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Revising "BitStreams" (a curatorial thought-experiment in progress)
"BitStreams" was the Whitney Museum's big "computer art" show in 2001. Like the Matthew Barney exhibit at the Guggenheim this year, it was an inexplicable hit with the general public but few artists I know (including many so-called computer artists) liked it. One problem was the curator tried to float a bunch of "discoveries" from the Bay Area and elsewhere that didn't measure up to the exacting standards of us rough, tough New Yorkers. The show suffered from a kind of mid-30-something parochialism, favoring a bunch of earnest data-crunchers the same approximate age as the curator over younger artists with a much more instinctive handle on the medium and also interesting pioneers, like Nancy Burson. And finally, it's tricky to include so-called pop culture in a so-called high art show but let's face it, there's stuff out there kicking the art world's sedentary ass. (George Bush helped word this post.) I wrote about the show here but continue to think of work that would have improved it. Some of the revisions below are tongue in cheek but most aren't:
John Klima ecosystm Joe McKay Color Game
DJ Spooky DJ Assault
Marina Rosenfeld Monotrona
Paintings "based on" the computer Paintings made with the computer
Lew Baldwin milkmilklemonade.net JODI % MY DESKTOP
Paul Pfeiffer Paper Rad
Jason Salavon The Top Grossing Film of All Time Jason Salavon Golem
John Simon LoVid
Planet of the Apes with sod Planet of the Apes without sod
The Spacewürm Scanner
Lutz Bacher dealercam 100 random camgirls/guys - videowall - nudity Sally Elesby mouse drawings Kristin Lucas mousepad drawings
Jim Campbell Ambiguous Icon #5 (Running Falling) BEIGE ASCII hotdogs
Richard Devine Dynamix II
Jordan Crandall Matt & Mike Chapman
Inez Van Lamsweerde Me Kissing Vinoodh (Passionately) and/or Jon "Clone Tool" Haddock's Kent State/Vietnam backgrounds Laura Carton erased p0rn images
Jon Haddock Sims Tributes Creepy Clown
Adrien75, a great musician previously discussed here and here, has a new suite of tunes available for download as mp3s, titled Therms Forever [update: link is to Adrien75's music page--Therms is only available now as a CDR]. Comparing it with his two releases from last fall, Disc 1 comes closer to the peppy instrumental synthpop of 757 while Disc 2 mirrors the atmospheric feel and slower pace of Coastal Acces (with less focus on ambient solo guitar). But TF is really a melding (and evolution) of those earlier releases. The first three tracks, "Welcome," "Connections," and the Alphaville-namechecking "Lemmy Caution" give a good sense where the music is heading: pretty, sometimes elegiac melodies hovering over metronomic electro beats (with intermittent nods to the artist's drum-and-bass roots), and an interest in the emotional effects of radically altered sounds. A later track that jumps out is "A Plethora of Zombie," which harks back to Ralf and Florian-era Kraftwerk (check out the trippy, phase-shifted rhythms in the middle).
Despite the all-electronic vibe of the tracks, Adrien has the instincts and touch of a jazz musician, introducing chord changes, tricky rhythms, and an emotional pitch beyond the range of many techno and/or breaks producers. That's been clear since "Detroit & Carpet Eyes" (which he recorded with Doron Gura as Unagi Patrol), an exquisite piece that shifts compositional gears several times, like a Brian Wilson "pocket symphony" with breakbeats, or more recently Coastal Acces' "Highway One South," a leisurely motorik composition with burbling sounds rising and fading like features of the landscape passing in front of the windshield. Thankfully, though, he doesn't wave his virtuosity in our faces; unlike his prog-rock and fusion forebears, he keeps things clean and minimal, and unlike his electronica peers, hasn't succumbed to the trend of adding vocals to "broaden the appeal."
Here are a few more echoes of things one hears floating around in the mix--not literal cops or samples, more like musical neighbors: breathy brass licks reminiscent of Herbie Hancock's Crossings sextet (in "Smogma"), the eerie stateliness of Wendy Carlos' Clockwork Orange-vintage synth ("Keep Connected"), and a distinctive early YMO slither I can't place yet, in "Connections." According to Adrien's web page, he's got another album in the works--maybe when he's ready to publish I'll have doped out a fraction of the subtleties in this one!
Memorable Quotes from Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003) (spoilers, I guess--sorry)
Terminator: Katherine Brewster? Have you sustained injury?
Kate: Drop dead you asshole!
Terminator: I am unable to comply.
Terminator: [after inspecting John Connor] No sign of brain trauma.
John Connor: Yeah I'm fine, thanks!
[The Terminator walks into a strip club to look for clothes]
Terminator: Take off your clothes.
Male Stripper: Talk to the hand, bitch.
[The Terminator grabs the stripper's hand and talks to it]
[Kate shoots the Terminator in the face. He spits out the bullet]
Terminator: Don't do that.
Terminator: My presence in this time has been anticipated. The T-X is designed to terminate other cybernetic organisms.
John Connor: So, she's an anti-terminator terminator. You've got to be shitting me.
Terminator: No, I am not shitting you.
[Notes to fans: (1) It's nice to see the series is sticking to its pulp roots. There was some Freddy Kruegerlike gore that surprised me. (2) No cops get wasted on screen, but military technocrats and teenagers die by the dozens. Go figure. (3) The new female Terminator is really pretty. Jim Hoberman says it best: "This svelte femmebot has an irresistible habit of cocking her head and glaring with impersonal curiosity at the victim she's about to vaporize..." --TM]
OK, now I've done my bit to help America get back on its feet.
Village Voice art critic Jerry Saltz has introduced a new standard to critical argument, the "I couldn't do it" standard. Here's an excerpt from his review of James Siena in the Voice/artnet this week:
Two weeks after seeing Siena's show, aided by notes and sketches made there, and consulting the gallery's handy website, where all the drawings are pictured, I got some paper and colored pencils, and set out to reproduce a number of Siena's drawings. Gradually, as I either couldn't finish, lost my concentration, got mixed up, was unable to make things fit, or simply produced ugly renditions of what I was looking at, I grasped how much commitment and focus is necessary to make these little drawings and how incisive Siena's mind is.I'm really looking forward to seeing this criterion applied in future reviews, e.g., Velazquez ("the lifelike rendering was a snap, but who has time to grind pigments anymore?"), Malevich ("after a hundred attempts I gave up trying to match those two whites"), and Piero Manzoni ("crapping was easy, but working with the canning company proved surprisingly complicated.")
The Summer 2003 Artforum features an interview with art historian & theorist Jean-Claude Lebensztejn (here or here), who was one of my teachers in school. He filled in at UVa after retired-MOMA-curator-turned-teacher William Seitz died, and I had him for a 2-semester modern art course. Much as I regretted missing Seitz's anecdotes about writing the first doctoral thesis on the Abstract Expressionists, curating "The Responsive Eye," and so forth, I was extremely lucky to have Lebensztejn for a year. One of the coolest things he did was show up one day apologizing for not bringing his slide tray, and announcing that he would be discussing the one slide he happened to have, Paul Klee's Voice Cloth of the Singer Rosa Silber (I prefer his translation to MOMA's). This is a very abstract piece with layers of painterly detail and a few collaged alphabet letters. Lebensztejn proceeded to talk about it. And talk. And talk--for the entire class period, he perceptively and relentlessly theorized about this one small work, weaving in details of Klee's history and philosophy. It was enough to make a kid want to be a critic.
I remember Lebensztejn was interested in Photorealism, which he calls Hyperrealism, and in the interview he discusses a recent show he organized on the subject. Most of the Q&A is very clear and readable, but I found the following paragraph tough going:
Like all the most interesting forms of art of this period, Hyperrealism questioned Charles S. Peirce's famous trichotomy of icon-index-symbol, in which one finds constant slippages from one to the other. This is the case with Francis Bacon but also with Willem de Kooning or even, in the literary domain, Francis Ponge. In Bacon or Ponge, the main slippage would be between object and sign—for example, paint becomes a body, or a body becomes paint; in de Kooning, especially during the '50s, icon and index are monstrously mixed. In Hyperrealism, again, there is a two-way exchange between photographic index and icon.That just screams for some follow-up questions, but interviewer Jean-Pierre Criqui is eager to move on to Robbe-Grillet and Flaubert's Bouvard et Pécuchet so we don't get any clarification. I believe the "which" in the first sentence should be "that," so it's clear that the slippages in question are the painters' and not Peirce's. Also, why backtrack to Bacon and de Kooning if we're talking about Richard Estes and Chuck Close? A writer, Ponge, is mentioned and then dropped. A distinction is made in the last two sentences between "object and sign," and then "icon and index," and finally "photographic index and icon." All of this is especially hard to follow without a brush-up on Peirce's categories of the sign. (Briefly, an icon is an exact copy, such as a mirror or portrait; an index is a "trace" that has a dynamic relationship to the object, such as a barometer or sundial; and a symbol is an arbitrary, learned designation, such as "Exxon" for a specific multinational oil company).
I gather Lebensztejn treats a photo as an index (as does Rosalind Krauss) but it would seem to me in many instances to be a pure icon, just like a mirror image. Obviously painting the photo complicates the "integrity" of the copy. Hopefully Lebensztejn's catalog essay straightens all this out. Here's another excerpt that's less convoluted; as an artist who painted Hyperrealistically for years I found it especially resonant:
This insistence on the literal copy is the most caustic aspect of Hyperrealism, undoing what had been the basis of art for five hundred years: the judicious imitation, which was sought by the painter Zeuxis, who chose what was most beautiful in nature. In a word, let's call it artistic idealism. This was Hyperrealism's most decried aspect from the outset: the truly useless character of this painting. Why paint paintings of this sort when they are closest to what they are copying? From this point of view, Hyperrealism completes the modernist destruction of classical aesthetics.What's "caustic" about Photorealist canvases isn't so much that they're "closest to what they are copying" (Zeuxis also strived for that) but that their choice of subject matter seems so arbitrary--anonymous storefronts, bad passport photos, ads. What's destructive to classical aesthetics is the removal of the "judicious" from the painter's program; to the Photorealists, choosing to paint a luxurious bunch of grapes is just a privileged form of delectation. Or perhaps by judicious, Lebensztejn means enhanced or aestheticized? Then it would be caustic to paint in a literal or deadpan way as opposed to "prettying up" the rendering. Again, the catalog may be more illuminating.
UPDATE: A few more thoughts here.
I enjoyed seeing the fireworks over the East River last night and...whoops, wrong picture, this is us blowing up Baghdad. But seriously, talk about a disconnect between American ritual festivities and the chaos in Iraq right now. We're fast approaching the point where the number of our soldiers killed after George Bush's victory declaration tops the number that preceded it. After a few exciting days of monkey-screeching and hard-on flashing, Bush, Rumsfeld & Co. have moved on to other things (campaigning, plotting global domination, plundering public funds) and left others to clean up the mess. American troops are getting shot up, the Treasury's overdrawn, people are losing jobs, and the 9/11 conspirators are still at large.
Fortunately we can all go the polls next year and get rid of these clowns, right? Right?
Below: shot of studio wall. The piece in the center is the new one I mentioned here (more step-by-step shots have been added). It's a bigger scale than the others and better because of that, I think. As it turned out, I did no cutting back into the image; everything was drawn on the computer and (over)printed, beginning at 100% in the center and working out to 300% at the outer edges. Still mulling over a title.