Posts for 2007

MAXXIng out in Rome: Net Art!

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MAXXI, Rome's museum of XXI century arts, has been developing 'Netspace: Journey into Net Art,' a series of exhibitions devoted to new media art that aims to expand knowledge about this field in Italy. The latest of these shows, recently on view on the museum's temporary premises while the Zaha Hadid design is being built, was 'Electronic Landscapes.' This project brought together works that examined the expanded notion of landscape in contemporary visual practices, 'from the creation of a landscape where pictorial tradition and new technologies co-exist, to the construction of architectural utopias and the exploration of the urban landscape through an electronic eye,' as curator Elena Giulia Rossi has put it. For example, Brazilian artist Vera Bighetti's 2005 'Stereoscopy Space' is made by the piece's viewers, who place objects in the space and then immerse themselves in it using 3D glasses. However, it was Mexican artist Ernesto Rios's 2006 'D. F. Maze' that most caught the attention of the visitors due to its intellectual affiliation and political engagement. In this installation, Rios deals with Mexico City’s imagery through three interactive journeys that evoke psychogeography, a practice which discussed the effect of the environment on individual psyche popular among the Letterists and Situationists during the 1940s and the 1960s. Presenting the recent trends that have developed around this topic, 'Electronic Landscapes' therefore contributed to the public awareness of the importance that a genre as classic as landscape still has in current artistic production. Slated to open in early December, the next installment of this series of exhibitions is a show that will investigate bodily metamorphosis in cyberspace. MAXXI is thus positioning itself as one of the main venues for new media art in Europe. ‐ Miguel Amado

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Space Is the Place

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The pursuit of utopia is all too often dismissed. While finding it may be impossible, that doesn't mean the desire to do so isn't directing a great deal of our actions. Architect Tomas Saraceno is rather succinct on this manner when he says, "Utopia exists until it is created... The idea of utopia is in constant mutation and changes according to the era." Continuing the tradition of radical architecture practiced by Archigram and SuperStudio, Tomas Saraceno's projects embody utopic architectonics to fantastical degrees. Tomas Saraceno: Microscale, Macroscale, and Beyond: Large-Scale Implications of Small-Scale Experiments, open at the UC Berkeley Art Museum from this month through February 2008, is the first US museum exhibition of the Argentine-born, Germany-based visionary architect. The exhibition will feature portions of Air-Port-City, his ongoing project that envisions rhizomatic livable structures that float in the air, and subsequently are "capable of embodying more elastic and dynamic rules related to political, geographical, and cultural borders." The new social relations created in such a project are nomadic mutations not bound by traditional national and economic boundaries. Similarly, the project Flying Garden features floating structures that house species of Spanish Moss that are 'air-sufficient,' meaning that they derive their necessary nutrition from the atmosphere. As a whole, this is a poetic metaphor for very real political imperatives, namely autonomy and mobility. While many contemporary artists harbor a desire for new political space, Saraceno is actually creating that polydimensional zone of relationality.


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Transvestite-Glitter-Fairie-Theatre

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Dear Cockettes: an exhibition for and about the legendary acid queens The Cockettes just recently opened at UKS (the Young Artists Society) in Oslo, Norway. The Cockettes, who emerged from San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury community, performed "transvestite-glitter-fairie-theatre masques"--elaborate performances which even to the contemporary eye seem remarkably avant garde. "Gender fuck" is a term often associated with the group, as their signature beards, glitter, and transsexual costumes, according to Allen Ginsberg, enforced a "gay contribution to the realization that we're not a hundred percent masculine or feminine, but a mixture of hormones." The exhibition, which opened last week with a number of performances including one by London's 'House of Egypt' includes original vintage posters, photographic prints, scripts, newspaper articles, and other paraphernalia. The exhibition will include screenings of a number of rare films as well as the eponymous documentary feature by David Wiessman and Bill Webber (amazing clips and photos of which can be seen on the film's website). 'Dear Cockettes' should be seen as an important historical exhibition--one that looks beyond the usual conceptual and minimalist art history of the 1960s and 70s to cast a wider net of social relevance and cultural influence. The Cockettes can be seen not only as a precedent to glam rock era stars David Bowie and Elton John, but also contemporary performers like Devendra Banhart.



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JODI Strikes Again!

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Few media artists do documentation better than JODI.org (of course depending on who you talk to, few artists do performance or new media artwork better than JODI.org), and sometime in the past few months the legendary duo of Joan Heemskerk and Dirk Paesmans uploaded a sublime example of their documentary gifts. Composite Club, an installation which was shown recently at both VertextList in Brooklyn and And/Or Gallery in Dallas, can now be viewed online as a series of video files. By using Playstation's Eye Toy camera (which maps the user's movements into the game), a few games, and some cinematic classics (and then recording the outcome), JODI has created a series of funny and characteristically disconcerting single-channel videos. The movements of Marcello Mastroianni and Sophia Loren become triggers for a workout video, characters from Tron play 'Monkey Mania,' and Harrison Ford's Blade Runner character conducts an orchestra and captains a cheerleading squad (I suppose this is much easier than hunting down replicants). Composite Club, in both its installed and online versions, gives us the ultimate in mediated experience--movies playing video games.

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Cucumberophonology

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Although it has evaded status as an area of critical study for a long time, food sits at the intersection of all personal, political, and socio-cultural fields. How it gets to us and how we consume it is immensely telling of our larger cultural milieus. And let's not forget that it can be immensely enjoyable. Within this spirit, the 2007 Cut and Splice festival "explores the social, political and cultural aesthetics of food," primarily in the field of sound art. A collaboration between the UK's Sonic Arts Network and BBC Radio 3, this year's festival is being held on Saturday, November 24th. With an ensemble of instruments that includes carrot flutes, pumpkin basses, leek violins, leek-zucchini-vibrators, cucumberophones, and celery bongos, the Vienna Vegetable Orchestra will be conjuring a sonic miasma as healthy as it is compelling. On the more prurient end of the spectrum, noise artist R.H.Y. Yau's performance will be similar to a palate-cleansing habenero pepper. Pieces by John Cage and Alvin Lucier will also be performed in this day of culinary and sonic vibrations.


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Status Update

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Heath Bunting's Status Project is an online database that tracks and maps the manners through which corporate, institutional, and governmental entities compile and compare our personal information. Bunting, one of the original net.artists, has since his earliest projects concerned himself with transgressing boundaries--using the internet's potential as a boundary-less, liminal space. From his earliest work, like 'Kings Cross Phone In' (in which he arranged, via the web, a massive call-in to pay phones in and around London's Kings Cross Station) to his later work 'BorderXing' (consisting mostly of documentation of his travels across international borders without the intrusion any immigration or customs officials), Bunting has been exploring virtual and actual lines of power and our relationship to them. 'The Status Project,' developed with Kayle Brandon (and previously included in Rhizome's ArtBase 101 exhibition at the New Museum of Contemporary Art), gives users access to 'an expert system for identity mutation.' On November 29th a new phase the project will be launched and presented as part of Trampoline's Radiator Festival for New Technology Art in Nottingham, UK. The new phase will include five detailed maps of the systems that control and share our online identities, as well as a new 'Status Manual,' a how-to-guide for your own personal data manipulation and 'dataflage' (like camouflage). He will also be conducting a 'Psychogeographic Walk' through the streets of central Nottingham, physically illustrating the relationships and connections explored in the Status Project. Railing against dominant power structures can be a trying experience, so if you are lucky enough join them, heed the press release's warning: 'Warm clothes and comfortable footwear advisable.' - Caitlin Jones

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Imagining Geography

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Traveling, you realize that differences are lost: each city takes to resembling all cities, places exchange their form, order, distances, a shapeless dust cloud invades the continents. -- Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities

Calvino's Invisible Cities is, among other things, a beautiful and unique rumination on imagination and geography and Never Been to Tehran, an exhibition curated by Andrea Grover and Jon Rubin, explores a similar terrain. For the project they asked an international group of artists (who have never been to Tehran) to look to their own towns and environments, imagine, and then photograph their conception of what the city of Tehran looked like. The resulting photos reflect not only the Tehran we see through our current media-informed lens (exotic, dangerous, and otherly), but also the growing multiculturalism of the world's major centers. Images of architecture, industry, communal spaces, and food, elegantly make visible the power of perception in contemporary geopolitics. The images were streamed everyday, in the form of a slide show, to galleries in Iran, Turkey, the US, New Zealand, Denmark and Germany, but this physical manifestation wraps up today. Luckily for those of us not in any of these cities, however, the exhibition's photo-sharing site remains on view. In a time of heated political rhetoric, 'Never Been to Tehran' encourages us to imagine beyond the recent inflammatory depictions of Iran, to find links to our own personal geographies, and to remember that in many instances 'each city takes to resembling all cities.'

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Build a Fort

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Dubai can have its man-made islands and indoor ski slopes; I will gladly take the ephemeral and democratic structures of Orange Works instead. Since 2004, artists John Hawke and Sancho Silva have been collaborating as Orange Works to create critical and charming interventions in public space that address the needs of the immediate public. The project's stated aim is "to build unauthorized temporary urban constructions camouflaged as in-process construction sites in order to probe existing spatial pressures, and reorganize public spaces to allow for new social uses." This past September the pair built a shelter and meeting place in a public park in Oslo, Norway. Two weeks later, after acquiring permanent residents, the authorities took the shelter down--but not before the seemingly ambiguous intervention asked what a 'public park' truly meant. Similarly, an 'Open House/Rest Area' with tables, benches, and a small terrace was placed on Brooklyn's York Street in 2006. Local residents used and shared the space without incident for several weeks before the police vandalized it for no apparent reason. It seems that somehow, when we see a new construction, shared public use is not the first thought we have.


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Calling Out of Context

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One of the most fascinating audio documents from the last decade was no doubt The Conet Project: Recordings from Shortwave Numbers Stations, a four CD set of recordings from mysterious radio transmissions of unknown provenance believed to be secret government communications. They generally consist of male or female voices in varying languages reading streams of numbers, letters, or even morse code. (Wilco's popular album, 'Yankee Hotel Foxtrot' takes its name from a sample of the set.) 'Shift Coordinate Points,' by Dutch composer Esther Venrooy, takes these transmissions as its material and inspiration. It will air November 21st, as one of four projects that make up Disturbance, 'a series of internet radio broadcasts' curated by Washington DC-based Niels Van Tomme. Every Wednesday in November a different composition is being broadcast around a sonic or psychological disturbance that affected the artist. All nightly transmissions are being transmitted from art@radio, an online radio station based in Baltimore, Maryland focusing on experimental sonic culture. Although Venrooy's is the only one to reference Numbers Stations, all of the projects function as personalized appropriations of this rigidly hermetic system. - David Michael Perez

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The Revolution Will Not Be Mapped

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As Naomi Klein's new book--The Shock Doctrine--explores, advanced capitalism is more dependent than ever on global disasters, natural and otherwise. The Political Equator II is a two-day trans-border event investigating the geography of post-9/11 global politics taking place between November 16th and 17th. In many ways, the event is a reaction to theories embodied in Thomas Barnett's influential book, The Pentagon's New Map, which divides the globe into a "Functioning Core" and a "Non-Integrating Gap." In opposition, The Political Equator II foregrounds "the notion of a collective territory, but also a territory of collaboration that transgresses hemispheric boundaries." Pairing urbanists, architects, and activists, several of the projects involve crossing between the USA and Mexico including the world's busiest border in Tijuana.

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