Getting to Your Safe Space

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British artist Larisa Blazic has a background in architecture and an official graduate degree in hypermedia. For the last decade, she's been pursuing mergers of the two, using site-specific, interactive installations as a means of exploring space as a carrier of meaning. Her projects often employ audio and explore creative surveillance technologies to think-through and beyond the traditional ways in which so-called public art interventions communicate to the general public. In conjunction with the 2008 London Festival of Architecture (from July 14-20), she'll create an installation at the Novas Contemporary Urban Centre called In This Place of Safety. Blazic's argument is that we no longer rely solely on the basic needs of food, shelter, and emotional validation to feel safe, but that there is now a new environment for safety which can be observed in the structure of our surroundings. The project "uses a building as a projection screen to explore intersections between temporary video interventions, architecture, and art." In this case, the video will screen images of deserted public playgrounds overlaid with audio recordings of children discussing and defining personal safety. By activating the hot button issue of safety within this particular public format, Blazic hopes to initiate a correspondence between the content of the video and the context of the large, staid Southwark building facade onto which the images are cast. - Marisa Olson


Image: Larisa Blazic, In This Place of Safety (Video Still), 2008

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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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Bringing the Outside In

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Bill Shannon (a.k.a. the "Crutch Master") is a choreographer and dancer who refuses to call himself by either title. Though he needs crutches to move, because of a bilateral hip deformity, this fact has proven itself anything but a disability in relationship to his creativity. The New York-based artist responds largely to the nature of life and change in urban environments and his street-based dance performances-- in which he balances on moving skateboards, maneuvers around concrete steps, and generally gets down-- could put many of the city's legendary b-boys to shame. Through June 15th, the artist has created a multimedia installation in a temporary space in New York's Chinatown. Though Shannon is a highly-regarded performer, he's always made such installations and this former sweatshop provides a perfect platform and social context for further exposure of his efforts to address the inner experience of those roaming the urban outdoors. Entitled "WORK," the installation is organized by Washington, DC-based gallery Douz and Mille and Shannon describes his videos and salvage-based installation as a visualization of a search for balance-- an apt metaphor, given the nature of his performance work. - Marisa Olson


Image: Bill Shannon, Attempts (Video Still, from installation "WORK"), 2008.

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Putting the Hustle and Flow in Check

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Cars have turned our zen garden sandbox of a landscape into a systematically ravaged ant farm. The impetus to transport goods cheaply and "effectively" has brought roads and motorized vehicles that have wiped out communities, histories, and wide swathes of flora, fauna, and the atmosphere. Artists Ryan Griffis and Claude Willey have both concerned themselves with such disappearances, whether it is public space or atmospheric moisture that is evaporating in response to the encroachment of new technologies and the environmentally-corrupt corporations that wield them. This week they collaborated to open an exhibition of "cultural projects focusing on the problems of mobility and energy." Presented by Green Museum, an online environmental museum, "Conducting Mobility" includes internet-based works by Brian Collier, Free Soil, Amy Balkin/Kim Stringfellow/Tim Halbur/Greenaction/Pond, kanarinka, Michael Mandiberg, Laurie Palmer, Platform, Josephine Starrs/Leon Cmielewski. The show uses the United States' problems as a tip-off point, while also commenting on the extent to which we've exported our fuel-consumption patterns and other transportation-related disasters to other countries, citing India and China as key examples of foreign "ecosystems plundered by our unquenchable energy needs." The organizers point out an ironic, if very sad pattern in this model, which is that it's not only tourism, migration, and military conflict that keeps people "on the move," but environmental disasters themselves. Westerners have a way of simply moving campgrounds and keeping the eco-hating party rolling when things turn ugly in our own backyard. At this point, things are already so bad, that it can be easy to feel pessimistic about the future of our planet or what one might do to help. Griffis and Willey offer this show as a call to action, stating, "It falls to all of us as global citizens to redirect our governing institutions and ...

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Before the Bonus Round

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The Olympics are not simply a matter of fun and games. They are a multi-national media spectacle that--as we've seen in recent protests--can arouse and galvanize political action. The event's organizers pitch it as a zone outside of politics, but of course issues of national identity, human rights, autonomy, economic might, and foreign policy all coalesce around the Olympics. While much of the current attention to these matters is directed at Beijing, groups in Montreal and London are already forming to address the impact that the arrival of the famous torch (ceremoniously relayed in a model invented by the Nazis to promote a strong image of the Third Reich around the 1936 Berlin games) will have upon local communities. The London art space, E:vent, is among the first to chime-in with an exhibition addressing these issues. Their show, "Sound Proof" (open April 19-May 11), features six artists "using sound materials, drawings, and annotations [to create] audio and visual maps that preserve observations of transformation." These site-specific works focus on the Lower Lea Valley, below London, which will be virtually reinvented for London 2012. In a way, they will function as aural time capsules--records or "proof" of a space and culture if not doomed for demolition, then certainly slated for overhaul. The valuable question raised by the show is that of preservation--what is deemed worthy of saving (memories, relics, cultural practices) and what is the responsible, effective way to do so. This form of ethnographic programming takes "game art" to another level. - Marisa Olson

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The New Transparent

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At least in principle, there seems to have been a wide embrace of the open source movement. The argument that things should be left open to improvement, and even personalization, by those with the know-how appeals to many of us. But where did the broader drive for "openness" come from? And what are its implications beyond technology? The "Disclosures" exhibition on view at London's Gasworks through May 18th looks at manifestations of open source methods in offline areas of cultural production. Curators Anna Colin and Mia Jankowicz describe these as "situations in which the viewer, reader, listener or internet user becomes emancipated through egalitarian participation, collaborative authorship, and/or the breaking down of hierarchical and social boundaries." Emancipation is, of course, a strong word, but it refers here to the freedom to participate in the social, economic, and production processes that inform our social reality. This is a utopia "Disclosures" both holds-up and critiques through the inclusion of work by artists and tactical media practitioners as well as cultural theorists and music producers. Projects include Declose, by Open Music Archive, a vinyl remix tool compositing copyright-expired breaks and samples from early jazz, blues, and folk recordings with new "copyleft beats" by invited musicians; John Barlow Gone Offshore, the newest chapter of Goldin+Senneby's effort to explore "the projects and mythologies of the invisible" in which fictional character John Barlow blogs his investigations into an offshore company known as Headless Limited; and Tsila Hassine and De Geuzen's web-based Image Tracer, a beautifully layered snapshot of the appearance, disappearance, and ranking of Google Image Search results that grows out of the collaborators' interest in "media images and the way their significance and presence fluctuates in the ecology of the world wide web." Not surprisingly, given its open source inspiration ...

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Lights Out

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Just when the New York art world was poised for another no-fun, sales-oriented fair season, the irreverent crew of Milwaukee International has rolled out a seriously intriguing counter-proposition at Swiss Institute. "Dark Fair," opening the evening of March 28th and running through the weekend, aims to occur entirely without reliance on natural or electric light, though candlelight, flashlight and glow-in-the-dark are all acceptable means of display. This parameter is very much in keeping with the International's larger social program, which previously found gallerists setting up rough-and-ready booths in Milwaukee's Polish Falcons Beer Hall for its 2006 art fair, where affable chatter - more than commerce - seemed to be the order of the day. "Dark Fair" invites us into a similarly outlying environment, promising an impressive list of exhibitors (New York's CANADA, Los Angeles' China Art Objects and Oslo's Willy Wonka Inc feature among the thirty) alongside "shadowy bar booths," social happenings, performances by Harrell Fletcher, Clara Jo and Brian Belott, a Pinball Arcade by Ara Peterson, and a glow-in-the-dark basketball court from Sara Clendening. As to the other secrets and creative gems lurking in this "cavernous underworld of exchange," well, it rests upon the endeavoring visitor to discover them. - Tyler Coburn

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Image: out_4_pizza, the fixtures of fate, 2008

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Pong In Action

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When the Atari video game Pong was released in 1972, it was instrumental in establishing what many today call computer culture, by virtue of its popularity and accessibility. The first product to find success as both an arcade game and a home console staple, it became a seemingly-ubiquitous touchstone for the members of a DIY generation empowered by play and home-hacking. In the 35 years since its release, the first generation video game has retained this mythos, even as technology has evolved around it. Lisbon-based artist André Gonçalves's new project, Pong--the analog arcade machine comments on the increased use of technology by artists seeking to address cultural or historical epochs, such as the one in which the original game participates. Gonçalves has created an installation that mimics the original arcade version of Pong, recreating it in analog form and giving it a live-action spin. Using a network of arduino processors, infra-red sensors, printer head guts, and a variety of other materials including some old-fashioned wood, the visual similarities are uncanny, even as they create an ironic "post-digital" tension between 1970s-era analog techniques and a markedly-digital icon to emerge from that era. However, the wit and finesse of Gonçalves's project lies in his use of hairdryer fans and a ping pong ball to carry out game action. What viewers actually see, when they look at his installation, is a real video-monitored, joystick-controlled table tennis game. Gonçalves is hardly the first artist to find inspiration in Pong, but he seems to be among the most successful at achieving the physical interaction and social fellowship originally intended by its creator, Nolan Bushnell. On that note, the game was meant to be played and Gonçalves's prototype will be presented March 28th at the Lisbon chapter of ...

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Beat Poetry

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Madison Square Park Conservancy described their calendar for this year as "ambitious" in their press release and, judging from the amount of coverage we've allotted their public art program in the Rhizome blog this week, this is certainly so. Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, the Montreal-based artist slated to present work in the park this November, gave an informative lecture about his upcoming project Pulse Park (2008) at the Parsons The New School for Design last week. The inspiration for Pulse Park came about during his wife's pregnancy, when the artist listened to the heartbeats of his twins for the first time. "We could hear how different the heartbeats were, and the pattern - the music - that was generated by the pulses was really fascinating," he reminisced. Imagine that rhythmic pattern scaled up one hundred times, and you'll have an idea of the scope of his proposal for the interactive light installation Pulse Park, which is set to transform the oval lawn of Manhattan's Madison Square Park into a complex matrix of throbbing lights in synchronization with the heartbeats of passersby. During his talk, he explained how this complex operation would function. Two hundred aircraft landing lights will surround the oval lawn, pointing toward the center; on the north and south sides of the lawn will be a computer-equipped stand with two cylindrical metal tubes. When a user grabs the tubes, a sensor picks up the heart rate as well as the amplitude and shape of the beat's waveform. The system translates those variables into a unique pulse of light, which appears in the first light to the left. When the next user records his heart rate, the first person's pulse moves one down the line along the perimeter, and so on. After a pulse has traveled all ...

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Found, Not Lost

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Recent art projects employing locative media and "radical cartogoraphy" have helped us consider the ways in which maps, city plans, and roads function as vehicles for ideology. They are technologies, in their own way: systems designed to facilitate the transmission of messages, the flow of goods and services, and the formation of real-life social networks. The School of Missing Studies (SMS) has formed their own "network for experimental study of cities marked by or currently undergoing abrupt transition." The group is led by Katherine Carl and Srdjan Jovanovic Weiss, two artists and academics currently based in the United States, but working primarily in Eastern Europe, along with a large group of active collaborators. Their projects tend to linger, going through new iterations as they move nomadically from venue to venue, taking on a site-specific element as they are shaped by the perspectives of local participants. For their Manhattan Shadow Project, a group of citydwellers with diverse backgrounds gathered with architects, artists, and writers from New York and Belgrade to create "a database of occurrences of Manhattan shadows--physical, metaphorical, and digital." Their explorations delved into the tools that have been used to draw lines in cities--from stenographic chalk borders to skyscrapers' ghostly silhouettes--and the social implications of these new forms of organization and building. Perhaps SMS's best-known project, the Lost Highway Expedition is a resuscitation of the unfinished 'Highway of Brotherhood and Unity' in the former Yugoslavia, a throughway constructed by volunteers of the republic, in the 1960s, to connect its major cities and cultures: Ljubljana, Zagreb, Beograd, and Skopje. SMS moved through these towns and other smaller ones along the way, working to initiate new art projects, ideas, and cross-cultural collaboration. The fruits of this work have been presented in shows, symposia, and a publication entitled Europe Lost and ...

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