Net-Work

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What is new media without networks? Better yet...What are networks? Academics and technologists are fond of saying that "we now live in a network culture," meaning in part that whether they are manifested online or offline, our social relationships, the objects we make, and our worldviews are inherently informed by the conditions of life in the era of the internet. New media art would then certainly fall under this gestalt, as it not only comes out of this era, often explicitly addressing it, but it is also a social movement or art community influenced by the merger of computer networks and social networks. This is the precise point of entry for an exhibition entitled "New Media - New Networks," at the Galzenica Gallery in Velika Gorica (formerly Zagreb), which bills itself as "the first retrospective dedicated to the new media art and culture in Croatia." Unlike most gallery exhibitions, the curators aspired to keep the presentation of art works to a minimum. Instead, the show is truly a context for the production of timelines, the writing of important timelines, and the nurturing of relationships revolving around the history of networks in this region. Thus, included in the checklist are defunct Bulletin Board Systems, DIY zines, documentation of art festivals, and even the archives of a university department's research efforts. The result of this unique initiative is a heretofore unseen picture of art initiatives and collaboration in an area often painted as "off the grid" of the contemporary art world, but obviously deeply engaged in contemporary practice. As a starting point for those outside Hrvatska, visit the gallery's timeline and link collection. - Marisa Olson


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Private Lives

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Sophie Calle, Unfinished, 2005

The New Normal, an exhibition currently on display at Artists Space, assembles works from thirteen practitioners, all of which were made after 2001 and are somehow representative of the emergent conditions of public and private life in America and beyond. Curator Michael Connor borrows his exhibition title from Dick Cheney's notorious post-9/11 speech, in which the vice president characterized the forthcoming encroachments on citizens' private lives as "the new normalcy." What makes Connor's exhibition truly revelatory, however, is the way it proposes this "rise of state and corporate surveillance" to be as definitive, in the shaping of the private sphere, as the willingness of millions of members of the populous to voluntarily make their private lives public, by means of online venues for personal blogging, image and video diaries, and social networks. This trend, if anything, indicates that for the twenty-first century public, "private information is not always something to fear." To the contrary, Connor argues that the power entailed in this type of public disclosure can be harnessed in the service of new forms of cultural production and new "tactics for political critique."



Sharif Waked, Chic Point, 2003

Support for this point can be found throughout the exhibition. Bangladesh-born, U.S.-based artist Hasan Elahi's 2002 airport interrogation by FBI agents, for example, prompted his developing Tracking Transience, a personal website monitoring his spending, calls and location, with photo documentation for support. Elahi's project serves a pragmatic end - as virtual alibi - but does so in a conceptually telling fashion: requiring the artist to internalize state power and subject his life to the degree of scrutiny the government reserves for suspected terrorists. In a similar vein, Palestinian artist Sharif Waked's single-channel video Chic Point (2003) shows a parade of men ...

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Into the Unknown

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Alongside the Whitney and Venice biennials and certain other surveys of contemporary art, the Carnegie International has not always received its adequate share of attention. Which perhaps accounts, in part, for curator Douglas Fogle's controversial decision to name this year's edition -- the first time in the International's 112-year history. "Life on Mars," lifted from the eponymous David Bowie song, provides a thematic foundation for Fogle's group of forty artists from seventeen countries, all of whom "emphasize the modest over the monumental, and the hand-made over the machine-made" to convey "the poetic wonder in the everyday world." The question about the possibility of life on Mars thus operates as a metaphor for a state of alienation characteristic of contemporary existence, which many of the International's artists endeavor to highlight and explore. This question is ultimately a constructive one, Fogle contends, suggesting that the hopes, fantasies, and other signs we project into the unknown could yield responses - that connections can be made. While the practices of many of the artists in the show, including those of Phil Collins, Cao Fei and Apichatpong Weerasethakul, examine the various ties binding communities, it is the International's website that potentially offers the most interesting place to address the exhibition's topic. Beyond establishing pages on MySpace, Facebook, YouTube and Flickr, the International has introduced a section to its homepage, "Signals," devoted entirely to the reflections and ruminations of online visitors. The majority of the posts, to date, were written by people associated with the exhibition, but as the International runs through January 2009, the forum aspires to attract a broader contributor base. If "Life on Mars" truly considers our relationship to unknowns - both great and everyday - then what better venue for inquiry and discussion than the virtual cosmos? - Tyler Coburn ...

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All About the Benjamin

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Aaron Koblin and Takashi Kawashima made a hundred dollars the hard way: with a staff of 10,000 people distributed across the globe. Or maybe the easy way, depending on how you look at it. In 2007, they posted a mysterious assignment on Amazon's Mechanical Turk--a crowdsourcing business site that lets companies offer piecemeal jobs for tiny bits of cash--asking potential employees to reproduce a greenish abstraction using a customized drawing tool; each sketcher received one cent in return for their work. Unknown to this invisible workforce, each image was 1/10,000 of a picture of a $100 bill; upon completion, the whole emerged from a mosaic of its hand-drawn parts. Continuing the numerical theme, life-sized digital prints of the work are now available at their site Ten Thousand Cents for $100 a pop, with proceeds going to One Laptop per Child (a charity originally based on the goal of the "$100 Laptop"). This isn't Koblin's first foray into collaborative artmaking with Mechanical Turk: in 2006, he similarly produced The Sheep Market, a collection of 10,000 individual black-and-white drawings, each one commissioned for two cents a piece with the simple instruction to "draw a sheep facing left." Maybe that request was prescient, given that Ten Thousand Cents made unwitting activists out of an anonymous flock of online workers. - Ed Halter

Aaron Koblin and Takashi Kawashima, Ten Thousand Cents, 2008

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Call Me!

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Touting the theme of "Impakt yourspace," the latest edition of Utrecht's Impakt Festival takes on the impact of Web 2.0 through its typically tightly-organized set of panels and curated programs of film, video, new media and performance. The central event, "Hybrid Playground," presents variations by Dutch artists on the melding of social networks and physical spaces. Here, attendees will experience KKEP's ParaPlay project, a democratic iTunes happening, and Bliin, which enables mobile phone users to post media to shared geographic maps; NetNiet.org's Gifted, a real-time phone-enabled social judgment system; and Alchemyst's open-source Roomware, which detects phone users and links their identity to networked personal profiles. Other internet-aware events include tech-inflected animations by painter Federico Solmi and "Self-Confession vs. Exploitation" a program of film and video diaries ranging from Joyce Wieland's 8mm work of the 1960s to modern-day web-based autobiographies. In perhaps the most self-referential move of all, Impakt will convene a panel on "The Future of Festivals" with organizers from Migrating Forms, Submarineand tank.tv, exploring what the role of live media events should be in the light of our increasingly online social world. - Ed Halter

Image Credit: NetNiet.org, Gifted, 2008

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The Wrath of Math

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In these days of artist surfblogs and folksonomic curating, there's a discernible pattern to the emergence of a net artist. Like a musician strategically leaking her new album to the interweb, net artists drop their new wares on del.icio.us, then sit back to watch the URL's bookmark history grow. (For an example of artists using del.icio.us as a creative platform, check out the tag cloud on veteran net artists JODI's account.) This week it was an illustrator named Math Wrath who caught social bookmarkers' hungry eyes. The artist's site feels like the web presence of The Little Prince, if said prince fell into Rainbo Brite's candy-coated astral world. Operating under a strictly pseudonymous handle, like many in the contemporary surf set, Math Wrath offers a fresh glance at familiar themes and forms ranging from video games to comic books. While Mountains offers an eternally-scrolling horizontal landscape that will feel familiar in shape to anyone experienced in playing auto racing games, the reversal of the traditional Left/Right scrolling direction relieves the viewer of the driver's role, instead making them more like the giddy, if bewildered, child passenger in the back of a station wagon. The work's juxtaposition of razor-sharp, sparkly diamond-dust stalagmites against a glowy sky merges two vocabularies that don't often find a horizon point. This uncanniness is perhaps more obvious in TayZonday in YouTube Limbo, in which a graphically low-level portrait of the Chocolate Rain phenom is adorned with a swirly geometric blindfold. The effect of this co-mingling of bitmaps, sprites, and blingee gifs feels akin to an orchestra dividing into factions, to play in different time signatures, yet somehow staying in tune. The artist is clearly familiar with contemporary memes, as evidenced by pieces like ...

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Identity Art: Alive and Flickr'ing

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Identity art long predates electronic art. Even among the avant garde, artists were using their work to sort out their personae long before we plugged-in machines to perform our computations. In many ways, this genre hit its heyday in the 1970s, after the emergence of video, and coasted through the '80s and '90s only to take on a stale whiff in the '00s, particularly after 9/11 and the Iraq War upped the ante for artists to look beyond themselves as subjects. So, if nothing else, it is incredibly bold for this year's EMAF (Electronic Media Arts Festival) to take up "Identity" as its theme. Running April 23-27 in Osnabrueck, Germany, the fest will present the work of a wide range of artists in over 300 installations, films, and videos, host two conferences, and act as a platform for a range of student projects by people apparently just learning about identity. All jesting aside, the festival's organizers have succeeded in arguing that a category of artistic practice previously kicked to the academic recycling bin is still alive and operating under new conditions. Afterall, it's no longer just Bruce Nauman and Cindy Sherman pointing cameras at themselves, but every person who maintains an account with social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace. And, of course, the question of digital reality (even digital indexicality) has taken well-cooked debates about the documentary status of reality TV and similar forms to a new level, when aimed at Second Life and machinima. In a statement signed by "The Festival Team," prospective attendees are asked, "How do digital technologies change all areas of private and public life?" Ralf Bendrath's lecture on "Digital Identity" will respond to this weighty inquiry by investigating "the forms and consequences of the increasing capture of private data ...

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Election '08: How the Internet is Re-shaping National Politics

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"Election '08: How the Internet is Re-shaping National Politics" is the next program in Rhizome's New Silent Series at the New Museum. See description below and mark your calendars for Friday, April 11th at 7:30pm.

Grassroots organizations like MoveOn.org and Meetup.com played a significant role in the lead-up to the 2004 presidential election. Campaign '08 has thus far been a very different project, with some of its most crucial points playing out across YouTube.com, viral marketing, and blogs. For Election '08, leading critics, artists, and media strategists will address the increasing role the Internet and digital technologies have come to play in national politics and focus specifically on the ways new media have been used for advocacy in the run-up to the election.

The panel will be moderated by Jason Pontin, Chief Editor of the MIT Technology Review; Panelists include Farai Chideya, host of NPR's News and Notes, and founder of PopandPolitics.com; Jonathan Askin, a strategist on Barack Obama's Technology Advisory Board and Professor at Brooklyn Law School; Beka Economopoulos, artist and founder of The Change You Want To See; and Liza Sabater, founder and publisher of Culture Kitchen and Daily Gotham.

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Mixing It Up at Eyebeam's MIXER

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In New York or any other busy urban nexus, it's all too easy to submit to the tyranny of rushing from one destination to another. How much more pleasant -- and artistically fruitful -- it can be to drift through one's environment, sampling its many sensory experiences at leisure. Last Saturday, at Manhattan's Eyebeam, a new media art party called MIXER offered many delights, from cerebral to bawdy, for those who took the time to explore and savor them. First launched in November last year, MIXER is the art-and-technology center's quarterly event featuring performances by acclaimed video and audio artists, as well as interactive installations inviting creative play by the attendees.



One highlight on Saturday was London-based VJ group D-Fuse's performance of "Latitude", an ambient cinematic exploration of everyday life in the rapidly developing Chinese cities of Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Chongqing. Inspired by the Situationists' notion of "la dérive" (drifting through cities in response to their emotional impacts), the piece wanders among all sorts of urban tableaux, from the mundane and intimate to the grandiose. Fragments of conversations, shots of crowds, and architectural forms such as the vein-like loops of a Shanghai overpass combine to create an evocative portrait of cities in growth.




D-Fuse, Overpass, 2007


In one stunning opening clip, we see a girl emerging onto her apartment balcony -- then the camera slowly (and vertiginously) pulls back in midair, gradually revealing the immense grids of her high-rise and the construction sites that make up her neighborhood. In another shot, kids perform a dance routine on a dull green field, their sheer numbers and the vivid blue-and-white colors of their uniforms forming a kaleidoscopic pop of energy. While many scenes of street life and urban architecture might recall U.S. cities, other footage is suffused with ...

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"Design and the Elastic Mind" @ MoMA

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Adaptability has always been a distinctive feature of human intelligence, but as MoMA's new exhibition "Design and the Elastic Mind" claims, recent developments in science call for faster -- and, indeed, more elastic -- modes of social response. Beginning with a display on nanostructures and concluding with one about social and global networks, this ambitious exhibition examines the various scales on which our contemporary lives are led, and the way design can translate technological innovation into objects of everyday use. Aranda/Lasch's Rules of Six (2007), for example, foregrounds nanodesign's potential for self-assembly with a wall relief and images of nanostructures. Developed through simple rules and interactions, these structures offer provisional cases for the role such generative, modular organization may hold in the realms of architecture and design. On the human scale, Emili Padros for the emiliana design studio's NSS: Non-Stop Shoes (1999) is one of many projects to consider micro-solutions to energy conservation: high-top sneakers that store energy over their use to power lightbulbs and small, domestic appliances. Experiments on the social scale frequently focus on the interaction of individual users with a larger (often virtual) public, as with I Want You To Want Me (2007-ongoing), Jonathan Harris and Sep Kamvar's condensation of internet dating networks into an interactive, flatscreen display, and Fernanda Bertini Viegas, Martin Wattenberg and IBM Thomas J. Watson Research Center's History Flow (2003), which visualizes user-generated revisions to Wikipedia topics. As Senior Curator Paola Antonelli points out in an essay accompanying the exhibition, the ability of virtual users to "break the temporal rhythms imposed by society in order to customize and personalize them" is one of the many ways that we are tackling technological novelty with a spirit of agency and play. - Tyler Coburn

Image: Fernanda Bertini Viegas, Martin Wattenberg and ...

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