Brian Droitcour
Since 2008
Works in BROOKLYN, New York United States of America

BIO
Rhizome curatorial fellow September 2008 - April 2009, staff writer April 2009 - December 2011, poetry editor January 2012 - 20??

On Tour


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Image: Notice on the site of the Slovenian Ministry of Foreign Affairs

This month I’m traveling through southeastern Europe from Venice to Athens, where I’m looking at art and blogging. Part one of the travelogue is about Ljubljana, Slovenia.

Before the Internet Pavilion, there was the first meeting of nettime at the 1995 Venice Biennale. Vuk Ćosić, one of the core participants, told me about it over lunch in Ljubljana last week. Internet theorists and artists gathered for three days of discussion just upstairs from Club Berlin, a non-stop rave where art stars worked the bar. “I remember Joseph Kosuth handing me a beer,” Ćosić said.

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Image: Luka Prinčič

The rave was a recurring theme of the four days I spent in Slovenia, and there seemed to be more to it than the Slavs’ enduring love for techno. My visit happened to coincide with the opening night of Sonica, a sound art festival, and the kickoff featured Andi Studer and Matt Spendlove’s Netaudio Ping Pong, where two players build dance music by taking turns at composing four-bar phrases on mixers installed on two ends of a ping-pong table. Škuc, a gallery that has been showcasing progressive art since 1978, was hosting a “live archive” of Slovenian video art from the 1980s and 1990s, and I spent an hour watching works by Mirko Simic, including distillations of his veejay acts at parties fifteen years ago. On Wednesday night, Luka Prinčič performed at a small theater in a university’s basement; between the somber, wordy beginning and end, he danced himself into a sweat wearing silver tights and sparkling tank top. The next night, after a presentation at Kiberpipa where he demonstrated his Puredata modification that introduces elements of probability to the dance tracks he writes to accompany his ...

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He Blinded Me with Science


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Image: Conrad Shawcross, Slow Arc III, 2009

In an interview in the Village Voice ahead of his current show at Location One, British artist Conrad Shawcross called his Slow Arc Inside a Cube an analogy to Plato’s cave: “the idea that visible reality is only a small crumb of what's really out there.” As a lightbulb moves on a mechanical arm inside a cage, it throws the cage’s gridded shadow across the white walls of the enclosed space that contains the installation, creating the sensation that the room is expanding and contracting as the viewer stands within it. The grid is simultaneously a solid object (the cage) and its fluid trace (the shadow). Could Slow Arc be a wry joke about the white cube and the grid, those two pillars of modern art? Perhaps, but it is primarily a study in reality and tangibility. Lattice Cube IV and Lattice Cube II, two other sculptures at the exhibition, are both segmented, hinged boxes in different forms of expansion, like a moving object caught at two moments in time. Dumbbells are machine-made drawings that trace the frequency of a major sixth, and The Celestial Meters are an homage to the Earth meter, devised in 1799 based on an incorrect estimation of the distance from the equator to the North Pole. Shawcross determined the length of his eight sticks through similar calculations, but for each one he took data on the planet whose name is inscribed in the metallic stick. Shawcross’ work recalls that of Olafur Eliasson, who uses simple geometric and kinetic structures to elicit a sense of wonder about light, optics, and nature. But unlike Eliasson, Shawcross foregrounds the role of the scientific imagination in shaping perceptions of the world.

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Image: Conrad Shawcross, Lattice Cube IV, 2009

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Wired Misses the Marx


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Can behavior in space as large and diverse as the internet be assigned an ideological marker? Kevin Kelly tries to do that in "The New Socialism," an article in the June issue of Wired. The premise is that the widespread use of technology that harnesses communal activity—whether on Wikipedia, Reddit, or Yahoo! Groups—heralds a major shift in the way people think. To define what he sees as a new phenomenon, Kelly repurposes an old word, “socialism,” a choice that deliberately spites both twentieth-century U.S. propaganda and Marxist philosophy.

The resulting essay brims with missteps, fallacies, and self-contradictions. Kelly lists Google among his examples of a place where “digital socialism” flourishes, but “The Secrets of Googlenomics," an article that shares tease space with Kelly’s piece on the cover, gives a detailed description of how the company operates as a fast-paced auction house. Another example of communal activity is that “tagged snapshots of the same scene from different angles can be assembled into a stunning 3-D rendering of the location”—which, interestingly, echoes Russian critic Ekaterina Degot’s theory that Soviet public spaces and events were constructed so as to be impossible to view in full from an individual vantage point—but Kelly gives Microsoft’s Photosynth as an example of a program that enables this, even after kicking the piece off with a quote from Bill Gates casting Microsoft’s founder as the arch-nemesis of leftist action. Open source software is another keystone of Kelly’s argument, but he neglects to mention that many companies use open source as a stage in product development, a low-cost investment in refining a good for later sale. Wikipedia, an example that crops up several times, is a non-profit, but as many critics of the site have noted, the self-appointed editors ...

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Again and Again


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Image: Jon Rafman, The Horror! The Horror! (.info), 2008 (Still)

The loop is the unsteady cornerstone of contemporary technology, both a basic structure of computer code and the physical shape of reels of film and tape that continue to inform conceptual understanding of digital media. The loop is also a metaphor for time—a cycle that returns to the same disasters again and again—that opposes the sunnier notion of time as a river running forward. The Wheel of the Devil, a screening of video- and internet-based art presented by MTAA and critic Ed Halter, promises a dark reflection on those ideas, which they collapse in the formula “while (history) { history = true; }.” The Friday night program will feature loops by JODI, Rick Silva, Brody Condon, Jon Rafman, Deidre LaCarte, Michael Sarff, MTAA, Hayley A. Silverman, Mathwrath, Chris Coy, Michael Bell-Smith, jimpunk, and more. The first loop will be launched at 8, and the last will be cut off at 10.

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Transparency Theory


Video: Schmelzolan on Overhead by Christian Faubel

What do elementary school audiovisual departments have in their arsenals these days? Are fifth-grade teachers teaching with PowerPoint? That seems hard to believe, since mine barely mastered the overhead projector. She could never put the transparency right-side up and left-side left on the first try. The overhead projector’s flipping technique required the user’s brain to undo what the eyes do for it, in order to make one sheet of paper’s worth of information available to collective vision.

The tricky optics alone should be enough to interest artists in the overhead projector, but an exhibition dedicated to the device in Malmo, Sweden, focuses on the precious, nostalgic appeal of this quaint technology. Opening Friday and running through May 30, “The Art of the Overhead” will feature an archive of projectable documents and a spate of live programs: a projection-based performance by Katrin Bethge, an analogue computer game by magic-lantern artists Milk Milk Lemonade, and an interactive planetarium from Sue Corke and Hagen Betzwieser. Since Sunday these artists and others have been taking part in an OHPen Surface Workshop, sharing the projects they’ve prepared for the overhead projector and discussing how they’ve adapted the technologies they use in their usual practices, which range from sound art to minimal robotics. The full program is available at www.overheads.org, a site that makes nice use of another obsolete technology, the marquee.

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