Randall Packer
Since the beginning
Works in United States of America

Randall Packer is internationally recognized as a pioneering artist, composer, educator, and scholar in the field of multimedia. His work has been exhibited at museums and galleries throughout the world including Europe, Asia, and North America. He is Assistant Professor of Multimedia at American University in Washington, DC. His book and accompanying Web site, Multimedia: From Wagner to Virtual Reality (W.W. Norton 2001 / www.artmuseum.net), has been adopted internationally as one of the leading educational texts in the field. He is concerned with the aesthetic, philosophical, and socio-cultural impact of new media in an increasingly technological society.

In 1988, he founded Zakros InterArts and has since produced, directed and created critically acclaimed new media performance, installation, and net-specific works. His sound installation Mori was selected for the 1999 Biennial Exhibition at the InterCommunication Center (ICC) in Tokyo and included in the Telematic Connections: A Virtual Embrace exhibition that toured the US (2001-2002). In 2003 Mori received its New York debut at the Kitchen. His net project, the Telematic Manifesto (1999), was included in ZKM's (Center for Art and Media, Karlsruhe, Germany) Net_Condition exhibition and has been featured on the Website of the Walker Art Center.

Since moving to Washington, DC in 2000, his work has explored the critique of the role of the artist in society and politics. He founded the virtual government agency US Department of Art and Technology (www.usdat.us) in 2001, which proposes and supports the idealized definition of the artist as one whose reflections, ideas, aesthetics, sensibilities, and abilities can have significant and transformative impact on the world stage. The US DAT project has emerged as a hybrid of media forms and genres. It has yielded numerous published articles and manifestos, live performances, media installations, and video works presented at festivals, museums, and universities around the world. US DAT has also spawned several subsidiary projects, including: The Experimental Party (www.experimentalparty.org); TEL-SPAN (Web-based streaming broadcast channel); and The Media Deconstruction Kit (audio-visual manipulation of live broadcast news). In the fall of 2003, the US DAT Visitor Center was exhibited at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, across the street from the White House. In 2004, the Experimental Party DisInformation Center debuted in New York City at the LUXE gallery during the Republican National Convention.

A native Californian, Packer holds degrees from the University of Oregon (BS, sociology); California Institute of the Arts (MFA, music composition); Institute for the Research and Coordination in Acoustics and Music (IRCAM), Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris (certificate, computer music); and the University of California, Berkeley (PhD, music composition). He is the recipient of several awards for his work, including the George Ladd Prix de Paris and an Artist Fellowship Award from the Washington, DC Commission on the Arts & Humanities.
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The Accidental Archivist: Criticism on Facebook, and How to Preserve It

Since Facebook is simply not designed for archival purposes, the larger question becomes, why not use a content management system such as Wordpress for purposes of recording and indexing dialogue? It is also possible to integrate Facebook into Wordpress comments, and I wonder if this might resolve the issue if Facebook needs to be used.

In sum: there are such powerful tools for discussion forums, but they are underutilized. I have seen Facebook used for serious online discussion, particularly in group pages, but it is horribly inadequate for this purpose.


Announcing : Multimediale, Capturing the Capital!

A Festival of Art, Politics, and New Media
April 19 - April 22, 2007
Washington, DC


Presented by Provisions Library
in association with the American University Art Department
& the George Washington University Department of Fine Arts & Art History
sponsored by Viridian Restaurant

We are pleased to announce MULTIMEDIALE, a
four-day multimedia arts festival that brings
together artists from the Washington, DC region
centered around the theme: CAPTURING THE CAPITAL!
MULTIMEDIALE seeks to energize the DC arts
community with new ideas about art, society and
politics. Visit our Web site at
http://www.multimedialedc.org for news and
dialogue. MULTIMEDIALE is organized by Randall
Packer and curator Niels Van Tomme. All events
are free and open to the public.


Assume the identity of your congressman...
participatory "people's tours" of the Capital...
pray at America's Grave, a burial site for the
nation... a teacart interrogation of government's
involvement in military conflicts... a forensic
striptease that collects false remembrances of
political events... performance protests in front
of surveillance cameras... and much more!


John James Anderson, Ben Azarra, Mark Cooley,
Edgar Endress, Alberto Gaitan, Jeff Gates, Brian
Judy, Bryan Leister, Rebecca Mills, Randall
Packer, Siobhan Rigg, Fereshteh Toosi


Thursday, April 19, 7PM
Lecture: Beral Madra
Art as Mediation
American University, Abramson Family Recital Hall, Katzen Arts Center
4400 Massachusetts Ave NW, Washington DC
co-presented by the George Washington University
Department of Fine Arts & Art History

Internationally renowned Turkish curator Beral
Madra is the keynote speaker for Multimediale.
Active in the Middle Eastern political art scene,
she will discuss current strategies of practicing
art as a tool to introduce ways of mutual
understanding, reciprocity and participation - an
important process for democratization, social
awareness, and the emergent mediation between
life and art.

Friday, April 20 - Sunday, April 22, 12-8PM
Exhibition: Capturing the Capital!
Provisions Library, 1611 Connecticut Ave, 2nd
Floor, Dupont Circle, Washington DC

An exhibition of installations, public
performances, and Net art, conceived as a timely
critique of political conditions in America. The
artists will create site-specific works that
transform the city of Washington DC as a
real-time artistic environment.

Friday, April 20, 8PM
Video art screening: You are my torture / I am your chamber
Provisions Library

An evening of international video art questioning
the abundant presence of media in human existence
at the beginning of the 21st century. The videos
are at times ironically, philosophically or
politically inspired reflections on the presence
of media in everyday life. Co-curated by
Stateless Cinema.

Saturday April 21, 6PM
Curator's Walkthrough: Walk & Talk
Provisions Library

A walkthrough with curator Niels Van Tomme. He
will discuss Multimediale and his collaboration
with the artists in the creation of the

Saturday, April 21, 8PM
Live Performance: Perform!
Provisions Library

If all the world is a stage, then each of us is a
performer. And if Washington, DC is the stage of
world politics, then all our performances are
political. Perform! is an evening of new music
and experimental media performance art.

Sunday, April 22, 3PM
Panel Discussion: The artist's responsibility in a political environment
Provisions Library

A panel discussion that invites prominent figures
from the DC arts community to reflect and discuss
the role of the artist from an artistic,
political and activist perspective. Panelists:
Margaret Parsons, Moderator (National Gallery of
Art), Leanne Mella (US State Department), Randall
Packer (American University), Paul Roth (Corcoran
Gallery of Art), Don Russell (Provisions
Library), Niels Van Tomme (independent curator),
Jenny Toomey (Future of Music),

Sunday, April 22, 5PM-8PM
Closing Reception: Capturing the Capital! (my end is my beginning)
Provisions Library
sponsored by Viridian Restaurant

All events are free and open to the public.


American University
Abramson Family Recital Hall
Katzen Arts Center
4400 Massachusetts Ave NW
Washington, DC

Provisions Library
1611 Connecticut Ave NW
2nd Floor, Dupont Circle
Washington, DC


info @ multimedialedc.org

Advisory Board: Georgio Furioso, Bill Gilcher,
Margaret Parsons, Andrea Pollan, Paul Roth, Don

More Information:




Art as Mediation : Panel Discussion at New School

Art as Mediation
Thursday, February 15, 2007, 6:30 - 8:30 p.m.
The New School, Michael Klein Room
66 West 12th Street, 5th floor
New York City
Admission: $8, free for all students as well as CAA attendees and New
School faculty, staff and alumni with valid ID

Art as Mediation explores how communications and new media are
increasingly employed in the arts to engage, connect, and empower
global audiences in times of crisis. The panel features artists,
theorists, writers, thinkers and critics from different backgrounds,
and is moderated by artist Randall Packer.

As ruptures from world crises deepen, more people look to alternative
models for exchange and mediation. Technological means have recently
surfaced in the arts that successfully bridge social, cultural, and
political differences. Different disciplines come into play, in
questioning, challenging, and experimenting with social and political
change. How do artists, curators, and theorists use
telecommunications technology proactively? How do peer-to-peer
networks, on-line social spaces, and blogs lead to participation and
empowerment? How are artists using electronic systems to reposition
the notion of dialogue and to define dialogue as mediation that
counters or disrupts stereotypes and dangerous ideologies?

Steve Dietz, curator and Director, Zero-One, San Jose, CA
Carin Kuoni, curator and Director, Vera List Center for Art and
Politics, New School, New York
Drazen Pantic, internet activist, Co-Director, Location One, New York
Jon Winet, artist and Professor, University of Iowa

Randall Packer, artist, Assistant Professor, Department of Art,
American University, Washington D.C., Secretary-at-Large, U.S.
Department of Art & Technology

Presented on occasion of the College Art Association's 95th Annual
Conference in association with the New Media Caucus.

Randall Packer
Assistant Professor, Multimedia
Department of Art
American University, Washington DC
Secretary-at-Large, US Department of Art & Technology

Web: http://www.zakros.com
US DAT: http://www.usdat.us
Email: rpacker@zakros.com
AU: 202.885.2773
Studio: 202.342.1292
Cell: 202.439.4306


Conference Report: Where Art Thou Net.Art? On Zero One/ ISEA 2006

+Commissioned by Rhizome.org+

Conference Report:
Where Art Thou Net.Art? On Zero One/ ISEA 2006
by Randall Packer

The long awaited Zero One/ ISEA 2006 took over
San Jose, California, two weeks ago in a
sprawling, city-wide, mega-festival celebrating
art and technology in the heart of Silicon
Valley. Much has already been written about it,
from daily observations in the local papers to a
feature in the New York Times, from the
Blogosphere to the listservs. As one who has been
immersed in the new media scene since the late
1980s, I would like to contribute a bit of
historical context to the discussion: I offer my
commentary from a pre-millennial perspective,
when the dream emerged in the 1990s, during an
era of optimism and promise, the dream of a new
art form that would side-step a mainstream art
world mired in curators, museums, galleries,
objects, and old aesthetic issues. This was the
dream of Net.Art, a revolutionary new
international movement of artists, techies, and
hackers, led in large part by the unassuming,
unabashedly ambitious new media curator from the
Walker Art Center, Steve Dietz, now director of
Zero One.

These were heady times indeed. I met Steve in
1997 while I was in residence at the San Jose
Museum of Art. His research had brought him to
the holy Mecca of new media, Silicon Valley and
the community of artists in the Bay Area who had
been working with new technologies since the dawn
of the personal computer. He wanted to meet Joel
Slayton (who would later become director of the
2006 ISEA Symposium), so I escorted him over to
San Jose State University where Joel is head of
the CADRE Laboratory for New Media.

Shortly thereafter, Steve launched two
groundbreaking Net.Art exhibitions, Shock of the
View, and Beyond Interface, both of which brought
together leading Net artists exploding on the
scene: Mark Amerika, Natalie Bookchin, Masaki
Fujihata, Ken Goldberg, Eduardo Kac, Jodi, Mark
Napier, Alexei Shulgin, to name just a few. It
was a time of artistic transformation, new
paradigms, hypernovels, distributed authorship,
and globally extended, real-time, robotic,
collective art. It seemed anything was possible.
By 1999, David Ross was Director of the San
Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Intel was pouring
millions into Artmuseum.net, and there seemed no
end to the surging tide of experimental new media
art. It was at that time that early discussion
began of an international festival of art and
technology in Silicon Valley. Beau Takahara
founded the organization Ground Zero, which would
later become Zero One.

But with the new millennium the tides would turn:
Natalie Bookchin announced the death of Net.Art,
the tech boom was a bust, and both David Ross and
Steve Dietz were ousted from their museum jobs
for harboring visionary aspirations in an
economic downturn. So with the announcement that
the Zero One Festival and the ISEA Symposium
would launch in 2006 in San Jose, with Steve
Dietz at the helm, it was something like the
Phoenix rising from the ashes.

And it rose with a bang! "Seven Days of Art and
Interconnectivity," with over 200 participating
artists, an international symposium, city-wide
public installations, exhibitions, concerts,
performances, pubic spectacles,
performative-live-distributed cinema, wi-fi
interventions, container culture, skateboard
orchestras, digital dance, sine wave surfing,
datamatics, surveillance balloons, a pigeon blog,
the squirrel-driven Karaoke Ice Battle on wheels,
and to top it off a nostalgic, bombastic
blast-from-the-past from Survival Research
Laboratories. The 13th International Symposium on
Electronic Art Exhibition took over the sprawling
South Hall at the Convention Center. Its themes:
Interactive City, Pacific Rim, Transvergence,
Edgy Products, and on and on... spoke of enough
technology to wire a third world nation.

And so, with all the buzz, and the sheer largesse
of this ambitious festival of new media, I
couldn't help ponder how it was connected to the
original Net.Art dream, when a new art form arose
from networking every computer on every desktop
and engaging a global audience in new, pervasive
ways that became possible as technology was
increasingly ubiquitous and transparent. The
Net.Art dream would call into question our
relationship to the new media, as art has always
aspired, to critique its impact on our lives, our
culture, our communications systems, our
relationships, our view of the world, our own
changing humanity in a technological world. I
couldn't help but to wonder, what exactly
happened to that dream, once driven by a small
fringe core of artists, writers, thinkers, and
curators, and now practiced by literally
thousands of techno-artists emerging from every
university and art school across the planet, many
of whom converged in San Jose for Zero One / ISEA.

The first thing that came to mind was that art
and technology no longer exists on the fringe of
the artworld, and in fact, the demarcation
between art and engineering has blurred
considerably. At Zero One you couldn't tell the
artist from the engineer (Billy Kluver must be
rolling in his grave). Joseph Beuys' notions of
social sculpture, or Allan Kaprow's participatory
Happenings now inform the new systems of art that
have dissolved the distinction between artist and
non-artist, between performer and audience. For
example, the Interactive City theme, organized by
Eric Paulos, sought "urban-scale projects for
which the city is not merely a palimpsest of our
desires but an active participant in their

In the installations of Jennifer Steinkamp at the
San Jose Museum of Art, I saw suburban moms
taking snapshots of their kids in strollers
bathed in layers of colored light. In the
Listening Post by Mark Hansen and Ben Rubin, also
at SJMA, the artists orchestrated chat room
discussion, in real-time, from around the globe.
Etoy's mesmerizing Mission Eternity involved a
trailer installation parked outside SJMA in the
downtown Plaza, which investigated personal data
storage for the afterlife (ashes to ashes, bits
to bits).

There was good art and there was bad art, but
everywhere you turned there was art or something
like art permeating the physical spaces of
downtown San Jose (including the mobile light
rail cars and the dome of City Hall), as well as
the invisible ether of the airwaves, from
bluetooth networks to cellular tours (the latest
rage). There was very little time to spend with
any particular work. Everyone was engaged in high
gear, moving from one venue to the next. In Bill
Viola's keynote address, he made the prescient
remark, "artists are jumping into a train for a
high speed ride while they're still laying the
tracks ahead."

The hyper-adrenalin flow resonated in the on-line
commentary as well, where, if you read the
considerable Blog chatter surrounding Zero One/
ISEA, you would find that the experience became
concentrated on sheer movement and the social
networking that reigns supreme at all conferences
and festivals.

And so what about the dream of Net.Art? Those of
us who have spent countless hours, in the past
decade, bemoaning the loss of the dream could now
say that the dream had been realized (for better
or for worse). I heard artist friends complain
about the democratization of Net.Art, the selling
out of Net.Art, the "mainstreamization" of
Net.Art, and other remarks I won't mention here,
and yet, I think that we would all agree that the
uber-dream of Net.Art -- to dismantle the
precious nature of the object, an art that would
defy the walls of the museum, that would, as
expressed in Roy Ascott's Museum of A Third Kind,
reject the notion of the physical museum space
altogether, the dream of Net.Art as a force that
would rewire the experience of art, a "fantasy
beyond control" according to Lynn Hershman -- had
become a living, breathing reality in San Jose
for those compressed seven days.

And if you turned to the Blogosphere there were
plenty of critics: Patrick Lichty wrote, "There
are many topics, like locative media, data
mapping, ecologies, and so on that are being
explored. On a rhetorical level I have to ask
whether these are the right ones and why these
are the ones that are compelling to us." And on
the CRUMB list, I found an insightful comment by
Molly Hankwitz, who said, "I think the process of
interaction must be done very carefully. The
worst thing is the mainstreaming of situationism
into a middle class playground."

Finally, I turn to Mark Amerika, one of the
original dreamers, for a closing observation:
"Net art is in many ways still the most alive and
accessed art movement ever to NOT be absorbed
into the commercial art worldE and that's
fantastic!" Perhaps the success of Zero One /
ISEA was in its commitment to concentrate on
experimental media art, to emphasize media art's
inclusive, democratic, and participatory nature,
and lastly, that contemporary art must embrace
the new technologies - shamelessly, fearlessly,
defiantly. Net.Art may be dead, but Net Art 2.0
is alive and kicking.

Randall Packer is a widely-exhibited artist,
composer, educator, and scholar. He is Assistant
Professor of Multimedia at American University in
Washington, DC, and the author of Multimedia:
From Wagner to Virtual Reality.


Review of CAE's Marching Plague by Randall Packer

+Commissioned by Rhizome.org+

Review of Critical Art Ensemble's Marching Plague: Germ Warfare and
Global Public Health (Autonomedia, 2006), by Randall Packer

In May of 2004, Critical Art Ensemble (CAE) member Steve Kurtz was
arrested for possession of alleged illegal bio-medical materials.
This event, coupled with the tragic death of his wife Hope, triggered
a response of outrage from the arts community when it was determined
that accusations made by the FBI suggested the artist was engaging in
terrorist activity. Like many at the time, I wrote a letter of
support for Steve. The following is an excerpt:

"Steve's commitment to social inquiry, particularly in the area of
bio-technology, is internationally renowned. Steve is an artist and
scholar of extraordinary depth of knowledge and perspective. Behind
the actions and projects of CAE is a profound understanding of 20th
century avant-garde practice and its impact on contemporary thought.
If in fact it is the role of the artist to shed new light and vision
on the issues that confront us today... the defense of Steve Kurtz is
vital to the defense of the artist, whose role is to function as a
mediator between our strange hostile world and the human spirit."

Marching Plague: Germ Warfare and Global Public Health, Critical Art
Ensemble's latest book, functions as a profound account of the
artistic struggle to challenge the political status quo in times of
crisis. The task of writing the book was indeed a heroic one. After
the original material was confiscated by the FBI, CAE went through
the painstaking task of reconstructing the research, a slow and
tedious process made more difficult with Kurtz's defense of his legal

Nevertheless, Marching Plague was completed, albeit in a revised
form, documenting the CAE argument that the government's use of funds
for germ warfare research is suspect, and is based primarily on
deceptive reports and scare tactics. They contend that the military's
research in bio-terrorism is a tremendous waste of public funds that
diverts money from the more urgent need to "defeat diseases such as
malaria and HIV that prematurely end of the lives of millions of
people each year."

CAE carefully builds its argument as to the limited military
effectiveness of harmful germs such as smallpox, anthrax, plague,
etc. They cite the history of their use, the relatively small number
of fatalities, and the few incidents of successful implementation.
They provide abundant evidence that collateral damage and the
complexity of discharging the toxins into the environment underscores
their claim that germ warfare is a "a burning excess that in the end
does little more than terrorize a nation's own citizenry."

Bolstering their case against the false threat of germs as a
biological weapon, CAE makes the interesting point that the
terrorists are not the "Legion of Doom" or "deranged humans," as the
government would have us believe, but rather, they are highly
tactical in their political agenda. So why would they employ
biological materials given the extreme difficulty of implementation?
The reasons are contradictory. While the government maintains its
position that bio-weapons in the hands of terrorists would cause
millions of deaths, CAE maintains that the extreme difficulty of
implementation would primarily result in the death of those who
attempt to use them, which they refer to as the "boomerang effect."

CAE then takes on the larger ramifications of the politics of fear,
discussing the government's propaganda campaign to promote
unnecessary, costly defense and security systems in the so-called
"war on terror." They equate the Bush Administration's declaration,
"we are winning the war on terror," with the Orwellian reversal of
its meaning: that is, we, "the state," are winning as declaration
that they are seizing authoritarian control over their citizenry.
They give as an example the US Government's Department of Homeland
Security threat advisory system, a wildly inaccurate and manipulative
system that was "religiously reported by the news media whenever the
government gave the call."

They go on to say that the Hurricane Katrina disaster in New Orleans
was the result of the government's obsession with the war on terror.
After the misguided appointment of Michael Brown, "FEMA developed a
new 'all hazards' plan suitable only for the many types of terrorist
attacks that the agency could dream up." They point out the political
crisis inherent in this misguided policy, such that when civilian
interests must compete with the military, the military always takes

What is particularly prescient about the timing of Germ Warfare and
its critique on the war on terrorism is how it dramatically makes
light of the fact that the US Government's obsession with the threat
of terrorism has overshadowed more pressing problems, such as global
warming, world hunger, AIDS, etc, that in the end are killing
millions of people. CAE offers as a rationale the Bush
Administration's consistent yielding to the needs of corporate
America. Just as energy policy is based on the oil industry's need to
maximize its profits, so too, the vast bio-medical industry has
capitalized on the fear of germ warfare as a weapon of mass
destruction, resulting in costly research to defend the nation
against a largely hypothetical attack. In the public health sector,
funds to fight disease have been redirected to fight the war on
terror due to the Pentagon's nightmare scenario of germ warfare - a
tragic waste of public tax dollars.

Overall, CAE's argument against the viability of germ warfare is a
timely critique of the war on terror and the government's effort to
perpetuate the crisis for reasons that are suspect, thus draining
precious resources from the public good. This critique becomes all
the more poignant in light of Kurtz's own personal predicament. The
big question CAE asks is, "couldn't they see that Critical Art
Ensemble's work is art?" Is it really possible that the government
can't distinguish between an artist and a terrorist? In the US, there
is very little understanding among the general public, let alone the
government, that a critical role of the artist in society is to
examine and dissect contemporary cultural conditions. We can only
stand in horror that Steve Kurtz, an internationally renowned
political artist and university professor, could have his work
confiscated and be treated as a dangerous threat.

But like the case of Joe Wilson, whose controversial investigation of
nuclear activity in Niger sent shock waves through the US government
all the way up the top, we see echoes of this in the prosecution of
Steve Kurtz. Marching Plague is a powerful critique exposing the
Government's use of germ warfare as a false scare tactic, and for
this reason, we can understand why they have taken Kurtz to task. It
is a frightening scenario, one that could happen to any artist or
citizen who challenges the government in times of crisis. This book
is an important testament to the fragility of free expression in a
nation gripped by fear and uncertainty.