Posts for November 2007

Fractals After Pollock

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As certain factions of the contemporary art world celebrate the triumph of painting, triumphs of old seem to find new ways to mystify--in particular the drip paintings of Jackson Pollock. Long before fractals were popularized by internet artists, a still-ongoing debate began churning among the scientific community as to whether or not fractals are present within Pollock's compositions and if they can be used to determine authenticity. Defined as "a rough or fragmented geometric shape that can be subdivided in parts, each of which is (at least approximately) a reduced-size copy of the whole," a fractal exists in nature in everything from snowflakes to mountain ranges. Within a painting, this basically means that there are repeating smaller patterns within the drip compositions. The Pollock-Krasner Estate actually hired physicist Richard Taylor, who first stated eight years ago that some Pollock paintings contain fractals, to help determine if alleged Pollock works were authentic. In a paper submitted to a major physics journal, physicists Katherine Jones-Smith and Harsh Mathur again counter that Taylor's conclusions are highly questionable if not absurd. Of course if Taylor is correct, it gives new weight to Pollock's infamous, statement "I am nature." As the debate persists, snowflakes maintain a value well below $140 million.

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Music Videos are the new Video Art

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Beck has been commissioning artists to create his music videos for years and legendary music video director Michel Gondry just had a gallery show in New York City. These are just two instances the are evidence of the blurring between what we think of as video art and the art of the music video. This trend (if we can call it that) is the subject of Playback, an exhibition at the Musee d'Art moderne de la Ville de Paris. With a large roster and multiple venues, the show illustrates the history and diversity of the art/music video genre. Works by Andy Warhol, Laurie Anderson, and Rodney Graham sit alongside newer works by Michael Bell-Smith, Paper Rad, and YOUNG-HAE CHANG HEAVY INDUSTRIES. With numerous screenings throughout the city, the best place for those not in Paris to see the show is on the Playback myspace page, which links to a number of videos in the show. Notable highlights include Jill Miller's I am Making art Too, a witty, playful, and pointed update of John Baldessari's I am Making Art, and art world darlings Los Super Elegantes' telenovela Dieciseis/Sixteen, directed by Miguel Calderon. In a time when most video art has become multi-screen installation, Playback makes a strong case that single channel video, in the form of the music video, is alive and well, with an audience and a distribution network to rival single channel video's heyday.

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Assume Vivid Cathedral Psychedelia

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An architectonic conduit between the world below and the heavens above, the cathedral has been a spiritual beacon for Christians since the early Middle Ages. Tapping into this mystical energy, Haque Design + Research's 'Evoke' is one of the more stimulating projects in the 2007 Illuminating York, a luminous festival of site specific artworks and performances in the English city. Usman Haque, who is responsible for some of the most innovative projects within interactive architecture, has projected a massive 80,000-lumen animation onto the York Minster Cathedral. Comparing the magical effect to a Psilocybin-induced experience would be understandable, though also reductive as the work is much more than a light show. Created and affected by the viewers, the patterns of the animation are 'generated in realtime by the words, sounds, music, and noises produced collectively by the public, determined by their particular voice characteristics.' Individuals with different vocal rhythms and tones will 'evoke' different transcendental visions. In this outwardly humble project, Haque has ultimately fulfilled the best promises of both the psychedelic era and religion by assembling a collective vision that cherishes the infinite differences of those involved. - David Michael Perez

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Signature Networks

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Americans, legal, illegal, and undefined alike, in the greater New York City area may want to pay close attention to the upcoming exhibition The Dotted Line at Brooklyn's Rotunda Gallery, which will open December 7th. Curated by Cabinet Magazine managing editor Colby Chamberlain, the participating artists use identification material and bureaucratic paperwork of all sorts to address what has been called the 'Security-Industrial Complex.' Many of them engage in "post-studio practices that emphasize processes and social relations." In itself the show looks engaging and intelligent, however, it is particularly urgent as the press release comes shortly after NY Governor Elliot Spitzer has proposed that New York be one of the first states to adopt Bush's Real ID act. The act was slipped through Congress in May 2005 in a 'must pass' Iraq War/Tsunami relief bill. Although each state still has to enact a costly bureaucratic machine to see it through, it will essentially turn state drivers licenses into federal IDs, and create one national identity database, thus tightening government surveillance and furthering loss of privacy. At the cost of our vanishing civil liberties, the administration's hope is to crack down on illegal immigration, and of course 'evil-doers.' This timely group show reminds us that signing the dotted line is a performative act often reaffirming insidious technologies of power.

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Now Hear This

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Electra, the brainchild of Lina Dzuverovic and Anne Hilde Neset, has for the past four years commissioned, exhibited, and found institutional support for contemporary art in the UK. Although they focus on the intersection of contemporary mediums, music and sonic art form the backbone of their productive efforts. Christian Marclay, Tony Oursler, and Kim Gordon are only a few of the artists they've worked with and the Her Noise curatorial project has traveled widely and been critically lauded. In celebration of the 25th anniversary of the magazine The Wire (of which Neset is now a Deputy Editor) the two are teaming up again for a series of performances, film screenings, and new commissions. Infamous performer Lydia Lunch will premiere (in the UK) her autobiographical 'Video Hysteries;' a series of short films from the LUX archives forms a history lesson on the longstanding relationship between avant garde music and film; and Christian Marclay will perform his music/video/performance piece 'Screen Play.' By bringing fully-formed exhibitions and programs to the table, Electra addresses head-on lingering institutional reticence to get involved with sound art and the simultaneous prevalence of it. Performances run throughout London from October 26th-November 22nd 2007.


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Film 101

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The language of the cinema not only pervades the way we view the world around us, but also how we view our own lives. Our experiences are increasingly mediated--to the point that one can imagine their existence as a series of narrative arcs, character types, and tracking shots. As such, it is of the essence that we continually renegotiate and critically assess our relationship to cinema--both as producers and viewers. This coming weekend in Oslo, the Office of Contemporary Art Norway, through the symposium Film as Critical Practice, proposes to do just this. Artists and theorists such as Harun Farocki, Kristin Ross, and Hito Steyerl, will assess and debate what the notion of 'critical' means in contemporary cinema. Laura Mulvey, who in her 1973 essay 'Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema' forever altered the field of film studies through her articulation of the male gaze, will unpack how this gaze changes when, enabled by technology, spectators of either gender can pause, fast forward, slow down, and repeat key sequences and frames of a film. A supplemental film program 'Material Critical Poetics' curated by Ian White from the Whitechapel Gallery includes films by Anthony McCall. Peter Gidal and Emily Wardill and will examine, in White's words, 'what constitutes 'critical film' or what 'film as a critical practice' might be, in the context of contemporary visual art and a particular historical legacy.' - Caitlin Jones

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FUTURHYTHMACHINE

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Even as digital technology has unearthed a new sonic universe of possibility for musicians, one could argue that the means and interfaces into that universe have lacked a certain old world charm. When most of us spend more than fifty percent of our lives at a computer, watching a musician stare at a laptop on stage isn't exactly thrilling. By creating a new digital musical instrument, artist Toshio Iwai has set out to change that. More interestingly, he may have actually succeeded. Manufactured by Yamaha, the TENORI-ON appears to be an organic and ergonomic fusion or sound, sight, and machinery. A handheld screen of a 16x16 grid of LED switches "any of which can be activated in a number of ways to create an evolving musical soundscape." The score mode, one of six possible modes, is essentially an X/Y axis divided by note pitch and time. The website features quicktime demo's that are as visually exciting as they are sonically, including an interview/ performance with the avant-garde's hardest working man, Jim O'Rourke (who apparently speaks Japanese). While I hate to sound like a commercial, the Tenori-On seems to be a breakthrough and makes me wish I were a spoiled rich kid at Christmas time.

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Again and Again and Again

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If you've ever looked for performance videos by Bruce Nauman on YouTube you know that they've all been taken down due to copyright infringement. What has taken their place, however, are copious 'versions' of Nauman's performances, enacted and filmed by fans and followers. This is emblematic of recent interest in the idea of 'reenactment,' and in particular the restaging of key performance art works from the 1960s and 70s. In both 2005 and 2007, the performance art biennial PERFORMA's programs have included more than one of these takes on the 'classics.' In 2005 Marina Abramovic restaged Vito Acconci, Joseph Beuys, Valie Export, and others in her series 'Seven Easy Pieces,' and DJ Spooky reinterpreted Nam June Paik and Charlotte Moorman's 'TV Cello.' This year, 18 Happenings in 6 Parts, Alan Kaprow's historically monumental event, is being restaged, and internet artists Eva & Franco Mattes (a.k.a. 010010110101101.org) will reenact three performances from the seventies with their avatars in Second Life. They have already restaged Chris Burden's 'Shoot,' Vito Acconci's 'Seedbed,' Valie Export's 'Tapp und Tastkino,' and the ongoing Joseph Beuys work, '7000 Oaks.' Is performance becoming more like theater, with scripts and scores to be followed by different artists in different contexts, with complex authorial attribution? And why is there such a strong impulse to reenact the past? Is this homage or simplistic repetition? Perhaps these reperformances are a viable and creative means to preserve an art form that has no material presence, and like oral histories, they can be passed down through generations of artists--giving us a rare glimpse of what came before.


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User-Generated Anthropology

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The longest-running documentary film festival in the US, the Margaret Mead Video and Film Festival opens this Friday in New York City. As its namesake evokes, this fest highlights anthropological, sociological, and political films, casting a wide net to present films that critically engage a broad range of global cultures and themes. A number of screenings and discussions are closely aligned with new media art concerns and threads. The panel The Machine is Us/ing Us: User Generated Content, moderated by Michael Wesch, assistant professor of cultural anthropology at Kansas State University tackles Web 2.0 from an anthropological perspective with the participation of the head of YouTube's film department as well as key administrators from other user-driven sites. The screening of Rani Singh's The Old, Weird America: Harry Smith's Anthology of American Folk Music presented by Jonas Mekas and Anthology Film Archive looks at the remarkable contributions of American avant-garde filmmaker and musicologist Harry Smith (many of his Early Abstraction films can be previewed on YouTube) and Eyebeam co-presents the premier of Jaqueline Goss's new work Stranger Comes to Town which appropriates animation from the Department of Homeland Security, World of Warcraft, and Google Earth. Often caught up in the insular art world, events such as the Margaret Mead Video and Film Festival not only exposes us to new trends in documentary film, but also allows us to view issues so central to new media art in much broader cultural contexts.

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Carpooling with Doom

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Looking at incidents such as the American TV network NBC's current 'Green Week' and Al Gore's recent Nobel Peace Prize win, the issue of climate change seems to be receiving unprecedented attention and long overdue legitimization. However, instead of Al Gore, post-apocalypse historians may well focus on the 1956 predications of geophysicist Marion King Hubbert as the true prophecy of this civilization's end. Widely dismissed at the time, it was he who predicted that the world's oil reserves would peak and then quickly decline in the early 21st century. While the timeline changes daily, few argue that global oil's peak is impending if not already past. Despite this grim assessment, one need only look at the 1973 oil crisis to see that even minor technological innovations drastically change our destiny. The Canadian Centre for Architecture's (CCA) new exhibition 1973: Sorry, Out of Gas, which focuses on how architecture and urbanism responded to that new (though brief) reality of finite resources could not be more timely. The exhibition and accompanying publication cover a broad range of materials, from architectural projects for sustainable housing to the original solar panels Jimmy Carter installed on the White House roof--later inauspiciously removed by Ronald Reagan.



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