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: 1.08.05
Date: Thu, 13 Jan 2005 10:53:36 -0800

RHIZOME DIGEST: January 8, 2005


1. Lev Manovich: Soft Cinema installation at Chelsea Art Museum
2. Rachel Greene: Mongrel launch - 15th Jan 2005 - at the Jelliedeel Shed
3. Mark Marino: Bookchin at UCR 1/12/05

4. Pau Waelder: Prix Ars Electronica 2005 is Good to Go!
5. Kevin McGarry: Want to Write for
6. miranda AT TCNJ.EDU: Adjunct Position, College of New Jersey

7. Christiane Paul, Jim Andrews, Barbara Lattanzi: artport gatepage January
05: C-SPAN x 4 by Barbara Lattanzi
8. Katie Lips: Calling mobile audio (ringtone) enthusiasts and sound artists

9. Kevin McGarry: Database Imaginary: Sarah Cook, Steve Dietz, and Anthony
Kiendl interviewed by Kevin McGarry

10. Jon Thomson, Alexander Galloway, t.whid, Michael Szpakowski, curt
cloninger, ryan griffis, M. River, Rob Myers: BEACON

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Date: 1.04.05
From: Lev Manovich <manovich AT>
Subject: Soft Cinema installation at Chelsea Art Museum

MISSION TO EARTH (Soft Cinema Edition)
A Media Installation by Lev Manovich
Exhibit In The Project Room AT Chelsea Art Museum, NYC
556 West 22nd Street, AT 11th avenue
January 8 ­ 26, 2004

The Presentation of a new DVD by Lev Manovich and Andreas Kratky
SOFT CINEMA: Navigating The Database (The MIT Press, 2005)

Opening and Panel at Chelsea Art Museum SATURDAY January 8, 2:00 - 4:30 PM
Lev Manovich, associate professor of new media, UCSD
Christiane Paul, adjunct new media curator, Whitney Museum of American Art
Barbara London, curator, video and digital media, Museum of Modern Art
Sue Hubbard, art critic, Independent Newspaper, London
Ken Feinstein, artist/professor of experimental video

The Project Room AT Chelsea Art Museum

What kind of cinema is appropriate for the age of Palm Pilot and Google?
Automatic surveillance and self-guided missiles? Consumer profiling and CNN?
To investigate answers to this question Lev Manovich has paired with
award-winning new media artist and designer Andreas Kratky to create the
Soft Cinema project. They have also invited contributions from such other
leading cultural figures as DJ Spooky, Scanner, George Lewis and Jóhann
Jóhannsson (music), servo (architecture), Schoenerwissen/Office for
Computational Design (data visualization), and Ross Cooper Studios (media

SOFT CINEMA: Navigating the Database is the Soft Cinema project¹s first DVD
publication published and distributed by The MIT Press (2005). It presents
three ?films¹, including Mission to Earth, that were created within the
framework of the project. Although the ?films¹ on the DVD reference the
familiar genres of cinema, the process by which they were created and the
resulting aesthetics fully belong to the software age. They demonstrate the
possibilities of soft(ware) cinema - a 'cinema' in which human subjectivity
and the variable choices made by custom software combine to create films
that can run infinitely without ever exactly repeating the same image
sequences, screen layouts and narratives.

MISSION TO EARTH (Soft Cinema edition) is a science fiction allegory of the
immigrant experience that adopts the variable choices and multi-frame layout
of the Soft Cinema system to represent ?variable identity¹. In this gallery
installation the film is being assembled in real-time by the Soft Cinema
software from a large database of media elements. While the narrative stays
the same and repeats every 23 minutes, all other elements can potentially
change. As a result, there is no single ?unique¹ version of the film ­ every
run produces a new version.


Soft Cinema Project:

Complete text used in Mission to Earth is available at

Chelsea Art Museum:

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Date: 1.06.05
From: Rachel Greene <rachel AT>
Subject: Mongrel launch - 15th Jan 2005 - at the Jelliedeel Shed

Begin forwarded message:

From: "mary jelly" <mary AT>
Date: January 6, 2005 11:43:11 AM EST
To: <mary AT>
Subject: Mongrel launch - 15th Jan 2005 - at the Jelliedeel Shed

Mongrel invites you to the informal launch of our new space:
in sunny Southend-on-Sea,
and our first arts project for Southend:

16:00pm to 21:00pm
Saturday January 15th, 2005.

>From 17:00pm, lend us your ear for:

³Phone-Slam² telephony & trash.
³NetMonster: the BlairBush Project² (Harwood)
³Forever Sailor Moon² (Francesca da Rimini)
³The Container Tapes² (Mervin Jarman)

Plus a smorgasbord of traditional estuary sustenance:
Jelliedeels, Brixton Patties, McCains Oven Chips, Shandy Bass
(no salads or other foreign food)

The Jelliedeel Shed
Unit 38, Grainger Road Industrial Estate,
Southend-on-Sea, Essex, SS2 5DD.
T: 01702 460590

Getting there:
Trains from Liverpool Street to Southend Victoria. (15, 24 and 55
minutes past the hour, journey time - one hour).
Grainger Road estate is 5 mins walk away ­ turn left from the station,
across the B&Q car park and take the right fork at the corner shop, then
chuck a left into Grainger Rd.

To reserve a jelliedeel RSVP to:
mary AT

"Phone-Slam" is part of the "Being Here" arts initiative.
Supported by Arts Council England.

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Date: 1.07.05
From: Mark Marino <mmarino AT>
Subject: Bookchin at UCR 1/12/05

global_interface Mellon Workshop presents:
Gravedigging and the Internet - A Proposal for the Future
A talk by Natalie Bookchin
Co-Director of the Photography and Media Program, CalArts.

Time: 12:30 pm-2:30 pm, Wednesday, January 12, 2005
Location: Humanities 1500

In this talk, Natalie Bookchin will examine debates about the life and death
of net art, framing it within broader conversations proposing the ends of
the avant-garde and of utopia in art, political thought, and early visions
of the Internet. Attempting to resurrect some supposedly "dead ideas", this
talk will offer a proposal for a speculative social network for the future,
where visual artists use the Internet to gain more control of the reception
and circulation of their work and ideas. In imagining this network,
Bookchin will cull from grassroots strategies used and proposed by net art,
alternative music, and blogging independent journalists.

Based in L.A., Natalie Bookchin has been creating online projects since
1997. She recently worked with political theorist Jackie Stevens
<> to initiate and develop the first phase of
the online project agoraXchange <>, an online
collaboration for imagining and building a massive multiplayer online game
that offers a tangible political alternative to our current world order. She
is known internationally for her online art work, including a project
entitled Metapet <>, a parody of capitalist productivity
in which the player must maximize the profit margin without alienating the
Metapet worker. She is a recent recipient of a Rockefeller Foundation
Fellowship and a Guggenheim Fellowship. Her work is exhibited at
institutions world-wide including PS1, Mass MOCA, the Museum of Contemporary
Art in Barcelona, KunstWerke, Berlin, the Generali Foundation, Vienna, the
Walker Art Center, the Whitney Museum of American Art, and the Shedhale in

See these online works by Natalie Bookchin:

agoraXchange: (in collaboration with Jackie Stevens)

Additional Information:

Open to: Public
Admission: Free
Sponsor: UCR Mellon workshops

Contact Information:

For more information concerning this specific event contact:
global_interface AT
or visit:
For further details of the Mellon Workshop project contact:
mellonworkshop AT
or visit:

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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 Kevin McGarry at Kevin AT or Rachel Greene
at Rachel AT

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Date: 1.04.05
From: Pau Waelder <pau AT>
Subject: Prix Ars Electronica 2005 is Good to Go!

World's largest CyberArts competition - Six Golden Nicas and â?¬ 110,000 in
prize money - Entries commence January 10th.

Creatives across the entire spectrum of media art and technology may begin
submitting their work to the 2005 Prix Ars Electronica on January 10th. The
categories range from [the next idea] and u19 competitions for young people
to the classic Ars Electronica disciplines-Digital Musics, Net Vision,
Computer Animation and Interactive Art-all the way to Digital Communities
with its programmatic commitment to sociopolitical innovation. The deadline
for submissions is March 10, 2005.

The Prix Ars Electronica is being held for the 19th time this year. This
cyberarts competition is conceived as an open platform for works
representing a broad spectrum of disciplines in the digital media field at
the interface of art, technology and society. Since 1987, the Prix Ars
Electronica is the most important and most successful international showcase
of the best of digital media art.

>>> Details about the categories are provided on the following pages.

To submit an entry and for more information, log on to

The Categories

The "Computer Animation / Visual Effects" category has been part of the Prix
Ars Electronica since its very inception. It recognizes excellence in
independent work in the arts and sciences as well as in high-end commercial
productions in the film, advertising and entertainment industries. In this
category, artistic originality counts just as much as masterful technical

Contemporary digital sound productions from the broad spectrum of
"electronica" come in for consideration in the "Digital Musics" category, as
do works combining sound and media, computer compositions ranging from
electro-acoustic to experimental music, and sound installations. This
category's programmatic agenda is to expand horizons beyond the confines of
individual genres and artistic currents.

The "Interactive Art" category is dedicated to interactive works in all
forms and formats, from installations to performances. Here, particular
consideration is given to the realization of a powerful artistic concept
through the especially appropriate use of technologies, the innovativeness
of the interaction design, and the work's inherent potential to expand the
human radius of action.

The "Net Vision" category singles out for recognition artistic projects in
the Internet that display brilliance in how they have been engineered,
designed and-especially-conceived, works that are outstanding with respect
to innovation, interface design and the originality of their content. The
way in which a work of net-based art deals with the online medium is
essential in this category.

For the second time in 2005, Prix Ars Electronica will honor important
achievements by digital communities. This category focuses attention on the
wide-ranging social impact of the Internet as well as on the latest
developments in the fields of social software, mobile communications and
wireless networks. "Digital Communities" spotlights bold and inspired
innovations impacting human coexistence-efforts to bridge the geographical
as well as gender-based digital divide, to create outstanding social
software or to enhance the accessibility of technological-social
infrastructure. This category showcases the political potential of digital
and networked systems and is thus designed as a forum for the consideration
of a broad spectrum of projects, programs, initiatives and phenomena in
which social innovation is taking place, as it were, in real time. A Golden
Nica, two Awards of Distinction and up to 12 Honorary Mentions will be
awarded in the Digital Communities category in 2005.

[the next idea] <>
Art and Technology Grant

The aim of this grant focusing on the mutually enriching interplay of art
and technology is to nurture concepts for the future that young thinkers are
coming up with today. This category's target group includes students at
universities, art schools, polytechnic colleges and other educational
institutions, as well as all other interested persons throughout the world
between the ages of 19 and 27, who have developed a not-yet-realized concept
in the fields of media art, media design or media technology. The winner
will receive a â?¬ 7,500 grant and an invitation to spend a semester as
scientific assistant and artist-in-residence at the Ars Electronica

u19 freestyle computing

"u19 freestyle computing" is Austria's foremost computer competition for
young people. Helping youngsters to bring their ideas to fruition and
exhibit their work, and nurturing their abilities, creativity and
inventiveness in working with modern technologies and new media is the
mission of Prix Ars Electronica's u19 freestyle computing category. Just as
the name "freestyle computing" suggests, the spectrum of potential
submissions is broad. And a perusal of the 1,103 entries in 2004 confirms
that Austrian young people are giving free rein to their creativity. The
list of past winners and recipients of Awards of Distinction and Honorary
Mentions also displays great diversity, including groups of kids as well as
individuals, primary school pupils and high school grads. The thematically
wide-ranging creative encounter of Austrian youth with the kaleidoscope of
modern technology is being played out in computer animation, robotics, Web
design, interactive games and an array of other fields.

Ars Electronica

Presseteam: Partner der Medien
Press Team: Partner of the Media

Press Releases/Press Kits

Bilder (300 dpi)
Images (300 dpi)

Mag. Wolfgang A. Bednarzek MAS
Pressesprecher / Press Officer

tel: +43.732.7272-38
mob: +43.664.81 26 156
fax: +43.732.7272-638
mailto:wolfgang.bednarzek AT

Mag. Robert Bauernhansl
Assistent Pressebetreuung / Assistant Press
tel: +43.732.7272-966
fax: +43.732.7272-632
mailto:robert.bauernhansl AT

Ars Electronica Center
HauptstraÃ?e 2-4, 4040 Linz, Austria

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Date: 1.05.05
From: Kevin McGarry <kevin AT>
Subject: Want to Write for

Ongoing, calls for new writers and correspondents around the
world. If you are interested in writing for Net Art News or reporting on
international new media arts events for Rhizome, please send an email to
kevin AT with the subject line intact and with the following

(Note: currently all editorials commissioned by Rhizome are written in
English. Please don't be discouraged if English is not your first language:
if you can clearly communicate your ideas and observations, that is what we
are looking for.)




Note if you live/work in multiple
countries or frequently/easily travel to a certain place.

Background and special interests:

Briefly describe your experience and familiarity with new media art.
Rhizome encourages perspectives from all kinds of practitioners, whether
you've been involved with net art for years (artist, programmer,
curator, writer? . . .), or have recently encountered the work and ideas
discussed here via any other discipline/s (film/video, activism, poetry,
performance, education? . . .).

Writing sample:

Please paste below, or link to, 2 writing samples. Ideally, please
submit one shorter sample (150-300 words) and one that is longer (1000+
words). Topics should be relevant to art/technology/culture.

No attachments please.


Distribute this message freely--thank you,


Kevin McGarry
Content Coordinator,
Editor, Net Art News
New Museum of Contemporary Art
210 11th Ave 2nd Fl.
New York, NY 10001

tel 212 219 1288 x220
fax 212 431 5328
ema kevin AT

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Date: 1.07.05
From: <miranda AT TCNJ.EDU>
Subject: Adjunct Position, College of New Jersey

The Art Department at the College of New Jersey, located in Ewing, NJ
(driving about 40 minutes from Philadelphia and an hour and half from NYC
- public transporation available) is seeking an adjunct professor to teach
an introductory course in interactive design using either Flash or
Director. The course is titled "Experiencing Art" this is a non-art major
course in which students take three week workshops in Sculpture, Print,
Drawing, Computer Graphics and Interactive Design. The course merely
attempts to give non art majors an overview of the various forms of art
making. In the past, the Interactive module has been presented using
Macromedia Director to present fundamental concepts in building
interactive computer applications. The students in the class are divided
into groups of 15 and rotate through the semester from one module to the
next. The course meets Thursday mornings from 8:30am to 11:30am, the pay
is $2835 for the semester, beginning Thursday January 20th through
Thursday May5th. The class is taught in the Macintosh environment with
the latest version of computer graphics software.
TCNJ Art Department Site:
TCNJ academic calendar:
If you qualify and are interested please contact Ricardo Miranda at
miranda AT or call 917 748-9975.

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Rhizome Member-curated Exhibits

View online exhibits Rhizome members have curated from works in the ArtBase,
or learn how to create your own exhibit.

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Date: 1.05.05 - 1.06.05
From: <Christiane_Paul AT>, Jim Andrews <jim AT>, Barbara
Lattanzi <threads AT>
Subject: artport gatepage January 05: C-SPAN x 4 by Barbara Lattanzi

<Christiane_Paul AT> posted:

artport gatepage January 05

C-SPAN x 4 by Barbara Lattanzi <>

Barbara Lattanzi's C-SPAN x 4 consists of 4 different variations on video
clips of current news made available by the C-SPAN Network:

· The Interrupting Annotator (allowing users to collaboratively annotate
C-Span videos and store and reinsert the comments for subsequent viewers);

· C-SPAN Alphaville (which plays the videos with subtitles excerpted from
the English version of Jean-Luc Godard's film Alphaville);

· C-SPAN Karaoke (which invites you to sing along with the news to tunes
such as "It's A Wonderful World");

· In Lieu of Standing on Yer Head (which highlights the idea of political
spin by literally turning the news upside down).

The strategy of "annotating" the original news clips without changing their
contents provides an interesting play with context: through its
interventions, C-SPAN x 4 highlights the interplay of text, sound, and image
in the construction and change of meaning. Results range from the humorous
to the disturbing and cynical.

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Jim Andrews <jim AT> replied:

Hi Barbara,

Could you tell me a little about the differences between the web versions
and the downloadable versions of this work?

Have you selected particular video clips, or do the apps search certain
locations for video clips and work with whatever they find?

If the latter, how did you arrive at the texts? It's interesting to think of
that, erm, cross-product, ie, consider a video * text work where the videos
are selected randomly from an unknown pool of videos (though they are all,
in this case, concerned with politics) and the texts are drawn somewhat
randomly from a pool of pre-composed texts by the author. Annotated video,
yes, but also possibly a literary work.

This work of yours is quite strong in the possibilities it suggests and its
meditation on video and political process.

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Barbara Lattanzi <threads AT> replied:

Hi Jim.

thanks for the questions about the project "C-SPAN x 4", and the opportunity
to comment on the political content (toward the end of this email).

First, just a quick note that the software, including the web versions, are
only for Windows PC. (I just clarified this on the web versions today,
Jan.6. Some Mac users visiting it yesterday may have tried it and been

Anyone, using either Mac or Windows, should be able to view the
Quicktime-format video demos:

<> At 01:42 AM 1/6/2005, you wrote:

Could you tell me a little about the differences between the web versions
and the downloadable versions of this work?

The web browser versions and the downloadable software versions are exactly
the same.

The minor exception is that, in rare cases, some Mac users with an _older_
version of the Real Video media player may be able to experience the web
browser versions of CSPAN x 4. This has to do with a boring technicality.

The Mac technical limitation is likely never to be fixed by Macromedia. That
limitation prohibits use of Director and Shockwave in conjunction with the
newer versions of the Real Video media player, Like they say, "It was nice
while it lasted."

Have you selected particular video clips, or do the apps search certain
locations for video clips and work with whatever they find?

There is no filter for "The Interrupting Annotator", one of 4 software
applications that make up "CSPAN x 4". A perl script simply goes to the
front page of the website and adds any new video titles to an
ongoing, cumulative list of CSPAN titles stored on my website, which then
appears as a selectable list for the person using the software.

C-SPAN x 4 has an additional 3 software applications. Unlike "The
Interrupting Annotator", these other 3 softwares are satirical works. I
realized, at the time the Tsunami tragedy occurred, that some sort of filter
was needed. I do not want all CSPAN videos to be available to "CSPAN
Karaoke", "CSPAN Alphaville", and "In Lieu of Standing on Yer Head".

Instead, these 3 softwares receive a filtered list of video titles from the
CSPAN website, i.e., the filtered list includes all the staid and proper
CSPAN video documents of public policy-making that have become a window onto
the corporate and fundamentalist slow-motion hijacking of the US government.

If the latter, how did you arrive at the texts?

As just described, 3 of the 4 softwares receive a slightly filtered list of
CSPAN videos more appropriate to the satirical content of the overlaid

The selection of the texts - Alphaville subtitles ("CSPAN Alphaville"),
1970s pop songs ("CSPAN Karaoke") - were based on the possibility of being
understood as ironic framing of the CSPAN videos. Since the video titles
are constantly being added to, the texts had to be broad enough to "apply"
to any of the public policy-making videos.

It's interesting to think of that, erm, cross-product, ie, consider a video
* text work where the videos are selected randomly from an unknown pool of
videos (though they are all, in this case, concerned with politics) and the
texts are drawn somewhat randomly from a pool of pre-composed texts by the
author. Annotated video, yes, but also possibly a literary work.

The CSPAN website is one of the few news-based websites where it is easy to
access streaming video in this way. I have been looking into a military
news website that uses Flash videos that seem impossible to effectively
embed in another frame. And I have never tried those strange "passports" to
access CNN streams, etc. There is more research to do in this area of
reframing news streams (or video streams with other content).

In regard to the potential for text works. I do think that one of the
CSPAN x 4 components, "The Interrupting Annotator", could be a useful tool
for writing experiments, or for teaching writing as, I think, Alan Sondheim
suggested to me. In fact the original prototype for this software used
several "seed" texts, one of which was a text written by Alan that he had
posted to the Syndicate discussion list.

This work of yours is quite strong in the possibilities it suggests and its
meditation on video and political process.

Its meditation includes a question like "what would it look like to have a
kind of video channel that turns everything upside down?". Then realizing
it is a not-so-bad distancing strategy for political spin - maybe giving you
a bit of mental space for making historical or other associations as you
grapple with current events. Or, "what would it be like to watch public
policymaking in a convivial anarchic way with friends". And realize that
karaoke is a genre retroactively made (at least in my imaginary universe) to
ironically enliven the viewing and consideration of public policymaking. I
am waiting for CSPAN Karaoke bars to appear - akin to neighborhood sports
bars, or to bars where labor union organizing used to be done.

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Date: 1.07.05
From: Katie Lips <katie AT>
Subject: Calling mobile audio (ringtone) enthusiasts and sound artists

New Digital Art project for creating, converting and sharing original
mobile audio....

Use Freeloader to crete your own mobile audio art!

Freeloader is a DIY ringtone creation and distribution environment.  It is
a commission by UK based FACT (Foundation for Art and Creative Technology)
and created by Kisky Netmedia. It allows users to input MP3, MIDI and WAV
files and turn them into original ringtone content. The web application
converts audio into ringtones suitable for over 350 phones allowing for
playback of experimental work for a wide user group.

The project is set to develop its content in 2005 through pupils projects,
artist lead workshops, and through input from remote users - anyone who
wishes to experiment with their own mobile content.

If you are a sound artist, musician, composer, or mobile tone enthusiast, or
just want a new original ringtone you may like to have a go at making your
own tones using Freeloader. All submitted content should be original and
copyright free and will be shared with the Freeloader community growing this
resource of user-generated content.

Freeloader was developed as part of FACT's Stream and Shout Project.
For more information visit:

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Date: 1.08.05
From: Kevin McGarry <kevin AT>
Subject: Database Imaginary: Sarah Cook, Steve Dietz, and Anthony Kiendl
interviewed by Kevin McGarry

** DATABASE IMAGINARY at The Walter Phillips Gallery, Banff Centre
** Sarah Cook, Steve Dietz, and Anthony Kiendl interviewed by Kevin McGarry

Kevin: While Sarah and I were setting up this interview, she mentioned that
Anthony conceived of ³Database Imaginary² about 4 years ago. Anthony, what
were the observations that sparked the premise for the exhibition?

Anthony: There were a number of factors that led to the premise for this
exhibition. If I narrowed it down to two main factors, they would be context
and reading.

The context was working at the Dunlop Art Gallery where I was Curator until
2002. The Dunlop Art Gallery is a rare thing, a public art gallery located
in a library, the Regina Public Library (Regina is the capital of
Saskatchewan, a province in the middle of Canada). Several galleries still
exist in libraries in Canada, but I think the Dunlop is the only one that
has the same Board as the library, and actually functions as a department of
the library with the same goals and mandate: access to information, visual
literacy and so on. As you can imagine, as Curator I was a library manager,
and part of the conversations of the library and its staff. Technologies and
databases were of course part of the daily conversations and planning of the
library. I really don¹t think this exhibition would come about had I been
working in an autonomous art gallery, or a gallery in a different context.
It was a remarkable experience, and I think, an unparalleled way to look at
the presentation of art as visual information, as a public service, and as a
right of citizens. This may sound a little tangential here, but I think it
is ultimately reflected in the work we chose for this exhibition. Rather
than simply being a database, the art in this exhibition often has an
approach relevant to social or personal agency and more broadly social

As for the second factor, reading, it was through reading Lev Manovich¹s
writing on databases that I thought of trying to make an exhibition on this
theme. Without his work I don¹t think this exhibition would have happened.
I¹m so glad his work is part of the exhibition, and his writing will be
re-printed in the catalogue. Actually, he came up with
the term ³database imaginary² at Sarah¹s colloquium at BALTIC in England.

To see if this exhibition idea was compelling to others, and to further
elaborate what it actually could be, I invited a group of curators and
writers to a brainstorming meeting in Regina. I knew Sarah had worked in a
library previously and I was familiar with her curatorial work, so her
involvement seemed natural. I had admired Steve Dietz¹s work prior to
meeting him on this project, and his knowledge of new media and previous
interest in the topic were invaluable. Laura U. Marks had written some
interesting and distinct things on new media and I wanted to ensure a
feminist perspective, so she came. Sheila Petty at the University of Regina
was also invited and brought a film and media studies perspective, as well
as several previous projects on race and identity which also related to our
interest in agency.

Kevin: Sarah and Steve, how did each of you come on board the project, and
how has the concept evolved over time? I notice that more than half of the
projects in the exhibition were only created over the last 4 years. Did the
roster grow gradually, or were most of the selections made at a particular
point in the process?

Steve: As Anthony mentioned, we were part of a larger group of curators and
theorists invited to the Bitmaps thinktank in 2001. Over time specific works
changed considerably, but I think from the very beginning we were not very
interested in databases as a ³medium² but always in its social implications
and imaginative possibilities. The other interesting vector was a lot of
discussion about how to present the show. We¹ve ended up with a wide variety
of modes, from performance to interactive to cinematic to sculpture to
prints to net-based works. I¹m personally very excited about this.

Sarah: Working collaboratively in three different countries and three
different time zones meant that we had to keep trying to all get around the
same table to discuss works that were important to us and to our individual
and collective notions of the show. We talked on the phone or by email all
the time but actually managed to have two very productive research meetings
together with artists, one in Banff as part of Anthony¹s ³Obsession,
Compulsion, Collection² curatorial symposium and one in the UK at BALTIC,
where I am based, as part of a symposium on ³data-based art² that I
organized to conclude Lev Manovich¹s residency there. From my perspective at
times the actual checklist of works seemed to split along national lines ­
with Anthony holding to Canadian works and me to UK ones ­ in other cases
along chronological lines ­ with Steve bringing to the table newer projects
or recent updates of existing works and Anthony and I mining the earlier
histories of technology.

Steve: From my perspective the process of selection was more attenuated,
with these nodal moments of discussion, and in retrospect seems not as
important as the ideas we batted about.

Sarah: I agree. We¹ve always hoped that as the show tours, the checklist
could change to include other older works that weren¹t available in November
[2004], or newer works, or other projects that relate to the conditions of
the exhibiting venue.

Kevin: The notion of the Imaginary is integral to the exhibition, of course,
in terms of its title and the creative scenarios the artists find for
applying their databases. I¹ve noticed in some cases that when probing the
database a transubstantiation occurs from factual to felt; quantitative
information returns a result that is Imagined and poetic in form. I¹m
talking about one of the interfaces offered by Lisa Jevbratt¹s ³1:1², which
visualizes her database of all IP addresses on one webpage, or how Cory
Arcangel¹s ³Data Diaries² produces audiovisual content from a bitstream
forced into Quicktime. Particularly, I am struck by Graham Harwood¹s
³Lungs², which combines statistics about a given population, ranging from
life-expectancy to lung capacity, to calculate a symbolic volume of air that
could be expelled to perform a singular scream of X seconds long. Deriving
a scream from rational information is beautiful. Can you talk more about
your notion of the Imaginary and how it relates to the works you selected?

Sarah: In some ways thinking about the imaginary was a way to get at
artworks that distanced the notion of a database from the idea of a computer
­ it wasn¹t enough to include just any work that used a database, it seemed
more important to choose works that pointed out the kind of idea that
wouldn¹t be there were it not for their specific use of the database ­
imagining combinations of data the database hadn¹t accounted for. There¹s a
longer history in art of the imagination than of the database and it felt
like something familiar or reassuring to hold on to as we navigated the seas
of information in search of projects like Graham Harwood/Mongrel¹s ³Lungs².

Steve: I agree especially with the part about the ³longer history.² We were
interested in evoking the idea that ³database thinking² existed before
databases; for example Helguera¹s piece based on Camillo¹s memory theater.
And now that databases have become instantiated in nearly every aspect of
contemporary culture, I think it¹s important for artists like Harwood to
recuperate what this mass of numbers might mean in lived experience or, on
the opposite end of the spectrum, to get a certain sense of the sublime,
which I think you do with Jevbratt¹s work.

Anthony: The idea for the exhibition is somewhat polemical, in proposing
that databases are a cultural form. Outside of new media circles, this still
may be a contentious or even shocking notion. So part of selecting these
works was to actually build an environment in the gallery where this
imaginary could be realized. We often talked about the exhibition itself, as
a whole, being a walk in database. Not to mention, it really is hard to
imagine or visualize a database on the level of a singular piece of art,
perhaps more so than as a relational structure. This is despite the fact
that databases are ubiquitous. So we were trying to imagine several things

Kevin: You write in the press release that the works in this show ³deploy
databases in imaginative ways to comment on everyday life in the 21st
Century.² I think your selections succeed in doing this, particularly by how
they reflect the incremental assimilation of digital culture into everyday
life. The works narrate the chronological progression of new ideas and
concerns thought and felt by artists about everyday lives changing from new
technologies. This is evident in a work made around the time of the
Internet¹s popular arrival, Natalie Bookchin¹s ³Databank of the Everyday²
(1996), which engaged the then new possibility of creating a database to
account completely for the artist¹s identity. It reclaimed the form of the
database as literary, rather than utilitarian, and the project became in her
words, an autobiography. Bookchin describes it as an ³ultimate databank, one
with no conceivable limits: the databank of Life Itself² ­ it sounds like
something from Borges, and I think it functions as that same kind of
conceptual illustration. A lot of my thoughts about this exhibition are
about the differences between the artworks that function as conceptual
illustrations and those that function as tools that users can implement in
order to gain knowledge or to produce experience. Heath Bunting and Kayle
Brandon¹s ³The Status Project,² among others, is one work that I believe
functions in both ways. How do the works in this show function when they
produce the most salient commentary on everyday life?

Sarah: I think you may have answered the question yourself ­ I think it is
in the incremental. I don¹t think people give databases much thought until
they awkwardly bump into one ­ recently I went to the video store to rent a
dvd and because I hadn¹t rented one from them in over 6 months they¹d
deleted my account from their database, although I had a valid card in my
wallet. With some of the works in the show your recognition of the database
and its place in your everyday life emerges in a similar way, but with a
greater, more serious impact ?­ a little chink of light is let in to your
picture of your place in the world and then it¹s blown open. You hand your
drivers liscence over to Swipe to get your drink at the opening night
reception and they hand you back a receipt printed with all the data they
have mined from the simple bits of discrete information stored in the
barcode on your drivers liscence.

Steve: So much of our understanding of art is time-based ­ not just the art.
So a work like Haacke¹s ³Visitors Survey², which was compiled by computer in
real time in Milwaukee had a whole other level of fascination beyond its
content that is completely unremarkable now ­ the technology. I would like
to think that all of the works in Database Imaginary will hold up similarly
well once the technologies they deploy become equally quotidian.

Kevin: Do you believe that the use value intrinsic to traditional databases
is essential to databases that are created as art, or can these databases
fully subsist as conceptual?

Sarah: They can subsist as conceptual projects in my mind. Databases are
empty until someone fills them.

Steve: I agree. In a way, it¹s almost harder to create a useful database
that¹s also conceptual rather than a solely conceptual project. Muntadas¹s
³File Room² is different than the American Civil Liberties Union¹s database
because of its open source nature, because of its theatrical installation,
because of its acceptance of the limits of knowledge and the possibility of
false information. But these very factors also make it of potential use to a
wider or at least different audience than the ACLU¹s.

Anthony: Thankfully, use value is not essential to a database created as
art. However, it is interesting to see how that use value may be re-directed
to pursue diverse ends, especially in this exhibition, those related to acts
of social agency and identity. Also, it may be that use value and concept
are not mutually exclusive, or even difficult to separate.

Kevin: Many of these projects thrive on unnaturally capturing a complete,
finite set of data, or imposing the comprehensive structure of a database on
subjects that are not rationally quantifiable. As with Agnes Hegedüs¹
³Things Spoken²(1999) or David Rokeby¹s ³The Giver of Names² (1997),
applying rigidity to subjective or personal materials produces, I think,
feelings toward fantasy and infinity. For the works in ³Database Imaginary²,
it¹s complicated to consider how they are embodied as objects, because one
of their distinguishing qualities is their ability to simultaneously
manifest as finite and infinite. When new media works are presented in an
exhibition, an important consideration is how they are construed as art
objects. How does a network of data and behaviours amount to a singular
object? What are your thoughts on objecthood and the works in this

Sarah: I¹d disagree that Rokeby¹s piece ?applies rigidity.¹ It uses a
database to show just how subjective data-sets can be. But yes, it does
simultaneously manifest the finite and infinite, but I suppose that could
almost be said of all ?tangible¹ artworks. The question on objecthood is a
good one (it¹s one we debated on the CRUMB list in November as the
exhibition opened). We were careful to chose works that we thought would
engender a great viewing experience for the visitor to the gallery ­ this
would be a different show were it not in a contemplative gallery space,
contained within four walls and the average visitor¹s time allocation for
engaging with a work.

Steve: Another way to look at the two projects you mention is that they
examine ways that discrete data that can be sequenced in a potentially
infinite number of ways can also tell a story. A lot of the works in the
show grapple with this issue from ³Unmovie² to ³Template Cinema², and I
think it is a central issue of our time. How do we make sense of all this
data? We certainly can¹t package it into a single master narrative.
Open-ended and imaginative ³sense-making² is a critical function of much
great art, I would argue.

Anthony: Those are very interesting questions, because those are for me
fundamental preoccupations of this exhibition, and it is complicated. Those
questions hang in the air as I walk through the gallery. What are our
thoughts on the objecthood and the works in this exhibition? At some level,
it is a question asked of all the works in the exhibition, and I suppose one
that is answered slightly differently in each piece. There are certainly a
number of works that are performative, transient and relational, and
therefore I think less object-oriented. I¹m thinking of Swipe for example
(although it came in the biggest crates). One of the questions we asked when
considering works, one of the guidelines to consider, was how open-ended and
transformative the database was. This seemed to distinguish database works
from the plethora of ³archive² works, and a number of archive exhibitions
such as ³Deep Storage² (at P.S.1). Databases seem to lend themselves to an
ongoing transformation by multiple users, whereas archives tend to be more
collection oriented in the traditional sense, and perhaps more rigid.
Changing an archive, or a museum-style collection seems more precious and
controlled than a database. So in that way, the content of the database is
contrary to the idea of a singular object. Databases are multiple and
mutable, and combining them creates yet another ³object.²

Kevin: A debated problem with digital art is that formal aspects of the
works often need to be explained to viewers in order to be understood or
made meaningful. The workings of a database seem to circumvent this problem
­ it¹s an open book, viewers see the parts contained within and cipher or
contribute to the guts themselves to arrive at the art experience and to
³complete² the artwork, as cited from Haacke in your notes. It seems that
the structure of the database is ideal for presenting ideas that are less
evident in other digital forms. Would you agree?

Steve: Of course, many databases are also black boxes. Do we really know how
the databases behind ³The Giver of Names² or ³Unmovie² or ³Soft Cinema² are
being queried to create their output? I think that understanding the
specific algorithms and data structures of a particular work may be less
important that giving people permission to enjoy the experience of something
they don¹t fully understand. This is often a difficult proposition,
especially in a culture like the United States, where I am from, where there
appears to be much greater value placed on unequivocalness, even if it is
patently false.

Kevin: What do you think of Wikipedia? Could it be considered a database?
Maybe an anti-database? Its function is similar: to collect information and
enable it for retrieval and distribution. However, an entry on Wikipedia is
edited by a network of users who distill the most important information an
discard the rest. I don¹t think the ideal database would discard anything.
Whereas networks of trust and shared accountability power new information
technologies, like wikis and, the model of the database has
always removed accountability from its producers. Since a database endeavors
to organize a comprehensive set of facts, the integrity of its
determinations is not subject to bias ­ the producers of a database simply
include everything and omit nothing. I would argue that the producers of a
traditional database are not accountable for its determinations, only for
the consistency of how its contents are indexed. Though a wiki is surely
subject to editorial bias, it could offer a new model for a database that
also integrates shared accountability. A wiki is also much more concise than
a traditional database, and given the overload of information today and
endemic data burn out, could the traditional model of the database be or be
becoming outmoded? What are your thoughts on the historical trajectories,
into the past and into the future, of databases and their creative

Sarah: I love the wikipedia and a big part, for me, of working on the show
was founding the Faculty of Taxonomy within the University of Openess ­ a
wiki-based organization for socializing research ­ in our case, our joint
research into the naming and classification systems that structure
knowledge. I think one of the biggest challenges in thinking about these
artworks in relation to known and possible future manifestations of the
database form is the way in which they question on whose authority the
structuring systems of classification are established. This then has an
impact on how public and private knowledge is reconciled. I¹ve been
thinking about this as regards the difference between networked or
relational databases and hierarchical ones. The latter seems to imply
authorship or editorial bias, whereas the former is geared to get along with
others so has to be more open.

Steve: You¹ve packed a lot of questions into your last question, and many of
them are at the heart of our show. In general, I would say that like
perspective, the database is here to stay. That said, there is nothing
intrinsic about a database, nor is there anything natural or neutral. Every
database is a set of choices, and these choices have consequences. As Denis
Wood, the geographer, says about maps: ³Maps serve interests.² The same is
true of databases. We should never forget this. But sometimes those
interests can be revealed; sometimes those interests can be ³ours²;
sometimes those interests can be imagined differently.

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Date: 1.05.05 - 1.07.05
From: Jon Thomson <j.thomson AT>, Alexander Galloway
<galloway AT>, "t.whid" <twhid AT>, Michael Szpakowski
<szpako AT>, curt cloninger <curt AT>, ryan griffis
<grifray AT>, "M. River" <mriver102 AT>, Rob Myers
<robmyers AT>
Subject: BEACON

Jon Thomson <j.thomson AT> posted:

BEACON. A new on-line artwork by Thomson & Craighead, 2005.

At 00.00hrs on January 1st 2005 an automated beacon began broadcasting
on the web at:

The beacon continuously relays selected live web searches as they are
being made around the world, presenting them back in series and at
regular intervals.

The beacon has been instigated to act as a silent witness: a feedback
loop providing a global snapshot of ourselves to ourselves in
real-time. As resources become available, ?Beacon¹ will also begin
broadcasting an audio version of this signal across the web and as a
series of short wave radio broadcasts and FM local area broadcasts
­time and places to be confirmed. A physical display system is also
being developed for installation in public spaces, galleries &c. Please
make any enquiries to:

info AT

best wishes,
Jon & Alison

+ + +

Alexander Galloway <galloway AT> replied:

There have been many projects that use real-time displays of random
search strings, here are some:

How does Beacon differ from these other sites? more specifically, what
makes it an artwork?

+ + +

"t.whid" <twhid AT> replied:

Hi all,

An oldie but a goodie that seems relevant:

submitted in the spirit of discussion.

+ + +

Michael Szpakowski <szpako AT>

Curious to find myself defending, if this is the right
term, a piece like this, which ordinarily would not be
at all to my taste .
It's the massively concentrated *calling attention to*
the linguistic content of the search strings which are
here denuded of their original context - assisted by
the rather splendidly austere design of the page-
which does it for me.
The outcome is genuinely poetic and moving , it seems
to me, and thank god, irreducible to an artist
statement or simple explanation - its something to do
with zeitgeist, yes; also something to do with an
enormous sense of multitude but also something to do
with a linguistic pleasure akin to me to that I derive
from the work of Alan Sondheim, for example.
And that pleasure isn't simply ,abstractly, linguistic
but also refers very directly to the world out there
in a sort of updated automatic writing -but rather
than the outpourings of a single unconscious, we have
access to almost literally a *collective* unconcious.

On the whole I'm bored rigid by *good-ideaism*, by the
artistic one liner, which has struck me as a
particularly lazy form of aspiring to art ( I hated,
for example, Data Diaries) - but there's no point
arguing when something hits you in the viscera.
I'm also generally rather more predisposed in favour
of stuff involving perhaps a little more craft (
although there's clearly real care and thought here
-reminds me of MTAA in that respect) -but sometimes,
as we all know, it just happens. It does here.

+ + +

Michael Szpakowski <szpako AT> added:

<An oldie but a goodie that seems relevant:
submitted in the spirit of discussion.>

Indeed. This is very interesting -I'd read it on the
list & forgotten I had. SO the T&C piece is clearly
even more zetigeisty than it felt.
The bottom line seems to me though, "artistic
intention", which I would maintain is a necessary, but
not sufficient, condition for art. Not that I don't
think the Google display (or the things on Alex
Galloway's list) couldn't be an object of *aesthetic*
contemplation & pleasure, as indeed can the sunset or
thick grey clouds over the Derbyshire moors on a
winter's afternoon, without involving human artistic
intervention. But art ( as opposed to simply an
aesthetic sense) is a *human_activity* or it's
nothing, even if this activity is simply a "framing"
or conceptualisation - of course then we can argue
about the value of each specific piece.
( of course one could argue that the act of
contemplation of nature or Google is similar to the
above last.. I think this is pushing it a bit however
then I think of snow viewing ceremonies &c and the
line does seem very blurred.. maybe we just have to
have a kind of Wittgensteinian approach to the thing..
and the dynamic nature of human history and thought
means inevitably perhaps that *static* definitions are
doomed or at least partial, hence the importance of
this sort of discussion..)
I *do* like this Beacon piece more each time I look at
it - and Thomson and Craighead get points for plucking
the idea from the zeitgeist and realizing it, I think.

+ + +

curt cloninger <curt AT> replied:

As long as we're on the subject,

Why is this art:
but not this?:

Perhaps a more pertinent question -- is it good/interesting art?

Taking an already existing commercial technology, baldfacedly replicating
its exact functionality, and then merely couching it in conceptual para-art
text, that seems very 1996. One could argue that by *not* modifying the
commercial functionality at all, the artist is focusing on the ordinary and
foregrounding implicit and profound aspects that may have initially been
overlooked. Perhaps in some instances. But honestly, who hasn't done a
google search of their own name and mulled over the implications?
was answering interview questions with links to google searches of
"aaaaaaaaaaaa" back in 199x. Who hasn't already visited and
immediately grasped the noospherical implications?

For my "search engine art" money, I prefer projects that start with live
search feeds but are much more provocatively implemented -- the conecpt is
integrated into the functionality of the remix; it's not just some
conceptual text tacked on.
(particularly gogolchat and prototype #38)

[In all fairness, the FM local broadcast aspect of the "beacon" project does
reconfigure the tech enough to be interesting to me. But as T. Whid pointed
out, the public display aspect has already been done, by Google themselves
in the recepetion area of their own corporate offices.]

As long as we're on the subject of "search engine art," check google's beta
"suggest" function here:
(details here: )

That thing is cool in and of itself already. But it's a commercial product
and not "art," so it's still fair game for some wiley net artist to put a
new html interface on it and then write some artist statement lamenting how
contemporary mindspace is more focused on "SHArper image" than
"SHAkespeare." Personally, I'd rather just read an insightful essay on the

+ + +

ryan griffis <grifray AT> replied:

> [In all fairness, the FM local broadcast aspect of the "beacon"
> project does reconfigure the tech enough to be interesting to me. But
> as T. Whid pointed out, the public display aspect has already been
> done, by Google themselves in the recepetion area of their own
> corporate offices.]

agree on curt's perspective comments relating to "search art". Natalie
Jeremijenko did a project for the Xerox PARC residency (i think it was
her at XP anyway) that used real time stock quotes to control the flow
of water in a fountain, or something like that. What JS Brown called
"using peripheral vision" in his futurist-corporate speak.

+ + +

M. River <mriver102 AT> replied:

On Jan 5, 2005, at 11:14 AM, P.Erl wrote:
> There have been many projects that use real-time displays of random
> search strings.

You know what would be very cool? If you made a search engine which only
yields results about a child star from 80sâ?? American television who types
his diary into a computer (early blog?) in each episode. If only someone
would make a search engine like that...if only...

+ + +

Rob Myers <robmyers AT> replied:

On Thursday, January 06, 2005, at 01:59PM, M. River <mriver102 AT>

>> On Jan 5, 2005, at 11:14 AM, P.Erl wrote:
>> > There have been many projects that use real-time displays of random
>> > search strings.
>You know what would be very cool? If you made a search engine which only yields
results about a child star from 80s??? American television who types his diary
into a computer (early blog?) in each episode. If only someone would make a
search engine like that...if only...

Which show was that?

Hmmm. A history of computer diarists would illuminate the current debate
around blogging. Does Ada lovelace count, or do you have to have written
your diary on a computer rather than about a computer in your diary?

What you *really* want is a meta-search engine that only searches art
project search engines.

Or failing that, payment from Google for all the cultural assimilation these
projects do for them. ;-)

+ + +

Alexander Galloway <galloway AT> replied:

interesting reply from jon thomson below (forwarded to raw on his

> From: Jon Thomson <j.thomson AT>

> [...] Some of the things mentioned here by Michael were in our minds when
> conceiving this work, particularly our desire to contextualise the
> search criteria poetically and also to examine the poetic nature of
> the terms themselves -as a kind of real-time lament or echo actually.
> And as alex says it's part of a whole host of stuff artists have been
> doing with search engine data -us also in previous work of our own.
> As artists we're not particularly interested in technical novelty, nor
> do we see it as off-limits to further explore the nature of this kind
> of data just because others have already made things that use search
> engine data flow.
> In more than a few cases, Contemporary Art can suffer from
> novelty-lust. Maybe it's some hangover from the Avant Garde? Anyway,
> we would like to think that we are simply contributing to a
> conversation that's ongoing in this nook of the Contemporary Art
> canon. Just as Philosophy seems to extend and extend one long
> conversation, we see contemporary art functioning in the same kind of
> way. We don't see art works taken individually as necessarily
> insular, and in the case of our own art much of it is in dialogue with
> Art History at some level, while configuration is of paramount
> importance to us.
> In our minds, 'Beacon' is both landscape and portrait, and it's the
> kind of convergent simultaneous nature of the gesture that interests
> us.
> best wishes,
> Jon & Alison

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