Blogs Media Lab

Meet the Bloggers: Merray Gerges, Halifax

In my application for the Superscript/Hyperallergic blog mentorship, I said something faintly melodramatic about having lived in an “Atlantic vacuum” and my yearning to attend Superscript to “[bridge] the gulf between Canadian and American art criticism.” Though the current climate of austerity in Canada means that Canadian critics must weather an economic landscape that is […]

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In my application for the Superscript/Hyperallergic blog mentorship, I said something faintly melodramatic about having lived in an “Atlantic vacuum” and my yearning to attend Superscript to “[bridge] the gulf between Canadian and American art criticism.” Though the current climate of austerity in Canada means that Canadian critics must weather an economic landscape that is just as barren and precarious as it is for critics in the US, the mechanisms of our markets, museums, and money-allocation vary vastly. So since a comparison between the two would be counterproductive, I’d like to take this opportunity to flesh out my opening statement by outlining how my solitary consumption and production of criticism postured me as a wannabe-critic and what I hope to gain from attending Superscript through the mentorship.

I studied art history at the Nova Scotia College of Art & Design on the idyllic east coast of Canada (with Montreal being the closest metropolis, at 1,242 km away). Its pedagogy still bears traces of the legacy of Garry Neill Kennedy, who transformed it into a Conceptual Art haven from 1967 onwards. At peak impressionability in my second year, at the New Museum’s Ungovernables Triennial, I saw the Iman Issa work that would decidedly spur the dilemma that fueled most of my undergrad research. There, I found myself caught between three disparate inclinations: my seduction by slick, sleek Minimalist aesthetics; developing anti-oppression politics; and fostering a distaste for textbook-identity-politics work laden with didacticism and tired, derivative tropes. I therefore delved into a research-oriented (i.e. writing-devoid) art history degree, isolating myself in a Brutalist university library to sweat over papers that no one would critique but my art history profs, often fueled by quad-espressos and whatever methylphenidate I could get my hands on.

By third year, I came to be increasingly frustrated with the absence of forums to share, discuss, and improve our writing. After much deliberation, some like-minded colleagues and I established a quarterly newsprint publication that we named CRITpaper. We envisioned it as an antidote to the lack of publishing opportunities for emerging Halifax-based writers and toiled to make it a site for apt critical reviews, essays, and interviews. We wanted to create a tangible document of what writers and artists were preoccupied with, and we wanted to make it structurally sustainable so that it could continue to fulfill a perceivable void in Canadian art criticism. Through soliciting and editing content for CRITpaper over the past three years with a small team of volunteers and support from the Khyber, a beloved local artist-run centre, it came to be a site for me to skirt around the performance anxiety I’d developed towards writing while remaining an articulation of my continual engagement with criticism as a discipline, even if through a medium that is renegotiating its parameters on an unremitting basis. (Past issues are here, but if you’re at #Superscript15 and you’d like to get your hands on a copy, please feel free to approach me for one.)

My art history education was totally at odds with what I learned in J-school, where I suddenly had to haul ass to keep up with a relentless deadline turnaround, and was called out for my cavalier employment of the International Art English that I’d gotten so accustomed to speaking and writing. A year after graduating, I still find myself in a liminal space;) where I’m struggling to reconcile the clashing principles I was shelled with in these two disciplines that ought to be a tad less contradictory.

I originally intended to attend Superscript to bask in discussions of what it means to be a digital-immigrant art critic in a digital age and to fan-girl over critics whose work I’ve admired from a distance for years. However, as a participant in the mentorship program, I’m thrilled for the opportunity to be more than a flâneur-scroller, to dive into the deep end of the pool to hybridize art history + journalism, to learn from you how you do it the way you do IRL. 

The Superscript Blog Mentorship program, a partnership with Hyperallergic, is presented as part of

Meet the Bloggers: Ryohei Ozaki, New York

I’ve always been “in-between.” I spent my first three and a half years in Tokyo, hardly learning the language before relocating with my family to a peaceful suburb just outside New York. We moved again, a year or so later, to a neighboring town where I made my first American friends, whom I left each […]

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Consider the tomato…

I’ve always been “in-between.” I spent my first three and a half years in Tokyo, hardly learning the language before relocating with my family to a peaceful suburb just outside New York. We moved again, a year or so later, to a neighboring town where I made my first American friends, whom I left each summer for two months to visit relatives in a sweltering, humid Japan. I aspired, as a teenager, first to become an architect (without really knowing why, though I suspect I loved the photography and the books more than the buildings) then a neurosurgeon; my parents simply (confusedly) accepted these fluctuations, neither pushing nor pulling.

After a year of pre-med coursework in college, I spent a slightly absurd summer in between a neuro-oncology lab in New York and a 17th-century château in Brittany, France. I decided, pretty recklessly in hindsight, to leave medicine behind to study French, philosophy, and art history—anyone who was surprised, however, had forgotten about my occasional Camusian Facebook essays. Then, for a year I was in Paris, where I quietly turned 21 with no more ceremony than on any other Parisian night: that is, with plenty of wine. I returned stateside for my final year of college, deep in a world of literature, film, and art—but a conversation with a friend made me think. “There has to be a way for you to reconcile past you and present you, the rational scientist and the creative artist,” she’d said.

What had felt like liberation and self-realization now looked more like compartmentalization: the replacement of one option with another, denying affinities across disciplines, borders, histories, media. In a way, I’d succumbed to the false premise of all the varieties of the same question I had gotten used to by now: “So, are you more American or Japanese?” “Do you think in English or Japanese?” “Are you a science person or a humanities person?” I’d chosen an option instead of asking why one person couldn’t possibly nurture several seemingly conflicting interests or identities. Multiplicity and ambiguity don’t sit well with us—even tomatoes are subject to our obsession with singularity: are they a vegetable, or not? But in the midst of that we lose the point. Does it taste good? But also, if it doesn’t taste good, why not, and how do we make it better?

When thinking about journalism and criticism in the digital age, I constantly feel that we are at the same crossroads. The way we live today, with our phones, social media profiles, blogs, emails, videos, etc. is so new. I didn’t even have a cell phone until I was 14, which itself sounds ridiculous (in 2015) until you see babies in strollers fiddling with their iPads. As a rule of thumb, the new is viewed by many with suspicion, until, of course, it can be marketed and made profitable; artists, on the other hand, are usually novelty pioneers. Many, if not all, newspapers, magazines, journals, and other print media have adopted the language of the Internet to maintain and develop readership. But having a website, mobile app, and Twitter account is merely swapping one outlet for another, not thinking creatively or synthetically.

At the Walker this week, I hope to hear valuable and actionable insights into how we can choose to take a stand in the “in-between,” neither traditional nor avant-garde, neither too narrow nor too wide, neither inaccessible nor superficial, to reconceptualize the way we live with art instead of trying to categorize into preconceived structures of understanding. Because if we’re stuck arguing about writing about art while the art and artists stand by, then, frankly, we’re missing the point. I want to come out of this weekend revived and inspired by the possibilities that are open to us to produce, distribute, and appreciate cultural wealth because of our digital worlds.

The Superscript Blog Mentorship program, a partnership with Hyperallergic, is presented as part of

Meet the Bloggers: Sam Wisneski, St. Paul

Greetings, Superscript-ers! I’m incredibly excited to be a part of the Superscript Blog Mentorship program as one of three “enterprising” bloggers, especially as a Twin Cities resident. I’m a graduate student in the MA Art History program at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minn., with a BA in Communication & Journalism and […]

what_nextGreetings, Superscript-ers! I’m incredibly excited to be a part of the Superscript Blog Mentorship program as one of three “enterprising” bloggers, especially as a Twin Cities resident. I’m a graduate student in the MA Art History program at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minn., with a BA in Communication & Journalism and Art History (also from the University of St. Thomas).

As an undergrad, arts writing opportunities felt scarce to me. The state of the arts at my college seemed bleak when I first started. By that I mean the theater program and theater proper were both dissolved and demolished shortly before I began, and there was no studio arts program to be found. To be clear, I didn’t intend on majoring in anything arts-related, but writing about art appealed to me, yet it didn’t seem like we had much art on campus. Moreover, the student news publication rarely published reviews about art, let alone criticism. Despite this, I found a home in the art history department, where I could write about visual culture to my heart’s content. Still, I yearned for a broader audience.

With limited opportunities to write about art on campus, I turned to Google in search of internship, freelance, and networking opportunities. Google “Twin Cities arts criticism” and the first results are tabloid-style entertainment publications and mainstream local news — both of which are important for getting the word out, but generally lack the critical edge I was looking for. Among the other Google results, I learned about Artpaper (1981–1993), the Visual Arts Critics Union of Minnesota (VACUM) and Art Review & Preview (ARP!) — the latter two of which dissolved around the time I entered college. I quickly learned that what appeared to be a recent problem with Twin Cities arts criticism wasn’t a recent problem at all, it was just the latest decline in a historically volatile trend.

In a sense, I wrote off critical arts writing in the Twin Cities, albeit prematurely, in part because I wasn’t familiar with some of the great work already happening in places like the Twin Cities Daily Planet or Mnartists.org. What got me interested in arts journalism again, though, was social media — Tumblr specifically, and projects like Kimberly Drew’s Black Contemporary Art in particular. Reinvigorated, I’ve begun to explore community-based arts projects and post-disciplinary approaches to arts criticism. Spaces like Tumblr are only part of the answer to what seems like a Minnesotan ambivalence to arts criticism, so at Superscript I’ll be thinking broadly about sustainable, inclusive platforms for fostering independent arts criticism and amplifying the voices of other local writers and artists, in spaces that don’t already exist. I’m eager to connect with those already actively writing and thinking about art, and I can’t wait to witness and be a part of what’s next for arts journalism in the Twin Cities.

The Superscript Blog Mentorship program, a partnership with Hyperallergic, is presented as part of

Superscript Keynote: Ben Davis on “Post-Descriptive Criticism”

Throughout its history, art criticism has developed in contexts of relative image scarcity—print publishing—and hence “description” has long been at its core. The Internet, on the other hand, offers a relative surplus of available images, but the way we think about what art writing does hasn’t yet caught up. For his Superscript keynote, Ben Davis […]

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Throughout its history, art criticism has developed in contexts of relative image scarcity—print publishing—and hence “description” has long been at its core. The Internet, on the other hand, offers a relative surplus of available images, but the way we think about what art writing does hasn’t yet caught up. For his Superscript keynote, Ben Davis aims to name, define, and dig into the topic of “Post-Descriptive Criticism,” looking at the history of writing about art and the new opportunities opening up now.

“For me,” he explained in a recent email, “this thought comes out of a very personal experience of working in an evolving online art media over the last 10 years, seeing its intensifying demands, and trying to solve a problem: Why is it that, pragmatically, reviews don’t work online? They simply do not get traffic relative to commentary or news. So, I want to propose that this is partly because we are working with a form that is embedded in a certain kind of expectations about communication, and that there is a need and an imperative to invent a new kind of writing.

“From a very simple pragmatic observation about media, you then expand out into the political dimension of the question. Since this thought is partly about trying to rethink how art criticism functions online, it is also partly about how you preserve critical thought online, with art criticism being just a particularly symptomatic case, because it deals with images. Can you think about forms of criticism that are more image-based, without collapsing into a pure uncritical fascination with the image?”

Ben Davis is the author of 9.5 Theses on Art and Class (Haymarket, 2013), as well as numerous essays on contemporary art that have appeared in venues include Art Papers, Frieze, New York, Slate.com, and The Village Voice. He is currently critic-in-residence at Montclair State University, and National Art Critic for artnet News. He delivers his keynote for Superscript: Arts Journalism and Criticism in a Digital Age on Friday, May 29 at 5 pm. To participate, register for the conference or tune in to the livestream.

Presented as part of

Switching Screens: Taking a Break in the Mediatheque

As the Walker’s social media manager (and a longtime internet obsessive) I live my life online, and it’s not much of an exaggeration to say that the small screen is my everything. In my off hours I usually juggle a phone and tablet while streaming Netflix or Hulu on my TV. This habit of layering my media consumption […]

People sitting in the Mediatheque watching the screen.

As the Walker’s social media manager (and a longtime internet obsessive) I live my life online, and it’s not much of an exaggeration to say that the small screen is my everything. In my off hours I usually juggle a phone and tablet while streaming Netflix or Hulu on my TV. This habit of layering my media consumption is exhilarating and exhausting, and yes, I frequently miss key plot points because I was distracted by a conversation someone sparked on Twitter. For instance, last night I cued up the latest episode of a TV show and realized I had no idea how a main character ended up in the hospital.

When news started spreading about a new way to access the Walker’s Ruben/Bentson Moving Image Collection, it sounded like something a device-addicted content consumer like me could get really excited about. With a touch screen remote, a large (but manageable) selection of films and videos, and comfy seats, the Mediatheque might be enough to get me to put down my phone and eschew the small screen for the big screen.

As a Walker staffer I was able to get a sneak preview, but starting today anyone has access the Mediatheque. You don’t even need to pay admission. Just walk right in, choose a film, find a seat, and imagine you’re in a private screening room as the opening credits start to roll.

My preview session started with a quick introduction, but the menus are simple enough that anyone familiar with Netflix or YouTube will quickly learn to navigate from playlists to search screens to the queue. Curated playlists with topics like “Icons and Iconography” and “Dreamscapes” are one option—touch a few buttons and a selection of films will be added to the queue and seamlessly play.

I chose “Cinemas of Resistance” and the theater screen transitioned from a preview trailer as the first film began playing.

Mediatheque touch screen

I was torn between taking my seat and standing near the wall-mounted iPad to read the descriptions of each film. They take Netflix and IMDB summaries to the next level: like wall labels for cinema, you get a taste of history, context, and plot, plus a preview clip.

Mediatheque film preview screen

Some films are as short as a few minutes, others are feature length. Since I hadn’t allowed enough time for a marathon, I quickly cleared my queue and selected a Buster Keaton short. Alone in the dark theater, I put my phone away and settled in for six minute break from small screens.

 

AWP 2015: Off-Site Events

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Minneapolis is about to be flooded with more than 15,000 writers, editors, and publishers. The Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP) conference and book fair takes place this Wednesday through Saturday. Although it costs about $200, it is akin to SXSW, in which there are plenty of off-site events that will offer comparable content with an intimacy that the Convention Center does not offer. These are all from my Facebook and (*) denotes my picks. (more…)

Announcing the Superscript Blog Mentorship Program, presented in partnership with Hyperallergic

Update 05.22.15: Congratulations to Merray Gerges, Ryohei Ozaki, and Sam Wisneski, the bloggers selected to provide live response to Superscript. Learn about them at Hyperallergic, and follow their work on May 29 and 30 at Superscript Reader. To put ideas discussed at the Superscript online arts journalism conference into practice, we announce the Superscript Blog […]

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Update 05.22.15: Congratulations to Merray Gerges, Ryohei Ozaki, and Sam Wisneski, the bloggers selected to provide live response to Superscript. Learn about them at Hyperallergic, and follow their work on May 29 and 30 at Superscript Reader.

To put ideas discussed at the Superscript online arts journalism conference into practice, we announce the Superscript Blog Mentorship, presented in partnership with Hyperallergic. This responsive blogging program will create a pop-up newsroom in the Walker Art Center Library and engage a trio of enterprising bloggers in covering the three-day convening.

We are seeking three bloggers to create live online responses to the conference—under the guidance of three world-class editorial mentors, led by Hyperallergic’s Jillian Steinhauer—through quick-hit blogging, Q&As, profiles, issues essays, and other formats. Each participant will produce a series of blog posts to be published on the Walker blogs and Mn Artists throughout Superscript, leading up to longer piece for publication on Hyperallergic. This program aims to create a dynamic documentation of Superscript 2015, for attendees and online audiences alike, while offering emerging writers invaluable instruction from seasoned arts journalists, publication experience with three digital platforms, and access to the speakers and attendees of Superscript.

Each mentorship participant will receive:

  • Free admission to Superscript (a $200 value)
  • Journalistic mentorship from three top arts editors
  • A $100 publication fee paid by Hyperallergic
  • Publication bylines on Hyperallergic, the Walker Art Center blogs, and Mn Artists
  • Access to the speakers and attendees of Superscript
  • A Superscript tote

Applicants must:

  • be available for a one-hour training session on Thursday evening, May 28 and throughout the duration of the conference,
  • have a fluent command of English (spoken and written),
  • have a working knowledge of key digital tools including WordPress, Skype, Twitter, Instagram, etc.,
  • have knowledge of and interest in contemporary art in all its forms (visual, performing, moving-image art, and new media art; design; architecture; public practice) as well as online cultural publishing,
  • have access to a laptop and camera for use during the conference,
  • be self-motivated, energetic, and open to learning,
  • be calm under pressure, communicative, resourceful, and efficient.

Open Call for Participation

Applicants must be within three years of graduation from college and cannot derive their main source of income from arts writing. They must have a demonstrable interest and commitment to the arts as well as enthusiasm and high energy.

To apply, please email the following to superscript@walkerart.org, with “Superscript Blog Mentorship Application” in the subject line:

  • Cover letter stating in 500 words or fewer why you’re interested in the program and what you hope to gain from it,
  • CV,
  • 2–3 writing samples (published or personal writing accepted)

All application materials must be submitted as a single PDF.

Deadline for applications: Wednesday, May 6, 2015.

Superscript: Arts Journalism and Criticism in a Digital Age is a three-day international conference to be held at the Walker Art Center May 28–30, 2015. Copresented by the Walker and Mn Artists is convenes artists, critics, editors, and writers—including Pitchfork founder Ryan Schreiber, poet-critic Claudia La Rocca, the New Inquiry editor Ayesha Siddiqi, artnet News editor Ben Davis, and many others—for a discussion on digital cultural publishing’s present realities and its possible futures.

About Hyperallergic

Hyperallergic is a forum for playful, serious, and radical perspectives on art and culture in the world today. Since 2009, Hyperallergic has published more than 500 writers and is read by close to 1 million people per month.

@hyperallergic

The Team

jillians-sqJillian Steinhauer, the project’s lead editor, is senior editor of Hyperallergic and a writer living in Brooklyn. Her work has been published in Slate, the Los Angeles Review of Books, The Paris Review Daily, and other publications. A graduate of NYU’s Cultural Reporting & Criticism program, she was recently nominated for a 2014 Best Art Reporting award from the International Association of Art Critics. She’s served as juror/judge for art festivals, cat video festivals, and tote bag competitions.

@jilnotjill

nicolec-sqNicole J. Caruth is the former editorial manager at Art21 and founding editor of the Art21 Magazine (est. 2013). Her writing has appeared in a range of publications, including ARTnewsC MagazineGastronomicaPublic Art ReviewWalker Art Center Magazine, and the Phaidon Press books Vitamin Green and Vitamin D2. She has held positions at the Brooklyn Museum, School of Visual Arts, and Wangechi Mutu Studio. She is currently Artistic Director for Exhibitions and Public Engagement at the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts.

@nicolejcaruth

islaly-sqIsla Leaver-Yap works with artists to produce texts, events, and shows. As the Walker’s Bentson Film Scholar, she researches and publishes on works in the Ruben/Bentson Film and Video Study Collection and examines its context and legacy within the field of artists’ moving image in contemporary art. She is currently working with artists Moyra Davey and James Richards on producing new works for the collection. She is based in Glasgow, where she is the Project Director of LUX Scotland, and commutes twice a year to the Walker.

@islaly

Staff

Paul Schmelzer is editor of the Walker homepage and blogs. A past editor at Adbusters, he’s written for Artforum.com, Art 21, Cabinet, Medium.com’s re:form, Raw Vision, and Utne Reader, among others. Former editor of the Minnesota Independent and managing editor of its DC-based nonprofit parent, he’s the first digital journalist in Minnesota history to win a Society of Professional Journalists Page One Award or a University of Minnesota School of Journalism Frank Premack Award for Public Affairs Journalism. He blogs at Eyeteeth.org.

@iteeth @walkermag

Susannah Schouweiler is a writer, arts critic, and editor-in-chief of Mn Artists, an artist-driven, online media platform based at the Walker Art Center covering the art and artists of the Midwest. Before her work with Mn Artists, she served as the editor of Ruminator, a nationally distributed art and literature magazine. She lives and works in St. Paul, Minnesota.

@susannahs @mnartistsdotorg

Presented as part of

<a href="/superscript">Superscript</a>

A screenshot of the Superscript website

 

The Internet has always been an experimental publishing platform.

In contrast to the linear nature of most publishing endeavors in history, the hyperlink was invented in 1965 by Ted Nelson, who was obsessed with keeping track of his neurotic and divergent paths of thinking, and in turn, the publishing of his writing. Superscript, the Walker’s first conference on arts journalism and criticism in a digital age, intentionally puts the hyperlink — one of the definite features of new media — in the forefront of its design. The hyperlink is not simply a software feature; it is telling of our shift in thinking beyond linearity and context to an arena of layered networks and interconnectedness: the medium is the message. The web is a postmodernist tool necessitated by a postmodernist perspective.

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One of Ted Nelson’s mockups of transpointing windows, 1972

Screenshot of the hyperlink working demo, 1998

I. Text

Publishing online ranges from prebuilt platforms with uniform templates and one-click submission buttons to articles that have custom layouts that take months or years to implement. The aesthetic of the Superscript website is intentionally retro, stripped down and typographically emphatic, to pay homage to text as the only necessity in publishing.

We can see this minimalism within modern services such as Readability or Pocket; sometimes we just want to digest the text-as-information like a machine. Text speaks to our modern combinational approach of social communication with computational models:

Text is the most socially useful communication technology. It works well in 1:1, 1:N, and M:N modes. It can be indexed and searched efficiently, even by hand. It can be translated. It can be produced and consumed at variable speeds. It is asynchronous. It can be compared, diffed, clustered, corrected, summarized and filtered algorithmically. It permits multiparty editing. It permits branching conversations, lurking, annotation, quoting, reviewing, summarizing, structured responses, exegesis, even fan fic. The breadth, scale and depth of ways people use text is unmatched by anything. –always bet on text

In digital publishing, text is our data where books are the compiled program. Superscript’s starkness allows for easy consumption as an informational website by foregrounding the letter.

II. Conference Websites

There are limitless examples and templates of typical conference web design. But as a conference that is devoted to digital publishing, it would be a mistake to miss this opportunity for creating something unconventional.

A typical conference will have a navigation bar with multiple items (e.g. Speakers, Schedule, Register, Location). I wanted to call out navigation-as-hyperlink-as-content, so as to not necessarily distinguish between them. This purposely obfuscate details as to create a dialogue between the page and the user. So-called best practices instilled in design to create an interface as no interface creates a one-sided transaction that is hardly memorable. In willfully obscuring, we create conversation. Although there are risks in this approach, such as alienating readers, we know for the most part that those seeking this conference will have both the curiosity and engagement to grapple with a novel display.

III. Page Dimensionality

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Triple Canopy’s long form layout

A screenshot of the Tankboys website

The horizontal layout of the site is inspired by two publication platforms: Triple Canopy and Tankboys. The landing page serves as a merged Cover and Page 1 with an index and key information. It imitates the format of a book or a magazine, using headings and paragraph blocks, split across two leaves. However, when clicking a link on an index leaf, it branches out. The interacted hyperlink shows its essential function, not necessarily to open another page, but to unfold more information. On this unfolded branch, hyperlink clicks are then used to unfold more information, albeit as toggles that expand vertically. Then, hovering on hyperlinks of names overlays images of those individuals. These three interactions — (1) the vertical extension of the leaf, (2) the horizontal toggling of details, and (3) the hovering of overlay images — create a visual three-dimensionality that encapsulates the networked and stratified modularity of the hyperlink.

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(1) The vertical extension of the leaf

(2) The horizontal toggling of details

(3) The hovering of overlay images

III. Identity

The identity and personality of Superscript was done by Dante Carlos, a senior designer at the Walker. It is his attention to both print and web typographic styling and mixing that is able to demarcate the hyperlink while not backgrounding plain text. Although there was only a postcard designed with this identity in mind before the website was launched, it went through many iterations:

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Two distinct graphical elements that I gleaned from his sketches were the use of spinners and graphs. The spinners serve as a visual cue of process when it comes to producing or publishing. On the web, there is the indeterminate loader when waiting for the design and content elements to load; in print, there is the printing register to align design and content properly. The graphs are arbitrary trend lines. They are telling of the dichotomous cycle of publishing: enduring and disseminable yet ephemeral and disposable.

IV. Outro

Although Superscript is a conference occurring on-site, this does not mean we will be subordinating our virtual audience. The Superscript website will go through two additional phases: a live version and an archival version. As the conference is occurring, a video stream, live stenography embed, and Twitter feed will be added. Once the conference is over, we will be archiving all the live material that was produced. In addition, we will be hosting a second page called Superscript Reader that will aggregate digital keynote commissions, Walker Channel film commissions, and related article and blog entries.

This is a unique conference that coincides overlapping domains of design, curation, editing, publishing, and technology. It is a distinct time to condense and skim this online activity to a singular aggregate reflection. This mirrors our everyday browsing: we consume a neverending flood of hyperlinks that we filter and coalesce internally. The screen emerges outward through us.

Postscript

My personal list of Superscript must-sees include Pitchfork, Rhizome, Hyperallergic, The New Inquiry and e-flux. If you’ve gotten all the way down here, you should probably buy a ticket.

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Two On Kawaras: Yuki Okumura on the Artist and his Twitterbot

Actually, there are two On Kawaras. One is the conceptual artist—or rather, a concept—whose large-scale retrospective is currently on view at the Guggenheim Museum in New York. The other is a Twitterbot—or, rather, a programming code—which has been tweeting “I AM STILL ALIVE” every day since January 2009, even after the artist’s passing last June. […]

On Kawara, "TODAY series," 1989. Collection: Walker Art Center

On Kawara, “TODAY series,” 1989. Collection: Walker Art Center

Actually, there are two On Kawaras.

One is the conceptual artist—or rather, a concept—whose large-scale retrospective is currently on view at the Guggenheim Museum in New York. The other is a Twitterbot—or, rather, a programming code—which has been tweeting “I AM STILL ALIVE” every day since January 2009, even after the artist’s passing last June. Neither of them belong to, yet both are in some way connected to, physical human bodies. I am one of the luckiest people in this sense: I am perhaps the only person who has directly interacted with both of them.

The reason I say the conceptual artist is a pure, immaterial concept himself—or itself, briefly speaking—is not only because he never presented himself publicly between 1966 and his death, but also due to the fact that On Kawara is his artist’s name. The body Kawara was using—or his/its ghostwriter, I would say—had a different, legally registered name, which is most probably Atsushi Kawahara. For more on this point, please read this text I ghostwrote for Lei Yamabe, a fictitious critic.

In February 2012, I went to New York to meet Kawara—or, actually, Kawahara. He had liked Yamabe’s first text, in which I attempted to bridge his early body of work, executed in Japan in the 1950s, with his “Today” series, which he started in New York in 1966, as well as his other conceptual projects, including his series of “I Am Still Alive” telegrams. Kawahara was going to put it in Kawara’s then-upcoming book, and on this occasion he invited me to visit his place for a chat. It was just amazing. He was an elderly, yet extremely vigorous guy, whose topics of discussions ranged from conceptual art to human civilization to quasi-scientific supernatural phenomenon.

On the other hand, the reason why the On Kawara Twitterbot is immaterial is, I guess, very obvious. It is a programming code, not analog at all but purely digital, which posts an automated tweet once a day, at 17:00 GMT, carrying one same message claiming his being “alive.”

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Around the time I first got to know the Twitter account, many people actually thought it was really Kawara doing it. However, as an artist so deeply into Kawara’s practice—which I consider an extremely long-duration performance where the performer remained invisible for nearly 50 years—I knew it wasn’t him. Indeed, I soon discovered this post by Pall Thayer, the Icelandic/American artist who maintains the Twitterbot.

While I appreciated the honesty and sincerity in his post, it did not make me like @On_Kawara because I found it a bit disrespectful: considering the nature of all of his work, Kawara would never disclose his bodily state in real time. But when I noticed that it was still running even after the artist’s “death,” I became fascinated. It now seems to fully represent how he, as a pure consciousness, still conceptually exists, having been disconnected from the body and literally “passing” away from the physical world.

My interest in Thayer grew so much that I traveled all the way from Europe to Connecticut to meet and interview Pall in person. On my journey from New York City, I recalled my meeting with Kawahara—because once again I was going to meet a physical body behind yet another immaterial concept called On Kawara. The biggest difference between the two, however, was that Thayer was totally happy with being filmed and having his interview shared among people, unlike Kawahara, who stayed hidden in order to devote himself to maintain the conceptual structure of the artist.

Here’s my film, which shares Pall’s ideas behind and stories regarding the On Kawara Twitterbot, as well as his own background, while you will also get to know a bit about who I am.

In closing, I’ll quote from my conversation with Thayer about the most compelling aspect, for me, of his Twitterbot: his decision to keep @On_Kawara “alive” after the artist’s reported passing:

Do I stop it? Or, do I keep it running? I spent a good few hours kind of thinking about which to do. Basically what it came down to was, for me, the statement, at least after his passing, referred not to himself but to his body of work. That was my original decision for keeping it running. Even though he has passed, his work is still alive and remains alive.

Walkerart.org: The Best Stories of 2014

As I do my job as editor of the Walker homepage and blogs, I find myself guided by the Walker’s mission. The entire thing is instructive and, frankly, liberating—the dedication to both artists and audiences; the focus on the collection, care, and contextualization of art works; and the “global, multidisciplinary, and diverse approach” we take […]

As I do my job as editor of the Walker homepage and blogs, I find myself guided by the Walker’s mission. The entire thing is instructive and, frankly, liberating—the dedication to both artists and audiences; the focus on the collection, care, and contextualization of art works; and the “global, multidisciplinary, and diverse approach” we take to contemporary art. But, in particular, I’ve been focusing on the last bit of late: “Walker programs examine the questions that shape and inspire us as individuals, cultures, and communities.” Looking back on the most popular stories and blog posts we’ve produced here at the Walker, I gauge our success or failure against that measure: are we engaging not just with what’s within our walls—which we must do well—but also with what’s out there, in the world we live in when we leave work, in the world(s) our artists and audiences live in? I hope so. To help with this mission, we’ve enlisted help, from our own staff and from an array of outside voices, the many guest artists, journalists, and writers who’ve been invited, and in many cases commissioned, to share their thinking here.

Together we produced more than 70 essays, slideshows, interviews, and news stories in 2014, with help from contributors including: Ta-coumba Aiken, Kate Bernheimer & Laird Hunt, James Bridle, Nicole J. Caruth, Jeff Chang, Catherine Damman, Chris Fischbach, Kristina Fong, Shannon Gibney, Saidiya Hartman, Jeff Huebner, Julie Lasky, Martin Friedman, Joan Frosch, James Norton, Okwui Okpokwasili, Ana Tijoux, Susan Rosenberg, Joan Rothfuss, Dread Scott, and Ben Valentine, as well as the many Walker staffers who’ve shared their research and insights.

Below is a selection from our most popular articles of the past 12 months. (Click here to see the best of our blogs.) To keep up with all that we publish at walkerart.org in 2015, follow us on Twitter at @walkermag or subscribe to Walker Reader, our monthly editorial newsletter.

10.

Kris Martin, Bee, 2009

Kris Martin, Bee, 2009

Laugh at Death: Kris Martin on Time, Absence, and Humor

“We’re all goldfish.” In this interview from April, Belgian artist Kris Martin discusses his favorite movie scene, the goldfish scene that opens Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life, as well as his works that explore—and ridicule—death, from a cast gold bee to a 2D work in which the word “SOMEBODY” is written in human ashes (“We’re all somebody on paper.”) to For Whom … (2012), the silent swinging bell in the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden that takes its name from John Donne’s famous for-whom-the-bell-tolls meditation.

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Edward Hopper, Village Person

“Hopper was a poet of the abyss, a chronicler of discontinuity and disruption, who seemed to need a static environment from which he could take inventory of what was emotionally solid and measure the distance to the nearest patch of null.” In a photoessay illustrated by Duane Michals, Julie Lasky shared her experience visiting 1 Washington Square North, Edward Hopper’s home and studio for some five decades (now home to New York University’s School of Social Work). Of the setting, she noted: “Hopper admitted the southern light from his studio windows but ignored the pleasant scene, instead consulting the anomie behind his eyelids.”

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Mickey Friedman in the Walker design studio, photo contact sheet, 1979

Mickey Friedman in the Walker design studio, photo contact sheet, 1979

Design for Explication not Veneration: Remembering Mickey Friedman

“In Mickey’s hands, a design show was never simply about a subject, but drew upon the principles and power of design itself to create a compelling experience. ” For Mildred “Mickey” Friedman, curating design was less about acquiring objects than letting such artifacts tell stories within the galleries, “not for veneration but explication,” wrote architecture and design curator Andrew Blauvelt of Friedman, who passed away Sept. 3. As Design Quarterly editor and design curator for nearly 23 years, she consistently “drew upon the power of design itself to create a compelling experience.” The wife of former Walker director Martin Friedman, she worked with Walker architect Edward Larrabee Barnes to create the building’s interiors, gave Frank Gehry a prescient solo show in 1986, and inspired a generation of designers.

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Beyoncé the Readymade: A Conversation around Ralph Lemon’s Scaffold Room

“A machine, a high-powered Porsche, hip-hop technology. She consumes everything around her.” In Ralph Lemon’s Scaffold Room (commissioned by the Walker and premiered in October), Beyoncé is discussed as an overwhelming force of capital that takes over our senses. With Lemon’s work as a jumping-off point, performer Okwui Okpokwasili met with author and Columbia scholar Saidiya Hartman to discuss the iconography and cultural consumption of black women’s bodies.

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Choreographing Experiences in Space: Olga Viso Interviews Jim Hodges

“I’m interested in theatrical moments and choreographing experiences in space. I think as a drawer and make as a sculptor.” In an interview with Walker director Olga Viso (who curated Jim Hodges: Give More Than You Take), Jim Hodges discussed his art practice, life, and influences, touching on themes from love and loss to politics, spirituality, and mortality.

 

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La Cultura de la Basura: Ana Tijoux on Misogyny and Pop Music

“Where are the videos showing a woman in her role as sister—or protector, or economic head of family, or devoted daughter, or grandmother dignified in her old age?” In her Walker Artist Op-Ed, our ongoing series of opinion pieces by global artists, Chilean hip-hop MC and activist Ana Tijoux looks at la violencia del cuerpo en la musica: the objectification of female pop stars, which she likens to “visual punches: it’s about snatching away the very beauty of women.”

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The Siege on Citizenship: James Bridle on “The Right to Have Rights”

“The cloud renders geography irrelevant—until you realize that everything that matters, everything that means you don’t die, is based not only on which passport you possess, but on a complex web of definitions of what constitutes that passport.” Launching our series of Artist Op-Eds, UK-based artist and writer James Bridle shared the case of Mohamed Sakr, a man deprived of his UK citizenship and later killed by a US drone, to show how such definitions are under attack.

 

3.

“Hands up, don’t shoot!” Demonstrators protest the killing of teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, on August 12, 2014. Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

“Hands up, don’t shoot!” Demonstrators protest the killing of teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, on August 12, 2014.
Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

“Illegitimate”: Dread Scott on the Killing of Michael Brown

“If you’re the head of an empire and see that an unarmed youth is gunned down by the police and your advice is for people to be calm, your rule is illegitimate.” In an urgent essay in August, artist Dread Scott used our Artist Op-Ed platform to address the killing of Michael Brown by Ferguson, Missouri police and the crackdown on dissent that followed. Mixing anger and disbelief, he saluted protesters in Ferguson while decrying those who aim to control them through force. “If a Black boy can’t walk down the streets of his town without fear of being executed by the police,” he wrote, “what rights do we have?”

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Making the “Best Cat Video on the Internet”

“I’m a proud crazy cat video lady… trapped in a man’s body.” What does it take to make a cat video that becomes a viral sensation? Kristina Fong interviewed Will Braden, whose video Henri 2: Paw de Deux was voted “best cat video on the Internet” at the first ever Internet Cat Video Festival. Now #catvidfest curator, Braden shares his thoughts on the cat video phenomenon, as well as tips on making a videos that’ll be like catnip online.

 

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A Timeline of Design History:
Andrew Blauvelt Highlights the Best of Five Decades of Design Quarterly

For nearly fifty years, the Walker’s Design Quarterly chronicled the changing terrains of architecture, landscape architecture, urban planning, and product and graphic design. Featuring provocative thinkers—including Muriel Cooper, Martin Filler, and Armin Hofmann-—DQ charted design’s history, from a form-follows-function modernism of the ’40s to the affectations of postmodernism in the ’80s and ’90s.

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