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: 10.13.06
Date: Fri, 13 Oct 2006 13:47:55 -0700

RHIZOME DIGEST: October 13, 2006


1. r.smith AT UK - North-West emerging digital artists -
call for submissions
2. Hein Bekker: Call: ICEBOX 02 Audio/Visual Art Festival, February/March
3. nisar keshvani: Leonardo Electronic Almanac - Open Call for
Submissions 2007/8
4. misberg AT Assistant or Associate Professor Media Arts
5. Brian DeLevie: POSITION: Tenure Track â Digital Design

6. domenico quaranta: [BOOK + SHOW] GAMESCENES / GAMESCAPES
7. Cecilia: Salon or Seminar AT E:vent Gallery, London AND online
8. marcin ramocki: Paul Slocum and Cory Arcangel perform AT vertexlist

+Commissioned by
9. Thomas Beard: Interview by Eddo Stern, by Thomas Beard

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Rhizome is now offering Organizational Subscriptions, group memberships
that can be purchased at the institutional level. These subscriptions
allow participants at institutions to access Rhizome's services without
having to purchase individual memberships. For a discounted rate, students
or faculty at universities or visitors to art centers can have access to
Rhizome?s archives of art and text as well as guides and educational tools
to make navigation of this content easy. Rhizome is also offering
subsidized Organizational Subscriptions to qualifying institutions in poor
or excluded communities. Please visit for
more information or contact Lauren Cornell at LaurenCornell AT

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From: r.smith AT <r.smith AT>
Date: Oct 10, 2006
Subject: UK - North-West emerging digital artists - call for submissions

Digital Aesthetic 2 - exhibition opportunity to commission or realise new
work for emerging digital artists in the North-West.

Digital Aesthetic 2 is an international exhibition, conference and website
taking place in March 2007 in Preston. As part of this event we would
like to invite artists based in the North-West of England to submit
proposals for new work to be shown at PAD Gallery.

A total budget of £3000 is available to support the making of new work for
PAD. We envisage showing work by up to three artists however a single more
ambitious project would also be considered.

Artists should submit the following:

? A written proposal for a new artwork with digital content (approx
250 words)
? A working budget
? A current CV
? Up to 10 good quality visuals (or other appropriate documentation)
of recent work.
? Visuals and supporting documentation can only be returned if a
Stamped Addressed Envelope is included

Closing date: 31 October 2006.

Successful artist(s) will be contacted early December.

Proposals should be sent to:

Digital Aesthetic 2 ? PAD
Harris Museum & Art Gallery
Market Square

Digital Aesthetic 2 is a multi-venue exhibition, conference and website
developed in between the Harris Museum and Art Gallery and the Electronic
and Digital Art Unit at the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan). The
exhibition opens on 16th March 2007 and venues include the Harris, UCLan,
Preston Minster, PAD and public realm.

Further information about PAD can be found at:

Further information about Digital Aesthetic 2 can be found at:

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From: Hein Bekker <hein AT>
Date: Oct 10, 2006
Subject: Call: ICEBOX 02 Audio/Visual Art Festival, February/March 2007

ICEBOX is a collaborative festival of contemporary creativity in
audio/visual art. With the focus on the electronic, open and South
African, the festival combines music, film, video and interactive media
through a programme of screenings, multimedia performances, club nights,
workshops and an online exhibition.

Liquid Fridge, partnered by MTKidu and rustpunk, presents ICEBOX 02 in
February/March 2007 in Cape Town, Durban and Johannesburg, South Africa.
The festival is calling for the participation of established and emerging
South African and international artists and professionals working in a
broad range of disciplines including electronic music, sound art, digital
film, animation, photography, video art, graphic design, interactive and
generative media, Net art, video game art and electronics.



ICEBOX is open for submissions of short-form narratives, documentaries,
music videos, experimental motion graphics and recorded visual
performances. Visit for further
information and the entry form.

Online Exhibition

Interactive media, generative art, Net art and other forms using Director,
Flash or Java software, as well as digital photography, illustration and
graphic design work, may be entered for the online exhibition and a live
presentation at ICEBOX. Visit for
further information and the entry form.

Club Nights

The ICEBOX sound system promises a selection of DJ'd and live
retro-tech-future-funk rather difficult to define. Overlay a hearty
serving of videoboxing and performing pixels, and you have an eclectic
evening where the notions of "underground" and "overground" are
irrelevant. We are looking for DJ sets, band and electroacoustic
performances, VJ/video performances, and various styles in between. Visit to learn more.


To facilitate exchange between the traditional creative practices and
electronic subcultures, ICEBOX invites presentations, performances,
demonstrations, discussion panels and hands-on experiments in all
disciplines. Visit to learn

Liquid Fridge :o: Creative Swapmeet
+27 (0)82 508 2922 | hein AT |

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From: nisar keshvani <nisar AT>
Date: Oct 7, 2006
Subject: Leonardo Electronic Almanac - Open Call for Submissions 2007/8

** Sincere apologies for cross-posting **

Please feel free to spread the word widely:

The Leonardo Electronic Almanac (ISSN No: 1071-4391) is inviting an open
call for special issues / papers to be published in 2007/8. LEA is an
international peer-reviewed e-journal published by MIT Press since 1993.

The LEA Editorial Board seeks proposals for:

* Special Issues: To guest edit a special issue/s around any established
or emerging topic area. The special will give you an opportunity to work
with LEA, its peer-review network and experts in the field to publish
critical essays, artist statements, produce bibliographies and academic

* Theoretical Discussions: *Original* essays documenting research,
critical commentary in areas of discussion such as nanotechnology,
cyberart, cyberfeminism, hypertext, robotics, bio-art, artifical life,
genetics. This list is by no means exhaustive, and proposals need not be
limited to these areas.

* Artists Statements / Gallery Commissions: International artists are
encouraged to submit statements or proposals for *original* for exhibiting
new media artwork. Curators are welcome to propose thematic exhibitions.

LEA encourages international artists / academics / researchers / students
/ practitioners / theorists to submit their proposals for consideration.
We particularly encourage authors outside North America and Europe to
submit essays / artists statements.

Proposals should include:-
- a 150 - 300 word abstract / synopsis detailing subject matter
- a brief bio (and prior works for reference).
- names of collaborators (if suggesting a thematic issue / curated gallery)
- any related URLs
- contact details

We also welcome all collaborative ideas, suggestions and proposals from
individuals as well as organizations.

In the subject heading of the email message, please use ?Name of
Individual/Organisation/Project Title: LEA CFP ? Date Submitted?. Please
cut and paste all text into body of email (without attachments). Detailed
editorial guidelines at:

Please send proposals or queries to:
Nisar Keshvani
Leonardo Electronic Almanac
info AT

by 1 December 2006. (Pls note - Response to proposals may take up to 4 - 8
Only shortlisted candidates will be contacted).

Useful URLs

LEA Current Issue:
Contributor Guide:

What is LEA?
Established in 1993, Leonardo Electronic Almanac (ISSN No: 1071-4391) is
the electronic arm of the pioneer art journal, Leonardo - Journal of Art,
Science & Technology.

Leonardo Electronic Almanac (LEA), jointly produced by Leonardo, the
International Society for the Arts, Sciences and Technology (ISAST), and
published by MIT Press, is an electronic journal dedicated to providing a
forum for those who are interested in the realm where art, science and
technology converge.

For over a decade, LEA has thrived as an international peer reviewed
electronic journal and web archive covering the interaction of the arts,
sciences, and technology. On average 5 - 10% of manuscripts received are
eventually published. LEA emphasizes rapid publication of recent work and
critical discussion on topics of current excitement with a slant on
shorter, less academic texts. Many contributors are younger scholars,
artists, scientists, educators and developers of new technological
resources in the media arts.

Contents include profiles of media arts facilities and projects, insights
of artists using new media and feature articles comprising theoretical and
technical perspectives. Curated galleries of current new media artwork are
also a regular feature, and occasionally, LEA publishes special issues on
topics such as locative media, new media poetics, and wild nature and the
digital life.


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From: misberg AT <misberg AT>
Date: Oct 13, 2006
Subject: Assistant or Associate Professor Media Arts

Emily Carr Institute of Art + Design, a leading institution dedicated to
research and the education of artists, designers, and media practitioners,
invites applications for a full-time tenure track position at the rank of
Assistant or Associate Professor in Media Arts commencing August 2007 to
teach computer graphics and animation in the context of filmmaking and
digital media with expertise in the areas of 3-D animation, visual
effects, interactivity and programming. (Competition F006 -2006)
ECI has a culturally diverse student body of approximately 1400 students
from across Canada and the world and offers undergraduate and graduate
programs leading to Bachelor degrees in Fine Arts, Media Arts and Design,
and a Masters of Applied Arts.

Preference will be given to candidates with a broad range of experience in
digital media arts, including interactive, motion, and time based
technologies as well as an understanding of interdisciplinary practices.
The successful candidate may teach students at all levels, from Foundation
to Graduate Studies, and will be expected to make a major contribution in
developing curriculum in an institution that is committed to the
interrelation of theory and practice. Faculty members are expected to
contribute in shaping the future of the Institute through participation in
planning, administration and committees and in being actively engaged in
the ECI community.

Candidates should have a Masters degree in a related area, and a minimum
of two years relevant post-secondary teaching experience. Letters of
application should address the candidate?s expertise in the area of
professional practice as it relates to the position, including a
philosophy or approach to teaching within culturally diverse communities
(maximum 500 words), and a statement that demonstrates the applicant?s
organizational and leadership skills (maximum 500 words). This statement
may reflect the candidate?s experience in any sector and need not be
necessarily restricted to visual arts, design or media arts or to

The applicant should include a current curriculum vitae and supporting
material, including samples of a variety of recent work preferably on DVD
or CDROM (limit total viewing time to 20 min. maximum). Submissions should
include the names, addresses, telephone numbers, and email addresses of
three persons who can be contacted for a reference. Please provide a check
list of submitted material.

Please send applications, quoting Competition no. F006-2006 by November
24, 2006, to:

Human Resources Department
Emily Carr Institute
1399 Johnston St Vancouver BC V6H 3R9

Phone (604) 844-3824 Fax (604) 844-3885 Email hr AT

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From: Brian DeLevie <brian AT>
Date: Oct 12, 2006
Subject: POSITION: Tenure Track â Digital Design

POSITION: Tenure Track ? Digital Design

The Visual Arts Department, in the College of Arts and Media at the
University of Colorado at Denver and Health Sciences Center (UCDHSC),
seeks a full-time, tenure-track Assistant Professor of Electronic Design
with expertise in digital media, design fundamentals and a wide range of
Digital Media software applications, Applicants must posses interest and
knowledge of design theory, history and criticism, and demonstrate a
record of creative activity in Art/Design.

As one of three institutions within the University of Colorado system,
UCDHSC is an urban campus located in the heart of the city's commercial,
cultural and recreational districts. The institution educates
approximately 27,000 students with more than 100 degree and certificate
programs at the bachelors, masters, and doctoral levels, and has proudly
positioned itself to be one of the top urban research universities in the
country with more than $300 million a year in research grants and

The College of Arts & Media (CAM), located on the UCDHSC Downtown Denver
campus, offers B.F.A./B.A. degrees in Studio Arts, Art History, Theatre,
Film & Television, and a B.S. degree in Music.

Students majoring in Fine Arts select programs in art history, drawing,
painting, photography, sculpture, multimedia and 3-D animation. These
emphasis areas provide students with a comprehensive knowledge of, and
direct experience with the various media?as well as an understanding of
art theory, knowledge of the methods and materials of art making, and a
critical analysis of the art object in historical perspectives. Fine Arts
students have access to the Photography lab (with black & white, color,
non-silver and digital capabilities), Sculpture lab (with metal casting
and fabrication and woodworking facilities), and Drawing & Painting
studios. Digital facilities include non-linear editing suites, and an
audio production/post-production classroom, in addition to studio/office
spaces for the Visual Arts faculty.

1. MFA (degree completed)
2. Expertise in Digital Media
3. Expertise in Design Fundamentals
4. Demonstrated record of creative activity in Art/Design
5. Demonstrated interest in, and knowledge of, design theory, history
and criticism
6. Expertise in a wide range of digital media software applications.
7. Ability to teach and work with a diverse student body

1. 2-3 years teaching experience beyond graduate school.
2. 2-3 years professional experience in the field of Design.
3. Expertise in web based/Interactive software application

POSITION: 5 courses A/Y Load, Fall 2007 start date

COMPENSATION: Salary commensurate with skills and experience The
University of Colorado offers a full benefits package. Information on
University benefits programs, including eligibility, is located at <> .

1. Letter of application
2. Complete and Current curriculum vita
3. Statement of teaching philosophy that also addresses working with a
diverse student body
4. Statement of creative work and personal design philosophy
5. Three letters of reference (including phone numbers and email
6. Electronic Portfolio of Design work, including web site addresses if
(DVD, interactive CD or web site. PDF?s will not be accepted)
7. Twenty examples of student work in electronic format, if applicable.
8. Sample syllabi if applicable.
9. SASE (for return of materials)

University of Colorado at Denver and Health Sciences Center
Visual Arts Department
Attn: Joann Brennan, Electronic Design Search Committee
Campus Box 177
P.O. Box 173364
Denver, Colorado 80217-3364.

Deadline for receipt of application is Monday, January 8th, 2007. The
interview process will include a pre-scheduled interview at the College
Arts Association Conference in New York at the New York Hilton, February
14th-18th. On-campus interviews, for finalists selected from CAA
interviews will be scheduled in early March.
For more information on the College of Arts & Media, or the University of
Colorado at Denver and Health Sciences Center in the downtown Denver
campus, visit our websites at,, or

The University of Colorado is committed to diversity and equality in
education and employment.
The University of Colorado at Denver and Health Sciences Center requires
background investigations for employment.

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From: domenico quaranta <qrndnc AT>
Date: Oct 7, 2006


October 7, 2006


M. Bittanti, D. Quaranta (editors), GameScenes. Art in the Age of
Videogames, Milan, Johan & Levi 2006. Hardcover, 454 pages, 25 x 25 cm,
200+ hi-res illustrations, available from October 2006.

GameScenes. Art in the Age of Videogames is the first volume entirely
dedicated to Game Art. Edited by Matteo Bittanti and Domenico Quaranta,
GameScenes provides a detailed overview of the emerging field of Game Art,
examining the complex interaction and intersection of art and videogames.

Video and computer game technologies have opened up new possibilities for
artistic creation, distribution, and appreciation. In addition to projects
that might conventionally be described as Internet Art, Digital Art or New
Media Art, there is now a wide spectrum of work by practitioners that
crosses the boundaries between various disciplines and practices. The
common denominator is that all these practitioners use digital games as
their tools or source of inspiration to make art. They are called Game

GameScenes explores the rapidly expanding world of Game Art in the works
of over 30 international artists. Included are several milestones in this
field, as well as some lesser known works. In addition to the editors'
critical texts, the book contains contributions from a variety of
international scholars that illustrate, explain, and contextualize the
various artifacts.

ARTISTS: AES+F, Cory Arcangel, Aram Bartholl, Dave Beck, Tobias Bernstrup,
Nick Bertke, John Paul Bichard, Marco Cadioli, Mauro Ceolin, Brody Condon,
Joseph DeLappe, Delire (Julian Oliver), Todd Deutsch, Micah Ganske, Beate
Geissler ? Oliver Sann, Brent Gustafson, Jon Haddock, Margarete Jahrmann ?
Max Moswitzer, JODI, Joan Leandre, Miltos Manetas, Alison Mealey, Mark
McCarthy, Shusha Niederberger, Nullpointer (Tom Betts), Nullsleep
(Jeremiah Johnson), Totto Renna, RSG (feat. Alexander Galloway),
Anne-Marie Schleiner, Eddo Stern, Palle Torsson, UBERMORGEN.COM.

AUTHORS: Matteo Bittanti, Rebecca Cannon, Pierluigi Casolari, Maia Engeli,
Henry Lowood, Sally O'Reilly, Domenico Quaranta, Philippa Stalker,
Valentina Tanni.

Text in English and Italian.

The Publisher

Johan & Levi ( publishes books in the fields
of science, arts, humanities, and culture. Its rapidly expanding catalog
includes monographs on key contemporary artists.

The Editors

Matteo Bittanti's research focuses on the cultural, social, and
theoretical aspects of emerging technologies, with an emphasis on the
interrelations of popular culture, visual culture, and the arts. He lives
in San Francisco.

Domenico Quaranta is an art critic, teacher and academic researcher. His
primary interests is the intersection of art and digital technologies. His
contributions on art and culture have appeared in several publications. He
lives in Brescia, Italy.

Downloadable texts:

Matteo Bittanti: Game Art (Intro):
Domenico Quaranta: Game Aesthetics (Outro):
Valentina Tanni: Geissler ? Sann: Shooter:

More informations: culture:


GameScapes. Videogame Landscapes and Cities in the Works of Five
International Artists
curated by Rosanna Pavoni
Monza Civic Gallery
Monza, via Camperio 1
October 13 ? 29, 2006. Free Entrance
>From Tuesday to Sunday, 10.00 ? 13.00 and 15.00 ? 19.00.
Opening: Thursday October 12 from 6:30 PM
email: salecomunali AT

The release of GameScenes coincides with the launch of GameScapes.
Videogame Landscapes and Cities in the Works of Five International
Artists, a group show featuring works by some of the most celebrated
artists working with digital games: Cory Arcangel, Mauro Ceolin, Jon
Haddock, Eddo Stern, and Carlo Zanni.

Monza, September 16, 2006 ? The Civic Gallery in Monza is pleased to
present GameScapes. Videogame Landscapes and Cities in the Works of Five
International Artists. Curated by Rosanna Pavoni with the collaboration of
Matteo Bittanti and Domenico Quaranta, GameScapes investigates the notion
of digital games, spaces, and urban environments in in our hyper-mediated
age. Comprised of paintings, installations, and projections, the
exhibition space will be transformed into a real-life gamespace.

Included in the exhibition are a video installation by Cory Arcangel,
Super Mario Movie (2004), a series of paintings by Mauro Ceolin from the
SolidLandscapes (2004-2006) series, Carlo Zanni?s interactive installation
Average Shoeveler (2004), Eddo Stern?s recent urban machinima Landlord
Vigilante (2006) and the entire series of Jon Haddock?s seminal
Screenshots (1999). Most of these artworks have never been presented in
Italy before.

Johan & Levi is publishing the GameScapes catalog which features new
commentary texts by Rosanna Pavoni, Matteo Bittanti, and Domenico

More information: culture:

Downloadable texts:

Press Release (italian only) -
Introduction by Rosanna Pavoni -
City of Bits by Domenico Quaranta (catalogue text) -
Art Gamers by Domenico Quaranta (panel) -
Videogames as a mean of transport by Matteo Bittanti (catalogue text) -

Press Office
Claudia Ratti - tel 039 2721502
claudiaratti AT - press AT

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From: Cecilia <ceciliawee AT>
Date: Oct 9, 2006
Subject: Salon or Seminar AT E:vent Gallery, London AND online

The next installment of the Salon or Seminar series of cultural debates
will discuss media art.

The debate is a pre-event to the group exhibition GROUNDED, curated by
artist and games theorist Axel Stockburger.

The debate will focus on the following questions:
- Does media art change the understanding of the term art itself?
- How is the relationship between the 'creative industries' and art
reconfigured by media and digital art?
- How does the location of new media and digital art affect contemporary
- Is the term ?media art? still relevant in 2006?


Online Debate AT E:vent Network, from Monday 17th October 2006:
We would like to invite online participation in this Salon or Seminar
discussion. Please join guests Marc Garrett, Beryl Graham, Sarah Cooke in
an online discussion. Contributions will be read out during the live/radio
debate, taking place on the 24th of October at E:vent Gallery.


Live Debate AT E:vent Gallery, 96 Teesdale Street, London E2 6PU (5 mins
walk from Bethnal Green tube)
Tuesday 24th October 2006: Drinks from 6pm, debate 7-8pm

JJ Charlesworth (art critic/writer),
Axel Stockburger (artist and games theorist),
Sue Thomas (author of Hello World: Travels in Virtuality)
Marina Vishmidt (writer, installation artist)
Chaired and organised by Cecilia Wee (Rational Rec, Resonance FM)

Admission is free but all attending must reserve a space by emailing
newartonmondays AT by Monday 23rd October 2006 with ?Salon or
Seminar? as the subject header.

This debate will be recorded for broadcast on Resonance FM, London?s art
radio station, on Thursday 9th November 2006, 19:00-20:00 (GMT) and is
part of the Salon or Seminar series of themed cultural debates going to
different art venues in London throughout 2006 and 2007.


+ + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + 2005-2006 Net Art Commissions

The Rhizome Commissioning Program makes financial support available to
artists for the creation of innovative new media art work via
panel-awarded commissions.

For the 2005-2006 Rhizome Commissions, eleven artists/groups were selected
to create original works of net art.

The Rhizome Commissions Program is made possible by support from the
Jerome Foundation in celebration of the Jerome Hill Centennial, the
Greenwall Foundation, the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, and
the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs. Additional support has
been provided by members of the Rhizome community.

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From: marcin ramocki <mramocki AT>
Date: Oct 10, 2006
Subject: Paul Slocum and Cory Arcangel perform AT vertexlist

DIY Computing

VertexList and Rhizome co-present a solo exhibition by Dallas-based artist
Paul Slocum who turns outdated technologies, from Ataris to dot matrix
printers, into expressive and technically innovative art works. Throughout
all his work, variously video, sculpture, installation and sound, the
artist fuses nostalgia with a critical take on the rapid obsolescence of

The opening reception will take place on Saturday, October 14th 2006,
7pm - 10pm.

The exhibition will be on display from Saturday October 14th to November
26th, 2006

A live performance by Cory Arcangel will take place at the opening
reception, Saturday October 14th at 9pm

Paul Slocum's page:

Cory Arcangel's Page:

DIY Computing includes five works new and recent works. In the looping, 60
second video Time Lapse Homepage, Slocum visualizes a website?s
transformation through screenshots and sound clips that shows the
aesthetic evolution of his personal homepage since it was first launched
in 1997. Deep House for Band &Choir (2006) is an installation that
involves more than 1970 sheets of music and a loop of the music playing.
He composed the piece for the instrumentation of a high school band and
choir using software for house music. On DC Power Supply (2005), Slocum
recreates Jr. High School book cover doodles into a power supply circuit
and LEDs. In the installation Century Caller (2005), Slocum plays with
memory, time, and obsolescence through telephone calls automated to play a
set of melodies made with samples of my his voice. In Last Chair (2006),
Slocum performs as a violin player at an Elton John concert waiting to
join in at the end of the chorus -- or rather as what he beli!
eve this person might be like. In this piece, and throughout his work,
Slocum exacts a slight modification of a pop cultural artifact through a
gesture that is both personal and also broadly resonant.

ABOUT RHIZOME: Rhizome is a leading online platform for the global new
media art community. Our programs support the presentation, creation and
preservation of contemporary art that uses new technologies in significant
ways. Rhizome is an affiliate of the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New

ABOUT VERTEXLIST: vertexList is an artist-run space in Williamsburg
Brooklyn, founded in 2003 with a mission of supporting emerging media
artists. vertexList seeks artwork conceptually involved in exposing the
codes of post-capitalist culture, both via new and traditional media.
vertexlist is named after the property of a vector image which holds all
numerical information about the image.

VertexList gallery hours are Friday, Saturday, Sunday 2pm - 6 pm, or by

We are located between Graham and Manhattan Avenues on Bayard St. For more

please visit our website or call 646 258 3792.

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From: Thomas Beard <thomas AT>
Date: Oct 13, 2006
Subject: Interview by Eddo Stern, by Thomas Beard

+Commissioned by

Interview by Eddo Stern, by Thomas Beard

Last month at Cinematexas, Eddo Stern unveiled Darkgame (prototype), a
videogame installation in which two participants, playing against each
other maneuver avatars around a two-dimensional plane, their movements
projected against the gallery wall. What's unusual about this scenario is
that the experience for both parties involves elements of sensory
deprivation. One person is completely "blind," unable to view the main
interface and responding only to nonvisual cues: the vibrations of a
headset Stern designed to correspond with the location of the opposing
player, and related audio signals. And while the other character is able
to see the action play out in real time, the field of play becomes
obscured when he or she is hit and small patches of gray begin to expand.
Sure to open up new avenues for gaming, it's an education of the senses
and a truly heady mod.

Well known for his work on such projects as Tekken Torture Tournament,
where gamers endured electric shocks relative to the injuries of their
onscreen fighters, and Waco Resurrection, in which players assume the role
of David Koresh as government authorities advance on the Branch Davidian
compound, Stern's art challenges and expands not only our relationships
with videogames, but also the social and political histories from which
they spring. In this interview, Thomas Beard speaks with Stern about his
latest work, as well as MIDIs, memes, and the act of straddling the worlds
of art, industry, and internet culture.

Thomas Beard: Let's begin with Darkgame. How did the piece evolve and when
did you become interested in this idea of sensory deprivation in gaming?

Eddo Stern: Well, it's an old idea that I've been sitting on for a few
years now. Before Waco I wanted to make a game where you can't see but it
got sidelined. Eventually it evolved into this new gaming concept that I'm
trying to work with, a kind of empirical role-play. In researching my
article "A Touch of Medieval," I was getting to this place where role play
breaks down: the idea of the "real"-non-roleplaying player, the real
character action, how dexterous their fingers are, or how social they are
or how aggressive, the idea of real physical and mental abilities versus
the idea of role playing, how those aspects of the person eventually come
through into a game and what it would be like to build games around these

Where it happened for me was in Everquest?because I have a really bad
sense of direction?and in the early days of that game they made it hard
for you to get around. There were no maps, so basically your memory and
your sense of direction were all you had. Eventually they developed the
Ranger class, and they had this ability called tracking. As a Ranger you
would have an extra interface, like a radar you could use to navigate, and
for me this was the decisive reason to "roll" that character class, a
class that artificially compensated for a physical/mental weakness that I
had. I was kind of like a bionic character; suddenly you're experiencing
the opposite of what happens in real life?being the guy with the super
sense of direction who people ask for directions

Two other big inspirations for Darkgame are certain Paul Bowles short
stories?one is called "The Tender Prey," which has to do with torture and
exoticism?and JG Ballard's "Manhole 69," which is about a sleep
deprivation experiment.

TB: Do you see this particular project moving in new directions?

ES: I'm interested in making it a game that blind people and seeing
people, for instance, could play together, a game where the abilities of
the blind person would become a benefit in the game, a boon to them, kind
of what I was talking about before, the relationships of different types
of talents that people have and different types of disabilities that the
computer processes into different character types. The game is going to
evolve into a 3D game using Torque, which is the same engine we used in
Waco, and I'm also going to play around with having the players fluctuate
between deprivation and full sensory overload, bombarded by too much
information. So for example having them process mental puzzles or
challenges or quizzes while performing with hand-eye coordination. That's
a part of the game that I'm pretty excited about.

You know Open Mind? It's a research project started at MIT, creating a
database of common sense knowledge for an artificial intelligence by
feeding it true/false statements, and last I checked they were up to three
quarters of a million. Curiously, while I was researching this in the
beginning of this year I found another project online called Mindpixel
which is basically the same exact project except it's a corporate venture,
not attached to a research institute. Something about this idea really
hooked into me, and at the time I was using the data from the projects to
make up elements of the overstimulation aspect of the game. So while
you're playing, for instance, you come up to these big robots or creatures
and they start bombarding the players with questions verifying truths from
the database. As you're playing the game you need to respond yes-true,
false-true and the questions move from being very scientific truths to
historical truths to religious truths to truths where you really kind of
stop in your tracks.

It also becomes kind of a language poem, this constant staccato of
questions, anywhere from: "The universe is expanding. True or false?" to
"White is a color. True or false?" So there's this idea of certain sensory
deprivation where you will lose your vision as part of the gameplay and
you'll lose your hearing and you'll gain this haptic feedback, which is
the part that I demoed so far, but you'll also be dealing with this
poetic-cerebral layer. Seems very simple at first but before you know it
it's a really high computational order, your brain shuts down. I'm
interested in stressing the brain, in this case logically, but also on a
moral ethical belief level as well with more arbitrary questions about
truth and what we know to be true.

TB: Along the lines of sensory deprivation and stress, considering past
work like Tekken Torture Tournament and Cockfight Arena, you have a
longstanding interest in transforming the experience of gameplay into a
decidedly physical one. What do you find significant about those more
corporeal aspects of your work?

ES: I think one of the quests for game designers is to enhance the gaming
experience beyond these familiar experiences, categories. The idea of
action is one that they've always done, the pleasure of action, that's
sort of the main genre really. But game designers have gradually expanded
the play arena to humor, games that make you laugh, to competition, to
social games like The Sims, to nurturing games where you're building
things. But for example horror poses a problem where cinematic devices
used in horror movies simply don't work in games. I always find that
horror games are really not that scary. The idea of genre that's
inherited from film in the game design thinking process presents a lot of
challenges, like drama or true suspense and horror. And I wanted to see if
there's a way to design games that move into psychological realms of
horror and suspense, beyond the boundaries of irony and cinematic clichés.

For me one place to reclaim a wider range of experience was to incorporate
the body. In a way the body allows for an undeniability of certain
emotions, fear is one that I've worked with, as well as surprise, anxiety
and embarrassment. Tekken was trying to create an experience that can be
quite scary for some people and that really heightens the gameplay. The
idea of anxiety and stress in the face of physical harm, and the process
of overcoming that, allowed a much more compelling experience for a lot of
players. Cockfight was a more casual piece, there's a social element
there of course, the physicality of the game allowed for players to really
perform beyond the confines of something predefined and preprogrammed.

TB: I was also hoping we could talk about music. In a video like Vietnam
Romance, for instance, there seems quite a bit invested in the pop
mythologies of the songs you make use of and the powerful sway that the
nostalgia they evoke holds over us. What kind of role do you see these
soundtracks playing in your pieces, both individually and as a whole?

I use sound in two ways primarily, often simultaneously. I use music
ironically and sometimes very unironically, employing their emotional
force. Sheik Attack is a piece where the music is central to creating a
rift between the more neutral, more mechanized visual footage that you see
for most of the video, so most of the footage that's very lo-res is
accompanied by very rich, baroque music that has a historical and
political significance. At that time it was the most powerful tool I found
I could use to metaphorically recreate this relationship between the
emotional weight of utopian Zionism and growing up under its powerful
ideology, and the reality of manifested Zionism which is much more rough
and harsh and harder to come to terms with. The richness and warmth of the
music and the cold tinniness of the visuals mirror this relationship and
constantly temper each other.

Then in Vietnam Romance it's quite a different relationship because I used
MIDI tracks. When you have a very emotional song and then strip out all
the lyrics, all the human voice, but leave the melody, your preserve the
emotional gush but also introduce a feeling of alienation. Somehow I feel
this is the emotion of Nostalgia. Regarding the use of MIDIs, I once saw
Alexei Shulgin use them in his show and that really inspired me, his use
of a hollowed out emotion, a hollowed out Russian nostalgia for America.

And in the new piece I'm kind of going in a different place with the
music. I was at the MacDowell Colony earlier this year and I heard a great
musician who was there at the time, Elizabeth Brown. She played a
beautiful piece that was Theremin and flute, pure sci-fi emotion, but not
in the way that cheesy Theremin music can be. I was overcome by it, and in
Darkgame, I am going for a science fictiony, yet politically referenced
world. This whole recent history of post 9-11 events feels like science
fiction to me. There was something about the way 9/11 happened that was so
over the top, so fantastical, as I am sure many people feel, and images
from Iraq and Afghanistan are still resonating on that layer, like a giant
statue of Sadam being felled is so linked for me to JG Ballard's story
"The Drowned Giant."

TB: Exactly, as though the past five years has just been one long
alternate history story.

ES: Or the high-tech marine with the laser counter and F16s flying over
him riding on a horse in Afghanistan. That was just crazy. The whole
conflation is the visual inspiration for me towards the feel of the world
that I want to recreate in Darkgame. Elizabeth Brown's music for me is
that, a strange connection of science fiction and history?the sort of
reality we're experiencing now.

TB: From film festivals to commercial galleries to conferences and
seminars of various stripes, you've exhibited in a number of very
different forums. Have you been struck by any interesting differences or
similarities in how your work has been received or experienced from venue
to venue?

ES: Yeah, it's interesting. The art world I think is somewhat aware of
gaming art but is really fighting to process it on its own terms?of genre
or its historical lineage as fitting it into a movement?and I think pop
art is where it ultimately will fall. On the same hand, that fascination
with pop exists in a parallel non art-world world, internet meme culture,
which to me is really interesting. Recycling icons and mutating them
through flash animations and Photoshop and what they now call mashups?All
your base are belong to us, Punch a Spice Girl?is totally alive and well
on the internet as digital folk art. Tekken was targeted in some ways for
that audience, so once we did it we put up a little QuickTime movie and it
had gotten picked up by Memepool and Metafilter and Fark and other
Slashdot-like sites. It's funny that something like Tekken can work on
both worlds at the same time, net meme culture and within a history of
body art and performance as well.

Showing Waco at E3 was exciting, having the industry take a look. I think
with games there's potentially a more complex relationship than we're used
to with, say, products that you buy as gadgets versus fine art objects.
The idea of a game busting into a gamer community, a game that's very
different from what they're used to but that still adheres to some rules
and standards of game design and gameplay technology, that's where I am
most happy to be now. I can see game projects like Tekken and Waco and
hopefully the new game project feeding back into a much larger awareness
of what can be done both with gaming and art.

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Thomas Beard is a writer and curator of film and electronic art. From
2005-2006 he was Program Director of Ocularis, a non-profit media arts
organization based in Brooklyn. Prior to that he served as a programmer at
Cinematexas, and has organized screenings and exhibitions at such venues
as Aurora Picture Show, Chicago Filmmakers, MassArt Film Society, Pacific
Film Archive, and the Museum of Modern Art, New York.

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New Museum of Contemporary Art.

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

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Rhizome Digest is filtered by Marisa Olson (marisa AT ISSN:
1525-9110. Volume 11, number 39. Article submissions to list AT
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