The next day at [NYC cultural center] ABC No Rio, we started the new Committee for Democracy in Mexico and the New York Zapatistas because we were all getting emails all night long from midnight to 6am.The Zapatistas basically sent emails like a machine all night long. The RD: As a systems administrator, people would call me up to get online and I would go through the elements they needed: a modem, encryption…in those days it was not easy and sometimes it might take two-three weeks to get online.Later in 2000, we did the Warhol hijack where Yael Kanarek convinced Josh Harris and Tanya Corrin to turn over their luxury loft to our group (Yael, Jennifer Crowe, Tina La Porta, G. Hovagimyan, Diane Ludin, Mc Coys, Robin Murphy, Cary Peppermint, MTAA).
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One day I was walking along and I saw a poster for Sandra Gering Gallery in So Ho that had a MOO space address [a text-based virtual world] and I thought, "there seems to be something about technology, so I'll go to the show." It turned out it was an exhibition by Jordan Crandall and there was nobody there except Jordan, so I went up to introduce myself and told him that I was from Critical Art Ensemble.
I was interested in these questions of the digital and the performative matrix and I thought his show seemed to indicate a kind of exploration of that emerging territory. Some of Jordan's work at that time was around trying to expand the definition of object, text, and publication forms when they encountered new modalities of distribution.
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There were these large immersive environmental digital gestures that often no one ever went to, but they were occurring there in Williamsburg.
All these different elements came together, which would become the emerging New York city-based net art communities.
Staehle had made his money in the '80s as a conceptual artist, and so it was very difficult for many of his peers to understand why he had a bunch of modems down in the basement and what that had to do with art production.
The great thing about Wolfgang was that he didn't really care about what you were doing as long as you were doing something, so he basically left me alone and said: "Here's how you get people online, here are the books, and here are the machines" and so I would just go hang out and teach myself how to be a systems administrator. I left CAE around '94-'95 once I started to develop [activist performance art group] Electronic Disturbance Theater and started working with the Zapatistas in '94, because that really shifted the way we conceived of electronic civil disobedience; it was no longer just a cadre of high tech figures who would develop this stuff.
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The Zapatistas really taught me to think otherwise, that one could be transparent, poetic and create disturbances that were not really based on any kind of quality of technology.