Cancellation. Archival Inkjet Print. 40x30”. 2012.
If you’re in Chicago, I will have a few pieces up alongside Nick Albertson and Josh Poehlein in Tricksters, curated by Jefferson Goddard, at C33 gallery. The show is part of Columbia College’s Chicago Curates Columbia series and opens January 31st and runs through March 15th.
More info:The show, Tricksters, is comprised of video, photography and sculpture from three talented young artists that are MFA candidates this Spring:Nick AlbertsonGregg EvansJosh PoehleinThe work will be installed at Gallery C33 at 33 E Congress (on the corner of Wabash and Congress)from January 31st until March 15Opening Reception is January 31st from 5:00-7:00 pm.Gallery C33 is open Monday-Friday 9:00-5:00 is free and open to the public.For more information, please visit their website:
I shot another video this Sunday, which is framed a little differently and has more dramatic light. I tried to create a greater sense of tension between my subject and I, kneeling down beside the camera so that my subject (James) and I were looking directly at each other while I was filming and slowly undressing off camera. I like the idea that there is a deliberate/constructed sense of sexual tension between James and I, but all of the actions creating that tension are happening off camera, causing James’ gaze to dart back and forth between the camera and something happening off camera. Like the last video, I slowed down the frame rate, extending the fleeting interaction between my subject and I, but in this video it is significantly less slow than in Coye and I. This is partially on account of James’ moving throughout the filming (it would look heavy handed if his movement was stretched out to an extreme degree while he was shifting in bed)… I feel that, while I am giving up a little bit of the photographic qualities of the past video (he doesn’t ever really seem to be photographically still, even when he is barely moving), the fluidity makes more sense for this video, and puts the focus more on our interaction, rather than the conflation of photography and video.
Anyhow, I’m sure more questions will come up in class when I show the video to everyone.
This week’s readings all centered around the animated GIF (graphic interchange format), a file format introduced in 1987 that wasn’t really intended to be used for animation, but has today become synonymous with short animated loops. Much like photography, the “low-tech” aspect of the file format has allowed for it flourish both within the artistic community and within the greater “mass culture” of the internet, encompassing everything from kittens and puppies being cute, to segments of popular films, to undulating abstract shapes (Tom Moody’s 2005 OptiDisc comes to mind). To be perfectly honest, while I love a good GIF when it pops up in my tumblr feed as much as the next person, I’m not at all a part of the community that seems to be primarily interested in them - I don’t use Reddit, I’ve never been on 4chan, and half the time when I see a meme pop up on facebook I have to run to google to figure out what the joke is. The idea of animated GIFs being part of a greater dialogue, remixing and reinterpreting aspects of mass culture and internet culture into some new, weird thing is interesting, but is also something that often seems coded in a way that’s designed to keep me out, to keep the joke inside. Nonetheless, I appreciate the blurred lines between the art consumer and the art producer, and the deskilled aspect of the gif - the idea that anybody can basically make a gif with little effort, as well as the idea that a gif could be highly intellectualized and highly stupid at the same time.
A particularly saccarine moment from “elegant” blog From Me To You.
Perhaps a result of just how new the gif itself is, many of the readings this week seemed to have contradicting viewpoints of what constituted a good gif, or what exactly was exciting about the future of the format. Anil Dash seems to argue that the most exciting possibilities of the animated gif are those in which the gif more closely resembles film, or inhabits still photographs with elements of movement. To Dash, the animated gif “invites participation, in a medium that’s both fun and accessible, as the pop music of moving images, giving us animations that are totally disposable and completely timeless.” This kind of discussion sends up major red flags for me, both in the sense that no image, wether existing as a gif, a photograph, or in any other medium, is ever anything other than a product of the time in which it was made, as well as through her use of the word disposable. What exactly makes disposability a positive attribute? Why would the increasing ability to make a gif look like something other than a gif make it a more dynamic and exciting medium? Aside from removing the wait time of streaming video (which in and of itself is something of a non-issue with most video these days), what is so exciting about making a gif function more like a video? Why not simply shoot video? It’s not as if HD video is something beyond most artists means (and from the looks of it, the photographers behind this type of work are shooting on equipment that could easily shoot HD video as well.) The use of the format to these means seems besides the point - not to say that all gif art should stick to the jumpy, glitchy aesthetics of early 90’s computer graphics, but pushing the medium to seamlessly appear to be something else seems like an obvious gimmick. Paddy Johnson sums up this argument well in her rebuttal of Dash’s article: “while Jamie Beck’s images have a blinking postcard type of appeal, the same question occurs to me while looking at them as did last night while watching Werner Herzog’s Forgotten Cave of Dreams in 3D: What does this effect add to the narrative that the image itself doesn’t already tell me? The answer is nothing. It’s just a cheap parlor trick.”
Tom Moody. OptiDisc. 2005.
Sally McKay, on the other hand, argues that animated GIFs repeat, loop and exaggerate the “affective intensity” of a given clip, creating a “felt sensation” that is present for the viewer almost like an optical illusion. McKay uses Tom Moody’s OptiDisc as an example, which uses the jumpy, glitchy qualities of the gif to create a series of concentric circles which move forward and backward in space. ”Engaging the viewer’s perceptual system directly — within the codes and conventions of online production — OptiDisc is very present, functioning more like a felt sensation than a merely visual observation." McKay states, continuing: ”In this way OptiDisc operates in the ‘here and now’ as Margaret Morse might say, but without the institutional structuring of the art museum to enframe and stage the experience.” To McKay, by removing the mediation of the traditional experience of art within the white cube, the viewer is allowed to experience gif imagery more directly, and in a way that toys with our experience of physical movement, rather than simply visual movement. McKay argues that the jerky motions of gif imagery are what allow for this type of illusion to occur, creating large gaps within the frame rate that that push against seamless motion while still maintaining the illusion of movement. McKay goes on to say “As Mieke Bal might describe it, the animated GIFs function like cinematic close-ups — ‘abstractions isolating the object from the time-space coordinates in which we were moving as if ‘naturally.’ A close-up immediately cancels out the whole that precedes it, leaving us alone, thrown out of linear time, alone with a relationship to the image that is pure affect.’ Unlike close-ups in cinema, however, animated GIFs function without a “whole” — there is no ongoing narrative for them to be juxtaposed against.” This idea that gif imagery functions by removing an image from any possible narrative implications, allowing it to function as it’s own autonomous experience seems obvious, yet also important. By focusing on detail, rather than a narrative whole, creators of gifs are able to borrow both from filmic and photographic structures, creating an experience that is at once moving and static, telling a portion of a story without having to deal with the before or after of it’s narrative. I suppose this is an answer to my question in the previous paragraph - by using the fragmentary nature of gif imagery, creators can make works which reference both photography, illustration, and film, yet are experienced as something wholly different.
I think It’s interesting to note that the majority of gif’s I’ve noticed I’m attracted to highlight the outmoded and somewhat crappy nature of the technology itself. Saul Chernick’s animations of drawings from the 500 year old book Heideberger Totentanz create a tongue and cheek commentary on the kitsch nature of the gif itself, maintaing a comic appearance that almost mimic cartoons of the present day.
Kevin Bewersdorf’s Windows 95 corporate kitsch mandalas (my own terrible term, not his) take as much from psychedelic graphics and eastern religious imagery as they do bad Internet 1.0 graphics and early clip art gifs, creating a strange commentary on the faith we put in technology, as well as the almost cult like status we give to tech companies and their heads. Bewersdorf’s images are both spiritual and kitschy, hilarious and depressing, and seem to revel in the outmoded logic of the “dawn of the internet.”
BOOMBANGBAM found on Joy of Gif.
This gif takes footage of an atom bomb test and loops it into an endlessly playful cycle of explosion, blocking the blast itself with a colorful dot both reminiscent of Baldessari and of retinal burns. Similar to the way in which Anime films often employ ideas of rebirth and regeneration after global annihilating blasts (the opening sequence to Daicon IV comes to mind, in which Tokyo is destroyed by a nuclear bomb and then saved by a swarm of cute cartoon characters), this gif utilizes the aesthetics of kitsch to disempower the brutality of the imagery it takes as it’s main source. The punchline of the gif seems to be the silent thud of the explosion. At the same time, the way flash of the explosion momentarily whites out the image is quite jarring. By endlessly looping the footage of a very serious historical event, the gif draws us in, highlighting our attraction and repulsion to it’s subject.
Nicolas Bourriaud’s essay Postproduction, Culture as Screenplay: How Art Reprograms the World outlines the various intersections between artistic production, consumer culture, and what can loosely be described as “remix culture”. Bourriaud’s essay follows and directly responds to his milestone work Relational Aesthetics, discussing many artists mentioned in his infamous work, including Rirkrit Tiravanija, Phillip Parreno, Pierre Huyghe, and Carsten Holler, but centers more directly around the contemporary phenomenon of sampling from mass culture to repackage or repurpose cultural information into new objects and experiences via artistic production. In short, just as a dj acts simultaneously as consumer and producer, Bourriaud argues, contemporary artists today borrow both from cultural information, mass produced objects, and the lexicon of consumer culture, weaving disparate elements into a new, autonomous whole.
A work by Haim Steinbach.
Bourriaud sees the roots of this phenomenon in the use of appropriation by artists such as Haim Steinbach, Jeff Koons, and Sherrie Levine starting in the late 1970’s and early 80’s, as well as in the work of Marcel Duchamp. By utilizing mass produced, easily obtained store bought objects and combining them with a method of display inspired by the aesthetics of retail, Steinbach creates sculptural objects that turn consumption into a literal means of production. Just as Marcel Duchamp deliberately undermined notions of artistic craft by placing shovels, urinals, and bicycle wheels into a gallery context, Steinbach took advantage of the aesthetics of the department store, collapsing the “retail experience” and the “art experience” in a manner that highlights the transaction inherent in both. Similarly, by creating highly polished reproductions of kitsch mass produced goods, or encasing consumer goods in plexiglass display cases, Jeff Koons fetishizes the desire to buy. As Bourriaud says of all three: “Koons, Levine and Steinbach present themselves as veritable intermediaries, brokers of desire whose works represent simple simulacra, images born of a market study more than of some sort of ‘inner need’, a value considered outmoded.” Trading in pre-existing objects and images, artists such as Koons, Levine and Steinbach simulate the world we already know, re-presenting both our own consumer culture as fetishized art objects, and their own consumption as artistic production in and of itself.
Rirkrit Tiravanija’s Untitled 1992 (Free), Re-created 2007.
Bourriaud argues that these appropriationist methods fetishize the art object in ways which, on some level, negate an artist’s’ ability to critique. Relational art, according to Bourriard, beginning with it’s emergence in the 1990’s, focused on creating experiential interactions beyond the materials which made up their physical pieces. Rirkrit Tiravanija, for example, turned the office of 303 Gallery in New York into a makeshift kitchen in which he cooked thai soup and served it, free of charge, to whomever came to the gallery. Using everyday building materials, kitchen supplies, and store bought food, Tiravanija created an environment in which the skeletal structure of the piece was it’s only visible component. Much like the materials of appropriationist’s like Steinbach or Koons, the wooden structure that housed his kitchen, dining area and his patrons were made of store bought untreated plywood and 2x4’s. Pots, pans, a refrigerator, as well as the meal’s ingredients and packaging were left out in the open, Tiravanija taking from them as needed. Rather than functioning simply as a static, saleable object like Jeff Koons’ infamous floating basketball, Tiravanija’s piece highlighted the act of consumption while simultaneously existing outside of that consumption. Free was not simply the structure Tiravanija created, but the interactions which went on inside of it as well. By utilizing the structure of a restaurant or storefront, Tiravanija’s piece functioned between the binaries of artistic production - at once mass produced (the unconcealed use of store bought materials) and and ephemeral (the interactions and connections between Tiravanija and his patrons; his patrons and each other), a fetishized art object (a sculptural piece in a gallery, now displayed at MoMA) and free from the constraint of commodity (the fleeting gesture of giving, the idea of art as something to be experienced and not purchased.) By using, to some extent, the materials and methods of a more blatantly consumer establishment, Tiravanija and other artists like him both highlighted and subverted the inherent capitalist nature of the gallery system within which they were participating.
Liam Gillick, Inside now, we walked into a room with Coca-Cola painted walls. 1998
Bourriaud goes on to discuss artists who “sample” the methods of consumer culture, the works of other artists, and the methodology of the factory as a means of production. Bourriard cites artists such as Liam Gillick, Maurizio Cattelan, and Pierre Huyghe as examples. Particularly interesting was Liam Gillick, whose work often outsources the mode of production to assistants or art handlers, mimicking the methods of production used by large corporations. For his piece Inside now, we walked into a room with Coca-Cola painted walls, 1998, Gillick set strict guidelines by which assistants were to paint a wall inside a gallery, brushstroke by brushstroke, trying to match the color of Coca-Cola. As Bourriaud says of the work: “the soda’s mode of production follows exactly the same process, since it is produced by local factories based on the formula provided by the Coca-Cola company.” Through the use of strictly defined parameters and a removal of the artist’s hand from the production of works such as this, Gillick undermines notions of artistic craft while also directly embracing elements of futility and chance. It is unimportant that Gillick’s assistants ever duplicate the color of Coca-Cola, though the piece is directly defined it’s redish-brown hue. Likewise, by strictly defining the process by which the work is made, Gillick undermines the importance of the very piece he is setting out to create, instead favoring the process itself. Another interesting contradiction within the work seems to be the idea that by borrowing on some level the method of production of Coca-Cola, he is negating the very color the brand rests so much of it’s product on, turning it on it’s head and mocking the very consumer desire he is invoking. This reminded me of a quote Bourriaud attributed to Guy Debord’s idea of Detourment - “(it is) not a negation of style, but the style of negation.” The same could be said of Gillick’s piece, both invoking the power Coca-Cola wields in cultural capital through his title and parameters, yet undermining that capital with the same brush.
Cory Archangel, Colors PE (Installation shot at MoMA), 2005.
All of this had me thinking about a Cory Archangel piece I remember seeing, and being transfixed by, at the Color show at MoMA a few years ago. The piece, Colors PE, consists of software designed by Archangel to play quicktime movies one horizontal line of pixels at a time, creating an undulating field of colorful strips across a flat screen monitor, accompanied by the sounds of the movie it plays. Installed at MoMA, Archangel used it to play the movie Colors, a 1988 film directed by Dennis Hopper, starring Sean Penn and Robert Duvall. Though the film gives Archangel’s work it’s name, it is completely obscured and abstracted by the program he has created to play it. The work both situates itself within art history by making reference to the Hopper film, which “relaunched his career as a director 18 years after Easy Rider,” and literally refuses art history by abstracting the film to the point of unrecognizability. In a sense, it is similar to the methodology of both Gillick and Tiravanija, creating a work that at once responds to the world it inhabits and undermines it. Watching the piece at MoMA, I couldn’t help but feel confused by Archangel’s intentions - was I being made fun of for trying to connect the title and the abstracted image in front of me, or was I somehow being let in on the joke? Unable to pull myself away, I realized that my role as viewer was something of a combination of both.
For the midterm paper I would like to take the opportunity to discuss Martin Creed’s piece Work No. 405 Ships coming in. I have been interested in Creed’s work for many years, and have been unexpectedly drawn into the piece each time I have been to the MCA this past year.
The work consists of two tv’s stacked on top of each other, both playing video footage shot from Creed’s studio window, looking out onto a shipping port in Italy. Each video is shot at on a different day while shipping freighters slowly enter the port. I think the piece is interesting to think about in the context of David Campany’s Stillness essay, as the movement of the ships is so slow, and the camera work so static, that at certain points I was unsure if the ships were coming or going, or if the image was moving at all. I also especially like the way the videos are displayed - on stacked television sets which reference both potential products the ships could be delivering, and the speed at which technology becomes outdated, as the piece is relatively recent, yet is shown on cathode ray tube sets rather than lcd screens. The work is deceptively simple both in execution and in display, using a minimal amount of physical craft (Creed’s “artist talk” on the work was even phoned in, and displayed as a slideshow on the blog for his “residency”) to create the impression that it could have many meanings and almost no meaning at once.
In any event, I’m looking forward to spending more time with the piece this weekend (it is on display at the MCA at part of Creed’s residency until December) and to discuss it in a fuller, more thought out context.