Olson has served as Editor & Curator at Rhizome, the inaugural curator at Zero1, and Associate Director at SF Camerawork. She's contributed to many major journals & books and this year Cocom Press published Arte Postinternet, a Spanish translation of her texts on Postinternet Art, a movement she framed in 2006. In 2015 LINK Editions will publish a retrospective anthology of over a decade of her writings on contemporary art which have helped establish a vocabulary for the criticism of new media. Meanwhile, she has also curated programs at the Guggenheim, New Museum, SFMOMA, White Columns, Artists Space, and Bitforms Gallery. She has served on Advisory Boards for Ars Electronica, Transmediale, ISEA, the International Academy of Digital Arts & Sciences, Creative Capital, the Getty Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Kennedy Center, and the Tribeca Film Festival.
Olson studied Fine Art at Goldsmiths, History of Consciousness at UC Santa Cruz, and Rhetoric & Film Studies at UC Berkeley. She has recently been a visiting artist at Yale, SAIC, Oberlin, and VCU; a Visiting Critic at Brown; and Visiting Faculty at Bard College's Milton Avery Graduate School of the Arts and Ox-Bow. She previously taught at NYU's Tisch School of the Arts' new media graduate program (ITP) and was Assistant Professor of New Media at SUNY-Purchase's School of Film & Media Studies. She was recently an Artist-in-Residence at Eyebeam & is currently Visiting Critic at RISD.
The Whitney Museum artport has been an important institutional presence in net art and new media since its launch in 2002. Created and curated by Christiane Paul, artport features online commissions as well as documentation of new media artworks from the museum's exhibitions and collections. This year, artport as a whole was made an official part of the Whitney Museum collection; to mark this occasion, participating artist Marisa Olson interviewed Paul about the program's history and evolution over thirteen years.
Douglas Davis, image from The World's First Collaborative Sentence (1994).
Collections like artport are a rare and valuable window onto a field of practice that, in some senses, was borne out of not being taken seriously. From mid-80s Eastern European game crackers to late-90s net artists, the first people working online were often isolated, by default or design, and were certainly marginalized by the art world, where few curators knew of their existence and fewer took them seriously, advocated for them, or worked to theorize and articulate the art historical precedents and currents flowing through the work. Help me fast-forward to the beginning of this century at one of the most important international art museums. Many of the US museums that funded new media projects did so with dot-com infusions that dried-up after 2000. Artport officially launched in 2001; the same year, you curated a section devoted to net art in the Whitney Biennial. What was the behind-the-scenes sequence of events that led to artport's founding?
I think artport's inception was emblematic of a wave of interest in net art in the US around the turn of the century and in the early 2000s. This more committed involvement with the art form interestingly coincided with or came shortly after the dot com bubble, which inflated from 1997–2000, had its climax on March 10, 2000 when NASDAQ peaked, and burst pretty much the next day. Net art, however, remained a very active practice and started appearing on the radar of more US art institutions. To some extent, their interest may have been sparked by European exhibitions that had begun to respond to the effects of the web on artistic practice earlier on. In 1997, Documenta X had already included web projects (that year the Documenta website was also famously "stolen"—that is, copied and archived—by Vuk Cosic in the project Documenta: done) and Net Condition, which took place at ZKM in 1999/2000, further acknowledged the importance of art on the web.
US museums increasingly began to take notice. Steve Dietz, who had started the Walker Art Center's New Media Initiatives early on, in 1996, was curating the online art Gallery 9 and digital art study collection. Jon Ippolito, in his role as Associate Curator of Media Arts at the Guggenheim, was commissioning net art in the early 2000s and in 2002, Benjamin Weil, with Joseph Rosa, unveiled a new version of SFMOMA's E-space, which had been created in 2000. This was the institutional netscape in which I created artport in 2001, since I felt that the Whitney, which had for the first time included net art in its 2000 Biennial, also needed a portal to online art. The original artport was much more of a satellite site and less integrated into whitney.org than it is now. Artist Yael Kanarek redesigned the site not too long after its initial launch and created version 1.1. Artport in its early days was sponsored by a backend storage company in New Jersey, which was then bought by HP, so HP appeared as the official sponsor. I think it is notable that sponsorship at that point did not come from a new tech company but a brand name that presumably wanted to appear more cutting edge.
Nancy Holt, Boomerang (1974), still from video.
In her time on this planet, Nancy Holt came to be known as a great American Land Artist, and certainly her brilliant installations, like Utah's Sun Tunnels and collaborations with her partner Robert Smithson and their peers, are profoundly significant, but it was her work in film & video that has had the greatest personal impact on me.
I somehow didn't see Boomerang, her 1974 video performance usually credited to her collaborator Richard Serra, until I was a Ph.D. student in Linda Williams's Phenomenology of Film seminar at UC Berkeley's Rhetoric program, but the time delay was more than made up for by the work's formative resonance. In the video, made during Serra's residency at a Texas television station, a young Holt is seen sitting in an anchor's chair before a staid blue background. Despite brief station ID graphic overlays and one minute of silence in the midst of the ten-minute piece (announced as audio trouble and reminding viewers of the work's live TV origin), the work is in many ways sound-centric.
On Saturday, April 11th, New York's School of Visual Arts will co-present the 2009 Visual Music Marathon with the New York Digital Salon and Northeastern University. Promising genre-bending work from fifteen countries, the lineup crams 120 works by new media artists and digital composers into 12 hours. If it's true, as is often said, that MTV killed the attention spans of Generations X and Y, this six-minute-per-piece average ought to suit most festivalgoers' minds, and the resultant shuffling on and off stage will surely be a spectacle in its own rite. In all seriousness, this annual event is a highlight of New York's already thriving electronic music scene and promises many a treat for your eyes and ears. The illustrious organizers behind the marathon know their visual music history and want to remind readers that, "The roots of the genre date back more than two hundred years to the ocular harpsichords and color-music scales of the 18th century," and "the current art form came to fruition following the emergence of film and video in the 20th century." The remarkable ten dozen artists participating in this one-day event will bring us work incorporating such diverse materials as hand-processed film, algorithmically-generated video, visual interpretations of music, and some good old fashioned music-music. From luminaries like Oskar Fischinger, Hans Richter, and Steina Vasulka to emerging artists Joe Tekippe and Chiaki Watanabe, the program will be another star on the map that claims NYC as fertile territory for sonic exploration. - Marisa Olson
The National Museum of Contemporary Art (EMST) in Athens, Greece, has committed itself to curating a number of recent exhibitions of internet art. Their current show, "Tag Ties and Affective Spies," features contributions from both net vets and emerging surfers, including Christophe Bruno, Gregory Chatonsky, Paolo Cirio, JODI, Jonathan Harris and Sep Kamvar, Les Liens Invisibles, Personal Cinema and The Erasers, Ramsay Stirling, and Wayne Clements. The online exhibition takes an antagonistic approach to Web 2.0, citing a constant balance "between order and chaos, democracy and adhocracy." Curator Daphne Dragona raises the question of whether the social web is a preexisting platform on which people connect, or whether it is indeed constructed in the act of uploading, tagging, and disclosing previously private information about ourselves on sites like Flickr, YouTube, and Facebook. Dragona asks whether we are truly connecting and interacting, or merely broadcasting. While her curatorial statement doesn't address the issue directly, the show's title hints at the level of self-surveillance in play on these sites. Accordingly, many of the selected works take a critical, if not DIY, approach to the internet. The collective Les Liens Invisibles tends to create works that make an ironic mash-up of the often divergent mantras of tactical media, culture jamming, surrealism, and situationism. In their Subvertr, they encourage Flickr users to "subverTag" their posted images, creating an intentional disassociation between an image's content and its interpretion, with the aim of "breaking the strict rules of significance that characterize the mainstream collective imaginary..." JODI's work, Del.icio.us/ winning information (2008) exploits the limited stylistic parameters of the social bookmarking site. Using ASCII and Unicode page titles to form visual marks, a cryptic tag vocabulary, and a recursive taxonomy, their fun-to-follow site critiques the broader content of the web ...
In 1997, internet art hall-of-famer Olia Lialina made a "net drama" called Agatha Appears that was written for Netscape 3 and 4 in HTML 3.2. One of the main features of the interactive narrative was the travel of the eponymous avatar across the internet. Let's just say the girl got around. But the magical illusion of the piece was that she appeared to stay still, even when links in the narrative were clicked and the viewer's address bar indicated movement to another server. But in time, both the browser and code in which the story was written became defunct and the piece unraveled as the sites previously hosting the links and files upon which Agatha was dependent disappeared or cleaned house. Such a scenario is common to early internet art (and will no doubt continue to plague the field), as ours is an upgrade culture constantly driving towards new tools, platforms, and codes. Many have debated whether to let older works whither or how it might be possible to update these works, making them compatible with new systems. For those who are interested, some of the best research on the subject has been performed by the folks affiliated with the Variable Media Initiative. Meanwhile, luddites and neophiles alike are now in luck because Agatha Appears has just undergone rejuvenation. Ela Wysocka, a restorer working at Budapest's Center for Culture & Communication Foundation has worked to overcome the sound problems, code incompatibilities, and file corruption and disappearance issues, and she's written a fascinating report about the process, here. And new collaborating hosts have jumped in line to bring the piece back to life, so that like a black and white boyfriend coming home from war, Agatha now offers us a shiny new webring as a token of ...
From: Shih-Chieh Huang $B2+@$7f(B <email@example.com>
Date: Jun 28, 2006 10:16 AM
Subject: Participation: Required
To: Shih Chieh Huang <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Dear friends, artists, and art lovers,
Mushroom Arts is pleased to announce its first interactive art
exhibition, PARTICIPATION: REQUIRED. Expanding their language beyond
the more traditional forms of painting, sculpture, filmmaking, music,
and performance, the participating artists are challenging
viewers/listeners to take a more active role in relation to their
work. No longer considered just an experiment in new media,
interactive art has evolved beyond its 1960s roots to embody a
completely new formal language that has both expanded the freedom of
expression and pushed back the boundaries of art. Participation:
Required presents the work of interactive artists interested in the
interdependency between form and content.
19 West (Bet. Broadway & 6th Ave.) 26th St. 5th Fl. New York, NY 10010
212.679.2055 (Wed-Sat 12:00-6:00pm) email@example.com
The exhibition opens on Thursday, June 29 and runs through July 15, 2006.
The opening reception will be held on Thursday, June 29 from 6 to 9 pm.
Jamie Allen, Desireena Almoradie, Gabe Barcia-Colombo, Shih-Chieh Huang,
Leif Krinkle, Kenny Kyung Mi Kim, Joo Youn Paek, Jeremiah Teipen, Youngnim Yoon
Interaction with the work in this exhibit requires no technical
prowess beyond a sense of openness and curiosity. But make no mistake,
participation is required!
See you at the reception!
"Bad Reception: The Wireless Revolution in San Francisco"
Produced and Directed by Doug Loranger
Co-Produced by Gordon Winiemko
June 25, 2006, 2pm & 7pm
Roxie Film Center
3117 16th Street at Valencia, San Francisco
With Mayor Gavin Newsom's citywide Wi-Fi initiative, San Francisco moves one
step closer to joining other "wireless" cities around the world. But as the
timely documentary "Bad Reception: The Wireless Revolution in San Francisco"
dramatically illustrates, embracing wireless technology may come with a
steep price for the health and well-being of San Francisco residents and
Exploring the dangers of microwave radiation used by cellular phones,
cellular antennas, and other new wireless technologies, "Bad Reception"
tells the compelling story of residents from backgrounds as diverse as the
city itself taking to the streets and taking on City Hall to protest the
politically powerful and poorly regulated wireless industry.
"Though there are triumphs recorded here, including an emotional victory
over a proposed antenna in the upper Fillmore, Bad Reception ... ominously
hints that the fight is far from over." -- San Francisco Bay Guardian.
The Roxie Film Center's screening of "Bad Reception" coincides with a number
of recent and ongoing political events in the Bay Area:
1. Over 900 residents of San Francisco's Sunset District signed a petition
against Nextel's plan for a cellular tower at the Sunset Reservoir,
prompting Nextel to withdraw the project from the San Francisco Planning
Commission's June 8 calendar.
2. On May 25, 2006, the City of Berkeley's Zoning Adjustment Board voted for
the first time in the City's history to deny a permit for a cellular antenna
facility in the face of strong and well-organized neighborhood opposition.
3. In late May 2006, the California State Senate voted to pass SB 1627, a
T-Mobile-backed piece of legislation that would further restrict the
authority of California towns, cities and counties to determine where
cellular antennae may or may not be placed.
4. Mayor Gavin Newsom's administration has entered into negotiations with
Google/Earthlink to build a city-wide Wi-Fi network, which could include as
many as 1600 microwave-emitting transmitters operating around the clock in
all areas of the city.
"Bad Reception" makes a compelling case that the unknown and potentially
disastrous effects of long-term exposures to cumulative radiation sources
should become a topic of major public policy discussion and action.
------ End of Forwarded Message
From: Ceperkovic, Slavica <Slavica_Ceperkovic@banffcentre.ca>
Date: Jun 19, 2006 3:40 PM
Subject: BNMI Announces International Co-production Labs
BNMI Announces International Co-production Labs
BNMI has just launched its new co-production residency model which
includes three exceptional programs led by three peer advisors per lab.
Apply today for one of these outstanding opportunities!
Co-production Lab: Almost Perfect
Program Dates: November 5 - December 2, 2006
Application Deadline: July 1, 2006
Peer Advisors: Chantal Dumas (CND), Paula Levine (CND/US), Julian Priest
Almost Perfect is a rapid prototyping lab that explores the creation of
pervasive mobile media in the Banff region. With the dedicated support
of peer advisors, technicians, and production facilities, participants
can develop basic to advanced level prototypes in the areas of locative
media, telematics, audio art, and responsive environments. This
residency will also explore the political and social economic contexts
of locative media.
Almost Perfect is a joint venture between BNMI and HP Bristol. Prototype
development will be realized through the use of GPS enabled HP iPAQs and
software developed by HP Research Labs Bristol.
Co-production Lab: Liminal Screen
Program Dates: March 5 - March 30, 2007
Application Deadline: October 2, 2006
Peer Advisors: Willy Le Maitre, (CND) Kate Rich (UK), Amra Baksic Camo
Liminal Screen examines the ambiguity, openness, and indeterminacy of
cinema in current new media practice. Working with peer advisors and
technicians, participants are invited to work independently or
collaboratively to focus on questions of screen-based work that is in
Co-production Lab: Reference Check
Program Dates: June 24 - July 21, 2007
Application Deadline: December 1, 2006
Peer Advisors: Andreas Broeckmann (De), Anne Galloway (CND), Sarat
Reference Check invites post-graduate students and researchers whose
work connects to new media, to come to Banff to develop concepts, create
prototypes, have group discussions and realize projects. Reference Check
welcomes applications for both theoretical and applied research at all
BNMI's Co-production program is devoted to the production and
presentation of the work of new media practitioners. The connections
between art, technology, media, and cultures are continuously explored,
by bringing together interdisciplinary participants in intensive
co-production media lab residencies. The residencies support individuals
and teams in the creation of new works, knowledge, and technology. The
program is international in scope, accepting applications on a
tri-annual basis. The BNMI is committed to equal opportunity and
access to all programs for artists of diverse cultural and regional
communities. Applications are peer adjudicated.
For more information and to apply visit:
Banff New Media Institute
The Banff Centre
Box 1020, Station 40
Banff, Alberta T1L 1H5
Fwd: Code:Blue, 3rd Beijing International New Media Art Exhibition & Symposium rescheduled to open on July 21
From: z <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Code : Blue
I don't really think that the loss of the aura is such a bad thing--or
something that Benjamin necessarily laments. I read the aura as 'stuff
that gets in the way' (ie perceived phenom of a distance), or
moreover, as the immaterial (but weighty) presence of history,
hegemony, and aesthetics.
I think that, in Benjamin's discussion of property systems, and
particularly in his citation of Marinetti's futurist proclamation that
"war is beautiful," that he's call for us to relieve ourselves of
aesthetic models that impose certain negative relationships between
works and individuals. I believe he's saying that these same models
inscribe our subjectivity--as traced by our models of consumption--as
victims of the property/fascist system(s) that have beget our
aesthetic systems. In this vain, "war is beautiful" is not such a
confusing statement. A fascist system begets an aesthetic system that
says X, Y, and Z equal beauty; ergo war equals beauty. It's a way of
seeing how violent the aesthetic "regime" (to perhaps overdo it a bit)
Anyway, I'm travelling and don't have the book with me so I can't
offer any relevant quotes, but it's something I've also been thinking
about lately, so I wanted to chime in.
On 5/28/06, marc <email@example.com> wrote:
> Hi Michael & Curt,
> I suspect the 'aura', has changed into something else now, and perhaps,
> if we are open to it - we can find it not only in art but also in the
> everyday, rather than through objects alone, posing as unique. For
> 'unique' is not necessarily a signifier of what is beautiful, or the
> 'aura'. If one was genuinely interested in 'feeling' what could be
> 'authentic', then one is at least closer to the essence of something
> special or of value, but to contain it as art or as anything else for
> that matter, more reflects a desire to contain the sublime and control
> what is untouchable...
> >HI Curt
> >I *love* Benjamin, but I do think he is best read as a
> >species of poet rather than as a exponent of logical
> >argument, which stuff is frankly fairly thin on the
> >ground in his oeuvre.
> >A lot of the time he was just plain *wrong* factually,
> > but *right* poetically & I think this was the case re
> >the question of "aura".
> >The sense of rightness, of the sublime &c, put it how
> >you will, actually seems to me to be independent of
> >epoch or medium. So, for me,
> >Kentridge, Tarkovsky, Nauman <multiples>, just scream
> >"AURA, AURA, AURA!" whereas Vettriano, Hirst <
> >physical, one of a kind> kind of whisper "DUD,
> >COMMERCE, DUMBING DOWN, FLATTERY, DUD."
> >--- Curt Cloninger <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
> >>Walter Benjamin says that people used to attach an
> >>"aura" (roughly,
> >>sense of awe) to the scarce, original unique,
> >>physical art object.
> >>Benjamin observes that since everything is now
> >>reproducible, we've lost this aura.
> >>As an artist not making one-of-a-kind objects, where
> >>can I relocate
> >>the aura? To answer ,"In the network" is like
> >>answering "in the
> >>air," or "in time," or "in existence." I need a
> >>more specific,
> >>behavioral/tactical description of this new locus of
> >>awe and aura.
> >>Designer Clement Mok says designers should describe
> >>their practice
> >>not in terms of media deliverables ("I make
> >>websites"), but as
> >>doctors and lawyers do, in terms of services
> >>performed and results
> >>achieved. A doctor doesn't say, "I make incisions."
> >> A lawyer
> >>doesn't say, "I generate paperwork." This seems
> >>like a better way
> >>for a "new media artist" to describe her art.
> >>(Note: Even the term
> >>"new media artist" describes her in terms of media
> >>She shouldn't say, "I make net art." Better to say,
> >>"I cause x to
> >>happen. I orchestrate x. I'm investigating x."
> >>Thus in describing
> >>"where" I relocate the aura, I should avoid saying,
> >>"It's in the
> >>podcast, weblog, RSS feed, wearable mobile computing
> >>device, etc."
> >>As an artist, my self-imposed mandate is to increase
> >>a more lively
> >>dialogue with the Sundry Essences of Wonder. If
> >>wonder is akin to
> >>awe is akin to aura, I'd better figure out where to
> >>relocate the aura.
> >>There are four places I can house the aura that seem
> >>In the destabilized/variable event/object.
> >>Generative software makes
> >>this possible. My bubblegum cards are a personal
> >>example (
> >>) Cage
> >>and Kaprow are precedences. The aura is embedded in
> >>the chance and
> >>variability that the artist invites into the
> >>In the perpetually enacted and iterated
> >>act/stance/position. My
> >>ongoing [remix] series of posts to rhizome RAW are a
> >>example. Ray Johnson's life/death and mail art,
> >>Joseph Beuys
> >>pedagogy, and D.J. Spooky's perpetual remix as
> >>talisman are
> >>precedences. Even Howard Finster, Daniel Johnston,
> >>and Henry Darger
> >>qualify, albeit in a less consciously tactical
> >>capacity --
> >>prodigiously outputting without thought of object
> >>uniqueness/scarcity/worth/market value. The act of
> >>creation is the art, and the output is (to greater
> >>or lesser degrees)
> >>incidental ephemera. William Blake almost
> >>qualifies. The stream is
> >>perpetual; it becomes the new "event object;" and in
> >>this stream the
> >>aura is embedded. Note: This approach takes lots of
> >>In the boundaries of context. Our Deep/Young
> >>Ethereal Archive (
> >>http://deepyoung.org ) is a personal example.
> >>Precedences and
> >>co-examples are:
> >>http://www.mjt.org/ ,
> >>http://www.museum-ordure.org.uk/ .
> >>, http://www.dearauntnettie.com/gallery/ .
> >>This approach necessarily involves disorientation
> >>and re-orientation.
> >>The contextual frame is soft, and the aura is
> >>embedded into this soft
> >>frame. Keeping this frame soft is a delicate
> >>matter. It requires a
> >>heightened, sometimes schizophrenic sense of
> >>performative awareness
> >>(cf: Ray Johnson, David Wilson). It may require the
> >>artist to
> >>alienate "real" art institutions wishing to fit the
> >>art into their
> >>frame. As the artist of such work, I can't overtly
> >>foreground the
> >>soft contextual frame as my intended locus of aura.
> >>If I do, the
> >>soft frame I'm working so hard to construct and keep
> >>soft immediately
> >>solidifies and is in turn meta-framed by a much more
> >>solid, didactic,
> >>"artist statement" frame; and the aura flies away.
> >>Note: Warhol well
> >>understood that an object's scarcity was a silly
> >>contemporary place
> >>for the aura to go. Instead, he ingeniously
> >>embedded the aura in the
> >>foregrounded concept of the object's scarcity. His
> >>deep awareness of
> >>this ironic relationship may explain why his art
> >>objects now sell for
> >>so much. (cf: http://www.dream-dollars.com/ ).
> >>In human relationships. Personal examples might be
> >>http://www.lab404.com/data/ and
> >>http://www.playdamage.org/quilt/ .
> >>Co-examples might be
> >>http://learningtoloveyoumore.com ,
> >>http://www.foundmagazine.com/ , and some of Jillian
> >>performance pieces (
> >>). You could describe this as "network" art, but
> >>compare it to Alex
> >>Galloway's Carnivore, which is also network art, and
> >>you realize
> >>"network" is too broad a term. This human
> >>relationship art is not
> >>about the network as an abstract monolithic cultural
> >>entity. It is
> >>about humans who happen to be interacting with each
> >>other via
> >>networks. The aura is embedded not in the network,
> >>but in the human
> >>relationships that the art invites. As with locus
> >>#1 (In the
> >>destabilized/variable event/object), this locus
> >>necessarily involves
> >>chance, because human relationships necessarily
> >>involve chance.
> >>These four places for housing the aura are not
> >>mutually exclusive.
> >>Conceivably, a single artwork could house the aura
> >>in all four
> >>places. This warrants further artistic
> >>-> post: email@example.com
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