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: 1.10.03
Date: Sat, 11 Jan 2003 17:48:12 -0500

RHIZOME DIGEST: January 10, 2003


+editor's note+
1. Rachel Greene: Reminder from Rhizome

2. Ryan Griffis : new media job opp. AT stanford
3. Annette Weintraub: two faculty positions

4. The Irish Museum of Modern Art: Irish Museum of Modern Art Net Art Open
2003 call for submission

5. New Commission -- xurban_collective's "Knit++"
6. Etienne Cliquet: hiddenCam

+scene report+
7. valerie lamontagne: Biennale de Montréal 2002 -> Review

8. Tom Sherman: Artificial Perception as Reality Check

9. Brett Stalbaum: Database Logic(s) and Landscape Art [2/5]

+ + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + +


Date: 1.10.03
From: Rachel Greene (rachel AT
Subject: Reminder from Rhizome

A reminder that Rhizome's new membership policy takes effect next Wednesday,
January 15, 2003. We hope all Rhizomers can make contributions of $5 or
more. Paypal and Secure credit card transactions can be made online, and we
accept checks, money orders or cash mailed to, 180 Varick
Street, 11th Floor, New York, NY 10014. What's in store for Rhizome members?
A sketch of planned enhancements to the Rhizome web site can be found here:

Thanks in advance for your support, and beat the lineup for
email addresses (for those who give $10 or more) by making your contribtion
sooner rather than later: -- Rachel

+ + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + +


Date: 1.7.03
From: Ryan Griffis (grifray AT
Subject: new media job opp. AT stanford


The Department of Art and Art History intends to make an appointment at
the level of Assistant Professor with the start date of September, 2003.
We seek a media artist working in video, web, or interactive
installation. Interdisciplinary artists whose theoretical and research
focus will serve as a bridge between our program and other areas within
the university are encouraged to apply. The successful candidate must
clearly articulate a broad knowledge of the historical and theoretical
issues of contemporary visual art and culture, including the issues and
problems particular to new media. This faculty member will teach a core
group of undergraduate courses reflective of his/her expertise, act as
critic and seminar leader in the MFA Program, and work with faculty
colleagues in integrating all studio practices. MFA plus substantial
exhibition record and proven teaching ability required. A/D February 1,
2003. Send letter of application with a statement on the development
and direction of your work and a description of your approach to
teaching, CV, portfolio with SASE for its return, and the names,
addresses and email address of 3 referees to support your candidacy to:
Studio Search Committee, Department of Art and Art History, Stanford
University, Stanford, California 94305-2018. Stanford is committed to
equal opportunity and affirmative action employment and encourages women
and minorities to apply.

+ + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + +


Date: 1.7.03
From: Annette Weintraub <weintraub AT>
Subject: two faculty positions

Assistant/Associate Professor, Tenure Track
Digital Photography and Photography,
The City College of New York, Department of Art
PVN #:fy1608
Closing Date: 02/10/03

Duties and Responsibilities:
Tenure track position in Art at the Assistant or Associate professor level,
subject to budgetary approval. The successful candidate will be expected to
help integrate traditional dark room photography and digital imaging
disciplines in Art Department offering BA degree with area specializations
in studio art and BFA in Electronic Design and Multimedia. He or she will
also expand the undergraduate curriculum in digital imaging as well as teach
foundation photography; and participate in development of digital imaging
facilities. Consultation on BFA thesis presentations and participation in
the publishing and design activities of the Robinson Center for Graphic Arts
and Communication Design, as well as substantial student advisement, are
also required.

M.F.A. required, M.F.A in Digital Photography preferred; strong record of
professional achievement with active exhibition record/commercial practice;
familiarity with contemporary theory and new media criticism; a minimum of
one year of college teaching beyond graduate assistantships; and strong
organizational and administrative skills, also required.

Salary range:
$35,031-$77,529 commensurate with qualifications and experience

To apply:
Send CV, a statement of teaching/design philosophy; visual documentation of
your own work and twenty samples of student work in slides or on CD or disk,
and the names, addresses and phone numbers of three (3) professional
references postmarked by the closing date to:

Professor Ellen Handy, Chair (include PVN#)
Art Department
The City College, CUNY
Convent Avenue at 138th St.
New York, NY 10031

The City College of New York has a strong institutional commitment to the
principle of diversity. In that spirit, we are particularly interested in
receiving applications from a broad spectrum of people, including women and
under-represented groups. Upon request, reasonable accommodations will be
provided for individuals with disabilities.

All candidates must meet IRCA employment eligibility requirements for


Assistant/Associate Professor, Tenure Track
3D Modeling and Digital Media
The City College of New York, Department of Art
PVN #: fy1610
Closing Date: 02/10/03

Duties and Responsibilities:
Tenure track position in Art in three-dimensional modeling, rendering and
animation at the Assistant or Associate Professor level, subject to
budgetary approval. Develop and expand undergraduate courses in 3D imaging
in Art Department offering BA degree with area specializations in studio art
and BFA in Electronic Design and Multimedia; with knowledge of Maya
(Macintosh platform). The successful candidate may also teach courses in
other aspects of digital media. Consultation on BFA thesis presentations
and participation in the publishing and design activities of the Robinson
Center for Graphic Arts and Communication Design; substantial student
advisement and program development, also required.

M.F.A. in 3D Design/3D Animation; a strong record of professional
achievement with active exhibition record/commercial practice; familiarity
with contemporary theory and new media criticism; a minimum of one year of
college teaching beyond graduate assistantships; and strong organizational
and administrative skills.

Salary range:
$35,031-$77,529 commensurate with qualifications and experience.

To apply:
Send CV, a statement of teaching/design philosophy; visual documentation of
your own work and twenty samples of student work on CD or disk or other
digital media; and he names, addresses and phone numbers of three (3)
professional references postmarked by the closing date to:

Professor Ellen Handy, Chair (include PVN#)
Art Department
The City College, CUNY
Convent Avenue at 138th St.
New York, NY 10031

The City College of New York has a strong institutional commitment to the
principle of diversity. In that spirit, we are particularly interested in
receiving applications from a broad spectrum of people, including women and
under-represented groups. Upon request, reasonable accommodations will be
provided for individuals with disabilities.

All candidates must meet IRCA employment eligibility requirements for


+ + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + +


Date: 1.6.03
From: The Irish Museum of Modern Art (info AT
Subject: Irish Museum of Modern Art Net Art Open 2003 call for submission


Following the success of the Irish Museum of Modern Art's Net.Art open 2002
we are pleased to announce the call for entries for the IMMA Net.Art open

I would like to take this opportunity to invite net artists to participate
in this imitative. As it was last year this year's exhibition will be
uncurated, or rather, curated by the community. In other words all
entries will be included in the exhibition.

To participate in this exhibition please mail your name (this should be
the name you want to appear on the exhibition website) and url to
info AT .

As a new feature this year all artists who wish to participate MUST also
recommend a work of by another artist. This will be included in the
exhibition as their recommendation. We would prefer that the recommendation
be for a piece that is relatively unknown in the world rather then
an old favourite that we've all seen before and it is certainly not a call
for your favourite net art work.

Please do not submit portfolio sites for painting or graphic/ web design.
The URL you submit should link as directly as possible to the work
Works included in the Net.Art Open 2002 are not eligible.
Only one work per person/group may be submitted.
Every entry must include a recommendation for a work by another artist.
Last Day for Submission is the 20th January 2003.

Thank you for your time

Arthur X Doyle
Director of Virtual Curating
The Irish Museum of Modern Art
The Irish Museum of Modern Art

info AT

+ + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + +


Date: 1.6.03
From: AT
Subject: New Commissioned Work on Turbulence: xurban_collective's "Knit++"

For Immediate Release
January 6, 2003
New Commissioned Work on Turbulence
xurban_collective's "Knit++"

xurban_collective's "Knit++" draws an analogy between home workers of the
18th century (knitters) and 'net workers' of the 21st century. Despite the
fact that knitters labored with the material, and networkers with the
immaterial, their struggles within the capitalistic production framework are
comparable. The knitting analogy is multi-layered: the project allows the
user to literally knit each of the collective's individual works together.
Each of its members (currently ten) brings a different skill to the project,
for example, photography, video, VRML, and sound. The layers are knit
together with a pattern generator in an ongoing and interactive process.
Knit++ is based on the concept of interlocking loops that form
non-hierarchical distribution patterns of people and places. Knit++ is a
work in process: the collective will continue to add new pieces over a
period of time.
The project was recently exhibited as an installation-knit ++//off the book
spaces//- AT Istanbul Tuyap Conference Center (pope&imam), November 2002.

xurban_collective bio:
xurban is an online/offline collective dedicated to art and politics. xurban
attempts to motivate/provoke theoretical/political discussions and online
art works.

Since its founding xurban has transformed the data flow between its terminal
points-New York, Istanbul, Ankara, Amsterdam-and fed it back to the
decentralized circulation of the world wide web. At the same time it has
tackled the problems of transferring these expressions to the physical
exhibition space.

xurban have realized numerous site-specific installations with online
components, including:

"Catastrophe/On the Outside Same As Inside," (pope&imam), Kasa gallery,
Istanbul, October 2000.
"Confessions: Strong From East-EastWest, "(pope&imam):
-Turkish Pavilion AT Venice Biennial, Venice, Italy, June 2001
-Borusan Art Gallery, Istanbul, Turkey, December 2001
-Bonn KunstMuseum, Bonn, Germany, December 2001
"Central Intelligence," (pope&imam), Bonn KunstMuseum, Bonn, Germany,
December 2001.
For more information about Turbulence's commissioning program, please visit or write AT

+ + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + +


Mute, issue 25, is out this week. Conceptually and volumetrically
expanded, (involves more cartographic & artists' projects & has doubled
the pages), this new bi-annual volume is phat. Articles on: WarChalking,
the Artists' Placement Group and Ambient Culture and more.

+ + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + +


Date: 1.6.03
From: Etienne Cliquet (teleferique AT
Subject: hiddenCam

HiddenCam (Mouse movies)

HiddenCam is recording the mouse action of visitors
on the homepage of our server and save it to little
sequence in database.

At the beginning, i wanted to find a realistic title
close to early installations by Dan Graham like :
"Opposing Mirrors and Video Monitors on Time Delay",
or the first name of the mouse given by Douglas Engelbart:
"X-Y position indicator for a display system " (1970).

Finally i've chosen hiddenCam because it refers to
erotic webcam, the desire of control (internet stats).


Etienne Cliquet

+ + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + +


Date: 12.21.02
From: valerie lamontagne (valerie AT
Subject: Biennale de Montréal 2002 -> Review

---> Biennale de Montréal 2002 <----

The Centre International d'Art Contemporain de Montréal's (CIAC) recently
held its third edition of the Biennale de Montréal
( featuring a selection of web art
works. The CIAC, a Montreal-based arts institution, has been active in
promoting web art since 1997. The Electronic Magazine of the CIAC
(, founded by Sylvie Parent who was its editor
from 1997 to 2001 and curator of the first two Biennales (1998 + 2000, has been a major force in promoting and
presenting web art in Montréal and to the French and English communities of
Canada as well as internationally. Over the years the magazine has featured
interviews with, and works by, many of the most important Canadian and
international web artists of the recent years.

This third Biennale de Montréal continues in the CIAC's commitment to
including web art in an event which predominantly features traditional forms
of art making such as painting, drawing, photo, and installation. The web
component of the Biennale was unfortunately only featured online and not in
Quartier Éphèmere's "Foundry Darling"
( located in Old
Montréal where the exhibition was held. This former factory was recently
beautifully renovated by the Montréal-based architectural collective Atelier
In Situ (, whose practice is focused on the
integration of digital technology into historical architectural sites.
Although this was a missed opportunity to display the works of the selected
web artists in a more visually expanded installation format, the selection
of the web works in "Aesthetics = Ethics" curated by Anne-Marie Boivert, the
CIAC's current web art curator and editor of the Electronic Magazine were
noteworthy for their colourful playfulness.

The ten works selected for the show stem from conventions of play and
identity politics. The first set of web works investigate the relationships
forged online through the means of self-expression, communication and
collectivity as displayed through the aegis of mediated identities. Many of
the works are in fact developed from the notion of the self-portrait -
expanding on the possibilities of reflexivity and self discovery. Stemming
from the Biennale's main overarching theme "Life is life!...Pleasures,
passions, emotions" the second set of web works are articulated around
concepts of pleasure, escape and artifice.

Self / Mediated Identities
Anonymous' (Nino Rodriguez) "Portrait of the Artist as a Home Page"
( (USA, 2001)
displays an endless series of home pages featuring quotes and photographs of
"Ninos" on the internet. Like the endless interest groups online, the artist
has created an association of commonalities which is based on name as
identity, creating an endless stream of home page portraits. The "Ninos,"
linked by their mutual name, are here also index through their differences
and particularities as we note each one's specificity.

When Michael Danes' "The Body of Michael Danes"
( (Canada, 2000) was first launched it was
immediately canonized within the history of web art as one of the first
conceptual performance pieces done with the conventions of eBay. By placing
"his body" on sale via the web, Danes' problematizes identity and ownership
through a proposition that, though absurd on some levels, echoes a Blade
Runner-esque intervention into e-commerce.

In "Selbst-los/Self-less" ( (Germany, 1999) by
Wolf Kahlen we are invited to collectively de-materialize the artist's
portrait through our presence on his site. Every visit causing the pixilated
destruction of his image is re-composed by the public's intervention. In a
time where documents and memories are evanescent - the act of
erasure/creation references a death through the digital apparatus, and hence
the death of the "portrait" as a historical record.

"Self-Portrait version 2.0" ( (USA, 2001) by Brooke
Singer was created as a data-mining-based portrait of the artist where we
access personal and web-derived information about the artist. In a similar
vein, "Electronic Soul Mirroring" ( (USA/Italy, 2000)
by Carlo Zanni (AKA Beta) equally accurately reflects our online identities
by mirroring the contents of our personal computer hard drives to stand in
as our virtual representation on the WWW. In a continuation of Beta's
interest in identity construction - the self is the computer and vice versa.

Pleasure / Artifice

The second set of works, as mentioned, is more playful and colourful...
Frédéric Durieu's "Experimental Zoo"
( (Belgium / France, 2001)
permits us to intervene on a fabricated natural landscape with significant
visual impact. Playfully offering up a Darwinian take on bio-manipulation,
our actions in this psychedelic fauna and foe environment permits us to
animate and play god with the featured puppet-like creatures, such as
giraffes, penguins, mosquitoes +.

Lia's "Re-Move" ( (Austria, 2000-2) is
focused on the drawing gesture in reference to the overriding presence of
drawings in the Biennale. Here we are beckoned to compose from
modernist-influence graphic animations such as lines, squares, dots etc. At
once simply designed and effectively engaging, the results conjure up
memories of lyrical etch-a-sketches and telephone doodles.

"Nomad Lingo" ( (Canada, 2000-1)
developed over the course of one year by jJhave features poetic word
animations; Jillian Mcdonald "Home Like No Place"
(Canada, 2002) evokes Dorothy's journey in the land of Oz; and Tara
Bethune-Leamen's "Virus Corp"
( (Canada, 2001) features a
anime-type animal based on a character from "Princess Mononoke" who imprints
its benign traces a website of your choice.

The two main themes of the exhibition - ethics and aesthetics (or identity
and artifice) - are complementary in different ways. With the one set of
works offering an escape from "reality" and the other from "self" the web
remains a forum where identity is diverted, place is artifice and exchanges
are hued in the nebulous light of the computer screen.
Valerie Lamontagne


-----> Ellipse. Art on the Web

-----> MobileGaze: on-line culture.

-----> Matter + Memory: exhibition

+ + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + +


10-10-10! It's the 10th Anniversary New York Digital Salon issue of
LEONARDO. 10 curators pick 10 works each for a top 100 survey of digital
art. Order your copy of LEONARDO Volume 35 Number 5 AT

+ + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + +


Date: 1.9.03
From: (twsherma AT
Subject: Artificial Perception as Reality Check

Artificial Perception as Reality Check
Thinking About MIT's Tangible Bits

By Tom Sherman

[this text was commissioned for and previously published in Horizon Zero,
the webzine of the Banff Centre:]

"Tangible Bits is an attempt to bridge the gap between cyberspace and the
physical environment by making digital information (bits) tangible."

--Hiroshi Ishii, from his Website:

Tangible Media

Hiroshi Ishii started the Tangible Media research group and their ongoing
Tangible Bits project in 1995, when he joined MIT's Media Laboratory
[] as a professor of Media Arts and Sciences.
Ishii relocated from Japan's NTT Human Interface Laboratories
[] in Kyoto, where he had made his mark
in Human Computer Interaction (HCI) and Computer-Supported Cooperative
Work (CSCW) in the early 1990s.

I met Ishii when I visited his lab in 1997 while conducting research for
Ars Electronica's FleshFactor [] symposia
and exhibitions. At the time, there was (as there still is) a lot of new
renaissance hype coming out of MIT. But despite what anyone may have heard
to the contrary, engineering still rules at MIT. To Ishii's credit, he
doesn't pretend to be an artist. His research focus has always been on the
design of seamless interfaces between humans, digital information, and the
physical environment. Ishii is an engineer interested in perception. That
said, his use of written language to over-state the creative dimensions of
Tangible Bits research sometimes verges on poetic hyperbole.

Seamless Surfaces

By 1997 there was a steady stream of rhetorically sophisticated
"literature" pouring out of the Tangible Media lab. The story begins with
the shortcomings of computer interfaces to date. Graphic user interfaces
(GUIs) - screens and keyboards and mice - prohibit people from using their
higher, natural skills for sensing and interacting with their physical
environments. Computers are currently anti-body. You can't touch the data
you are working with, or use your body to move around it. But some day
computing will be more accommodating to multiple intelligences
[] - including
bodily/kinesthetic and musical/rhythmic intelligences. Tangible Bits seeks
"to build upon these skills by giving physical form to digital
information, seamlessly coupling the dual worlds of bits and atoms." The
idea of a "seamless" integration of digital language and devices into the
physical domain is a central theme.

One strategy for eliminating the "frame" separating computing from the
rest of world is to spread digital information into the background.
Ideally, hands-on, foreground interactions with computers will be informed
by information lingering at the periphery of the user's senses. The
Tangible Bits philosophy is anchored on the gestalt theory of Max
Wertheimer. [] In
all learning environments, context is important. According to the
pervasive-computing scenario of Tangible Bits, in the near future we will
live surrounded by things such as "interactive surfaces, whereby walls,
desktops, ceilings, doors, windows, etc. become an active interface
between the physical and virtual worlds." The rooms we live and work in,
the cars we drive, the terrain, vegetation, and water we encounter, will
all eventually yield digital information. Ishii's group "is seeking ways
to turn each state of physical matter - not only solid matter, but also
liquids and gases within everyday architectural spaces - into interfaces
between people and digital information."

Pervasive Prototypes

These lofty goals have been substantiated in the somewhat primitive
technical achievements of the Tangible Media Group to date. Throughout the
1990s and into the present, Ishii and his research associates (mostly MIT
graduate students) have typically demonstrated half-a-dozen "tangible
interface" prototypes a year. Their projects have resulted in curiosities
like Audiopad, a real-time musical instrument comprised of movable pucks
on a flat display surface.
Also, see Illuminating Clay,
[ Clay]
a computational landscape-modeling system featuring digital graphics
projected over malleable putty. Without diminishing the difficulties of
trying to close the great divide between atoms and bits, these devices are
clearly master's thesis-sized projects in terms of achievement, and appear
to be baby-steps in a rather gimmicky research field. My personal
favourites include musicBottles,
wherein different parts in a musical arrangement are "played" by removing
the caps from three transparent containers - this project is said to
exploit "the emotional aspects of glass bottles." Also, LumiTouch,
[] a pair of
picture frames networked so that they light up when long-distance lovers
hold photographs of each other. The shallowness of these touchy-feely
attempts to communicate emotional content only serve to undermine the
Tangible rhetoric.

The vulnerability of this research is its extreme literalness, its nuts
and bolts lack of poetics. It is ironic that these hardware-based
prototypes serve to deconstruct and demystify, rather than to strengthen,
some of the group's best claims. Tangible Bits research is conducted by
computer scientists and students in interdisciplinary teams (different
species of engineers, cognitive psychologists, and so on). The profiles of
these researchers generally reveal parallel, hobby-like interests in music
and the visual arts, plus lots of hiking, camping, wind-surfing, and yoga.
It's clear that being creative and pragmatic, killing two birds with one
stone, is an art form in Ishii's lab.

With the above criticism levied, it is hard to argue against the wisdom of
developing dual, or multiple-purpose systems. And all these modest,
thesis-level projects will eventually accrue into a significant
engineering domain. MIT attracts brilliant scientists and students, and I
have no doubt that there is more behind the Tangible Bits initiative than
meets the eye. Just look at the wonderful promises.

Perceptive Engineering

Max Wertheimer said that we should seek to discover the underlying nature
of things (the relationships between elements, both figure and ground).
Ishii is a gestaltist, and he learned a great deal from the late Mark
Weiser, [] the brilliant former chief
technologist at Xerox PARC. Weiser launched the idea of ubiquitous, or
pervasive, computing. Mainframes gave way to personal computing, and
computing will now move out into the physical environment, in what Weiser
said would be an era of "calm technology"
[] In other words,
technology will recede into the background.

Hiroshi Ishii has distilled Wertheimer and Weiser's thinking into the key
research goals of Tangible Bits: develop interactive surfaces, couple
atoms and bits (so that the surface of physical objects will reveal
digital information), and move digital information into ambient media.
(Background interfaces at the periphery of sense perception are absolutely
key: again, context matters.)

The extreme literalness which typifies the way engineers apply perceptual
theory leads me to predict the next twist in Ishii's rhetorical narrative:
If human perception depends entirely upon information in the environment
(the Tangible Bits vision is a literal projection of the act of perception
onto the environment), then the way we colour or distort the world in our
internal cognitive processes can be over-written and ignored. Advertising
agencies will love the idea of living rooms where every single surface
reinforces a pitch!

Perception in Ishii's model will end up being a direct consequence of the
properties of the environment. The imagination, and our "memory" of prior
learning, will actually be composed by the environment. We will slip into
a sub-symbolic reality: a childlike state of sensual reverie. Rhetorical
substantiation for such a vision may be obtained from two texts by J. J.
Gibson: The Senses Considered as Perceptual Systems (1966), and The
Ecological Approach to Visual Perception (1979). Gibson, in his theories
of ecological psychology, stressed the importance of interaction: give and
take between the organism and the environment. Active, physical learning,
where major information is picked up by moving around and finding out what
happens, is the guiding principle of Gibson's thinking.

There's no question that today's GUIs pin us down, immobilizing our
bodies, restricting our computing environment to a symbolic, physically
inactive space. But what will happen to our internal, cognitive processes
when we start slipping in and out of cyberspace by physically moving
around: walking, running, jumping, bumping, and caressing? This is where
the passion of engineers who love to hike and bike, windsurf and practice
yoga, comes into play.

Tom Sherman [] is an artist and
theorist who splits his time between Port Mouton, Nova Scotia, and
Syracuse, New York, where he teaches media art history, theory, and
practice at Syracuse University's Department of Art Media Studies.
[] His latest book, Before and After the I-Bomb: An
Artist in the Information Environment,
[] was published by
the Banff Centre Press in 2002.

1. James Jerome Gibson's The Senses Considered as Perceptual Systems
(1966) and The Ecological Approach to Visual Perception (1979) were both
published by Boston's Houghton Mifflin. An extensive bibliography
[] of Gibson's
work, as well as explanations of his Information Pickup Theory,
[] are available online.

2. The artifacts and goals of the Tangible Media Group have been made even
more graspable in the 1997 paper
Tangible Bits: Towards Seamless Interfaces between People, Bits and Atoms
by Hiroshi Ishii and Brygg Ullmer. A complete list of Tangible Bits
interfaces is viewable on Tangible Media's projects page.

3. Unless otherwise noted, quotes from Hiroshi Ishii concerning Tangible
Media and Tangible Bits have been taken directly from Ishii's Web site.

+ + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + +


Date: 12.23.02
From: Brett Stalbaum (beestal AT
Subject: Database Logic(s) and Landscape Art [2/5]

Database Logic(s) and Landscape Art
Brett Stalbaum, C5 corporation

Surveyor: Precession of models and landscape [2/5]

The participation of the landscape in human culture is increasingly
understood through Global Information Systems. For example, the emerging
discipline of archeological geophysics uses GIS data to explore the
influence of geology on human political and economic history. [7] But the
operational inversion of this statement is also true: political and
economic history inflects (and often inflicts) itself on the landscape.
For example geologists and civil engineers enlist geo-data to help
physically reorganize the landscape; construction, mining, oil drilling,
landfill, agriculture, railroads, urban planning, waterworks, dams and
transportation are all endeavors that now prehend the landscape through
the use of geo-data. The landscape's own data is a player in the
systemization of our decision making. [8] Global information systems,
including the C5 Landscape Database [9] and related tools, demonstrate
precession of the model through processing data via semantically stable
data models, over which processing yields information that allows the
revelation of knowledge about the landscape which predicts our relation
toward it.

[image: Map of Mt. Diablo, California, UTM imager module, C5 Landscape
database (2002)]

The practical outcomes of this knowledge indicate that the landscape
prehends to some degree its own modification by humanity. This concept
seems counter-intuitive, but an example makes it straightforward. Dams,
for example will be constructed in topographies and geologies that allow
them to function as dams. [10] Data models lie in some position between a
two way conversation between the cultural and the topographical that lead
to actual modifications of the landscape. In autopoietic terms, the
exploration of relations between topography and culture through
informational interchange is beginning to reveal examples of structural
coupling-like [11] behavior between them. To grasp this, it is important
to understand that data has simultaneously become a catalyzing factor in
the conversation, not merely an analytical tool for exploitation. This
feedback loop alters the character of the human relationship to landscape
from that of relatively unplanned domination to a somewhat more sensitive
symbiosis. [12] Data and control systems provide a channel through which
eco-systems are able to express an influence in favor of their own
protection. [13] In addition, the landscape occasionally demands (or
acquiesces to) a new bridge, water diversion, nuclear waste site or
freeway interchange. Thus one of the problems that artists (and possibly
scientists) working with landscape as data must deal with is the
embeddedness of the precession of models in-between the political and the
immanence of data as it is processed into information. This political
dimension to the inquiry deals with mapping as a cultural production
embedded within a set of scientific descriptors which drive our cultural
relationship with the land. How can we begin to describe the complexities
that emerge from this relationship?

[image: Evidence of the cultural in landscape data, Memphis, TN.]

Data, which is non-controversially real in an ontological sense, is now a
formative influence on the actualization of the landscape through
virtualization in information technology systems. The notion of virtual in
this description is drawn from Deleuze's schema for describing
multiplicities, as discussed by Delanda. [14] It does not refer to the
interfacial notion of 'virtual reality', but rather to the actualization
of reality through velocity vector fields (or tendencies to behave) that
manifest themselves as actual (measurable) trajectories of physical
systems as expressed in relational constraints between its vectors. The
trajectories resulting from relative constraints tend to settle into
consistent patterns of interaction with one another. Observations of
velocity vectors and trajectories in actual systems allow phase portraits
describing such systems to be embedded in simulated manifolds consisting
of descriptors of the vectors and their trajectories. The phase portrait
simply describes the interactions inherent in the actual system. Applied
science utilizes this schema to model physical systems; analyzing behavior
through repeated observations of actual physical systems, and then using
computer models developed through the informatization of such observations
into manifolds to animate vector descriptors into phase portraits. Through
simulated manipulation of descriptors describing velocity vectors,
scientists are able to model natural systems and predict complex behavior.
The United States, for example, has ceased to physically test nuclear
weapons, because these can be tested virtually with super-computer

For Delanda and before him Deleuze, virtuality is not merely a
contemporary artifact of computation, but rather identifies the proximity
of concrete attractors, realities which attract the actualization of
systems, and which for Delanda replaces essences in philosophy. It is
specifically because the virtual is real (or more real than real) that it
can be explored computationally, where for example Plato's ideal forms
simply can not be computed. In other words, virtuality implies a
relationship to the actualization of systems in concrete terms, not
transcendental terms. The concreteness of attractors are demonstrated in
"various long term tendencies of a system... which are recurrent
topological features, which means that different sets of equations,
representing quite different physical systems, may possess a similar
distribution of attractors and hence, similar long-term behavior." [15] In
more common Deleuzeian terms, attractors are abstract machines: general
abstract processes (such as stratification, meshworks, blind replicators)
that play an embedded role in the instantiation of a concrete actual.
Simulations really help us study actual systems, including geology,
watershed, landcover, and topography. Thus the virtual is defined in terms
of attractors or actuators of the real, not the imaginary virtual reality
worlds that have been the subject of so many art projects.

Data is thus not unreal; it is a virtual reality that participates in
instantiation. The mechanisms of data that participate in actualization
can be discovered through modes of experimental exploration in virtual
space. We might be tempted to infer that it is the information, knowledge,
(and related opportunity) that can be mined from modeled data (in relation
to the virtual), which play the catalytic role in the generation of the
real landscape where humanity is involved, and to a large degree, this has
been the case historically. In this view, the techniques of virtual
science allow us to search for predictive scientific truths that can be
rationally manipulated. But of course, there are perspectives that
potentially make this inference problematic. We could, for example, pose a
Marxist-semiotic analysis; positing that there exists parasitic cultural
assumptions that cleave to (or are expressed in) data models (and thus the
data collected), which are otherwise sincerely generated for scientific
purposes. In other words, do notions of progress, development, land use,
extraction of natural resources and other cultural or economic desires
dictate the manifold, perhaps through omission of descriptors, based on
the 'purpose' that the data is intentionally collected for? This could
explain the subtle and perhaps even unintentional manipulation of science
to either deny or confirm humanity's influence on global warming, to site
just one well known example.

Alternatively, data's role in the instantiation of the actual may be a
matter of virtual informatic interrelations (or external relations between
data sets), forming their own consensual domains [16] that heretofore have
not yet been observed as such, but which potentially inflect the operation
of actual systems via informational transfer between neighboring systems
of interrelations. In other words, data interrelations may themselves be
vectors that influence the trajectory of actual systems. This theory
depends on the idea that data is not only real, but actual, and capable of
actualization. Although it is likely that all of these issues are all
interoperable to some degree, Joel Slayton hints at C5's orientation by
posing the following: "These are factors of economic and political
assessment which infer that database logic necessarily has to surpass...
intentionalities. Are artists just going to do economic, rainfall and
surveillance models, or does the question shift to other subject-less
concerns of mere informatic relations? If so, what is the semiotic
context?" [17] Subject-less (or non-semantic) informatic relations must
express some form of semiotic-like behavior if actual (because actual
systems can ultimately be signified, such as imaginary numbers), but would
be difficult to penetrate from either the examination of their semiosis,
(how do we observe a system when we don't know what questions to ask), and
from the perspective of a language to express that which is after all
non-semantic. "Clarity endlessly plunges into obscurity" [18] under such
analytical circumstances. This is obviously a highly speculative
territory, but if tactics to reveal such relations of data can be
developed, and if they can be generalized, then we have a new
understanding of database [19] that may account for the two way
conversation between the cultural and the topographical, (or the genetic,
the chemical, the quantum, etc.) C5 enters this terrain in explorative
fashion though the semiotic context of our discipline (as artists), with
landscape and its data as the object of study.

[next installment: Mountainous: Semiotics, and the precession of semantic

[7] For a good example, see
The GIS of "Salem Village in 1692" is part of an electronic Research
Archive of primary source materials related to the Salem witch trials of
[8] This is one aspect of C5's research into geo-data and technology in
the landscape: allowing or encouraging alternative examples of potentially
healthy and interesting 'revelation' on the part of the landscape to be
[9] (Alpha)
[10] This is even known to happen "naturally":
[11] Maturana, Humberto R., and Varela, Francisco J., The Tree of
Knowledge - The Biological Roots of Human Understanding, 1987 Shambhala
Publications, Boston Massachusetts. Pg 75. "[A] history of recurrent
interactions leading to the structural congruence between two (or more)
[12] For example, data plays a significant role in decision making in the
nascent movement to remove unneeded dams in the United States.
[13] A good example can be found in accomplishments of the Mono Lake
Committee founded by scientist David Gains in 1978, who used scientific
data as the basis of the Committee's work to save the lake. It was the
data that convinced the justice system that the lake needed to be better
[14] Delanda, Manuel Intensive Science & Virtual Philosophy, Continuum,
370 Lexington Ave, NY NY 2002, pg 36
[15] ibid 15
[16] Wittig, Geri, Expansive Order: Situated and Distributed Knowledge
Production in Network Space,
[17] Quoted from a personal conversation, with permission.
[18] Slayton, Joel and Wittig, Geri Ontology of Organization as System,
Switch - the new media journal of the CADRE digital media laboratory, Fall
1999, Vol 5 Num 3,
[19] Stalbaum. Brett, Toward Autopoietic Database, a research paper for
C5. (2001)

+ + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. If you value this
free publication, please consider making a contribution within your
means at Checks and money orders may be sent
to, 115 Mercer Street, New York, NY 10012. Contributions are
tax-deductible to the extent allowed by law and are gratefully
acknowledged at Our financial statement
is available upon request.

Rhizome Digest is supported by grants from The Charles Engelhard
Foundation, The Rockefeller Foundation, The Andy Warhol Foundation for
the Visual Arts, and with public funds from the New York State Council
on the Arts, a state agency.

+ + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + +

Rhizome Digest is filtered by Rachel Greene (rachel AT ISSN:
1525-9110. Volume 8, number 2. Article submissions to list AT
are encouraged. Submissions should relate to the theme of new media art
and be less than 1500 words. For information on advertising in Rhizome
Digest, please contact info AT

To unsubscribe from this list, visit

Subscribers to Rhizome Digest are subject to the terms set out in the
Member Agreement available online at

+ + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + +