You are Like A Sexy Sphinx: Lindsay Lawson on loving spam

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The Smiling Rock, via eBay.

The Rhizome backend, and others like it across the web, act as sanctuaries of a sort for a dying language: the halting, intermittently sensical, koanic lingua franca of the multinational spammer and their programmed counterpart, the spambot. Today, spammers face enemies on multiple fronts: Facebook-API'd commenting apparatuses, Google algorithms, Hotmail junk-mail filters, and Twitter culls of orange-backed eggs. It has been driven to the margins, visible only to those who seek it out (or happen to be a webmaster, like yours truly). What will be lost when it's pushed out of cyberspace altogether?

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Recommended Reading: The Spam of the Earth: Withdrawal from Representation by Hito Steyerl

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Image spam might tell us a lot about “ideal” humans, but not by showing actual humans: quite the contrary. The models in image spam are photochopped replicas, too improved to be true. A reserve army of digitally enhanced creatures who resemble the minor demons and angels of mystic speculation, luring, pushing and blackmailing people into the profane rapture of consumption.

Image spam is addressed to people who do not look like those in the ads: they neither are skinny nor have recession-proof degrees. They are those whose organic substance is far from perfect from a neoliberal point of view. People who might open their inboxes every day waiting for a miracle, or just a tiny sign, a rainbow at the other end of permanent crisis and hardship. Image spam is addressed to the vast majority of humankind, but it does not show them. It does not represent those who are considered expendable and superfluous—just like spam itself; it speaks to them.

The image of humanity articulated in image spam thus has actually nothing to do with it. On the contrary, it is an accurate portrayal of what humanity is actually not. It is a negative image...

— The Spam of the Earth: Withdrawal from Representation by Hito Steyerl (e-Flux #32)

 

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The Download: James Howard

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Rhizome is pleased to announce London-based artist James Howard is featured this month on The Download.

Still from www.luckyluckydice.com (2012)

Utilizing spam that lands in his junk email folder and pop up ads, Howard appropriates the deceitful images and text in his collages highlighting the emotional tiggers that trap users. Rhizome members can download www.luckyluckydice.com (2012), a 51MB animated GIF of 1990s internet-style advertisments; a file size too large for dial-up speeds, but now easily viewable in any internet browser once downloaded. Rhizome editor Joanne McNeil interviewed him last year about the images he collects:

Images in online scams and phishing schemes can seem as artificially generated as the text — like botnet generated folk art. But there is a human hand at work. What do you think is the human element that draws people into these schemes?

People are like machines - their brains react to temptation like a computer does. Most people are able to recognise a scam, but if someone pulls the right string, sooner or later all that subconscious stuff inside you is going to lead you down the wrong path. Scams  get people by playing on insecurities, desires, fears, greed, whatever - it's uncontrollable and causes one in a thousand people to make a snap decision and pay up.

What do you consider the visual clues of this kind of kitsch of deception? Any interesting patterns or trends you've spotted over the years of collecting examples?

Squashed grinning businessmen looking into fisheye lenses, sunsets over serene oceans, happy families, sexy nurses- it's an endless and totally recognisable global visual language. There's a gruesome image of someone hooked up to a life support machine that keeps landing in my junk-mail folder these days -it always comes from a new person, with ...

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Making Word: Ryan Trecartin as Poet

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All images: Screen captures from KCorea-INC.K

Is Ryan Trecartin a video artist? A “video-installation” artist? Reviewing “Any Ever,” the exhibition now on view at MoMA PS1, Roberta Smith grasped for precedent, naming Paul McCarthy, Matthew Barney and Pipilotti Rist. But, she admitted, the comparisons fell short. To find another artist who engages a plurality of art forms with simultaneous, equal intensity—all while rethinking what art is and how it touches its audience—you’d have to go back to Wagner. Video is an outcome of his process, but watching is not the only or best way to understand it. Trecartin says he starts each work by writing a script. Language—the primal, biological system of symbols—is the model and vehicle for art and commerce and every other manifestation of social activity. And the forms of all the aspects of Trecartin’s work—the camerawork, the editing, the music, the makeup, and the costumes, as well as Lizzie Fitch’s sets for the videos and “sets” for their viewing in “Any Ever”—are prefigured in the way he works with words.

To study Trecartin’s language, I read the script for K-CoreaINC.K (Section A), which is freely available thanks to ubuweb’s “Publishing the Unpublishable” series. Like any script, it starts with dramatis personae: Argentinian Korea, Hungary Korea, French Adaptation Korea, and so on. The litany of locales recalls the lyrics of a club hit (“Brazil, Morocco, London to Ibiza”: so sings J-Lo in “On the Floor”) or the “Paris, Milan, Moscow, Tokyo” you see on the front of designer boutiques. But only remotely. Countries aren’t named to evoke the exotic, but because geographic names, unlike human names, are tied to place and awkward in reuse. Slapped together, they don’t merge nicely. One plus one is two ones and the ozone emitted by their collision. Combos like these are a favorite device of Trecartin’s. So is the willful disregard for parts of speech. A character’s “first name” can be a noun or an adjective or one of each. Grammatical difference meets geographical difference as both are jettisoned. No setting is indicated—the list of characters is enough to locate the action in an unanchored imaginary.

 

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Selling Spam to Saatchi: ArtInfo Interviews James Howard

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James Howard's "Lonely," 2011

"It all begins in my junk email folder, in the place where everything that has a bit of a question mark over its authenticity — pensions, Russian brides — lands. I take images and texts from that junk email folder and from pop-up adverts and I collage them together into artworks... I gravitate towards reoccurring images: adverts for Chinese wives and images of beautiful sunsets over serene oceans seem to crop up rather a lot, as well as pictures of people with distorted bodies looking up into fisheye lenses. These are the ones I really enjoy, and when I find them, I immediately start getting into Photoshop and cutting around as quickly as I can." - James Howard in an interview with ArtInfo.

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Thumbing Youtube (2010) - JODI

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More:
http://www.youtube.com/user/poke1F
http://www.youtube.com/user/poke2F
http://www.youtube.com/user/poke3F
http://www.youtube.com/user/poke4F
http://www.youtube.com/user/poke5F
http://www.youtube.com/user/poke6F
http://www.youtube.com/user/poke7F
http://www.youtube.com/user/poke8F
http://www.youtube.com/user/poke9F
http://www.youtube.com/user/poke10F

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Top 5 - 10

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Image from There I Fixed It

Jonah Brucker-Cohen is a researcher, artist, professor and writer. His writing has appeared in numerous international publications including WIRED Magazine, Make Magazine, Neural, Rhizome, Art Asia Pacific, Gizmodo and more, and his work has been shown at events such as DEAF (03,04), Art Futura (04), SIGGRAPH (00,05), UBICOMP (02,03,04), CHI (04,06) Transmediale (02,04,08), NIME (07), ISEA (02,04,06,09), Institute of Contemporary Art in London (04), Whitney Museum of American Art's ArtPort (03), Ars Electronica (02,04,08), Chelsea Art Museum, ZKM Museum of Contemporary Art (04-5),Museum of Modern Art (MOMA - NYC)(2008), and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) (2008). He received his Ph.D. in the Disruptive Design Team of the Networking and Telecommunications Research Group (NTRG), Trinity College Dublin. He is an adjunct assistant professor of communications at NYU's Interactive Telecommunications Program (ITP) and in the Media, Culture, Communication dept of NYU Steinhardt School of Culture Education and Human Development.



2009 was an important year for the Internet as a whole. The advent of web 2.0 and "crowdsourcing" initiatives has enabled a much richer array of content from users who might never have ventured onto the Internet in previous years. My top 10 sites for this year cover a wide range of topics from art made for mobile devices with iPhoneArt.org to evidence of both information saturation with Information Aesthetics and physical and pseudo intellectual abundance with This is Why You're Fat and There I Fixed It, to strange observances of mistakes in the public realm with Fail Blog. In addition to these crowdsourced content sites, I also see some ongoing potential with artist-created sites such as Brett Domino's lowtech approach to music making ...

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Spam Architecture (2007) - Alex Dragulescu

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The images from the Spam Architecture series are generated by a computer program that accepts as input, junk email. Various patterns, keywords and rhythms found in the text are translated into three-dimensional modeling gestures.

-- FROM THE ARTIST'S STATEMENT

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Spamtrap (2007) - Bill Shackelford

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"Spamtrap" is an interactive installation piece that prints, shreds and blacklists spam email. It interacts with spammers by monitoring several email addresses I created specifically to lure in spam and an old unused personal email address I use to lure in spam. I do not use these email addresses for any other communication. I post these individual email addresses on websites and online bulletin boards that cause them to be harvested by spambots and then to start receiving spam.

Because I know that all email sent to these email addresses are spam, I have set the installation to print and then shred each email as it arrives. Simultaneously the installation is feeding spam blacklists on the web with information gathered from all the received spam (a newly added feature). This in turn helps to feed spam filtering systems across the web that are working to reduce the amount of spam we all receive. Click here for more information about Spamtraps.

The installation uses a Pentium II computer connected to a wireless network, personal printer, personal shredder, aluminum rails, Spamtrap email addresses, automatic printing software, email client software, antivirus software, and a SpamCop user account. The paper is recycled after the spam email has been shredded.

-- FROM THE ARTIST'S STATEMENT

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Spampainting Nr.1 (2004) - Johannes Wohnseifer

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