Required Reading

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Euphonia Speaking Machine

Media archaeology is an approach to media studies that has emerged over the last two decades. It borrows from Michel Foucault, Walter Benjamin, and Friedrich Kittler, but also diverges from all of these theorists to form a unique set of tools and practices. Media archaeology is not a school of thought or a specific technique, but is as an emerging attitude and cluster of tactics in contemporary media theory that is characterized by a desire to uncover and circulate repressed or neglected media approaches and technologies. Its handful of proponents -- including Siegfried Zielinski, Wolfgang Ernst, Thomas Elsaesser, and Erkki Huhtamo -- are primarily interested in mobilizing histories and devices that have been sidelined during the construction of totalizing histories of popular forms of communication, including the histories of film, television, and new media. The lost traces of media technologies are deemed important topics to be excavated and studied; "dead" media technologies and idiosyncratic developments reveal important themes, structures, and links in the history of communication that would normally be occluded by more obvious narratives. This includes tracing irregular developments and unconventional genealogies of present-day communication technologies, believing that the most interesting developments often happen in the neglected margins of histories or artifacts.

In 2007, Jussi Parikka published Digital Contagions: A Media Archaeology of Computer Viruses (Peter Lang Publishing, New York). In Digital Contagions, Parikka provides an insightful articulation of media archaeology as a research methodology, which he implements to construct a clear cultural history of computer viruses. Parikka inverts the assumption that computer viruses -- which are semi-autonomous and self-replicating pieces of computer code -- are contrary to contemporary digital culture, instead arguing that computer viruses define the social and material landscape of computer mediated communication. Although computer viruses are often considered as a disease and breakdown within the ecology ...

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Required Reading

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Jane and Louise Wilson, Sealander (2006), production still

In a work such as Martha Rosler’s 1993 video How Do We Know What Home Looks Like?, the decayed and contested architecture of Modernism appears both outdated and up-for-grabs: a fading Utopian inheritance that barely hangs on to its (then routinely disparaged) potential for collective aspiration. Rosler’s intimate exploration of Le Cobusier’s Unité d’Habitation at Firminy-Vert, in south-central France, showed a dilapidated building that had been in part redecorated by its tenants (as per conservative clichés about the impersonality of high-rise living) with aspirantly bourgeois wallpapers and private souvenirs, but still retained a sense of embattled technological community, typified by the radio station installed on its roof. It was, however, among artists who referred, directly or obliquely, to the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Bloc that the theme of ruin flourished in the 1990s and beyond. Tacita Dean’s film Sound Mirrors (1999) broods over the remains of British prewar acoustic early-warning technology that seemed to presage the silos and satellite dishes of the Cold War, while later Berlin-based films such as Fernsehturm (Television Tower, 2001) and Palast (Palace, 2004) more readily reflect on the ageing or half-demolished architecture of the East. That strand of explicitly Ballardian ruin lust has continued, too, in certain works by Jane and Louise Wilson - notably, their treatment of Victor Pasmore’s Apollo Pavilion in the postwar town of Peterlee, UK, in A Free and Anonymous Monument (2003), and their own return to the Atlantic Wall in Sealander (2006) - and in the ambitious project of the Center for Land Use Interpretation to document (among many other types of landscape) the defunct sites and artefacts left behind by the US nuclear weapons and space programmes in the second ...

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Required Reading

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Gijs Gieskes, Eye

I would like to consider a notion that I have felt was intuitively true but have never explored in depth: that the 8-bit or "low-res" aesthetic of much contemporary electronic art can be thought of as a form of digital materialism. By employing the phrase "digital materialism," I draw upon a specific term that has circulated within the sphere of avant-garde filmmaking from the 1970s onward. In this context, materialism describes a sensibility, most explicitly theorized in the writings of London-based filmmaker Peter Gidal, in which the physical materials of film technology are made visible within the work itself, and thereby become decisive components of a reflexively cinematic but predominantly non-narrative experience. Materialism reverses the usual Hollywood practice of hiding the mode of production so as not to disrupt the suspension of disbelief necessary to enter into a staged, fictional world.

-- EXCERPT FROM "THE MATTER OF ELECTRONICS" BY ED HALTER

[Originally published in the catalog for the exhibition PLAYLIST at LABoral in Gijón, Spain curated by Domenico Quaranta, available in pdf form here. Subsequently republished to Vague Terrain above.]

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Putting the capital in decapitation

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Goldin+Senneby, Headless, 2007- (Photo: John Barlow)

As a lead-up to the Headless Conference, co-organizer Ginny Kollak shares her essay “Putting the capital in decapitation” which is excerpted from the brochure accompanying the exhibition “The Office for Parafictional Research Presents Headless: Work by Goldin+Senneby” on view through March 21 at CCS Bard. The Headless Conference is a mini-symposium for this exhibition.

Goldin+Senneby is the identity-resistant “framework for collaboration” established by Stockholm-based artists Simon Goldin and Jakob Senneby in 2004. An interest in capitalist logic and networked culture guides their investigative practice, which explores juridical, financial, and spatial infrastructures through performance and role-playing, invented (and often virtual) realities, writing and publishing, and public interventions.

Headless (2007-) is the artists’ ongoing analysis of the shadowy realm of offshore finance. The subject represents a nearly perfect encapsulation of Goldin+Senneby’s many preoccupations, but perhaps its most relevant feature is its provocative and strategic use of masking, secrecy, and withdrawal. The system is evasive by definition: its procedures allow a company’s assets to be protected from taxation or other bureaucratic regulation, and the identities of its owners and their true business practices can be concealed. In spatial terms, examining an offshore company can be thought of as encountering a space that shifts readily from an impenetrable barrier to an empty void—like a hologram, it appears and disappears according to the perspective from which it is viewed. From a moral standpoint, offshore’s slippery visage is just as apt to inspire bored yawns as righteous indignation: one man’s exploitation is another’s tedious paperwork. Still, like most unknown territories, offshore triggers mainly sinister readings. A more anthropomorphic understanding might conceive the offshore company as something monstrous—a decentralized, elusive body that moves without any visible means of control—a ...

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Required Listening

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The Women's Audio Archive began as a series of recordings, taped by Lewandowska after leaving her home country in 1984, grown out of an interest in language as a site of cultural displacement. These recordings document public events, seminars, talks, conferences, and private conversations as valuable records of a particular time in discourse, beginning around 1983 until 1990. Lewandowska denotes this period of time as one dominated by academics and artists close to October magazine and by feminist gatherings, including the participating of Judy Chicago, Mary Kelly, Barbara Kruger, Yvonne Rainer, Jo Spences, Nancy Spero, Jane Weinstock, etc. In a variety of settings and institutions, as well as in private, the recordings also document talks by artists and academics such as Benjamin Buchloh, Victor Burgin, John Cage, Allan Kaprow, Tom Lawson, Les Levine, Peter Wollen, etc.

The act of sound recording began as a way to address the possibilities, as an artist and in everyday life, within a new, unfamiliar environment - through observation in gathering knowledge and participation in developing relationships. Having been educated and raised in a totalitarian state and under a Communist regime, the artist maintains a sensitivity to the power of representation, to the original and manipulation of images, thereby influencing her perception of how history is constructed, who keeps the documents, and who has access to public broadcast. Moreover, the emphasis on sound, away from the image, is a conscious decision by the artist to undermine the primacy of visuality.

In establishing the Women's Audio Archive, Lewandowska seeks to create a collection and a site that would act as a meeting point where the recording conversations would participate in developing a history of women in the media-visual tradition that by its ephemeral nature can easily be forgotten. The Archive, with its attention to sound ...

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Required Reading

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Gene McHugh, Rhizome's former Editorial Fellow and a periodic contributor to the site, received the Creative Capital | Andy Warhol Foundation Arts’ Writers Grant earlier this year and has used these funds to begin the "Post Internet" blog. His project aims to build a space to reflect on "...art responding to an existential condition that may also be described as 'Post Internet'-when the Internet is less a novelty and more a banality. Perhaps this is closer to what Guthrie Lonergan described as 'Internet Aware'-a term that I’m sure I will be thinking through here sooner or later." The blog is essentially a bare-bones workspace for his loose, often train-of-thought musings on contemporary internet-based art, and covers everything from Google's Parisian Love ad to Seth Price.

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Link Round-Up

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This clip of protesters in Bil'in, Palestine dressed as Na'vi from James Cameron's Avatar circulated widely across the internet this week, and that, paired with the recent announcement that Avatar is nominated for 9 Oscars, made me feel that it was about time to present a round-up of the more thoughtful articles I've collected on Avatar. Feel free to post links in the comments section - I'm hoping this post can become a resource for those who might be interested in additional reading concerning the film.



► "Avatar and Invisible Republic" by Rob Horning [From PopMatters]

Excerpt:

By coincidence, I began reading Greil Marcus’s Invisible Republic, which in part is about the demise of the 1960s folk movement and Bob Dylan’s role in destroying it after having come to exemplify it. The folkies, in Marcus’s depiction, had the same patronizing attitude toward Appalachian poverty and civil-rights injustices (the Other America, as Michael Harrington dubbed it) that the makers of Avatar seem to evince about colonization. Capitalism sullied and exploited the pure rural people, as clear-headed bourgeois liberals can best recognize. To adherents, folk music (and Avatar) offers us glimpses of pre-capitalist America, a “democratic oasis unsullied by commerce or greed” in which art seems “the product of no ego but of the inherent genius of a people.” The Avatar planet is such a product, for the race occupying it and the film-industry execs who made it.

The substance of this fantasy about indigenous people at harmony with their appropriate environment is the denial of individual subjectivity (the overriding value of the folk revival, according to Marcus), which is rendered unnecessary and impossible. Everyone is at one and merged with one another. Just look at the blue people in the movie sway to the unsounded ...

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Interview with Temporary Services

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Copies of "Art Work: A National Conversation About Art, Labor, and Politics"

Independent, Chicago-based collective Temporary Services, comprised of Brett Bloom, Salem Collo-Julin and Marc Fischer, have been producing exhibitions, events, projects, and publications since 1998. More recently, they published the newspaper and website “Art Work: A National Conversation About Art, Labor, and Politics” which assembles writing by artists, activists and academics about the economic decline and its influence on the livelihood of artists. (I previously posted one article to Rhizome from this collection, "Art Versus Work" by Julia Bryan-Wilson.) I had the opportunity to interview Temporary Services over e-mail, and they answered my questions as a group via Google docs. - Jenny Jaskey

This post is the concluding article in a series on art production and economy. To read the other articles in this series, go here for an interview with Caroline Woolard of OurGoods and here for an interview with Jeff Hnilicka of FEAST.

How did Temporary Services begin?

TS: We began in 1998 as a storefront space that presented experimental art projects and exhibitions. In late 1999 there were several people collaborating in and around Temporary Services. We decided to form a group. Since that time, the group has fluctuated in membership to arrive at the current configuration of Brett Bloom, Salem Collo-Julin and Marc Fischer, which has been stable since 2002.

Your most recent project is a paper and accompanying website, "Art Work: A National Conversation about Art, Labor, and Economics." What led to its development?

TS: We were invited by Christopher Lynn, the director of SPACES Gallery in Cleveland, to organize an exhibition. SPACES is an important art organization that has its origins in the nationwide alternative art spaces infrastructure built in the 1970s, and funded in part by a more adventurous National Endowment for the ...

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BarthesByBarthesByBart (2010) - Michael David Murphy

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Steve Goodman's "Sonic Warfare: Sound, Affect and the Ecology of Fear"

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In Krystof Wodiczko's striking installation Out of Here: The Veterans Project, currently on view at the ICA in Boston, choppers roar overhead. People scream in the distance. Glass breaks and shatters on the floor. The viewer can see almost nothing; the large room is dark, except for a few windows high above, created by a row of video projections. The view from these windows is obscured; the piece is as much about what you can't see than what you do see. But even more importantly, the piece is about what you hear--and what you can't hear. The chants of an imam become the sounds of women wailing. Gunshots begin to fire sporadically. Military officers yell harsh commands. The rumble of bass—a swarm of Humvees in the distance, drawing closer—gets louder and more threatening. The longer you stay in the room, immersed in the increasing racket, the more palpable the sense of dread becomes. The harrowing sounds of war are not simply about the sounds themselves, but the spaces in between.

In the intriguing new book Sonic Warfare: Sound, Affect, and the Ecology of Fear [MIT Press], Steve Goodman explores the power of sound as a tactic of irritation, intimidation, or even permanent harm. Goodman analyzes "environments, or ecologies, in which sound contributes to an immersive atmosphere or ambience of fear and dread--where sound helps produce a bad vibe."

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