The 12th Istanbul Biennial and ISEA 2011 coincided this year, resulting in a jam-packed week of activity. At any hour of the day, there was a dizzying array of talks, performances, exhibitions, and art openings across the city of Istanbul. Organizing two high profile, international art events at the same time was a wise choice, as it produced an element of synergy between them. The biennial exhibition was especially attentive to the Arab Spring, and the effect this has had in the region, while ISEA was more oriented to the problems and future possibilities of technology. Taking in both the biennial and ISEA in the same week lead me to think about the power of technology, and its significance for both established and emerging democracies.
ISEA kicked off with a keynote entitled “Time to Live” by the writer and academic Sean Cubitt. Taking its title from the TTL mechanism used in the movement of data across a network or computer, Cubitt argued that the struggle over space and time is a defining aspect of digital media, and ultimately, that time becomes alienated in liaison with new technologies. Time, for him, was once a humanistic force, but has now become something that is used over and against humanity through its instrumentalization. In order to chart the progressive alienation of time, Cubitt points to the development of three forms of media that he sees as dominant beginning in the 20th century — spreadsheets, databases, and geographical information systems. These forms have fundamentally altered the use and understanding of both time and space, resulting in their management and optimization towards biopolitical ends. The grid is the organizational method used across spreadsheets, databases, and geographical information systems, and in the closing section of his talk, Cubitt offered the vector as an oppositional form capable of suggesting new alternatives to the grid. In order to unearth differing structures such as the vector, Cubitt urged artists and researchers alike to go back and revisit earlier, obsolete technologies and practices with a fresh eye.
Sean Cubitt's Lecture "Time to Live" at ISEA 2011
I had Cubitt’s call to re-examine history for new solutions at the back of my mind when I visited the Istanbul Biennial, as the show’s unique premise, organized around the work of Felix Gonzalez-Torres, seemed to similarly dig into the past in order to find pressing correspondences with the present. Curated by Jens Hoffman and Adriano Pedrosa, the exhibition spread across two large warehouses adjacent to the Istanbul Modern. The exhibition’s design, created by architect Ryue Nishizawa, was comprised of a maze-like series of various sized rooms without ceilings, whose entrances and exits emptied out into passageways. Corrugated metal covered the exterior walls of the rooms, giving it the semblance of a building or home. In the catalog, it was explained that the Nishizawa had intended to mimic Istanbul’s intersecting streets and alleys. If anything, the layout allowed for an overlapping exchange between the wide range of subjects explored in the show, as each room was either grouped works around a theme from Gonzales-Torres’ oeuvre or presented work by an individual artist.
Over the summer, I met with Mark Pauline, director and founder of the legendary Survival Research Laboratories, who gave me a tour of his studio workshop in Petaluma, CA. Since its inception in 1978, SRL has quite literally blazed new territory in the field of performance, robotic engineering and sculpture, producing dangerous, overpowering live shows with custom robots built by Mark and his team. The performances provoke both a fear of and fascination with the power of technology, as well as the potential loss of human control over machines. Extremely affable and intelligent, with a no bullshit air about him, Mark’s technical knowledge was astounding. I’ve been following SRL’s work for years, so actually meeting Mark and seeing the robots up close was a real treat.
Survival Research Laboratories is currently operated out of three large garages in Petaluma, an idyllic, historic town about an hour north of San Francisco. Mark moved to the new location in 2007, lugging 180 tons of equipment with him, when the landlord of his old warehouse in San Francisco decided to hike up the rent after decades of affordability. The Petaluma spot seems perfectly suited to SRL’s activities, it even has a parking lot large enough to accommodate test runs of gigantic, menacing robots, and laidback neighbors who never complain about the noise.
The first garage I got a peek at is the laboratory, where the robots are made.
I met with artist, musician, educator and circuit-bending guru Pete Edwards last week, as he was preparing for his exhibition “Specter Flux” at Long Island City’s Flux Factory, where he is currently an artist in residence. The show opens on June 30th and will run until July 3rd. Since 2000, Pete has sold his handmade electronic instruments through his company Casperelectronics, and performed with his creations under the same name. Over the span of his career, he’s created unique and special instruments out of a variety of unusual items, such as a Jack-In-The-Box Toy, an Amazing Ally doll, megaphones, and a BarbieKaraoke Machine. His work on Casio SK-1s and Speak&Spells; have been an inspiration for many in the world of circuit-bending, and no doubt his output has helped popularize these objects as ideal for these sorts of projects.
More recently, Pete has begun incorporating plastic orbs into his practice, producing them as standalone interactive, color-mixing lights or as components to his machines. These orbs will be central to his installation at Flux Factory, and he showed me a few of them during my visit, as well as a nifty analog synth he built from scratch. Both will be used in “Specter Flux”.
Pete mentioned that he enjoys the mesmerizing quality of the orbs, and the fact that they immediately captivate an audience, regardless of context. Each orb is individually tuned to respond to volume and tone, so that viewers must play with them in order to gauge their sensitivity. The orbs were installed in an elevator at the Tang Museum last year, and Pete recalled, with delight, that despite the seeming privacy of the elevator, that the sounds of visitors clapping, singing and yelling at the orbs travelled throughout the building.
Grafikdemo is a physical wireframe model of a teapot inside a Commodore CBM cabinet. The model can be rotated by pushing keys on the keyboard. Sophisticated lighting of the model makes it hard for the viewer to distinguish whether he sees a real digital model or a fake computer screen. Grafikdemo explores the transition between reality and representation in a playful way.
-- FROM THE ARTIST'S STATEMENT
United States of America
Commissioned by YBCA, Gordon’s new installation—part of her solo exhibition It Only Happens All of the Time—is an immersive sonic experience that emphasizes the primacy of the embodied experience; one that encourages the visitor to navigate the space through a mode of listening that is both felt and heard. Gordon explores sound’s ability to establish different levels of intimacy, and the exhibition’s title points towards the ubiquitous presence of sound in that process, whether it exists at the periphery or center of our awareness. The installation’s sound-absorbing walls reference the design of anechoic chambers found in military and scientific testing facilities, which insulate and absorb sound reflections. In contrast to the walls of the installation, which gestures towards a calculated experience, the sculpture Love Seat situated within this contained environment suggests another, more emancipated, arrangement. Surrounded by a multichannel speaker system distributed throughout the gallery, Love Seat encourages visitors to sit and share in a listening experience with others, while maintaining a physical separation. Fostering an exchange between visitors that wavers between proximity and distance, Love Seat parallels how we listen together.
Gordon’s other works for the exhibition echo a similar concept—sound as experienced within the body becomes a way to feel with others, and to experience the mechanisms of built space through non-visual means. Her film Everyone Will Be Here Now But Me documents a site-specific sound environment created within the empty offices of the Los Angeles Food Center. It follows visitors as they explore sound installations distributed throughout the building, with the option to listen through binaural microphones that captured the 3D stereo sound of the space. The suspended figures in Gordon’s new series of drawings and watercolors Filter Resonance B more subtly signal the body; wire-like lines protrude and drift through these organ-like forms, a reference to the potential for connectivity. Gordon imagines that the drawings represent actual filters, which isolate information, and their presentation is meant to evoke the interfaces of audio filters in music software, which allow the user to directly regulate reverb, equalization, and so on by manipulating graphic elements. Much like the show itself, these strange configurations invite reflection on the many ways the body is instrumentalized through technology.
About Control: Technology in Culture
Control: Technology in Culture, curated by Ceci Moss, Assistant Curator of Visual Arts, is YBCA’s new series of exhibitions showcasing work by emerging and mid-career artists who examine the social, cultural, and experiential implications of technology. The series seeks to prompt timely questions about the profound and far-reaching influence of technology in our daily lives by focusing on artists whose work spans a multitude of disciplines and relates to a diverse set of issues, including architecture, acoustics, psychology, labor, consumerism, the environment, and the military.
The term “control” refers to philosopher Gilles Deleuze’s theory that, as a result of the ever-increasing role of information technology, Michel Foucault’s “disciplinary society” of the 20th century has given way to a “control society” in the 21st century. In contrast to discipline, which molds the individual through confinement in factories, prisons, and schools, control is diffuse, adaptable, and ubiquitous, modulating rather than molding the individual.
United States of America
For her new installation, emergent entity chant array, Murphy has designed a type of fractal involving self-similar patterns at varying scales. Constructed out of a precisely configured assemblage of 3D printed sculptures, LED lights, light boxes, and wood cut forms, the installation resembles a real life version of her complex and dizzying internet-based works. Like Murphy’s virtual video game environments, emergent entity chant array plays upon the visitor’s perception of both space and dimension, encouraging the exploration of elevated states of consciousness.
Deeply post-humanist in her approach, Murphy views her creative process as a form of meditation in which she seeks an intuitive, harmonious relation with the tools used to produce her work. Her intricate arrangement of forms focuses her own energy and that of the viewer, drawing them in. This sense of an attuned connection with an audience is also an active element in the art collectives of which she is a member, MSHR and Oregon Painting Society.
Architecture and Computation with Keller Easterling and Erica Robles (Part of PROGRAM: Media and Literature at NYU)
United States of America
Architecture and Computation
19 University Place, Great Room
New York, NY 10003
Free and Open to the Public
"PROGRAM" is an interdisciplinary event series organized by graduate students within New York University’s Media, Culture and Communication, English, and Comparative Literature Departments. Intentionally broad in scope, the series will present talks that explore the cultural, historical, aesthetic and political impact of software and programming logic.
This first event in our year-long lecture series explores the intersection of architecture and the logic of computation. How does computation structure our physical world, and in what ways has the function of computational media been applied to the spaces we inhabit?
Keller Easterling (Yale University, Architecture)
Extrastatecraft: Global Infrastructure and Political Arts
Repeatable formulas and spatial products make most of the space in the world. Now, not only buildings but also entire cities have become spatial products that typically reproduce free zone world cities like Shenzhen or Dubai. Space has become a mobile, monetized, almost infrastructural, technology, where infrastructure is not only the urban substructure, but also the urban structure itself. Some of the most radical changes to the globalizing world are being written, not in the language of law and diplomacy, but rather in the language of this matrix space. Massive global infrastructure systems, administered by mixtures of public and private cohorts and driven by profound irrationalities, generate de facto, undeclared forms of polity faster than any even quasi-official forms of governance can legislate them—a wilder mongrel than any storied Leviathan for which we have studied political response. Infrastructure space is one crucible within which multiple fields of analysis encounter ample complexity, and it tutors special approaches to both form making and political arts.
Keller Easterling is is an architect, urbanist, writer, and Professor of Architecture at Yale University. Her latest project is titled Extrastatecraft.
Erica Robles (New York University, MCC)
Mediated Congregation: The Crystal Cathedral and God’s Place in a Networked WorldThis talk focuses on an often-overlooked institution that has helped produce and legitimate transformations in 20th century social life: the church. Through an analysis of the Crystal Cathedral Robles situates Protestant spatial production within a broader project of cultural re-formation whereby collective life became conducted via increasingly mediated, mobile, and distributed arrangements. For more than half a century, this influential Southern California ministry helped reshape the style and material conditions for worship. At its height, the Crystal Cathedral was perhaps the most visible Protestant church in the world.
Robles will render three distinctive and successive portraits of the church as a drive-in theater (1955-1957), an indoor-outdoor/television church (1962-1970), and then a globally-broadcast, glass and steel cathedral (1980 – 2012). Each site was a re-imagining of the socio-technical conditions for communion. Together, these portraits will trace a trajectory from the post-war to the present whereby the church helped determine technological and architectural meanings. By designing for mediated congregation, ministries like the Crystal Cathedral inscribed the production of broadcast and then networked geographies with spiritual significance. In so doing, they also translated Christian cosmology into a new technological regime.
Erica Robles is an Assistant Professor of Media, Culture, and Communication at New York University.
Upcoming 2012-2013 PROGRAM events
Media Archaeology with Matthew Kirschenbaum and Wendy Hui Kyong Chun, March 1st, 2013
Values in Technological Design with Geoffrey Bowker and Sara Hendren, April 12th, 2013
The series is sponsored by NYU's Information Futures, the Humanities Initiative, and the Departments of Media Culture, and Communication, English, and Comparative Literature.
Friday, December 10th 2010 / 3:00 - 7:00pm
Myles Jackson (History and Philosophy of Science and Technology, NYU): “The Role of Physicists in Measuring and Defining Nineteenth-Century Musical Aesthetics”
Kevin Bell (English, SUNY Albany): “Non-Cognitive Aspects of the City: Sound as Break in Christopher Harris’s “Still/Here"”
Ana María Ochoa (Music, Columbia University): “Orality and Orthography in Nineteenth-Century Colombia”"
Gary Tomlinson (Music, University of Pennsylvania): “Paleolithic Formalism”
Reception to follow
New York University / Silver Center for Arts and Science / 100 Washington Square East / Department of Music, Rm 220, 2nd floor
Sponsored by the departments of Music and Comparative Literature; with support from the NYU Humanities Initiative
Music, Language, Thought” is an interdisciplinary event series organized by graduate students within New York University’s Music and Comparative Literature Departments. Broadly speaking, the series focuses on the relationship between music and language, and our speakers will examine its theoretical ramifications for politics, aesthetics and historiography. The project stems from ongoing conversation and collaboration between graduate students within these two departments, and will continue on an annual basis.
Rhizome is a leading arts organization dedicated to the creation,
presentation, preservation, and critique of emerging artistic
practices that engage technology. Through open platforms for exchange
and collaboration, our website serves to encourage and expand the
communities around these practices. Our programs, many of which happen
online, include commissions, exhibitions, events, discussion, archives
and portfolios. Rhizome is an affiliate of the New Museum of
Contemporary Art. For more information about Rhizome, visit:
Rhizome seeks a Curatorial Fellow from February through June 2011. The
Fellow will support the curatorial and editorial departments at
Rhizome through research, writing and administration. This position is
a unique opportunity for a person interested in pursuing a career in
contemporary art to further their engagement with the field and hone
their professional skills.
The Curatorial Fellow must be based in New York and must be able to
commit to 16 hours of work per week, for 5 months, beginning in Spring 2011. This position is unpaid, but academic credit may be arranged. The Curatorial Fellow will work directly with artists and be overseen by the Executive Director and Senior Editor.
The Fellow's primary responsibilities include:
* Coordination and development of the Rhizome ArtBase, including
managing submissions and reaching out to artists
*Researching topics for editorial coverage and writing articles for Rhizome's
blog and publications
* Administrative support of programs, such as Rhizome's monthly New
Silent Series at the New Museum
*General support of the organization
QUALIFICATIONS: Candidates should have a high level of familiarity
with contemporary art and particularly new media and its history.
Education or advanced experience beyond the undergraduate level is
preferred. At a minimum, the candidate should have very strong
writing, editing, and analytical skills, and very high internet
literacy. Knowledge of Microsoft Office software is also required and
basic Photoshop skills are preferred.
TO APPLY: Please email a cover letter, resume or c.v., three
references, and three writing samples (url's or attachments) to Ceci Moss editor(at)rhizome.org. Review of applications will begin
immediately. Starting date is February 15, 2011
DEADLINE: February 3, 2011