Another History Is Possible


Badlands Unlimited is an art publishing house making “books in an expanded field.”


The Artist's E-Book


In 1853, Karl Marx sent a dispatch from London to be published in the New York Daily Tribune. Reflecting on the role of the British in India, Marx decreed that “England has to fulfill a double mission in India: one destructive, the other regenerating the annihilation of old Asiatic society, and the laying the material foundations of Western society in Asia.” The pain of those material foundations, of course, merely sets the stage for the new world’s worker’s utopia. A similarly gargantuan task could describe the e-books released by Badlands Unlimited. Badlands describes itself as making “books in an expanded field,” a tall order in today’s milieu of nostalgic preservation for the printed book’s 20th century form.

The press’ latest release, How to Download a Boyfriend, features image-based contributions from 50 artists strung together by a tongue-in-cheek interactive quiz about love in the digital age. Ian Cheng offers a peek at Duchamp’s Étant donnés through a BlackBerry camera, while Sarah Chow’s tantalizing cotton candy colored, textured rock face hints at a pleasure of touch that remains unfulfilled by the flat smoothness of tablet technology. Other artists include vanguard stalwards Tony Conrad and Peggy Ahwesh, new media stars Cory Archangel and Petra Cortright, alongside Billy Rennekamp, Josh Kline, Travess Smalley, and other artists that have been previously featured on Rhizome. While the HTDLAB engages with the practice of reading and being an e-book, it's also site refreshingly free of reverence and infused with a spirit of exploration and experimentation.

Questions range from the practical (Can I use your Netflix account if we break up?) to the absurd (“What names do you scream into a car crusted pillow with OK Cupid howling on a laptop nearby?”). The interactive answering of questions to which any ...