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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Video : The New Wave (1973)

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1973 WGBH Boston Public Television Program

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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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Matrix III (1972) - John Whitney

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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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On Air: "Broadcast" at Pratt Manhattan Gallery

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The date is February 9, 1972, and Chris Burden arrives at Channel 3 Cablevision’s studio in Irvine, California, for an interview with Phyllis Lutjeans. The TV station had approached Burden in January and asked him to do a piece for the channel, yet they censored several of his proposals, so he eventually agreed to an interview during which they would discuss the reasons for the station’s refusal of his ideas. Burden brings his own video crew so that he can have a copy of the interview. He requests that the interview be broadcast live, and during the course of the interview Lutjeans asks Burden to discuss a few pieces that he has thought of doing. The artist responds by demonstrating a TV hijack: he takes Lutjeans hostage, holding a knife to her throat and threatening her life if the station stops transmission, while verbally abusing her with threats. At the end of the recording, Burden destroys the station’s tape of the show by dousing it with acetone. He then offers an “irate” station manager his taped version of the show, which includes footage of the show and the destruction of the station’s tape, but the manager refuses. Burden explains in an interview, “T.V. Hijack was ultimately about who is in control over what's presented through the media.” This aggressive act against the restrictive and one-to-many structure of television is what curator Irene Hofmann cites as her original inspiration for the exhibition "Broadcast," now on view at Pratt Manhattan Gallery. The show presents a selection of works, dating from the 1960s to the present, that interrupt broadcasting systems in order to examine or challenge the structure, influence, and power of mainstream television and radio.

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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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Arabesque (1975) - John Whitney

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Rutt-Etra Video Synthesizer

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The Rutt-Etra video synthesizer was co-invented by Steve Rutt & Bill Etra.
It essentially was an analog computer for video raster manipulation.

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