Keller/Kosmas (Aids-3D) at T293, Naples, Italy

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The infamous, brackishly titled Berlin-based duo Keller/Kosmas (Aids-3D) have exhibited widely from an extremely young age. Dropping out of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and moving to Berlin at age 20, Keller and Kosmas became known in the late naughts for their dirt-style website documenting static works with a fantastical, conspiracy theorist sci-fi sensibility, in addition to weed-infused performances of laser shows and naked babes. As an artistic entity, Keller and Kosmas essentially grew up online, and for better or worse, in the public eye. Now barely 25, Daniel Keller and Nik Kosmas enjoy exhibition opportunities throughout Europe and the United States, albeit with a more concerted sense of art historical sensitivity, production know-how, and overarching artistic maturity.

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Required Reading: After the Screen: Array Aesthetics and Transmateriality by Mitchell Whitelaw

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1. Glowing Rectangles

For all the diversity of the contemporary media ecology - network, broadcast, games, mobile - one technical form is entirely dominant. Screens are everywhere, at every scale, in every context. As well as the archetypal "big" and "small" screens of cinema and television we are now familiar with pocket- and book-sized screens, public screens as advertising or signage, urban screens at architectural scales. As satirical news site The Onion observes, we "spend the vast majority of each day staring at, interacting with, and deriving satisfaction from glowing rectangles."

Formally and technically these screens vary - in size and aspect ratio, display technology, spatiotemporal limits, and so on. They are united however in two basic attributes, which are something like the contract of the screen. First, the screen operates as a mediating substrate for its content - the screen itself recedes in favor of its hosted image. The screen is self-effacing (though never of course absent or invisible). This tendency is clearly evident in screen design and technology; we prize screens that are slight and bright - those that best make themselves disappear. Apple's "Retina" display technology claims to have passed an important perceptual threshold of self-effacement, attaining a spatial density so high that individual pixels are indistinguishable to the naked eye (below - image Bryan Jones).


The second key attribute of contemporary digital screens is their tendency to generality. The self-effacing substrate of the screen is increasingly a general-purpose substrate - unlinked to any specific content type; equally capable of displaying anything - text, image, web site, video, or word-processor. This attribute is coupled of course to the generality of networked computing; since the era of multimedia the computer screen has led the way in modeling itself as a container for anything (just as the computer models itself a "machine for anything"). The past decade has simply seen this general-purpose container proliferate across scales and contexts, ushering us into the era of glowing rectangles.

However over the past decade in design and the media arts, a wave of practice has appeared which as this paper will argue, resists the dominance of the glowing rectangle. Given the near-total cultural saturation of the screen, this is unsurprising, given the ongoing cultural dance of fringe and mainstream in which this practice participates. This is not simply a story of resistance however. In proposing and describing two particular strains of "post-screen" practice, this paper aims firstly to outline the shared terms of their relationship with the screen, and in the process develop a more detailed sense of these conceptual devices of generality, outlined above, and its opposite, specificity. Secondly, and more briefly, it outlines a theorisation of this practice, invoking transmateriality, an account of the paradoxical materiality of (especially digital) media, and Gumbrecht's notion of presence.

-- EXCERPT FROM "AFTER THE SCREEN: ARRAY AESTHETICS AND TRANSMATERIALITY" BY MITCHELL WHITELAW

[Note: Whitelaw explored some of the ideas in this paper previously in his "Right Here, Right Now - HC Gilje's Networks of Specificity" republished in Rhizome News on December 20, 2009]

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Interview with James Voorhies of Bureau for Open Culture

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Opening reception for "Seventh Dream of Teenage Heaven" on April 5, 2011 at Bennington College

James Voorhies is the Director and Chief Curator of Bureau for Open Culture (BOC). BOC operates through exhibitions, screenings, performances, and informal discussions that happen in and outside of the gallery space. Working with a variety of collaborators, Voorhies has sought to question the role of institutions in the dissemination of various art practices. I got to know Voorhies when we collaborated on the BOC’s The New Administration of a Fine Arts Education, a conversation series with leading individuals of contemporary art that took place at the Columbus College of Art and Design in Ohio. This spring and summer, BOC will present two projects. Seventh Dream of Teenage Heaven, from April 5-29th at Bennington College, and I Am Searching for Field Character, presented at Mass MoCA this summer. Incorporating a series of public conversations, performances, installations, workshops and a beer garden, BOC will be bringing artists, writers, designers and thinkers to North Adams, Massachusetts to explore the economic and social character of the cultural laborer. I took this opportunity to talk to him about BOC and his hopes for the future of his organization.



How would you describe the mission of Bureau for Open Culture?

The mission is to reconsider the art exhibition as a new kind of learning site. We don’t necessarily prioritize the gallery as a site for engaging with art or seek to provide an absolute conclusion to the ideas exhibitions raise. To do this, BOC welcomes people from disciplines outside of the usual visual arts⎯landscape architecture, literature, philosophy, design and activism⎯to intermingle. We produce projects that take place in storefronts, gardens, libraries and unused industrial spaces within a wider consideration of the nature of contemporary art and culture.

The exhibitions are made with an awareness of the effect that an art institution⎯as a physical space and a concept⎯has on how art is produced and how people experience it. A lot of my interests in the structural behavior of the art institution come out of watching organizations like Office of Contemporary Art Norway, Shedhalle in Zurich and IASPIS in Stockholm. These are institutions of critique that have taken up the kind investigations of institutions found in artistic practices like those of Michael Asher, Hans Haacke and Andrea Fraser. These institutions were not long ago categorized loosely within a term called “New Institutionalism.” But, I don’t think that term is used so much today.

Using alternative spaces, Bureau for Open Culture tends to mediate more strongly or maybe less didactically between visitors and art. Moving the action out of the gallery is one way we do this, but I also care about what viewers will get out of a connection with a visiting artist or a talk. For example, the collective artist Claire Fontaine participated in the exhibition Descent to Revolution. Part of their contribution to the exhibition was to give a talk related to Lyotard’s Libidinal Economy. I organized a weekly reading group for Lyotard’s book with about 10 to 12 participants who discussed the book, which is really difficult to grasp, alongside images of work by Claire Fontaine. We had participants from all sorts of backgrounds⎯students of philosophy and comparative studies, activists and visual artists. We did this over the course of five to six weeks in a kind of preparation for Claire Fontaine’s visit to Columbus. While we did not devour the book as much as one could, the reading group created an investment and interest in Claire Fontaine. We had an incredible turnout for their talk, a great conversation. The talk took place in an unused storefront space where other projects and actions were occurring during the course of the exhibition. It was late October and the rundown space with its leaking ceiling and lack of heat helped reduce the formal effect of the institution to put audience and artists on closer levels. I really liked the whole experience.

There are also lots of private moments between visiting artists and the community. Those moments, to me, are as important as the public engagement. So, all of this combined is what I mean by rethinking the exhibition as a new kind of learning site.

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Terminal Convention Takes Flight

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Exterior of the Cork International Airport (Credit: Mike Hannon Media)

What is an airport? There are few buildings as strictly controlled, commercially exploited and emotionally embedded in the contemporary word. Junctions of humanity, they are sites of equal boredom and threat. Airports are dynamic spaces, with flows of people and capital yet they are as susceptible to the effects of socio-economic and political changes as they are to extreme weather changes. Filled with ubiquitous surveillance, continual identification and suspicion, what happens when they loose this function and just become buildings again?

Terminal Convention was a contemporary exhibition and symposium housed in the decommissioned terminal building of Cork International Airport in the Republic of Ireland. The old terminal stands in the shadow of its new, bright, open and airy, off-the-shelf 21st century airport successor, and the decommissioned terminal has remained a virtually untouched unknown wonderland for international artists to transform.

What is striking about this particular airport ex-terminal is its friendly persona, at times more akin to a bizarre extended living room than an airport, with its fireplaces and fish tanks in the baggage reclaim area. Striped of its function and control, the space is deadened and immobile without the continuous hums and flows of international travel. The description ‘decommissioned’ implies something more than simply the staff moving out and locking the door – the building has been stripped of all its symbolic authority. The new freedom to roam, unchecked, through the once tightly controlled spaces provides a small thrill, the ‘no entry’ signs remain in place, but are now rendered obsolete.

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Sibyl (2011) - Yoshi Sodeoka

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NOTE: This is one of the pieces from an ongoing psychedelic/ambient video project.

This project (yet to be titled) was inspired by the idea of 70's progressive rock concept albums. It will consist of several short videos. Each piece will be autonomous, but when viewed together will create a larger whole. The final number of videos and the total lengths are yet to be determined; each video will be released as it is completed.

All videos will be directed and produced by Yoshi Sodeoka. Music will be composed by a collaborative effort of Yoshi Sodeoka and Daron Murphy.

-- FROM THE ARTIST'S DESCRIPTION

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Shutter Interface (1975) - Paul Sharits

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Installation view of Paul Sharits, "Shutter Interface," (1975, four-screen 16-mm loop projection with four separate sound tracks) at Greene Naftali Gallery, 2009.

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Out in Public: Natalie Bookchin in Conversation with Blake Stimson

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Natalie Bookchin, My Meds, from the series Testament, 2009

This interview originally appeared Video Vortex Reader II: moving images beyond YouTube (Institute of Network Cultures, Amsterdam, March 2011) edited by Geert Lovink and Rachel Somers Miles. The Video Vortex Reader II launches this week in conjunction with the Video Vortex #6 conference at TrouwAmsterdam in Amsterdam on Friday March 11th and Saturday March 12th.


Natalie Bookchin and Blake Stimson first met in New York in the early 1990s when they were both affiliated with the Whitney Independent Study Program. This exchange took place over email, for the most part between their respective homes in Southern and Northern California during the summer of 2010.

Although she has a rich and varied artistic background, one theme that has regularly come to the fore in Natalie Bookchin’s work is a concern with documentary. In some of her early work, this concern seemed to emphasize the inhumanity of recording machines in the way that Andy Warhol’s, or perhaps Gerhard Richter’s, work did. In a different way, the entire ‘found object’ tradition associated with Duchampian indifference, and still so manifest in much contemporary art, also seemed to feature in Bookchin’s work. Here, we might recall an early piece for which Bookchin photographed everything she owned, object by object, down to the last paperclip; or perhaps, in a different sense, the Universal Page she created with Alexei Shulgin in 2000, which promised an algorithmically derived objective average of all web content. In one sense, her recent work of gathering videos from the internet might be said to continue in this vein—at least insofar as she is functioning as an aggregator of existing content drawn largely from YouTube, in a way similar to a service like Digg or any of the many interest or attention measuring functions of the web (not the least being Google and other search engines).

On the other hand, Bookchin’s work possesses a strong, even impassioned, activist element of the sort consistent with the reportage tradition extending back to John Heartfield and Sergei Tretiakov, or Jacob Riis and Lewis Hine before them. For example, in the interview Bookchin and Shulgin published in conjunction with the exhibition of Universal Page, Bookchin spoke of that time as one that demanded ‘superactivity’ because ‘there are vitally important things that need to be done’ to ‘resist total corporate, technological, and institutional takeovers’. In addition, her multiplayer game agoraXchange was created in collaboration with the political theorist Jackie Stevens, and called for ‘an end to the system of nation-states, the demise of rules rendering us passive objects tied to identities and locations given at birth’, and the elimination of ‘those laws requiring us to live and be seen largely as vessels for ancestral identities’. And finally, there was her very funny announcement, in 1999, of her intention for a journal titled BAD (standing for Burn the Artworld Down) that was ‘committed to the documentation of acts of terrorism and agitation against the institutional art world’. All of these works have performative dimensions to them, and as such call up a sense of tongue-in-cheek detachment from the subjects they purport to represent. Yet, to varying degrees, they also seem earnest and forceful political statements.

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Homebrew Electronics: A Studio Visit with Phillip Stearns

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An example of one of Phillip Stearns' instruments

I met with artist Phillip Stearns last weekend, who took me around his studio. Phillip is giving a class through Harvestworks beginning Monday titled DIY Synth Building Intensive, and he began by showing me the kind of projects he intends to teach students to build in the workshop.

Phillip explained that he enjoys the opaque process of working with CMOS logic integrated circuits, which he finds to be more physical, user-friendly and transparent than working with Arduino. CMOS allows him to essentially program without a computer. Sounds in the instrument below can be modified by moving the patch cables around the breadboard. Phillip demonstrates:

There is one single oscillator, and the pins control the octaves. In his workshop, Phillip will instruct students on how to build an oscillator. Once one learns this basic step, they can then take the instrument further by making multiple oscillators or by mixing or dividing signals.

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Sequence of Waves

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Martyna Szcz's White Ring

I visited the one-day exhibition “Sequence of Waves” last weekend at St. Cecilia’s Convent in Greenpoint. 40+ artists were included in the show, and it was a culmination of a two-week residency within the space. The building itself – a 19th century convent – is impressive, and it’s always a treat to see how artists respond to the environment. While “Sequence of Waves” was not exclusively a sound art show, many of the invited artists did work with sound.


Photos by Jessica Findley

Titled Lo Siento por Sonido by Victoria Keddie and Jessica Findley, this work was a playable zither instrument whose strings extended over two rooms, and fed through furniture found within the building. (You can listen to a sound sample here.)

Ben Wolf disassembled a boat and used the parts to complete a sculpture within the stairwell, which stretched out over three floors.

G. Lucas Crane piled amps in the basement, which amplified sounds from microphones placed throughout the convent.

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#hi11 Times

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Today we'll be turning the blog over to the many people involved with #hi11, a New Year's Eve happening produced by Ryan Trecartin and Lizzie Fitch. For the event, the organizers took over three floors of a house in Los Angeles, transforming it into an interactive, multimedia environment. (The full list of names of everyone behind #hi11 is available here on the 2240hill site.) The house was equipped with video capture throughout, which allowed live video feeds between the rooms and a broadcast online. One of the rooms was covered over entirely in green screen fabric, so video captured therein could be augmented. Inspired by the organizational design of IKEA, the rooms in the house were assigned a letter and a number, for example, B2, C4, etc. The rooms themselves operated much like sets, and in many cases, IKEA furniture was used, mostly beds and couches for lounging. The house was illuminated by black lights, red lights, projections (some of the dump.fm chat room), and videos from the other rooms, giving the space an overwhelming feeling akin to Trecartin's delirious videos. An impressive amount of work went into #hi11. To name a few of my personal favorite details: the chandelier constructed out of Brita water filters, the herbal sexual enhancement pills freely distributed at the bar, the professional Diva wearing a headset connected to the PA on the dance floor, who would break out into song while walking around the party, the one water cooler (out of 4) in DIS Magazine's "refresh_forum" room which contained solely vodka (quite a surprise!), a small room off the dance floor which was intended as a secret Nine Inch Nails sex chamber, where participants could wear headphones (with flashlights attached to the top) blasting the band on repeat while ...

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