Out of Context: Artists and Web Inventories

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On any given day, the average web user may log into as many as a dozen different social web services. Interaction with these sites could involve any number of activities including browsing photography, commenting on blog posts, planning trip itineraries, looking for a lover or updating a resume. While the sequential (or parallel) manner in which we navigate these databases and the generic aesthetic of the web 2.0 interface might suggest these sites form a unified network, that is simply not the case. In engaging the social web we voluntarily fragment our interests, social ties and demographic information in order to make them "machine readable" and allow us to participate in these communities. With these rules of engagement in mind, several recent projects speak to these conditions and explore the notion of web inventories in relation to identity, aggregation and as binding legal agreements.

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Inauguration Overload

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Move over holographic reporting! With Obama's inauguration coming up tomorrow, many news organizations are experimenting with innovative ways to address the event. Here's a short list:

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Image: Design by Paula Scher, from the upcoming edition of the Guardian G2

  • Graphic Designers and Illustrators Reinterpret Past Obama Speeches for the Guardian's G2 Section
    In tomorrow's issue of the Guardian G2, a number of acclaimed designers and illustrators will reimagine select excerpts from Obama's previous speeches. Click the link to CR Blog above for a quick preview.
  • CNN's "The Moment"
    In an effort to "...capture the most detailed experience of a single moment ever," CNN will assemble photos sent in by users into one epic photosynth. Almost every major news source seems to be inviting photo submissions from attendees, but CNN are clearly trying to put themselves ahead of the pack by assembling them all into 3D.
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    Image: I Hope So Too

  • NY Times Interactive's I Hope So Too and Inaugural Words: 1789 to the Present
    These two projects from the talented interactive team at the NY Times illustrate the public's future aspirations for the presidency and the vocabulary used in inaugural speeches. Over 200 people shared their hopes for the Obama presidency in interviews conducted for I Hope So Too, a section that groups these recordings by theme. Visitors can agree with the statements made, or alternately offer up their own hopes, it theirs aren't represented. Inaugural Words: 1789 to the Present depicts, in a tag cloud for each president, the most-used words from previous inaugural addresses.
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    Satellite image of the United States Capitol

  • The Inauguration, as viewed from space.
    The only non-news organization on this list, the company behind the GeoEye-1 satellite, which generates images for Google Maps and Google Earth ...
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    "Shifting Polarities: Exemplary Works of Canadian Electronic Media Art Produced Between 1970 and 1991" by Caroline Langill

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    In this research project funded by Montreal's Daniel Langlois Foundation for Art, Science, and Technology, artist, researcher and academic Caroline Langill selected pioneering examples of electronic and new media art produced by Canadian artists from 1970 to 1991. The introductory statement expresses a need to write this report in order to construct an understanding of the greater trajectory of Canadian new media art, whose history has remained under-documented. Langill chose artworks according to their exhibition history, larger recognition in terms of precedence for later artworks and innovation in audience interaction, and their technological contribution. I know little about this subject myself, and I found Langill's series of artist interviews, accompanying essay, and image library quite instructive. I was also impressed by the fact that at least half of the artists discussed here are women, which arguably was not the case in other contexts. See below for a few works from the project, click the link to access Shifting Polarities.

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    Image: Jana Sterbak, Remote Control, 1989

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    Image: Nancy Paterson, Bicycle TV: Some Interactive Exercise, 1989.

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    Image: Norman White, First Tighten Up on the Drums,1968.

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    ZigZagPhilosophy.com (2009) - Angelo Plessas

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    More work by Angelo Plessas

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    Visitor Experience Visualized

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    Video: Response from the iConfessional at Mattress Factory

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    Image: Kit Galloway and Sherrie Rabinowitz, Hole-In-Space, 1980

    Mattress Factory went live with their iConfessional kiosk recently, which allows visitors to instantly post response videos to museum exhibitions using YouTube's Quick Capture feature. Mattress Factory's Jeffrey Inscho got the idea from the Brooklyn Museum, who built a video response station for their exhibition The Black List Project using the same technology. Both illustrate ways museums are attempting to use the web to enhance visitor experience; as the lowercase "i", Apple's signature branding for personal customization, they are geared towards allowing visitors to visualize and share their responses to the exhibition, i.e. leave their personal mark. Simple and inexpensive to implement, it's not difficult to imagine that stations like these will become more commonplace. I viewed an installation of Kit Galloway and Sherrie Rabinowitz's Hole-In-Space (1980) at the "Art of Participation" exhibition at SFMOMA two weeks ago and I was both amused and blown away by the footage. In the work, crowds in New York City and LA could video conference with one another via this public installation. The crowds were clearly elated about this possibility, hooting and hollering at live feeds of their counterparts on the other side of the country. It was amazing to see their excitement, especially now that video conferencing has become so ubiquitous. This activity hits at the heart of participation online -- but it also raises questions in regards to the limits of this sort of participation, especially if it is realized in the form of talk back mechanisms, such as video kiosks, which are simply an addendum to a larger exhibition, and do not influence its scope or shape.

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    INVISIBLECURSOR.COM (2008) - Rafael Rozendaal

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    Gingerbread Man (1994) - The Residents

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    Christmastime favorite, the Gingerbread Man, enters the darkside in this video by renown art/music group The Residents. Released in 1994, the album Gingerbread Man was an interactive CD-ROM, an example of the band's many experiments in multimedia during the 1990s. The video below derives all of its content from the original version of Gingerbread Man but was produced for their 2001 DVD Icky Flix. To read more about this unique album, go here and here.

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    Two Spooky Trailers from Cactus Software

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    Jonathan Soderstrom of Cactus Software is currently developing the third installment of his "Mondo" game series, which includes the investigations of AGENT-65386 in Mondo Agency and the "illogical puzzle game" Mondo Medicals. Details regarding the new Mondo game are vague, but judging from the stark, confining interiors of these two trailers, it seems Soderstrom is at work at translating the banality of what Marc Augé once termed the "non-place" (defined as nondescript transient spaces, such as the airport or the hotel room) to the game's environment.



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    Interface Aesthetics at the Dept. of Rhythmanalysis

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    Interface aesthetics seem to push further into public consciousness with each passing month. Consumers are manic about multitouch and contemporary prototypes exploring gesture and performance have hinted at how we will be interacting with technology in the not-so-distant future. This considered, conversations about the desktop metaphor underlying personal computing or Aqua-style might seem archaic, irrelevant in light of emerging tangible media. This is, of course, not the case, and when excavating the idea of interface, one can dig back much further than screen-based interaction and find an extensive lineage of control panels and analog interfaces that prefigure the graphical user interface (GUI). An artist clearly invested in questioning the nature of interface and display is Kevin Hamilton, a researcher and educator based in Urbana, Illinois. Over the last several years Hamilton has been exploring the narrative potential of bare-bones interface and informational systems, quite notably through his ongoing Rhythmanalysis project.

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    Robot Love

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    Just in time for the holiday season comes an exhibition inspired by the heartwarming Brian Aldiss short story "Super-Toys Last All Summer Long" in which a robotic boy is deceived into believing he's human and loving his fake mom. It's a tale for the ages. And now Bristol's Arnolfini gallery has mounted "Supertoys," a chance for a group of artists to flesh-out the fakery behind humans' relations to their playthings. In fairness, part of the show's agenda is an effort to look at how human/ object relationships can become more reciprocal as robots become increasingly intelligent and the possibility for not only learning but also emotion creeps into the picture. Codemanipulator reflect directly on the eponymous "Supertoys" story and present us with a binary toybox full of zero's and one's, with which viewers can play like building blocks. Natalie Jeremijenko's Robotic Geese and Ducks (2008) and Feral Robotic Dogs (2005) prompt us to remember puppy love and other animal affections while considering the important social roles played by these creatures. Her dogs sniff out pollution, while the fowl illustrate the life of the decoy. Despite most of the American nuclear tests being given macho code names like "Romeo," Dunne & Raby's Huggable Atomic Mushroom (2007) brings out the softer side of these curvy explosions by making cuddly, squishy, femininely-gendered toys. This play of difference highlights the role of machine culture in cultivating or quelling paranoia and false rationality. These and other works by Chris Cunningham, Kahve Society, Alex McLean, Philippe Parreno, Unmask Group, and guest robots Swarm Systems and Heart Robot use the approachability of cute objects to address often untouchable topics, in this exhibition. - Marisa Olson

    Image: Natalie Jeremijenko, Feral Robotic Dogs, 2005

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