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TEXT: Thinking Global, by Ed Halter

Image: U.S. Pavilion Montreal Expo 67, Buckminster Fuller, 1967 (Image courtesy the Estate of R. Buckminster Fuller)

This text is republished in collaboration with It was released in Rhizome Digest on July/23/08 and appears here as it was originally posted.

In the late 1960s, when the merger of art and technology became a touchstone for both countercultural mind-liberation and New Frontier futurism, Buckminster Fuller served as a central, if gnomic, philosopher of the moment. The first issue of Stewart Brand’s Whole Earth Catalog in 1968 features a semi-mystical autobiographical fragment by Fuller and his poem-cum-manifesto “God is a Verb”; Gene Youngblood’s seminal 1970 study Expanded Cinema includes a lengthy introduction by Fuller, in which he praises the “forward, omni-humanity educating function of man’s total communication system”; and the premier issue of early video art’s central journal Radical Software published a “pirated transcription” of an interview videotaped by the Raindance Corporation. “We hear people talk about technology as something very threatening,” Fuller says in the stream-of-language transcript, “but we are technology, the universe is technology…it’s simply a matter of understanding these things.” Fuller’s own book Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth became an underground best-seller after its publication in 1969. Multimedia collectives like USCO and Ant Farm cited “Bucky” as inspiration; members of the latter group even went so far as to abduct Fuller when he came to speak at the University of Houston, picking him up from the airport under false pretense and taking him instead to see a touring MoMA exhibit entitled The Machine at the End of the Mechanical Age.

This summer, the Whitney mounted a major exhibit on Fuller’s life and work, Buckminster Fuller: Starting With the Universe, on view through September. The show features a variety of Fulleriana, arranged in chronological order, allowing for a roughly biographic experience: sketches, architectural models, concept designs, numerous looped clips from the 1971 documentary The World of Buckminster Fuller, maps and diagrams, original publications, and a 12 foot high cardboard geodesic dome built for the exhibit. Though largely a show about architecture, Starting With the Universe presents Fuller as a revolutionary and visionary thinker who worked, as he put it, “comprehensively,” across disciplines, and a forerunner of 21st century environmental design and networked culture.

It took Fuller many decades to achieve the iconic status he enjoyed in the 1960s. The son of a prominent intellectual New England family (his aunt was Margaret Fuller, the Transcendentalist and pioneering woman journalist), Fuller attended Harvard, dropped out twice, then entered the Navy and served during World War I. After the war, following a failed business enterprise, he claimed to have had a quasi-religious experience while on the brink of suicide. “Apparently addressing myself, I said, ‘You do not have the right to eliminate yourself, you do not belong to you. You belong to the universe,” Fuller wrote years later in the Whole Earth Catalog. “You are fulfilling your significance if you apply yourself to converting all your experience to highest advantage of others.”

On display at the Whitney are a generous sampling of Fuller’s ambitious humanity-enhancing projects of the 20s and 30s, none of which advanced beyond prototypes. Included is an original, cartoonish sketch from 1927 of the world, which he called “One Ocean World Town,” expressing a core Fullerian notion of global interconnectedness inspired by the rise of intercontinental air flight. This became the setting for a 1929 drawing of skyscraper-like structures he called “Lightful Towers” — all-in-one multi-family dwellings that could be planted in the ground like trees, and delivered to sites by zeppelin. These evolved into a single-family dwelling dubbed the 4D House, a hexagonal one-floor structure hung from one central pole containing minimal-waste plumbing, electricity and air conditioning; meant to be constructed cheaply, they were also designed to be easily deconstructable and therefore as portable as a large piece of furniture.

A scale model of Fuller’s 4D House was presented to the public at a surprising location: the Interior Decorating department of Marshall Field’s department store in Chicago, timed to promote a new line of modern furniture. The store’s publicity agent renamed the structure the Dymaxion House (a portmanteau of “dynamic,” “maximum,” and “ion”), a term that Fuller later trademarked and used on a variety of concepts. The Whitney show includes a video clip of outtakes from a 1929 Fox Movietone newsreel of a young Fuller explaining his Dymaxion House model. Shot when the technology of sound movies was still new, Fuller is unusually awkward, evincing none of the smooth charisma that would entrance later generations, speaking stiffly with an old New England uppah-clahss accent. Fiddling with his collapsible scale mock-up, he explains that its odd circus-tent shape “is not an aesthetic choice of my own.” Rather, he continues, its shape is due to the fact that “we are living in a spherical universe.” For Fuller, the structure’s true beauty lay not in its visual form but rather in its denial of conventional ornament and design in favor of structural integrity and efficiency. To follow the deep mathematical patterns of nature, in Fuller’s view, was a means to be in sync with the Universe.
Buckminster Fuller, Dymaxion House and photograph from the Collections of The Henry Ford, Dearborn, MI. 1934 Dymaxion “2” 4D Transport courtesy of the National Automobile Museum (the Harrah Collection), Reno, NV.

A similar concept lies behind the design of the Dymaxion car, a three-wheeled, backwards-teardrop-shaped vehicle created by Fuller in the 1930s as an improvement on the typical automobile. Inspired by the hardnosed engineering of aircraft design, Fuller worked with friend and sculptor Isamu Noguchi to create aerodynamic wind-tunnel models allowing for minimum air resistance and maximum fuel efficiency — a radical notion in the days when a car looked more like a block than a wedge. Images of Noguchi’s gypsum miniatures are on display at the Whitney alongside the last remaining full-scale prototype of the Dymaxion Car, sans interior. Later models, Fuller hoped, would have inflatable wings and be able to take flight.

Throughout the 1930s and 40s, Fuller proposed a number of Dymaxion-style houses, convinced that more efficient means of everyday living was the key to global resource problems. The Dymaxion Deployment Unit converted unused grain shelters into roundhouse-style homes. Though never used as residences, the design was taken up by the US military, who then deployed Fuller’s quickly-built structures during World War II to remote locations in the Pacific and Middle East. After the Allied victory, Fuller devised a means to use surplus wartime materials with the Dymaxion Dwelling Machine, nicknamed the Wichita House, an aluminum dwelling made entirely from aircraft construction machinery and parts. A reconstructed scale model of the Wichita House shows twelve identical, flattened metal domes equally spaced around a cul-de-sac, glowing with rings of circular windows, resembling an eerie conflation of Atomic-era suburbia and The Day the Earth Stool Still. Such a stark, factory-floor style may not have thrilled recent veterans, tired of living for years in anonymous, utilitarian barracks.

In 1948, Fuller began teaching at the Black Mountain College in North Carolina, an avant-garde refuge where he worked alongside Merce Cunningham, John Cage, and Willem de Kooning. While at Black Mountain, Fuller developed sculptural models of his theory of “tensegrity”, or the productive tensions available within the form of a single object. With his students, he constructed his first geodesic dome. Created to allow for maximum volume and strength from minimum materials, the geodesic dome held its shape solely from its framework of interlocking triangular beams, without need for other reinforcements. It quickly became his most successful design. In the early 1950s, Fuller implemented his first practical application of the dome for the roof of a Ford Motor Company building in Michigan. Soon after, the military began using small geodesics as emergency shelter in remote locales, and the government started a long career of erecting Fuller domes at international exhibits as symbols of American ingenuity and technological prowess: first at a global trade fair in Kabul, Afghanistan, and later at the American National Exhibition in Moscow in 1959. That same year, Fuller was hailed as design innovator at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, which mounted an exhibit entitled Three Structures by Buckminster Fuller in its sculpture garden, including a plastic geodesic dome, an aluminum tensegrity tower, and a horizontal frame built with the “octet truss,” a form based on interconnected tetrahedrons, a shape Fuller lauded as the simplest structural unit found in nature.

By the 1960s, as Fuller entered his 70s, he transformed into full-blown guru-intellectual — a role uniquely possible in the age of Timothy Leary and Marshall McLuhan — jetting around the globe to give legendarily marathon lectures to thousands. Tirelessly arguing for the power of technology to improve the future of humanity, at a time when many opposed both the “dehumanizing” computerization of society and the high-tech war in Vietnam, Fuller became paradoxically both an advocate for American technocracy and an inspiration to countercultural radicals. Even before Fuller’s famous 200-foot tall dome was erected at the American Pavillion of the 1967 Expo in Montreal, where it would house monumental paintings by the likes of Andy Warhol and Barnett Newman, a ramshackle cluster of utopian hippies called Drop City had already constructed their own village of Fuller-inspired domes in a rural backwater of Colorado. As chronicled in Felicity D. Scott’s recent study Architecture or Techno-Utopia, “droppers” saw in Fuller’s dome an externalized manifestation of a new consciousness. “With few resources but idealism and the conviction that they were ‘total revolutionaries,'” Scott writes, “the droppers believed they were ‘rebuilding the world’ as an open, communal society one dome at a time,” using the blueprints that Uncle Bucky had bequeathed them.

Though the Whitney’s exhibit alludes only obliquely to the existence of droppers and their ilk, Fuller himself had his own grandiose ideas for reshaping society, represented here in a series of concept illustrations of fantastic megastructures. He envisioned midtown Manhattan ensconced in a mile-high, temperature-controlled dome. Even more trippy were his visions of gigantic “Tetrahedron Cities” housing a million residents each, sitting on the outskirts of Tokyo (and rhyming the peak of Mt. Fuji) or floating off the coast of San Francisco. He also imagined large-scale systems for visualizing global resource problems. One plan was “Minni Earth,” a giant scale-model planet floating in the East River next to the UN building, dotted with lights representing population growth, food shortages, and other pressing data. He devised a triangle-based Dymaxion Map that represented the continents with less distortion than the standard Mercator projection, and had the added bonus of picturing the inhabited continents as one near-contiguous land mass: a “one-world-island in a one-world-ocean,” as he put it. Fuller used giant floor-sized versions of this map to play something he called The World Game — a peaceful version of military war games in which players must figure out how to cooperate to share the world’s limited resources. The World Game, Fuller thought, might someday become the entire curriculum of the university.
Minni Earth Location at U.N. Building, N.Y., 1956 (drawing by Winslow Wedin), Ink and graphite on tracing paper mounted on board 15 x 20 in. (38.1 x 50.8 cm), Department of Special Collections, Stanford University Libraries (Photograph by Ben Blackwell)

So if Fuller saw himself as the educator of the future, what should we hope to learn from him now? Why celebrate him in 2008, a quarter century after his death? Solidly embracing the great-man biography model, Starting with the Universe is resolutely invested in establishing Fuller’s significance. In its zeal, the exhibit isolates Bucky as a wholly unique figure at the expense of granting historical context to his inventions and ideas. Casual museum-goers might never consider that schemes for achieving far-reaching social betterment were far from uncommon in 20th century architecture, from Le Corbusier to Neutra and beyond, or that Fuller was not alone in drafting freaky fantasy plans like cloud-cities and underwater homes; contemporary firms like the British Archigram and the Italian Superstudio served up even more far-out dreamscapes (though the show’s catalog does a more comprehensive job of situating Fuller within a larger history). Nor does the exhibit dwell much on the fact that Fuller, like Edison, was as much a myth-maker as he was an inventor: two of his central ideas, the geodesic dome and tensegrity, were actually invented by others before him, and his oft-cited moment of suicidal epiphany that he claims kick-started his career may be nothing but well-crafted fiction.

Nevertheless, the exhibit is utterly convincing in testifying to Fuller’s inspirational potential. Many reports on the show have cited Fuller’s prescience as a prophet of ecological sustainability, but the issue of the environment was only one factor in his truly global attempts at problem-solving — and, in fact, Fuller was no tree-hugger; he always weighed humanity’s own needs as highest priority.

More broadly, at a time when many artists and intellectuals have consigned their work to the comfortable margins, valorizing tactical interventions, small-scale craft and near-mute lessness, the epic scope of Fuller’s vision reminds us that it need not be this way. When massive problems loom, why not think big?

Ed Halter is a critic and curator living in New York City. His writing has appeared in Arthur, The Believer, Cinema Scope, Kunstforum, Millennium Film Journal, the Village Voice and elsewhere. From 1995 to 2005, he programmed and oversaw the New York Underground Film Festival, and has organized screenings and exhibitions for the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Cinematexas, Eyebeam, the Flaherty Film Seminar, the Museum of Modern Art, and San Francisco Cinematheque. He currently teaches in the Film and Electronic Arts department at Bard College, and has lectured at Harvard, NYU, Yale, and other schools as well as at Art in General, Aurora Picture Show, the Foundation for Art and Creative Technology, the Images Festival, the Impakt Festival, and Pacific Film Archive. His book From Sun Tzu to Xbox: War and Video Games was published by Thunder’s Mouth Press in 2006. With Andrea Grover, he is currently editing the collection Small Cinemas: American Avant-Garde Film Exhibition from Ciné Clubs to Microcinemas. He is a founder and director of Light Industry, a venue for film and electronic art in Brooklyn, New York.

Rhizome Commissions Program

Deadline for applications: midnight, March 31, 2008

Rhizome supports: New Media Art, by which we mean projects that creatively engage new and networked technologies and also works that reflect on the impact of these tools and media in a variety of forms. Commissioned projects can take the final form of online works, performance, video, installation or sound art. Projects can be made for the context of the gallery, the public, or the web.

Amount: 7 commissions in the amount of $3000-5000

Image: our logo is attached.

Guidelines and application forms can be found here:

INTERVIEW: Michael Smith, by Ceci Moss

Image: Michael Smith, Lighting Affects, 2008

This text is republished in collaboration with It was released in Rhizome Digest on 01/23/08 and appears here as it was originally posted.

FROM: Ceci Moss
DATE: Wednesday January 23, 2008
SUBJECT: Interview with Michael Bell-Smith

Philadelphia-based artist Michael Bell-Smith creates digital animations comprised of repurposed images from the internet and video games. Presented as meditative scenes shown on flat screens and the web, his practice engages the history of perspective and painting in light of a larger visual culture informed by digital technology. For his new show “Bouncing Lights Forever”, which opened at New York gallery Foxy Production January 10th, Bell-Smith continued this exploration by increasing the size and scale of his works. Smith will give a talk on the exhibition Electronic Arts Intermix February 6th at 6:30pm.

CECI MOSS: The title of the show is “Bouncing Lights Forever”. In your work, the viewer feels suspended in infinite motion, a quality aptly captured by the title for your exhibition. I think your work proposes a meditative loop in relationship to historiographer Hayden White’s idea of a “modernist event”, a term which refers to the contemporary convergence of the event, its representation, and the dissemination of that representation into one moment. I would like to know what your thoughts are on the acceleration of these kind of events in time, and if you feel this is represented in your aesthetic.

MICHAEL BELL-SMITH: I think of this “meditative loop” more in terms of moments frozen in time, excerpts of a larger narrative or system that we can focus in on and break apart. It’s hard for me to tie that into the idea of a modernist event, as I see this work as pretty far removed from a real-world referent, from an original event. I think what’s more at play for me, is not the acceleration of this representation and dissemination, but the displacement – that these various references are floating around, bouncing off each other and multiplying.

CECI MOSS: Is there a larger narrative or system at play in the work? You describe displacement, and I wonder if this is a result of an overflow of multiple representations, rather than the dismantling of one larger narrative. That’s what I was getting at when I asked about the “modernist event”. Why do you think your work is removed from a real-world referent? How do you make that distinction?

MICHAEL BELL-SMITH: You’re right – it’s not a singular thing, it’s the various systems and narratives of visual culture: movies, the Internet, television, advertising, video games, art history, etc. But there’s also a way in which all these separate things are blurred together – I think this is what you’re getting at. Works like “Starfields 1” and “Starfields 2,” there’s different entry points: is it Star Trek, a screensaver, a video game, an advertisement, the act of flying through space itself, or just a bunch of white squares moving out from a center point? This is what I meant by being removed from a real world referent – that for me these pieces fit more in this realm of messy references, than one where you can trace things back to an original event.

CECI MOSS: In the past, in pieces such as “Self Portrait, NYC” and “Continue 2000”, you amplified the sensation of movement by using human figures as a static focal point. In your most recent work, I noticed not only that these figures were absent, but also that you increased the size and scale of your works immensely, for “Glitter Bend” especially. It seems you intend to generate a vantage point of magnitude, and in so doing, envelop the viewer into the piece. Why did you decide to expand perspective in this way?

MICHAEL BELL-SMITH: There’s a pictorial completeness in “Self Portrait, NYC” and “Continue: 2000” – a foreground and a background which add up to a picture, suggest a situation, etc. With the work in this show, I wasn’t interested in complete pictures as much as the elements we use to construct them. The lack of figures is my way of focusing on the backgrounds, making it more about these pieces and how we use them, than about full compositions.

There’s an aspect of the larger scale of the works – as far as physical size is concerned – which is simply about putting the works on an experiential par with paintings and other large scale pictures. I didn’t want the digital-ness of the pieces so tied to the experience of a personal computer, because ultimately the ways in which technology affects the way we view and process images – my main interest – extend way beyond the computer screen. So the scale is partially a gesture towards saying this is about more than personal computers, the internet, or video games.

I often aim to make work that while immersive, also foregrounds the simplicity of it’s structure, offering a counterpoint to that seduction. With “Glitter Bend” and “Building Across from Glitter Bend,” especially, I think the larger scale helps to serve that duality – blown up, they’re simultaneously more immersive, and easier to pick apart.

CECI MOSS: What is the structure that you’re “foregrounding”?

MICHAEL BELL-SMITH: The structure of the work itself, the way it’s been constructed – the pixels, the different elements, the layers, the composition, etc. I want people to be able to look at a work like Glitter Bend, and on one hand say “wow,” but on the other, be able to say “it’s just a bunch of shapes; I can see the individual pixels; I can see how each piece loops; I can see how he constructs perspective; I can see how he suggests scale; etc. ” They may have no sense of the technology behind it – the software I use, etc. – but on that certain level, they know how I made it. It’s the opposite of the way these things usually work: while most digital images are designed to hide their construction, I want it up front.

CECI MOSS: The five panels of “Moving, Endless (Samples)” immediately reminded me of the tonality of James Turrell’s installations. Turrell sculpted light within the boundaries of the built structure, whereas in your work, light is dictated by the limitations of the screen. Turrell’s practice heightened the viewer’s awareness of sight, and I would like to know if this concern propels you, especially as it relates to the contemporary experience of a viewer stationed in front of the computer.

MICHAEL BELL-SMITH: I had certainly thought about James Turrell with those pieces (as well as Donald Judd, Sol Lewitt and Mark Rothko, etc.), but his work is so much about experiencing these controlled environments, while to me, those panels are mostly pictures, or things. Bringing in the experience of sitting at a computer isn’t intentional. I was more interested in creating a setting where these digital images could employ the forms of minimalism, or the physical presence of framed pictures. Again, it’s a tactic to have the work read in relationship to concerns broader than the computer itself. For me, one aspect of the piece is computer-centric: the idea of quantization, that in order to represent something digitally, one needs to chop it into pieces. The reduced palette and pixilated dithering are gestures towards this idea. Again, its emphasizing that which is normally hidden. But that idea is coupled with something broader – the color gradient and the connotations! it carries in visual culture. While gradients are simple systems, they’re also used as shorthand for big sophisticated things like skys and sunsets, a starting point in the creation of this piece. In one sense the work is a series of quantized sunsets – a gesture that is as much about representation, language and the sublime as it is about technology.


For An Art Against the Cartography of Everyday Life

Image source: Behind the Scene
Title: “Milk” by Esther Polak and Ieva Auzina

This text is republished in collaboration with It was released in Rhizome Digest on 10/03/07 and appears here as it was originally posted.

This is a shorter version of a text published in the Re-Public journal (links to notes and sources can be found at the article hosted on the journal’s site) There are also articles by Peter Lunenfeld, Eyal Weizman, Arlen Dilsizian, and others that would be of interest.

Simply put, everyday life might be the name for the desire of totality in postmodern times.

(Ben Highmore, Everyday Life and Cultural Theory)

We should now talk of people making not their own history but their own geography.

(John Urry, “Social Relations, Space and Time”, in Spatial Relations
and Spatial Structures)

The title of this essay is a remix of the title of an essay by artist Martha Rosler originally published in 1979, “For an Art Against the Mythology of Everyday Life”. Rosler’s text is an engagement with what was then the emerging context now often referred to as “post-industrial globalization.” More specifically, it is an engagement from the perspective of someone attempting to make things – art works – that can “address these banally profound issues of everyday life, thereby revealing the public and political in the personal”. She was particularly interested in both the oppressive and potentially liberating aspects of “mass media.” Here, I want to take up where Rosler left off, discussing the potential of art, and technology, to “step toward reasonably and humanely changing the world” using the example of what is commonly referred to as “locative media.”

The “Locative Media” label has been used to refer to both commercial and “critical” avant garde applications of geospatially aware technologies. Both often share a predilection for revealing the individual experience of “everyday life” and connecting it to larger, socially mediated and networked forms of experience. Locative media relies on the placement and movement of devices that can compute, and then transmit, their location to other, equally connected devices, like computers. In a larger cultural sphere, this is visible in the proliferation of the Geographic Positioning System (GPS) technology that is becoming increasingly common in devices like cell phones and automobiles. Locative media benefits from such deployment of communication technologies as “ubiquitous” – to be everywhere, at all times, and often unnoticed and inaccessible. Such notions of ubiquity can’t help but intersect with notions of “the everyday” – where else is “the everyday” if not in “the everywhere”?

Rosler begins “For an Art Against the Mythology of Everyday Life” with the question, “Where do ideas come from?” (p. 3). She immediately answers her question with, “All the myths of everyday life stitched together form a seamless envelope of ideology, the false account of the workings of the world.” Notions of “the everyday” as a site of resistance, dissent and creativity have been celebrated for their embodiment of what Michel deCerteau referred to as “tactics”. This somewhat utopian depiction of “making do” in the face of regimes of power, however, can equally serve to reinforce the “myths of everyday life” Rosler is trying to make knowable. The condition of always acting tactically requires a constant state of sublimation and reactionary posturing, that while potentially liberating in the face of short term oppression, can never respond adequately to inequities.

On the commercial side, the ideological link between life and consumption is even more seamless than before. The utopian side of this is represented by the image of an endless network of consumers, newly empowered to publicly share their experiences and encounters with products and places. But is this consumer networking changing the desires that have shaped centuries of violent inequity? For one answer, we can look at the popularity of mapping applications that facilitate commercial real estate transactions, such as that connects Craigslist real estate listings and Google Maps. The following statement from Thai Tran, a Google Maps product manager, commenting on the release of a new panoramic, photo-based interface by Google, is revealing:

One day we were looking at two of the original Google Maps mashups, and, and we realized it would be even more useful if they could be combined because most people wouldn’t want to live near high crime areas.

In Trans’ statement, we find that, for all the new technologically- facilitated “communities” we can now create, they don’t look all that different from those divided by racialized red-lines, created by earlier generations of GIS applications. I will return to some of the implications of this technological inscription of desire later, but would like to shift into a discussion of locative media as it is practiced and celebrated within the avant garde cultural sphere, and more specifically, in contemporary art.

One contemporary locative media art work that has received much attention (the 2005 Golden Nica Award at Ars Electronica and exhibited in “Making Things Public” at the ZKM) is a mapping project by Esther Polak, Ieva Auzina and the Riga Center for New Media Culture (RIXC) titled “MILK.” Completed from 2003 through 2005, “MILK” follows the production and distribution of cheese, from Latvian dairy farms to the markets of Utrecht. Following the movements of nine “participants” (selected people involved in the making, moving and consumption of cheese) through the use of GPS devices given to them, “MILK” proposes to give us a glimpse into the social, and spatial, construction of cheese. The self-generated press for the project positions it as a “locative art – mapping project, that explores visual and documenting possibilities of GPS technology.”

The project’s basic components consist of some text, video and photographic imagery that records the movements of farmers, dealers and buyers of cheese. Through these mediations, the artists represent the spatial histories and knowledges that are, for all practical purposes, otherwise inaccessible and invisible in the material of cheese. “MILK” re-presents “cheese” as a body of knowledge that can be engaged on a human scale, through the actions and thoughts of those involved in its production, and on a more macro scale, through visualizations that reveal the geographic distances and time involved in its materialization.

Not surprising, one of the primary influences in the creation of the project, stated by Esther Polak, was the artist’s recollection of an earlier documentary project of rural life, poet James Agee and photographer Walker Evans’ 1941 account of poor farmers in the US South, “Let Us Now Praise Famous Men.” Evans’ and Agee’s project, begun as an assignment for Fortune Magazine in 1936, is in many ways a classic example of New Deal era documentary work, combining the aesthetic sensibilities of the two artists with the Progressive political values of the emerging welfare state. As Polak and other commentators on “Let Us Now Praise Famous Men” have noted, the book is both celebrated and criticized for its “experimental” or “difficult” method of combining text and pictures. Polak goes so far as to call it a “technological experiment,” echoing other common impressions of the work as “challenging” and rejecting “any vision of the world as clearly understandable and ordered.” This reading of Agee and Evans’ collaboration provides Polak, and her perceived audience, with a precedent for MILK – the creation of an experimental, yet universalizing, narrative of the everyday existence of rural farmers. Both share the familiar documentary aim of making visible for their audience the stories of marginalized people and places.

This identification with documentary should not be surprising, but should also not give undue import to the artists’ intentions. It does, however, provide a lens through which to view the materialization of meanings that locative media represents, meanings that, I argue, can be productively read as a further development in documentary image making. It is important to note that while some instances of locative media are more easily relatable to documentary traditions, such as “MILK,” other locative practices don’t begin or end with those traditions.

Where locative media practitioners and proponents can point to the difference between their work and conventional documentary practice is in their desire and ability to annotate space – to link their narratives to specific, geographic contexts. Many locative media projects use geo-spatial technology to attach stories, sound and relationships to locations such that an intersection between virtual/ networked space and geographic space can be used to visualize invisible or imaginary realities. The Toronto-based [murmur] project, for example, produces audio stories about specific locations, using stickers marked with phone numbers to provide access to those stories for people inhabiting those very spaces, attempting to “change the way people think about that place” by bringing “that important archive out onto the streets.”

In many respects, I can find in contemporary locative media practices a response to critiques of archival and documentary models, by Rosler and others, like artist and theorist Alan Sekula. [murmur]’s creation of an alternative archive of Toronto, for example, could be read as an answer to Sekula’s dictum that “the archive has to be read from below, from a position of solidarity with those displaced, deformed, silenced, or made invisible by the machineries of profit and progress.” (”Reading an archive”, in Blasted Allegories, p. 184)

If locative media purports to provide tools for the creation and reception of counter-archives, providing access to the very means of knowledge (and therefore historical) production, this indeed seems an emancipatory shift toward self-representation. But the means through which locative media operates should also be considered. In recent debates about the cultural capital that locative media has been attracting, critiques leveled against its most visible instances have accused it of complicity with capitalist spectacle and, worse, as cultural research and development for surveillance and data mining industries. Many have attacked this complicity and the historical connections between contemporary technologies of geographic visualization and the US military.

On the one hand, the significance of location-based media art can be critically analyzed through the established framework of representation; using the tools of cultural and visual studies, we can arrive at a reading of how the content of locative media fits into, or ruptures, the current paradigms of meaning, signification and knowledge production. As Anne Galloway and Matthew Ward have shown, we can see locative media as an extension of “representational technologies,” as “ultimately understood as collections of cultural artifacts.”

But this would be only looking at locative media as a mechanism of representation, without consideration of the affective qualities of the technology itself. Without ignoring the importance of representation, and avoiding a reductive technological determinist analysis, we can look at the manner in which locative media could be read through Gilles Deleuze’s notion of a “control society” in which access and mobility are designed into systems, rather than enforced through disciplinary means. This reading might, for example, begin with the material history of Geographic Information Systems (GIS), the mapping of quantifiable, spatial information about populations and environments, with its origins in the combination of Cold War era MGIS (Military Geographic Information Systems) and earlier forms of mapping the urban housing crisis during the Great Depression, and even earlier examples such as John Snow’s mid 19th Century map of a London cholera outbreak (pp. 261-82). GIS became a valuable tool in the ongoing domestic wars against the urban poor under the guise of “urban renewal,” dissecting cities with highways and other forms of what Mike Davis has referred to as “third borders.” In this light, contemporary geo-tracking tools can be seen as part of what geographer Stephen Graham calls “software-sorted geographies,” where the sorting of social privileges is achieved not through enforcement of compliance, but rather through a preemptive selection of allowable conditions achieved through the employment of regulatory software in spaces of potential conflict. Just as walls and massive highways can serve to regulate movements between regions of a city, software, when connected to mechanical access points, can be used to regulate access to transportation, buildings and services.

The melding of knowledge and space requires the simultaneous fusing of that knowledge with privileges of mobility and technological access. Mediated space becomes an archive, not of political contestation, but of narratives accessible only to those who benefit from voluntary processes of surveillance. This is not the panoptic surveillance of Foucault’s disciplinary society, it is the surveillance of supermarket value cards, toll-road EZ passes, automobile GPS tracking systems and biometric airline regulation.

The Italian collective Multiplicity provide a significantly different instance of location awareness through which geographies of inequity are visualized and experienced. In a project titled “Road Map,” the collective made two journeys of similar distance, through Israeli and Palestinian-controlled territories, one time using an Israeli passport, the other time a Palestinian one. These two journeys were mapped and recorded with video, documenting the disparity in duration between the trips – roughly one hour with the Israeli passport, and over five hours with the Palestinian papers. Opposed to the view of space presented by MILK’s GPS derived drawings on pixelated, abstracted renderings of Europe, what Michael Curry has called a “view from nowhere,” “Road Map” presents an understanding of space as inextricable from the systems that shape it (p. 52). There is no neutral ground upon which to project narrative movements, only a ground delineated with checkpoints and regulated zones for some and by-pass roads for others. There is not one map, but (at least) two.

Acknowledging the shifting boundaries between the space we consider inhabitable and these computerized spaces, the notion that we are moving through the space created by satellites and control centers, miles away from our perceived location, becomes thinkable. And if we can move through these spaces, our movements can likewise be regulated by them. And just as they become part of established conceptions of “the everyday,” they likewise alter the boundaries of knowledge, either opening or sealing the envelope of ideology further. New Media theorist Drew Hemment has suggested that locative media might be better termed “embedded media” in recognition of its “inherent complicity in the operation of power,” referring, of course, to the recent practice of journalists being “embedded” with the US military. This notion of an “embedded” locative media turns citizens into prosumers (the popular neologism referring to productive consumers) of locatable content, content that is designed as much to analyze their movements and habits as it is to entertain or educate them. One might say the King’s minions have taken it upon themselves to write a contemporary Domesday Book themselves. Only the King isn’t such a simple entity anymore, but is rather some messy chimera of state and corporate interests.

It seems important to ask if it is sufficient merely to acknowledge complicity, to accept the dialectical utopian/dystopian visions. In another text on documentary and photography, Rosler questions representations of power that defy causal analysis:

“If there are no victims – or if, what amounts to the same thing, we are all equally victims – then there are no oppressors. Social inequality appears to be produced by a system without active human agents or collective remedies. …in the present map of the world, the self-same photo might simply be readable as an image of the random Brownian motion of individuals present in the same unit of space-time, and adding up only to numbers, not to ’society.” (p. 177)

Technology may further mediate power and control, and in many senses physically embody them, but does technology replace ideology? Does perspective collapse under the weight of 24 satellites? Michael Curry suggests that the “view from nowhere” always and already occupies a position of interest, but the interest becomes located further and further from the place of power – in this case, literally in space (p. 52). If the tendency of the control society is to embed ideology into mechanisms of domination, essentially black-boxing oppression, how can the black box be opened and its contents documented?

Rhizome Community Campaign

Just over one month remains until the close of our annual Community Campaign. We are seeking support for our online programs in 2008, including our daily art coverage, in-depth criticism, discussion forums, artist commissions and online exhibitions. Like all our efforts, these programs are underlined by our mission to encourage and expand new media art practices and discourse. We are calling on our community — all those who read or participate in Rhizome year-round — to make a contribution during this critical Campaign. Become a member ($25) or make an additional donation and receive a special limited edition artwork as a thank you gift. Help us keep Rhizome’s online real estate running strong!

INTERVIEW: Eddo Stern, by Thomas Beard

This text is republished in collaboration with It was released in Rhizome Digest on 12/13/06 and appears here as it was originally posted.

From: Thomas Beard Subject: Interview by Eddo Stern, by Thomas Beard

Commissioned by

Last month at Cinematexas, Eddo Stern unveiled Darkgame (prototype), a videogame installation in which two participants, playing against each other maneuver avatars around a two-dimensional plane, their movements projected against the gallery wall. What’s unusual about this scenario is that the experience for both parties involves elements of sensory deprivation. One person is completely “blind,” unable to view the main interface and responding only to nonvisual cues: the vibrations of a headset Stern designed to correspond with the location of the opposing player, and related audio signals. And while the other character is able to see the action play out in real time, the field of play becomes obscured when he or she is hit and small patches of gray begin to expand. Sure to open up new avenues for gaming, it’s an education of the senses and a truly heady mod.

Well known for his work on such projects as Tekken Torture Tournament, where gamers endured electric shocks relative to the injuries of their onscreen fighters, and Waco Resurrection, in which players assume the role of David Koresh as government authorities advance on the Branch Davidian compound, Stern’s art challenges and expands not only our relationships with videogames, but also the social and political histories from which they spring. In this interview, Thomas Beard speaks with Stern about his latest work, as well as MIDIs, memes, and the act of straddling the worlds of art, industry, and internet culture.

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Re-launch of

Rhizome is pleased to announce the re-launch of our website. Take a look and let us know what you think:

Our goals for the re-design were to expand and enrich our community features and to make the overall site more clear and easy to use.

Below are a few very exciting (well, we think so) new developments.

1) We upgraded our main community platform – our email list raw — by separating it into three distinct channels: discussion, opportunities and an arts calendar. These three channels are web-based, i.e. you must post to them online, but they can all be subscribed to via email and RSS.




The exchange of art and ideas around a new medium has always been at the core of Rhizome. We hope that our new discussion forum will spark more critical conversations, and that our community will find the new calendar and opportunities channels to be useful connecting points to the field.

NOTE for subscribers to raw: You are now subscribed to both discussion and announcements (calendar and opportunities). If you’d like to switch up your subscriptions, sign into Rhizome and go to subscriptions in your account. You will still be able to post to Rhizome via email January 15, 2008. We wanted to give people time to adjust to the new system.

2) We improved our individual profile pages so people could better represent their art, influences and writing on Rhizome. Below is a sample page from one of our staff members:

As you can see above, we enhanced the portfolio section, and added areas for members to upload their own audio, video as well as link to their own blog.

While we were making improvements to these individual pages, we decided it would be best to make our Member Directory a general feature, i.e. open to everyone. It has been re-titled Profiles and now encompasses our members, and also the artists in the ArtBase, and others who’ve signed up.

INSTRUCTIONS: If you’d like to fill out your profile, sign in and adjust the sections under Profile in your account.

3) In general, we oriented the site around our two core organizational values: art and community. The site is now more ‘visually’ art-centered; see our emphasis on art on the front page and look forward to more illustrative views of our online archive, the Artbase.

It is thanks to member support that Rhizome has reached this point and also been able to lay down a strong foundation for new features to come. It is also thanks to our director of technology Patrick May who produced the site and laid a strong foundation for future development. We’d also like to thank the design firm Gelo Factory for their collaboration.

So, please give us feedback! Tell us what you like, don’t like or want more of. And, please be patient with us as we work out bugs and, when you stumble across any, let us know: .

Thank you so much for your continued support and participation. We hope you like the new and improved .

Lauren Cornell
Executive Director

INTERVIEW: Natalie Bewernitz and Marek Goldowski, by Miguel Amado

This text is republished in collaboration with It was released in Rhizome Digest on 4/25/07 and appears here as it was originally posted.

Cologne-based German artists Natalie Bewernitz & Marek Goldowski were recently featured in ‘Volume,’ a group show at Brooklyn’s 3rd Ward that explored sound, 3D animation, and video as privileged media in contemporary art. Their participation in this exhibition followed a 6-month residency at New York’s Location One, where they developed a new multi-stage project, ‘Unveiled Presence (Secret Sounds),’ the second part of which was on view in ‘Volume.’ As illustrated by this piece, Bewernitz & Goldowski employ technology in different yet significant ways to create emotionally powerful interactive installations often involving computer-based self-generating sound. Here, Rhizome Curatorial Fellow Miguel Amado interviews them about their practice.

MA: Tell me about your background…

NB/MG: We both studied at Cologne’s Academy of Media Art and since 2000 we have been working together. Natalie has focused on photography, performance, and video while Marek has been involved in experimental sound related to theatre and film for about 15 years. We merged our skills and interests to develop a practice that touches these aspects, but is specifically concerned with the potential of sound as an artistic medium within an art context.

MA: You completed a residency at Location One in New York in the beginning of this year. What do you think of the New York art scene, especially in relation to sound, which plays a significant role in your practice?

NB/MG: New York has, of course, a dynamic art scene, with its museums, hundreds of galleries, and thousands of artists. It’s difficult to stay aware of everything that is going on. But New York also has a strong lively experimental music scene. Usually, sound artists float between the art and/or music fields yet this is not what we felt in New York, as sound is truly respected as an artistic medium and artists with different backgrounds use it very legitimately.

MA: How was the residency?

NB/MG: The residency constituted a very exciting experience. Location One’s staff has helped us a lot, introducing us to the New York art scene, with its different institutions, for example, and bringing us together with numerous fellow artists, curators, and critics. To be able to step into dialogue with them allowed us to examine our practice, as they provided fresh perspectives on our body of work and that gave us a different point of view on our projects.

MA: You have had the chance to develop a new project while you’ve been in New York. Can you discuss it?

NB/MG: We created a site-specific installation inspired in Marcel Duchamp’s ‘A bruit secret.’ We were interested in recording what we call the secret sounds of the rooftop water towers found all over New York. For us, they look like Duchamp’s assisted readymade and our starting point was he thought when he made the piece in 1916. We selected four different water towers around the Manhattan bridge. They are located as four corner points in a rectangular shape, two on one side and two on the other side. Their location would provide a rich and enclosed soundscape on which to make a recording–from all four water towers at the same time. However, it took a long time to get permission to make the recordings on the water towers, so we decided to start a second chapter of ‘secret sounds’ which has to do with the crying and whining sound of the subways. This work, ‘Unveiled Presence (secret sounds 2),’ was shown at Location One’s group show featuring the artists in residence that w!
as on view last February and March.

MA: In terms of its presentation, how does this work operate?

NB/MG: The piece is built up with a pair of nickeled wires, which are about an about 300 inches long and which are put under tension between two walls that function as fixing points. Both of these wires are parallel to each other and at the same height, about 30 inches. On the floor, under the wires, are mounted four loudspeakers, which are connected all together with a thin wire. The loudspeakers are playing back a composition of the crying and whining sounds of the subways. The vibrations on the wire are picked up with sensors and fed back into the mixer with the composition, the feedback sound merging with the similar-sounding subway composition.

MA: The piece is very allegorical…

NB/MG: The pair of nickeled wires alludes to the subway rails that, along with the vibrations, symbolize the veins of the city. Thus the trains act as the bloodflow under the skin of the streets and buildings. The crying metal sound provides a lively component to the abstract rendering of the installation and, as the well-known metaphor about New York puts it, the feedback suggests a never-sleeping organism.

MA: When will you conclude the first stage of this project?

NB/MG: The first stage is still under development and we are currently searching for an adequate visualization of the water towers. We are planning to combine the two chapters of ‘secret sounds’ in one large-scale installation that will become an abstract model of the soundscape of the DUMBO area around the Manhattan bridge.

MA: How does this work relate to your overall practice?

NB/MG: In other works, the collecting of ‘real,’ non manipulated material is very essential. We arrange this material with both computer-based techniques and analog/mechanic processes. This diverse use of technology, with high-tech and low-tech components, tends to be very advanced. For example, we utilize processes ranging from microphone field recording to multi-channel granular synthesis. This piece resorts to found sound and vibration recordings, which are presented in a minimal low-tech installation with a spatial dimension. In another work, ‘The lightness…’ (2002), we created a fictional farewell message of a female suicide assassin in which the mechanical granulation of the video picture through the sound of the voice is very much in this direction. We often work with the shredding of conventional media. ‘EPG’ (2003) works on a similar basis; namely, with the dissipation of a field recording of an interview in thousands of small samples, just to rearrange it with a !
computer-based mouth interface. Simulation is also an important topic, which is contained in works like ‘Sweet Life’ (2003) or ‘SINUSINUS’ (2002).

Dismantling, slicing, translating, rearranging, simulating, the failure of simulation: This is a very common structural sequence in our projects. Perception in both bodily and intellectual terms, as well as its relation to cultural codes, connects the basic components of our works, as we theoretically and practically explore the question of how a person can be mapped with his/her characteristics, his/her existence and the related peculiarities of his/her identities. Tracing the possibilities and limits of depicting the individual personality–its physical, spiritual, and psychological dimensions–is in the focus of our attention. Furthermore, our projects deal with the awareness of space and sound in the form of both interactive and passive multi-channel installations. This was the case in ‘Windtuner’ (1999/2004), ‘Encounter One’ (2001), and ‘SINUSINUS.’ Against this backdrop, we work with computer-based self-generating sound creation in real time (e.g. MAX/MSP), as well as !
the manipulation of the audio components within installations utilizing sensorial and other external controls. In some recent projects, we have been integrating independent sound systems in live performances in order to explore their instrumental character–as in ‘Encounter One’ (2001) and ‘EPG’ (2003.

MA: What are you working on, now, and what are your future projects?

NB/MG: We are preparing an exhibition in China. This project will be part of the:artist:network NY’s SURGE at the 798 Art Festival in Beijing. We will show ‘The lightness…’ in a Mandarin-spoken version, specific to the local context. We will also develop a performance of ‘EPG’ with sound collected in Beijing. A controlling interface will be used for granulating field recordings that we will extensively make in Beijing. The exhibition will then travel to major museums in Shanghai and Shenzhen. We are very excited about this show and look forward to visiting China.

INTERVIEW: Charlie Gere, Christiane Paul, Jemima Rellie, by Lauren Cornell

This text is republished in collaboration with It was released in two parts in Rhizome Digest, 06/20/07 and 6/27/07, and appears here as it was originally posted.

On March 20th of this year, a vast and promising new space opened in Gijon, Asturias: the LABoral Art and Industrial Creation Centre. Devoted to the ‘the exhibition, research, training and production of new art and industrial creation,’ LABoral opened with four exhibitions: GAMEWORLD, EXTENSIONS-ANCHORS, LABCYBERSPACE, and FEEDBACK—the latter of which was organized by Charlie Gere, Christiane Paul, and Jemima Rellie. The three curators bring a tremendous amount of experience to FEEDBACK, a show that is ambitious in both scale and premise. Charlie Gere is Reader in New Media Research in the Institute for Cultural Research, Lancaster University & Chair of Computers and the History of Art (CHArt); Jemima Rellie is Head of Digital Programmes at the Tate; and Christiane Paul is Adjunct Curator of New Media Arts at the Whitney Museum of American Art and director of Intelligent Agent. All have published widely on digital art and new media. Their exhibition breaks down established boundaries between disciplines to present a fresh perspective on art history, one that connects new media to artistic practices not usually seen as historical precursors. This interview was conducted via email after the exhibition opened.

LC: Your exhibition, FEEDBACK, casts a broad historical look at art that is responsive. It bridges categories that are often considered mutually exclusive by showing interconnections between software-based projects, net art, light works, early performance, and kinetic sculpture, amongst other forms. Could you discuss the themes of the exhibition and how you arrived at the exhibition title FEEDBACK?

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INTERVIEW: “The Last Avant-Garde” Domenico Quaranta interviews Mark Tribe & Reena Jana

From: domenico quaranta
Date: Oct 30, 2006
Subject: The Last Avant-garde. Interview with Mark Tribe & Reena Jana
From: domenico quaranta
Date: Oct 30, 2006
Subject: The Last Avant-garde. Interview with Mark Tribe & Reena Jana

This text is republished in collaboration with It was released on Rhizome Digest, 11/08/06, and appears here as it was originally posted.

Rough version of an interview with Mark Tribe & Reena Jana, authors of NEW MEDIA ART (Taschen, Kln 2006). A shorter version has been published in Flash Art Italia, Issue 260, October November 2006, p. 73.

Domenico Quaranta: Even from an editorial point of view, your book describes new media art as a movement (such as Surrealism or Conceptualism) rather than a mere possibility of the medium. This is a very interesting point. Do you believe in it or is this a marketing strategy? Is new media art the last avant-garde, and why?

Mark Tribe: Before we discuss New Media art as a movement, we describe it more generically in terms of “projects that make use of emerging media technologies and are concerned with the cultural, political, and aesthetic possibilities of these tools.” I think this is more-or-less what you mean by “a possibility of the medium.” We go on to write, “New Media art is not defined by the technologies discussed here; on the contrary, by deploying these technologies for critical or experimental purposes, New Media artists redefine them as art media.” We then talk about New Media art as an art movement because, from our perspective, that is an important aspect of the historical context that has been largely ignored. In order to understand the work that was made by people who called themselves “New Media artists” and thought of what they made as “New Media art,” it is crucial to consider the historical specificity of that term (it’s relation to the corporate New Media industry, the Dot com boom and bust cycle, etc.), as well as the place of New Media art practices within a broader art-historical framework. I believe strongly in the value of this kind of contextual reading, as opposed to a more formalist approach that considers the intrinsic qualities of the work in isolation. Your question about the avant-garde actually raises a similar issue: like New Media art, avant-garde can be defined generically as any cultural practice that pushes beyond the limits established norms through innovation and experimentation. But avant-garde can also be defined with historical specificity as a set of movements, such as Dada and Constructivism, that linked experimental cultural practices with radical social and political change. But, to answer your question directly, I do think that New Media art was one of the few historically significant art movements of the late 20th century. There were a lot of other historically significant practices, but none of them galvanized as movements per se. The defining characteristics of art movements, in my view, are: self-definition (the artists tend to use a common term, or set of competing terms, to name their practice); the existence of dedicated organizations, venues, publications, and discourse networks; and a common set of artistic strategies and concerns. Often one finds the last of these without the first two, as was the case with identity-focused work in the early 90s. I do think that New Media art could be described, generically, as avant-garde.

Reena Jana: Mark very eloquently described the parameters of our definition of New Media as a movement. Our point is that during the 1990s, with the dawn of the Internet’s popular rise as a mass-market communication medium coupled with the increasing presence of PCs among households, a specific art movement started to take shape that both used these tools as primary artistic media to comment on the effect of these media on society and culture. This movement entailed self-organization and definition on the part of the artists involved on chat rooms, on artist-run Web sites, in gallery exhibitions and at institutions devoted to the movement. We seek to document this phenomenon, and to point out that New Media art is a specific term that refers to a particular historical moment. Our goal is to offer more than simplistic clumping of all work using digital media with a blanket term such as “digital art.” New Media artists were not simply experimenting with digital editing to make their video art easier to produce or creating online animations of their paintings (two examples of practices that often were described as “digital art” in the late 1990s and conflated with New Media art). Instead, New Media artists use emerging mass-communications tools to comment on the social, cultural, and philosophical effects that such tools trigger.
And yes, in my view, New Media art as it evolved from 1994-2004 can be understood as “avant-garde.” As for New Media art’s description as “avant-garde,” I think it’s key to see an antecedent in the Dadaist and Surrealist points of view that avant-garde art strives for using inventive artistic techniques to jar audiences and affect their understanding and experience of life. New Media art also can be described as generically “avant-garde,” by definitionconsider the term and the artists’ imaginative use of emerging mass-media and distribution channels involved to comment on the larger “new media” as a dominant cultural force and influence in the 1990s.

DQ: Why do you focus on the Nineties, seemingly forgetting the Telecommunication art of the Seventies and the Computer art of the Eighties?

MT: We discuss Video art in the “Art-historical Antecedents” section of the introduction. We had to cut a paragraph or two on transmission art of Paik, Douglas Davis, et al due to space constraints (the length of the introduction was pre-defined by the publisher to conform with the series). We left out ’80s Computer art (AKA Multimedia art, Electronic Intermedia, etc.) because we felt that it was not, in fact, a significant precursor. Although Computer art and New Media art, to the extent that they can be distinguished from each other, shared a similar set of enabling technologies, and many old-school Computer artists from the Siggraph/Leonardo/ISEA scene joined the New Media art bandwagon in the ’90s, the two are crucially and fundamentally different in their relationship to media culture. Of course I’m generalizing broadly here, and there are lots of exceptions, but most Computer art was not as concerned with media culture as it was with information technologies and their cultural applications, whereas New Media art almost always takes a critical position in relation to media culture and media technologies.

RJ: Our focus is not on media art (i.e., video or other telecommunication art) or early experiments with computer, electronic, or biological material and themes, but instead on New Media art. For clarity, we place New Media art within the continuum of media art and computer-based art. Please refer to page 7: “We locate New Media art as a subset of two broader categories: Art and Technology and Media art…” New Media is also its own category.

DQ: What kind of criteria did you follow in the selection?

MT: From page 7 of the English version: “We chose to… focus on works that are particularly influential, that exemplify an important domain of New Media art practice and that display an exceptional degree of conceptual sophistication, technological innovation, or social relevance.” Beyond that, we considered geographic diversity and generally selected work that we personally like. Unfortunately, do to the limitations of the series, we had to leave out a lot of work that we very much wanted to include.

RJ: In addition, I think it’s important to circle back to the definition of New Media art that Mark mentioned in his first answer. We looked for “projects that make use of emerging media technologies and are concerned with the cultural, political, and aesthetic possibilities of [new media] tools.” As for “selecting work that we personally like,” such a criterion reflects basic editorial (and, for that matter, curatorial) practice. We spent many hours debating back and forth what the final list would be – an intellectually challenging – and rewarding – process that we feel resulted in a balanced selection of forms, themes, styles, geographical representation, gender, and technologies that reflects the diversity and dynamism of the international movement of New Media art. Please note that our introduction includes many examples of other important works that we had nominated for inclusion in the main entries, which is historically relevant, or was influential. Because the book !
is meant to be a brief introduction to New Media art, we were required to present a concise list of main entries that illustrate the scope of the movement.

DQ: A book like this is a strange event for media art practitioners: it is cheap, small, captivating and easy to read. Media art gets out of the ghetto and goes mainstream. Don’t be shy: do you think New Media Art is going to change something in the history of new media art?

MT: New Media art started to emerge from the ghetto and swim in the mainstream several years ago, but I get your point. We tried to write the book in such a way that it would be both accessible to non-specialists and useful to our peers. I like the fact that the book has so many large images of the art work and that Taschen does such a beautiful job with printing and design. I do hope that the book helps broaden the audience for New Media art and generate more support for New Media artists and organizations.

RJ: Yes, the price-point, portability, and accessible-yet-informed tone are indeed intended to broaden the audience of New Media art, although certainly New Media art is quickly gaining attention in mainstream outlets (for example, one artist in the book, Cory Arcangel, was named best emerging artist of 2005 by Mark Stevens, New York magazine’s critic/co-author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning de Kooning biography). At the same time, we hope to offer a fresh thesis within the ever-growing field of new-media studies. In 2006, it is possible to now look back and offer historical context for both of these audiences, the non-specialists and specialists. Our aim is to suggest a focused lens through which students, art-historians, artists, curators, collectors, and the general gallery and museum visitor alike can look at New Media art.