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Mark Skwarek and “Occupation Forces”: Augmented Reality on the Greenway

May 13, 2011   //   by van Gelder   //   Blog  //  Comments Off on Mark Skwarek and “Occupation Forces”: Augmented Reality on the Greenway

On Saturday, May 7 a giant crater opened in the middle of the Rose Kennedy Greenway where Atlantic and Purchase Avenues hit Congress Street. Strangely, the cars and pedestrians that passed took no notice, nor did they seem to respond to the rays of light and energy the crater emitted. They passed quickly, in an attempt to avoid the rain that came soon after. Similarly, the creatures that ringed the crater and stood along an additional seam that had opened parallel to Atlantic Ave. took no notice of the pedestrians, either. While I may have seen these parallel events occur on Saturday, these two worlds have existed in the same place and conformed to the demands of the same shapes and lines Boston’s buildings and streets create for weeks before my visit.

In fact, the images described above have lived on the Greenway since the beginning of the Boston Cyberarts festival as a part of “Occupation Forces”, a work in augmented reality by Mark Skwarek and Joseph Hocking. The two work with a larger, New York-based group known as Manifest.AR, who appeared in art news and on my radar with their guerilla installation at the Museum of Modern Art in Manhattan. The group relied on the same technology (GPS-driven software that superimposes images created by the artists in the real world at a particular set of coordinates) that they used for the MoMA show to create both the Manifest.AR show at the Institute of Contemporary Art and “Occupation Forces”, which viewers can see with the assistance of a sufficiently fast smartphone or tablet device with the same software installed. Holding up the device as one would a camera, the accelerometer inside detects the direction and inclination of the viewer and responds on the device’s screen with a 3D animation specific to that position. The system sends and receives the data to a separate server in real time, as opposed to storage of the image information on a application that lives on the device.

The whimsical work that results, while certainly fun in concept, seems somewhat strange and disjointed in its application and reminded me of the days when special effects first hit the movies. Additionally, I had to rely on another individual present at the tour of the Greenway and “Occupation Forces” because even my 3G iPhone didn’t have the necessary technology for the software that the work needs. Thankfully, that other individual was Mark Skwarek of Manifest.AR and one of the work’s creators, who spoke very frankly about the present limitations, and the future potential, of the augmented reality genre when I met him.

“This is the 8-bit version of AR” Skwarek said, in reference to the early, Donkey-Kong era days of console games like the original Nintendo. “Now those games almost duplicate reality.”

While Skwarek readily admits that AR projects still lack the polish that movie viewers and gamers have come to expect, he suggested that the viewer see current AR projects as a snapshot in an iterative process that will eventually arrive at still unimagined results.

“We are at the birth of this new kind of art,” Skawerk said. “If we can duplicate reality the way that video games can in real space, then it’s up to the artist to just create anything, because we have unlimited potential to make what we imagine.”

Improvements in AR will rely on better geolocation technology before it arrives at the point Skwarek describes. Presently, the geographic and elevation data that represents a point in 3D real space moves or shifts within a few feet in any direction. Until devices can rely on more precise data, images will continue to seem out of place. In addition, Skwarek notes that while we can calculate information about the appropriate light and shading (which give AR forms in real space or in the movies their lifelike and realistic qualities) based on location or time of day, AR creators will need far faster data transmission to communicate such massive amounts of information.

For my part, I have a conflicted relationship with this kind of art. I love its potential, but I also love the ethic of public art and wonder how one can describe as “public” anything that requires a $400 device. Although my talk with Skwarek didn’t necessarily respond to these concerns, it did give me a better insight into an individual committed to the creation of this work and his total admission that we haven’t seen anything yet. Even a cursory glance at the last thirty years of art and the strides made by graphic designers, photographers, sculptors and printmakers with the help of technology affirms that Skwarek makes a good point.

For more on the now concluded 2011 Boston Cyberarts Festival, please visit the festival website. For more on Manifest.AR and their upcoming projects, click here, and for Mark Skwarek, here. Interested persons can view “Occupation Forces” at the Rose F. Kennedy Greenway through May 24th. Get the software and device requirements here.

Where I Live

May 7, 2011   //   by van Gelder   //   Blog  //  Comments Off on Where I Live

"Dream Sequence - Doran" Where I Live - Alison Kotin in partnership with Urbano’s Teen Curators

 

Where I Live is an interactive sound installation featuring the voices of teens of The Urbano Project, a Boston based youth not-for profit arts organization.  Under the guidance of Alison Kotin, the aim of this installation is to “promote civic engagement through works of art that address issues of our time.”

The installation does address pressing issues in our society. It addresses the crime and violence that are plaguing our streets and taking the lives of innocent citizens on a daily basis. In an indirect way, it also addresses the lack of attention paid by local officials to peripheral urban areas and the teens and adults that inhabit these.

Using motion tracking software and an overhead camera, the participant in this installation is confined to a square demarcated by four columns in the center of the gallery and black tape on the floor. It is within this space that we as participants begin to experience the effects that growing up in an urban environment have had on the teens behind Where I live. More than anything, I believe the installation stresses the importance of arts education in lending a voice to those without political power or political awareness in our communities.

“We all need to support the arts” says Former U.S Attorney General Janet Reno in a report sponsored by the United States Department of Justice. “In doing so, we are telling America’s youth that we believe in them and value what they can be.[1]” Consistently throughout our educational history, arts education, in particular in public schools has been neglected and frowned upon.

Art classes offered in urban schools are seen as a waste of tax payers’ dollars, often leading to the partial or complete elimination of art programs in many of our nation’s schools. As a result of budget cuts, small community based youth arts organizations like The Urbano Project have taken on the role of bringing art education to inner city young adults, performing the work that schools, in my opinion, must do to better our society.

Studies sponsored by the United States Department of Education, the National Endowment for the Arts, American for the Arts and other highly respected cultural policy and arts advocacy organizations, have demonstrated that community collaboration through the arts has had a more far-reaching effect on youth at risk than any other youth programs in the United States. These studies have consistently emphasized that participation in the arts by young people, in particular those living in poverty stricken inner city neighborhoods, brighten up communities and inspire and equip young people with the tools needed to make positive change happen in the world.

Organizations like The Urbano Project most often include participants who have never had any formal training in the arts and also come from families who have never been exposed to cultural institutions and related arts activities growing up. This is the case for most students who attend the Boston Public School systems as I did. Because most of these organizations are founded with the mission of serving inner city youth and other underserved populations in major cities, their impact extends far and beyond their participants, an impact that is often difficult to quantity for policy makers.

The gallery in which Where I Live is installed doubles as an office and reception space, detracting from the intensity and even more powerful impact that this interactive sound work could have had on participants who experience it.

Where I live is a perfect example where communities engage in the process of creating social change through art making. This installation demonstrates that kids are the heart and soul of organizations like The Urbano Project; they identify the problems in their communities and bond together to make change happen. This is exactly what Where I live has achieved. It has given a voice to teens “not heard or heeded by adult policymakers.”

 

Written for the 2011 Boston Cyberarts Festival; read more by Anulfo Baez at The Evolving Critic.


[1] Pederson, Julie and Adriana de Kanter, et al. Safe and Smart: Making After School Hours Work for Kids, United States Department of Justice (December 1999). 1.

Seekers: A Bicoastal/Mediated Performance

May 6, 2011   //   by van Gelder   //   Blog, Events  //  Comments Off on Seekers: A Bicoastal/Mediated Performance

Photo by A. Hasler for Boston Cyberarts


On Saturday, April 30th Boston Cyberarts Central hosted “Seekers: A Mediated Performance” in the atrium at Atlantic Wharf. Directed by Alissa Cardone and Alla Kovgan, the performance featured both live dancers and recorded video of dancers in a studio in Los Angeles. Each of the eight dancers improvised his or her dance as a “persona”, which each dancer created based on responses to the questions used at popular dating websites in the creation an online profile. The improvisational score that resulted explored the separation between online and real-world personas, and seeks to answer Kovgan’s question, “Can you actually create the essence of a person from these profiles online?”

For the performance, four dancers (Alissa Cardone, Olivier Besson, Zack Fuller, and Asimina Chremos) appeared on four separate dance floors set up side-by-side. Above each dance floor a flat-screen monitor showed a video of another dancer, who improvised his or her contribution in a studio in Los Angeles. The final improvised performance for the Cyberarts Festival relied heavily on interaction with both the other dancers present in the atrium and the recorded dances. In a question and answer session that followed, the director and the dancers shared the method they employed to create the final performance. Notably, the dancers played an integral role in the creative process, as each responded to the questions from the online dating sites with images and musical suggestions for the playlist that accompanied the performance.

Originally the organizers had intended to show a live feed of the Los Angeles-based dancers’ performance, but opted to use pre-recorded video because the technology necessary for a live feed remains either prohibitively expensive or provides a video of insufficient quality. Additionally, the dancers and director noted that the performance would have had a remarkably different tone if the video of the dancers in Los Angeles appeared on larger screens than the monitors available in the atrium. Ultimately, it seems that while technology has had a major influence on the imagination of those who plan and create performance art (especially as it regards spanning long distances, as in the case of “Seekers”), the realities of the use of technology in performance remain elusive to those artists and directors.

For more on Boston Cyberarts, visit their festival website.

Written for the 2011 Boston Cyberarts Festival. For more from Adam Hasler, visit adamhasler.com.

River Street

May 5, 2011   //   by van Gelder   //   Blog  //  Comments Off on River Street

River Street Tower Still #16, Daniel Phillips, 2010. Courtesy of the artist.

A site specific installation in Hyde Park by Daniel Phillips, River Street fosters an enriching cross-cultural and multi-generational dialogue between people whose memories are encapsulated in the built environment and “outsiders” like me who might be interested in learning about the architectural, industrial, social and natural history of the site in its present state.

According to Dolores Hayden in The Power of Place, historic places help citizens define their public pasts and trigger social memory through the urban landscape. Hayden investigates the concept of “place memory” through philosopher Edward S. Casey’s formulation, in that place memory “encapsulates the human ability to connect with both the built and natural environments that are entwined in the cultural landscape.”

River Street is installed on the former site of what was until 2004, the oldest operating paper mill in North America. Built on the Hyde Park side of the heavily polluted Neponset River, the history of the Tileston-Hollingsworth Paper Company extends as far back as 1733.

Besides its social and industrial history, the site of the mill complex was architecturally significant until recent years when it succumbed to demolition’s wrecking ball. The firm of W. Cornell Appleton and Frank A. Stearns (Appleton & Stearns), and later members of the illustrious Boston architectural firm of Peabody & Stearns, designed an 1890 “handsome” Georgian Revival office building which is no longer extant. In its present state, the remaining scars resulting from the demolition of the site evoke a sense of loss and nostalgia of an era gone-by.

River Street is a multi channel video projection composed of thousands of photographic stills shot on site by Daniel Phillips. For every one and a half minutes of video, it is estimated that approximately 900 photographs are used to create a time lapse moving image. Each photograph captures the passage of time, the crumbling death of the last remaining buildings on site and the slowly renewing life of the Neponset River Reservation. Projected on the loading bays of a dilapidated water pumping station, River Street triggers our memory by capturing those moments that vanish before our eyes. Moments like ice melting from the branches of trees or the rhythmic flow of the river or the transient life of the graffiti in the area, allow us to visually connect the past with the present. Experiencing River Street is to experience a feast for the senses.

A collaboration between the artist Daniel Phillips and Finnard Properties; the current owners and developers of the site, this one night installation of River Street was presented in conjunction with the Boston Cyberarts Festival. The installation on Saturday April 30 attracted many members from the Hyde Park and Dorchester communities. “It was wonderful, breathtaking, unbelievable” says Adrian of Hyde Park, “This is my community, of course I had to be here tonight.”

Written for the 2011 Boston Cyberarts Festival; read more by Anulfo Baez at The Evolving Critic.

April 24 – Chiptunes and DemoShow

May 2, 2011   //   by van Gelder   //   Blog  //  Comments Off on April 24 – Chiptunes and DemoShow

My first event at the Boston CyberArts 2011 festival left me in complete awe.  The April 24th Demoshow and Chiptune concert was truly an experience like no other.  Both visually and musically appealing, the show was a combination of electronic music, graphic design, expert computer programming, and a large dose of creativity.

A demo is a computer program written to exploit the limits of an older computer system such as Commodore 64 or Amiga.  With a restricted file size and other constraints, programmers, graphic designers, and musicians compete to create the best multimedia performance.

Some examples of the excellent work on display:

Chiptunes, a subgenre of electronic music, use video game system sounds, synthesizers, and other sound effects to create music.  Two local groups gave brief performances demonstrating the ability to create music with old Game Boy consoles, synthesizers, and live vocals.

  • Bright Primate – Boston-based duo Bright Primate showcased 4 of their most popular songs including both instrumentals and vocals.  Visit http://brightprimate.bandcamp.com/ for more information.
  • Attic Bits – This New Hampshire based duo played songs from their most recent album.  Visit http://www.myspace.com/thefloppybunch to hear and learn more.

Written for the 2011 Boston Cyberarts Festival; read more by Cristy Maldonado at http://bostonurbansafari.blogspot.com/2011/05/safari-27-boston-cyberarts-festival.html

April 30th – Trace with Me

May 2, 2011   //   by van Gelder   //   Blog, Events  //  Comments Off on April 30th – Trace with Me

TRACE WITH ME :: An Audience Participatory Performance

On Saturday April 30th, a friend and I visited Zsuzsanna V. Szegedi’s installation “Trace with Me :: An Audience Participatory Performance,” part of the larger Boston CyberArts Festival, at the SubSamson gallery in the South End.

In this exhibit, Zsuzsanna wanted to explore the idea of tracing a piece of art and then allowing others to attempt to re-create the piece with trace paper.  To trace the work, Zsuzsanna recorded her movements and then used glowing dots to mimic the movement of her hands.  The glowing dots were projected onto trace paper, allowing participants to follow the dots and recreate the image.

In the end, we saw many different images in our drawing, and in the process of creating, we saw first hand the role interpretation plays in the viewing and understanding of art.  The fact that we used different colors and shading techniques took our piece in an entirely different direction.

Even though I’m curious to know what Zsuzsanna’s original piece was, I don’t think it matters.  We created meaning for ourselves in this process, and perhaps this is what she had in mind.

Written for the 2011 Boston Cyberarts Festival; read more by Cristy at http://bostonurbansafari.blogspot.com/2011/05/safari-28-boston-cyberarts-festival.html

ElectroNEC presents: Electroacoustic Showcase

May 2, 2011   //   by van Gelder   //   Blog  //  Comments Off on ElectroNEC presents: Electroacoustic Showcase

Sunday afternoon, the New England Conservatory held a showcase for student and faculty composers that bridge the gap between electronic and acoustic music. Daniel Hawkins started the concert with his I’ll Fly Away and Industry. Neal Markowski‘s guitar, synth, and tuba composition Generic #8 followed with Marc McNulty‘s untitled improvisation for two laptops and synthesizers. McNulty’s work stood out as a balanced but unpredictable collage of sonic swatches. At times it felt rushed or possibly casual, but overall it was a well conceived piece crowded with complicated tonal colors and asymmetrical rhythms.

John Holland followed with his 2010 composition, Animalia which explored the communication hidden in our insect and animal surroundings. The second half of the evening composition by Derek Sherron and Katarina Miljkovic, and Luigi Nono’s Post-Prae-Ludium.

Give these complicated but rewarding composers some time. I think you’ll like their work. If you want to read more about the history of electronic music at NEC, there is a great post at the Together music festival blog.

Greg Sholette, Dark Matter, and “Art on the Waterways”

May 1, 2011   //   by van Gelder   //   Blog, Events  //  Comments Off on Greg Sholette, Dark Matter, and “Art on the Waterways”

The Boston Cyberarts Festival’s patrons joined UMass-Boston Assistant Professor of Art Cat Mazza and her digital media class on April 22nd for a lecture by New York-based artist and art instructor Greg Sholette. Sholette, writer most recently of Dark Matter: Art and Politics in the Age of Enterprise Culture, spoke on tactical media and the historical antecedents to today’s public art interventions. In a unique twist to the usual educational setting, Sholette delivered the lecture in the main cabin of a 64-foot boat while it cruised Boston Harbor. The cruise and lecture highlighted Spectacle Island, currently part of the Harbor Islands park system and the setting for one of Sholette’s favorite works of literary cyberpunk and dystopia, Zodiac by Neal Stephenson. The ship ended its trip at the Institute for Contemporary Art, where passengers could disembark and continue on to other Cyberarts Festival events.

Early on in his lecture, Sholette endeavored to define some of the parameters for the genre and artistic movement in which he has participated since the beginning of his career in the early 1980’s. In terms of content, tactical media tends to take the form of institutional critique, both in reference to social issues and politics or the art world itself. Many of the artists that Sholette offered as exemplars of the movement favor what Sholette and other critiques refer to as interventionist or tactical practices to communicate their ideas. This includes groups like the Yes Men, who have received significant mainstream media attention for their performances and media interventions mimicking the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Chevron. Sholette noted many of the major differences between traditional art practices and the form of political or social art on which he focuses in his attempt to better define the practice. Most notably, he drew a blurry boundary between the art work and “real life” for those engaged in tactical media works, and he identified a fairly clear distinction between lasting materials, objects, or artifacts and the tendency of tactical media (in addition to other types of art like installation or performance) toward a more temporary or ephemeral result.

“One thing about tactical media,” Sholette remarked, “you’re never sure if it’s going to last.”

Sholette demonstrated the wealth of knowledge on tactical media he has acquired through both his own art practice and his career as a researcher, writer, editor, and art instructor as he moved from an introduction of tactical media and political art to a narrative history of the genre’s foundations. He told stories and showed images of the work of the Russian constructivists, the term critics and historians associate mostly with the Russian art and architecture that came, at least indirectly, out of the Bolshevik revolution and in the early years of the Soviet Union. Le Tatlin, Rochenko, Klucis, and Maykovsky remain the most well known of this movement, and Sholette suggested that during the period in which these artists work, observers can see the formation of a new attitude and definition of art. These individuals made “work for everyday people”, and, as Scholette articulated, had an idea of art “as something with a presence in the day-to-day world.”

More recently, artists who work in a similar vein have taken on the issues of today, such as economic marginalization, through either globalization or ineffective distribution of resources and creativity, militarism and hyper-consumerism. With regards to the latter theme, Sholette held up Reverend Billy & the Church of Life After Shopping and Spain’s Yomango. He noted the Lower Manhattan Sign Project, a project on which he worked, as an example of tactical media’s strategy to represent itself as a part of or participant in the real world, but reveal upon more close inspection a critical message. His most recent project, the Institute for Wishful Thinking, provides a platform for “self-declared Artists in Residence of the US Government”, and invites artists and designers to join the process of solving pressing social problems.

For more on Boston Cyberarts, visit their festival website. For more on Greg Sholette’s work, visit his website, and the online home of Dark Matter.

The Boston Cyberarts Festival’s patrons joined UMass-Boston Assistant Professor of Art Cat Mazza and her digital media class on April 22nd for a lecture by New York-based artist and art instructor Greg Sholette. Sholette, writer most recently of Dark Matter: Art and Politics in the Age of Enterprise Culture, spoke on tactical media and the historical antecedents to today’s public art interventions. In a unique twist to the usual educational setting, Sholette delivered the lecture in the main cabin of a 64-foot boat while it cruised Boston Harbor. The cruise and lecture highlighted Spectacle Island, currently part of the Harbor Islands park system and the setting for one of Sholette’s favorite works of literary cyberpunk and dystopia, Zodiac by Neal Stephenson. The ship ended its trip at the Institute for Contemporary Art, where passengers could disembark and continue on to other Cyberarts Festival events.

Early on in his lecture, Sholette endeavored to define some of the parameters for the genre and artistic movement in which he has participated since the beginning of his career in the early 1980’s. In terms of content, tactical media tends to take the form of institutional critique, both in reference to social issues and politics or the art world itself. Many of the artists that Sholette offered as exemplars of the movement favor what Sholette and other critiques refer to as interventionist or tactical practices to communicate their ideas. This includes groups like the Yes Men, who have received significant mainstream media attention for their performances and media interventions mimicking the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Chevron. Sholette noted many of the major differences between traditional art practices and the form of political or social art on which he focuses in his attempt to better define the practice. Most notably, he drew a blurry boundary between the art work and “real life” for those engaged in tactical media works, and he identified a fairly clear distinction between lasting materials, objects, or artifacts and the tendency of tactical media (in addition to other types of art like installation or performance) toward a more temporary or ephemeral result.

“One thing about tactical media,” Sholette remarked, “you’re never sure if it’s going to last.”

Sholette demonstrated the wealth of knowledge on tactical media he has acquired through both his own art practice and his career as a researcher, writer, editor, and art instructor as he moved from an introduction of tactical media and political art to a narrative history of the genre’s foundations. He told stories and showed images of the work of the Russian constructivists, the term critics and historians associate mostly with the Russian art and architecture that came, at least indirectly, out of the Bolshevik revolution and in the early years of the Soviet Union. Le Tatlin, Rochenko, Klucis, and Maykovsky remain the most well known of this movement, and Sholette suggested that during the period in which these artists work, observers can see the formation of a new attitude and definition of art. These individuals made “work for everyday people”, and, as Scholette articulated, had an idea of art “as something with a presence in the day-to-day world.”

More recently, artists who work in a similar vein have taken on the issues of today, such as economic marginalization, through either globalization or ineffective distribution of resources and creativity, militarism and hyper-consumerism. With regards to the latter theme, Sholette held up Reverend Billy & the Church of Life After Shopping and Spain’s Yomango. He noted the Lower Manhattan Sign Project, a project on which he worked, as an example of tactical media’s strategy to represent itself as a part of or participant in the real world, but reveal upon more close inspection a critical message. His most recent project, the Institute for Wishful Thinking, provides a platform for “self-declared Artists in Residence of the US Government”, and invites artists and designers to join the process of solving pressing social problems.

For more on Boston Cyberarts, visit their festival website. For more on Greg Sholette’s work, visit his website, and the online home of Dark Matter.

Written for the 2011 Boston Cyberarts Festival; for more about Adam Hasler visit his site, adamhasler.com.

Record > Again! 40 years of video art in Germany, Part 2

Apr 30, 2011   //   by van Gelder   //   Blog, Events  //  Comments Off on Record > Again! 40 years of video art in Germany, Part 2

Record > Again! 40 years of video art in Germany, Part 2 is an exhibition and symposium covering the second installment of a large collection of newly restored German video works made since 1969. The first installment of this project was exhibited by the Goethe Institute, Boston five years ago and was focused on the chronology of the works included. Part two contains the videos that were either more difficult to restore or didn’t fit into the curatorial vision of the first exhibition. Don’t let that mislead you, though– if the first exhibition was “better,” then I really need to find a copy as soon as possible, as part 2 is filled with compelling artworks that have had very few viewings anywhere.

The symposium was convened on Thursday night with local academic all-stars Gregory Williams (Boston University), Judith Barry (Art Institute Boston), Joseph D. Ketner (Emerson), and Ute Meta Bauer (MIT). Each tackled these 40+ works in a different manner.

Gregory Williams started the night attempting to place the works into a context, curating a small group of works that fought against their being pigeonholed by their German origins and focused on video’s ability as recording device, locking ephemeral moments into a permanent state. Works like Ulrich Rückriem’s 1971 video 1. Teilungen 2. Kreise  3. Diagonalen (1. Divisions 2. Circles 3. Diagonals), arise out of Ruckriem’s work as a sculptor. Recorded with little editing or manipulation the video matches his task driven actions which follow the most basic rules of sculpture: perform an activity on a three dimensional object. Williams also discussed the affect that Joseph Bueys had on German politics and artistry by exploring the complicated relationships in two of his videos: first, his 1972 boxing match with one of his students during Documenta 5, and second, a video created by Michael Bielicky and Ricardo Peredo when they found out that his Fat Corner sculpture had been destroyed by accident around 1986.

Judith Barry then followed up Williams by exploring the thesis that video of the 70’s had a relationship to both performative and sculptural practice. Investigating the work of Nan Hoover in depth, she discussed how Hoover’s Movements in Light (1975/6) attempts to differentiate video and television practices with anti-theatricality and sculptural minimalism using just a hand, a camera, and subtle motion as drawing tools. Her sketches came from the era’s general interest in phenomenology. The space and light movement from California also helped guide her productions during this era. Hoover’s goal was to produce space that was inhabitable by the viewer and to unfold the space available to the artist with a formal process. In her videos she explored the technical limits of the camera and the edges and spatial information that eventually led her to produce installations in the 1980’s.

Barry followed up her exploration of Hoover’s work by drawing similarities with other artists in the exhibition. Wolfgang Stoerchle’s 1972 Untitled (Lamp Performance) used just a camera, a flashlight, and an empty room to create dynamic flowing spatial movements that contained no actual motion. These minute formal changes messed with the camera’s ability to see and produced an involuntary motion on screen, all without computers or editing. These explorations came about during an era where time in an editing suite was expensive. One fluid take was what was necessary as well as what was practical.

After a brief break, Joseph D. Ketner explored in depth the separation between television and video methods by looking at work outside of this exhibition. As the television becomes the central altar in the home, video artists tried to contradict the elevated status by formally attacking the television set and the strategies that broadcasters used in their daily programing. Starting in 1963, the same year that Germany gets more than one television station, you find Wolf Vostell and Gunther Uecker producing sculptures that minimized the television’s importance and even used them like pin cushions, driving numerous nails into a television set. At Boston’s WGBH, Aldo Tambellini, an Italian artist who worked with the German Otto Piene, famously said “Television is not an object, it’s a live communication media. Black Spiral brings you live information. One day we will look at nature as the floating astronauts do in a spiral or circular form where no up or down or gravity exists.” This radical definition of video as a delivery device that we should actively resist formed a working method that is best presented in Jochen Hiltmann’s 1972 video Für Künstler (For artists). In this work, Hiltmann produces a fake television show and broadcast announcer that introduces a fictitious work titled What are you Doing Now? He walks around in the space that the camera can see, banging on the envelope of space that has enclosed around him. He is stuck inside the camera’s space, and says, “You simply cannot get out.

Ute Meta Bauer’s exploration of this collection revolved around her direct experience at German art schools where the artists in this collection were teaching. Though she knew many of these artists personally, there was no public awareness of their video works. Access was impossible, and the original tapes were heavily guarded. The artists had no screenings and made no attempt to have their works distributed widely. The technological limits of tape length and the types of visual decay that arises from duplication also forced some of these works to be considered unfinished or imperfect until these editions were produced for the exhibition. Gerry Schum’s 1972 interview at Documenta is a good example of the lack of access. When Schum produced Land Art and then TV Gallery in approximately 1970, the model of production was based around the artist’s fee versus a model of object for sale. Each work was produced by block grant instead of selling multiples of the finished product. The Documenta interview was one of the only given by Schum, and was produced with no concern for selling copies of it to recoup the production costs.

The symposium was a significant introduction to the hidden treasures in the second part of Record > Again! at the Goethe Institute. The time available to see this exhibition is unfortunately brief, but should be on every festival goers list.

Francis Alÿs: The Moment Where Sculpture Happens

Apr 24, 2011   //   by van Gelder   //   Blog  //  Comments Off on Francis Alÿs: The Moment Where Sculpture Happens

Photograph courtesy of the artist / David Zwirner, New York. Paradox of Praxis, still from Paradox of Praxis 1, 1997, video, 5 minutes

Expecting to encounter sculpture in an exhibition titled Francis Alÿs: The Moment Where Sculpture Happens, is expecting to be disappointed. When hearing the word sculpture, it is safe to assume that most of us immediately become concern with the technical and aesthetic qualities that are traditionally associated with sculpture. We question whether the sculpture is additive or subtractive, or whether it forms part of a building or it’s a relief panel. In the Francis Alÿs exhibition at the Davis Museum, a viewer’s notion of what sculpture is or should be, is challenged by both the artist and curator.

Born in 1959 in Antwerp, Belgium and having studied architecture and urbanism in Europe before settling in Mexico City’s historic quarters, Francis Alÿs’ work deal with the surrounding physical and social tensions of this dense Latin American city. There are no sculptures to be found in this exhibition at the Davis Museum or in the artist’s body of work, instead a viewer finds works consisting of performances and their video documentation, works; that capture the “moment” where the beginnings of sculpture are articulated.

In the video Paradox of Praxis 1 (Sometimes Doing Something Leads to Nothing), 1997 documents over eight hours edited to five minutes of Alÿs pushing an enormous block of ice around Mexico City, leaving only a small puddle at the end of the day. Paradox of Praxis 1 creates a three dimensional, sculpture like experience by documenting the action of pushing a block of ice. Throughout the performance, Alÿs casts shadows in his path and “pushes sculpture to transparent limits, finally consummated in the imagination.”[1]

Francis Alÿs: The Moment Where Sculpture Happens features videos, slide projections, drawings and the recently acquired The Sign Painters Series Cityscape, a triptych depicting an urban scene stripped away from any recognizable landmarks. The exhibition primarily takes place in one small gallery with videos and slides projected on three walls. In addition to these, 15 drawings on vellum and 2 color transparencies of the historic quarters are displayed on a light table.

The exhibition at the Davis Museum marks the artist’s first solo exhibition in the New England region and anticipates a major career retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City this May. Francis Alÿs: The Moment Where Sculpture Happens is on view at the Davis Museum at Wellesley College until June 5th, 2011.

Written for the 2011 Boston Cyberarts Festival; read more by Anulfo Baez at The Evolving Critic.


[1] Lorna Scott Fox, “Where Sculpture Happens” in Francis Alys: A Story of Deception (London, Tate Modern) 196.

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