Dial-A-Poem (1968) - John Giorno

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"After having a conversation on the phone with Burroughs in 1968, Giorno initiated the Dial-A-Poem Poets concept, which he claimed would later influence the creation of information services creation over the telephone, such as sports and stock market. Fifteen phone lines were connected with individual answering machines: people would call Giorno Poetry Systems and listen to a poem they were offered from fragments of various live recordings. Dial-A-Poem, from 1969 on, was very successful, with 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and 8.30 p.m. to 11.30 p.m. peaks. GPS used a variety of social issues at the time, what with the sexual revolution and the Vietnam War, which would create appeal as well as shock from the reactive community.

-- FROM THE GIORNO POETRY SYSTEMS WIKIPEDIA


Listen to Selections from Giorno Poetry Systems on UBU

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Required Reading

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Image: Unprojectable: Projection and Perspective (2008), performance documentation, Tate Modern, London

"DG: So just to clarify, you and John Cale took the side of contingency, materialism, and cultural and historical specificity, and La Monte Young and his supporters took the side of permanence, ‘the eternal’ and that which transcends culture and history.

TC: Right. Which led me to become engaged in a reflection on the intersection between idealism in Western philosophical thought and in Western cultural tradition on the one hand, and on the other hand power relations - since our controversy was largely lodged in the context of a legalistic formulation. What about our Greek roots? What about Pythagoras? What about theories of music that had to do with numerology? This ensnared me in a set of concerns around the text of history. To answer your question more directly, the substratum of my current interests, and those that have held my attention most over the last few decades, has to do with the way in which the historical record can become the narrative. On the sound side, this process was really rich, and it branched out. I began to tell myself odd things, like modern physics had been generated as a branch of music. The power conditions in the Western orchestra had their roots in the same conditions as modern state bureaucracies and military drill practices. This gives rise to an analysis of how power is transacted that is not inconsistent with Foucault’s theories, but culturally modulated in a different way."

-- EXCERPT FROM INTERVIEW IN FRIEZE MAGAZINE, JUNE/AUGUST 2009

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Light Art Museumified

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Renowned light artist James Turrell (1943, Los Angeles) was first associated with the American Minimalists that emerged in the 1960s such as Donald Judd, Robert Morris, and Frank Stella. Today Turrell is known more as an installation artist who uses colored lights to sculpt space and disorient perception. Currently Turrell lives in Flagstaff, Arizona, near the Navaho reservations, where he continues to oversee the completion of his monumental land art project at Roden Crater, an extinct volcano that the artist has “been transforming into a sky observatory for over three decades. In honor of the recently opened James Turrell Museum in Colomé, Argentina, the only museum worldwide dedicated specifically to the artist's career, this article discusses highlights from Turrell’s rich body of work and introduces the new Turrell Museum, where many of these pieces reside.

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69 (1968) - Robert Breer

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A Short Week in Shorts

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Long a destination for filmmakers to showcase their work, the International Short Film Festival Oberhausen has expanded its program in recent years to incorporate experimental film and video art. Beginning in 2006 distributors, such as Lux, Electronic Arts Intermix, Netherlands Media Art Institute, and the Canadian Filmmakers Distribution Center, were invited to spotlight works recently added to their catalogs. This portion of the festival was rounded out by “Unreal Asia”, a themed series of screenings of Southeast Asian film and video art, as well as a profiles on Japanese experimental filmmaker Matsumoto Toshio, Mexican filmmaker Nicolás Echevarría, German filmmaker Herbert Fritsch, the Sarajevo Documentary School and a retrospective on the Russian art group the Factory of Found Clothes. Annual segments, such as the MuVi award for music videos, an international competition, a competition including only German work, and films made by children, were scheduled alongside the thematic programs, resulting in a diverse and active six-day calendar. I had the opportunity to attend the festival for the first time a week ago, and caught a number of the screenings.

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The Cybernetic Pioneer of Video Art: Nam June Paik

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In the 1960s and 1970s, Nam June Paik, and many of his pioneering video artist colleagues and Fluxus collaborators took the visionary work of Wiener, the electric prophesies of McLuhan and Gregory Bateson and the utopic designs of Buckminster Fuller and concurred that the new video medium would usher in a social utopia that would extend far beyond the spheres of the 1970s experimental art world. For these early media artists, the feedback loops, live circuits, and video flows, coupled with the electronic image’s immediate and physiological stimulations, when used in distinction to commercial models, posited potent possibilities for cybernetic consciousness, ecological human-machine systems, and an end to top-down power relations. In short, the rise of an egalitarian, democratic society through electronic media. In order to fully appreciate Paik’s work, we must remember this historical context. A solo show is now on view at the James Cohan Gallery in Chelsea, "Nam June Paik: Live Feed: 1972 -1994." The show features several of Paik’s older and more recent video installations, all of which reflect his cybernetic ambitions for video technology.

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Maximal Art: The Origins and Aesthetics of West Coast Light Shows

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In 1965, multimedia artist Stan VanDerBeek wrote that "language and cultural-semantics are as explosive as nuclear energy. It is imperative that we (the world's artists) invent a new...non-verbal international picture-language"1. He foresaw that future “image-making” technologies would be needed to develop a new “picture-language” to communicate to all people the threat of global annihilation. I believe that psychedelic light shows originating on the U.S. West Coast in the 1950s were part of the beginnings of this rapidly developing world language that is now more evident with newer digital media technologies. Along with other counterculture activities such as taking hallucinogenic drugs, light shows evolved as a means of connecting people and helping raise individual and collective consciousness outside the mass media spaces of TV, cinema, and radio. They were among the first primitive attempts by artists to appropriate many of the “new” analogue communications media technologies - photography, film, audio - and add the images, beat and lyrics of popular culture and music to create an immersive mediated environment embracing both the performers and the audience in a transformative sensorial experience.

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Real-Time Legend

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Image: Sonia Sheridan, Color-in-Color I, II/Sonia Sheridan, 1970

Let's admit it. Many of us have done it. You simply lift the lid on the photocopier, press your face (or other body part) against the glass, and hit "print." Sonia Sheridan has made an art out of this form of self-portraiture. The phenomenon of artists using the oft-overlooked tools around them is one with a long tradition. Think of Lillian Schwartz and the computers that surrounded her at Bell Labs, or Sadie Benning and the toy camera her father, James Benning, gave her. The list is long. And there's something about the convergence of play and experimentation that has made work like this a locus for forwarding new media. In Sheridan's case, it's partly a result of a deep attunement to the relationship between industrial methods and creative drives that has persisted for over sixty years. She was the beneficiary of a 3M residency program which allowed her to make work with equipment like their Thermo-Fax and Color-in-Color machines. In the legendary Jack Burnham-curated exhibition, "Software" (Jewish Museum, 1969), Sheridan allowed viewers to play with these machines, as well. The resultant work enabled her to comment on the compression of time in the conception-to-realization process, positioning her as an early theorist of "real time" art-making and communication. Meanwhile, her art projects helped establish the aesthetics of electronic graphics, while simultaneously pushing the formal boundaries (light, line, color) of seemingly simple systems and drawing these experiments into more and more complex generative systems. Like many artists of her generation opening up new tools, the body became a common site of investigation, and the images she continues to make reflect the metamorphosis of the body in relationship to machines. The Daniel Langois Foundation maintains an extensive archive on ...

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John Latham on tank.tv

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Image: John Latham, Speak, 1968-69, 16mm (Screengrab, Original 16mm)

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Image: John Latham, Erth, 1971 (Screengrab, Original 16mm)

John Latham's films Erth (1971), Britannica (1971), Talk, Mr. Bard (1968), Unedited Material from the Star (1960), and Speak (1968-69) are now on view at tank.tv. See below for a short excerpt from the curatorial statement.

The influence of John Latham (1921-2006), an artist whose work includes painting, performance and film to mention just a few, has extended far beyond the boundaries of the art world. Interested in theoretical physics, Latham developed an opposing cosmology which rejected the primacy of space and matter and favour of time and event. The body of work and concepts which developed out of this way of thinking still challenge the way we conceive of art as event and of the place of the artist within society. Notions of event can be seen as transversal to Latham's whole oeuvre. Indeed, a pioneer in the use of spray paint in the 1950's, Latham started spraying black dots on canvasses. For him, such a gesture and the resulting pictorial effect was similar to the structure and the functioning of the cosmos. "Least events" (the spray burst occurring in time) produce beings (the black dots) out of nothingness (the blank canvas).

His impact on conceptual art can be best appreciated in his opinions concerning language. For Latham, since language stems from objects, it is unable to grasp a reality based on events. According to Latham this results in the lack of a common conception of the world, which is itself responsible for the division of people. In his practice Latham attempted to transpose the unseizability of events through objects into art, thus coining the term "event structure".

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Curating Contemplation

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The current exhibition at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, "The Third Mind: American Artists Contemplate Asia, 1860-1989" is in many ways a bold take on the "group show" genre. Not focused on a particular era, style or group of artists, Senior Curator for Asian Art Alexandra Munroe has instead created a sweeping show of over 110 artists around an idea as ethereal and subjective as cultural "contemplation." The show's thesis, that "vanguard artists consistently looked toward 'the East' to forge an independent artistic identity that would define the modern age -- and the modern mind -- through a new understanding of existence, nature, and consciousness" certainly seems timely in this era of rampant globalization, but it simultaneously opens the door to a host of debatable issues around cultural appropriation.

The broad scope and variety of art forms covered under this broad thematic umbrella, from paintings of James McNeill Whistler and Mary Cassatt through multimedia works of Tehching Hsieh and Laurie Anderson, creates a compelling alternate to the usually mono-cultural narrative of Art History. For those of us interested particularly in time-based media, it also provides a compelling context through which to view issues such as duration, notation, communication systems, and networking that are so prevalent in time-based forms.

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