art

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...

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...


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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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).

Mediating Mediums, an architectural augmented reality video. Via Wired’s Beyond the Beyond.

Costas K is a graphic designer who used Cyborgology Editor Nathan Jurgenson‘s post on digital dualism as part of a design project. The physical book explores the intersection of atoms and bits. The creator was invited to write a short essay about the project.

As kids, we were told to stop ‘wasting’ our time with electronic devices and that we should be outside, engaging with the ‘real’ world. Early on, the idea was planted into us that what we do using a computer is an alternative false state that bears no value. To still believe this is naive. Personally, I have met some of my best friends online. I make transactions, articulate opinions, receive feedback and get commissioned professional projects. How is this not real?

Still, when approaching the topic the first expressions that came to mind were ‘physical world’ and ‘digital world’ – the cornerstones of digital dualism. Nathan Jurgenson’s text ‘Digital dualism versus augmented reality’ helped me put things into perspective, before exploring them visually.

It is my belief that online activity is a continuation of what we do physically, more...

Washington D.C.-based musicians Bluebrain created an album that is actually a location-aware iPhone app called The National Mall (out today via Lujo records). Open the app while on the National Mall in Washington, DC and the music reacts to how you move about your surroundings. As reported on Wired UK,

approach a lake and a piano piece changes into a harp. Or, as you get close to the children’s merry-go-round, the wooden horses come to life and you hear sounds of real horses getting steadily louder based on your proximity.

We have previously looked at augmented reality art on this blog, such as Jon Rafman’s compelling Street View images,  Google’s Street Art View and Clement Valla’s “Postcards from Google Earth, Bridges” project. The National Mall is an augmented album, imploding digital media with your specific movements within physical space. The listener-turned-cyborg’s experience of the album comes in the form of the codetermining interaction of media and physical space.

The artists will release their next location-aware augmented albums for Brooklyn’s Prospect Park followed by another set to the length of Rt1 in California.

Shepard Fairey, that designer most famous for creating (stealing?) the iconic Obama image, has designed the cover for the new edition of Marshall McLuhan’s famous book, The Medium is the Massage. Fairey is known for creating art that often makes reference to the way propaganda is used by the powerful to control the masses into obeying. In fact, Fairey’s famous “OBEY” graphic is a reference to John Carpenter’s brilliant 1988 film about consumer culture, They Live (plot: with the help of special sunglasses, advertisements are revealed as actually reading, “obey,” “consume” and so on). Be it advertising, print, television or social media, McLuhan’s points remain important.

“Electrical Information Devices for universal, tyrannical womb-to-tomb surveillance are causing a very serious dilemma between our claim to privacy and the community’s need to know”. more...

Would you be willing to give up your DNA data as part of an identification system? Cool design project by Jamie Thoms.

Product Designer Jamie Thoms has released a new public engagement project which invites the general public into the world of science and identity. The D.N.A Stamper, offers the public the chance to contemplate the impact of granting someone access to their biological data. The aim of his project is to challenge the public to think about how much they value their identity. Who should have access to this information. Your partner? Family? The police?

The D.N.A. Stamper simulates extracting a sample of the users D.N.A. and uses this to stamp a consent form, to verify the user’s identity and offer tissue for hypothetical testing. The owner of the sample will have to fill in the consent form expressing how much of the information in the D.N.A. the holder will be privy to.

Mr. Thoms has taken inspiration from companies such as “23andMe” which process peoples D.N.A. for a fee and films such as “GATTACA” which offer an extreme view of where we could end up if the use of the information contained in D.N.A. becomes public.  more...