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

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

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 ...


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

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 ...


Interview with Grace Kook Anderson

Image: Eddo Stern, MELF, 2009

Through October 4, the Laguna Art Museum in Laguna Beach is presenting “WoW: Emergent Media Phenomenon”, an exhibition that considers the fantasy environment of the massively multiplayer online role-playing game World of Warcraft and its broader cultural impact. It includes works by gaming-conscious artists like Tale of Tales and Radical Software Group as well as pieces produced by staff at the company that develops WoW, Blizzard Entertainment. Curator Grace Kook Anderson answered a few questions about the show.

Image: Sam “Samwise” Didier, Footman, 1994

What aspects of World of Warcraft as an emergent media phenomenon do you find most interesting as a curator?

WoW has been a rich subject. What I find compelling in this game is that the narrative lineage passing through J.R.R. Tolkien and Dungeons and Dragons sets the framework of the game, but the players add that extra narrative layer. Another aspect that is remarkable is the democratic nature of cultural production that a game like WoW stimulates, such as the enormous volume of fan art and machinima to artists working in different media. And as an MMORPG, WoW is also a network and a community for so many people. It is amazing how game culture and reality interact.

Image: Adam Bartholl, photograph of a performance in Laguna Beach

Could you discuss a few of the artworks you selected and how they expand on these aspects of gaming in general and massively multiplayer gaming in particular?

In the case of quite a few of the artists, WoW imagery or content is used to point to greater issues, such as questioning the idea of networking and community or looking at the implications of globalization and the threat of terrorism. Aram Bartholl led a workshop and performance takes an aspect from the ...


Looking At "Looking At Music: Side 2&"

Image: Marcia Resnick, Glenn O'Brien's TV Party, NYC. 1980.

A year ago the Museum of Modern Art’s media galleries hosted “Looking at Music,” an exhibition of process-based work from the 1960s and 1970s that included music videos by pop icons like David Bowie and The Beatles (as well as cult favorites Captain Beefheart and Devo) amid works by Nam June Paik, Joan Jonas, and other avant-garde heroes. Caitlin Jones expanded on the inclusions and their mutual connections in a review on Rhizome; I also wrote about how it traced two paths in process art, which were exemplified by the music of John Cage and Steve Reich. Whatever a viewer brought to the show, it’s safe to say that everyone felt a thrill from the incongruity of watching Bowie’s Space Oddity in MoMA’s white boxes. The approach helped tear Cage, Paik, and their cohorts out of the textbook, and demonstrated that while ideas germinated in strongholds of the creative intellect like Darmstadt or E.A.T.’s “9 Evenings: Theatre & Engineering,” art did not exist in a vacuum. With “Looking at Music,” curator Barbara London set an agenda continued in an essay published in the March 2009 issue of Artforum, making a case for the study of music video in terms of process art in the late twentieth century.

Image: Stephanie Chernikowski, Sonic Youth. 1983

Now “Looking at Music: Side 2,” on view through November 30, offers the flip side as it takes the exploration of the topic into the late 1970s and early ‘80s. If art-world favorites set the tone in last year’s exhibition, “Side 2” is dominated by album covers and concert posters. A sprawling mural of work by rock’n’roll photographer Bob Gruen overlooks a monitor showing a grainy video ...