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“When people feel they are not being heard, they may resort to different measures to get their message across. In the case of programmers, they have the unique ability to protest through their code.”
– University of Melbourne software engineering lecturer Christoph Treude, on ‘protestware’—programmers sabotaging their own software to make a political point. Categorizing these interventions as “malignant, benign, and developer sanctions,” Treude takes stock of related ethical and technical implications.

NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) successfully impacts its target, demonstrating the potential for future asteroid deflection and planetary defence. After ten months of flying in space, NASA’s spacecraft crashed directly into Dimorphos, a 160 metre moonlet orbiting the larger asteroid Didymos. More than a feat of precise guidance and navigation, the test was “a mission of unity with a real benefit for all humanity,” says NASA Administrator Bill Nelson.

“Systems of Belief,” a group show that dives deep into artistic worldbuilding, opens at HALLE FÜR KUNST Steiermark in Graz, Austria. Intriguingly, it puts works by late artists like Storm de Hirsch, Paul Laffoley, and Lee Scratch Perry in conversation with young(er) artists including Irina Lotarevich and Harm van den Dorpel. The latter contributes Markov’s Dream (2022, image), a generative subdivision study (based on a 2004 work) inspired by the Russian mathematician.

“You don’t break into someone’s house to show them you can break into their house. You shouldn’t do it unless they ask you to.”
– Suresh Venkatasubramanian, former White House tech adviser and Brown University professor, on Dries Depoorter’s “subversive” art project The Follower (2022). The new work juxtapozes Instagram photos with public webcam footage that shows the process of taking them—without the recorded people’s permission. “If one person can do this, what can a government do?” the Belgian artist counters.

“Refined Vision,” an exhibition in which Kuwaiti artist Monira Al Qadir draws parallels between Texas Gulf Coast and Persian Gulf region petro-cultures, opens at the Blaffer Art Museum in Houston. Featured works include Crude Eye (2022, image), a new single-channel video piece on landscapes and infrastructures of extraction, and Spectrum (2016), a series of 3D-printed sculptural forms that abstract the ‘alien’ aesthetics of (ornate) oil and gas drill bits.

M
“If you look at TikTok your body is literally animated by the algorithm—it tells you how to move yourself—and you end up dancing for this abstract formulation of capital and algorithmic recommendation.”
– Online subculture researcher Joshua Citarella, describing the diminishing agency of internet content creators. In his assessment, “people were able to make targeted critical interventions … shape it [media] with intent,” a decade ago—now users “are instrumentalized by the algorithim itself.”
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Duke University researchers develop a novel method of encrypting text, harnessing the chaos of computer simulated bacterial growth. Expanding on their recent article in data science journal Patterns, the team summarizes their use of machine learning frame-by-frame analysis of organic reaction–diffusion system animations to en- and decode text strings. “These patterns in essence constitutes a new, digitally generated coding scheme, which we call Emorfi,” they write.

Created for “Digital Self,” a group exhibition at Montréal’s Jano Lapin Gallery, ‘Famous New Media Artist’ Jeremy Bailey debuts Internet Artist (2022), another AR sculpture and NFT that hijacks art history (see here, here). An “update” to Nam June Paik’s media art classic TV Buddha (1974), Bailey—not Paik’s buddha—is shown watching themselves. Other artists co-curators Samuel Arsenault-Brassard and Anne Jano included are Chris Coleman, Francoise Gamma, Mario Klingemann, and Martina Menegon.

“There’s money involved, there are systems and governments involved to make it. It’s a misdirect from the real history of that place, and the meaning and kinships that people have built there over millennia.”
– Assiniboine Native American art historian Alicia Harris, on the problematic politics—erasure of Indigenous culture—enacted by Michael Heizer’s City (2022), and other land art (by settler artists) sited in the American Southwest
What Just Happened:
Miriam Arbus Cultivates “Seed Systems” That Nurture New XR Ecologies

The Canadian curator discusses interfaces, immersion, the metaverse, and prototyping new forms of human-nature relations in digital space

“This type of work I call ‘attention fracking,’ where a pool of valuable attention is gathered around an issue and then mined by opportunists who know that the public just needs a painkiller on the issue.”
– Artist and Kimchi and Chips co-founder Elliot Woods, on the shallowness of Sustainable Locks, a kinetic sculpture Breakfast created for Tiffany’s Manhatten flagship store. “The artwork does nothing to talk about or acknowledge sustainability despite desperately wanting to,” fumes Woods.

“Blood and Breath, Skin and Dust,” a solo show that zooms in on Kim Morgan’s eight years working with scanning electron microscopes, opens in Halifax. Featuring work across digital images, installation, and intervention (image: Blood Galaxy, 2017), the show deploys the same imaging technology that revealed the coronavirus for all to see, provoking questions about “understanding threats to human health, and of the social disparities that a virus spread exacerbates.”

“RE_________,” the U.S. stop of Norwegian artist Sissel Tolaas’ touring retrospective, opens at Philadelphia’s Institute for Contemporary Art (ICA). Foregrounding issues including climate change, geopolitics, and anthropology through 20 interactive stations that deploy the researcher’s primary medium—scent—the exhibition invites visitors to smell, experience, and contemplate Tolaas’ provocative claim: “nothing stinks, only thinking makes it so.”

“This is in fact a security exploit proof-of-concept; untrusted user input is being treated as instruction. Sound familiar? That’s SQL injection in a nutshell.”
– Tech writer Donald Papp, on how text-based AI interfaces like GPT-3 are vulnerable to “prompt injection attacks”—just like SQL databases. Contextualizing experiments by Simon Wilkinson and Riley Goodside, Papp explains how hackers are duping natural language processing systems with sneaky prompts (e.g. GPT-3 made to claim responsibility for the 1986 space shuttle Challenger disaster).
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Floppy Disk Fever
Rotterdam media researchers Floppy Totaal consider the “curious afterlives” of a bygone storage medium, with input from Lori Emerson, Florian Cramer, and Jason Scott

“Tracing Memories,” a show presenting two decades of projects by Maarten Vanden Eynde, opens at Berlin’s NOME gallery. Its collected works articulate the Belgian artist’s driving question (“how will we look back to the past in the future?”), and answer it with witty and incisive sculptural encapsulations of pressing issues including peak oil, broken democracy, prolific mass production, and unchecked resource extraction (image: History of Man, 2022).

“And we finalized! Happy merge all. This is a big moment for the Ethereum ecosystem. Everyone who helped make the merge happen should feel very proud today.”
– Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin, celebrating the cryptocurrency’s transition to a proof-of-stake consensus mechanism. The shift of the leading smart contract blockchain to 99% less energy consumption is good news for crypto boosters, who have endured a downslide, platform implosions, and countless exploits since the 2021 boom.

A group show bringing more than 30 artists together, “Territories of Waste” opens in Basel with a global roster of participants including Revital Cohen & Tuur Van Balen, Otobong Nkanga, Ed Ruscha, and Pinar Yoldas. Contributed environment and extraction focused works include Eloise Hawser’s The Tipping Point (2019), a video installation scrap metal shrine, and The Last Particle (2017), Anca Benera and Arnold Estefán’s rumination on mineral analysis (image).

“A human operator tags the ends of the intestine with drops of fluorescent glue, creating markers the robot can track.”
– Science journalist James Gaines, describing the computer vision workflow that allowed the Smart Tissue Autonomous Robot (STAR) prototype to recently successfully perform intestinal surgery on pig tissue

Transplanting the ringing of ten iconic bells from France to Turkey, “Silent Echoes: Notre-Dame” opens. Silenced after the 2019 fire that gutted the Parisian cathedral, sound artist Bill Fontana recorded the (currently decommissioned) bells into an eponymous 10-channel mix that makes its international debut in Istanbul. The installation is accompanied by recent experimental video work that explores related soundscapes (image: Silent Echoes (Acoustic images series), 2022).

What Just Happened:
Martin Bricelj Baraga Builds Monuments to the Sky’s 53 Shades of Blue

The Slovenian artist and curator discusses his networked environmental sculptures and the importance of data transparency in the age of climate change

“It’s not just like going out and buying a chair. There are issues of IP, of the end-user license agreements. We had to talk some producers into changing the EULA for us.”
– MoMA Senior Curator Paola Antonelli, on the complexities of building the museum’s videogame collection that’s now on view (in its entirety!) as part of the “Never Alone” exhibition. “Designers want their work to be in the museum, of course,” Antonelli notes. “It’s the lawyers that stop them.”

“Dark and Perfect Memories,” a solo exhibition by Tia-Simone Gardner exploring the troubled legacy of the Mississippi River, opens in Toronto. Drawing on archival research and digital cartography, Gardner maps how the river extended the transatlantic slave trade inland, and drove economic production. Included works range from inkjet prints of salt water, to steamship models, to representations of Black geography (image: …when we had a smooth sea and moderate wind…, 2019).

“Basha’s paintings are dominated by circles, which she creates with her feet, while her lines are created by a painting arm.”
– Critic Hrag Vartanian, describing paintings by Agnieszka Pilat’s robot dog Basha (a renamed instance of General Dynamics’ Spot). Wary of the gimmick, Vartanian writes “these machines … are ultimately not our friends, and humanizing them distracts from their use by authorities to police, control, or kill populations from a distance,”

“IMAGE CAPITAL,” an exhibition organized by Estelle Blaschke and Armin Linke, opens in Essen, Germany. Arguing ‘photography is information technology,’ the show (and companion website) explores six themes: memory, access, protection, mining, imaging, and currency. Tracking the photograph across contexts including scientific imaging and archives (image: Max Planck Institute, 2018), the curators ask “when and under what circumstances did images become operational?”

Manfred Mohr’s solo exhibition “liquid symmetry” opens at bitforms gallery, New York, presenting vibrant algorithmic compositions from the veteran’s latest phase. Started in 2020, the titular series has diagonal paths pass through 11-dimensional hyper-cubes, leaving colour traces and generating shapes. The results are shown on-screen, as inkjet prints, or laser-cut aluminum reliefs (image: P3011_3) and juxtapozed with several of Mohr’s historical works from the 1960s and ’70s.

“The murder of an activist sows a legacy, because the person who is buried—planted, in a manner of speaking—becomes a seed for the ongoing political and organizational processes of the community.”
– Artist Carolina Caycedo, describing “the sowing,” a Latin America phrase used to describe the poetic return of activists killed defending territory, water, or life, to the earth.

“Common Measures,” a show featuring three installations by Mexican-Canadian artist Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, opens at Pace Gallery in New York. Included are interactive crowd favourites Cloud on Water (2016) and Pulse Topology (2021), and a new generative work. The latter, Hormonium (2022, image), presents dynamic CGI waves crashing in synchronization with how the rhythm of human hormone release varies over the course of a day (i.e. cortisol in morning and prolactin at night).

Curated by Miriam Arbus & Peggy Schoenegge, “Seed Systems: Neo Ecologies in XR Art Today” opens in Berlin, featuring artists that explore “speculative approaches to future human-nature relationships,” including Alison Bennett, Nicholas Delap, Matthew D. Gantt, and Nadine Kolodziey. Contributed works range from Mohsen Hazrati’s experiments with CGI bioluminescence to Lauren Moffatt’s “flourish and decay” studies (image: (De)Composition, 2022).

Delving into their (eponymous) new film (image, 2022), “Capture,” a solo exhibition by Metahaven, opens in Trondheim, Norway. In it, the artist collective explores ‘knowability’ on three fronts: a rumination on the inscrutability of bats, CERN’s hunt for the Higgs boson, and the remarkable qualities of lichens. Their displayed media, and accompanying textiles and collages contemplate consciousness in “both speculative deeply implicated ways,” writes curator Stefanie Hessler.

“As its possibilities expand, it’s important to consider the potential threats and dangers as the metaverse introduces risks related to legislation, property, control, fraud, privacy threats, ethics, and security.”
– Forensic accounting researchers Nadia Smaili & Audrey de Rancourt-Raymond, outlining their concerns about unregulated virtual space. Authors of the recent paper “Metaverse: Welcome to the New Fraud Marketplace,” the duo offer proactive policy and oversight recommendations to protect users.

“On Breathing,” an exhibition by Nina Barnett & Jeremy Bolen that examines respiration relative to “pressure, particulate, filtration, and flow,” opens at Johannesburg’s Adler Museum of Medicine. Its lone installation, On Breathing—Iron Lung With Blue Gums (2022, image), puts a hulking iron lung in conversation with Blue Gum Trees, mine dust, extraction residue, and radioactive bricks, contrasting the deep time of resource extraction with local atmospheric conditions.

“Our ambition must stretch beyond the timid idea of AI governance, which accepts a priori what we’re already being subjected to, and instead look to create a transformative technical practice that supports the common good.”
Resisting AI (2022) author Dan McQuillan, advocating for active resistance against a dawning age of “machine learning redlining

“This Unfathomable Weight,” a lightbox and billboard project parsing the trauma of “the massive crises of recent years,” opens at University of Toronto Mississauga campus. Curated by Farah Yusef for The Blackwood, the show invites Jessica Thalmann, Christina Battle, and Erika DeFreitas to sequentially contribute works; Thalmann’s opener, cut between the supports and collapse (2022, image), documents the emotional weight of time spent in the ICU (as a primary caregiver) during the pandemic.

“Ditch the pronouns and hit the gym, then you’ll realize the importance of Proof of Work.”
– Proverbial ToxicBitcoiner, coming after Kyle McDonald following his Coindesk interview. Speaking on Ethereum’s impending transition to the dramatically less energy-intensive proof-of-stake protocol, McDonald argued that “proof-of-work was never necessary,” and that “Bitcoin will never hit $69k again.” Bitcoin maxis were irritated, and have been harassing the American software artist since.

Populating a former steel mill with recent media art, “IN TRANSFER—A New Condition” opens in Esch-Alzette, Luxembourg as part of the 2022 European Capital of Culture program. Co-presented by Ars Electronica, artists including Tega Brain, Danielle Brathwaite-Shirley (image: Black Trans Archive, 2020), Julian Oliver & Bengt Sjölén, and Mimi Ọnụọha & Mother Cyborg collectively offer an “artistic, social laboratory in which reality and the future are simulated.”

Presenting a new series of dramatic computational landscapes, Quayola’s solo exhibition “Forces / Vectors / Chromia” opens at Marignana Arte in Venice. Storms draws on a series of “ultra-high definition videos of stormy seas shot on the coasts of Cornwall” that the Italian artist used like a dataset. “The video is not the matrix of the painting,” writes curator Valentino Catricalà, “instead it is the data inferred by it: vectors and chromia, forces and intensity.”

“Something like the nail art design might include the positions of the hands, the angle of the pseudo-photographic shot, and instructions for tweaking the prompt to produce different manicure styles and themes.”
– “AI whisperer” Justin Reckling, giving DALL-E and Midjourney prompt tips. Chatting with Adi Robertson, Reckling describes his experience selling prompts on the PromptBase marketplace, and gives vocabulary advice for would-be AI image wranglers.

“Cloud Walkers,” an exhibition speaking to “climate, imagination, and hyperlinks alike,” opens in Seoul. Pairing Asian video and installation artists with architects, its contributors include Lawrence Lek, A.A. Murakami, Tromarama, and Samson Young. Curated by June Young Kwak, the show cultivates dialogues across mediums and epochs, as exemplified by the placing of Lu Yang’s hyper-digital DOKU Hello World (2021) in Đoàn Thanh Hà’s (traditional) Floating Bamboo House (image).

Imagining a future on a rapidly changing planet, “The New Earth” opens at Public Works, Chicago. Ten artists including Jeremy Bolen, Susan Goethel Campbell, Sam Rolfes, and Kat Jarvinen provide “a testing ground for addressing the preeminent issues of our time,” from AI to climate change. Jarvinen’s Feral Devices (2021, image), for example, disrupt waste cycles and assumptions about technological decay in search for “alternative realities for those things we throw away.”

“Of the 13 projects examined for the study—accounting for about 55% of the world’s current operational capacity—seven underperformed, two failed, and one was mothballed.”
Guardian reporter Damien Gayle, on the abysmal track record of current carbon capture and storage (CCS) solutions revealed in a major IEEFA analysis. “Many international bodies and national government are relying on CCS to get to net zero, and it simply won’t work,” IEEFA researcher Bruce Robertson says.

Featuring contributors including Ant Farm, Joan Jonas, and Jacques Cousteau, “Who Speaks for the Oceans?” opens in New York. Looking to challenge the legacy of “colonial, racialized, gendered, and terra-centric” ocean histories, the collected works foreground nonhuman perspectives and ecological responsibility. In Ursula Biemann’s video installation Acoustic Ocean (2018, image), for example, the artist-researcher documents her efforts to record the sonic ecology of marine life.

From 15th Century painting to NFTs: “Meta.Space: Spatial Visions” opens at Francisco Carolinum in Linz, Austria, gathering over 30 artists that examine “social, real, and imaginary space.” Next to the virtual worlds of late luminary Herbert W. Franke, for example, towers the site-specific ‘crypto sculpture’ by Alexander Grasser and Alexandra Parger. Open Architectures (image) is a wooden model of one of 50 community structures built collaboratively via interactive NFT.

Leaning in to notions of immateriality and the technological sublime, “Digital Art Waves” opens in Paris. Featuring artists including Kika Nicolela, Manfred Mohr, Quayola, and Nicolas Sassoon, whose contributions range from prints on paper and metal to video and NFTs. Sabrina Ratté, for example, reconstitutes her reflection-heavy 2016 CGI video piece Wintergarden, which “straddles the line between abstract architecture and an enclosed garden,” as an NFT (image).

August 2022
“As much as they might aspire to go back to a medieval world, WhatsApp comes in handy.”
– Tech journalists Jamie Tarabay & Eltaf Najafizada, on the Taliban’s increasing use of communication technologies—4G networks, Twitter, WhatsApp—since reclaiming power in Afghanistan last year

“Undamming Rivers,” a retrospective of food and environmental crisis-focused artist duo Cooking Sections, opens in Stockholm. The exhibition presents three iterations of the artists’ ongoing research on the impact of fisheries (image: Salmon: A Red Herring, 2020), as well as a new project exploring the removal of hydro dams. The curators note that both topics are poignant in Sweden, where widespread “salmon-breeding programs were established to compensate for habitat loss and migration obstacles.”

“We believe AI is the future of corporate management. Our appointment of Ms Tang Yu represents our commitment to truly embrace the use of AI to transform the way we operate our business, and ultimately drive future growth.”
– Dr. Dejian Liu, chairman of the Chinese metaverse company NetDragon, announcing the world’s first (female) robot CEO. “Tang Yu is an AI-powered virtual humanoid,” reports Anugraha Sundaravelu, and “will be at the forefront of the company’s ‘organizational and efficiency department’.”
DOSSIER:
“What fascinated Molnar about computers was more practical than speculative or futuristic. It was their capacity to compute, and to do so accurately, quickly.”
– Art historian Zsofi Valyi-Nagy, unpacking the vital 1960s period when generative art pioneer Vera Molnar embraced computation, first as an idea or approach to making fine art, and then (in 1968) with her first plotter drawings

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