Walk This Way

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Collaborators Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller make work that combines cinema, sound, pop culture, and the suspension of disbelief. Their sound and video walks and installations of multiple media have gained widespread international attention, in part for their ability to very closely engage individual viewers on a psychological level, and largely thanks to their command of genre conventions designed to illicit an emotional response. On view through September 28th at Edinburgh's Fruitmarket Gallery, in conjunction with the Edinburgh Art Festival, is a major survey of their work, including five pieces made since 1995 and a new project. Each of these works revolve around a viewer being more than a viewer. That is, they entice visitors to the gallery to enter a space, engaging not only with objects and sights (in a highly choreographed manner), but also with sounds and other conditions that create a unique, if sometimes tense, relationship between reality and the sensorium of the participant. While these works often involve heavy equipment (in the case of one installation, even robotics) and people taking technology into their own hands, Miller has said that the experientially-activated pieces are only as interactive as a painting or film. Instead, the duo emphasize the scripted nature of the interactions on which their pieces turn, likening them to physical cinema. If you're in the region, passing through the layers of meaning and perception created by Cardiff and Miller is highly recommended. - Marisa Olson


Image credit: The Killing Machine (2007), Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller. Materials: Mixed media, sound, pneumatics, robotics


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Rock Me Amadeus

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Australian artist Lynette Wallworth is bringing a high tech touch to this year's Mostly Mozart festival at New York's venerable Lincoln Center. At first glance, the pairing of a new media installation artist with a celebration of an old dead white guy's music may seem formulaically nouveau, but Wallworth's interactive works bring a nice visual meditation on this year's festival theme: mortality and transcendence. If anyone could speak from the grave about this topic, it's Mozart, the legend of whose death surrounds the mythologizing of his oeuvre and who has been the subject of remixes (or variations, as the ancients call them) by a number of significant classical composers. Wallworth's video installations Hold Vessel 1 and 2 and Invisible by Night create a truly immersive space, one which relies on the viewer to proactively enter and activate these areas. In Hold Vessel 1 and 2, viewers carry a bowl-shaped screen into the room, to capture "projected images of microscopic marine life and telescopic astronomical imagery." The physical analogy here seems equal parts panning for gold and holding the whole world in your hands, with the artist's expressed intention being that of revealing "the hidden intricacies of human immersion in the wide, complex world." Invisible by Night uniquely engages the context of the Lincoln Center complex, which is not only a family of concert halls but also a shopping center, luxury apartment building, and corporate headquarters. Wallworth encourages visitors to slow down, ponder the emotional history of the site, and practice empathy in engaging with video footage of a grieving woman whose gestures will mirror those of viewers who elect to touch the projection surface. The piece is meant to speak to "the transient nature of compassion," and the interactive installation format's ...

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It Takes Two (Or More)

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Cover yourself in post-it notes and become a digital puppet. Sit under the soothing sounds of wii wind chimes. Watch yourself travel back in time on video. Interact with a hotter, fitter 3D version of yourself. These are the prompts offered by the artists in "Double Take," an exhibition opening this weekend at Eyebeam with a promise to "challenge viewers to reconsider what we take for granted as reality in our technologically-mediated lives." A total of nine projects will be presented in the show which results from the Interactivos workshop organized by Madrid-based Medialab-Prado and hosted in New York by Eyebeam. All of the works were created collaboratively by an international group of artists, hackers, and tinkerers brought together under the premise of exploring "the blurry line between the real and the fake." But the interactive prototypes need your participation to bring them alive, so check out these "technologically-enabled illusions" between July 12-August 9. - Marisa Olson


Image: Tine Papendick, Digital Puppetry

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Review of Olafur Eliasson's "Take Your Time" at the Museum of Modern Art and P.S.1

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by Rafael Tiffany

Olafur Eliasson's expansive mid-career survey "Take Your Time" claims a significant amount of space at both the Museum of Modern Art and P.S.1, giving reason for museum goers to follow its title's injunction. The Klaus Biesenbach and Roxana Marcoci-curated show comes to New York on the heels of a smaller manifestation at San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, continuing a dramatic stateside splash for the Danish-Icelandic artist-- which will be literalized later this summer with four waterfalls he's planned for the downtown harbor area. Those who want to experience the diversity of the crowd-pleasing artist's output should make time for all the components of this wide-ranging show.



Olafur Eliasson, Beauty, 1993. Photograph by Matthew Septimus. Courtesy of MoMA and P.S.1.

The works present trace Eliasson's rise to prominence since the 1990s. His earlier pieces-- he prefers "apparatuses" or "experimental setups" -- typically stage modest interventions within our perceptual assumptions, and are frequently disarming in their economy. Beauty (1993) is especially mesmerizing, consisting of an iridescent curtain of mist in P.S.1's dark basement vault, produced simply by refracting light off of water droplets sprayed from a suspended rubber tube. The capacity for this approach to work at a vastly magnified level was apparent with The weather project, his spectacular and now iconic 2003 installation of light, smoke, and mirrors for the Tate Modern. One could compare Wannabe (1991) with Ventilator (1997) in order to gain a sense of this ambition of scale: the former is a single low-hanging spotlight tucked into a side chamber at P.S.1, designating an intimate platform for training viewers to command institutional space; the latter, a free-hanging industrial fan that pendulously sways through MoMA's immense atrium, erratically animates the imposing ...

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01SJ Diary: Day 3

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Santana Row in San Jose is a kind of holy grail of large-scale property development, combining dining, shopping, and living space in a complex the size of several city blocks. Yesterday at lunchtime, it was bustling with row upon row of restaurant-goers sitting at tables on the sidewalk in the June sun. Imagine, if you can, Paris in the springtime with cheerful waitstaff and ample parking.


For the next few weeks, this terrestrial utopia will play host to RainDance, an outdoor installation by artist Paul DeMarinis. The piece, which somewhat resembles a shower facility, consists of five jets of water streaming downwards onto a raised walkway. Visitors walk under each stream while holding a plastic umbrella supplied by the attendant on duty. When the water hits the taut plastic, it creates a musical composition, generating different notes as the speed of water flow varies. Because the piece is inaudible until a visitor enters, it has a magical quality which was not lost on the shoppers and passersby who happened upon the piece.



Paul DeMarinis, RainDance, 2008

I left Santana Row for the Tech Museum of Innovation, where I saw 01SJ Global Youth Voices, an exhibition produced by Liz Slagus of Eyebeam. Inspired by 2007 Nobel prize-winner Muhammad Yunus' approach to micro-finance, the program had offered $500 grants to artists all over the world aged 11 to 21. Interactive artworks made by 12-year olds from the Nueve School in Hillsborough, CA sat alongside a video tour of Kibera, Africa's largest slum. "It's an impressive amount of work for twenty grand," Graham Harwood commented to me. It's true -- except according to a quick calculation ($500 x 17 artists), the actual figure was much less than 20. In the micro-finance model, even a small loan can change someone's life ...

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Sounds from Old New York

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In the seventy years since it last served as a major terminal for Brooklyn-bound ferries, the Battery Maritime Building has existed in relative disuse, accumulating signs of rust and decay common to the structures and sites of older eras of New York City. But with Playing the Building, a Creative Time-sponsored installation by David Byrne that opened this past weekend in the Great Hall, the building once again comes alive in clamorous sonority, producing a rendition of its own material history played upon its very body. Developing upon a project proposal for Färgfabriken, in Stockholm, Byrne has retrofitted a vintage Weaver pump organ with a bundle of relays and wires, which rise from its backside and spread, like a snaky canopy, over the 9,000 square-foot room. Each note of the organ triggers a particular event and sound in the space: lower keys power motors that vibrate the hall's girders, causing muffled rumbles; middle tones generate flute-like sounds from heating pipes; and higher notes cause spring-loaded solenoids to bang and clang on columns and radiators. The installation thus produces a strangely phenomenal field, all the more surprising given the absence of microphones, amplification and electronics in supplementing the building's performance. Even more importantly, it activates the audience by allowing members to take turns playing the organ. As Byrne remarked, in an interview with Playing the Building curator Anne Pasternak, "It became a kind of social apparatus as well as being an installation. It became a shared communal experience." -- Tyler Coburn


Image: David Byrne, Playing the Building, 2008

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Teems Like Smell Spirit

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Who hasn't had the synaesthetic experience of a scent triggering a memory? Some argue that the sense of smell is among our body's strongest, and yet--"smellivision" aspirations aside--media culture revolves so much more around our eyes and ears. At present, New York's Lower East Side (a piquant sensorium, to be sure) is home to two olfactorily driven projects. At nonprofit art space Cuchifritos through April 26th is a group show entitled, "If There Ever Was," featuring seven "extinct and impossible smells" that have been "re-created" by Koan-Jeff Baysa, Bertrand Duchaufour, Christoph Hornetz, Christophe Laudamiel, Patricia Millns, Steven Pearce, David Pybus, and Geza Schön. Some of these creators call themselves artists while some work as scientists, engineers, or others with a vested interest in "olfactory images." For instance, botanist James Wong created a hyperreal scent equivalent to a bouquet of extinct flowers, calling attention to art's ability to invoke the absent, fantastical, or what cannot otherwise be said or seen. Neighboring nonprofit Participant, Inc is also supporting artists' exploration of the interface between sight and smell with Lisa Kirk and Jelena Behrend's Revolution Pipe Bomb project. The work was initially conceived as a fragrance by Kirk, who then approached Behrend to produce it as a special limited edition in the form of "a precious metal pipe bomb to contain a vile of [a] faintly aggressive fragrance." The perfume's core elements were determined after interviews with war journalists, activists, and others who've been on the frontlines of revolutions. It bears hints of "smoke, gasoline, tear gas, burnt rubber, and decaying flesh." Doesn't that make you wish this website was scratch-and-sniff? In all seriousness, this project explores the important subject of the commodification and marketing of violence and like Wong's imagined bouquet ...

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Resonating Image

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The overlaps and incongruities between visual and aural engagement are the focus of "Finding Pictures in Search of Sounds," sound artist Stephen Vitiello's second solo exhibition with Museum 52, in London. For Boxed Gray (2008), Vitiello has applied a thick coat of silver paint to the walls of the gallery's front room and immersed it with a rapidly paced soundtrack of field recordings and electronics. Subtle Blue Gray (2008), in the back room, forms a conversational counterpoint: three blue lightbulbs flicker and pulse, enveloping the space in nocturnal hues, as four speakers embedded in the gallery walls generate faint, scratching sounds. Collectively, the two works find Vitiello continuing to develop visual analogues to his sound pieces, an inquiry that previously included him mining the sculptural properties of speakers and making graphite, ink and pigment drawings from LFO speaker vibrations. For "Night Chatter", his 2006 show with Museum 52, Vitiello even interwove Virginian ivy with speakers playing a recording of a conversation between Tony Blair and George Bush, processed to a point where the politicians' voices sounded like electronic bells (Hedera B,B,B (2006)). Considering Virginia's military significance for the United States government, Vitiello's piece had the strange effect of turning an element of the state's natural bounty into an agent for the cause: a position from which to surveille. In contrast, Boxed Gray and Blue Gray number among Vitiello's more abstract experiments, forgoing explicit critique for diffuser modes of engagement. Yet by focusing on the expressive and meditative registers of aesthetic experience, Vitiello's sophisticated understanding of the conditions of reception comes to the fore. - Tyler Coburn

Image: Stephen Vitiello, Blue Gray, 2008

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noplace (2007) by MW2MW

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noplace is an installation and website by artist group MW2MW (Marek Walczak and Martin Wattenberg). Drawing on the constant production and organization of information online, the artists developed software that arranges hundreds of feeds according to categories such as "fantasy," "paradise," "dreamscape," and "limbo."� This grouped material is then composited and projected, producing an overwhelming visual environment. By tangibly manifesting the contemporary experience of information inundation, the project proposes to generate "a browser in physical space". The work was included in the group exhibition Video Vortex at the Netherlands Media Art Institute, and will be in the upcoming China New Media Arts Exhibition 2008. - Ceci Moss



Image: Installation proposal for noplace at China New Media Arts Exhibition 2008.

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