Posts for May 2012

An Interview with Edward Boatman, Co-Founder of The Noun Project


The Noun Project is a seemingly infinite collection of black-and-white symbols put into the public domain. As the founders put it, it is an attempt to organize the world’s visual language into one online database. Edward Boatman, one of the project’s founders, is also its sole gatekeeper. Each symbol on the database was either collected off the Internet or created by designers around the world. Boatman approves every submission to the project and assigns each icon a word — a noun, of course, either an object or a concept. The images are often surprisingly evocative, despite their simplicity, and unlock a potential for wordless communication for anyone with an Internet connection. 

Boatman was working in architecture design when he noticed it was surprisingly difficult to find basic, high-quality symbols on the web, even for common transportation symbols used by the government. The Noun Project was launched shortly thereafter in December 2010. Now the scope of the Noun Project is limitless. As Boatman told me, the project could create a symbol for, potentially, every noun in the world. Boatman (and co-founders Sofya Polyakov and Scott Thomas) are looking ahead to making the project a sustainable business. 

I talked to Boatman about the purpose behind the project, design for social good, and some of the challenges in creating a visual database that’s always growing.


SS: The Noun Project has thousands of icons. What are you looking for in a good image?

EB: Simplicity is key. One thing I always try to articulate for best design practices in a symbol is this idea of only analyzing the essential facts of the object or idea. It’s really fun. First you have to analyze it, and then once you analyze it, you have to identify the attributes or the elements of that object that you want to represent. Then you execute that into a design that’s elegant and has great proportions. One of the more important things in the design is that it can scale up or scale down and still read well. You don’t want to put too much detail in there, because a lot of these symbols are seen at pretty small scales...



Tonight at the New Museum: Constant Dullaart: Premiere of Terms of Service


Thursday, May 24th, 2012 7 p.m.
at the New Museum
Constant Dullaart: Premiere of Terms of Service


During this event Constant Dullaart (NL 1979) will release a new series of works as a response to new Terms of Service conditions of several internet services. Publicly interacting with manipulated versions of previously existing, online spaces, Dullaart shows works in which he reframes ways of dealing with representation. Recent political changes have forced us to reconsider our position within the online environment. And through creating new performative spaces, Dullaart finds ways through which the audience, private and public, can perform outside of, and question the new and existing boundaries of the world wide web.

Constant Dullaart, former resident of the Rijksakademie in Amsterdam, lives and works in Berlin. With a practice focused on visualizing internet semantics and software dialects, a political approach critical to corporate systems influencing these contemporary vernaculars becomes clear through his minimal and sometimes bricolaged gestures. Editing online forms of representation, and the user's access to it, he creates installations and performances online and offline. Rather than seeking merely to write a book to be placed on a library shelf, so to speak, Dullaart is interested in animating the very concept of the library itself. His work has been published internationally in print and online, and exhibited at venues such as MassMOCA, UMOCA, Autocenter and Grimmmuseum in Berlin, and de Appel, W139, and the Stedelijk Museum in the Netherlands. Dullaart has curated several exhibitions and lectured at universities throughout Europe, most currently at the Rietveld Academy in Amsterdam. He recently co-founded an internet art documenting initiative,

Organized by Lauren Cornell, Executive Director of Rhizome and Adjunct Curator of the New Museum, the New Silent Series receives major support from The Andy Warhol Foundation ...


To Reveal While Veiling: On the 2012 Whitney Biennial


Installation view, Whitney Biennial (2012)

Looking back at the time in which I was beginning to study art, one could describe the motivations I shared with my peers as generally aspirational and humanitarian. We felt different. We wanted to change the world. We thought of the institution of art as a discipline in which alternative personalities flourish, critical thinking is lauded, and that creativity (in all of its various forms) is esteemed far more than financial privilege. Having participated in the art industry for a number of years, these ideas now seem not only naïve, but provide a blueprint for precisely how the art world does not operate; our collective wills becoming inured to the faux-radical, contradictory reality that the institution of art exists in today.

On the occasion of the 2012 Whitney Biennial, Andrea Fraser writes of the crisis of the art institution, “The glaring, persistent, and seemingly ever-growing disjunction between those legitimizing discourses [of art]—above all in their critical and political claims—and the social conditions of art generally…has appeared to me as profoundly and painfully contradictory, even as fraudulent.” Her essay for the Biennial catalogue “There’s no place like home,” painstakingly delineates what she perceives to be the impossibility of participating in the institution of art in good conscience due to its compliant enrichment from the increasing financial inequality of the last decade. Acknowledging the fact that this inequity is precisely what art purports to act against, Fraser considers possible methods through which this quandary may be alleviated. She posits, almost fatalistically, that “Certainly it is less painful to resolve these conflicts symbolically, in artistic, intellectual, and even political gestures and position-takings, than to resolve them materially—to the marginal extent that it is within our power to do so in our own lives—with choices that would entail sacrifices and renunciations. Even these sacrifices may be preferable, for some, to the pain of wanting what we also hate, and hating what we also are and also love...” Heady prose for a biennial catalogue.

Dawn Kasper

K8 Hardy, May 20th, 2012 at 2012 Whitney Biennial

Taking Fraser’s essay as preamble, 2012 Whitney Biennial co-curators Jay Sanders and Elizabeth Sussman have approached the nearly insurmountable task of surveying the art of the last two years by symbolic rather than material means...



Artist Profile: Lebohang Kganye


Lebohang Kganye & Onthatile Modise, Reshot, Grandmother and children, 2011

Could you tell me about visual culture in Africa and how that influences your work?

Africa has a long legacy of visual, oral, performative and narrative methodologies which continue to influence our ideologies, perceptions and communications. And the arts therefore play a major role in defining, retrieving and understanding our histories and future strategies as well as our identities. Art is a part of a thriving contemporary culture throughout the world and far from being a luxury it is a basic human need that needs expression and these forms of various expressions must be questioned and critiqued to understand how we view ourselves and others. Africa - despite its varied arts and artistic heritage - has become stereotyped (especially through the means of photography) and how I constantly aim in my works through my focus on personal narratives to contest such stereotypes. My work constantly hopes to broaden the scope that is defined as ‘African photography’ in that homogenising poverty-porn images of Africa are subverted through subtle, personal narratives of individuals and communities that I develop a relationship with. In the projects I do, I raise questions around identity and the constant renegotiating of who we are in relation to our location and the narratives we create in order to situate ourselves in space and history.

What does Reshot reveal about the photographic archive itself? How did the people of Makweteng respond to the 're-shoot' and what kind of relationships were forged?

Reshot (2011), is a collaborative project with fellow Market Photo Workshop student Onthatile Modise, which explores the notion of the photographic archive from the point of personal histories of people from Makweteng, Potchefstroom. For our photographic interpretation of these personal archives, we were introduced to the people of Ikageng who were ...


Artist Profile: Jacqueline Kiyomi Gordon


Our Best Machines are Made of Sunshine, 2009.

The notion of “feedback” is an important element for your sonic sculptures, where the viewer/listener is pulled into and directed by the work. As you stated in our visit, “What you hear affects how you move and how you move affects how you hear.” Your work SA-3, which you developed as a MFA student at Stanford, is a prime example of this technique. Could you discuss this piece and your research going into the project?

Well, for that piece it really started with noticing the moment in which I would become conscious of a localized sound, and how that awareness would pull me into or out of a particular relationship to the space. You could say an in-body/out-of-body type mediation. Through research in sound localization I learned of various directional speaker technologies and I combined that with an ongoing interest in how and why speaker systems are installed and controlled.

I was already looking into military projects involving sound as well as new developments in sound system technology. Talking with some folks at Meyer Sound in Berkeley, I was particularly interested in their Constellation system and their long-range speakers while I was also learning about spatial sound at Stanford’s CCRMA (Center for Computer Music and Research in Acoustics).  I came across the “audio spotlight” by Holosonics and the LRAD speakers at the time made by American Technologies. These both use ultra sonic transducers that heterodyne into an audible frequency controlling the localization of the sound through the inherent directionality of ultrasonic waves. The police and military are using the LRAD as hailing devices and have occasionally used them for crowd dispersal, a technique which is super dangerous because the key component of these speakers is that the user can control them without affecting their own ears. The person in control of the sound can inhabit the same space with those that it affects, while remaining immune to its force. Never before has this been the case. There’s a frightening disjunction in that control loop. So I was doing this research and I found a few really cheap small ultrasonic speakers on EBay and combined them into a hanging speaker array loosely based off of one of the Meyer Sound systems. I have always been attracted to the hanging speaker arrays and wanted to combine the ultrasonic speaker technology with the aesthetics of the stadium speakers to address the ways these more known systems control our bodily relationship to sound.  In a theater or performance setting there’s a loop between the performer, the sound engineer, the speaker system and the audience that returns back to the performer. With the LRAD system there’s a different loop where the person controlling the sound (performer and the sound engineer) do not experience the sound, yet they could see their “audience.”

Going back to SA-3, I wanted to play between those experiences by having the speakers of SA-3 play the sounds that you as a viewer make in the gallery. A mirror of sorts where you control what the sound is but how you chose to place yourself inline with the directionality of the speakers decides how you experience that sound in space. The audience is the performer. And I guess, as the designer of this system, I am the sound engineer.


New Design and Features for the ArtBase


Rhizome is happy to announce that we have launched a new design and a big new feature for The ArtBase. In case you are not familliar with the ArtBase, it is Rhizome's archive of internet art and new media, contains over 2,000 works of art, and spans nearly two decades of history. Facing such vast size and complexity, and seeing a lack of major archives of internet art and new media that are accessible to a general audience, a major goal of ours was to afford greater to the history and context of these works, as well as improved searchability and browseability. To address the issue of education, accessability, and context we have accessibility launched a new feature: collections.

Just as a museum may provide access to their catalog through historic or thematic groupings, the ArtBase collections seek to surface trends, themes, and creative modes inherent in our collection. We are launching this feature with six initial collections: Formalism & Glitch, Code, & Hypertext, Tactical Media, Rendered Reality, and Digital Archivalism. Each collection leads off with a curatorial statement, aiming to provide context for the viewer who may not be familiar with the history of these creative practices. The content of the collections is not static, and will grow and change with the evolution of the ArtBase. As well, while these initial six collections were curated by Rhizome, subsequent collections will be curated and driven by indipendent curators and scholars.

Moving forward, we have two big projects on our to-do list for the summer. First, we are in the initial stages of migrating the back-end of the ArtBase to a new collections management platform, which will allow us to catalog works with better metadata standards, and correlate works, artists, collectives, exhibitions in ways that we currently can not ...


LoVid's iParade


Locative media art responds to two of the most definitive social issues of our times: the reorganization of everyday life by mobile computing technologies and the seeming assurance of ecological disaster in the foreseeable future. These two developments are often described as conflicting with one another: our digital interfaces dismantle spatial obstacles, bringing once-remote locales into proximity with hyperlinks, projecting us into “non-places.” And yet, according to many environmental thinkers, any hope for sustainability requires that humanity reverse the psychic effects of this trend: we must divert our attention away from our screens and back to the physical world around us, creating local community and a sense of place. Locative media art works squarely within this tension inhabiting our post-nature, new media culture, using digital networks to augment engagement of geographic space, to facilitate what Christiane Paul calls “context awareness.”

On June 7 and 9, Tali Hinkis and Kyle Lapidus of LoVid will début their new mobile phone app, iParade#2: Unchanged When Exhumed, a 2011 Rhizome commission and the first major piece in their new locative-media art series. iParade#2 uses GPS data to access video, sound, and stories available only in specific spots within the Hamilton Heights neighborhood of Harlem. Tali and Kyle described the work to me as "experimental locative cinema" or "locative video,” as cinema and video that “offers a new option using GPS and mobile media technology.” Their press release suggests that the app be thought of as an adventure and a sort of game: participants will “explore” not only historic landmarks but also “urban mysteries”—though the mysteries remain unsolved. Ultimately, as is true to all locative media works, iParade#2 seeks to “renew viewers’ appreciation of their physical environment.” Since I will be abroad during the premiere, LoVid offered to give me a ...