“Everything You Need to Chill in Bed All Day and Surf the Net”

“Surf the classic way, from Amazon to Piratebay.” That’s the motto for the upcoming web surfing competition hosted by Rhizome at Rockaway Beach Surf Club on August 10th. The event will be the first hyperlink race to occur in New York City, inspired by the Trail Blazers live web surfing competitions overseas. Trail Blazers events began four years ago at Merz Academy in Stuttgart, Germany. Using only a computer mouse and web links, contestants flexed their surfing skills (sans Google), competing to reach Piratebay from Amazon as fast as possible.  The group takes its name from the pioneering American engineer and scientist Vannevar Bush, who in 1945 famously penned, “There is a new profession of trail blazers, those who find delight in the task of establishing useful trails through the enormous mass of the common record.

It’s only fitting that the prizes for the web surfing competition will include gear from Arcangel Surfware, artist Cory Arcangel’s line of  “mainstream non-aspirational (in)activewear.” He describes the clothes and accessories as, “everything you need to chill in bed all day and surf the net.” The surfware collection debuted earlier this spring at a one-day pop-up shop in the Holiday Inn Soho. The name of the one-off boutique was You Only Live Once and looked more like an unkempt living room, replete with a bowl of soggy Rice Krispies, than the average meticulously designed Soho pop-up.

Rhizome’s free web surfing event begins at 1 p.m. on Sunday, August 10th at Rockaway Beach Surf Club. If you think you have what it takes to ‘surf the classic way’ with the agility of a tenured hacker, email Rhizome for your chance to compete.

Arcangel Surfware “YOLO” Pop-Up Shop Holiday Inn by arcangelsurfware
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All photos by Tim Barber for Arcangel Surfware

Puff Puff Pass: Rhizome Works Toward a Bold New Philosophy of E-Cigs

Most of my personal opinions toward e-cigarette culture tend toward the vaguely sympathetic (imagine the sadness of a whole “bar” dedicated to people huffing little nicotine-dispersing cylinders that light up when you suck on them!) But leave it to the creatively analytic souls at Rhizome to prove that this high-tech habit is actually worthy of serious (or semi-serious) scholarly study. On February 22 at the New Museum, the organization presents “This is the ENDD: The E-Cigarette in Context.” It’s a symposium that also includes an artist-produced mix-tape “to vape to,” naturally; that playlist will form the soundtrack to the event’s after party (at a bar where you can no longer smoke c-cigs, thanks to former Mayor Bloomberg).

Symposium participants, including Tracy Jeanne Rosenthal, Mathew Dryhurst, and Brian Rogers, will cover all aspects of vape culture, from the e-cig’s technological-historical origins to its psychological, market-based, and human-health implications. Critic Orit Gat‘s lecture will focus on parallels she’s found between e-cig stores and more familiar branded environments. “I’m going to focus on the visual aspect of how the stores represent this technology,” Gat says. “This fall, I spent a month in a small town in the south of France, where there are 20,000 inhabitants. 19,999 of them smoke–real tobacco, because this is France and all. That town had two e-cig stores, both on the main street. And this being France, the stores were designed in a very minimalist fashion, which echoed in my mind immediately with the Apple Store. How do we sell technology? Much of what we learned from the Apple Store is how to sell an image of what it’s like to use their products. You don’t necessarily go to the Apple Store to buy a Mac or some other gadget, but rather to play, touch, look at those gadgets. What they’re selling is not the product, but the experience thereof.  But then I looked into the Brooklyn e-cig stores, which are extremely reminiscent of a Whole Foods or any other organic, artisanal food purveyor, because they want you to taste and try the different flavors. So the store mirrors a shift in our idea of what this technology is: from a novelty that needs to be explored to a product onto which we cast the same interests we have in food and other stuff: artisanal, organic, locally sourced e-juice is what the Brooklyn e-cig store stands for. I think that regardless of whether e-cigs become a staple in all our lives (as cigarettes are, or at least were) or if they disappear, a lot of the stores will close within a couple of years because there’ll no longer be a need for the performative aspect of the technology.”

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Lunch Meat, Nudity, and Anarchy: Rhizome’s Faux Gala

I’m still trying to figure out what the hell happened last night on the top floor of the New Museum, where Rhizome celebrated their annual gala in performative environment conjured by British artist Ed Fornieles, entitled NY NY HP HP. Feathers rained down from the ceiling, coating attendees in a downy fuzz; a girl in a white robe with a Friar Tuck haircut engaged in what appeared to be primal scream therapy with an older gentleman in a suit; two tall blondes engaged in what was either a poorly overacted rendition of a faux-lesbian lover’s spat, or an actual lesbian lover’s spat.

Did I mention that more people appeared to be visiting the bathrooms in pairs than you would expect at a traditional, stuffed-shirt gala? It was enough to give you hope that the art world’s bizarro, fucked-up spirit hasn’t been completely crushed by Volkswagen sponsorships and hedge-funded collectors. (You know it’s a slightly transgressive party when semi-nude models are carted out covered in lunch meat—a sort of meta-nod to a cheesy, over-the-top cliché, like much of the evening’s programming—and people actually ate the meat.)

Before the doors opened at 8 p.m., Fornieles called me to explain a bit of the concept. The gala would start off pretty normal, he said, before morphing into something a bit more anarchic; the code word I should keep in mind as a sort of personal roleplaying cue was “sociopath.” The night kicked off with a rousing speech that parodied the earnest conventions of typical gala’s: ‘thank-you-rich-folk-for-making-the-world-go-round’ rhetoric, accompanied by an equally tongue-in-cheek, slickly produced video for Rhizome that could easily have doubled as commercial for Cisco.

 

Then Rhizome director Heather Corcoran took the stage to deliver an actually earnest thank you speech, this juxtaposition setting the tone for NY NY HP HP in general: What was serious, and what was a joke? Who was an actor, and who was just weird, or drunk on the horrific, pre-packaged, single-serving white wine? After the speeches, four naked or mostly-naked girls got up on podiums and half-danced, partially covered in what appeared to be translucent packaging tape. A few suspiciously out of place dudes started congregating nearby, trying to muscle their way onto the podiums for a bit of unwelcome booty grinding. The mood in the room tensed, slightly—had the gala been infiltrated by well-heeled finance bros on the hunt for mythically freaky bohemians? All was clarified when the bros themselves took over the podiums, stripping down and proceeding to crotch-thrust to the beat (one of the four had perfected a particularly impressive headstand-in-his-underwear maneuver.)

 

As promised by Fornieles, NY NY HP HP did descend into something a bit more “anarchic.” Just before eleven most of the remaining crowd was writhing on the floor on top of each other, soundtracked by the kind of anthemic fist-pumpers you might hear in a SoulCycle class. Most of the wood and cotton structures built as a backdrop for the party were destroyed, toppled over on the floor, which was covered in the aforementioned feathers. (Where did  they come from?)

The unconventional structure of the night probably means that Rhizome raised a couple thousand bucks, rather than the untold bazillions that can be milked when you put a bunch of art-loving financial criminals in a room and feed them airplane food. But hey, I’d much rather leave a gala with feathers in my beard and a cheesy pop song in my heart.

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Images courtesy of: Jesse Untracht-Oakner