Posts for 2012

Rhizome Digest: Best of Rhizome September




Artist Profiles

Five Videos

Prosthetic Knowledge Picks



Thank You to Our Sponsors


We would like to take a brief moment to thank this month’s sponsors. These are the organizations and companies that keep us publishing, so be sure to check them out!

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  • Brooklyn Museum- GO is a community-curated open studio project. Artists across Brooklyn opened their studio doors, so that the public could decide who will be featured in a group show at the Brooklyn Museum
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Melting Bridges and Streets


The iOS6 update for the iPhone no longer includes Google Maps, but Apple's own more inferior service. But the accuracy of its data, has a curious beauty to it: the Amazing iOS6 Maps has found a stunning number of melting landscapes. For example this image, compared the streets in Inception folding up like a draw bridge:


Last month, artist Clement Valla explained in his essay for Rhizome how this occurs on Google Earth:

At first, I thought they were glitches, or errors in the algorithm, but looking closer, I realized the situation was actually more interesting — these images are not glitches. They are the absolute logical result of the system. They are an edge condition—an anomaly within the system, a nonstandard, an outlier, even, but not an error. These jarring moments expose how Google Earth works, focusing our attention on the software. They are seams which reveal a new model of seeing and of representing our world - as dynamic, ever-changing data from a myriad of different sources – endlessly combined, constantly updated, creating a seamless illusion...


Recommended Reading: Captives of the Cloud by Metahaven for E-Flux



A selection of the global US social media cloud, resorting under the Patriot Act by Metahaven

E-Flux this month includes an essay by Metahaven (Part 1 of 3) on cloud computing, international law, and privacy. "Citizens across the world are subject to the same Patriot Act powers" the US has over its citizens" as data stored overseas by US companies is still subject to US surveillance. The US also excersizes "super-jurisdiction" in cases like the seizure of Megaupload, which was a Hong Kong-based company, the DOJ accused of "willful conspiracy to break US law" due it's global user base. Furthermore, "all top-level domain names" registered through VeriSign are subject to  US seizure, even if operated entirely outside the country. 

The essay continues, looking at examples of Apple's App store censureship of Drones+, Google+ and Facebook real name policy, and other examples of the "cloud as a political space." 


"The first mention of the notion of the “cloud” was in a 1996 diagram in an MIT research paper," redrawn by Metahaven for e-flux

Most journalism routinely criticizes (or praises) the US government for its ability to spy on “Americans.” But something essential is not mentioned here—the practical ability of the US government to spy on everybody else. The potential impact of surveillance of the US cloud is as vast as the impact of its services—which have already profoundly transformed the world. An FBI representative told CNET about the gap the agency perceives between the phone network and advanced cloud communications for which it does not presently have sufficiently intrusive technical capacity—the risk of surveillance “going dark.” The representative mentioned “national security” to demonstrate how badly it needs such cloud wiretapping, inadvertently revealing that the state secrets privilege—once a legal anomaly, now a routine—will likely ...


Dresses Made from Tweets and Tropical Fish Musical Scales at London Data&Art Hackathon


image via Paul Clarke 

Recently, Digital Sizzle staged a data and art hackathon at Mozilla HQ in London.There were no rules – the only expectation was to share ideas and skills. The hackathon began with a handful of participants pitching ideas. The weekend’s aim was to make art but, its context also showcased developers as creative practitioners who are just as engaged in the process of making as artists are. In the end, two themes of opposing approaches defined the weekend: generating data vs. using data sets and material outcomes vs. screen based outcomes. Tonight a selection of the projects will be shown at Whitechapel Gallery...


Prosthetic Knowledge Picks: Computer Graphics & Art 1976 - 1978


A brief look at a short-lived American quarterly publication, which gives a little insight into the practice of art with computers in the 1970's. While a product of its time, there are some places with resonances to the practice of today.

May 1976, Vol.1, No 2 - In The Beginning:

An overview from the publication's editor and computer artist Grace Hertlein, writing about the three phases of computer art - past, (at time) present, and the future. 

NCC '76 Art Exhibition - New York City (Pages 10 - 17)

A good primer of artists of the time.

Computer In - Analogue Out

Examples of the use of computers to create work in physical form.

Untitled Sculpture by Jose Alexanco of Madrid. The sculpture is one of many variations designed by the computer, and executed by the artist. The source of design is prehistoric cave art, dating from c. 15,000-10,000 B.C., from the Magdeleine Cave in France.

Using a computer to design murals for a subway station:

Computer programming textile patterns:

Inline images 10

Computer design for a painting:

Choreography and the Computer

And lastly, some examples of Generative Art

If you want to check the range of publications out, they are available in PDF form at Comparts.


Five Videos: Lucky PDF's Sincerely Yours


Five Videos is an online series "hosted" by Rhizome, in collaboration with FACT, responding to the Liverpool Biennial's theme, The Unexpected Guest. Each week throughout the Liverpool Biennial, artists will curate five videos about hospitality. This week, Lucky PDF looks at online personalities of questionable authenticity.

A good guest is expected to do a lot of pretending. Our gratitude may be genuine, but our immediate reliance on our host, and our proximity to them, requires careful social construction. It is rare that people want to know what you really think, though they want to believe you're being sincere. Hosting on the internet is a more impersonal arrangement. You probably don't know name of your server technician, and you won't go out of your way to thank a forum moderator for job well done. It's much more likely you'll give them your honest opinion of their service and the decision to suspend your account. The internet gives us an opportunity to be honest because we know the repercussions are limited. Social media can be so anti-social because there's no immediate consequence to us being inconsiderate. For the same reasons there's no requirement to tell the truth, and few easy ways to verify what's real.

It is in this environment that the Troll thrives. Trolling is not the art of lying, it's the art of convincing others that you're telling the truth, which you might well be, even if only in the moment you hit 'post'. A good comments thread allows everyone to fully engaged in an argument, thunderously angry and completely without self-doubt, where an offline discussion would be limited by politeness and awareness that you have no idea what you're talking about.

The result is a change in the use and value of truth. Existing only for one person in one moment, truth becomes atomised and incommunicable. We're left with only what we believe other people believe. All interactions are tinged with suspicion as we assume everyone's online sincerity is as fleeting as our own. Other people become less real because we're not being entirely real ourselves. Honesty becomes a tool to be used in communication, a material property of language. An unexpected guest might be one that does not behave as expected, one who give us honesty when there should be none and takes as sincere that which should be treated with suspicion. 

These five videos take the techniques and content of Troll and comment culture, using the unfixed honesty of others, and their own, detached sincerity. Each takes the degraded truth of online communication and in different ways rehabilitates it into something real, each shows an example of our developing ways of communicating, relating to other people, caring about things and meaning what we say.

1. Molly Soda - Full Inbox

Molly Soda is an artist, she's also famous, or rather she's tumblr famous. She has more tumblr followers than anyone else (almost) which makes her a very powerful figure within online culture. If not quite a trendsetter, she's surely a tastemaker. She knows what's cool, that's why you follow her. It's this knowing (and tumblr's Ask Me Anything option) that prompts many people to seek her advice and opinions on a wide range of life, fashion and tumblr related subjects, so many that her inbox got full. In order to deal with the mass of requests, and presumably the guilt of not responding, she videos herself reading out every single question. It takes ten hours.

Questions about her hair colour, who she follows and obscene insults are treated with an equal and total disinterest. Disarming the trolls by showing the scale of their insignificance she also discards the fan mail from her young, impressionable admirers. Perhaps this is exactly what all of them wanted, a few seconds of her attention, the knowledge that she cares enough to spend ten hours not caring. This is a cathartic performance and a reminder of the inhuman scale to which our online presence can grow.

2. Lynnteenporno - Dillon McSingle Makeup Tutorial 

The fan/troll relationship is symbiotic - both of them need the other to properly function. There's no point attacking something unless there's someone to fight back and no better way to prove your fandom than mounting a defence (not that anyone will ever win). But there's a thin line between love and hate. Lynn loves Dillon, so much so that she'll smear cream cheese and foundation on her face to look like him. 

Lynn is 16 years old. Dillon is one of her online friends. Dressing up as someone else is complex statement and it's hard to tell if she means it as a compliment. "You know Dillon only likes boys because Lindsay Lohan likes boys." There's a thin line between over-appreciation and homophobic cyber-bullying, but in an attention economy there is no unwanted attention. When you 'do it for the haters', then your troll can be your best friend. 

3. Kari Robertson - Can Dialectics Break Beverly Hills?

"You can't fight alienation with alienated means" says a character in René Viénet's 1973 fully detourned film 'Can Dialectics Break Bricks?' If you're looking for alienation, or just looking for a fight, then head to YouTube comments and click 'see all'. Glasgow based Kari Robertson takes the comments of 1970s political videos and dubs them over the more personal struggles of (original) Beverly Hills 90210. 

Rendering the comments as dialogue shows just how little communication occurs in a comments thread (probably about as much as between a teenager and their parents). No one fights to win in YouTube comments, but it's a good place to study your enemy. Fights can be picked and dropped without consequence. What you're not practising is grammar. YouTube commentors are the avant-garde of the English language. Unbound from the accepted rules that tie writing to communication or sense, every Alt Lit possibility is open to you.

4. Mark McGowan - BOO!!! George Osborne BOO!!! This Government

Mark McGowan has always been an artist in search of an audience, with a practice based on media-friendly stunts designed to get him on TV (he had to publicly apologise for suggesting on a radio show that he was with Yoko Ono, eating a dog). His current YouTube persona of Artist Taxi Driver allows him to troll trending news topics, turning the reactionary rant, usually a preserve of the right, against the mainstream media, big business and the current Conservative government. 

Mark's work has always used protest-politics as its form, rather than its content. In the comments threads and his twitter following he collects around him anti-government conspiracy theorists and slightly embarrassed left-liberal art audiences, lampooning them both by showing just how easy it is to really care about something.  That said, when he's shouting about the university lecturers going out on strike (he's a lecturer and a union rep) he does really mean it, presumably.

5. Ed Fornieles - Dorm Daze

Imitation is the sincerest form of trolling, but if you're pretending to be someone as an honest aspirational appreciation of the cultural archetypes they represent, maybe it should be taken as a compliment. 

Trolling always relies on hiding behind another identity, even if that's just the online you. The participant characters in Dorm Daze created strong, and at times very touching, relationships using amalgamations of movie clichés and real people's 'scalped' profiles. Convincing to a British ear, the narrator's American accent tells the story of the melodramatic events roll-played by the participants over three months, a reminder that if the internet is getting a bit boring, you can always just create an anonymous profile and ramp up the drama. The internet is a great place to tell stories. 

—Lucky PDF



This Is a Game: A (very) Brief History of Larp Part 1


Epic Empires via virginsuicide photography Flickr


"Larp can change the world."

So claimed Heikki Holmås, Norway's newly-appointed Minister for International Development back in March,  and I couldn't help but take notice. Three months previous, I was out researching an article on the Collapsonomics movement when the conversation turned to the new direction in which larp players from the Nordic nations were taking the form.

Larp — which you may have encountered already as LARP, acronym of "live action roleplaying", now noun'd down into lower case by regular use — has been around long enough for its public image to settle into an established stereotype, namely nerds dressing up as knights and orcs and hitting each other with rubber swords at the weekend. Like all clichés, it's rooted in truth: a lot of larp is exactly like that — and as such, I'd argue, no more worthy of mockery than paintballing, its over-macho cousin.

But there was, I heard, another type of larp: a larp whose potential as a tool for political and social change inspired Holmås to evangelise about it; a larp that could not only give players an insight into the lived experience of, for instance, homelessness, refugeeism or gender disparity, but which might also suggest changes to the way society deals with people in those situations; a larp that could 'game out' better ways of responding to a Haiti-scale natural disaster, or help the two sides of an interminable religiopolitical stalemate to walk a few yards in the shoes of their opponents.

I scribbled some notes, went home and started digging.

A brief history of larp

Larp's roots run deeper than Dungeons & Dragons.

In her book Leaving Mundania, Lizzie Stark traces the development of larp from its origins, the nascent form of what Bruce Sterling likes to call the military-entertainment complex: immersive historical pageants thrown by medieval royalty, often at immense expense; prototypical wargames for training the officers of the European enlightenment; contemporary historical re-enactment groups, some simply restaging the great battles of the past, or — in the case of the Society for Creative Anachronism — doing what they call 'living history', where old skills and ways of life are revived as part performance, part play, all wrapped up in authentic period costumes.

Wargaming systems of a more realist (or at least mimetic) type were a popular pastime for well-to-do Victorian folk, but it took a man named Dave Wesley form Minneapolis-St. Paul, frustrated with the way that the wargames he played in would break down into arguments over the implementation of the rules, to investigate the theory of games with an aim to developing non-zero-sum scenarios. The first run of Braunstein, a Napoleonic battle rendered with miniature soldiers on a tabletop landscape, ended in intrigue and chaos, with Wesley feeling he'd failed. "His players disagreed, and begged him to run another session," says Stark, so he did.

Braunstein attracted others, including one Dave Arneson, who'd go on to combine his wargaming jones with his Lord Of The Rings obsession to build a new set of rules, developed in collaboration with a thirty-something insurance underwriter named Gary Gygax; the first edition of Dungeons & Dragons, the ur-RPG, hit shelves in 1974.


Art in Your Pocket: Rhizome at the New Museum Tomorrow at 7pm


Tomorrow night at the New Museum! Don't miss the Rhizome New Silent Series panel on mobile technology and art:

The computer we carry in our pockets is also an emerging platform for interactive screen-based art. Art In Your Pocket takes its name from a series of texts Jonah Brucker-Cohen wrote for Rhizome on art made for smartphones. This panel will assemble leading media artists working with mobile devices and discuss current trends relating to this practice.

Moderated by Jason Eppink, Assistant Curator of Digital Media at the Museum of the Moving Image. Panelists include artist, programmer, and founder of iPhone app company SOFTOFT TECHECH, Paul Slocum; Mimi Sheller, leading theorist on mobilities research and Professor of Sociology and Director of the Center for Mobilities Research and Policy at Drexel University; LoVid, 2011 Rhizome commissioned artists for their location-specific art app project iParade #2: Unchanged When Exhumed; and Jonathan Vingiano, Co-founder of OKFocus.

Organized by Rhizome, the New Silent Series receives major support from The Rockefeller Foundation, and The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts. Additional support is provided by the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, and the New York State Council on the Arts.


Friday, September 21st, 2012 7 p.m.
at the New Museum



Jeff Noon's Sporecast




Jeff Noon's tweets are reliably among of the best contemporary fiction works today —beautiful stories told over short bursts, each under 140 characters. He calls the stories "microspores" and fans have submitted art and music to a tumblr collection. Wedged in between Romney quips, #FFs, and everyday social media-ing, the economy of his words as well as the context makes them all the more satisfying; like momentarily fading out of a conversation to recall last night's dream.



Last night, Noon, the author of several novels, (Vurt, Falling Out of Cars, the recently released Channel Sk1n, among others), had an especially frenized twitter feed — posting 50 stories at once and retweeting fiction responses. The "Sporecast" was so active, Twitter throttled his account multiple times that evening.