Interview with Harm van den Dorpel on Club Internet's "Free Fall"

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The online exhibition space Club Internet opened its fifth show "Free Fall" earlier this month with a party at Mediamatic in Amsterdam. I interviewed artist and founder Harm van den Dorpel about Club Internet and the current exhibition, which will remain up until November 15th. - Ceci Moss

How did Club Internet begin?

It started by buying the domain name www.clubinternet.org -- I eventually wanted to make money with it because Club Internet is a major telecom provider in France. But then I started playing with it and put a script online that enabled people to upload images. I got intrigued by the idea of forming a group of people like in a surfing club, with an exclusive and mysterious character found in societies like the Freemasons. Following that model, Club Internet is a society with membership, as well as being an online gallery.

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Image: Jesper Carlsen, Squirrels, 2006 (Still)

The title for the latest Club Internet exhibition is "Free Fall." What is the concept behind this title?

Works for Club Internet are chosen because they are best viewed online, rather than making a transformation from the screen to a video projector in a gallery. Television programs are best viewed at home, and not in a cinema, I believe the same often applies to Internet art.

The previous shows sometimes dealt with the subculture of internet artists or were referring to some (technical) knowledge usually available only to the more Internet aware visitors. These were valid and interesting prerequisites, often found in clubs, but I wanted this new show to curate works that required no particular interest or knowledge about the technology behind the Net nor infrastructure of the online art world. This show was also the first with an 'official' opening event in a physical space, bringing the online ...

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Man With a Movie Camera: The Global Remake (2008) - Perry Bard

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"Man With a Movie Camera: The Global Remake is a participatory video shot by people around the world who are invited to record images interpreting the original script of Vertov's Man With A Movie Camera and upload them to this site."

More information on Man With a Movie Camera: The Global Remake

More work by Perry Bard

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Broadening the Spectrum

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Montreal-based artist Matthew Biederman is daring to speak out about what he sees as military and government hijacking of what is "arguably one of Earth's most important, and only inexhaustible resources": air waves. Whereas radio was once intended as a many-to-many mode of communication, tight regulation of frequencies has led to a scenario in which the few (mostly corporate entities) are entitled to speak to the masses. His project, DAREDX, "seeks to re-establish the public's presence and right of occupation within the radio spectrum." In an effort to restore some of the utopian ideals initially associated with radio, the project will connect the public with the voices that float in the air around them and yet often go unheard: the voices of amateur broadcasters. Working almost like an astronomer, Biederman (under the call sign VA2XBX) will pluck transmissions out of the night sky, playing them back in Montreal's Cabot Square and logging and mapping them online. Drawing a connection between free public speech and the right of public assembly, DAREDX will amplify the voice of the people. Radioheads will be excited to know that non-vocal signals will also be charted, as the artist will "work with digital communications on HF, in order to send and receive SSTV (SlowScan Televsion), WEFAX (from NOAA Satellites), PSK31, Hellschrieber, and many more." In case you don't feel dialed-in enough to understand what that means, consider attending one of the talks, walks, or workshops associated with the project--including the one on how to build and take home your own FM transmitter! - Marisa Olson


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Let's Get Physical

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Los Angeles-based artist Xtine Hanson calls her Mechanical Olympics "an alternative media spectacle to the Olympic games." Indeed, the project humorously turns the otherwise tightly-regulated machinery of both web commerce and international sports competition on their heads. Launching simultaneously with the Beijing games, on August 8th, The Mechanical Olympics invite the public to compete in sports previously restricted to people of specific genders and nationalities. The artist has enlisted participants via Amazon's Mechanical Turk site in which users receive paid commissions for completing tasks almost but not quite so simple a machine could complete them, thus joining the ranks of participatory projects like AddArt, Sheep Market, and Ten Thousand Cents, which also employed this service. Hanson likens this playful outsourcing of labor to working with artificial intelligence. Nonetheless, it's clear that her worker bees are bringing a hefty dose of personal creativity to this web-based role-playing game. A perusal of the videos thus far uploaded to The Mechanical Olympics' YouTube channel features Starbucks baristas working overtime to put their own spin on the classic sport of Hockey, and the woman who represents South Africa in the Freestyle Swimming event could win a gold medal in charm for her combined use of a spray bottle and trippy arm movements. When accepting one of the project's Human Intelligence Tasks (or HITs), the athletes agree to wear a pre-designed sign indicating their sport, gender, and country (they get to pick their own number) and to be paid between $1-3 dollars upon emailing Hanson a URL to their 30-60 second video. The footage will be posted daily, during the Olympics, and voted upon by blog readers. Rather than medals, the winning artificial Olympians receive bonus commissions, much like their more famous counterparts whose accomplishments score them lucrative endorsement deals. - Marisa Olson ...

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Whartscape 2008

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By Gene McHugh

 

Scratch the surface of Baltimore, an American city best known for high homicide rates and crab cakes, and you might get a whiff of the schizo, silly perversion that camp auteur John Waters famously captured in celluloid. A case in point is the music festival Whartscape, the Wham City art collective's freak-power counterpoint to the city of Baltimore's annual crafts 'n corndogs festival, Artscape.

 

In this, the festival's third year of operation, Whartscape has adopted a wider angle lens, expanding the lineup to 77 bands, playing over 4 days and nights, in legally secured venues. This expansion of the festival can most likely be seen as a result of the "Baltimore's got a cool scene" meme that has spread as far into the mainstream as Rolling Stone Magazine who declared that, indeed, Baltimore does the have the "Best Scene" (of 2008, anyway). Given the hype, it might seem tempting to enter into this "scene" with a skeptical eye, however, this year's Whartscape still felt like a somewhat unexploited, cozy family affair.

 

 

Videohippos

 

To give an example of how things basically go down: Baltimore singer and performer Lizz King impromptu danced while donning a shabby tiger mask during the Creepers set; the Creepers are a Baltimore band featuring Adam Endres from the Baltimore band Blood Baby and Blood Baby also features Kevin O'Meara from the Baltimore band Videohippos; the other member of the Creepers is Connor Kizer who is in the Baltimore band Santa Dads with Joshua Kelberman who's the brother of Baltimore comic artist Dina Kelberman, who worked at a Baltimore movie theatre with Victoria from the Baltimore band Beach House and went to college with, respectively, Dan Deacon and the visual artist Jimmy Joe Roche.

 

 

Joshua Kelberman from Santa ...

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Community Builders

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Currently on display at Baltimore's Contemporary Museum, "Cottage Industry" foregrounds the entrepreneurial and communitarian ethos of six artists/organizations, including Andrea Zittel and Christine Hill. The exhibition positions these practices, many taking the form of real- or pseudo-business and cultural ventures, in an extensive history of relational projects: from Beuys' "social sculpture" to Matta-Clark's "Food" restaurant/cooperative. Several of the participants interpolate conceptual production with community organization, including Lisa Anne Auerbach, whose project, The Tract House, makes available to museum visitors and online users a series of "manifestos, diatribes, stories, [and] rants" written by friends and acquaintances of the artist, as well as visitors to her website. Auerbach thus overlaps two meanings of "tract" (an area of land and a loosely distributed, often socially- or politically-conscious text), as if to suggest her open document pool to be a foundation for a new architecture of social exchange. The City Reliquary will also contribute something from its dusty coffers. First established as a window display in 2000, the City Reliquary has become a much-loved spot in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, displaying the eccentric accumulations of local collectors, old New York ephemera, and organizing events like the annual Bicycle Fetish Day (which is pretty much what its title suggests). For the exhibition, a mini-City Reliquary will be set up in the gallery in the form of a shadowbox containing special finds from their collection. In addition to exhibiting past works by participants, Contemporary Museum has helped a handful of them realize site-specific projects throughout Baltimore, including the sixth "regional prototype garden" of Fritz Haeg's Edible Estates, an ongoing project to replace "the domestic front lawn with a highly productive edible landscape." While the exhibition will conclude on August 24th, Haeg's garden will continue indefinitely -- one of many excellent examples the exhibition ...

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Social Work for Robots

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Jon Rubin's work "explores the social dynamics of public spaces and the lives of ordinary individuals." Often working in collaboration with other artists, institutions, and members of the general public, his projects have included setting up a gallery that exhibits only information about the neighborhood's inhabitants, broadcasting an office's telephone conversations through a talking piano, producing a cable access variety show at a senior center, and a variety of fake businesses that traded on interaction and the art of conversation. The artist's two most recent projects offer a glimpse into the delicate balance of precision and irony that render his work so poignant. Earlier this month, at Los Angeles' Machine Project, Rubin's A Practical Demonstration was "an exercise in suspended orbits, suspended disbelief, and circular group formations." It's the latter, the part about people standing in circles, that is so interesting. As the artist played director, a group of local amateur videographers captured a 360-degree image of a stuntman jumping from the gallery's second floor window. (He was going for "a very clumsy 'Matrix' effect.") Simultaneously, a circle of international collaborators documented the activity of the sun over a 24-hour period. The result of all this participatory documentation was an edited two-channel video in which both the jumper and the sun appear to float in mid-air. On its own, such a video project visually resembles many that have come before it, but Rubin sets his apart by devoting special attention to the details of social collaboration, thus creating a more meaningful experience. The same can be said of his current project taking place on the streets of Pittsburgh, in collaboration with the legendary installation art museum, The Mattress Factory. Like many of his initiatives, Join the Human to Robot Army began with a ...

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Auditory Autobiographies

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"When the power of love, overcomes the love of power, the world will know the peace." This prophecy by rock legend Jimi Hendrix could be the foreword to a manifesto on the use of music in the propagation of nationalism, but instead it's a point of inspiration for "The Sonic Self," an exhibition at the Chelsea Art Museum. Open through August 30, the show brings together a range of "participating artists from around the world with the main goal that their collaborative projects will bridge disparate audio-visual practices and expose their shared languages." In keeping with recent curatorial trends, "The Sonic Self" is part-exhibition and part-workshop, aiming to explore the relationship between sound and identity through installations, audio/visual performances, and participatory events in which collaborators work to innovate new devices for the creation of auditory autobiographies. While the relationship at stake seems most universally to be about "being heard," the selected artists are working with material ranging from live performances to field recordings to computer-generated sound to DJ samples. In the spirit of tracing "similarities and differences in the growing confluence of audio and visual experiences in contemporary complex and diverse global culture," the project will travel to St. Petersburg, Russia, and Chennai, India, following its New York debut. - Marisa Olson


Video: Philip Dadson and Don McGlashan in From Scratch's performance of "Drum/Sing."

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Who's To Say?

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The Brooklyn Museum is hip to this internet thing. Their current show, "Click!" (note the dot-fun exclamatory spelling!) is the latest in what seems to be a slew of museum shows to pick-up the theme of "crowdsourcing." While this term, coined by Jeff Howe in a 2006 Wired Magazine article originally referred to corporate R&D, the principal of a large body of "amateur" volunteers making collective decisions has not only rocketed a number of online ventures to success, it's also become a model for online activism, collective organizing, and art. The Brooklyn Museum's show invokes New Yorker magazine columnist James Surowiecki's ideas about "The Wisdom of Crowds" (essentially that collective knowledge is greater than the sum of its parts) in inviting online audiences to discuss and vote on photographs submitted by respondents to an open call. Curator Shelley Bernstein (whose official title at the museum is not Curator but, of course, Manager of Information Systems) opens a tricky can of worms in asking whether a diverse crowd can be "just as 'wise' at evaluating art as the trained experts?" In a sense it doesn't matter, like curators and critics before them, what they say goes. After the crowd has been sufficiently sourced, the artists get an exhibit at the museum and are displayed according to rank. Incidentally, the assignment for this photo study is to capture the face of Brooklyn, so the layers of sociological reflection are highly recursive, which somehow seems fitting. In her curatorial statement for Phantom Captain: Art and Crowdsourcing, at New York's Apex Art gallery, Aurora Picture Show founding director Andrea Grover argued that "crowdsourcing as a method of artistic production appears to be heir to the throne of 1960s and 70s happenings and participatory art." Fortunately, you don't ...

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What's in a System?

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The word "systems" is often used to describe the work of Jeanne van Heeswijki, and now the Netherlands-based artist has released a book by that title. In the ongoing interest of exploring the relationship between human and non-human systems, van Heeswijk's projects are worth a closer look. Often working site-specifically, on the basis of residencies, her modus operandi is to enter a community and invite its inhabitants to speak for themselves. This tactic has played-out in a number of ways ranging from inviting other artists to occupy her studio to inviting local schoolchildren to comment publicly on their harsh living environment. She describes this work as making "cultural models for public spaces," begging the question of what defines both these models and these spaces. A few of her projects have been "controversial," if only because these cultural models seems to call for sites of contestation, debate, and reconciliation. It's clear that the notion of an easy route does not compute in Heeswijk's approach to her practice, and -- usually working in collaboration with others -- she often eschews personal credit for the scenarios she concocts in order to place the emphasis on the intended beneficiaries of these designed encounters. But this lack of glory-seeking shouldn't be confused with a laissez-faire attitude. In truth, she belongs to a new generation of artists working to retool the relationship between art, activism, and public participation. It is the vocabulary of social codes and game-playing that regulates the artist's work and brings it into conversation with other network culture-based performances. Like many activist tomes, Heeswijk's new book functions much like a cookbook offering recipes for the assembly of such models. It is also partly a monograph on her previous work, which one can imagine does not lend itself to traditional ...

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