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FutureEverything Festival 2012 - Image by TAPE

This year's edition of the FutureEverything festival in Manchester brought a much discussed phenomenon to the fore: participatory culture. From Wikileaks to Iceland's crowd-sourced constitution, to the Arab Spring, participatory technologies have demonstrated their powerful political potential. The world of culture is harnessing the same connected energies with projects that involve citizen scientists cataloging celestial bodies in the Milky Way galaxy, crowd-curated photo exhibitions and of course the many projects created by artists and designers who either directly use collective action or bring it under a new light.

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FutureEverything Festival 2012 - Image by TAPE

The festival is over but the exhibition, titled FutureEverybody, remains open till June 10. It is hosted in the spectacular 1830 warehouse, the world's first railway warehouse, part of the Museum of Science and Industry.

The show obviously focuses on the artistic dimension of new participatory technologies, giving a tangible and very approachable dimension to a phenomenon we tend to associate mostly with online practice. FutureEverybody opens with the work of an artist known for putting them spectacularly into practice: Aaron Koblin who, a few years ago, teamed up with Takashi Kawashima and thousands of online workers to create a $100 bill. But you all know Aaron's work so let me call your attention to some of the projects i discovered in the show:

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Daniel Jones and James Bulley, Maelstrom. View from the exhibition of the FutureEverything Festival 2012 - Image by TAPE

Over 48 hours of user-created audio is uploaded to the internet every minute, a figure that is increasing exponentially. Maelstrom by Daniel Jones and James Bulley draws on these audio-fragments in real-time and broadcasts them through suspended speakers. By organising these fragments based on their tonal attributes, they collectively form a vast instrument, whose properties are affected by global internet activity.

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Moritz Stefaner + Dario Taraborelli + Luca Ciampaglia, Notabilia, 2011

Wikipedia articles, especially new ones, are reviewed by the community to determine whether or not they meet Wikipedia's notability guidelines. Articles nominated for deletion are discussed collectively by the editors before they decided in favor or against keeping them. An administrator then reviews the debate and makes the final decision.

Moritz Stefaner, Dario Taraborelli and Giovanni Luca Ciampaglia analyzed Article for Deletion (AfD) discussions in the English Wikipedia. The result of their research is Notabilia, a visualization of the 100 longest discussions that stemmed from the proposal to delete an article.

I was less interested in the data visualization (which is obviously clear and competently designed) than in learning about the articles questioned and the reason put for forward for their remotion from the online encyclopedia. The entries deleted ranged from the surprising (Islamophobiaphobia) to the downright absurd (List of songs about masturbation, List of Playboy Playmate with D-cups or larger breasts). I've also noticed the high number of articles exposing dubious political or religious agendas.

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Jamie Allen, Refractive Index. FutureEverything Festival 2012 - Image by TAPE

Jamie Allen's Refractive Index is an ongoing art-research project that uses the large scale public media displays as a kind of camera obscura; inverting typical uses of the screen, and showing us what our screens "see" when they peer into the night sky. I'm not sure i understand what makes it a project that deals with collective action but i loved the rigorous research behind it as well as the way it was documented.

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Lawrence Epps, Human Resources. FutureEverything Festival 2012 - Image by TAPE

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Lawrence Epps, Human Resources, 2012 (in Switzerland)

Right in the middle of the exhibition space was a heap of miniature ceramic figures hand-made by 
Lawrence Epps. A few days before i visited the show, the Sykey Collective distributed 8,000 of these tiny workers in the streets of Manchester. Passersby were then invited to bring them to work, home, on business trips, holidays and document the figurines journey online, either on www.sykey.org and via twitter #littleclaymen.

I wanted to steal a figurine from the exhibition pile and take it with me on the train to London but being a stupidly well-behaved girl, i just looked sadly at them and walked away empty-handed.

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Jeremy Hutchison, Extra! Extra!. FutureEverything Festival 2012 - Image by TAPE

Jeremy Hutchison's Extra! Extra! is a collection of newspaper advertising boards with headlines written by Facebook users on the project's Facebook wall. The messages are printed by the Manchester Evening News, and plastered on newspaper billboards around the Museum of Science and Industry site.

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Blast Theory, I'd Hide You. FutureEverything Festival 2012 - Image by TAPE

Blast Theory was premiering their new game I'd Hide You. As is often the case with the UK collective, I'd Hide You is an online/offline game. Only performers play in the streets while the public can log online, follow them and play. Rules are detailed in the trailer:

Who wouldn't want to be one of the three performers with the cool outfits and gadgets running in the streets of Manchester?

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Helen Pritchard + Winnie Soon, Jsut Code. FutureEverything Festival 2012 - Image by TAPE

Previously: An Ant Ballet at FutureEverything.

Entrance to the FutureEverybody Art Exhibition is free. The show remains open at 1830 Warehouse, Museum of Science and Industry, in Manchester until 10th June 2012.

More images by TAPE. I take photos too!

Sponsored by:





An architectural Time Machine by architect Heechan Park explores how to create an architectural time-based event.

As the machines blow vapour rings that double as ephemeral scent zones, the public not only experiences a visual performance of smoke vortices travelling through space, but they also perceive scents that are temporally spatialised and visualised.


An architectural time machine, mechanism of vortex air firing. From a performance at the Old Depot in London

I read about the installation while clicking through Ollie Palmer's website, and contacted Heechan to ask him more details about his mysterious machines.

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First performance at Old Depot, London, 2011

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First performance at Old Depot, London, 2011

Hi Heechen! An Architectural Time Machine 'creates a series of vortex air and ephemeral scent zone.' It also looks like a canon to me. How did you build it and how does it work exactly?

An architectural Time Machine project was started as looking at how one sense can be translated into other senses. In particular, there were speculative looks at the possibility that ephemeral and invisible elements such as rhythm, scents and air current could create dynamic and temporal architectural events like musical performance.

AATM create an architectural time-based event as blowing vortex rings with scents to rhythm, they unfold tempo in space. These give observers not only an unfolding spectacular performance of rhythmic vortex rings travelling through space, but also vortex rings and scents from the machines are temporally spatialised and visualized. Observers also can smell different scents from different machines and trace moving vortex rings. When the machines stop their performance blowing vortexes, the formed space gradually vanishes as the space is ventilated.

There is a great and unique mechanism firing vortex rings. The mechanism is electronically auto-controlled. As a mechanism controls the interval of vortex firing time, it brings accurate manipulating a rhythmic beating. To achieve this, I employed an 'Alternate rectilinear motion' mechanism, which is given to the rack-rod by continuous revolution of the mutilated spur-gear. Bungee cord in the barrel forces the rod forward to its original position on the teeth of the gear as shown below. As controlling speed of rotation of spur gear, machines achieved rhythmic beating of series of smoke rings.

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Sketch for vortex firing mechanism, Prototype 02

A stepper motor, which is mounted on main spur-gear, makes it possible to control the speed of rotation of the main spur-gear releasing the hammer-rod to blow air out. A stepper motor, which converts electrical pulses into discrete mechanical movements, is employed.

The results gathered in a series of experiments led the project to the next step of making the progressed version of the machine. Three different scales of machines were created. Each machine has different abilities of performance due to its scale and power of motor. For instance, each machine performs different travel distances of vortex rings and smoke capacity. These differences could be compared to different scale in musical instruments. The machines are named as Nolan, Van Eyck and Petit Manuel, who are cloud sculptors in J G Ballard's short science fiction 'Cloud sculptor of Coral D', who shape clouds with their strange glider having cloud-sculpting devices in the wing.

I used CAD/CAM technologies such as laser cutting, SLS, CNC milling etc. Particularly these technologies make it possible to process rapid prototyping. Rapid prototyping by using SLS (Selective Laser Sintering) has already been practiced through my toy project. Rapid prototyping built a 1:5 scale model in order to test and prove a part of the machine before full scale fabricating. Moving mechanisms, sculptural shapes and the body frames of the machine were tested. Then this has led the constructing of 1:1 scale machine.

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The test of a machine, Van dyck

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Fabrication for three machines

The work sounds a bit sci-fi to me. Where did you get the idea for AATM?

You are right. I got an idea from 'Cloud sculptors in coral D', J.G. Ballard's science fiction, in which the three gliders shape clouds with strange machines. I got an idea regarding this project when I was in front of massive loudspeaker in a club. I felt energy of sound from the speaker crashing my body. I thought invisible energy could be translated visible dynamic performance.

But also, I have been very interested in Architectural time based event, looking at how observers can experience time moving in space as observing the performance of machines or devices in space.

Leonardo Da Vinci mentioned 'tempo', which referred to 'speed of time, 'musical' or 'harmonic' time. It might be easy explanation about AATM that it allows observers to experience 'tempo' in space with scents. A series of vortex air from machines construct ephemeral time based event. After travelling through space and time, it just vanishes as space is ventilated.

Here is the best quotation from Stephen Gage in order to help you to understand my inspiration from architectural time based event. "Once we consider architecture to be time based and enmeshed with the way that people perceive and use it, we find ourselves short of reliable conceptual tools that can be used to understand our craft. As an event or series of events in time, we can consider architecture as a performance containing both human and non-human changing protagonists"

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First performance at Old Depot, London, 2011

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First performance at Old Depot, London, 2011

The way the vortex rings remain perfectly circular as they rise in the air is impressive. How did you achieve that?

The vortex air generator is an old and traditional toy. It works with simple principles of physics.
Blowing a short puff of air through a circular aperture produces a smoke ring. Amazingly it travels as keeping its shape.

But, on a windy day outside, the machines could not have successfully performed. Strong wind destroys smoke rings immediately when it comes out from a machine. It's similar to the cloud sculptors of J.G. Ballard who could not perform when dark clouds were coming, which presage rain. However, it could be acceptable as it is the nature of performance, which is temporally affected by weather and site specific conditions.
It's not rocket science.

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A test for accurate vortex firing

The machine creates scent zones. But what do they smell like? and how/why did you chose that scent?

The idea of putting scent to my machines just came out as a funny idea. I thought my machines could create a funny event to make people smile. For example, I just imagine that when the machine faces a guy, it fires smoke with bacon scent, and if the machine meets a pretty girl, it might fire rings with gentle flower scent.

Basically, my time machines cannot make scent itself, but you can put all the scents you want in it.

When I was developing these machines, I found there are some great potentials with various scents. I came across George William Septimus Piesse, an English chemist and perfumer, who offered a music-inspired taxonomy of scents. Following his music taxonomy of scents, I made scent music cord. For instance, C major cord could be made with Orange flower, Almond and Southernwood scent.

I thought that my 8 machines could play scent music with 8 scents.
Imagine these ridiculous 8 machine play 'Over the rainbow' with 8 scents without sound!
You can chose various scent you want to have in various kinds of events, for example, my machines could have a unique event for Chanel's perfume, such as Chanel's new perfume launching event. And if you put a specific flavour into my machine, people can breathe and taste smell within the event that my machines create.

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Sketch for final prototype, Petit Manuel

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Plan for installation at the Portico, University College London

Are you planning to develop the work further?

I hope to develop AATM and want to enjoy making various events. I have made six AATMs. It was my Masters project at the Bartlett school of architecture, UCL.

It was definitely an architecture project about architectural time based events and I believe I achieved my aim to set up a theoretical base on my interest through this project at Bartlett. I think it's time to apply my AATM to various artistic events over architectural theory. I am keen on involving in various events wherever there is a nice atmosphere and fun people to enjoy my machines.

Also I want to have performances in specific places and buildings, which have their own architectural proportions. As AATMs make a proportional rhythm that the building or
place owns by generating vortex air, the rhythm of a building' proportion can be represented. For example, in a Greek temple, AATM might make rhythmic beating of
Fibonacci series. It might be a fantastic poetic performance in such a historic place.

I enjoy collaborating with Ollie Palmer, a designer of Ant Ballet. We have a plan to have an event next year. It's going to be really fun!

Any other project you'd like to mention?

At the moment, I have been making a small toy called 'Inigo', which is a part of architectural toy project. I have been devised a series of mechanical toys, Toys are printed in one piece by using SLS (Selective Laser Sintering), which allows multiple moving parts to be operated in one piece.

Please visit the web site of Experimental Toy Factory, which I founded last year.

Thanks Heechan!

All images courtesy of Heechan Park.

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Yesterday i was in Manchester for the FutureEverything festival. Mostly to see the art exhibition. The festival is up until Saturday but the exhibition remains open until June 10. It's a good show. Small but smart and with a sharp focus on artistic and political potential of new participatory technologies. I'll come back to it over the weekend.

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Right now i wanted to have a look at Ollie Palmer's Ant Ballet.

Because of their decentralized organization (swarm intelligence), ants are a good model for the kind of participatory projects the exhibition is exploring this year. In the designer's work however, the behaviour and navigation of the insects are manipulated for artistic purposes. Palmer has spent 2 years observing the Argentine ant, aka Linepithema humile to build the Ant Ballet Machine, a system that enables him to direct ants and make them move in a choreographed fashion.

Using synthesised pheromones and computer vision system, a robotic arm sprays out pheromone powder trails that cause the ants to follow artificial trails in preference to the route they would normally take in search of food.


Ant Ballet

The project is separated into four phases referencing the 1974 scifi movie Phase IV. In the film, scientists are puzzled by the complex designs that ants have started building in the desert. The ant colony have in fact undergone rapid evolution as a result of a mysterious cosmic event.

Phase I of the Ant Ballet (2010-2012) is the one documented at the FutureEverything exhibition, it covers thorough research into ants and control systems, synthesis of ant pheromones and testing of systems with live ants in Barcelona. Phases II-IV (2012-2015) will develop further technologies, chemicals and mechanisms. In 2013 the first public ant ballet performance will be presented at Pestival Sao Paolo.

The designer has tested the system in Barcelona because the UK regards the Argentine ant as highly invasive species (which they are) and wouldn't allow him to bring live ones with him. So what you can see in Manchester are computer-simulated ants laying pheromone trails on a round table, only to be disrupted by the robotic arm spraying synthetic pheromones.

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Views in the exhibition space

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Check out the documentation of the Ant Ballet at the 1830 warehouse, the world's first railway warehouse, part of the MOSI (Museum of Science and Industry), Liverpool Rd, Manchester. Entrance to FutureEverybody art exhibition is free. The show remains open until 10 June 2012.
The project is also on view at Pestival @ ZSL London Zoo, until June 2012.

There's only one week left to head to Newcastle, Sunderland, Gateshead and Middlesbrough and visit AV Festival, a biennial of contemporary art, music and film which main theme this year is As Slow As Possible.

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Agnes Meyer-Brandis, The Moon Goose Analogue: Lunar Migration Bird Facility, 2011. Film stills courtesy the artist

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The astronauts: Neil, Svetlana, Gonzales, Valentina, Friede, Juri, Buzz, Kaguya-Anousheh, Irena, Rakesh, Konstantin-Hermann

One of the works on show is the extremely long-term project that sees Agnes Meyer-Brandis training a flock of young geese to fly to the moon. The whole training started last Spring and according to her schedule, the birds will go on their first unmanned flight to the satellite in 2024. However, the artist plans to accompany them on a later flight, most probably in 2027.

Meyer-Brandis' scientific experiment is inspired by The Man in the Moone, a story written in the early 17th century by English bishop Francis Godwin, a believer in the Copernican heliocentric system and of the latest theories in magnetism and astronomy. The book tells how Domingo Gonsales flies to the moon and gets to meet an advanced lunar civilization. The adventurer managed to escape the 'magnetic attraction of the earth' by harnessing a flock of birds called gansas, specifically trained for the purpose. Some critics regard the story as the first work of science fiction in English.

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Frontispiece and cover of the first edition of The Man in the Moone, 1638

Since it has become so difficult to locate moon geese, Meyer-Brandis breeds her own moon geese. She acquired the eggs last April, named each of them after an astronaut, placed them in an incubator, watched over them, witnessed the hatching and imprinted herself on to them as their stand-in mother, just like Konrad Lorenz did with greylag geese.

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Goslings following Konrad Lorenz as if he were their mother

The surrogate mother had to spend the weeks following the hatching in close contact with the eleven geese. The astronaut training started almost immediately, the young birds were encouraged to walk in a V-shape --the formation used to tow Godwin's chariot-- taken on expeditions into the mountains for high altitude training, taught how to use morse code devices for improved interspecies communication, and given lectures about astronomy and navigation.

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Moon geese sending morse code to the exhibition space. The Moon Goose Analogue (MGA) / Lunar Migration Bird Facility, Italy , 2011/12 @ the artist

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The birds are currently continuing their training at Pollinaria (Italy), in an analogue that simulates the conditions of the Moon. Visitors of the show The Moon Goose Analogue: Lunar Migration Bird Facility in Newcastle can see a scaled model of the remote analogue site, admire the portraits of the astronauts, watch a documentary of the experiment and follow the birds daily life through the screens in the control room at the back of the gallery.

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Antenna mast of the moon analogue in Italy, The Moon Goose Analogue (MGA) / Lunar Migration Bird Facility, Italy , 2011/12 @ the artist

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Agnes Meyer-Brandis, The Moon Goose Analogue: Lunar Migration Bird Facility, 2011. Courtesy AV Festival. Photo Colin Davison

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Agnes Meyer-Brandis, The Moon Goose Analogue: Lunar Migration Bird Facility, 2011. Courtesy AV Festival. Photo Colin Davison

Documentation of the project and installation The Moon Goose Analogue:

Agnes Meyer-Brandis: The Moon Goose Analogue: Lunar Migration Bird Facility is part of the AV Festival and you can see the film and installation at the Great North Museum: Hancock in Newcastle through 31 March, 2012.

The Lunar Migration Bird Facility was commissioned by The Arts Catalyst and FACT Liverpool. In partnership with: Pollinaria.

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Agnes Meyer-Brandis, The Moon Goose Analogue: Lunar Migration Bird Facility, 2011. Film stills courtesy the artist

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Agnes Meyer-Brandis, The Moon Goose Analogue: Lunar Migration Bird Facility, 2011. Film stills courtesy the artist

Also on view at the AV Festival: Slow Motion Car Crash.
Previously: Cloud Core Scanner - an artistic experiment in zero gravity and Biorama 2: the Moon Goose Experiment.

A wire brush spins around randomly, threatening your open-toe sandals. A motion-activated vacuum pump sucks out the air from a gallery space: the longer viewers remain inside, the less air for them to breathe. A cobble stone is rotating on a rope. The sole purpose of that kettle is to spread red acrylic paint on your shoes. An electric fence criss-crosses the path that leads to an art gallery or the bar. Elsewhere a randomly activated tripwire awaits visitors...

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Ben Woodeson, Subservient shoe brush open toed sandals thing, 2010

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Ben Woodeson, Health and Safety Violation number 7, "9/10 of an iceberg is hidden from view", 2009

There is nothing even remotely safe in Ben Woodeson's works. In fact, they purposely run on hazard and liability waiver forms. Sometimes they even require safety helmets. Woodeson is from the United Kingdom, a state notorious for its stringent regulation and enforcement of workplace health, safety and welfare. Almost every artists you'll meet in the UK have their own share of H&S-related misadventures to tell.

Woodeson's work uses everyday objects and materials to deride and confronts head-on these often absurd rules. The pieces in his Health & Safety Violation series entice visitors to be brave and come nearer as much as they repel and unnerve them. In the coming weeks, Woodeson will present new works at transmediale in Berlin and at The Florence Trust in London. The installation he will show at the TM festival is A seemingly innocent sculptural curtain bisects the foyer space obstructing the visitor's default routes. Avoiding the work requires a conscious detour while also engaging with it requires a willingness to take risk - an "interactive" piece that does not pretend to be harmless.


Ben Woodeson, Health & Safety Violation #2 - Shocking, 2009

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Ben Woodeson, Basic rough as fuck spinning spring jump out of your skin hazard, 2010

I've decided not to go to Transmediale this year (first time in 8 years) but i'll be in London to tell you about what he'll be showing at The Florence Trust. In the meantime, a short interview will have to do....

You've exhibited works that involve a very high degree of risk of injury or death to visitors in several art galleries in the UK. How did you avoid the Health and Safety hassle?

Ha! I don't really try to avoid it, it is part of my practice, I think the dialogue between the exhibiting institutions and myself forms a layer of implied meaning within the work. Most of what I do does entail some form of risk, but the Health & Safety Violation's are a specific group of works, where that risk is overtly presented. This is through a clear and obvious physical danger or sometimes via titles that the gallery is forced to acknowledge and negotiate how the works will be presented. Let's face it with titles like Spinning cobblestone (high speed crack your skull open bleed through your ears version) I'm not really hiding the risk, it's right there shouting; they're not coming to me thinking I'm going to show a nice, safe, comforting watercolour...


How many 'no you can't" and "yes maybe but then you'd have to change this and this" have you met with the Health and Safety Violation series? Do you compromise?

Masses! Seriously though, I'm expecting in fact I'd say I was requiring the galleries to compromise so, I'd be a real hypocrite if I wasn't prepared to be flexible. Besides as I mentioned, the dialogue forms a layer of implied meaning within the work. As with any negotiation, there are things that you can or can't compromise on. I'm not prepared to lessen the work by corrupting it or compromising it is such a way that alters the meaning and basic experience that the viewer has. However, within most works there is usually some room for give and take.

As artists I think we become adept at the dialogues with institutions, curators and other artists; the pragmatics about what goes where and all that sort of thing. I'm definitely not a foot stomper or a diva. Things usually come to some form of organic conclusion that fits all concerned. I'd rather pull a work from a show than compromise too far, but, the reality is that the artists, the curator and the gallery all want a show to be as good as possible, the rest is mostly details.

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Ben Woodeson, One Shot Pretty Sculpture, 2011. Matches, fuse and random timer

Do you observe visitors? Does it take long before they leave their role as a viewer and become an 'adventurer' of Health and Safety Violation?

Nice question! I certainly do observe, in fact I often film the openings of the shows. I need to answer in a sideways manner: Quite a lot of the recent works are different from the early Health & Safety Violations in that they have become eventful, previously the works such as Spiral Twist Hazard (featured recently on WMMNA) would randomly activate / deactivate / wait and repeat.

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Ben Woodeson, Health & Safety Violation #15 - Spiral twist hazard, 2011. Image by Marcos Morilla

A lot of the newer works including ones from the new Causality series are still randomly activated but they only trigger once, their activation has become catastrophic. Examples include One Shot Pretty Sculpture where 2000 matches burn and spell out a text or Ball Droppingly Awesome Glass Sculpture where with no fanfare or warning a small mechanism drops a large steel ball into the middle of a sheet of glass. Both works are irrevocably altered by their activation; the resulting debris then forms a kind of sculptural performative afterlife. I used to hold a position that if my works were switched off they were as invalid as for example a switched off video monitor. However, these recent works are made to be experienced in several states and the exhibition(s) therefore evolves depending on the state of the works.

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Ben Woodeson, Ball Droppingly Awesome Glass Sculpture, Ball bearing, glass and random timer, 2011

So, coming back to the question, the viewer is sometimes held in a kind of prolonged anticipation: What is it they are actually seeing? Quite often they've signed a liability waiver at the entrance, so they already have this sense of potential danger and heightened awareness, what they don't have is knowledge of what is or is not safe... The random timing on even the repetitive works means it's hard for them to pigeon hole works as safe, not safe etc. The works often function quite abruptly so rather than there being a sense of things about to happen, there is more a sense of things maybe about to happen but no one is quite sure. The abruptness with it's consequent shock is definitely a fundamental factor in many of the works.

I think there is also a big difference in the adventuresome experience of those present at the opening night and those who visit in quieter circumstances. I do tweak the timings a bit so that some stuff does happen at the openings, and a lot of those people present usually know some of what I do, so in a way as a group they've already crossed over into the adventurer role. By contrast a visitor to a comparatively empty gallery might have little or no prior knowledge of my practice, and there might not be other viewers whose behavior could give clues.

The works are visceral and demanding, their in-your-faceness forces both experienced and inexperienced viewers to physically engage and take the adventure.

Can you tell us about your new Causality series? What is it about?

The Causality series are a new group of works started when I was preparing for my recent show at Elevator Gallery; so far they tend to be less direct. Something happens which then has a result, whereas the Violations switch on and off, there is no direct sense of cause and effect. The Causality works are no less challenging and dangerous, but somehow as I mentioned earlier, becoming more of a specific event rather than a repeating one.

In A Perilous Environment Positively Oozing With Pain and Suffering twelve panes of glass are held angled by fishing twine, a computer randomly selects one of the twelve and ignites a wire wool fuse. The fuse burns the twine causing the glass to crash to the floor. I think the difference between the two groups of works is quite organic; they're all confrontational, challenging and possibly a wee bit dangerous, some just seem to intuitively belong to one or the other series.

I'm definitely still working on the Health & Safety Violations for example I'm just finishing a big new piece called Health & Safety Violation #36 - Bite you on your ass and kiss your socks goodbye for Transmediale in Berlin at the end of January. I'm also concurrently working on the Causality series some of which I hope will be ready to show at the Florence Trust open weekend.

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Ben Woodeson, A Perilous Environment Positively Oozing With Pain and Suffering, Glass, wire wool fuses and random timer, 2011

You are a Florence Trust resident this year, what are you planning to work on during this residency?

The Florence Trust residencies are really pretty special, time is whizzing by, we're about half way through, in fact the Winter Open is the weekend of 3rd February (PV on the Friday night). For me it has been an interesting time in that I had planned to develop new works that while still clearly fitting within my interests would maybe be more versatile and flexible. However ironically 90% of the new works I've made have been just as difficult and confrontational as ever and so far I don't see any signs of that shifting. I work quite intuitively; balancing concept, material and activity, and maybe it's the church or whatever, but versatile and flexible suddenly seems far less interesting and engaging when compared to fear, fire, gravity, electricity, breaking glass and general sculptural carnage; in other words all the usual stuff that floats my boat.

Thanks Ben!

Previously: Experimental Station - Part 1, In the Laboratory.

I discovered the work of Anri Sala only a few months ago but once i looked into it, i started seeing his work everywhere. Back in September 2011, i was invited to the Absolut Art Award in Stockholm to see some of his videos, attend a screening with popcorn of 1395 Days without Red and interview the artist. A few weeks later, Anri Sala had a solo show at the Serpentine Gallery in London. The show is now closed. I've waited far too long to write about Anri Sala's work.

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Anri Sala, No barragan no cry, 2002

Sala is a video artist but somehow, he outgrows the title. He makes films of course but each of them enters in a dialogue with local weather conditions, architecture, history, live performances, sound, language, public participation, etc. Even more interestingly, he seems to play his own works against each other.

Many of Sala's works are stuck inside my head, even months after having seen them. Let's start with the first video i saw:

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Anri Sala, Le Clash, 2010

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Anri Sala, Le Clash, 2010

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Anri Sala, Le Clash, 2010


Anri Sala, recipient of the ABSOLUT ART AWARD 2011, in a film by Thomas Nordanstad

On what looks like the outskirts of a city, a lonely man is slowly playing Should I Stay or Should I Go? on his music box. Somewhere nearby, a man and woman are pushing a music box on a cart that plays the same punk-rock tune.

But there's a third instrument playing the famous riff of the song: an abandoned concert hall where The Clash played in the early 1980s. Microphones were placed inside the building and the music reverberates with a melancholy that the original tune didn't have.

Le Clash is an homage to punk-rock song Should I Stay or Should I Go?. It is also almost a reenactment of the concert the group gave in that building in Bordeaux. But the once influential rock and punk venue is derelict, its future uncertain, just like the relationship the song is talking about.

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Installation view, Serpentine Gallery, London, 2011. Photo: Sylvain Deleu

The show at Serpentine added a further layer to the movie: a glass pane was fitted with a music box that visitors could play. The music was the same as the film's soundtrack. Sadly, it was broken when i visited the show.

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Score, 2011, Installation view, Serpentine Gallery, London, 2011. Photo: Sylvain Deleu

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3-2-1, 2011, Performance view, Serpentine Gallery, London, 2011. Photo: Sylvain Deleu

In the site-specific installation, Score, the perforated score used in the barrel organ is part of the architecture of Serpentine gallery. The perforated pattern is carved through walls covering the windows in one of the exhibition spaces, translating sound into a different materiality and creating openings to the park, letting the natural light sneak into the gallery and intertwining the sounds of the park and the sounds of the gallery.

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Anri Sala, Thursday 16.07.2009 (Why the Lion Roars) (detail), 2011

The lion of Why the Lion Roars is the Metro Goldwyn Mayer one. The lion usually roars to signal the start of a movie, the start of the viewer's disconnection from the outside world. In Sala's piece, the animal roars each time the temperature outside of the cinema room goes up or down. The installation is based on a temperature chart made up of several movies. Every degree Celsius represents one movie. A film like Jean-Luc Godard's Alphaville is associated with cool temperatures, a romantic drama will evoke the Summer. Whenever the temperature outside the exhibition building changes, the movie on display inside changes, too.

If you're lucky, the temperature outside won't bulge and you'll be able to watch Ninotchka till the end. Most of the time, however, only fragments of various length of the films are screened.

Why the Lion Roars is the temperature-cut version of a fiction based on a true story: the weather. 

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Anri Sala, Answer Me, 2008

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Anri Sala, Answer Me, 2008

Answer Me was filmed in Berlin's listening station Teufelsberg, which means "Devil's Mountain" in German. It's actually just a hill but a hill made from the rubble of postwar Berlin and a military-technical college designed by Albert Speer (Adolf Hitler's chief architect), is buried under it. Later on, the NSA built a listening station on top of the hill to monitor Soviet and East German communications.

In the film, a woman attempts to end a relationship, but the man stubbornly plays the drum to silence her. Her appeal is lost in the spectacular space of the Buckminster Fuller-created geodesic dome and even after the man has stopped playing the drum, the whole drama is deafened by the long echos reverberated in the building structure. But the role of the building doesn't stop there, the frequencies of the man drumming are amplified by the dome, causing the skin of a drum abandoned next to the frustrated woman to vibrate and its drumsticks to bounce.

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Anri Sala, 1395 Days Without Red, 2011

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Anri Sala, 1395 Days Without Red, 2011

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Anri Sala, 1395 Days Without Red, 2011

1395 Days Without Red, 1395 without being able to wear red or any other bright colour that might be easily spotted by one of the snipers positioned in the hills surrounding Sarajevo during the siege that lasted from May 1992 till February 1996. The film relives the trauma experienced day after day by people caught up in the siege.

The camera follow a woman crossing the city. Each crossing, each alley, each street commands a change of pace. She often has to pause when she feels that the next few meters will expose her to shootings. Then she holds her breath for a moment (i found myself doing the same) and runs till she has reached a safer street. The city's topography alternates exposure and protection, fear and relief.

As the woman moves through the deserted city, an orchestra rehearses Tchaikovsky's Symphony No 6, Pathétique elsewhere in the city. She seems to rehearse the music in her head too, using it as the soundtrack of her perilous journey through the city under siege.

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Anri Sala receiving the Absolut Art Award during the price ceremony in Stockholm

The ABSOLUT ART AWARD was instituted in 2009 to celebrate the vodka company's 30 years of creative collaborations (which started by chance during a dinner attended by Andy Warhol i was told.) After giving the award to Keren Cytter in 2009 and Rirkrit Tiravanija in 2010, the third annual ABSOLUT ART AWARD went thus to Anri Sala. He clearly deserved the recognition.

The jury's citation reads: "Anri Sala's work offers a unique way of looking at the world that combines reflection on history, memories, and consciousness of the instant, with an absolute awareness of presence and disappearance. He possesses a special talent for precise and subtle displays, and a unique ability to conceive installations and architectural proposals including sound, image, sculpture, film and live performances."

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