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Drawing in the Media Stream

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A Review: Drawing in the Media Stream
Closing reception and performance September 24th, 6pm

Swimming in the Media Stream

by Katherine Sweetman

You might bounce off Dick Cheney’s face and then float through the silhouette of the iconic, hooded, Abu Ghraib prisoner. You might drift over to the series of charcoal-preserved Olympic swimming moments and become nostalgic. You might even get caught in the large cardboard cutout logos and their understood consequences.

How do artists navigate the flood of media images in our contemporary society? Tony Allard and Kristine Diekman explore this question in their collaborative exhibition “Drawing in the Media Stream: A Hybrid Media Process” on display at the Southwestern College Art Gallery. The exhibition is a unique, evolving look into the world of perception, iconography, and the creation of memory.

The exhibition unfolds as a multimedia, multilayered, narrative record of the recent past. The cardboard cutout of an AT&T logo, an oil barrel, an Apple Computer logo, a peace sign, and other icons seem to have both personal and collective meanings. A computer rendered environment created in the 3D software “SketchUp” is projected into the domain of the cardboard cutouts. The audience can witness media images in their high-speed digital environment, or see others across the room, acting as their deliberate analog counterparts, hand-drawn with charcoal directly onto the gallery walls. The images in the gallery are familiar to us because they live in our recent, shared experiences, or at least our experiences of “the media stream”. The exhibition is a reaction to, and a reading of what Tony Allard calls, “the nowstream”, or the current global media stream.

In our contemporary world of constant news and media coverage, nothing stays still and nothing is fixed–not even the work in this exhibition. Come in on Tuesdays and Thursdays, 12-2pm, and you will likely see the artists working in the space, drawing on the walls, or perhaps they will be streamed into the gallery, from a remote location, via a live video-feed. Since June, the artists have been working in the gallery, responding to and constructing a personal record of streaming imagery.

“The show is connected to the idea of process, like the media stream it never sits still, in essence it mirrors the media stream itself in that it’s ongoing,” Allard says. “But these images have been pulled out of the media stream and slowed down to the speed of viewing– of viewing object-based images,” he points to the section of gallery wall that holds hand drawings, newspapers covered in sketches, and drawings on cardboard.

The show is also about the act of drawing. The images in this exhibition are drawn from the artists’ memories and from pre-existing images that have been fabricated by the recording devices of the contemporary media, but mainly the work is about the blending of the two. The artists site author and theorist, Paul Virilio, and his essay, The Vision Machine, as a source for inspiration. In The Vision Machine, Virilio gives a name, “visionics” to the idea that a machine can now construct its own vision, replacing human vision and replacing the truth of human vision and perception. In the artists’ collaborative statement on the exhibition, they explain the dialogue between the kinds of representational drawings in the show:

“This installation is an attempt to negotiate the collision between traditional forms of perceptual drawing and visual memory making with what Paul Virilio has identified as techno culture’s headlong plunge into ‘visionics’, machine-based, sightless vision and image making. Visionics is techno culture’s new visuality, based completely on synthetic, machine-based vision, automated perception and contemplation. The drawings being created for this installation are not a rejection of the ‘industrialization’ of vision, but rather, are hybridizations: creating drawings, representations, and visual memories from immediate personal perception and from the perceptions of the new super synthetic vision machines.”

And, indeed, the artist’s drawing work seems to pass in and out of traditional forms of drawings, moving from realistic tracings to sketches and quick line drawing interpretations to computer aided renderings that question the definition of artistic “drawing”.

Both of these established artists have backgrounds and current works that involve the practice of drawing. Kristine Diekman is a professor of Visual Arts at Cal-State San Marcos. She currently works primarily in video and most often teaches video and computer related courses, yet she reveals that drawing has always been an important part of her work. Tony Allard works mainly in drawing and performance and is currently teaching drawing courses at both Cal-State San Marcos and Southwestern. The artists will continue to draw and the show will continue to progress and change as a direct reaction to the day’s media events until the final closing ceremony.

Tony wanders through the cardboard cutouts and projections. “In the media stream, an image can just be washed away. It just gets washed down stream, but creating a physical drawing takes it out of the media stream, so you can see what your looking at–at least for a moment.”

On September 24th at 6pm, there will be a closing reception and performance in which parts of the exhibition will be set on fire and cremated. The resulting ashes, along with a flash drive of digital files associated with the show, will be entombed in the ground as a kind of time capsule, relic or fossil of the exhibition. “FOSSIL MEDIA” is, appropriately, a name Tony uses for his website and work. This is a poetic ending to a show concerned with the temporarily of the image.

Drawing in the Media Stream,
Open through September 24th
Gallery Hours: Monday-Thursday 10:30am - 2pm, Wednesdays & Thursdays 6-8pm
Closing reception and Entombing Ceremony at 6pm on September 24th

Southwestern College Art Gallery
900 Otay Lakes Road
Chula Vista
(619) 421-6700 x1-5383