This past weekend the art fair circus came to town! I took some snaps of media art from the fairs, see below.
In this television segment from the 1970s Canadian show Arts '74, artist Evelyn Roth discusses her work in textiles. In the first clip, she shows how she uses videotape as a material for crocheted wearable sculptures (including one which fastens the viewer to a television set) and even a car cozy. Roth's costumes reminded me of those in Forcefield's videos, and her interiors echo a bit with some of Donna Huanca's stage installations and Jacqueline Gordon's Dream Blankets. Neat!
Required Reading: Ever-Changing Chains of Work: An Interview with Constant Dullaart by Franz Thalmair
For Constant Dullaart the Internet serves as a medium as well as a subject of artistic production. His main strategy is the exploration of the multifaceted languages of contemporary images circulating on the Internet and their re-contextualisation as found material in a medium of its own. With his artworks, the Amsterdam- and Berlin-based artist digs deeply into the caches of a networked cultural production without limiting the medium to simple technological traits: the default style of Web-based platforms, their widespread and often unscrutinised use as well as the popularity of globally standardised interfaces are manipulated with the aim of investigating their social potential.
Dullaart’s practice ranges from art made with and for self-explanatory domain names such as The Revolving Internet.com or The Sleeping Internet.com and video works such as YouTube as a Subject as well as the adoption of this series of short loops for the real space under the title YouTube as a Sculpture. Furthermore, he deals with site-specific installations such as Multi-Channel Video Installation, where projector mounts where borrowed from art institutions and taken to an exhibition space to serve as sculptural elements, as well as dealing with digitally manipulated images as in the series No Sunshine, where he applies the Photoshop default techniques to remove the sun from romantic sunset pictures found on Flickr. Brian Droitcour writes for Art in America magazine: “Dullaart’s ready-mades demonstrate his interest in what might be called ‘default’ style—the bland tables of sans serif text and soulless stock photography that frame ads for some of the most common search terms (auto insurance, cheap airline tickets, pornography), baring the underbelly of the Internet’s popular use.” . . . and the circle is turning and turning and turning—with no end in sight.
-- Excerpt from "Ever-Changing Chains of Work: An Interview ...
“Between the ubiquity of Internet access and the fact that data has no objective tangible form, internet users have long been plagued with the problem of determining the value of the content they are ingesting.” - Zach Gage
Seen in a certain light, the core of technological mediation has always been presence, absence, and distance. Writing established the possibility of presence during absence, arrows and gunpowder created force at a distance, the telephone created presence at distance, and network computing fundamentally altered the nature of being “absent” or “present” to an almost unrecognizable degree. No small surprise then that contemporary “media art” practice seems to return to these questions as being fundamental investigations. The question of what “presence” could be was explored and expanded throughout the dawn of the internet age: Ken Goldberg’s TeleGarden, Eduardo Kac’s concept of Telepresence, Sven Bauer, Heath Bunting, to grab but a few names. Each possibility of a new field of entry, a new method of retaining, mapping, signifying, and storing, opened a rich possibility. Now fast forward fifteen years and ever-presence is exhausting, a nuisance that forever asks and returns only the vague rewards of a slot-machine and seems to fray our sense of privacy, meaningfulness, boundary, and perhaps even self. So how then to artistically respond to this? Exhibit: Zach Gage.
His works are at once sophisticated and remarkably simple, both in presentation and concept in a way that might be recognizable to Joseph Kosuth or Lawrence Weiner, rather than the Baroque conceptual complexity on display in much media art in the 90’s. Computational art or interactive art has generally taken two tacks in dealing with the complexities of technology itself -- unabashed celebration and dystopian anxiety. At either extreme is the grandiose challenge of prediction: this possible or actual relationship to technology will lead to this consequence or benefit. The reality of living with technology is not only simpler but is often much more banal. The most refreshing element of Gage’s work is how it asks us to do nothing more than consider what is. Working with the instantly familiar data sources, Twitter, Google, chat servers, at their simplest, his work often resembles a refreshingly sharp Occam’s Razor taken to notions of the richness of data and networked experience.
His thesis show, “Data”, is an extremely visually and thematically understated installation comprised of several pieces. Small wooden boxes, wires, and simple placards: none of the forced estrangement, hand-waving interactivity, or spectacle that one associates with computer arts. In particular, one of the pieces in the show, Hit Counter stands out as particularly poignant: a simple measurement of the number of times someone has stood in front of the work. Face recognition software is used to keep track of the actual viewers and the number is displayed on an old-fashioned mechanical counter. Gage states “with no other means to judge it, Hit Counter demands to be assigned a worth based solely on its popularity.” But then, Hit Counter is not merely asking to be judged on popularity. It, like so many things in our media culture, is popularity. It’s nothing else, and it’s not any kind of popularity other than actual physical presence; a sharp reminder of the relationship between presence and popularity. No matter how many people hear about it online, what is written about it, what buzz is generated, it’s a simple box that generates a number based on how many unique people have stood in front of it. I’m not sure whether I’m more struck by the concept itself or that I am so struck by the concept as an ontological exercise: something that simply is actual physical presence. It’s odd that it is odd and, in that oddness, it is a stance closer to Sol Lewitt “Sentences on Conceptual Art” than many other re-interpretations of his legacy and ideas. Reformulating the simplest data object imaginable in the simplest terms has a markedly clarifying effect and in clarification is a rare kind of beauty. I spoke with Zach Gage about Hit Counter, as well as his larger practice.
Recently, Adobe Systems Incorporated released a new product. Not an update to its existing suite, which include tools of the online trade such as Photoshop, Acrobat Reader and Flash, or some new software to fulfill ever-evolving creative needs. Instead, it is an online destination for viewing digital art entitled the Adobe Museum of Digital Media (AMDM).
After waiting for the museum to load, you are greeted by a tour guide with a peculiar accent, whose likeness resembles a cross between a jellyfish and an eyeball. The museum has one current exhibit, a specially-commissioned piece by internationally acclaimed artist Tony Oursler, who is best known for his disconcerting projection installation works. As the museum has just launched, there is a limited amount to see: plans for the “building”, a chat with the curator, Tom Eccles, more chatter from the jellyfish-eyeball, the commissioned artwork by Oursler, and a comments section.
Before getting into the details of the museum itself, it is worth interrogating why it is considered by its creators to be a museum at all. The press release states the mission of the museum to be “...an interactive venue to present and preserve groundbreaking digital media works, inspire creative ideas and experimentation, and provide a forum for expert commentary on how digital media influences culture and society”. The mission is sound, but except for the word “preserve” there is little in it that specifically invokes the mantle of “museum”. As the AMDM is an obvious marketing exercise which promotes the use of digital tools (that Adobe happens to create), it’s a short leap of logic to conclude that “museum” was simply decided on as a word with greater impact than “gallery” or “showcase”.