The original Mike Builds a Shelter (1983) for "GOVERNMENT APPROVED HOME FALLOUT SHELTER AND SNACK BAR" at Castelli Graphics
"Hardware-based restoration—that's nasty business."
Unsurprisingly, this is not an uncommon remark from my colleague Dragan Espenschied, who has staked a path for Rhizome in emulation-based restoration instead. And yet there the two of us were on Tuesday, June 9, at Light Industry, excited to see some impressively nasty hardware courtesy artist/curator/programmer/musician Paul Slocum.
At the front of the packed screening room sat two hardware-based versions of Mike Builds a Shelter, a 1983 videogame by artist Mike Smith, computer graphics designer Dov Jacobson, and programmer Reza Keshavarz. One was a touched-up original Commodore 64 (C64) plugged into a small CRT TV and connected to a coin door and a joystick. The other was Slocum's most current homebrew re-make—a small box which contained a C64 on a chip, modified for stability and other improvements such as the ability to output to a flat-screen like the one attached, with a modern power brick that can take international voltages, connected to a coin door and a joystick. Both versions fed into cherry red KRK speakers, and both required a quarter to run, which Light Industry generously provided. (The coin slot was unboxed, so the single coin just fell out, ready to be reused! #freeculture)
"I think of the home office as the studio," Travess Smalley contends, an interest which is reflected in his use of the flatbed scanner as image-making tool and sculptural object. This embrace of the basics of domestic computing culture speaks to the interests of the "surf club" generation of artists, who in the mid- to late-aughts used group blogs (Smalley was a member of one called Loshadka) to make conversational, collaborative net art out of memes, links, and the semiotics of the web.
And yet Smalley's process of layering clay on the scanner bed, scanning the composition, and digitally altering the result to create a photographic print (as in the piece at auction), results in works relating as much to digital culture as to pop art (think, Jasper Johns), contemporary process abstraction (Gerhard Richter), and early photographic experimentation (Henry Fox Talbot's impressions).
Lynn Hershman Leeson, Roberta's Construction Chart #2, 1975
The sophistication and prescience of Lynn Hershman Leeson's decades-long engagement with identity under networked conditions, bioengineering, surveillance, and on becomes more evident with each year (and its attendant tech, genetic splices, and corporate and governmental intrusions). Gratifyingly, then, 2015 promises the continued run of the artist's retrospective at ZKM | Zentrum für Kunst und Medientechnologie Karlsruhe, with its forthcoming comprehensive monograph, and, opening tonight, a solo presentation at Bridget Donahue's new gallery:
The latest in a series of interviews with artists whose work makes use of or responds to network culture and digital technologies.
Zachary Kaplan: A few months back, I was on my way to your studio just as you posted a picture of Anna Wintour walking down the street (maybe at Prince and Thompson?). At first I thought, "Why is Anna Wintour skulking around SoHo alone, and how great is this photo?". But then I worried, "Jeanette's not going to be at her studio; she's out in the world capturing this picture that seems so 'on brand.'" When I arrived at your studio in Nolita, though, you were there working on some stuff for New Hive. That all of this seemed to be happening at once—the instagram of Anna Wintour, the in-progress montages, the general thrum of your studio—felt very specific.
In mid-January, a Facebook friend liked a status update, causing it to pop up in my News Feed; I've been avidly following its thread ever since. Now at 675 comments and counting, this rich exchange encapsulates the increasing importance of the art-related discourse that takes place on Facebook, and its precarity.
Los Angeles-based artist, writer, curator, and educator Micol Hebron initiated this conversation with a simple request:
Facebookers, what do you think of this: artist Joe Scanlan, an older white male artist, invented a fictional artist, Donelle Woolford, who is female, black, and seems a bit younger than he is. Scanlan hires actresses to 'play' Donelle for pictures and interviews, and he makes the artwork that she 'makes'. He began this project about 13 years ago. Donelle Woolford is in the 2014 Whitney Biennial. Here is an interview with Scanlan by Jeremy Sigler. Is this racism? Conceptual performance? Critical discourse on artworld hierarchies? Problematic exploitation? Discuss.
Critics, artists, former students, and, often, Scanlan himself responded, generating a thorough critique of the artist's practice, meaningful discussion about race and gender in contemporary art today, and a crowdsourced bibliography. Strikingly, its ebb and flow mimicked the public dialogue around Scanlan/Woolford in the art press—from curiosity (many had no idea of the project at the outset) to confrontation (stoked anew in May by The Yams' public withdrawal from the Biennial in protest), all in a slow burn. The texture and depth of this response evidenced Facebook's specific ability (for better and worse) to produce engaged networks and make visible their interactions.
United States of America
Writing in 1970, Gene Youngblood advocated that artists take up the technologies of the moment—special effects, computer art, video art, multi-media environments, and holography—to expand the consciousness of their publics. The theorist claimed that artistic experience can change us into more aware and self-conscious human beings, and inform new ways of being in the world. Our question today is: How can contemporary aesthetics and artistic experience—enabled by the technologies of the moment—expand our consciousness and help us to change the fundamental concepts that organize our reality, like creativity, technology, sustainability, and collectivity?
Following the exhibition Voyage to the Virtual, this evening engages artists, curators, and critics in a conversation that takes up Youngblood's quest for the utilization of new technologies in aesthetic experience, and considers the relationship between expressions in contemporary artistic practice, expanded perception, and consciousness.
Presenters include artist Jette Gejl Kristensen, artist Pia Myrvold, artist, critic, and curator Nicholas O’Brien, curator Tanya Toft, and artist Chris Woebken. The evening's moderator is Zachary Kaplan, Rhizome's Assistant Director.
The prize is a three year initiative. Perhaps by late 2016 all will be pleased.
Not a real answer (but with truth): the hazard of the 'write this fast in the morning' post. My words were not so specifically chosen there, and were meant as a shout out to something widely circulating.
A better way to have phrased my shout out would have been: "I'M paying attention to this, and trying to figure out why I find it so engaging." Particularly as Rhiz Today is meant to be a working document, as much as a post/link dump/etc. — and as, as announced, October will bring a First Look project with the artist (http://www.newmuseum.org/press/download/79). I'm not working on that, however.
Personally, I've been following the feeds very closely, particularly after seeing Ulman's talk with Fredric Brandt at Swiss Institute, which offered a fair amount of context for her practice more broadly. I do find the project engaging, and have thought about it via performance (of gender, communication, intimacy, and on), a history of physical augmentation in art, attention economies, and my well documented interest in life in the 'CASCADE' overall. Preliminary feelings: I think it's well-studied and well-performed, and fairly complicated w/r/t the characters it apes.
In the end, however, I'd be very interested in hearing other opinions—particularly yours!