photocopier, photocopies, light bulb, extension cord, drill, electronics, 2007
Does anyone know how many biennials there are in the world, now? There is a whole sub-field of biennial studies that looks at such issues as the economic impacts of the shows on their host cities and the artists' market values, or the relationship between Eastern biennials and Westernization. Of course, the latter question hinges on whether the show is called a "biennial" or a "biennale"... The truth is, there are now so many of these that it's easy to overlook them. Even the fledging field of electronic art has a few! But Sweden's Electrohype is a unique one, bringing ambitious installations to the beautiful Malmö Konsthall. Now in its fifth incarnation, the show draws large audiences but avoids the temptation to be a mega-show, instead opting to give serious space and consideration to good work by often more emerging artists. Electrohype 08 features ten international artists whose projects focus on "ongoing processes and time." These are Doug Back (CA), Ralf Baecker (DE), Serina Erfjord (NO), Kerstin Ergenzinger (DE), Jessica Field (CA), Voldemars Johansons (LV), Diane Morin (CA), Kristoffer Myskja (NO), Erik Olofsen (NL), and Bill Vorn (CA). While time and endurance are age-old themes in the modern art world, there's not a usual suspect in the bunch! Nonetheless, there is due notice paid to the histories and influences traced by the show. For instance, Doug Back's Sticks (1979) is showing aside Ralf Baecker's Rechnender Raum (Calculating Space) (2007). Despite a large difference in scale and nearly thirty years between them, both are kinetic sculptures fleshing out what it means to compute and how mechanics might be used to reflect upon human movement. Ironically, the big piece looks at micro-motions within the body and the smaller one looks at social interaction! Other interesting works include ...
Troika, whose shimmering flip-dot sculpture Cloud at the Heathrow Terminal 5 made them the darlings of a wide swath of art, design and architecture blogs earlier this year, will premiere a new commission this week during London's festival for the moving image onedotzero. Asked by the organizers to create a work that dually represents the festival's title and the theme "citystates", this London-based art and design studio produced a modern "digital zoetrope." Looks pretty dazzling from the mock-up above.
For "Monitor," at New York's Claire Oliver, Brooklyn-based artist Noah Fischer produces a refreshingly rough-hewn body of sculptures that reflect the variegated meaning of his titular product. The monitor here operates at the threshold of objecthood, given both that "we gaze into its pixilated illusion, never directly at its shape and mass" and because the pace of technological development and consumption finds each new screen soon devolving into "e-waste." Boxy, beige monitors congregate in the aptly titled sculpture, Trash Pile, and are shown discarded on sidewalks in some of the black-and-white print-outs comprising wall sculpture Map Installation. Fischer finds a resurgence of Modernist aesthetics in subsequent generations of product design, most notably in those of Apple's laptops and iPhone. With their Judd-esque manufacture and seemingly infinite functions, they market a "sublime promise" all but removed from their production history, as well as from the "global trash cycle." In general, Fischer's sculptures ably marry the tenants of display and the realities of consumption. The crudely painted, triangular shelving of Family Portrait and New Codes could be the unwashed brethren of Steinbach's, the former topped with two wood shells of the new Mac PowerBook. An actual, grandfatherly PowerBook 180 has carved out a seat from one of them, while the translucent screens of an adjacent coterie handheld units glow from beneath. Perfect Lantern makes the reference explicit, as a strip of recessed lighting fills a wood PowerBook's translucent screen, and thus economically stages the condition of immateriality that gives the monitor its unstable nature. - Tyler Coburn
Image: Noah Fischer, Family Portrait, 2008
Caleb Larsen's solo exhibition at Philadelphia's Esther Klein Gallery presents a series of conjectures, testing our assumptions, estimations, and in some cases naiveté with regard to digital information. His installation, Monument, constantly scans 4,500 English-language news feeds and drops yellow BBs on the floor each time it finds a report of a person dying. Over time, the tiny balls will pile-up and form a sort of monochromatic monument to the unknown dead. In a sense, it visually cashes-in on the death craze that often seems to grip the media. Many of his other pieces draw on appropriation and literary adaptation. Who's Life Is It Anyway? asks what it would mean to pilfer other people's Twitter pages for autobiographical lines of one's own (and here, the "auto-" seems tongue-in-cheek, if not ironic). In other works, Larsen has taken on the not-so-small feat of converting both Shakespeare's entire oeuvre and the Epic of Gilgamesh into new forms. In the former case, he's translated all of the text into a visual field of colored squares, while the latter is returned to orality when a computer is ordered to read the ancient epic aloud. Larsen's stated interest is one of using logic-based systems to explore the differences between digital and physical spaces. At times, the results are poetic and, at other times, he seems to be leading us to the discordant conclusion that the proposed affinities do not compute. - Marisa Olson
Image: Caleb Larsen, Monument (Detail), 2006
Familiar objects double, stretch and twist in "Manufacturing Flaws," Mexican-Japanese artist Hisae Ikenaga's current exhibition at Praxis, in New York. Large wall sculptures of a helicopter, plane, motorcycle and car, made with brightly colored carpet felt, hang on pins throughout the gallery space. Adopting a playful take on "the possible physical anomalies developed in mass-produced objects," Ikenaga has distorted each rendering: the helicopter sprouts two propellers, for instance; and, in a potentially sobering turn, an airplane sprouts twin heads. Unfortunately, small, paper collage replicas of these artworks, also included in the show, detract from the novelty and material charm of their big brothers. More interesting is Ikenaga's Aislados (Isolated) (2007), a three-dimensional island topography created within the pages of a Spanish telephone book. The book sits open on a pedestal, its right side holding the island elevation, and its left side the relief. The winner of the Generación 2008 prize, Aislados (Isolated) creates an interesting overlap between population and geography, in building an island out of a book of names, while also offering a funny amplification of the antisocial, labor-intensive process its creation entailed. A similar agenda informs Siamese Book, a hardcover copy of Gabriel García Márquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude that the artist has torqued at its binding and seamed, page-by-page, at its center. Books and solitude, it would seem, are excellent materials for self-reflexive art-making. - Tyler Coburn
Image: Hisae Ikenaga, Aislados (Isolated), 2007