Scenes from the London 3D Printshow

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Matthew Plummer-Fernandez, Digital Natives (2012)

“The internet changed the world in the 1990s, the world is about to change again,” read much of the promotional literature for the recent 3D Printshow in London. The commercial exhibitors might have benefited from a far more modest tag line, but the art work exhibited, separate from the main trade section of the show, gave much new to think about regarding the the relationship between technology and craft.

 Frederik de Wilde, M1ne IIII (2012)

I was immediately intrigued by the two sculptural objects on display by Frederik de Wilde. The cobalt chrome models had been printed from data gathered from Belgian coal mines. They presented themselves as futuristic objects with a link to Europe's industrial heritage. The representations of the coal mines came to the 3D Printshow as seemingly abstract objects but, were actually formed by a much more political process. It had been a laborious process for de Wilde to get access to the data. He remarked that being granted permission to use a data source as an artist is almost an art form in itself. The Belgian government are protective over the information as the mines contain elements of interest to multinationals and other nations. De Wilde was not permitted in the work to reveal the location of the mines and had to abstract the forms so that interested parties could not gain commercial advantage. The custodians of the data had a large say in what the outcome of the piece would be. This is an intriguing collaborative process if it can be considered as such. The models of the coal mines had been stacked inside each other to create fragile vessels, that also further abstracted the context of the data. The production values of both objects were also noteworthy. I ...

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Dresses Made from Tweets and Tropical Fish Musical Scales at London Data&Art Hackathon

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image via Paul Clarke 

Recently, Digital Sizzle staged a data and art hackathon at Mozilla HQ in London.There were no rules – the only expectation was to share ideas and skills. The hackathon began with a handful of participants pitching ideas. The weekend’s aim was to make art but, its context also showcased developers as creative practitioners who are just as engaged in the process of making as artists are. In the end, two themes of opposing approaches defined the weekend: generating data vs. using data sets and material outcomes vs. screen based outcomes. Tonight a selection of the projects will be shown at Whitechapel Gallery...

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An Interview with Superlative TV

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As part of England’s nationwide switchover from analog to digital tele-broadcasting, London’s official analog signal went down on April 18, 2012. While dumpsters citywide filled with old TV sets, a flurry of commemorative activity sprung up in the art world. Most notably London’s Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) staged Remote Control, a large survey show examining prominent artists’ responses to television; and across town pioneering British video artist David Hall staged 1001 TV Sets (End Piece), 1972 – 2012, an epic installation in which 1001 sets, tuned to one of five UK analog channels, gradually transitioned from color broadcasts to snow and noise.

Against this backdrop of retrospection and nostalgia the politicised London-based pirate television group Superlative TV formed. Set to begin broadcasting the evening of September 14, Superlative TV will be available to anyone in the city who can unplug a TV digital receiver and tune into the yet to be designated frequency. Inclusive, liberal, and egalitarian, the channel will run a program consisting of community led documentaries, artists’ works, performance, news, and film. Tackling subjects like the 2011 London riots – civil unrest that saw unprecedented looting, arson, and violence in the city – Superlative TV are distancing themselves from the post-modern tendencies of contemporaries like South London’s Auto Italia South East and Lucky PDF. In other words, it is not all about VHS generation loss and ironic distance. Instead Superlative TV seek to offer a politically active model of public access television: an enfranchising, free television service in dialogue with its users, as opposed to a paid for service that is not. Recently I spoke with Superlative TV co-founder Anne Tennor about the upcoming broadcast.


 

How did Superlative TV start and why?

I think it started because we saw a need. Not that there isn’t a lot of “art TV” out there, because there is a lot, but art TV seems to have almost become about a brand. A brand in which an individual’s voice might get lost in the crowd. So what we're facilitating is a kind of open platform that is missing from British broadcasting in general, and the idea is to fill the gap of open access television as well as produce art TV.

We have a background working with lots of artists in London, doing various projects with moving image and broadcasting whether that is radio or television. Then the digital switchover happened and it just seemed like the perfect time to subvert an old medium that people aren’t using anymore. We see it as a redundant space that can be completely free, completely uncensored, completely unrestricted. Not even the Internet can provide that opportunity, for artists especially. But if you look at last summer’s riots the government was trying to shut Twitter down. So we’re still being controlled, in spite of the idea that we use modern technology to have a voice.

It’s interesting that you’re talking about issues of control; because what you are doing you have to do covertly as it’s illegal. 

We’re hoping through our activity we’ll eventually not be seen as criminals, but as people offering something which should be made legal. Eventually the idea is to have an open access television station in the UK as there isn’t one, but it’s happening all over the world now, of course in America, but also in parts of Eastern Europe you’ve got artists who are offered half an hour on a local channel. That said, open access isn’t the extent of what we plan to program. We’d like to commission relevant programs that national TV doesn’t seem to cover. Also, given the current political situation in the UK, there’s a feeling that some parts of society are being targeted by Conservative policies and not being given a voice at all.  So this goes beyond just offering young artists, or people with nowhere to show work, a space.

I was thinking about the fact that it’s on analogue television, which means people will have to detune their sets to watch. First of all you’re getting an active and engaged audience, because their making a big effort to find out what we’re broadcasting; and second it’s like time travelling, which is how it feels in the UK at the moment. I just think that a lot of what’s happening has happened twenty, thirty years ago with Margaret Thatcher, and even before that. Things seem to go in cycles and it would be nice to offer some hope.

So can you tell me a bit about where you’re at with the project at the moment?

Well you’ve come towards the end of phase two. Phase one has been collecting content, practising camerawork, assembling equipment, and we’re ready to go live. We’ve been trying to collect shows together, and ideas for formats. We have a show that we’re advertising now, which is called Prime Time: we’re asking artists and curators to submit three videos to us, one that they’ve made, one they have influenced and one that has influenced them. We’ll screen those after we’ve launched piratically on the 14September.

We’ve also been filming and documenting events for the last year: working with PAMI (Peckham Artists Moving Image festival), and a radio show on Resonance FM called The Gravy.  They have a great bunch of weird and wonderful musical acts, that we filmed and put our live mixing over, and we have a whole catalogue of them now. We’re also commissioning new works with artists, so a lot of great young talent is going to be shown via our channel. On top of that we’re working on more documentary style content about the political situation now... 

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adiZones and Lo-Lifes

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This post originally appeared Spitzenprodukte.

GAMIFY INSURRECTION


This week I attended Regeneration Games, a talk at FreeWord on the branding and aesthetic ideology of Olympic-driven regeneration. Alberto Duman organised the event and presented three 'artifacts' of regeneration: the ArcelorMittal Orbit Tower, a promotional PDF selling the regeneration of Newham to Chinese investors, and 'adiZones'. The author and critic Owen Hatherley was then invited to respond to 'adiZones', a small development project intended on delivering part of the “Olympic Legacy” in the form of better community sports provision

adiZones are “giant multi-sport outdoor venues” — essentially outdoor gyms — comprising “basketball, football and tennis areas, a climbing wall, an outdoor gym and an open area to encourage dance, aerobics and gymnastics” over a footprint of 625 sq m. They contain durable exercise apparatus and ‘quotations’ of team sports (for example, a short basketball court, a single football goal or a “climbing wall”). The footprint of each adiZone is in the shape of the 2012 Olympic Games logo, making the adiZone an example of “Google Earth Urbanism” — urban development conceived with one eye on the heavens and the omnipresent, panopticonic satellites that lurk there-in, guiding us to work and quietly reshaping our understanding of the urban environment. Significantly, each adiZone also has free wifi installed.

 


adiZone in Mile End Park, as seen on Google Maps

 

There are currently 5 adiZones within London, one in each of the “host boroughs”, located within municipal parks and specifically located with the intention to “renovate either disused or run down areas within the boroughs”. Nationwide there have been over 50 adiZones installed, built through a PPP (Public-Private Partnership) scheme with sportswear brand adidas (lower case theirs) contributing £1million, or 50% of the budget, with Sports England matching with funding allocated as part Sports England’s “Inspired Facilities” campaign ...

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Remote Control

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Simon Denny, Those who don't change will be switched off, (2012)

A TV set burns fiercely. These are the last days of the British analog television broadcast.

I kid you not, the United Kingdom limps sorely behind on digital conversion. Luxembourg was first to the finish line, followed by most of Europe, the States, North Africa, Japan. The UK, a chain-smoking marathon runner, who might or might not have gout, has decided — to hell with the lot of you — to race dressed as Chewbacca.

As we drag ourselves sodden and bronchial through those final steps, a slow clap from the ICA gallery greets us. The exhibition 'Remote Control' (April 3, 2012 - 10 June 10, 2012) marks the end of the analog signal by uniting works that take TV and break it apart.

Artist David Hall set television ablaze in 1971. His TV Interruptions were broadcast during normal BBC scheduling in Scotland. No announcement, nor explanation. A tap in the top right-hand corner filled the screen up with water as if it were a cross-section of a sink, a man filmed out at the audience from inside the set, a television burned to cinders in an open field. Each short film held its own during broadcast with a cool irony. Yet the creation and destruction of illusions simultaneously undermined the tyranny of any box masquerading as a window into reality. Hall pioneered art in television and continues to work with the medium and concept. With it, and in opposition to it, for the artists in 'Remote Control' hold their enemy close.

            Still from David Hall, TV Interruptions (Tap piece) (1971)

Commercial broadcasting is the adversary in Television Delivers People (1973) by Richard Serra and Carlota Fay Schoolman. A six and a half minute credit roll tells us merrily that we are the end product of TV, delivered through broadcast to be consumed by advertisers. The medium itself emerges banal, or shrill; the mechanisms of corporate control form the malevolent baseline. Screened in the ICA alongside these works by Hall and Serra as well as Gerry Schum, are further exposés on television advertising from TVTV, misogyny from Joan Braderman, and violence from Marcel Odenbach. Sixteen CRT televisions line up neatly to show us how artists rankled with the system over the decades past. 

It doesn't sound very radical does it? The wit of the interruptions has already been dampened by their removal from the broadcast context. They confront an engaged, expectant audience, not their passive target. Can we understand quite how difficult it must have been to infiltrate the mainstay of the British broadcasting industry, the BBC, when there is such a multitude of platforms available today? Should an institution that holds the contemporary at its core not be addressing the hidden power lines of the mass media that immerse us now?

 

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Making Sense of Senseless Violence: An Interview with Jack Womack

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Tottenham Aug. 7, 2011. (Lewis Whyld/PA/AP) via The Big Picture

This summer when Britain was gripped by civil disturbance, it was suggested by some in the SF community that if you wanted to understand the underlying psychology of those involved, you should read Jack Womack’s Random Acts of Senseless Violence, originally published in 1994. Random Acts details in diary form the tribulations of twelve-year-old Lola Hart as her New York City, family, and persona come apart. It also serves as an entry point for Womack’s six-book Dryco series, which presents post-disaster America as trailer-trash corporate dystopia, complete with Elvis worship, unchecked rape and murder, and its own argot. Recently I met with Womack and asked him about the creation and particular prescience of these novels.

 


 

Your novels make me unbelievably anxious.  

I relieve my own anxiety by writing them. So, yeah, it’s transference.  

One of the things that’s so anxiety-inducing about Random Acts, as well as your first novel Ambient, is that there’s always scarcity: there’s never enough money, never enough food, never enough security. Which seems to me extremely, though not exclusively, New York.  

Oh, at the time it certainly was. The New York in Ambient was what I saw happening if everything had kept getting worse. When O’Malley is walking home to his apartment in the Lower East Side, that’s the way it used to be. What the predictive element missed was that New York would skyrocket back, and that neighborhoods you couldn’t go into at night thirty years ago, you now couldn’t afford. I moved up here in 1977 right after the blackout and the Son of Sam summer. So the fear definitely comes across. When you see Taxi Driver, that’s what it looked

 

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Contested Terrains at Tate Modern

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Excerpt from a review of Contested Terrians at Tate Modern in London from African Art in London:

Contested Terrains is the first annual project arising from Guaranty Trust Bank’snew partnership with Tate, and it sets the bar extremely high. The show features a foursome of talented artists working in Africa in variety of media: Kader Attia (slide show installation), Sammy Baloji (photomontage), Michael MacGarry (sculpture) and Adolphus Opara (photography). Jointly curated by Kerryn Greenberg (Tate) and Jude Anogwih (Centre for Contemporary Art, Lagos), this is an African group show with a difference – exactly the sort of thing that you’d hope for from Tate Modern. There’s no questionable attempt to edify the audience, no over-excited claim to be introducing us to anything, and, perhaps most importantly, no curatorial waffle about ‘African creativity’ – the intelligent, subtle and challenging works on show here speak for themselves...

The final room presents the photomontages of Sammy Baloji, together with two final small pieces from MacGarry, whose work runs like a twisted thread through the whole show. Baloji’s subject here is the history of resource exploitation in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and in particular the decline of the Gécamines mining company, whose presence has shaped his home region of Katanga since 1906. Mémoire (2006) unflinchingly reveals the catastrophic recent fortunes of the company, through a series of desolate panoramas of industrial decline, upon which the artist has superimposed archival images of officials and labourers from more prosperous times. The colonial officials appear oblivious to the state of their new surroundings, blithely peering at dilapidated old sheds and piles of rusty metal, but the Congolese labourers stare straight out at the viewer, photographic ghosts issuing a warning which comes too late.

images via bbc news

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London Calling

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Over the past few years it's become a widely-held principle that the internet-related art communities of New York and Berlin commingle with each other far more fluently and regularly than either do with that of London. Why, you may ask? Though the answer remains to seen, one could gather that the cost of living in London far surpasses that of Berlin or the more affordable boroughs of New York City, which are clearly more friendly to artists who make no money from their work; or that importantly, the American social networking platforms acting as a catalyst to internet related art communities only recently gained traction in London, though they've been long popular with New Yorkers and ex-pat Berliners. Regardless of these conjectures, this perceived lack of communication with Londoners in such a globalized phenomenon was enough of an impetus to pull me down from a vacation in Glasgow to scope out the city's scene.

Greeting me upon my arrival was the venerable Ben Vickers, a colleague and friend I met on my last trip to London, at his warehouse in Manor House, perhaps the Bushwick equivalent of North London. I'd been in touch with Vickers since he curated an exhibition with some internet art “usual suspects” for a gallery in Peckham—Jon Rafman, Parker Ito, etc. —which, at the time, seemed an anomalous locale for these buzz names. Although I've written previously about Vickers' work with the now-defunct duo Sopping Granite, it feels strange to write about him now. Not only has he become more of a friend than a professional contact, but I wonder how much he would even care that I write about him, or how useful it would be to him, or if he would consider this as a flag in the journey of his burgeoning practice, as most artists likely would. This is all indicative of Vickers' “practice,” if you could call it that...

 

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Mark Leckey at the Serpentine Gallery (19 May – 26 June 2011)

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The difficulty in making work now is that there’s this model of how a distributed kind of collective work could be made (i.e., through the Internet), but it can’t be made in a gallery. The nature, or structure, of the gallery doesn’t allow for that; it needs certain kinds of forms, certain objects. There’s this term I like, “stigmergy”: an ant goes out, lays a path of pheromones; the other ants follow that path, and then that path gets built up until it becomes a pathway. They use this term in open source to describe a programming language that has being continually added to and amended so that the original code has been lost or forgotten, but you’re left with a structure that everyone can use. As an idea of making art, that seems really interesting—something made with the benefits of technology. At the same time, that idea is a long way from the art being made now, and a long way from Benjamin’s idea of art’s aura. The aura is still there; it still surrounds artworks, massively. The trouble is that more you start to distribute art or disperse it, the more mutable art becomes, until finally, it dissipates into just “LOLCats” or something. - Mark Leckey in an interview with Mark Fisher (Kaleidoscope, Summer 2011)

Installation view, Serpentine Gallery, London
(19 May – 26 June 2011)

 

 

Fiorucci Made Me Hardcore (1999.) Installation view

 

 

Previously: Brian Droitcour's interview with Leckey for Rhizome (2009)

 

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Popular Unrest (2010) - Melanie Gilligan

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This past Migrating Forms festival opened with a screening of Melanie Gilligan's feature-length film Popular Unrest, which is also available as five episodes on Gilligan's website. Set in a fictional future London, not unlike the present, Popular Unrest seizes upon the modern preoccupation with systems, data, and constant technological improvement. The story revolves around the influence of the "World Spirit," a technological system that controls all transactions and social interactions with the aim of boosting productivity and increasing profitability. The world of the Spirit is a rational existence where everything is monitored, quantified, and rationally controlled.

At the film's opening a mysterious disembodied knife brutally commits murder, while the 24 hour media cycle, punctuated by television advertisements for the spirit drones on in the background. Equally mysterious as the violent murders, people around the world are being inexplicably drawn together into what have been termed "groupings." The plot of Popular Unrest centers on one such grouping, comprised of twelve individuals, from diverse backgrounds with nothing in common other than their overwhelming desire to come together. While the closeness the group feels towards each other is inconceivable in the rational terms of system transactions that govern their reality, they find comfort in their connection.

When a group of scientists approach them to conduct a study of their group and hopefully provide a scientific explanation for the phenomenon, they agree to participate. The biological causes of their behavior and the dehumanized and technological control of the spirit that approaches the world in terms of data and profit margins are pitted against the humanity of the grouping and the irrationality of life. They are, as the scientists tell them, like a snapshot taken by the system, a frozen moment of social exchange. They represent the Spirit's reflexivity.
Ultimately, however, Gilligan is uncertain in the power of our humanity to resist the faith, comfort and often overwhelming power we invest in the quantifiable, data driven systems we ourselves have created.

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