(text from Catalogue #001, February 2010)
*Includes occasional edits and updates by Kari Altmann

See Also: Critic Gene Mchugh's response to R-U-IN?S

And newer, more accurate texts on Karialtmann.com/texts


R-U-IN?S is a project initiated by Kari Altmann using an archaeological approach (online and offline) to search the deteriorating surfaces, objects, and codes in the contemporary world. Topics of interest were addressed as ruined places and times in the database, from which artifacts and recordings were taken.

For its “Hors Les Murs” Exhibition at Fette’s Gallery in 2009, she created a website and a public Tumblr. This Tumblr exposed the raw elements and immediate findings of the project, expressed by the posting of images, videos, texts, and other objects that could be assessed quickly. Found items were results of very specific search queries or hyperlinked journies. Objects were altered or produced when a desired artifact could not be found, or when an encounter created them. By revealing these ideas while still in formation, she allowed an online audience to participate in their back-end evolution before ending up on display. The investigation of the ruins was open to collaborative production, yielding a “produced” research result. This was an inquiry into several things: the ecosystem of the database/social network and its relationship to real-time, the code at work behind the surfaces of her surroundings, and the nature of commodified image exchange. Recognizing that this project would exist in the same world, network, and database, and therefore be subject to the same ruination, it became a study in and of itself.

Lightly paralleling the formation of a viral brand, the Tumblr became the labor and concept development. The site was the final surface display of these “products”.

Iain, Matteo, and Sebastian, who were already a part of the Tumblr network, became the biggest participants in R-U-IN?S through reblogs and exchanges. From June to December 2009, a commerce was established between these artists inside the networked consumer arena of Tumblr. Coming from various artistic disciplines and interests, R-U-IN?S was a specific area with critical and conceptual overlap between them all. It tapped into a shared awareness.

After several months of communicating through this new language of imports and exports (these artists are all from different countries), a fluency was reached where a raw concept could be expressed through one or several posts and instantly expanded in new ways by the others in the group. At this point it became self-perpetuating and continued to spawn newer and better products. An ecosystem was formed where viral ideas could thrive.

Even when one user had exhausted their search, the others would continue it or morph it to yield new results. In this way the artists all became search bots for eachother. Posting an image of a Toshiba TV with a canyon on the display could yield 10 videos of Toshiba products, 4 variations of demo canyon imagery, and 20 images of name-brand displays almost instantly. Over time those themes continued. Weeks later someone could find a Toshiba commercial shot in a canyon and merge it back into the meme, the idea being that all of these fit together in a single landscape. We found ourselves creating other more specific Tumblrs to categorize our feeds into the larger one. Through instant search queries and reblogs the viral surface properties of each idea were exposed, cultivated, and rapidly evolved as it was replicated and spread through countless users. This speed either purified or ruined the original concept by forcing it to evolve or be abandoned. Meanwhile the “Tumblweeds” kept collecting response across hundreds of other Tumblrs.

The concepts were presented and decoded through sequences and strings of posts from specifically named accounts. One post could reference the five posts before it, or a sequence from much earlier in the string. To understand the memes and ideas being presented, one had to follow the sequence daily and read each case study in an archival context, as a sentence in a larger paragraph. This naturally gave rise to a lexicon of referents, material vibes, abstract memes, and conceptual terms expressed through images that continued to build upon eachother.

Raw elements became big products and spawned ten more raw elements. All objects networked with eachother, sometimes spawning new networks or being absorbed into others. One could actually track the mutation of memed objects through this sea of continuous replication and production the same way one could track the concepts of ruination through history.

The result is a selected inventory of found, framed, and created products of this commerce that when read together create a branded and filtered critical viewpoint.

These are examples of the memes that became the most infectious, whether they survived or not.

This is only an explanation of the processes behind this product and the wrappers around it.
It is the hope of the artists that the concepts addressed by this process are evident in this printed version of the results.

TOPICS and TAGS include: Globalism, Language, Technology, Industry, Commerce, Culture, Branding, Architecture, Ecology, Social Networks, and more.