The touring show 9 Evenings Reconsidered: Art Theater and Engineering 1966 documents the legendary series of performances by the likes of John Cage, Robert Rauschenberg, Yvonne Rainer, and many others, and organized by Billy Kluver, a Bell Laboratories engineer, in October 1966 at the 69th Regiment Armory. The exhibition opened in Montreal at the Leonard and Bina Ellen Gallery, traveled to MIT's List Visual Arts Center, and is now on its way to Berlin's Tesla Media Art Laboratory at the beginning of November. For those of us who aren't on the exhibition's path, we can see many elements of the exhibition in a virtual space. Compiled by Langlois Foundation researcher-in-residence Clarisse Baridot, the 9 Evenings: Theater and Engineering fonds has been animated in a way that highlights the specific aspects of the technology not often at the forefront of existing scholarship. Based on the multitude of detailed stage directions, electronic schemas, and process documents in the collection, the interface provides numerous points of access to this incredible set of documents. One click on Robert Rauschenberg's name takes you to video of the tennis match/performance Open Score, and also images and descriptions of all vital electronic components (including photographs of the racquets which were equipped with wireless transmitting microphones). Another click opens an entire section dedicated to every screen and monitor used over the course of the evenings. As so much of the discourse on 9 Evenings is related directly to its importance as an art historical event, it is invigorating to explore this resource that, while still locating this moment firmly within this artistic context, for once puts the technical in the spotlight.
The latest two person show at Dallas' And/Or Gallery showcases the work of Kevin Bewersdorf and Guthrie Lonergan. Using the web in all its multi-functional glory, both these artists emphasize the degree to which the internet has become embedded in our culture and psyches. Lonergan's practice is a superlative example of a new generation of internet artists who combine net.art aesthetics with Web 2.0 content. Turning web surfing into an art form (Lonergan is a founding member of the Nasty Nets Internet Surfing Club), Lonergan borrows from user-generated sites, primarily YouTube, and composes snapshots of a culture that has become increasingly comfortable with the conflation of public and private space. This blurring is evident in the video Babies' first steps for which Longergan combed the web for clips of this monumental family event. With no voice over, the first steps of Riley, Annie Kate, et al, become a compelling vision of how the forms offered by Web 2.0 can transform our most intimate memories into cultural products. Kevin Bewersdorf's work also examines this recontextualization and the eroding distinctions between public and private spaces and the control. In his latest work, Bewersdorf--who recently garnered attention for his part (as co-author and star) in the film LOL The Movie (about our reliance on technology and its affect on our physical relationships), mines the web's image pool with keyword searches and then converts them into objects at his ready-made production house: Walgreens.com's 'Photo Center.' Creating pillows, mugs, coasters and other tchockes, Bewersdorf literally objectifies other people's lives.
Historically, what remains of performance art are documents and anecdotes. While the anecdote ends up as lore and possibly lives on in an art history text, the document has taken on a hotly contested function in recent years as photographs of seminal performances have become valuable objects and in some instances come to stand for the original performances themselves. How does the relationship between the document and the performance change when performances take place in virtual spaces, or are streamed live on the web? How does this blur the line between a performance and its documentation? For the month of October, Vancouver, British Columbia is host to the LIVE Performance Art Biennale--a series of performances, panels, and exhibitions over multiple weeks on multiple sites. Almost all of the activities are being documented and updated constantly, online, in the form of text, photographs, and video--eliminating a degree of distance that has normally existed between the event and its trace. The document is a key element in Friday's 'The Great Learning,' in which Michael Morris and Vincent Trasov reanimate the documents of their past performances, and on Tuesday October 23rd this increasing simultaneity of performance and document will be explored in 'Bodies
Nature and technology are often forced into an antagonistic relationship and artists Cary Peppermint and Christine Nadir, known jointly as EcoArtTech, seek to problematize this faulty opposition. "The question of whether human use of technology is ecologically a fault or a strength, the relation of the digital to the natural, the expansion of the imagination of what constitutes technology" are a few of the lines of inquiry which form the core of their work. A Series of Practical Perfomances in the Summer of 2005 was a series of performances in which the artists negotiate their relationship to nature and the idea of 'wilderness.' Slightly ritualistic and also humorous, one performance enacts an important element of our modern quest for nature--driving there. For their newest project, Untitled Landscapes for Portable Media Players Peppermint and Nadir, as the title would suggest, offer a series of four moving landscapes to be played on your iPod (or whatever portable device you might use). In the tradition of the landscape painting these moving images offer the viewer a chance to contemplate the sublime character of nature, but in the case of EcoArtTech's landscapes, the sublime is sublimated under layers of technological intervention.
"Behind every great man..." is perhaps a phrase more identified with 1970s feminism than the current state of gender relations, but in an art world which appears to offer greater opportunity to the male sex (for example see Jerry Saltz's illuminating Village Voice article), perhaps this axiom is still more a reality than a tired cliche. Such is the case of Shikego Kubota, artist and wife of the late Nam June Paik whose current show at Maya Stendhal Gallery, in New York City, at long last celebrates her own illustrious career. Perhaps best known for her iconic feminist work 'Vagina Painting' (1965), Kubota was a major player in the international Fluxus movement and an early adopter of video. Generating and distorting video signals and creating video sculpture (techniques so supremely associated with Paik), Kubota's works explore links between the technological, the personal, and the natural. The humorous and extremely moving exhibition My Life with Nam June Paik (which closes on October 20th), is an homage not only to her life partner who passed away in 2006 but also a remarkable display of her own artistic gifts. Showing both older video sculptures and two new sculptural portraits of her late husband, the title of this exhibition brings to light some highly nuanced issues of gender, collaboration and influence, and recognition.