May 2011
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Month May 2011

7 on 7

This weekend (May 14th) 7on7 runs for the second time in NYC – the event brings together artists and technologists – where they conceive and often build a project over the course of a single day.   Some people have referred to it as a YCombinator for the art world, sort of, but last year it was a little more unconventional and irreverent than a YC event.   Slamming an artist together with a technologist can have unexpected consequences.

Last year Matt Mullenweg and Evan Roth hacked WordPress to add in a feature that would create random and unexpected experience at points in the software that he described a lonely or threatening.  Marc Andre Robinson & Hilary Mason created an umbrella with a homing beacon so that you could see patterns of use and rain across a region. Joshua Schachter & Monica Narula devised a concept for a guilt exchange. You can see a video of these three presentation here.   The other four presentations were wonderful – the whole event from 2010 is posted here.

Why 7 on 7?

A handful of reasons: this event and the process that it represents is something I have been fascinated by for a long time.  The first site I created on the web was äda’web, back in 1994. It was a platform for artists and technologists to collaborate and create projects for the web – ones that were medium specific – ie: it wasn’t about putting paintings on the web, rather it was about using the web to create. The site is still up and running courtesy of the Walker Art Center, to whom we (and AOL) donated äda’web to in 1998.   For more about what “äda’web is” see this interview with my co-founder, Benjamin Weil, and / or read this piece he wrote about äda’web as a digital foundry.

Back in the late nineties it struck me that the process that an artist and a technologist apply to their craft is similar.  There is much to write on this subject, rather than diving in here there is a thread we started yesterday on quora titled Do Artists and Technologists create things the same way – it spells out similarities between creating art and creating technology.

7on7 slams technology together with Art.   As such it is a great platform for pranksters.   Pranksters have a vital role in any society — from Jesters, forward they help us gain perspective and see and say things that might otherwise be socially unacceptable.  I met this group earlier this year who setup a system to randomly wardial phone boxes in London — Art or Hack?  I’m not sure, either way, fierce fun.

Last thought. Art and technology are two communities that are well represented here in New York and yet they dont intersect that frequently.   This event was designed to become a bridge between these communities.  As technology becomes more deeply engrained in our lives and society it will become part of what we consider to be art and vica-versa.   See you on saturday, I can promise something will surprise.

7on7, this Saturday, May 14th details here.

note: I’m a board member at Rhizome and member of the motley crew who came up with this idea – others are: Lauren Cornell, Peter Rojas and Fred Benenson.