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.

Drawn Out Processes

The convention of the summer show, in New York, has historically been a mixed bag. At times it's an excuse for a gallery to do something fun, restrict work hours, and chill out a bit. It also tends to be the busy season for both emerging artists and curators, with group shows dominating the docket and variably playful, political, or conceptual themes running the show. Chelsea gallery Josée Bienvenu's summer show, "microwave, six," includes seventeen emerging and mid-career artists in their annual effort to (unlike the cooking apparatus that shares its name) slow down and pay attention to artists "who commit to the obscene activity of paying attention." It's hard to say what's obscene about this act, except that it's so rarely done as to potentially render it indulgent in some people's eyes. Each of the selected artists create rather slow-cooked drawings that "document the relentless propagation of delicacy as a subversive attitude." In other words, forget the short attention spans painted by the information economy, these pieces actually manage to transmit a high level of information, even as they eschew the ephemeral forms of files and bits to take up the hard-knocked life of a work on paper. Ernesto Caivano continues his epic series of drawings about an otherworldly landscape in which a man and woman simultaneously evolve into a spaceship and a lowly earth creature. Phoebe Washburn gives us highly-systematized, if cryptic analysis of devices and histories like Gatorade Storage Tank Study. Both Alexandra Grant and Casey Jex Smith offer readings and translations of the visual qualities of language, while Jacob Dyrenforth's newspaper-style pixilated (or is it pointilated?) drawings of concert crowds speak to the age-old effort of visualists to convey the maximum amount of information in the least ...


Fun Is Back

Those three words are the declaration of Manuel Buerger, a young German artist whose practice encompasses graphic design, fine art, theory, and music. Buerger did his graduate studies in Media Art under the direction of pioneering internet artist Olia Lialina and this reveals itself best in the humor Buerger directs at his projects that are often just as goofy as they are subtly, intelligently deconstructive of media culture and its conventions. His Master's thesis was an artist book-cum-manifesto on the cultural and economic imperative towards newness, with the figure of a UFO used to navigate the philosophy of novelty. Buerger followed this project with an A5 fanzine that was, in fact, a critical examination of the role of individuality in the Microsoft software platform. Designed in MS Word, I doc. you will! both celebrates and critiques the rigidity and dominance of this environment, pointing to the strict adherence to publishing protocols written into Word, despite the seeming emphasis on personalization within tools and templates. Predicated on a reading of Deleuze's theories on societies of control, Buerger argues, "The last 25 years have rapidly changed the means of computer aided self-portrayal. 'Individualization' is the product of this development--consumption stresses our uniqueness." That said, a number of Buerger's projects end up focusing on consumer culture, or the fine line between that culture and its production. While net-based experiments like his Nostril Karaoke leave us a bit speechless, his Designerz is a clever, gif-based trope-popping of the archetypal designer-holding-poster portrait, reflected in the style of a permanent zoom into a hall of mirrors. The artist is currently at work on a MIDI-album called "10/10," in which "the idea is to take ten ultra-cool midi-instruments (10 of 128) and dedicate a song to each instrument," and he's an active ...


Social Work for Robots

Jon Rubin's work "explores the social dynamics of public spaces and the lives of ordinary individuals." Often working in collaboration with other artists, institutions, and members of the general public, his projects have included setting up a gallery that exhibits only information about the neighborhood's inhabitants, broadcasting an office's telephone conversations through a talking piano, producing a cable access variety show at a senior center, and a variety of fake businesses that traded on interaction and the art of conversation. The artist's two most recent projects offer a glimpse into the delicate balance of precision and irony that render his work so poignant. Earlier this month, at Los Angeles' Machine Project, Rubin's A Practical Demonstration was "an exercise in suspended orbits, suspended disbelief, and circular group formations." It's the latter, the part about people standing in circles, that is so interesting. As the artist played director, a group of local amateur videographers captured a 360-degree image of a stuntman jumping from the gallery's second floor window. (He was going for "a very clumsy 'Matrix' effect.") Simultaneously, a circle of international collaborators documented the activity of the sun over a 24-hour period. The result of all this participatory documentation was an edited two-channel video in which both the jumper and the sun appear to float in mid-air. On its own, such a video project visually resembles many that have come before it, but Rubin sets his apart by devoting special attention to the details of social collaboration, thus creating a more meaningful experience. The same can be said of his current project taking place on the streets of Pittsburgh, in collaboration with the legendary installation art museum, The Mattress Factory. Like many of his initiatives, Join the Human to Robot Army began with a ...


Auditory Autobiographies

"When the power of love, overcomes the love of power, the world will know the peace." This prophecy by rock legend Jimi Hendrix could be the foreword to a manifesto on the use of music in the propagation of nationalism, but instead it's a point of inspiration for "The Sonic Self," an exhibition at the Chelsea Art Museum. Open through August 30, the show brings together a range of "participating artists from around the world with the main goal that their collaborative projects will bridge disparate audio-visual practices and expose their shared languages." In keeping with recent curatorial trends, "The Sonic Self" is part-exhibition and part-workshop, aiming to explore the relationship between sound and identity through installations, audio/visual performances, and participatory events in which collaborators work to innovate new devices for the creation of auditory autobiographies. While the relationship at stake seems most universally to be about "being heard," the selected artists are working with material ranging from live performances to field recordings to computer-generated sound to DJ samples. In the spirit of tracing "similarities and differences in the growing confluence of audio and visual experiences in contemporary complex and diverse global culture," the project will travel to St. Petersburg, Russia, and Chennai, India, following its New York debut. - Marisa Olson

Video: Philip Dadson and Don McGlashan in From Scratch's performance of "Drum/Sing."

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Getting Sand in the Art

Has anyone noticed that it's summer in much of the world? Inspired by this deeply intellectual curatorial premise, a number of beach-based art invitations have been hitting our inboxes. The fiery purple and magenta gradient html invite for Glow Santa Monica reads, "Whether you get your brain waves translated onto a LED display or find yourself lost in a Neptunian lair of a surreal persuasion, please join us on July 19th to spend the night and greet the dawn with others so inclined as to believe our common spaces can be playful, inspiring, and thought-provoking, not just functional." If you are so inclined, and in the neighborhood, a visit to the Santa Monica beach, pier, and Palisades park from 7pm-7am, July 19-20 will put you in contact with installations by highly-regarded artists like Usman Haque and Shih Chieh Huang, and installations organized by such venerable orgs as Machine Project, VJ Culture, and the 18th Street Arts Center. The works slated for inclusion are colorful, interactive, luminescent (perhaps not surprisingly, given the promising title), and in ambitious. There will also be all-night DJ sets and live performances. Now, you could throw on some swim trunks and flip flops to see work like this in a museum, but we're guessing it wouldn't be the same. - Marisa Olson

Image: Grant Davis, Video RIOT!

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

Rhizome Today: A critic, with opinions about postinternet art

Great post, Michael! What an exciting (if facebook-thread-dramatic!) couple weeks for Postinternet discussion. I appreciate your breakdown of these three (obviously not mutually exclusive) approaches. To my mind, the results of approach #1 have only had fickle results. i.e. Ed, I actually talked about Postinternet Art before I read the "internet aware" comment from Guthrie--I believe first on a Rhizome panel Michael was on at EAI--but then again, Guth & I used to gchat every day then, as we were just about to start Nasty Nets when I brought it up. But moreover, as I recently posted in an FB thread, I truly believe there was a zeitgeist around recognizing these ideas (and using whatever word or phrase to do so; not just postinternet) in 2005-2006, as expressed in writings and talks by Lev Manovich, Steve Dietz, Sarah Cook, Josephine Berry Slater, Jon Ippolito, myself & Guthrie, etc.. (Christiane Paul touched on this in her responses to Karen Archey's Ullens questionnaire.) I don't think it's productive to construct/dismantle/bash origin myths, if only because it's led to a rash of ad hominem attacks on a number of artists & writers lately, completely sacrificing the point of critical writing.

My own effort in talking about Postinternet, at least in those early instances, as on the panel, was to (a) expand Rhizome's mission--I was then Editor & Curator--to cover and support a wider variety of practices; and (b) just to describe my own work and how a project like my Monitor Tracings (totally "offline" drawings) could be contextualized as internet art, or art 'after' the internet (i.e. In the style of & made after I log-off.) I think Michael puts it *perfectly* when he says, "we should understand all our gestures, 'online' and 'offline,' as actions in a network that is mediated and administered by computers." Perhaps this is obvious, but I'd say this applies to all of waking life, not just art production+reception.

I've personally moved from discussing Postinternet Art as "art after the internet" toward discussing Postinternet as "the symptoms of network culture." I am less interested in discussing PI Art specifically/exclusively, now that people have brow-beaten and/or branded the term into something far different than what I originally meant, and much more interested in discussing the social affects around the production of postinternet conditions and their manifestations. And, meanwhile, I have said (particularly in the Ullens catalogue & also in an interview in the Art and the Internet book put out by Black Dog) that, to me, Postinternet is just a 'placeholder' term around which to convene in having conversations around the latter symptoms. (I've started working on spelling these out more explicitly in recent & forthcoming writing-- including the keynote lecture I just gave at Pratt's UPLOAD conference, entitled "Postinternet is Dead. Long Live Postinternet.")

Likes/Dislikes around the word, aside, I hope this very long-running conversation around art and the internet can continue to incorporate careful consideration of the affects of network culture, as networks themselves evolve.


Breaking the Ice

Hi, everyone! Wow, I've got to say, it's nice to see some familiar names here! Michael, Congratulations on your new job. As someone who held that same title (and various permutations of it) for several years, I know you are in for a heavy load and I also know that you are also more than up to the task.

Like most of the folks above, I too am a "forever member," from the days of the Rhizome Communications ascii RAW listserv and, later, fancy Dreamweaver/Flash "Splash Pages," to the present. Reena Jana and I were the first two paid writers (poached from Wired!), when Alex Galloway was running "content," which at that time meant programming and editorial--though Rhizome was declaratively non-editorial, so they just commissioned book & exhibition reviews, and some interviews from us that were fed into the RAW stream and included in the Digest as Features. Oy vey, I can still remember the cross-eyed weekly ritual of trying to untangle parallel conversations to reassemble them into a coherent thread for the Digest, when I was editing it--and the race to get it out by noon one day each week!!

I've seen Rhizome go through so many changes, and I've been a part of the back channel conversations on years of them, including huge ones that we decided not to go through with. I have to say that it's always hard to serve a membership-based organization, which is what Rhizome has always thought of itself as. But I can say that every change in content or form has been discussed critically, at length, and typically not without a degree of passion.

I am also biting my tongue because I *really* do not want to put words in any staff member's mouth (past or present), but I can say that I believe everyone who's ever worked there has taken their position as a labor of love, with users/reader/members/community (everyone has their favorite self-identification; semantics trolls please don't hate today!) in mind, and everyone has collaborated with the staff to bring a unique take on how best to serve you in the current creative and technological climate. For instance, I remember that my big objective coming in the door was wanting to change the mission statement to reflect not only net art and not only highly technological art, but also art that "reflects" on technology in a meaningful way. In fact, I think contemplating this change was very much a part of my conceptualizing Postinternet.

There is so much to say here, but I think I'd best sign off. This is not my soap box, and in some way, it feels weird to comment so much. I used to be a Superusing Megaposter, but as soon as I became Editor & Curator, I stepped back to focus on trying to facilitate and amplify other voices, which I do believe every Rhizome Editor has done in their own way.

I'll end with this, then. I'd be surprised if every reader, writer, or editor loved everything that ever appeared (structurally or content-wise) in their newspaper of choice. I'd be surprised if every curator or museumgoer loved every artwork shown (or every exhibition design decision) in their favorite museum. But it's the day we stop reading, stop going to look at art that disappoints me. It's the day Rhizome stops experimenting that scares me. And I wish them well on this new experiment.


Conference Report: NET.ART (SECOND EPOCH)

Hi, Josephine.

Thank you for these points of clarification. I actually tried to convey (and forgive me if I failed) that your presentation was unique in identifying multiple generations of networked artists, and I particularly liked the way you talked about artists working before the internet in ways that anticipated network culture.

You also made that great point (via Hal Foster) about the ways in which critics' work is influenced by what is/ was happening at the moment they entered the art world. I admire how you helped pioneer new media criticism and yet have continued to stay on the pulse of new work. This is what I had in mind when recalling your point about your relationship to a previous generation of net-dot-artists, versus the artists of the era Inclusiva was calling the "second epoch." I just really liked the way you fleshed out more than two epochs and I wanted to highlight your catalyzing role in the net-dot-art scene, in particular.

In my own presentation, my intent absolutely was not to dismiss any previous artists, movements, practices, etc. It was simply to flesh-out one niche of new media art practice. In fact, I really liked the pointed questions that the audience asked afterwards, because it helped us have a really meaningful discussion about the problematic relationship of pro surfer work to art historical discourse, and my calls to action revolved around getting those artists to participate in learning about their own pre-histories and writing historiographies that situate their own trajectories on their own terms.

So I don't think we're in disagreement. But I appreciate your call to fine-tune my articulation of these scenarios.


Go Ahead, Touch Her

Why are vocal remixes different than video? This is a very interesting distinction. Can you please say more about this and why one is ok and one isn't, beyond the rubric of industry standards? I think that remix and parody have the potential to be very useful and viable political tools. The best-known examples of such efforts would be the work of the Yes Men, but examples of parasitic media within the field abound. In your comments (i.e. "Here it seems the remix does imply ridicule") it seems as if you think that remixing automatically equals mockery but I don't agree and don't see that implied in the project. Laric's video simply shows us (or arguably amplifies) what's already there and gives both fans and critics a chance to say what they will. This is the pact that all artists make with their audience when they release their work into the world--that people will interpret it as they will, whether that means reading it a certain way, hearing it a certain way, or incorporating it into their lives in a certain way. This is how the popular preconscious works. I don't think it's fair to call this project a senseless derision of Carey, but I do still think that your vehement apprehension towards remixes says something interesting about the ways that certain corners of the cultural community (particularly academia) perceive the effects of these acts. I just think they need fleshing-out. There is a big difference between real violence towards women and perceived theoretical misdeeds towards a celebrity's highly-guarded public image. If this is the true issue, I think our energies are best directed toward prevention of the former rather than scandalizing the latter.


Go Ahead, Touch Her

Hi, Brittany.

I'm sorry that you found my article objectionable. I didn't intend to make the implications you suggest, but I believe your response cuts to the most interesting aspect of Laric's piece, which is the effect of remixing.

For those who care to review the lyrics to this song, they are here:

They include the refrain:

Touch my body
Put me on the floor
Wrestle me around
Play with me some more
Touch my body
Throw me on the bed

So, in fact, I do think that Carey's lyrics (and video) invite sexual fantasy, but my article doesn't say that she is asking to be violated, it says that she's asking to be remixed. Of course, the slippage between the two that you identify is what's so interesting.

In an interview with Laric, he told me that he noticed that the video takes-on an increased sexual tone when all but Carey is masked out. He was interested in how this first-person invitation to "touch my body" could be construed as an invitation to remix the visage of her body (and/or the voice emitted from it), particularly given (a) the implicit link to digital culture embodied by both the lyrics and video, and (b) the fact that the remix is now such an important part of the media ecology of pop culture.

In the last 25+ years of pop music, lining-up celebrity remixes and making singles remix-ready has been an important part of the production cycle, often preceding the release of the original recording. Almost all historical accounts of Madonna's rise to fame cite her relationship with DJs and openness to remixing as a key factor in her success. So while you may see the remix as a violent act, clearly those participating in this industry see it as an imperative.

Discussions of why a remix is or isn't violent are interesting, as they get to questions of the status of the digital reproduction. Are we remixing a person or "just" her image, and what's the difference when thinking about how a person's identity--particularly a famous person's identity--hinges upon their image? Carey's image was already manipulated before it came to us. In the interview with Laric, he pointed to a segment in the original video in which the shape of a cup becomes distorted as a result of distorting the footage to make the singer standing behind the cup appear slimmer. So this is already not her. If you listen closely, I believe there is also a question as to whether all of the voiced parts of the song are her, so the audio issue adds another layer to the phenomenological question of the brute force of the remix.

These issues of the import of the remix, the relationship to broader pop culture (rather than an insular art world), collective authorship, and the nature of Carey's invitation are what I hoped to address in this article.