Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Act / React - Interactivity in recent installation art

Act / React: Interactive Installation Art made its world premiere at the Milwaukee Art Museum in October of 2009. The exhibition Showcased a growing body of contemporary work that is interactive and dependent upon an interactive audience.  The exhibition of motion-driven installation art empowers the audience to exercise their creativity and act on their curiosity in response to the works.

 'Deep Walls' by Scott Snibbe, 2003

The works are diverse in both form and function, each of the ten works situated within the 10,000-square-foot exhibition space was designed to constructively respond to the physical presence of visitors.  There is a table that speaks when touched (Janet Cardiff, To Touch, 1994), a floor of projected, colorful forms that reconfigure in the wake of passing visitors (Brian Knep, Healing Pool, 2008), and walls of painterly projections that respond to “brushstrokes” of human movement (Camille Utterback, External Measures 2003, 2003; Untitled 5, 2004; Untitled 6, 2005).  Liz Phillips contributes a room of responsive neon lights and synthesized sound (Echo Evolution, 1999), while Daniel Rozin‘s Peg Mirror (2007) and Snow Mirror (2005) configure and reflect captivating portraits.  Scott Snibbe‘s Boundary Functions (1998) and Deep Walls (2003) bring visitors together in works that require more than one participant.

Act / React at the Milwaukee Art Museum

Monday, May 16, 2011

Image Processing and Abstraction in Early Video

Einstine - Eric Siegel (1968)

In Einstine, which was based on the installation Psychedelevision in Color, a photograph of Albert Einstein is colorized and manipulated to the music of Rimsky-Korsakov.

Eric Siegel at EAI

Calligrams - Woody and Steina Vasulka (1970)

A study in aesthetic control of a television signal by Woody and Steina Vasulka.

5 Minute Romp Through the IP - Dan Sandin (1973)

In 1973, Dan Sandin designed and built a comprehensive video instrument for artists, the Image Processor (IP), a modular, patch programmable, analog computer optimized for the manipulation of gray level information of multiple video inputs. Sandin decided that the best distribution strategy for his instrument "was to give away the plans for the IP and encourage artists to build their own copies. This gave rise to a community of artists with their own advanced video production capabilities and many shared goals and experiences." In this segment, Sandin demonstrates the routing of the camera signal through several basic modules of the IP, producing a "primitive" vocabulary of the effects specific to video.  

Dan Sandin at VDB

Video Taping - Ernie Gusella (1974)

Gusella's title creates a pun on the term video "tape" by using a split screen in which one half is the electronic negative of the other. Gusella set up a glass sheet and suspended it from light poles. The glass was covered with black or white tape. As he slowly removes the obscuring tape from one half of the screen, his ghostly negative image emerges, further confusing the viewer. Electronically constructed using a VideoLab - a voltage controllable, multi-channel switcher, keyer, and colorizer built by Bill Hearn - the tape relies on the use of a luminance keyer to "cut out" specfic brightness levels (determined by voltage) from one video signal and replace them with a video signal from a second camera. Keying is a video effect seen commonly on television weather reports, in which the images of the map displayed behind the announcer are electronically matted into the image.  

Ernest Gusella at VDB

C-Trend - Woody Vasulka (1974)

The videotape depicts the experiment of recording images and sounds with a camera pointing out of the window and onto street traffic. But while the visual material is retimed and processed in the Scan Processor — where it is reshaped, compressed, and eventually divided in two differently shaped segments and finally presented as an unfamiliar form—the recorded sound remains unaltered, i.e., "real" street noise. In C-Trend, when the visual information is taken out of the television frame and set adrift, what happens is that the frame itself is exposed to horizontal and vertical blanking. Through raster manipulation, the image content becomes "object" and collapses upside-down.

Complex Wave Forms - Ralph Hocking (1976)

Produced without camera input, this intense electronic landscape transports the viewer into a world that is an abstract study in machine-generated imagery. Produced at the Experimental Television Center. 

Ralph Hocking at VDB

Music on Triggering Surfaces - Peer Bode (1978)

In Music on Triggering Surfaces, Bode constructs an interface between audio and video systems. The luminance information (voltage) from the visual images traversed by the black dot is routed to an oscillator to produce the audio signal, which varies according to the changing luminance. The video image itself then triggers the audio. The shifting grey-scale of the image becomes a two-dimensional sound map or audio score. This tape was produced at the Experimental Television Center.

Peer Bode at VDB

Perfect Leader - Max Almy (1983)

Produced to coincide with the 1984 Presidential Campaign, Perfect Leader is a cautionary tale that brings to life a prototypical politician, as packaged by Madison Avenue. With a driving soundtrack and bold visuals, Almy satirically presents this dynamic simulation of media politics as a fast-paced music clip. The narrator is a disembodied Big Brother, an Orwellian computer program who creates candidate images — dictator, evangelist, moderate — as models for a mass-marketed leader. The image of the potential president is overlaid with graphic symbols of multinational power: technology; economics; warfare. As a woman hysterically intones, "We've got to have a perfect leader," the bland, telegenic candidate is brought into two dimensions on the TV screen. Concise as a commercial, insistent as a pop song, Perfect Leader is Almy's most effective use of television techniques to critique the impact of the media on contemporary life.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Experimental Collage and Cultural Critique

Choosing Death - Mick Duffield (1981)

Choosing Death is an angry and incisive critique of western post-war consumer society, attacking militarism, consumerism, and the industrial slaughter of animals.

Excerpt from the book: The Story of Crass by George Berger

Mick Duffield at Dangerous Minds

Rock My Religion - Dan Graham (1982 - 1984)

With the "reeling and rocking" of religious revivals as his point of departure, Graham analyzes the emergence of rock music as religion among teenage consumers in the isolated milieu of 1950s suburbia. The music and philosophy of Patti Smith, who made explicit the trope that rock is religion, are his focus. This complex collage of text, film footage, and performance is a compelling theoretical essay on the ideological codes and historical contexts that gave rise to the cultural phenomenon of rock and roll.

Dan Graham at EAI

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Performance & Documentation

Touch and Tap Cinema - Peter Weibel & Valie Export (1968)

For Touch Cinema, EXPORT allowed people to touch her breasts through a portable curtained contraption for 30 seconds per person.
In the artist’s own words:
As usual, the film is ‘shown’ in the dark. But the cinema has shrunk somewhat – only two hands fit inside it. To see (i.e. feel, touch) the film, the viewer (user) has to stretch his hands through the entrance to the cinema. At last, the curtain which formerly rose only for the eyes now rises for both hands.
The tactile reception is the opposite of the deceit of voyeurism. For as long as the citizen is satisfied with the reproduced copy of sexual freedom, the state is spared the sexual revolution. ‘Tap and Touch Cinema’ is an example of how re-interpretation can activate the public.’
In this piece EXPORT comments on the cinema as a projection space for male fantasies, and confronts the male gaze/touch with the reality of the live woman. In doing so, she also comments on how desire has been captured by the mass media and questions the individual’s ownership of sexuality for both men and women.

Stamping in the Studio - Bruce Nauman (1968)

From Video Data Bank:
From an inverted position, high above the floor, the camera records Nauman’s trek back and forth and across the studio; his stamping creates a generative rhythm reminiscent of native drum beats or primitive dance rituals. However, Nauman is not participating in a social rite or communal ritual—he is icompletely individualized. Isolated in his studio, his actions have no apparent reason or cause beyond his aesthetic practice.

Selected Works - William Wegman (1970 - 1978)

Visual artist William Wegman became a leading figure in the emerging field of video art in the early 1970s. He began making a series of tapes produced on low-end equipment in his apartment that featured himself, a few props, and his pet Weimeraner, Man Ray. This excerpt contains eight short pieces selected by Wegman himself, including two comic "body art" monologues performed by his slightly paunchy midsection, a pair of fake commercials (for a primitive version of a massage chair and an underarm deodorant that the artist endlessly applies), and two classics featuring Man Ray--Spelling Lesson, in which Wegman corrects his dog's misspelling of the word "beach," and Two Dogs Watching, in which Man Ray and a canine friend perform a synchronized routine keyed to the movement of a simple off-screen object.
William Wegman at EAI

Documentation of Selected Works - Chris Burden (1971 - 1975)

Chris Burden's provocative, often shocking conceptual performance pieces of the early 1970s retain their raw and confrontational force in these dramatic visual records, shot on Super-8, 16mm film, and half-inch video. Guided by the artist's candid, explanatory comments on both the works and the documentative process, these segments reveal the major themes of Burden's work -- the psychological experience of danger, pain, and physical risk, the aggressive abuse of the body as an art object, and the psychology of the artist/spectator relationship. This compilation is an historical document of one of the most extreme manifestations of 1970s conceptual performance art. Included are the infamous Shoot (1971), in which Burden allows himself to be shot in the arm; Bed Piece (1972), in which he stayed in bed in a gallery for twenty-two days; and the notorious Through the Night Softly (1973), which featured Burden, arms tied behind his naked torso, dragging himself over shards of broken glass. Also included are: 220 (1971) Deadman (1972) Fire Roll (1973) Icarus (1973) B.C. Mexico (1973) TV Ad (1973) Back to You (1974) Velvet Water (1974).

Film: Michael Brewster, Barbara Burden, Don Von Valkenburg, Phyllis Lutjeans, Paula Sweet, Charles Hill. Video: Andy Mann.  

Chris Burden on UBUWEB

Vital Statistics of a Citizen Simply Obtained - Martha Rosler (1977)

Taking aim at the social standardization enforced particularly on women's bodies, Rosler critiques the politics of "objective" or scientific evaluation that result in the depersonalization, objectification, and colonization of women and Others.  As Joseph Di Mattia has pointed out, "The title of the tape is ironic--just exactly to whom are these 'statistics' 'vital'? They are vital to a society which circumscribes the behavior and roles of women."  Throughout this tape Rosler situates the female body as the site of an ideological struggle, a site of physically realized domination, which degrades, demeans, and subjugates women.

"[This] is the most pointedly feminist of Rosler's tapes. Every inch of the artist's nude body is measured and recorded by two doctors, while voiceovers comment on standards, body ideals, and their relation to masochism."

--Mary Stofflett, "Art or television," Studio International 195 (June 1982)

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Media Democracy / Documenting Dissent

Proto Media Primer - Raindance Collective (1970)

Founded in 1969 by Frank Gillette, Paul Ryan, Michael Shamberg and Ira Schneider, Raindance was a media collective that proposed radical theories and philosophies of video as an alternative form of cultural communication. Influenced by the theories of Marshall McLuhan and Buckminster Fuller, the collective explored the relation of cybernetics, media and ecology. From 1970 to 1974, Raindance published the seminal video journal, Radical Software.  

Paul Garrin Videoworks (1988 - 1990)

Paul Garrin advocates the use of video as an activist and community tool and a means for people to represent themselves. These three pieces examine the Tompkins Square riots, police harassment, and the use of home video equipment to record a truly democratic local news.

"Once Big Brother' was the state watching the people, now the people can begin watching the state."
—Paul Garrin

Transformer / AIDS - Deep Dish TV, Paper Tiger Television, & Bob Kenny (1991)

Transformer / AIDS looks at the governmental response to AIDS at this crucial point in history, when activism forced the issue onto the public agenda. A sarcastically funny, yet poignant critique engineered spearheaded by critic Bob Kinney & Produced by Paper Tiger TV

Deep Dish TV Link


Retooling Dissent (2002)

This video marks a period of dissent and experimentation around the February 2, 2002 meeting of the World Economic Forum in Manhattan (NYC) at the Waldorf Astoria hotel. The global executives and corporate elite attending the annual conference, usually held in Davos Switzerland, carved the streets of New York City into a police state. Meanwhile artists and activist--tactical media practitioners, from around the world created new tools and held workshops intending to send them a clear message: The September 11th attacks will NOT gag the critiques of globalization. This video explores the collaborations and ideas of four collectives working on projects at the WEF protests. 

Monday, April 18, 2011

Contemporary Animation

Screening Monday April 18th:

William Kentridge / Drawing the Passing
documentary by Maria Anna Tappeiner and Reinhard Wulf

Exploring a space between the personal and the political,  the work of South African artist William Kentridge has since the 1970's investigated the diseased, amnesiac consciousness of the late and post-apartheid South Africa. Kentridge has received international acclaim for his animated films, drawings and theatre work.

In November 1998, filmmaker Reinhard Wulf and art historian Maria Anna Tappeiner visited Kentridge's Johannesburg studio to film the artist at work. The resulting documentary records Kentridge in final stages of animating Steroscope. It includes excerpts from the finished film, plus Kentridge's reflections on his work and the process of making it.  The documentary is a unique record of the artist at work, offering exceptional insight into his creative process.

 Click to view William Kentridge's bio on ART21


Wednesday April 20th:

Visiting Artist James Barany 

As a part of the Lawrence University Art & Art History Visiting Artist Series 2011, James Barany, a multidisciplinary new media artist, animator, and opera chorister will be presenting his work to our class.  His visit is sponsored by the Lawrence University Film Club.  He will also be giving a public lecture at 4:45pm in the Wriston Auditorium Followed by a Q&A session and reception.

Program Title: Arias, Animation and Anastomosis

James Barany’s newest time-based media work continues to probe through the emotional layers of his intrapersonal-self.  With a mixture of satirical and turbulent repertoire, he challenges the viewer to question their own definition of ‘self’ through dynamic combinations of animation, vocal oratory and composited video. Barany will present his creative anastomosis- how this work, creative process, and his journey with creative integration becomes manifest.

James Barany is currently a Chorister (Baritone) at The Florentine Opera in Milwaukee and the Coordinator of Fine Art / Associate Professor at Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design.

More information can be found on his website:

Monday, April 11, 2011

Experimental Film and Video History

Screenings for the week of April 11th:

Man with a Movie Camera

From Wikipedia:

The film has an unabashedly avant-garde style, and emphasizes that film can go anywhere. For instance, the film uses such scenes as superimposing a shot of a cameraman setting up his camera atop a second, mountainous camera, superimposing a cameraman inside a beer glass, filming a woman getting out of bed and getting dressed, even filming a woman giving birth, and the baby being taken away to be bathed.

Vertov was one of the first to be able to find a mid-ground between a narrative media and a database form of media. He shot all the scenes separately, having no intention of making this film into a regular movie with a storyline. Instead, he took all the random clips and put it in a database, which Svilova later edited. The narrative part of this process was her job. She had to go into that random pool of clips that Vertov filmed, edit it, and put it in some kind of order. Vertov's purpose of all this was to break the mold of a linear film that the world was used to seeing in those days.


Video The New Wave

A 1973 WGBH Boston Public Television documentary exploring the newly emerging work of video art. The program highlights several video artists exploring the video medium and pushing its boundaries, with a focus on artists working with image processing and video synthesizers, performance, documentary forms, and conceptual ideas in their work. 

  Information can be found at Electronic Arts Intermix