Posts for September 2012

The Web on Film


Tomorrow night, erstwhile Rhizome contributor Tom McCormack will present an illustrated lecture at Brooklyn's Spectacle Theater. Titled Netsploitation: The Internet Through Movies, the talk will explicate the history of the Internet as depicted in big-screen Hollywood fare.

The inspiration for the talk came from McCormack's realization that many of biggest movies of his childhood — movies like War Games and Hackers— were thrillers that toed the line between ominous, ridiculous, and realistic anxieties about the Internet. He added that presenting an illustrated lecture now seems relevant and not forced: "With YouTube, a lot of my hanging out time is spent interspersing segments of whatever's being talked about throughout a conversation." Netsploitation will try to mimic that feeling while providing moments of revelation between humor and analysis.


Recommended Reading: Net Narrative catalog


Net Narrative is an exhibition curated by Harry Burke at Carlos/Ishikawa including work by Iain Ball, Ed Fornieles, Marlie Mul, Katja Novitskova, Ben Vickers, Holly White, and Artie Vierkant. Worth reviewing the catalog which includes essays by Huw Lemmey, Gene McHugh, and Eleanor Saitta. 

Eleanor Saitta:

Storytelling is more comfortable in the network than anywhere
it’s had to live since the enlightenment, since we locked up the
wandering bard in the cathedral, the university, and the television studio.

Networks are made of stories. A network is a bunch of people who share
a story about how to interact. Protocols are really just stories.
(And, as often as not, just so stories.) The converse isn’t true, of
course—there’s far more to a story than just a protocol, but it means
that networks intrinsically hold open a space for the story.


The stories that the network tells have a materially different quality,
existing all at once from all the perspectives of the multitude, without
a single privileged view. It’s not that any individual voice is wrong,
it’s just incomplete—the stories networks tell can only be perceived in
full in collective simultaneity, and those collectives have no room for

Huw Lemmey:

Sociality is the dominant vector within post-internet cultural production. With what is described as “post-internet art”, and especially in post-internet literary trends such as alt-lit, sociality is both the form and function of creative work; relationships, both interhuman and between people and institutions, are the primary medium of artwork formed in consideration of the online. Sometimes it can appear as though IRL shows, where people display visual artefacts, are remnants, poor excuses for social networks to circulate around online, third places. Parties, free schools, TV stations; all these operate as ways to manipulate ...


Five Videos: Ming Wong's “Forget it, Jake… it’s Chinatown.”


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, an artist will curate five videos about hospitality. This week Ming Wong considers issues related to the uneasy history of Chinatowns in Western urban centers.


“Forget it, Jake… it’s Chinatown.”

So concludes, famously, that 1974 neo-noir Hollywood classic directed by Roman Polanski, ‘Chinatown’.  In one of the pieces I am showing at the Liverpool Biennial, I replace Jack Nicholson, Faye Dunaway, and John Huston in their iconic roles in selected scenes from the film, speaking about that place called ‘Chinatown’, posited as a space where ‘you can’t tell what’s going on’. 

Despite the axiomatic utterance, I, however, could not forget it, I could not forget Chinatown, and in the subsequent months after making ‘Making Chinatown’ I delved into research into the history of the Chinatowns in Los Angeles and San Francisco.

I discovered a parallel history in Liverpool, home to the oldest Chinatown in Europe. San Francisco and Liverpool were the first and biggest port-of-call for Chinese immigrants coming to America and Europe at the turn of the 20th century. 

Despite having been brought over to build the railroads in America or having fought in the war for the British navy, the Chinese suffered discrimination on both sides of the Atlantic.  Anti-Chinese sentiment ran highest during the Great Depression and the post-war years, when laws were passed to restrict their numbers and chances of survival in the ‘host’ countries.  The phrase ‘Not a Chinaman’s Chance’ came into use during this time.

Here is a video of the story of Angel Island in San Francisco bay, which served as an immigration station from 1910 -1940; today it is a museum where you can still see the calligraphic poems carved into the walls of the detection barrack where the Chinese immigrants were once detained:


In Liverpool, in 2006, a memorial plaque was unveiled at the waterfront to commemorate the Chinese seamen who fought for the British, but who were then forcibly deported after the war. Many of them leaving behind their English wives and Eurasian children who never saw their husbands or fathers again. Here is the story of one daughter.

During this era of ‘yellow peril’, pulp fiction writers began to use Chinatown as a crime setting, feeding the public’s fear and imagination of the unknown, such as Sax Rohmer who wrote the infamous ‘Fu Manchu’ novels.

Eventually this practice of employing orientalist setting and casting made its way into the cinema, especially in Film Noir : ‘The Shanghai Gesture’, ‘The Lady from Shanghai’, ‘The Big Sleep’, ‘Daughter of the Dragon’, ‘Mysterious Mr Wong’, ‘House of Bamboo’, ‘Betrayal from the East’, ‘Macao’, ‘Saigon’, ‘Across the Pacific’ to name a few.

The new work I made for Liverpool Biennial ‘After Chinatown’ acknowledges the uneasy legacy of these noir films.  In it I portray a detective as well as a femme fatale who wander through a space called ‘Chinatown’.  It was shot over the summer on location in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Hong Kong, so in a way I was retracing the journeys made by the early Chinese immigrants.

In a scene from ‘The Lady from Shanghai’ you can see Orson Welles and Rita Hayworth running through the Chinatown in San Francisco, ending up in a Chinese opera theatre.  Some of these locations also feature in ‘After Chinatown’.

(**jump to 4:30)

In contrast with film noir depictions of Chinatown, consider Wong Kar-Wai’s ‘Chungking Express’, in which the actress Brigit Lin dons the femme fatale uniform of blond wig, sunglasses and trenchcoat and runs through the underworld of Hong Kong.

—Ming Wong


Digital Gallery Hoping


Among the exhibitions you won't need to travel to Chelsea or Vyner Street or elsewhere to see:

 DOMAIN GALLERY: Ben Dierckx, Blind Spot

Blind Spot, a solo exhibition by belgium artist Ben Dierckx curated by Manuel Fernández.

Ben Dierckx employs sculptural objects and electronic media to refer to the awareness of one's own perception. What is our relation with reality seems to be the perfectly wrong question; we are reality.

Many of his works interact in a negative way with the audience. A plant will run away from you, a classic roman miniature bust does not want to look at you, the color of a flower will turn into its inversion by the volume of your comments, ect.

Blind Spot is an interactive installation with a plastic bamboo plant and projections. A wireless camera hidden in the foliage of the plant films the exhibition space through the leaves. When a spectator comes closer the plant, it detects his presence and moves in the opposite direction. The projections on the walls reflect the repositioning of the plant and emphasizes the person-space relation.

"Blind Spot" forms part of a series called "Eyestroll" that combines physical objects with electronic media, where in the central idea is an awareness of one's own perception.

BUBBLEBYTE: Yuri Pattison, The Making of 


The Making of, a solo exhibition of works by London based artist Yuri Pattison.

Pattison’s practice reflects on the impact of digital media on our understanding of reality, highlighting inconsistencies in the system of representation. Mastering a huge variety of media, his work often uses different devices to explore the strengths and limits of digital communication.

For the show, The Making of, the first solo show of the artist on, Pattison reflects on how the internet influences ideas of ...


First Look: New Art Online


First Look: New Art Online is a monthly series of innovative online projects and new commissions curated by Lauren Cornell, former Rhizome executive director, currently New Museum curator of the 2015 “The Generational” Triennial, Museum as Hub, and Digital Projects.

This month includes a collection of 3D animations from Above Ground Animation

Featured artists include Barry Doupé, Kathleen Daniel, Ryan Whittier Hale, and Jacolby Satterwhite. Beyond Pixar, Adult Swim, or the default avatars of video games, these works explore possibilities for 3-D human forms. Their casts of improbable people are hatched out of personal history or emotion—through a longing for intimacy or an uncertainty for the future. Experimental and short-form, all the works were made to be viewed across various screening contexts, from the cinema to the gallery to the browser, and yet their structure reflects a sophistication with a range of digital media and programs, from Maya to 3D Studio Max.

Founded by the artist Casey Jane Ellison, Aboveground Animation is a video collection, an artist community, and a roving exhibition platform all in one. Since 2008, Ellison has collected animations and shared them at venues, most regularly at Ramiken Crucible gallery in New York, inspired, in part, by a desire to promote art with a shared aesthetic and also to make sense of her own emerging body of work.

Check out upcoming projects and commissions on the recently redesigned New Museum website!


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. 



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



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.


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



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.