Jean Tinguely first exhibited his 'Meta-matics' in the late 1950s. Motorized contraptions that aided viewers in producing abstract drawings, they pulled the artist out of the immediate creative equation and simultaneously parodied both postwar technology's promise of automated utopia and the spontaneity of gestural abstraction. His work is the point of departure for an exhibition of artist-created automatons at the Schirn Kunsthalle in Frankfurt through January 27. Art Machines Machine Art looks at machines designed by artists to produce art, as well as the various provocations and critiques of creative authority that they present. Some of the work reduces artistic production to the conveyor belt, such as Roxy Paine's 1998-2002 'SCUMAK No. 2' (that is, "Sculpture Maker" Number 2), which squirts out blobs of molten plastic that harden into unique, if lumpy, forms. Others shift responsibility for activating the work from the artist to the viewer, including Olafur Eliasson's elaborate Spirograph 'The Endless Study' from 2005. Machines that produce multiples diffuse the value of the art-product--make your own Damien Hirst with his paint-spinning device 'Making Beautiful Drawings' (2007) or watch Tim Lewis's 'Auto-Dali Prosthetic' (2000) sign the celebrity surrealist's name over and over--while others highlight the dislocation of the creative act made possible by the beb, such as Lia's 2007 'I Said If' and Miltos Manetas's online painting project. In addition to prodding at the notion of the artist as author, the projects all question where the actual work lies, asking whether machine or product really belongs in the gallery. Suggesting that the artist has become more like the composer than the musician, a performance of Gyorgy Ligeti's 1962 'Poeme Symphonique for 100 Metronomes,' which is literally performed by the time-keeping devices, accompanies the exhibition on October 24th.
Literature accompanying a new exhibition at Cornell University's Johnson Museum of Art writes the history of video art in terms of two modes of expression: "feedback" and "immersion." The first encompasses work that uses the camera to literally reflect a moment while the latter covers encircling--and frequently more cinematic--installations. Looking back on the last 15 years, the show, titled Stop. Look. Listen: An Exhibition of Video Works, traces these tendencies into the present with work by Burt Barr, Mircea Cantor, Amy Globus, Christian Marclay, and 12 other artist working primarily in the medium. On the immersive end of the spectrum, Janet Biggs's 1997 work 'Water Training' surrounds viewers on both sides with wall-size projections of floating figures--a horse, synchronized swimmers--shot from under water. Slater Bradley, on the other, implicates the viewer not through inundation, but by creating a sense of watching a home video with the 2003 work 'Phantom Release,' which displays footage of Kurt Cobain styled to look like it was shot with a handheld camcorder. On November 9th, Smithsonian American Art Museum film and media curator John Hanhardt discusses both approaches to the video-viewer relationship with the lecture 'Media Matters: Cinephilia and Installation Art.' Perhaps signifying a give and take between the two, Janine Antoni's 2002 tightrope act 'Touch' screens on the building's facade throughout the exhibition.
While Google, Rupert Murdoch, and their corporate peers have just begun to grapple with ways to profit from the phenomenon, artists were early in embracing user-generated content as a way for viewers to help create what they consume. Work that directly uses web portals such as Flickr, YouTube, and MySpace or virtual worlds, such as Second Life--along with projects that demonstrate similar principals of generative consumption--have become a significant part of the collection of interactive art at the ZKM (Center for Art and Media) in Karlsruhe, Germany. As a part of the institution's 10-year anniversary celebrations, its media museum has organized YOU_ser. The Century of the Consumer, an exhibition of work that, in one way or another, requires a viewer's input for completion. Opening on October 20th (Vernissage TV already has behind-the-scenes video of the installation in progress available on its website) and running through December 31st, the exhibition includes progenitors of contemporary viewer-enabling practices by Nam June Paik and Joseph Beuys, as well as contemporary work created for the exhibition. The wide-ranging group of more than two dozen artists with work in the show spans from prolific Sao Paolo artist Giselle Beiguelman, who works in media from video to wireless communication networks; and Milan photographer and filmmaker Armin Linke, who recently began allowing viewers create custom artist books from a selection of his photographs; to the five-artist video game developer and imprint Susigames. Curated by ZKM Chairman and CEO Peter Weibel, the exhibition celebrates the democratic stroke inherent in a user-enabled creative process that turns consumers of art into artists, curators, and producers.
Though he primarily makes sculpture and graphite works on paper, US-born, Berlin-based artist John von Bergen has organized a screening series of contemporary video work from his adopted country. Trans Video Express: Recent Video Art from Germany takes place during two evenings this month at New York's Sara Meltzer Gallery. The series brings video from 14 artists and collectives working in Berlin, Hamburg, Cologne, Dresden, Leipzig, Stuttgart, and Karlsruhe to the States for the first time. The first installment, on October 18th, includes a work by the Dresden group Reinigungsgesellschaft, whose name, according to curator, ranges in meaning from "Cleaning Service" to "Purification Society." Their contribution shows the group changing the signage in a working-class neighborhood so that the banal wording comes to resemble roadside poetry. They then question pedestrians on the merits of the intervention, inevitably drawing up discussion of German political and social issues. The evening ends with a new work by Knut Klassen, who formerly collaborated with John Bock and Gelatin, that features unscripted monologues and performances by Berlin actors. On October 25th, the series continues with work by Pablo Wendel, who disguises himself as a "Terra Cotta Warrior" and attempts to hide among 7,000 others before being dragged off by puzzled security guards--the artist struggles to remain motionless throughout--and Wolfgang Oelze's homage to Hollywood suicide, 'Old Painful,' among others. While Germany may be better known stateside for its painters, the series will show that it is also a breeding ground for ambitious video--though in a statement on the show, the curator is quick to clarify that it is not a representative, biennial-style overview, but a selected demonstration of the range of work being made.
The brainchild of artist Gursoy Dogtas, Matt Magazine bills itself as "a synthesis between a fanzine and a current affairs magazine," but while it comments on contemporary political and social issues with a zine-style combination of appropriated material and original content, it has a more restrained take on the cut-and-paste aesthetic than the average D.I.Y. publication. Crossing subjects and historical moments, each story combines a previously published text--typically classics on subjects ranging from philosophy to natural science--from a single source with images from another origin to create telling pairings. Every issue also has a similarly two-part theme: the first issue focused on 'Freizeit und Konsum' (leisure and consumption), and the second, which was released on October 10th with an opening and short-running exhibition at Les Complices in Zurich, tackles 'Mobility and Surveillance' with a series of five stories. The issue opens with Duncan Campbell's investigation of a global surveillance system, 'Inside Echelon,' accompanied by photos from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in the Gobi desert. Other pieces branch out to include 'Attacks on Civil Aviation' by Ariel Merari set against stills from a video work by Natalie Jeremijenko in which she attempts to board a plane wearing rollerskates, and Carl Schmitt on 'The Theory of the Partisan' matched to images of the Surveillance Camera Players. Dogtas's own photography is offset by both selections from Carl von Clausewitz's 'On War' and an essay by geographic theorist Tim Cresswell. Every piece in the issue sketches the sometimes enabling, sometimes conflicting relationship between two phenomena that increasingly frame modern life.