Real Artists Ship: Recent Projects from Seven on Seven
May 9 2018
“Real Artists Ship” is an online exhibition featuring five recent software-based works that were produced as part of Rhizome’s annual conference Seven on Seven. Since 2010, Seven on Seven has paired seven artists with seven technologists, asking them to create something new: a prototype, an artwork, an app, or whatever they imagine. The conference has served as a testing ground for leading figures from both fields to try out new ways of working, and of working together. Their collaborations address major contemporary issues, but do so in ways that are free from the usual pressures of success in software development, entrepreneurship, or artistic practice.
This allows Seven on Seven projects to take unusual forms; they are cultural hybrids which may not fit easily into an art exhibition or the app store. SVS, for example, is a play for four bots – set in a workplace where AI entities labor alongside humans. Originally written as a Python script, the play randomizes the names, genders, and nationalities of its main characters, as well as their voices, which are performed via text-to-speech software. The action is always the same each time the play is run, allowing users to experience it in multiple ways and, serving as a kind of bias test. Collectable.art, meanwhile, is “a social network in the style of Bunny Rogers.” This anonymous publishing platform, available as an iOS app, allows users to create their own web pages based on Rogers’s websites, which feature hand-coded HTML pages dedicated to topics such as lamb-shaped graves and awareness ribbons.
The other collaborative projects of “Real Artists Ship” include Big Glitter by Lialina and Tyka, which mines Blingee, a social network that allows users to create collages from GIF animations and stamps; Polimbo, an app that evokes Tinder by allowing users to swipe right or left on a series of speculative scenarios tied to real-world public policy, ultimately “matching” them with like-minded politicians; and Blockedt, a social network available on iOS that boasts no other visible users, no visible content, and an invasive end user license agreement. Founded by Musson’s billionaire CEO alter ego “Guy White,” Blockedt’s only function is to allow users to scroll endlessly on an empty screen.1
Established in 2012 and co-organized by the New Museum and Rhizome, First Look is a digital art commissioning and exhibition program representing the breadth of art online—from interactive documentary, to custom-built participatory applications, to moving image-based works, and art for mobile VR. Encompassing a substantial array of work that continues to expand, First Look explores the formal, social, and aesthetic possibilities of emerging technologies on the web.