Matthew Porter: Your photograph,19,682 combinations of a 3x3 grid, 3 colors - B1D2D3, 6F9DA2, E83C2C, is part of a series titled “Aggregates” (2011) that comprises six relatively small, digitally-printed grids striated with fold marks and mounted in white frames. At 15 x 18 inches, the works in this series are relatively modest in size. Were you thinking about the resolution of the ink-jet printer? Or was it the gesture of the folds that determined the size of the works?
John Houck: The size of the photographs in “Aggregates” was determined by what could fit in a single frame of my camera. The process of making them starts with software that I wrote. I can specify how many rows and columns comprise a grid and select any number of colors to fill it. For example, a grid with four rows, four columns, and two colors results in 65,535 combinations (hence the title of the photograph). I then use another piece of self-authored software to output the combinations as an index print on a single sheet of paper using an inkjet printer. (No commercially available software can do this.) I then crease the paper, light it in a studio, and photograph it from above. I repeat this process three or four times: printing, creasing, and re-photographing. The final print is shown with one or two real creases, and the traces of earlier creases remain as photographic representations. I found that when the paper was too large, I had to take multiple photos then stitch them all back together digitally; but at 15 x 18 inches a single frame would do.
MP: A lot ...
slip ohno, 2011
Browsing through your work it becomes clear that iteration is an important part of your process. In one of your more recent works, titled cathy drawl, you create six versions themed around the same formal elements. How does the process of iterating around a particular element contribute to your work?
I assume that the way in which my work is normally viewed is through the action of scrolling. You’re on a computer and you are gliding the images in succession past your gaze. I liken this to a sort of super slow motion film strip. It’s a way of storytelling. For a post, each individual image is viewed in relation to the one that comes before it and the one that follows. Meanwhile, they are all sort of floating in an endless black space. There’s no real clear-cut definition between the images in this context. So to me, within each post, each distinct image is really part of the same piece; the same story. In the case of cathy drawl, it was a matter of showcasing the underlying elements of the images and then building on them; transforming them like characters in the panels of a comic. I find the basic formal elements of the images to be what dictates the inclusive mood of the more elaborate pieces so I tend to want to pull them out and show them in isolation but still in conjunction with the compounded imagery. It’s usually about trying to find a gentle balance within my work for how the principal imagery is rendered; spreading from a subdued minimal execution to an overkill of maximum complexity.
In truth, the iteration is also largely a result of my tendency to want to post too much. The blog began as ...
Some of your work exists offline as performances, but the majority of your works are unique websites that present and interactive experience for the viewer. Do you have a preference for exhibiting work online or offline, and have you ever had a title in mind for a work and then had to change it after finding out the domain was owned by someone else?
My priority is to create works that exist online. Having my work online automatically reaches a far greater audience in great speed, creating a powerful social and open condition but I am very much interested in the online-offline interplay. Since the late 90's - when I started creating online, I felt a strong energy and curiosity for the spatial physical outcome of my works. Now we live in the post-internet era and I feel this divided line of the online and offline conditions is almost diminished. This is why extending my pieces beyond the boundaries of a computer screen and present them in physical forms it's a very normal act for me. I am interested in creating an inter-experiential process, a meta-perception of these works but keeping at the same time their internet entity. Regarding exhibiting them in contemporary art spaces I feel are important in terms of historicity but also allows for a moment of sharing the work together with other people in a live space and audience getting a different feedback. The titles of these pieces are their unique domain url's and are registered in the most popular extension which is dotcom. I usually register complex phrases and rarely used, taken from something I read or something I invented like ...
Excerpt from a review of Contested Terrians at Tate Modern in London from African Art in London:
Contested Terrains is the first annual project arising from Guaranty Trust Bank’snew partnership with Tate, and it sets the bar extremely high. The show features a foursome of talented artists working in Africa in variety of media: Kader Attia (slide show installation), Sammy Baloji (photomontage), Michael MacGarry (sculpture) and Adolphus Opara (photography). Jointly curated by Kerryn Greenberg (Tate) and Jude Anogwih (Centre for Contemporary Art, Lagos), this is an African group show with a difference – exactly the sort of thing that you’d hope for from Tate Modern. There’s no questionable attempt to edify the audience, no over-excited claim to be introducing us to anything, and, perhaps most importantly, no curatorial waffle about ‘African creativity’ – the intelligent, subtle and challenging works on show here speak for themselves...
The final room presents the photomontages of Sammy Baloji, together with two final small pieces from MacGarry, whose work runs like a twisted thread through the whole show. Baloji’s subject here is the history of resource exploitation in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and in particular the decline of the Gécamines mining company, whose presence has shaped his home region of Katanga since 1906. Mémoire (2006) unflinchingly reveals the catastrophic recent fortunes of the company, through a series of desolate panoramas of industrial decline, upon which the artist has superimposed archival images of officials and labourers from more prosperous times. The colonial officials appear oblivious to the state of their new surroundings, blithely peering at dilapidated old sheds and piles of rusty metal, but the Congolese labourers stare straight out at the viewer, photographic ghosts issuing a warning which comes too late.
images via bbc news
Excerpt from Marx After Duchamp, or The Artist's Two Bodies by Boris Groys on e-flux. Groys offers a portrait of artistic production and labor as it relates to technology, Duchamp's readymade, and the artist's body:
Gillian Wearing, Everything in life…, 1992-1993, from the series Signs that say what you want them to say and not signs that say what someone else wants you to say, color coupler prints. via e-flux
At the turn of the twentieth century, art entered a new era of artistic mass production. Whereas the previous age was an era of artistic mass consumption, in our present time the situation has changed, and there are two primary developments that have led to this change. The first is the emergence of new technical means for producing and distributing images, and the second is a shift in our understanding of art, a change in the rules we use for identifying what is and what is not art...
As masses of people have become well informed about advanced art production through biennials, triennials, Documentas, and related coverage, they have come to use media in the same way as artists. Contemporary means of communication and social networks such as Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter offer global populations the ability to present their photos, videos, and texts in ways that cannot be distinguished from any post-Conceptualist artwork. And contemporary design offers the same populations a means of shaping and experiencing their apartments or workplaces as artistic installations. At the same time, the digital “content” or “products” that these millions of people present each day has no direct relation to their bodies; it is as “alienated” from them as any other contemporary artwork, and this means that it can be easily fragmented and reused in different contexts. And indeed, sampling by ...
Hi Tom, and all
First off, the purpose of Required Reading is to point to compelling articles relevant to new media. We're not always endorsing them 100%, but also often sharing them with Rhiz readers for the purpose of discussion. (Its a column Rhizome has been running for 2 years.) I thought Davis' article was worth inclusion because its an attempt at defining the field, and its a proposition: The first five sections draw lines between what Davis describes as social media art and other forms of new media. But in his final section, he closes his analysis with some self-criticism: "It’s not a frame to think within. It’s a box that needs to be escaped."
With that in mind, Salas makes a good point about it including traditional definitions of art, and the absence of participatory art, including contemporary practitioners like Miranda July and Harold Fletcher. In my opinion, I appreciate a non media art critic calling for a deeper and broader research of social media artwork - but I agree, to some extent, that an attempt to form definitions at a point of emergence can prove to be problematic, and boxes art in inappropriate ways.
Thanks for writing.
Again, a great initial resource is the Rhizome list of New Media Programs. We have programs listed and linked in the States and Abroad. I think there is a good school in the south of France. If I find the link I'll post here.
Definitely check the New Media program list with Rhizome first. I'm in the MFA program at RISD right now and can say that it offers a lot of flexibility and resources to students. As a note, we're in the middle of an international search for a new department head which should end at the end of this academic year. Feel free to email me if you have any extra questions. The programs website is here: http://dm.risd.edu
You can also cruise this mega list of national new media programs:
It's not exclusively MFA but it's a good starting point for broader research on schools.
I know SVA just started an Interdisciplinary MFA program that might be worth checking out:
I've had a few friends who have gone to ITP too that had a good experience. The RISD program is geared more toward Fine Art and you can take courses at Brown - ITP is more technically focused. At least that's my understanding.