Opening at Jane Lombard Gallery, New York, “Doku: Digital Alaya” puts Chinese CGI artist Lu Yang’s latest digital avatar front and centre. Created with a team of scientists, technologists, and 3D animators using motion capture, the non-binary, androgynous Doku appears in six virtual environments, each representing a Buddhist realm of reincarnation. Displayed on light-boxes, in videos, and installations, “the artist is reborn repeatedly,” extending life’s cycle into cyberspace.

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“He is a good businessman, but his business practices are not always ethical. It is funny that he has all this money and still wears the same clothes.”
– Meta chatbot Blenderbot, responding to the prompt “how do you feel about Mark Zuckerberg as CEO of Facebook?” posed by Buzzfeed data scientist Max Woolf.

A retrospective collecting 40 works by the Australian artist, “Patricia Piccinini: We Are Connected” opens at Singapore’s ArtScience Museum. Showcasing her unsettling sculptures and installations that morph contemporary biopolitics towards the grotesque, the show features works including The Bond (2016, image centre) and The Field (2018, image), which, respectively, depict a mother cradling a human-ish fleshy creature, and a (wildly) genetically modified crop.

“From an early age they are trying to spot mathematically talented kids in school. They groom those kids—put them in computer classes—and when those kids show promise they get sent to elite universities.”
– Cybercrime journalist Geoff White, on the state-managed recruiting pipeline for Lazarus Group, the elite North Korean hacker squad. “From there [elite universities] the really gifted computer kids will either go into the nuclear research program … or computer hacking.”
Jack Ashby
Platypus Matters
A reconsideration of the (often colonialist) history of one of nature’s most idiosyncratic mammals
“It wasn’t that long ago that we were designing cooling systems for a peak outdoor temperature of 32 degrees. They’re now over 8 degrees higher than they were ever designed for.”
– Jon Healy, of the UK data center consultancy Keysource, on how data centers are ill-prepared for the climate crisis. Healy argues that it’ll require substantial retrofitting—bigger chiller machines, bigger condensers, implementing evaporative cooling—to keep the planet’s collective knowledge online.

Researchers create the world’s first synthetic embryos—no sperm, eggs, or fertilization required. Molecular Geneticist Jacob Hanna and his team accomplished the feat by reprogramming stem cells from mice back to a naïve state, and simulating a placenta’s blood and oxygen requirements with a nutrient solution; the cells self-assembled into embryo-like structures with an intestinal tract, a proto-brain, and a heart. “Our next challenge is to understand how stem cells know what to do,” says Hanna.

July 2022

N∰menon, an installation by Melle Nieling and Amelie Mckee opens at Künstlerhaus Dortmund. Produced during a Plicnik-Collective summer residency at the German venue, it consists of a series of apparatuses intended to draw attention to the lack of a user. Drawing on video interviews that describe a mysterious event with spiritual and economic resonance, the spartan scene stokes “feelings of paranoid threat, in which the unknown opens the imagination.”

Concluding her PlatteForum residency, Raquel Meyers’ solo exhibition “Concrete Redundancy” opens at the Denver urban art laboratory. Meyers, a Spanish artist known for her work with obsolete technologies, organizes artifacts created with typewriters, teletext, and fax machines into “techno-rubble”—a tribute to Denver7’s soon-to-be-demolished brutalist landmark. “Concrete Redundancy is a tool for the struggle,” the exhibition text states, “an Anthropocene souvenir for the future.”

“What if Vera had decided thirty years ago that her art wasn’t selling enough or being shown in the right places and had stopped creating? It would have been a tragic loss for all of us.”
– Digital artist and prolific collector Anne Spalter, acknowledging the tenacity of generative art pioneer Vera Molnar (and other early computer artists) that toiled away in obscurity and are only just receiving recognition

German duo Mouse on Mars (MoM) performs using ROBODYNAMIC DIFFUSION: RDD (2021, image), as part of “Technobodies,” a program across Munich venues Lenbachhaus, Haus der Kunst, and Museum Brandhorst. Jointly developed by MoM’s Jan St. Werner, Michael Akstaller, Nele Jäger, and Oliver Mayer, RDD is a directional speaker bot that projects sound in a tightly focused beam, creating opportunities to induce “controlled disorientations and sensory redirections” in audiences.

“I recently mounted a section of tracking to the ceiling of my home studio so I could be hoisted out of my wheelchair to reach heights and canvas sizes I otherwise wouldn’t be able to access.”
– Painter Robin Hodgson, on his DIY ceiling lift. A quadriplegic since his teens, creating adaptive tools (including a spray paint gun using a bicycle brake) is part of his practice. “My aim is to develop a unique painting style through new and experimental methods,” Hodgson writes, in a summary of his process.

Exploring how medicine and shamanism can begin to blur into one another, “Post-Human Narratives—In the Name of Scientific Witchery” opens in Hong Kong. Featured artists include Betty Apple, Mayumi Hosokura, and Yu Shuk Pui Bobby, with contributed works ranging from Liv Tsim’s biomatter fabrications (2022, image) to Florence Lam’s Zirca, an extremely witchy performance about channeling energy—applying so much of it to materials that they produce light.

“At some point, we’re amassing all this computing power at the consumer level for the sake of amassing this power because we can. Then we just go and use it to stream Netflix.”
– Tech journalist John Loeffler, commenting on rumoured 200% performance increases in upcoming Nvidia and Intel chips. Concerned about financial accessibility and egregious power consumption he concludes “it’s okay to say, ‘you know, 60 to 70 fps at 1440p is good enough,’ because honestly, it is.”
“The robot broke the child’s finger. This is of course bad.”
– Sergey Lazarev, president of the Moscow Chess Federation, on a recent Moscow Open altercation between a chess-playing robot and its seven-year-old opponent. “The child made a move, and after that we need to give time for the robot to answer, but the boy hurried, the robot grabbed him,” Lazarev told TASS news agency, after video of the incident was published on Telegram.

Perhaps the first bike-friendly indoor exhibition (cyclists can enter via a ramp), “bike in head” opens at Städtische Galerie Bremen, Germany. Rather than focus on the aesthetic object, included works by Wolfgang Zach, Anne Krönker, Kosuke Masuda, Aram Bartholl and others shift attention to the bicycle’s entanglement with society and self. Bartholl’s Unlock Life (2020, image), for example, stages tossed rental bikes recovered from the bottom of the Spree river.

“Journalists were actually actively looking for the contrarians. It was really feeding an appetite that was already there.”
– Don Rheem, former environmental journalist turned lobbyist, on his work for the Global Climate Coalition (GCC). Throughout the ’90s, the fossil fuel interest group challenged the science of global warming by funding climate sceptics. “My role was to identify the voices that were not in the mainstream and to give those voices a stage,” Rheem says.

“It offers access to every file I have, making it an endless rabbit hole,” writes Matylda Krzykowski of Desktop Exhibition: A Curatorial Format (2018, image), in the latest issue of Techniques Journal. For the issue about ‘bordering,’ the Berlin-based deep thinker about space (both online and IRL) ruminates on the intimacy of digital collections, drawing on eclectic references ranging from Elizabethan home layout to Marcel Duchamp’s mini-monograph Boîte-en-valise (1935-41).

Irish CGI artist and filmmaker David OReilly calls OpenAI’s newly announced DALL-E credit system a scam. In an Instagram post (that also circulated widely on Twitter), OReilly argues that paying for an AI image generator trained on uncredited, unpaid creative labour by artists “who never asked to be included in a proprietary learning model” is a “bullshit deal.” “It rips off the past generation for the current one and charges them money for it.”

“Artists represented less than ten percent of the speakers in this week’s Art + Tech summit, meant to kick off Christie’s NFT venture fund. It really should have been called ‘Marketers + CEOs.’”
– Digital art preservationist Jon Ippolito, sharing his quote (and scorn) that didn’t get included in an Observer article where he commented on Christie’s new NFT venture capital fund
What Just Happened:
Yuri Suzuki Broadcasts the “Sound of the Earth” at Triennale Milano and Online

The UK-based artist and designer discusses his geodesic megaspeaker and how sound creates bonds across borders

“Close friend François Morellet would refer to Vera and husband François Molnar as un peintre à deux têtes, a two-headed painter.”
– Art historian Zsofi Valyi-Nagy, sharing an anecdote about the inseparability and linked practices of ‘partners in crime’ Vera Molnar and her late husband François in the 1950-60s

Combining robotic painting methods with Arabic artisanal practices, Liat Grayver and Nora Al-Badri’s 4-day exhibition “Continuum” opens at Berlin’s transmediale Studio. Together with graffiti artist and computer scientist Daniel Berio, the two Berlin-based media artists explore, reconnect with, and reappropriate the aesthetic(al) heritage of their families’ Baghdad origins through the computational reproduction of calligraphy and ornamentation.

“I would really suggest experimenting with IBM’s public quantum computers using their Qiskit textbook, extracting data from various algorithms and then using that to generate forms using Processing or Unity or another digital software package.”
– Artist and quantum physicist Libby Heany, providing a workflow that anyone (code savvy) could use to start experimenting with quantum computing

Deji Art Museum in Nanjing, China, opens with its inaugural exhibition “In the Line of Flight, for Possible Worlds.” Presenting installations, video, and interactive works by key artists including Pierre Huyghe, Tomás Saraceno, and “father of Chinese video art” Zhang Peili, curator Zhang Ga creates a “post-pandemic microcosm” for reflection. Peili’s XL Chamber (2017, image), for example, is an algorithmic ‘trap’ whose shutter doors open and close randomly.

“These withering years are killing trees,” writes climate and ecosystem researcher Daniel Griffin in the New York Times opinion pages. Not your usual op-ed, Griffin’s analysis is bolstered by graphics from Nathaniel Lash, that pan horizontally across the rings of a 500-year-old Mount Pinos Douglas fir, charting its 1538 saplinghood through stifling droughts over the centuries to, troublingly, its missing rings and slivers of growth in several post-2010 years.

“Something that struck me about Dr. Manhattan, is that he’s a melancholic figure. To me this didn’t align with his origins as a white physicist. I began to entertain the idea that Dr. Manhattan had been Black in his past life as a human.”
American Artist, on the origins of the metaphysical avatar featuring in his 2019 video Blue Life Seminar and installation I’m Blue (If I Was █████ I Would Die) that is modelled after the blue Watchmen super-being and former LAPD officer Christopher Dorner

Celebrating the 90th anniversary of the birth of the trailblazing Korean American media artist, “Nam June Paik: Super Baroque” opens in Seoul. Featuring late career works, it includes Sistine Chapel (1993), Paik’s Venice Biennale media architecture ‘update’ to Michelangelo’s frescoes, his similarly architecture-focused Baroque Laser (1995), and the primary coloured reimagination of One Candle (1998, image) with a video camera and five CRT projectors.

“In June of 2022, she streamed an average of 76.7 hours a week, which isn’t even on the high end for the creator. (In certain months, she exceeds 100 hours.)”
– Games journalist Ana Diaz, describing the prolific streaming schedule popular Twitch personality pokimane is taking a break from due to burnout
Elvia Wilk
Death by Landscape
A collection of “fan nonfiction” essays about living and writing during the age of extinction

In his ongoing pursuit of automating his artistic practice, Swedish artist Jonas Lund turned to AI to self-replicate into an army. Feeding a respective text prompt to OpenAI’s DALL-E 2, a sea of Lunds emerged, making art on laptops in signature blue shirts and hats. “Me and my 50+ clones working in the studio on the next master piece,” he writes on Twitter as concerns over AI-powered image generators impacting artists negatively become ever louder.

Bringing her RGB eccentricity to French Canada, Sara Ludy’s solo exhibition “Swimmer’s Canyon” opens at Art Mûr Montréal. In the titular VR piece, curated by Samuel Arsenault-Brassard, the American artist and composer sends viewers on a journey “through a star-filled canyon to a swimming hole, presenting a world populated by the absurd and the unknown.” Not in Montréal? The six VR scenes included can be viewed—and owned—as NFTs as well.

“Among the drivers’ complaints were the obscure way in which their accounts were blocked and the inequitable way in which fees earned by drivers were unilaterally decided and implemented by Uber.”
– University of Witwatersrand researchers Hannah J. Dawson & Ruth Castel-Branco, on the conditions causing a December 2020 Johannesburg protest—Uber drivers disabled the app and refused new rides. Platform capitalism “threatens to extend informality into new sectors through ‘algorithmic insecurity,’” in the Global South in particular, the duo argue.

Featuring 100 works by international designers and artists, “Unknown Unknowns,” an exhibition “whose boundaries are hazy and permeable” opens at Triennale Milano. Curated by astrophysicist Ersilia Vaudo, the show features new commissions from designer Irene Stracuzzi, architects SOM, and artist Refik Anadol. A fourth, Yuri Suzuki’s Sound of the Earth: Chapter 3 (2022, image), is a globe comprised of 300 speakers that play an ambient megamix of crowdsourced geotagged field recordings.

What Just Happened:
Megan MacLaurin Centres “The Air We Share” by Taking GIF Art to the Streets

The Canadian curator discusses her new exhibition, glitch aesthetics, and the 2022 edition of Vector Festival

“And if we’re in a race between bad catastrophe and some kind of beginning prosperity for all—when you’re in a race that intense, you don’t want to sit down on the ground and start crying. ‘Oh, we’ve lost already.’ That would be a bad thing to do, because you’re in a race.”
– Science fiction author Kim Stanley Robinson, on refusing to fall into despair or cynicism no matter how high the stakes of the climate crisis are

“The usual stories about disability teach us that disability is the exception when in fact it is the rule,” writes Rosemarie Garland-Thomson, introducing freshly published Manual 17. The credo carries through the issue of the RISD Museum periodical (its theme: ‘variance’), which includes a rumination on how body mods and tattoos are a form of Crip Futurism, and an ode to the ingenuity of the plywood leg splint Charles and Ray Eames designed during WW2 (1941-2, image).

“Seeing the dystopias of your own imagination being created is not the best thing you could wish for.”
– Surviving Superstudio member Piero Frassinelli, expressing his contempt for the resemblance between The Line, a region of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s ‘city of the future’ Neom and the Continuous Monument (1969-70) proposal his studio dreamt up decades ago

“Machine Bodies (Is Cyborg Good or Evil?),” the flagship exhibition for Vector Festival, opens in Toronto. Curated by Karina Iskandarsjah, the show considers the post-AI body. Featured are Xuan Ye’s What Lets Lethargy Dream Produces Lethargy’s Surplus Value (2020), which examines the datafication of sleep, and works by LA Birdwatchers and Madeleine Lychek that abstract predictive policing (image, background) and machine learning misinterpretation (bottom).

“When I look at Molnar’s many ‘transformations’ of the square, I see not only the automation of composition through algorithms, but also a celebration of the everyday beauty of the vitally imperfect.”
– Art historian, curator, and Weaving Variations guest voice Tina Rivers Ryan, on Vera Molnar’s “corrupted squares” and “challenging the modernist cult of rationality with its own tools
Catlow & Rafferty (ed.)
Radical Friends
Crypto art thinkers including Mitchell F. Chan, Kei Kreutler, and Rhea Myers envision a bright future for DAOs

Fusing virtuality and Persian Lore, the online exhibition “PHOENIX FROM THE ASHES“ opens at Cologne’s Priska Pasquer Gallery. For it, Iranian artist Mohsen Hazrati has created an allegorical space for reflection, over which its titular winged creature hovers; the phoenix also evokes the mythical Simurgh, a virtuous Persian “symbol for self-knowledge.“ Curated by Tina Sauerlaender, the show is accompanied by an NFT edition that captures its avian protagonist in flight (image).

“Your integrated circuit is going to come from Taiwan Semiconductor, your memory will come from Korea, and your display will be produced in Indonesia or China—there is no manufacturer for those components anywhere in the Western world.”
– Hardware engineer and OSOM Founder Jason Keats, when asked if it would be possible to make a smartphone from scratch in North America [quote edited]
“It’s astounding. It’s the oldest documented light in the history of the universe, from over 13 billion—let me say it again—over 13 billion years ago.”
– U.S. President Joe Biden, unveiling the first image from the James Webb Space Telescope during a White House ceremony. A “deep field” observation, the image shows galaxy cluster SMACS 0723 and offers a rare infrared glimpse of the early universe. “And we’re going back further,” notes NASA Administrator Bill Nelson. “We’re going back almost to the beginning.”

A collaboration between Berlin’s and LA’s JAUS, “Post Cinema” opens at Open Mind Art Space in Los Angeles. Exploring common themes across recent media history—from TV to VR—works by Berlin-based (Nadja Buttendorf, Esben Holk, Cornelia Sollfrank) and LA-based artists (Petra Cortright, Julie Orser, Peter Wu) echo “dreams of global utopia,” whether broadcast over airwaves, electronic superhighways, or streamed directly from the cloud.

Showcasing four women-identifying artists whose practices address feminized robots, “Can You Fuck It?” opens at Tokyo’s Ningen Gallery. Curator Elena Knox, Allison de Fren, Mika Kan (image: The Silent Woman, 2017), and Lin Xin’s contributed works—spanning documentary to digital illustration—demonstrate that “women’s ideas must begin to be acknowledged alongside those that present objectified feminine embodiment as a fait accompli,” writes Knox in her curatorial essay.

“Ornamental Spaces,” a show featuring vintage works by late computer art pioneer Georg Nees, opens in Berlin. The exhibition showcases Nees’ prescience on two fronts: first, with works from “Bilder Images Digital” (a 1986 exhibition at Munich’s Galerie der Künstler) generated by a Lisp program in response to user questions; secondly, for context, screenprints related to his PhD research on Generative Computergraphik (shown at “Computer Graphics” in Stuttgart, 1965).

Martin Bricelj Baraga’s latest Cyanometer (2016–) is unveiled in front of Geneva’s Museum of History of Science, the very institution that keeps Horace Bénédict de Saussure’s original instrument from 1789. Fourth in a growing network of distributed public sculptures, Baraga’s reflective monolith measures (and archives) the blueness of the sky as well as air pollution, allowing for comparative analysis between the cities of Ljubljana, Wrocław, Dresden, and now Geneva.

“After 5 weeks of vacationing and disconnecting myself from crypto, it is truly amazing how utterly irrelevant crypto is in every day life and how little it matters to most people. Yes we’re early, but also we are clearly caught up in a tiny niche bubble that no one cares about.”
– Web3 enthusiast Foobazzler, providing a much-needed reality check

“Nature/Code/Drawing,” an exhibition of plotter drawings by Hiromasa Fukaji and Junichiro Horikawa, opens at CUBE 1,2,3 in Tokyo, showing exceedingly natural, but algorithmically generated forms. In joining forces—Horikawa on programming, Fukaji on plotting—the two designers attempt to express nature’s complexity by simulating the delicate interplay of logic and chaos that governs the world. They reveal process too, drawing new forms during the exhibition.

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