Brian Droitcour
Since 2008
Works in BROOKLYN, New York United States of America

BIO
Rhizome curatorial fellow September 2008 - April 2009, staff writer April 2009 - December 2011, poetry editor January 2012 - 20??

TV Guide


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Image: Antoine Catala, TV Blobs, 2009

In 1996, when my family got a modem and signed up for AOL, my hours of nightly screen time shifted from television to the computer. After leaving for college, I never had a television set in my home—at least not one that’s good for anything more than playing DVDs—and for me television has become a prop associated with certain locations: the ambient CNN in airports, or the numbing luxury at my parents’ house that allows me to surf an easily navigable set of discrete elements, rather than choosing what to view by picking keywords and clicking metonyms.

Antoine Catala feels roughly the same way about television, as I learned on a visit to his studio this summer, and “TV Show” his upcoming solo exhibition at 179 Canal, a new artist-run space in downtown New York, is about television’s slow demise—a phenomenon felt acutely this year as broadcast signals were converted to digital, befuddling one of television’s biggest audiences, the elderly. Catala’s comic-strip paintings of screen stills, which he dashed off quickly with glances at the television, underscore television’s identity as an industrial product, far slicker than anything one person can make alone and produced using templates. His translucent paintings on working television sets also highlight the conventions for arranging shots, as faces and settings of the broadcast form repetitious patterns around his overlaid additions. TV Blobs manipulate live feeds to make distorted, fluid three-dimensional graphics. Catala treats both the television set’s physical mass and the broadcast stream as readymade sculptural material, positioning both form and content as artifacts of the industrial age in a world that’s moving on to something else. “TV Show” opens tonight at 7:00pm.

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Group Dynamics


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Image: Screenshot of MaxMSP patch used in "Quartet without Pyramid Scheme"

Quartet without Pyramid Scheme” does not, in fact, have anything to do with financial machinations, and the title of this experiment in sound installation and improvisation is a dry foil for how it actually unfolds at Brooklyn’s Diapason gallery over four Saturdays in September. Jordan Paul, the organizer of the project, began it September 5 with a pair of parallel installations in Diapason’s gallery and lounge spaces, both of which used the same set of samples—a water boiler, miked CD and DVD players, a malfunctioning audio cord—run through a MaxMSP patch that determined their placement and duration in each channel. A week later Reed Evan Rosenberg introduced some drama by adding the deep rumble of a laundromat to the array of household appliance sounds. But contrast was less a concern for Paul than a close fit as an ensemble, which is why he chose artists he had collaborated with before and requested they bring field recordings of ambient noise. While the work is declared a quartet from the start, it’s not until the last week that all four artists will be present in the gallery, which suggests an understanding of time as being as static as space is ordinarily perceived—an approach supported by the use of sounds connected to locations, and then shuffling and layering them to further mask any hints of the linear temporal movement. As the artists come to remix the samples in Diapason’s lounge each week, they retain equal shares in the quartet—unlike in a pyramid scheme—and rather than bringing a climax and collapse, the meeting of all four at the last session ought to turn out as a rearrangement of set elements, an improvisational structure that ...

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Rafael Lozano-Hemmer's "Levels of Nothingness" at the Guggenheim


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Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, Levels of Nothingness (Mock-up), 2009

When artist and curator Hilla Rebay hung Vasily Kandinsky’s paintings at the Museum of Non-Objective Painting, which she convinced her lover Solomon R. Guggenheim to open in the late 1920s, she created a sensual environment for them with colored walls, faint music, and perfumed air. It was an approximate construction of an inner, spiritual harmony unencumbered by reminders of nature, in keeping with the ideas of Kandinsky’s influential tract “Concerning the Spiritual in Art.” While multimedia updates of art from an older period risk becoming mere bells and whistles on a body of work that stands on its own merits, Kandinsky’s intense interest in synaesthesia—and his exhibition history with Guggenheim’s collection—make it seem like he might be sympathetic to opportunities for multiple sensory stimulation afforded by today’s data processing technologies. Perhaps that’s why Works & Process at the Guggenheim Museum commissioned an immersive light-and-sound piece from Rafael Lozano-Hemmer to mark the opening of the museum’s major Kandinsky retrospective, the first for the artist in more than twenty years. Levels of Nothingness, which Lozano-Hemmer developed in collaboration with philosopher Brian Massumi, takes its inspiration from Kandinsky’s 1912 essay “Yellow Sound.” The installation generates visuals from phonetic data produced by reading philosophical texts by Kandinsky and others. (At the performance, Isabella Rosselini will kick off the readings, and audience members will be encouraged to continue). Rather than translating one kind of information into another to spell out a neatly servable metaphor—as Lozano-Hemmer did, for example, with Pulse Park, which presented Madison Square Park as a living organism by animating it with lights activated by the heart rates of passers-by—Levels of Nothingness promises to be more meditative and fuzzy, suggesting the connection between thought and ...

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Speaking in Third Person


MIT Press recently published Third Person, an essay collection that follows First Person and Second Person in a series exploring how new media has changed the roles of author and audience. Third Person declares its subject to be “vast narratives,” which editors Pat Harrigan and Noah Wardrip-Fruin define as cultural products that extend beyond the physical and temporal parameters usually associated with their medium. While most television detective shows devote one episode to one investigation, The Wire, for example, can stretch a case out over a season, and the continuity of characters and settings puts demands on a viewer’s memory that other shows rarely make. If the Harry Potter series of books is considered the authoritative source of that fictional world even after the release of the films, Lucasfilm delegates storytelling duties for Star Wars among books, movies, and animated series, and each addition extends the fictional universe in new directions in time and space. Vast narratives can also be generative frameworks that allow for many reconfigurations of the characters and settings over several instantiations, as in computer role-playing games and their pencil-and-paper counterparts like Dungeons & Dragons.


Camera Ready


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Image: Sharon Lockhart, Goshogaoka, 1998. Courtesy of Blum & Poe, Los Angeles

"You have to love dancing to stick to it. It gives you nothing back, no manuscripts to store away, no paintings to hang in museums, no poems to be printed and sold, nothing but that fleeting moment when you feel alive." Those are the words of Merce Cunningham, whose death this summer—a month after the passing of Pina Bausch—provoked a wave of public musing on the difficulties of dance’s notation and preservation, as critics expressed a bleak resignation about the medium’s supposed transience. So it’s a fortunate coincidence that the Institute of Contemporary Art in Philadelphia is starting the new season with an exhibition that demonstrates what dance has “given back” to photography, film, and video. “Dance with Camera” encompasses fifty years of art—from classics like Eleanor Antin, Bruce Nauman, and Mike Kelley to emerging artists—and all the works are rooted in choreography and modernist approaches to movement. Several of the artists make work for both theaters and galleries, and their use of the camera builds on live performance rather than serving as a record of it. Choreographer Kelly Nipper considers motion’s relation to stillness by bringing dancers to her photography studio to isolate moments, while Flora Wiegmann adapts dance phrases to places outside the theater and the camera’s lens. Elad Lassry’s 16mm films exploit the metaphoric potential of the dancer’s disciplined severity, her unity of mind and body. These artists make their camera an active agent in the work, rather than a documentary device. Their concern isn’t extending a dance’s duration in memory, but expanding the capabilities of the camera through the associative and compositional possibilities of dance. The exhibition opens Friday and runs through ...

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