Posts for September 2011

Essay by Alexander R. Galloway on Nils Aall Barricelli in Cabinet


Barricelli experiment recreated with Processing by Galloway. Barricelli’s visualization technique has been altered—color has been added to show the gene groups more clearly, and the vertical axis has been compressed to increase the amount of evolutionary time that is visible. Each swatch of textured color within the image indicates a different organism. Borders between color fields mean that an organism has perished, been born, mutated, or otherwise evolved into something new

The latest issue of Cabinet inclues an essay by Alexander R. Galloway on mathematician Nils Aall Barricelli, who created artificial evolution experiments in the 50s, with a striking visualization technique:

How did it work? Barricelli established a “universe” consisting of a horizontal row of 512 genes. Genes were represented using integers from negative 18 to positive 18. According to “norms” he established governing mutation and reproduction, each number reproduced into the row below it. in this way, the norms translated rows of “parent” genes into subsequent rows of “child” genes, which in turn were reproduced again using the same norms into subsequent generations over and over. if and when gene-numbers reappeared in a sustained group, Barricelli would designate each group an “organism.” proceeding in lines from top to bottom, Barricelli’s algorithm produced a rectangular image consisting of a grid of genes appearing as individual pixels. When finished, the image yielded a snapshot of evolutionary time, with the oldest generations of organisms at the top and the youngest at the bottom. the output of Barricelli’s experiments was highly visual. he was essentially drawing directly in binary numbers, converting 1s and 0s into pixels in either on or off positions. Because he represented each gene as pixels, organisms were identified visually based on how the pixel patterns self-organized into texture fields, which were identified as shapes or ...


Introducing the Rhizome Staff Blog


I'm pleased to introduce the Rhizome Staff Blog. This will be the channel for the Rhizome staff to communicate what's going on here at Rhizome HQ. We'll be posting about updates on the website, such as new features and scheduled maintenance, and what each staff member is up to, including current projects and research interests.

So on that note, I'm pleased to make two announcements:

1) A new, much needed "about" page for the ArtBase
We've been working hard behind the scenes to turn the ArtBase into the leading archive of digital art, and we want to provide more context about the ArtBase as a whole. The About page contains information on our mission, our philosophy, our archival process, and links to documents written about the ArtBase and archiving digital art.

2) Beta no more!
The new site has been running pretty smoothly for a while now, and I feel like we're safe to remove the Beta label from the site. Thanks to everyone who has provided feedback and help so far. Onward and upward!

We'll be posting new entries to the Staff Blog about once a week, and you can expect to hear from all of us in due time.



Artist Profile: Petra Cortright


So Wet (2011), installation shot at Preteen Gallery

Nearly every video piece of yours seems to have the distinct aesthetic of webcam footage, from the fluttery movements to the unusual compression artifacts and use built-in filters and effects. Is there something in these particular 'defaults' that you're drawn to?

i like webcam bcause the vid files are a small size and i can make many tests because most of my outtakes are stupid. they arent filling up the harddrive and slowing down the computer. also it renders faster. and its not high def so its not a magnifying glass its a veil. also the effects on the webcam softwares are very beautiful and fun to work with. also i can see myself and i dont need any help to film the webcam video, i can see myself an what i am doing so then i can see what is failing / working.

A great deal of your video work is posted on Youtube, often practically right alongside the videos that seem to inspire some of your performances (from random vloggers to the ubiquitous home videos of people dancing and lip-syncing). Do you think it's important that your work is presented in the same environment? Do you consider the 'baggage' of youtube (aggressive commenters, a somewhat intrusive user interface) when making the work?

i just use youtube as a tool, i cant say i am like "philosophically" into it. its convenient. but i have to say though that the comments are a special gift. always a highlight to get them because they are really real. also they are very funny. theyre all over the board, its more much intersting and more reflective of the internet and what its about and its more constructive and useful. and entertaining.

In an interview ...


Objects at Dusk


cropped image of the book's cover

Graham Harman is Associate Provost for Research Administration and a member of the Department of Philosophy at the American University in Cairo, Egypt. He is the author of nine books, most recently The Quadruple Object by zer0 books [English Edition, July 2011].

“Instead of beginning with radical doubt, we start from naiveté. What philosophy shares with the lives of scientists, bankers, and animals is that all are concerned with objects. The exact meaning of “object” will be developed in what follows, and must include those entities that are neither physical nor even real. Along with diamonds, rope, and neutrons, objects may include armies, monsters, square circles, and leagues of real and fictitious nations. All such objects must be accounted for by ontology, not merely denounced or reduced to despicable nullities. Yet despite repeated claims by both friends and critics of my work, I have never held that all objects are “equally real.” For it is false that dragons have autonomous reality in the same manner as a telephone pole. My point is not that all objects are equally real, but that they are equally objects...”

(The Quadruple Object, Introductionpage 5)

The Quadruple Object by Graham Harman is a succinct and ambitious new theory of objects that reexamines Heidegger’s fourfold theory (a vague and, until Harman, unexplored and poetic idea of the world in four parts: earth, sky, gods, and mortals) through the lens of Object-Oriented Ontography (a slightly different take on Object-Oriented Philosophy). Harman, constrained by complications with the publisher, grant access, and his own lecture schedule decided to take a unique approach and “live-blog” his writing process.

“Live-blogging” might seem like an unorthodox approach for a philosophical treatise, but also a wildly brilliant one. Harman devised the blog as a ...


Cole Stryker, Author of "Epic Win for Anonymous" on Interior Semiotics, Context Collapse, and "You Rage You Lose"


Still from Natacha Stolz's Interior Semiotics

Last year, an anonymous Rhizome contributer interviewed Natacha Stolz regarding her performance Interior Semiotics, the video documentation of which eventually found its way on 4Chan:

What is it that made, and is still making, [4chan users] so angry about Stolz’s performance? The video contains graphic material, but in the age of Goatse, and Tubgirl, explicitness alone cannot shock or offend most people—especially internet trolls. Rather, it was the label on it—art—and the work’s perceived demographic—hipsters—that crawled under people’s skin. Many on the internet seem as angry with the audience—for sitting there, for clapping—as they are with the performance itself. Whether or not you like Stolz’s piece may be a matter of personal taste, but taste is never strictly personal. It stands at a nexus of hot-blooded issues; issues relating to class, status, accessibility, belonging and not belonging. Taste necessarily begs the question not just of how we assign value to things, but also of who should be doing the assigning. The hipster has come to epitomize for many what’s seen to be the ridiculousness of taste; and so it struck people who hated Interior Semiotics as no mere coincidence that many audience members in the video were punked out, or gothed up, or otherwise retrofitted.

A lot of the comments on the video fall into two categories: comments addressing the definition, or ideal definition, of art, and comments addressing the nature of hipsters. The latter tend to be violent expressions of a kind of inchoate rage.

Recently I asked my friend Cole Stryker, author of Epic Win for Anonymous: How 4chan’s Army Conquered the Web for his take on the trolling of the artist:



Matthew Lutz-Kinoy Talks About Upcoming NEW SILENT SERIES Event "Donna Haraway's Expanded Benefits Package"


New York artist Matthew Lutz Kinoy’s latest dance performance, Donna Haraway's Expanded Benefits Package, is set in the compounded space of artist studio / gay bar / queer community center. Featuring music by SOPHIE, the event premieres a display of sculpture, large scale painting, and a video projection entitled “Ideals, Bars, Shoes, and Legs,” setting the stage for a sensual physical space in which the artist and collaborator Chelsea Culp dance and recite collaged erotic texts from London and New York. The event highlights a shifting frame, which allows for chance readings of moving image both painterly and physical. Donna Haraway's Expanded Benefits Package, remembers the New Museum’s neighboring historic center Judson Church, by celebrating the tradition of translating daily activities into activist choreography.


Lauren Cornell: Donna Haraway's Expanded Benefits Package is set in what you describe as "the compounded space of artist studio / gay bar / queer community center." Is this triangle of social spaces one that relates to your life? How will the choreography of the piece reflect and express this location?

MATTHEW LUTZ-KINOY: In this performance I propose that the individual creates the narrative of the social space and that the social space constructs the narrative of the individual. The set of the performance is constructed in video by superimposing footage from these locations on top of one another and the role of the set shifts between being a forgrounded character to a background for live action and music. For this piece I chose to frame my research within a compounded architecture of the locations that had a direct influence on the production of this work. These locations shaped my daily gesture, they propose the way one’s body interacts with the world. My choreography ...


Rhizome at ISEA 2011


Hi all,

I'll be participating on the panel New Media Archives, New Intelligent Ambiances at ISEA 2011 in Istanbul, Turkey this Thursday, September 15th. I'll be speaking on my work overhauling the ArtBase and Rhizome's archival practices. I'll also be presenting Ben Fino-Radin's paper Digital Preservation Practices and the Rhizome ArtBase.

As well, staff writer Ceci Moss will be presenting a paper entitled “Viral Not Virus: Alan Liu’s “Viral Aesthetics” Reconsidered” at The Matter with Media, Saturday, 17 September. That same day, she'll also perform a sound composition using recordings of the human voice found on the web during the conference as part of the performance panel, Soundwwwalk.

If you're in Istanbul, be sure to checkout our panels and say hello.


Reframing Tumblr: Hyper Geography


Hyper Geography is a Tumblr created by Joe Hamilton. He describes the blog on the site in a quote: “What in the history of thought may be seen as a confusion or an overlapping is often the precise moment of the dramatic impulse.” — Raymond Williams, "Ideas of Nature," in Problems in Materialism and Culture. (London: Verso, 1980). I caught up with Joe over email to find out more about Hyper Geography and the ideas behind its collagist layout.

Jason Huff: When did you start the project and how did you develop the basic criteria for what you post?
Joe Hamilton: I started in April of this year and, in a way, finished in August. There are 100 looping posts that link together horizontally and vertically. I am working on a script that will once a day take the last post in the loop and reblog it. Then I will leave it. Or not. I'm not sure.
In selecting the images I was looking at our notion of environment and the changing and overlapping definitions of natural, built and networked environments. I gathered images that speak of these definitions and blended them together in to new compositions. An attempt to create a feeling of some type of hybrid environment, a hyper geography.

In addition to the idea of overlapping, the quote on the info page from Raymond Williams's Ideas of Nature mentions the "dramatic impulse" - How does that relate to the project?
Well it is funny but until I read your question I had not made the connection to the word 'overlapping' in the quote and the fact that I was overlapping images in my project. I was referring to overlapping ideas of nature... 



Kowloon Walled City Lives On in Videogames


1989 German documentary on Kowloon Walled City (English subtitles, Part 1 of 4)

In Kill Screen, Michelle Young writes about Kowloon Walled City as an inspiration for game level designers. The fortress-like Hong Kong settlement once contained 35,000 residents within its 6.5-acre enclosed space. A labyrinth of alleyways, staircases, and 250 sq ft apartments; much of it poorly lit makeshift spaces with unstable construction; it was also largely a lawless enclave with thriving drug trade, mafia, and other black market activities. It was demolished in 1993:

Often, aspects of Kowloon’s architecture and environment are used to impart a sense of repression, confusion, or loss. In videogames, the mafia and undercurrent of illicit activity provided ideal storylines amidst dank and mysterious backdrops. The cramped businesses in the inner alleys, and the jumbled exteriors of Kowloon, gave videogame designers a rich visual vocabulary.

The characteristic that most set Kowloon Walled City apart from other slums was its high-rise, skyscraper form. Videogame design has capitalized on the city’s verticality. In the opening sequence of Shenmue II, we are transported between the normalized architecture of Hong Kong to Kowloon and enter the city as if falling upside-down from the sky into the depths of the Walled City. The distance between Hong Kong proper and Kowloon is greatly exaggerated with hills and wide plains separating the two, likely an attempt to emphasize Kowloon’s “Otherness.”


Kowloon was an anomaly in modern urban construction not only for its organic formation, but also for its reversal of standard building aspects: interior versus exterior, street versus roofs. Its ad-hoc construction engendered a maze of narrow alleys and staircases. Think of single apartment units being stacked over time like Jenga pieces—except that the façades don’t have to be match or be in-line with ...


City of QR Codes


I examine bar codes, wondering what it would be like to have only laser sight. I stare at handwriting until the loops and whorls stop being words, syllables, and even letters, and become no more than manic pulses brain wave transformed into muscle twitch, traced in the seismograph of our ink-hemorrhaging prosthetic appendages. I gaze at my city streets, running my eyes over the scars on its knees, feeling a refracted rainbow of urban skin interring a personal history of human frailty. I have a polymorphously perverted sense of physical praxis with objects. It’s not that I’m more object-curious or infrastructurally dirty-minded than most; it’s just that once you start to think about what things are wearing underneath their exterior semiotic reality, it’s pretty hard to calm down. Thankfully, the city invites my oddly tactile greeting, smiling and warming to my touch. Scars are so much sexier than tattoos.

This street, this entire block, this city —its beautifully exposed skin now appears in my imagination as a square of white and black squares, each structure and topological feature raising or lowering itself against a field of contrasting color. This city is a QR code. A QR code may not be a sex symbol to you, but stretching anywhere from 21 units by 21 units in dimension to a maximum of 177 by 177, (define these imagined units as you like) my metropolis is a pixelated, hemaphroditic Vitruvian pin-up drawing, a mandala of Kama Sutra-esque data positions. I walk down the street and I decode a pattern esoteric enough to be invented by gods, ancient shamans, or extraterrestrials. Invented by us. Within these folds and plateaus we have embedded the sort of information that arouses our attentions--the kind of public-knowledge secrets we think about just behind the ...