Ryan Trecartin’s riverthe.net Could Use More Flow

October 18, 2010 · Print This Article

Ryan Trecartin’s latest big project is riverthe.net, an online website in which anonymous users can upload 10 second video clips and are asked to provide them with a maximum of three descriptive tags. The videos are then incorporated into the site’s larger stream of moving images, whose narrative “flow” is dictated solely by these tags. Trecartin collaborated with Tumblr founder David Karp on this project, which will be exhibited as part of the New Museum’s upcoming exhibition Free opening this Wednesday in New York. Trecartin debuted the project on Art Fag City earlier this month, and in conjunction with that Paddy Johnson conducted a lengthy and really fascinating interview with Trecartin about riverthe.net and his recent work in general. Go there for an in-depth take on the project and how it very well could change the (internet) world. (No, seriously, it could).

I feel compelled to note, however, that I’ve been trying to watch riverthe.net without much success over the past few days. For me, the experience can only be described as an exercise in frustration and seriously, seriously delayed gratification minus the gratification. The “flow” of this river is mega-choppy, I get maybe two seconds of video and 10-15 seconds of freeze-frame, and so on throughout the entire experience. From reading Trecartin’s interview with Johnson, I have to assume that a chopped-up subversion of narrative pleasure is not at all what Trecartin and Karp are going for. But that’s been my experience of the project so far, and though I am a numbskull when it comes to tech stuff I know I have a pretty good computer (latest type of iMac with the big screen, and our house has WiFi). So, you know, my setup, which I’m very lucky to have, is not good enough to view this project. Is it because the project itself needs fixin’ on the back end, or because I need even better equipment than that of the average user to view it the way it was intended? Um, if that’s the case – that’s not cool, for all the obvious reasons.

However, if we give the project the benefit of the doubt and assume that the choppiness is just par for the internet course, or better yet, something fixable that will soon be addressed, there’s a lot of interesting food for thought in what Karp and Trecartin are experimenting with here. I’m particularly interested in the idea of riverthe.net as a type of crowd-sourced movie that does away with interface and textual prompts in favor of ideas expressed “without using words,” as Trecartin explained during his conversation with Johnson. And it does so partly by doing away with curation altogether–anyone can upload video material, and that material doesn’t need to be voted up or down or “liked” or “favorited” or any of that type of crowd-sourced curation, in order to gain access or greater visibility within the overall stream. I like that.

Beyond these comments, I’m reserving judgment to see how riverthe.net takes off as greater numbers of people learn about it and start uploading more content to the site. I’m doing my little part by blogging about it here. Go check out the site for yourself and maybe upload something too–this is a project that definitely needs the contributions of the crowd in order to reach its true potential.

Screenshot from riverthe.net




We Feel Fine / Lovelines

February 15, 2010 · Print This Article

This pair of web projects, which utilize personalization algorithms and are created by Jonathan Harris and Sep Kamvar, are oldies but goodies. In case you’re like me and hadn’t known about them before now, I’m passing them along for your post V-Day pleasure & pain. Both are fantastic, mesmerizing, and addicting (make sure you try out the localization menus). Damn my laptop for being so old and slow! Hopefully the applets will load up faster on yours. Click the images below to be taken to the projects, and be patient, they may take awhile to load but they are so worth it.




Friday Clips 4/17/09

April 17, 2009 · Print This Article

Am I alone in thinking that whole Susan Boyle thing was a setup? Everyone’s “surprise faces” looked sort of fake to me. ANYWAY, here’s an otherwise Boyle-free, purely subjective round-up of art-world events, news stories, blog links and other stuff in Chicago and beyond that got me thinkin’ this week….

* Literary theorist Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick dies of breast cancer at 58 (New York Times Obit.).

*In latest round of filings, Shephard Fairey turns tables on AP, accuses news organization of copyright violation. (Culture Monster).

*Ellsworth Kelly to install “White Curve,” his largest wall sculpture to date, in the Art Institute’s new Modern wing next week. The Art Institute will also add Kellys’ “Tableau Vert” (a gift from the artist) and “Red Diagonal” (gift of Chicago collectors Howard and Donna Stone) to its collection (New York Times).

*”Class Pictures: Photographs by Dawoud Bey” opens at Milwaukee Art Museum.

*Gearing up for Art Chicago: Buckminster Fuller’s Fly’s Eye dome now on view at Merchandise Mart (no admission fee required). (The Skyline).

*Skip this page: a retrospective of Rhizome’s splash page internet art now on view at Rhizome.org. (Art Fag City has a typically thoughtful review of it here).

*Across the board, museums face worsening crises. Artinfo.com has created a handy timeline of Museums and the recession (this last via Art21 blog; but, as blogger Kelly Shindler points out, the stats in the timeline need verification).

*Another walk-in pantry at Chicago’s mini dutch takes place this Sunday from 12-3 (email Lucia to let her know you’re coming). BYOB, $3 donation. What’s on the menu? Quiche!

*All four seasons of PBS series Art21: Art in the 21st Century can now be viewed on Hulu. Also free for the grabbin': The Tate‘s media library on iTunesU.

*More “free” stuff: Sweepstakes contest for Damien Hirst lithos and “the chance” to win his original album cover painting for The Hours (via Animal). Now point me in the direction of the Ayn Rand compound, please.




Tag ties & effective spies

April 10, 2009 · Print This Article

tag ties & affective spies

On the social networking front….The National Museum of Contemporary Art (EMET) in Athens, Greece, presents Tag ties & effective spies, an online exhibition of internet art that takes a critical look at social networking. From the exhibition website:

Tag ties & affective spies is a critical approach on the social media of our times. What happens  when we are “tagging” , “posting” and “sharing” our experiences and opinions  in platforms such as those of Facebook, YouTube, flickr or del.icio.us? Are we  really connecting and interacting or are we also forming the content and the structure of the social web itself? The online works included, highlight the controversies of the web 2.0, commenting on the constant balancing between order and chaos, democracy and adhocracy, exposure and exploitation that it presents.

Curated by Daphne Dragona, the exhibition features works by Alessandro Ludovico , Christophe Bruno , Daphne Dragona, Gregory Chatonsky, Jodi, Jonathan Harris, Juan Martin Prada, Les Liens Invisibles, Paolo Cirio, Personal Cinema, Ramsay Stirling, Sep Kamvar, The erasers, and Wayne Clements. (Via Rhizome).

Marisa Olsen at Rhizome has a useful and generously-linked write-up on the show.




Twit Twat Twut, The Art of Twitter

March 23, 2009 · Print This Article

What do you call an artist who uses Twitter as their main medium–a Twartist? Ugh, forgive me; I’ve been exposed to too many stupid Twitter puns lately and I still haven’t had enough coffee this Monday morning. As part of my ongoing (if admittedly somewhat half-assed) efforts to track the intersection of contemporary art and social networking technologies, I present for your consideration a couple of interesting upcoming Twitter-related art projects that have crossed my screen of late. The first is “Twitter Island,” a social networking experiment and art performance piece that will take place here in Chicago this Saturday, March 28th.

Organized by Seth Gershberg and Lauri Apple for The Chicago Art Department, the project is limited to 30 volunteer Twitterers who will convene at the Chicago Art Department with their laptops and/or cell phones and be given an anonymous Twitter account. The volunteers will be divided into two groups of fifteen; the control group will be asked to respond to specific questions from a moderator, the other group allowed to tweet to their heart’s content without outside influence. The experiment will last for ninety minutes, after which both groups will be invited to “create something” (as the press release puts it) based on their experience.

Notes Apple, again from the project’s press release:

“What I’m most curious about is the tension that will inevitably be created as people are required to use Twitter to communicate with people who they could just walk over and say hello to — how will this manifest in how the participants act, and what they say? I’ve seen people texting at crowded parties and social functions; why not talk to the people who are already in the room? Also, I have friends who live down the street who don’t call me, but will tweet or Google chat me to tell me how lonely they are. What is driving these choices we’re making, and are we cognizant of the emotions that result from these choices? With Twitter Island, we’re telling people they don’t have a choice to talk to each other — they have to use technology. Will they rebel? Get bored? Get angry? Or will it seem perfectly natural to stay at their computers and phones?”

Secondly, @platea is a still sorta nebulous something that sounds somewhat similar to the Twitter Island project (without the control group part). Spearheaded by artist An Xiao, it’s an ongoing public art meets social media project. On the project’s blog, Xiao offers this description of @platea:

“a stweet art collective consisting of artists and non-artists who share an interest in the power of public art carried out in the digital megacity. “Platea,” from the Latin for “street”, came to signify in medieval theatre a neutral space on stage. It morphed and changed as necessary, depending on the actors’ actions and the assumed setting. I find it a fitting analogy for the swiftly-evolving, redefining nature of social media, whose tenors change with the tide of user activity but whose effect–discussion and connection–remains overall the same.”

I’m still cringing over the term “stweet art,” just give me a few seconds to get over that….ok, better. Xiao was interviewed recently on the blog smArts&Culture (oh yeah, today is gonna be shitty pun day) about her thoughts on Twitter as a medium; she also did a “Twitterview” with art blogger Hrag Vartanian last March 18th that’s hard to follow when read only in retrospect, but a summation of the conversation is supposed to be forthcoming on Vartanian’s blog soon here. In addition, @platea’s first large-scale online “happening” is slated for this week; apparently, you can join in by following @platea on Twitter.

If you wind up participating in either of these events, I’d  love to hear your take in the comments.