DIS Magazine do not just pretend to talk about contemporary culture by mentioning Edward Snowden, Google cars, or Apple Watches. Much like the more conceptual K-Hole, they have instead created a visual concept for a high capitalism in which brands have become the channel to an audience. Reflecting the economics of today’s creative production, DIS Magazine is a platform that also sells digital images. These images often show inexplicable but universal settings with posed-natural moments to display user subjectification – DIS Magazine’s images are problematizing the user as an ocular subject, as Bratton once put it. Since their launch in 2010, they have tried out various forms between fashion, image distribution, art performance, and others; one of the next will be to curate the Berlin Biennale in 2016.
Right from its start, cultural pessimism has embraced the #museumselfie, although the #museumselfie is not the fault of the internet (or Instagram; or omnipresent phones). Instead, it is a logical continuance of what has been coined “the art-architecture complex” (Hal Foster), a transformation that changed the field of art in the 90’s. In other words: not selfies, but the spectacle of beautifull titanium bent side museum constructs by Frank Gehry reduced the artwork to wallpaper; and art fairs becoming the spectacle they are today did the same for contemporary art. Corresponding to this change, the first #museumselfie day was launched 2014 by UK’s Cultural Themes campaign. Quickly, Jay-Z got involved.
A common theme runs from the first art portraits all the way through the centuries up to our time and into our mobile devices that are taking selfies: looking at people looking out of pictures. The past, Walter Benjamin once wrote, can be seized as an image that flashes up at the moment of its recognisability – and this is exactly what is happening here in this great project with the far too benign name “Museum of Selfies”, started by Danish designer Olivia Muus. An intelligent version of the playful mass phenomenon the next entry talks about.
“Netmares” was like a surfing club but focused on the more mystical and darker side of the net. Though not, like the dark web – more like if you were a 15 year old goth and collecting images, but in a good way.
In New York City on September 15th 2008 the sun rose at 6:36 AM EDT. The morning was met with clear skies, which were only interrupted in the late afternoon by a few scattered clouds. Average temperatures were around 23 °C.
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Trashed in deep time the Silk Road or Silk Route played host to an eclectic composition of travellers, merchants, pilgrims, monks, soldiers, libertarians, nomads, crypto-anarchists and urban dwellers. It’s path ground the earth below it’s feet for centuries before its inevitable decay in the face of collapsing empires; accelerated by the integration of territorial states, the onset of mercantilism and trade’s recession into the high seas.
Whilst it’s spirit lay dormant for centuries, the emergence of new and grotesque faultlines in the empires and civilisations that had arisen in its wake signalled the possibility of a revival. As the regulatory frameworks of the Nation States began to crumble and buckle in the opening decade of the 21st century under the pressure of new routing possibilities and the ideology of frontier networks.
The Silk Road resurfaced from it’s slumber in 2011 as a borderless territory, operating from within and between empires. Acting in ode to the moment in which the speed of light had not only transformed the world but had become the world.
Stewarded at the discretion of the Dread Pirate Roberts the Silk Road’s first attempts at reincarnation suffered a premature death after 2 years, due in part to a centralised engineering error made on the part of DRP’s living avatar Ross William Ulbricht, who was arrested and jailed for life in 2015.
Seemingly smashed and displaced by the cathedral the Silk Road resolved this initial conflict and the prospect of continual persecution through the embodiment of a hydralike form that submerged itself in the deep web.
Sometimes individuals can take actions that have ramifications for others, and perhaps more acutely impact the direction of future thought, if only in relation to their absence.
I remember the first time I chanced across the spirit surfers manifesto, its tacit references to an almost forgotten place free from e-commerce and capable of sketching a now alien process of deep searches without roads or highways. Even then though it reeked of an acceptable nostalgia for that short period in which some of us as teens were locked in our bedrooms staring into the screen, lost in the desert.
Invoking Hieronymus Bosch and Joseph Cornell with a richness and deeper set of thoughts, there’s a sense that what has followed years after could have perhaps been averted, were it not for Bewersdorf’s decisive erasure of his own material history.
Once a thriving and highly distributed metropolis of citizens and users from all ages and backgrounds, Geocities found itself in the space of less than a decade outdated, accused of nostalgia and of an infantile history better forgotten. The aesthetics and customs that had evolved in parallel were no longer capable of tolerating its presence.
In April 2009 an announcement was posted online. Yahoo! a once benevolent landowner of this kingdom had chosen to purge every settlement without exception – eradicating without a moment of thought for preservation an entire culture. Leaving in its wake but a few caring and diligent librarians with the task of urgent preservation.
Efforts still continue to this day to restore and maintain the fragments of this once thriving civilisation most notably ArchiveTeam, Olia Lialina and Dragan Espenschied and InternetArchaeology.org.
“Maximum Sorrow” was the name of a website created by Kevin Bewersdorf in the mid-late-2000s. Now, the site is “forbidden,” but Bewersdorf talks about it in his book Spirit Surfing (2012), and channels its message and function through the archival ephemera posted on “Share your Sorrow,” a tumblr that attempts to cope with progressive loss.
Bewersdorf was substantially active as an artist online in the second half of the 2000s, during which time he both presaged and transcended much of the net-based art that would follow the turn of the decade. “Maximum Sorrow” seized a kind of corporeal depth, a spirituality, a generosity, and indeed a sadness through the aesthetics and vocabularies of corporate communication. Inherent to the project was an alternative mode of thinking immune to the hyphenates and portmanteaux that have come to tyrannize both the practices and critical discourses concerned with art-making and the internet: “Maximum Sorrow” might have spared us “normcore” and given us corporis nostri instead. Bewersdorf followed its screen-lit path right out of the realm of accessibility. In 2009, he effaced the entirety of his web presence and replaced “Maximum Sorrow” with purekev.com, where only its earliest visitors would have encountered a white flame burning against a blue background – Bewersdorf’s “light on the web” – designed to slowly shrink into disappearance.
Purekev.com is just a blank page now, but Bewersdorf recently launched ritual.technology. The site is among other things home to Poem of the Five Performers, “a conceptual, illustrated poem using animal totems to express the five-fold directional, aural, seasonal, anatomical, emotional and elemental qualities of one whole person.”
The Eternal Internet Brotherhood’s “About” page and introductory video explains the project succinctly: it is a gathering of artists – friends, perhaps – convened to rehabilitate creative and communicative practices through a restorative use of “data, dreams, feelings, knowledge, light and sounds.”
Google Maps are at the forefront of radically reworking the nature of cartography in light of digital communication technologies, and in so doing are rapidly changing our conception of, and relation to, space and hence profoundly, if often subtly, shaping socio-spatial practices. Whilst it is obvious that Google Maps provide an incredibly useful tool (one I use daily) and has made innovative use of citizen/consumer ‘participation’ in adding detail (if largely retail) to cartography, its dominance of course raises a host of troubling questions about who (or what) controls what we know and how we know it. Hence the relationship between knowledge and power that has always been at the core of map-making (and map-reading) is taking on a new significance with Google Maps’ pervasive presence, especially as web access and smart phone use increase and ever more apps employ it as a platform for their own operations. These are concerns whose consequences are sure to be foregrounded in the coming years, especially as Google’s plans to enhance their maps with 3D capacities and develop more accurate, more frequently updated and higher resolution ‘street view’ functions for ever wider areas, come to fruition. Google’s previous complicity with widespread N.S.A spying perhaps takes on a wider significance when viewed in relation to the increasing capacity of Google Maps to guide and monitor the movements of its users, not only as consumers, drivers, tourists and so on, but as the objects of surveillance, both government and corporate.
It is also important to note that the influence of Google Maps is not limited to ‘the West’ as was dramatically illustrated in 2010 when Nicaraguan troops accidentally invaded Costa Rica, taking down a Costa Rican flag and raising a Nicaraguan flag, due to an error of Google Maps (which the Nicaraguan commander was using) that wrongly included the area as part of Nicaragua. Indeed, Google has not only become entangled within geopolitical disputes by default (notably of course in relation to China’s insistence on protecting its own ‘internet sovereignty’) but is actively taking a role within them. For example, Google Maps recognized Palestine as a state to great fanfare in 2013, and the company hired Jared Cohen, former U.S. State Department adviser to Condoloeezza Rice and Hilary Clinton, as Director of Google Ideas, an internal think-tank that “explores how technology can enable people to confront threats in the face of conflict, instability and repression” (with the use of Google products of course). Google are invested unprecedented amongst of research capital into developing their next generation maps and their release is sure to vastly expand their use, by many different types of users. The tensions involved in a corporate platform having this much control over how we conceive, navigate and use space are likewise unprecedented, and they are sure to become heightened the more deeply Google maps become embedded in our daily practices. Maybe more effective ways to inhabit these contradictions can be imagined than simply using Google Maps to find the next insurrectionary pot-luck.
With the affectively deadening pornification of almost everything that can be captured in image and fixated upon has emerged the category of ‘disaster porn’: the transformation of images of devastation (whether human or natural, real or CGI) into objects of voyeuristic pleasure – the serotonin hit afforded by armchair sublimity. In the aftermath of the massive tsunami that battered the east coast of Japan in 2011 and the subsequent nuclear disaster at Fukushima the New York Times published this seductive/grotesque interactive map (March 15th, 2011). In the critical literature on cartography and satellite imaging one hears a lot about map-makers adopting a ‘God’s eye view’, but the sliding before/after bar here allows readers to ‘literally’ play god with the disaster – winding back time to undo the destruction before rushing forward once more as if flattening the landscape with a vengeful swipe. I enjoyed doing this several times, feeling mildly disgusted with the paper and myself, before growing bored. This map seems to highlight some of the downsides of what passes for the much heralded development of ‘interactivity’, which in the guise of ‘engaging’ audiences reduces them to tapping screens – simply replicating gestures and relations already deeply embedded in many aspects of daily life and giving the satisfying impression of a vague agency whilst doing little to stimulate thought. This particular interactive map seems specifically designed to cater for an audience that is aware of the threat of climate change but feels it can do nothing about it – the sliding bar allowing panic to be temporarily placated with the illusion of control. The concept of the Anthropocene has recently served to underline the awesome power of social collectives to act unintentionally as a natural force on the one hand, and on the other, their grave inability to act intentionally as a political force capable of facing the consequences (at least thus far). This map provides a neat symptomatic representation of the pathologies of this so-called ‘age of man’, in which even the radically altered state of human-planet relations can’t puncture anthropocentric myopia.
Bacher’s website is a somewhat cerebral, endlessly fascinating stream of collaged videos, self-leaked emails, and candid photography (my favorite is the pregnant mannequin caught in the trunk of a parked station wagon).