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??

Just the Fax


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Image: Peter Coffin, Untitled, 2009

A sign at the entrance to “FAX” tells viewers that the exhibition was organized by The Drawing Center and that its subsequent tour will be managed by Independent Curators International. A show of artists’ faxes could be exceptionally travel-friendly—just call the artists and ask them to send their work again. But iCI plans to do it the hard way: The original faxes will be taken down and transported to the next venue, along with the three-ring binders full of faxes displayed on a desk in the gallery’s simulated curatorial office. That decision could be chalked up to the art world’s reverence of scarcity, or it could be seen as a sign of heightened attention to the medium. All of the pages bear the machine’s signature, a line at the top that identifies their dates and origins, which bolsters the idea that each work is a specific act of communication between the participating artists and curator João Ribas.

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Image: Warren Neidich, Detail from "Some cursory comments on the nature of my diagrammatic drawing"

The expendability of the medium encouraged playful responses. Sam Owen flipped and exceeded the standard 8”x11” sheet of paper in his letter to Ribas, which he wrote out by hand in big, chunky letters on a few dozen sheets of paper, enough to cover several square feet of the gallery’s back corner. Olav Westphalen sent cartoonish instructions for setting a fax machine aflame: draw a fire on the cover page, extend its rising column on the second page, then set it on a loop it so that the receiving machine keeps working until it overheats and starts spewing real smoke. Amanda Ross-Ho took a more philosophical approach. She printed out photographs of products for sale at ...

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Surveying the Limitless Field


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Image: Still from Lucy Raven's "China Town"

When the staff of the New York Underground Film Festival decided to end the fifteen-year-old institution and start fresh, they named their new venture Migrating Forms. The title of the new festival, which debuted last week at Anthology Film Archives, resonates with the theories that heavyweight curators like Roger Brueghel and Nicolas Bourriaud have proposed to describe art-making in conditions of international interconnectedness, where a finite number of cultural models yield a seemingly infinite number of variations. The term “migrating forms” could also refer to the travel of moving-image art between gallery and cinema, or describe aspects of films in the festival program, from the content of documentaries like Lucy Raven’s China Town, a stop-motion photographic animation about the U.S.-China copper trade, to the form of shorts that repurposed found footage, like Jesse McLean’s Somewhere Only We Know, which included a montage of reality-show contestants’ faces as they are kicked off television.

Oksana Bulgakowa’s The Factory of Gestures, based on her book of the same name, explored how Russian and Soviet cinema manufactured and recalibrated codes of body language over eighty years of social upheaval. Running commentary explained gestures’ shifting meanings, and the replacement of the films’ sound with a spare, atonal score helped separate the actors’ motions from narrative. The subject matter of The Factory of Gestures had limited appeal for the experimental film crowd (I was the only viewer at the Saturday afternoon screening), but Bulgakowa’s work suggested an interesting direction for creative presentations of scholarly research.

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Image: Still from Jacob Ciocci’s "The Peace Tape"

The lecture format appeared again in Oliver Laric’s Versions, a pithy essay on the irrelevance of the notion of authenticity and the “animistic” attitude that has taken ...

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Object Study


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Image: The score to Matmos’ Supreme Balloon, as seen on screens of PLOrk members

Last weekend the Kitchen hosted two night of performances by Matmos, So Percussion and PLOrk, the Princeton Laptop Orchestra. In addition to playing the conventional array of instruments, So Percussion exploits the unnoticed sonic properties of everyday objects -- Friday’s program began with their Cactus Song, in which the ensemble’s members huddled around a miked squash, stuck it with resonant tines, and plucked it like a karimba. So Percussion’s pairing with PLOrk highlighted the latter’s treatment of computers as objects. Technology from the phonograph to the sampler and beyond has been used to disembody sound, but PLOrk is among the growing ranks of electronic musicians who adapt gadgets to fix sound production in its physical context. They make laptops behave less like mixing machines and more like percussive instruments.

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Image: Musicians rehearsing at The Kitchen. (Courtesy of PLOrk.)

PLOrk uses hemispherical speakers that localizes the sound rather than mixing all the input into a single system, to give each computer an individual voice, like instruments in a symphony. (They also look awesome.) The ensemble’s members write software that connect each action to a result in order to make playing the laptop more like hitting the keys of a piano, so they’re not just dragging a cursor to manipulate parameters in a window. Another favorite PLOrk device is hacking the Mac’s motion sensor and connecting it to a sampler, so that swinging the laptop creates the illusion that a musician is grabbing sonorities from the ether and throwing them across the stage. The orchestra made effective use of that technique in Supreme Balloon, a Matmos piece that began with drones and transitioned to a tuneful idyll as the accompanying video shifted ...

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Migrating Forms Kicks Off Today!


Video: Migrating Forms Trailer by Michael Robinson

Migrating Forms, an offshoot of the defunct New York Underground Film Festival, runs tonight through Sunday at Anthology Film Archives in lower Manhattan. The five-day program is book-ended with feature-length films -- a 1960s-flavored, episodic satire of religion, philosophy, and criticism (Owen Land’s Dialogues) and a documentary about creationist geologists who offer evidence that the world is 6,000 years old (Michael Gitlin’s The Earth Is Young). In between there are almost one hundred long and short works to suit every taste. If you can’t get enough YouTube appropriation, montage, and computer effects, try going Saturday at 7:15 for "Mixed and Maxed," a program featuring Animal Charm and Oliver Laric, or Sunday at 4:45 for "Mature Audiences," with works by Jesse McLean and Takeshi Murata. At Saturday night’s "Tube Time!" tournament, audience members will decide which contestant found the weirdest footage online. The full schedule is here. Single tickets cost $10, and a festival pass costs $50 -- or you can get one free by being the third person to email info[at]migratingforms.org with Rhizome in the subject line!

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On Sale!


Video: "Forms of Melancholy" Video Tour

What would Marx make of the internet? The man who envisioned future communists hunting and fishing by day and writing criticism by night would probably appreciate blogs, but think less of groceries on demand. Marx also believed that alienation stems from the worker's lack of control over the distribution and use of his product -- a theory that informs the exhibition "Forms of Melancholy," organized by Chris Coy at Sego Arts Center in Provo, Utah. Coy had about thirty of his artist friends submit designs to Café Press, the online store selling over 150 million user-generated goods. The full catalog of "Forms of Melancholy" can be viewed on a Café Press site. Coy said he wanted to show all of those products at Sego, but the order would have run over the show’s budget. His edited display can be seen in a deadpan YouTube gallery tour. It looks like a souvenir store, full of the sort of useful trinkets that, in advanced capitalist economies, function as vehicles for announcing social affiliations -- the mug with the insignia of the coffee drinker’s alma mater, the T-shirt with a bald eagle proclaiming that the wearer is a proud American. But “Forms of Melancholy” tweaks these conventions. Jeff Baij’s black hoodie reads "I hate U Mom & dad & School & Town" in Gothic script, making the message implied by a surly teen’s wardrobe bluntly explicit. There are several mugs with vacation pictures of strangers, or pictures made strange. With so many everyday things, “Forms of Melancholy” almost looks more like a novelty store rather than a gallery show. When Eilis McDonald puts the "pinwheel of death" -- the spinning Mac icon that signifies a forced pause -- on crude, animated wristwatches, it’s a pure play of signs ...

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