Getting Sand in the Art

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Has anyone noticed that it's summer in much of the world? Inspired by this deeply intellectual curatorial premise, a number of beach-based art invitations have been hitting our inboxes. The fiery purple and magenta gradient html invite for Glow Santa Monica reads, "Whether you get your brain waves translated onto a LED display or find yourself lost in a Neptunian lair of a surreal persuasion, please join us on July 19th to spend the night and greet the dawn with others so inclined as to believe our common spaces can be playful, inspiring, and thought-provoking, not just functional." If you are so inclined, and in the neighborhood, a visit to the Santa Monica beach, pier, and Palisades park from 7pm-7am, July 19-20 will put you in contact with installations by highly-regarded artists like Usman Haque and Shih Chieh Huang, and installations organized by such venerable orgs as Machine Project, VJ Culture, and the 18th Street Arts Center. The works slated for inclusion are colorful, interactive, luminescent (perhaps not surprisingly, given the promising title), and big...as in ambitious. There will also be all-night DJ sets and live performances. Now, you could throw on some swim trunks and flip flops to see work like this in a museum, but we're guessing it wouldn't be the same. - Marisa Olson


Image: Grant Davis, Video RIOT!

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Less Lossy, More Glossy

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What is one to do with all the world's magnetic tape, now doomed for dustbins and landfills as digital files push out the slinky black tendrils that preceded them in the family tree of recording media? Audio cassettes, VHS tapes, and those ancient vinyl records that came before them were the medium of choice for entire epochs of cultural production and, as such, have stored not only many of the world's most important creative moments, but also a large percentage of German artist Gregor Hildebrandt's personal nostalgia-fodder. Interestingly, it is preservationists and conservators who persist in using these materials to store works, and Hildebrandt's own practice certainly crosses similar territory by serving as a sort of memory repository. The artist uses old tapes to create portraits, sculptures, and other installations. His "magnetic tape on photocopy" pieces (such as Als würde ein Engel kommen (Cure), 2007) force a juxtaposition between two forms known for rendering low-fidelity or "lossy" copies, while creating a rupture, like a trickle of black blood, down the otherwise seamless faces of perished movie starlets and forgotten supermodels. For Schallplattensäule (2007), he built a tall stack of compression-molded vinyl records, a totem whose invisible icons are indistinguishable from the matter on which their aural likeness are encoded. Many of his works consist of cassette tapes, uncoiled and stretched out across canvas, with letters or shapes often cut out into negative space images seemingly volunteering for battle in a duel against "ancient" photography for the prize of best black and white image format. In Kassettenschallplatte (2003) Hildebrandt made the bold move of melting a cassette into the form of a vinyl record, and the result is a gloppy, rust-colored monument to the failure of media to cross-breed. Check out more of his work ...

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Weaving Shades of Binary Grey

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A number of artists have started using textiles and needlework to explore the relationship between computer culture and craft. Here on Rhizome, we've recently covered Ben Fino-Radin, Sabrina Gschwandtner, Cat Mazza, and Cody Trepte, among others employing "traditional media" in the service of a technological critique. Not to be left out of this group is Christy Matson, a Chicago-based artist who takes this investigation to even more self-reflexive heights. Matson's work may not look high tech, but it responds directly to media culture and is often made using a Jacquard Loom, a mechanical device that is important in the proto-history of computing. Many of the artist's projects involve building feedback loops between the sonic experiences of making and viewing her work. Recordings of the weaving process are algorithmically translated into binary yes/no, on/off, or true/false patterns and translated into images in the form of thread color choice, needle behavior, and other factors. The artist includes copper wires in these weavings to act as amplifiers or antennae for further sonic transmissions. See, for example, Movements, in which the viewer's hand is meant to rove as a sort of playhead on what is posited as a 4-channel audio installation. The same questions are raised in her work, Digital Synesthesia, which looks at similarities in the abilities (one might even say tendencies) of both the human brain and the computer to conflate sound and image. To her credit as a dedicated artist, these are issues Matson works to flesh out again and again, even exploiting the repetition of the line-by-line weaving process as an ironic take on the re-spinning of these narratives. When she explored synaesthesia in Soundw(e)ave (a piece whose title conveys her obvious love of word play), she wrote that "This transmutability ...

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Putting the I in Imaginary

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Reading Hayley Silverman's statements about her own work, it's evident that she recently attended a smartypants art school. Of her Free TV (2008) installation, in which a small mirror is angled into position on the floor and spray-painted with the eponymous phrase, she says "The mirror exemplifies the fallibility of showing the fixed image as a means of conveying self, and questions the immediate material construction of objects that frame what we perceive." Such Lacanian readings, and a consistent concern with critiquing the tropes of modernism, are peppered throughout the young artist's work which offers physical stand-ins for theories about the Symbolic and the Real. Seemingly left out of the infamous Lacanian triad, she invokes the concept of the Imaginary, but perhaps this is a triangulating force bequeathed by Silverman to her viewers. Her sculpture, The Everything is a Stonehenge-like assemblage using traditional stage prop materials (foam, wood frames, faux finishes) to offer a sort of pile-up of tombstones engraved with the names of digital file formats, operating systems, and programming languages. Theatrical appearances aside, Silverman says she intended to create something devoid of performativity, but rather--like its ancient representational forebears-- a structure that generates a monumentality seemingly predetermined by the eventual extinction of the systems it celebrates and the people who celebrate them. There is, in fact, a kind of sharply ironic morbidity in her work, which gives it a sort of human charm. In 11:11 (2008), Silverman (also a member of the net art group, Loshadka) seems to admit something that many contemporary internet artists working with readymade materials cannot. Pulling a found image (in this case, a tree whose trunk bears a knot resembling a human eye) from a phenomenologist's archive of found images, she says that the image "either amounts to ...

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Casting Shadows

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In Mexican-Canadian artist Rafael Lozano-Hemmer's practice, technologies all but synonymous with top-down monitoring and control (surveillance cameras, tracking systems, pattern-recognition software) transform into the base-units of interactive installations. "RECORDERS," the artist's current solo exhibition at The Edith Russ Site for Media Art, in Germany, emphasizes the individual and collective aspects of spectatorship, building an art-going public, in part, through archives of the visual and physical traces of past viewers. Close-up, for example, comprises a monitor divided into 800 small videos, which together respond to the physical presence of a spectator by mimicking the form of his or her shadow. These small videos are but fragments of a constantly updating reserve of 10,000 recordings, all of spectators who have previously viewed the work. For Pulse Room, Lozano-Hemmer has wired an array of 100 suspended lightbulbs to a metal handle. When a visitor grasps the handle, his or her pulse causes the first bulb in the array to flicker in unison; the introduction of another visitor's pulse causes the first flicker to move to the next bulb, and so on. Eventually, all of the lightbulbs hold a record of a given visitor - a fact all the more poetic considering that Lozano-Hemmer's inspiration came from listening to the heartbeats of his twins during his wife's pregnancy. Pulse Room is but one of many variations of this project: Pulse Front graced Toronto's Harbourfront last June, and Madison Square Park, in New York City, will host Pulse Park this coming fall. As with the best of Lozano-Hemmer's work, this evocative and technologically sophisticated installation finds its unique footing at the intersection of art, location and community. - Tyler Coburn


Image: Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, Close-up, 2006

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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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01SJ Diary: Day 2

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Rubén Ortiz-Torres, High n' Low Rider, 2008

Day two of my San Jose experience began with a visit to MACLA to see High n' Low Rider by Rubén Ortiz-Torres, co-director of the 1995 film Frontierland. Using low rider-style hydraulics, Ortiz-Torres has customized a platform lift (normally used for high-level work on construction sites) so that it can not only be raised and lowered, but also unfolded, tilted, and spun like a pinwheel. Today, the High n' Low Rider merely sat still in the gallery space, but on Wednesday it came to life for the 01SJ opening night festivities, spinning wildly in the midst of a throng of people. I could only hope it wasn't a Decepticon.


From there, I continued on to Space 47, an independent project space that featured Floating Chronologies, a solo show by Jesus Aguilar. I last saw Aguilar's work at 01SJ in 2006, where he presented some promisingly clever pieces, including an instructional videotape that offered lessons in how to speak in binary language. For Floating Chronologies, the artist trawled the Internet to find other 'Jesus Aguilars.' Alan Berliner explored a similar line of inquiry in his 2001 film The Sweetest Sound, for which the director invited twelve other Alan Berliners from around the world to join him for dinner, but Aguilar approaches the concept in a different way. In this body of work, information about other people who share the artist's name is assimilated into a single hybrid character. We learn that this composite character earned a bronze medal at the 1980 Olympics, won the 1978 World Cup, earned a Ph.D. in philosophy, and shot a police officer in the leg. By combining these stray online facts under the umbrella of a single identity, Aguilar's piece creates a ...

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The Tomorrow People

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In his 1971 essay on post-Holocaust culture "In Bluebeard's Castle," George Steiner notes that in nineteenth-century Europe "an odd school of painting develops: pictures of London, Paris, or Berlin seen as colossal ruins, famous landmarks burnt, eviscerated, or located in weird emptiness among charred stumps and dead water." Comparing these visions to 20th century photographs of war-ravaged Warsaw and Dresden, he wonders "how strong a part of wish-fulfillment there was in these nineteenth-century intimations." Or self-criticism: Gustav Doré and Blanchard Jerrold's 1872 book London: A Pilgrimage depicts a dark metropolis teeming with the bodies of the poor, then ends with an eerily serene image of a future London, crumbling and overgrown like the remains of ancient Rome-- a urban memento mori. One recalls these European precedents while viewing the exhibit "AMERIKA: Back to the Future" at Postmasters Gallery in New York; the key to this tightly composed set of works lies in Jennifer and Kevin McCoy's Big Box (biosphere), a set of two miniature suburban landscapes. Each one depicts a typical American shopping mall, comprised of the facades of familiar chain stores and restaurants-- Chili's, Target, Bed Bath & Beyond, The Sports Authority and so on-- reconfigured into a circular structure that slowly rotates on a mechanical table (the exact order of the businesses taken directly from a specific mall in Nyack, New York). Tiny cameras feed live images to screens above, enlarging the scale models to strangely lifelike dimensions. In one part of the installation, the mall includes a mesh-wire dome at its center, overgrown with green moss and trees, with small plots of vegetables and flowers planted outside. In the other, the same structure, now hollow at its center, is burned and crumbling, surrounded by bloodstained human figures; letters have been torn off of logos ...

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Speaking in Code

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Codemanipulator is a Polish artist whose work revolves entirely around code and the pleasurable binary between the latter as text versus its ability to constitute an image. He makes "coded paintings," interactive installations, and data visualizations that address such topics as architecture, urban planning, and that public space we call the internet. While these themes coalesce around physical models, the work is intended to inquire about the impacts of seemingly immaterial code on creativity and social interaction. In a broader sense, this entails a consideration of the ways in which binary models of thought have further polarized or developed, following the emergence of network culture. For his show at Krakow's Foto-Medium-Art Gallery, entitled "I am code" (open May 9-June 20, 2008), Codemanipulator will present "CodePainting, CodePoetry, CodeMovies, CodeSculpture, CodeArchitecture...CodeEverything." That is, he takes the same sequence of code and explores how different machines and systems--from web browsers to video processors--interpret it differently, manifesting in a variety of forms. Judging from the gallery's photos of the exhibition's opening, the most popular manifestation was an installation of printed tiles resembling large-scale magnetic poetry. Despite the simplicity of these shingles laid out on a table, it was the ability to interact with and manipulate the code--physically and syntactically--that made it so popular. Take this as a reminder of the ongoing importance of playing language games. - Marisa Olson


Image Credit: Codemanipulator, Codemanipulator's Toybox, 2007

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