Joanne McNeil
Since 2010
Works in Brooklyn United States of America

writer (Los Angeles Times, Wired UK, Frieze, etc) // former editor of

Artist Profile: Duncan Malashock

Birthstone Puzzle, 2011 Performance documentation, digital video, 11 mins 47 sec.

I noticed one of your pieces is called Glass Bead Game. A reference to the Herman Hesse novel, perhaps?

How did you know?  I’m totally fascinated by that book and its implications, especially when it comes to culture and the Internet.  In case you haven’t read it, here’s the basic idea:  

It’s a science fiction story, in the distant future on Earth, in a European province named Castalia.  Castalia is the archetypical ivory tower, an academic sanctuary where students practice a form of abstract cultural study called the Glass Bead Game.  The game operates on the principle that every field of knowledge can be broken down into its component parts, and so the “beads” which make up the game are each symbolic of a “unit” of cultural knowledge or accomplishment from the arts, humanities, sciences, history, etc.  The idea is that these beads can be linked and juxtaposed together, the goal being for players to share their revelations of cultural insight through making connections between elements of all the arts and sciences.

“...a passage from the Bible, a phrase from one of the Church Fathers, or from the Latin text of the Mass could be expressed and taken into the Game just as easily and aptly as an axiom of geometry or a melody of Mozart.”

It seems like a utopian idea, the accomplishment of uniting the disciplines, but the story deals with the complications of studying culture while being removed from the necessities and urgency which made that culture possible in the first place; and in a way, it’s about that detachment and privilege symbolizing the end of culture.

I’m sure lots of readers and writers have seen the connection since the Internet was created.  Remixing, memes, “supercuts”, reblogging, and the hyperlink all bear a resemblance to this idealized mode of analyzing and resynthesizing cultural material at a distance.  Even the act of using the Internet, of having a peek at the total field of global culture via the network of information, can pretty easily give you the impression of an ex-cultural experience.  So to me The Glass Bead Game is a really thorough critique of that way of interacting with the world.

Anyway, I think about it a ton, although you’d never know it from that tiny video I made except for the name; it happened to fit in with the series of performance documentations I did, and I couldn’t resist playing around with the idea.  So thanks for asking.

Recently you gave a talk about your early experiences with computers and the tools that you used growing up. Would you still be exploring ideas about technology in your art without this background?

A lot of my work deals with interfaces, either making them, using them, or automating their use.  Those mediated experiences, you could say, are a tech-oriented phenomenon, but really the way I figure it, you could just as well say that any experience can be mediated through anything else that’s a “medium”.  Personally, I tend to explore ideas that come about through my personal relationship to technology as a medium.  And I think that’s pretty normal for an artist, no matter what materials are involved, because I see the creative process as basically being made of two interacting mechanisms.  The first is your own ability to manipulate what you’re working on, and the second is your ability to be emotionally and intellectually affected by the results.  It's a feedback loop, where the results of one process affect the tactics of the other; you see what “works” and what doesn’t “work”, whatever that happens to mean at the time, and you go back and change it until it does.  

From what I can tell, that’s how to play the game, and that’s the way it’s always been done.  I think it applies no matter what your medium is, even if your practice is very conceptualist or driven by critical theory; you’re still manipulating something and being attuned to the result.  Whether it’s paint, or sculpture, or JavaScript, or basket-weaving, or conceptualist declarations, or Facebook performances.  

So even though technology got my attention at a young age, and I’m of course interested in all the ways technology has transformed our society, I think some of the most valuable ideas artists explore are going to be informed by their relationship to the medium they use; I try to stick to that.


Distorted Scans in Google Books


"Could there be a fitter representation of copyright's contemporary plight than the fingers of a Google technician obscuring Kant's defense of writer's rights? An author's consent, Kant cautions in a footnote, 'can by no means be presumed because he has already given it exclusively to another', yet Google is struggling to effect exactly this sort of transfer of consent today, as it attempts to win approval for a legal settlement in the United States that will allow it to republish works whose copyright owners have not come forward. I couldn't have read Kant's essay so easily without the Google technician's labour - in fact, without Google, I might not have got around to reading it at all - but her fingers were nonetheless in the way. The internet's attitude toward Kant's words is ambiguous, combining respect, appropriation, liberation and accidental vandalism," Caleb Crain once wrote, having discovered a spectral-seeming hand, while conducting research for his review of Adrian Johns's Piracy: The Intellectual Property Wars from Gutenberg to Gates. (The page has been rescanned, but the image is still on Nicholas Carr's blog.)

Wohlgemeynte Gedanken über den Dannemarks-Gesundbrunnen by Johan Gottschalk Wallerius is scarcely recognizable as a book with hundreds of distorted pages. (via Waxy.)




Bidoun #25 Inspired By Jan 25th in Cairo

Twenty-five is special. This, the twenty-fifth issue of Bidoun: Art and Culture from the Middle East, responds to the Egyptian revolution that began on the 25th of January. (Twenty-five is also the median age of the Egyptian people.) In April and May, a group of Bidoun editors took over the first floor of The Townhouse Gallery in downtown Cairo, five minutes from Tahrir Square, to better understand what happened, and what did not happen, during the eighteen days of revolt, and after. We wanted to think critically about art and revolution and whether it was possible to make a magazine that wouldn't totally betray either. And so we walked around and looked and talked and—especially—we listened.

Bidoun 25 is the result, a rough and ready document, bristling with words—the product of over fifty unique interviews in Arabic and English, along with roundtable discussions, political party platforms, TV transcriptions, overheard dialogue, public apologies, dreams, tweets, and email forwards. Conversations and as-told-to tales appear amid found texts of every kind, from soap-operatic Mubarak family melodramas to post-revolutionary paperbacks to lists of looted antiquities and a compendium of negations found in news headlines (from "EGYPT IS NOT LIBYA" to "ZIMBABWE IS NOT EGPYT, HONEST.") Bidoun 25 is our most collaborative issue yet, produced in concert with dozens of Egyptian writers, artists, architects, and activists (including guest editor Yasmine El Rashidi). The result, we hope, is a kind of composite portrait, at once disjointed and revealing, partial but not trivial.

Inside, you'll meet the first family of the revolts, an intergenerational (and confusingly named) activist band that includes, among others human rights lawyer Ahmed Self El-Islam, computer whiz Alaa Abd El Fattah, and Sanaa Seif, a seventeen-year-old whose new magazine, Gornal, was born in Tahrir Square. You'll encounter ...


Weekend Clicking

  • On Rock Paper Shotgun, an essay about the "bizarre, ambitious Spectrum game/band spin-off Frankie Goes To Hollywood – a game of pop music, terraced houses, sperm, Nazi bombers, Reagan spitting at Gorbachev and murder most foul." (via things magazine) 
  • Rachel Lord writes about the history of khaki for DIS magazine, "khaki was a Victorian military breakthrough. A technology, first and foremost, that gave the “Informal Empire” of Great Britain her second wind... When confronted with the realities of non-conventional, guerilla-style warfare in harsh climates against an ever-changing enemy, their primary issue was their inflexibility."
  • "Instagram is all about death. The 70s filters our parents used, artifacts of cameras we’ve never held. Nostalgia is the negation of death, it proves we are still living even without an identifiable future. Instagram is a machine for producing instant nostalgia, a ward against death...We are told that digital (over)sharing on social networks and the like is a natural human impulse, that we’re merely augmenting extant human needs, the need to communicate, to form social groups. But what if sharing is actually a mourning for what we have lost? Or, that which our lives are now too full to contain."James Bridle
  • Geoff Dyer's first column for the NYT on recursive summarizing in an academic book, not unlike "watching a rolling news program: Coming up on CNN . . . A look ahead to what’s coming up on CNN."
  • Hito Steyerl, Right in Our Face (e-Flux)
  • The fact is that if I've learned one thing in two years of studying how we think about the future, it's that the one thing that's sorely lacking in the public imagination is positive ideas about where we should be going. We seem to do everything about our future except try to design ...
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    Simon Denny, 3-D Vessel 2 (2011)


    3-D Vessel 2, (2011.) Galerie Daniel Buchholz, Cologne/Berlin. (Based in Berlin.)

    Simon Denny explores how material is encountered in an age in which technological overproduction and media overkill are yesteryear’s assumed norm. For based in Berlin, Denny will present a project developed in Aachen, which focuses on a German production company’s input in shaping the appear- ance of a global media exemplar. The artist will present a sculptural illustration of material surrounding a “scripted journey” and the spaces that provide these. The presentation spotlights the Aachen-based chrome-finishing factory responsible for fitting out the fantasy cruise liner boats of an internationally dominant U.S. entertainment company. The exhibition features a video made by the factory of their products alongside a 3D walk through their equally scripted factory premises in Aachen, shot by Denny on the new 3D Panasonic HDC-SDT750, the supposed first 3D home video camera. In doing so, Denny applies the industry’s latest gimmicky must to the production process that gives its material relics their seductive sheen.

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