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Inside Private Prisons. An American Dilemma in the Age of Mass Incarceration, by Lauren-Brooke Eisen.

It’s on amazon USA and UK.

Publisher Columbia University Press writes: When the tough-on-crime politics of the 1980s overcrowded state prisons, private companies saw potential profit in building and operating correctional facilities. Today more than a hundred thousand of the 1.5 million incarcerated Americans are held in private prisons in twenty-nine states and federal corrections. Private prisons are criticized for making money off mass incarceration—to the tune of $5 billion in annual revenue. Based on Lauren-Brooke Eisen’s work as a prosecutor, journalist, and attorney at policy think tanks, Inside Private Prisons blends investigative reportage and quantitative and historical research to analyze privatized corrections in America.

From divestment campaigns to boardrooms to private immigration-detention centers across the Southwest, Eisen examines private prisons through the eyes of inmates, their families, correctional staff, policymakers, activists, Immigration and Customs Enforcement employees, undocumented immigrants, and the executives of America’s largest private prison corporations. (…) Neither an endorsement or a demonization, Inside Private Prisons details the complicated and perverse incentives rooted in the industry, from mandatory bed occupancy to vested interests in mass incarceration. If private prisons are here to stay, how can we fix them? This book is a blueprint for policymakers to reform practices and for concerned citizens to understand our changing...

My usual long overdue review of the Artissima art fair which took place in Turin back in early November 2017.

Artissima 2017. Photo: © Perottino-Alfero-Bottallo-Formica

Artissima 2017. Photo: © Perottino-Alfero-Bottallo-Formica

Artissima is Italy’s most important contemporary art fair.” I don’t know if that’s true but it is certainly my favourite art fair in Europe. It feels more dynamic, more laid-back and edgier than any other art fair i’ve ever attended. The food never fails to disappoint though so i’m always glad i’m not one of the gallery owners stuck in the exhibition space with only sweaty ham panini to snack on.

I don’t normally write about art fairs but Artissima usually introduces me to so many new ideas, artists and way of representing the world that i can’t resist sharing some of the images of the event on the blog.

I particularly enjoy Artissima’s curated sections: Back to the Future offers solo exhibitions to great pioneers of contemporary art who deserve to be rediscovered. Present Future is entirely devoted to emerging talents singled out by a board of young curators from around the world. And this year, the...

Part 2 of my cursory review of the Artissima art fair which took place in Turin back in early November. Yesterday, i talked photos, today will be a rapid fire of paintings, drawings, installations, etc. In no particular order and with as little commentary as possible:

Rokni Haerizadeh, Piss Painting 1, 2009

Dark tales of violence and narco-trafficking behind the colourful collage/drawings of Camilo Restrepo:

Camilo Restrepo, Tight Rope #5 (Black Shadow), 2015

Camilo Restrepo, Rip Currents #3 (Burro), 2014

Camilo Restrepo, A Land Reform 13, 2016

I also liked the work of Todd Bienvenu. The two paintings below were not presented at the art fair, but they are too irresistible to ignore. The works shown at the booth...

SOS Brutalism. A Global Survey, edited by Oliver Elser, Philip Kurz and Peter Cachola Schmal.

On amazon UK.

Publisher Park Books writes: A global survey of brutalist architecture of the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. Some 100 contributors document around 120 key buildings from this period, including many previously unpublished discoveries that are in acute danger of loss through neglect of intended demolition. Moreover, the book features overviews of brutalism in architecture in twelve regions around the world. Case studies of hotspots such as the Macedonian capital Skopje or New Haven, Connecticut, and essays on the history and theory of brutalism round out this lavishly illustrated book. The supplement collects papers of an international symposium on brutalism in architecture held in Berlin in 2012.

Brutalism has achieved a cult status on social media over the past couple of years. This wave of beton chic has given rise to spectacular photo books, cheerful facebook pages and even -as i learnt in one of the first essays of SOS Brutalism- new forms of web design.

Not everyone is entirely seduced by the so-called “concrete monstrosities.” Brutalism is often either a source...

Pratchaya Phinthong; Damián Ortega; Marco Godinho; Nairy Baghramian. ©Blaise Adilon

Apichatpong Weerasethakul, The Vapor of Melancholy, 2014. Courtesy Kick the Machine Films, Bangkok et kurimanzutto, Mexico City

I still haven’t decided how much i liked this year’s edition of the Biennale de Lyon which is still open -but only for a few more days- at the Musée d’art contemporain (MacLyon) and at La Sucrière.

Biennale de Lyon: Floating Worlds is the second episode in a trilogy exploring the “modern”. For this edition, invited curator Emma Lavigne found inspiration in Zygmunt Bauman’s concept of liquid modernity. In the 1990s, the Polish sociologist and philosopher started questioning the use of the term “postmodern.” He suggested “liquid modernity” as a better way to describe the condition of constant plasticity and change he observed in social life, identities and global economics within society. Other influences for Lavigne’s vision included the Japanese culture of “the floating world” (ukiyo) and, more prosaically, the important role that the rivers Rhône and Saône have played in the development of the city...

My recommendation for anyone who’s looking for something smart, exciting and FREE* to read during the coming Winter break: Facta Revista de Gambiologia #4 – Gambiologia magazine – “Gambiarra em movimento” / “The gambiarra movement”.

The 4th issue of Facta, the Gambiologia magazine has been out since October and i’m still waiting for my copy to snail its merry way through the reliably lethargic Italian postal ‘service.’ Fortunately, the editors have generously uploaded the full edition of the magazine online. Along with the previous Gambiologia publications. The texts are available in both Portuguese and English.

Gambiologia, you may remember, is the Brazilian art and science of kludging. Someone with gambiarrá displays a cunning ability to improvise, kludge, hack and make do with whatever is at hand. In the field of art, design, electronics and every other aspect of daily life and spheres of knowledge, gambiologia is the art of repurposing, recycling, reclaiming. Gambiologia, however, is far more than a demonstration of one’s own resourcefulness, it is also a political and ethical gesture. It questions industrial processes and mechanisms, rejects consumerism and postulates the need for greater personal and societal autonomy.

Public Space? Lost and Found, edited by Gediminas Urbonas, Ann Lui and Lucas Freeman.

On amazon USA and UK.

Publisher MIT Press writes: “Public space” is a potent and contentious topic among artists, architects, and cultural producers. Public Space? Lost and Found considers the role of aesthetic practices within the construction, identification, and critique of shared territories, and how artists or architects—the “antennae of the race”—can heighten our awareness of rapidly changing formulations of public space in the age of digital media, vast ecological crises, and civic uprisings.

Public Space? Lost and Found combines significant recent projects in art and architecture with writings by historians and theorists. Contributors investigate strategies for responding to underrepresented communities and areas of conflict through the work of Marjetica Potrč in Johannesburg and Teddy Cruz on the Mexico-U.S. border, among others. They explore our collective stakes in ecological catastrophe through artistic research such as atelier d’architecture autogérée’s hubs for community action and recycling in Colombes, France, and Brian Holmes’s theoretical investigation of new forms of aesthetic perception in the age of the Anthropocene. Inspired by artist and MIT professor Antoni Muntadas’ early coining of the term “media landscape,” contributors also look ahead, casting a critical eye on the fraught impact of digital media and the internet on public space.

Vladan Joler and Kate Crawford, Anatomy of an AI system (detail)

If you find yourself in Ljubljana this week, don’t miss SHARE Lab. Exploitation Forensics at Aksioma.

The exhibition presents maps and documents that SHARE Lab, a research and data investigation lab based in Serbia, has created over the last few years in order to prize open, analyze and make sense of the black boxes that hide behind our most used platforms and devices.

The research presented at Aksioma focuses on two technologies that modern life increasingly relies on: Facebook and Artificial Intelligence.

The map dissecting the most famous social media ‘service’ might be sober and elegant but the reality it uncovers is everything but pretty. A close look at the elaborate graph reveals exploitation of material and immaterial labour and generation of enormous amounts of wealth with not much redistribution in between (to say the least.) As for the map exploring the deep materiality of AI, it dissects the whole supply chain behind the technology deployed by Alexa and any other ‘smart’ device. From mining to transport and with more exploitation of data, labour, resources in the process.

Should you not find yourself in Ljubljana, then you can still discover the impulses, findings and challenges behind the maps in this video recording of the talk...

Over the course of its 10-ish years of existence, the IDFA DocLab festival has been gaily exploring the narrative potentials of augmented reality, virtual reality, interactive documentaries and artificial intelligence. Their program, which is part of the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam, features an exciting mix of hi-tech entertainment, innovative ideas and socially-engaged conversations that i haven’t experienced elsewhere.

DocLab Expo: Uncharted Rituals. Exhibition view in de Brakke Grond, part of the International Documentary Film festival Amsterdam. Photo Nichon Glerum

DocLab Expo: Uncharted Rituals. Exhibition view in de Brakke Grond, part of the International Documentary Film festival Amsterdam. Photo Nichon Glerum

As usual, this year’s program was packed with dramatic commissions and entertaining debates but it was also anchored in today’s most pressing concerns: the plight of refugees in Europe, the legacies of colonialism, the plague of fake news, violation of human rights, climate...

Max Dovey, Breath (BRH), 2017

Max Dovey is an artist, researcher and lecturer whose performances explore how the human experience is affected by data and algorithms. His works include a bar which bouncer is in fact an image recognition software that only admits partygoers who look hipster enough, a game show that investigates the role of human labor in the production of image recognition algorithms, an event that explored the disappearance of social responsibility in the modern world of finance, etc.

His latest piece, Breath (BRH), uses human respiration to mine crypto-currencies. A respiratory mining rig inspired by a 19th century apparatus converts breathing into a hash rate for a micro computer mining on the Monero (XMR) blockchain. The volume of breath that is exhaled dictates the total amount of financial profit accumulated through mining.

A student pilot at the aviation school blows air through the glass mouthpiece of a Spirometer. Photo: collection magazine Het Leven, 1925, via

The installation uses spirometry, a medical technique for measuring lung capacity and diagnosing conditions that affect breathing.

The piece is presented as part of an...

The DocLab Interactive Conference closed at De Brakke Grond in Amsterdam on Sunday 19th of November. An integral part of the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA), DocLab looks at how contemporary artists, designers, filmmakers and other creators use technology to devise and pioneer new forms of documentary storytelling. There’s an exhibition, an immersive network summit, screenings, performances and a conference. The conference is my favourite. Digital pioneers share with the audience their latest experiments and boldest visions of the future. Each year, the same thing happens: the talks start at 10 in the morning, i blink and it’s already 6pm. Their picnic bag is a monstrosity for anyone who’s into eating healthy (more about food later) but that’s just about the only negative thing i can say about the event.

Here are the notes i wrote down during the talks. They are not exhaustive, they only aim to highlight a few ideas and projects i found particularly thought-provoking:

Brett Gaylor at Doclab interactive conference in de Brakke Grond, part of the IDFA. Photo Nichon Glerum

Superflux and Mozilla,...

DocLab Expo: Uncharted Rituals. Exhibition view in de Brakke Grond, part of the International Documentary Film festival Amsterdam. Photo Nichon Glerum

Jonathan Harris exhibition in de Brakke Grond, part of the International Documentary Film festival Amsterdam. Photo Nichon Glerum

The 11th edition of IDFA DocLab closed on Sunday at De Brakke Grond in Amsterdam. An integral part of the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA), DocLab looks at how contemporary artists, designers, filmmakers and other creators use technology to devise and pioneer new forms of documentary storytelling. It’s a space for debates, conversations, VR experiences, interactive experiments and workshops.

For some reason, i thought that this year’s programme was even more intense than in previous years and i’m going to need 3 blog posts to cover all the ideas and projects i found particularly interesting. There will be one story summing up the notes...

Janez Jansa, director of Aksioma introducing Proper and Improper Names. Identity in the Information Society. Photo: Miha Fras / Aksioma

Marco Deseriis at Proper and Improper Names. Identity in the Information Society. Photo: Miha Fras / Aksioma

I was wondering when i’d find a moment to type the notes i scribbled during the symposium Proper and Improper Names: Identity in the Information Society but since Aksioma obligingly published the videos of the talks, i’m going to take the easy road and copy/paste/link everything below.

Proper and Improper Names, a conference on identity and authorship in the age of networks, was framed by Marco Deseriis‘ 2015 book Improper Names. Collective Pseudonyms from the Luddites to Anonymous. The publication analyzed how shared pseudonyms are deployed as a collective strategy to build symbolic power that challenges traditional forms of political and aesthetic representation.

The seminar raised questions such as: What lies between the “I” and the “We”? How can a distributed/multiple entity manifest itself in the political, cultural and biological spheres? How can identity experiments characterized by constant flux and mutations be understood? How do they play around and...

Speculative Demonology as Deep Geological Repository Marking Strategy, 2016. 3D-additive design and printing workshop with invited guests, Bildmuseet, Umea, Sweden, 8th-10th November 2016

Part of Nuclear Culture, a curatorial project that brings together visual artists and researchers in humanities to reflect on issues related to the nuclear, looks at how we can communicate the presence of a radioactive waste disposal site across hundreds or even thousands of generations.

Some of the artists involved in this complex inquiry have imagined various strategies to communicate the presence of radioactive material around us over a period of time that extend beyond human temporality. Thomson & Craighead, for example, created Temporary Index, a totem that acts as a counter for representing the decay rate of nuclear waste products and as a signpost, mapping the distance between its location and the nearest radioactive waste facility. Meanwhile, Erich Berger and Mari Keto‘s INHERITANCE jewellery set brings the issue of the slow decay of radioactive material into a domestic setting.

Andy Weir, Pazu-goo: 3D Printed Deep Geological Repository Marker for a Future Posthuman Palaeoarcheologist (c.700 BC—4.6 x 109 AD). Image courtesy the artist.

Artist, researcher...

Artists Re:Thinking the Blockchain, edited by Ruth Catlow, Marc Garrett, Nathan Jones and Sam Skinner.

On amazon USA and UK.

Publisher Liverpool University Press writes: The blockchain is widely heralded as the new internet – another dimension in an ever-faster, ever-more-powerful interlocking of ideas, actions and values. Principally the blockchain is a ledger distributed across a large array of machines that enables digital ownership and exchange without a central administering body. Within the arts it has profound implications as both a means of organising and distributing material, and as a new subject and medium for artistic exploration. This landmark publication brings together a diverse array of artists and researchers engaged with the blockchain, unpacking, critiquing and marking the arrival of it on the cultural landscape for a broad readership across the arts and humanities.

Pete Gomez, The Blockchain: Change Everything Forever, 2016. A Furtherfield film, in collaboration with Digital Catapult

Blockchain! The word i tried my very best to ignore for as long as i could. Its mechanisms, implementations and logic sounded all too specialised, abstract and abstruse to me.

It’s only about a year ago and with the release of Pete Gomez‘s film The Blockchain: Change Everything Forever (a great crash-course in...

Janez Janša® at +MSUM. Photo: Dejan Habicht / Moderna galerija

In 2007, three artists officially changed their names and adopted the one of Janez Janša, a very powerful, right-wing and generally unpleasant political figure regularly embroiled in accusations of corruption and authoritarianism.

The administrative procedure not only turned their lives into a perpetual performance but it also altered their private, civil and artistic lives in ways they had not always foreseen. Ten years later, an anthological exhibition titled
Janez Janša® at the +MSUM – Museum of Contemporary Art Metelkova in Ljubljana explores some of the most meaningful “collateral effects” of the move.

What’s in a name? How does it relate to ownership, legal status, self-perception and self-representation, profiling, surveillance, copyright and commodification of language, and related topics that define the contemporary condition? What’s an artwork and what are the boundaries that define it in relation to life, institutions and companies?

The trio has always affirmed that the name change was only a matter of personal choice but this didn’t prevent their gesture to be interpreted and misread in many ways. Especially among political commentators who saw it as either a brazen act of political affiliation or protest. And as the soberly-titled article “Culture according to leftists: provocateurs abuse Janez Janša’s name, and political godfathers finance it all...

Joshua Citarella & Brad Troemel, Ultraviolet Production House, 2015 – ongoing. Photo by Hanneke Wetzer

Morehshin Allahyari & Daniel Rourke, The 3D Additivist Cookbook, 2016. Photo by Hanneke Wetzer

We have transferred almost every single aspect of our daily life onto the internet. Our heartbeats, our bank payments, our musical taste and even our family memories. A group show curated by Nadine Roestenburg and Angelique Spaninks at MU artspace in Eindhoven invites us to do the opposite journey and explore the physical manifestations of the Web.

Materialising the Internet demonstrates that returning to the physical doesn’t bring us back to our starting point. New forms, new aesthetics and gestures emerge as we return to the material, as the digital becomes tangible.

I left Amsterdam and spent 3 hours in public transport just to see this exhibition. I’m so glad i did because the show is a joy! Materialising the Internet is witty, stimulating and entertaining. But if you want to dig deeper, you can also find insight and layers in the exhibition. The various artworks highlight issues such as the potential of the Internet...

As promised, here’s a follow-up of Monday’s first foray into Ecovention Europe: Art to Transform Ecologies, 1957-2017 which you can currently visit at De Domijnen in Sittard (NL). The exhibition gathers the work of over 40 artists who, through small scale interventions, attempt to bring a creative answer to the numerous environmental crises European ecosystems are going through.

Today’s short selection will focus on artistic attempts (many of them successful) to restore environmental damage:

Nils Norman, The Gerrard Winstanley Radical Gardening Space Reclamation Mobile Field Center and Weather Station (European Chapter), 2000. Installation view at Museum De Domijnen. Photo by Bert Janssen

Nils Norman, The Gerrard Winstanley Radical Gardening Space Reclamation Mobile Field Center and Weather Station (European Chapter), 2000

Nils Norman designed a bike trailer...

Paul Chaney, Breast Plough’o’metric, 2014. Photo via THG (Thelma Hulbert Gallery)

Scientist, curator and philosopher Sue Spaid coined the term ‘Ecovention’ in 1999 and went on to illustrate its meaning and reach three years later with an exhibition titled Ecovention: Current Art to Transform Ecologies at the Contemporary Arts Center in Cincinnati. Spaid defines ecoventions as inventive, practical actions with ecological intent. The focus of an ecovention is not to interfere aesthetically with the landscape but to explore how art can contribute, even on a microscale, to the improvement of a given ecosystem.

This year, Sue Spaid teamed up with Roel Arkesteijn to look at the development of these artistic ecological interventions in Europe. Together, they curated Ecovention Europe: Art to Transform Ecologies, 1957-2017 at De Domijnen in Sittard.

The artists in the show not only remind us that the way we exploit the earth and its resources is irresponsible and unsustainable but they also look for solutions to environmental destruction. Alone or with the help of local communities, they’ve cleaned up polluted soils, planted wheat fields, provided pollinators with appetizing flowery landscapes, built hanging gardens, initiated edible and medicinal urban farms, developed schemes for sharing excess food and bred more resilient chicken breeds.

Unlike the website of De...

RAF. No Evidence / Kein Beweis, by photographer Arwed Messmer.

On amazon US and UK.

Publisher Hatje Cantz writes: Numerous accounts of the RAF and the German Autumn in 1977 have been chronicled over the past forty years, from journalistic, historical, literary, cinematic, and artistic perspectives. Arwed Messmer begins with the various photographs made by police photographers at the time—pictures of demonstrators, crime scene images, and mug shots. He poses the question of how this past search for criminological evidence can be employed artistically. His narrative strikes an arc from the beginnings of the movement to the multiple eruptions of violence in 1977, the abduction and murder of Hanns-Martin Schleyer, and the suicides of Andreas Baader, Gudrun Ensslin, and Jan-Carl Raspe in Stammheim Prison. Messmer’s work therefore also has an ethical dimension: which photographs can be shown, how can they be shown, and why do we want to see them? This investigation touches a key point in the debate on images that are on the one hand historical documents, and on the other hand embodiments of their own aesthetic with powerful potential for an empathetic examination of history.