Rising From the Undead

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Jillian McDonald has noticed a zombie trend. Perhaps you've noticed it, too. Zombie walks, zombie novelty stores, and zombie-themed musical lyrics are popping up everywhere and the zombie film persists as the bone chiller par excellence. McDonald's work often deals with popular tropes and genre conventions, in film, and in this sense horror movies are ripe with opportunity for the analytically-inclined. Last weekend, in a project entitled Zombies in Condoland , the artist invited residents of Toronto (incidentally, the setting for director George Romero's latest film, Diary of a Zombie) to join the ranks of the proverbial undead. Working in collaboration with local arts project Nuit Blanche, McDonald established public film sets around town on which locals were invited to act the part in an effort to address the issue of gentrification. If the connection between scary characters and housing development is less than clear to you, consider a world in which you can run but not hide from the creeping threat of being swallowed-up and reprogrammed by a bland aesthetic of sameness and non-individuality. Sounds fun, right? Well, even if you missed last weekend's party, you can peruse McDonald's web-based instructions on how to look and act undead, scroll through her blog on all things zombiephile, or visit her previous horrifically hilarious projects. - Marisa Olson

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SSSSSSSWWWRRRRLLL (2008) - Petra Cortright

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SSSSSSSSSSSSWWWWRRRRRLLLLLL from petra on Vimeo.

More work by Petra Cortright

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Questions, Comments, Reactions?

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When the cinematic masterpiece Wayne's World was released in 1992, their tag line was, "You'll Laugh, You'll Cry...You'll Hurl!" Who among us couldn't say the same about the media blunders we've seen recently, in connection with the U.S. presidential elections? Brooklyn-based artistic duo MTAA dramatize this sort of overwhelming desire to emote in their newest project, Our Political Work, which they describe as Beckett-like. The "Waiting For Godot" playwright might well approve of their creation, which features 141 clips of the artists screaming, laughing, and yelling as they wait in vain for something to change. The clips are randomly strung together using generative software, not unlike the clips in their One Year Performance Video, thus locking them in a state of perpetual indignity. The longer one watches, though, the more they are called upon to consider the roles of the artists and the very nature of their "political work." Are they political agents or spectators? Are their blurts and indiscretions responses to the behavior of political actors, or are they themselves enacting politics? Take a look for yourself, online. The piece is hosted by Lisboa 20 Arte Contemporânea, whose LX 2.0 Project commissioned the work. - Marisa Olson

Image: MTAA, Our Political Work, 2008 (Screenshot)

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Structure over Style

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In recent years numerous exhibitions have been mounted on the subject of "art and music." The Chicago Museum of Art's 2007 show "Sympathy for the Devil: Art and Rock and Roll Since 1967" was an excellent example that explored the cultural and social crossovers between art and music and the stylistic effects they have had on each other. "Looking at Music," a current exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art (curated by Associate Curator of Media Arts Barbara London), also looks at these cultural synergies but illuminates them further by focusing on the structural and theoretical connections between not only music and art, but also writing, filmmaking and performance. By starting in the early 1960s, the show focuses on a time when the very nature of art was in flux, new forms of writing were emerging, new technologies were pushing the boundaries of moving image and sound recordings, and social attitudes about self expression and gender were radically changing the cultural landscape.

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Giving Props

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Since the first time I saw Planningtorock (alias Janine Rostron) perform her arch, musical exhumation of vaudeville and glam, I've craved an opportunity to get a closer look at the singer's collection of masks, helmets, futuro-medieval costuming and props -- like the fake bone she periodically nibbles during "I Wanna Bite Ya." Such performance ephemera rarely enters the realm of public exhibition, though can be as aesthetically significant as anything specifically conceived for the white cube. All of which makes "Sonic Voices, Rocking Hard," opening August 30th at Netherlands Media Art Institute, a particularly welcome affair. Co-curated by multidisciplinary artist Nathalie Bruys, the show comprises works by a group of practitioners, including Jonas Ohlsson and Heidi Happy, who also straddle the boundary of music and image-making. Beyond Planningtorock's contribution -- a prop and video installation -- Guy Bar Amotz will display sculptural mash-ups of speakers and keyboards, Annika Ström will show The Missed Concert (2005), a series of interviews with "fans" explaining their absence from a recent performance, and Norweigian artist Kim Hiorthøy will exhibit some of his exquisite, graphite drawings, building upon past works that found DJs, break-dancers and downright fanciful figures mingling in quintessentially Scandinavian settings. On the musical end of the spectrum, "Sonic Voices, Rocking Hard" boasts listening posts throughout the gallery space; Björk, CocoRosie and The Knife will contribute music videos; and a handful of the participants will perform during the Uitmarkt cultural weekend (including the bewitching Ms. Rostron). - Tyler Coburn


Image: Heidi Happy, du da, ich da (Music Video), 2007

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In the Mix

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Tonight at Exit Art in New York comes a bevy of performances as part of the space's current potpourri-style exhibit Summer Mixtape Volume 1: the Get Smart edition. Critic and artist Nick Stillman will present a slide lecture on "the best art today," accompanied by sounds from noisemakers Knyfe Hyts and artist Corey D'Augustine. But afterwards some mysterious darkly-glowing strangeness will emerge with "A Network of Love," an event by Donna Huanca (aka RUA MINX), the duo of Daniel Keller and Nik Kosmas, better known as AIDS-3D, and dancer Helga Wretman. Hard details are slim, but according to the trio's own statement, expect a futuristic post-apocalyptic scenario in which "the last children of Eve struggle to maintain their digital lifestyles" after "the old systems of power have collapsed." An earlier blurb from Huanca stated that the show may include such items as drum machines, videos, sewing machines, and animals. Exit Art curators promise us there will be lasers involved; we strongly suspect there may also be black lights and phosphorescent paint. What we do know for sure is that Rhizome's own Ceci Moss will be participating in the sonic aspects of the happening, nicely rounding out the inclusion of Rhizome team members Marisa Olson and Tyler Coburn in the exhibit itself. - Ed Halter


Image: AIDS-3D, Untitled, 2008

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Whartscape 2008

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By Gene McHugh

 

Scratch the surface of Baltimore, an American city best known for high homicide rates and crab cakes, and you might get a whiff of the schizo, silly perversion that camp auteur John Waters famously captured in celluloid. A case in point is the music festival Whartscape, the Wham City art collective's freak-power counterpoint to the city of Baltimore's annual crafts 'n corndogs festival, Artscape.

 

In this, the festival's third year of operation, Whartscape has adopted a wider angle lens, expanding the lineup to 77 bands, playing over 4 days and nights, in legally secured venues. This expansion of the festival can most likely be seen as a result of the "Baltimore's got a cool scene" meme that has spread as far into the mainstream as Rolling Stone Magazine who declared that, indeed, Baltimore does the have the "Best Scene" (of 2008, anyway). Given the hype, it might seem tempting to enter into this "scene" with a skeptical eye, however, this year's Whartscape still felt like a somewhat unexploited, cozy family affair.

 

 

Videohippos

 

To give an example of how things basically go down: Baltimore singer and performer Lizz King impromptu danced while donning a shabby tiger mask during the Creepers set; the Creepers are a Baltimore band featuring Adam Endres from the Baltimore band Blood Baby and Blood Baby also features Kevin O'Meara from the Baltimore band Videohippos; the other member of the Creepers is Connor Kizer who is in the Baltimore band Santa Dads with Joshua Kelberman who's the brother of Baltimore comic artist Dina Kelberman, who worked at a Baltimore movie theatre with Victoria from the Baltimore band Beach House and went to college with, respectively, Dan Deacon and the visual artist Jimmy Joe Roche.

 

 

Joshua Kelberman from Santa ...

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Auditory Autobiographies

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"When the power of love, overcomes the love of power, the world will know the peace." This prophecy by rock legend Jimi Hendrix could be the foreword to a manifesto on the use of music in the propagation of nationalism, but instead it's a point of inspiration for "The Sonic Self," an exhibition at the Chelsea Art Museum. Open through August 30, the show brings together a range of "participating artists from around the world with the main goal that their collaborative projects will bridge disparate audio-visual practices and expose their shared languages." In keeping with recent curatorial trends, "The Sonic Self" is part-exhibition and part-workshop, aiming to explore the relationship between sound and identity through installations, audio/visual performances, and participatory events in which collaborators work to innovate new devices for the creation of auditory autobiographies. While the relationship at stake seems most universally to be about "being heard," the selected artists are working with material ranging from live performances to field recordings to computer-generated sound to DJ samples. In the spirit of tracing "similarities and differences in the growing confluence of audio and visual experiences in contemporary complex and diverse global culture," the project will travel to St. Petersburg, Russia, and Chennai, India, following its New York debut. - Marisa Olson


Video: Philip Dadson and Don McGlashan in From Scratch's performance of "Drum/Sing."

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One-to-Many

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Composer, musician, and creative hacker Tristan Perich is a New York City phenom. Unsurprisingly descended from Warhol-era conceptual artist Anton Perich, the younger Perich has become a fixture in the local avant garde scene, bringing his own brand of circuit-bent instruments to the contemporary music sphere. His band, The Loud Objects, have made a very well-received international magic-show of their singular work, which involves soldering musical chips together atop an overhead projector--clad in futuristic sunglasses, no less! He released an album of music composed entirely of 1-bit tunes, "the lowest possible digital representation of audio," in which the cd itself contains a circuit completed by the insertion of headphones into a jack on the side of the jewel case, at which point forty minutes of lo-fi music is played for the listener. Part sculpture, part sound-art, the project is a novel (and nice-sounding) interjection into a recording era dominated by ephemeral, low-quality MP3s. This Wednesday, Perich will premiere a new composition at Brooklyn's Issue Project Room, called Untitled (Bernadette Mayer). The work revolves around a poem written in 1969 by the eponymous poet and is arranged for five voices and fifteen channels of 1-bit music, providing evidence that working in a supposedly low-level system can still yield high levels of creativity and aural complexity. Perich's piece will be played together with his older three-violin work, Rotary. Both compositions will be performed by a diverse and extraordinarily talented group of Perich's contemporaries, including Abby Fischer, Lesley Flanigan, Sarah Moulton, Daisy Press, Pamela Stein, Monica Davis, Yuri Namkung, and Jessica Pavone. Incidentally, it is also worth noting that Perich has pulled-in some serious girl power here, which bodes well for what can tend to be a male-dominated community. If you're in the area, you won't want to ...

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Time to TRIP Out

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Despite their long lineages, the fields of locative media and psychogeography have only recently entered the art world. Every year there are increasingly more festivals and exhibitions devoted to the work of a growing number of artists who identify with these terms, but there has yet to be a substantial enough response on the part of art critics, academic journals, and others whose engagement is needed to help flesh-out the art historical trajectory and even genre conventions associated with locative media. Now a Manchester-based program called "Territories Reimagined International Practices" (conveniently abbreviated "TRIP") seeks to bring together artists, academics, and arts professionals under the umbrella of a three-day event (June 19-21) designed to present the best work in the field and generate more discourse around it. The gathering will feature a full-fledged conference, along with citywide performances, exhibitions, and interventions. Interestingly, the organizers have made precise efforts to wrestle differences between the few existing narratives currently swirling around this work, such as the seemingly contradictory aimlessness of the "psychogeographic drift" and the tightly-honed artist intervention. Like many subsets of new media art, those with a stake in this field have the double-edged challenge of speaking to the pronounced, shared qualities of its practitioners and also their diversity, which is indicative of a thriving field. Visit their blog for more details on the evolving program and use it to start your own psychogeographic bibliography. - Marisa Olson


Jane Samuels, "3.15pm, School House. Torches off. Cold, bright, quiet." (From the Abandoned Buildings Project), 2007

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