Interview with Sarah Cook

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Image: JooYoun Paek, Not Bicycle Cover, 2008 (Image courtesy of Eyebeam)

Sarah Cook kindly took a moment to speak to me this week about the exhibition she curated, "Untethered", which opens tonight at Eyebeam in New York. The group exhibition, which takes the form of a sculpture garden and explores "everyday objects deprogrammed of their original function, embedded with new intelligence, and transformed into surrealist and surprising readymades", includes 15 artists, many of whom are current or former Eyebeam fellows or residents. "Untethered" will remain up through October 25th. - Ceci Moss

Ceci Moss: How did you first begin working on "Untethered"?

Sarah Cook: Preamble: I am an inaugural curatorial fellow at Eyebeam through my work with CRUMB (Curatorial Resource for Upstart Media Bliss). My position was enabled by a three-year grant received by CRUMB, which allows me to use Eyebeam as a site for research into curating new media art, the question of how collaboration works through international networks, and how curators can work in lab environments. I arrived in New York in April; before that Amanda McDonald Crowley and I had been discussing whether I should take advantage of an opportunity to curate an exhibition as part of the Fall program as one way to put my research into practice, given that exhibition practice is my strength. Eyebeam was interested in challenging that and allowing me, through my fellowship, to think about curating in a different way.

Together with Liz Slagus, Director of Education and Public Programs at Eyebeam, I visited with all of Eyebeam's resident artists and fellows (I had participated in the juries which had selected them) and got to know what they were working on in the labs. At the same time, I tried to learn about Eyebeam's exhibition history, its use of its ...

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A Short Tour of Three Major Contemporary Art Exhibitions in China

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Image: Joonho Jeon, Hyper Realism

After navigating my way through one of the busiest train stations in the world, and a two hour journey, I arrived in Nanjing where the Nanjing Triennial, the city's third, was still unfinished when I turned up to the city's history museum. Entitled 'Reflective Asia', the exhibition is an ambitious survey of contemporary art in Asia. An anti-western bent ran throughout the show, in stark contrast to Maharaj's declaration of openness and internationalism at the Guangzhou Triennial.

Of those pieces that were in operation the day that I visited, Jun Nguyen-Hatsushiba's piece Memorial Project Nha Trang, Vietnam was a moving underwater video of rickshaws being pulled by their drivers. Kim Kira's A Security Garden as Paranoia is an installation piece that plays on systems of display and surveillance with arrangements of bonsai trees, tacky Disney toys, neon lights, classical Korean artifacts with security cameras and monitors hidden between them. Another South Korean artist, Joonho Jeon's triptych of videos, Hyper Realism, is a comment on his own country's neighbor, North Korea. On one screen is an animation of a crowd of people trying to scale a wall but the video loops before anyone can reach the other side. The middle screen shows waltzing toy soldiers and the third brings the figure on the North Korean 100 won note to life as a man who walks around aimlessly in the scenery.

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Image: Kim Kira, A Security Garden as Paranoia

After my journey around the country, it was evident that the three major bi/triennials took significantly different paths in terms of theme and execution, while at the same time capturing important facets of contemporary art production within the rapidly shifting landscape of China today.

Based in London, but currently resident ...

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A Short Tour of Three Major Contemporary Art Exhibitions in China

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Image: Shanghai Art Museum

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 ...

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Interactive Crowd Sourcing

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While the term "crowd sourcing" generally refers to a large group of people (i.e. internet users) contributing to the realization of a project, it might also apply in interesting ways to the newest installation by Jody Zellen. In "The Blackest Spot," at LA's Fringe gallery, she culls footage of crowds and corrals them into content categories which are in turn activated by visitors to the exhibition. While the crowd is usually theorized as a single entity or herd, Zellen's selections exemplify the many different means and reasons for which people choose to assemble in a single spot. When viewers step on censor-marked spots on the floor of the gallery, they trigger audio responses linked to the gatherings, ranging from quietude to cacophony. As a result, Zellen's audience is compelled to consider their own identification with those portrayed in the collected images. - Marisa Olson

Image: Jody Zellen, The Blackest Spot, 2008

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Displacements (2005) - Michael Naimark

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LAUNCH

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A Short Tour of Three Major Contemporary Art Exhibitions in China

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Image: View from the 19th Floor of the Third Guangzhou Triennial

Over the next three days, Claire Louise Staunton, current resident curator at the OCT Contemporary Art Terminal in Shenzhen, China, will file reports from this year's Guangzhou Triennial, Shanghai Bienniale, and Nanjing Triennial. - Ceci Moss

The first stop on my journey is Guangzhou in the southwest of China, a humid and densely populated city with a liberal reputation. On the day of my visit to the Third Guangzhou Triennial, torrential rain poured down, which had a comically disastrous effect on the proceedings. Invitees were trapped and latecomers barred from the location for the exhibition's opening comments, Alain Fouraux and Rem Koolhaas' Times Museum, a rather utopian project proposed at the 2005's triennial that housed a small part of the larger exhibition. The rising flood and the downpour threatened curator Sarat Maharaj and his team with electrocution as they attempted to bid 'Farewell to Post-Colonialism' on the short-circuited PA system.

Sadly California-based artist Simon Leung's video piece on the ground floor was rained out, but after waiting 30 minutes to get into the only elevator, the 14th floor served as a life boat with video work The Rock Point Inn from Huang Xiaopeng. The piece interrogates the self-colonialization of contemporary China through his subtly manipulated depiction of Thames Town, an exact replica of Lyme Regis, UK. In the adjacent room was Wang Jiahao's F1City:REeAL TV a video game using real-life footage which presented itself as a commentary on the growth of Formula One racing in the third world.

I ascended the theoretical and actual quagmire of the top floor where the rain poured dangerously close to the numerous sound and video installations from German artist Marc Behrens, the Chinese collective Sound Unit (Zhang Anding ...

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Sounding the Alarms

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Jane Philbrick's "PULL" installation, at New York's Location One gallery, is definitively interactive. Not only does it require viewer participation to really make the work happen, but it invites reflection on the agency, authority, and influence of the viewer. Flanked by walls of 502 beautifully symmetrical, gridded, illuminated fire alarms, strobes, smoke detectors, siren horns, and control panels, the installation relies on (or questions) the human impulse to pull the trigger. Once a viewer does pull on an alarm handle, loud noises, flashing lights, and loud words bombard the participant's eyes and ears in a simultaneously beautiful and overwhelming cascade. The project is intended to reflect on questions of fear and control, as well as the seductive versus destructive nature of power. Philbrick's collaboration with Honeywell Labs instigates commentary on the ways in which these issues have trickled down into architectural, industrial, and consumer devices, while upping the volume on her ongoing investigations into the subjective dimensions of language and the voice. - Marisa Olson


Image: Jane Philbrick, PULL, 2008

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Dialogue (1999) - Kumi Yamashita

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Light, Motor, Styrene, Shadow

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Machines by Michael Kontopoulos

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Machines that Almost Fall Over from Michael Kontopoulos on Vimeo.


Machine that Tries to Draw Circles from Michael Kontopoulos on Vimeo.

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A Must See: <br>Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis

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Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis' current program of exhibitions offers a stellar example of the dynamic curatorial tactics for which the museum has become known. Alongside "Aïda Ruilova: The Singles 1999 - Now," the first U.S. solo museum show of the New York artist's compulsive, viscerally demanding video loops, the Contemporary presents Berkeley-based artist Lutz Bacher's Spill, one in a three-part project that includes the publication of SMOKE (Gets in Your Eyes) and My Secret Life, a solo exhibition at P.S.1 scheduled for 2009. While the P.S.1 exhibition promises to be a more conventional survey of the artist's 40-year career, Spill is anything but ordinary. Bacher centers the show around eclectic, site-specific installation Our Beloved Revolutionary Sweetheart, which features a grouping of life-size Star Trek characters; shattered guitar debris; intersecting, curved ramps; and a multi-channel video of a line-drawing traveling, in anthropomorphic fashion, over a monochromatic landscape. An old Budweiser sign and beer cases draw the exhibition's second space into conversation with St. Louis (Anheuser-Busch's headquarters), motion sensors in the museum courtyard trigger a sound installation, and displays of Bacher's earlier works are periodically supplemented or removed. Considering the diverse quality of the artist's output, which has always relied on appropriation strategies and "deliberately migrates between methods, styles, and attitudes," the piecemeal, shape-shifting nature of Spill seems on point. As if to supplement the exhibition's provisional ethos, the Contemporary's Front Room will concurrently mount a series of shows ranging from one day to a few weeks in length, often by younger artists and collectives indebted to Bacher's practice. Reena Spaulings, Claire Fontaine and Dexter Sinister will all take a turn. - Tyler Coburn


Image: Lutz Bacher, Spill, 2007, black and white photograph with unknown substance, 50 ...

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