Screening Screens

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Kate Mondloch’s first book, Screens: Viewing Media Installation Art (University of Minnesota Press), is a welcome study of the cathode ray tubes, liquid crystal and plasma displays, and film, video and data projections that “pervade contemporary life” (xi). The author reminds us that screens are not just “illusionist windows” into other spaces or worlds, but also “physical, material entities [that] beckon, provoke, separate, and seduce” (xii). Most importantly, however, Mondloch’s approach is that of an art historian. She does not merely use art as a case study for media theory, but rather makes the contributions of artists her central focus in this, the first in-depth study of the space between bodies and screens in contemporary art.

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Highlights from ITP’s Spring Show 2010

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I visited ITP’s Spring Show on Monday, the open house for NYU’s graduate interactive technology program. Like years past, the kiosk-like presentation of projects makes the event seem a bit like a science fair, with artists and inventors on hand to answer questions. ITP’s student body is quite diverse - ranging from web entrepreneurs to roboticists to performance artists and more - and this aspect usually guarantees that you’ll come across something interesting. See below for some quick notes from this year’s show.

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Electric Dress (1956) - Atsuko Tanaka

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(reconstruction, 1986)
Enamel paint on light bulbs, electric cords, and control console

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Atsuko Tanaka in 1957, wearing her Electric Dress (Source: Wikipedia)

Born in Osaka, Japan, in 1932, Tanaka was a member of the Gutai Art Association, the major experimental postwar Japanese art movement founded by a group of young artists in Ashiya in 1954. She was best known for sculptural installations made from non-art materials, such as Electric Dress (1956), a wearable sculpture made of flickering light bulbs painted red, blue, green, and yellow. When originally worn, the sculpture both made the body the center of artistic activity and masked it in a mass of light and color.

-- DESCRIPTION FROM MOMA/P.S.1'S INSIDE/OUT BLOG

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NOWHERE (2005-2006) - Ralf Baecker

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Nowhere is a three-dimensional milling machine that carves a landscape relief on a 70x70x10cm large block of hard foam. The machine receives a stream of live search requests from the german search engines metager and metager2 (www.metager.de) via the internet. The users search movements erode rivers and canyons on the surface. Search requests that shoot through the internet just for a fraction of a second and generate an answer on the searchers screen, cause the machine to write a constant growing sculpture into the space. The continuous stream of changing search requests defines form and rhythm of this process.

-- DESCRIPTION FROM THE ARTIST'S STATEMENT

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Trash Pile (2008) - Noah Fischer

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The object that we call “monitor” is at once ubiquitous, obsolete, and in the end, perhaps a non-object because we gaze into its pixilated illusion, never directly at its shape and mass. Today the beige boxes adorn sidewalk trash piles because their cathode ray tubes have recently given way to the solid-state flatscreen. In a backwards alchemical shift, they have morphed from object of desire into “e-waste.” In this sense, they now monitor the speed of consumption.

-- DESCRIPTION FROM THE PRESS RELEASE FOR "MONITOR" AT CLAIRE OLIVER GALLERY

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Hello Process! (2008) - Marloes de Valk and Aymeric Mansoux

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hello process! shows a machine doing what it does best, deleting, copying and moving blocks of data. The installation consists solely of a computer and a printer. The computer functions as it usually does, as a black box theatre of processes. The only output comes through the printer, giving us clues about the activity inside, while in the background, the raw noise of the machine creates a sound scape, a sonification of this theatre of naive computation.

A file of 128 blocks is created. In this file, each block can be occupied by a small piece of code. Every piece of code has its own strategy. Some try to conquer as many blocks as possible, others simply target one specific piece of code or an unsuspecting neighbour. When the process is set in motion, all blocks are executed one after the other. This results in a battle between the file’s inhabitants. After forty iterations, a fresh file is created with a new combination of code.

Each piece of code has a special ID. This ID is sent to the printer every time the block is loaded in which the code is residing. Each printed line represents the result of one battle cycle. 128 small graphical representations of code are printed. This process repeats 40 times, creating a map of abstract patterns depicting the changes that took place. There is some duality in this theatre of naive and nonproductive computation. We like to think of processes as actors in a machine theatre, playing with anthropomorphism and metaphors to trigger the imagination. Each piece of code has a descriptive name such as copycat, eraserhead, destroyer, or swapmaster, and displays behaviour to match. But at the same time these programs are just mechanical low level operations, totally inhuman. In the end the ...

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Sucks (2009) - Brad Tinmouth

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Vacuum, Monitor, Computer, Plastic Bag, Digital Timer Based on a statement provided by John Oswald.

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97 polysiloxane hoses (2010) - Zimoun

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97 polysiloxane hoses 3.0mm, compressed air
Size: 200cm x 200cm x 100cm / 40" x 40" x 20".
In collaboration with Daniel Imboden / dim-tech (technical development).

Originally via today and tomorrow

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Caps Lock (2010) - Andreas Banderas

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The Object Whisperer: Shana Moulton's Whispering Pines

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Found objects have had a place in art for nearly a century, but the practice has seemed particularly pervasive in recent years, as approaches from both contemporary and historical perspectives have attempted to redefine it as appropriation, nonmonumental, unmonumental, or "combining crap with crap." Fascination with old or overlooked marginalia could be regressive melancholia spawned of the Bush era's resigned cynicism, or sympathy for the poor objects in spite of high-tech consumption. Whatever the case, the sensibility saturates Shana Moulton's Whispering Pines, a series of videos and performances. While sculptural assemblage clusters objects in space, Moulton spreads her thrift-store and gift-shop finds over time. Rather than tracing the artist's web of references through stationary contemplation, the viewer of Whispering Pines is led through the process as Cynthia, the heroine, interacts with the things she has chosen to surround herself with. A Magic Eye 3D poster transports her to a zone of free movement. A swamp-colored facial mask opens a green-screen gateway to a forest clearing. If, in a readymade or sculptural assemblage, the artist endows objects with totemic power by isolating and emphasizing their formal properties (or the subjective associations they evoke for her), then Moulton gives that principle a radically literal interpretation in Whispering Pines, where objects' properties and associations acquire the power to shape the narrative.

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