Interview with Mark Amerika

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Amerika describes himself as a "thoughtographer", an "artist-medium", a "fictional philosopher", a "remixologist", a "network conductor", a wanderer who constantly changes identities and roles in a fragmentary world where time acquires an a-synchronic and non real dimension. By trying to express the complexity and the interest of contemporary digital reality, he delves into different aspects of himself and draws on elements and traits that he transfers to the characters of his works, by using the media, the technological platforms of our time. Developing projects on the net, filming with mobile phones, remixing common moments and figures of today's culture in a VJ-like audiovisual rhythm, Amerika redefines the characteristics of today's culture and opens up the possibilities for new interpretations and thoughts from the audience itself. -- "UNREALTIME" at the National Museum of Contemporary Art in Athens

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Speaking in Third Person

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MIT Press recently published Third Person, an essay collection that follows First Person and Second Person in a series exploring how new media has changed the roles of author and audience. Third Person declares its subject to be “vast narratives,” which editors Pat Harrigan and Noah Wardrip-Fruin define as cultural products that extend beyond the physical and temporal parameters usually associated with their medium. While most television detective shows devote one episode to one investigation, The Wire, for example, can stretch a case out over a season, and the continuity of characters and settings puts demands on a viewer’s memory that other shows rarely make. If the Harry Potter series of books is considered the authoritative source of that fictional world even after the release of the films, Lucasfilm delegates storytelling duties for Star Wars among books, movies, and animated series, and each addition extends the fictional universe in new directions in time and space. Vast narratives can also be generative frameworks that allow for many reconfigurations of the characters and settings over several instantiations, as in computer role-playing games and their pencil-and-paper counterparts like Dungeons & Dragons.

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Interview with Goldin+Senneby

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"The boys from Sweden are not really interested in Kate's habits, her lifestyle, the clothes she wears; they're interested in Headless Ltd., a company they want to know more about. And they're interested in a book which they think Kate is writing about them, a book called Looking for Headless."

These lines are from the first chapter of Looking for Headless, a serial novel that artists Goldin+Senneby commissioned from author K.D. The chapter was originally published as the work of Kate Dent, an employee at the offshore consultancy Sovereign Trust, but Goldin+Senneby retracted their claim about the author's identity after some prodding from Sovereign's lawyers. By chapter three, the legal confrontation had already become part of the story, and the lawyers' communication was just another of the many real-world facts woven into the fabric of the novel.

Goldin+Senneby's project Headless (2007-ongoing) uses the idea of investigating the Bahamas-based company Headless Ltd as the basis for a wide-ranging study of how events are remembered, created, and communicated in the production of narrative. The seedy glamour of offshore finance provides an effective context; it is fertile for plots of mystery and intrigue, and the huge sums of virtual money floating offshore make an apt metaphor for the symbols and ideas that compel people to action and set events in motion. Goldin+Senneby further extend the financial trope by adopting corporate practices to make Headless, outsourcing the project's many texts, events, and performances to specialists. For their exhibition at the Power Plant in Toronto, on view through February 22, Goldin+Senneby commissioned documentary filmmakers to interview an investigative journalist about how to make a documentary about investigating Headless Ltd. They also hired a curator and a set designer to devise a didactic display introducing viewers to the characters of the novel Looking for Headless.

A system as rich and recursive as Headless simultaneously generates both questions and answers to them. In previous interviews the artists have responded to questions about the project exclusively in the form of quotes from its various parts. For the interview below, however, they produced some new statements, perhaps mindful of the opportunity to recycle them in future incarnations of Headless. - Brian Droitcour

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The New Transparent

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At least in principle, there seems to have been a wide embrace of the open source movement. The argument that things should be left open to improvement, and even personalization, by those with the know-how appeals to many of us. But where did the broader drive for "openness" come from? And what are its implications beyond technology? The "Disclosures" exhibition on view at London's Gasworks through May 18th looks at manifestations of open source methods in offline areas of cultural production. Curators Anna Colin and Mia Jankowicz describe these as "situations in which the viewer, reader, listener or internet user becomes emancipated through egalitarian participation, collaborative authorship, and/or the breaking down of hierarchical and social boundaries." Emancipation is, of course, a strong word, but it refers here to the freedom to participate in the social, economic, and production processes that inform our social reality. This is a utopia "Disclosures" both holds-up and critiques through the inclusion of work by artists and tactical media practitioners as well as cultural theorists and music producers. Projects include Declose, by Open Music Archive, a vinyl remix tool compositing copyright-expired breaks and samples from early jazz, blues, and folk recordings with new "copyleft beats" by invited musicians; John Barlow Gone Offshore, the newest chapter of Goldin+Senneby's effort to explore "the projects and mythologies of the invisible" in which fictional character John Barlow blogs his investigations into an offshore company known as Headless Limited; and Tsila Hassine and De Geuzen's web-based Image Tracer, a beautifully layered snapshot of the appearance, disappearance, and ranking of Google Image Search results that grows out of the collaborators' interest in "media images and the way their significance and presence fluctuates in the ecology of the world wide web." Not surprisingly, given its open source inspiration ...

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Fantastic Voyage

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Since its earliest days, cinema has drawn comparison to the domain of magic and fantasies. Many of the form's early scholars agreed less on what film was (theatre? a new kind of pencil?) and more on its ability to psychologically transport viewers. A two-part show opening February 14 at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, in Washington, D.C., explores the ongoing development of this scenario, especially as it relates to the move toward the realm of video and digital media. The first component of The Cinema Effect: Illusion, Reality and the Moving Image is thus entitled "Dreams," and it explores "film's ability to transport viewers out of their everyday lives into states that lie between wakefulness and sleep, sending them on journeys into the darker recesses of the imagination." Artists in the first half of this pioneering exhibition include Darren Almond, Michael Bell-Smith, Bruce Conner, Tacita Dean, Stan Douglas, Harun Farocki, Douglas Gordon, Rodney Graham, Gary Hill, Steve McQueen, Tony Oursler, Wolfgang Staehle, Siebren Versteeg, Andy Warhol, and others. Common among their works is a tracing of the moving image's collapse into pop culture--and vice-versa-- which is to be expected as this form of expression becomes the dominant context for communicative exchange. "Dreams" will be followed-up by a second component, "Realisms," which plumbs a fascinating irony--that "in an age when documenting 'real life' in moving image formats becomes ever easier," because of the increased availability of DIY media, "the line between fact and fiction is increasingly complicated." Both halves work together to present a fantastical and high-fidelity vision of the cinematic. - Marisa Olson



Image credit: Still from Kelly Richardson's "Exiles of the Shattered Star," 2006, from the Hirshhorn's collection. Image courtesy the artist.

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