The discipline of art history used to have a sound, the click and growl of the slide projector. It had a look, too, that was composed of darkened lecture halls and sometimes-blurry images of a unified size.
Kodak stopped manufacturing 35mm slide projectors in 2004, a decision in line with the company's current focus on digital photography. The website dedicated to Kodak slide projectors has been archived as a frozen version, current as of November 2004. Soon enough, that website would seem as old fashioned as the famous poster celebrating the invention of the carousel slide projector.
ABC's "Mad Men" credited Don Draper, the head copywriter at the ad firm the show focuses on, as the inventor of the term "the carousel," for Kodak's then-cutting edge technology. In the scene where he pitches the term to Kodak, he states, "The Greeks call it nostalgia. [...] It's a twinge in your heart, far more powerful than memory alone."
The fact that slide projectors are now becoming a technology on the verge of death invokes a new feeling of nostalgia. Slide projectors were commonly used for varied purposes, from the family slideshow through the business meeting display, and up to illustrated lectures. These devices were commonplace and their aesthetic, sound, and use bring up familiarity and a certain tradition.
In 2005, shortly after Kodak's announcement that it will no longer produce slide projectors, curator Darsie Alexander at the Baltimore Museum of Art organized the exhibition "Slideshow." Featuring nineteen works made between the 1960s and the early 2000s by artists such as Robert Smithson, Dennis Oppenheim, Ceal Floyer, and Dan Graham, "Slideshow" celebrated the medium itself. It was presented in a series of darkened rooms where the only light came from the slide projectors and the sound of the changing slides echoed throughout...
Detail of 16:9 II, 2011, LCD screen, Astonish 'Jasmine & Wild Berries,' glass, wood.
You have a very interesting relationship with objects and things. A slight touch, for example in Kicking Me When I'm Down of 2008, where a laundry drying rack is compiled from strip lights with white underclothes hanging from it, changes the meaning of what we see as an object—be it neon light, drying rack, or drying clothes—and how we perceive material, things, and art historical tradition (which is my way of saying Dan Flavin). Can you talk a little bit about the use of found objects, and whether or not you see your work as part of a growing discussion of the "thing" (or animism, or thingness, as it has been referred to as well) in the art context?
Aside from those drying rack pieces which were about strip lights coming from a design background to art and back to design, I don't really think about the history of objects in terms the art lexicon of used material—but rather something more in tune with its position outside of the artwork. I feel it's best to talk about the material in my work in terms of pre-fabricated or fabricated objects because sometimes I'll find something and use it but just as often I'll find something and have it remade slightly different, so it's slippery referring to things as a 'found object'. I think either way, made or re-made, it still comes to me at my studio as something new that I have to work out in the same way. And as long as the object operates in the way of a found object—has a previous social use or familiarity but is somewhat impersonal in its making—then ...
Wafaa Bilal, Domestic Tension (still), 2007
For the past ten months, Iraqi-born New York–based artist Wafaa Bilal has been documenting everything that happens behind him. A camera has been fastened to the back of his head that automatically takes a photograph every minute. The project, 3rd I, is an attempt to capture the mundane, to create an archive of the everyday we leave behind, and put it all online. Two months before 3rd I culminates and becomes an inanimate archive and a few days after Bilal changed the mounted camera he has been using for the project in favor of a new one, designed to match a plaster cast of his skull, we met to talk about it and some earlier works, and talk about ideas concerning the archive, online and offline space, and slowness.
When considering the extreme nature of some of Bilal's works, like Domestic Tension, where the artist lived in a gallery for the duration of the performance, allowing online viewers to direct a paintball gun at him, or Virtual Jihadi, where Bilal casts himself as a suicide bomber in an Al-Qaeda version of a videogame called "Quest for Saddam," it may induce viewers to discuss these in terms of spectacle. In fact, the spectacle here is part of the performance and should not be confused with the point of the performance. In conversation, Bilal—an artist who thinks about his work complexly and discusses it eloquently—talks about his recent work 3rd I, as well as past works, in terms of his dialogue with the history of art, with the public, and with his personal engagement with politics and history.
You talk about 3rd I in the context of ideas of "slowness." This term is becoming increasingly commonplace, especially among people who work with new media. But your idea of slowness includes an intense, long-term commitment too, that is political, physical, and emotional. Now that the project is nearing its one-year finishing line, do you talk about slowness differently?
You're right. In the last few years, a lot of people are trying to slow down technology, I think this nostalgic notion of technology or interactivity is disappearing. I don't know if it's a fatigue or if the medium exhausted itself because there was such a great promise for interactivity and I think artists found their limitation with it making it increasingly complicated. In terms of slowing things down, we are so overwhelmed with these images that we lost any still moment in personal space, so a lot of us are wishing, I don't know if it's possible, to slow things down and shield that personal space..
Steve Bishop, Φ III, 2011.
Stadium is a new event and exhibition space in Chelsea. The inaugural exhibition, "Performance Anxiety," featuring four artists, Steve Bishop, Ben Schumacher, Chris Chiappa, and Timur Si-Qin, opened on November 10 and runs until December 20, 2011.
"Performance Anxiety" was curated by artist Nicolas Djandji, who tragically passed away in a bicycle accident in September. A number of his friends took the research he conducted in the last few weeks of his life and grouped in order to finalize the administrative tasks necessary to complete the show and fabricate new works by artist Steve Bishop, Ben Schumacher, and Timur Si-Qin.
The artists featured in "Performance Anxiety" all deal in their works with the consumer culture of bodily self-improvement. Using quotidian products—deodorant, mouthwash, Vitamin Water—their works show how a trip to the pharmacy can tell us something about the way we live today and our value systems. From the press release:
Here, the notion that the pursuit of athletic, hygienic, and professional perfection should be sought through the constant purchase of new products is cast into doubt. Through a series of works arresting these normally utilitarian, performance-enhancing products in sculpture, Performance Anxiety waxes upon the paradoxical, collectively shared desire of the present-day individual to become superhuman–physically fit, sexually attractive, and immaculately groomed—by way of altering the body’s chemistry and obscuring its most basic functions. Contextualizing these items as aesthetic elements rather than functional goods, each artist carves a meditative space reflecting upon the absurd modus operandi of these products.
A press release so intelligently written—that speaks specifically to the artists' works and practice while tying them in with the exhibition's theme and art historical traditions—is rare. And it seems that as a space Stadium is embarking on an ...
Production stills from Judy Radul, World Rehearsal Court, 2009.
A Thousand Eyes: Media Technology, Law and Aesthetics is an anthology published by Sternberg Press and Henie Onstad Art Center in Oslo, accompanying Judy Radul’s exhibition “World Rehearsal Court.” Radul’s work is a research project into the model of the International Criminal Court, complexly considering the effect technology and new media have had on our justice systems. Her work is a four-hour, seven-channel video installation that includes a courtroom staged and shot in a gymnasium, with a scripted text that takes the forms of vignettes, so that “you never get a whole picture” (Judy Radoul in an interview for Artforum), while including the viewers, who are filmed and projected onto screens that form part of the installation.
Edited by Radoul and Oslo-based curator and art historian Marit Paasche, A Thousand Eyes introduces a different way of discussing the idea of law and the modern justice system in a way that is different than commonplace representation of law and lawmaking in the visual arts. Whereas the form of the trial has been commonly used in artworks, performances, and symposia in the contemporary art world (I am thinking, for example, of Hila Peleg’s film documenting Anton Vidokle and Tirdad Zolghadr’s A Crime Against Art [The Madrid Trial], where the artist and curator put themselves on trial for “collusion with the bourgeoisie and other serious accusations”), the discussion of law and lawmaking in the arts has largely focused on subjects of intellectual property, artistic freedom, and censorship (for example, in Daniel McClean’s (ed.) excellent book The Trials of Art [London: Ridinghouse, 2007]). This book introduces and promotes an intricate web of ways of thinking about the relationship between visual media and the law.
In the introduction to the book ...