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Cyberfest Berlin 2013 @ The Wye & Platoon

9. December 2013 · Comments Off on Cyberfest Berlin 2013 @ The Wye & Platoon

Gesture and spatiality of digital art…

17th november 2013, it is 12 o’clock, sunday noon – slightly dozy guests come to The Wye for the last of the five day program of Cyberfest, and to listen to the panel discussion with Marcu Mancuso (Digicult), Tatiana Bazzichelli (Transmediale), Anna Frants (Cyland), Chatzistefanou Panagiotis (Nakedbutsafe), Mark Poggia (Sensanostra) and Vanina Aracino (ikono). No wonder, it has been a rich program of exhibitions, concerts, video screenings and workshops that comes to an end now. And after all that, what should the speakers answer to the question about what digital media art might be? Maybe it’s enough to declare – like Mancuso did – that the art discourse itself was ruptured by the digital art scene: artists don’t need to have a traditional fine arts background, they are passionate amateurs, dilettante creatives at its best, who enjoy experimenting with new forms of expression. The affinity of technology was the trigger to do arts, but now it’s more about this gesture itself, to oppose against the institutionalized art world. DIY spirit and networking allow to organize magazines, exhibitions and festivals and blur the boundaries of art, critic and science. So digital art luckily is no longer about putting a wifi connection to your artwork.

The proof for that is the exhibition “Capital of Nowhere”, in which the exhibits deal differently with the question of environment. Environment now, in contrast to 100 years ago, seems to be in a constant transformation. Hence, the black cube-robots “Om” by Andrii Linik that move through the room appear strangely lost and in need of protection. This is because the abstract black box gives the biggest projection screen for your own disorientation. This also might be the way babies feel, and Ludmila Belova offers us their perspective in her video “The Compelled Foreshortening”. She put a video camera into a baby stroller and gives a new viewing angle to the urban space. In their artwork “Debris”, Pavel Ivanov and Alexey Grachev translated the so-called czech hedgehog – an anti-tank obstacle made from steel and concrete – into simple fluorescent tubes that illuminate the room as design objects. This transition disassociates the form from its militant purpose, therefore liberates it on the one hand, but asks questions of commemoration at the same time.

Media specific commemoration can be seen at the installations “Made in Ancient Greece” und “Movie Mincer”. Anna Frants projects animated figurines on a classical greek amphore with mini projectors and ruptures the museal experience of this traditional picture carrier. Sergey Teterin on the other hand, connects a mincer with a data projector which can be used as an old movie projector to play Georges Méliès’ Voyage dans la Lune. This cinematic experience is nowadays only possible as an illusion in a gallery space.

The evaluation of the modern human by Elena Gubanova and Ivan Govorkov turns out drastical and pessimistic. In “Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow” we see three identical grey busts of saucer-eyed men, covered by plastic bags. Their silent scream seams to be frozen, but a tentative breath becomes visible at the bags’ surface. May this breath – despite the ubiquitous and invisible repression – grow to a hurricane, that releases its pure power and smashes the rigid grid of identical tiles like in Petr Shvetsov‘s installation “Tanya”. Although the artist arranged meticulously every tile, an impression of an immediate outbreak developes and is put in tension with the standstill of the installation. An aesthetic of potentiality catches the gaze.

The corresponding soundtrack that could sound from the crack on the wall was presented already on friday at the Platoon Kunsthalle. KETEV, a project of sound artist Yair Elazar Glotman, drones with abysmal tones through the container hall. Mystical and sinister, but very precisely evolves a tension between absolute contemporarity and engrossed theatricality. Before that and amongst others played Yoshio Machida. The experimental musician is well-known for his steel drum performances, but at the Platoon he delivered a pure synthesizer concert. He modulated abstract sounds and transforming loops with his EMS SYNTHI AKS. Via data projector one could watch the handwork of this technical improvisation – otherwise one might be dragged too far away by the tones.

There is much more to say about gigs, the workshops, the well-curated sound installations and the video screenings. But it should be clear by now, that the media art festival, that was founded 2007 in St. Petersburg, offered a complex and rich programm during its first guest performance in Berlin, which hopefully is one of many others to come.

Comments Off on Cyberfest Berlin 2013 @ The Wye & PlatoonTags: @// · Berlin · Dark Ambient · digital art · Electronica · exhibition · media art · space

DIY Kindle Scanner

25. September 2013 · Comments Off on DIY Kindle Scanner

Free the text…

In April 2002, Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon, wrote an open letter to the American Author’s Guild and justified the business model of Amazon and especially its integration of used book sales. His argumentation is as simple as it is evident:

[…] when someone buys a book, they are also buying the right to resell that book, to loan it out, or to even give it away if they want. Everyone understands this.1

There is not much left of this principle in today’s business with DRM regulated eBooks for the proprietary Kindle hardware. eBooks bought at Amazon cannot be sold or swapped – they only work with your own account. Also, buying them is only possible with the Kindle et vice versa. Above all, Amazon even uses his own data format.

Peter Purgathofer, Professor for Design at Vienna University of Technology, wants to reflect on these circumstances with his DIY Kindle Scanner. He built a gadget with Lego Mindstorms which is able to automatically photograph the pages of an Amazon eBook and then transform the pictures into text with an OCR software.

It would be interesting to see the result of the process. Nevertheless, this project asks important questions: How can you do self-evident processes like doing a private copy of a book, if content is encapsuled in proprietary data formats and hardware jails? Who owns the tools, files and content, and in which degree? How far goes the copyright law? And what is behind the U-turn of Amazon concerning the former strategy of justification? On the other hand, Bezos is not the first CEO, who did a 180 when the business model was demanding it.

via|Knjigarna

  1. Jeff Bezos’ open letter on used book sales, veröffentlicht Apr. 15, 2002, http://www.oreillynet.com/pub/wlg/1291 []

Comments Off on DIY Kindle ScannerTags: media art · network policy · technology

reSource 006: Overflow

19. September 2013 · Comments Off on reSource 006: Overflow

“After me, the flood!”1 or right in the middle?

While “Big Data” buzzes through the tech industry as new promise of salvation and secret services grab exabytes of data, normal users are unable to cope with the vast amount of digital information and at the same time are ill-informed about the personal data they leave as traces. The sixth edition of reSource, the Berlin based artist and activist network around transmediale, tries to examine this area of conflict in talks, artistic interventions and workshops, held on three days (12.-14. September 2013 @ Kunstraum Kreuzberg/Bethanien). Overstrained myself by this rich program, I had at least time for two exciting panels.

Ludic Overload – Ludic Overkill, 13. September 2013
Gamification, another buzzword that circulates many business areas and always seems to have positive connotations. Who could be against playing? Marketing, business, NGOs, military – everywhere they develop strategical games or playfully develop strategies for problem solution and product placement. In fact, those games gain more and more a regulative function as normative soft power that influences the individual and society as a whole. Daphne Dragona, media art curator and research fellow at the Post Media Lab of Leuphana University (Lüneburg), explains how games facilitate the collection of user data for companies by stimulate users to share and interact. What else is the number of friends then a high score? Datafication works at its best when it is wearing its game garment, which is obvious at least since Foursquare. On the other hand, Dragona shows that these processes can be disclosed by artistic positions and in a playful manner. The game designer Ian Bogost for example developed the game “Cow Clicker“, whose only game element is clicking every six hours on a cow sprite – which sums up pretty well the mechanics of games like Farmville. While Tobias Leingruber uses the way of overidentification to question the status of social media profiles by his Facebook ID card; the Facebook Demetricator by Ben Grosser tries to devaluate the incentive systems of Facebook. Another strategy of refusal is the anonymous net-nonsense à la 4chan, which subverts capitalistic use as nonsense.

Julien Oliver, engineer and artist, as well as co-author of the Critical Engineering Manifesto understands gamification as a new technically mediated way of practicing rules and attitudes in society. But the problem of today’s technology is that it’s hiding behind a beautiful surface and faces the user as designed black box. Oliver tries to lay open this disparity in his artistic projects. When his Transparency Grenade, a computer with WiFi antenna built in a transparent grenade container, is set off, it scans the network traffic in the area and streams it to a server. Here, the data mining of secret services is staged as act of war against personal rights, as well as it underlines the lack of transparency of the technology and the governments. The works Flamer, a machine gun-USB-stick with the Flamer.a trojan, and No Network, a network jammer in form of a tank, also reflect on the metaphor of “cyber warfare”. The gadget “Newstweek“, co-developed with Daniil Vasiliev gained a lot of attention in 2011. With a computer camouflaged as power plug they could grab signals from WiFi networks and stream them to their computers, so that headlines of online articles could be manipulated in realtime and sent back to the unsuspecting users. This shows that between the information on the screen and its source, there are many steps of mediation, which are never questioned in our everyday use.

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Mining the Image, 14. September 2013
In his rich article “Human Resolution“, which was released in April at Mute Magazine, the artist Harry Sanderson works on the capitalistic processes that enable digital image production. He covers a wide array of conflicts: Chinese sweatshop companies like Foxconn, where workers labor under awful conditions; render farms, in which thousands of slave computers calculate the render algorithms dictated by the master computer; and Chinese gold farmers in World of Warcraft, slaying monsters 12 hours a day to gain digital gold and sell it for a handful of real dollars to western gamers. The same problem arises here: You cannot see how much humans, energy and resources are exploited to produce a digital image. In his upcoming artwork [Unified Fabric], an exhibited render farm, Sanderson wants to make this disparity tangible. It will be shown in October at Arcadia Missa in London.

Cultural scientist Vera Tollmann, who did research in China for some time, underlines the discrepancy between beautiful appearance and its production, which is much more dramatic in the digital image then in the analog one. The fetish of high definition is deeply intertwined with the energy intensive method of production of late capitalism. A gigantic HD LED display on Beijing’s Tian’anmen Square for example has more then one million Yuan of energy costs a year. In “Human Resolution”, Sanderson points out, how the work is hidden in the digital image, by quoting an article of Jonathan Watts, writing about the yearly Arirang Festival, the spectacle of mass gymnastics in North Korea:

“It is an awesome product of political control and economic weakness. Starved of energy, and economically retarded, the only resource North Korea has in abundance is its people – and they are often employed in places where richer countries would use electricity.”2

Instead of strictly timed performers, who raise colored boards in Pyongyang to produce large-scale moving propaganda images, there is just a movie on the LEDs at Tian’anmen Square. But these displays are also produced in piecework by the workers in Shenzhen! In this context, the performance “Consumption” by Li Liao would be interesting, as Tollmann proposes. The artist worked 45 days at Foxconn to buy an iPAD from his wages, which is shown in a gallery next to his working dress and employee badge.

Artistic strategies are able to disclose the mechanisms behind interfaces, apps and networks and to therefore impart a certain reflexivity to the massive overflow of nowadays, which seems to carry away everything and everybody.
Mining the Image, 14. September 2013

  1. “Après moi le déluge! [After me, the flood!] is the watchword of every capitalist and of every capitalist nation.” – Karl Marx: Capital. Volume I., III., 8., 5., [MEW 23, S. 285] []
  2. Jonathan Watts, ‘Welcome to the strangest show on earth’,The Guardian. 1 October 2005, http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2005/oct/01/northkorea []

Comments Off on reSource 006: OverflowTags: @// · Berlin · CGI · China · digital culture · games · media art · performance · technology · user · web 2.0

Stop watching us!

20. July 2013 · Comments Off on Stop watching us!

Hide-and-seek is no solution…

The internet activist Jacob Applebaum talked on the 15th evening of net policy, planned by the Digitale Gesellschaft (digital society) in Berlin, about the power and doings of the NSA, and about possibilities to protect oneself from this data mining. He seemed to be somehow crestfallen, because of the disclosures about the dimensions of data storage and also the denial of Snowden’s application for asylum in Germany, which Applebaum just entered to live in a less restricted atmosphere. Also his final agitating words like

I can’t really imagine another city anywhere in the world and people other than you that are gonna be able to help turn this around in Germany right now, especially in Berlin.

were somehow glazed with resignation. Nevertheless, his diagnosis of the situation delivered a differentiated picture of mass-surveillance issues. Not only the violation of privacy is at stake, even more important seems to be the fact, that secret services have the power to author certain narrations about individuals based on their meta data and contacts, narrations that might be true or false and can be criminalized, if needed.

His concept of protection against the erosion of civic rights by mass surveillance were mostly technical and informed by his work at the Tor project. The answer therefore is: cryptography. Encrypting emails, surfing and calling anonymously, developing and using different, encrypted channels of communication. This is because the willingness of users to share their data everywhere and especially with big companies is one of the biggest cornerstone of surveillance. From Applebaums point of view, the time has come to demand of my vis-à-vis to communicate safely – as well as it has become more common to insist on safer sex (Applebaum himself states correctly, that his Aids metaphor is at least problematic).

*

“This is going to buy you time” – yes, but on which cost and how much time? Can we ask every user – most of them not even capable to use office software correctly – to learn about cryptographic methods, just until the next NSA program can also decode those? What do we do with our telephones, letters and mobile phones? How subversive a solution can be that corresponds with the program of the conservative Minister of the Interior Friedrich, who thinks that data protection is a civic duty? Don’t we witness in both statements a dangerous tendency of depoliticization that wants to outsource the crisis of political institutions to the citizen? For whisleblowers, journalists and hackers there will be no alternative to cryptography. But it can’t be the right way for the totality of citizens to hide behind technical solutions – on the contrary: they should go on the streets to ask for political solutions and demand the protection of basic rights publically. A hidden society seems to be as much undesirable as a monitored one.

Or as Sascha Lobo, a famous german blogger, said, in reaction of Mr. Friedrich’s capitulation: “No citizen has the duty to encrypt in order to protect his basic rights.” The time has come to remember politics about its responsibility.

Comments Off on Stop watching us!Tags: Berlin · Germany · network policy

ReSource 005: The Medium of Treason: The Bradley Manning Case

31. May 2013 · Comments Off on ReSource 005: The Medium of Treason: The Bradley Manning Case

Agency or Misconduct in a Digital Society?

On Mai 5th 2013, media activist Diani Barreto and transmediale currator Tatiana Bazzichelli have organized a panel discussion in the context of re:publica, to remember the US soldier and intelligence analyst Bradley Manning, the whistleblower who transfered the video “Collateral Murder” and 260.000 diplomat cables to Wikileaks. In Mai 2010, he was arrested because of violation of the US Espionage Act, and after detainment in sometimes horrible conditions, he is finally put on trial on the beginning of 2013. He’s accused in 22 points, from which he already confessed 10 in the motion hearings. The real trial “United States v. Bradley Manning” will start on the 3rd of june.
This case is at the same time polarizing and heavily symbolic, path breaking and symptomatic, and besides the personal destiny of Bradley Manning, it has many layers of meaning, that should be discussed with involved guests.

They invited Birgitta Jónsdóttir, an islandic politician and leader of the pirate party, who also was involved with the publication of Collateral Murder; the investigative journalist John Goetz, who works for the German TV network NDR and the newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung, and who also did research in the case Bradley Manning in 2010/2011; as well as Andy Müller Maguhn, member of the Wau Holland Foundation, who advocate freedom of information and administer the donations for WikiLeaks.

While the opinions of the vast public differ from seeing Bradley Manning as a candidate for Nobel Peace Prize, as well as giving him death penalty, in this circle of the ReSource-Event, there should be no doubt that the publication of documents, which proof war crimes of the US army in the Middle East, was a historical deed. If there are war fought in the name of the citizens and democracy, then they have a right of information, especially about war crimes their governments commit. On this evening, it was also undisputable that the hard conditions of detainment of Bradley Manning, especially during his solitary confinement at Quantico, where against human rights, as Amnesty International and Avaaz have pointed out. That a democratic government is acting against its own principles in this harsh way, shows how this leak was hitting the core of power, and – analog to the exorbitant life imprisonment of Aaron Swartz, how powerless they are on this field.

The only controversy in this circle was about the role of the media in the case of Bradley Manning. Unfortunately, investigative journalist John Goetz, as only professional, was wrongly taken as a spokesperson for the “so-called mainstream media” and therefore berated. Instead, his inside comments were useful correctives to this generalized critic of “the media”. There is no doubt, that especially the focus on the gossip of personal details about Mannings private life by some US media totally missed the historical value of this case. And it is also correct, that after the scandal of his detainment conditions, the case did not make any major headlines. But it would be fatal, to think that this topic was hushed up in all newspapers. The fact that e.g. “Spiegel” (german newspaper) had a special team gathered around this topic, like Goetz told, is one of those time- and cost-expensive processes in professional journalism, that most readers are not aware of. This easily leads to the thought, that nothing is happen at all. The problem seems to lie at a simultaneous demand on rich analyses and free of cost information.

On the other hand, one could easily say that there where no actual “news” about Bradley Manning for some time. On the contrary, the political disaster is evident and unmodified. It is not enough to talk about it, something has to be done. Instead of a slippery slope discussion about “mainstream media”, the should be political and street action. One promising way is Birgitta Jónsdóttirs concern, to realize new rights of privacy protection and information freedom via IMMI. Another one are worldwide protests of the Free-Manning-Movement at the 1st of June, also on 3pm in Berlin at the Brandenburger Tor.

further reading
Bradley Manning Statement
Manning-Lamo Chat Logs
OPEN: Outlaws and Pioneers of the Electronic Frontier (Documentation)

Comments Off on ReSource 005: The Medium of Treason: The Bradley Manning CaseTags: @// · Berlin · hacktivism · network policy

Postdigital is better* @ designtransfer, UDK Berlin

14. May 2013 · Comments Off on Postdigital is better* @ designtransfer, UDK Berlin

QR-Code as a portal…

On 23rd to 26th april 2013, students of the Visual Communication department of the UDK Berlin showed their works in an exhibition at the designtransfer galery with the theme “postdigital is better“. During winter semester 2012/13, they researched the differences between analog and digital media, and worked out possibilities of interaction and processes of transformation.

Therefore, some very interesting works could be seen, which confront the implicitness of new media with those of the old. Giulia Schelm for example, went to a café where the digital bohéme lives its mobile life style, and began to type her observations on an old typewriter. The fact, that nobody seems to wonder about people in cafés talking no longer to their physical neighbors but via skype to oversea colleagues, or writing mails or mindmapping project, is a clear sign for the ubiquitous pervasiveness of digital devices. There seems no activity which is not digitally mediated, and therefore computers become invisible in everyday life. The term “postdigital” is trying to express this circumstance:

“Like air and drinking water, being digital will be noticed only by its absence, not its presence. […] Computers as we know them today will a) be boring, and b) disappear into things that are first and foremost something else” Nicholas Negroponte – Beyond Digital

While the digital media become banal, old media become visible and transformable – they give new opportunities of application. In the exhibition of the UDK students, this medium is mostly the book, which lost its matter of course and therefore opens up for experiments.

Felix Schröder prints a short version of Kafka’s The Metamorphosis on the original text and subordinate the indescribable literature under the dictation of tweets and key information; Idan Sher remixes Luis Borges’ Book of Sand by sorting all words alphabetically; and Ana Halina Ringleb glues a book about Goethe, so that it could no longer be opened. Its title “A reader for our time” shows that the book seems to be disused. Instead, you could do like Marius Förster, who googled Umberto Eco’s This is not the end of the book and printed a text extracted from reviews and user comments.

Other students tried, to develop the book as a form. Denis Yilmaz did an exciting republishing of the fairy tale The Fisherman and His Wife on bank statements. The story is told via money transfers of 1 Euro, so that at the end of the tale about greed and excess an amount of 125,00 comes together – and of course, is debited. Martin Wecke on the other hand, thinks about copyright law when he prints a book which is only readable after xeroxing it. It comes to mind, that the QR code plays a special role here (in the works of Alina Rudya, Vincent Tollens and Vera Kellner), so that the book becomes a link collection and the content is externalized to the cloud. In the discussion at the day of opening, Danny Aldred, designer and book artist, also talks about the QR code as a portal between the digital and the analog realm. But you could describe it also differently: While back in the days, the only barrier to read books or gather information was being able to read, now the possession of a smartphone is an additional barrier. So it seems that also the problematic of alphabetization or information access is dislocated to the dimension of devices.

Postdigital is better – this judgement has to be checked, but on the works of this exhibition gave reason to think about the actual status of the digital, which seems to be in crisis, like Siegfried Zielinski declared on the talk. At the one hand, it is universalized, at the other hand the promises of digital revolution were not kept. So it’s time to critically review this process.

Comments Off on Postdigital is better* @ designtransfer, UDK BerlinTags: @// · Berlin · design · digital culture · exhibition · media art · remix culture