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.

Keeping Hope Alive


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"Optimism,", the newest exhibition organized by independent curator Michael Connor takes on the not-so-small task of exploring "the dreams and realities of making progress and changing the world." As everything seems to be crashing all around us, it can be hard--and even risky--to maintain a glass-half-full attitude toward things. Even more challenging is the prospect of making political art that doesn't simply aestheticize politics or that actually makes an impact, rather than simply preaching to the choir of those who already share the artist's beliefs. The work of Becca Albee, Ghana Thinktank Collaborative (John Ewing, Matey Odonkor & Christopher Robbins), Matt Keegan, Zoe Leonard, Tara Mateik, Walid Raad, and Paul Shambroom fleshes-out this tricky conundrum while offering productive and hopeful gestures. The common factor in their work is a frank assessment of a situation and an informed, if humble move to take matters into their own hands--an act which implies a belief in the possibility of change. At times these efforts manifest in almost humorous explorations of failure and impossibility, while at other times they are more explicitly activist and/or hopeful. The exhibit is on view at the Westport Arts Center through November 30th, effectively meaning that it will continue even after the current presidential campaigns hinging on the prospect of change have ceased. While the notion of optimism is often dismissed as Pollyanna, Connor says the show offers an alternate take on the concept, laying out strategies for proactive political engagement and means of future-improving. He suggests, "The glass is not yet half-full, but it will be, once the wine is poured." - Marisa Olson

Image: Matt Keegan, Without touch, we can't connect. Without skin, we can't touch, 2008

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Art-Up Your Computering


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The awesome New York arts organization Artists Space has come up with three new ways to spice up your computering, no matter where you live. If we had to make a list of the main things we do on our computers everyday, wouldn't typing, watching YouTube videos, and staring at our desktop be high on the index? Now Artists Space--under the savvy influence of curator Joseph Del Pesco--has initiated three ways to art-up those acts. The first, "TypeCast", is a series highlighting one artist-designed font per month, available as a free download. This month, you can find Mungo Thomson's Negative Space, which he describes as "a graphic scaffolding for the sake of alpha-numeric meaning." It's cool and it will totally impress your employer. Following "TypeCast" is "YouTube Commentary Project," which addresses a major problem with the video-sharing site. There just isn't enough commentary and recursion there! (sic!) Nonetheless, inviting smart international artists to verbalize their reactions atop the video of their choice sounds like a can't-lose idea. Stay tuned to Artists Space's YouTube channel for more of these videos, which premiered with a work by Cesare Pietroiusti. And finally, if you're a fan of the element of surprise, then "Artists Space Daily" is for you. It's "a free software program that downloads an artist 'postcard' from the internet and places it on the desktop of your computer, once per day." While this brings art into viewers' lives that they neither have to pay for nor live with for more than 24 hours, the project brings attention to international emerging artists you just may want to see again. It's all fun, it's all free, and it's all for the love of contemporary art, so get with the program and ...

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Questions, Comments, Reactions?


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When the cinematic masterpiece Wayne's World was released in 1992, their tag line was, "You'll Laugh, You'll Cry...You'll Hurl!" Who among us couldn't say the same about the media blunders we've seen recently, in connection with the U.S. presidential elections? Brooklyn-based artistic duo MTAA dramatize this sort of overwhelming desire to emote in their newest project, Our Political Work, which they describe as Beckett-like. The "Waiting For Godot" playwright might well approve of their creation, which features 141 clips of the artists screaming, laughing, and yelling as they wait in vain for something to change. The clips are randomly strung together using generative software, not unlike the clips in their One Year Performance Video, thus locking them in a state of perpetual indignity. The longer one watches, though, the more they are called upon to consider the roles of the artists and the very nature of their "political work." Are they political agents or spectators? Are their blurts and indiscretions responses to the behavior of political actors, or are they themselves enacting politics? Take a look for yourself, online. The piece is hosted by Lisboa 20 Arte Contemporânea, whose LX 2.0 Project commissioned the work. - Marisa Olson

Image: MTAA, Our Political Work, 2008 (Screenshot)

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A Big New Space for New Media


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As of today, the U.S. will have a bold new venue for new media art and performance: EMPAC. Short for Experimental Media & Performing Arts Center, the Troy, NY-based facility embodies state-of-the-artness and its affiliation with the highly regarded research university, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, ensures that the installations, performances, and concerts presented there will always be ahead of the technological curve. The space, itself, is a masterpiece. The 220,000-square foot building, designed by Grimshaw, includes a 1200-seat concert hall with an adjustable fabric ceiling; a 400-seat theater with a 70-foot fly tower; two black-box studio spaces with tunable, tilting wall tiles; and acoustically isolated artist/researcher work spaces. Within these walls, and under the direction of Johannes Goebel (who helped found ZKM) and curators Kathleen Forde, Hélène Lesterlin, and Micah Silver, visitors will experience work that emphasizes immersion, interactivity, and time-based media. For the next three weekends, EMPAC will present a major festival full of provocative performances and installations by The Wooster Group, dumb type, Workspace Unlimited, Verdensteatret, Vox Vocal Ensemble and International Contemporary Ensemble, Per Tengstrand, Madlib, Cecil Taylor, Pauline Oliveros, Richard Siegal/The Bakery, Robert Normandeau, Fieldwork, Gamelan Galak Tika + Ensemble Robot, and others. This unveiling has been several years in the making but reservations are going fast, so you won't want to wait to get your tickets and get over to Troy. - Marisa Olson

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Art Keeps On Slipping Into the Future


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Stan VanDerBeek (1927-1984) shares with artists like Josef Albers, Aldous Huxley, John Cage, Robert Rauschenberg, and Buckminster Fuller the legacy of having developed their practice at Black Mountain College, the creative mecca where these and other thinkers pushed the edges of visual art, music, literature, technology, and consciousness. His experimental films of the 1950s blurred dada collage and science fiction, and he was an early adopter of both analog processes and computer animation, establishing for him a godfather-like position in the origin-narratives surrounding new media. His often rough aesthetic anticipated glitch-fetishism by several decades and drove the surrealist aesthetic into new territory; yet this is not to say that his works didn't go down smoothly. (The internet is full of video evidence of his colorfully dreamy proliferations.) The artist is currently the subject of an exhibition at New York's Guild & Greyshkul gallery, where one can see VanDerBeek's contribution to the proto-history of digital copy-and-paste stylistics in the form of real copy-and-paste collages and his own reworkings of his early films. Much of the work in the show, including a "faux mural" he transmitted electronically to international venues, in 1970, was made in his days at MIT, where his immersion among scientists and engineers had a clear impact on his art. VanDerBeek had a futurist and almost cosmological approach to his work and was one of those artists known for spouting beautiful witticisms about finding universal modes of expression that transcended media and the confinement of traditional forms. At the end of the day, he also reminded us that "Art is the artifact of reality (not taken for granted)." - Marisa Olson

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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!