Saturday, April 4, 2015

TeZ: the Synesthetic Dialogue

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TeZ in the optofonica capsule, 2008
Tez a.k.a. Maurizio Martinucci, is an Italian multimedia artist, living in Amsterdam. You might be able to place him in a genre of artistry called ArtScience; however, that might exclude him from many of  the activities that could label him as a musician, composer, producer, hacker, a maker-of-the-magical-and-mysterious. And, perhaps a few other things that we know nothing about. Above all, Tez is a prolific collaborator, working with many artists and organizations, notably the Optofonica Platform for Synesthetic ArtScience (facebook). 

Much to his credit, he is interested in the promotion of art, technology, and science: infused or separate, for the sake of education. At any given time, he may be approached in conversation regarding esoteric scientific theories of the 19th century, Italian art of the renaissance, or Iggy Pop at his most debauched... We catch up with him in Southeast Asia, or Singapore to be more precise, where he has taken time from his electronics' shopping to talk to us.


As an artist, how would describe your relationship to technology? Why are traditional "art" mediums not capable of producing the type of effect you envision or wish to communicate?  


I never think of art as means for communication. Art for me is the ability of evoking an experience that is intimate and personal, as such it transcends languages. Of course, there's a degree of communication happening inside the viewer.. I would call it a "synesthetic dialogue", a dialogue between sensations.


Technology is extraordinary in the fact that it enables us to follow the progression of time. Willing or not, the evolutionary pace of humanity is regulated by technology and in complete feedback with it. Meaning, the use and application of it (especially if creative) leads to new inventions and to the evolution of technology itself. In the future, what you call "traditional" will be tied to the medium of the time it refers to. Therefore, art made with computers and sensors will one day will obsolete too and somewhat traditional. Every age had its own technology and it produced ingenious creations with it. 

My focus is on the senses rather than the medium itself. It doesn't matter if I use a painting, a candle or a laser beam... My work aims at evoking a specific sensation related to the physical body and the space it interacts with, including other bodies and/or inanimate things.



"Technology is extraordinary...
it enables us to follow the progression of time...
the evolutionary pace of humanity"



What perceptions do you have of digital culture? If you heard in some context terminology like  "digital tribalism" or "digital imperialism" what association comes to mind? 


When I was younger, in the 90's, I had a great fascination for the "digital" and all the socio-cultural implications of it. It was the time of the Cyberpunk, and "hacker" truly meant something revolutionary. Today is so very different. On the one hand, mainstream culture has appropriated those ideas and stripped them of their activist and unconventional meanings. On the other, we're looking at a progressive embedding of technology in everyday life, both as commodity and tools for expression and, of course, communication.

Non-Hertzian Wave Transmission
Cultural prejudices can only belong to poorly educated people who are looking at things passively. Unfortunately, there's plenty of them. It's not the fault of any one particular, let me be clear on this; we are a product of a system. In one way or the other, the system has become what we know and it promotes horrible fallacies that only time may fix. We can help the debugging though! However, "digital culture" has no other meaning for me than "the culture of this time".


What creative work have you been engaged with recently, and may the public be able to experience anything in the near future?


Lots of different things really. Starting from electronic music for Clock DVA, and more articulated and spatial immersive sonic performances (TeZ / ambisonics), to audiovisual generative art (PLASM), and immersive multisensory installations (ILINX).

The works differ in nature and technique, but what they have in common is the passion for art and science as a holistic paradigm.

Urban Farmers - Singapore
I have an art-science residency in Singapore right now, until May 2015. It deals with underwater vehicles doing swarming actions for both scientific monitoring of the marine environment and orchestrated choreographies of sound and light to "communicate" their findings. Parallel to this activity, I'm working with students on biology and botany related experiments. I'm truly excited to learn more about robotics and acoustic (underwater) communication. Also, the chance to get students to experiment with unconventional ideas and hacking to make their own tools. It makes me really happy and it's lots of fun!  In two weeks time I've connected with all the mainstream and underground scene of Singapore, from the ArtScience Museum and the National University of Singapore, to the main "makers" group, the urban farmers and, of course, the local hackerspace.




Sunday, November 30, 2014

Stanley Ruiz: No Fear of Empty Space

Stanley Ruiz wears many different hats. He is a musician and is knowledgeable about quite a few genres, but atop of them all, he is a designer with a growing international reputation. He has developed new products for a dozen companies in Bali, the US, and the Philippines. In New York, he has worked with SOHO Studios, Real Simple, and Jonathan Adler. He has been invited to present his work and lecture in Europe, and throughout Southeast Asia. In March of 2015, he will be showing his work at the International Furniture Fair Singapore. This past year, he launched his own design studio, centering his efforts in Manila and Brooklyn while exploring regional manufacturing resources. Mr. Ruiz is also involved with cultural agencies in the Philippines, namely Hacienda, a social enterprise providing employment for sugar plantation workers and their families, and CITEM, the Center for International Trade Expositions and Mission.


You have produced work globally. How might you make local, regional, and global comparisons in design, particularly in regards to the production process? Is there an interplay between resources and styles which shape the development of various identities?


To understand the regional influences, you need to consider the availability of resources and the tradition of craftsmanship that comes along with that place. Years before Sustainable Design was a sound bite, many countries were already practicing this form of production by recycling and making use of renewable materials, and by considering a product's life-cycle as it breaks down. The resources and materials are valuable in developing production techniques and skills. 


What is a product's lifecycle?

It is just the expected life of a product. A sustainable design would consider not only how a product is made, but how it impacts people and the environment as it degrades. Maybe there is a follow-up use or sequence of uses it can serve as a material for. On the other hand, maybe it is a good quality product that lasts for generations like late-nineteenth century furniture. In this way, quality is sustainable because it replaces the quantity of lower quality products.   

Empire Lights
The majority of products, regionally, are handmade with techniques developed, mostly on the basis of resource availability. For instance, if I want a particular fabrication, material and specialty; I would look to Bali for shell mosaics, wood carving or wrought iron; I would look to Thailand for wood, ceramics, some textiles; and India for fabric and cast metal. In the Philippines, I can find weaving with natural fibers like palm, bamboo, also shells, termite-patterned wood, twigs, things woven. In the last year, I have traveled extensively visiting factories to review and evaluate: capabilities, man power, quality of output, equipment and tools, as well as, prototypes and sample products that any of these factories might be producing at the time. Also, part of the routine is to visit scrap yards, public markets, and souvenir shops, not only to get an idea of what is being produced but to glimpse at what has been produced in the recent past.

What traditional art and crafts in the Philippines are, involves mostly patterns and stories. Generally, what you see around Southeast Asia is what I call a "fear of empty space".  People fill the entire space with very colorful, ornate patterns, usually hand painted. There are a lot of bells and whistles, not necessary in terms of function, but they may have some cultural significance or perhaps it's just for the sake of having something.

Tropical Modern has been influencing the design world for quite some time now. Mainly, it is a style which is cleaner, modern contemporary, but one that incorporates traditional Asian motifs, tropical motifs, and materials.


"Design is a concrete way of implementing change in the world...
a silent tool to manipulate the way of life for people."

Double Happiness
One of the roles of design is to explore and discover new ways of making things, otherwise objects end up just being the same. In taking a survey of factories and materials, it is like asking yourself, "What will I cook for dinner?" You get cooking ideas by visiting the local market and seeing which ingredients are quality and fresh. So, then, this is the palette you build your design from. You can import your spice by adding flavors that have influenced you from different regions maybe even different cultures and countries.


So then, what are some measures you take towards innovation? And, how does your perspective and output play in the context of the design world at large?


[hehehe] That, is the question I ask myself. It is a constant challenge. Even the most simple of objects can present a complexity of problems. I am usually asking myself "what is a different way I can make products?" After I ask that question, I consider proportion. Proportion of a product is perhaps the most important, if not the most important consideration. Proportion makes the product.

I try to inject technology into the production technique and mix-in a more industrial design. I think about materials by studying their structural integrity. By understanding material, we are able to develop new products produced with traditional techniques. For example, when boiled to a pulp, Abaca [a type of palm] can be processed like paper. It is quite strong and can be molded into forms or hand woven. There is a whole new range of products which can be produced with this material.

Anno Domini
I don't like to overdo it and have it look more "designee". That is, design for sake of design. I like things to be minimal, but then it is very difficult to get away from a European sensibility. Although, design is a European invention. In the context of the design world at large, it is difficult to offer an alternative because it is so pervasive, thus people end up embracing it because there is really no alternative. Design movements have popped up but only been short-lived, like Memphis Group or Superstudio. Interestingly, one of the most influential names in industrial and product design is an Australian, Marc Newson, who recently joined Apple's Design Team.

I think you have to ask yourself, what is your domain? In the sea of conversation, what is your dialogue? How can I then identify with an aesthetic, that is regionally distinctive without being folk art? What I get from European design process is a tool or framework for critical thinking and evaluation. As a means of offering an alternative, not a rehash.  


How easy is it to have that dialogue, especially since it involves your particular cultural identity which includes living abroad for over a decade?


Labyrinth Floor Lamps
I don't know if this is an official term, but I have thought of myself in terms of being a trans-cultural designer for some years already.

The communications via internet create a flux of information and influence, dramatically changing the status quo of human behavior and interaction in many cultures, including how we view the world. But, when you live in a different place you experience nuances of language and behavior first-hand, as a means of internalizing perspective. I am not just a Filipino, I have lived in America and traveled abroad in Europe and other Asian countries. Having this amalgam of experience allows me to say that the problem with design is that, what might work well in one culture might not work well for another. Design might not have a cross-cultural translation in some circumstances.    

I think Kenneth Cobonpue (a designer based in Cebu) expresses the notion of trans-cultural design in his work and production techniques. So, in collaborating with him to design lighting solutions, the unspoken expectation is that outcome are products with similar combination of influences. 


Stanley in the Brooklyn Studio
What do you think the role of design is ultimately about?


Design is a concrete way of implementing change in the world. Design can be a silent tool to manipulate the way of life for people. My hope is to have an economic impact and generate incomes, not just from major cities, but by providing opportunities for rural populations. For instance, if a company employees fifty people in a local economy, an effect is that these people won't feel compelled to uproot or displace themselves to a major city. This situation compromises their quality of life. Perhaps it is likely they end up living on the street and having to do things they don't really want to do as a means of survival. It usually has a negative impact with outcomes of crime, pollution, ethnic tensions, and so on. So, it is not much for me to provide opportunity to fifty people, but if 20, 100, or 200 companies are doing what I am trying to do.... then it becomes substantial.


If you like Stanley's Work, visit his site: www.stanleyruiz.com or start following him on FaceBook or Instagram

Monday, June 2, 2014

Hsien Yu Cheng: the Collector



Hsien Yu Cheng is an artist, designer, and programmer. He provides hardware designs for artists working with technology and programs applications for iOS. But, most notable is his creative output of technology-based art. He begins by giving us a description of some of the works from his solo exhibition.

Well, I do many different things, and I am probably going about doing things the wrong way. I should become highly specialized, but I enjoy working with different media and languages. So, the result is an exhibition with the theme of Collector v1.0.0, or the objects that collect stuff. I have revived two older works. One is a web browser you can connect 88 mice to. All the mice can surf the internet and when there is no screen activity, the mice cursors come together to display Portrait 2013: Douglas Engelbart, inventor of the mouse. The second work is a new version of Afterlife.

I have two new pieces which collect more stuff. Like Half-Life, I have an object called 'Collect a Life' which is a robot that makes very loud noises and continues to do so until you put coins into it. Then, it becomes quiet and returns to its place. The second, is a re-make of a work called 'Out of Position' or Fish on Dish by an important Taiwanese artist, Yuan Goang Ming. His installation is a video of a swimming goldfish projected on a large white dish. My re-make is called Dish on Fish, in which a robot fish swims around on a projection of a large white bowl.

Additionally, I will issue a plug-in for Quartz Composer which allows you to program in real-time with OpenGL scripts. This could be useful for people working with multimedia design.

Because you work developing software and hardware for a variety of artists regionally, as well as yourself, can you explain what the relationship between art and technology means to others in the region of Taiwan? Is the process of creating art integrated with developing skills with technology?


Well, artists in Taiwan don't really build too much; that is why I am busy. I think this disconnection comes from the academic environment. They offer courses and degrees for new media, but it is something you or I would call video art or digital art, and maybe, there are a few artists who even build sound installations. But, even the term 'new media' is quite old already.  In general, there is not much engagement in artistic research for new media. Sometimes you will see simple electronics with lots of wires being very obvious that object is technical. You can not mistake the technological work with a more archaic approach. Regionally, I mostly see projects that are mixed media or traditional materials with no real interest in interaction. At the Taipei art exposition, I saw a Japanese artist presenting work that I saw my classmates in Holland working on and developing with more of a focused outcome. Perhaps he even saw the project on the internet and decided to make his own version. I can not be certain, but I am sure that technology tends to be viewed in the art-world as an after-thought.


"If they can see the soldiering, the wires, and the detail
...maybe they will see this part of the story."

When artists approach you, do you wear the hat of a designer; the one that strictly tries to resolve problems? Or, do you not distinguish the artist from designer, perhaps thinking how the projects you work on for others maybe be improved not just technically but artistically as well?

Ummm. I think there is a design process, but a different type of design process at work. If artists have difficulty working with technology, then they really will have difficulty understanding the design process. It is more likely they will not even get involved with process at all. But, maybe this is better.

I began working for artists at Mediamatic in Amsterdam. So, I understand how process can turn in any direction. We made things that we thought clients wanted, so the design choices were based-on meetings, and then more meetings with the client. And, more meetings still. When you finally present a prototype, you want it to be the best possible solution because the client does not always understand that there is a version control; with every subsequent view and use of the material, the design is potentially revised. At some point, you have to just go with it.

As a artist working with technology, the design process begins with the concept. You have to be flexible with materials, both hardware and software, as your knowledge increases with out abandoning your idea. However, it may be that your idea gets better, so you adapt to new decisions. It is more casual compared to the business of product design. 

Whether you are building a complete object or appropriating some consumer product, it is usual that you ask many companies for materials, such as internet searches through AliBaba. This alone is an interesting process. When you start to make something, you have to think so much through the process, that the process itself becomes designed.


As you say, design in the art process is different 
then product design because you don't have to go through the length and rigor to form an idea. If artwork does not have to conform to any particular standard, the standard is self-determined? 


Of course. If the design is for your own consideration, it has to be something that you are happy with. I want the stuff I make to look nice. When I choose the components for a project, I will not just think about the needs of the circuit, but the physical characteristics and the visual appeal of the object. Maybe, I want to have nice, big, older components. Something that is not necessarily defined by any time or place in particular. If I am purely a designer, I would ask a company to make my circuit and print a board. I know I will get something small and cost effective for quantity production. But, as a work of art, that is not what I want to present.

I try to think from the viewer's perspective, so I consider what the audience wants to see. I think hiding the electronics and wires away in a box also hides the process away from the audience.  Components are an important part of the composition and I like those visual characteristics. Seeing how things are put together gives the audience an opportunity to understand another layer of the work involved. If they can see the soldiering, the wires, and the detail of the components, then maybe they will see this part of the story.

Let us say we are looking at a coffee maker on display, and we did not know anything about a coffee maker. It is some thing clean-looking with no indication of what is inside. Without seeing any of the functioning parts, we might think the art work was purely conceptual. Basically, you show people what you think is important, and that all depends on your artistic disposition.

The other aspect of working with technology is that you have to have skills to make tools, and often. You make tools to build your ideas, and these tools can be shared and passed on. This is the essence of open source. I think this will be important as artists realize new levels of physical computing.



Lastly, some description of the work you presented in a recent Group Exhibition(?)


I am becoming more interested in bio electronics, so in developing a piece for a group exhibition focused on a theme of energy, I thought it was appropriate to make something based on the Thesis of Ruud Timmers and his work with microbial fuel cells. I have modified a VU meter based-on his research. When the plant is really producing a significant amount of electricity, the needle with point to the label reading something like, "we are working hard" or Hard Working.


Thursday, April 24, 2014

Nikhil Joshi: the MultiModal Narrative

Nikhil on-location



There is not a form of media which can aptly describe a reality of difference. One of the qualities of being human is the assumption that we know much more than we do; that all things can somehow fit into the framework of our culturally-biased reasoning and imagination. Although, if you consistently draw comparisons between cultures in order to give meaning to an experience, you will likely miss the underlying condition and the essential communication. This experience can be a frustrating mastication of ineffective words, which circle meaning, and never arrive. However, from this ambiguity, unassuming is the palate which can distinguish these flavors of humanity. Language is much more than words. But, that is why we have art.


Presently, the term Post-Digital is floating around the air. The basic effect of this term, is that the novelty of technology is wearing off, leaving us to (re)define that which has meaning. So then, what is an effective means of  communication within this expansive domain of media and even greater domain of meaning? In this context, India is interesting because it is a culture that has transformed radically within the last thirty years. Because of this rapid change, you are able to find a range of technologies juxtaposed. Part of this transformation includes a flow of western media containing messages of morality, ethics, trash films and unchallenged ideology. However, another part brings innovation, media production, design, and aesthetics. Academic programs and interactive design and production in India are still infantile, without any hint of design epistemology.  But, perhaps starting with a 'clean slate' is a timely advantage in the post-digital era?

I recently spoke with Nikhil Joshi, who is an artist working with technology and founding partner of Digital Jalebi. As a designer he is progressive and questioning, as an artist, sensitive to the evolution technology presents to the broader spectrum of the mass of culture called India. I asked about how culture has influenced his education and development with technology. 

One can be overwhelmed by the brilliance and expertise available to an Indian design student. I studied at the National Institute of Design  for 3 years. NID is a mixed bag of crafts inspired by design practices and technological innovation. Most of the courses find their way in the crafts found all across India, from glass work and jewelry design to toy design.  Some famous crafts are the glass work of  Ferozabad, wooden toys of Chennapatna [e.g. Maya OrganicKaveri Crafts], and braiding from Karanataka.  The education process starts with inspiration from these artists and craftsmen, then moves toward contemporary design practices. Including, considerations for mass production, usability, and brand reflection.

Another factor which has detracted from the emergence of a particular contemporary style, is the lack of documentation of regional arts and crafts. NID has been trying to document and share works from different parts of the country for last 50 years, to make them available to the next breed of designers.Otherwise, this lack of documentation, backed by a culture of not-documenting-things, makes it very difficult for a style to grow and develop, so it is a blow to the the entire idea of opensource, as well as, research practices.


Technology can't be separated from culture, anyone's culture, I think this is a pre-requisite for selling that technology to people. But, you have provided some examples of how technology is changing concepts in art and design, but do you perceive a dilemma or paradox at work? Between your reality and the ideals propagated by the media (foreign or domestic)? 


This contrast doesn't really effect most of us who have lived and studied in cities, with a  high western impact. Our schools and academics have had a heavy western influence, and like us, most of the post-80's artists from cities are a result of Indian acceptance of digitization and technological advancements. We have seen TV sets go from a single channel to 1000+ channels.

Although, there is a heavy conflict when it comes to accepting technology as an expressive medium. Particularly from more experienced artists from the more under-privileged parts of India. Someone has correctly said, "It is very hard to unlearn". With the opening of western markets for Indian artists and craftsmen, there is an exposure for them to understand uniqueness as a fundamental need, but the entire design world from India is so new to the western markets, that it will still take another 15-20 years for them to strive for competitive uniqueness among themselves.

"Humans want to judge everything in good or bad, pleasure or pain, profit and loss."

Cross-culturally, the narrative is essential to all. It seems that many artists (analog or digital) in India reference traditional art forms. Are culturally established forms of the narrative particularly relevant to evolving artistic disciplines which use technology? And, what, if any, consequence does this have on an individual's identity?


If you look at an art school in the U.S., uniqueness has a relation with being the best. If you want to be the best, you need to be unique and spectacular to that effect. That is, how people judge you and that is how you judge yourself. I think this is linked with a core belief that is on a basic level in western society; you have only one life. You you have only one life, so you have to be the best now!


By contrast, culture in India accepts the idea of many life's or Janams; you have seven lifetimes. This aspect is something which is deeply rooted in us, spiritually and/or culturally. It is reflected in the arts and crafts all across India. They make things that are relevant to their culture, and they are likely to produce the exact same work throughout their entire life.

Technology today does help a lot in exploring ways towards creating more multi-modal experiences. So, the potential is not being fully realized, yet. But, narratives are very important to India. I think they are important to everyone, everywhere because any piece of information is contextualized by events. The cultural context creates patterns people can recognize and learn from. For instance, I was reading Ramayan the other day, where the Ram says, "Humans want to judge everything in good or bad, pleasure or pain, profit and loss." People create meaning out of narratives to form culture, and that forms their perception of the world.

When considering contemporary design, the idea of interactivity or an 'experience' is superficial in India. When I say superficial, that actually is not a question about the skill or the output but their intention of how much they want you to be a participant in the system. Most of the artifacts coming out of the interactive design process access fewer human senses then they are possible. So the point I am try to make here, is art or design was never meant to be multimodal in nature. It is as if these designers never thought of the ways they would invite people to participate, as well as the ways in which they could broaden and enhance their experience. Technology has played a major role in empowering artists/designer with tools to achieve multimodality. I think multimodality would just allow you to experience objects or events in more ways then just one singular way.



I don't know if I would agree that art was never meant to be multi-modal, but by making a comparison of superficial work, you must know of examples in which the relationship is between viewer and artifact is multi-modal? Work which the designer or artist approached the viewer as a participant?


This is the biggest difference I see in our approach today as new media artists; looking back at what people have already done or have mastered. Different artists in different domains are now trying to experiment with media and attach more senses to their creations. I think one of the best examples is the work of Nina Sabnani. She presents a very interesting way of telling stories that includes different sensory input. She narrates stories using a tangible art form where you flip open a structure with various faces and use it to tell stories: Kawad Storytelling Tradition. So, when you start putting music, texture, visuals all together in an interactive format, you are really expanding the playground for your viewers.


Nikhil and Digital Jalebi have recently been working on a project for the Kathputli Colony in Shadipur, Delhi, which involves the relocation of a community of artists and artisans in the wake of gentrification, likely to disenfranchise families that have worked for generations as performers. The project gives expression to the residents' hopes in realizing the colony's potential by focusing the viewer's attention on what they have to offer now. 


In an optimistic world, the performers of Kathputli Colony would, someday, have a chance to develop technology for their own performances. Maybe they would realize an original re-appropriation for technology which even technologists or academics could not think of(?) Cultural diversity has much more to offer humanity. Diversity has only ever allowed for a greater range of possible outcomes. 

India's culture is comprised of diverse range of micro-cultures. If it becomes standard practice to disenfranchise these cultures, what remains?

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Nick Lesley and the Epic Doom




In a conversation with a prolific musician and artist, Nick Lesley shares his perspective and a slice of his thoughts towards technology in art, and the culture it produces. I value his opinion for many reasons, namely, because art is his culture. He keeps himself very active in the New York City, being exposed to all manners of performance, music, video, film, and photography. He performs in numerous bands at venues all around the city and makes his music available through Neck & Tongue. He has also been working for some time at Electronic Arts Intermix, ["a nonprofit resource that fosters the creation, exhibition, distribution and preservation of media art."] where he is able to peruse catalogues of electronic art. 


In my work at EAI, I constantly advise on appropriate presentation for video works and film works. Curators and institutions are still catching up on how to present classic and new moving-image content. Sound is understandably difficult and will never catch up to the visual art lexicon in the art world context.

Soundings


The MoMA dedicated a show to sound art entitled 'Soundings', which was on exhibition from August to November of 2013. The response was somewhat mixed, particularly if you were left with the impression that this art form is all new to the world. There is a continuity and a lineage, an evolution defined by a historical context. After all, as a medium, audio recording was a contemporary of early photography. Do you think there is any discourse which really supports the selection of work?

They included some good contemporary artists, but completely left out key figures. Sound Art can't be addressed as a medium without reference to Luigi Russolo, Pierre Schaeffer, and John Cage. These are three key figures whose philosophies shaped the development of Sound Art as being distinct from new music. Of course, music is art; but when thinking of sound as art, we need to consider how the art world differs from the music world, and how that gap is bridged. There are a few obvious things, such as the venues, presentation, and marketability.

In the show at MoMA, a few of the sound works included video. Here, the image too easily took over as explanation for the sound. I don't consider these strong sound works because of the dependence on the image. Sound is abstract, but wed to an image, it becomes less abstract. Musique Concrète presents familiar sounds in a way in which they become abstract. Deep Listening relies on a psychic distancing from the sound source. John Cage's "One 11 and 103," which he considered two discrete works, is very effective because the projected image is similarly abstract with the music so that the two complement each other, rather than depend on each other.

When sound is presented as art, it occupies space. It transforms space in the way cinema does. Film must be projected in a room with minimal intrusiveness of ambient light and sound. Early video differed from film because it was displayed on a monitor, providing a more sculptural element. Similarly, Sound Art depends heavily on presentation. The decision to play the sound through speakers or headphones is tremendously important. Sure, Alvin Lucier's "I Am Sitting In A Room" is pretty powerful when listened to on headphones, but much more powerful when played through speakers in a room.

I would even submit the use of space is essential to the artist's construction of the the experience. For example, one of the artists featured in Soundings exhibition, Jacob Funk Kirkegaard, created Layrinthitis, an installation which exploits the spatial anomalies of the human ear. The conditions established by the installation are essential to the experience of the observer. If you have 20 installations with comparable requirements, how can you arrange them with such acoustic considerations? Space is often a luxury.

This is the problem museums have with presenting Sound Art; the space is very important. This is why it is frequently relegated to stairwells. The viewers' relationship to the space influences their relationship to the work, if only because there may be nothing to see.

"I think death metal is beautiful."

Perhaps that is because of the implication of sound as an 'art', as opposed to music, even before listening to it, suggests the consideration of sound as a material, much in the way a sculptor would fashion an object of clay. Is there a premise to consider?

Sound Art often has a conceptual basis rather than a thematic or melodic foundation. The use of sound as the medium, is a choice based on a physical relationship to sonic vibrations, whether intimately through headphones, or as a reminder that you have a physical relationship to space. Curators are usually great at dealing with concepts, but not at dealing with space, so they can miss this important distinction. Xenakis's "Concrete PH" and Varése's "Poéme Electronique" were both designed specifically for the Philips Pavilion, which is an important cornerstone in the history of Sound Art.

The performance is the art, not the medium.


In mentioning site-specific work, specifically in regards to the medium of video, there seems to be little distinction between the performance as an experience, and the documentation of that experience. At what point, if there is one, would you consider performance to be media specific?


To me, this is essentially saying that "the medium is the message" but applying it specifically to performance. Which is very true! This highlights the immediacy and ephemeral qualities of performance. Performance can be documented and still be effective, but it is not the same. That is like a photograph of a sculpture; it lacks a dimension that is crucial to the form. Though video documentation exists in time (possibly even real-time, if it is not edited).


Documentation is difficult to get right and I think the most successful approach is to treat the documentation as a separate work from the performance itself. Chris Burden considered this with his "Documentation of Selected Works 1971-74", in which he narrates over the entire video. Generally, he doesn't allow the various works to be shown separately, as this is an overview of a body of work from a specific period in his career. The concept of each performance comes across, even with the benefit of his own hindsight, and with the acknowledgement that the documentation does not properly represent the performance itself.

Similarly, for many of Hannah Wilke's performances, she engages with both the audience and the camera, mindful of the removed audience to come. Again, this is not the same as being present for the performance, but it does create the possibility for the documentation to exist as its own work. This statement also applies to performances made for the camera, without a physical audience present.

Video has had a tremendous effect on this idea and fostered the practice of performing alone. Vito Acconci spoke directly into the camera, filling the frame to create an uncomfortable intimacy. Joan Jonas performed strange rituals in masks. Bruce Nauman filled the tape with repetitive actions. All of these artists were very aware of the video frame and the fact that video would be viewed on a little box monitor. Now with flatscreen monitors and the ease of video projection, it's important to make sure these works are shown appropriately: on old CRT monitors. Otherwise, it is taken out of context. They were very aware of the differences between what they were doing, and what people normally viewed on TV.

Just as with acting in theatre versus cinematic performance, artists performing for the camera can feel safer. They have more control of the situation. Paul McCarthy would set up structures to allow himself and the other participants, including Mike Kelley, to escape into a diabolical trance. These works seem to dig something up from the collective unconscious that we recognize as a darkness in human nature. I'm not sure these performances could be realized with an audience present. Here, the medium of video becomes very important, but it is not the art.

Technology adds a facet to art which can lead to misunderstandings, in regards to the overall definition of a work of art, by confusing technology as something other than a tool, or a distraction, either for the artist or the participant. 

Interactive art is difficult to navigate because it can seem toy-ish, or like something you’d find at an Exploratorium for kids... push some buttons and something happens. Is a synthesizer a work of art? Or, is the art how you use it? Or both? Some people might say a well crafted violin is a work of art. As a drummer, just about everything can be considered an instrument. So is a piece of scrap metal a work of art simply because I plan to bang on it? Or, is the sound and what I do with it the art?

It seems easy for interactive art objects to just be toys or bad applications. For example, I would not consider the Ambient Music App that Brian Eno made to be a work of art, but it sets up a situation for art. Similarly, I would love to see some of Jimi Hendrix’s guitars in a museum, not as art, but for what he was able to do with them. Interactive art has to have a reason to be interactive; the act of participating must be significant for the audience.

Installations are very effective in making people aware of their body’s presence. Mike Kelley has a sculpture that you have to climb into to see a video. It’s very dark and very loud. Some people are afraid to go in! Most audiences are reluctant to abandon their comfort zone. You can’t ask people to start singing, for example, but you can ask them to step inside a room. That is why they’re there.




Epic Doom!

Epic Doom! is an immersive installation about death metal. The viewer is the user, however, the relationship between his/her actions and words is not a linear relationship, or as some designers would label it, "not user friendly". It sets-up the user's expectation, but do you think it is just appealing to that inquisitive part of human nature which wants to figure out the pieces of the puzzle? 

EPIC DOOM has been shown twice, once at a video art festival and again at a gallery in Brooklyn. Neither time was it as big and evil as I wanted it to be. People enjoyed the interaction a bit too much. So, I am developing it again, to be more vicious and intimidating.

EPIC DOOM is a media installation with multiple projections and very loud sound. Both the sound and image are from live-feeds, that are delayed and processed and spit back in, to create a death metal aesthetic. The point is to have the user implicated in a crime; as a harbinger of evil. We’re all partially responsible for the terrible condition of the global environment. We can’t help it. Our impact is delayed and "not user friendly". So, I didn’t want the live-feed to be immediate. I do want to clearly communicate the video source as being part of the immediate space. Perhaps the viewer sees the shape of someone who was walking there five minutes ago, but recognizes their present environment as being a piece of the puzzle.  It during the delays, that the viewer realizes their participation. Usually people wait to to see a ghostly, evil version of themselves. It’s a delayed satisfaction.

I think when people see art, they do try to figure it out. But hopefully the experience is also beautiful. And yes, I think death metal is beautiful.