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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Young-hae Chang Heavy Industries' "Morning of the Mongoloids" currently screening on Visual Foreign Correspondents

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Visual Foreign Correspondents is a "monthly series of audio-visual artworks for a number of screen-based platforms" which invites an international selection of artists to provide a local visual view onto their location. The platform is currently showing Young-hae Chang Heavy Industries' remake of their work Morning of the Mongoloids. Formed in 1999, Young-hae Chang and Marc Voge of Young-hae Chang Heavy Industries make dramatic text movies in a standard Monaco font. High-paced and set to an upbeat soundtrack, the works demand the full attention of the viewer/reader. Morning of the Mongoloids follows a white man as he wakes up after a night of heavy drinking to discover that he looks Korean, speaks Korean and lives in Seoul. The work is accompanied by an interview with the artists, conducted by Petra Heck.

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Then and Now: Desire on Screen

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For "The Young and Evil," the latest in tank.tv's ambitious program of guest-curated exhibitions, Stuart Comer considers the "historical contours and shifting relationships of sex and community in the digital age." Comer contends that the Internet has increasingly eclipsed the cinema as the preeminent cultural screen, and consequently divides his exhibition between the venues. Invited guests, including Andrea Geyer, Carlos Motta and Daria Martin, have each selected one contemporary work, for exhibition on tank.tv, and one historical film to be screened in Tate Modern's cinema on September 20th, 2008. But if the separation of venues emphasizes the historical division between works, the exhibition's focus on social deviance and erotics provides a compelling, unifying thread. The most notable of the works currently up on tank.tv play into what Comer describes as the Internet's state of being an "uncanny hybrid of personal longing and collective interaction." Mansfield 1962 (2006), for example, appropriates a Highway Safety Foundation video William E. Jones found on the Internet, which uses 1962 police footage of gay sex in a public restroom to instruct officers about covert recording techniques. Jones has edited the footage to concentrate on discreet moments of sexual pleasure and, at the video's end, the mug shots of participants, who all went on to serve time on charges of sodomy. For The Shape of a Right Statement I (2008), Wu Ingrid Tsang performs one section of autism rights activist Amanda Baggs' forceful address, In My Language, which she published on YouTube in 2007. Tsang's strong, androgynous features and affected computerspeak (true to In My Language) complicate the original work's register of alterity. "The thinking of people like me is only taken seriously if we learn your language," he recites, at one moment, an assertion that ...

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Repeating Residual Histories

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In their 2005 project With Respect to Residue, the Raqs Media Collective printed a theory of residues on disposable placemats, which were then distributed to various restaurants. Defining residue as, "that which never finds its way into the manifest narrative of how something (an object, a person, a state, or a state of being) is produced, or comes into existence," the placemats demanded that diners consider why and how "residues" were left out of history, as they themselves consumed. Raqs Media Collective's latest endeavor, co-curated as a portion of the nomadic biennial Manifesta 7, resides much in the same vein. From July 19th-November 2nd, they will be presenting an exhibition entitled "The Rest of Now" which includes many net art pioneers as well as other artists and non-explicitly artist-practitioners in addressing historic residues in the present tense. Set in an abandoned aluminum factory in Bolzano, Italy, the show works "to see what can be salvaged from the oblivion to which the residues of Modernism are normally consigned." In other words, both the site of the show and the works presented explore the ideas, qualities, and realities that have been swept under the rug in the process of European industrialization. The layers of self-reflexivity are piled high, here. The curators acknowledge that Europe is known for hosting many art spaces sited within old industrial spaces and their show works to juxtapose "remembered industrial energy and a more current melancholia of abandonment" to explore what the cultural embrace (or even coddling) of these spaces means. Their suggestion is that it is "symptomatic of Europe's unwillingness to come to terms with aspects of its own difficult path into, and through, the 20th century." So, in a sense, this show will work to retrace these footsteps of so-called progress, with the almost ...

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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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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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Modern Nomad

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Iran-based American artist Kristen Alvanson's work often deals with historical conjurings, mythologies, and the aesthetics of speculation. Her drawings, installations, locative media projects, and animations often finely tweak the everyday accoutrements of these subjects, ranging from iconographic imagery to talismans to what look like ancient documents. Her projects excavate the darkly magical sensation of cultural narratives shrouded in mystery by western oppression or negligence, and all of these influences and inquiries are woven into her newest work on textiles, women, and the Middle East. In a show at Tehran's Azad Gallery, entitled "nonad (of nines and nomads)," the artist will present fabricated artifacts, such as nine nomadic fabric chadors (Persian veils), nine drawings steeped in the visual tropes of traditional Islamic art, and an animation called ninefold, which use the folding of fabric as a metaphor in the exploration of the Middle Eastern occult's embrace of the number nine as "the number of unceasing collectivity--worlds created through the hidden bonds of spells and collective tides." The project is part of Alvanson's ongoing Cosmic Drapery Project, which explores "the enigma of the Middle East through its drapery," a history she says "includes clashes and secret dialogues between state and nomad art, their folk beliefs, textiles and modes of creativity." In a way, the artist's projects use newer media to recite narratives and traditions in which history begs for repetition. - Marisa Olson


Image Credit: Kristen Alvanson, Two nomadic fabric chadors - blue (2007) and pewter (2008)

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The Shadow of Right Now

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On June 4th, the second iteration of the 01SJ Biennial will open in San Jose, CA. One of the most compelling components of this major international new media event directed by venerable curator Steve Dietz will be an exhibition at the San Jose Museum of Art, entitled "Superlight." The show opens May 10th and appears to offer a very powerful message. Taking on such "light" topics as global climate change, terrorism, the history of colonialism, global outsourcing, pervasive war, inescapable poverty, failing educational systems, and failed relationships, the show encourages viewers to get serious about considering our future. The lineup of artists in the exhibition (including Cory Arcangel, Jim Campbell, Paul DeMarinis, Kota Ezawa, Amy Franceschini, Graham Harwood, Lynn Hershman Leeson, Shih Chieh Huang, Jennifer and Kevin McCoy, Eddo Stern, Marina Zurkow, and others) could very easily be assembled with no greater purpose than surveying the most significant new media art of this moment. Instead, Dietz pushes viewers (and perhaps the artists themselves) to think further ahead. His curatorial statement fleshes out the fundamental "collision" encapsulated by the notion of "innovation": A face-off between the present and the future, in which one makes proactive decisions about the changes they want to see and the tomorrow they want to craft. Those working in new media are arguably extremely well-positioned to make such articulations, as they are at home on this temporal precipice. Recognizing this scenario charges both artists and audiences with a new sense of responsibility. As Dietz says, "In this contemporary context, 'what's next?' the age-old question at the intersection of art and technology takes on a new urgency." The works he's selected for their address of the aforementioned weighty topics often use light as a medium, if not the real or conceptual sheen of the popular vernacular ...

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From Krakow With Luv

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Williamsburg, Brooklyn-based gallery Vertexlist is named after the string of numbers that codify a digital image and, as one might then expect, is a haven for electronic art in New York. From May 9th-June 8th, the space will be an outpost for ten emerging media artists from Krakow who are featured in the exhibition, "Blankly, Perfect Summer." While there is no more heavy-handed organizational logic than shared residence, the show promises not only a professional boost for these Polish artists, but also an opportunity for Americans to take a first glimpse at some compelling work. Karolina Kowalska's JPG/TXT (2007) features the long-term archiving and live projection of snippets of text and images pulled from art, music, and media theory blogs, but no longer visible to Google. The projected juxtapositions instigate an interpretive competition between these ephemeral words and images, and are meant to examine "the special conditions of perception and representation of art works and art-related concepts on the web." Wojtek Doroszuk's film, The Dissection Theatre (2006), is an intense documentary of the autopsy process that explores the culpability of the camera for its own act of dissection, while linking the splayed body to the history of representational art. Lidia Krawczyk and Wojtek Kubiak present their video, Kaleidoscope (2008), which is part of their larger Genderqueer cycle. The piece throws a series of photographic portraits into kaleidoscopic relief, prying ornamental accessories and marked physical traits (facial hair, painted lips) from the whole and places these gendered signifiers into constellation in a way that playfully shakes up conversations about the "social fabrication [of] heterosexual norms." In their respective projects, both Jacek Malinowski and Grzegorz Szwiertnia also focus on the body, and specifically upon precarious narratives revolving around protagonists with physical disabilities. Also included in this interesting summer show ...

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kamau.org

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The website of Bay Area-based video and performance artist Kamau Amu Patton, whose work uses and often reassembles traditional African imagery and costume in order to explore the formation of modern mythology, African-American identity, and popular culture, is a new video in which one of Patton's characters ignites fireworks illuminating an alter-like pattern to the accompaniment of bells and a low frequency buzz. - Ceci Moss

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