You have entered a maze of twisty twisty passages all alike! (TRAPPED!!!) (2008) - Nathan Hauenstein
"The One Mile Scroll transforms virtual space into an actual, physical distance. Take your computer for a scroll."
Caleb Larsen's solo exhibition at Philadelphia's Esther Klein Gallery presents a series of conjectures, testing our assumptions, estimations, and in some cases naiveté with regard to digital information. His installation, Monument, constantly scans 4,500 English-language news feeds and drops yellow BBs on the floor each time it finds a report of a person dying. Over time, the tiny balls will pile-up and form a sort of monochromatic monument to the unknown dead. In a sense, it visually cashes-in on the death craze that often seems to grip the media. Many of his other pieces draw on appropriation and literary adaptation. Who's Life Is It Anyway? asks what it would mean to pilfer other people's Twitter pages for autobiographical lines of one's own (and here, the "auto-" seems tongue-in-cheek, if not ironic). In other works, Larsen has taken on the not-so-small feat of converting both Shakespeare's entire oeuvre and the Epic of Gilgamesh into new forms. In the former case, he's translated all of the text into a visual field of colored squares, while the latter is returned to orality when a computer is ordered to read the ancient epic aloud. Larsen's stated interest is one of using logic-based systems to explore the differences between digital and physical spaces. At times, the results are poetic and, at other times, he seems to be leading us to the discordant conclusion that the proposed affinities do not compute. - Marisa Olson
Image: Caleb Larsen, Monument (Detail), 2006
In recent years numerous exhibitions have been mounted on the subject of "art and music." The Chicago Museum of Art's 2007 show "Sympathy for the Devil: Art and Rock and Roll Since 1967" was an excellent example that explored the cultural and social crossovers between art and music and the stylistic effects they have had on each other. "Looking at Music," a current exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art (curated by Associate Curator of Media Arts Barbara London), also looks at these cultural synergies but illuminates them further by focusing on the structural and theoretical connections between not only music and art, but also writing, filmmaking and performance. By starting in the early 1960s, the show focuses on a time when the very nature of art was in flux, new forms of writing were emerging, new technologies were pushing the boundaries of moving image and sound recordings, and social attitudes about self expression and gender were radically changing the cultural landscape.
Commissioned by Art in General, Carlos Motta's new Internet archive, The Good Life, is the latest part of a project the artist has developed since 2005, comprising 360 video interviews with pedestrians in twelve Latin American cities. In his essay, "Postscript: Civilization or Barbarity," the Colombian artist outlines the shift from politicized, creative practices, like those of Argentina's Third Cinema and Brazil's Paulo Freire, to increasing U.S. incursions, since the 1970s, into Latin American governments and economies. Attempting to close the divide "between democratic theory and practice" and reclaim, according to essayist Stamatina Gregory, an older conception of participatory politics, explored by Aristotle and revived by Hannah Arendt, Motta asks his interviewees about their own conceptions of democracy, democratization, and U.S. interventions in the region. Visitors can navigate the site via a variety of criteria, including interviewee occupation, location, and age group, as well as interview theme. The unedited, straightforward quality of the videos, Motta writes, renders "the process of the work's making transparent," foregrounding the many and varied stories and opinions that constitute the public community. While commissioned essays and texts, a forthcoming illustrated publication, and past exhibitions have articulated The Good Life's various facets and adaptable nature, Motta hopes the Internet will be "a way to reach a wider audience outside the field of art...and to make the work available to the individuals that responded to the questions" - Tyler Coburn
Image: Carlos Motta, Revolution is power for the people (Still from The Good Life), 2008
Stan VanDerBeek (1927-1984) shares with artists like Josef Albers, Aldous Huxley, John Cage, Robert Rauschenberg, and Buckminster Fuller the legacy of having developed their practice at Black Mountain College, the creative mecca where these and other thinkers pushed the edges of visual art, music, literature, technology, and consciousness. His experimental films of the 1950s blurred dada collage and science fiction, and he was an early adopter of both analog processes and computer animation, establishing for him a godfather-like position in the origin-narratives surrounding new media. His often rough aesthetic anticipated glitch-fetishism by several decades and drove the surrealist aesthetic into new territory; yet this is not to say that his works didn't go down smoothly. (The internet is full of video evidence of his colorfully dreamy proliferations.) The artist is currently the subject of an exhibition at New York's Guild & Greyshkul gallery, where one can see VanDerBeek's contribution to the proto-history of digital copy-and-paste stylistics in the form of real copy-and-paste collages and his own reworkings of his early films. Much of the work in the show, including a "faux mural" he transmitted electronically to international venues, in 1970, was made in his days at MIT, where his immersion among scientists and engineers had a clear impact on his art. VanDerBeek had a futurist and almost cosmological approach to his work and was one of those artists known for spouting beautiful witticisms about finding universal modes of expression that transcended media and the confinement of traditional forms. At the end of the day, he also reminded us that "Art is the artifact of reality (not taken for granted)." - Marisa Olson
As of today, the U.S. will have a bold new venue for new media art and performance: EMPAC. Short for Experimental Media & Performing Arts Center, the Troy, NY-based facility embodies state-of-the-artness and its affiliation with the highly regarded research university, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, ensures that the installations, performances, and concerts presented there will always be ahead of the technological curve. The space, itself, is a masterpiece. The 220,000-square foot building, designed by Grimshaw, includes a 1200-seat concert hall with an adjustable fabric ceiling; a 400-seat theater with a 70-foot fly tower; two black-box studio spaces with tunable, tilting wall tiles; and acoustically isolated artist/researcher work spaces. Within these walls, and under the direction of Johannes Goebel (who helped found ZKM) and curators Kathleen Forde, Hélène Lesterlin, and Micah Silver, visitors will experience work that emphasizes immersion, interactivity, and time-based media. For the next three weekends, EMPAC will present a major festival full of provocative performances and installations by The Wooster Group, dumb type, Workspace Unlimited, Verdensteatret, Vox Vocal Ensemble and International Contemporary Ensemble, Per Tengstrand, Madlib, Cecil Taylor, Pauline Oliveros, Richard Siegal/The Bakery, Robert Normandeau, Fieldwork, Gamelan Galak Tika + Ensemble Robot, and others. This unveiling has been several years in the making but reservations are going fast, so you won't want to wait to get your tickets and get over to Troy. - Marisa Olson
Digital Arts and New Media (DANM) Technical Coordinator