Robert Rauschenberg 1925-2008

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Artist Robert Rauschenberg passed away on Monday. He was 82. Easily one of the most significant artists to come out of the twentieth century, Rauschenberg began painting in the 1940's, and eventually integrated collage, sculpture, performance, choreography, set design, and printmaking into his trailblazing practice. Throughout his career, he was continually dedicated to the concept that the artist must take on an active, participatory role in relation to the culture at large. This perspective was perhaps encouraged and strengthened while studying in the 1950's at the experimental and visionary Black Mountain College. During this period, he met John Cage and Merce Cunningham, and in 1952, the three participated in Theater Piece #1, cited by some as the first "happening" which involved the simultaneous performance of music, dance, and visual art. In 1967, he co-founded the groundbreaking organization Experiments in Art and Technology, whose mission to foster collaborations between artists and engineers served to bolster the creative application of new technologies in ways unimaginable before. To this day, the formation of Experiments in Art and Technology, along with the series of performances in 1966 from which it emerged, 9 Evenings: Theatre and Engineering, mark a major milestone in the history of art and technology. Rauschenberg's openness to experimentation- both formally and conceptually- remain one of his principal contributions to American art. - Ceci Moss


Image Credit: Robert Rauschenberg, Open Score, 1966

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Psychoactive Wallpapers (2008) by Roglok

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Psychoactive Wallpapers (2008) by Roglok


"Welcome to my jazzy collection of Psychoactive Wallpapers. My aim in this project is to generate static and animated .gif images with a low filesize that provide interesting visual effects. I am inspired by the Structural Film movement of the 60's and 70's as well as stereographic 3d images and early webdesign."

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Call Me!

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Touting the theme of "Impakt yourspace," the latest edition of Utrecht's Impakt Festival takes on the impact of Web 2.0 through its typically tightly-organized set of panels and curated programs of film, video, new media and performance. The central event, "Hybrid Playground," presents variations by Dutch artists on the melding of social networks and physical spaces. Here, attendees will experience KKEP's ParaPlay project, a democratic iTunes happening, and Bliin, which enables mobile phone users to post media to shared geographic maps; NetNiet.org's Gifted, a real-time phone-enabled social judgment system; and Alchemyst's open-source Roomware, which detects phone users and links their identity to networked personal profiles. Other internet-aware events include tech-inflected animations by painter Federico Solmi and "Self-Confession vs. Exploitation" a program of film and video diaries ranging from Joyce Wieland's 8mm work of the 1960s to modern-day web-based autobiographies. In perhaps the most self-referential move of all, Impakt will convene a panel on "The Future of Festivals" with organizers from Migrating Forms, Submarineand tank.tv, exploring what the role of live media events should be in the light of our increasingly online social world. - Ed Halter

Image Credit: NetNiet.org, Gifted, 2008

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Go With the Flow

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Fluxus is an art-historical movement that shares much in common with new media and is among our field's forebears. Its trajectory reads much like new media's: A network of experimental artists, scattered across the world, dissatisfied with the market's stagnant influence on art, concerned with art's ability to address the present moment, and intrigued by the interplay between concept and medium banded together to collaborate, creatively challenge each other, and co-theorize their niche. The word "fluxus" refers to "flow" and the idea of a fluidity between various media, as we now see in the ever-expanding field of new media art. Fluxus emerged in the 1960s and thrived through the late-1970s. Today, scholars and critics split hairs as to whether the movement is still in play, while its legacy continues to blossom--as in the current exhibition at New York's Maya Stendhal Gallery. "From Fluxus to Media Art," open through April 26, traces the DIY aesthetic embraced by members of the international Fluxus movement, and presents work whose signifying moments occur at the interstices of performance, film, literature, and electronic media. The show traces the movement's relationship to Dada and surrealism and its influence upon pop art, but has a stated interest in considering the path Fluxus paved for media art. Included is work by Jonas Mekas, George Maciunas, George Brecht, Andy Warhol, Nam June Paik, Shigeko Kubota, and Studio IMC. Many of the seminal projects and important pieces of ephemera on view make a trademark critique of authorship, while also paying homage to peers and collaborators within the movement. In the interest of knowing the history of the present, you're encouraged to see this exhibition. - Marisa Olson


Image: Nam June Paik, Majestic, 1975 reset 1996

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Marina Rosenfeld's Teenage Lontano/16 Channels at Whitney Biennial 2008

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As with any exhibition that surveys the best of contemporary art practices, the Whitney Biennial consistently elicits its share of cheers and, more frequently, jeers: complaints about artists omitted, marginalized mediums, insider back-scratching, and so on. While the 2008 edition may also merit such criticism, it deserves some praise for introducing a performance-heavy program at the Park Avenue Armory. Spanning the first two weeks of the biennial's three-month run, the Armory series finds artists and musicians like Agathe Snow, Lucky Dragons and Gang Gang Dance crossing and re-crossing the boundaries of performance and installation in the decorous (and semi-crumbling) rooms of the 1881 New York landmark. This Saturday evening, composer and turntablist Marina Rosenfeld will debut Teenage Lontano/16 Channels (2008), a "cover version" of György Liget's Lontano (1967) that Rosenfeld specifically conceived for the Armory's 55,000-square foot Drill Hall. Rosenfeld's reworking stretches the Hungarian composer's twelve-minute work to an even thirty and subjects his exceedingly meticulous score to a slew of chance scenarios - most importantly, the translation of the orchestral piece into a vocal composition, relayed via portable mp3 players into the headphones of the thirty-five New York teenagers who comprise Rosenfeld's choir. Hanging several dozen feet above the teens, a massive speaker will rotate at 33 1/3 r.p.m., like a turntable, and fire electronic sounds into the recesses of the cavernous hall: a space-age accompaniment to Rosenfeld's acoustic community. Like her seminal performance, sheer frost orchestra, in which seventeen women administered nail-polish to floor-bound guitars, Teenage Lontano/16 Channels emphasizes Rosenfeld's professed interest in the "ideosocial construction of music-making," here taking a vernacular of contemporary listening, a generation for which technology is like a second-skin, and through them reappraising a moment of high-Modern composition. - Tyler ...

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Flat Earth (2007) by Thomson & Craighead

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Image: Earth from Space, Apollo 17, 1972


After hearing rumors concerning the existence of secret NASA photographs of the Earth as seen from outer space, the writer and future digital-utopianist Stewart Brand fought to have these images released to the public. The hope behind Brand's 1966 campaign was that these "blue marble" photographs of the whole Earth would for the first time tangibly allow the planet to appear small, conceptually graspable and very much alone in the wilderness of space. Forty years later, the London-based new media artists, Thomson & Craighead, created the video Flat Earth (2007), a visualization of Earth that refers to a different perceptual moment.


Image: Thomson & Craighead, Flat Earth, 2007


Commissioned for Animate Projects in 2007, their project is not an unveiling of the spheric, "blue marble" image of the Earth as viewed from outer space but, rather, an attempt to describe the "flat" Earth as viewed from the membrane of the Internet. Blog entries and flickr photos interact with freely available satellite imagery to give a re-shaped conception of what space and distances between people effectively means in a networked world. The video begins in the tract housing of the American suburbs where we hear a performance of an actual blog entry from the angsty, young dancer, "teenangel." A few seconds later, we zoom into the sky above San Francisco as the bemused "patriot2000" informs us that he just read a translation of one of his blog posts into German and he's now curious to learn German. We travel across the globe to Zimbabwe, Iran, and Europe. It's a great seven minutes and it gets at something amazing about the Internet: if, according to Walter Benjamin, the technologies at the beginning of the 20th century allowed for perceptual reproduction to "keep pace with ...

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Signed and Numbered

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On January 18, Northwestern University's Block Museum of Art, located 15 minutes north of Chicago, will open an exhibition of major value to those with an interest in the relationship between art, technology, and design. Imaging by Numbers: A Historical View of the Computer Print surveys the work of over 40 international artists who have, since the 1950s, worked with computers to make drawings and fine prints. The show emphasizes artists who have penned their own code or collaborated with engineers to create custom programs for the production of images. The very concept of "drawing" is tested in works such as Ben Laposky's and Herbert Franke's photos of electronic wave forms (here the electronics do the drawing and the artist documents it), and the tools used to make the works range from DIY printers to fancy 3D-imaging software. Artists Lane Hall and Roman Verostko combine "traditional" and digital methods in their work, while Joshua Davis and C.E.B. Reas hack software programs to produce contemporary works. The sixty pieces in this show, curated by Debora Wood and Paul Hertz, are contextualized by a complementary exhibit called Space, Color, and Motion, which presents time-based installation projects by four artists exhibited in Imaging by Numbers: Jean-Pierre Hebert, Manfred Mohr, James Paterson, and C.E.B. Reas. The museum is also presenting an ambitious slate of public events, including gallery talks, studio workshops, a screening of early computer animations and a symposium entitled "Patterns, Pixels, and Process: Discussing the History of the Computer Print". This all adds up to one remarkable program. If you can't make it to Illinois, check out the slide shows and video samples online. - Marisa Olson



Image: Tony Robbin, Drawing 53, 2004

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