Going Public

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"Private fears and shared desires" take the public stage for "Tarantula," a month-long film and video program projected on Europe's biggest LED wall, in Piazza del Duomo, Milan. In collaboration with MIA (Milano In Alto) and Fondazione Nicola Trussardi, which is dedicated to finding "new channels and strategies to distribute contemporary art in the city of Milan," curator Massimiliano Gioni has invited fifteen contemporary artists to screen works twice a day on a screen normally reserved for commercial advertising. Certain works build upon this strategy of intervention, like Pipilotti Rist's series of sixteen one-minute video segments, Open My Glade, originally commissioned by the Public Art Fund, in 2000, to air on the NBC Astrovision by Panasonic video screen in Times Square, New York. Other notables include the film component of Johanna Billing's You Don't Love Me Yet project, documenting the studio recording of Roky Erickson's eponymous 80s pop hit by more than twenty singers; Fiorucci Made Me Hardcore (1999), Mark Leckey's nostalgic chronicle of cross-sections of British dance culture from the 70s and 80s; and Dictio pii(2001), a parade of high-fashion outfits repurposed, by artist Marcus Schinwald, as disturbing fetish-objects. Like the Bob Dylan novel from which it takes its title, "Tarantula" presents rituals public and private, compulsive and fanciful, to show the ways "new rules and behaviors can transform life into a joyful carnival of exceptions." - Tyler Coburn


Image: Mark Leckey, Fiorucci Made Me Hardcore, 1999

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We Heart Our VCRs

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It's been said that necessity is the mother of all invention. That is, that true innovators were often responding to a lack of materials in crafting their art. This seems particularly true in the field of filmic media, where art history offers us so many examples, ranging from the Soviet KINO school's use of rearranged bits of paper to fine-tune the practice of montage to Britain's early-80s Scratch Video movement. The latter is the subject of an exhibition at London's Seventeen Gallery, May 28th-June 28th. "SCRATCH" presents work by intimate colleagues George Barber, The Duvet Brothers, Goldbacher & Flitcroft, and Gorilla Tapes, each of whom participated in this movement that involved sourcing material directly from existing broadcasts and other moving images sources, and often reprocessing them with what were then the latest in video editing techniques and tools. While all of the these artists' work responds largely to the new creative possibilities afforded by the birth of the VCR, Seventeen points out that they took this work in two distinct directions: politics and aesthetics. (Not that the two are mutually exclusive!) The Duvet Brothers and Gorilla Tapes directly engaged the Thatcher/Reagan new world order of conservativism and the ongoing issues in Northern Ireland with an anti-establishment ethos that marked all of their works. Their peers in the show explored visual styles ranging from dreams to pop music videos, imbuing their sources with rhythm, pulse, and a new life. If you're in the area, come check-out this often under-recognized work whose copious imitators, in the last two decades, are a testament to its influence and staying power. - Marisa Olson


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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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Electric Heat

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Who's ready for summer? Starting Wednesday, the monitors and projector's inside London's Seventeen gallery will be burning-up with the work of four North American video artists. Yet, while their show, "We Like What You Eat," is a "micro survey" of outstanding work, it's not a question of who's "hot or not." In fact, what's more interesting about the show is that its venue all but proclaims itself "not hot" in saying, "In terms of exposure, the art gallery has been matched and perhaps even surpassed in importance by the website itself as an artistic platform for the included artists." It's true, the work of Paul B. Davis, collaborators John Michael Boling and Javier Morales, and Eric Fensler has simultaneously borrowed from the visual lexicon of the internet and blossomed there, finding scores of fans among the ranks of computer geeks and musicians as well as fellow artists and savvy curators. It's this crossover--or, rather, this practice of reciprocity--that binds the artists together in the show, with pop cultural phenomena flowing into the work as inspiration or source material, only to find it flowing back out as the art work itself becomes a part of pop culture. Call it the pop art visualization of the adage, "you are what you eat." The gallery declares this an all-out international movement that "nonetheless maintains its spiritual center in the United States of America." Fortunately, you can surf the artists' work from anywhere, but prepare your eyes for the optical poptitude proffered by these guys. In the words of ironically now-forgotten 80s pop musicians, Timbuk 3, their future's so bright, they "gotta wear shades." - Marisa Olson

Image credit: John Michael Boling and Javier Morales, "Body Magic," 2006 (video still)

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No Holds Barred

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After a standout contribution to Postmasters' summer 2007 group show - which caused even tough cookie critic Roberta Smith to advise New York Times readers to "take notice" - Kenneth Tin-Kin Hung returns to the gallery this month with an accomplished solo turn, "Residential Erection," running through May 10th. Spanning the space's two rooms are the artist's recent video contributions to his brand of twenty-first century baroque, Residential Erection (2008) and Gas Zappers (2007), as well as digital prints and monumental pop-up displays, all deriving imagery from Residential Erection. While the pop-ups offer interesting translations of Hung's collage-heavy video practice into the sculptural realm, they ultimately feel secondary to the videos themselves, which interpolate political hubris and prop-like flatness with a greater level of sophistication, evoking theater sets, commercial advertisements, image search refuse and one-on-one combat video games. All of these references (and countless others) make a turn on Hung's digital stage, collectively giving a performance as critical of contemporary American politics as it is symptomatic of the artist as capitalist-schizophrenic par excellence. In one of the choicer scenes from Residential Erection, for example, an infantile Barack Obama suckles from the teat of mega-advocate Oprah Winfrey (in Virgin Mary attire), only to transform into a variation on Ali G's Borat, emblazoned with the logos of Verizon, UBS and a handful of his other corporate campaign sponsors. At another moment, a cadre of conservatives roll out the "Straight Talk Express," led by Republican cheerleader John McCain - replete with tutu - and proceed to erect a chain-link fence, hoard burritos and manufacture "Minutemen Salsa." Hung's garishly Pop take is thus no disguise for our nation's unsavory realities, but rather uses the aesthetics of mass-culture to dispel the sleek, rhetorical surface of American politics and tease out its dirty ...

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Brush-off

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ArtFagCity's Paddy Johnson couldn't have picked a more damning category in which to place British painter Dan Proops--"BoingBoing artist"-- glossing that mega-blog's indiscriminate penchant for tiki-bar kitsch, airbrushed girlies and steampunked everything as merely "art pabulum for readers who can clearly handle more." To be sure, Proops's work does seem unduly suited to geek-pandering, offering quick-glance commentary on medias new and old through easy-to-get juxtapositions: Proops's oil paintings depict familiar art-historical subjects with random parts pixilated (as if censored) or "desktop" images of iconic images, complete with trashcans and folders at their margins. To be fair, one must withhold ultimate judgment until seeing the work in physical form, but even online reproductions suggest that Proops' paintings, evidently bereft of any compelling composition or technique to offset their facile gimmicks, suffer from the dull ache of YBA hangover. If you can't travel to London to see them in Proops's upcoming show Sam's Desktop III, then be sure to catch them sometime in the future, when they will be displayed in the spacious living rooms of Hawaiian-shirted IT dudes with more money than taste. - Ed Halter

Image: Dan Proops, Caravaggio, Censored, 2007

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Unraveling Digital Media

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German artist Margret Eicher works in "traditional media," but don't let that fool you... Her tapestries, watercolors, and paintings are digital art in every sense of the phrase, employing digital weaving and printing tools and techniques to comment on information society. Eicher appropriates vernacular imagery of pop cultural figures, as well as news photos, video game images, and iconic art historical images to craft unique digital collages that then get translated into their "traditional" form. In an upcoming show at [Dam] Berlin, called "SHE," Eicher will present three tapestries that play off of the tropes of sensuality, irony, and provocation to explore femininity. Her images range from stills of the TV show "Desperate Housewives" to photos of "young bored couples." The tapestry medium is one with an important history, touching upon wealth and industry as well as early computing, in the era of Jacquard's Loom. Eicher is precise in recalling this history and using it as a vehicle to fabricate semiotic and psychological analyses of figurative gestures and their political implications, in mainstream visual culture. Her exhibition will be up from March 14-May 17 and more images of her work can be found here. - Marisa Olson

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Fantastic Voyage

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Since its earliest days, cinema has drawn comparison to the domain of magic and fantasies. Many of the form's early scholars agreed less on what film was (theatre? a new kind of pencil?) and more on its ability to psychologically transport viewers. A two-part show opening February 14 at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, in Washington, D.C., explores the ongoing development of this scenario, especially as it relates to the move toward the realm of video and digital media. The first component of The Cinema Effect: Illusion, Reality and the Moving Image is thus entitled "Dreams," and it explores "film's ability to transport viewers out of their everyday lives into states that lie between wakefulness and sleep, sending them on journeys into the darker recesses of the imagination." Artists in the first half of this pioneering exhibition include Darren Almond, Michael Bell-Smith, Bruce Conner, Tacita Dean, Stan Douglas, Harun Farocki, Douglas Gordon, Rodney Graham, Gary Hill, Steve McQueen, Tony Oursler, Wolfgang Staehle, Siebren Versteeg, Andy Warhol, and others. Common among their works is a tracing of the moving image's collapse into pop culture--and vice-versa-- which is to be expected as this form of expression becomes the dominant context for communicative exchange. "Dreams" will be followed-up by a second component, "Realisms," which plumbs a fascinating irony--that "in an age when documenting 'real life' in moving image formats becomes ever easier," because of the increased availability of DIY media, "the line between fact and fiction is increasingly complicated." Both halves work together to present a fantastical and high-fidelity vision of the cinematic. - Marisa Olson



Image credit: Still from Kelly Richardson's "Exiles of the Shattered Star," 2006, from the Hirshhorn's collection. Image courtesy the artist.

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Bad Beuys, Bad Beuys

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Bad Beuys Entertainment is an art collective that was founded in 1999 at Cergy-Pontoise in the Parisian suburbs. Their creative mission is summed up in their moniker: a hybrid of American showbiz-ness (aka Bad Boys Entertainment, a major U.S. hip-hop recording label) and the ideals of German artist Joseph Beuys, whose conception of social relationships as art has had enduring influence. Fittingly, their works operate between the slickness of commercial entertainment and the human or handmade. Take Champions (1999). Recently exhibited in New York by independent curator Hanne Mugaas, the mock music video, which possesses the beaten-up quality of a bootlegged VHS tape, features three boys in tracksuits dancing. Without a refrain or climax to abide by, their choreography progresses into a parody of itself with initial tough guy moves replaced by what looks like a combination of elementary school theater and voguing. Meanwhile, tracksuits begin to fly (via special effects) and the video, itself, drops audio for the entire last half only to amble back at the credit sequence. Long before the onset of video-sharing platforms, the three handcrafted what would be an amazing Youtube find: an amateur homage to the culture industry that winds up as a critique not only of media's power, but our own consumption of it. Another video, not available online, is SICTOM (2001), in which the group enacted a soap opera in an IKEA store, using the kitchen, bathroom and bedroom displays as ready-made backdrops. The group also makes sculptures, light installation, websites and more. Those with an appreciation of early net art should visit the website of Matthieu Clainchard, one of the founding members, for an intricate mash-up of browser windows that present bits and pieces of manifestos and artworks as well as links to peer projects and artists, such as ...

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Continuing Education for Dead Adults

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The next program in Rhizome's New Silent Series at the New Museum, Continuing Education for Dead Adults presents three multi-media performances that riff off youth pop culture and its long-term consequences. East Coast collective Paper Rad premieres new videos, including Problem Solvers (20 min, 2008) and a short entitled crank dat spongebob batman dropdead robocop (3 min, 2008) which, in the group's words, is a "3-minute terror-ride through the online world of youtube show-offs." New York artist Ben Coonley presents a new performance entitled Kindred Spirits is the Working Title, (15 min, 2008) and Providence-based experimental band Wizardzz (featuring members of Lightning Bolt) will perform in front of a mesmeric animated tapestry. Tickets available here.

Friday, Jan. 11, 7:00 PM
the New Museum, New York, NY
$8 general public, $6 Members (Rhizome and New Museum)

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