Wikipedia Art goes to Bangalore

I am flying to Bangalore (Bengaluru) tonight. Here, I will be presenting an academic paper at WikiWars Conference with my colleague and close friend, Nathaniel Stern.

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Looking at what we call “performative citations”, we will be focusing on the infamous Wikipiedia Art project and introducing a contemporary application of the performative utterance — as applied to Wikipedia.

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This will be the first of a two-part gathering to put together material for the Critical Point of View (CPOV) Reader. The second will be in Amsterdam in March. I’m excited.

Apple’s Jailhouse (part 2)

We are making good progress on the Open Video Sync project. It’s buggy but the syncing code works!

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After some thought about how to best make this available to a wide set of users and support some of Apple’s undocumented APIs — ones that are basic like pausing a movie or playing it back on an external device, (see this thread for the geeks out there) we have decided to release two versions of Open Video Sync, one for App Store which will be a slimmed-down version and one for the Cydia Store — for jailbroken phones, which will be a full-featured version.

I’m still disappointed with Apple and their closing down of the iPhone. But apparently I am just one of many.

Apple’s Jailhouse (part 1)

Open Video Sync is one of my Eyebeam projects and will be a way to turn your iPhone or iPod touch into a cheap and wireless video synchronization tool.

We have unfortunately come to the conclusion that we will have to release this as a jailbroken application which means it will be released on the Cydia Store rather than the Apple Store (here is a glossary of what these terms mean) which means restricting the audience to a more tech-savvy group, but there is no other way.

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The bone of contention is the use of undocumented interfaces and there is specifically one called the MPTVOutInterface which lets you playback video onto an external device. Apple doesn’t support this for the development community which is a foot-shooting maneuver.

First of all: any video player should have a direct-to-device output. In fact, here is a great iPhone hardware hack that will let you do just that.

Second: this is already something that works for Apple’s own iPod video player. It is well-tested and should be folded into the general API.

The shoot-in-foot problem is this: it is only a matter of time before the open source Google Android phone catches up. Right now, it still lacks the necessary inter-phone communication via Bluetooth/wireless API. And also the phone is too expensive, requiring a service plan. The iPod touch is an excellent model: cheap, great UI and a lot of application support. Hopefully the Android will come up with a similar model sooner than later.

Apple could profit from iPhone-as-gaming device such as this example.

In the meantime, my co-developer, Eric Brelsford and I have decided to jailbreak and go Cydia on this one.  Stay tuned.

See this show: Oil by Edward Burtynksy

Burtynsky’s work is a powerful indictment of capitalism’s effects on our planet. With striking compositions of mass production, strip-mining and congested highways, taken from a aerial point-of-view, his photographs are both disgusting and aesthetically beautiful.edward-burtynsky-oil

In his TED talk here, he speaks about the tension between the depressing content and the sheet beauty of his work, directing the viewer away from a didactic dialogue about human effect on the planet and instead infiltrating our artistic sensibilities with environmental issues.

The show runs through November 28.
At Hasted Hunt Kraeutler Gallery
537 West 24th Street, New York

Astronauts without a home

As part of the Postgravity Art: Synaptiens event which invites hour-long interventions into a 50-hour performance cycle, I will be enacting a two-person performance: Space Age Love.

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Here, Victoria Scott and myself will be floating in space — in Second Life space — and communicating via chat, while our cameras point at one another and our astronaut avatars perform acrobatics. The two viewpoints will be projected onto the Synaptiens structures at Eyebeam. This is happening today (Nov 12 2009) along with performances at 2:30 by Jamie O’Shea and 4:30 by Rashaad Newsome.

I call this an auto-biographical performance as the two of us are floating between San Francisco and New York, working out opportunities, desires and finances to find a home. The chat will be entirely improvised, discussing these issues in live space at Eyebeam.

OVS & GPL & BSD

This week I’ve been researching what type of open source license to use with the Open Video Sync (OVS) project — one of the many things I’ve got going on at Eyebeam.

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Open Video Sync will do amazing things for video artists (and others), namely the ability to synchronize video playback across multiple cheap video players, such as the iPod touch.

The legal issue is that OVS is an iPhone application and is therefore running on an essentially developer-unfriendly and closed environment. In addition to the numerous restrictions that Apple imposes upon developers, including esoteric developer’s certificates and provisioning profiles, programmers have to pay $99 fee to download their custom programs onto their mobile devices.

After meeting with Fred Benenson today, it became clear to me that iPhone development presents problems with the GPL namely that it is not free software. This means that I will end up deploying the software with a more liberal, BSD-style license.

Why not Google Android — a device that is open? Simply: iPod Touches are cheap, require no service plan and  the iPhone SDK supports inter-phone communication. Some day, I’d like to port Open Video Sync to a more open platform, but not until it is cost-effective for users.

Amateur Book Review

I recently read a wonderful book and decided to write about it. Perhaps Andrew Keen would disapprove of an artist writing a book review, but Claire Pentecost would certainly be on my side.

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“Pieces for the Left Hand: 100 Anecdotes”
by J. Robert Lennon

Reviewed by Scott Kildall

I was hastily packing my bags for a red eye flight from San Francisco to New York and was looking for a new book to read. I found this one on my shelf and have no recollection of purchasing it. Indeed, I had never even seen it before.

My own experience mirrors many described in the 100 very short stories written by Lennon. A seemingly insignificant event (usually in a small town) often changes everything afterwards. His stories simultaneously embrace the ironic and sincere as he reflects on the both the durability and hopelessness of human nature.

The tales begin with simple observations or events. Pleasing white smoke emanates from the neighbor’s chimney, but later turns out to be something else. In another story, a professor spurns the local left-handed society and then loses his right arm in a car accident, but not his essential optimism. Another anecdote recalls a bronze sculpture of a mother breastfeeding, which vanishes from the town square and, to the bafflement of the local police, is mysteriously replaced 9 months later with the same woman bottle-feeding.

The collection causes a rethinking of the impact of small events and what we choose to pay attention to in life. Depicting the subjectivity of memory and the shifty nature of imagination, Lennon dips the reader into different places and times. These fragments of fiction unite to form a collective whole that capture an essential contradiction: that we have the capacity to transform yet are trapped by our own selves.

Video Portraits at Micaela Gallery

Tonight opens the full compilation of my Video Portraits artwork in the video room at Micaela Gallery (San Francisco) as part of the Winter Salon 2009 series.

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The opening reception is (Nov 5th 2009) and the show runs through January. Video Portraits (2006-2008) has been shown internationally including venues in Spain and China as well as more locally in Vancouver, Portland, Chicago and other cities, attracting a global audience and has been featured in one of KQED’s SPARK television segments. I am pleased that Micaela Van Zwoll has chosen to feature this work as one of the video pieces she will be representing.

To make this video, I ask strangers at different events or from specific demographics ranging from Chinese New Year’s Parade to surfers on a beach to taxi drivers in India for a photograph. Without telling them, I switch my digital camera to video mode, capturing them posing for the camera with fixed smiles and uncertain looks. There are 17 “episodes” each lasting for 2-3 minutes.

After the session, I let them in on the trick and to date, everyone has laughed at themselves as they strike a pose that reveals their truer selves. Advancing the notion of portraiture into video form, I draw links in this work to a cultural shift to a documentation-based global world.

Here is one such segment from San Francisco Wondercon convention.

Foucault’s Heterotopias

Don’t be intimidated, this essay by Michel Foucault is an easy read and highly relevant to the theme of Re-conceptualizing Space.

Today begins my stint as Eyebeam’s guest reblogger for a two week cycle. You will see a breif study of common points along a number of disciplines including art interventions, astrophysics and virtual worlds, among others. I will examine how “space” itself has changed in the last 10 years.

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Foucault coins the term “heterotopia” as a real place, which acts as a practical utopia and serve as a site to represent and invert the culture it surrounds. I’m particularly enamored of the forth principle: the linkage to time-slices. Cited examples include the cemetery, the boat and the brothel. Print it out, find a cafe and have a good read. Thanks to my good friend, Paul LaFarge for the suggestion.

New DVD by Second Front

Second Front has just released its Second DVD: Avvie Road. We will be having a formal DVD launch party at our performance night at Eyebeam on October 9th, 2009. This is a chance for everyone to see us perform live along with Alan Sondheim and Lily & Honglei and of course to get a collection of our performance art videos.

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On the DVD will be 11 selections of iconic Second Front performances including Car Bibbe #2, Grand Theft Avatar, Summer of Love (performed in conjunction with Patrick Lichty’s 12×12 show at the MCA in Chicago) and Therapy.

Second Front is a 7-member performance art group that includes Gazira Babeli (Italy), Yael Gilks (London), Bibbe Hansen (New York), Doug Jarvis (Victoria), Scott Kildall (San Francisco), Patrick Lichty (Chicago) and Liz Solo (St. Johns).


Changing Labor Value for 8 bucks

Come to the Changing Labor Value panel at the New School today, Tuesday  at 5:30pm. Victoria Scott and I will be showing a portion of the No Matter — a fly-through video in the reception beforehand. I’ll be there in person!

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This event is a prelude to Internet as Playground and Factory that will be taking place from November 12-14 where we’ll be presenting the No Matter project in context of the labor that we contracted in Second Life to materialize 40 imaginary objects.

Don’t Freeze Your Head

Alcor is a company which cryonically freezes people for a future afterlife and charges $150,000 to  freeze your whole body, but they offer a discounted $80,000 for just the head. My advice: go for the full monty.

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Here’s why. Listen to this Radiolab podcast from our friends at WNYC. Mind-blowing stuff. The body is essential in the determination of emotional self. Feelings of fear, love, anger and everything else that makes us human stems from the direct observation its own physiological responses.

Forget the brain-in-a-vat and remember that there is no ghost in the machine.

Phantom limbs are real and (according to the broadcast) paraplegics feel less. The body is critical in how the brain works, contesting the alluring idea of uploading your consciousness in some sort of Kurzweilian fantasty.

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Cameras as Projectors

Earlier this month, Nikon announced their CoolPix S1000pj camera, which has a built-in projector — the first camera to do this as of yet.

I’m not a gadget whore nor am I advocating buying this product, with its $430 price tag, but it does bring up some amazing social possibilities.

Imagine this: instead of 3 or 4 people huddled around a 3-inch LCD screen, you instead project your images from parties and travel against the walls of the local bar or restaurant. While some people don’t approve of this, I say why not? Cafes have become laptop opium dens, people gab on their cell phones on sidewalks, and I have been asked to move aside while looking at artwork for the sake of a quick photo.

Public space is replete with devices and this one will at least foster face-to-face social communication rather than isolation. I can’t wait.

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Better Diagrams

This is a more readable diagram than the chicken scratch one I wrote last Friday.

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This shows the Open Hardware modular component design for the custom LED projectors that I have begun  prototyping at Eyebeam.

The gray boxes are the mandatory components and the white ones are optional, depending on the design. The idea here is to let others come up with better battery systems and LED bulbs but still keep the structure of this project intact.

Incidentally, if you are looking for a good Arduino startup kit, check this one out from adafruit — just $50. I just ordered one as a prototyping tool for things such as the PWM for the LEDs.

BiW at JTTP

Brooklyn is Watching (BiW) hosts a sim in Second Life which is a wonderful curatorial project that invites SL artists to create artwork on their space. The resulting creations range in quality and are subject to commentary by a weekly podcast by several commentators. I’ve been a guest podcaster a few times, participating in a production of the absurd: a radio podcast commentary of an entirely visual environment that most people don’t understand.

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Jay Van Buren, the main guy currently behind BiW

On Friday I went to the BiW presentation of The Final Five at Jack the Pelican Presents (JTTP) Gallery in Williamsburg. These were the five selected artworks which were presented on montiors with headphones and a voting sheet. My major critique is that the BiW project seems to presents Second Life art from the vantage point of an insider’s perspective rather than a contemporary art point-of-view.

This doesn’t have to be the case. There are a number of works which bridge the virtual and the real including RMB City (Cao Fei), Invisible Threads (Stephanie Rothenberg and Jeff Crouse), The Salt Satyagraha (Joe Delappe), in all fairness to the dialogue, my collaboration with Victoria Scott, No Matter and not to overlook the recent Summer of Love 2.0 (Patrick Lichty)

The presentation of the BiW works at the gallery reinforced this — a level of confusion for the viewers who often had more general questions of what is Second Life and so often didn’t even understand what they were judging. Coupled with the fact that you had to put headphones on to listen to one our rambling podcasts, I wondered how successful this physical exhibition was.

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Final Five at Jack the Pelican Presents

The strength of Brooklyn is Watching is in the community it creates — and I would like to see them explore this side of things: discussing Second Life works but in a way that creates a tangible bridge to the real. This is why the podcasts have been sucessful because it makes the broadcasters and the audience strain to understand what is not in front of them: an imaginary realm that reflects the nature of Second Life itself.

I had a little fun of my own and during the show itself, I sneaked onto the computer and transferred $50L to my own avatar, Great Escape from the BiW avatar. Hey, performance art costs money!

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First Week at Eyebeam

I’m excited to be one of the Resident Artists for Eyebeam this Fall along with the other artists: Diana Eng, Nora Ligorano & Marshall Reese, Rashaad Newsome and Marina Zurkow. Today marks the end of my first week: getting oriented, research, setting up my workspace and more — a real treat to be in Chelsea and part of an amazing organization that has funded and assisted so many artists as well as public programs for students and much more.

For the last 3 years, I’ve been focused on a studio practice in San Francisco which has been developing many individual works including popular video and prints including Future Memories, Uncertain Location, Video Portraits and Paradise Ahead, along with several collaborations such as No Matter, Wikipedia Art and Second Front.

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While this period has been prolific and fruitful, I could feel myself straying from my roots of community activism and group collaboration. Here at Eyebeam, I will be developing some open source and open hardware technologies which will enable mobile and networked video projectors using LED bulbs for power.

It is ambitious, I know. But, I think this is an amazing and prescient technology that will soon be ubiquitous. I’d like to make the means available to modification and customization by artists and others. I have my own ideas for several projects which could use mobile and cheap projection systems which can synchronize video channels.

So far, my favorite links for the build-your-own projector community has been the one at Lumen Labs which is a storehouse for ideas and conversations. Additionally, there are some useful examples on Instructables and on engadget of DIY projectors. Most involve ripping apart off-the-shelf components and modifying them to make them into home-brew projectors. Remember that the DIY projector is different than the open hardware designs.

Here is a crude diagram, which illustrates my poor handwriting, of a general design for opening up the hardware I want to make a design that is cheap, modular, open and effective. All of this for less that $500. Each unit will be able to be synchronized using custom iPhone software that I will write during my stay here (more on that later).

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