Posts for September 2011

Artist Profile: Paul Slocum

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16 x 16 Candles, screenshot, (2006)

Transformer Fire (2008) originated online and was then translated to the gallery space for a show at artMovingProjects in Brooklyn. It generated a lot of interest in a past Rhizome blog post. Can you discuss this process of transforming a net art piece into the gallery space?

The Transformer Fire videos were originally posted on a group blog called Spirit Surfers, and the format of the blog limits the size, presentation, and bandwidth. So when I was preparing the video for the show, I optimized it for the screen that Aron would be using, rendering the videos in higher quality and in portrait orientation for a sideways monitor to better fit the vertically oriented stack of 5 videos, and I matched the resolution of the video to the monitor so I could control exactly how things were scaled.  The presentation was a bit cleaner and clearer than on the blog.

Your interest in making music led you to design an iPhone music sampler app, and then an app that is an artwork and a musical instrument. Do you follow the development of art apps? Do you think it could become a new distribution channel for art?

I've looked at some art apps, but personally I think games are the best art in the App Store. I think Cookie Dozer Thanksgiving is more visually and mechanically interesting than any art app I've seen. Maybe I'm missing the best art apps because I don't know how to find them. I think that I would be more inclined to say that apps could become a new medium for art rather than a channel. I can't think of a lot of existing art that could be distributed and viewed properly with an iPhone ...

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A Visit to the Survival Research Laboratories Workshop

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Over the summer, I met with Mark Pauline, director and founder of the legendary Survival Research Laboratories, who gave me a tour of his studio workshop in Petaluma, CA. Since its inception in 1978, SRL has quite literally blazed new territory in the field of performance, robotic engineering and sculpture, producing dangerous, overpowering live shows with custom robots built by Mark and his team. The performances provoke both a fear of and fascination with the power of technology, as well as the potential loss of human control over machines. Extremely affable and intelligent, with a no bullshit air about him, Mark’s technical knowledge was astounding. I’ve been following SRL’s work for years, so actually meeting Mark and seeing the robots up close was a real treat.

 

Survival Research Laboratories is currently operated out of three large garages in Petaluma, an idyllic, historic town about an hour north of San Francisco. Mark moved to the new location in 2007, lugging 180 tons of equipment with him, when the landlord of his old warehouse in San Francisco decided to hike up the rent after decades of affordability. The Petaluma spot seems perfectly suited to SRL’s activities, it even has a parking lot large enough to accommodate test runs of gigantic, menacing robots, and laidback neighbors who never complain about the noise. 

The first garage I got a peek at is the laboratory, where the robots are made. 

 

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(Recent) History Class: Paul Ryan Interviews for Grey Room

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“Cybernetic Guerrilla Warfare Revisited: From Klein Worms to Relational Circuits” In an interview by Felicity D. Scott and Mark Wasiuta for the Summer 2011 issue of GreyRoom, artist and writer Paul Ryan talks about the time he spent working with Marshall McLuhan, the early days of video art, and his work.


“At that moment [1967] I thought of myself as a writer. I was holed up on the Lower East Side of Manhattan with my typewriter, trying to write, and I heard McLuhan on the raso saying, ‘of course, in this electronic age of computers, satellites, radio, and television, the writer is no longer somebody holed up in his garret pounding a typewriter!’ It stopped me cold. I had to find out what this guy was about.”


Ryan gives a fascinating account of video art in the 1960s, from the Howard Wise Gallery, to securing money from the New York State Council for the Arts for video art at a time when no such funding was readily available, and tells the story of meeting the heir to the IBM fortune who admired McLuhan and wanted to give him two Sony Portapaks that both ended in Ryan’s hands to “experiment” with.

 

Artist book based on the Triadic Tapes, 1976 (via the Smithsonian Archives of American Art)


Ryan wrote extensively about video art, cybernetics, and technology; his work was then featured in some seminal exhibitions, such as “TV as a Creative Medium” at the Howard Wise Gallery (1969) and “Primitivism in Twentieth Century Art” at MoMA (1984). (Here's a 1969 letter by Ryan to Howard Wise.) 

“I would avoid the term visual to describe video. You can see a bottle of perfume, but sight is not the sense it really affects. You can see video images but their effect is primarily kinesthetic or proprioceptive when you see yourself. Video is about perceiving events with the nervous system, not visualizing in a pictorial way.”

 

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E-flux Talks About the Book Coop at the New York Art Book Fair

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E-flux’s book coop is a mobile home for publications from over two hundred art institutions across the world. It will be presented at the New York Art Book Fair, which opens today and runs through the weekend at MoMA PS1. I aksed e-flux for more information about the project:

 

Costly and often monopolistic approaches to the distribution of art books has resulted in a situation where it has become common for not only the author, but also the publisher to receive little to no revenue for a book's sales. The book coop was initiated as a way to bring together and give greater access to an array of contemporary art publications being produced by museums, foundations, residency programs, artist-run spaces, and universities all over the world. It was formed to offer these publishers the opportunity to make their titles public without having to follow the traditional routes provided by distributors, and to experiment with publishers to create a platform where the responsibilities of distribution and access are shared. 

The members of the book coop represent a good majority of the e-flux journal network, a group of over 200 varied contemporary art institutions who print and locally distribute the e-flux journal. When forming the project earlier this year we invited all journal network members to participate. New members of the book coop have been added to the initial group since announcing the project’s presence at the NYABF last week, which is great. 

We first presented the book coop at Art Basel this summer as part of the Kopfbau, a larger e-flux project which saw us occupy an old Art Basel office slated for demolition. We took a few of the offices, demolished a couple of walls to make a large rectangular room with wall to wall, almost floor ...

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Artist Profile: Mendi + Keith Obadike

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Mendi + Keith Obadike are 2011 Rhizome Commissions winners for their proposal, African Metropole: Sonic City Lagos.

 

Many of your pieces are concerned with race and identity and confront those issues through technology. In your 2001 piece "Blackness for Sale" you were asked to remove the auction from eBay because of its inappropriateness. Thinking about growth of identity and social networks on the internet over the last decade, do you feel that it is important for artists to continue to make political work that engages the internet and other new media?

While our early sound art works like Sexmachines, Automatic, or the Uli Suite were not about race/identity, certainly many of the early Internet works were. We would say that race itself is a technology, and so making work that looks at how issues of race or identity play out online is a way to highlight this fact. The Internet is by nature a contested space, so any work that engages with this terrain is of course political. Many of the questions we started asking in the late 90s around narrative structures, technology, and identity seem to remain relevant today, although the ways in which we engage with the networks seem significantly different. When we made “Blackness for Sale” and other "net.art" over a decade ago, many people saw the web as a place to try on masks and to play with other identities. Today, through social networking sites, people are flooding the web with personal info and living with what might be best described as a bloated databody. So we do find that social interactions on the web create a territory for which commentary is as necessary and as fruitful today as it has ever been. 

Your collaborative projects frequently mine narratives and characters from history and transform them using sound, performance, and new technologies... 

 

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Weekend Clicking

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Still from Power Slave (1995) via FM Towns Marty

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