30 January 2006

Tivo Time!

I've just returned from LA, where I was invited to chat with these two lovely ladies, Rosanna Tavares & Kimberly Caldwell, on Idol Chat, a TV Guide Channel talk show all about American Idol. The producers asked me there to talk about my American Idol Audition Training Blog and I was pretty sure they just wanted me to be my goofy self and talk about the softer side of my project, rather than the voting issues or my feminist critique of the show. But Rosanna (a U Michigan Art History grad) really blew me away when, on the first question, she sidestepped the teleprompter to ask me if my project was some kind of anthropological study. Awesome! After the super short interview, she said, 'yeah, I figured you were either totally nuts' (paraphrasing, here) 'or it was some bigger study.' I told her it was both!

Anyway, it should be a fun episode, as it also features interviews with Vonzell Solomon and Carmen Rasmussen, two recent top contestants on the show, with whom I had fun chatting in the green room. You can catch this episode of Idol Chat on the TV Guide Channel, at these dates & times:

Tuesday, Jan. 31, 07:00 PM
Tuesday, Jan. 31, 11:00 PM
Wednesday, Feb. 01, 01:00 PM

Update: Oh geez... Just tore myself from the State of the Union to watch myself... I kinda looked like the Pilsbury doughboy after bad botox. I had a massive cold so I was cracked out from that, and nerves and tea had me strangely dehydrated, so my upper lip was stuck to my teeth in a weird way. (I forgot about this, until I saw it tonight.) Plus I was told I would be shot from the elbows up, so lazy as I am, I neglected to suck in my gut... And it showed! Ahhh!!! Whatevs...

23 January 2006

Artist Talk @ Berkeley

Hi, no minute like the last to announce these things... For those in the Berkeley community, I'll be giving an artist talk tomorrow, in the Fine Art dept at UC Berkeley. It will be at 1pm in the slide room on the second floor of Kroeber Hall--just to the left of the main stairs! I think most of the people in attendance will be painters studying with Jonn Herschend. I'm very eager to talk to them about Madonna, American Idol, and perhaps the influence of the tongue muscle on the development of the telephone... Who knows!

Update: We moved the whole party to Greg Niemeyer's game studies lab (where he gave me the most flattering introduction ever) for a crowded (but intimate) house and a lively conversation. Now I will admit to being seriously biased, but I dare say that Berkeley students are the smartest students ever! For whatever reason, I've been giving a fair number of artist talks lately and they frequently seem to be met with awkward silence... It was starting to make me feel bad! But not at Cal! Today we had a lively debate about copyright, genre, blog culture, the 'artfulness' of things, professionalism, object status, software, remixing, the cultural & political importance of play & entertainment, democracy, identity & persona, autobiography, truth, secrecy, and a number of other fun things. Seriously..... Go Bears! :)

Thank you to Jonn, Greg, and the nice people who showed up to chat.

22 January 2006

it's the most wonderful time of the year...

Ever since my American Idol Audition Training Blog project, I've been receiving dozens to hundreds of emails, each week, about the show. (Some of my favorite blog comments are attached to this post.) Many people mistake me for someone officially associated with the show, some think I have the secret that will get them on air (if not to the top constestant stage), and others just want to talk trash. The emails seem to flow more heavily in the Fall, as auditions are happening, and in the early Spring, as PR for the new season mounts and people start wondering when it will be their turn to be on air... Below are three of the emails I received just this morning.

From sparkleprincess97:
i was thinking about tryingout for aij [American Idol Junior] and was woundering when the dates are and the closest place to indiana. thanks.

Here's what I'm wondering... Could this girl have been born in 1997?? That would make her twenty years younger than me! This is so sad as to not warrant further comment...

From Jenna:
That possibly the worst excuse for singing I have ever heard. Im not trying to squash your dreams, but you're never going to be a singer. If you still want to perform, maybe try acting. Or even dancing if you have some experience. singing is NOT for you.

Thanks, Jenna. Randy Jackson told me that once, too. It has always surprised me that I haven't received more disses like this. I thank you for taking the time to share your brutal honesty.

From Georges:
hey i wish i can go on america junoir i have all what it take.

I believe you, Georges! You go there and you takes it!!!

Speaking of being on air, I'm going to be on air later this week. I've been invited to go on a TV Guide Channel talk show called Idol Chat, to discuss my own audition. It should be a lot of fun. I'll spend the week in LA catching up with friends & family before heading to the studio to talk to them about my training & voting exercises.

19 January 2006

where am i?

lately, people are constantly asking me one question: where are you? here is the answer:

thx, jm, for sending me this!

18 January 2006

Representations of Technology at UC Berkeley

Tomorrow rings in another semester at Berkeley and more good times. I'm teaching a Film Studies class on Representations of Technology, in which we will watch the following films, in addition to discussing video game-related new media art: Metropolis, The Man With a Movie Camera, Modern Times, Dr. Strangelove, 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Conversation, Blade Runner, Tron, WarGames, Videodrome. I'm pretty excited about this list!

Here is the course blog. BIG, BIG, BIG thank you's to 893 for making some awesome giffords, for the blog. (The one on the left is a pic of Orson Welles's performance of War of the Worlds, which we'll listen to in class, and the one on the right is from Tron! More to come!)

12 January 2006


When someone you admire calls you not only "sultry" but also "freaky," well it kinda makes you wanna blog about it! Johanna Fateman, one of my favorite writers and musicians, has written a Net Art News article about Abe & Mo Sing the Blogs, my recent project with Abe Linkoln for the Whitney. Yay! Here's what she wrote (emphasis alllll mine):

Reblogging Blues
More than a curated series of links, Abe & Mo Sing the Blogs is part reblog and part... drinking game, maybe? Net artists Marisa Olson and Abe Linkoln's new project, now featured on the Whitney Museum's Artport, is presented as a concept 'album.' For each re-posted blog entry artfully culled from the weirdest smart/dumb stuff on the Internet, either Olson or Linkoln has recorded an mp3 track lyrically tied to the post's content. While Linkoln's hallmark post-punk aesthetic and messy karaoke appropriations aren't quite as
FREAKY as Olson's SULTRY a cappella interpretations, including the remarkable song, 'I F*cking Hate Horses,' their respective net personae, pop obsessions and remix-compulsions mesh well to frame this digest of online ready-mades with their own 'performative ephemera.' Abe & Mo's exploitation of the blog format as both archival medium and performance venue is an ongoing theme, evident in both their previous collaboration, Universal Acid, as well as their varied individual works, indexed in the album liner notes. - Johanna Fateman

10 January 2006

Mandelbrot Set

Lately I've found myself very interested in fractals and, in particular, what's known as the Mandelbrot Set. In a totally nerdy moment of jpeg euphoria, I recently uploaded all of the drag&drops from my Mandelbrot folder to Flickr. I made a Mandelbrot Set photo set. Get it? :)

Sometimes, when I'm intensely engaged in something, I find that I'm a bit speechless as to why. It's strange. Usually I can't shit up, but when I love something, I can't talk about it... That's how I'm feeling about the Mandelbrot Set.

I was never a math or science buff (far from it!), but the more I read about fractals, and the M-Set, especially, the more hungry I become for info. I'm finding myself wishing I could drop everything and take a physics class.

Fractal images were the spine of rock concert posters of the 60s and 70s, but they were around for at least a decade before people had a more developed vocabulary for them. Interestingly, the race to visualize the Mandelbrot Set (a passionate endeavor for many, as the bazillion Google Image links will testify), parallels the race to develop PCs and printers capable of processing graphics.

The more interesting parallel, of course, is the way in which these super complex and beautiful structures are mirrored in nature. In a certain way, their presence might make the imitative arts seem rather frivolous. But, then, I've always been one for frivolity. :)

Universal Acid in SURGE

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Beginning today (and extending through all of internet eternity, depending on how you look at it), Abe Linkoln and I are included in an online exhibition called Surge. The show is organized by Free103Point9 and Rhizome and it includes our Universal Acid project, along with several other very interesting transmission-related projects by others. Here's the description:

Surge includes works by artists 31 Down, Abe Linkoln and Marisa Olson, Angel Nevarez and Alex Rivera, NYSAE (New York Society for Acoustic Ecology), Jim Punk, and Leslie Sharpe. The featured projects employ new media tools to both conceptually and formally address different possibilities for transmission art online. Some consider the nature of signals as they move through the ether; others appropriate forms of wireless transmission, such as the military’s aerial ‘drone’ or the programming language AsCii, to propose new kinds of digital communication. A public presentation in conjunction with the exhibition will take place at Participant, Inc, in New York on March 28, 2006.

And while I'm at it, here are some [admittedly lengthy] excerpts from our original proposal:

In Universal Acid, the artists will use a video blog as a bulletin board to trace their transmission, manipulation, and re-broadcast of music videos. The content of the videos will trace the evolution of recording technologies, while also creating a visual narrative about the evolution of a work of art. [....] While the moniker may evoke the senses of science fiction & psychedelia employed in these videos, “Universal Acid” is actually the phrase that Daniel Dennett famously uses to describe Darwin’s notion of evolution. His point is one about the concept, itself, and the conditions of its transmission—that the notion of ‘evolution’ is so far-reaching as to transcend field and genre, and that it is so powerful as to eat away at traditional worldviews. Dennett argues that Darwinism is about more than natural selection; it reveals that complexity can arise by itself through automated algorithms, rather than by intelligent design.

While viewers will by no means need a background in science in order to understand the Universal Acid vlog, the project will nonetheless take up the tropes of automation and complexity. Like a strange “culture,” our videos will mutate and grow within the controlled environment of a video blog. Each experimental step will be recorded and transmitted, and yet the viewers might be challenged to test their own faith with regard to the fidelity of the media engaged by the artists.

Indeed, what happens when a video contagion enters the environment of a performative blog? Sometimes, through replication, evolution leads to degradation. In these instances, what happens to the identity of the species? And what is the relationship between the origin and the copy, the producer and the receiver? While the songs selected for recording by the artists will be inspired by nearly three decades of obsessive radio listenership, what difference does it make that the channel of transmission, in this case, will be a “static” (though nonetheless highly self-reflexive) vlog, rather than a dynamic space of flows, like the radio? [....]

The practice of applying metaphors of evolution to culture has an admittedly shady background, as doing so has often formed the raison d’être for imperialism and cultural “standardization.” The discourse of science accounts for this practice, in its use of Richard Dawkins’s term, “meme,” an analogue to the gene referring to non-genetic units of replication. It is through memes, often called “viruses of the mind,” that cultural information becomes transmitted and rebroadcast.

Evolution is, itself, a mechanical process. The doctrine that describes it is one informed by a modern culture obsessed with parts and their functions. When parts (songs, video clips, images, technologies) are sampled outside of their original context, or distorted to play a different role, the result of those memetic transmissions just might be a radical corrosion. And it might even be fun to watch!

09 January 2006

have i mentioned that i luv gifs?

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Ok, my big announcement came & went. Only one person congratulated me on my gif-breakthrough. A couple people gave an "um, yeah, good for you, haha," kind of response, and one totally non-techy person said to me, "Marisa, I was making stuff like that ten years ago." Well, exsqueeeeze me. I'm still excited! I luv gifs!! Making them is like making miniature films. And anyone can open them and look at them frame by frame. And, as with midi's, each person's computer will play them slightly differently, which is cool. (Though Blogger seems to like to skew things in a less smooth direction, as I've been checking-in on my gifs today and they look a bit jumpy...) Whatevs. Here is another. Whether you are embarrassed for me, at my novice state, or excited for me because I'm excited, thanks for reading!

08 January 2006

time for a confession....

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Ok, time for a confession.... Much like Lindsay Lohan, I've recently suffered from a painful addiction and it's led me to binge and purge. Actually, I've been binging more than I've been purging... What am I talking about? Images!!!!! Anyone who's ever seen the desktop of my computer will tell you that I have a major major drag & drop problem. A couple weeks ago, I went crayzee deleting images during a video editing/ disk space panic, but next thing I knew those little jpeg images were back, spreading across my desktop like measles! You see, I've been hording jpgs and gifs like crazy, thinking "one day I'll do something with this," and the madness has got to end. This evening I had a pixel intervention and I resolved to do two things:

1) I've uploaded every remaining random still image on my computer (by 'random' I mean not some photo for work, or of friends & family, or with a specific function but the random images I've been hording) and I've stored them to a Flickr folder. Then I deleted them from my computer!!!! I know, it's major!!!! I also uploaded the gif's to a separate site, but I am keeping them separate for now... Stay tuned for giftastic announcements... (Now if only I could find a form of release for my midi addiction!!)

2) I've decided to actually do something with all of the images I've been storing. For the longest time I've been admiring the gif's made by my friends and I've been a closet dunnohowtoer.... But not any more! Yes, that's right--I made my first animated gif!!! (See above!) There are not enough exclamation marks in the world to tell you how excited I am about this. I am a new person. This alters everything. There will be changes. Watch out!!!!

04 January 2006


That's right... after months of promising to do "exactly what that sounds like," we've gone and done it! Abe Linkoln and I have released a blog-based album called Abe & Mo Sing the Blogs. The project is currently being featured on the Whitney Museum of American Art's Artport page, for which they commissioned a gatepage. (Temporarily unblock pop-up windows, or click "view again," under our album cover.) We expect to go back and add a few more posts and we hope you will stop in and give a listen, talk some trash, I dunno... review it in Rolling Stone, perhaps...

Big thanks to Christiane Paul, at the Whitney, for her generous support of this project. More thanks to the people who wrote the original blog posts. You are the magic. Except for the horse dudes. I nearly passed out trying to record your post! :) Just kidding, you're magical, too... Thanks!

feeling testy...

Ahhh, the winter vacay is here and I'm busy doing things like wasting away under the influence of influenza, finally stopping to listen very very closely to Black Star (I'm slow, ok?! I recently I had the pleasure of realizing I don't actually know the lyrics to any of the songs I luv), and not finishing books or working on my posture--my two exciting new year's resolutions.

Anyway, a couple quick random notes. First--and I just wanna shriek at the Warholia of it all, then hide this and move on until I know more--this evening I received an email from a Talent Executive from a talk show who wants me to come to LA and talk about my American Idol audition. Some of my friends are very experienced with this stuff. I am not. More to come...

More importantly... I was a little worried by my lack of resolutions, this year. Usually I have lots of them. Big ones. This year I hardly thought about it, until a bit of time passed and I realized I just wanna keep on being me, but maybe on a higher level. I wanna be the Next Level Me. But who is that? Who's to say? So here's what I did... I took a few tests. These are the results:

I am not a hipster.
But I am 'Wild & Crazy.'
If the question is what kind of postmodernist am I, the answer is.... Gender Nazi??!! wtf??
Basically, I am Dr Julius Hibbert.
The results of this test were frighteningly spot-on.
Same here.
And now that I know my dad reads my blog, I'm not telling you what I scored on this one. (Hi, Dad!)

So, yeah. Basically, I'm hoping that I'll be a crazy, uncool doctor in 2006. Thank you for supporting me in my goals.

03 January 2006

My Top Ten Internetsies

Two-thousand-and-five (otherwise known as the World Year of Physics) was a rollercoaster for me, but through all the ups & downs (hahaha--physics joke!!!), my friend the internet was always there for me.... Recently Cory Arcangel and Michael Bell-Smith (two of my extra favorite artists!) asked me to list my ten favorite things on the internet, in 05. Trust me when I tell you that I tossed and turned over it. It could have been just a list of things they did and it easily could have included so many more things. (If you did something online and it's not there, please don't hate me, just be happy that the internet is getting sooooo good!!)

Anyway, enough yacking. Here is the page with my list & the lists of some other super cool peeps...

BTW, I've also somewhat lazily started bookmarking some of the more interesting 'Best of 05' lists I've seen, here. Enjoy!

02 January 2006

back in black

we're back:

thanks for hanging in there!
big thanks to abe linkoln for his amazing work and under-fire tech skillzzz!!

01 January 2006


I just got off the phone with Abe. It sounds like things were worse--or more exciting--than I thought, with the temporary downtime at Universal Acid. We experienced a perfect storm, a three-pronged blowout, a triple double, if you will... Not only did we get assaulted by Y2K6, but we also fell prey to French Hackers and Australian Hit Machines. It turns out our project was quite popular Down Under, where the New Year's festivitivizing began much earlier than in these parts. They hit us and they hit us and they hit our house down. But not before the French snuck in to toy with our ftp finales... Anyhoo, Abe's working hard to re-Kick Out the Internet Jamz (my fave saying of 2005 and prolly 2006), and I'm nursing a fluish fever, putting the finishing touches on our project for the Whitney, which goes live... any second.........

If you tried to watch and were unable, we thank you and we apologize. Personally, we think it was a nice way to go down, but we're working on getting things back in place.