Posts for October 2007

If You Listen...

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What is the 'natural soundscape,' to borrow a term from theorist R. Murray Schafer, for the Antarctic polar bear? How momentous is this world to the existence of this endangered animal? As the Antarctic quickly vanishes due to climate change, consideration is rarely given to the subtle intricacies of the evaporating sonic geography and its importance. Asking "what the hell is a polar bear doing in Central Park?" by contrasting the soundscape of Antarctica with that of New York City, sound artists Bernie Krause and Andrea Juan explored this environmental concern in their piece, The Poles, for the festival recently organized by Ear to the Earth. The group is an "international network of musicians, sound artists, scientists, and environmental activists" and the festival is in its second year. All the participants work within the field of audio ecology, an interdisciplinary and ever-changing mix of psychogeography, musique concrete, and scientific exploration. The Pole was just one of the many critical projects in the line up this year. The New York Society for Acoustic Ecology held a forum on how urban noise pollution affects our mental and physical health and John Cage's A Dip in the Lake was performed at the Judson Church. The 1978 piece was a sonic map of the terrain of Chicago while this 2007 performance uses the city of Toronto as its source material. As all the artists in the festival make clear, listening to the world is an aesthetic experience that caries the potential for addressing a dire environmental situation.

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Towards Terra Infirma

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As the 'objective text' par excellence, maps and their cultural production have proved to be fertile ground for both deconstruction and more direct political action. Productively engaging in these two strains, An Atlas of Radical Cartography is an exciting project using the technology of maps for social change. Organized by artists Lize Mogel and Alexis Bhagat, the collective project consists of both a traveling exhibition and a publication generated solely by donations being released this month. The exhibition, An Atlas, opened at Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions (LACE) in September and will next travel to Chicago's Gallery 400 in November. A 2008 viewing is scheduled at the Storefront for Art and Architecture in NYC. Among the contributions, Brooklyn's always thrilling Center for Urban Pedagogy (CUP) explore the social network that makes up the 'garbage machine' in New York City while the Institute for Applied Autonomy (IAA) collective investigates the tactical cartography of modern surveillance. A boxed set of maps and essays, the independent publication pairs the 10 artists/collectives with a writer further examining the critical issues raised. At a time when so much political art is ineffectually solipsistic, an international project so integrated with localized activism is beyond invigorating.

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Remixing the Archive

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King Tubby and Marcel Duchamp are kindred spirits in so far as they each helped usher in the conceptual aesthetic now known as the Remix. The former did this through Jamacian Dub music in the late 1960s and early 70s while the latter appropriated a mustachioed postcard of the Mona Lisa. While King Tubby's strain of reggae has sprawled across the sonic landscape to affect everything from Grime to Mariah Carey, the remix has not been as pervasive within visual culture, partially due to an unfortunate insistence on the absolute authority of the 'genius' artist. As such, the Berkley Art Museum's new exhibition RIP.MIX.BURN.BAM.PFA, which opened October 24th, is a welcome break with orthodox. Curated by Richard Rinehart, guest artists were invited to remix two digital works from the museum's collection, Ken Goldberg's Ouija 2000 and Valery Grancher's 24h00 (both 1999). Each 'new' work is being displayed along side the 'originals.' ReMixer, a live event and performance, is being held in conjunction with the opening reception on Friday October 26th at the museum. Berkeley's Kid Kameleon and DJ Ripley will perform, and making the celebration of all things remix as egalitarian as it should be, the Improbable Orchestra's do-it-yourself DJ machine will be on display. The event and exhibition ensure what so many promise but fail to deliver, an aesthetic of multiplicity. - David Michael Perez

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Animating Communities

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From October 25-27, St. Augustine Trinidad is host to the 6th annual Animae Caribe: Animation and New Media Festival--part of the Trinidad and Tobago Film Festival. The screening 'African Animation Panorama,' consists of short films ranging from early cartoons such as Egyptian artist Frenkel's Mish-Mish, to the work of contemporary South African production house Black Heart Gang--and much in between. A showcase of student films and other juried submissions will also be screened over the three-day festival. But what separates this festival from others of its ilk (aside from its geographic locale) is its bent towards the pedagogical. Numerous instructional workshops will take place alongside the screenings, in addition a 'Business Day' which focuses on animation as a career and gives practical tips for those who would seek one. Perhaps most notable is the 'Mobile Caravan,' which brings both festival highlights and workshops to community centers in rural areas throughout the islands. Taking their audience into vital consideration, the Caribbean Animation Festival not only entertains, but also addresses the needs of its community.

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My Body, My Discotheque

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Rather than fighting space station supercomputers, 2001 was the year to dance to the sounds of our own organic bodies. Between 'A Chance to Cut is a Chance to Cure' and 'Bodily Functions,' micro-samplers Matmos and Matthew Herbert respectively made excellent dance records that year that used the body as their source material. Taking this method one step further, Sonic Body is an audio-installation using "interactive technology to create an orchestra of the human body." Opening November 1st in conjunction with the Brighton Digital Festival in the UK, the installation is inspired by the scientific tradition of listening to the body as a means to diagnose illness. Upon entering an amorphous pod, the audience triggers sensors that play a myriad of painstakingly recorded audio from within the human body. The sounds and techniques deployed to capture them are the most exciting aspect of the project. Three interdisciplinary artists, in consultation with a heart surgeon, used tools ranging from stethoscopes to waterproof contact microphones to record sounds such as a rainforest-esque intestine and detuned ultrasonic frequencies that resemble ambient wind chimes. An anechoic chamber, essentially a highly soundproofed space with no reverb, was used to document the external sounds of hair. The looped results posted on the project's website are addictively danceable mutations of minimal techno. As science looks ever outward, it seems culturally significant that such alien music would transmit from the internal network of our very bodies.


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Blogger Skins

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It used to be a bit creepy to admit you googled a new friend or business acquaintance, but these ad hoc background checks are now customary. Marcin Ramocki's latest project 'Blogger Skins,' at artMoving Projects in Brooklyn, references the layer of character these simplistic queries impose upon us. Often out of date, decontextualized, and in some cases shockingly spot-on, our google search results, for good or bad, have become inextricable from our identities. To visualize this process Ramocki used Google's image search on art bloggers Tom Moody (tommoody.us), Paddy Johnson (artfagcity.com), Regine Debatty (we-make-money-not-art.com), James Wagner (jameswagner.com), and Joy Garnett (newsgrist.typepad.com), and tiled the first one hundred images that appeared into a mosaic 'portrait' of each critic. The snapshots point to the absurdity of such cursory investigations, and flip the dynamic between the artist/critic and researcher/researchee relationship. Regine Debatty becomes an art world supermodel, Paddy Johnson appears to have a relationship with Lou Reed, and Tom Moody is an abstract art-creating cricket player. In his own words Moody notes, 'I like what Ramocki says but vaguely wish I didn’t have to be the proof.' - Caitlin Jones

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It's a Wonderful Life

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Haven't we all wondered what it would be like to live someone else's life? To wear their clothes, live in their apartment, drive their car--basically to see if someone else lives a life better than our own? This curiosity has an outlet in the latest project by WOOLOO, an artist-run organization based in Berlin that offers exhibition opportunities and practical tools for artists and curators. This week, as part of PERFORMA07, they have organized Life Exchange, a week-long performance which gives spectators the chance to swap lives with a stranger--more particularly, one of the ten artists commissioned by WOOLOO for the project. Curated by the legendary performance artist and curator Martha Wilson (Founding Director of Franklin Furnace), spectators are invited into the Chelsea, NY apartment of writer Nancy Weber, and after a series of steps anyone who wants can emerge with different clothes, different documents, and different apartment keys. At a time when issues of privacy and identity are constantly being debated in the public forum, Life Exchange requires an almost inconceivable level of trust. But on the lighter side, Life Exchange offers both the narcissist and the voyeur the opportunity to snoop, covet, or criticize the life of another.

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TV on the City

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Hypersurface architects such as Zaha Hadid and Diller Scofidio & Renfro need not be the only ones merging technological art and the urban landscape to fantastical ends. In the city of Eindoven, in the Netherlands, a 3-day festival called Image Radio is taking place between November 2nd and 4th with the aim of reclaiming public city space in the name of interactive art and technology. Each of the ten different artist projects throughout the city are deeply rooted in the fields of art and computer science while also being site-specific. International and interdisciplinary audio-visual crew Crea Composite have installed a maze of 152 mosquito nets in the middle of an underground parking garage, onto which images ranging from animation to pure abstraction will be projected. The project's mock-up image appears like a gleaming mirage amidst the concrete dystopia. Also during the festival, a traveling video art pavilion aptly entitled the BLOB will be stationed outside the campus of the Technische Universiteit Eindhoven, screening numerous video art works. A symposium on Urban Screens will address new media and public space while offering a critical space amid the overwhelming projects throughout the city. While each specific project is a microcosm of possibility, the thought of so many screens being utilized for aims other than commerce is gratifying in itself.

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I Want to be Alone

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Whether it's building forts, playing with blocks, or remodeling Barbie's Dream House, even as children, the architectural impulse to create an ideal space for our self looms large. Nowhere in the digital realm is there such a literal translation of this impulse than in Second Life, and recognizing the growing use of this space as an experimental architectural playground is the 1st Annual Architecture and Design Competition in Second Life. The public voted on the four finalists, who were selected by a panel at this year's Ars Electronica, (the theme of which was GOOD BYE PRIVACY), and the people's favorite was Tanja Meyle's Living Cloud. Avoiding anything that mimicked real life structures, the finalists all responded to their virtual environment, reassessing what good design means in a virtual space. In some cases walls were constructed from sound and Second Life detritus, but for Meyle's entry she truly examined her spatial needs within this multi-user context. Ironically, hers is a semi-transparent cloud that constantly travels with her avatar--an extension of her virtual self. In a space where one doesn't really go to be alone, Living Cloud nonetheless provides its owner with both privacy and mobility.

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Re-Emerging Fragments

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Spain's LABoral Centro de Arte will soon be opening EMERGENTES, a traveling exhibition and publication that consists of 10 Latin American artists using science and technology to enact a "new socio-cultural interaction." Ranging from net-based projects to robotic installations, and including artists such as Santiago Ortiz, Mariano Sardon, and Mariela Yeregui, the exhibition presents a varied conceptual and formal experience. Focusing on artists who find themselves "defragmented, whether on the level of media or geography," the wider concerns seem to be reconceptualizing cultural participation vis-a-vis advanced technology. Indeed, given that several of the artists work outside of Latin America fully or at least partially, one of the exhibition's underlying investigations is how new technologies reconfigure geography and cultural identification. Of course all of these issues have no clear or definitive answer, so it seems appropriate that a number of the projects be works in progress. Accompanying the exhibitions will be a number of workshops and lectures, including 'Biocollage' and the poetically titled 'You Arrived with the Breeze.' While technology, and the internet in particular, tend to collapse geographical distance, such an exhibition rooted in cultural geography offers some productive tensions.

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