Feral Research Coalition

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Minimum Viable Artwork

Minimum Viable Artwork

Posted by on Dec 11, 2013 in Featured, Uncategorized |

“The New Museum, New York, plans to transform a warehouse next to its Bowery home into an “incubator” for cutting-edge art, design and technology. Due to open in summer 2014, the centre will be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week and will become the home of more than 60 start-ups and creative entrepreneurs.“ That established cultural institutions are having a hard time relating to art and culture made with contemporary technology is painfully apparent. That they want to remedy this by turning towards the incubator model only shows how desperately regressive they are. My trips to NYC usually include at least one visit to MoMA and the New Museum. I love museums and always have. I enjoy seeing what’s on, even if the work isn’t always inspiring, and I appreciate the historical retrospectives that only a good and well funded archive can support.  I also enjoy being surprised. I usually hate design exhibitions, but I thought MoMA’s Design and the Elastic Mind (2008) was well done, and the New Museum’s Ghosts in the Machine (2012), while not perfect, was an intriguing and much needed look at the roots of contemporary art and tech practice (although the List Center’s Stan VanDerBeek retrospective (2011) was better.) Some museums, like the Museum Tinguely in Basel which hosted METAMATIC Reloaded (2013), or the DeCordova which held a Pat Keck retrospective (2004),  are worth noting because they more than occasionally seek out and engage art practitioners who are working in the field of art and technology but, and this is key: probably don’t look like it. It is unlikely that any of the artists featured in the exhibitions I mentioned above will be found writing Python code over a cafe midnight at Ritual (unless it’s their day job) because, for the most part, in the ecosystem of the artists I admire who are chasing the meat of art and tech, there couldn’t be three institutions less relevant than New York’s major museums, startup culture and (since I’m barbecuing sacred cows): hacker spaces. This is not to say that these institutions are inherently evil or bad at what they do, it’s just to say that they...

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Complexity: Biting the Hand that Feeds

Complexity: Biting the Hand that Feeds

Posted by on Oct 24, 2013 in Featured, manifesto |

I am writing this in the back of a classroom at EPFL on day four of a conference on complexity. Today’s speaker is Italian and he apologizes for his basic French. His slides are in English. The professor organizing the event is squirming visibly and then, perhaps realizing (but probably not) that we can all see him, his positions his hand in front of his face and watches the rest of the lecture stone-faced, tensing a bit when the lecturer drops English phrases into his talk.   Like almost all of my classes at EPFL this began as an interesting promise and ended in disappointment: I came prepared to discuss ideas of complexity and architecture (in particular social complexity and the way contemporary mobile/social technologies have allowed us different modes of interaction with architecture) and found myself attempting to get work done in between arguing halfheartedly that English is not (entirely) a blasted wasteland of nonsense.   There are about ten students, seven of whom have worked together before. On the first day the three students who were not already part of the group were asked to present their work. We were given two minutes each of the nearly 60 hours this course is requiring. After my presentation the professor in charge shrugged dramatically as if to say “Well, that’s a thing…” and asked the class if there were any questions. There weren’t.  Another student in the class (from France, incidentally) argued (in French) that it might be useful to conduct the class in English. What followed was a fairly lengthy debate (in French) about the presence of these foreigners in their class and the definition of the term “English Friendly” which self-evidently requires that everyone be fully capable of speaking French but which “permits some English.” The other American in my class stuck it out a few more hours and then quit, but I’m still here because I’m a stubborn bastard. Also I need the credits. My friend B, a woman fluent in French but whose family is Ethiopian and German and who just returned from a long tour of Africa and China, tells me I’m taking this...

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Field Trip: Collection de l’Art Brut

Field Trip: Collection de l’Art Brut

Posted by on Jul 29, 2013 in Featured, Fieldtrips |

The Collection de l’Art Brut (Art Brut museum) in Lausanne, Switzerland is one of my favorite museums. I’m here to see the Daniel Johnston show because it closes tomorrow. It’s unusual to see American artists in Lausanne but not, for some reason, at l’Art Brut, which featured Seattle’s Gregory Blackstock last year and currently the late Charles Steffen of Chicago. The Blackstock show was in the same space as the Johnston show: a low room in the back on the second floor, painted white and brightly lit (unusual for this museum whose main exhibition halls are matte black with dark carpeting). The curators have done a nice job. Johnston’s work doesn’t really hold a lot of weight on its own – you need to understand the whole Daniel Johnston thing: the man, his music, the film. The curators of the show know this and so there’s a tape loop of his music playing softly overhead. Behind one of the display walls is a television showing The Devil and Daniel Johnston with French subtitles. There are half a dozen people watching raptly, each with their own headphones.  On the opposite wall there’s a display case with a photo of Kurt Cobain wearing the Johnston T Shirt and a stack of SxSW cassette tapes with Johnston’s hand drawn labels on them.       The show is ok, and I like Daniel Johnston, but it doesn’t take much to process drawings of BONER and SLUT rendered in office supplies. I end up thinking instead about why I like this museum as much as I do. I probably shouldn’t.     It seems exploitive to have an entire space dedicated to “art by crazy people,” to bundle it and show it and charge at the door, and yet I don’t feel anything of the sort: I sometimes leave l’Art Brut feeling tired, but I never leave angry. There were many reasons I moved to Lausanne, but a big motivator was a desire to deliberately and definitively change the course of my life. I didn’t expect to find (nor did I find) anything lifechanging in this country, but I did change my life and I did it...

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Rebar

Rebar

Posted by on Jun 10, 2013 in Featured, Secret History |

“without over exaggerating the point, the significance of reinforced concrete is that modern society is not possible without it… that’s why we talk about it being the foundation of civilization.” In Episode 81 of 99% Invisible, Roman Mars explores the hidden history of the Alvord Lake Bridge in San Francisco and the technological link it represents between the past and contemporary construction. The bridge is at once an eyesore, an accidental monument to failure and a 125 year old example of the technology that swallowed the guilded age and made our contemporary cities possible. Perhaps more interesting is the parallel story of Ernest Ransome and his quest to perfect steel reenforced concrete, whose value was dramtically demonstrated in both a massive fire and the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, but not before Ransome himself had left California in frustration, incapable of overcoming broad skepticism and resistance to his...

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A Feral, Manifest

A Feral, Manifest

Posted by on Jun 8, 2013 in Featured, Uncategorized |

In the cracks between seats creaking under the weight of the monetized networks, in between blockbusters and sales and blaring quantification, behind the drama of the next-big-thing rolling over the bloated corpse of the last-big-thing, something quiet and incredible is happening. Humans (some brilliant some not) are making connections, linking things that should not be linked and discovering intersections where there were none before. In most cases the best of this work is unnoticed and unsponsored, or is greater or more interesting than its context. It refuses to be domesticated because it is angry, or because it is timid, or because it simply cannot be: it fails to fit, it is rejected for being an outlier, or written off as a side effect. Exiled truths find their own homes. Where no one is looking they curl nose-to-tail, generating their own warmth. The work is feral. Ferality as a state of being, a state of mind, an approach: the welcoming of connections across silos and the confrontation of ignorance with a sense of curious play rather than fear. We seek to celebrate and foster these connections: the odd and the brilliant and the hybrid and queer, the missing and the strange, bits of research that are unpopular or misunderstood, overlooked and miscategorized. The DJ/PhD, the philosopher without license, the laughing scientist, the artist writing code, the programmer changing politics. Undefeatable lines of desire: Scar tissue ugly but strong. We delight in these, and so gather our examples as small gifts here in a pile. This effort, too, is doomed, but cheerfully so. It is not an accounting, and there is no endgame, it’s a flotilla of thoughts that will keep us alive as we navigate the places in-between, a semi-periodic journal mending the holes that keep us apart, trying to stitch a fragile future we can all float in on. — Image from BLAST! the Vorticist manifesto, see also: Every Manifesto I Can Find Online (Work in...

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