1. Start these videos at the same time.
2. Mute the second video.
Los Angeles-based artist Xtine Hanson calls her Mechanical Olympics "an alternative media spectacle to the Olympic games." Indeed, the project humorously turns the otherwise tightly-regulated machinery of both web commerce and international sports competition on their heads. Launching simultaneously with the Beijing games, on August 8th, The Mechanical Olympics invite the public to compete in sports previously restricted to people of specific genders and nationalities. The artist has enlisted participants via Amazon's Mechanical Turk site in which users receive paid commissions for completing tasks almost but not quite so simple a machine could complete them, thus joining the ranks of participatory projects like AddArt, Sheep Market, and Ten Thousand Cents, which also employed this service. Hanson likens this playful outsourcing of labor to working with artificial intelligence. Nonetheless, it's clear that her worker bees are bringing a hefty dose of personal creativity to this web-based role-playing game. A perusal of the videos thus far uploaded to The Mechanical Olympics' YouTube channel features Starbucks baristas working overtime to put their own spin on the classic sport of Hockey, and the woman who represents South Africa in the Freestyle Swimming event could win a gold medal in charm for her combined use of a spray bottle and trippy arm movements. When accepting one of the project's Human Intelligence Tasks (or HITs), the athletes agree to wear a pre-designed sign indicating their sport, gender, and country (they get to pick their own number) and to be paid between $1-3 dollars upon emailing Hanson a URL to their 30-60 second video. The footage will be posted daily, during the Olympics, and voted upon by blog readers. Rather than medals, the winning artificial Olympians receive bonus commissions, much like their more famous counterparts whose accomplishments score them lucrative endorsement deals. - Marisa Olson ...
Beijing-based artist Cao Fei uses her activities in Second Life (SL) to draw fantastical parallels to socio-political scenarios in real life. As it turns out, SL is a perfect place to consider city planning and the cultural drives behind development patterns. It is, afterall, one big experiment in participatory design, with users constructing their world and everything in it, even carrying out social relations in a highly-systematized manner. Fei's avatar, China Tracy, made a three-part documentary of life in this society, called i.Mirror, which was included in the Rhizome-curated exhibition Montage: Unmonumental Online. For Fei's current show at New York's Lombard-Freid Projects, she once again displays the fruits of Tracy's labor, with RMB City. The gallery has become a retail space for the promotion of this "experimental utopian world," in which institutions and investors have been invited to participate as organizers. Fei's exhibition includes "pure white" sculptural models of the city, builder's tools and materials, laptops for connecting to Second Life, and stills from Tracy's newest documentary, RMB CITY-A Secondlife City Planning, which is also projected onto what looks like a pool of water. The sailing city constructed in Tracy's film has all the trappings of a grown-up society, complete with transportation infrastructure, industrial pollutants, and diplomatic pandas, but it feels almost like a child's imaginary assemblage, constructed of toys, junk, and futuristic roadways, some of which end abruptly, depositing travelers into the vast ocean around it. The film's soundtrack further pushes the trope of "play" with its softly soothing electronic beats. (One imagines this score could gently drown-out any voices of resistance.) According to Fei, the city reflects "the condensed incarnation of contemporary Chinese cities with most of their characteristics; a series of new Chinese fantasy realms that ...
The lyrics in "World Peace" (1999), an early song by the Japanese multidisciplinary art collective Delaware, praise a celebratory vision of seemingly disparate cultures finding unity in difference. Jumping ahead eight years, this theme reaches a nice materialization in Delaware's practice with the release of the YouTubeHarmony videos (2007). The Harmonies are four-corner, international jam sessions featuring musicians, dancers and random people talking or goofing around with friends, all remixed into solid, often surprising mixes by Delaware. In YouTubeHARMONY 4 Apple Pie, for example, Liz Luttinger plays a dreamy melody on a Casio SK-10 in the lower left corner while YouTube user paulagloria gently talks us through the process of making her mother's apple pie in the upper left. Another user, holaitsmak, demonstrates some ballet pointe work in the upper right while Peahix demonstrates the functionality of an early beat box in the lower right. As the mix progresses, Delaware insert a couple more ballet dancers, Sean Ray's banjo picking, and the duo of Ichi and Ichi's sister playing the Beatles. The most effective element of Apple Pie and all of the Harmonies, however, is the detachment of the audio from each visual component. As the audio plays at the originally recorded speed, the video drastically slows down, rendering the visuals as something like ghostly mnemonics for personal histories. The overall impact of the videos serve to abstract each individual component into a larger whole, aptly echoing Delaware's call for world unity. - Gene McHugh
The next program in Rhizome's New Silent Series at the New Museum, Continuing Education for Dead Adults presents three multi-media performances that riff off youth pop culture and its long-term consequences. East Coast collective Paper Rad premieres new videos, including Problem Solvers (20 min, 2008) and a short entitled crank dat spongebob batman dropdead robocop (3 min, 2008) which, in the group's words, is a "3-minute terror-ride through the online world of youtube show-offs." New York artist Ben Coonley presents a new performance entitled Kindred Spirits is the Working Title, (15 min, 2008) and Providence-based experimental band Wizardzz (featuring members of Lightning Bolt) will perform in front of a mesmeric animated tapestry. Tickets available here.
Friday, Jan. 11, 7:00 PM
the New Museum, New York, NY
$8 general public, $6 Members (Rhizome and New Museum)