MASSIVE ATTACK VS. ADAM CURTIS
@THE PARK AVE. ARMORY, NYC
VIDEO WORK CASE, NUREMBERG
CURATED BY KLAUS HAAS AND ANDREAS TEMPLIN
Since the acclaimed pioneer of video art Nam Jun Paik realized his first video-installation in Germany in 1963, video and digital art has continued to expand into a revolutionary art form that has altered our perception and ultimately changed the way we look at art. Video and digital art can take on many forms and may be viewed on our home computer screens, YouTube, and on our iphones and ipads, but one might say the most established form is the video-installation as seen in countless gallery and museum exhibitions around the world. Gerry Schum, who opened the first video art-gallery in Düsseldorf in 1971 said, "One of our ideas is the communication of art instead of the ownership of an art-object." Perhaps this is why, in our hyper-digitalized lives filled with daily communication via Gmail, Facebook, YouTube and Tumblr, video and digital art has come to dominate as the medium that is the message, or the ultimate gestampkunstwerk. This month SBFA explores the medium of video and digital art and reports on "Adam Curtis Vs. Massive Attack," the latest project by British BBC television journalist and provocateur Adam Curtis at the Park Ave. Armory; "Paddles ON!" the first digital art auction at Phillip's in New York; and finally SBFA artist Andreas Templins' latest project in Nuremberg, VIDEOworkCASE .
MASSIVE ATTACK VS. ADAM CURTIS
@THE PARK AVE. ARMORY, NYC
Some say that British television journalist and provocateur Adam Curtis is one of the most fascinating filmmakers operating in the world today. Since the early 1990s Adam Curtis has made a number of serial documentaries and films for the BBC which are linked using fragments of the past—recorded on film and video―and then reassembled to try and make sense of the chaotic events of the present. Curtis artfully cuts up endless film footage from the BBC archive and assembles it into a series of "brainy, free-associative mash-up meditations on the course of empire," which some argue might be considered art itself. Last year Curtis was a featured speaker at Frieze Talks in London, where I stood in cue for over an hour and was turned away along with many others as the event was over capacity. I wondered, why all the sudden interest from artists in this BBC journalist? While the irritatingly omnipresent German curator Hans Ulrich Obrist described Curtis "not an artist, but a television journalist" during the 2012 retrospective he curated of Curtis' films entitled "The Desperate Edge of Now" he also went on to say that "In our current age of uncertainty, both art and journalism are struggling in their different ways to make sense of the present time. This exhibition of Adam Curtis' works aims to try and break down the divide between art and modern political reportage, and to open up a dialogue between the two." Perhaps this is why artists find Curtis work is so powerful and of-the-moment.
Adam Curtis and Massive Attack front man Robert Del Naja
Curtis' work, which combines avant-garde filmmaking and journalistic investigation, offers a radical critique of the contemporary world that not only analyzes the ideologies that shape our world but counters them formally. Similar to the way that early 20th century artists opposed to traditional art made "anti-art," Curtis makes anti-propaganda films by subverting the political documentary. Obrist's press release states that "The old idea was that the heart of power was primarily located in the realm of politics. Adam Curtis' films challenge that notion head-on by demonstrating how power really works in today's complex society, how it also flows through all sorts of other areas: through science, public relations and advertising, psychology, computer networks, and finance and business." Curtis, who has free access to the BBC's vast library of archival footage, uses fragments of celluloid in unexpected ways, juxtaposing imagery from the past to give voice to the present, successfully unhinging the traditional documentary style and revealing what is hidden behind the standard narratives of Western culture.
Through his films Curtis successfully collapses the political and historical grand narratives that we have come to accept. Michael Atkinson wrote "Curtis's corpus has the seething, portentous air of science fiction, without being fictional, and the disconnect there suggests a new kind of culture that may well be a natural byproduct of the postwar era's steamrolling power structures, capitalistic need for growth, ecological devastation, and extra-human technology. Why should the old categories of history, science fiction, journalistic truth, conspiracism and apocalyptic vision retain their mutual exclusivity, as the conceptual barriers between news and entertainment, reality and virtuality, government and corporation, national and global, all vanish like stray broadcast signals?" Curtis' work effectively obliterates the mutually exclusive "conceptual barriers" between journalism, documentary film and art and for this reason one might think of him as a revolutionary political "artist" using the medium as the message, whilst simultaneously subverting the very media state he is critiquing.
His most recent project "Massive Attack vs. Adam Curtis" at the Park Ave. Armory in New York, was a collaboration between himself and the Bristol-based, trip hop band Massive Attack. The "show" was in fact, a complicated performance piece with music, spoken word and film footage simultaneously projected over eleven screens and channeled back through dozens of booming loudspeakers to a rapt audience of hundreds in the cavernous old military building on Park Avenue. As the video trailer provocatively describes it, his film weaves together the stories of "Donald and Ivana Trump, Nicolai and Elena Ceausescu, Jane Fonda and Ted Turner, Hamid Karzai and his brothers, everyone in Goldman Sachs who made a killing in 2008, the neutron bomb, the Siberian punk movement, Bambi, and all your own worst fears." His thesis is basically that the cycle of fashion, music and a "culture of entertainment" are not the empowering agents of individualism they pertained to be, but are in fact tools of a deeply conservative philosophy which, by urging us to obsess about the past, leaves us unable to imagine a future which could be in any way different, or as Adam Curtis himself put it, "if you like that, then you'll love this." While some might see Curtis' work as pessimistic, it could also be construed as a call to arms to imagine a different and a better future. This new hybrid artform or "glim" (musical gig and film) as Curtis and Massive Attack front man Robert Del Naja dubbed it, might be also be considered an inspired "new kind of culture," or an all encompassing, immersive, politically motivated gestampkustwerk that breaks down the traditional boundaries between the arts and their respective mediums and offers us a provocative new perspective on the past and the possibility to imagine a brighter future.
PHILLIPS + TUMBLR HOST
FIRST EVER DIGITAL ART AUCTION
RGB,D-LAY by Petra Cortright is a webcam video piece publicly available on YouTube
In recognition of the increasing presence and viability of the genre of digital art in the contemporary art marketplace Phillip's Auction House and social media blog website Tumblr, have joined forces to hold what they describe as the "first ever digital art auction." Curated by Lindsay Howard, the exhibition and auction brings together artists who are using digital technologies to establish the next generation of contemporary art. The auction, called 'Paddles On!' will be the first to be held live at Phillip's and online with the premier online auction house Paddle 8. Tumblr, which is one of the most popular platforms used by emerging and established digital artists to share their work online, will feature digital art pieces on offer at auction in a huge range of digital formats such as GIF, mp4 videos, digital photography, website design and software design. For this benefit auction, artists will receive 80% of the sale profits and the remaining proceeds will be donated to Rhizome, the leading non-profit organization dedicated to supporting new media and digital art that was founded in 1996 by artist and MFA Fine Arts Department at SVA Chair, Mark Tribe.
Mark Tribe "Black Creek"
Tribe's work features virtual landscapes that he has "hacked" from video games and virtual reality vistas, which he says has, "reinforced...one of the conceptual underpinnings of the project: how the boundaries between the virtual and the real are blurring in contemporary life. Futurists and science fiction authors have been predicting this moment for decades, and it is finally happening: not only is it getting hard to tell the difference sometimes, but the real and the virtual are no longer separate territories." Tribe's work is included in the auction in addition to works by Rafaël Rozendaal, Nicolas Sassoon, Silvia Bianchi + Ricardo Juárez, Petra Cortright, Joe Hamilton, Molly Soda, Sabrina Ratté. This auction is considered groundbreaking, in that it marks a significant show of support for digital artists and adds welcome validity to their place in the contemporary art market, which for the most part has favored more traditional mediums such as painting and photography. At a time when everything in the art market seems to be going online this makes sense. Tribe says, "digital media have become increasingly pervasive, to a point where their cultural significance is undeniable and unavoidable. At the same time, online art sellers like Artspace and Artsy are finally gaining traction, and even Amazon is now selling art online. Major collectors and their advisors routinely purchase work based only on jpegs. The acceptance of digital art is a consequence of these trends." Digital artists already are commanding significant prices and attention from the contemporary-art world. An untitled inkjet-printer painting by Wade Guyton fetched $1.1 million at Christie's in February and Cory Arcangel, whose work includes computer-generated projects, video, music composition and sculpture, had a solo show at the Whitney Museum of American Art in 2011. Others have built their audiences online through sites such as Tumblr, which has become a popular platform for artists to present their work and some are even using Tumblr as their medium of choice, said Annie Werner, Tumblr's arts evangelist.
Casey Raes AMERICANS!
Featured SBFA artist Andreas Templin opens his latest collaborative project in Nuremberg this month with the interdisciplinary art video project VIDEOworkCASE, a site-specific platform for 8-channel video artworks situated in Willy-Brandt-Square in the city centre of Nuremberg. Eight projection screens installed behind glass will showcase around-the-clock video works and installations by over ten international artists, including Klaus Haas, Pia Greschner and Andreas Templin from Germany and Canadian artist/musician Jeremy Shaw. Andreas Templin's award winning video work "As if to Nothing," (2008) that was featured during Art Basel Miami Beach 2011 and in a solo-exhibition in Tokyo will also be on view. This computer-based single-channel video work features a selection of statistical data such as the Earth's temperature, the planet's population, births, deaths, military expenditures and remaining oil reserves. This data, created by various governmental and intergovernmental sources is combined with the highly dramatic second movement of Bruckner's 7th symphony, which is looped for the screening. This musical tour-de-force through human emotions is used to underline the weight of the subject matter of the artwork. The video-installation is in fact a computer program, which utilizes the internal clock of the computer to calculate the statistical algorithms, which are updated on a yearly basis.
Canadian artist and musician Jeremy Shaw will exhibit "DTM" an 8 channel video installation that both formalizes and externalizes individual psychedelic experiences featuring videos of young subjects high on the hyper-hallucinogen dimethyltriptamine (DMT). Jeremy Shaw's practice conflates conceptual art strategies, performance and documentary with a text-based version of psychedelic art. Berlin-based artist Pia Greschner will be showing her 8 screen video installation "The Moon Is My Sun" that was shot in Mozambique, South Africa and Berlin, places which have a history of conflict and war. The images in her piece show moments that evoke feelings of emptiness, disillusionment, aggression and fear, accompanied by music by singer and actress Pujeh Taghdisi. Each of the participating artists in VIDEOworkCASE will exhibit one work in the form of an installation for the period of a week. The project opens Thursday, October 10th with Jeremy Shaw's "DMT" and is supported by the Institute of Modern Art Nuremberg.