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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When Sound Freezes Over

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The relationship between sound and image has long entertained comparative theorists and geeks in both literary and music circles. Of course, this relationship keeps evolving with new technologies, and couplings between audio and the visual continue to grow, particularly in the context of live performances. But how do these two dyads manifest themselves in still forms? This is the question raised by "Frozen," an exhibition organized by Norwegian artist and curator Marius Watz, who has led the field of generative art with his own work, his Generator.x blog, and events focused on the work of others. The show is up through July 26th at Amsterdam's Melkweg Mediaroom, Paradiso, in conjunction with the 5 days off MEDIA festival. Everything included in it is the result of an assignment, which seems in keeping with an exhibition that responds to generative practices and computer-programmed processes. Artists Andreas Nicolas Fischer & Benjamin Maus; Leander Herzo; Daniel Widrig & Shajay Booshan; and Marius Watz have created digital prints and "audio sculptures" that respond to audioworks by Freiband and Alexander Rishaug. The artists have used techniques such as rapid prototyping, CNC, and laser cutting to make objects that map and visualize sound, in "frozen" form. Of course, these works may purport to stop time--existing almost like a single frame in a film strip--but they are utterly-time based, with the concept of frozen motion entirely scripted by the concept of time, and a processing of the structural qualities (timbre, tempo, rhythm, etc) of sounds informing the logic and form of the ultimate objects. A nice Flickr set documents the results which demonstrate both the diversity of ways in which sound can be interpreted and the fact that beauty still lies in the ear of the beholder. - Marisa Olson


Image: Marius Watz, Sound memory (Oslo Rain Manifesto), 2008 ...

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Getting to Your Safe Space

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British artist Larisa Blazic has a background in architecture and an official graduate degree in hypermedia. For the last decade, she's been pursuing mergers of the two, using site-specific, interactive installations as a means of exploring space as a carrier of meaning. Her projects often employ audio and explore creative surveillance technologies to think-through and beyond the traditional ways in which so-called public art interventions communicate to the general public. In conjunction with the 2008 London Festival of Architecture (from July 14-20), she'll create an installation at the Novas Contemporary Urban Centre called In This Place of Safety. Blazic's argument is that we no longer rely solely on the basic needs of food, shelter, and emotional validation to feel safe, but that there is now a new environment for safety which can be observed in the structure of our surroundings. The project "uses a building as a projection screen to explore intersections between temporary video interventions, architecture, and art." In this case, the video will screen images of deserted public playgrounds overlaid with audio recordings of children discussing and defining personal safety. By activating the hot button issue of safety within this particular public format, Blazic hopes to initiate a correspondence between the content of the video and the context of the large, staid Southwark building facade onto which the images are cast. - Marisa Olson


Image: Larisa Blazic, In This Place of Safety (Video Still), 2008

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Rhizome 2009 Commissions: Announced!

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Image: Angelos Plessas, Still from 'ElectricityComesFromAnother Planet.com' Proposal

We are pleased to announce the international group of artists who will receive grants through the Rhizome Commissions Program, this year.


Their projects will culminate in a variety of forms, from performance, to sound, to interactive websites and installation, to works that manifest across multiple disciplines. Each one pushes forward the field of contemporary art engaged with technology. All works will be completed by Summer 2009 or earlier, with information available on Rhizome.


The next call for commissions will take place in January 2009. Commissioned artists receive a grant and are invited to present their work at Rhizome's affiliate, the New Museum of Contemporary Art.


Marfa Webring, Jona Bechtolt, Claire Evans, Aaron "Flint" Jamison
In Marfa Webring, the artists Claire Evans, Jona Bechtolt and Aaron "Flint" Jamison will attempt to alter the Google search results for the town of Marfa, TX by creating a Webring and, then, (with the cooperation of the town's permanent residents) investigating the results of this action on the daily life of the town.


Case, Brody Condon
Brody Condon will re-create William Gibson's cyberpunk classic Neuromancer at a red barn theatre in rural Missouri with a local, former political activist in the role of the protagonist.


Untitled (Plate Tectonics), Andy Graydon
Andy Graydon explores sound as a building material. The project begins with field recordings taken at New York City arts institutions and manifests as phonograph records and a website where visitors are encouraged to add their own ambient recordings of installation and performance spaces.


Versionhood, Kristin Lucas
The artist Kristin Lucas recently changed her legal name from Kristin Sue Lucas to Kristin Sue Lucas and, thus, in her words, created "the most current version of Kristin Sue Lucas." In Versionhood, Lucas will consult ...

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Weaving Shades of Binary Grey

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A number of artists have started using textiles and needlework to explore the relationship between computer culture and craft. Here on Rhizome, we've recently covered Ben Fino-Radin, Sabrina Gschwandtner, Cat Mazza, and Cody Trepte, among others employing "traditional media" in the service of a technological critique. Not to be left out of this group is Christy Matson, a Chicago-based artist who takes this investigation to even more self-reflexive heights. Matson's work may not look high tech, but it responds directly to media culture and is often made using a Jacquard Loom, a mechanical device that is important in the proto-history of computing. Many of the artist's projects involve building feedback loops between the sonic experiences of making and viewing her work. Recordings of the weaving process are algorithmically translated into binary yes/no, on/off, or true/false patterns and translated into images in the form of thread color choice, needle behavior, and other factors. The artist includes copper wires in these weavings to act as amplifiers or antennae for further sonic transmissions. See, for example, Movements, in which the viewer's hand is meant to rove as a sort of playhead on what is posited as a 4-channel audio installation. The same questions are raised in her work, Digital Synesthesia, which looks at similarities in the abilities (one might even say tendencies) of both the human brain and the computer to conflate sound and image. To her credit as a dedicated artist, these are issues Matson works to flesh out again and again, even exploiting the repetition of the line-by-line weaving process as an ironic take on the re-spinning of these narratives. When she explored synaesthesia in Soundw(e)ave (a piece whose title conveys her obvious love of word play), she wrote that "This transmutability ...

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Radio Activity

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You may have read about free103point9 here, before. At Rhizome, we maintain a high esteem for this pioneering organization serving the field of "transmission arts," and we've fortunately been able to collaborate with them on projects in the past. In many ways, our missions overlap, as our organizations grew out of a desire to support emergent and often immaterial practices. Free103point9's founders situate their vision of the field in an evolutionary framework, looking at how broadcasting and transmission grew out of shared trajectories with net art, video art, mail art, and other creative forms of distributed communication. The organization frequently teams up with other institutions to take this message on the road and increase exposure for the work of transmission artists. Their newest collaborative project is both a show and a recording, co-presented by the Museu d'Art Contemporani de Barcelona, in their Radio Web program (RWM). This curatorial initiative "is a radio-phonic project from the MACBA's website that explores the possibilities of the internet and radio as spaces of synthesis and exhibition." This self-reflexive approach to presentation is also inherent in the free103point9 show, entitled "Radio Action III," which takes up "radio" as both its theme and its delivery vehicle. Fifteen artists collaborate to present five-minute tracks inspired by this important device, and a bit of surfing of the artists' profiles on free103point9 will assure you of their diversity, ranging from site-specific sound manipulation to interventionist broadcasts. The recordings are the newest CD to be released in free103point9's Dispatch series and the album will premiere at an event at the New Museum of Contemporary Art on August 7th. Meanwhile, it will be streaming online at RWM from June 18 - August 30. Be sure to tune-in. - Marisa Olson


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Tools of the Trade: Nick Hasty, The EM Brace

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In this new series, Rhizome invites artists to explain the nuts and bolts of their work. Our first contribution comes from recent ITP graduate and Rhizome's dynamo former Technology Assistant Nick Hasty. Here, Hasty describes his project The EM Brace.


The EM Brace is a wearable device for physically engaging with electromagnetic radiation emitted by the consumer and communication technologies that constantly permeate our bodies. The device attunes the body to the presence of electromagnetic frequencies through amplifying these frequencies and turning them into powerful sound waves that vibrate the wearer.


The EM Brace consists of a metallic enclosure that is worn on the back (fig a) attached to a pair of antenna gloves that fit on the hands (fig b).





Extending from the metallic enclosure are four flexible metal arms which wrap around the ribcage. The enclosure and arms are secured to the body via four straps that connect at the chest (fig c) through a four point harness. Putting on and using the EM Brace has been described as a mix of being strapped into a roller-coaster, scuba diving, and getting a massage.




Since the majority of our interactions with electronic objects involve the use of the hands, the antennas that pick up ambient EM frequencies have been embedded within a pair of gloves. These antennas consist of four inductive coil antennas, specifically telephone pickup coils. When the antennas enter an electromagnetic field, an inductive voltage signal is created within the coil. The frequency of this signal is the same frequency as the electromagnetic field in which it's produced, so the antennas' signal directly corresponds to the electromagnetic frequencies of nearby electronic devices.


The signal created within the coil is then sent from the antennas into a preamplifier circuit located within the metallic enclosure (fig d ...

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Stereo Effect

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Christian Marclay, Stereo Volume, 1989

"Stereo," Christian Marclay's first solo exhibition at San Francisco's Fraenkel Gallery, surveys "concepts of doubling and echoes" across the American artist's career. Since the mid-1970s, Marclay has uniquely navigated the visual and sonic realms, exploring the materiality of equipment like the gramophone, turntables and record through processes that foreground what the artist calls the "unwanted sounds" of the mediums: the clicks, pops, scratches and deterioration that hold "expressive power" in themselves. In the past decade, Marclay has extended his position as cultural archivist with acclaimed installations like Video Quartet (2001) and Crossfire (2007), respectively comprising sequences of musical performance and gunshots assembled from dozens of feature-films.



Christian Marclay, Untitled, 1984

Consisting of twenty-five works -- the majority of them two-dimensional -- "Stereo" offers a timely retrospective of a side of Marclay's practice not always given due attention relative to his video and audio-based work. For Yin and Yang (1983), from his Recycled Records (1980-1986) series, Marclay cuts and reassembles two records according to the yin-yang design, rendering an unplayable product that also signifies turntable culture's collage ethos. This approach can also be observed in paper works like Untitled (1984) and Double Tuba (1992), both of which find the artist producing fanciful modifications to instruments and equipment through paper collage. Seen within the broader scope of Marclay's body of work, these objects offer examples of how visual art can provide conceptual space to reimagine sound and sound technology. -- Tyler Coburn


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See Me, Hear Me: A/V Circa 2008

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American Music Center recently published a new issue of their web journal NewMusicBox, titled "See Me, Hear Me: A/V Circa 2008," which attempts to take stock of current audio/visual practice. Towards this end, the issue features four lengthy interviews with the A/V artists Scott Arford, Betsey Biggs, R. Luke DuBois, and the duo LoVid (Tali Hinkis and Kyle Lapidus). While the editors admit the difficulty in establishing an overarching conclusion given the diversity of the practitioners interviewed, they do underscore the increasing presence and significance of "musical art" following the democratization of technology and tools. - Ceci Moss

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All the World's a Datastream

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The Rencontres Internationales is an international festival now enjoying its 15th edition, in Madrid. But you don't have to fly to Spain to surf through its compelling exhibition, "Data Meanings." (Installed at Complejo El Aguila through May 14th.) While the RI's programs do boast a roster of over 150 respected artists and arts professionals, the festival is distinct in that it is less driven by the art market and more driven to critique practices (creative and professional) within the contemporary arts community. In particular, this year's events are designed to explore the relationship between "new cinema and contemporary art" and, unsurprisingly, new media is at the center of the debate. "Data Meanings" thus chimes in as an intellectually rigorous show presenting nine artists engaging with data sets of various sorts. Mindaugas Gapsevicius's Bookshelf (2006) places computer monitors on shelves as their screens flash text that visualizes network traffic. Shown adjacent to shelves containing real books, the installation questions the status of reading, the narrativity of protocol and data streams, the relative invisibility of data, the permanence of print versus the impermanence of digital archives, and the role of the human memory in retaining this information. Christophe Bruno describes his Dadameter (2002-2008) as "a satire about the recent transmutation of language into a global market ruled by Google et al." He's essentially created an elaborate system for analyzing text surveyed by Google and mapping its linguistic similarities to Dada forms; particularly the writings of Raymond Roussel. Dada geeks will appreciate the irony of conflating these rule-based systems. On an even more playful note, JODI's Composite Club (2007) exploits the point of view of "cameras" in Playstation games by triggering them with prerecorded videoclips while Ubermorgan's The Sound of Ebay (a 2008 Rhizome Commission) uses ...

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