Body by Body & Julia Rob3rts, Sculpture for Burning Man (2012)
Why did you choose to create Body by Body?
CAMERON: I wanted to start something like a band but with visual art (but not a collective). Or at least have a Malcolm McLaren type role. I still would like to start a visual art version of Bow Wow Wow. So we started Body by Body, and it was nice to make work that was different from what I did solo. When we started the Aventa Garden series, we needed a writer with a certain tone of voice, so we made Julia Rob3rts who does all the writing for us and about us. In this way, we have our own private economy. She writes all our press releases and sort of plays the 'artist as researcher/digital ethnographer/cyberflaneur' role for us, so we can focus on being symbolic artists and beatniks. This isn't new by any stretch, Pessoa is the first thing that comes to mind...
MELISSA: It was pretty random and not as deliberate as it seems now. Parker (Ito) and Caitlin (Denny) asked me to do something for jstchillin, and at that point I had been out of school for two years and wasn’t really making much work. I said to Cameron, 'I don’t know what to do for this but I think we should make something together and sell it on the site'. Then Cameron suggested we use a pseudonym to identify our collaborative efforts. The name stuck and grew into something else. We started creating other ‘characters’ and giving them a life, but really the pseudonyms function, at least for me, as a psychologically liberating outlet. It helps to not get bogged down in what one thinks they should be making or how ...
Last winter, Dan Harmon, who was then the executive producer of the television sitcom Community, shared that he tried, “many times a season” to put star Alison Brie “in a situation, wardrobe-wise, that I know is going to end up as an animated GIF file!” Those GIFs, which circulate on Tumblr and other social media networks that traffic in images, are frame-capture GIFs. Unlike other GIF types, frame-capture GIFs plainly collect and endlessly repeat a single pop cultural moment from movies, TV shows, sporting events, political occasions, newscasts, cartoons, or even video games. As GIFs are silent, text is used to share dialogue or help shepherd the meaning of a GIF. Frame-grab GIFs are low-quality, incessantly mobile things, they can be awkwardly cropped and their focus is always obviously legible. Somewhat counter to this are what Daniel Rourke has termed art GIFs, which, while also frequently sourced from movies or television, contain higher resolutions and have a self-consciously highbrow pretention, usually focusing on subtler, “artistic” moments.
A frame-grab GIF
Writing in the early 1990s, Susan Stewart observed that “with the advent of film, interpretation has been replaced by watching … Here we see the increasing historical tendency toward the self-sufficient machine, the sign that generates all consequent signs, the Frankenstein and the thinking computer that have the capacity to erase their authors and, even more significantly, to erase the labor of their authors.” Stewart's diagnosis of the filmic watching-state returns, in a modified form, with the frame-grab GIF. These GIFs are in some sense the ultimate in self-sufficiency, not merely in the eternal return of their endless loop, but also within what Rourke has called the co-ordination of “their own realm of correspondence.”
The quality of the frame-grab GIF is important. Borrowing insights from Hito Steyerl’s analysis of the poor image, the creation and distribution of frame-grab GIFs “enables the user’s active participation in the creation and distribution of content, it also drafts them into production. Users become editors, critics, translators, and (co)authors of poor images.” Perhaps due to their quality and size, frame-grab GIFs have necessarily abstracted authorship. They are deployed in variable contexts, as reactions, illustrations, or expressions. Art GIFs, on the other hand, are circulated to be admired. Their authorship is also more consistently policed, as their authors demand credit for their work.
An example of what Daniel Rourke terms an "art GIF" (via)
While Stewart’s description of “the sign that generates all consequent signs” is one that erases authorship, the vernacular of frame-grab GIFs does something different. Instead of completely erasing authorship, the creation of frame-grab GIFs rearranges its tenets. Generally centered on a performer, framing the actor/actress in a context removed from the narrative flow of their source media. With their behavior on display, they carry a kind of performative authorial focus within the GIF. While the GIF is not by them, it is of them...
iKea [Stockholm Syndrome], Single-channel video, LCD TV screen, 2012
Can you talk about the body of work you've just finished? Where do you see yourself going from here?
My solo show (at Arcadia_Missa), Stockholm Syndrome and Other System Failures, felt like a manifesto as opposed to a showcase or retrospective. It was kind of a show within a show, a meta-installation; the work sat on plinths and IKEA cabinets placed alongside each other, and everything was painted thickly in shitty white vinyl emulsion (I feel like white paint is interesting as a symbol of structural violence - institutionalisation, gentrification, erasure). There were some discrete works in there - Padded Cell (Sultan), Please Let This Be Real, iKea, There's A Little Pre-911 Myspace In All of Us. But the other stuff on show was just what was generated in the labor of putting it all together: tools and detritus. The broom, the beer trolley, the paint pot. I didn't want to clean it up. I didn't want to make the distinction. Everything had a museum card and a price tag: post-fordism on speedy drugs [for enhanced pleasure and better performance]. I've had my blue period, like, my Facebook period, and I think I'm just about done with IKEA, but I'm still interested in the tension between the production of an art object and the collateral damage (material, financial, emotional) of that production process. I guess in my case the art object is an analogue for the subject in the world. Maybe even a self-portrait.
Your Tumblr is a great repository of images, videos, and texts that seem to commingle and collide in a way reminiscent of Benjamin's Arcades. Of course, there's something inherent in the structure and aesthetic of Tumblr that invites that comparison ...
Untitled, 2010. Epson UltraChrome inkjet on linen; eight panels, 305 x 69 in. (774.7 x 175.3 cm) each ; 305 x 586 in. (774.7 x 1488.4 cm) overall. Collection of the artist. Photograph by Lothar Schnepf.
The language of Wade Guyton’s mid-career retrospective at the Whitney emphasizes that, like any other user, Guyton approaches technology unenlightened as to its inner workings. Choosing to make his printer drawings, in which images from books and magazines are printed on, Guyton rendered simple marks in Microsoft Word. Unlike other users, perhaps, Guyton is aesthetically excited by technologies limitations and preconditions, viewing them as an element of chance in his work.
The exhibition, made up mostly of inkjet on linen paintings, aptly shows Guyton’s modernist collaborations with new technologies, reinscribing the greatest hits modernism within a different context. Transparency, monochrome, and the readymade all make their expected appearances. A four panel transparent window, with printer drawings of works by Frank Stella, Duchamp himself, and others, emphasize his investment in 20th century modernism while referencing obliquely computer technology as a low-tech window and bulletin board.
The printer drawings play with material images from books and magazines. This emphasis on origin and location contrasts with his engagement of technologies that have done so much to dematerialize our engagement with images. One inkjet painting does come from a “source file”: it contains an image of Kenneth Noland’s True North (1961), scanned, printed, and disturbed by five runny black disks. More explicitly minimal works—an inverted woodpile or inkjet on wood sculpture—round out the show.
Meet Defense Distributed, home of the Wiki Weapon — "A collaborative project to create freely available plans for 3D printable guns." They've just been granted $20,000 in funding from an angel investor. As outlined in an explanatory Youtube video, Defense Dist.'s goal is not to arm the populace, but to liberate information. As explained in their video, if the instructions for 3D printed gun are seeded online, then "any bullet becomes a weapon."
It's good that open-source information is Defense Distributed's major goal, because Stratsys, the company that makes the 3D printer used by Defense Dist., seized the printer from Cody Wilson. Producing a whole weapon, claimed Stratsys, would break laws against home weapons manufacturing. In July, Extreme Tech reported on a user named HaveBlue from the AR-15 forum. HaveBlue used a mid-90s era Stratasys brand 3D printer to make the body of a .22-caliber pistol. HaveBlue's creation utilized a commercial chamber fused with a 3D-printed body. Said HaveBlue: "It's had over 200 rounds of .22 through it so far and runs great!" HaveBlue went on to remind readers that manufacturers have been using 3D printing for modeling and design purposes for a while. His gun was simply the first with 3D printed plastic parts to be tested by someone at home.
HaveBlue's 3D printed gun.
Anab Jain of Superflux told the magazine Dezeen that Defense Dist. is a symptom of the transforming dynamic between consumers and manufacturers: “The old rules and regulations about who is the designer, who is the manufacturer and who is the distributor change when people have the tools and opportunities to become the designer, manufacturer and distributor themselves."
It's all too easy to imagine a future where rebels or criminals rely on 3D printing to produce weapons ...