Posts for September 2013

Oh gURL: It’s so good to finally meet u IRL

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Ann Hirsch stood fully nude at the head of the gallery, solidly on both feet. "I guess a lot of people are 'over' nudity in performance art," she said.  "Like it's been done before... so we should stop doing it or something."

"I'm able to do this…" she continued. "Because we're all girls, er, women here. So there can be no misconception that I'm like doing this for attention or something. When there are men in the room, that is what we all think."

It wasn't that I had forgotten that this event at Transfer Gallery in Brooklyn was for women—open only to those who identify on a feminine spectrum—but in that moment it was tangible, the room held a weight. 

The audience at gURLs. Photo by Marina Galperina.

Ann continued the monologue, as she began to get dressed at the end of the performance: "I'm always hungry for female intimacy. The kind that is platonic but bordering on sexual is my favorite."  

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The Week Ahead: Alien She Edition

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A roundup of opportunities and goings-on from Rhizome's community.

Pittsburgh

Opening Friday at the Miller Gallery at Carnegie Mellon is Alien She, the "first exhibition to examine the lasting impact that Riot Grrrl, a pioneering global punk feminist movement, has had on artists and cultural producers working today." Curated by Astria Suparak and Ceci Moss, the exhibition features work by Tammy Rae Carland, founder of Mr Lady Records and Video and my undergraduate thesis advisor and all around art hero, as well as Miranda July. This photograph is published on the Miller Gallery website, which tantalizingly suggests that July may be presenting the hugely influential but still underrecognized multimedia performance work The Swan Tool as part of the exhibition. Either way, the show looks like it's well worth a road trip.

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Who Sleeps? Jonathan Crary's "24/7"

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Andy Warhol, Sleep (1963). 

Labor Day is supposed to be a day that honors those of us who work for a living with an extra day of rest. I'm writing this on Labor Day, at home on my own laptop, avoiding a long list of other tasks I need to attend to in order to keep my work, and my life, manageable. That work happens all the time and increasingly also at the worker's own expense isn't news, but it helps bring into sharp, urgent focus the arguments in Jonathan Crary's terse, polemical new book, 24/7: Late Capitalism and the Ends of Sleep.

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Paranoid Reading: Notes on the Young-Girl and the Man-Child

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This text is re-printed with permission from a publication released in conjunction with the exhibition The Politics of Friendship (Anicka Yi / Carissa Rodriguez / Jordan Lord / Lise Soskolne) at Studiolo in Zurich. 

Jordan Lord, Carissa Rodriguez, Lise Soskolne, Anicka Yi, Man-Child, Young-Girl, Girl-Child, Man-Girl (2013).

Not having read Preliminary Materials for a Theory of the Young-Girl —or, to be honest, any texts by the French collective Tiqqun—I am hesitant to comment on the figure of the "Man-Child," which was developed in response to that of Tiqqun's "Young-Girl." Instead, pleading lack of time and putting a little faith in contingency, I offer up some thoughts from Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick's final book, Touching Feeling, which I just happened to be reading at the time a friend sent me a link to Moira Weigel and Mal Ahern's essay, "Further Materials Toward a Theory of the Man-Child." 

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Artist Profile: Rachel Reupke

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Rhizome's Artist Profiles are interviews with artists that have developed a significant body of work engaged (in its process, or in the issues it raises) with technology. See the full list of Artist Profiles here. Rachel Reupke's solo exhibition Wine & Spirits is on view at Cell Project Space in London through 27 October.

Rachel Reupke, Wine & Spirits (2013). 20 minutes, HD video

LMF: For several years now you have been working within the aesthetics of advertising imagery and the style of stock image photography. In Wine & Spirits (2013), your new film, the two characters (who are in a variety of situations involving the consumption of alcohol) are posed stock-still for long, drawn-out moments. Occasionally, I wondered if I was watching a freeze frame, until I saw a twitch or a flicker of a tendon. As with your previous work, there is a feeling of epic flatness and the constant suggestion that the gestures of the actors will be used to sell something. Yet it is partly we as viewers who are transforming the film into advertising—and imagining the context in which these bodies or objects might be used, such as in a brochure for a pub or hotel. How did you arrive at the particular choices that you made here in terms of the romantically-framed couple, the date-like drinking context?

RR: Each of the five scenes is based on a still image, some from print advertising and some photojournalism. The still reference is used quite literally in that the actors rarely move out of a posture and the camera rarely moves. Each scene has a slightly different aesthetic, in part dictated by the reference (art direction and lighting) and in part by the nature of the relationship between the couple. Initially, I was going to use different actors to play each scene, but in the end I decided to use the same actors throughout, opening up the possibility for the viewer to attempt to follow a thread. Ultimately, though, as we are actually watching five different couples rather than one, the relationship fails to develop. The drinking contexts are all English (except for one which is pretty much a dream sequence), so it is grounded in pub culture and pint after pint.

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The Impossible Music of Black MIDI

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The machine on which Conlon Nancarrow created his player piano rolls. Photo by Carol Law, 1977. Collection: C Amirkhanian.

In 1947, the composer Conlon Nancarrow—frustrated with human pianists and their limited ability to play his rhythmically complex music—purchased a device which allowed him to punch holes in player piano rolls. This technology allowed him to create incredibly complex musical compositions, unplayable by human hands, which later came to be widely recognized by electronic musicians as an important precursor to their work.

A similar interest in seemingly impossible music can be found today in a group of musicians who use MIDI files (which store musical notes and timings, not unlike player piano rolls) to create compositions that feature staggering numbers of notes. They're calling this kind of music "black MIDI," which basically means that when you look at the music in the form of standard notation, it looks like almost solid black:

 

Blackers take these MIDI files and run them through software such as Synesthesia, which is kind of an educational version of Guitar Hero for the piano, and bills itself as "piano for everyone." It's kind of brilliant to imagine a novice piano player looking for some online tutorials and stumbling across, say, this video of the song Bad Apple, which reportedly includes 8.49 million separate notes. 

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The Week Ahead: Cross-Strait Edition

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Ming Wong, Making Chinatown (II & III) (2012). On view as part of "Cross-Strait Relations" at Parsons.

A roundup of opportunities and goings-on from Rhizome's community.

Online

Right now: Reading Club proposes a text and an interpretive arena to 4 readers. These readers write together their reading of a text inside the text itself. 

Bubblebyte currently has two ongoing website takeovers (projects in which they introduce artworks into existing institutional websites). Through October 20, every few days, one moving image artwork from 16 international artists will be added to Art Licks Weekend website, slowly revealing a larger collaborative collage. Through November 10, Nuovo Nuovo Vecchio introduces work by 8 of the artists in this year's Bloomberg New Contemporaries exhibition into the website of Spike Island Gallery in the UK.

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More Than A Feeling: An Interview with James Richards

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Filmmaker Hito Steyerl has described the aesthetically-coded power dynamics at play between the "poor" and the "rich" image that infiltrate all aspects of contemporary video production. Beyond the dialecticism of her argument, which encourages deeper engagement with "degraded" pictures and a sort of abstract suffering through circulation (at least in terms of pixels), there remains a wide spectrum of mediocre to fair digital images for artists and filmmakers to deal with, and a host of issues concerning the resolution of visual matter, both new and appropriated. Just as collage and photomontage were once essential techniques for tinkering Dadaists, today the manipulation of picture quality has become a distinct strategy. I spoke to Berlin-based artist James Richards (UK) about his particular practice of presenting still and moving images of all registers in the space of the gallery exhibition, and the point at which an image breaks down into a feeling.

KR: In 2012 you programmed a screening for the Serpentine Gallery Memory Marathon. Surface Tension had some incredible films in it, including Paul Wong's Bruise (1976), which records the skin-level effects, in real-time, of transferring 60 units of blood between friends. That program really seemed to develop a metaphor between skin and screen—a form of intimacy that visually explodes the technological concept of a "touch screen"—something that I think also comes through in the composition of your own work, including Rosebud (2013), which premiered at Artists Space in New York in January.

 

Stills from Kenneth Fletcher/Paul Wong, 60 Unit; Bruise (1976, Digitally Re-Mastered 2008). 5.25 min., stereo, colour, English, single-channel.

JR: The censored images in Rosebud were shot in a library in Tokyo. I came across them by accident while researching there in the spring of 2012. The books—monographs on Mapplethorpe, Tillmans, Man Ray—were being imported into Japan from Europe when they were stopped by customs officials. Local law in Japan forbids a library from having books with any images that might induce arousal in a viewer, so after negotiations with the director, it was agreed that customs workers would go through the shipment and sandpaper away the genitals from any contested images. As you say, the video somehow is focused on the violence of the action of sandpapering—the point where glossy black printer ink gives way to the scuffed and bruised paper stock underneath. There's something intense but also futile in these marks. The video is a study of rubbing against and along different surfaces: the meniscus of water over the print, the elderflower rubbed along a boy's body.

James Richards, Rosebud, 2013. HD Video, 12 minutes 57 seconds. Courtesy the artist; Cabinet, London; and Rodeo, Istanbul. installation view, "Frozen Lakes," Artists Space, New York.

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(A)non-Proposition: A Conversation with Studio for Propositional Cinema

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In the summer of 2013, Studio for Propositional Cinema (SPC) launched itself during the Kunstverein Düsseldorf's congress "Proposals and Propositions" with a talk by Hans-Jürgen Hafner, the director of the Kunstverein, which was theatrically disrupted by an audience member planted by SPC. The project with the Kunstverein continued with regular presentations and events throughout a three month period, which included an exhibition, a performance, a reading, a screening, a poster project, and so on, each taking place at a different type of venue. The project included collaborations with a range of cultural producers, including Henning Fehr & Philipp Rühr, Aaron Peck, Calla Henkel & Max Pitegoff, Pablo Larios, Dena Yago, and Rachel Rose.

This interview seeks to understand the intentions the SPC have for cinema in the 21st Century, taking into account cinema’s contemporary and historical modes of production and dissemination.

SB: What is the SPC's form and function?

SPC: We are a structure for generating images and language, and act as a functionary of that structure. One of our primary functions is to ensure that the structure remains formless.
 
We exist in order to find new ways to research, to produce, to disseminate. Within our cultural context, all forms of cultural production come with a set of traditions and accepted orthodoxies that function as models for the territory or language in which it is considered viable to function. We formed out of dissatisfaction with these impositions. We attempt to function just enough outside of the model to see which and how many aspects of the model we can remove, destroy, or rearrange while still viably, or at least arguably, working within the form of cinema, since it is our purported form of cultural engagement at the moment. Since our primary starting point comes from a notion of a disassembled cinema, we consider every element within the cinematic apparatus as simultaneously expendable and expandable.

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Fridericianum Goes (Digital) Native

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A major international show of post-internet, virtual, digital (or however you want to # it) art is opening this weekend at the Fridericianum in Kassel. To those who have experienced the long journey to the banks of the Fulda for Documenta and feel that it is best undertaken just once every five years, we shall say only this: Speculations on Anonymous Materials promises to be worth devoting some long hours to Deutsche Bahn. With a press release introduced by a sublime block of hashtags and a roster that includes some of Rhizome's favorite artists, the exhibition tackles the #processbased #visuallyreflective #corporeal and #de-subjectified positions navigated by artists as they respond to technological change.

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