Since the first time I saw Planningtorock (alias Janine Rostron) perform her arch, musical exhumation of vaudeville and glam, I've craved an opportunity to get a closer look at the singer's collection of masks, helmets, futuro-medieval costuming and props -- like the fake bone she periodically nibbles during "I Wanna Bite Ya." Such performance ephemera rarely enters the realm of public exhibition, though can be as aesthetically significant as anything specifically conceived for the white cube. All of which makes "Sonic Voices, Rocking Hard," opening August 30th at Netherlands Media Art Institute, a particularly welcome affair. Co-curated by multidisciplinary artist Nathalie Bruys, the show comprises works by a group of practitioners, including Jonas Ohlsson and Heidi Happy, who also straddle the boundary of music and image-making. Beyond Planningtorock's contribution -- a prop and video installation -- Guy Bar Amotz will display sculptural mash-ups of speakers and keyboards, Annika Ström will show The Missed Concert (2005), a series of interviews with "fans" explaining their absence from a recent performance, and Norweigian artist Kim Hiorthøy will exhibit some of his exquisite, graphite drawings, building upon past works that found DJs, break-dancers and downright fanciful figures mingling in quintessentially Scandinavian settings. On the musical end of the spectrum, "Sonic Voices, Rocking Hard" boasts listening posts throughout the gallery space; Björk, CocoRosie and The Knife will contribute music videos; and a handful of the participants will perform during the Uitmarkt cultural weekend (including the bewitching Ms. Rostron). - Tyler Coburn
Image: Heidi Happy, du da, ich da (Music Video), 2007
For "The Young and Evil," the latest in tank.tv's ambitious program of guest-curated exhibitions, Stuart Comer considers the "historical contours and shifting relationships of sex and community in the digital age." Comer contends that the Internet has increasingly eclipsed the cinema as the preeminent cultural screen, and consequently divides his exhibition between the venues. Invited guests, including Andrea Geyer, Carlos Motta and Daria Martin, have each selected one contemporary work, for exhibition on tank.tv, and one historical film to be screened in Tate Modern's cinema on September 20th, 2008. But if the separation of venues emphasizes the historical division between works, the exhibition's focus on social deviance and erotics provides a compelling, unifying thread. The most notable of the works currently up on tank.tv play into what Comer describes as the Internet's state of being an "uncanny hybrid of personal longing and collective interaction." Mansfield 1962 (2006), for example, appropriates a Highway Safety Foundation video William E. Jones found on the Internet, which uses 1962 police footage of gay sex in a public restroom to instruct officers about covert recording techniques. Jones has edited the footage to concentrate on discreet moments of sexual pleasure and, at the video's end, the mug shots of participants, who all went on to serve time on charges of sodomy. For The Shape of a Right Statement I (2008), Wu Ingrid Tsang performs one section of autism rights activist Amanda Baggs' forceful address, In My Language, which she published on YouTube in 2007. Tsang's strong, androgynous features and affected computerspeak (true to In My Language) complicate the original work's register of alterity. "The thinking of people like me is only taken seriously if we learn your language," he recites, at one moment, an assertion that ...
Currently on display at Baltimore's Contemporary Museum, "Cottage Industry" foregrounds the entrepreneurial and communitarian ethos of six artists/organizations, including Andrea Zittel and Christine Hill. The exhibition positions these practices, many taking the form of real- or pseudo-business and cultural ventures, in an extensive history of relational projects: from Beuys' "social sculpture" to Matta-Clark's "Food" restaurant/cooperative. Several of the participants interpolate conceptual production with community organization, including Lisa Anne Auerbach, whose project, The Tract House, makes available to museum visitors and online users a series of "manifestos, diatribes, stories, [and] rants" written by friends and acquaintances of the artist, as well as visitors to her website. Auerbach thus overlaps two meanings of "tract" (an area of land and a loosely distributed, often socially- or politically-conscious text), as if to suggest her open document pool to be a foundation for a new architecture of social exchange. The City Reliquary will also contribute something from its dusty coffers. First established as a window display in 2000, the City Reliquary has become a much-loved spot in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, displaying the eccentric accumulations of local collectors, old New York ephemera, and organizing events like the annual Bicycle Fetish Day (which is pretty much what its title suggests). For the exhibition, a mini-City Reliquary will be set up in the gallery in the form of a shadowbox containing special finds from their collection. In addition to exhibiting past works by participants, Contemporary Museum has helped a handful of them realize site-specific projects throughout Baltimore, including the sixth "regional prototype garden" of Fritz Haeg's Edible Estates, an ongoing project to replace "the domestic front lawn with a highly productive edible landscape." While the exhibition will conclude on August 24th, Haeg's garden will continue indefinitely -- one of many excellent examples the exhibition ...
A couple of months ago, a message appeared on the roof of Steve Turner Contemporary Art, loosely painted in white across a black ground, reading "Help Us." Given the gallery's location, just across Wilshire Boulevard from the Los Angeles County Museum or Art (LACMA) and the dazzling new home for all things blue-chip, The Broad Contemporary Art Museum, one would be tempted to infer a dissenting tone in the sign, made by Los Angeles artist Mark Bradford. But as Bradford's message is not actually visible to the windowless buildings surrounding the gallery, and can only properly be seen from the air and via a live video feed the gallery has established, it's clear that the artist's SOS reaches beyond the limits of contemporary art. Bradford adopts a fundamental position of appeal that is heavily colored by its similarities to those of Hurricane Katrina victims, including Angela Antoinette Perkins, who repeated these very words outside the New Orleans Convention Center, on September 1st 2005, and roused survivors into a chant. Seen through this lens, the selective visibility Bradford grants his piece may reference the infamous account of Bush flying over New Orleans while returning from vacation, as well as the extent to which Katrina, like most contemporary disasters, was delivered unto the majority of the world populous through varying levels of technological mediation: mass-media all the way down to cell-phone videos. The gallery's video feed feels particularly poignant, in this regard, in that it documents, in real-time, a message that has already been painted and that never changes. With each day that elapses, in other words, Bradford's entreaty only more compellingly tells its story of expectation, desperation and thwarted relief. - Tyler Coburn
Image: Mark Bradford, HELP US: An Installation (Aerial View), 2008
"Private fears and shared desires" take the public stage for "Tarantula," a month-long film and video program projected on Europe's biggest LED wall, in Piazza del Duomo, Milan. In collaboration with MIA (Milano In Alto) and Fondazione Nicola Trussardi, which is dedicated to finding "new channels and strategies to distribute contemporary art in the city of Milan," curator Massimiliano Gioni has invited fifteen contemporary artists to screen works twice a day on a screen normally reserved for commercial advertising. Certain works build upon this strategy of intervention, like Pipilotti Rist's series of sixteen one-minute video segments, Open My Glade, originally commissioned by the Public Art Fund, in 2000, to air on the NBC Astrovision by Panasonic video screen in Times Square, New York. Other notables include the film component of Johanna Billing's You Don't Love Me Yet project, documenting the studio recording of Roky Erickson's eponymous 80s pop hit by more than twenty singers; Fiorucci Made Me Hardcore (1999), Mark Leckey's nostalgic chronicle of cross-sections of British dance culture from the 70s and 80s; and Dictio pii(2001), a parade of high-fashion outfits repurposed, by artist Marcus Schinwald, as disturbing fetish-objects. Like the Bob Dylan novel from which it takes its title, "Tarantula" presents rituals public and private, compulsive and fanciful, to show the ways "new rules and behaviors can transform life into a joyful carnival of exceptions." - Tyler Coburn
Image: Mark Leckey, Fiorucci Made Me Hardcore, 1999