Required Reading

(1)


Gears of War depends on a conventional anti-hero/redemption narrative set in another world where it is up to a motley band of once-disgraced brigands to save what remains of humanity from a subterranean enemy known as the Locust Horde. Its formidable commercial success aside, the game is simply a well-executed shoot-’em-up that offers no significant expansion on that well-worn genre. Its television advertisement is of far greater interest: the emphasis on the melancholy, pathos and self-reproach communicated by ‘Mad World’ connects Gears of War to a contemporary understanding of war produced in large part as a response to the ongoing conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. The conundrum for the producers of war-based video games is a delicate one: how to craft and market a war game in an era when public opinion has turned against war as a paradigm? How, for instance, is heroism rendered in a fictional narrative when the most obvious contemporary social referents - the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan - do not, as social histories in the making, embody the kind of unambiguous moral bases easily identified, for example, in World Wars I and II? How can our period eye, in all its ambivalence, be satisfied while still offering a compelling narrative of heroism?

Those responsible for the advertisement of the juggernaut franchise that is Gears of War obviously concluded that to acknowledge the public’s ambivalence was key to eradicating it as an obstacle to the game’s commercial success. While the game’s story is not a romanticized one, the commercial relies on age-old Romantic notions of self. This is, of course, a rather insidious strategy.

-- EXCERPT FROM "MAD WORLD" BY CHRISTOPHER BEDFORD AND JENNIFER WULFFSON IN FRIEZE MAGAZINE, NOV-DEC 2009

MORE »


Constellations Corpo Real (2008) - Gerald Edwards III

(0)

map.jpg

constellations.gif

Flying down the back roads and divided four lane highways that cross the southern part of the United States has given me pause over the years to think about the rapidly shifting landscape. Granted being born in the mid 1980’s was like being dropped into the rushing river to maddeningly fast growth and development. When the first Best Buy came to my town it was like dreamland opened its gates right up, with the Sunday circular fueling my insatiable desire to get that fresh video game, or the hot discounted DVD player. As the time passed though, and I began to take these road trips with friends across the south, I realized what was eating me. The disappearing sense of regional diversity, passing through Dothan, Troy, Ozark, Alabama each town had become defined by its strip, the reconfiguring of Main Street, into a bypass road lined with the shiny, glowing colors of economic growth and progress.

Each constellation is a set of points on a laser etched map that correspond to photographed franchises of the projected logo. The first in the group is of Eighteen McDonald’s that spread across the beautiful city of Memphis, Tennessee.

-- FROM THE PROJECT STATEMENT FOR THE SERIES

MORE »


American Landscapes (2009) - Adam Broomberg & Oliver Chanarin

(0)

americanlandscapes2.gif
c-type print, 10" x 8", 2009

americanlandscapes1.gif
c-type print, 10" x 8", 2009

American Landscapes takes the interiors of commercial photography studios across the United States as its ostensible subject. The artists reject the foreground and highlight instead the space in which images are literally "made." In these occasionally abstract photographs, the surfaces of walls, floors and ceilings junction along straight lines and parabolic curves to create the unspoiled white space known in the photography industry as Cycloramas. Broomberg & Chanarin refer to these spaces as 'scenography for a free market economy' or simply 'Landscapes'. For just as the American West came to represent unbound possibility in the minds of early pioneers, so these studio walls act as a blank screen on which any sort of fantasy may be projected.

-- THE ARTIST'S STATEMENT

MORE »


Corporate Culture

(0)

"Contact," the most recent exhibition by the group Art Business Consulting, featured a rocket ship built from computer hardware, with a trio of yuppies floating weightlessly on a video screen inside. The trappings and denizens of the office have figured in ABC's work since Mikhail Kosoplapov, Maxim Ilyukhin, and Natalia Struchkova formed the group in 2001, and as in "Contact," they have always been subject to some sort of disfigurement. Early on, ABC established a pseudo-corporate identity by showing up at art openings in expensive cars and nice suits, performing the role of Russia's nascent upper-middle class while their colleagues in the Moscow boheme were riding public transport in sweaters and jeans. To solidify that image, ABC made good on their name's promise of "business"--in 2004, they became dealers, selling the work of artists they liked at ABC Gallery. Change happens quickly in Moscow; now that the market has dwarfed institutional influence in Russia's art world, linking the words "art" and "business" doesn't feel as novel as it did in 2001, and Western-style corporate culture has lost the cachet of an exotic interloper. ABC's symbolic launch of the office into space in "Contact" came on the heels of the loss of their own office space; at the end of May, the arts complex where ABC Gallery was located shut down to make room for a new development. While Ilyukhin, Kosolapov, and Struchkova continue to work as artists, businesspeople, and consultants, the events of last summer seem to mark a turning point, a time for reflecting on the future of a project initiated to document social change now that those changes are entrenched.

READ ON »


Notes on Going Under

(8)

But the whole discourse of noise-as-threat is bankrupt, positively inimical to the remnants of power that still cling to noise. Forget subversion. The point is self-subversion, overthrowing the power structure in your own head. The enemy is the mind's tendency to systematize, sew up experience, place a distance between itself and immediacy... The goal is OBLIVION. - Simon Reynolds, "Noise"

Replace the word OBLIVION with DE-EVOLUTION and you have encapsulated the essence of the strangest art-music project that ever emerged from Akron, Ohio. While a quintet of jerky ectomorphs in hazmat suits (seemingly) singing about sadomasochism breaching the Billboard Top 20 in 1980 seemed unlikely, the legacy of DEVO is fraught with such contradiction. Formed in 1973, DEVO began as a polemical performance project, became a major buzz band and then crumbled under the weight of the attention they had cultivated. Outside of influencing a generation of musicians and artists, a surface reading would suggest the band only registered a few blips on the broader pop culture radar—"Whip It", their pioneering music video work and a legendary Saturday Night Live performance—but tracing the dramatic arc of DEVO reveals a fascinating back story. While the group might be most easily read in relation to their 1970s Ohio peers Pere Ubu, The Dead Boys or Chi-Pig, more enduring points of reference may be found in the deadpan, dour and decidedly humorless synthpop of Telex, Gary Numan and Kraftwerk. Comparisons notwithstanding, DEVO defied categorization and their creative exploration of emerging technology, hermetic logic and contentious relationship with the mass market make them quite relevant to new media artists—they're just the band you want!

READ ON »


Required Reading

(0)


Art Fag City started their artist essay series, IMG MGMT, again this week with "Zappos Selbstdarstellung" by Joel Holmberg. In this essay, Holmberg considers the corporate culture of the online shoe company Zappos, which encourages the individual expression of its employees through social media outlets, content it then uses to build their overall brand. Holmberg makes the observation that this communal bonding through self-expression is similar to the Selbstdarstellung performances acted out by members of Otto Muehl’s Action Analysis Commune. Here, members were to "reveal one's freest self" through "spontaneous acts of self-representation." What results is "joy-bordering-on-desperation," as members were pushed to test their own boundaries by the larger group. The Zappos example illustrates the contemporary corporate adaptation of psychological practices used in various social experiments from the 1960s and 1970s, a subject elaborated in greater detail by filmmaker Adam Curtis in The Century of the Self.

MORE »


Logo (2009) - Oliver Jennings

(9)

logo1.gif

logo2.gif

logo4.gif

MORE »


The Question of Freedom at the Open Video Conference

(0)

Does free video uploading and downloading equal democracy? I asked myself this question during the recent Open Video Conference, organized by the Information Society Project at the Yale Law School and the Open Video Alliance, an umbrella coalition for the development of an “open video ecosystem”: a “movement to promote free expression and innovation in online video.” Conference sponsors include Mozilla, Redhat, Intelligent Television, and Livestream. The conference was held at New York University’s Vanderbilt Hall, home of the NYU Law School from June 19-21, 2009. I attended several of the panels at the conference, although it was primarily Yochai Benkler’s opening keynote that was of concern.

READ ON »


Untitled (SONY) (2007) - Damon Zucconi

(0)

sony.gif

MORE »


After Microsoft (2007) - Goldin+Senneby

(0)

After_Microsoft.jpg

installation shot.jpg

The most distributed image ever is being phased out. What remains is a hill in Sonoma Valley, California. In the context of this project we have re-visited the hill. “After Microsoft” tells the story of a January day in the late 90’s when the hill came to coincide with a global branding strategy.

After Microsoft has been exhibited as an installation piece, including a projection of the re-photographed view together with a voice-over.

-- FROM THE ARTIST'S STATEMENT

MORE »