Running from 18-21 June, Computers Watching Movies will be part of the video art program at Incubarte 7, an International Art Festival in Valencia, Spain. The program will exhibit at MuVIM, the Museu Valencià de la Il·lustració i la Modernitat. After the festival finishes, the works will stay on view throughout the month of July. Incubarte 7 is curated by Jorge Montalvo, Lourdes Casany, Emanuela Loprieno, Cristina Ghetti, Toni Cosin, Kasia Nagorska, and Javier Marisco.
In the last couple weeks, I’ve done interviews with two media outlets in South Korea. The first was a television interview on EBS’ nightly program G News (roughly the equivalent of the USA’s News Hour on PBS). You can watch the four minute segment on EBS’ website. The second was a radio interview on BEFM, an English language station in Busan (90.5 FM), for a program called Inside Out.
Both interviews were about Facebook Demetricator, how metrics drive behavior, and other questions around Facebook.
My work ScareMail was written about in the recent book Thinking Through Digital Media: Transnational Environments and Locative Places. The book, by Dale Hudson and Patricia R. Zimmerman and published by Palgrave MacMillan, “…offers a means of conceptualizing digital media by looking at projects that think through digital media, migrating between documentary, experimental, narrative, animation, video game, and live performance.” ScareMail is featured in the chapter on micropublics:
ScareMail asks us to question the normalization of compromised privacy as a part of everyday life in the context of a country whose international clout has been historically anchored to its democratic principles. It also reflects upon racial profiling within automated national-security protocols. The user’s comfort with having NSA keywords in private e-mails is contingent upon knowledge of their place within racial-profiling schemes.
I appreciate the authors’ highlighting of “comfort” as a component of the choice to use or not use ScareMail. Unquestionably this choice has different consequences for different people depending on their race.
My work ScareMail will be on exhibit at the Athens Digital Arts Festival from May 21-24. Held in the center of Athens, Greece at the Diplareios School, the Festival’s theme is Public Space_s, highlighting …
the various aspects of “public” both in the digital and physical space. In our times, the notion of public space appears to be one of the most contradictory concepts while the rise of network and communication technologies has changed our experience of public space. Public space is not only characterised by physical space and architecture but also by networks and knowledge distribution. In this framework, we seek to redefine the multiple interconnected spaces within which we act and raise new questions in relation to the information age.
In addition to the exhibition I’ll be giving an invited artist talk on the evening of May 22. The festival program is directed by Katerina Gkoutziouli and the Webart section is curated by Foteini Vergidou.
…is the major forum for new media art in Poland, and one of the leading international art events in Central Europe. Since its inception in 1989, WRO has been presenting art forms created using new media for artistic expression and communication, exploring current creative territories and building a critical perspective toward emerging issues in art, technology and society.
I’m happy to be a part of this major event directed by Piotr Krajewski.
Been meaning to mention that in Neural #48, my work Computers Watching Movies is reviewed by Aurelio Cianciotta. In the review, titled Computers Watching Movies, films seen from digital entities, Cianciotta writes:
Questioning differences with us as humans driven by narrative, personal history and different pattern recognition abilities, the work also describes an uneasy scene: a movie purposely constructed to capture the imagination of a human audience being viewed by a silent other. Emotion, symbolism, metaphors and random associations are alien to the machine, which analyses on its own terms.
You can read the entire review online, or pickup a paper copy of issue #48. Neural is a magazine/journal from Italy that has focused on new media art, electronic music, and hacktivism since the ’90s. It is published in English and Italian and edited by Alessandro Ludovico.
On Wednesday, April 29, I’m giving an artist talk at NCSA on the UIUC campus. NCSA, also known as the National Center for Supercomputing Applications, is a hub on campus for visualization, big data, interdisciplinary research, and supercomputing resources. My talk, titled “What Does Software Want? Recent Artistic Projects and Research,” will be in room 1040 from 12-1pm. NCSA is located at 1205 W. Clark St in Urbana.
This week I’m off to NYC for Theorizing the Web 2015. I’ll be talking about ScareMail in a presentation titled “Privacy Through Visibility: Disrupting NSA Surveillance With Algorithmically Generated ‘Scary’ Stories.” Theorizing the Web is an interdisciplinary annual conference that “brings together scholars, journalists, activists, and commentators to ask big questions about the interrelationships between the Web and society.” It’s a great group of people, and I’m looking forward to attending for the second year in a row. The panel I’m on is titled “Watched Out” and is being held at 2pm in Studio A on 17 April.
Computers Watching Movies will be part of this year’s Media Art Futures Festival in Murcia, Spain. The invitation comes from curator Pau Waelder, who has placed the work within the Data Cinema program. This program will be on view five different nights during the two week festival running from 15-30 April (see the Program for precise dates). The viewings will take place at the Filmoteca Regional.
Next week I’ll head north to give a couple invited artist talks and workshops. First is Beloit College, where I’m speaking as part of the Liability Labs Incorporated (LLI) experimental residency program run by Nicki Werner. The second is a talk and workshop at Digital Humanities Lab at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. This invitation comes from Marc Tasman and is sponsored by the Digital Arts and Culture Program. Here’s the abstract for my talk/workshop at UWM:
Hide the Metrics and Scare the NSA! Net Art as Artistic Research
When using Facebook, why do we want more “likes” and not less, and how does this “desire for more” change what we post for our friends? How does ubiquitous NSA surveillance affect what we write in an email and to whom we send it? Artist Ben Grosser will present two recent net art works that investigate these questions. The first, Facebook Demetricator, is a web browser extension that removes all quantifications from the Facebook interface, inviting the site’s users to try the system without the numbers and to see how that removal changes their experience. The second is ScareMail, a modification of Gmail that makes all email “scary” in order to disrupt NSA surveillance. Grosser will discuss how these works function as artistic research in order to investigate the social, cultural, and political effects of software. This talk will be followed by a workshop focused on the ways net art practices can reveal new information about the user/site relationship, and how a website’s design constructs user (inter)action. Participants will be guided to brainstorm specific website manipulations, and Grosser will prototype participant ideas in order to visualize and theorize their effects.
I have a couple exhibitions/screenings opening this week.
First up is Terms of Service at the Urban Institute of Contemporary Arts in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Terms of Service “explores identity, individualism and conditions people face as a result of our increasingly indexed and surveilled lives. We are interested in the psychological pressures that commercial and non-commercial monitoring create, as well as potential solutions or responses.” ScareMail is the work I’ll have in the exhibition, and the event is produced by Curatorial Studio taught by Paul Wittenbraker at GVSU. The exhibition runs from 30 March to 17 April, with openings/events on 3 April and 10 April.
Next is a one-night screening at the Crisp-Ellert Art Museum in St. Augustine, FL as part of Jacket. The event is at 7pm on 2 April, and is curated/juried by Kevin Mahoney, Patrick Moser, and Julie Dickover.
There’s much more on tap for the spring (most of it in Europe); I’ll be posting about those shortly.
Last week Carnegie Mellon University design professor Aisling Kelliher talked about artificial intelligence and art on Ireland National Radio’s show Culture File. During the episode, titled “What if computers decided the Oscars?”, Kelliher engaged in some smart conversation about my work Computers Watching Movies. Amongst the questions Kelliher asks are what might movies made to please computer vision algorithms look like?
The discussion of my work starts at 2:50 in the clip, but I recommend you listen to the entire segment (about 8 minutes).
I’m happy to share that my work Computers Watching Movies has been named a top five finalist for the Arte Laguna Prize in Virtual and Digital Art. The winner of the prize will be announced during the opening ceremony on 21 March in Venice, Italy. Since it’s a finalist, Computers Watching Movies will be part of the finalist exhibition at the Telecom Italia Future Centre. Jurist and curator Domenico Quaranta will give a guided tour of the Virtual and Digital Art exhibition on 22 March at 11 am.
I am quite pleased to be the guest artist and composer at this year’s Contemporary Arts Festival at New Mexico State University. There I will join collaborators and saxophonists Rhonda Taylor and Kelland Thomas to produce the second performance of More Like This, my work for saxophones, artificial intelligence, live electronics, and participatory audience.
The performance of More Like This is just one piece in a concert of my works, both music and art. The program is:
Not Pitch (1995)
for baritone saxophone and computer-generated tape
Rhonda Taylor, baritone saxophone
mix whit (1997)
for computer-generated tape
Uninduced Approximation (1991)
for Bb trumpet and computer-generated tape
Pancho Romero, Bb trumpet
lotted ebb (1998)
for computer-generated tape
Computers Watching Movies (2013)
computationally-produced HD video and stereo audio
Touch Me Now (2014)
assembled Vine video loops with audio
More Like This (2014)
two saxophonists, artificial intelligence, live electronics, and participatory audience
Rhonda Taylor, saxophones Kelland Thomas, saxophones
The concert is Friday, 27 February, at 7:30pm (MST). Before the concert, at 6:30pm, I will give a pre-concert talk in the hall as well. In case you aren’t in New Mexico that night you can still catch the event on live stream. Watch the Facebook event page for more details as the night approaches.
I’m happy to share that ScareMail was given the Expanded Media Award for Network Culture at the 2015 Stuttgarter Filmwinter in Stuttgart, Germany. ScareMail was selected at the conclusion of the Expanded Media Festival that ran from 15-18 January at several venues in Stuttgart. An excerpt from the jury statement:
It can be used by everybody as a social tool with a real effect on the networks of surveillance, because it is successfully disabling the control systems with the exuberance of false information. ScareMail is an excellent representative of the media art practice, where software knowledge, activism and aesthetic production are tightly intertwined. It is an easy accessible poetic tool with a real political effect.