“There’s a kinship with some of my collaborative art projects, where users inhabit these extremely technical and often quite sterile, even hostile, environments like a phone interface. ‘Push 1 if X, push 2 if Y, push 3 if Z’—one of the most hated technological inventions of our age.”
– DEL Resident Emmanuel Madan, on the dialpad interface at the heart of Artwork_local404, a speculative union for artists
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Picking up where The Stack (2016) left off, theorist Benjamin Bratton sketches a future of computation for Noema. Building on ideas from Marshall McLuhan and Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, he articulates how “planetary sapience” pushes previous understandings of collective intelligence, computing power, and globalization into unsettling new territory—and takes stock of the implications. If The Stack articulated the end of sovereign nations driving a global agenda, this essay reads as a roadmap for life after Silicon Valley (and China’s tech stack). Looking beyond our current wasetful use of computing power—surveillance capitalism—Bratton imagines how and why we might use the sprawling computational infrastructure (the “smart exoskeleton”) we’ve built to enact planetary techno-solidarity.

“This is a depressing yet somehow fitting development, reflecting how far the Web has drifted from its original ideals. From a place to share with everyone for free to a space for selling any and every thing. What’s next: Apache, Linux?”
– Digital artist Ben Grosser, on Sotheby’s upcoming NFT auction of Sir Tim Berners-Lee’s 1989 source code of the World Wide Web

As part of an Inke Arns-curated show on Galerie Barbara Thumm’s New Viewings online platform, exhibiting artist Aram Bartholl installs the first-ever USB-C Dead Drop outside the gallery’s Berlin exhibition space. An ongoing series of interventions launched in 2010, Bartholl embeds empty USB flash drives into the urban landscape to encourage spontaneous and anonymous acts of peer to peer file sharing. To date, over 1,400 of these ‘dead letterboxes’ have been set up in dozens of countries around the world.

“We just accept that as a truth, that estrogen produces femininity and we don’t question it. For me, the best strategy as citizens is to reject these categories and to create room for more definitions, for more subjectivities.”
Artist and Biohacker Mary Maggic, on how they use hormones—a key material in their practice—to challenge monolithic conceptions of gender and biopower
Packing a lab in a suitcase and treating hormones as material, the Chinese-American artist brings punk rock energy and radical gender politics to biohacking and citizen science.
“As we are trawled within these wildly enmeshed algorithmic nets, how do we draw on these patterns, of mystification and predictive capture, to see the next ship approaching?”
Nora N. Khan, on the struggle for autonomy and legibility within the uncharted waters of Big Tech. In this year’s HOLO Annual, she and a list of invited contributors will plot paths forward.

Counting 3,158 submissions “despite a pandemic and a temporary shutdown of the art world,” Ars Electronica announces the winners of this year’s Prix Awards. Golden Nicas go to Forensic Architecture’s airborne violence analysis Cloud Studies (image), Alexander Schubert’s AI ensemble Convergence, and Guangli Liu’s When the Sea Sends Forth a Forest, a CGI lesson in Cambodian “lost history” under Khmer Rouge rule. In addition to the three main prizes, the jury also granted six awards of distinction and 36 honorary mentions.

Maquette #2
A compilation on ‘re-orientation’ edited by the Yale Center for Collaborative Arts and Media writer-in-residence Alex Zafiris, featuring interviews with Nora N. Khan, Luiza Dale & Tuan Quoc Pham, and Emily Coate

Life After BOB: The Chalice Study, Ian Cheng’s latest AI-focused project opens at Luma Arles in France. Continuing his work with BOB (bag of beliefs) “an AI creature whose personality, body, and life script evolve across exhibitions,” this new anime series centres on a 10-year-old girl who receives BOB as a neural implant. Not your usual coming of age story, Cheng describes it as offering ”new archetypal characters for our ever-weirdening times.” In Arles for the summer, Life After BOB will show at The Shed in New York this fall.

“Our findings suggest that language loss will be even more critical to the extinction of medicinal knowledge than biodiversity loss.”
– Researchers Rodrigo Cámara-Leret and Jordi Bascompte, examining the “high uniqueness in indigenous knowledge and strong coupling with threatened languages” in a recent PNAS paper. “Each indigenous language is a unique reservoir of medicinal knowledge,” they write, ”a Rosetta stone for unravelling and conserving nature’s contributions to people.”

Curated by Alice Russotti, Meg Webster’s ”Wave” opens at the Upper Gallery at The Arts Center on Governors Island in New York. Beyond classic environmental studies spanning sound and video like Nearest Virgin Forest (1987) and Waterfall (1996), the solo show includes new pieces (re)engaging foundational Webster motifs including Moss Mound (building on the 1986 work Moss Bed, image), and Pollinating Garden, for which viewers trek 1 km southwest to a GrowNYC site to take in a durational piece—a plot recently seeded by the artist.

A quasi-shrine to IBM’s midcentury corporate aesthetic, Rayyan Tabet’s “Deep Blues” opens at Walker Art Center in Minneapolis. Illuminated by the melancholic glow of IBM’s 10 shades of blue, the installation references Eero Saarinen’s IBM Rochester design and Charles and Ray Eames work for the multinational—a matrix of their iconic chairs hang overhead. Tabet’s nods to IBM’s formidable legacy of design patronage coupled with AI-trained text-to-speech narration foreground the affect of knowledge work, and of a singular corporate identity.

“Payment terms, usage rights—the things bundled into an NFT were already possible through contracts. Now what’s fascinating to me is the way the NFT hype might force Christie’s to rethink how they handle secondary markets, and for artists to demand residual rights.”
Artengine Artistic Director Ryan Stec, in conversation with Remco Volmer, Susan Johhnston, and Dan Monafu about the collision of NFT platform capitalism and the commercial art market [quote edited]

Curated by Sabine Schaschl und Eliza Lips, Bernese sound artist Zimoun opens two immersive installations at Zurich’s Haus Konstruktiv, his biggest solo show in a Swiss museum yet. True to form, 295 prepared dc-motors, 39 kg wood and 825 cardboard boxes 35 x 32.5 x 32.5 cm comprise architectural configurations of myriad motorised components made from everyday materials. The resulting visual and acoustic patterns “immerse the observer in a delightful monotony that is repetitive and multifaceted at the same time.”

“You just can’t make decisions without identifying who you and who your mentors are, not necessarily elders, but people who are already doing what you’re doing in a good way, and then you can begin to identify need.”
– DEL Resident Suzanne Kite, on how her Artist’s Almanac project to compile resources for marginalized artists was, first and foremost, a process of consultation

Most recently shown at “METAMORPHOSIS” at Hyundai Motor Studio Seoul last year, Matthew Biederman’s Serial Mutations (z-axis) v04 (2019) opens at Montreal’s ELEKTRA Gallery. Emerging from the vein of Biederman’s work that pushes at the limits of geometry and perception, it deploys the Necker cube optical illusion as the basis of an indeterminate shifting field that reconfigures itself ad infinitum, outside of perspectival space. Installed in ELEKTRA Gallery’s window vitrine, the animation will be displayed through June 19.

“These categories of art and technology and artists and engineers are dynamic, they are historically contingent and change over time. So, sure, you can go into MoMA and see video or a light and sound piece—but in 1965 the context was entirely different, the art world struggled to accept this work.”
Making Art Work (2020) author W. Patrick McCray, on not taking 1960s experimentation for granted [quote edited]
Eva & Franco Mattes
Dear Imaginary Audience
A survey of the artist duo’s investigation of internet culture that accompanies the eponymous exhibition at Fotomuseum Winterthur and features texts by Cory Arcangle, Jodi Dean, Clément Chéroux, and others
“Leading p5.js is like tending a garden. The p5 garden is the warm gathering space my younger self imagined, where people are welcomed to meet, chat, learn, and exchange ideas.”
Qianqian (Q) Ye, artist, technologist, and new p5.js co-lead at Processing Foundation, on nurturing the programming language’s community. “I’d love to invite more gardeners to join the, no matter how much gardening knowledge they have right now,” Ye writes on Medium. “Bring your seeds, let’s plant together.”

A celebration of “Swiss Media Art,” HeK Basel opens three solo exhibitions presenting new works by Studer/van den Berg, Maria Guta, and Simone C Niquille, all winners of the 2020 Pax Art Award. From Studer/van den Berg’s fictional worlds created in digital space (Palace for an Entity of Unknown Status, image), to Maria Guta’s reflections on identity and self-expression in social media, to Simone C Niquille’s critical engagement with digital datasets, the three artists “address themes that are as diverse as they are essential,” states HeK.

“It’s the ultimate hyperobject. The hyperobject of our age. It’s literally inside us.”
– Philosopher Timothy Morton, on whether COVID-19 qualifies as one of the ”vast, unknowable things that are bigger than ourselves” he described in Hyperobjects: Philosophy and Ecology After the End of the World (2013)
“Museum visitors are invited to touch and feel the code.”
Taeyoon Choi, digital artist and educator, on six tactile code examples knitted specifically for blind audiences that are currently on view at the Hong Kong Centre for Heritage Arts & Textile as part of his solo exhibition “Interweaving Poetic Code
“The closer the research started getting to search and ads, the more resistance there was. Those are the oldest and most entrenched organizations with the most power.”
– A Google employee with experience of the company’s research review process on the rejection of Timnit Gebru’s critique of natural language models (“On the Dangers of Stochastic Parrots”) that ultimately led to her firing. Writer Tom Simonite traces the career of the former Google Ethical AI researcher and pieces together what really happened when the company forced her out.

Sam Durant’s Untitled (drone) goes up at the High Line Plinth, a space for public art in Manhattan’s iconic rail-line park. Sitting atop a 25-foot pole, the life-sized fibreglass sculpture of a Predator drone appears to hover over 10th Avenue, “reminding the public that drones and surveillance are a tragic and pervasive presence in the daily lives of many living outside—and within—the United States,” says Durant. The piece is the second Plinth commission selected from over 50 submissions in 2016. It will be on view through August 2022.

“We aren’t used to thinking about these systems in terms of the environmental costs. But saying, ‘Hey, Alexa, order me some toilet rolls,’ invokes into being this chain of extraction, which goes all around the planet.”
– AI researcher Kate Crawford, on the very real materiality of AI. “It is made from natural resources,“ she tells interviewer Zoë Corbyn. “We’ve got a long way to go before this is green technology.”
Caroline Sinders
Architectures of Violence
A collection of essays, interviews, and projects by the artist and researcher exploring how digital platforms inflict harm—from YouTube’s algorithms to Gamergate
“A lot of it deals with the calculations of harm—of researching it, experiencing it, and archiving it. It’s unpacking how we navigate digital pain, trauma, and harassment—from the perspective of those that receive it and those that make it legible to larger power structures.”
– Artist and researcher Caroline Sinders, on Architectures of Violence, the book that expands upon her eponymous exhibition at Telematic Media Arts, San Francisco

Work produced during the Toronto-based South Asian Visual Arts Centre’s (SAVAC) ADA-DADA Residency is shared online. Spanning CGI, videogames, and fiction, pieces by CAM Collective, Vishal Kumararswamy, Lingxian Wu, and others are accessible via the RPG-esque platform. Overarching themes include migration, alienation, and exploitation, with Hiba Ali’s The Real Love Memo V.2 (image) generating anti-Amazon critiques in response to an infamous Jeff Bezos memo.

Investigating notions of play and gamification in contemporary image-making, “How to Win at Photography” opens at Fotomuseum Winterthur, Switzerland. Featuring 40 artistic positions including Cory Arcangel, Aram Bartholl, John Yuyi (image), Akihiko Taniguchi, and Ai Weiwei, the assemblage of multimedia artworks and vernacular images questions the very function of photography today. “Are we playing with the camera or is the camera playing us? Who is playing along? And can this game be won?”

“Vive le cinéma! Art & Film” opens at Filmmuseum, Amsterdam. A celebration of the venue’s 75th anniversary, the show assembles work by filmmakers from five continents including Lucrecia Martel (Argentina), and Lemohang Jeremiah Mosese (Lesotho), and Jia Zhangke (China). Beyond the expected projections of film, it includes several instances of space-as-film—a light–colour study by Netherlands-based video installation duo Leopold Emmen (image), and an architecture-scale film reel that the viewer steps into, by Mexican director Carlos Reygadas.

“Within the carefully tended landscape of the mother of all biennials, the role geopolitical conflict plays in ‘living together’ is generally avoided. It seems it is easier to envision a utopian future than come to terms with the dystopias we inhabit.”
– Writer and curator Barbara Casavecchia, on the misguided optimism of the 17th Venice Architecture Biennale, “whose model is still based on a geography of nation states”

Built to give seven of his kinetic light works a permanent home, Christopher Bauder’s 1,000 square meter exhibition space DARK MATTER opens in Berlin. The career-spanning selection also includes Inverse, a choreography of 169 black spheres set against white light (image) the German artist created specifically for this space. “The artworks which have travelled the world over the last 20 years are now coming together in one exhibition in Berlin,” Bauder writes. “Never before have I had the opportunity to show so many of my installations in one place.”

”The Fed is basically Dogecoining the U.S. dollar. There’s a benefit to scarcity that Dogecoiners don’t get—nor does the Fed.”
– U.S. congressperson Warren Davidson, speaking at Bitcoin 2021 in Miami, referring to daily creation of 10,000 new units of the ‘started as a joke but now we seem to be stuck with it’ meme coin Doge. While ostensibly a partisan dig at Joe Biden’s economic stimulus intended to score points with the assembled crypto boosters, Davidson’s comments underscore the deep strangeness of any framing of economic scarcity or value at the moment.

A team of researchers led by material scientist Yoel Fink, have developed a digital fiber that can “sense, memorize, learn, and infer.” Moving beyond previous analogue fibres, it encodes discrete bits of information—the prototype (shirt) can store a “767-kilobit full-color short movie file and a 0.48 megabyte music file.” It also tracks the body temperature of its wearer, and extrapolates what actitivies they are engaged in with high accuracy, bringing us one step closer to future ‘smart’ clothing that monitors health and vital signs.

“Instead of the actual colours of its leaves and flowers, a different palette is used, alluding to techniques of camouflage, as they are deployed today for refuting any recording by tracking systems of algorithmic surveillance.”
Kyriaki Goni, on the AR portrait of an “invisible plant” she created for Data Garden (2020). Micromeria acropolitana, a mint endemic to the Acropolis in Athens, was presumed extinct for nearly a century before its rediscovery in 2006.

Hailed as a “landmark digital media auction” of 28 screen-based works, Sotheby’s opens “Natively Digital: A Curated NFT Sale.” Working with crypto artist Robert Alice, the American fine art trader prides itself in bringing together emerging crypto artists such as Larva Labs and XCOPY as well as old genre masters like Addie Wagenknecht, Casey Reas, Simon Denny, Anna Ridler, and Ryoji Ikeda (A Single Number That Has 10,000,086 Digits, image crop). The 28 works are on display at Sotheby’s galleries in New York City through auction end on June 10.

“What is in and what is out? Is the architecture of a commercial gallery a factor in your reception of its exhibition? Are the protestors in the museum’s lobby? What if the security guards have prevented the protestors from entering, but their chants filter in through a window?”
– The Art Agenda editorial team, in an incisive short text that cites quantum physics and a bronze sculpture of a cat to provoke readers to evaluate their measures of where the reading of an artwork starts and ends

Hijacking the media’s engagement economy for climate action, Tega Brain and Sam Lavigne launch Synthetic Messenger, a botnet boost for climate news. Commissioned by Eindhoven’s STRP Festival, the botnet artificially inflates the value of articles on climate change with advertisement clicks. It’s a “second-order climate engineering scheme” that manipulates the algorithmic systems that shape narratives, state the artists. “What if media itself were a form of climate engineering, a space where narrative becomes ecology?”

May 2021
“I had almost given up thinking anyone would see my physical and digital sculptures on equal footing. But right now, the digital ones are more important, and after twenty years of seeing digital art sidelined, I find that exciting and very welcome!”
Auriea Harvey, on how NFTs have energized her artistic practice. “They’re an opportunity to say something in a louder way,” she tells Charlotte Kent. “Now that people are looking and listening, I want to do something with that attention.”

While researching the CO2 footprint of the Ethereum (ETH) cryptocurrency chain, media artist Kyle McDonald discovered ‘graffiti’ early miners left in ETH blocks using the “extraData” field. “One miner operating in 2016 decided to tell a story: one word per block, over 2.5 months,” McDonald writes on Twitter. “Maybe one of the slowest monologues ever” was mined over 129 blocks for 648 ETH and had a happy ending: “it looks like they cashed out early this year, for around half a million USD.”

“A suggestive allegory for how personal memories, past lives, and documentation intersect on the plane of individual psychology, Gysin’s The Last Museum could not have anticipated the spatial and temporal bardo that is the World Wide Web.”
– Curator Nadim Samman, on how cult author and artist Brion Gysin’s semi-fictional 1985 memoir inspired his eponymous online exhibition at KW Digital

A vision of a post-anthropocentric kinship future, Superflux’s immersive installation Invocation for Hope premieres at the Vienna Museum of Applied Arts as part of the Biennale for Change. Set to an original soundscape by Cosmo Sheldrake, the London-based speculative design studio charts a path through a burnt forest destroyed by wildfire so that visitors may experience its restoration as they walk towards the centre. Here, a pool invites reflection, “as part of the planet, not masters of it.”

“There’s a kinship with some of my collaborative art projects, where users inhabit these extremely technical and often quite sterile, even hostile, environments like a phone interface. ‘Push 1 if X, push 2 if Y, push 3 if Z’—one of the most hated technological inventions of our age.”
– DEL Resident Emmanuel Madan, on the dialpad interface at the heart of Artwork_local404, a speculative union for artists

Featuring three new browser-based works by Mary Maggic (Estroworld Now: Quarantine Edition, image), Luiza Prado de O. Martins, and Sissel Marie Tonn, “Toxicity’s Reach” launches as part of AND 2021. Channelling the history of industrial pollution of the River Mersey in Liverpool—this year’s home of the nomadic festival—the Dani Admiss-curated online exhibition asks how “contaminants of emerging concern (CECs)” such as microplastics, fertilizers, and pharmaceuticals in our waterways affect us biologically, socially, and ideologically.

SAMSUNG MEANS REBIRTH premieres, as part of the 11th Seoul Mediacity Biennale. Squarely focused on South Korea’s most prominent technology multinational, Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries’ seven-episode video series offers an unflinching look at Samsung’s fervent corporate ethos and poses related questions of labour and value. In the first episode “The Executive,” tales of obedience and overreach are spelled out in big punchy typography—bleak narratives of corporatized death and devotion, synchronized with a jazzy score.

“They use memes and laser eyes and are hooked on the inevitability of their vindication; this curiously masculine trait of just believing that if you can convince yourself that something is real, everyone else will believe you, and many men my age do.”
Tobias Revell, on encountering “crypto theologians” on Twitter, “a slightly less bad version of 4chan trolls but legitimised because they’ve read James C. Scott and get invited to speak at tech conferences.”

International researchers have compiled an atlas of microorganisms residing in subways (or mass transit) in major urban centres. Building on enthusiasm for geneticist Christopher Mason’s 2015 research on microbes in New York City’s subway system, this study dispatched teams of scientists and volunteers to swab turnstiles, railings, ticket kiosks, and benches inside transit stations and subway cars in 60 cities. Their findings, published in Cell, include the discovery of 10,000 previously unidentified species of viruses and bacteria.

“Our stories, especially our deep stories, are the algorithms that instruct us how to be in the world.”
Stephanie Dinkins, on Secret Garden, her immersive web experience that premiered at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. The culmination of residency with Nokia Bell Labs Experiments in Art and Technology (E.A.T.), Dinkins’ floral estate invites visitors to explore oral histories spanning generations of Black women. Contemplating this and other Dinkins works, writer Alex Estorick concludes “her ultimate achievement is to defeat epistemic violence by envisioning deep understanding.”

Seoul-based artist duo Kimchi and Chips transforms a pedestrian bridge in Gwanmyeong, Gyeonggi-do province, South Korea, into a dynamic op-art display by adding a kinetic light artwork as a permanent outdoor fixture. Optical Rail features a more than 11-meter-wide band of backlit monochromatic patterns that are distorted by a motorised array of Acrylic lenses. As the array moves across the patterns, the lenses “decode a layer of time stored in static images, rendering a duet between the motion-ful and the motionless.”

Christian Stiegler
The 360° Gaze
Reconsidering notions of immersion in media, in light of developments including binge-watching, rabbit holing, rabid fandom, and ‘extended’ reality
“Thousands of Berliners had waited in line to see the Neues Museum reopen to the public but Egyptians had waited almost a century for her return.”
– Historian Sarah E. Bond, on the century-plus saga of cultural plunder that began with the excavation and depatriation of the Nefertiti bust in 1912. In an article that starts as a chronicle of cultural colonialism, Bond uses Nora Al-Badri and Jan Nikolai Nelle’s 2015 3D-scan of the bust to raise broader questions of heritage and sovereignty.

Curated by Hashim Sarkis, dean of MIT’s School of Architecture and Planning, the 17th Venice Biennale of Architecture opens, asking “How Will We Live Together?” Among the 112 participants are Ani Liu (A. I. Toys), Dani Ploeger (A Space War Monument), Pinar Yoldas (Hollow Ocean), and Superflux (Refuge for Resurgence), offering evocative visions of planetary restoration. “At this moment, we are tired of dystopias,” Sarkis told Architectural Record. “We were looking for signs of hope and optimism, and we found a lot of it.”

“A raven is seated on a high perch next to a mushroom; a rat has a wasp and a fox as neighbours. Each setting at the table has been carefully tailored to fit its occupant—a walnut on a slice of bread for one, a chunk of tasty wood for another.”
Josie Thaddeus-Johns, on Superflux’s Refuge for Resurgence installation at this year’s Venice Architecture Biennale. The dinner table “at the end of the world” imagines a multi-species meeting after the current era of human domination.

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