Bringing the Outside In

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Bill Shannon (a.k.a. the "Crutch Master") is a choreographer and dancer who refuses to call himself by either title. Though he needs crutches to move, because of a bilateral hip deformity, this fact has proven itself anything but a disability in relationship to his creativity. The New York-based artist responds largely to the nature of life and change in urban environments and his street-based dance performances-- in which he balances on moving skateboards, maneuvers around concrete steps, and generally gets down-- could put many of the city's legendary b-boys to shame. Through June 15th, the artist has created a multimedia installation in a temporary space in New York's Chinatown. Though Shannon is a highly-regarded performer, he's always made such installations and this former sweatshop provides a perfect platform and social context for further exposure of his efforts to address the inner experience of those roaming the urban outdoors. Entitled "WORK," the installation is organized by Washington, DC-based gallery Douz and Mille and Shannon describes his videos and salvage-based installation as a visualization of a search for balance-- an apt metaphor, given the nature of his performance work. - Marisa Olson


Image: Bill Shannon, Attempts (Video Still, from installation "WORK"), 2008.

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Cine City: Mark Leckey's "Cinema in the Round"

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Artworlders turned out in droves at the Guggenheim this past Wednesday for Mark Leckey's performance-cum-lecture, "Cinema in the Round," the penultimate event in Creative Time's Hey Hey Glossolalia series. Pairing a handsome suit with his blonde, surfer shag, Leckey looked every bit the irreverent orator as he assumed the lectern in the museum auditorium and delivered a refreshingly unorthodox reading of art and cinema history. Of particular importance was the question of how something cinematic may move from a state of "pure horizontality" to that of "pure verticality," which, for Leckey, was analogous to asking how a cinematic image may become an object, sculpture, monument or "beast." James Cameron's Titanic was one of many exemplars of this process, described by Leckey as a "time-travel film" that compressed "the bookends of the 20th century" (the materiality of early industrial manufacturing, the immateriality of late software production and 3D design) and torqued this resulting hybrid around one deceptively small iceberg. At other moments, Leckey's interest in exploring the sculptural and material language of cinema led to his relating Philip Guston's "ham-fisted, meat-and-potatoes" paintings and Georg Baselitz's still-lives of severed feet to skitterish, early Felix the Cat animations and the mass-agglutination aesthetics of music video production company Encylopedia Pictura. Such eclectic sampling would seem haphazard in other hands, but Leckey's familiarity with his source material bolstered its expressive content, and the narrational pliancy he brought to the lecture's structure proved thoughtful and engaging. - Tyler Coburn


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Robert Rauschenberg 1925-2008

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Artist Robert Rauschenberg passed away on Monday. He was 82. Easily one of the most significant artists to come out of the twentieth century, Rauschenberg began painting in the 1940's, and eventually integrated collage, sculpture, performance, choreography, set design, and printmaking into his trailblazing practice. Throughout his career, he was continually dedicated to the concept that the artist must take on an active, participatory role in relation to the culture at large. This perspective was perhaps encouraged and strengthened while studying in the 1950's at the experimental and visionary Black Mountain College. During this period, he met John Cage and Merce Cunningham, and in 1952, the three participated in Theater Piece #1, cited by some as the first "happening" which involved the simultaneous performance of music, dance, and visual art. In 1967, he co-founded the groundbreaking organization Experiments in Art and Technology, whose mission to foster collaborations between artists and engineers served to bolster the creative application of new technologies in ways unimaginable before. To this day, the formation of Experiments in Art and Technology, along with the series of performances in 1966 from which it emerged, 9 Evenings: Theatre and Engineering, mark a major milestone in the history of art and technology. Rauschenberg's openness to experimentation- both formally and conceptually- remain one of his principal contributions to American art. - Ceci Moss


Image Credit: Robert Rauschenberg, Open Score, 1966

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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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