Experimental Philosophy Demo (2008) - Ben Coonley

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Artist's Statement: A video demonstration of a classic Experimental Philosophy experiment on "The Concept of Intentional Action" (AKA the "Knobe Effect"). Comedian Eugene Mirman narrates.

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Sylvan Lionni's "Before the Flood" at Freight and Volume

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New York artist Sylvan Lionni once characterized himself as a "child of Mondrian and the video arcade," a description that could ring true for many in the current generation of painters intent upon collapsing the abstract/representational divide in a Pop context. Lionni's particular strategy entails the artist producing renderings of mass-produced objects like lottery tickets, stripped of all but their geometric undergarments. These immaculate paintings reveal their conceptual angle in their very making: layer upon layer of acrylic lend their products a thick, hard-edged polish, while also divesting them of authorial marks. This labor-intensive performance of post-industrial manufacture not only draws attention to contemporary conditions of production and consumption, but also illuminates the threshold Lionni's referents cross, when remade as functionless art-objects. As strong as these conceptual foundations may be, "Before the Flood," Lionni's current exhibition at New York's Freight & Volume fails to match past bodies of work. The solar panel is the source of his new paintings, which the artist variably hangs, props against walls and, in the most humorous installation, tilts towards the ceiling, on aluminum bracing, as if they absorb light in the same fashion as their sources (Sun Ra, 2008). Yet the press release is a disservice to their formal elegance, which excerpts Glenn Dixon's muddy "Daylight Saving Time," including the author's claim that "In the wake of the industrial revolution, the production and consumption of energy were driven apart - largely owing to the offense given by production to the eye, ear, or nose." Lionni's referents carry enough resonance to stand without such theoretical girding. - Tyler Coburn

Image: Sylvan Lionni, Sun Ra, 2008

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Gas Zappin'

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The often-hilarious artist Kenneth Tin-Kin Hung's newest game is no laughing matter. Ok, actually it is... but it's still what many in the gaming world now call a "serious game," in that it addresses the important issue of global warming. The piece lets viewers step inside of an animated world marked by the same crazy, satirical visual style for which he's gathered attention in previous works like Because Washington is Hollywood for Ugly People and Residential Erection. These projects manage to comment on the absurdity of aestheticizing politics while doing just that, appropriating and remixing material scoured from the web to comment on the relationship between media spectacles and political spectacles. His game, Gas Zappers, similarly recycles pop imagery to cut through the haze of information surrounding the impacts of pollution. The narrative of the game criticizes quick-fix attempts and suggests real strategies for cutting down on carbon emissions. The project manages to be entertaining and educational, at the same time--a balance which is its own art. The game can be played online and is also on view at the Berkeley Art Museum from October 22 through February 8. - Marisa Olson

Image: Kenneth Tin-Kin Hung, Gas Zappers, 2008 (Still)

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Art + Environment Conference at the Nevada Museum of Art

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"Art + Environment," a three-day conference starting this Thursday at the Nevada Museum of Art, in Reno, assembles artists, scientists, designers, and thinkers to discuss overlaps between nature and culture. Conference Lead Moderator William L. Fox draws parallels between experiments of the 1960s, in which scientists "began crossing disciplines to understand how environments work," and the various ways contemporary practitioners are engaging the "natural, built, and virtual environments in which they work," from sculptors using earth as an artistic material, and architects assuming the role of digital cartographers, to painters and photographers taking agriculture as their subject matter. The vast, unpredictable potential of these current strategies makes Nevada a perfect host, Fox adds, given its own history as both "a playground and a dumping ground": a locus of consumer excess and military secrecy. The conference program features a panel of artists and scientists, including Lita Albuquerque and Chris Drury, who have worked in extreme environments; a conversation with photographer and Burning Man veteran Michael Light on the effect media and art-world attention is having on the gathering; and a talk by the San Jose Museum of Art's Senior Curator JoAnne Northrup on the art of Jennifer Steinkamp, Northrup authored Steinkamp's 2006 monograph and curated a recent touring exhibition of her work. The digital technology and naturalistic content of Steinkamp's immersive, moving-image installations make them a perfect subject of inquiry for this ambitious conference. - Tyler Coburn

Image: Michael Light, Barney's Canyon Gold Mine Looking South, Near Bingham Canyon, Utah, 2006

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A Spiritual Movement?

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Many of the artists recently covered on Rhizome have shared an interest in spirituality, particularly as it intersects with mythology and ethos. Call it new media three-point-something, this sect of artists is also significantly prolific and a new show at Prato, Italy gallery Project Gentili surveys very recent work by a handful of the most interesting, including Maurizio Bianchi, Brody Condon, Deva Graf, Shane Hope, Xavi Hurtado, Michael Jones McKean, Dexter Sinister, Damon Zucconi, and AIDS-3D. Entitled "Pole Shift," the show alludes to a recent resurgence in New Age attitudes and interest in the metaphysical; particularly the conjecture that the earth might undergo an axial adjustment, causing a relocation of its poles. (Some worry warts link this prediction with the fear that an expiration in the Mayan calendar in the Gregorian year 2012 signals not only a pending geographic shake-up, but also an apocalypse.) Appropriately, many of the works in the show combine technology and a keen interest in systems with an end-of-an-era, eleventh-hour-type fervency sure to keep viewers on the tips of their toes. After its preview in Italy, the show will be reincarnated in nearly the same shape at Art-Forum Berlin, October 25-December 15. Assuming the world hasn't turned upside down by then, the show's worth adding to your art tour itinerary. - Marisa Olson

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Community Builders

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Currently on display at Baltimore's Contemporary Museum, "Cottage Industry" foregrounds the entrepreneurial and communitarian ethos of six artists/organizations, including Andrea Zittel and Christine Hill. The exhibition positions these practices, many taking the form of real- or pseudo-business and cultural ventures, in an extensive history of relational projects: from Beuys' "social sculpture" to Matta-Clark's "Food" restaurant/cooperative. Several of the participants interpolate conceptual production with community organization, including Lisa Anne Auerbach, whose project, The Tract House, makes available to museum visitors and online users a series of "manifestos, diatribes, stories, [and] rants" written by friends and acquaintances of the artist, as well as visitors to her website. Auerbach thus overlaps two meanings of "tract" (an area of land and a loosely distributed, often socially- or politically-conscious text), as if to suggest her open document pool to be a foundation for a new architecture of social exchange. The City Reliquary will also contribute something from its dusty coffers. First established as a window display in 2000, the City Reliquary has become a much-loved spot in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, displaying the eccentric accumulations of local collectors, old New York ephemera, and organizing events like the annual Bicycle Fetish Day (which is pretty much what its title suggests). For the exhibition, a mini-City Reliquary will be set up in the gallery in the form of a shadowbox containing special finds from their collection. In addition to exhibiting past works by participants, Contemporary Museum has helped a handful of them realize site-specific projects throughout Baltimore, including the sixth "regional prototype garden" of Fritz Haeg's Edible Estates, an ongoing project to replace "the domestic front lawn with a highly productive edible landscape." While the exhibition will conclude on August 24th, Haeg's garden will continue indefinitely -- one of many excellent examples the exhibition ...

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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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Review of Olafur Eliasson's "Take Your Time" at the Museum of Modern Art and P.S.1

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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.



Olafur Eliasson, Beauty, 1993. Photograph by Matthew Septimus. Courtesy of MoMA and P.S.1.

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 ...

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01SJ Diary: Day 2

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Rubén Ortiz-Torres, High n' Low Rider, 2008

Day two of my San Jose experience began with a visit to MACLA to see High n' Low Rider by Rubén Ortiz-Torres, co-director of the 1995 film Frontierland. Using low rider-style hydraulics, Ortiz-Torres has customized a platform lift (normally used for high-level work on construction sites) so that it can not only be raised and lowered, but also unfolded, tilted, and spun like a pinwheel. Today, the High n' Low Rider merely sat still in the gallery space, but on Wednesday it came to life for the 01SJ opening night festivities, spinning wildly in the midst of a throng of people. I could only hope it wasn't a Decepticon.


From there, I continued on to Space 47, an independent project space that featured Floating Chronologies, a solo show by Jesus Aguilar. I last saw Aguilar's work at 01SJ in 2006, where he presented some promisingly clever pieces, including an instructional videotape that offered lessons in how to speak in binary language. For Floating Chronologies, the artist trawled the Internet to find other 'Jesus Aguilars.' Alan Berliner explored a similar line of inquiry in his 2001 film The Sweetest Sound, for which the director invited twelve other Alan Berliners from around the world to join him for dinner, but Aguilar approaches the concept in a different way. In this body of work, information about other people who share the artist's name is assimilated into a single hybrid character. We learn that this composite character earned a bronze medal at the 1980 Olympics, won the 1978 World Cup, earned a Ph.D. in philosophy, and shot a police officer in the leg. By combining these stray online facts under the umbrella of a single identity, Aguilar's piece creates a ...

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01SJ Diary: Day 1

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Editor's Note: Over the next few days, curator Michael Connor will report from the 01SJ Festival taking place this week in San Jose, CA.


When I arrived in San Jose yesterday for the opening of 01SJ, I couldn't help but feel that this would be a defining year for the biennial festival of "Art on the Edge." The festival was launched in 2006 alongside the itinerant ISEA conference, and I was eager to see how 01SJ would take shape without its more established partner. For 01SJ, based in the heart of Silicon Valley, building local audiences depends on presenting programs that resonate with the tech-savvy, while cultivating their interest in contemporary art.


Last night was the official opening of the Superlight exhibition at the San Jose Museum of Art, a central component of the 01SJ program. In his opening remarks at the exhibition, Artistic Director Steve Dietz addressed this challenge explicitly, reinforcing the point that the festival is bringing together the "so-called contemporary art world" with the "so-called new media art world." This relationship was played out in various ways through recent artworks that offer political and personal responses to a world riven by seemingly intractable problems.



Genevieve Grieves, Picturing the Old People, 2008

Talented newcomer Genevieve Grieves addresses the history of Indigenous representation in Australia in her piece Picturing the Old People. For this body of work, Grieves researched 19th-century photographs held in the collection of the State Library of Victoria. She identified particular motifs that ran through many of these photographs, such as romanticized images of the "noble savage" to the allure of the "exotic woman." She created five video portraits modeled after these archetypal motifs, in which the subjects occasionally come to life to enact their suppressed desires. In the video entitled Warrior, a man ...

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