Archive for the ‘karialtmann’ Category

Monday, June 21st, 2010

In High Fives-Apple Fingerworks Multitouch Patents Sheet by Kari Altmann (a part of Altmann’s ongoing No Glove, No Love meme), one views a series of smeared, blood-colored handprints slapped to the surface of black & white printouts of x-y graphs.

Each of these x-y graphs contains a representation of seemingly arbitrary numbers and undecipherable technical language around a set of black streaks.

The direct indexical imprint of the biological body over an array of technical data creates a collision; each instance of the series suggests either a paint-crazy toddler run amok with their older sibling’s physics homework or a 1980s corporate-office slasher film in which the maniac killer slices up a victim at the copy machine.

The title of the work – High Fives-Apple Fingerworks Multitouch Patents Sheet – points out for the viewer where to go.

Each of the diagrams over which the artist places her blood-colored handprint is, it turns out, the schematic diagram of a touchscreen computer technology (a touchscreen computer technology being, for example, the touch responsive interface of the Apple iPhone).

With this information in mind, one can, then, read the “black streaks” described above as the representations of handprints which are labeled with accompanying data.

What one views here, then, is not a collision between Altmann’s blood-red handprint over any old data, but rather over virtual data representing the human hand.

It’s a “high five” – the physical trace of the artist’s handprint colliding with the copied and quantified representation of an anonymous user’s own handprint.

What’s important to reiterate here is that the immediate impression of each of the iconographic elements colliding in the space of the image doesn’t favor either the technical representation of the handprint in the background or the messy, bodily handprint in the foreground; rather each are roughly equivalent in graphic power.

This equivalency is meaningful when one considers that as touchscreen technologies become increasingly mobile and responsive to the physics and ergonomic constraints of the human body in the physical world, they simultaneously become increasingly influential in directing the control of the human body towards the ubiquitous usage of these very technologies.

It’s great that the interface of the iPhone opens up possibilities for greater bodily freedom in the use of computer technologies, but is it great that this interface also nudges human beings to spend all of their downtime hunched over, tapping and rubbing away on a little computer?

Regarding this point, Altmann writes:

In High Fives the idea is to use red finger paint to represent fake blood, and provide a handprint on this map of flesh and touch interaction being controlled by the interface. Resembling the handprints some of the earliest cave dwellers left as a mark of their civilization, this handprint in blood is a way of leaving a mark on the infrastructure being created by these systems of power and product – the virtual “cave” that technology often expects us to live in more and more, filtered from direct experience. It’s also a way of meeting every interface confrontation with an unexpected and human reaction.


Altmann’s handprint, then, is a sign of the human body confronting the technology which influences its control – yes – but, through her choice of blood-red for the color of the handprints, it becomes something more intense, as well – a sign of aggressively confronting the technology which influences its control.

Wednesday, April 7th, 2010

Rumble (1993) is a work created in 2009 by Kari Altmann.

She plays a YouTube clip depicting hand-held, date-stamped camcorder footage of a rumbling Malaysian landslide dating from 1993 through the video mosaic effect generator.

( is a tool wherein one enters a YouTube url and a “size” for the video referenced in the url which results in – first – the creation of a domino [or rumble] effect of multiple “screens” – each of which plays the video just a hair off of the time of the one preceding it – and – second – the eventual filling-in of the entire screen with these streaming, out-of-sync video ripples – each of which contains several to dozens to hundreds of the original videos in an ongoing mosaic flicker through the run-time of the video.)

A point to note is that the artist included the date of the original landslide video, 1993, in her title.

This isn’t something that artists typically do.

So, what makes the date 1993 worth including in the title?

Well, what happened in 1993?

For one thing, CERN (the same Swiss organization behind the Large Hadron Collider) announced that the World Wide Web would be free to enter for anyone with an Internet connection.

In much of Altmann’s work, she equates the Web database with an archaeological site or a landscape that one can sift through.

In 1993, this landscape came into being with a rumble.

That’s what the work shows me.

Monday, April 5th, 2010

Some of the key differences between magnetized (that is, pre-digital) videotape and celluloid film are the quantitative shifts in the following three categories:

1. Memory storage capacity.

Videotape, as a media storage device, holds more temporal information and affords un-interrupted recording.

2. Affordability.

Videotape is less expensive then celluloid film.

3. And mobility.

Video cameras are lighter than film cameras and videotape is more robust in more light conditions then celluloid film.

That is to say, automatic moving image reproductions were – with the onset of magnetized videotape in the 1960s – no longer quite as precious.

Just shoot – shoot a lot; shoot at your house; shoot at the park; shoot down time, not just up time – just shoot.

This change in the relationship of moving image technology to the representation of time became a point of interest to many artists.

Bruce Nauman, for example – in a particular series of videos from the late 1960s – pictures the artist not as one who represents an act of creation, but rather as one who (through the technology’s ability to depict greatly extended units of un-interrupted time) represents creating.

One views Nauman stomp on the ground of his bare artist studio in a rigorous rhythm for approximately 60 minutes.

Or one views him adjust a piece of wood, never quite getting it right, for the same amount of time.

These projects can be read as allegories about creation.

The artist never gets it quite right; every stomp or every movement of the wood is a failure.

What is more important is the evolving process of creation.

In the wake of videotape technology, though, a further series of media storage mutations have come and gone.

The result is the end of material storage devices such as videos or hard drives and the birth of the virtual data cloud – the immaterial field of code transformed into information signage – both private as well as public – hovering in, out, and around one’s physical locations in space.

Each one of these generational mutations, then, has necessitated subsequent mutations in the pictures artists draw of their own body performing actions through time.

Kari Altmann, for example, considers her work to be located not in individual works (as meaningful as they may be), but rather in her avatar inside the data cloud wherein one views her perform the excavation and molding of her own artistic archive in mutable cloud-space, cloud-time.

Sometimes she’ll just add an image for research or edit an older project; sometimes she’ll list, but not show new projects she’s working on; sometimes she’ll add a new video; sometimes she’ll take a video away; and so on and so on and so on and so on in a plethora of permutations one follows the artist play with her own cloud data:

Change, evolve – not to “better” data, just different data – data occurring in an ecological network of additional data networks which are – as a whole – growing and becoming self-reflexive, becoming visible to themselves.

The performative focus here, then, is not on the physical body repeating an action, but rather on the virtual body mutating its own archival network.

Saturday, February 13th, 2010

Infinity Float by Kari Altmann is a video animation depicting a missile.

Altmann’s missile, though, never hits a target.

Rather, it draws infinity signs in the plume of its continuously billowing smoke again and again and again and again until one begins to watch the continuous delineation of infinity as much as the missile drawing this delineation.

What disturbs this pleasant vision of blissed-out endlessness, though, is the float of the infinity sign, itself.


As the sign rises slowly but continuously towards the top of the frame and finally beyond it, it ends up reading less as “up” and more as “out” – a memory.

And as one peers into the background upon which these memories were staged, one begins to delineate the background as much as the memories it provokes.

Friday, February 12th, 2010

Exotic-A by Kari Altmann is a video of continuously fracturing digital imagery depicting a natural “exotica” of tropical flora and fauna.

Video documents move in, out, and through one another in a continuous flux. They are bound by both a static, “bedrock” background image, as well as a static, diaphanous foreground “gauze.”

The views shift in and out of focus and it all remains dreamy and illusionistic.

The work, thus, mirrors the indeterminacy of the natural world.

It is not a coherent form with an essential focal point; it is an ecology – in motion.

Altmann’s broader project works with these same ecological principals.

When one views Altmann’s website, most of her projects are listed, but not linked to as they are either works in progress, or research for future projects, or simply not available to be viewed.

But, go back to her site a month later and something’s changed.

Some of the work from the more distant historical past is made available, and some of the work from the more recent historical past is made unavailable.

Altmann understands her personal archive of work to be mutable, taking advantage of the instantaneousness and general ease of change in the digital, to place her own history in flux.

Projects are listed; projects are taken away.

All one can do is describe the view as it slips out of one’s grasp again and again.

Wednesday, February 10th, 2010

R-U-IN?S Catalogue #0001 is a zine and .pdf by Iain Ball, Sebastian Moyano, Matteo Giordano, and Kari Altmann, who initiated the project.

It consists of 95 pages of collaged photographic media depicting digital technophilia such as product shots of Sony flat screen televisions, computer-generated pornography, and portable memory storage devices, as well as crumbling geological formations in barren landscapes such as canyons, deserts, and beaches. In many of the images, these themes are combined as in, for instance, the product shot of a flat screen television displaying imagery of the Grand Canyon.

At first glance, this confrontation of the ancient and natural with the contemporary and electronic may seem arbitrary, but as one moves through the imagery, a provocative logic emerges.

The title of the piece gives one a clue as to where to go from here.


It reads as both “Are you in(s)?” and “ruins.”

“Are you in?” mutated into the text message lingo of “R U IN?” brings to mind social status, cliques, peer pressure, coolness, fashions, and the latest technological gadgetry. R U in or R U out? It also reads as something aggressively temporary – something one knows will quickly lose its luster, but for the moment, is the only place to be.

“Ruins,” on the other hand, are the crumbled remains of what was once “in.”

Taken together, there is a fluid exchange between “R U In?” and “ruin.”

That is to say that the newest technologies are monuments to themselves before they are created. No one really believes that a piece of technology will last beyond a couple of years at most.

When one pages (or scrolls) through the Catalogue, one, then, sees less of a clear delineation between “new technology” and “old rocks” and more a continuous stream of dead surfaces: ruins.

In the text which appears on the final two pages of the Catalogue, the artists explain their intentions in similar terms.

They write:

R-U-IN?S is a project initiated by Kari Altmann using an archaeological approach (online and offline) to search the deteriorating surfaces, objects, and codes in the contemporary world. Topics of interest were addressed as ruined places and times in the database, from which artifacts and recordings were taken.


Shortly later in the text, the artists make the point that because this “archaeological” investigation into the database is conducted in the very database it mines, “it became a study in and of itself.”

This suggests that, not only are all of the images and actions depicted in the pages ruins, but that the software and hardware one uses to view the images are always already ruins as well.

Tuesday, February 9th, 2010 is a website by Kari Altmann.

The content of the site is a relatively lengthy, vertically-scrolling display of approximately seventy still images and YouTube video players set off against a white background – no text.

That in itself is nothing new – artists have been making these types of heterogeneous found image displays for some time now and, as Seth Price points out in his Teen Image essay, the style is itself lifted from something print magazines have been exploring for at least fifteen years.

But what distinguishes Altmann’s project from what Price terms “hoardings” is the self-reflexive intentionality of her particular images.

She wants to show you something in particular: time, decay, built-in obsolescence. We see collisions of two themes: obsolete technologies of the “just past” such as compact discs or previous generations of flat-screen televisions as well as crumbling architectural details and rock formations of the ancient past.

In the most potent images, we see both at once – dialectically. The first diptych of images at the top of the page gets at this. In the image to the left of the diptych, one views what appears to be two fangs – the sort of relic one might see in a display of fossils and bones of pre-historic animals at a natural history museum.

However, there is a USB connection sticking out of the base of each of these fangs. Their power resides not in the prick of their tips, but in the information they store as little Flash Drives.

In the image to the right of the diptych, one views a broken slab of what, at first glance anyway, reads as an “ancient monument” – perhaps a temple – displayed behind a glass cube in a museum setting.

However, as much as one views the ancient slab, one views the rainbow colored reflection ring generated by the flash of a digital camera. The image is a collision between the ancient and technological.

As one scrolls-down through the rest of Altmann’s images, this tension is explored again and again and again. Through the repetition of the theme of technology and ancient ruins, Altmann creates a portrait of endless technological obsolescence.