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Items by Louis Doulas

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  • Permalink for 'Artist Profile: Bradley Pitts '

    Artist Profile: Bradley Pitts

    Posted: 4-June-2012, 3:51pm EDT by Louis Doulas

    Singluar Oscillations: Correspondences (email), 2008

    First, could you talk about your two degrees in Aeronautics and Astronautics? Specifically describing the moments when you decided to reroute the instrumentalities of your field, and pursue them instead in a highly singular, individualistic exploratory way?

    I started MIT thinking I wanted to be a theoretical astrophysicist due to the philosophical implications of that field. I quickly realized though, that I needed more tactile engagement in my work in order to be satisfied. Aeronautics and Astronautics was a way for me to combine my interests in space and material. It mixed scientific concepts with material application, but wasn?t able to satisfy my desire to contemplate and build meaning. Only in my architecture and visual arts studies did I find a space to combine concept/theory, material, and meaning into a ?tactile philosophy?. In these disciplines there was less discussion about rules and solutions, and more discussion about one?s interpretation of context, intent, and the implications of one?s process. This opened up the possibility of designing experience and meaning over objects and functionality. 

    Throughout my undergraduate studies I thought I would go on to get a Masters in Architecture and be an architect, but this changed when I was part of a team that conceived, designed, and built a group of micro satellites. At the end of the course we tested them aboard NASA?s parabolic-flight aircraft, the ?Vomit Comet?, which produces 25-second periods of weightlessness and double-gravity. Instead of going to grad school in Architecture I got a Masters of Science in Aeronautics and Astronautics where my research was on advanced spacesuit design, a perfect combination of my interests in space, architecture, and bodily experience.

    If there were any major turning points, they were spread out over my time at MIT. The first major influences were art professors like Julia Scher and Krzysztof Wodiczko. Julia exposed me to the idea that art functions in society like a mirror, reflecting the artist?s perspective back to the rest. This was the first time I saw the deep value of a rigorous art practice. Krzysztof, an industrial designer turned artist, took this further by exposing me to the vast implications of design and technical development. After studying with him I could no longer see science and technology as ?neutral?. 

    Many of my thoughts and feelings about science, technology, and society were crystalized in the year I took off between finishing my bachelors and starting my masters. In this year I traveled in Europe, worked as a physical laborer on a construction site, interned at NASA?s Johnson Space Center in Houston, and spent the summer as a camp counselor at the camp I attended as a child, whitewater kayaking and camping throughout the southeast. In driving from NASA to summer camp I listened to Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance as a book on tape, which put many words to my experience and questions. Immediately after finishing the tapes I bought the book so that I could underline and take notes, which I did at least twice.

    All this is to say that arriving at MIT for my Masters, my head was filled with questions, doubts, and possibilities. Working in the lab I felt I was asked to be only the highly rational, positivist side of myself. In the end this felt too fractured and by the end of my masters I had decided to lift the limitations of science from my practice and pursue my interests in a self-directed way. Art felt like exactly the right context to do this.

    Today, much of art abandons the dictates of medium specificity and attempts to intervene into life, which means existing within other disciplines and merging them.  It?s clear with works like, Singular Oscillations, Nested Voids, and One Roll of Weightlessness (among others) that you do just this. What is your ?professional? relationship to the scientific community? Are you in anyway acknowledged?

    I don?t consider myself part of the scientific community any more. I certainly interact with that community for projects, but as your first question hints at, my priorities have shifted away from that arena. I am fortunately conversant in technical/scientific conversations, but it would be wrong of me to currently claim I?m an engineer. I respect the skill of engineers too much for that. 

    My masters? research on spacesuit design was continued by other students after I left MIT, and is most likely referenced in current spacesuit design literature, but other than that I leave the publication of the technical aspects of my work in the hands of my technical collaborators. I certainly hope that our collaborations have bearing on the scientific or technical communities, but they are in a stronger position to determine if or how that is the case. I do not gauge the success or failure of my work in those terms.

    Western society (at least a large majority of it) since the 19th century has largely been influenced by a positivist philosophy of sorts. Your work is literally evident of this philosophical system, specifically in your continual investigation of sensory experience. But, rather than undertake the pragmatics of scientific experiment you re-negotiate its utility through play. You briefly presented similar thoughts at the ISDC conference in 2006 and I'm wondering if you could you further extrapolate on these notions of uselessness and pointlessness? How can one navigate the spectrum of use, progress and play?

    It?s interesting you connect positivism with sensory experience as I usually think of it in terms of measurement and falsification, which to me feels disconnected from experience. Of course there are many forms of positivism, but my dedication is to experience and unanswerable questions. As I stated before, I am not so interested in producing unfalsifiable statements as I am in probing possibility and belief, raising questions and rich complexity in the process. This feels like the way to open up meaningful exchange and learning. Answers often feel like the ending of a conversation (as we have all experienced with the ubiquitous use of Google searches on mobile platforms while trying to have an exchange with another person). 

    Perhaps it is due to my background in engineering, but I am weary of utilitarian function and the ideal of ?progress?. In the state of play these (and most other) terms have no meaning because there is no self-awareness to bring one to a meta level. This doesn?t mean that play can?t produce something ?functional? or ?progressive?, but these labels can only be applied after the fact. As summarized by Joseph Beuys, ?man [is] a man only in play, and only in play is he free, and, as such, a real man! Therefore art, understood in the sense of play: this is the most radical expression of human freedom."

    In my artist?s statement I consider the relationship between the terms ?functional?, ?valuable?, and ?real?. It seems to me that the globalized world is increasingly pushing these terms to be synonymous. Only those things which are functional are valued (and valuable) and therefore real. The rest is considered frivolous fantasy, without any real bearing on the world. I want to disturb the logic that binds the terms ?functional?, ?valuable?, and ?real?, by creating work that inhabits regions where these terms are not all equated. Is it possible to create something that is either ?functional?, ?valuable?, or ?real? but not the others? How about something that is two of these but not the third? What would these possibilities look like and how would they inhabit the world? Perhaps they couldn?t inhabit this world, but what sort of world would it make if they could?

     

     

     

    Game developer and academic, Ian Bogost, at the end of his most recent book Alien Phenomenology, proposes that thinkers should not only just ruminate and write, but actually do and make.  I feel this is an approach you've adopted and actively developed. You even describe your work as ?ontological research?. What are your thoughts on the field of academia moving in this kind of hybridized direction? What does it mean for you?

    I must admit that I am a bit weary of traditional academia because so much energy there seems to be spent on proving one?s correctness and engaging in debate rather than just doing what feels right. It seems to stifle individual expression, which is the most generative element available to us. I turned down the chance to get a PhD because I realized that I do not want to be putting the majority of my energy into theorizing or building rock solid arguments. I want to use my time to realize my visions in the ways that make most sense to me at the time and in that way demonstrate my own model of operating in the world. I try to approach thought systems and the world at large as an open playground. I don?t believe any single tool can access all of reality or experience so why limit myself? For me, the messy, self-contradicting, hybrid methodologies that I engage in seem much closer to reality than any rational argument ever could.

    While I have chosen a hybridized direction for myself and value similar attempts of others, I certainly feel the pure investigations of academia have their place and are extremely valuable. My fear, however is that the academic, pseudoscientific  value system is laying claim to more and more of our society, asking everything to be known or hypothesized before any action or risk can be taken. I find this extremely dangerous and scary and hope to push back on this trend by pursuing ?things that talk? as defined by Lorraine Daston:

    ?It is precisely the tension between their chimerical composition and their unified gestalt that distinguishes the talkative thing from the speechless sort. Talkative things instantiate novel, previously unthinkable combinations. Their thingness lends vivacity and reality to new constellations of experience that break the old molds. ? As in the case of constellations of stars, the trick is to connect the dots into a plausible whole, a thing. Once circumscribed and concretized, the new thing becomes a magnet for intense interest, a paradox incarnate. It is richly evocative; it is eloquent. ? Like seeds around which an elaborate crystal can suddenly congeal, things in a supersaturated cultural solution can crystallize ways of thinking, feeling, and acting. These thickenings of significance are one way that things can talk be made to talk.?

    Expensive, precise technological equipment and process allows you to intimately and intricately examine the body in space, emptiness and weightlessness. Similarly, Speed of Lights, a human (you) suspends himself of all rationality in a struggle to outrun motion sensitive lighting (or the mathematical precision of the machine).  What can you say about the role of machines in your practice? About cybernetic theory even? 

    I sometimes see my education as a curse to my art practice. Having studied at MIT I was exposed to many tools, techniques, and processes which fuel my visions. If we could put a man on the moon in the 60?s (yes, I believe we landed a total of 12 people on the surface and returned them safely to earth), then you can?t tell me that my art proposals aren?t possible (I happen to believe Apollo was an artwork in itself, but that?s another story). Because of my education I know things are possible, but rarely have the funds to do them. Sometimes I think ignorance would be more blissful.

    In terms of the role of machines in my practice, I often try to break them. I don?t mean I try to physically destroy them, but I try to turn them in on themselves by subverting the intentions for which they were developed. For example, with the Ellipsoidal Introspective Optic (EIO) I was interested in making a high-precision mirror for my eyes only. The tools needed to realize this were developed in the name of science and objective measure, but I wanted to use them to produce a singular, subjective, undocumentable experience. Not surprisingly this raised tensions with the primary sponsor, the Dutch Royal Academy of Arts and Sciences. 

    Science builds a community and reaches the masses through objective quantification. In the process the individual, unique, and obscure often get stripped in favor of the common, general, and repeatable. Art, on the other hand, builds a community and touches society through a nearly opposite pathway: through the subjective. Instead of appealing to the notion of ?higher truth? as science does, art appeals to deeply human experience. By revealing internal truths/desires art touches the internal truths/desires of others. It is in this context that I think of cybernetics a la Norbert Wiener?s Cybernetics and Society, which considers "communication" as the fundamental feedback loop within society. I belive in his perspective, though I prefer a broader notion like "communion" over "communication". 

     

     

    Age: 34

    Location: Brooklyn, NY

    How long have you been working creatively with technology? How did you start?

    I guess this started while I was an undergraduate at MIT. It was there that I started thinking about art as a rigorous, conceptual practice, with an important, powerful role in society. Krzysztof Wodiczko, an art professor of mine, was a major influence, getting me to think about the implications, ethics, and meaning of technology/design. By the time I got to grad school in 2001 I was deeply questioning the technical community and my part in it, seeing space exploration as primarily an art endeavor, though it was cloaked in the language of politics and science/technology. In grad school I was lucky enough to have a very open minded advisor who allowed me to explore these thoughts/feelings in my thesis, which turned out to be two parts conceptual and one part technical. In many ways, my thesis work on spacesuit design was my first fully invested exploration into technically based artwork. 

    Describe your experience with the tools you use. How did you start using them?

    Most of the technical tools I use in my artwork I am employing for the first time. I do not have prior experience with them. Sometimes I encounter a tool because it is the only tool that can realize my vision (the vision drives the choice of tool), but sometimes I find the tool itself so inspiring that I develop a work around it. The single-point diamond raster-fly cutter used to create EIO is an example of the first case. I had no idea such a tool existed and felt very fortunate to work with the technicians to use it. My work with the solar powered furnace in southern France for Blind Spots #6: Sun Spots is an example of the second case. Its existence was too much to ignore and I felt there was potent meaning embedded in the tool itself. Actually this is a large part of how I relate to tools/technology. I see them as the physical manifestation of questions (a.k.a. ?desires?) and I read them to uncover those questions. As Cedric Price said, ?Technology is the answer, but what is the question?? Some questions are so powerful that the lineage of a tool stretches over centuries, like the telescope. We will never stop making telescopes because the desire to answer those questions will never be satiated. 

    Where did you go to school? What did you study?

    I did my undergrad and masters at MIT. My BS & MS came from the department of aeronautics and astronautics, but during undergrad I minored in architecture and visual art. In grad school half my course load was in visual arts, so by the end of my 6 years of study there I think I roughly had enough credits for a degree in visual arts. After working for two years on my own as an artist I moved to Amsterdam to attend the Rijksakademie van beeldende kunsten, where I was a resident for three years (two years as a regular resident and one year as the ?Resident Researcher in Art/Science?). The Rijksakademie is not a degree-granting institution but was a crucial part of my education and immersion in art.

    What traditional media do you use, if any? Do you think your work with traditional media relates to your work with technology?

    The most ?traditional? media I use is pencil and paper. I wish I drew more, actually. The ways I?ve used in my practice can be seen with projects such as Blind Spots and Singular Oscillations: Body Coordinates

    I find drawing to be a beautiful, direct, intimate action and result, which contrasts nicely with technology. Although machines can write and even simulate drawing, I feel the true act of drawing is something only a human can do because it is so embedded in the experience of observation. There is a beautiful example of this from the Space Race in which Aleksei Leonov (the first person to perform a ?space-walk?), who wasn?t allowed to touch anything in the space capsule, brought with him a color pencil set adapted for weightlessness. Because he had no manual tasks to do, he was able to take the time to sketch the horizon from space, something only a human could do. This story is a beautiful embodiment of Oskar Schlemmer?s statement, "a further emblem of our time is  mechanization, the inexorable process which now lays claim to  every sphere of life and art. Everything which can be mechanized is mechanized. The result: our recognition of that which cannot be mechanized."

    Are you involved in other creative or social activities (i.e. music, writing, activism, community organizing)?

    Not so much in the sense that you are hinting at, though I played many instruments growing up and love to dance. Improvising live on stage (in my high-school jazz band, for example) is I feeling I miss and haven?t found elsewhere. 

    What do you do for a living or what occupations have you held previously? Do you think this work relates to your art practice in a significant way?

    I spend most of my time working in the studio and investing in an art practice that can support my living. On the side I have had freelance consulting gigs with an ad agency. In that context I bring my technical background and conceptual thinking to bear on their work, generating new ideas of how to realize a given strategy. Basically I am hired as a brainstormer to help them ?ideate? (I was even told I was being hired to help with the ?ideation of ideas?. I?m not sure what that means, but they are excited by my contributions so I keep showing up to offer my perspectives). 

    Due to the atmosphere of the ad agency, this work has opened me up to the creative potential in public and commercial space. Creating a meaningful experience is still my priority, but I am now considering other models for support in addition to the studio art model. For example I am now making the Yearlight Calendar, a made-to-order, site-specific calendar which maps the duration of daylight, twilight, and moonlight throughout the year for a given location, specified by the customer. It is a product that comes out of my conceptual interest in the slippage between personal experience and standard measures. I am selling these online at: www.yearlightcalendar.com

    Who are your key artistic influences?

    (This is starting to feel like filling out an online dating profile, which I may or may not be copying and pasting from...)

    Not necessarily in order:

    James Turrell, Robert Irwin, Joseph Beuys (mainly his writings), Dan Graham, Krzysztof Wodiczko, William Wegman?s early videos, Mitch Hedberg, Steven Wright, Nancy Holt, Urs Fischer, John Baldessari, Harun Farocki, Robert Barry, Larry Walters, Tino Sehgal, Jonathan Safran Foer, Miranda July...

    Have you collaborated with anyone in the art community on a project? With whom, and on what?

    An artist friend, Dominick Talvacchio, and I collaborated on the project Sunrise OR Sunset and its many manifestations. This project is interested in the (dis)symmetry between sunrises and sunsets: the beginning of day and the end of night, the beginning of night and the end of day. The project is based on a Google image search for terms marked by either the term ?sunrise? or the term ?sunset? and displays the image results without identification. (The all-capital Boolean operator ?OR? is used to locate images marked by either term.)

    Website: www.sunriseorsunset.net

    About the project and other manifestations: http://bradleypitts.net/projects/sunriseorsunset/2/

    Do you actively study art history?

    Unfortunately I can?t say that I do. I dive into it when appropriate for the projects I am working on, but rarely do I seek it out for it?s own sake.

    Do you read art criticism, philosophy, or critical theory? If so, which authors inspire you?

    My reading interests are wide and varied, sometimes dipping into philosophy and theory, and sometimes into fiction. I find inspiration everywhere. A few authors that have influenced my thinking (again, not necessarily in any order):

    Jacques Ranciere, Joseph Beuys, Merleau-Ponty, David Lewis-Williams, Robert Irwin, Lewis Mumford, Miranda July, Jonathan Safran Foer, Ayn Rand, Norbert Wiener, Victor Papanek, Robert Pirsig, Scott McCloud, Lorraine Daston?

    Are there any issues around the production of, or the display/exhibition of new media art that you are concerned about?

    Yes, especially terms like ?new media art?. I understand the desire for such a term, but terms like these usually emphasize the newness of techniques and materials over the artwork itself (the material over the meaning). I can get with ?the medium is the message? as much as the next guy, but that seems even more reason to focus on the arts meaning, not the fact that it?s material/techniques are ?new?. It seems that an overarching term focusing on the media/techniques of art is only valuable or appropriate if artists are using the media to comment on the media itself. When this is the case there is usually a community and conversation driving the use of those techniques. If not, the term feels like it?s putting ?the cart before the horse?. 

    I am also concerned about issues of documentation. I tend to question the need/want for documentation in the same way I question the need/want for objective measurement and solutions or final answers. I fully stand behind artists such as (young) Robert Irwin and Tino Sehgal who prevent documentation of their work and I find the inescapable ?failures? of this stance very interesting. Our systems (society, politics, industry, academia, etc.) are built on documentation and do not consider something real or true without it. Try fighting a tax audit without paper trails and other ?proof? and you?ll quickly run up against this (so much for ?innocent before proven guilty?). Even an artist like Tino Sehgal who tries his damnedest not produce anything material is still caught in the web of material production via ticket sales, invoices, wall paint, etc. I would love to collect all the materials he is forced to employ, not to criticize him or his work, but to display the inescapable dominance of the materialist belief system we are embedded in. 

    I am very interested in producing the undocumentable. I?m not really sure what that means or looks like, but that?s why the possibility holds my interest. Again, I?m not sure if the undocumentable can truly occupy a place in our culture, but I think I?d like to live in a society that could fully value the undocumentable.


  • Permalink for 'Artist Profile: Lebohang Kganye'

    Artist Profile: Lebohang Kganye

    Posted: 29-May-2012, 4:00pm EDT by Louis Doulas

    Lebohang Kganye & Onthatile Modise, Reshot, Grandmother and children, 2011

    Could you tell me about visual culture in Africa and how that influences your work?

    Africa has a long legacy of visual, oral, performative and narrative methodologies which continue to influence our ideologies, perceptions and communications. And the arts therefore play a major role in defining, retrieving and understanding our histories and future strategies as well as our identities. Art is a part of a thriving contemporary culture throughout the world and far from being a luxury it is a basic human need that needs expression and these forms of various expressions must be questioned and critiqued to understand how we view ourselves and others. Africa - despite its varied arts and artistic heritage - has become stereotyped (especially through the means of photography) and how I constantly aim in my works through my focus on personal narratives to contest such stereotypes. My work constantly hopes to broaden the scope that is defined as ?African photography? in that homogenising poverty-porn images of Africa are subverted through subtle, personal narratives of individuals and communities that I develop a relationship with. In the projects I do, I raise questions around identity and the constant renegotiating of who we are in relation to our location and the narratives we create in order to situate ourselves in space and history.

    What does Reshot reveal about the photographic archive itself? How did the people of Makweteng respond to the 're-shoot' and what kind of relationships were forged?

    Reshot (2011), is a collaborative project with fellow Market Photo Workshop student Onthatile Modise, which explores the notion of the photographic archive from the point of personal histories of people from Makweteng, Potchefstroom. For our photographic interpretation of these personal archives, we were introduced to the people of Ikageng who were forcefully removed from Makweteng in the 1960s.

    In order to collect the archival material from individuals, we would visit the residents in their homes in Ikageng, and asked them to tell us their life stories in Makweteng. We got to know the bearers of the personal archives by visiting them and we reshot these personal archives in their presence while they told us their memories of each photo. We photographed the historical photos they have of themselves living there. The relationships we formed were a bit weird, the residents responded differently on different days, we would be seen as friends today, outsiders tomorrow, then there would be moments we connect and others where there was this distance, almost awkwardness between us. They were keen on sharing their memories of certain photos, but some memories were held back, which is what the project also questions; what the bearer choses to reveal about the photo and the memories they choose to hold back, versus what the photo reveals to the viewer and what the viewer overlooks when attempting to interpret a photographic archive. So each ?reshot? photo is a creative response to memory, the imaginary and change.

    The personal archive as a physical document forms part of a historical archive which can stand trial for social issues. Reshot also reveals the vulnerability of memory which bases itself upon a tangible thing such as a photograph, which can be torn, destroyed or lost, entrusting it to trigger or store their memories, ideals i.e. people portraying themselves in a certain way etc.

    The work demonstrates my interest in the personal as a site of the political and hopes to be evidence of the political in the personal - thus personal narratives resonate with larger political and social issues and the project makes evident these intersections via an interrogation of intimate narratives

    In S?phamandla you specifically chose not to depict the residents of the Johannesburg squatter camps. Could you talk more about this decision and your visual interrogation of these camps?

    S?phamandla (2009-2010) body of work also continues to explore issues of home, identity and displacement by documenting this housing settlement in Johannesburg which had been relocated several times by the South African government, with a promise of better housing, which never materialized. The intention of this project was to visually interrogate the Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP) initiated after 1994. S?phamandla is a squatter-camp situated on the outskirts of a township called Katlehong, which is located in the south-east of Johannesburg. The project deals with its people having a longing for a sense of belonging, with the anticipation of the change-over of moving from shacks and informal settlements to proper houses. The place carries the weight of social, political and historical change and the beauty that the community have created in the midst of it all. The informal constructions bore the traces of these various resettlements in various ways (for example shacks had different housing/lot numbers painted on their facades each time they were moved). Colour is linked to the idea of choice, freedom and expression, much like the flawed concept of the idea of the ?rainbow nation?. The informal structures often have strong colourful exteriors and most have a clearly visible marker in bright paint representing the number of an address. The addresses are brightly marked; the marking is a ritual of becoming visible as each number is an attempt to mark the identity of the ?home owner?. This project for me is personal since I pass the place every day and move through the space constantly and have come to interact with people from this community daily. The composition in these images is focuses on the aesthetics of each shack which seems to have a unique sense of character in its style of construction. The structures that form this squatter-camp are constructed of brightly coloured corrugated-iron, with a coloured door and on some, a brightly painted window or merely a unique feature, so the project focuses on the aesthetics of each shack which represents these people and their sense of pride and integrity in their private spaces which they, themselves, have built. Though the place carries such heavy social, political and historical issues, the beauty that these people have created in the midst of it all is what the project aims to show. Thus I chose not to depict the residents and further objectify them as much of documentary photography featuring poverty tends to do. Pride (2009) is an image of a silver shack with a door covered in strips of paint, uniformly painted with two white, two yellow and five orange vertical lines, looking like a like a discontinued vertical rainbow. There is a round lock on a chain by the door, and the door has no handle? just a hole where there was once might have been a handle. Number ?63? is written four times on the front of the shack, but a different number appears on other parts of the shack (B500). The latter marks the relocation and the changing of identity in the process, while the inhabitants desperately try to hold on to their identity with the repetition of number sixty three. Ironically, there is a Pride maize meal sack hanging on the left of the shack.

    Hanging (2009) is an image of an unpainted shack with a bold, blue door, blue window frame, blue number ?102?, yellow number ?S289 STM? and a red number ?57? painted on the shack. These numbers mark the different times the occupants have relocated and had to be marked like cattle by its owner. The handle on the door is turned upside-down, like their lives by the relocation. The corrugated iron roof top is shielded by a dusty navy piece of tent, to keep out the raindrops. The washing line put together with planks leans casually on the left side of the shack, like a re-constructed cross of faith, desperately trying to be held-up.

    In understanding the process of the departure, the arrival and the wait, it becomes clear how people mark and map their spaces because people are constantly negotiating their lives through negotiating human space. The body of work in its style is a portrait of space; the structures represent the voice and identity of these people and how these become the traces of a neglected and forgotten history. S?phamandla is a remnant of a time of issues of segregation and marginalisation; it exists as a monument of the rise and ?fall? of apartheid.

    The government regulates where people live and organise to their convenience rather than the community which inhabits a space. Questions around the ownership of land are interrogated and why South African land is dispersed as it is by the government. S?phamandla highlights displacement and how it gets manifested in the history of South Africa, because a squatter-camp is often a border quite ingrained in South Africa?s history.

     

     

     

    Age:

    22 years old

    Location:

    Katlehong, a township in the East Rand of Johannesburg, South Africa.

    How long have you been working creatively with technology? How did you start?

    An assignment in matric in high school introduced me to the works of Kevin Carter and the Bang- Bang Club. Their photojournalistic images awakened in me a realisation of the power of photography and in 2009, a year later I started my studies in photography.

    Where did you go to school? What did you study?

    In 2009, I began my studies in photography at the Market Photo Workshop in Johannesburg, South Africa. I recently completed three courses in photography.

    Describe your experience with the tools you use. How did you start using them?

    Through the training I have received throughout the three years, I have grown to understand the role of photography in society and how it influences change. Beyond the theory, studying photography has given me an understanding of the practical and technical side of the medium.

    What traditional media do you use, if any? Do you think your work with traditional media relates to your work with technology? Are you involved in other creative or social activities (i.e. music, writing, activism, community organizing)?

    My photographic work ? which includes documentary and visual art photography ? explores ideas of memory, identity, location, space and the idea of belonging.

    During my high school years, I was introduced to the world of performance art, and was mentored by renowned performance artists in this genre. For my remaining three years in high school, my life centred around poetry, drama and storytelling. During this time I performed alongside these artists in Botswana and at various stages around Johannesburg, such as the Market Theatre and at the University of the Witwatersrand. My general interests ? be it in poetry, performance and photography ? have centred around my personal journeys and issues of black woman?s identity and power relations. Spoken and written word have been platforms for me to interact with other people and share personal experiences and memories.  Art has in a way defined my life as a young Black woman from Katlehong in terms of allowing me expression of my creative thoughts, emotions and intelligence; it has been an avenue for me to critically engage with personal and wider social issues as well as history, politics and economics - not just of my own life, but in understanding the trajectory of the not-so-new South Africa and importantly with the rest of the African continent, the global South and the rest of the world.

    What do you do for a living or what occupations have you held previously? Do you think this work relates to your art practice in a significant way?

    I do commercial/commissioned work for a living, I?ve worked at the Market Photo Workshop and Sibisi Gallery. This work is very separate from my art practice, though it allows me to be in spaces of art discussion and discourses around art. 

    Who are your key artistic influences?

    Cindy Sherman, Destiny Deacon, Sharlene Khan, Zwelethu Mthethwa, David Goldblatt and Santu Mofokeng.

    Have you collaborated with anyone in the art community on a project? With whom, and on what?

    Yes, I collaborated on a project with Onthatile Modise while we were studying together, on the series Reshot  which we produced on the community in Potchefstroom. It has been exhibited as part of the Tracing Territories group exhibition which entailed ten bodies of work by eleven photographers from the Market Photo Workshop. Tracing Territories was presented as an outdoor exhibition as well as a screening in and around Tlokwe on the 17th and 18th February 2012. An extension of this work was being shown in Johannesburg at the Market Photo Workshop Gallery which ran from 29 February ? 25 April 2012.

    Do you actively study art history?

    Yes, because I believe that it?s important to know your craft. By studying the history of photography as a subject in school, it has helped me to understand the global discourse of art.

    Do you read art criticism, philosophy, or critical theory? If so, which authors inspire you?

    I enjoy reading philosophy, critical theory and creative writing i.e. poetry, authors that influence the conceptualization of my projects are Maya Angelou, Bell Hooks, Fouad Asfour, Kabomo Vilakazi, Napo Masheane and Gcina Mhlophe.

    Are there any issues around the production of, or the display/exhibition of new media art that you are concerned about? 

    The right to freedom of artistic expression versus the right to human dignity is under debate in South Africa and which holds priority over another, which I am quite interested in, and to what degree artist are at liberty to interrogate social issues and whether art is read differently on the basis of race. Also I?m curious whether the space one chooses to show their work in influences how the work is read and somehow changes its context i.e. showing documentary images in a gallery space. Such as showing images of poverty or violence in a commercial gallery or arts magazine instead of a newspaper; does it then shift meaning depending on where it is shown, because the audiences are different.

  • Permalink for 'Artist Profile: Bunny Rogers'

    Artist Profile: Bunny Rogers

    Posted: 15-May-2012, 5:15pm EDT by Louis Doulas

    Sister Unn's, 2011

    A lot of your work seems to explore the transitional moments of adolescence into adulthood through sexual introductions like Dotyk and Waiting for Anne, as well as through sentimental mementos like the embroidered letterman jackets of Sister Jackets and even the webpage Dad?s Big Socks. With this type of memorialization, there?s also this recurrent fascination with animals as self-identifying symbols: Bunny Rogers, PonesA Very Young RiderLambslut, etc. I wonder where these animal identities intersect with this loss of naïve youth and what your relationship to them is within these transgressive adolescent shifts? Why concentrate on the prepubescent stage? What role do animals play within this shift? 

    I am interested in deconstructing the comfort felt regarding how we view the transition from girlhood to adulthood.  I do not think I concentrate on the prepubescent stage, at least in the biological sense of the word. When my work is categorized with that term it sets up a discussion of a socially-familiar understanding of what [female] prepubescence means, the definition of which is confusing and contradictory. We build value systems based on that understanding. These terms are applied in an assessment of my work and me. Some of my works try to make these terms unstable, by questioning how we arrive at them. The challenge is how to broaden the grounds on which these concepts are positioned as is evident by the limitations of phrasing we have even when trying to interpret the works investigating these concerns.  I see a lot of overlap in mass culture?s sexualization and exploitation of children and animals. 

    i.e. 

    [www.youtube.com]  [Dance Precisions / Single Ladies / Pomona]

    [www.youtube.com]  [The Chipettes - Single Ladies [Put A Ring On It]

    This area of conversation (which the above videos are a part of) is one I want to expand upon.  

    Since 2008 you?ve been using Twitter to archive every Facebook status update you?ve made, rendering your Twitter account as regurgitory.  Twitter has a 140 limit while Facebook?s is 63,206. By archiving with Twitter you have to make a conscious decision on your Facebook to keep within this 140 limit. This works out for you as your updates are generally a word or a sentence long. How do your status updates inform or continue your process of performance? Are they related at all?

    I have never been able to consistently maintain an up-to-date private journal in the traditional way that I know them to be ? physical or online, despite wanting to and believing in the relevance of personal recordkeeping. As a kid I enjoyed re-reading and analyzing old diary entries while entertaining the fantasy of dying young and leaving behind evidence of my perceived precociousness and unparalleled imagination. In this way there has always been an audience in mind.  I still relate to these feelings but I have gained a desire to share and connect with greater immediacy.  Building a public archive is one way in which I am able to realize aspects of these motivations. 

    As a tribute to the Rego Park flower shop and homage to the two characters in the novel, The Ice Palace, by Tarjei Vesaas, Sister Unn?s was a flower shop run by you and Filip Olszewski in Forest Hills Queens. The shop seems to have caught much of the local resident?s attention; curious and confused about its purpose and intention. A gallery is always immediately recognized as a space for art, but with Sister Unn?s this context is obfuscated. What were some of your intentions surrounding this allegorical intervention? 

    To build a house of worship

    ?True love is a rose behind glass

    It's locked and kept closed? 

    Grieving over someone, something and someplace are central themes found throughout your body of work. Could you talk more about the process of mourning and what it means to make it a focal point in your work?

    I think some things you get over and some you do not. I disagree that mourning is a finite experience (the ?mourning period?). There are beliefs that there is a correct way or length of time to grieve the death of a loved one, yet it is popular and accepted to say, ?you never really get over your first love.? This is a telling convergence of values that has informed a number of my magical artistic creations.

    Your entire online identity seems to culminate in an ongoing performance and I wonder where you differentiate between acting and a more consolidated separate persona? I?m also wondering how your online and offline performances such as 9years and Dotyk allow for playful, childlike gender representation or to what degree they reinforce them? 

    It is freeing to be able to have subtle shifts between doing online works, presenting documentation of work, and connecting with like-minded people.  I really enjoy working online because I can interact with a variety of audiences that are not easily accessible otherwise.  

     

     

    Age: Beautiful

    Location: NY, NY

    How long have you been working creatively with technology? How did you start?

    AOL Kids? art forums were deeply impactful and inspiring. I began making drawings in MS Paint around this time (~1997). Neopets personal pet pages motivated me to learn how to build a website (~2000). LiveJournal was a space in which I could more fully immerse myself into alt characters and identities via creative fiction (~2001).

    Describe your experience with the tools you use. How did you start using them?

    Out of need

    Where did you go to school? What did you study?

    I received my BFA from Parsons the New School for Design.

    What traditional media do you use, if any? Do you think your work with traditional media relates to your work with technology?

    Yes

    Are you involved in other creative or social activities (i.e. music, writing, activism, community organizing)?

    I write poetry. I am learning to play piano. I like making soups, baking.

    What do you do for a living or what occupations have you held previously? Do you think this work relates to your art practice in a significant way?

    Hand beading jobs, pretzel twisting.

    Who are your key artistic influences?

    Elliott Smith, my greatest love

    Filip Olszewski, my greatest teacher

    Ben Kellogg, my highschool sweetheart

    Brigid Mason, my muse

    Shawn Jeffers, mein bruder und geist

    My parents, my heroes

    Shoutout to Eric S. Oresick!!!

    Have you collaborated with anyone in the art community on a project? With whom, and on what?

    I have roped Ben Kellogg into a heavy investment and we should have something to show for it Fall 2012.

    Filip Olszewski and I have made a lot of work together (most recently, Sister Unn?s). He is also the photographer behind much of my photograph-dependent work. (i.e. The Ice Garden)

    Arielle Gavin and I made a video. [ [vimeo.com] ]

    Many performances with Shawn Jeffers.

    Do you actively study art history?

    [iamachild.wordpress.com]

    [pigtailsinpaint.wordpress.com]

    That about covers it.

    Do you read art criticism, philosophy, or critical theory? If so, which authors inspire you?

    Rarely.

    Are there any issues around the production of, or the display/exhibition of new media art that you are concerned about?

    No.

  • Permalink for 'Art from Outside the Googleplex: An Interview with Andrew Norman Wilson'

    Art from Outside the Googleplex: An Interview with Andrew Norman Wilson

    Posted: 14-May-2012, 5:00pm EDT by Louis Doulas

    The Inland Printer ? 164, 2012

    Through webinars, installations, power points, performances, audio meditations and videos, Andrew Norman Wilson's interventions into the brands and infrastructures of Silicon Valley and other worldwide tech corporations question the roles of labor, power and capital; instigations, integral to understanding the movement of information economies in the global marketplace as well as the power relations that emerge from within them.  

    ScanOps, titled after the internal department for Google's onsite book scanning contractors, is Wilson's latest series of works that reveal the software distortions and hands of ScanOps employees found in the photographic scanning site.

    During June, ScanOps will be on view at both American Medium in New York City and Document in Chicago. A ScanOps subscription service and book will be published by Art Metropole later this year.

     

     

    LD: Workers Leaving the Googleplex, responded to two versions of the film Workers Leaving the Factory: one by Harun Farocki and the other, the original by the Lumière brothers. The premise of your own video of course was to make a work that captured the shift in labor from the industrial proletariat into the informational proletariat. The yellow badge workers were presented in parallel to Lumières' workers and have become the focal point of another series of works, ScanOps.  Could you first talk about the meta-hierarchies that existed at Google, specifically the perks, benefits, opportunities or lack thereof that existed between various color badges?

    ANW: Using Workers Leaving the Googleplex as an illustration of these hierarchies, white, red, and green badge workers on the left side of the image are seen passing by, entering, and exiting a variety of buildings at the Googleplex. Some of them ride the Google loaner bikes, some of them enter a luxury limo shuttle headed towards San Francisco. Some of them may be leaving work, some may be walking to another building to pick up their laundry or exercise in one of the gyms, some may even be just arriving at the Google campus to eat a free meal from one of Google's 20 gourmet cafes after a day of working at home. The yellow badge workers on the right side of the image are seen leaving the one building they are allowed access to. Much like the workers in the Lumière film, the yellow badge workers are leaving at the same time because their superiors have asked them to. But their synchronized departure is not especially arranged for a camera. They are leaving at 2:15 pm, like they do every day. The separation and exclusion of the yellow badge class creates difference in movement. Their movement is much closer to the industrial proletariat of the prior two films (by Lumière and Farocki) than the kinetic elite of the white, red, and green badged workers sharing the screen. 

    Representing movement was the primary goal of the Lumière film, and I was interested in doing the same with the Googleplex video. Yet, as Farocki points out in his film, we have come to recognize that moving images not only represent movement, but can also grasp for concepts. And so Workers Leaving the Googleplex suggests both transformations and continuities from where Farocki and Lumière had left us, grasping for connections in social/aesthetic systems.

    LD: Could you extrapolate a bit more on these notions of movement, especially with regards to its positioning within particular social systems?

    ANW: In all three works, what we see are work forces in motion, organized simultaneously by the work structure (a temporal synchronization), the factory gates (a spatial grouping), and the filmmakers' choreography of this spatio-temporal relationship. In the Googleplex video, we are presented with a class-based system of access (or lack thereof) that can script different flows of movement. Google allows a lot of room for its white, red, and green badge workers to engage in free play; however, movement and action that exceeds the boundaries of that scripting and poses a threat to the company, such as my activity around the exterior of the yellow badges building, can set Google Security and Google Legal into specified movements around that atypical behavior. 

    Movement entails an object and its change in position with respect to time. As we transition from the dominance of analog media such as film and books to digital media such as video and digitized books, the newer forms are still wholly inseparable from the material world. There are voltages in electronic circuits, server farms, upgraded tech for every new product cycle, and a persistent necessity for repetitive, manual labor despite technological progress and the increasing prominence of cultural and informational labor.

    The video also presents us with the expansive aesthetic distributive system that it participates in as a viral video. It includes a spatial montage of multiple images - like the ads, related content, icons, additional windows and tabs, etc. that compose a screen during the viewing of a video online. The colored borders in the video are an information visualization of worker ratios within the respective images. Even the use of color HD video (with sound) is conceptually important in relation to Lumières' film. Both works are emblematic of their particular historical moments, and both now circulate through contemporary distribution networks.

    The Jolly Beggar ? 12, 2012

    LD: The digitalization of the Lumière film is actually a nice transitional point into understanding the contained content of ScanOps--which attempts to document the manual labor that continues to permeate under technological progress. Because of the hyper specialization of industries existing within a global market, we are increasingly isolated from the production and politics of our commodities. The tech commodity, Apple products for example, seem to be ever more hidden and locked away from the consumer view: an opaqueness that conceals understanding and restricts infrastructural intervention. Friendly UI graphics and sleek, ornament free, minimal design begins to take on a fetishized aura that most digital ephemera is marketed from the ground up in. First, how were you able to obtain these scans? And second, what can you say about this type of containment/exposure as it relates to the Google commodity?

    ANW: I have been quietly collecting anomalies from Google Books for a couple years now. It's another way of getting closer to those people I worked with, while of course still remaining out of touch with them. Krissy Wilson's blog The Art of Google Books has made my searching much easier. Her criteria allows for a much more broad collection of images than what I'm after, and I'm more interested in printing the images than posting my finds online. I prefer to call what I'm collecting photographs as opposed to scans. Mass market books can be sliced open and fed into scanners, but the books I'm looking at come from library collections and need to be photographed from above. Therefore we occasionally see the backsides of workers hands. The project is called ScanOps because that is (or was) the internal department name for Google?s onsite book scanning contractors.

    The photographs that I chose are Google Books images in which software distortions, the imaging site, and the hands of ScanOps employees are visible. They?re both indexical, and medium-specific. Their processes, digital manipulations, and material supports are folded within them. Because of the speed and volume with which Google is executing the Books project, they can't possibly identify and correct all of the disturbances in what is supposed to be a seamless interface. Removed "for me" The accidents then complicate the categorizations of ?immaterial? and ?informational? labor in the Information Technology sector.

    I choose photographs that have formal similarities to contemporary photography that emphasizes the materiality of the photographic support, such as work by Walead Beshty and Elad Lassry. By positioning ScanOps in relation to theirs, they can "read" as photographs, and extend in relationships to painting and sculpture through the discourses surrounding those artist's work. And then there's the fact that they're photographs of books.

    As Karen Barad puts it,

    "That which is excluded in the enactment of knowledge-discourse-power practices plays a constitutive role in the production of phenomena ? exclusions matter both to bodies that come to matter and those excluded from mattering."

    The fingers and software distortions that obscure the "pure information" in the books complicate Google's technocratic proposals for a utopia of universally accessible knowledge. What emerges is an argument for the inseparability of matter and meaning, fusing a discussion of knowledge with ontological, ethical, and aesthetic issues.

    LD: And Sergey Brin and Larry Page initially got in trouble for attempting the project, right?

    ANW: Yes, because the complete copying of an entire book violates copyright, the photographers have been faced with lawsuits from the Authors Guild, the Association of American Publishers, and more. The settlement they all came to was rejected in court last year, but they're scheduled to go to court again soon. And that's just in the US, there's much more resistance in certain European countries.

    LD: I'm sure, as most of the texts (at least the ones featured throughout your series) originate from western spheres.  But, the momentary visibility of the hand in each of the photographs also signifies and reveals something else here too: the social systems the workers exist within. Which relates back to the two films, especially the 'movements' of Lumières' workers.

    ANW: Someone has to turn a page and press a button. The workers compose part of the photographic apparatus, which, conceived in a broad sense includes not only the machinery, but the social systems within which photography operates. The anonymous workers, electrons, Sergey and Larry, the pink finger condoms, infrared cameras, the auto-correction software, the ink on my rag paper prints, me, the capital required to fund the project - we're all in it. It's not a dematerialized image world.

    Our Wonderful Progress ? 515 and The Inland Printer ? 164, 2012

    LD: Right, the worker's presence reaffirms, or rather reasserts the materiality of information production.  I suppose that this is the inherent contradiction that's become especially apparent today in networked western societies: the liberation of information, of knowledge as a public commons that should be free and distributed--which isn't a new idea--and then its simultaneous commodification and profitability. Before, you've often stated that Google, in this sense, is actually a factory and with this in mind, your work perhaps isn't rendered so ambivalently, so I'm curious to hear your positions in regards to this type of information economy, and Google itself. 

    ANW: Everyone who uses the free Google perks - gmail, cloud-storage, Google Books, Blogger, YouTube - becomes a knowledge worker for the company. We?re performing freestyle data entry. Where knowledge is perceived as a public good, Google gathers its income from the exchange of information and knowledge, creating additional value in this process. Google, as we know it and use it, is a factory.

    A few years ago the company afforded me free Naked Juice every day, Metronaps and the ability to have a conversation with Obama. You and I, Louis, are on g-chat now and fact checking through Google search. All art and artistic discourse participates in the market economy. This isn't to say that art either supports or rejects the notion of a market transaction, or that art can't affect social change. Just that there's no outside.

    Art's radical potential is in its transparency. It has come to reject the form/content divide, whereas other disciplines have not been able to do so. The discourse of art is capable of becoming continuous with the world it sets out to describe, fully embracing its own material condition. Google, however, is a multinational corporation, and it values both the simplicity of its products and the privacy of its internal functions. There's not much room for the consideration of things like the monetization of thought. It's a company.

    The Encyclopedia Americana ? 879 and The Inland Printer ? 152, 2012

  • Permalink for 'Artist Profile: David Kraftsow'

    Artist Profile: David Kraftsow

    Posted: 1-May-2012, 7:00pm EDT by Louis Doulas

    David Kraftsow's Vlog Artifacts, is featured this month on The Download.

    Screenshot of At My Funeral, 2011

    Much of your work involves recontextualizing a lot of YouTube and Twitter content. Through this rearranging and reorganizing you compose and assign new meaning to the often banal, unwittingly revealing always-growing archive of user-uploaded videos and status updates. User content here surpasses individual critique and instead is aesthetically reframed and sometimes even gamified under your curation.  What does it mean for you to work with the uploads of others? What can you say about the role of the curator in this process?

    I'm not really sure if "curation" is the right word to describe my YouTube projects. While I do, on occasion, go out and hand-pick specific content for display (like for my fun cat video blog or Violet Flame supercut), most of the rest of my YouTube work is either the result of an autonomous script, or a user-initiated generator.

    For example, I have a cron (autonomously executing process) running for my At My Funeral project that specifies search criteria for YouTube videos with comments that contain the phrase "at my funeral". The script has generated a database of (to date) 21,000+ videos that people want to have played in their honor after they die. 

    Does this kind of algorithmic selection count as curation? The result can be really interesting and even kind of comedic. There is something hilarious to me about mechanically collecting every single "better than Bieber" YouTube comment ever written. But, beyond the initial specification of the program that does the collecting, it doesn't involve any of my creative/curatorial input at all. The content is selected and displayed automatically. 

    If curation can simply involve the design and execution of such an algorithm, then the role of the curator in this case seems to be very similar to that of a data miner. Both are interested in creating programs that mechanically extract hidden patterns to reveal new meanings from a large dataset.

    In a 2009 Rhizome interview it?s mentioned you received a cease and desist letter from Google for your platform YooouuuTuuube. After briefly explaining Google?s argument, you hoped that they would continue to stand behind their ?don?t be evil? brand.  Slowly today, with revealing videos like Workers Leaving the Googleplex and corporations increasingly pressured into transparency, do you still feel their motto is applicable to themselves today? Could you walk through the legal processes of your own Google interaction and explain its current legal status?

    I think the Google motto is interesting just in the fact that a corporation apparently felt that it wasn't enough to leave an ethical no-brainer like "Don't Be Evil" an unstated, common sense assumption. Instead they went and codified it into an actual corporate motto. This may have started originally as a kind of joke within the company about corporate culture or something. But as Google becomes bigger and bigger, and wields more and more influence in our lives, it seems they are under an obligation to take the motto very seriously. In some instances, they apparently don't do this.

    Having said that, I don't think Google is currently, by-and-large, an evil company, but they could still change my mind! I did watch that Workers Leaving the Googleplex video when it first came out, and I remember thinking it was pretty overblown overall. I wasn't very convinced of any Great Google Atrocities in watching it.

    And regarding the whole YooouuuTuuube thing: basically, what happened was their lawyers sent me a C&D stating that their main concern was the name of the project being too close to the YouTube trademark name, and that my use of their favicon was also an infringement of their copyright. In a fit of teen-rebellion, I changed the favicon to the CopyLeft symbol, and ignored the request to take the site down. Eventually they sent me another one, and I wrote back with a long letter emphasizing the project's status as an art piece with no competitive intention, and offered to move the project to a new domain but also to publicize the reason for the move. At this point the site had millions of visitors, and I guess they didn't really want to bother with it anymore since they never wrote me back after that.  

    So, I can't actually say what the current status of the project is exactly. My best guess is "legal grey area".

    A fun footnote on the topic of evil corporations: last year when I went to submit a mobile version of YooouuuTuuube to the iOS App Store, Apple rejected it immediately because the name was too close to "YouTube". It wasn't even their own trademark, but they still saw it as a reason for rejection. So I ended up being forced to change the name of the mobile version to (super lame) "MultiTube" because of this. Ironically, on the Google-controlled Android market, the original name was never an issue. Food for thought!

    You work exclusively on the Internet and I?m curious if you?ve ever considered translating any of your works offline? Perhaps, First-Person Tetris is the closest to maybe revealing some of these desires, but do you ever feel the need to work offline? Or is the web the most flexible and fluid environment for you? How do you think browser based works can be restrictive or limiting?

    I work mostly on the web because it reaches the most people. I grew up with it, and still love the idea of the web being this fluid, free, and open place. This has, sadly, started to change in the last decade with the rise of mobile platforms, walled-off social networks and other services. But as long as I can still make fun things that reach a lot of people, I'll continue to make web-based stuff. That said, I'm starting to get more into making mobile apps and also desktop things, and I'll probably be moving more in that direction in the future.

    Similar to the authorship conflicts of Relational Aesthetics, Internet-based artwork that incorporates the outsourcing of creative labor or the mining of user content faces contention when perpetuated within the art economy where autonomous authorship is valorized above all.  As society and labor become more specialized where do you draw the line when acknowledging or attributing authorship? Are these notions merely misunderstood notions of democratic constituencies?

    Is it a cliché to invoke the "everything is a remix" mantra? When YooouuuTuuube first started getting attention, I found myself thinking a lot about questions of authorship, especially with regards to the most popular configuration, a mashup-style remix of Disney's Alice In Wonderland. It's a fun example to go through and try to count the number of contributing authors: there's Lewis Caroll for writing the original narrative, then Disney's team of artists for animating a version of that narrative, then Pogo, the Australian musician who remixed that animation and put it on YouTube, then there's me for writing the YooouuuTuuube effect generator, and finally the person (as far as I can tell a Reddit user) who first decided to run Pogo's video through it. So that's five major points of authorship, but still ignoring the thousands of other people involved in making the work technically possible at all: YouTube employees, server managers, programmers who made the tools we use, etc.

    I don't see how any one entity can claim total creative authorship, although I'm sure Disney's lawyers might see it differently. I don't, however, think that this kind of case renders the notion obsolete. Authorship, at least in a very abstract sense, is actually pretty straightforward: you are simply the author of the part of the work that originated with you. Yes, you are always going to be indebted to a logistical and cultural background, but that's the case with literally everything you do anyway. I think the idea is still a coherent one, at least insofar as it applies on an abstract level. Practical, legal authorship is another matter, which I think is hopelessly confused, and also kind of vulgar. It seems like legal authorship is really just about who has the monetary rights to a work, like in the Richard Prince or Jeff Koons lawsuits. I understand why those kinds of issues arise, and I'm actually somewhat sympathetic with the plaintiffs in those cases, but it doesn't seem like the system is at all equipped to handle them with any real nuance. Though I'm not exactly qualified to be commenting on this kind of thing. 

    As the web becomes increasingly trodden down with restrictions both hidden and brazen, how do you think it will impact your own practice as well as the creative applications of others? What can we do?

    The only thing I really hate about the Internet right now is the growing number of walled gardens and closed-off platforms that splinter the web into a bunch of disjointed, restricted factions. As far as my things go, I've mostly tried to just ignore this shift, or work around it, or engage with it in such a way that it forces an otherwise closed system to be open. I miss Web 1.0, but technology marches on. I don't want to be get too weighted down with pointless nostalgia, so I just try to change with the internet, but on my own terms. I will always maintain total control over my own domains, and my own hosting, for example. But some of the conveniences of the modern web, as insidious as they might end up being in the long run, are hard to pass up. Tumblr's simple blog format or Twitter's ability to use their login on your site are good examples of this. I guess the only thing we can really do is use the services that are the least restrictive and vocally oppose the ones that don't carry on in the spirit of the web's early carefree days. :)

     

     

    Age:

    30

    Location:

    NYC

    How long have you been working creatively with technology? How did you start?

    Since I was a real little kid. My first computer was a Mac Classic, and I was in love with it. It had an old copy of black & white Photoshop, and I would mess around with that for hours and hours. I also loved hacking with ResEdit and HyperCard. I once tried to make my own HyperCard version of MYST with images I had rendered in a demo version of Bryce 3D that I hacked. I was obviously a huge hit with the ladies.

    Describe your experience with the tools you use. How did you start using them?

    I use a lot of different tools. Among them, the Adobe suite for design stuff, and a number of different Eclipse builds for coding. I mostly work with the Apache/MySQL/PHP stack on the back-end and the Flash platform client-side. I know it's extremely unfashionable at the moment, but I still love Flash. (Hi Haters!!) I got into it when I was in college, since the ActionScript 3 language was very similar to the Java I was writing for class projects. Most people who hate on Flash don't appreciate how Flash's AVM (Actionscript Virtual Machine) actually fulfilled Java's original promise on the web: write once, run anywhere. But where Java was cumbersome and slow to load, the Flash plugin was only a few MB and quick to initialize, which is a big reason why it's so widely adopted now. I still have a special place in my heart for virtual machines, and I don't think many people realize how good (despite its myriad of hacks and security issues) the AVM actually is. They also don't seem to know that you can write great Flash apps for free. You don't have to pay Adobe to be a developer. The majority of the platform is relatively open.

    Where did you go to school? What did you study?

    University of Central Florida for Computer Science

    What traditional media do you use, if any? Do you think your work with traditional media relates to your work with technology?

    You mean like dead bugs and animal hides and plants and stuff?

    Are you involved in other creative or social activities (i.e. music, writing, activism, community organizing)?

    Not presently. I used to try to play drums when I didn't live in New York, but that was awhile ago. I love music and would love to get into making music in the future, but I just haven't found the time.

    What do you do for a living or what occupations have you held previously? Do you think this work relates to your art practice in a significant way?

    Freelance advertising/digital media work. I'm sure it's had a subconscious effect on some of the things I do, but I can't think of anything where I've explicitly tried to relate it. I'm skeptical of advertising as an industry, but at the same time I know some profoundly creative people that work in it who produce really beautiful ideas despite their consumerist restrictions. These people are inspirations to me just on a general level.

    Who are your key artistic influences?

    This is hard to pin down, because I'm really bad at remembering names. I remember specific projects very vividly though. I know Cory Arcangel and John Michael Boling have influenced me. I was aware of the work of both those guys before I really knew their names. The first thing I saw by Cory Arcangel was Pizza Party and it kind of killed me. I didn't know who made it or that it was considered an artwork until later. I love that project. Other people like Christian Marclay, Paul Pfieiffer and that dextro.org guy I think all influence me on some level. Also the entire spectrum of internet content creators in aggregate: YouTube commentors, cool tweeters, people who make vids of their cats... too many to list.

    Have you collaborated with anyone in the art community on a project? With whom, and on what?

    I haven't really yet, but I would like to. I have a lot of dumb video ideas, like ideas for web videos or whatever. But I don't know anything about how to film stuff or produce that kind of project. Also I have a lot of supercut ideas that may never get made because I'm too lazy. If anyone reading this wants to make videos with me, get in touch plz!

    Do you actively study art history?

    I wouldn't say actively. I took a class on 20th century art in school, and often get absorbed in Wikipedia & Google Art Project (and even sometimes go to museums IRL!) but I wouldn't call it an active pursuit.

    Do you read art criticism, philosophy, or critical theory? If so, which authors inspire you?

    I do have a kind of amateur interest in philosophy. I take continuing education classes and listen to a lot of podcasts and online lectures. I never got a chance to formally study much in the way of humanities as a CS student, so I've been slowly trying to fill the gaps in my knowledge. I just finished three John Searle courses that are available through Berkeley's online lecture offerings, and have grown to appreciate the level of clarity that comes from the ordinary language approach to solving big problems. I wouldn't say it really influences the things I make, however. And I don't really read much Theory or art criticism. On occasion, I'll stumble into some stuff online and will often feel either hopelessly lost or like I'm wasting my time parsing obscurantist trivialities. But this may just be the result of my low tolerance for what I perceive as the over-intellectualization of art, most likely due to my technical background.

    Are there any issues around the production of, or the display/exhibition of new media art that you are concerned about?

    Not really, but I haven't been asked to exhibit my things all that much. Though every time I see a computer in a gallery running a piece of net art or whatever, I do think it can look a little out of place. Like the internet, which anyone can access from anywhere, has been forced into this stodgy artificial context which does little to reproduce the wonderful experience of surfing around from site to site and suddenly discovering something really beautiful in the middle of your living room. But it's no big deal. Besides, if we didn't put websites in galleries then how else would we know that they've been officially canonized as cool artworks? :)

  • Permalink for 'Mapping the Social'

    Mapping the Social

    Posted: 30-April-2012, 6:36pm EDT by Louis Doulas

    The Internet, specifically social media, is often perpetuated as being a new kind of ?revolution celebrity? and indeed to some point its played a hefty distributive role in accelerating the 2011 Egyptian Revolution, Occupy and even the SOPA protests to name but a recent few. Yet, it simultaneously is this other exploitative entity, capitalizing on our movement through online space and constantly collecting data with often vague, ill-defined intentions.  Can social media?s two dynamic roles?both as a constructive social platform for anti-government efforts and a data aggregating system?be synthesized into a critical and valuable commons? Can personal user data collection be used for more than advertising and increased commodification?

    Techno-sociologist, Zeynep Tufekci proposes that today, connection and friendship are moving from the ?ascribed ties? of inherited local relationships consisting of one?s neighborhood friends, family, etc. to ?achieved ties? or relationships located based on the shared affinities of people ?with whom you interact using multiple means of communication?.  What can such shifts reveal about territorial and even regional interaction? Of neighborhoods, boroughs and its socio-economic behaviors? How can geography be re-defined?

    The Livehood Research Project from the School of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University is potentially one example of how data collection can be used in a constructive, illuminating way, by demonstrating how place can be defined by social activity (maybe rather than by jurisdiction).  Livehood uses the data of over 18 million foursquare check-ins to map both geographic distance of frequented venues as well as plotting its ?social distance?, or ?the degree of overlap in the people that check-in to them?. Through accumulation of foursquare check-ins, Livehood algorithmically condenses this data into neighborhoods allowing a user to view the pattern sets of other people?s use of space.

    Though the project in its current stages is still extremely limited (restricted so far to only three US cities, as well as accessible only to foursquare users) Livehood could develop into an extremely valuable tool for future governments and its citizens, as both a social lubricant and political tool. It also could just as easily fulfill yet another advertiser?s dream.

  • Permalink for 'Artist Profile: Sami Ben Larbi'

    Artist Profile: Sami Ben Larbi

    Posted: 25-April-2012, 4:53pm EDT by Louis Doulas

    Parle moi je t'écoute, 2006-7

    Fiction, history and reality are constantly being intertwined throughout your work. How do you balance the phantasmic with reality? How do these techniques propel or help understand the history and politics in works like As it might, could, did happen and Was Bourguiba, then Ben Ali, awaiting the next

    The balance is very vague and I keep it so as long as possible. I want the viewers to find their own balance.

    When Bourguiba first came to power, he was hailed as a savior, a liberator of the oppressive French. Images of him where everywhere. He cultivated that cult, just like any other dictator and was able to hold on to power for a long time. The fiction of the liberator was trying to negate the reality of living under his reign.

    In my work I ask the viewers to consider what is being presented, to form their own understanding and opinion. In As it might, could, did happen, I recreated a bedroom (with furniture made of cardboard and wood imitation vinyl) in what was a East German Pioneers boarding house. The furniture looked almost authentic, but not quite. It played with the pre-conceptions of how East German furniture looked cheap and homogeneous. But the environment was real. So the balance here between fiction and reality is very flexible.

    In one of your project?s statements you describe the struggle with your identity as the following: ?I want to be this icon, this Frenchness, while also being who I am a mix breed, neither one nor the other. Arab, but French, but American, but becoming German??

    With this, works like, La distinction entre un carthaginois et un hexadecagone, au subjonctifLayered Tense, and Pictures I wish I had are attempts at contextualizing the fragmented identity in all its disparate variations. The dynamic between the placement of the ?individual? and the ?group? is constantly being challenged in today?s nobody-lives-where-there ancestors-did world. How do you deal with and approach this spectrum?

    This fragmentation is very much at the center of my work. As you mentioned I am a member of various identities, nationalities. I identify, understand, relate with each of these groups. But I am always an outsider, because of these other affiliations and identities.

    In my work I exploit and subvert the roles of the maker and the audience. In La distinction entre un carthaginois et un hexadecagone, au subjonctif, I play the role of Antoine Doinel, the lead character, and the viewers are the audience in the scene. But there is no way to enter the rotor, there is a clear separation, a frustration. I try to be this French icon, but I am not and in the installation I am trapped, doomed to repeat the scene over and over. Pictures I wish I had also deal with a certain frustration. The installation is a familiar environment, a living room but the pictures on the walls are blank and the viewers cannot sit on the chairs. So one could almost belong but a barrier exists preventing that.

    The fragmentation is recurring. In North by Northwest, Erased and Reshot, the cinematic language of the famous scene from Hitchcock's film has been restructured. On one side the original scene is stripped of characters, autos and a plane. Stripped of its identity. On the other side the reshot scene is with me as Cary Grant, always looking toward the camera, transforming the viewer into the other protagonists in the scene. As a viewer, to experience the installation is to re-edit the scene and try to make sense of what is happening. Re-creating an identity. Maybe sensing a déjà vu but not quite placing it.

    It seems that the autonomy of the art object and the film are never enough for you in your work.  When used, they always exist within a larger constellation of things, as essential ?props? to the faithful conveying of a ?scene?. These large, encompassing installations create a certain cinematic mood: a direct immersive environment for viewers to conceive a narrative.  I?m interested in the way you approach these designed spaces as well as how architecture is considered throughout your body of work. Where do you place these environments in relation to film? Why awake and privilege the senses this way?

    The reality and the fiction come here into play. Transposing time. Placing the viewers in a set and creating an interaction. I want to create an experience. Something, a feeling, a personal understanding between the installations and the viewers. A very early piece, Un der Pres S Ure, had the viewers become actors and only witness the audience to this interaction. It's a desire to communicate on a very basic level and at first, physical. My work begins with a physical experience, like architecture. The viewers are in a total environment that considers its environment, its architecture and its history. To refer back to the film reference, the viewers step into a set. I consider it live cinema, or real cinema, frozen in a certain time period.

    The gallery space is abandoned as a sufficient, pre-requisite space to work within and that this abandonment seems most beneficial to you, as most of your work often alters the entirety of a space.  I?m curious as to what kind of interference, or intervention you?re interested in creating by choosing to present ideas and experiences in such locations as a FDJ boarding room or a deserted military base. What does ?art? outside of its gallery context mean for you? How does it lend toward the ?situational??

    I am not sure that the gallery has ever been sufficient, it's a display-space marketed toward sales just like any other product. It's blank and as such works well for singular objects (painting, sculptures...). I tend to create environments where everything in the space has been considered, the architecture, its history and my alterations / additions.

    The FDJ boarding room is a great example of that. One could argue that I could have done the installation anywhere else. However prior to entering my room the viewers experienced stairs with a hand rail at kid height, a long hallway with multiple numbered doors on each side. This set the understanding and mood of the space in a certain direction. It felt authentic, because it was. Upon entering my installation one could believe what one saw. In other word an alternative space (to that of the gallery) lends to more interpretative potential.

    But this is also double edged. My artwork exist rarely outside the installations I create, which are time based. They have a relatively short life spam. I rarely recreate the same installations somewhere else.

    Age: 39

    Location: Berlin, Germany

    How long have you been working creatively with technology? How did you start?

    About 10 years ago I was experimenting with lots of materials and genres at the UW and I was always interested in Cinema, its development and its theories. I was then taking lots of film history and theory classes. I was interested in furthering the idea of ?real cinema? put forth by the french and italian movements. The idea of creating an art form closer to reality. I started incorporating live cameras and monitors in an early installation I did and I have been using technology ever since.

    Describe your experience with the tools you use. How did you start using them?

    I use tools as I need them. If I do not know a tool or a process I will teach myself. I started doing carpentry work in my undergrad studies by pretending I could do the job, and set myself up to learn as fast and as good as possible. I can do lots of things (wood work, metal work, casting, sewing, computer work...). All pretty much self taught, with lots and lots of trial and error. I still have lots to learn.

    Where did you go to school? What did you study?

    I went to The University of Washington where I studied Ceramics with the great Jamie Walker, Akio Takamori and Doug Jeck. I then went to Virginia Commonwealth University to study Sculpture and Extended media with Siemon Allen, Kendall Buster, Elizabeth King and Amy Hauft.

     What traditional media do you use, if any? Do you think your work with traditional media relates to your work with technology?

    I use them all, all the time. It's part of my artistic process. It's a means to an end, just like media is. They are both intertwined. I could not conceive and realize the installations I create without the understanding of both.

    Are you involved in other creative or social activities (i.e. music, writing, activism, community organizing)?

    I go mushroom hunting when I can. I travel and cook sweet dishes for people whenever I can. I plan on doing more acting in the near future.

    What do you do for a living or what occupations have you held previously? Do you think this work relates to your art practice in a significant way?

    For the moment I work installing art shows in museums and for artists. I have also taught art at TU Berlin. I was a building manager. I was also a house cleaner, a carpenter, a mason, a dishwasher, a math and physics tutor, a basket-ball coach, a gardener, a graphic designer, a seamster, a pizza delivery boy. They all have influenced me. I have either re-used the knowledge and experience to physically produce the work or they influenced the way I see.

    Who are your key artistic influences?

    Stan Douglas comes quickly to mind, as did early Tony Oursler and Gary Hill pieces. I like a lot Steve Mc Queen, Bruce Naumann, Omer Fast. Tsai Ming-Liang is also a key figure.

    Have you collaborated with anyone in the art community on a project? With whom, and on what?

    I have worked with Fionn Meade and Mary Simpson on a few of their projects, short films/ sequences. I am currently developing projects with Philine Sollmann on a photo-film series.

    Do you actively study art history?

    I did in school. Installing artworks, from old renaissance paintings to current artists, I do get to experience and learn from them, which I find a lot more informative than seeing slides or a reproduction in a book. One gets to really experience the materiality of the artwork and gain a deeper appreciation, or not.

    Do you read art criticism, philosophy, or critical theory? If so, which authors inspire you?

    I am familiar with some of the art theories out there but I must say it rather turns me off. When I read Bourriaud and then experience some of the artwork it champions the two do not compute. I prefer to read historical or semi historical books and essays like Amin Maalouf. I do read art criticism and reviews to keep me informed.

     Are there any issues around the production of, or the display/exhibition of new media art that you are concerned about?

    Very much so..I use media in my work, but it's not about media. The various materials used in the work are just a vehicle. As such I have a hard time getting funding for projects. In a typical grant-funding application, one must either enter images, or video, not both. To get a sense of my work I need to have both to give a sense of the experience. The granting foundations and associations are still very slow in recognizing this hybrid genre.

  • Permalink for 'Artist Profile: Laure Prouvost'

    Artist Profile: Laure Prouvost

    Posted: 12-April-2012, 3:50pm EDT by Louis Doulas
    Archivo adjunto [Descargar]

    Before, before, 2011

    Works like IT, HEAT, HITOwt and The Artist?among many others?approach storytelling through frenetic, non-linear progressions and cuts.  Narratives seem to emerge spontaneously from what seems to be your immediate environment without much premeditation.  Why is it important for you to develop language this way? What is lost or gained through such fragmented communication?

    Anything that is not shown has to be imagined.

    So here I am answering these questions, in the middle of the woods on this lovely Sunday afternoon on top of a beautiful big tree, water running beneath me?I shouldn?t drop the computer. Now it?s up to you to imagine how I got up here, the colour of the leaves and the smell in the air.

    The condensing of films is a way of relating to our experiences, of the multiple textures we constantly have to deal with and how our brain constantly has to edit for us. The fact that a lot of the footage comes from my immediate surroundings is just me looking at what is around me ? then I can start to create a story around, say the bread on the table, or whatever. It is a chance to look at things closely and then differently, to imagine things in another way.

    Nothing is normal.

    But sometimes it?s completely constructed environments as well, like in, The Artist.

    Regarding editing: An image can generate different meanings depending what you see after or before it. This is what triggers associations, connections and eventually narratives and this is the potential in the editing that I love. Spontaneity is also important for me. I need to make mistakes. If things are controlled and pre-determined then often I am not happy with what I am producing.

    Problems bring new levels to the work. Lacking control is an important part of my practice. Losing interpretation of the work too.

    For Frieze 2011 you made 28 black and white signs and scattered them around the fair.  The slogans on these signs propose nonexistent scenarios ranging from the banal to the absurd?ones that can be rendered impossible or absent from the viewers local control.  These works encourage a type of ?escape?; a set of imaginative proposals used to confront the everyday, or a least the world of Frieze.  The signs follow in similar vain to your previous works: maze like encounters and convergences between fiction and reality.  How do you approach the dynamic between fiction and reality with these sign pieces? How do these worlds inform one another? What are its potentials?

    Imagination plays a strong part in my work. I like that the work exists in the someone?s head, that someone created its own vision, re-imagined the space, placed or worked in its head. Words are the most powerful tool to conjure images without using an image itself. More powerful in fact because a new image is created each time. I don?t need to produce anything anymore. It can always exist differently in each interpretation. I like using subtitles in my films as the audience then uses their own voice. Reading the text, you are a bit more part of the process, more linked to the work.

    Also it?s about reinventing the meanings of things and I don?t even have to create it as a visual response. It?s about what is not shown but lets you imagine a fork dancing. A way for me to work with the fictional is to always link it to things that are very obvious that are here now and start a story totally normal, slowly it getting weirder and weirder but then realizing you already in it. Also bringing relics to the film as a way to assure the reality of the fiction.

    I create these fictions but always want to make conscious the position of the viewer, of the audience. So I pull you along and then stop and talk about the space you are reading this text within. Or how you need to concentrate. IDEALLY THESE WORDS WOULD TAKE YOU SOMEWHERE ELSE ALL LYING IN THE SUN ON A BEACH, the computers buried under the sand. 

    Ideally these words would make sense.

    Free!

    Our reality is imagined; only constructed through rules of social norms.

    The actual materials that are used and featured throughout both your installations and videos are often found, hastily assembled and generally ?sloppy?.  Additionally, your videos seem to be shot on consumer grade equipment as if ready to be uploaded to YouTube.  How do these materials inform your intentions and vice versa? Are they another attempt at imbuing everyday life with a ?story??

    I like the everyday. I like the fact we mix fiction to reality or vice versa. How everyone and everything has its purpose. I quite like the quote of Marcel Broodthaers:

    ?I don?t believe in film, nor do I believe in any other art. I don?t believe in the unique artists or the unique work of art. I believe in phenomena, and in men who put ideas together.?

    The fact that it?s low tech, that it?s footage I collect gives me a lot of freedom and therefore technology or the perfect shot doesn?t interest me so much. I had this sort of idea that I did not want to create attractive, pleasing things. I have this thing that I thought was too easy, going against the idea of improving the world.

    ; )

    My recent project was filmed on HD and with a crew so it?s not always like that.

    ; )

    You are the founder of the online moving image museum, tank.tv.  Could you explain your motivations for initiating such a project? Why showcase content strictly on the internet? What is inferred by the 'moving image'?

    I am not the founder of tank.tv but I directed it at its beginning.

    When Tank started in 2003, video art was a totally different thing and there were very few platforms or appetites to show it, so TANK was really useful in that sense. But I think its definitely preferable to view a projection or installation in person ?you get immersed in the work a lot more than you can on a computer screen. I think the internet is an interesting platform to discover things to get a terse idea of someone?s work but I think it?s definitely not as a good as seeing a projection or installation. It has a different purpose, and sometimes when it?s made just for that purpose it?s doing something else, it?s interesting.

    But its all just moving images, images moving from one to the next. Its not real.

     

     

    Age:

    34

    Location:

    London ? UK

    How long have you been working creatively with technology? How did you start?

    Since I am not 20, I?m not smooth with technology. But, moving images I like for its immediacies?not it?s technology.

    Describe your experience with the tools you use. How did you start using them? 

    I do things very basic, on Final Cut and with my own camera.

    Where did you go to school? What did you study?

    Film and Video. Fine Art at St. Marts London and then Goldsmiths London.

    What traditional media do you use, if any? Do you think your work with traditional media relates to your work with technology?

    I just use sensors for light and sound. I find video funny as very straightforward projection, so much you can do with this already. I don?t want to lose myself in technical stuff.

    Are you involved in other creative or social activities (i.e. music, writing, activism, community organizing)?

    What do you do for a living or what occupations have you held previously? Do you think this work relates to your art practice in a significant way?

    I was running tank.tv and did many other things: worked in a cinema and made some jackets from blankets and curtain. Everything comes together and influences everything

    Who are your key artistic influences?

    Have you collaborated with anyone in the art community on a project? With whom, and on what?

    Rory McBeth on the film, ?The Wanderer?

    Do you actively study art history?

    I studied art history in Belgium.

    Do you read art criticism, philosophy, or critical theory? If so, which authors inspire you

    Are there any issues around the production of, or the display/exhibition of new media art that you are concerned about?

    I am not so interested in interactive technologies. It becomes too much about the machines and loses the purpose of the work, I often feel. But of course it depends so much on how it?s used. 

  • Permalink for 'Post-Trolling: A Conversation with Art404'

    Post-Trolling: A Conversation with Art404

    Posted: 9-April-2012, 5:05pm EDT by Louis Doulas
    Archivo adjunto [Descargar]

    Motorola Droid XL, 2011

    Art404 is comprised of Manuel Palou and Moises Sanabria.

    This interview was conducted over multiple online chat sessions beginning in March 2012 through April 2012.

     

    louisdoulas: Let?s start with Art Not Found or Art404. Could you tell me a little more about its connotations?

    artnotfound: Art404 is a pun for artnotfound, a motto that gives us a certain level of transparency. We don't want to get hung up on making art and exclude anybody from our work.

    louisdoulas: So the absence implies a kind of non-context for framing production?

    artnotfound: Well the internet functions in a non-context anyway. We want to create content and value more than we want to create art.

    louisdoulas: Right, without the prerequisite motivations of making an artwork per se, just ?pure? creative production.

    artnotfound: It's relentless creative production and discussion. That?s the future of content.

    louisdoulas: So then there?s this awareness of the potential insularities or exclusiveness of the art world, or at least a hesitation to participate within this context? Perhaps which is why you're attracted to the internet in the first place, as it levels out all content.

    artnotfound: Yes definitely. By opening up the discussion to everyone it democratizes content. And if successful, any further discussion of that content gives it social value.

    louisdoulas: Cultural Capital

    artnotfound: Art404 likes this.

    louisdoulas: I'm interested in these notions of 'opening up discussion', surrounding content, in this case specifically your work; what does this mean for you?

    artnotfound: It means our mothers can engage with our work as much as a gallerist can. The internet is allowing people to take part in things they never would have before, opening up the possibilities for a much larger discussion. When both ends of the spectrum: high and low culture, exist on the same field, exciting things happen.  The outcome of this discussion creates a higher, or "purer" value.

    A gallerist once talked to us about "the kitty cat realm", a world where artists are reduced to a sort of novelty, enjoyable by a wide audience, much the way a cute kitten is.  The art world seems to try to stray away from this phenomenon, where we find value and possibility in it.

    louisdoulas: And our relationship with the internet only seems to get more confrontational with sites like Mega Upload forced offline, Pirate Bay switching to their Swedish domain to avoid domain seizure, the increased exploitation of users within Facebook and issues with self-proclaimed 'democratic' art practices and ideology itself.  Your poem, BE reflects on some of these conflicts, specifically on corporatization and lifestyle commodification.

    artnotfound: In BE, we weren't trying highlight the negative in advertising, but rather make a sort of mock manifesto for what advertising proposes.  Lifestyle marketing is changing rapidly with the internet and while people complain about ads and search engines becoming more targeted, it's actually making the ad industry more transparent. Technology is getting better at revealing our desires and making us aware of them, and this tension should empower people, not scare them.  Now that the technology is here, people can be content aware.

    It's going to back to the idea of high and low co-existing. On one hand it's opening these brands to critique, and at the same time linking to them so you can explore and form your own thoughts. In this way, we can accept and negate advertising at the same time.

    louisdoulas: There is quite a divide on these issues of privacy and advertising.  I think this simultaneity is interesting: this acceptance and rejection of advertising, of commodified desires that seem to be especially apparent in interface design and marketing campaigns for most digital ephemera.  Seeing brands like Nike or Carhartt feature user product reviews directly on their websites as a kind of crowdsourced testimony to their product illustrate this type of transparency you mentioned.

    What you seem to be alluding to though, is this empowering of the user, of the consumer, in an ultimate transparent society that eventually leads corporations and consumers to exist in a perpetual public sphere causing both to act within less deceptive, falsifying modes?

    artnotfound: That's the idea and ultimately what we hope will happen. People have always consumed products and content intuitively, but now we live in an age of information where people have the means to inform themselves and others. This "informed intuition" is an important principle to us in all aspects of life, from making artwork to getting the right product.

    If you have the internet, there really is no excuse to be ignorant anymore.

    BE, 2011

    louisdoulas: Then the decision to work with Verizon Wireless to make a supersized version of the Motorola Droid was obviously an important one?

    artnotfound: For us, it's important to diversify the people we collaborate with, especially to go beyond the art scene. We see big brands like Verizon or Google as an opportunity to reach more people. We plan on bringing the phone out in public to call attention both to the absurdity of the phone and to highlight the future of this technology by showing you the complete opposite. Phones are trying to get physically smaller while their function and importance in our culture is exploding. By using the Droid XL as a "practical" object instead of an artwork we can make fun of the technology while glorifying it as something that's so important it needs to be mocked.

    louisdoulas: The mockery of phone size to this reality of reliance produces a certain ambivalence for a future increasingly automated. Is this accurate? Perhaps some of the ideas and reactions in Droid XL can be found in Simages?

    artnotfound: We're obsessed with automation, both as something scary and beautiful. Simages starts to point at that. We created this lovely, "ideal" living situation and then let it run automatically, only to watch the Sims lives crumble as they run on autopilot. Dirty dishes begin to pile up, the family stops talking to each other and they lose the things that make them a "perfect" family. 

    As we move to a more automated culture, we're making our lives easier while changing the perceived value of time management. We're working on an app that will automatically text your mother every night. Both as a practical way of automating love, and as a comment on how technology is changing time management.  By exploring the limits of automation, we can have a better understanding of what it means to us and what the best path to take is. We can make an "informed" choice, so to speak.

    louisdoulas: Time, seems to have become more combative, or least its passing more 'apparent' today.  Have you ever used Steve Lambert's Self-Control app?

    I think productivity and what it challenges and defines seems to be more and more of a preoccupation for this generation of cultural producers. These notions of leisure: recreation in contrast to 'productivity' and the strive for this supposed balance is something we think automation would hope to make easier, such as the app you're working on. But of course we can see this becoming problematic, this gesture of an automated text to one's mother.

    artnotfound: It's post-trolling, an ironic and almost sinister gesture that reveals something really telling. It definitely makes texting your mother manually more meaningful if you have the option to do it automatically.

    Simages, 2011

    louisdoulas: Going back to the potential threats the internet faces, your work 5 millions dollars 1 TB consists of a myriad of torrented software files ranging from Adobe Suite to the Rosetta Stone Language Pack. You've even made these files available to download online. You've made your politics quite clear here and so I wanted to ask what your role is as artists with a work like this?

    artnotfound: Well we're just playing devils advocate to the larger issue at hand, rather than trying to instill too much of our own politics. In 5m1t, the issue is obviously the amount of freely available content on the web and the translation of that value into the physical space. Our role as artists is merely to reveal the elephant in the room; these files already existed on the web and were easily searchable. It wasn't until we started archiving them on the hard drive that we realized the magnitude of the situation.

    louisdoulas: The presentation of this piece in the gallery: the external hard drive as this slick humming black monolith where upon realizing its hidden worth and actual 'value' becomes a sort of spectacle.  Its physical manifestation creates this weight of worth and it becomes a banal and brazen presentation of the fixivity of 'illegal' data. 

    artnotfound: We like that description. Ultimately we think the piece succeeds in offering a point of reference to the rampant amount of piracy going on the internet. The grotesque value of the files being contrasted by the small, sleek hard drive is a nice metaphor for the ease of file sharing versus their perceived damage.

    5 Million Dollars 1 Terabyte, 2011

    louisdoulas: We're used to being weightless in a way when it comes to dispersing and acquiring content online. We often forget the actual materiality and reality of our communicative devices, their storage and maintenance, electricity, etc. and also the actual repercussions of online activity. On one level that's why SOPA seemed so profound (the success of the protests against it and experiencing this 'win' as an online collective).

    artnotfound: All online activity has real life consequences. Our piece and SOPA are just physical incarnations of that. The digital coming into the real, and the real going digital, it's a beautiful thing.

    louisdoulas: Conrad I think is worth mentioning here?Conrad's internet presence as a way of dealing with the loss of his wife. This work, along with Man's Google Search for Meaning and even Simages all kind of depict an absence; there's a hint of depression, or a self-devouring nihilism in these three.

    artnotfound: If we can harness this nihilism in a way that has poetic resonance, we'll have something of value. If we can get you to see it, understand it, and experience it, we can get you to reflect on it. Once people start reflecting they can form their own ideas and empower themselves through that. You can be nihilistic while still suggesting a resolution.

    Conrad, 2011

    louisdoulas: And how did you stumble upon Conrad? What made you want to highlight him?

    artnotfound: We stumbled on Conrad on a small, private message board and were immediately captivated. He's such a perfect example of humans giving technology a higher significance. To record yourself is to quantify ones self, and he's devoted quite a bit of time doing that. The motivation for him is simply to communicate, and the sheer number his videos really tells you how urgent it is. Because all his videos are essentially the same, it really makes it a digital ritual.

    louisdoulas: Art404 seems to be very optimistic about the future, especially technology and the internet's role in it, but what are some of your concerns at the moment?

    artnotfound: We are digital natives, any concerns we do have about technology we feel comfortable confronting them. The more informed you are, the less vulnerable you are. Any problems with technology can be tackled with technology. As long as we're responsible when using technology to replace and augment our lives, we think we'll be OK.

    There needs to be a humanist approach to the ethics of technology. Innovation and advancement without compromising the human, those are the types of things we are a part of.

    louisdoulas: With these changes the role of the artist changes as well. Besides incorporating various digital ephemera/aesthetic into works of art, how do you see the position of the artist changing in all of this? The artist's role in production and distribution?

    artnotfound: We're biased, but we see it as the most exciting time ever. Artists can do everything now, they can be their own photographer, gallerist, curator, critic, market team, audience, everything. Producing and distributing is no longer an industry thing, but an everybody thing. Anybody can post a picture and someone else can immediately remix it into something new and this is happening exponentially so. Even if most of the internet is creating content just to LOL, the energy that comes with that is inspiring.

    The old "everyone is an artist" adage has never been more true in today's there's-an-app-for-that world. It's no coincidence that this internet generation has seen a rise in artsy, creative people that are obsessed with sharing their ideas. Whether the content they're producing has artistic merit or not is irrelevant, the enthusiasm to do so is what matters.

    Now that everybody is a content creator, it's going to push the artist wishing to rise above the clutter to work harder, do more, and innovate constantly. In a world where everyone's fighting for attention, people are going to get more creative. A new breed of work and art making will lead the relentless content creating culture and we?re excited about it.

    Man's Google Search For Meaning, 2011

    louisdoulas: There is obviously a danger in complete democratization, or in everyone becoming an artist.  Boris Groys talks a little about this in his essay, ?The Weak Universalism?. But, I want to know where critique comes in for you? What is being done in the name of all this mass creative progress?

    artnotfound: Critique is a very complex subject now that so many people are involved. Practically everything we say is public now and this really affects the way we communicate. When not covered by the veil of anonymity, our critique is subject to its own critique. We hope that this won't become a norm, and that people will always speak their mind, otherwise the internet will devolve into a giant circle jerk.

    louisdoulas: These ideas of public transparency, anonymity and collectivity are all pertinent strategies or alternative ways of 'movement' and governance. This dynamic between individualism and the group is interesting and I'm curious to hear your positions on these things. Maybe a good place to start would be on a tangent, with the Anonymous vs. Gagosian incident?

    artnotfound: Anonymous vs. Gagosian was a sort of chance art happening, the kind that only happens on the internet. A hacker identifying with the internet "group" Anonymous thought it would be funny to take down our website, screenshot it, and email it to us. It was funny, and we immediately wanted more. After a few emails, he admitted he had been trying to get into the art scene for years. We convinced him/her that they would be better suited taking down more important art websites as institutional critique. The next day, he had taken down the front pages of Gagosian, David Zwirner, Hauser & Wirth, and Tate.

    If one person can censor an entire power structure with the press of a few keystrokes, what does that say about the politics of digital culture? People aren't afraid to take action behind a computer screen. The net allows everyday people can become leaders, tastemakers, and icons. By documenting these happenings we hope it will motivate people to talk, troll, spam and flame their thoughts to the world. We always look forward to collaborating with the internet.

    The great thing is that you can be an individual and a group, you don't have to pick a side. You can be a boy or a girl, old or young, whatever you want. There's tons of up and downs to this new ability, and a whole new set of rules. Understanding the dynamics between real and digital culture will prepare us for the future.

    Anonymous Vs. Gagosian, 2011

    louisdoulas:  The Pirate Bay's Aerial Server Drones are also a good example of some of these emerging techniques and strategies.

    artnotfound:  Those are really next level. Props to The Pirate Bay.

    Anonymous Vs. Gagosian, 2011

    louisdoulas:  I think as you said, 'understanding the dynamics between the real and the digital', will prepare us for the future.  Often times social networking, emerging technology and the internet is treated, at least by the media, as a kind of new 'revolution celebrity' and so a lot of emphasis and faith is placed on these various kinds of cybernetic theories.  And through all this it seems that there isn't a declared political form, but rather that a form supposedly emerges in and out from reactions to various events. It?s an abandonment of political action by pure force that?s in favor more so of an accumulative power. I even want to draw a parallel to the practice of Relational Aesthetics and the type of technique used: the creation of 'alternatives' and 'comprises' rather than a complete redesigning and reconfiguring of society and the world.

    artnotfound:  Alternative sounds like it's outside of something. We're not splitting off from reality, just augmenting it. Now, the collective actions of a lot of individual people and small groups can snowball into something much faster. It's the same strategy that's always been around, just on steroids.

     

  • Permalink for 'Artist Profile: Mike Ruiz'

    Artist Profile: Mike Ruiz

    Posted: 29-March-2012, 6:47pm EDT by Louis Doulas

    Extended Bliss, 2010. Digital C-print

    In many of your works (Blank is the New Blank, ReplacedExtensions, Auto-CAD Freestyle) you utilize chance operations to simultaneously demonstrate the creative successes and failures of software and technology.  The calculated spontaneity of generative systems such as the Content Aware Fill or the Roomba, become exposed through their capacity to adequately finish or begin an artwork.  Your works highlight the novelty of these systems and how they algorithmically output formal expression.  Could you speak more about this automative process and the motives behind working this way? 

     I am interested in automated improvisation. I design situations in which an artwork can take place. Often time what I am asking from the technology is something it is not intended to do. So there is a collaborative process between the automated tools I employ and myself.  I am interested in co-authoring works--arriving at traditional media such as drawing, painting, prints and sculpture0--with various consumer forms of artificial intelligence.  

    In Replaced you use Content Aware Fill on the Mona Lisa. The resulting image contains not a modified software interpretation of the sitter but rather her entire absence from the scene.  Filling her place instead are assorted fragments of the background landscape; attempts made by the software to cohesively continue the vista; the portrait becoming a glitchy patterned landscape--though in a way 'failing' due to the lack of landscape found originally in the picture.  From the software finishing your gesture to the outsourcing of your image to China to be made an oil painting, there's a certain distancing, or alienation, found in both your making process and then carried out in its actual methods of production.  Besides the obvious dynamic of image to object to image again, what does it mean for you to outsource this image and have it be made into a painting? Is 'Replaced'  also just another attempt to historically continue the heavy mockery and modification this exhausted icon has endured? Is this your 'upgraded' version?

    The work was produced as a painting for conceptual reasons. I was interested in manufacturing the painting in a similar form to that of the original, a 77 x 53 cm oil painting. I wanted to make a painting that could essentially replace the original, and therewith also replace the entire history and mythos of the icon, literally replace Mona Lisa both physically and conceptually. In a more expanded form this work is an application of the many-worlds theory, by creating a mythology about the work and providing potential alternative histories and futures.

    Your Extensions series are first interesting because the Content Aware Fill that is applied actually works to fluently continue each images' surrounding space.  Within the series though I'm particularly interested in Extended Bliss and Extended Aurora. The default desktop images found on Windows and Mac computers are usually perfect, idealized, seemingly non-existent images of nature (Windows' classic saturated hill) or captured natural phenomena (Mac's Aurora Borealis).  Similar to the purpose of skeuomorphic design, nature here is meant to coax the user into a familiarized safe, 'authentic' space while also simultaneously using that familiarity to conflate and coat the product with a certain impossible utopian aura, demonstrating an infinite exaggeration of user/product possibility and compatibility. Extensions becomes the over indulgence, the overkill; the residue of the over consumer.   The scenes potentially extending forever if it were not for their fixed and paused existences as digital images / prints.  Why choose to 'end' them this way?  Is this done to hint at the banality of the Content Aware Filter's subtle 'extensions'?

     I like very simple ideas, beginning from the default, using the lowest common denominators or presets. What is the default situation for so many people? It is starring at a computer screen, and what are they looking at? The same image, Bliss, is probably the most widely recognized image of all time. What we see in Extended Bliss is an extension of this default from standard to panorama format. The idea was to just continue the piece to a feasible point. I didn't want it to look exaggerated. I wanted it to appear as a realistic image, one that could have been cropped to create the original. I wanted to engage with the mythos of the image, create an alternate reality where this image supercedes the original.

    'Ugly is the New Fun', 'Geeks is the New Currency', 'Learning is the New Wine', 'Ginger is the New Vegan'.  These are just some of the snowclones that your website www.blankisthenewblank.info generates. 'X is the new Y', or 'Blank is the new Blank' is an expression that signifies a sudden, perhaps unexpected, rise in popularity amongst something.  However, with your website there is no logic per se to the phrasal template.  Because the phrases don't reflect any solidified reality, in that they don't actually represent any established cultural trends, they become immediately absurd and humorous, producing unforeseen linkages between concepts where literally anything is and becomes anything else.  Randomizing the flow and delivery of content within an Internet of filter bubbles, predetermined search destinations and targeted advertising is one strategy of prioritizing creative thinking today, which also just means finding value in play and experimentation (Fluxus).  Could you speak more about preserving and encouraging these aspects of non-productivity and randomness? Within art? Within your own practice? 

    I think the work, although yielding random results, is quite productive. I don't equate randomness with non-productivity, quite the opposite. If the situation is designed to create random results, there can be a very specific reason for that. In this case, I was interested in the arbitrary nature of this phrasal template or snowclone, rather than exposing that fact already inherent in the structure of the language, I was interested in the chance moments where the new statements actually created new 'truths', more convincing or real than their originals, when the words line up and create something of political, factual, or comedic significance. Essentially the work is an infinite poem, constantly refreshing it's relationship to itself through the constant recombination of its elements.

    You freestyle for nine minutes straight over a muted Oliver Laric Versions (2010) video.  Where in previous works you use CAF to literally fill a scene, in Versions Freestyle your stream of conscious rap is reduced to just that: a filler.  Where CAF tries to mathematically determine new space by interpreting surrounding content, you use the video's content, whatever is momentarily on screen, to feed, riff off of and contextualize.  Rapping here becomes another tool used to achieve constant engagement with content in an accelerated environment, while producing meaningful unexpected improvisations.  Lil' B does this too.  Can you tell me more about your relationship to hip-hop and rap?

    I have been freestyle rapping since I was about 16, I can improvise well. I have been a big fan of hip-hop and rap for as long as I can remember. But I have always been attracted to freestyling in particular, I like the idea that something is formed in a very specific way in a very specific moment under very specific conditions, which will never be duplicated, pure thought verbalized. This work was actually birthed out of my relationship with Oliver, a friend and fellow freestyle rapper. This was a way to engage with his work on a very familiar level. I wanted to literally create a remix of versions. Here my improvised vocals illustrate one interpretation of the work.

     

     

    Age:

    27 

    Location:

    Berlin 

    How long have you been working creatively with technology? How did you start?

    My dad always had a computer since I was like 5 or something and I just started drawing with kid pix. I guess that was my first creative encounter with technology.

    Describe your experience with the tools you use. How did you start using them?

    I usually see how something works, but rather than see it for what it can do rather than what it is intended to do. It then becomes a sort of game of experiment , putting things to work doing counter-intuitive tasks.

    Where did you go to school? What did you study?

    I went to a St. Edward's University in Austin, TX where I got my bachelors in philosophy. I am currently finishing my MFA in sculpture at the Berlin University of the Arts.

    What traditional media do you use, if any? Do you think your work with traditional media relates to your work with technology?

    Many traditional materials are used in the execution of my works. I am interested in reimagining possibilities for arriving at these media, approaching them from new angles. For example, create a drawing without actually drawing.

    Are you involved in other creative or social activities (i.e. music, writing, activism, community organizing)?

    Freestyle rapping and running Future Gallery.

    What do you do for a living or what occupations have you held previously? Do you think this work relates to your art practice in a significant way?

    I teach English, edit texts, and sell work. I think all three activities have influenced my practice is someway or another.

    Who are your key artistic influences?

    Luigi Serafini, Thomas Ruff, Godfrey Reggio

    Have you collaborated with anyone in the art community on a project? With whom, and on what?

    I have collaborated with many of my peers through Future Gallery.

    Do you actively study art history?

    On a case by case basis.

    Do you read art criticism, philosophy, or critical theory? If so, which authors inspire you?

    Sure, it varies from project to project. I am into Plato, Alain Badiou and Paul Virilio. I am currently reading Daniel Birnbaum?s Chronology.

    Are there any issues around the production of, or the display/exhibition of new media art that you are concerned about?

    Yes

     









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