From Bell Labs to Best Buy

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"PREDRIVE: After Technology" (currently on exhibition at The Mattress Factory, Pittsburgh, PA November 14-April 2, 2009) features new works by six international artists including Takeshi Murata, Paper Rad, Gretchen Skogerson, Antoine Catala, and Brody Condon. The exhibition was conceived with a very specific group of artists in mind -- artists who placed both the dysfunction and arrogance of ever-changing technologies at the center of their work. In a sense, these artists are working in the shadow of a technological dystopia (and euphoria) that had begun as early as the Industrial Revolution -- as expressed in the vacant, vectored glances mapped out in Edouard Manet's The Balcony (1868-69) or the absolute pleasure of stop-motion animation in Georges Melies' An Up-To-Date Conjuror

Below, I speak with two of the featured artists in the show, Takeshi Murata and Jacob Ciocci (of Paper Rad) -- we cover everything from readymade software aesthetics to the dream of the perfect collector -- someone willing to take the risk of simply buying an idea.- Melissa Ragona

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Performative fail (2008) - Rosa Menkman

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Performative fail from rosa menkman on Vimeo.

This video is made with the help of a collection of failing hard drive sounds, while the video is a combination of failed pdf screengrap videos.
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Digital Decay III (2007) - Claire Evans

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Digital Decay from universe on Vimeo.

Statement: This video is an animation of the process of saving an image file in continuously lower file formats over hundreds of times.

This image is of a quote, taken from Douglas Davis' essay, "The Work of Art in the Age of Digital Reproduction," which argues (in part) that unlike analogue signals, which are like waves crashing upon a beach and losing clarity with every ebb of the tide, digital bits "can be endlessly reproduced, without degradation, always the same, always perfect."

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Early Computer Art from 1970's Bell Labs - Laurie Spiegel

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LAUNCH

"I created the following images (and many more) in 1974-1976 using a Rand Tablet and FORTRAN IV software I wrote that, at the time, I called "a drawing program". The same software would now be called "a paint program" because, in the 1980s, the word "drawing" came to be construed as refering to vector, rather than raster, image creation software."

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Giving 'Em the Old Razzle Dazzle

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There is an approach, within military strategy, known as "Razzle Dazzle." The idea is to stand out with such visual intensity so as to perplex your target. This might be a good point of comparison with the work of Meredyth Sparks, which addresses political issues by dialetically fusing stills from the halls of rock music history, a constructivist visual vocabulary, and bling...lots of bling! Her current show at New York's Elizabeth Dee gallery, entitled "We were strangers for too long," employs images and sculpture heavy on silver foil, vinyl, and glitter, as ammo in launching an argument about intersections of "radical chic" and the culture wars. Her digitally-processed collages layer not only images from the mid-1970s that she argues chart a rise in rebellion against conservative culture, but also splice together art historical references to perspectivalism, the history of photographic media, and modernism's love affair with the grid. Her work both pushes and critiques the ideology of loud, glam, in your face activism, looking particularly at how strains of punk rock became (either through their own design or by a process of co-opting) part of the capitalist system they sought to tear down, thus raising the question of how we might come to fight fire with fire by once again making protest hot. - Marisa Olson


Image credit: Meredyth Sparks, Kraftwerk III, 2008

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ADSL (2008) by Aleksandra Domanovic

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ADSL (2008) by Aleksandra Domanovic

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Mr. Roboto

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Machines have assisted people in creating images for centuries. From the camera obscura to the overhead and slide projectors to the photocopier, these mostly light-based tools have helped make light work of creating mimetic images. More recently, artists have started focusing on the machines themselves (this includes algorithmic software bots), letting them make the work, rather than simply assisting in the process. Of course, this all depends on how you define the work and the act of making it. Jürg Lehni has begun creating robotic spraypainting machines with names like Hector, Rita, or Viktor, anthropomorphic monikers that recall early fantasies -- or anxieties -- about the robots that would eventually replace human workers. The Swiss artist doesn't seem worried about losing his job. In fact, he's a master delegator, collaborating with (one might even say outsourcing to) others who help determine the form and content of the drawings that his machines will make. A show open July 9 - August 31 at the London ICA, entitled "A Recent History of Writing and Drawing," will display a variety of mechanical devices for art-making, centering around Viktor. Lehni has teamed-up with British graphic designer Alex Rich to program Viktor's mark-makings in such a way as to initiate a conversation about the role of technologies in expression, primarily by inviting the public to join workshops which allow them to participate in the drawings and to view demonstrations by other practitioners who'll use Viktor to make their own work. This overlapping melange of users gets to the heart of the project. As curator Emily King says, "Moving away from the blunt duality of man vs. machine, it is now possible to appreciate the particular qualities of various forms of mechanical and digital mark-making." This all begs the question of whether it's ...

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Sean Dack at Daniel Reich

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dackghostindex.jpg

"Ghost Hardware," Sean Dack's latest exhibition at New York's Daniel Reich Gallery, builds a visual language, in photography and sculpture, from the limits of technological legibility. Over a series of unique c-prints, thoughtfully hung throughout the gallery, Dack coats a panoply of sourced images with thick layers of digital interference: glitches that "tangle and halt the flow of information," but in so doing also provide the precondition for the exhibited art-objects. Formally, these images are beautiful, their striated lines of pixels at times staining underlying images in cyan and magenta; at others, reducing them to wholly abstract geometries. These techniques prove most effective when echoing the sourced images, as when Dack's pixels form postmodern building block analogues to the structural units of the unfinished, contemporary skyscrapers in Building (Hotel, Pyongyang) (2008) and CCTV #2 (2007). Yet on a broader level, Dack's choice of images risks belaboring his conceptual inquiry. Shots of isolated women, an airborne helicopter, unmarked CIA airplane and a missile test quickly move the exhibition into well-trodden, conspiracy theory terrain. One wonders whether Dack's Pop sensibility - most explicitly manifest in his rubber encasings of obsolete tape decks and CD changers, also on display - extends into the realm of his photographs' subject-matter and thus justifies the indulgence. Whether or not this is the case, the artist's formal investigation of the psychic life of digital technology would be far more interesting without its narrative props. - Tyler Coburn


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Water Curses by Animal Collective

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Artist and prolific chart-maker Andrew Kuo directed a vibrant and wonderfully pixelated music video for Animal Collective's new song "Water Curses." See below.

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Floating Above

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These days it's common to hear about the "ephemerality" of digital media. Artists and scholars love to celebrate and critique the presumed immateriality of work composed of zeros and ones, but rarely have we seen insightful theses on the deeper conceptual implications of this condition. Now, a group exhibition curated by Thomas Charverlat, at Shanghai's Island 6, takes the leap of considering the digital condition as one of Zero Gravity. Charverlat's curatorial statement argues, "new technologies have created an effect of contemporary weightlessness that resembles the spatial-temporal suspensions produced by the absence of gravity," and the included works (by Yang Longhai, Zane Mellupe, Zou Susu, Christophe Demaitre, Zhang Deli, Wang Dongma, Thomas Charveriat, and Zhu Ye) seek to create a sensation of floating, with regard to the viewer's interaction with objects. Aside from these unique physical qualities, the content of the work sounds deeply engaging. For instance, Yang Longhai and Zou Susu's LED collages address sleep paralysis; Zhang Deli and Wang Dongma present inventions and elixirs to aid in the act of flying; and Zou Susu addresses lunar systems, merging the history of China's calendar system with the scientific mysteries of outer space. This must be what the organizers mean when they say the show aims for "new altitudes of consciousness." - Marisa Olson

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