Required Reading

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This rich pamphlet grew out of The Internet as Playground and Factory, a conference organized at The New School and held in November 2009. In this seventh pamphlet in the Situated Technologies Pamphlets Series, Trebor Scholz and Laura Y. Liu reflect on the relationship between labor and technology in urban space, where communication, attention, and physical movement generate financial value for a small number of private stakeholders. Online and off, Internet users are increasingly wielded as a resource for economic amelioration, for private capture, and the channels of communication are becoming increasingly inscrutable. The Internet has become a simple-to-join, anyone-can-play system where the sites and practices of work and play, as well as production and reproduction, are increasingly unnoticeable.

Norbert Wiener warned that the role of new technology under capitalism would intensify the exploitation of workers. For Michel Foucault, institutions used technologies of power to control individual bodies. In her essay “Free Labor” (1999), Tiziana Terranova described what constitutes “voluntarily given, unwaged, enjoyed and exploited, free labor on the Net.” Along these lines, Liu and Scholz ask: How does the intertwining of labor and play complicate our understanding of exploitation and “the urban”?

This pamphlet aims to understand “the urban” through the lens of digital and not-digital work in terms of those less visible sites and forms of work such as homework, care work, interactivity on social networking sites, life energy spent contributing to corporate crowd sourcing projects, and other unpaid work. While we are discussing the shift of labor markets to the Internet, the authors contend that traditional sweatshop economies continue to structure the urban environment.

The pages of this pamphlet unfold between a film still from Alex Rivera’s Sleep Dealer on the front cover and an image by Lewis Hine on the back. Set in the near ...

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Different Strokes: A Report from Abandon Normal Devices 2010

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The latest edition of Abandon Normal Devices (AND) Festival has jumped across the Northwest UK from Liverpool, where it debuted last year to Manchester. In its second major urban manifestation, after a small rural retreat in the Peak District, the festival followed its previous format and presented exhibitions, performances, cinema screening, talks and workshops across cultural venues in the city. Seeking to agitate, AND’s theme of questioning normality in various forms was represented in Manchester with a focus on identity.

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Muhheakantuck - Everything has a Name (2003) - Matthew Buckingham

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Continuous color 16mm film projection with sound, projection screen, seats,
40 minutes, dimensions variable

Creative Time presents Matthew Buckingham’s film Muhheakantuck - Everything has a Name with free screenings aboard a New York Water Taxi, navigating the river from Christopher Street to the film’s endpoint at the Statue of Liberty, and back. The 40-minute-long film features a single continuous shot from a helicopter as it traveled above the Hudson River. The film is accompanied by a narration by the artist meditating on the region’s turbulent history, and asks the question, “What role does social memory play in defining the present moment?” ...

Buckingham’s film explores the social and political impact of the relatively brief but violent period of contact between Dutch colonists and the Lower Hudson River Valley’s indigenous Lenape people. By examining how maps are constructed, how places are named (and thereby owned), and what stories are left silent, the film exposes the consequences of Henry Hudson’s journey. Buckingham's narrative reminds us that “The river that became known as the Hudson was not discovered—it was invented and re-invented.”

The film describes how differences between the languages of the Lenape and colonists were integral to how each group experienced concepts of place, but that for all people, maps and other abstractions of place are like histories: condensed versions that contain only shades of truth.

Passengers will board a NY Water Taxi on Manhattan’s West Side at Pier 45. The screenings will take place in the early evening, when the light is low yet still present, allowing viewers to see the river from the windows of the boat—linking the present with the historical narrative of the film.

-- FROM THE PRESS RELEASE FOR THE PRESENTATION OF "MUHHEAKANTUCK - EVERYTHING HAS A NAME" BY CREATIVE TIME ...

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Required Reading

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Ive's designs for the iPod and the iPhone are network culture's icons, much as the Model T Ford or the Boeing 707 were icons of their time. Just as the earlier machines produced mobility, so do ours: mobile, networked technology allows most members of developed societies to compress space in a way reserved until recently for the media, government, and élite. In so doing opened it opens up a new phenomenological space.

Mobile technologies allow us to disconnect from the world around us so that we may instead connect with individuals at a distance or, alternatively, with software agents residing either in our mobile devices or in the networked cloud (as data speeds rise, the difference between local and remote applications and data is becoming unclear). Although sometimes this disconnect with our surroundings is a matter of lament, more frequently it is a deliberate choice, a way to fill something we lack in space that surrounds us. If sometimes we use such technologies to augment immediate space-looking up the address of a destination on a map, calling a friend to triangulate a meeting place while in route-more often we employ them to distance ourselves-reading and writing e-mail, updating a social media site, immersing ourselves in a soundtrack of our own choosing with portable music players.

Introduced in October 2001, the iPod was a runaway success worldwide. That it succeeded even though it was released just a month after the 9/11 attacks to a generally depressed consumer mood and a dismal economy points to its significance. By allowing individuals to paint the world with an emotional soundscape, it allows them to subject it to their control, making it familiar through the recognizable sounds it reproduces. Technology, it seems, could overcome alienation.

Just as financialization is a mutation in ...

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Videos from Art History of Games Symposium

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From video game writer and critic Ian Bogost's blog come two videos from last Spring's Art History of Games conference at Georgia Tech. Bogost co-organized this interdisciplinary symposium that explored games as an art form. In the first clip, Frank Lantz champions the unique aesthetics of games and their defiance of other artistic categories in his talk "Doorknobs and Butterflies: Games After Art." In the second, Brenda Brathwaite discusses her use of game mechanics in elaborating tragedy and her newest work One Falls for Each of Us. All of the talks from the event are now currently online.



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Required Reading

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Is it still necessary to define art by intent and context? The gallery world would have us believe this to be the case, but the internet tells a more mutable story. Contrary to the long held belief that art needs intent and context, I suggest that if we look outside of galleries, we’ll find the actions, events and people that create contemporary art with or without the art world’s label.

Over the past 20 years, the theory Relational Aesthetics (referred to in this essay as RA) has interpreted social exchanges as an art form. Founding theoretician Nicholas Bourriaud describes this development as “a set of artistic practices that take as their theoretical and practical point of departure the whole of human relations and their social context”[1]. In reality, art erroneously known to typify RA’s theorization hasn’t strayed far from the model of the 1960’s Happening, an event beholden to the conventions of the gallery and the direction of its individual creator. In her essay Antagonism and Relational Aesthetics, Claire Bishop describes Rikrit Tiravanija’s dinners as events circumscribed in advance, using their location as a crutch to differentiate the otherwise ordinary action of eating a meal as art[2]. A better example of the theory of RA succinctly put into action can be seen in anonymous group activities on the internet, where people form relations and meaning without hierarchy.

Started in 2003, 4Chan.org is one such site, and host to 50 image posting message boards, (though one board in particular, simply titled ‘/b/’, is responsible for originating many of the memes we use to burn our free time.) The site’s 700,000 daily users post and comment in complete anonymity; a bathroom-stall culture generating posts that alternate between comedic brilliance, virulent hate ...

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Black Hole of Vision: On Rune Peitersen's Saccadic Sightings

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If our eyes were to be turned into a camera, it would be a rather poor device. More precisely, it would not resemble a single-frame snapshot camera, but a video stream of a mostly blurred visual field with only spots of clarity. Our eyes move rapidly and continuously update the image in the brain, and it has been concluded that the brain, resembling a high-tech processor, cleans up the received input. Paradoxically, one of the functions of photography is to remind us of the impossibility of our eyes to perceive reality as a still image - as the saccadic scanning of our eyes show, there is nothing fixed or stable in nature. Matter is always in flux.

In his artistic practice, Rune Peitersen explores precisely this aspect of the visual apparatus through a research project he started two years ago. This summer, he presented the most recent series of his results in Ellen de Bruijne Projects in Amsterdam, in a show entitled “Saccadic Sightings: Einstein and Bohr.” In a secluded room, one was able to indulge in the three main elements of the show: a short text on Einstein and Bohr, Observing Uncertainty - an enigmatic large photograph of a hallucinatory scene covered with a map of small printed squares, accompanied by Observer Effect - a series of smaller black photographs with dots of visual clarity representing each of the square from the large photograph.

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Interview with Zach Blas

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Zach Blas is an artist and writer working at the intersections of networked media, queerness, and politics. His work includes video, sculpture, installation, and design, among other things. He is also a PhD Student in the Program in Literature at Duke University, and writes extensively on the question of art, activism, and sexuality. Zach and I discussed the question of a queer technology and just what queer theory might contribute to the fields of art and technology.

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In-Game Chat with Jason Rohrer from Bad At Sports

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Another great interview by Nicholas O'Brien for Chicago-based contemporary art blog Bad At Sports! In this clip, O'Brien speaks with game designer and artist Jason Rohrer. For this series of interviews, O'Brien captures media artists within the medium in which they work - whether it be Second Life, Video, or in the case of the above, Rohrer's game, Sleep Is Death. Rohrer was a panelist for the Rhizome New Silent Series event on indie gaming "Next Level" a few years ago, if you want to watch a video of that talk as an addendum to this interview, go here.

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Required Reading

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The Nam June Paik Center is dedicated to the artistic and intellectual legacy of Nam June Paik, the renowned Korean-born artist who transformed visual art worldwide. In addition to its function as an exhibition space, the Nam June Paik Art Center developed a new publication, NJP Reader. The aim of the NJP Reader is to recontextualize Nam June Paik’s artistic thought and his ‘random access’ strategies in a topical discursive practice. Leading questions are: What is the meaning of Nam June Paik’s multi-medial experiments, performances, and sculpture for our current artistic practice and discourse? What new dimensions for re-imagining notions of technology, ubiquity, and human experience do Nam June Paik’s thinking and practice suggest? How does his practice potentiate paradigm shifts in broader understandings of the potentialities and characteristics of alternative processes of participation afforded by the introduction of media technology into artistic practice?

Obviously, Nam June Paik’s work requires a conceptual framework that goes beyond an art historical narrative. Therefore, for Issue #1, NJP Reader conducts an inquiry into the novel concept of artistic anthropology in art discourse as an invitation to produce new conceptual systems. The NJP Reader intends to be an open platform for generating novel ideas, connections and concepts (this intention is also reflected in choosing to use Nam June Paik’s initials for its title, rather than his full name). To this aim, the first edition of the NJP Reader is based on a questionnaire that as many artists and intellectuals as possible were invited to contribute responses to. Through this conceptual inquiry the NJP Reader hopes to help in creating novel lines of thought and conceptual schemes. For the questionnaire three questions were formulated:

1. Artistic anthropology intends to produce novel models of relationality and connectivity. Could - Nam June Paik ...

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