Machines have assisted people in creating images for centuries. From the camera obscura to the overhead and slide projectors to the photocopier, these mostly light-based tools have helped make light work of creating mimetic images. More recently, artists have started focusing on the machines themselves (this includes algorithmic software bots), letting them make the work, rather than simply assisting in the process. Of course, this all depends on how you define the work and the act of making it. Jürg Lehni has begun creating robotic spraypainting machines with names like Hector, Rita, or Viktor, anthropomorphic monikers that recall early fantasies -- or anxieties -- about the robots that would eventually replace human workers. The Swiss artist doesn't seem worried about losing his job. In fact, he's a master delegator, collaborating with (one might even say outsourcing to) others who help determine the form and content of the drawings that his machines will make. A show open July 9 - August 31 at the London ICA, entitled "A Recent History of Writing and Drawing," will display a variety of mechanical devices for art-making, centering around Viktor. Lehni has teamed-up with British graphic designer Alex Rich to program Viktor's mark-makings in such a way as to initiate a conversation about the role of technologies in expression, primarily by inviting the public to join workshops which allow them to participate in the drawings and to view demonstrations by other practitioners who'll use Viktor to make their own work. This overlapping melange of users gets to the heart of the project. As curator Emily King says, "Moving away from the blunt duality of man vs. machine, it is now possible to appreciate the particular qualities of various forms of mechanical and digital mark-making." This all begs the question of whether it's ...
"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."
Artists Olia Lialina and Dragan Espenschied have produced a body of work that focuses on the vernacular visual language of the web, one that revels in its gaps and imperfections. Works such as Olia's and Dragan's: Comparative History of Classic Animated GIFs and Glitter Graphics and Midnight explore the evolution of digital imagery in tandem with the changing conception of the web's ideal appearance. Currently exhibited in Montage: Unmonumental Online, Lialina's Some Universe (2002) engages one of the most classic and widely used digital images: stars.
The latest iteration of Lialina and Espenschied's project Online Newspapers (2004-Ongoing), developed for the Madison Square Park Conservancy, follows this distinct direction. Shown on four outdoor video screens on the grounds of the Shake Shack, Online Newspapers: New York Edition is a series of scanned front pages of four New York daily newspapers. All have been rendered illegible by flashy animations and glitter graphics that evoke the look and feel of the early web. The papers imagine how websites for New York's major newspapers would look if designed not by the slick designers whose work dominates the web now but by the early users of the web who had a more homegrown aesthetic. By elevating these early styles and graphics, Online Newspapers suggests that the forward movement of the web does not necessarily amount to cultural improvement and that this assumption of progress is, in itself, an over-hyped and inaccurate piece of news. The exhibition will last from March 20 through April 27, with the works shown daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. - Dennis Knopf
Olia Lialina and Dragan Espenschied, Online Newspapers: New York Edition, 2008
In conjunction with the 2008 Whitney Biennial, creative workshop and independent press Dexter Sinister will use the Commander's Room at the 7th Regiment Armory as an outpost to release a myriad of often playful and absurd texts through various channels of distribution. Meant as a spoof of the official communiqués of the Whitney Biennial, the project is ironically entitled "True Mirror." A revolving group of artists, designers, and musicians were invited to participate, such as Jason Fulford, Walead Beshty, Rob Giampietro and Alex Waterman. One of the releases, Sans Comic by Cory Arcangel, presents the Biennial's press release entirely in the widely mocked font Comic Sans. A simple gesture, the act illuminates how easy it is to disrupt institutional authority with a detail as basic as a typeface. "True Mirror" will terminate its dispatches this week on March 23rd.
Adaptability has always been a distinctive feature of human intelligence, but as MoMA's new exhibition "Design and the Elastic Mind" claims, recent developments in science call for faster -- and, indeed, more elastic -- modes of social response. Beginning with a display on nanostructures and concluding with one about social and global networks, this ambitious exhibition examines the various scales on which our contemporary lives are led, and the way design can translate technological innovation into objects of everyday use. Aranda/Lasch's Rules of Six (2007), for example, foregrounds nanodesign's potential for self-assembly with a wall relief and images of nanostructures. Developed through simple rules and interactions, these structures offer provisional cases for the role such generative, modular organization may hold in the realms of architecture and design. On the human scale, Emili Padros for the emiliana design studio's NSS: Non-Stop Shoes (1999) is one of many projects to consider micro-solutions to energy conservation: high-top sneakers that store energy over their use to power lightbulbs and small, domestic appliances. Experiments on the social scale frequently focus on the interaction of individual users with a larger (often virtual) public, as with I Want You To Want Me (2007-ongoing), Jonathan Harris and Sep Kamvar's condensation of internet dating networks into an interactive, flatscreen display, and Fernanda Bertini Viegas, Martin Wattenberg and IBM Thomas J. Watson Research Center's History Flow (2003), which visualizes user-generated revisions to Wikipedia topics. As Senior Curator Paola Antonelli points out in an essay accompanying the exhibition, the ability of virtual users to "break the temporal rhythms imposed by society in order to customize and personalize them" is one of the many ways that we are tackling technological novelty with a spirit of agency and play. - Tyler Coburn
Image: Fernanda Bertini Viegas, Martin Wattenberg and ...
The LilyPad Arduino
Demonstration of a shirt made with a mounted motion-responsive LilyPad
At first glance, it would seem that wearable computing and traditional craft operate in distinctly different realms of cultural production. However, Leah Buechley, a University of Colorado at Boulder PhD student working with the Craft Technology Group, bridges this gap by taking a homemade approach to the use of computation in clothing or jewelery. The LilyPad Arduino Kit allows for the construction of simple, but aesthetically innovative, computational jewelery made out of the environmentally responsive open source platform known as Arduino. According to Buechley's site, the LilyPad is "designed to empower novices to work with electronic textiles. Using the kit, you can build your own soft interactive clothing." Along with the necessary tools, the kit also includes a highly instructive tutorial that will provide those without a strong background in technology with the know-how to build their own arduino and apply it to their projects. Leah Buechley will lead a lesson on the LilyPad Arduino at Mediamatic's Designing Wearable Hybrids workshop from February 19-21 at Mediamatic, Amsterdam. - Gene McHugh
In just a few days, some of the art world's most prominent scholars will descend upon Dallas, Texas for the annual conference of the College Art Association. Each year there are a number of intriguing exhibitions on in conjunction with the symposium, and the Leonardo Education Forum-sponsored exhibition, Social Fabrics, looks like a must-see. Curated by Susan E. Ryan and Patrick Lichty, the show's subtitle is "Wearable + Media + Interconnectivity" and the selected works demonstrate "convergences between individual expression and statement making, on the one hand, and the phenomenology of 'network society' on the other." If that sounds a bit brainy to you, consider that the exhibition is a tricked-out fashion show in which artists combine wearable art, locative media, sensor technology, and social commentary on life in a high tech society. As the curators point out, "Fashion and digital technology have been interdependent at least since the development of Jacquard's loom in the 1800's." But now digital code and dress codes have merged, allowing artists and their muses to express themselves in provocative new ways. - Marisa Olson
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
The term "manipulation" comes to mind when discussing the vast and varied practice of artists LoVid (Tali Hinkis and Kyle Lapidus). For years now, the duo have created an impressive, diverse body of handcrafted video work, spanning from performances, installations and tapestries to sophisticated image processors. Their creative image and sound distortion is deeply informed by the work of a previous generation of video artists, not only luminaries like Nam June Paik and Steina and Woody Vasulka, but also the lesser known creators of image processors and synthesizers such as Dan Sandin (of the Sandin Image Processor) and Dave Jones. This influence is pronounced in LoVid's wearable image processor Coat of Embrace and pseudo minimalist sculptural instruments such as Sync Armonica. In their most recent work, a Turbulence Networked_Music_Review commission, Hinkis and Lapidus took a new approach to manipulation. Rather than create an elaborate machine from scratch, they transformed the physical constraints of the web and a home computer into a vehicle for distortion. More of the Same (2007) starts simply enough: a single pop up window, a photograph of the artists and their broken laptop, and a few lines of dialogue, ("What's up with this computer? Is it the browser? The connection?")- and from there multiplies exponentially with each successive pop up window. Window #1 loads one image and one audio file, window #2 multiplies the image and loads the audio twice, and on and on until your computer is simultaneously trying to load 514 audio files to sometimes cacophonic, sometimes eerily silent ends. Don't worry about your processor, the artists give thoughtful instructions to avoid any serious computer crashes. - Caitlin Jones
Juried Exhibition: Earth, at 440 Gallery, Brooklyn
Digital Arts and New Media (DANM) Technical Coordinator