I met Edgardo Antonio Vigo, who was then editing a magazine called "Diagonal Cero", devoted to visual poetry and mail art, and other poets such as Luis Pazos and Jorge de Lujan Gutierrez. They all lived in La Plata, a town which is 50 km from Buenos Aires, where I live, and we communicated by ordinary mail, either because there was a shortage of telephones at that time or to save costs, I don't remember which. I still keep some of the letters...

At a moment when many artists are again considering the medial qualities of poetry, Uribe's work seems well worth revisiting, particularly because (as Andrews noted, of her CD-ROM works) it reflected an understanding of "the poem on the screen as a performance." In the works, text is generally used pictorially (as with the ladder made of capital H's in the Escalera series), and rotated or otherwise manipulated to introduce a sense of motion into the scene. In the Rebote series, for example, the dots of lowercase i's bounce around playfully:


Artist Profile: Hannah Black


The latest in a series of interviews with artists who have developed a significant body of work engaged (in its process, or in the issues it raises) with technology. See the full list of Artist Profiles here.


Hannah Black, My Bodies (2014). Digital video.

Your work concerns bodies, or the condition of being bodied. Your last video Fall of Communism (2014) feels like a sculpture in the sense that as a viewer, one's own body is pulled into relief, as with an object in space. I felt pulled into the space of the video, vertiginous. At your show at the Legion TV gallery in London, one half of what was on display was a hand-cut latex the color of skin. Is the work an analog for the body, or otherwise, where does the body (of the maker or the viewer) intersect or interact with the body of the work for you?

It's true that if you look at a lot of my work there is an interest in viscera, in the interior of the body—but it's not a Paul McCarthy guts and blood thing, it's a stand-in for interiority in general, for the inside being outside and vice versa. The phrase "being bodied" could mean "getting killed" as well as "being embodied" and I think that tension is one of the ways that I'm interested in what it means to have, or not have, something called "a body." I tried to write about how our concept of the body might one day, in a utopian way, be replaced by the framework of lifetime or different concentrations of experience. My wildest idea was that this reinterpretation of sensory experience would "render death merely chronological," a phrase I still love, though it's hard for me to recall exactly what I meant by it. Something about placing yourself in the long flow of time, allowing your self-conception to accommodate more than just your own conscious physical experience, I think. In the end it was too sci-fi an idea and didn't work out as an essay, so instead became the video My Bodies. I wanted to say something about how there is no generic body, no such thing as "the body"; bodies are raced, gendered, and assisted differently in the world. I collected images of white business executives, and you hear the voices of African-American female singers—Aaliyah, Beyonce, Whitney Houston, Jennifer Hudson, and many others—all singing the phrase "my body." I also use Ciara's song "Body Party." There is a whole tradition in black philosophy of trying to think about to what extent white thought is able to conceptualize black people as having bodily integrity. Hortense Spillers says that the enslaved body, for example, becomes just flesh; Frank Wilderson picks up this train of thought. This is part of the black critique of white feminism: the latter assumes, absurdly, that all women have bodies in the same way. The first part of the video presses on this tension. The second part of the video imagines a realm in between lives where someone is considering whether or not to be born again into a new body, knowing all of the implications of that, knowing how many people in this world have bodies that are racialized or impoverished or perhaps don't, in some senses, fully have bodies at all. It's like the famous romantic scene in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind where they realize they have had their relationship before: would I do it again? Would I choose to be embodied again?


Artist Profile: Emily Jones


The latest in a series of interviews with artists who have developed a significant body of work engaged (in its process, or in the issues it raises) with technology. See the full list of Artist Profiles here.

First Water to Tripoli Jupiter Woods London 2014

One recurring motif in your work of late has been your posters, sometimes A4 [letter-sized] but sometimes blown up larger, which usually depict one word or phrases, for example, "earth-cult," "sui iurus, or "we will protect the great river." These are presented in generic, unadorned fonts. Your press releases continue this aesthetic, combining these phrases to form a kind of poetry. Reading the text for your recent show at Jupiter Woods, in South London, we see couplings like "#archive #bank #invest / It is within our human capacity" and "how-to-disappear-in-the-anthropocene / the_love_that_sustains_all_matter.html."

Do these phrases create a taxonomy within your work? Do they give a clue to the way you form relations between different politics, geographies and affects? They have featured in a number of different exhibitions and projects over the last year. Might we say they form the skeleton, or the exoskeleton, of your practice?

The words are anchors or/and buoys in an operating system. When I employ them for the A4 page or a larger poster or banner they gesture towards an attempted isolation which I feel is terrifying for them&us. When words are large and isolated on the page they can be looked at for their surface forms and qualities (the curves and angles of the letters rather than the meaning the word points toward) They are also very poised, like templates, often in complete adherence to the prescriptions of google docs. They have to trust themselves to hold their form despite this uninvited and abrupt isolation. The individual poster is like a shield, armor, or veil. What lies beyond and before language as an orientation system?



Art Criticism in the Age of Yelp


Thomas Struth, Hermitage 3, St. Petersburg (2005).

I. Amazon 

Amazon used to have literary ambitions. In the late '90s, the company hired professional editors who commissioned and wrote thousands of reviews a week, as well as features, interviews, and previews of forthcoming books. Later on, when the retailer began to intersperse the paid reviews with user-generated content, it retained this vision, thinking of user reviews as submissions to a literary magazine that would give the site the aura of an independent bookshop, populated by an erudite staff and clientele. Rick Ayre, then Vice President and Executive Editor of Amazon, described the tone and use of the content on to the New York Times in 1999: "If you spend a lot of time on the site, I hope you get a sense of the quirky, independent, literate voice, and that behind it all you're interacting with people, and that it's people who care about these things, not people who are trying to sell you these things. My mantra has always been 'the perfect context for a purchase decision.'"1


An Interview with Edward Boatman, Co-Founder of The Noun Project


The Noun Project is a seemingly infinite collection of black-and-white symbols put into the public domain. As the founders put it, it is an attempt to organize the world’s visual language into one online database. Edward Boatman, one of the project’s founders, is also its sole gatekeeper. Each symbol on the database was either collected off the Internet or created by designers around the world. Boatman approves every submission to the project and assigns each icon a word — a noun, of course, either an object or a concept. The images are often surprisingly evocative, despite their simplicity, and unlock a potential for wordless communication for anyone with an Internet connection. 

Boatman was working in architecture design when he noticed it was surprisingly difficult to find basic, high-quality symbols on the web, even for common transportation symbols used by the government. The Noun Project was launched shortly thereafter in December 2010. Now the scope of the Noun Project is limitless. As Boatman told me, the project could create a symbol for, potentially, every noun in the world. Boatman (and co-founders Sofya Polyakov and Scott Thomas) are looking ahead to making the project a sustainable business. 

I talked to Boatman about the purpose behind the project, design for social good, and some of the challenges in creating a visual database that’s always growing.


SS: The Noun Project has thousands of icons. What are you looking for in a good image?

EB: Simplicity is key. One thing I always try to articulate for best design practices in a symbol is this idea of only analyzing the essential facts of the object or idea. It’s really fun. First you have to analyze it, and then once you analyze it, you have to identify the attributes or the elements of that object that you want to represent. Then you execute that into a design that’s elegant and has great proportions. One of the more important things in the design is that it can scale up or scale down and still read well. You don’t want to put too much detail in there, because a lot of these symbols are seen at pretty small scales...



Goodiepal’s Plot To Educate AI



If you find Goodiepal’s artwork to be inexplicable, it may be because you’re not a robot or a blade of grass.

Goodiepal (alternately spelled Gaeoudjiparl or Gaodjiperl) has in fact directed his unique and absurd concerts/lectures/performance art/stand up comedy/show-and-tell toward AI.  As he waxes in his Mort Aux Vaches lecture, “We need to start to talk to the machines as human beings, bringing and expecting machines to understand what we are a Utopian future, [my] work is not only made to be appreciated by human minds.  No, it’s also meant to be worshiped by all kinds of alternative intelligence.”

 A Goodiepal performance might begin with a solemn whistled rendition of a patriotic ode.  Often he will place an array of strange handmade objects on a table and begin to move them around methodically on a chess board, occasionally uttering a guttural croak.  He might begin to lecture about his nonlinear conception of time, indicating that small bundles of twine on the table symbolize points of time.  He might impersonate rock bands and do karaoke.  Goodiepal’s lectures would be a complete upheaval of everything you believed if there weren’t wry Dadaist halo around it all.

Goodiepal’s London studio, The Blue House, designed by FAT

Primarily using voice in recent musical performances is an odd step for Goodiepal, since he was introduced to most fans as a synth musician and builder.  One of Goodiepal’s more infamous synths is an motorized brass bird that has several levers to control a synthesized birdsong.  This synth is just one charismatically packaged part of a massive portfolio of built-from-scratch and modified electronics.  Goodiepal in fact makes much of his income by repairing and modifying synthesizers and various electronics at his studio in London ...


City of QR Codes


I examine bar codes, wondering what it would be like to have only laser sight. I stare at handwriting until the loops and whorls stop being words, syllables, and even letters, and become no more than manic pulses brain wave transformed into muscle twitch, traced in the seismograph of our ink-hemorrhaging prosthetic appendages. I gaze at my city streets, running my eyes over the scars on its knees, feeling a refracted rainbow of urban skin interring a personal history of human frailty. I have a polymorphously perverted sense of physical praxis with objects. It’s not that I’m more object-curious or infrastructurally dirty-minded than most; it’s just that once you start to think about what things are wearing underneath their exterior semiotic reality, it’s pretty hard to calm down. Thankfully, the city invites my oddly tactile greeting, smiling and warming to my touch. Scars are so much sexier than tattoos.

This street, this entire block, this city —its beautifully exposed skin now appears in my imagination as a square of white and black squares, each structure and topological feature raising or lowering itself against a field of contrasting color. This city is a QR code. A QR code may not be a sex symbol to you, but stretching anywhere from 21 units by 21 units in dimension to a maximum of 177 by 177, (define these imagined units as you like) my metropolis is a pixelated, hemaphroditic Vitruvian pin-up drawing, a mandala of Kama Sutra-esque data positions. I walk down the street and I decode a pattern esoteric enough to be invented by gods, ancient shamans, or extraterrestrials. Invented by us. Within these folds and plateaus we have embedded the sort of information that arouses our attentions--the kind of public-knowledge secrets we think about just behind the ...



Language Mutations: Cuneiform to QR


via John Powers

Language is a staple of art criticism, art history, and art making. In its frequent use as the architecture of communication, language mutates to survive and fit the needs of the culture that creates and maintains it. Continuing the lineage of glyph generation F.A.T Labs have created new QR_STENCILER and subsequently QR_HOBO_CODES which are QR translations of Hobo glyphs with additions made to help tech-savvy urbanites.

images via F.A.T Labs



Making Word: Ryan Trecartin as Poet


All images: Screen captures from KCorea-INC.K

Is Ryan Trecartin a video artist? A “video-installation” artist? Reviewing “Any Ever,” the exhibition now on view at MoMA PS1, Roberta Smith grasped for precedent, naming Paul McCarthy, Matthew Barney and Pipilotti Rist. But, she admitted, the comparisons fell short. To find another artist who engages a plurality of art forms with simultaneous, equal intensity—all while rethinking what art is and how it touches its audience—you’d have to go back to Wagner. Video is an outcome of his process, but watching is not the only or best way to understand it. Trecartin says he starts each work by writing a script. Language—the primal, biological system of symbols—is the model and vehicle for art and commerce and every other manifestation of social activity. And the forms of all the aspects of Trecartin’s work—the camerawork, the editing, the music, the makeup, and the costumes, as well as Lizzie Fitch’s sets for the videos and “sets” for their viewing in “Any Ever”—are prefigured in the way he works with words.

To study Trecartin’s language, I read the script for K-CoreaINC.K (Section A), which is freely available thanks to ubuweb’s “Publishing the Unpublishable” series. Like any script, it starts with dramatis personae: Argentinian Korea, Hungary Korea, French Adaptation Korea, and so on. The litany of locales recalls the lyrics of a club hit (“Brazil, Morocco, London to Ibiza”: so sings J-Lo in “On the Floor”) or the “Paris, Milan, Moscow, Tokyo” you see on the front of designer boutiques. But only remotely. Countries aren’t named to evoke the exotic, but because geographic names, unlike human names, are tied to place and awkward in reuse. Slapped together, they don’t merge nicely. One plus one is two ones and the ozone emitted by their collision. Combos like these are a favorite device of Trecartin’s. So is the willful disregard for parts of speech. A character’s “first name” can be a noun or an adjective or one of each. Grammatical difference meets geographical difference as both are jettisoned. No setting is indicated—the list of characters is enough to locate the action in an unanchored imaginary.