EVEN BORING BLOGS ARE THINGS OF BEAUTY IN SOME ARTISTS’ EYES
Andrew Lavalle (fragment)
Wall Street Journal
For "Blogger Skins," he Googled a handful of bloggers who write about art, then assembled a virtual mosaic of the images that resulted. "The idea is that a Google search for people who are very active in this community changes every day, so I wanted to capture one specific search," he says.
The image reflects the original order of the search results, he says, "and that creates, sort of accidentally, this beautiful shape, but that shape also reflects the popularity of different images." Subjects with common names had wildly random images associated with them. The artists, though, exerted control over their search results by filling them with their work.
TORCITO PROJECT; sonic portraits
Marcin Ramocki, a Polish artist who's also a director of documentaries and independent curator, since his first experiments has focused his research on the construction of metaphors by using the most diverse software programs. Non-linear narration, be it generative and random or interactive, is the common theme of his many projects, even though there are other central themes, such as videogames aesthetics (especially the retro ones), combining old and new technologies, the DIY philosophy (which has recently become DIWO, thanks to a Furtherfield collective provocation or - more likely - thanks to the interactive nature of web 2.0), for example in works like Torcito Project (sonic portraits). This work is composed of seven portraits made in the Italian region of Salento (Masseria Torcito is in Cannole, near Lecce) in the summer of 2005 using Virtual Drummer, an "old" Macintosh software. A 48x64 grid is the canvas used by Ramocki. In this grid there's the bitmap image of a human face which eventually turns into the score of an endless sound loop. Each horizontal line corresponds to an instrument (for a total of 48 instruments) which is activated each time the cathode ray beam hits one of the portrait's pixels. Ramocki's work brings to mind Jacquard's punched cards, but also the pianola and the automatic piano. All these, in fact, are applications of the simple binary principle of full and empty. As is easy to understand, there's nothing too far from the basic principle modern digital technologies, and our information society, are based on.
RHIZOME NEWS: BLOGGER SKINS
It used to be a bit creepy to admit you googled a new friend or business acquaintance, but these ad hoc background checks are now customary. Marcin Ramocki's latest project 'Blogger Skins,' at artMoving Projects in Brooklyn, references the layer of character these simplistic queries impose upon us. Often out of date, decontextualized, and in some cases shockingly spot-on, our google search results, for good or bad, have become inextricable from our identities. To visualize this process Ramocki used Google's image search on art bloggers Tom Moody (tommoody.us), Paddy Johnson (artfagcity.com), Regine Debatty (we-make-money-not-art.com), James Wagner (jameswagner.com), and Joy Garnett (newsgrist.typepad.com), and tiled the first one hundred images that appeared into a mosaic 'portrait' of each critic. The snapshots point to the absurdity of such cursory investigations, and flip the dynamic between the artist/critic and researcher/researchee relationship. Regine Debatty becomes an art world supermodel, Paddy Johnson appears to have a relationship with Lou Reed, and Tom Moody is an abstract art-creating cricket player. In his own words Moody notes, 'I like what Ramocki says but vaguely wish I didn’t have to be the proof.'
MARCIN RAMOCKI: USELESS #5, NEWER THAN EVER
An interview with Brice Brown (fragment)
Useless Magazine (UK)
Brice Brown: When I saw you at Art Basel in Miami, you mentioned something about how the future of New Media was heading toward the idea of collectors being able to access artists and their work on the Internet, and a collector could own a percentage of the artist. It sounded really cool, but I was drunk at the time, so could you now explain what you meant by this prediction?
Marcin Ramocki: Sounds like I was drunk too! Just kidding, I remember the conversation. Well, there is a whole set of issues involved with computer and Internet based media. For example, how do we present a New Media piece to reflect its unique character? How should it be different from video or film? First of all, New Media art is often just software requiring a processor to play it back. It exists as a computer application, so it only makes sense to distribute it as such, as a piece of software which can be put on a medium, of sorts, or directly downloaded off the internet. This makes accessing the work so much more convenient. The artwork will no longer exist as a singular object, becoming instead an ideology carefully produced and promoted by an individual, or a group of individuals. They will have to change jobs. And kind of like how a corporation has different departments, like marketing, public relations, or accounting, artists become bloggers, curators, writers, or gallerists. They need to retain control of the context in which the work is consumed, because context is an integral part of the artwork.
Jen Graves (fragment)
The Stranger (Seattle)
For a certain generation, the charm of 8 BIT will be immediate. It’s a documentary about artworks and pieces of music that are made from the technology, sound, imagery, and rules of early video games. A series of artists wax in the first scene about the tinny ping of video games as if it were the equivalent of Proust’s Madeleine, and visions of Frogger dance in our heads. The products of these musicians (“chiptunes” writers and improvisers) and artists – Cory Arcangel, Eddo Stern, John Klima, Bubblyfish, Mary Flanagan, and the German-accented hip-hoppers raping about pixels. Bodenstandig 2000, among others – can be rich or pointless, and warm or cold as Hal. But for one generation at least, Gameboys, Nintendos, Commodores, and Ataris are artistic mediums and instruments as surely as paint and pianos, providing surprisingly emotional experiences. Foucault, Baudrillard, and Deleuze come up, too, between the head-bopping performance videos. This is an art film, after all. 8 BIT screens as part of By Design 07’, a series curated by Peter Lucas that explores the intersection of graphic design and the moving image.
Meg Hewings (fragment)
The world of Game Boy music (…) becomes a retro throwback - a ironic wink to an electronic music scene that has a tendency (like our culture) to worship all the newest and latest computer technologies, programs and gadgets.
The film (…) explores the compelling underground world of art games, revealing to us the mechanics and artistic intention behind fascinating arty games meant to challenge and stray from that staple of the commercial gaming industry: the mass-produced first-person shooter game.
8 Bit is a compelling doc about the potential powers of this relatively contemporary medium for exploring new heights of critical thought, feeling and self- and artistic expression.
BLIP>BLIP>ART: Filmmakers rearrange video-game images to create movies
By Nick Chordas (fragment)
The do-it-yourself approach is a common theme in the field of video-game art, which includes everything from films and videos to music played on a Game Boy.
"People in their late 20s and early 30s are bringing their first cultural experience to the table and deconstructing it," said Marcin Ramocki, the director of the game-art documentary 8 Bit, to be screened next Wednesday.
"Older computer technology, older consoles, various musical media like audiotapes -- all these things are part of an aesthetic that is slightly retro and slightly nostalgic."
Catalogue essay by Jill Conner (fragment)
Marcin Ramocki pushes the envelope of digital art further and layers sound with the visual in an interactive installation titled “History/Tectonics”(2003-04). Presenting a screen populated with landscape of letters, Ramocki puts a twist on the act of data mining and invites viewers to input their own ideas upon the screen, using the keyboard provided.
As words are added, the letters randomly infiltrate the screen and continue the drawing that was started by the artist. The act of typing is also accompanied with the sound of handwriting, which is incidentally turning into an archaic phenomenon as the digital age continues to progress.
Long before Beck introduced the masses to bleep with his Hell Yes EP, circuit-bending obsessives were cracking open Game Boys to unleash customized Super Mario sounds. Marcin Ramocki's 8 BIT: A Documentary about Art and Videogames situates these hackers somewhere between self-reflective, pop-art technocrats and geeky gamers, pondering the nature of digital inspiration. 8 BIT shows that this genre isn't limited to Frogger-fied funk either: abstract robotic experimentalism peacefully co-exists with booming sine-wave grooves. And if you stick around until the end they might divulge the secret code to PokŽmon Mystery Dungeon. (MG)
8 BIT Dir. Marcin Ramocki. 2006. 90mins. Video-game aficionados, 80’s culture vultures and multimedia mash-up addicts; there’s a little something for all of you in this self-proclaimed rockumentary about creative types who appropriate computer noises for music, animation, etc. It will make you say (in computerized voice) ,”Oh my God, that’s the funky shit.”
By Matt Hawkins (fragment)
Games have been around long enough that most of us can't even remember a time when they weren't. Everyone has either grown up with a 2600, NES, or whatever else machine in our homes, or at least knew someone who had one, and more than likely when we weren't playing games, each of us were talking and thinking about them well after the power was turned off. Looking back, we now have fuzzy warm memories of our favorite games and all the things relating to them, hence why video games have become a part of us, our identities, even our culture. Naturally, anything so pervasive in people's lives will become the subject of analysis and self-expression via art, and that is what 8 BIT is all about.
8 BIT is one of the first real documentaries of its kind; previously there's only been assorted offerings from PBS and other cable channels that tried examining the medium, but most are nothing more than just sloppy, factually inaccurate, and at times downright condescending infomercials produced by people who seemingly have zero grasp of the subject matter. This new film on the other hand simply presents to the viewer individuals who either grew up with video games, or are intrigued by them on a certain level, and have thus created works to express their attachment and/or fascination.
The entire film is very easy to follow, with concepts and ideas flowing and connecting to each other seamlessly. And you honestly can't say about most films and television specials that have come before it. The editing is excellent, as is the use of illustrations and footage from games to paint various pictures, and each of the interviews, despite one's personal opinions of what is said, help to drive the filmmaker's intent. And that is to catalogue and document this emerging art scene. In the end, despite its problems, the good definitely outweigh the bad. 8 BIT is the start of something, and a very good one at that.
VH-1 Game Break
8-Bit: The Best Game Movie Ever Made
by Harold Goldberg (fragment)
On Saturday night, I walked into the world of wonder that is the Museum of Modern Art. There, the hipsters from the cool areas of town greeted each other with fake enthusiasm. But also there, the video game documentary “8-Bit” had its worldwide premiere.
Guys, this low budget production by Marcin Ramocki and Justin Strawhand is clearly the best movie about video games that's ever been made. Forget insulting crapola like the Game Show Network's “GSN Video Games” (2003). Here, the documentarians don't spend much time on the history of video games, although smug movie critic turned video game expert Ed Halter put the history into perspective succinctly.
This movie's about how games affect our culture, how the genre crosses the culture to influence music, art and the way we think.
Video Game Culture Thrives in New Documentary
By Paddy Johnson (fragment)
Illuminating clips and observations like these make the movie. The filmmakers work with the awareness that it isn't enough to simply say that artists grew up playing videogames; rather, they must attempt to illustrate what this means to this group of people. As a common attribute, the blogger and artist Moody tells me, "The DIY (do it yourself), hacker, guerrilla mindset is a constant theme... [T]he topic is bigger than videogames. One thing I like about the film is it casts its net wider than just a small scene."
And despite the omission I mentioned earlier, Moody is right. As the first movie of its kind to document and situate the 8-bit scene within contemporary art discourse, 8 BIT should be recognized for its potential to become a seminal document of 21st century new media arts.
Marcin Ramocki's 8 BIT
October 7–11, 2006
A combination "rockumentary," art exposŽ, and culture-critical investigation, 8 BIT ties together the 1980s demo scene, chip-tune music, and artists using "machinima" and modified computer games. Produced in New York City, Los Angeles, Paris, and Tokyo, the documentary brings a global perspective to the new artistic approaches of the DIY generation that grew up playing Atari, Commodore 64, and other video game consoles.
Organized by Barbara London, Associate Curator, Department of Film and Media.
8 BIT. 2006. USA. Original Concept and directed by Marcin Ramocki. Produced and Co-directedd by Justin Strawhand. With artists Cory Arcangel, BIT SHIFTER, Bodenstandig 2000, Bubblyfish, Mary Flanagan, Alex Galloway, Glomag, JODI, Paul Johnson, John Klima, Johan Kotlinski, Nullsleep, Joe McKay, Tom Moody, Akiko Sakaizumi, Eddo Stern, TEAMTENDO, Treewave, and Carlo Zanni; media critic Ed Halter; and new media curator/writer Christiane Paul. 90 min. World premiere.
“Anti-Pharmakon in Williamsburg”
Nowy Dziennik, 09.08.2006
Marcin Ramocki – a young Polish multimedia artist again distinctively marks his presence on the cultural map of New York City.
ArtMoving Projects gallery in Williamsburg opened up an exhibition of recent conceptual works by Marcin Ramocki. Once again, his artwork comments on the principles of participating in the contemporary universe ruled by media. The main piece in the show is an interactive
installation “Anti-Pharmakon”. A chromed computer keyboard serves both as an instrument and an art object. Each key triggers a short sound track, mostly one-word fragments from various political speeches of the second half of the 20th century, including Che Guevara, Margaret Thatcher and George Bush. Users interacting with the piece inevitably generate the
feeling of total verbal chaos. According to the artist, the work is only superficially political; the
main conceptual focus lays in exposing the impact of pre-structured media interface elements on our thought process. Another piece: “Torcito Project” consists of seven portraits of artists-participants of last summer’s Torcito artist residence in Italy. The images were created using the interface of “Virtual Drummer” program, which in effect translated the visuals into sonic variations.
Edge Magazine (UK)
While text-adventure documentary Get Lamp and the recently announced Arcade -- a look not so much at arcade games but the history of the spaces themselves -- both keep their feet planted firmly on solid ground, a new movie by Brooklyn artist Marcin Ramocki instead is documenting the movement that aims to deconstruct the very foundations on which gaming has been built.
Looking from the description and the short preview trailer to be a veritable who's-who of the bit-bending underground, 8 BIT features musical and conversational appearances by such artists as Cory Arcangel, BIT SHIFTER, Mary Flanagan, Glomag, Paul Johnson, John Klima, Nullsleep, Tom Moody, TEAMTENDO, and Treewave, commenting on the overlap and interplay between the conceptual art, game, and electronic music communities.
Set to premiere October 7th at New York's Museum of Modern Art, the film, says the website, "insists that in the 21st century Game-Boy rock, machinima and game theory belong together and share a common root: the digital heritage of Generation X."
After enjoying the physical interaction with Huang's piece, the spectator is offered opportunities for cerebral interaction through Marcin Ramocki's living computer software, The History. The viewer types a word on a keyboard on a pedestal in the middle of the gallery. Inside the pedestal is a computer that inserts the newly-typed word into a pre-existing sequence of words randomly chosen from a 150-word poem. In the wall projection, black squares containing white letters emerge from the bottom and rapidly accumulate at the top. As the magma-like flow of words changes direction and leaves traces behind, an abstract digital landscape forms. The electronic scribing sound that accompanies this movement changes pitch whenever the first word hits the margin of the screen. The new words added by the viewers eventually replace the original set of words as well as the pattern that evolves from them. By moving a mouse, a viewer can also erase or stop words. As a whole, the work alludes to the way history is cumulatively, and somewhat arbitrarily, created and erased. The growth of digital words does not cease just as the real history has a life of its own.
Tom Moody Blog
Marcin Ramocki at Artmoving
An interactive computer piece by Marcin Ramocki, still in development, currently on view at artMoving Projects in Brooklyn. A gallery visitor is typing a straight line of text across the top of the screen. As he types the letters fall slowly to the bottom, just like snow, fall leaves, or advancing Space Invaders. When he reaches the right hand side, a carriage return sound cha-chings and he can type no more till all letters have settled to the bottom. After many more left-to-right sweeps the letters pile up, but even after days of straight typing, the pile will never fill more than half the screen because the alphabet "soil" is slowly decaying--again, like leaves on a forest floor. Much hand coding lies behind this deceptively low-tech-looking piece, which melds the naturalism of Thoreau and the futility of Beckett in a medium somewhere between concrete poetry and Intellivision.
Tart Magazine (Canada)
Paying for my Sins
By Jillian Mcdonald
For weeks I carried in my wallet two credit cards that don't work in the usual way. In fact, I don’t know if they work at all. Its not that I maxed them out, but they neither give me access to money I don't have, nor are they linked to information about my identity. If someone stole them I wouldn’t worry about my credit or identity theft, but my superstitious side might recoil. These credit cards are out of the ordinary - though not like the ones which, ‘pre-approved’, I am offered weekly by mail - and I've been thinking about them a lot. Thinking so much that I excavated them from my wallet. Hanging on my bedroom wall in a tidy glassed-in frame seems a comfortable protective distance from my person.
The credit cards are an artwork by Marcin Ramocki, a digital artist based in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. A limited edition of seven artist-designed mass-produced cards which each represent one of the seven deadly sins - Pride, Covetousness, Lust, Anger, Gluttony, Greed, and Sloth in case you forgot – ownership of the cards promises (if you believe it) protection against specific trespasses. In the tradition of saints’ medals, rosary beads, and prayer cards, perhaps they do. Mine now dangle like a talisman or my Turkish roommate’s watchful eye that graces our kitchen wall. I confess I’m treating them a bit more like the familiar crucifix that hung in my own heavily Catholic childhood home - with a mixture of fear and wonder.
Ramocki based the design of this plastic line on the seven credit cards he rode to bankruptcy in 1998, and until closer examination they look exactly like classic credit cards except that these ones don’t have raised metallic characters. They do have pornographic collage in the case of the Lust card, the photo of a semi-cherubic child - eyes wide as saucers to embody Envy, black stripes dripping into entropy for Sloth, and a syrupy non-nutritional ingredients list on Gluttony.
Shortly after we met, Ramocki offered me a card of my choice – a loaded gift that I nevertheless couldn’t turn down. I must confess it’s been a while since I visited my sins, and it took me weeks to decide which of the deadlies I needed defense against. The process of my decision sparked a great amount of conversation and nostalgia among friends over late night libations. For my part I recalled my father, a former Roman Catholic priest, singing an aural DJ mix of Latin masses and Hank Snow tunes that were hopelessly, delightfully as out of tune as they were incomprehensible to his children. I recalled my mother, the real religious one, lining up her three little ones to make helpful suggestions about what we ought to confess. I was the oldest, and the biggest sinner, she liked to say. Alone in the confessional with eyes widening, knots of internal fear tightened, and oh how my tiny knees shook. I was virtually petrified with silence every time I genuflected before a veiled priest, heart absolutely still until I was off the hook and out of the booth. Confessionals were designed to be purifying devices, like major kitchen appliances that washed sinners clean, absolving us of stain. I only saw them as medieval instruments of torture. I truly felt I had nothing to confess, and perhaps I was guilty of a pride where I could do no wrong, though I felt like my shyness was a mortal blemish. I lost my faith at a young age - I couldn’t believe in Santa Claus because he neglected to appear in the night sky the Christmas Eve I waited, and no matter how hard I tried, I could never muster the blind faith for any other set of ideas.
And yet, years later, I found myself confessing to this young Polish-born artist my sins from the passenger seat of his silver parked car. Come on Jillian, which will it be? Perhaps it was easier without the power imbalance and having lost at least a measure of my little-girl shyness. Okay, I’ll give you two. So I confessed in full sunlight to lust (because falling in love with the wrong people has been my greatest personal downfall in recent years), and covetousness (because sometimes, on occasion, I wish desperately for things and conditions I don’t have – high speed internet, a cinema display computer monitor, a better apartment, time off from work, the endurance to run a marathon…). Okay wrong answer, I’m painting a squeaky clean - read boring - character in a grimy plot. My sins aren’t the deadly sort and I might as well get a “Jesus is my Home-boy” t-shirt, right? Its cooler to be a sinner in New York which though not THE sin city is a city that wears its guilty pleasures well. I confess I do want it all, and the occasional panic attacks I suffer are the price I pay for my sins. But lets move on - guilt and regret are useless punishment for these quotidian sins and drama-queen was never my style.
I first moved to New York eight years ago on a hot summer afternoon. I sat on my doorstep that day taking a break. Taking in the wonder that is Brooklyn, I noticed a church down the block in mid-conversion to a bank. How absurd I thought, are banks the new churches? I’ve since discovered that the city’s denizens are conditioned to believe the tenets of a different religion – be the best (pride), give in to your desires (lust), enjoy the culinary delights (gluttony), have it all (greed, envy)… It’s a confusing cultural message in eternal conflict with any ‘no sinning’ policy. About the only sin New Yorkers won’t confess to easily is sloth - it’s a point of pride to demonstrate loudly that one is busier than at least the next person. I asked Ramocki what he is guilty of. Sloth he replied. The survey says most people he asked chose Lust or Anger.
Do I feel protected? It’s too early to say, I haven't yet been tempted. This is however an exercise in restraint, for I feel that someone or something is making sure I don’t step over any lines. The cards on the wall, behind their cool glass, seem innocent yet invested with meaning. Through my own cognizance I am painfully aware of their purpose. Ramocki’s image, as a babe in one of them, looks to the sky and out of the frame with a desire that is not suppressed – the child, like all of us, wants something and wants it bad.
Code, Shadows and (Non)Grids
WBURG's editor chats up Marcin Ramocki
Recently, I sat down with Marcin Ramocki and talked with him about his work and vertexList, the new gallery space he has opened this month at 138 Bayard Street. A native of Poland, he moved to the US when he was 17. Marcin has lived in Williamsburg since the late 90s. His work is featured at www.rhizome.net and at www.cabinetmagazine.org.
CS: So how did you come to start to work on the computer?
MR: I had been using photographic images for a while, and then I realized that I could manipulate them in Photoshop. I was in graduate school, I was amazingly poor and I ran out of paint. So I decided to try a piece that was just photographic, and printed a manipulated photograph onto plexi using an acrylic transfer method, with some painting on the back – sort of a hybrid. This went on for about a year. Eventually, I started programming the images and removed myself from the physical realm altogether. I took a class in Micromedia Director, found that I liked it, and ended up teaching it to myself and at my first job.
So I taught this class and I made my first piece and this led to sort of a five-year period in my work which involved making random generators out of video. And that’s how it started. For the last five years I’ve been shooting video and then writing programs that randomize it - in different ways.
CS: And in Virtual Singer there’s something that’s input from each user’s computer that effects the randomness in a unique way?
MR: Well, yes, but you never know how that happens – there is a random seed that comes out of the computer that decides what’s the particular sequence of the sound [emanating from the Singer’s mouth].
CS: That’s such a great phrase, “random seed…”
MR: It comes from programming, just like vertex list . . . Random seed, basically, is a number that comes out of the functioning of the computer. Because there is nothing like “random,” it doesn’t exist –
CS: - in the computer –
MR: - Anywhere. Everything is specific, I think. And in the computer, for sure, it's all zeroes and ones. . . the random seed is a somewhat random-looking number. There is a specific source for the random number that is provided by the machine of every end-user. My program looks at the date, the time or the amount of memory used, runs that program through a bunch of algorithms and spits out a random seed.
CS: And how is that random seed used in programming, since most people don't program for randomness?
MR: I think oftentimes you need a random number. For example, screen savers. Screen savers need to start in some place and then act out their little games -
CS: So it's the unknown -
MR: - It's the quote, unquote unknown - it's pretending the unknown. It's the simulacrum of Unknown.
CS: Because the simulacrum is as close as you can get to the Platonic idea of the essence of something?
MR: Um, I wouldn't go there. I don't know if that's the way I think about it, I just simply have to deal with a certain type of medium and I'm trying to analyze it and figure out what are its establishing, crucial elements. And the computer's all about pretending that things can happen. They're for simulation. But once you accept the fact that you are in that simulation, you can start communicating. (Laughs . . . ) "I'll show you my simulation, you show me your simulation." I've thought about it in terms of trying to comment on life - about its unpredictability. So, in a way, I am talking about pretending to be life, in a different way than painting or video. The Singer is the "cyborg" that tries to trick you that he's alive, but all he has to prove it with is a very limited vocabulary.
I believe in the equi-vocal character of that event - you have that code and you have the optical/aural, the sensual event - that's really the core of my philosophy, my art. There is the thing that imitates reality, and the underlying language that runs it. My work comes out of painting and from the writing of the code.
CS: This doesn't have any religious overtones, does it? Because there's something about Virtual Singer that is mystical - the idea of this solitary head chanting repetitively . . .
MR: Well, I was brought up Catholic, and once you are brought up Catholic . . . in the very old, traditional city of Krakow, and going to the church with my grandmother was part of my life . . . but I made this piece when I was doing an investigation into Buddhism, so maybe that's why.
CS: In a strange way, Virtual Singer reminds me of those stone grids of Mel Bochner's from the 70s where he placed the stones in small, gridded triangles and squares down on the floor near the wall, and the potential was there to kick the stones and mess the whole thing up. As if the stones were a living language, but the grid would always be underlying.
MR: It's funny that you should mention the grid of language, because I did a piece called Japanatious, and it takes the entire Japanese language, every sound in Japanese - in Japanese the meaning is based in the syllable - in which I videotaped a person saying random phonemes of Japanese, and then programmed the image and sound to randomize, and the resulting text actually makes a nonsensical poetry. And it writes it as it says it, too. I'm specifically interested in grids and breaking the grid. And exposing the function of the grid through software.