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Nick Hornby’s Brain-Bending Sculptures Twist History Into New Shapes

Nick Hornby’s Brain-Bending Sculptures Twist History Into New Shapes

You can get a crash course in Nick Hornby’s work in the span of an hour-long London walk. The artist has three permanent sculptures installed across the city, metal silhouettes that start off familiar but transform depending on your vantage point. In St. James, his conquering equestrian, modeled on Richard I, becomes an amorphous squiggle as you circle; while in Kensington, his take on Caspar David Friedrich’s Wanderer turns abstract; and a bust of Nefertiti doubles as the Albert Memorial.

Raising questions about power and the role of the monument, the trio are a clever combo of craft and concept. They’re also feats of digital innovation. The equestrian, for example, started out as a digital model scripted in Python. It was then unrolled into individual components to be laser-cut from metal, then assembled by fabricators. “It was a lovely, seamless relationship between concept, digital processes, and mechanical fabrications—165 pieces manipulated into the six-and-a-half ton object,” says Hornby from his studio in northwest London. “But when people look at it, they don’t see that at all.”

“I like to think that one of the distinctive features of my work is its ambition to capture the imagination of anyone, not limited to the art world; to try to address complicated ideas in plain English. Anyone will recognize the trope of the man on the horse and will have a reaction to how I have manipulated it.”

White abstract sculpture with images of a human body overlaid in areas on a white pedestal in a white room

Resting Leaf (Joe) is from a set of autobiographical works created using hydrographics—each resin sculpture is dipped into a wet medium containing an image transfer.

Photograph: Benjamin Westoby

This kind of technical-conceptual wizardry is Hornby’s calling card. Favoring the screen over the sketchpad, he uses 3D modeling as the foundation for abstract sculptures that reference the art-historical canon and challenge notions of authorship—contorted mashups of works by Hepworth, Brancusi, Rodin, and more; the profile of Michelangelo’s David extruded to a single point, legible only from above.

He started young, creating life-size terracotta figures in school while his classmates labored over simpler pots. “But then I went to art school, and it was like, I didn’t want to do pastiche of Rodin. I wanted to be part of the future. I wanted to be innovative,” he says. “So I jumped on technology.”

At the Slade School of Fine Art in London, where he enrolled in the late 1990s, Hornby thrived in the new. There were forays into video; a semester at the Art Institute of Chicago, where he joined the artist-hacker collective Radical Software/Critical Artware; and musical experiments with MAX MSP, the object-oriented programming language employed by Radiohead in the early 2000s. But it was only after pursuing a master’s in his thirties that his career took its current shape.

“I actually had quite a radical sea change in my relationship to tech,” he says. “I got quite frustrated by people saying, ‘Wow, that’s really cool. How did you do it?’ because I find that question really boring. I’m much more interested in the question, ‘What does it mean?’” So, over the past decade Hornby has eliminated “any form of human subjectivity,” he says. The wires and screens were obscured, the rough edges erased with laser precision. All the better to invite questions of substance rather than process.

TikTok’s Missing Music Is Making Users Very Upset

TikTok’s Missing Music Is Making Users Very Upset

#SwiftTok had a rough day. Early Thursday, after Universal Music Group and TikTok failed to reach an agreement on licensing music from UMG artists on the app, sounds from those artists—including Taylor Swift, Drake, and others—went silent.

“Some of my most viewed videos are ones talking about Taylor Swift that have Taylor Swift songs in the background,” says Savannah Delullo, a Wordle influencer on TikTok and a Swiftie. “So, them being muted is pretty sad, because we put in all of that work.”

Delullo notes that creators might switch over to alternative versions of the official songs or experiment with ways to avoid copyrighted music altogether, but still the mood on #SwiftTok is far from light.

“Half my drafts are muted now,” says Madeline Macrae, a Swift fan and TikTok creator. While initially frustrated by the change, Macrae thinks there might be positive impacts. Even though many ardent fans value the online community built through social media, some are also uncomfortable with the flattening of poetic songs into 60-second memes. “Songs that Swifties would usually gatekeep aren’t going to be TikTok-ified now,” she says.

It’s not just Swifties who are missing music on TikTok. Multiple videos posted on Olivia Rodrigo’s official account, including one with over 50 million views, are now quiet. Similarly, TikToks with UMG licensed music posted by Billie Eilish to promote her album display the message “This sound isn’t available.”

During recent years, UMG and other labels have built marketing strategies around getting songs to go viral with the TikTok algorithm. Younger users see the platform as a great way to discover their next favorite song and build out cool playlists. If TikTok and UMG don’t reach a new deal soon, the prohibition could dramatically alter how artists tease new music and connect with fans through social media.

In an email to WIRED, Barney Hooper, a global head of music communications at TikTok, indicated that the change impacts only music from UMG and confirmed that videos with previously licensed music will stay muted until another deal is closed. Soon, TikTok might also take steps to remove songs in the Universal Music Publishing Group catalog, which would increase the number of impacted artists.

So, licensed music from UMG artists is gone from TikTok, for now, but it remains unclear what will happen to unofficial remixes and mashups as the catalog is wiped from the platform. Viral sounds on TikTok are sometimes warped versions of an original song, with vocals frequently sped up, and while some of those sounds remained on the platform Thursday, they may not for much longer.

A well-known musician for almost two decades, Swift has seen her popularity skyrocket in recent years. Her Eras Tour is so massive it has the power to impact local economies and her appearances at NFL games to watch her boyfriend, Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce, play have altered football viewership this season. Losing her music as well as tunes from Drake and others in UMG’s lineup could alter the fabric of TikTok itself.

Swift’s songs may no longer be all over the platform, but music remains core to the user experience of scrolling through TikTok. The cascade of snippets from huge artists disappearing could even usher in a new era on the For You Page feed. “I feel like a silver lining to this is that smaller or independent artists can have their chance to go viral,” says Macrae.

With Its WWE Deal, the Netflix Pivot Is Complete

With Its WWE Deal, the Netflix Pivot Is Complete

A few years ago, Netflix fine-tuned its formula for success: original content, no live TV, no ads, and an unrivaled library of movies and series that it can air across the globe. As recently as last year, it mostly stuck to that plan. But as the streaming wars have evolved, the company has increasingly welcomed other peoples’ movies and shows onto its platform. And after dabbling in livestreaming with a Chris Rock special, a new deal with WWE to stream Monday Night Raw for the next 10 years shows just how thoroughly Netflix has rewritten its own rulebook.

Today, Netflix announced it will be the new home of Raw beginning in 2025. The deal will reportedly cost Netflix $5 billion over its lifetime. Coupled with a recent increase in the number of shows its licensing from sometimes-competitors, and its recent introduction of ad-supported tiers, the move demonstrates that Netflix’s new recipe looks more like: original content, old episodes of Suits, and even sports—or at least, the “sports entertainment” that WWE specializes in.

Netflix’s play here is very on trend. For months now streaming services have been vying to stock up on live sports offerings. Amazon bet big—like $1 billion per year for 11 years big—on the NFL’s Thursday Night Football games. Apple TV+ is all in on Major League Soccer. Hulu, because it shares a parent with ESPN, has been offering sports via Hulu + Live TV. Last fall, Max announced a partnership with Bleacher Report to offer a sports add-on that allows users to watch the games Warner Bros. Discovery offers through its TBS and TNT network (read: NBA and NHL games). This year’s Super Bowl will be streamed on Paramount+. The list is long.

Sports, however, are just part of the about-face Netflix is pulling—and it’s not the only one. In the early years of streaming, Netflix grew its subscriber numbers with help from content it licensed from other studios: The Office, Friends. In response to those studios forming their own streaming services—and to get around global licensing issues—Netflix went full-throttle on originals.

Last year, that tide turned back. Warner Bros. Discovery licensed HBO shows like Insecure and Six Feet Under to Netflix. Disney licensed some shows to the streamer too. And Netflix needed them. Netflix spends roughly $17 billion on content, both original and licensed, per year, but a great deal of the hours spent watching are still spent on licensed properties. Netflix originals have gained ground in recent years, comprising 53 percent of total series viewing time on the platform in 2022, up from 22 percent in 2017. But original content is more of a gamble than a known quantity like Suits, and Netflix-produced movies in particular have had a mixed record of success.

Going into 2024, it looks as though licensing is “in vogue again,” as Warner Bros. Discovery content sales head David Decker told The New York Times. Studios got money for their shows, Netflix got those shows in front of viewers. John Mass, president of investment fund Content Partners, told The Los Angeles Times in December that the streaming wars were over, “and Netflix has come out on top.”

Brazilian Gamers Aren’t Waiting for Hollywood. They’re Building Their Own Cons

Brazilian Gamers Aren’t Waiting for Hollywood. They’re Building Their Own Cons

In 2022, I interviewed journalist Mariana Ayrez, who opened my eyes to the relevance of Perifacon. She reiterated that “while other events promote pop culture and bring together artists and the public, they have a lot of incentive from private business players. Meanwhile, Perifacon delivers geek culture, love, and fun to all involved independent of their budget. Their main goal is accessibility.”

Delgado believes that while Perifacon calls attention to social inequality, it also promotes artists from those marginalized communities and showcases their products to a public that wants them and can’t get them in any other way. Favela influence is everywhere in Brazilian art, culture, and sports.

“The favela is the powerhouse that people already know. However, brands and enterprises are still after the same profile of people that already have access to everything. We know this because of the lack of support to unfavored areas,” Ayrez explains.

Meanwhile, for the young people growing up in the favelas, the convention is an event to look forward to. “Perifacon is everything that the 12-year-old Eduardo dreamed of being part of, as he grew up being bullied for liking ‘weird’ things,” says Marques.

“My experiences outside the hood with people from other social classes showed me how prejudice operates in a systematic way, he says. “The simple fact that I come from the favela and I like comics fascinated the rich kids. My experiences as a nerd were marked by a series of contradictions, stereotypes, and conflicting images. However, at the same time, it is an honor to be able to affirm myself as a hood nerd even with those setbacks.”

Delgado and her colleagues have plans to keep Perifacon going, and to expand access to tech and gaming in the future to the communities that need it the most. “My dream is to take Perifacon to other Brazilian states and that we’ll be invited by the local authorities to work toward it. I’d take Perifacon to any place in Brazil.”

Meanwhile, Ayrez expects the event will grow to the point that the brands and private sector actors will compete to see who can support it. “I hope that they keep this amazing work that discovers talents in each edition, that brings joy to many people who for many reasons can’t go to the mainstream events.”

Ramos cites the work of Hong Kong philosopher Yuk Hui and his concept of technodiversity as one way of thinking about what the team wants to do with Perifacon. “I think that Perifacon is part of a movement of a non-colonized innovation that, in the future, may become part of the overall cultural industry,” she says. The convention will ultimately become a product on its own, but one that shows the world that “besides gaming and nerd culture, the favela has untapped talent in fashion, cuisine, and so on.”

The SAG Deal Sends a Clear Message About AI and Workers

The SAG Deal Sends a Clear Message About AI and Workers

On Monday, the leadership of the Screen Actors Guild–American Federation of Television and Radio Artists held a members-only webinar to discuss the contract the union tentatively agreed upon last week with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers. If ratified, the contract will officially end the longest labor strike in the guild’s history.

For many in the industry, artificial intelligence was one of the strike’s most contentious, fear-inducing components. Over the weekend, SAG released details of its agreed AI terms, an expansive set of protections that require consent and compensation for all actors, regardless of status. With this agreement, SAG has gone substantially further than the Directors Guild of America or the Writers Guild of America, who preceded the group in coming to terms with the AMPTP. This isn’t to say that SAG succeeded where the other unions failed but that actors face more of an immediate, existential threat from machine-learning advances and other computer-generated technologies.

The SAG deal is similar to the DGA and WGA deals in that it demands protections for any instance where machine-learning tools are used to manipulate or exploit their work. All three unions have claimed their AI agreements are “historic” and “protective,” but whether one agrees with that or not, these deals function as important guideposts. AI doesn’t just posit a threat to writers and actors—it has ramifications for workers in all fields, creative or otherwise.

For those looking to Hollywood’s labor struggles as a blueprint for how to deal with AI in their own disputes, it’s important that these deals have the right protections, so I understand those who have questioned them or pushed them to be more stringent. I’m among them. But there is a point at which we are pushing for things that cannot be accomplished in this round of negotiations and may not need to be pushed for at all.

To better understand what the public generally calls AI and its perceived threat, I spent months during the strike meeting with many of the leading engineers and tech experts in machine-learning and legal scholars in both Big Tech and copyright law.

The essence of what I learned confirmed three key points: The first is that the gravest threats are not what we hear most spoken about in the news—most of the people whom machine-learning tools will negatively impact aren’t the privileged but low- and working-class laborers and marginalized and minority groups, due to the inherent biases within the technology. The second point is that the studios are as threatened by the rise and unregulated power of Big Tech as the creative workforce, something I wrote about in detail earlier in the strike here and that WIRED’s Angela Watercutter astutely expanded upon here.