Interview with Goldin+Senneby

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"The boys from Sweden are not really interested in Kate's habits, her lifestyle, the clothes she wears; they're interested in Headless Ltd., a company they want to know more about. And they're interested in a book which they think Kate is writing about them, a book called Looking for Headless."

These lines are from the first chapter of Looking for Headless, a serial novel that artists Goldin+Senneby commissioned from author K.D. The chapter was originally published as the work of Kate Dent, an employee at the offshore consultancy Sovereign Trust, but Goldin+Senneby retracted their claim about the author's identity after some prodding from Sovereign's lawyers. By chapter three, the legal confrontation had already become part of the story, and the lawyers' communication was just another of the many real-world facts woven into the fabric of the novel.

Goldin+Senneby's project Headless (2007-ongoing) uses the idea of investigating the Bahamas-based company Headless Ltd as the basis for a wide-ranging study of how events are remembered, created, and communicated in the production of narrative. The seedy glamour of offshore finance provides an effective context; it is fertile for plots of mystery and intrigue, and the huge sums of virtual money floating offshore make an apt metaphor for the symbols and ideas that compel people to action and set events in motion. Goldin+Senneby further extend the financial trope by adopting corporate practices to make Headless, outsourcing the project's many texts, events, and performances to specialists. For their exhibition at the Power Plant in Toronto, on view through February 22, Goldin+Senneby commissioned documentary filmmakers to interview an investigative journalist about how to make a documentary about investigating Headless Ltd. They also hired a curator and a set designer to devise a didactic display introducing viewers to the characters of the novel Looking for Headless.

A system as rich and recursive as Headless simultaneously generates both questions and answers to them. In previous interviews the artists have responded to questions about the project exclusively in the form of quotes from its various parts. For the interview below, however, they produced some new statements, perhaps mindful of the opportunity to recycle them in future incarnations of Headless. - Brian Droitcour

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Opening of Cao Fei's RMB City on Artforum's Scene and Herd

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Image: Party at Cao Fei's RMB City

Rhizome's curatorial fellow Brian Droitcour covered the grand opening of Cao Fei's RMB City in Second Life for Artforum's Scene & Herd last week, easily the first entry posted to the magazine's social diary to report from SL. Brian describes the festivities with a sense of humor, it's a fun read. Click the below for the full article.

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A Short Tour of Three Major Contemporary Art Exhibitions in China

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Image: View from the 19th Floor of the Third Guangzhou Triennial

Over the next three days, Claire Louise Staunton, current resident curator at the OCT Contemporary Art Terminal in Shenzhen, China, will file reports from this year's Guangzhou Triennial, Shanghai Bienniale, and Nanjing Triennial. - Ceci Moss

The first stop on my journey is Guangzhou in the southwest of China, a humid and densely populated city with a liberal reputation. On the day of my visit to the Third Guangzhou Triennial, torrential rain poured down, which had a comically disastrous effect on the proceedings. Invitees were trapped and latecomers barred from the location for the exhibition's opening comments, Alain Fouraux and Rem Koolhaas' Times Museum, a rather utopian project proposed at the 2005's triennial that housed a small part of the larger exhibition. The rising flood and the downpour threatened curator Sarat Maharaj and his team with electrocution as they attempted to bid 'Farewell to Post-Colonialism' on the short-circuited PA system.

Sadly California-based artist Simon Leung's video piece on the ground floor was rained out, but after waiting 30 minutes to get into the only elevator, the 14th floor served as a life boat with video work The Rock Point Inn from Huang Xiaopeng. The piece interrogates the self-colonialization of contemporary China through his subtly manipulated depiction of Thames Town, an exact replica of Lyme Regis, UK. In the adjacent room was Wang Jiahao's F1City:REeAL TV a video game using real-life footage which presented itself as a commentary on the growth of Formula One racing in the third world.

I ascended the theoretical and actual quagmire of the top floor where the rain poured dangerously close to the numerous sound and video installations from German artist Marc Behrens, the Chinese collective Sound Unit (Zhang Anding ...

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Social Notworks

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Organized by project.arnolfini, "antisocial notworking" is an online hub for critical and creative practices appraising the contradictory agendas of many of the internet's most popular websites. As Art & Social Technologies Research member Dr. Geoff Cox persuasively argues, in an essay accompanying the project, websites like Facebook and Myspace have amassed tens of millions of users through a promise of providing virtual spaces built upon user-generated content and geared towards positive interpersonal relations. While a peer-to-peer (p2p) system engages the same democratic project in the web's public realm, these social networking sites exist in the private sector, operating through a top-down, server-client relationship with its membership and harvesting social relations towards their own economic benefit. 'antisocial notworking' does not propose abandoning these programs, but rather seeks to elucidate the process by which social positivity became a marketable tool of capitalistic enterprises, and to consider how antagonism (to Cox, a necessary component of politics) may be constructively introduced into the virtual demos. Notable among the current projects on the site is Linda Hilfling's "Participation 0.0 - Part I" (2007), documentation of the 112 billboards the artist installed throughout "Second Life" that collectively display the full 7,000 words of the Terms of Service which users traditionally skim and agree upon before gaining access to the program. By planting this text on "Second Life" land, Hilfling allows users to recognize their tenuous position in a virtual world in which they may develop businesses and purchase land, but from which they may also be erased, according to Hilfling's reading of the terms, "for any or no reason." In keeping with its critical agenda, "antisocial notworking" will retain a dynamic, open-ended structure, to which people can add further texts, projects, and documents of their own navigation through similarly fraught online ...

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Rhizome Commissions 08: Conversation with Rafael Rozendaal, Evan Roth, Eteam and Steve Lambert

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The Rhizome Commissions Program was founded in 2001 to provide support to emerging artists working with new technologies. The forty-four works commissioned to date represent some of the most innovative, pioneering efforts in the field. At the New Museum on May 22nd, several artists who received support in the 2008 cycle will present their finished projects as well as other select projects. Artists to present include Evan Roth, Eteam (Hajoe Moderegger and Franziska Lamprecht), Steve Lambert and Rafael Rozendaal.



Thursday May 22nd, 7:30pm
the New Museum, New York, NY
$6 Members/ $8 General Public

2008 Commissioned projects:
http://www.rhizome.org/commissions/2008/

Image Credit: Rafael Rozendaal, JELLOTIME.COM, 2007

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Chartering Utopia

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Beijing-based artist Cao Fei uses her activities in Second Life (SL) to draw fantastical parallels to socio-political scenarios in real life. As it turns out, SL is a perfect place to consider city planning and the cultural drives behind development patterns. It is, afterall, one big experiment in participatory design, with users constructing their world and everything in it, even carrying out social relations in a highly-systematized manner. Fei's avatar, China Tracy, made a three-part documentary of life in this society, called i.Mirror, which was included in the Rhizome-curated exhibition Montage: Unmonumental Online. For Fei's current show at New York's Lombard-Freid Projects, she once again displays the fruits of Tracy's labor, with RMB City. The gallery has become a retail space for the promotion of this "experimental utopian world," in which institutions and investors have been invited to participate as organizers. Fei's exhibition includes "pure white" sculptural models of the city, builder's tools and materials, laptops for connecting to Second Life, and stills from Tracy's newest documentary, RMB CITY-A Secondlife City Planning, which is also projected onto what looks like a pool of water. The sailing city constructed in Tracy's film has all the trappings of a grown-up society, complete with transportation infrastructure, industrial pollutants, and diplomatic pandas, but it feels almost like a child's imaginary assemblage, constructed of toys, junk, and futuristic roadways, some of which end abruptly, depositing travelers into the vast ocean around it. The film's soundtrack further pushes the trope of "play" with its softly soothing electronic beats. (One imagines this score could gently drown-out any voices of resistance.) According to Fei, the city reflects "the condensed incarnation of contemporary Chinese cities with most of their characteristics; a series of new Chinese fantasy realms that ...

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One Avatar's Trash is Another's Treasure

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The world is full of junk. Why should Second Life be any exception? In fact, something about the technological impetus to always create new, more advanced gizmos and realities makes this online virtual space a perfect site for the consideration of trash. The New York-based German art collective eteam are doing that now, in their project Second Life Dumpster. The duo's work often revolves around land-use issues and other socio-spatial interventions, and in this case they purchased 4096 square meters of space in SL to start a plein-air dumpster. The artists visit freebee sites throughout the virtual world and bring the detritus back to their space, and also encourage other users to drop their garbage at the site. Snippets of chat sessions with other avatars posted to the Second Life Dumpster blog reveal the humorous social challenges of keeping such an operation running. The project received a 2008 Rhizome Commission and their original proposal was to carve out a new type of behavior on Second Life. The site's owners, Linden Labs, say that exploring the world (including crafting one's persona and visage), creating objects, and selling those objects are the primaries forms of activity there, but eteam wanted to ask what happens after self-actualization and the ultimate disposal or withering of the ephemera exchanged in this process. After all, virtual junk is still junk, and its weighty presence online is but a mere token of the refuse our high tech lifestyles generate in "first life." If you're in the real world city of Brooklyn, this weekend, you can visit Smack Mellon to see the artists' physical rebuilding of decaying Second Life objects. Otherwise, check them out online or even consider joining the cadre of dumpster divers now hanging out at Fearzom. - Marisa Olson

Image: eteam, Second ...

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