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.

Getting to Your Safe Space

British artist Larisa Blazic has a background in architecture and an official graduate degree in hypermedia. For the last decade, she's been pursuing mergers of the two, using site-specific, interactive installations as a means of exploring space as a carrier of meaning. Her projects often employ audio and explore creative surveillance technologies to think-through and beyond the traditional ways in which so-called public art interventions communicate to the general public. In conjunction with the 2008 London Festival of Architecture (from July 14-20), she'll create an installation at the Novas Contemporary Urban Centre called In This Place of Safety. Blazic's argument is that we no longer rely solely on the basic needs of food, shelter, and emotional validation to feel safe, but that there is now a new environment for safety which can be observed in the structure of our surroundings. The project "uses a building as a projection screen to explore intersections between temporary video interventions, architecture, and art." In this case, the video will screen images of deserted public playgrounds overlaid with audio recordings of children discussing and defining personal safety. By activating the hot button issue of safety within this particular public format, Blazic hopes to initiate a correspondence between the content of the video and the context of the large, staid Southwark building facade onto which the images are cast. - Marisa Olson

Image: Larisa Blazic, In This Place of Safety (Video Still), 2008

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Who's To Say?

The Brooklyn Museum is hip to this internet thing. Their current show, "Click!" (note the dot-fun exclamatory spelling!) is the latest in what seems to be a slew of museum shows to pick-up the theme of "crowdsourcing." While this term, coined by Jeff Howe in a 2006 Wired Magazine article originally referred to corporate R&D, the principal of a large body of "amateur" volunteers making collective decisions has not only rocketed a number of online ventures to success, it's also become a model for online activism, collective organizing, and art. The Brooklyn Museum's show invokes New Yorker magazine columnist James Surowiecki's ideas about "The Wisdom of Crowds" (essentially that collective knowledge is greater than the sum of its parts) in inviting online audiences to discuss and vote on photographs submitted by respondents to an open call. Curator Shelley Bernstein (whose official title at the museum is not Curator but, of course, Manager of Information Systems) opens a tricky can of worms in asking whether a diverse crowd can be "just as 'wise' at evaluating art as the trained experts?" In a sense it doesn't matter, like curators and critics before them, what they say goes. After the crowd has been sufficiently sourced, the artists get an exhibit at the museum and are displayed according to rank. Incidentally, the assignment for this photo study is to capture the face of Brooklyn, so the layers of sociological reflection are highly recursive, which somehow seems fitting. In her curatorial statement for Phantom Captain: Art and Crowdsourcing, at New York's Apex Art gallery, Aurora Picture Show founding director Andrea Grover argued that "crowdsourcing as a method of artistic production appears to be heir to the throne of 1960s and 70s happenings and participatory art." Fortunately, you don't ...


Mr. Roboto

Machines have assisted people in creating images for centuries. From the camera obscura to the overhead and slide projectors to the photocopier, these mostly light-based tools have helped make light work of creating mimetic images. More recently, artists have started focusing on the machines themselves (this includes algorithmic software bots), letting them make the work, rather than simply assisting in the process. Of course, this all depends on how you define the work and the act of making it. Jürg Lehni has begun creating robotic spraypainting machines with names like Hector, Rita, or Viktor, anthropomorphic monikers that recall early fantasies -- or anxieties -- about the robots that would eventually replace human workers. The Swiss artist doesn't seem worried about losing his job. In fact, he's a master delegator, collaborating with (one might even say outsourcing to) others who help determine the form and content of the drawings that his machines will make. A show open July 9 - August 31 at the London ICA, entitled "A Recent History of Writing and Drawing," will display a variety of mechanical devices for art-making, centering around Viktor. Lehni has teamed-up with British graphic designer Alex Rich to program Viktor's mark-makings in such a way as to initiate a conversation about the role of technologies in expression, primarily by inviting the public to join workshops which allow them to participate in the drawings and to view demonstrations by other practitioners who'll use Viktor to make their own work. This overlapping melange of users gets to the heart of the project. As curator Emily King says, "Moving away from the blunt duality of man vs. machine, it is now possible to appreciate the particular qualities of various forms of mechanical and digital mark-making." This all begs the question of whether it's ...


On Top of the Fold: Art

Steve Lambert's Add Art project (a 2008 Rhizome Commission co-developed with the artist's colleagues in the Eyebeam R&D lab) offers home-delivery art exhibitions in the form of your Firefox browser window. Internet users who download Lambert's free open source plug-in will see an aesthetic overhaul in the sites they visit, as advertisements are replaced by visual art created or curated by a different guest, every two weeks. The project is a perfect outgrowth of Lambert's involvement with the Anti-Advertising Agency, who work to co-opt "the tools and structures used by the advertising and public relations industries" to call into question "the purpose and effects of advertising in public space." These efforts have manifested in forms ranging from bus shelter ads and stickers to ideologically-bent think tanks and objects of propaganda. With a keen awareness of the impact of advertising on public space, the move to the internet--where so many of us dwell and encounter a daily barrage of ads--is a thoughtful one. Rather than offering yet another software tool for blocking-out advertisements, Add Art fills this space with something more intriguing, and the biweekly exhibits that have thus far been presented successfully generate discourse about value, aesthetics, and the contextual frameworks within which we receive information about the world. The current show (imagine each ad box in your browser window as a gallery) is a rather humorous and almost absurdly literal take on the context of adding art to your field of vision by replacing ads with it. Charles Broskoski essentially blacks-out the ad boxes on sites with his contribution, which is a collection of digital reproductions of famous black monochromatic paintings, cropped, resized to the proper specs, and optimized for the net--meaning that these paintings by the likes of Rauchenberg, Kelly, Malevich, Marden, Reinhardt ...


UV Tagging

Initially, Elliott Malkin's new work, Graffiti for Butterflies, reads like a science fair project. One can just see the riveting subtitle, "Directing monarch butterflies to urban food sources along migratory routes in North America" taped-up in bold letters across the top of a trifold sign affixed with statistical charts and photographic evidence. In truth, this mostly internet-based project is a perfect spoof of the recent spate of R&D art experiments that saturate the web, performing rather than practicing science, even as it provides us with a series of informative links and nice photos of caterpillars and butterflies thriving in the wilds of midtown Manhattan. Malkin's big idea was to spraypaint printed decals of milkweed flowers (the food source of choice for Monarchs) with aerosol sunblock that reflects UV light, thus making it stand out to those creatures with "butterfly vision." The images are then to be placed remarkably close to the real thing they represent, in order to broadcast the signal (Malkin's got the techie language down pat) to the migratory creatures that they have arrived at a way station. He likens it to "the equivalent of a fast-food sign on a highway, advertising rest stops." A demo video, in simulated "butterfly vision," illustrates the process of creating these nouveau golden arches. It would be ironic if hordes of monarchs took the bait, as the same type of mimicry the artist invokes is a natural defense strategy often used by other species of butterflies hoping to masquerade as the poison creatures. So far, Malkin's only tested one "prototype," but it did manage to attract a butterfly who even colonized the potted milkweed with her own caterpillar eggs. Ultimately, he confesses to being more interested in distributing the idea than tagging the entire city himself. This ...