Tyler Coburn is an artist and writer based in New York.
Artist Paul Klee once described drawing as "taking a line for a walk," though he could have just as easily been referring to ASDF's A Wikipedia Reader (2008). Assuming two forms - a limited-edition printed book and open-edition .PDF - this project stems from ASDF co-organizer David Horvitz's invitation to a handful of predominantly Los Angeles-based artists to play a "small game" with Wikipedia's navigational structure. The advent of digital information systems, Horvitz argues in the project's introduction, has made heretofore standard methods of categorization "almost irrelevant." Indeed, a virtual user's mode of accessing information relies upon the contingencies of a given search, a vastly less hierarchical mode of navigation that broadens the associative potential of a topic, instead of whittling it down. Horvitz invited eleven collaborators, such as Uta Barth, Laurel Nakadate, and Emilie Halpern, to choose topics reflective of their artistic interests and document their paths through related links. What ensues are relatively straightforward yet frequently lyrical journeys into the web�s collective memory hub, as Barth travels from "Dusk" to "Dawn" and, eventually, reaches "Polar Night"; Halpern grazes "FBI Ten Most Wanted Fugitives" and "Fibonacci" in a search that originated with "Esperanto"; and Horvitz, in a rather appropriate summation of the project's enterprise, encounters "Dérive" and "Flâneur" on a stroll that began with "Boredom" and ends with "Balloon Mail." Given the amount of time we spend in the virtual sphere, it's fitting that ASDF would deploy the methods of Situationists and psychogeographers to generate a permanent archive of a specific moment, topography and state of knowledge that, by the nature of Wikipedia, will continue to change and evolve. - Tyler Coburn
As with any exhibition that surveys the best of contemporary art practices, the Whitney Biennial consistently elicits its share of cheers and, more frequently, jeers: complaints about artists omitted, marginalized mediums, insider back-scratching, and so on. While the 2008 edition may also merit such criticism, it deserves some praise for introducing a performance-heavy program at the Park Avenue Armory. Spanning the first two weeks of the biennial's three-month run, the Armory series finds artists and musicians like Agathe Snow, Lucky Dragons and Gang Gang Dance crossing and re-crossing the boundaries of performance and installation in the decorous (and semi-crumbling) rooms of the 1881 New York landmark. This Saturday evening, composer and turntablist Marina Rosenfeld will debut Teenage Lontano/16 Channels (2008), a "cover version" of György Liget's Lontano (1967) that Rosenfeld specifically conceived for the Armory's 55,000-square foot Drill Hall. Rosenfeld's reworking stretches the Hungarian composer's twelve-minute work to an even thirty and subjects his exceedingly meticulous score to a slew of chance scenarios - most importantly, the translation of the orchestral piece into a vocal composition, relayed via portable mp3 players into the headphones of the thirty-five New York teenagers who comprise Rosenfeld's choir. Hanging several dozen feet above the teens, a massive speaker will rotate at 33 1/3 r.p.m., like a turntable, and fire electronic sounds into the recesses of the cavernous hall: a space-age accompaniment to Rosenfeld's acoustic community. Like her seminal performance, sheer frost orchestra, in which seventeen women administered nail-polish to floor-bound guitars, Teenage Lontano/16 Channels emphasizes Rosenfeld's professed interest in the "ideosocial construction of music-making," here taking a vernacular of contemporary listening, a generation for which technology is like a second-skin, and through them reappraising a moment of high-Modern composition. - Tyler ...
Clever internet sourcing may be a common practice for a younger generation of artists, but rarely is it deployed with as much sinister aplomb as in the work of Cliff Evans. In Evans' skilled hands, a veritable parade of pixilated characters - from trade show women to stormtroopers, politicians to smiling couples - are reconstituted as the spokes, gears and pistons of ubiquitous, twenty-first century war machines: at once eerily futuristic and all too reminiscent of recent neoconservative empire-building initiatives. The resulting look of these photomontage animations is "excessive, flat, quasi-random, and circuitous," Evans describes: "all qualities inherent within the environment of the web." In Road to Mount Weather (2006), a three-channel installation spanning a 32-foot wide screen, fragmentary image groupings produce an unexpected narrative, increasingly assembling into secret military sites, underground testing facilities and others domains of the political id. Complicating what could otherwise be the somewhat conventional propagation of conspiratorial lore is Evans' self-conscious conception of his own authorial role. The artist alternately labels himself "a co-conspirator with the powers presented" and "a paranoid heretic attempting to subvert the powers of control," a bifurcated position he believes to be inevitable to a creative process reliant upon the appropriation of countless photographs - and, implicitly, lives - from the internet's vast reserves. In a way, Evans-as-author performs an overly dramatic version of our own complicity, as virtual navigators and political subjects, with the powers that be; but in lieu of fatalism, he offers animations too epic and interpretatively open to not suggest that there are more than a few routes into the future. - Tyler Coburn
Image: Cliff Evans, Road to Mount Weather (Image Stills), 2006
Attend any number of experimental music performances in New York City and chances are you'll come across a curious sight: a skinny young man conducting conversations on a cordless rotary telephone, which accompanies him almost everywhere and is, practically speaking, his mobile phone. This fellow is none other than Tristan Perich, a talented young artist, composer and inventor whose interest in the foundational units of acoustic sound and digital electronics is manifest in his reclamation of obsolescent objects and technology - the rotary phone among them. For 1-Bit Music (2004), the project for which he is best known, Perich retrofitted a CD jewel case with an 8-KB microchip, battery, track control and headphone jack, thereby enabling listeners to plug in and hear 40 minutes of low-fi electronic music. Beyond the strange and marvelous nature of this apparatus, 1-Bit Music's compositions exhibited a surprising degree of sophistication, considering that they effectively comprise MIDI blips and bleeps that Perich wrote in binary code. For tonight's performance at the Whitney Museum, as part of its "Composers' Showcase," Perich will perform three recent compositions (two of them debuts) that find his 1-bit circuit boards accompanying piano, trumpets and violin. Building on Perich's background in math and computer science, Active Field (2007) endeavors to generate the sonic equivalent of a planar landscape, particularly at its conclusion, when ten violins and ten channels of 1-bit music sustain a single-chord, to the point where analogue and electronic sound cease to be differentiable. Far from more conventional applications of electronics as supplements to orchestral music, Perich's project finds the mediums engaged in a formative, structural dialogue. - Tyler Coburn
The sixth annual installment of AV Festival, the UK's largest international festival of electronic arts, explores the theme of broadcast in the work of a handful of sound artists, filmmakers and musicians. As color television this year celebrates its 80th anniversary, and China rings in fifty years of television services, broadcasting has clearly passed its period of technological novelty, while nonetheless remaining a fundamental conduit for many of the electronic arts. Departing from this assumption, the festival's program divides time between seminal moments in the history of broadcasting and contemporary practices that endeavor to push its communicative properties. Teesside actor Mark Benton, for example, will helm a re-enactment of Orson Welles' infamous 1938 War of the Worlds recording. The original, broadcast in the run-up to World War II, elicited mass-confusion and paranoia in its listeners, with many mistaking H.G. Wells' fictional account of an alien invasion for an actual Nazi invasion. The populous' susceptibility to the content of radio broadcasting may have changed in the seventy years since, but its sensitivity to globalized terror certainly has not. Among the contemporary projects will be Whispering in the Leaves, a sixteen-speaker installation by acclaimed sound technician and Cabaret Voltaire founding member Chris Watson. Appropriately housed in Sunderland's Winter Gardens, Watson's piece comprises recordings of a Costa Rican rainforest: a "dawn and dusk choruses of a myriad [sic] voices," he describes, "mostly unseen, but heard far and wide through the dense dark greens of the tree canopy." Watson's work mimics the jungle's elision of visibility, offering instead a soundscape so rich with affective resonances as to practically induce synesthesia. Like many of festival's other projects, Whispering in the Leaves elegantly and assuredly channels the transformative- at times, all-consuming - power of audio broadcast. - Tyler Coburn