. community —

conversation with code

_Mediascape_ at the Guggenheim Museum in Soho is a disappointment. It
suffers from an overabundance of works that say very little. A word of
caution: upon entering the Guggenheim, do not become ensnared in the
misplaced logic of Nam June Paik's human trap, _Megatron_. This work
affirms the fact that a half-naked attractive woman and bright blinking
things still catch the eye. Technical splendor aside, _Megatron_ is a
mediocre artwork.

There are two reasons to see this exhibition. The first is Bill Seaman's,
_Passage Sets/One Pulls Pivots at the tip of the Tongue_. The second is
Steina Vasulka's, _Borealis_.

Seaman's _Passage Sets/One Pulls Pivots at the tip of the Tongue_ is a
poetry machine that operates on user choice and probability. Three tableaus
operate simultaneously on one wall that viewers/users face. One is an
autonomous poem generator which produces a written work every four seconds.
Another contains the entire vocabulary from which the first is creating
poems. One at a time, viewers can use these words and phrases to make their
own works. Finally, there are close-ups of hands and body parts that run in slow
motion. The body parts react to your poetic choice. The collaboration is
between the man and machine. It blends the program's spontaneity with the
viewers'.

Does this machine have personality? How is it that the program and the
scripting of the program effect the way I communicate? How am I deriving
pleasure from the other spectators around me? Is this a conversation with
the machine, a conversation with code, or a conversation with the audience?

_Borealis_ presents four fabric barriers with churning waves of water
projected onto them. The isolated water, standing vertically, undulates
unnaturally, falling in and out synch. These barriers cleave the room. In
the negative space cut by the water, viewers are disoriented. The flow of
the water has been altered through slow motion, dissolves and reversals of
time. This work is a quiet experience that seeps, through the wrongness of
the water's rhythms – the way it flows and crashes – into your
consciousness.

The two works I have discussed above are exciting and thought provoking.
Unfortunately, they are the exception to the rule in _Mediascape_.

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