Corporate Video Decisions, 2011
“Corporate Video Decisions,” your current exhibition at Michael Lett gallery in Auckland, includes the covers of Corporate Video Decisions, a magazine from the 1980s about the use of video technology in corporate culture, shown on flatscreen televisions, and a series of printouts of the entire content Diligent Boardbooks’s website, a paperless business software company based in Christchurch, NZ and New York. I’m really fascinated by this double inversion of the way content is communicated to us: the print magazine on monitors, the website printed out. Can you talk a little bit about the exhibition and your use of inversion, as well as languages of marketing and advertisement, as an aesthetic strategy?
Yeah, I should say first that there is another layer of processing that is maybe difficult to make out in the online photos of the exhibition. The print magazine covers were actually photographed playing as jpegs on the LCD 3D-enabled televisions, then that whole image is inkjet printed on canvas, twice—like two copies of each canvas—and these are screwed together with aluminum tubing between the two canvasses in each corner, spaced to mimic the dimensions of the monitor they depict. So you have two canvasses with the same image on top of each other in place of the monitors.
To answer the question, for me, the exhibition’s aim is to present two snapshots of different moments in the recent history of commercial video through looking at these quite different pieces of ephemera—a magazine and a website. The nature of video technology is such that a fast, controlled, obsolescence cycle is systemic to its existence, and materials and formats come and go very quickly. As this is the case, making an exhibition that has this fact built into the way it is presented is for me very important. That is to say, the way the content is presented should form a dynamic which helps describe the show’s themes. Depicting the fickle material conditions of video via changing formats of what is regarded at a certain moment to be contemporary ephemera (magazines, websites), which are then presented through another fast shifting technology (printing), one indicates these movements in the presentation structurally.
Contrasting this ephemerality with the themes that are covered in the 80s magazine—trade fairs, gender and minority equality, economic conditions, crisis culture, generic products—(these topics clearly relate very well to our current moment also), underlines the truism that while technology might change, certain issues tend to be relevant for longer periods.
For me the exhibition’s format highlights this tension between the permanent and the impermanent, between vast material change and comparatively slow shifts in life/work conditions.
On the language of advertising, one has of course this ambivalent relationship to it where one knows it’s manipulative, but its efficiency is seductive and affective. One most likely follows this language’s logic implicitly in one’s self. That is to say this way of communicating is unavoidable and is just there. I am not sure if looking at this is really an aesthetic strategy. Even just conversing can be considered to be a commercial act, and it’s not so easy to attach a value to this. It is one’s life, after all...
Video Art Manual, 2011.
Your most recent work, Video Art Manual, was shot in HD, but than, in addition to the HD exhibition version, you also created a standard DVD version that was released as part of the Texte zur Kunst editions. Can you talk a little bit about this shift between technologies and its meaning?
Texte zur Kunst asked me to make a DVD edition for their magazine. It came out much better than I imagined (in terms of image quality and general quality) so I thought it’s a shame to show or circulate the work only as a simple DVD and not show the full quality of the image (I shot some parts in HD and they look great). I also needed the money, so I thought I better sell videos through the galleries as HD editions separated from the Texte zur Kunst edition.
As an artist working in a time-based medium, you are quite preoccupied with he time viewers spend with your works, so much so that for your untitled piece for the 2009 Venice Biennale, you had the wall text state that the video is nine minutes long instead of sixteen. Do you think people invest more time when watching your pieces online? And how different is the experience of watching them on a computer screen as opposed to an exhibition space?
I think people invest less time watching my work online—I think it’s easier to be distracted by other things when you are watching a video on the internet. It’s hard for me to watch videos online without skipping forward or pressing refresh on my mailbox. I think the experience depends on the viewer. I personally feel more comfortable downloading movies and watching them at home, feature films included. The experience ...
Top: Still from Siix, 2009. Bottom: Still from Mausoleum, 2009.
Looking at your work online is a process of discovery by links. It unfurls in a number of different websites, like Computers Club, Begin Records, both of which you set up, and Internet Archeology. Could you talk about the character of these initiatives and whether you see a cohesive element in them?
I will state what I think they are and describe an aspect of my interest in each. Computers Club is a set of identities that derive from computer users. The concept of identity in the context of the internet has been my principle interest as a computer user. To me, an identity on the internet is a fascinating system of information that gives rise to a character embodying a unique kind of shape and form. These forms can be arranged into a super-structure of information that itself has a kind of identity. The way that these characters synthesize, capture and release information; make choices, and exert influence gives rise to a higher order identity, as a grouping, that shifts and evolves over time. Computers Club is such a grouping. What shape will it take and how will it feel? That's what I wonder.
Begin Records is a preservation for the creative works of individuals who have a polymathic way of life. My philosophy of art is rooted in an idea that the core of one's person is unique and different from that of any other. People could journey inward, venturing as close as possible to that core or center, then endeavor to rearrange their environment to reflect what they've discovered there. That is my personal definition of art; something that I think has many definitions. The general act of rearranging one's environment could encompass ...
BooksOnLine is an experimental free access library initiated in 2006 by artist Pierre Hourquet. The website features more than thirty books by a variety of artists, with titles such as Honey blood (by artist Suzanna Zak), Slow (Flemming Ove Bech), Not in that Particular Order (Grégoire Grange), or Homeless Caravan (Damon Way), hinting at the book's content, but not revealing a thing about the artist or the designer.
"In the beginning, I wanted to publish books. Designing books and printing them is very easy. But distributing them would be a full-time job. So I decided to publish books online.
The first books were made with friends—artists or photographers—then, after making a few books, I decided to contact artist I like. Every artist I've contacted has been very glad and enthusiastic to contribute. Some of them became good friends.
I like to design the most basic book I could, a very simple one with a colored cover and few pages. So the books have the same shape, the same number of pages, and all use the same font. The layout is more specific for each book."
In need of a Heroine: Angela Washko's "Heroines with Baggage (How Final Fantasy Shaped My Unrealistic Demands for Love and Tragedy)"
Heroines with Baggage is a video essay using footage taken directly from the famous early 90s role-playing SNES video game Final Fantasy III. The video deconstructs the game, creating a non-linear narrative that follows the trajectories of two of the three playable female characters in the fourteen-character game. Washko describes that she was interested in the female characters that she used to play as a child not because of their sparsity in the game, which can be explained by the fact that reportedly, far fewer females than males played these games in the early 90s, but rather, due to the way these characters were presented.
Washko's video reveals a game where the characters show a certain teenage sentimentality with no real emotional depth, where a princess sings "Oh my hero / So far away now. / Will I ever see your smile?" And another female character gasps at the sight of a male character, "You…saved me?" According to Washko, the female characters constantly mention their desire to experience love, unlike the male characters who do not mention the concept of love at all, resulting in the fact that even though these characters are playable, meaning, have strengths and plot focus, they remain projections of archetypal powerful-yet-victimized women.
Featuring the game's fantastic original soundtrack and the old-school video game aesthetics, the video cuts out the battle and search scenes, usually the game's focal point, in order to look at the game's background story and draw attention to the way it portrays femininity and the model this had served to women like Washko herself, who played the game as young girls. Not that the result was their ultimate subjection to heroes who would save them ...