These two screensavers by artists Brian Alfred and Mark Titchner were created in 2006 to accompany an exhibition in Creative Time's ongoing "The 59th Minute" series at New York's Time Square. Appearing on one of the most prominent screens in the square, the NBC Astrovision by Panasonic, "The 59th Minute" is a project, begun in 2000, which brings work by video artists to this singular public space. Both Titchner's Voices you cannot hear (2004) and Alfred's Help Me! (2005) incorporate subliminal messages, and are a commentary on the use of cryptic manipulation in advertising. Given the context and symbolism of Times Square, this was an especially effective move. For Titchner's piece the words "DO IT" appear again and again in the background, whereas in Alfred's piece "HELP ME!" continually scrolls across a static image of a building, mimicking tickertape. Ara Peterson's Energy Fields (2003) also screened alongside these works, but was not produced as a screensaver. Peter Eleey curated the exhibition.
This week I spoke with Aaron Levy, Executive Director and a Senior Curator of the Philadelphia-based interdisciplinary non-profit art space Slought Foundation, about his participation in the U.S. Pavilion at La Biennale di Venezia, 11th International Architecture Exhibition. Working in a team with William Menking and Andrew Strum, the exhibition, titled "Into the Open: Positioning Practice," investigates contemporary socially-engaged architectural practice in the United States. Sixteen practitioners were selected for the exhibition, including The Center for Land Use Interpretation, the Center for Urban Pedagogy (CUP), Design Corps, Detroit Collaborative Design Center, Gans Studio, The Heidelberg Project, International Center for Urban Ecology, Jonathan Kirschenfeld Associates,Project Row Houses, Rebar, Rural Studio, Spatial Information Design Lab/Laura Kurgan, Studio 804, Smith and Others, The Edible Schoolyard/Yale Sustainable Food Project, and Estudio Teddy Cruz. Levy, along with William Menking and Andrew Strum, will discuss the exhibition at Columbia University on October 13th and downtown at Studio-X on October 14th. - Ceci Moss
Ceci Moss: The title for the U.S. Pavilion is "Into the Open: Positioning Practice." Considering the wide range of approaches represented in this exhibition, I'm wondering if you can discuss why you selected this title, and how it speaks to the premise of community involvement through architectural practice.
Aaron Levy: What should our place be in this world, and how should architects help shape our sense of place? These are two of the questions that our exhibition gestures towards, through a new American taxonomy of conflict and urgency that takes visitors through some of the richest and the poorest neighborhoods of North America. The sixteen practices we have selected embody an expanded definition of architectural responsibility, whereby architects and designers become activists, developers, facilitators of a more inclusive urban policy, and producers of unique urban research. The exhibition ...
Designer/researcher Greg J. Smith has curated an online exhibition that surveys twelve of the most influential mapping-related new media projects of the last ten years. "City of Nodes" is the 21st show presented by CONT3XT.NET, who use social bookmarking site del.icio.us as a platform for their TAGallery. The sites Smith selected actually skim the longstanding relationship between tagging and urban studies, with a focus on cartography and locative media. In his curatorial introduction (in this case, a "tag description"), Smith synthesizes Lewis Mumford's late-1930s conception of the city as "a nexus of social, creative, and economic collaboration," in contrast to William J. Mitchell's '90s era take on cities as including "not only asphalt and concrete, but bandwidth, code, and connectivity." This is the filter through which the twelve selected projects are viewed. They include the seminal Amsterdam Realtime (2002) project by Esther Polak and Jeroen Kee (the Waag Society) in which GPS devices worn by volunteers create a comparative portrait of the personal occupation of the city; iSee (2005), the Institute for Applied Autonomy's web-based program for locating CCTV cameras throughout a city and planning your travel route accordingly; and One Block Radius, Dave Mandl and Christina Ray's (a.k.a. Glowlab's) psychogeographic documentary of the immediate neighborhood surrounding what was then the future site of the new New Museum building. Given that so many of the selected projects are about tracing a collective experience, the folksonomic curatorial platform seems a perfect one on which to contemplate the work, with guest-curators' tags suggesting an interpretation before inviting viewers to travel off on their own. - Marisa Olson
Image: David Rokeby, Seen, 2002
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
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 ...
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.
Artists are often credited with inventing new languages, but of course the building blocks of these code hacks, if you will, are the letters of the alphabet. A new online exhibition entitled "Abecedarium:NYC" takes the Modern English alphabet as its starting point. Curated by Susan Agliata and Lynne Sachs and appropriately hosted by the New York Public Library, that longstanding database of the alphanumeric, the show invited artists to imagine readings of the city of New York and its boroughs, based on their interpretation of a word beginning with their assigned letter. The twenty-six final pieces construct overlapping narratives about the city and its denizens, as portrayed in interactive maps, videos, and audio works. Each entry takes a different approach as to the genre of story told, ranging from noirish mysteries to nonfiction historiographies to humorous character studies. Start with your favorite letter and see if you're able to resist the other twenty-five. - Marisa Olson
The Architectural League of New York announced a request for qualifications today for their Spring 2009 exhibition Situated Technologies: Toward the Sentient City. Details below.
Situated Technologies: Toward the Sentient City
An exhibition critically exploring the evolving relationship between ubiquitous/pervasive computing and urban architecture
SUBMISSION DEADLINE: June 27, 2008
The Architectural League of New York invites architects, artists, designers, technologists,engineers, urbanists, or teams thereof, to submit qualifications for an exhibition that will critically explore the evolving relationship between ubiquitous/pervasive computing and urban architecture. The League will commission five to seven teams to develop urban interventions-to be installed in and around New York City in spring 2009-that will imagine alternative trajectories for how various mobile, embedded, networked, and distributed forms of media, information and communication systems might inform the architecture of urban space and/or influence our behavior within it. Commissioned projects will receive support ranging from $5,000 to $25,000.
The exhibition continues the League's commitment to supporting original research into the implications of ubiquitous/pervasive computing for architecture and urbanism. In fall 2006, the League, along with the Center for Virtual Architecture and the Institute for Distributed Creativity [iDC], presented "Architecture and Situated Technologies," a 3-day symposium organized by Omar Khan, Trebor Scholz, and Mark Shepard, that brought together researchers and practitioners from art, architecture, technology and sociology to explore the emerging role of Situated Technologies in the design and inhabitation of the contemporary city. The project continued in winter 2007 with the publication "Urban Computing and Its Discontents," the first of nine pamphlets to be published over the next three years that explores how our experience of the city and the choices we make in it are affected by mobile communications, pervasive media, ambient informatics and other Situated Technologies.
Norwegian-Serbian artists Synne Bull and Dragan Miletic (a.k.a. BULL.MILETIC) exemplify the modern fantasy of the nomadic artist, taking up shifting residences around the globe in conjunction with various residencies and exhibitions. This experience of constantly re-situating oneself in relationship to a new political geography plays out beautifully in their video works which are concerned with exploring "the relationship between physical and mental space.... to examine their immediate surroundings (architecture, objects, landscape, urbanity) as containers of emotions, memories, and political decisions." Their current solo installation in the salon of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Belgrade, is entitled Unfinished: Scars of the Past/ Face of the Future and in it the couple creates a romantic tension--a sort of "love rhombus"--between the eyes of the viewer, those of the artists, the perspective of the camera, and the visage of the space itself. Because they are interested in what gets visually and ideologically framed-out of the histories of city spaces, the artists tried to construct a sense of objectivity in developing a method that doesn't require them to peer through a lens in order to capture on film what they see as the tension between Belgrade's past and future, as manifest in the tension between monumental architecture and new improvised developments. This method is one which captures a 360-degree panorama, feeding each sliced point-of-view into a streaming loop, thus effecting a psychological and visual sense of continuity that places the construct of history on a more fluid continuum while likening both video-making and video-viewing to the process of "mental mapping." The piece will be on view through May 12th. - Marisa Olson
Image credit: Bull.Miletic, Unfinished: Scars of the Past/ Face of the Future, video installation detail, 2007
Johannesburg-based artist Marcus Neustetter explores the potential for communication and exchange across a variety of mediums, including digital photography, video and installation, giving particular consideration to how the limits or irregularities of a given medium can constitute new conceptual, aesthetic, and even social territory. This investigation finds its most formal treatment in Disruption (2007), a series of photographs taken with a damaged camera, and Afterimages (2005), in which Neustetter used sensitized paper and an ammonia fume development process to generate analog "scans" of light and space. On the social end of the spectrum is UrbaNET: Hillbrow/Dakar/Hillbrow (2006-7), an ambitious project conceived by Neustetter and frequent collaborator Stephen Hobbs endeavoring to produce a "comparative analysis" of Hillbrow, a depressed neighborhood of Johannesburg with a large population of Senegalese immigrants, and Senegal capital Dakar. In 2006, while preparing for a two-week residency in Dakar and their participation in the Dak'Art Biennale 'Off' Program, the artists asked Hillbrow-based Senegalese immigrants to draw memory maps of their home city, which they would use to navigate the capital during their stay. Over the course of the residency, the artists documented their journey in photographs and video and even visited friends and relatives of the mapmakers. For the 2007 exhibition of their project at University of Johannesburg, Neustetter and Hobbs conducted a twenty-person walk from the campus, in Auckland Park, to a Congolese nightclub in Hillbrow, where the project was discussed by art-goers, neighborhood residents and the mapmakers. Neustetter and Hobbs' project thus does not profess to establish any authoritative study of the respective cities it maps, but rather overlays remembrance, map-making, navigation and the documentary image to tell the specific tales of a group of immigrants and a broader story about home, migration and place. - Tyler Coburn
Image Credit: Ali Jaiteh, Memory ...