Olia Lialina discusses the lost internet platform

Olia Lialina is considered one of the first people to use the internet as an artform with her piece My Boyfriend Came Back from the War from 1996. For NEoN she will be displaying a collection of works resulting from her ongoing excavation of the Geocities Torrent – a massive archive of pages from the lost internet platform. NEoN blogger Ana Hine caught up with Olia to talk about the project.  

 

Do you prefer the aesthetic of the internet of the 1990s over the 2000s and the 2010s? What are the most significant changes, in your opinion, between these internet eras?


I can’t think about web aesthetics in decades. In the 1990s one astronomical year was ten on the web. If you read David Siegel‘s legendary design manual “Creating Killer Websites”, you will be amazed that already in 1996 he talks about the third generation of web design. Things were always changing fast, aesthetically and ideologically. In 2012 my students made a fictional timeline, that – in many little steps – shows the development of the web aesthetics. Significant change is not in aesthetics, but in the structure. There is no place for personal web, there are no “home pages” anymore.


What was Geocities, and what was its significance to you personally?

Like everyone who didn’t have a page on Geocities in the second part of the 1990’s, I was very sceptical about this free hosting service. I thought about it as an outlet for people who have too much time and too little understanding of how to make web pages correctly. But around the turn of the century when I noticed how fast self-made things disappear, I changed my mind and started to pay closer attention to amateur production. I developed an understanding and respect for, not only Geocities, of course, but vernacular web outside of it as well. Today we mostly talk about Geocities because it as the only substantial archive of self-made web pages.

The One Terabyte of Kilobyte Age project seems to revel in the Geocities pages that were saved without discrimination. How do you measure value in a context like this?

I don’t. There is value in all of them. I learn something from every page I see. I categorize, and tag, make conceptual and formal connections, collect more and more material. Of course not all 400k websites in the archive are interesting on their own, but each adds something to our understanding of what it means to be a web master of your own site.

Why is digital archaeology important?

Every archaeological work is important. Evacuating the history of the world wide web is important for deeper understanding of this beautiful and powerful medium. It is important for educating web users about the power they can have.


What do you think digital archaeology will look like in the future? Would you be involved in projects to save Myspace profiles or Tweets, or was there something unique to Geocities that persuaded you to work on archiving it?

Social networks are another story, because of their scale. The Geocities archive is 1TB, whereas the Dutch social network Hyves, which closed in 2013, is 25TB. Global players like Twitter or Facebook would be in Petabytes. But size is in fact the smallest issue. Their structure and, let me say, philosophy are the issues that would make classic archiving useless. We should learn already now to deal with them on another level: a low level, a personal level. If we make a little archive, we can create little stories that will tell our stories in the future. For example recording your own interactions or whatever you personally, or as institution, through something like webrecorder.io. I also think there must be an understanding that nothing will stay there forever, we are always on the eve of this or that service being closed and we should act accordingly.

Do you have favourite pages that have been saved?

I do. These are two types of pages I like and both are those that are not very spectacular visually, but precious content-wise in the context of the archive. First are pages that give a promise to be complete, to become the greatest on the web, in a week or two. Second are pages that announce their own death. I often see them next to each other, and it is quite dramatic. At the festival I will show them as two parallel slide projections called “Give Me Time/This Page Is No More, with hope on the left and despair on the right. I hope you spend some time sitting in between, watching.

 

Interview by Ana Hine

Plastique Fantastique talk about performance and the bit-coin-fairy

Ahead of this year’s digital arts festival we caught up with performance group Plastique Fantastique to discuss collaboration, communication, and cardboard masks.  Answers by David Burrows, with help from Simon O’Sullivan, Alex Marzeta and Vanessa Page.

What attracts you to performance, as an art form?

As well as being a good way to collaborate, performance, on one level, involves becoming an object, at least as an artwork or as the object of other people’s attention. We are attracted to being objects or things or parts of a machine for the duration of a performance, as a state that we return from. We are attracted to being avatars or even to becoming abject. We use a lot of objects, fluids, glitter, synths, loops, delays, mics and samples, and in a performance we are all one more aspect of this arrangement of things.

We do not know what our performances are like for spectators, good, bad, or whatever, and that lack of distance, which is a feature of performance, attracts us. We do not have much distance on our performances as we never see them, except maybe through documentation, but that is never the same thing as the performance itself.  In other ways too, through performances, we have avatars we identify with and form friendships through that are important aspects of our lives.

But what really interests us is that performance allows for transformation, in that time, our bodies and thoughts can seem transformed by performance in which we become different avatars as impersonal vehicles for ideas and experiments and stories. Ultimately we present fictions, though not necessarily in conventional form. We call such works performance fictions. Our concern is to present the communiqués we receive from channeling information such as news, scientific papers, financial reports, promotions of digital technology, the weather, animal sounds, internet searches, tarot card readings, junk mail and spam and the suggestions we receive from objects and things.

We also diagram new mineral-animal-human-machine creatures and forces through intense or affective presentations, and we use our bodies to do this, as well as glitter, masks and fluids to mark transformations that are not visible. Intensity is what we hope for in a performance, and through intensity, to create after-images of new entities, for ourselves, and anyone that attends to our work. We follow protocols that we arrive at collectively, and that guide our actions. In this, we do not act spontaneously but we are not unlike medieval mummers that might turn up uninvited and make a lot of noise.

 

Do you find that installations suggest their own performances, or do the installations develop from the performances?

Communications from elsewhere comes first, which we gather and channel, then through talking and developing a performance involving music and gestures, we begin to see images. At a certain point a fiction emerges that might be our understanding of the evolution of a technology as machine-animal creature and avatar, or we try and convey a message or narrative that we often only half understand. Then we make objects and projections for this purpose.

For example, we knew recently that we had to do something concerning memes, particularly digital memes circulating through Instagram that we understand as a viral form existing only to replicate and reproduce, human-smart-phone creatures being the hosts. Through using tarot cards we realised that the hanged man was a kind of traitor meme, quite a rare thing, which doesn’t seek just replication through its host, but transformation or even the demise of its human host. For turning over the hanged man is a call for sacrifice and to see the world another way or upside down, but also, depending on which way up it turns, a call to defy gravity, and so we began to look for traitor memes in culture at large and put them on Instagram. It wasn’t until we heard ‘Traitor’ by Motorhead and then could not get Lemmy’s face, warts and all, out of our head that we began work on a traitor meme drone song, and then we made large images of hanging figures. To do this, we photographed and filmed ourselves hung upside down to form part of the images for the new ‘Traitor Memes’.

Can you tell us a bit about the masks and headpieces that you tend to wear during your performances, do you make them yourself and what inspires them?

Yes we make all of them ourselves. Again, we start through channeling or synthesising things we see or read about. For example, BI-SON-OIL-MAN, a figure that appeared in our performances in Aberdeen and London last year and this year, emerged fully formed, in all our heads, at Edinburgh airport when we were coming back from a performance at Jupitar Artland. Alex was reading about bison cattle being bred in Aberdeen, where we were due to show and perform later in the year. At the same time that Alex was showing us the share prices in bison stock, an oilman walked past lamenting the state of the oil industry and the need to find a new way of living. This made us think about how cattle and oil, being old and new forms of wealth or capital, at least for the UK, could be connected in some way in the future. We saw that one possibility was the ‘breeding’ of the two industries, to produce a BI-SON-OIL-MAN. This is what we attempted to communicate to people who came to our Aberdeen performance. To call forth this avatar we needed a mask, which Vanessa made out cardboard, mop fibres and plastic, and then Alex, Simon and I covered it in oil and black glitter in a ritual performance.

What is a ‘patheme-matheme assemblage’?

This is technical sounding and theoretical term that is really our shorthand phrase for an assemblage or performance that presents a combination of mathematical and animal knowledge.  A patheme-matheme assemblage is the combination of the affective/the creaturely/the organic or animal-like with the mathematical/reason/machines (including automated and intelligent machines). A matheme is a lesson concerning structure, and it is a term used to describe formulas in science and maths. Patheme or the pathemic often refers to joy, pain or suffering. For us though, patheme is a word for a different kind of knowledge to that of the mathematical kind, registered through affects and often non-conscious and embodied adaptation to environments and technological arrangements. The term patheme for us might equate to knowledge of the effects of structures and the forces and speeds of mathematical/reason/machines.

What is the ‘high frequency trading animal’, and how does it differ from the ‘bit con fairy’ in your wider mythos?

One of our interests is in new technological developments that are virtual or digital, and that have invisibility for humans and the myths that develop from this new state of affairs. An obvious example is the idea and myth of the Cloud, which might indicate how humans on the whole find representing and understanding abstract, non-human and numerical aspects of technology and society difficult. We are interested in technologies that have virtual, disembodied and or immaterial processes that are represented by images, sounds, myths that are often contrasting with their material support, such as inorganic or electrical objects.

The hi-frequency-trading animal is the programme that allows millisecond fast trading to take place – quicker than the human eye blinks – to achieve an accumulation of small profits. The speed facilitated by the programme has advantages over human trading, and allows wealth to accrue gradually through small gains. A humans is no match for this kind of trader. The programmes are housed in computers in large protected hubs with high security, which is the material aspect of the animal perhaps, and hidden away in discrete complexes. The hi-frequency-trading animal is a new force on the planet, its actions are carried out at high speed but not in physical space. We conjure the animal as a four-legged beast with a suction hose that extends from its stomach. When it appears, we generally feed it glitter, which it eats up, as it has a vacuum cleaner for a stomach, but in its non-material state it hoovers up money in digital form.

The bit-coin-fairy is similarly a new, invisible force, which is composed of a block chain that resides in computers. For this reason it is never in one place. This Fairy, although invisible, eats electricity to the point where some say its appetite can outweigh its value. And it seems to us that the block chain is a fairy rather than an animal as its existence owes much to whether people believe in bit coin or not, and whether people believe crypto currency allows humans to exit the banking system and facilitate new social exchanges or whether it is just another form of control or like the ‘tulip bulb bubble’ of 17th century, just another speculative market. We felt it important to trap the Fairy in one place and ask it about what it is. We have summoned the Fairy twice, in a wood in Edinburgh and a converted church in London, to ask it questions.

These two avatars are similar in our mythos as they are new forces that affect the world but are invisible, however the hi-frequency-trader is a working animal whereas the bit-coin-fairy is more like a fever, a fairy-fever.

How did you and Simon O’Sullivan initially begin to collaborate and what do you think makes your collaboration work?

I asked Simon to write an essay for a catalogue for a show I was making. He refused but said that he would write a manifesto for the imaginary collective making my work. Then we wrote a comic about plastqiue fantastique and not soon after worked with a group of people who manifested the collective through performing as avatars, including Alex Marzeta and Vanessa Page. Together, Alex, Simon, Vanessa and I form the core group and we have worked with a lot of different people including Simon Davenport, Joe Murray, Stuart Tait, Ana Benlloch, and more recently Harriet Skully, Lawrence Leaman, Motsonian and Mark Jackson. We don’t think about why it works, or in fact whether it works, but it might be that it does work for those taking part as people like performing, making videos and objects and playing music, and people do what they want in the collaboration. None of us has a lot of time as we all work for a living, so together we can make something we can’t manage on our own. Maybe that is part of why it might work too.

Can you tell us a bit about ‘Mythopoesis–Myth-Science–Mythotechnesis: Fictioning and the Posthuman in Contemporary Art’, the volume of writings you are making with Simon?

The title will change I think, but we are writing a book about fiction in art and culture and politics. We address fiction as a verb though, and use the term fictioning throughout, which is the idea that fictions have a traction on reality, society or what is possible, rather than just the idea that something is made up and imaginary but has nothing to do with what actual does and will exist. We see science-fiction in this as important, being a loop between desires or fears for future and the present. Mythopoesis is a term for conjuring or manifesting worlds, myth-science relates to the musician Sun Ra’s alien perspectives and mythotechnesis concerns myths and narratives affecting human-machine/technology relations and development. The book will be published by Edinburgh University Press next year.

Is it sometimes your intention to confuse your audience?

We intend nothing when performing except to follow protocols and produce intense durations for ourselves, and others attending the performance, and to produce imagery and sonic encounters. In this, we hope to present the communiqués we receive. But in channeling communications from the past or future, and from virtual, cyber and digital and even alien entities including numbers and patterns, and also fleshy animals and plant and mineral forms, we are not always able translate the communications well or in a form that humans can understand. We can end up producing visual and sonic noise sometimes, which is composed of multiple signals, and which new machines might process easily but human senses, often conditioned by aesthetic habits, find difficult. We hope that any audience we have will adapt and evolve to receive our communiqués.

Do you consider your work to be archaeological, in terms of reimagining or repurposing memes or pop culture phenomena that might otherwise be lost?

Yes, we think of our practice as being concerned with media archaeology and media evolution or what might be better termed coadaptation of humans and machines and media. We know of the term media archaeology from the book ‘Deep Time of the Media’ by Zielinski, that tracks desire in techniques of seeing and hearing, and the book’s challenge to standard histories of media and progress. So the idea of the Deep Time of Media interests us, as does the idea of thinking all possible genealogies of media, or all possible forms of technologies, from human and animal bodies to silicon and chemical and machinic entities. We think this has something to do with the future of the human if it has one. We also know of media archaeology through Jussi Parikka’s work and his materialist take on media. Obsolescence too is an interesting idea. That said, when channeling, as we are rarely conscious, we cannot always tell what is past, present and future, or new or obsolete.

What are you particularly looking forward to about NEoN 2017?

We are looking forward to seeing the work of Verity Birt (who we have exhibited with in the past) and Morehshin Allahyari at NEoN 2017, and, as we will be performing with the intention of summoning a crypto-currency avatar, we are looking forward to trapping the Bit-Coin-Fairy again.

 

By Ana Hine

Festival Programme goes live

We are very excited to bring you this years festival programme, celebrating the theme ‘Media Archeology’.

NEoN  will expand on it being Scotland’s Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology, and will unveil hidden histories by working with artists who use the current (and controversial) practice of ‘media archaeology’. Media archaeologists uncover and reconsider the obsolete, persistent, and hidden material cultures of the technological age – from big data software algorithms to tiny silicon chips. NEoN proposes that artists are future media archaeologists, recorders of our current information-based society, and time-travellers highlighting the continued relevance of our long past. Join us as we dig for the digital, brush the dirt off the non-material, and excavate the internet.

Laboratory for Variable Risk Perception, Ele Carpenter (UK)

The programme will focus on the tropes of current archaeology practices such as the visualisation of heritage assets, and the questioning of the geological sediment layers that evidence human life on planet earth. By putting artist’s concerns at the heart of the programme, a more complex picture of the material culture of the digital age will emerge. NEoN doesn’t seek to be merely nostalgic about technology but to expose, through artistic practice, how new technologies are understood now and will be in the future, in the creation of shared cultural experiences.

We are excited to be working with and hosting a varied mix of artists and practitioners from across the globe, including Kelly Richardson (Canada), Marina Zurkow (USA), Nedyalka Panova (Bulgaria), Roel Roscam Abbing (Netherlands), Gabriel Menotti (Brazil), VOID (Belgium), William (Bill) Miller (USA), Olia Lialina (Russia), Furtherfield (UK) and many more.

 

For the full programme visit our Festival page.

We hope you can join us. More event and activities will be added in the coming weeks and please note the programme is subject to change at any time so check back for any updates, or sign up to our mailing list.

Blogger Ana Hine caught up with Morehshin Allahyari

Morehshin Allahyari has been using 3D printing technology to reconstruct artefacts destroyed by ISIS. The Iranian-American artist will be taking part in NEoN Digital Arts Festival at the end of this year. NEoN blogger Ana Hine caught up with her to discuss her work and its political and creative consequences.

How did your interest in reconstruction and digital archaeology begin?

For the last four years I have been thinking about archiving as art practice. For example with both my Dark Matter and Material Speculations: ISIS series and specifically when working on Material Speculation: ISIS and the Additivism project I started to think about 3D printing as an archiving and metaphorical tool, and I released the research and historical images surrounding the reconstructed artifacts as PDF files.

I am interested in using 3D printing technology as a tool for alternative artifact archiving, as well as a means of political resistance and documentation. So much of my work is about reconstruction and re-figuring but only recently I have become more interested in the reconstruction of historical artifacts and digital archaeology; in this case the reconstruction of the artifacts that were destroyed by ISIS in 2015 at the Mosul Museum. After collecting and researching vast numbers of images and documents of the destroyed objects and doing research into images and documentation of the statues that were destroyed, I worked on reconstructing (3D modelling) and 3D printing the artifacts.

Why does ISIS destroy heritage sites?

I think it would be simplistic to read ISIS actions as merely religious acts and believe that ISIS is actually concerned with the values of Islam. Before anything else, the acts of destruction – as well as the video that ISIS released to show the destruction to the world – are a political gesture. But destruction of cultural heritage has been used as a tactic for centuries in battles and wars. So the act of destruction is nothing new, but perhaps it has never been documented and shared before with such a clarity of intent using social media as the site of propaganda. ISIS takes pride in destruction, while for example, for the U.S. military which destroyed many historical and cultural sites in Iraq and Afghanistan in the last decade, the act of destruction is almost an incidental consequence of the larger, and spoken, intention to bring democracy, or “freedom”, to these regions.

The point is that both of these acts are similarly toxic and harmful but one is more direct or apparent and one is hidden under layers of more invisible political agenda and soft(er) propaganda.

Material Speculation: ISIS (Gorgon)

Can you tell us a little about the artifacts you have reconstructed? Which one are you most proud of?

I like them all equally for different reasons. It’s hard to have a favourite.

The process of choosing which artifacts to work on for reconstruction was very complicated. The twelve artifacts that I chose to work on were all selected because they were original. When the video of ISIS destroying the artifacts came out there were a lot of speculation and also articles about the fact that many were duplicates and the original one was safe somewhere in Baghdad. So I wanted to choose the ones that were original and were destroyed based on what the video shows but I also chose them based on their importance in a historical context and how I connected with them personally (aesthetically or through their story). My project has never been only about replacing these destroyed pieces. It’s more about making information about each piece accessible to anyone, and proving that this history cannot be so easily destroyed.

There’s something really interesting about being able to have these files in a physical way. It’s also a way to resist this access being destroyed and history being forgotten. So that’s why the memory cards and flash drives that I’ve embedded inside the artifacts are a big part of this. In addition, the releasing of this information as a zip folder on Rhizome (free and open to public at: rhizome.org/editorial/2016/feb/16/morehshin-allahyari) on February 2016 was my way of decolonizing that space both from ISIS and the Western tech companies and archaeologists trying to claim this history.

As far as I understand, 3D printing is an evolving process. How would you like to see it develop over the next few years? For instance are you currently restricted by size or material?

The best way to answer this question is through my collaborative project #Additivism with writer and artist Daniel Rourke; which was something I started to work on in 2015. It’s a research project that combines art, engineering, science fiction and digital media aesthetics into a call to arms to go beyond the current limits of 3D printing. I think the possibilities of 3D printing as technology are still being explored (and yes there is a lot of limitation in terms of material but especially size). The 3D Additivist Manifesto (the first project we worked on) is a call in to artists, activists, writers, and designers to reflect on the current state of additive manufacturing. The end goal was to make a book from submissions we received through our call, to bring together ideas, thoughts, and designs for the future of 3D printing. We wanted to take this opportunity to both criticize the fetishization of 3D printers and this urge to 3D print stuff, while also suggesting that there is a big potential locked inside these technologies. In December 2016, we launched The 3D Additivist Cookbook (free to download) which included the works of hundred artists, makers and activists contributing to a book of 3D printing recipes and imaginative and provocative methods.

Do you see your work as a form of political resistance?

I see all my work as a form of political resistance. Waking up in the America of Trump as an immigrant Iranian is political resistance.

 

Works from ‘Material Speculation: ISIS’ will form part of a large group exhibition at this years NEoN Festival. 

NEoN Festival Starts Here

In partnership with Dundee Contemporary Arts, NEoN is pleased to kick off its festival season by presenting Mariner 9 , a 12-metre-long panoramic view of a Martian landscape set hundreds of years in the future, by Canadian artist Kelly Richardson. This work forms part of The Weather Makers, her first solo exhibition in Scotland, which opens tonight and continues until 29th November.

Mariner 9  (2012), evokes the human search for life beyond our own planet that continues even as we damage or destroy entire ecosystems on Earth. This vast video work was created using scenery-generation software employed by the film and gaming industries in combination with technical data from NASA’s missions to Mars to produce a faithful artist’s rendering of Martian terrain, populated by the debris from centuries of exploration.

The Weather Makers will present three large-scale video works alongside a new print series, weaving together myth and metaphor with scientific research and new digital technologies, The exhibition asks the viewer to consider what the future might look like if we continue on our current trajectory of planetary pillaging and consumption, and why we have allowed ourselves to arrive at such a moment of global environmental crisis. Richardson creates hyper-real digital films of rich and complex landscapes that have been manipulated using CGI, animation and sound.

Mariner 9 , a 12-metre-long panoramic view of a Martian landscape set hundreds of years in the future, by Canadian artist Kelly Richardson.

As part of NEoN Digital Arts Festival, Kelly has also been invited to curate an exhibition of digital art making reference to both her own immersive landscape work and the festival theme of Media Archaeology. That exhibition will run in Centrespace in the Visual Research Centre on the lower ground floor of DCA, open from Sat 11 November – Sun 19 November 2017. More details coming soon.

Richardson currently lives and works on Vancouver Island where she is Associate Professor in Visual Arts at the University of Victoria. Her work is held in many major international collections including the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, SMoCA and Albright-Knox Art Gallery to the National Gallery of Canada, Art Gallery of Ontario, Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal, Arts Council Collection England and Towner, Eastbourne.

Her work has been selected for the Beijing, Busan, Canadian, Gwangiu and Montreal biennales, and recent solo exhibitions include SMoCA, CAG Vancouver, VOID Derry, Naturhistorisches Museum Wien, and a major survey at the Albright-Knox.

22/09/2017 – 29/11/2017
Dundee Contemporary Arts
Nethergate, 152 Nethergate, Dundee, DD1 4DY
Free. Open daily 10am to 6pm (8pm on Thu)

Rendering the Past with AND Festival

Abandon Normal Devices is a roving biennial of new cinema, digital culture and art, which will be based in the heart of the Peak District between the 21-24 September 2017.

Across four days, the festival will see a host of site-specific installations, world premieres and performances take-over the village of Castleton. From satellites to neutrino observatories, fossilisation to free-fall, this year’s programme will reveal the earth’s layers, from the drone’s eye view to the sunshine-deprived depths of subterranean bunkers, exploring themes of verticality and deep time in a series of prophetic, provocative and uncanny reflections on the earth.

NEoN is very excited to be involved with the festival and delivering a panel discussion –  Rendering the Past – looking at how new rendering and image making technologies are allowing us to uncover and see hidden histories. Dr Alice Watterson and Dr Kieran Baxter will discuss recent projects and the opportunities and challenges digital reconstruction presents. Join the discussion on Friday 22nd Sep 2017 @4pm – 5pm, The Peveril Centre

Dr Alice Watterson is an archaeologist specializing in illustration and digital survey and she is currently exploring the use of digital reconstruction as an interpretive tool, focusing on blending digital data with creative practice to general original interpretative content. Dr Kieran Baxter is a creative practitioner specializing in web design, aerial photography and visualization. Through his research, Baxter has found that aerial photography and computer generated imagery can offer an insight of historical built environments. Watterson, Baxter as well as other panelists will look at these practices and how it affects new forms of storytelling, archaeological research and animating the past.

Book tickets to for more information visit here

 

Supported by the National Lottery through Creative Scotland’s Open Project Fund