ed halter
Since 2002
Works in Brooklyn, New York United States of America

I’ll Be Your Mirror

Image: Candice Breitz, Factum Kang, 2009.

Candice Breitz’s current exhibition "Candice Breitz: Same Same" at The Power Plant in Toronto includes the premiere of the first works in Factum, a series commissioned by the gallery. Named after a pair of paintings by Robert Rauchenberg, Factum I and Factum II (both 1957), that appear indistinguishable but reveal differences on closer inspection, Breitz’s Factum consists of interviews with identical twins, found by placing ads on craigslist in Toronto and in the city’s alternative weekly. Each set of twins appears side by side one another on matching monitors, hung portrait-style. Breitz spoke to each sibling separately about their lives, but using similar questions, then edited the discussions so the pair’s words and gestures play off one another, highlighting both parallels and departures. The college-age Kang sisters, for example, diverge when discussing whether one twin has had a tendency to look up to the other, while a set of seventy-something siblings tell complementary stories of getting not-quite-matching rounds of plastic surgery over the years. Each piece runs roughly an hour, feeling like deftly structured documentaries unto themselves.

Prior to the opening of Same Same—her first major solo survey in North America—Breitz gave a sneak preview of a few freshly-edited examples from Factum at the Toronto Film Festival in a talk called “The Origins of Factum,” part of the festival’s Future Projections sidebar, which focuses on the intersections of cinema and the visual arts. In addition to a discussion with TIFF co-director Noah Cowan, Breitz screened a number of clips from cinematic works that informed the creation of her latest work. The following are excerpts from a transcript of her talk, including three of the films she screened. - Ed Halter

I'm going to start by answering two ...


Eleven Evocations (For Paper Rad)

The following essay was first published in the catalog for the exhibition curated by Raphael Gygax "Deterioration, They Said" which is on view at the migros museum für gegenwartskunst in Zurich, Switzerland until November 8, 2009.

1. The popular dissemination of magical worlds has ultimately shifted from folk tales to children’s television. Paper Rad takes back this process from commercial channels, creating their own ever-shifting cosmos populated by robots, spaceships, monsters, talking animals, giants and wizards.

Like H. P. Lovecraft or J.R.R. Tolkein, Paper Rad created their own mythos, a set of characters that jointly share a fantasy world. Like Warner Brothers or Disney, Paper Rad circulate their creations across media—websites, comics, animated videos, sculptures, screen prints—thereby establishing themselves as the creators of both an imaginary alternative universe and an audio-visual brand.

After the Amateur: Notes

Film, video and photography once fell easily into two categories: professional or amateur. Professionals mastered their crafts, often through guild-like programs of training, and sought to make a living from their abilities. Amateurs learned on their own, or through informal clubs of like-minded aficionados, and pursued their arts for reasons other than money or wide-ranging prestige. Professionals pursued careers. Amateurs pursued hobbies.

White Box Testing

Addressing the American Association of Museums in 1941, Ananda K. Coomaraswamy, then curator at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, put forth a fundamental question: "What is an Art Museum for?" He proposes that the answer is contained in the term "curator," which implies that "the first and most essential function of such a Museum is to take care of ancient or unique works of art which are no longer in their original places or no longer used as originally intended, and are therefore in danger of destruction by neglect or otherwise." Significantly, Coomaraswamy's concept downplays one curatorial activity otherwise taken for granted today: "This care of works of art," he writes, "does not necessarily involve their exhibition" but if an institution does choose to exhibit works, "this is to be done with an educational purpose." Moreover, he adds, "it is unnecessary for Museums to exhibit the works of living artists, which are not in immanent danger of destruction."

Coomaraswamy's antediluvian pronouncements, predating both the development of the modern computer and the institutional embrace of contemporary art, nonetheless provide a way to think about the assumptions underlying the twelve essays in Christiane Paul's collection New Media in the White Cube and Beyond: Curatorial Models for Digital Art, recently published by UC Press. For even if Coomaraswamy's skepticism about the value of exhibiting living artists now strikes us as thoroughly outdated, his general concerns continue to inform the questions posed by Paul and her contributors. For new media, the problem of how to deal with artworks "no longer in their original places or no longer used as originally intended" remains salient -- albeit for technological rather than antiquarian reasons -- and all of Paul's essayists propose some version of what necessary "educational purpose" curators of new media must embrace.

Get it? An Interview with Cory Arcangel on Comedy

Humor has been a prominent but under-analyzed aspect of art in the past century; the comedy impulse is strongest in the history of media appropriation and conceptual art, beginning with Duchamp's poker-faced readymades and continuing through the work of Bruce Conner, Andy Warhol, Dara Birnbaum, Ant Farm, Jeff Koons and many others. Even the very way we talk about art overlaps with laff-lingo: we call certain pieces "one-liners," value work for being "wry" or "witty," and discuss whether or not a viewer "gets it." And of course, one of the first things someone will ask who doesn't "get it" is: "Is this supposed to be a joke?"

Cory Arcangel's work has almost always played on the logic of the joke in its construction: witness his most recent exhibit, "Adult Contemporary" at Team Gallery, which includes work like Self Playing Sony Playstation 1 Bowling (2008), an old bowling game hacked to only throw gutter-balls, and Permanent Vacation (2008 version), two silver iMacs set to email each other and exchange "out of office" messages until they fill up and crash. But the line between comedy and art more or less dissolved in Arcangel's related event at the New Museum's New Silent Series, Continuous Partial Awareness. In this stand-up-style routine, Arcangel performed an hour-long monologue by reading off a huge list of his unused ideas for new artworks, ranging from "give a boring artist's talk entirely through a vocoder" to "have intern watch Lawnmower Man 10,000 times and then make a website about all the plot inconsistencies."

At the very real risk of ruining humor by critiquing it, Cory and I meet recently to discuss the relationship between comedy and art in both his work and that of others. - Ed Halter

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Epic Net Art: The (Pre)Coda

Yes, this is true. But the original terms of "epic" as it was introduced into the discussion had to do with the more general issue of "large-scale possibilities," not necessarily confined to a Wagnerian sense of total-artwork. MTAA's One Year Performance was suggested as a form of epic net art, which coincidentally would have fit Ross's concept.

And he counterposes a concept of "epic" against the "purely ephemeral" quality, the "poetic brevity" of net art, also similar to the poles the the epic net art discussion circled around.

(I'm not claiming that Ross's terms equate to the terms of our discussion, however. I just think the parallels are interesting!)


Epic Net Art: The (Pre)Coda

For anyone who remembers this old thread (http://www.rhizome.org/discuss/view/37756) here's a snip from a 1999 lecture by David Ross. Clearly those who forget the past are doomed to etc.

Transcription of Lecture by David Ross, San Jose State University, March 2, 1999

Ross's 21 Distinctive Qualities of Net.Art


4. The net allows for the production of epic work. Brecht talked about epic theater which was a challenge to conventional notions theater, to the notion of theater as a commodified spectacle. Theater that actually related to the direct lives of people, with all the attendant boredom, the interstitial space between things happening in life. Art has always been about compression, always within a confined space of materiality, despite the large-scale possibilities. The real scale is day-to-day life. It's artists who began to blur that line, artists beginning with Duchamp and on to Fluxus and others. Those artists finally found a medium where they could work unfiltered. That can take place within an economy of abundance, can make epic work possible. Someone could come to me with a proposal for SFMoMA's website that would take the next twenty years. This is feasible. That abundance allows for amazing things. We've seen this with webcam activity. I find it fascinating. Andy Warhol must be jealous that he didn't live to experience webcams. He would have had a webcam on every corner of the factory just looking at the water cooler. I haven't really seen anyone online take on that kind of epic aesthetic activity. Epic time is variably defined.

5. Net.art is purely ephemeral. The opposite of the epic quality of net.art is its pure ephemerality. There's no trace. It can have poetic brevity, that brief a life in the collective consciousness.


OK, well we could parse intentionality all day long about what Guthrie meant (unless he chimes in here himself) but MY take on it is offline artwork in dialog with online culture. Not net art but maybe about-net art.

Various examples of how this could happen:

Eddo Stern's "Deathstar"--video work created from online "bash Osama" games:

AIDS-3D's "OMG Obelisk"

Seth Price
"Video Game Soundtracks 1983-1987" (source material from file-sharing systems)

(In terms of the "other people" using Guthrie's term...if it were only Rhizome editors [which is not the case entirely] why would it matter? this was in the context of the Rhizome editors' picks from Rhizome...already situated as such.)


Hey Tom

I'm unclear on how giving a name to something (or attempting to do so) constitutes a form of flattery in and of itself -- isolating and naming a phenomenon is not necessarily even an act of value judgment, except perhaps in the sense that one is judging said phenomenon as having the positive value of "notability" (which would be a circular argument anyway).

I agree with you that "Internet Aware Art" is a muddy and somewhat subjective term, but I don't see how the editors' attempt at a rewording of IAA is so wildly off-base, and don't agree that it is purely and limitlessly subjective. To me, it's more interesting that such a throwaway bit of language in Guthrie's interview started getting circulated by other people--I'm sure he didn't expect that to happen.

Perhaps it points to the fact that there is *something* going on that artists and critics would like there to be a name for: maybe art that bears the "spirit" of net art that's nonetheless not online? I keep "spirit" in quotes to agree with you on the vagueness of what that quality might be--and maybe that's really the most subjective part, the wiggly conceptual core that bugs you.

Anyway, maybe Internet Aware Art isn't the most precise term for that "something" -- or maybe you disagree that that "something" is notable in the first place? Or that IAA is now being circulated in a fashion that Guthrie didn't intend?

(And what's a "Boswell-like coinage"? Surely you meant a Johnson-like" one?)