Posts for February 2012

Recommended Reading: Interventions, Issue 2—Framing the Internet

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Ernst Fischer, Collateral Resignation Agreement, 2011. (Print, Interventions's issue 2 unlimited edition).


On its "about" page, Interventions, the online journal of the Modern and Contemporary Art: Critical and Curatorial Studies MA program at Columbia University, is presented as an online curatorial platform featuring essays, web-based art projects, and experimental investigations into the space between these practices. The editors' letter for issue 2 reads,

In the first section of "Framing the Internet," we have gathered reflections on how the Internet and digital technologies have been mobilized as productive tools for curatorial, artistic and pedagogical inquiry, from round tables and critical texts to exhibition reviews and artist projects.

Which is exactly what this publication offers. It includes texts on subjects as varied as the Internet as a free tool for  communication, production, and dissemination of artistic production in a way somewhat independent of capital (Anton Vidokle); RMB City, the Second Life city—or rather, community—planned and developed by Beijing-based artist Cao Fei (Ceren Erdem); and Indexhibit a tool for artists to build websites and online portfolios (Cat Kron, in a short survey whose subject seems fascinating but that could have been handled in a more complex way). These are accompanied by artist projects—mainly by Columbia MFA students, a fantastic way of tying this publication, whose ambitions seem more global than to solely appeal to the Columbia community, with its natural collaborators within that community—and includes the brilliant idea of the unlimited edition: each issue includes a one-page PDF available for download as a large-edition art project. 

One of the highlights of the issue is the inclusion of a roundtable discussion that took place at Columbia on October 4, 2011. Titled "Framing the Internet," it invited artist Anton Vidokle, media theorist Alexander Galloway, and Bettina Funke, head of publications ...

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Speaking in Blobjects: A Conversation with Katherine Isbister and Rainey Straus

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In 2006, Katherine Isbister and Kia Höök developed the Sensual Evaluation Instrument (SEI), a tool that evaluates affect and aids in nonverbal communication.  Created with artist Rainey Straus while the professors of human-machine interaction were working on a European Union project on emotion and technology, the ‘blobjects’ were tested with a goal of enabling conversations with designers and computer scientists about emotion.  

The instruments provoked an unexpected outcome of universality during testing: subjects kindredly selected the same objects to express similar emotions (e.g., a spiky object to express anger or fear). We spoke with Katherine and Rainey over Skype about how these objects came into being, their emotional resonance, and how they’ve developed a life of their own over the years.  

Katherine Isbister: What happened for us was Kia and I, we got interested in doing this nonverbal reporting of emotion; like empowering people to convey how they felt without having to use words.  This is when I was working with her at her lab in Sweden; we first did some primitive experiments with things like color.  So anyway, it didn’t work at all because people had really culturally specific associations with color and a lot of times  they would come up with narratives about things that were more real object based—there’s a lot of sort of socio-cultural overlay people do onto objects all the time. That was slightly discouraging. But at the time, I knew Rainey had done her MFA project on these incredible I don’t know what to call them, Rainey, nubbins?

Rainey Straus: Blobjects.  And actually there was a whole show [on them] down in San Jose. I think the show was called Blobjects which happened. A lot of it focused on product design but it’s definitely a kind of aesthetic that’s in the visual vocabulary currently.

 

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Artist Profile: Tommy Hartung

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Tommy Hartung, Anna, 2011

Your work calls to mind surrealist cinema, and seems nostalgic in a way, for the earliest motion pictures.  What, if anything, are you drawing from the past?  Do you feel you are reinterpreting the past by using modern technological tools to create the work? 

I don’t think of my work as surrealist. Surrealism presupposes an ordered, sensible world where something foreign or fantastic has intruded. The reality created in my video is so far removed from the reliability of a real world concept like gravity or time that it is hard for me to think about it relating to surrealism. There is definitely a relationship between early cinema and my current work, but I would not characterize it as nostalgic exactly. I am interested in the methods, pace, and intensity of early cinema. I’m not trying to use these archaeologically. Films like Dreyer’s Passion of Joan of Arc, or Eisenstein’s Ivan the Terrible have a pulverizing intensity. Nikolay Cherkasov in Ivan, and Maria Falconetti in Joan of Arc are almost in trance states as the film unfolds around them. There is a tension in early cinema that I find hard to match, and try to build in my work.  

Much of your work includes a still, lone figure amidst a changing environment.  When there are multiple figures, like the busts in Anna, there's a sinister or disharmonious feeling.  Is there something to this in how your characters operate or relate?  Do you think of cinematic roles with these figures?  How do you incorporate your references (to literature, documentary, and more)?   

The interaction of characters can sometimes be sinister, cold, or terse. The characters I develop tend to be workman-like in their tasks or roles. I also think there is a very ...

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"Excerpt from my Novel Screenburn" by Lance Wakeling

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I start by looking for images of parking lots. I’m thinking about finding the perfect image, or making one. I have to see an image of a parking lot with over-layed text that reads “Social Network.”

Then I move on to looking at images under the term crash. There are cartoon characters, crash dummies, airplanes in pieces, bodies, stills from the movie, cymbals, explosions. I open a new tab: Wikipedia – Crash. I’m redirected to collision.

A collision is an isolated event in which two or more moving bodies exert relatively strong forces on each other for a relatively short time. ¶ Collisions can be elastic, meaning they conserve energy and momentum, inelastic, meaning they conserve momentum but not energy, or totally inelastic (or plastic), meaning they conserve momentum and the two objects stick together.

It’s this last type of collision that interests me most, the totally inelastic one—when the two colliding objects merge into one and conserve momentum.

While cruising through the images I’m collecting, I think of Jean Baudrillard and then J.G. Ballard, retracing steps that I took three years ago, all in perfect recall. I make a new folder called parking-lots and drop in images with filenames like 5781586-aerial-view-of-an-empty-parking-lot, grantham-parking-lot-0951, Lot, Tel_Aviv_parking_lot, and zoo_lot2-750149.

It’s getting dark outside and my terminal is bathing this corner of the room and the front side of my knuckles in bluish light. My fingernails dimly reflect the screen. All the tiny parallel ridges reflect light in opposing directions, causing the reflection to appear matte.

I get up from my desk, look out the window, decide not to close the drapes, turn around and glance at the cat, then sit back down. My fingernails are long and hit the keys before the pads of my fingers. I ...

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Diegetic Cinematography

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Dane DeHaan, playing Andrew, the film Chronicle's diegetic cinematographer; the sort of boom arm invisible to film characters.

Diegetic sound is the part of a film's score that the characters can hear. We understand scary music that accompanies a blond babysitter as she checks on a clamour in the basement is something we the audience can hear, but that she cannot. That sort of mood music is non-diegetic sound. If we see her dancing to a song on the radio on the other hand, we understand that the music is embedded within the fictional narrative. The film Chronicle is the latest Hollywood film to explore "diegetic cinematography."

In most films we the audience understand that everything we are seeing is non-diegetic vision. That the perspective we are shown is from an invisible point within the fictional universe we are watching....

 

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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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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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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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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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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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