Radical Ethology: Jussi Parikka's Insect Media

(1)


In a fundamental sense, technology is deeply non-human. While we might apply a humanist logic to the function and workings of technological systems, and view technological objects as extensions of the human body and its capacity for adaptive prosthesis, the very purpose of technology is to be that which the human is not or to achieve that which the human could not otherwise do. As such, technology exists beyond the humanist understanding of the individual, the body, and the subject, particularly in contemporary network culture in which technology is in part transformed from concrete and material objects into molecular, adaptive, and often invisible systems. Much as with the animal world, technology seems to suggest a mode of communication and media beyond that of human language, a mode of being or becoming that exceeds our own.

Diagramming the figure-eight wing movements of insect flight.

In Insect Media (University of Minnesota Press, 2010),1 Jussi Parikka traces an archaeology of non-human media. More specifically, he is interested in the relationship between animal and machine, and the unique history of the insect as a technological model from the late 19th century through to the present. While insects are often viewed as models for contemporary media practices such as swarming, smart mobs, and collaborative forms of production, Parikka makes insects the object of his media historical project, transforming "media as insects," into "insects as media."

READ ON »


Highways Connect and Divide

(0)

JODI, GEOGOO, 2008-2011 ongoing, screenshot. (From Foxy Productions)

Highways Connect and Divide,” an exhibition on display at Foxy Productions featuring work by Cory Arcangel, Tauba Auerbach, Bureau of Inverse Technology, I/O/D, JODI, Nam June Paik, Sterling Ruby, and Kerry Tribe, considers how the structure of information influences its transmission, reception, and legitimacy. Using the highway as a metaphor, the show constructs a dialog concerning the geography of transmission and the role of the artist in reimagining the systems that impact our lives.

Nam June Paik & Jud Yalkut, Beatles Electroniques, 1966-7. (Courtesy of Electronic Arts Intermix, New York.)

Highways, or channels of transmission are playfully interrupted in Nam June Paik's pioneering work Beatles Electroniques (1966-1972), where a TV broadcast of the Beatles’ A Hard Day's Night (1964) is disrupted by a magnet, rendering the familiar images into abstractions that reveal the underlying technological structure of the electronic signal. In a similar vein, though nearly forty years later, JODI's Geo Goo (2008-2011, ongoing) obstructs Google maps with failures and errors, stripping it of functionality and turning the ordered maps into chaos. The result is a disorienting and emphatic challenge to the technology’s authority and power. In both works, the technological architecture is given precedence over the intended distribution of content.

Kerry Tribe, North is West / South is East, 2001 (Photo: Mark Woods)

Maps are also the subject of Kerry Tribe's work North is West / South is East (2001), where the geography of Los Angeles is redrawn from memory by random individuals approached at the LAX Airport. The resulting maps, framed and mounted on the gallery wall, elevate the personal and unique realities over the legitimate cartographic version. Legitimacy and authorization are challenged further by Bureau of Inverse Technology's (BIT) video Bit Plane (1997), where ...

MORE »


OPEN INTERNET (2011) - Aram Bartholl

(0)

OPEN INTERNET from aram bartholl on Vimeo.

MORE »


The Search for a Center: Vito Campanelli's Web Aesthetics

(4)


"Why look at Gustave Courbet when you can download free porn?" is a question posed by one of the animated characters in Parker Ito's sardonic Artist Statement (2009), a piece that both mocks and celebrates a selection of trite, blanket statements regarding media art. Ito's humorous animation is one of the many projects enmeshed within the dense weave of Vito Campanelli's new book Web Aesthetics: How Digital Media Affect Culture and Society (NAi Publishers), a sprawling examination of post-web visual culture and the cultural implications of various forms of digital media. While the last decade has yielded a considerable amount of scholarship judging and qualifying online interactions, tracking the transformation of identity and contemplating the changing nature of attention, Campanelli's writing project extends beyond these stock investigations and sets out to identify how the web has altered our means of experiencing and evaluating contemporary art and media. The browser, internet mailing lists, peer-to-peer networks, spam, MP3 files, vernacular video and numerous other everyday platforms and protocols are put under the microscope in the interest of cultivating a broad aesthetics of digital media. While these topical, episodic investigations are generally quite successful, Web Aesthetics is not lacking in fundamental structural and stylistic idiosyncrasies.

READ ON »


Required Reading: Ever-Changing Chains of Work: An Interview with Constant Dullaart by Franz Thalmair

(0)


For Constant Dullaart the Internet serves as a medium as well as a subject of artistic production. His main strategy is the exploration of the multifaceted languages of contemporary images circulating on the Internet and their re-contextualisation as found material in a medium of its own. With his artworks, the Amsterdam- and Berlin-based artist digs deeply into the caches of a networked cultural production without limiting the medium to simple technological traits: the default style of Web-based platforms, their widespread and often unscrutinised use as well as the popularity of globally standardised interfaces are manipulated with the aim of investigating their social potential.

Dullaart’s practice ranges from art made with and for self-explanatory domain names such as The Revolving Internet.com or The Sleeping Internet.com and video works such as YouTube as a Subject as well as the adoption of this series of short loops for the real space under the title YouTube as a Sculpture. Furthermore, he deals with site-specific installations such as Multi-Channel Video Installation, where projector mounts where borrowed from art institutions and taken to an exhibition space to serve as sculptural elements, as well as dealing with digitally manipulated images as in the series No Sunshine, where he applies the Photoshop default techniques to remove the sun from romantic sunset pictures found on Flickr. Brian Droitcour writes for Art in America magazine: “Dullaart’s ready-mades demonstrate his interest in what might be called ‘default’ style—the bland tables of sans serif text and soulless stock photography that frame ads for some of the most common search terms (auto insurance, cheap airline tickets, pornography), baring the underbelly of the Internet’s popular use.” . . . and the circle is turning and turning and turning—with no end in sight.

-- Excerpt from "Ever-Changing Chains of Work: An Interview ...


Interview with Zach Gage

(0)


Zach Gage, Hit Counter, 2009

“Between the ubiquity of Internet access and the fact that data has no objective tangible form, internet users have long been plagued with the problem of determining the value of the content they are ingesting.” - Zach Gage

Seen in a certain light, the core of technological mediation has always been presence, absence, and distance. Writing established the possibility of presence during absence, arrows and gunpowder created force at a distance, the telephone created presence at distance, and network computing fundamentally altered the nature of being “absent” or “present” to an almost unrecognizable degree. No small surprise then that contemporary “media art” practice seems to return to these questions as being fundamental investigations. The question of what “presence” could be was explored and expanded throughout the dawn of the internet age: Ken Goldberg’s TeleGarden, Eduardo Kac’s concept of Telepresence, Sven Bauer, Heath Bunting, to grab but a few names. Each possibility of a new field of entry, a new method of retaining, mapping, signifying, and storing, opened a rich possibility. Now fast forward fifteen years and ever-presence is exhausting, a nuisance that forever asks and returns only the vague rewards of a slot-machine and seems to fray our sense of privacy, meaningfulness, boundary, and perhaps even self. So how then to artistically respond to this? Exhibit: Zach Gage.

His works are at once sophisticated and remarkably simple, both in presentation and concept in a way that might be recognizable to Joseph Kosuth or Lawrence Weiner, rather than the Baroque conceptual complexity on display in much media art in the 90’s. Computational art or interactive art has generally taken two tacks in dealing with the complexities of technology itself -- unabashed celebration and dystopian anxiety. At either extreme is the grandiose challenge of prediction: this possible or actual relationship to technology will lead to this consequence or benefit. The reality of living with technology is not only simpler but is often much more banal. The most refreshing element of Gage’s work is how it asks us to do nothing more than consider what is. Working with the instantly familiar data sources, Twitter, Google, chat servers, at their simplest, his work often resembles a refreshingly sharp Occam’s Razor taken to notions of the richness of data and networked experience.

His thesis show, “Data”, is an extremely visually and thematically understated installation comprised of several pieces. Small wooden boxes, wires, and simple placards: none of the forced estrangement, hand-waving interactivity, or spectacle that one associates with computer arts. In particular, one of the pieces in the show, Hit Counter stands out as particularly poignant: a simple measurement of the number of times someone has stood in front of the work. Face recognition software is used to keep track of the actual viewers and the number is displayed on an old-fashioned mechanical counter. Gage states “with no other means to judge it, Hit Counter demands to be assigned a worth based solely on its popularity.” But then, Hit Counter is not merely asking to be judged on popularity. It, like so many things in our media culture, is popularity. It’s nothing else, and it’s not any kind of popularity other than actual physical presence; a sharp reminder of the relationship between presence and popularity. No matter how many people hear about it online, what is written about it, what buzz is generated, it’s a simple box that generates a number based on how many unique people have stood in front of it. I’m not sure whether I’m more struck by the concept itself or that I am so struck by the concept as an ontological exercise: something that simply is actual physical presence. It’s odd that it is odd and, in that oddness, it is a stance closer to Sol Lewitt “Sentences on Conceptual Art” than many other re-interpretations of his legacy and ideas. Reformulating the simplest data object imaginable in the simplest terms has a markedly clarifying effect and in clarification is a rare kind of beauty. I spoke with Zach Gage about Hit Counter, as well as his larger practice.

READ ON »


The Future of Art

(0)


The Future of Art was shot from the 1st through the 6th of February 2011 during Transmediale. The short film asks the following: What are the defining aesthetics of art in the networked era? How is mass collaboration changing notions of ownership in art? How does micropatronage change the way artists produce and distribute artwork? The creators behind The Future of Art describe the project as "an immediated autodocumentary" where "immediation is immediate mediation – an instant transfer of experience into media, enabling self-reflection and perspective shift. Immediation enables collaborative storytelling via frameworks of participation. Autodocumentary; auto as in autodidactic + documentary. Autodocumentaries are made by the people they are about."

Originally via mediateletipos.net

LINK »


Required Reading: The Immediated Now: Network Culture and the Poetics of Reality by Kazys Varnelis

(0)

Throughout the 1990s, digital computing and network technologies were largely employed in office work, their cultural implications confined to niche realms for enthusiasts. If that decade’s new media art formed a vital artistic subculture, it was mainly isolated and self-referential, in part due to the artists’ fascination with hacking the medium, in part due to its position as the last in a long line of Greenbergian interrogations of the medium, and in part due to its marginalization by established art institutions. Artists like Vuk Cosic, Jodi, Alexei Shulgin, and Heath Bunting replayed early twentieth century avant-garde strategies while emulating the graphic and programming demos of 1980s hacker culture, before computers left the realm of user groups and became broadly useful in society.[1]

Today, in contrast, digital technology is an unmistakable presence in everyday life and is increasingly inextricable from mainstream social needs and conventions. Network culture is a broad sociocultural shift much like postmodernity, not limited to technological developments or to “new media.”[2] Precisely because maturing digital and networking technologies are inseparable from contemporary culture — even more than the spectacle of the television was from postmodernity — they must be read within a larger context. All art, today, is to one extent or another, networked art.

This investigation can’t be limited to online venues, but it also can’t be limited to “art.” Postmodernism called high and low into question (think of Warhol as the quintessential early postmodern artist, or later Barbara Kruger, Cindy Sherman, Jeff Koons, and Richard Prince) by bringing in products of the culture industry into art, but network culture levels that distinction utterly. Art under network culture dismisses the populist projection of the audience’s desires into art for the incorporation of the audience’s desires into art and the blurring of boundaries ...


Something In The Air: Post-Industrial Ambience And The Control Society

(0)

Cover of the 1990 compilation Q.E.D. on Staalplaat

At this point in time, it is easy to admit that we are living in a state of "etherialization." The primary characteristics of this state, as recognized by Arnold Toynbee, were that "cultures that remain static and uncreative in the human sphere often promote ingenious technical adaptations and inventions, whereas more creative cultures transmute their energies into higher and more refined forms […] their technical apparatus becomes progressively dematerialized." 1 The evidence of this is with us, simultaneously everywhere and nowhere, in the form of the internet, and also in the proliferation of increasingly miniaturized multi-purpose devices with a decreasing number of moving parts. From iPods to Oracle Database, internal organization becomes gradually more complex as the external, tangible and even visible becomes more superfluous, more symbolic than purely functional.

The Internet and the concurrent reign of digitalization are, however, just symptoms of etherialization - if particularly infectious ones - and not necessarily the driving engine of this state of affairs. The objectives of modern warfare, for example, are achieved by launching successful "psy-ops" campaigns or "p.r. offensives" which gain the international community's sympathies via successful transmission of images and sounds. Destruction of physical sites and human bodies is as cruelly present as ever, yet non-combatants' parsing of "etherealized" media imagery is no longer a sideshow to the "main" objective of laying waste to enemy infrastructure. Even terrorism, often used as a substitute term for asymmetrical warfare using "low-tech" improvisational means, regains a "symmetrical" standing here by utilizing the most high-tech information relays to accomplish its own aims: tactically, it succeeds not only because of its jolting suddenness, but because terrorists "...[schedule] their bomb blasts on time to catch the evening news…the explosion only exists because it is simultaneously coupled to a multimedia explosion." 2

READ ON »


The Postmedia Perspective

(22)

The following excerpt comes from the final chapter of my book Media, New Media, Postmedia, recently published in Italian by Postmediabooks, who kindly gave Rhizome permission to republish it in English. The book is an attempt to analyze the current positioning of so-called “New Media Art” in the wider field of contemporary arts, and to explore the historical, sociological and conceptual reasons for its marginal position and under-recognition in recent art history.

READ ON »