In 2003, Golan Levin and Zach Lieberman developed a project called Messa di Voce, which translates to "placing the voice." Oddly enough, it took almost six years for the Ars Electronica-awarded project to find a place in North America. Tonight at NYU's Frederick Loewe Theater, master vocalists Joan La Barbara and Jaap Blonk will be on hand to help demonstrate Levin and Lieberman's classic computer vision work. The project responds visually to vocal input, so that sound becomes an instrument for drawing and animation. The vocalist's guttural and glottal improvisations will generate a tension between speech acts and speechless performance that's not to be missed. It's the first of three live concerts presented this week by the Electronic Music Foundation, in a series called "The Human Voice in a New World." Each event highlights the richness and diverse uses to which this earliest of instruments can be put. On the 27th, British vocalist Trevor Wishart will appear at Judson Church with the NY premieres of Vocalise and Globalalia. The seminal works explore, respectively, the potential of the voice "when in a tight corner," and the universality of the human tongue. Globalalia processes the syllables of 26 different languages sampled from international radio and TV broadcasts to formulate a sort of vocal dance. And on the 28th, Berlin-based virtuoso David Moss will premiere the English version of his Voice Box Spectra. The Sydney Morning Herald has described the piece as "somewhere between scatting and scary. Think Jim Carey doing an impression of Ella Fitzgerald while being eaten by the creature from Alien 2." Exploring FTL ("faster than logic") communication, the work combines sound, text, and personal electronics in a grouping of new songs. All in all ...
Rhizome's ArtBase has been fortunate to receive some great submissions in the last few months. Cody Trepte sent Cody on Cage on Joyce, a text generator based on a series of poems by John Cage where "JAMES JOYCE" is spelled vertically through rows of horizontal text that are as difficult to read as Finnegans Wake. Cage wanted to create a form of writing free of intention, and Trepte uses software to take that idea to its logical conclusion. Tomasz Konart submitted August, the most recent in a calendar of twelve interactive animations that use faint, obscured, or distorted photographs to evoke a feeling of loss and reflection. Roch Forowicz, a Polish artist who explores issues of surveillance, contributed documentation of his installation Panopticon, two rows of eighteen CCTV cameras submerged. As viewers pass down the central aisle, they are observed from all directions, like in the eponymous eighteenth-century prison design. Marketscape by Brooklyn-based artist Christian Marc Schmidt is data visualization of the S&P 500 stock index. It's sure to provide suspenseful viewing for months to come.
First Screening: Computer Poems by bpNichol (2007) - Jim Andrews, Geof Huth, Lionel Kearns, Marko Niemi, Dan Waber.
In 1983 and 1984, bpNichol used an Apple IIe computer and the Apple BASIC programming language to create First Screening, a suite of a dozen programmed, kinetic poems. He distributed First Screening through Underwhich, an imprint he started in 1979 with a small group of poets. The Underwhich edition of First Screening consisted of 100 numbered and signed copies distributed on 5.25" floppies along with printed matter.
However, the Apple IIe soon became obsolete and the poems became essentially inaccessible. But in 1992, four years after the death of bpNichol, J. B. Hohm, a student at the University of Calgary in Alberta, Canada, began creating a HyperCard version of First Screening with the approval of Ellie Nichol, bp’s widow, and with assistance from Dennis Johnson and Fred Wah. In 1993, Red Deer College Press published it on a 3.5″ floppy disk for the Macintosh computer.
The HyperCard version of First Screening was a careful re-creation and recoding of the original, and it extended the life of First Screening a few more years. Still, HyperCard eventually died, leaving the poems unavailable to all but the few who owned a functioning old Mac or an even older Apple IIe and a readable diskette (unlikely, since the usual lifetime of a diskette is approximately five years). In 2004, Apple stopped selling HyperCard, and OSX’s Classic mode was the last Mac operating system on which it was possible to view HyperCard works.
So we are very happy to present to you four different versions of First Screening.
1. The original DSK file of the Underwhich edition with a freely downloadable Apple IIe emulator (available for PCs and (maybe) Macs), along with scanned images of the printed matter distributed with the Underwhich edition. This version is closest to the original.
"The boys from Sweden are not really interested in Kate's habits, her lifestyle, the clothes she wears; they're interested in Headless Ltd., a company they want to know more about. And they're interested in a book which they think Kate is writing about them, a book called Looking for Headless."
These lines are from the first chapter of Looking for Headless, a serial novel that artists Goldin+Senneby commissioned from author K.D. The chapter was originally published as the work of Kate Dent, an employee at the offshore consultancy Sovereign Trust, but Goldin+Senneby retracted their claim about the author's identity after some prodding from Sovereign's lawyers. By chapter three, the legal confrontation had already become part of the story, and the lawyers' communication was just another of the many real-world facts woven into the fabric of the novel.
Goldin+Senneby's project Headless (2007-ongoing) uses the idea of investigating the Bahamas-based company Headless Ltd as the basis for a wide-ranging study of how events are remembered, created, and communicated in the production of narrative. The seedy glamour of offshore finance provides an effective context; it is fertile for plots of mystery and intrigue, and the huge sums of virtual money floating offshore make an apt metaphor for the symbols and ideas that compel people to action and set events in motion. Goldin+Senneby further extend the financial trope by adopting corporate practices to make Headless, outsourcing the project's many texts, events, and performances to specialists. For their exhibition at the Power Plant in Toronto, on view through February 22, Goldin+Senneby commissioned documentary filmmakers to interview an investigative journalist about how to make a documentary about investigating Headless Ltd. They also hired a curator and a set designer to devise a didactic display introducing viewers to the characters of the novel Looking for Headless.
A system as rich and recursive as Headless simultaneously generates both questions and answers to them. In previous interviews the artists have responded to questions about the project exclusively in the form of quotes from its various parts. For the interview below, however, they produced some new statements, perhaps mindful of the opportunity to recycle them in future incarnations of Headless. - Brian Droitcour
Excerpt from text accompanying Comma, Pregnant Pause:
A comma indicates a pause or break between parts of a sentence; in spoken communication, a pregnant pause is one that is full of meaning - significant - suggestive. This video features mobile phones, in whose text messages commas are seldom used. There are often, however, pregnant pauses during the wait for a reply. This work starts with the commentary:
'I want to be the best there ever was, to beat all the best that's my cause.'
The video is dominated by two seated people dressed as mobile phones. Their costumes are based on 'Mowbli', the ubiquitous mobile phone logo from Carphone Warehouse, and their faces are covered by scary-looking masks, taken from the popular series of films Scream, 1996, 1997, 2000, and Scary Movie, 2000, 2001, 2003, but originating in Edward Munch's painting, The Scream, 1893. Their conversation is indicated by two different text alerts - '1,2,3,4' and a musical sound, like a guitar or harp - whilst each text message appears as a series of subtitles. The conversations are fractured, featuring messages such as, 'the newest thing is now wearing the word'. Young people are part of a texting culture in which messages sometimes go astray, so spoken conversation would often be more efficient.