A restoration of Paul Sharits' 1975 installation Shutter Interface, now on view at Greene Naftali Gallery in New York, will close this weekend, so get over to Chelsea while you can. Rarely screened during Sharits' lifetime, this project was recovered in a collaborative effort by Anthology Film Archives and Greene Naftali. A noted example of "expanded cinema," four 16mm films loop onto four separate screens, accompanied by four soundtracks played simultaneously. The resulting color and sound feed in and out, to a deliriously pulsating effect. A collection of Sharits' drawings and diagrams are on display in the second room, providing an overview of Sharits' research and interests.
A survey of Derek Jarman's early films opened earlier this month at the Dia space on West 22nd, comprising a significant portion of programming by X, the new initiative that will activate the space with exhibitions and conversations over the next year. Spanning a massive 3 floors, the show is easily one of the most elaborate installations of moving image work I've ever seen. Although Jarman’s works were originally filmed on Super 8, and, as such, not intended to be transferred to video and then blown up, the installation, with films projected large on video in multiple, open screening spaces, brought new meaning to the original works. I should note my visit to Dia came after a rather disheartening afternoon at the Armory Show, where the pitiful few booths actually screening video choose to exhibit the works in a corner, or in one case, in a corner near the floor.
In his recent discussion with Dara Birnbaum in this month's Artforum, Cory Arcangel asks, "Is there even such a thing as a bastardized medium today?" in reference to increased methods of distribution within the larger cultural realm. (Find an online excerpt from the interview here.) One could suggest that the intimacy of super 8 is compromised in the Jarman show, and, in that, it represents a "bastardization" of the medium. But the theatrical, immersive installation still invites a contemplative engagement with the work, especially the small room and sound system built for Imagining October (1984). I would argue that the installation adds another level to Jarman's films, and in an age of "bastardized mediums" we should consider how these translations can expand a work's reception, not diminish them.
While we're on the topic ...
John Latham's films Erth (1971), Britannica (1971), Talk, Mr. Bard (1968), Unedited Material from the Star (1960), and Speak (1968-69) are now on view at tank.tv. See below for a short excerpt from the curatorial statement.
The influence of John Latham (1921-2006), an artist whose work includes painting, performance and film to mention just a few, has extended far beyond the boundaries of the art world. Interested in theoretical physics, Latham developed an opposing cosmology which rejected the primacy of space and matter and favour of time and event. The body of work and concepts which developed out of this way of thinking still challenge the way we conceive of art as event and of the place of the artist within society. Notions of event can be seen as transversal to Latham's whole oeuvre. Indeed, a pioneer in the use of spray paint in the 1950's, Latham started spraying black dots on canvasses. For him, such a gesture and the resulting pictorial effect was similar to the structure and the functioning of the cosmos. "Least events" (the spray burst occurring in time) produce beings (the black dots) out of nothingness (the blank canvas).
His impact on conceptual art can be best appreciated in his opinions concerning language. For Latham, since language stems from objects, it is unable to grasp a reality based on events. According to Latham this results in the lack of a common conception of the world, which is itself responsible for the division of people. In his practice Latham attempted to transpose the unseizability of events through objects into art, thus coining the term "event structure".
The piece explores internet-time, or how time passes on the internet, by providing a contrast to immediacy of online media. On his site, eight well known films (Pulp Fiction, Terminator 2 and When Harry Met Sally among them) play continuously on a fixed daily schedule whether users visit the site or not. The screen is black save only for the subtitles of the dialog.
The current exhibition at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, "The Third Mind: American Artists Contemplate Asia, 1860-1989" is in many ways a bold take on the "group show" genre. Not focused on a particular era, style or group of artists, Senior Curator for Asian Art Alexandra Munroe has instead created a sweeping show of over 110 artists around an idea as ethereal and subjective as cultural "contemplation." The show's thesis, that "vanguard artists consistently looked toward 'the East' to forge an independent artistic identity that would define the modern age -- and the modern mind -- through a new understanding of existence, nature, and consciousness" certainly seems timely in this era of rampant globalization, but it simultaneously opens the door to a host of debatable issues around cultural appropriation.
The broad scope and variety of art forms covered under this broad thematic umbrella, from paintings of James McNeill Whistler and Mary Cassatt through multimedia works of Tehching Hsieh and Laurie Anderson, creates a compelling alternate to the usually mono-cultural narrative of Art History. For those of us interested particularly in time-based media, it also provides a compelling context through which to view issues such as duration, notation, communication systems, and networking that are so prevalent in time-based forms.
Although most of us use software on a daily basis, its operation still remains obscured to a large majority. In Golan Levin's introduction to the 3-day conference Art and Code hosted this weekend at Carnegie Mellon University, he describes distressingly low levels of software literacy, and the need to further educate the public about these tools. This impulse underpins the many "How-To" workshops, panels, and discussions scheduled over the next few days, which will devote specific attention to tools useful for artistic production, such as Max/MSP, Processing, openFrameworks and VVVV. While heavy on the tutorials, Art and Code will round out the calendar with an exhibition of generative artwork by Casey Reas and Marius Watz as well as nightly screenings of visual music pioneer Oskar Fischinger's films.
Time. It's an old topic. From cave paintings to code paintings, the recording of time is among the most basic and persistent of subject matters seen in art, and it has very often propelled new tools for keeping itself measured. Oddly enough, despite time's catalyzing role in the innovation of techniques and technologies, time-based media has all too often been left out of exhibitions surveying creative explorations of time. But the current exhibition at Dundee Contemporary Arts, entitled "Timecode," takes the pulse of temporality from a more electronically enlightened perspective. The show does include works employing painting and sculpture, but puts them in conversation with works such as Thomson & Craighead's "narrative clock," Horizon (2009), in which webcams around the world convey a perpetual horizon, and Tatsuo Miyajima's large-scale LED timepiece, Counter Void S-1 (2003). Situated next to classic performance works by the likes of Douglas Gordon and On Kawara, and of course the eponymous multi-channel film by Mike Figgis, the show holds a lens to the myriad ways in which time endures as an organizing principle for our lives and our creativity. - Marisa Olson
The National Film Board of Canada launched Screening Room last week. The site hosts over 700 films produced by NFB, which are now available for streaming and sharing. During the span of their 70 year history, the National Film Board of Canada have been a major force in independent Canadian cinema, underwriting a number of forward thinking documentaries, animations, and short films. NFB have been especially supportive of experimental and emerging film practices, a fact that becomes apparent when perusing their collection. (More recently, the organization began supporting moving image on other platforms as well. mobiDOCS: Confessions in a Digital Age, co-produced by NFB, is a series of short documentary films made especially for mobile phones.) See below for a few choice selections from Screening Room.