Between 'Total War' and History Painting: Andrej Ujhazy for 'Brushes'

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For his contribution to the ongoing online exhibition "Brushes," presented by Rhizome and the New Museum as part of the First Look series, artist Andrej Ujhazy presents a large-scale (70MB, 15120x7560 pixel) digital painting created in Adobe Photoshop, presented as a png file that can be viewed or downloaded here.

 

Detail of Andrej Ujhazy, congress of the sarmatian women by the black sea to dissolve the amazonian tribes and withdraw from history, aug1 333 (after Total War: Atilla™).png (2015), Photoshop painting, 15120 × 7560 pixels. 

Andrej Ujhazy undertook this work while playing a video game from the Total War series that features massive armies fighting in grandiose landscapes during the late Roman Empire. Ujhazy set out to make an epic historical painting in the traditional sense, drawing inspiration from the videogame and from the underlying history it represented, but working from a contemporary cultural reference point. The tribe Ujhazy was playing in the game was the Sarmatians, a central Asian people for whom women played an important role in warfare; they were described by Herodotus as the descendants of Amazon mothers. Thus, the painting was partly an intervention into the narrative of the game and into videogame culture as a whole, emphasizing the role played by women in both.

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Flatness: an interview with Shama Khanna

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 Robert M. Ochshorn, Chewing Time (2013)

What were the initial intentions of the Flatness project, and how would you say those first iterations have reshaped your ongoing research, as well as future curatorial projects?

The project began as the theme of a film program I curated for Kurzfilmtage Oberhausen 2013 entitled "Flatness: cinema after the internet." I'd invited Oliver Laric, Anthea Hamilton and Ed Atkins to curate screenings within the program before I came up with the title, so the idea emerged through thinking about their work, and the other forty videos within the overall program. While Laric, Hamilton and Atkins each occupy very different positions – broadly, Laric's practice engages with the circulation of images throughout history and now on the web, Hamilton's sculptural and video works draw on the convergence of cultural materials within the compressed, hyper-historical space of the screen-based image and Atkins's filmmaking reflects on the thinness of high definition image surface – their work points to a shared language of the screen inherited from cinema and TV and now evolves through the dialogic space of the internet. I was conscious, too, that most of the works weren’t intended to be seen in the cinema - they were made either to be installed in the gallery or viewed on the computer (many of the works appeared in low-resolution so the image looked spectacularly flat!) - so I wanted to draw attention to the particularities of the auditorium setting and its linear format. Once the festival was over it made sense to put all the programs online, not only so a broader audience could engage with them, but also because several works I'd selected had originated there in the first place. Computer researcher Robert M. Ochshorn's commission, Chewing (2013), for instance, where all the frames of John Smiths' Girl Chewing Gum (1976) are played simultaneously in a specially programmed viewer, was only temporarily made into a video for presentation at Oberhausen, otherwise it exists as an interactive player. My intention was that the website could be a place where Ochshorn's sense of invention could be appreciated in the same space as the visual, audio-visual and written commissions. The web has become a site for artistic production and display but the tools programmers have access to, which set the protocols for this medium, mustn’t be overlooked both politically and artistically.

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Jacob Ciocci at Interstate Projects

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Jacob Ciocci, Jacob's Year, 9/11, Unbox Perfect Sleep (2015)

Jacob Ciocci’s new exhibition at Interstate Projects could easily be mistaken as a study of banality and irony. However, as one begins to take in the myriad of symbols, text, and sound throughout the exhibition, one will find Ciocci is more interested in exploring empathy and vulnerability. Though he has been a fixture in net art, experimental animation, and art rock scenes for many years, the exhibition cements Ciocci’s work at the vanguard of dealing with the weight of user generated content within contemporary image-obsessed culture.

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New digital paintings by Petra Cortright

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For her contribution to the ongoing online exhibition "Brushes," presented by Rhizome and the New Museum as part of the First Look series, artist Petra Cortright presents two versions of a Photoshop composition titled all_gold_everything.psd: a GIF that cycles through all of its layers, and a video that uses wipes and dissolves to offer a slowly shifting view of the same imagery.

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Born-Digital Art Institutions: TEDxMet

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With New York's Whitney Museum of American Art officially decamped to Lower Manhattan, the encyclopedic Metropolitan Museum of Art is slowly revealing its ambitions for their 8-year lease of the Whitney's former home, the Breuer Building. The Met has labeled this satellite "The Met Breuer" — but what will it be? According to early messaging, the space will house "a new series of exhibitions, performances, artist commissions, residencies, and educational initiatives," relating to contemporary and modern art. 

The museum just announced the space's first program: an affiliate version of the technology, entertainment, design lecture series, TED Talks, called TEDxMet: The In-Between. The subtitle and theme refer to the status of the institution itself; per the promotional text, "no longer the Whitney Museum, and not yet open to the public as The Met Breuer, a building in-between." In keeping, its an interdisciplinary affair, with speakers from the visual arts, theater, and literature.

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Announcing the 2015 Net Art Microgrants

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In June, we launched our 2015 Net Art Microgrants program with an open call for entries. 262 projects were proposed, representing the diversity of net art practices today. All proposals were considered by an esteemed panel comprising curator, artist, and critic Gaby Cepeda, previous Microgrant winner M. Hipley, and Rhizome's Assistant Director, Zachary Kaplan.

Today, we're pleased to announced the five 2015 Net Art Microgrant awardees, who will each recieve $500 to create new works.

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First Look: Brushes

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This online exhibition features the work of eight artists who paint with the computer and show their work on the internet.

"Brushes," copresented by Rhizome and the New Museum as part of the series First Look: New Art Online, casts light on digital painting at a moment when the practice is gaining more widespread recognition. Unlike works by artists such as Albert Oehlen, who have translated digital gestures and imagery to a gallery context, the works featured in "Brushes"—by artists Laura Brothers, Jacob Ciocci, Petra Cortright, Joe Hamilton, Sara Ludy, Michael Manning, Giovanna Olmos, and Andrej Ujhazy—were created specifically for online circulation and display.

As art historian Alex Bacon writes in an essay for Rhizome, "In a sense, painting has always existed in relation to technology, when the term is understood in its broad definition as the practical application of specialized knowledge: the brush, the compass, the camera obscura, photography, or the inkjet printer." However, if painting has long involved the application of tools and techniques, it has also served another function: it makes technological conditions available for visual contemplation in the gallery. (Think, for example, of Vera Molnár's television paintings, which evoke the visual style of that technology.)

Today, many paintings that are displayed in the gallery are also contemplated online on platforms such as Instagram. This is a widely discussed phenomenon, but what is often overlooked in painting discourse is the role played by works created and experienced on the computer and the internet. This kind of digital painting has existed for decades: for example, the 1970s software SuperPaint already included many features found in modern paint applications. "Brushes" acknowledges this long history while focusing on practices that have emerged in recent years.

In particular, this exhibition highlights artworks that refer back, in some way, to a bodily gesture made by the artist: mouse movements, digitized brushstrokes, or touchscreen swipes. This leaves out the many artists who create painterly work by writing custom code—but despite their shared approach, these artists take diverse positions on questions of process and output.

As the role of painting in the gallery continues to shift, "Brushes" aims to suggest that works produced on the computer and experienced via the browser and the mobile app have an equal place in the medium's discourses, offering a space for contemplation of our technological society from within its complex apparatus.

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A black market for people "consumed by the internet"

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Interview responses translated from Japanese by Love Kindstrand.

"Welcome to [...] the Internet's next wave," Sue Halpern wrote in 2014, "the Internet of Things"—a harbinger of our gradual transition into "one of the things connected to and through the Internet." 

Yet, despite its sizeable implications for politics, capital, and consumers, the internet of things has not affected web-based art practices to the same degree. In fact, more and more contemporary internet artists are expressing interest in a somewhat opposing phenomenon, a trend that flips the logic of the Internet of Things on its head. From Paul Soulellis's Library of the Printed Web to Michael Mandiberg's Print Wikipedia, artists working on the internet and digital technologies seem less absorbed by the link between physical bodies and virtual networks than by the physical bodies of these networks—that is, by the matter of the web. As a result, what net art usually offers up is not so much the Internet of Things as the things of the internet.

The Internet Yami-Ichi is one gripping example of recent artistic experimentations with the materiality of the web. Created by the Japanese artist collectives IDPW (pronounced "i-pass") and Exonemo, the Yami-Ichi is a real-life counter-market for internet-related goods. Somewhere between "flea" and "black," the Yami-Ichi is at once both and neither: "In Japanese," Exonemo tells me, "the word 'yami' in 'yami-ichi' (black market) carries connotations not only of darkness, but also of 'sickness' and 'addiction,' in the sense of being too attached to something. More than just a market, we imagined the Yami-Ichi as a place where people consumed by the internet could come together."

The project's first installation was held in Tokyo on November 4, 2012 and attracted over 500 people interested in selling, buying, and trading truly unique internet objects. Since then, the Yami-Ichi has attracted much international attention, travelling to Berlin, Taichung, Seoul, Linz, Brussels, and Amsterdam. In the interview that follows, I ask Exonemo about the politics of their project, touching on the history of online consumer capitalism, Silk Road, the corporatization of Web 2.0, digital labor, and the meaning of liberty on the internet.

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