The Art of Fieldwork

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Simon Fujiwara, The Museum of Incest: A Guided Tour, 2009 (performance), courtesy of Neue Alte Brücke, Frankfurt

In 2008, the New York-based artist Ellie Ga joined the crew of the Tara, a sailboat drifting in the Arctic Ocean as part of a scientific expedition, occupying the incongruous position of the ship’s “artist-in-residence” among a team of scientific researchers. The role of “artist in residence” on a scientific expedition is a malleable one, without clearly defined parameters, thus Ga decided that her project would be to become the ship’s archivist, attempting to capture the various facets of life aboard the Tara: the ways in which the crew organized the world around them without conventional landmarks; how they entertained themselves; the sense of uncertainty that results from following the whims of weather patterns, never quite knowing where they would move next; as well as her own personal associations and insights about the expedition and their surroundings, unburdened by the demands of scientific fact or reportage.

In the resulting body of work, which has taken various forms, including lectures, performances, slideshows, and videos, her personal narratives and memories often occupy a central role. In the performance Reading the Deck of Tara at the Lower East Side gallery Bureau in 2011, visitors were given one-on-one readings with the artist herself, in which she used a custom deck of cards inspired by those used in fortunetelling to relay aspects of her life aboard Tara. Each visitor’s particular cards determined the form and content of the narrative, with each reading—and thus each version of the story she’d tell—being particular to that visitor, the performance’s element of chance echoing the movement of a ship adrift.

Ellie Ga, Reading the Deck of Tara installation (2011)

Borrowing methods from various disciplines, from sociology to fiction writing, Ga is one of a number of younger contemporary artists whose work is tied to a kind of artistic fieldwork, investigating aspects of their lives and interests by merging the apparent objectivity of documentary forms and anthropological research with a plainly subjective, flexible approach, drawing on multiple methodologies and discourses. While the “archival impulse” in contemporary art is hardly a new phenomenon, and research-oriented practices have arguably become the norm rather than the exception, what seems to differentiate work like Ga’s from those that fall under the broad, often contested banner of “relational,” “dialogical,” or “socially-engaged art,” is that the endgame here isn’t to offer a historiographic corrective or engage an outside community; rather...

 

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Info Mining: A Look at George Tzanetakis' Innovations in Music Classification

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Printed scores were once necessary for music listening.  Until the 20th century, each musician playing a symphony would need his own notated sheet music in order to play a piece for every performance.  Today, the bulk of music listening happens through recordings.  Musicians only need to play a song correctly once in order for anybody to hear it anytime, anywhere.

But with the streamlined dissemination of digital music on the Internet, today’s listeners need guidelines for how to consume music just as badly as musicians once needed scores to produce new music.  There is simply too much recorded music for any one person to keep track.  Accordingly, “music discovery services”, which guide listeners through huge libraries of music, are beginning to emerge as a genuine growth industry.

Pandora, a leading music discovery service, famously began its Music Genome Project about a decade ago, a music classification method that numerically rates songs according to a long list of criteria and sorts songs by these “genetic” similarities.  Pandora’s website generates playlist suggestions based on a minimal amount of input from listeners.  Ideally, Pandora automatically can create personally tailored playlists that a listener didn’t have the knowledge or time to create.

Shortly before the Music Genome Project commenced, George Tzanetakis made Marsyas, an open-source toolkit for automatically classifying songs and entire libraries of music, among other applications.  Pandora and Marsyas had similar aims - to intelligently sort music libraries to give listeners a way to find new artists and retrieve other qualitative information about music.  Working at Princeton as a grad student with professor Perry Cook, who wanted to find a way of automatically sorting radio stations, Tzanetakis developed various library-browsing visualizations within Marsyas, including Genre Meter, which can respond live to sound sources and classify them (video demo.)

Pandora has taken off as a large-scale commercial venture, with more competitors like Spotify and Slacker in its wake.  Tzanetakis’ Marsyas has remained known mostly only by academics and computer scientists.  Regardless, Tzanetakis’ work addresses issues of music classification in a more radical and even prophetic way than Pandora: all of Marsyas’ “genes” are completely determined by computer automation.  Tzanetakis’ contributions to the field of Music Information Retrieval (MIR, for short) have helped to push computers toward increasingly delicate interpretations of one of man’s most elusive forms of expression.  Marsyas is available for free download and even has a free user manual.

Though songs in the Pandora database are weighed and sorted by algorithms, a board of experts determines the value of each “gene”.  Recently, a New York Times reporter sat in with a group of Pandora’s experts listening to songs and then opining about how high a song scored in criteria like “emotional delivery”, “exoticism” and “riskiness”; as well as more concrete judgements on tempo, instrumentation and harmony.

By contrast, George Tzanetakis’ approach to music classification is completely automated.  It needs no panel of experts or crowdsourced participants to complete an intelligently made, intuitively browsable library of music.  It works based entirely on the audio signals themselves.  Given merely a library of digital song files, George Tzanetakis’ automated classification techniques algorithmically organize songs according to a variety of criteria and present fun interactive ways to browse and compare music.

 

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Required Reading

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This PDF is to serve as an extended statement of artistic purpose and critique of our contemporary relation to objects and images in Post-Internet culture. More than anything, it poses a survey of contemplations and open questions on contemporary art and culture after the Internet.

“Post-Internet Art” is a term coined by artist Marisa Olson and developed further by writer Gene McHugh in the critical blog “Post Internet” during its activity between December 2009 and September 2010. Under McHugh's definition it concerns “art responding to [a condition] described as 'Post Internet'-when the Internet is less a novelty and more a banality. Perhaps ... closer to what Guthrie Lonergan described as 'Internet Aware'-or when the photo of the art object is more widely dispersed [&] viewed than the object itself.” There are also several references to the idea of “post-net culture” in the writings of Lev Manovich as early as 2001.

Specifically within the context of this PDF, Post-Internet is defined as a result of the contemporary moment: inherently informed by ubiquitous authorship, the development of attention as currency, the collapse of physical space in networked culture, and the infinite reproducibility and mutability of digital materials.

Post-Internet also serves as an important semantic distinction from the two historical artistic modes with which it is most often associated: New Media Art and Conceptualism.

New Media is here denounced as a mode too narrowly focused on the specific workings of novel technologies, rather than a sincere exploration of cultural shifts in which that technology plays only a small role. It can therefore be seen as relying too heavily on the specific materiality of its media. Conceptualism (in theory if not practice) presumes a lack of attention to the physical substrate in favor of the methods of disseminating the artwork as idea, image ...

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Interviews from netpioneers 1.0

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The following interviews were sourced from netpioneers 1.0, a research initiative active from 2007 to 2009 that was devoted to early net-based art, organized by the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute Media.Art.Research. in Linz, Austria. All the interviews were conducted by Dr. Dieter Daniels.

Interview with Wolfgang Staehle

Interview with Helmut Mark

Interview with Robert Adrian X

Interview with Konrad Becker

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Required Reading

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Gene McHugh, Rhizome's former Editorial Fellow and a periodic contributor to the site, received the Creative Capital | Andy Warhol Foundation Arts’ Writers Grant earlier this year and has used these funds to begin the "Post Internet" blog. His project aims to build a space to reflect on "...art responding to an existential condition that may also be described as 'Post Internet'-when the Internet is less a novelty and more a banality. Perhaps this is closer to what Guthrie Lonergan described as 'Internet Aware'-a term that I’m sure I will be thinking through here sooner or later." The blog is essentially a bare-bones workspace for his loose, often train-of-thought musings on contemporary internet-based art, and covers everything from Google's Parisian Love ad to Seth Price.

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P.S.1's Studio Visit

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Joy Garnett's Studio from Studio Visit

Long Island City's contemporary art center P.S.1 recently launched Studio Visit - a space for New York area artists to share a "virtual presentation" of their studio with a short artist's statement and bio. Imagine a DIY version of the Selby or Fecal Face's Studio Visits series. Like these sites, it taps into the reader's voyeuristic curiosity to see a side of the artist's process perhaps not immediately apparent in their output. The aim of Studio Visit is to promote visibility for these artists, cultivate a locally focused network and, one would assume, solicit offline studio visits as well. The initiative is in keeping with the institution's past "Greater New York" exhibition, which spotlighted work from emerging New York area artists with great breadth and success. However, like any new website, it looks like they're still sorting out the kinks. It would be helpful if they could add an RSS feed for recent submissions, so visitors don't need to check back to the site. I also noticed that quite a few artists ignored the fields in the submission form requesting photos of the interior and exterior of their studios -- it might be wise to require that as part of the process, especially if showcasing one's studio is a primary purpose of the site.

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Computer Art History

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"Fire Organ was a program I discovered in the early '80s working at my father's computer store in Andover, MA (OnLine Computers, 2 Elm Sq. right across the the street from the library). At the time, I didn't realize that Fire Organ was actually a demo disk for a language called CEEMAC developed by Brooke Boering. I just enjoyed the seemingly endless permutations of the scores as they'd cycle through on the old Franklin Ace's or the Apple IIc's we had on display. I also thought it was cool that some of the music I had just started to get into (e.g. Pink Floyd) was mentioned in the liner notes as motivations for some of the scores. These were the forefathers of the visualizations made so popular by Winamp and other current audio players."

-- FROM DESCRIPTION OF CEEMAC AND FIRE ORGAN BY DAMIEN CYMBAL



Other CEEMAC Resources
Damien Cymbal's Fire Organ and CEEMAC Resource
A structured graphics language: Ceemac. - Ed Jackson. (Creative Computing, 1983)
Javascript Fire Organ Emulator by Moonmilk

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Video Selections from the Electronic Visualization Laboratory's First Decade

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A joint initiative between the University of Illinois at Chicago's College of Engineering and School of Art & Design, the Electronic Visualization Laboratory has long operated as a center for interdisciplinary research in art and computer science. Founded in 1973 by artist Daniel Sandin (creator of the Sandin Image Processor, a crucial tool for video artists in the 1970s) and computer scientist Tom DeFanti (developer of the GRASS programming language), over the years EVL has sponsored pivotal research and development in the field of visualization, resulting in output such as the virtual reality theater CAVE (Cave Automatic Virtual Environment) in 1992, the GeoWall in 2001, Varrier in 1999 and the LambdaTable in 2004.

Admittedly, one day of videos is not enough to cover the breadth of EVL's work from the past 36 years. That said, today we will post selections by EVL's faculty and students from the first decade. These clips capture the playfulness and excitement of their creators, as they experiment with new tools and techniques. All of these videos were sourced from EVL's YouTube account, which includes original work and documentation up to the present day.

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Livin' It Up When You're Going Down

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Damon Rich would like you to remember that in Old French, "mortgage" means "death vow." This truism rings sadly ironic in the United States where financial crisis has put many people out of their homes and the implosion of the subprime mortgage market has had deeper effects upon the national economy and our international relations. In a show at the MIT Museum, commissioned by the Center for Advanced Visual Studies, called "Red Lines, Death Vows, Foreclosures, Risk Structures," Rich explores the architectural history and financial terrain of the American housing market and the continued impetus toward residential development and unsound design practices. The artist is the founder of the venerable Center for Urban Pedagogy (CUP) collective who work with youth and local community members to address street-level issues through research and remarkable art projects. Rich's penchant for excavating facts, figures, and ideological trends is manifest in the exhibition, which includes new video work, photos, drawings, models, and historical artifacts. Open through December 21st, the show promises to draw a big red line around "the furious circulation of finance capital." - Marisa Olson



Image credit: Video stills from Predatory Tales, produced by Damon Rich in cooperation with Lawrence Community Works in Lawrence, Massachusetts

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