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 Round

Image: Lucky Dragons, Showing, 2009

The question of the relationship between performance and its documentation is an interesting, if longstanding one. These relations have continued to shift with the emergence of newer and newer media, so that the telephonic or radio broadcast, camera, and internet transmission become implicated in the content they capture and deliver, often begging a chicken vs. egg-style question of whether the performance or the recording is paramount. The "Stage II" exhibition at New York's The Project gallery returns attention to the site of performance, even as it displays the residual ephemera of artists' actions. The work of artist Dave Allen stimulates a visceral connection with audiences in tapping into sound art's classic obsession with silence to deliver Silence Recordings, Hansa Studios, Berlin (2001), which fills the gallery space with the seemingly-silent recordings of vacant artist studios and empty concert halls. Lucky Dragons is a band and art collective whose work encompasses music, drawing, public collaboration, and more. For "Stage II," they present Showing (2009), a sculptural installation that proves the artists need not be physically present to make noise. An arrangement of their homebrew instruments featuring rocks, wood, and analog electronics sits in waiting for viewers to move them, generating a shift in their electrical field and a resultant shift in the shape of the sounds they are set to make. While these two projects provide perfect bookends for the exhibition, the show also includes work by Larry Krone, Rashaad Newsome, and Superamas, each of whom is engaged in the practice of splicing together object relationships, filmic clips, or cultural reenactments to establish a new interdependence between artist, viewer, stage, and document. - Marisa Olson


Influential Activism

Survival Research Laboratories, Amsterdam, 2008 (Photo by Boris VanHoytema)

The word "influencer" is most often used by marketing strategists to refer to cool people to whom other consumers turn to for fashion and food advice. But the organizers of The Influencers, an annual "culture jamming and guerrilla communication fest" brandish this word like a weapon in the fight against the corporatization of culture. On February 5-7, the artist groups d-i-n-a and Eva and Franco Mattes (a.k.a. 0100101110101101.ORG) will present their fifth festival "dedicated to exploring unconventional weapons of mass communication." Their approach grows out of a classical perspective on détournement but is updated by an understanding of networked infrastructures and new forms of mobility and social organizing that effect protest strategies in digital culture. In addition to talks, workshops, and impromptu interventions, the festival's events will revolve around eight commissioned works by Survival Research Laboratories, Ztohoven, BLU, Improv Everywhere, Julius von Bismarck, Wu Ming, Swoon, and Wolfgang Staehle. This is an eclectic group, to say the least, whose work ranges from graffiti to pyrotechnics to comedic group performances to poetic video installations. The group's diversity serves to illustrate the wide reach of commercialism's impact and the wide range of people interested in fighting back in support of the liberties that become threatened by corporate encroachment onto public space and public speech. One goal of the festival will be to map out how these alternative voices can infiltrate the hardlined frontier between public and private, so these artists were thus selected for "their taste for risk, the impulse that moves the authors of these projects to build dangerous machines, act politically incorrectly, use anachronous technology, or simply to defy common sense." It sounds both fun and challenging, but if you can't make it ...


Reaping What You Sow

Image: Victory Gardens Starter Kit

Artist/designer Amy Franceschini's newest project updates an old idea with continuing social resonance. Her Victory Gardens initiative is an effort to get people growing more of their own food, "for increased local food security and reducing the food miles associated with the average American meal." Not unlike Cat Mazza's Stitch for Senate project, which draws on WWII-era programs to keep people calm about the war and supportive of the troops abroad (in this case, through "charitable knitting"), Franceschini's project spins paranoia about food security and emergency preparedness into a creative community-building strategy. In collaboration with the San Francisco-based organization Garden for the Environment, Victory Gardens facilitates the growing of shared local gardens in the name of urban sustainability. The idea germinated in 2006, when Franceschini made it the focus of her SECA Award installation at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Growing the venture in new directions each year, in 2007 a related book featuring essays by Lucy Lippard and Mike Davis was published by Gallery 16. This year the art project blossomed from a city unification initiative into a full-fledged social networking site! The Garden Registry is an interactive map of "food production zones" through which other victory gardeners can connect with each other, share tips on working organically, and contribute to "an important portrait of land use." The site launched this week and is calling for participants to upload their information. Meanwhile, Franceschini offers potential Bay Area gardeners a tricycle-delivered Starter Kit to get growing. As outlined online, the accoutrements and their delivery mechanism perfectly resemble the spirit of other projects by Futurefarmers, the art and design collective founded by Franceschini with the goal of "making work that is relevant to the time and space surrounding us." - Marisa ...


Use Your Illusion

Damon Zucconi, Towards Equillibrium, 2007

Damon Zucconi is a New York-based artist active in the "pro surfer" scene, having participated in both Supercentral and Nasty Nets, but his solo work is more clean-style than his dirt-style counterparts and might more easily be compared to Berlin-based artists AIDS-3D. All are part of a younger generation of artists who came of age with new media and have arrived at a particular fulcrum with respect to both celebrating the utopianism of technology and critiquing its dystopian failures. Next week, Zucconi's first solo show will open at Prato, Italy's Project Gentili gallery. Entitled "Presented as the Problem," the show is organized around the principles of diagnoses and prescriptions and draws on the distinction between treating symptoms versus underlying problems. The artist's approach is thus a rather tactical one, looking for the root impetus for cultural artifacts while also observing the cycles of recursion that swirl around the repetition of pop objects and scenarios. The show includes sculpture, video, and prints that seek to augment "classical dialectics of seeing and believing with eight meditations on contemporary visual culture." According to the gallery, "Each of the works finds temporary equilibrium between the poles of mystification and demystification--image as illusion and illusion as material fact." These works include the mysteriously titled / \ \ / which is a square mirror hung like a diamond with a Blade Runner: Final Cut poster wrapped around it from the back like an origami throwing star, and the eponymous centerpiece, "Presents Itself as the Problem," which is a novelty persistence of vision alarm clock whose digital readout displays only the message "I Want To Believe." X-Files viewers will appreciate this famous message of hope. Zucconi will also show a new video animation, Untitled (SONY, Lateral) which flips the axis on his earlier ...


Still Hitting Nerves


Italian new media magazine, Neural, has just celebrated their fifteenth anniversary. The publication was among the earliest tech-savvy page-turners and still has an appreciation for the importance of paper. In fact, to mark this special birthday, they've collaborated with S.W.A.M.P. (Doug Easterly and Matt Kenyon) for "a collective micro printing action." Subscribers will receive a limited edition piece of paper and envelope designed to commemorate the death toll in Iraq. They are then encouraged to send a letter or illustration to the White House, who are obliged by law to archive their mail, so that the stationary can act as "a Trojan horse slipping the unwanted and unacknowledged civilian body count data into official governmental archives." This is one of many exercises by S.W.A.M.P. in performatively exploring the machinery of control in post-industrial society. But (paper-cut possibilities aside) this project seems slightly less painful than their Improvised Empathetic Device (2005), which drove a blood-drawing needle into the flesh of wearers of their custom armband each time new wireless data was received regarding a rise in the war's death toll. While Neural's editorial direction is marked by broad coverage of the very diverse field of new media practice, hacktivism and tactical media are among their strong suits, so their collaboration with S.W.A.M.P. makes perfect sense. Another of their boldest strengths is their coverage of sound art and experiments in electronic music. Each issue is chockablock with CD reviews and engaging interviews, like the current issue's chat with Negativland. Neural may have an old school appreciation for the ancient medium of paper, but all this good pulp can also be found online, along with their archives and fresh feeds. - Marisa Olson

Image: Neural, Issue 31

Link »