Sunday, September 30, 2007
Class will be held -- Please show up at the usual time. Gabe or Nia will be showing a movie related to our subject.
Wednesday, September 26, 2007
In this previously unpublished body of work, Gary Schneider presents a haunting series of nudes that emerge and seem to float above a receding black ground. Each image is rendered through a long exposure and by exploring the surfaces of the skin with a small handheld flashlight. Due to the prolonged time required and the inevitable movements and consequent distortions that occur in the process, the results both reveal and obscure the intimate physical details and emotions of the individual who poses. The sensibility and the obsessions of the artist are reflected by his decisions to expose certain areas more than others. The skin-tones are lush and luminous as they emerge from the darkness, yet these portraits also disturb as a result of the exaggerations and irregularities–the blurred traces of unconscious gesture matched with a stiffness that implies the innate physicality and mortality within each body.
Gary Schneider was born in 1954 in East London, South Africa. His work is recently the subject of a major exhibition that opened at Harvard University’s Fogg Museum in February 2004, and incorporates his previously acclaimed solo exhibition, Genetic Self-Portrait, an artistic response to the Human Genome Project. He has shown extensively worldwide, including Museé d’Elysee in Lausanne, Switzerland; the Museum of Fine Art in Houston, Texas; the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York; and the Museum of Contemporary Photography in Chicago, Illinois. He is represented by Julie Saul, New York; Stephen Daiter, Chicago; and Howard Yezerski Gallery, Boston.
“Schneider illuminates the interdisciplinary issues of contemporary art and science, conceptual art and performance, portraiture and identity, and privacy within the public sphere.” –Deborah Martin Kao
"These photographs were made by me imprinting my hands onto 10 x 8" film emulsions. The images occur through the deposit of heat and sweat onto the emulsions, a process described by John McElhone, conservator at the National Gallery of Canada, and Lori Pauli as "autothermohydrograms." At a certain point in my exploration of a genetic diagnostic self-portrait I realized that the images seemed too generic to me. It was with the addition of my hand prints that the portrait moved from a harvesting of my biological information to an emotional response to the Human Genome Project. I wanted the portrait to be an act of faith inside my anxiety of stepping into the unknown of future biology. So, from the most clinical representation (DNA sequence) to the most intimate of images (Hands) lies the full range of this multi-layered self-portrait."
Friday, September 21, 2007
What characterizes these artistic endeavors is a curiosity concerning the performative side of how meaning is generated; the set of rules under which word and action/doing are linked and constitute reality in a specific work of art. These rules are not contested through symbolic art objects, but in the design of very particular situations in which time is one of the prime materials. The translation of the performative from the theoretical context of linguistics into the art context has come to imply a focus on what the artwork does, how it is staged and what kind of relation it creates with the viewer. The word itself, performative, originally comes from linguistics, defining an utterance that designates action and constitutes reality, in contrast to the constative, which reports. Both aspects are part and parcel of any artwork and utterance. Therefore it does not make sense to speak of a performative artwork, but one can speak of the way an artwork utters and does something: “To speak of a performative artwork is (therefore) tautological, because there is no such thing as a non-performative artwork. As every artistic ‘utterance’ has a form and content (even if the content lies in being meaningless), every artwork has a performative dimension: it gathers attention, generates effects, produces experiences and arranges bodies in space that make these experiences.”
Co-Thinking of Museum and Theater Inter-subjective, non-interchangeable situations are presented in museums today. Artwork and event are not opposites anymore, but integrated aspects of a contemporary artwork, questioning or establishing relations between people, space and objects. Here Dorothea von Hantelmann makes a point that the way to constitute and make knowledge exhibitional through materialization in itself is a political issue. Every medium has certain production conditions - materially and symbolically - and way of entering the social. The social element in the presentation of art has increased importance here, because the production in situ and in actu of presentation is in focus, a live negotiation of meaning. Concerning the performative aspect of contemporary art, Hantelmann continues: “It produces and reproduces the central categories that make up society: subjects and objects, as well as rules of behavior that set these into relationship with one another.”4The point for her is to ask: “What kind of discursive potential does the exhibition situation produce as a specific framework for the perception of art in an institutional space?” The answer suggested is the co-thinking of the museum and theater, where the museum – inspired by theater - reflects the projected identities in a more transparent way, and here: “(...) theater comes within the scope of visual arts. That is, as an art form that understands the gap between the artistic phenomenon and its reception to be a social place occurring here-and-now, creating a fundamentally heterogeneous space that rejects any one-dimensional categorization and, by so doing, allows us to reflect on the categorization system.”
When a museum hosts an exhibition like Rirkrit Tiravanja’s, A Retrospective, or of Tino Sehgal’s, Journal # 6, it takes on some functions of the theater and becomes a place where social power relations are mirrored, where reproduction and negotiation of society transpires. Most museums are still accustomed to knowledge and esthetic experience being transported through objects. As institutions, museums are set up to host visitors at certain hours of the day and still struggle with the former identity as mausoleum, (“a large burial chamber, usually above ground” or “a monument to dead things”). Nevertheless, at least a handful of museums and contemporary art institutions are beginning to experiment and even sometimes master the moment.
"There's a tradition to that. If you look into the writings of 18th- and 19th-century British social reformists, there was a belief -- which relates to Foucault's concept of governmentality -- that the museum was a machine to shape behaviour. These authors don't write one word about art-objects. They talk about the effect the museum has on shaping the lower class. It's all about what the museum should do, practically -- you can't let people of the lower class in freely without a guided tour, for example, because they'll get drunk. With This Success or This Failure and Carsten Holler's slides at the Turbine Hall, we've come full-circle. We are now so civilised and so contained that we can actually afford ourselves the luxury of being loud and of having these kinds of experiences in a museum setting. So I think that both his and my pieces are a celebration of this point in time."
Direct experience is an essential component in the work of Tino Sehgal. Over the past seven years he has been known for making art without actually making any objects. His working method involves organizing and instructing people (adults, teenagers or children) to use their body and/or voice to construct “situations” that can be observed and experienced. Arguing for a conception of art that ventures beyond its own materiality, Sehgal’s work proposes a dynamic take on the idea of the “expanded concept of art,” arguing for a process of production that revolves around exchanges and transformations of thoughts, as he has said, “rethinking the notion of a product as a transformation of actions not as a transformation of materials.”
In 2005 the Stedelijk Museum acquired Instead of allowing some thing to rise up to your face dancing bruce and dan and other things (2000), the earliest work by Tino Sehgal (b. 1967, London). In this live work a slowly moving human figure is to be seen assuming poses on the floor that refer to positions of the human body in early films and videotapes by Bruce Nauman (Wall/Floor Positions, 1968, Tony Sinking into the Floor, Face Up and Face Down and Elke Allowing the Floor to Rise Up over Her, Face Up, both from 1973) and Dan Graham (Roll, 1970).
Wall/Floor Positions, 1968
Bruce McLean Pose Work for Plinths I 1971
Sehgal currently lives and works in Berlin, Germany.
Kiss is a sculptural and contemplative work executed by two dancers who move slowly and consistently through a prescribed choreography. Both real and constructed, representational and artificial, Kiss evokes a state of absorption that immediately catches viewers and draws them into a subtle engagement with their own personal experience of intimacy.
(This Progress, 2006) four generations discussing the relative merits of progress
For his last in a trilogy of annual exhibitions at the ICA, alternatively titled This Success or This Failure (2007), the London-born, Berlin-based artist relinquished the lower gallery to a group of schoolchildren and invited them to spend each day playing without the aid of objects.
“I would say the museum is about death, because it is about overcoming death; that it is about prolonging life, so it is double sided. Personally, I’m interested in proposing different notions of history, presence, eternity (…)”.10 Crucial to him is “…how these ideas come into society and perform themselves through this society. They are there even though they are not there anymore.”11 In this work the artist reenacts what he later in the interview calls an “ideology of doing.”
In the last couple of years, Tino Sehgal has developed his praxis towards instructing other people to enact his pieces - actors, dancers, opera singers, children, and guards. In doing so, he has further distanced himself from the traditional institutionalized categories of art, making no objects, documentation, written instructions or contracts with collectors. Moreover, he doesn’t sign his works of art (in print on paper); and furthermore, by not performing them himself, he rejects the supposed authenticity created in performance art, relating the work of art to the artist ‘embodied-self’. The instructions are given purely “body to body.” In a way, Sehgal merely integrates and reflects the existing communication system of the museum as a medium.12 However, it takes more than the consciousness of the museum system—and its information economy implemented by the neo-liberal market economy—to influence the museum as a medium.
Tino Sehgal presented the exhibition Journal # 6 in the newly renovated and expanded Van Abbemuseum in Eindhoven, Holland. In the exhibition space where he presented his work, the collection was on display as usual. Having seen his works in other contexts; I was curious what Sehgal’s This is… would point at in the museum. Entering the van Abbemuseum I missed all pieces by Sehgal to begin with - in my hasty pace (this time I wanted to dismiss the collection and go right to this show). None of the guards seemed to react, however, and I passed an empty room in the collection, which I thought had to do with the new director taking over and works being installed. I noticed there was a guard in that space who was wearing great make up. From the next room, I heard a voice singing for a few seconds and went back, stood blank, aha, then left the room in slow motion. Yes. The guard was singing and this time, I could hear it: “This is propaganda.” After a short breathe the guard announced, “Tino Sehgal, This is propaganda, 2002, courtesy Jan Mot Gallery.”Only some rooms had guards. Passing an “unattended” room with an unattended piece, I actually started looking at the exhibited works and forgot about the guards till I felt somebody moving behind me, turned to see a tall guard finishing large circular movements with his arms while jumping,
he froze and said, “Tino Sehgal. This is good, 2001. Courtesy the Artist.” Through the self-referential act of stating, “this is good” this piece reflected the tautological power of conveying a judgment (– so often done in the art context). The first time I saw this piece it was performed by Dorothea von Hantelmann in a university lecture in Berlin. It worked in both contexts, only here at the Van Abbemuseum “This is good” echoed a bit longer evoking all the primer judgments performed by curators putting together the collection in the museum: pointing out ideas and setting “criteria” for which ones should make their way through society (like certain styles of Dance also have).13 In the oeuvre of Tino Sehgal: “…speech, singing, movements, replace the necessity for the presence of things; which doesn’t mean that these things have disappeared but that they could just as well be absent.”
It’s not exactly right to call Rikrit Tiravanija a "visual" artist. As he says, "it is not what you see that is important but what takes place between people." Tiravanija does not produce works so much as situations or events. Tiravanija’s art does not, strictly speaking, belong to him; it is not an object that anyone can possess. He sets a stage, offering an opportunity or a possibility -- the rest he leaves up to those who decide to participate.
An itinerant practically since birth, Tiravanija is always on the move and shows no signs of settling down. Travel, and especially the exchange between people while traveling, is essential to his work. Tiravanija’s life has been a perpetual negotiation of different cultures: he was born in Buenos Aires and raised in Thailand, Ethiopia, and Canada; he was educated in Chicago and New York; and his work has been exhibited across Europe, Asia, North America, and South Africa. He was constantly adjusting to different languages and customs, different modes of communication and interaction. As a result, he has a remarkable ability to strike up an intimate relation with anyone and an inherent love of dialogue, conversation, and human interaction.
Tiravanija has taken this talent and transformed it into art. Once he arranged furniture in an exhibition space, set up a temporary kitchen, cooked curry, and chatted with visitors while the gallery’s everyday business carried on all around him. In the Cologne Kunstverein Gallery, he created a makeshift rendition of his New York apartment, including a kitchen and bathroom, and simply invited people to set up camp. Equipped with camping gear and a portable stove, he rode his bike for five days across Spain and attracted crowds of people to visit and converse with him.
Everywhere he goes, Tiravanija creates a space of interaction and allows art to unfold as life, as communication, as "what happens between people." Perhaps no one else has so definitively destroyed the border between art and life -- he has integrated the flux of his itinerant life into the sedentary space of some the world’s most reputable galleries and museums.
For Rirkrit Tiravanija, art is what you eat. The New York–and–Chiang Mai–based Thai artist became famous in 1992 when he made Untitled 1992 (Free), a sculpture–performance–guerrilla action wherein he emptied out the office of the 303 Gallery in Soho and installed a makeshift kitchen, complete with fridge, hot plates, rice steamers, tables, and stools. He then cooked Thai curry; anyone could drop in, serve him- or herself, and eat. For free.
Back then, it was disconcerting and thrilling to be this casual in a gallery, to go from passive viewing to active participation. With this simple gesture, Tiravanija (pronounced Tea-rah-vah-nit) seemed to bridge a mind-body gap that often exists in Western art. He was a medicine man who literalized art’s primitive functions: sustenance, healing, and communion. Subsequently, Tiravanija repeated this cooking-as-art sculpture all over the world—so often, in fact, that by the late nineties he had almost branded himself as the happy Thai guy who cooks. Intriguingly, this was reminiscent of Andy Warhol, who allowed himself be seen as a village idiot. The disordered, highly social situations Tiravanija set up mimicked Warhol’s Factory scene, too.
Although Tiravanija’s art never contained the Factory’s out-of-control self-destruction and exploration of sexual mores, there has been sex. In 1999, Tiravanija built a full-scale wooden replica of his East Village apartment in the Gavin Brown Gallery. This sculpture included a working kitchen, a bedroom, and a bathroom and was open 24 hours a day. All that summer, people lived, ate, and partied there. Some had sex; one person told me he had group sex there. I went dozens of times and only had lunch. But a lot of Eros emanates from Tiravanija’s chaos.
If you want to feel the love, have a free meal, and possibly chat up Matt Dillon, David Byrne, Cindy Sherman, or Rufus Wainwright—all of whom have dined here—go to David Zwirner’s West 19th Street gallery, where you can partake or just gawk at others in a life-size wooden re-creation of Tiravanija’s original 303 Gallery potlatch-piece. The original tables, stools, and fridge are here, as is the detritus from fifteen years ago (wrapped, natch). In this karaoke ghost-sculpture, Tiravanija explores what happens when we try to step into the same river twice.
Untitled is a time machine that can transport you to 1992, an edgy moment when the art world was crumbling, money was scarce, and artists like Tiravanija were in the nascent stages of combining Happenings, performance art, John Cage, Joseph Beuys, and the do-it-yourself ethos of punk. Meanwhile, a new art world was coming into being. This is the rub: Many of the people who were forming this new world, and who were trying to create a new system, have become the system. The ism Tiravanija and others evolved, which came to be called relational aesthetics, currently dominates international exhibitions. These artists are now flown to far-flung locations, collaborating on shows and curating one another. The low point of this was Utopia Station, the awful hippie hangout curated by Tiravanija and two bigwig curators for the 2003 Venice Bienniale. What began in 1992 as a shock to the system not only became the system—it’s now the academy.
Amazingly, this doesn’t negate any of the power or magic of Tiravanija’s Untitled redux. In fact, seeing it at Zwirner adds alluring new layers. What some will take for a power gallery absorbing a more underground one, and a successful artist allowing himself to be eaten alive, is actually an exquisite symbiosis. Zwirner reveals his scrappy roots, Gavin Brown (who still represents Tiravanija) ups his ante, and Tiravanija, who no longer owns the piece, is just “acting” here. Helping matters is the excellent re-creation next to UntitledOpen House, a Dumpster the late artist turned into a homeless shelter. Unlike Matta-Clark, however, Tiravanija has never been able to make a convincing object—unless you call the re-creation a sculpture, in which case he’s a really good sculptor. This seeming weakness, however, is a crucial juju in his work. At Zwirner, it’s a huge relief not to size up objects or think about sales. Life takes over, commerce fades. Additionally, wasting all this space is an excellent strategy, especially now that efficiency is the norm and many shows look like product. There’s not much product at Zwirner, but the processes on hand are deeply rich. of Gordon Matta-Clark’s 1972
Phenomenology is commonly understood in either of two ways: as a disciplinary field in philosophy, or as a movement in the history of philosophy.
The discipline of phenomenology may be defined initially as the study of structures of experience, or consciousness. Literally, phenomenology is the study of "phenomena": appearances of things, or things as they appear in our experience, or the ways we experience things, thus the meanings things have in our experience. Phenomenology studies conscious experience as experienced from the subjective or first person point of view. This field of philosophy is then to be distinguished from, and related to, the other main fields of philosophy: ontology (the study of being or what is), epistemology (the study of knowledge), logic (the study of valid reasoning), ethics (the study of right and wrong action), etc.
John Bock is primarily known for his spectacular, comic-grotesque actions in which theater, lecture, video, installation, and sculpture merge in a unique way. In recent years video as a medium has moved to the foreground and become independent of the lecture-performances.
From video shorts with rapid montage, Bock has recently moved to distinctly longer and more narrative films in which he works with actors and real sets, which he then infiltrates with his own universe. As in his live performances, here too he celebrates a colorful world that is as enigmatic as it is absurd and that eludes rational interpretation, interspersed with countless biographical, artistic, and scientific references
‘yes, my interest were in conceptual art first,
donald judd, etc. but then, yes, oskar schwemmer and the bauhaus theatre,happenings, yves klein’s performances, viennese activists,
fluxus,...’john bock said.
was born in gribbohm in 1965.
he studied in hamburg, he lives and works in berlin.
he has had solo exhibitions in a number of international institutions
including MoMA, new york, usa;
kunstwerke, berlin, germany;
kunsthalle basel, switzerland;
secession, wien, austria;
institute of contemporary art, london.
john Bock's installations, videos and performances have been
exhibited in some of the most prestigious group exhibitions and biennials worldwide including two editions of the venice biennale; italy manifesta 5, san sebastian, spain;yokohama triennial, japan; and documenta 11, kassel, germany.
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
Jeanne Dunning's work in photography and video investigates the body and its physical boundaries as a metaphor for psychological transgression. She initiates simple interventions with the body that blur the distinction of interior and exterior self. The body becomes landscape, food repository and corporal layering of flesh and fluids. Both viscerally and conceptually tuned, Dunning's work manages to sustain the tension between the sensual and the grotesque, underlining the ambivalent relationship we all have to our own vulnerable physicality. Prodding misplaced notions of identity, individuality and sexuality, Dunning's work has held singular focus on blurring the fragile line between what we think we know and what ultimately lies beyond our control.
Dunning has exhibited extensively in galleries and museums worldwide. Her work is represented in several public collections including The Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; The Art of Institute of Chicago and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago. The Dia Center for The Arts commissioned an award winning web project in 2002.
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
Gordon's work explores major themes, in particular ethical dichotomies such as religion and faith, good and evil, innocence and guilt, life and death. Gordon often uses his body as a ground for debate, exploring how contradictory human nature can be, and involves the viewer in the manner of a confessor and witness to his investigations. He examines the way in which meaning is communicated and how perception is defined by collective consciousness.
A Divided Self I and II, Douglas Gordon
This work consists of two monitors showing two arms wrestling with each other, one hairy and the other smooth. At first glance it looks as though two people are wrestling with one another but as you watch it becomes clear that the two arms belong to the same person. The battle between the two arms suggests an internal battle, the good self represented by the smooth arm and the evil self by the hairy arm.
In the rarely seen video Monster (1996), Gordon�s face becomes grotesque through the application of strips of transparent adhesive tape. Both author and character in this work, Gordon draws on the cinematic trope of a man�s encounter with his mirrored double. In two other works, the artist appropriates iconic �alter-ego� moments from classic films: the transformation scene in Rouben Mamoulian�s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde figures in Gordon�s Confessions of a Justified Sinner (1995�96), and the famous �You looking at me?� sequence performed by Robert De Niro in Martin Scorsese�s Taxi Driver becomes the basis for the 1999 work through a looking glass.
10ms‾ � (1994)
The dynamic between memory and bodily motion is another theme Gordon explores in his work.
10ms-1 uses silent film footage made during the First World War. It shows a soldier, dressed only in his underwear, who seems to be recovering from an injury. He makes a couple of unsteady steps before falling over. Once on the ground, he tries to stand up, but repeatedly fails. The jerkiness of his hapless movements is exaggerated by the slow-motion projection. The title refers to the speed at which an object falls under the pull of gravity.
The film has been transferred to video and is shown in a repeated loop, locking the soldier into an endless cycle of struggle and failure. Watching it can be at once compelling, frustrating and strangely voyeuristic. As Douglas Gordon has said: 'You can see that what is happening on screen might be quite painful - both physically and psychologically - but it has a seductive surface. What do you do - switch off or face the possibility that a certain sadistic mechanism may be at work?'
The man's outwardly healthy appearance makes the forces responsible for his collapse ambiguous. He may be suffering from a spinal injury or from shell shock, but it is equally possible that he is an actor involved in a clinical reconstruction for teaching purposes. In another work made around the same time, Gordon used a medical demonstration film in which a case of hysteria was staged, and he has acknowledged an interest in the way that such ambiguous documentation opens up questions about truth, perception and representation.
Tattoo (I) and Tattoo (II)
The dark undercurrents found in the film projections recur in photographic works such as Tattoo (for Reflection) (1997), a photograph of a man's back tattooed with the word Guilty. The word is inscribed backwards on his left shoulder but is legible in the reflection of an adjacent mirror. Trust is the subject of works such as Tattoo (I) and Tattoo (II) (both 1994), photographs in which the phrase Trust Me is shown tattooed on the artist's arm. One is not sure if the words are those of a close confidant or the utterance of a con man.
Black Spot Series
In one of the "black spot" series, Gordon has taken thirteen Polaroid photographs of his left (sinister) hand and enlarged it to a monstrous scale where image of the hand spans up to three feet. This process of one hand taking a photograph of the other produces a fragmented, duplicitous self-portrait. In the second "black spot" series, Gordon enlarged a detail of his marked hand, to create a landscape of foreboding and jeopardy.
Croque Mort (2000) extends Gordon's interest in using his own body as a ground of investigation as, here, he has photographed his newly born daughter. Repetition is also an ongoing interest in Gordon’s work, and this series of seven photographs provides a powerful self-contained visual installation. Indeed, the works are installed in a wholly red room, like a cinema room with its red carpet, or like the inside of a womb. A ‘croque mort’, or undertaker in French, was the person who as legend has it, would bite the feet of the recently deceased to check whether they were effectively dead, hence the appellation ‘the one who bites the dead’. In this series, Gordon’s daughter playful bites her own feet and fingers, but with the extreme close up and with the addition of the sinister title, what is simply a newborn’s natural checking of its physical existence actually turns into a reminder of our physical mortality. What could be a sentimental series of images of a baby is turned into an unexpected experience.
The first challenge of this assignment is to formulate a question that will be presented to the class. The question must be political in nature. Yes, I said political in nature. This definition may help:
I. involving or characteristic of politics or parties or politicians; "calling a meeting is a political act in itself"- Daniel Goleman; "political pressure"; "a political machine"; "political office"; "political policy"
II. of or relating to your views about social relationships involving authority or power; "political opinions"
III. of or relating to the profession of governing; "political career"
In order to help you develop a question, your question can be situated/contextualized within one of the themes artists often explore (this list is generated from the PBS Art 21 series).
Examine the politics of these themes.
place - question commonly held assumptions about land, home, and national identity
spirituality - question commonly held assumptions about faith, belief, meditation, and religious symbols
identity - question commonly held assumptions about stereotypes, self-awareness, portaiture, and what it means to be an artist
consumption - question commonly held assumptions about commerce, mass media, and consumer society
loss & desire - question issues such as war and peace; the loss of community and the desire for connection; and the age-old human longing for perfection
power - challenge authority, oppression, and control
memory - topics such as the veracity of history, the nature of interpretation, subjective versus objective truth, and the ways in which objects and images from the past embody cultural memory
romance - the role of emotion, regret, fantasy and nostalgia
protest - work to picture war, express outrage, and empathize with the suffering of others
ecology - pose questions about the relationships between nature and culture
paradox - address and respond to contradiction, conflict and ambiguity, and examine the relationship between mystery and meaning in art
Please be prepared to state your questions. Consider your question as an artwork in of itself. What question can you devise that will truly engage an audience?
Part 2: The Body as Material
Your artwork must be directed towards posing the question to the audience or attempting to answer it -- provide a solution. The only catch is that you must use the human body as an integral element of the piece. This is open to your interpretation but consider the fact you will be challenged to express how your work uses the body as material to uniquely pose your question.
This work can manifest itself as a photograph (single image or series), a video, an audio piece, a live performance that is documented in class, or a combination of these things.
Please use some of the blog entries as motivators but also feel free to formulate your own interpretation of how to use the body as material. Do not perform any action that could cause you or others severe physical harm.
Helpful Postmodern Techniques of Questioning
I thought these postmodern techniques, terms, genres and ideas may help some of you generate a piece.
* Alterity is a philosophical principle of exchanging one's own perspective for that of the "other".
* A lack of personal identity.
* An aporia is a philosophical puzzle, paradox, or impasse often used in conjunction with 'deconstruction'.
* A state of wonder and awe due to contemplating the mysteries of life and the universe.
* Bricolage is a processes by which traditional objects or language are given a new, often subversive, meaning and context.
* Art technique where works are constructed from various available materials ("found items" or mass-produced "junk").
* A form of emotional cleansing, first described by Aristotle, which occurs simply from the passive act of viewing a tragedy.
* A postmodern analogy is that the media's focus on violence is the method by which society cleanses its collective psyche.
* Term used in Marxist economics when economic value is assigned to something not traditionally considered a commodity.
* Examples of commodification include: ideas, culture, identity, and even the human body.
* Term attributed to Jean Piaget, who described how knowledge is assimilated and internalized during the process of learning.
* Postmods contend that the process of matching internal models to the real world is inherently colored by the bias of the observer.
* Cybernetics is a process by which a biological organism enhances its abilities by the integration of technology.
* So called "cyborgs" are a common feature of science fiction (Popular examples include: Robocop and the Borg).
* In postmodernism, much philosophical weight is given to this merging (and interdependence) of man and technology.
* Many consider there to be similar impact due to reliance on everyday items like glasses or hearing aids.
* Dadaism was a cultural movement which attempted to reject and destroy the prevailing standards in art through anti-art.
* It was a reaction to the horrors of World War I, which its followers believed was due to the reason and logic of the modernists.
* Dada strove to have no meaning and its works are often described as random or without organization.
* Ironically, Dada became an influential movement in modern art (examples include Duchamp's "readymades" found objects)
* Deconstruction is a term coined by the French philosopher Jacques Derrida for a process of critiquing literature and language.
* It analyzes the built in bias of language and questions its ability to represent reality.
* Critics see deconstruction as oversimplified and "sloppy" intellectual approach to attacking modernism.
* Dystopias are societies usually characterized by decay and/or oppressive governments.
* Relevant authors include Kurt Vonnegut and William Gibson
Flattening of Affect
* Flattening of affect is a scientific term describing a person's detachment and lack of emotional reactivity.
* Used in the postmodern literature to describe technology's dehumanizing impact.
* A key example is the move 2001, where the main characters lose their humanity whereas the computer HAL gains "his".
* Hyperreality is a symptom of postmodern culture where a person loses their ability to distinguish reality from fantasy.
* The hyperreal world is often thought of as an idealized enhancement of reality, much preferable to the real life equivalent.
* Present day examples could include reality television, pornagraphy, or multi-player online games.
* Kitsch was originally a German term used to categorize art that is considered an inferior copy of an existing style.
* Art (often commercially mass-produced) that is done in bad taste or tries to be overly campy or sentimental.
* From Baudrillard: "one of that great army of 'trashy' objects, made of plaster of Paris or some such imitation material".
* Modernism is associated with the period of the mid 20th century.
* It is associated with constant change in the pursuit of progress, achievable through rationality and logic.
* In contrast, Postmodernism takes a less optimistic view where constant change becomes the status quo and progress obsolete.
* Panopticon is derived from the Greek opticon (see) and pan (all).
* A type of prison designed to allow the guards to observe all prisoners without their knowledge.
* The goal is to convey a feeling of "invisible omniscience" over the minds of the prisoners.
* The panopticon is a symbol in many dystopian novels, most notably George Orwell's 1984
* Pastiche is a tongue-in-cheek imitation or tribute used in literature, art, music, movies, etc.
* Performed with respect to, or in homage to, other works (as opposed to parody which is done in ridicule or sarcasm).
* A popular example is the cartoon The Simpsons, known for its pop culture references and recycled plots.
* A theory in evolutionary biology by which otherwise slow evolutionary change happens during sporadic periods of great change.
* Postmodernism analogy of technological or cultural change, often used in conjunction with "tipping point" or "singularity".
* A simulacra is a copy of a copy, so far removed from its original, that it can stand on its own and even replace the original.
* Term defined by Jean Baudrillard in "The Precession of Simulacra" from Simulacra and Simulation
"It is the generation by models of a real without origin or reality: a hyperreal.... substituting the signs of the real for the real".
Examples included Disneyland, psychosomatic illness, and the Watergate scandal.
* Another example is the cartoon Betty Boop, who has now become an icon for the long forgotten actresses she was based on.
* Semiotics is the study of signs, symbols, and how meaning is constructed and understood.
* Linguist Ferdinand de Saussure proposed the deferentiation between the spoken word (signifier) and mental concept (signified).
Monday, September 17, 2007
Checkout Goldin/ Rose Interview after Huston
23:16 minute mark Interview starts
Goldin moved to the Bowery in New York, subcultural ground zero in the late '70s. (The famous -- Jim Jarmusch, Warhol, Keith Haring, David Wojnarowicz -- begin to show up in her portraits, looking just as ordinary/fabulous as everyone else.) She began her landmark work, an ever-evolving slide show called The Ballad of Sexual Dependency. The title comes from Kurt Weill, and the 800 or so slides are accompanied by snatches of music from Weill, the Velvets ("I'll Be Your Mirror," of course), Maria Callas, James Brown, Screaming Jay Hawkins, Dionne Warwick, and other purveyors of romantic longing and agony. It works as an encapsulation of the whole exhibition, a diary of the lives of Goldin's ad hoc family.
Goldin's complicity with her subjects is astonishing. She captures them looking unselfconscious in seemingly the most private of moments: sitting on the toilet, masturbating, having sex, fighting, sobbing. Neither does her unflinching eye spare Goldin herself; an addenda to Sexual Dependency is a brief slide show of self-portraits called All By Myself, the centerpiece of which is a series of shots of her in emotional and physical anguish after being beaten by a boyfriend.
In 1988, Goldin underwent drug and alcohol rehab at McLean Hospital in Belmont. She had to learn not only to live again, but to photograph again. A heartbreaking series of photos taken during her recovery begins with three shaky, bleak shots of the hospital grounds that one can't help but read as psychological self-portraits. These give way to austere pictures of her ascetic hospital room, and finally to bright outdoor landscapes. She seemed to discover natural daylight for the first time; the newly uncluttered style, the fondness for landscapes, and the depiction of a life through the objects in an empty room have marked her work ever since.
Sunday, September 16, 2007
Body art, as a subset of Conceptual art and a precursor to Performance art, uses the artist’s body as the medium rather than paint, stone, or wood. The art often takes the form of public or private performances that are documented in video or photographs. The form and content vary widely, but it often has spiritual, political, or even masochistic intentions.
Chris Burden’s “Shot” was a small public performance in which he submitted to being shot in the arm. Gina Pane cut herself with razorblades and posed with roses to represent the anguish of love. Lucas Samaras, in a series of “Autopolaroids,” photographed himself dressed as famous nudes (like Degas’ “Bather”) and performing a mock self-castration with kitchen cutlery.
The concept of body image is central to Body art, and many female artists have seen the medium as the perfect vehicle for feminism. Female artists such as Carolee Schneemann, Eleanor Antin, and Yoko Ono focused on politics of the gendered body and female self-representation. Schneemann insisted that the impetus of the feminist performances was the act of “giving our bodies back to ourselves.”
Oddly, these self-affirming performances were often violent and disgusting, not celebratory. Schneemann performed while paint-smeared, snake-covered, and defiantly ugly. Her aggressive “Interior Scroll” piece involved a ranting oratory delivered as she pulled the scrolling text from her vagina. In Yoko Ono’s “Cut Piece,” she sat still while members of her audience cut away pieces of her clothing. The performance questioned the distinctions between subject and object, victim and aggressor.
Precedents for Body art include Marcel Duchamp’s star-shaped haircut, and Joseph Beuys’ Actions. In “Coyote: I Like America and America Likes Me,” Beuys videotaped a week-long performance in which he shacked up with a coyote.
Unfortunately, many performances reduce themselves to violence, as artists equate the tolerance of pain with artistic integrity. Sometimes, these performances are the artists’ final acts. Rudolph Schwarzkogler, a member of the gore-obsessed Viennese Actionists, died after a series of “artistic” shock therapy treatments.
In this first and several subsequent performances, Ono herself sat kneeling on the concert hall stage, wearing her best suit of clothing, with a pair of scissors placed on the floor in front of her. Members of the audience were invited to approach the stage, one at a time, and cut a bit of her clothes off which they were allowed to keep.
The script for Cut Piece appears, along with those for several other works, in a document from the spring of 1966, called Strip Tease Show.
First version for single performer:
1. Performer sits on stage with a pair of scissors in front of him. It is announced that members of the audience may come on stage one at a time to cut a small piece of the performer's clothing to take with them.
2. Performer remains motionless throughout the piece. Piece ends at the performer's option.
1. Second version for audience: It is announced that members of the audience may cut each others clothing.
2. The audience may cut as long as they wish*
Marina Abramovic performed ‘Rhythm O’ in 1974. In the piece, the audience was given instructions to use on Abramovic's body an array of 72 provided instruments of pain and pleasure, including knives, feathers, and a loaded pistol. Audience members cut her, pressed thorns into her belly, put lipstick on her, and removed her clothers. The performance ended after six hours when someone held the loaded gun up to Abramovic's head and a scuffle broke out.
Chris Burden actually had an assistant shoot him in the arm in his piece ‘Shoot’ (1971), which was observed by a live audience. This was documented in an eight-second video and is a notorious example of video art as well as performance art. In ‘Through the Night Softly' (1973), Burden crawled naked through broken glass, which he saw as stars in the sky, and turned the video footage into a ten-second commercial that was aired on television. In ‘Locker’, he spent five days jammed into a 2' x 2' x 3' locker at UCI; in ‘Sculpture in Three Parts’ (1974), he sat on an upright chair on a sculpture pedestal for 48 hours, until he fell off due to exhaustion; in ‘White Light/White Heat’ (1975), he spent 22 days alone and invisible to the public on a high platform in a gallery, neither eating, speaking, seeing or being seen. Most of these performances are known only through photographs or short video clips.
Friday, September 14, 2007
Because the word was brought into use as a response to a large amount of art in the 19th century where the aesthetic of art work was associated with a sense of exaggerated sentimentality or melodrama, kitsch is most closely associated with art that is sentimental; however, it can be used to refer to any type of art that is deficient for similar reasons—whether it tries to appear sentimental, glamorous, theatrical, or creative, kitsch is said to be a gesture imitative of the superficial appearances of art. It is often said that kitsch relies on merely repeating convention and formula, lacking the sense of creativity and originality displayed in genuine art.
Wednesday, September 12, 2007
Howard Dean's Scream (or the ultimate performative piece)
Dean's campaign suffered a blow when a last-minute surge by rivals John Kerry and John Edwards led to a disappointing third-place defeat for Dean in the 2004 Iowa Democratic caucuses, representing the first votes cast in primary season. Dean had been a strong contender for weeks in advance in that state, battling with Dick Gephardt for first place in the polls. To the surprise of the Dean and Gephardt campaigns, Dean finished third in Iowa behind Kerry and John Edwards, with Gephardt finishing fourth. Since Dean had spent months leading Iowa tracking polls, his third-place finish was widely considered a sign that the campaign was losing momentum.
Dean attended a post-caucus rally for his volunteers at the Val-Air Ballroom in West Des Moines, Iowa and delivered his concession speech, aimed at cheering up those in attendance. Dean was shouting over the cheers of his enthusiastic audience, but the crowd noise was being filtered out by his unidirectional microphone, leaving only his full-throated exhortations audible to the television viewers. To those at home, he seemed to raise his voice out of sheer emotion. Additionally, Dean began his speech with a flushed-red face, clenching his teeth as he rolled up his sleeves.
According to a Newsday Editorial written by Verne Gay, some members of the television audience criticized the speech as loud, peculiar, and unpresidential. In particular, this quote from the speech was aired repeatedly in the days following the caucus:
“ Not only are we going to New Hampshire, Tom Harkin, we're going to South Carolina and Oklahoma and Arizona and North Dakota and New Mexico, and we're going to California and Texas and New York … And we're going to South Dakota and Oregon and Washington and Michigan, and then we're going to Washington, D.C., to take back the White House! Byaaah!!! ”
This final "Byaaah!!!" has become known in American political folklore as either "the Dean Scream" or the "I Have a Scream" speech (an allusion to "I Have a Dream").
Dean conceded that the speech did not project the best image, jokingly referring to it as a "crazy, red-faced rant" on The Late Show with David Letterman. In an interview later that week with Diane Sawyer, he said he was "a little sheepish … but I'm not apologetic." Sawyer and many others in the national broadcast news media later expressed some regret about overplaying the story. In fact, CNN issued a public apology and admitted in a statement that they indeed may have "overplayed" the incident. The incessant replaying of the "Dean Scream" by the press became a debate on the topic of whether Dean was the victim of media bias. Such reports certainly fit with reports of "unelectability," as shown by Green's Atlantic Monthly piece. The scream scene was shown an estimated 633 times by cable and broadcast news networks in just four days following the incident, a number that does not include talk shows and local news broadcasts. However, those who were in the actual audience that day insist that they were not aware of the infamous scream until they returned to their hotel rooms and saw it on TV.
In 1981, Jørgen Leth and photographer Dan Holmberg made a movie titled 66 Scenes from America, a poetic collage put together from scenes shot in different parts of America. For an outsider, the scene in which Andy Warhol, an icon of his day, stuffs a Whopper in his face in front of the camera seems to be what America is all about.
I want to clarify your assignment for next week. The goal is not to exactly replicate your work but to use it as a a conceptual and performative springboard for the next piece you present to class.
Ask yourself the following questions and improve upon what you present to the class. What aspects of either of your pieces were successes and/or failures...why? What themes did your work explore--- can you push these themes farther? What political or cultural questions or answers did your work explore? What emotion defines the work? What reactions do you want the audience to have after viewing the piece? How does your work rate in the following categories: Technical Proficiency , Visual/ Formal Control, Conceptual Content, and Entertainment Value. were you in control of all of these categories. Can you use new media, materials, or actions to push the concept further?
Consider the emotional, conceptual, and visual intensity of your work for next class. This is a challenge to spend one week creating your best work to present in a performance class that considers critique the equivalent of audience connection and performer control.
Some other things to consider:
Ask or answer a question with the work -- expect nothing less than an engaged audience after showing. Remember all work is political. Be in control of as many creative and technical aspects of the work as possible. Define a successful audience response. Have purpose and intention. Do not be afraid to fail -- the strongest pieces risk the most and expose the artist. Create work that you are eager to show.
Next week we will be rating the work and discussing what presented to the class (audience) is most successful and why.In most classes it does not truly matter what classmates think or how they respond --- in this class it is everything.
See you next week. Please put in the work --- I have high expectations. No excuses -- If you need help, email me or stop by my office.
Tehching Hsieh – One Life Performance Performing the Self
When it come to challenging life values, a more compact, clear, genuine, and universal example in the field of performance art cannot be found. The work of Tehching Hsieh is a manifestation of ultimate human freedom, as solid as marble. His art deals with the most powerful elements at play in life, while at the same time touching on the most intimate subjects.
Modern art has become so spread out, shattered and lost in formal dogmatism that nowadays it is present in every moment, in every possible form and idea. Performance art, being the most direct and true expression, stripping away as it does all formal restrictions, theatrical directness while being “here and now” proves, especially at these times, the truth of the most fascinating artistic discourses. The figure of Tehching, standing somewhat aside yet at the same time in the center of public attention, is a prime example of the theory that action art is the most live, direct, and influential (and maybe neglected) of all modern artistic approaches.
Ridding himself of all possible physical attributes while remaining most physical, Tehching Hsieh tries to abstract himself from everything to the very basic existential forms. Such a pure and complete gesture is extremely idiosyncratic, and in the context of Czech art, can only be compared to Karel Miler’s simple Blíže k oblakům (Closer to the Clouds — 1977) and Sledování (Watching —1972), and that only with difficulty. The liberating and purifying nature of Hsieh’s work can also be traced in the action 33 by Richard Fajnor in ROXY in 1999. Yet Tehching’s gestures overstep the private and intimate character of contemporary works. His pieces burst with originality.
Hsieh’s work consists of only a few performances, but they stretch over his entire life. In total, Tehching has managed to produce five one-year performances, and a longer piece. They all have in common publicly announced statements and a thoroughly elaborate set of restrictions and rules. Tehching’s artistic activity began on his arrival to America in 1978.
The limited, yet universal and beautiful works will remain cornerstones of a modern understanding of performance and, perhaps, contemporary art in general.
One-year performance #1: The Cage Piece
Hsieh spent an entire year locked inside a cage that he had constructed in his loft. With no one to talk to, no radio, television, or books, he spent the time only with himself — just being: thinking, counting the days. Each day he documented by making a mark on the wall and taking a photograph of himself. An assistant, with whom he did not exchange words, brought him food, and disposed of waste.
The first piece expresses the artist’s isolation and solitude. How much outside nourishment can we give up and still remain ourselves? Hsieh’s first work is a rich set of questions.
One-year performance #2: Punch Time Clock Piece
In his second piece, Tehching punched a time clock every hour on the hour twenty-four hours a day for an entire year. “To help illustrate the time process,” Hsieh shaved his head before the piece began, and then let his hair grow freely for the duration of the performance. Every time he punched the clock, a movie camera shot a single frame. The resulting time compresses each day into a second, and the whole year into about six minutes.
This work represents a manifestation of the human acceptance of time. It focuses on the nature of time and the human obsession with time. We are fundamentally temporal beings. Yet we rarely pay attention to the passage of time. We tend to think of time in terms of the activities that fill it up. Or we think about time negatively, in terms having to wait. Stripping all the contents and contexts away, Tehching struggles to experience something uniquely pure. He did this by pushing to the extreme the way our society equates time with work. He used a time clock, the device that so mercilessly judges human accomplishment by the measure of time spent. The passage of time itself, devoid of any particular content, became the sole object of his labors. By pushing our society’s reification of time to its ultimate point, Hsieh was able to rediscover an inner experience of time, a sense of pure eventless duration. A universal being.
One year performance #3: Outdoor Piece
In this work, Hsieh stayed outside for a whole year. He did not enter any building or roofed structure. He spent the entire year roaming around New York. He relied on pay phones and chance meetings to keep in touch with his friends. Each day, he recorded his wanderings on a map, noting in particular the places where he ate or slept.
The whole action is very much limited to the basic needs record — eating, sleeping, and defecating. It is almost an inversion of his first action. Hsieh opened himself up, completely, to the outside: he tested his powers of survival in circumstances that were usually beyond his own control. Without a home, one becomes almost invisible, socially uncategorized. He finally became himself, the artist — creator, throwing away all brushes and equipment just to remain alone, the true “self.”
Art / Life One year performance #4: Rope piece
This performance was a collaboration with Linda Montano. The two of them spent a year tied together by an 8-foot rope. At the same time, they both tried to avoid actually touching, so that they could maintain some sense of personal freedom. Hsieh and Montano did not know each other before the piece began. But once it started they were never separated for a period of one year. Each day, they kept records of their time together by taking photos and recording audiotapes. Linda Montano had also been a collaborator with Tom Marioni: before this work they did Handcuff — a performance in which she was handcuffed to Marioni for three days.
The piece with Tehching explores the dimensions of intimacy. How close can (two) people get, and to what extent must they always remain strangers to one another? This piece is not about patience and suffering. On the contrary, it is all about life. As Linda says, she underwent the piece “not to waste a second. That art/life task shall become the task I have given myself until I die. To make every minute count.”
One year performance #5: ----
In his last one-year piece, Hsieh just “went in life.” This last action in fact is a negation of the previous four. Hsieh spent an entire year without art: making art, talking or reading about it, viewing it, or in any other way participating in it. Since there was nothing special during this period of his life, there was nothing to record. How does art differ from ordinary life? The work is an endeavor to make art and life coincide. Life is transfigured, given a special richness and significance, by being turned into a work of art.
In the words of Tehching, performance and life are connected. In Cage, it is about isolation, Outdoors was a struggle with the outside world. Being tied together is a clear idea, because to survive we are all tied up together, he feels. We struggle because everybody wants to feel freedom. Individuals are independent. The piece becomes art and life — and also a year is a symbol of things happening over and over. In other words it is a multiplying of one’s world over and over. Simply put, to break down habitual patterns.
Monday, September 10, 2007
Christian Marclay (born 1955) is a visual artist and composer based in New York. Marclay is a former lecturer of video collage and sound at the European Graduate School in Saas-Fee, Switzerland where he conducted a summer workshop.
Marclay's work explores connections between sound, photography, video, and film. A pioneer of using gramaphone records and turntables as musical instruments to create sound collage, critic Thom Jurek describes Marclay as perhaps the "unwitting inventor of turntablism." His own use of turntables and records, beginning in the mid-1970s, was developed independently of hip hop's use of the instrument, and though not well-known to mainstream audiences, Marclay has nonetheless been described as "the most influential [turntable] figure outside hip hop." 
Wednesday, September 5, 2007
((("Extreme sports, sex, self-mutilation and drug overdoses will mix with disaster culture; terrorist attacks, plane crashes, hurricanes and tornadoes will be translated into mediated horror through vernacular video." Yeah man! Bring the noise!)))
by Tom Sherman
Video as a technology is forty years old. It is an offshoot of television, developed in the 1930s and a technology that has been in our homes for nearly sixty years. Television began as a centralized, one-to-many broadcast medium. Television's centrality was splintered as cable and satellite distribution systems and vertical, specialized programming sources fragmented television's audience.
As video technology spun off from television, the mission was clearly one of complete decentralization. Forty years later, video technology is everywhere. Video is now a medium unto itself, a completely decentralized digital, electronic audio-visual technology of tremendous utility and power. Video gear is portable, increasingly impressive in its performance, and it still packs the wallop of instant replay. As Marshall McLuhan said, the instant replay was the greatest invention of the twentieth century.
Video in 2007 is not the exclusive medium of technicians or specialists or journalists or artists--it is the peoples' medium. The potential of video as a decentralized communications tool for the masses has been realized, and the twenty-first century will be remembered as the video age.
Surveillance and counter-surveillance aside, video is the vernacular form of the era--it is the common and everyday way that people communicate. Video is the way people place themselves at events and describe what happened. In existential terms, video has become everyperson's POV (point of view). It is an instrument for framing existence and identity. There are currently camcorders in twenty per cent of households in North America.
As digital still cameras and camera-phones are engineered to shoot better video, video will become completely ubiquitous. People have stories to tell, and images and sounds to capture in video. Television journalism is far too narrow in its perspective. We desperately need more POVs.
Webcams and video-phones, video-blogs (VLOGS) and video-podcasting will fuel a twenty-first-century tidal wave of vernacular video.
What Are the Current Characteristics of Vernacular Video?
Displayed recordings will continue to be shorter and shorter in duration, as television time, compressed by the demands of advertising, has socially engineered shorter and shorter attention spans. Video-phone transmissions, initially limited by bandwidth, will radically shorten video clips.
The use of canned music will prevail. Look at advertising. Short, efficient messages, post-conceptual campaigns, are sold on the back of hit music.
Recombinant work will be more and more common. Sampling and the repeat structures of pop music will be emulated in the repetitive deconstruction of popular culture. Collage, montage and the quick-and-dirty efficiency of recombinant forms are driven by the romantic, Robin Hood-like efforts of the copyleft movement.
Real-time, on-the-fly voiceovers will replace scripted narratives . Personal, on-site journalism and video diaries will proliferate.
On-screen text will be visually dynamic, but semantically crude. Language will be altered quickly through misuse and slippage. People will say things like I work in several mediums [sic]. Media is plural. Medium is singular. What's next: I am a multi-mediums artist? Will someone introduce spell-check to video text generators?
Crude animation will be mixed with crude behaviour. Slick animation takes time and money. Crude is cool, as opposed to slick.
Slow motion and accelerated image streams will be overused, ironically breaking the real-time-and-space edge of straight, unaltered video.
Digital effects will be used to glue disconnected scenes together; paint programs and negative filters will be used to denote psychological terrain. Notions of the sub- or unconscious will be objectified and obscured as quick and dirty surrealism dominates the creative use of video.
Travelogues will prosper, as road films and video tourism proliferate. Have palm-corder and laptop, will travel.
Extreme sports, sex, self-mutilation and drug overdoses will mix with disaster culture; terrorist attacks, plane crashes, hurricanes and tornadoes will be translated into mediated horror through vernacular video.
From Avant-Garde to Rear Guard
Meanwhile, in the face of the phenomena of vernacular video, institutionally sanctioned video art necessarily attaches itself even more firmly to traditional visual-art media and cinematic history. Video art distinguishes itself from the broader media culture by its predictable associations with visual-art history (sculpture, painting, photography) and cinematic history (slo-mo distortions of cinematic classics, endless homages to Eisenstein and Brakhage, etc.).
Video art continues to turn its back on its potential as a communications medium, ignoring its cybernetic strengths (video alters behaviour and steers social movement through feedback). Video artists, seeking institutional support and professional status, will continue to be retrospective and conservative. Video installations provide museums with the window-dressing of contemporary media art.
Video art that emulates the strategies of traditional media, video sculpture and installations or video painting reinforces the value of an institution's collection, its material manifestation of history. Video art as limited edition or unique physical object does not challenge the museum's raison detre. Video artists content with making video a physical object are operating as a rear guard, as a force protecting the museum from claims of total irrelevance. In an information age, where value is determined by immaterial forces, the speed-of-light movement of data, information and knowledge, fetishizing material objects is an anachronistic exercise. Of course, it is not surprising that museum audiences find the material objectification of video at trade-show scale impressive on a sensual level.
As vernacular video culture spins toward disaster and chaos, artists working with video will have to choose between the safe harbour of the museum and gallery, or become storm chasers. If artists choose to chase the energy and relative chaos and death wish of vernacular video, there will be challenges and high degrees of risk.
Aesthetics Will Continue to Separate Artists from the Public at Large
If artists choose to embrace video culture in the wilds (on the street or on-line) where vernacular video is burgeoning in a massive storm of quickly evolving short message forms, they will face the same problems that artists always face. How will they describe the world they see, and if they are disgusted by what they see, how will they compose a new world? And then how will they find an audience for their work?
The advantages for artists showing in museums and galleries are simple. The art audience knows it is going to see art when it visits a museum or gallery. Art audiences bring their education and literacy to these art institutions. But art audiences have narrow expectations. They seek material sensuality packaged as refined objects attached to the history of art. When artists present art in a public space dominated by vernacular use, video messages by all kinds of people with different kinds of voices and goals, aesthetic decisions are perhaps even more important, and even more complex, than when art is being crafted to be experienced in an art museum.
Aesthetics are a branch of philosophy dealing with the nature of beauty. For the purpose of this text, aesthetics are simply an internal logic or set of rules for making art. This logic and its rules are used to determine the balance between form and content. As a general rule, the vernacular use of a medium pushes content over form. If a message is going to have any weight in a chaotic environment--where notions of beauty are perhaps secondary to impact and effectiveness--then content becomes very important. Does the author of the message have anything to show or say?
Vernacular video exhibits its own consistencies of form. As previously elaborated, the people's video is influenced by advertising, shorter and shorter attention spans, the excessive use of digital effects, the seductiveness of slo-mo and accelerated image streams, a fascination with crude animation and crude behaviour, quick-and-dirty voice-overs and bold graphics that highlight a declining appreciation of written language.
(((This is a pretty good essay, huh? Somebody should make a video about this! A quick, cheap, dirty video, that lasts ninety seconds, where you steal the soundtrack and cut-and-paste all the footage! And then we could put in IN A MUSEUM! Wow!!)))
To characterize the formal "aesthetics" of vernacular video, it might be better to speak of anesthetics. The term anesthetic is an antonym of aesthetic. An anesthetic is without aesthetic awareness. An anesthetic numbs or subdues perceptions. Vernacular video culture, although vital, will function largely anesthetically.
The challenge for artists working outside the comfort zone of museums and galleries will be to find and hold onto an audience, and to attain professional status as an individual in a collective, pro-am (professional amateur) environment. Let's face it, for every artist that makes the choice to take his or her chances in the domain of vernacular video, there are thousands of serious, interesting artists who find themselves locked out of art institutions by curators that necessarily limit the membership of the master class.(((Huh? I'd have to counter that for every museum video artist there are about 25 million YouTube teens with video phonecams they got for Christmas, but never mind, carry on:)))
Value in the museum is determined by exclusivity. With this harsh reality spelled out, there should be no doubt about where the action is and where innovation will occur.
The technology of video is now as common as a pencil for the middle classes. People who never even considered working seriously in video find themselves with digital camcorders and non-linear video-editing software on their personal computers. They can set up their own television stations with video streaming via the Web without much trouble. The revolution in video-display technologies is creating massive, under-utilized screen space and time, as virtually all architecture and surfaces become potential screens.
Video-phones will expand video's ubiquity exponentially. These video tools are incredibly powerful and are nowhere near their zenith. If one wishes to be part of the twenty-first-century, media-saturated world and wants to communicate effectively with others or express one's position on current affairs in considerable detail, with which technology would one chose to do so, digital video or a pencil? ((((Huh. Well, I'd have to say "pencil." In fact, now that I think it over, I'm absolutely sure about "pencil." For instance, it's easy to design a video camera with a pencil, but impossible to design a pencil with a video camera.)))
Artists must embrace, but move beyond, the vernacular forms of video. Artists must identify, categorize and sort through the layers of vernacular video, using appropriate video language to interact with the world effectively and with a degree of elegance. Video artists must recognize that they are part of a global, collective enterprise. They are part of a gift economy in an economy of abundance. Video artists must have something to say and be able to say it in sophisticated, innovative, attractive ways. Video artists must introduce their brand of video aesthetics into the vernacular torrents. They must earn their audiences through content-driven messages.
(((Or, as Cory Doctorow likes to put it, video artists could become "whores in a village of nymphomaniacs", go broke in a vast global torrent of vernacular gibberish, and vanish as conclusively as Viking skalds.)))
The mission is a difficult one. The vernacular domain is a noisy torrent of immense proportions. Video artists will be a dime a dozen.
Deprofessionalized artists working in video, many sporting MFA degrees, will be joined by music-video-crazed digital cooperatives and by hordes of Sunday video artists. The only thing these varied artists won't have to worry about is the death of video art. Video art has been pronounced dead so many times, its continual resurrection should not surprise anyone. This is a natural cycle in techno-cultural evolution. The robust life force of vernacular video will be something for artists to ride, and something to twist and turn, and something formidable to resist and work against. The challenge will be Herculean and irresistible.
(((Didn't Hercules die horribly, poisoned by the caustic blood of a centaur? I think I read that somewhere... oh wait wait, that would sure make a cool video!)))