She Was A Camera

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echocam, artvamp.com, 2000 

Maybe half of being a camgirl was talking about being a camgirl – not just turning a webcam on yourself and by extension your life, but documenting how your life changed from having turned a webcam on it. We were only doing this for a little while, from sometime in the late 1990's until about whenever mobile phone cameras became commonplace (let's say until the early 2000's.) Apple may also have had a hand in killing the camgirl, packaging webcams into the shells of our laptops. By extension our webcams were made less unusual, less intimate, and much less urgent. Though the golden years of camgirls were brief, they coincided with the rise of the web itself.

Screenshot, anacam.com, 2000

In 1997, a Minneapolis-based electronic pop musician named Ana Voog launched what she called “the internet's first 24/7 art/life cam,” which proved to also be its longest running...

 

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Tonight: Rhizome Google+ Hangout with guests Jenna Wortham (New York Times) and Sarah Hromack (Whitney Museum)

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Join Rhizome tonight for our first open hangout on Google+. New York Times tech reporter Jenna Wortham and writer /website manager for the Whitney Museum, Sarah Hromack will be joining us on the group video chat service. Jenna will share her favorite YouTube videos. Sarah will talk about post-blog publishing and digitizing art books (see her recent interview with James Bridle for Rhizome.)

The hangout is open to everyone with a g+ account. A link will be available on senior editor Joanne McNeil's g+ page starting at 8pm EST.

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Life Feed: Webcams, Art, and People

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On Friday, June 24, Rhizome is presenting new projects by Jeremy Bailey and Antoine Catala as part of the New Silent Series. This post elaborates some of the ideas around the event.

Image: Antoine Catala, Antoine according to Dean by Antoine, 2011

The future never comes looking like it used to. Science fiction's universal hallmark of technological advancement was the videophone. While you can buy a device as slick as a Gene Roddenberry prop, most people make video calls with the same thing they do a thousand other things with, using a streamlined version of the computer-camera-modem combo that Jennifer Ringley set up in her dorm room in 1996. Her site JenniCam (now archived) did not stream a live feed of her life. It updated still images— black-and-white, at first— every three minutes. Traffic leapt whenever word spread that Ringley was undressing, or having sex with her boyfriend. But JenniCam was never meant to be an illicit site. As Ringley explained, she was broadcasting everyday life, and in everyday life sex and nudity happen. Her webcam was like a piece of furniture, a mirror that blankly took in the image of the room it faced. It was connected to the line of the telephone, a device that philosopher Avital Ronnell has described as a superhumanizing prosthesis, a machine that empowers the ear and voice to operate across great distances. The webcam's mirror/telephone hybrid— as used by JenniCam and its lifecasting progeny, from Ustream.tv to Chatroulette— is a messy sort of videophone that captures a reflection at its physical location and disperses it to whatever channel that switches the packets.

Rosalind Krauss called video "the aesthetics of narcissism." Her 1976 essay of that name describes Vito Acconci's Centers (1971) as a reflection on art's indexical function: he looks in a television monitor as a mirror and points at himself. One of her other examples was Richard Serra's Boomerang (1974), which locks Nancy Holt in a prison of feedback. She speaks and listens to her own words in a "collapsed present." "[V]ideo's real medium," Krauss writes, "is a psychological situation, the very terms of which are to withdraw attention from an external object— an Other— and invest it in the Self." What do her words mean thirty years later, when video, thanks to webcams, has become part of everyday life as a telecom device? Marisa Olson's remake of Boomerang offers an easy starting point. The webpage juxtaposes a video of Olson listening to and repeating the text of Boomerang with a copy of the old video that she saved on her YouTube account. Serra's tightly constructed frame excludes everything but Holt's face and the audio apparatus. Olson (who did the tasks of both Serra and Holt: the tech set-up and the on-screen performance) lets her webcam show her studio; we can see a doorway, artworks, a bookshelf, the glare of sunlight on a framed print. For Olson, the real "frame" isn't the field of her webcam's lens but the window of the browser, which subsumes both the art-historical past and the webcam's collapsed present in the empty space of default whiteness. She's not only creating a reflection of her own image, but connecting it to an artifact of another place and time by echoing its call.

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Lia Ices' Webcam Travelogue Music Video "Grown Unknown"

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Lia Ices’ video for “Grown Unknown” is a visual performance diary documenting modern dancer Ruby MacDougall’s three week voyage across the Pacific from Long Beach, California to Shanghai, China...The footage was shot from a laptop camera, and edited by Joanna Bovay

via FAKE TV

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Video Vortex #6: Beyond YouTube

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The sixth Video Vortex conference was held in Amsterdam at Trouw, a building that used to house the printing presses where the eponymous newspaper was created. These days, Trouw is a restaurant and club and occasional conference venue. The venue’s former purpose reinforced the passing of the torch from old news media to the online media being discussed, alongside other relevant topics, at Video Vortex. Michael Strangelove, the first speaker of the day, referred to the “holocaust of capitalism” and how online video enables a subversion of the notion of culture as private property. As newspapers struggle to redefine themselves in this online era - the New York Times’ new paywall being a prime example - the war of ownership over content resonated not only throughout the conference sessions but even in the venue’s inkstained floors.

The initial speakers of the day, Michael Strangelove and Andrew Clay, made salient points about the notion of “compulsory visibility” (Foucault, via Strangelove) online, the “douchebag effect” induced by online video platforms (Strangelove), and the communities and revenue streams which develop around online smash hits such as Annoying Orange (Clay). Talk of douchebag effects and inane chattering fruit was unfortunately juxtaposed with the gravity of the tragic earthquake and tsunami in Japan, unfolding at the very same time. All morning, YouTube quickly populated with shocking videos of the damage, and it seemed immediately inappropriate to ponder how many millions Annoying Orange makes.

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The Fire Theft (2010) - Isabelle Hayeur

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This video explores the themes of dispossession and repression. It was produced using sequences broadcast on the Web and scenes filmed in an abandoned house. It includes shots of the Olympic flame relay (Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics) and the Keith Sadler Foreclosure Resistance. These were taken from a live stream off the Ustream website, then re-worked. The low definition and strong compression of the images creates a somewhat sombre atmosphere, which is accentuated by a sound track with strange and discordant noises. The degraded video signal mirrors the difficult social conditions evoked in the work, especially in the shots of dilapidated interiors. The Fire Theft reminds us that major sports events benefit a handful of corporations, and often are used as a pretext for real estate speculation and gentrification.

-- FROM THE ARTIST'S STATEMENT

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Out in Public: Natalie Bookchin in Conversation with Blake Stimson

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Natalie Bookchin, My Meds, from the series Testament, 2009

This interview originally appeared Video Vortex Reader II: moving images beyond YouTube (Institute of Network Cultures, Amsterdam, March 2011) edited by Geert Lovink and Rachel Somers Miles. The Video Vortex Reader II launches this week in conjunction with the Video Vortex #6 conference at TrouwAmsterdam in Amsterdam on Friday March 11th and Saturday March 12th.


Natalie Bookchin and Blake Stimson first met in New York in the early 1990s when they were both affiliated with the Whitney Independent Study Program. This exchange took place over email, for the most part between their respective homes in Southern and Northern California during the summer of 2010.

Although she has a rich and varied artistic background, one theme that has regularly come to the fore in Natalie Bookchin’s work is a concern with documentary. In some of her early work, this concern seemed to emphasize the inhumanity of recording machines in the way that Andy Warhol’s, or perhaps Gerhard Richter’s, work did. In a different way, the entire ‘found object’ tradition associated with Duchampian indifference, and still so manifest in much contemporary art, also seemed to feature in Bookchin’s work. Here, we might recall an early piece for which Bookchin photographed everything she owned, object by object, down to the last paperclip; or perhaps, in a different sense, the Universal Page she created with Alexei Shulgin in 2000, which promised an algorithmically derived objective average of all web content. In one sense, her recent work of gathering videos from the internet might be said to continue in this vein—at least insofar as she is functioning as an aggregator of existing content drawn largely from YouTube, in a way similar to a service like Digg or any of the many interest or attention measuring functions of the web (not the least being Google and other search engines).

On the other hand, Bookchin’s work possesses a strong, even impassioned, activist element of the sort consistent with the reportage tradition extending back to John Heartfield and Sergei Tretiakov, or Jacob Riis and Lewis Hine before them. For example, in the interview Bookchin and Shulgin published in conjunction with the exhibition of Universal Page, Bookchin spoke of that time as one that demanded ‘superactivity’ because ‘there are vitally important things that need to be done’ to ‘resist total corporate, technological, and institutional takeovers’. In addition, her multiplayer game agoraXchange was created in collaboration with the political theorist Jackie Stevens, and called for ‘an end to the system of nation-states, the demise of rules rendering us passive objects tied to identities and locations given at birth’, and the elimination of ‘those laws requiring us to live and be seen largely as vessels for ancestral identities’. And finally, there was her very funny announcement, in 1999, of her intention for a journal titled BAD (standing for Burn the Artworld Down) that was ‘committed to the documentation of acts of terrorism and agitation against the institutional art world’. All of these works have performative dimensions to them, and as such call up a sense of tongue-in-cheek detachment from the subjects they purport to represent. Yet, to varying degrees, they also seem earnest and forceful political statements.

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Dance to the End of Love (2010) - Akram Zaatari

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4 channel video installation based on YouTube material made by individuals filming themselves in Egypt, the Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Palestine, Yemen, and Libya.

From the exhibition "The Uneasy Subject" at MUSAC

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Required Reading: The Immediated Now: Network Culture and the Poetics of Reality by Kazys Varnelis

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Throughout the 1990s, digital computing and network technologies were largely employed in office work, their cultural implications confined to niche realms for enthusiasts. If that decade’s new media art formed a vital artistic subculture, it was mainly isolated and self-referential, in part due to the artists’ fascination with hacking the medium, in part due to its position as the last in a long line of Greenbergian interrogations of the medium, and in part due to its marginalization by established art institutions. Artists like Vuk Cosic, Jodi, Alexei Shulgin, and Heath Bunting replayed early twentieth century avant-garde strategies while emulating the graphic and programming demos of 1980s hacker culture, before computers left the realm of user groups and became broadly useful in society.[1]

Today, in contrast, digital technology is an unmistakable presence in everyday life and is increasingly inextricable from mainstream social needs and conventions. Network culture is a broad sociocultural shift much like postmodernity, not limited to technological developments or to “new media.”[2] Precisely because maturing digital and networking technologies are inseparable from contemporary culture — even more than the spectacle of the television was from postmodernity — they must be read within a larger context. All art, today, is to one extent or another, networked art.

This investigation can’t be limited to online venues, but it also can’t be limited to “art.” Postmodernism called high and low into question (think of Warhol as the quintessential early postmodern artist, or later Barbara Kruger, Cindy Sherman, Jeff Koons, and Richard Prince) by bringing in products of the culture industry into art, but network culture levels that distinction utterly. Art under network culture dismisses the populist projection of the audience’s desires into art for the incorporation of the audience’s desires into art and the blurring of boundaries ...


#hi11 Times

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Today we'll be turning the blog over to the many people involved with #hi11, a New Year's Eve happening produced by Ryan Trecartin and Lizzie Fitch. For the event, the organizers took over three floors of a house in Los Angeles, transforming it into an interactive, multimedia environment. (The full list of names of everyone behind #hi11 is available here on the 2240hill site.) The house was equipped with video capture throughout, which allowed live video feeds between the rooms and a broadcast online. One of the rooms was covered over entirely in green screen fabric, so video captured therein could be augmented. Inspired by the organizational design of IKEA, the rooms in the house were assigned a letter and a number, for example, B2, C4, etc. The rooms themselves operated much like sets, and in many cases, IKEA furniture was used, mostly beds and couches for lounging. The house was illuminated by black lights, red lights, projections (some of the dump.fm chat room), and videos from the other rooms, giving the space an overwhelming feeling akin to Trecartin's delirious videos. An impressive amount of work went into #hi11. To name a few of my personal favorite details: the chandelier constructed out of Brita water filters, the herbal sexual enhancement pills freely distributed at the bar, the professional Diva wearing a headset connected to the PA on the dance floor, who would break out into song while walking around the party, the one water cooler (out of 4) in DIS Magazine's "refresh_forum" room which contained solely vodka (quite a surprise!), a small room off the dance floor which was intended as a secret Nine Inch Nails sex chamber, where participants could wear headphones (with flashlights attached to the top) blasting the band on repeat while ...

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