The Rhizome Digest merged into the Rhizome News in November 2008. These pages serve as an archive for 6-years worth of discussions and happenings from when the Digest was simply a plain-text, weekly email.

Subject: RHIZOME DIGEST: 5.19.02
Date: Sun, 19 May 2002 16:46:44 -0400

RHIZOME DIGEST: May 19, 2002


1. anne-marie: Velvet-Strike--Call for Counter Military Graffiti

2. Luther Blissett: Subversion!!

3. roy christopher: Peter Lunenfeld interview
4. Mark Amerika: Net.Dialogue.8--The Loss of Inscription

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Date: 5.16.02
From: anne-marie (amschle AT
Subject: Velvet-Strike--Call for Counter Military Graffiti

Call for Digital Spray Paint:

Velvet-Strike is a collection of spray paints to use as graffiti on the
walls, ceiling, and floor of the popular network shooter terrorism game
"Counter-Strike". Velvet-Strike was conceptualized during the beginning
of Bush's "War on Terrorism." We invite others to submit their own
"spray-paints" relating to this theme.

The Velvet-Strike Team:

Anne-Marie Schleiner opensorcery AT
Joan Leandre retroyou AT
Brody brody AT

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Velvet-Strike: War Times and Reality Games
(War Times From a Gamer Perspective)

When I first heard about the attacks on September 11, just a fraction
before I felt a wave of sadness, a nauseating thought passed through my
mind. What terrible timing-with this president in office, perhaps even
more so than previous ones, he could use this event as justification for
dangerous actions on a global scale and at home. A few weeks later, I
left for Spain to give a workshop on modifying computer games. When I
arrived the next morning at the workshop I learned that the U.S. had
declared war on Afghanistan. The workshop organizers had installed a new
demo of "Return to Castle Wolfenstein", a remake of an old Nazi castle
shooter game, on all the PC's. The sounds of the weapon-fire echoed off
the concrete walls of the workshop warehouse space--what I once
approached with playful macho geek irony was transformed into uncanny
echoes of real life violence. At that moment, that room was the last
place I wanted to be. Joan Leandre, (one of the other artists presenting
at the workshop), and I discussed creating some kind of anti-war game

Not long after the Sept 11 attacks, American gamers created a number of
game modifications for games like Quake, Unreal and the Sims in which
they inserted Osama Bin Laden skins and characters to shoot at and
annihilate. Since the Sims is not a violent game, one Osama skins
distributor suggested feeding the Sims Osama poison potato chips. If you
cant shoot him, then force him to overeat American junk food, to binge,
death by over-consumption, death by capitalism. (The Sims is essentially
a game whose rule sets are based on capitalist algorithms, although
according to the Sims designers these rules are balanced other factors.)

The most disturbing Osama mod I saw was on display in October 2001 at a
commercial game industry exhibit in Barcelona called Arte Futura. To
give the exhibition organizers the benefit of the doubt, they were
probably unfamiliar with urban American ethnic cartography. In this mod,
Osama is represented as an Arab corner grocery story owner, as is common
in many tough inner city neighborhoods in North America. The goal of the
mod is to enter the corner liquor grocery store and kill the Arab owner.
(At the time I saw this I has just gotten an email from my sister in
Seattle describing how she and other college students were taking turns
guarding mosques from vandalists.)

Harmless release of tension or co-conspirator in the industrial war
complex? Playful competition or dangerous ethnic and gender politics of
the other? The first computer game, created at MIT by Slug Russell and
other "hackers", was called "Spacewar", an outer space shooter
influenced by cold war science fiction. Since Spacewar, computer games
evolved and bifurcated into multiple genres, some related to war and
fighting simulation, (and using technology occasionally directly funded
by the US military), and others less so. (RPG, Real Time Strategy,
Shooter, God Game, Action/Adventure, etc). In the 1990's, within the
shooter genre, characters evolved from white guy American soldiers into
oversize funny male monsters of all shapes and stripes and pumped female
fighting machines. It seemed to be about a kind monster fantasy
workshop, humorous macho role-play, taking things to their frag queen
extremes. Within online Quake and game hacker culture, gender
restrictions and other boundaries opened up.

Then beginning with Half-life and continuing with shooter games whose
alleged appeal is "realism", a kind of regression took place. In terms
of game play games like Half-life are universally seen as advancements.
Yet in Half-life you are only given one white guy everyman American geek
guy to identify with. And all of the NPC researchers and scientists in
the game are male. Half-life remaps the original computer game target
market back onto itself, excluding all others and reifying gamer culture
as a male domain. (Not that I didn't play Half-life but I would have
enjoyed it more if I could have played a female character.)

The trend towards what male gamers call "realism" solidified in 2000
with the Half-life mod "Counter-Strike". Counter-Strike is a multi-
player game where you choose to play on either the side of a band of
terrorists or on the side of counter-terrorist commandos, (all male).
The tactics of the terrorists and the counter-terrorists are essentially
indistinguishable from each other. (Perhaps this similarity between
terrorist and counter-terrorist is telling about the current situation
in Israel and other places where the "war on terrorism" has been forged
for a while or is only just beginning.)

People who love Counter-Strike have told me that the appeal is the
"realism"-its not about "silly" muscly monsters bouncing around space
ports like in the Quake Series -in Counter-Strike you play realistically
proportioned soldiers and commandos killing each other in stark bombed
out bunkers. When you are killed in Counter-Strike your character really
"dies" instead of immediately regenerating. (Although you get to play
again in a few minutes as soon as the next round begins.) So "realism"
is not about faster game engines, graphics processing and
"photorealism". It is about reproducing characters and gameplay
environments that are considered closer to "reality" and farther from

But now, in the wake of Sept 11, are these games too "real"? Or is the
real converging with the simulation? Who defines what is real? According
to an email rumor, President Bush recently approved of a deal between an
American television network and the US military to create a series of
wartime docudramas of US soldiers fighting the "war on terrorism"
abroad. The news section of the TV network was apparently miffed at the
arrangement because they had been unable to gain access to reporting on
the war in Afghanistan. (Recall in Orwell's 1984 the merging of state
controlled war time news and docu-fiction.) The trend in brutal reality
TV, beginning with popular shows like Cops, and continuing with a slue
of reality game shows like "Survival" is another field of convergence.

You are for or against us, you are with us, "the one", or you are with
the enemy is the underlying logic of the West, as I understood a talk by
Marina Grzinic at an international cyberfeminist conference in Germany
in December 2001. (Pre-axis of evil.) Although computer games replicate
this binary competitive logic maybe there is something ultimately
subversive in the knowledge that it is only a game, that at any moment
you may switch sides with the "other", you may play the terrorist side
in Counter-Strike. But reality games pretend to erase this awareness.
And if you are going to converge network shooter games and contemporary
middle eastern politics into a game, (Counter-Strike), then you leave
out a number of complexities such as economics, religions, families,
food, children, women, refugee camps, flesh bodies and blood, smell etc.

Maybe the problem is that convergence with "reality" is happening with
the wrong game genre. Instead of replicating the binary logic of the
shooter genre, of Cowboys and Indians, of the football game, if the US
government borrowed tactics from real time strategy gamers or RPGers, we
might be looking at a different global response. (But then again given
who our leadership is now, its unlikely he is capable of the
intellectual planning required of a strategy gamer.) "Winning" or
advancement in massively multi-player Role Playing Games like Everquest
is enhanced by strategically building social bonds amongst players. And
strategy games like Warcraft and Command and Conquer, while directly
enacting tactics of imperialist colonialist expansionism, at least take
into account other factors in addition to military might.

After playing Counter-Strike for a couple weeks I must confess it
incorporates social maneuvers beyond shoot and kill, (and I must also
confess to enjoying many aspects of the game--I have actually always
enjoyed shooters.) Team play and communication between members on your
side are complex, including live voice radio, and a number of coded chat
"smileys" and automated radio commands that take some time to learn.
Formulating strategies is also necessary for survival, as in other
network shooters. As a Counter-Strike newbie I was sometimes even able
to solicit help from my enemies, indicating a clear awareness of the
game as fictional play space. Some of the combat environments are quite
beautiful. But I still am critical that this domain, the network of
thousands of international Counter-Strike servers spanning Taiwan to
Germany, has been reified as an exclusively male "realistic" combat
zone. (You can hear live audio voices of male players on many servers.)
I am also disturbed that the binary logic of the shooter is being
implemented on a global military scale.

Personally I would like to see computer games move towards fantasy, away
from military fantasy which pretends to "realistic". I like fantastic
environments where there is more room for imaginative habitats and
characters. Japanese games for children and adults are engaged in this
undertaking, filled with curious animal Pokemon creatures, Robo-cats,
transformers, Anime people, monsters, demons and fairies, of all
genders. I identify more with these characters than with counter-
terrorist or terrorist soldiers and they are what I want to be my
reality. Reality is up for grabs. The real needs to be remade by us.

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Date: 5.14.02
From: Luther Blissett (lutherblissett88 AT
Subject: Subversion!!

About three years ago, new media afficionados were all a flutter
concerning the new BIOTECH initiatives in net art. Which was all fine
and good if one lived in London.

For us who believe in a more global scale; the trend has been the
politics of subversion, for better or for ill. RTMARK's provoked a strong backlash from the Bush camp. The
satirical site is one of the best satires I've seen of American
politics, aside from the Perot campaign.

It should help to mention, in the Cinema isle, the film "Bob Roberts,"
written and directed by Tim Robbins, which I watched twice this week, a
brilliant mock documentary of the right wing folksingers run for senate.

Similarly,'s site is sickeningly accurate parody of the
Presidential Son's campaign trail. Even better, the quotes, such as
"There ought to be limits to freedom," are direct quotations.

The macro politics of, however, are just as interesting.
Domain names are now as close as one can get to libel or copyright
violations while still maintaining legal protection of the contents.
It's an activist's wet dream! The new politics of subversion are equal
in opportunity to those of the technology, offering a new toolbox for
anyone willing to use it.

Another site following the domain name suit is located at is a
Canadian neo-nazi website (disturbingly titled 'Blood & Honour'). It
features a vehemently white supremacist rhetoric, calls to arms,
'community' news and information on neo-nazi interests. But Blood &
Honour is not responsible for the innovative and appropriate content of Rather, a small group of students and activists
banded together to purchase the domain name, then created a parody of
Blood & Honour, molding its content to create a Star Wars fan site. The
material is worth a look, to be certain, and it seems to still be in the
process of publicizing itself to the neo-nazi community.

Lastly, there is the http://WWW.0100101110101101.ORG site; which, in the
face of a somewhat interesting act of art sabotage, proceeded to do
absolutely nothing interesting with it.'s online event,
SURFACE, was opened to the RHIZOME audience several years ago. The
0100101110101101ers downloaded all the material and posted it, to the
public, no passwords, resulting in the threat of legal action from Since then, they have gone on to, for some reason, download
and make available other publically available sites, such as, triggering the very appropriate response from Alexei
Shulgin: "Great. Subversion again."

All of this is of course evident of a new move for net related art
initiatives towards the more political aspects of the net. The
communication issues and identity issues it triggers are by no means
new, but still particularly relevant. In the wake of a war, in which
propaganda questions were raised for every new fact reported by either
side of the media, it is interesting to note that it is no longer safe
to assume that when you enter a Sears Roebucks, you are not actually
entering a JC Penney, or an animal rights orginization. This is the
nature of subversion, of course, the issue of raising questions via

It's unfortunate, then, to see a slide from the intelligent subversion
to that of subversion for subversion's sake. It would be sufficient to
define appropriate subversion as that which affects a "real world"
institution via "virtual" means, or one that creates a question towards
the corporate face of the internet, or even the entire methodolgy behind
internet identity.

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**MUTE MAGAZINE NEW ISSUE** Coco Fusco/Ricardo Dominguez on activism and
art; JJ King on the US military's response to asymmetry and Gregor
Claude on the digital commons. Matthew Hyland on David Blunkett, Flint
Michigan and Brandon Labelle on musique concrete and 'Very Cyberfeminist

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Date: 5.10.2002
From: roy christopher (royc AT
Subject: Peter Lunenfeld interview
Keywords: media activism, internet, design, commercialization

[This interview with Peter Lunenfeld is the latest in a series that I've
been archiving at my site, Lunenfeld is the
director of the Institute for Technology and Aesthetics (ITA), author of
Snap to Grid (S2G), and editorial director of the Mediawork Pamphlet
series, and this is the record of several days of email correspondence,
during which he and I volleyed questions, ideas and rants covering
everything from his concept of Vapor Theory to my frustrations as a
'professional designer.']

frontwheeldrive: Can you briefly explain Vapor Theory?

Peter Lunenfeld: In S2G, I define Vapor Theory as 'dialectical
immaterialism, critical discussions about technology untethered to the
constraints of production.' I started thinking about vapor theory back
in the days of VR, when otherwise sensible people got misty-eyed about
abandoning their identities and moving into fully realized, photo-
realistic virtual worlds. They were saying this at a time when most of
the VR systems that I was seeing demoed had limited interaction in and
among a small library of graphics primitives. The vapor theory bought
into the short slope concept of technological development -- that just
because people wanted something (in this case fully immersive
virtuality) to happen that something would indeed materilialize.

fwd: Do you see this 'flapping of the gums' subsiding with the recent
fallout of businesses on the Web?

PL: I remember Biz Markie's old school rap that went through the usual
enemies list of sucker MCs, claiming they all 'caught the vapors.'
Within a decade of the VR boom and bust, venture capitalists caught the
vapors and funded the new economy business plans of the dot.comedy.

fwd: With this fallout, the Web (and the other 'pop' aspects of Computer
Science) has gone through what other relatively new areas of
technological advancement (e.g., Artificial Intelligence) have gone
through, but on a very condensed time scale. AI seems to have found its
feet again (small and shaky as they may be). Do you see the Web and
other previously inflated digital arts going through a similar evolution
(less hype, more real applications)?

PL: I'm fascinated by the post-utopian periods of aesthetics and
technology. The utopian moment of a medium or field is intoxicating, of
course -- when the cinema or AI, rock'n'roll or robotics, the portapak
or the Web, is going to change the world that very instant. But no one
movement or technology can support that level of hype. Often, it's after
the general public's attention has been raised and then dashed that
artists, technologists, and yes, even entrepreneurs, can go back into
the wreckage and make interesting, even lasting interventions.

fwd: Where many on the art side of the fence see all commercial forces
as the enemy, you contend that art and economics are symbiotic. Given
that artists of all kinds need money to do their work, isn't there still
a line somewhere in there that shouldn't be crossed (for art's sake)?

PL: I'm regularly misunderstood on this point. It's not that art and
commerce are the same thing, just that all art exists in relation to the
economic activity of its era. After Andy Warhol and Jeff Koons, it's
impossible to speak of lines between art and commerce that "shouldn't be
crossed," because, after all, that's one of the things artists do --
cross lines. For thirty years or more, art historians and critics have
been hashing this out, and it's pretty hard to ignore this fairly
obvious point when you talk about the complex interwinnings of art,
design and commerce in the realm of the digital. One of the reasons that
these relationships were so contested in the boom years of the '90s was
that a huge number of people came out of art departments, or trained
themselves entirely outside of the academy, and took jobs as designers
either to support their art -- a quintessential day job -- or just
because that was the hot thing to do at the time. So, they called
themselves designers without much in the way of exposure to the ethos of
design as a profession.

fwd: Well, I'm one of those people. Thanks to computers, I've been doing
print and Web design professionally for almost 8 years now. Though I've
been through years of art school, grew up painting, drawing, and started
making 'zines 16 years ago, only a small fraction of this experience is
used in my job as 'designer.' The frustrating part, I guess, is that
this division between designers who are involved in the discourse and
designers who aren't is obvious and the fact that industry that requires
design work - for the most part - is completely unconcerned with the
discourse. How can we bring the discourse inside the corporate walls?

PL: At the risk of sounding like a workplace psychiatrist, I'd like to
talk about the frustration you're feeling. Knowing something about the
ways in which designers from earlier eras convinced their corporate
clients of the validity of design research and experimentation might
offer you, and others in your position, a way to approach these
discussions. Certain designers have been able to shift the dialogue from
service to collaboration, staking out either new territory or
reformulating the way the game is played (think Charles and Ray Eames).
The computer democratized access to the tools of the professional
designer, and brought about an amazing efflorescence of new styles and a
deepened pool of people who, like you, consider themselves to be
designers. Unfortunately, though, the democratization of digitization
didn't go hand in hand with any kind of informed discussion of the
history and discourses of design as a field.

fwd: Can you give some examples?

PL: Let's just talk about the Web for example. With all the hype about
Flash, and the concomitant backlash against it, this is precisely the
time to revisit the debates about deep design versus styling. But, the
very ones who should be talking about this haven't got the vaguest
notion of who Raymond Loewy was, much less that as early as the '30s, he
was talking about the designer's role in "reconciling" people to new
technologies through exterior styling. I'm not endorsing Loewy's
position by any means, but I'd sure like to talk it through with Flash
partisans and their detractors. How about countering the banality of the
Nielson-Norman rap on Web usability by recasting Adorno's condemnation
of functionalism? In the '60s, Adorno was dealing with the unintended
consequences of modernism's reductivism: the creation of boring and
inhuman living spaces. Connecting the dots from these historical
arguments to a staff meeting is tricky, but it can be done. Essentially,
it's about making history, theory and criticism viable in non-academic

fwd: Getting back to the academe, Paul Virilio once said, 'Play at being
a critic. Deconstruct the game in order to play with it. Instead of
accepting the rules, challenge and modify them. Without the freedom to
critique and reconstruct, there is no truly free game: we are addicts
and nothing more.' Kodwo Eshun adopts the title 'concept engineer'
instead of culture critic. What's your stance on the role of critique
and critics in this culture?

PL: Hats (berets?) off to Virilio, but these days, even porn fans
understand the importance of critique. The motto of the
rec.arts.movies.erotica newsgroup is cribbed from Pauline Kael: 'In the
arts, the only source of independent information is the critic. The rest
is advertising.' And, sorry to say, if 'the freedom to critique and
reconstruct' guaranteed liberation from addiction, those guys in the
trench coat brigade might be able to get up from their sofas, turn off
Edward Penishands, and go out and meet some real people. I'm a big fan
of Eshun's redemptive approach to criticism, but I'm not sure exactly
what he means by 'concept engineer.' As a label, it doesn't seem that
much more helpful than lumping critics along with doctors, lawyers and
software designers together as 'symbolic analysts.'

fwd: Indeed. I recently asked Eshun to explain his role as 'concept
engineer,' but have yet to receive an answer. We shall see.Can you talk
about the relationship between a general social critique and the focus
that you tend to put on art, design and technology?

PL: It's hard to argue with Christopher Hitchens' claims that the critic
needs to live 'at a slight acute angle to society' if you're doing
politically motivated criticism. In the realm of aesthetics, though,
there has been such an explosion of cultural production of all kinds in
the past quarter century, that I'm less interested in the model of
critic as scold -- castigating producers for their errors -- than I am
of the critic as curator. The curatorial function is one which brings
together and juxtaposes objects, systems, ideas and people to make a
case. The case I'm interested in making right now is that nostalgia for
past glories is counterproductive, and that the contemporary world is in
the midst of a ferocious pluralism of styles and media and aesthetics
right now. There are wonders to be found in intriguing pockets,
sometimes in full view, but often 'at a slight acute angle.' I hope that
my methods and my writings can serve as something of a model about how
one can curate compelling experiences with art and culture.

fwd: Whom do you read and respect writing about New Media (or whatever
else) these days?

PL: I'm really interested in the work that's developing in Southern
California. It's where I live, and I believe that people need to nurture
local as well as virtual intellectual communities. Luckily, I'm in the
right place at the right time. There's UCSD's Lev Manovich, of course,
author of The Language of New Media, CalArt's Norman Klein who's been
working on scripted spaces and special effects, independent scholar
Margaret Wertheim who is writing and curating around the topic of
outsider physics, and a passel of people from UCLA including film
theorist Vivian Sobchack, Red Rock Eater News Service organizer Phil
Agre, and N. Katherine Hayles, who holds a joint appointment in English
and Design | Media Arts. For fun, I've been enjoying independent
publisher Tosh Berman's TamTam Books. Berman used to be the director of
Beyond Baroque, the venerable Venice, CA-based literary organization,
but now he's putting out beautifully designed translations from the
French of weird little books. The first three are Boris Vian's brutal
noir I Spit on Your Grave; Serge Gainsbourg's Evguenie Sokolov, about an
artist whose medium is farting; and Guy Debord's Considerations on the
Assassination of Gerard Lebovici, in which the Situationist reflects on
being at the eye of the media storm that hit when Lebovici, his friend
and publisher, was murdered mysteriously in the mid-'80s.

fwd: Is there anything on which you're working that you'd like to bring
up here?

PL: I was trained as a film theorist, but haven't written about the
movies in a long time. That's shifting a bit these days, and I've got an
essay on "The Myths of Interactive Cinema" coming out in Dan Harries'
The New Media Book for the British Film Institute. As a long term
project, I'm working on a new book about the aesthetics of information.
Closer at hand, I'm putting together a collection of my "User" columns
from artext magazine which I'd like to see come out in 2003. And, I'm
continuing to put out the Mediawork Pamphlet series.

fwd: What is the premise of your Mediawork pamphlets? What are you
trying to achieve with these?

PL: Mediawork pamphlets pair major writers with contemporary graphic
designers to produce 100 page 'mind bombs' in the tradition of McLuhan
and Fiore's The Medium is the Massage. These 'theoretical fetish
objects' cover art, design, technology and market culture with verve and
impact. The first, Utopian Entrepreneur, written by Brenda Laurel and
designed by Denise Gonzales Crisp, was published in 2001.

fwd: To be precise, it came out on September 14th, 2001. What did it
mean that a book written and a series conceptualized before the events
of 9/11 were both seen, at least in part, as having something to say to
that moment?

PL: We almost cancelled the San Francisco launch event that the
International Academy of Digital Arts & Sciences was hosting for us, but
Brenda, Denise and I all drove up from LA to the Bay Area on the 15th to
confront a San Francisco as empty as I'd ever experienced it. There was
a sort of doomed solipsism in the air, as though the attacks on New York
and Washington, though 3000 miles away, were the logical conclusion of
the meltdown of the '90s. The Bay Area and Silicon Valley, as the former
epicenters of all new new things, were confronted by the triumphant
resurgence of Ford Administration dinosaurs like Secretary of Defense
Donald Rumsfeld pulling back the curtain and reminding all us tech-heads
who really runs this country. So, in the end, it was great to hear
Brenda rally the troops and talk about a better future, and the still
unfulfilled promise of (some) technology.

fwd: What's coming up?

PL: In these slightly calmer times, we're finishing Writing Machines,
written by N. Katherine Hayles and designed by Anne Burdick, for release
in the fall of 2002. Paul Miller aka DJ Spooky that Subliminal Kid is
writing Rhythm Science for 2003, and we're trying to figure out the best
designer to pair him with, which is one of the fun parts for me.

New Science and New Media:

nomadboy, inc.

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The time has arrived to pick up the new Leonardo Music Journal,
(LMJ),Volume 11, including a double CD titled "Not Necessarily 'English
Music.'" The journal and CD feature pieces from pioneering U.K.composers
and performers from the late 60s through the mid-70s. Visit the LMJ
website at

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Date: 5.17.02
From: Mark Amerika (Mark.Amerika AT Colorado.EDU)
Subject: Net.Dialogue.8--The Loss of Inscription

Net.Dialogue.8: The Loss of Inscription
(Mark Amerika with Giselle Beiguelman)

MA: You have created a beautiful site called where many
people from around the world were first turned on to your work The Book
After The Book. Although you have said that this work is not net art per
se but is more "a hybrid of criticism and hypervisual essay," one of the
works that came after - <content=no cache> - started feeling like a
playful art project than an essay per se...can you elaborate on what you
were doing with this project?

GB: <Content=No Cache> was conceived in 2000 and I did it right after
the Book after the Book.

It's not an essay but it explores online writing and the phenomena of
the loss of inscription, which reverts all our cultural traditions that
usually link memory to writing proofs.

Its point of departure is this curious tag ("content = no cache").
Placed in the html code it updates the contents of any online page,
erasing what was written before. In this sense, it announces a new
condition of writing.

From now on it does not inscribe anymore. It could be pointing to new
epistemological paradigms and ways of producing memories and
representations, but maybe because our printed background and the
metaphorical use of the web: why do we call web sites, sites, if they
are non-sites? why do we need the reference of the page to describe what
happens on the screen? most of on line writing just describes... Like
Error Messages.

Integrated to The Book of Errors it also documents the relationship
between web readers and errors messages. Those messages are
aesthetically reworked and exhibited in new screens. By doing this, the
web site creates a different context for them and inverts the relation
between what is seen and what is read.

In a few words, <Content=No Cache> works as if it would be possible to
operate in the limits between reading and vision, in order to explore
what is supposed to be a cyberliteracy based upon an alphanumeric

MA: How does this "cyberliteracy" you are so in tune with, inform your
recent work, I'm thinking particularly of the mobile phone projects and
your use of WAP as a potential nomadic device to transmit what can only be
called nomadic narrative? And how can "literary imagination" find its way
into these transmissions as well?

GB: You are right, the mobile phone projects are far away from our
traditional backgrounds. They are nomadic devices and they make us think
on different artistic interventions, conceived to be experienced on the
move, in between, while doing other things. They are not contemplative
at all. Mobile phones and PDAs are tools we need because we are already
multitask personalities. You have a mobile phone in order to be able to
drive and make a call. You are supposed to be concentrated in many
things simultaneously and being involved in different situations. So
those nomadic devices interest me because they point to new reading
contexts and, as always, it is important to keep in mind: you do not
talk about a world of reading without talking about a reading of the
world. In this sense they will probably force us to redefine our
understanding of what is art. They demand new concepts and art
experiences tuned with entropy and acceleration.

This is something that disturbs and attracts me, I worked on this on
"Wopart" and in "Leste o Leste?" (Did you read the East) which was a
teleintervention in electronic panels, that explored the entropy and
acceleration of the city as the main space of action.

MA: It seems that in order for art to have purpose, it oftentimes must
intervene in the mainstream culture, to call it to account. This means
hacking corporate culture and challenging preconceived realities whether
they be commercially or artistically generated (or both). What was the
concept behind your recent web art project created for the Sao Paolo
Biennial, the one called "ceci n'est pas un nike"? Why Magritte - and
why Nike?

GB: This was created for and inspired by the SP Biennial. Web art became
an institutional hype and this has many consequences. One of them is
integration to the market _what is good and bad_ the other is its
misunderstanding of online art. And here we find deeper questions
involved in this absorption of web art by museums, galleries and

Usually the presence of web artist in exhibitions like the SP Biennial
is associated with the physical presence of computers in the building.
Online experience is reduced to surface and hidden by a fake objectual
condition. Moreover sponsors give computers and connections in order to
sell their e-biz (machines or connection services) and the artist is
converted into a useful accessory for marketing chains.

In some ways, traditional institutions need surface and objects in order
to see art, meaning and value. They cannot stand or don't know how to
deal with interfaces that connects local situations to non-site.

Nikes are surface only. Web sites are interfaces.

"Ceci n'est pas un nike" ( updates Magritte's simple
statement "This is not a pipe/this is a drawing that pictures a pipe",
that points to the conflict between representation and presentation. It
discusses the conflict between interface and surface, exploring elements
of that non-surface situation of cyberspace: the possibilities of
interferences in the web site icon _the nike_ (the e-nike generator) and
in the critical text that uses a wiki platform (the e-palimpsest) . You
can create, publish, destroy and rebuild everything because it is online
and you are working in a special interface, not inside the computer or
on the monitor surface...

MA: Are we living in Apocalypse Now?

GB: I'm too chaotic, so I'm in a Fractal process of recreation. There is
not any messianic future that could replace my contractions and internal
gaps. I hope so.

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Rhizome Digest is filtered by Alex Galloway (alex AT
ISSN: 1525-9110. Volume 7, number 20. Article submissions to
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