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.

Digital Art Under the Sun


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For much of the world, and even for residents of America's other 49 states, California is more of a fantasy than a place. This fantasy stipulates in part that this West Coast territory is comprised mostly of balmy beaches swarming with beach bunnies, palm trees, and pina coladas. There are many flaws in this fantasy, but the idea that California is rich in resources is true. Among those to be celebrated are its artists and, in particular, the large number of brilliant new media practitioners employed by the University of California system. Talk about brain trusts! Curator Christiane Paul has tapped into this vast resource in organizing "Scalable Relations," a series of exhibitions featuring artists who are faculty members of the UC Digital Arts Research Network (DARnet). Ordinarily this kind of members-only context would have a sour ring to it, but the assignment to bring together such a large and diversely talented group of artists actually establishes the onus to make some deeper comment about what they do have in common: new media. There is a kind of challenge in the act of curating or criticizing new media art, which revolves around the question of the extent to which one should foreground technology. For some artists, the medium is, well, the message, while for others it's merely a tool to address the subject of technology. And of course, there's so much middle ground... This show include works that very diversely "illustrate the complexities and shifting contexts of today's information society." But the very fact that our society is an information society points to a scenario in which technology will sometimes be blatantly paramount, while at other times it will be transparent or embedded. Frankly, the very notion of what constitutes "high tech" is shifting so rapidly ...

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Back To School


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LA-based arts organization TELIC has been a key player in the West Coast new media scene for over half a decade, mounting significant exhibitions and public programs including both recognized mid-career artists and emerging risk-takers. Now they've taken their own risk of sorts, particularly in what is so turbulent a funding climate for nonprofit arts organizations, by going back to the drawing board to redefine the mandate of presenting media art. Their new "Public School" initiative draws on internet culture's ideals about non-hierarchical (or shall we say "rhizomatic"?) collaborative structures and open source input models to offer an offline transmission of ideas in the form of classes. There are no pop quizzes, report cards, or dress codes in this school, just student-defined curricula in which the public can get together to make art or talk about cultural issues. So far topics have ranged from 8-bit workshops to a Public Service Announcement-making social studies class enticingly titled, "Yo, Dick... Ad Feminem: When Ads Attack." In a true nod to the awesomely collaborative nature of the LA alternative art community, the Public School was recently invited by local allies Machine Project to hold classes at LACMA during their recent intervention-like funfest of public events. After putting out a call for classes to be taught inside a Richard Serra sculpture on the museum grounds, blog readers could vote on course proposals--as is the model for all of their offerings--that included a thoughtfully recursive workshop entitled, "For RICHARD SERRA: me, you and some other creative people in a small but open space learning from each other." You'd never know it from the title, but the class would involve Miranda July (the artist who co-created the arguably pedagogical participatory web project Learning to Love You More with Harrell Fletcher) teaching "a workshop ...

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Reenacting Objects


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In an essay hoisted upon every media studies student ever, Walter Benjamin argues that the mechanical reproduction of art works separates the viewer from the original object and therefore diminishes that object's "ritual value." Strangely enough, Stephanie Syjuco's work takes a different approach. She gives us all reproductions, all the time. From paper TV's to faux designer furniture, these readily-reproduced images and things comment on the importance of the originals in our daily lives and the cultural value we've built-up around the notion of originality. Her current solo exhibition at the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, entitled "Stephanie Syjuco: Total Fabrications," is full of fake design objects pulled from circulation within the mainstream -- or culturally specific niches therein -- and recreated in a way that references their genesis as well as the contextual implications (or even clichés) of reproduction. In fact, Syjuco's work further delves into the processes of production itself, and it's ritualization. Her reconstructions comment on the origin of materials, their high and low statuses within culture, the technologies through which they operate, and their impacts on systems ranging from the environment to the visual vocabulary of the zeitgeist. This is highly manifest in her ongoing project, The Berlin Wall, in which she pulls what she calls "proxy chunks" of the famous wall out of spaces around the world. These are not souvenirs from the wall, but rather a different kind of facsimile, which Syjuco feels approximates the political and architectural situation of the wall and the promises offered in its deconstruction. The proxy chunks have embarked on their own roadshow, exhibiting in new cities under plaque-capped vitrines, so as to however-falsely invoke the aura of the wall and the hope its demolishedness represents. Her Towards a New Theory of Color Reading takes ...

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Guys and Dolls


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Image: Annika Larsson, Dolls, 2008 (Stills)

Swedish artist Annika Larsson has a way of keeping her subjects in check. The slow, close, eroticized way in which she hovers around the male characters in her videos susses out innuendo, narrative, and meaning from a space absent of dialogue. She'll often stage and shoot a very simple gesture or group activity and wring every drop of suggestion out of it as she can. Her use of the camera--and very frequently her positioning of her viewers before a large-scale, almost cinematic screen--instigates a reflection on the power relationships inherent in looking, showing, camera-wielding, and screen-gazing. The dom/sub shifts revolving around the photographic lens may by now be the stuff of art school mythologies, but Larsson always finds new ways to turn the tables on one's presuppositions about such things; adding to the conversation a discourse on form and perspectivalism--another old-fashioned notion worth reconsidering. Her new 47-minute video, Dolls, on view now at Paris' Cosmic Galerie, takes her signature style to an even more self-reflexive level by once again exploring men in their supposed territory and calling on the viewer to examine the layers of mediation at play in both the male actor's performance of his masculinity and their own deciphering of the scene. Taking place in a white cube-cum-sports court, the action revolves around men interpreting the futurist symbols painted on the walls and floor, which are meant to evoke not only a Fortunato Depero-inspired Peter Saville New Order cover (a pop art relic of paternal inheritance, the Freudians might say), but also the basic visual designs used to teach humanoid robots how to serve their masters. In this case, the five men in Dolls become servants to their master's whims, be it the serving of coffee ...

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Putting Faith in the Internet


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Depending upon the utopian or dystopian narratives to which you might subscribe, the internet is a bit like heaven or hell--with the pearly gates of cyberspace welcoming you to a world where you want for nothing or a fiery apocalyptic dungeon big enough to house all your nightmares. Either vision is intense and exactly the sort of stuff that religious iconography was once made of; yet the wide distribution of devotional messages broadcast on the web seems only to have cast a dim shadow upon the net art community. More recently, spiritualities new age and old school have been forceful fodder in contemporary art, while glossing over a true connection to the divine. Italian curator Domenico Quaranta suggests, "take Martin Kippenberger's crucified frog, for instance, or the cross submerged in the urine of Andres Serrano, or Maurizio Cattelan's Nona ora, or the Virgin Mary blackened with elephant dung by Chris Ofili, or Vanessa Beecroft's recent Madonnas. All of these works are undoubtedly imbued with their own form of 'sacredness,' yet they would hardly be hung in a church." Quaranta's exhibition, "For God's Sake," installed now at Nova Gorica, Solevenia's 9th annual Pixxelpoint festival, looks at the simultaneous increase in religion-themed work and the ever wider distribution of mass-mediated sermons and religious messages, through new technologies. The question is whether this amounts to an increase in religious devotion, or rather a diluted or muddied conflation of spiritual values in a time of mixed forms and mixed messages arriving in convergent media. As with ZKM's "Medium Religion" show, which we covered last week, Quaranta's show (and in particular his poignant curatorial statement), look at attitudinal shifts parallel to media developments. The long list of international media artists he's selected present us with mostly ...

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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.