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


Required Reading: A Closer Look at JODI's 'Untitled Game'


Mute, Vol 1, No. 22 ("The Art Issue"), including CD-ROM of JODI, Untitled Game (1996-2001). 

Rhizome's erstwhile Conservation Fellow, Lisa Adang, has published the results of her material analysis of JODI's Untitled Game (1996-2001), and her findings are both more concrete and more nuanced than much of the extant scholarship.

By way of background, Adang points out that JODI began working with game "modding" around the same time as they began working with the web.

Although they may be best known for their web browser-based works, in this early period, JODI also experimented with the alteration of game code using two hugely popular computer game sources: Wolfenstein 3D (1993) and Quake 1 (1996), both developed by John D. Carmack, John Romero and the team at Id Software based in Richardson, Texas. Wolfenstein is widely recognized as the first fully rendered three-dimensional polygon game environment, a technique that allows objects and walls to appear to wrap around the player's perspective, realistically block the player’s sightline, and recede into a vanishing point that shifts with the main character/player's perspective. Characters within the game are also comprised of polygons, and sprite images occur on instances such as the firing of a weapon, scaling to suggest proximity and perspective.


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.