Divorce Your Metadata: A conversation between Laura Poitras and Kate Crawford


In 2015, at Rhizome’s Seven on Seven event at the New Museum, Poitras and Crawford were invited to give the opening keynote address. They had an on-stage conversation that spanned the cultural imaginaries of surveillance, affect and emotion, and the physical effects of producing work on surveillance. The week beforehand, Poitras and Crawford travelled to China to observe the collaboration between Ai Weiwei and Jacob Appelbaum - one of the collaborations for Seven on Seven. Laura created a short film based on this time in Weiwei's studio, called The Art of Dissent. This transcript has been edited and some topics have been expanded upon by the authors. It was originally published in print form by the cyberfeminist group Deep Lab as part of their residency at the New Museum's Ideas City Festival in May. This layout is based on the zine's design, by Ingrid Burrington and Maral Pourkazemi.

Kate Crawford: It's a pleasure to be here with you, particularly on a year when Seven on Seven is focused on surveillance and affect in art and technology. I was thinking about CITIZENFOUR and the whole trilogy of your films since 2001. You’ve managed to take this invisible, pervasive infrastructure of surveillance – what the sociologists Haggerty and Ericsson call the "surveillant assemblage" – and you've made it feel material and emotional. In your work we see how surveillance functions in a political and technical sense, but it also becomes something that we really care about. It's personal. 

You've been asked many questions over the past year about the legal and policy implications of mass surveillance. But I want to do something else; I want to ask you about the cultural and artistic representations of surveillance and how they've affected you. Are there particular films, books and art works you’ve encountered over your life that have changed the way you think about surveillance?

Laura Poitras: Yes, there are many. When I first decided I was going to make a film on surveillance it was before any whistleblowers had come forward. It was before Snowden. It was also before the "NSA Four" – Thomas Drake, William Binney, J. Kirk Wiebe and Edward Loomis – went public in 2011. I talked to a lot of people and everybody said it's a bad idea to make a documentary film about surveillance because it is hard to visualize. It is both abstract and very much a mental state. When you think about the great literature and films about surveillance, most are fictionalized. The work that had the most influence on me is Orwell's 1984. I read it first when I was a teenager and it was etched into my memory. I can't think of another book I've had such vivid memories of. I re-read it in the winter of 2013 when Edward Snowden first started emailing me. I was also reading Cory Doctorow's Homeland. They were a perfect pair to read because of how they capture themes of surveillance, paranoia, and the state.


I hope we are not disturbing you: Ai Weiwei and Jacob Appelbaum in Beijing, through the lens of Laura Poitras


Jacob Appelbaum, Laura Poitras and Ai Weiwei in Beijing last week. (Photo: Heather Corcoran).

Last week, Rhizome brought Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei together with key Tor Project activist and Wikileaks representative Jacob Appelbaum for a five-day collaboration behind closed doors. The two worked closely at Ai's studio in Beijing with unreleased Snowden documents to create an artwork that underscores their mutual concerns with privacy, surveillance, and their own state-restricted movement. Rhizome invited film director Laura Poitras—whose portrait of Edward Snowden, Citizenfour, won the 2015 Academy Award for Documentary Feature—to capture the collaboration from start to finish as a short film, which will premiere at Rhizome's Seven on Seven on May 2 at the New Museum. (The event will stream live at rhizome.org and fusion.net.)

Reflecting on the project, both Ai and Appelbaum offered their own sense of responsibility. Ai: "I see my art as a way of reminding people of certain facts." Appelbaum: "My one goal is that in 20 years time no one can say they didn't know what was happening, so we'll know who didn't act to stop it."

Kashmir Hill of Fusion was on site in Beijing to cover the story as it unfolded between Ai, Appelbaum, and Poitras—"three of the most justifiably paranoid people in the world"—and not without an impromptu call to Julian Assange. Read Hill's detailed report

For full bios, tickets, and event information, visit the event's website at sevenonseven.rhizome.org.


Occupy #normcore, Sawbaum, Monegraph & More: Video from Seven on Seven 2014 is Online


Kevin McCoy and Anil Dash collaborate during their Seven on Seven work day. Photo: Ed Singleton

Miss Seven on Seven NYC 2014? Now, videos of all the presentations are online on Rhizome's Vimeo page. (Alongside, of course, documentation of all previous editions.) Held on May 3 at the New Museum, participants included: artists Kari Altmann, Ian Cheng, Simon Denny, Holly Herndon, Kevin McCoy, Hannah Sawtell, and Frances Stark, and technologists Nick Bilton, Anil Dash, Jen Fong-Adwent, David Kravitz, Aza Raskin, Kate Ray, and Avi Flombaum. 

Take a moment to watch Ray and Herndon debut their spycam app Spyke, Bilton and Denny draw the news, Stark and Kravitz share a steamy, philosophical chat, and more. Kate Crawford, Principal Researcher at Microsoft Research, sets the tone for all of the artists and technologists' work with her keynote on cultural manifestations of the anxiety of living under surveillance conditions. And when you've finished it all, don't miss Rhizome editor Michael Connor's take on the seven big ideas from this fifth anniversary edition.


Seven on Seven NYC is Sold Out (but you can still watch online and join AFK)


General admission tickets to the 5th Anniversary edition of Rhizome's Seven on Seven program, returning to the New Museum on May 3, are sold out. Missed your chance to buy tickets? Live somewhere other than New York City? Worry not—you can still join this celebration of art and tech. Details after the break. 


Announcing Seven on Seven's Fifth Anniversary Edition, NYC


Saturday, May 3, 2014
12-6pm EST at the New Museum, New York 
Livestreamed on Rhizome.org 

For Rhizome's Seven on Seven, leading contemporary artists are paired with tech luminaries for one day. Their assignment: to make something new. 

On Saturday, May 3, the duos unveil their creations, with rich discussion, for the first time. A five-time sold-out event, Seven on Seven brings the thinkers and makers who shape contemporary culture, today and in the future, into critical and creative conversation.

This year's NYC line-up features: 


MORE INFORMATION & TICKETS: rhizome.org/sevenonseven



Seven on Seven LDN Video is Live


Seven on Seven at the Barbican Centre (credit: Susanna Sanroman)

 On October 27, 2013, Rhizome presented the first international edition of its flagship Seven on Seven program in London at Barbican Centre. Seven pairings of artists and technologists came together for two days in a collaborative sprint to create an app, an artwork, an argument, whatever they could imagine. The result: a web-based forum for anonymous geolocated conversation, an app that randomly selects one email from your Gmail Sent Mail folder and sends that to another user of the app, a set of icons that demarcate intended levels of privacy, and one leading artist's confession that he would like to become a cyborg.


Seven on Seven London at the Barbican Centre, October 27


 David Karp (Tumblr) and artist Ryan Trecartin at Seven on Seven 2010. Image credit: Renny Gleeson. 

Rhizome's Seven on Seven conference series heads to the Barbican Centre in London on October 27. The event brings together artists and technologists to make something new together in one day, presenting to the public for the first time in the conference the following day. We're particularly proud of the lineup for our first London event, which includes luminaries who Rhizome has written about, followed or supported for some time: 

Susan Philipsz + Naveen Selvadurai (Foursquare, Oscar) 
Jonas Lund + Michelle You (Songkick) 
Mark Leckey + Daniel Williams 
Graham Harwood + Alberto Nardelli (Tweetminister) 
Aleksandra Domanović + Smári McCarthy (IMMI) 
Cécile B. Evans + Alice Bartlett (BERG) 
Haroon Mirza + Ryder Ripps (OKFocus) 

Hot on the heels of Mayor Bloomberg's assertion that London, not Silicon Valley, is New York City's biggest tech competitor (we'd like to think ally is the more appropriate word), the city seems a natural fit for the event's first international foray. In its new location, Seven on Seven's underlying goal remains the same: to bring criticality and thought to the development of technology in culture, and promote further dialogue between the two contexts. 

Tickets available from £35 on the Barbican's website


Rhizome's Seven on Seven at the Barbican Centre, London on October 27, 2013


Europeans: one of Rhizome's flagship programs, Seven on Seven, is on the move. We're pleased to announce that the first international edition of the event is to be held at the Barbican Centre, London, on October 27, 2013.

Seven on Seven brings together luminaries from the fields of art and technology to work together for one day, in pairs, to create new projects – be they applications, concepts, artworks, products, or whatever they imagine. The results are unveiled the following day at the public conference.


Announcing Rhizome's Fourth Annual Seven on Seven Conference



Rhizome and HTC® are pleased to announce Rhizome’s Seven on Seven Conference, an annual event that brings together figures at the forefront of art and technology to create innovative new ideas. Over the course of a single day, seven teams, each comprised of a foremost artist and a leading technologist, are challenged to develop a new idea, concept, or prototype to premiere at the conference. Now in its fourth year, and to accommodate the demand for a larger audience, the conference will move from its former location at the New Museum and will take place at the Tishman Auditorium at the New School in New York on Saturday April 20, 2013, from 12–6 p.m.

Rhizome is pleased to announce the following participants:

Technologists: Tara Tiger Brown (LA Makerspace), Dalton Caldwell (App.net, PicPlz), Dennis Crowley (Foursquare), Harper Reed (Threadless, Obama for America 2012), and Julie Uhrman (Ouya).

Artists: Paul Pfeiffer, Jeremy Bailey, Fatima Al Qadiri, Jill Magid, Cameron Martin, Rafael Lozano-Hemmer and Matthew Ritchie.

The full lineup of participants will be released by March 14, 2013. For more information about the upcoming and past conferences visit rhizome.org/sevenonseven

Early Bird tickets are now available for a limited time at sevenonseven.eventbrite.com


Rhizome Seven on Seven: The Live Blog


12:12 Welcome!  Seven on Seven begins shortly — watch this space for conference liveblogging.  

12:17 A video welcome from Mayor Bloomberg: technology and art are vital to the city's fabric and "best of luck to all of the contributors."

12:19 HTC's Scott Croyle speaks: it's the journey that drives him; the construct of artists and technologists coming up w/ an idea and presenting them today exemplifies that journey. He introduces Lauren Cornell, Executive Director of Rhizome. She presents Rhizome's context as "all contemporary art that engages technology," and a broad conversation between art and tech that has grown since the mid-90s. She juxtaposes that context with a summary of E.A.T.'s 9 evenings in 1966 (performances and music by Rauschenberg, Rainer, Cage), a time when engineers and artists seemed much farther apart.

She recounts a conversation w/ a technologist this year who was excited about not creating a product and an artist who wanted "to create a hot start-up."  Presentations to follow on what these teams came up w/in a day.  Lauren ends by thanking the people, corporations, and organizations involved in making Seven on Seven happen, and introducing Douglas Rushkoff, the keynote speaker.  

12:27 Douglas: an artsier Apple = an Apple less open for artistic intervention. Anyway, he's happy to play around w/ the HTC phone he received. He recalls joining the geeks (those who tended to turn sharp corners while walking in straight lines) in 1976 as an artsy theater guy to try programming, but "using computer science to solve mathematical problems" wasn't enough of a motivation to really get him hooked or to understand programming's scope. Being in California in the late 70s introduced him to the artier, psychedelic, hard-core math/computer science folks in ...