Into the Void

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Loss, reduction, vacancy and dissolution: all topical buzzwords the New York art world has come to expect from the emergent generation of European artists. After the Vincent Honoré-curated "From a Distance," at Wallspace in 2007, and artist Matt Saunders' group enterprise, Out Riding Fast, this past winter at Harris Lieberman -- both of which tipped the scales towards the Old World -- Foxy Production's current exhibition of seven continental practitioners feels a bit superfluous. Curated by English artist Dick Evans, "Nul" muddles through the post-historical morass, with many of its participants masquerading vintage modes of object- and image-making to little effect. Anders Clausen builds wooden pedestals and sculptural busts, in the fashion of Jacob Epstein, that lack the verve and ingenuity of similar works by contemporaries Steve Claydon and Matthew Monahan. Salvatore Arancio's photo-etchings rehash the type of psychically-fraught Gothic imagery that made its rounds on the market a few years past. More promising is the work of Lars Laumann (here only partially represented by a screen-print, entitled Hatful of Cocteau, of a posthumous article on Jean Cocteau), whose videos about Morrissey, Princess Diana and Eija Riitta Berliner-Mauer drew buzz at White Columns, in 2007, and most recently at this year's Berlin Biennial. Simone Gilges' installation also excites, with its oblique mix of photography and sculpture. Attempting to draw connections between her hanging curtain, framed piece of black silk and ornately framed photograph of a cupid statuette makes for the most interesting -- and irresolvable -- experience in the show. - Tyler Coburn


Image Credit: Simone Gilges, MATERIALPROBE II (SEIDE), 2008

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Stereo Effect

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Christian Marclay, Stereo Volume, 1989

"Stereo," Christian Marclay's first solo exhibition at San Francisco's Fraenkel Gallery, surveys "concepts of doubling and echoes" across the American artist's career. Since the mid-1970s, Marclay has uniquely navigated the visual and sonic realms, exploring the materiality of equipment like the gramophone, turntables and record through processes that foreground what the artist calls the "unwanted sounds" of the mediums: the clicks, pops, scratches and deterioration that hold "expressive power" in themselves. In the past decade, Marclay has extended his position as cultural archivist with acclaimed installations like Video Quartet (2001) and Crossfire (2007), respectively comprising sequences of musical performance and gunshots assembled from dozens of feature-films.



Christian Marclay, Untitled, 1984

Consisting of twenty-five works -- the majority of them two-dimensional -- "Stereo" offers a timely retrospective of a side of Marclay's practice not always given due attention relative to his video and audio-based work. For Yin and Yang (1983), from his Recycled Records (1980-1986) series, Marclay cuts and reassembles two records according to the yin-yang design, rendering an unplayable product that also signifies turntable culture's collage ethos. This approach can also be observed in paper works like Untitled (1984) and Double Tuba (1992), both of which find the artist producing fanciful modifications to instruments and equipment through paper collage. Seen within the broader scope of Marclay's body of work, these objects offer examples of how visual art can provide conceptual space to reimagine sound and sound technology. -- Tyler Coburn


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Mobile Media

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Net art and mail art have often been compared. Afterall, no matter how static a website may look, getting there, and seeing what you're meant to see is a process that relies on a series of messages being transmitted and received. For an artist like Lisi Raskin, mail (the "snail" or electronic variety) would be a ripe topic. The Brooklyn-based artist often creates installations and scenarios predicated on paranoia in relation to the government, so what better a topic than federally-controlled communication? (Don't forget that the U.S. government invented email for internal communication.) Officially, her practice is described as "a sublimation of childhood fears of and adult desires for nuclear apocalypse into a slightly twisted and highly physical recreation involving makeshift production and playfully dark fantasy." While Raskin's interest in fear is situated as "post cold war" it is rather timely in the era of orange alerts, and the question raised is of the degree to which the government produces and trades on fear. She's further interested in the history and fantasies associated with land use discourses, so for her residency at Bard College's Center for Curatorial Studies, the artist seeks to explore the impact of military facilities on the landscape of the American West. From April 15th-August 31st, Raskin's rolling in a super tricked-out van to tour the sites of nuclear tests and facilities, and responding site-specifically by making sculptures and drawings, sending transmissions, and mailing dispatches back to the gallery at Bard, where grad students are working in her "post office" to receive and display the mail. Entitled Mobile Observation (Transmitting and Receiving) Station, the project's game plan is an interesting inversion of the traditional model of the residency, and in some ways mirrors the partially-decentralized distribution of information enabled ...

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Teems Like Smell Spirit

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Who hasn't had the synaesthetic experience of a scent triggering a memory? Some argue that the sense of smell is among our body's strongest, and yet--"smellivision" aspirations aside--media culture revolves so much more around our eyes and ears. At present, New York's Lower East Side (a piquant sensorium, to be sure) is home to two olfactorily driven projects. At nonprofit art space Cuchifritos through April 26th is a group show entitled, "If There Ever Was," featuring seven "extinct and impossible smells" that have been "re-created" by Koan-Jeff Baysa, Bertrand Duchaufour, Christoph Hornetz, Christophe Laudamiel, Patricia Millns, Steven Pearce, David Pybus, and Geza Schön. Some of these creators call themselves artists while some work as scientists, engineers, or others with a vested interest in "olfactory images." For instance, botanist James Wong created a hyperreal scent equivalent to a bouquet of extinct flowers, calling attention to art's ability to invoke the absent, fantastical, or what cannot otherwise be said or seen. Neighboring nonprofit Participant, Inc is also supporting artists' exploration of the interface between sight and smell with Lisa Kirk and Jelena Behrend's Revolution Pipe Bomb project. The work was initially conceived as a fragrance by Kirk, who then approached Behrend to produce it as a special limited edition in the form of "a precious metal pipe bomb to contain a vile of [a] faintly aggressive fragrance." The perfume's core elements were determined after interviews with war journalists, activists, and others who've been on the frontlines of revolutions. It bears hints of "smoke, gasoline, tear gas, burnt rubber, and decaying flesh." Doesn't that make you wish this website was scratch-and-sniff? In all seriousness, this project explores the important subject of the commodification and marketing of violence and like Wong's imagined bouquet ...

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Pong In Action

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When the Atari video game Pong was released in 1972, it was instrumental in establishing what many today call computer culture, by virtue of its popularity and accessibility. The first product to find success as both an arcade game and a home console staple, it became a seemingly-ubiquitous touchstone for the members of a DIY generation empowered by play and home-hacking. In the 35 years since its release, the first generation video game has retained this mythos, even as technology has evolved around it. Lisbon-based artist André Gonçalves's new project, Pong--the analog arcade machine comments on the increased use of technology by artists seeking to address cultural or historical epochs, such as the one in which the original game participates. Gonçalves has created an installation that mimics the original arcade version of Pong, recreating it in analog form and giving it a live-action spin. Using a network of arduino processors, infra-red sensors, printer head guts, and a variety of other materials including some old-fashioned wood, the visual similarities are uncanny, even as they create an ironic "post-digital" tension between 1970s-era analog techniques and a markedly-digital icon to emerge from that era. However, the wit and finesse of Gonçalves's project lies in his use of hairdryer fans and a ping pong ball to carry out game action. What viewers actually see, when they look at his installation, is a real video-monitored, joystick-controlled table tennis game. Gonçalves is hardly the first artist to find inspiration in Pong, but he seems to be among the most successful at achieving the physical interaction and social fellowship originally intended by its creator, Nolan Bushnell. On that note, the game was meant to be played and Gonçalves's prototype will be presented March 28th at the Lisbon chapter of ...

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Sending Mixed Signals

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In February of 2009, the US will force a mandatory end to analog television broadcasts, in a regulated move towards digital upgrade. The shift will ultimately generate an enormous amount of e-waste when old monitors are discarded as useless. Portland-based artists, The Video Gentlemen, wonder, "What residue, ghost-images, or other artifacts will persist in the nooks and crannies of this technocultural turn-over?" They've organized an exhibition, in their city's New American Art Union, to anticipate the theme of the afterlife of "dead media." From March 19-April 27, "BYOTV" will be the preemptive channel for "a series of audio-visual works, presentations, performances, workshops, and panels that remix, retell, reimagine, rewire, and/or reclaim electromagnetic modes of cultural production." The gallery will beam with single-channel broadcasts by over forty artists, including Video Gentlemen collaborators Carl Diehl, Jesse England, and Mack McFarland; Amy Alexander, Craig Baldwin, and Nerve Theory; plus a special program curated by transmission arts organization Free103Point9, which includes 31 Down, The Dust Dive, Tianna Kennedy, LoVid, Todd Merrell, ben owen, and Tom Roe. (The entire program can be found here in PDF format.) Together, these artists' low wattage output will emanate from a variety of seemingly defunct sources, so that unlike a traditional exhibition, viewers don't see TVs passively displaying videos, but instead must play an active role in picking up the signals by bringing their own TV--hence the show's title. This reduction of telecommunication to such a small space and limited time forces viewers to get intimate with the medium, while considering its pending obsolescence. - Marisa Olson

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1-Bit Chamber Music

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Attend any number of experimental music performances in New York City and chances are you'll come across a curious sight: a skinny young man conducting conversations on a cordless rotary telephone, which accompanies him almost everywhere and is, practically speaking, his mobile phone. This fellow is none other than Tristan Perich, a talented young artist, composer and inventor whose interest in the foundational units of acoustic sound and digital electronics is manifest in his reclamation of obsolescent objects and technology - the rotary phone among them. For 1-Bit Music (2004), the project for which he is best known, Perich retrofitted a CD jewel case with an 8-KB microchip, battery, track control and headphone jack, thereby enabling listeners to plug in and hear 40 minutes of low-fi electronic music. Beyond the strange and marvelous nature of this apparatus, 1-Bit Music's compositions exhibited a surprising degree of sophistication, considering that they effectively comprise MIDI blips and bleeps that Perich wrote in binary code. For tonight's performance at the Whitney Museum, as part of its "Composers' Showcase," Perich will perform three recent compositions (two of them debuts) that find his 1-bit circuit boards accompanying piano, trumpets and violin. Building on Perich's background in math and computer science, Active Field (2007) endeavors to generate the sonic equivalent of a planar landscape, particularly at its conclusion, when ten violins and ten channels of 1-bit music sustain a single-chord, to the point where analogue and electronic sound cease to be differentiable. Far from more conventional applications of electronics as supplements to orchestral music, Perich's project finds the mediums engaged in a formative, structural dialogue. - Tyler Coburn

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Sowing the Seeds of 8-bit Love

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In an art world saturated with fairs and festivals, it can be hard to stand out, but Prague is in good shape with their provocatively-named Sperm festival, which bills itself as a week of "fertile days of music and other media," including electronic art performances, workshops, and screenings. Taking place from March 6-8, the festival occupies a unique position, merging the Western European scene with a thriving Eastern European subculture. Also, this year many American 8-bit artists will be making their first foreign performances at Sperm, in a program organized by New York venue The Tank and net label 8bitpeoples. On the eighth day of March, 8-bit aficionado Mike Rosenthal has curated a program entitled 'Blip,' which will include low-bit music from Bit Shifter, Bubblyfish, Bud Melvin, Herbert Weixelbaum, Nullsleep, Stu, starPause, and x|k, and visuals by No Carrier and noteNdo. On the 7th, noteNdo will also lead a workshop on using the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) to create visual images. The program is an exportation of the "chiptune vanguard" of which Rosenthal says confidently, "I'm reasonably sure we're gonna blow their minds." The artists selected for Blip continue to invent new ways to exploit old media, and the dissemination of their work at Sperm is a perfect fulfillment of the festival's mission "to be a fusion of the old and new, the familiar and the foreign." If you can't make it to the Czech Republic, try surfing the original Blip Festival's online archives and rest your ears on some of the pioneering chiptunes streamed at 8bitpeoples. - Marisa Olson

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Bad Beuys, Bad Beuys

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Bad Beuys Entertainment is an art collective that was founded in 1999 at Cergy-Pontoise in the Parisian suburbs. Their creative mission is summed up in their moniker: a hybrid of American showbiz-ness (aka Bad Boys Entertainment, a major U.S. hip-hop recording label) and the ideals of German artist Joseph Beuys, whose conception of social relationships as art has had enduring influence. Fittingly, their works operate between the slickness of commercial entertainment and the human or handmade. Take Champions (1999). Recently exhibited in New York by independent curator Hanne Mugaas, the mock music video, which possesses the beaten-up quality of a bootlegged VHS tape, features three boys in tracksuits dancing. Without a refrain or climax to abide by, their choreography progresses into a parody of itself with initial tough guy moves replaced by what looks like a combination of elementary school theater and voguing. Meanwhile, tracksuits begin to fly (via special effects) and the video, itself, drops audio for the entire last half only to amble back at the credit sequence. Long before the onset of video-sharing platforms, the three handcrafted what would be an amazing Youtube find: an amateur homage to the culture industry that winds up as a critique not only of media's power, but our own consumption of it. Another video, not available online, is SICTOM (2001), in which the group enacted a soap opera in an IKEA store, using the kitchen, bathroom and bedroom displays as ready-made backdrops. The group also makes sculptures, light installation, websites and more. Those with an appreciation of early net art should visit the website of Matthieu Clainchard, one of the founding members, for an intricate mash-up of browser windows that present bits and pieces of manifestos and artworks as well as links to peer projects and artists, such as ...

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Cold Media

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Norwegian photographer Christian Houge's large-scale photographs explore the terrain of an electronic utopia put "on ice." The artist's "Arctic Technology" series richly conveys the impacts of technology on one small town's landscape and people. It was at the age of 11 that Houge first visited Barentsburg on a snowmobile vacation. The Russian coal-mining outpost (Population: 800) sits on an island between Greenland and the North Pole called Svalbard ("Cold Land"). The communist-era Soviets found the region a perfect location on which to install antenna fields, satellite receivers, and a range of other equipment in order to study scientific phenomena under pristine conditions. Houge, in effect, repeats this effort in returning to document the equipment and the lives of those who dwell near these now-abandoned monuments to telecommunication. Working to excavate details about a place virtually trapped in the 1970s, the artist exploits the properties of his medium by creating haunting long-exposure panoramic night photos and, by day, ventures into the schools and workplaces of the residents. On a local level, Houge's photos create a portrait of one community's survival under harsh conditions. On a broader scale, the work speaks to a moment in history when technological imperatives trumped the impetus to preserve natural landscapes, while outlining the forms that the residue of this drive etch into the earth. Images from "Arctic Technology" will be on view at New York's Hosfelt Gallery through February 16. - Marisa Olson



Image: Christian Houge, Dawn, 2003

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