Heroes and Villains: Nate Hill in New York

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Nate Hill, from the series Trophy Scarves (2013).

To the extent that people know his name, Nate Hill is a controversial figure in the internet art world. He gets into bizarre, seemingly one-sided fights with art blogs, sends fake computer viruses to his press contact list, or generally puts people off by relentlessly focusing his web projects on "white women"—the most recent example being Trophy Scarves (2013), a photo series in which Hill, who is biracial, poses wearing a tuxedo while nude white women are slung across his shoulders as if they were recently slain wild animals. Like many, I found myself turned off by some of these projects, but, nonetheless, wanted to know more: the satire was clearly there and he was prolific. I also liked how committed he was to being an artist and how thoroughly he followed his artistic voice, no matter where it took him. In a growing series of conversations with Hill, what impressed me was how consistently every project revolves around the idea of a performative "character" and how committed he is to the idea that his artistic voice is channeled through these different characters. I quickly learned that the majority of these characters aren't even internet-based, but performed in public, on the streets and subway cars of New York. Be it online or in New York City, though, these works share a common motivation to be catalysts for disruption, to interrupt Hill's daily passage through networks of various kinds. While I can't justify everything Hill does, after speaking with him regularly and engrossing myself in the work, I am convinced that he is, in a strange way, a significant artist, as well as an interesting if unacknowledged heir to David Hammons and Andy Kaufman, whose projects Hill cherishes. Because he so frequently invokes the idea of character, I thought that to write about Hill necessitated describing him as a character in a fictional style—a mode of prose that I've been experimenting with recently. What follows is an impressionistic story following a few hours in the life of Nate Hill.  It precedes two upcoming projects: a live reenactment of Trophy Scarves and "Lights: Nate Hill and Ann Hirsch," a performance event I am curating at Interstate Projects on November 2nd.

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Dear Jeff Bezos

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Self-proclaimed “interface artist” Johannes P Osterhoff begins a new performance work, titled “Dear Jeff Bezos."

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The Unconscious Performance of Identity: A Review of Johannes P. Osterhoff’s “Google”

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As part of this year’s Transmediale festival in Berlin, media artist Johannes P. Osterhoff organized an online collaborative performance of search engine queries, simply titled, “Google.” For one week, Osterhof convinced myself and 36 other participants to add a unique search method to our default web browsers so that everything we “googled”—from the personal to the mundane—became instantly visible online at google-performance.org.

The performers, who are mostly artists or technologists or both, recorded 1,322 searches over seven days. Search queries were displayed chronologically with their sequence number, date and time, participant name, and search tool used. The text of the search and participant name were also hyperlinked, so searches can be explored by keyword or participant.

Many queries reflect content from the Transmediale conference. Others reveal users engaging in play, submitting insider messages or odd one-liners. Most searches are about business as usual, as evidenced by the high number of phrases referencing programming or technology. Reading through them, by time or participant or keyword, gives the impression of a conscious stream of thought. They are a random series of words and phrases that make irrational leaps from noun to verb to sentence, only occasionally creating a complete thought when a participant repeats parts of phrases in their quest for the intended outcome.

The queries are often poetic, like these from my own stream:

xmas

 release serial ports

release serial ports arduino

chariot sidecar

pull down resistor

Others are strangely suggestive, like this snippit from Osterhof’s searches:

mspro

jennie garth

chrome french download

extrem wohlgeformet google suchanfragen mit poetischer kraft

ed2000

Sometimes they are coincidental, like these which share the common keyword, “python:”

python copy file os

Monty Python New Movie

python random coin flip

python do while

The project (see also its manifesto) made ...

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You'll (N)ever Watch Alone

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Still from Art21 Telethon, May 2012

There's performance: immediate, rehearsed and present; then there's television: distant, canned, and broadcast. One offspring of their coupling is the telethon. 'Telethon' became a recognized portmanteau of 'television' and 'marathon' with Jerry Lewis' aid in the 1950s. His telethons for the Muscular Dystrophy Association ran and ran: there'd be a song, a celebrity, a mail carrier, a joke, banter and filler. The marathon viewing sessions kept attention on the cause at hand by providing various entertainment in service of one goal: to raise awareness and funds for the organization. The camera was always on: in order to look away, the viewer had to hit the clicker to change the view (or turn off the box). Inside, the telethon continued.

Recently, Art21 held their own artist-led telethon. Hosted by Ronnie Bass, who had explored the format in 2007 in order to raise funds for his Performa TV piece, the event came to be after the NEA cut funding to the PBS art documentary program. Artists replaced entertainers to create some nine hours of durational broadcast performance streaming from Algus Greenspon Gallery to the Art21 site. It was telethon to its core, making up what it lacked in big-production finesse with performative sincerity, intimacy, and palpable camaraderie.

The telethon as a fundraiser makes less viable sense today: crowd-funding options are less time-consuming and presentation-intensive. What remains is its value as a style: the telethon as an experience that fills time with performance, and an endurance event in service of an objective.

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What Price Love?

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photo: Melissa Gira Grant

“I wanted us to be so naked with each other,” Acker/Laure writes to Bataille, “that the violence of my passion was amputating me for you.” But “as soon as you saw that I got pleasure from yielding to you, you turned away from me… You stated that you were denying me because you needed to be private. But what’s real to you isn’t real to me. I’m not you. Precisely: my truth is that for me your presence in my life is absence.” 

- Steven Shaviro, quoting Kathy Acker as Laure as if writing a love letter to Georges Bataille


 

I carry every love letter I wrote to B in a Gmail label on my phone. They aren't all love letters; they pitch and shift through six months of taking a conversation that began in public, across two blogs, into a more protected space. 

For the last two months, I've been publishing these letters to readers who bought a subscription. I have four months left to send these letters, in which the reader receives my half of the correspondence, time-shifted one year after I wrote and sent them to B.

It's called What Price Love? and so far, in sum, love is priced at about a thousand dollars.

 

"...for me your presence in my life is absence."

 

I think about how I have made a living exposing sex, including my own, for the last 14 years. How nearly anything we are supposed to do for love but instead accept money for can be defamed – by someone uncomfortable with that exchange and our decision to enter into it – as "prostitution." Is selling a love letter prostitution? Is telling you to buy it somehow worse? I want you to read them but ...

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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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The Moon Goose Analogue: Lunar Migration Bird Facility

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The projects of German artist, Agnes Meyer-Brandis, flirt with the construction of scientific knowledge, grasping and slipping between the object and subject. Drawing from a background in visual and new media art practice, Meyer-Brandis creates installations, performances, and film that drift from scientific theory into fiction and wonder. Her work draws parallels with fictional and quasi-fiction worlds, those of space cadets and armchair rocket launchers.

Exploring recurring subjects such as gravity, weightlessness and space travel, her work has led to collaborations with scientists and researchers providing access to operations and activities usually restricted to scientific experimentation only. In 2007, while working on a project called Cloud-Core-Scanner she travelled on a zero gravity flight in collaboration with the DLR (German Aerospace Centre) to examine the formation of clouds in a weightless environment. As well as a rigorous scientific approach, her work is often tinged with a playful humour, such as her series of public meteor watching events, where participants are instructed to bring a safety helmet.

...

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EYJAFJALLAJÖKULL - AntiVJ/Joanie Lemercier (2011)

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The China Millennium Monument Museum of Digital Arts opened last Saturday. Among the installations — Eyjafjallajökull by AntiVJ (Joanie Lemercier). "Painted directly onto a large wall, a wireframed scenery is slowly revealed by gentle light effects. The audience’s sense are progressively challenged as optical illusions question their perception of space."


Here's a video on the construction of the work for the  onedotzero festival at EMPAC in upstate New York. The artist tells Creative Applications, "The original plan was to fly to empac to do a 3 weeks residency, to develop a new project from scratch, which would involve projection mapping onto objects, a sound track by minimal techno producer Sleeparchive, and potentially a live performance on the day of the opening. As the video explains, the original idea and schedule felt apart when the volcano erupted, and the 3 weeks long residency turned into just 5 days on site, to setup the installation and prepare a live performance…"

via Creative Applications

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Projected Projects: Slides, PowerPoints, Nostalgia, and a Sense of Belonging

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The discipline of art history used to have a sound, the click and growl of the slide projector. It had a look, too, that was composed of darkened lecture halls and sometimes-blurry images of a unified size.

Kodak stopped manufacturing 35mm slide projectors in 2004, a decision in line with the company's current focus on digital photography. The website dedicated to Kodak slide projectors has been archived as a frozen version, current as of November 2004. Soon enough, that website would seem as old fashioned as the famous poster celebrating the invention of the carousel slide projector.

ABC's "Mad Men" credited Don Draper, the head copywriter at the ad firm the show focuses on, as the inventor of the term "the carousel," for Kodak's then-cutting edge technology. In the scene where he pitches the term to Kodak, he states, "The Greeks call it nostalgia. [...] It's a twinge in your heart, far more powerful than memory alone."

The fact that slide projectors are now becoming a technology on the verge of death invokes a new feeling of nostalgia. Slide projectors were commonly used for varied purposes, from the family slideshow through the business meeting display, and up to illustrated lectures. These devices were commonplace and their aesthetic, sound, and use bring up familiarity and a certain tradition.

In 2005, shortly after Kodak's announcement that it will no longer produce slide projectors, curator Darsie Alexander at the Baltimore Museum of Art organized the exhibition "Slideshow." Featuring nineteen works made between the 1960s and the early 2000s by artists such as Robert Smithson, Dennis Oppenheim, Ceal Floyer, and Dan Graham, "Slideshow" celebrated the medium itself. It was presented in a series of darkened rooms where the only light came from the slide projectors and the sound of the changing slides echoed throughout...

 

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Virtual Spectacle: A Conversation with Wafaa Bilal

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Wafaa Bilal, Domestic Tension (still), 2007

For the past ten months, Iraqi-born New York–based artist Wafaa Bilal has been documenting everything that happens behind him. A camera has been fastened to the back of his head that automatically takes a photograph every minute. The project, 3rd I, is an attempt to capture the mundane, to create an archive of the everyday we leave behind, and put it all online. Two months before 3rd I culminates and becomes an inanimate archive and a few days after Bilal changed the mounted camera he has been using for the project in favor of a new one, designed to match a plaster cast of his skull, we met to talk about it and some earlier works, and talk about ideas concerning the archive, online and offline space, and slowness.

When considering the extreme nature of some of Bilal's works, like Domestic Tension, where the artist lived in a gallery for the duration of the performance, allowing online viewers to direct a paintball gun at him, or Virtual Jihadi, where Bilal casts himself as a suicide bomber in an Al-Qaeda version of a videogame called "Quest for Saddam," it may induce viewers to discuss these in terms of spectacle. In fact, the spectacle here is part of the performance and should not be confused with the point of the performance. In conversation, Bilal—an artist who thinks about his work complexly and discusses it eloquently—talks about his recent work 3rd I, as well as past works, in terms of his dialogue with the history of art, with the public, and with his personal engagement with politics and history.


 

You talk about 3rd I in the context of ideas of "slowness." This term is becoming increasingly commonplace, especially among people who work with new media. But your idea of slowness includes an intense, long-term commitment too, that is political, physical, and emotional. Now that the project is nearing its one-year finishing line, do you talk about slowness differently?

You're right. In the last few years, a lot of people are trying to slow down technology, I think this nostalgic notion of technology or interactivity is disappearing. I don't know if it's a fatigue or if the medium exhausted itself because there was such a great promise for interactivity and I think artists found their limitation with it making it increasingly complicated. In terms of slowing things down, we are so overwhelmed with these images that we lost any still moment in personal space, so a lot of us are wishing, I don't know if it's possible, to slow things down and shield that personal space.. 

 

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