I was missing the earth so much that I watched a 98 minute movie of the light changing from day to night high up in the Sierra Nevadas. The trees are beautiful in the way trees are, but not too showy. There is no discernible movement in the frame beyond the changing position of the sun and the automatic shutter of the camera slowly trying to adapt. I was missing the earth and I was thinking of duration and those were things I would have been thinking and feeling even if I hadn’t been at the final day of the Onion City Experimental Film and Video Festival. But I was and those were things to think and feel about.
James Benning‘s Nightfall is a curious piece. His works are often challenging structurally, but saying the logic of this one is simple is like saying the simple logic of this is one. We watch the trees and they are still. We watch the light and it changes slowly. It would change more slowly, but the camera is doing what it can to keep up. Fauna haunts the aural space and I thought I even heard what sounded like human sounds. Mostly I floated in and out of the cinematic space (the seats, the people around me, my thirst, someone else quenching theirs, the size of the rectangle, the quality of this light) the represented space (the trees are so beautiful, there are fourteen main trees, there are an additional dozen supporting trees, the light coming through the branches looks like someone I know, the light through these branches looks like a stranger) and the space between (could I sit on the stump I’m imagining for this long?, when was the last time I spent this long seated with my head facing one direction?, when was the last time I spent this long seated with my head facing one direction outside?, how much better must this be to be there instead of here?, how has the concept of nature become so abstracted from [my own, at least] daily life?, what is that phrase about seeing forests and trees?, is this based on that?).
I do well with so-called durational works. Maybe it’s because I meditated as a child or have a very (let’s not say hyper-) active interior life (though my suspicions are that everyone does) or because my durational muscle has been honed through years of grueling training. Whatever the reason, I found Phil Solomon’s Empire to be satisfying, beguiling and eminently watchable. Immediately after the screening, I asked Patrick Friel, the festival’s director, if there would be another chance to watch it. Empire is a 48 minute remake of Andy Warhol’s film of the same name. Instead of, or maybe in the stead of, an indexical film in which the titular State Building takes center stage, Solomon’s video takes place in Grand Theft Auto’s Liberty City. Time passes quickly—two minutes in the game representing an hour in the world—even if slowness is the dominant feeling.
I was going to and still might write through Empire, telling you everything that happens. I might make a newspaper of it and then scan that and put it on a thousand flash drives and throw them from the top of a scale replica of the Empire State Building (from Liberty City). I don’t have it in front of me, so my memory will have to suffice. This is another type of reenactment, of bootlegging, covering or translating. The first thing I remember is the glistening, glittery reflection of the sun in the water that I chased long after it had gone. There is slow but continuous garbage flying toward us: perhaps someone printed out my newspaper. Airplanes appear regularly about an eighth of the way across the screen. They fly a straight line and disappear once they pass by (or seemingly hit) the unharmed protagonist. At a certain point light orbs pass from one side of the screen to the other, while the building abides. The sky changes, drastically. The different buildings turn on and off at different times. The sun. The wind is mostly steady and a truly delicate lull. The moon. I saw no cars. The splotches of fog that signaled incoming weather were terrifying. The rain almost shook me to my core with anticipation. I don’t ever play video games but I feel like I should, like I’m missing some of the critical ways that culture is moving. Sometimes I read about video games so I won’t be an alien in the senior home.
I had seen Empire before, on a monitor. I probably watched for a few minutes. I chuckled because I know about Andy Warhol and know about Phil Solomon and know about video games and know about the new media one-liner and know about duration and know about simulation and am a sensitive viewer with a rich interior life. But I probably watched it for a couple of minutes at most. I am an advocate for the space of the cinema. I think it’s ok for a work of art to be bossy and tell me to sit still and watch the whole thing until the lights come up. No talking, no texting. I also love talking and texting, but I know sometimes that makes listening and watching and being present and letting the mind wander a lot harder. I’m not telling you these things because I don’t think you know them, I’m just telling you them because this is my turn to be bossy. Even if we’re both talking and texting during the production and reception of this text.
It’s official, Chicago artists are back from their residencies and vision quests and it is time for the fall gallery season. Inaugurated this weekend with about a million openings from River North to the ‘burbs and back again, we’re still reeling. Here are some photos while we iron out our thoughts:
Oh, this brave new art world! We didn’t know QR codes could actually do something but this interactive curiosity greets you at the entrance to Technoromanticism, a strictly new media show curated by Alfredo Salazar-Caro at Jean Albano Gallery on Friday night.
Performance finally showed some skin at the second iteration of THIS IS NOW A MAGAZINE: Dwyer/Fraccaro/Wylie in Logan Square last week. Things were anything but comfortable at the Comfort Station during a performance using CAM4 and something having to do with Buffalo Bill that we wish we could erase.
This pink combo stole our heart at LVL’s opening for Quandry on Saturday night.
Volume Gallery debuted their completely amazing and beautiful renovated space on Friday night with a show by Jonathan Muecke. Despite all the new space (or maybe because of it) the gallery was totally packed. This photo is from SightUnseen
Tyson Reeder’s opening at Peregrine Program celebrated some of Club Nutz greatest hits, and reminded us that we need to hit the beach one last time before fall!
Sterling Lawrence was super conceptual and all, but we thought these Alain Biltereyst pieces at Devening Projects + Editions were cute in a good way and would fit way better in my studio apartment.
Cave of Lascaux blows everyones mind: Scenes from the Stone Age: The Cave Paintings of Lascaux at the Field Museum closed this weekend and if you didn’t make it we are truly sorry. This show had more new media than the SAIC BFA exhibition and we swear those cave paintings could be hanging in Shane Campbell and no one would bat an eye. We would go into greater detail, but fortunately for you, dear reader, Daniel Baird’s already wrote a piece on the exhibition and it is awesome. Who knew that ancient cave paintings were so totally superficial? Totes recommend you read it, we’ve been using Dan’s ideas to sound smart at openings all weekend.
Woman makes strong case for ladies:
In case you couldn’t tell, WTT? loves the ladies, and we couldn’t be more excited to see the rest of the art world catching on. One lady show opened up this weekend with two to follow next week at Heaven and at the Frogman Gallery. “Lady Painters” curator, Gwendolyn Zabicki, sent us a hot tip on some required reading by participating artist, Sarah Weber. “Had I written a critical essay for Lady Painters, I would have liked to have written the very excellent one by Sarah Weber for Being a Woman in an All Woman Show.” WTT? couldn’t agree more. You can prep for both of these openings next weekend by reading Weber’s statement now.
Art Newspaper on artists in newspapers:
Writer, Martin Bailey, covers the seriously late breaking news of Van Gogh’s ear incident after re-discovering an article from the Parisian paper Le Petite Journal published shortly after the incident on December 26, 1888. While doing research for his book on the artist, Bailey discovered the clipping, shedding new light on possibly the best artist gossip of all time. Making news in Paris all the way from Arles? Van Gogh is just lucky that the Impressionists didn’t have Facebook.
Stop by LVL3′s MRKT and pick up a FREE copy of San Fransisco Arts Quarterly featuring an interview with the gallery’s director, Vincent Uribe, and artist, Josh Reames.
Artists confused, think they are musicians
Visual artists do unthinkable and create sound
Last Thursday night WTT? made our first outing to Constellation. The venue’s unassuming brick facade under the overpass on Belmont and Western betrays the clean yet cozy interior of the bar. Intent on seeing live music on a Thursday night, Constellation was a great option. That is to say, the show was free. This art reporter was intrigued by the line-up: two reasonably well known visual artists (1/2 of Sonnenzimmer, Nick Bucher, and recent Hatch resident, Jordan Martins) performing with Constellation’s purveyor, Mike Reed, on drums.
Not to be mistaken for real musicians, the artists turnt virtuosos played an assortment of objects that would have made any dadaist proud.
Martins started the set playing guitar, but soon switched over to two broken guitar necks on a table which he “played” by jamming screwdrivers between the strings while strumming with chopsticks. Butcher wasn’t any more conventional “playing” a record player and what looked like a jumble of assorted cables that we’re not even sure were plugged in.
Even real musician, Mike Reed, got into the readymade spirit. It was weird enough that he played the drums with a tiny rake, but what was next to the drums was a regular Duchamp. Was it a rice cooker on a styrofoam cooler? Some instrument we’ve never seen before? We’re still not sure.
Despite using what appeared to be broken instrument pieces and household bric-a-brac, the trio was other wordly, playing a set that meandered through melodic ups and downs, punctuated by Butcher’s off beat electronics. Super chill for a Thursday night, I just wish they had better cocktails. (The Pimm’s cup was alright.)
Constellation is located at 3111 N Western Ave.
Header image is a photograph from inside Scenes from the Stone Age: The Cave Paintings of Lascaux at the Field Museum.
An interview with Melbourn-based artist Amy Spiers — we talk online dating, social practice and plans to remove the Sydney Harbor Bridge in an upcoming, collaborative work “Nothing To See Here.”Amy Spiers is a Melbourne-based artist and writer interested in socially engaged and participatory art. She employs a cross-disciplinary approach that includes photography, video, installation, text and performance for both site-specific and gallery contexts. Amy completed a Master of Fine Art at the Victorian College of Art in 2011. During her studies she explored strategies for inviting viewer participation in her art. Listen to our convo here.
Wendy Lee Spacek submits the last segment of her summer series of Indianapolis adventures focusing, this time, on what fall has in store:
A guest post from Daniel Baird came in this week, by way of Chicago Artist Writers. Baird writes about the Field Museum’s exhibit Scenes from the Stone Age: The Cave Paintings of Lascaux, exploring the implications of the replicas its contains and their relationship to virtual space:
HATCH Projects is a yearlong, juried incubator for contemporary Chicago artists and curators that strives to support an ecology of curatorial and artistic practice. A pioneering initiative of Chicago Artists’ Coalition (CAC), HATCH Projects fosters shared experimentation, exchange and creativity to produce ground-breaking exhibitions and programs.
Four Curator Residents are accepted into the program based on an application evaluated by four leading and established Mentor Curators (To be announced). Curator Residents are then responsible for selecting the twenty-four Artists Residents. Each Curator Resident manages a group of six artists for the year to realize three innovative and experimental exhibitions and public programs at CAC. In addition, curators receive professional development through feedback from and working with Mentor Curators, as well as through conversations and critiques with an active peer-to-peer creative network. Through this unique hands-on experience and mentorship program, curators develop valuable insight and experience in contemporary exhibition making. Read about it here.
The Hodder Fellowship will be given to writers and non-literary artists of exceptional promise to pursue independent projects at Princeton University during the 2014–2015 academic year. Potential Hodder Fellows are writers, composers, choreographers, visual artists, performance artists, or other kinds of artists or humanists who have “much more than ordinary intellectual and literary gifts”; they are selected more “for promise than for performance.” Given the strength of the applicant pool, most successful Fellows have published a first book or have similar achievements in their own fields; the Hodder is designed to provide Fellows with the “studious leisure” to undertake significant new work.
Hodder Fellows spend an academic year at Princeton, but no formal teaching is involved. A 75,000 USD stipend is provided. Fellowships are not intended to fund work leading to an advanced degree. One need not be a U.S. citizen to apply.
Applications must be submitted by October 1, 2013 through the Princeton Jobs site athttp://jobs.princeton.edu/, requisition # 1300448
Submit a resume, a 3,000-word writing sample of recent work, and a project proposal of 500 to 750 words.
Performing and Visual Artists:
Submit a resume, a project proposal of 500 to 750 words, and examples of ten minutes of performance through link(s) to sites such as YouTube, Vimeo, Flicker, etc. Visual artists should provide up to 20 still images saved as a PDF file and submit as part of their online application or supply a link to a website, YouTube, etc.
We cannot confirm receipt of applications nor can we accept applications submitted after the deadline. Limits on the statement size (500-750 words) and sample size (3,000 words) are strict.
The appointment of the Hodder Fellows will be made in January 2014.
The General Fund is open to all requests for travel grants that respect the eligibility criteria of RCF, whatever the destination of travel, the artistic discipline or the direction of mobility. The General Fund functions on an annual basis which means that candidates can apply for the March session and to the other sessions in June and September depending on the funding available.
Some grants for travel from the South on the General Fund are provided by the European Union as part of the Istikshaf programme.
The Conseil Général des Bouches du Rhône and Marseille-Provence 2013 provide funding on two specific funding lines. Details concerning these funding lines are provided on the Cimetta Fund website http://www.cimettafund.org
Artists and cultural operators living and working in Europe, the Middle East and North Africa can apply in Arabic, English or French. Priority is given to mobility from the South and East of these regions.
The results are announced as follows:
Fourth session: 1st December 2013 (Deadline for receiving applications: 30/09/2013)
If you want to apply, please visit the Roberto Cimetta Fund’s website and fill in the contact form on the website www.cimettafund.org. The office of the Fund will send you the link to the online form to fill out.
In the recent Field Museum exhibition ‘Scenes from the Stone Age: The Cave Paintings of Lascaux,’ perfect replicas of a 20,000 year old archaeological site in the Southwestern countryside of France are brought to Chicago by way of 3D models, to-scale stone replicas and cast artifacts. The process by which the drawings and cave structures are being visualized shows a contemporary trend of using advanced imaging technologies to digitally represent and conserve the surfaces of objects and locates it purely within an aesthetic analysis of surface.
The recent predominance of surface is seen most notably in cultural objects that come to us via the internet and hand-held mobile devices. Google Earth is a leading proponent that is warming us to this way of being in the world. Ambitious in its scope, it seeks to map out by way of photographic image an accurate depiction of the entirety of the earth. It does this via satellite imagery and numerous on land instruments that take 8 simultaneous pictures and seam them together as a flowing surface. In this digital replicating of the world through image, one is able to traverse any place on earth through a screen. Spin-Cam, a recent application for the iPhone, allows viewers to download panoramic images of locations from around the world and view them, hands outstretched, through the surface of their screens at the same position they were taken. Literally spinning in place while a different location is grafted onto the present. A recent development in printing technologies, centralized to the advertizing industry, has allowed for images to be placed onto a mesh vinyl that is able to be seen though when near, but at a distance reveals an image. Used in construction sites during the restoration of important structures, it has been used to place an image of the building as it is planned to look on the outer scaffolding, or skin, to mask the potentially unflattering things being done to its exterior facade. In all of these instances, including the recent Field Museum exhibition, the surface of the experienced world is presented as disembodied and able to be understood as object.
Lascaux, as the caves paintings have come to be called, was discovered in 1940 and made into a tourist attraction in 1948. Due to heavy carbon monoxide levels generated by roughly 1200 visitors per day, the caves were shut down to conserve them from damage. To satisfy the desire to see these ancient discoveries, in 1983 a nearby quarry was used to house a pair of to-scale replicas of walls from the original. It was given the name Lascaux II in recognition of its artifice. Constructed with armatures and concrete, detailed diagrams were made of the original paintings and reproduced by hand using pigments and tools similar to what may have been used by the creators of the original. The field museum presents another, mathematically precise, iteration of the replicated cave drawings.
The entrance of the exhibition begins with a stone object that is worn, weathered and dimly lit. This initial confrontation with the stone object anchors the viewer in a familiarity to the real. Light slowly traces the contours of faint engravings on the fragment calling our attention to an abstracted horse hidden within the surface. The revealing of a hidden illusion on the surface of the stone sets the stage for a type of reversal between the real and the artificial that occurs throughout the exhibit.
In an adjacent room, the mesmerizing sound of a synthesizer pulses soothing digital tones that feel like a sacred chant. Six stark-white, bulbous vessels recalldecayed and hollowed out tree trunks resting onskewedgeometric bases. At waist height, these objects refer to horizontal bodies balancing precariously on the peaks of mountains. Sleek, bendable lights are perched at the entrance to each of these forms illuminating the interior surface. The hollow vessels are so thin that the interior and exterior skins appear to be the same.
A realistic digital animation projected onto the wall is the heart of the exhibition. It connects the forms surrounding the viewer into a single entity that slowly rotates amidst a black background. It looks like an organic spaceship, floating with no reference to its own scale. As the animation rotates the cave structure, the viewer becomes aware that the exterior surface is derived purely from images of its interior. The cave as 3D model is a pure flowing surface. This visualization of the cave structure as an absolute object is an experience that would be impossible to attain in real life.
The camera enters into the digital cave structure and moves with anthropomorphic gestures through the detailed interior, bobbing ever so slightly to the left and right as if to mimic how we walk through the world. Artificial bats rush through the caves and floating balls of fire illuminate the chambers casting faux shadows on the walls. At the end of the tunnel is a bright light that obscures any further view. This visualization of the caves interior is key to understanding the objects in the room. The white vessels in the space become blank sheets of paper that the viewer can now graft the cave drawings onto. It is impossible to resist imagining oneself inside the vessels at a 1:10 scale.
Surface and replication are emphasized by the exhibition. In digitally acquiring the undulating surface of the cave drawings through 3D laser scanning, we are left only with images that can be grafted onto mathematically precise points in virtual space. These points hold no depth and can be seen anywhere in the world, at any time with any digital device. The caves are now pure information. The thinness of the physical structures throughout the exhibition exemplify the ‘zero-dimensional’ quality of 3D models. Each physical object we encounter is derived from the original 3D model and pushes against its own architectural and structural limits in order to maintain this illusion of immateriality.
The next room in the exhibit presents enormous, to-scale wall replicas of select rooms of the caves. Faux-stone surfaces with crude pigmented drawings tower over the viewer. They appear rocky, irregular and roughly an inch thick while being held from behind by large geometric structures (mirroring the display techniques holding the 1:10 scale models) Termed ‘stone-veils’, these massive replicas attempt to enter into this depth-less and perfect zone of the digital. Lights subtly change in this new space, revealing different perspectives of the drawings that are on the walls similar to how the faux-candles changed the surface in the animation. Two hyper-real sculptures of a man and woman clad in animal skins and jewelry peer out of the cracks of adjoining walls. The woman points her finger outward with a look of fear on her face while the male, much older in age, sits beside her with a passive expression. Their uncanny expressions, particularly that of the woman’s, instills a feeling of trespassing and self-awareness within the viewer. Despite all attempts, eye contact with the ancient figures is impossible. They always look through you.
The translation of the physical into the perfect digital and back again into the physical is tested in this part of the exhibition. In placing the figure physically into the 3D caves represented in the prior room, we physically enter into a world understood to be built from the virtual. The forms are fragmentary and stand in as samples for the entire structure. In bringing together these fragmented 1:1 replicas, the entirety of the cave is presented. In encountering these forms, the question as to whether or not the replica can carry more weight than the original is predominant. Would the replicas and the recreated 3D model shift in meaning or value if the interior structure of the original cave tragically collapsed in on itself and became forever lost? Would the 3D model, and the perfect reproductions that can be derived from it, function as the new original? Or, to speak to recent cultural apocalyptic fetishism, if the world should disappear would Google Earth be the perfect world before it beset an unfortunate event? The ancient cave drawings at Lascaux now digitally exist everywhere and at all times simultaneously, trapped photographically in the moment they were recorded. Visiting the original now seems fruitless and arbitrary.
This possibility of representing the cave structure in virtual spaceresults in a new consideration of aura. In becoming virtual, the caves are now equated with any digital model of any object and as a result now exist in historical ambiguity. A digital spoon, table, asteroid, CAT Scan, height-field map of a farm in Nebraska or the Lascaux Caves all share the potential to exist simultaneously with one another, and at any scale, in the digital terrain. The digital caves are now a pseudo-artifact that share a likeness with the function of the souvenir. The 3D model of the cave presents the possibility for an acute historical analysis of the markings on its surface by way of mimicking the lighting conditions, zooming into the surfaces and experiencing time inside of the virtual models. It also allows for them to be placed in any virtual situation as object, container or reference.
The trans-historical preoccupation with the surface of objects is emphasized by these contemporary reproductions of the Lascaux caves. Created 20,000 years ago, these early articulations of physical reality on a flat picture plane have traversed through time to be embodied by our most recent iteration of representation. Whereas historically the placement of images on surfaces has been the dominant concern of art and aesthetics, we are now seeing a preoccupation with the pure surface able to exist anywhere and in any form. We can now experience the cave with more exactitude than we ever could in real life.
Daniel G. Baird (b. 1984) received his BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and MFA from the University of Illinois, Chicago. Recent Solo exhibitions include ‘Vestige’ at the Institute of Jamais Vu, London, ‘Has the World Already Been Made? X4′ at both Roots and Culture, Chicago IL and Hedah, Maastricht, Netherlands, ‘Meridian’ at Robert Bills Contemporary, Chicago, IL and ‘This New Ocean,’ at Appendix Project Space, Portland OR. Recent Group exhibitions include Bowling Alone, Andrew Rafacz Gallery, Merge Visible, Prairie Productions, Chicago, IL. He will present work at the Elizabeth Foundation, NY and Leeds College of Art in 2014.