Semic and Asemic Writing in Art

July 13, 2009 · Print This Article

Not anti-semitic writing, dummy, asemic writing. Har har. But seriously, I’m digging on both these things today. First, the idea of asemia, or more specifically of asemic writing as it pertains to art which, despite my proclivities for this type of thing, I’d never heard of before (so thanks, Bruce Sterling!). Asemic writing is defined as writing that has no specific semantic content. Not nonsense writing but writing without characters, writing that doesn’t signify anything. Here are a few examples of asemic writing in art taken from a website devoted to such things, The New Post-Literate (but let’s just bracket whole ‘post-literate’ angle of this for now):

Melissa McCarthy

Melissa McCarthy

Marilyn R. Rosenberg, In Case of Loss

Marilyn R. Rosenberg

John Moore Williams

John Moore Williams

And here are a couple of examples of my own take on the concept:

Elliott Puckette, Untitled, 2008. Paul Kasmin Gallery

Elliott Puckette, Untitled, 2008. Paul Kasmin Gallery

Jim Lutes

Jim Lutes, Worryburg

Matthew Sontheimer, J Minus, 2004. Dunn and Brown Contemporary.

Matthew Sontheimer, J Minus, 2004. Dunn and Brown Contemporary.

Then there’s the semic, which, um, might not actually be a word, although I did find a definition for it online in the Dictionary of Difficult Words: “pertaining to a sign.” Yeah, I’ll take that. Evan Roth has studied the taxonomy of graffiti tags in Paris (a project sponsored by the Fondation Cartier in conjunction with its current “Born in the Streets” exhibition on graffiti art; I learned of this project via Provisions Library) and the results are fascinating, for those of us who don’t make a regular study of graffiti markings, anyway. The project sets up a taxonomic system for graffiti lettering in Paris; there are apparently as many ways to spray an “A” and every other letter of the alphabet as their are thumbprints on taggers, which is a pretty cool finding indeed.

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Check out the full details on Roth’s Graffiti Taxonomy study here (for Paris) and also here (for New York City-based tag taxonomic studies).

Bad at Sports: Major League Art

July 13, 2009 · Print This Article

Bad at Sports Summer Collection is up.
Bad at Sports: Major League ArtJerseys, Shirts, Stickers, Magnets & the Party Poster can all be found here.

Take a look and have fun this summer with the beer, grills, sun and beach. It’s only a few weeks before the Fall season and cooler weather. So make hay while you can!

Antoine Catala’s “Couple in a Garden”

July 13, 2009 · Print This Article

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Antoine Catala, Couple in a Garden

Tony Wight Gallery has become one of a handful of go-to galleries in Chicago where I consistently encounter paintings that get me to think more deeply about, well, painting. I hadn’t given that same level of consideration to video art in awhile, at least until an encounter last Friday with Wight’s latest offering, a 13 minute video projection titled Couple in a Garden by the French-born, NY based artist Antoine Catala.

I was initially put off by the gimmicky psychedelic trippery of Catala’s piece, which uses datamoshing– visible information loss caused by extreme data compression–to make the image of two people standing in front of a garden appear to sag, swirl and drip like the juicy innards of a lava lamp. (Catala has used this same technique previously, to notable effect). Yet the soundtrack (by Ensemble/Olivier Alary) consists of a low-lying, atonal thrum that was just annoying enough to prevent me from mindlessly consuming these images as if they were, indeed, bottled within a lava lamp, mesmerized though I was by the disintegration and reconfiguration of the couple projected in front of me.

To be sure, there’s nothing all that revolutionary about Catala’s techniques here. Datamoshing has already been used extensively in music videos (see this post on Kottke for numerous examples), and yet, despite its cliches, I found Couple in a Garden exhilerating to watch, the more so the longer I stayed. At first, I busied myself with trying to figure out who was the boy, who was the girl, etc. etc., but it soon became much more interesting to consider the possibility that, when confronted with images like Catala’s, such distinctions are beside the point–which, I think, is the point.

Among other things, Michael Jackson was vilified for his attempts transcend race, gender, and to some degree age itself by “datamoshing” his own body through radical surgical modifications. His death two weeks ago highlighted the pathos and futility of such efforts, but for me, Catala’s Couple in a Garden recaptures the essentially Utopian thrust of that desire, and some of its underlying innocence as well.

You can watch a 3 minute excerpt of Couple in a Garden on Catalo’s website here. The exhibition is on view through July 31st.

Banff: The Residency

July 13, 2009 · Print This Article

Want to keep up with Bad at Sports’ own Duncan MacKenzie and Christian Kuras (who co-interviewed Mark Francis on Episode 197) on their artists-in-residential adventures at The Banff Center? Well, you can, you can. They’re blogging all about it here, and if we’re lucky maybe Christian will share his Twitter feed with us as well. In the coming weeks, they’ll also have a Flickr site with pics, but for now, feast your eyes on their new light-filled studio space. More info on what Duncan and Christian are working on to come later; in the meantime, best of luck guys — work hard, play hard!

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Chicago Pocket Garden

July 12, 2009 · Print This Article

Seen enroute to 65 Grand this weekend.  This is one of the many great things about summer in Chicago. You can see these kinds of ad-hoc gardens everywhere, if you look for them.

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Coincidentally, this weekend I also came across a book of photographs by Brad Temkin titled Private Places: Photographs of Chicago Gardens. It’s filled with images of modest urban backyards that look utterly familiar, unlike the glossy designer garden porn found in your typical home and garden magazines (though I love that too).  Private Places is a fairly expensive coffee table book that only people who can afford more than a pocket garden can buy, but thankfully Temkin has an extensive web site containing a number of large-scale examples from the book, along with documentation of numerous other photographic works. Temkin’s “Private Places” series is not new (most of the shots were taken in the period 2000-2004), but it’s new to me, and worth another look by those already familiar with it as we career past the midway point of Chicago’s precious summertime season. I can already feel it slipping away.

(Click on these thumbnail images to be taken directly to Temkin’s website and to fully zoom-inable pictures of the gardens below). UPDATE: Wow, I am out of it. Turns out that Temkin is showing his photographs in Chicago right now, in an exhibition titled Chicago Gardens: Past and Present at the Chicago Tourism Center, 72 E. Randolph Street (through August 18th). Find more info on the show here, and apologies for not being on this in the first place.

Brad Temkin, Jane's Backyard, Chicago

Brad Temkin, Jane's Backyard, Chicago

Brad Temkin, Tomatoes

Brad Temkin, Tomatoes

Brad Temkin, Yellow Line, Chicago

Brad Temkin, Yellow Line, Chicago