Ben Jones: The Video

(0)

Ben Jones, The Video

It seems pretty fitting that I’ve sat down to write about Ben Jones’ current exhibition at least three or four times.  The requisite online “research” always turned into episodes of Problem Solverz, Jones’ show on Cartoon Network, a trip down the wormhole of media-saturated content on Paper Rad, his collaborative with Jessica and Jacob Ciocci (including Rhizome and the New Museum’s recent archival of their website, http://www.paperrad.org and the accompanying exhibition, “Welcome to My Homey Page”), and a late night gchat where a friend excitedly offered to rip me his hard-to-find videos on DVD.

This is exactly the kind of intertextually meandering, visually anarchic, mentally overwhelming and massively entertaining experience that Jones is known for. Based on the gallery text and interviews that I read while trying to get a grip on his new material, Jones is trying—really—to simplify.

Ben Jones: The Video, at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, Pacific Design Center through February 24th, includes plenty that will look familiar to those who have tripped in the Jones universe before.  Quasi-religious Gumby dolls, burning neon suns, loveable part man-dog-anteater Alfe; they’re all here.  But the mood of the show is quite different from his prior work. It’s hypnotic, reflective, and more than a little bit sinister.

Ben Jones, The Video video painting still, 2012

The exhibition has been described as a series of video installations and while, technically, that’s correct, it’s also more than that. Collectively, the works in the show function as an installation about making videos.  Unlike many of his fine art contemporaries, Jones is himself a manifestation of network age high-low plurality.  He runs a successful commercial animation practice, creating music videos for the likes of Beck and ...

MORE »


Chimera Q.T.E at Cell Project Space, London

(0)

Chimera Q.T.E at London’s Cell Project Space draws its curatorial theme from a collagist interpretation of the Internet – a view that sees the web as a collection of orphaned, mashed and re-mashed digital fragments, or a kind of infinite patchwork quilt. For inspiration and the exhibition title, London based curator Attilia Fattori Franchini nudged aside contemporary similes to pull a monster from Greek mythology. The chimera, like that other Grecian mashup the griffin, is a beast composed of several animals, and both its status as an organic mishmash, and the common use of its name to denote fanciful pipe dreams, provided Franchini with a comparative reference for what the web is like.

Luckily the beast’s double status as a hybrid creature and linguistic unit is also a useful tool for interpreting the show. For while the fragmented web model (i.e. the body of the beast) is popular and necessary for those who see contemporary artists as nomadic remixers and postproducers (see Mark Amerika’s recent remixthebook), it is an idea built on fragile conceptual foundations that tumble down beyond the aggregated world of Tumblr and BuzzFeed. Hence the idea that today’s artists are cut-and-pasting their way towards a liberatory new praxis could be mere chimera. What Chimera Q.T.E captures then is not a mediation of the Internet as it is – because nobody really knows. It captures an aesthetic sensibility informed by the fragmented web model and its proposed utopic possibilities. When formalised this sensibility, shared by the eight international artists on display, becomes a hybrid mix of lurid color palettes, errant geometry, and vivid, startlingly flat, digital precision. What the viewer sees in each work is essentially a dispatch from an abstract digital territory, an ambient landscape of the hyperreal.

Chimera Q ...

MORE »


Ernest Edmonds, Manfred Mohr and Digital Aesthetic 3

(0)

When visionary engineer J.C.R Licklider published Man-Computer Symbiosis in 1960 — a paper outlining how man’s intellectual productivity can, and should be significantly increased when partnered with a computer — the creative problems of contemporary artists were perhaps furthest from his mind. But during the 1960s, a digital fever struck the art world. Large numbers of enthused European and North American artists, curators, and theorists focussed their attention on the creative potential of computing. Software, systems, and concepts were tried and tested, and a decade’s worth of activity culminated in two landmark exhibitions: Jasia Reichardt’s Cybernetic Serendipity at London’s ICA and Jack Burnham's Software: Information Technology at New York’s Jewish Museum.

Two artists with retrospectives currently showing in the UK caught that initial wave of innovation: German born and New York-based Manfred Mohr, and British born, and still UK-based Ernest Edmonds.

Originally a painter with Constructivist sympathies, Edmonds turned to computer-aided algorithmic painting in 1968. Light Logic, his career-long retrospective at Site Gallery Sheffield, UK, combined early ‘70s works and original punch cards with a new motion sensitive installation and later video pieces. Edmonds’ essential project is an investigation into the variant formal possibilities of a two-dimensional square. In each work the internal bounds of that shape are divided into sectors made visible by the distribution of colour, or the placement of a line. This is a process facilitated by programs designed to filter through combinatorial permutations, defined by Edmonds, until a suitable variation is found and then rendered by hand. A collection of numbered ink drawings from 1974 and 1975 capture the result of this procedure in the exhibition’s only monochrome (black and white) works.

 

 

Shaping Forms, Ernest Edmonds, 2007

The late ‘80s saw Edmonds move from canvas and paper to video ...

MORE »


Hito Steyerl at e-flux

(0)

from Abstract, Hito Steyerl, 2012

Abstract, one of three pieces in Hito Steyerl's solo exhibition at e-flux, shows the artist's visit to the deathplace of a friend. As an eyewitness plainly recounts the evening slaughter, he points out the remains of Andrea Wolf and some 40 other insurgents shot dead by the Turkish Army in Kurdistan. On the adjacent screen, Steyerl shoots the facades of German monuments with her phone. Doing so exposes the material origin for the killing (Turkey is a second market for German arms) and connects the languages of cinema with combat (the shot > countershot; an image becomes a target between crosshairs). As Steyerl acts as both editor and the woman with the movie camera (for her short discussion of Vertov, go here), the exhibit explores an area of overlapping influence between subject and object; aptly, one of her pieces is entitled Adorno's Grey.  

Journalist and PKK revolutionary Andrea Wolf is an ever-present proof of synthesis in the show. In November, we see a young Wolf as a leader of a motorcycle gang (that includes Steyerl) in a Russ Meyer homage. In Steyerl's films, builds happen, not sequences: someone discusses the usage of Costa-Gavras' State of Siege as a training film for young terrorists. See them kidnap, plant bombs, and evade authorities; learn that the film was based on first-hand, real-life accounts of resistance behavior. These films of bad-assery first appear as templates to turn an internal sense of (in)justice into action. They grow into an entangled relationship of images and events that map the formation and remembrance of Wolf's conscience. We may not know her details, but we have a sense of her motivation...

READ ON »


Blurred Images: Lana Lin at Gasworks

(0)

 

Taiwan Video Club

Lana Lin’s work, on display at Gasworks in London, confronts us with a number of topics: translation, identity, cultural production, and familial reflection. In doing so, her films seek to destabilize our assured hold on what we imagine we understand. In Taiwan Video Club (1999), Lin presents a Taiwanese subculture that records, trades, and holds dear, video recordings of miniseries that are shown daily on television. As we watch a participant in this practice explain her life with her collection of recordings, Lin cuts in clips and sound from the series, providing insight to a specific time and place, not to mention a specific medium which dominated it. As we come to understand this unit of Taiwanese pop-culture, Lin engages in a running commentary of sorts, provided through visual metaphors and homonyms.

Recording from TV to VHS could be seen as an apt analogy for the process of translation and cultural production that Lin seeks to examine. The final “product” in each case is a copy of the original, inevitably tinged by the process. As anyone who has spent time battling with VHS can tell you, no copy is ever pristine; there remain in the copy the battle scars of mediation: warped sound and image, deterioration of picture, the familiar markings of “CUE”, “STILL”, and “CH-3” all mark the material as part of a process and mode of production unique to video. The lens of Taiwan Video Club operates as a check on the lens of the viewer. Though we come to understand a great deal about this world of VHS-naughts, and Taiwanese daytime television, Lin maintains a field of formal intervention never lets us settle on any one interpretation of what we see.

Mysterial Power (1998-2002) projects four different short films on each of four ...

MORE »


Inkjet Modernism: Wade Guyton at the Whitney

(0)

Untitled, 2010. Epson UltraChrome inkjet on linen; eight panels, 305 x 69 in. (774.7 x 175.3 cm) each ; 305 x 586 in. (774.7 x 1488.4 cm) overall. Collection of the artist. Photograph by Lothar Schnepf.

The language of Wade Guyton’s mid-career retrospective at the Whitney emphasizes that, like any other user, Guyton approaches technology unenlightened as to its inner workings. Choosing to make his printer drawings, in which images from books and magazines are printed on, Guyton rendered simple marks in Microsoft Word. Unlike other users, perhaps, Guyton is aesthetically excited by technologies limitations and preconditions, viewing them as an element of chance in his work.

The exhibition, made up mostly of inkjet on linen paintings, aptly shows Guyton’s modernist collaborations with new technologies, reinscribing the greatest hits modernism within a different context. Transparency, monochrome, and the readymade all make their expected appearances. A four panel transparent window, with printer drawings of works by Frank Stella, Duchamp himself, and others, emphasize his investment in 20th century modernism while referencing obliquely computer technology as a low-tech window and bulletin board.

The printer drawings play with material images from books and magazines. This emphasis on origin and location contrasts with his engagement of technologies that have done so much to dematerialize our engagement with images. One inkjet painting does come from a “source file”: it contains an image of Kenneth Noland’s True North (1961), scanned, printed, and disturbed by five runny black disks. More explicitly minimal works—an inverted woodpile or inkjet on wood sculpture—round out the show.

READ ON »


Between Early, Prime and Afternoon: Omer Fast at the Wexner Center

(0)

Installation view of Omer Fast: 2001/11 Wexner Center for the Arts, The Ohio State University
Courtesy of gb agency, Paris, and Arratia Beer, Berlin Photo: Mark Steele

“We were going for the ‘faceless Modernism’ look,” says curator Christopher Bedford during a tour of the two-video exhibition “Omer Fast: 2001/2011” at Ohio State’s Wexner Center. (I’d visited the Columbus museum days before Bedford’s appointment as the Director of the Rose Museum at Brandeis University.)  “We attempted to recreate the environment that one would inhabit while watching primetime news in 2001,” he says, as we peruse the aesthetically innocuous, comically “normal” room surrounding Fast’s 2002 video CNN Concatenated.  “It all comes from Ikea,” explains Bedford, “and we were actually a bit fearful that this lamp may be a bit too tasteful.” The lamp looked like a rolled-up, bioluminescent albino armadillo, though surprisingly slightly tasteful. Nearby, a television sits center stage in a faux-mahogany entertainment set, an oversized silver ampersand “accent piece” next to it. From the television blares a jerky monologue enunciated by varying, always-pristine news anchors. Each individual word is a frame depicting a flash of a different newscaster—some reporting on 9/11—which are strung together to form sentences. (Hence “CNN Concatenated,” the latter word meaning “to link together in a chain or series.”) Fast utilizes a sort of supercut stylistically reminiscent of “The Clock,” yet its source material is hundreds of hours of taped new programs throughout post-9/11 2001. Rapidly oscillating through various TV personalities, the monologue is distinctly divorced from anything a news anchor may usually utter: 

Listen to me I want to tell you something

Come closer

Don't be upset and don't get emotional

Just get near me and pay attention please

Look, I know that you're scared

I know what you're afraid of

You mistrust your body

Lately it has been looking more and more foreign

It's been doing strange things

....

 

READ ON »


Amalia Pica at Chisenhale Gallery

(0)

Amalia Pica, 2012.  Chisenhale Gallery, London. Photo: Mark Blower.

There is a particular romance in miscommunication, wrought by difference and distance. The undelivered letter, the intercepted telegram, the voicemail message never played back are the chance minutiae which drive the action of the plot forward, or cause it to veer dramatically off-course. Mislaid memoranda and transposed missives are Greek Fates for the modern era, where rupture is a stronger organizing force than the continuity of a single thread. Still, it is strange to contemplate crossed-wires in a contemporary context, where a missed cue – the probable end-result of too many functional, thus distractible, multiple-channel communication devices – still engenders the ultimate social faux pas: You didn’t get the message?

Managers and technocrats determined to allay postmodern anxiety seek to reduce error in manifestations of human passion, from theaters of war to those of love, both on- and off-line. To a certain extent clinical psychology, too, helps condition us to distinguish signal from noise. Alain Badiou’s In Praise of Love laments the disappearance of social discomfiture via the easy connectivity peddled by Internet dating sites: 

After all, it’s not so very different to an arranged marriage. Not done in the name of family order and hierarchy by despotic parents, but in the name of safety for the individuals involved, through advance agreements that avoid randomness, chance encounters and in the end any existential poetry, due to the categorical absence of risks. 

Where are exhilaration and ecstasy without some amount of personal risk? This conundrum resonates throughout London-based artist Amalia Pica’s sculpture, installation, and performance works, which consider moments of potential for point-to-point communication – and by extension, human connection; togetherness. Using not especially technological materials, the invariable “failure” of Pica’s work to draw disparate subjectivities into dialogue is most always a result of the aesthetic formalism of mediation, a quality borne out in the quiet beauty of her installations. Exhibited in the New Museum’s second triennial this year, Pica’s pleasing post-Minimal projection Venn Diagram (Under the Spotlight) (2011) expanded upon an earlier preoccupation with the diagrams from the ink-on-paper series Untitled (2006). The mathematical illustrations were banned in 1970s Argentina, where Pica grew up, for the perceived danger in clear expressions of collectivity. 

Her interest in the visualization of interaction and exchange might seem to have pragmatic applications today, although significantly it is the symbolism of “the social” (in the above case a field of color rather than a cloud or network,) which is philosophically operative beyond the direct representation of raw data. In this sense, her body of work forms a critique of the individual’s pure egoism as much as particular barriers to communication (chance, timing, autocracy) – playing with language, symbol and signal to “talk about talking.” Barring an algorithm to calculate the compatibility of notional personality tics, favorite 90s slasher flicks or other equally ambiguous criteria, Pica’s most reliable device describing the relationship between two is a single line: forming a bond or being deflected.

Pica’s current solo exhibition at Chisenhale Gallery coincides with the culmination of a yearlong project undertaken in the East London borough local to the art space...

 

READ ON »


Jana Euler at Real Fine Arts

(0)

Identity Forming Processes Overpainted (2012)

 

The German Brussels-based Jana Euler presents four new paintings developed over the last year in her eponymous, first American solo show at Real Fine Arts’ storefront. These new works strike a more personal, and immersive chord than her previous solo at Dependance, "Form Follows Information Exchange." The Dependance solo presented ecosystems of a common self caught in postmodern standards of emotion, figuring in as vignettes — press conferences, mating animals, sculpted bodies with screen posteriors, and office workers discussing themselves into bobble heads. While Euler's latest solo orients from this critical form, it coalesces as the maze that is female post-adolescence, paraphrased in space with sophisticated timing.

Incised onto the surface of a female figure, cramped into a question mark, nine eyes form a path across "The Body of the Exhibition." The stream of eyes rounding up the body are reminiscent of a jelly-bean path left to reflect on what was, amalgamated with the apparition of vinyl department store footprints directing us to a next weigh station. The body's primitivist-esque contorted limbs are apportioned by two lines standing in for the exhibition's two half-transparent screens, which bisect the space into four quadrants. Orienting the four paintings to be viewed in an individual progression, the two half-transparent walls manifest as a literal screen memory, bringing into physical fruition the kind of layers that conjoin between the liminal internal time zones etched into our psychic and corporeal selves. Wandering between the three paintings with the press release/facsimile of "The Body of the Exhibition" in hand is to be absorbed into a psychodrama, directed by the skeins of social and biological expectation.

Social Expectations Overpainted (2012)

The trio begins eyes closed with social expectations, winding into instincts, and ending on the open eyed identity forming ...

MORE »


To Reveal While Veiling: On the 2012 Whitney Biennial

(0)

Installation view, Whitney Biennial (2012)

Looking back at the time in which I was beginning to study art, one could describe the motivations I shared with my peers as generally aspirational and humanitarian. We felt different. We wanted to change the world. We thought of the institution of art as a discipline in which alternative personalities flourish, critical thinking is lauded, and that creativity (in all of its various forms) is esteemed far more than financial privilege. Having participated in the art industry for a number of years, these ideas now seem not only naïve, but provide a blueprint for precisely how the art world does not operate; our collective wills becoming inured to the faux-radical, contradictory reality that the institution of art exists in today.

On the occasion of the 2012 Whitney Biennial, Andrea Fraser writes of the crisis of the art institution, “The glaring, persistent, and seemingly ever-growing disjunction between those legitimizing discourses [of art]—above all in their critical and political claims—and the social conditions of art generally…has appeared to me as profoundly and painfully contradictory, even as fraudulent.” Her essay for the Biennial catalogue “There’s no place like home,” painstakingly delineates what she perceives to be the impossibility of participating in the institution of art in good conscience due to its compliant enrichment from the increasing financial inequality of the last decade. Acknowledging the fact that this inequity is precisely what art purports to act against, Fraser considers possible methods through which this quandary may be alleviated. She posits, almost fatalistically, that “Certainly it is less painful to resolve these conflicts symbolically, in artistic, intellectual, and even political gestures and position-takings, than to resolve them materially—to the marginal extent that it is within our power to do so in our own lives—with choices that would entail sacrifices and renunciations. Even these sacrifices may be preferable, for some, to the pain of wanting what we also hate, and hating what we also are and also love...” Heady prose for a biennial catalogue.

Dawn Kasper

K8 Hardy, May 20th, 2012 at 2012 Whitney Biennial

Taking Fraser’s essay as preamble, 2012 Whitney Biennial co-curators Jay Sanders and Elizabeth Sussman have approached the nearly insurmountable task of surveying the art of the last two years by symbolic rather than material means...

 

READ ON »