This month I’m traveling through southeastern Europe from Venice to Athens, where I’m looking at art and blogging. Part two of the travelogue is about Zagreb, Croatia. Part one is here.
Zagreb’s center has more street names than streets; the names change every few blocks so meters can be allotted to every worthy Croatian hero. And many names differ from the ones streets bore twenty years ago, since a different history needed to be inscribed in Zagreb’s map after Yugoslavia dissolved and Croatia became independent. “The Renaming Machine,” an exhibition currently on view at Zagreb’s Galerija Miroslav Kraljevic, addresses the obsession with names. Sanja Ivekovic’s contribution is inspired by Zagreb’s Street of the Unknown Heroine—a name that is both unsettling and appropriate when virtually all other streets are named for men—which takes the form of a poster with maps, e-mails, and other supporting documents describing the artist’s attempt to give the same name to a street in Utrecht during her retrospective at Van Abbemuseum.
Just as street names reflect political values, so do the uses of buildings on them. After arriving in Zagreb and settling in the Angelina Jolie room at The Movie Hotel, I met with Tomislav Medak, director of Mama, an organization that was founded in 1999 as a center for internet activists and artists, but in recent years has shifted its attention to urban development, specifically the use of former industrial sites that abound in Zagreb (as they do in many other large, formerly socialist cities). Mama lobbies the municipal government to reserve abandoned factories for public use—whether cultural activities or low-cost housing—rather than handing them to private investors ...
Shane Hope’s sprawling prints can’t be processed with one or two looks. They are built on thousands of tiny details, rather than around a single focal point, and as the eye travels across the picture field, it sees lines and pieces accumulating in recognizable bodies and then collapsing into chaos, or maybe an order that can’t be discerned by the naked eye. Hope calls them Molecular Modeling prints, or “Mol Mods,” and they are informed by his belief that “the molecule is the brushstroke of the future”—that nanotechnology, the manipulation of matter on a molecular scale, will transform industry sometime soon. For now, Hope’s tools are coding languages Python and Perl. Because of the Mol Mods’ size he can only work on one screen-sized swath at a time, and because of their complexity, that is all that can be rendered even on Hope’s homemade desktop, which he proudly calls "faster than any factory-built Mac on the planet."
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.
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 ...
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.
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 ...