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.

Influential Activism


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Survival Research Laboratories, Amsterdam, 2008 (Photo by Boris VanHoytema)

The word "influencer" is most often used by marketing strategists to refer to cool people to whom other consumers turn to for fashion and food advice. But the organizers of The Influencers, an annual "culture jamming and guerrilla communication fest" brandish this word like a weapon in the fight against the corporatization of culture. On February 5-7, the artist groups d-i-n-a and Eva and Franco Mattes (a.k.a. 0100101110101101.ORG) will present their fifth festival "dedicated to exploring unconventional weapons of mass communication." Their approach grows out of a classical perspective on détournement but is updated by an understanding of networked infrastructures and new forms of mobility and social organizing that effect protest strategies in digital culture. In addition to talks, workshops, and impromptu interventions, the festival's events will revolve around eight commissioned works by Survival Research Laboratories, Ztohoven, BLU, Improv Everywhere, Julius von Bismarck, Wu Ming, Swoon, and Wolfgang Staehle. This is an eclectic group, to say the least, whose work ranges from graffiti to pyrotechnics to comedic group performances to poetic video installations. The group's diversity serves to illustrate the wide reach of commercialism's impact and the wide range of people interested in fighting back in support of the liberties that become threatened by corporate encroachment onto public space and public speech. One goal of the festival will be to map out how these alternative voices can infiltrate the hardlined frontier between public and private, so these artists were thus selected for "their taste for risk, the impulse that moves the authors of these projects to build dangerous machines, act politically incorrectly, use anachronous technology, or simply to defy common sense." It sounds both fun and challenging, but if you can't make it ...

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Reaping What You Sow


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Image: Victory Gardens Starter Kit

Artist/designer Amy Franceschini's newest project updates an old idea with continuing social resonance. Her Victory Gardens initiative is an effort to get people growing more of their own food, "for increased local food security and reducing the food miles associated with the average American meal." Not unlike Cat Mazza's Stitch for Senate project, which draws on WWII-era programs to keep people calm about the war and supportive of the troops abroad (in this case, through "charitable knitting"), Franceschini's project spins paranoia about food security and emergency preparedness into a creative community-building strategy. In collaboration with the San Francisco-based organization Garden for the Environment, Victory Gardens facilitates the growing of shared local gardens in the name of urban sustainability. The idea germinated in 2006, when Franceschini made it the focus of her SECA Award installation at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Growing the venture in new directions each year, in 2007 a related book featuring essays by Lucy Lippard and Mike Davis was published by Gallery 16. This year the art project blossomed from a city unification initiative into a full-fledged social networking site! The Garden Registry is an interactive map of "food production zones" through which other victory gardeners can connect with each other, share tips on working organically, and contribute to "an important portrait of land use." The site launched this week and is calling for participants to upload their information. Meanwhile, Franceschini offers potential Bay Area gardeners a tricycle-delivered Starter Kit to get growing. As outlined online, the accoutrements and their delivery mechanism perfectly resemble the spirit of other projects by Futurefarmers, the art and design collective founded by Franceschini with the goal of "making work that is relevant to the time and space surrounding us." - Marisa ...

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Use Your Illusion


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Damon Zucconi, Towards Equillibrium, 2007

Damon Zucconi is a New York-based artist active in the "pro surfer" scene, having participated in both Supercentral and Nasty Nets, but his solo work is more clean-style than his dirt-style counterparts and might more easily be compared to Berlin-based artists AIDS-3D. All are part of a younger generation of artists who came of age with new media and have arrived at a particular fulcrum with respect to both celebrating the utopianism of technology and critiquing its dystopian failures. Next week, Zucconi's first solo show will open at Prato, Italy's Project Gentili gallery. Entitled "Presented as the Problem," the show is organized around the principles of diagnoses and prescriptions and draws on the distinction between treating symptoms versus underlying problems. The artist's approach is thus a rather tactical one, looking for the root impetus for cultural artifacts while also observing the cycles of recursion that swirl around the repetition of pop objects and scenarios. The show includes sculpture, video, and prints that seek to augment "classical dialectics of seeing and believing with eight meditations on contemporary visual culture." According to the gallery, "Each of the works finds temporary equilibrium between the poles of mystification and demystification--image as illusion and illusion as material fact." These works include the mysteriously titled / \ \ / which is a square mirror hung like a diamond with a Blade Runner: Final Cut poster wrapped around it from the back like an origami throwing star, and the eponymous centerpiece, "Presents Itself as the Problem," which is a novelty persistence of vision alarm clock whose digital readout displays only the message "I Want To Believe." X-Files viewers will appreciate this famous message of hope. Zucconi will also show a new video animation, Untitled (SONY, Lateral) which flips the axis on his earlier ...

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Still Hitting Nerves


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Italian new media magazine, Neural, has just celebrated their fifteenth anniversary. The publication was among the earliest tech-savvy page-turners and still has an appreciation for the importance of paper. In fact, to mark this special birthday, they've collaborated with S.W.A.M.P. (Doug Easterly and Matt Kenyon) for "a collective micro printing action." Subscribers will receive a limited edition piece of paper and envelope designed to commemorate the death toll in Iraq. They are then encouraged to send a letter or illustration to the White House, who are obliged by law to archive their mail, so that the stationary can act as "a Trojan horse slipping the unwanted and unacknowledged civilian body count data into official governmental archives." This is one of many exercises by S.W.A.M.P. in performatively exploring the machinery of control in post-industrial society. But (paper-cut possibilities aside) this project seems slightly less painful than their Improvised Empathetic Device (2005), which drove a blood-drawing needle into the flesh of wearers of their custom armband each time new wireless data was received regarding a rise in the war's death toll. While Neural's editorial direction is marked by broad coverage of the very diverse field of new media practice, hacktivism and tactical media are among their strong suits, so their collaboration with S.W.A.M.P. makes perfect sense. Another of their boldest strengths is their coverage of sound art and experiments in electronic music. Each issue is chockablock with CD reviews and engaging interviews, like the current issue's chat with Negativland. Neural may have an old school appreciation for the ancient medium of paper, but all this good pulp can also be found online, along with their archives and fresh feeds. - Marisa Olson

Image: Neural, Issue 31

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100% Fun


Claude Closky is a French artist living in Paris. He works in a variety of media, including painting, installation, video, and net art, in a signature style that revolves around the concept of conveying information and the connection between ideas and objects. The artist maintains three personal websites and a YouTube channel, each of which is copious in its offerings and yet mysteriously evasive in synthesizing his practice. What one can tell--almost instantly upon looking at his work--is that Closky has a serious sense of humor. He is best-known for his paintings of pie charts and other graphs but has impressed audiences beyond the art world with public installations like his 100% which tallied percentage points, one at a time, in a series of silkscreened flags, or his collaboration with Adidas and Colette, which looked like he'd taken a Sharpie to a blank white slate to convey the brand by making the simplest marks possible. The latter was a poetic gesture of giving back to the visual language of advertising whose vocabulary his work often critiques. He's by no means the first to do so, but whereas many such bodies of work revolve around autobiography or accounts of commodity fetishism, what is unique to Closky's commentary on this lexicon is his sharp analysis of language itself. Whether through an inversion of the relationship between word and image or the hyper-literal illustration of one-liners, this is Closky's most discernible signature and it is best played-out in his use of the list as a medium. By alphabetizing, counting-down, running odds, and exploring exhaustive variations on various categories of categories, he produces the wittiest possible metacommentary on the bond between form and content. And he is certainly not afraid to give viewers myriad examples of the beauty of saying nothing at all. In this interview, Closky discusses his internet art work and his love of both language and numbers games. - Marisa Olson



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.