Take Two

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Given that you're reading this article on a blog (a blog that addresses technology, in fact!), you are quite likely familiar not only with the phrase "Web 2.0," but moreover the concept of beta versions. The latter are ideas or applications that are the result of extensive research and yet manage to live an active life despite being defined by their own self-admission of imperfection. The Centre Pour L'Image Contemporaine in Sant-Gervais Geneve has made "Beta" the theme of their 2008 Version Biennial. The show consistently surveys contemporary work in emergent media, but this year's exhibition and related public programs investigate the state of new media art from a perspective of transition. Their position is that the field's been around long enough to have established some standard operating procedures, but there is a question as to where it's headed. More than anything, their question is that of the state of the new media artist. Is she an inventor? Someone for whom the tools are secondary to or primary to their work? Or someone who places technology first or second in their creative practices? In the case of the Centre, their effort is even to expand what we might consider art, by looking at the artfulness with which media and tech skills are applied in different social scenarios. A series of workshops, screenings, performances, and public forums will augment the installed exhibition and seek to flesh-out preconceived notions about issues like real-time communication, disembodiment, virtuality, mobility, and reproducibility that once seemed inherent to new media and yet may now be in need of updating. Meanwhile, the Centre is presenting important works by Vaibhav Bhawsar, Bureau d'études, Coldcenter, John Klima, Golan Levin, Julie Morel, Esther Polak, Andrea Polli, Tania Ruiz, Mizuki Watanabe, and many others ...

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"The Expanding Medium: The Future of Computer Art" by Herbert W. Franke

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Herbert Franke (1927, de): Lichtformen, 1953-55

"The use of computers in art leads to a compatibility of the instrumentarium - to a closer link between the different art forms which, owing to the different classical methods and instruments, have been separated and taught in different institutions. It is one of the decisive aspects of the new situation brought about by the introduction of the computer that there is no longer a reason for dividing art into different forms, be they classical or modern."

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In this 1987 text, originally published in Leonardo, scientist and artist Herbert Franke optimistically envisions the potential significance of computer art on perspective and interdisciplinary practice.

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e-flux launch Journal

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Over the weekend, forward-thinking contemporary art information distribution service e-flux released the inaugural issue of Journal, a new online publication dedicated to art criticism. The introduction, written by editors Julieta Aranda, Brian Kuan Wood, and Anton Vidokle, asks why many "have nearly stopped reading art magazines." The obvious answer is that the web has surpassed print, but the authors here cite "the current climate of disciplinary reconfiguration and geographic dispersal." With Journal, the editors hope to draw on the historical importance of art publications as a forum, and revitalize the practice by translating what was initially a printed object to the web. Issue #0 includes thematic articles and experimental writing by Raqs Media Collective, Omer Fast, Boris Groys, Bilal Khbeiz, Sebastjan Leban, Marjetica Potrc, Irit Rogoff, and Pelin Tan.

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Paul Virilio on the Financial Crisis

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Image: Josephine Meckseper, Bankrupt, 2008.

Last week Le Monde published an interview with philosopher Paul Virilio, conducted by Gérard Courtois and Michel Guerrin, where he discusses his viewpoints on the recent global financial crisis within the greater framework of his theories concerning speed, technological progress, and accidents. A translation of this interview is now available in English. See below for a few excerpts.

For thirty years now, the phenomenon of History accelerating has been negated, together with the fact that this acceleration has been the prime cause of the proliferation of major accidents. Freud said it, speaking of death: "accumulation snuffs out the perception of contingency". Contingency is the key word here. These accidents are not contingent occurrences. For the time being, the prevalent opinion is that researching the crash of the stock exchange as a political and economic issue and in terms of its social consequences is adequate enough. But it is impossible to understand what is going on if one does not implement a (policy based on the) political economy of speed, the speed that technological progress engenders, and if one does not link (this policy) to the 'accidental' character of History...

Let's take just one example: the dictum "time is money". I add to this, and the stock exchange testify to it: "speed is power". We have moved from the stage of the acceleration of History to that of the acceleration of the Real. This is what 'the progress' is: a consensual sacrifice.

The crash is not the Black Death, there haven't been millions of victims, and it's not the 11th of September either. We are not talking death here, save maybe a few suicides. The victims are somewhere else to be found.

Where did the current crisis stem from? the answer is: subprime ...

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Saddle-Stitched

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Way back before most people had even heard of new media art, one publication (a classy zine, really) was charting the rise of the field. Intelligent Agent was founded in 1996, still the early days of the net for all intensive purposes, by a smart German woman named Dr. Christiane Paul-- she'd later go on to become new media curator at the Whitney. Like many such DIY ventures, the publication has gone through a series of phase changes, from print to online, to hiatus, and back. Now edited by artist and media scholar Patrick Lichty, under Paul's guidance as publisher, the venerable magazine is available in both print and PDF formats. It continues to present the front wave of art and theory, and the most recent issue, which is built around the catalog for the "Social Fabrics" exhibition curated by Lichty and Susan Ryan, is no exception. While big fashion magazines produce their fattest ad-driven issues during the summer months, IA's latest free PDF will give readers a chance to see projects by a handful of forward-thinking artist/designers who not only design wearable art that marries textiles and technology, but also push fashion from the realm of pop culture into deeper social engagement. The resulting portfolios, interviews, and essays offer critical insight into the work and, in keeping with the fashion mag analogy, posit trend alerts for the future of media art. - Marisa Olson


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Dancing with the Stars

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This week, critic Ben Davis wrote an interesting treatise on "The Superartist." Davis uses the term to describe those artists who are super savvy at penetrating the media, and become superstars by virtue of their collaborations with big corporations and work in mainstream contexts. His argument was that so-called 'Superart' has a populist touch, and appreciation of the work tends to be an appreciation of being part of a collective, as opposed to an individual, aesthetic experience, just as the works themselves tend away from personal statements and towards blank social referents. As it turns out, this could be a very good critique of Lincoln Schatz's newest project, Esquire's Portrait of the 21st Century, in which the generative artist uses his own custom software to create an evolving portrait of those 75 people the magazine has deemed the most important people of the coming decades...Just in time for Esquire's 75th anniversary issue. Schatz has constructed a "CUBE," the white frosted glass walls of which very much resemble a Chelsea gallery facade except that the structure is studded with video cameras and Mac minis. The stars in question are invited into the cube for hour-long interviews about their personal interests, after which they are generatively collaged into an evolving constellation with other stars, according to their shared interests. In a tried and true display of the magazine's firm grasp of 21st century media, Schatz is keeping a blog in which the portraits are uploaded. So far, the footage is very beautiful and almost painterly in the ways that it overlaps and meshes together. It's easy to create corporate collaborations as sell-out projects, but harder to spend the time thinking about a work's wider resonance. The artist's bio says that his work "has focused ...

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Repeating Residual Histories

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In their 2005 project With Respect to Residue, the Raqs Media Collective printed a theory of residues on disposable placemats, which were then distributed to various restaurants. Defining residue as, "that which never finds its way into the manifest narrative of how something (an object, a person, a state, or a state of being) is produced, or comes into existence," the placemats demanded that diners consider why and how "residues" were left out of history, as they themselves consumed. Raqs Media Collective's latest endeavor, co-curated as a portion of the nomadic biennial Manifesta 7, resides much in the same vein. From July 19th-November 2nd, they will be presenting an exhibition entitled "The Rest of Now" which includes many net art pioneers as well as other artists and non-explicitly artist-practitioners in addressing historic residues in the present tense. Set in an abandoned aluminum factory in Bolzano, Italy, the show works "to see what can be salvaged from the oblivion to which the residues of Modernism are normally consigned." In other words, both the site of the show and the works presented explore the ideas, qualities, and realities that have been swept under the rug in the process of European industrialization. The layers of self-reflexivity are piled high, here. The curators acknowledge that Europe is known for hosting many art spaces sited within old industrial spaces and their show works to juxtapose "remembered industrial energy and a more current melancholia of abandonment" to explore what the cultural embrace (or even coddling) of these spaces means. Their suggestion is that it is "symptomatic of Europe's unwillingness to come to terms with aspects of its own difficult path into, and through, the 20th century." So, in a sense, this show will work to retrace these footsteps of so-called progress, with the almost ...

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Interview with João Ribas

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João Ribas is a curator and critic at the New York-based arts non-profit the Drawing Center. In addition to his tenure at this institution, he has curated multiple exhibitions elsewhere (at Artists Space, Bellwether, Guild and Greyshkul, among other spaces) and maintains the online platform Expanded Cinema. He recently curated a group exhibition at Andrew Kreps Gallery entitled "Standard Sizes" which "presents works that look to standards and formal procedures to displace the idea of expressive subjectivity as the domain of art." Arguing that individual subjective expression has become "deradicalized" due to its democratization, the show brings together a selection of works which converse with formulaic structures in an effort to disclose the bounds of expression in a culture emphasizing the articulation of the self. I recently spoke with Ribas about the exhibition, and the larger cultural context surrounding it. "Standard Sizes" closes this weekend, so if you're in New York, hot foot it to Chelsea! -- Ceci Moss

What lead you to the concept behind the show?

The concept comes out of a seminar I've been teaching on the emergence of an expressive subject---this radical individual will---out of Renaissance humanism, we know it more familiarly as Romantic genius, or the creative virility of Balzac or Courbet, and it emerges from within the same political economy that creates the inverted economy of art. The shift from guild-based work in the wake of mercantilism allows for a correlative assertion of certain new values--taste, genius, masterwork----put on the labor of the "artist" as a distinct self. This is a new kind of produced subjectivity, of pazzia or melancholy, with artworks as its objectification---part of my interest has been looking into the iconographic nature of this: the origins of the 'sketch' or the rhetorical use of certain painterly gestures in Dutch ...

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Announcing: Net Aesthetics 2.0 Panel MP3

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For those who were unable to attend the Net Aesthetics 2.0 panel at the New Museum on June 6th (or watch the webcast), we now have an MP3 of the talk available online. Over the past month, the panel has generated active (and heated) discussion on Rhizome's boards, on topics such as net art versioning, the "epic" in net art, surf blogs, and the definition of net art.


Big thanks to Billy Rennekamp for his help with the recording

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Putting the I in Imaginary

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Reading Hayley Silverman's statements about her own work, it's evident that she recently attended a smartypants art school. Of her Free TV (2008) installation, in which a small mirror is angled into position on the floor and spray-painted with the eponymous phrase, she says "The mirror exemplifies the fallibility of showing the fixed image as a means of conveying self, and questions the immediate material construction of objects that frame what we perceive." Such Lacanian readings, and a consistent concern with critiquing the tropes of modernism, are peppered throughout the young artist's work which offers physical stand-ins for theories about the Symbolic and the Real. Seemingly left out of the infamous Lacanian triad, she invokes the concept of the Imaginary, but perhaps this is a triangulating force bequeathed by Silverman to her viewers. Her sculpture, The Everything is a Stonehenge-like assemblage using traditional stage prop materials (foam, wood frames, faux finishes) to offer a sort of pile-up of tombstones engraved with the names of digital file formats, operating systems, and programming languages. Theatrical appearances aside, Silverman says she intended to create something devoid of performativity, but rather--like its ancient representational forebears-- a structure that generates a monumentality seemingly predetermined by the eventual extinction of the systems it celebrates and the people who celebrate them. There is, in fact, a kind of sharply ironic morbidity in her work, which gives it a sort of human charm. In 11:11 (2008), Silverman (also a member of the net art group, Loshadka) seems to admit something that many contemporary internet artists working with readymade materials cannot. Pulling a found image (in this case, a tree whose trunk bears a knot resembling a human eye) from a phenomenologist's archive of found images, she says that the image "either amounts to ...

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