Required Reading

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Joep van Liefland, Video Palace # 23 - Hollywood was Yesterday, 2007

Many artists proffer a seemingly legitimate reason for being anxious about viewing copies: their works are supposed to be seen under very specific conditions in a gallery space. While this desire for “proper” installation complies with the art world’s mystificatory economy of exclusivity, which still uses as its ultimate model the unique cult image in its sacred precinct, it is of course understandable that artists would want their work to be seen under the right conditions. However, it is a mistake to think that these must be the only conditions under which a work can ever be seen. In an age in which everyone is used to seeing moving images in incredibly degraded forms online, viewers have a great capacity for “correcting” these conditions in their mind, for imagining the “proper” presentation. Seeing shaky illegal copy of the latest blockbuster on a laptop does not really damage the film; if anything, knowing that it must be so much better when seen under optimal conditions can only increase its aura.

The dialectic of de- and re-auratization is thus rather more complex than Benjamin allowed. As tempting as it may be to try to match the fervor with which he posited “right” and “wrong” ways of dealing with film—allowing it to unfold or curtailing its ontological promise, respectively—there is no reason to assume that the near future will bring us anything other than a hybrid culture in which cult value and exhibition value develop in an increasingly complex interplay. A culture, in other words, that resembles the present, but not without a little difference that is worth fighting for: an emancipation of the viewing copy, resulting in a different distribution circuit alongside that of limited editions. In such an ...

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The Open Book

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Last year, Turbulence.org partnered with NewMediaFix, Telic Arts Exchange, and Freewaves to create an online book on interactive and participatory art titled "Networked." The organizers felt writing on this type of art work necessitated a forum that itself was open and interactive, thus they set out to design a site for the publication that would be as dynamic as the work discussed. The "Networked" site, built by Matthew Belanger, is now open for comments, revisions, and translations. Click the below for essays by Kazys Varnelis, Anne Helmond, Jason Freeman, Anna Munster, and Patrick Lichty.

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Printed Pages

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Image: Scan of e-flux journal ad in Afterall

From its beginnings ten years ago, e-flux has been an unconventional media model, one that aggregates and distributes announcements for contemporary art exhibitions and events for a fee and uses its profits to fund artist-directed projects. Last November e-flux introduced an online journal with essays by artists and critics. The advertisement-free publication filled a position similar to that of ads in magazines—an appendage that subscribers to the e-flux brand may or may not find useful. To increase the journal’s autonomy from the announcement service—and also to get it off the internet, which is not a favorable environment for long and complex theoretical essays—e-flux announced its plans for a “print-on-demand” feature in February (noted on Rhizome). To get the word out about this new service, e-flux put excerpts of essays from its fourth issue in the summer issues of Parkett, Artforum, Bidoun, Cabinet, Texte Zur Kunst, Afterall, Flash Art, and Frieze. Besides addressing the obstacles an online journal faces in specialized art media, where print still holds a privileged position, the use of editorial as advertising in e-flux’s summer campaign anticipates the shift that will accompany the launch of their print on-demand service this fall, when the journal’s readers can also become its publishers.

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Between Spaces

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"Beam Me Up" is the ultimate call for oblivion.

From Star Trek's transporter room to the tractor beams of our most fervent UFO nightmares, the very notion of "beaming"—of dematerializing only to reappear somewhere else, somewhere potentially unknown—represents a complete relinquishment of control, as well as a pure acknowledgment of the subjective, relativistic nature of human reality. After all, if you can spontaneously "beam out" of danger, or "beam in" to the frightful recesses of an alien craft, what is there to be said about the here and now? Or the me? To beam is to temporarily cease to exist in space and time, to blink into suspension, and, invariably, to invert the accepted order.

Besides being its namesake, "Beam Me Up" is a very apt starting point for Xcult.org's ongoing global exhibition about space, recently curated by Sarah Cook of CRUMB, the Curatorial Resource for Upstart Media Bliss. "Beam Me Up" takes place online, an alternative space which, perhaps incidentally, is probably the international human headquarters for the entire "beam me up" sentiment—that fervent, and often delusional, reach toward dreams of conspiracy, government mind control, and alien visitation ("I want to believe!").

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Multiple Views

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Artist Dan Graham (born 1942) has embraced a wide range of media and genres including film, video, performance, installation, architecture (he collaborated with Jeff Wall in 1989 to build Children’s Pavilion), women’s magazines (Figurative—made in 1965 and reproduced in Harper’s Bazaar in 1968), and rock music (where he has collaborated with musicians such as Glenn Branca and Sonic Youth). Graham is well known for his documentary Rock My Religion (1982-84), a fifty-two minute video that explores the religious and spiritual tendencies underlying the American obsession with rock music. In the exhibition catalog for Don’t Trust Anyone Over Thirty, Diedrich Diederichsen claims that this video is “one of the most important texts on the theory of rock music.” Rock My Religion, as well as many other of these interdisciplinary projects are included in Graham’s current solo show, Dan Graham: Beyond, at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City.

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Required Reading

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Image: Unprojectable: Projection and Perspective (2008), performance documentation, Tate Modern, London

"DG: So just to clarify, you and John Cale took the side of contingency, materialism, and cultural and historical specificity, and La Monte Young and his supporters took the side of permanence, ‘the eternal’ and that which transcends culture and history.

TC: Right. Which led me to become engaged in a reflection on the intersection between idealism in Western philosophical thought and in Western cultural tradition on the one hand, and on the other hand power relations - since our controversy was largely lodged in the context of a legalistic formulation. What about our Greek roots? What about Pythagoras? What about theories of music that had to do with numerology? This ensnared me in a set of concerns around the text of history. To answer your question more directly, the substratum of my current interests, and those that have held my attention most over the last few decades, has to do with the way in which the historical record can become the narrative. On the sound side, this process was really rich, and it branched out. I began to tell myself odd things, like modern physics had been generated as a branch of music. The power conditions in the Western orchestra had their roots in the same conditions as modern state bureaucracies and military drill practices. This gives rise to an analysis of how power is transacted that is not inconsistent with Foucault’s theories, but culturally modulated in a different way."

-- EXCERPT FROM INTERVIEW IN FRIEZE MAGAZINE, JUNE/AUGUST 2009

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Wired Misses the Marx

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Can behavior in space as large and diverse as the internet be assigned an ideological marker? Kevin Kelly tries to do that in "The New Socialism," an article in the June issue of Wired. The premise is that the widespread use of technology that harnesses communal activity—whether on Wikipedia, Reddit, or Yahoo! Groups—heralds a major shift in the way people think. To define what he sees as a new phenomenon, Kelly repurposes an old word, “socialism,” a choice that deliberately spites both twentieth-century U.S. propaganda and Marxist philosophy.

The resulting essay brims with missteps, fallacies, and self-contradictions. Kelly lists Google among his examples of a place where “digital socialism” flourishes, but “The Secrets of Googlenomics," an article that shares tease space with Kelly’s piece on the cover, gives a detailed description of how the company operates as a fast-paced auction house. Another example of communal activity is that “tagged snapshots of the same scene from different angles can be assembled into a stunning 3-D rendering of the location”—which, interestingly, echoes Russian critic Ekaterina Degot’s theory that Soviet public spaces and events were constructed so as to be impossible to view in full from an individual vantage point—but Kelly gives Microsoft’s Photosynth as an example of a program that enables this, even after kicking the piece off with a quote from Bill Gates casting Microsoft’s founder as the arch-nemesis of leftist action. Open source software is another keystone of Kelly’s argument, but he neglects to mention that many companies use open source as a stage in product development, a low-cost investment in refining a good for later sale. Wikipedia, an example that crops up several times, is a non-profit, but as many critics of the site have noted, the self-appointed editors ...

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Required Reading

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In the past two decades the art project - in lieu of the work of art - has without question moved to centre stage in the art world’s attention. Each art project may presuppose the formulation of a specific aim and of a strategy designed to achieve this aim, but this target is mostly formulated in such a way that we are denied the criteria which would allow us to ascertain whether the project’s aim has or has not been achieved, whether excessive time is required to reach its goal or even if the target as such is intrinsically unattainable. Our attention is thereby shifted away from the production of a work (including a work of art) onto life in the art project; life that is not primarily a productive process, that is not tailored to developing a product, that is not ‘result oriented’. In these terms, art is no longer understood as the production of works of art; but as documentation of life-in-the-project, regardless of the outcome the life in question has or it supposed to have had. This clearly has an effect on the way art is now defined. Nowadays art is no longer manifested as another, new object for contemplation that has been produced by the artist, but as another, heterogeneous time-frame of the art project, which is documented as such.

-- EXCERPT FROM "THE LONELINESS OF THE PROJECT" BY BORIS GROYS

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Media Studies

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This is the first installment of a monthly column by Rhizome's Contributing Editor Marisa Olson. "Media Studies" will explore timely issues within the broader field of technology. Each post will pay specific attention to the relationship between these subjects and artistic practice. For this column, Marisa provides a reading list on the topic of "Experimental Geography". In recent years, access to geographical tools and data collection has expanded rapidly, allowing many artists to rethink their relationship to the earth and geographical study. This column provides a summation of publications relevant to these developments.

Please join us tomorrow for a panel, organized by Marisa, on "Experimental Geography". Beginning at 3pm in the New Museum's theater, Creative Time curator Nato Thompson, who curated an exhibition of the same title for Independent Curators International, will lead a discussion with artists Lize Mogel and Damon Rich. - Ceci Moss

The following is an initial list of readings that might be of interest to anyone researching experimental geography. It includes key theoretical texts on the nature of space, texts on locative media, and works on radical cartography. Many of them cross over into game theory, cyberfeminism, relations between real and virtual spaces, surveillance, tactical media, psychogeography, situationism, sound art, networked cultures, site-specific installation art, and other related sub-themes. It's tempting to sort these into temporal or topical categories, but to do so might be to inappropriately compartmentalize an ongoing discourse that moves in new directions every day.

This is only a starting point. Please feel free to add texts in the comments. Links to related syllabi would also be a great resource!

Janet Abrams and Peter Hall (eds), Else/Where: Mapping -- New Cartographies of Networks and Territories, Univ Minnesota Design Institute, 2006

Saul Albert, "Locative Literacy," Mute, July 12, 2004

Marc Augé, Non-Places ...

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Required Reading

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Image: Boris Groys, Medium Religion [Medium Religion], 2006.
video lecture (color, sound), 25 min., loop. courtesy Boris Groys.

The general consensus of the contemporary mass media is that the return of religion has emerged as the most important factor in global politics and culture today. Now, those who currently refer to a revival of religion clearly do not mean anything like the second coming of the Messiah or the appearance of new gods and prophets. What they are referring to rather is that religious attitudes have moved from culturally marginal zones into the mainstream. If this is the case, and statistics would seem to corroborate the claim, the question then arises as to what may have caused religious attitudes to become mainstream.

The survival and dissemination of opinions on the global information market is regulated by a law formulated by Charles Darwin, namely, the survival of the fittest. Those opinions that best adapt to the conditions under which they are disseminated will, as a matter of course, have the best odds of becoming mainstream. Today’s opinions market, however, is clearly characterized by reproduction, repetition, and tautology. The widespread understanding of contemporary civilization holds that, over the course of the modern age, theology has been replaced by philosophy, an orientation toward the past by an orientation toward the future, traditional teachings by subjective evidence, fidelity to origins by innovation, and so on. In fact, however, the modern age has not been the age in which the sacred has been abolished but rather the age of its dissemination in profane space, its democratization, its globalization. Ritual, repetition, and reproduction were hitherto matters of religion; they were practiced in isolated, sacred places. In the modern age, ritual, repetition, and reproduction have become the fate of the entire world, of the entire culture ...

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