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.

Broadening the Spectrum

Montreal-based artist Matthew Biederman is daring to speak out about what he sees as military and government hijacking of what is "arguably one of Earth's most important, and only inexhaustible resources": air waves. Whereas radio was once intended as a many-to-many mode of communication, tight regulation of frequencies has led to a scenario in which the few (mostly corporate entities) are entitled to speak to the masses. His project, DAREDX, "seeks to re-establish the public's presence and right of occupation within the radio spectrum." In an effort to restore some of the utopian ideals initially associated with radio, the project will connect the public with the voices that float in the air around them and yet often go unheard: the voices of amateur broadcasters. Working almost like an astronomer, Biederman (under the call sign VA2XBX) will pluck transmissions out of the night sky, playing them back in Montreal's Cabot Square and logging and mapping them online. Drawing a connection between free public speech and the right of public assembly, DAREDX will amplify the voice of the people. Radioheads will be excited to know that non-vocal signals will also be charted, as the artist will "work with digital communications on HF, in order to send and receive SSTV (SlowScan Televsion), WEFAX (from NOAA Satellites), PSK31, Hellschrieber, and many more." In case you don't feel dialed-in enough to understand what that means, consider attending one of the talks, walks, or workshops associated with the project--including the one on how to build and take home your own FM transmitter! - Marisa Olson

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Movie Magic


In the first decades after film was invented, its practitioners wrote brilliant, poetic essays debating whether what they had on their hands was a new medium or simply a tool for furthering existing practices like theater or painting. These artists very often used the words "magic" and "wizardry" to describe what they were up to in creating moving images. Today's films use devices further removed from the real to give us the illusion of reality and whether to perpetuate the appearance of seamlessness or to assuage the ADD-addled minds of contemporary net-surfing viewers, everything is way way sped up. Enter Kurt Ralske. He'd like to slow things down. The Boston-based artist's video installations, performances, digital prints, and software art have long addressed the formal questions many people have ceased asking about film, particularly the relationship between sound and image and stillness versus motion. This was the case with his "Alphaville" (Motion-Extraction-Reanimation), in which he reprocessed elements of Godard's famous film and stretched and repeated them across a wider plane, questioning the function of surface and duration in the original piece. In a new project entitled Zero Frames Per Second, Ralske has dissected the films of Godard, Kubrick, Murnau, and others into a series of still images. Each film is represented by two frames--one condensing all motion into a single image and the other accumulating all moments of non-movement. The artist explains that, "Within these images the cinematic experience is freed from duration, narrative, and signification, producing a visually abstract record of the information from the 150,000 or so frames per film." The works free the mind to quickly take in a film in the slowest of slow-motions. They are on view at New York's School of Visual Arts through September 12th. - Marisa Olson

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Way back before most people had even heard of new media art, one publication (a classy zine, really) was charting the rise of the field. Intelligent Agent was founded in 1996, still the early days of the net for all intensive purposes, by a smart German woman named Dr. Christiane Paul-- she'd later go on to become new media curator at the Whitney. Like many such DIY ventures, the publication has gone through a series of phase changes, from print to online, to hiatus, and back. Now edited by artist and media scholar Patrick Lichty, under Paul's guidance as publisher, the venerable magazine is available in both print and PDF formats. It continues to present the front wave of art and theory, and the most recent issue, which is built around the catalog for the "Social Fabrics" exhibition curated by Lichty and Susan Ryan, is no exception. While big fashion magazines produce their fattest ad-driven issues during the summer months, IA's latest free PDF will give readers a chance to see projects by a handful of forward-thinking artist/designers who not only design wearable art that marries textiles and technology, but also push fashion from the realm of pop culture into deeper social engagement. The resulting portfolios, interviews, and essays offer critical insight into the work and, in keeping with the fashion mag analogy, posit trend alerts for the future of media art. - Marisa Olson

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Well-Written Pictures

Chris Ashley's HTML drawings are tightly-executed formal expressions that demonstrate the beautiful things that can be made with code. Drawing on simple elements such as 90-degree angles, shadows, and gradients, Ashley writes strings of code that appear to viewers as solid images. In fact, the often maze-like circuits that snake around in these images might read as optical illusions or even futile labyrinths if one tries to see each piece's components as anything other than part of a cohesive whole. While they initially read as very formal and perhaps even rigid, seeing the HTML drawings in relation to Ashley's paintings and watercolor drawings allows viewers to realize the sense of play that can emerge from rule-based work. In fact, Ashley very precisely pushes the envelope in what might be considered coloring between the lines. The artist posts these images to his blog and has managed to overcome the frequent challenge of translating digital works into the physical realm and shows his drawings on paper and glass in galleries. At the moment, his work can be seen at San Francisco's David Cunningham Projects. - Marisa Olson

Image: Chris Ashley, La Passeggiata, 20080809, HTML, 350 x 390 pixels

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Ready and Able Art

The current exhibition at Seoul's Total Museum of Contemporary Art is a challenging one, not so much because the art is complex (though it's certainly dynamic) but because curator Byeong Sam Jeon's explicit goal is to change people's minds. "thisAbility vs. Disability" is a group show of ten projects by Korean and international artists that explore questions of human functioning and capability by addressing the senses. The show is motivated by a desire to "invite a reappraisal of disability" and assert that what many often call "'disability' is but a difference, not a defect." Invited artists Mika Fukumori; Haru Ji & Graham Wakefield; Jae Min Lee; Mian Sheng Lim (Leon); Haemin Kim; Kichul Kim; Pauline Oliveros, Leaf Miller, Zevin Polzin, & Zane Van Dusen; David Parker; Jin Wan Park & Jae Joong Lee; David Parker and Dmitry Strakovsky have created interactive works that reprogram the typical experience of an artwork, with hands seeing paintings, Braille emitting sound, one's touch generating light, and a harmonic bell that musically interprets the listener's heartbeat. Many Korean artists have been early adopters of new media and have actively pursued a relationship to science and technology in their work, but Jeon worries that many of the major exhibitions devoted to this work "have focused only on aesthetic aspects, or the novelty of the genre itself," rather than addressing bigger social and political issues. His hope, with this exhibition, is that "These artworks can spark revelations that break social prejudice and affirm difference." - Marisa Olson

Image: Haemin Kim, dot . a scene = sin? at the sea _ tactuaL [si:gak] series #2, 2008

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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.