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In the first decades after film was invented, its practitioners wrote brilliant, poetic essays debating whether what they had on their hands was a new medium or simply a tool for furthering existing practices like theater or painting. These artists very often used the words "magic" and "wizardry" to describe what they were up to in creating moving images. Today's films use devices further removed from the real to give us the illusion of reality and whether to perpetuate the appearance of seamlessness or to assuage the ADD-addled minds of contemporary net-surfing viewers, everything is way way sped up. Enter Kurt Ralske. He'd like to slow things down. The Boston-based artist's video installations, performances, digital prints, and software art have long addressed the formal questions many people have ceased asking about film, particularly the relationship between sound and image and stillness versus motion. This was the case with his "Alphaville" (Motion-Extraction-Reanimation), in which he reprocessed elements of Godard's famous film and stretched and repeated them across a wider plane, questioning the function of surface and duration in the original piece. In a new project entitled Zero Frames Per Second, Ralske has dissected the films of Godard, Kubrick, Murnau, and others into a series of still images. Each film is represented by two frames--one condensing all motion into a single image and the other accumulating all moments of non-movement. The artist explains that, "Within these images the cinematic experience is freed from duration, narrative, and signification, producing a visually abstract record of the information from the 150,000 or so frames per film." The works free the mind to quickly take in a film in the slowest of slow-motions. They are on view at New York's School of Visual Arts through September 12th. - Marisa Olson
In this work by Pascual Sisto, a plastic bag obstructs the Google Maps Street View of Minnie Street in Fairbanks, Alaska. Discovered while researching Google Maps Street View, Sisto preserves this "found object" by redirecting it to its own url, lastbreathinalaska.com, as well as capturing it as a back-up video, in case Google decides to reshoot the location. Swirling on a constant panoramic loop, the movement of the camera gives the abstract image an almost 3D-like quality. The piece documents Google's fraught attempt to supply an accurate representation of Minnie Street, and, as such, Sisto sees Last Breath in Alaska (Found Object) as a response to the purportedly omniscient eye of the Street View feature, and the issues of transparency and privacy it raises. - Ceci Moss
"Ghost Hardware," Sean Dack's latest exhibition at New York's Daniel Reich Gallery, builds a visual language, in photography and sculpture, from the limits of technological legibility. Over a series of unique c-prints, thoughtfully hung throughout the gallery, Dack coats a panoply of sourced images with thick layers of digital interference: glitches that "tangle and halt the flow of information," but in so doing also provide the precondition for the exhibited art-objects. Formally, these images are beautiful, their striated lines of pixels at times staining underlying images in cyan and magenta; at others, reducing them to wholly abstract geometries. These techniques prove most effective when echoing the sourced images, as when Dack's pixels form postmodern building block analogues to the structural units of the unfinished, contemporary skyscrapers in Building (Hotel, Pyongyang) (2008) and CCTV #2 (2007). Yet on a broader level, Dack's choice of images risks belaboring his conceptual inquiry. Shots of isolated women, an airborne helicopter, unmarked CIA airplane and a missile test quickly move the exhibition into well-trodden, conspiracy theory terrain. One wonders whether Dack's Pop sensibility - most explicitly manifest in his rubber encasings of obsolete tape decks and CD changers, also on display - extends into the realm of his photographs' subject-matter and thus justifies the indulgence. Whether or not this is the case, the artist's formal investigation of the psychic life of digital technology would be far more interesting without its narrative props. - Tyler Coburn
by Rafael Tiffany
Olafur Eliasson's expansive mid-career survey "Take Your Time" claims a significant amount of space at both the Museum of Modern Art and P.S.1, giving reason for museum goers to follow its title's injunction. The Klaus Biesenbach and Roxana Marcoci-curated show comes to New York on the heels of a smaller manifestation at San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, continuing a dramatic stateside splash for the Danish-Icelandic artist-- which will be literalized later this summer with four waterfalls he's planned for the downtown harbor area. Those who want to experience the diversity of the crowd-pleasing artist's output should make time for all the components of this wide-ranging show.
The works present trace Eliasson's rise to prominence since the 1990s. His earlier pieces-- he prefers "apparatuses" or "experimental setups" -- typically stage modest interventions within our perceptual assumptions, and are frequently disarming in their economy. Beauty (1993) is especially mesmerizing, consisting of an iridescent curtain of mist in P.S.1's dark basement vault, produced simply by refracting light off of water droplets sprayed from a suspended rubber tube. The capacity for this approach to work at a vastly magnified level was apparent with The weather project, his spectacular and now iconic 2003 installation of light, smoke, and mirrors for the Tate Modern. One could compare Wannabe (1991) with Ventilator (1997) in order to gain a sense of this ambition of scale: the former is a single low-hanging spotlight tucked into a side chamber at P.S.1, designating an intimate platform for training viewers to command institutional space; the latter, a free-hanging industrial fan that pendulously sways through MoMA's immense atrium, erratically animates the imposing ...
A queasy blend of Phillip K. Dick and Paul Sharits, Randy Balma: Municipal Abortionist is the latest from art-game designer Mark Essen, a.k.a Messhof. Filled with strobing rainbow colors, overblown psychedelic explosions, giant bouncing baby-heads and a skull-pounding soundtrack of electronic noise beats, Randy Balma's audio-visual complexity reflects Messhof's experimental media background (a recent Bard grad, he studied filmmaking under the likes of Peggy Ahwesh and Les Leveque). But it also continues a strain of sadistically difficult yet tantalizingly ingenious game mechanics that has already made Essen's work notorious in indie gaming circles. For example, one level requires the player to drive a truck from one end of a straight-line highway to another. Easy, except for the fact that Balma is supposed to be "drugged up on drugs," thus the screen is constantly rotating and the games left-right controllers keep switching valences without warning. The more visually-minimal titles in the Messhof back catalog are even thornier. The abstracted Flywrench necessitates navigating a mere flapping line through neon-piped geometric environments using a maddeningly arbitrary array of button-combo protocols, while Punishment and its sequel Punishment: The Punishing are two seemingly simple platforms that become very difficult, very quickly. In his work, Essen combines the essence of old 2D arcade games-- misleadingly cute single-player titles that did everything they could to make you choke on that twenty-five cents-- with the viewer-challenging puzzle-logic of avant-garde cinema. He's currently working on a suite of new works that include a western-themed side-scroller, a bow-and-arrow shooter, and a stenography simulator, tentatively titled Stenography Hero. - Ed Halter
Image: Mark Essen/Messhof, Randy Balma: Municipal Abortionist, 2008
Audio-visual performance duo Tali Hinkis and Kyle Lapidus, better known as LoVid, will be reading people's auras tonight at the Museum of Modern Art in New York-- or at least generating an electronic approximation. For their live work "Video Fingerprints," which premieres in the show, a select group of participants (including a few artists and curators familiar to Rhizome readers) will hold a quarter-inch plug in their bare hands, thereby generating natural electric currents which will be translated into analog video images corresponding to each person's unique body signal. The cords carrying these biofeedback signals have a touch of the handmade as well, crafted with homey cardboard and fabric coverings that mirror the chunky, multicolored video patterns created in their performances. "Video Fingerprints" is the latest in LoVid's growing body of elaborately low-tech projects based around the rough malleability of the electronic signal, updating the image processing practices of first-generation video artists like Stephen Beck and Skip Sweeney with a 21st century taste for noise, overload and disruption. In addition, LoVid will enact "Venus Mapped," a double video projection which Hinkis and Lapidus perform live A/V patching to create one image that follows a prerecorded "visual score" on the other. They'll also give a talk about their work, and screen a number of single-channel recordings produced over the last few years. - Ed Halter
LoVid, Venus Mapped, 2007
Digital Arts and New Media (DANM) Technical Coordinator