The Internet, specifically social media, is often perpetuated as being a new kind of ‘revolution celebrity’ and indeed to some point its played a hefty distributive role in accelerating the 2011 Egyptian Revolution, Occupy and even the SOPA protests to name but a recent few. Yet, it simultaneously is this other exploitative entity, capitalizing on our movement through online space and constantly collecting data with often vague, ill-defined intentions. Can social media’s two dynamic roles—both as a constructive social platform for anti-government efforts and a data aggregating system—be synthesized into a critical and valuable commons? Can personal user data collection be used for more than advertising and increased commodification?
Techno-sociologist, Zeynep Tufekci proposes that today, connection and friendship are moving from the ‘ascribed ties’ of inherited local relationships consisting of one’s neighborhood friends, family, etc. to ‘achieved ties’ or relationships located based on the shared affinities of people ‘with whom you interact using multiple means of communication’. What can such shifts reveal about territorial and even regional interaction? Of neighborhoods, boroughs and its socio-economic behaviors? How can geography be re-defined?
The Livehood Research Project from the School of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University is potentially one example of how data collection can be used in a constructive, illuminating way, by demonstrating how place can be defined by social activity (maybe rather than by jurisdiction). Livehood uses the data of over 18 million foursquare check-ins to map both geographic distance of frequented venues as well as plotting its ‘social distance’, or ‘the degree of overlap in the people that check-in to them’. Through accumulation of foursquare check-ins, Livehood algorithmically condenses this data into neighborhoods allowing a user to view the pattern sets of other people’s use of space.
Though the project in its current stages is still extremely limited (restricted so far to only three US cities, as well as accessible only to foursquare users) Livehood could develop into an extremely valuable tool for future governments and its citizens, as both a social lubricant and political tool. It also could just easily fulfill yet another advertiser’s dream.
Parle moi je t'écoute, 2006-7
Fiction, history and reality are constantly being intertwined throughout your work. How do you balance the phantasmic with reality? How do these techniques propel or help understand the history and politics in works like As it might, could, did happen and Was Bourguiba, then Ben Ali, awaiting the next?
The balance is very vague and I keep it so as long as possible. I want the viewers to find their own balance.
When Bourguiba first came to power, he was hailed as a savior, a liberator of the oppressive French. Images of him where everywhere. He cultivated that cult, just like any other dictator and was able to hold on to power for a long time. The fiction of the liberator was trying to negate the reality of living under his reign.
In my work I ask the viewers to consider what is being presented, to form their own understanding and opinion. In As it might, could, did happen, I recreated a bedroom (with furniture made of cardboard and wood imitation vinyl) in what was a East German Pioneers boarding house. The furniture looked almost authentic, but not quite. It played with the pre-conceptions of how East German furniture looked cheap and homogeneous. But the environment was real. So the balance here between fiction and reality is very flexible.
In one of your project’s statements you describe the struggle with your identity as the following: “I want to be this icon, this Frenchness, while also being who I am a mix breed, neither one nor the other. Arab, but French, but American, but becoming German?”
With this, works like, La distinction entre un carthaginois et un hexadecagone, au subjonctif, Layered Tense, and Pictures I wish I had are attempts at contextualizing ...
Before, before, 2011
Works like IT, HEAT, HIT, Owt and The Artist—among many others—approach storytelling through frenetic, non-linear progressions and cuts. Narratives seem to emerge spontaneously from what seems to be your immediate environment without much premeditation. Why is it important for you to develop language this way? What is lost or gained through such fragmented communication?
Anything that is not shown has to be imagined.
So here I am answering these questions, in the middle of the woods on this lovely Sunday afternoon on top of a beautiful big tree, water running beneath me…I shouldn’t drop the computer. Now it’s up to you to imagine how I got up here, the colour of the leaves and the smell in the air.
The condensing of films is a way of relating to our experiences, of the multiple textures we constantly have to deal with and how our brain constantly has to edit for us. The fact that a lot of the footage comes from my immediate surroundings is just me looking at what is around me – then I can start to create a story around, say the bread on the table, or whatever. It is a chance to look at things closely and then differently, to imagine things in another way.
Nothing is normal.
But sometimes it’s completely constructed environments as well, like in, The Artist.
Regarding editing: An image can generate different meanings depending what you see after or before it. This is what triggers associations, connections and eventually narratives and this is the potential in the editing that I love. Spontaneity is also important for me. I need to make mistakes. If things are controlled and pre-determined then often I am not happy with what I am producing.
Problems bring new levels ...
Motorola Droid XL, 2011
Art404 is comprised of Manuel Palou and Moises Sanabria.
This interview was conducted over multiple online chat sessions beginning in March 2012 through April 2012.
louisdoulas: Let’s start with Art Not Found or Art404. Could you tell me a little more about its connotations?
artnotfound: Art404 is a pun for artnotfound, a motto that gives us a certain level of transparency. We don't want to get hung up on making art and exclude anybody from our work.
louisdoulas: So the absence implies a kind of non-context for framing production?
artnotfound: Well the internet functions in a non-context anyway. We want to create content and value more than we want to create art.
louisdoulas: Right, without the prerequisite motivations of making an artwork per se, just ‘pure’ creative production.
artnotfound: It's relentless creative production and discussion. That’s the future of content.
louisdoulas: So then there’s this awareness of the potential insularities or exclusiveness of the art world, or at least a hesitation to participate within this context? Perhaps which is why you're attracted to the internet in the first place, as it levels out all content.
artnotfound: Yes definitely. By opening up the discussion to everyone it democratizes content. And if successful, any further discussion of that content gives it social value.
louisdoulas: Cultural Capital
artnotfound: Art404 likes this.
louisdoulas: I'm interested in these notions of 'opening up discussion', surrounding content, in this case specifically your work; what does this mean for you?
artnotfound: It means our mothers can engage with our work as much as a gallerist can. The internet is allowing people to take part in things they never would have before, opening up the possibilities for a much larger discussion. When both ends of the spectrum: high ...
Diacritics are accent marks used to indicate the type of pronunciation a certain word infers. Diacritics are used in Latin script, but are also specific to other alphabetic systems such as the vowel pointing scripts of the Arabic harakat. In Laimonas Zakas’ project, Glitchr, a facebook page is dedicated to glitchily deforming the posting interfaces of Facebook. Diacritical marks are emptied from their primary communicative signifiers and repurposed as formalized, aestheticized objects; accomplices in the jailbreaking of Facebook page hegemony.
Rather then its users shaping and determining its network, Facebook is known—amongst other things—for creating quite the opposite for users: a loss of control, of malleability and the continued reiteration of a standardized user conduct. Glitchr then, in such a world, becomes a refreshing, if not odd spectacle: gifs become enabled, symbols and text float around up and down the page never adhering to the coded structure within.
Though Glitchr to some degree interrupts the normativity of the Facebook structure revealing what one can safetly get away with, its subversive aesthetics survive only as mirage in the desert of the Zuckerberg empire.