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Two by two at Seven on Seven

Arts and technology conference creates unlikely pairs and unique works

new york. Seven on Seven, now in its second year, is a conference that challenges seven artists and seven technologists to participate in a whirlwind collaboration. This year's event resulted in new websites, new works of art and new—albeit short-lived—artistic teams.



Held from 13 and 14 May, the event was organised by new media organisation Rhizome and presented by AOL. According to Rhizome executive director Lauren Cornell, the project was inspired by the original 1966 arts/technology mash-up, “Nine Evenings: Theatre & Engineering”. In that now legendary event, ten New York artists and 30 engineers and scientists, including John Cage, Robert Rauschenberg and Merce Cunningham, collaborated on a series of dance, music and theatre performances. Seven on Seven is meant to be an abbreviated version of that ten-month experiment.



Annexing seven offices in AOL’s New York headquarters, the event gives each pair of artist/techies 24 hours to come up with something, anything innovative. The parameters for the project remained broad. Duos could conceive an application, website, artwork, product or any creative venture in between. The teams presented the fruits of their labour on 14 May at the New Museum to a crowd of former participants and tech-art enthusiasts.



In her opening speech before the presentations, Cornell stated that: “the line between artist and technologist is quite blurry.” Indeed, the distinction between the two came into question as the afternoon progressed. After Zach Lieberman and Bre Pettis introduced their art project entitled “Important People,” an audience member asked, “Compadres, who's the technologist and who's the artist?” The answer: both.



In the event's program, Lieberman is described as an artist who “creates artwork that uses technology in a playful and seamless way”. Pettis, the founder of MakerBot, “makes things that make things”. Neither figure staunchly fits into his prescribed category.



Liz Magic Laser and Ben Cerveny made an architectural/psychological version of the card game Apples to Apples. A prototype of their still-sketchy, surrealist game made its way through the audience.



One team invented the “super supercut”. Supercuts are user-made videos that compile snippets from existing media on a common theme, for example, all the instances of the word “dude” uttered in “The Big Lebowski” or each of Alfred Hitchcock's theatrical walk-ons. Michael Bell-Smith and Andy Baio made “an algorithmically generated supercut made entirely out of other supercuts,” explained team technologist Baio. Supercut.org, a website they built on Friday, links together hundreds of video montages. Baio has been building a database of these clips for years. “It's just constant, non-stop serendipity,” he said.



The remaining participants include artists Ricardo Cabello (mr. doob), Emily Roysdon, Rashaad Newsome and Camille Utterback, and technologists Jeri Ellsworth, Kellan Elliott-McCrea, Chris Poole and Erica Sadun.



Ultimately, each pair was concerned with how their idea would interact with and affect the public. While some collaborations remained largely theoretical, others resulted in fully realised concepts—at times just a mouse click away. Thus is the nature of experimentation.

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