Strategist 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 see economic empowerment and decentralization. Here, Tanguay 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.”
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An intimate view into his ongoing efforts to automate his practice, Jonas Lund’s “Walk with Me” opens on the distant.gallery social platform. The online exhibition collages early and recent experiments of “wrapping his distributed identity, personality traits, and musical interludes” layered with instructions to make his artworks into a single glorious browser canvas, that Lund compares to “being inside the artist’s brain itself.”
“Temporary Atlas” a show about ‘mapping’ personal experiences and perspectives opens at London’s MOSTYN; Manon Awst, Ibrahim Mahama, Kiki Smith, and 14 others contribute works. Of note: Oliver Laric’s erudite video essay Versions (2010, image) “that muses on the manipulation and re-appropriation of images throughout history” is featured, as is Jeremy Deller’s The History of the World (1997-2004), which diagrams improbable connections between the social forces that begat acid house and brass band music.
A grim sign of the times, surveillance capitalism and “more frequent, larger, and financially ruinous” forest fires converge in a Portland General Electric pilot project. In the initiative, a network of 5 (soon to be 22) cameras are deployed across rural Oregon, collecting footage that is monitored 24/7 by proprietary wildfire detection AI, which can distinguish “benign clouds from troubling smoke” with 90% accuracy; remote workers on standby protect against false positives.
“Chronicles from a near Future,” a show featuring two installations addressing biodiversity, opens at iMAL, Brussels. Golnaz Behrouznia and Dominique Peysson’s Phylogenèse Inverse (2022, image) draws inspiration from Turritopsis dohrnii (the immortal jellyfish), presenting vitrines of de-evolved “lifeforms with strange anatomies and enigmatic functions,” while Stéfane Perraud’s Sylvia (2022) offers an at times “absurd or conspiratorial” audio narrative about a forest in peril.
Taking a wide angle view of the (recent) history of urbanism, artist and researcher Chris Salter publishes an essay arguing “the smart city is a perpetually unrealized utopia” on Technology Review. Starting with architect Constant Nieuwenhuys’ vision for New Babylon (1959-74)—a speculative city and engine of serendipity that helped residents transcend bourgeoisie life—Salter lingers on the potential of that dream, relative to corporate forces that followed (i.e. IBM). Situating the discussion in the moment, he further connects the extractive tendencies of the smart city with the role data is playing with the war in the Ukraine, glibly noting that both the contemporary urban warzone and our idealized sensor-laden city of tomorrow chronically “seem to lack a central ingredient: human bodies.”
After its inaugural showing at Switzerland’s Fotomuseum Winterthur in 2021, an adaption of “How to Win at Photography” opens at The Photographers’ Gallery in London. The group exhibition gathers 30 international artists whose works explore “image-making as play,” from early photography to nascent videogames. Case in point: Roc Herms’ Study of Perspective (2015) series appropriates Ai Weiwei’s eponymous photo provocations in Grand Theft Auto V.
“Outside In,” a web-based, site-specific AR exhibition by Manuel Rossner and Damjanski opens near /rosa, Panke Gallery and Zentrum für Netzkunst’s Berlin project space. Realized on Panke’s OpenAR.art platform, the two sculptures—Rossner’s Spatial Painting (image) and Damjanski’s Inside: Spatial Painting—stand in dialogue with one another, the latter granting access to the fromer’s insides—“a perspective that wouldn’t have been possible with AR technology.”
“SPACE PROGRAM: Indoctrination,” a solo show by American sculptor Tom Sachs opens at Art Sonje Center in Seoul. The fifth in a series of exhibitions where the artist playfully reconstitutes the aesthetics of his nation’s rich aereospace history (image: Launch, 2010), the show evolves the format through indoctrination. After participating in “missions and tests of knowledge” visitors can join Sachs’ DIY space program—and those lacking ‘the right stuff’ can attend a reeducation centre.
Part of Serpentine’s long-term climate crisis program, “Back to Earth” opens in London with arresting propositions. Works by Agnes Denes, Brian Eno, Carolina Caycedo, Formafantasma, Sissel Tolaas, and others present research, experiences, and interventions: A new edition of Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg’s Pollinator Pathmaker (2021), for example, algorithmically arranged 62 plant species in nearby Kensington Gardens to “serve the greatest diversity of pollinators.”
“Pardon Our Dust,” a solo show by avatar artist LaTurbo Avedon, opens at the Museum of Applied Arts (MAK), Vienna. The show’s titular work (image, 2022) riffs on a slogan used to describe 1990s websites as ‘under construction,’ revising that narrative of progress for nascent Web3. Serving as tour guide and critic, Avedon parses emerging decentralization and ever-present commercialization, in a narrative rendering virtuality torn between “construction and deconstruction.”
Sarah Friend drops the final chapter of her ‘screen-based’ NFT project and “social sculpture” Off (2021) at Public Works, New York. “Off: Endgame,” a solo show commissioned by Rhizome, Fingerprints, and Refraction, also debuts Wildcards (image), a new work and key to Off’s secrets: the Canadian blockchain artist offers customised card decks containing mint instructions for one of 52 NFTs. Cleverly, Wildcard tokens will not become tradeable unless Off’s hidden message is revealed.
“You can play recordings of a whale’s song, but that doesn’t show what it means for whales to hear each other across oceanic distances. You can depict the magnetic field that envelops the planet, but that can’t begin to capture the experience of a robin using that field to fly across a continent.”
As documented in his now viral Twitter thread, British CGI artist Alan Warburton recovers hundreds of op art drawings from his upstairs neighbour, George Westren. Westren, “a sweet guy” who battled addiction and anxiety but found solace in his art, died during Covid. As the clearance company got to work, Warburton rushed in to save Weston’s legacy from the bin. “It’s just such a privilege to see all this work that must have been carefully amassed over years,” he writes.
Ars Electronica announces this year’s Prix winners, awarding a prestigious Golden Nica to Jung Hsu and Natalia Rivera’s Bi0film.net. Selected from 2,338 submissions and inspired by bacterial resistance, the open platform aids the creation of decentralised, nomadic protest networks by turning umbrellas into parabolic Wifi antennas. Other awarded works include Tega Brain and Sam Lavigne’s Perfect Sleep, Cristhian Avila’s Eternal Return, and Kimchi and Chips’ Another Moon.
Much to the delight of writers, concrete poets, and ASCII artists, creative coders Play and EREN launch Typed, a text-based NFT market place on the Tezos chain. Featuring a spartan interface reminiscent of the Hic et Nunc glory days, Typed allows minting of bare-bones text entries, inviting all kinds of character-based experimentation. Within hours of being announced on Twitter, the platform was bustling with activity (image: Leander Herzog’s adaption of his generative art hit Agglo).
“Biotopia,” an exhibition that “questions the central position of humans in the world,” opens at le pavillion in Namur, France. Curated by KIKK Festival’s Marie du Chastel, the show features Design I/O, Teresa van Dongen, Agnes Meyer-Brandis, Zimoun, and others, contributing works. Thomas Thwaites’ GoatMan (2015, image), chronicles the artist’s experiment living amongst a herd of goats in the Swiss Alps, outfitted with prosthetic limbs and an artificial stomach.
What Would Ursula Franklin Say?, a collection of 17 essays emerging from a working group supported by the McLuhan Centre for Culture and Technology, is published. From 2019-21, scholars including Sara Grimes, Katie Mackinnon, and Leslie Regan Shade, deployed the pioneering technology critic’s “unique materialist, practice-based” methods to engage contemporary discourses of innovation, algorithmic bias and inequity, and social resilience.
Continuing her exploration of Vera Molnar’s legacy, art historian Zsofi Valyi-Nagy excavates the history of the drawing machines that defined early computer art. From the Zuse Graphomat that was adopted in laboratories in the 1960s (image) to the Benson drum plotters Molnar used a decade later, Valyi-Nagy considers “the complex, iterative, nonlinear, and very hands-on process that was early computing.”
“On Copper, Wax, Iron, Wisteria and Ice,” a show documenting a decade of “smellscapes, labs, and conversations” by Italian artist Elena Mazzi opens at Parco Arte Vivente (PAV) in Turin. Featured works include En route to the South (2015, image), a series of beeswax maps of EU cities undergoing rapid economic transformation due to an influx of migrant labour, and Smellscapes (2022), a “valorization of the olfactive dimension” of local Turinese culture.
Physicists Corentin Coulais, Vincenzo Vitelli, and collaborators solve a key robotics problem: emergent locomotion. Nicknamed the ‘odd wheel,’ their 12 motor-assembly adjusts its wiggling motion to move forward and navigate uphill, despite the fact it can’t perceive its terrain. “These are indeed behaviours you would not expect,” notes bioroboticist Auke Ijspeert. Future kinetic and structural applications include odd balls and odd walls.
The Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History in Washington, DC, acquired the taxidermy of Cumulina, the world’s first successfully cloned mouse. Named after the cumulus cells vital to the cloning process, Cumulina was created by University of Hawai’i researchers in 1997 and died of natural causes in 2000. The specimen is now held at the museum’s Medicine and Science Division. “I’m happy that more people can see her there,” says Ryuzo Yanagimachi, Cumulina’s father.
“Computing in Crip Time,” an article from the forthcoming 16th issue of Logic is published online. In it, artist and social computing researcher Christine T. Wolf takes the field of user UX design to task on its central tenets of ‘seamless’ interactions and accessibility. Drawing on disability scholar Ellen Samuels’ notion of ‘crip time,’ Wolf describes how her post-spinal injury experience of time and space is fundamentally different than that of abled bodies, and she uses that perspective to chip away at the biases embedded in UX. Putting both the flow state and productivity in her crosshairs, she challenges those working in the field to rethink their assumptions about access, and move towards a UX where “doing is re-imagined and re-configured, a process driven by … [bodies’] differing, situated abilities, instead of some trend, pattern, or prediction.”
Created between summer 2020 and spring 2022, during COVID isolation, Marcel Schwittlick’s plotter drawing series Upward Spiral concludes with an online archive and a show. The 144 cylinders, each penned by a custom-built drawing machine performing continuous spiral motions, contain all possible colour combinations of the solid-paint marker brand used. Whereas the archive compiles all the Spirals in a neat calendar view, the Berlin Bark LAB exhibition presents a selection of ten.
“Because The Sky Will Be Filled With Sulfur,” a show by artist Jeremy Bolen opens at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Georgia (MOCA GA) in Atlanta. Contemplating deep time, its works consider the future-history of the climate crisis and the “aesthetics of a possible geo-engineered future.” Included are photos of an expedition to a key anthropocene site, and a new series of casts of 20th century relics: air conditioners, airplane parts, and leaf blowers (image).
An interplay of audience, point cloud projections, and a living system, Theresa Schubert’s audiovisual installation Hylē opens at Atelierhof Kreuzberg, Berlin. Schubert invites visitors to breath into a funnel device to kickstart—and sustain—a circular chain reaction: exhaled CO2 animates three algae bioreactors and, through sensors, immersive imagery. 3D-laser scans of forests and data centres collapse and twitch, as the algae converts CO2 input into Oxygen.
Marshmallow Laser Feast’s newest collective VR experience, Evolver, premieres at Tribeca’s Immersive showcase, dropping New York audiences “deep inside the landscape of the human body.” On their journey, narrated by Cate Blanchett, visitors follow the flow of oxygen through our branching ecosystem, to a single ‘breathing’ cell. The transcendental trip, the London-based collective argues, reveals our connection to the nature through the cycle of respiration.
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