Tuesday, July 27, 2010


I have been following the Wikileaks Afghan War Diary 2004-2010 release with great interest. I must admit I admire the work of Julian Assange, one of the main founders of the service. I thought to collect a few of the more informative sources about Wikileaks and Assange here for my reader/s.

Wikileaks at 26C3
Excellent video of the keynote by Julian Assange and Daniel Schmitt of Wikileaks at the 26th Chaos Communication Congress 'Here be dragons' in Berlin on 27th December 2009.

WikiLeaks Release 1.0

Insight into vision, motivation and innovation

During the last 12 months WikiLeaks representatives have been talking at numerous conferences, from technology via human rights to media focused, in an effort to introduce WikiLeaks to the world. WikiLeaks has had major document releases that have spawned attention in all major newspapers by now, it has triggered important reform and has established itself as part of the accepted media reality.

Little did we have the chance though to talk about a bigger picture, especially of how we perceive the future and its constraints.

We therefore would like to talk about our vision of the information society, journalism's role in that society, as well as our role in it. Along this vision we will introduce new features for WikiLeaks Release 1.0, that will be no short of changing the world as we all know it.

A video of the presentation can be downloaded from here as a torrent.

An excellent general overview of Wikileaks and the Afghan Diary can be reached from this link.

The New Yorker has a very long piece on Julian Assange and the “Collateral Murder” video:

Assange is an international trafficker, of sorts. He and his colleagues collect documents and imagery that governments and other institutions regard as confidential and publish them on a Web site called WikiLeaks.org. Since it went online, three and a half years ago, the site has published an extensive catalogue of secret material, ranging from the Standard Operating Procedures at Camp Delta, in Guantánamo Bay, and the “Climategate” e-mails from the University of East Anglia, in England, to the contents of Sarah Palin’s private Yahoo account. The catalogue is especially remarkable because WikiLeaks is not quite an organization; it is better described as a media insurgency. It has no paid staff, no copiers, no desks, no office. Assange does not even have a home. He travels from country to country, staying with supporters, or friends of friends—as he once put it to me, “I’m living in airports these days.” He is the operation’s prime mover, and it is fair to say that WikiLeaks exists wherever he does. At the same time, hundreds of volunteers from around the world help maintain the Web site’s complicated infrastructure; many participate in small ways, and between three and five people dedicate themselves to it full time. Key members are known only by initials—M, for instance—even deep within WikiLeaks, where communications are conducted by encrypted online chat services. The secretiveness stems from the belief that a populist intelligence operation with virtually no resources, designed to publicize information that powerful institutions do not want public, will have serious adversaries.

Finally the War Diary is online here and the site Wikileaks is here.

Retinal Art Revisited: Story of the Eye

A pioneer in the development in digital art, Joseph Nechvatal will present, in a second solo show at the Galerie Jean-Luc & Takako Richard, Paris, a series of new paintings, most of which are accompanied by a digital video. Retinal Art Revisited: Story of the Eye will take place from September 4th through September 29th, 2010 and will invite the spectator to reflect on the importance of the relationship between audio and visual noise in the process of creation.

Nechvatal has worked with electronic images and information technology since 1986. His computer-assisted paintings turn images of the human body into pictorial units that are then transformed by IT viruses. Contamination of the tradition of painting on canvas by new digital technology thus creates an interface between the virtual and the real, which Joseph Nechvatal calls viractual It was back in 1991, while working at the Louis Pasteur workshop in Arbois and at the Royal Saltworks of Arc and Senans that Nechvatal and Jean-Philippe Massonie developed a program of IT viruses. In 2001 Joseph Nechvatal and Stéphane Sikora combined the initial IT virus project with the principles of artificial life, in other words creating systems of synthesis that reproduce the behavioral characteristics of living systems.

In his previous series of paintings, the fermentation of artificial life was introduced in an image. This population of active viruses then grew, reproduced and propagated within the space of the picture. The artist then froze a moment that he later turned into a painting. Were the artist not to interfere, the process of propagation would continue until the original picture would be completely destroyed.

The Retinal Art Revisited: Story of the Eye series consists of 15 digitally assisted paintings (10 of which have accompanying videos). A group of paintings portray the retina of human eyes bracketed and centred by paintings-animations that investigate the lips of the human rectum. With the eye as the “highest input valve on the human desiring-machine” (1) and the rectum the lowest, Joseph Nechvatal plays with the possibility of harmonizing them. The videos that are joined with paintings show a projection of the computer virus eating the same image that is on the painting. This approach is relatively new, with a progenitor work exhibited in 2004 at the Digital Sublime show at MOCA in Taipei.

Joseph Nechvatal reminds us of (and opposes at the same time) Marcel Duchamp’s prejudice that visual art (and beauty in general) cannot (or shouldn’t) arouse intellectual dialogue between the artist and the spectator. Also, by associating paintings with videos, he evokes another question that seems to be at the core of this new body of work: “On a planet that is increasingly technologically linked and globally mediated, how might visual noises break and reconnect in distinctive and productive ways within practices located in the world of art and thought?” The notion of noise that not only strengthens unique personal powers of imagination and critical thinking through a beautiful self- perception but also a source of creation in itself is a key element in the understanding of the new series of works exhibited at Galerie Jean-Luc & Takako Richard. Joseph Nechvatal’s work is in many major private and institutional collections around the world. An interview of the artist will accompany the exhibition.

1. All quotes are taken from Joseph Nechvatal’s interview by Galerie Jean-Luc & Takako Richard, 2010, available in French and English at the gallery.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Strypa (A modern anti.war poem)

You sharpen your battle axe
At the back of the cave
You sour old men
Who plan the deaths of others
Because the games they play
Are not the games you like.

But be warned as the tide turns
Your army of one will be left
Standing alone as the wind wears
Away its edges.

Love supreme and unchallenged
Of all it surveys
Master of nothing
Owner of nil
The day will end
And another begin
But love is not diminished
Nor lessened by the chances taken
Or opportunities lost.

(On the occasion of the publication of the Afghan War Diary 2004-2010)

(I wrote the above while listening to this and thinking)

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Past Pictures

Twas winter 1996. I had just spent three months hitchhiking and busking around Tasmania. I was living in the tipi you can see in the background of this photo on the coast south of Sydney, beneath the Illawara escarpment at Coledale. In a month or two I would be traveling to Thailand and India where I would spend the following seven months. Between March 1996 and March 1997 I lived on five thousand Australian dollars. Maybe that is why I look so pensive in this picture.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Oxford University in July

I have been in Oxford, at the university giving a paper at a conference on Visions of Humanity in Cybercultures". The full details of the academic drama are recorded here.