Monday, November 26, 2007
If I lived in London, not only would I be Kate Moss's BFF, but also I would attend Katie Paterson's show at ROOM gallery. Beginning on January 24 of 2008, ROOM will be exhibiting Paterson's lovely and inspiring langjökull, snæfellsjökull, solheimajökull. Picture this: three records, made of ice, playing on three turntables. Each record documents the sound of a melting glacier in Iceland. As the records play, they melt, altering the sound of the original recording. This performance was captured to create three films, which will be shown at ROOM early next year.
As the gallery website describes it (and most beautifully, I might add), "These ‘ice records’ were then played on three turntables, playing the sounds of the melting glaciers from whence the water/ice had come, until they had completely melted over nearly two hours. Miniature landscapes were formed as the needle traced over the ice as it was worn down. The sound is embedded, locked, inscribed into the material itself. Playing out the dissolving landscape. Nothing remained."
Of course, something DID remain--the still and moving images that document the ephemeral event (including the above still, from ROOM's website). How does the presence of a document alter the way we think about live performance and material dissolution? Maybe it's the snowfall we had last week (the first snow I've seen in 19 years), but this piece has really affected me. Lest I get too sappy, I've included a picture of Kate Moss.
Check out ROOM's website (http://www.roomartspace.co.uk/index.php) and Paterson's website (http://www.katiepaterson.org) for more information.
Monday, October 01, 2007
FRIDAYS at 2 PM
Kenilworth Square East
1925 E. Kenilworth Pl.,
Dr. Vivian Sobchack
Professor of Critical Studies and Associate Dean, Retired,
Department of Film, Television, and Digital Media
University of California, Los Angeles
The Dream (Ol)Factory: On Making Scents of Cinema
Experimental artist/composer/art director
Department of Illustration, School of Visual Arts
Radio Nurse: live audio-visual contamination and disintegration
Wednesday, September 26, 2007
Hey, take a look at this.
Second Front is an avatar performance art group on the virtual world Second Life. Its members come from all over the "real" (or, should I say, tangible?) world--the US, Italy, Canada, etc. The video you see here is a Machinima document of one of their recent live performance pieces, ZOMBIE ATTACK: 28 AVATARS LATER (horror film fans, you'll see hints of George Romero). If you're interested, you can read this interview of Second Front on rhizome.org:
In the interview, Second Front member Great Escape says that "Second Life offers a unique space for performance. Without the normal constraints of the body ― the usual center of performance -and without a traditional audience, we can try and do things that have been previously thought to be impossible."
This is fascinating to me. Second Life allows the members of Second Front to be in two places at once, to be in Milan or Vancouver and simultaneously perform in a virtual meeting place. However, I would like to think more about the ways in which Second Life DOES constrain the body. Are we ever really free of our bodies? Can we ever really leave our "usual center[s]"?
I've recently started playing Second Life and was both physically and emotionally affected by an abusive run-in with another player. A male avatar shoved and--for lack of a better phrase--sexually assaulted my avatar. I was too new to the game to know how to report this behavior.
Of course, this was not "real" and can't be compared to an assault that occurs in our tangible world. And yet, I was quite frightened by the whole thing, making my avatar run away as fast as she (or I) could. How can we account for the physicality of immaterial bodies?
Monday, September 17, 2007
Hello, all! I'm new to the blog, so I thought I'd introduce myself: I'm Dr. Warren-Crow, a new assistant professor in the Conceptual Studies program.
Check this out: The Walker Art Center in Minneapolis is currently exhibiting Catherine Sullivan's Triangle of Need, a multichannel video installation that gloriously brings together a rich industrialist, a Chicago tenement, and the last 2 Neanderthals in the world. I haven't seen it yet, but I can't wait. On the right you'll see the artist and her collaborators installing the piece. For more information, see: http://www.mnartists.org/article.do?rid=158717
and this interesting interview of choreographer Dylan Skybrook: http://blogs.walkerart.org/visualarts/2007/08/16/neanderthal-dance-doryun-chong/
Friday, July 13, 2007
The recent Live Earth concert certainly presented us with the opportunity to mull over the by now well-quoted Gil Scott-Heron song, The Revolution Will Not Be Televised. On one level all the day’s global warming insights were framed by relentless iPhone and e-harmony advertisements, plus ongoing encouragement for us to text message in our support (using our new Apple merchandise presumably) and turn down our thermostats in winter (and strangely few if any admonitions on comparable summer adjustments). That said, what was irrefutable was that sonic resistance was everywhere and much less easier to frame. While everyone has their own particular musical tastes, anything that gets us to move in mind, body, and spirit – whether it is sung, slung, blasted, pounded, or whispered – and to do this collectively is an important event.
I have been thinking quite a bit about music and soundscapes of late due to my latest time travels. I was fortunate enough to make the trek to San Francisco’s Yerba Buena Center for the Arts to see the North American premiere of Brian Eno’s 77 Million Paintings an image/sound installation piece that undergoes subtle visual and audio transformations for the duration of the event (in this case, 6 hours!!!). For more on Eno’s work, see:
The installation was presented in conjunction with the Long Now foundation – an organization dedicated to rethinking our culture’s assumption that faster/cheaper is necessarily better and asks us to consider a deep time and larger worldview perspective. You can find out more about this group’s interesting projects/work at the following link:
My trip to Bay Area though had a couple of other major highlights. A daylong excursion up to Bodega Bay was mainly a cinephile’s indulgence (Bodega Bay being the setting of course for still one of the best films ever – Hitchcock’s The Birds). You can see at the top of the blog post the Bay that Tippi had to navigate in that very, very tiny boat and then not far from there are some really spectacular views of the Pacific coastline – my photo from the blustery, kite-flying friendly day is below.
Lastly, I have to admit that my favorite place visited on this trip was in the Fillmore area of San Francisco and the St. John Coltrane Church. I attended the Sunday service, which was three hours of the most amazing live music I have experienced in quite some time. Uplifting and joyous in every sense of the words – the service at St. John Coltrane Church is something truly enlightening and transformative. I wish you all have the opportunity to hear these extraordinary messengers and musicians – everyone is truly and warmly welcomed in their house of devotion. Archbishop Franzo King and Reverend Mother Marina King founded their church in 1971! Here’s a link for more information:
All best for your own travels across time/space this summer and, as always, big sky mind wishes to you all!
Thursday, June 28, 2007
Greetings to all! I hope everyone is having a peaceful and productive summer. I am in the first month of a year long sabbatical so thought I would keep in contact with the CS blog by reporting in now and then from my assorted excursions. I am traveling a bit and last week was fortunate to connect with my friend in Los Angles, Marilyn Slater, who is author of the amazing website on the silent film star, Mabel Normand, http://www.freewebs.com/looking-for-mabel/. For our evening adventure, we visited the still vibrant LA institution, Silent Movie Theatre (http://www.silentmovietheatre.com/movies/), which has new owners committed to showing silent film once a week with live accompaniment. It was a great evening with three beautiful prints (including the King Vidor feature, The Crowd), some wonderful music, and even the family of King Vidor in attendance, who shared some info on the film and director. A big shout out to those doing their part to keeping this important part of our media culture alive. It reminded me how much cinema has always been a transmedia or intermedia enterprise and how the idea of live performance was once very much a part of the cinema experience (and is using this element again today in various experimental venues -- as seen in Toni Dove's colloquia talk on interactive cinema in May). These intersections of the live and recorded enhance the cinema's inherent properties of presence and absence -- a doubling of its uncanny spell!
I will be checking back with further reports in time travels -- in the meantime, please check out our links to assorted folks/places of interest. Erik Loyer, one of last year's colloquia speakers, has a brand new website with lots of cool stuff...check it out!
Until next time, my wishes for big sky mind adventures for all of you! I am off to update my music selections! Lots of Coltrane (John and Alice) these days!
Thursday, May 17, 2007
On April 27th the Colloquia in Conceptual Studies series at UWM, which has placed as a central focus the intersection of theory and practice in new media production and interactive art, was graced with the presence of two theorist-practitioners who are currently working through the interstitial territory where – as Ms. Zuniga-Shaw put it – body, site and technology communicate. Nora Zuniga-Shaw is a dance artist and theorist, director of dance and technology and assistant professor at the Ohio State University Department of Dance and in the Advanced Computing Center for the Arts and Design. In addition, she is a founding member of the Emma (Experimental Media and Movement Arts) Lab. (Go to http://accad.osu.edu/Projects/EMMA/ to learn more about this groundbreaking facility.) Luc Vanier is an assistant professor in the Dance Department at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, an accomplished dancer and choreographer, and an associate director of the modern dance company Your Mother Dances, who often incorporates interactive technologies into his productions.
Both foreground the body as a site of knowledge and see dance, at least in part, as a formal way of exploring bodily knowing. Dancers develop thinking, reactive bodies, skill sets which make them particularly helpful in the realm of technological development, where specialists have not traditionally been focused on the physical component of techno-logical encounters. The works shared at the colloquium on Friday dealt specifically with elaborating the communication between expressive human motion and interpretive machines.
Mr. Vanier’s work involves responsive virtual environments made in either Max/MSP and Jitter or Isadora that react via motion capture technologies to dancers’ movement onstage during live performances. Early attempts, in which the interactive patch and the dance were conceived and developed separately, functioned, in this writer’s opinion, merely as elaborate light shows. The main problem was that the connection between the movement onstage and the imagery was not made apparent. These works highlight the importance of fine-tuning a digital instrument to both the site, the human movements and the thematic material involved in order to achieve conceptual and, hence, aesthetic coherence. Even when, in later pieces such as Bob’s Palace, the movement of the dancers very explicitly generated/ affected a live stream of projected virtual imagery, there seemed to be a conceptual disconnect that may simply have to do with a lack of complexity written into the original patch.
Ms. Zuniga-Shaw points out that part of the difficulty in designing these instruments or environments is that it is a relatively new field that requires specialized knowledge from several currently disparate fields. In her theoretical work she discusses the importance of what she terms “interdisciplinarity,” as opposed to multidisciplinarity. Multidisciplinary practice involves the collaboration of specialists from different fields who solve problems that lie within their specific area of expertise. Interdisciplinary practice, on the other hand, is based on a more in-depth dialogue between these often arbitrarily separated kinds of work. This mode of collaboration facilitates greater technical and cultural understanding from the parties involved and leads to technological and artistic innovation. This modus operandi takes a great deal of time, and the establishment of institutes and laboratories that facilitate long-term research is, in her mind, essential. Norah is currently working on, among other projects, an interactive animated score for choreographer William Forsythe's seminal piece "One flat thing, reproduced." An excellent example of an interdisciplinary project, a team of specialists from a variety of fields (including designers, PIXAR animators, computer scientists & engineers interested in subjectivity, philosophers, cognitive scientists and dancers) has been assembled to take on the challenge. Ms. Zuniga-Shaw’s art-practice resembles a sort of creative problem solving. Many solutions to a single problem are attempted, collected and analyzed. Discoveries are made. And, importantly, along the way a new interdisciplinary vocabulary is developed to describe the process and the output. The foundational/ operational aspects of the project inspired such a long discussion that there was not enough time remaining to delve into all the particulars.
Very basically, taking a recorded version of the dance as its primary data set, the project analyzes the visual patterns that emerge in the dance as opposed to the choreographic patterns (which is the traditional form of analysis). An ethic of trial and error motors the team through a variety of analytical approaches, which in turn create a variety of outputs. Professor Vicki Calahan pointed out that the spirit of experimentation and the primacy of the visual recall early montage experimentation. Thinking through visual tools: How many permutations are possible? Which are useful?
As much for the contributions to the burgeoning field of technologically-conversant dance performance, the discussion of methodology proved extremely thought provoking and useful.
Tuesday, April 03, 2007
On Friday, March 30 Professor George Lewis presented a lecture entitled “ Living with Creative Machines; Improvisation, Technology, and Interactivity.” Professor Lewis is an accomplished trombonist who has appeared on over eighty recordings. He has been a member of the influential AACM organization since 1971. He is currently the Edwin H. Case professor of music at Columbia University in New York. He is an influential computer music composer that has produced various sophisticated programs for his work with improvisation and interactivity. (For more Bio information go here.)
The talk began with Mr. Lewis describing his initial thesis and interest of study, improvisation. He made the point that improvisation is all around us and that we use it everyday, we just don’t recognize it as improvisation. When we hear the word improvisation we naturally think of music, but he wants to take the concept into a wider discussion; Improvisational studies. He sees the world as being full of networks and matrices of interconnected knowledge, social exchange, and power relationships. The study of improvisation is the study of strategies of navigation through these networks. The interaction we experience while moving through these networks is how the exchange of meaning occurs. Since these networks are becoming all the more ubiquitous, the study of our interaction with these systems is critical.
To study these interactions Dr. Lewis builds computer-based machines. Dr. Lewis’s field is music so it is natural that he would build a musical machine that simulates the conditions of improvisation. His computer program, Voyager, is an impressive piece of programming. It plays with a live human player and interacts with them as a human might. It becomes a member of the band. And just like any member of any band there is no off switch. This is interesting because a person interacting with this software needs to guide the music with his or her own sound output. Sometimes that means taking charge and leading the music, other times it means supporting the programs lead. These two roles need to coexist and exchange in an instant and the program, remarkably, can do this. Since Voyager is treated like a player, the human player needs to deal with it like another human. This is what Professor Lewis is interested in, how a player deals with the process called improvisation. What are the player’s strategies for steering the music towards satisfactory musical output?
Since Improvisation lies outside of verbal communication a definition of it is hard to come by. This is one of the reasons that there is a lingering doubt about the ability for improvisation to be even studied. He said during the lecture that he can’t really tell you what it is but that he knows when it is happening. This intangible quality makes the clear understanding of improvisation nearly impossible to grasp. Perhaps that is it’s greatest strength. A person needs to experience it not just come to some intellectual understanding. The research with machines like voyager can bring a clearer sense to what it is like to flow with the music by identifying what inhibits that flow that inhibition is in us . To realize it is to know yourself better. It really has nothing to do with the machine. So the point that is central to his work is how these improvisational experiences are reflected into the society at large. If Voyager gives some insight into the world then it has done it’s job.
Befor I conclude this entry I just want to express my opinion about these machines. I think his machines make a good representation of improvisation but that’s it Voyager is not a good improvisor. I think that ultimately improvisation is a human activity and just because these machines can mimic human qualities to a high degree does not make them capable of human activity. I don’t want these comments to seem like I am putting down this program, it is a remarkable piece of work. The fact that this is even part of the discussion reflects positively on the success of this program. But it is not an improvisor it is a computer program. It crunches numbers and spits out sound, that’s it. To think it is doing anything more is an illusion. I think it is a mistake to give it a human character or anthropomorphize it. It just processes numbers. This is not something that everyone needs to discuss, there is a certain suspension of disbelief that takes place with these interactions and that makes the experiment interesting and worthwhile. But we are in school to look at all the angles and learn about what makes this stuff tick at a fundemental level. So I just want to say I think for his studies of improvisation on the social or cultural level it plays an experimental role that delivers useful data, but it is a stretch to call it a musical improviser.
Here are some recordings of Voyager performing at the UWM e-reserve website. Sign in and give it a listen.
This lecture was one of the best I have seen thus far. It was thought provoking and the questions it raised have led my thinking into interesting and personally productive directions. It is always a pleasure to listen to smart people talk about things that interest them.
Tuesday, March 06, 2007
Liz Phillips has been creating interactive art for nearly four decades, and during her presentation, she introduced the audience to her timeline of work. Her earliest example was very simple and direct; a sort of pad which translated human contact through electric signals as her friend Robert Kovich writhed and danced upon it, creating a quantity of correlating sounds. That simple model was the seed which would bloom into her artistic mission, both practically and technically. In 1988, Liz created “Graphite Ground”, an indoor rock garden with carefully placed copper boulders, which thanks to a high level of conductivity, allow the viewer to manipulate electromagnetic fields around the installation, creating a sound-shifting environment.
The duo featured several video clips of Phillips’ work in action, including a unique project involving a windmill in
More recently, Phillips has bee working with more technologically complex ideas. In a 2004 work, “Echo-Location:Queens”, an audience activates video displayed within a weather balloon while sounds are played back through objects like bowls, vases and pipes as opposed to conventional speakers. The sound is augmented based on the participant’s movement.
During the presentation, Paula Rabinowitz added the valuable ingredient of context. She described the two vehicles of collaborative art; response and interactivity, the latter of which is the emphasis of Phillips work. This connection between the artist and the audience is non-denominational. Without a language or culture barrier, anyone is able to participate. This seems to be a common quality of new media. Phillips was very content in discussing this art she so obviously is passionate about, and Rabinowitz’ ability to point out how valuable these concepts are make this presentation nothing short of prolific for truly creative people.
Monday, February 26, 2007
On February 23rd, 2007, Laura Marks discussed Islamic Art’s contribution to computer/digital arts. Braving the snowy weather, she opened the forum by outlining her research of Islamic Art on Western thought and paintings. She started with a quote from Paul Klee, declaring that “a line is a dream.” This line, compared to Islamic art, is abstract and infinite. Islamic art, or nomad art, through the Golden Age of the Arabic world (around 9th century to 1492) is abstract, multi-orientation and passes between points, contours, and lines. Usually displayed through flowers, vines or calligraphy reciting verses from the Qu’ran, she discussed how the lines were in a haptic space with no focal point, reflected in a non-orgainc/artifical light. Also, Islamic art represented the spiritual world of Islam. The symmetry of the art work, usually seen in Mosques, textiles, etc, showed that Allah (God) has no attributes, and that the world is infinite. The infinite world, created by God out of nothing, was not an innovation, but a skillful variation depicted through Islamic art work (trying to avoid the risk of being blasphemous).
As the Golden Age of the Arabic World transitioned into the Renaissance, Islamic art became a luxury for the bourgeoisie. In 17th century Dutch painting, as Marks highlighted, rugs would hang in the background, all details fine. The religious, oriental art, in a secular Western European world, would have conspicuous consumption and exotic appeal on the wealthy. Thomas Keyser, for example, in his Portrait of Constantijin Huyghens (1627) had a Persian rug hanging in the background. Blocking the door, the biblical rug, along with globe, indicates to the observer that the subjects are international travelers, bridging geography and intellect communicated through the detailed, Iranian/Caucasian flower forms on a red and black patterns. The floral arabesque is synaptic, connecting the brain to the clear and complex patterns.
As the 19th century welcomed the philosophies of transcendentalism and naturalism, Islamic art still captivated the elite of European society. Riegl (as Marks stated) stated that the abstract art forms a gradual development of lotus to arabesque-textile and ornaments, rejecting conformity to exhibit new form (will to art). Like a trail into the world, the patterns grow a leafy trail, which can symbolize the western chronological order of Europe. The tactile or haptic style can be linked to subjective, embody, unstable art to form a smooth and disentangle subjective perception. Also, Freud, in his office, draped his patient’s sofa with rugs from the orient. Since the oriental world, according to the 19th century, was viewed as primitive and tribal, the rugs tactile reality was hypnotizing, consciously smooth, and unravelling: an abstract wandering and unraveling patient.
Finally, in the dawn of the age of information and computer graphics, Islamic art is a reoccurring art form. In 1982, vector graphs, with abstract line in the middle leaving trail of light, were produced by analogs, which used real time with little data. Arcade games and 3-D animation eventually transitioned to computers, and the repetition of designs through symmetry and patterns show an independent existence, with any quantity having a mobile relationship, constant movement, and non-organic life. Computer art is able to draw out a tactile surface as programs, like MIGRATION, continues to grow without touching another line, preserve itself as long as possible.
Tuesday, February 06, 2007
Friedberg: The core of her talk was her recently published book, The Virtual Window: From Alberti to Microsoft (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2006). In keeping with form, this was a bifurcated subject. The book exists both in the traditional printed page format and as an interactive website, framed in the windows it explores, recreating the environment of a movie theater lit only by its projector (including obstructive audience members.) Friedberg invoked the “metaphysics of light,” remarking how it has been “harnessed as an entertainment medium.” Friedman explained the print version of the book was more suited to a linear argument, in which a “chronological evolution” of windows/screens may be developed, while the internet version better allowed her to develop a “matrix of concepts” which the user may freely explore . . . www.thevirtualwindow.net
Hoberman: Several of his artworks, mainly interactive installations, were presented or represented. “Out of the Picture,” inspired by H.G. Wells’ The Invisible Man, projected narrative scenes from projectors positioned in such a way that any observer’s shadow would appear on screen with the film.
Friedberg: The 1936 film adaptation of H.G. Wells’ The Shape of Things to Come, positing a future in which architectural windows are replaced by screens rendering visible whatever a user wishes, initially sparked Friedberg’s interest in “windows;” she emphasized situating present societal changes in cultural histories. Friedberg explained that throughout cinematic history, the screen has generally remained singular, but the splitting of the screen by computer software has afforded cinema an easier transition to regularly fracturing its window.
Hoberman: “The Sub-Division of the Electric Light, “ an interactive CD-ROM, was described by its maker as an “elegy for film projection” and allows users to manipulate the various projections of tiny projectors appearing at varying angles out of a black screen. That screen is divided and defined in multiple ways by the projectors, reflecting Hoberman’s attitude of having “no reason to limit the image to a single presentation.” As he explained, this was a metaphor for the divisions of the computer screen. As with Friedberg’s website, this project required Hoberman to digitally recreate projector light, for him, a signal of projection’s death. “Zombiac” was an attempt to “zombify” computers through hollowing them out and replacing the cathode rays of their monitors with spotlights, turning the screens into only physical objects. Through flashing their lights, the computers would attempt to communicate with observers. Hoberman explained that this project would be inconceivable today, as through new technologies (e.g. flat panels, LCD displays) the screen has become more “ethereal.”
The presentation concluded with emphasis on individuality of perception (explored in Friedberg’s “palette of apertures” on “The Virtual Window”) and the specific binocular human perception of space and time (as compared to that of spiders, for example . . .) Hoberman exhibited portions of a collaborative work (with Donald Hoffman) in progress entitled, “Malperception” which simulates or, when possible, allows spectators to actually experience a variety of sight disorders which alter perception in sometimes subtle but important ways.
Saturday, February 03, 2007
The Spring 2007 Colloquia got underway yesterday with a model in theory/practice convergence -- a presentation by the installation artist, Perry Hoberman, and the theorist/historian Anne Friedberg, both from USC. It was a dynamic beginning to a very diverse group of presenters this semester. Please check out the line-up, and we hope you can join us. All events are free and open to the public.
February 2, 2-5pm, CRT 175
Perry Hoberman, installation and media artist, Interactive Media, School of Cinematic Arts, USC and Anne Friedberg, Professor of Critical Studies in the School of Cinematic Arts, USC
Title: "Critical Parallax: the Binocularity of Theory and Practice."
February 23, 2-5 pm, CRT 175
Laura Marks, Dena Wosk University Professor, Art and Cultural Studies, School for the Contemporary Arts, Simon Fraser University
Title: "Travels of the Abstract Line: New Media's Debt to Islamic Aesthetics."
March 2, 2-5 pm, CRT 175
Liz Phillips, College of Art & Design, SUNY/Purchase, interactive audio artist and Paula Rabinowitz, Professor of English, American Studies, Cultural Studies, and Women's Studies, University of Minnesota
March 30, 2-5 pm, CRT 175
George Lewis, Edwin H. Case Professor of Music, Columbia University
Title: "Living with Creative Machines"
April 6, 2-5, CRT 175
Susana Ruiz, Interactive Media, School of Cinematic Arts, USC
Title: “Merging Gravity and Play: A Case Study”
April 27, 2-5 pm, CRT 175
Norah Zuniga Shaw, Director, Dance and Technology, Dance Department, The Ohio State University and Luc Vanier, Department of Dance, UWM.
Title: “The Body and Technology in Process: Devising Generative Methods of Exchange”
May 11, 2-5, CRT 175
Toni Dove: Interactive digital video and installation artist
Title: “Spectropia: Haunting the Movie”