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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"Epic Net Art: The (Pre)Coda" on Rhizome Discussion

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Check Rhizome's Discussion section for a new thread "Epic Net Art: The (Pre)Coda" regarding the idea of the "epic" in net art (and its significance for time and ephemerality). A follow up to the previous thread "epic net art" from last year, Ed Halter cites excerpts from the "21 Distinctive Qualities of Net.Art" outlined by David Ross in a lecture from 1999 as an example of an earlier discussion which also posited an opposition between epic (defined by long duration) and poetic (defined by brevity). The logic of this division as well as the basis for these definitions are discussed/questioned within the span of the thread.

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Picture Stories

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Image: Kristin Lucas, Travel Advisory, 2007

This year's Artefact festival is organized around the notion that "images inevitably show and hide at the same time." Given the theme of "Behind the Image/ The Image Behind," the fest will feature the usual assemblage of great performances, panels, lectures, and installations. From the 10th through the 15th of February, Leuven's STUK Museum will be headquarters for deep discussion of the semiotics of digital images, the cultural snapshots that looking at code provides, and the patterns by which both are circulated. These form vs. content questions are part of the event's goal of "covering and uncovering media," as a means of exploring the nuances of contemporary digital visual culture, and the politics of representation and sharing in this realm. The lineup of speakers attests to a continuum of modification practices ranging from secret messages encoded in images to remixing other people's images, and the organizers hint explicitly at the connection between these transitional forms of textuality and the ideological transitions in representational strategies that coincide with technological development. That's right--this is a no fluff conference! Smart practitioners Taryn Simon, Ines Schaber, Harun Farocki, Pia Linz, Kristin Lucas, Peter Weibel, and ShiftSpace will be among those present to crack into these deep discussions. Not to worry, the evening programs are full of fun events to stimulate your eyes and ears after days of thinktankery. - Marisa Olson

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Minima Moralia (2004) - Brian Joseph Davis

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1. They, The People [listen]

2. This Side of the Pleasure Principle [listen]

3. Johnny-Head-In-The-Air [listen]

4. Every Work of Art Is an Uncommitted Crime [listen]

It's just a bad idea, and it began when I was mentioning to a friend about how funny it is that all those old anti capitalist punk albums with the "PAY NO MORE THAN $3" warnings can now be Ebay-ed for a $100. For some reason, we then both thought of Greil Marcus's book Lipstick Traces. How he made a glib aside about Marxist theorist Theodore Adorno and his exhiled-in-1940s-America memoir, Minima Moralia. With its bleaker-than-black humour and dismantling of modern life, Marcus said it would have made an excellent punk album. Why not take this pop wish and make it come true?

-- FROM THE ARTIST'S STATEMENT

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"Persuasive Games: The Proceduralist Style" on Gamasutra

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Persuasive Games: The Proceduralist Style by Ian Bogost

Ian Bogost describes what he sees as "proceduralist style" in the "art games" of Jason Rohrer, Jonathan Blow, and Rod Humble in his article "Persuasive Games: The Proceduralist Style" on Gamasutra. Bogost defines the "proceduralist" genre, typified by the work of these particular designers, by their contemplative mode, minimalist design, and conceptually driven structure. In the conclusion, Bogost emphasizes that these characteristics emerged in response to the direction of more mainstream games. What follows is a short excerpt from that section, which I found particularly interesting, but the article is worth reading in its entirety. The comments are worth checking out as well, as readers not only parse Bogost's argument but also grapple with the stigma surrounding art criticism (which appears to be more pronounced within this context).

In artgames of the sort in question, the procedural rhetoric does not argue a position, but rather characterizes an idea. These games say something about how an experience of the world works, how it feels to experience or to be subjected to some sort of situation: marriage, mortality, regret, confusion, whatever.

As a style, proceduralism takes a stand contrary to conventional wisdom in game design. At a time when video games focus on the realistic simulation of experiences, proceduralism offers metaphorical treatments of ideas.

At a time when video games focus on player gratification, proceduralism invites player introspection. At a time when video games focus on facilitating user creativity, proceduralism lays bare the subjective truth of an individual creator.

Whether or not the style has a stable future in its own right, it issues a specific challenge to our conception of our medium from within. And that if nothing else is most certainly a feature of art.

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Use Your Illusion

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Damon Zucconi, Towards Equillibrium, 2007

Damon Zucconi is a New York-based artist active in the "pro surfer" scene, having participated in both Supercentral and Nasty Nets, but his solo work is more clean-style than his dirt-style counterparts and might more easily be compared to Berlin-based artists AIDS-3D. All are part of a younger generation of artists who came of age with new media and have arrived at a particular fulcrum with respect to both celebrating the utopianism of technology and critiquing its dystopian failures. Next week, Zucconi's first solo show will open at Prato, Italy's Project Gentili gallery. Entitled "Presented as the Problem," the show is organized around the principles of diagnoses and prescriptions and draws on the distinction between treating symptoms versus underlying problems. The artist's approach is thus a rather tactical one, looking for the root impetus for cultural artifacts while also observing the cycles of recursion that swirl around the repetition of pop objects and scenarios. The show includes sculpture, video, and prints that seek to augment "classical dialectics of seeing and believing with eight meditations on contemporary visual culture." According to the gallery, "Each of the works finds temporary equilibrium between the poles of mystification and demystification--image as illusion and illusion as material fact." These works include the mysteriously titled / \ \ / which is a square mirror hung like a diamond with a Blade Runner: Final Cut poster wrapped around it from the back like an origami throwing star, and the eponymous centerpiece, "Presents Itself as the Problem," which is a novelty persistence of vision alarm clock whose digital readout displays only the message "I Want To Believe." X-Files viewers will appreciate this famous message of hope. Zucconi will also show a new video animation, Untitled (SONY, Lateral) which flips the axis on his earlier ...

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Raqs Media Collective at the New Museum's Night School

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Image: Raqs Media Collective, There Has Been a Change of Plan, 2006

Tonight at 7 p.m. the Dehli-based Raqs Media Collective will begin a three-day run of programs at the New Museum, as part of the Night School series of public seminars. Raqs has been embraced by the art world, although, as the ambiguity of the group's name suggests, the scope of its projects extend to a larger audience. Monica Narula, Jeebesh Bagchi, and Shuddhabrata Sengupta joined forces in 1992, after they completed their studies in Mass Communications in Delhi, and, at the time, had planned a collective career in independent cinema. But their work in documentary filmmaking and public broadcasting, coupled with their fascination with the nascent internet, drew them to issues related to the production and dissemination of information. Today, they continue to address those "rarely asked questions," to use the phrase the group has half-jokingly suggested its name is an abbreviation for.

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Image: Raqs Media Collective, OPUS [ Open Platform for Unlimited Signification]

Raqs's projects tend to take the form of open-ended, open-sourced networks. OPUS, or Open Platform for Unlimited Signification, is an online database of artist-submitted artworks. Conceived in the spirit of open-source software development, Raqs's online digital commons encourage sharing, collaborating, and appropriation. The collective's commitment to free culture continues in The Sarai Programme at Delhi's Centre for the Study of Developing Societies. The Sarai network of artists and scholars produce vast amounts of research and other forms of cultural knowledge, all of which is placed in the public domain.

The collective has also expressed its sensibility through a resistance to restrictions and hierarchies in their installations, performances, and theoretical writings. A recent essay in the inaugural issue of e-flux's Journal takes several fresh and surprising approaches to make ...

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24-Hour Smarty People

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As promised, I attended last week's "24-Hour Program on the Concept of Time" at the Guggenheim and wrote the following report, which attempts to convey both the variety of approaches participants took to the symposium's broad topic as well as the experience of being present and alert for the full duration, with just a break for breakfast and a few power naps.

The HUO-year is a unit of time invented by art critic Jennifer Allen to measure how far in the future a name will be remembered. You get one year for each project, two for an exhibition, seven for an interview, etc. HUO expands to Hans Ulrich Obrist, the curator whose intellectual hyperactivity inspired Allen to write a wry essay predicting that Obrist's omnipresence in the present will guarantee him more future name-recognition than John Cage, even as a performance of the latter's ORGAN2/ASLSP (As Slow As Possible) continues to hum through the year 2639. Obrist racked up a few dozen more HUO-years at the "24-Hour Program on the Concept of Time," as did the event's organizer, Guggenheim chief curator Nancy Spector. With an eye to the future, the entire Program was recorded, and at this moment the Guggenheim's curatorial staff is surely working to label, transcribe, and catalogue those videos for posterity. In the meantime, here's an elliptical and incomplete summary.

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Image: Excerpt from a visual representation of Ronald Mallett's Time Travel Theory

The symposium began with a talk by philosopher Ted Sider, who gave a lucid description of the theory of static time, which proposes that entities are permanently present at points in space but are only visible to us at certain points in time. Next was Joshua Viertel, president of Slow Foods USA, an earnest nonprofit administrator ...

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Setting the Tome

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In the early seventies Gerald O'Grady, a professor of English Literature at the State University of New York in Buffalo, was asked to become director of the euphemistically titled "Educational Communications Center." The division was to provide technical support for the entire campus. Sensing a thankless administrative appointment he agreed, but only if he could simultaneously create and direct a department dedicated to the study of emerging media, one that would provide artists and filmmakers access to these technologies and a theoretical basis from which to explore it fully. Thus, the Center for Media Studies (MediaStudy/Buffalo) was formed. Groundbreaking in its scope and focus, the faculty included filmmakers Hollis Frampton, Tony Conrad, Paul Sharits, and James Blue, video artists Steina and Woody Vasulka, and Peter Weibel. The book Buffalo Heads: Media Study, Media Practice, Media Pioneers, 1973-1990, edited by Woody Vasulka and Peter Weibel, thoroughly documents the people and activities that were a part of this highly influential center. Part exhibition catalog (a similarly titled exhibition "Mind Frames: Media Study at Buffalo 1973-1990" was mounted at ZKM in 2007), part catalog raisonné, and part coffee table book, and coming in at 837 pages and almost 10 lbs, it could be called the definitive text on this place and period.

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e-flux's Journal #1

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Writing in 1964, philosopher Herbert Marcuse in his seminal text One-Dimensional Man describes the complacency of individuals within advanced industrial societies as a result of an identification with the conditions imposed, where the seduction of consumerism yields a one-dimensional thinking.

Fast forward to 2008, and Marcuse's One-Dimensional Man is still with us. The new issue of e-flux's online publication Journal takes up this topic by asking, "When political power begins to look less like a tank and more like your best friend, where do you look to locate the sources of its authority, and how do you articulate new, flexible modes of resistance?" Perhaps the most interesting ruminations in Journal come from Eastern European case studies, such as design firm Metahaven's discussion of the implications of branding nation states which begins with a description of a consulting visit with the Estonian government and in the interview with curator and art historian Inke Arns where she goes over the practice of "subversive affirmation," a mimetic exaggeration which denounces an activity by performing it to its ultimate limit, within Eastern European conceptual art practice.

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