Category Archives: art

Dead Drops

deaddrop

Today, I just want to write a brief post about a cool art project. The Dead Drop project, started by an artist in New York City, embodies much of the theory we talk about here at Cyborgology. And like most forms of art, it accomplishes this theorizing in a far more efficient and interesting way than that which we academics put forth with our many, many words.

The Dead Drop project began in 2010 by a Berlin based artist named Aram Bartholl. During his stay in NYC, he installed 5 Dead Drops in public places. Dead Drops are blank USB ports, cemented into city walls, trees, or other publicly accessible outdoor materials. People can upload and download files onto these ports. Anyone can install a Dead Drop, and Bartholl encourages worldwide participation. Bartholl describes the project as an “anonymous, offline, peer to peer file-sharing network in public space.”  To date, there are 1,231 registered Dead Drops worldwide, comprising about 6,403 GB of storage space. (more…)

Theory Meets Film: Over & Out and Logging Off

I hereby dare to say that TtW2012 met and surpassed the precedent set by TtW2011 (though both were fantastic). One of the unique features of the TtW conferences are their integration of academic, professional, and artistic expressions of the human/technology relationship. One such example was the lunchtime screening of Kelsey Brannan’s film: Over&Out. In particular, I was struck by the connection between Brannan’s piece and the academic presentations in the Logging off and Disconnection panel. Here, I try to tease out this connection.

I begin with a short synopsis of Over&Out taken from the film’s website: (more…)

Michael Chrisman’s Long Now

Photo by Michael Chrisman

One of the most heavily trafficked posts on this blog in 2011 was Nathan Jurgenson’s excellent essay on “faux-vintage” photography and the construction of meaning in documentation; given the discussion around this phenomenon, it’s interesting to consider photographer Michael Chrisman’s year-long photo project, especially in the details of how it was processed and how you and I are able to view it above.

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Happy Holidays from Cyborgology!

#HipsterStudies: Some Thoughts on Hipsters (with comics!)

A few of us here at Cyborgology have a running joke going about #HipsterStudies, so I thought I would compile a couple comics that likewise intellectualize this subcultural movement. The first, sent in by reader Letta Wren Page, is a comic by Dustin Glick:

Dustin Glick's "Theory of Hipster Relativity"

This image does a great job illustrating the inherent relativity of the hipster label. That is, as a largely pejorative label, one can only be deemed a hipster by comparison. Much like Thornton (1996) discovered in her study of UK youth raves, where club kids used pejorative labels to denote the bounds of group membership, the hipster as label serves to undermine attempts to mimic subcultural forms (and hence, it serves as a way to deny these actors any semblance of subcultural capital). (more…)

The Social Tattoo Project: Slacktivism on a New Frontier?

Over the summer of 2011, several interns at BBH Labs (a marketing research firm in New York) came up with The Social Tattoo Project as a way to direct empathy towards natural disasters and social crises that continue to plague populations around the world. They used Twitter to track “trending topics” and then asked the Twitterverse to vote on which issues they wanted to see memorialized in a tattoo, essentially “crowdsourcing” the content of each piece. Volunteers were then selected to receive these tattoo designs without ever having seen them ahead of time. The final five topics included “a cresting wave for Japan, handcuffed hands for human trafficking, a broken heart for Haiti, a pie chart for poverty and a flower flag for Norway” (Corr 2011). The video above is a short clip highlighting the “broken heart for Haiti” design and the woman who had it tattooed onto her body.

However, this project is not the first of it’s kind. For example, Iraqi American artist Wafaa Bilal took it upon himself (quite literally) to commemorate the deaths of Iraqi’s and American’s since the invasion started in 2003. On March 9th, 2010, he had over 100,000 recorded fatalities of the “War on Terror” tattooed on his back during a live, streaming performance at the Elizabeth Foundation for the Arts gallery in New York City titled “…And Counting”: 5,000 dots were tattooed in red ink to represent fallen American soldiers and 100,000 dots were tattooed in invisible ink to represent (largely overlooked) fallen Iraqis. His art project was featured on NPR and DemocracyNow, and became the focal point for discussions about the costs of the “War on Terror.” (more…)

Body Modification as Performance Art and Social Protest

British performance artist Alice Newstead is gaining attention for her recent performance inside LUSH cosmetics in San Francisco. The performance has become part of an increasing vocal outcry over the sale of shark fin soup in California. The proposed bill, AB376, has passed the California assembly and now awaits a Senate vote. (more…)

The Cyborg Manifesto as Artistic Performance


Two French performance artists, Marion Laval-Jeantet and Benoît Mangin, recently personified Haraway’s cyborg in a piece they call “May the Horse Live in Me.” The performance, which included a blood transfusion from a horse and walking on hoove-like stilts, attempts to represent the centaur myth.

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Augmented Reality Tattoos REDUX

YouTube Preview Image

I already wrote on augmented reality tattoos once before, so I will keep it brief. This video shows a client receiving a QR code tattoo, which then links to Youtube and plays a little cartoon of a singing man. Now, although the artist is off in proclaiming it as the “first ever” of its kind, it once again highlights a growing trend in the body modification community. Not only does the fusing of technology and the body create unique cyborg bodies, it also reveals the importance of such new technologies for the expression of our selves and identities. For instance, will people begin tattooing QR codes on themselves that link to their personal blogs and Facebook accounts? This would make a very interesting case of self-branding!

Another trend I have observed in my own research on tattooing is the role of the prosumer. This video shows the tattoo artist K.A.R.L. livestreaming his tattoo appointment online, communicating with observers in a chatroom format while tattooing his client. Now this is nothing new. In fact, some of my close friends have been doing this for years and I myself have been tattooed in front of an internet audience several times. But what makes this example interesting is the fact that the internet audience, as a body of prosumers, helped K.A.R.L. determine the tattoo design itself. This is unheard of. I have yet to see tattooers take such a “crowd-sourcing” approach to their work.

But this video does speak to the importance of Web 2.0 to contemporary tattoo fame. In a media-saturated environment, tattoo artists now must aggressively market themselves online through SNS like Facebook and Myspace, and through livestreaming tattoo events like this. At a time when tattoo collecting itself has become globalized (Irwin 2003), tattoo artists can no longer afford to become a “big fish in a small pond” as one tattoo artist told me. In order to survive in an increasingly media-saturated community, tattoo artists themselves must become hypervisible online, showcasing their work across several online avenues and building a client pool that spans several continents. Such is the nature of contemporary elite tattooing (Irwin 2003).

Augmented Reality Stencil