Monday, November 5, 2007

smith review of blogger skins and Campanelli on Torcito Portraits and The Wall street Journal

Even Boring Blogs
Are Things of Beauty
In Some Artists' Eyes

December 19, 2007; Page B1

The Web is full of content that only its creator could love. Witness the office-party photos, blogs about people's pets and bad lip-synched videos that turn up in a few minutes of Google-fueled procrastination.

A zoom of Guthrie Lonergan's "Internet Group Shot"

To Guthrie Lonergan, however, Web junk is the basis of his most popular online art. "I'm sort of interested in that boringness," he says.

"Internet Group Shot" is one example. The collage, cobbled from dozens of group portraits, shows how people adopt the same huddle when they're saying "cheese." For "MySpace Intro Playlist," Mr. Lonergan looked for the self-made videos that young people post to their personal pages, then strung them together to show how teenagers tend to act similarly and say the same things when they're introducing themselves.

"There are defaults in our culture," Mr. Lonergan adds. "MySpace doesn't set up something for you to create an introduction video, but kind of like a telephone answering machine, you assume a certain kind of voice and say certain things."

The 23-year-old, who lives in L.A., is one of many artists mining Internet culture for creative inspiration. They make videos out of email spam and multimedia projects from MySpace profiles, and make a case for Web surfing as an art form in itself.

Marcin Ramocki is another. He got the idea for his portrait series "Blogger Skins" when a documentary film he made was being shown world-wide. After setting up search-engine alerts to notify him whenever "8 Bit" was mentioned, he was struck by the unrelated images that came up.

"Internet Group Shot," a collage of group photos scavenged from the Web by Guthrie Lonergan
"MySpace Intro Playlist," also by Mr. Lonergan, a collection of personal videos embedded on their creators' MySpace pages
"Blogger Skins," a series of "portraits" made with Google search results by Marcin Ramocki
"Unmonumental," an online and offline group show at the New Museum and Rhizome, its new-media affiliate.
Rhizome has also sponsored exhibits such as "Professional Surfer," which addresses Web surfing as an art form, and "Faultlines," a look at online communities.
"Time-Lapse Homepage," a one-minute video by Paul Slocum that traces a Web page's look over time.
"Monitor Tracings" is a series of drawings based on Google Images results, by Marisa Olson. Her Internet-based work also includes "Abe and Mo Sing the Blogs," in which she sang journal entries in a blues style.
"Kurt Cobain's Suicide Letter vs. Google AdSense," by Cory Arcangel, pairs the Nirvana singer's words with keyword-based ads.
Mr. Arcangel's bookmarks have also attracted attention in digital-art circles. Some artists also flock to "surfing clubs" such as Nasty Nets, Supercentral and double happiness.

For "Blogger Skins," he Googled a handful of bloggers who write about art, then assembled a virtual mosaic of the images that resulted. "The idea is that a Google search for people who are very active in this community changes every day, so I wanted to capture one specific search," he says.

The image reflects the original order of the search results, he says, "and that creates, sort of accidentally, this beautiful shape, but that shape also reflects the popularity of different images." Subjects with common names had wildly random images associated with them. The artists, though, exerted control over their search results by filling them with their work.

Some of these Web-inspired works have been included in the recently reopened New Museum's "Unmonumental" exhibition, parts of which are on view at its New York location and others of which can be seen on the site for Rhizome, its new-media affiliate. "This generation really knows the Net," says Lauren Cornell, Rhizome's executive director. "They grew up with it and are, for lack of a better word, native to it."

"Art is just going to be what's going on in the world around you. It makes sense to do work about this thing that's changing our life so much," adds Paul Slocum, a 33-year-old Dallas artist whose day job is in systems programming. His video "Time-Lapse Homepage," part of the New Museum exhibit online, is intended to follow the development of the digital aesthetic: in 1,200 screenshots and at 20 frames a second, it chronicles the evolution of a single personal page's look.

He also created a functioning replica of MySpace's log-in page. "I was interested in how you go to these pages all the time that are constantly in flux, changing all the things they show you," he says.

One of the best-known artists in this medium, Cory Arcangel, has "performed" the deletion of his Friendster account in front of an audience at the P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center in Queens, N.Y. "People kind of cringed and then cheered when it was all over," he says. He published on his personal site Kurt Cobain's suicide note alongside Google AdWords that served up ads to social-anxiety treatment and spiritual-growth classes.

"Surfing so much, I get ideas of things that I would like to see that don't yet exist," Mr. Arcangel explains. "This is when I make a project."

This year, Rhizome organized an online group show called "Professional Surfer" that took the prosaic idea of bookmarking Web pages and posited it as art.

On other Web sites, such as Nasty Nets, Supercentral and Yahoo's bookmarking service, artists link to videos, photos and other digital ephemera they've come across.

"They're like sketchbooks," says Paddy Johnson, a Brooklyn art blogger. "Your ability to spot the best stuff speaks to your eye as an artist. ... The better your quoting ability, the better artist you seem to be."

Even some "offline" works are inspired by Internet culture. For a series called "Monitor Tracings," Marisa Olson searched Google Images for headphones, radios and other devices, then drew the results on paper.

One thing most of these artists haven't solved is how to make money off work that is available to anyone online. Ms. Olson says she sells her drawings and editioned copies of video pieces, but never an Internet-based work. "You would think that the contemporary, hip art world is ahead of the curve on this," she says, "and it's not -- yet."

blogger skins

Marcin Ramocki - Regine Debatty blogger skinConsidering all the chatter about interoperability and social presence this week, it is worth drawing attention to project I recently discovered. Brooklyn-based new media artist and curator Marcin Ramocki recently launched a web-based piece called Blogger Skins. The project uses Google's image search to create photo-mosaics representing the web presence of a number of prominent art bloggers including Tom Moody, Paddy Johnson, James Wagner, Joy Garnett and RĂ©gine Debatty (whose "skin" is on the left). On the surface, the project is a bit of a one-liner, but I think it is a fun exercise in speculating the nature of presence, personality and influence across a distributed network of sites and communities. The project statement elaborates on the contemporary notion of identity:

We have entered the era of identity superstructures: complex sets of search engine outcomes based on our activities, popularity, name itself, purposeful efforts and a whole bunch of random data fluctuation. We are growing second skins, made out of words, links and images: exciting, addictive and sometimes completely meaningless.

Torcito Project, sonic portraits
Marcin Ramocki, a Polish artist who's also a director of documentaries and independent curator, since his first experiments has focused his research on the construction of metaphors by using the most diverse software programs. Non-linear narration, be it generative and random or interactive, is the common theme of his many projects, even though there are other central themes, such as videogames aesthetics (especially the retro ones), combining old and new technologies, the DIY philosophy (which has recently become DIWO, thanks to a Furtherfield collective provocation or - more likely - thanks to the interactive nature of web 2.0), for example in works like Torcito Project (sonic portraits). This work is composed of seven portraits made in the Italian region of Salento (Masseria Torcito is in Cannole, near Lecce) in the summer of 2005 using Virtual Drummer, an "old" Macintosh software. A 48x64 grid is the canvas used by Ramocki. In this grid there's the bitmap image of a human face which eventually turns into the score of an endless sound loop. Each horizontal line corresponds to an instrument (for a total of 48 instruments) which is activated each time the cathode ray beam hits one of the portrait's pixels. Ramocki's work brings to mind Jacquard's punched cards, but also the pianola and the automatic piano. All these, in fact, are applications of the simple binary principle of full and empty. As is easy to understand, there's nothing too far from the basic principle modern digital technologies, and our information society, are based on.
Vito Campanelli

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