Mixing It Up at Eyebeam's MIXER

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In New York or any other busy urban nexus, it's all too easy to submit to the tyranny of rushing from one destination to another. How much more pleasant -- and artistically fruitful -- it can be to drift through one's environment, sampling its many sensory experiences at leisure. Last Saturday, at Manhattan's Eyebeam, a new media art party called MIXER offered many delights, from cerebral to bawdy, for those who took the time to explore and savor them. First launched in November last year, MIXER is the art-and-technology center's quarterly event featuring performances by acclaimed video and audio artists, as well as interactive installations inviting creative play by the attendees.



One highlight on Saturday was London-based VJ group D-Fuse's performance of "Latitude", an ambient cinematic exploration of everyday life in the rapidly developing Chinese cities of Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Chongqing. Inspired by the Situationists' notion of "la dérive" (drifting through cities in response to their emotional impacts), the piece wanders among all sorts of urban tableaux, from the mundane and intimate to the grandiose. Fragments of conversations, shots of crowds, and architectural forms such as the vein-like loops of a Shanghai overpass combine to create an evocative portrait of cities in growth.




D-Fuse, Overpass, 2007


In one stunning opening clip, we see a girl emerging onto her apartment balcony -- then the camera slowly (and vertiginously) pulls back in midair, gradually revealing the immense grids of her high-rise and the construction sites that make up her neighborhood. In another shot, kids perform a dance routine on a dull green field, their sheer numbers and the vivid blue-and-white colors of their uniforms forming a kaleidoscopic pop of energy. While many scenes of street life and urban architecture might recall U.S. cities, other footage is suffused with ...

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"Design and the Elastic Mind" @ MoMA

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Adaptability has always been a distinctive feature of human intelligence, but as MoMA's new exhibition "Design and the Elastic Mind" claims, recent developments in science call for faster -- and, indeed, more elastic -- modes of social response. Beginning with a display on nanostructures and concluding with one about social and global networks, this ambitious exhibition examines the various scales on which our contemporary lives are led, and the way design can translate technological innovation into objects of everyday use. Aranda/Lasch's Rules of Six (2007), for example, foregrounds nanodesign's potential for self-assembly with a wall relief and images of nanostructures. Developed through simple rules and interactions, these structures offer provisional cases for the role such generative, modular organization may hold in the realms of architecture and design. On the human scale, Emili Padros for the emiliana design studio's NSS: Non-Stop Shoes (1999) is one of many projects to consider micro-solutions to energy conservation: high-top sneakers that store energy over their use to power lightbulbs and small, domestic appliances. Experiments on the social scale frequently focus on the interaction of individual users with a larger (often virtual) public, as with I Want You To Want Me (2007-ongoing), Jonathan Harris and Sep Kamvar's condensation of internet dating networks into an interactive, flatscreen display, and Fernanda Bertini Viegas, Martin Wattenberg and IBM Thomas J. Watson Research Center's History Flow (2003), which visualizes user-generated revisions to Wikipedia topics. As Senior Curator Paola Antonelli points out in an essay accompanying the exhibition, the ability of virtual users to "break the temporal rhythms imposed by society in order to customize and personalize them" is one of the many ways that we are tackling technological novelty with a spirit of agency and play. - Tyler Coburn

Image: Fernanda Bertini Viegas, Martin Wattenberg and ...

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A Thousand Knights; No Respawn (2008) by Ilia Ovechkin

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New work by Ilia Ovechkin entitled A Thousand Knights; No Respawn. Created using the Sauerbraten game engine, the piece features seemingly hundreds of knights repeatedly colliding into each other. "Respawn" is a gaming term referring to the resuscitation of a character after its death. The rapid movement and shapes in the video seem entirely removed from the gaming environment from which they originate, thus operating outside a virtual creation or death, or any sort of scenario. - Ceci Moss

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C'mon everybody!

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The lyrics in "World Peace" (1999), an early song by the Japanese multidisciplinary art collective Delaware, praise a celebratory vision of seemingly disparate cultures finding unity in difference. Jumping ahead eight years, this theme reaches a nice materialization in Delaware's practice with the release of the YouTubeHarmony videos (2007). The Harmonies are four-corner, international jam sessions featuring musicians, dancers and random people talking or goofing around with friends, all remixed into solid, often surprising mixes by Delaware. In YouTubeHARMONY 4 Apple Pie, for example, Liz Luttinger plays a dreamy melody on a Casio SK-10 in the lower left corner while YouTube user paulagloria gently talks us through the process of making her mother's apple pie in the upper left. Another user, holaitsmak, demonstrates some ballet pointe work in the upper right while Peahix demonstrates the functionality of an early beat box in the lower right. As the mix progresses, Delaware insert a couple more ballet dancers, Sean Ray's banjo picking, and the duo of Ichi and Ichi's sister playing the Beatles. The most effective element of Apple Pie and all of the Harmonies, however, is the detachment of the audio from each visual component. As the audio plays at the originally recorded speed, the video drastically slows down, rendering the visuals as something like ghostly mnemonics for personal histories. The overall impact of the videos serve to abstract each individual component into a larger whole, aptly echoing Delaware's call for world unity. - Gene McHugh

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Flat Earth (2007) by Thomson & Craighead

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Image: Earth from Space, Apollo 17, 1972


After hearing rumors concerning the existence of secret NASA photographs of the Earth as seen from outer space, the writer and future digital-utopianist Stewart Brand fought to have these images released to the public. The hope behind Brand's 1966 campaign was that these "blue marble" photographs of the whole Earth would for the first time tangibly allow the planet to appear small, conceptually graspable and very much alone in the wilderness of space. Forty years later, the London-based new media artists, Thomson & Craighead, created the video Flat Earth (2007), a visualization of Earth that refers to a different perceptual moment.


Image: Thomson & Craighead, Flat Earth, 2007


Commissioned for Animate Projects in 2007, their project is not an unveiling of the spheric, "blue marble" image of the Earth as viewed from outer space but, rather, an attempt to describe the "flat" Earth as viewed from the membrane of the Internet. Blog entries and flickr photos interact with freely available satellite imagery to give a re-shaped conception of what space and distances between people effectively means in a networked world. The video begins in the tract housing of the American suburbs where we hear a performance of an actual blog entry from the angsty, young dancer, "teenangel." A few seconds later, we zoom into the sky above San Francisco as the bemused "patriot2000" informs us that he just read a translation of one of his blog posts into German and he's now curious to learn German. We travel across the globe to Zimbabwe, Iran, and Europe. It's a great seven minutes and it gets at something amazing about the Internet: if, according to Walter Benjamin, the technologies at the beginning of the 20th century allowed for perceptual reproduction to "keep pace with ...

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The Gallery (2008) by Christopher Baker

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This is a new video of the developing project The Gallery by artist Christopher Baker. The Gallery is a collection of over 2000 solo online video testimonials shown simultaneously on a 40 x 10 foot screen. See below for the artist's concept behind the work.

Right now each video represents a lone, solitary actor speaking from a private space (homes, bedrooms, etc) into the world- the typical "video log". Ultimately, I'm interested in the way that contemporary technologies successfully produce a multiplicity of speakers...but fail to produce listeners. So the democratic power of technology seems fall short in this way. It's fine if everyone has a voice- there is power in that idea- but who is listening?

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Arco 2.0 Vocento: Call for Proposals

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Is it true that the web 2.0 actually delivers on the grassroots, democratic potential of the web? Or does it merely transform extant ideals into more commercially viable mass platforms? The debate and discussion around the web 2.0 happening amongst internet communities, notably Trebor Scholz' Instituted for Distributed Creativity forum among many others, is active and replete with opinion and interpretation.

While web 2.0 has given way to the development of numerous platforms for the presentation and distribution of material online-- video, photo and personal information-- few meet the specific needs of artists. The Spanish initiative Vocento (in collaboration with Arco) will address this gap in their grant award for anyone--of any nationality--with the best proposal for fostering the "presence, exhibition, communication and management of art on the Internet." Selected proposal will be awarded with 15.000 euros to realize the project.

The winning proposal will be determined by an international jury including Joasia Krysa of KURATOR/UoP, UK and Santiago Ortiz, artist, moebio.com and a representative from Vocento.

The deadline for the proposals is coming up very soon: Jan 31st, 2008. Apply now!

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Desire in Digital

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Pornography was one of the internet's earliest forms of content and has arguably propelled the development of online imaging and video formats. Consistently the net's most financially viable material, the heavy presence of online porn has also contributed to the social formation of desire. Despite the growth of Porn Studies as an academic field of inquiry, creative and intellectual studies of digital porn are scarce. Digitalia: Intimacy in the Hyperreal is a group exhibition curated by Evan J. Garza at Houston's Deborah Colton Gallery to address this gap. Artists Charles Cohen (pictured), Graham Guerra, Tracey Emin, Daniel Handal, Sean Johnson, Steven Miller, Ray Ogar, Alexander Reyna, and Robert Yarber present work drawing on the broad spectrum of online sites of desire, moving beyond the hardcore to also consider internet dating services, social networking sites, and even instant messaging applications in order to articulate the role of these technologies in constructing intimacy, and the shape that these shared connections might take. Underlying the show's organizational logic is an interest in questions of reality as they relate to the supposed intangibility of the electronic currents and pixels that comprise the source material at hand. But just as theorists have demonstrated the corporeal aspects of fantasy, the work selected for Digitalia ultimately points to an important sense of materiality in relation to web surfing, image downloading, and other aspects of situational voyeurism. If intimacy is about the space between people, Digitalia carves out a markedly poignant space for considering the libidinal realities of digital culture. The show is open January 12-March 1, 2008. - Marisa Olson

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Fact Checker

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Hot on the heels of the Iowa Caucus, with the 2008 US Presidential election race accelerating, artist Jon Winet is releasing a tool that can help educate people on the issues at stake. The Electoral College Widget is an easy-to-install widget for the Mac Dashboard and features digital flash cards with statistics and crucial info related to each of the contenders and issues such as poverty, health care, and religious discrimination. Given that the device is only for OS-X users, Winet and collaborator Craig Dietrich are also working on a cross-platform Ticker that will stream text, photos, audio, and other election-related content. Meanwhile, the widget is just one component of The Electoral College, a "year-long media project focusing on the U.S. Presidential elections and democracy in America." Winet is no stranger to covering elections and other political spectacles and aspects of The Electoral College grow nicely out of his Goal! 2006 project, which leveraged the popularity of the World Cup games to inform readers about under-reported issues important in the homelands of the athletes. In the next year, Winet will work together with community organizations and local activists to operate The Electoral College as "a hybrid new media art/ journalism project that recognizes the unique moment in history of this election, and the opportunities and challenges presented for democratic, civic engagement." The site will be a 24/7 headquarters for updates on the elections and critical discourse, beginning with the publication of an essay by D.L. Pughe, entitled "When Luck Grows Hard: Real Life in the Fiction Capital of America." Check out Winet's YouTube channel for videos related to the project and stay-tuned for Facebook apps and SMS subscription services. Meanwhile, the Electoral College Widget can be downloaded here. - Marisa Olson

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