Posts for June 2011

Tool Time: Cory Arcangel at The Whitney


Cory Arcangel (b. 1978), Various Self Playing Bowling Games (aka Beat the Champ), 2011. Hacked video game controllers, game consoles, cartridges, disks, and video, dimensions variable. [image via Artforum]

In many ways Cory Arcangel's solo show, on view now at the Whitney Museum of American Art, is about the failure of art and technology. This isn't to say the show is a failure; far from it in fact. Instead it's the way in which Arcangel's work frustrates the expectation that art, particularly art that engages with technology, somehow demonstrate a kind of expertise that justifies its elevation to the status of art. If the purpose of technology, broadly speaking, lies in its use-value, then it is his decided refusal of the kind of productive functionality that one expects from technical objects that makes many of the pieces on view so frustrating. Equally frustrated is the desire for an artfully crafted object expressing a unique critical vision. Instead Arcangel offers us objects that have been hacked and broken, that refuse or distort our interaction, or whose simplicity, effortlessness, nostalgia, and humor mask complex socio-technical systems. As Ed Halter noted in an interview with the artist for Rhizome in 2008, Arcangel's work seems to operate in two extremes:

You either introduce a ridiculously enormous and therefore pointless amount of work into it, or you reduce the work by using automation, or defaults, or outsourcing. So you either extend the amount of work to an enormous extent that makes it absurd, or you reduce it to nothing which undercuts its legitimacy.

Arcangel exerts incredible effort to accomplish the most banal of tasks, or produces aesthetic works that require little if any effort to manufacture — on the part of the artist, at least. In this way the works reflect on the process by which both art and technology are produced, and the means through which we ascribe value to artistic and technological objects.


Craig Kalpakjian


Craig Kalpakjian, Monitor II (1999)

Craig Kalpakjian, Stair (2000)

Craig Kalpakjian, Unlearning Object Permanence (2009)

Craig Kalpakjian, Dear Tech Support Operator (2004)

In my earlier sculpture and installation work, I used found and fabricated elements–barriers, detectors, and security devices. I was interested in the technology of deterrence and passage, movement and restraint as well as crowd control and traffic flow. This is what I was thinking about with the work involving bullet-proof barriers and waiting line stanchions.

One of the things I wanted to do with these sculptures and installations was to call into question notions of safety, security, protection and vulnerability, and to confuse the sense of inside and outside. While I always liked producing slick and seductive objects, in some sense I was more interested on their effects, both physically and psychologically, on the space around them. This charged mental space is already, in a sense, virtual, so working with 3-D software (at first just to arrange and visualize installations) seemed a great way to explore these ideas.

Narrative and cinematic movement were always important to me, and the first 3-D works I did were in fact animation loops that were output to video. Nevertheless I quickly became fascinated and obsessed by the great detail possible in still images. The sense of imminence and the implication of the covert, of a beyond just out of reach, is of central importance to me. This is what leads me to say that the spaces I depict are in a way haunted. I do love the almost cheap or tongue-in-cheek sense of mystery involved, but the emptiness of the images speaks to a sense of absence and loss that works on many different levels, and I think loss is very important to technology in general.

Although they are often seen ...


Track One (2011)- eteam


Lets turn into a narrow street where it’s dark and less busy. I can’t catch it when the sun is shining. We need grey days for this. Here it comes, all by itself. Small, bigger, bigger, whoosh, smaller, smaller. Nice! Now some stillness. I double behind your shoulder. Me, the rear view mirror. Objects are gone before they appear. Small, big, bigger, whoosh, vanished. Keep going now. We’ll run into it again by coincidence. Waiting makes no sense. Remember the sign? “no relax no easy”. I count until twenty. No. No. No. No. No. Yes. OK. Replay. The object is replaced by the object that was removed. Cherry Crap. The bus drove in. How absurd. Where is that bus coming from?

eteam's Track One, screened at the Migrating Forms festival last month, is now available online. eteam, a collaboration between Franziska Lamprecht and Hajoe Moderegger often explore the tension and developing relationship between the real world and the virtual world. In 2008 they received a Rhizome Commission for Second Life Dumpster, a project that highlights the levels of consumption and disposal in the virtual world. The pair constructed an evolving virtual garbage dump, a repository for deleted objects tagged with a custom decay script written by the artists. In Track One, weaving together various global locations, they similarly assemble real and virtual properties to create an amalgamation of the physical and virtual worlds.


Two Questions for Wu Tsang


Tomorrow, June 23rd, the New Museum and Rhizome will present THE TABLE, a 5-hour day-into-night performance by DJ/producers Kingdom (Ezra Rubin), NGUZUNGUZU (Asma Maroof & Daniel Pineda), and Total Freedom (Ashland Mines) in collaboration with Wu Tsang. Part of Tsang’s residency at the New Museum “We Remember Stories, Not Facts,” THE TABLE is a live performance/webcast that brings together a group of artists who believe in DJing as an art form. In advance of the event, we posed 2 questions to Tsang to give some context for the event, its participants, and background.

I’m excited to have Kingdom, NGUZUNGUZU, Total Freedom, and you (of course), in a focused event at the Museum. Like so many other DJs/ producers, their work is broadly influential—or rather broader than the fine art sphere, and moving through lots of different contexts in the U.S. and internationally. And yet there is also something specific to the way you all work as collaborators, which I imagine the structure of the event (you all around a table) will throw into relief. I wonder how their work will translate into the space of the 7th floor, i.e. not a club. Can you describe this event, and what the inspiration for it was?

THE TABLE started in Los Angeles after Wildness, a club I did with Total Freedom (Ashland Mines) and NGUZUNGUZU (Asma Maroof & Daniel Pineda), ended in 2010. I think Wildness was the origin of major artistic development for all of us. We started out as amateurs still learning how to use our equipment, but we hosted performers every week for 2 years and we eventually got more sophisticated about our ideas and skills. For us, THE TABLE is like "next level" sound/music/art intervention, by putting the dj table in ...


Life Feed: Webcams, Art, and People


On Friday, June 24, Rhizome is presenting new projects by Jeremy Bailey and Antoine Catala as part of the New Silent Series. This post elaborates some of the ideas around the event.

Image: Antoine Catala, Antoine according to Dean by Antoine, 2011

The future never comes looking like it used to. Science fiction's universal hallmark of technological advancement was the videophone. While you can buy a device as slick as a Gene Roddenberry prop, most people make video calls with the same thing they do a thousand other things with, using a streamlined version of the computer-camera-modem combo that Jennifer Ringley set up in her dorm room in 1996. Her site JenniCam (now archived) did not stream a live feed of her life. It updated still images— black-and-white, at first— every three minutes. Traffic leapt whenever word spread that Ringley was undressing, or having sex with her boyfriend. But JenniCam was never meant to be an illicit site. As Ringley explained, she was broadcasting everyday life, and in everyday life sex and nudity happen. Her webcam was like a piece of furniture, a mirror that blankly took in the image of the room it faced. It was connected to the line of the telephone, a device that philosopher Avital Ronnell has described as a superhumanizing prosthesis, a machine that empowers the ear and voice to operate across great distances. The webcam's mirror/telephone hybrid— as used by JenniCam and its lifecasting progeny, from to Chatroulette— is a messy sort of videophone that captures a reflection at its physical location and disperses it to whatever channel that switches the packets.

Rosalind Krauss called video "the aesthetics of narcissism." Her 1976 essay of that name describes Vito Acconci's Centers (1971) as a reflection on art's indexical function: he looks in a television monitor as a mirror and points at himself. One of her other examples was Richard Serra's Boomerang (1974), which locks Nancy Holt in a prison of feedback. She speaks and listens to her own words in a "collapsed present." "[V]ideo's real medium," Krauss writes, "is a psychological situation, the very terms of which are to withdraw attention from an external object— an Other— and invest it in the Self." What do her words mean thirty years later, when video, thanks to webcams, has become part of everyday life as a telecom device? Marisa Olson's remake of Boomerang offers an easy starting point. The webpage juxtaposes a video of Olson listening to and repeating the text of Boomerang with a copy of the old video that she saved on her YouTube account. Serra's tightly constructed frame excludes everything but Holt's face and the audio apparatus. Olson (who did the tasks of both Serra and Holt: the tech set-up and the on-screen performance) lets her webcam show her studio; we can see a doorway, artworks, a bookshelf, the glare of sunlight on a framed print. For Olson, the real "frame" isn't the field of her webcam's lens but the window of the browser, which subsumes both the art-historical past and the webcam's collapsed present in the empty space of default whiteness. She's not only creating a reflection of her own image, but connecting it to an artifact of another place and time by echoing its call.


Triple Canopy's Photography Issue


The first digital camera, built by Eastman Kodak engineer Steven Sasson, 1975

Photographs viewed online suffer from a crushing sameness, without the particular pleasures provided by silver-gelatin, chromogenic, or ink-jet prints. As I’ve edited the issue, the question preoccupying me has been whether it’s possible to have what Michael Fried calls an “absorptive” experience with a photograph online, in which the image can obliterate one’s consciousness of viewing it. And though this condition isn’t related exclusively to form, it requires a certain minimum size and richness of detail—enough to monopolize one’s attention and reveal the photograph’s complexities in the moment of viewing. The challenge here is to charge the JPEG—among other low-grade image-file formats common to the Web—with this task.
What a digital space lacks, it makes up for in the potential for recombination. A tactic common to the projects in this issue is emphasizing relationships among images, whether those belonging to a discrete set authored by the photographer or to the vast cache of vernacular imagery readily accessible online. This is true of Boru O’Brien O’Connell and Simone Gilge’s variations on the slide-show format, Dan Torop’s textual interventions, and Daniel Gordon’s automated amalgamations of his own photographs and those found on the Web. “I wish that each picture…was not forced to be surrounded by just two others,” Geoff Dyer writes in The Ongoing Moment, his book on photography. “Ideally some sections would be adjacent to four or eight or even ten others,” and the book would “emulate the aleatory experience of dipping into a pile of photographs as far as is compatible with the constraints of binding.” Online, liberated from the mechanics of actual space, photographs flash and dissolve, are animated and stilled, merged and isolated, replicated and excerpted. Their vitality is contingent.


More from Triple Canopy's new issue on photography.


Andy Baio Writes About Settling Out of Court Over Pixel Art Depiction of Miles Davis


Andy Baio (who took part in this year's Seven on Seven) writes about settling out of court for the pixel art cover to Kind of Bloop, his Kickstarter-funded "8-Bit Tribute to Miles Davis' Kind of Blue." As Baio explains, "the fact that I settled is not an admission of guilt. My lawyers and I firmly believe that the pixel art is 'fair use' and [Jay] Maisel and his counsel firmly disagree. I settled for one reason: this was the least expensive option available."

Baio goes on to explain how difficult it is to claim fair use in practice:

If you're borrowing inspiration from any copyrighted material, even if it seems clear to you that your use is transformational, you're in danger. If your use is commercial and/or potentially objectionable, seek permission (though there's no guarantee it'll be granted) or be prepared to defend yourself in court.

Anyone can file a lawsuit and the costs of defending yourself against a claim are high, regardless of how strong your case is. Combined with vague standards, the result is a chilling effect for every independent artist hoping to build upon or reference copyrighted works.

Also, as Marc Hedlund at O'Reilly Radar points out, "Andy negotiated the right to post the full story to his blog. That in itself is a huge accomplishment and service -- almost always, DMCA claims that end in settlement include a ban on speaking publicly about it. You should read the story, and when you do, consider that this happens all the time and we usually never hear about it."

Update: Mat Honan at Gizmodo has more, including this quote from Baio, "My lawyers and I firmly believed that I was legally in the right. But it doesn't matter, fair use doesn't protect you unless you're willing to pay to defend yourself. The average copyright case costs $310,000 to litigate when there's less than $1 million at risk."


Rhizome Events Tonight and Tomorrow at the New Museum


Two Rhizome events at the New Museum:

THE TABLE presented by the New Museum and Rhizome.
Part of We Remember Stories, Not Facts: Wu Tsang in Residence
7th Floor Sky Room
Thursday, June 23rd, 4pm - 9pm
Free before 7pm, $12 after

Tonight: The New Museum and Rhizome are pleased to present THE TABLE. THE TABLE is a 5-hour day-into-night performance by DJ/producers Kingdom (Ezra Rubin), NGUZUNGUZU (Asma Maroof & Daniel Pineda), and Total Freedom (Ashland Mines) in collaboration with Wu Tsang. Presented by Wu Tsang as part of his residency We Remember Stories, Not Facts, THE TABLE is a live performance/webcast that brings together a group of artists who believe in DJing as an art form. THE TABLE places the four DJs on four opposing sides of a table in the middle of the floor. The artists face each other, working together and/or against each other to produce a constant stream of ad-libbed new ideas in sound. The unusual set-up gives the audience an unconventional role as co-conspirator, huddled around the table like students at a schoolyard brawl. The particular placement of the table uses bad feng shui to pleasantly disrupt our experience of entertainment and hospitality. THE TABLE is part of an ongoing series of parties/sound/experiences that began in Los Angeles.

Total Freedom, aka Ashland Mines, is a DJ/Producer living in Los Angeles. Besides being known internationally for brain broadening DJ sets, Ashland is known in Los Angeles for his work curating and producing events. The first experiments with The Table were directed by him.

KINGDOM, aka Ezra Rubin, is a DJ/Producer living in Los Angeles. Ezra's work is held in high regard around the world for its completely individual, almost otherworldly, character. Ezra has official releases on Fools Gold, Night Slugs, and Acephale and more to come on his own Fade To Mind.

NGUZUNGUZU is a DJ and production duo from Los Angeles. Their production work has been featured by artist like MIA, Sam Sparro and Rye Rye. In 2010 they had official releases on Silverback Recordings and Innovative Leisure. A release of new work is slated for early summer on Kingdom's imprint Fade To Mind.

This event is part of the RE:NEW RE:PLAY Performance Residency Series.

Related: Two Questions for Wu Tsang

Life Feed: New Works by Jeremy Bailey and Antoine Catala
June 24 at 7pm

Tomorrow: Jeremy Bailey and Antoine Catala are two artists who have both taken interest in the webcam as a medium and a subject, from divergent perspectives. Bailey, who lives in Toronto, creates webcam performances in which he manipulates animated models while spinning out monologues with a nerdy lack of self-awareness --both excessive, even grotesque, challenges to assumptions of transparency in screen and self. Recently, Bailey has been experimenting with thought-controlled technology, devices that respond to readings of their users' brainwaves, to imagine one extreme that future telecom technology might take and to satirize art-critical cliches about the uniqueness of the artist's mind and works that make the artist's process transparent. Catala, a French artist based in New York, has made sculptures using television as readymade, a treatment of the medium that applies to the material of the monitor as much as it does to the images of whatever channel it happens to be tuned to. For Catala, lifecasting -- the practice of non-stop transmission of oneself via webcam -- represents both the movement of broadcast technology from the professional studio to the home as well as a concentrated instance of the constant self-design and performance that the social internet requires -- a demand that he, like most artists who make their work available online for market and exhibition systems, feels particularly acutely. On June 24, Bailey and Catala will present new works drawing on these recent areas of study. This event is curated by Brian Droitcour.

This event is part of Rhizome’s New Silent Series at the New Museum.

Related: Life Feed: Webcams, Art, and People


Letter from Campbell Soup Product Manager to Andy Warhol (1964)


In light of Andy Baio's settlement with Jay Maisel, this 1964 letter from the Campbell Soup product manager to Andy Warhol serves as the ideal way to respond to transformative works:


Campbell SOUP Company

May 19, 1964

Mr. A. Warhol
1342 Lexington Avenue
New York, New York

Dear Mr. Warhol:

I have followed your career for some time. Your work has evoked a great deal of interest here at Campbell Soup Company for obvious reasons.

At one time I had hoped to be able to acquire one of your Campbell Soup label paintings - but I'm afraid you have gotten much too expensive for me.

I did want to tell you, however, that we admired your work and I have since learned that you like Tomato Soup. I am taking the liberty of having a couple of cases of our Tomato Soup delivered to you at this address.

We wish you continued success and good fortune.


(Signed, 'William P. MacFarland')

William P. MacFarland
Product Marketing Manager

via Daniel Jalkut, Dan Abrams


Weekend Clicking


Adrien Missika, All sunset postcards available in Hawaii, (2011) Adrien Missika. via VVORK
  • Can we grasp this sense of ourselves as existing in time, part of the beautiful continuum of life? Can we become inspired by the prospect of contributing to the future? Can we shame ourselves into thinking that we really do owe those who follow us some sort of consideration, just as the people of the nineteenth century shamed themselves out of slavery? Can we extend our empathy to the lives beyond ours? - Brian Eno writing about the 10,000 Year Clock, in the essay from which The Long Now Foundation got its name. The clock is now under construction.
  • Questions Remain After Ai Weiwei's Release (Hyperallergic)
  • Tokyo-based, Senegal born, Kuwaiti artist Monira Al Qadiri's video Visual Violence, part of the bi-annual Aboveground Animation show, works off of the curt dialog and banal negativism (complete with the lethal injections and inner demons) that are common to a certain style of Japanese comics [with the] insertion of Qadiri’s own, more concentrated aesthetic, which often references Kuwaiti culture and traditions - V magazine. Interview with Al Qadiri. Vimeo page
  • Findr: Jacob Gaboury and Todd Shalom are using Grindr as a psychogeography research tool over Gay Pride Weekend. Interview on the project. It's not that we're rehabilitating a potentially problematic technology, it's that we are using the technology to find new ways to interact and create a shared, networked physical space. We're hoping to create new forms of contact between anonymous strangers, and in so doing create new ways of navigating the city.
  • Summer 2011 issue of Afterall themed around "the act of mapping, the land and locality."
  • 2011 Frieze Projects announced: The artists commissioned to create site-specific works for Frieze Art Fair 2011 are ...
  • MORE »