The theme of Repair for this year’s Ars Electronica festival was apropos, as the festival moved to the Tabakfabrik, a former cigarette factory and sprawling complex of buildings that was churning out cartons of Marlboros as recently as last year. The smell of tobacco was still heavy in the air, and evidence of the factory’s work continued to linger: ear plugs still available in dispensers, pneumatic tube carriers still sitting in baskets, and boxes emblazoned with cigarette logos being used as exhibition design material. The factory, which is a protected historic landmark, is beautiful and perhaps deserved a Golden Nica of its own -- for best representation of the festival theme.
I was out in San Jose last week for the 01SJ Biennial and I took a few snapshots of the exhibits for the blog, below. I organized Rhizome's live performance event "Domain," which was part of 01SJ's film program. "Domain" included artists Jeremy Bailey, Petra Cortright, Constant Dullaart, and JODI.
Brody Condon has uploaded two videos documenting LevelFive, a live action role-playing game/performance modeled after 1970s self actualization seminars such as Erhard Seminars Training. (The LevelFive site provides a clip of one of these sessions, from Adam Curtis' documentary Century of the Self, here.) Participants, all of whom are volunteers, take up a character for the entire duration of the weekend, and engage in a series of intense self-actualizing exercises and seminars as this person. Similar to Condon's previous project TwentyfiveFold Manifestation, the immersion and duration of the game work plays on the "bleed" between the participant's original self and that of their character. LevelFive took place at the Hammer Museum of Art from September 4-5, 2010 and again at the San Jose Convention Center on September 17-18, 2010, during the Zero1 Biennial.
Is it still necessary to define art by intent and context? The gallery world would have us believe this to be the case, but the internet tells a more mutable story. Contrary to the long held belief that art needs intent and context, I suggest that if we look outside of galleries, we’ll find the actions, events and people that create contemporary art with or without the art world’s label.
Over the past 20 years, the theory Relational Aesthetics (referred to in this essay as RA) has interpreted social exchanges as an art form. Founding theoretician Nicholas Bourriaud describes this development as “a set of artistic practices that take as their theoretical and practical point of departure the whole of human relations and their social context”. In reality, art erroneously known to typify RA’s theorization hasn’t strayed far from the model of the 1960’s Happening, an event beholden to the conventions of the gallery and the direction of its individual creator. In her essay Antagonism and Relational Aesthetics, Claire Bishop describes Rikrit Tiravanija’s dinners as events circumscribed in advance, using their location as a crutch to differentiate the otherwise ordinary action of eating a meal as art. A better example of the theory of RA succinctly put into action can be seen in anonymous group activities on the internet, where people form relations and meaning without hierarchy.
Started in 2003, 4Chan.org is one such site, and host to 50 image posting message boards, (though one board in particular, simply titled ‘/b/’, is responsible for originating many of the memes we use to burn our free time.) The site’s 700,000 daily users post and comment in complete anonymity; a bathroom-stall culture generating posts that alternate between comedic brilliance, virulent hate ...
I met with sisters Sarah and Lara Grant of Felted Signal Processing the other week at their Brooklyn apartment. Felted Signal Processing is an ongoing project, which came out of their individual research as graduate students in NYU’s ITP program. Sarah entered the program to further her skills in new media and Lara went to learn how to program, play with hardware and generally learn the electronic side to apply to her interactive fashion. Now graduated, they have teamed together up in their Felted Signal Processing project, which allows them to explore their joint passion for soft circuitry and wearable technology. Together, they build colorful, handmade felt interfaces that allow users to manipulate sound through physical interaction such as pulling, scrunching or stroking. Most of their interfaces are built to output sound, but they are also interested in the development of new materials and techniques for fabricating soft sensors for interfaces that can be hooked up to a variety of outputs. Lara has been felting for 7 years, and they explained that felt is their “dream medium.” Sarah was the first of the two to apply the medium to soft circuitry; the name “Felted Signal Processing” actually came from her thesis, where she hacked a guitar pedal and integrated conductive felt into the circuit, letting users squeeze and scrunch the material in order to literally shape sound. Once Lara embarked on her thesis, she chose to develop a skill set of techniques to create and control variable resistance in soft circuitry. Sarah, a programmer with a background in new media art and a long standing interest in sound, focuses on the software and hardware side of their projects while Lara, who spent years working in fashion and textiles with an emphasis in conceptual ...
Whoop Dee Doo is a kid's show, run by about 20-30 volunteers in Kansas City. The show is filmed in the style of public access television shows of the 70s, 80s, and 90s, drawing heavy inspiration from the likes of The Carol Burnett Show, The Gong Show, Pee Wee's Playhouse, You Can't Do That on Television, Mr. Wizard, Soul Train, Double Dare, public access horror show hosts like Svengoolie, and the Chicago public access program Chica-go-go. The group has put together shows around the country and internationally, from the Smart Museum in Chicago, to a holiday party at Deitch Projects, and a collaboration with Loyal Gallery in Malmo, Sweden. In each new venue they draw on local communities of performers and artists to collaborate and contribute. Performers range from musical acts and performance artists to Civil War Re-enactors, Celtic Bagpipers, Christian Mimes, drag queens, drill teams and science teachers. Kids help build the sets and make props along with artists and volunteers, and they are a huge part of the show itself. Whoop Dee Doo is intended to showcase the diversity of artistic talent within the community, and to create an opportunity for these groups to work, and party, together. Unlike many kid's shows, Whoop Dee Doo is in no way dumbed down or infantilizing, and it forms an important part of the vibrant and creative Kansas City arts community.
The show is hosted by artists Matt Roche and Jaimie Warren. Matt plays a quiet, awkward werewolf, and Jaimie is generally wearing red spandex and covered in empty food packaging. I spoke with Jaimie about the art scene in Kansas City, about working with kids and technology, and about the philosophy of Whoop Dee Doo.
Homebrew Electronics is a series on the Rhizome blog. For these posts, I will be conducting studio visits with artists and inventors who create unique electronic instruments.
Last week, I met with Steven Litt of CrudLabs at his Greenpoint apartment. While a graduate student at NYU’s ITP program, Steve developed a machine known as the CrudBox. Central to his installations and performances, the CrudBox allows users to plug electronic or electromechanic devices into a 16 step, 8 channel step sequencer. While normal sequencers draw from a set bank of sounds, the CrudBox allows one to plug in devices such as turntables or solenoids or power tools, opening up the range of sounds one can sequence.
In his living room, Steve had plugged in seven portable turntables into a CrudBox.
The exterior of this version of the CrudBox was designed by Steve’s friend artist Panayiotis Terzis, who silkscreened all the imagery on the exterior.
The turntables operate off AC voltage, and the CrudBox runs off DC, so Steve had set up a system of high voltage relays so each turntable can be individually activated without any issues. These relay modules allow any wall powered devices to be easily plugged in and sequenced by CrudBox.
In order to control a turntable, the switch at the top left hand side of the CrudBox must be pointed toward the turntable one wants to start.
The sequences are controlled by the bottom row of buttons, and the tempo by the knob. The sequences tell the turntables when ...
This Is My Life (Shirley Bassey) by Conrad Ventur was one of my favorite pieces in PS1's "Greater New York," so I was delighted to come across this short interview with the artist on MoMA/PS1's INSIDE/OUT blog. Burrowed away in a small room in PS1's basement, the work involves a number of projectors looping performances by singer Shirley Bassey sourced from YouTube. Slowly rotating crystals hang over the lens of the projectors, refracting the images and illuminating the room in a soft, hazey light. Ventur discusses his interest in connecting to the past through repurposing old performance footage and the affective quality of his installations.
The above video is a milestone in consumer electronics history: it was the first recording to document the unwrapping of a new gadget that was titled as an unboxing. While individuals have been gleefully ripping open the packaging of their electronics for decades, unboxing is the relatively new practice of recording these moments and uploading them to video sharing services for public display. The 2006 video embedded above features veteran technology blogger Vincent Nguyen as he unpacks a new Nokia E61 smartphone and related accessories. Nguyen removes the device, displays it to the camera while commenting how thin it is, and then dryly lists off the remainder of the objects in the box. On completion he utters "Basically that's it… ummm, for now."
While Nguyen's removal of a smartphone from its original packaging was decidedly drab, unboxing has become a fixture in online consumer electronics coverage. Major players like Endgadget have entire streams of content populated with seasoned technology experts (almost always male) rifling through waybills, wielding box-cutters and carefully extracting shiny new netbooks, gaming consoles and cameras from their packaging. I've watched about three dozen of these videos over the past few days—scanning for signs of intelligent life—and they are remarkably ritualistic: styrofoam is carefully set aside, manuals are flipped through, battery packs are commented on. In doing this field research I've come up with two hypotheses of what unboxing represents:
1. A practice that has emerged as as extension of page view journalism whereby gadget blogs can get traffic without doing any actual 'reporting'.
2. Glib theatre where adults joylessly reenact moments from their childhood when they received and opened gifts.
While both of these readings of unboxing are equally applicable, I prefer the latter, where each of these tiny ceremonies is ...