Thursday, May 1, 2008

Mended spiderwebs

Artist Nina Katchadourian lists The Mended Spiderweb series as an uninvited collaboration with nature, and I don't know what is more impressive: that she tried to repair broken webs, or that the spiders rejected her mends and properly repaired them.

"The Mended Spiderweb series came about during a six-week period in June and July in 1998 which I spent on Pörtö. In the forest and around the house where I was living, I searched for broken spiderwebs which I repaired using red sewing thread. All of the patches were made by inserting segments one at a time directly into the web. Sometimes the thread was starched, which made it stiffer and easier to work with. The short threads were held in place by the stickiness of the spider web itself; longer threads were reinforced by dipping the tips into white glue. I fixed the holes in the web until it was fully repaired, or until it could no longer bear the weight of the thread. In the process, I often caused further damage when the tweezers got tangled in the web or when my hands brushed up against it by accident.

The morning after the first patch job, I discovered a pile of red threads lying on the ground below the web. At first I assumed the wind had blown them out; on closer inspection it became clear that the spider had repaired the web to perfect condition using its own methods, throwing the threads out in the process. My repairs were always rejected by the spider and discarded, usually during the course of the night, even in webs which looked abandoned. The larger, more complicated patches where the threads were held together with glue often retained their form after being thrown out, although in a somewhat 'wilted' condition without the rest of the web to suspend and stretch them. Each 'Rejected Patch' is shown next to the photograph showing the web with the patch as it looked on site."

(via)

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Friday, March 14, 2008

Art calls

Iraqi Memorial: Commemorating Civilian Deaths

"The purpose of this project is to honor and commemorate the deaths of thousands of civilians killed since the commencement of 'Operation Iraqi Freedom' on March 19, 2003; to establish an Internet archive as a living memorial that will serve as a repository of memorial concepts; to mobilize an international community of artists to contribute proposals that will represent a collective expression of memory, unity and peace; to encourage the vigilance of contemporary memory in a time of war; to stimulate an understanding of the consequences and costs of 'the war on terror'; to support the moral imperative of recognizing the deaths of Iraqi civilians; and to create a context for the initiation of a process of symbolic, creative atonement."

Call for Proposals and Guidelines for Entries

DEADLINE MARCH 31, 2008

Update: Foreign Policy in Focus | Memorializing Iraq

**

Rhizome Commissions Program

In 2009, Rhizome will award seven commissions with fees ranging from $3000-$5000. This year, Rhizome has expanded our scope, formerly focused strictly on Internet-based art to encompass the broad range of practices that fall under new media art. This includes projects that creatively engage new and networked technologies to works that reflect on the impact of these tools and media in a variety of forms. With this expanded format, commissioned works can take the final form of online works, performance, video, installation or sound art. Projects can be made for the context of the gallery, the public, the web or networked devices.

Download the Call for Proposals (doc) | Submit a Proposal

DEADLINE MARCH 31, 2008

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Thursday, January 24, 2008

"Making new forms of life..."

Tonight kicks off The Defiant Imagination Lecture Series, organised by Concordia University Design and Computation Arts in Montréal, and lucky locals will get the chance to hear and see more about Theo Jansen's super-cool strandbeests.

Lecture: Theo Jansen - Strandbeest
When:
Wednesday, Jan. 23, 6:00 p.m.
Where:
D.B. Clarke Theatre, 1455 De Maisonneuve Blvd., W., Montréal

Admission is free.



Artist and kinetic sculptor, Theo Jansen has been called a modern-day Da Vinci. Trained in Science at the University of Delft in the Netherlands, Jansen creates large-scale kinetic sculptures that are a fusion of art and engineering. Jansen’s interest in technology and the process of biological evolution have led to his development of his own creatures.

His animals (“Strandbeests”, or” beach animals”, as he calls them) are enormous skeletal, complex mobile structures made out of plastic pvc tubes that use computer programs to calculate their movements. Powered by the wind, these creatures, which have evolved through several generations, walk, flap, roll, and discern obstacles. Eventually, Jansen hopes to ‘release’ his animals in herds where they can live out their own lives.

Strandbeest website

Theo Jansen's TED 2007 Lecture: The art of creating creatures

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Thursday, September 6, 2007

Of Art & Archaeology

Via archaeolog, here's an interesting-sounding event taking place in Dublin alongside the 6th World Archaeological Congress in June & July 2008:

Ábhar agus Meon

"We live, capriciously enmeshed in a world of things. In the process of human becoming, both artists and archaeologists, as skilled negotiators, mediators and translators of things, have opportunities to steward, provoke and subvert our intra-relationships in the shared ecologies of our world. Today, artists and archaeologists are turning towards each other to exchange experiences, narratives and revelations. This exhibition celebrates new and also longstanding relationships between art and archaeology through the practices and processes of contemporary artists.

Continuing the collaborative exhibition of contemporary art and archaeology established by the Rosc exhibitions in Ireland in the 1960s and 70s, Ábhar agus Meon turns towards the rich etymologies of the Irish language to present the challenge of negotiating, mediating and translating the relationships entwining humans and things. ‘Ábhar’ carries meanings of not only materials and matters but also subjects and themes, while ‘meon’ hints at mentality, ethos, spirit and temperament. Rather than merely asserting polarisations of mind and body, the theme Ábhar agus Meon suggests a multiplicity of intra-relationships between mutually indistinguishable conceptions of things and thoughts.

Through a curated programme of visual arts exhibits, temporary and permanent installations, performances, demonstrations, workshops, web-based exhibitions and field trips to rural arts projects, Ábhar agus Meon will explore the materials which constitute things, the tempering of materials through artistic and archaeological processes, the shared subjects of artistic and archaeological inquiry, the collaborative spirit of artistic and archaeological endeavours, the ethos of artistic and archaeological mediations, and the mentalities represented, constructed and subverted through artistic and archaeological expression."

Deadline for application 14 October 2007

Related:

Anne Galloway & Matt Ward, 2006, Locative Media As Socialising And Spatialising Practice: Learning From Archaeology, Leonardo Electronic Almanac 14(3-4)

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Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Locative media today

Locative Media Summer Conference
Universität Siegen
3.-5. September 2007.

Opening Speech
Greg Elmer (Toronto, CA)
Disaggregating Locative Networks

Sociotechnical Space
Joe McCarthy (Palo Alto, USA)
Friendsters at Work: Displaying Social Media Streams in the Workplace
Christoph Rosol (Weimar, D)
From Radar to Reader. The Origin(s) of RFID
Adrian Mackenzie (Lancaster, GB)
The Act of Locating Wirelessly

Mapped Space
Jeremy Crampton (Atlanta, USA)
Can Peasants Map?: Map Mashups, the Geo-Spatial Web and the Future of Information
Lev Manovich (San Diego, USA)
New Spatial Media?

Locative Media Design
Mark Bilandzic (Munich, D) & Marcus Foth (Brisbane, AUS)
CityFlocks: A Mobile System for Social Navigation in Urban Public Places
Dimitrios Charitos (Athens, GR)
Towards a Conceptual Model for Supporting the Design of Location-based Systems for Social Interaction within Urban Public Space

Locative Media Art
Patricio Davila, Geoffrey Shea & Paula Gardner (Toronto, CA)
PORTAGE: Locative Media at the Intersection of Art, Design and Social Practice
Tina Bastajian & Wanda Strauven (Amsterdam, NL)
Geo-Genealogies: Tracing the Possible Lineages of Locative Media

Locative Media Activism
Drew Hemment (Manchester, GB)
Locative Arts and Locative Activism
Mark Shepard (Buffalo, USA)
Locative Media as Critical Urbanism

Locative Media Aesthetics
Marc Ries (Leipzig, D)
Where Can I Become? Geoaesthetic Considerations on Locative Media
Miya Yoshida (Berlin, D)
Techniques of Mobility, Aesthetics of Flatness

Locative Media Wanderer
Ben Jacks (Oxford, USA)
Locative Media, Pervasive Computing, Walking, and the Built Environment

Locative Media Urbanism
Viktor Bedö (Pécs, HU)
Pattern of Locative Urban Knowledge
Katharine S. Willis (Weimar, D):
Situating Encounters
Martijn de Waal (Groningen, NL)
No more bowling alone? Locative Media and Urban Culture

Locative Media Games
Sophia Drakopoulou (London, GB)
Collective Participation and Broadcast: How Data Bound to Locality Re-appropriate Physical Space
Britta Neitzel (Siegen, D)
Location-based Games and Appropriation of Places

Some interesting stuff here, but why, oh why, is it still so hard to get academics to post things online?

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Friday, August 17, 2007

Connecting anthropology & art

I was working on my paper for the CJC special issue on wireless technologies and mobile practices when my friend (and exceptional research artist*) Kevin Hamilton sent me a link to a workshop held earlier this year at Manchester Metropolitan University called Connecting Art & Anthropology.

Because I'm writing about connections between critical cultural studies and art in the development of pervasive computing and locative media, I was excited to see Amanda Ravetz draw out some of the affinities and discomforts between two practices dedicated to defining culture:

"A consistent issue for contemporary art practice has involved negotiating the borders between ‘life’ and ‘art’ that originated in part from Kant’s idea of a distinct realm of aesthetic human judgement. Anthropologists on the other hand are trained to approach each aspect of sociality in relation to a wider context. The western conception of art – as something transcendent and external to everyday life – is understood by anthropology as socially and historically contingent. However, the line that separates these two positions is neither stable nor neutral... "

Even closer to my interests, Pavel Büchler hints at "particular issues for the recent forms of artistic practice that seek a close critical participation in the social, for the validation of their results, for their sense of purpose, integrity and legitimacy, for the ways in which they conceptualise and reflect on their own condition and so on" - and perfectly sums up my own academic concerns about art:

"When anthropologists are interested in art, they are interested in what art can make of life. When they ask ‘What is art?’, they want to know what life is - or, more accurately, how life is lived, experienced and expressed. And when they enquire about what it is that artists do, they want to find out how their diverse creative pursuits are shaped by the specific cultural and social relations and practices which, at any given moment, make both art and life what they are."

And as if that's not enough, the Connecting Art & Anthropology website contains all the documentation for how 14 workshop participants responded to this intriguing brief.

Anyway - good stuff and lots to mull over as I continue writing!

* To learn why I prefer the term "research artist" to "artist researcher" you'll have to wait for the paper.

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Tuesday, July 31, 2007

August is for writing

After a couple of weeks of weather in the mid 30s (celsius) I'm mostly used to it, but the humidity here is killing me. It makes everything more difficult to move through. Plus, I'm having one of those slightly shocking mornings when I realise that I've way more work to do than I anticipated.

I'd like to write a short essay about my single greatest challenge during the BNMI residency: understanding how "research" is differently defined and practiced by social scientists and artists. I think this has interesting implications for collaborative work, and for how we approach creative interventions and technological innovations.

In other news, I'm teaching a new 2nd year undergrad course this year: "Power & Everyday Life." I'm currently working on the syllabus and deciding whether or not to assign textbooks or compile a reader myself. And it runs full-year so I have to plan twice as many lectures and seminars and workshops and assignments as I have in the past.

I've got two journal papers due by end of August: one for a special issue on software and space and the other for a special issue on wireless technologies and mobile practices. That's 14000-18000 words currently unorganised and/or unwritten and/or lost in dissertation.

Which reminds me I've also got a dissertation to submit. Because as we all know: "A good thesis is a thesis that is done."

So all things considered, I'm really glad that I'll be home for awhile. I want to make it back to Oslo and London in the fall, and there's the 4S Meeting in Montréal in October, but that's all the travelling I've got planned and it's quite enough. I'm also hoping to have friends (you know who you are!) come visit.

But thankfully summer's not over yet. There are still flowers to smell, dinners to cook, cats to take naps with, novels to read, walks and bike rides to take, and garlic festivals to attend! You know what they say about all work and no play...

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Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Observation # 457

It is only with artists that I become a scientist.

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Thursday, May 31, 2007

MediaShed +

During my recents visits to the UK, I had the pleasure of hanging out with some of the Mongrel & MediaShed guys, talking about everything from Mass Observation and soldering to the cultural impact of public art and lighting one's farts on fire. (I was the one classy enough to bring that last one up, not them.)

Anyway, a few of their projects strike me as really lovely and unstable balances between the creative and political, or the ethical and aesthetic. I appreciate how they value everyday life beyond technology, and how they manage to be critical without relaxing into dystopian fantasies. They appear to have a genuine curiosity for the people and objects around them, and seem to be most content when simply making stuff with others.

What could, I think, easily slip into a paternalistic or shepherding relationship with the people tends instead towards using technological prosthetics to temporarily assemble publics. (Note to self: How is that related to the Situationist 'Possible Rendez-Vous'?)

Just take their Telephone Trottoire project:

"The aim of the 'Telephone Trottoire' project is to engage the London based Congolese community in issues that affect their day-to-day lives. 'Telephone Trottoire' is based on a new form of 'contagious' telephone application developed by Mongrel and named after the Congolese practice of 'pavement radio' or the passing around of news and gossip between individuals on street corners. In Central Africa people defy media censorship by sharing news and gossip using 'radio trottoire' or 'pavement radio'. Built in collaboration with the radio programmes 'Nostalgie Ya Mboka' and 'Londres Na Biso', 'Telephone Trottoire' encourages London's Congolese community to pass around news stories and discuss them using a unique system of sharing content over the phone. The project engages the Congolese community on their own terms by using systems that draw from their own culture, beliefs and folklore – some stories are intended to provoke, some to entertain and some to educate. All allow listeners to record their own comments and pass the call on to a friend or family member by entering their phone number. Some are true and some are false – after all isn’t this all about gossip – the 'Telephone Trottoire'?"

Or their Video Sniffin' projects:



The Commercial

"When MediaShed members found out about ‘Video Sniffin’ on-line, a term given to the practice of picking up the public signals being broadcast by wireless CCTV, they decided to apply the technology to make a film. Young people from the local YMCA and others used a cheap video receiver from a high street store to ‘sniff’ the streets for CCTV cameras. After finding 24 cameras or ‘hotspots’ they then asked shop owners if they could make a film by acting out in front of their CCTV cameras and recording the signal. The shop owners were very surprised and happy for the young people to create a film this way. The final film was screened on a ‘video sculpture’ of 16 recycled PC monitors at South East Essex College on 29th April. This display was part of the final ‘Being Here’ event – Southend’s recent arts regeneration initiative. These kinds of projects allow people to see how a common technology that is normally used for the surveillance of the same young people can be repurposed by them for creative activities. The project created great interest from the local council and local businesses who positively engaged with the project."



minä olen

"Hijacking the CCTV cameras of municipal buildings in the town of Kokkola, Finland a group of young people from the immigrant class at Kiviniitty Secondary School made a film about their cultural isolation ... This provided the young people with a means of regaining control from the ‘institution’ influencing their future. The final film was installed at Tupakkamakasiini, Pietarsaari City Museum as part of a larger exhibition of Mongrel’s work, and was also displayed at Kokkola Town Hall bringing the heartfelt message to as many local people as possible. The young people, some of whom had only been in the country a matter of weeks, positively enjoyed the opportunity to invade ‘government’ buildings and felt an increased confidence within their surroundings. Additionally the film was used to encourage local ministers to continue to provide regular classes in the young peoples’ own language and culture."

The Duellists

"In March 2007 MediaShed were invited to the Manchester Arndale Shopping Centre to make a film combining free-media with free-running. Parkour or free-running involves fluid uninterrupted movement adapting motion to obstacles in the environment. Like free-media, free-running makes use of and re-enrgises the infrastructure of the city. Free-media film adapts environmental and discarded hardware to make filmmaking accessible to all. Working with Southend based professional parkour breakin' crew Methods of Movement a choreographed performance was filmed in the shopping centre over three consecutive nights. The film was shot using only the existing in-house CCTV network of 160 cameras operated from the central control room, with a soundtrack created entirely from the foundsounds and noises recorded during the performance. The finished film was screened at the Manchester Arndale (10th - 20th May) on the infrastructure plasmas, in an exhibition pod and inside eleven stores as part of a ten day exhibition entitled Art for Shopping Centres."

I have some questions about how they come to their conclusions but mostly I'm impressed by how they blatantly seek affective change. (Or is it affective contagion?)

For example, the material, embodied, performative and productive aspects of their engagement with CCTV allow MediaShed to avoid more distanced intellectual debates on public vs. private, or surveillance vs. sousveillance. Rather than pointing at our docility and predicting our decline into dividuation, there's something creative and hopeful in these projects. And despite their rather earnest charter, it's not particularly idealist or utopian. But it does remind me of what Anna Munster refers to as actualising bodies and abstracting selves, which she also basically applied to Harwood's earlier Uncomfortable Proximity project.

MediaShed projects also rely on old technologies like radio, video, telephone. I think this is important simply because "ultimately, new cultural phenomena rely on encounters with the old," and because these technologies still require people to serve as active broadcasters and receivers.

(I mean, I suspect that part of why RFID or GPS seem so hard to work with critically is because the myths of pervasive computing are so ahistorical, and because the communication model underpinning them practically strips out human intervention. Although I have some concerns about the tyranny of participation, I really don't see "participation" becoming an issue - positively or negatively - for pervasive computing. Current discourse and practice allow it no space, but I think that if we can temporarily converge as publics around it then there's still hope.)

Anyway, good stuff and lots to think about!

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Thursday, March 15, 2007

BNMI Reference Check: Now Accepting Applications

I'm very excited about my involvement with the Banff New Media Institute's first research-based Co-production Residency programme, Reference Check, taking place this summer in Banff, Alberta, Canada.

If you're doing graduate or post-graduate research on where art, technology and culture meet, and you fancy spending a month this summer in one of the most gorgeous places on earth, with excellent facilities, ten other researchers and three peer advisors, intensely thinking and talking and making and doing individually and collaboratively, then we want to hear from you!

The official call for applications is below -- note the dates and costs -- and if you have any questions or concerns about your proposed project or the application process, please feel free to contact me directly.

Reference Check: A Co-production Residency for Developing Researchers

Residency dates: June 24 to July 21, 2007
Application deadline: April 9, 2007

The Banff New Media Institute (BNMI) invites researchers working with new media at the masters, doctorate or post-doctorate level to spend four weeks at The Banff Centre this summer.

Join BNMI for its first independent research-based Co-production Residency program, bringing together a select group of researchers. Individuals and small networks who are working with art and new media as a research strategy are invited to explore the broader social contexts of technology and digital culture.

Participants will be supported to pursue their self-directed research. They will also be given the opportunity to reflect on the field of new media and contemporary issues such as creative pluralism and multiple modes of knowledge production.

Participants will have the opportunity to develop their research with a peer group of ten participants and the support and mentorship of BNMI alumni and Reference Check peer advisors. These advisors will work with participants individually and as a group to help focus their ideas, and suggest methodologies, collaborative and multidisciplinary forms, and ways of enhancing their work and impact in the world.

Peer Advisors:
Andreas Broeckmann
(DE)
Anne Galloway (CA)
Sarat Maharaj (UK)

The total cost for this intensive, four-week residency program will be $1,369.80, (CND) plus applicable taxes. Nearly $7500 of additional in-kind support for each project will be provided by BNMI staff and the dedicated studio and production facilities at The Banff Centre’s Creative Electronic Environment.

More information and to apply

We're looking forward to hearing from you!

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Saturday, March 10, 2007

Mobile publics and issues-based art and design

Mobile Nation Conference
22-25 March, 2007 - Toronto, Canada

Mobile Nation investigates design methods for locative technologies, devices and games, showcasing international research, design and engineering ... Participants will share expertise with WiFi, Global Positioning System (GPS), Bluetooth, Radio Frequency ID tags, intelligent garments, ambient media applications, and geo-locative gaming ... Throughout the conference we will be looking at research methodologies and ways that they will be integrated into industry, education, and creative practice.

Speakers | Programme | Workshop | Poster Exhibition

I'm really looking forward to this event - not only are there lots of interesting people participating but it's really nice to see so many Canadian researchers, designers and artists represent. Plus, I've long admired Nigel Thrift's work on technology and space so I'm excited that I'll be the discussant for his social geographies keynote. And at the very end of the first day Eric Zimmerman will be moderating discussion between Jason Lewis, Minna Tarkka, Suzanne Stein, Ron Wakkary and myself. I'll be presenting on some of the more practical aspects of doing what I call issues-based art and design research (you can get the extended abstract here but I like to think it'll be much better in-person) and I'm looking forward to the other presentations and discussions. If you're there, please come say hello!

This presentation actually draws on a chapter I recently wrote for Sampling the Spectrum, edited by Barbara Crow, Michael Longford and Kim Sawchuck, forthcoming from University of Toronto Press.

Mobile Publics and Issues-Based Art and Design (pdf)

Starting with the 'problem' of the public, I look to select historical and philosophical understandings of publics and politics. Building on the work of early American pragmatists like Walter Lippman and John Dewey, I focus on a public that is fragmented and contingent but still very much capable of judgment and action. In order to delve deeper into the kinds of situations or events in which these kinds of publics can come-together I find inspiration in the carnivals and feast crowds so eloquently described by Mikhail Bahktin and Elias Canetti, as well as in Bruno Latour’s "parliament of things" or dingpolitik. I follow that discussion with an overview of recent research into the social and cultural aspects of mobile, context-aware and pervasive computing, and I question the senses of 'public' and 'private' at play. More specifically, following Mimi Sheller, I ask what a non-network model of mobility might look like. The kind of fluid and messy picture that emerges ends up pivoting on acts of coupling and decoupling, or gelling and dissolving, multiple publics and privates around shared concerns or difficult issues. The chapter culminates in a discussion of what I call issues-based art and design, or those mobile and context-aware projects in which a 'public' is convened around a set of shared concerns or complex issue that cannot be adequately handled by more traditional means. More specifically, I look at mobile technologies being deployed in the interests of political and economic awareness and action, as well as environmental awareness and sustainability. Assessing the limitations and possibilities of these kinds of technological, artistic and design interventions, I conclude by asking where the most productive potentials for mobile publics can be found, and what it will take to actually mobilise them.

UPDATE 12.03.07

The new issue of Wi: Journal of the Mobile Digital Commons Network is out and it also takes a look at the benefits and challenges of collaborative research and design practice. Good stuff by Yasmin Jiwani, Alison Powell, Andrea Zeffiro & Daviid Gauthier, Kim Sawchuk & Barbara Crow, Michael Longford, and Janice Leung.

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Thursday, March 1, 2007

Passion and longing

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