OUT NOW:
Precarity Lab
Technoprecarious
Authored by a network of scholars and activists at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor—the Precarity Lab—this multigraph analyzes the role of digital technology in multiplying insecurity, vulnerability, and social and cultural exclusion.
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“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.

“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.”

“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,” adds Maughan. “Because it’s presenting something as being wrong.”
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“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.

DOSSIER:
“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

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!).”

“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

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.”

“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 metamorphosis (inspired by the divination of the I-Ching).

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”
DOSSIER:
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
OUT NOW:
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
DOSSIER:
Returning HOLO art directors Jan Spading and Oliver Griep of studio zmyk share insight into the design logic and development process of HOLO 3. “Conceptually, we were interested in creating tension by offsetting the writing with a very technical form,” they explain in our interview. “So while the authors ruminate on enchantment, mysticism, and the limits of human knowledge, the design speaks ‘assembly language.’”
“For most people, Arial, designed in 1982 and released as a TrueType font in 1992 is the typical digital font. It was already a mockery of Helvetica, born in 1957.”
– Typographer Frank Adebiaye, exploring the “tragicomedy of digital fonts.” In a research essay for NaN, Adebiaye lays out a brief of history of “theatrical” screen-first font substitutes, tributes, and surrogates that emerged at the behest of type foundries, Big Tech, the Web, and, recently, NFTs.

Hic et Nunc (HEN) founder Rafael Lima pulls the plug on the popular ‘indie’ NFT marketplace, following what some allege were heated discussions on the community’s Discord channel. First, the website disappeared, then the market’s smart contract was posted to the official Twitter page. Launched in March on the low-cost, low-carbon Tezos chain, HEN became an instant artist favourite (esp. in the Global South) and just recently celebrated 500,000 minted NFTs.

“The mode of practice changes from good work that takes time to churning out at as much as possible as fast as possible because one in ten things might get snapped up or retweeted by the right person.”
– Artist and designer Tobias Revell, on the effects of crypto FOMO. “I’ve seen brilliant, interesting artists I respect deeply turn their entire careers to running National Portrait Gallery images through a GAN to make a quick buck,” he writes.

With Pink Cell Tower, artist and critical engineer Julian Oliver erects “Germany’s first cell tower for the Commons” at Skulpturenpark Berlin. The solar-powered and autonomous piece of ‘extroverted infrastructure’—it’s designed to be seen—is framed by Oliver as an act of reclamation in an otherwise completely privatised EM space. “Calls and texts across the network are free and pro-public,” the former Berlin resident writes on Twitter. In short: “No plans, no tracking, no monitoring.”

“By putting my DNA sequence in the blockchain, I’m stating that I think we’re not fully prepared for the way our bodies and technology will intersect. Both our bodies and technology feel like these illegible black boxes that code runs through.”
Rachel Rossin, on minting her sequenced genome on OpenSea. Rachel Rossin’s Raw DNA, the American multimedia artist explains, comments on an impending future where wetware (living tissue)—as opposed to software or hardware—serves as the building blocks of technology.

Translating Spectroscopy data of young stars into generative LED animations, British artist duo Semiconductor premieres a series of Spectral Constellations at Mills Observatory in Dundee, Scotland, as part of NEoN Festival. In using the European Southern Observatory’s spectral data archive “as a physical material,” Ruth Jarman and Joe Gerhardt imagine distant clusters of dust and gas as “rings of light which resemble the gradiated discs of planetary and stellar formations.”

“We ended up in a projection fight where the official projectionist only ended up drawing more attention to our action and then came out and congratulated us.”
– COP26 activist Graeme Eddolls, sharing a small win for climate justice. When protestors projected slogans such as “Cut Methane Now” onto the COP26 conference venue, officials ‘fought back’ by projecting colours, noise, and the words “go away”—to no avail. “I haven’t stopped laughing since,” The Guardian cites one campaigner.

NINE, a mini-version of media artist Martin Bricelj Baraga and electronic musician Olaf Bender’s installation Neunundneunzig (2015) opens at Berlin’s panke.gallery. Riffing on the 1984 German new wave hit “99 Luftballons,” viewers position themselves under a matrix of black balloons which gradually inflate, inducing claustrophobia. Further animated by stroboscopic light and Bender’s percing sound design, the resulting environment is a “dark field where sound, light, and objects inhale, exhale and pulsate.”

“To speak on the panel and by association, endorse a ‘license to operate’ for HSBC and Morgan Stanley in particular isn’t in line with my personal beliefs. It also isn’t in line with the ethics of the Eco-Bot.Net project.”
– Artist and activist Barnaby Francis aka Bill Posters, cancelling his The New York Times Climate Hub participation over the involvement of large financial institutions. Meanwhile, Poster’s Eco-Bot.Net flags corporate greenwashing during COP26

An exhibition (and symposium) curated by the head of ECAL’s photography department, Milo Keller, “Automated Photography” opens at Espaces Commines as part of the Paris Photo fair. Reflecting on the school’s eponymous research project, works by 12 prominent digital artists including Nora Al-Badri, Simone C Niquille, and Alan Warburton explore contemporary image-making technologies such as machine learning, CGI, and photogrammetry, asking timely questions about the automation of creation.

“Artists and scientists have the same drive to explore and understand what escapes our control—the shadows in our understanding of the complex world that surrounds us.”
Mónica Bello, art historian, curator, and current head of Arts at CERN, making the case for “a model of institutional cultural practice that nurtures artists’ engagement with physics and hard sciences, and that fosters research and production of deeply informed artworks.”
OUT NOW:
Keller, Gunti, Amoser
Automated Photography
Capping a multi-year research project at ECAL, editors Milo Keller, Claus Gunti, and Florian Amoser explore the impact of computation on photography with prominent CGI artists such as Morehshin Allahyari, Nora Al-Badri, and Alan Warburton.
“The game ends when you’re sort of so deep in the hole that there is no light anymore, the screen is just black and you have like trillions of dollars.”
– Software artist Sarah Friend, on her alegorical crypto clicker game Clickmine (2017), “where you get this little procedurally generated piece of land and as you click, you are digging a hole and the hole gets deeper and deeper and deeper, and you get richer and richer and richer.”

Arno Beck’s not one to let a good pun go to waste: with “Don’t Put All Your Becks In One Basket,” the Bonn-based postdigital artist shows a new series of pen plotter drawings at Schierke Seinecke in Frankfurt, Germany; his third solo show with the gallery. The drawings, colourful bursts of pixels and compression artifacts that reference videogames and image processing software from the 1980s and ’90s, are presented ‘sitting’ in iconified shopping carts Beck drew on the gallery wall—one Beck per basket.

“In an economy where most people work long hours, are struggling to get by, and have deeply internalized the status quo, the question becomes: How do I get in? That’s how a million-dollar jpeg of a digital rock turns out to make sense.”
– Tech reporter Ali Breland, on how widespread financial precarity paved the way for crypto and NFTs. “People trying to shoddily arbitrage their future is just the next logical step in an economy in which every bit of your time needs to be monetized,” he writes.

Providing a powerful visual for what’s at stake at the COP26 UN Climate Change Conference, Irish artist John Gerrard’s latest simulation Flare (Oceania) 2021 debuts on a large-scale LED wall at the University of Glasgow South Facade. Created in response to a statement from Tongan artist and activist Uili Lousi, whose ancestral ocean is heating due to CO2 emissions elsewhere on the planet, Flare echoes Gerrard’s past software works that “fly the flag of our own self-destruction.”

“Yet, beneath the semblance of all this connectivity, the Black community remains fractured and dispossessed. The artist also offers an underlying critique of technology’s need to be ever-sleeker: what is all this shine glossing over?”
– Arts writer Mebrak Tareke, on American Artist’s Untitled (Too Thick) II (2021), “a tall, lean stack of used iPhone cases topped by a bulging blob of asphalt” on view as part of the solo show “Black Gooey Universe” at LABOR, Mexico City

Hot off demoing AI voice transfer in a performance context at Barcelona’s Sónar Festival, American artist and musician Holly Herndon muses on vocalization through a machine learning process she calls ‘Spawning.’ “Unlike sampling, which is a reproduction of sounds sampled from a recording, Spawning is the ability to create works in the likeness of others by interacting with a [voice] model trained on them,” Herndon writes on Twitter. It’s “21st century sampling, with big implications.”

“If you’re under 20 years old now, why wait 20 or 30 more years to make your hard earned future, if there’s no inhabitable future there anyway? Pump and dump becomes a rational survival technique: 100X or go home.”
– Writer and curator Shumon Basar, on the convergence of environmental catastrophe and crypto’s exponential returns, during Rhizome’s “Speculative Values: Between the Institution and the NFT” livestream

Presented as part of a lecture on his climate activism, French media and visual artist Joanie Lemercier shows his film Slow violence (2021) on COP26 TV, an independent news and information channel covering the UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow. Shot with drones during the 2020 Ende Gelände protests at Europe’s largest (and dirtiest) open-pit coal mine near Hambach, Germany, the film documents the extent of energy giant RWE’s climate crimes and how law enforcement operates as an extension of corporate power.

“Morris has been perfecting her oldest pet’s petpage since she first created her account as an 11-year-old. Neopia is filled with similar sparkling, homespun web pages—the fruits of thousands of late nights spent learning how to code.”
– Writer Madeleine Morley, revisiting the “living time capsule” that is Neopets. Thanks to pandemic-era nostalgia seekers, the “Animal Crossing meets Pokémon meets early Myspace” has seen a 30 to 40 percent spike in usership.
OUT NOW:
Wendy Hui Kyong Chun
Discriminating Data
The media theorist and systems design engineer reveals how big data and machine learning encode discrimination and create agitated clusters of comforting rage
“Although Facebook plans to delete more than one billion facial recognition templates by December, it will not eliminate the software that powers the system. The company has also not ruled out incorporating facial recognition technology into future products.”
– Technology reporters Kashmir Hill and Ryan Mac, parsing Facebook’s decision to shut down its decade-old facial recognition system over societal concerns

A “public service intervention” that exposes climate disinformation on social media during the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26), British artists Bill Posters and Robert ‘3D’ Del Naja launch Eco-Bot.Net, a system that collects, visualises, and flags corporate greenwashing (ads, sponsored posts etc) from Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. The dataset is updated every 24 hours and new ‘drops’ for different sectors such as lobbying, energy, and aviation will be released throughout COP26.

“It became very clear, very quickly, that things like diversity, inclusion, and access were something that we could foreground as a priority. We really wanted to support community members who hadn’t been supported in other open-source places and contexts before.”
Johanna Hedva, artist, writer, and Processing Foundation’s Director of Advocacy, on building community around values in part two of Eye on Design’s oral history of Processing

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