This post was composed in one hour in front of an online audience for the Rhizome Internet Telethon 2014.
Tom Moody, Double Buckyball (detail of work in process), 2004, mixed media, approx. 60 x 40 inches.
Nearly a year ago, and not long after I started working at Rhizome, I published a post called “Breaking the Ice,” inviting the community to leave their thoughts about our curatorial and editorial direction. It took a while to get started, but eventually some of the Rhizome old timers latched on and got the ball rolling. As my introduction to the Rhizome community in my new role, it painted quite a picture. Heated opinions were debated, n00bs were put in their place, and frustrations were vented. Despite a sometimes negative tone, I was excited by the energy that people brought to it. And the fact that, y’know, people were commenting on Rhizome.org, a non-profit website that serves as an important cultural archive, rather than on a for-profit site that will sell your data to the highest bidder.
Before reading this, you may as well play the game. It's only ten seconds long. But, I recommend that you do it late at night, and all by yourself. OK, here's the link.
Blue helvetica typeface displayed on a black background. You click, and a timer appears on screen, counting off ten seconds.
This is game designer Anna Anthropy's queers in love at the end of the world (2013), a work made using the Twine interactive storytelling platform that is as much video game as it is hypertext fiction. In keeping with hypertext tradition, one navigates the work by clicking on highlighted words to choose among narrative threads, playing out one of several imagined end-of-the-world interactions as quickly as possible, from biting to fucking to handholding, before time runs out.
Jeremy Blake, Liquid Villa, 1999 Digital C-print 29 x 84 inches Edition of 3 + 1AP
Rhizome Editor and Curator Michael Connor, in his prior capacity as an independent curator, co-organized Liquid Crystal Palace, opening on March 1. Because of its relevance to the Rhizome community, we felt it was worth publishing Michael's writing about the show. Rhizome.org will also present Blake's Liquid Villa as a front page exhibition on March 6 from 3pm to 5pm EST, courtesy Kinz Fine Art and Honor Fraser Gallery.
Jeremy Blake's work seemed to be everywhere in the early 2000s. At the time, I was aware that he was successful in a commercial context, and that he didn't really see himself as a new media artist. (Blake always described himself as a painter.) Both of these things annoyed me about him, because I liked new media art, and I took some perverse pride in its lack of market recognition. It was therefore somewhat annoying that I liked the work. It seemed unsettling and druggy and dangerous, and it felt funny and good in my brain.
Since Blake's tragic death, I've rarely seen the work anywhere, and it sometimes pops into my head. So last year, I decided to look at it again, or as much as I could get my hands on. I was living near LA, and I brought my 2-month old daughter to the highly accommodating Honor Fraser Gallery to go through a stack of DVDs. This time around, Blake suddenly seemed closely connected with a number of other artists working today. The connections that emerged in this new viewing began a thought process that culminated in the exhibition Liquid Crystal Villa, opening tomorrow at Honor Fraser and co-curated with Nate Hitchcock.
A few years back, a writer friend who worked at a prominent blog explained to me that her employer's sensationalist, runon headlines were crafted with the help of a cutting-edge A/B testing system. Each article would go live with multiple versions of the same headline; the version to draw the most clicks would become the canonical version. This, I thought, this is the future: algorithms drawing on user feedback to adjust our texts on the fly for maximum impact.
In 2012, I was among the millions of Americans who noticed that Barack Obama and his campaign staff had started writing some kinda weird messages to me. They'd arrive with subject lines like "Hey" or "Would Love to Meet You." They got talked about at dinner parties. After Election Day, explanations were offered in the press. These weren't the brainchild of a mad creative subject line marketing genius. No, they were carefully tested beforehand among multiple variations sent to smaller groups of supporters, and only the most successful versions made it to the full campaign email list. Obama's campaign raised hundreds of millions of dollars through email direct marketing.
Following the conclusion of This is the ENDD and Pinar&Viola's front-page exhibition, this project can be found here permanently.
This weekend, to coincide with This is the ENDD: a Forum on the E-Cigarette, the front page of Rhizome.org will present The Smoking Room, created by Pinar&Viola and programmed by Gui Machiavelli. In this lush chatroom, you can wield strange new kinds of e-cigarettes and blow virtual smoke shapes while talking to friends and strangers.
I know. Vaping is not smoking. This is rule #1 of vaping culture, a distinction of paramount importance for vapers (who rightfully want to avoid the social stigma of the cigarette) and e-cigarette manufacturers (who want to avoid tobacco-style regulation). Therefore, in their marketing of this emerging technology, the manufacturers have trodden a fine line between reminding potential users of the good, old-fashioned "benefits" of smoking, and establishing their product as something new and hi-tech and detached from bodily consequence. In a word, as something virtual.