Artist Profile: Cecile B. Evans

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Cecile B. Evans, You May Keep One of Your Children (2011)

Many of your works reference and seem to be derived from popular culture icons, from Paula Abdul and Meryl Streep to Jean-Luc Goddard and J.D. Salinger. What is the role of popular culture in your work? Do your works attempt to comment on our conceptions of these cultural references or are they simply a point of departure?

One thing that is important to me in the work I’m doing now is to get to where several points of reference can exist on the same plane, with equal weight. In this world, Paula Abdul goes with Pina Bausch, Meryl Streep with medical instruments, and an array of other elements in each piece that vary in their visibility. I’m interested in reaching a place where the high blends into the low, the earnest into satire (and vice versa) and making a complex constellation of elements that winds up as something that’s really simple aesthetically. As I write this, I’m gluing nail art rhinestones to spell out a quote from Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf? in Braille to spill from the tear ducts of a vintage photo a friend emailed me of her parents kissing. I’m simultaneously editing a video that features a semphore version of Whitney Houston’s I Have Nothing on sleeping pills that unfolds while a Lucinda Childs-like ghost floats around dying golden embers. At the moment, we exist in a culture that lets me use these very different values to refer to the same emotions. It’s as though we’ve entered a 2nd wave of New Sentimentality where it’s as appropriate to relate loss to an Aaliyah song as it is to do so with Barthes’ Mourning Diary, and either can be done sincerely or ironically… at least I’ve always equated things that way.

I enjoy using broad references in popular culture as a reflection on how different industries have created universal conduits.

Your past works seem to levitate around notions of intimacy and relationships. Some of your projects imply that intimacy doesn't necessarily require physical closeness and can be instead experienced through connections made in internet or other forms of technology. Yet, in the age of tweeting and texting, social networking creates this constant yet increasingly vapid communication between people that feels anything but intimate. How do you think recent technology affects our perceptions of intimacy? Do you think physical closeness can be replicated within a technological frame, or do these new forms of connecting force us to reevaluate what we deem “intimate”?

In the past I’ve been interested in the internet as an intimacy generator, using its content as source material, without judgement. One thing that I’ve found since I’ve started is how blurred the lines between the virtual and real have become, to the point where it isn’t a big deal. There are feed relationships that can cross over to a more direct form of contact, either as an extension of what you’ve created or used as supplements to wish fulfillment- from rejection to validation. The volume of people and easy access serves as a lubricant either way 

The danger isn’t with ourselves- I don’t think those of us who have the filter to realize what’s ok and what isn’t will lose that. It’s more how flippantly we display our feelings. The faith in an emotional utopia was decried in 1994 by Carmen Hermasillo (aka humdog) who warned that the spilling of our guts on the internet would result in the commodification of our feelings by large corporations. That’s happening now. I fear that the companies are mirroring back what we unknowingly feed them in ways that will reevaluate the meaning of intimacy for us... 

 

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Artist Profile: Michele Abeles

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Red Rock Cigarettes Newspaper Body Wood Lycra Bottle

Your Re:Re:Re:Re:Re: series makes inventive use of the male nude. Many 
of the images seem to have a humorous consciousness of the history of
the female nude in painting and photography. Can you talk a little bit
about your use of the male nude and the context in which you place it?

When I decided to start working in way that combined the nude and the still life genre, I quickly found I wasn’t comfortable treating women as objects, so within that series I worked exclusively with men. Using male bodies has the advantage of the fact that the male is the agreed-upon neutral subjectivity for our culture—a “default” setting. The male body therefore can be a blank slate in a way the female can’t.

As for painting, in Re:Re:Re:Re:Re: I was primarily focused on the nude in popular media and not really thinking about the history of painting. Of course painting has informed photography throughout its history, so a certain dialogue between the two is built in.

What's the process behind your Recent Work (2012)? Do you consider these a post-camera form of photography as opposed to a more traditional collage?


In the pictures you’re referring to, about 10% of the elements in the pictures are appropriated or solely generated by computer, without a camera.  Examples include the grid backgrounds in Reverse Wallpaper and Re:Re:Re:Re:Re:Re:Re: and the two appropriated images of football players in the latter picture. What appear in the rest of the series are things I photographed specifically for this body of work or for the previous series--I appropriated my own work. What I did here actually questions what “postcamera ...

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Artist Profile: JK Keller

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Realigning My Thoughts on Jasper Johns (screenshot)  2011

You seem to be preoccupied with the viral spreading of your work (in your website, under the social media “like” count, you wrote “Seeing these numbers rise is my drug.”) Why is this such an important consideration to you?

For me, the number of likes/+'s/mentions/views are the closest thing I have to renumeration for work that is currently difficult to commodify. The means in which we are able to sell digital work is still very much loose and up in the air. I can take solace in these numbers. Know that the work is reaching people, even if the specific metrics are a fools game, an addictive comparison mechanism where the only impossible successful outcome is a continual rate of increase.

Is the possibility of the rapid spreading of your work one of the reasons you choose new media or video as a medium for most of your works?

It's less about rapidly spreading my work than about the possibility of widely spreading it. And cheaply. My technologically formative years were in the 90's when the internet was revolutionizing the idea of ubiquitous publishing and communication. We were using modems measured in baud, emailing around a tiny video of a cg dancing baby, not streaming the latest feature-length film wondering if a single service was going to have 1 billion active users. The 90's were a transitional period, and I think we're in another one (yes, yes, we're always in a transitional period). But unlike the technological idealism of the 90's led by thinkers, tinkerers, and artists, we seem to be in a confusing "what the fuck just happened" period where we're scared/uneasy/apprehensive about where technology may be leading us ...

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Artist Profile: Korakrit Arunanondchai

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Installation "2012-2555"

Can you talk a little bit about the relationship between designing products like clothing and creating immersive installation environments, both of which rely on the element of "social participation," which you've described as essential to your work?

An idea I have been throwing around for a while now is "any surface can be a painting?" That said, I left my clothing line behind in 2010 because I realize that it was not doing what I wanted it to do. The original idea for the clothing was that the audience wearing the clothes with my patterns on it would blend in with the immersive black-light installation. These installations usually have a live-musical component to it and the audience's movement to the music would create an active surface to the installation. I quite like this harmonious audio-visual experience when it does happen.

The idea of social participation is still really important in my work, although currently I am holding back and reconfiguring my strategies towards social participation. 

I was really fortunate to spend quite a bit of time with Rirkrit Tiravanija over the past year and see him in action. He is a master at opening up a space in his work for the audience to experience and discover things for themselves and I am trying to incorporate some of that quality in my future pieces. 

Much of your work concentrates on the depiction of movement for its own sake, divorced from the representation of objects in space. The affect is achieved using dense layers and bold colors. What influences these instances of abstraction?

If the world we see is a painting and everything is made from the same substance, then all you essentially see are different colors and shapes vibrating at different speed. I wanted my abstract ...

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Artist Profile: Hannah Perry

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'Hannah Perry & Hotel Palenque, 2012' Performance, RGB projection on fabric back projection wall courtesy Cell Project Space, London

 

In a conversation with Francesca Gavin last month you said, "I see the clips from TV as being as much my personal memories as the ones from my own life, yet also having resonance with our collective national consciousness." Much of your work blends footage you've shot yourself, personalized footage shot by strangers, and the ersatz human experience offered by TV and adverts. It assumes pop cultural references naturally interpolate into one’s personal memories.

That quote was in reference to my editing style. I was explaining how my editing derives from listening to hip hop and dance music, and music production techniques. I look at the looping and sampling of sound, and then use those methods to play with audio and video in a similar way.

When I was a kid I would raid my brother’s room while he was out, and listen to his tapes. He is over 10 years older than me and was heavily into the rave scene. I distinctively remember nicking a rave tape from 92, so I was probably about 7-8. The stories about what he got up to were also influential.

The rave scene is one pop-culture reference, among many, that reoccurs in my work. I feel close to that youth/social movement and the music that spun out of it, but I have always felt slightly outside of it too, which made it easy to romanticize the whole thing until it became a part of what I did in my late teens.

If we think of rave culture as the last British subculture before the mass use of the Internet, it may well be being revived to a certain degree, but in ...

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Artist Profile: Christopher Baker

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Christopher Baker,  Murmur Study, Installation View, Audi Open Space Pavilion, Frankfurt, 2011
photo: KMS Team 

In Hello World! or: How I learned to stop listening and love the noise, you compiled 5,000 online diaries and showed them on one enormous wall. Along with their accompanying audio, they all play at once; you can occasionally hear one voice above the others as the sound rises and falls. How many of the individual clips did you watch? How were they selected? Are you familiar with the people in any way (via previous knowledge, web stalking, etc.)? Do any of them know that they're in this artwork?

My original motivation was to create an experience that addressed the contrast between our greatest hopes for new communication technologies and what they actually deliver. After spending time with an earlier iteration (which was essentially 5000 randomly selected videos), I decided that I really wanted to capture the optimism and excitement of new users as they spoke directly with their audience. To that end, I generated a set of search keywords that included phrases like "my first video blog" or "my first vlog" (among others), then downloaded about 30,000 of the resulting videos. In the end I decided to choose videos that had little to no post-production (i.e. graphics, titles, edits, etc), featured a typical webcam head and shoulders shot, and were recorded in a personal or private space, like a bedroom, home, car or bathroom. Since I downloaded about 1500 hours of video, I wasn't able to watch each video from start to finish. I scanned each video and evaluated them for their visual quality and background scene as much as their spoken content. Since the videos were found via a public search, I had no connection with any of ...

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Artist Profile: Daniel Temkin

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From Temkin's series Glitchometry (2011-)

You've described Entropy, an esolang you designed, as "a programming language as immersive art piece," "best experienced by a programmer working alone from home." Do you think there is a gap between new media artists and programmers--do you feel like the audience for the Entropy language is less enthusiastic about it than non-programmers who are interested in new media art? Does work like Entropy bridge this gap at all?

Esolangs, like most code art, require a knowledge of programming to use and understand; so they’ve primarily been for programmers. But the gap between programmers, non-programmers, and new media folks is closing as coding becomes a more common skill. In the Seven on Seven keynote, Douglas Rushkoff called for children to be taught programming at a young age in school, to help them resist becoming passive consumers of electronic media. I love the idea of code art in a 5th grade art class, alongside coil pot mugs.

Programming languages are logic systems, sets of rules that make up a way of thinking a programmer has to internalize to use. Esolangs take advantage of this to provide strange rule sets that play on meaning and nonsense, or otherwise construct a point of view that’s unusual. It’s in using these weird tools to solve ordinary problems that their perspectives are exposed. Brainfuck, probably the best-known esolang, is simple, clear, and functional in its definition, but requires the programmer to construct long rants of gibberish to use. It reminds me of work like Sol LeWitt’s Incomplete Open Cubes (1974), where exploring a rigid, contained system takes us on a ludicrous journey. Because brainfuck refuses to concede to the human thought process, it dramatizes its collision with computer logic.

With my language Entropy, I ...

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Artist Profile: Adam Harvey

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From the set of "How to Hide from Machines"/CV Dazzle photoshoot

It's interesting that your career has gone from taking pictures to thwarting cameras, with projects like CV Dazzle and Camoflash. When did you become interested in camouflage and face-detection spoofing?

I became interested in spoofing and camouflage when cameras metamorphosed from art making tools into enablers of surveillance societies. This happened gradually over the last decade starting with the Patriot Act in 2001. To me, this document marked the beginning of the end of photography as I knew it from art history books. Now, 175 years after the daguerreotype was invented, cameras integrated with facial-recognition systems comprise the fastest growing sector of the biometrics industry.

But the use of photography in biometrics is almost as old as photography itself. In the late 1800s Sir Francis Galton, cousin of Charles Darwin and pioneer of biometrics, used composite imaging in an attempt to predict criminal behavior and illness. For example, if a subject has similar facial features to that of a criminal he or she was more likely to commit a crime.

I see spoofing and camouflage as intelligent responses to the uses/misuses of photography: surveillance cameras, biometric systems, and paparazzi photography.  Though these uses have always been part of photography at large, it’s impossible to ignore their presence now.

Sometimes this negative omnipresence supersedes the camera’s role as an art-making tool. As a photographer, I think spoofing and camouflaging tactics can help offset this effect and make photography more interesting, more communicative, and that this can lead to better pictures. Camoflash and CV Dazzle are projects centered on making photography more interesting.

One of my favorite quotes, by René Magritte, is that “everything we see hides another thing, we always want to see what is hidden by what we see.” When everyone is photographing and revealing the world, it becomes interesting to try and cover it back up, to reveal anonymity.

Thinking of "How to Hide from Machines," included in the exhibition FaceTime at On Stellar Rays last winter, in which DIS magazine assisted with your tactical makeup and hairstyling ideas; there's something very stylish about CV Dazzle in addition to its function. What was your inspiration? Do you consider these looks "design fiction" or something we might one day see out on the street?

I think it depends on the cost associated with being exposed in public. If there is an increased threat to privacy or instances of abuse in the biometrics industry, then I think it is very likely that spoofing in public could become more acceptable.

The looks I collaborated on with DIS magazine could easily be classified under design fiction, but so could a lot of runway fashion. One of the goals of this project is to make camouflage communicative. The looks we designed were meant to make the wearer feel protected but not invisible.

It was interesting to see how the models reacted to wearing it. One of my favorite images from the shoot with DIS is when one of the models started texting and smoking while wearing CV Dazzle. This made it seem as if it had already become practical...

 

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Artist Profile: Bradley Pitts

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Singluar Oscillations: Correspondences (email), 2008

First, could you talk about your two degrees in Aeronautics and Astronautics? Specifically describing the moments when you decided to reroute the instrumentalities of your field, and pursue them instead in a highly singular, individualistic exploratory way?

I started MIT thinking I wanted to be a theoretical astrophysicist due to the philosophical implications of that field. I quickly realized though, that I needed more tactile engagement in my work in order to be satisfied. Aeronautics and Astronautics was a way for me to combine my interests in space and material. It mixed scientific concepts with material application, but wasn’t able to satisfy my desire to contemplate and build meaning. Only in my architecture and visual arts studies did I find a space to combine concept/theory, material, and meaning into a “tactile philosophy”. In these disciplines there was less discussion about rules and solutions, and more discussion about one’s interpretation of context, intent, and the implications of one’s process. This opened up the possibility of designing experience and meaning over objects and functionality. 

Throughout my undergraduate studies I thought I would go on to get a Masters in Architecture and be an architect, but this changed when I was part of a team that conceived, designed, and built a group of micro satellites. At the end of the course we tested them aboard NASA’s parabolic-flight aircraft, the “Vomit Comet”, which produces 25-second periods of weightlessness and double-gravity. Instead of going to grad school in Architecture I got a Masters of Science in Aeronautics and Astronautics where my research was on advanced spacesuit design, a perfect combination of my interests in space, architecture, and bodily experience.

If there were any major turning points, they were spread out over my time at MIT ...

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Artist Profile: Jacqueline Kiyomi Gordon

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Our Best Machines are Made of Sunshine, 2009.

The notion of “feedback” is an important element for your sonic sculptures, where the viewer/listener is pulled into and directed by the work. As you stated in our visit, “What you hear affects how you move and how you move affects how you hear.” Your work SA-3, which you developed as a MFA student at Stanford, is a prime example of this technique. Could you discuss this piece and your research going into the project?

Well, for that piece it really started with noticing the moment in which I would become conscious of a localized sound, and how that awareness would pull me into or out of a particular relationship to the space. You could say an in-body/out-of-body type mediation. Through research in sound localization I learned of various directional speaker technologies and I combined that with an ongoing interest in how and why speaker systems are installed and controlled.

I was already looking into military projects involving sound as well as new developments in sound system technology. Talking with some folks at Meyer Sound in Berkeley, I was particularly interested in their Constellation system and their long-range speakers while I was also learning about spatial sound at Stanford’s CCRMA (Center for Computer Music and Research in Acoustics).  I came across the “audio spotlight” by Holosonics and the LRAD speakers at the time made by American Technologies. These both use ultra sonic transducers that heterodyne into an audible frequency controlling the localization of the sound through the inherent directionality of ultrasonic waves. The police and military are using the LRAD as hailing devices and have occasionally used them for crowd dispersal, a technique which is super dangerous because the key component of these speakers is that the user can control them without affecting their own ears. The person in control of the sound can inhabit the same space with those that it affects, while remaining immune to its force. Never before has this been the case. There’s a frightening disjunction in that control loop. So I was doing this research and I found a few really cheap small ultrasonic speakers on EBay and combined them into a hanging speaker array loosely based off of one of the Meyer Sound systems. I have always been attracted to the hanging speaker arrays and wanted to combine the ultrasonic speaker technology with the aesthetics of the stadium speakers to address the ways these more known systems control our bodily relationship to sound.  In a theater or performance setting there’s a loop between the performer, the sound engineer, the speaker system and the audience that returns back to the performer. With the LRAD system there’s a different loop where the person controlling the sound (performer and the sound engineer) do not experience the sound, yet they could see their “audience.”

Going back to SA-3, I wanted to play between those experiences by having the speakers of SA-3 play the sounds that you as a viewer make in the gallery. A mirror of sorts where you control what the sound is but how you chose to place yourself inline with the directionality of the speakers decides how you experience that sound in space. The audience is the performer. And I guess, as the designer of this system, I am the sound engineer.

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