Marisa Olson
Since the beginning
Works in New York, 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, and has been commissioned and collected by the Whitney Museum, Museum of Modern Art, Houston Center for Photography, Experimental Television Center, and PS122. This work's been reviewed in Artforum, Art21, Liberation, Folha de Sao Paolo, the Village Voice, and elsewhere. New York Magazine has called Marisa one of the Top Five video artists working online, Wired has called her both funny and humorous, the New York Times once called her "anything but stupid," and the Wall Street Journal considers her their "Walkman Historian" of choice.

Marisa actively contributes to the field, writing for many major art publications, ranging from magazines & exhibition catalogs to academic journals and chapters in books on the history and theory of media art. She has served as Editor & Curator at Rhizome, the inaugural curator at Zero1, and Associate Director at SF Camerawork, whose Journal she edited. In 2013 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, Marisa has also curated programs at the Guggenheim, New Museum, SFMOMA, White Columns, and Artists Space. She has served on Advisory Boards for Ars Electronica, Transmediale, ISEA, the International Academy of Digital Arts & Sciences, Creative Capital, EYEBEAM, the Getty Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Kennedy Center, and the Tribeca Film Festival.

Marisa 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, Oberlin, VCU, UC-Boulder's Brakhage Symposium, Penn State, Visiting Faculty at Bard College's Milton Avery Graduate School of the Arts, and Visiting Faculty at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago's Ox-Bow program. She previously taught at NYU's Tisch School of the Arts' new media graduate program and was Assistant Professor of New Media at SUNY-Purchase's School of Film & Media Studies. She is currently Visiting Critic at Brown University.

Dear God, It's Me, Tivo


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It's interesting to think of the correlations between religion and reproduction. From illuminated manuscripts to the Guttenberg Bible, sacred texts have pushed reproductive techniques forward. Electronic media have only entrenched the scenario: Televangelism, holy-rolling web rings, and spiritual podcasts might put the script in scripture, but they have also led to what some are seeing as a revival in spiritualism among online consumers, er, believers. In Karlsruhe, Germany, new media place of worship ZKM has mounted an exhibition entitled Medium Religion, which is focused on what happens when religious faith moves "from the private sphere of personal belief out into the public sphere of visual communication." The works they've included--by artists Christoph Büchel, Paul Chan, Wim Delvoye, Valie Export, Omer Fast, Boris Groys, Vitaly Komar, Beryl Korot and Steve Reich, robotlab, and many others--consider the role of images in broadcasting ideology and the structure of mass media's discourse networks. While looking at the link between world views and worldwide transmissions, the show also raises the question of what happens to "minority faiths" and how they weather a ratings or hit-driven communication economy. In addition to the many art projects included, the show features a number of "documentary installations" that provide evidence of spiritual transmissions' popularity, ranging from a roundup of Osama Bin Laden's video messages to episodes of Paul Eugene's Gospel Aerobics. But that raises another question... If the body is a temple, what would god make of the new flesh? - Marisa Olson

Image: Valie Export, Ingrid and Oswald Wiener, Das Unsagbare Sagen, 1992

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Viva Cyborg Theory


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Donna Haraway once wrote, in her infamous "Cyborg Manifesto," of the idea that there were no separations between bodies and objects. Our life force flows through us and out into the objects we make, she reasoned; thus there ought to be no distinction between the so-called real or natural organisms that nature produces and the artificial machines that humans make. Her conclusion: We are all cyborgs. While this theory was developed prior to the internet's big boom (in 1991, presumably before the word "cyborg" took on the stale whiff it has now), and explicitly as a means of wresting feminism from the binary system in which she saw it entrenched, it turns out that it applies very well to the work of a net art boys club that calls themselves "Neenstars." In 2000 the group was so determined to set themselves apart from the existing paradigm of media art discourse that they hired a Silicon Valley branding firm to invent a new name for them and what they do. The resulting word, "Neen" has been used by the boys (and a few girls along the way) to refer to their work and practice, which revolves around replication and the exploration of an ever-upgraded series of machines. It's all spelled out in their manifesto, in which they say, "Our official theories about reality--quantum physics, etc.--prove that the taste of our life is the taste of a simulation. Machines help us feel comfortable with this condition: they simulate the simulation we call Nature." Open now at Brussels' think.21 Contemporary Gallery is a show of the work of Neen godfathers Andreas Angelidakis, Miltos Manetas, and Angelo Plessas. It won't surprise you that their work moves fluidly through media that includes paintings, web animations, photos, and architectural structures. More ...

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One Thousand and One Biennials


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Does anyone know how many biennials there are in the world, now? There is a whole sub-field of biennial studies that looks at such issues as the economic impacts of the shows on their host cities and the artists' market values, or the relationship between Eastern biennials and Westernization. Of course, the latter question hinges on whether the show is called a "biennial" or a "biennale"... The truth is, there are now so many of these that it's easy to overlook them. Even the fledging field of electronic art has a few! But Sweden's Electrohype is a unique one, bringing ambitious installations to the beautiful Malmö Konsthall. Now in its fifth incarnation, the show draws large audiences but avoids the temptation to be a mega-show, instead opting to give serious space and consideration to good work by often more emerging artists. Electrohype 08 features ten international artists whose projects focus on "ongoing processes and time." These are Doug Back (CA), Ralf Baecker (DE), Serina Erfjord (NO), Kerstin Ergenzinger (DE), Jessica Field (CA), Voldemars Johansons (LV), Diane Morin (CA), Kristoffer Myskja (NO), Erik Olofsen (NL), and Bill Vorn (CA). While time and endurance are age-old themes in the modern art world, there's not a usual suspect in the bunch! Nonetheless, there is due notice paid to the histories and influences traced by the show. For instance, Doug Back's Sticks (1979) is showing aside Ralf Baecker's Rechnender Raum (Calculating Space) (2007). Despite a large difference in scale and nearly thirty years between them, both are kinetic sculptures fleshing out what it means to compute and how mechanics might be used to reflect upon human movement. Ironically, the big piece looks at micro-motions within the body and the smaller one looks at social interaction! Other interesting works include ...

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The Real McCoys


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Jennifer and Kevin McCoy are a married couple of New York-based artists whose collaborative work conveys a love of film and televised narratives. Their early projects embodied database aesthetics as they chopped shows like 8 is Enough, Kung Fu, and Starsky and Hutch into short clips, often inviting viewers to rearrange them according to what we'd now call metadata. For instance, one could choose from a bank of DVDs in their Every Shot, Every Episode to watch every occurrence of the color blue, or of extreme close-ups. More recent works have entailed building elaborate miniature film sets, complete with working cameras, to shoot microfilms. In the case of High Seas, the set is a sort of kinetic sculpture in its own right, mimicking its subject as it moves around to create shots of the famed Titanic loosing its footing on the ocean. The role of filmic media in mythologizing the ill-fated boat is of course implicit in the installation. While these projects have always been infused with a sense of subjectivity, as the artists perform their fandom through their selective decisions, lately their work has incorporated more explicitly autobiographical elements. Their piece, Our Second Date, for instance, is a miniature movie set which features the artists watching the film from their second date, Weekend, reenacted through a mobile sculpture and video streamed live to a tiny screen. The choice to position themselves as spectators within their own reality, and moreover to confess that their romance budded around screen pleasure opens up a number of interpretations of their ongoing work and paves the way to their newest project, which opens November 22nd at Postmasters Gallery. In I'll Replace You, the artists again place themselves at center stage, without stepping in front of the camera. Instead, a series of different ...

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Spreading the Wealth


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An exhibition at Philadelphia's Basekamp, entitled "What's Mine Is Yours" speculates loosely about the origin of the eponymous phrase, asking if it a Jewish proverb or a socialist ideal, while also working to answer the bigger question of why on earth artists would want to collaborate -- with each other or their audiences. While the art market encourages single authors, hierarchy, and conceptual or physical territorialism, in "What's Mine Is Yours" curator Sara Reisman has encouraged artists to share their feelings about.... sharing. The results are intriguingly as politically charged as they are mystical. Take, for example, Star Systems, a video work in which Bjorn Kjelltoft and Shana Moulton merged their identities. While Rey Akdogan's list of the pros and cons of collaborating could be read as a manifesto, tongue-in-cheek, or fair warning, the Mercury Twins' nebulous Cloud City invites the public to cluster like instant cloud formations. The show opens today and also includes radio-performance work by Kabir Carter and a real-time public networking project by vydavy sindikat. - Marisa Olson

Image: Bjorn Kjelltoft and Shana Moulton, Broken Meatballs with Infinity, 2007 (Video Still)

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Discussions (280) Opportunities (10) Events (4) Jobs (0)
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.


DISCUSSION

Thank you, Patrick May


I'd just like to say another public word of thanks to Patrick. I have vivid memories of our first conversation, when he was applying for the job. He'd done extensive research on the organization, asked some good, tough questions, and had boundless energy and enthusiasm for working with us to take the organization to a new level. I think he's more than succeeded at this. As a long-time participant in the Rhizome community, I've admired the community-driven ideas, tools, and upgrades Patrick's brought to us. It takes a LOT to keep Rhizome running, but it takes true vision and selfless commitment to move things forward in the way that he has.

You've been an awesome colleague, Patrick! Thanks for everything!