“Sites like these are where online shopping leaves its physical footprint—where capital, battling over space, inscribes itself in the landscape.”
Charlie Jarvis, on how spaces of logistics keep eating into public lands to satisfy friction-free capitalism. “According to the real estate firm Knight Frank, every £1 billion spent online demands 1.3 million square feet of further warehousing.”
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“In the real world, DAOs have hit two major problems. The first is that coding is hard, and the second is that most things you would actually want to do in the world today still don’t exist on the blockchain.”
– TechScape columnist Alex Hearn, on DAOs’ stumbling blocks. While cynical (“they are a perfect vehicle for newly minted millionaires … to throw their influence into the real world”), Hearn concedes decentralized autonomous organizations will capture the public imagination in the coming months.

“Radical Curiosity: In the Orbit of Buckminster Fuller” opens at Singapore’s ArtScience Museum. A reconsideration of the American architect’s legacy, it assesses his designs, which include the Dymaxion car and geodesic domes (image), in a moment of rising tides and strained infrastructure. Fuller’s focus on interdependence and systems let him “foresee the world’s problems and establish priorities,” note curators Rosa Pera and José Luis de Vicente.

“You are meant to be a good little Homo economicus and behave in accordance with profit maximization.”
– Blockchain artist Rhea Myers, on the idealized behaviour of decentralized autonomous organization (DAO) members. Speaking at the Haus Der Kunst Radical Friends summit, she notes things don’t always go according to plan: “humans don’t always have the best information to make decisions with.”
“I’m just terrified of the idea that people are giving us all these compliments because they don’t want to miss out on this NFT thing, when in reality they’re just looking at it from a business perspective.”
Art Blocks founder Erick Calderon (aka Snowfro), on questioning motives during the fine art world’s (gold) rush into the NFT space
“We therefore call for immediate political action from governments, the United Nations and other actors to prevent the normalisation of solar geoengineering as a climate policy option.”
– 60 policy experts in an open letter published in WIREs Climate Change. The group argues that the injection of sulphur particles into the atmosphere—the most hotly debated plan to cool Earth—could do more harm than good, as deployment “cannot be governed globally in a fair, inclusive and effective manner.”
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What comes after platform capitalism? An assemblage called ‘hyperstructures,’ according to Jacob Horne. In an essay published on his website, the co-founder of the NFT marketplace aggregator Zora outlines the frameworks he sees emerging around crypto protocols. Inspired by the utopian architecture of Paolo Soleri, Horne argues the permissionless nature of hyperstructures generates low-friction exchange, yielding more equitable outcomes for participants (versus web 2.0 platforms where the user is the product). Is this the frothy rhetoric we’ll hear as money flows into web3? Yes, but Zora’s manifesto claim that “platforms hold our audiences and content hostage” is not wrong.

“One and Zero Makes Two,” a solo show by Cem Sonel, opens at Anna Laudel Istanbul. Surveying the breadth of the Turkish artist’s practice, it juxtaposes whimsical street art with austere cellular automata. Produced under the moniker Code of Conquer, the latter body of work features dense red and green dot arrays splashed across MDF and LED displays (image), rejecting the notion that “absence refers to a deficiency in existence,” and breathing life into binary logic.

“These dichotomies abound: are you a wage slave or an entrepreneur? In the casino economy of NFTs and crypto, are you a high roller or are you a mark? In the web3 space, are you a grifter or a useful idiot?”
– Researcher Jathan Sadowski, about how bullshit jobs (and dichotomies) shape the gig economy, affecting Uber drivers and day traders alike. Analyzing 2022 tech trends, Sadowski, Wendy Liu, and Edward Ongweso Jr., parse “magical thinking” web3 mania and ponzinomics.
“I was thinking okay, so what if green screens are actually spaces where there are possibilities embedded in them; but also, warnings about what it means for groups of people to do things in tandem.”
– Media artist Sondra Perry, describing Lineage for a Multiple-Monitor Workstation: Number One (2015), a 2-channel video installation that playfully juxtaposes Black orality and chroma key [quote edited]  
“An entire major museum dedicated to disability-related work from 41 international artists and collaboratives is a big deal; as far as I know, on this scale it’s unprecedented.”
– Writer Kenny Fries, on “Crip Time,” a Museum für Moderne Kunst (Frankfurt) exhibition presenting the lived experience of disability. Despite Fries’ acknowledgement that it’s precedent-setting, he concludes the show falls short, likening it to “an anesthetized hospital” that “fails to understand what crip time actually is.”

“Unruly Archives,” an exhibition surfacing traces of “the global footprint of warfare and organized violence,” opens at The Blackwood in Mississauga, Canada. Curated by Amin Alsaden, conflict-focused works by Emily Jacir, Walid Raad, and Zineb Sedira are included. Iraqi artist Ali Eyal’s contribution 6×9 doesn’t fit everything (2021, image), for example, chronicles the heartbreak and frustration he felt when ridiculed by U.S. soldiers, after his father’s car was incinerated.

Tokyo’s SAI gallery dedicates a new solo show—his largest yet—to the cyberpunk creations of Ikeuchi Hiroto, showcasing mechanical masks, VR headsets, wearable exoskeletons (made in collaboration with Skeletonics), and a futuristic vehicle (image). Ikeuchi, who rose to fame with robotic augmentations in the fashion world, combines ready-made plastic models with industrial parts, imparting decontextualised objects with new meaning through amalgamation.

“Apocalypse is a great way to flatten politics and power dynamics in the name of an overarching story of ‘humanity.’ It’s never how disaster unfolds in real life, where the already suffering face disproportionate harm and capitalists find some angle through which to profit.”
– Writer Ingrid Burrington, revisiting the “long political history of asteroid movies” in the wake of Adam McKay’s Don’t Look Up (which Burrington describes as “laser-focused on the systemic fuckups and abuses of power manipulating the planetary disaster”)

In celebration of the 5th anniversary of Hamburg’s Elbphilharmonie, a Studio Drift survey opens at the local MK&G museum. “Moments of Connection” is the Dutch art and architecture duo’s most expansive exhibition in Germany to date and includes Drift classics such as Fragile Future III (2005, image), Shylight (2006), and In 20 Steps (2015). A new commission, Breaking Waves, is set to premiere in April, illuminating the facade of the iconic opera house with a drone choreography.

“Starting today we are reviewing if and how our current policy on crypto donations fits with our climate goals. And as we conduct our review, we will pause the ability to donate cryptocurrency.”
– The Mozilla Foundation, after a recent plea for cryptocurrency donations caused social media backlash. The org’s overt pandering to ‘HODLers’ of Bitcoin and Ethereum, both energy-intensive proof-of-work (PoW) chains, drew harsh criticism from prominent voices in the open source community, including Mozilla co-founder Jamie Zawinski and Gecko engine designer Peter Linss.

In response to Lionel Dricot’s call for a “computer built to last 50 years,” Swedish programmer Carl Svensson argues that such a “ForeverComputer” already exists: the Commodore Amiga 1200 (image), a portable 32bit platform launched in 1992, meets Dricot’s criteria of being “sustainable, decentralized, offline-first and durable,” while offering many modern features and a massive software library. Bonus: “No notifications, no distractions, no surveillance.”

“He was an idealist. Someone who had a very clear idea about how the world should be, and what he could do to bring it to that point. And yet, he was ill-equipped to deal with how the world actually was.”
The Idealist (2016) author Justin Peters, on the legacy of Aaron Swartz. The wunderkind information activist and “conscience of the internet” took his life eight years ago, after U.S. prosecutors pursued incarceration as punishment for downloading 4.8 million academic journal articles.

“Images of Resistance from Elsewhere,” an e-flux Video & Film screening program launches. Exploring the mediation of political struggle, it features films by The Otolith Group, Jocelyne Saab, b.h. Yael, and Mohanad Yaqubi that show conflict “from the point of view of the engaged observer.” Notably, it includes Harun Farocki’s War at a Distance (2003, image), which connects post-Gulf War military trends (missile cams, CGI, etc.) with industry and ideology. The online program runs through Jan 18.

For The Guardian’s Techscape newsletter, Chris Stokel-Walker asks “whither the bold claims of the charismatic tech CEO?” in the aftermath of Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes being found guilty of fraud. Similar to deposed WeWork co-founder Adam Neumann, there was not much ‘there’ there with Theranos, who falsified lab results to prop up their medical diagnostic prototype to dupe investors. “Tech companies overpromise and underdeliver. They’ve spent decades doing it,” notes Stokel-Walker. However, while we’ve become jaded by the many Steve Jobs wannabes of recent years, he urges we avoid “slipping too far in the opposite direction” into cynicism, gesturing to “techno-utopian companies like BioNTech inventing new techniques to manufacture vaccines” as evidence we can (and should) still feel wonder.

Richard Nieva reports on SilentSpeller, a hands-free interface for inaudible texting. Developed by University of Tokyo PhD student Naoki Kimura, the prototype provides users with a 1164-word dictionary accessed through tongue movements detected by an existing smart retainer product. Working under the guidance of Google Glass technical lead Thad Starner, Kimura will present the project at CHI22 this spring; potential applications include aiding sufferers of Parkinson’s disease and other motion disorders.

“We felt it was important to emphasize that technologies have a history, because if they have a history, they can be changed. Technology can be intervened in, and different futures imagined.”
– Art historian and curator Tina Rivers Ryan, on fighting “historical amnesia” with “Difference Machines: Technology & Identity in Contemporary Art,” a major survey at Albright-Knox Northland in Buffalo, NY. “We’re trying to help people understand that the production of difference is intrinsic to computation,” Ryan states. “Where do we go from here?”

Motherboard’s Matthew Gault reports that the Slovak Game Developers Association in collaboration with the Slovak Design Museum compiled English localizations of ten computer games created in former Czechoslovakia in the late 1980s. Programmed on Didaktik 8bit computers—Slovak ZX Spectrum clones—the games are considered “a key part of the history of home production,” notes the Design Museum’s multimedia curator Maroš Brojo. “Like other historical works, they belong to our cultural heritage.”

“There’s something really interesting in the practice of critiquing automation through apparently menial labour: That by intentionally pursuing hard, human tasks, you can show the work that is done.”
– Artist and designer Tobias Revell, theorising the reverse-engineering of OpenAI’s natural language processor GPT-3 by a “time-rich” artist or writer. “The author of such a work would effectively be manually mining ngrams for the least likely combination of words that maintain some meaning.”
“If there was a small city of 380,000 people where painted beer caps were highly valued, but they were only valuable in that city and worthless to the other 7.75 billion people in the world, would you consider painted beer caps the next big thing in the global economy?”
– Metaverse researcher Wagner James Au, observing that, despite all the hype, there are more active users of moribund virtual world Second Life (500,000) than NFT collectors [quote edited]

“Yesterday I spent 10 hours appreciating 100 people,” Lauren Lee McCarthy recaps her Zoom performance Appreciate You on Twitter. On Dec 21, the American media artist offered 100 five-minute appreciation sessions—“friends, acquaintances, and strangers all invited”—taking place over Dec 31 and bookable via (inexpensive) NFTs. “I could never have imagined 100 zooms flying by but they did,” writes McCarthy, Zoom screenshot attached. “My heart is full.”

For generative artists, it’s the most wonderful time of the year: #genuary. Starting today, thousands of creative coders including Nadieh Bremer, Jess Hewitt, William Mapan, and Frederik Vanhoutte take to social media to share wild geometries forged in Processing, p5js, openFrameworks and other tools, in response to daily creative prompts. Surprises are to be expected: Amy Goodchild, for example, went analog with markers to ‘draw 10,000 of something’ (image). Follow along!

“12 billion shots will be given out against COVID-19 globally by November 2022.”
Vox Future Perfect contributors Dylan Matthews, Kelsey Piper, and Sigal Samuel, predicting most people on Earth will have received two vaccine doses by this time next year. However, their forecast fails to account for anti-vaxers and wealth inequality, and they also predict “the WHO will designate another variant of concern” in 2022.
ONWARDS!

Happy 2022, dear HOLO readers! We look forward to exploring more art, science, technology, and culture with you!

<3 from team HOLO

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December 2021
“More and better facts will not catalyze this sociocultural tipping point, but more and better stories might.”
– Climate scientist and Being the Change (2017) author Peter Kalmus, on the power of Don’t Look Up. The new Hollywood satire from director Adam McKay and writer David Sirota tells the story of two astronomers who discover a ‘planet killer’ comet on collision course with Earth, but are ignored and gaslighted by society. “The panic and desperation they feel mirror the panic and desperation that many climate scientists feel,” writes Kalmus in his opinion piece.

Following Kyle McDonald’s example, Mexican-Canadian media art icon Rafael Lozano-Hemmer “demystifies” his studio’s funding structure with a money flowchart shared on Twitter. Public funding (green) “is the slowest but most reliable source,” notes Lozano-Hemmer, while private collectors (red) provide resources “the fastest but the most out of my control.” The spontaneous acts of transparency were triggered by questions about art as public service and who is in control.

“We had this system of discourse and this way of presenting ideas, and all of it seemed to be spectacular but none of it seemed to have any substance at its core.”
– Artist Mitchell F. Chan, on Something Something National Conversation (in 2 characters or less) (2016). Translating the post-Trump post-truth newsfeed into puffs of water vapour, he describes the installation as articulating the “threshold between nothingness and somethingness” later explored in his proto-NFT project Digital Zones of Immaterial Pictorial Sensibility (2017).

Demosceners celebrate the 30th anniversary of the inaugural edition of The Party, a landmark meetup of ~1,200 young computer enthusiasts in Aars, Denmark, that would inspire similar creative gatherings—demoparties—across Europe for years to come. The three-day jam saw the release of many 16-bit classics such as Hardwired, Odyssey, and Voyage, and, expanding into rave and videogame culture in subsequent years, would draw up to 5,000 visitors before its demise in 2002.

“Now look up at the sun, close your eyes, feel completely wrapped in virtual goods and commerce. That is the ultimate expression of social networks. That is the metaverse.”
The Guardian’s own Zuckerbot, on Facebook’s future. As the real Zuckerberg wasn’t available for commentary, technology reporter Julia Carrie Wong worked with Botnik Studios to create “a predictive keyboard trained on the past two years of Zuckerberg’s public statements” and interviewed it instead.

“Hello, Robot. Design between Human and Machine,” opens at Hyundai Motorstudio Beijing. A collaboration between the Japanese auto manufacturer’s culture wing and Vitra Design Museum, it aims to “inspire in-depth thinking about the human-machine relationship, and interaction.” Spanning four thematic rooms, the show surveys the history of robots in science fiction, across industrial applications, ‘helpers’ and companions in domestic space, and the fusion of human and machine. 

Art blogger Régine Debatty reflects on Éva Ostrowska’s series of post-internet wool tapestries, currently on view at the “Swipe Right! Data, Dating, Desire” exhibition at iMAL, Brussels (image: I am not the only one wondering…, 2019). Rather than using craft for romantic commentary, the French mixed media artist “holds a facetious and slightly cruel mirror to our new dating habits,” notes Debatty. “Her woolly compositions lay bare our insecurities, little infamies, and anxieties.”

Shortly after liftoff from a French Guiana spaceport, the James Webb Space Telescope departs Earth’s atmosphere. Outfitted with sophisticated infrared sensors, it’s en route to a distant solar orbit where it will study residual heat from stars and galaxies that appeared 13.7 billion years ago. Beyond the bevy of sensors, its 6.5 m primary mirror is seven times more effective at light gathering—it will see further into the past—than the long-ailing Hubble Telescope.

“Servers are places, vessels, townships. This feeling of leaving an old home is profound.”
– Media artist and critical engineer Julian Oliver, after leaving a server he deployed for Extinction Rebellion “2 years and 364 days” ago. “After migrating the last of its many open source platforms to a new dedicated server, one far more capable, I’m left with a ghost town,” Oliver writes on Twitter. “Attacked day and night, I watched a global environmental movement bloom on it to 10s of 1000s of accounts, a thriving hub of action, community, and ideas.”

Psychologist Eiko Fried points out the curious path pattern 800 unsteered bicycles create when pushed in Matthew Cook’s 2004 computer simulation. In his paper “It Takes Two Neurons To Ride a Bicycle,” the CalTech mathematician and computer scientist demonstrated that a two-neuron network can learn how to cycle, displaying human characteristics: “Just as when a person rides a bicycle, the network is very accurate for long range goals, but in the short run stability issues dominate the behavior.”

“Between 2006 and 2010, Second Life was the place to be if you wanted to be part of the vibrant art scene that was taking shape in there: and this, despite its ugly graphics, its accelerated commodification, its unregulated, capitalist economy.”
– Critic and curator Domenico Quaranta, contemplating NFTs and similarly conflicting precedents. In the wake of his Feral File exhibition, Quaranta sorts pros and cons but remains crypto-curious: “As an art critic and curator, I feel compelled to follow the artists wherever they may go.”
ENCOUNTER:
Creating (dis)order with computers for five decades, the Hungarian pioneer zigzagged a path from mid-century painterly abstraction to a new generative art.

Critic Andrew Russeth offers incisive analysis of Liz Larner’s “rare and admirable” restlessness. While known as an innovative sculptor, Russeth argues Larner’s passage through other fields warrants serious attention. Several 1980s works are discussed, including a microorganism decomposition study (image: Orchid, Buttermilk, Penny, 1987), and a kinetic device that rebuffed Survival Research Laboratories’ “outrageously macho robots.”

“Canada is warming twice as fast as the rest of the world. We can’t sit idly by when we have the opportunity to shape our collective future.”
– Philanthropist Allan Shiff, funder of the world’s first climate change curator position at the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM). Shiff and his late wife’s $1.5M endowment has supported the ROM in hiring liminologist-turned-curator Soren Brothers. “[Global Warming] needs to be treated as seriously as 19th-century Canadian art, or mammals and whales,” observes ROM Director Josh Basseches.
OUT NOW:
darktaxa-project
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17 post-photography artists including Banz & Bowinkel, Arno Beck, Susan Morris, and Anna Ridler reflect on using new digital imaging processes such as photogrammetry, AR, 3D scanning, and AI
“NFTs seem to me just a way for artists to get a little piece of the action from global capitalism, our own cute little version of financialization. How sweet—now artists can become little capitalist assholes as well.”
– Musician and artist Brian Eno, not feeling crypto art. “I can understand why the people who’ve done well from NFTs are pleased, and it’s natural enough in a libertarian world to believe that something that benefits you must automatically be ‘right’ for the whole world.”

“Butterflies Frolicking on the Mud: Engendering Sensible Capital,” the Thailand Biennale Korat 2021 opens in Nai Mueang. Featuring 54 artists exploring the “capital of hope emerging from uncertainty,” its works include David OReilly’s meta-videogame Everything (2017), and a new interactive sculpture version of Keiken’s Wisdoms for Love 3.0 (2021, image) which positions NFT exchange as knowledge sharing (not commerce).

“S v Z,” a hometown solo show by San Francisco native Tauba Auerbach opens at SFMOMA. Documenting Auerbach’s study of how “structure, pattern, and gesture function at intricate and vast scales,” it offers a core sample of her voluminous output spanning painting and drawing, sculpture and installation, including her playful collaboration with Cameron Mesirow (image: Auerglass Organ, 2009), which provides the show’s soundtrack.

“Tech companies, enterprises, anyone writing software is dependent on open source. Now there is a recognition at the highest levels of government that this is a big risk.”
Chris Wysopal, chief technology officer at the security firm Veracode, on the lessons from the Log4J security crisis and how the underfunding of open source projects (Log4J maintainers work for free) poses a “systemic risk to the United States, to critical infrastructure, to banking, to finance.”

Multimedia and sound artist Kat Austen’s research on the effects of microplastics on plants is published in the journal “Science of The Total Environment.” In a pilot study done as part of her artwork Stranger to the Trees (2020-21, image: WRO Media Art Biennale), Austen and colleagues demonstrate that woody plants like silver birches uptake and ‘store’ microplastics in their root tissue, effectively cleaning contaminated soil.

“FOR YOUR INFORMATION WE NEVER MADE AN NFT OF A PRINT AND DO NOT SUPPORT THIS !!!”
– Joan Heemskerk, one half of the Dutch net art collective JODI, denouncing the artnet auction “ArtNFT: The Beginnings” that includes their 2010 inkjet print GeoGoo.net (Screenshot). “JODI was not informed to be in this show and the print came with a book about digital art 10 years ago,” explains Heemskerk, also noting various errors in the auction text. “Who ever put this in there should be ashamed.”

Wired senior writer Kate Knibbs meets avatar artist LaTurbo Avedon (image), “a cross between the Japanese hologram pop idol Hatsune Miku and the pseudonymous British street artist Banksy,” in Second Life to chat digital mirrors, the metaverse, and NFTs. “There’s no separating the art from the artist,” Knibbs muses, after attempts to get Avedon to break character fail. “The artist is the art project, a sprightly-looking, nonbinary virtual being untethered from a human body.”

“How do we make room for extra limbs when the brain is already fully occupied with controlling the limbs we already have? Extra fingers and hands may actually end up harming the very bodies they’re designed to augment.”
– Writer and musician Claire L. Evans, exploring the possibilities—and pitfalls—of prosthetics. In talking to Plasticity Lab’s Dr. Tamar Makin, Evans reveals cognitive failsafes that may prevent us from ever becoming cyborgs.

Exploring machine gaze resistance and “posthuman human vision,” the Domenico Quaranta-curated NFT exhibition “For Your Eyes Only” opens on Feral File. 13 artists including Moreshin Allahyari, Petra Cortright (image: smoking-vase-1), Jonas Lund, and Lev Manovich, submitted works, or “proofs,” in response to Quaranta’s thematic inquiry. “They can be paraphrased, explained, and described, but no description will ever exhaust them,” writes Quaranta.

“The ‘offline world’ and the ‘wilderness’ function as vessels for our frustrations with contemporary life: They are defined by what they don’t contain, rather than what they do.”
– Writer Lauren Collee, examining the long and problematic history of the “offline” mega-narrative. “True disconnection, like true wilderness, is an empty goal,” she writes. “The internet does not cease to exist as a driving force, any more than ecological systems cease to shape our lives the minute we reach the end of the forest trail and hop back in the car.”

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