tom moody

Archive for the ‘general’ Category

dump.fm (re)discovered

Dump.fm recently got some New York Times coverage (hat tip andrej). Nice to see if this even if the premise is only half-right. The writer theorizes that Dump is

part of a retro aesthetic renaissance sweeping the Web, one that pays homage to old-school computing systems and software like Windows 95 and Microsoft Paint. Nostalgia certainly plays a part, in the same way it does with collectors of vinyl or old typewriters, and for good reason: This revival is, in many respects, a reaction to the manicured lawns of Facebook and Twitter and a celebration of the earlier, less sterile (and surveilled) environments that people once inhabited and created online.

Four and a half years ago Paddy Johnson described Dump.fm's 319 Scholes exhibition not as "retro" but something new:

a unique community of makers, each using a lexicon of stock images, internet slang and animated gifs. This is the new art we’ve been waiting to see for the last 30 years.

That's a more accurate description, even if 319 Scholes curator Lindsay Howard quickly moved on to the next new art, and Johnson lately treats it more as a historical phenomenon than a going concern (while acknowledging that it is still active in her recent animated GIF history). Dump has in fact chugged along for five years now, with hundreds of new users coming, going, or staying, so that it can be rediscovered as something new, but not completely new. Now it's being characterized as a retro reaction by millennials to the supposed manicured lawns of Facebook and Twitter. Ironically, though, while "manicured" is how one might have described Twitter seven years ago, today it's a wacky blitz of Twitpics, Vine videos, variable sized fonts, and unnecessary stats clinging to every utterance. Dump is like this but moves faster because it's based on a chat room format. It's a retro form with some (but hardly exclusively) retro content. It's more of an ahistorical, net-ecumenical poetry slam than a recycled Geocities page. The skanky porn that graces dump.fm like a spatter of milky raindrops is quite up to date.

- tom moody

March 6th, 2015 at 9:48 am

Posted in general

we don't need no stinking bruce nauman

Let's give that phrase "our Bruce Nauman" a bit more unpacking.

Ed Halter's use of it in his Artforum cover story on Guthrie Lonergan was essentially lazy.

He didn't do the hard critical work of explaining (i) what Bruce Nauman represents as an artist or (ii) what it means for a new media artist to "be a Bruce Nauman." There is one throw-away line: "If Nauman asserted that anything that happens in an artist’s studio can be art, Lonergan updated this claim for an age in which the artist’s studio had become a laptop."

Early in the last century, Dadaist Tristan Tzara said "everything the artist spits is art" -- why couldn't Lonergan be our Tzara, spewing art from his laptop? Rather than fleshing out the Nauman reference with examples, Halter practiced a kind of laying-on-of-hands where sacerdotal energy is conveyed from an established (living) master to a newbie through the medium of an almost-established master.

Halter quotes Cory Arcangel, a somewhat well-known "computer artist" operating in both the new media and gallery worlds, saying that Guthrie Lonergan, a "computer artist" who is mainly known in new media circles, is "our Bruce Nauman." The magic energy circuit is completed and authentication juice flows from Nauman into Lonergan. And the writer avoids having to translate new media concepts to a gallery-based art world. This was so effective that when ARTnews later did a feature on Lonergan (in the form of an artist's diary) they used the same trick:

Guthrie Lonergan is an elusive and influential internet artist whom Cory Arcangel once called “our Bruce Nauman.” Along with a corresponding essay by Ed Halter, an image from his 2005 series “Lonely Los Angeles” was chosen as the cover of the November 2014 issue of Artforum.

Here are some Bruce Nauman tags: eclectic, outsider, anti-art, inventive, post-studio. A California-based artist of the '60s who did video, sound art, installation, and neon, and was late being grouped with any movement (hence the outsider part). By the '90s, however, he was art world royalty, embraced by almost every critic and institution. An artist's artist who became everyone's artist.

Lonergan is inventive, eclectic, and somehow avoided the "post-internet" dragnet. After 2010 or so he may or may not have stopped working, but certainly wasn't being included in that many "new media" shows. His ARTnews diary shows that he is working and thinking -- yet the projects aren't coming to fruition as gallery-packageable products.

If he is "our" Bruce Nauman, who is the "our"? Besides Cory Arcangel. If the "we" refers to "we new media and computer artists," do "we" need a Bruce Nauman? Aren't "we" already all post-studio, eclectic, inventive, anti-art outsiders? Does it help "our" standing in the gallery world to be seen as the latest iterations of Bruce Nauman, rather than something unique and difficult to define in the terms of "their" critical sphere?

- tom moody

February 25th, 2015 at 9:31 am

Posted in general

we'll know an artistic nude when we see one

Re: Google's draconian plan to determine what's a dirty picture and what isn't on Blogger, and block public access to the blogs its staffers determine are nasty.
What's going on here? An uneducated guess is that once the offending sites are tucked away, Google will incorporate Blogger blogs into Google+, its struggling Facebook clone, so it can have an advertising-palooza with all those new family members.
Google bought Blogger in 2003. If I'd been a Blogger user, I would have left then, rather than wait 12 years for Google to start doing horrible stuff to me.

- tom moody

February 25th, 2015 at 8:59 am

Posted in general

livin' lonergan

Guthrie Lonergan's take on life, art, and the web always bears investigation whether or not he is your Bruce Nauman.*
ARTnews recently published a diary of Lonergan's typical work week, as he moves back and forth between day job and art job (denoted by lighting and unlighting an "art candle" in his home work space).
The main point for me is that he is not on Facebook and provides a blueprint for how to be an engaged "computer" or "new media" artist while living outside of the current Silicon Valley-asserted lifestyle (that is, being on your phone all day checking out "social").

Things Lonergan mentioned that I knew about and/or find interesting:
Richard Stallman
Pinboard
Hacker News
YouTube Guitar Center customers video
Critique of JACK FM
using bluetooth external keyboard to type on phone

Things I could care less about:
Spotify
podcasts
humidified guitar cabinets
Perfect Boomer CD Collection pt. 1 (1985-1995)
setlists
late-career Joni Mitchell
contemporary Bro-Country playlist

Things I'm not interested in that Lonergan made sound interesting:
Super Bowl halftime show lineups
Bing Streetside van (I almost typed "streetwise")
History of MTV Unplugged

*As quoted in Artforum, Cory Arcangel pompously called Lonergan "our Bruce Nauman" -- a use of first-person plural further ingratiating Arcangel into a gallery-based art world that continues to revere Nauman as a conceptualist living legend, all out of proportion to his actual artwork. [Update -- more on this "our Bruce Nauman" business.]

- tom moody

February 24th, 2015 at 10:09 am

Posted in general

vvorked again

Rhizome.org recently archived Vvork, a blog of contemporary art documentation (installation shots, mainly), based in Europe, that ran from 2006-2011. Occasionally there were witty runs of similar shots where the Vvork bloggers would implicitly make fun of how redundant certain types of conceptual art ideas are. But mostly Vvork was just relentless, averaging around 900 posts per annum. After the first year of it, real despair started to set in among a handful of artist types about where the project was going.
Michael Connor, in his generally upbeat and pro-Vvork post, links to a thread on my old blog with some of this lamentation. He brushes off the criticism, arguing for a superior overarching point of view on the part of Vvork (which somehow the artists missed?) justifying its preservation.
On the thread,* Sally McKay describes Vvork's stock in trade as "elegant sculptural installations crafted well from non-precious materials with interesting but tidy content and an unquestioning relationship to art institutions." That's a rather strong indictment, but Connor thinks it sounds "very similar to some of the stylistic descriptions offered up for postinternet art today" (a type of art he supports, whatever postinternet means).
Another dig from the thread Connor mischaracterizes, and dismisses as mere "fretting":

Some fretted that [Vvork's] emphasis on similarity undercut the artists' individuality. Artist and Rhizome friend Guthrie Lonergan took this view; he argued that "VVORK makes 'clever' very unappealing, like some disease that art catches when it gets on the Internet." The similarities and patterns made it seem as if artistic production was "algorithmic to the extreme."

No one said that Vvork "undercut artist individuality." The complaint was that by showing groups of similar artworks from around the world, each seemingly unaware of the other, Vvork was revealing a superficial cleverness without taking any critical position. Was Vvork a critique of art or a critique of documentation? Was it a critique at all or just an unusually elegant spam blog?

The confusion persists in Connor's interview with the Vvork bloggers. On the one hand they criticize artists "who seem to cultivate the image of the isolated genius, detached from any outside influence." Yet at the same time they were a "go to" place for people with special talents to be fed into the gallery system:

After the first month or so we noticed an increase in mails by artists sending us their works. After a year or so, it became more common to hear about its effects away from the keyboard, mostly from artists who had received invitations to shows after being posted.

Vvork attempted something "responsible" websites such as Contemporary Art Daily don't do, which is treat the art world as a stream of "meta" information. Occasionally this was done with discernment, for example, offering several posts in sequence of "mazes as art" or "artists releasing colored dyes into rivers as art." Mostly it was just a mishmash of stuff happening all over that chanced to catch the bloggers' eyes.

*McKay's sentence came from an earlier thread, which I was quoting. In the thread Connor links to she softens the criticism with "VVORK is popular because they show lots and lots of pictures of art from around the world without a bunch of commentary. I love that! It's kind of weird how rare it is." Despite this sounding like a movie pull quote Connor gives it stronger play in his article than the initial criticism.

- tom moody

February 17th, 2015 at 11:22 am

Posted in general

I'm getting my self-loathing together and taking it on the road

Found a rather strange article in the Miami New Times: Paddy Johnson Schooled Locals on Net Art and the History of Blogging. Not sure how much of it's Johnson and how much is New Times writer Neil Vazquez, but the articles brims with wrong information.
For a blogger-turned-nonprofit who still maintains a strong presence outside the clutches of Zuckerberg, et al, Johnson is remarkably non-ebullient about her chosen mode of communication.

Back in the early days of the web, intrepid internet users (AKA nerds) would spend long spans venting about things they were passionate about, without paying any attention to how to commercialize their virtual products. In the same way, artists often produce work they're passionate about and then worry about the messy business of selling their art later.

OK, so far, if by nerds you mean DailyKos, Wonkette, Jane Hamsher, Josh Marshall, James Wolcott...

After 2010, the web took a different turn. Google changed the way it filtered and organized its search results from organic traffic to a system that tips the table in favor of large media companies. Yet despite the recent coma-induced state of the independent web...

More on this so-called "filtering" below, but is Johnson saying her website, Art F City, is coma-inducing?

"Net art didn't happen on the computers themselves, but in the interaction or communication between computers," Johnson muses as she clicks through a series of screenshots and GIFs from early GeoCities sites. From 2000 to 2005, the independent web was so popular that some prominent voices within the art establishment were calling for the death of imagery. "It seems crazy to say this today, but a lot of artists felt that since images were so easily available on the web, no new images needed to be created," Johnson explains.

This is all highly debatable, but here's where it gets really bizarre:

By 2007, the independent web had burst, along with the housing bubble. Too much private investment, along with the rise of social media, forced Google to cordon off parts of the web accessible via its search engine, essentially creating a mainstream commercial web that forced the small voices out and sites like BuzzFeed in.

Google has made some changes to its algorithm to favor recency and to tailor results for a user's history and IP address. It caches content on local servers for quicker delivery. All this has been noted by indies and griped about (or not). Johnson has been saying for years that Google filters search results in favor of "large media companies" -- I've seen no evidence of this myself -- tommoody.us pages continue to bob at the top of searches like shiny apples, and I am constantly receiving emails asking to advertise on my site, presumably because it does well in search.
And to the extent media companies are "favored" it would mainly be a problem if you blog about celebrities. Possibly that is a matter of concern for Art F City. As for Google "cordoning off parts of the web" -- what? Where is the proof of this?

While the independent web might be dead today, and the future of blogging in general is pretty murky, the influence of net aesthetics can still be felt. Scrolling through your Tumblr or Instagram feed will likely land you on the work of fan-artists, GIFers, or nostalgic millennials eager to reappropriate the early net style they grew up with. Though they're out of business, blog-based looks are certainly not out of style.

Naked Capitalism recently did a round-up of "is blogging dead" thinkpieces and opines that the end is greatly exaggerated, noting that "if you want to hammer away at a set of ideas in long form, there’s still nothing like a blog." For Paddy Johnson to be going around telling lecture audiences that the blog is dead and that blog-inspired art is a relic, she is basically saying her own site is a not a valid alternative to the social media borg. I don't understand why anyone would do that.

There is no question that the "blogosphere," as it was informally constituted in the mid-'00s, has lost the coherence and purpose it might once have had. But individual's websites still exist and are crawled by hundreds of bots looking for content. Artists still make web pages, many with the blog format because it's easy to install. This indie content can be aggregated into an RSS feed as informative as any "major media" front page. To say this is dead and Facebook/Instagam or Tumblr are "the web" now is not exactly "fighting the powers that be."

Update: Marco Arment ponders whether Google changed the way the blogs are ranked or searched and says, nah, the problem is competition from social media: "Everyone’s spending increasingly more consumption time dicking around in apps and snacking on bite-sized social content instead of browsing websites and searching Google."

- tom moody

February 15th, 2015 at 10:01 am

Posted in general

please speak clearly and unambiguously, this is an art gallery

1980s art magazines, following French theorists, often described art as a "play of signifiers." In the present era, politics requires that play be minimized and that signifiers be clear and unambiguous. An example is Ryder Ripps' painting show at Postmasters Gallery, titled "Ho." The show plays with the tradition of the male artist and female model, and questions the relationship between sexual and commercial prostitution. The "Ho" in question is Adrianne Ho, who became Instagram-famous posting attractive photos of herself advertising various brands. Welcome to the third rail of current art world discourse.
Some writers have interpreted the show as unambiguously misogynist. Yet the artist has parodied himself in the show's documentation as a macho painter, with back to back photos of a very butch Willem De Kooning in his 1950s apartment and Ripps dressed in muscle T and rolled-up jeans, painting Ho on his iPhone touchscreen. The touchscreen paintings, outsourced to third party oil-on-canvas contractors, de-sexualize Adrianne Ho's unambiguously sexy self-images by means of funhouse mirror distortions that make her appear absurd or grotesque. This could be slut shaming or it could be repurposing soulless capitalism as a surrealist nightmare.
In an earlier, more open minded era, the gallery would be a free speech zone where the yin and yang of such ideas could be considered. That's not the era we're living in.

- tom moody

February 12th, 2015 at 7:39 am

Posted in general

people on tv are liars?

Mean internet commenters are piling on Brian Williams, now that there's some proof he's an airhead. This one from Salon is good:

averow45 It was another hot day in Iraq. Hotter than Hades in the Chinook copter that the Brian was flying in. So very boring because He knew that there was unreported news occurring down there in the desert. Wasting no time Brian grabbed a chute from the loadmaster and jumped out of the chopper, drifting straight into the insurgents' command camp. He brazenly strode up to the insurgents' leader and demanded a cease fire. Despite not speaking a word of their language he simply got it done through sheer force of personality. Then he heard that one of the dastardly insurgents had disobeyed the cease fire by firing an RPG at the very chopper he had just been in! The Brian wasted no time. He jogged directly to the crash site, rendered first aid to the wounded and fixed the broken hydraulic lines using his bare hands. After returning stateside the President awarded him the Medal of Freedom in a secret Rose Garden Ceremony.

- tom moody

February 7th, 2015 at 10:21 pm

Posted in general

horizontal censorship in the art world

Mark Ames, who along with Matt Taibbi ran the satirical newspaper The Exile in Russia, moved back to the US in 2008 and comments this week in Pando Daily about what he calls the "horizontal censorship" practiced here (as opposed to Putin's vertical, top-down variety). The social media and blog environment that initially promised a break from elite-managed discourse, Ames argues, has become an intellectual dystopia of earnest "outrage addicts" mobbing up on comedians and satirists.* It's a form of censorship because it doesn't respect satire or comedy as a bounded, socially useful activity, and applies the standards of political responsibility to a type of work that is inherently anarchic and disruptive. A comedian, satirist, or, let's add, performance or conceptual artist, concerned about a loss of reputation or livelihood, has an incentive to self-censor to avoid a personal smear based on deliberate or ignorant misconstruing of work.

Art F City's recent campaign to blemish the reputation of an artist, Ryder Ripps, with the help of Rhizome.org and anonymous Facebook groups, perfectly exemplifies what Ames describes. That campaign came to a head last week with a tweet and a headline crowing that Ripps' current show was his "death knell." Besides the complete loss of critical objectivity in Paddy Johnson citing her own predictions about a show as evidence of its failure, the campaign depended on misreading two separate projects, which were both humorous in context, as unethical and "offensive," and linking them together with a kind of running innuendo about their alleged "misogyny."

Ripps has attempted to correct some of the factual inaccuracies and wrong assumptions in Paddy Johnson's review of his Postmasters show. No artist should have to do this. Thousands more people will see Johnson's attack pieces than will ever see the defense.

*or in Ames' case, a muckracking journalist whose past satirical works were treated as scandalous truth by his detractors

- tom moody

February 6th, 2015 at 1:53 pm

Posted in general

new media criticism checklist

Does the work help others?

Is it friendly?

Does it have some technical stuff?

Can the work be explained in a paragraph?

If the artist has made unfriendly or unhelpful works in the past, have they been apologized for?

Does the artist work well with others?

Have any major artists vouched for the artist, or this particular work?

Has the artist won a grant or award?

Is the artist physically presentable?

These are meant only as guidelines but if the answer is Yes to all of the above questions you can expect a positive review for your work in the near future.

- tom moody

February 4th, 2015 at 1:03 pm

Posted in general