Interface aesthetics seem to push further into public consciousness with each passing month. Consumers are manic about multitouch and contemporary prototypes exploring gesture and performance have hinted at how we will be interacting with technology in the not-so-distant future. This considered, conversations about the desktop metaphor underlying personal computing or Aqua-style might seem archaic, irrelevant in light of emerging tangible media. This is, of course, not the case, and when excavating the idea of interface, one can dig back much further than screen-based interaction and find an extensive lineage of control panels and analog interfaces that prefigure the graphical user interface (GUI). An artist clearly invested in questioning the nature of interface and display is Kevin Hamilton, a researcher and educator based in Urbana, Illinois. Over the last several years Hamilton has been exploring the narrative potential of bare-bones interface and informational systems, quite notably through his ongoing Rhythmanalysis project.
JooYoun Paek builds small, object-based responses to urban life, transforming the aches and pains we customarily suffer, at the hands of the metropolis, into novel sites of reflection, social courtesy, and rest. The artist's humorous, insightful approach bespeaks her familiarity with her subject; she was raised in Seoul, Korea, and moved to New York in 2005 to attend NYU's Interactive Telecommunications Program (ITP). Fresh from her recent participation in "Untethered," at Eyebeam, and "Design and the Elastic Mind," at MoMA, JooYoun caught up with me at her LMCC Workspace Residency studio, on the twenty-ninth floor of the Equitable Building in Manhattan's Financial District. - Tyler Coburn
"PREDRIVE: After Technology" (currently on exhibition at The Mattress Factory, Pittsburgh, PA November 14-April 2, 2009) features new works by six international artists including Takeshi Murata, Paper Rad, Gretchen Skogerson, Antoine Catala, and Brody Condon. The exhibition was conceived with a very specific group of artists in mind -- artists who placed both the dysfunction and arrogance of ever-changing technologies at the center of their work. In a sense, these artists are working in the shadow of a technological dystopia (and euphoria) that had begun as early as the Industrial Revolution -- as expressed in the vacant, vectored glances mapped out in Edouard Manet's The Balcony (1868-69) or the absolute pleasure of stop-motion animation in Georges Melies' An Up-To-Date Conjuror
Below, I speak with two of the featured artists in the show, Takeshi Murata and Jacob Ciocci (of Paper Rad) -- we cover everything from readymade software aesthetics to the dream of the perfect collector -- someone willing to take the risk of simply buying an idea.- Melissa Ragona
Alexei Shulgin's pioneering works in internet art are collected on his site easylife.org, but many of the links there are empty or obsolete; one called Insanity Notification sends visitors to a site indicating that Shulgin went insane at an unidentified point in the past. It has been more than five years since Shulgin left the online environment to focus on the production of tangible, marketable objects. His collaboration with Aristarkh Chernyshev began in 2003, and two years later the artists founded Electroboutique a gallery-slash-gadget shop selling distorting screens and other high-tech toys. Shulgin and Chernyshev called it "Media Art 2.0," and wrote a manifesto saying the plug-and-play nature of their new work liberated them from a "media art ghetto," adding that their manipulation of familiar screen-based interfaces contained a nugget of criticality. Their work was recently featured in "Criti Pop", an exhibition at the Moscow Museum of Modern Art (along with interactive installations that Chernyshev made in collaboration with Vladislav Efimov). - Brian Droitcour
Mitchell Whitelaw is an artist and writer with interests in digital ontology and generative systems. His work and theory are invested in a close reading of the networks and tools we engage on a daily basis and questioning modes of representation. Whitelaw is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Creative Communication at the University of Canberra and he also authors (the teeming void), a blog on generative and data aesthetics. In this interview conducted by Greg J. Smith, Whitelaw discusses his recent work and contextualizes several of his writing projects.
Machine Project, since its inception in 2003, has grown to become one of those mythic, playful and gloriously idiosyncratic spaces -- on the map alongside destinations such as the Museum of Jurassic Technology, the City Reliquary, or the Pirate Store at 826 Valencia. An interdisciplinary non-profit art space run out of a storefront in the Echo Park neighborhood of Los Angeles, Machine Project host events and exhibitions, which span lectures on the aesthetic cultivation of bacteria to a 3 day banjo performance in their front window. I interviewed founder Mark Allen about his involvement with the space and some of their upcoming projects.
eteam is the New York-based duo of German artists Franziska Lamprecht and Hajoe Moderegger. In 2008 they received a Rhizome Commission for their Second Life Dumpster project in which the levels of consumption and disposal typically occurring blindly in the virtual world are manifest in the form of an ever-evolving garbage heap composed of deleted items tagged with a decay script by the artists. This exploration of the social life of spaces and systemic behavior within them is an interesting follow-up to their incredibly ambitious International Airport Montello project in which, after purchasing a piece of land in rural Nevada on eBay for the sum of US$1, they created an airport employing locals -- which they call "an impossible machine, which is perpetually in motion and sometimes on strike." Despite flying a handful of art world insiders there (putting commissioning organization Art in General's curators to work as flight attendants), eteam worked to underscore Montello's outsider status. The contested frontier between the so-called real world and spaces and cultures operating at the edges of constructed reality provided a nice point of comparison between Second Life Dumpster and International Airport Montello in this interview with the artists.
In his book, Parables for the Virtual, Brian Massumi calls for "movement, sensation, and qualities of experience" to be put back into our understandings of embodiment. He says that contemporary society comprehends bodies, and by extension the world, almost exclusively through linguistic and visual apprehension. They are defined by their images, their symbols, what they look like and how we write and talk about them. Massumi wants to instead "engage with continuity," to encourage a processual and active approach to embodied experience. In essence, Massumi proposes that our theories "feel" again. "Act/React", curator George Fifield's "dream exhibition" that opened at the Milwaukee Art Museum last week, picks up on these phenomenologist principles. He and his selected artists invite viewer-participants to physically explore their embodied and continuous relationships to each other, the screen, space, biology, art history and perhaps more.
Fifield is quick to point out that all the works on show are unhindered by traditional interface objects such as the mouse and keyboard. Most of them instead employ computer vision technologies, more commonly known as interactive video. Here, the combined use of digital video cameras and custom computer software allows each artwork to "see," and respond to, bodies, colors and/or motion in the space of the museum. The few works not using cameras in this fashion employ similar technologies towards the same end. While this homogeneity means that the works might at first seem too similar in their interactions, their one-to-one responsiveness, and their lack of other new media-specific explorations -- such as networked art or dynamic appropriation and re-mixing systems -- it also accomplishes something most museum-based "state of the digital art" shows don't. It uses just one avenue of interest by contemporary media artists in order to dig much deeper into what their practice means, and why it's important. "Act/React" encourages an extremely varied and nuanced investigation of our embodied experiences in our own surroundings. As the curator himself notes in the Museum's press release, "If in the last century the crisis of representation was resolved by new ways of seeing, then in the twenty-first century the challenge is for artists to suggest new ways of experiencing...This is contemporary art about contemporary existence." This exhibition, in other words, implores us to look at action and reaction, at our embodied relationships, as critical experience. It is a contemporary investigation of phenomenology.