Patrick Tanguay weighs in on the metaverse, moving beyond stock claims on and critiques of the term. The problem, with ‘the metaverse,’ is it’s whatever you want it to be; VR or videogame developers see problems of interaction and immersion, crypto boosters and the web3 crowd speak of economic empowerment and decentralization. Here, Patrick uses the early days of the web to think about open standards and platform capitalism, and his reading is better off for it. Of note: his description of “a full world, at movie quality,” which imagines the blockbuster media property as a new kind of persistent experience. He is spot-on, in stating “the merging of the tools and interim steps are actually much more interesting … and offer much more varied potential than those 4-5-6 futures currently vying for the word metaverse.”
Underscoring Tetem’s [NL] commitment to hybrid experiences, an online component for “Eclipse” launches. Ali Eslami and Mathilde Renault’s exhibbition has been open for weeks, but, as of today, remote participants can book access to “discover the extent of their physicality … [and] their interactions with one another.” An offshoot of Eslami’s ongoing VR experiments, this browser-based iteration allows users to inhabit an avian avatar, and interact with more corporeal forms that are only accessible to visitors of the IRL exhibition.
Confronting the posthuman head-on, “From Creatures to Creators” opens at Kunsthaus Hamburg. Collecting works “going beyond the finite, conceiving the superhuman” artists including Ed Fornieles, Mary Maggic, and Tabita Rezaire contribute provocative, unsettling visions of life not as we know it, through installation, video, and VR. Pakui Hardware’s Thrivers (image, 2019), for example, presents glass forms as “porous hosts of life,” that fuse elements of flora and fauna lifeforms into chimeric experiments.
Directed by digital artist Ryoichi Kurokawa for Buffalo Daughter, the “ET (Densha)” music video premieres on the band’s YouTube channel. Known for his clincial deconstruction of natural forms, here Kurokawa ‘explodes’ flowers into point clouds, which waft and dissipate in sync with the central bass hook and guitar feedback. Founded in 1993, Buffalo Daughter is a key player in Japan’s “cut-and-paste” rock Shibuya-kei movement. “ET (Densha)” is the lead single from their upcoming album We Are The Times.
Kei Kreutler answers the question of the moment: what is a Decentralized Autonomous Organization (DAO)? Linking think tanks, libertarians, and MMORPG Guilds, she maps a prehistory of emergent governance, to contextualize (post-crypto) community tokenization. Noteworthy DAOs, both active and defunct get air time, as do tools and protocols; ultimately Kreutler schematizes DAOs as “tokens, teams, and missions” (image), and “compelling environments players want to inhabit, recognizing narratives, aesthetics, and goals held in common.”
An ode to the cosmos’ hidden mysteries, Ryoji Ikeda’s The Universe within the Universe opens as part of THE INFINITE, an immersive environment inspired by NASA missions. Created by Felix & Paul Studios and PHI at Montréal’s Arsenal, the 12,500 square-feet XR experience sends visitors on a journey to the International Space Station. Along the way, they encounter Ikeda’s audiovisual installation: a pitch black room with an LED ceiling and mirrored floor, designed to create “the feeling of weightlessness and even vertigo.”
In the wake of Jeff Bezos riding a ‘giant phallus’ to space, art historian Michael Lobel reminds his Twitter followers of The Moon Museum (1969), “a tiny ceramic wafer with images by six artists covertly attached to the Apollo 12 spacecraft and reportedly left on the moon’s surface.” Realised by American sculptor Forrest Myers in collaboration with scientists from Bell Laboratories, the tile includes a sketch by Andy Warhol “that can be interpreted as a penis or a rocket ship.”
TK Smith reviews “The Dirty South,” at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, for Art in America. Scanning works spanning landscape illustration to a literal manifestation of slab culture, Smith parses the character and affect of the American South. Of note: the discussion of Paul Stephen Benjamin’s Summer Breeze (2018, image), which blends Billie Holiday and Jill Scott song and spoken word with archival footage “creating a second meaning for Holiday’s phrase, juxtaposing the legacy of lynching with the fact of survival and Black joy.”
A window into the Jonas Lund Token (JLT) universe, ”On This Day” opens in König Galerie’s pocket of the blockchain-based virtual world of Decentraland. Launched by Lund in 2018, JLT is a distributed decentralized autonomous artistic practice where shareholders get to invest and participate in the Swedish artist’s career. 50 chairs around a long table are reserved for selected JLT shareholders (meetings to be announced!), while 3D animals—JLT collectibles—watch Lund’s avatar reminisce over photo memory tokens on the wall.
Authorities in the city of Miri in Sarawak, Malaysia seized 1,069 rigs from Bitcoin miners alleged to have stolen $2 million USD worth of electricity. “The electricity theft for mining Bitcoin activities has caused frequent power outages, and in 2021, three houses were razed due to illegal electricity supply connections,” explains Miri police chief ACP Hakemal Hawari. Six individuals were arrested, fined, and jailed in the sting; the police then proceeded to crush the hardware, worth an estimated $1.25 million USD, with a steamroller.
“In the art world it was quite shambolic—the worst and most monopolistic actors immediately colonized the space and started extracting labour from precarious workers. For me, NFTs are the equivalent of toxic masculinity as a medium, because they take up way too much attention and use up all the oxygen in the room.”
Instigated by artist Rosa Menkman and featuring works by Memo Akten, Sophie Dyer & Sasha Engelmann, Susan Schuppli, UCNV, Alan Warburton, and others, “im/possible images” opens at Lothringer 13 Halle, Munich. The exhibition extends out of Menkman’s research into digital image infrastructures and kicks off a two-month summer school exploring the conditions of image making today: “How do resolutions shape images? How has the field of computer simulation expanded the rules and functioning of our imagery? Can one listen to an image?”
Developed by researchers at Italy’s new-technologies agency ENEA to determine the “attraction value” for specific works of art, project ShareArt begins a trial period at the reopened Istituzione Bologna Musei. 14 camera devices (image) have been positioned near artworks to soak up data on the number of observers and their behavior as they look at a painting, sculpture, or artifact. “Thanks to AI and big data applications,” the system could help improve museum layouts and exhibit scheduling, state the researchers.
Artist and composer Holly Herndon launches Holly+, her own AI twin that will interpret any polyphonic audio uploaded to holly.plus. Problematizing voice ownership and artist compensation, Holly+ and subsequent AI voice tools are owned by a DAO cooperative, and any income generated will go toward new developments. “Vocal deepfakes are here to stay,” states Herndon. “A balance needs to be found between protecting artists, and encouraging people to experiment with a new and exciting technology.”
“After starting an entire field of kinetic sculpture, his ideas have been remixed, taught, and copied into countless flagship installations, the world’s largest products, and many many artists’ work. I absolutely admire Joachim, and appreciate being in the wake of his influence.”
Damien Hirst, who knows a thing or two about the art market, releasess his first NFT series. In The Currency, the British artist riffs on artist multiple and NFT conventions with a physical-digital hybrid drop. Taking place through the Palm platform, NFTs representing 10,000 20 x 30 cm polka dot paintings (authenticated with custom paper, a hologram, and Hirst’s signature) are on (pre)sale for $2,000 USD; buyers ultimately choose to keep the NFT or receive the original painting—the remaining tokens and paintings will be burned.
“After years of studying it, I believe that cryptocurrency is an inherently right-wing, hyper-capitalistic technology built primarily to amplify the wealth of its proponents through a combination of tax avoidance, diminished regulatory oversight, and artificially enforced scarcity.”
As California’s Salton Sea emerges as a hotspot for U.S. lithium mining, Vice’s Audrey Carleton digs into the pros and cons of turning the toxic lake into “Lithium Valley.” Whereas General Motors argues it could supply “a significant portion” of the lithium needed for its electric cars, helping curb climate change, locals fear the impacts. “I’m a huge advocate for doing things right,” states environmental justice organizer Miguel Hernandez. “Let’s assume it’s gonna be part of our communities. Then, let’s make lithium a good neighbor.”
A computational resurrection of Berlin’s swampy origins, Jakob Kudsk Steensen’s “Berl-Berl”—‘Berl’ being the ancient Slavic word for swamp—turns Halle am Berghain into a luminous wetland. Large-scale projections invite visitors into an “immersive, absolute landscape” composed of macro photogrammetry of the region’s remaining wetlands. “Berl-Berl is a song for the swamp, a place for the undefinable—morphing, liminal and mystical,” says the Danish CGI artist. “Berl-Berl mourns what is lost and embraces what is new.”
Ten years after Secret Service agents raided his apartment following People Staring at Computers, a 2011 software intervention that published photos taken with the laptops at two New York City Apple Stores, artist Kyle McDonald releases the investigators’ report obtained via the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The 100-page file reveals “scrawled notes on the phone with Apple, descriptions of a Special Agent scrolling through my social media, justifications for a search warrant,” and “boards of profile pics.”
“My Research Partner would have to pose a real challenge to my own thinking. They’d sit outside of the inertia that can set in, as a field of inquiry and a mode of practice becomes known well, lauded, praised. This is when I thought of Peli Grietzer.”
For the New York Times, Sabrina Imbler chronicles the quest to understand the fractal forms of romanesco broccoli and cauliflower. Focusing on Irnia researcher Christopher Godin and plant biologist François Parcy’s work modelling “nested spirals and logarithmic chartreuse fractals” of the vegetables over 15 years, she details both missteps and breakthroughs. While their work is far from complete, the duo have honed in on the meristem region of plant tissue, “a stem with no inhibition,” as a source of the eccentric geometries.
In the aftermath of “Yacht Metaphor,” an online and Bard College-hosted solo exhibition, Jenson Leonard delves into his process with curator Georgie Payne. During the exchange Leonard details his work as @CoryIntheAbyss, where he has embraced internet vernacular—‘poor’ images, virality—since 2015. Notably, he describes the exhibition’s “meme schematic” feature, which gives the viewer something they never get on everyday social media: an opportunity to “look under the hood” of his images via a didactic explanation of the references at play.
Two years after Flemish Minister-President Jan Jambon caused outrage for playing Angry Birds during a policy discussion, Belgian media artist Dries Depoorter launches The Flemish Scrollers, an AI bot that monitors the livestreams of the region’s government meetings for politicians who are on their phones. Once the system’s facial recognition detects a distracted lawmaker, it will call them out in public: a video clip is posted to Instagram and Twitter, tagging the official’s social media handle with the request to “pls stay focused!”
“It’s not the type of show where you just roll in as an art world figure. You have to embrace what the building has been as a nightclub, and what it might become, without alienating its history and existing community, without appearing to gentrify yet another space in a city that used to have all this energy.”
“Composed,” a joint show between Robert Bean and Barbara Lounder opens at Hermes Gallery in Halifax, Canada. Combining the pair’s interest in text and encoding, the show collects recent inscription, writing machine, score and diagram work by Bean, and debuts a composition by Lounder. Performed on a 1967 Smith Corona Super Sterling portable typewriter (image) at intervals throughout the show’s run, Super Sterling features Lounder translating fiction and walk transcriptions—live in-gallery—into visual scores.
In wiring a vintage Commodore 1541 floppy drive directly to a CRT monitor, German software engineer and demoscener Matthias Kramm releases Freespin, “a C64 demo … without the C64,” at Gubbdata, Sweden. Working wonders with the drive’s I/O chips and a hacked serial cable, Kramm sets 16 visual effects including scrollers, plasma, and raster bars to beats generated by the drive’s stepper motor. A C64 is only used to install code on the 1541, explains Kramm in the demonstration video—“I’ll now remove it because it is not needed anymore.”
“Zeroes and Ones” opens at Berlin’s KW Institute for Contemporary Art. Connecting zeitgeist theme ‘the algorithm’ with conceptual art, its works span contemporary installation to early-Modernist furniture design. Highlights include Tishan Hsu’s uncanny health care object Biocube (1988, image), Carolyn Lazard’s noise machine array A Conspiracy (2017), and Lee Lozano’s didactic A Boring Drawing (1963–9). The common thread: “scripting, scoring, coding” are “complicated through lived experience,” write the curators.
An NFT of Tim Berners-Lee’s 1989 source code of the world wide web sells for $5.4 million USD in a Sothebys auction—a price at parity with Nyan cat, but a fraction of Beeple’s Everydays. The NFT includes a video the Web’s creator describes as “what the source code would look like if it was stuck on the wall and signed by me.” The buyer also receives a time-stamped archive of the 10,000 lines of code and a letter from Lee, the transaction underscoring how the internet remains a conflation of culture and commerce.
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