A Chorus Line

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After its March premiere at the Dark Fair, Wordless Chorus will convene for the second time this Saturday evening at New York's Canada Gallery. Composed by artist Brian Belott and dancer Larissa Velez, the piece involves the participation of over 25 choreographed members howling, singing, and grunting nonsensical verse while wielding props such as chattering teeth and batons. Lounge music is cited as an inspiration for the project, an unsurprising fact considering Belott's love for kitsch and distinct sense of humor, which recalls the media savvy and subversive wit of Michael Smith paired with a Dada-inspired penchant for the absurd. While, evidently, the Wordless Chorus is an event that needs to be seen to be believed, those unable to attend can pick up a limited-edition vinyl record of the ensemble's performance later this year from Grey Ghost Press. - Ceci Moss

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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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Voice Lessons

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What's in a voice? In these days of texting one's "vote" for their favorite singer on American Idol, the relationship between politics and using one's voice seem to have become estranged. Sure, the ability of siren's songs and golden throats to entertain us has an important cultural position, but the voice has also been used to convey oral histories, to negotiate terms, to speak for those who cannot, and even to lure, summon, and cast spells. Taking place all over New York City, the upcoming Creative Time program "Hey Hey Glossolalia" takes a closer look at (er... listen to?) the voice in a medley of programs as wide as Mariah Carey's vocal range. Interesting highlights include a conversation about truth and language between artist Rigo 23 and Black Panther Party member Robert King Wilkerson, who will discuss the "use of speech under pressure of complete isolation" during his 29 years spent in solitary confinement in Angola Prison. At Brooklyn's Pratt Institute, Chris Evans will orchestrate the first iteration in the United States of his Cop Talk project, in which art students meet with a police recruiter to consider a new career option. Carey Young will present a performance called Speechcraft, a subtle revision on a traditional Toastmasters meeting in which the assembled rhetors are asked to speak before an audience of 250 "about objects that Young finds artistically inspiring" and are subsequently "evaluated by fellow members in a cycle of inspiration, review, and reward." In a concert entitled "The Voice (After Mercedes McCambridge)," artists No Bra (Susanne Oberbeck), Genesis P-Orridge, Rammellzee, and Ian Svenonius will present performances inspired by the actress who dubbed the voice of a demonically-posessed character in the film The Exorcist. The pieces promise to "skirt the boundaries between information-giving and ...

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Lights Out

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Just when the New York art world was poised for another no-fun, sales-oriented fair season, the irreverent crew of Milwaukee International has rolled out a seriously intriguing counter-proposition at Swiss Institute. "Dark Fair," opening the evening of March 28th and running through the weekend, aims to occur entirely without reliance on natural or electric light, though candlelight, flashlight and glow-in-the-dark are all acceptable means of display. This parameter is very much in keeping with the International's larger social program, which previously found gallerists setting up rough-and-ready booths in Milwaukee's Polish Falcons Beer Hall for its 2006 art fair, where affable chatter - more than commerce - seemed to be the order of the day. "Dark Fair" invites us into a similarly outlying environment, promising an impressive list of exhibitors (New York's CANADA, Los Angeles' China Art Objects and Oslo's Willy Wonka Inc feature among the thirty) alongside "shadowy bar booths," social happenings, performances by Harrell Fletcher, Clara Jo and Brian Belott, a Pinball Arcade by Ara Peterson, and a glow-in-the-dark basketball court from Sara Clendening. As to the other secrets and creative gems lurking in this "cavernous underworld of exchange," well, it rests upon the endeavoring visitor to discover them. - Tyler Coburn

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Image: out_4_pizza, the fixtures of fate, 2008

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Friday, from here to Helsinki and ahead

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A brief round-up of events, small and large, for our readers, this Friday:

First, a little self-promotion, here's your reminder that the next installment of Rhizome's New Silent Series is taking place tonight at the New Museum. Regine Debatty will moderate a panel entitled Media Art in the Age of Transgenics, Cloning and Genomics with artists Caitlin Berrigan, Brandon Ballengee, Kathy High and Adam Zaretsky. (Video documentation of the event will be up on the Rhizome site shortly.)

Second, this weekend, Pixelache 2008 will unfold in Helsinki. Organized by artist and curator Juha Huuskonen, Pixelache is known for bringing together innovators across discipline through provocative presentations and discussions. The focus of this year's edition is Pixelache University with "education in the cross-roads of science, technology, art and culture" explored across the four days of the festival. Following are a few highlights. For those who will be nowhere near Helsinki this weekend, some of the events will be streamed.

Friday, March 14th (5:30-8 pm)
N.I.P. - New Interfaces in Performance is a touring presentation, network and workshop series, currently featuring artists from UK, Netherlands and Portugal. This artist lead initiative is exploring gesture and movement based interfaces within live performance and interactive, mixed media installation. Teresa Dillon (UK) will give a presentation about N.I.P. in Kiasma seminar, followed by N.I.P performances in Kiasma Theatre:
-Burning the Sound by Rudolfo Quintas & Andre Goncalves (PT)
-Resonant Objects by Andre Gon´┐Żalves (PT)
-Air Stick by Ivan Franco (PT)
-BOP by Teresa Dillon & Kathy Hinde (UK)

Saturday, March 15th (time tba)
Traveling without moving seminar is exploring various means to cut down the amount of international air travel, featuring John Thackara (UK), Andreas Zachariah / Carbon Hero project (UK), Matt Jones / Dopplr (remote participation) and Daniel ...

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

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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 ...

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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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Yes, No, Maybe So

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New York-based artists MRiver and TWhid (together, they are MTAA) began their collaboration as painters, but quickly moved into the world of new media. They were among the earliest internet artists and are at the forefront of a small handful who are still in practice from that first generation. Their work continues to push the boundaries of the genre, but is consistently informed by the history of conceptual art and performance. They very often contemplate the notion of "translation" between natural and computer languages, and in the form of "updating" works (their own or others') from the platform of one media epoch to another. While their newest piece, YES & NO (2008), grows very clearly out of this trajectory, it is refreshingly different. Like their One Year Performance Video (2004) and Karaoke DeathMatch 100 (2007), it uses software to string together pre-existing video clips of the two artists, but in a seemingly more random way than before. Always fans of language games, MTAA took turns taking sides in the binary of YES vs NO. They each recorded themselves saying these respective words sixty times and the computer randomly selects the order of each clip, so that the artists can disagree with each other in a myriad of chance combinations. Despite the randomness of these face-offs, they read as intentional, and like any good montage, meaning seems to emerge organically from the juxtaposition of the discrete units. The two-channel work looks quite a bit like the duo's Infinite Smile (2005), while perhaps illustrating that a sense of humor and the occasional agreement to disagree are the cornerstones to any happy artistic relationship. - Marisa Olson

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Straight-Faced Art

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Opening this weekend at San Francisco art space, The Lab, is the third and final installment of an international exhibition informed by a comedy genre known as "deadpan." Named "Deadpan Exchange", the project refers to communicative moments in which a statement is delivered with a straight face and the listener must determine whether it is funny or tragic. It is a model which gives the audience power to react and move in their own direction, and in this case it serves as a nice simile for the form of collaboration among the participants. The first two installments of the show were in Berlin and Copenhagen, and in each iteration a group of artists brought their work abroad, made their "statements" and then a subsequent group responded in the next show. Pieces have included a PowerPoint video by co-organizer Jonn Herschend, entitled, The Exact Chain of Events; Kara Hearn's video, 7 reincarnations, in which the artist "re-shot scenes from 7 Hollywood films in her apartment;" and video and installation projects by several artists that question the fidelity of language in storytelling and translation. This final chapter includes work by the Danish Koh-i-noor collective and the show opens with audio/visual performances by Joe McKay, Matthew Hughes Boyko, and the aggressive mimes of Team Lexington. "Deadpan Exchange" is intended to "begin a dialog that might not otherwise take place outside of formal institutions," and like all deadpans, it requires audience participation. - Marisa Olson

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Topsy Turvy Tales

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Kate Gilmore's work defies the American expression "Never let them see you sweat." Instead, she puts struggle at center stage in her performance-based video works. Masquerading as hyperfeminine in heels, frilly dresses, and copious makeup, the New York-based artist (currently living in Italy as the recipient of a Rome Prize) constructs and faces off against elaborate obstacles, ultimately making a statement about the struggles faced by women. Interestingly, however, Gilmore has made her own bed, in each of these scenarios--but refuse to lay in them. Instead, she displays equal parts strength and humility as she attempts to ascend the mountains of junk she builds, or to navigate the otherwise precarious, emotionally-marked spaces of her own design. Gilmore will be showing recent and new works in two upcoming solo shows, both opening January 31st, at San Antonio's Artpace and Madrid's Maisterra Valbuena, respectively. In each of these works, the artist continues to flesh-out questions about the relationship between fame, talent, and emotional satisfaction. In 2005 she kept her chin up in With Open Arms, a video in which a dolled-up Gilmore bowed graciously to a tomato-throwing audience. In the more recent Baby, Belong to Me (2006/07), we see the artist's foot, wrapped in a ballerina slipper and suspended by a noose which one of her hands works to untie. In the background are stenciled hearts, bleeding paint at their nadirs. The addition of a song from the musical Fame creates a narrative about an emerging artist struggling to reconcile the desire for love and success. Like so many of her works, this piece is a perfectly concise visual representation of what it means to feel upside-down in this topsy turvy world. - Marisa Olson

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