Ben Fino-Radin
Since 2006
Works in New York, New York United States of America

Ben Fino-Radin is a NYC based media archeologist, archivist, and conservator of born-digital works of contemporary art. As Rhizome's Digital Conservator, Ben oversees the curation, preservation, and development of Rhizome's online archive of digital art, the ArtBase.

A Tribute to John Cage on his Centennial

In tribute to John Cage on his 100th birthday, we've gathered a collection of archival footage, interviews, and collected works – presented in reverse chronological order, beginning with Cage's final work, and only feature length film.

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One11 with 103 (1991-1992) (via UbuWeb)




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"American Masters" John Cage (1991) via UbuWeb




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For The Third Time (1978) via UbuWeb




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John Cage and Rahsaan Roland Kirk - Sound?? (1966) via UbuWeb

When Machines Speak

On display at The New Museum until September 30th, is the exhibition Ghosts in the Machine. Curated by Massimiliano Gioni and Gary Carrion-Murayari, the exhibition is described as having been “conceived as an encyclopedic cabinet of wonders: bringing together an array of artworks and non-art objects to create an unsystematic archive of man’s attempt to reconcile the organic and the mechanical.”1 Of the myriad works presented in the exhibition, there is one humble object that in so many ways embodies the complex history of technical abstraction, and the externalization of that which is inherently human. This object is called the VODER.

Short for Voice Operation DEmonstratoR, the VODER was an instrument or tool that provided its operator the ability to synthesize human speech. It easily predates the first cases of computerized speech synthesis, and represents the distinct end of an era for a particular type of metonymic device, along with the beginning of a whole other era of synthesized speech. The year was 1929. As the story goes, Bell Labs researcher Homer Dudley experienced an epiphanic moment, while laying in a hospital bed.


A pioneering researcher of voice communications technologies, Dudley was working to develop more efficient methods of voice transmission that could make better use of the Bell System’s bandwidth. His eureka moment was the realization that the human mechanisms of speech (the vocal cords, mouth, teeth, tongue and lips), resembled the mechanics of radio transmission2: the vocal chords create high-frequency vibrations that serve essentially as a carrier wave to the data encoded by the articulations of the mouth. He would go on to spearhead the development of  technology that enabled the invention of a device called the Vocoder3. By breaking speech down into ten low frequency bands, the Vocoder was able to send transmissions requiring far less bandwidth than the full spectral information produced by the telephone. By the mid-30s the team at Bell Labs had developed these technologies to successful ends, but would not see implementation outside of the lab for another decade or so.



It was this initial work on the Vocoder that led Dudley down a winding path toward the VODER. The key distinction between the Vocoder and VODER is that while the Vocoder was a tool through which to process speech, the VODER was a instrument with which one could synthesize speech. The Vocoder required its operator to only turn a few knobs, and speak into a microphone. The VODER was an instrument in a wholly other sense, providing fourteen keys, a bar controlled by the operator's wrist, and a foot pedal. The Voder was not spoken to – it was performed, or played. The operator's speech impulses would bypass their destination of the vocal cords and mouth, instead manifesting themselves through their hands, wrist and foot, and finally through the manipulation of the VODER’s controls. Complex combinations of keys would produce the requisite components of speech that a given letter, word, and sentence is composed of. The foot pedal controlled pitch, providing the essential subtle variations of intonation. The resultant sounds approached that of modern speech synthesis. Computers would not meet the expressive abilities of the VODER for another twenty years.


New Design and Features for the ArtBase

Rhizome is happy to announce that we have launched a new design and a big new feature for The ArtBase. In case you are not familliar with the ArtBase, it is Rhizome's archive of internet art and new media, contains over 2,000 works of art, and spans nearly two decades of history. Facing such vast size and complexity, and seeing a lack of major archives of internet art and new media that are accessible to a general audience, a major goal of ours was to afford greater to the history and context of these works, as well as improved searchability and browseability. To address the issue of education, accessability, and context we have accessibility launched a new feature: collections.

Just as a museum may provide access to their catalog through historic or thematic groupings, the ArtBase collections seek to surface trends, themes, and creative modes inherent in our collection. We are launching this feature with six initial collections: Formalism & Glitch, Code, & Hypertext, Tactical Media, Rendered Reality, and Digital Archivalism. Each collection leads off with a curatorial statement, aiming to provide context for the viewer who may not be familiar with the history of these creative practices. The content of the collections is not static, and will grow and change with the evolution of the ArtBase. As well, while these initial six collections were curated by Rhizome, subsequent collections will be curated and driven by indipendent curators and scholars.

Moving forward, we have two big projects on our to-do list for the summer. First, we are in the initial stages of migrating the back-end of the ArtBase to a new collections management platform, which will allow us to catalog works with better metadata standards, and correlate works, artists, collectives, exhibitions in ways that we currently can not ...


ArtBase Update

Takeshi Murata – Untitled (Pink Dot) (2007)

Here at Rhizome HQ we have been quietly working away from within the depths of the ArtBase. I'm pleased to announce that we have recently archived six works by Takeshi Murata, spanning from his early hand drawn animations, through his pioneering datamosh works, the 3D animation that was included in Free, to his recent body of work that debuted at Ratio 3 gallery last April. The excerpts of his work now available in the ArtBase are in most cases the only high quality (read: not bootlegged) examples available freely online.

Untitled (Silver)  • Untitled (Pink Dot)Melter 2I, PopeyeHomestead GraysGet Your Ass To Mars

Here are some more recently archived works we are particularly excited about:

Christian Oldham – Selected works 2010-2012
Brenna Murphy – facingface~terrestrialtrancetree
Nicolas Sassoon – Mansion Studies
John Transue, Micah Schippa, Tabor Robak, Parker Ito, Jon Rafman – PaintFX
Adam Cruces – Desktop Views
Justin Kemp – Proclaiming My Love

Kim Asendorf – ExtraFileGIF MARKETSolo show in Sim City
Jonas Lund – Collection EnlargementI'm Here and ThereOver and Over Again
Jon Rafman – Woods of Arcady
Sarah Weis & Emilie Gervais – 

What are we missing? The ArtBase is a constantly growing and evolving archive – if we are lacking to represent a particular facet of history or contemporary practices, by all means let us know. As well, we are always accepting submissions. Stay tuned for an update soon on a few big projects that are in the works!


YouTube Censors Petra Cortright, But 'VVEBCAM' Lives on in the Rhizome ArtBase

RIP 2007-2011 – 65,403 views

On Saturday December 10th 2011, Petra Cortright received an email stating that a video of hers had been flagged by a member of the YouTube Community. The automatically generated email said that upon review it was verified that the video did indeed violate the terms of the YouTube Community Guidelines and has thus been removed. The video in question, titled "VVEBCAM" was uploaded to YouTube in 2007. It has exhibited internationally, is discussed in several new media and contemporary art texts, and is taught in academic curricula.

The video, likely known to most readers, features Cortright mundanely clicking through the stock effects of a $20 webcam, gazing bored into the screen of her computer, trance playing in the background. Far from offensive content. The violation lies in Cortright's use of keywords. The video description contained 733 keywords, ranging from "tits, vagina, sex, nude, boobs" to "san francisco, diego, jose, puto, taco bell, border patrol, mcdonalds, KFC, kentucky fried chicken, trans fat".

Cortright told us over email that she appealed the decision. She explained to YouTube that the video and its contents were part of an original artwork. She referenced interviews that have explained the importance of the use of "spam" in the video's description. Four hours later her appeal was denied, and the video now has ceased to exist on YouTube. The work is also defunct on the artists website, where the video was embedded via YouTube.

Thankfully Rhizome has recently archived VVEBCAM in the ArtBase. We worked with Cortright to create an archival representation of the work as it existed on her site. We have replaced the broken YouTube video with an HTML5 player that references local files and emulates (at least approximately) the look and feel of the original YouTube player.