Required Watching

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In this talk, Prof. Coleman presents a cultural history and political analysis of one of the oldest Internet wars, often referred to as "Internet vs Scientology," which in recent times has witnessed a different incarnation in the form of "Project Chanology," which is orchestrated by a group called Anonymous who has led a series of online attacks and real world protests against Scientology. I argue that to understand the significance of these battles and protests, we must examine how the two groups stand in a culturally antipodal relation to each other.

Through this analysis of cultural inversion, Coleman will consider how long-standing liberal ideals take cultural root in the context of these battles, use these two cases to reveal important political transformations in Internet/hacker culture between the mid 1990s and today and finally will map the tension between pleasure/freedom (the "lulz") and moral good ("free speech") found among Anonymous in terms of the tension between liberal freedom and romantic/Nietzschean freedom/pleasure.

-- DESCRIPTION FROM THE INSTITUTE FOR PUBLIC KNOWLEDGE SITE

Originally via Networked_Performance

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Notes on Going Under

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But the whole discourse of noise-as-threat is bankrupt, positively inimical to the remnants of power that still cling to noise. Forget subversion. The point is self-subversion, overthrowing the power structure in your own head. The enemy is the mind's tendency to systematize, sew up experience, place a distance between itself and immediacy... The goal is OBLIVION. - Simon Reynolds, "Noise"

Replace the word OBLIVION with DE-EVOLUTION and you have encapsulated the essence of the strangest art-music project that ever emerged from Akron, Ohio. While a quintet of jerky ectomorphs in hazmat suits (seemingly) singing about sadomasochism breaching the Billboard Top 20 in 1980 seemed unlikely, the legacy of DEVO is fraught with such contradiction. Formed in 1973, DEVO began as a polemical performance project, became a major buzz band and then crumbled under the weight of the attention they had cultivated. Outside of influencing a generation of musicians and artists, a surface reading would suggest the band only registered a few blips on the broader pop culture radar—"Whip It", their pioneering music video work and a legendary Saturday Night Live performance—but tracing the dramatic arc of DEVO reveals a fascinating back story. While the group might be most easily read in relation to their 1970s Ohio peers Pere Ubu, The Dead Boys or Chi-Pig, more enduring points of reference may be found in the deadpan, dour and decidedly humorless synthpop of Telex, Gary Numan and Kraftwerk. Comparisons notwithstanding, DEVO defied categorization and their creative exploration of emerging technology, hermetic logic and contentious relationship with the mass market make them quite relevant to new media artists—they're just the band you want!

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SECURITY AESTHETIC = SYSTEMS PANIC

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This essay originated from the anthology DATA browser 04: Creating Insecurity: art and culture in the age of security edited by Wolfgang Sützl and Geoff Cox. The book was published by Autonomedia this year and is licensed under Creative Commons.

Where does security end, and insecurity begin? Systems analysts recognise this as a classic boundary question. Its answer determines the precise deployment of any security system. But as we shall see, this particular boundary question cannot be answered under present conditions, except through the definition of a second system, a specifically interrogatory one. Drawing on the work of an American art critic of the 1960s, I’ll call this second kind of bounded entity an ‘aesthetic system’.

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On Networked Equality

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Image: Heath Bunting, BorderXing Guide, 2001

The afternoon of May 30 was clear and sunny, which probably accounted for the low turnout at the New Museum’s panel discussion Networked Equality. Too bad, because the presentations were engaging and generated a lively Q&A; session afterward. More than a month later, the topics raised still seem worth discussion, especially in light of the ongoing conversation about political art and the content of Rhizome’s coverage. The speakers at Networked Equality were researchers, activists, one-time dot-com entrepreneurs and self-described nerds Ethan Zuckerman and Omar Wasow. Zuckerman discussed how the internet’s vaunted potential to increase the flow of ideas across borders of nation, race, and class had been stunted by homophily, the tendency of people to stick to like-minded groups. His project Global Voices is one effort to counter that inclination by aggregating and translating independent media. Wasow, an education specialist, emphasized that access to technology would not narrow the gap between classes, and education was the key to helping disadvantaged segments of the population become participants in a networked economy.

Zuckerman is a fellow at Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society, where he said his older colleagues—academics who already had established careers when the internet appeared-- greeted networked technologies enthusiastically, predicting earth-shattering change and falling borders. To the contrary, Zuckerman and Wasow’s peers, who helped build the early internet, approached it with a healthy skepticism. This attitude resonates with some pioneering net art works, such as those of Heath Bunting and Daniel Garcia Andujar who reacted sharply to utopian views of networked technologies. BorderXing, Bunting’s project with Kayle Brandon, offered a database with instructions on how to cross borders illegally, but limited access to that database; the project showed literally how political borders were in fact ...

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Tactical Transactions

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Image: UBERMORGEN, Superenhanced Generator (Logo), 2009

If you're not already familiar with UBERMORGEN.COM, now would be a good time to get acquainted. The duo formed by Hans Bernhard and Lizvlx came onto the tactical media scene in the days of Toywar. When the Bernhard-founded group etoy was taken-on by e-commerce retailer etoys.com, the artists successfully brought the company down, thus providing a keystone moment in the perpetual headbutt between artists and corporations and launching the press release as the tactical media artist's weapon par excellence. In the spirit of many a corporate breakup, the participants in Toywar went on to funnel their win into the launch of new brands and creative identities. Notable among them are the Yes Men and UBERMORGEN. Taking as their name a German word that refers to the perpetual hope of a better tomorrow, the focus of UBERMORGEN's projects has been centered largely around legal issues related to copyright and surveillance. These works include [V]ote-Auction (2000), in which they attempted to auction-off a US Presidential vote to the highest bidder, and the Rhizome-commissioned project Google Will Eat Itself (GWEI) (2006), and "autocannibalistic model" in which revenue from auto-placed Google ads was used to buy Google stock, with a business plan to turn ownership of Google over to its users. In collaboration with Paolo Cirio and Alessandro Ludovico, Lizvlx and Bernhard recently took on Amazon.com in a duel that pitted their "robot-perversion technology" against the company's proprietary book preview software. According to the artists, their copyright-busting book-downloading tool was eventually sold to Amazon for an "undisclosed sum," but the story of the face-off (entitled Amazon Noir, 2006) floats among the ranks of other tactical media mythologies--not unlike some of the projects by their frequent collaborators 0100101110101101.org--demonstrating that ...

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Conference Report: NET.ART (SECOND EPOCH)

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Last week I attended the NET.ART (SECOND EPOCH) conference in Buenos Aires, organized by Medialab-Prado. The subtitle, "The Evolution of Artistic Creation in the Net-system" speaks to the broad range of perspectives included at the conference and, indeed, the Madrid-based organization was able to draw participants from all over Latin America, including Argentina, Peru, Brazil, Mexico, and Chile to the week-long panel series, which was hosted by the Centro Cultural de España.

Most of the discussion at the conference centered around framing the history of net art, articulating its recent transitions, and assessing the current state of the field. There was a general agreement that while many critics declared net art dead after the fall of the dot-com economy, it in fact never went anywhere and is instead still thriving.

Minnesota-based curator Steve Dietz and Amsterdam-based critic Josephine Bosma presented keynote talks on the current state of the network and networked art. These talks were framed as "seminars," with each lecture followed by structured group debates. Dietz's talk was entitled "Beyond 'Beyond Interface': Art in the Age of Ubiquitous Networking." He proposed that we consider whether what we are seeing now as truly a second epoch of net art, or rather something more like art after networks. While his talk came before Bosma's closing lecture, the latter looked back farther in taking a different historical perspective. Bosma articulated five generations of networked artists, the first of which predated the public interest. Her paper was prefaced by a confession that critics always view work through the lens of the era in which they came upon the art scene, and that while she is considered an expert in the field, she now feels removed from the present generation of net artists who are no longer working within the "Net ...

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Influential Activism

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Survival Research Laboratories, Amsterdam, 2008 (Photo by Boris VanHoytema)

The word "influencer" is most often used by marketing strategists to refer to cool people to whom other consumers turn to for fashion and food advice. But the organizers of The Influencers, an annual "culture jamming and guerrilla communication fest" brandish this word like a weapon in the fight against the corporatization of culture. On February 5-7, the artist groups d-i-n-a and Eva and Franco Mattes (a.k.a. 0100101110101101.ORG) will present their fifth festival "dedicated to exploring unconventional weapons of mass communication." Their approach grows out of a classical perspective on détournement but is updated by an understanding of networked infrastructures and new forms of mobility and social organizing that effect protest strategies in digital culture. In addition to talks, workshops, and impromptu interventions, the festival's events will revolve around eight commissioned works by Survival Research Laboratories, Ztohoven, BLU, Improv Everywhere, Julius von Bismarck, Wu Ming, Swoon, and Wolfgang Staehle. This is an eclectic group, to say the least, whose work ranges from graffiti to pyrotechnics to comedic group performances to poetic video installations. The group's diversity serves to illustrate the wide reach of commercialism's impact and the wide range of people interested in fighting back in support of the liberties that become threatened by corporate encroachment onto public space and public speech. One goal of the festival will be to map out how these alternative voices can infiltrate the hardlined frontier between public and private, so these artists were thus selected for "their taste for risk, the impulse that moves the authors of these projects to build dangerous machines, act politically incorrectly, use anachronous technology, or simply to defy common sense." It sounds both fun and challenging, but if you can't make it ...

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Interview with Marisa Olson

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Rhizome's Curator-at-Large and Staff Writer Marisa Olson recently curated the online segment of the exhibition "OURS: Democracy in the Age of Branding," which is currently on view in New York City at Parsons' Anna-Maria and Stephen Kellen Gallery at the Sheila C. Johnson Design Center. The exhibition, on a whole, looks at how democracy has become situated as a consumer brand in order to disseminate American values worldwide. The online portion of the show specifically examines subversive strategies emergent from network culture, and how these methods may produce and disseminate ideas that may work against the sway of branding. In light of the recent success of Barack Obama's campaign for presidency, largely due to Web-based grassroots organizing, the scope of "OURS: Democracy in the Age of Branding" seems to take on a whole new significance. Given this backdrop, I wanted to speak with Marisa about some of the fundamental questions asked by the exhibition. - Ceci Moss

Many of the projects in the online portion of "OURS: Democracy in the Age of Branding" are a direct response to the troublesome policies of the Bush Administration, whether it be the divisive rhetoric of "Us" vs. "Them" as seen in Steve Lambert's WhyTheyHate.US or war propaganda as in Joseph DeLappe's Dead-In-Iraq. Now that Obama has been elected president, do you think the tone of politically minded art will change? Working on this show, do you have any sense of what that change might be?

It's funny, a lot of people have been asking me this. One person asked me if there's no longer a need for activist art. Of course there is! I think there's a sense of relief and excitement about Obama's election, but I think things will only gain momentum. What's ...

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Artists' NY Times Spoof Proclaims End to Iraq War

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Taking the train to class this morning, I had a somewhat curious encounter. A man standing next to me held up a NY Times paper with the headline IRAQ WAR ENDS. Having read the NY Times that morning, I knew that this was not the day's headlines, and over the course of the entire ride, I kept quizzically peeking over at his paper in an effort to figure it out. He held the paper up in such a performative way, that I sensed something was askew. As I walked from the subway, I checked my phone and read, in a mass email from artist Joseph DeLappe, that a group of artists had created a spoof version of today's times announcing an end to the Iraq War, and distributed it around New York City. Brilliant. And so perfectly serendipitous. You can view a website for the project here.

UPDATE: A number of artists organized the prank, including Rhizome-commissioned artist Steve Lambert, The Yes Men, the Anti-Advertising Agency, CODEPINK, United for Peace and Justice, Not An Alternative, May First/People Link, Improv Everywhere, Evil Twin, and Cultures of Resistance.

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Goodbye Bush!

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Today marks a new era for American politics and for international relationships. But before we move forward, I suggest we look back to art produced during the Bush administration. Over the past eight years, media artists have sought to subvert and interrogate the policies and machinations of this administration from a myriad of perspectives. A quick jaunt through Rhizome's Artbase reveals this trajectory. In this post, I selected a few my favorite "Bush-era" projects from the ArtBase in order to situate where we're coming from, but also to remind everyone that democracy is an ongoing project, and that the years to come will require the same degree of engagement.

Note: Projects that are over a year old require a Rhizome Membership to view. For details about our access and membership policies click here. To sign up for an account click here.



ASCII BUSH (2006) by Yoshi Sodeoka


Artist's statement: ASCII BUSH is an ascii video rendition of two State of the Union addresses one delivered by George W. Bush on January 12, 2003 (just before the current Iraqi war); the other by his father, George H.W. Bush, on March 6, 1991 (right after Operation Desert Storm).

The basic goal of this project is to make art from the debris of our culture by recycling these dreadful and painfully long presidential oration. The speeches are not edited—just digitally filtered. And like I said, they are very lengthy. ASCII BUSH is definitely boring enough to be interesting!!!



bushSpeech (2004) by max Min


Artist's statement: at bushSpeech.org you can create a speech for george w. bush. make him say the things you always wanted him to say. as in real life, he just says what others tell him to. now it is your turn. you don ...

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