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More impressions of the "Scratch Code" exhibition at bitforms, presenting computer art from the '50s, '60s and '70s. Paul asks about the Peter Vogel sculpture: I'd say its appeal is more technological than artistic--or perhaps, it's better as sound art than visual art. This gets back to an earlier post about circuit bent work being problematic as sculpture. The best work looks like it emerges casually and offhandedly as a result of a technologist trying to create a certain set of sounds, that is, as sloppy mad scientist bricolage, but as soon as it becomes self-consciously "artistic" or "sculpture-like" it loses, um, juice. Vogel has made a little cage of soldered metal sticks holding wires, capacitors, transistors, etc that cheeps and bleeps as you move around it. All the circuitry is exposed and you can visualize a certain set of probabilistic variables creating that sound even if you know nothing about electronics. The sounds are fascinating but the sculpture has to stand next to say, David Smith, who kind of set the standard for freestanding modernist sculpture, and it rather ignores all his hard work and the dialogue he participated in in favor of "making shit up"--i.e., presenting an unengaging, upright column-shape with the spidery, solder-y metallic textures of modernist knockoff mall art, or church or synagogue art. You can enjoy it on that level but you have to view it with kitsch filters firmly in place.

Manfred Mohr's prints in the same show, however, seem neither cheesy nor dated, perhaps because they are Ultimately Minimal and not trying to be expressive. They speak purely and eloquently to a techno-design-acclimated generation conversant with the likes of Designers Republic CD covers; they could also be cool scores for music by glitch-and-hiss musicians. Carsten Nicolai's spare, scrupulous visual work also comes to mind.

- tom moody 12-26-2004 9:34 pm [link]