The Crisis Artist

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Still from Hangmen Also Die! (Fritz Lang, 1943)

Per-Oskar Leu's Crisis and Critique consists of a video of trial scenes selected from German films from the 1930s and '40s, leather coats hung over speakers sometimes playing Bertolt Brecht's 1947 testimony to the House Un-American Activities Committee, and four mattressed seating areas with the German words for locked up, night, your ears, and misfortune printed on them. Presented in a curtained-off room, the installation at 155 Freeman Street was accompanied by a newly translated essay by Otto Freundlich entitled "The Artist and the Economic Crisis."  The sum of these parts might make for an ominous, harrowing piece, which by its content, it is. It's also an insightful and engaging installation on the role of the artist and art in the whole mixed-layered world at large.  

'At large' is apt as Leu, in the show's press release, cites an investigation of Verfremdungseffekt—distancing effect—in relation to the experiences of Bertolt Brecht. The video of trials in German cinema demonstrate how the format of a trial flattens the dimensions of an individual, with the defendent often used as a tool to prove a political point or create legal precedence. The transcript and audio recording of Brecht's testimony before the Committee is rich with content, displaying the State’s fear of insurgence, problems with translation and misinterpretation, and a reminder of art’s ability to incite. Brecht's words in songs and poems, the primary reason for his appearance in Washington, D.C., were quoted to him (in poor translations, he stated to comic effect) during his testimony. His appearance, along with those of so many artists and others during the McCarthy years, serves as a reminder that critical thought can be powerful and dangerous. Poets, writers and ...

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The Resurrection of Piss Christ (2011) - Anonymous

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A consciously derivative work, The Resurrection of Piss Christ is a direct response to the destruction of the original. Duplicating the same fate as its star subject, Immersion (Piss Christ) is subjected to the artificial immortality we now wield through the Internet. Our interconnectedness now transforms an act of destruction - through communication and distribution - into an act of preservation.

As a statement against fundamentalism, The Resurrection will fuel it.

As a statement against the commercial value of an intentionally contentious work, The Resurrection will feed and inflate it.

I denounce any act that attempts to silence an individuals thought or speech or expression. Simultaneously, I question the integrity of a work that provokes so ineloquently.

The Resurrection flaunts its infinite reproducibility. Coupled with my anonymity, it ignores the archaic mechanism upon which the art market balances itself.

The Resurrection exists beyond the marketplace. Do what you want with it.

-- FROM THE ARTIST'S STATEMENT

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Getting the Big Picture

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Jon Kessler and Thomas Hirschhorn are both known for large-scale installations that convert gallery spaces into environments laden with political commentary and consumerist critique as well as high tech/low-tech dichotomies. Their recent exhibitions are typically overloaded spectacles that nevertheless serve as indictments of the proverbial society of the spectacle. Kessler’s Circus could be seen as an Iraq-era Disasters of War achieved via Calder’s Circus. An army tent is pitched in the center of Deitch’s Grand St. space, book-ended by metal shelving that holds army beds and a series of TV monitors. The action takes place on the floor under the tent, as a cluster of mechanized contraptions put a variety of GI Joe and Ken dolls in constant jeopardy. One doll is dragged bottomless in a circle on the floor; another rocks back and forth slowly, his hands bound in front of him, against a backdrop of the sky pasted on a revolving drum; a green-faced soldier is bent over backwards and slathered with an oil-like liquid; a headless figure in fatigues and an “army” t-shirt has blood on his hands; four soldiers are placed upside down, guns at the ready. As in many of Kessler’s other recent works, each scenario is outfitted (embedded, if you will) with a mini-cam, making each setup a live-action loop that is broadcast on its own monitor. There’s also a hole in the tent for a large white balloon floating near the ceiling in the center, whose camera provides a bird’s eye view of the entire scene.

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Still Hitting Nerves

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Italian new media magazine, Neural, has just celebrated their fifteenth anniversary. The publication was among the earliest tech-savvy page-turners and still has an appreciation for the importance of paper. In fact, to mark this special birthday, they've collaborated with S.W.A.M.P. (Doug Easterly and Matt Kenyon) for "a collective micro printing action." Subscribers will receive a limited edition piece of paper and envelope designed to commemorate the death toll in Iraq. They are then encouraged to send a letter or illustration to the White House, who are obliged by law to archive their mail, so that the stationary can act as "a Trojan horse slipping the unwanted and unacknowledged civilian body count data into official governmental archives." This is one of many exercises by S.W.A.M.P. in performatively exploring the machinery of control in post-industrial society. But (paper-cut possibilities aside) this project seems slightly less painful than their Improvised Empathetic Device (2005), which drove a blood-drawing needle into the flesh of wearers of their custom armband each time new wireless data was received regarding a rise in the war's death toll. While Neural's editorial direction is marked by broad coverage of the very diverse field of new media practice, hacktivism and tactical media are among their strong suits, so their collaboration with S.W.A.M.P. makes perfect sense. Another of their boldest strengths is their coverage of sound art and experiments in electronic music. Each issue is chockablock with CD reviews and engaging interviews, like the current issue's chat with Negativland. Neural may have an old school appreciation for the ancient medium of paper, but all this good pulp can also be found online, along with their archives and fresh feeds. - Marisa Olson

Image: Neural, Issue 31

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Raqs Media Collective at the New Museum's Night School

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Image: Raqs Media Collective, There Has Been a Change of Plan, 2006

Tonight at 7 p.m. the Dehli-based Raqs Media Collective will begin a three-day run of programs at the New Museum, as part of the Night School series of public seminars. Raqs has been embraced by the art world, although, as the ambiguity of the group's name suggests, the scope of its projects extend to a larger audience. Monica Narula, Jeebesh Bagchi, and Shuddhabrata Sengupta joined forces in 1992, after they completed their studies in Mass Communications in Delhi, and, at the time, had planned a collective career in independent cinema. But their work in documentary filmmaking and public broadcasting, coupled with their fascination with the nascent internet, drew them to issues related to the production and dissemination of information. Today, they continue to address those "rarely asked questions," to use the phrase the group has half-jokingly suggested its name is an abbreviation for.

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Image: Raqs Media Collective, OPUS [ Open Platform for Unlimited Signification]

Raqs's projects tend to take the form of open-ended, open-sourced networks. OPUS, or Open Platform for Unlimited Signification, is an online database of artist-submitted artworks. Conceived in the spirit of open-source software development, Raqs's online digital commons encourage sharing, collaborating, and appropriation. The collective's commitment to free culture continues in The Sarai Programme at Delhi's Centre for the Study of Developing Societies. The Sarai network of artists and scholars produce vast amounts of research and other forms of cultural knowledge, all of which is placed in the public domain.

The collective has also expressed its sensibility through a resistance to restrictions and hierarchies in their installations, performances, and theoretical writings. A recent essay in the inaugural issue of e-flux's Journal takes several fresh and surprising approaches to make ...

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Rhizome 2009 Commissions: Announced!

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Image: Angelos Plessas, Still from 'ElectricityComesFromAnother Planet.com' Proposal

We are pleased to announce the international group of artists who will receive grants through the Rhizome Commissions Program, this year.


Their projects will culminate in a variety of forms, from performance, to sound, to interactive websites and installation, to works that manifest across multiple disciplines. Each one pushes forward the field of contemporary art engaged with technology. All works will be completed by Summer 2009 or earlier, with information available on Rhizome.


The next call for commissions will take place in January 2009. Commissioned artists receive a grant and are invited to present their work at Rhizome's affiliate, the New Museum of Contemporary Art.


Marfa Webring, Jona Bechtolt, Claire Evans, Aaron "Flint" Jamison
In Marfa Webring, the artists Claire Evans, Jona Bechtolt and Aaron "Flint" Jamison will attempt to alter the Google search results for the town of Marfa, TX by creating a Webring and, then, (with the cooperation of the town's permanent residents) investigating the results of this action on the daily life of the town.


Case, Brody Condon
Brody Condon will re-create William Gibson's cyberpunk classic Neuromancer at a red barn theatre in rural Missouri with a local, former political activist in the role of the protagonist.


Untitled (Plate Tectonics), Andy Graydon
Andy Graydon explores sound as a building material. The project begins with field recordings taken at New York City arts institutions and manifests as phonograph records and a website where visitors are encouraged to add their own ambient recordings of installation and performance spaces.


Versionhood, Kristin Lucas
The artist Kristin Lucas recently changed her legal name from Kristin Sue Lucas to Kristin Sue Lucas and, thus, in her words, created "the most current version of Kristin Sue Lucas." In Versionhood, Lucas will consult ...

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