Baghdad Ethnic Cleansing Maps

Washington Post maps show the ethnic cleansing of Baghdad courtesy of American tax dollars. The Sunnis have mostly fled and mixed ethnic neighborhoods (Sunni, Shia, and Christian) are just about gone. Not depicted are the high concrete fences around neighborhoods enforcing the Bush/Petraeus notion of peace. Which is better, to live under a dictator propped up by oil money or death squads propped up by foreigners who want the oil? Either way, it wasn't America's choice to make.

Attack of the Clones (Spam)

Can someone explain this? The artist Julien Bouillon, linked to by VVork, seems to have re-appropriated a piece by drx (Dragan Espenschied)--from a series of MSPaint drawings based on spam stock tips.

This is from Bouillon's site (cropped, sorry). He titles it "Corporate Suite":


And this is from Espenschied's site (also cropped), which includes dozens of others and a system for rating them aesthetically:


What's the story here?

Update: I emailed drx, who said: "[t]hese are just pictures me and probably millions of other people received in spam emails. I got dozens a day during Winter 2006 and selected only the most beautiful ones. So nobody was [reappropriating anything]. On the other hand, i think i loved these spams more than anybody else and should get the world exclusive reproduction rights." My apologies to Bouillon for alleging that the coincidence had any negative intent, but I think I'd prefer drx's comprehensive slide show to a single spam as a lambda print.

Update: Not a clone, more like clonal offspring: Paul Slocum has been painting these spams on sweatshirts using puff paint.

Wall Street Journal on Pro Surfer Artists

This Wall Street Journal article by Andrew Lavallee attempts to make sense of some of the Net Art 2.0 content that's out there: he zeros in on a group of artists who find boring Internet content interesting. Yr humble blogger is both that content (peripherally) and its regurgitator: The article discusses Marcin Ramocki's Blogger Skins piece (where "Tom Moody" is one of the five "google portrait" subjects) and the Nasty Nets "Internet Surf Club," a group blog where I've been posting work.

The most thoughtful quote comes from Guthrie Lonergan,* who talks about defaults in our culture. He is broadening a technical term--a default is what software ships with as opposed to what you add--to include any kind of societal trope or habit, and (it could be further elaborated) his artistic practice involves using the Internet as a lens to reveal these. The example given in the article is the MySpace intro. Lonergan notes that MySpace doesn't provide a template for this, so people "default" to a kind of telephone answering machine greeting when they first make their pages, with added images.

Taking Lavallee's article a bit further: Ramocki's Google portraits are also a collection of defaults or habits--the Googlebot assumes any photo with the caption James Wagner is James Wagner and doesn't make any further investigation such as: Which James Wagner? Is a caption misplaced? So you end up with a "portrait" of 100 images of James that is a collage of largely irrelevent crap. It is visual proof that the systems we increasingly rely on aren't as smart as they're cracked up to be.

Much of the humor on the Nasty Nets site centers around glitches and technical failures in our brave new cyberworld--it's not just about artists slumming or "looking at the world around them" or "searching for inspiration." And the practice isn't just bookmarking-as-found-object-finding. Manipulation of the found content also occurs, often using default tools such as Photoshop, iMovie, MSPaint, or an off-the-shelf MIDI sequencer.

*Update: On his page Lonergan says, regarding the MySpace intro quote: "The observation about answering machines is a paraphrase of something Sean Dockray said about the MySpace vids."

Southland Tales

If you can't get your ass to Mars (Schwarzenegger, 1990), at least get it to Southland Tales while it's in the theatres. (City Cinemas in the East Village still has it.) This is Richard "Donny Darko" Kelly's sophomore effort, booed at Cannes and trimmed down for American release. Gorgeous music (by Moby and others), the same gliding, swooping camera as in Darko (watch for the stunner tracking shot in the zeppelin party scene), and a surfeit of echt-Angeleno characters and atmosphere (shirtless men, Danskinned women with bad dye jobs, ubiquitous tattoos, partying at the beach even in a state of emergency). Reviewers have compared the film to Lynch's Mulholland Drive but one also detects traces of Brewster McCloud and even Nashville. One of the few current (un)popular movies that tackles our culture of omnipresent surveillance and non-stop bogus terror alerts (beach parties notwithstanding), with some strange science fiction overlays including a gigantic offshore perpetual motion machine that harnesses "fluid karma" from the ocean waves and has possibly upset the spacetime continuum. Starring The Rock, who keeps freaking out and tapping his fingertips together in a very spazzy, disturbing, un-Rock-like way. Also featuring Sarah Michelle Gellar as the porn star Krysta Now, Jon Lovitz as an affectless assassin-cop, Justin Timberlake as a soldier watching Venice beach with a telescope and shooting anyone who looks suspicious, and Wood Harris (The Wire's "Avon Barksdale") with an absurd putty nose.