Apparatus at The HABITAR Exhibition

Wednesday June 17, 14.44.17

As Fabien has mentioned and due to his participation in curating the event, the laboratory’s Apparatus for Capturing Other Points of View will be exhibited at HABITAR. It’ snice to have this project reconsidered in an art & technology context. The exhibition catalog is available as a PDF here.

Originally this was a thought-collaboration after a Nokia colleague turned me onto this William H. Whyte small book called The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces. Whyte managed to capture the dynamics of urban parks and gathering points with the recording technoogy of the day — eyeballs, notebooks and some 16mm cameras. (You can watch some of it here and other places.)


It was a simple thing to get excited about — how might this sort of observation be redone in the early 21st century and what might be some curious things to look for? My own interest was to build the thing and make it a provocative instrument and then wonder what a video enhancement and post-processing of these images look like? Something algorithmic, I supposed — are there behaviors and movements that can be abstracted from the general hub-bub and rush of urban pedestrians’ lives?

You can find most of the videos here, and there are some new edits at the exhibition should you be in their neighborhood.

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What If..

Sascha describing The Golden Institute at the The Science Gallery in Dublin.

Just a short post to point folks to this succinct description of The Golden Institute by the artist-designer himself. The engaging documusic sort of brings it all together. Great work, Sascha!
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Textual Landscapes at Bryce Wolkowitz Gallery

It’s the “how’s it work?” gesture — one of the Top 15 Criteria of Interactive Media Art — so it must be interactive media. Jim Campbell’s work of low-res video illuminations. Again. These are of Grand Central Station looking unusually pacific.

Seen at the Bryce Wolkowitz Gallery in Manhattan on way-west 24th Street, a group show consisting of some favorites — Marina Zurkow especially, with whom I have had the great pleasure of collaborating in the past.

The show was in two rooms separated by this long hallway. In the first entrance room is Alan Rath’s “Flying Eyeballs” IV”. It’s are sort of the canonical retro cathode ray tubes peering at you with blinking eyeballs. The log line: Nam June Paik-envy seasoned with 12 Monkeys production design aesthetic. (I have no photo, but the gallery website will subject you to a medieval-style torture of web navigation if you should like to navigate to the artists’ exhibition photos/videos.)

In the main room I enjoyed Marina’s “Slurb”, seen above on the left. On the right is Airan King’s “109 Lighting Books” (indeed..) which is curious sort of literate, didactic sculpture. As a light source in the space, you draw to it like a moth and maybe feel some empathy because of the titles, or maybe some distance because of the titles. I don’t know.

Then there was Ben Rubin’s “Shakespeare Machine Study No 4” (on the left) and “Lolita 6” (on the right), two word-y sculptures from the guy who brought us the crucial internet sculpture “Listening Post” — the thing that collapsed the simultaneity of networks-conversations into physical form.

Why do I blog this? Just a bookmark to myself about an intriguing show using instruments, aesthetics and the setting of an art gallery. I also liked this gesture of someone looking behind a sculpture to see if they can figure out how it works — one of the “Fat 15” criteria that define “interactive media art.”
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UCLA DMA MFA Exhibtion 2009

Here are some visuals and notes from the current UCLA DMA MFA Exhibition, 2009.

Yiyun Kang ( “BETWEEN” video installation attempts to seek the sensory engagement of the audience with multiple projections & life-size screens. These were curiously dimensional projections that gave an eery sense that there was someone behind the panels.

Nova Jiang’s work “Tethered Selves” and good-humored tracing of the wires and bits and controls (Criteria 13) to see how it all works. All in good fun. Lovely, melodic, unsettling sculpture. Nice work Nova.

Nova Jiang work Alternate Endings, replications of what is worn. Recently seen at Milan during that Design Week.

Nova Jiang “Tethered Selves” is a series of electro-mechanical sculptures exploring the implicit violence within the domestic sphere, presumably via the tiny dead flies that are stuck to the fly paper that lies on the perimeter of the wheel. As the wheel rotates, a small player piano is plays a melody, with each dead fly serving as what would be the holes one finds on an old-fashioned player piano.

Also Nova exhibited Alternate Endings, where fashion is made on location that replicates what one is wearing. This is intriguing as it adds a certain kind of craft-performance in the location.

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Many Facets

Saturday January 24 18:10

There are many facets to art-technology and its exhibition. This was seen at the splendid “Future Imaginaries” exhibition at the Ben Maltz gallery at Otis College of Art and Design. I eagerly await Norman Klein (pictured gesturing to Lev Manovich who is assessing an audio focus rig) and Andreas Kratky’s forthcoming DVD that was featured at the exhibition/ There was also a collection of curious, carnivalesque assemblages that are all simultaneously forward and backward into the future. Tom Jennings’ peculiar recording, mapping instruments from the future past or somewhere were my favorite.

Saturday January 24 18:16

Saturday January 24 18:17

Here are some other pieces from the exhibition:

Saturday January 24 18:15

Saturday January 24 18:07

Saturday January 24 18:19

As to my Top-15 list of criteria for interactive art / art-technology, I generally don’t assume its necessary to ask “what’s it do?” about such things as shown in an exhibition like this. That’s a little weird to me. It’d be like asking Goya what “Saturn Devouring His Son” does, or how it works or something. So, I only know what these objects do in my own mind. That’s all I mean. So, like..if you ask? And I tell you? That is my basis for knowing — I didn’t ask any of the artists to explain their art to me, like a bunch of other people did. Which is weird to see happen.

A few more photographs are here.

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Exit Strategies. UCLA Design Media Arts 2008 MFA Exhibition


Took a jaunt through the UCLA Design Media Arts MFA 2nd Year MFA Thesis Show this evening, titled “Exit Strategies.” There were a couple of pieces that stood out to me in the exhibition, which ranged from rather cerebral to playful, all with a good scoop of design sensibilities. There was a good range of work here and this is just some notes to myself and a remark or two in context.

The statement for the show is speaks directly to the multivalent meanings of exiting as cultural and political action. I’m not entirely sure I saw this framing statement in the work and, absent wall text, it was a bit difficult to do much more than “be” with the material and experience what it is on its own. Which is fine, perhaps even preferable for my own personal way of seeing work, which is to not reflect too heavily in the moment of experiencing it.

(The show included no wall text, and the descriptions of the projects on the Exit Strategies page are either quite plain about what project was done by what artist, or are completely vague. A serious shortcoming of the exhibition in my humble opinion.)

Ours is the era of the exit strategy. Whether in military, commercial, or personal engagements, exit strategies inject planned obsolescence into every human action. Exit strategies collapse history into instrumentality: the ends justify not only the means but also the beginnings. They sacrifice openness, complexity, and sustainability to the gods of the closed, the simplistic, and the disposable. They are meager attempts to convince ourselves of the possibility for absolute control and computability in all areas of life.
We see the current cultural obsession with exit strategies as an opportunity. Our work destabilizes the concept of the exit strategy by recasting it as an ethics of escape, subversion, and nomadism. Our exit strategies are material mechanisms for prying open hermetic systems of power and representation. Our practices discover ways out. Our works plot paths for others to follow.


The most fascinating piece in my opinion was this gigantic spinning top by Jacob Tonski
called “Big Top.” Bit as in Gigantic. It exuded mass and angular momentum and the force of that gigantic, hard to move and hard to stop things — war once engaged, promises once given, debts once incurred. The piece was tactile, silent and alluring while also having a quiet danger to it. It was also quite an intriguing apparatus, with a large articulating pulley and weight system to set it on its way. The set up involved holding pins inserted into the huge top and rope wound and wound around the top, while a block of weights rose, partially assisted by a small electric motor connected to a car battery. Once set in motion, the top quietly spun heavy and fast. During the set up, we were cautioned to step back — the holding pins would fly loose under centrifugal force once the weights were released.

Big Top Jacob Tonski from Julian Bleecker on Vimeo.



With the top spinning it become impossible not to get as close as possible — even to touch its rather knotted wooden surface (like..ouch.) To me it was a bit like the moment in Kubrick’s 2001 when the black monolith first appears — it was big, silent and entirely compelling.


Gil Kuno (GII K) Pogophonic was a rather large and apparently physically demanding pogo stick that triggers sound samples. (Another) connection between physical action and digital control of sound and music. (Similar in that regard to probably many other projects, somewhat like Skatesonic.) I enjoyed the playfulness of the project and its physicality quite a bit and it was genuinely fun to watch. It didn’t even matter that there was a somewhat vague association between the stick’s actions and the sound — it need not have been the “mechanics” of the interaction for all I care. Even if GII K said so, and there really wasn’t, that would have been fine in some sense. What I mean is that the artists or performers of pogo’rs merely pogo’d to the sound, or if the sound was live dj’d and the pogo’rs pogo’d to that, I think the effect would’ve been the same for the audience, in fact. In that regard, it could’ve had a somewhat theory-oriented angle in that it made fun of the usual audience response to interactive art, which is to ask, almost before everything — “how does it work?” Which seems to me to be the central departure for “interactive art” or “art-technology” from unwired art. Lately, this point and the question — how does it work? — has become almost annoying and a bit of a distraction from the experience of creative wired work. Where are the wires? How does this connect to my action or activities? The effort is to “figure out” the work at the instrumental level. In some sense, that may be a mark for me (just sayin’..) of what is compelling art-technology versus Make Magazine style hacking.


What else?

I was initially quite excited by Zach Blas design-product piece called Queer Technologies. The installation was set-up as a provocation at the intersections of consumerism, art and politics. Queer Technologies was the name of the piece, as an “organization” (like a company) that produces products, like theory products, that are tools for “queer agency, interventions and community building.”

Projects [products] include transCoder, a queer programming anti-language; ENgenderingGenderChangers, a “solution” to cable gender adapters’ male/female binary; Gay Bombs, a technical manual manifesto that outlines a “how to” of queer political action through terrorist assemblages of networked activism; and the Disingenuous Bar, a play / attack on apple computer’s genius bar for tech support that offers a heterotopic space for political support for “technical” problems.

This is very intriguing to me — working within the representational tactics and logics of consumer capitalism with boxed software that is a “queer programming anti-language”, the (not terribly original, but still interesting) “Gender Changes” (the name given to devices that switch “male” plugs to “female” plugs as is sometimes necessary when connecting devices together), and a technical manual that is a kind of mainifesto of queer political action.

Okay, interesting — initially very exciting conceptually. Sadly this piece entirely knocked the wind out of the experience I had (I literally was upset, and no longer interested in sticking around) because the artist was selling these items at ridiculous prices. The software was $150 and the manual $100. When I asked — “one hundred what?” I was told that these were “art prices.”


Boy, there’s a lot to say about this. Besides the fact that the piece ended up being such a downer for this reason, I saw an incredibly obvious disconnect between the objective of a critique of consumer capitalism and the artist’s attempt to insert themselves directly within the hyperbolic market of ridiculously priced mass produced items. I mean..these weren’t even hand-crafted goods. The boxed software contained some sort of optical media with the software (presumably) on it. The books were in meter high stacks. For the sake of my intrigue with the piece, I would’ve spent maybe $30 for the software (and likely just kept it without any expectation of it doing anything — just for the spirit of the pieces anti-product productness) and about the same for the manual. I certainly wasn’t going to fork over $250 for these two things, even if I happened to have that kind of scratch just sitting in my wallet to buy a piece of mass-produced something.

Exit Strategies indeed. I went straight out the door, saluted the Serra and headed home.


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