I would like to consider a notion that I have felt was intuitively true but have never explored in depth: that the 8-bit or "low-res" aesthetic of much contemporary electronic art can be thought of as a form of digital materialism. By employing the phrase "digital materialism," I draw upon a specific term that has circulated within the sphere of avant-garde filmmaking from the 1970s onward. In this context, materialism describes a sensibility, most explicitly theorized in the writings of London-based filmmaker Peter Gidal, in which the physical materials of film technology are made visible within the work itself, and thereby become decisive components of a reflexively cinematic but predominantly non-narrative experience. Materialism reverses the usual Hollywood practice of hiding the mode of production so as not to disrupt the suspension of disbelief necessary to enter into a staged, fictional world.
On gaming, gear, and tech sites across the net one can find threads asking users for ratings and approval on their equipment. A simple search for "rate my rig", "rate my setup", "rate my collection", "rate my gear" will return hundreds of these images and videos. From snapshots of elaborate home entertainment centers to short videos displaying one's own modded gear, a sense of pride and showmanship pervades throughout. The threads and video clips speak to the social and performative nature of collection, as well as a competitive consumerist drive, and offer a glimpse into the lives, homes, and obsessions of geeks of all kinds.
Brighton-based interactive media artists' group Blast Theory posted a call for both their residency and internship program. Interns will have an opportunity to work in Blast Theory's studios on specific projects while residents will be given space to research and develop new work in a supportive and collaborative environment. For the residency program, Blast Theory are looking for individuals working in:
- Pervasive & location based gaming & interactive media
- Mobile & portable devices in cultural & artistic practice
- Games design and theory
- Interdisciplinary and live art practice
The deadline for applications is January 31, 2010. More information can be found on Blast Theory's site.
Jonathan Vingiano is an internet surfer based in Brooklyn, NY and he graduated from Emerson College in Boston, MA with a degree in Experimental Media. He recently completed a project for JstChillin's "Serial Chillers in Paradise" and will be in an group show opening January 15th at Tompkins Projects in NYC. He is the hype-man of the rap trio LIONSHARE. Jonathan is Rhizome's Technology Associate.
The World Series Of 'Tubing - Jeff Crouse & Aaron Meyers
Greg J. Smith is a Toronto-based designer with an active interest in the intersection of space and media. He is co-editor of the digital arts publication Vague Terrain and blogs at Serial Consign.
Five 2009 projects that deal with the translation of online
experience into environments, events, artifacts and
► World Series of
'Tubing - Jeff Crouse & Aaron Meyers The everyday action
of "favoriting" online media is expanded into a participatory game
show (video above). A pair of contestants square off by selecting
viral videos from YouTube and this media is "played" in an augmented
reality card game where a live audience determines the victor. (see
Paddy Johnson's adventures
as a contestant)
► What my
friends are doing on Facebook - Lee Walton The ubiquitous
status update is used to inspire an ongoing series of charming short
videos. Banal announcements, everyday routine and the inhabitation of
domestic space make for surprisingly entertaining vignettes. (see
Walton's vimeo channel to
access the entire series and Marisa Olson's writeup from
PoD - Cati Vaucelle, Steve Shada and Marisa Jahn An
architectural testament to the "shut in" tendencies within MMORPG
culture, this project creates a playspace that addresses the needs of
the player and their avatar. A built in toilet, cookware and food
dispensers are hardwired into the World of Warcraft interface
underscoring the dedication/obsession demanded by these types of
online communities. (See the video
documentation of the piece)
Built For 2,000 - Aaron Koblin and Daniel Massey Updating
the 1962 experiment in speech synthesis by John Kelly, Max Mathews and
Carol Lockbaum, this project employs the Amazon
Mechanical Turk webservice to outsource the production of
molecular elements of the song Daisy Bell. The resulting 2,088
voice recordings are reassembled into a strange, bumbling chorus - is
this what the future of labor sounds like? (see Peter Kirn's analysis)
► Are you
human? - Aram Bartholl Riffing on the scrambled
aesthetics of the CAPTCHA
challenge-response test, this project creates real world artifacts out
of online protocol. These text objects are deployed in the gallery, as
identity document business cards and (most interestingly) on the
street amongst the "urban markup" of tagged surfaces.(see photographs
of the sculptural objects in the gallery and out in the wild)
Image: Joshua Fishburn, Gaming the Network Poetic, 2009 (Photo by Joshua Lawton, Source: flickr)
This past month, Reno hosted the “Prospectives 09” festival, directed by Joseph DeLappe, Associate Professor of Art in the Digital Media area at the University of Nevada, Reno (UNR). The festival featured the work of 37 international artists and performers who are all current graduate and PhD candidates, working in various modes of digital practice. There were exhibitions, performances, a curated collection of internet art, symposia, video projections at UNR’s planetarium, and even a nocturnal array of illuminated floating pig bladders (a work by Doo-Sung Yoo, whose Pig Bladder Clouds references human-animal hybrids).
Image: Doo-Sung Yoo, Pig Bladder Clouds, 2009. (Photo courtesy of Joseph DeLappe.)
It would be a fool’s errand to try and propose some overarching principle that would legitimately tie together such a broad expanse of work. Limiting myself to the works on display at the “Prospectives 09” exhibition in UNR’s Sheppard Fine Arts Gallery, it seemed there was a common desire to enlist the spectator as a participant. Open until December 16, 2009, the works included in the show involved a fair amount of “play,” but the artists seemed attuned to the complexities involved with the interaction between machine and participant, thus it’s play inflected with critique.
John Walters’ interactive sculpture Waste Oil Mirror I & II (2008) is stately, beautiful and troubling. Two black rectangles stand against the wall, each seven feet tall, at first glance as minimalist as the monolith from Kubrick’s 2001. Triggered by the body heat in the gallery, a mechanical purring noise starts, and a soft gliding motion comes over the surface of the obelisks. The sculpture then draws up used motor oil from a reservoir at the bottom of the obelisks, cascading a ...
Gears of War depends on a conventional anti-hero/redemption narrative set in another world where it is up to a motley band of once-disgraced brigands to save what remains of humanity from a subterranean enemy known as the Locust Horde. Its formidable commercial success aside, the game is simply a well-executed shoot-’em-up that offers no significant expansion on that well-worn genre. Its television advertisement is of far greater interest: the emphasis on the melancholy, pathos and self-reproach communicated by ‘Mad World’ connects Gears of War to a contemporary understanding of war produced in large part as a response to the ongoing conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. The conundrum for the producers of war-based video games is a delicate one: how to craft and market a war game in an era when public opinion has turned against war as a paradigm? How, for instance, is heroism rendered in a fictional narrative when the most obvious contemporary social referents - the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan - do not, as social histories in the making, embody the kind of unambiguous moral bases easily identified, for example, in World Wars I and II? How can our period eye, in all its ambivalence, be satisfied while still offering a compelling narrative of heroism?
Those responsible for the advertisement of the juggernaut franchise that is Gears of War obviously concluded that to acknowledge the public’s ambivalence was key to eradicating it as an obstacle to the game’s commercial success. While the game’s story is not a romanticized one, the commercial relies on age-old Romantic notions of self. This is, of course, a rather insidious strategy.