Processing the Signal

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Documentary about video art and artists using the medium in the 1980's. Featuring Nam June Paik, Bill Viola, Zbigniew Rybczynski, John Sanborn, Kit Fitzgerald, Paul Garrin, Peer Bode, John Hanhardt, Marie Perillo, Ira Schneider, Reynold Weidenaar, and Dean Winkler.

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Raising the Bar in Singapore

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Every two years, the International Symposium on Electronic Art (ISEA) lands in a different world city, drawing thousands of new media scholars and artists together and engaging the local community. Two rounds ago, in 2004, ISEA started on a cruise ship that sailed (ok, partied) from Helsinki to Stockholm before delivering participants in Tallin, Estonia. In 2006 ISEA came to San Jose, California, where it both gelled and collided with the Silicon Valley scene, inaugurating the annual Zero1 festival. This year the events leapt across the Pacific to Singapore, a small country with a huge media culture. From July 25th-August 3rd, the "world's premier media arts event for the critical discussion and showcase of creative productions applying new technologies in interactive and digital media" will present a range of exhibitions and public programs on five official themes: Locating media, Wiki Wiki, Ludic Interfaces, Reality Jam, and Border Transmissions. The panels and keynotes within this theme--delivered by many of the biggest names in the field--consider the current state of new media production and reception, and cast an eye toward the role of Pacific Rim participants in driving this field. A cornerstone of the festival is the main exhibition, installed at the National Museum of Singapore and called simply "ISEA2008 Juried Exhibition." This year's show provides a glimpse into contemporary media art practices not only in the work selected, but in the process of it's organization. The exhibit includes sixteen artworks, many of which were made by international collaborative teams, that were curated via a competitive open call. The selected artists were invited to Singapore for residencies, where they began to flesh-out their ideas and work in new media, technology, and science labs on the campus of the National University of Singapore. The result is a collection of works ...

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Drawn Out Processes

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The convention of the summer show, in New York, has historically been a mixed bag. At times it's an excuse for a gallery to do something fun, restrict work hours, and chill out a bit. It also tends to be the busy season for both emerging artists and curators, with group shows dominating the docket and variably playful, political, or conceptual themes running the show. Chelsea gallery Josée Bienvenu's summer show, "microwave, six," includes seventeen emerging and mid-career artists in their annual effort to (unlike the cooking apparatus that shares its name) slow down and pay attention to artists "who commit to the obscene activity of paying attention." It's hard to say what's obscene about this act, except that it's so rarely done as to potentially render it indulgent in some people's eyes. Each of the selected artists create rather slow-cooked drawings that "document the relentless propagation of delicacy as a subversive attitude." In other words, forget the short attention spans painted by the information economy, these pieces actually manage to transmit a high level of information, even as they eschew the ephemeral forms of files and bits to take up the hard-knocked life of a work on paper. Ernesto Caivano continues his epic series of drawings about an otherworldly landscape in which a man and woman simultaneously evolve into a spaceship and a lowly earth creature. Phoebe Washburn gives us highly-systematized, if cryptic analysis of devices and histories like Gatorade Storage Tank Study. Both Alexandra Grant and Casey Jex Smith offer readings and translations of the visual qualities of language, while Jacob Dyrenforth's newspaper-style pixilated (or is it pointilated?) drawings of concert crowds speak to the age-old effort of visualists to convey the maximum amount of information in the least ...

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Social Work for Robots

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Jon Rubin's work "explores the social dynamics of public spaces and the lives of ordinary individuals." Often working in collaboration with other artists, institutions, and members of the general public, his projects have included setting up a gallery that exhibits only information about the neighborhood's inhabitants, broadcasting an office's telephone conversations through a talking piano, producing a cable access variety show at a senior center, and a variety of fake businesses that traded on interaction and the art of conversation. The artist's two most recent projects offer a glimpse into the delicate balance of precision and irony that render his work so poignant. Earlier this month, at Los Angeles' Machine Project, Rubin's A Practical Demonstration was "an exercise in suspended orbits, suspended disbelief, and circular group formations." It's the latter, the part about people standing in circles, that is so interesting. As the artist played director, a group of local amateur videographers captured a 360-degree image of a stuntman jumping from the gallery's second floor window. (He was going for "a very clumsy 'Matrix' effect.") Simultaneously, a circle of international collaborators documented the activity of the sun over a 24-hour period. The result of all this participatory documentation was an edited two-channel video in which both the jumper and the sun appear to float in mid-air. On its own, such a video project visually resembles many that have come before it, but Rubin sets his apart by devoting special attention to the details of social collaboration, thus creating a more meaningful experience. The same can be said of his current project taking place on the streets of Pittsburgh, in collaboration with the legendary installation art museum, The Mattress Factory. Like many of his initiatives, Join the Human to Robot Army began with a ...

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A Message to the World

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A couple of months ago, a message appeared on the roof of Steve Turner Contemporary Art, loosely painted in white across a black ground, reading "Help Us." Given the gallery's location, just across Wilshire Boulevard from the Los Angeles County Museum or Art (LACMA) and the dazzling new home for all things blue-chip, The Broad Contemporary Art Museum, one would be tempted to infer a dissenting tone in the sign, made by Los Angeles artist Mark Bradford. But as Bradford's message is not actually visible to the windowless buildings surrounding the gallery, and can only properly be seen from the air and via a live video feed the gallery has established, it's clear that the artist's SOS reaches beyond the limits of contemporary art. Bradford adopts a fundamental position of appeal that is heavily colored by its similarities to those of Hurricane Katrina victims, including Angela Antoinette Perkins, who repeated these very words outside the New Orleans Convention Center, on September 1st 2005, and roused survivors into a chant. Seen through this lens, the selective visibility Bradford grants his piece may reference the infamous account of Bush flying over New Orleans while returning from vacation, as well as the extent to which Katrina, like most contemporary disasters, was delivered unto the majority of the world populous through varying levels of technological mediation: mass-media all the way down to cell-phone videos. The gallery's video feed feels particularly poignant, in this regard, in that it documents, in real-time, a message that has already been painted and that never changes. With each day that elapses, in other words, Bradford's entreaty only more compellingly tells its story of expectation, desperation and thwarted relief. - Tyler Coburn


Image: Mark Bradford, HELP US: An Installation (Aerial View), 2008

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You've Got Mail!

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Image: Mark Beasley, @reply-all, 2008


Opening today, the online exhibition FW: Re: Re: explores a medium even our grandparents have become accustomed to: email. Organized by Rhizome's curatorial fellow Luis Silva from the ArtBase, FW: Re: Re: pulls together work produced over the past three years to present a variety of subversive approaches to this ubiquitous technology.

The show works like this:

1) Visit this page
2) Enter your email address
3) Receive the exhibition in your inbox

The format opens the exhibition up to the uncertainty and ephemerality inherent to email -- meaning that these works can be activated or discarded just as quickly as they appear.

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The Remote Control Frontier

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Artist Christy Gast's new year-long curatorial project exploits the charms of TV-programming in a remote location while drawing on the benefits of using the web for wider distribution. The Moab Video Project is one in which artists' videos are played weekly on MAC21, a public access channel in the small rural town of Moab, Utah. The videos are curated through an open call and are shown between infomercials, public service announcements, weather reports, and other community programs. They must also be less than five-minutes in length and comply with FCC regulations, so together this highly-localized audience and these ground rules provide a fair enough dose of contextual restrictions to add-up to a very interesting opportunity for artists. But those outside of Moab's broadcast range need not fret. Gast posts links to the artists' videos, online, so that we can all take viewing pleasure in the selected works. This month she's showing four videos (one per week) by artist Lydia Moyer. Each of these works explores tropes and mythologies of the American West, ranging from the visual strategies typically used to represent "lady gunfighters" to a narrative inspired by Dolly Parton's autobiographical tale about trying to grow ponies in the desert earth. If the Western movie genre is defined by a story's contestation around the frontier (a border between porch and desert, interior and exterior, city and country, reality and fantasy), then Moyer's Western narratives are a perfectly fitting selection for a project that straddles the frontier between online and offline or local and international broadcasting. - Marisa Olson


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Radio Activity

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You may have read about free103point9 here, before. At Rhizome, we maintain a high esteem for this pioneering organization serving the field of "transmission arts," and we've fortunately been able to collaborate with them on projects in the past. In many ways, our missions overlap, as our organizations grew out of a desire to support emergent and often immaterial practices. Free103point9's founders situate their vision of the field in an evolutionary framework, looking at how broadcasting and transmission grew out of shared trajectories with net art, video art, mail art, and other creative forms of distributed communication. The organization frequently teams up with other institutions to take this message on the road and increase exposure for the work of transmission artists. Their newest collaborative project is both a show and a recording, co-presented by the Museu d'Art Contemporani de Barcelona, in their Radio Web program (RWM). This curatorial initiative "is a radio-phonic project from the MACBA's website that explores the possibilities of the internet and radio as spaces of synthesis and exhibition." This self-reflexive approach to presentation is also inherent in the free103point9 show, entitled "Radio Action III," which takes up "radio" as both its theme and its delivery vehicle. Fifteen artists collaborate to present five-minute tracks inspired by this important device, and a bit of surfing of the artists' profiles on free103point9 will assure you of their diversity, ranging from site-specific sound manipulation to interventionist broadcasts. The recordings are the newest CD to be released in free103point9's Dispatch series and the album will premiere at an event at the New Museum of Contemporary Art on August 7th. Meanwhile, it will be streaming online at RWM from June 18 - August 30. Be sure to tune-in. - Marisa Olson


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01SJ Diary: Day 2

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Rubén Ortiz-Torres, High n' Low Rider, 2008

Day two of my San Jose experience began with a visit to MACLA to see High n' Low Rider by Rubén Ortiz-Torres, co-director of the 1995 film Frontierland. Using low rider-style hydraulics, Ortiz-Torres has customized a platform lift (normally used for high-level work on construction sites) so that it can not only be raised and lowered, but also unfolded, tilted, and spun like a pinwheel. Today, the High n' Low Rider merely sat still in the gallery space, but on Wednesday it came to life for the 01SJ opening night festivities, spinning wildly in the midst of a throng of people. I could only hope it wasn't a Decepticon.


From there, I continued on to Space 47, an independent project space that featured Floating Chronologies, a solo show by Jesus Aguilar. I last saw Aguilar's work at 01SJ in 2006, where he presented some promisingly clever pieces, including an instructional videotape that offered lessons in how to speak in binary language. For Floating Chronologies, the artist trawled the Internet to find other 'Jesus Aguilars.' Alan Berliner explored a similar line of inquiry in his 2001 film The Sweetest Sound, for which the director invited twelve other Alan Berliners from around the world to join him for dinner, but Aguilar approaches the concept in a different way. In this body of work, information about other people who share the artist's name is assimilated into a single hybrid character. We learn that this composite character earned a bronze medal at the 1980 Olympics, won the 1978 World Cup, earned a Ph.D. in philosophy, and shot a police officer in the leg. By combining these stray online facts under the umbrella of a single identity, Aguilar's piece creates a ...

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Tools of the Trade: Nick Hasty, The EM Brace

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In this new series, Rhizome invites artists to explain the nuts and bolts of their work. Our first contribution comes from recent ITP graduate and Rhizome's dynamo former Technology Assistant Nick Hasty. Here, Hasty describes his project The EM Brace.


The EM Brace is a wearable device for physically engaging with electromagnetic radiation emitted by the consumer and communication technologies that constantly permeate our bodies. The device attunes the body to the presence of electromagnetic frequencies through amplifying these frequencies and turning them into powerful sound waves that vibrate the wearer.


The EM Brace consists of a metallic enclosure that is worn on the back (fig a) attached to a pair of antenna gloves that fit on the hands (fig b).





Extending from the metallic enclosure are four flexible metal arms which wrap around the ribcage. The enclosure and arms are secured to the body via four straps that connect at the chest (fig c) through a four point harness. Putting on and using the EM Brace has been described as a mix of being strapped into a roller-coaster, scuba diving, and getting a massage.




Since the majority of our interactions with electronic objects involve the use of the hands, the antennas that pick up ambient EM frequencies have been embedded within a pair of gloves. These antennas consist of four inductive coil antennas, specifically telephone pickup coils. When the antennas enter an electromagnetic field, an inductive voltage signal is created within the coil. The frequency of this signal is the same frequency as the electromagnetic field in which it's produced, so the antennas' signal directly corresponds to the electromagnetic frequencies of nearby electronic devices.


The signal created within the coil is then sent from the antennas into a preamplifier circuit located within the metallic enclosure (fig d ...

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