Yesterday, Rhizome hosted their first international Seven on Seven conference at the Barbican's new Milton Court venue. The event pairs 7 contemporary artists with 7 technologists who are given just 24 hours to devise a project, which they must present to an audience in its raw state on the following day. Having gathered momentum in New York, the initiative takes steps to cultivate the use of technology within creative practice at the highest level. The organisation is a media-art affiliate of the New Museum in New York and it's a partnership that yields a fine crop of artists. Recent exhibitors at the museum bolstered the roster including Turner prize winner Mark Leckey and Haroon Mirza (who unfortunately couldn't make his presentation). They were joined by less established but equally engaging artists including Cecile B Evans and Aleksandra Domanovic. The technologists also boasted impressive resumes like Alberto Nardelli of Tweetminster and Smari McCarthy of IMMI.
Our attention was focused very much on creative software developer Ryder Ripps. Associated with a particular group of creatives that could equally inhabit the role of artist or technologist including Ryan Trecartin, Brad Troemel and Olia Lialina, Ripps' presentation was by no means hampered by the absence of his partner Mirza. Ripps developed a website called aboutwhateveritis.com that allows users within 0.1 miles of one another to post messages anonymously to its home page. Determined by geographical proximity, it is the kind of tool that could allow free discussion on an art object in a gallery or conversation on a film in a cinema or indeed allow audience participation during a presentation as was the case here. The site was inspired by his dad's reply of 'People don't look at one another any more' when he asked if the world 'sucked' before the internet. In one way, Ryder's solution perpetuates the same behaviour Mr Ripps laments, in another it facilitates an initial connection. Crucially it is democratic in its nature, all participants are stripped down to an equal footing, encouraging involvement and engagement with art objects displayed in institutions. Or indeed it can be used for anonymous gutter talk, 'Ryder Ripps is hot' typed one enamoured audience member.
Ryder was in the minority having produced a functioning product at the end of his somewhat one sided collaboration. The other pairings came up with various methods of intervening with major digital platforms. Alice Bartlett and Cecile B. Evans' app Entropy randomly adds users to your twitter feed. They claim unexpected behaviours help you to allude algorithmic categorisation and will scramble the type of tailored advertising you receive. Why? They say 'just because it's annoying'. Jonas Lund and Michelle You developed eeeeemail.com, which sends an already sent email from your inbox to a random contact. Reminiscent of Miranda July's inbox exhibition We Think Alone where members sign up to receive 20 previously sent emails for 20 weeks from its collaborators, the project removes any original context and reveals the various ways one might comport themself through their correspondence.
One of the most illuminating talks came in fact from the introduction by technologist Jamie King. His musings on ownership and value in the digital sphere laid bare the decreasing 'cost' of data sharing and the turbulent challenge to instill and maintain 'value' in an easily transferable creative product. His series of documentaries Steal this Film is a technological re imagining of Abbie Hoffman's 1970 book Steal this Book that examines piracy, grass roots distribution and file-sharing and encourages fresh thinking on the concept of intellectual property within this realm.
Rhizome is an important and worthwhile venture, recognising the potential one day can hold and pushing leading creatives to make technology and artistic practice co habit. Looking forward to the next one.