Luka Umek

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Artist and media critic Alessandro Ludovico interviews the three artists named Janez Janša. It’s no coincidence that they have the same name and not by chance that they share it with the former Slovenian Prime minister: they deliberately and officially changed the names they’d had from birth to Janez Janša. They also joined the right-wing SDS party led by their homonymous counterpart. After that they experienced a “visible disappearance” from having canceled their previous names but simultaneously having gained huge visibility thanks to their radical gesture. Changing your name is similar to dying: it affects more people other than just ...
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Despite their ubiquity and relevance, data collection practices remain opaque and their carbon footprint has rarely been investigated. What is more, data collection is a key resource in the global supply chain of AdTech, the primary business model of the data economy system. The Carbolytics project, developed by artist and researcher Joana Moll in collaboration with researchers from the Barcelona Supercomputing Centre, is a way of understanding the collective existence of cookies and their role in the outsourced production of carbon dioxide. The interactive web-based installation shows the average global volume of cookie traffic in real time and demonstrates how cookies parasitize ...
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During the last 15 years – when technology has become more natural and habitual, thus causing people to lose control over it – an emerging scene of network practitioners from different fields has been actively involved in building alternative networks of communication and file sharing. Among the practitioners of this DIY networking scene, a growing number of artists have been playing a crucial role as facilitator, mediator, and commoner of knowledge and experience. The artists have been offering tools of understanding based on their will to expose and make accessible opaque systems in an effort to empower people. Daphne Dragona ...
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Art critic Ida Hiršenfelder interviews Trevor Paglen, a radical geographer with an academic background, muckraking author and outlaw artist who has been exploring the secret activities of the U.S. military and intelligence agencies for several years. Hiršenfelder and Paglen discuss here four projects: Simbology (2006) – a collection of insignia and patches used in secret operations, Missing Persons – a list of fake names used to cover up CIA agents in the war on terror, Code Names – a catalogue of words, phrases and terms employed for active military programs, and Limit Telephotography Project, which unveils the geographies of classified ...
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Domenico Quaranta, art curator and critic, writes about the 2004 project Evidence Locker by Jill Magid, now part of the permanent collection of the Whitney Museum of New York. Jill Magid is a visual artist who has focused her work since the beginning (the end of the 90s) on surveillance infrastructures and the relationship between observers and the observed. In Evidence Locker, she has built an epistolary romantic relationship with the City Watch System of Liverpool – the largest video surveillance system in all of Britain – bringing into being a story in which love and seduction become tools for ...
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Ever since 1990, computing has been opening up entirely new types of resources for extraction. In the digital context, the notion of extractivism points to the fact that “data is taken without meaningful consent and fair compensation for the producers and sources of that data.” Felix Stalder, professor of Digital Culture at the Zurich University of the Arts, points out that computing has boosted the great acceleration of human activities that has moved the Earth system into the Anthropocene. If we are to prevent the deeply authoritarian responses to the impending climate breakdown, we should unveil the colonialist character and ...
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The journalist and dramaturg Andreja Kopač and the media art critic Ida Hiršenfelder here discuss the unique aesthetics and discursive strategies in the work of Neven Korda. In his career that spans three decades, Neven Korda has created a range of specific performative practices that emerge at the intersection of the textual, the visual and the musical. With his projects, Korda has been emphasising the importance of theatre both in its nature of communal space as well as in the appropriation of the performative that it allows. Every instalment or performance unravels and deepens his intentions, namely searching for the ...
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Régine Debatty, Belgian curator, critic and blogger, writes about the art of Evan Roth, focusing on his TSA Communication project. Evan Roth is a graffiti artist, a hacker and an open source coder. He believes in the free circulation of anything that is digital. His works with F.A.T. lab steer attention onto the fantastic five – Apple, Google, Amazon, Facebook and Microsoft – and related issues with humor and a mix of digital and analogic practices. In TSA Communication, he has taken his artistic creativity inside one of the most controlled and liberty-killing places in our contemporary world: airports and airplanes. He ...
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Highways, antennas, containers, storehouses, pipes, submarine cables, sensors: the word infrastructure usually refers to “matter that enables the movement of other matter”, the underlying organized structures and mediators that support human exchanges and the value people associate with them. However, simple observation suggests that something increasingly valuable is happening not simply “above”, but both within and outside, as well as in-between our so-called infra-structures while humans design and inhabit them in ever more convoluted ways, investing their emotions in them and using them to measure, automate and build world visions and expectations about the future. This essay is an introduction ...
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From the first human artistic expression in cave paintings until now, black has been constantly reinvented by art. Like other 20th-century artists (Rothko, Malevic, Klein) before him have done, Belgian Frederik De Wilde explores the nature of colors and produces monochromatic works, but focusing on black in a radical and scientific manner. In Hostage, as art historian Elise Aspord explains, he has created a material made up of a vertical alignment of nanotubes of carbon that can absorb almost all rays of light, thus giving a new universal reference for black. This work is the result of a close collaboration between ...
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Historians divide geological eras into different “ages”, and we can say that ours is the Plastic Age. This human-generated organic material is now part of the natural world, as the Great Pacific Plastic Patch shows. For Daniela Silvestrin, a cultural manager and curator specialized in bioart, this is where the artistic speculation of artist Pinar Yolas starts. What if life started today in these plastic wreck-filled oceans? What kinds of life forms would emerge out of this contemporary primordial ooze? Yoldas’ Ecosystem of Excess is the answer to these questions. She makes us face the issue of climate change, imagining the post-human world ...
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The works of US-based artist and programmer Ben Grosser have defined, revealed and defused how software activates the desire for more, as it follows the growth-obsessed corporate culture of Silicon Valley. His most recent project – presented at Aksioma Project Space – is the outcome of a new experiment that aims to generate “Software for Less”: less profit, less data and fewer users. It provides users with new tools to resist these tendencies and keep their agency in the digital era: a time where automated software systems increasingly take over every aspect of human existence, pushing the users to develop new ...

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