Performance Anxiety

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Ryan Trecartin and Lizzie Fitch, The Abboutthing (in the air), 2009 (Image Courtesy of Elizabeth Dee)

Few things are farther from the cool white walls of Chelsea than the anxieties and values of teenage suburbia, which is probably why Ryan Trecartin’s videos about them, untranslated into the art world’s dominant dialect of aloof criticality, looked so exotic and aroused so much excitement when he made his gallery debut here a year and a half ago. Trecartin’s work grows out of YouTube rants, Myspace intros, and other random homemade shorts , and while grotesque histrionics set his videos apart from the average upload, he keeps them close to their sources of inspiration by addressing issues of popularity, independence, and social approval, and shooting them in spacious beige interiors that approximate the bedroom of the regular webcam-wielding kid. Lizzie Fitch, who has collaborated with Trecartin on his videos as an actress and set designer, makes installations based on the same bland domestic environment, using furniture and appliances from big-box stores. Trecartin and Fitch’s current video-free exhibition at Elizabeth Dee, the first time they’ve had a double billing at the New York gallery, lies closer to Fitch’s territory than Trecartin’s, and the calculated result doesn’t indicate a promising direction for either artist to take.

Trecartin and Fitch use the gallery’s two rooms to simulate the interior and exterior of a suburban home, but they’ve switched the order of the front and back so that the viewer becomes an intruder, passing through the backyard before entering the living room. The first installation, The Aboutthing (in the air), suggests a good time that ended in disaster. Rubbermaid boxes bobbing in an above-ground pool-- a lowbrow luxury, not as fancy as an inground pool -- contain the residue ...

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The Cybernetic Pioneer of Video Art: Nam June Paik

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In the 1960s and 1970s, Nam June Paik, and many of his pioneering video artist colleagues and Fluxus collaborators took the visionary work of Wiener, the electric prophesies of McLuhan and Gregory Bateson and the utopic designs of Buckminster Fuller and concurred that the new video medium would usher in a social utopia that would extend far beyond the spheres of the 1970s experimental art world. For these early media artists, the feedback loops, live circuits, and video flows, coupled with the electronic image’s immediate and physiological stimulations, when used in distinction to commercial models, posited potent possibilities for cybernetic consciousness, ecological human-machine systems, and an end to top-down power relations. In short, the rise of an egalitarian, democratic society through electronic media. In order to fully appreciate Paik’s work, we must remember this historical context. A solo show is now on view at the James Cohan Gallery in Chelsea, "Nam June Paik: Live Feed: 1972 -1994." The show features several of Paik’s older and more recent video installations, all of which reflect his cybernetic ambitions for video technology.

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Click Through This

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Image: Becket Bowes, Alan Turing, 2009

Hypertext fiction was proclaimed at its inception as the literary genre of the future, but now it already feels like a relic of the past. Ironically, nineteen years after a software company published the first hypertext story, Michael Joyce’s Afternoon, fast internet connections and popular reference sites have made habits of fragmentary, non-linear reading common enough to prepare a wide audience for tackling hypertext fiction (who clicked on the link above before finishing this sentence?), but hardly any artists and writers are making serious attempts at it. Becket Bowes is one exception. His project [sic]ipedia, conceived for and developed during SculptureCenter’s "In Practice” program, takes the form of an evocative description of an arcane curio cabinet, with backstories of the items it contains.

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Image: Becket Bowes, Social Isolate Club, 2009 (Installation View at SculptureCenter)

Bowes’ installation in the back of SculptureCenter’s basement was composed of those items—two Ships of Theseus, a Comfortable Chair, a simulation of Alan Turing’s death mask and a model of his bust spinning on a computer monitor, to name a few. [sic]ipedia began as a simple site, with a gray sphere and blank prompt in a stripped-down variation on Wikipedia’s home page. But over the course of the “In Practice” exhibition’s run at SculptureCenter, Bowes gathered his friends—members of the Social Isolate Club, or SIC—inside his installation, to talk out the histories and significance of the objects there. At each meeting, Bowes would take notes in composition books, and then convert the notes into pages on [sic]ipedia. Taken together, [sic]ipedia (the web site) and Social Isolate Club (the installation) suggested parallels between reading hypertext and viewing an installation: both give the viewer a degree of autonomy in ...

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Christian Jankowski Talk Wednesday at the New School

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Image: Christian Jankowski, Living Sculptures, Dali Woman, 2006-07 (Bronze, 86.61 x 35.43 x 31.5 inches (Photo: Seong Kwon, courtesy of Public Art Fund)

This coming Wednesday at The New School, German artist Christian Jankowski will give a talk on his career and work at 6:30pm in the Tishman Auditorium. (Students get in for free, so be sure to bring your student IDs!) Jankowski works in a variety of media, including video, installation, photography, performance, and sculpture, often engaging aspects of his personal life as his subject matter. In 1997, for a piece called Let's get physical/digital, Jankowski and his girlfriend Una, he in Stockholm and she in Milan, set up a chat room on the web where they met daily. These instant-message exchanges were then translated into German and Swedish, and given to seven pairs of actors, who played out the two roles in a series of vignettes that were videotaped, subtitled in English, and broadcast on the Web. Exhibiting the playful humor more typical of Jankowski’s pieces is Telemistica (1999), created for the 1999 Venice Biennale and now on view in the exhibition Broadcast at Pratt Manhattan Gallery. For this piece, the artist phoned Italian psychics on their live television shows and asked them questions about his artwork, such as how it would fare at the Biennale. Jankowski's stilted and awkward conversations with psychics in his non-native Italian jokingly mock artistic inspiration and success. Jankowski’s work is also currently on view at the Doris C. Freedman Plaza in Central Park, where a trio of life-sized, bronze figures, titled Living Sculptures: Caesar, Dali Woman, El Che are positioned just outside the Park’s entrance. The figures are modeled after three professional street performers the artist observed in Barcelona presenting themselves as ...

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untitled (bench) (2001) - Jeremy Boyle

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cast concrete bench, subwoofer, amplifier, CD player and recording

This piece consists of a concrete bench cast hollow, with its internal cavity serving as a sealed sub-woofer speaker enclosure. A recording of nearly sub-audible sound is played through this bench and is not experienced until someone is seated and feels the vibrations of the sound. The bench is designed to be typical of a public concrete bench, the only difference being its shape of a cube meant for one rather than rectangular for the possibility of multiple simultaneous users. This creates a situation where the user necessarily has a private experience with the piece, placing a shift in the function of the public bench and allowing for a private experience to take place within a public setting (without removing the person from their public position and function.)

-- FROM THE ARTIST'S STATEMENT

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Good Vibrations (2008) - Damien Roach

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Subwoofer and mp3 player.

The Beach Boys song "Good Vibrations" lowered in pitch to below the human audible range.

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Call for Applications: free103point9's 2009/2010 AIRtime Fellowships

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Apply for an AIRtime fellowship from free103point9! Fellows receive funding, resources and equipment to produce transmission-based artworks. Deadline is July 1, 2009. Read more below:

The AIRtime program provides artists (individuals and/or collectives) with valuable assistance with which to concentrate on new transmission works and conduct research about the genre using free103point9's resource library and equipment holdings. AIRtime Fellowships are awarded to approximately three artists each year. Fellows present their work in conjunction with WGXC, in Greene and Columbia Counties, and our city-based programs at the Ontological Theater at St. Mark's Church in Manhattan. Fellows receive an honorarium, and technical and administrative support from free103point9 staff. Participating artists are encouraged to archive recordings and other digital media with the free103point9 Transmission Art Archive project.

free103point9 defines “Transmission Arts” as a conceptual umbrella that unites a community of artists and audiences interested in transmission ideas and tools. This genre encompasses a diversity of practices and media working with the idea of transmission or the physical properties of the electromagnetic spectrum. Transmission art is generally a participatory live-art or time-based art, and often manifests as radio art, video art, light sculpture, installation, and performance.

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Donor Plaque Project (2009/In Progress) - Caleb Larsen

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I am working on a new project where I am taking donations to make a brass donor plaque with the names of those who contributed. The more you donate, the larger you name will be, scaled to the largest donation. So if you give $20 and that is the highest donation so far, your name will be the largest. If someone donates more that your donation, your name will get a little bit smaller. Please consider contributing. This piece will be shown in my Thesis exhibition in May, the more participation there is, the better it will be. All of the money received will go directly into making the work.

-- FROM THE ARTIST'S WEBSITE

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On Sale!

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Video: "Forms of Melancholy" Video Tour

What would Marx make of the internet? The man who envisioned future communists hunting and fishing by day and writing criticism by night would probably appreciate blogs, but think less of groceries on demand. Marx also believed that alienation stems from the worker's lack of control over the distribution and use of his product -- a theory that informs the exhibition "Forms of Melancholy," organized by Chris Coy at Sego Arts Center in Provo, Utah. Coy had about thirty of his artist friends submit designs to Café Press, the online store selling over 150 million user-generated goods. The full catalog of "Forms of Melancholy" can be viewed on a Café Press site. Coy said he wanted to show all of those products at Sego, but the order would have run over the show’s budget. His edited display can be seen in a deadpan YouTube gallery tour. It looks like a souvenir store, full of the sort of useful trinkets that, in advanced capitalist economies, function as vehicles for announcing social affiliations -- the mug with the insignia of the coffee drinker’s alma mater, the T-shirt with a bald eagle proclaiming that the wearer is a proud American. But “Forms of Melancholy” tweaks these conventions. Jeff Baij’s black hoodie reads "I hate U Mom & dad & School & Town" in Gothic script, making the message implied by a surly teen’s wardrobe bluntly explicit. There are several mugs with vacation pictures of strangers, or pictures made strange. With so many everyday things, “Forms of Melancholy” almost looks more like a novelty store rather than a gallery show. When Eilis McDonald puts the "pinwheel of death" -- the spinning Mac icon that signifies a forced pause -- on crude, animated wristwatches, it’s a pure play of signs ...

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Getting the Big Picture

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Jon Kessler and Thomas Hirschhorn are both known for large-scale installations that convert gallery spaces into environments laden with political commentary and consumerist critique as well as high tech/low-tech dichotomies. Their recent exhibitions are typically overloaded spectacles that nevertheless serve as indictments of the proverbial society of the spectacle. Kessler’s Circus could be seen as an Iraq-era Disasters of War achieved via Calder’s Circus. An army tent is pitched in the center of Deitch’s Grand St. space, book-ended by metal shelving that holds army beds and a series of TV monitors. The action takes place on the floor under the tent, as a cluster of mechanized contraptions put a variety of GI Joe and Ken dolls in constant jeopardy. One doll is dragged bottomless in a circle on the floor; another rocks back and forth slowly, his hands bound in front of him, against a backdrop of the sky pasted on a revolving drum; a green-faced soldier is bent over backwards and slathered with an oil-like liquid; a headless figure in fatigues and an “army” t-shirt has blood on his hands; four soldiers are placed upside down, guns at the ready. As in many of Kessler’s other recent works, each scenario is outfitted (embedded, if you will) with a mini-cam, making each setup a live-action loop that is broadcast on its own monitor. There’s also a hole in the tent for a large white balloon floating near the ceiling in the center, whose camera provides a bird’s eye view of the entire scene.

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