A Return to Content? Polytechnic at Raven Row

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Britain, under the Conservative government in 1974, slowed to a government-mandated three-day week: not an immense gift of extended vacation, but a foreshortening of the working week based on the amount of electricity available. From January to March of that year, businesses, shops and services were only open for three consecutive days, and television companies were forced to end their broadcasts at 10:30pm. The remarkable visibility of this retrenchment is perhaps an apposite introduction to the fiscal circumstances of Britain at that time, as it was counterbalanced by extreme activity in the visual arts, with a burgeoning moving image practice taking place in various underground clubs and cooperatives in London and other regional centers, and mainstream television ("mainstream" being redundant; except for some regional variations, there were only three channels at the time) airing artists’ film and video, primarily on Channel 4, which was established in 1982.

This is the period revisited by Raven Row’s current show "Polytechnic" - the late 1970s and early 80s, when artists began using the new medium of video to reflect upon and deconstruct codes of representation, politics and social mores. It’s a smart and striking choice for an exhibition, as the legacy of this time is ambivalent and is still in the process of being settled: art-historically, it’s been partially eclipsed by what preceded it (the medium-specific investigations associated with the London Film-Makers’ Co-op) and by what followed - that is, the yBas, who pretty much turned around and rejected the commitment to politics, collective production and art as labor (not commodity) that this group stood for. At the same time, many of the artists included in the show - Catherine Elwes, Susan Hiller, Ian Breakwell, Stuart Marshall - went on to teach in various art schools (many of them former polytechnics, hence, perhaps, the title) and showed their work on Channel 4 during the 1980s, meaning they have had a much more dispersed, though less visible, impact on art and the wider sphere of culture. Have had and have: Elwes, for example, has recently founded a journal devoted to the moving image (MIRAJ), so the territory contested in this earlier period continues, to a certain extent, to be contested.

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Interview with Artist and Filmmaker Lynn Hershman Leeson, Laureate of the d.velop Digital Art Award 2010 (from VernissageTV)

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In this clip, Wolf Lieser, Director of the Digital Art Museum [DAM] and initiator of the d.velop Digital Art Award, interviews artist Lynn Hershman Leeson about her life and work. This year, Leeson won the 4th develop digital art award [ddaa] for lifetime achievement in the field of new media art.

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Level 5 Videos

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Brody Condon has uploaded two videos documenting LevelFive, a live action role-playing game/performance modeled after 1970s self actualization seminars such as Erhard Seminars Training. (The LevelFive site provides a clip of one of these sessions, from Adam Curtis' documentary Century of the Self, here.) Participants, all of whom are volunteers, take up a character for the entire duration of the weekend, and engage in a series of intense self-actualizing exercises and seminars as this person. Similar to Condon's previous project TwentyfiveFold Manifestation, the immersion and duration of the game work plays on the "bleed" between the participant's original self and that of their character. LevelFive took place at the Hammer Museum of Art from September 4-5, 2010 and again at the San Jose Convention Center on September 17-18, 2010, during the Zero1 Biennial.


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Ghosting (2006) - Riley Harmon

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In pop culture, “ghosting” is:

n. the appearance of one or more false images on a television screen.
v. when players that have been killed in a video game watch other players.

As viewers look through the gas mask, a video self-portrait is super-imposed onto the action figures via the pepper’s ghost theatrical illusion.

-- DESCRIPTION FROM ARTIST STATEMENT

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Interview with Zach Blas

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Zach Blas is an artist and writer working at the intersections of networked media, queerness, and politics. His work includes video, sculpture, installation, and design, among other things. He is also a PhD Student in the Program in Literature at Duke University, and writes extensively on the question of art, activism, and sexuality. Zach and I discussed the question of a queer technology and just what queer theory might contribute to the fields of art and technology.

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Call for Participants

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A new project by Brody Condon, LevelFive, is seeking participants for two intensive seminars in September - one at the Hammer Museum in LA from Sept. 3-5 and the other in San Jose from Sept. 16-18 at the San Jose Convention Center during the Zero1 Biennial. I'm curious to see what comes of this event - it seems really interesting. You can read more about it below. To register, visit the sign-up section of the LevelFive site. Space is limited.

LevelFive is a live role-playing event focused on critically exploring self actualization seminars from the 1970’s. The LevelFive performance will loosely follow the structure of early Large Group Awareness Training sessions like Erhard Seminars Training, but it is not a re-enactment. The open-ended live role-playing environment provides a space in which players are free to explore self actualization issues with varying degrees of personal intensity, but via an alibi or fabricated character.

During the 1970’s hundreds of thousands of ordinary Americans came for weekend seminar sessions, to be taught how to free themselves from the restraints of contemporary society. Intended as a kind of self transformation for the masses, the seminars utilized a combination of various philosophic and spiritual teachings focused on “allowing participants to achieve, in a very brief time, a sense of personal transformation and enhanced power.” Quickly copied, successors included not only similar self actualization seminars, but also grew into the mass of success and corporate training seminars that we are familiar with today.

Players will arrive as their characters, and are expected to emote, and experience as their characters, with minimal interruptions for the 2-3 day duration of the game. LevelFive is a live game based on the Nordic style of progressive live role-play that explicitly works with “bleed”. In role-playing games, bleed happens when ...

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On A Mountain Top (2010) - Alex Fuller (with Noah Bernsohn)

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At its most basic form, I believe social media is a dialogue. Onamountaintop.com allows users to say whatever it is they want to say with no accounts, no friends and no poking. Once the user’s entry fades to white, their words are gone forever. Just as one’s voice echoes into the valley from a mountain top. Pure poetry.

-- DESCRIPTION FROM ALEX FULLER'S SITE

Via Pocketmonsterd

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A Conversation with Jon Rafman from Bad At Sports

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In this brilliant (and hilarious, and at times, NSFW) clip, Nicholas O'Brien interviews artist Jon Rafman about his work in Second Life for Chicago-based contemporary art blog Bad at Sports. Rafman uses his avatar Kool-Aid Man throughout, of his Kool-Aid Man in Second Life (.com).

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Immaterial Incoherence

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If we consider Internet art to be a distinct category of art making that uses the Internet as its primary medium or platform, we necessarily distinguish it from other forms in which the Internet does not play a primary role. The objects of Internet art are necessarily immaterial, and it is this immaterial quality that makes them so notoriously difficult to exhibit and archive. For some artists this has led to a kind of hybridization of Internet aesthetics and real world objects, such that they might be purchased or viewed in a real-world setting such as a museum or gallery space. For others it becomes a matter of the careful curation of digital images and documentation in an effort to brand oneself and build cultural capital where there is little possibility for financial compensation. After all, how do you monetize an object whose natural setting is a networked space that encourages many-to-many distribution practices? How do you sell a website, a .jpeg? These are responses to a crisis in image making and distribution in which older curatorial models that rely on the limitations of physical space and the exchange of physical objects are increasingly undermined by distanced, virtual, and distributed viewership online.

For art collective JOGGING - artists Brad Troemel and Lauren Christiansen - this crisis is not limited to Internet art, but has instead become the normative condition under which art is produced and viewed today.

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Deep Space

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Avatar 4D video by Chris Coy

In 1966, Allan Kaprow made the following statement in the Manifestos pamphlet:

Contemporary art, which tends to “think” in multi-media, intermedia, overlays, fusions and hybridizations, is a closer parallel to modern mental life than we have realized. Its judgments, therefore, may be acute. “Art” may soon become a meaningless word. In its place,“communications programming” would be a more imaginative label, attesting to our new jargon, our technological and managerial fantasies, and to our pervasive electronic contact with one another.

Fast-forward to 2010, and one wonders what Kaprow would make of "Avatar 4D," an evening of performances -- or, more precisely, a happening -- by seventeen internet-based artists "set up as chaotically choreographed circumstances that exist in a reality of virtual proportions." Taking its cue from the dually alienating and revelatory push-and-pull of our hyper-connected lives, and the existence of "pervasive electronic contact" taken to the nth degree, artists will webcam, stream, project, and otherwise stage work in both San Francisco's NOMA Gallery and Richmond's Reference Gallery this Saturday, April 17th. The event is curated by the collaborative curatorial team JstChillin (Caitlin Denny and Parker Ito), who are also behind the original and often humorous online exhibit series Serial Chillers in Paradise. The press release describes the artists in "Avatar 4D" as "reality hackers" -- citing Petra Cortright’s webcam videos and Ben Vickers' disclosure of his personal usernames and passwords as examples -- who experiment with "the theoretical apparatus of struggle" in the context of "the ever changing modes of the net" and its impact on the self. It seems the artists behind "Avatar 4D" are attempting to insert "art" into a reality lived in anticipation of its constant representation and performance online, perhaps becoming a form of "communications programming" within a self-programmed reality. Whatever ...

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