Posts for 2012

A Puppet's Show

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Still from Animation, masks (Jordan Wolfson, 2011)

The central figure in Jordan Wolfson’s Animation, masks (his video which showed at Alex Zachary Peter Currie until recently) is only visible to his torso, like a Jack-in-the box. He’s a caricature who lip-syncs borrowed text while making gestures and expressions that seem cinematically familiar. He's not comprised of anything; rather, he's composed through appropriation. 

The character repeats and repeats Richard Brautigan’s Love Poem, heralding a morning without falsehood. In the piece's most powerful segment, he's the face for two emotional and articulate individuals whose frank sexual conversation showcases the distance between lovers who, even with their privileged understanding of one another, can't bridge the difference between empathizing with someone and embodying oneself.  

Still from Animation, masks (Jordan Wolfson, 2011)

That sliver of difference between subject and object and the impossibility of fusing within and without defines the piece. Wolfson has created a compelling synthesis of consumption where the distance between an observer to their object of attention or affection is small but vast. An adept receiver of popular culture exists under his character's mask of mimicry and enactment; one who inhabits references by parroting them. Animation, masks is that absorptive sponge's clearly rendered dream.

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"Two Days Diary" by Lisa Oppenheim

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Alexandra Gorczynski, Bathroom in the Dark, 2011

March 23rd, 2011

Early mornings were never my thing. I mean, it’s not that artists are lazy. Or out drinking late most nights. Or not out last night, a Tuesday. Hungover. I go out with the dog.  It’s still basically dark. A kind of dark blue fog, super cold and grey. A couple are out early, two middle aged men bundled up and both smoking with thick leather gloves. They are sitting on a bench in front of the takeout place on the corner. It’s way too cold to be sitting outside.  I hear one say to the other as I pass them, “do you want the thing or the other thing.” And I think, this is true partnership, to have thoughts coalesce around the same object. Not a shared thought, but a coming together. The muffin or the bagel.  Privileging someone else’s desires for a subjectless thing. Generosity. Just as likely the better looking half of an egg and cheese sandwich. I go in the store and order one for myself. Salt and grease. 

Today in 1923 Tennessee became the first state to outlaw the teaching of evolution. Today in 1933 the Reichstag passed the Enabling Act, granting Hitler total power. Fittingly, today is miserable. Still basically dark, hail. The never ending domino fall of winter storms. 

March 29th, 2011

I live in America’s most bug infested city. There are bug infested mattresses all around my neighborhood this evening. It’s trash night and everyone has put the big stuff on the curb. Not just bug-ridden mattresses, also rugs, rotting Ikea cushions from a few seasons back, clothes of all kinds. I drop off my sheets at the laundry across the street and six o ...

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General Web Content: Pronunciation Book vs Pronunciation Manual

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[Pronunciation Book]

Pronunciation Book is a youtube channel that was registered on April 14, 2010, intended as a resource for "correct" pronunciations of a variety of words that were complex, foreign, or otherwise difficult to pronounce. Each video had a distinct aesthetic, consisting of a still frame with the word being pronounced spelled in a simple, black, sans-serif font on a white background with a copyright date and the channel's URL. Each word was repeated three times with different emphasis, and videos lasted no longer than 15 seconds. The videos are simple, even artistic in their presentation, reminiscent of On Kawara's date paintings from his Today series, each word concrete yet abstracted from its context. Early traffic was no doubt driven by sincere users looking for the proper pronunciation of various words. Indeed there exist a number of youtube channels that serve precisely that purpose, many of which are geared toward ESL viewers; but for whatever reason, Pronunciation Book rubbed many the wrong way, and soon the videos became a popular destination for trolling, spam, and rage. The comments section of each video range from angry corrections of the given pronunciation to outright mockery in the form of re-spellings, dislikes, sarcasm, and a strong undercurrent of racism and xenophobia. Commenters often defended regional pronunciations and accents, or simply mocked the need for such a guide in the first place.

Pronunciation Book would seem to have tapped into an essential truth of the Web and all it's presumed meritocracy: act like you know more or are better than people, and be prepared to drown in a sea of rage. Perhaps the most sophisticated response to the channel came exactly one year later in the form of a separate parody channel titled Pronunciation Manual. Pronunciation Manual adopts the visual ...

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Spies in the House of Institutional Critique

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Tim Davis, Cornelia Rutgers Livingston, (2003)

Paradoxically, exhibiting artists that rage against the institution within the institution is both non-ironic and particularly vogue. Unlike the institutional critique of the late 1960s and 70s, which had the exceedingly explicit dynamic of the artist versus institution, those roles today have become less clearly defined. Consider  Creative Time, the New York based public sculpture non-profit headed by Nato Thompson and Anne Pasternak, which has recently extended its brand to support the occupation of other institutions as an institution itself. Thompson and Pasternak called for the take-over of the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council’s Lent Space last December in an open letter posted on occupyartnyc.org, signed also by art world professionals, listing their institutional affiliations beside their names. And how could one forget the sophomoric hullabaloo surrounding Take Artists Space last October, in which artist Georgia Sagri botched an occupation of the Soho nonprofit Artists Space, all the while admitting that powerful commercial galleries such as Gagosian would be a better target for their concerns, though less sympathetic to their efforts than non-profits. Sagri is now included in the upcoming Whitney Biennial. How an artist negotiates contextualization as fuck-it-all raucous, while cosmopolitan and strategic enough for institutional recognition remains to be seen. 

Institutional critique dates back to the late 1960s and 1970s when both government and private support of American public institutions existed on a different plane than it does today. The NEA’s annual budget peaked in 1992 at $176 million, and thanks to the “culture wars” of that period, is about half of that today considering inflation. Offering both historical and contemporary perspectives coming from the lineage of institutional critique is Spies in the House of Art, recently opened at the Metropolitan Museum. (The exhibition’s press release erroneously states that the show begins with the dawn of artists working with the subject of the museum, which they locate in the 1980s, though that would likely make Belgian institutional critique pioneer Marcel Broodthaers roll in his grave. It also purports to study the “secret lives of museums,” which sounds better as a movie tagline than a curatorial thesis.) Nevertheless, the juxtaposition of the more aggressive work of institutional critique greats such as Andrea Fraser with the less full-on work of younger artists such as the British filmmaking duo Nashashibi/Skaer illustrates how thoroughly conversations surrounding institutional critique have become neutralized, which is arguably due to the recent passing of art world power from museums to galleries acting as international chains such as the aforementioned Gagosian.

Thomas Struth, The Restorers at San Lorenzo MaggioreNaples, (1988)

For her 1989 video “Museum Highlights: A Gallery Talk,” Fraser dons the character of the upper-class museum docent Jane Castleton, who bears a striking semblance to Parker Posey’s yuppie, catalog-shopping, Starbucks-loving character Meg Swan in “Best in Show.” Castleton guides us around the Philadelphia Museum of Art with a running commentary on the obvious class differences of several works...

 

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Rhizome Digest: Best of Rhizome Jan/Feb

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Alexei Shulgin and Aristarkh Chernyshev (Electroboutique) at London Science Museum

Essays

Wordworks

Interviews

....

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Artist Profile: Mahmoud Khaled

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The Studio as a Work of Art, 2010
200 stacked blank canvases (35 x 50 cm each), a 310 x 400 cm red carpet. courtesy of the artist. 

In Google Me/Duplicate Self-Portrait, a video playback command bar splits each paused screenshot in half, suggesting a 'split' identity between you, the artist Mahmoud Khaled and, Khaled Mahmoud, the dancer.  The work demonstrates the location and displacement of identity in a networked age--one that is defined by finding oneself in others.  Could you expand on both these senses of biformity and disparity?  Does the piece also hint at something more directly political? The individual's relation to the architecture of search systems? 

I have been interested in issues related to the Internet as a space with infinite possibilities for self-representation, and how the current networked age has changed our personal and professional lives and the way we think about ourselves. Also the fact that on the Internet there is always hope to get rid of your ready-made self, discover another self or find someone else who can change your life, through what I can the "mechanisms" of duality and disparity.  I started to think about “dichotomy” and “juxtaposition” as key tactics in my practice and my way of thinking as I practically filter all my ideas through these two concepts, which redefines the work, the elements it is composed of, its internal relationships, meanings, aesthetic qualities and social and political connotations. I also have a stubborn belief that elements cannot survive, as they are, that they can only survive in pairs or in relation to other things. Basically like personal relationships, even if the counterpart is imaginary.

The point of departure of this piece was based on my accidental discovery of Khaled Mahmoud, a popular London-based oriental dancer born in ...

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Artist Profile: Michael Guidetti

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Michael Guidetti, Bell, Book, and Candle, 2010

You originally studied painting as an undergraduate. How did this spark or inform your interest in perspective? How and when did you begin to investigate 3D digital imaging software (like Maya) and its use of perspective?

When studying painting I became interested in the viewer's physical relationship to the image and that naturally led into thinking about perspective. Since then, a lot of my paintings have been composed from a one-point perspective with the idea that the scene is drawn from the perspective of the viewer as they are standing in front of it. This began to dovetail with my longstanding interests in computer graphics and virtual environments, which due to their dependence on the user's subjective viewpoint, most often use this same visual perspective. With an image drawn from this type of perspective, one may feel as if they are no longer looking at an objective depiction of a space, but are looking into or existing inside it. 

I was also interested in the relationship between abstract and representational imagery in painting, a pretty common painting concern. I was particularly curious about how the context of a semi-representational setting could influence the reading of an abstract shape. My early paintings were trying to smash these two types of representation together. I was then intrigued by the possibility of expanding this idea further into the work's form and I began layering projected 3D computer graphics on top of the mixed-media paintings I was doing. 

A few of your pieces, such as Untitled (Standards) (2009), Bounce Room 1 (2009), and Bounce Room 2 (2009), depict standard figures and shapes used in digital animation, such as balls and the Utah teapot. Why are these ubiquitous and recognizable figures featured so prominently in your work? 

Untitled (Standards) may be the most intentional in acknowledging these standard objects' historical roles like you mention. The objects in the piece are shown as some type of archetypical virtual object reverently being preserved in a timeless environment. Most of the models on the pedestals in that piece are rendered with the actual data from Stanford where they were originally digitally scanned (all but the teapot). It's interesting to think of these early models as an origin story for computer graphics and the starting point for a new kind of visual experience. When a new 3D graphics technology is developed, out of some sense of lineage or tribute, the creators make sure that rendering a teapot or a clay bunny work nicely. I find something funny and compelling about that. 

On the other hand, Bounce Room 1 and Bounce Room 2 are using that aesthetic for more economical reasons. I think both of these works are attempting to embody something basic about their form in order to make the co-operative relationship between the two separate elements as evident as possible; a one-point perspective painting with a projected digital image overlaid. The digital projection represented as three red, green, and blue spherical lights; and the painted environment as five flat planes receding in perspective. That's about as far as I could boil them down to. Separately they are elementary and flat, but when they come together, the simulated light and physics of the spheres bouncing around in the space becomes illusionistic. Bounce Room 2 complicates things a little further by adding the wood structure and lights.... 

 

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The Crisis Artist

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Still from Hangmen Also Die! (Fritz Lang, 1943)

Per-Oskar Leu's Crisis and Critique consists of a video of trial scenes selected from German films from the 1930s and '40s, leather coats hung over speakers sometimes playing Bertolt Brecht's 1947 testimony to the House Un-American Activities Committee, and four mattressed seating areas with the German words for locked up, night, your ears, and misfortune printed on them. Presented in a curtained-off room, the installation at 155 Freeman Street was accompanied by a newly translated essay by Otto Freundlich entitled "The Artist and the Economic Crisis."  The sum of these parts might make for an ominous, harrowing piece, which by its content, it is. It's also an insightful and engaging installation on the role of the artist and art in the whole mixed-layered world at large.  

'At large' is apt as Leu, in the show's press release, cites an investigation of Verfremdungseffekt—distancing effect—in relation to the experiences of Bertolt Brecht. The video of trials in German cinema demonstrate how the format of a trial flattens the dimensions of an individual, with the defendent often used as a tool to prove a political point or create legal precedence. The transcript and audio recording of Brecht's testimony before the Committee is rich with content, displaying the State’s fear of insurgence, problems with translation and misinterpretation, and a reminder of art’s ability to incite. Brecht's words in songs and poems, the primary reason for his appearance in Washington, D.C., were quoted to him (in poor translations, he stated to comic effect) during his testimony. His appearance, along with those of so many artists and others during the McCarthy years, serves as a reminder that critical thought can be powerful and dangerous. Poets, writers and ...

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Drone Desire

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Jordan Crandall will perform his "philosophical theater" Unmanned at Eyebeam on Feb 25. The following is drawn from research previously posted to Nettime.

Nestled amid the sagebrush along the California side of the U.S./Mexico border is a small DIY drone airfield.  Makeshift and unkempt, devoid of pavement and infrastructure, it is unremarkable in the absence of the gathered assemblies of amateur pilots, planes, and spectators for which it is intended.  One might well overlook it, yet perhaps in some way it serves as a model of sorts, a harbinger of airports to come:  a preview of what drone airfields might look like, writ large, in their absence of traditional control platforms and optical infrastructures.  Much like this one, the unmanned airport would contain no centralized control tower presiding over the runway and no lighting tracks reflecting its contours.  There is no need for a commanding view from above.  The distributed and windowless drone, devoid of any interior, requires no human sightline for its flight.  In an operational sense, its trajectory is not visual.   Geometries of looking, whether from a cockpit or a control tower, have been replaced by networks of sensing.  Interior/exterior relations, at least in any conventional, spatially-continuous sense, diminish in their structuring relevance.... 

 

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Artist Profile: Haroon Mirza

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Sanctuary, 2009

All your found sculptural assemblages are culled from your immediate local surroundings and re-appropriated into Rube Goldberg like contraptions with each object serving a very specified transmissive function. The sculptural forms then become crucial as they exist to explicate the sounds themselves. Can you expand on the intentionality of the material used, or lack thereof? How do you approach the documentation of these sculptures as images on the internet, without the accompanied support/context of audio? 

As images or objects devoid of their operational potential, the works are sculptures like any other static and quiet object of art.  I see their formal qualities as a thing in itself - the aesthetic result of a process of engineering music.  So the form follows function and therefore the composition or constellation of objects becomes somehow more gestural than designed.  Of course as images it is difficult to understand the work as a whole but I hope that the form opens up some ideas around traditional sculpture.

Works like AdhãnTaka Tak and Evolution of a Revolution, capture a certain political ethos and critique specific Islamic ideological structures .  Where potentially, can sound, and music in general (your own and others) exist in such arenas?  Where do you see its potential? How do you think it can actively function and what form can it take, besides one of aestheticizing politics? 

To be honest I don't believe it can have any immediate function other than an aesthetic one, however, I do think the proliferation of sound and music within an Islamic society can have a transformative social function. This, however, isn't the aim of my practice.  For me it's a way of understanding and rationalising the problems around belief systems in general such as religious faith.  I make an ideological critique on Islam because I understand it more by growing up with it, but really the critique is about dogmatic views that are prevalent in all types of religious faith....   

 

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