Storytelling, on a universe-shaping scale and in a spastic, homespun-costume style, has underpinned most of Bay Area-artist Kamau Amu Patton's work, from advertising posters mounted on the sides of bus shelters to animistic works on paper. Having trained in sociology and physics before completing an MFA at Stanford University, the artist's background in both social critique and the ordering principals of the cosmos both come into play in his video-focused installation work, which borrows from the vernacular of African American cable-access cult leaders. Spinning eccentric cosmologies of divine kingship that cross invented hybrids of African and Christian religious ritual with the low-budget aesthetics of local programming, the artist uses this sub genre of American television to create sometimes ridiculously overblown rites and iconographies surrounding apocalyptic prophesies. Rather than a parody of TV mystics, however, the work traces the media conditions under which these kinds of millenarian narratives are told and their visionary creators find a pulpit. Promising to investigate "the media produced of African American cult activity in America, including the 5 Percent Nation, Nuwaubian Nation, and the Black Hebrew Israelites," an exhibition of his recent work is currently on view at Machine Project, in Los Angeles. Here video work is accompanied by sculptural objects related to occult practices in an installation that speaks volumes about American folk narratives playing out on television as it takes up the conventions of the cable cult genre.
By the late 1960s, a decade after the television became the centerpiece of the suburban living room and sin qua non of American--if not yet global--culture, artists had begun to appropriate the power of official communication represented by broadcast media to their own critical and often confrontational ends. The recently opened exhibition Broadcast, at the Contemporary Museum in Baltimore through November 18th, chronicles 30 years of artists intervening in and manipulating television and radio. Some appropriate audio and images from mass media and re-broadcast them in ways that critically address their values and conventions. Dara Birnbaum's six-channel video installation, 'Hostage' (1994), for example, reworks footage from the kidnapping of German industrialist Hanns Martin Schleyer by the Baader Meinhoff group aired some two decades before, while Siebren Versteeg's 'CC' (2003) uses an Internet connection to feed text from randomly selected blogs into the closed-caption boxes below looping video television newscasts. Other artists participate directly in original broadcasts by either creating their own or intervening in existing media channels. One of Gregory Green's anarchistic experiments with stylized pirate radio equipment joins Christian Jankowski's work 'Telemistica,' which documents the artist's calls to Italian on-air psychics during the 1999 Venice Biennale, as does Chris Burden's literal takeover of the airwaves, 'TV Hijack, February 9' (1972), during which the artist, appearing as a guest on a local television talk show, held his interviewer hostage at knife point for the duration of the program.
If you were to take an informal survey of both practicing architects and lay enthusiasts of inhabitable design about their favorite architecture blogs, the result would probably place the Los Angeles-based BLDGBLOG at or near the top. Founded over three years ago, the blog is officially dedicated to 'architectural conjecture, urban speculation, and landscape futures.' Recent posts have included everything from thoughtful ruminations on a proposal to grow high-tech medicines aboard the International Space Station and the arch-shaped structure scheduled to be erected over the contaminated nuclear plant in Chernobyl to interviews with people like visionary architect Lebbeus Woods; Cambridge University Classics professor Mary Beard, who has written extensively on architectural monuments; and science fiction writer Jeff VanderMeer. The author behind BLDGBLOG, Geoff Manaugh, discusses his writing for the blog--as well as his work as senior editor at Dwell magazine and a member of the staff at Archinect--at the Hammer Museum, in LA, on the evening of October 10th. He is joined in conversation by Lawrence Weschler, the longtime New Yorker contributor and director of the New York Institute for the Humanities at New York University.
Design technologies constantly strive to reduce the material resistance between concept and fabrication, and few developments have done as much to this end as rapid prototyping. Like an old-fashioned printer for three-dimensional forms, the technique uses laser-hardened liquid plastic to form a three-dimensional version of objects designed with digital modeling software. For several years, Sweden- and sometimes Japan-based firm FRONT Design has used the process to create furniture that is literally sketched by hand. Members of the group stand in front of an array of cameras and physically draw the outline of an object on a 1:1 scale in the air. Motion capture software then translates their gestures into a three-dimensional rendering, which is made into a material object using rapid prototyping equipment. The resulting 'Sketch Furniture' retains all the approximated lines and rough shading of a hand-drawn sketch--like an unrefined design that has gone directly from notebook to object. Not only is the finished product an unrivaled example of a trend in design toward work that utilizes technology to facilitate a handmade aesthetic, but the work also bears the mark of a process that contains a heavy performance element. As the designers trace the lines of the furniture for the motion-capture equipment, their gestures turn the drafting process into a kind of ballet. Examples of the dance can be watched on YouTube and on the firm's Web site.
Recognizing the influence of DJ-derived techniques of appropriation on artistic practices, for the past ten years, curators at the San Diego Museum of Contemporary Art have had an initiative in place to acquire work that demonstrates strategies of recycling, recombining, and otherwise recontextualizing material. Thanks to this push, the institution has built an impressive collection of contemporary sound-based work that embraces a spirit of appropriation, and it forms the backbone of the exhibition Soundwaves: The Art of Sampling at the museum's La Jolla location through December 30. The show features recent work by 16 artists, including Dave Muller, Dario Robleto, Alyce Santoro, and Diana Thater, that range in media from audio installations to painting. Some literally create sound by adapting material not typically used for that purpose, as in Celeste Boursier-Mougenot's 'Untitled (series #3),' from 2001. Channeling John Cage and 1950s concrete music, the installation floats a collection of china inside inflatable wading pools to produce noise through the chance rippling of the water. Others take from audio material to compose visual work. Tim Bavington, for example, presents well known pop songs as blocks of bright color in painted abstractions