When Sound Freezes Over

(1)

The relationship between sound and image has long entertained comparative theorists and geeks in both literary and music circles. Of course, this relationship keeps evolving with new technologies, and couplings between audio and the visual continue to grow, particularly in the context of live performances. But how do these two dyads manifest themselves in still forms? This is the question raised by "Frozen," an exhibition organized by Norwegian artist and curator Marius Watz, who has led the field of generative art with his own work, his Generator.x blog, and events focused on the work of others. The show is up through July 26th at Amsterdam's Melkweg Mediaroom, Paradiso, in conjunction with the 5 days off MEDIA festival. Everything included in it is the result of an assignment, which seems in keeping with an exhibition that responds to generative practices and computer-programmed processes. Artists Andreas Nicolas Fischer & Benjamin Maus; Leander Herzo; Daniel Widrig & Shajay Booshan; and Marius Watz have created digital prints and "audio sculptures" that respond to audioworks by Freiband and Alexander Rishaug. The artists have used techniques such as rapid prototyping, CNC, and laser cutting to make objects that map and visualize sound, in "frozen" form. Of course, these works may purport to stop time--existing almost like a single frame in a film strip--but they are utterly-time based, with the concept of frozen motion entirely scripted by the concept of time, and a processing of the structural qualities (timbre, tempo, rhythm, etc) of sounds informing the logic and form of the ultimate objects. A nice Flickr set documents the results which demonstrate both the diversity of ways in which sound can be interpreted and the fact that beauty still lies in the ear of the beholder. - Marisa Olson


Image: Marius Watz, Sound memory (Oslo Rain Manifesto), 2008 ...

MORE »


Mr. Roboto

(0)


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 ...

MORE »


UV Tagging

(0)


Initially, Elliott Malkin's new work, Graffiti for Butterflies, reads like a science fair project. One can just see the riveting subtitle, "Directing monarch butterflies to urban food sources along migratory routes in North America" taped-up in bold letters across the top of a trifold sign affixed with statistical charts and photographic evidence. In truth, this mostly internet-based project is a perfect spoof of the recent spate of R&D art experiments that saturate the web, performing rather than practicing science, even as it provides us with a series of informative links and nice photos of caterpillars and butterflies thriving in the wilds of midtown Manhattan. Malkin's big idea was to spraypaint printed decals of milkweed flowers (the food source of choice for Monarchs) with aerosol sunblock that reflects UV light, thus making it stand out to those creatures with "butterfly vision." The images are then to be placed remarkably close to the real thing they represent, in order to broadcast the signal (Malkin's got the techie language down pat) to the migratory creatures that they have arrived at a way station. He likens it to "the equivalent of a fast-food sign on a highway, advertising rest stops." A demo video, in simulated "butterfly vision," illustrates the process of creating these nouveau golden arches. It would be ironic if hordes of monarchs took the bait, as the same type of mimicry the artist invokes is a natural defense strategy often used by other species of butterflies hoping to masquerade as the poison creatures. So far, Malkin's only tested one "prototype," but it did manage to attract a butterfly who even colonized the potted milkweed with her own caterpillar eggs. Ultimately, he confesses to being more interested in distributing the idea than tagging the entire city himself. This ...

MORE »


Image Search

(0)


To say that the internet is teeming with data or overflowing with information would be both an understatement and an almost unquantifiable fact, given the ever-shifting shape of the net. But even if the web's state of being is hard to pin down, artist Richard Wright is intrigued by the concrete ways it has contributed to the evolution of communication. In his upcoming exhibition, "How to Talk to Images," at London's HTTP Gallery, the artist presents new work resulting from his residency with HTTP founders Furtherfield.org that continues his exploration into the pictorial history of language. An established film and video artist, as well as a pedigreed new media practitioner and theorist, Wright's show makes a statement about the way that we use images to speak and our new habits of "searching" for, rather than truly seeing visual images. He's created a database of 50,000 random internet images in order to create two works that play with the communicative structure and users' expectations with regard to online searches. The Internet Speaks forces users to skip through the files one at a time, letting the material's statements come to the viewer, rather than allowing them to impose meaning. Meanwhile, The Mimeticon uses the same database but requires viewers to find images not by searching for keywords but by browsing by visual similarities. The latter is positioned as a Baroque search engine, invoking a time of decadent formal experimentation and mechanical development. The show runs July 4th-August 3rd and coincides with the release of a monograph on the artist's work as well as a poster featuring an essay by Wright, illustrated with typefaces marking the evolution of the western alphabet. While his thesis on searching versus seeing implies a new short-term memory on the ...

MORE »


Bidding and the Beat

(0)


Sex and teletext, e-commerce and elektronische tanzmusik collide in The Sound of eBay, the latest internet intervention (and a 2008 Rhizome Commission) from Ubermorgen.com, which generates unique low-fi electro tunes from individual users' eBay data. Visit the project's site, generously decorated with 8-bit teletext porn, and enter your (or anyone's) eBay moniker and an email; a specially-tailored mp3 arrives in your inbox in a matter of hours. According to Ubermorgen.com's own account, an invisible army of bots scours the World's Largest Online Marketplace (tm) to scrape data and bring it back to be transformed into music. How a given user's actual data corresponds to the structure and content of each tune is not evident to the listener, but relates to the eBay-Generator application's own idiosyncratic system of producing and processing hashsums from user-to-user transactions: more frequent eBay bidders may receive denser compositions, and two different songs created from the same username can differ. In the future, the creators of eBay-Generator plan to release the application under a GNU Public License. The Sound of eBay concludes a trilogy of works by Ubermorgen.com--otherwise known as the artists Lizvix and Hans Bernhard--including GWEI (Google Will Eat Itself), an economic ourouboros that generates money off Google text ads then uses the income to buy Google stock, and Amazon Noir, which exploited Amazon's "search inside" function to create pirated versions of full books. Unlike these latter acts of digital ju-jitsu, the parasitic Sound of eBay has a relatively benign relationship to its host organism. Celebrating with only partial irony the auction giant's peer-to-peer distributed capitalism, the Sound of eBay offers a way to shake one's booty to the hidden rhythms of electronic commerce. - Ed Halter


Ubermorgen.com, the Sound of Ebay "Visuals" (Screengrab ...

MORE »


Casting Shadows

(0)


In Mexican-Canadian artist Rafael Lozano-Hemmer's practice, technologies all but synonymous with top-down monitoring and control (surveillance cameras, tracking systems, pattern-recognition software) transform into the base-units of interactive installations. "RECORDERS," the artist's current solo exhibition at The Edith Russ Site for Media Art, in Germany, emphasizes the individual and collective aspects of spectatorship, building an art-going public, in part, through archives of the visual and physical traces of past viewers. Close-up, for example, comprises a monitor divided into 800 small videos, which together respond to the physical presence of a spectator by mimicking the form of his or her shadow. These small videos are but fragments of a constantly updating reserve of 10,000 recordings, all of spectators who have previously viewed the work. For Pulse Room, Lozano-Hemmer has wired an array of 100 suspended lightbulbs to a metal handle. When a visitor grasps the handle, his or her pulse causes the first bulb in the array to flicker in unison; the introduction of another visitor's pulse causes the first flicker to move to the next bulb, and so on. Eventually, all of the lightbulbs hold a record of a given visitor - a fact all the more poetic considering that Lozano-Hemmer's inspiration came from listening to the heartbeats of his twins during his wife's pregnancy. Pulse Room is but one of many variations of this project: Pulse Front graced Toronto's Harbourfront last June, and Madison Square Park, in New York City, will host Pulse Park this coming fall. As with the best of Lozano-Hemmer's work, this evocative and technologically sophisticated installation finds its unique footing at the intersection of art, location and community. - Tyler Coburn


Image: Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, Close-up, 2006

Link »

MORE »


Math Goddess

(0)


Despite the fact the art world is rife with gender discrimination, a situation only compounded by historic barriers thwarting women's entree to computing, the title "Grande Dame of Digital Art" is one for which a host of pioneering artists could vie. Nonetheless, Berlin gallery [DAM] believes this designation belongs to Vera Molnar, whose experimental Plotter drawings will be exhibited at the space May 30th-July 12th. Made between 1969-1990, these color and black and white geometric images were preceded by her invention, in 1959, of a "Machine Imaginaire," a surreal algorithmic generator that presaged aesthetic computing by many years. The artist was a contemporary of Paul Klee and shared in his generation's fascination with systems. However, in a witty essay entitled "1% Disorder," she made clear that there is always an open space for chaos and creativity-- not unlike what Freud called "the naval" of the dream. It is this open space that allowed her to bring a human warmth to the rigidity of the mathematical languages she admired, like her own fever dream resulting from infection by what she called the "virus of visual experimentation." - Marisa Olson


Image: Vera Molnar, (Des)Ordres ((Un)Ordnungen), 1974

Link »

MORE »


Speaking in Code

(0)


Codemanipulator is a Polish artist whose work revolves entirely around code and the pleasurable binary between the latter as text versus its ability to constitute an image. He makes "coded paintings," interactive installations, and data visualizations that address such topics as architecture, urban planning, and that public space we call the internet. While these themes coalesce around physical models, the work is intended to inquire about the impacts of seemingly immaterial code on creativity and social interaction. In a broader sense, this entails a consideration of the ways in which binary models of thought have further polarized or developed, following the emergence of network culture. For his show at Krakow's Foto-Medium-Art Gallery, entitled "I am code" (open May 9-June 20, 2008), Codemanipulator will present "CodePainting, CodePoetry, CodeMovies, CodeSculpture, CodeArchitecture...CodeEverything." That is, he takes the same sequence of code and explores how different machines and systems--from web browsers to video processors--interpret it differently, manifesting in a variety of forms. Judging from the gallery's photos of the exhibition's opening, the most popular manifestation was an installation of printed tiles resembling large-scale magnetic poetry. Despite the simplicity of these shingles laid out on a table, it was the ability to interact with and manipulate the code--physically and syntactically--that made it so popular. Take this as a reminder of the ongoing importance of playing language games. - Marisa Olson


Image Credit: Codemanipulator, Codemanipulator's Toybox, 2007

Link »

MORE »


Disruptive Media

(0)


Wisconsin-based media artist Sabine Gruffat is kicking up quite a storm at Deadtech with her current installation, 24 Hour Riot, running through Tuesday, April 15th - an impressive fact, given the Chicago gallery's reputation for boundary-pushing fare. Gruffat has outfitted the space with a responsive array of electronic noise machines and televised riot scenes, such that a viewer's movement randomly triggers disturbances in the video and soundtrack. The effect is one of total dislocation, as our arbitrary influence on these broadcasts generates a palpable awareness of the existing gaps between politics, mass-media, and spectatorship. On this level, 24 Hour Riot continues Gruffat's extensive look at the various, mobile units of the culture industry and provisionally asks the question of how the reality of our contemporary, mediatized lifestyle may actually provide a groundwork for new modes of political engagement. As with Head Lines: Hybrid Film Trilogy (2007), in which the artist ran New York Times articles through semi-automated, recombinatory processes to produce skittery, 16mm animations, 24 Hour Riot suggests that any program of change must first arise from a greater understanding of the normativized codes of information dispersal, and of the means by which said codes may be subverted, erased, or reassembled. - Tyler Coburn

Sabine Gruffat, 24 Hour Riot, 2008

Link »

MORE »


Process Makes Perfect

(0)


The process behind generative art often holds as much fascination as the final product, as software artist C.E.B. Reas seems well aware, judging from his latest exhibition at Manhattan gallery Bitforms. Aptly titled "process / form," the show offers an unusually multifaceted glimpse into the methodology of the artist, who is well-known for co-creating the programming language Processing and for using code to mimic natural forms and behaviors in his own works. On display are software installations, prints, and relief sculptures created using Process 14 and Process 18, two new systems in Reas' "Process" series, first begun in 2005. At Bitforms, the software installations feature a clever set-up: side-by-side screens let viewers see two interpretations of each process unfurl. The right hand screen of Process 18 (2008) offers up a minimalist-inspired display, where simple white lines rapidly dart and cluster across a black background. In contrast, the neighboring screen offers a more lush, painterly vision: The same motion plays out there, but the lines' movements leave soft strokes of white, gray, and black, creating forms reminiscent of feathers or splinters. Similarly for Process 14 (2008) --- based on the form of a circle -- the right-hand screen shows stark round forms drifting and repelling one another like solitary amoebas, while on the display to the left, the circles leave gentle swirls like a field of blossoms. While such works defy materiality, Reas created the show's prints and relief sculptures to bring Process 14 and Process 18 into tactile form, he said in an interview at last night's exhibition opening. Especially intriguing are the two fiber-composite sculptures of Process 18-generated images, created using a milling machine. Matter-of-factly titled P18 (Object 1) (2008) and P18 (Object 2) (2008), the sculptures translate grayscale values into three dimensions, forming rocky-looking ridges suggesting a ...

MORE »