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: 11.05.04
Date: Mon, 8 Nov 2004 14:56:56 -0800

RHIZOME DIGEST: November 5, 2004


1. Francis Hwang: Director of Technology's report, October 2004

2. Cornelia Sollfrank: "Legal Perspective" by Cornelia Sollfrank in Basel
3. Christina McPhee: LOCATION!LOCATION!LOCATION!November 10 at the
Exploratorium SF
4. Richard de Boer: DEAF04: Dutch Electronic Art Festival starting on 9

5. Annie Wong: Technical Specialist - Parsons School of Design
6. Rachel Greene: Fwd: Mosaica web project
7. Rachel Greene: Fwd: The Canadian Film Centre's Habitat New Media Lab

8. ust added to the Rhizome ArtBase: ARBUSh by Bruce Caron
9. Just added to the Rhizome ArtBase: { Software Structures }
by Casey Reas
10. Mendi+Keith Obadike: CDs and a book from Mendi+Keith Obadike

11. Gloria Sutton: Exhibiting New Media Art (Part 1 of 2)

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Date: 11.02.04
From: Director of Technology's report, October 2004
Subject: Director of Technology's report, October 2004

Hey everybody,

A few more fun things happened this past month:

1. Reports page
There's now a page that collects a lot of strategic-type documents
pertaining to where Rhizome has been and where it's going. It's pretty
wonky stuff, but you might find it useful for perspective.

2. New RSS feed: Opportunities
If you're looking for a job, a chance to collaborate, a place to submit
your criticism, or other opportunities, point your RSS aggregators to
the Opportunities feed and browse away!
And keep in mind that the whole list of RSS feeds is maintained at

3. Text display now shows published texts in bold, and I fixed
a strange pagination bug that happened when you clicked on the "older"
or "newer" buttons. And just 'cause we live at internet speeds these
days, I added date+time displaying to the texts at thread.rhiz.

Francis Hwang
Director of Technology
phone: 212-219-1288x202
AIM: francisrhizome

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Date: 10.31.04
From: Cornelia Sollfrank <cornelia AT>
Subject: "Legal Perspective" by Cornelia Sollfrank in Basel

"Legal Perspective"
Exhibition by Cornelia Sollfrank
November 5 - 22nd, 2004
Opening: November 4th, 2004; 8pm

For the exhibition Cornelia Sollfrank realized a new work in the trouble
spot between a current artistic practice and the laws in force. Part of her
original project for the [] exhibition was to display a series of
images which were produced by her generator. For these pieces the generator used Andy Warhol's flower images, and reassembled parts of
them to create new images. In the opinion of certain lawyers this project
would not have been in accordance with the law and could therefore not be

As a consequence, Sollfrank and her camera team visited four lawyers
specialized in intellectual property right. She talked with the lawyers
about the legal risks implied in running and using the programs and in
downloading, saving, publishing and distributing the re-worked images, also
with regard to the possibility of displaying her work in []. With
this project Sollfrank tries not only to make a point for artistic freedom
in general, but especially for free experimenting, processing and re-working
of exisiting material as a legitimate and serious artistic practice that has
been developed throughout the 20th century.

The interviews address the limitations of the artistic freedom, which is
granted by the basic rights of most countries. They also ask about the
infringement of intellectual property rights, which are committed by a
computer program, by internet users, and by an artistic practice which is
becoming more and more important in a contemporary cultural discourse. The
beautiful and visually seducing re-worked Andy Warhol flower images are at
the core of the interviews, but must remain absent in the exhibition. What
becomes visible instead is the boundary, where it's no longer artists but
lawyers and courts which take decisions on cultural developments: The 'legal
perspective' as one possible contribution to art history's central
discussion about perspective?

Collaborating lawyers: RA Peter Eller, Munich; RA Jens Brelle, Hamburg, Dr.
Rolf Auf der Mauer, Zurich; Dr. Sven Krüger, Hamburg;

The exhibition takes place within ?copy-create-manipulate", a part of the
VIPER Festival 2004 which was curated by [].

[plug-in], St. Alban-Rheinweg 64, CH-4052 Basel
Tel. +41 61 283 60 50, Fax +41 61 283 60 51, office AT
Opening hours: Wed-Sat 2-6 pm, Thu 2-6pm and 8-10pm

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||a |||r |||t |||w |||a |||r |||e |||z || .org

take it and run!

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Rhizome is now offering organizational subscriptions, memberships
purchased at the institutional level. These subscriptions allow
participants of an institution to access Rhizome's services without
having to purchase individual memberships. (Rhizome is also offering
subsidized memberships to qualifying institutions in poor or excluded
communities.) Please visit for more
information or contact Rachel Greene at Rachel AT

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Date: 11.01.04
From: Christina McPhee <christina112 AT>
Subject: LOCATION!LOCATION!LOCATION!November 10 at the Exploratorium SF

YLEM Forum:
Three Projects in Locative Media by California Artists

Wednesday, November 10, 7:30 pm
McBean Theater, Exploratorium
3501 Lyon St.
San Francisco, CA 94123
Free, Open to the public and wheelchair accessible



1 Slipstreamkonza:Autochamber


Christina McPhee with sound collaboration by Henry Warwick

Slipstreamkonza is a sonic topology that remediates carbon absorption and
release data from the tallgrass prairie. Autochamber is a sound prototype
that interprets data from an active climatologic research site using
locative robotic sound within an conceptual practice following the historic
HPSCHD by Lejaren Hiller and John Cage. Christina McPhee's new work from
the series Strike/Slip/Merz_city will open at Transport Gallery in LA in
March-April 2005 < Composer Henry
Warwick, at home in digital imaging and electronic sound, develops data/
sound topologies. He produced the San Francisco Performance Cinema Symposium
(2003) and makes work about the interface of catastrophy and technology. He
is a board member of YLEM (<http:/>)

2 Remote Location 1:100,000

Paula Poole and Brett Stalbaum

Created during August 2004, Box Elder County, Utah, Remote Location
1:100,000 binds together data about landscape and the landscape as data,
using GPS influenced tiles, soil samples, paintings and photo documentation.
The project is sponsored by the Center for Land Use Interpretation
(<>) Paula Poole is adapting landscape painting
traditions to new media. She centers on the landscape of the Great Basin
desert of North America. Brett Stalbaum is
a C5 research theorist and software development artist. He cofounded
Electronic Disturbance Theater and collaborates with Paula Poole on
land/walking/GPS/locative/performance/pictorial works.

3 "34 north 118 west"

Jeremy Hight, Jeff Knowlton and Naomi Spellman

"34 north 118 west" uses gps data and interactive map that triggers live
data through movement in downtown Los Angeles. "34 north 118 west" won the
grand jury prize at the Los Angeles based Art in Motion Festival, Aim IV,
in 2003 <> Jeremy Hight is
a writer fascinated by the weather <>
and 'agitated space'. Naomi Spellman works in locative media, networked
narrative, and was Artist in Residence at the Media Centre, Huddersfield,
U.K.,< last summer. Jeff Knowlton's "A
text for the navigational age", showed at VRML Art 2000 and Siggraph2000.
Also at Huddersfield, UK, Jeff has worked with Naomi to design an
'interpretive engine' for various places on earth, which uses wireless
APs in New York to determine more generalised location. Its debut was in
October 2004 at Spectropolis: Mobile Media, Art and the City, NYC


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Date: 11.04.04
From: Richard de Boer
Subject: DEAF04: Dutch Electronic Art Festival starting on 9 November

DEAF04: Dutch Electronic Art Festival starting 9 November

The seventh edition of the Dutch Electronic Art Festival - DEAF04 will
be opened on Tuesday 9 November in Rotterdam (The Netherlands) with a
unique opening act by Jamie Lidell, FM Einheit and the Poetry Machine, a
computer which generates a stream of word associations.

Dutch Electronic Art Festival is a biennial international festival for
electronic art, presented by V2_, Institute for the Unstable Media, in
Rotterdam, The Netherlands. The festival is a presentation platform for
new media art - some of it commissioned by DEAF - and as a forum for
critical debate and art education.

By collaborating with local, national and international art and research
institutes, the festival creates a synergy between the various art
disciplines and the fields of architecture, philosophy, cultural and
sociological science.

During DEAF04, a number of provocative art projects will address current
social and political issues revolving around both open and closed
systems. Interactivity plays a central part in this, as it defines the
way we think about such systems. Within this thematic framework, DEAF04
presents interactive art as an open system continuously creating new



How do we experience mixed virtual and physical environments? Is
wearable computing empowering us, or are we becoming more vulnerable and
disembodied? How can machines be designed to express emotion by
themselves? On Wednesday 10 and Thursday 11 November, various seminars
are focusing on thought-provoking issues in art and media technology.
The seminar Wearable Turbulence focuses on context-aware, human-centred
computing; The Art of Immersive Spaces questions the role of
human-computer interaction principles in the design of immersive spaces.
The seminar Affective Systems presents research in the area of emotional
computing. See


The central question during the two-day symposium Feelings Are Always
Local (Friday 12 & Saturday 13 November) is - how do local systems arise
and maintain themselves in large, globalizing networks?

Alex Galloway, artist, teacher, computer programmer and joint founder of
the Radical Software Group, will discuss the protocols that determine
how computer networks and biological networks function and describes how
this form of distributed exercise of power can be used for political

Christa Sommerer is an internationally renowned media artist working in
the field of interactive computer installation. In her lecture she will
elaborate on her work Mobile Feelings II shown in the DEAF04 exhibition.

Other speakers are media theorist Arjen Mulder, biologist Tijs
Goldschmidt, anthropologist Christopher Kelty, economist Loretta
Napoleoni, and neurologist Karim Nader. The symposium is moderated by
philosopher Manuel DeLanda.

For program details and reservations check


In the Tactical Urban Map Hack workshop locative media artists will work
together with the public in the creation of open maps; the content
produced by the workshop being consolidated in an online digital map
that will be displayed live within the Cartographic Command Center at
the festival location. Check

DEAF04 - Affective Turbulence: The Art of Open Systems
Tuesday 9 November - Sunday 21 November 2004
Van Nelle Ontwerpfabriek, Rotterdam (The Netherlands)

Contact for information & reservations:
Tel. + 31 (0)10 750 28 90
Fax + 31 (0)10 750 28 94
E-mail: tickets AT

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Date: 11.01.04
From: Annie Wong <wonga AT>
Subject: Technical Specialist - Parsons School of Design

Parsons School of Design, a division of New School University, is seeking a
Technical Specialist in its Digital Design Department. The Technical
Specialist is responsible for the development and management of systems and
resources related primarily to department network presence (web, e-mail and
other network services) and the physical computing and programming

Parsons School of Design's Digital Design Department is a leader in
technology-driven design education. It operates several academic programs
including full-time graduate and undergraduate degrees in design and
technology and a large group of undergraduate digital electives available to
the entire Parsons population. In addition to its academic programs the
Digital Design Department serves as a hub for technology related activity
throughout the university. Facilities available to the students and faculty
are state of the art

+ Develop and maintain all aspects of the Digital Design Departmentâ??s
network presence, including account administration, web services, file
storage, e-mail management, security control and windows and linux server
+ Must be an active participant in a collaborative environment working on
an evolving, cutting edge curriculum.
+ Provide technical support for the physical computing and programming
environment including systems installation and maintenance (Macintosh,
Windows and Linux), overall lab management, equipment inventory control, and
broader design and fabrication environment.
+ Work with the department to propose new additions to the technology
infrastructure related to advanced and experimental digital design research.
+ Maintain physical lab facility, including equipment and furnishings.
+ Serve on departmental and university-wide IT committees as a
representative of the department.
+ Assist in technology needs for various departmental events including
critiques and annual exhibitions.
+ Co-ordinate group of undergraduate and graduate student workers to
assist and support these tasks.
+ Lead and participate in specific research and development projects

The ideal candidate will possess:
+ Extensive Linux systems administration experience; configuration of
mail systems, security, web services, LDAP.
+ Fluency in scripting languages and back-end technologies (Perl, PHP,
mySQL and other open-source languages).
+ Experience in network troubleshooting and support.
+ Thorough knowledge of the Macintosh OS and Windows Systems.
+ Solid organizational skills and team player a must.
+ Independent problem solving; self-direction is crucial.

Benefits Include:
Tuition and comprehensive health insurance.

Interested persons should email a cover letter and resume to
NSUjobs AT Please write Search # 22581 in the subject line to
ensure proper distribution of your resume.

Parsons School of Design/New School University is committed to maintaining a
diverse educational and creative community, a policy of equal opportunity in
all its activities and programs, including employment and promotion. It does
not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national or ethnic origin,
citizenship status, religion, sex, sexual orientation, age, physical
handicap, veteran or marital status.

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Rhizome is now offering organizational subscriptions, memberships
purchased at the institutional level. These subscriptions allow
participants of an institution to access Rhizome's services without
having to purchase individual memberships. (Rhizome is also offering
subsidized memberships to qualifying institutions in poor or excluded
communities.) Please visit for more
information or contact Rachel Greene at Rachel AT

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Date: 11.01.04
From: Rachel Greene <rachel AT>
Subject: Fwd: Mosaica web project

Begin forwarded message:

From: Rebecca Roberts <mosaica AT>
Date: November 1, 2004 11:27:59 AM EST
Subject: Mosaica web project

Call for online projects:

Project Mosaica, a new website devoted to contemporary Jewish culture
online, is seeking projects from individuals and groups on the theme of Jews
and Diaspora: Jewish Culture, Web Culture, New Culture. Two $1,000 (CND)
production honoraria will be awarded to the successful candidates whose web
projects address the possibilities of the virtual diaspora with this theme.

Projects should be innovative and address the visual possibilities of the
web as well as contribute to an understanding of the multi-valent nature,
complexities, significance and changes in meaning of diaspora. This call is
intended to be as inclusive as possible: projects enlisting any and all
artistic disciplines are welcome.

Provide a project description in 500 words including the following: a
statement about the project¹s relationship to Jews and diaspora; why the web
is a viable medium for the project; and an explanation of how the project
will be sustainable beyond implementation.

Include a web-ready presentation.

Include a CV.

Include a selected portfolio of previous work in CD-R, DV-R or video-DVD
(region-one compatible) as appropriate, featuring no more than three images
or five minutes of video.

Proposals to be submitted in English or French; however, we recognize that
other languages may play a role in the final project.

Innovative content and its adaptation to web aesthetics will be the primary
consideration in the selection process. Artists will maintain copyright of
their productions, which will be disseminated by Mosaica on the site and may be presented at public talks and screenings.
Submission material will not be returned.

Applications must be submitted by January 1, 2005.
Online applications are to be submitted to mosaica AT
Decision date: Candidates will be notified by March 1, 2005.
A condition of the honorarium is completion of the project by September 1,

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For $65 annually, Rhizome members can put their sites on a Linux
server, with a whopping 350MB disk storage space, 1GB data transfer per
month, catch-all email forwarding, daily web traffic stats, 1 FTP
account, and the capability to host your own domain name (or use Details at:

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Date: 11.02.04
From: Rachel Greene <rachel AT>
Subject: Fwd: The Canadian Film Centre's Habitat New Media Lab

Begin forwarded message:

From: "Edu-News" <info AT>
Date: November 1, 2004 6:45:13 PM EST
To: "rachel AT" <rachel AT>
Subject: The Canadian Film Centre's Habitat New Media Lab
Reply-To: Edu-News <info AT>

Habitat New Media Lab
Canadian Film Centre
2489 Bayview Ave.
Toronto, ON
Canada M2L 1A8
Tel. + 1 416.445.1446 ext. 296
habitat AT

The Canadian Film Centre's Habitat New Media Lab is currently accepting
applications for the Spring 2005 session of the Interactive Art &
Entertainment Programme (IAEP), a five-month, post-graduate residency
focused on creating inventive interactive narrative projects for the
Canadian and international marketplace.

A maximum of 12 spots are available.

Established by acclaimed filmmaker Norman Jewison, the Canadian Film Centre
created Habitat in 1997 as a collaborative, production-based learning
environment where diverse teams push the evolution of art and entertainment.

Based on a cycle of training, production and research, Habitat is an
internationally acclaimed facility that has produced award-winning new media
prototypes ranging from simulation-based interactive documentaries, to
wireless storytelling networks, to interactive short films and
narrative-driven media installations.

Application Deadline: November 29, 2004

For more information or to request an application please contact:
habitat AT

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Date: 11.04.04
From: "" <artbase AT>
Subject: Just added to the Rhizome ArtBase: ARBUSh by Bruce Caron

Just added to the Rhizome ArtBase ...

+ ARBUSh +
+ Bruce Caron +

This work is for non-commercial use only, and is an expression of the author
using found images.

+ + +


Bruce Caron is the Founder and current executive director of the New Media
Studio. Trained as a social anthropologist and an urban cultural geographer,
he has a wide-ranging background in both quantitative and qualitative
methodologies. He has served as the President of the Federation of Earth
Science Information Partners. He is skilled in a variety of multimedia
authoring tools. He has experience as a programmer, database manager,
graphic designer, videographer, and project manager. Through the New Media
Studio, he sees the need to bring new tools and skills to the public to help
democratize the technological advantages of the digital revolution. He has
taught at colleges and universities in Japan, and at the University of
Pennsylvania and the University of California. He is a contributing editor
of the Kyoto Journal.

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Date: 11.04.04
From: "" <artbase AT>
Subject: Just added to the Rhizome ArtBase: { Software Structures } by
Casey Reas

Just added to the Rhizome ArtBase ...

+ { Software Structures } +
+ Casey Reas +

The catalyst for this project is the work of Sol LeWitt, specifically his
wall drawings. I had a simple question: "Is the history of conceptual art
relevant to the idea of software as art?" I began to answer the question by
implementing three of Lewitt's drawings in software and then making

After working with the LeWitt plans, I created three structures unique to
software. These software structures are text descriptions outlining dynamic
relations between elements. They develop in the vague domain of image and
then mature in the more defined structures of natural language before any
thought is given to a specific machine implementation.

Twenty-six pieces of software derived from these structures were written to
isolate different components of software structures including
interpretation, material, and process. For each, you may view the software,
source code, and comments.

+ + +


Casey Reas is an artist and educator exploring kinetic systems through
diverse media. Reas has exhibited and lectured in Europe, Asia, and the
United States and his work has recently been shown at Ars Electronica
(Linz), Microwave (Hong Kong), ZKM (Karlsruhe), Bitforms (New York), DAM
(Berlin), and Uijeongbu City (Korea). Reas is currently an Assistant
Professor in the Design | Media Arts department at UCLA. Reas received his
MS degree in Media Arts and Sciences from MIT where he was a member of John
Maeda's Aesthetics and Computation Group. With Ben Fry, he is developing
Processing, a programming language and environment built for the electronic
arts community.

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Date: 11.04.04
From: Mendi+Keith Obadike <mendi AT>
Subject: CDs and a book from Mendi+Keith Obadike

Artists Mendi+Keith Obadike announce the release of three new works ­ The
Sour Thunder, Armor and Flesh, and SOFTSHELL.

*The Sour Thunder*
Mendi+Keith¹s CD "The Sour Thunder, an internet opera" was just released on
Bridge Records. It can be ordered directly from Bridge or through <>

"The Sour Thunder" blends science fiction and autobiography with hip-hop,
new music, and a theatrical bi-lingual text (English and Spanish), creating
a personal and surreal tale of cultural and racial identity. Musically, "The
Sour Thunder" is told through a series of 23 sound-text pieces and songs.
The textures that make up "The Sour Thunder" were created using digitally
treated hollow body guitars, Nigerian mbiras, field recordings of
environmental sounds, and electronically processed vocals.

*Armor and Flesh*
Armor and Flesh is a new book by Mendi Obadike. It is available directly
from the publisher, Lotus Press, and from


The poems in this collection explore protective gestures (physical and
emotional hardness) and vulnerability. Armor and Flesh received the Naomi
Long Madgett Poetry Prize.

Keith Obadike composed a companion soundscape for Armor and Flesh entitled
SOFTSHELL. This composition, built from metallic abstractions and
synthesized sinews, functions as a micro score to the book. It is available
on a special edition transparent CD from

More information can be found at For more
information regarding Mendi + Keith¹s readings, exhibitions, or performances
contact Evelyn McGhee at Office AT

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Date: 11.05.04
From: Gloria Sutton <suttong AT>
Subject: Exhibiting New Media Art (Part 1 of 2)

Rhizome and lists devoted to new media curating such as CRUMB have recently
spurred heated discussions about the practical and theoretical issues of
exhibiting new media art within a traditional museum context. As I sat
eavesdropping on these some of these debates, it became clear to me how much
of the critical syntax around exhibition display strategies and audience
interaction echoed the conversations of the late 1960s and early 1970s.

And more striking to me was the fact that at an earlier moment discussions
about contemporary art and new media used to take place in the same
conversation, be written about in the same publications and show in the same
venues. In the 1960s-1970s artists interested in issues of media,
computation, social networks, and communication theories used to be in
active dialogue with their contemporaries probing other issues under the
general guise of "conceptual art." There was a moment when Stan Vanderbeek
would be exhibiting with Robert Whitman and Dan Graham (The Projected Image
show at ICA Boston, 1967) or Les Levine could be in the same show as Hans
Haacke, Douglas Huebler, and Lawrence Wiener (Software, 1970).

Of course back then the issue wasn¹t about NEW media art, but the
introduction of media art within established venues for contemporary art and
the exponentially increasing impact of media and computer technology on the
arts writ large. Questions commonly asked included: what exactly was the
role of the arts in a technologically driven society? Are computers,
consumer electronics and communication theory transforming art production or
simply obscuring it? What was technology¹s relevance to art, if any, and did
art operate under a technological imperative? Sound familiar? While these
questions could have come from any one of the many new media art discussion
lists, they were questions posed by Philip Leider, a founding editor of
Artforum, as well as by other critics and artists in the pages of art
journals and exhibition catalogs between 1962 and 1972. These lines of
inquiry would get rehashed at gallery openings from Howard Wise in New York
City to Phyllis Kind in Chicago and the Albright-Knox in Buffalo, which were
some of the first commercial venues for media art in the U.S. Queries
regarding the relationship between art and technology would find their way
into basically every other influential site producing the discourse on art
in the 1960s and 1970s. However, within the discordant conversation on art
and technology, clear divisions emerged at the end of the1960s. One
trajectory followed earlier modernist preoccupations with ³machine art² and
the other became more attuned to work based on what could be defined as
³systems and information² technology.

In line with recent efforts to look back at new media¹s now historical
status (think of Ars Electronica celebrating its 25th anniversary in
September 2004 and the upcoming Refresh conference on the history of new
media art), I thought it would be worth while to revisit the checklists and
arguments posed by three pivotal art exhibitions: The Museum of Modern Art¹s
³The Machine as Seen at the End of the Mechanical Age² and the Institute of
Contemporary London¹s ³Cybernetic Serendipity,² both from 1968 and The
Jewish Museum¹s ³Software² exhibition from 1970. These exhibitions can be
seen as recorded conversations capturing the particular voices and
inflections of the two trajectories of media technology-influenced art
practices during this pivotal period in which the terms and conditions for
art production were becoming solidified through their institutionalization
in art schools and museums. Through published catalogs and reviews, these
exhibitions allow us to eavesdrop on the debates, and note the shifting
vocabulary and rhetorical strategies regarding media technology¹s
application to art, which had a resounding impact on multiple strains of not
just of media art, but other neo-avant garde practices including Fluxus,
Happenings, and Expanded Cinema and various strains of Conceptual art. This
week¹s installment will focus the ³machine art² trajectory established by
The Museum of Modern Art¹s historical survey entitled, ³The Machine as Seen
at the End of the Mechanical Age² and the Institute of Contemporary London¹s
³Cybernetic Serendipity,² which focused on ³cybernetic devices² and their
material output both from 1968.

In a marked contrast from these two exhibitions which prioritized art
practices that were invested in melding formalist ideals with motion, light,
and digital imaging into different sculptural or three-dimensional forms,
³systems and information² related projects applied a distinctly computing
vernacular to the art and technology conversation. In 1970 two exhibitions
opening within nine months of one another, presented a survey of
contemporary work that attempted to introduce the notion that art could be
conceived of, exchanged, transferred, and shared as information. More
prominent of the two exhibitions, ³Information² curated by MoMA¹s Kynaston
McShine was held between July 2 and September 20, 1970. Next week¹s digest
will focus on the show that appeared just north of MoMA, on the upper east
side of Manhattan at the Jewish Museum, then known as a supporter of
cutting-edge art. ³Software: Information Technology: Its New Meaning for
Art² was organized by art historian and artist, Jack Burnham who curated
twenty-six international contemporary artists into what would become a
sprawling display of Conceptual art and engineering experiments and ran from
September 16 to November 8 1970.

Under examined by art historians, the exhibition presented a decidedly
idiosyncratic object of study from the late 1960s. The show¹s unique premise
and intriguing mix of disparate artistic practices and media, combined with
the fact that the exhibition was organized under the auspices of both The
Jewish Theological Seminary and the American Motors Corporation, certainly
set it apart from other exhibitions from the same period. More importantly,
³Software² signaled not only a break from the conception of ³technology² as
a purely machine-based proposition, but demonstrated that Conceptual artists
during the late 1960s were in direct dialogue with artists that actively
engaged new technology?a strain of Conceptual art that is usually never
discussed in the same room with its more analytic or linguistic based
counterparts, but was nevertheless invested in a meta-critical discourse.

Machine Art and Cybernetics

Historically, the term ³machine art² has tended to refer specifically to
works that have incorporated light and movement into sculpture¹s existing
vocabulary. The most prevalent result was kinetic sculptures that relied on
simple motor-driven devices and the inclusion of various light sources.
Early 1960s experiments in light and kinetics included a wide variety of
differing approaches to creating three-dimensional, dynamic works. Key
examples include Yves Klein¹s, Double Sided Wall of Fire (1961) in which
bursts of flames were contained within an evenly spaced geometric grid
mounted on a wall. Jean Tinguely¹s Radio Drawing (1962) was comprised of
stripped wires and exposed radio components, which were strapped and mounted
to a wall. Industrially produced, tube lighting would become the signature
material for Dan Flavin¹s fluorescent light sculptures. These iconic sixties
works all found a precedent in a variety of earlier modernist models and in
particular reference the interests of the Italian Futurists like Boccioni,
and Russian Constructivists as represented by Naum Gabo. Bauhaus pedagogy as
gleaned from Laszlo Moholy-Nagy became widely influential during this period
and in particular instruments such as his Light-Space Modulator (1922-1931)
became a reoccurring point of reference for artists experimenting with light
and motion in the 1960s.

The burgeoning interest in kinetic sculpture in United States is what led
René d¹Harnoncout, MoMA¹s Director during the early 1960s, to approach Karl
G. Pontus Hultén, then Director of Moderna Museet in Stockholm to curate
MoMA¹s first show dedicated to kinetic art. Plans for what would be called
³The Machine as Seen at the End of the Mechanical Age² began in 1965 and
opened at MoMA on November 25, 1968 traveling to Houston and San Francisco
over the course of the next year. Although Hultén plainly stated that the
exhibition was not intended as an illustrated history of the machine, his
introductory essay rehearses the development of machines and devices. In
Hultén¹s account, major technological advancements directly correlate to a
strictly chronological survey of modern art movements, in which artists are
presented as responding to specific moments within this technological linear
progression. This method of linking the introduction of new consumer
electronics with new art forms becomes the reductive logic that historians
will rely on later when they suggest that the Sony Port-o-pac created video
art and the introduction of computers begets new media art. That the artists
engaged with video and new media were somehow never engaged with earlier
representational strategies.

Tracing the etymology of the Greek word techné as meaning both art and
technics, Hultén situated the origin for ³mechanic art² in ancient Greek and
Roman ideas of scientific law and mechanical engineering. The narrative
follows mechanical and technical advances in the Western world up through
the middle ages, including steam engines, clocks and other precision
instruments. Arriving at the nineteenth century, Hultén pointed to the
mechanization of labor in England and the proliferation of industrial
factories as the precursor for what he described basically as the twentieth
century¹s machinist impulse not only within industry, but culture at large.
The exhibition solidified the clichéd model of the hybrid scientist/artist
by presenting sixteenth century drawings of Leonardo da Vinci¹s flying
machines, and ended with a contemporary version through the artist/engineer
collaborations, which were picked through a competition process organized by
Experiments in Art and Technology (EAT). Between these two bookends, the
exhibition was able to represent multiple perspectives from each designated
movement in modern art from the Italian Futurists, Cubist painting and
collaged works, to Dada and Surrealist experiments in psychic automatism
with the intention to present a comprehensive overview of modernist
interpretations of technology in various aesthetic forms. Included were also
influential pieces from Picabia, Man Ray, Tatlin, Schwitters, Ernst, and
Moholy-Nagy (Light Space Modulator, 1921-1930), which would have been
considered standard fare for the Museum of Modern Art. More surprising was
the inclusion of drawings by Rube Goldberg, Charlie Chaplin¹s films and a
proto-type for Buckminster Fuller¹s Dymaxion Car (1933).

When Hultén¹s narrative arrived at the late 1930s, he paused to interject
the effect of the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which ³were the
most terrible shock that the world has ever received. Fear and horror sapped
the faith in technology and the confidence in rational behavior that might
have been expected to follow a long period of destruction.² Hultén
continued by making the suggestion that from the mid-fifties onward, artists
³devoted themselves to an attempt to establish better relations with
technology² and that Pop artists in particular took ³a step toward finding a
way out of this alienation.² Curiously, he claims that Pop art was somehow
able to evade the alienating impulse of technology in the face of nuclear
annihilation by relating, ³mass products to human will.² Positioned in
sequence along with the Pop examples was Hans Haacke¹s Ice Stick (1964). A
slender metal rod covered in ice and mounted upright on a low podium, the
³stick² contained a motorized freezing coil inside causing the ice to form
in thick or thinner layers in relation to the local air temperature and
humidity. In the same section, works by Robert Rauschenberg were also
included along with Oracle (1965), a collaboration between Rauschenberg and
Billy Klüver. In addition, the inclusion of the E.A.T. competition for
engineers and artists, along with Kenneth Knowlton¹s computer processed
photographic prints and Nam June Paik¹s McLuhan caged (1967) would draw
parallel links between their inclusion in ³The Machine² show at MoMA and
their earlier incarnation as part of the Institute of Contemporary Art¹s
³Cybernetic Serendipity² exhibition where they were installed in London just
a month prior to being shipped to New York.

³Cybernetic Serendipity² was large-scale international exhibition curated by
the ICA¹s Associate Director, Jasia Reichardt and ran from August 2 to
October 20,1968. According to Reichardt, the exhibition was an attempt to
³explore and demonstrate some of the relationships between technology and
creativity.² The selected work could be divided into three distinct
sections. The largest was the first group comprised of computer-generated
graphics, animated films and musical compositions printed and framed for the
viewers. The second group could be described as ³cybernetic devices as
works of art² and included environments, remote-control robots and ³painting
machines.² The majority of these works were three-dimensional objects
presented as sculptural objects in vitrines or on podiums. The third
category of work demonstrated various computer functions and offered a
history of cybernetics as it related to Norbert Wiener¹s theories on the

Within the category of computer graphics, Kenneth Knowlton¹s computer
generated images of everyday objects and landscapes were situated among a
variety of other types of simple, black and white graphs and schematic
geometric forms which were some of the first attempts at computer animation
and computer generated imagery. Knowlton¹s crude images with their simple
pixilated shapes and rough shading, were made from an early technique of
³scanning² thirty-five millimeter transparencies, which were then digitized
into various digital characters and aligned in a particular coded sequence
manipulating their scale and color to register at different focal lengths
from the page on which they were printed. Nam June Paik¹s electromagnetic
manipulations of television sets such as McLuhan caged (1967) were referred
to as ³painting with magnetic fields² situating them in the second category
of the exhibition. By waving large horseshoe magnets over black and white
television sets, Paik was able to manipulate, warp and distort the images
that appeared on the screen. Based on Norman Bauman¹s published account of
encountering the piece, viewers could actually manipulate the magnets and
alter the magnetic fields themselves. Describing the process Bauman
extolled, ³The feeling of holding a magnet in your hand and seeing a
visible, striking result, must be experienced to be appreciated. This is not
chickenshit iron filings, but a real, living, breathing, MAGNETIC FIELD,
that you can really use to deflect real, live, glowing, electrons.²

While EAT¹s collaborative work was not directly represented in the
exhibition, the group must have felt that the audience and artists who would
be drawn to ³Cybernetic Serendipity² and the ICA in general were their
target audience. They tapped this audience to solicit submissions for their
competition to be exhibited at MoMA¹s ³Machine² show in the fall of 1968.
EAT took out a full-page ad in the ICA¹s January bulletin promoting the
competition for collaborative projects between engineers and artists. EAT
offered to facilitate contact between interested parties and would then
judge the entries along with a jury of ³scientists and engineers from the
technical community who are not necessarily familiar with contemporary art.²
While EAT would judge who was awarded the first and second place cash prizes
($3,000 and $1,000 respectively), the ad clearly stated that Hultén would
make the final selection of the works to be shown at MoMA.

Overall the majority of the work chosen to be included in ³Cybernetic
Serendipity² reinforced the focus on the technological apparatus and
peripheral devices such as computers, electronic robots, printers, and
monitors. A result was that most of these three-dimensional machines were
either photographed and the computer generated images printed and then
framed and hung on the wall along with explanatory labels. Computer
generated films were shown as projected films during the evenings, but then
represented in the exhibition and in the catalogue as black and white
stills. Through this process, the exhibition transferred the experience of
interacting with the machines into iconic images. Visitors were denied the
usual spectacles or frustrations that accompany trying to use any type of
electronic device in a public space, and the interaction remained confined
to a surface glance. However, due to the two dimensional format inherent in
the printed catalogue, organizers were able to foreground the discussion
regarding technology¹s relevancy to art production specifically in the
theories of Norbert Wiener by excerpting sections from his widely
influential book The Human Use of Human Beings, which they were not able to
do in the exhibition space.

- Gloria Sutton


1 - Based on Jack Burnham¹s definition of systems and information
technology as described in ³Art and Technology: The Panacea that Failed,² in
The Myths of Information: Technology and Postindustrial Culture, edited by
Kathleen Woodward (Madison, Wisconsin: Coda Press, 1980), 213.

2 - Karl Hultén, The Machine as Seen at the End of the Mechanical Age. exh.
cat. (New York: Museum of Modern Art and New York Graphic Society, 1968),3;
Jasia Reichardt, ³Introduction,² Cybernetic Serendipity. exh. cat. (London:
Institute of Contemporary Art and W&J Mackay Press,1968), 5.

3 - Based on Jack Burnham¹s definition of systems and information technology
as described in ³Art and Technology: The Panacea that Failed,² in The Myths
of Information: Technology and Postindustrial Culture, edited by Kathleen
Woodward (Madison, Wisconsin: Coda Press, 1980), 213.

4 - According to the exhibition¹s catalog, The Jewish Museum in New York was
governed by The Jewish Theological Seminary of America. While the American
Motors Corporation was the show¹s main sponsor, the exhibition benefited
from in-kind donations from a variety of computer and consumer electronic
companies including Digital Equipment Corp., 3M, and Mohawk Data Systems.

5 - In the introduction to the exhibition catalogue for ³The Machine² Hultén
explains the origins of the exhibition as follows: ³Plans for this
exhibition were begun several years ago; the first letters discussing it
were exchanged in 1965. When René d¹Harnoncourt, the late Director of MoMA
asked me whether I should like to organize an exhibition on kinetic art for
his institution.² The exhibition traveled to two addition venues: The
University of St. Thomas, Houston, Texas from March 25-May 18, 1969 and then
to the San Francisco¹s Museum of Art from June 23-August 24. 1969, Hultén,

6 - Hultén, 13.

7 - Hultén, 14.

8 - Description based on Anne Rorimer¹s account in New Art in the 60s and
70s: Redefining Reality (New York: Thames and Hudson, 2001), 269.

9 - Reichardt, 5.

10 - Norman Bauman, ³Five-Year Guaranty² in Cybernetic Serendipity, exh.
cat. (London: Institute of Contemporary Art and W&J Mackay Press,1968), 42.

11 - Description of the competition is based on the instructions listed in
the ad EAT took out in the ICA¹s January 1968 Bulletin, a 5²x7² black and
white publication that was circulated among the ICA¹s membership and
visitors to the gallery.

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Rhizome Digest is filtered by Kevin McGarry (kevin AT ISSN:
1525-9110. Volume 9, number 44. Article submissions to list AT
are encouraged. Submissions should relate to the theme of new media art
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