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.

In the Future-Past Tense

The fantasy of the future and the utopian promises of new technologies have always gone hand-in-hand. If the history of technology's evolution tells the story of our culture, we can also trace our present-day novelties back to the root of our anxieties about the future and the problems these devices hoped to solve. With this correlation in mind, the interactive DVD novel The Imaginary 20th Century (2007) by Norman Klein, Margo Bistis, and Andreas Kratky, jumps back to the fin de siècle era between the 19th and 20th centuries. It was a time of wonder when new technologies and their representation were wedded in documents like panoramic films of public light shows and short actualities about newfangled transportation devices called roller skates. The novel tells the story of "the Chicago World's Fair in 1893, and the story of a woman (Carrie), who in 1901, selects four men to seduce her, each with his own version of the new century" in a recombinatory visual narrative that overlaps 2,200 images culled from primary documents, architectural plans, photos, and other ephemera with an original score. The project speaks to the multiplicity of visions circulating about what the new century would hold, and it's an even more past-tense follow-up to Norman Klein's interactive novel, Bleeding Through: Layers of Los Angeles, 1920-1986 (2003). Klein's work has clearly resonated with at least eleven people, because closing this week at Otis College of Art and Design's Ben Maltz Gallery is "The Future Imaginary," an exhibition that responds to The Imaginary 20th Century with the work of artists Deborah Aschheim, Jeff Cain, Tom Jennings, Jon Kessler, Ed Osborn, Lea Rekow, Douglas Repetto, Phil Ross, Kari Rae Seekins and Aaron Drake, and Susan Simpson. Each contribution embodies the special genre of ...


Real-Time Legend

Image: Sonia Sheridan, Color-in-Color I, II/Sonia Sheridan, 1970

Let's admit it. Many of us have done it. You simply lift the lid on the photocopier, press your face (or other body part) against the glass, and hit "print." Sonia Sheridan has made an art out of this form of self-portraiture. The phenomenon of artists using the oft-overlooked tools around them is one with a long tradition. Think of Lillian Schwartz and the computers that surrounded her at Bell Labs, or Sadie Benning and the toy camera her father, James Benning, gave her. The list is long. And there's something about the convergence of play and experimentation that has made work like this a locus for forwarding new media. In Sheridan's case, it's partly a result of a deep attunement to the relationship between industrial methods and creative drives that has persisted for over sixty years. She was the beneficiary of a 3M residency program which allowed her to make work with equipment like their Thermo-Fax and Color-in-Color machines. In the legendary Jack Burnham-curated exhibition, "Software" (Jewish Museum, 1969), Sheridan allowed viewers to play with these machines, as well. The resultant work enabled her to comment on the compression of time in the conception-to-realization process, positioning her as an early theorist of "real time" art-making and communication. Meanwhile, her art projects helped establish the aesthetics of electronic graphics, while simultaneously pushing the formal boundaries (light, line, color) of seemingly simple systems and drawing these experiments into more and more complex generative systems. Like many artists of her generation opening up new tools, the body became a common site of investigation, and the images she continues to make reflect the metamorphosis of the body in relationship to machines. The Daniel Langois Foundation maintains an extensive archive on ...


Media Studies


This is the first installment of a monthly column by Rhizome's Contributing Editor Marisa Olson. "Media Studies" will explore timely issues within the broader field of technology. Each post will pay specific attention to the relationship between these subjects and artistic practice. For this column, Marisa provides a reading list on the topic of "Experimental Geography". In recent years, access to geographical tools and data collection has expanded rapidly, allowing many artists to rethink their relationship to the earth and geographical study. This column provides a summation of publications relevant to these developments.

Please join us tomorrow for a panel, organized by Marisa, on "Experimental Geography". Beginning at 3pm in the New Museum's theater, Creative Time curator Nato Thompson, who curated an exhibition of the same title for Independent Curators International, will lead a discussion with artists Lize Mogel and Damon Rich. - Ceci Moss

The following is an initial list of readings that might be of interest to anyone researching experimental geography. It includes key theoretical texts on the nature of space, texts on locative media, and works on radical cartography. Many of them cross over into game theory, cyberfeminism, relations between real and virtual spaces, surveillance, tactical media, psychogeography, situationism, sound art, networked cultures, site-specific installation art, and other related sub-themes. It's tempting to sort these into temporal or topical categories, but to do so might be to inappropriately compartmentalize an ongoing discourse that moves in new directions every day.

This is only a starting point. Please feel free to add texts in the comments. Links to related syllabi would also be a great resource!

Janet Abrams and Peter Hall (eds), Else/Where: Mapping -- New Cartographies of Networks and Territories, Univ Minnesota Design Institute, 2006

Saul Albert, "Locative Literacy," Mute, July 12, 2004

Marc Augé, Non-Places ...


Tactical Transactions

Image: UBERMORGEN, Superenhanced Generator (Logo), 2009

If you're not already familiar with UBERMORGEN.COM, now would be a good time to get acquainted. The duo formed by Hans Bernhard and Lizvlx came onto the tactical media scene in the days of Toywar. When the Bernhard-founded group etoy was taken-on by e-commerce retailer, the artists successfully brought the company down, thus providing a keystone moment in the perpetual headbutt between artists and corporations and launching the press release as the tactical media artist's weapon par excellence. In the spirit of many a corporate breakup, the participants in Toywar went on to funnel their win into the launch of new brands and creative identities. Notable among them are the Yes Men and UBERMORGEN. Taking as their name a German word that refers to the perpetual hope of a better tomorrow, the focus of UBERMORGEN's projects has been centered largely around legal issues related to copyright and surveillance. These works include [V]ote-Auction (2000), in which they attempted to auction-off a US Presidential vote to the highest bidder, and the Rhizome-commissioned project Google Will Eat Itself (GWEI) (2006), and "autocannibalistic model" in which revenue from auto-placed Google ads was used to buy Google stock, with a business plan to turn ownership of Google over to its users. In collaboration with Paolo Cirio and Alessandro Ludovico, Lizvlx and Bernhard recently took on in a duel that pitted their "robot-perversion technology" against the company's proprietary book preview software. According to the artists, their copyright-busting book-downloading tool was eventually sold to Amazon for an "undisclosed sum," but the story of the face-off (entitled Amazon Noir, 2006) floats among the ranks of other tactical media mythologies--not unlike some of the projects by their frequent collaborators that ...


The Nostradamus of New Media?

Videos: John F. Simon, Jr., Two works from the series "Winds Across the Inner Sea," 2007

Artists often loathe living in the shadow of their older, more famous works. But it is difficult to begin an article about John F. Simon, Jr. without paying homage to his 1997 project, Every Icon. The brilliant algorithmic piece exists on a 32x32 pixel grid, in which any element of the grid can be colored black or white. As it crunches through the billions of possible illuminative patterns, it will--at least theoretically--eventually display "every icon" possible. The work, itself, has become iconic. It's often the first work of art shown in lectures about internet art, and while the code behind the work speaks volumes about the speed of behind-the-scenes technological development, the resultant display is a testament to the poetic beauty and creative potential of a few simple lines and squares. This marriage of sublime potentiality and mathematical complexity has continued to be the cornerstone of Simon's work over the last ten years--as we might expect from an artist who managed to snag the URL! Simon is now enjoying his first Italian solo exhibition, in the form of a ten-year retrospective at Collezione Maramotti (Reggio Emilia, IT), entitled "Outside In: Ten Years of Software Art." The exhibit presents work from 1999 to the present and the title might refer both to the show's ability to "zoom-in" on an artist's oeuvre or the way in which Simon's relationship to code and form has changed over the years. After making a professional leap from science to art, Simon's early works treated code like a specimen. Akin to a microscope whose focus is pulled back to reveal the larger sample, his work has progressed in a way that now ...