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Category: Contributor: Molly Hankwitz

REVIEW: Edge Condition and other exhibits at ZeroOne/ISEA2006. Comments on the experience of the festival by Molly Hankwitz

Mark Hansen and Ben Rubin, Listening Post (detail), 2002-2005.

Mapping out the festival terrain from San Jose Mercury News insert…eager to see friends. Went to several exhibits – San Jose Art Museum and at South Hall…

“Edge Condition” – this is a beautifully curated exhibit at San Jose Art Museum. Young Hae Chang “Heavy Industries” one of my all time favorite works of web art. “Listening Post” –sound of chat installation was thoroughly amazing, while not having much, if any, concrete relationship to the internet as a particularly technoutopian space, it was a very impressive outpouring of internet noise! Tired looking artists sitting on the couches with eyes closed listening abounded.

I enjoyed Jennifer Steinkamp’s very pretty rooms of huge colorful electronic moving paintings and particularly the way they overlapped into each other in a giant three-d collage. Effects Design, the stellar projection architecture company in Novato, CA should really collaborate with her if they have not already done so. Sometimes its nice to just groove on spaces designed to make you feel good. But, what I really liked was the mix of new and old. I liked seeing early photographic collages of Lynn Hershman. “TV Land” is a great work of art, as is “Ruby’s Mood Swings”. These pictures have a lot of meaning for me.

Christiane Robbins’ work ‘I-5’ about the interstitial space of commuting and again, about air pollution data collection is a very precise work, stark and threatening in the museum space and demanding of one’s attention. There were references to John Cage’s music and performances and Peter Cook’s drawings for “Instant City” at the entrance. It was a heady trip. There was so much work, a lot of which came from San Francisco’s electro- conceptualists. Jim Cambell’s piece evoking, in absolute abstraction, the space of the street was stunning; all red and blinking.

As formalized works of electronic art, this show had many classic pieces, too. One of the late Nam June Paik’s TV large figurative sculptures. I love his work so much, very upset when he died. Still have a printed copy of the obituary posted to “nettime”. {It’s amazing how “nettime” exists in this completely unique space.}

I found myself thinking yesterday, the difference between Ars Electronica and ZeroOne is the lack of art media at ZeroOne. At Ars, you get artists radio for hours; mujsic, noise, interviews, performance. ORF devoted hours of kunstradio on the airwaves. ZeroOne needs this. I could find almost none, and often the cellular art required 3G phones. I didn’t have one. But one aspect of the media landscape I particularly liked the idea of and wanted to try was dialing in to hear the artists talk about the work on my cell phone. That was an innovation for learning about the works first hand. That’s meaningful and …a relatively public…overlay of communications technology onto the arts. In fact, in a city like San Jose, with so many artists coming in and not knowing their way around, the cell phone acts as a remarkable navigational tool for connecting and meeting up with friends.

Edge Conditions Website

REVIEW: ZeroOne/ISEA Fallout. The Fine Art Exhibit at the San Jose Art Museum and News of GMO foods by Molly Hankwitz

Image: Lynn Hershman, “phantom limb 1, tv legs” gsp print 1986 courtesy paule anglim gallery/bitforms gallery

“Edge Conditions” at the San Jose Art Museum, part of the ZeroOne/ISEA 2006 event in San Jose this past week, was a quite wonderful trip through conceptual art history as it intersects with electronic media. The formalist installation piece “Listening Room” an audio reiteration of chat room “babble”, the VRML world paintings navigable by joy sticks, the early photocollage work by Lynn Hershman, especially “TV Legs” and “Ruby’s Mood Swings” and Ken Goldberg’s curious super-miniaturization of Frank Lloyd Wright’s “Falling Water” to 1.1 millionth nano scale, not to mention the large TV robot by the late Nam Jun Paik, suggested to this writer, elements of the post-war requestioning of high art and its comfortable/discomforting cross- pollination with electronic media; the playfulness of Fluxus and Conceptual Art’s murmurings in the dematerialization of the art object aka Lucy Lippard’s extraordinary compilation of works on same subject. The abundant and excellent curation made this exhibit an easily digested compilation of pleasing moments in the spectrum of electronically influenced, at least, art, thoroughly enjoyable in its physical presence, beauty and accomplishment at reasonably small cost to the general public and to children.

Speaking of Lynn Hershman, where should I begin. She’s a well recognized grand dame of electronic art innovation and feminist art. I first met her in 1993 when I was busy selling experimental artists books and artifacts of conceptual art. I wrote something on her book, Chimaeras, for ART PAPERS. She showed me the Roberta Breitman archive and some very early early works of art she had made at her home. I visited her Nob Hill studio and looked through more of the paper archives for a seminal experimental mobile exhibition venue [it had no physical space thus went from venue to venue] she invented called “The Floating Museum.” I hold Lynn’s work in very high esteem precisely because she manages to tie popular culture and forms into the sophisticated and elaborate narratives of her installations and films. Such is found in the new work, the film she is making on Steve Kurtz’s legal predicatment. “Strange Culture” , a work in progress, which I saw at ISEA 2006/ZeroOne at Cinema 12 was a breath of fresh air at the festival/gathering because it had lots of political relevance in its content. Hershman is making a film which shows clearly how the FBI investigation of Kurtz has served to silence the artist’s meaning and intentions. She has made the interesting, creative decision to spend much screentime thus, showing his recent, controversial artwork; what was to have been shown at MassMOCA before the arrest. This gave the audience a point of entry into Kurtz’ main social and political interests and demystified the work of the Critical Art Ensemble as “dangerous.” However, it also demonstrates why the strenght of his ideas about public information on GMO foods in everyday life, would be contentious for agrobusiness. She builds a case to show that the FBI information has blown Kurtz'”crime” out of proportion and clearly illustrates motivations for censorship. Her film priveleges, above all, the notion that his art – very public and critical indeeed – is information worthy of exhibition by including much of the installation in the movie and making it “visible.” The film then becomes a vehicle for the artwork’s exhibition, as well as an homage to Kurtz, a well respected artist and academic, and when distributed will provide an alterantive story angle on the case, while uncensoring the art! This is one particular element of Hershman’s work that makes her very special. She has a history of confronting obstacles and being controversial and going to bat for artists. In doing so she often puts herself and her authority in the firing line. Documentary film takes on stories and she has taken this one on. Civil liberties in the US are being eroded piecemeal by the Patriot Act which, in its exercise of power betrays the myopic imbalances embedded into the American system of lavish corporate freedoms and limited personal voice. Hershman astutely pinpoints the simple value of media as a human, public, storytelling element; its broadcast and distribution as a form of truth, activism and rebellion – a breath of fresh air in these darkened times. “Strange Culture” was the closest I came in my visit to the ISEA 2006/ZeroOne festival, to finding much cogent “meaning” for the efficacy of art as a public venue for ideas.

Molly Hankwitz is co editor of NewMediaFix and a collaborator in the research and design collective, Archimedia. She writes about art, media and social design. She teaches at the Art Institute of California, SF.
Related links:

Edge Condition

TEXTS: Audio on the Move, Project #3 edited by Molly Hankwitz

‘Audio on the Move’ seeks to highlight creative, artistic works which problematize the concept of communication and ‘location’ through the use of [particularly] audio and movement. Previous works have been: “Karaoke Ice” and “Invisible 5” – both in the NMF archive.

PROJECT #3: European technoculture: EYFA Art and Activism Caravan 2006

European technoculture never loses its social grounding in the politics of networks, their architectural value and meaning. In a series of projects including The Transmigration of Cinema events and now this summer caravan, European youth arts and activists from eastern and western fronts engage in a kind of information war of their own making- taking on poltical and especially environmental issues as they string themselves out in a series of art and activist explosions across borders. There is an amazing vitality to this effervescent anarchy; an outpouring of recombinant energy; an appeal to empowerment; a committment to collective action.

Reading from one of the promotional postcards for the Transmigration of Cinema event:

“If mass media has become ground zero for the colonization of dreams, and arts and culture now resemble ground beef at 99 cents a pound from the Spectacle’s butcher shop, the XL Terrestials [as they affectionately call themselves] will soon arrive on the set to re-adjust your picture and put some pure grade reality and higher intelligence back on your plate.”

Reading from the Indymedia UK website from an article entitled, “Creative activist roadshow in east-west collaboration” is the following description:

The Art and Activism Caravan is a border crossing project, starting early June, travelling for 3 months from Greece via Macedonia, Albania, Montenegro, Serbia, Bosnia Herzegovina and Hungary to the eco-activist gathering Ecotopia in Slovakia. Its aim is to support and connect youth, campaign, community and activist groups, their actions and campaigns with creative forms of activism. The participants will share skills in the field of video, creative writing, music and dance, sculpturing, street performance, drawing and painting, samba and screen printing.

Collectives: EYFA (European Youth For Action), Candida TV (video collective, Italy), Rhythms of Resistance (samba), The Mischief Makers (creative activist collective, Nottingham), Undercurrents (UK video collective), Karahaber (video news network, Turkey), Loesje (creative writing), Rebel Clown Army and VideA (video collective, Balkans).

Local hosts: Medsos (Greece), Bitola Youth Forum (Macedonia), Mjaft (Albania), Plagus_M (Serbia & Montenegro), In Stage (Serbia & Montenegro), Kulturanova (Serbia & Montenegro), Tuzla Live (Bosnia & Herzegovina), Uruk (Bosnia & Herzegovina) and ZoFi and Valley of Arts (Hungary) and Ecotopia (Slovakia). Artists participating are from Norway, Turkey, Italy, The Netherlands, UK, Ukraine, Germany and Armenia.


Creative activist roadshow in east-west collaboration

The Caravan website:

‘Audio on the Move’ is edited by Molly Hankwitz


Responding to a series of ideas which have appeared in various net contexts, New Media Fix will be featuring an ongoing editorial project on sound and audio-based artworks which utilize Œaudio‚ as a means to break spatial conventions and/or to problematize the idea of Œlocation. ŒAudio on the Move‚ features creative projects which question and explore notions of public space, space as interface, social ritual, and/or artistic and self expression.


Road culture long a fascination for artists involves the curious intermingling of public and private that happens when the individuated and personalized car is pitched against wide open spaces, small towns, and urban zones in a near cinematic relationship. In a new media context, this relation has interesting parallels to web-navigation, identity tourism (1) and the interest in locative or wireless media.

Created for California’s Interstate-5 corridor between San Francisco and Los Angeles Å’Invisible 5‚ is a self-guided audio tour originally recorded for use on CD while driving. Thus, it reaches the commuter/listener from a landscape of cities, towns and spaces which might otherwise go largely unnoticed at high speeds and reworks the concept of passage. The artists‚ point out what a critical „pathway I-5 is along the west coast:

for trade, tourism, and migration, and functions as part of the infrastructure bundle that parallels it – supporting symmetrical movements of water, oil, and gas.

ŒInvisible 5‚ is a detailed work on the road and its impact on local environmental contexts, acting as an accompanying soundtrack across the artificial boundary of car and space; or how we view and understand space. Its essence is to bring what we see as passersby, and conceive as nature intoclose proximity with what can be heard: that the Californian environment is historically „unseen (and unheard) from the perspective of its activists and citizens.

This impressive approach suggests larger future installations created on the same or similar subjects taking place beyond the road. Invisible 5‚s strength resides outside the gallery/museum while utilizing the now familiar form of art intake: the audio tour as its physical connection to official creativity. One can imagine such conceptual and environmental works based on other personal maps— which we are seeingËœin the locative media context, as well as as pure audio.

For more information: Collaborators: Amy Balkin, Green Action for Health and Environmental Justice, Tim Halbur, Kim Stringfellow, Pond: Art, Activism, and Ideas, the Creative Work Fund.

1. Nakamura, Lisa, „Cybertypes: Race, Class and Identity in Cyberspace, Chapter 4. New York: Routledge, 2002.

Edited by artist/curator Molly Hankwitz, ŒAudio on the Move‚ started in June and will appear monthly, with revolving projects and comment. Projects may be submitted for inclusion to:

Review: ‘Das Netz’ __ein Film von Lutz Dammbeck

das netz

Lutz Dammbeck’s Das Netz is a highly commendable and intriguing work of research, drawing from Internet, archival and interview sources, in which we are taken on a journey to examine early Internet history and its less savory or more hedonistic, cultish and covert government protected aspects. Themes generally underexplored in the Net’s military, artistic and industry lineage are brought to life in Das Netz. It is a deeply thought-provoking documentary deftly weaving an abundance of esoteric information into numerous pernicious subplots for a moving picture of the most innovative largely American, if not Californian and “white privileged male” communications tool to date.

“What is it that hippies, LSD, and computers have in common?” queries Dammbeck at the start.

In later probes he takes up alliances between European postwar intellectuals from Norbert Wiener to Heinz von Foerster and their anti-fascist beliefs; delving momentarily into a document published by the Frankfurt School on the “totalitarian personality” and its curious influences on a secret history of research known as the Macy Conferences. Designed to study the workings of the human mind and its authoritarian social psychology, these Conferences invited Margaret Mead, Norbert Wiener and psychologist Kurt Lewin, among others and later, avant-garde artists such as John Brockmann, Stuart Brand, John Cage, and Buckminster Fuller to exchange views on hippy generation concepts such as “mind expansion”, open systems and human consciousness. The Macy undertakings wound up influencing a period of psyop testings most notably performed by Dr. Henry A. Murray at Harvard University on Ted Kaczynski – elsewise known as “the Unabomber” – as well as the CIA’s MK Ultra project.

At the cross roads of Dammbeck’s journey is a continuous theme – one of the counter culture’s technology v. anti-technology sentiments – most directly expressed in footage of the Whole Earth Catalog’s pages shot to show the hawking of the alternative lifestyle of the “the sixties” – everything from pamphlets on how to farm your own goat’s milk to how to build a log cabin in the wilderness; to ads for the personal computer. This romantic and utopian counter culture of “back to nature” and escape from civilization ; is poignantly addressed by Dammbeck’s lengthy foray into Ted Kaczynski’s criminal activities and involvement in Murray’s psyops testing while a promising Harvard math student.

Das Netz seeks to explore the varied social philosophies contributing to the parallel development of the Internet. With the filmmaker’s extensive research, this work opens up dialogue around the Net’s arrival as a broadly conceived and arguably, “experimental” tool. The film, however, omits naming any fundamental and vital connection between countercultural consciousness and the pursuit of a techno-utopia; the era of Howard Rheingold’s Virtual Community, notions of the digital commons and “information wants to be free” – or even to elaborate on the extraordinary meaning of “the Well” (Whole Earth eLectronic Link) – a conceptual groundwork essential to the Internet culture wars and cybercultures as they stand today.

Finally, few films take up the subject of the Net in any seriousness. With the exception of Revolution OS a lengthy essay on the open source movement focusing on Richard Stallmann, Linus Torvald, Steve Wozniak, and numerous others, all interviewed, there are really none of much merit. In this context, it is the brilliant collection of interviews conducted by Dammbeck himself for Das Netz – where we get John Brockmann, Stewart Brand, Bob Taylor, Heinz von Foerster, and David Gelerntner which contribute to an outstanding cinematic cyberhistory and which draw connections rarely made between the worlds of cybernetics and ARPANet; Unabomber victims and their achievements; social theory and “the California effect”. The film’s appeal is as this original and relevant untold story. Referencing many, many artists and thinkers, Das Netz is a “must see” for creative network enthusiasts and those interested in cyber theory, post cold war history or similar subject matter.

There is also a book by the same maker, entitled, Das Netzavailable from Editions Nautilus.