As mentioned in Hyper-Border, a book i reviewed a few days ago, Mexico and the United States live in a state of interdependence: Mexico's economy relies on remittances, while the US need Mexican undocumented super cheap labour force. The United States has had a powerful influence in the Mexican national elections, how about turning that around?

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Votemos.us is a Spanish language portal that proposes a vote in the US presidential elections for the millions of (il)legal Mexicans who currently live and work in the United States.

Visitors can register with the site, vote, write an opinion on the elections, read other people’s views and react to it.

"The goal of the project is not only to point to the fact that within the US border lives a very active Mexican population that contributes to the national economy and is not allowed to vote, but also to present a repository of information and links to the Latin American community (within and beyond the U.S.) concerning the US national elections and to establish a public space to share their views. "

Ricardo Miranda Zúñiga's project is one of the most interesting i've read about recently: for its power to raise the debate on the role that migrants can and/or should have in political life in the US (but also in several European counties), for the lists of facts, figures and articles that provide visitors with more knowledge on the issue and if you read spanish, i can only recommend you to peak inside the page where "registered voters" share their views on the upcoming elections.

More in Structural Patterns.

Related: interview of the artist.

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0aaashiftwa.jpgEver since i've heard Dan Phiffer and Mushon Zer-Aviv present the ShiftSpace project at ars electronica, i've been following with growing interest the progress of their idea.

They are currently offering ten development grants of up to $2,000 to individuals and collectives using ShiftSpace as a platform to create new Spaces and Trails:

"While the Internet’s design is widely understood to be open and distributed, control over how users interact online has given us largely centralized and closed systems. The web is undergoing a transformation whose promise is user empowerment - but who controls the terms of this new read / write web? The web has followed the physical movement of the city’s social center from the (public) town square to the (private) mall. ShiftSpace attempts to subvert this trend by providing a new public space on the web.

By pressing the [Shift] + [Space] keys, a ShiftSpace user can invoke a new meta layer above any web page to browse and create additional interpretations, contextualizations and interventions - which are called “Shifts?. Users can choose between several authoring tools - called “Spaces? - that allow web users to annotate, modify and shift the content of a page and through ShiftSpace, share that shift with the rest of the web. “Trails? are maps of shifts (shiftspace content) that create meta-layer navigation across websites. These trails might be used as a platform for collaborative research, for curating net art exhibitions, or as a way to facilitate a context-based public debate."

The ShiftSpace commissions program is a very interdisciplinary competition and the deadline to apply for both the Spaces and Trails categories is: February 25th, 2008 11:59pm EST.

Related: Interview with Mushon Zer-Aviv.

Amanda McDonald Crowley from Eyebeam had invited inspiring artists and designers for a Conflux panel to discuss the visualization of environmental data and their potential to foster social change.

0aacecoviz.jpgThe event also launched Eyebeam’s Ecovisualization Challenge, a competition to heighten environmental awareness through creative data visualization projects. Group sign-ups will coincide with the panel, and the challenge is scheduled to run from October-November, 2007. Winning projects will be included in Eyebeam’s upcoming exhibition focusing on environmental and sustainability issues.

The Eco-vis Challenge invites artists to collaborate with technologists and redefine what the future of tracking and visualizing the environment could be.
The competition is two-fold:

- an eco icon contest to design a graphic that can be used for tattoo, stickers, etc to make visible environmental/ecological concerns. Deadline is Nov. 5th.
- an Eco-Vis that brings to life ecological information that is not necessarily obvious. Deadline is December 8.

First panelist, Tiffany Holmes focused on her project 7000 Oaks And Counting. The goal of this eco-visualization research is to show that daily visual feedback can elevate understanding of consumption patterns and possibly increase conservation behavior in resident populations.

0aaokks9.jpgThe project makes use of the existing building control system typically found in large institutional buildings. These systems provide central management and monitoring for air conditioning control, lighting control, and electrical and chilled water status monitoring, as well as providing energy management services. Typically, data from such systems is available only to a select audience of engineers and facilities personnel. The eco-visualization software focuses on the electricity consumption and its purpose is to make the data accessible and easy to understand for everyone through a website, a kiosk animation and a model tree sculpture. Ultimately, Holmes hopes that the project will stimulate people to adopt a more eco-conscious behaviour.

Tiffany Holmes is aware of both the advantage and challenges of any eco-viz experiment:
- on the plus size: dynamic feedback can be very motivating; potential to reach a broad audience, re-visualization of an old problem using new technique can re-vive an old discussion,
- minus points: no way to engage the accuracy of a given asset, difficulty to reach broader audience, sometimes users are asked to install a custom software which might put off some of them.

She ended her talk by recommending everyone to read her blog, Ecoviz.

Next came Michael Mandiberg with a presentation of his projects: Oil Standard and Real Costs.

Oil Standard is a web browser plug-in that converts all prices from U.S. Dollars into the equivalent value in barrels of crude oil.
When you load a web page, the script inserts converted prices into the page. As the cost of oil fluctuates on the commodities exchange, prices rise and fall in real-time
.

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Real Costs is a Firefox plug-in that inserts emissions data into travel related e-commerce websites. The first version adds CO2 emissions information to airfare websites such as Orbitz.com, United.com, Delta.com, etc. Following versions will work with car directions, car rental, and shipping websites. Think of it like the nutritional information labeling on the back of food... except for emissions.

Eyebeam’s Ecovisualiz Design Challenge panel (part 2)

How to survive the paper industry kicked off the Paper & Pixel week of discussions at Documenta12 in Kassel. The first group of talks looked at the way the development of technology is influencing the publishing process and even allows independent magazine editors to survive. They face the threat created by pixels and toners by reinventing content, technical and economical strategies.

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It is precisely the love for the speed of electrons, and an understanding of the potentials of networked media, that have inspired the cultural tactics of these magazines; from print-on-demand, collaborative editing, sharing content and knowledge, to surfing and playing up to new economic demands.

00aamagreader.jpgFirst intervention was by Alessandro Ludovico. Alessandro created the Neural magazine about new media art, electronics and hacktivism in 1993. He is also one of the co-founders of the Mag.net network (Mag.net reader 2, Between Paper and Pixel is out btw!), an advisor to the Documenta12 magazine and one of the hacktivists behind projects such as Google Will Eat Itself and Amazon Noir.

He started by showing the image you can see above, an ad from a book editor that gave the message that books, unlike your computer screen, would never let you down. There is no chance of ever opening a book and finding the message "This page cannot be displayed".

With electronics and digital technology the paper industry knows that nothing will ever be the same again: real time publishing pervading the printed pages, reliability is a value regarded as more and more precious, disembodiment of the paper both on computer and mobile phone screens, etc. Yet, believes Alessandro, the immobility of the paper has something reassuring compared to pixel.

Since the end of the '90s there has been countless announcements that new technologies (electronic paper or e-paper) would replace paper. Yet in 2007, this is still an alien object. Alessandro tested one of these electronic paper readers and he compared the feeling to holding a big palm top. Doesn't replace the pleasure of holding, touching, smelling a book. And it is still quite expensive (around 600 euros).

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That kind of device would allow users to reduce physical space in their bookshelf while owning more, sharing, copying and storing much more content.

Alessandro then explained how the project Amazon Noir which he developed together with Paolo Cirio and UBERMORGEN.COM exploits the "search inside the book" feature of the online bookseller.

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Paper is more persistent that the online text, believes the editor of Neural and publishers are wondering what to do with the web, how to exploit it for their own business. Today the electronic space par excellence is the web.

One of the latest strategies is to give away their magazines for free under a PDF format. A series of glossy, entertaining magazines do that today. They range from Business Week to Premiere. Why? First of all you have to register and by doing so you give them some very valuable information about yourself. Plus, PDF give away improves distribution and augments readership which in turn allows the publishers to sell ad space at a higher price.

0apapapericcc.jpgHe also recalled the story of "Japan's digital shoplifting plague" which has young girl take camera phone picture of a new hairstyle or a new dress they might spot while browsing a magazine in a shop. They then send the picture to all their friends and comment on it. The publishers of those magazines feel they are being cheated out of valuable sales and have issued posters which warn shoppers to be careful of their "magazine manners".

Free electronic magazines: either downloadable or simply viewable online. The later strategy is often adopted by experimental publicatins which might want to play with the aesthetics. Ex. Magnify, an underground design magazine which is structured like a standard paper magazine, it has similar graphics, it is not interactive at all, doesn't exploit any of the features offered ny interactive media except the possibility of a wide distribution via the screen. It is like a never born paper mag.

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Alessandro showed an art installation called Pamphlet. Helmut Smits. It consists of a laptop, software and a printer placed on the edge of a building window. People can type a message on the laptop, press the 'send' button and a pamphlet with the message is printed and dropped from the 10th floor by the printer. To quote him: "The falling down paper and the resulting 'pamphlet' on the street symbolizes the relatively short distance from the personal production to the public enjoyment of a printed product, and how the traditional product parameters has been disrupted. The fascination of take-away paper is the same at the base of newspapers that are starting to stretch their role and nature with downloadable and printable last minute editions. These are highly customized on one key factor: the updating time. They are meant to be read offline, so enjoyed with a relative calm, but with the most stretched and feverish time of production. This is part of a larger need: to put the virtually and real-time produced content out of the screen to affect real life or be enjoyed in it."

Last part of the presentation engaged with the recent phenomenon of "Print on demand", a printing technology in which a copy is not created until after an order is received. The method allows the publisher to avoid the biggest cost of edition: printing. Any one can send their magazine or book to publish on the web. To Alessandro it is similar to what the photocopy machine was in the '80s: enjoyable and simple just like paper is still today in his opinion.

Read Alessandro's full text. And! there's even a podcast of the whole discussion (via.)

Another project from the RCA Great Exhibition.

90% of children between the age of 8 to 16 years old, have accidentally viewed unwanted websites.
It is becoming popular for parents to set up internet filters (e-mail protection, pop-up blocking and chat room monitoring between others) which block unsuitable violent or adult websites. However, there are still a large number of websites which can easily pass through the filters and allow children to reach unsuitable material.

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Eriko Matsumura's WebFare is the dream tool for parents who want peek into their children's web surfing. The application and product looks like an electric torch that parents can shine onto the computer screen. A halo will unpeel one after the other the websites recently visited by their child. It gives parents a glimpse into their child's interests and surfing habits, rather than restricting their web access. Parents can then choose which topics they may want to discuss. As a result, WEBFARE can help parents to protect their children in their absence.

Images.

0amisscoox.jpgA few weeks ago, i went to Newcastle for the opening of the Picture House exhibition. It was at least minus 37 degrees up there and i was walking from one room of Belsay Hall to the other, watching the installations and following a girl with a nice bag that sported a funny phrase in crooked french. I still don't know if it was the bag or the girl i was stalking but i ended up having dinner with her under a (non-heated) tent. Anyway the girl with the funky bag was in fact Sarah Cook , researcher, co-founder and co-editor of CRUMB (the Curatorial Resource for Upstart Media Bliss), an online resource for curators, producers, commisioners and exhibitors of new media art. Sarah is also a post-doctoral research fellow at the University of Sunderland (England) and an independent new media curator. She has organized exhibitions, commissioned new media art and managed educational projects for BALTIC, Gateshead; Bellevue Art Museum, Seattle; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; Banff New Media Institute; Reg Vardy Gallery, Sunderland; Locus+, Newcastle; etc. Oh! and she did an interview of me, should be online soon here.

You co-edited the book Curating New Media in 2002. Has the panorama evolved a lot since you wrote that book? Are new media curators still facing the same challenges?

That book was the result of a three-day conference CRUMB organised in Newcastle/Gateshead in May 2001 and in retrospect might be considered the first such meeting of curators and producers of new media in the UK (it resulted in at least one marriage and baby!). At that time we were talking a lot about net-based art and how museums such as the Tate were commissioning artists to make work for their websites (in part because there was a dearth of venues for media art in the UK). We had curators with backgrounds in film and video (who were defining themselves as moving image or lens-based art curators), debating with commissioners from the Science Museum who were interested in interactive installations, debating with sound artists and net-artists who were just trying to get their work commissioned fairly. So while there were disciplinary boundaries to overcome, there were fundamental concerns which affected everyone up for discussion: funding, audiences, institutional support, and professional development.

Curators are still facing a lot of the same challenges today – what is this new art, who is making it, where do I find it, how do I install, collect or preserve it? – but their self-definition is helped by the fact that the landscape of art exhibition has changed and become more multifaceted. For new media art it's not just a question of whether to show it 'on the web or not' anymore (Though getting the Tate to realise that is still a challenge as I understand from the curators there). Art is now exhibited in spaces and places other than white cube galleries – from science museums to media museums to festivals and even airports. The web has changed enormously too, so what we might have thought of as net-art then we might think of as research or social networking today. Curators understand that some work uses the web but doesn’t result in a project that is solely exhibited on the web (it might have a physical component to it too). Artists, as usual, are using whatever medium necessary to realise their work and curators should be responding to that, no matter what their backgrounds may be.

How optimistic are you about the near future of new media curating? Do you see things of positive (and fast) changes?

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CRUMB has organised a few workshops for new media curators which have taken the form of 'crisis centres' playfully suggesting that there are deep tensions at the heart of new media curatorial practice, most of which can be partially relieved by a good chat over a nice cup of tea. [For the Enter Festival in Cambridge in April we ran a ‘Bliss Out Centre’ with Indian Head Massage, Open Source Embroidery – courtesy of Ele Carpenter – knitting, fortune teller games and other activities.] These tensions usually are from uncertainty about definitions of the art but also of the curatorial practice. What is the role or value of a curator in the age of 'user-generated content', to be only a filter or editor? How do the other seemingly invisible skills curators have – about dealing with the press, being the interface between the art and the audience – get supported? How do you learn the necessary skills to engage in the production of publicly sited art? I think curatorship, as a field of practice, is quite slow to evolve (certainly slower than the art is changing), and mostly because it is only in the last 15 years that curatorial practice has become reflexive (and some argue, overly so). But this is predominantly in the field of independent or freelance curating, which I am optimistic about. For instance in the way curators might evolve their social networking skills based on how we live and work on the web today, and therefore make their curatorial process more open, more collaborative (though does that result in better shows? Not always). 0amyfroid.jpg

I suppose I am less optimistic about institutional curatorial practice as far as new media art is concerned, but only because art museums are themselves in a state of crisis and are dealing with it by moving away from having curators with any form of subject specialties at all (resulting in the cancellation of experimental programs or the closing down of departments - look at MoMA with its Media Department which is focused on video installation). If new forms of art aren't getting collected and well documented and written about or shown, then the depth of knowledge of the mainstream art curators who have to be generalists and have knowledge about everything is going to be limited (to what is written about in magazines, and to what they see when they go to the big art fairs). This means they might not be able to respond easily to the exciting projects that challenge the structures of the art museum or challenge the idea of what art is. Sorry, this is becoming a big long chew of a mouthful of an answer.

What do you think are the elements that hamper the integration of new media art pieces in museums?

In art museums I think a lot of the resistance to new media art has to do with the traditional ways of judging and valuing art – new media art isn't always an object (it's a process or event), it isn't always unique (it's easily reproduced or made collaboratively, sometimes, god forbid, by the audience participating!), it therefore isn't always collectable (it can be ephemeral data or code) or even predictable as to what it will be. And it plugs in, so could break down, and that scares curators who are trained to put on exhibitions of unchanging, static objects.

I get bummed out having to write answers like that one above because while I know a lot of that is to a certain degree true, I also think good curators will be able to look to art history and say, but wait, conceptual art is ephemeral, live performance art is a time-based, interactive process which can't be collected, and still we have long histories of supporting that! Good curators look for the balance between form and content, and don't get hung up on the form or, in the case of new media art, the technology. That said, you do have to know something about the form – enough to know why it might be significant for this particular work of art, or at least to know what you don't know!

I have had directors of museums tell me that they don't believe there is an audience for new media art, certainly not enough of an audience to warrant what they perceive to be an overly costly investment in it ("It costs £7.00 per head to put on a live media art event here and I'd rather give them £10.00 each and tell them to stay away!" one director had the gall to say to me). And I've had other art gallery directors say to me, "We don't show new media art because I haven't seen anything that I think is very good" when they are sitting next to the artists whose show they've just opened whose CVs include winning prizes at the Venice Biennial and only working with digital video or immersive and responsive sound environments. Hello?! Neither would admit they haven't seen very much new media art, or don't know where to look, or even what it looks like.

0ccccccrn.jpgSo that's art museums, but your question didn't specify. In Science museums and Media museums it seems to me as though the integration is less hampered, perhaps because the curators there are less afraid of the form. Some of the only permanently installed, commissioned new media works on view in London are in the Science Museum – perhaps because part of their remit is to engage in technological culture. The new British Film Institute Southbank venue has a gallery which is capable of showing all forms of interactive, immersive, responsive, data-driven new media art; though whether they’ll show anything more than film and video installation remains to be seen.

Your webpage says that you are a curator of contemporary art. Your practice is mainly concerned with new media art. Do you regard new media art as a distinct entity or would you rather see it as "just" another form of art?

I've worked in museums and galleries of contemporary art and feel comfortable in each world. My background is in philosophy, modern history, contemporary studies, not art history. I think it's funny two of my degrees have the word contemporary on them, written in Latin, loosely translated as Aetatem recentissiman pertinentibuss as there is no actual word for "contemporary studies" in Latin – there is only 'pertinent to the recent time' studies. So for me new media art is the most 'pertinent to the recent time' art. New media art IS art (not JUST art) and as an ever-changing field of practice it has the potential to completely redefine what art is, just as it might redefine what new is, or what media is.

What are the conditions required to achieve "upstart media bliss"?

Tea and cookies and wifi? As a curator, keeping up with the times but not “dancing the novelty hustle? (as Barbara London has said); having a sense of history is important. Challenging the system – be it the art system, the museum, or the format of the exhibition – and not being afraid to take a risk (generally being an upstart). At the same time, remembering to take care of the artist and the work, take care of other people and your ethics. Creating situations for contemplation and reflection (bliss doesn't have to be monumental, it might only last a minute, but a minute worth remembering).

If you could teach new media art bloggers one thing, what would it be?

To inspire others to do what they do. Because I think there is room for a lot more of them than there are now. I'd like some of them to be more rigorous and critical. To get their work published in non-new-media print magazines, newspapers, and journals, or to take those established formats on at least.

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Natalie Bookchin's Databank of the Everyday, part of Database Imaginary

I've always loved the title of an exhibtion you co-curated with Steve Dietz, "The Art Formerly Known As New Media." That was a provocative title (I think). Which kind of discussion were you hoping to raise with such title & exhibition? Did a debate take place as you expected?

The curatorial remit for that exhibition was to look back across ten years of activity at the Banff New Media Institute in Canada, and so expectations were that we might curate some kind of 'best of' retrospective. Steve and I weren't as interested in that mode of exhibition making as we were in choosing works which might redefine for us what 'new media art' is, or what art is in the age after new media, if indeed we are in such an age. We looked at the work of hundreds of artists who had ever been to a new media event at Banff and asked many of them what they were doing now. We considered some of the big themes which had recurred in the discussions at Banff – artificial intelligence, the body and biological matter, data visualisation, social networks, identity, memory, interactivity – and thought about art works in relation to those.

The title caught people’s attention, though I'm not sure the show generated much debate (except perhaps over the way we installed the work of irational.org). It coincided with Re:fresh, the (so-called) first conference on the histories of media art and science, and I think the historians who attended might have liked to have seen a ‘best of’ retrospective after all, which would have been nice, but to us it didn't feel like the right mode to work in. Steve and I, with Anthony Kiendl, had before that curated the exhibition Database Imaginary, and so we were still asking questions like 'what is this thing called newness?' or ‘what is the behaviour of these works in relation to me?’ or ‘what does this work of art tell me about the 'postmodern condition' or the informational-technological world I live in?’ We hope people who saw that show (and you can still buy the t-shirt if you want!) left asking similar questions.

Together with Sabine Himmelsbach, you curated the exhibition "My Own Private Reality" at the Edith Russ Haus for Media Art in Oldenburg (Germany.) The works selected reflect the phenomenon of social communities on the Internet and its democratisation. What is your view on these issues? Critical? Openly enthusiastic?

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I have what could be called an irrational aversion to the myspace.com 'phenomenon' because (of Murdoch but also because) I have what could be called a nostalgic snobbish adherence to earlier, better made, smaller, smarter versions of just about everything (depending who you ask I'm either old before my time, criticising that 'they don't make them like they used to' or I exhibit the all-consuming enthusiasm and desire of the early adopter). I think that some so-called web 2.0 technologies are the corporate world's way of creating dependent consumers and thereby discouraging alternative peer-to-peer computing from flourishing. Which is why I love Cory Arcangel's work BlueTube which just serves to remind viewers of the infrastructure which they so mindlessly meld in to. But I equally believe that these softwares (and especially the open source ones, which allow you to learn a little, and share, and to move beyond the generic template) make possible meaningful activity, through the social communities they encourage, which deserves a look in. It is interesting to see how having an alter-ego online, being a part of a community on the web, has come full circle – from in the early 90s putting yourself online, to in the late 90s and early 00s being someone else online, or someone you can’t be in your offline life, and now in the late 00s to a mix of those modes. Being part of an online social network is now an enhancement of your offline life. People are still learning the nuances and social manners and etiquette of this new hybrid existence.

I think curating is about challenging yourself and your beliefs, assumptions, and contradictions, so that’s a reason I took the approach I did. I also wanted to curate this show because I knew of a lot of great art projects which are about the using the web to talk about the social impetus in all of us and I wanted the chance to think about that work all together in a space – works which embody both of my views on the technology itself. Working with Sabine and her team at the Edith Russ Haus was fantastic; it's so vital to have spaces like that in the world where there aren't the pressures of a museum collection to maintain or enormous spaces to fill and instead there are artists in residence making new work for consideration (in our case Hans Bernard/Ubermorgen and Annina Rust).

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My Own Private Reality (more images)

How does one get to be like you, an internationally-esteemed curator of new media art?

Well, gee, hmmm. Having a degree from a curatorial programme (in my case Bard College) and working in esteemed institutions (The Walker Art Center; The National Gallery of Canada) helps gets the ball rolling. Then having a full-time research post at a University that is supportive of your freelance curatorial work (Thank you University of Sunderland) is invaluable. Otherwise, I’d suggest that you find good people to collaborate with and learn from them (Thank you Steve Dietz). Try and be in the right places at the right times (Thank you Sara Diamond and Susan Kennard and the Banff New Media Institute). Don’t be a hermit, except when you have to; in other words, network, but moreover, do good work, even if it means doing less (such a hard lesson to learn) (Thank you Beryl Graham). My favourite tea-leaf fortune says: Let your manners speak, your deeds prove, and your delivery impress.

Any upcoming CRUMB or personal project that you could share with us?

When I'm not under the blanket of the book CRUMB has been writing, one thing I struggle to do is give back to my city, to think globally but act locally. So while a lot of the curatorial projects I've done of late have been focused internationally, I hope to do something lasting for where I call home before I move elsewhere. So I'm trying to keep some time aside to work more with the awesome collectively-built and volunteer-run Star and Shadow Cinema in Newcastle (which is a cinema and so much more!) and (fingers crossed) I will be curating and commissioning work for the next AV Festival which takes place across the North East of England, on the theme of Broadcast.

Thanks Sarah!

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