Between Early, Prime and Afternoon: Omer Fast at the Wexner Center

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Installation view of Omer Fast: 2001/11 Wexner Center for the Arts, The Ohio State University
Courtesy of gb agency, Paris, and Arratia Beer, Berlin Photo: Mark Steele

“We were going for the ‘faceless Modernism’ look,” says curator Christopher Bedford during a tour of the two-video exhibition “Omer Fast: 2001/2011” at Ohio State’s Wexner Center. (I’d visited the Columbus museum days before Bedford’s appointment as the Director of the Rose Museum at Brandeis University.)  “We attempted to recreate the environment that one would inhabit while watching primetime news in 2001,” he says, as we peruse the aesthetically innocuous, comically “normal” room surrounding Fast’s 2002 video CNN Concatenated.  “It all comes from Ikea,” explains Bedford, “and we were actually a bit fearful that this lamp may be a bit too tasteful.” The lamp looked like a rolled-up, bioluminescent albino armadillo, though surprisingly slightly tasteful. Nearby, a television sits center stage in a faux-mahogany entertainment set, an oversized silver ampersand “accent piece” next to it. From the television blares a jerky monologue enunciated by varying, always-pristine news anchors. Each individual word is a frame depicting a flash of a different newscaster—some reporting on 9/11—which are strung together to form sentences. (Hence “CNN Concatenated,” the latter word meaning “to link together in a chain or series.”) Fast utilizes a sort of supercut stylistically reminiscent of “The Clock,” yet its source material is hundreds of hours of taped new programs throughout post-9/11 2001. Rapidly oscillating through various TV personalities, the monologue is distinctly divorced from anything a news anchor may usually utter: 

Listen to me I want to tell you something

Come closer

Don't be upset and don't get emotional

Just get near me and pay attention please

Look, I know that you're scared

I know what you're afraid of

You mistrust your body

Lately it has been looking more and more foreign

It's been doing strange things

....

 

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"Go to bed, Tao Lin."

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I thought we could either gchat, then edit later, or meet in person and transcribe whatever happens w/o editing (including things like ["long pause"] and "[nervously laughs]." I think I kind of prefer the 2nd.

So began my interaction with author Tao Lin, a young author known as much for his self-promotional antics as for his several published novels. I wanted to interview Lin about his experiences with a popular image board called 4chan, known for being a playground for internet trolls and the birthplace of the "hacktivist" collective known as Anonymous. 4chan is a place where thousands of people gather for cheap thrills: porn, gore, and spontaneous collaborative pranks that range from harmlessly goofy to insidiously dangerous. 4chan trolls go after religious cults, white supremacists, scam artists, pedophiles, and animal abusers. They also seem to hate Tao Lin. I wanted to know why.

4chan is a collection of image boards that allows users to anonymously post messages that disappear quickly unless they contain content that inspires others to respond. It is marked by the presence of a geeky, insular cultural currency of internet-borne ephemera which we've now decided to collectively call "memes." For the most part, 4chan's users just want to kill time shooting the shit with other geeks. They talk about anime, mecha, papercraft and other mostly-geeky topics. I've been hanging out on 4chan pretty regularly since 2007—it's a fascinating Darwinian "meme-pool," from which much of internet culture derives. I wrote a book about 4chan last fall. 

Two years ago, 4chan's administrator added a literature board, or, /lit/, to the fifty or so extant forums. It was an immediate personal thrill to see the often puerile tone of 4chan's boards used to describe Dostoyevsky, for instance. The content on the ...

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Diegetic Cinematography

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Dane DeHaan, playing Andrew, the film Chronicle's diegetic cinematographer; the sort of boom arm invisible to film characters.

Diegetic sound is the part of a film's score that the characters can hear. We understand scary music that accompanies a blond babysitter as she checks on a clamour in the basement is something we the audience can hear, but that she cannot. That sort of mood music is non-diegetic sound. If we see her dancing to a song on the radio on the other hand, we understand that the music is embedded within the fictional narrative. The film Chronicle is the latest Hollywood film to explore "diegetic cinematography."

In most films we the audience understand that everything we are seeing is non-diegetic vision. That the perspective we are shown is from an invisible point within the fictional universe we are watching....

 

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The Twilight Zone for the Facebook Age: Charlie Brooker's "The Black Mirror"

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The Black Mirror is a British television program that premiered last night. Charlie Brooker, creater of the series, a media critic and host of the shows Screenwipe and How Television Ruined Your Life, was inspired by The Twilight Zone. Rod Serling's "quasi-fictional world" allowed for more political and provocative television scripts to go uncensored by networks and corporate sponsers, Brooker argues in the Guardian. 

The first episode of The Black Mirror is provocative but with unambitious targets —the 24 hour newscycle, omnipresent social media— the disgusting premise is unmerited. One gets the sense it was written mostly to test television's limits; which may be a worthwhile demand itself. Nevertheless, upcoming episodes sound much more promising.

Trailer for The Black Mirror

Episode descriptions via The Guardian:

1. The National Anthem

Set slap-bang in the present, The National Anthem, starring Rory Kinnear and Lindsay Duncan, recounts what happens when fictional royal Princess Susannah is kidnapped and prime minister Michael Callow is presented with an unusual – and obscene – ransom request. The traditional media finds itself unable to even discuss what the demand is, while the Twittersphere foams with speculation and cruel jokes. As the ransom deadline nears, events start to gain a surreal momentum of their own. This was inspired partly by the kerfuffle over superinjunctions, and partly by the strange out-of-control sensation that takes grip on certain news days – such as the day Gordon Brown was virtually commanded to apologise to Gillian Duffy in front of the rolling news networks. Who was in charge that day? No one and everyone.

2. Fifteen Million Merits

In 1984, Apple ran a famous advert that implied the Mac might save mankind from a nightmarish Orwellian future. But what would a nightmarish Orwellian future that ran on Apple software actually look like? Probably a ...

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A Thousand Eyes: Media Technology, Law and Aesthetics

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Production stills from Judy Radul, World Rehearsal Court, 2009.


A Thousand Eyes: Media Technology, Law and Aesthetics is an anthology published by Sternberg Press and Henie Onstad Art Center in Oslo, accompanying Judy Radul’s exhibition “World Rehearsal Court.” Radul’s work is a research project into the model of the International Criminal Court, complexly considering the effect technology and new media have had on our justice systems. Her work is a four-hour, seven-channel video installation that includes a courtroom staged and shot in a gymnasium, with a scripted text that takes the forms of vignettes, so that “you never get a whole picture” (Judy Radoul in an interview for Artforum), while including the viewers, who are filmed and projected onto screens that form part of the installation.

Edited by Radoul and Oslo-based curator and art historian Marit Paasche, A Thousand Eyes introduces a different way of discussing the idea of law and the modern justice system in a way that is different than commonplace representation of law and lawmaking in the visual arts. Whereas the form of the trial has been commonly used in artworks, performances, and symposia in the contemporary art world (I am thinking, for example, of Hila Peleg’s film documenting Anton Vidokle and Tirdad Zolghadr’s A Crime Against Art [The Madrid Trial], where the artist and curator put themselves on trial for “collusion with the bourgeoisie and other serious accusations”), the discussion of law and lawmaking in the arts has largely focused on subjects of intellectual property, artistic freedom, and censorship (for example, in Daniel McClean’s (ed.) excellent book The Trials of Art [London: Ridinghouse, 2007]). This book introduces and promotes an intricate web of ways of thinking about the relationship between visual media and the law.

In the introduction to the book ...

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This is Marshall McLuhan

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This is Marshall McLuhan is the transcript of Alex Kitnick's opening remarks preceding the screening of This Is Marshall McLuhan: The Medium Is the Massage, that took place at the New Museum as part of Rhizome's New Silent Series.


Anthony McCall, Long Film for Ambient Light, 1975

Tonight we’re going to look at a 16mm print of This is Marshall McLuhan: The Medium is the Massage, which begins with a brief shot of a light bulb. A few weeks ago as part of its programming at Dia, Light Industry presented Anthony McCall’s Long Film for Ambient Light (1975), which consists of a lone, if rather large light bulb, hanging in an otherwise empty room, with a wall of windows covered over in scrim on one side to modulate the light coming in and out. Over a 24 hour span, reaching from noon one day to noon the next, the natural light of the sun and the artificial luminescence of the bulb were put in constant tête-à-tête, projecting forwards and back, contrasting and comparing and facing off with one another. In this play of light and shadows, various social interactions took place, different at different times of the day and night. Occasionally, the bulb was the center of attention—literally highlighted—with people clustering around it, while at other moments its light seemed to match the daylight and not draw much interest at all. Alone and isolated in a cool white space, the bulb’s plain power, usually used as an aid to display, was itself illuminated.

Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man, 1964

The light bulb was always McLuhan’s first example when explaining what he meant by his famous mantra “the medium is the message” since it communicates no information itself but rather facilitates a range of behavioral possibilities: “The electric light is pure information,” McLuhan wrote in 1964’s Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man. “It is a medium without a message…

 

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RECOMMENDED READING: Indiana Jones Fights the Communist Police: Text Adventures as a Transitional Media Form in the 1980s Czechoslovakia

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Jaroslav Svelch's paper for MiT7 (Media in Transition 7) "Indiana Jones Fights the Communist Police: Text Adventures as a Transitional Media Form in the 1980s Czechoslovakia" (pdf) (via Nick Monfort) gives an interesting look at how gaming in Czechoslovakia started with a number of unlicensed fan fiction-like text adventures like Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom ("the original film was only released in Czechoslovakia in 1990 – it is likely that [developer František Fuka] saw it on a pirated VHS. For many players, this game was their first contact with this media franchise.") Later, a text game The Adventures of Indiana Jones in Wenceslas Square in Prague on January 16, 1989 takes a more blatent fan fiction style ("The game takes place during the Jan Palach Week in January 1989 that saw violence by the Public Security (Veřejná bezpečnost, the police force in the Communist Czechoslovakia) and the People’s Militia against a peaceful gathering commemorating the 30th anniversary of the death of Jan Palach. Indy is caught on Wenceslas Square, where the clash took place, and has to find his way back into the United States. This involves brutal disposal of the members of law enforcement")

[In] 1989, only 1.8% Czech households owned a computer... Video game console market was virtually non-existent. As for software, first mentions of original copies of computer games being sold in the country surfaced in early 1989, mere months before the Velvet Revolution... Despite these limitations, there was a lively community of home computer users, many of whom played computer games, including text adventures. Informal systems of distribution were in place, forming a shadow economy as well as a space for free sharing of software...

Although there was a vibrant text adventure market in the U.S. and the U.K., English-language ...

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