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.

Image Search

To say that the internet is teeming with data or overflowing with information would be both an understatement and an almost unquantifiable fact, given the ever-shifting shape of the net. But even if the web's state of being is hard to pin down, artist Richard Wright is intrigued by the concrete ways it has contributed to the evolution of communication. In his upcoming exhibition, "How to Talk to Images," at London's HTTP Gallery, the artist presents new work resulting from his residency with HTTP founders that continues his exploration into the pictorial history of language. An established film and video artist, as well as a pedigreed new media practitioner and theorist, Wright's show makes a statement about the way that we use images to speak and our new habits of "searching" for, rather than truly seeing visual images. He's created a database of 50,000 random internet images in order to create two works that play with the communicative structure and users' expectations with regard to online searches. The Internet Speaks forces users to skip through the files one at a time, letting the material's statements come to the viewer, rather than allowing them to impose meaning. Meanwhile, The Mimeticon uses the same database but requires viewers to find images not by searching for keywords but by browsing by visual similarities. The latter is positioned as a Baroque search engine, invoking a time of decadent formal experimentation and mechanical development. The show runs July 4th-August 3rd and coincides with the release of a monograph on the artist's work as well as a poster featuring an essay by Wright, illustrated with typefaces marking the evolution of the western alphabet. While his thesis on searching versus seeing implies a new short-term memory on the ...


What's in a System?

The word "systems" is often used to describe the work of Jeanne van Heeswijki, and now the Netherlands-based artist has released a book by that title. In the ongoing interest of exploring the relationship between human and non-human systems, van Heeswijk's projects are worth a closer look. Often working site-specifically, on the basis of residencies, her modus operandi is to enter a community and invite its inhabitants to speak for themselves. This tactic has played-out in a number of ways ranging from inviting other artists to occupy her studio to inviting local schoolchildren to comment publicly on their harsh living environment. She describes this work as making "cultural models for public spaces," begging the question of what defines both these models and these spaces. A few of her projects have been "controversial," if only because these cultural models seems to call for sites of contestation, debate, and reconciliation. It's clear that the notion of an easy route does not compute in Heeswijk's approach to her practice, and -- usually working in collaboration with others -- she often eschews personal credit for the scenarios she concocts in order to place the emphasis on the intended beneficiaries of these designed encounters. But this lack of glory-seeking shouldn't be confused with a laissez-faire attitude. In truth, she belongs to a new generation of artists working to retool the relationship between art, activism, and public participation. It is the vocabulary of social codes and game-playing that regulates the artist's work and brings it into conversation with other network culture-based performances. Like many activist tomes, Heeswijk's new book functions much like a cookbook offering recipes for the assembly of such models. It is also partly a monograph on her previous work, which one can imagine does not lend itself to traditional ...


Less Lossy, More Glossy

What is one to do with all the world's magnetic tape, now doomed for dustbins and landfills as digital files push out the slinky black tendrils that preceded them in the family tree of recording media? Audio cassettes, VHS tapes, and those ancient vinyl records that came before them were the medium of choice for entire epochs of cultural production and, as such, have stored not only many of the world's most important creative moments, but also a large percentage of German artist Gregor Hildebrandt's personal nostalgia-fodder. Interestingly, it is preservationists and conservators who persist in using these materials to store works, and Hildebrandt's own practice certainly crosses similar territory by serving as a sort of memory repository. The artist uses old tapes to create portraits, sculptures, and other installations. His "magnetic tape on photocopy" pieces (such as Als würde ein Engel kommen (Cure), 2007) force a juxtaposition between two forms known for rendering low-fidelity or "lossy" copies, while creating a rupture, like a trickle of black blood, down the otherwise seamless faces of perished movie starlets and forgotten supermodels. For Schallplattensäule (2007), he built a tall stack of compression-molded vinyl records, a totem whose invisible icons are indistinguishable from the matter on which their aural likeness are encoded. Many of his works consist of cassette tapes, uncoiled and stretched out across canvas, with letters or shapes often cut out into negative space images seemingly volunteering for battle in a duel against "ancient" photography for the prize of best black and white image format. In Kassettenschallplatte (2003) Hildebrandt made the bold move of melting a cassette into the form of a vinyl record, and the result is a gloppy, rust-colored monument to the failure of media to cross-breed. Check out more of his work ...


Weaving Shades of Binary Grey

A number of artists have started using textiles and needlework to explore the relationship between computer culture and craft. Here on Rhizome, we've recently covered Ben Fino-Radin, Sabrina Gschwandtner, Cat Mazza, and Cody Trepte, among others employing "traditional media" in the service of a technological critique. Not to be left out of this group is Christy Matson, a Chicago-based artist who takes this investigation to even more self-reflexive heights. Matson's work may not look high tech, but it responds directly to media culture and is often made using a Jacquard Loom, a mechanical device that is important in the proto-history of computing. Many of the artist's projects involve building feedback loops between the sonic experiences of making and viewing her work. Recordings of the weaving process are algorithmically translated into binary yes/no, on/off, or true/false patterns and translated into images in the form of thread color choice, needle behavior, and other factors. The artist includes copper wires in these weavings to act as amplifiers or antennae for further sonic transmissions. See, for example, Movements, in which the viewer's hand is meant to rove as a sort of playhead on what is posited as a 4-channel audio installation. The same questions are raised in her work, Digital Synesthesia, which looks at similarities in the abilities (one might even say tendencies) of both the human brain and the computer to conflate sound and image. To her credit as a dedicated artist, these are issues Matson works to flesh out again and again, even exploiting the repetition of the line-by-line weaving process as an ironic take on the re-spinning of these narratives. When she explored synaesthesia in Soundw(e)ave (a piece whose title conveys her obvious love of word play), she wrote that "This transmutability ...


Putting the I in Imaginary

Reading Hayley Silverman's statements about her own work, it's evident that she recently attended a smartypants art school. Of her Free TV (2008) installation, in which a small mirror is angled into position on the floor and spray-painted with the eponymous phrase, she says "The mirror exemplifies the fallibility of showing the fixed image as a means of conveying self, and questions the immediate material construction of objects that frame what we perceive." Such Lacanian readings, and a consistent concern with critiquing the tropes of modernism, are peppered throughout the young artist's work which offers physical stand-ins for theories about the Symbolic and the Real. Seemingly left out of the infamous Lacanian triad, she invokes the concept of the Imaginary, but perhaps this is a triangulating force bequeathed by Silverman to her viewers. Her sculpture, The Everything is a Stonehenge-like assemblage using traditional stage prop materials (foam, wood frames, faux finishes) to offer a sort of pile-up of tombstones engraved with the names of digital file formats, operating systems, and programming languages. Theatrical appearances aside, Silverman says she intended to create something devoid of performativity, but rather--like its ancient representational forebears-- a structure that generates a monumentality seemingly predetermined by the eventual extinction of the systems it celebrates and the people who celebrate them. There is, in fact, a kind of sharply ironic morbidity in her work, which gives it a sort of human charm. In 11:11 (2008), Silverman (also a member of the net art group, Loshadka) seems to admit something that many contemporary internet artists working with readymade materials cannot. Pulling a found image (in this case, a tree whose trunk bears a knot resembling a human eye) from a phenomenologist's archive of found images, she says that the image "either amounts to ...