Monkeying Around

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Humans are capable of such funny contradictions. Take, for instance, our proclivity to forget that we, too, are animals, while nonetheless looking to other primates in an effort to further study ourselves. In a video series entitled "Primate Cinema," Rachel Mayeri dives headfirst into this often comic dilemma. Three videos in this series are currently on view at Los Angeles' TELIC Arts Exchange, and each takes the increasingly popular primate narrative genre as its starting point to build "an observation platform for viewing the social, sexual, and political behavior of human and nonhuman primates." In Jane Goodall and the Wild Chimpanzees we see a live performance of a classic nature documentary, developed and taped as the result of a three-week workshop at TELIC. The piece explores the documentary medium and the work it does to dramatize scenarios, despite its presumed objectivity. How to Act like an Animal also unfolded from a workshop--in this case co-led by primatologist Deborah Forster and theater director Alyssa Ravenwood. The tasks rehearsed speak to common perceptions of the primitivity of non-human animals, with the close study and re-interpretation of a nature documentary leading to the act of "hunting, killing, and sharing the meat of a colobus monkey." An earlier video in the series, Baboons as Friends, reaches beyond the model of pure consumption and survival to explore the emotional and social lives of primates. Shot with human actors in a film noir style, the piece explores the ways in which "lust, jealousy, sex, and violence transpir[e] simultaneously in human and nonhuman worlds." While entertaining, the videos also taxonomize and observe the field of primate studies as a model of inquiry and a classic medium of scientific thought. If anything, Mayeri's work takes a compelling look at the evolution of a field crafted to ...

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Net-Work

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What is new media without networks? Better yet...What are networks? Academics and technologists are fond of saying that "we now live in a network culture," meaning in part that whether they are manifested online or offline, our social relationships, the objects we make, and our worldviews are inherently informed by the conditions of life in the era of the internet. New media art would then certainly fall under this gestalt, as it not only comes out of this era, often explicitly addressing it, but it is also a social movement or art community influenced by the merger of computer networks and social networks. This is the precise point of entry for an exhibition entitled "New Media - New Networks," at the Galzenica Gallery in Velika Gorica (formerly Zagreb), which bills itself as "the first retrospective dedicated to the new media art and culture in Croatia." Unlike most gallery exhibitions, the curators aspired to keep the presentation of art works to a minimum. Instead, the show is truly a context for the production of timelines, the writing of important timelines, and the nurturing of relationships revolving around the history of networks in this region. Thus, included in the checklist are defunct Bulletin Board Systems, DIY zines, documentation of art festivals, and even the archives of a university department's research efforts. The result of this unique initiative is a heretofore unseen picture of art initiatives and collaboration in an area often painted as "off the grid" of the contemporary art world, but obviously deeply engaged in contemporary practice. As a starting point for those outside Hrvatska, visit the gallery's timeline and link collection. - Marisa Olson


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From Krakow With Luv

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Williamsburg, Brooklyn-based gallery Vertexlist is named after the string of numbers that codify a digital image and, as one might then expect, is a haven for electronic art in New York. From May 9th-June 8th, the space will be an outpost for ten emerging media artists from Krakow who are featured in the exhibition, "Blankly, Perfect Summer." While there is no more heavy-handed organizational logic than shared residence, the show promises not only a professional boost for these Polish artists, but also an opportunity for Americans to take a first glimpse at some compelling work. Karolina Kowalska's JPG/TXT (2007) features the long-term archiving and live projection of snippets of text and images pulled from art, music, and media theory blogs, but no longer visible to Google. The projected juxtapositions instigate an interpretive competition between these ephemeral words and images, and are meant to examine "the special conditions of perception and representation of art works and art-related concepts on the web." Wojtek Doroszuk's film, The Dissection Theatre (2006), is an intense documentary of the autopsy process that explores the culpability of the camera for its own act of dissection, while linking the splayed body to the history of representational art. Lidia Krawczyk and Wojtek Kubiak present their video, Kaleidoscope (2008), which is part of their larger Genderqueer cycle. The piece throws a series of photographic portraits into kaleidoscopic relief, prying ornamental accessories and marked physical traits (facial hair, painted lips) from the whole and places these gendered signifiers into constellation in a way that playfully shakes up conversations about the "social fabrication [of] heterosexual norms." In their respective projects, both Jacek Malinowski and Grzegorz Szwiertnia also focus on the body, and specifically upon precarious narratives revolving around protagonists with physical disabilities. Also included in this interesting summer show ...

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Mobile Media Hits MoMA

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The sometimes-celebrated, sometimes-critiqued origin myth of video art is that it was born with Sony's Portapak video camera and that the eponymous portability of this device enabled the medium to flourish. A similar logic might explain the recent plethora of exhibitions related to mobile phone pictures and videos. Though this line of reasoning seems to privilege the machine's form over its content, there is the sense that the increasing availability and usability of mobile devices (in Western culture, that is) is leading to a democratization of form that will ultimately generate an expansion of the genre. We saw this with internet art when the initial, highly self-reflexive context of net art gave way to a more diverse range of online practices. This has also been the trajectory for documentary film, which is the context of an upcoming mobile video screening at New York's Museum of Modern Art. CELLuloid is a screening of nine short docs, all made on cell phone cameras. The playlist boasts a range of humorous, politically-engaged, and highly topical works by "established artists experimenting with new technology as well as first-time creators inspired to document the world around them." These include Nao Bustamante's "Nanookie Of The North," Darrin Martin's "Every (Text, Image, Sound, Movie) from my cell phone," and Joshua Thorson's "UFO Days." Programmed in conjunction with MoMA's Documentary Fortnight series, the screening happens February 20 and will be followed by a discussion with the artists. - Marisa Olson

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Landscapes in Motion

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Throughout his career, English filmmaker Patrick Keiller has explored the nuances of his country's landscape. His investigations are set apart by their interest in the way the social, economic and political forces have shaped the nation's geography. One of his most famous films, London (1994), is a documentary account of the year 1992 in England's capital, as narrated by a fictional protagonist "Robinson". Keiller captures the grit and strife of London during the early 1990s, against the turbulent backdrop of declining infrastructure, IRA bombings, and longstanding Tory rule. Keiller combines static camera shots of London streets and landmarks with a poetic voice-over to create landscapes that evoke the political situation of the time. In his new installation The City of the Future (2007), currently on view at the British Film Institute on London's Southbank, Keiller marks a new phase in his exploration of England's socio-economic geography. Based on his research project "The Future of the Landscape and the Moving Image" (2007) at the Royal College of Art, The City of the Future unfolds as a multi-channel installation composed of moving images of London's late 19th century and early 20th century urban landscape collected from "actuality films," an early genre of documentary film that loosely captures footage of events and areas. Using an interactive map, visitors to the space may select a city and play films corresponding to the location. As such, the participant is made aware not only of the differences and similarities of the city's urban geography over time, but also the ever-changing social and economic realities written on the city itself. - Caitlin Jones



Image: Patrick Keiller, The City of the Future, 2007

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