Setting the Tome

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In the early seventies Gerald O'Grady, a professor of English Literature at the State University of New York in Buffalo, was asked to become director of the euphemistically titled "Educational Communications Center." The division was to provide technical support for the entire campus. Sensing a thankless administrative appointment he agreed, but only if he could simultaneously create and direct a department dedicated to the study of emerging media, one that would provide artists and filmmakers access to these technologies and a theoretical basis from which to explore it fully. Thus, the Center for Media Studies (MediaStudy/Buffalo) was formed. Groundbreaking in its scope and focus, the faculty included filmmakers Hollis Frampton, Tony Conrad, Paul Sharits, and James Blue, video artists Steina and Woody Vasulka, and Peter Weibel. The book Buffalo Heads: Media Study, Media Practice, Media Pioneers, 1973-1990, edited by Woody Vasulka and Peter Weibel, thoroughly documents the people and activities that were a part of this highly influential center. Part exhibition catalog (a similarly titled exhibition "Mind Frames: Media Study at Buffalo 1973-1990" was mounted at ZKM in 2007), part catalog raisonné, and part coffee table book, and coming in at 837 pages and almost 10 lbs, it could be called the definitive text on this place and period.

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Reenacting Objects

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In an essay hoisted upon every media studies student ever, Walter Benjamin argues that the mechanical reproduction of art works separates the viewer from the original object and therefore diminishes that object's "ritual value." Strangely enough, Stephanie Syjuco's work takes a different approach. She gives us all reproductions, all the time. From paper TV's to faux designer furniture, these readily-reproduced images and things comment on the importance of the originals in our daily lives and the cultural value we've built-up around the notion of originality. Her current solo exhibition at the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, entitled "Stephanie Syjuco: Total Fabrications," is full of fake design objects pulled from circulation within the mainstream -- or culturally specific niches therein -- and recreated in a way that references their genesis as well as the contextual implications (or even clichés) of reproduction. In fact, Syjuco's work further delves into the processes of production itself, and it's ritualization. Her reconstructions comment on the origin of materials, their high and low statuses within culture, the technologies through which they operate, and their impacts on systems ranging from the environment to the visual vocabulary of the zeitgeist. This is highly manifest in her ongoing project, The Berlin Wall, in which she pulls what she calls "proxy chunks" of the famous wall out of spaces around the world. These are not souvenirs from the wall, but rather a different kind of facsimile, which Syjuco feels approximates the political and architectural situation of the wall and the promises offered in its deconstruction. The proxy chunks have embarked on their own roadshow, exhibiting in new cities under plaque-capped vitrines, so as to however-falsely invoke the aura of the wall and the hope its demolishedness represents. Her Towards a New Theory of Color Reading takes ...

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BEACON (2005-2008) - Thomson and Craighead

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Artist's statement: At 00.00hrs on January 1st 2005 an automated beacon began broadcasting on the web at http://www.automatedbeacon.net. The images above are documents of the gallery version of this work, which exists in two forms -- first made in 2006 as a live data projection and then in 2007 as a unique mechanical railway flap sign built by Solari of Udine in Italy. The development of the railway sign was funded by The Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and British Film Institute (BFI)/Arts Council of England (North West)

In both instances, BEACON continuously relays live web searches as they are being made around the world presenting them back in series and at regular intervals as an endless concrete poetry. The beacon has been instigated to act as a silent witness: a feedback loop providing a global snapshot of ourselves to ourselves in real-time.

More work by Thomson and Craighead

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Pop-Up Shop

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With the economy undergoing a severe downturn, and retailers reporting an especially slow sales season during what is typically the busiest time of the year, the organizers behind Everything Must Go could not have asked for more fitting circumstances for their upcoming exhibition, which will take place in a partially abandoned mall in Birmingham, Alabama. Curator Rachel Higgins rented one retail shop out of the over 60 vacant stores in the Century Plaza Shopping Mall, and from December 20 through January 3rd, twenty artists, including Sascha Braunig, Walton Creel, Matthew Farrell, Rachael Gorchov, Jess Perlitz, and others, will approach the space as a stage, rotating works on a daily basis in order to spotlight a specific group or artist. The project's title Everything Must Go touches on the fast pace of consumerism, which steers the rate at which malls are built and discarded, but it also carries with it a darker cadence, one that suggests that our current models for economic growth, which favor rapidity and waste, cannot persist.

Image: Century Plaza Shopping Mall (Photos by Kate Merritt Davis)

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Interface Aesthetics at the Dept. of Rhythmanalysis

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Interface aesthetics seem to push further into public consciousness with each passing month. Consumers are manic about multitouch and contemporary prototypes exploring gesture and performance have hinted at how we will be interacting with technology in the not-so-distant future. This considered, conversations about the desktop metaphor underlying personal computing or Aqua-style might seem archaic, irrelevant in light of emerging tangible media. This is, of course, not the case, and when excavating the idea of interface, one can dig back much further than screen-based interaction and find an extensive lineage of control panels and analog interfaces that prefigure the graphical user interface (GUI). An artist clearly invested in questioning the nature of interface and display is Kevin Hamilton, a researcher and educator based in Urbana, Illinois. Over the last several years Hamilton has been exploring the narrative potential of bare-bones interface and informational systems, quite notably through his ongoing Rhythmanalysis project.

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24 Hour Psycho (1993) - Douglas Gordon

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Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho slowed down to last 24 hours.

Part 1 & Part 2 of a 1 hour and 45 minute interview with Douglas Gordon

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Putting Faith in the Internet

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Depending upon the utopian or dystopian narratives to which you might subscribe, the internet is a bit like heaven or hell--with the pearly gates of cyberspace welcoming you to a world where you want for nothing or a fiery apocalyptic dungeon big enough to house all your nightmares. Either vision is intense and exactly the sort of stuff that religious iconography was once made of; yet the wide distribution of devotional messages broadcast on the web seems only to have cast a dim shadow upon the net art community. More recently, spiritualities new age and old school have been forceful fodder in contemporary art, while glossing over a true connection to the divine. Italian curator Domenico Quaranta suggests, "take Martin Kippenberger's crucified frog, for instance, or the cross submerged in the urine of Andres Serrano, or Maurizio Cattelan's Nona ora, or the Virgin Mary blackened with elephant dung by Chris Ofili, or Vanessa Beecroft's recent Madonnas. All of these works are undoubtedly imbued with their own form of 'sacredness,' yet they would hardly be hung in a church." Quaranta's exhibition, "For God's Sake," installed now at Nova Gorica, Solevenia's 9th annual Pixxelpoint festival, looks at the simultaneous increase in religion-themed work and the ever wider distribution of mass-mediated sermons and religious messages, through new technologies. The question is whether this amounts to an increase in religious devotion, or rather a diluted or muddied conflation of spiritual values in a time of mixed forms and mixed messages arriving in convergent media. As with ZKM's "Medium Religion" show, which we covered last week, Quaranta's show (and in particular his poignant curatorial statement), look at attitudinal shifts parallel to media developments. The long list of international media artists he's selected present us with mostly ...

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"Chiros" by Melanie Crean Now Online for World AIDS Day

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Chiros, a project by Rhizome-commissioned artist Melanie Crean, goes online today in acknowledgment of World AIDS Day, which was initiated twenty years ago in order to raise awareness about the disease and encourage research and prevention. Chiros pairs interviews with HIV+ women participating in New York-based non-profit programs Iris House, Life Force, Exponents and CAMBA with animations based on scientist Metod Saniga's elliptical model of time. The women were asked to speak about their perception of time, specifically as it has changed since becoming positive. The interviews are both empowering and moving, as many of the women express a need to reclaim time for themselves since their diagnosis. An installation of the project will also go up this week, at Longwood Art Gallery in Bronx, NY.

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IX (2008) - H3X3N

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IX @ DEADTECH 2008 from IX h3x3n on Vimeo.

IX knows 9 spells:

  1. 0N: turns computer on
  2. 4W4Y: restarts computer
  3. data_disappear: makes data disappear
  4. 3T3RN4L_R3TURN: makes data reappear
  5. 54W: cuts the operating system in half
  6. R881X0R: runs the rabbit virus
  7. M461C14NZ_H4T: catches the rabbit virus in the magician's hat
  8. T3H_0RD3R_0F_0RD3R: creates order + nonsense
  9. CH405_M4J1K: creates chaos + sense

Statement: H3X3N is a group of Computer Witches who have built an enchanted cube that casts magical spells on computers. The IX cube casts spells on Windows, Macintosh and Linux computers, hacking and hexing these operating systems. IX combines traditional stage magic tricks and irony as elements of Hacker culture to create an Interactive Installation and Software Art project.

More work by H3X3N

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In a Land Far, Far Away (...and Out)

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Hawkwind fans should take note of an exhibition currently up at Fake Estate, a former utility closet and now a cozy arts space on the fifth floor of the 526 W. 26th Street building in Chelsea. Art collaborative Yemenwed have transformed Fake Estate into a site-specific viewing room, replete with a red oblong sculpture as a centerpiece, for their video Episode 3. Legendary space rock group Hawkwind come to mind primarily because of their use of themes, including that of the Eternal Champion and the multiverse, derived from science fiction writer Michael Moorcock, who worked closely with the band. Similar to Moorcock's perennial figure of the Eternal Champion, who navigates across dimensions of the multiverse and whose identity is at times manifold, Episode 3's main protagonist, Sigrid H. travels through several zones housed within a Metronome-shaped structure, and the characters or objects she encounters in these spaces are an extension of her own identity. It seems fitting that an art group with as many members as Yemenwed (the press release credits 19 separate collaborators) should examine multiple identities. Episode 3 can be viewed online but should really be experienced within Fake Estate's gallery, if only to take in the video's elaborate scenery and the sound design, which are the strongest elements of the work.

Image: Yemenwed, Episode 3 (Stills), 2008

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