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Archive of the category 'Hacking'

Nick vs. Nic at Transitio MX, by Eduardo Navas

A performative confrontation between hardware and software.  Nick Collins vs. Nick Collins: hardware vs. Software, Old School vs. New School.  One of the hightlights of the concert series organized as part of “Bifurcaciones Sonoras” (Aural Bifurcations) for Transitio MX 03.

I was able to attend most concerts that took place nightly at Fonoteca, during Transitio MX, except for the last night of Thursday the 8th.  While there were many highlights, one that I found worth sharing on my blog is the performance of Nick vs. Nic.  A playful sound hacking performance by Nick Collins (USA) vs. Nick Collins (England).  The younger Collins (English) improvised in code, while the more seasoned Collins proved why he is one of the pioneers in circuit bending.  The sound was appropriately distributed and mixed on left and right sides of the stage, allowing the audience to evaluate how software and hardware hacking can be complementary, thus creating a performative mashup:  a meeting between the old school and the new school of experimental sound could not be better.

The Aesthetics of Representation in Circuit Bending, by Eduardo Navas

Detail of Szkieve’s circuit bending performance at Montevideo, Uruguay, July 28, 2006.
Image source: http://www.hushush.com

Note: This text was specifically written as a contribution to ReFunct 09‘s Symposium taking place at ISEA 09.

One might wonder what is the concrete definition of “circuit bending.”  In a way, the name does not completely connect with the actual activity of appropriating sound from pre-existing sources, ranging from electronic toys to hacked radios, or even half-broken generators. When I first heard the term, I thought it referred to strict manipulation of electronic signals.  This possible definition hints at a certain purity in sound with specific electronic technology; yet, in 2009 circuit bending is quite the opposite, even if in the beginning it may have had a leaning towards hacking electronic gadgets of all types.  At the moment, it is a hybrid practice that appropriates any type of sound, freshly recorded or pre-recorded; re-recorded or significantly manipulated; even erased or retraced–or captured live from the environment in which a performance is taking place to be bent immediately, on the fly.

My most memorable performance of circuit bending took place in Uruguay, on July 28, 2006.  I attended a soundtoys event organized by Brian Mackern, one of the first net-artists from the southern cone, active since at least the mid-nineties. Mackern more recently has become a major supporter of sound performances of all types.   The performance took place at the French Alliance of Montevideo, where I saw Mackern and a number of other sound artists perform on customized software interfaces.  A couple of performers used Max MSP and Jitter, while Mackern presented a series of visual platforms built in Flash that remixed well-known movie clips from Hitchcock and Tarkovsky.

I saw a connection with the aesthetic of sound manipulation often found in circuit bending in these performances; yet, it was the performance of Szkieve (Dimitri della Faille), a Belgian-Canadian Sociologist that left a lingering impression on me.  He is obsessed with collecting toys that produce noise in any shape or form with the purpose to use them in circuit bending performances.  In fact, that afternoon, before the performance, I was invited by both Mackern and Szkieve to join them on a walk in downtown Montevideo.  At the time I knew that Szkieve performed with toys, but did not know exactly how he developed his sets.

That evening Szkieve used a green plastic fish toy which he had bought from a street vendor during our walk.  He pulled and released a string from the fish, which then emitted an expected fish-like sound that Szkieve slowly distorted into an echoish abstract noise, somewhat reminiscent of dub.  Szkieve then combined the loop with the distorted sample of a toy train that moved on a circular track.  The pitch of the train’s motion was drastically lowered several notes, turning it into a cacophonous massive bass sound that directly contradicted the petiteness of the actual train.  Szkieve also mixed loops from various electronic devices through a mixer.  If the audience had not experienced the visual development of the performance, the sound could easily have been mistaken for just another experimental electronic mix, carefully developed in a music studio–rather than from toys found at any corner store.

Szkieve’s performance is a good example of how the key to creativity is not so much the ability to produce sound from scratch, or have an advanced skill in performance, but actually to be able to conceptualize the potential of material that may already have a function, or holds particular cultural value.  In this sense, circuit bending is a unique link between individuals who believe that all production should be developed and manipulated from scratch, and individuals who are primarily invested in acts of sampling and recombining material, as commonly understood in Remix.  Circuit bending exposes how in the end it is not important if something is performed live or looped, or is a mix of the two, but rather whether or not what is performed challenges the audience’s perception of the source material.  This is true not just for sound and noise performers, but artists in all fields.

I must admit that I often view circuit bending primarily as a performance based medium.  My case in point is  Szkieve’s performance, in which the sound may not be as interesting on its own but in conjunction with its visual development.

However, Circuit bending is becoming more diverse. In 2009 it is closely linked to physical computing and all types of art installations.  What is promising about circuit bending is that it can be a medium, as well as a tool: it can include software and hardware, or exclude either one, as long as its only requisite is met: that perception be bent.  Most importantly, like Remix, circuit bending can also be an aesthetic, to be cited in literary terms:

The snare of a wet red elastic nylon wire licking the bass-line of grey wooden-nails bound with the blind screams of a last name never to be famous and always worth mentioning; the beat of gracefully scratched hair longer than the history of the will, pushing the finger that struggles to penetrate its own castration; the speed of trust on the Internet, showing off its color as it begins to understand its dependence on truth…

The series of workshops and symposium at ReFunct 09, taking place at ISEA, in Ireland, are likely to push circuit bending’s definition, perhaps to the point that people like myself will no longer desire a live performance, but simply aspire to think beyond representation as we know it.

Dub, B Sides and Their [re]versions in the Threshold of Remix, by Eduardo Navas

Text and image source: Vague Terrain

Note: This text was originally published on Vague Terrain, Digital Dub Issue, August 08. It is reposted here with minor edits, and an additional quote by Bunne Lee, to clarify the history of dub in Jamaica.

Abstract: This text outlines the foundation of dub as a musical movement that found its way from Jamaica to other parts of the world, in particular NY and Bristol. Upon looking at history, it can be argued that dub and other musical genres that it has influenced have constantly thrived on the threshold of culture, feeding the center. In support of this argument the essay links the influence of dub to the theories of Homi Bhabha and Hardt & Negri. Dub is also linked to Remix as a discourse of global production.


The State of Swift Production: Interactivos?’08 (part 3 of 3), by Eduardo Navas

Image: Anaisa Franco, Testing software for “Expanded Eye”

See Part 1: http://remixtheory.net/?p=315
See Part 2: http://remixtheory.net/?p=319

Interactivos?’08-Madrid promoted Vision-play as a point of entry to reflect on how interactivity is redefining aesthetics in art particularly invested in emerging technologies. The Medialab-Prado website presented the two week work intensive series of events as a “workshop [that] aims to use open hardware and open code tools to create prototypes for exploring image technologies and mechanisms of perception.”[1]

To provide a rigorous contextual ground following this premise as a frame of reference for artists and collaborators, the Medialab organized a two day long conference in which artists presented their projects and scholars and writers presented papers focused on the ongoing changes of the image (vision-play) in contemporary art production. On the first day Marta Morales presented “Caída del juego: lo inaparente en la imagen” (Fall of the Game: The Inapparent in the Image), a text in which she explored the void of experience leaning towards the sublime in the work of Giacommeti; she examined his work from drawings to sculptures. I followed with “The Bond of Repetition and Representation,” in which I outlined previously introduced definitions of Remix and their links to the ongoing play between repetition and representation in digital media. Nadine Wanono then discussed her research on Visual Anthropology in “The Camera and The Perspective, as Tool and Metaphor.” In her talk she questioned the supposed objectivity of perspective, both formally and conceptually, when anthropologists study non-western cultures. Wanono’s presentation consisted of selected research she performed in Mali, West Africa, where she spent many years with the Dogon people. And the evening ended with Domingo Sarrey who presented “Cuadrats 40 años después” (Quadrats, 40 Years Later). Sarrey took the evening when he made many Spaniards in the audience aware about art and computer science explorations that took place in Madrid during the sixties. Sarrey was one of the first artists in Madrid to use the computer to develop drawings during that time period. (more…)

Reblog: Stereo Effect, by Tyler Coburn

Image: Christian Marclay, Untitled, 1984

Originally posted on May 16th, 2008

Image and text source: Rhizome.org

“Stereo,” Christian Marclay’s first solo exhibition at San Francisco’s Fraenkel Gallery, surveys “concepts of doubling and echoes” across the American artist’s career. Since the mid-1970s, Marclay has uniquely navigated the visual and sonic realms, exploring the materiality of equipment like the gramophone, turntables and record through processes that foreground what the artist calls the “unwanted sounds” of the mediums: the clicks, pops, scratches and deterioration that hold “expressive power” in themselves. In the past decade, Marclay has extended his position as cultural archivist with acclaimed installations like Video Quartet (2001) and Crossfire (2007), respectively comprising sequences of musical performance and gunshots assembled from dozens of feature-films.

Consisting of twenty-five works — the majority of them two-dimensional — “Stereo” offers a timely retrospective of a side of Marclay’s practice not always given due attention relative to his video and audio-based work. For Yin and Yang (1983), from his Recycled Records (1980-1986) series, Marclay cuts and reassembles two records according to the yin-yang design, rendering an unplayable product that also signifies turntable culture’s collage ethos. This approach can also be observed in paper works like Untitled (1984) and Double Tuba (1992), both of which find the artist producing fanciful modifications to instruments and equipment through paper collage. Seen within the broader scope of Marclay’s body of work, these objects offer examples of how visual art can provide conceptual space to reimagine sound and sound technology. — Tyler Coburn

Chance in a Lifetime: John G. Hanhardt on Nam June Paik

Image source: Albright-Knox Art Gallery
Originally published on ArtForum,  April, 2006  by John G. Hanhardt

Text source: Bnet

How soon TV-chair will be available in most museums?
How soon artists will have their own TV channels?
How soon wall to wall TV for video art will be installed in most homes?
–Nam June Paik, A New Design for TV Chair, 1973

THE CULTURAL SIGNIFICANCE of Nam June Paik–who died at his home in Miami Beach on January 29–is clear in the expressions commonly used to describe his unique role in transforming the nascent medium of video into a contemporary art form, from the “father of video art” to the “George Washington of video.” It is incredible to think that an entire decade before Paik predicted the ubiquity of video technology in A New Design for TV Chair, he was featuring his “prepared,” or altered, televisions in solo exhibitions. And as we become the media culture he envisioned in his artwork and writings, we can see how the range of Paik’s creative accomplishments and both the prescience and breadth of his thinking–in a practice unlike anything that preceded him–are all the more astonishing. From his early performances to his work in music, television, video, and film, Paik was constantly in action, exploring and expanding the horizons of art.

Read the entire article at  Bnet

Destiny Interviews RU Sirius

Images source: http://www.maybelogic.org/

Text source: Pranks.com

January 28, 2008

Writer, Destiny interviews RU Sirius about the online Pranks course he’ll soon be teaching:

On February 11 (Note new date), countercultural writer and historian RU Sirius is teaching an online course on Pranks, Pranksters, Tricksters, & Tricks for the Maybe Logic Institute, an online academy started by friends and supporters of the late Discordian legend Robert Anton Wilson. Sirius promises to teach trickster mythology and prankster history and to lead the class in planning and making pranks. Prankster legend/Pranks.com Editor Joey Skaggs, and Mark Hosler of Negativland, will both be dropping in on the course. I asked him a few questions about the upcoming class.


The Face Behind Facebook Tells 60 Minutes “Beacon” Needs Work, 2008 IPO Highly Unlikely, by Leslie Stahl

Image source: The Equity Kicker

Text source: 60 Minutes

Originally aired January 13, 2008

Note: I saw this on CBS last night and thought it was worth keeping in the archive for possible future reference for several reasons. First, the myth that “the young will lead” in the computer age is promoted eloquently; Facebook’s CEO is only 23 years old. Also, the frenzy that made the WWW so popular before the dot.com bubble burst of 2000 is kept alive with eloquent distance, while excitedly stating that Facebook is perhaps the next “Google”; and to accentuate this point they show Mark Zuckerberg in a large shared office space echoing the early days of the internet boom, particularly in San Francisco; his office is in Palo Alto, not too far from the former dot.com haven. But the most interesting part is to see Zuckerberg struggling to create actual revenue and hitting a wall that other online entities have encountered in the past when they try to make hard cash out of community based sites. Wikia and Shopwiki are two obvious examples. Perhaps Zuckerberg’s most interesting remark is when he explains why Beacon, which was not well received by the Facebook community, did not work. He actually does not know why. And when asked about the role of ads in Facebook, he resorts to a common argument that any business owner uses when asked about the pressure of making money: “I mean there have to be ads either way because we have to make money,” Zuckerberg says. “I mean, we have 400 employees and you know, I mean, we have to support all that and make a profit.”

(CBS) Are you on Facebook yet? The site is up to 60 million users so far, with a projection of 200 million by the end of the year.

If you’re not on Facebook, here’s how it works: you set up a profile page with details about yourself and then decide who gets to see it. Friends use their pages to share personal news, exchange photos, team up on political causes, or just play long-distance Scrabble. It can be a useful tool or an addictive waste of time. Either way, Facebook is having a dramatic impact on the World Wide Web and it’s estimated to be worth $15 billion.

As Lesley Stahl reports, sitting atop this growing company and directing an Internet revolution is a young, geeky computer programmer who created the site only four years ago.

The face of Facebook is Mark Zuckerberg, the mogul who’s guiding its extraordinary growth. What everyone wants to know is: Is he old enough to be running a company some people say is the biggest thing since Google?

“I’m 23 right now,” Zuckerberg tells Stahl when asked how old he is.

“And you’re running this huge company,” Stahl remarks.

“It’s not that big,” Zuckerberg says.

During her visit to Facebook’s headquarters, Zuckerberg helped Stahl set up her own Facebook page, with a profile of her likes and dislikes. They added her friends and family, and within a few minutes, she got a friend request.

“Here’s a guy I haven’t talked to in two years and I’m so thrilled to hear from him,” Stahl remarks.

Read the entire feature at 60 Minutes

Hackers Infect Alicia Keys’s MySpace Page, By Brad Stone

Image source: Dance Lyrics

Text source: NYTimes

The MySpace page of singer Alicia Keys has become the latest vehicle for malware on the Web.

Researchers at the Atlanta, GA-based Exploit Prevention Labs have discovered multiple hacked MySpace pages, including the personal page of the R&B artist. Also hacked were pages for Greements of Fortune, a French funk band, and Dykeenies, a rock band from Glasgow.When visitors click almost anywhere on these infected site, they are directed to co8vd.cn/s, which appears to be a Chinese malware site. The visitors then see a box on their screen telling them they need to install a special codec to view the video – a legitimate possibility on any site rich in media. But if the visitor clicks ‘yes’, the site installs software that appears to be a rootkit and DNS changer. This would allow the hackers to take over what you see on your browser and what you download onto your computer.

Read the entire article at NYTimes

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