Porte-Parole Mouthpiece (1996) - Krzysztof Wodiczko and Sung Ho Kim

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The Porte-Parole Mouthpiece is an instrument for strangers, its function is to empower those who are deprived of power.

This object encircles the jaw with a small video monitor and loud speakers placed directly over the wearer’s mouth, showing the lips moving in sync to the prerecorded narrative. It is designed to replace the hesitations and fearful silent of an immigrant’s personal voice with a fully formed version of the immmigrant’s story. It function both as a conduit of ones' voice and image as well as a gag that blocks the mouth and prevents from speaking.

Porte-Parole transforms its user into a virtual subject, literally, a cyborg communicating through a high-tech device rather than your own bodily apparatus for speech. The small size screen drives viewers to come closer to the user face in order to see the image of the moving lips and hear the voice.

-- FROM THE ARTIST'S STATEMENT

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Interview with Aaron Levy

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This week I spoke with Aaron Levy, Executive Director and a Senior Curator of the Philadelphia-based interdisciplinary non-profit art space Slought Foundation, about his participation in the U.S. Pavilion at La Biennale di Venezia, 11th International Architecture Exhibition. Working in a team with William Menking and Andrew Strum, the exhibition, titled "Into the Open: Positioning Practice," investigates contemporary socially-engaged architectural practice in the United States. Sixteen practitioners were selected for the exhibition, including The Center for Land Use Interpretation, the Center for Urban Pedagogy (CUP), Design Corps, Detroit Collaborative Design Center, Gans Studio, The Heidelberg Project, International Center for Urban Ecology, Jonathan Kirschenfeld Associates,Project Row Houses, Rebar, Rural Studio, Spatial Information Design Lab/Laura Kurgan, Studio 804, Smith and Others, The Edible Schoolyard/Yale Sustainable Food Project, and Estudio Teddy Cruz. Levy, along with William Menking and Andrew Strum, will discuss the exhibition at Columbia University on October 13th and downtown at Studio-X on October 14th. - Ceci Moss

Ceci Moss: The title for the U.S. Pavilion is "Into the Open: Positioning Practice." Considering the wide range of approaches represented in this exhibition, I'm wondering if you can discuss why you selected this title, and how it speaks to the premise of community involvement through architectural practice.

Aaron Levy: What should our place be in this world, and how should architects help shape our sense of place? These are two of the questions that our exhibition gestures towards, through a new American taxonomy of conflict and urgency that takes visitors through some of the richest and the poorest neighborhoods of North America. The sixteen practices we have selected embody an expanded definition of architectural responsibility, whereby architects and designers become activists, developers, facilitators of a more inclusive urban policy, and producers of unique urban research. The exhibition ...

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A Short Tour of Three Major Contemporary Art Exhibitions in China

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Image: Joonho Jeon, Hyper Realism

After navigating my way through one of the busiest train stations in the world, and a two hour journey, I arrived in Nanjing where the Nanjing Triennial, the city's third, was still unfinished when I turned up to the city's history museum. Entitled 'Reflective Asia', the exhibition is an ambitious survey of contemporary art in Asia. An anti-western bent ran throughout the show, in stark contrast to Maharaj's declaration of openness and internationalism at the Guangzhou Triennial.

Of those pieces that were in operation the day that I visited, Jun Nguyen-Hatsushiba's piece Memorial Project Nha Trang, Vietnam was a moving underwater video of rickshaws being pulled by their drivers. Kim Kira's A Security Garden as Paranoia is an installation piece that plays on systems of display and surveillance with arrangements of bonsai trees, tacky Disney toys, neon lights, classical Korean artifacts with security cameras and monitors hidden between them. Another South Korean artist, Joonho Jeon's triptych of videos, Hyper Realism, is a comment on his own country's neighbor, North Korea. On one screen is an animation of a crowd of people trying to scale a wall but the video loops before anyone can reach the other side. The middle screen shows waltzing toy soldiers and the third brings the figure on the North Korean 100 won note to life as a man who walks around aimlessly in the scenery.

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Image: Kim Kira, A Security Garden as Paranoia

After my journey around the country, it was evident that the three major bi/triennials took significantly different paths in terms of theme and execution, while at the same time capturing important facets of contemporary art production within the rapidly shifting landscape of China today.

Based in London, but currently resident ...

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A Short Tour of Three Major Contemporary Art Exhibitions in China

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Image: Shanghai Art Museum

I arrived by air over the uniform grid-like cityscape of Shanghai, a graphic image that acted as an uncanny precursor to this year's bienniale. In the center of the slick corporate heart of the city resides the location for the 7th Shanghai Bienniale, at the Shanghai Art Museum, a former colonial equestrian sports club now surrounded by Western coffee chains and mirrored towers. Curators Julian Heynen and Henk Slager employ their neologism 'Translocomotion' to title a show dealing with issues of migration and urbanism both particular to Shanghai and in a wider context. In comparison to Guangzhou's "Farewell to Post-Colonialism," the show was carefully organized and maintained a well rehearsed theme. That said, it came across as rather sterile, despite some remarkable works by Chinese and international artists. Divided into three main sections, spatially and thematically distinct but interdependent, the Shanghai Biennale comprised 'Project', 'Keynotes' and 'Context', with an annex devoted to the heritage of the People's Square, a park next to the museum.

'Project' on the ground floor and on the external peripheries of the museum involved 25 different artists, each commissioned to work in response to the People's Square. One stand out was a series of videos by Ayse Erkmen which captured many of the clichés and western interpretations of the dynamically expanding city of Shanghai. Zhou Tao's video, 1,2,3,4 was a hilarious parody of the militaristic chants typically sung by Chinese service industry employees as a form of unifying the workforce. A couple of installations from Bethan Huws and Yin Xiuzhen were worth the pause.

'Keynote' on the second floor was devoted to just three major artists or groups. Mike Kelley's Kandor-Con was a disturbing alternate sci-fi reality, embodying real-life issues facing the ...

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A Short Tour of Three Major Contemporary Art Exhibitions in China

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Image: View from the 19th Floor of the Third Guangzhou Triennial

Over the next three days, Claire Louise Staunton, current resident curator at the OCT Contemporary Art Terminal in Shenzhen, China, will file reports from this year's Guangzhou Triennial, Shanghai Bienniale, and Nanjing Triennial. - Ceci Moss

The first stop on my journey is Guangzhou in the southwest of China, a humid and densely populated city with a liberal reputation. On the day of my visit to the Third Guangzhou Triennial, torrential rain poured down, which had a comically disastrous effect on the proceedings. Invitees were trapped and latecomers barred from the location for the exhibition's opening comments, Alain Fouraux and Rem Koolhaas' Times Museum, a rather utopian project proposed at the 2005's triennial that housed a small part of the larger exhibition. The rising flood and the downpour threatened curator Sarat Maharaj and his team with electrocution as they attempted to bid 'Farewell to Post-Colonialism' on the short-circuited PA system.

Sadly California-based artist Simon Leung's video piece on the ground floor was rained out, but after waiting 30 minutes to get into the only elevator, the 14th floor served as a life boat with video work The Rock Point Inn from Huang Xiaopeng. The piece interrogates the self-colonialization of contemporary China through his subtly manipulated depiction of Thames Town, an exact replica of Lyme Regis, UK. In the adjacent room was Wang Jiahao's F1City:REeAL TV a video game using real-life footage which presented itself as a commentary on the growth of Formula One racing in the third world.

I ascended the theoretical and actual quagmire of the top floor where the rain poured dangerously close to the numerous sound and video installations from German artist Marc Behrens, the Chinese collective Sound Unit (Zhang Anding ...

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Interview with Aleksandra Domanovic

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Aleksandra Domanovic is a Berlin-based artist who works primarily on the internet. Much of her art contrasts and recontextualizes content derived online, such as found videos and Google Maps, in an effort to establish a dialogue between these different materials. I interviewed her via email. - Ceci Moss

You were born in Serbia, grew up in Slovenia and now reside in Berlin. Has this transnationalism inflected your work? How so?

I was born in Serbia, but in a Slovakian minority in Vojvodina. Hmm, I can't say how this expresses in my work...most of the artists I know are global nomads. I have a blurred sense of nationality and have no real feeling of belonging anywhere, which may explain my obsession with maps. I also lived in Vienna for six years and spend some time in Tokyo before moving to Berlin, and for now I still enjoy not having a permanent residence.

As a blogger for VVORK, you obviously spend a lot of time surfing the web. How does this daily routine influence your practice as an artist?

I became an artist through and with VVORK. Studying graphic design, but always making video on the side, I joined VVORK about one week after it was founded by Oliver, Georg and Christoph. Surfing the web extensively, seeing so much good work and discovering it for myself, motivated me.

You completed two projects which paired online mapping and video: Srbija Do Tokia and Tesla. Could you explain the concept behind these two works?

There are 3 pages: Srbija Do Tokia, Tesla and Holivud, all written as they are pronounced in Serbian language, which is the grammatically correct way of writing foreign words in Serbia. All reflect Serbian nationalism and the recent independence of Kosovo. The day after the declaration, there were videos ...

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Raising the Bar in Singapore

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Every two years, the International Symposium on Electronic Art (ISEA) lands in a different world city, drawing thousands of new media scholars and artists together and engaging the local community. Two rounds ago, in 2004, ISEA started on a cruise ship that sailed (ok, partied) from Helsinki to Stockholm before delivering participants in Tallin, Estonia. In 2006 ISEA came to San Jose, California, where it both gelled and collided with the Silicon Valley scene, inaugurating the annual Zero1 festival. This year the events leapt across the Pacific to Singapore, a small country with a huge media culture. From July 25th-August 3rd, the "world's premier media arts event for the critical discussion and showcase of creative productions applying new technologies in interactive and digital media" will present a range of exhibitions and public programs on five official themes: Locating media, Wiki Wiki, Ludic Interfaces, Reality Jam, and Border Transmissions. The panels and keynotes within this theme--delivered by many of the biggest names in the field--consider the current state of new media production and reception, and cast an eye toward the role of Pacific Rim participants in driving this field. A cornerstone of the festival is the main exhibition, installed at the National Museum of Singapore and called simply "ISEA2008 Juried Exhibition." This year's show provides a glimpse into contemporary media art practices not only in the work selected, but in the process of it's organization. The exhibit includes sixteen artworks, many of which were made by international collaborative teams, that were curated via a competitive open call. The selected artists were invited to Singapore for residencies, where they began to flesh-out their ideas and work in new media, technology, and science labs on the campus of the National University of Singapore. The result is a collection of works ...

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Auditory Autobiographies

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"When the power of love, overcomes the love of power, the world will know the peace." This prophecy by rock legend Jimi Hendrix could be the foreword to a manifesto on the use of music in the propagation of nationalism, but instead it's a point of inspiration for "The Sonic Self," an exhibition at the Chelsea Art Museum. Open through August 30, the show brings together a range of "participating artists from around the world with the main goal that their collaborative projects will bridge disparate audio-visual practices and expose their shared languages." In keeping with recent curatorial trends, "The Sonic Self" is part-exhibition and part-workshop, aiming to explore the relationship between sound and identity through installations, audio/visual performances, and participatory events in which collaborators work to innovate new devices for the creation of auditory autobiographies. While the relationship at stake seems most universally to be about "being heard," the selected artists are working with material ranging from live performances to field recordings to computer-generated sound to DJ samples. In the spirit of tracing "similarities and differences in the growing confluence of audio and visual experiences in contemporary complex and diverse global culture," the project will travel to St. Petersburg, Russia, and Chennai, India, following its New York debut. - Marisa Olson


Video: Philip Dadson and Don McGlashan in From Scratch's performance of "Drum/Sing."

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This is Not a Game

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Among the random fringe benefits of the Beijing Olympics bonanza are not only a big international platform for the protest of China-related issues like human rights, Tibetan independence, or the responsibility of big trading nations to intervene in the Darfur scenario, but also a big international platform for the presentation of contemporary art. The games have brought an influx of attention and funding for "cultural projects," and thankfully for new media artists and their followers, Beijing's prestigious National Art Museum of China has used the windfall to present "Synthetic Times," one of the most impressive and widely-anticipated exhibitions of the last decade. Spread out over 48,000 interior square feet and another 22,000 square feet of outdoor space is an exhibition huge in stature and big in scope, presenting a survey of contemporary electronic art. The selected works imagine how the plastic arts have evolved into new forms of synthesis, with the advent of programming, physical computing, interactive media, and all kinds of fancy new lights, lasers, and whirlygigs now being put to varying conceptual and beautiful uses by those in the field. Singling-out just a few works here would almost be a disservice to the others, but if you care to peruse an ambitious sampling of great works and read critical essays on their work, by rock stars in the field of media theory, you're highly advised to surf the show's content-rich site. To the credit of the show's organizers (and also their collaborators MoMA, Eyebeam, and Parsons, who put on thoughtful events in New York as a precursor to the show's opening), this is not the kind of big-budget, low-impact show that these surveys often turn out to be. In fact, if anything it picks up and runs with the ball of ...

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Fictional Genealogies

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A new show collaboratively presented by ZKM, in Karlsruhe, and tank.tv, Tank Magazine's online film and video gallery, works to question a dubious tendency in the art world. The citation of an artist's nationality is a common tactic in both the historicization of their work and in its branding. (Think of the "Young British Artist" meme as an example par excellence.) Art exhibitions are posited as prime perpetuators of these citations and the organizers of "Vetrautes Terrain" argue that this act can have several negative ramifications. Taking the example of "German Art," they argue that the identity markings invested by national political borders are not always the identities artists would choose to adopt and given the diversity of peoples to be found in any nation, this fact alone does not determine the nature of an artist's work--and does not homogenously overdetermine all artists of single nations in the same way. In fact, these blanket categorizations often undermine an artist's ability to work against the grain in expressing dissent. This cookie cutter designation also shrugs-off the important work of producing the real art criticism that engages and activates the questions raised by artists in their work. "Vertrautes Terrain: Contemporary Art in/about Germany" includes over 70 German and international artists directly or more subtly addressing the question of who or what the ever-evolving country of Germany is. - Marisa Olson


Õzlem Sulak, Deutsches Auswandererhaus, 2008

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