Artist Profile: Rick Silva

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Rick Silva's La Région Decentralized is featured this month on The Download.

Still from La Région Decentralized, image courtesy of the artist

Nature and land are prominent subjects in your work. Could you speak a bit about your interest in nature? Do you spend a lot of time outdoors?

Working with nature and land feels natural to me. Nature and land are part of a larger fascination I have with perception, light, and time. I do spend a lot of time outdoors, my new project/blog En plein air http://enpleinair.org is all about that actually. For the project I’m taking my laptop outside and seeing what I can create while reacting to the immediate landscape and elements.

For your piece in The Download, La Région Decentralized, you explore and remix iconography of Michael Snow's 1971 experimental film La Région Centrale in a endless, self-playing video game. What about Snow's film fascinates you?

I’m interested in Snow’s use of a rotating camera/horizon. Spinning terrains are a reoccurring theme in my recent videos. Texts about La Région Centrale suggest that the camera/horizon movement in Snow’s film creates a cosmic perspective of space at the human scale, and I agree with this reading. My video game version adds an endless random time component to this idea as well.

Is La Région Decentralized your first time working with video-games as a medium?

In 2010 I used video game engines to generate scenes and imagery for video projects. I’ve used 3D spaces like Google Earth for projects since 2005 with my Satellite Jockey performances, but this is the first time that I’m releasing a game as an application. There is something very interesting in the stretching and randomizing of time that video ...

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Artist Profile: Joe Winter

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The Stars Below, 2011. Mixed media installation

One thing I like about your work is the fact that you seem to operate like a hacker, taking things apart, finding new ways to misuse technology. But throughout your approach appears to be deliberately poetic, wherein you bring out these singular moments of beauty. For example, when you first started working on your scanner films during a residency at the MacDowell Colony, you mentioned that you began by simply placing a scanner outside of your cabin at night. The footage became a kind of accidental biological study, as the scanner intrigued light-seeking moths and other bugs, resulting in a time-lapsed nighttime sample of the various critters in the forest. I’m wondering if you can comment on how you “hack” technology in your work, and what you hope to achieve in that process. Are you guided by a kind of poetic hacking? How so?

In most of my works that involve a technological device (printer, scanner, photocopier, etc.) the technology itself is actually fairly un-altered. I tend to adjust the context in which the object is placed, or introduce variables or conditions that exist outside what I might call the area of expertise of the device. To use your example of the scanner: whether I'm scanning documents or moths in the woods, the scanner is still executing its function in exactly the same way; I've simply adjusted the expected input. I'm interested in looking at a given system and seeing what else it has the potential to speak about aside from its narrow band of acceptable usage, and how its native landscape (office, classroom, computer lab) might be related to other sorts of spaces, systems, or sets of ideas.

Since you brought up the topic of systems, I’m wondering if you could discuss that further. How do you approach the notion of “system” in your work? How do you reveal the presence of these systems, is it simply an act of mimesis or a disturbance or something else?

At different moments, I might describe my work in terms of systems, structures, frameworks, rules, and/or devices. I think there are a few things at play for me on that page of the thesaurus. The first is that I am always looking for various sorts of engines to move a project forward. Just like a physical device I take up may immediately describe a set of material and procedural constraints, I'll often involve a secondary framework--south polar exploration, the history of astronomy--that will both move a material system beyond itself and help to select supporting materials, an installation’s logic, etc. The second is developing a relationship between the system immediately at work and the secondary framework through a third, usually less visible system. To use my recent piece, The Stars Below, as an example: I first developed the material process. A series of solenoid valves release drips of water onto upright sticks of chalk,  slowly eroding them. The secondary framework--an installation space suggesting something between an office and a classroom--arises from the materials involved (what is the domain of a stick of chalk? Where does this drip of water originate?) and provides a context in which to situate the erosive activity. Between these two things is a conception of Deep Time, of which slate and chalk are both products, which complicates the scales of time at play within institutional spaces. So, the work tries to establish a series of interrelations between a set of materials, landscapes, and ideas. In short, a system. Whether or not the audience is able to unravel all of that immediately is not as important to me as their awareness that there is a sense of order, an underlying logic at work.

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Artist Profile: Huong Ngo

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 Huong Ngo is part of Fantastic Futures, a 2011 Rhizome Commissions winner for their proposal, Fantastic Futures

Acting the Words is Enacting the World, 2011 more at Enacting the Words Photo: Dwayne Dixon

Your Rhizome commission is a continuation of the Fantastic Futures project (which already includes recordings of birds in Baghdad and someone making tea in Brooklyn). It seems to be another in a continuing series of projects exploring contemporary education practices and ways of learning like Secret School and "How To Do Things With Words." How do you see this project fitting into your larger educational practice? What sort of transformations do you hope to see in education that could result from a project like Fantastic Futures?

Yes, it’s continuing a collaboration with a group of students in the US (in particular at Parsons The New School for Design) and at the University of Baghdad, that began with And Longing is No Longer Sleeps (the project that we did for the exhibit “How to Do Things With Words”), and further develops some of the collaborative processes from Secret School (a curatorial and discursive project about pedagogy), Acting the Words is Enacting the World, a project with artist Hong-An Truong and a group of young folks completed this past summer, and generally the strategies and techniques that I use in my classes.

Our goals for Fantastic Futures are fairly modest: we aim towards facilitating a diversity of exchanges (experiential, social, political, etc), advocating for a free and open cultural commons, leaving a gesture that serves as a collective protest against past and future violence. Nevertheless, I always secretly hope that something from our collective process is transformative for all involved.

In an interview for the Walker Art Center, you talk about preferring to keeping these education oriented ...

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Artist Profile: Jason Eppink

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Astoria Scum River Bridge, 2010.

You define yourself as a "dude who is just trying to make things a little better." Each one of your works tries to improve the world, one funny step at a time. But they also include observations into the way in which society—and especially media and advertising—affect the way we see things. How do your works try to tamper with those viewpoints or comment on them? And can you talk a little about some key terms like subversiveness, pranks, humor, and dialogue in relation to this?

I'm interested in creating provocations that disrupt systems for good and/or fun. In particular, I'm hyper aware of the consumption narratives that shape our daily lives. Advertising literally works by telling you that you're not good enough, and all of media is shaped—directly or indirectly—around selling you stories framed by this intentionally soul-crushing lie so you'll consume more.

So a lot of what I do is prototype critical "solutions" for systems like these, exploring new answers outside of the usual channels. I've rarely seen real, important change come from inside a system; the system exists, first and foremost, to perpetuate itself. And many of the best solutions threaten the status quo of the system, so they're never realized because they will change how the system itself works.

I have the luxury of being outside those systems, so I can propose crazy, radical, preposterous, silly ideas. And not just propose them, but execute them and see what happens. Of course sometimes these interventions will be interpreted as threats, but that's how you move a conversation forward.

And, well, solutions are better when they're funny or clever or playful. Most people like jokes, in my experience.

You reflect ...

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Artist Profile: Clement Valla

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Clement Valla and John Cayley's Hapax Phaenomena is featured this month on The Download.

Certificate of Authenticity, Hapax Phaenomena (2011)

In Hapax Phaenomena and other projects such as Google Earth Sites, you refer to your art objects as artifacts or curios. Do you see yourself as an observer documenting an endangered technological curiosity?

Yes. These things will all disappear, and probably soon, in the name of progress. These artifacts are atypical ephemera, and often accidental products created by various internet algorithms.  There is very little direct human hand in these artifacts. Though the purpose in collecting them is not simply for their preservation. It's more about framing them, allowing them to be seen, and showing a kind of bizarre byproduct of these super-functioning and useful systems, such as Google. 

When did you first notice the glitch in Google Earth? What inspired you to begin capturing these surreal moments?

It was accidental. I was Google-Earthing a location in China, and I noticed that a striking number of buildings looked like they were upside down. I could tell there were two competing visual inputs here - the 3d model, and the mapping of the satellite photography, and they didn't match up.  The computer is doing exactly what it's supposed to do, but the depth cues of the aerials, the perspective, the shadows and lighting, were not aligning with depth cues of the 3d earth model. I figured that this was not a unique situation in Google Earth, and I started looking at obvious situations where the depth cues would be off—bridges, tall skyscrapers, canyons. Soon I noticed the photos being updated, and the aerial photographs would be 'flatter' (taken from less of an angle) or the shadows below bridges would be more muted. Google Earth is a constantly ...

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Artist Profile: Ofri Cnaani

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A number of your works deal quite complexly with preexisting texts, from the Talmud to Jorge Luis Borges. What are your textual sources and how do they shape your sense of narrative and the "backstory" in your art?

I started reading talmud legends at quite a young age. There's a long tradition of working with mythology, namely Greek and Roman mythology and the public's command of these stories is quite amazing. I'm not a scholar and my knowledge of these stories is not organized; I am interested in the fact that these legends are rooted in a dialectic tradition. Almost all of these stories written at a certain time in history and arise from a tradition of "What if?". Two scholars would sit and discuss a subject, and then take an extreme case study, the answer to which will take the form of a story. So the structure of the discussion is polemical but the answer is always a narrative, which is something so beautiful and rare. These stories are short, ten or fifteen lines long, and like all good mythology they include a lot of happening as well as a dark side and a certain level of  "the impossible" in their relationship to reality. Like Zeus falling in love with Leda, coming down from the Olympus as a swan, making love to her and her then giving birth to an egg—and it all makes sense. 

The world is comprised in the kind of fashion that it all makes sense. And it works that way in what I call Jewish mythology, too. I really love this structure of taking one coded text and deconstructing it as a way of studying it. Even though I worked with mythology in the past, I never thought I'd work ...

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Artist Profile: Rene Abythe

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Your works show a very specific aesthetic sensibility that is in dialogue with 80s video games and computer-generated imagery that you achieve through animation. Could you please talk a little bit about your process, and especially what you look at and where your aesthetic influences come from?

 I have two mentalities for producing work: passive and active. 

The passive mentality usually comes about when I'm getting bored with the internet, late at night, and in need of something to entertain myself. I'll open up photoshop...

 

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Artist Profile: Anna Lundh

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Conveyor Loop/Löpande Bandet, 2009.

Your work is incredibly research-based and covers a variety of themes spanning from the Swedish Public Dental Services in the 1930s to 1960s art in NYC. You refer to yourself as a private investigator of a kind: Where do you draw information from? What interests you in the way history echoes in the contemporary life and in the way we relate to history and time?

Information is everywhere, I try not to have any preconceived principles about what a good or viable source can be. But the search is never random or aimless, I'm always following some sort of a hunch. Obviously the internet—with its readiness, wide-ranging pathways and associative connection points—can provide not only fast news, but also very particular kinds of information (for example, access to people's unedited opinions, or documentation that would never end up in the newspaper or history books). But its aura of omniscience is very deceiving of course, and since the algorithm-governed search engines are increasingly streamlining the results to match our interests (or our predicted consumer needs), when looking for hard facts, or unpredictable information, it is necessary to broaden the scope. I often interview people for my research, which is one of my favorite things to do. I have also been digging around extensively in various historic archives. Even though I'm seemingly focusing on the past in some of my projects, the interest in specific histories and people has more to do with trying to sharpen the focus on the present. Only very specific histories become subject for my investigations, either if they are aiming their gaze toward the future, or if they can be directly traced from a current condition or behavior. At least at the moment, my interest has a ...

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Artist Profile: Sabrina Ratté

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Sabrina Ratté's video, Activated Memory, is featured on The Download this month.

Still from Activated Memory (2011)

On your tumblr, you quote Phillip K. Dick's "How to Build a Universe That Doesn't Fall Apart Two Days Later," wherein he presents his thoughts on "reality" from his perspective of a science-fiction writer whose job is to create universes in his novels and stories. Does your video work represent the reality you see? Are you attempting to make the viewer see reality as you see it?

I believe that Philip K. Dick is a master at questioning reality as we see it. When I first read Ubik, I was fascinated by the way Philip K. Dick would call in to question the basic structure of reality and disturb the meaning that we give to our everyday life. Diving into his world can cause a huge life crisis! It made me realize that we need to take certain things for granted or have faith in a « reality » that we choose in order to go on. (While being aware at the same time that this is only one choice among an infinity of others.) Doubting that we live in 2011, or being unsure if we are dead or alive can be very dangerous - and yet these questions can lead to very interesting lands if well managed. Philip K. Dick is dangerous in that sense. Are we in someone’s mind ? Are we dead ? Are the objects around us really concrete or can they melt in another dimension? Will this elevator go back in time if I step in it? The fact that he writes these ideas into a science fiction context allowes him to go further into his reflexions and gives him the opportunity to build these incredibly complex and convincing ...

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Artist Profile: Steve Bishop

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Detail of 16:9 II, 2011, LCD screen, Astonish 'Jasmine & Wild Berries,' glass, wood.

You have a very interesting relationship with objects and things. A slight touch, for example in Kicking Me When I'm Down of 2008, where a laundry drying rack is compiled from strip lights with white underclothes hanging from it, changes the meaning of what we see as an object—be it neon light, drying rack, or drying clothes—and how we perceive material, things, and art historical tradition (which is my way of saying Dan Flavin). Can you talk a little bit about the use of found objects, and whether or not you see your work as part of a growing discussion of the "thing" (or animism, or thingness, as it has been referred to as well) in the art context?

Aside from those drying rack pieces which were about strip lights coming from a design background to art and back to design, I don't really think about the history of objects in terms the art lexicon of used material—but rather something more in tune with its position outside of the artwork. I feel it's best to talk about the material in my work in terms of pre-fabricated or fabricated objects because sometimes I'll find something and use it but just as often I'll find something and have it remade slightly different, so it's slippery referring to things as a 'found object'. I think either way, made or re-made, it still comes to me at my studio as something new that I have to work out in the same way. And as long as the object operates in the way of a found object—has a previous social use or familiarity but is somewhat impersonal in its making—then ...

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