All the collaborations we had through the years are presented on Stephanie’s website. She is a great web-designer, but she also did web-captures and video editing, and she designed the user interfaces of a software and platform I created.
She also archived my different websites through video-editing of web captures, like this one, an archive of all my virtual characters.
And she designed my personal websites, like this one you are browsing now!
The collection of the ZKM | Karlsruhe ranks among the largest media art collections in the world. It exemplifies the transformation of art in the face of changing technologies of production, reception, and distribution. Artists react to changes in media and sometimes anticipate developments that only years later will be taken for granted by society as a whole: they write the history of the future.
Media determine to a great extent how we express our thoughts and feelings, how we communicate, and how we remember the past. Johannes Gutenberg’s movable metal letters fundamentally changed Europe’s culture of knowledge in the middle of the 15th century, just as photography changed the fine arts in the middle of the 19th century, and the Internet transformed our entire private and public communication at the end of the 20th century. The development of art went from moving letters to moving images and moving viewers; from the book page to the website, from the canvas to the screen.
“Writing the History of the Future. Part I” looks at art from the middle of the 20th century onwards. The exhibition shows aesthetic experiments with script and language that engage with different media. It presents the first attempts at computer-generated graphics and poetry as well as contemporary works dedicated to the automation of the creative act. It also addresses the material conditions of individual and cultural memory – between erasing and forgetting, storing and remembering.
New technologies provide the individual with ever new means to create images, texts, and sounds. They expand her or his scope for action. The exhibition provides a precise insight into the history of viewer activation – from Op-Art to physical interventions in variable pictorial objects to the instructions for action of the art of the »performative turn«.
This interview of Madja E. G. by Lauren Studebaker, has been published in Rhizome on 25 august 2017. Madja E. G. is the collaborative creation of E. Guez and Martine Neddam.
Madja Edelstein-Gomez is an independent curator and activist, based in Paris and Kuala Lumpur. Edelstein-Gomez has created a new interface for an online exhibition, produced by Zinc, with support from Le Château Éphémère, Dicréam-CNC, L’Espace Multimédia Gantner, and Rhizome. The Recombinants aligns itself with Edelstein-Gomez’s concept of recombinance, a condition of being that she assumes as identity and explores through her recent artistic and curatorial efforts. The Recombinants will show on the front page of rhizome.org from August 25–28th, 2017, alongside the Art-O-Rama fair in Marseille, FR.
Edelstein-Gomez’s concept of recombinance is revealed through the exhibition’s manifesto, which describes a new digital mysticism; one whose text echoes ideas of transhumanism and the simulacrum, with a simultaneous claim to entirely reject these pre-established means of clarification and identification. The manifesto removes itself from the vernacular application of the term “recombinant” (one tied to genetically modified organisms). Instead, the recombinants’s materials are described to be the result a form of data-splicing that removes any disparity between the data anatomy of digital datasets and organic DNA, which are explained to be constantly rewritten, or “recombined” in a cycle of constant rebirth and in the form of an eternal return. The manifesto claims many things the Recombinants are not; there are direct rejections of being merely cyborgs, replicants, mutations, humans, or computers, and the Recombinants reject any adherence to the past or future. From an outside perspective, the manifesto is mysteriously ambiguous, as the Recombinants claim to exist as nothing and everything at the same time.
Upon entering the online exhibition, the viewer is greeted with a slowly-moving landscape of colliding image-planes and broken and disrupted bits of sound. The viewer is encouraged to navigate through the use of a series of geometric buttons that reveal text, change the presentation style, and provide links to individual artist’s profiles. In the exhibition’s press release, it is revealed that the online presentation is an AI-generated recombination of the submitted works, being constantly processed live and presented differently for each viewer, with an audacious claim to be the “show of the future.”
I spoke with Edelstein-Gomez to discuss her exhibition and curatorial practice in the hopes of expanding upon her understanding of the recombinant existence and its applications to this online exhibition format.
Lauren Studebaker: Usually, we’re familiar with the term “recombinant” in its applications to genetics and biology—GMOs, gene-splicing, etc. In the Recombinant Manifesto, this application of the term is mentioned, but transcended. Could you introduce your concept of the Recombinants?
Madja Edelstein-Gomez: Rerecombinance, recombinance, recombinanciation, recombing… What can I say about recombinance, except that doesn’t easily lend itself to commentary… Touch it, refer to it, think about it and you get affected, contaminated, it’s an autoimmune remedy to every disease. Recombinance recombines itself by using everything around it. Oops, you just got recombined.
LS: How did you come into the realization of recombinance?
MEG: One day I became a Recombinant.
I always have been a Recombinant.
And it was not just me. I know there are many Recombinants out there.
I realized that something had occurred that should have killed me or make disappear. It was a like a system error in an operating system, or a genetic modification in a living being. But that thing wasn’t new, it was always already there, encoded inside of me.
It’s quite hard to explain. Instead of being afraid of it, I tried to claim it, it inspired me this manifesto.
LS: What influenced your development of this recombinant philosophy?
MEG: It was shattering and some twitching slightly resonated with it. And once it blasted, I encountered tiny skewed elements inside my existence.
In biographical terms, I could have said “this” and “that” happened to me. But I’d rather not express what happened within a timeline, with a “before” and an “after.”
But don’t worry, I’m not some sort of psycho freak. When needed, there can be a regular bio and a presentation of myself as an online curator that fits the bill, like what Le Zinc in Marseille has published.
LS: How does the recombinant philosophy tie itself into the presentation of works online and how is the exhibition format of exclusively digital means of presentation in alignment with the recombinance?
MEG: Online, all data generates more data. Ad infinitum. View any odd webpage and your viewing data has been recorded by numerous systems along the line, the cookies on your hard disk, your internet provider, your social networks, every online activity leaves slimy, greasy, dusty fingerprints made of data, that proliferate into big datasets, and when analyzed, produce more data, etc…
LS: A realization in the Recombinant Manifesto surrounds the idea of collapse of the concept of past and future, a rejection “of everything post- and trans-.” As a curator, how would you say this position of recombinance informs your selection of works and philosophy of contemporaneity in the context of an exhibition?
MEG: A non-human narrative doesn’t relate to recombinancial time or category and doesn’t relate to post-something or trans-something. Inside it, you get exposed to sequences of data that will rewrite you in such a way that doesn’t let you refer to an existing model of reference.
And yet, what we are doing is simply sending out an open call for an online show. It is our way to set into motion the possibility of a recombinant narrative written by the machine herself. The narrative of data being mined and reminded.
LS: So, the idea of recombinance is tightly aligned with data ontologies? Could you then talk a bit about the presence of recombinance, or the recombinant action, in digital artmaking?
MEG: Artmaking itself is not the question really, digital or not. Art is not necessarily something you “make,” so I’m not talking about artmaking. Art is something you “name,” not something you “make.” All you need for something to be art is to be recognized as such, to be named it as such, and it becomes art. The question “what is art?” ran through the whole twentieth century. Until we found out that art was nothing but a question. Now, in the twenty-first century, we have the answer to “what is art?”: Art is a Question.
A question is a recombined statement. For example, if you recombine “This is art,” it becomes “Is this art?” The question mark signals that you have opened the signification to endless possibilities, and you have generated the desire for something, the inextinguishable desire for an answer, a hole inside a meaning.
Now imagine you go further into recombinance by shuffling every single letter of this chain of characters. You have generated a multiplicity of new meanings all derived from this dataset, like “a tart wish,” “war at hits,” “it shat raw”… and many many meaningless combinations. You have created an infinity of littles holes of meaning, a lace of meaninglessness all intertwined around that big question. These are the generative powers of Recombinance, and this is how I am curating.
LS: Then what hand does curating the results of the open call have in the equation? As one who identifies as recombinant, how does your curatorial practice differ from a more traditional model?
MEG: I see curating in general, traditional or not, as “a throw of dice.” Chance is the main factor. Curatorial explanations are nothing but a layer of varnish over it.
“Un coup de dés jamais n’abolira le hasard.”
“A throw of dice will never abolish chance”, said the French poet Mallarmé, as he scattered the words of his poem across the page with plenty of empty space around the words. That was a founding act in poetry in 1897, and if you ask me, the very first act of Recombinance also.
One hundred and twenty years later, commentators still wonder if what scatters the words of Mallarmé is not a hidden code, yet uncracked. Quentin Meillassoux in The Number and the Siren argues that there must be a code, but the encoding of the poem is incomplete, and that is precisely how Mallarmé wanted it: an incorrect code.
Is Recombinance a form “curating by numbers?”
Is there a curatorial algorithm at the heart of my practice?
If there is a code, I myself am included in that code, I am just a piece of that DNA, and whatever I change in it, changes me, in an incomplete way.
LS: Does the possibility of anonymity from online submissions (or the digital in general) enhance the recombinant philosophy?
MEG: Anonymity is not an issue at all. A name is just an element of a dataset, and not the most interesting one. Besides, when you submit online, you do it with your own chosen name. What you might not know is that when you post your data, is that you get your personal exhibition on the spot, as the first display of your recombined art. This display remains available and you can share it online with everyone. This is the reward of trust.
In our big exhibition which will premiere in Art-O-Rama in Marseille in 25 August the names will not disappear. They will be recombined together with the works.
LS: On both your personal website, as well as in the Recombinant Manifesto, you recognize psychic energies, telepathy, spiritualism, and the paranormal as different manifestations of recombinance. As both an artist and curator working with the internet and developing technologies such as AI (in your chatbots, for example) as a means of production and exhibition, how do you view the collective and ephemeral condition of the digital in comparison to these more mystic ideas?
MEG: Once you start questioning the premises of your own bodily existence there is no way back. I am the product of a communication energy, just as much as you are.
Life is but an exchange of messages.
And it’s pretty much the same as what we are doing now: exchanging messages.
How to Do Art With Networks Thursday 26 November 2015 — 13:00 – 17:30 Gerrit Rietveld Academie, Gym, Amsterdam A one-day-open market with workshops, lectures and performances
REPORT of the Symposium by Karin DeWilde
How To Do Art With Networks was a one-day-open market with workshops, lectures and performances that explored how networks are art. Curated by Annet Dekker, the event was built-up around artist Martine Neddam’s research for LAPS, the Research Institute for Art in Public Space of the Rietveld Academie. Several existing net-art-works served as catalysts allowing the public-participants an opportunity to share experiences and to experiment with platforms, tools, and media. Guest practitioners were Robert Sakrowski, Katrina Sluis, Anne Roquigny, Martine Neddam, Michael Murtaugh and Aymeric Mansoux.
Networks operate: they are decentralised and create connections. As such, their organisational structure distinguishes itself from the classic hierarchical systems. In line with this “How To Do Art With Networks” reconsidered the conventional form of the conference format and instead created the event as a “one-day-open market”. The venue was set-up as a workshop space. At different tables, participants could experiment with a variety of online tools developed by artists and curators. The audience was invited to examine these art-net-works and share their experiences with the artists and programmers. The research approach was to gain knowledge by doing. Art-in-networks were tested, new solutions were found and blind spots were identified. The open format leads to a wide range of questions, including: What are relevant practices for collaborative authorship? How can one maintain all the different elements within a net-art-work (archive, user interface, code, moderation, etc.)? On different levels, the event prepared the ground for further developments for art within networks.
The Research Institute for Art and Public Space (LAPS) generously supported the event and lector Jeroen Boomgaard added that the methodology of doing research together was an interesting format for research within an art school. One of the main benefits is that such a model offers engaged participation in the artistic process, a component of the work that usually remains invisible. On another level the conference contributed to the artistic research of LAPS, a research platform of the Rietveld that examines the role of art and design in the public domain. Art that uses the network as a medium is an interesting addition. Networked systems and online communities have become essential elements within our public space,
“How To Do Art With Networks” was organised to celebrate the launch of “MyDesktopLife”, a web-editing project initiated by artist Martine Neddam. It was Neddam’s aim to not only share the tool with others, but also to present it along side as part of a network of artists that were also interested in sharing their tools. The selected projects could all be seen as art-in-networks.
In the introduction to the event, a network was described as “linked structures and distribution systems that connect traces, projects and people”. As such these net-art-works function as online tools and the audience is not only invited to interact with the different artworks, but to use the tools for their own purposes and give suggestions for further developments. Most of these tools are available for free on the Web.
The following projects were presented: -Michael Murtaugh, “Active Archive” (since 2006) -Harm van den Dorpel, “Delinear.info” (since 2015) -Martine Neddam, “MyDesktopLife” (since 2014) -Anne Roquigny, “WJ-S” (since 2005) -Robert Sakrowski, “Curating YouTube/Gridr” (1997, 2007)
Besides these projects, there were two lectures that addressed some of the topics around art-in-networks: -Aymeric Mansoux, “From code art brutalism to web apps: the strange dérive of networked art practices” -Katrina Sluis, “Image Exhaust: Pictures vs. Imaging Systems”
During “How To Do Art With Networks” the net-art-works were not only presented, but more importantly, they all acted as catalysts for exploring different perspectives and potentials for further development. The remainder of this report summarises some of the insightful reflections that were shared during the day.
Art historian and curator Robert Sakrowski traced the tradition of the grid as a form to work with a quantity of information and comparative viewings. To expand on the traditional concept of the grid, which is usually understood as a collection of static pictures, Swarovski developed a tool that applies the grid to moving images. The online tool “Gridr.org” makes it possible to browse through different screens at the same time. It offers opportunities to not only compare images, but also, to rethink narrative structures. “Gridr.org” can also be used in multiple contexts: curating, creating soundscapes, or live performances.
Katrina Sluis reflected on the functioning of art in networks in her presentation “Image Exhaust: Pictures vs. Imaging Systems”. From her experience as a curator at ThePhotographers‘ Gallery (London) she analysed the relationship between photography and fine art and in particular how the value of photography changed with the emergence of digital culture. With the merging of photography and the Web, the image was no longer unique and singular, but absorbed in a stream of data that is continuously circulating. This raised new questions about how to comprehend these ‘networked images’ and how to renegotiate our relationships with them. The network is an apparatus that connects people, inside and outside the gallery, but also on the Web. Sluis emphasised the importance of approaching the digital not only as a tool, but also as a knowledge system and culture.
Media arts curator Anna Roquigny and programmer James Hudson presented the online tool “WJ-S”, which they described as “a mix of the Internet in real time”. Within a collaborative playlist multiple users can add and share their online content (by a simple drag and drop mechanism). The tool was created in order to translate individual or collective surfing towards a physical environment (gallery, conference, festival). This translation from the online towards the offline space turns browsing into a spectacle. Events were organised all over the world in collaboration with artists, curators and participants. All were invited to play and perform with this tool. These events were further used to inform participants on how to use the software and to share experiences in order to improve it.
The web-editing software “MyDesktopLife” originated from Martine Neddam’s artistic practice. Neddam is a pioneer of Net Art. She has experienced how personal creations on the Web are increasingly restricted by formats used in websites like Word Press and Facebook. The tool “MyDesktopLife” gives some freedom back to the users by offering possibilities for web editing, such as the creation of layered images and narrative structures within the browser. The prototype of “MyDesktopLife” was supported by a research grant from ZKM (Zentrum für Kunst und Medientechnologie, in Karlsruhe). The next step is to share this tool, for which a content management system (CMS) has been made. Anyone can register, use the prototype and become part of the community, which in turn, will contribute to further developing the tool.
Artist Harm van den Dorpel is rethinking the structures of our (social) databases. “Delinear.info” breaks with the linear and chronological organisation of most social media platforms. Users can follow each other and and can expand upon each other’s thoughts. Again, the tool came about through van der Dorpel’s own artistic practice, as he could not find a suitable tool for storing his collection of images, ideas and texts. Jan Robert Leegte described “Delinear.info” as a “multi user image building site”. It is a live database, free and dynamic, and most importantly, connects different knowledge areas and people. In this way, it functions like an ecosystem. Within the database there is no distinction between content and navigation.
Michael Murtaugh is a member of Constant Art & Media in Brussels and co-initiator of their project “Active Archives”, which is a project that aims to create a free software platform to connect various (institutional) practices. Constant critically reflects on which software cultural institutions use and what implications that has, in terms of authorship, copyrights, etc. Murtaugh offered valuable reflections on online collaborations and how we can reclaim the tools we use such collaborations rely on. Among others he creates his own local networks with PirateBox. A PirateBox is a portable electronic device for storing information and for creating a wireless network that allows users who are connected to share files anonymously and locally. This device is disconnected from the Internet. For the conference Murtaugh created a hotspot with a dead drop interface, which could be used as an intranet within the Rietveld building.
Artist, musician and media researcher Aymeric Mansoux shared his reflections on the theme “How to do art with networks?” and suggested the rephrasing “How to do art within networks?”. He emphasised that networks are not only about “making” something, but also about the relationships between humans and non-humans, and about the power struggle between different rules. He then went on to examine how art was made within or outside existing systems. Artists have always been forced to develop their own systems, but is it possible to truly escape the existing ones? He took the manifesto of the art movement “Copyleft” as an example of how escaping a system is extremely difficult, especially since we do not have a relationship with one, but many systems.
“How To Do Art With Networks”is curated by Annet Dekker and co-organized by Martine Neddam. Production support was done by Sietske Roorda (LAPS). Alina Lupu and Vitya Glushchenko were responsible for all the designs.
“How To Do Art With Networks”has been made possible thanks to the generous support of Lectoraat Art & Public Space (LAPS).
My Desktop Life is an online software which allows to produce films, or animations with images, sounds, movements, texts, playing in a browser online. The project is showcased in this website MyDesktoplife.org complete with screen captures of the created films hosted in Vimeo.
This creation originally supported by a research grant from ZKM Karlsruhe, Art On Your Screen initiated by Matthias Kampmann. It was proposed to the public on the AOYS website in December 2014. They host one of the films created by MydesktopLife, “This Is Home”.
The films created with the software MyDesktopLife represent a flow of consciousness composed of different layers images, texts, sounds, voice melted into each other. It suggests a moment of daydreaming in front of a computer screen when what happens inside your own mind get intertwined with actual views of desktop pictures, memories, typed texts, automatic translations, all this colored by fleeting moods, disturbed by unexpected pop-ups or alert sounds, and then resuming its own flow mingling personal memories and stored data. They can be presented to an audience in different situations, large size flat screens or projected in a dark room.
These films are generated by a custom-made software created in collaboration with James Hudson.
VirtualPerson.net is an online interface created by Martine Neddam, which allows users to create their own virtual person. It is a content management system (CMS) where the user logs in, defines his/her personality and creates content within the parameters designed by the software.
The design of this interface is oriented on the development of narrative content. It uses the superimposition of texts on large size images, and cross/fade effects that allow a feeling of fluidity in the circulation of meanings between the texts and the images. The virtual person manifests its presence in the storytelling by the use of a small image and profile on the left hand corner, but the main interest of the interface is encourage the artist composition of texts over images and all its creative combinations. The use of text in this designed interface resemble a silent voice, attributed to an invisible imaginary person.
Photos from the workshop at the University of Shanghai:
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