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Will Future Art Galleries Be On The Human Body?

Anthony Antonellis, known for transforming himself into a quasi-cyborg, has a new netart show viewable via hand.

Anthony Antonellis is an internet-based artist, curator, quasi-cyborg, and creator of netartnet.net--an online directory for the “expanded netart universe”.  His work often consists of gentle interventions into what we desire from our internet-mediated interactions. Recent works include Facebook Bliss, a “likes”, “messages”, and “friend requests” generator and #TriggerTreat, a personalized terrorism-related keyword producer that has the dual purpose of allowing the user to act on a secret desire to capture the NSA’s interest (aka to troll the NSA), while oversaturating the mechanisms of the domestic espionage machine.  

In August he had a RFID chip embedded in his hand at a piercing shop with the intention of using it as a means to curate digital artwork.  

Anthony Antonellis, “Simple Net Art Implant Diagram” 2014


Implant site held over flashlight.


Demonstrating contactless read distance. The Creators Project: Everyone is very fascinated with this implant. Do you think it’s the making of this technology-based alteration to the body that's causing interest and controversy, or do you think the fact that it’s “for art” (as opposed to medical reasons) that has something to do with it?  I mean certainly there are many sectors out there who believe that any sort of data-storing implant is the “mark of the beast”. You even created a blog to document the various haters, religious and otherwise...and it has a lot of content.    

Anthony Antonellis: The positive interest generally involves the fascination with this particular use of technology; it also conjures all sorts of imaginative cybernetic possibilities. I think part of the negativity stems from a feeling of anxiety over an inevitable collision of technology and the human body, compounded by the possibility of dystopian abuses and a perceived loss of control over the self.  

These topics aren’t unique to biohacking, but projects like this introduce realism to some of those abstract concerns. The mark of the beast movement is probably the loudest opposition, but the also the least grounded argument against chipping. There are real and substantial arguments regarding privacy and tracking with existing and emerging technologies. Those concerned with this particular implant stem from a profound misunderstanding of its technology. 

There’s certainly other artists using their bodies for“biohacking” experiments--some of which are much more extreme than a small RFID chip implant.  Do you think that your work is related to this DIY scene, or to other artists whose work has included modifications or interventions of their own bodies? For instance: Genesis Breyer P. Orridge’s transformation, Chris Burden’s “Shoot” piece, or Orlan’s plastic surgery? The fact that the content of the chip is “curated” and that you are essentially giving someone else domain over a part of your body’s “territory” also made me think of Valie Export’s 1968 work “Touch Cinema” where she placed a mini curtained “stage” or proscenium over her chest and invited passer-by to feel her breasts. But of course, the act of choosing the chooser in your case gives you more control.  

My goals with this project aren’t necessarily aligned with the goals of the DIY biohacking movement, although I share some common areas of interest. I don’t feel I’ve transformed my sense of self, the chip is a mere wireless storage device and does not augment my senses in the way that Neil Harbisson's “Eyeborg” allows him to see color. The level of body modification is more akin to a piercing or tattoo, with a functional purpose that allows it to surpass the ornamental.

What were your influences in making this work?

The implant gallery is the successor to a project of mine called Credit Card Curation where I curate my credit card designs as an exhibition space. I have two cards and two new artists are invited to exhibit every 30 days. I also ask that each artist send additional elements to supplement the card image when it’s presented online; these have been videos, writings, as well as various forms of net art. It was pointed out that the credit card project had similarities to Hans-Ulrich Obrist’s “Nanomuseum”, where he carried around a pocket picture frame where he exhibited artists—although I wasn’t aware of the project until later. Through Credit Card Curation I became interested in forms of micro-curation, and the implant curatorial developed off of this concept. The implant similarly rotates artists and artworks weekly. Each of these projects is a platform as artwork, informed by works such as Aram Bartholl's Dead Drops.

In this interview in Thought Catalog you were talking about “branding” of technology.  We certainly make judgements about people based on the technology they carry, but generally not about the content of those devices because it's mostly invisible. Do you think the future is that data content will be more visible and more available for judgements of taste and status than the devices themselves?  

I place a very high value on data content. With wearable technology there is an aspect of fashion, but it’s the content that’s carried and distributed that matters. I expect to see a consumer interest in customizable augmentation. You can see an aspect of this in the competitive nature of quantified-self devices like the Nike Fuelband and Fitbit where users show off their stats, and achievements. The type of data you can boaster is a more unique metric than which type of phone you have.

When and how can viewers access the exhibition?

You can view the artwork in person by scanning the chip on my hand with a compatible NFC capable phone or mobile device. Alternatively, the chip’s content is available online at http://antonell.is/implant.  The first 5 artworks are: Anthony Antonellis, “Favicon”; Rollin Leonard, “Splat”; Daniel Temkin, “Tiny Dither”; Faith Holland, “Russian Blue”; Olia Lialina, “Kosmos Folder”.

Below, check out a few of the pieces, also available for view via Antonellis' hand:

Anthony Antonellis, Favicon

Olia Lialina, Kosmos Folder


Faith Holland, “Russian Blue”

Rollin Leonard, “Splat”

Daniel Temkin, “Tiny Dither”