In people, memory is the capacity to retain an impression of past experiences. In technology, memory refers to the parts of a digital computer that retain data for some interval of time. Computers now have the ability to save a lifetime of photographs, videos, audio and communications, changing the way that we reference personal memory. With this change, computers can archive and index memories in a way that we have never been able to do before. Computers have become machines for remembering. Using the most primitive form of digital storage, I have recorded all of the emails stored on my computer into thousands of punched cards. Each card contains fragments of communication layered one on top of another to form an analog representation of my collected digital communications. In the same way that information is stored on the computer, I have created indexes to reference the information. Each index is created by manually sifting through the information, word by word, creating unique directories of my personal communications.
When the independent curator, publisher, writer and art dealer Willoughby Sharp died this past December at the age of 72, the art world lost an iconic figure. Active internationally in the art world since the early 60s, Sharp's name is most often associated with his role as the publisher and co-founder (with Liza Bear) of Avalanche magazine (1970-1976) and for his curation of the seminal art exhibition Earth Art (1969). Avalanche has become something of a cult classic in the art world. Consisting mostly of idiosyncratic editorials by Sharp and Bear and interviews with figures such as Joseph Beuys, Yvonne Rainer, Bruce Nauman, Lawrence Weiner and Vito Acconci, Avalanche helped define the art of an era while also redefining the role of the art magazine. The editors viewed Avalanche as an open space for artists and art, and this vision dictated the overall direction of the magazine. Sharp's seminal Earth Art, held at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York in 1969, was the first major exhibition of land-based sculptural work, and it included artists such as Walter de Maria, Robert Smithson, Hans Haacke, Robert Morris, Richard Long and Dennis Oppenheim (among others). It has also become somewhat mythologized as the exhibition where the young Gordon Matta-Clark, who lived in Ithaca, was hired by Sharp as an assistant and, thus, met the vanguard of the international art scene for the first time.
However, it should be noted that Sharp, himself, was also a performance artist, video artist, satellite artist and computer artist. In fact, his work at the nexus of art and technology is one of the most passionate chapters in his career, but has largely gone unnoticed. The art historian Frank Popper (who met and befriended Sharp in 1968) has offered one of the few accounts of this work in his book From Technological to Virtual Art. According to Popper, the introduction of television to American culture in the late 1940's had a tremendous effect on Sharp. "Almost instantly after DuMont television sets began to dominate living rooms and lives in 1948, television took control of Sharp, and he was transformed from just watching "Uncle Miltie" to being him," writes Popper.
In 2003, Golan Levin and Zach Lieberman developed a project called Messa di Voce, which translates to "placing the voice." Oddly enough, it took almost six years for the Ars Electronica-awarded project to find a place in North America. Tonight at NYU's Frederick Loewe Theater, master vocalists Joan La Barbara and Jaap Blonk will be on hand to help demonstrate Levin and Lieberman's classic computer vision work. The project responds visually to vocal input, so that sound becomes an instrument for drawing and animation. The vocalist's guttural and glottal improvisations will generate a tension between speech acts and speechless performance that's not to be missed. It's the first of three live concerts presented this week by the Electronic Music Foundation, in a series called "The Human Voice in a New World." Each event highlights the richness and diverse uses to which this earliest of instruments can be put. On the 27th, British vocalist Trevor Wishart will appear at Judson Church with the NY premieres of Vocalise and Globalalia. The seminal works explore, respectively, the potential of the voice "when in a tight corner," and the universality of the human tongue. Globalalia processes the syllables of 26 different languages sampled from international radio and TV broadcasts to formulate a sort of vocal dance. And on the 28th, Berlin-based virtuoso David Moss will premiere the English version of his Voice Box Spectra. The Sydney Morning Herald has described the piece as "somewhere between scatting and scary. Think Jim Carey doing an impression of Ella Fitzgerald while being eaten by the creature from Alien 2." Exploring FTL ("faster than logic") communication, the work combines sound, text, and personal electronics in a grouping of new songs. All in all ...
The central work of Hans van Koolwijk, the Bambuso Sonoro, originates from the idea of a single performer operating a number of flutes simultaneously. The Bambuso is an unpolished sound sculpture that is used as a musical instrument, whereby the visual is closely related to the aural. Sounds can be seen, as it were. One wants to be physically present, preferably between the flutes, to see the performer sweat, to experience the effort needed to produce the sounds.
Texas group ArcAttack make music by manipulating electrical arcs generated by Tesla coils. In these two videos, they perform "Creepy Circus Song." The first video is live from a show at the Maker Fair last year.
Joseph Del Pesco is over caffeinated. from lee Walton on Vimeo.
Beth O'Brien is dancing to her alarm clock. from lee Walton on Vimeo.
Lee Walton's use of Facebook in his most recent video series continues his habit of publicly displaying what we often think of as private moments. The artist calls himself an "experientialist" and his performances, videos, and participatory projects often merge situationism and instruction-art to convey or slightly tweak the experience of everyday life. He's created elaborate instruction sets that determine the marks made in his seemingly abstract drawings representing activity on a sports field or at a major street intersection, and, on some occasions, the lists of instructions themselves have stood in for these drawings. Walton's commitment to playing by the rules in his art have borne humorous results in projects like his season-long online free throw competition with Shaquille O'Neill, or his compilation video of strangers on the streets of New York following his instructions to lift ever-dwindling payphone receivers off their hooks. The artist's Red Ball project helped pioneer net-based performance projects that rely on distributed decision-making networks--of which MTAA's Automatic for the People is a more recent example. But now Walton is taking his friends' Facebook status messages as instructions and acting them out in short videos posted to his Vimeo account and (of course) his Facebook profile. It seems safe to say that none of the subject lines were originally intended as instructions, but seeing Walton act-out statements such as Joseph Del Pesco is over caffeinated, Marcie McAfee Carrier is doing late night Yoga and is so happy and peaceful!!!, Beth O'Brien is dancing to her alarm clock, or Andy Diaz Hope is wielding a knife calls attention to the public/private line often ...
The 2008 works by British artist Tim Knowles and Swiss duo Pe Lang + Zimoun that are teamed up in Unpredictable Forms of Sound and Motion, curated by Steve Sacks at bitforms gallery, leave a bit less to chance than the title implies. The technology-driven pieces in the show take ideas originating in 60s and 70s land art, musical minimalism, and performance art, and situates them within constraints reminiscent of a scientific experiment. The result is that the works emerge as concrete entities, rather than as transient, site-specific or dematerialized experiences.
Today, the Berkeley Art Museum/ Pacific Film Archive, Berkeley Center for New Media, and Long Now Foundation will host what author Bruce Sterling calls a "Dead Media hootenanny." The Funeral for Analog TV will be a full day of revelry, capped-off by the kind of pseudo-event perhaps not seen by the Bay Area since Ant Farm's Media Burn. Attendees of the festive wake are encouraged to bring their analog TV sets to pile on an electronic heap which will simulate a snow crash at the end of the night. Though the US Congress recently extended the deadline by which all broadcasting television signals must legally be converted to digital HD, Sterling says the event is moving ahead as originally scheduled "because we prefer to bury a fresh corpse rather than wait for the walking dead to fall over." As the organizer of the Dead Media Project, Sterling knows a thing or two about the carcasses left behind as a result of technological upgrades. He joins a lineup of people that includes media historian Paul Saffo, artist collective Neighborhood Public Radio, and sound artist Author & Punisher in marking this rite of obsolescence. The organizers point out that it's only fitting that the funeral service be held in the Bay Area, given that the system for broadcasting and receiving TV signals was invented there. But if you can't make it to the West Coast to hear the eulogy, fear not. The event's penultimate "scattering of the ashes" will be an online rebroadcasting of the program. - Marisa Olson
Nathaniel Stern and Scott Kildall "Wikipedia Art" project, which was deleted by Wikipedia users soon after it went live, was intended as an artistic intervention in the open yet closely regulated space of Wikipedia. Considering the context, it is unsurprising that the project was so short-lived. In the artist's statement, Kildall and Stern claim that the work "MUST BE written about extensively both on- and off-line" and, indeed, it did generate ample debate. Check the Rhizome Discussion board for a conversation related to the function of truth on Wikipedia, as well as the discussion section for the Wikipedia Art entry itself, where users consider the place of an art project of this type within Wikipedia.
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Contained within the operating system of Mac computers is a rudimentary electronic psychotherapist program. Meant to simulate a Rogerian therapist, it engages the participant in a cyclical conversation by taking his or her statements and roughly reconfiguring them into questions. I met with this program three times a week for a month in order to discuss my fear that I was disappearing completely. These are three stills from our conversations.