Tyler Coburn is an artist and writer based in New York.
Proof against the claim of declining handyman skills in younger generations of Americans, this weekend's Maker Faire will turn over the Bay Area's San Mateo Fairgrounds to the unusual inventions of the country's amateur artisans, do-it-yourself tinkerers and precocious tech-heads. Already in its third year (the first, held in San Mateo in 2006, drew 20,000 people, and the 2007 Austin edition 45,000), the fair has shown a continuing desire on the part of the populous to not only concoct innovative, low-fi alternatives to mass-produced commodities, but to also make the skills acquired through such production available to the broader community. To this end, MAKE and CRAFT magazines, published by the fair's organizers, offer in-depth instructions for building everything from the practical (an in-car camcorder mount) to the far-fetched (a PVC air cannon). The fair itself will follow suit, particularly in the realm of engineering. Highlights include an amateur radio demonstration, offering details on radios, antennas, local repeaters and FCC practicalities; the cerviScope, a portable colposcope, specifically designed for low-resource settings in the developing world, that detects HPV lesions on the cervix towards preventing cancer in women; CUBIT, created by Stefan Hechenberger and Addie Wagenknecht, which "depart[s] from the mouse pointer paradigm" by employing an open-source, multi-touch platform for computing; and Compubeaver, a taxidermy beaver retrofit as a cover for your desktop computer. - Tyler Coburn
Starting this Friday night and running through April 28th, Mudam Luxemboug will host a series of events organized by Candice Breitz involving artists who "explore the logic of call-and-response" in their practices. Many of these artists, including Cory Arcangel, Matthieu Laurette, and Pierre Bismuth, have been previously categorized by the use of appropriation or recycling in their works, a characterization Breitz believes to feed into a false dichotomy, in the discourse surrounding contemporary art, between "original" creative production and critical responses to culture's reserves. For Breitz, "all creative acts are responses to other creative acts," and her curated program aspires to locate the practices of the participating artists in the history of call-and-response, which many musicologists trace back to oral cultures on the African continent. Call-and-response is a mode of creative expression that necessarily emerges "between people," in that it entails the participation of multiple speakers and listeners, thereby departing from "the traditional western separation of speaker/performer and listener/audience." Over a series of daylong sessions, Breitz will engage artists on a series of topics: "Art Goes to the Movies" will focus on the cannibalization of mainstream cinema in the work of Paul Pfeiffer, Bismuth, Martin Arnold and Breitz; "After Images" explores Surasi Kusolwong, Jonathan Monk, and Kaz Oshiro's use of other artists' works of art in their practices; and "Mondo Youtube" will find Arcangel, Laurette, and Bjørn Melhus discussing "the participatory potential of mainstream media such as advertising, the Internet, reality television, video games, Myspace and YouTube." As these types of mainstream media double as sites for corporate marketing and trend-appropriation - a topic Breitz has frequently addressed in her career - the question of the possibility for innovative, critical gestures becomes of paramount importance. Thankfully, one would be hard-pressed to find a better panel of practitioners ...
The latest in Dia Art Foundation's series of web-based Artists' Projects, Ezra Johnson's Wrestling with the Blob Beast (2008) comprises sixteen screensavers made using his uncommon method of animation. Johnson builds his work by painting and repainting canvases with a loose, gestural flair, producing densely textured sequences that somehow also manage to feel buoyant. What Visions Burn (2006), Johnson's acclaimed, twenty-two minute opus, adopts the language of a heist flick to recount the theft of paintings from a museum, producing a reflexivity between the artist's production process and the trajectory of the story itself. Johnson's current crop of screensavers forgoes such explicit narrative, yet offers sixteen vignettes that collectively continue the artist's meditation on his process. Screensaver Wrestling the Blue Blob (2008) is the most apparent example of this, depicting an unruly mass of blue and red brushstrokes in the corner of a room, which sprouts canine fangs and menacing eyes each time a pair of hands attempts to grasp it. A similar story unfolds in Shapes Shifter (2008): a transmogrifying, geometric form wavers between representational and abstract states, as if staging the artist's own anxieties about painting's historically separate practices. By bringing his animations into the realm of the screensaver, Johnson challenges the cinematic conditions through which his work has been previously viewed. As Sara Tucker notes, in her introduction to the project, "The screensaver is a paradoxical medium, present when the computer isn't in active use, so presumably not the object of one's focus, yet often running at such lengths that its image becomes indelibly etched in one's visual memory." Slow, indirect absorption may provide the perfect route for viewers to explore the questions and themes lying beneath Johnson's tactile sequences. - Tyler Coburn
Ezra Johnson, Wrestling ...
For Internal Message Search: A Performative Installation, opening Friday, April 18th, pioneering video and internet artist Nina Sobell will install her Location One artist residency studio in the not-for-profit art center's project space, where she will carry on her practice for the duration of the show. Visitors will be able to see Sobell's recent wax sculptures and drawings, interact freely with the artist, and even accompany her for impromptu musical sessions (Sobell is a skilled improvisational guitarist and keyboardist). In keeping with Sobell's interest in extra-institutional viewing communities, the entire exhibition will also be webcast at all hours of the day, allowing online users access to the conventionally closed-off realm of the artist studio, in a fashion that constructively challenges existing divisions of public and private space, while also placing her web audience in the ambivalent role of surveillants. Sobell and multimedia artist Emily Hartzell realized a similar project in 1994, also using real-time webcasting to transform their studio at NYU Center for Advanced Technology into one of the internet's first time-based installations. Reflecting on the experience, they described moments when "our actions were heightened by our awareness of unseen Web visitors," and others when "we felt ourselves dissolved in...ubiquitous surveillance." Given her open invitation for musical collaboration for the duration of her forthcoming exhibition, it seems Sobell is presently aiming to produce an installation that both foregrounds the "artist-in-studio as spectacle" and facilitates a new type of community-centric performance space, accessible to viewers near and far. - Tyler Coburn
One of the stranger exhibitions to grace London in recent years kicks off this evening at Seventeen Gallery. WE WOULD LIKE TO THANK THE CURATORS WHO WISH TO REMAIN ANONYMOUS is a group show comprised of work by ten artists, each installed alone for two-day periods in the gallery's main space. The traditional notion of a group exhibition, whereby a series of artworks coalesce in support of an overarching topic or theme, is thus counteracted by the two anonymous curators' parameters, producing a scenario in which the collective interplay of the artworks actually occurs in a storage space, in the gallery's rear, built to wonky perfection by English artist Graham Hudson. There artworks by an international array of artists, including Benoit Maire, Ana Prvacki and Lovett/Codagnone, will be in full operation (including monitors and video projection), regardless of whether they await a turn on the exhibition stage or have just made their exit from it. By reframing the show to focus on the internal structure of gallery display, the curators have shifted their inquiry from the exhibited works to the institution itself -- a feat all the more notable for not rendering these artworks secondary in the process. As to the issue of anonymity, there seems to be just the right mix of self-effacement and provocation in the curators' decision to flex their critical muscle without formally taking ownership. - Tyler Coburn