In this compelling interdisciplinary peformative work Moss, explores the nuanced and not so nuanced legacy of the abolitionist John Brown. The piece, which is structured in seven segments of John Brown’s provisional Constitution of 1858, is a rich theatrical experience with seasoned collaborators including teens that are by turns stagehands and occasion performers interacting with the dancers.

Moving between austere solos to vibrant muscular group pieces that speak to militarism, race and defiance, the props and projected video components are seamlessly integrated into the physicality of the piece; at one point the action on the stage halts to make way for a enacted video segment between John Brown and Fredrick Douglas about suitable time for a man to marry a seemingly under-aged woman (“once she has bled”), and the ensuing outrage that an executed Brown expresses at Douglas’s passionate interracial relationship.

For me the most satisfying aspect of this work occurs where scenes of intense physicality call forth the shame and humiliation foisted upon ‘blackness’ through its association with slavery, and the unresolved aftermath of a legacy that continues to haunt the American psyche to this day.

from 'johnbrown' performance

from ‘johnbrown’ performance

I made the trek to this 2-day Arts/Science gathering of all manner of arts/science folk pontificating the intersections of arts and science (and more precisely the ‘scientific method’). A generous opening intro by MIT Art History Prof. Caroline Jones, and next day follow-up with Exec. Director of MIT/CAST, Leila W. Kinney.  A lot of paper-giving sprinkled with coffee breaks on  topics ranging from 4-D space, color mapping, to Gaia, and Synesthesia. Bright spots to be found in the talks of Tauba Auerbach, Tomas Sareceno, Bruno Latour, with historical insights re: experimental music and ‘resonance’ by composer Alvin Lucier. The post-talk schmooze opps were stimulating and offered up a global community of scholars and creatives who had traveled (from France Sweden, London) just for this.   NYC Artist Daniel Kohn took a small posse to see his painting installation at the MIT Genome Lab where he was artist-in residence for a number of years. Also met curator  Franciois Larini, Post-Doc Associate and Interactive Programmer Peter Torpey, Sculptor Anne Corrsin, Choreographer Asa Unander-Scharin.

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Spent a Friday participating in this lively packed house of demo-giving techies, artists, start-ups  and varying educational interactive, and social engagement projects. A lot of time on my part  explaining my project  and the site Arcosanti  (where this 4-channel video was filmed).  A lot of interest which was good, and while seeing a short clip is not ideal, people did take time to stop, look and listen.  Particularly liked  seeing how the interactive social engagement pieces worked.

Showing demo clip of 4-Channel video 'Arcosanti'

Me showing demo clip of 4-Channel performative video ‘Arcosanti’

Maria Lassnig
Illuminating was the work of Austrian painter Maria Lassnig at PS1, having just come from Coded After Lovelace at White Box Gallery on the LES. The dominant theme in Lassnig’s work are self-portraits, particularly her representation of ‘body as self’, in which the work -over time- presents her journey from abstract Euclidian form to her haunting painting style. In later work, inner psychological conflicts meet harsh external realities; creature-like heads merge with prosthetic artifices, conveying a low-grade horror, as do armless nudes, echoing the Thalidomide crisis of the 50’s and 60’s, (a drug banned in the U.S. and Europe for causing birth defects). The work intimates a foreboding of advanced technology’s effects on the corporeal (female) experience as ‘self’ threatened or undermined by abstract, pernicious and uncontrollable paternal forces. Coded After Lovelace, a group show displays related aesthetic and ethical concerns expressed in a variety of guises, presented by seven artists who have been both forerunners in the use of art and technology as well as some of its most current and prolific practitioners. The show’s title references Augusta Ada King, Countess of Lovelace an English mathematician and writer chiefly known for her work on Charles Babbage‘s early mechanical general-purpose computer, the Analytical Engin.LillianSchwartzAmongst this group of artists are significant pioneers whose explorations paved the way for the ubiquity with which media-generated art is currently embraced. Lillian Schwartz’s large projected videos show a variety of work created over a 40+ year time-span; the earliest of which show crude digital geometric animations that merge with bio-cellular structures speaking to a prescient ‘singularity’ writ large. Schwartz, an employee at Bell Labs for 30+ years was given rare access to a state-of-the-art lab to explore and collaborate in the use of digital imagery and sound. One can see the progression of improvement in both the technology as well as Schwartz’s understanding of possibilities and her own facility with it’s applications, particularly in the recent Tacit Expressions, an explosively lush, hypnotic, colorful graphic 3-D experience that speaks to the elegance of technology as a transcendent cosmic art form.
Arleen Schloss - A.E. Bla Bla Bla In a related manner Arleen Schloss, known for hosting 80’s performance/techno jams, shows documentation of her ambitious interdisciplinary opera for Ars Electronica Vienna in 1986, A.E. Blah, Blah, Blah. With a large collaborative cast, Schloss humorously plays with language, in her iconic use of the alphabet, and seeks high and low ground in this mixture of performance, video projection, and audio. The documentation of this work generates a kind of joyful dissonance out of abstract components at a time when technology’s fusion with performance was still a relative novelty.
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Of a younger generation Carla Gannis’s recent video Non-Facial Recognition Project uses uploaded selfies from the artist’s Facebook newsfeed. In this constantly shifting piece, faces are segmented, stretched, and extruded, morphing seamlessly to reveal hidden biologies as well as collaged masks of variants on bling-y celebrity-style personae. In a related manner, Claudia Hart’s Caress shows a white computer-generated reclining female figure segmented into thirds and echoing classical forms of ancient Greco-Roman and late 19th century statues; the idealized mythic female form now a ghostly robotized image subtly sweeping her arm across a smooth plasticized body. In both of these, animated excesses contrast and compliment the static horror of Lassnig’s paintings; it feels part of a grounded late 20th and early 21st century continuum stretching back to Warhol.

Coursing though these and other works in ‘Coded’ are themes that pose concerns relevant to the philosophical underpinnings of our technologically advanced society; whether such resources are our tools, or are the multitudes, being subtly converted into ‘tools’ at the behest of larger unseen forces, is the world we now negotiate.

My heaviest dose of ‘Futuristic Modernism’; was experienced at Expo ’67 in Montreal; the international fair that thrust what had been a provincial Canadian capital onto a world stage. After Expo, Montreal was aligned with ideas of Future-Present, transforming the Francophone city it into a global destination. It’s brand-new spacious and airy cast-concrete Metro had just opened, as had the Center for the Arts. The domed Bucky Fuller U.S. pavilion, a steel and plastic structure, that presided over the fairground was amongst the most daring; a sign of things to come; as if to say ‘Yes! We will live in domes, travel by monorail, and conquer space, SOON!’ The model housing complex Habitat, by Israeli–Canadian architect Moshe Safdie, was designed to integrate the benefits of suburbia ¬–gardens, fresh air, privacy, and multi-leveled environments– with the economics and density of urban apartments. Once a beacon of possibility for the masses, it is now expensive condos. While the Future aint was it used to be, these remnants of the Future taken from my recent visit to Montreal, and what it promised, do not diminish the possibility that some of this stuff is still out there, waiting to be mined.

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Video still: Adam Douglas Thompson

Adam Douglas Thompson @ NurtureART
In the current Videorover show at NurtureArt, Adam Douglas Thompson’s projected scrim of a white-cube gallery space is relentlessly reconstituted; its space regularly being re-made with invented digital ‘shows’. Each one of Thompson’s doll-house-like concoctions is convincingly placed within this circumscribed digital context; and within minutes and (often seconds) the scene is washed over for the flavor-of-the-moment art idea or series that comes next. There are groups of paintings, sculptural objects, and installations; each group a thoughtful show in itself, lightly referencing the ‘canon’ yet neatly – and perversely (through the wonders AfterEffects) swept away, and replaced with another visual idea. It’s both compelling and unsettling as the constant stream of change (like the seasons in a gallerist’s space) and the more ubiquitous media landscape, perpetually engages, confuses, and entertains in offering up the latest possibility.

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Susanne Hofer/ Light Bulb Magic @ Fresh Window
In entering the Fresh Window Gallery of Susanne Hofer’s show, I see lit on the floor, of a darkened room, a pile of empty oddly arranged boxes, cartons, cleaning materials, and the flotsam of office and carpentry ‘stuff’. “Oh no.” I think; a Sarah Sze wannbe? I linger a bit longer looking down at the stuff and then -in hanging with the crowd who face an opposing wall- I notice that the stuff casts a shadow on a projected (video) scene which – it turns out- is a setting sun. This shadow of stuff, is resurrected as an invented cityscape casting a dark skyline against the fading day. Another deceptively simple piece is a peephole several inches wide in the wall. Looking through it you see a vast scene on a reduced scale of New York Harbor at work. The pleasure of these pieces is in the trick of expectation; being disappointed, then fooled and delighted in finding the sublime plumed from the commonplace and disposable of the everyday.

Until this past month, I’d never seen an actual beaver dam in person. When I stumbled upon this one in the Catskills this Spring, my first thought was ‘who did this?’ which shows just how flummoxed I was by both the size and skill level presented in the delicate yet sturdy structure(s) set in place. It is a marvel, and in seeing this I found myself in line with the defenders of the beaver as tool-maker. The Zen Center where I stay has built a delicate bridge which straddles the two dams that back up one end of their lake. On my trip back this weekend an even bigger treat was seeing a beaver treading water near his/her handiwork.
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BEFORE traverses physical and psychological manifestations of power and memory through late-capitalisms’ fault lines. With a weighty catalogue forward by curator, Niels Van Tomme, this short-run MFA thesis show at the Kitchen presents fresh takes on 21’st century anxieties from a diverse group of Parson’s grads.

Among the most intriguing is Alona Weiss’s Negative Space, a performative video in which the artist uses herself in varying poses and movements that either align with or play against, her projected drawings of buildings and statues. These cartoonish images are sketches of Israeli monuments and memorials commemorating a plethora of tragic events most occurring before Weiss’ s birth. In using herself as a stand-in for a younger generation’s interface with these sculptural tributes, this work calls attention to the fleeting nature of memory and meaning in the public sphere.

In another work, Extract, David Connolly’s podium teleprompter ­- the type used for speeches-given by government and corporate officials- shows cascading text projected on its glass plate; revealing the disquieting aspects of how instruments of public communication are often used to distort and undermine those it portends to serve.

These are just two of BEFORE’s 16 artists, who utilize subtle as well as provocative strategies for merging meaning with cultural critique. This is a show that arouses a viewer’s curiosity, making it well worth a visit.

ImageArtist and educator, Michael Mandiberg organized a New York City Meet-Up to align globally with other such gatherings intended to amend, edit and add entries to Wikipedia. The goal; to add or improve upon scant entries for female creators. I did my part along with a significant number of others, most of whom put in 2+ hours during the 6-hour marathon at Eyebeam in Chelsea. The well-attended event brought out scholars, curators, writers and artists of all persuasions, and gradually, I managed to settle in and get comfy with the wicked-sensitive e-notebook used to make coded entries. I made a post about Seattle painter Liza Von Rosenstiel, whose brightly colored and highly personal figurative work I have long admired for its spirited resistance to all manner of categories and coolness.

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I met Charlemagne Palestine after attending his book signing at Electric Arts Intermix in December and went to his opening a few days later at Sonnabend. It was nice that we had mutual friends and even better that his process intersects with my own vis-a vis a personal bodily engagement. A trio of video installations: Ritual Dans La Vide, Motions x 24 and Cemetery Trio, blend lo-tech, fleeting imagery with bellowing sonic rants and architectural meanderings. I was drawn into his winsome world of empty rooms, resting places (cemeteries) and rides (Coney Island’s Cyclone). The technical equipment made friendly with his fetish-y objects and fabric, it’s a go-to; worth the effort before the show closes Feb 1. He’s performance history and it’s the real deal.