Use Your Illusion

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Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Grey upset the purpose of portraiture--rather than preserving the memory of its subject in his best light, the painting of the title grew gradually uglier to record Grey's sins, even as he kept the beauty that facilitated his sinning--but left intact art's status as an attribute of rich, leisured living. The arch moral tale is invoked twice in "Virtuoso Illusion: Cross-Dressing and the New Media Avant-Garde," an exhibition currently on view at MIT's List Visual Arts Center. Michelle Handelman's hour-long, four-channel video Dorian, 2009, loosely retells Wilde's novel with club kids standing in for opium eaters. In her ghoulishly lit self-portrait Dorian Grey, Manon appears messily caked in makeup, wearing a baggy gray suit, like the corporate conscience of a hedonist spirit. Both of these works introduce to drag a story about beauty, representation, and pleasure, and the anxieties that attend them. This suggests there's more to "Virtuoso Illusion" than an exercise in gender studies; as exhibition curator Michael Rush writes, "[i]n each major historical advancement of experimental art, cross dressing has been present as a strategy that has expanded the possibilities of the perception-bending intentions of artists (as opposed to merely gender-bending)."

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self.detach (2008) - Tim Horntrich and Jens Wunderling

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self.detach is a dynamic object, which adopts a critical position towards the celebration of the ego on the internet by dissolving self-portraying pictures into coloured particles.

--DESCRIPTION FROM THE PROJECT PAGE

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Google Portrait Series (2007-2009) - Aram Bartholl

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Each code represents a visual enryption of a search on 'Aram Bartholl' in a specific language on Google.

A Google Portrait is a drawing which contains the Google URL search string of the portrayed person in encoded form. Any camera smart phone is capable to decode the matrix-code with the help of barcode reader like software. The result points the mobile phone browser to a search on the portrayed person's name at Google.

A large number of people can be found by name on Google today. Everyone who is working on a computer and uses the internet regularly can be found on Google. Even people who don't use computers can be found sometimes because their names appear in 'old' media (i.e. books) on the net.

'Egosurfing' is a popular way for a user to find out what websites and information Google returns on his/her name search.

How many hits does Google show on my name? Am I popular? Do I want to be found at all? Who writes about me? What do people find out about me when they google my name? Am I in concurrence to other persons with the same name? Do I rely on the results Google shows me on a person's name? In which way do I relate to someone which I only known by Google results?

-- FROM THE ARTIST'S STATEMENT

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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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FANTASY VISION MEDITATION (MEGAMIX) (2008) - Ivan Lozano

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FANTASY VISION MEDITATION (MEGAMIX) from Ivan Lozano on Vimeo.


Structured as a continuous mix of videos from a recent series investigating the parallel historical narratives of disco, gay liberation movements and AIDS. A phantasmagoric elegy for the fallen soldiers in the hidden cultural wars of the 70s and 80s by transforming two sources generally dismissed as vapid and disposable. The musical collaboration between disco singer Sylvester James (a victim of AIDS) and producer Patrick Cowley (who succumbed to AIDS less than three months after the disease was codified) and A Night At Halsted's by queer porn auteur Fred Halsted (who overdosed on sleeping pills after the death of his lover from AIDS) who helped in defining the culture of the era. A labor-intensive digital exegesis of the unconscious spiritual elements hidden in the originals.

-- FROM THE ARTIST'S STATEMENT

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Blackness for Sale (2001) - Keith Obadike

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THE NAMES (2008) - Wayne Daly

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In which 20,000 spammer aliases, collected between 2003 and 2008, are listed alphabetically (a possible resource for writers and moonlighters).

-- FROM THE PUBLISHERS DESCRIPTION

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Out of Context: Artists and Web Inventories

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On any given day, the average web user may log into as many as a dozen different social web services. Interaction with these sites could involve any number of activities including browsing photography, commenting on blog posts, planning trip itineraries, looking for a lover or updating a resume. While the sequential (or parallel) manner in which we navigate these databases and the generic aesthetic of the web 2.0 interface might suggest these sites form a unified network, that is simply not the case. In engaging the social web we voluntarily fragment our interests, social ties and demographic information in order to make them "machine readable" and allow us to participate in these communities. With these rules of engagement in mind, several recent projects speak to these conditions and explore the notion of web inventories in relation to identity, aggregation and as binding legal agreements.

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Guys and Dolls

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Image: Annika Larsson, Dolls, 2008 (Stills)

Swedish artist Annika Larsson has a way of keeping her subjects in check. The slow, close, eroticized way in which she hovers around the male characters in her videos susses out innuendo, narrative, and meaning from a space absent of dialogue. She'll often stage and shoot a very simple gesture or group activity and wring every drop of suggestion out of it as she can. Her use of the camera--and very frequently her positioning of her viewers before a large-scale, almost cinematic screen--instigates a reflection on the power relationships inherent in looking, showing, camera-wielding, and screen-gazing. The dom/sub shifts revolving around the photographic lens may by now be the stuff of art school mythologies, but Larsson always finds new ways to turn the tables on one's presuppositions about such things; adding to the conversation a discourse on form and perspectivalism--another old-fashioned notion worth reconsidering. Her new 47-minute video, Dolls, on view now at Paris' Cosmic Galerie, takes her signature style to an even more self-reflexive level by once again exploring men in their supposed territory and calling on the viewer to examine the layers of mediation at play in both the male actor's performance of his masculinity and their own deciphering of the scene. Taking place in a white cube-cum-sports court, the action revolves around men interpreting the futurist symbols painted on the walls and floor, which are meant to evoke not only a Fortunato Depero-inspired Peter Saville New Order cover (a pop art relic of paternal inheritance, the Freudians might say), but also the basic visual designs used to teach humanoid robots how to serve their masters. In this case, the five men in Dolls become servants to their master's whims, be it the serving of coffee ...

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The Real McCoys

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Jennifer and Kevin McCoy are a married couple of New York-based artists whose collaborative work conveys a love of film and televised narratives. Their early projects embodied database aesthetics as they chopped shows like 8 is Enough, Kung Fu, and Starsky and Hutch into short clips, often inviting viewers to rearrange them according to what we'd now call metadata. For instance, one could choose from a bank of DVDs in their Every Shot, Every Episode to watch every occurrence of the color blue, or of extreme close-ups. More recent works have entailed building elaborate miniature film sets, complete with working cameras, to shoot microfilms. In the case of High Seas, the set is a sort of kinetic sculpture in its own right, mimicking its subject as it moves around to create shots of the famed Titanic loosing its footing on the ocean. The role of filmic media in mythologizing the ill-fated boat is of course implicit in the installation. While these projects have always been infused with a sense of subjectivity, as the artists perform their fandom through their selective decisions, lately their work has incorporated more explicitly autobiographical elements. Their piece, Our Second Date, for instance, is a miniature movie set which features the artists watching the film from their second date, Weekend, reenacted through a mobile sculpture and video streamed live to a tiny screen. The choice to position themselves as spectators within their own reality, and moreover to confess that their romance budded around screen pleasure opens up a number of interpretations of their ongoing work and paves the way to their newest project, which opens November 22nd at Postmasters Gallery. In I'll Replace You, the artists again place themselves at center stage, without stepping in front of the camera. Instead, a series of different ...

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