Category: Contemporary Art Practices

Guomundsdottir on the strand

I went to see the Bjork’s VR show in Somerset house in London. I had heard mixed reviews about it but as not often in London decided to pop down.

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It was ok. It wasn’t so much the work, which was good but the way it was presented. I couldn’t help feel like I was on a conveyor belt, until the next group come in shortly afterwards.

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The piece that had the most lasting effect on me was ‘NOTGET’, Bjork as moth giantess, quite eerie and spooky as she got bigger and bigger and almost took over the circular space.

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Note to Self:

  • Sat on circular chairs most of the VR pieces were on Samsung smart phones in Samsung VR headsets. The NOTGET piece was on a HTC headset wired from the roof and hooked up to a local PC.
  • Presented thus, it becomes apparent what a nascent technology VR is and I wonder if it will ever take off as an entertainment platform outside of gaming circles. Maybe Augmented Reality has a better chance.

Adamski O

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I did an Arduino workshop with Adam Gibney (aka Adamski O’Gibahney) last year, so decided to check out one of his solo shows. It was a very quick but enjoyable visit to the tiny Artbox gallery a few streets away. Its a sleek, minimal space, perfect for Adam’s monochrome pieces.

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‘Euclid, I miss you’ the title of his show is centred on the concepts of geometry, mathematics and certainty.

“But this map of what surrounds the present, like all maps, is only a surface; its features are but abstract signs and symbols of things that in themselves are concrete bits of sensible experience.”

William James, Some Problems of Philosophy, Harvard University Press. 1979

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“Symbolic descriptions of reality, even the axiomatic, have proven to be only temporary and tentative. The line, a breadthless length…”

Euclid, Definition 2

“…now protrudes into the platonic. The solid formal structures that held truth now exist precariously within the newfound multitudes of reality. The rigorous quest for certainty seems to only expand the terrain of uncertainty. Here and there, an arbitrary line connects points, which have no part, here.”

Euclid, Definition 1

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The show featured x3 audio boxes that an aerial sporadically extended from and which triggered a robotic vocal utterance. There was also nice use of what looked like self made lights, in front of linear prints that seemed to grow out of the wall itself, and then cascaded down onto the floor. A camera atop a screen filmed you as you approached and glitched your bottom half. Finally a mutated 3D printed coffee cup rested on a light table.

There was a sense of continuity between the four sets of pieces, all complimenting each other.

Note to Self:

  • Complete any 3D prints put on hold.

Dan Flavin – It is what it is and it ain’t nothing else

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Finding myself in Birmingham, I decided to check out a show by American artist Dan Flavin (1933-1996) at the Ikon gallery.

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The gallery is situated in Brindley Place, in the centre of what looks like a building boom. Birmingham city centre has been transformed in the last few years with word on the street that many of London’s financial institutions are relocating there.

So Ikon presents a major exhibition of fluorescent light works by Dan Flavin. Taking his statement “It is what it is and it ain’t nothing else” as a departure point, Ikon’s exhibition exemplifies Flavin’s emphasis on the importance of the context of artistic experience, capitalising on the variety of interiors that Ikon Gallery has to offer.

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One of the earliest works in the exhibition is alternate diagonals of March 2, 1964 (to Don Judd), made shortly after Flavin centred his entire artistic practice on the use of fluorescent light. The bright red and yellow are Judd-like, likewise the fluorescent lamp combinations of white, pink, red, yellow, blue and green in untitled (to Don Judd, colorist) 1–6 (1987). These standard colours are as beguiling as they are industrial and ordinary, together bathing the exhibition space in pale radiant light.

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Flavin dedicated many of his works to friends, family and colleagues. At the heart of Ikon’s exhibition is untitled (to Barnett Newman) one, two, three and four (all 1971), an installation that frames the corners of the room and alludes to the older artist’s celebrated series of four paintings, Who’s Afraid of Red, Yellow and Blue. The work conveys both Newman’s disdain for the picturesque in art and Flavin’s interest in architectural environments.

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Even though a gallery attendant young enough to be my daughter telling me I couldn’t photograph the work rubbed me up the wrong way, a few coughs over camera clicks later, I enjoyed the subtle fluorescent pieces, which managed to be somehow convey warmth and a sterile coldness, all in the same breath.

Note to Self:

  • I have been to a few other shows recently. Mention them here.

Super Sound on Dream Street and Destroy Roadmap of Ants

I like the simplicity of this piece, by Thai artist Arnont Nongyao of the Chiang Mai Collective.

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Arnont Nongyao is a sound artist whose work concentrates on vibration. His practice investigates different means of searching for the value of vibration derived from connected things, such as human beings, objects and society.

We were recording along the streets of Chiang Mai after 6:00 PM, and we found bird-sounds occupying a traffic jam, changing the space and the feeling of people on the street forever.

His works involve specific spaces and moments of audience participation. They are connected with the mode of listening and hearing in various social situations, and with how people interact with and participate in sound.

Girls who are Beuys, Who like Beuys to be girls, Who do Beuys…

On the Sunday of the Low residency I met up with an old friend and we went to the Tate Modern, a monumental building probably not best utilised to show as much work as possible, but still good to see such great work. After a week of mostly digital work it was different and refreshing to see some more physical work.

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Joseph Beuys the brillant German conceptual artist had some work in the Tate, and I remembered how much I liked his work and the ideas behind them. I remember laughing at his fabricated self creation myth, that whilst serving as a Stuka dive bomber in the German Army in the second World War he was shot down on the Russian front and rescued by a nomadic Tatar tribe, that wrapped his broken body in animal fat and felt and nursed him back to health. Army records show he was in fact re-cooperating in a German field hospital. But what of it, he understood that Human Beings want a larger story…myth and legend.

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“It is not inconsistent with Beuys’ work that his biography would have been subject to his own reinterpretation;this particular story has served as a powerful myth of origins for Beuys’s artistic identity, as well as providing an initial interpretive key to his use of unconventional materials, amongst which felt and fat were central.” [1]

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I started to understand ‘Beuys as shaman’ when I read about the first time he visited The United States and immediatedly performed an action;

“…The action actually began at Kennedy Airport, where friends wrapped him in felt and transported him to the gallery in an ambulance. Beuys then spent several days in a room with only a felt blanket, a flashlight, a cane that looked like a shepherd’s staff, copies of the Wall Street Journal (which were delivered daily), and a live coyote. His choice of employing a coyote was perhaps an acknowledgment of an animal that holds great spiritual significance for Native Americans, or a commentary on a country that through its Western expansion had become “lost” America.”

…and I didn’t even mention the dead hare.

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Note to Self:

  • Whittle down the rationale of your artistic practice, it sometimes comes across as muddled.
  • Finish off one or two Arduino projects that have been lying around and then quickly move on to more visual screen orientated work.

Inspiratio

We have been asked by Jonathan to present an artist/Group that inspires us, and that impacts on our own making of work. I could not just put x1 Artist or group that inspires me as I am still exploring various avenues of making…Sensors + Arduino, VR/Augmented Reality, IoT/Video.

So I chose x3 artists and aspects of their work that get me excited.

Andrew Thomas Huang: (VR/Augmented Reality)

I first came across the work of Andrew Thomas Huang when he directed the video for Bjork’s Stonemilker [1] track, it was a 360 virtual Reality experience.

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Also Her ‘Vulincura, moving album cover’.

Some of his instagram ‘sketches’ are below. He seems to combine constructed objects, puppets etc..

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…with 3D imagery and CGI effects.

They seem to be of strange, fierce and mythical 3D rendered creatures, which are beautiful. He is Asian/American and seems to have that affinity for a bright and powerful colour palette, oranges and turquoises mix with deep reds and day-glo limes.

TeamLab: (Sensors + Arduino)

TeamLab are a Japanese ‘Ultra Technologist Group’ comprising of UI engineers, CG animators, web designers, software architects and mathematicians.

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Their founder Toshiyuki Inoko believes…

“Technology and culture can evolve society, and that the start of the information age was a revolution in Society and it will be looked back on in a few hundred years as a Renaissance and a new dawn.”[2]

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I like the fact that they take from ancient Japanese culture and thorough experimentation and innovation blur the boundaries between science, technology, art and design. They use sensors a lot to trigger particular events in their installations.

Mark Leckey: (IoT/Video)

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A performance work of his, GreenScreenRefrigeratorAction (2010) touched me as it seems to me he is trying to give a plaintive voice to the object, the thing. There is a strange kind of brutal pathos in the thought of an object trying to find its voice in the world of humans and sentient beings.

The Fridge stands on a green screen infinity cyc while ‘he coaxes it into revealing its thoughts and actions’. It shows a shiny black Samsung smart fridge pondering its existence and mingling with like objects. In a scientifically-charged description that concerns its inner workings, the fridge’s anguished, robotic first person voiceover renders audible its inner life and its potential dreams. As we create increasingly smarter objects, Leckey predicts a world in which things become sentient, start communicating, and alter our environment into new digital ecosystems.

“Now, instead of wanting to seduce an object into offering up its meaning, Leckey seemed to want the object to consume him. The work began with his inhaling the gases used as coolant for a Samsung fridge: a kind of shamanistic ritual in which, in order to understand the fridge, he took on some of its characteristics. The fridge sang back a kind of mournful plainchant: “See, see, see we assemble. See we assemble. See we assemble; Samsung, Viking, Gaggenau and Whirlpool …” The work, Leckey said, is a kind of fantasy: that he could bring himself into “a state outside of myself, fridge-like, less-human, feeling like an image”. As if he wanted to dissolve into pixels.

You could see the work as nodding to the notion of the internet of things – the technology through which objects, especially consumer appliances, will be connected online and see it more broadly, as a reaction to the fact that technology is triggering strange, disruptive new relationships between humans, objects and images; people, animals and machines.” [3]

Jennifer in Paradise

A few weeks ago an article was mentioned on the course called ‘Situating Post Internet’ by Domenicio Quaranta. One time Rhizome editor Marisa Olson coined the term ‘Post internet’ in 2006, which in a nutshell she defines as;

“A new generation of artists who, while spending a lot of time online, were developing most of their work offline: work that was nonetheless ‘infused with the digital visual language, network aesthetics, and the social politics of online transmission and reception.”[1]

It also mentioned or linked to a jolly faced Dutch man with a great moniker ‘Constant Dullaart’, the second letter ‘a’ almost making it sound like a proper Dutch surname.

I have been reading a lot the last few weeks about the image….Walter Benjamin, Roland Barthes, Jean Baudrillard, Jacques Ranciere…almost to the point of cerebral overload 🙂 so Dullaart’s take on things brings almost light relief, but with some very interesting concepts and themes bubbling below the surface. His piece from 2014 ‘Jennifer in Paradise’ grabbed my attention.

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‘Jennifer in Paradise’, is the first ever photoshopped image.

“…Jennifer was the last person to sit on solid ground, gazing out into an infinitely fluid sea of zeros and ones, the last woman to inhabit a world where the camera never lied.” [2]

The image was taken in 1987 by John Knoll who worked at Industrial Light and Magic, it was of his wife Jennifer. It became the first colour image used to demonstrate the software they had started to call Photoshop.

In Dullaart’s view this photo is of extreme importance in the modern visual vernacular and should be in the Smithsonian Museum in Washington DC as a key 20th century artefact;

“just from an anthropological point of view I thought it would be interesting to examine what values the image contains. The fact that it’s a white lady, topless, anonymous, facing away from the camera. And that it was his wife. He offers her, objectifying her, in his creation for the reproduction of reality.” [3]

He even asked the Knoll’s to go back to the beach in Bora Bora to recreate the shot, which they politely declined!

“For him Jennifer in Paradise is a key artefact, the original Photoshop meme. As such, he believes, it belongs in the public domain. His misappropriation of it is a protest.”[4]