'The future ain't what it used to be.' So said Yogi Berra, and so too say artists Jon Thomson and Alison Craighead (of the British duo Thomson and Craighead) in a recent interview in the quarterly web journal Vague Terrain. Looking forward through the lens of history is one of the many strands that runs through the work Thomson and Craighead. Their early online work, Trigger Happy (which is included in Rhizome's Artbase), is a 'mashup' of Roland Barthes's 'Death of the Author' essay and the vintage arcade game 'Space Invaders.' The piece reflects the range of historical influence on new media art. Automated Beacon, a live stream of internet search queries, juxtaposes ideas of immediacy and desire from a distanced perspective, while Light From Tomorrow literally sends light from the future into the present by working across time zones. Flat Earth is a new animation created in conjunction with the UK's Channel Four Television. Billed as a 'desktop documentary,' the piece compiles texts from blogs and freely-available satellite imagery to create a narrative slice of our world, now, and what is soon to be our past. Whether embracing the old to reflect the new or vice versa, Thomson and Craighead play not only with the critical tensions between past, present, and future, but also the role of technology within that timeline.
Like it or not, advertising has become a deeply entrenched part of our online experience. Ads--moving, still, or blinking--sit alongside our news, our email, and our Facebook profiles. If you find this visual bombardment less than pleasing, one of the 2008 Rhizome Commissions should be able to help you out. Developed by Steve Lambert with Evan Harper, Addart is a Firefox extension that replaces ad content on given websites with original artworks from a predetermined database. More than just blocking adds like other available 'ad blockers,' with 'AddArt' every two weeks a selection of five to eight artworks (chosen by invited curators) will be available to you. This is not Steve Lambert's first shot at the plight of omnipresent advertising. He is the CEO of The Anti-Advertising Agency and with GRL (Graffiti Research Labs) they recently created Light Criticism, a creative 'rebranding' of some of New York City's LCD screens. The Bus Stop Bench Project worked to the same effect, by covering Oakland city bus stop benches with original artwork, Lambert addressed the passive ways through which we constantly receive images, and highlighted the ease through which this power can be harnessed for good.
Dear Cockettes: an exhibition for and about the legendary acid queens The Cockettes just recently opened at UKS (the Young Artists Society) in Oslo, Norway. The Cockettes, who emerged from San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury community, performed "transvestite-glitter-fairie-theatre masques"--elaborate performances which even to the contemporary eye seem remarkably avant garde. "Gender fuck" is a term often associated with the group, as their signature beards, glitter, and transsexual costumes, according to Allen Ginsberg, enforced a "gay contribution to the realization that we're not a hundred percent masculine or feminine, but a mixture of hormones." The exhibition, which opened last week with a number of performances including one by London's 'House of Egypt' includes original vintage posters, photographic prints, scripts, newspaper articles, and other paraphernalia. The exhibition will include screenings of a number of rare films as well as the eponymous documentary feature by David Wiessman and Bill Webber (amazing clips and photos of which can be seen on the film's website). 'Dear Cockettes' should be seen as an important historical exhibition--one that looks beyond the usual conceptual and minimalist art history of the 1960s and 70s to cast a wider net of social relevance and cultural influence. The Cockettes can be seen not only as a precedent to glam rock era stars David Bowie and Elton John, but also contemporary performers like Devendra Banhart.
Few media artists do documentation better than JODI.org (of course depending on who you talk to, few artists do performance or new media artwork better than JODI.org), and sometime in the past few months the legendary duo of Joan Heemskerk and Dirk Paesmans uploaded a sublime example of their documentary gifts. Composite Club, an installation which was shown recently at both VertextList in Brooklyn and And/Or Gallery in Dallas, can now be viewed online as a series of video files. By using Playstation's Eye Toy camera (which maps the user's movements into the game), a few games, and some cinematic classics (and then recording the outcome), JODI has created a series of funny and characteristically disconcerting single-channel videos. The movements of Marcello Mastroianni and Sophia Loren become triggers for a workout video, characters from Tron play 'Monkey Mania,' and Harrison Ford's Blade Runner character conducts an orchestra and captains a cheerleading squad (I suppose this is much easier than hunting down replicants). Composite Club, in both its installed and online versions, gives us the ultimate in mediated experience--movies playing video games.
Traveling, you realize that differences are lost: each city takes to resembling all cities, places exchange their form, order, distances, a shapeless dust cloud invades the continents. -- Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities
Calvino's Invisible Cities is, among other things, a beautiful and unique rumination on imagination and geography and Never Been to Tehran, an exhibition curated by Andrea Grover and Jon Rubin, explores a similar terrain. For the project they asked an international group of artists (who have never been to Tehran) to look to their own towns and environments, imagine, and then photograph their conception of what the city of Tehran looked like. The resulting photos reflect not only the Tehran we see through our current media-informed lens (exotic, dangerous, and otherly), but also the growing multiculturalism of the world's major centers. Images of architecture, industry, communal spaces, and food, elegantly make visible the power of perception in contemporary geopolitics. The images were streamed everyday, in the form of a slide show, to galleries in Iran, Turkey, the US, New Zealand, Denmark and Germany, but this physical manifestation wraps up today. Luckily for those of us not in any of these cities, however, the exhibition's photo-sharing site remains on view. In a time of heated political rhetoric, 'Never Been to Tehran' encourages us to imagine beyond the recent inflammatory depictions of Iran, to find links to our own personal geographies, and to remember that in many instances 'each city takes to resembling all cities.'