Fragments New York (2011)

April 5-8, 2011: The Arnot Art Museum (Elmira, NY) hosted "Fragments," a collaborative, impermanent video installation of 31 international video artists selected by Jan Kather (Elmira, NY), Michael Chang (Copenhagen, Denmark), and Marty McCutcheon (Berkeley, CA). The videos were projected on a three dimensional screen made from recycled materials from the basement of the museum. The audience was invited to create a continually morphing projection by selecting videos to simultaneously project on the screen, as well as creating live recordings with a camcorder connected to projector.

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In the spirit of artist collaboration the "Fragments" installation and the corresponding interactive panel discussion "Meeting in the Middle" welcomed on-site audience participation. A skyping session with Swedish artist Niclas Hallberg during the panel discussion emphasized the international nature of the project, as well as its dependence upon the Internet and computer technology. The space was brought alive with noise and movement that dazzled, annoyed, and amazed, but never put the audience to sleep. It was international, electronic, ephemeral, unpredictably orderly and astonishingly chaotic. Just like the lives we live today. Videos were submitted from artists around the world. An interactive panel discussion "Meeting in the Middle" took place on April 7. The event was made possible in part with public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts' Decentralization Program, administered locally by the ARTS Council of the Southern Finger Lakes.

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Artist Statement

“Collaboration? You call that art? I don’t understand!”

We live in a world oversaturated with information, so the plea I often hear is “Keep it easy and accessible; don’t throw curve balls and definitely don’t ever change the rules. Otherwise, I can’t keep track of it all!”

If art reflects life, it should, indeed, be throwing curve balls and embracing unpredictability. This is why collaboration between artists is so important today. It’s a global imperative that we should learn to get along and work together for the greater good in a world that is in constant flux. Collaborative art is a first step toward this desirable and worthy goal.

To understand collaboration, it helps to remember the premise that humans are social animals. We have been gathering into groups and sharing ideas for eons. We know that innovations come quicker through the cross-pollination of cultures. When many minds, hearts, and hands contribute unselfishly, our cultural heritage is enriched in the most life affirming way possible. Unfortunately, many voices of the art world speak narrowly about art making. They continue to promote the definitive modus operadi for artists as that of the lone artist-genius toiling away in his garret. This classic representation probably includes a freezing cold studio, a debilitating illness, unrelenting bill collectors, and major suffering due to a dramatic, dead end relationship. This mythology makes an excellent storyline for a gripping novel or Hollywood film, but doesn’t reflect the reality so many artists throughout the world are living today. The collaboration between artists that was necessary to create Fragments proves this point.

Without the Internet, it is unlikely that Michael, Marty, and I would have ever met, let alone collaborate. Our relationship began when we met electronically on the British website for artists called We interacted first by participating in several collaborations with other videos artists, the ECVP and the Vitruvian Woman, and later with e-mails, in-person meetings and more recently via Skype and iChat sessions. I am most excited to meet Marty in person for the first time as we collaborate with Michael on the Fragments installation at the Arnot Art Museum.

Fragments is noteworthy because it is an international collaboration possible because of the Internet. Each of the international video artists participating in this project used their own personal computers to create their videos and uploaded them for our access at various Internet sites. Without the Internet, this project would never have come into being. The Internet has become the new frontier for artists’ collaborations.

A signature of collaboration is generous sharing, and we have seen this in the enthusiastic participation of thirty-one artists sending their work. I predict the joyful weaving of individual ego into the larger tapestry of collaborative projects will be an art practice that becomes permanently ensconced into the art establishment in the next decade. The desire to share our visions to the largest possible audience motivates cooperation that in turn, generates a world art community. Collaborating in this way was inconceivable even twenty years ago.

Audience participation is equally critical to the realization of Fragments as a collaborative piece. We welcome a community of curious viewers of every age to select videos for screening and to participate in live critiques that will become part of the documentation of the project. We encourage the audience to reposition the recycled elements in the screening area to suit their tastes. We also invite the global community to participate in real time by tuning in with iChat or Skype as the event unfolds. All of these actions create another layer of the collaborative buildup made from various fragmentations.

Collaboration means different things to each of us. Marty, Michael and I will discuss our views during a public panel presentation titled “Meeting in the Middle,” as Elmira, NY becomes the geographic, slightly-skewed midpoint between Copenhagen and Berkeley. The panel discussion will help mark the ways we have collaborated as we have reshaped our thoughts about the project. The question of how we will continue to collaborate is an unknown, but what I do know for sure is this: collaboration is the most thrilling way I have found to express and communicate my thoughts and ideas and without a doubt, more is coming!

--Jan Kather


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