Visiting lecturer in the History of Art, Design and Film at Kingston University, London.
Visiting lecturer in Arts and Digital Media at London South Bank University.
Feature writer for Furtherfield.org and Rhizome.org.
The latest in a series of interviews with artists who have developed a significant body of work engaged (in its process, or in the issues it raises) with technology. See the full list of Artist Profiles here.
Daniel Rourke: Your recent work, You Could've Said, is described as "a Google keyword confessional for radio." I've often considered your work as having elements of the confession, partly because of the deeply personal stance you perform—addressing we, the viewer or listener, in a one-on-one confluence, but also through the way your work hijacks and exposes the unseen, often algorithmic, functions of social and network media. You allow Google keywords to parasitize your identity and in turn you apparently "confess" on Google's behalf. Are you in search of redemption for your social-media self? Or is it the soul of the algorithm you wish to save?
Erica Scourti: Or maybe the algorithm and social media soul is now so intertwined and interdependent that it makes little sense to even separate the two, in a unlikely fulfillment of Donna Haraway's cyborg? Instead of having machines built into/onto us (Google glasses notwithstanding), the algorithms which parse our email content, Facebook behaviours, Amazon spending habits, and so on, don't just read us, but shape us.
The boundary between science fiction and social reality is an optical illusion.
Donna Haraway, A Cyborg Manifesto (1991) 
This is no fantasy... no careless product of wild imagination. No, my good friends.
The opening lines of Richard Donner's Superman (1978) 
In a 1950 film serial entitled Atom Man vs Superman  television executive and evil genius Lex Luthor sends Superman into a ghostly limbo he calls "The Empty Doom." Trapped in this phantom void, Superman's infinite powers are rendered useless, for although he can still see and hear the "real" world his ability to interact with it has all but disappeared. Over the following decades this paraspace —to use Samuel Delany's term for a fictional space, accessed via technology, that is neither within nor entirely separate from the 'real' world—would reappear in the Superman mythos in various forms, beginning in 1961. Eventually dubbed "The Phantom Zone," its back story was reworked substantially, until by the mid 60s it had become a parallel dimension discovered by Superman's father, Jor El. Once used to incarcerate Krypton's most unsavory characters, The Phantom Zone had outlasted its doomed home world and eventually burst at the seams, sending legions of super-evil denizens raining down onto Earth. Beginning its life as an empty doom, The Phantom Zone was soon filled with terrors prolific enough to make even The Man of Steel fear its existence.
Part of an ongoing series of interviews with artists who have developed a significant body of work but may not (yet) be well known to our readers. Nick Briz is an artist/educator/organizer living in Chicago, and co-founder of the conference and festival GLI.TC/H. This interview took place via Google Drive.
Nick Briz, The Glitch Codec Tutorial (2010-2011). Screenshot from YouTube video.
Daniel Rourke: You are involved in an "improvisational realtime/performance media art event" at the moment called "No Media," where participants are explicitly discouraged from preparing before they take part, or from creating documentation of any kind. I was lucky enough to see the first iteration of No-Media at GLI.TC/H 2112.
Screenshot of work in progress, David OReilly, "A Glitch is a Glitch" (2013). Episode of the television series Adventure Time.
David OReilly is a 3D animator’s 3D animator. Embracing a stripped-back aesthetic that foregrounds the very processes of animation on which it subsists, OReilly—whose past short films include the award-winning "The External World" (2011) and "Please Say Something" (2009)—is recognized as much for his astute grasp of dark, abstract comedy as for his unique approach to visual design. Drawing on glitch aesthetics, underground Japanese Manga and the most parasitic of Internet memes, OReilly forges original compositions from the debris of contemporary culture.
Animated GIF from the website Parked Domain Girl Tombstone (2013)
DR: On first inspection, a lot of your work appears to be rooted in the 90s, drawing on the low bandwidth aesthetics inherent in GIFs, midi plugins, embedded frames, ASCII art, and forgotten webring hyperlinks. But the 90s comes out in other ways, too. Pop-cultural undercurrents include Nintendo and Leisure Suit Larry; mixtapes and a particular flavor of Europop.
I can't vouch for what Rhizome used to be, but I do know how the netart community functions today, and its dynamism cannot be maintained in an email serve list. Having recently started writing for Rhizome I feel a growing sense of protection for this old ship. Yet...
There is something about netart that very much resides in a continual present, and then there's an old staple, like Rhizome, that even the hardiest gallery-based curator with no Internet knowledge/interest can name drop at a dinner party. Netart doesn't make sense in ten-year-old list serve terms, or veteran websites still clinging on to their 227 page archives. It makes sense now and only now. The household Internet name is by definition nothing to do with netart now. I mean not to negate the positive comments about Rhizome's past, or the great work happening now with places like Furtherfield. But how to foster that Nowness again? And onwards? I will have to get boringly practical...
Look to sites like the theverge.com. A site devoted to cutting edge tech. The frontpage gets updated a few times a day, and so has done away with the old linear scrolling blog format. Instead they opt for a tiled layout that dynamically changes as content is added. In the sidebar popular posts from the community are highlighted, less like mail call outs or forum posts as individual blogs in themselves. People devote themselves to these blogs, feeling that they are their own spaces. The dynamic front page gives anyone the chance to impact the wider verge community.
Look at metafilter.com, which has been around since the days of Rhizome listserve. They brought Digg and Reddit style community to the web then, and do now, with uncompromising attention to detail. There is no metafilter manifesto, and yet ask a member what the community stands for in terms of content and approach and they would be able to tell you. The way this consistency is achieved is through a series of unpaid/low paid mediators, that slave through every post making sure Reddit style divergences and disrespect doesn't over power the central vision. Still better than its clones to this day. Unparalleled commitment to an unwritten cause. For me its one of the most successful examples of a self-controlled community that never feels controlling.
Lastly, Rhizome's presence on Facebook highlights an identity problem alluded to throughout this discussion. A niggle, perhaps, but a huge loss nontheless: Anyone typing 'Rhizome' into their status misses out on the chance to automatically link to the community page. Why? Because the official title is 'rhizomeatthenewmuseum'. Consolidate Rhizome site, twitter, Facebook etc. and you'll instantly find a hidden audience made visible again. Rhizome.org and Rhizome at the New Museum are equally important identities that need to be fostered on their own terms.
Really honoured to be part of this discussion. Can't wait to see where Michael and the team take Rhizome next. Good luck!