Michael Connor
Since 2002
Works in Brooklyn, New York United States of America


Collecting Contemporary Art Means Collecting Digital Art


Petra Cortright. RGB,D-LAY, 2011. Webcam video file. Edition of 5. 1 AP. Courtesy of the artist and Steve Turner Contemporary, Los Angeles. 

Last night, Rhizome was the beneficiary of the Paddles On! auction at Phillips auction house. Curated by Lindsay Howard and co-organized by Phillips and Tumblr, the auction brought together works under the banner of "digital art." While the sale of artworks that engage with digital technology is nothing new, there was something remarkable about the scene last night. Magda Sawon tweeted that it was "like parents forgot to lock the house & the kidz had a great party!" (She also added, "One day it may be their house or they burn it," but that's just typical gallerist-auction house repartee, we're sure.) Every lot was sold, and perfectly-coiffed bidders competed not only over digital prints, sculptures, and Petra Cortright's digital painting, but also over Jamie Zigelbaum's interactive installation and Rafaël Rozendaal's website. Rhizome was the grateful beneficiary of this frenzied activity; we received 20% of the proceeds, with the other 80% going to the artists, and when the last gavel fell, nearly $18,000 had been raised on our behalf, which will help us continue to expand our efforts to commission, contextualize, and conserve technologically-engaged artwork.


The Silk Road


 

Image from the exhibition Concealed Carry, 2012 at Oliver Francis Gallery

Described as a black market eBay, the Silk Road was a website where anything—and we do mean anything—could be purchased with bitcoin and other tools allowing anonymous transactions. Products on offer on the site included drugs, weapons, fake IDs, and hacking services. This underground economy was accessed via the encrypted Tor network, which routes data through circuitous, encrypted routes to make users' activities difficult to trace.

As of Wednesday, the Silk Road is no more, and its founder Ross William Ulbricht (previously known as Dread Pirate Roberts) has been arrested, which will have an effect on an ongoing series of works by artist Brad Troemel. For the 2011 exhibition The Social Life of Things at Showroom MAMA in Rotterdam, Brad Troemel (with Ben Schumacher, Artie Vierkant and Jon Vingiano) acquired a number of services and objects from the marketplace that were presented in an installation. The installation included such objects as a fake ID that has Troemel's real details and picture on it (juxtaposed with his real driver's licence), bump keys for lock-picking, and seeds to grow plants that can be processed into psychedelic drugs. These objects were intended to be further used by visitors, continuing to circulate in the world after their movement through the Silk Road market network:

 


The Week Ahead: Cross-Strait Edition


Ming Wong, Making Chinatown (II & III) (2012). On view as part of "Cross-Strait Relations" at Parsons.

A roundup of opportunities and goings-on from Rhizome's community.

Online

Right now: Reading Club proposes a text and an interpretive arena to 4 readers. These readers write together their reading of a text inside the text itself. 

Bubblebyte currently has two ongoing website takeovers (projects in which they introduce artworks into existing institutional websites). Through October 20, every few days, one moving image artwork from 16 international artists will be added to Art Licks Weekend website, slowly revealing a larger collaborative collage. Through November 10, Nuovo Nuovo Vecchio introduces work by 8 of the artists in this year's Bloomberg New Contemporaries exhibition into the website of Spike Island Gallery in the UK.


The Impossible Music of Black MIDI


The machine on which Conlon Nancarrow created his player piano rolls. Photo by Carol Law, 1977. Collection: C Amirkhanian.

In 1947, the composer Conlon Nancarrow—frustrated with human pianists and their limited ability to play his rhythmically complex music—purchased a device which allowed him to punch holes in player piano rolls. This technology allowed him to create incredibly complex musical compositions, unplayable by human hands, which later came to be widely recognized by electronic musicians as an important precursor to their work.

A similar interest in seemingly impossible music can be found today in a group of musicians who use MIDI files (which store musical notes and timings, not unlike player piano rolls) to create compositions that feature staggering numbers of notes. They're calling this kind of music "black MIDI," which basically means that when you look at the music in the form of standard notation, it looks like almost solid black:

 

Blackers take these MIDI files and run them through software such as Synesthesia, which is kind of an educational version of Guitar Hero for the piano, and bills itself as "piano for everyone." It's kind of brilliant to imagine a novice piano player looking for some online tutorials and stumbling across, say, this video of the song Bad Apple, which reportedly includes 8.49 million separate notes. 


Red Burns, 1925-2013


We were deeply saddened to learn this weekend of the passing of Red Burns. On Saturday, NYU's ITP department announced her passing with a statement. "After living several full lives, one of which we were a part of at ITP, she died peacefully at home surrounded by her children. Red lives on strongly in the thousands of lives that she redirected at ITP." 

We offer our deepest condolences to those in our community who were close to Burns. 



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DISCUSSION

Rhizome Today


Hey Charles! It will be interesting to see if this comment will stay on your profile after the post disappears, and if the link to it will work, and if some kind of vortex will open.

DISCUSSION

July 2: NYC poetry event with Kev, Bunny Rogers, and Brigid Mason


Hi Tom,

I feel really good about the event. I'm not really ready to write about it, but I feel like I have to say something...

You used the word "ironic," which means saying one thing while meaning another. But Kev often said one thing while *also* meaning the opposite, which is something different. You call it confusion, I call it an interest in paradox.

I wrote of the spiritual dimension of Kev's work that "Taoism is as much an aspect of contemporary culture as it an ancient philosophy, translated and refracted as it is through the Transcendentalists and the 60s counterculture and numerous scholars. Thus, Kev, who has always played the role of the quintessential American, does so even in his seemingly un-American disavowal of the consumer internet." In other words, a "mishmash" sounds about right.

DISCUSSION

July 2: NYC poetry event with Kev, Bunny Rogers, and Brigid Mason


In summary, I think it's OK for Kev to think about Taoism and the internet, even though I'm not interested in that in particular. But I am interested in his gesture of radical semi-refusal and its limits, and where he will go next.

DISCUSSION

July 2: NYC poetry event with Kev, Bunny Rogers, and Brigid Mason


I'm not particularly interested in the spiritual aspect of digital art, hence our recent emphasis on infrastructure and labor and materialism, mundane afrofuturism and internet realism...

It strikes me as patently ridiculous to disallow the possibility of "spiritualized computer art." Sure, that's a premise that has been used in lots of dubious ways, and maybe you don't buy Kev's version of it, which is fine. But that doesn't make the premise itself categorically doubtful. No aspect of our lives can really be considered outside of the digital, spirituality included.

I am interested in Kev's ideas, because he has spent the last five years thinking deeply about the internet while attempting to stake a position outside of this. I think others are interested in his thoughts on this, and his reasons for finding this untenable.

Tbh I have no real idea what Kev is going to do tonight, which is scary, but I certainly don't think that Rhizome should only stage events the outcome of which is known in advance.

DISCUSSION

Solidarity after "Sharing:" Notes on Internet Subjects #1


Hi Abe, thanks for your feedback. Our intent with this particular panel was to articulate a position that we felt was missing from the media narrative around the sharing economy. To this end, we felt that including a sharing economy proponent would stall the discussion before any first principles could be established. I did feel, in the end, that Rob Horning's polemical skill in particular was a bit wasted without a real opponent to wield it against...

As you may know, Rhizome works quite closely with many individuals in the tech business sector; in fact, my co-organizers Nathan Jurgenson and Kate Crawford are both researchers with roles in the tech industry. I'd imagine that future Internet Subjects panels will be structured more as debates, when that seems most appropriate, and will feature not just researchers, writers, and scholars, but business people and artists as well.