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.

Changing the (Art?) World


While both the Republican and Democratic presidential candidates are running for office on the platform of change, the question that seems to be on many peoples' minds is the kind of change that will in fact be effected--no matter whom is elected. Mobilization around the leading candidate, in many ways, resembles a swelling social movement, but the extent to which the mainstream media is implicated in this movement begs the question of the shifting relationship between politics and those other visual spectacles we call Art. The current exhibition at Elizabeth Dee Gallery, entitled "After October," asks precisely this question of what's changing (or what needs to change) in art's ability to operate politically, while pivoting on a double entendre that speculates on what will happen after election day and ruminating on what happened to art following the October Revolution. Curator Tim Saltarelli's curatorial statement poses the question of whether a new approach might be taken, given the recent misfires in protest art wherein an effort to negate a political system or scenario instead resulted in entrenching it. The work of Andreas Bunte, Duncan Campbell, Thea Djordjadze, Matias Faldbakken, Claire Fontaine, Luca Frei, Cyprien Gaillard and Pia Rönicke is presented in remembrance of these historical moments and their resultant iconography. After all, the recognizability of, say, "May 1968 Art," which has effectively become a brand, is part of the problem. Saltarelli's invitation is for the art world to begin allowing "for works of art to resonate in different ways than being literal, that are not, always, immediately, accessible." Perhaps in our efforts to break these codes we will decipher new ways of thinking about how to change the world. - Marisa Olson

Image credit: Claire Fontaine, First Flight (2001), 2005. (Two twenty-five cent coins, steel box-cutter blades ...


Keeping Hope Alive


"Optimism,", the newest exhibition organized by independent curator Michael Connor takes on the not-so-small task of exploring "the dreams and realities of making progress and changing the world." As everything seems to be crashing all around us, it can be hard--and even risky--to maintain a glass-half-full attitude toward things. Even more challenging is the prospect of making political art that doesn't simply aestheticize politics or that actually makes an impact, rather than simply preaching to the choir of those who already share the artist's beliefs. The work of Becca Albee, Ghana Thinktank Collaborative (John Ewing, Matey Odonkor & Christopher Robbins), Matt Keegan, Zoe Leonard, Tara Mateik, Walid Raad, and Paul Shambroom fleshes-out this tricky conundrum while offering productive and hopeful gestures. The common factor in their work is a frank assessment of a situation and an informed, if humble move to take matters into their own hands--an act which implies a belief in the possibility of change. At times these efforts manifest in almost humorous explorations of failure and impossibility, while at other times they are more explicitly activist and/or hopeful. The exhibit is on view at the Westport Arts Center through November 30th, effectively meaning that it will continue even after the current presidential campaigns hinging on the prospect of change have ceased. While the notion of optimism is often dismissed as Pollyanna, Connor says the show offers an alternate take on the concept, laying out strategies for proactive political engagement and means of future-improving. He suggests, "The glass is not yet half-full, but it will be, once the wine is poured." - Marisa Olson

Image: Matt Keegan, Without touch, we can't connect. Without skin, we can't touch, 2008

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Art-Up Your Computering


The awesome New York arts organization Artists Space has come up with three new ways to spice up your computering, no matter where you live. If we had to make a list of the main things we do on our computers everyday, wouldn't typing, watching YouTube videos, and staring at our desktop be high on the index? Now Artists Space--under the savvy influence of curator Joseph Del Pesco--has initiated three ways to art-up those acts. The first, "TypeCast", is a series highlighting one artist-designed font per month, available as a free download. This month, you can find Mungo Thomson's Negative Space, which he describes as "a graphic scaffolding for the sake of alpha-numeric meaning." It's cool and it will totally impress your employer. Following "TypeCast" is "YouTube Commentary Project," which addresses a major problem with the video-sharing site. There just isn't enough commentary and recursion there! (sic!) Nonetheless, inviting smart international artists to verbalize their reactions atop the video of their choice sounds like a can't-lose idea. Stay tuned to Artists Space's YouTube channel for more of these videos, which premiered with a work by Cesare Pietroiusti. And finally, if you're a fan of the element of surprise, then "Artists Space Daily" is for you. It's "a free software program that downloads an artist 'postcard' from the internet and places it on the desktop of your computer, once per day." While this brings art into viewers' lives that they neither have to pay for nor live with for more than 24 hours, the project brings attention to international emerging artists you just may want to see again. It's all fun, it's all free, and it's all for the love of contemporary art, so get with the program and ...


Questions, Comments, Reactions?


When the cinematic masterpiece Wayne's World was released in 1992, their tag line was, "You'll Laugh, You'll Cry...You'll Hurl!" Who among us couldn't say the same about the media blunders we've seen recently, in connection with the U.S. presidential elections? Brooklyn-based artistic duo MTAA dramatize this sort of overwhelming desire to emote in their newest project, Our Political Work, which they describe as Beckett-like. The "Waiting For Godot" playwright might well approve of their creation, which features 141 clips of the artists screaming, laughing, and yelling as they wait in vain for something to change. The clips are randomly strung together using generative software, not unlike the clips in their One Year Performance Video, thus locking them in a state of perpetual indignity. The longer one watches, though, the more they are called upon to consider the roles of the artists and the very nature of their "political work." Are they political agents or spectators? Are their blurts and indiscretions responses to the behavior of political actors, or are they themselves enacting politics? Take a look for yourself, online. The piece is hosted by Lisboa 20 Arte Contemporânea, whose LX 2.0 Project commissioned the work. - Marisa Olson

Image: MTAA, Our Political Work, 2008 (Screenshot)

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A Big New Space for New Media


As of today, the U.S. will have a bold new venue for new media art and performance: EMPAC. Short for Experimental Media & Performing Arts Center, the Troy, NY-based facility embodies state-of-the-artness and its affiliation with the highly regarded research university, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, ensures that the installations, performances, and concerts presented there will always be ahead of the technological curve. The space, itself, is a masterpiece. The 220,000-square foot building, designed by Grimshaw, includes a 1200-seat concert hall with an adjustable fabric ceiling; a 400-seat theater with a 70-foot fly tower; two black-box studio spaces with tunable, tilting wall tiles; and acoustically isolated artist/researcher work spaces. Within these walls, and under the direction of Johannes Goebel (who helped found ZKM) and curators Kathleen Forde, Hélène Lesterlin, and Micah Silver, visitors will experience work that emphasizes immersion, interactivity, and time-based media. For the next three weekends, EMPAC will present a major festival full of provocative performances and installations by The Wooster Group, dumb type, Workspace Unlimited, Verdensteatret, Vox Vocal Ensemble and International Contemporary Ensemble, Per Tengstrand, Madlib, Cecil Taylor, Pauline Oliveros, Richard Siegal/The Bakery, Robert Normandeau, Fieldwork, Gamelan Galak Tika + Ensemble Robot, and others. This unveiling has been several years in the making but reservations are going fast, so you won't want to wait to get your tickets and get over to Troy. - Marisa Olson

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