Art in Your Pocket 4: Net Art and Abstraction for the Small Screen


"The Facets of Obama" created by Jonah Brucker­-Cohen using the Fracture application by James Alliban, 2011

The devices we carry with us can do much more than simply act as communication tools and entertainment appendages. They can also bring us into a growing world of artistic projects that could have never been imagined without their existence.

The recent boom in creative software for the iPhone and iPad now enables artists to remake existing web projects as iOS apps or use the physical world as a canvas for augmented reality, reimagining our physical surroundings through painting and rendering. In this article, the fourth one in a series that I've written over the past six years of reviews surveying art for the iPhone and iPad, I cover projects that both revive net art pieces that were once only possible on traditional computer systems or in browsers, as well as those that use the iPhone and iPad's sound and camera capabilities to their fullest.



Thicket:Classic (Hairy Circles mode), 2011, Interval Studios (aka Joshue Ott and Morgan Packard)

Beginning with abstraction and sound, two works examine methods of sound production through algorithmic composition. Thicket (2011) by Interval Studios (programmer and artist Joshue Ott and composer Morgan Packard) is an amalgam of abstract shapes and patterns that engage with touch-based interaction, visual stimulation, generative pattern creation, and mesmerizing sound transference. The original version of Thicket, or Thicket:Classic, feels like a musical masterpiece on the edge of a high precipice. As a user changes the orientation of their phone in four directions (up, down, right, left) the onscreen graphics shift to new modes.

Thicket 3.11 Video, Joshue Ott and Morgan Packard, Interval Studios.

My favorite mode in Thicket:Classic is "Hairy Circles," which features menacing yellow-orangish circles of tangled lines that correspond to each finger's touch and shift when dragged around, creating a machine-like beat that evokes an industrial assembly line. Ott explains, "Thicket uses a bunch of different algorithms—for both audio and visuals. The aesthetic came from repeated experimentation and rapid prototyping of modes. Sometimes we would start with the visuals, sometimes with the audio, but there was often a back and forth process of each of us adjusting our part until we both liked the results."


First Look: Miranda July - 'Somebody'


Miranda July's messaging service Somebody is presented as part of First Look, the New Museum's ongoing series of digital projects, now co-curated and copresented by Rhizome. Because the app relies on face-to-face interaction, the New Museum (along with other sites around the world) will serve as a "hotspot" for users of the app. 

Miranda July, Somebody, 2014 (still, featuring July). Video, dir. Miranda July. Courtesy the artist and Miu Miu.

"Texting is tacky. Calling is awkward. Email is old." —Miranda July

In Miranda July's 1998 experimental video The Amateurist, a young woman with a jet-black pixie haircut in a stiff professional dress (played by July) studies a TV set displaying a fuzzy surveillance feed of a blonde woman (also played by July), who is squirming in the corner of a small cell. While speaking to the camera, the pixied professional reels off all sorts of absurd quantifications and explanations of the surveilled woman's movements. She maps her emotions to a numbered grid, psychoanalyzes her behavior, quips about her habits, and consistently runs roughshod across boundaries between doctor and patient, subject and object, viewer and viewed, public and private, in what is ultimately an excessive examination without any apparent justification. Since the video was produced, July's body of work has expanded from video and performance to include online works, novels, and feature films—all of which attempt to dissolve boundaries between fictionalized personae, or between the artist and her audience. It's significant to note that July started out in the experimental-video scene of the '90s, since so much of her work is about how the adaptation of new technologies affects us on a very personal level. Regardless of medium, her works reflect how broad social changes inflect our most intimate relations.


Dating Advice Needed


For the past few days, using a special algorithm we call "first come, first served," we at Rhizome HQ have been busily setting up blind dates (or trying to). This is not only because we want our community to have love and be happy; it's also a way to celebrate the launch of Lauren McCarthy's Rhizome-commissioned iOS app Crowdpilot

Crowdpilot lets you "crowdsource your social interactions" by audio-streaming them and soliciting advice from your friends, or from total strangers, online. You can download Crowdpilot for free on your iPhone, or you can listen to others' dates, and offer advice to them, by logging in to the project website.

Tonight, from 6:30pm-8:30pm EST, we'll be presenting Crowdpilot as Rhizome's third fullscreen frontpage exhibition (following Vince McKelvie and Molly Crabapple). Visitors to will have the opportunity to listen to, and advise on, any ongoing Crowdpilot sessions that are in progress at that time. We arranged two blind dates, but you can also join in as a dater: just run the app during that time, and it will show up on our front page.


Art In Your Pocket 3: Sensor Driven iPad and iPhone Art Apps


 PXL, Rainer Kohlberger, 2012

As the iPhone just celebrated its fifth year on the market, artists have already made a substantial dent in the commercially lucrative world of Apple’s AppStore. Despite this success, artists are still pushing forward to build apps that further integrate with the device’s sensors and location-based capabilities. Rather than working solely within the context of software art as I have covered in two previous articles on the subject for Rhizome, there is a focus now on artists who are interacting with the physical world by using the device’s internal sensors, location capabilities, constant Internet connectivity, and built-in cameras.


“Konfetti”, Stephan Maximillian Huber, 2012


Using the camera as a sensor, “Konfetti” by German based designer Stephan Maximillian Huber visualizes the image of its subject into countless dots. In effect, the camera image is translated into virtual confetti that follows any movement and creates an ever changing images based on which camera is selected. The dot’s movement is correlated to the detected flow captured by the camera and by repelling other dots, which also move as you touch and drag them. Huber explains over email how the app works as a reflection based art tool. “The app started as an iPad-only app, and on an iPad the app acts like a mirror, showing an abstract reflection of yourself. You'll get a clear image of yourself only when you concentrate on the process of the app, and don't move too fast. It's like contemplating about yourself and the image of yourself. And as your thoughts and emotions aren't static the image the app generates is dynamic and adapts to minimal movements and new ...



Our Daily Code


Adam Rothstein's Rhizome News essay City of QR Codes has inspired a new Tumblr, Our Daily Code:



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 ...



QR Codes Used in Glasser Performance Open Up "Zones" on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon


Glasser performed on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon on Monday. If you watch the video above, you'll notice the QR codes circling the stage. The QR code was designed by Kyuha Shim. He built a system using programming language that receives color data sets from Glasser's album graphics and adapted them to the modules that he designed. The QR code also leads viewers with mobile devices to "zones" designed by artist Mitch Trale's web production company, which you can access here. (Christopher P. Allick, Trevor Giller and Pablo Rochat contributed to the technical and creative direction for the website.) I've posted Mitch Trale's past websites-as-interactive-music-videos to Rhizome before, such as New Stripes (2009) as well as the epic Open Seas (2010). The use of QR codes during Glasser's set is a really interesting translation of this idea to a live performance context, and I thought it was very cool.


Sir Sampleton by SOFTOFT TECHECH


Artist Paul Slocum's new software company SOFTOFT TECHECH just launched a new app for the iPhone, iPod touch and iPad. Named Sir Sampleton, the app mimics the functionality of the cultish Casio SK-1, allowing the user to sample sounds through a microphone, which can then be played on the keyboard. You can modify the vibrato, note trail length and sample time of the recordings, and the app has a small rhythm bank. Short demo video above, you can download the app here.


Required Reading



Ive's designs for the iPod and the iPhone are network culture's icons, much as the Model T Ford or the Boeing 707 were icons of their time. Just as the earlier machines produced mobility, so do ours: mobile, networked technology allows most members of developed societies to compress space in a way reserved until recently for the media, government, and élite. In so doing opened it opens up a new phenomenological space.

Mobile technologies allow us to disconnect from the world around us so that we may instead connect with individuals at a distance or, alternatively, with software agents residing either in our mobile devices or in the networked cloud (as data speeds rise, the difference between local and remote applications and data is becoming unclear). Although sometimes this disconnect with our surroundings is a matter of lament, more frequently it is a deliberate choice, a way to fill something we lack in space that surrounds us. If sometimes we use such technologies to augment immediate space-looking up the address of a destination on a map, calling a friend to triangulate a meeting place while in route-more often we employ them to distance ourselves-reading and writing e-mail, updating a social media site, immersing ourselves in a soundtrack of our own choosing with portable music players.

Introduced in October 2001, the iPod was a runaway success worldwide. That it succeeded even though it was released just a month after the 9/11 attacks to a generally depressed consumer mood and a dismal economy points to its significance. By allowing individuals to paint the world with an emotional soundscape, it allows them to subject it to their control, making it familiar through the recognizable sounds it reproduces. Technology, it seems, could overcome alienation.

Just as financialization is a mutation in ...


Kunst Bauen (2010) - Rob Seward


Kunst Bauen is an interactive artwork inspired by 80s video games and the Bauhaus. It lets you conjure pulsating, futuristic patterns with just your fingertips. You can stroke the screen to create smooth, swirling shapes, or tap it to make geometric patterns.

[Note: For more artworks on this platform, be sure to check Jonah Brucker-Cohen's series on iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad art "Art In Your Pocket" on Rhizome, the first installment can be found here and the second here.]