Digital<>Analog, Aram Bartholl and New Media Art IRL — jonCates (2011)

I met ARAM Bartholl online in early 2006 after encountering his work (also online) in late 2005. the work of his which I first encountered is his Random Screen (which is also included in this section of this publication). I contacted ARAM (i) and asked him if I could include Random Screen in an exhibition/event I curated/organized called (A) r4WB1t5 micro.Fest. Our micro-festival was an ongoing series events in the mid to late 2000s. (ii) The instance I am currently referring to being organized by myself (jonCates), Jon Satrom (co-founder of r4WB1t5) and Jason Soliday (founder of ENEMY, where this instance of the micro.Fest was held). we conceived of the r4WB1t5 project as an an instantiated, open and copyable format for raw bits of Digital Art and Dirty New Media. (iii)

At first I interpreted Random Screen as an instruction set and proposed this approach to ARAM. He agreed, drafted a PDF explaining Random Screen in the context of a DIY kit and prepared to send us a modified beer can as a sample/example to work from. Ultimately we turned away from this approach at ARAM’s request (iv) and ARAM physically sent Random Screen to me (v) for us to exhibit in the r4WB1t5 micro.Fest at ENEMY in Chicago. After delays in transit and much anticipation on all our parts, a big cardboard box arrived from Berlin, and we excitedly opened the package and assembled Random Screen the day before r4WB1t5. (vi) as I wrote to ARAM is was an amazing digital to analog process: from reading a blog post, to watching QuickTime documentation on his site, to making all the DIY (Do It Yourself) and DIT (Do It Together) arrangements and then receiving and assembling the physical Random Screen from Berlin to exhibit it in Chicago.

I relate this story for a number of reasons. Among them, I have been asked to address a few ideas and concepts in this text which include “Digital<>Analog” in relation to ARAM’s work. (vii) I want to underscore here, as my text begins, that my experience with ARAM and his work has always importantly been in relation to the Digital<>Analog worlds we live in and travel across. ARAM and I immediately exchanged pics of what I have written about above (viii) and, in an email reply after r4WB1t5, ARAM attached a photo of himself with his family. This photo was incredibly heart-warming to me and was a wonderful and kind gesture on his part in terms of establishing a personal connection. ARAM and I have become friends over the years, meeting online and offline in Linz, Berlin, New York, Chicago and when and where we can.

As I tell my students whenever I teach ARAM’s work (which is nearly every semester), his projects fluidly crossover and negotiate our Digital<>Analog worlds with apparent ease, bringing digital elements (in particular) out of the confines of our online or otherwise screen-based and digitally mediated experiences and into our physically lived analog lives. His skills in accomplishing these uncanny acts of computer magic are remarkable. His works are engaging, compelling, surprising, subtle and demanding. His work is clearly his own and also completely of his times and cultures. He moves seamlessly from monumental to personal and intimate scales, registering all attendant emotions and aestheticonceptechniques (ix) along the way.

ARAM imbues his projects with his own sense of wonder and playfulness. Even when he is not dealing directly with Game Cultures, his work is often playfully funny, ludic and gaming our expectations. One of the reasons why I was immediately so taken with Random Screen is because of the way in which it surprises and upends expectations. An apparently digital installation is in fact analog in the most basic sense of being fire-based and candle-powered. When we exhibited Random Screen, people routinely approached the work, attracted by it’s beautiful glowing patterns and then look around the edge (which we left just exposed enough against a back wall in order to allow those who were curious to peek behind the ‘curtain’ to expose the stage magic trick or pseudo source code running behind the illuminated surface) of the work. This playfulness is personally relevant to ARAM’s expressive artistic practice and more generally is deeply important as a feature of New Media Art.

In his book Gaming: Essays on Algorithmic Culture, Alexander R. Galloway, writes on the concept of ‘Counter Gaming’, a phrase Galloway uses in a manner similar to the phrase ‘Critical Play’ as mobilized by Mary Flanagan or the more widely used term ‘Art Games’. Before Galloway comes to his section on the Counter Gaming strategies contributed by New Media artists such as JODI, he charts an expanded definition of gameplay that includes rest states or the ‘ambience acts’ that games are programmed to go into when players are inactive and/or literal pauses in gameplay initiated by gamers. Galloway also suggests that “the nondiegetic in gaming is often on equal footing with the diegetic”. (x) It is precisely in this expanded field that ARAM’s projects play. Furthermore, ARAM’s projects expand our definitions of the borders between concepts such as the digital and the analog or the diegetic and the nondiegetic by pulling elements out of and recontextualizing experiences into these worlds in order to express not only the leaky hybridity of these categories but more to call into question our assumptions about the categories themselves. Among the Art Games and Art Mods made and discussed by both Galloway and Flanagan, two distinct (if not opposed) models of New Media Art influenced by Game Cultures are identifiable. Some projects bring game worlds out into art worlds and others bring art worlds into game worlds. ARAM excels and is excessively skilled in bringing game worlds out into art worlds and public spaces. And as this book demonstrates, art worlds and publics beyond New Media Art recognize, respect and appreciate his ability to translate between these modes and mediums.

Art Games can be understood, in my view, as a subset of Artware (or Software Art) which itself is a subset of New Media Art. From this perspective, considerations of Digital Cultures (including New Media Art) require thinking and feeling through issues of Software Cultures and Game Cultures. ARAM consistently achieves these considerations through his projects. Whether they are digitally rendered or physically constructed, his efforts to touch and turn a specific digital element or aspect allows us to view that element or aspect from new angles and directions. In some cases, we are now able to literally walk around a physicalized memory of a previously digitally born experience. In each or any case, his approaches to art making literally translate or transcode between various phases or forms that we all inhabit along the analog to digital continuum that constitutes our lives in technological times. (xi)

In April of 2009, during a trial in which the anti-copyright or pro-piracy organization The Pirate Bay was accused of assistance to copyright infringement, The Pirate Bay co-founder Peter Sunde stated that everything is IRL (In Real Life). (xii) Sunde’s comment came during an exchange in which he detailed the group’s choice of the term AFK (Away From Keyboard) over IRL to refer to analog physical occurrences or experiences. He explained that the expressions communicate different meanings and he suggested, in his brief explanation, a philosophic reasoning for his choice that acknowledges that computer-mediated experiences are in fact still lived and real experiences. This quote circulated heavily on Tumblr, a ‘micro-blogging’ platform, which is, as ARAM has observed in his curatorial practice (xiii), home to many super niches of New Media artists (myself included). Many such artists and curators, especially those a generation younger than ARAM and myself, operate from this position. They often no longer recognize or are interested in maintaining strict barriers or divisions between Digital<>Analog. Instead they move fluidly through these moments, flowing from one modality to another, mixing/matching formats, reprogramming/recoding media and existing experientially along a continuum of experiences. Lindsay Howard, for instance, who curated the AWARENESS OF EVERYTHING SPEED SHOW in early June of 2011 and the DUMP.FM IRL exhibition in late October of 2010, articulates this position clearly through her curatorial work. Her DUMP.FM IRL exhibition in particular was created to, as she writes, “address how the site could translate to, and interact with, physical space.” xiv The site she refers to is the DUMP.FM site, a “platform for real-time image communication” which also serves as an ongoing conversational project in and of itself. DUMP.FM is particular to the web, a site which is site-specifically located online, however, Howard recognizes that this web-based specificity and community can be co-located in our shared physical analog (art) world as well. This movement, translation, interaction or transcoding between points on a continuum points towards the position that ‘everything is IRL’.

This continuum of analog to digital experiences or Digital<>Analog movements has a noncontiguous shape but a continuously interconnected and interwoven fabric. Our digital/analog lives and worlds are concurrent, we co-exist in, on and between these moments at this particular moment in our technological times. We are most often constantly penetrated by so many thousands of signals, measuring distances in increments of cellular signal strength and access to wireless networks, which our physical bodies, so hollow and watery, interrupt and delay. We materially absorb these signals into ourselves unconsciously while networking online and can become frustrated when we ourselves (individually or collectively) block reception to those networks. We are both in and off our Digital<>Analog lives and worlds concurrently, always already cybernated as Donna Haraway has taught us. (xv)

Like ARAM, I was born in the Late Analog Era, on the edge of the transition as the Analog Era slow faded and/or rapidly converted into the Digital. I have the personal experience of growing up in an living through these changes. There where times when much was made of these transitions or conversions. In New Media discourses of the 1990’s a now perceptible over-emphasis on newness, via a kind of reboot or restart (which was itself an expression of people’s ahistorical impulses to make claims for radical breaks or ruptures), expressed a sensibility that the ‘everything is IRL’ position and Dr. Haraway’s cyborg hybridities critically questions. The newness of New Media Art then was predicated on hard limits and boundaries between the analog and digital in order to maintain a false sense of distinction between these categories of experience. Mayhaps now, with the help of artist/curators such as ARAM Bartholl we can begin to recognize a more complex, overlapping, intertwingled and realistic worldview in which all the seriously funny, categorically leaky, messy digital and wonderfully contradictory moments we experience as we navigate our lives can be encountered through projects, such as those detailed in this book; projects that recognize and realize what it means to be alive in our specific technological times.

Santa Fe, NM 
JULY 2011 

i. To:
From: jonCates <>
Subject: Random Screen @ (A) r4WB1t5 micro.Fest?
Date: Tue, 3 Jan 2006 17:49:38 -0600


i am an artist, curator + organizer. one of the events i organize is 
a series called (A) r4WB1t5 micro.Fest:

r4WB1t5 is a new platform or framework for (A)narchistic forms of 
decentralized mini or micro festivals to self-organize around themes 
+ theorypractices of raw bits of digital art + dirty new media. (A) 
r4WB1t5 micro.Fest is itself a decentralized + open platform for 
playing realtime systems + exchanging New Media projects in 
conversational contexts.

the next r4WB1t5 micro.Fest is on JAN 21 in Chicago IL .US @ ENEMY 

we would _love_ it if we could include your Random Screen project:

do you think that would be possible?

this effort is self funded + we have very little $ to work w/+ try to 
keep the organization of the event inexpensive so that the events can 
be free. but it seems to jon.satrom + myself (who are organizing this 
event) that your Random Screen project is a bit like an instruction 
set that we could implement here based on your specifications. we 
could build the Random Screen installation here in conversation w/ 
you. what do you think? would that work for you?

below is a description of the r4WB1t5 project in case you want a 
brief summary of the proj. below that is a brief description of what 
the theme of this r4WB1t5 event is.

let me know what you think as soon as you can so we can figure out if 
it will be possible to setUp before JAN 21 2006.

thnx + [talk/type] soon!

// jonCates

← MORE_(A)_r4WB1t5_micro.Fest.NFO ! →

(A) r4WB1t5 micro.Fest is a new platform or framework for (A) 
narchistic forms of decentralized mini or micro festivals to self- 
organize around themes + theorypractices of raw bits of digital art + 
dirty new media. (A) r4WB1t5 micro.Fest is itself a decentralized + 
open platform for playing realtime systems + exchanging New Media 
projects in conversational contexts. (A) r4WB1t5 micro.Fest extends 
out of + feeds back into DaDaist, Situationist, Fluxist, punk, 
digital art + New Media theorypractices, hystories, posibilities + 
positionalities. (A) r4WB1t5 micro.Fest is an [open project/ 
conceptual {platform|framework}] available to anyOne interested in 
self-organized DIY digital arts + dirty new media.

← MORE_(A)_r4WB1t5_micro.Fest.NFO ! →

← (A)_r4WB1t5_micro.Fest_ON_2006.01.21 →

2006.01.21 (A) r4WB1t5 micro.Fest @ ENEMY

on JAN 21 aka 2006.01.21 Chicago’s new ENEMY gallery will host (A) 
r4WB1t5 micro.Fest. this instance of (A) r4WB1t5 micro.Fest focuses 
on shared playlists, reiterations, searching databases + developing 
complex overlapping digital, analog + humanistic systems.

4 collaborative groups will perform a shared playlist of 7 short 
realtime audio video pieces as determined by this (A) r4WB1t5 
micro.Fest’s participants. this shared playlist will be performed in 
a round. all artists [+/or] collaborative groups will play the 
complete set as this searchable database repeats + reiterates across 
in each unique variation created in this realtime human feedback 
system. during this event you will drift into + out of states of 
coincidental connections, overlaps + exchanges.

the 2006.01.21 r4WB1t5 @ ENEMY will also feature screen based video 
works, web based new media, as well as freeware + artware project 

← (A)_r4WB1t5_micro.Fest_ON_2006.01.21 →

ii. (A) r4WB1t5 micro.Fests were international, decentralized, self-organized and independently instantiated situations of raw bits of digital art and dirty new media. (A) r4WB1t5 micro.Fest was itself an open platform or framework for creating these events in alternative and conversational contexts such as bars, basements, art spaces, apartments, galleries, etc… (A) r4WB1t5 micro.Fest extended out of and feed back into DaDaist, Situationist, Fluxist, punk, digital art and New Media theories and practices… (A) r4WB1t5 micro.Fests were always free and open collaborative projects, available to anyone interested in self-organizing an instance of the ongoing (A) r4WB1t5 micro.Fest. (A) r4WB1t5 micro.Fests were initially organized by jonCates and Jon Satrom in 2005 and were then self-organized by multiple participants in Chicago, Knoxville and Mexico City until 2007.

iii. As r4WB1t5 organizers Amanda Gutierrez, Jon Satrom and myself wrote in 2006, in a text called “ PROPOSAL FOR A MESHWORK OF R4WB1T5 MICRO.FESTS” that appeared in Experimenta’s Mesh magazine: “Organise (A) r4WB1t5 micro festival. Improvise strategies. Facilitate micro revolutionary moments. Throw a digital punk show. Do it yourself. Do it together. Exchange cultural resources. Reduce. Remix. Recycle. Expand. Revise. Decentralise. Nodalise. Network. Take Free Jazz forms and introduce realtime New Media projects into conversational contexts. Unlock alternative spaces. Activate events in unrealised situations. Wrestle, Web Art and experimental musics as Luche Libre. Foreground labor issues. Build transparencies. Unpack systems. Collaborate across contested borders.” We intended this invitation to be extended and open. This hope was realized by some (including our collaborators from Mexico City Arcángel Constantini,
Juan Jose Rivas, Eusebio Bañuelos and others) who are detailed in the text. Formats such as dorkbot were an inspiration for our project as our project has subsequently informed and partially inspired ARAM in is initiating the SPEED SHOW project/platform.

iv. As ARAM wrote to me, a friend of his, who had tried to recreate Random Screen on her own, had difficulties cutting out the shape of the beer cans to assemble the construction. So rather than detailing how to make the cuts and in order to save time in the process, ARAM opted to send me Random Screen intact, as an exhibition ready installation.

v. SEE ATTACHED IMAGE: RandomScreen_arrives.jpg

vi. SEE ATTACHED IMAGE: RandomScreen_jC_opens.jpg

vii. When Domenico Quaranta wrote me in late June of this year (2011), he explained that this book would be more than a classical catalogue and that my contribution should focus on “the following topics / keywords: Pixel, Element,
Digital<>Analog, The philosophy of THE digital element”.

viii. On January 25, 2006, ARAM wrote to me asking how the micro.fest went, if everything worked out well with Random Screen and if there were mayhaps any digital photos of the event for him to see. I replied the same day saying yes, it all went well and telling him that people loved Random Screen, commented on it all nite and most importantly mayhaps that it did not catch on fire even though we ran it all night :) The catching fire concern had been raised by ARAM previously in our communications as he had not previously run Random Screen for such a duration. I also said yes to his question about photos and sent him links to photos which I had just uploaded, including those that accompany this text and that still exist/are available online in the r4WB1t5 (A)RCHIVE online:

ix. ‘Aestheticonceptechniques’ is a term I have developed and deploy as an extension of Kodwo Eshun’s term ‘conceptechnics’ as he uses it in his 1998 book More Brilliant Than The Sun. Eshun developed the term to signal interdependencies and deep interrelations of idea and form. Similarly, I use ‘aestheticonceptechniques’ to articulate my perspective as a theory-practitioner, engaging the interdependent technosocial relations of aesthetics, concepts and techniques.

x. Gaming: Essays On Algorithmic Culture, Alexander R. Galloway (University Of Minnesota Press, 2006) p. 124

xi. I am using the phrase ‘technological times’ in reference to San Francisco Museum of Modern Art’s exhibition titled “010101: Art in Technological Times” and in the way in which the phrase is mobilized by Beryl Graham and Sarah Cook in their 2010 book Rethinking Curating: Art after New Media.

xii. The Pirate Bay Trial transcript, Day 05, Part, as transcribed by The Purple Flagship (2009)

xiii. SPEED SHOW vol.4: Super Niche
Wednesday, 27th Oct. 2010, 8–11 PM
90 Bowery Internet Cafe, NY 10013
( G-maps ) FB

Has (inter) left its niche? Or is it clustered into zillions of tiny net niches splintered into numerous subtopics? The Super Niche could be a very big niche, a surf-club which is almost mainstream (?) or a sub cell of a extreme small niche of a 1-visitor ever page in deprecated HTML oblivion. Learning from evolution the beauty lies in the absurdity of super niche solutions, of visual workarounds in every day life net culture. It’s time to create more niches! It’s time to superfy!

Produced and curated by: Aram Bartholl

Participating Artists:
Erik Andersson, Cory Arcangel, Michael Bell-Smith, Charles Broskoski, Jon Cates, Aleksandra Domanovic, Doubble Happiness, Constant Dullaart, JODI, JK Keller, Greg Leuch, Olia Lialina & Dragan Espenschied, Duncan Malashock, Eva & Franco Mattes aka 0100101110101101.ORG, Aaron Meyers, Mark Napier, Katja Novitskova, Jacob Ciocci & Jeff Crouse, Jon Rafman, Ariel Rebel, Ryder Ripps, Evan Roth, Brad Troemel, Marius Watz”

xiv. “Surviving the Internet

stuff you don’t have to read:
319 Scholes invites image-based chat site DUMP.FM to inhabit the gallery and present a group exhibition of animated objects, sound, sculpture, and performance. Founded in November 2009 by Ryder Ripps in collaboration with Scott Ostler (of MIT Exhibit) and Tim Baker (of Delicious), DUMP.FM is a new platform for real-time image communication. The site’s popular chat room and user-friendly accessibility have inspired a committed group of users to rapidly share and subsequently alter their internet discoveries, from Web1.0 animated GIFs into current memes. Throughout the week-long residency, interactive works will invite users to engage with the DUMP.FM full-screen, workstations will be provided for on-site experimentation, and a live-feed will stream to DUMP.FM contributors all over the world. A selected group of DUMP.FM users will present multi-media works which address how the site could translate to, and interact with, physical space. The residency welcomes DUMP.FM users to inhabit the gallery 24/7, to use the space and materials as an open studio for collaboration, in virtual and/or physical formats. The studio time is meant to foster new and deeper collaborations between artists, embracing the sense of community, group discovery, and creativity already present on the site.

Curated by Lindsay Howard

October 22 — October 30, 2010
Opening reception: October 22, 7pm — 12am
DUMP.FM hosts Halloween ft. performances by Anamanguchi and Physical Therapy: October 30, 10pm”

xv. “A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century”, Donna Haraway
(Socialist Review, 1985)

Digital<>Analog, Aram Bartholl and New Media Art IRL by jonCates

Aram Bartholl, The Speed Book: Perceptive and entertaining investigations of digital culture.

Editors: Domenico Quaranta

About This Book

Aram Bartholl’s work explores the power structures, the social systems, the cultural innovations, the inner dynamics, the languages, and the products that are shaping our age. This first comprehensive monograph offers entry to an oeuvre in which space and cyberspace mingle and mangle each other, a realm that uses as little technology as possible while still speaking a digital language.

Aram Bartholl: The Speed Book features savvy experiments with transitions from the virtual to the physical: USB sticks embedded into walls, buildings, and curbs; giant real-life versions of Google’s red map markers positioned in public spaces; portraits generated from search results. An introduction by editor Domenico Quaranta as well as essays by science fiction writer Bruce Sterling, art critics, and fellow artists guide readers through a wonderfully skewed version of reality under the influence of the internet, something Sterling refers to as Bartholl’s “self-created twilight zone.”