Rhizome.org 2007-2008 Commissions* Considered as XYZ Art

"once a process (i like to say algorithm) Y is set up, you can mess about trying to figure out what X you can put in to get what Z, and then what's the best Z, and then what X will give it to you..." (Paul B. Davis on the XYZ tendency in computercentric art). That tendency crosses over from the digital/new media realm (Rhizome) to by-the-numbers conceptual art in the gallery world (VVork). Common features are a distinct grammar of subject-verb-object and a noble or socially useful goal. It is especially prevalent in tech art, which tends to mimic the scientific method's successful means of getting results. Once the "experiment" is performed, voila, Art.

1.) AddArt Member Selection
by Steve Lambert with Evan Harper

AddArt is a Firefox extension (Y) which replaces advertising images on web pages (X) with art images from a curated database (Z).

2.) Ebay-Generator
by Ubermorgen.com (Alessandro Ludovico and Paolo Cirio)

Ebay-Generator (Y) will generate songs (Z) based on the public data mined from Ebay sellers and buyers (X). Users' rating, sold objects, times and frequency of transactions and other data will be automatically transformed into a structured text, which a supercollider-application will use to generate music and lyrics.

3.) ShiftSpace - An OpenSource Layer Above Any Website
by Dan Phiffer and Mushon Zer-Aviv

While the Internet's design is widely understood to be open and distributed, control over how users interact online has given us largely centralized and closed systems. ShiftSpace is an Open Source platform (Y) that attempts to subvert this trend by providing a new public space on the web. By pressing the [Shift] + [Space] keys, a ShiftSpace user can invoke a new meta layer (Z) above any web page (X) to browse and create additional interpretations, contextualizations and interventions using various authoring tools.

4.) The Wrench
by Knifeandfork (Sue Huang and Brian House)

The Wrench will recast Primo Levi's The Monkey's Wrench (X) into a mobile phone text-message exchange between participants and an artificially-intelligent agent (Z). Taking place over the course of a week, the dialogue is not pre-determined; it employs Knifeandfork's nonlinear narrative software engine (Y). The system is intended to present a convincingly human agent within a realtime plot progression. The AI will have specific, dynamic narrative goals for each interaction, designed to intertwine the lives of the character and participant through the ubiquitous yet restrictive communication channel of text-messaging.

5.) zHarmony Member Selection
by conglomco.org (Tyler Jacobsen & Kim Schnaubert)

zHarmony is an addition (Y) to Rhizome that will combine the Compatibility Matching System of online relationship services like eHarmony with Rhizome's existing database of artists (X). zHarmony will produce a unique artist profiling system that can automatically match artists with like-minded collaborators (or groups of collaborators) based on multiple points of compatibility (Z).

Borderline XYZ projects:

6.) Eavesdropping
by Jack Stockholm

Eavesdropping is a networked audio system (Y) designed for guerilla performance (Z) to raise awareness of our ambient communication in public spaces (X). This project highlights the intentionality and exhibitionism of bringing our private actions into the public sphere.

7.) VF, Virta-Flaneurazine-SL, Proposal for Clinical Study Member Selection
by Will Pappenheimer and John Freeman

Virta-Flaneurazine-SL is a potent programmable "mood changing" drug (Y) for Second Life (SL). A member of the "Wanderment" family of psychotropic drugs; when ingested it automatically causes the bearer (X) to aimlessly roam the distant lands of SL for up to a full day. As the prograchemistry takes effect, users find themselves erratically teleporting to random locations, behaving strangely, seeing digephemera and moving in circuitous paths (Z). Many users report the experience allows them to see SL freed from its limitations as a fast growing grid of investment properties.

Non XYZ projects:

8.) Phrenology
by Melanie Crean with Chris Sugrue and Paul Geluso

Phrenology will investigate the perception of space, whether real, virtual or imagined, though writings created by incarcerated women in a workshop the artist will teach at Bedford Hills Correctional Facility. The piece will consist of a series of 360 degree photographic panoramas that interconnect through text included in the environments. Viewers will be able to move through the different environments to read the women's writing in a form of spatial poem, accompanied by an experimental sound track based on the text. [a possible (Y) might be the traditional interpretative function of the artist but that doesn't count as an "algorithm"--the use of prison texts is a typical (X)]

9.) Jellotime.com
by Rafael Rozendaal

JelloTime.com will be a website with a single flash animation. You will see a green plate with a red Jello dessert. When you touch the jelly with your mouse, it "wobbles." It will shake and make a strange sound, the more you pull it, the more it will shake. I really want to emulate the feeling of jelly, something between solid and liquid. A feeling that is very familiar in real life that might seem strange on a computer screen. [not XYZ. more like just (X)]

10.) Remote Instructions
by Lee Walton

Remote Instructions is a web-central project that will utilize both the communication capabilities of the web and spectatorship of its users. From a central hub, Lee Walton will collaborate with strangers globally via the web and orchestrate a series of video performances that will take place in real cities, neighborhoods, villages and towns around the world. A Remote Instructions website will be created to host video projects and promote networking among collaborators. [too complicated to be XYZ. sounds like a lot of work, and the only person with the big picture view will be the artist]

11.) Second Life Dumpster
by eteam

In Second Life each avatar has a trash folder. Items that get deleted end up in that folder by default. The trash folder has to get emptied as often as possible, otherwise the avatars performance might diminish. But, where do deleted things end up? What are those things? Second Life Dumpster will explore these questions by starting and maintaining a public dumpster in Second Life for the duration of one year. [this is not XYZ because it is open-ended and asks questions without knowing what the answers are. it is the second of two commissions involving Second Life, the "Active Worlds of the '00s"]

Update, 2011: The Rhizome link has been changed to http://rhizome.org/editorial/2007/jun/15/rhizome-2007-08-commissions-announcement/. Please note these are elsewhere called the 2008-2009 Commissions.

- tom moody 6-15-2007 11:25 pm

someone needs to make some YYZ art

- guthrie (guest) 6-16-2007 1:01 am

- paul (guest) 6-16-2007 2:23 am

rafael's sounds excellent!
- damon (guest) 6-17-2007 6:28 am

It sounds entertaining. Saying it's (X) isn't really a putdown. I support the big dumb centralized thing over the complex "saving the world with my art" narrative thing.
- tom moody 6-17-2007 7:02 am

yeah, i can't wait to see it jiggle. that was the only website i navigated too it's a nice shade of pink ... seems like a serious challenge I wonder if he can pull it off?
- charles westerman (guest) 6-17-2007 8:02 am

i reblogged this if you don't mind. the "voila, art" thing is always good to be reminded of. i'm reading some software art panel of experts these days and it's pretty obvious how much they are in this semi-magic semi-scientific demonstration frenzy. i want to offer them lab coats: they would look cooler!
- camille.pb (guest) 6-18-2007 3:15 pm

Thanks, Camille! I know of at least one new media artist (Golan Levin) who has worn a lab coat when performing.
- tom moody 6-18-2007 4:59 pm

Don't see how XYZ relates solely to these types of new media projects. Painting, sculpture, photography, many mediums use a trial-error process similar to science. For instance one commonly develops a style or signature process (the algorithm), often paying big gradschool dollars for it, then alters X strokes or colors, looks at the Z surface, changes X some, then goes for the super awesome Z for the finish.
- ssr (guest) 6-18-2007 8:00 pm

That's funny, but we're not talking about a trial-error process. It's more like one application: a single transformation of something into something that "helps others."

The art world equivalent would be a conceptual art work, something like Meg Cranston's Who's Who by Size, University of California Sample, 1994, where different fabric covered sculptural stacks (Z) represent the number of inches of shelf space (X) a subject (Edgar Allen Poe, Elvis Presley, etc) has in a college library. The algorithm or (Y) is assigning a fabric to the subject (Anna Pavlova in ballet slipper satin, etc) and making the stacks. The work has a point, and one point only, to show intuitively that "size matters" in assessing one's historical reputation. (I got this example and some of the description from the book Deep Storage, ed. by Ingrid Schaffner and Matthias Winzen.)

Grad schools turning out cookie cutter painting is rather a different issue.
- tom moody 6-18-2007 9:32 pm

That's an interesting point about conceptual art, Tom. I think that basically what my art is about is not making choices. It's in making an initial choice of, say, a system, and letting the system do the work. Only when there's a contradiction or an impasse of some sort do I have to decide one thing or another. For instance, I have to make a decision on color. Well, I decided white because it was the least color I can think of. The other possibility would be black. But black is so positive and it has other meanings. White has unfortunate connotations too. People think of purity. But it just worked, I think, better than black. But I just try, have always tried, to let the content of the piece decide the form of the piece.
- sol lewitt (guest) 6-21-2007 8:01 pm

Thanks, Sol, may you rest in peace. It sounds like your brainwaves got mingled with Andy Warhol's in art limbo, but it's great to hear from you.
- tom moody 6-21-2007 8:17 pm

There seems to be a lot of interest in this thread in finding original 'ideas' in art. But it's not the idea, it's the work. There is no real difficulty to resolve as far as the plagiarism thing goes. If somebody steals something, they steal it. That's the end of it. But what they make, if they steal it correctly, is just as good as mine. If they steal it correctly in its entirety or lift it in its entirety, the reproduction again is as good as the 'original'.
- lawrence weiner (guest) 6-21-2007 8:20 pm

I don't sell the commodity. I sell the idea.
- sol lewitt (guest) 6-21-2007 8:25 pm

I think the idea can be evaluated. I think nothing else really can. And I think that may cause some hassles for a while, but already people are accepting the possibility that you really can't criticize this kind of work. And as a result, art critics, the really imaginative ones like Lucy Lippard, are into passing information rather than making their own value judgments. She doesn't write anymore, hardly at all. And in a sense, they're becoming artists.
- S. Kaltenbach (guest) 6-21-2007 8:34 pm

Don't know if the New Criterion has a chat room but these parodies would be a laff riot over there.
- tom moody 6-21-2007 8:35 pm

Oh, well, the spammers have told me it's time to close this thread, sorry.
Also, sorry to S Kaltenbach, who appears to be a real person who came on the heels of some prank posts. My New Criterion crack was aimed at LeWitt, et al.
- tom moody 7-01-2007 1:25 am