Although it began in the 1990s as another technology-derived term giddily applied to human activities, the word "multitasking" has gone on to not only enter the day-to-day lexicon, but also to provide a defining metaphor for cultural life in the era of portable media. Action, accelerated and condensed to the point of simultaneity--and even schizophrenia--at the level of perception, communication, and interaction underpins the work on view in Multitasking: Synchronitat als kulturelle Praxis at the Neue Gesellschaft fur Bildende Kunst in Berlin through October 7th. Demonstrating the ubiquity of the act of doing many things at once, the NGBK has brought together work ranging from D.I.Y. digital media to politically charged performances by an equally far-reaching group of artists which includes Cory Arcangel, Constantin Luser, Bill Shackelford, and Adrian Piper. Two symposia on October 5th and 6th also draw on an appropriately wide-ranging group of disciplines, putting specialists in medicine and neurology in conversation with their counterparts in media studies and art history. The entire exhibition posits the phenomenon as the most overarching characteristic of a contemporary culture that fetishizes immediacy.
Exhibitionism as the fuel of contemporary media culture forms the basis of Showing, an exhibition at TELIC Arts Exchange in Los Angeles. Rather than a show of stand-alone work, artist and theorist Jordan Crandall has converted the space into a platform for several evening-long series of screenings, performances, and other events that articulate how the affective exchanges of blogs, webcams, online social networking, and lifecasting have done nothing less than change the foundation of subjectivity. On September 29th, Glenn Phillips and Catherine Taft present 'Watch Me Get Watched,' which begins with a curated look at voyeurism in the history of video with screenings of work by Bianca D'Amico, Micol Hebron, Sterling Ruby, and Kirsten Stoltman, among other artists who have taken up the act of watching in their work. It is followed by a performance work by Nao Bustamante and a presentation of web-based projects by Gary Dauphin. Other events include a screening program titled 'On the History of Attractions' on October 5, another organized by media scholar Scott Bukatman focusing on the cult of the amateur on October 9, a Web cam workshop on the 12th, a lifecasting presentation on the 13th, and several additions to be announced through October 20. As a whole, the exhibition subordinates traditional concerns of media theory--perception, spectatorship, power--to the primacy of the pose, or in the words of the organizer, it responds to a "culture [that] would seem to be less a representational than a presentational one."
Artists often tend to find their concerns and goals intertwined with those of activists thanks to the function--or, or more frequently, the dysfunction--of geography. Sharing the same cities and the same neighborhoods, artists and urban advocates have long occupied overlapping spaces, and a globe-spanning, but LA-centered, show at Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions (LACE) brings together several projects that explore contemporary injustices written onto that common landscape through November 18th. Linking academic research, education, artistic practice, and activism, Just Space(s) is divided into six more or less distinct themes, such as 'Prisons and the Prison Industrial Complex' and 'Borders, Labor, Migration.' Several standout projects featured in the exhibition are feats of creative data visualization, including 'Million Dollar Blocks,' a project by the Spatial Information Design Lab that examines city blocks where the U.S. government spends in excess of $1 million to incarcerate its residents, and Teddy Cruz's 'Political Equator,' which created a legible representation of the global divide between north and south. Other works hinge on personal narratives rather than data, such as Ursula Biemann's series of video interviews with oil workers, farmers, refugees, and prostitutes impacted by a new oil pipeline under development in the Black Sea. More than simply chronicling spatial injustice throughout the world, the exhibition aims to function as a center of education and a jumping-off point for action. To that end, several symposia have been scheduled throughout its run, a library has been set up at the front of the exhibition space, and a 'Mobile Planning Lab' has been dispatched to neighborhoods throughout South LA to collect residents' feedback on their local geography and ground-up plans for overcoming spatial injustice.
Rather than calling them installations, Grisha Coleman refers to the elaborately constructed spaces in which she stages performance work as 'Action Stations.' Her distinction is fitting because they not only provide a site for the artist's own choreography, the environments also invite audiences to explore them independently. One element of the five-part project Echo :: System, the stations are the product of the artist's unique process of research and data interpretation. She collaborates with experts, including biologists, data specialists, architects, and designers, to collect information on distinct ecosystems and then recreate the natural ecology as an installation-based performance work. So far she has produced two of the five stations, creating 'The Abyss' on the side of a ravine and, most recently, 'The Desert' which recreated an arid expanse, complete with underground tunnels, using a combination of video installations and robotics. Her desert project premiered earlier this month in Pittsburgh, and plans are in the works for 'The Forest,' 'The Prarie,' and 'The Volcano' to complete the series. In the meantime, video and other documentation from previous performances are viewable on her Web site. With the media volume on climate catastrophes reaching as high as it is, her work is reminder that for all our calculations, the notion of an ideal ecology is tempered by so many human projections, and it is perhaps a provocation to be more attentive to the natural word while becoming more imaginative with our interpretations.
In fiction and in practice, machines that replicate human bodies tend to reproduce useful or desirable functions related to cognizance, physical labor, or sex, but for seven years, Wim Delvoye has chosen to duplicate a less alluring process. His series of 'Cloaca' machines mimic the whole of the human digestive system, eating, digesting, and yes, excreting in the gallery. He has produced seven versions of the machine to date, and they have been shown in cities around the world, where local restaurants donate leftovers and scraps to feed the insatiable works while they are in residence. From September 30th to January 6th, the exhibition Wim Delvoye: Cloaca 2000-2007 at the Casino Luxembourg Forum d'Art Contemporain offers the first overview of the complete series with all seven machines installed in its galleries--two of them actually performing the functions for which they were designed--along with original drawings, photographs, models, sealed bags of machine-produced excrement, and other materials related to the project. Heavily branded with a self-consciously glossy logo and released in generations ('Cloaca Original,' 'Super Cloaca,' 'Cloaca N