Exhibits and Performances

Sticky Content Online Exhibition

 

"sticky-content" :: online exhibition of new media art and digital video

 

 

 

curators’ essay by Dale Hudson and Sharon Lin Tay

The online exhibition of new media art and digital video for FLEFF 2009, "sticky-content," takes as its title a popular Internet term for content that gets users to return to websites or networks, spend time on these sites or networks—and perhaps leave something behind.

While stickiness derives from economic theory that has been incorporated into commercially driven marketing practices, the "sticky-content" exhibition seeks to redirect and reroute stickiness into the politicized realms of tactical media, open-source and peer-to-peer (P2P) models, experimental coding, user-generated content, interactive and generative interfaces, and reverse engineering. The exhibition foregrounds web-based media that remix and rewire our understanding of environmentalism—media that aims to make environmentalism—broadly defined—not only sustainable, but sticky!

Approaching this year’s exhibition, we draw inspiration from Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point (2000), which identifies "the stickiness factor," and Chip and Dan Heath’s Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die (2007), which considers the factors that cause an idea to "tip" over into the mainstream where they "stick" and thereby become culturally influential.

The Tipping Point argues that stickiness may be understood according to the model of epidemics. In digital cultures, viral videos spread like epidemics. Information spreads virally, through forwarded emails, SMS text messaging, blogs, and RSS feeds, as well as by word of mouth. Think of the "Yes We Can Obama Song." Think of "Benny Lava." Think of "I Got A Crush… On Obama."

Made to Stick tries to understand how certain ideas become sticky, so that important information--like health warnings about the saturated fat in movie-theatre popcorn cooked in coconut oil--stick as easily as the urban legend about a ring of organ thieves who surgically harvest kidneys from unsuspecting business travellers to sell them on the gray market.

In short, both books are about ideas and phenomena that somehow are extremely effective in getting stuck in our thoughts and perhaps even getting us to change something about ourselves. Given that digital and networked technologies have changed our relationship with the world, we thought we might curate an exhibition that focuses on new media art and digital videos that forward ideas and concepts that have made, or are still making, a difference by sticking.

The euphoria of early digital technologies anticipated an ultimate democratization of media. Anyone, the aspirations dictated, could make media and distribute it online through a proliferation of websites hosting amateur video. Although proliferation gave way to consolidation as commercial interests appropriated the DIY aesthetic, the potential of media produced and distributed via consumer-grade technologies like cellphones remains an important component in the formation of new media ecologies.

Activist media emphasizes its primary concern with enacting policy change and dislodges expectations of "impartiality" and "balance," which have been naturalized by commercial broadcast media since the early twentieth century. Cellphone movies have the potential to dislodge expectations of high production values without the apolitical relativisms of DIY discourses.

Max Schleser’s Max with a Kaitei (2005–2008), for example, is part of a larger project that explores the "mobile-mentary" (mobile documentary) as a form for small mobile screen productions (kaitei roughly translates from Japanese as "handheld") and proliferate an alternative mode of documentary filmmaking that has the potential to transform the mediascape through the convergence of wireless communication technologies and conventional lens-based media.

Comparably, documentary has been reimaged and reinvigorated as digital, networked, and interactive, as in Nina Simões’s Rehearsing Reality (2007), which operates as a "docufragmentary" wherein users activate short sequences of varying duration and content. Rather than a linear and casual development, the docufragmentary functions according to disintegration while encouraging users to forge their own networks of connection.

Other pieces in the exhibition rework technologies that are widely available, some controlled by corporations like GoogleMaps’s fly-through function, other operating outside the locked-down system of corporate control like BitTorrent. By appropriating technologies, artists and collaborative groups create tactical media that elicit reflection upon the images and interfaces of everyday consumption and technologies.

Torry Mendoza’s Kemosabe version 1.0 (2007) politicizes video mashups by situating black-and-white images of the Lone Ranger and Tonto within the racial logics of classical television and cinema. The clarity of race and linearity of racial distinctions disintegrate, as once-offensive images are appropriated for cultural critique.

Rebecca Baron and Doug Goodwin’s Lossless #2 (2008) reworks "pirated" digital copies of Maya Deren’s anti-Hollywood experimental film, Meshes of the Afternoon (1943), downloading MPEG-2 files through BitTorrent at controlled intervals. The algorithms and codecs fill in missing parts of the visual images. The collaborative The Visual Meditation of a Complex Narrative: T.G.H. Strehlow’s "Journey to Horseshoe Bend" (2008) is a digital hub of archival images and texts that deploys innovative interactive online design with a particular interest to enhance access and participation by the Arrernte people of Ntaria.

Other works explore different articulations of ways that environments unify us. Jody Zellen’s Disembodied Voices (2004) explores the semi-private nature of cellphone conversations, making visible the audible fragments of invisible communications networks, which are part of our everyday environment. The collective lemeh42’s Per fare un tavolo/How to Make a Table (2008) poses questions about the globally successful trade in self-assembled home furnishings. Avi Rosen’s 3 Generation Lullaby (2003) and Parallel Space #1 (2007) examine time-space compressions in relation to intimacy and dissonance.

Finally, the collaborative On The Commons offers reports of events and possibilities that work toward harnessing the capacity of the commons in an era of social fractals. The website offers strategies and solutions from green activism and common creativity that works toward positive social change concerning global climate crisis and the commodification of nature.

Our hope is that the ideas and concepts curated in the piecies in "sticky-content" propel conceiving, understanding, and enacting environmentalism. We hope their "sticky-content" sticks with you.

 

SYNCOPATION

Disembodied Voices (2004) [http://www.disembodiedvoices.com/]
By Jody Zellen

Disembodied Voices considers communication within public spaces, specifically private conversations on cellphones, which render half-dialogues public since they are audible to anyone within the range of hearing. Zellen develops the cellphone as a "metaphor for the new translocal of connected, disembodied voices, linked across space invisibly — forming an unseen network of wanderers, always within reach yet nowhere in sight."

The Visual Meditation of a Complex Narrative: T.G.H. Strehlow’s "Journey to Horseshoe Bend" (2008) [http://heuristscholar.org/cocoon/heurist-test/browser/item-exp/69994/]
A collaborative project led by Hart Cohen, Peter Dallow and Sid Newton (Chief Investigators), with the Strehlow Research Centre and Arrernte people from Ntaria, Central Australia (Partners), with the assistance of Lisa Kaufmann, and Rachel Morley (Research Assistants) funded by the Australian Research Council and based at the University of Western Sydney.

The project intends to map visually the complex narrative of T.G.H. Strehlow’s memoire of the 1922 "death journey" of Lutheran Pastor Carl Strehlow. Utilising archive photographs, film/video, and other documentation, the project aims to collate and project the narrative elements of the memoire as an online database relevant to the Arrernte (Aranda) community and to an Aboriginal sense of place, including specific totemic and ceremonial relationships, and kinship connections. Geographic maps, genealogy charts, images, documents, media resources, and other online collections are also linked to visual representations of the text. An adaptation of the GoogleMaps fly-through function proposes an alternative interface for access to the database of archival materials. This function is desinged to enhance feedback from the Arrernte (Aranda) community, recorded as oral histories, digitized and hyperlinked to further the specific cultural content of the Journey to Horseshoe Bend text, suggesting what Cohen calls "the cultural work of articulating a modern social existence in a white-dominated civilisation, along with an abiding interest in the continuities of tradition that makes cultural practice active, fluid and dynamic."

3 Generation Lullaby (2003) [http://sipl.technion.ac.il/~avi/3_generations/33fl.html]
by Avi Rosen

Rosen composites images of his late father, himself, and his daughter as they sing a lullaby. This project  meditates on intimacy and family relations by compressing time and space, making audiovisual representatives of three generations into one.

Parallel Space #1 (2007) [http://uk.youtube.com/ephemeral8]
by Avi Rosen

This piece expresses a fascination with the emergence of digitality, its compression of space-time as well as defiance of linearity to posit a virtuality that wrecks dissonance on realist conventions.

SPICE

On the Commons [http://onthecommons.org/]

This expansive online new portal is devoted to connecting anyone who identifies with the common movement and its principles of equitable access, democratic values, transparency and social fairness. Through its essays and blogs, commoners exchange knowledge that often escapes the attention of corporate media. The commons transforms simple stories into complex histories much like spice transforms simple ingredients into complex flavors. The idea of On the Commons is simple: "some forms of wealth belong to all of us, and that these community resources must be actively protected and managed for the good and all." These forms of wealth include things that we inherit and create jointly, such as open air, wide oceans, and deep forests, alongside shared social creations such as libraries, public spaces, scientific research and creative works.

Max with a Kaitei (2005–2008) [http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=1jc2iLI5Mx0]
by Max Schleser

As variety is the "spice of life," digital culture is characterised by a variability that eluded analogue media. Multiple, dynamic, and interactive screens are features of new media, exemplified in this experimental documentary made on two mobile phones. The project prompts reflections on the documentary form and pushes the envelope with further thoughts on portable recording devices beyond 16 mm, Super 8, video and digital cameras.

TOXINS

Kemosabe version 1.0 (2007) [http://www.torrymendoza.com/kemosabe1.html]
by Torry Mendoza

Kemosabe version 1.0 disrupts the colonial racial logic of the "American Frontier" by recalibrating the relationship between Tonto and the Lone Ranger. Through syncopated beats of dialogue and music, Mendoza reworks an offensive stereotype for Native Americans whose history in U.S. cultural production begins with the dime novels of Zane Grey and continues through radio shows, comic books, serial movies, and television series, where the characters were portrayed by actors Jay Silverheels and Clayton Moore. Here, the ambiguous meaning of "kemosabe," Tonto’s name for the Lone Ranger, foregrounds the productive possibilities for repurposing the toxins of cultural artefacts.

Rehearsing Reality (2007) [http://www.rehearsingreality.org]
by Nina Simoes

Rehearsing Reality  is an interactive "docu-fragmentary" on the MST (Movimento dos trabalhadores rurais sem terra), a Brazilian landless movement, and its use of Augusto Boal’s Theatre of the Oppressed as a mode of rupture and interaction, prompting social transformation and cultural formation. Like Boal’s spect-actors, users click on images for segments that document performances and interviews from opposing points of view, opening to a multiplicity of meanings.

TRADE

Lossless #2 (2008) [http://cairn.com/vids/lossless/lossless2.zip]
by Rebecca Baron and Doug Goodwin

Lossless #2 is a series of controlled experiments downloading a digitized version of Maya Deren’s Meshes of the Afternoon (1943) via the open-source P2P protocols of BitTorrent. Visual images download unevenly, so that algorithms anticipate the color signals of pixels, resulting in new "meshes" in this digital performance of 16mm experimental film. In the spirit of the open-source trade, this short film can be downloaded as a MPEG file. In a recent installation of the Lossless series of five films, Lossless #2 was screened on an iPod embedded into the gallery wall.

Grenze (2004–2007) [www.grenze.org]
by Patrick Fontana in collaboration with Emeric Aelters and Pierre-Yves Fave

This project is a series of visual readings of Karl Marx’s Grundrisse manuscripts (1857–1861) and Capital (1867) informed by the philosophical elaborations of Jacques Rancière, Giorgio Agamben, and Antonio Negri. Videos are generated from "artificial units of development" (AUD), which correspond to fragments from Marx. Two-dimensional animations reproduce "idiotic motions"; three-dimensional animations, "more complex real and metaphoric movements." The cube-capital is in perpetual transformation.

Per fare un tavolo/How to Make a Table (2008) [http://www.vimeo.com/711136]
by the lemeh42 Collective

Per fare un tavolo/How to Make a Table is a spoof on instruction manuals that come with self-assembled furniture with an environmental twist. Taking on the style of instruction manuals for Ikea furniture, the collective lemeh42 reflects on the globally successful trade in self-assembled home furnishing and reminds us of a few steps in the furniture making process before they are purchased in flat pack boxes.