E-cig store in Les Sables, France
On February 22, Rhizome held This is the ENDD, a one-day forum on the e-cigarette. A version of this article was given by the author as a PowerPoint lecture.
Last fall, I spent a month in Arles, a small town in southern France, which has a population of 50,000. This being France, a large number of the residents smoke, and the town has three cafés-tabacs, where you can buy cigarettes. It also sports two different e-cigarette stores, both on the same street, the main drag in the town. It's clear that the stores are not there to sell the cigarettes, but rather, to showcase them.
I presume both these stores will not exist in five years (that may be a generous estimate). Whether or not e-cigarettes replace real cigarettes, as many e-cig providers claim, the needs that the vape stores answer will change as our relationships with these objects shift. They are designed for a particular moment in the history of the e-cigarette, when it's still a little out of the ordinary, when we're still not totally sure what to do with it, how to normalize it, and whether or not it's actually here to stay. There is an immediacy, a consistency, to our associations with smoking and cigarettes (good and bad, the Humphrey Bogarts and the health threats); trading them in for an electronic object is a mental leap that's hard to ignore. These stores exist to help consumers make the leap.
Thomas Struth, Hermitage 3, St. Petersburg (2005).
Amazon used to have literary ambitions. In the late '90s, the company hired professional editors who commissioned and wrote thousands of reviews a week, as well as features, interviews, and previews of forthcoming books. Later on, when the retailer began to intersperse the paid reviews with user-generated content, it retained this vision, thinking of user reviews as submissions to a literary magazine that would give the site the aura of an independent bookshop, populated by an erudite staff and clientele. Rick Ayre, then Vice President and Executive Editor of Amazon, described the tone and use of the content on Amazon.com to the New York Times in 1999: "If you spend a lot of time on the site, I hope you get a sense of the quirky, independent, literate voice, and that behind it all you're interacting with people, and that it's people who care about these things, not people who are trying to sell you these things. My mantra has always been 'the perfect context for a purchase decision.'"1
Laylah Ali, John Brown Song! (2013). Cropped screenshot of website with Quicktime videos.
Laylah Ali’s project, John Brown Song!, was launched in June as part of Dia Art Foundation’s artist web projects. It includes the videos of a number of people singing the song "John Brown’s Body," a Civil War–era marching song about a radical abolitionist who was executed in Virginia in 1859. The videos are arranged in twos, but a viewer could also choose to view all, in a grid of videos that can be played together, generating a multitude of voices, all singing different versions of the somewhat gruesome song ("John Brown's body lies a-moldering in the grave…")
Marialaura Ghidini, ed. On the Upgrade: WYSIWYG (or-bits.com, 2013).
One of the most intriguing things about On the Upgrade, a series of publications resulting from the activities on online exhibition platform or-bits.com, is the way it considers shifts in formats. At first look, the book series seems like a kind of flexible archive. The web-based projects of or-bits.com are reflected in printed form in the books: artists who contribute to the publication are those who participated in the various online projects of or-bits.com. And the book is used as a way to disseminate, document, or expand the work within a different scheme.
Work from the series Todays Questions by Eva Weinmayr.
NARRATOR (@Narra_DowningSt): She pushes her bike to the front door of No 10 and rings the bell. Samantha Cameron answers the door, smiling. #Downing_St
EVA (@Artis_DowningSt): Can I leave the bike in the hallway? #Downing_St
SAM (@Sam_DowningSt): Of course. Just lean it on the Giacometti. #Downing_St
The above lines are from the opening scene of Downing Street, a Twitter play created by artist Eva Weinmayr (of The Piracy Project) in response to the artist’s real-life brush with the eponymous halls of power.
I think the meaning of this article is in the conflation of Artsy and e-flux, but nevermind that. Here's the real point: I have no actual interest in criticizing e-flux for its decision to apply to run the gTLD. I'd be happy to do that if they actually win it, and once they start charting out what they'll do with it. In the meantime, my only goal in this piece is to point to some problematics and interests in these two discussions on URLs, branding, art, and money.
About democracy and the internet community: well, first of all, I'm totally unconvinced that some weird democratic taxonomy is the best we can come up with. And in the case of e-flux, I think their time/bank project is an interesting precursor to what may happen with .art. I thought the time/bank had a great chance of being successful because e-flux had a built-in community of people who are interested in alternative economies around it. Instead it's circulating as an artwork and continuous project that is more of an experiment than a real entity. Who knows if .art (which attracted attention via that same e-flux community) won't be the same.
Flux Factory is seeking proposals from game designers, technical wizards, emcees, performers, set designers, house bands, and all manner of mischief makers! We need your help to create iSpy, a live reality show meets stage show spectacle meets video game that combines game design and theater with the topsy-turvy power of networked cameras in public spaces.
The experience will revolve around players carrying networked cameras in public space, beaming images back to the gallery-turned-theater as they compete to finish absurd challenges with the audience’s help (e.g.: corralling strangers to swing at pinatas, in-store scavenger hunts, and impromptu games of Balderdash on the street). The Flux theater will be rigged with cameras and surprises too, turning everyone into unwitting players.
As an interactive and theatrical game experience, this project is not limited to the gallery. The production of iSpy will be highly collaborative, with all invited creators helping to form events open to the public during the last two weekends of April 2012. We need collaborators to make mini-games, elaborate scoreboards, 70’s game show-style sets, spectacular lighting design, and surprising interactions, and we need house bands, emcees, actors, technical crew, facilitators, and much more to make it happen.