Posts for November 2007

Museum Mash-Up

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Walking into Boston's Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum is like walking into a larger than life fine art 'cabinet of curiosities.' Commissioned in 1902 by patron of the arts extraordinaire Isabella Stewart Gardner, the museum contains her extensive and eclectic personal holdings. Gardiner's sublime jumble of art works juxtaposes decorative arts and illuminated manuscripts from across the ages with canvases by the likes of Titian, Rembrandt, and John Singer Sargent, Greek and Roman antiquities, and Asian statuary--reflecting a particular upper class Victorian sensibility. On display in the museum for the next three months, Cliff Evans's new five-channel video installation Empyrean utilizes a similar juxtaposition of disparate visual elements to reflect a contemporary American sensibility. With the internet as his source, Evans animates both militaristic and commercial images to create dramatic moving photomontages that illicit reverence, fear, and humor. Placed within the context of the Museum, his 'digital polyptych' appears like a religious altarpiece, perfectly at home among Gardiner's diverse and evocative collection.

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Resensitizing to Light, Image, and Sound

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Based in Hong Kong since 1996, the Microwave International Arts Festival is a pioneering event devoted to new media in Asia. Each year the organization looks at the latest trends in the intersection of art and technology. Exploring the relationship between visuality, illumination, and audio, 2007's theme is 'Luminous Echo.' As the organizers have put it, 'in inspecting our flashing city that is Hong Kong, sound, light, and images are constantly coming at us from all directions, collectively attacking our senses.' The main exhibition brings together several international artists that have turned the gallery within the City Hall into a large, bright display room. Visitors are thus confronted with a new representation of the urban landscape and must reposition themselves as subjects in a postmodern world. Held at the Film Archive, a Project Room program acts as a platform to showcase new works. One of its most interesting projects is 'A la Chinoise + Site Specific,' curated by Sao Paulo-based curators Marcelo Rezende and Fernando Oliva. According to their statement, this initiative 'aims to investigate the political engagement born of the rapid expansion of our repertoire of images generated by the development of information technologies.' Inspired by filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard's movie 'La Chinoise,' that dealt with Maoism, 'A la Chinoise' is a video screening that elaborates on the crossing of contemporary imagery and the sense of nostalgia that defines our age. Informed by architect Rem Koolhaas' concept of 'Junkspace,' 'Site Specific' is a website that presents works on YouTube. Through November 18th, this is a must-see festival in which, as the organizers anticipate, 'the pleasure elicited by the audio-visual interactions will help visitors recover the fascinations in our daily lives that have so been overwhelmed and numbed.' - Miguel Amado

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Model Collector

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Since 2001, media artist Doron Golan has been doing what no museum or institution has yet managed. He has amassed a significant collection of net art works by major artists in the field, archived at Computer Fine Arts. Furthering his prescient stewardship of the medium is a commitment to exhibition and a collaboration with Cornell University Library's Rose Goldsen Archive of New Media Art to preserve the work in an off-line form. The current exhibition, NETworks at the Haifa Museum of Art, in Israel, includes a small selection of works from Golan's collection which, in the words of curator Christiane Paul (who wrote for the catalog), includes projects which explore 'the fundamental qualities of net art.' But perhaps what's most impressive about Computer Fine Arts is that it represents a model for collecting and ownership entirely different from that of the hedge fund managers who are driving the current art market. In the Computer Fine Arts model, the artist retains full rights to the piece but Golan has a copy on his server and the rights to exhibit the works when and where he wants. This model reflects an understanding of the realities of digital and distributed art works and further underlines the importance of Golan's contribution to the field, not only as an artist, but also as a patron.



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Behind the Collection

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As a culture that fetishizes voyeurism and consumer electronics, it is a shame that the focus of our around-the-clock surveillance is all too often the least interesting subjects: Britney, Brangelina, etc. Meanwhile, individuals with despicable levels of power over our lives remain elusive and outside the camera's incessant lens. Jill Miller's new multimedia exhibition, COLLECTORS, opening on November 17th at San Francisco's 2nd Floor Projects is a clever reworking of this model. The SF-based Miller trained for three months with a licensed private investigator, learning how to "conduct surveillance within the legal limits of the law." In an inversion of relations, Miller then turned her eye to rarified species of prominent art collectors in San Francisco, focusing on 10 houses, 5 of them in depth. The exhibition will consist of "video, photography, text, and sculptural elements" made during her undercover surveillance. While it is unclear how Miller feels about her subjects, it is a fascinating tactic.

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Redacting the Dotted Line

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In our original post regarding The Dotted Line exhibition curated by Colby Chamberlain at Brooklyn's Rotunda Gallery, we misprinted the dates of the exhibition. The group show will be open from November 7th to December 21st. Our deepest apologizes to the artists, curator, gallery, and to all of our readers.

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Rhizome Commission: Lee Walton

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Since 2001 Rhizome has, as a major part of its programming, awarded commissions for the creation of internet-based artworks. The 2008 commissions were recently announced and the North Carolina-based artist Lee Walton was one of the deserving recipients. Walton's work humorously reframes day-to-day, somewhat banal activities as pieces of conceptual and performance art, often necessitating the participation of unwitting collaborators. In 2005 at Art in General, as part of his Experiential Project, he reversed the viewer's gaze back out to the street to decipher who was and who wasn't a part of his public 'happening,' and in my favorite of Walton's works, The Competitionist, the artist competes with innocent joggers on an outdoor track, culminating in a dramatic photo finish. This conveyance of the simple act as performance, as well as his athletic focus on endurance and duration, allude to 1960s and 70s precedents without being at all derivative. For his upcoming Rhizome commission, 'Remote Instructions,' Walton will solicit participation via the web 'and orchestrate a series of video performances that will take place in real cities, neighborhoods, villages, and towns around the world,' indicating that these participants will be fully aware of their performative potential.

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The Revolution Will Not Be Mapped

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As Naomi Klein's new book--The Shock Doctrine--explores, advanced capitalism is more dependent than ever on global disasters, natural and otherwise. The Political Equator II is a two-day trans-border event investigating the geography of post-9/11 global politics taking place between November 16th and 17th. In many ways, the event is a reaction to theories embodied in Thomas Barnett's influential book, The Pentagon's New Map, which divides the globe into a "Functioning Core" and a "Non-Integrating Gap." In opposition, The Political Equator II foregrounds "the notion of a collective territory, but also a territory of collaboration that transgresses hemispheric boundaries." Pairing urbanists, architects, and activists, several of the projects involve crossing between the USA and Mexico including the world's busiest border in Tijuana.

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Calling Out of Context

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One of the most fascinating audio documents from the last decade was no doubt The Conet Project: Recordings from Shortwave Numbers Stations, a four CD set of recordings from mysterious radio transmissions of unknown provenance believed to be secret government communications. They generally consist of male or female voices in varying languages reading streams of numbers, letters, or even morse code. (Wilco's popular album, 'Yankee Hotel Foxtrot' takes its name from a sample of the set.) 'Shift Coordinate Points,' by Dutch composer Esther Venrooy, takes these transmissions as its material and inspiration. It will air November 21st, as one of four projects that make up Disturbance, 'a series of internet radio broadcasts' curated by Washington DC-based Niels Van Tomme. Every Wednesday in November a different composition is being broadcast around a sonic or psychological disturbance that affected the artist. All nightly transmissions are being transmitted from art@radio, an online radio station based in Baltimore, Maryland focusing on experimental sonic culture. Although Venrooy's is the only one to reference Numbers Stations, all of the projects function as personalized appropriations of this rigidly hermetic system. - David Michael Perez

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Build a Fort

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Dubai can have its man-made islands and indoor ski slopes; I will gladly take the ephemeral and democratic structures of Orange Works instead. Since 2004, artists John Hawke and Sancho Silva have been collaborating as Orange Works to create critical and charming interventions in public space that address the needs of the immediate public. The project's stated aim is "to build unauthorized temporary urban constructions camouflaged as in-process construction sites in order to probe existing spatial pressures, and reorganize public spaces to allow for new social uses." This past September the pair built a shelter and meeting place in a public park in Oslo, Norway. Two weeks later, after acquiring permanent residents, the authorities took the shelter down--but not before the seemingly ambiguous intervention asked what a 'public park' truly meant. Similarly, an 'Open House/Rest Area' with tables, benches, and a small terrace was placed on Brooklyn's York Street in 2006. Local residents used and shared the space without incident for several weeks before the police vandalized it for no apparent reason. It seems that somehow, when we see a new construction, shared public use is not the first thought we have.


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Imagining Geography

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Traveling, you realize that differences are lost: each city takes to resembling all cities, places exchange their form, order, distances, a shapeless dust cloud invades the continents. -- Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities

Calvino's Invisible Cities is, among other things, a beautiful and unique rumination on imagination and geography and Never Been to Tehran, an exhibition curated by Andrea Grover and Jon Rubin, explores a similar terrain. For the project they asked an international group of artists (who have never been to Tehran) to look to their own towns and environments, imagine, and then photograph their conception of what the city of Tehran looked like. The resulting photos reflect not only the Tehran we see through our current media-informed lens (exotic, dangerous, and otherly), but also the growing multiculturalism of the world's major centers. Images of architecture, industry, communal spaces, and food, elegantly make visible the power of perception in contemporary geopolitics. The images were streamed everyday, in the form of a slide show, to galleries in Iran, Turkey, the US, New Zealand, Denmark and Germany, but this physical manifestation wraps up today. Luckily for those of us not in any of these cities, however, the exhibition's photo-sharing site remains on view. In a time of heated political rhetoric, 'Never Been to Tehran' encourages us to imagine beyond the recent inflammatory depictions of Iran, to find links to our own personal geographies, and to remember that in many instances 'each city takes to resembling all cities.'

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