Jeremy Bailey will participate in Rhizome's Seven On Seven Conference on Saturday, April 20th, paired with technologist Julie Uhrman. A new project by Bailey, Famous New Media Art Patent Office, also went live today as part of the New Museum's First Look online exhibition series.
Anyone with a passing interest in the current status of the Internet and World Wide Web will have noticed a curious thing: the tide of popular opinion is changing, and net-skepticism is on the rise.
Chimera Q.T.E at London’s Cell Project Space draws its curatorial theme from a collagist interpretation of the Internet – a view that sees the web as a collection of orphaned, mashed and re-mashed digital fragments, or a kind of infinite patchwork quilt. For inspiration and the exhibition title, London based curator Attilia Fattori Franchini nudged aside contemporary similes to pull a monster from Greek mythology. The chimera, like that other Grecian mashup the griffin, is a beast composed of several animals, and both its status as an organic mishmash, and the common use of its name to denote fanciful pipe dreams, provided Franchini with a comparative reference for what the web is like.
Luckily the beast’s double status as a hybrid creature and linguistic unit is also a useful tool for interpreting the show. For while the fragmented web model (i.e. the body of the beast) is popular and necessary for those who see contemporary artists as nomadic remixers and postproducers (see Mark Amerika’s recent remixthebook), it is an idea built on fragile conceptual foundations that tumble down beyond the aggregated world of Tumblr and BuzzFeed. Hence the idea that today’s artists are cut-and-pasting their way towards a liberatory new praxis could be mere chimera. What Chimera Q.T.E captures then is not a mediation of the Internet as it is – because nobody really knows. It captures an aesthetic sensibility informed by the fragmented web model and its proposed utopic possibilities. When formalised this sensibility, shared by the eight international artists on display, becomes a hybrid mix of lurid color palettes, errant geometry, and vivid, startlingly flat, digital precision. What the viewer sees in each work is essentially a dispatch from an abstract digital territory, an ambient landscape of the hyperreal.
Chimera Q ...
When visionary engineer J.C.R Licklider published Man-Computer Symbiosis in 1960 — a paper outlining how man’s intellectual productivity can, and should be significantly increased when partnered with a computer — the creative problems of contemporary artists were perhaps furthest from his mind. But during the 1960s, a digital fever struck the art world. Large numbers of enthused European and North American artists, curators, and theorists focussed their attention on the creative potential of computing. Software, systems, and concepts were tried and tested, and a decade’s worth of activity culminated in two landmark exhibitions: Jasia Reichardt’s Cybernetic Serendipity at London’s ICA and Jack Burnham's Software: Information Technology at New York’s Jewish Museum.
Two artists with retrospectives currently showing in the UK caught that initial wave of innovation: German born and New York-based Manfred Mohr, and British born, and still UK-based Ernest Edmonds.
Originally a painter with Constructivist sympathies, Edmonds turned to computer-aided algorithmic painting in 1968. Light Logic, his career-long retrospective at Site Gallery Sheffield, UK, combined early ‘70s works and original punch cards with a new motion sensitive installation and later video pieces. Edmonds’ essential project is an investigation into the variant formal possibilities of a two-dimensional square. In each work the internal bounds of that shape are divided into sectors made visible by the distribution of colour, or the placement of a line. This is a process facilitated by programs designed to filter through combinatorial permutations, defined by Edmonds, until a suitable variation is found and then rendered by hand. A collection of numbered ink drawings from 1974 and 1975 capture the result of this procedure in the exhibition’s only monochrome (black and white) works.
Shaping Forms, Ernest Edmonds, 2007
The late ‘80s saw Edmonds move from canvas and paper to video ...
Constant Screen (2012) limited edition poster to accompany 'Constant Screen' video installation
Much has been made of our networked present’s utopic possibilities, but it feels like a wave of anxiety and skepticism is emerging to counter the web optimism of individuals like Clay Shirkey. Is it right to read your work as an investigation into how usage of the Internet may not be altering how we think, feel, and interact for the better?
At the heart of my practice there is tension between fascination and wariness with new technologies, specifically the meshing of mobile telecommunications devices and the Internet. It is not an ambivalent position but it is conflicted. So yes - in part.
On the one hand I am intensely excited by the simultaneous nature of display, consumption and production that these interfaces encourage. I also understand the conditions of the digital (binary code that can be endlessly replicated) as fundamentally supporting information overload and excess, but see so many possibilities in embracing the torrent of information rather than attempting to oppose it.
At exactly the same time, I am wary and perhaps even frightened at moments. I can be a bit of a conspiracy theorist and as Internet space becomes ever-more commodified and our online lives are increasingly channeled through multi-national companies I do worry. I don’t, for example, like the feeling of being locatable through the GPS facility on my phone. I am a bit of a McLuhanite (I keep returning to, and re-turning ‘the Gutenberg Galaxy’) and when he states “any technology gradually creates a totally new human environment”, my response is to question what type of human environment is now being created and what type of human? Are these rapidly mutating environments ones that are conducive to human beings – or at least the human ...
As part of England’s nationwide switchover from analog to digital tele-broadcasting, London’s official analog signal went down on April 18, 2012. While dumpsters citywide filled with old TV sets, a flurry of commemorative activity sprung up in the art world. Most notably London’s Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) staged Remote Control, a large survey show examining prominent artists’ responses to television; and across town pioneering British video artist David Hall staged 1001 TV Sets (End Piece), 1972 – 2012, an epic installation in which 1001 sets, tuned to one of five UK analog channels, gradually transitioned from color broadcasts to snow and noise.
Against this backdrop of retrospection and nostalgia the politicised London-based pirate television group Superlative TV formed. Set to begin broadcasting the evening of September 14, Superlative TV will be available to anyone in the city who can unplug a TV digital receiver and tune into the yet to be designated frequency. Inclusive, liberal, and egalitarian, the channel will run a program consisting of community led documentaries, artists’ works, performance, news, and film. Tackling subjects like the 2011 London riots – civil unrest that saw unprecedented looting, arson, and violence in the city – Superlative TV are distancing themselves from the post-modern tendencies of contemporaries like South London’s Auto Italia South East and Lucky PDF. In other words, it is not all about VHS generation loss and ironic distance. Instead Superlative TV seek to offer a politically active model of public access television: an enfranchising, free television service in dialogue with its users, as opposed to a paid for service that is not. Recently I spoke with Superlative TV co-founder Anne Tennor about the upcoming broadcast.
How did Superlative TV start and why?
I think it started because we saw a need. Not that there isn’t a lot of “art TV” out there, because there is a lot, but art TV seems to have almost become about a brand. A brand in which an individual’s voice might get lost in the crowd. So what we're facilitating is a kind of open platform that is missing from British broadcasting in general, and the idea is to fill the gap of open access television as well as produce art TV.
We have a background working with lots of artists in London, doing various projects with moving image and broadcasting whether that is radio or television. Then the digital switchover happened and it just seemed like the perfect time to subvert an old medium that people aren’t using anymore. We see it as a redundant space that can be completely free, completely uncensored, completely unrestricted. Not even the Internet can provide that opportunity, for artists especially. But if you look at last summer’s riots the government was trying to shut Twitter down. So we’re still being controlled, in spite of the idea that we use modern technology to have a voice.
It’s interesting that you’re talking about issues of control; because what you are doing you have to do covertly as it’s illegal.
We’re hoping through our activity we’ll eventually not be seen as criminals, but as people offering something which should be made legal. Eventually the idea is to have an open access television station in the UK as there isn’t one, but it’s happening all over the world now, of course in America, but also in parts of Eastern Europe you’ve got artists who are offered half an hour on a local channel. That said, open access isn’t the extent of what we plan to program. We’d like to commission relevant programs that national TV doesn’t seem to cover. Also, given the current political situation in the UK, there’s a feeling that some parts of society are being targeted by Conservative policies and not being given a voice at all. So this goes beyond just offering young artists, or people with nowhere to show work, a space.
I was thinking about the fact that it’s on analogue television, which means people will have to detune their sets to watch. First of all you’re getting an active and engaged audience, because their making a big effort to find out what we’re broadcasting; and second it’s like time travelling, which is how it feels in the UK at the moment. I just think that a lot of what’s happening has happened twenty, thirty years ago with Margaret Thatcher, and even before that. Things seem to go in cycles and it would be nice to offer some hope.
So can you tell me a bit about where you’re at with the project at the moment?
Well you’ve come towards the end of phase two. Phase one has been collecting content, practising camerawork, assembling equipment, and we’re ready to go live. We’ve been trying to collect shows together, and ideas for formats. We have a show that we’re advertising now, which is called Prime Time: we’re asking artists and curators to submit three videos to us, one that they’ve made, one they have influenced and one that has influenced them. We’ll screen those after we’ve launched piratically on the 14September.
We’ve also been filming and documenting events for the last year: working with PAMI (Peckham Artists Moving Image festival), and a radio show on Resonance FM called The Gravy. They have a great bunch of weird and wonderful musical acts, that we filmed and put our live mixing over, and we have a whole catalogue of them now. We’re also commissioning new works with artists, so a lot of great young talent is going to be shown via our channel. On top of that we’re working on more documentary style content about the political situation now...