Found, Sampled, Stolen: Strategies of Appropriation In New Media

Guest Editor, Journal Edition 2013

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Found, Sampled, Stolen: Strategies of Appropriation In New Media

Media-N Online Edition

Media-N Print Edition

Guest Editorial Statement by Joshua Pablo Rosenstock (Guest Editor)

Essays:
Routing Mondrian: The A. Michael Noll Experiment (Grant Taylor)
A {Digital} Stitch in Time (Alexia Mellor)
The New Aesthetic and The Framework of Culture (Eduardo Navas)
Appropriating Web Interfaces: From the Artist As DJ to the Artist As Externalizer (Marialaura Ghidini)
Dadaist Game Art: The Digital Ready-Made and Absurdist Appropriation (Steve Gibson)
Remixology (A Theoretical Fiction) (Mark Amerika)
Curatorial experiments in liberating copyright-free material for artistic re-use (Sarah Cook)
Soup & Yogurt: A Guantanamo Archive (Margot Herster)
Copyright Cowboys Performing the Law (Cornelia Sollfrank)

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Although the term “appropriation art” came into widespread use during the 1980s to describe the work of a particular group of artists, appropriation-based concepts and practices are at the core of many of the key moments in modern and postmodern art history. Media artists today emulate appropriative movements from across the past century, from Dadaist readymades, to Pop Art’s ironic reuse of mass media detritus, to Hip-hop’s sampling and DJ remixing. Indeed, appropriation strategies and remix thoroughly permeate contemporary artistic practices of creation, archiving, and dissemination. Although appropriation is now a familiar part of contemporary art, recent evolution in the legal, conceptual, and technological landscapes of media art have brought to the fore newer discourses concerning copyright, sharing, memes, data, and the ever-increasing penetration of networked computing into all aspects of daily life. This issue of Media-N brings together a fine assortment of artists, art historians, curators, and theorists to present a lively chorus of viewpoints on the state of appropriation in new media art.

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Periscope

Live Generative Video Installation 2012

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In collaboration with Deborah Aschheim & Daragh Byrne

    Amazon.com campus, 207 Boren Ave. N., Seattle, WA 2012
Commissioned by Paul Allen’s Vulcan Inc. for the Amazon.com building at 207 Boren Avenue North in Seattle, as part of the revitalization campaign for the South Lake Union neighborhood which includes many public artworks. My portion of the Periscope installation is an autonomously generated video, changing daily, which is composed of surveillance and webcam images gathered from around the world.
Images and video coming soon!
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Security Blanket

Live Generative Video 2010

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Security Blanket

In collaboration with Sarah Fierberg Phillips

Security Blanket is a ‘video quilt’ whose dynamically-generated pattern is formed out of hijacked surveillance camera feeds. The project juxtaposes references to the American quilting tradition, associated with images of early Americana and notions of ‘traditional American values,’ with modern hi-tech tools of paranoid social control.

In the process, it foregrounds an obsessive attention to the unobserved minutiae of everyday human experience while posing questions about contemporary American values.

Does an atmosphere of hyper-vigilance and loss of privacy actually make us more secure?


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Shrine to the Funky Drummer

Experimental Documentary Video 2010

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This project was initially developed during my residency as Artist In Research at the Berwick Research Institute.

It is being published by ASPECT: The Chronicle of New Media Art in Volume 16: Low-Tech.

Audio commentary by Wayne Marshall of wayneandwax.com and presently Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow at MIT.

Shrine to the Funky Drummer is an experimental video documentary that seeks to portray a specific instance of media sampling as an archetypal cultural moment and a lens through which to examine a multifaceted story of creative appropriation.  The ‘Funky Drummer’ is a five-second excerpt from a James Brown song that has been used as the foundation of hundreds of other musical compositions and is one of popular music’s most famous samples. For this project I gathered and created artifacts and ‘holy relics’ that explore the early history of Hip Hop and the creative acts of sampling and remixing. The video examines debates about copyright and fair use in relation to Afro-Diasporic musical notions of “versioning,” the fetishistic culture of record-digging, and postmodern theoretical questions about authorship in the age of digital (re)production.

*video (big)*

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Surveillance Suite In Berkeley

Video Installation 2009

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Surveillance Suite In Berkeley

*Telematic Timelapse video*


There are countless anonymous networked cameras that broadcast publicly over the Internet. In the Telematic Timelapse project, I harvest selected ambient video streams and transform them into time-lapse musical video compositions. The minutiae of these tiny vignettes become rhythmic micro-narratives, dramatizing temporary and fleeting moments that are ordinarily invisible in our experience of everyday life. The resulting rhythms of change, textures of image, patterns of human movement, and qualities of light are mirrored by musical motifs that form an expressive, subtle portrait of the original spaces, of which the exact actual location remains unknown.
In addition to manifesting the specific, quotidian character of these spaces, both pastoral and urban, the works incorporate an implicit theme of surveillance. However, rather than being presented in a typically dystopian light, the depictions of the subjects are dreamlike, comical, sentimental, or maddeningly languorous. Further, the methodology of the pieces speaks to the ubiquitous culture of networked communication that characterizes so much of our present zeitgeist. They seek to restore a sense of wonder at the unbounded, global flow of information that is itself part of the daily experience of contemporary life.

Installation:
This piece was presented as an interactive installation which took place as part of the Association for Computing Machines’ Creativity and Cognition 09 conference at the UC Berkeley Art Museum. The video/music compositions were presented as a very large-scale projection onto the exterior of the museum. Opposite the projections I set up a video matrix with live surveillance feeds, incorporating feeds from the internet as well as live cameras surveying the exhibition areas. An ‘observation log’ was provided, inviting viewers to participate in the surveillance and note any ‘suspicious behaviors’ they observed.

Technical Information:
I created a Unix shell script to automatically harvest images from the internet at periodic intervals. I rendered the collected images into time-lapse videos in Quicktime, then edited together the sequences in iterations between Final Cut Pro, Ableton Live, and custom software written in Max/Jitter. I composed the soundtrack, then performed it on a variety of acoustic, digital, and analog instruments, recorded, and mixed. All aspects of this process were performed by the artist alone.

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Dance of the Computer Lab

Time Lapse Video with Musical Soundtrack 2009

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Dance of the Computer Lab

The Desk
Watch video

At present, there are thousands of webcams or networked security cameras that broadcast publicly over the Internet. A simple Google search reveals countless results for these types of cameras, including many that may not intended for public scrutiny but are catalogued nonetheless by search bots. The ceaseless flow of images from these autonomous cameras is typically ephemeral and unremarked, but provides fertile material for artistic investigation.

In my project I harvest these ambient video streams, using a telematic practice of ‘sampling’ the photographs from the virtual cameras, and transform them into video-music compositions and rhythmic micro-narratives. I meld the found images, which are often disassociated from any recognizable locality, into time-lapse videos, then use the minutiae of these tiny vignettes as a visual ‘score’ for which I compose a tightly-synchronized musical accompaniment. These videos provide a means of visualizing temporary and fleeting moments that are ordinarily invisible in our experience of everyday life. The resulting rhythms of change, textures of image, patterns of human movement, and qualities of light are mirrored by musical motifs that form an expressive, subtle portrait of the original spaces, of which the location remains unknown.

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The Desk

Time Lapse Video with Soundtrack 2009

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The Desk

The Desk
Watch video

At present, there are thousands of webcams or networked security cameras that broadcast publicly over the Internet. A simple Google search reveals countless results for these types of cameras, including many that may not intended for public scrutiny but are catalogued nonetheless by search bots. The ceaseless flow of images from these autonomous cameras is typically ephemeral and unremarked, but provides fertile material for artistic investigation.

In my project I harvest these ambient video streams, using a telematic practice of ‘sampling’ the photographs from the virtual cameras, and transform them into video-music compositions and rhythmic micro-narratives. I meld the found images, which are often disassociated from any recognizable locality, into time-lapse videos, then use the minutiae of these tiny vignettes as a visual ‘score’ for which I compose a tightly-synchronized musical accompaniment. These videos provide a means of visualizing temporary and fleeting moments that are ordinarily invisible in our experience of everyday life. The resulting rhythms of change, textures of image, patterns of human movement, and qualities of light are mirrored by musical motifs that form an expressive, subtle portrait of the original spaces, of which the location remains unknown.

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Manic Barbering

Time Lapse Video With Musical Soundtrack 2009

Nomadic Remix Jacket

Wearable Electronic Instrument 2008

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Nomadic Remix Jacket

In collaboration with Florence W. Rosenstock

Two hand-made jackets wired with electronics, forming mobile sound samplers. The wearer circulates throughout the city, collecting sounds. The audio samples are continuously remixed into a rhythmic musical collage that accompanies their explorations. At any point in their journey, the wearer may add a new sound to the composition, which they are encouraged to do by interacting with other humans and by recording sounds specific to their current locale. On conclusion of the nomadic sound collecting journey, the sounds can be downloaded into a cumulative collection database.

This piece re-imagines/re-wires clothing for a globalized, media-saturated era.  It situates the wearer as a sonic hunter/gatherer, exploring and documenting the sonic landscape of the postmodern city.

The autonomous machine embedded in the jackets amplifies the contemporary trends of ubiquitous, wearable electronic devices that constantly reassure us with their chattering voices, and, like John Cage’s compositions, seeks to recognize music in the sounds of everyday life. It weaves together sonic fragments of a multiplicity of voices and localities into a perpetually-remixed soundtrack to accompany the wearer’s journeys into public space.

The jackets themselves represent a trans-global remix of textile traditions, incorporating shibori and other Asian, African, and American techniques, as well as found and recycled materials. Brightly-colored and richly textured, they invite curiosity from spectators and encourage interaction with the wearer.

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Bumpkin’s Bestiary

Found Material Sculpture/Site Specific Installation 2007

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Bumpkin's Bestiary

In collaboration with Sarah Fierberg Phillips & Jonah Goldstein, with help from Eric Freeman

I returned to plant sculpture, found materials, and environmental installation in a low-tech context as a participant in the 2007 Bumpkin Island Art Encampment. This unusual event, organized by the Berwick Research Institute, Island Alliance, and Studio Soto, took place over labor day weekend on a small island in the Boston Harbor.

Using the metaphor of homesteading as a point of departure, 40 artists in ten groups will embark on new artistic and geographic terrain. With only the materials they can carry on their backs and a short 5-day window of time, the artists will adapt ambitious projects to the challenges and opportunities of an island environment.

Part residency, part survivalist experiment, and fully impressionable, malleable, speculative and reflective, the Encampment allows artists to explore new possibilities, removed from the distractions and discourses of the mainland. Yet, like an explorer with a partially drawn map to be fully formed in expedition, the project presents itself as a microcosm of transparent, possible attributes and actions for a culture stripped bare and invented anew.

Our team built sculptures comprised entirely of materials we scavenged from around the island. Our creations – a giant twig chicken, a goat with internal organs made of garbage, and a rusty metal pig – embodied a Darwinesque fantasy of exotic, mutated, feral creatures on a remote island. The results of the project were documented in the Land Grab exhibition at APEXART in New York City, and featured online at the German art site wooloo.org.

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