Stan VanDerBeek (1927-1984) shares with artists like Josef Albers, Aldous Huxley, John Cage, Robert Rauschenberg, and Buckminster Fuller the legacy of having developed their practice at Black Mountain College, the creative mecca where these and other thinkers pushed the edges of visual art, music, literature, technology, and consciousness. His experimental films of the 1950s blurred dada collage and science fiction, and he was an early adopter of both analog processes and computer animation, establishing for him a godfather-like position in the origin-narratives surrounding new media. His often rough aesthetic anticipated glitch-fetishism by several decades and drove the surrealist aesthetic into new territory; yet this is not to say that his works didn't go down smoothly. (The internet is full of video evidence of his colorfully dreamy proliferations.) The artist is currently the subject of an exhibition at New York's Guild & Greyshkul gallery, where one can see VanDerBeek's contribution to the proto-history of digital copy-and-paste stylistics in the form of real copy-and-paste collages and his own reworkings of his early films. Much of the work in the show, including a "faux mural" he transmitted electronically to international venues, in 1970, was made in his days at MIT, where his immersion among scientists and engineers had a clear impact on his art. VanDerBeek had a futurist and almost cosmological approach to his work and was one of those artists known for spouting beautiful witticisms about finding universal modes of expression that transcended media and the confinement of traditional forms. At the end of the day, he also reminded us that "Art is the artifact of reality (not taken for granted)." - Marisa Olson
Christina McPhee recently presented Shake Stations at dorkbot-nyc. The project, which is currently in progress, studies the work of fellow artist and friend DV Rogers' geologically interactive, kinetic earthwork known as the Parkfield Interventional EQ Fieldwork or PIEQF in the form of a stark, dusty Western-style video documentation. McPee calls the work, located in Parkfield, CA, a "sideshow attraction of generative audience participation," where the elaborate wooden scaffolding, looking something like the planked sidewalk of an old West saloon, is activated to shake like an earthquake tremor when motion sensor cameras powered by industrial strength generators trigger movement around it. Incredibly sensitive to its exterior surroundings, PIEQF not only reacts to real seismic events so small they are normally missed by observers, but also to passing cars, wild animals, and even weather patterns.
McPee's film will detail the construction and philosophy behind the creation of the covered pit. PIEQF was conceived as a temporary human intervention to deep time, and McPhee's will elaborate on this point through her meditative use of montage, which in her words, enables "latent energy landscapes" to unfold. Drawing on the uneasy relationship between man and the natural environment, the film will allude to a human sense of both wonderment and dread towards large scale seismic activity.
DV Rogers' PIEQF Station is scheduled to remain in Parkfield from September through part of November, with more details for the adventurous at http://allshookup.org/. - Melody Chamlee
I arrived by air over the uniform grid-like cityscape of Shanghai, a graphic image that acted as an uncanny precursor to this year's bienniale. In the center of the slick corporate heart of the city resides the location for the 7th Shanghai Bienniale, at the Shanghai Art Museum, a former colonial equestrian sports club now surrounded by Western coffee chains and mirrored towers. Curators Julian Heynen and Henk Slager employ their neologism 'Translocomotion' to title a show dealing with issues of migration and urbanism both particular to Shanghai and in a wider context. In comparison to Guangzhou's "Farewell to Post-Colonialism," the show was carefully organized and maintained a well rehearsed theme. That said, it came across as rather sterile, despite some remarkable works by Chinese and international artists. Divided into three main sections, spatially and thematically distinct but interdependent, the Shanghai Biennale comprised 'Project', 'Keynotes' and 'Context', with an annex devoted to the heritage of the People's Square, a park next to the museum.
'Project' on the ground floor and on the external peripheries of the museum involved 25 different artists, each commissioned to work in response to the People's Square. One stand out was a series of videos by Ayse Erkmen which captured many of the clichés and western interpretations of the dynamically expanding city of Shanghai. Zhou Tao's video, 1,2,3,4 was a hilarious parody of the militaristic chants typically sung by Chinese service industry employees as a form of unifying the workforce. A couple of installations from Bethan Huws and Yin Xiuzhen were worth the pause.
'Keynote' on the second floor was devoted to just three major artists or groups. Mike Kelley's Kandor-Con was a disturbing alternate sci-fi reality, embodying real-life issues facing the ...
In the first decades after film was invented, its practitioners wrote brilliant, poetic essays debating whether what they had on their hands was a new medium or simply a tool for furthering existing practices like theater or painting. These artists very often used the words "magic" and "wizardry" to describe what they were up to in creating moving images. Today's films use devices further removed from the real to give us the illusion of reality and whether to perpetuate the appearance of seamlessness or to assuage the ADD-addled minds of contemporary net-surfing viewers, everything is way way sped up. Enter Kurt Ralske. He'd like to slow things down. The Boston-based artist's video installations, performances, digital prints, and software art have long addressed the formal questions many people have ceased asking about film, particularly the relationship between sound and image and stillness versus motion. This was the case with his "Alphaville" (Motion-Extraction-Reanimation), in which he reprocessed elements of Godard's famous film and stretched and repeated them across a wider plane, questioning the function of surface and duration in the original piece. In a new project entitled Zero Frames Per Second, Ralske has dissected the films of Godard, Kubrick, Murnau, and others into a series of still images. Each film is represented by two frames--one condensing all motion into a single image and the other accumulating all moments of non-movement. The artist explains that, "Within these images the cinematic experience is freed from duration, narrative, and signification, producing a visually abstract record of the information from the 150,000 or so frames per film." The works free the mind to quickly take in a film in the slowest of slow-motions. They are on view at New York's School of Visual Arts through September 12th. - Marisa Olson
For "The Young and Evil," the latest in tank.tv's ambitious program of guest-curated exhibitions, Stuart Comer considers the "historical contours and shifting relationships of sex and community in the digital age." Comer contends that the Internet has increasingly eclipsed the cinema as the preeminent cultural screen, and consequently divides his exhibition between the venues. Invited guests, including Andrea Geyer, Carlos Motta and Daria Martin, have each selected one contemporary work, for exhibition on tank.tv, and one historical film to be screened in Tate Modern's cinema on September 20th, 2008. But if the separation of venues emphasizes the historical division between works, the exhibition's focus on social deviance and erotics provides a compelling, unifying thread. The most notable of the works currently up on tank.tv play into what Comer describes as the Internet's state of being an "uncanny hybrid of personal longing and collective interaction." Mansfield 1962 (2006), for example, appropriates a Highway Safety Foundation video William E. Jones found on the Internet, which uses 1962 police footage of gay sex in a public restroom to instruct officers about covert recording techniques. Jones has edited the footage to concentrate on discreet moments of sexual pleasure and, at the video's end, the mug shots of participants, who all went on to serve time on charges of sodomy. For The Shape of a Right Statement I (2008), Wu Ingrid Tsang performs one section of autism rights activist Amanda Baggs' forceful address, In My Language, which she published on YouTube in 2007. Tsang's strong, androgynous features and affected computerspeak (true to In My Language) complicate the original work's register of alterity. "The thinking of people like me is only taken seriously if we learn your language," he recites, at one moment, an assertion that ...
"Private fears and shared desires" take the public stage for "Tarantula," a month-long film and video program projected on Europe's biggest LED wall, in Piazza del Duomo, Milan. In collaboration with MIA (Milano In Alto) and Fondazione Nicola Trussardi, which is dedicated to finding "new channels and strategies to distribute contemporary art in the city of Milan," curator Massimiliano Gioni has invited fifteen contemporary artists to screen works twice a day on a screen normally reserved for commercial advertising. Certain works build upon this strategy of intervention, like Pipilotti Rist's series of sixteen one-minute video segments, Open My Glade, originally commissioned by the Public Art Fund, in 2000, to air on the NBC Astrovision by Panasonic video screen in Times Square, New York. Other notables include the film component of Johanna Billing's You Don't Love Me Yet project, documenting the studio recording of Roky Erickson's eponymous 80s pop hit by more than twenty singers; Fiorucci Made Me Hardcore (1999), Mark Leckey's nostalgic chronicle of cross-sections of British dance culture from the 70s and 80s; and Dictio pii(2001), a parade of high-fashion outfits repurposed, by artist Marcus Schinwald, as disturbing fetish-objects. Like the Bob Dylan novel from which it takes its title, "Tarantula" presents rituals public and private, compulsive and fanciful, to show the ways "new rules and behaviors can transform life into a joyful carnival of exceptions." - Tyler Coburn
Image: Mark Leckey, Fiorucci Made Me Hardcore, 1999