Maura Lucking
Since 2012

The Body as an Object of Interference: Q+A with Jeff Kolar

Dancers often describe the feeling of watching someone else’s performance and actually feeling, in their own bodies, the form and movement of the other. This sensation of inhabiting another’s body in a relative physical way is called proprioception and it does have a basis in neurological fact, which reports that some can access this bodily empathy innately while others, especially in kinesthetic disciplines like dancing or music, develop a sensitivity to it over time. But can a non-human entity like, say, an osprey or a radio frequency be considered proprioceptively knowable?

Jennifer Monson’s upcoming performance at The Kitchen, Live Dancing Archive, plays with this idea, asking if dance can function as a continuously generating archive of bodily experience. The piece, her first in a theater setting in years and by far the longest of her choreographed works, revisits one of her own earlier projects as source material. A dance-based environmental research trip across Atlantic bird migration routes, BIRD BRAIN Osprey Migration (2002) aimed to collect environmental data through tracing the physical route of the birds from the North Atlantic to South America. This new work, in turn, uses video documentation of the dancers on that tour, Monson included, as the archival data to be embodied and brought to light in her performance.

While this might appear to point to a highly personal and, perhaps, political interpretation of the archival impulse – i.e. to advocate for a specific kind of environmental knowing through an artistic research practice – Monson’s collaborative development of Live Dancing Archive points to an interest in a more open and fluid definition of the concept. The piece was developed collaboratively over the course of the last year and a half by Monson, video artist Robin Vachal (who recorded the initial documentation of the 2002 project), lighting designer Joe Levasseur, and audio artist Jeff Kolar. In its final incarnation, the work exists as the simultaneous performance of Monson, Levasseur, and Kolar, all of whom will be physically present on stage, a video installation that will be on view on The Kitchen’s stage during days of performance, and a digital archive of video footage and ephemera from the BIRD BRAIN project that will go live on the day of the performance’s premier.

The project’s composer, Jeff Kolar, agreed to answer a few questions about the audio component of the performance, an “indeterminate score… generated through live field experiments in the AM/FM, shortwave, Citizens, and unlicensed spectrum (27 MHz or 49 MHz band).”[1]

Ben Jones: The Video

Ben Jones, The Video

It seems pretty fitting that I’ve sat down to write about Ben Jones’ current exhibition at least three or four times.  The requisite online “research” always turned into episodes of Problem Solverz, Jones’ show on Cartoon Network, a trip down the wormhole of media-saturated content on Paper Rad, his collaborative with Jessica and Jacob Ciocci (including Rhizome and the New Museum’s recent archival of their website, and the accompanying exhibition, “Welcome to My Homey Page”), and a late night gchat where a friend excitedly offered to rip me his hard-to-find videos on DVD.

This is exactly the kind of intertextually meandering, visually anarchic, mentally overwhelming and massively entertaining experience that Jones is known for. Based on the gallery text and interviews that I read while trying to get a grip on his new material, Jones is trying—really—to simplify.

Ben Jones: The Video, at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, Pacific Design Center through February 24th, includes plenty that will look familiar to those who have tripped in the Jones universe before.  Quasi-religious Gumby dolls, burning neon suns, loveable part man-dog-anteater Alfe; they’re all here.  But the mood of the show is quite different from his prior work. It’s hypnotic, reflective, and more than a little bit sinister.

Ben Jones, The Video video painting still, 2012

The exhibition has been described as a series of video installations and while, technically, that’s correct, it’s also more than that. Collectively, the works in the show function as an installation about making videos.  Unlike many of his fine art contemporaries, Jones is himself a manifestation of network age high-low plurality.  He runs a successful commercial animation practice, creating music videos for the likes of Beck and ...


Artist Profile: Rewell Altunaga

Translation courtesy of Rachel Price.


The Falling Man (2011)

Can you talk about your experience co-curating (with José Manuel Noceda) the  Cuban Pavilion, Shared Creations, at the 11th Havana Biennial (2012)? What were your hopes for the mixed group of Cuban and international artists?

¿Puedes contarnos sobre tu experiencia en la co-curaduría (con José Manuel Noceda) en el Pabellón Cuba, Creaciones Compartidas, en la 11na Bienal de La Habana en el 2012? ¿Cuáles eran las expectativas para la mezcla de artistas cubanos e internacionales?

Working on the Biennial and learning alongside Noceda, Jorge Fernández and others was a very satisfying experience. My own art training was heavy on links to praxis; now, even when I'm involved in curatorial or theoretical work, it's hard for me to remove that filter. In contrast with other curatorial projects I've been involved with, on this occasion I was invited to be part of something that already had a structure and theme.  Without the customary creative freedom, it became a learning experience, an apprenticeship. It’s also the first co-curation I've done, and the first curatorial project for which I wasn't myself producing something. 

The Biennial is an international phenomenon. It's typical of such events that they increase relations between cultures, meaning artists come together who may have different ideologies and political and social discourses, but who are essentially motivated by similar tools and resources, from the market's most banal to the most spiritual of art. The mind constantly battles between a practical realism that trains its eyes on the external world and a search directed towards inner well-being, towards the idea of beauty and perfection. In all the big art events you find both states. In those moments, specific political relations are secondary.

Precisamente trabajar en la ...


The Ephemerality of IRL: An Interview with Rob Walker

Shawn Wolfe, Vending Machineries, 2001

"Tell me about yourself, and you might mention where you're from, the music you prefer, perhaps a favorite writer or filmmaker or artist, possibly even the sports teams you root for. But I doubt you'll mention brands or products. That would seem shallow, right? There's just something illegitimate about openly admitting that brands and products can function as cultural material, relevant to identity and expression. It's as if we would prefer this weren't true..." — Rob Walker, Exhibition Essay, As Real As It Gets, 2012.

Journalist and author Rob Walker has a long history of projects that look at the intersection of designed objects and consumer behavior. Formerly of the Times Magazine "Consumed" column and currently found at Design Observer, Walker coined the term "murketing" in his 2008 book, Buying In: The Secret Dialogue Between What We Buy and Who We Are, to describe the blurred strategy between marketing and entertainment used to sell products without the associations of an overt branding campaign. Walker's current project swings to the other side of the spectrum, examining brands so compelling they don't need physical manifestations: he has curated "As Real As It Gets" at New York's Apexart about imaginary brands and fictional products.  I talked to Walker over email about some of the questions the exhibition raises about our complicated relationship with things.

The show, in many ways, seems like a continuation or synthesis of your own speculative design projects with your different tumbleblogs. The majority of your own practice exists exclusively in the virtual sphere, for example your recent Significant Objects project with Joshua Glenn, where thrift store detritus was listed on eBay along with fictive narratives of their history in order to demonstrate the subjectivity of value (and ...


Visualizing Sandy: An Interview with Fernanda Viégas and Martin Wattenberg

Wind Map by Fernanda Viégas and Martin Wattenberg
All the way in blissfully sunny Los Angeles during the throes of Hurricane Sandy, I watched with growing anxiety as friends and family rode out the storm. I found myself unsatisfied by personal accounts of empty supermarket shelves and mass media coverage of FEMA efforts and felt I needed better awareness of what was happening in empirical, but also meaningful terms. As it turns out, I wasn't alone — cue the Wind Project, from artists Fernanda Viégas and Martin Wattenberg. Wattenberg, trained as a mathematician, is also known for his work on number of classic digital art projects like the Shape of Song, The Apartment, and Whitney Artport's Idea Line, as well as Rhizome's StarryNight. Collaborating with Viégas since 2003, they have served as principles at the IBM Visual Communication Lab, where they initiated the "Many Eyes" project, a user-generated forum for uploading data and creating visualizations through conversation and collaboration, in the hopes of fostering a more social and democratic style of data analysis. Other past projects span from visualizations of Google Image discrepancies of fine art masterpieces to chat histories to baby names. Viégas and Wattenberg currently work with Google's "Big Picture" Data Group in Cambridge, MA and maintain their own practice as Flowing Media, Inc. 
Their latest project is "a living portrait of the wind currents over the United States" using data pulled hourly from the National Digital Forecast Database. The Wind Project site saw a strong spike in visitors in the days leading up to Hurricane Sandy, as dumbfounded viewers watched the complex choreography of curling, comet-like wind lines circling the eastern seaboard. Though I'm not sure it did much to calm my nerves, the image from landfall — October 29th, 2012 — has become an instant visualization classic. I recently spoke with Viégas and Wattenberg over email about the project and its impact on our experience of Sandy:
Were you surprised by the reaction to the wind map in the days leading up to Hurricane Sandy?  What do you think it is about that specific visualization that really captured people's awe but also sense of dread?
We were impressed, but not totally surprised: Hurricane Isaac was kind of a warm-up storm, and we saw a lot of interest then. One big difference was this time we were in the path of the storm. In fact, it's a minor miracle that our data center (that is, one old computer) in Massachusetts had power the entire time...