All images: Screen captures from KCorea-INC.K
Is Ryan Trecartin a video artist? A “video-installation” artist? Reviewing “Any Ever,” the exhibition now on view at MoMA PS1, Roberta Smith grasped for precedent, naming Paul McCarthy, Matthew Barney and Pipilotti Rist. But, she admitted, the comparisons fell short. To find another artist who engages a plurality of art forms with simultaneous, equal intensity—all while rethinking what art is and how it touches its audience—you’d have to go back to Wagner. Video is an outcome of his process, but watching is not the only or best way to understand it. Trecartin says he starts each work by writing a script. Language—the primal, biological system of symbols—is the model and vehicle for art and commerce and every other manifestation of social activity. And the forms of all the aspects of Trecartin’s work—the camerawork, the editing, the music, the makeup, and the costumes, as well as Lizzie Fitch’s sets for the videos and “sets” for their viewing in “Any Ever”—are prefigured in the way he works with words.
To study Trecartin’s language, I read the script for K-CoreaINC.K (Section A), which is freely available thanks to ubuweb’s “Publishing the Unpublishable” series. Like any script, it starts with dramatis personae: Argentinian Korea, Hungary Korea, French Adaptation Korea, and so on. The litany of locales recalls the lyrics of a club hit (“Brazil, Morocco, London to Ibiza”: so sings J-Lo in “On the Floor”) or the “Paris, Milan, Moscow, Tokyo” you see on the front of designer boutiques. But only remotely. Countries aren’t named to evoke the exotic, but because geographic names, unlike human names, are tied to place and awkward in reuse. Slapped together, they don’t merge nicely. One plus one is two ones and the ozone emitted by their collision. Combos like these are a favorite device of Trecartin’s. So is the willful disregard for parts of speech. A character’s “first name” can be a noun or an adjective or one of each. Grammatical difference meets geographical difference as both are jettisoned. No setting is indicated—the list of characters is enough to locate the action in an unanchored imaginary.
On Friday, June 24, Rhizome is presenting new projects by Jeremy Bailey and Antoine Catala as part of the New Silent Series. This post elaborates some of the ideas around the event.
The future never comes looking like it used to. Science fiction's universal hallmark of technological advancement was the videophone. While you can buy a device as slick as a Gene Roddenberry prop, most people make video calls with the same thing they do a thousand other things with, using a streamlined version of the computer-camera-modem combo that Jennifer Ringley set up in her dorm room in 1996. Her site JenniCam (now archived) did not stream a live feed of her life. It updated still images— black-and-white, at first— every three minutes. Traffic leapt whenever word spread that Ringley was undressing, or having sex with her boyfriend. But JenniCam was never meant to be an illicit site. As Ringley explained, she was broadcasting everyday life, and in everyday life sex and nudity happen. Her webcam was like a piece of furniture, a mirror that blankly took in the image of the room it faced. It was connected to the line of the telephone, a device that philosopher Avital Ronnell has described as a superhumanizing prosthesis, a machine that empowers the ear and voice to operate across great distances. The webcam's mirror/telephone hybrid— as used by JenniCam and its lifecasting progeny, from Ustream.tv to Chatroulette— is a messy sort of videophone that captures a reflection at its physical location and disperses it to whatever channel that switches the packets.
Rosalind Krauss called video "the aesthetics of narcissism." Her 1976 essay of that name describes Vito Acconci's Centers (1971) as a reflection on art's indexical function: he looks in a television monitor as a mirror and points at himself. One of her other examples was Richard Serra's Boomerang (1974), which locks Nancy Holt in a prison of feedback. She speaks and listens to her own words in a "collapsed present." "[V]ideo's real medium," Krauss writes, "is a psychological situation, the very terms of which are to withdraw attention from an external object— an Other— and invest it in the Self." What do her words mean thirty years later, when video, thanks to webcams, has become part of everyday life as a telecom device? Marisa Olson's remake of Boomerang offers an easy starting point. The webpage juxtaposes a video of Olson listening to and repeating the text of Boomerang with a copy of the old video that she saved on her YouTube account. Serra's tightly constructed frame excludes everything but Holt's face and the audio apparatus. Olson (who did the tasks of both Serra and Holt: the tech set-up and the on-screen performance) lets her webcam show her studio; we can see a doorway, artworks, a bookshelf, the glare of sunlight on a framed print. For Olson, the real "frame" isn't the field of her webcam's lens but the window of the browser, which subsumes both the art-historical past and the webcam's collapsed present in the empty space of default whiteness. She's not only creating a reflection of her own image, but connecting it to an artifact of another place and time by echoing its call.
Live blog of the Seven on Seven conference May 14th.
“From Nethack to play-by-post forums on the WWW,” an Ars Technica blogger wrote in 2009, “the first thing that computer geeks do upon inventing a new medium is play Dungeons and Dragons with it.” With this half-joking riposte to conventional wisdom that new communications media are appropriated first by pornographers, the blogger introduced a roundup of instructions for adding dice rollers to Google Wave to make it a platform for turn-based role-playing games. Of course, links between computing and RPGs predate networked technology. Some of the earliest computer games were made by programmers who played D&D; and saw the connection between dice and digits. Another parallel might be drawn between the do-it-yourself culture around computing in the 1970s and the amateur storytelling demanded by RPGs. Even while computer use leaves less to the imagination today than it did thirty-five years ago, it still shares more characteristics with RPGs than older forms of entertainment do. The creator(s) of a novel, movie, or drama have combined details into a whole by the time it reaches an audience; those media come with spatial and temporal guidelines for consumption. But just as network connections are constant and pervasive, RPGs are open-ended, played with regularity and long-term commitment. Gaming (like, say, tweeting) doesn’t have the same distance between medium and audience as reading or film-going – there is a constant awareness of the self’s participation in a bigger system, and a feeling of contribution to it. RPGs, like internet use, move at the speed of life.
I think this affinity is what has prompted many artists to include allusions to RPGs in their works. Whether they adapt the forking structures or the surface details of fantasy and science fiction, whether those references are direct or oblique, references to the culture around RPGs can be shorthand for reality’s mediation by immaterial systems. Some examples: Brody Condon’s remakes of medieval paintings with game graphics, Eddo Stern’s animation of a gaming-forum flame war, Deb Sokolow’s choose-your-own-adventure drawings, the arcane protests of the Center for Tactical Magic, Sterling Crispin’s scrying devices, and the occult forms behind altar .gifs on dump.fm. These artists a have relationship to fantasy that’s distinctly different from ones who make monster portraits and fantastic battle scenes – a genre that’s also become more visible in contemporary art the last few years. (That trend, I’d say, comes because popular and critical approval for Peter Saul and Tim Burton has emboldened a younger generation of “outsider artists” who grew up with RPGs.) Indie fantasy art, like the illustrations in novels and gaming manuals, that inspire it, is about virtuosic draftsmanship and imagination. It showcases fine renderings of dragon scales and weaponry. The examples I listed above have rough edges where processes of imagination and play visibly collide with other frames of reference. Often, they achieve this by bringing technology to the foreground.
United States of America
The Abrons Arts Center of Henry Street Settlement is proud to present DECENTER: An Exhibition on the Centenary of the 1913 Armory Show, curated by Andrianna Campbell and Daniel S. Palmer. Opening February 17, 2013 and on view through April 7, the exhibition celebrates the legacy of the Cubist paintings and sculptures in the historic 1913 Armory Show by featuring a group of 27 emerging and internationally recognized contemporary artists, who explore the changes in perception precipitated by our digital age and who closely parallel the Cubist vernacular of fragmentation, nonlinearity, simultaneity, and decenteredness. The show highlights the sponsorship of the 50th anniversary exhibition by the Henry Street Settlement in 1963, the occasion which announced the building of what is today known as the Abrons Arts Center located at 466 Grand Street, New York, NY, on the Lower East Side of Manhattan.
The exhibition commences on the 100th anniversary of the Armory Show, Sunday, February 17, with a 1913 Armory Show Centennial Event, which will feature panel discussions about the 1913 exhibition, as well as the theme of perception and art in the digital age, followed by an opening reception. The show exhibits a group of artworks in the gallery, and also features digital works displayed at www.decenterarmory.com. The site launches February 17.
At the 1913 Armory Show, the Association of American Painters and Sculptors showcased the “New Spirit” of modern art. A backlash of scathing criticism showed how baffled the general American public was by the seeds of abstraction in the Cubist artworks, which quickly became a shorthand expression for the structural changes precipitated by modernity. They not only redefined artistic practice, but also altered our understanding of the process through which we perceive the world. On its 100th anniversary, we will celebrate the Armory Show by posing the question: What is the legacy of Cubism in the hundred years since the Armory Show’s radical display of modern art, and especially, how has this become relevant today?
Accordingly, this exhibition celebrates the centenary of the groundbreaking Armory Show by assembling artworks that analyze the digital revolution and the ways it has affected our perception of the world. Artists as varied as Sara VanDerBeek, Gabriel Orozco, Liz Magic Laser, and Abrons AIRspace residency program alumna Amy Feldman evoke the formal innovations of the historic avant-garde but differ through an embrace or flirtation with digital mediation. Artists today like Andrew Kuo, Tony Cokes, and Cory Arcangel are inspired by the inter-cultural circulation of images, ideas, and data in a worldwide network. While Pablo Picasso and fellow Cubists combined archaic Western forms and appropriated exotica to shatter inherited modes of representation, today ubiquitous computing and the digital image explosion create an intersection of the physical and the virtual, and in doing so, have decentered the locus of artistic praxis.
Although the far-reaching historical significance of the Armory Show was examined through a partial re-creation on its fiftieth anniversary in 1963 (sponsored by the Henry Street Settlement), even then, scholars acknowledged that the exhibition’s social import could not be replicated simply by re-staging the show. In order to honor that “New Spirit,” and the collaborative process through which the 27 members of the Association of American Painters and Sculptors organized this radical exhibit, the 2013 show will inhabit all available exhibition spaces at Abrons and also feature a corresponding online component of digital works. This web-based portion of the show, accessible at www.decenterarmory.com, will grow as artists invite others to contribute in a process that highlights the diversity and expansiveness of the 1913 show’s legacy as it relates to our world today.
This event celebrates the 1913 Armory Show, exactly 100 years after its doors opened to the public. What is the legacy of the exhibition, and how has it been understood and misinterpreted? Is there a “new aesthetic” brought about by perceptual shifts in the digital era? How do these changes align with the formal innovations of the historic avant garde? These two discussion panels, organized in conjunction with Abrons Art Center’s “Decenter: An Exhibition on the Centenary of the 1913 Armory Show,” will address the legacy of the 1913 Armory Show, and the ways that perception and artistic practice in the last hundred years has been radically transformed by our digital era.
Panel Discussion: The Legacy of the 1913 Armory Show:
Charles Haven Duncan (Collection Specialist, Archives of American Art)
Franklin Evans (Artist, New York)
Andrea Geyer (Artist, New York)
Marilyn Satin Kushner (Curator and Head, Department of Prints, Photographs, and Architectural Collections, New-York Historical Society; Co-curator of The Armory Show at 100)
Mary Murray (Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art, Munson Williams Proctor Arts Institute)
Panel Discussion: Perception and Art in the Digital Age:
Introduced by: Israel Rosenfield (City University of New York)
Ethan Greenbaum, Barbara Kasten, Andrew Kuo, Travess Smalley, Sara VanDerBeek
Moderated by: Brian Droitcour