Marisa Olson
Since the beginning
Works in Brooklyn, New York United States of America

Marisa Olson is an artist, writer, and media theorist. Her interdisciplinary work has been exhibited at the Venice Biennale, Centre Pompidou, Tate(s) Modern + Liverpool, the Nam June Paik Art Center, British Film Institute, Sundance Film Festival, PERFORMA Biennial; commissioned and collected by the Whitney Museum, Museum of Modern Art, Houston Center for Photography, Experimental Television Center, and PS122; and reviewed in Artforum, Art21, the NY Times, Liberation, Folha de Sao Paolo, the Village Voice, and elsewhere.

Olson has served as Editor & Curator at Rhizome, the inaugural curator at Zero1, and Associate Director at SF Camerawork. She's contributed to many major journals & books and this year Cocom Press published Arte Postinternet, a Spanish translation of her texts on Postinternet Art, a movement she framed in 2006. In 2015 LINK Editions will publish a retrospective anthology of over a decade of her writings on contemporary art which have helped establish a vocabulary for the criticism of new media. Meanwhile, she has also curated programs at the Guggenheim, New Museum, SFMOMA, White Columns, Artists Space, and Bitforms Gallery. She has served on Advisory Boards for Ars Electronica, Transmediale, ISEA, the International Academy of Digital Arts & Sciences, Creative Capital, the Getty Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Kennedy Center, and the Tribeca Film Festival.

Olson studied Fine Art at Goldsmiths, History of Consciousness at UC Santa Cruz, and Rhetoric & Film Studies at UC Berkeley. She has recently been a visiting artist at Yale, SAIC, Oberlin, and VCU; a Visiting Critic at Brown; and Visiting Faculty at Bard College's Milton Avery Graduate School of the Arts and Ox-Bow. She previously taught at NYU's Tisch School of the Arts' new media graduate program (ITP) and was Assistant Professor of New Media at SUNY-Purchase's School of Film & Media Studies. She was recently an Artist-in-Residence at Eyebeam & is currently Visiting Critic at RISD.

Kind of Blue

The cyanotype, in some ways, fuses multiple modern impulses towards empirical knowledge. In this once novel medium, originally used to study the footprints of organic specimens and still common in kids' at-home science kits, objects are left on the surface of photosensitive paper to create a sort of blue and white negative of the item. But the image format also links itself to the study of architectural structures at the site of the blueprint and to the avant-garde's embrace of the color blue to study perception and the psychic effects of color. (Think Yves Klein.) So Christian Marclay's marriage of the cyanotype and the increasingly defunct magnetic cassette medium is just as philosophically rich as it is beautiful. And indeed, the artist's prints are extremely beautiful. On view through October 11th at New York's Paula Cooper Gallery is a solo exhibition of the artist's work. One of the pieces included, Allover, looks like an ocean of castaway cassettes and tape ribbons doing a sort of dead man's float, while the title reads as a double entendre--the image is a time-based collage (blurring representational epochs and the time it takes for the picture to seep into the paper) in which the tapes are "all over" the page and the title also signals the fact that the tapes' heyday is "all over." On the contrary, Marclay's heyday is still roaring, as the artist continues to find new ways to intertwine concepts of visual and sonic composition and to turn what might otherwise amount to commodity fetishism into poignant commentary on the evolution of technology and the narrative forms we've generated to record-keep our romance with it. - Marisa Olson

Image: Christian Marclay, Untitled (Madonna, Thy Word and Sonic Youth), 2008

Link »


Giving 'Em the Old Razzle Dazzle

There is an approach, within military strategy, known as "Razzle Dazzle." The idea is to stand out with such visual intensity so as to perplex your target. This might be a good point of comparison with the work of Meredyth Sparks, which addresses political issues by dialetically fusing stills from the halls of rock music history, a constructivist visual vocabulary, and bling...lots of bling! Her current show at New York's Elizabeth Dee gallery, entitled "We were strangers for too long," employs images and sculpture heavy on silver foil, vinyl, and glitter, as ammo in launching an argument about intersections of "radical chic" and the culture wars. Her digitally-processed collages layer not only images from the mid-1970s that she argues chart a rise in rebellion against conservative culture, but also splice together art historical references to perspectivalism, the history of photographic media, and modernism's love affair with the grid. Her work both pushes and critiques the ideology of loud, glam, in your face activism, looking particularly at how strains of punk rock became (either through their own design or by a process of co-opting) part of the capitalist system they sought to tear down, thus raising the question of how we might come to fight fire with fire by once again making protest hot. - Marisa Olson

Image credit: Meredyth Sparks, Kraftwerk III, 2008

Link »


Livin' It Up When You're Going Down

Damon Rich would like you to remember that in Old French, "mortgage" means "death vow." This truism rings sadly ironic in the United States where financial crisis has put many people out of their homes and the implosion of the subprime mortgage market has had deeper effects upon the national economy and our international relations. In a show at the MIT Museum, commissioned by the Center for Advanced Visual Studies, called "Red Lines, Death Vows, Foreclosures, Risk Structures," Rich explores the architectural history and financial terrain of the American housing market and the continued impetus toward residential development and unsound design practices. The artist is the founder of the venerable Center for Urban Pedagogy (CUP) collective who work with youth and local community members to address street-level issues through research and remarkable art projects. Rich's penchant for excavating facts, figures, and ideological trends is manifest in the exhibition, which includes new video work, photos, drawings, models, and historical artifacts. Open through December 21st, the show promises to draw a big red line around "the furious circulation of finance capital." - Marisa Olson

Image credit: Video stills from Predatory Tales, produced by Damon Rich in cooperation with Lawrence Community Works in Lawrence, Massachusetts

Link »


AIDS 3D's "Digital Awakening" at K44 Gallery

The artist statements written by Berlin-based American artists AIDS-3D read as simultaneously post-apocalyptic and utopian. They are primarily concerned with the unfulfilled promises of emergent technologies and the ways in which our daily lives revolve around these media. Alienation, self-preservation, reproduction (sexual and otherwise), and the construction of lifestyles are common themes in their work, which takes the form of performances, sculptures, and installations frequently employing lasers, electroluminescent cable, and relics from a recent past promoting the heights to which novelties of various origin will change the world. On September 20th, the duo will open the show "Digital Awakening" at Athens, Greece-based K44 Gallery, in which they will elaborate two radically different future scenarios, one in which Earth suffers "a disastrous energy crisis leading to war, famine and the breakdown of the global capitalist system" and an another where "humanity lives in a techno-utopia, where communication tools and futuristic technology fueled by alternative energy have allowed us to fully transcend into a scientifically maintained balance." Considering the potential impact of current directions in the field of energy production, these fictional accounts may not be the work of utter fantasy. - Marisa Olson

Link »


A Spiritual Movement?

Many of the artists recently covered on Rhizome have shared an interest in spirituality, particularly as it intersects with mythology and ethos. Call it new media three-point-something, this sect of artists is also significantly prolific and a new show at Prato, Italy gallery Project Gentili surveys very recent work by a handful of the most interesting, including Maurizio Bianchi, Brody Condon, Deva Graf, Shane Hope, Xavi Hurtado, Michael Jones McKean, Dexter Sinister, Damon Zucconi, and AIDS-3D. Entitled "Pole Shift," the show alludes to a recent resurgence in New Age attitudes and interest in the metaphysical; particularly the conjecture that the earth might undergo an axial adjustment, causing a relocation of its poles. (Some worry warts link this prediction with the fear that an expiration in the Mayan calendar in the Gregorian year 2012 signals not only a pending geographic shake-up, but also an apocalypse.) Appropriately, many of the works in the show combine technology and a keen interest in systems with an end-of-an-era, eleventh-hour-type fervency sure to keep viewers on the tips of their toes. After its preview in Italy, the show will be reincarnated in nearly the same shape at Art-Forum Berlin, October 25-December 15. Assuming the world hasn't turned upside down by then, the show's worth adding to your art tour itinerary. - Marisa Olson


Discussions (281) Opportunities (10) Events (4) Jobs (0)

Rhizome Today: A critic, with opinions about postinternet art

Great post, Michael! What an exciting (if facebook-thread-dramatic!) couple weeks for Postinternet discussion. I appreciate your breakdown of these three (obviously not mutually exclusive) approaches. To my mind, the results of approach #1 have only had fickle results. i.e. Ed, I actually talked about Postinternet Art before I read the "internet aware" comment from Guthrie--I believe first on a Rhizome panel Michael was on at EAI--but then again, Guth & I used to gchat every day then, as we were just about to start Nasty Nets when I brought it up. But moreover, as I recently posted in an FB thread, I truly believe there was a zeitgeist around recognizing these ideas (and using whatever word or phrase to do so; not just postinternet) in 2005-2006, as expressed in writings and talks by Lev Manovich, Steve Dietz, Sarah Cook, Josephine Berry Slater, Jon Ippolito, myself & Guthrie, etc.. (Christiane Paul touched on this in her responses to Karen Archey's Ullens questionnaire.) I don't think it's productive to construct/dismantle/bash origin myths, if only because it's led to a rash of ad hominem attacks on a number of artists & writers lately, completely sacrificing the point of critical writing.

My own effort in talking about Postinternet, at least in those early instances, as on the panel, was to (a) expand Rhizome's mission--I was then Editor & Curator--to cover and support a wider variety of practices; and (b) just to describe my own work and how a project like my Monitor Tracings (totally "offline" drawings) could be contextualized as internet art, or art 'after' the internet (i.e. In the style of & made after I log-off.) I think Michael puts it *perfectly* when he says, "we should understand all our gestures, 'online' and 'offline,' as actions in a network that is mediated and administered by computers." Perhaps this is obvious, but I'd say this applies to all of waking life, not just art production+reception.

I've personally moved from discussing Postinternet Art as "art after the internet" toward discussing Postinternet as "the symptoms of network culture." I am less interested in discussing PI Art specifically/exclusively, now that people have brow-beaten and/or branded the term into something far different than what I originally meant, and much more interested in discussing the social affects around the production of postinternet conditions and their manifestations. And, meanwhile, I have said (particularly in the Ullens catalogue & also in an interview in the Art and the Internet book put out by Black Dog) that, to me, Postinternet is just a 'placeholder' term around which to convene in having conversations around the latter symptoms. (I've started working on spelling these out more explicitly in recent & forthcoming writing-- including the keynote lecture I just gave at Pratt's UPLOAD conference, entitled "Postinternet is Dead. Long Live Postinternet.")

Likes/Dislikes around the word, aside, I hope this very long-running conversation around art and the internet can continue to incorporate careful consideration of the affects of network culture, as networks themselves evolve.


Breaking the Ice

Hi, everyone! Wow, I've got to say, it's nice to see some familiar names here! Michael, Congratulations on your new job. As someone who held that same title (and various permutations of it) for several years, I know you are in for a heavy load and I also know that you are also more than up to the task.

Like most of the folks above, I too am a "forever member," from the days of the Rhizome Communications ascii RAW listserv and, later, fancy Dreamweaver/Flash "Splash Pages," to the present. Reena Jana and I were the first two paid writers (poached from Wired!), when Alex Galloway was running "content," which at that time meant programming and editorial--though Rhizome was declaratively non-editorial, so they just commissioned book & exhibition reviews, and some interviews from us that were fed into the RAW stream and included in the Digest as Features. Oy vey, I can still remember the cross-eyed weekly ritual of trying to untangle parallel conversations to reassemble them into a coherent thread for the Digest, when I was editing it--and the race to get it out by noon one day each week!!

I've seen Rhizome go through so many changes, and I've been a part of the back channel conversations on years of them, including huge ones that we decided not to go through with. I have to say that it's always hard to serve a membership-based organization, which is what Rhizome has always thought of itself as. But I can say that every change in content or form has been discussed critically, at length, and typically not without a degree of passion.

I am also biting my tongue because I *really* do not want to put words in any staff member's mouth (past or present), but I can say that I believe everyone who's ever worked there has taken their position as a labor of love, with users/reader/members/community (everyone has their favorite self-identification; semantics trolls please don't hate today!) in mind, and everyone has collaborated with the staff to bring a unique take on how best to serve you in the current creative and technological climate. For instance, I remember that my big objective coming in the door was wanting to change the mission statement to reflect not only net art and not only highly technological art, but also art that "reflects" on technology in a meaningful way. In fact, I think contemplating this change was very much a part of my conceptualizing Postinternet.

There is so much to say here, but I think I'd best sign off. This is not my soap box, and in some way, it feels weird to comment so much. I used to be a Superusing Megaposter, but as soon as I became Editor & Curator, I stepped back to focus on trying to facilitate and amplify other voices, which I do believe every Rhizome Editor has done in their own way.

I'll end with this, then. I'd be surprised if every reader, writer, or editor loved everything that ever appeared (structurally or content-wise) in their newspaper of choice. I'd be surprised if every curator or museumgoer loved every artwork shown (or every exhibition design decision) in their favorite museum. But it's the day we stop reading, stop going to look at art that disappoints me. It's the day Rhizome stops experimenting that scares me. And I wish them well on this new experiment.


Conference Report: NET.ART (SECOND EPOCH)

Hi, Josephine.

Thank you for these points of clarification. I actually tried to convey (and forgive me if I failed) that your presentation was unique in identifying multiple generations of networked artists, and I particularly liked the way you talked about artists working before the internet in ways that anticipated network culture.

You also made that great point (via Hal Foster) about the ways in which critics' work is influenced by what is/ was happening at the moment they entered the art world. I admire how you helped pioneer new media criticism and yet have continued to stay on the pulse of new work. This is what I had in mind when recalling your point about your relationship to a previous generation of net-dot-artists, versus the artists of the era Inclusiva was calling the "second epoch." I just really liked the way you fleshed out more than two epochs and I wanted to highlight your catalyzing role in the net-dot-art scene, in particular.

In my own presentation, my intent absolutely was not to dismiss any previous artists, movements, practices, etc. It was simply to flesh-out one niche of new media art practice. In fact, I really liked the pointed questions that the audience asked afterwards, because it helped us have a really meaningful discussion about the problematic relationship of pro surfer work to art historical discourse, and my calls to action revolved around getting those artists to participate in learning about their own pre-histories and writing historiographies that situate their own trajectories on their own terms.

So I don't think we're in disagreement. But I appreciate your call to fine-tune my articulation of these scenarios.


Go Ahead, Touch Her

Why are vocal remixes different than video? This is a very interesting distinction. Can you please say more about this and why one is ok and one isn't, beyond the rubric of industry standards? I think that remix and parody have the potential to be very useful and viable political tools. The best-known examples of such efforts would be the work of the Yes Men, but examples of parasitic media within the field abound. In your comments (i.e. "Here it seems the remix does imply ridicule") it seems as if you think that remixing automatically equals mockery but I don't agree and don't see that implied in the project. Laric's video simply shows us (or arguably amplifies) what's already there and gives both fans and critics a chance to say what they will. This is the pact that all artists make with their audience when they release their work into the world--that people will interpret it as they will, whether that means reading it a certain way, hearing it a certain way, or incorporating it into their lives in a certain way. This is how the popular preconscious works. I don't think it's fair to call this project a senseless derision of Carey, but I do still think that your vehement apprehension towards remixes says something interesting about the ways that certain corners of the cultural community (particularly academia) perceive the effects of these acts. I just think they need fleshing-out. There is a big difference between real violence towards women and perceived theoretical misdeeds towards a celebrity's highly-guarded public image. If this is the true issue, I think our energies are best directed toward prevention of the former rather than scandalizing the latter.


Go Ahead, Touch Her

Hi, Brittany.

I'm sorry that you found my article objectionable. I didn't intend to make the implications you suggest, but I believe your response cuts to the most interesting aspect of Laric's piece, which is the effect of remixing.

For those who care to review the lyrics to this song, they are here:

They include the refrain:

Touch my body
Put me on the floor
Wrestle me around
Play with me some more
Touch my body
Throw me on the bed

So, in fact, I do think that Carey's lyrics (and video) invite sexual fantasy, but my article doesn't say that she is asking to be violated, it says that she's asking to be remixed. Of course, the slippage between the two that you identify is what's so interesting.

In an interview with Laric, he told me that he noticed that the video takes-on an increased sexual tone when all but Carey is masked out. He was interested in how this first-person invitation to "touch my body" could be construed as an invitation to remix the visage of her body (and/or the voice emitted from it), particularly given (a) the implicit link to digital culture embodied by both the lyrics and video, and (b) the fact that the remix is now such an important part of the media ecology of pop culture.

In the last 25+ years of pop music, lining-up celebrity remixes and making singles remix-ready has been an important part of the production cycle, often preceding the release of the original recording. Almost all historical accounts of Madonna's rise to fame cite her relationship with DJs and openness to remixing as a key factor in her success. So while you may see the remix as a violent act, clearly those participating in this industry see it as an imperative.

Discussions of why a remix is or isn't violent are interesting, as they get to questions of the status of the digital reproduction. Are we remixing a person or "just" her image, and what's the difference when thinking about how a person's identity--particularly a famous person's identity--hinges upon their image? Carey's image was already manipulated before it came to us. In the interview with Laric, he pointed to a segment in the original video in which the shape of a cup becomes distorted as a result of distorting the footage to make the singer standing behind the cup appear slimmer. So this is already not her. If you listen closely, I believe there is also a question as to whether all of the voiced parts of the song are her, so the audio issue adds another layer to the phenomenological question of the brute force of the remix.

These issues of the import of the remix, the relationship to broader pop culture (rather than an insular art world), collective authorship, and the nature of Carey's invitation are what I hoped to address in this article.