“We were thinking about infrastructure, specifically: the railroad as one of the past, and the possible implications of augmented reality as another in the future.”
– Artist Cat Blumke, speaking to Reality Crossing, a work on rail, empire, and speculative real estate in Canada. Produced with Jonathan Carrol, the piece is part of InterAccess’ all-AR exhibition “Geofenced,” curated by Karie Liao.
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“Talking about building this city beside a volcano is like thinking you are rich because you live next to a bank.”
Ricardo Navarro, El Salvadoran ecologist and head of the country’s Center of Appropriate Technology (CESTA), on President Nayib Bukele’s plans for a “Bitcoin City” powered by volcanoes. “Geothermal still costs more than oil, otherwise we would already be using more of it,” Navarro notes. Geothermal energy also needs steam and groundwater, Navarro adds, “but we already have problems with not enough water in El Salvador.”

Clemenger BBDO and University of Tasmania researchers announce the construction of Earth’s Black Box, a steel monolith filled with solar-powered tech for documenting the planetary crisis. “If the Earth does crash as a result of climate change, this indestructible recording device will be there for whoever’s left to learn from that,” states Clemenger BBDO’s Jim Curtis. Due for completion on the west coast of Tasmania in 2022, data collection has already begun.

“The revival of pixel art may be a quest for the kind of variety and texture that massive social-media networks have gradually banished, a harkening back to a messier, more human moment in our digital lives.”
– Writer Kyle Chayka, parsing the current wave of digital nostalgia as seen in MySpace clones, Neopet preservationism, retro videogames, and, recently, NFTs

Danja Vasiliev announces that Vending Private Network (2018), an artwork he created with fellow critical engineer Julian Oliver, was banned from display at Moscow’s soon-to-open Cryptography Museum. The installation sets up a virtual private network (VPN) as publicly funded infrastructure (taking cues from condom vending machines). A way around government censorship and surveillance, VPNs are deemed illegal by the Russian state, Vasiliev explains on Twitter.

“This is the case of someone that thinks they’re just messing around on a computer but is actually changing the world. These days AI is a lot of people insisting that they’re changing the world while really just fooling around on a computer.”
Os Keyes, PhD student at the University of Washington’s Department of Human Centred Design & Engineering, on the 1983 American Cold War classic WarGames
Flash Art #337
Includes a special section entitled “Crypto Art‘s New Ecology,” featuring a roundtable, a rumination on the prehistory of crypto, and a conversation with Simon Denny

Curated by Chris Clarke and Anaïs Nony, “Data Streams: Art, Algorithms and Artificial Intelligence,” opens at The Glucksman in Cork, Ireland. Featuring work from Benjamin Gaulon, Addie Wagenknecht, and Suzanne Treister (image: Post-Surveillance Art/NSA on Drugs, 2014) the show collects work from an eclectic mix of artists who explore lived experience after AI and data collection—practitioners who show “how these technologies are silently transforming our surroundings.”

“McKenna was dreaming new ways of being but he was also a technophile. He saw technology as producing the context for new consciousness and culture, a vision that was commercialized and amplified by Silicon Valley, and yielded our contemporary dystopia.”
High Weirdness (2019) author Erik Davis, stressing that the late psychedelic guru Terence McKenna remains a vital reference for understanding our post-truth present [quote edited]

The first-ever Binominale opens simultaneously at La Becque, Switzerland, and San Francisco’s Bass & Reiner gallery. A curatorial nod to 1960s conceptual art by the Swiss collective Fragmentin, the format tasked two artist pairs from the respective countries, Bertille Laguet & Sherwin Rio and Bruno Aeberli & Rhonda Holberton, to recreate each other’s work remotely. The stated goal: minimizing the ecological impact by removing transportation.

“A neon-rose coloured room stinking nauseatingly of salmon farms; a series of melting ice blocks releasing the aromas of seeds from Svalbard Global Seed Vault; and a wall, which, upon being rubbed, releases the odours of 21 men who are afraid of being touched.”
– Critic Timotheus Vermeulen, citing three “explicitly antagonistic, even violent” pieces in Sissel Tolaas’ solo show “RE________” currently on view at Astrup Fearnley Museet​​​​​​, Oslo

Wolf Lieser’s DAM Gallery, one of the longest running entirely dedicated to digital art, reopens in a new location in Berlin Charlottenburg with “Discoveries” of never-before-seen plotter drawings from the early oeuvre of genre pioneers Vera Molnar and Manfred Mohr. Recovered during recent visits to the artists’ studios, the exhibited works date back to the early 1970s and 80s. Also on view: a new software homage to Vera Molnar, created by fellow pioneer Frieder Nake.

“As the camera keeps pixelating this fluctuating plane of oversaturated grays, a GPS dot tracks movements and we hear the buzzing of a device that makes electromagnetic radiation humanly audible.”
– Writer Alexander Scrimgeour, parsing Rosa Menkman’s 2020 video piece Whiteout, in which the Dutch artist narrates the loss of sensory reference points as she hikes up a mountain during a snowstorm—a sensation “theorized in hindsight with a riff on lines, scales, and reterritorialization”

“Terror Contagion” opens at Montréal’s MAC. Centre stage is Forensic Architecture’s Digital Violence: How the NSO Group Enables State Terror, which probes the Israeli technology firm behind Pegasus, malware used to monitor the calls, emails, texts, and sensor data of activists and dissidents worldwide. At MAC, these findings are presented in an immersive installation featuring data sonification by Brian Eno and narration by Edward Snowden, and complemented by Laura Poitras’ latest film, documenting the research.

November 2021
“I think about it almost like big gusts of wind. The artists are in these small sailboats and can take the wind and go in the direction they want—or the wind is really overpowering.”
– Computational artist Zach Lieberman, on how digital artists sail against (trade) winds emanating from Big Tech, and must either strike out on their own or be carried in the same direction as everyone else.

“The Modern Exorcist,” an exhibition steeped in techno-animism, opens at the Taipei Fine Arts Museum, Taiwan. Ten interdisciplinary artists including Yin-Ju Chen, Kate Cooper, Cécile B. Evans, Sidsel Meineche Hansen, Pakui Hardware, and Po-Chih Huang (image: Chair, Sandpaper, Cockroach, Ocean, Seven, Termite and Banana, 2021) interpret posthumanist vantage points through virtual bodies and networked systems that link people to objects and other species. After all, “what is human?”

“Every day you wake up in this country and you have a new problem. It isn’t our fault our governments are enemies. It’s already hard enough for us to survive.”
– An Iranian cab driver, on escalating cyber attacks between his country and Israel. Last month, Iran’s fuel distribution was hacked by Israel—causing massive disruptions; Iranian hackers responded by posting the personal data of 1.5 million Israelis on Telegram.
Disruption Network Lab
Whistleblowing for Change
29 luminaries including Os Keyes, Trevor Paglen, Joana Moll, and Charlotte Webb reflect on exposing systems of injustice and whistleblowing as an act of dissent in politics, society, and in the arts
“With crypto we’ve decided to do the most American thing ever, to commoditize our rage at the financial system into a financial product. After all, we’re just temporarily embarrassed millionaires and the only problem with CDOs wasn’t the moral hazard, but that you didn’t have a piece of the action.”
– Software engineer Stephen Diehl, linking crypto to the trauma of the 2008 Global Financial Crisis

“Taskoch pipon kona kah nipa muskoseya, nepin pesim eti pimachihew | Like the winter snow kills the grass, the summer sun revives it” opens at the Robert McLaughlin Gallery (RMG) in Oshawa, Canada. Curated by Missy LeBlanc, the show features Joi Arcand (image: ekawiya nepewisi, 2017), Susan Blight, Tsēmā Igharas, and four other artists working in languages representing the seven major geographic regions of the land now known as Canada, ”celebrating and centering Indigenous language revitalization.”

“Past attempts to colonize space were spurned by civilization for being too boring. My goal is not only colonizing Mars, but entertaining everyone along the way.”
– Co-writers Daniel Rourke & GPT-3, invoking the world’s richest man in WHY I WANT TO FUCK ELON MUSK, a text for the upcoming “All of Your Base” exhibition at Aksioma (Ljubljana, Slovenia)

The Fall, a site-specific installation by Susan Philipsz, opens at Amsterdam’s Oude Kerk. Building on the former church’s acoustics and legacy, the Scottish artist has derived a ‘sonic tribute’ to composer and organist Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck, who was buried on site in the 17th century. Philipsz’ installation adds her voice to Sweelinck’s music, and suspends organ pipe forms in space, creating “descending scale sounds, which swell and evoke a sense of collapse, fragmentation, and absence.”

A critical reading of our entangled technological and social systems, “Reasonable Doubt” opens at V2_ Lab for the Unstable Media in Rotterdam. Curators Vincent van Velsen and V2’s Florian Weigl assemble works by Paolo Cirio, Sami Hammana, Femke Herregraven, Hannah Dawn Henderson, Yazan Khalili (image: Medusa, 2020), Anna Ridler and others that reveal these systems’ harsh reality—algorithmic bias, corporate surveillance—and their capacity for subersive adaptation.

“You will still have your heart broken in a world without capitalism, but maybe you don’t have to have that and also be stressed out about your loan debt.”
– Artist and writer Ingrid Burrington, discussing the merits (and nuances) of utopian narratives with science fiction writer Tim Maughan at Oddstream’s “Goodbye Internet” mini-festival. “To me, any dystopia is hopeful,” notes Maughan. “Because it’s presenting something as being wrong.”

“CAMP After Media Promises,” the 7th Nam June Paik Art Center Prize Winner’s Exhibition opens in Gyeonggi-do, South Korea. To celebrate their recognition CAMP’s Shaina Anand, Ashok Sukumaran, and Sanjay Bhangar present Moving Panorama (2021, image), an urban megamix spanning eight screens and five acts. Drawing on CCTV footage from their native Mumbai, Manchester, Jerusalem, and Kabul, the installation ”redefines the categories of observer, subject, network, database, image, and sequence.”

“Perhaps, there is more common ground between the hackers and the witches, the programmers and the psychics. As Tolbert put it: ‘What is technology, if not a way for an individual person to uncover answers?’”
– Writer Josie Thaddeus-Johns, channelling Lucile Olympe Haute’s installation Cyberwitches Manifesto (2019) and Penn State folklorist Dr. Jeffrey A. Tolbert in her review of the Inke Arns-curated group exhibition “Technoshamanism” at HMKV Dortmund, Germany

NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) launches aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket at Vandenberg Space Force Base in California. An experiment in planetary self-defense, in fall 2022 the rocket will reach the Didymos asteroid system, impact its moonlet altering the asteroid’s motion—and the results will be observed from afar. ”This test will help prove out one viable way to protect our planet from a hazardous asteroid, should one be discovered that is headed toward Earth,” states NASA’s Bill Nelson.

“Given that MoMA’s 1977 acquisition of Kubota’s Nude Descending a Staircase was their first of a video sculpture, it seems ironic that they waited so long to give her such a modest tribute. That ‘Liquid Reality’ is the artist’s first US solo exhibition in 25 years only adds to this sad testament.”
– Writer Jane Ursula Harris, on MoMA’s overdue and insufficient celebration of female Japanese video art pioneer Shigeko Kubota

Themed “Machine Does Not Give Change,” the seventh Device_art festival for art, robotics, and new technologies opens Zagreb’s Museum of Contemporary Art. Curated by KONTEJNER in collaboration with Germany’s ZKM, this edition showcases evocative machines by 18 artists including Alex Brajković, Christina Kubisch, Carolin Liebl & Nikolas Schmid-Pfähler (image: RE:PLACES), Troika, and Kata Mijatović, bringing together “the German and Croatian ‘device art’ scene.”

“There’s much more self-reflection and embrace of doubt in this issue than I’m used to seeing in the art, science, and technology discourse space. Contributors reflect on what systems they are unwillingly contributing to, regardless of their criticality.”
– HOLO Annual (HOLO 3) editor Nora N. Khan, reflecting on the forthcoming issue with scholar and research partner Peli Grietzer

Adam Basanta’s mixed media installation “Possible Futures” opens at Maison des Arts de Laval in Laval, Quebec, confronting viewers with three “oblique thought-experiments” comprised of discarded domestic objects, biological and artificial ecosystems, and techno-cultural artifacts. Future balanced (Chesterfield), for example, combines a discarded sofa with a miniature, fully-functioning, aquaponic farm. It’s a living sculpture that makes “tentative proposals and uneasy predictions.”

“Clickbait actors cropped up in Myanmar overnight. With the right recipe for producing engaging and evocative content, they could generate thousands of US dollars a month in ad revenue, or 10 times the average monthly salary—paid to them directly by Facebook.”
Karen Hao, MIT Technology Review’s senior AI editor, on how Facebook and Google not only amplify but fund disinformation

Infiltrating Ender Gallery’s Minecraft server with his generative image systems, American artist Travess Smalley turns the in-game exhibition space into “a surreal reading experience” via a custom texture pack. Developed during his residency, “Change Language Resource Pack” replaces all images and textures with randomly generated language, resulting in “a concrete poem, that turns the familiar Minecraft world into an abstract, austere, and newly dangerous place (be careful identifying lava!).”

In an attempt to become the “Singapore of Latin America,” President Nayib Bukele announces El Salvador will bootstrap an entire city around Bitcoin’s economic prospects. Building on the country’s recent recognition of the leading cryptocurrency as legal tender, the so-called “Bitcoin city” will be located along the Gulf of Fonseca near the base of Conchagua volcano, the geothermal energy of which will be harnessed to power the city and an industrial-scale Bitcoin mining operation. Honouring the libertarian ethos that is common amongst Bitcoin-boosters “the city will have no income, property, capital gains, or payroll taxes.”

Laura Splan’s Rhapsody for an Expanded Biotechnological Apparatus takes over an elevator of the Tang Museum in Saratoga Springs, NY, as part of the museum’s Elevator Music Series. The tactile sound installation “reenvisions the elevator as a biological cell and its visitors as proteins.” Sitting on a rug made from the fiber of laboratory llamas (used to produce antibodies for human drugs) they are invited to “consider the invisible” while listening to a sonic tour of a biotech laboratory.

“Data Refraction_Digital Orchestra,” a solo show by Jung Seung opens at Seoul’s Alternative Space LOOP. Centring the media artist’s preoccupation with digital traces, it includes three new works: a sonification of plant growth, a robot animated by related data, and a performance of a dancer in a “wearable robot” beamed into a digital environment (image: Scattered Scream-harness, 2021). Collectively they “redefine life through the coevolution between human senses and machines,” notes curator Sun Mi Lee.

Bringing together works from Michel de Broin, Justine Emard (image: Soul Shift, 2018) Ryoichi Kurokawa, Lu Yang, and 11 other artists and collectives, the 5th International Digital Art Biennial (BIAN) opens at Arsenal Contemporary Art Montréal. Co-curated by Alain Thibault and DooEun Choi, this edition heavily emphasizes the complementary aesthetics (and visions of futurity) linking Quebec- and Asia-based artists, while ruminating on post-pandemic (I-Ching-inspired) metamorphosis.

The Field Guide to Digital and/as Public Space
Toronto foresight studio From Later and The Bentway team up to explore place making, people, and protocols

Lauren Lee McCarthy’s latest interactive performance Womb Walk premieres as part of her Surrogate installation at IDFA DocLab, the Amsterdam documentary film festival’s new media program. As the American artist strolls the city wearing a prosthetic belly (image), participants ‘become’ McCarthy’s baby. “You control my movements by triggering small internal kicks to the sides of my belly directing me when to turn,” she writes on Instagram. “Together, we navigate the city, with imagined baby as interface.”

“The science is now clear that decapods and cephalopods can feel pain and therefore it is only right they are covered by this vital piece of legislation.”
– UK Animal Welfare Minister Lord Zac Goldsmith, on the extension of the country’s Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill to include lobsters, octopus, and crabs. The bill, however, will not affect any existing legislation or industry practices.

Assembling a ‘who’s who’ of artists that pioneered the use of artificial intelligence and machine learning in their practice, the group exhibition “Code of Arms” opens at London’s Gazelli Art House. The show follows the evolution of the genre through a mix of early plotter drawings by Vera Molnar, Manfred Mohr, Frieder Nake, and Georg Nees, and later, more contemporary computational works by Harold Cohen, Mario Klingemann, and Lynn Hershman Leeson.

“SHE KEEPS ME DAMN ALIVE,” an exhibition by Danielle Brathwaite-Shirley opens at London’s arebyte. Subverting the language of the first-person shooter, the game asks players—armed with a hot pink firearm—to NOT shoot Black Trans people, and then witness the results of their (in)action. Inverting the standard logic of the shooter genre where violence and mayhem are a means to an end, the installation creates a space to “capture, preserve and archive Black Trans existence” and reflect on personal responsibility.

“Telepathy becomes a puppet concept, intensifying surveillance by allowing private interest to become less conspicuous, while rendering the consumer more accessible.”
– Writer Dolly Church, rejecting Big Tech’s notion that “conceptual telepathy”—or “mindspeak,” a term coined in Ursula K. Le Guin’s Left Hand of Darkness—is the “natural conclusion of digital communication”
HOLO Annual (HOLO 3) editor Nora N. Khan shares insight into searching for meaning beyond words in the forthcoming issue’s third chapter. “I found I needed to rescind the position I’m entrenched in as a critic—that of the capacity for language as the primary medium through which we understand the world,” Khan writes about working with choice contributors Francis Tseng, Nick Larson, and K Allado-McDowell.
“The characters experience their various BOB plugins through a hallucinatory interface; their neural guides are represented by red worms with up to three heads, each tipped with eye-like shapes, as if they can see the future.”
– Writer Travis Diehl, parsing Life After BOB (2021), Ian Cheng’s AI narrative film currently on view at The Shed, New York
Marie Foulston
The Grannies
Foulston’s documentary follows a group of players—the Grannies—beyond the boundaries of the videogame Red Dead Online (2018) and into “an ethereal space that reveals the humanity and materiality of digital creations.”
“If everything goes according to plan and Peng! sells NFTs worth 628,453 EUR, a family of five from Afghanistan will be able to start the visa process in Portugal.”
– Art blogger Régine Debatty, summarizing The GoldenNFT Project, an initiative spearheaded by the Peng! Collective to use NFT profits from a roster of artists including Nora al Badri, !Mediagroup! Bitnik, the Yes Men, and UBERMORGEN to fund a family of refugees’ migration to the EU through a (wealth privledging) “golden visa” program.

The Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation in Dearborn, Michigan, announces the acquisition of the Lillian F. Schwartz collection. Comprising films and videos, 2D artwork and sculptures, personal papers, and computer hardware, the material documents the “expansive and inquisitive mindset” of the Bell Labs veteran. Born in 1927, Schwartz was “present at the birth of digital art” and pioneered “computer-based work at a time when artists had to defend it as a viable medium.”

“Now we’ve defined the entire choreography for web building, which has never been done for any animal architecture at this fine of a resolution.”
Andrew Gordus, behavioral biologist at Johns Hopkins University, on using AI and night vision to study spider leg positions during web construction. The resulting model, published in Current Biology, can predict web-building stages based on leg posture—a first step towards recording how tiny spider brains can support such complexity.

Mary Bauermeister (*1934), whose experimental practice helped shape the Fluxus movement, is announced the first recipient of a new art prize issued by the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia. The award honours Bauermeister’s legacy of drawings, paintings, and mixed-media installations that explore entanglements in science, music, and mathematics. “She has always worked transdisciplinary long before this became a category,” said Hendrik Wüst, the state’s Minister President.

“In 1788 the Constitution became the law of the land when it was ratified by 9 of the 13 original states. In keeping with this tradition, the Constitution DAO multi-sig wallet requires 9 of 13 signatures to approve transactions.”
ConstitutionDAO, in an FAQ post explaining how the multisignature wallet at the heart of their project requires consensus. The DAO is currently crowdfunding $20M in ETH to (attempt to) buy a first-edition copy of the U.S. Constitution in a Sotheby’s Auction.

Part of the London-based collective’s ongoing eco-fiction project Untertage where salt emerges as an agent of cultural evolution, Troika’s No Sound of Water opens at Arte Abierto, Mexico City. Taking the form of a towering salt waterfall that is juxtapozed with Troika’s Terminal Beach (2020), the installation channels “the extractive technologies that have contributed to the planet’s transformation.” Over time, salt crystals spill across the exhibition space, and into people’s pants, lungs, and lunches.

A new installation conceived for (and inspired by) the Tadas Ivanauskas Zoological Museum in Kaunas, Lithuania, artist duo Pakui Hardware’s Skewed Taxonomy opens as part of this year’s Kaunas Biennial. The sculptures, hybrid creatures made of wasp nests, stainless steel skeletons, glass body parts, and textiles, are integrated into the museum’s insect section and invite viewers to speculate on life “born from human activities merging with the evolution of the natural world.”

“The ‘discontinuation’ of a major marketplace today pushed all my buttons. The URLs for a half-million artworks were destroyed; livelihoods of ~10,000 artists were damaged; the energy and optimism of a creative community was diminished; and the guy who did it left town with $1M.”
Golan Levin, media artist and educator, on the end of Hic et Nunc in a Twitter thread about what NFT-curious artists should know about

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