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.

Team Spoof

In the days of DIY online publishing, what we once knew as agitprop has increasingly taken the form of parasitic media. In such projects, activists leech qualities from the web presence of the host they intend to critique and use these visual resemblances (logos, site maps, page layouts, even URLs) to mimic their opponent in parallel sites that shoot off rather rhizomatically. Like a scientific parasite, the activist lives off the host, but what really thrives is the self-referential critique enabled by this form of parody. The Italian collective, Les Liens Invisibles, excels at initiatives such as these. In their open source project, Fake is a Fake, they make it easy for internet users with access to free Word Press blogging software to mimic high profile sites like news and government agencies, while inserting their own statements. "If at one time or another in your life you wanted to speak with 'the master's voice,'" they say, "then you are ready for our brand new fake-publishing services!" Constantly updated and refined by a group of devoted developers, the list of available spoofs continues to grow. Their most recent (ironically credited to Luther Blissett, the open source nom de plume--taken from the given name of a Jamaican footballer--originated in Italy for hundreds of worldwide activists) uses the upcoming games in Beijing as a backdrop for discussing China's attitude towards human rights. In the announcement of the Peking 2008 site, they declared, "While the Olympic curtain softly falls on the Chinese repression in Tibet, the imaginary art-group Les Liens Invisibles celebrates the upcoming Olympic Games with a new fake-based hybridation between art, activism, and advertising strategies." The ubiquity and recognizability of branded messages make them particularly vulnerable to such forms of plagiarism. The artists' disclaimer for Fake is a ...


A Feast for Your Eyezz

One of the hallmarks of the current era of net art is the exhibitory display of one's consumption. While a lot of early net art was self-reflexively directed at the traits of networked environments, newer work seems to be largely about running around and exploring those environments, then generating responses. The output of the pseudonymous artists behind (Jimpunk, Abe Linkoln, and Mr. Tamale) forms a bridge between these two eras. It incubated in the hour of the first boom's waning and waxed ahead of the current surf blog curve. As a result, (which, readers are forewarned, could very much hijack its predecessor's motto, "We Crash Your Browser With Content") marries the best qualities of these two eras. The site simultaneously evades initial detection as a blog while exploiting (in the true hacker sense of the word) all of the default structural conditions that make blogs such a performative space. The artists post heavily and skillfully manipulated videos, sound clips, images, and animations, to the order of optical poptitude; and while their individual posts stand on their own, the degree to which they harmonize with each other could finally--after so many decades--stand to illustrate the truly exquisite nature of the exquisite corpse. This is net art decadence at its richest. Now if the site sounds familiar to you, we'll admit to having covered it before, but the group's current summer marathon inspired us to remind you of its presence. This, afterall, is another trait of current net art blogs. There are no one-hit-wonders, and despite the ".tv" in the site's URL, there are no reruns here. To truly take in this collaborative artwork's beauty, one needs to resign themselves to the compulsion to repeat. - Marisa Olson

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Dancing with the Stars

This week, critic Ben Davis wrote an interesting treatise on "The Superartist." Davis uses the term to describe those artists who are super savvy at penetrating the media, and become superstars by virtue of their collaborations with big corporations and work in mainstream contexts. His argument was that so-called 'Superart' has a populist touch, and appreciation of the work tends to be an appreciation of being part of a collective, as opposed to an individual, aesthetic experience, just as the works themselves tend away from personal statements and towards blank social referents. As it turns out, this could be a very good critique of Lincoln Schatz's newest project, Esquire's Portrait of the 21st Century, in which the generative artist uses his own custom software to create an evolving portrait of those 75 people the magazine has deemed the most important people of the coming decades...Just in time for Esquire's 75th anniversary issue. Schatz has constructed a "CUBE," the white frosted glass walls of which very much resemble a Chelsea gallery facade except that the structure is studded with video cameras and Mac minis. The stars in question are invited into the cube for hour-long interviews about their personal interests, after which they are generatively collaged into an evolving constellation with other stars, according to their shared interests. In a tried and true display of the magazine's firm grasp of 21st century media, Schatz is keeping a blog in which the portraits are uploaded. So far, the footage is very beautiful and almost painterly in the ways that it overlaps and meshes together. It's easy to create corporate collaborations as sell-out projects, but harder to spend the time thinking about a work's wider resonance. The artist's bio says that his work "has focused ...


A Happy Medium

Currently on view in an off-beat neighborhood in the off-beat art city of Louisville, Kentucky, is an exhibition of nine very up-and-coming media artists: Justin Clark, Petra Cortright, Thomas Galloway, Michael Guidetti, Jacolby Satterwhite, Hayley Silverman, Will Simpson, Dan Wickerham, and Damon Zucconi. Curated by artist Ilia Ovechkin, co-founder of Loshadka--a group net art site of the "surf club" variety, the show (open at Plexus Contemporary through August 8th) includes many artists who work primarily on the internet or with web-derived materials and themes, but whose work for the show demonstrates a fluidity between online and offline forms. "The common thread between these artists is that they are all comfortable with being multidisciplinary and working across media," Ovechkin said, in Lousville's local Velocity Weekly, "but the conversation becomes even more interesting when you focus on the individual works and the topics they address." The familiar title of the Weekly piece was "The Medium is the Message," but Ovechkin seems eager to zoom further-in on the works, not prioritizing their form over their content. For instance, Jacolby Satterwhite's video, Model It, in which the artist is seen vogueing in front of the camera, might initially read as just another artist's response to YouTube culture, but the song in the piece was written by his mentally-ill mother and acts as a sort of empowerment anthem backdrop for Satterwhite's bigger commentary on "African American male patriarchy, sexuality, and material culture." Damon Zucconi's video Slow Rave (last minutes of trance energy), effects a spiritual experience on a well-lit dance floor by slowing down found footage of dancers at a rave. As the subjects gesture slowly and silently, the viewer identifies with the trance-like feeling they must be experiencing on a higher level. The binary "on" of a strobe ...


Raising the Bar in Singapore

Every two years, the International Symposium on Electronic Art (ISEA) lands in a different world city, drawing thousands of new media scholars and artists together and engaging the local community. Two rounds ago, in 2004, ISEA started on a cruise ship that sailed (ok, partied) from Helsinki to Stockholm before delivering participants in Tallin, Estonia. In 2006 ISEA came to San Jose, California, where it both gelled and collided with the Silicon Valley scene, inaugurating the annual Zero1 festival. This year the events leapt across the Pacific to Singapore, a small country with a huge media culture. From July 25th-August 3rd, the "world's premier media arts event for the critical discussion and showcase of creative productions applying new technologies in interactive and digital media" will present a range of exhibitions and public programs on five official themes: Locating media, Wiki Wiki, Ludic Interfaces, Reality Jam, and Border Transmissions. The panels and keynotes within this theme--delivered by many of the biggest names in the field--consider the current state of new media production and reception, and cast an eye toward the role of Pacific Rim participants in driving this field. A cornerstone of the festival is the main exhibition, installed at the National Museum of Singapore and called simply "ISEA2008 Juried Exhibition." This year's show provides a glimpse into contemporary media art practices not only in the work selected, but in the process of it's organization. The exhibit includes sixteen artworks, many of which were made by international collaborative teams, that were curated via a competitive open call. The selected artists were invited to Singapore for residencies, where they began to flesh-out their ideas and work in new media, technology, and science labs on the campus of the National University of Singapore. The result is a collection of works ...


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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.