The Cybernetic Pioneer of Video Art: Nam June Paik

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In the 1960s and 1970s, Nam June Paik, and many of his pioneering video artist colleagues and Fluxus collaborators took the visionary work of Wiener, the electric prophesies of McLuhan and Gregory Bateson and the utopic designs of Buckminster Fuller and concurred that the new video medium would usher in a social utopia that would extend far beyond the spheres of the 1970s experimental art world. For these early media artists, the feedback loops, live circuits, and video flows, coupled with the electronic image’s immediate and physiological stimulations, when used in distinction to commercial models, posited potent possibilities for cybernetic consciousness, ecological human-machine systems, and an end to top-down power relations. In short, the rise of an egalitarian, democratic society through electronic media. In order to fully appreciate Paik’s work, we must remember this historical context. A solo show is now on view at the James Cohan Gallery in Chelsea, "Nam June Paik: Live Feed: 1972 -1994." The show features several of Paik’s older and more recent video installations, all of which reflect his cybernetic ambitions for video technology.

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On Air: "Broadcast" at Pratt Manhattan Gallery

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The date is February 9, 1972, and Chris Burden arrives at Channel 3 Cablevision’s studio in Irvine, California, for an interview with Phyllis Lutjeans. The TV station had approached Burden in January and asked him to do a piece for the channel, yet they censored several of his proposals, so he eventually agreed to an interview during which they would discuss the reasons for the station’s refusal of his ideas. Burden brings his own video crew so that he can have a copy of the interview. He requests that the interview be broadcast live, and during the course of the interview Lutjeans asks Burden to discuss a few pieces that he has thought of doing. The artist responds by demonstrating a TV hijack: he takes Lutjeans hostage, holding a knife to her throat and threatening her life if the station stops transmission, while verbally abusing her with threats. At the end of the recording, Burden destroys the station’s tape of the show by dousing it with acetone. He then offers an “irate” station manager his taped version of the show, which includes footage of the show and the destruction of the station’s tape, but the manager refuses. Burden explains in an interview, “T.V. Hijack was ultimately about who is in control over what's presented through the media.” This aggressive act against the restrictive and one-to-many structure of television is what curator Irene Hofmann cites as her original inspiration for the exhibition "Broadcast," now on view at Pratt Manhattan Gallery. The show presents a selection of works, dating from the 1960s to the present, that interrupt broadcasting systems in order to examine or challenge the structure, influence, and power of mainstream television and radio.

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Call for Applications: free103point9's 2009/2010 AIRtime Fellowships

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Apply for an AIRtime fellowship from free103point9! Fellows receive funding, resources and equipment to produce transmission-based artworks. Deadline is July 1, 2009. Read more below:

The AIRtime program provides artists (individuals and/or collectives) with valuable assistance with which to concentrate on new transmission works and conduct research about the genre using free103point9's resource library and equipment holdings. AIRtime Fellowships are awarded to approximately three artists each year. Fellows present their work in conjunction with WGXC, in Greene and Columbia Counties, and our city-based programs at the Ontological Theater at St. Mark's Church in Manhattan. Fellows receive an honorarium, and technical and administrative support from free103point9 staff. Participating artists are encouraged to archive recordings and other digital media with the free103point9 Transmission Art Archive project.

free103point9 defines “Transmission Arts” as a conceptual umbrella that unites a community of artists and audiences interested in transmission ideas and tools. This genre encompasses a diversity of practices and media working with the idea of transmission or the physical properties of the electromagnetic spectrum. Transmission art is generally a participatory live-art or time-based art, and often manifests as radio art, video art, light sculpture, installation, and performance.

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Star Trek Voyager Singularity (2008) - Artie Vierkant

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Note: Embedded video has been compressed to play back at 14x speed. The full piece plays back in real time.

Concept: Display each episode of the television series Star Trek: Voyager playing at once. The viewer is able to make inferences of commonality based on when title sequences pop up, when certain characters appear on many screens in the grid at once, and directly observe the tropes of framing and action inherent to a syndicated and budgeted television show.

Execution: Obtained the episodes through a file-sharing network, created the video in Final Cut Pro.

-- FROM THE ARTIST'S STATEMENT

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Delta 1 - Ron Hays

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The New Television Workshop at WGBH supported the creation and broadcast of experimental works by artists. One of their projects was the Music Image Workshop, which was primarily a project of Ron Hays, who used the Paik-Abe videosynthesizer to create elaborate visual scores set to music. It was funded by the Rockefeller Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts from 1972 through 1974. Hays worked closely with WGBH producer and director, David Atwood, to create both live broadcasts and finished works. Additionally, works by other artists were presented under the auspices of the Music Image Workshop.

-- FROM YOUTUBE USER CRYSTALSCULPTURE

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Required Reading

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Image: Boris Groys, Medium Religion [Medium Religion], 2006.
video lecture (color, sound), 25 min., loop. courtesy Boris Groys.

The general consensus of the contemporary mass media is that the return of religion has emerged as the most important factor in global politics and culture today. Now, those who currently refer to a revival of religion clearly do not mean anything like the second coming of the Messiah or the appearance of new gods and prophets. What they are referring to rather is that religious attitudes have moved from culturally marginal zones into the mainstream. If this is the case, and statistics would seem to corroborate the claim, the question then arises as to what may have caused religious attitudes to become mainstream.

The survival and dissemination of opinions on the global information market is regulated by a law formulated by Charles Darwin, namely, the survival of the fittest. Those opinions that best adapt to the conditions under which they are disseminated will, as a matter of course, have the best odds of becoming mainstream. Today’s opinions market, however, is clearly characterized by reproduction, repetition, and tautology. The widespread understanding of contemporary civilization holds that, over the course of the modern age, theology has been replaced by philosophy, an orientation toward the past by an orientation toward the future, traditional teachings by subjective evidence, fidelity to origins by innovation, and so on. In fact, however, the modern age has not been the age in which the sacred has been abolished but rather the age of its dissemination in profane space, its democratization, its globalization. Ritual, repetition, and reproduction were hitherto matters of religion; they were practiced in isolated, sacred places. In the modern age, ritual, repetition, and reproduction have become the fate of the entire world, of the entire culture ...

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Hanging-Out-Watching.TV (2008-Ongoing) - David Berezin and AIDS-3D

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Performed Listening (Boomerang) (2009) - Marisa Olson

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Required Reading

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"[Jeff] Krulik may be public access's only true success story. He perceived the weird essence of the medium, then moved beyond it. Emerging from that 1980s no-zone, he has been able to create his own brand of television art: documentaries in the service of a unique screwball populism. Before community TV became outstripped by newer technologies, it gave us the obsessed world of Jeff Krulik, a guy who finds something remarkable in the unremarkable and sees everyday people as stars."

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Kill Your Television

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Today, the Berkeley Art Museum/ Pacific Film Archive, Berkeley Center for New Media, and Long Now Foundation will host what author Bruce Sterling calls a "Dead Media hootenanny." The Funeral for Analog TV will be a full day of revelry, capped-off by the kind of pseudo-event perhaps not seen by the Bay Area since Ant Farm's Media Burn. Attendees of the festive wake are encouraged to bring their analog TV sets to pile on an electronic heap which will simulate a snow crash at the end of the night. Though the US Congress recently extended the deadline by which all broadcasting television signals must legally be converted to digital HD, Sterling says the event is moving ahead as originally scheduled "because we prefer to bury a fresh corpse rather than wait for the walking dead to fall over." As the organizer of the Dead Media Project, Sterling knows a thing or two about the carcasses left behind as a result of technological upgrades. He joins a lineup of people that includes media historian Paul Saffo, artist collective Neighborhood Public Radio, and sound artist Author & Punisher in marking this rite of obsolescence. The organizers point out that it's only fitting that the funeral service be held in the Bay Area, given that the system for broadcasting and receiving TV signals was invented there. But if you can't make it to the West Coast to hear the eulogy, fear not. The event's penultimate "scattering of the ashes" will be an online rebroadcasting of the program. - Marisa Olson

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