Marisa Olson
Since the beginning
Works in Brooklyn, New York United States of America

Marisa Olson is an artist, writer, and media theorist. Her interdisciplinary work has been exhibited at the Venice Biennale, Centre Pompidou, Tate(s) Modern + Liverpool, the Nam June Paik Art Center, British Film Institute, Sundance Film Festival, PERFORMA Biennial; commissioned and collected by the Whitney Museum, Museum of Modern Art, Houston Center for Photography, Experimental Television Center, and PS122; and reviewed in Artforum, Art21, the NY Times, Liberation, Folha de Sao Paolo, the Village Voice, and elsewhere.

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.

Collectible After All: Christiane Paul on net art at the Whitney Museum

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 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.

booomerrranganggboobooomerranrang: Nancy Holt's networked video

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.

Sound and Image in Electronic Harmony

Image: Semiconductor: Ruth Jarman and Joseph Gerhardt, 200 Nanowebbers, 2005

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, 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 ...


Reappearance of the Undead


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 ...


Discussions (281) Opportunities (10) Events (4) Jobs (0)

"gay eye" on baghdad

for those of you looking for yet another perspective...

> Gay Eye On Baghdad
> by Doug Windsor
> Newscenter
> New York Bureau
> March 29, 2003
> 12:01 a.m. ET/+5GMT/-3PT
> (New York City) A website by a mysterious gay man is attracting tens of
> thousands of readers around the world seeking updates on the situation in
> Baghdad.
> He calls himself Salam Pax, a nom de plume which means "peace" in Arabic and
> Latin.
> His site ( is a web log called a blog, a sort
> of online diary. His entries not only criticize Saddam Hussein but also the
> U.S. led invasion of Iraq.
> While little is known about Salam Pax, it appears he is a 28 or 29-year-old
> Iraqi architect who lived as a teenager in Europe. His writings provide an
> eerie look at a city under seige.
> "Our brightest and most creative minds fled the country not because of
> oppression alone but because no one inside Iraq could make a living,
> survive," he wrote of economic sanctions, telling the U.S. government to "get
> a clue."
> "There are no waving masses of people welcoming the Americans nor are they
> surrendering by the thousands. People are ... sitting in their homes hoping
> that a bomb doesn't fall on them," he wrote.
> In yet another entry he writes: "Houses near al-salam palace ... have had all
> their windows broke, doors blown in and in one case a roof has caved in,"
> Salam wrote in his journal. "I guess that is what is called 'collateral
> damage' and that makes it OK?"
> "How could 'support democracy in Iraq' become to mean 'bomb the hell out of
> Iraq'? ... Nobody minded an undemocratic Iraq for a very long time, now
> people have decided to bomb us to democracy? Well, thank you! how
> thoughtful," he wrote.
> Before the invasion began several of his entries detailed persecutions
> against gays in Iraq.
> Some of his entries are witty, others profoundly disturbing glimpses at
> Saddam's regime and the fears of Iraqis about the bombing campaign.
> The site has become so popular that exceeded the amount of bandwidth he was
> allotted.
> Google, the company which operates the company that hosts his blog has
> upgraded his account last weekend gratis so he could continue writing and
> posting photos. This week it added a mirror site to keep up with the ever
> growing traffic. (
> Salam Pax has his detractors who believe he is actually an American or
> Israeli agent - and may not even be in Baghdad. But his supports point to
> the meticulous detail in his postings which even include the price of
> vegetables. One internet sleuth tested the code behind the Internet address
> of his blog and determined it most likely came from Iraq.
> The site was knocked off the air on Monday prompting fears that Iraq's secret
> police may have discovered him, but it came back up on Friday night.


anti-war art history?

hi, rhizomers. i am working on a long mag essay on anti-war art...
i'd love know of "anti-war" or '"protest" art (not only contemporary
work, but also art-historically significant work, from all ages and
in all media) that you find interesting or relevant. bonus points for
highlighting "history of anti-war art" sites or documents...

thanks, gang! i will try to post some coherent thread/summary to the
list, after i get all of this.


Marisa S. Olson
Associate Director
SF Camerawork
415. 863. 1001


SRL nudie calendar/benefit (sf)

Benefit for Tim North, creator of the Hoverdrum.

A brilliant night of Music, Art-auction, Videos from local, national
and international artists and the much anticipated release of The
Official SRL Nudie Calendar - all for the remarkable Tim North

Tuesday, March 25
7 p.m. to 2 a.m.
door $10 - $10,000 sliding scale
SomArts Gallery
934 Brannan
San Francisco, CA 94103

This is an evening to raise cash for Tim North and his family in time
of real need. Brought to you by Survival Research Labs, SomArts and a
cast of amazing volunteers.........

Supported by ZeroOne: the Art and Technology Network

Amazing Art for auction and raffle, the new SRL Calendar, videos,
CDs, and special treats for sale - every penny goes to the North


World Video Premier of "Pounding on Deaf Ear Drums v.02" Tim North's
Hoverdrum performance at the XenoDrome June, 7th & 8th 2002

And the premier release of Tim North's recording "T!mult" with a
special Remix by DJ Vordo (limited editions for sale at event)

also premiering:

"Landing at San Francisco MOMA" documentation of a performance at
the Rebellissance Ball June 24, 2000

The documentary "Building the Drum Machine" by Richard Gaikowski

The Hoverdrum video collection - spanning almost a decade of
performances; Hoverdrum 10/91, NYC 3/91, Din Shadow SF, Drumageddon
12/95, E-teresa-e-ercise (Mexico City) 4/94, Hoverdrum Herbst

Our Magnanimous Master of Ceremonies - Mike Dingle


-Thomas Dimuzio - DJ's the vibrations and velocities of the
environment -David Therrien (Comfort
Control Systems) - Body Drum -F-Space (Scot Jenerik, Ethan Port of
Savage Republic, Joel Connell of Man is the Bastard and Aleph of
Chrome) - pyro maniacal percussive explosion -Special Sauce - with
the amazing Blaise Smith, Bond Bergland (Factrix) and Desmond Shea
(the National Curiosity Company) -Destroy Ape Technology - infamous
noise/robotic ensemble -The Hot Dog Party Playboys
- Irreverent twang


-Naut Humon (Rhythm and Noise, Sound Traffic Control)
-Joan Jeanrenaud - incomparable cellist (Kronos Quartet) -Beth Custer (Club Foot Orchestra, Dona Luz 30
Besos, Eighty Mile Beach, the Beth Custer Ensemble) -Alex Theory (Mystic Vibration) - live
world groove electronica -DJ V o r d
o (The Abstrakt Zone) - experimental electronica -Barry Schwartz - electro-acoustic structures
-Gooferman (Voodoo Lounge) -
"chop-hop" - funky live electronica band with hip hop mentality -Gregory Cowley (Testsite) - electronic
projection media and performance


-Survival Research Labs - You can run the Running Machine -Matt Heckert - kinetic sound installation -
original SRL member/partner -Peoplehater
- pay to play mechanical installation
-Seemen - kinetic installation -Shelley Cook -
installation entitled "Peace Table" -Eva Konig - Fire is love - fire
dance -X-tra Action Marching Band

-VIDEOS on assorted other monitors and screens

Stacy Greene - Rorschach Striptease
Glen Mckay - Altered States 1966-1999
David Therrien - comfort control
Scot Jenerik
SRL Berkeley Show
And More!
Marisa S. Olson
Associate Director
SF Camerawork
415. 863. 1001


SF Media Arts Resources

hi, daniel. i'm replying to the whole list, in case others are interested
in this answer... there are a few interesting things going on in the bay
area. there are obviously a number of great artists, but my list here will
be of org's. forgive me if you find a lot of "we"'s in here--it's a
nepotistic lil community...

In SF:
SF Camerawork--a nonprofit south of market (1246 folsom @9th, shares space
w/NLA, below) focused on "photographic media" which extends to
lns/lishgt-ased work, like led's, net art, video, portables, and even
installation work. i'm looking, for instance, into organizing something
with stephen vitiello on sound art made with the use of photo cells... we
have a show up, right now, that's a new incarnation of the MIT/Kitchen
show, Id/Entity: Portraiture in the 21st Century. in case you saw it, it
includes slightly modified versions of jd beltran's, julia scher's, and
paul kaiser/merce cunningham/shelley eshkar/marc downie's projects. i also
added work by jim campbell, the surveillance camera players, and joan
logue. it's up until march 22.

New Langton Arts--nonprofit (camerawork, nla, and southern exposure, below,
all share a 28-yr b-day) that shows performing, visual, literary, and new
media work. most of this revolves around net art. richard rinehart (an
artist & uc berkeley lecturer) curates an online project space for them.
find it at

SMAC--sf media arts council, loosely affliated with sfmoma. we organize
short-run shows at the museum, panel discussions, and produce a zine which
is a low-tech paper-only affair guest designed as an "art object" by a
different designer, each issue, and featuring essays and original art
"installations" by a range of artists, critics, theorists, and curators. we
also just started a discussion salon series where 3 artists present their
work and everyone chats, wine & muchies in hand, usually followed by a nice

The Lab--another nonprofit. in the mission (16th & capp). a frequent site
of exhibitions, and performances in the media arts genre.

GenArtSF--gen art in sf is very different from gen art in nyc or la, with
much more of a visual arts focus. we organize a show, every year, called
NewFangle, which features ~12 emerging bay area artists doing
"technology-based" work. every year, the 4 curators selected define
"technology" in their selections. this has been a launching pad for many
artists. we also organize prublic programs, ranging form panel discussions
and a/v performances to professional development workshops for artists.

Blasthaus--these guys have nonprofit & for-profit arms. their bread and
butter lies in organizing big dj events but they also collaborate with arts
orgs to produce exhibitions, a/v performances, and their annual Transcinema

you'd also meet many interesting folks at Survivial Research Labs' (SRL)
tours and gatherings; at Dorkbot, depending on your interests, where
artist/engineers get together to yack & show work--loosly related to a
group of power tool drag racers!; and the programming at Southern Exposure
and Intersection for the Arts (both in the mission) do not revolve as
explicitly around the media arts, but is quite strong and they are
important community resources.

Greater Bay Area:

UC Berkeley--ken goldberg organizes a regular lecture series (monday
nights) featuring prominent members of the media arts community discussing
intersections btwn art, technology, and culture. ken usually posts the
announcements for these on rhizome, so look for the next one and get on the
main list.

CADRE Institute/San Jose State--officially, this is an mfa program, but
it's also a south bay node for the media arts, producing the online
journal, Switch, and bringing in artists & leaders for programs & dialogue
around new media. thir gallery currently features a show by jennifer &
kevin mccoy.

Zero:One--formerly known as Ground Zero, this group
sponsors/organizes/incubates art projects, shows, publications,
conferences, etc on the media arts. they have a mission to merge the art &
tech communities (incl merging creative & biz).

i am sure that i am forgetting some very important and obvious resources.
i've not said much about museums, because i figure those are more easily on
your radar. sfmoma has a media arts gallery and an online exhibition space.

welcome to sf!
marisa olson

Original Message:
From: Daniel Schwartz
Date: Fri, 14 Mar 2003 01:26:05 -0500
Subject: RHIZOME_RAW: SF Rhizomers?


I have moved out to the bay area from NYC and am looking for
net/newmedia/computer arts activity out here. Any leads appreciated. Im
interested in collobarting/ contributing to projects too and even knowing
where such arts are being presented.

+ ti esrever dna ti pilf nwod gniht ym tup
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Re: data diaries (response to all)

--> dear all, i'm taking these a bit out of order, but wanted to
respond to a few of the things that have been said about _data

t.whid said:
"All art builds on what has come before, sometimes it leaps forward,
sometimes it steps forward. to deny that is to deny how human
creativity functions."

--> this is well put and also reminds us of the conceptual &
structural overlaps between language and visual art (and, perhaps
even more so, here, its history). let's think of ourselves as working
with a dictionary. we only have so many words at our disposal. we may
come up with new ways to combine or alter them, new poetics, new
narratologies, even, but we are constantly working within the domain
of language and, whether we like it or not, our use of it--even or
attempts to "deny" it--simply act to underscore it. that said, it's
great when an artist (in any medium) can work in a way that is
appropriately self-reflexive, that is aware of its conditions while
doing something about or within them. at times, this means going back
to very basic, root structures. or repeating existing structures for
the sake of controlled, observable repetition through which the
artist benefits personally/creatively/intellectually (in learning
form the repetition) and, hopefully, from which a reader/viewer can
benefit in the experience of that performative function. arcangel has
done all of this.

jess loseby said:
"The fact the final product is weak is just something that we (as
viewers and artists) seemed to have started to accept as ok in
conceptual art..." <...> "why not take a bit more time on what the
piece actually looks like and the aesthetics of the translation...?
Corys work... basic."

--> i think that the latter would be a compliment to arcangel. this
mostly subjective/comparative interpretation should not serve to
deface a work or its "value," should we feel compelled to assign it
one. beyond this, i am curious why, more specifically, it would be
called "weak."

lewis lacook said:
"the thing about works as conceptual as this is that there's all too
often a poverty of sensory material...which is the point behind
conceptual avoid there being any sort of art object at
all...this of course is a hybrid, and i find this fascinating..."
<...> "codepoetry? <...> the innerworkings of something we're not
meant to see..."

--> i'd like to better understand what you are saying here. i think
that we (those of us engaged in this discussion) need to better flesh
out our use of the term "conceptual," as i do not see "minimalist"
or, as i said, "arte poverte" being wholly constitutive of
"conceptual" art, nor is the latter an appropriate description of
_data diaries_.

--> "codepoetry" is a great term and quite applicable, here. of
course, rather than having a revelation of the code, there is a new
iteration or translation of the code, into another, visual lexicon...

michael szpakowski said:
"What makes all the above notable for me?- engagement with the human
and with the human being in society; high degree of technical ability
(and a willingness to undertake drudgery) sometimes bordering on
virtuosity but not to an obsessional extent & rarely entirely for
it's own sake; universality - relatively independent of context -even
though often very much of it's time nevertheless it resonates for us
now.. ..and I think I'd want to argue that somewhere in there lies a
framework for what justifies art as a human activity." {and}: "(in
the long run we're all dust) but not in the historical, hundreds of
yearsy medium term scale which is the only really graspable and
meaningful one for us humans- us and our culturally preserved

--> i find this interesting criteria and, just for the sake of
dragging it out, i'd like to lay it over _data diaries_. DD is an
autobiographical project and its basic elements are unique to so many
of us. (both its content and delivery vehicle.) this is, in fact,
quite "human." i would also absolutely say that arcangel's work is
"virtuoso" (with all the flair that connotes) but not obsessionally.
the kid can code but he's applied his skills to what reads as minimal
work and uses equipment/software/media that subvert the fetishization
of the highest technology. (yes, there is, indeed a retroactive
fetishization, here, but let's just say that i obviously favor it in
difference to the new, new, new.)

--> it is difficult to call software-driven art timeless, in any way.
it is ephemeral and takes a central place in the very constellation
of pseudo-darwinian technolution that privileges the new.
nevertheless, _data diaries_ is very aware of its time, looking back
to a bygone aesthetic, revolving around a person's use of time and a
computer's processing of it, and giving us a project which contorts
time at a time in which is is urgently demanded that we consider the
after-effects of said technolution.


Marisa S. Olson
Associate Director
SF Camerawork
415. 863. 1001