Doctor Who? Cops? House Music? Yes - all of these seemingly disparate things will come together under the same roof in a screening organized by artist Paul Slocum at Light Industry in Brooklyn on Tuesday, April 6th at 7:30pm. The program will begin with a fan restoration of a lost episode of Doctor Who, "The Tenth Planet," followed by a premiere of Slocum's new work Cops with House Music, which sets an episode of Cops to a house mix. While "The Tenth Planet" exists as a strange artifact of fan culture, where Doctor Who buffs re-enact the script through a montage of captured television footage and stills from the show, Cops with House Music is a reflection on two genres emergent from the late 80s -- reality TV and house music -- which continue to prevail in popular culture today.
I would like to consider a notion that I have felt was intuitively true but have never explored in depth: that the 8-bit or "low-res" aesthetic of much contemporary electronic art can be thought of as a form of digital materialism. By employing the phrase "digital materialism," I draw upon a specific term that has circulated within the sphere of avant-garde filmmaking from the 1970s onward. In this context, materialism describes a sensibility, most explicitly theorized in the writings of London-based filmmaker Peter Gidal, in which the physical materials of film technology are made visible within the work itself, and thereby become decisive components of a reflexively cinematic but predominantly non-narrative experience. Materialism reverses the usual Hollywood practice of hiding the mode of production so as not to disrupt the suspension of disbelief necessary to enter into a staged, fictional world.
-- EXCERPT FROM "THE MATTER OF ELECTRONICS" BY ED HALTER
[Originally published in the catalog for the exhibition PLAYLIST at LABoral in Gijón, Spain curated by Domenico Quaranta, available in pdf form here. Subsequently republished to Vague Terrain above.]
2010, Francesco Bonami and Gary Carrion-Murayari’s Whitney Biennial, is essentially a Whitney Biennial calibrated for the times: small at 55 artists and altogether humble. This humility, and the fact that one needn’t contend with an overwrought curatorial concept, allows viewers a more cogent experience than past, sprawling, thesis-driven Biennials could offer. Several works, rooms and motifs make good impressions. Not many are impressive enough to make an indelible impact—but a few are. Judging by the past couple decades, the task of this biennial of American art seems insurmountable, and there is no urgency to fault this edition for hitting the target and missing the bulls-eye. While the levelness here is exciting as an indicator of a playing field for post-boom artistic production, the devil’s advocate wonders, perhaps unfairly, if there isn’t something ultimately more exciting about a splashy Biennial that fails stupendously.
In the absence of an overarching conceit, why not start with a premise that did precede itself a bit: the third floor as a dedicated space for film and video. Considering the continued expansion of film and video practices throughout the art world, the idea seemed gimmicky at best—easily the curators could fill a floor, but why ghettoize? Then, come February 25, visitors stepping off the elevator and onto floor three were greeted by a tapestry by Pae White, freezing a frame of interlaced wisps of smoke in a vast expanse of fabric. Mercifully this is not a plain LCD screen (as it turns out, the floor showcases a variety of mediums), but as a piece that meditates on materiality, medium and time, it serves as an excellent banner to welcome visitors to the area of the exhibition that is most concentrated on media. The projects therein attending to these matters soar.
This clip of protesters in Bil'in, Palestine dressed as Na'vi from James Cameron's Avatar circulated widely across the internet this week, and that, paired with the recent announcement that Avatar is nominated for 9 Oscars, made me feel that it was about time to present a round-up of the more thoughtful articles I've collected on Avatar. Feel free to post links in the comments section - I'm hoping this post can become a resource for those who might be interested in additional reading concerning the film.
► "Avatar and Invisible Republic" by Rob Horning [From PopMatters]
By coincidence, I began reading Greil Marcus’s Invisible Republic, which in part is about the demise of the 1960s folk movement and Bob Dylan’s role in destroying it after having come to exemplify it. The folkies, in Marcus’s depiction, had the same patronizing attitude toward Appalachian poverty and civil-rights injustices (the Other America, as Michael Harrington dubbed it) that the makers of Avatar seem to evince about colonization. Capitalism sullied and exploited the pure rural people, as clear-headed bourgeois liberals can best recognize. To adherents, folk music (and Avatar) offers us glimpses of pre-capitalist America, a “democratic oasis unsullied by commerce or greed” in which art seems “the product of no ego but of the inherent genius of a people.” The Avatar planet is such a product, for the race occupying it and the film-industry execs who made it.
The substance of this fantasy about indigenous people at harmony with their appropriate environment is the denial of individual subjectivity (the overriding value of the folk revival, according to Marcus), which is rendered unnecessary and impossible. Everyone is at one and merged with one another. Just look at the blue people in the movie sway to the unsounded ...
(Image courtesy of Postmasters gallery)
Between two recent solo exhibitions in New York, at The Whitney Museum of American Art and Postmasters gallery, the popular Jerusalem-born, Berlin-based artist Omer Fast presented three film installations in continued pursuit of his driving preoccupations: the fact/fiction dialectic that underlies film, and the resulting description of any tangible identification of “truth” as abstract.
Fast is known for a practice of importing subjects into culturally fraught scenarios appropriated from the past (Nazi-occupied Poland, colonial America), the present (Iraq) and, perhaps (in the case of the vaguely post-apocalyptic Whitney project), the future. It may seem contradictory to regard setting a film in the present a form of historical borrowing—whose time is this time but ours?—however, if anything is certain about Fast’s otherwise deliberately ambiguous system of filmmaking, it is that casting the setting is always a performative gesture; setting is setting into place and into time. Fast sets human elements into artificial contexts, and any temporal dissonance lacking between where his subjects come from and where they are put is made up for in the unbreachable gap that exists between the experience of being and of being recorded.
Fast’s show at Postmasters, his third since 2002, includes two videos, De Grote Boodschap (2007, 27 min.)—translated literally from the Flemish as “the great message”—and Take a Deep Breath (2008, 27 min.). Neither employs ostensible documentary techniques, in fact their scripts are weighted by a density of plotty clues and keys smuggled in prosaic lines; lines nested in average characters; characters staged in ordinary scenes; scenes camouflaged in a purposefully nondescript aesthetic. The gestalt is a conspicuous banality. To capitalize on this configuration, Fast crafts a suspense that never sags nor hurries, and in ...
Since 2006, the two artists have been collecting films from mobile phones in the public sphere. It is the mixture of amateurish documentation of your own life, of a direct, unhampered view on your own reality, of unmotivated, unguided camera movements as the expression of boredom but also of directed little scenarios that aroused our collector's instincts. Paulitsch and Weyrich are accepting all films into their archive uncensored. This is increasingly developing into a fascinating document of our times, to a sort of evidence-gathering on and siting of the present. Above all, however, it resembles a bizarre album of weltering digital imagery.
For the exhibition YOU_ser 2.0 in the ZKM | Media Museum, the two artists make their mobile film archive accessible for visitors via mobile tagging. The mobile films are concealed behind the colourful QR codes, which visitors can decipher with their own WLAN-mobiles or with the mobiles provided by the museum. In this way, the content of the films Paulitsch and Weyrich are collecting on the street and publishing on the Net returns to the private sphere and into the medium where they originate. The video blog serves to show new extracts from this archive and offers a platform to films currently being collected.