Blogs Centerpoints Technology

The UnConvention: Unscripting the Political Convention

    From the moment the Republican National Committee chose to coronate its 2008 presidential candidate in St. Paul, hundreds of strands of people mobilized to have a presence. Republican Party officials populate one of the spectrum; on the other, the broad swath of individuals and interest groups driven to protest the convention. Somewhere in […]

 

 

From the moment the Republican National Committee chose to coronate its 2008 presidential candidate in St. Paul, hundreds of strands of people mobilized to have a presence. Republican Party officials populate one of the spectrum; on the other, the broad swath of individuals and interest groups driven to protest the convention. Somewhere in between are the minds behind The UnConvention, a wash of art and alternative media hoping to make a public splash through the run over the Republican convention, September 1–4.

The Walker is both a sponsor and active agent, collaborating with lead partner Intermedia Arts, the Minneapolis College of Art and Design, Carleton College, the University of Minnesota’s Institute for New Media Studies and The UpTake.org, an online citizen video site focusing on politics and the 2008 election. Together, they hope to present “ a counterpoint to the highly scripted and predetermined nature of the contemporary presidential nomination process and convention.” Artists are at the heart of this counterpoint, with most projects conceived for broad public participation.

“ We’re working with artists who are very adept at creating powerful messages that encourage people to get involved and think differently,” says Steve Dietz, a founder of The UnConvention. The founding director of new media initiatives at the Walker, Dietz now directs YProductions, which works with museums to build digital cultural programming, and Northern Lights, the entity he formed to drive The UnConvention.

“ The goal is not to sort of streak naked across the convention floor during a speech. It’s not direct action in that sense,” he says. “ But in an idea level, we’d like to crack the coverage open a little bit so participatory democracy (goes) beyond holding up a sign that says four more years.’ We’re interested in how the average citizen can use these new tools (of technology) to participate in a civic discourse about the direction of this country.”

Activities through the Walker began in the spring, through Insights series lectures exploring how design intersects with democracy. This summer, the Walker’s Summer Music and Movies in the Park centers on films portraying American democracy and political folly. Target Free Thursday Nights, the Walker’s weekly evening for adult education and free programming, is featuring artist talks, lectures and workshops related to themes of art and the political process.

Intermedia Arts is transforming into “ what I’m calling the UnConventional Gathering Space,” says Marlina Gonzales, programs manager at Intermedia and program director for The UnConvention, who describes that space as “ a cross between an alternative artist press center and an exhibition center.” Intermedia is opening its media suite to anyone working on convention-related videos. Its galleries will show digital media work and documentation of events related to The UnConvention. Its theater will host related performances, and muralists are coating the outside walls with UnConventional art. Intermedia will also host discussion groups, classes, a parade, and other public events.

“ It’s all about participatory democracy, which involves mobilizing our freedom of expression and encouraging people to think creatively in their methods of expression,” Gonzales says. “ We’re doing that by putting artists and community members together.”

Through the guidance and resources of Walker, people will create videos addressing the scripted nature of political party conventions. The Walker will host submissions on its YouTube channel. In a project in partnership with mnartists.org, artists and other inspired citizens are creating visual distractions from traditional political endorsement signs by creating and uploading their own yard sign designs. The best of them, as determined in online voting, will be available for personal printing and mass distribution.

In another project, in partnership with mnartists.org, artists and other inspired citizens are invited to declare My Yard Our Message by designing their own yard signs–to counter or distract from the traditional political endorsement signs staked into American lawns. The best of these signs, as determined in online voting, will be available for personal printing and mass distribution. Individual artists have already been tapped for specific projects. At both conventions, Sharon Hayes of New York and 100 local queer community activists will recite a speech developed by Hayes in a public demonstration of the relationship between love and politics. This project is presented by Creative Time, with the Walker and the UnConvention, as part of a national public art initiative called Democracy in America, which is being organized by Creative Time. Also, look for video artwork created and exhibited on the fly by artist Jon Winet, a new media artist and art professor at the University of Iowa, exploring the upcoming presidential election and democratic practice in America. In 2002, the Walker co-commissioned Winet’s Democracy–Last Campaign.

The UpTake, partnering with the Walker on I Approve This Message, plans to train and arm 100 “ citizen journalists” with video cameras to cover protests, community outreach, art projects, marches, and other elements related to the Republican National Convention (the UpTake is heading a similar effort for the Democratic National Convention in Denver). To help budding videographers participate, the UpTake is leading videomaking workshops at the Walker on Target Free Thursday Nights. “ We don’t want to have the stiff journalistic storytelling mode,” says Jason Barnett, executive director of the UpTake. “ Working with the Walker will help with that.”

Technological advances continue to play roles for both the political parties and the people countering and commenting on them. An example: the UpTake organizers have built their own social networking foundation and are aiming for live coverage through cell phones. But Dietz sees technology as simply providing tools to fulfill a larger mission. “ It’s more about taking advantage of what’s easily available and doing really creative things with it–to bring a format that makes the content more interesting,” he says. “ I’m not so interested in the newest technology as I am in how the average citizen can use these new tools to participate in a civic discourse about the direction of this country. That’s when really profound changes become possible.”

“ It’s more about taking advantage about what’s easily available and doing really creative things with it–to bring a format that makes the content more interesting,” he says. “ I’m not so interested in the newest technology as when technology becomes commodified and available on a very widespread basis. That’s when really profound changes become possible.”

the biggest self-portrait in the world

And I thought Chuck Close’s Big Self Portrait was huge… The drawing above was created using a GPS unit housed in a briefcase that was shipped all over the world, creating a self-portrait of the artist spanning the entire globe. via Eyeteeth.

And I thought Chuck Close’s Big Self Portrait was huge…

The drawing above was created using a GPS unit housed in a briefcase that was shipped all over the world, creating a self-portrait of the artist spanning the entire globe.

via Eyeteeth.

Save Polaroid?

There’s something eerily familiar about this old polaroid ad from the 60′s… If you haven’t already heard, Polaroid Corporation is killing off all of it’s instant film production. It’s demise is likely to be complete as early as 2009. In fact, our local camera shop – West Photo – claims to be completely out of […]

1960's Polaroid ad

There’s something eerily familiar about this old polaroid ad from the 60′s…

If you haven’t already heard, Polaroid Corporation is killing off all of it’s instant film production. It’s demise is likely to be complete as early as 2009. In fact, our local camera shop – West Photo – claims to be completely out of certain types already and the distributor will not take any new orders.

If you’re seriously worried, be sure to check out savepolaroid.com.

Most consumer-fans of polaroid film shouldn’t fret too much as the patent will certainly be licensed to other companies willing to manufacture it. In fact, Fuji already makes a color version of the pack film for certain cameras, and it’s been rumored that they will be taking on more, most likely going after the fringe market of the 600 series and Time-Zero equivalents.

Some of us in the professional market won’t be so lucky. Most large format instant film will probably disappear, along with our ability to proof and check focus when shooting large format film. Believe it or not, there are still clients who demand 4×5 transparencies for reproduction.

What can we expect from artists like Chuck Close, Lucas Samaras, and Mike Slack who have made the medium part of their trademark styles? Even if they are able to hoard the last remaning boxes, the stuff has a shelf life of less than a year. As aptly stated at savepolaroid.com “Best before: It’s too late”

ArtShare brings Walker collection to Facebook

The Walker has joined the growing number of institutions participating in ArtShare, the Brooklyn Museum’s art sharing application on Facebook. The team at Brooklyn launched ArtShare in November 2007, and the response was immediately positive. By adding this app Facebook users are able to rotate works of art on their profile, showing their favorites or […]

artshare2.pngThe Walker has joined the growing number of institutions participating in ArtShare, the Brooklyn Museum’s art sharing application on Facebook. The team at Brooklyn launched ArtShare in November 2007, and the response was immediately positive. By adding this app Facebook users are able to rotate works of art on their profile, showing their favorites or just items that pique their interest. The app even works with Facebook Pages, and has been added to the Walker’s page here. (Like the Walker? Become a fan of our page!)

If you’re a Facebook user, give ArtShare a try and let us know what you think!

A big thanks to Shelley and Michael for making the application so open and also for working with other institutions to bring everyone online – they were responding to inquiries from us on day one and ready to help integrate our collection.

Graffiti, art and trust in Boston

By now the big to-do in Boston last week should be familiar and likely fading into the landscape of forgotten news stories. Within the so-called hacktivist community, the initial reaction was a collective shaking of the head and saying, “you’re kidding, right?”, followed by a sigh of inevitable disappointment. Boston and the news media weren’t […]

By now the big to-do in Boston last week should be familiar and likely fading into the landscape of forgotten news stories. Within the so-called hacktivist community, the initial reaction was a collective shaking of the head and saying, “you’re kidding, right?”, followed by a sigh of inevitable disappointment. Boston and the news media weren’t kidding, though many people certainly wish they were.

One of the more insightful commentaries on the episode comes from Matt Blaze, a security researcher. He discusses the nature of guerilla art and how we are slowly being trained not to trust anything we see or hear, and not just because of things like the Boston episode:

Guerilla advertising works only when it counterfeits the kinds of clues that allowed me to experience Keith Haring‘s chalk posters in a credulous and emotional way. I’d never let myself do that today; I’d just wonder what they were trying to sell or when the movie was coming out. The impact is diminished if I have to wonder whether Andy Warhol was shilling for Campbell’s Soup, or Marcel Duchamp for Armitage-Shanks, but perhaps I will someday have to, just as I must now ask myself whether that email requesting updated account information really came from my bank.

In any case, the Graffiti Research Lab has responded to the original event:

Make Throwies Not Bombs

The jury is still out on how this event will effect the cultural niche that this hacktivist street art exists in.

Photo from GRL.

Build Bert’s head

Using a computer-modeled wireframe head from a previous project, artist Bert Simons “cloned” himself, making a cut-out replica of his noggin to keep around the house. He even provides a pdf so you can build your own. Final version above, beta version below. Via PlaceboKatz.

Artpod.

It was a matter of time: awhile back we wrote about Artstar, art by big-name Japanese artists made available for Apple’s iPod. Now Artnode has gone ‘em one better–ARTpod is offering free mp4 video files of works by artists including Jesper Just for viewing on video iPods. Works by eight artists are available for download […]

artpod.jpgIt was a matter of time: awhile back we wrote about Artstar, art by big-name Japanese artists made available for Apple’s iPod. Now Artnode has gone ‘em one better–ARTpod is offering free mp4 video files of works by artists including Jesper Just for viewing on video iPods. Works by eight artists are available for download or viewing on Artnode’s site.

One question: how did Artnode escape the wrath of Apple? The company has been sending out cease-and-desist letters to companies that use its apparently proprietary term “pod.”

Via Guerrilla Innovation.

Art and pumpkins from outer space

The Flickr Blog this morning points out some photos and satellite images of Robert Smithson’s Sprial Jetty. It occurs to me how amazing it is to be able to see artwork from this high above. Flickr has, via Yahoo, excellent satellite imagery for the area. Much better than google, in fact. Be sure to explore […]

The Flickr Blog this morning points out some photos and satellite images of Robert Smithson’s Sprial Jetty.

The Spiral Jetty

Geotagged spiral jetty photos, view from space

It occurs to me how amazing it is to be able to see artwork from this high above. Flickr has, via Yahoo, excellent satellite imagery for the area. Much better than google, in fact. Be sure to explore the area and related photos.

How does this relate to the Walker, other than the fact that we have Smithson’s work in our collection? The annual pumpkin carving contest is coming up, and I was perusing previous pumpkins. Phil Docken created a mash-up of the Spiral Jetty, a pumpkin, and the WAC:

[Phil] Docken addresses the Walker’s recently completed expansion through land art, a combination of Spiral Jetty and the excavation of the Walker site.

[Pumpkin photo: Cameron Wittig, Screenshot: Flickr Blog, Jetty Photo: blurb]

After the Information Age: InRadio to help launch the Walker Media Player

Two decades before the term “World Wide Web” was coined, 28 years before Napster transformed a college dropout’s nickname into an infamous brand, and 32 years before MySpace’s Tom befriended the globe, Nobel Prize–winning economist Herbert Simon presaged a shift from the Information Age to what we’re all experiencing today: “In an information-rich world, the […]

dan_carroll_004a.jpgTwo decades before the term “World Wide Web” was coined, 28 years before Napster transformed a college dropout’s nickname into an infamous brand, and 32 years before MySpace’s Tom befriended the globe, Nobel Prize–winning economist Herbert Simon presaged a shift from the Information Age to what we’re all experiencing today: “In an information-rich world, the wealth of information means a dearth of something else: a scarcity of whatever it is that information consumes,” he wrote in 1971. “What information consumes is obvious . . . the attention of its recipients.” In our emerging “attention society,” we increasingly turn to trusted friends and experts to help us sift through and find the cultural content that interests us. With this simple idea, local entrepreneur Dan Carroll is helping organizations such as the Walker play the role of media tour guide–or, to use a term more familiar around here, curator.Launching later this fall, the Walker Media Player is a downloadable computer application powered by Carroll’s IMP, a system for distributing digital content online. The player will automatically download a free “taster” of Walker-related material–anything from free MP3 tracks by musicians coming to town and PDFs of art-making activities for families to film trailers and audio files of artist interviews–all legal and all free. The chief difference between the Walker Media Player and, say, the Apple Music Store is that it features exclusive Walker content, and not only music, while at the same time offering a connection to one of the largest databases the Internet has to offer. It also gives artists the biggest cut of any online music service around.

Carroll hatched the idea for InRadio shortly after starting work in the circulation department at the Utne Reader in 1999. His idea–to expand the publication’s mission of highlighting the “best of the alternative press” to the realm of independent music–wasn’t feasible for Utne at the time, so in 2002 he left to found InRadio. But he didn’t go far: he rented space in the Utne offices, just across the highway from the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, and started negotiating rights with independent, up-and-coming, and unsigned bands to distribute their work on subscription-based compilation CDs.

Bringing the idea of these samplers to the online realm sprang naturally from changes in the music industry. The phenomenally popular peer-to-peer filesharing network Napster was shut down in 2001, and the following year its creator, Shawn Fanning, launched a new endeavor to tackle the conundrum of how to use the Internet to distribute copyrighted music and benefit artists: he founded SNOCAP, which is now the largest registry of licensed music online. When Carroll sought to expand the idea behind InRadio CDs to the Web, he called up Fanning.

Today, SNOCAP provides the behind-the-scenes database for the music files the Walker Media Player distributes. And thanks to programmers from Azureus, maker of the most popular BitTorrent client, downloads make use of the fastest available technology. Typically, online music services allow one user to retrieve an entire MP3 from a single server, but BitTorrent users can download small bits of information from everyone connected to the network, sometimes thousands at a time. And the more people using IMP, the faster the downloads. While he’s excited to have technology heavy-hitters like SNOCAP and Azureus on board, Carroll says, “Our hope is that nobody ever has to know who they are. In the end, all that matters is that they get music, videos, and other material and that they get it extremely quickly, from the largest catalogues of information on the Internet, and in a way that best benefits artists.”

That last part brings together many threads from Carroll’s background: as a former union organizer, a believer in Utne‘s progressive mission, a classically trained violinist, and a longtime Walker member, he wanted to develop a technology that could help artists–especially independent ones–sustain themselves doing what they love. To that end, IMP lets artists decide how much they want to sell their work for, and they’re completely transparent about where the money goes: after musicians determine their wholesale price, IMP adds five cents plus 18% to the sale price–giving artists higher take-home revenue than any online retailer.

If artists aren’t already part of the enormous SNOCAP directory–bands with little Western exposure such as past Walker guests Taraf de Haidouks and the Boban Markovic Orkestar–they can enter their work into the SNOCAP database for free. When they sign up, they designate one free promotional track (or more) that’ll be made available on tasters–but not just the Walker Media Player’s taster. Other organizations using an IMP-powered player–a diverse and growing list that ranges from nonprofits such as the Walker and Ithaca College to publications such as BUST, City Pages, and Utne–can share taster content.

Phillip Bahar, the Walker’s marketing and public relations director, says IMP is a win-win for both artists and audiences. “Our mission is to support living artists and to introduce our audiences to new ideas,” he says. “One of the hardest things for us to do is use words to convey the dynamic energy of avantrock, the visual wonder of experimental theater, or the intense physicality of contemporary dance. We hope the Walker Media Player will allow our audiences to get a glimpse of what they will experience on any visit to the Walker, while also exposing them to artists they’ll want to know and support for a long time.”

The Walker Media Player launches this fall. Stay tuned for download details.

Image: InRadio founder Dan Carroll on the rooftop of his Loring Park office. Photo: Cameron Wittig

Dialing Restraint

Like our cellphone-based Art On Call audioguides, SFMOMA offers a dial-up interpretive guide for their Matthew Barney exhibition Drawing Restraint. Just dial 408.794.2844. Greg Allen, who encourages you to “immerse yourself in a vat of petroleum jelly” to heighten the experience, has more. While I’m at it, go here to download unofficial audio guides to […]

Like our cellphone-based Art On Call audioguides, SFMOMA offers a dial-up interpretive guide for their Matthew Barney exhibition Drawing Restraint. Just dial 408.794.2844. Greg Allen, who encourages you to “immerse yourself in a vat of petroleum jelly” to heighten the experience, has more.

While I’m at it, go here to download unofficial audio guides to MoMA.

Next