Brian Droitcour is a writer, curator, and Russian-to-English translator. From 2002 to 2007 he lived in Moscow, where he covered art for The Moscow Times and Artchronika, a Russian monthly magazine. In 2008 he moved to New York, where he started working for Rhizome, first as curatorial fellow, then as staff writer. As a translator he's worked on several exhibition catalogues and art anthologies.
Jon Rafman's Google Street Views and the accompanying essay he wrote for Art Fag City's IMG MGMT series are sure to get several well-deserved mentions in end-of-the-year lists. Tom Moody on Google Street Views: "Jon Rafman's gathering of images from Google Street Views isn't really collecting at all but solid, groundbreaking journalism. Obviously untold hours were spent perusing this recent-but-everyday tool for images in very specific, focused categories. Photos that look like art photos, photos of mishaps, photos showing the success and failure of Google's face-blurring software, photos that show class issues in a supposedly 'universal' product (the down and out are more likely to be photographed unsympathetically than the up and in). As much as one hates to see more attention paid to the monopoly that aspires to put the happy face on Big Brother, this is worthwhile, thoughtful research." Kool-Aid Man in Second Life is a distorted twin to Google Street Views, another set of screen captures singling out accidental beauty and quirks of surveillance, only this time in a fantasy world that lets Rafman personify his searching gaze in a pitcher of fruit drink.
кремль.рф (kremlin.rf) won't go live until early next year, but the Russian presidential administration's new Cyrillic URL already made waves last month, when Russia became the first country to register top-level ...
The stage at St. Petersburg's Sergey Kuryokhin Modern Art Center was set for a blast of live electronic music, with seating for ten performers, each station equipped with samplers, laptops, and electric guitars. As the audience arrived the musicians tinkered with the controls; one stood near a huge glass jug, adjusting wires submerged in its murky liquid. But when the appointed time for the concert's start arrived, the performers retreated to the wings, and recorded music came up and continued for the next twenty minutes. It seemed almost like a wry comment on the detachment of the physical presence of the performer from the source of sound in electronic music. But in fact it was an unannounced presentation of past issues of Tellus, the 1980s journal of experimental sound produced by Harvestworks, selected by director Carol Parkinson. As it faded, the musicians took their places, at last, to perform Third Eye Orchestra, a piece written and conducted by Hans Tammen. It was a controlled improvisation, where Tammen lifted numbered cards indicating which of the score's instructions should be read at that moment. The musicians, all local recruits, visibly relished both the spontaneity and the monstrously loud sound that only an ensemble of many amplified electronic instruments can produce.
The Harvestworks evening was part of the program of the third edition of Cyberfest, an annual festival conceived and organized by Anna Frants, a New York-based artist and gallerist, Marina Koldobskaya, director of the St. Petersburg branch of Russia's National Center for Contemporary Art.
The metaphor of the brain as a database (or, if you prefer, the database as a brain) flatters and anthropomorphizes the machine more than it explains the mind. Gray matter doesn't seem to be organized in a way that makes the storage and retrieval of information easy; rather, the classification and categorization that characterize the database are pre-digital technologies invented to manage the ever-increasing amounts of information that civilization requires citizens to master. Cicero used a "memory palace" when delivering orations. As he spoke, he would imagine moving through a house where each room and object represented points he needed to make in his speech and the supporting evidence he needed to make them. The antithesis of such memory systems might be the dream, the mind's nightly refresher that reconfigures the day's events and data in disjointed, symbolic narratives. Both the memory palace and the dream are based on irrational elements: subjective experience, arbitrary connections, and word play. That the memory palace is created under the thinker's deliberate control only highlights the conscious mind's eagerness to do what the unconscious mind does automatically. Even as Cicero publicly performed the constructs of reason, his brain was circumventing them.
Last July, in a New York University faculty residence on West Houston Street where Picasso's sculpture and I.M. Pei's architecture face off in a courtyard invisible to Google Earth, Alexandre Singh delivered an installment of his Assembly Instructions Lectures, a series of talks illustrated by a pair of overhead projectors. After introducing his audience to Matteo Ricci, a sixteenth-century Jesuit missionary who taught the memory palace technique to Chinese officials to convince them of the superiority of Western (and by extension, Christian) thought, Singh launched into a detailed recounting of a dream he supposedly had, in which Ingvar Kamprad, founder and principle shareholder of Ikea, announced that the master floor plan implemented in every Ikea store around the world encodes a classification of all human knowledge. For instance, the arrangement of shoes, hangers, and sweaters in a display closet, as Singh demonstrated, represented the kingdoms and phyla of life on Earth. What's more, the Ikea system of Singh's dream world does not merely encode--it controls. If something changes in a store--say, a new couch model is introduced for the new season, or a passing child moves a prop coffee-table book around a fake living room--the fabric of reality is altered.
"Contact," the most recent exhibition by the group Art Business Consulting, featured a rocket ship built from computer hardware, with a trio of yuppies floating weightlessly on a video screen inside. The trappings and denizens of the office have figured in ABC's work since Mikhail Kosoplapov, Maxim Ilyukhin, and Natalia Struchkova formed the group in 2001, and as in "Contact," they have always been subject to some sort of disfigurement. Early on, ABC established a pseudo-corporate identity by showing up at art openings in expensive cars and nice suits, performing the role of Russia's nascent upper-middle class while their colleagues in the Moscow boheme were riding public transport in sweaters and jeans. To solidify that image, ABC made good on their name's promise of "business"--in 2004, they became dealers, selling the work of artists they liked at ABC Gallery. Change happens quickly in Moscow; now that the market has dwarfed institutional influence in Russia's art world, linking the words "art" and "business" doesn't feel as novel as it did in 2001, and Western-style corporate culture has lost the cachet of an exotic interloper. ABC's symbolic launch of the office into space in "Contact" came on the heels of the loss of their own office space; at the end of May, the arts complex where ABC Gallery was located shut down to make room for a new development. While Ilyukhin, Kosolapov, and Struchkova continue to work as artists, businesspeople, and consultants, the events of last summer seem to mark a turning point, a time for reflecting on the future of a project initiated to document social change now that those changes are entrenched.
For anyone who has found pleasure in the dancing, drinking, and melancholy of Mark Leckey’s collage films—or the witty lyrics of his bands, JackTooJack and the defunct donAteller—it was a surprise when the British press labeled his work esoteric and over-intellectualized following his receipt of the Turner Prize last year. Perhaps the work featured in the exhibition of nominees, Cinema in the Round, lost something in the translation from a performance to a gallery installation. Leckey’s staged lecture wove Felix the Cat, Philip Guston, and The Titanic into an idiosyncratic history of art and film. Mark Leckey in the Long Tail, a new talk that premiered at the Institute of Contemporary Art, London earlier this year, takes the same approach and extends his argument into the twenty-first century, using examples and props to visualize how an internet-based economy has changed distribution, demand, and creativity. Its U.S. premiere, organized by the Museum of Modern Art, will take place at the Abron Arts Center on Oct. 1, 2, and 3. - Brian Droitcour