Time to TRIP Out

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Despite their long lineages, the fields of locative media and psychogeography have only recently entered the art world. Every year there are increasingly more festivals and exhibitions devoted to the work of a growing number of artists who identify with these terms, but there has yet to be a substantial enough response on the part of art critics, academic journals, and others whose engagement is needed to help flesh-out the art historical trajectory and even genre conventions associated with locative media. Now a Manchester-based program called "Territories Reimagined International Practices" (conveniently abbreviated "TRIP") seeks to bring together artists, academics, and arts professionals under the umbrella of a three-day event (June 19-21) designed to present the best work in the field and generate more discourse around it. The gathering will feature a full-fledged conference, along with citywide performances, exhibitions, and interventions. Interestingly, the organizers have made precise efforts to wrestle differences between the few existing narratives currently swirling around this work, such as the seemingly contradictory aimlessness of the "psychogeographic drift" and the tightly-honed artist intervention. Like many subsets of new media art, those with a stake in this field have the double-edged challenge of speaking to the pronounced, shared qualities of its practitioners and also their diversity, which is indicative of a thriving field. Visit their blog for more details on the evolving program and use it to start your own psychogeographic bibliography. - Marisa Olson


Jane Samuels, "3.15pm, School House. Torches off. Cold, bright, quiet." (From the Abandoned Buildings Project), 2007

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Fictional Genealogies

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A new show collaboratively presented by ZKM, in Karlsruhe, and tank.tv, Tank Magazine's online film and video gallery, works to question a dubious tendency in the art world. The citation of an artist's nationality is a common tactic in both the historicization of their work and in its branding. (Think of the "Young British Artist" meme as an example par excellence.) Art exhibitions are posited as prime perpetuators of these citations and the organizers of "Vetrautes Terrain" argue that this act can have several negative ramifications. Taking the example of "German Art," they argue that the identity markings invested by national political borders are not always the identities artists would choose to adopt and given the diversity of peoples to be found in any nation, this fact alone does not determine the nature of an artist's work--and does not homogenously overdetermine all artists of single nations in the same way. In fact, these blanket categorizations often undermine an artist's ability to work against the grain in expressing dissent. This cookie cutter designation also shrugs-off the important work of producing the real art criticism that engages and activates the questions raised by artists in their work. "Vertrautes Terrain: Contemporary Art in/about Germany" includes over 70 German and international artists directly or more subtly addressing the question of who or what the ever-evolving country of Germany is. - Marisa Olson


Õzlem Sulak, Deutsches Auswandererhaus, 2008

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From Alpha to Omega

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Artists are often credited with inventing new languages, but of course the building blocks of these code hacks, if you will, are the letters of the alphabet. A new online exhibition entitled "Abecedarium:NYC" takes the Modern English alphabet as its starting point. Curated by Susan Agliata and Lynne Sachs and appropriately hosted by the New York Public Library, that longstanding database of the alphanumeric, the show invited artists to imagine readings of the city of New York and its boroughs, based on their interpretation of a word beginning with their assigned letter. The twenty-six final pieces construct overlapping narratives about the city and its denizens, as portrayed in interactive maps, videos, and audio works. Each entry takes a different approach as to the genre of story told, ranging from noirish mysteries to nonfiction historiographies to humorous character studies. Start with your favorite letter and see if you're able to resist the other twenty-five. - Marisa Olson


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Net-Work

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What is new media without networks? Better yet...What are networks? Academics and technologists are fond of saying that "we now live in a network culture," meaning in part that whether they are manifested online or offline, our social relationships, the objects we make, and our worldviews are inherently informed by the conditions of life in the era of the internet. New media art would then certainly fall under this gestalt, as it not only comes out of this era, often explicitly addressing it, but it is also a social movement or art community influenced by the merger of computer networks and social networks. This is the precise point of entry for an exhibition entitled "New Media - New Networks," at the Galzenica Gallery in Velika Gorica (formerly Zagreb), which bills itself as "the first retrospective dedicated to the new media art and culture in Croatia." Unlike most gallery exhibitions, the curators aspired to keep the presentation of art works to a minimum. Instead, the show is truly a context for the production of timelines, the writing of important timelines, and the nurturing of relationships revolving around the history of networks in this region. Thus, included in the checklist are defunct Bulletin Board Systems, DIY zines, documentation of art festivals, and even the archives of a university department's research efforts. The result of this unique initiative is a heretofore unseen picture of art initiatives and collaboration in an area often painted as "off the grid" of the contemporary art world, but obviously deeply engaged in contemporary practice. As a starting point for those outside Hrvatska, visit the gallery's timeline and link collection. - Marisa Olson


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Free time this weekend?

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Why not fill it with 1 or more of 3 Rhizome-related activities?

1) Attend Blank Spots on a Map: State Secrecy and the Limits of the Visible, Trevor Paglen's talk at the New Museum tonight at 7:30pm

2) Buy tickets for the Rhizome Benefit.

3) For our members all over the world: view and vote on Rhizome Commissions. Every year, our community selects two of our seven commissions. Cast your votes today!

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Call Me!

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Touting the theme of "Impakt yourspace," the latest edition of Utrecht's Impakt Festival takes on the impact of Web 2.0 through its typically tightly-organized set of panels and curated programs of film, video, new media and performance. The central event, "Hybrid Playground," presents variations by Dutch artists on the melding of social networks and physical spaces. Here, attendees will experience KKEP's ParaPlay project, a democratic iTunes happening, and Bliin, which enables mobile phone users to post media to shared geographic maps; NetNiet.org's Gifted, a real-time phone-enabled social judgment system; and Alchemyst's open-source Roomware, which detects phone users and links their identity to networked personal profiles. Other internet-aware events include tech-inflected animations by painter Federico Solmi and "Self-Confession vs. Exploitation" a program of film and video diaries ranging from Joyce Wieland's 8mm work of the 1960s to modern-day web-based autobiographies. In perhaps the most self-referential move of all, Impakt will convene a panel on "The Future of Festivals" with organizers from Migrating Forms, Submarineand tank.tv, exploring what the role of live media events should be in the light of our increasingly online social world. - Ed Halter

Image Credit: NetNiet.org, Gifted, 2008

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Curvilinear Historiographs

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Norwegian-Serbian artists Synne Bull and Dragan Miletic (a.k.a. BULL.MILETIC) exemplify the modern fantasy of the nomadic artist, taking up shifting residences around the globe in conjunction with various residencies and exhibitions. This experience of constantly re-situating oneself in relationship to a new political geography plays out beautifully in their video works which are concerned with exploring "the relationship between physical and mental space.... to examine their immediate surroundings (architecture, objects, landscape, urbanity) as containers of emotions, memories, and political decisions." Their current solo installation in the salon of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Belgrade, is entitled Unfinished: Scars of the Past/ Face of the Future and in it the couple creates a romantic tension--a sort of "love rhombus"--between the eyes of the viewer, those of the artists, the perspective of the camera, and the visage of the space itself. Because they are interested in what gets visually and ideologically framed-out of the histories of city spaces, the artists tried to construct a sense of objectivity in developing a method that doesn't require them to peer through a lens in order to capture on film what they see as the tension between Belgrade's past and future, as manifest in the tension between monumental architecture and new improvised developments. This method is one which captures a 360-degree panorama, feeding each sliced point-of-view into a streaming loop, thus effecting a psychological and visual sense of continuity that places the construct of history on a more fluid continuum while likening both video-making and video-viewing to the process of "mental mapping." The piece will be on view through May 12th. - Marisa Olson

Image credit: Bull.Miletic, Unfinished: Scars of the Past/ Face of the Future, video installation detail, 2007

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Before the Bonus Round

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The Olympics are not simply a matter of fun and games. They are a multi-national media spectacle that--as we've seen in recent protests--can arouse and galvanize political action. The event's organizers pitch it as a zone outside of politics, but of course issues of national identity, human rights, autonomy, economic might, and foreign policy all coalesce around the Olympics. While much of the current attention to these matters is directed at Beijing, groups in Montreal and London are already forming to address the impact that the arrival of the famous torch (ceremoniously relayed in a model invented by the Nazis to promote a strong image of the Third Reich around the 1936 Berlin games) will have upon local communities. The London art space, E:vent, is among the first to chime-in with an exhibition addressing these issues. Their show, "Sound Proof" (open April 19-May 11), features six artists "using sound materials, drawings, and annotations [to create] audio and visual maps that preserve observations of transformation." These site-specific works focus on the Lower Lea Valley, below London, which will be virtually reinvented for London 2012. In a way, they will function as aural time capsules--records or "proof" of a space and culture if not doomed for demolition, then certainly slated for overhaul. The valuable question raised by the show is that of preservation--what is deemed worthy of saving (memories, relics, cultural practices) and what is the responsible, effective way to do so. This form of ethnographic programming takes "game art" to another level. - Marisa Olson

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Traces from Memory

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Johannesburg-based artist Marcus Neustetter explores the potential for communication and exchange across a variety of mediums, including digital photography, video and installation, giving particular consideration to how the limits or irregularities of a given medium can constitute new conceptual, aesthetic, and even social territory. This investigation finds its most formal treatment in Disruption (2007), a series of photographs taken with a damaged camera, and Afterimages (2005), in which Neustetter used sensitized paper and an ammonia fume development process to generate analog "scans" of light and space. On the social end of the spectrum is UrbaNET: Hillbrow/Dakar/Hillbrow (2006-7), an ambitious project conceived by Neustetter and frequent collaborator Stephen Hobbs endeavoring to produce a "comparative analysis" of Hillbrow, a depressed neighborhood of Johannesburg with a large population of Senegalese immigrants, and Senegal capital Dakar. In 2006, while preparing for a two-week residency in Dakar and their participation in the Dak'Art Biennale 'Off' Program, the artists asked Hillbrow-based Senegalese immigrants to draw memory maps of their home city, which they would use to navigate the capital during their stay. Over the course of the residency, the artists documented their journey in photographs and video and even visited friends and relatives of the mapmakers. For the 2007 exhibition of their project at University of Johannesburg, Neustetter and Hobbs conducted a twenty-person walk from the campus, in Auckland Park, to a Congolese nightclub in Hillbrow, where the project was discussed by art-goers, neighborhood residents and the mapmakers. Neustetter and Hobbs' project thus does not profess to establish any authoritative study of the respective cities it maps, but rather overlays remembrance, map-making, navigation and the documentary image to tell the specific tales of a group of immigrants and a broader story about home, migration and place. - Tyler Coburn

Image Credit: Ali Jaiteh, Memory ...

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Watching the Watchers

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The third in a series of roundtable discussions at the New School co-organized by the Vera List Center for Art and Politics and Index for the Disappeared, "Agency + Surveillance" assesses the rhetoric of watching in a post-9/11 environment, partly by examining how a handful of engineers, artists, and activists have responded, in their own work, to the increasing state of national security. By inverting the top-down power structure conventionally associated with the act of surveillance, these practitioners are engaging in "sousveillance": a method of "watching the watchers," whereby visual and other data, habitually obscured from public knowledge, finally becomes apparent. Panelist Jenny Marketou's series Flying Spy Potatoes (2003-2004), for example, consists of digital recordings made in New York City public spaces declared to be high-risk targets for terrorist attacks, including Grand Central Station and the World Financial Center. The artist mounted a wireless camera and radio receiver on a helium balloon -- an innocent enough prop to make her infiltration a success. Urban pedestrians are provided with an interface for mapping and avoiding closed-circuit television cameras (CCTV) in iSee, a web-based application from the Institute for Applied Autonomy and member/panelist Tad Hirsch. Since its inception in 2001, the application has evolved to provide maps of several cities, a handheld counterpart, and other functions, such as the ability to correlate crime statistics with surveillance camera locations. These projects draw few, if any, boundaries between aesthetic, conceptual and pragmatic agendas, as if to suggest that a phenomenon like surveillance, which affects every aspect of our everyday lives, requires comparably broad-reaching counter-methods. "Agency + Surveillance" takes place on Monday, March 31st at 6:30 pm in Arnhold Hall. - Tyler Coburn

Image: Jenny Marketou, Flying Spy Potatoes (video still), 2003

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