All the World's a Datastream

The Rencontres Internationales is an international festival now enjoying its 15th edition, in Madrid. But you don't have to fly to Spain to surf through its compelling exhibition, "Data Meanings." (Installed at Complejo El Aguila through May 14th.) While the RI's programs do boast a roster of over 150 respected artists and arts professionals, the festival is distinct in that it is less driven by the art market and more driven to critique practices (creative and professional) within the contemporary arts community. In particular, this year's events are designed to explore the relationship between "new cinema and contemporary art" and, unsurprisingly, new media is at the center of the debate. "Data Meanings" thus chimes in as an intellectually rigorous show presenting nine artists engaging with data sets of various sorts. Mindaugas Gapsevicius's Bookshelf (2006) places computer monitors on shelves as their screens flash text that visualizes network traffic. Shown adjacent to shelves containing real books, the installation questions the status of reading, the narrativity of protocol and data streams, the relative invisibility of data, the permanence of print versus the impermanence of digital archives, and the role of the human memory in retaining this information. Christophe Bruno describes his Dadameter (2002-2008) as "a satire about the recent transmutation of language into a global market ruled by Google et al." He's essentially created an elaborate system for analyzing text surveyed by Google and mapping its linguistic similarities to Dada forms; particularly the writings of Raymond Roussel. Dada geeks will appreciate the irony of conflating these rule-based systems. On an even more playful note, JODI's Composite Club (2007) exploits the point of view of "cameras" in Playstation games by triggering them with prerecorded videoclips while Ubermorgan's The Sound of Ebay (a 2008 Rhizome Commission) uses a supercollider-application to generate music and lyrics based on the public data contained in the profiles of the e-commerce site's buyers and sellers. The latter project displays the ubiquity of data (after all, what isn't information?) and of its attendant surveillance mechanisms, while highlighting the role artists play in commenting on this state of the world. Also included in the exhibition are Claude Closky, Ricardo Iglesia + Mario Ruiz, Joan Leandre, Michael Takeo Magruder, and RYBN. - Marisa Olson

Mindaugas Gapsevicius, Bookshelf, 2006

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