Golan Levin & Tega Brain
Code as Creative Medium
A deep resource for teachers focused on the expressive potential of code, loaded with syllabi suggestions, road-tested assignemnts, and interviews with leading educators.
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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.”

“I’m interested in using data as a substrate for more abstract visualizations—systems that don’t so much embody the actual data as patterns and trends that might exist hidden within them.”
Canadian data artist Jer Thorp, on his search for insight, expressed through visualization wizardry on screen and interactive sculpture in public space
Whether parsing exoplanet candidates, the Okavango Delta, or MoMA’s archives, the Canadian artist has pushed the limits of representing (and living in) data for two decades.
“The harms caused by this widespread, unregulated corporate surveillance pose a direct threat to the public at large, especially for Black and brown people most often criminalized using surveillance.”
– A coalition of 48 civil rights and advocacy groups organized by Athena, demanding the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to ban “corporate use of facial surveillance technology, ban continuous surveillance in places of public accommodation, and stop industry-wide data abuse”

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.

“My idealistic read of Hic et Nunc peaked during the platform’s first hackathon in May, when 150 artists and developers came together to work towards improving the platform. On June 28, the momentum came to a halt.”
Clara Peh, on how a hack of the open source alt NFT marketplace revealed the vulnerability of its model. “Hic et Nunc is essentially developer Rafael Lima’s passion project,” writes Peh, “and he is assisted by hardworking and generous enthusiasts who share a similar vision.”

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.

“Arguably, one of the most consistent, historically reliable, widely accepted system of ethics in existence belongs to the Catholic Church. You want to base a responsible AI on that?”
– Novelist Stephen Marche, on the impossible task of determining a reliable metric of human values, when “caste and gender are baked into every word.” Where can AI engineers working with natural language models turn to, Marche asks. “Humanities departments? Critical theory? Academic institutions change their values systems all the time.”

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.

“At first, he was impressed by the software’s ability to mimic the real Jessica Pereira. Within 15 minutes, he found himself confiding in the chatbot. After a few hours, he broke down in tears.”
Chronicle staff writer Jason Fagone, contemplating “love and loss in the age of AI” in a (moving) recount of how one GPT-3 chatbot, created with Project December, helped writer Joshua Barbeau find closure eight years after the death of his fiancé
“It’s a face I know and don’t know.”
– Critic Jason Farago, on Ed Atkins’ CGI visage in The Worm (2021). Profiling the British artist for his New Museum show, he teases out the themes of melancholy and mortality that run through Atkins’ work. His 3D avatars ”have no names, no back-stories, no motivations,” he writes.
“I think of it as a kind of sanitizing of art, and it will most negatively affect artists who are pushing the envelope.”
– Artist Clarity Haynes, quoted in Valentina Di Liscia’s reporting on Instagram’s new ‘sensitive content‘ filter which (because prudishness) may screen out works by LGBTQIA+ artists, artists of colour, and feminist artists. “Decorative art that is not challenging will be fine,” Haynes wryly notes.

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.”

“Facebook’s problems today are not the product of a company that lost its way. Instead they are part of its very design, built atop Zuckerberg’s narrow worldview, and the careless privacy culture he cultivated.”
– Senior editor Karen Hao, in her review of Sheera Frenkel and Cecilia Kang’s new book An Ugly Truth: Inside Facebook’s Battle for Domination. “Between the lines, the message is loud and clear,” Hao concludes: ”Facebook will never fix itself.”

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.”

“As of the second quarter of 2021, governments around the world have allocated around USD 380 billion on clean energy measures as part of their economic response to the Covid-19 crisis. This is around 2% of the total fiscal support in response to Covid-19.”
– International Energy Agency (IEA) analysts in their Sustainable Recovery Tracker, in which they estimate CO2 emissions will climb “to record levels in 2023 continuing to rise thereafter”

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.”

Manaugh & Twilley
Until Proven Safe
Journalists Geoff Manaugh and Nicola Twilley explore the history and future of quarantine—from the Black Death to big data

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.”

“Their only products are infection vectors. They’re not security products. They’re not providing any kind of protection, any kind of prophylactic. They don’t make vaccines—the only thing they sell is the virus.”
– NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, on for-profit malware developer NSO Group, an Israeli surveillance company whose business dealings with authoritarian governments recently leaked to the press. “Commercialising vulnerabilities in widely used mobile phone models is an industry that should not exist.”

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.”
Hito Steyerl, when asked about NFTs during a STUDIO BONN panel featuring the media artist in conversation with Joseph Vogl and Ville Haimala

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?”

“In a world of computer simulations and deepfakes, a dead man’s voice speaking his own words of despair is hardly the most dystopian application of the technology. But the seamlessness of the effect is eerie. ”
– Writer Helen Rosner, on the computer-generated voice of Anthony Bourdain in the new documentary Roadrunner. “There were three quotes there I wanted his voice for that there were no recordings of,” the film’s director Morgan Neville tells Rosner. So “I created an AI model of his voice.”

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.

“Collapse does not mean that humanity will cease to exist, but rather that economic and industrial growth will stop, and then decline. In terms of timing, the business-as-usual scenario shows a steep decline to set in around 2040.”
– Gaya Herrington, Sustainability and Dynamic System Analysis Lead at KPMG, on her re-examination of the the 1972 MIT report Limits to Growth that shows we are on track for the predicted worst-case scenario

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.”
– Elliot Woods, half of Seoul-based artist duo Kimchi and Chips, on the legacy of ART+COM co-founder Joachim Sauter, who passed away at the age of 62 on July 10

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.”
Dogecoin creator Jackson Palmer, doubling down on his crypto exit in a rare public Twitter thread that ‘burns’ an industry “controlled by a powerful cartel of wealthy figures, bought influencers, and pay-for-play media outlets”
“For all the things that we could use it for—astronomy, earth sciences, climate research—the fact that we have chosen to deploy planetary-scale computation for the modelling and prediction of consumer behaviour is one of the world-historical misuses of a technology.”
– Theorist, author, and educator Benjamin Bratton, in coversation with Politics Theory Other podcast host Alex Doherty [quote edited]

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.”

“To witness rich boys using space travel for touristic amusement shows how much the modernist project of limitless expansion has come to a clownish end. Time to land.”
– French philosopher, anthropologist, and sociologist Bruno Latour, on Virgin Galactic owner Richard Branson beating fellow space race billionaires Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk to orbit
Joachim Sauter
German media art pioneer and ART+COM co-founder Joachim Sauter dies at the age of 62 in Berlin. Innovating kinetic sculpture and new media architecture for over 30 years, Sauter helped set the stage for the today’s immersive installations and interdisciplinary practice as ART+COM’s Head of Design and Professor for New Media Art at Berlin University of the Arts (UdK).

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.”

New Models
Editors Caroline Busta, Daniel Keller, and LIL INTERNET marshal the New Models community yielding a “collective distillation” of the madness of 2020
“The Phillipines are a great test market for games, because there is a high level of English knowledge and the cost of labour is quite cheap.”
Sky Mavis co-founder Aleksander Larsen, on how Axie Infinity was rolled out and tested in Southeast Asia. With its governance token surging 400% (to $18 USD) in recent weeks alongside the game’s expontential growth, Filipino workers are capitalizing on its increasingly lucurative “play to earn” NFT economy, echoing World of Warcraft-era gold farming in the Global South.

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.”
Nora N. Khan, on selecting the “brilliant scholar, writer, theorist, and philosopher” as foil for her work on the upcoming HOLO Annual

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.

“I’ve got nothing against the hustle, nothing against the start-up world. It’s when those moral positions become hegemonic for everywhere else and start to define everything, like access to water and knowledge—then they become problematic.”
– DEL Resident Jerrold McGrath, on how the rhetoric of productivity and the “scarcity mindset” can be dangerous

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.”
– CGI artist Jakob Kudsk Steensen, on his upcoming installation “Berl-Berl” at Berlin’s Halle am Berghain

“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.

“Governance challenges arise in similar ways to those already existing around the internet, only to be enhanced by the invasive and intimate nature of this immersive technology with sensors and devices connected close to the body.”
– Videogame policy researcher Micaela Mantegna, on the looming quagmire of new, more intimate iterations of familiar surveillance, data privacy, and (lack of) regulation problems in the Metaverse

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.

“Dave is a sort of rubbery fuck boy, eloquent in his melancholy but easily deflated. He resembles both the owner of a sex doll and the doll itself.”
– Critic Lucy Ives, on ‘Dave’ the CGI protagonist of Ed Atkins’ Ribbons (2014). Ives further describes the character as “an abject white guy who drinks, smokes, and croons self-pitying ditties through a computer-generated haze replete with lens flares and dust particles” in a consideration of Atkins aesthetic and tone relative to post-internet art canon
The Nordic Journal of Aesthetics 61-62
An examination of the “changing ontology of the image” from AI to Iconomics, edited by Jacob Lund, and featuring Claire Fontaine, Jussi Parikka, Cecilia Sjöholm, Eyal Weizman, and others
June 2021
“It’s over. Medialab-Prado closed its doors for the last time. Gone are the efforts to make this space a welcoming and lively place and a lot of wonderful and incredible projects for the city proposed by its inhabitants. It remains an empty space without a project.”
Medialab-Prado’s Raúl González, shutting down Madrid’s iconic cultural space and citizen lab for good [translation via deepl]

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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