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Petra Cortright's vvebkm (YouTube) - An Exchange from Paddy Johnson's Blog Comments - Cindy Sherman Reference Partially Explained
Paddy Johnson (Mar. 27, 2007):
Four days ago Tom Moody posted Petra Cortright’s webcam video and since then I’ve been struggling to articulate why the aesthetics of this piece of go beyond taking a few clip images from the web and slapping them on a video. Unlike a David Shrigley piece, which uses humor so obvious its value requires no explanation, a cam featuring a still figure, dancing pizzas, and falling snow to an electronic beat may require a little more discussion.
Probably the most amusing aspect of this work lies in the fact that it’s basically a documentation of a live performance, in which you watch someone concentrate on their computer screen for the duration of a song. I realize this comment tends to incite a host of responses most of which begin something to the effect of “So why am I looking at this?”, and while there’s no response to this if you don’t find the redundancies of web surfing that so many net artists like to highlight funny, there’s also a level of virtuosity in the live arrangement of gifs etc, that needs to be called to attention. Cortright’s webcam piece succeeds because her dancing pizzas are unexpected, and the snow and lightening seem almost delicately placed. I know it sounds ridiculous, but you have to spend a lot of time with these seemingly crappy images not only to gain a sensibility for how to use them, but how to read them. It’s not that Cortright found the most exquisite buzzing bee and flower on the net, it’s that she thought to use it, and then did it so well. It’s a skill very few people have.
27 Mar 2007 at 9:16 pm1--tom:
These icons may all be defaults that come with the webcam program or host. I don’t know for sure. Cortright says in the comments “i need to put more curated imagery into this but the defaults were still pretty good!!” [Update - Make magazine editor Phillip Torrone plays with the same webcam in this YouTube in what seems more like an extended product promotion for logitech--thx paul)]
So the artistry is mostly in the timing, I think, plus the “live” nature of the performance, the choice of music (the ceephax is pleasantly spacy), and playing on our expectations of what a cam person is supposed to do. Instead of mugging, pouting, and otherwise playing directly to an imagined audience she’s concentrating on the behind-the-scenes work of manipulating the images, which are not particularly sexy. The audience is still staring at her (and one commenter is rather hitting on her with that “smile” line) but she’s only giving you her image and what she does. This relates to Marisa Olson’s videos of herself listening to music, too, I think.
My great unwritten essay (or not so great) is on how the camgirl and camboy phenomenon relates to Cindy Sherman and her “self-empowering” use of her own image to act out media tropes (she’s a millionaire and they...have lots of internet friends). Pieces like Cortright’s are even more punk than that–as if Sherman were taking photos of herself loading and unloading the camera and setting up the lights instead of being the “actress.”
27 Mar 2007 at 10:00 pm 2--paddy:
It’s true - the timing is done extremely well.
I’m not sure I’m understanding your comment on Cindy Sherman correctly. Are you saying that work like Cortright’s is more punk than Sherman’s because there’s a greater DIY element to it? If so, I suppose there’s some element of truth to that, but I suspect Sherman was just as broke when she was in her twenties and making that work, and probably didn’t have too much help past the necessities. Does the DIY aspect of it really add that much to this particular piece?
28 Mar 2007 at 12:13 am3--tom:
Punk in the sense of a guitarist keeping her back to the audience while playing rather than doing all the emotive face moves that say “I’m happy, I’m in pain, look at me, love me.” Here Cortright is looking down and “working.”
The early, classic Sherman work was DIY and done on the cheap. It’s not her fault she got canonized so early and was forced ever thereafter to work with big budgets.
My point in bringing her up (I think) was how web cammers kind of do what she did early on instinctively. It’s personal or self-centric photography, but still a series of media tropes (the “working girl,” the “ingenue,” “Marilyn” etc) Whereas Cortright isn’t going there–she’s a nerd pushing buttons to summon kitties and pizza slices and you just happen to be watching her.
28 Mar 2007 at 12:43 am4--paddy:
I really like that punk reference.
Interestingly, one of the things I was going to bring up in the post that got lost for whatever reason, was that the piece reminded me of how in the late 90’s and early 2000 people would go see DJ’s spin, and various musicians working with electronics perform, and complain that it was totally dull watching people turn a few nobs for hours on end. Like any good net artist, Cortright knows that about a minute and a half of nob turning is fascinating - do much more than that and you’ve lost your audience. It makes me feel like the piece builds something positive into a tradition of performance that often suffered from some significant problems just a short time ago.
Ludwig Schwarz - "Three Point Play" [Quicktime .mov]
"How fantastic was that? It might be a bit corny as they say, but if you want to see something really corny, look at this..."
"I can tell you when the wind blows my way/And I know you just got laid." Digital/outsider_art/Sun Ra_Garageband/YouTube_visionary Kathleen Daniel aka Silicious has a new animated song on
James Kalm, the guy on the bike, takes us on a YouTube video tour of Linda Post's exhibition at artMovingProjects in NY. I liked the exhibition, especially the video of hands building a stone fence, projected onto an artificial stone fence (made of old TVs), and also the recursiveness of this YouTube--including a wandering POV of a wandering POV of a cornfield. Goodbye, nature.
Artist and co-gallerist Aron Namenwirth's post on the show is here.
In the interests of disclosure I'll be doing something at the gallery next month and with luck I'll get an even more recursive YouTube.
Faux-Modernist Sculptures from Random Plastiform Dripping
Roxy Paine, SCUMAK (Auto Sculpture Maker), 1999 (hairy jpegs from gallery website)
Albin Karlsson, 2007 (?): "A machine in the roof rotates with a speed of one revolution per hour. Every minute it let one gram of hotglue drop down on the floor.During time a sculpture takes form." [via VVork]
"Duo for Drum Machine and Softsynth" [mp3 removed]
This is in 3/4 time, not that that's that big a deal. I believe all classical music should henceforth be written with current instruments. And defaults. Tired of all these fossils in powdered wigs and their attractive young prodigy front persons. Ick. And no MAX/MSP, either. Put it all up front.
Clarifying something I posted a while back. This pattern, printed out on xerox paper, quilted with tape etc, is not a bar code. I wouldn't make art with the bar code. In case anyone thought it was.
At Diapason in midtown on Thursday, five analog synthesists concocted a fascinating sonic stew for Analogos, an ongoing series of live improvisational jams. This was Analogos 9; unlike 7, featuring small sets with different combinations of the musicians, this was two long pieces by all. The first stopped rather dramatically when a power strip blew (it sounded like an intentional climax), and the second built slowly to a nerve shattering asynchronous finale. For some reason I kept thinking of Ornette Coleman, mixed with the raucous boom of the Velvet Underground playing the psychiatrist's convention in New Jersey (footage of which recently surfaced on YouTube and it's basically metal machine music & Nico). Trying to figure out who did what in all the crisscrossing sound overlays presented a challenge, but one could safely guess that Kabir Carter's newish Moog and Moogerfooger pedals contributed some of the pure, forcefully detuned pitches, that Stefan and Sergei Tcherepnin's battered Serge modulars added a scratchy, popping-patch-cord frisson, that Ed Tomney's EMS Synthi spun out the distinctive whooshes and trilling sequences of that classic instrument--and to be honest, I knew when Michael J. Schumacher's Steiner-Parker Synthacon chimed in mainly because I had a good line of sight to him from my seat on the carpeted floor. It's sort of funny these days that tonality and anything digital could get you kicked out of any club but it's thrilling to hear these vintage sounds revving at full jet engine volume.