This week: This week, our resident feminist commentator Patricia Maloney sits down with one of her heroes, the Los Angelesâ€“based artist Andrea Bowers to talk about her solo exhibition, Andrea Bowers: #sweetjane, on view through April 13, 2014 at the Pitzer College Art Galleries and Pomona College Museum of Art in Southern California. #sweetjane explores the Steubenville, Ohio, rape case and the social mediaâ€“driven activism that brought the young men responsible to trial in two distinct ways. At Pitzer is a 70-foot long drawing of the text messages sent between the teenagers in the 48 hours following the assault on the young woman who is known in the media and throughout the trial as Jane Doe. At Pomona is a video installation comprised of appropriated media footage and billboard-size photographs of disguised Anonymous protestors at the trial. Taken together, the installations create an incredibly damning document, not only of the events and of the young men, who were depicted sympathetically by the media, but also of the significant tolerance in this country around sexual assault. Bowersâ€™ activities in creating this work reflect the fluidity between art and activism that is a hallmark of her practice, as well as her belief that art can bear witness to the individual gestures and commitments that collectively enact significant social change.
An abridged text version of this conversation will be published by our friends at Art Practical on March 27, 2014.
Andrea Bowers received her MFA at the California Institute of the Arts in 1992. Solo exhibitions include: Secession, Vienna, Austria; REDCAT, Los Angeles, CA; and the Santa Monica Museum of Art, Santa Monica, CA. Her work has been included in exhibitions at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY; Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, NY; Sammlung Goetz, Seedamm Kulturzentrum, Switzerland; Kunsthalle Basel, Switzerland; Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, CA; New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York, NY; Frankfurter Kunstverein, Frankfurt, Germany; Stedelijk Museum voor Actuele Kunst; Armand Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, CA; Kunstmuseum Bonn, Bonn, Germany; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN; Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, IL.
I was leafing through my alma mater’s quarterly magazine over the weekend and, while intending to flip straight through to the Class Notes and Obits like I usually do, I found myself absorbed instead by a fascinating profile of Pomona College Assistant Professor (and Northwestern University grad) Sarah Sood, a computer scientist whose research focuses on the emotional content of the blogosphere.
Sood is interested in connecting people via the stories they tell. For the past six years, she’s been designing programs that enable computers to identify the emotional components of blog-based narratives. The results thus far have produced Buzz, a search and retrieval system that mines blogs for interesting and emotionally compelling stories.
If you’re a Chicagoan, you may very well have seen Sood’s work in 2005 when for a period of one year Buzz was displayed in the lobby of the Second City Theater. Taking the form of a multi-media theatrical installation, it presented four talking-head avatars, each of whom related stories derived from Sood’s research. A description of the project can be found on Northwestern University’s Infolab website, excerpted below:
“Buzz is a multimedia installation that exposes the buzz generated by blogs. Buzz finds the blogs which are compelling; those where someone is laying their feelings on the table, exposing a dream or a nightmare that they had, making a confession or apology to a close friend, or regretting an argument that they had with their mother or spouse. It embodies the blogger with virtual actors who externalize these monologues by reading them aloud.”
Click the image below to be taken to a demonstration clip from the installation:
Sood also used the Buzz retrieval system to explore emotional reactions to Chicago landmarks (click here for demo):
While installations like Buzz provide entertaining diversions, Sood’s next project promises to be far more rich in its possibilities. She is developing an “emotional-state search engine” that will seek out web content driven by one of six emotions: happiness, fear, sadness, surprise, disgust and anger. Writer Lori Kido Lopez, who authored the aforementioned profile of Sood, points out that the Buzz-based emotional search engine “is vastly different from a typical search engine.” Lopez explains,
“If you put the words â€œhappyâ€ and â€œObamaâ€ into Google, the sites that pop up include information about Obamaâ€™s White House happy hours and a mix tape called â€œObamaâ€™s Happy Endingâ€â€”neither of which have distinct emotional content. Soodâ€™s goal is to be able to search for content about â€œObamaâ€ but also to be able to specify that the stories are emotionally â€œhappyâ€â€”and actually be able to come up with a list of articles where the writer is feeling joyous about the topic of Obama. These stories might include topics like the euphoria and love surrounding Obamaâ€™s family, or excitement toward his message of change.”
Sood hopes to have the website ready for public use by the end of this summer. I’m already thinking of emotional buzzwords and topics to pair them with…the possibilities are endless.