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.

Permanent Junk For a Changing World


Image: Shih Chieh Huang, Twilight Zone, 2008
(Installation shot from Zero1 Biennial, San Jose Museum of Art, 2008) Courtesy of the artist

Let's face it: A lot of new media art is mystifying. Shih Chieh Huang's work is mesmerizing. Of course, his installations have much in common with other media art. They light-up and like to be exhibited in dark rooms, they often employ electronic circuitry and robotics, and they are dynamic rather than static--his works move, blink, and make noise. But it somehow seems just as appropriate to connect Huang to the vocabulary of kinetic art (where there have indeed been many media innovators) than to link him exclusively to interactive art. Typically, his work is only interactive insofar as it stimulates deep visceral and emotional responses, but then by that barometer we might as well acknowledge that all art is potentially interactive... In Huang's work, the subject of high technology is perhaps even more important than using high tech media. The artist is a big fan of dollar stores and recycle bins. He collects cheap toys, plastic water bottles, and small, often overlooked colorful trinkets to assemble into what often feel like synthetic life-forms. A series of neon zip ties become a prickly spine for a shrimp-like character, while glowing wire tendrils embody other sea creatures' tentacles. Throwing in a little colored water, some LEDs, and plastic bags that appear to breath (earth, wind, and fire, anyone?), Huang gives us a candy-coated reflection of the media ecology many of us fail to see. In his current solo exhibition, entitled, "Connected: Eject before disconnecting," at the RISD Museum of Art through June 21st, the artist invokes the kind of right-under-our-noses, generally unspoken yet totally commonplace messages associated with personal computing. By doing so, he connects the ...


Conference Report: NET.ART (SECOND EPOCH)


Last week I attended the NET.ART (SECOND EPOCH) conference in Buenos Aires, organized by Medialab-Prado. The subtitle, "The Evolution of Artistic Creation in the Net-system" speaks to the broad range of perspectives included at the conference and, indeed, the Madrid-based organization was able to draw participants from all over Latin America, including Argentina, Peru, Brazil, Mexico, and Chile to the week-long panel series, which was hosted by the Centro Cultural de España.

Most of the discussion at the conference centered around framing the history of net art, articulating its recent transitions, and assessing the current state of the field. There was a general agreement that while many critics declared net art dead after the fall of the dot-com economy, it in fact never went anywhere and is instead still thriving.

Minnesota-based curator Steve Dietz and Amsterdam-based critic Josephine Bosma presented keynote talks on the current state of the network and networked art. These talks were framed as "seminars," with each lecture followed by structured group debates. Dietz's talk was entitled "Beyond 'Beyond Interface': Art in the Age of Ubiquitous Networking." He proposed that we consider whether what we are seeing now as truly a second epoch of net art, or rather something more like art after networks. While his talk came before Bosma's closing lecture, the latter looked back farther in taking a different historical perspective. Bosma articulated five generations of networked artists, the first of which predated the public interest. Her paper was prefaced by a confession that critics always view work through the lens of the era in which they came upon the art scene, and that while she is considered an expert in the field, she now feels removed from the present generation of net artists who are no longer working within the "Net ...


It's Getting Hot in Here

Image: Claudia X. Valdes, Revelation 2213, (2009) interactive networked video installation

Claudia Valdes refers to her work as "a rehearsal for the end of the world." The New Mexico-based artist employs photography, performance, video, interactive installations, and painting to address the subject of nuclear weapons. In her first solo exhibition, up now at Seattle's Lawrimore Project, she dials-in on the specific period of our nuclear history that followed 2001 (i.e. 9/11 and the ongoing war in Iraq), to trace the evolution of the bomb in the popular imagination and the rhetoric of holocaust and apocalypse in the present. Entitled "Ten Million Degrees," the exhibition includes many formal variations in different media, all of which initiate a tension between documentary, archive, and performance. By recreating nuclear test blasts in Turner-like watercolors and processing snapshots and video clips to channel radiation and frenzied vibrations, the artist stands between past and present in gauging the temperature of viewers' historical understanding. In fact, in her video installation, Revelation 2213 (2009), Valdes inserts viewers into public domain footage of nuclear tests through real-time chroma keying of gallery-goers' images. The artist performs her own escape fantasy in Minutes to Midnight, a ten-minute video that distends Super 8 footage of her public performances at New Mexico's Trinity Test Site. In the spirit of the science fiction genre her work recalls, Valdes traces the fears and dreams associated with technological evolution in the performance, which was repeated over a two-year period, thus sliding between historical event and historiography. These and other works are on view through March 14. Readers with a special interest in nuclear themes might also visit Joy Garnett's Bomb Project, which includes digitized historical records, images, and documentation of other artists' projects, including Michael Light's re-photographing project, 100 Suns ...


Time Keeps on Ticking, Ticking, Ticking, Ticking, Ticking, Ticking......

Image: Graham Dolphin, The Possibilites Are Endless, 2008

Time. It's an old topic. From cave paintings to code paintings, the recording of time is among the most basic and persistent of subject matters seen in art, and it has very often propelled new tools for keeping itself measured. Oddly enough, despite time's catalyzing role in the innovation of techniques and technologies, time-based media has all too often been left out of exhibitions surveying creative explorations of time. But the current exhibition at Dundee Contemporary Arts, entitled "Timecode," takes the pulse of temporality from a more electronically enlightened perspective. The show does include works employing painting and sculpture, but puts them in conversation with works such as Thomson & Craighead's "narrative clock," Horizon (2009), in which webcams around the world convey a perpetual horizon, and Tatsuo Miyajima's large-scale LED timepiece, Counter Void S-1 (2003). Situated next to classic performance works by the likes of Douglas Gordon and On Kawara, and of course the eponymous multi-channel film by Mike Figgis, the show holds a lens to the myriad ways in which time endures as an organizing principle for our lives and our creativity. - Marisa Olson


Virtuosos of Voice


Images, Golan Levin and Zach Lieberman, "Messa di Voce: Fluid"

In 2003, Golan Levin and Zach Lieberman developed a project called Messa di Voce, which translates to "placing the voice." Oddly enough, it took almost six years for the Ars Electronica-awarded project to find a place in North America. Tonight at NYU's Frederick Loewe Theater, master vocalists Joan La Barbara and Jaap Blonk will be on hand to help demonstrate Levin and Lieberman's classic computer vision work. The project responds visually to vocal input, so that sound becomes an instrument for drawing and animation. The vocalist's guttural and glottal improvisations will generate a tension between speech acts and speechless performance that's not to be missed. It's the first of three live concerts presented this week by the Electronic Music Foundation, in a series called "The Human Voice in a New World." Each event highlights the richness and diverse uses to which this earliest of instruments can be put. On the 27th, British vocalist Trevor Wishart will appear at Judson Church with the NY premieres of Vocalise and Globalalia. The seminal works explore, respectively, the potential of the voice "when in a tight corner," and the universality of the human tongue. Globalalia processes the syllables of 26 different languages sampled from international radio and TV broadcasts to formulate a sort of vocal dance. And on the 28th, Berlin-based virtuoso David Moss will premiere the English version of his Voice Box Spectra. The Sydney Morning Herald has described the piece as "somewhere between scatting and scary. Think Jim Carey doing an impression of Ella Fitzgerald while being eaten by the creature from Alien 2." Exploring FTL ("faster than logic") communication, the work combines sound, text, and personal electronics in a grouping of new songs. All in all ...