Into the Unknown

(0)


Alongside the Whitney and Venice biennials and certain other surveys of contemporary art, the Carnegie International has not always received its adequate share of attention. Which perhaps accounts, in part, for curator Douglas Fogle's controversial decision to name this year's edition -- the first time in the International's 112-year history. "Life on Mars," lifted from the eponymous David Bowie song, provides a thematic foundation for Fogle's group of forty artists from seventeen countries, all of whom "emphasize the modest over the monumental, and the hand-made over the machine-made" to convey "the poetic wonder in the everyday world." The question about the possibility of life on Mars thus operates as a metaphor for a state of alienation characteristic of contemporary existence, which many of the International's artists endeavor to highlight and explore. This question is ultimately a constructive one, Fogle contends, suggesting that the hopes, fantasies, and other signs we project into the unknown could yield responses - that connections can be made. While the practices of many of the artists in the show, including those of Phil Collins, Cao Fei and Apichatpong Weerasethakul, examine the various ties binding communities, it is the International's website that potentially offers the most interesting place to address the exhibition's topic. Beyond establishing pages on MySpace, Facebook, YouTube and Flickr, the International has introduced a section to its homepage, "Signals," devoted entirely to the reflections and ruminations of online visitors. The majority of the posts, to date, were written by people associated with the exhibition, but as the International runs through January 2009, the forum aspires to attract a broader contributor base. If "Life on Mars" truly considers our relationship to unknowns - both great and everyday - then what better venue for inquiry and discussion than the virtual cosmos? - Tyler Coburn ...

MORE »


All About the Benjamin

(0)


Aaron Koblin and Takashi Kawashima made a hundred dollars the hard way: with a staff of 10,000 people distributed across the globe. Or maybe the easy way, depending on how you look at it. In 2007, they posted a mysterious assignment on Amazon's Mechanical Turk--a crowdsourcing business site that lets companies offer piecemeal jobs for tiny bits of cash--asking potential employees to reproduce a greenish abstraction using a customized drawing tool; each sketcher received one cent in return for their work. Unknown to this invisible workforce, each image was 1/10,000 of a picture of a $100 bill; upon completion, the whole emerged from a mosaic of its hand-drawn parts. Continuing the numerical theme, life-sized digital prints of the work are now available at their site Ten Thousand Cents for $100 a pop, with proceeds going to One Laptop per Child (a charity originally based on the goal of the "$100 Laptop"). This isn't Koblin's first foray into collaborative artmaking with Mechanical Turk: in 2006, he similarly produced The Sheep Market, a collection of 10,000 individual black-and-white drawings, each one commissioned for two cents a piece with the simple instruction to "draw a sheep facing left." Maybe that request was prescient, given that Ten Thousand Cents made unwitting activists out of an anonymous flock of online workers. - Ed Halter

Aaron Koblin and Takashi Kawashima, Ten Thousand Cents, 2008

Link »

MORE »


Round and Round

(0)


Starting this Friday night and running through April 28th, Mudam Luxemboug will host a series of events organized by Candice Breitz involving artists who "explore the logic of call-and-response" in their practices. Many of these artists, including Cory Arcangel, Matthieu Laurette, and Pierre Bismuth, have been previously categorized by the use of appropriation or recycling in their works, a characterization Breitz believes to feed into a false dichotomy, in the discourse surrounding contemporary art, between "original" creative production and critical responses to culture's reserves. For Breitz, "all creative acts are responses to other creative acts," and her curated program aspires to locate the practices of the participating artists in the history of call-and-response, which many musicologists trace back to oral cultures on the African continent. Call-and-response is a mode of creative expression that necessarily emerges "between people," in that it entails the participation of multiple speakers and listeners, thereby departing from "the traditional western separation of speaker/performer and listener/audience." Over a series of daylong sessions, Breitz will engage artists on a series of topics: "Art Goes to the Movies" will focus on the cannibalization of mainstream cinema in the work of Paul Pfeiffer, Bismuth, Martin Arnold and Breitz; "After Images" explores Surasi Kusolwong, Jonathan Monk, and Kaz Oshiro's use of other artists' works of art in their practices; and "Mondo Youtube" will find Arcangel, Laurette, and Bjørn Melhus discussing "the participatory potential of mainstream media such as advertising, the Internet, reality television, video games, Myspace and YouTube." As these types of mainstream media double as sites for corporate marketing and trend-appropriation - a topic Breitz has frequently addressed in her career - the question of the possibility for innovative, critical gestures becomes of paramount importance. Thankfully, one would be hard-pressed to find a better panel of practitioners ...

MORE »


Access in Excess

(0)


Standing out at this year's Whitney Biennial are Neighborhood Public Radio (a.k.a. NPR). Founded in 2004, in Oakland, California by artists Jon Brumit, Lee Montgomery, and Michael Trigilio, the group share both an acronym and a logo with National Public Radio, but their focus is on local communities and DIY broadcasts. The group takes the act of transmission into their own hands, but are quick to point out that they are not "pirate radio," as they don't steal a spot on your dial, they simply hop onto an empty airwave. Their intentionally unlicensed practice is a touchstone for discussion of corporation-controlled spaces, like the air around us, and the programmed homogenization of the radio. What NPR delivers to listeners is a low-budget (but relatively high production value) snapshot of the neighborhoods in which they are stationed. The group has traveled the world, one neighborhood at a time, engaging in dialogue with local inhabitants about pressing local issues, in addition to presenting artist's recordings, audio experiments, and performances. At the Biennial they are broadcasting in the museum, and on the air, from their temporary headquarters in an empty shoe store, a few doors down from the museum. Along with co-hosts Linda Arnejo, Whiz Biddlecombe, and Katina Papson, the founders will welcome a number of visiting artists to the program and invite locals to come in and chat about issues of importance to them. They will also receive and re-transmit broadcasts from other neighborhoods, who are participating in the program from afar and offering a point of contrast with New York's Upper East Side. NPR is influenced by the history of community radio broadcasts, as well as collective action groups and situationist collaboratives, but their focus is squarely on the present and the opportunities afforded by ...

MORE »


Academically Qualified

(0)


Since the 2006 cancellation of Manifesta 6, a biennial conceived as a temporary school in Cyprus, education has been at the forefront of the art world's attention. At a time when costly enrollment at a top-tier art school seems like the accepted route to a gainful career as a creative practitioner, artists and curators alike have begun assessing the standards of art education and mining critical alternatives, a process that culminated in unitednationsplaza's exhibition-as-school in Mexico City, this past month, as well as in the New Museum's yearlong "Night School," an "artist commission in the form of a temporary school" by Anton Vidokle, UNP member and co-organizer of Manifesta 6. Professing relatively less anti-institutional rhetoric and a bit more grassroots irreverence is The Philadelphia Institute for Advanced Study, an ongoing project by a handful of Philly artists and thinkers, including Brandon Joyce and Ramsey Arnaoot, offering seminars and symposia to members of their local community. Classes range from the pragmatic, including German and Spanish instruction, to the more specialized, in which interested pupils can help use Pure Date (pD) programming language towards constructing an audio-video sampling synthesizer, or contribute to Zusammenstoppeln, a group novel written using the Surrealist technique, "exquisite corpse." What complicates the Institute's seemingly benign agenda is its website, which adopts the mock tone and design of an elitist organization, calls artist residencies "Eric James Johnson Memorial Fellowships," and assigns equally buttoned-up appellations to its academic departments. While whimsy is evidently at the heart of it, the Institute's website makes an insightful point about the expectation for educational branding, in this day and age, and the performance of a certain elitism often accepted as necessary to lend credence to an organization, regardless of what it professes to teach. - Tyler Coburn

Link »

MORE »


Guided by Voices

(0)


A new project by musician Halsey Burgund "ROUND" (2008) takes its cue from the enormous cultural influence of crowdsourcing and applies it to the musty old format of museum audio tours. On display at Connecticut's Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, ROUND allows visitors to record their candid reactions to the artworks as they stroll around the exhibitions. Accompanied by Burgund's music, their recordings become fodder for future audio tours, which can be individually customized to feature the voices of curators, artists, or ordinary children or adult museum-goers. The title "ROUND" is a reference both to the notion of a round table where all voices count equally and the musical term for overlapping voices in song. Burgund remarked that the "static and off-putting" voice used in traditional audio tours conveys and enacts an art institution's monolithic voice of authority. ROUND's goal is to "make the audio tour participatory and take it outside the sanctioned voice. It's to encourage people to express themselves," he added. A kiosk provides an introduction to ROUND; nearby, visitors check out small wireless tablet computers before wandering about the museum, listening to audio tours or switching to adding their own vocal reactions to the works on display. Software developer and system designer Mike MacHenry provided technical help in creating the system, which is coded in Python with the use of audiovisual library GStreamer; the tablets run on maemo. The system also depends on Ableton Live and on custom Max/MSP patches and plug-ins, which create the compositional algorithms that generate and randomize the music, as well as effects such as timing speech to the rhythm of the music. The experiment appears to be a resounding success - some 120 people recorded their impressions during the opening on Sunday. In addition to comments about current ...

MORE »


Mapping Darfur

(0)


Since Sudanese government soldiers and their proxy militia, the Janjaweed, commenced assaults on rebel forces and civilians of similar ethnic descent, in 2003, the crisis in Darfur has been at the forefront of international discussion and the subject of extensive political, humanitarian, and journalistic work. "Museum Mapping Initiative," a unique collaboration between Google and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, makes the history and details of the crisis available to a virtual community, allowing Google Earth users to navigate a map of the region amended with data provided by the U.S. State department, including locations of damaged and destroyed villages, internally displaced person (IDP) and refugee camps in Darfur and Chad, respectively, and zones accessible and inaccessible to humanitarian relief workers. Users navigating the terrain can read testimonies of civilians affected by the conflict, recorded by Amnesty researchers, and view photographs depicting aspects of regional life. Taking advantage of Google Earth's architecture, "Museum Mapping Initiative" also allows users to insert their own placemarks on locations in Darfur and Chad towards constructing specific tours, presentations and readings of the crisis. Through this intersection of interactive technology and progressive historiography, the events and stories surrounding this modern-day atrocity can finally be brought to greater light. - Tyler Coburn

Link »

MORE »


Marina Rosenfeld's Teenage Lontano/16 Channels at Whitney Biennial 2008

(0)


As with any exhibition that surveys the best of contemporary art practices, the Whitney Biennial consistently elicits its share of cheers and, more frequently, jeers: complaints about artists omitted, marginalized mediums, insider back-scratching, and so on. While the 2008 edition may also merit such criticism, it deserves some praise for introducing a performance-heavy program at the Park Avenue Armory. Spanning the first two weeks of the biennial's three-month run, the Armory series finds artists and musicians like Agathe Snow, Lucky Dragons and Gang Gang Dance crossing and re-crossing the boundaries of performance and installation in the decorous (and semi-crumbling) rooms of the 1881 New York landmark. This Saturday evening, composer and turntablist Marina Rosenfeld will debut Teenage Lontano/16 Channels (2008), a "cover version" of György Liget's Lontano (1967) that Rosenfeld specifically conceived for the Armory's 55,000-square foot Drill Hall. Rosenfeld's reworking stretches the Hungarian composer's twelve-minute work to an even thirty and subjects his exceedingly meticulous score to a slew of chance scenarios - most importantly, the translation of the orchestral piece into a vocal composition, relayed via portable mp3 players into the headphones of the thirty-five New York teenagers who comprise Rosenfeld's choir. Hanging several dozen feet above the teens, a massive speaker will rotate at 33 1/3 r.p.m., like a turntable, and fire electronic sounds into the recesses of the cavernous hall: a space-age accompaniment to Rosenfeld's acoustic community. Like her seminal performance, sheer frost orchestra, in which seventeen women administered nail-polish to floor-bound guitars, Teenage Lontano/16 Channels emphasizes Rosenfeld's professed interest in the "ideosocial construction of music-making," here taking a vernacular of contemporary listening, a generation for which technology is like a second-skin, and through them reappraising a moment of high-Modern composition. - Tyler ...

MORE »


Mixing It Up at Eyebeam's MIXER

(0)

In New York or any other busy urban nexus, it's all too easy to submit to the tyranny of rushing from one destination to another. How much more pleasant -- and artistically fruitful -- it can be to drift through one's environment, sampling its many sensory experiences at leisure. Last Saturday, at Manhattan's Eyebeam, a new media art party called MIXER offered many delights, from cerebral to bawdy, for those who took the time to explore and savor them. First launched in November last year, MIXER is the art-and-technology center's quarterly event featuring performances by acclaimed video and audio artists, as well as interactive installations inviting creative play by the attendees.



One highlight on Saturday was London-based VJ group D-Fuse's performance of "Latitude", an ambient cinematic exploration of everyday life in the rapidly developing Chinese cities of Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Chongqing. Inspired by the Situationists' notion of "la dérive" (drifting through cities in response to their emotional impacts), the piece wanders among all sorts of urban tableaux, from the mundane and intimate to the grandiose. Fragments of conversations, shots of crowds, and architectural forms such as the vein-like loops of a Shanghai overpass combine to create an evocative portrait of cities in growth.




D-Fuse, Overpass, 2007


In one stunning opening clip, we see a girl emerging onto her apartment balcony -- then the camera slowly (and vertiginously) pulls back in midair, gradually revealing the immense grids of her high-rise and the construction sites that make up her neighborhood. In another shot, kids perform a dance routine on a dull green field, their sheer numbers and the vivid blue-and-white colors of their uniforms forming a kaleidoscopic pop of energy. While many scenes of street life and urban architecture might recall U.S. cities, other footage is suffused with ...

MORE »


Symphonie Diagonale

(0)




Video by Brock Monroe

The Icelandic new music ensemble Hestbak formed in 2003 as a brass-heavy improvisation collective. Under the influence of Aki Asgeirsson, who joined a year later, the band began experimenting with interactive technologies and the potential of animated scores to "conduct" performances of their compositions. A group recital last weekend, hosted by experimental folk singer Kria Brekkan at Brooklyn gallery Secret Project Robot saw the execution of several different pieces in which musical instructions, rendered as simple kinetic forms, emanated in real time from a video projector for viewing by both ensemble and audience. Each piece treated the passing of time as a stroll horizontally or vertically across the score, usually with a fixed point designated as the cue for performers to make sound.

Gudmundur Steinn's "Volma" referenced the graphical interface of studio recording software, while Asgeirsson's "Talfall" featured multiple strings of descending numerical values cascading along parabolic pathways. As each number disappeared off the bottom of the screen, a Hestbak member plunked its corresponding note on a piano, enabling a variety of casual rhythms and harmonies.

Performance of "Talfall" (Photo by Lisa Corson)

Perhaps "Hvitasuo" by Pall Ivan Pallson demonstrated the direct potential of video scoring most effectively to the uninitiated. Before the piece, Pallson distributed plastic party cups and instructed the audience members on how to position them in accordance to the length of slowly scrolling points in a projected diagram. Then came the sound: a relentless swath of pure white noise, which morphed differently for each individual in relation to the distance of the cups to his/her ears.

Audience during "Hvitasuo" (Photo by Lisa Corson)

While projected scores are nothing new to the experimental music community, graphic dataflow software like Max/MSP (and its free counterpart used by Hestbak members, Pd ...

MORE »