kamau.org

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The website of Bay Area-based video and performance artist Kamau Amu Patton, whose work uses and often reassembles traditional African imagery and costume in order to explore the formation of modern mythology, African-American identity, and popular culture, is a new video in which one of Patton's characters ignites fireworks illuminating an alter-like pattern to the accompaniment of bells and a low frequency buzz. - Ceci Moss

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Voice Lessons

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What's in a voice? In these days of texting one's "vote" for their favorite singer on American Idol, the relationship between politics and using one's voice seem to have become estranged. Sure, the ability of siren's songs and golden throats to entertain us has an important cultural position, but the voice has also been used to convey oral histories, to negotiate terms, to speak for those who cannot, and even to lure, summon, and cast spells. Taking place all over New York City, the upcoming Creative Time program "Hey Hey Glossolalia" takes a closer look at (er... listen to?) the voice in a medley of programs as wide as Mariah Carey's vocal range. Interesting highlights include a conversation about truth and language between artist Rigo 23 and Black Panther Party member Robert King Wilkerson, who will discuss the "use of speech under pressure of complete isolation" during his 29 years spent in solitary confinement in Angola Prison. At Brooklyn's Pratt Institute, Chris Evans will orchestrate the first iteration in the United States of his Cop Talk project, in which art students meet with a police recruiter to consider a new career option. Carey Young will present a performance called Speechcraft, a subtle revision on a traditional Toastmasters meeting in which the assembled rhetors are asked to speak before an audience of 250 "about objects that Young finds artistically inspiring" and are subsequently "evaluated by fellow members in a cycle of inspiration, review, and reward." In a concert entitled "The Voice (After Mercedes McCambridge)," artists No Bra (Susanne Oberbeck), Genesis P-Orridge, Rammellzee, and Ian Svenonius will present performances inspired by the actress who dubbed the voice of a demonically-posessed character in the film The Exorcist. The pieces promise to "skirt the boundaries between information-giving and ...

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Recorded/Live

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Houston venue Aurora Picture Show's annual multimedia festival Media Archaeology kicks off tonight and will run through the weekend. Dubbed "Live and Televised," the diverse group of artists selected for this year's festival integrate pre-recorded audio or visual media into their live performances. For the opening event, legendary culture jammers Negativland will broadcast a religiously-themed radio show to a blindfolded audience. For a preview, click play below and close your eyes:



Animator Brent Green will also incorporate sound into his act, by accompanying his stop animations with his own live narration as well as an improvised score by a three-piece band. Shana Moulton will take the stage with an intricate and vibrant performance by her character Cynthia as she seeks out spiritual enlightenment and self-improvement. Finally, Tara Mateik will compete in a strenuous match against himself in his reenactment of the 1973 defeat of tennis player Bobby Riggs by Billie Jean King in the humorously titled "Putting The Balls Away." - Ceci Moss

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Disruptive Media

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Wisconsin-based media artist Sabine Gruffat is kicking up quite a storm at Deadtech with her current installation, 24 Hour Riot, running through Tuesday, April 15th - an impressive fact, given the Chicago gallery's reputation for boundary-pushing fare. Gruffat has outfitted the space with a responsive array of electronic noise machines and televised riot scenes, such that a viewer's movement randomly triggers disturbances in the video and soundtrack. The effect is one of total dislocation, as our arbitrary influence on these broadcasts generates a palpable awareness of the existing gaps between politics, mass-media, and spectatorship. On this level, 24 Hour Riot continues Gruffat's extensive look at the various, mobile units of the culture industry and provisionally asks the question of how the reality of our contemporary, mediatized lifestyle may actually provide a groundwork for new modes of political engagement. As with Head Lines: Hybrid Film Trilogy (2007), in which the artist ran New York Times articles through semi-automated, recombinatory processes to produce skittery, 16mm animations, 24 Hour Riot suggests that any program of change must first arise from a greater understanding of the normativized codes of information dispersal, and of the means by which said codes may be subverted, erased, or reassembled. - Tyler Coburn

Sabine Gruffat, 24 Hour Riot, 2008

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Baltimore Rising

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The Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) is home to a very interesting set of new media artists--both faculty and students--and exhibitions like "sight.sound [interaction] 2.0" are securing the space as a breeding ground for new ideas. An annual exhibition curated by Jason Sloan and open through March 14, the show brings together local and international artists whose work--much as the title implies--explores audio/visual interactivity. "sight.sound" doesn't aspire to a much tighter curatorial theme than that, but this allows viewers to create associations of their own, ranging from labor commentary to the aesthetics of experimentation. For instance, Nashville-based collaborators [Fladry+Jones] and DJ Black Noise meditate on collage theory, as it has shifted from the era of expressionist film to the present, by offering a 30-minute remix of Fritz Lang's film, Metropolis. The original film comments on the relationship between workers and the ruling class in an increasingly mechanized society, and the artists' remix offers a contemporary take on this evolving narrative. Baltimore-based artist Colin Ford conducts an experiment in color psychology, asking visitors to identify the hues that represent business brands, such as "Starbucks Green" and "Verizon Red," and each subsequent visitor's selection is averaged with their predecessor's, which Ford believes turns corporate power on its head by allowing consumers to " alter the meaning that the brand holds." Local artists Dan Huyberts and Will Rosenthal bring play into the fold with their fun projects. Huyberts's Circuit Bent Video Sculpture Aural Vision 1 allows viewers to "watch" nature recordings on a television, using a photocell that triggers the screaming of a circuit-bent smoke detector. Rosenthal's Cideslide is an interactive video game inviting users to choose their own adventure in navigating what Rosenthal describes as a surreal "Lynchian" world by using ...

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Resonating Image

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The overlaps and incongruities between visual and aural engagement are the focus of "Finding Pictures in Search of Sounds," sound artist Stephen Vitiello's second solo exhibition with Museum 52, in London. For Boxed Gray (2008), Vitiello has applied a thick coat of silver paint to the walls of the gallery's front room and immersed it with a rapidly paced soundtrack of field recordings and electronics. Subtle Blue Gray (2008), in the back room, forms a conversational counterpoint: three blue lightbulbs flicker and pulse, enveloping the space in nocturnal hues, as four speakers embedded in the gallery walls generate faint, scratching sounds. Collectively, the two works find Vitiello continuing to develop visual analogues to his sound pieces, an inquiry that previously included him mining the sculptural properties of speakers and making graphite, ink and pigment drawings from LFO speaker vibrations. For "Night Chatter", his 2006 show with Museum 52, Vitiello even interwove Virginian ivy with speakers playing a recording of a conversation between Tony Blair and George Bush, processed to a point where the politicians' voices sounded like electronic bells (Hedera B,B,B (2006)). Considering Virginia's military significance for the United States government, Vitiello's piece had the strange effect of turning an element of the state's natural bounty into an agent for the cause: a position from which to surveille. In contrast, Boxed Gray and Blue Gray number among Vitiello's more abstract experiments, forgoing explicit critique for diffuser modes of engagement. Yet by focusing on the expressive and meditative registers of aesthetic experience, Vitiello's sophisticated understanding of the conditions of reception comes to the fore. - Tyler Coburn

Image: Stephen Vitiello, Blue Gray, 2008

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Guided by Voices

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A new project by musician Halsey Burgund "ROUND" (2008) takes its cue from the enormous cultural influence of crowdsourcing and applies it to the musty old format of museum audio tours. On display at Connecticut's Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, ROUND allows visitors to record their candid reactions to the artworks as they stroll around the exhibitions. Accompanied by Burgund's music, their recordings become fodder for future audio tours, which can be individually customized to feature the voices of curators, artists, or ordinary children or adult museum-goers. The title "ROUND" is a reference both to the notion of a round table where all voices count equally and the musical term for overlapping voices in song. Burgund remarked that the "static and off-putting" voice used in traditional audio tours conveys and enacts an art institution's monolithic voice of authority. ROUND's goal is to "make the audio tour participatory and take it outside the sanctioned voice. It's to encourage people to express themselves," he added. A kiosk provides an introduction to ROUND; nearby, visitors check out small wireless tablet computers before wandering about the museum, listening to audio tours or switching to adding their own vocal reactions to the works on display. Software developer and system designer Mike MacHenry provided technical help in creating the system, which is coded in Python with the use of audiovisual library GStreamer; the tablets run on maemo. The system also depends on Ableton Live and on custom Max/MSP patches and plug-ins, which create the compositional algorithms that generate and randomize the music, as well as effects such as timing speech to the rhythm of the music. The experiment appears to be a resounding success - some 120 people recorded their impressions during the opening on Sunday. In addition to comments about current ...

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AV Festival 08

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The sixth annual installment of AV Festival, the UK's largest international festival of electronic arts, explores the theme of broadcast in the work of a handful of sound artists, filmmakers and musicians. As color television this year celebrates its 80th anniversary, and China rings in fifty years of television services, broadcasting has clearly passed its period of technological novelty, while nonetheless remaining a fundamental conduit for many of the electronic arts. Departing from this assumption, the festival's program divides time between seminal moments in the history of broadcasting and contemporary practices that endeavor to push its communicative properties. Teesside actor Mark Benton, for example, will helm a re-enactment of Orson Welles' infamous 1938 War of the Worlds recording. The original, broadcast in the run-up to World War II, elicited mass-confusion and paranoia in its listeners, with many mistaking H.G. Wells' fictional account of an alien invasion for an actual Nazi invasion. The populous' susceptibility to the content of radio broadcasting may have changed in the seventy years since, but its sensitivity to globalized terror certainly has not. Among the contemporary projects will be Whispering in the Leaves, a sixteen-speaker installation by acclaimed sound technician and Cabaret Voltaire founding member Chris Watson. Appropriately housed in Sunderland's Winter Gardens, Watson's piece comprises recordings of a Costa Rican rainforest: a "dawn and dusk choruses of a myriad [sic] voices," he describes, "mostly unseen, but heard far and wide through the dense dark greens of the tree canopy." Watson's work mimics the jungle's elision of visibility, offering instead a soundscape so rich with affective resonances as to practically induce synesthesia. Like many of festival's other projects, Whispering in the Leaves elegantly and assuredly channels the transformative- at times, all-consuming - power of audio broadcast. - Tyler Coburn


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Cinema of the Future

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Ongoing in Amsterdam, through February 24th, is the twelfth annual Sonic Acts conference and festival. This year's focus is on The Cinematic Experience and the framers of the symposium have an interesting take on the nature of this experience. They argue that cinema preceded celluloid (with the magic lantern, zoetrope, etc) and that it now supercedes it--not only with video, but also with higher resolutions, faster distribution networks, and ever more portable recording devices. They ask what the future of the cinematic experience will be, and to reflect on this question, they offer a series of performances, talks, and exhibitions, the highlight of which is a show at Netherlands Media Art Institute featuring the work of Julien Maire (F), Ulf Langheinrich (D), Boris Debackere (BE) and Kurt Hentschl´┐Żger (AT). Ultimately, this merging of sound and cinema is a provocative one, as it casts into speculation the relationship of our senses to these evolvingly more "virtual" media. If a trip to Amsterdam isn't in your immediate future, check out the festivals live feeds, online. - Marisa Olson

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Dispatches from Antarctica

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Artists and curators are increasingly using a range of technologies to document global warming's rapid transformation of the planet. Painter Joy Garnett's blog StrangeWeather.info and Shane Brennan's curated weblog New Climates both provide a clearing-house for information about art projects related to environmental issues. This past fall, non-profit organization Electronic Music Foundation's environmental sound art festival Ear to the Earth brought together artists and musicians from the world over to produce and show projects on the subject. Undeniably, the art community is acting in response to an ever-greater urgency to acknowledge and appreciate the fleeting visual and audio experiences of the natural world. For years, digital media artist Andrea Polli has centered her practice around environmental concerns with such projects as Airlight Taipei (2006) and Atmospherics/Weather Works (2004) (included in the Rhizome Artbase). During December and January, Polli traveled to Antarctica to capture the quickly disappearing beauty of the region through sound and video. The trip is a residency funded by the National Science Foundation Antarctic Artists and Writers Program, and it will allow her to work alongside the scientists from the McMurdo Dry Valleys Long Term Ecological Research Project. Polli created the blog 90degreesesouth.org to report and share her recordings and reflections. Visitors to the site can listen to Polli's field recordings of melting glaciers and icebergs, as well as take in a number of instructive audio interviews with notable climatologists and meteorologists, such as co-recipient of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize Dr. Andreas Fischlin, meteorologist Dr. Matt Lazzara of University of Wisconsin, Dr. Rick Aster, among many others. 90degreessouth.org provides a rare and informative artist's perspective on the day-to-day activities of scientists working in a spectacular and often strenuous environment. - Ceci Moss

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