‘Unified Fabric’ @ Arcadia Missa, Oct 15

3 October 2013

As a continuation of his ‘Human Resolution’ essay printed in Mute Magazine, the violence of the ephemeral image is at the centre of London-based artist Harry Sanderson‘s work. The subject of the human exploitation inherent in our use of digital technologies is one little explored in the art that uses those technologies, which is why he’s bringing it to the fore of group show, Unifying Fabric, at Arcadia Missa on October 15.

Carrying on with ideas brought up at a recent panel in Berlin’s Kunstraum Kreuzberg/Bethanien Mining the Object,  A_M aim to translate them into the gallery space, where Sanderson builds his own render farm -a super computer typically used for rendering Hollywood animations -and includes additional works by Hito Steyerl, Clunie Reid, Melika Ngombe Kolongo & Daniella Russo, Maja Cule and Takeshi Shiomitsu, as well as texts at the gallery by recent How to Sleep Faster #4 contributor Eleanor Weber and Michael Runyan.

See the Arcadia Missa website for more details. **

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An interview with Nate Boyce

2 October 2013

“I’m interested in how I feel about everything I come in contact with,” says “New Materialist” Nate Boyce, over Skype, about his practice spanning video, sculpture and ‘other’. Born in Kansas and living in San Francisco for the last ten years, he’s worked with the likes of Takeshi Murata and Robert Beatty, while dealing in some pretty big ideas. Talking to him about the complexity of the world at a macro level, beyond human subjectivity, can be as overwhelming as trying to deconstruct the references informing friend and collaborator Daniel Lopatin (aka Oneohtrix Point Never)’s R Plus Seven album, released on Warp, September 30.

The product of endless conversations and infinite variables across social constructivism, surrealism, procedural poetry and the philosophy of Manuel DeLanda, Boyce’s video for Lopatin’s Still Life expresses ideas from the reciprocal working relationship with Lopatin, despite the latter living across the country in New York and working primarily in music. Yet, somehow, Boyce’s sculptures are so abstracted, Lopatin’s music made so tangible that they bridge the gap from material into the immaterial, while exploring the blurred distinction between the physical and the virtual, the natural and the supernatural, in their respective explorations of transmuting (un)forms.

Their creative symbiosis is most apparent in their live performances, where Boyce’s image projections of figures, morphing and mutating, emerging and evaporating, interact with the Lopatin’s lurid, hyperreal soundscapes. Going beyond the earlier “slabs” of sound in, say, Rifts and Replica, R Plus Seven consists complex structural compositions, or what Boyce calls an “unhinged morphogenesis”, that functions on textural contrasts, exploring subjectivity and materiality. While watching these vital, formless forms one can’t help but try to ascribe meaning to them: am I looking at a cell? Is that anomalous ‘thing’ floating, or is it stationary? Is it pulling or parasitising another moving figure? Organic but otherworldly, it climbs the illusion of an incline, a liquid machine-like (non) structure that no words can make into matter.

At one point, during the unsettlingly cheerful melody of Problem Areas, the projection becomes a series of square boxes containing images of obscure sculptures by Joseph Slusky, suspended in a mirage of swirling clouds, resembling a screen, plucked from a portrait photographer’s studio and given life. As Boyce later explains to me via email, “it’s a mode of working that fell off since the art world took a very socio political turn for the last 30 years or so”. That goes some way in illustrating Boyce’s artistic preoccupations, which are anything but sociopolitically driven. Instead, his interests lie squarely in the aesthetic, “anti-anthropocentric” realm, one of objects abstracted: “even though it’s digital material, it’s still something I want to manually move.”

There’s are sense of your work existing in this realm of real unreality.

Nate Boyce: This is like the video for Still Life, of morphing out of this grid. The steel grating is thematic for the pixel grid or something but it’s also this organism, kind of morphing out. A lot of the things I do with Dan is purely in this virtual world, this kind of synthetic CGI space. Often times its like exploring a sculptural idea that I’ll eventually get to in real life.


Do you make a distinction between the real and the virtual?

NB: It’s funny because I’m sensitive to the areas of plasticity that make themselves available to me with different materials. With CGI, I’m interested in simulations. You can simulate physics, which I think is being able to become formally involved and formally experiment with gravity, and forces, and liquid simulations, all that. That’s not a set of parameters that is readily available in actual physical space. So I’m interested in all of that when I’m working on a computer; in accessing that set of parameters.

But then, working in the physical space, the computer still has a lot of rules of what you can do and how to make shapes that become apparent once you start working with it. Like, with this video here [Lavender] is actually a carved piece of foam. That’s like a real object that I shot on a green screen. Working with my hands, it has gestural residue.

So you couldn’t have done that digitally?

NB: I could, like I could scan it in or something, but in the computer, there’s something about the residue of gesture that is going to be created differently. This is like holding a tool with a bit of foam. I’m interested in that and then bringing that into the computer.

That makes me think about Dan’s use of OULIPO and procedural poetry, creating these self-imposed constraints.

NB: Yeah, constraints relate to selection pressures too, like in evolution. I’m interested in observing how, if you work within these constrains forms can emerge. In a sense, making sculpture is like a microcosm, or a simulation, of evolution in general; where within human subjectivity you create these constraints for the evolution of these objects.


You could even apply that to music. Like, after No wave destroyed any set rules on what constitutes music, you have to place limits on yourself within this new landscape.

NB: Yeah, this Cagean expanse of where all sound is all music.

And that could also apply to both Dan’s narratives and your sculpture?

NB: Yeah, totally. It’s funny because I use all my tools very intuitively. Theoretically, you can make any form in the computer and it’s going to be easy to do but at this point, I like to toggle back and forth in terms of accessing sets of formal parameters that make themselves available to me.

It sounds like your respective ideas really feed into each other’s work. 

NB: I think this idea of R Plus Seven, which kind of implies this whole system of contingent structural possibilities, was a way to enter into a more sculptural approach to the music. You can see that with how the forms are much more complex, the pieces have so much more textural contrast and they go to different places and kind of morph.

I think that our discussions about sculpture kind of factored into that. Obviously my work is essentially, sculpture; it’s video but I’m interested in form. It’s like a kind of hyperformalism, a ‘morphogenetic formalism’, as I like to think about it. Maybe it’s like a bridge between my sculpture and this formal, procedural text-generation.

When I watched Still Life it felt like it echoed a lot of DeLanda’s ideas from that ‘DeLanda Destratified’ piece by Erik Davis that you and Dan both reference, particularly these motifs of liquid systems and synthetic organisms.

NB: Yeah, there’s this recurrent idea of morphogenesis; this sort of infinite mutability that anything can potentially become anything else. That it’s all matter and energy flows is another thing that’s important. A lot of my work seems like it’s getting into this. I’m interested in the idea of the natural versus supernatural. In the Still Life video there’s all these things that look like apparitions and there’s a certain cosmic horror. It’s Lovecraftian, in a sense, but it’s a very natural horror.


Do these ideas ever make you anxious?

NB: There are different ways of thinking about it. I’m more fascinated by the possibilities. I have a number of different emotions. I have a fetishistic relationship to materials and I’m interested in witnessing the potential for morphosis. I’m interested in this infinite potential for form and the complexity of how the human mind confronts those forms. Super-complex forms can be loaded with different emotional information and that can become very intense.

It’s not necessarily just about anxiety. It’s about a wide range of affective responses to the complexity of form. Sometimes it’s a sexual kind of feeling, like a sensual arousal, a fetishistic thing, and sometimes it can get into anxiety or fear. I think that range of emotions is on R Plus Seven too, at least with what I’m trying to get across with my work. I’m interested in the complexity of human affect in relation to the material world around us. I’m interested in how I feel about everything I come in contact with; different finishes on different types of material and the experiences or memories I bring to those interactions too.

Do you ever interact with these materials symbolically, say, if you saw the McDonald’s arches?

NB: If I was looking at the McDonald’s arches, I would just be thinking about the vacuum formed plastic that those are made out of [laughs]. I’m not interested in socio political commentary so much.

How come?

NB: You could say there’s something political about a certain philosophical vantage point and, in my case, it’s an anti-anthropocentric one; against this idea that these materials are subservient to human interests. I’m interested in different theory, I’m into DeLanda, I’m into Bruno Latour, phenomenology.  Ultimately, I’m aligned with, maybe, some kind of New Materialist way of looking at things.

Do you think that if you were in different circumstances that your philosophy would be different, if you were being violently exploited by the machinations that these materials might represent, for example?

NB: Maybe my philosophy is developed within a purely aesthetic way of thinking about things. There is a kind of violence and aggression in my work though, a range of associations and feelings. Hopefully it’s extremely complex, that there isn’t just one kind of feeling that’s being conveyed.

There is an aspect of pathos. I like images and sounds to be aggressive because they make you aware of your body. But I can’t go so far as to say that I’m somehow a conduit for some sort of nefarious system of exploitation that ultimately underlies the technology that’s being used. I can’t really speculate on it so much but I guess someone could read it that way.

The ‘complexity’ you talk about. Watching your videos there’s a mood that I can’t put my finger on. There’s a sense of the awful sublime.

NB: For instance, at the beginning of that Still Life excerpt I did, there’s this quasi-arm plunging into this surface. Maybe that’s sort of a metaphor for how I want to deal with the video. I just want to reach into the screen and manipulate the material. **

Oneohtrix Point Never’s R Plus Seven was released on Warp, September 30. Nate Boyce and Daniel Lopatin play London, on Thursday, October 3, 2013.

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Algorithms: the space between art and technology

30 September 2013

Algorithm. It’s a word that seems to get thrown about in a variety of contexts, yet remains misunderstood by a large number of those who, often unknowingly, benefit from its application. With increasingly advanced interfaces between what we do and the information that our online behaviours create, the digital context of our day-to-day lives demands an appropriate language and, whether we understand it or not, that language is data.

Discovering and creating codes allows for the visualisation of the information that natural and cultural processes create. From the patterns of flying flocks of birds to the navigation of a person using a city’s free Wi-Fi, the movement and processing of data in contemporary culture has offered not only a major theme of investigation for artists, but also a chance to personally develop technology and software tailored to that data.

Lines and lines of inanimate, black and white coding on a computer screen hardly appears friendly to those of us who have never interacted with this kind of digital syntax. And the idea of being creative with such a seemingly restrictive toolkit of letters, numbers and symbols might seem strange, particularly when it comes to creating original visual output in two dimensions, or even three. Yet, the ability to translate ideas into code continues to progress the work of visual artists, pushing their practices further into the interdisciplinary space between art and technology. Writing and running an algorithm to process the vast amounts of data produced by a society in a digital context doesn’t simply offer informational results, but introduces a technological aspect to artistic investigations – like a digital sketchbook.

The work of Matthew Plummer-Fernandez explores the automated systems in operation within digital culture by coding tailor-made algorithms to produce a visual, translated output from an ‘original’. ‘Venus of Google’ takes an image from an online search engine, and processes that image (as information) through an algorithm. This algorithmic software, coded by Plummer-Fernandez, then ‘sculpts’ the image, giving it a new and unpredictable aesthetic that resembles the original.

Here, the artist sets up an algorithmic process, which (as you can see from the video above) is a specific system that runs continuously as a loop of repeated instructions. Through the repetition of these instructions (the algorithm), patterns within the data being analysed are expressed visually by an outcome that adheres to a particular aesthetic. Plummer-Fernandez’s ‘Venus’ is dismantled and then reconstructed; the picture is reduced to information (as code) and put through the algorithm – like a filter – to produce the final piece. The altered data-file is presented as the artwork: it’s distant, computational appearance taking on a suitably uniform structure, removing aspects of aesthetic decision from the artist and instead allowing the automation of algorithm to reign.

These kinds of computational processes can be written and directed in some incredibly specific ways. The use of API’s (application programming interface) allow for very particular datasets to be created and explored through algorithm by enabling the aggregation of chosen, online content. Online systems – any of the data available online – can be accessed via an API, which stands as a coded command. This command could request any kind of data (a particular colour or adjective, for example) like a search result – and when written into an autonomously running algorithm, can produce a mass of information from which patterns can be drawn. It is the visualisation of these unpredictable patterns that can produce such interesting, algorithmic artworks.

This ease of access to (online) data is facilitated through code, as a ‘universal language’, for computational data. Since the internet is full of masses of repeated command (as algorithm), copying the basic structure of a generic algorithm makes sense. Especially since the additional adjustments and embellishments made by artists like Plummer-Fernandez can create the most interesting and unexpected aesthetic results. An observation like this illustrates the inherent creative opportunities within coding and algorithmic design; the repetitive processing power of a computer’s software not only saves time, but creates a whole host of autonomous, unpredictable aesthetic results. A coding platform tool like Processing, which is a free to download, open source ‘software sketchbook’, is very popular with artists that use computational methods as a part of their practice. The emphasis on a visual output, as a way of expressing ideas digitally through code, also means that an incredibly rich and generous online community surrounds the use of Processing, further encouraging original ideas through computational data.

It is clear that designing algorithm and designing the product of that algorithm are two very separate parts of digital arts practice. But the technology involved remains critical to the themes being investigated, and understanding the processes of this technology is only becoming more interesting (and in some cases, essential) towards understanding the systems and context of contemporary culture. **

Header image: Processing merchandise t-shirts.

  share news item 10th Birthday party

27 September 2013

Online museum of contemporary artists’ moving image, Tank Magazine’s is celebrating a decade since launching in 2003 with a party, September 27. It’s happening at their Great Portland Street HQ, where Arcadia Missa will be presenting a collaborative group exhibition, purlove, featuring work and performances by  felicita, Felix Lee, Maja Cule, Marlie Mul, Melika Ngombe Kolongo & Daniella Russo, Rosa Aiello, Joseph Waller (textcursor) and Bunny Rogers.

To mark the occasion, will be launching a refurbished site with their first ever online residency and a new event space, downstairs from where all the publishing action happens. The event is free to enter, cheap booze and featuring design by Daniel Swan, Daniella Russo and Riyo Nemeth. There will also be an unveiling of a video for the brilliantly squelchy object fetish of felicita’s ‘climb up eh’ among other things. Lots to look forward to.

See their allevents page for more details. **

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Constant Dullaart @ Future Gallery reviewed

26 September 2013

Inhabiting the online and offline realms at Berlin’s Future Gallery, Jennifer in Paradise by Dutch artist Constant Dullaart is a reference to the first ever PhotoShop-ped image. A woman lying on a white beach, she has her back to the camera, black hair waving in the wind, the sky, aqua blue. The photo is of one of the ubiquitous software creator John Knoll’s girlfriend, taken and edited by him and his co-creators and points to the alteration and ultimate deformation of its subject across ‘realities’.

The online component of the exhibition, website, sees Dullaart modifying an online interface, its start page a familiar Google search engine. All the usual options are there and it works in the same way that Google does, except that the perspective has been changed. An embed of the original page is obscured by images of Dullart’s work; a brush tool erasing random areas, paint swirls obscuring the screen. Information and context is lost.

In the gallery, a large window at its entrance is complete with a YouTube play button. It’s a throwback to some of his earlier YouTube as a Subject series, inspired by the unmerited triumph of the poorly designed video hosting site over all others, its banality entering the material domain in his 2011 performance of its familiar loading circle at the Netherlands’ GOGBOT festival. Sat on the floor, eight white circles surround Dullaart, which he moves repetitively, generating a ring in endless rotation performed and then projected on a wall in the same space.

That motif continues inside, where a wall is dotted with the same ubiquitous loading sequence. Elsewhere, printed float glass work, a light-green, shimmering and transparent material, is printed with various screenshots from Floor-standing and hanging from the walls of Future Gallery, they resemble the countless screens that surround us in our daily lives. Looking out from windows at home and in to them through screens on our devices, we use both for collecting information. That information is filtered in one way or another, as thick glass screen shots display images and text the same way a webpage does. What content we see depends on where we stand, what search engine we’re looking at and how that perspective is monitored and obscured by personal algorithms, marketing strategies and governmental regulation, among other interests.

Here, like in in earlier work, Dullaart is editing online forms of representation, materializing the immaterial, making visible the normally invisible. He does this in a clear, minimalistic, and easily approachable way. Placing himself on a high level among artists working with a post-internet focus,  Jennifer in Paradise interrogates notions of reality, its visibility and its ultimate (mis)representation. **

Constant Dullaart’s Jennifer in Paradise is on at Future Gallery, September 12- October 5, 2013.

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Berlin Art Week reviewed

24 September 2013

Berlin Art Week is a collaboration between eleven of Berlin’s leading contemporary art institutions, this year running from September 17 to 22. With four of them joining up this year to present painting exhibitions under the Painting Forever! banner some may have felt that the event was skewed towards the more traditional arts. But elsewhere in the program it went the other way. At the art fair, abc – art berlin contemporary, painted canvases were a rare sight, with time-based and site-specific works rising to the fore. Moreover, the addition of ten new institutions to the program, the majority of them project spaces, allowed for a more diverse and experimental program, a noticeable trend being an abundance of performance-based works. With many of the major institutions simply opening their six-month long exhibition projects, performance allowed the art week to be what it purports –a temporary and experience based affair.

abc continues to maintain that it is not strictly an art fair, despite being an event which invites galleries to present artists. Its main point-of-difference lies in its sprawling interior architecture (which dispenses with traditional white booths), and encourages larger installations and site-specific works. This year more than ever, galleries seemed to respond to abc’s more experimental format, exhibiting more ephemeral applications. One such was Laura Lima’s work, presented byBrazil’s A Gentil Carioca) where a hand reached from underneath a white wall, struggling to grasp some keys placed just out of reach. Occasional passers-by kicking the keys closer only to have them thrown-away again, the hand continuing its fruitless search.

Emi Hariyama, Marcus Doering, Lower Order Ethics and Peter Kirn, 'Thresholds' (2013) @ Collegium Hungaricum Berlin.
Emi Hariyama, Marcus Doering, Lower Order Ethics and Peter Kirn, ‘Thresholds’ (2013) @ Collegium Hungaricum Berlin.

Meanwhile, performance was incorporated into the format with independent Parisian art-space Shanaynay curating an area where selected galleries staged two-hour-long exhibitions. While these shows ranged from more literal executions (a woman wielding a bull whip), to behind-the-scenes preparation (walls being painted), the nature of the display and its fixed duration, rendered all of these exhibitions performance. While this idea of a performed exhibition is not a new concept, it was a very fitting one for abc, which is seems to be encouraging and attracting time-based arts and innovative modes of display.

While abc displayed the exhibition-as-performance, Schinkel Pavillon, a space for contemporary sculpture, displayed the studio-as-performance. Over four-days the Viennese relational art group, Gelitin, created sculptures based on their conversations with twelve Berlin-based artists. Each evening the group exhibited a kind of open-studio where they would create the sculptures. Kicking aside some paint-splattered balloons, I entered the space late on a Saturday to see a stage strewn with garbage, half-formed sculptures and random objects. Minimal synth music played while a monotonous voice read from a German text. One artist was making hot chocolate, while another, a manly looking guy wearing plastic boobs, drilled together some broken chairs. A fourth, wearing an apron and a “Josef Boys” t-shirt, attempted to bring some order to the space, picking up rubbish and arranging objects. After Thursday’s performance, BpigsAdela Lovric wrote: “if somebody wanted to make a cliché portrait of Art, it would look pretty much like Schinkel Pavillon yesterday.” But this total cliché also seemed more than a little tongue-in-cheek. Being performed was a kind of ultimate sculptors studio, a hedonistic space allowing maximal experimentation. And with the knowledge that Gelatin were making art-works based on other artists’ ideas, their sculptures seemed more performance and parody than original creation.

Gelatin, 'Stop Anna Ly Sing' (2013), performance view @ Schinkel Pavillon.
Gelatin, ‘Stop Anna Ly Sing’ (2013), performance view @ Schinkel Pavillon.

Worlds away from the tactile messiness at Schinkel, was the slicker and technologically savvy performance curated by MOMENTUM; a platform for time-based art in Berlin. In an interdisciplinary performance at the Collegium Hungaricum Berlin, ballet dancer Emi Hariyama interacted with projected light and digital animation created by Dr. Marcus Doering. In the first and most refined section, a shifting outline of Hariyama was projected onto her body, giving her a flickering neon halo. This trace then proliferated, so that various digital bodies moved in increasing delay from the original figure. As the performer moved through a variety of interactive effects, the performance began to feel like a series of increasingly novel tricks, each based on the premise that the dancer was triggering changes in the digital imagery. So while there were moments of innovation, it also fulfilled every expectation that might arise from the description “multimedia contemporary dance”.

The most pure forms of performance art were at a survey of Turkish artists, presented as part of a longer running project by the Neuer Berliner Kunstverein (n.b.k.) and TANAS. Held inside the decadent Art Nouveau theatre of HAU 1, performances seemed to address conventions of classical theatre and performance. Ayşe Erkmen’s work ‘7 Times’ (2013), saw a large metal bar, the kind that would usually hold large set backdrops, lowered and raised seven times. The sound of the bar dropping managed to convey the promise of a scene-change without ever delivering one. Annika Kahrs’ work ‘Strings’ (2010), entailed members of a classical string quartet changing places during the performance, forcing each musician to play instruments they had little proficiency in.

Across the different forms of performance art at Berlin Art Week, there seemed to be a preference for cross-disciplinary works. In two instances, performance was treated as a condition that could be applied to something else: abc “performed” exhibitions, Schinkel Pavillon “performed” an artists studio. MOMENTUM presented the most obvious coming-together of different mediums, while pieces for n.b.k and TANAS used contemporary performance to reinterpret more traditional theatrical forms. As performance art becomes increasingly included in the kind of big art events that it used to be largely excluded from, there seems to be a tendency to show it in reference to other art forms. So while this year’s performance inclusions at Berlin Art Week proved interesting, it could also be presented as a stand-alone medium. **

Berlin Art Week runs across venues in Berlin, Germany, annually in September.

Header image: Emi Hariyama, Marcus Doering, Lower Order Ethics and Peter Kirn, ‘Thresholds’ (2013) @ Collegium Hungaricum Berlin. Photo by Jessyca Hutchens.

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‘Golden Sunrise’ @ Antenna Media Centre, Sep 26

23 September 2013

Following last week’s eight-hour PAMI & artist Josephine Callaghan’s Sleeping Upright website takeovers, online exhibition Golden Sunrise –named after a corporate party cruise ship -will tour to Nottingham on September 26. Each artist will transfer the online into the (semi-)IRL by commandeering a screen each at Antenna Media Centre‘s cafe bar for the launch of Candice Jacobs’ Pleasure Voyage solo exhibition at SYSON.

Inspired by the gendered “nowhere voyages” of these feminised leisure spaces, Golden Sunrise features artists Laura Aldrige, Gabriele Beveridge, Kitty Clark, Mel Nguyen and Zoe Williams, as well as Jacobs and Callaghan, and will loop back to the online domain by becoming available to view on the Sleeping Upright website until November 23.

See the Sleeping Upright website for more details. **

Header image: Candice Jacobs, ‘The Measure of Genius’ (2013). Video Still.

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‘Young London’ @ V22 Studios reviewed

19 September 2013

An annual celebration of artists in the city, exhibitors at V22 StudiosYoung London, were this year selected by a panel including Space studio’s Paul Peroni, V22 director Tara Cranswick, as well as a host of art school teachers and previous Young Londoners nominating their peers. Now in its third edition, the event has built its reputation by acting on this shortlist only after seeing each and every one of the graduates’ shows in person, be it tracking round final year projects or stealthily checking out group shows. Once selected the artists have only a short four weeks to create site-specific works, two to install them in the enormous Bermondsey warehouse space.

Of the 31 pieces across the massive floor space, Rhys Coren’s ‘If We Can Dance Together’ (2013) catches the eye first. A video installation that loops animations of different colours; going from crayon-yellow, blue and black, with occasional stampeding hooves, dots or lines of white. Across eight separate fat-monitor TVs on the floor, accompanied by a disco soundtrack on wireless headphones, it sets up a fun visual journey, viewed from around the centre-point of Room One, from which you can half-see Hannah Lees’  video projection ‘Eternal’ (2013).

The promising vegetable-dyed cloth and a prominently positioned projection is unfortunately lost in the refraction of lights beaming in on works nearby but, next door, large white box structures act as a solution; blacking out all distractions and showing works like ‘Mike Check’ (2013) by Alice Theobold. Filmed in HD but appearing quite grainy, the film nevertheless stands strong in terms of its content, which is made-up of rehearsal outtakes. The female lead is supposed to be a strong character, accusing her lover Mike of not telling the truth but in reality constantly asking the director, Hans Diernberger, to give her commands. It’s a great critique on the role of the spectator, Hollywood production, and post-feminist thinking: “Tell me to be me intimidating,” she says. “Be more intimidating!” he shouts back, in unending feedback that gradually fades away as a bouncing track from Ravioli Me Away takes over the speakers.

‘A Reading (Just In Case You Care)’ (2013) by Holly White next door also features music heavily, with snippets from Grimes’ Oblivion sound-tracking a mess of clips spliced together using software that can also be seen in action on White’s collaborative project with Gothtech or with super vloggers like PewDiePie. White says she likes to blast out Evanescence but “it has to be played on CD” in the manner of a confessional teenage video diary. It is a personal piece but also a timely one; when YouTube is investing in studio facilities for bloggers who have 1,000 subscribers and inviting them in to “chill”, in what is really a bid to push up the quality of video content and increase revenue. Back in Room One ‘How To Feel Better, A Display (Just In Case You Care) (2013), also by White, has homemade objects from the set of the video, such as a circle with dates of years and tiles with phrases like, “so I propose next week’s theme when you’re feeling down” in a move to address that disconnect between screen-based narrative and net-based interaction, so keenly felt overall. **

V22 Young London runs at V22 Workspace until the 3rd of November 3, 2013.

Header image: V22 Young London (2013). Photo by Ollie Hammick.

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Siah Armajani: An Ingenious World @ Parasol Unit – London

18 September 2013

Legendary Iranian-born, US-based artist and sculptor Siah Armajani is presenting a landmark exhibition of his key works opening this week at London’s Parasol Unit, until December 15.

Siah Armajani - Wall (detail), 1958. Courtesy of the artist and Beam Contemporary Art, New York, London. Photograph by Larry Marcus.
Siah Armajani – Wall (detail), 1958. Courtesy of the artist and Beam Contemporary Art, New York, London. Photograph by Larry Marcus.

This will be the first major UK survey of the Iran-born, American artist who is internationally renowned for his extensive public art commissions, which include bridges, reading rooms and poetry gardens. Curated by Parasol Unit founder and director Ziba Ardalan “An ingenious World” is willing to trace the artist’s early works on paper, made in Iran during the late 1950s, to his mature works, including his most recent structure, the Alfred Whitehead Reading Room, 2013, specifically created for the outdoor space at Parasol unit, London.

Armajani is responsible for controversial 2005 work ‘Fallujah’, a modern take on Picasso’s ‘Guernica’ pointing to the senseless bloodshed that took place in the city during the Iraq war and the possibilities for reworking and giving new meaning to past art. Not surprisingly, memory features strongly in his work.

See the Parasol Unit website for more information and an interview between Armajani and Serpentine Gallery’s Hans Ulrich last year, on how close he came to getting a lobotomy after moving to the US. **

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String Literal @ TRANSFER Gallery, Sep 20

17 September 2013

Artist Carla Gannis and poet Justin Petropoulos of <legend></legend> orchestrate two artist/ writer collaborations,  String Literal, over two dates at Brooklyn’s TRANSFER Gallery. Following up Anthony Antonellis + Anthony Tognazzini’s ‘Closer.mp4‘ last week, ‘Chelsea Manning’s Pussy’ celebrates women in computing. Having already wowed us with her own Credit Card Curation number porn recently, artist Faith Holland joins forces with Sarah Jane Stoner in recognising Manning in her achievements in dropping a database of the US government’s ‘third world’ exploitations at the expense of her freedom and coming out as a woman the day after being sentenced to 35 years in prison for the deed.

Adding to the list of unheralded women documented in Sadie Plant’s Zeros + Ones, Holland and Stoner celebrate Manning’s role with the exhibition on Friday, September 20, as well as the opportunity for attendees to write, draw or create something to be sent to Manning at the United States Disciplinary Barracks in Kansas.

See the TRANSFER events page for more details. **

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Pamela Rosenkranz @ V4ULT, Sep 18

17 September 2013

With space becoming a real concern in a densely populated, urbanised world, its galleries like new Berlin additions V4ULT that are exploring the notion of boundaries and how to transcend them. Run by Anna Mikkola and Hanna Nilsson they aim to utilise the small space by exploring networked social media and our interlinked relation to it via a combined online and offline gallery.

Opening their first show with an exhibition from UK artist Iain Ball in June,  with shows by eight artists in the three months since, the title of Pamela Rosenkranz’s, Content, opening on Wednesday, September 18, marks an interesting parallel with V4ULT’s high-volume, rapid turnover of works, especially when that ‘content’ appears to consist entirely of online information on skin care. Refresh.

See the V4ULT website for more details. **

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‘Mining the Image’ panel @ reSource006 reviewed

16 September 2013

Few of us have any illusions about where our material possessions come from, but when it comes to the immaterial, the digital realm of images and data, the labour costs remain largely hidden. Digital media tends to appear comparatively ethical — e-books are lauded for their low carbon footprint while much online content is seen as user-created, open and democratic. But in his recent research and work, artist Harry Sanderson aims to provide insight into the invisible economy of digital media production. He writes:

 “Relating a Google search return to an equivalent expenditure of fossil fuels, or the fluctuation of pixels across a screen with the exploited labour of rural migrant workers in Shenzhen, or topsoil loss in Inner Mongolia, is as remote and unattainable for the majority of users as is an understanding of the technical functionality of the devices themselves.”

— Excerpted from Human Resolution, published in Mute Magazine, April, 2013.

'Mining the Image' @ Kunstraum Kreuzberg/Bethanien.
‘Mining the Image’ @ Kunstraum Kreuzberg/Bethanien.

While there have been some attempts to reveal at least the energy cost of the internet (the website Blackle comes to mind), the ephemeral nature of online media serves to alienate us from the human cost of its production. As part of transmediale’s reSource006, a three-day program of talks at Berlin’s Kunstraum Kreuzberg Bethanien, curator Rozsa Farkas initiated a discussion between Sanderson and cultural scientist Vera Tollmann. The talk centred around Sanderson’s up-coming project for Arcadia Missa gallery, Unified Fabric, which involves the display and use of a self-built render-farm. Using the cheapest materials he could find, Sanderson created a render-farm that performs the kind of image rendering usually only achieved by industrial super-computers. By showing the physical objects and the time needed to achieve image rendering, Sanderson re-inserts a labour-value into the digital images he creates.

As a way of approaching Sanderson’s work, Tollmann presented some topical examples she encountered while researching in China. To begin with, she showed a clip of a massive LED screen situated in Tiananmen Square, displaying a constant stream of alluring high-definition film shot in various Chinese provinces. Tollman speculated that this exercise in self-promotion must cost the State millions to run. Tollman then showed images from Chinese artist Li Liao’s performative work, Consumption, which involved him taking a job at Foxconn for forty-five days and using all of his earnings to buy a single iPad. In a sense, the high-production digital images displayed in Tiananmen Square are a screen for China’s underlying digital economy, where many workers migrate from the rural provinces to work in factories (some say sweatshops) that produce the world’s smart-phones and computers. While media exposure of factories like Foxconn has been prevalent in recent years, we still tend to divorce our physical devices (and the physical labour required to create them) from the immaterial digital world they provide access to.

Tollmann and Sanderson also discussed the phenomenon of gold farming. This practice involves labour forces, predominantly in China, playing games such as World of Warcraft and on-selling their virtual achievements to a largely Western gaming audience. An activity considered leisure in one context becomes labour in another, with the two fuelling one another. With everything from gaming to image re-touching to online journalism being out-sourced to developing nations, the virtual world increasingly reproduces the inequitable economic structures of the real world.

Sanderson will use his render-farm, made as cheaply as possible, to render the most expensive things possible (which in rendering terms, means the most computationally intense images). Anderson explained how, aesthetically speaking, the most difficult images to render are usually also the most ephemeral – light patterns, moving liquids, wisps of smoke – the kind of immaterial effects that add extra shine to a big-budget film production. While these kinds of images may evoke an instinctual association with high production values, they are also precisely the kind of images we are unlikely to interrogate too deeply – they are fleeting, inconsequential, digital fluff.  Towards the end of the discussion, Sanderson suggested that much art exploiting digital media fails to critically assess the medium itself. Ideally, Sanderson’s Unified Fabric when realized will engage not only with how digital images are produced, but in our wilful ignorance of their more material realities. **

Unified Fabric by Harry Sanderson will be exhibited at Arcadia Missa, from October 15, 2013, and feature work by Kade Ranger and I.U.Y, Clunie Reid, Hito Steyerl, Maja Cule and Takeshi Shiomitsu.

Header image: Harry Sanderson, ‘F_R (flexibledisplay)’ (2013.) Still from documentation. Video installation.

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