Group Dynamics

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Image: Screenshot of MaxMSP patch used in "Quartet without Pyramid Scheme"

Quartet without Pyramid Scheme” does not, in fact, have anything to do with financial machinations, and the title of this experiment in sound installation and improvisation is a dry foil for how it actually unfolds at Brooklyn’s Diapason gallery over four Saturdays in September. Jordan Paul, the organizer of the project, began it September 5 with a pair of parallel installations in Diapason’s gallery and lounge spaces, both of which used the same set of samples—a water boiler, miked CD and DVD players, a malfunctioning audio cord—run through a MaxMSP patch that determined their placement and duration in each channel. A week later Reed Evan Rosenberg introduced some drama by adding the deep rumble of a laundromat to the array of household appliance sounds. But contrast was less a concern for Paul than a close fit as an ensemble, which is why he chose artists he had collaborated with before and requested they bring field recordings of ambient noise. While the work is declared a quartet from the start, it’s not until the last week that all four artists will be present in the gallery, which suggests an understanding of time as being as static as space is ordinarily perceived—an approach supported by the use of sounds connected to locations, and then shuffling and layering them to further mask any hints of the linear temporal movement. As the artists come to remix the samples in Diapason’s lounge each week, they retain equal shares in the quartet—unlike in a pyramid scheme—and rather than bringing a climax and collapse, the meeting of all four at the last session ought to turn out as a rearrangement of set elements, an improvisational structure that ...

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Pioneering Digital Artist Camille Utterback Receives MacArthur Fellowship

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Text Rain (1999) by Camille Utterback and Romy Achituv

Known for her "physical-digital systems" that call attention to the body in an increasingly mediated culture, Camille Utterback has been awarded a MacArthur Fellowship. The artist describes Text Rains (1999) as "an interactive installation in which participants use the familiar instrument of their bodies, to do what seems magical—to lift and play with falling letters that do not really exist.".

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Rafael Lozano-Hemmer's "Levels of Nothingness" at the Guggenheim

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Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, Levels of Nothingness (Mock-up), 2009

When artist and curator Hilla Rebay hung Vasily Kandinsky’s paintings at the Museum of Non-Objective Painting, which she convinced her lover Solomon R. Guggenheim to open in the late 1920s, she created a sensual environment for them with colored walls, faint music, and perfumed air. It was an approximate construction of an inner, spiritual harmony unencumbered by reminders of nature, in keeping with the ideas of Kandinsky’s influential tract “Concerning the Spiritual in Art.” While multimedia updates of art from an older period risk becoming mere bells and whistles on a body of work that stands on its own merits, Kandinsky’s intense interest in synaesthesia—and his exhibition history with Guggenheim’s collection—make it seem like he might be sympathetic to opportunities for multiple sensory stimulation afforded by today’s data processing technologies. Perhaps that’s why Works & Process at the Guggenheim Museum commissioned an immersive light-and-sound piece from Rafael Lozano-Hemmer to mark the opening of the museum’s major Kandinsky retrospective, the first for the artist in more than twenty years. Levels of Nothingness, which Lozano-Hemmer developed in collaboration with philosopher Brian Massumi, takes its inspiration from Kandinsky’s 1912 essay “Yellow Sound.” The installation generates visuals from phonetic data produced by reading philosophical texts by Kandinsky and others. (At the performance, Isabella Rosselini will kick off the readings, and audience members will be encouraged to continue). Rather than translating one kind of information into another to spell out a neatly servable metaphor—as Lozano-Hemmer did, for example, with Pulse Park, which presented Madison Square Park as a living organism by animating it with lights activated by the heart rates of passers-by—Levels of Nothingness promises to be more meditative and fuzzy, suggesting the connection between thought and ...

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Random Distribution of 40,000 Squares using the Odd and Even Numbers of a Telephone Directory (1960) - Francois Morellet

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With Random Distribution, the purpose of my system was to cause a reaction between two colours of equal intensity. I drew horizontal and vertical lines to make 40,000 squares. Then my wife or my sons would read out the numbers from the phone book (except the first repetitive digits), and I would mark each square for an even number while leaving the odd ones blank. The crossed squares were painted blue and the blank ones red. For the 1963 Paris Biennale I made a 3-D version of it that was shown among the Groupe de Recherche d’Art Visuel installations (and re-created it again on different occasions). I wanted to create a dazzling fight between two colours that shared the same luminosity. This balance of colour intensity was hard to adjust because daylight enhances the blue and artificial light boosts the red. I wanted the visitors to have a disturbing experience when they walked into this room - to almost hurt their eyes with the pulsating, flickering balance of two colours. I like that kind of aggression.

-- FROM ARTIST'S DESCRIPTION ON TATE ETC.

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Eleven Evocations (For Paper Rad)

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The following essay was first published in the catalog for the exhibition curated by Raphael Gygax "Deterioration, They Said" which is on view at the migros museum für gegenwartskunst in Zurich, Switzerland until November 8, 2009.

1. The popular dissemination of magical worlds has ultimately shifted from folk tales to children’s television. Paper Rad takes back this process from commercial channels, creating their own ever-shifting cosmos populated by robots, spaceships, monsters, talking animals, giants and wizards.

Like H. P. Lovecraft or J.R.R. Tolkein, Paper Rad created their own mythos, a set of characters that jointly share a fantasy world. Like Warner Brothers or Disney, Paper Rad circulate their creations across media—websites, comics, animated videos, sculptures, screen prints—thereby establishing themselves as the creators of both an imaginary alternative universe and an audio-visual brand.

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Required Reading

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Joep van Liefland, Video Palace # 23 - Hollywood was Yesterday, 2007

Many artists proffer a seemingly legitimate reason for being anxious about viewing copies: their works are supposed to be seen under very specific conditions in a gallery space. While this desire for “proper” installation complies with the art world’s mystificatory economy of exclusivity, which still uses as its ultimate model the unique cult image in its sacred precinct, it is of course understandable that artists would want their work to be seen under the right conditions. However, it is a mistake to think that these must be the only conditions under which a work can ever be seen. In an age in which everyone is used to seeing moving images in incredibly degraded forms online, viewers have a great capacity for “correcting” these conditions in their mind, for imagining the “proper” presentation. Seeing shaky illegal copy of the latest blockbuster on a laptop does not really damage the film; if anything, knowing that it must be so much better when seen under optimal conditions can only increase its aura.

The dialectic of de- and re-auratization is thus rather more complex than Benjamin allowed. As tempting as it may be to try to match the fervor with which he posited “right” and “wrong” ways of dealing with film—allowing it to unfold or curtailing its ontological promise, respectively—there is no reason to assume that the near future will bring us anything other than a hybrid culture in which cult value and exhibition value develop in an increasingly complex interplay. A culture, in other words, that resembles the present, but not without a little difference that is worth fighting for: an emancipation of the viewing copy, resulting in a different distribution circuit alongside that of limited editions. In such an ...

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Night of the 24th - the crisis (2009) - Gabriel Lester

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Covert Channels

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A small but international group show organized by Mireille Bourgeois and Anais Lellouche, "They Told You So" takes its inspiration from the Situationists’ concept of détournement, reusing existing media to convey an opposing or alternate viewpoint. Here sound installation and video are the primary forms utilized. Purporting to address and ensnare the viewer, and using deliberate miscommunication to examine rhetoric and technologies that are oriented towards control, the works achieve varying degrees of success.

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A Trip to Governors Island

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Mark Wallinger, Ferry, 2009 (Photo by Andrew Russeth from 16 Miles of String)

To get to “PLOT 09: This World & Nearer Ones,” situated within the architecture and verdant landscape of Governors Island, you make your way to the southern tip of Manhattan, board a ferry decorated with signs that read “SHEEP” and “GOATS” (Mark Wallinger's cheeky contribution to the exhibition), and cross the mere half-mile stretch of water known as Buttermilk Channel. The journey is long and elaborate enough to make you feel like you have embarked on an exciting, uncertain adventure. The island is decorated with a pastiche of architectural styles that indicate its rich history; Victorian houses mingle amongst an abandoned movie theater, an 18th-century fortress, an Episcopalian Chapel, a castle, and stern, seemingly haunted brick abandoned military and coast guard housing. PLOT09 is Creative Time's new public art quadrennial, and for its inaugural exhibition curator Mark Beasley invited nineteen international artists to respond to their surroundings. In an environment decidedly marked by its 400-year history, several of the strongest works in the show used this history as a point of departure.

Adam Chodzko's video installation Echo tells an imagined story about the children of the military personnel who once occupied Governors Island. According to the film, the children often gathered in the basement of the Officer's Club, directly below the ballroom in which the film is screened, to play an invented game where participants attempted to shed their material possessions through trade. In opposition to a capitalist logic, objects of high value were swapped for ephemera. The fictional trades made in the film recall the seeming improbability of unequal transactions made in history, like the initial trade of Governors Island by Native Americans to Dutch settler Wouter van Twiller for two axe heads ...

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Murmur Study (2009) - Christopher Baker and Marton Andras Juhasz

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Murmur Study from Christopher Baker on Vimeo.


Murmur Study is an installation that examines the rise of micro-messaging technologies such as Twitter and Facebook’s status update. One might describe these messages as a kind of digital small talk. But unlike water-cooler conversations, these fleeting thoughts are accumulated, archived and digitally-indexed by corporations. While the future of these archives remains to be seen, the sheer volume of publicly accessible personal — often emotional — expression should give us pause.

This installation consists of 30 thermal printers that continuously monitor Twitter for new messages containing variations on common emotional utterances. Messages containing hundreds of variations on words such as argh, meh, grrrr, oooo, ewww, and hmph, are printed as an endless waterfall of text accumulating in tangled piles below.

The printed thermal receipt paper is then reused in future projects and exhibitions or recycled.

-- FROM THE ARTIST'S STATEMENT

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