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

PORTFOLIO (10)
BIO
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.

Real-Time Legend


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Image: Sonia Sheridan, Color-in-Color I, II/Sonia Sheridan, 1970

Let's admit it. Many of us have done it. You simply lift the lid on the photocopier, press your face (or other body part) against the glass, and hit "print." Sonia Sheridan has made an art out of this form of self-portraiture. The phenomenon of artists using the oft-overlooked tools around them is one with a long tradition. Think of Lillian Schwartz and the computers that surrounded her at Bell Labs, or Sadie Benning and the toy camera her father, James Benning, gave her. The list is long. And there's something about the convergence of play and experimentation that has made work like this a locus for forwarding new media. In Sheridan's case, it's partly a result of a deep attunement to the relationship between industrial methods and creative drives that has persisted for over sixty years. She was the beneficiary of a 3M residency program which allowed her to make work with equipment like their Thermo-Fax and Color-in-Color machines. In the legendary Jack Burnham-curated exhibition, "Software" (Jewish Museum, 1969), Sheridan allowed viewers to play with these machines, as well. The resultant work enabled her to comment on the compression of time in the conception-to-realization process, positioning her as an early theorist of "real time" art-making and communication. Meanwhile, her art projects helped establish the aesthetics of electronic graphics, while simultaneously pushing the formal boundaries (light, line, color) of seemingly simple systems and drawing these experiments into more and more complex generative systems. Like many artists of her generation opening up new tools, the body became a common site of investigation, and the images she continues to make reflect the metamorphosis of the body in relationship to machines. The Daniel Langois Foundation maintains an extensive archive on ...

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Media Studies


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This is the first installment of a monthly column by Rhizome's Contributing Editor Marisa Olson. "Media Studies" will explore timely issues within the broader field of technology. Each post will pay specific attention to the relationship between these subjects and artistic practice. For this column, Marisa provides a reading list on the topic of "Experimental Geography". In recent years, access to geographical tools and data collection has expanded rapidly, allowing many artists to rethink their relationship to the earth and geographical study. This column provides a summation of publications relevant to these developments.

Please join us tomorrow for a panel, organized by Marisa, on "Experimental Geography". Beginning at 3pm in the New Museum's theater, Creative Time curator Nato Thompson, who curated an exhibition of the same title for Independent Curators International, will lead a discussion with artists Lize Mogel and Damon Rich. - Ceci Moss

The following is an initial list of readings that might be of interest to anyone researching experimental geography. It includes key theoretical texts on the nature of space, texts on locative media, and works on radical cartography. Many of them cross over into game theory, cyberfeminism, relations between real and virtual spaces, surveillance, tactical media, psychogeography, situationism, sound art, networked cultures, site-specific installation art, and other related sub-themes. It's tempting to sort these into temporal or topical categories, but to do so might be to inappropriately compartmentalize an ongoing discourse that moves in new directions every day.

This is only a starting point. Please feel free to add texts in the comments. Links to related syllabi would also be a great resource!

Janet Abrams and Peter Hall (eds), Else/Where: Mapping -- New Cartographies of Networks and Territories, Univ Minnesota Design Institute, 2006

Saul Albert, "Locative Literacy," Mute, July 12, 2004

Marc Augé, Non-Places ...

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Tactical Transactions


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Image: UBERMORGEN, Superenhanced Generator (Logo), 2009

If you're not already familiar with UBERMORGEN.COM, now would be a good time to get acquainted. The duo formed by Hans Bernhard and Lizvlx came onto the tactical media scene in the days of Toywar. When the Bernhard-founded group etoy was taken-on by e-commerce retailer etoys.com, the artists successfully brought the company down, thus providing a keystone moment in the perpetual headbutt between artists and corporations and launching the press release as the tactical media artist's weapon par excellence. In the spirit of many a corporate breakup, the participants in Toywar went on to funnel their win into the launch of new brands and creative identities. Notable among them are the Yes Men and UBERMORGEN. Taking as their name a German word that refers to the perpetual hope of a better tomorrow, the focus of UBERMORGEN's projects has been centered largely around legal issues related to copyright and surveillance. These works include [V]ote-Auction (2000), in which they attempted to auction-off a US Presidential vote to the highest bidder, and the Rhizome-commissioned project Google Will Eat Itself (GWEI) (2006), and "autocannibalistic model" in which revenue from auto-placed Google ads was used to buy Google stock, with a business plan to turn ownership of Google over to its users. In collaboration with Paolo Cirio and Alessandro Ludovico, Lizvlx and Bernhard recently took on Amazon.com in a duel that pitted their "robot-perversion technology" against the company's proprietary book preview software. According to the artists, their copyright-busting book-downloading tool was eventually sold to Amazon for an "undisclosed sum," but the story of the face-off (entitled Amazon Noir, 2006) floats among the ranks of other tactical media mythologies--not unlike some of the projects by their frequent collaborators 0100101110101101.org--demonstrating that ...

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The Nostradamus of New Media?



Videos: John F. Simon, Jr., Two works from the series "Winds Across the Inner Sea," 2007

Artists often loathe living in the shadow of their older, more famous works. But it is difficult to begin an article about John F. Simon, Jr. without paying homage to his 1997 project, Every Icon. The brilliant algorithmic piece exists on a 32x32 pixel grid, in which any element of the grid can be colored black or white. As it crunches through the billions of possible illuminative patterns, it will--at least theoretically--eventually display "every icon" possible. The work, itself, has become iconic. It's often the first work of art shown in lectures about internet art, and while the code behind the work speaks volumes about the speed of behind-the-scenes technological development, the resultant display is a testament to the poetic beauty and creative potential of a few simple lines and squares. This marriage of sublime potentiality and mathematical complexity has continued to be the cornerstone of Simon's work over the last ten years--as we might expect from an artist who managed to snag the URL numeral.com! Simon is now enjoying his first Italian solo exhibition, in the form of a ten-year retrospective at Collezione Maramotti (Reggio Emilia, IT), entitled "Outside In: Ten Years of Software Art." The exhibit presents work from 1999 to the present and the title might refer both to the show's ability to "zoom-in" on an artist's oeuvre or the way in which Simon's relationship to code and form has changed over the years. After making a professional leap from science to art, Simon's early works treated code like a specimen. Akin to a microscope whose focus is pulled back to reveal the larger sample, his work has progressed in a way that now ...

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Permanent Junk For a Changing World


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Image: Shih Chieh Huang, Twilight Zone, 2008
(Installation shot from Zero1 Biennial, San Jose Museum of Art, 2008) Courtesy of the artist

Let's face it: A lot of new media art is mystifying. Shih Chieh Huang's work is mesmerizing. Of course, his installations have much in common with other media art. They light-up and like to be exhibited in dark rooms, they often employ electronic circuitry and robotics, and they are dynamic rather than static--his works move, blink, and make noise. But it somehow seems just as appropriate to connect Huang to the vocabulary of kinetic art (where there have indeed been many media innovators) than to link him exclusively to interactive art. Typically, his work is only interactive insofar as it stimulates deep visceral and emotional responses, but then by that barometer we might as well acknowledge that all art is potentially interactive... In Huang's work, the subject of high technology is perhaps even more important than using high tech media. The artist is a big fan of dollar stores and recycle bins. He collects cheap toys, plastic water bottles, and small, often overlooked colorful trinkets to assemble into what often feel like synthetic life-forms. A series of neon zip ties become a prickly spine for a shrimp-like character, while glowing wire tendrils embody other sea creatures' tentacles. Throwing in a little colored water, some LEDs, and plastic bags that appear to breath (earth, wind, and fire, anyone?), Huang gives us a candy-coated reflection of the media ecology many of us fail to see. In his current solo exhibition, entitled, "Connected: Eject before disconnecting," at the RISD Museum of Art through June 21st, the artist invokes the kind of right-under-our-noses, generally unspoken yet totally commonplace messages associated with personal computing. By doing so, he connects the ...

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

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.


DISCUSSION

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.

DISCUSSION

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.

DISCUSSION

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.

DISCUSSION

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:
http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/mariahcarey/touchmybody.html

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.