I can't seem to hold their flash website against the Gamerz festival. It remains one of my favourite events of the year.
The 7th edition of GAMERZ took place last November in postcard pretty Aix-en-Provence. As its name suggests, the festival presents video games, interactive works and a playground atmosphere but gaming is more a pretext than the whole raison d'être of GAMERZ. The free exhibitions, performances, concerts and conferences embrace all kinds of art forms that refer to or use digital technology. So yes, Gamerz offers machinima and AR video games but also paintings, light performances and choir singers.
I like GAMERZ because it's eclectic, because it makes me discover plenty of artists i had never heard about before but also because it reminds me that festivals should be left more often in the hands of artists. They take risk, follow their whim, trust other artists barely out of the academy, and care little about sticking to genres and formulas.
Talking about taking risks....
One of the most popular pieces in the exhibition was Paul Destieu's Fade-Out, a video that records the progressive burying of a drum set under gravels. The gravel hitting the percussion parts produces a rhythm section, which rapidly turns into a sound and visual chocking. I watched the video a first time for the images and came back to it, just to take the sound in. The sequence shot proposes experimentation around the technical state of Fade-out, by materializing the decrease of sound and visual signal, until a complete silence and disappearance.
Monsieur Moo's Meule 2 Foin (french for haystack) is a big hay ball that emits loud sound when you push it. To turn the loud noise into a melody, visitors have to keep a certain, equal pace. It looks like the most elementary way to 'interact' with an artwork: you just have to roll it around. In fact, the work's sole ambition is to cheer up visitors. However, once you're in front of the ball, you realize it's not going to be a piece of cake. First of all the hay ball is ultra heavy and you might need some help in order to get it rolling. Add to that that the surface around the hay ball is slippery and you're in for a good sweat moving that damn ball around.
Mr Moo imposes a forced walk that illustrates his mocking analysis of mobility and interactivity issues in contemporary art.
Le Faussiare (The Forger) by artists' collective Dardex-Mort2Faim (Quentin Destieu, Romain Senatore, Sylvain Huguet and Stephane Kyles) is a robotic arm that counterfeits the autograph of famous artists. The work is intended to satisfy an audience that has elevated famous artists to the rank of major rock stars but also to set the artists themselves free from any unwanted social obligation towards the public. So far the robotic device only fakes Andy Warhol's autograph but it will soon offer art fans a databank of famous artists' signatures to chose from.
Antonin Fourneau was showing the work in progress version of Oterp, a mobile phone game using a GPS sensor to manipulate music in real time, depending on the player's position on Earth. Players have to locate and capture sounds in their surrounding, the more sound creatures they catch, the more sophisticated the music becomes. I played with Oterp at the exhibition opening. It was fun to be that rude girl walking through groups of people having conversation and frustrating not to be able to catch a creature because that would have implied jumping into a pond. What makes Oterp stand from similar dérive-like games is the quality of its design. The music was created by Jankenpopp and Thomas Michalak aka T M. The graphic designer is Syclo. They all did such an outstanding job that players tend to stick to the game longer than they would normally.
Dipterous experience is an archaic visual process combined with a micrographic device paying tribute to flies... some fruit burst open so that you may enjoy it better. No idea how to explain this one clearly, i guess you just have to pop your head into Servovalve's Dipterous Experience.
ELIZA meets an old Olivetti typewriter in Gauthier Le Rouzic's TypeWriterBot. Ask the typewriter a question and it will engage in a conversation with you, greeting you with a 'hello, night bird!' if it's late, asking you about your hopes for the national elections if there's a political election running at the moment and answering your most stupid questions with humour and astuteness. Reading through the printed conversations, it immediately appears that the typewriter is far wittier than the humans.
Isabelle Arvers curated a Machinima exhibition for GAMERZ. All the details can be found on her webpage so i'll only highlight Josh Bricker's Post Newtonianism, a two channel video that shows side by side images from the video game Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare and actual war footage taken from cameras mounted on American military aircraft during the first Gulf War in 1991 as well as during the recent occupation of Iraq. There are bombing of vehicles, military targets, shooting of insurgents and oppositional forces. The sound track mixes the audio from the video game with the sound of a classified material released in 2010 by Wikileaks showing Apache helicopters killing two Reuters reporters and attacking, wounding or killing other targets on dubious grounds.
The pictures from both sources are disturbingly similar. Josh Bricker's experiment is a simple but effective analysis of why images should be watched with a certain suspicion. The documentary value of this film is not only on what we see, but on how incapable we are to recognize the origin of the images our own society produces.
I wanted to embed directly the video in this post but YouTube first asked me to login to 'verify' that i'm 18 or older and when i tried to do so, the page said that "YouTube is not available for wmmna.com". But here's the link to the video and my blog will make do with the comment from the artist:
And with that i'm wishing you all a happy 2012!
Over 50 years ago, Philips commissioned Le Corbusier to create their pavilion at the 1958 Brussels World's Fair. Designed to showcase the company's engineering prowess, the pavilion was a cluster of nine hyperbolic paraboloid in which music was spatialized by sound projectionists using telephone dials. Edgard Varèse composed a piece of electronic music, the Poème Electronique, and drew up a detailed spatialization scheme for the entire piece.
Neither Varèse nor Le Corbusier were Dutch but Varèse's composition was developed with the engineers at Philips' NatLab, in Eindhoven. This experimental laboratory gave light to many inventions such as the radio tube, short wave transmitter, videodisc and compact disc. The NatLab was located at the Klokgebouw, a 1928 industrial hall which in November was housing the STRP festival for the fifth time.
STRP was in great shape this year. It's a real pleasure to follow a festival that gets from strength to strength in such a fast and steady way. The symposium was impeccable, the night programme as edgy and spectacular as ever. At least that's what i was told. At night i either sleep or blog but as you can see the crowd was clearly satisfied:
The organizers and curators also had the excellent idea of setting up an exhibition that brought the spotlight on the history of Dutch art and technology. The show was both a celebration of the talent of media artists in The Netherlands but also a gesture of support towards the Dutch new media institutes (namely V2_, Waag Society, STEIM, Mediamatic, WORM, Submarine Channel, NIMk) whose survival is threatened by drastic (and short-sighted) governmental cuts.
Regarded by some as the first "multimedia work of art" and developed at the very location of the STRP festival, the Poème Electronique was the best opener to the exhibition timeline of past and present media art works in The Netherlands. The exhibition was a captivating journey that brought me from old favourite such as Spatial Sounds....
To classics of Dutch media art (many of which i was only discovering) and world premiere of installations developed by young Dutch artists. Here's a quick selection:
The video of the re-enactment of Dick Raaijmakers' 1979 excruciatingly slow performance. In Graphic Method Bicycle, a naked cyclist covers a distance of 10 metres in 30 minutes. The bicycle is pulled forwards by a motorized winch and steel cable. Lifted up off the saddle by one of the pedals extremely slowly, the cyclist is forced to dismount. It's like a slow-motion video in flesh and bone. The performance requires considerable strength, concentration and balance and one can hear his pulse, breath and see his muscles quivering.
Perhaps my favourite work in the exhibition, Edwin van der Heide's DSLE -2- plays with light and sound to throw off spatial perception. The immersive environment uses octophonic loudspeakers and a surround installation made of LED panels that light up a screen.
Moments where sound and light appear to interrelate with each other are complemented with moments where the spatial perception of sound and light contradict with each other and lead to distinct ambivalences in our perception of space.
STRP had also toured the country's art academies to find some of the most promising artists. One of them is Jeffrey Van Oers whose Ambisonic Flightcase is a dark box for one person that encloses you into 3-D surround sound. At a time when every single work is multi-sensory, multi-disciplinary, it's fantastic to be offered the opportunity to focus on hearing only:
Marnix de Nijs gave a world wide update to his installation Exploded Views. The immersive piece invites visitors to physically navigate 3D models of some of the world's most photographed sites constructed from images uploaded on Flickr. The amount of detail in the 3-D model corresponds to the amount of photos of a given location. The 2.0. suffix is thus still very much in vogue in the NL.
Evelina Domnitch and Dmtry Gelfand's Hydrogeny is a tank of ultra-pure water scanned by a laser sheet.
Electrodes at the bottom of the tank split water into hydrogen and oxygen gas which form bubbles that slowly make their way to the surface. The water is further disturbed by sound and as the sonic frequency and amplitude rises, the hydrogen bubbles start to coalesce with one another while a white laser sheet scans and illuminates their movements.
Beyond macroscopically observable bubbles, an expanse of nanobubbles hides within the water's internal architecture. Some researchers presume that these nanobubbles of dissolved gas are the carriers of water's magnetic 'memory', enabling electromagnetic fields to saturate its innards for hours and even days after their initial appearance. In the seas and oceans, the lingering presence of electromagnetic fields photonically imparted by sunlight, triggers the electrolysis responsible for most of the Earth's hydrogen. An essential form of photosynthesis, solar water splitting is the cleanest and most efficient means imaginable for generating and storing energy.
Bert Schutter's windmill is best enjoyed with sound and movement:
A week ago i was in Eindhoven for an of the STRP festival that surpassed all my expectations. The curators and directors of the event had the brilliant (and timely) idea of dedicating the whole exhibition to the history of new media art in The Netherlands. I'll come back with a report or two about the show as soon as i've collected all the pictures and texts i need. But i found that one of the pieces exhibited, Delusions of Self-Immolation, is so powerful and disturbing it deserved its own post.
Delusions of Self-Immolation, aka 'the suicide machine', was a built by Erik Hobijn in the 1990s to set members of the public on fire. Literally.
The person would stand on a platform covered in a flame-resistant gel. A flame-thrower would then burn their body for less then half a second. The platform then turns on itself so that the extinguisher situated on the opposite side of the machine can extinguish the person immediately.
In an interview with Derek Holzer, Hobijn explained: There are three states on the machine which I call "rare", "medium", and "well done". "Rare" means you survive without any wounds. "Medium" is more for, say, the SM session or for people who like pain to understand parts of life, or to have this experience of pain. The third possibility is death. It is possible to die in this machine; I just have to change the liquid, and I have to change the timing.
Some 30 people have tested it at the time, many of whom were women.
Obviously, there is something physical in the Self-Immolation experience but what goes on inside the mind of the people before, during and after the burning alive experience must be even more intense and fascinating.
If you speak dutch, i would recommend the book SKG: kunst, muziek & terreur 1978-1981 by Martijn Haas that reconstruct the 'night of terrorism' orchestrated by Hobijn in the Summer of 1980 in Amsterdam.
A quote from John Cage, 'art is sort of an experimental station in which one tries out living', gave its title to the exhibition that opened a few days ago at Laboral Art and Industrial Creation Centre in Gijón, Spain. Estación experimental [Experimental Station] (see the first part of my report over here) presents the work of artists who see in scientific research a path for artistic methodology and inspiration. Whether the relationship they have developed with science is akin to formal research, pataphysics, science-fiction or investigates paranormal events, these artists play with our expectations and question our current knowledge without necessarily looking for a definite answer. The works selected are often low-tech, they are made using plastic flowers, old school turntables, magnets, music boxes or butane gas cylinder. The way they function is sometimes even laid before the visitor's eyes. No mystery, no magic trick but poetry, irony and inquisitiveness.
The exhibition is divided into 4 sections that sometimes intertwine and overlap. I've already explored the chapter about artists in the laboratory. Here's my notes on the artists who leave the lab to explore nature and on those who are looking for alternative uses of existing technology.
The Fieldwork section, dedicated to artists who get out of the labs to collect data or formulate theories that combine art, science and nature, contained two of my favourite works.
The first is Herbarium of Artificial Plants for which Alberto Baraya took the role of a botanical explorer and collected, catalogued and displayed artificial plants from some of the earth's most fertile places, starting with Colombia, his own native country and one of the world's most biodiverse countries. Made out of plastic or fabric, the samples are dissected and exhibited inside botanical slides that rigorously detail the false plant parts and their characteristics.
Baraya's concern is representation, not ecological critique. "A lot of people need a relationship with nature, the good feeling of nature, but they sometimes get it through artificial plants. We need the representation of nature more than the reality" (via.)
4,000 years ago, a shower of meteorites crashed into Campo del Cielo, Argentina, a rare event that turned the area into natural research laboratory. Since 2006, Guillermo Faivovich and Nicolás Goldberg have been investigated the cultural impact of the Campo del Cielo meteorites.
One of the meteorites, named El Taco, weighed 1998 kg. It is older than Earth itself, and comes from the Asteroid Belt located between Mars and Jupiter. Discovered in 1962 by a farmer, the meteorite was shipped to the Max Planck Institute in Germany and divided in two halves through a cutting procedure that took more than a year. Since then, one part has been located at Washington's Smithsonian Institution, the other one in Buenos Aires's Planetarium. In 2010, a Faivovich & Goldberg exhibition held at Portikus, Frankfurt, reunited the two main masses of El Taco, after almost forty-five years of being apart.
The artists have now embarked on a research for a second specimen that seems to have mysteriously vanished into thin air. The Mesón de Fierro was a meteorite venerated by the area's original inhabitants since it crashed there thousands of years ago. It was last recorded in 1783 by lieutenant commander Miguel Rubín de Celis, who led one of the first scientific expeditions in South America. Despite its weight of 15 to 20 tonnes, the Meson del Fierro is now lost, no one has the slightest idea on its whereabouts.
The artists in the Artefacts and Mechanisms section are mostly interested in subverting existing technology. Interestingly, most of them were sound artefacts and their cohabitation in the same space leads to a surprisingly pleasing 'soundscape.' O Grivo's turntables proved to be the perfect companions for the tired and delicate sound of Alberto Tadiello's Eprom. I'll never get tired of seeing this installation (or any other of Tadiello's work), strangely enough, i have the feeling i might have blogged this one a thousand times but can't find the post anywhere.
O Grivo build musical instruments using waste or cheap materials. From old turntables to bits of cables or wood. Activated by mechanical and electrical systems, the instruments might look like accidental contraptions but pay closer attention and you will realize that their sound is as delightful as their visual appearance.
Julio Adán's Ecografía (no tocar, por favor) had a whole room to itself. Adán uses musical instruments for drawing using magnetic dust. The result is unpredictable and often fairly loud. The motors and sensors are activated by the presence of visitors.
Guillem Bayo gives life to banal objects in his Misfits Series. The emergency fire hose got out of its box and snakes around the room but the fire extinguisher hasn't quite found a way to escape and repeatedly knocks on the door to be able to exit.
The idea is simple and perhaps not particularly original but its realization was charming and the artist somehow managed to give a 'soul' and a real intent to the rebellious objects.
Estación experimental [Experimental Station] remains open through April 9, 2012 at Laboral Centre of Art and Industrial Creation in Gijón, Spain.
Estación experimental [Experimental Station], an exhibition that just opened at Laboral Centre of Art and Industrial Creation, presents the work of artists who are inspired by scientific research. Whether the relationship they have developed with science is akin to formal research, pataphysics, science-fiction or investigates paranormal events, these artists play with our expectations and question our current knowledge without necessarily looking for a clear answer. What matters in their work is not the end result, but the process, the experiment, the long journey of trial and error.
The exhibition is at time playful and amusing and at time leading to more contemplative moments. I was particularly glad that Estación experimental gave me the opportunity to discover so many young Spanish artists. I hope i'll get to see more of their work in the coming years.
The first chapter of the exhibition gives a general overview of the concept behind the show. In the Laboratory brings together the artists who use their studio or an exhibition space as a place for experimentation. I've already mentioned Caleb Charland and the homemade experiments he photographs in his garage.
Another artist who makes jaw-dropping experiments with physical phenomena is Alistair McClymont who recreated a tornado inside one of the exhibition rooms. The mechanics that activate the rotating column of air are not hidden from visitor's view: fans, scaffolding, black tubes and a humidifier.
The sculpture uses mundane materials to recreate a rare meteorological phenomenon that can have devastating effects. In the gallery however, visitors are free to step into the whirlwind of air and vapor and experience its physical presence without any danger.
Danger, or rather the perception of it, is at the core of Ben Woodeson's work. The sculpture he's showing in Laboral bears the tongue-in-cheek name Health & Safety Violation #15 - Spiral twist hazard. I'm all for poking fun at the over-regulations that dominate cultural spaces (especially in England, a country never afraid of reaching new heights of ridicule in that matter.) Spiral Twist Hazard is a black cable that hangs from the ceiling and twists, untwists, whips and moves as if it had a life of its own.
Because the title warns you of the cable 'purpose', the threat becomes appealing, it puts visitor to the test: will you dare go nearer or will you retreat safely?
Spiral Twist Hazard is one of the exercises in a long series of "Health and Safety Violations" that the artist began in 2009. I'm quite fond of the aggressive shoe brush (video might take a few moments to load but well worth the wait), the pump that suffocates you by vacuuming air away from the gallery space, the beads thrown on the floor, etc. I like them all. I should interview him one day. Right?
Artist Rubén Ramos Balsa worked at the service of engineer Oumar Haidara Fall to help him communicate his physics theory. The video and mock-up on show illustrate in a tangible way the Senegalese scientist's work on the mechanical disruption of symmetry.
I'm not sure i understood the theory quite clearly but from what i managed to gather, the research questions the laws of gravity inherited from Newton and tests the possibility of increasing mass in the same trajectory.
The project page explains that The work carried out jointly by the engineer and the artist explores and tests the validity of the Autonomous Mechanical Multiplier as a principle that can prove the theory of the evolutionary conservation of the unity of multiple dimensions.
I'll come back later on this week with more posts about the exhibition but don't wait for me to check out the catalogue of the show, it's available as a PDF on Laboral's website. And here's a few pitiful photos i made while visiting the show.
This is the second time this year that i've encountered the work of the design collective. I discovered their work in Spring when i was attending a press conference at CCCS - Strozzina in Florence. Sven Jonke, Christoph Katzler and Nikola Radeljkovic had wrapped transparent tape all over the courtyard of the venerable Palazzo Strozzi to shape a self-supporting cocoon for people to crawl inside. For Z33, they've left the gaffer tape in Vienna and Zagreb (where they are based) and used nets to turn the whole exhibition space into a giant playground that can be explored horizontally as well as vertically. The idea might look incredibly simple but the result evokes floating architecture and flexible, aerial "landscape" as much as jungle gym.
I was beyond happy when Nikola and Christoph accepted to discuss their work with me. The interview focuses mostly on the Net at Z33 and on the Tape walk-in installation i saw in Florence but the Numen/ For Use website will, i'm sure, give you many more reasons to admire their work.
Sorry if i'm going to start on a very trivial note but one of the first questions that popped into my mind was "how about security?" I'm sure your installations are perfectly safe and sound but is 'health and safety' ever an issue? Are there any special measure you have to comply with and did they ever get in the way of your creativity?
Christoph: Security and safety is always the thing we fight with. Since we are educated as applied artists and since we do a lot of set design in theatre we are aware of all the problems concerning statics and security.
It is part of every daily reality. Especially when you make something in public space you have to fight with a lot of law issues. But often they are rather idiotic issues. It is bizarre to see how different countries and different organizers are putting weight and importance concerning law on totally different things and how they ignore others totally. But it is also interesting that in art institutions law is very often not seen so super strict like in other fields. This is one reason why I like to work there.
Up to now it was like this that either the ideas went without bigger problems into realization or they stopped very early due to some legal regulations.
How did you get to create The Net for Z33? Did they give you carte blanche or did you work on the idea together with the curator?
Christoph: We said, "we want to try something new." They said, "okay but we need the idea within two weeks", which was rather a short period for us to find something we really like. But the idea came actually easy and fast, which is rather rare, and we all were rather satisfied from the beginning.
In the video interview that you did for Z33, you explain that The Net is a testbed for a public version that could be installed between houses. Have you found a location already? Would you see it as a permanent structure or a nomadic one?
Christoph: YES, we are searching for a nice location in public to realize it there! In the opposite to our other walk-in installation (called Tape) it is much harder to find a location in the public space. Many of my friends would love to have it in there backyard to open the window and to jump inside for a sun-bath or whatever. But I do guess it would be difficult to find a location where all neighbors would give there permission to have "strangers" hanging around in front of there windows.
Another possibility would be to use one of those football-cages where kids are playing and to implant it there. It would be a different situation, but I think it still would work.
When i saw the Tape installation in the courtyard of Palazzo Strozzi in Florence, it was morning, there was a press conference, and none of the journalists was climbing inside the structure. Actually, i had no idea anyone was allowed to or even that anyone would think of doing it. The public is usually not supposed to climb into sculptures/installations. But somehow, i found the work fascinating enough. What is most important to you, that the public will want to engage physically with your work or that they are visually compelling?
Christoph: For us it is 100% important that the public can go inside and experience these works. Nowadays we write it in our contracts that the public has to be able to go inside during normal opening hours. When people see the installations most of them are curious, they want to go inside. But since you have to take your shoes off and crawl an all four it makes the social borders falling. They are starting to enjoy it together in a very communicative way although they often do not even know each other. This is nice! That's why we like to see it in the public. Maybe it is somehow like in a different world and some rules do not count anymore for a while.
The Tape shapes are very organic (at least to me.) How do they form? Do you have to work on computer models first to explore the sturdiness and elegance? Or is there rather much space for improvisation?
Christoph: We make just a simple model to test somehow the basic shapes not to be totally wrong and the rest we do on spot rather following our intuition. So there is no computer involved at all! We also do not draw or design a lot. It is basically just working, working working, because what ever you do it will always shrink into forms which are geometrically perfect! On spot it is a real rush and chaos, everybody is doing something. So in the beginning we often think we made some mistakes. But now we know that it is just the usual phase. We just go on and it is fine at the end.
You trained as industrial designers, but what you do now seems to be miles away from industrial design. Would you agree with that statement? Or do you feel that your practice evolved in a logical way and that, no matter what you are doing today, you are still true to your roots as industrial designers?
Nikola: It seems but it is not. Industrial design implies a certain awareness of the needs and wishes of the user and we consider the visitors of our installations in that way. Designers are constantly trying to personalize products and production, to humanize mass produced items. On the other hand, we are at the moment seriously working on industrializing our installations, in the sense that we are developing a walk-in installation which can be set over and over again. Our working process and professional ethos are still strongly influenced by our design roots and I find it stimulating to exchange influences and experiences from one field to another. The strict border between art and design is, in my opinion, totally artificial and absurd. Both fields are about visual communication of abstract values, about media and society, both use creative potentials to articulate spatial relations and both constantly refer to one another. It was like this even before pop art and after...
Does For Use still find time to design chairs and other pieces of furniture or have the more artistic projects completely taken over your time and energy?
Christoph: I am at the moment mostly into the experimental projects because I feel much more freedom and I see much more joyful feedback from the audience. But we still deal with design and I do guess we will approach different to that profession in the future and open up our borders.
Nikola: Since Christoph is avoiding design completely, I am probably dealing with design more that ever!-)
Thanks Christoph and Nikola!
You have until October 2nd to jump in the NET at the House for Contemporary Art Z33 in Hasselt, Belgium.