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Archive by April, 2009

Che: Recontextualization of an [a]historical Figure, by Eduardo Navas

“The Warhol Che,” artist and year unknown, an example of the image’s ubiquity.

Image source: NYTimes

Che Guevara got some attention at the beginning of 2009 with Steven Soderberg’s film Che, starring Benicio del Toro. More recently, Che is the subject of a book titled, Che’s Afterlife, by Michael Casey. The book is reviewed by the New York Times as a detailed account of Che’s famous image taken by Alberto Díaz Gutiérrez, known professionally as Korda. The story goes that Korda took the photograph during a funeral in Cuba. Korda’s creativity was not only in knowing when to take the photograph, which is for what most photographers are praised, but also in knowing how to crop it. To quote directly from the New York Times:

“By radically cropping the shot, snipping out a palm tree and the profile of another man, Korda gave the portrait an ageless quality, divorced from the specifics of time and place.”

This divorce is what Walter Benjamin noted in the first half of the twenty century in his well-known essay “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction.” An essay that many cultural critics have cited and will probably cite, because Benjamin foresaw many of the elements that today inform media culture in all areas of reproduction. (more…)

YouTube Orchestra Melds Music Live and Online, by Anthony Timmasini

Image and text source: NYTimes

So, after all the buzz about the YouTube Symphony Orchestra altering the audition process forever, after months of interactive computer chat about the world’s first collaborative online orchestra, after 96 winning players were selected from among the more than 3,000 musicians who submitted audition videos and were brought to New York for a group summit and Carnegie Hall concert, how did the YouTube Symphony Orchestra finally play?

Read the entire article: NYTimes

Eduardo Navas: Track Me Not, Please! Interview by Lucrezia Cippitelli

Data mining visualization

Image source: Richard Lees Website

Note: The following interview was originally published on Digicult in February 2009. The introduction has been translated from the Italian by Lucrezia Cippitelli. It is here published as originally written. I would like to give a humble thanks to Lucrezia for her introduction, which I think gives me more credit than deserved.

Three years ago I had a long interview with Eduardo Navas about his editorial project, newmediaFIX, the online platform that republishes and redistributes texts and interviews from the most influential international magazines focused on art and media (between them Digicult) and which I collaborated with as editor for almost one year. Recently, I met Eduardo again by e-mail for another interview about his last online project, “Traceblog,” launched on October 2008. ”

The artist, theorist, curator and scholar from the United States works on software and web-resources for blogging. He reflects upon the dynamics of the Internet, the concept of Remix and distribution of concepts and information in culture, since the beginning of his artistic career. He is now one of the most influential voices on network cultures and use/abuse of its tools. As Eduardo asserts in this long chat, referring to “Traceblog” but it could be related with his art practice at large: “I aim to explore the implications of the growing pervasiveness of information flow and its manipulation. From this point of view, I see it in direct relation to my ongoing investment in blogging culture.”

In line with his early net art projects as Goobalization and Diary of a Star, while simultaneously following Eduardo’s theoretical researches on blogging and remix, “Traceblog” is an online artwork that appropriates the free Firefox plug-in (Track me not), created by NYU developers and researchers Daniel C. Howe and Helen Nissenbaum. The plug-in is designed to obfuscate the transparency of the online activities of Internet users. As result, “Traceblog” publishes the pseudo logs of Eduardo’s daily online searches and activities on a web site http://navasse.net/traceblog/. The same website contains links to the explanation of the project, links to the Firefox plug-in and some tools that make users aware on how to hide search trails.

“Traceblog” makes visible how our daily Internet activity is tracked by the browser we use and produces an archive of all our data and information that could be used for commercial and control purposes. A fact is that data mining is totally out of control if we consider all the web 2.0 platforms, that stimulate Internet users’ obsession to expose themselves and constantly be in touch: just consider common tools as Blogger, propriety of a big commercial corporation as Google, just to make an example. We could name a few others such as Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, and also (although they are not related with browsing), Skype, Msn, the free services for email and so on and so on… We talked with Eduardo about all that and much more.


Principles of Sampling Come Full Circle

Massive Attack’s Grant Marshall and Robert Del Naja

Image source: The Guardian Music Blog

One of the anxieties often cited by those who guard intellectual property is how artists who sample ultimately steal from those who created the “original” material, therefore taking away potential revenue from the original source.  Another common argument is that the original source runs the danger of going unrecognized by those who enjoy the material composed of samples. Even if sampling artists may pay royalties, it is often argued by those who believe in creating things with their bare hands that artists who sample are simply unoriginal. Yet, as the article “What is your sampling Epiphany,” by Simon Reynolds entertains, at the moment, the republishing of material as a set of recordings sampled by well-known music studio artists has the potential of becoming a common trend–not to mention a major form of revenue for record companies.

We have reached a state in the consumption of post-production when those who have developed a career based on other artists’ samples have become the ones who support renewed sales of the originating sources in the form of reissues. This is the case with Massive Attack’s Protected Massive Samples. Now, it appears remix culture is coming full circle. The implications of this trend might further complicate copyright law in the near future. This trend is worth keeping in sight.

The article by Reynolds ends with a very compelling citation of Virilio, which was actually forwarded to me by my colleague, Greg Smith. It reads more like an aphorism that exposes that dialectics of culture:

The French philosopher Paul Virilio argued that every new technology comes complete with its own unique catastrophe; the invention of the aeroplane, for instance, was also the invention of the plane crash. The corollary of the sample epiphany is what I call the “sample stain.”

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