Tactical Transactions

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Image: UBERMORGEN, Superenhanced Generator (Logo), 2009

If you're not already familiar with UBERMORGEN.COM, now would be a good time to get acquainted. The duo formed by Hans Bernhard and Lizvlx came onto the tactical media scene in the days of Toywar. When the Bernhard-founded group etoy was taken-on by e-commerce retailer etoys.com, the artists successfully brought the company down, thus providing a keystone moment in the perpetual headbutt between artists and corporations and launching the press release as the tactical media artist's weapon par excellence. In the spirit of many a corporate breakup, the participants in Toywar went on to funnel their win into the launch of new brands and creative identities. Notable among them are the Yes Men and UBERMORGEN. Taking as their name a German word that refers to the perpetual hope of a better tomorrow, the focus of UBERMORGEN's projects has been centered largely around legal issues related to copyright and surveillance. These works include [V]ote-Auction (2000), in which they attempted to auction-off a US Presidential vote to the highest bidder, and the Rhizome-commissioned project Google Will Eat Itself (GWEI) (2006), and "autocannibalistic model" in which revenue from auto-placed Google ads was used to buy Google stock, with a business plan to turn ownership of Google over to its users. In collaboration with Paolo Cirio and Alessandro Ludovico, Lizvlx and Bernhard recently took on Amazon.com in a duel that pitted their "robot-perversion technology" against the company's proprietary book preview software. According to the artists, their copyright-busting book-downloading tool was eventually sold to Amazon for an "undisclosed sum," but the story of the face-off (entitled Amazon Noir, 2006) floats among the ranks of other tactical media mythologies--not unlike some of the projects by their frequent collaborators 0100101110101101.org--demonstrating that ...

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Breaking things to make things

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Image: Mika Tajima/New Humans, "Dead by Third Act" Performance
November 7, 2008 at Artissima Volume @ Lingotto Fiere, Turin

With the economy undergoing a dramatic shift, and predictions for the art world ranging from bad to catastrophic, questions abound regarding the future of contemporary art production and exhibition. Over the next year, a new non-profit arts organization, X, intends to take stock of this extraordinary moment through a series of exhibitions and programming. X will open the first of four phases tomorrow in the Dia Art Foundation's building on West 22nd street, an enormous space which has remained empty for years. Mika Tajima's multimedia installation The Extras will take over the ground floor of the building, while an expansive survey of Derek Jarman's films will be on view on the 2nd, 3rd and 4th floors, and, on the roof, Christian Holstad will show Light Chamber (Part Two).

I've been a big fan of Mika Tajima's work, as well as her noise band New Humans, for years, and this week I had the opportunity to speak with her about The Extras as well as some of her other pieces. A visual artist and musician, her practice often navigates between installation, video, sculpture, performance, and sound. Her work attempts to illuminate the repressive echoes of modernism within the present through destruction and disassembly. In this sense, Tajima's work puts forth an interesting counterpoint to the financial crisis, by illuminating the increasingly rapid, and unsustainable, cycles of production and consumption. This interview is one of a number of upcoming interviews and articles dealing with the current economic situation. - Ceci Moss

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Images: Mika Tajima, The Extras, 2009 (X Initiative, New York, NY, Installation view).
Courtesy the artist, Elizabeth Dee, New York, and X Initiative

Explain the project at ...

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ArtBase Update

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Image: Christian Marc Schmidt, Marketscape, 2008

Rhizome's ArtBase has been fortunate to receive some great submissions in the last few months. Cody Trepte sent Cody on Cage on Joyce, a text generator based on a series of poems by John Cage where "JAMES JOYCE" is spelled vertically through rows of horizontal text that are as difficult to read as Finnegans Wake. Cage wanted to create a form of writing free of intention, and Trepte uses software to take that idea to its logical conclusion. Tomasz Konart submitted August, the most recent in a calendar of twelve interactive animations that use faint, obscured, or distorted photographs to evoke a feeling of loss and reflection. Roch Forowicz, a Polish artist who explores issues of surveillance, contributed documentation of his installation Panopticon, two rows of eighteen CCTV cameras submerged. As viewers pass down the central aisle, they are observed from all directions, like in the eponymous eighteenth-century prison design. Marketscape by Brooklyn-based artist Christian Marc Schmidt is data visualization of the S&P 500 stock index. It's sure to provide suspenseful viewing for months to come.

Keep checking the ArtBase for more updates or subscribe via RSS, and artists should remember that we're always accepting submissions.

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Interview with Goldin+Senneby

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"The boys from Sweden are not really interested in Kate's habits, her lifestyle, the clothes she wears; they're interested in Headless Ltd., a company they want to know more about. And they're interested in a book which they think Kate is writing about them, a book called Looking for Headless."

These lines are from the first chapter of Looking for Headless, a serial novel that artists Goldin+Senneby commissioned from author K.D. The chapter was originally published as the work of Kate Dent, an employee at the offshore consultancy Sovereign Trust, but Goldin+Senneby retracted their claim about the author's identity after some prodding from Sovereign's lawyers. By chapter three, the legal confrontation had already become part of the story, and the lawyers' communication was just another of the many real-world facts woven into the fabric of the novel.

Goldin+Senneby's project Headless (2007-ongoing) uses the idea of investigating the Bahamas-based company Headless Ltd as the basis for a wide-ranging study of how events are remembered, created, and communicated in the production of narrative. The seedy glamour of offshore finance provides an effective context; it is fertile for plots of mystery and intrigue, and the huge sums of virtual money floating offshore make an apt metaphor for the symbols and ideas that compel people to action and set events in motion. Goldin+Senneby further extend the financial trope by adopting corporate practices to make Headless, outsourcing the project's many texts, events, and performances to specialists. For their exhibition at the Power Plant in Toronto, on view through February 22, Goldin+Senneby commissioned documentary filmmakers to interview an investigative journalist about how to make a documentary about investigating Headless Ltd. They also hired a curator and a set designer to devise a didactic display introducing viewers to the characters of the novel Looking for Headless.

A system as rich and recursive as Headless simultaneously generates both questions and answers to them. In previous interviews the artists have responded to questions about the project exclusively in the form of quotes from its various parts. For the interview below, however, they produced some new statements, perhaps mindful of the opportunity to recycle them in future incarnations of Headless. - Brian Droitcour

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Rose Art Museum Controversy Link Roundup

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The College Art Association publicly denounced Brandeis University's decision to close the Rose Art Museum last night, in a letter broadcast to the Art&Education mailing list. The email is only one instance of the enormous surge of protest to come out against Brandeis since they made the announcement on Monday. See below for a mammoth link roundup.

Get Involved:

Save the Rose Art Museum Facebook Group

Online Petition to Save the Rose Art Museum

Interviews with the Rose Art Museum's Director Michael Rush:

Q&A with Rose Art Museum director Michael Rush [January 28, 2009/ Modern Art Notes]

A Talk With: Michael Rush [January 28, 2009/ Looking Around - Time.com]

Interview with Brandeis University's President Jehuda Reinharz:

Brandeis President Defends Art Museum Sale [January 28, 2009/ All Things Considered, NPR]

The Boston Globe has been closely following the situation:

Brandeis to sell school's art collection (Geoff Edgers) [January 26, 2009]

Ailing Brandeis will shut museum, sell treasured art (Geoff Edgers) [January 27, 2009]

Museum backers seek halt to selloff (Geoff Edgers) [January 28, 2009]

Hawk this gem? Unconscionable (Sebastian Smee) [January 28, 2009]

Brandeis may keep art, says president, Reaffirms need to close museum (Geoff Edgers) [January 29, 2009]

Students rally for Brandeis museum (Lisa Kocian) [January 30, 2009]

More:

Shuttering the Rose Art Museum: An open letter to Brandeis from an alum. [January 27, 2009/ c-monster.net]

PROTESTS, RUMORS SWIRL IN ROSE CLOSING [January 27, 2009/ Artnet]

Outcry Over a Plan to Sell Museum's Holdings [January 27, 2009/ New York Times]

Update: Brandeis to close Rose, sell art [January 27, 2009/ The New England Journal of Aesthetic Research]

Brandeis to Sell All of Its Art [January 27, 2009/ Inside Higher Education]

"A junkie pawning his wedding ring" [January 28, 2009/Ed Winkleman]

Outcry ...

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The Rematerialization of Art Discussion Thread

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Tuesday Rhizome posted the article "The Rematerialization of Art" by Ed Halter about the upcoming exhibition "Holy Fire". The entry instigated a thoughtful discussion in the comments section surrounding issues of materiality and the commercialization of new media art, with posts by "Holy Fire" co-curator Domenico Quaranta, Patrick Lichty, Olia Lialina, Tom Moody, Pall Thayer, and others. Discussion is here.

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The Rematerialization of Art

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Marx and Engels claimed that capitalism's "constant revolutionizing of production" ultimately means "all that is solid melts into air." The contemporary art market, however, describes an opposite process: innovations such as the flat-screen monitor, the digital print, and the editioned DVD, have helped transform immaterial forms like video and net.art into a new generation of physical, sellable objects. Underscoring the gallery-friendly moment, "Holy Fire: Art of the Digital Age" at Bruxelles's iMAL Center for Digital Cultures and Technology presents a show of works already for sale on the art market. While it's not surprising to find a younger crew who came of age within the current market (Eddo Stern, Cory Arcangel, Paul Slocum), more significant are the first-generation net.art names who have ditched their former outsider status and joined the commercial club: note the inclusion of Jodi, Vuk Cosic, Alexei Shulgin, and Olia Lialina, as well as later, politically pointed artists like 0100101110101101.ORG and Joan Leandre. (As corollary, observe that old media have been effected as well as new: a similar if less totalizing movement towards object-production has taken hold within the formerly market-excluded world of experimental filmmaking.) Holy Fire curators Yves Bernard and Domenico Quaranta say that to speak of new media art "doesn't really make sense today," since "all contemporary art is, someway, new media art" and many artists prefer to state their concern as "just art." With a panel moderated by Patrick Lichty of anti-corporate hoaxsters The Yes Men, the debate on that claim is guaranteed to be lively. - Ed Halter

Image: Alexei Shulgin and Aristarkh Chernyshev, Commercial Protest, 2007

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Lights Out

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Just when the New York art world was poised for another no-fun, sales-oriented fair season, the irreverent crew of Milwaukee International has rolled out a seriously intriguing counter-proposition at Swiss Institute. "Dark Fair," opening the evening of March 28th and running through the weekend, aims to occur entirely without reliance on natural or electric light, though candlelight, flashlight and glow-in-the-dark are all acceptable means of display. This parameter is very much in keeping with the International's larger social program, which previously found gallerists setting up rough-and-ready booths in Milwaukee's Polish Falcons Beer Hall for its 2006 art fair, where affable chatter - more than commerce - seemed to be the order of the day. "Dark Fair" invites us into a similarly outlying environment, promising an impressive list of exhibitors (New York's CANADA, Los Angeles' China Art Objects and Oslo's Willy Wonka Inc feature among the thirty) alongside "shadowy bar booths," social happenings, performances by Harrell Fletcher, Clara Jo and Brian Belott, a Pinball Arcade by Ara Peterson, and a glow-in-the-dark basketball court from Sara Clendening. As to the other secrets and creative gems lurking in this "cavernous underworld of exchange," well, it rests upon the endeavoring visitor to discover them. - Tyler Coburn

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Image: out_4_pizza, the fixtures of fate, 2008

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