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: 2.25.05
Date: Tue, 1 Mar 2005 10:46:07 -0800

RHIZOME DIGEST: February 25, 2005


1. Shankar, Ravi: DRUNKEN BOAT announces Special Double Issue #7 - Aphasia
and the Arts, William Meredith, and First Annual Panliterary Awards
2. Ryan Griffis: FWD: Futurefarmers Seeking Contributions for ZKM exhibition
3. Amy Alexander:'s 300th birthday
4. Rachel Greene: McCoys Win Wired Rave Award

5. //jonCates: the base case (?) of Re: RHIZOME_RAW: rh:zome Subject (# of
6. Just added to the Rhizome ArtBase: A Seance with Guy by De
Geuzen: a foundation for multi-visual research
7. Just added to the Rhizome ArtBase: 1 year performance video
(aka samHsiehUpdate) by t.whid

8. Melinda Rackham: Remember this
9. Reinhold Grether: Josephine Bosma: Constructing Media Spaces
10. Olia Lialina: A Vernacular Web

+commissioned for
11. Rebecca Zorach: Rebecca Zorach on YOUgenics 3.0

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Date: 2.22.05
From: "Shankar, Ravi (English)" <shankarr AT>
Subject: DRUNKEN BOAT announces Special Double Issue #7 - Aphasia and the
Arts, William Meredith, and First Annual Panliterary Awards

Drunken Boat <>, international online journal for
the arts, announces a special double issue on Aphasia and the Arts and
William Meredith!

With PHOTOS from Sol Lewitt, Ellen Driscoll, Elisabeth Subrin, Brian Berman
and Cecilia Schmidt

With POETRY from Paul Amlehn, Sally Ball, Dan Beachy-Quick, Elizabeth Block,
Iain Britton, Julie Buchsbaum, Christophe Casamassima, Vernon Frazer, Piotr
Gwiazda, Richard Harteis, Gwyneth Lewis, Nancy Kuhl, Kate Light, Evelyn
Posamentier, Alexis Quinlan, Ken Rumble, Charles Rafferty, Mary Ann Samyn,
Jesse Schweppe, Chris Semansky, Vijay Seshadri, Ron Silliman, Laurel Snyder,
Tony Tost, Dan Waber & Dave Grey, Susan Wheeler, Gautam Verma

With SOUND from Ros Bandt, Joseph Chaikin, Jan Curtis, Merlin Coleman,
Stefano Giannotti, Abinadi Meza, Patrick Simons, and Stephen Vitello

With PROSE from Ann Barnes, Gayle Brandeis, Kate Hill Cantrill, Marc
Froment-Meurice, Tom Hazuka, Jerome Kaplan, Naomi Leimsider, Cris Mazza,
Elinore Mazza, Christina McPhee, John Phillips, Leland Pitts-Gonzalez,
Arthur Saltzman, Gregory Spatz, and Frederick Zackel

With WEB ART from Peter Horvath, Deena Larson, Jhave Johnston, Michael
Knaven, Prema Murthy, Mendi & Keith Obadike, Antoine Schmitt and Tamar

With TRANSLATIONS of Salvatore Quasimodo by Wayne Chambliss, Thanh Thao by
Linh Dinh, Turkish Sufi poets by Jennifer Ferraro and Latif Bolat, Paul
Valéry by Christopher Mulrooney, and Jean Michel Espitallier, Jacques
Roubaud, Jacques Jouet and Anita Konkka by Jean-Jacques Poucel

With VIDEO from Angela Alston & Ezekiel Das, Nicolas Barrié, Cesar Pesquera,
Catherine Ross, Alan Sondheim, and Larry Weinstein

FEATURING a special folio on APHASIA and THE ARTS and a retrospective on
WILLIAM MEREDITH including video, photos, etchings and never-before seen
letters and rare manuscripts



Ravi Shankar
Assistant Professor
CCSU - English Dept.
shankarr AT

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Date: 2.23.05
From: ryan griffis <grifray AT>
Subject: FWD: Futurefarmers Seeking Contributions for ZKM exhibition


³Jacob Moreno (1889-1974) developed many different techniques for
exploring the unseen connections that exist between people. In
exploring these connections we can¹t help but make new ones. I wanted
to take some of his techniques and explore them on the Internet. This
version of Communiculture is a reworking of an earlier project called
Prototype World, which was done as a degree show-project for the Royal
College of Art.² Josh On

In this project, the screen space is given a social value. Users can
create visual representations of themselves and then place these
screen-selves in ³continuums² that have been written by other visitors
to the site. Each continuum has a question and two extreme positions
forming a continuum of possible positions a person could take in
response to the question. For example, the question might be, ³Do you
prefer cats or dogs?² and on one side of the screen would be the answer
³dogs² and on the other ³cats². Users can place themselves anywhere on
the screen between these two positions and add a comment explaining
their choice. Visitors can click on other visitors in the continuum and
see where they stand on other continuums.

The on-line continuums only allow for a few words of explanation and
little room for discussion.
For ZKM, Futurefarmers presents Communiculture on the walls of the
museum. Continuums will appear on the walls, and visitors will attach
small avatars with comments somewhere between the two positions of the
continuum. The continuums will be chosen from a library of submissions
made possible through a webpage on the ZKM website. The webpage allows
people to submit continuums and to vote on ones that have already been
submitted. The most popular continuums will be presented on the walls
of ZKM for visitors to physically participate in. We hope that the
physical presence of the participants interacting with the wall will
foster discussion beyond the limited space available on the avatar.

Design by Futurefarmers
Illustration by Brian Won, Amy Franceschini, Josh On
Programming by Josh On

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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: 2.25.05
From: Amy Alexander <plagiari AT>
Subject:'s 300th birthday 2 years + 1 month old - we celebrate our 300+ projects!

algorithmic appreciation (3)
> non-code-related (1)
> pseudo-quines (0)

appropriation and plagiarism (4)
> stealing (0)

artificial intelligence (9)

artistic tool (27)
> audiovisual (23)
> narrative (2)
> useless (1)

bots and agents (13)

browser art (13)

code art (16)
> code poetry (7)
> minimal code (1)
> obfuscation (3)
> programming languages (3)
> quines (1)

conceptual software (18)
> without hardware - formal instruction (2)

data transformation (21)
> data collage (7)
> multimedia (3)
> sonification (2)
> visualization (3)

digital aesthetics r&d (6)
> disfunctionality (2)
> low tech (4)

digital folk and artisanship (14)
> ascii art (2)
> gimmicks (5)
> screen savers (1)

existing software manipulations (6)
> artistic re-packaging (1)
> cracks and patches (0)
> instructions (1)
> software plugins (2)

games (8)
> deconstruction and modification (5)
> public games (1)

generative art (31)
> algorithmic audio (6)
> algorithmic design (3)
> algorithmic image (14)
> algorithmic multimedia (5)

hardware transformation (6)

installation-based (5)

institutional critique (3)

performance-based (6)

political and activist software (19)
> cease-and-desist-ware (5)
> illicit software (1)
> software resistance (10)
> useful activist software (2)

social software (1)

software cultures - links (10)

system dysfunctionality (6)
> denial of service (3)
> virus - security (3)

text - software art related (43)
> aesthetics of software art (6)
> cultural critique of software (13)
> history of software art (11)
> weblog (1)

text manipulation (26)
> text editors (4)

runme accepts submissions on a year-round (almost) basis, so please submit
your projects in the above categories - or suggest your own - at

-runme admins

Note - Mail sent to the email address in the header may or may not actually
reach me! A current, fully-functional address for me can always be found at
bottom of the home page. Danke, gracias and thanks!

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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: 2.25.05
From: Rachel Greene <rachel AT>
Subject: McCoys Win Wired Rave Award

I just read on MTEWW's blog that Jenn and Kevin won this award from WIRED.
It's called the WIRED Rave award. Congrats from everyone at Rhizome!:

Jennifer & Kevin McCoy
for turning media crit into pop art

Latest hit: Soft Rains, a collection of miniature film sets used to
deconstruct genres like '50s melodrama and '80s slasher flicks. Feeds from
50 videocams are channeled through software that edits them into
ever-changing vignettes.

Dada meets data: The McCoys' MO is to compile thousands of film clips - from
footage they've shot to snippets snagged from Looney Tunes cartoons and TV
shows like Starsky and Hutch - break them down into categories, then create
short films straight from their databases. "Instead of looking at point,
line, and plane - classic Bauhaus design - we're using popular culture,"
says Jennifer, 36.

Jargon watch: The McCoys turned corporate-speak into an art form with
1999's Airworld. They set up office on the 91st floor of Tower One at the
World Trade Center and wrote a Web crawler to harvest marketing language
from the sites of big companies to show the absurdity and familiarity of
their jargon.

Amazing stories: The McCoys often rely on daily life and sci-fi motifs to
spark creativity. For Soft Rains, they turned to Ray Bradbury's short story
"There Will Come Soft Rains" and its theme of total automation. They've
tapped Philip K. Dick's Valis to devise a talking elevator and the original
Star Trek series for their latest project, I Number the Stars, in which they
plan to catalog all the technological activities aboard the Enterprise.

Next: The British Film Institute commissioned the pair to create an
electronic sculpture exploring how the media affects people's lives. With
this project, they'll turn the lens on themselves. "It's very abject to
include ourselves," says Kevin, 38. "Like little voodoo dolls." - Laura

The other nominees
? Edward Burtynsky, Manufactured Landscapes
? Michael Lau & Eric So, vinyl action figures
? Golan Levin & Zach Lieberman, messa di voce
? Gerfried Stocker, Andreas Exner, Hannes Leopoldseder & Christine Schoepf,
Digital Avant-Garde: Celebrating 25 Years of Ars Electronica

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Date: 2.20.05
From: //jonCates <joncates AT>
Subject: the base case (?) of Re: RHIZOME_RAW: rh:zome Subject (# of texts)

On Feb 19, 2005, at 1:20 PM, jimpunk wrote:

announcing the "rh:zome Subject (# of texts)" project. as of the
writing of this [msg/txt] "rh:zome Subject (# of texts)" includes the
the following features:

"rh:zome Subject (# of texts)" includes a txt msg: "PLEASE DO NOT
CL!CK" as an alt tag to a code snippet that self-referentially links
to the "screenfull stadium rock" show AT :

++ includes links to:


that utilize profiles to [promote/distribute] projects +
pieces. LaBoiteEnValise in particular relates to earlier threads on about the remixological, newMedia, digitalArt, Duchamp +

++ screenfull Splash scrs 3, 2 + 1. -> do these Splashes reference's alt.interfaces "a series of alternative interfaces to
Rhizome's archives of text and art." (0) ?

++ links to + appropriations of + imgs +
functionality, the most participatory of which allow comments to be
added to the work.

all of these elements combine to create a highly self-referential loop
through process or loop back test that {branches|bounces} off of threads, discursively hyperthreading to multiply, connect,
decenter + circulate the subject of "rhzome-subject-of-texts". as such,
"rh:zome Subject (# of texts)" functions rhizomatically as rhizomeness
is described by Gilles Deleuze + Felix Guattari in A Thousand Plateaus:
Capitalism and Schizophrenia as quoted by in's
About Us. (1)

this remix of the "PLEASE DO NOT" threads traces back to the ongoing
"PLEASE DO NOT SPAM ART" project by trashconnection as sent to
RHIZOME_RAW from www AT trashconnection's "PLEASE
DO NOT SPAM ART" positions spamware as artware + allows usrs of the
"PLEASE DO NOT SPAM ART" system to construct + send spam msgs as an
ongoing + open process. the "PLEASE DO NOT SPAM ART" posts handmade
spam msgs to addressees selected by the usr of the system + also CC's
those msgs to the o-o Mailing List. the o-o Mailing List is described

" o-o is an experimental mailing list for net art and it's theory. Also
for providing information about electronic art, technology and events."


title: >>>> info o-o
dvr: o-o

o-o, which "PLEASE DO NOT SPAM ART" connects to via
[CC'ing/porting/piping] data to, also features a
" option" that can be used (anonymously or w/any available
identity including 01's own) to fwd msgs to various related other
platforms + listservs that address newMedia art theorypraxis, such as
list AT

while i love the horizontal spread of the "rh:zome Subject (# of
texts)" project + the ethic of appropriating [+/or] remixing while
porting [+/or] piping a conversational data set from 01 src to another,
i wonder if the flatness of "rh:zome Subject (# of texts)", in terms of
the engagement it presents as options, doesn't close the feedback loop
to closely to the surface. "PLEASE DO NOT SPAM ART" remains open to the
abyss of spamware as a system that can be utilized artistically. the
o-o Mailing List multiples those options while also targeting specific
discursive platforms such as the "PLEASE DO
NOT" threads function as a playfull insider's games for those [in/on]
the platform who are familiar w/trashconnection's "PLEASE
DO NOT SPAM ART" project + announcements. will "rh:zome Subject (# of
texts)" open this system? will "rh:zome Subject (# of texts)" further,
widen, deepen [+/or] flatten the conversation? + while these questions
circulate, looping through these networks, awaiting remailing,
expansion + comment, i also wonder if "rh:zome Subject (# of texts)"
offers or mobilizes critique of the systems that are AT play
with[in/out] of the project, or if such an intention exists in this
mutual recursion... (?)

// jonCates

(#) referents:



title: alt.interface
format: various



title: About Us
format: php, txt + img

LISTS. !--->

// jonCates

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Date: 2.23.05
From: "" <artbase AT>
Subject: Just added to the Rhizome ArtBase: A Seance with Guy by De Geuzen:
a foundation for multi-visual research

Just added to the Rhizome ArtBase ...

+ A Seance with Guy +
+ De Geuzen: a foundation for multi-visual research +

Our primary reason for initiating this séance is that we wanted to talk to
Guy Debord (a.k.a. the Guru of the Spectacle) about the current state of
affairs in the world and imagined that others would like to do the same. As
the topic of terrorism dominates the media, it is important to have a direct
and frank conversation with the man himself. What are his views on the war
on terror, the Bush administration, the state of the European Union or the
war in Iraq? Are old Situationist strategies still viable, and what is his
perspective on the spectacle in a post-9/11 society? Well, quite simply, the
answers are for those curious enough to ask.

+ + +


De Geuzen is Riek Sijbring, Femke Snelting and Renée Turner. We are an art
and design collective that has been working together since 1996. In our
work, we deploy a variety of strategies both on and offline to explore our
interests in female identity, critical resistance, representation, and
narrative archiving. We have done workshops at the Impakt Festival, The
Piet Zwart Institute and La Cambre. Our projects have been featured in
Manifesta 3, Kuenstlerhaus Bremen and Digitales. Some of our projects are by
commission but most are self-initiated.

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Date: 2.23.05
From: "" <artbase AT>
Subject: Just added to the Rhizome ArtBase: 1 year performance video (aka
samHsiehUpdate) by t.whid

Just added to the Rhizome ArtBase ...

+ 1 year performance video (aka samHsiehUpdate) +
+ t.whid +

"1 year performance video" continues MTAAâ??s series of Updates. Our Updates
resound seminal performance art from the 60s and 70s in part by replacing
human processes with computer processes.

"1 year performance video" updates Sam Hsiehâ??s One Year Performance
1978-1979 (aka Cage Piece).

When a viewer enters the piece she is presented with side-by-side videos of
the artists trapped in identical cell-like rooms. The artists go about the
mundane activities possible within a cell: in the morning they wake and
breakfast; at around 1PM and 7PM they eat; sometimes they exercise;
sometimes they surf the net; sometimes they sit and stare at the wall; they
piss; at around midnight, they go to bed.

The viewer is meant to watch this activity for one year.

But, in the work we only mimic endurance; the videos are pre-taped clips
edited at runtime via a computer program so that each viewer sees a
different sequence. The audience can just close the browser and walk away.
No one needs to suffer on this one; failure is built-in at the front end.

"1 year performance video (aka samHsiehUpdate)" is a 2004 commission of New
Radio and Performing Arts, Inc., (aka Ether-Ore) for its Turbulence web
site. It was made possible with funding from the Jerome Foundation.

+ + +


MTAA (M.River & T.Whid Art Associates) is a Brooklyn, New York-based
conceptual and net art collaboration founded in 1996.

Their studies of networked culture, the economics of art, digital materials,
and the institutional art world take the form of web sites, installations,
sculptures, and photographic prints. Their work has been commissioned by The
Alternative Museum, Creative Time, New Radio & Performing Arts, Inc., and
The Whitney Museum of American Art and has been exhibited by PS1 Art Center
(New York, 2000), The Walker Art Center (Minneapolis, 2000) and Eyebeam (New
York, 2002).

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Date: 2.21.05
From: Melinda Rackham <melinda AT>
Subject: Remember this

Remember this?

Several years ago I was on a jury for a Networked art

While sifting through endless days of sites I came
across jimpunk's "" . How refreshing to sit
back, feel out of control and to be driven along by the
browser. Somewhere in the midst of the work was a section
where the Twin Towers.. ( the square NYC World Trade Towers
variety not the beautiful circular Petronas Towers in KL )
made from empty pop-up grey vertically rectangular browser
windows on a plain grey horizontal background, appeared.
Then with a strike of thunderous sound, one by one they fell
down.. or in more technical terms compacted towards the
bottom of the screen.

A short, powerful, simple sequence. Beautiful I thought.
Fantastic use of pop-ups. jimpunk goes on my top 10
favourite artists list. I put a link to it on my web site
entitled 'best twin towers at jimpunk". The net equivalent
perhaps to Sean Penn's moving September 11 short film on
death and transformation when the grief and denial of an
elderly man (Ernest Borgnine) is healed when light streams
into his dark apartment as the Twin Towers collapse.

Funnily enough the work didn't make it into the net art
show, as I discovered the other juror had completely
opposite aesthetic sense to myself , and didn't share my
enthusiasm for jimpunk's work, nor I for the works he liked.
After much negotiation we settled for works we both though
were good rather than ones we individually loved [ah the
joys of the jury process].

I have wanted to view this fragment of work again, and to
show it in lectures, however I was never able to find it. I
thought perhaps it was an Easter egg, a little gift for the
adventurous user hidden within the site, and it was just
eluding me. However recently jimpunk has told me the
sequence I recall didn't ever exist.

I dont quiet believe him - but is offline
now so I can't check
for myself. He directed me to 9/11 Memorial, which has a
similar use of pop-ups. But the towers are stable, the back
ground is animated and they just disappear rather than
collapse. It is much more formal, and to my mind a less
powerful work than the apparently non-existent one I recall.

So perhaps I was the only recipient of that random
combination of windows that became such a potent artwork in
my memory. Perhaps it was the optical hallucinatory affect
of massively moving pop-ups. Perhaps it illustrates
networked art is a truly individual experience. Perhaps it
was an illusion - the art equivalent of false memory
syndrome - created by mediated tower terror pattern
recognition. The only certainty is that the reality of
memory bears no relation to truth or falsity.

Melinda Rackham

9/11 memorial REMEMBER

Petronas Towers

Dr Melinda Rackham
artist | curator | producer
-empyre- media forum

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Date: 2.22.05
From: Reinhold Grether <Reinhold.Grether AT>
Subject: Josephine Bosma: Constructing Media Spaces

Josephine Bosma: Constructing Media Spaces

"In her essay, "Constructing Media Spaces," Josephine Bosma
argues that forms of networked art, in particular, are progenitors
of what media theorist calls "public domain 2.0," and that the
works of the artists described in her text "bring people closer
to technology on many different levels. Some only create curiosity
and wonder (the first level of familiarity); others clearly aim at
audience participation or even education. All of these works deal
with the public domain as a virtual, mediated space consisting
of both material and immaterial matter.""

"Text Sections: Some thoughts on art + (Re)defining the public
domain + Performing physical interfaces: Face-to-face with
technology + Station Rose + Heath Bunting: Project-X + Mongrel +
Etoy: "Etoy.Daycare" + Collaboration and co-authorship: Art spaces
online + The Thing + Public Netbase and other early European
media labs and online platforms + nettime + Rhizome + New diversity:
Sarai, Furtherfield, Netartreview, Empyre + Software: Layering media,
portable media spaces and media as metaphor + Software art context +
WebStalker + + Virus as intervention: Forkbomb + Conceptual
software: ".walk" + Public Domain 2.0 Redux"

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Date: 2.23.05
From: olia lialina <olia AT>
Subject: A Vernacular Web

A Vernacular Web

An extended and illustrated version of my talk at the Decade of Web
Design Conference in Amsterdam, January 2005

When I started to work on the World Wide Web I made a few nice things
that were special, different and fresh. They were very different from
what was on the web in the mid 90's.

I'll start with a statement like this, not to show off my contribution,
but in order to stress that -- although I consider myself to be an early
adopter -- I came late enough to enjoy and prosper from the "benefits of
civilization". There was a pre-existing environment; a structural,
visual and acoustic culture you could play around with, a culture you
could break. There was a world of options and one of the options was to
be different.

So what was this culture? What do we mean by the web of the mid 90's and
when did it end?

To be blunt it was bright, rich, personal, slow and under construction.
It was a web of sudden connections and personal links. Pages were built
on the edge of tomorrow, full of hope for a faster connection and a more
powerful computer. One could say it was the web of the indigenous...or
the barbarians. In any case, it was a web of amateurs soon to be washed
away by ambitions, professional authoring tools and guidelines
designed by usability experts.

I wrote that change was coming "soon" instead of putting an end date at
1998, for example, because there was no sickness, death or burial. The
amateur web didn't die and it has not disappeared but it is hidden.
Search engine rating mechanisms rank the old amateur pages so low
they're almost invisible and institutions don't collect or promote them
with the same passion as they pursue net art or web design.

Over the past ten year the number of amateur pages have dropped. It¹s
now a developed and highly regulated space. You wouldn¹t get on the web
just to tell the world, ³Welcome to my home page.² The web has
diversified, the conditions have changed and there¹s no need for this
sort of old fashioned behavior. Your CV is posted on the company
website. Your diary will be organized on a blog and your vacation photos
are published on There¹s a community for every hobby and

This is why I refer to the amateur web as a thing of the past;
aesthetically a very powerful past. Even people who weren¹t online in
the last century, people who look no further than the first 10 search
engine results can see the signs and symbols of the early web thanks to
the numerous parodies and collections organized by usability experts who
use the early elements and styles as negative examples.

Just as clothing styles come back into fashion so do web designs. On a
visual level things reappear. Last year I noticed that progressive web
designers returned to an eclectic style reincorporating wallpapers and
3D lettering in their work. In the near future frames and construction
signs will show up as retro and the beautiful old elements will be
stripped of their meaning and contexts.

In the past few years I¹ve also been making work that foregrounds this
disappearing aesthetic of the past. With these works I want to apologize
for my arrogance in the early years and to preserve the beauty of the
vernacular web by integrating them within contemporary art pieces. But
this is only half of the job.

Creating collections and archives of all the midi files and animated
gifs will preserve them for the future but it is no less important to
ask questions. What did these visual, acoustic and navigation elements
stand for? For which cultures and media did these serve as a bridge to
the web? What ambitions were they serving? What problems did they solve
and what problems did they create? Let me talk about the difficult
destiny of some of these elements.

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Date: 2.25.05
From: Rebecca Zorach <rezorach AT>
Subject: Rebecca Zorach on YOUgenics 3.0

Rebecca Zorach on YOUgenics 3.0

YOUgenics is about YOU: your body, the food and medicine you put in
it, the institutions and practices in which it is embedded. In
YOUgenics 3.0, genetic engineering is the spool around which numerous
issues--labor and inequality and reproduction and consumption and
militarism and surveillance (and their histories)--are wound. The third
YOUgenics exhibition, which ran from December 8, 2004 to February 25,
2005 at the Betty Rymer Gallery at the School of the Art Institute
of Chicago, is part of an ongoing (and ever-changing) project
curated by Ryan Griffis. YOUGenics 1.0 and 2.0 were at Orlo
Exhibition Space, Portland, Oregon, in 2002, and Art & Design
Gallery, Southwest Missouri State University, in 2003. The entire
project seeks to remedy a lack of public discussion around crucial
issues of biotechnology that affect all of us--and to do it in creative,
challenging and sometimes surprising ways.

While the dominant discourses of education, politics and the media construct
science as powerful, impressive, authoritative, arcane, and, all-too-often,
invisible, a number of artists have, for years, been doing their best to
make these issues visible. Some of them have paid dearly, as in the recent
FBI investigation and prosecution of Critical Art Ensemble's Steve Kurtz.
Amidst the small flurry of press coverage of the issue, Richard Roberts, DNA
researcher and Nobel laureate, was quoted as saying that "you could teach
these skills to a high-school student, and you could probably teach them to
an artist."

Because he was addressing the possibility of manipulating bacterial DNA for
purposes of bioterrorism, in one fell swoop he both presumed the merit of
the FBI's assertions and denigrated artists, whose practical and
intellectual capabilities he apparently feels are less than those of high
school students.

In fact, artists--so YOUgenics asserts--have something to teach all of us
about science. In their position as critical thinkers-cum-provocateurs they
can reveal the vested interests and biases of those authorized to speak from
a position of expertise; they can question established truisms and newer
forms of creeping groupthink; they might even do a demonstration of basic
experimental science.

A program of events associated with the exhibition included a panel
discussion and video screening, as well as two performances, by the
cyberfeminist collective subRosa on February 18. (The performance
accompanied their digital installation and "Mapping the Appropriation of
Life Materials," a wall-mounted timeline of stem cell developments

that emphasized the conversion of "life materials," i.e. people's DNA and
stem cells, into property.) As part of the performance, subRosa members
demonstrated the process involved in inserting an antibiotic-resistant gene
into e. coli bacteria. Visitors were not

allowed to have contact with the actual bacteria but were encouraged to
practice (using only a heated loop) streaking the plate of a Petri dish as
if with a bacterial culture. Since a Bunsen burner was not allowed in the
gallery, we used a candle, and because of school regulations the security
guard had to be called in to stand at the ready with a fire extinguisher.
Similarly, the yogurt the collective produced as a second part of the
performance (to demonstrate an everyday use of bacterial cultures) could not
be served in the gallery because of health regulations. At the same time
visitors were encouraged to create collages ­ some of which were
three-dimensional and many of which turned out to be quite beautiful -- out
of old alchemical and anatomical images, corporate logos, pictures of sheep
and other animals, and certain keywords. Thus, the performance

combined an invitation to engage in an older form of "recombinant"
technology (the collage) while making participants acutely aware of the
legal constraints on scientific research -- which, combined with the
intimidation many members of the public feel about science, keeps research
developments and their consequences hidden from public view.

"Route In ­ Root Out" (2004), an installation by the British
artist-and-botanist team, Kerry Morrison and Alicia Prowse, also
foregrounded the legal difficulties involved in carrying out their project.
The installation centered on a wooden crate of glass specimen jars
containing ointments and tinctures made from European plants used in
traditional herbal medicine, such as the poetically named purple loose
strife, alder buckthorn, common toadflax, hairy willowherb, and teasel.
Binders of correspondence

documented the difficulty the collaborators had getting the plant materials
through customs. Meanwhile, listserve discussions projected on the wall
dealt with conflicting views on non-native species, including the unusual
position that restricting the entry of

"invasive" species (or even calling them that) might constitute a form of
"ecological hate" or "eco-Nazism."

Also appearing in the exhibition was Natalie Bookchin's "Metapet"
(, a video game in which you play a manager at a
genetic engineering company who must supervise a "Metapet," a human-dog
hybrid supposedly (but not entirely successfully) engineered for obedience.
Though ostensibly simple, the

game is maddening. As the Metapet types away at its desk, you throw good
money after bad, deploying every possible means at your disposal
(employee-of-the month plaques, mugs, lunch breaks, exercise programs, and
various types of genetic tests) to wring more productivity out of your
recalcitrant pet. Reading the pet's email will reveal that your

pet is prone to sex chat, and open to discussing labor issues with co-pets.
The relationship of genetic engineering to the labor issues at the core of
the game is perhaps a bit tenuous. Yet through the game's insidiously
hysterical manipulations of the player, it raises troubling questions about
the none-too-distant prospect of a world in which humans are engineered to
display machine-like traits.

The inclusion of Missouri artist Beth Hall's collages, "Drawing on the Right
Side of

the Brain," links the issue of eugenics with other kinds of body
modifications practiced in the service of a concept of ideal beauty. Hall
superimposes mathematical diagrams used for drawing instruction, medical
texts, Old Master drawings, and phrenology diagrams on graphic images of
plastic surgery in progress. Vietnamese-American artist Dinh Q. Lê's
"Damaged Gene Project" (1998) documents a boutique the artist opened in Ho
Chi Minh

City to draw attention to the genetic consequences of the U.S. use of Agent
Orange during the Vietnam War; in the boutique Lê sold such mutated garments
as a baby sweater with two hoods or (on display at YOUgenics) a set of
one-armed pink baby pajamas monogrammed with "Monsanto" (a maker of Agent
Orange). In "Relative Velocity Inscription Device," Buffalo-based Paul
Vanouse set up a "race" -- that is, a test of speed -- among DNA samples
from his racially diverse family, propelled through gel by an electric

The exhibition also included Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle's cryogenic sperm banks
with artworld people's sperm; Heath Bunting's Superweed Kit 1.0 (1999), a
DIY mixture of genetically modified and naturally occurring Brassica seeds
which one might (should one so choose) release into the environment to
compete with genetically modified crops; Deborah Koons Garcia's film "The
Future of Food"; Ryan Griffis's own Temporary

Travel Office tour of the Chicago Technology Park; and works by Thomas Cobb,
Mark Cooley, Alan Montgomery, and William C. Raines. Critical Art Ensemble
could not be absent: their project, Molecular Invasion (originally 2002),
represents one facet of their long engagement with biotechnology issues. In
it a chemical compound was applied to

Monsanto's Roundup Ready corn and soy to disable the plants' resistance to
the Roundup herbicide. These plants, along with non-GMO plants and untreated
Roundup Ready plants, were all sprayed with Roundup. As it happened, at
YOUgenics 3.0 all the plants died?but the treated Roundup Ready plants died
before the untreated ones, demonstrating the treatment's effectiveness at
"reversing" the effects of genetic modifications. And, incidentally,
reminding us that art might have something to say about science.

The exhibition raised questions, in particular, about corporate abuses and
about access to information, and encouraged an active stance toward these
issues. A danger with this kind of politically engaged exhibition might be
that its programmatic aspects would overwhelm aesthetic inventiveness, or
that it would preach only to the converted. Certainly, the exhibition was
full of aesthetic pleasures and exquisitely humorous

moments (Gail Wight's fenced-in fluffy neon chickens come to mind) and works
that effectively invited participation. It is hard for me to tell whether
YOUgenics 3.0 succeeded at reaching audiences not already "in the know."
And, in fact, Ryan has plans to expand the discussions raised in the
exhibition into other media such as billboards,

newspaper ads, and public performances, working with activist groups and
focusing on issues of particular local relevance to different communities.
For future excursions into the public forum, a gallery exhibition, even if a
relatively restricted space, can serve as a

laboratory of ideas?as well as of bacterial cultures?that will continue to
extend beyond its walls.

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Rhizome Digest is filtered by Kevin McGarry (kevin AT ISSN:
1525-9110. Volume 10, number 9. Article submissions to list AT
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