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.
The forthcoming introduction of generic top-level domains (gTLDs)—which will replace the .com or .net suffix with specific words or terms, such as .food, .movies, or .microsoft—poses new speculative opportunities as dizzying as those of Zola’s 19th-century Paris.