Yes, No, Maybe So

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New York-based artists MRiver and TWhid (together, they are MTAA) began their collaboration as painters, but quickly moved into the world of new media. They were among the earliest internet artists and are at the forefront of a small handful who are still in practice from that first generation. Their work continues to push the boundaries of the genre, but is consistently informed by the history of conceptual art and performance. They very often contemplate the notion of "translation" between natural and computer languages, and in the form of "updating" works (their own or others') from the platform of one media epoch to another. While their newest piece, YES & NO (2008), grows very clearly out of this trajectory, it is refreshingly different. Like their One Year Performance Video (2004) and Karaoke DeathMatch 100 (2007), it uses software to string together pre-existing video clips of the two artists, but in a seemingly more random way than before. Always fans of language games, MTAA took turns taking sides in the binary of YES vs NO. They each recorded themselves saying these respective words sixty times and the computer randomly selects the order of each clip, so that the artists can disagree with each other in a myriad of chance combinations. Despite the randomness of these face-offs, they read as intentional, and like any good montage, meaning seems to emerge organically from the juxtaposition of the discrete units. The two-channel work looks quite a bit like the duo's Infinite Smile (2005), while perhaps illustrating that a sense of humor and the occasional agreement to disagree are the cornerstones to any happy artistic relationship. - Marisa Olson

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Straight-Faced Art

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Opening this weekend at San Francisco art space, The Lab, is the third and final installment of an international exhibition informed by a comedy genre known as "deadpan." Named "Deadpan Exchange", the project refers to communicative moments in which a statement is delivered with a straight face and the listener must determine whether it is funny or tragic. It is a model which gives the audience power to react and move in their own direction, and in this case it serves as a nice simile for the form of collaboration among the participants. The first two installments of the show were in Berlin and Copenhagen, and in each iteration a group of artists brought their work abroad, made their "statements" and then a subsequent group responded in the next show. Pieces have included a PowerPoint video by co-organizer Jonn Herschend, entitled, The Exact Chain of Events; Kara Hearn's video, 7 reincarnations, in which the artist "re-shot scenes from 7 Hollywood films in her apartment;" and video and installation projects by several artists that question the fidelity of language in storytelling and translation. This final chapter includes work by the Danish Koh-i-noor collective and the show opens with audio/visual performances by Joe McKay, Matthew Hughes Boyko, and the aggressive mimes of Team Lexington. "Deadpan Exchange" is intended to "begin a dialog that might not otherwise take place outside of formal institutions," and like all deadpans, it requires audience participation. - Marisa Olson

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Topsy Turvy Tales

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Kate Gilmore's work defies the American expression "Never let them see you sweat." Instead, she puts struggle at center stage in her performance-based video works. Masquerading as hyperfeminine in heels, frilly dresses, and copious makeup, the New York-based artist (currently living in Italy as the recipient of a Rome Prize) constructs and faces off against elaborate obstacles, ultimately making a statement about the struggles faced by women. Interestingly, however, Gilmore has made her own bed, in each of these scenarios--but refuse to lay in them. Instead, she displays equal parts strength and humility as she attempts to ascend the mountains of junk she builds, or to navigate the otherwise precarious, emotionally-marked spaces of her own design. Gilmore will be showing recent and new works in two upcoming solo shows, both opening January 31st, at San Antonio's Artpace and Madrid's Maisterra Valbuena, respectively. In each of these works, the artist continues to flesh-out questions about the relationship between fame, talent, and emotional satisfaction. In 2005 she kept her chin up in With Open Arms, a video in which a dolled-up Gilmore bowed graciously to a tomato-throwing audience. In the more recent Baby, Belong to Me (2006/07), we see the artist's foot, wrapped in a ballerina slipper and suspended by a noose which one of her hands works to untie. In the background are stenciled hearts, bleeding paint at their nadirs. The addition of a song from the musical Fame creates a narrative about an emerging artist struggling to reconcile the desire for love and success. Like so many of her works, this piece is a perfectly concise visual representation of what it means to feel upside-down in this topsy turvy world. - Marisa Olson

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Past to Present

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In 2000, electronic musician Kim Cascone proclaimed the emergence of a discernable "post-digital" genre, using the example of 'glitch music,' through which artists crafted "deconstructive audio and visual techniques" to test the limits and possibilities of their software. Cascone points to this tendency as the harbinger of a conceptual shift in art practice, in which "...the medium is no longer the message...specific tools themselves have become the message". Over the past few years, "post-digital" disassembly has run parallel to a more widespread interest in dismantling and refiguring analog technologies. Many of the artists selected for this year's Netmage, an international electronic arts festival held in the castle Palazzo Re Enzo in Bologna, Italy, reflect this direction. The live audio and visual performances slated for the three-day event, which kicked off yesterday, demonstrate a variety of methods by which artists work with and through analog hardware. TONEWHEELS, by sound artist Derek Holzer and media artist Sara Kolster, is inspired by the peculiar electronic music contraptions of the early 20th Century. Revolving see-through tonewheels form the locus of the performance, whose unwieldy movement across the lens of an overhead projector activates sound and visuals through light sensitive circuitry. The open exposure of the technology used in TONEWHEELS demystifies its inter-workings, revealing how rudimentary most systems are. Media artist Luka Dekleva, sound artist Miha Ciglar and musician Luka Princic draw on analog video feedback techniques in FeedForward Cinema, a project in which the trio perform distortion generated by a feedback loop between two video devices. Similarly, audio/visual group Demons (Nate Young, Steve Kenney, Alivia Zilich) produce stark, mind-bending analog video feedback alongside bleak, resonating soundscapes eminating from damaged vintage synthesizers. The overall jarring effect recalls 1960s psychedelia, yet is stripped of its joyful exuberance and deeply cognizant of the anger ...

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Panoply, Please

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Panoplie.org is a French "web magazine" which, true to its name displays a great diversity of projects. The site is run by a collective of artists and "aims to be a platform for exchange between artists and Net surfers." The group highlights emergent, risk-taking practices while also collaborating with art institutions and galleries to broaden the horizons of "traditional art" discourse reflected on the site and, in turn, presented in these spaces. Panoplie is particularly interested in internet-based work and has recently been commissioning online performances that challenge the artists and push the medium. The organizers kindly leave the question of archiving webstreams of live works to the artists, in an effort to free them up and give them permission to fail, but recent works by MTAA, Igor Stromajer, and Anne Laforet are all preserved online. Up next is Helen Varley Jamieson's piece, "a gesture through the flames." On Monday January 28 at 8pm (Paris local time), the Australian writer, theater practitioner, and digital artist will begin broadcasting a performance that "will touch on the impossibility of having a frank conversation about loneliness with the dead." That sounds challenging, indeed! The piece is the last installment in Breaking Solitude, a project of artist and Panoplie co-organizer Annie Abrahams. - Marisa Olson




Image: MTAA, Still from web performance "Frank (Again)", 2008

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Make Way on the Dance Floor

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San Francisco is a city with a rich legacy of blending live performance and experiments with technology. For the last eight years, the Women on the Way festival has been a part of that tradition. Organized by the aptly-named Footloose organization, whose emphasis is on emerging and established women artists, the festival celebrates dance as a form of collaborative expression within a community and has adventurously embraced new media as a component of these expressions. The WOW festival is an annual highlight of those efforts, and this year it will bring to San Francisco an ensemble of talented artists. Throughout the month of January, sound artist Sean Clute and choreographer Pauline Jennings's dance company, Double Vision, is presenting two interactive performances, "Cycle" and "Three Canons and Mise en Scenes". On January 18, Laetitia Sonami and Les Stuck will present an intermedia performance entitled The Appearance of Silence, (The Invention of Perspective). Stuck is a sound and video artist who has collaborated with a number of notable performers and Sonami is a multi-talented composer, dancer, choreographer, and installation artist. Their project refers to the ways in which perspectivalism, as an invented way of seeing, is thrown off by new technologies that arguably flatten our depth of field. The piece will use the body's relation to a series of abstract sounds to tell the story of fidelity in vision and music. At center stage will be Sonami's famous "lady glove," a midi-studded black lycra glove whose sensors respond to movement with sound, creating a dynamic push/pull relationship between the dancer and her score. Video and sound excerpts on Sonami's website chart the evolution of these experiments in her work. - Marisa Olson

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Continuing Education for Dead Adults

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The next program in Rhizome's New Silent Series at the New Museum, Continuing Education for Dead Adults presents three multi-media performances that riff off youth pop culture and its long-term consequences. East Coast collective Paper Rad premieres new videos, including Problem Solvers (20 min, 2008) and a short entitled crank dat spongebob batman dropdead robocop (3 min, 2008) which, in the group's words, is a "3-minute terror-ride through the online world of youtube show-offs." New York artist Ben Coonley presents a new performance entitled Kindred Spirits is the Working Title, (15 min, 2008) and Providence-based experimental band Wizardzz (featuring members of Lightning Bolt) will perform in front of a mesmeric animated tapestry. Tickets available here.

Friday, Jan. 11, 7:00 PM
the New Museum, New York, NY
$8 general public, $6 Members (Rhizome and New Museum)

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