Sex and teletext, e-commerce and elektronische tanzmusik collide in The Sound of eBay, the latest internet intervention (and a 2008 Rhizome Commission) from Ubermorgen.com, which generates unique low-fi electro tunes from individual users' eBay data. Visit the project's site, generously decorated with 8-bit teletext porn, and enter your (or anyone's) eBay moniker and an email; a specially-tailored mp3 arrives in your inbox in a matter of hours. According to Ubermorgen.com's own account, an invisible army of bots scours the World's Largest Online Marketplace (tm) to scrape data and bring it back to be transformed into music. How a given user's actual data corresponds to the structure and content of each tune is not evident to the listener, but relates to the eBay-Generator application's own idiosyncratic system of producing and processing hashsums from user-to-user transactions: more frequent eBay bidders may receive denser compositions, and two different songs created from the same username can differ. In the future, the creators of eBay-Generator plan to release the application under a GNU Public License. The Sound of eBay concludes a trilogy of works by Ubermorgen.com--otherwise known as the artists Lizvix and Hans Bernhard--including GWEI (Google Will Eat Itself), an economic ourouboros that generates money off Google text ads then uses the income to buy Google stock, and Amazon Noir, which exploited Amazon's "search inside" function to create pirated versions of full books. Unlike these latter acts of digital ju-jitsu, the parasitic Sound of eBay has a relatively benign relationship to its host organism. Celebrating with only partial irony the auction giant's peer-to-peer distributed capitalism, the Sound of eBay offers a way to shake one's booty to the hidden rhythms of electronic commerce. - Ed Halter
Ubermorgen.com, the Sound of Ebay "Visuals" (Screengrab ...
Public exhibition of single-channel video typically falls under two models: theatrical screening and gallery installation, each with particular benefits and limitations. In theatrical screenings, a relatively captive audience becomes engaged with the rhythms of the work over a predetermined length of time; individual titles in a program can speak to one another in a linear fashion. The cinematic format allows for potentially deeper engagement, but poses pragmatic limits: too many short videos in an extremely long program suffer. Gallery installation lends itself best to shorter pieces, loops and environmental works, and suggests the medium's relationship to the gallery Ur-forms of painting and sculpture, as well as to the architectural space of the white box. Why + Wherefore's online exhibit This One Goes Up To 11 provides yet another way to program video--something like a DVD compilation gone immaterial. Four curators--Summer Guthery, Hanne Mugaas, Lumi Tan and Nicholas Weist--chose ten videos each for the show around the easily malleable theme of "pop and media culture." Hosted by Vimeo, the forty titles range in length from twelve seconds to twenty-four minutes, with a combined runtime of three hours and forty-seven minutes. Alphabetically arranged on a long horizontal window, the lineup functions more like a mere database of options than a conscious progression. With so many choices of widely varying length and quality, user control precipitates a hot-or-not brutality: the best works--Guthrie Lonergan's Artist Looking at Camera, Bad Beuys Entertainment's Champion #4, or Tricia Baga's Season One, to name only a few--will run satisfyingly to completion, while certain others will be impatiently click-and-dragged to their ends. Video needs better attention paid to temporal rhythms and the experience of spectatorship; while an ambitious experiment, Why + Wherefore's attempt collapses into curatorial shovelware. - Ed Halter
In Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man, McLuhan famously used the content-less light bulb to explain his philosophical slogan "the medium is the message," noting that switching one on "creates an environment by its mere presence." Now Pixel Gallery, in the techno-sage's old stomping grounds of Toronto, showcases two projects that create light-environments from two unusual technologies that go way beyond the bulb; the show, "Living Light," co-presented by Year Zero One for the Subtle Technologies Festival, continues until June 15. Diane Willow's Cascade and Circling, part of her Light Sensitive series, consists of installations employing sea water inhabited by bioluminescent algae. Visitors can touch the sculptures, prompting the liquid in the containers to move and create varying fields of luminance as the clouds of microorganisms shift. French Canadian collective Experientiae Electricae offers a differently volumetric experience with Pixy, which uses electroluminescence to generate light from a variable system of large, independently movable square sheets. Positioned and programmed, each square then corresponds to an individual pixel of a video, and can be spread over objects to create large, three-dimensional, low-resolution images. Pixy expands moving-image video into an architectural space, thereby throwing a few more twists into McLuhan's elucidations of technology's form-content problem. - Ed Halter
Image: Diane Willow, Cascade and Circling, 2008
As if taking a one-man stand against the alleged decline of bibliophilia in the digital age, Charles Broskoski read 356 books in 400 days, ending his own personal Reading Olympics in early 2008. If that doesn't sound grueling enough to you ADHD types, consider this: the books he perused were a collection of O'Reilly tech-guide e-books downloaded as a single torrent in late 2006: fat tomes with such alluring titles as Linux Device Drivers, XSLT Cookbook, Essential System Administration and ASP.NET in a Nutshell. Conceiving the daunting task as an endurance performance entitled Computer Skills, Broskoski took notes on every book he read, and later posted them to his website in both .txt and .pdf formats. Perhaps inevitably, his notes begin as detailed commentaries, but later devolve into sketchy exasperation and sideways minutia: "the photo for the chapter on DVDs is an image of a title screen for a movie called El Masko" reads one of only three comments Broskoski made in response to Mac OS X: The Missing Manual, Second Edition by David Pogue, thumbed through as volume number 212. Last month, for the Parsons School of Design show at the Chelsea Art Museum, Broskoski mounted further physical evidence: 356 physical copies of the books he read, happily donated to the show by the publisher. Seeing the multicolored monolith of paperbacks assembled together makes for a humbling monument to the sheer amount of information available online. Broskoski's super-sized 400-day book-binge, after all, comprises only an infinitesimally small portion of the networked era's ever-expanding universal library. -- Ed Halter
Image: Charles Broskoski, Computer Skills (Notes from Performance), 2008