Monday, April 13, 2009

Love poem

Last night I was dreaming in blistering technicolor.
Except I was completely awake.
And I was half imagining it, but you were all enmeshed in my dream.
I felt like we were all part of a story that I was,
you know,
making up.
And this dream was monumental, resplendent with towers and minarets.
And lush, creeping tendrils, spilling into the Pacific.
And there were sunrises and sailboats and islands for days.

And I was precariously yet perfectly balanced, between the infinite heavens, and the absolute void.
You all were there with me, trying to strap on my wings.

Oh my goodness.

What a night.

It started in this labyrinthine old brothel. In Oakland. With this crazy bar.
And that place was exploded. With the most fantastical incredible people.
I'd set up this art thing, stashed in some nook.
It was alright. I can do better.
But I liked that you thought it was cool.
It's just this visual thing that shows your motion in color,
like all the tracers you all shoot off all the time.

Would you believe I thought I could break through the ceiling?
I thought I was this cyborg ninja Medusa made of kryptonite
with video eyes for snake hair.
And I knew the whole time I was totally. crazy.

I just couldn't help it.
I was in love.

The kind that's like. starbursts.
Big ones. Supernovas.
And every fleck of dust from that starburst
I could see each one in that vastness of space.

I mean, that shit was hyphy.
Straight blew off my pants.
There's this music, and it does this thing to me, just like
and then again, like
That shit was bananas.

But there were birds, too. I could hear their songs like raindrops. Or maybe butterfly wings.
And I realized what made it all happen was us all loving eachother, all the time.
I was bearing witness to our concurrent creation
as we put eachother together, piece by piece.

Yawn. Duh. We knew that.

But it's almost nicer sometimes to forget.
And then the moment all comes rushing back
like a tsunami of wet, gooey love.
Yes, I love you.
I try my best to love you all.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Review: Where the Girls Are: Women Artists Working with Science and Technology

Robin Ward and I went to U.C. Berkeley for one of the talks in the Art, Technology, and Culture Colloquium. Where the Girls Are: Women Artists Working With Science and Technology by Marcia Tanner, a curator, discussed the work of some women artists, historic and contemporary, who imitate, borrow, parody, or examine the aesthetics, methods, or narratives of life sciences and technology.


"Feminist critiques of scientific culture have expanded the discourse around scientific history, practice and theory since the 1960s, while offering new possibilities for artistic investigation. Discussions include how male-gendered language has dominated descriptions of biological and other scientific processes, and whether there are sexual differences in approaches to the study of living organisms and systems.

The ways in which contemporary female artists employ digital and electronic technology to explore scientific themes and issues is fascinating to me. I'm intrigued by their uses of interactivity and humor, their interpretations of “relational aesthetics,” and their morphing of traditional feminist concerns into often subtle yet powerful critiques of patriarchal structures, gender politics, and established assumptions in technology and science. I'm particularly intrigued by their approaches to the biological sciences."

Tanner asserted that these strategies served to morph feminist strategies by countering the historical narrative of Science as objective and free from cultural bias and by co-opting and re-interpreting male-created technologies.
I felt like her whole abstract asserted a lot of things that were not thoroughly substantiated in her talk, rather that she showed us a lot of artists without much theory or justification.

Regardless it was interesting, as she presented the work of a lot of artists. She started with Martha Maxwell, in particular her taxidermy exhibit for the Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition in 1876:

She showed the macro-video art of Catherine Chalmers; the robotics/hacking art of France Cadet, specifically Hunting Trophies; Sabrina Raaf's robot Grower that draws "grass" in response to CO2 levels in a room. Her Unstoppable Hum project also seems cool.

Deborah Aschheim makes incredible neural network-art. She is an anthropologist and neuroscientist, and makes things like this:

Nina Katchadourian makes whimsical intervention art which she calls "Uninvited Collaborations with Nature" that play on everyday natural things, like mending a spider web or patching mushrooms, or fixing cast rock-climbing holds onto rocks.

She also showed us Rachel Mayeri, Gail Wight, and Liselot Vander Heijden.

Review: Algorithmia at Root Division

I visited Root Division for its recent Algorithmia exhibit before the actual opening. I'd been there before for Sound Device, a fascinating sound-art exhibit that was highly interactive. Expecting similarly smart, contemporary work I visited the gallery on a Friday afternoon.

I enjoyed a piece with goldfish in what appeared to be a maze. Fish Predictions
by Vita Mei Hewitt had real goldfish in some water in a wide shallow tank. Painted on the bottom of their tank were numbers. A paper on the wall instructed the viewer to choose a goldfish with which they identified, and note the number, explained on more paper. Each number was connected with an animal, which was your horoscope and related---according to the artist statement—to one's reincarnation. This was lovely to look at (fish are pretty) and amusingly absurd.

There was a piece with fur on objects, documented with three large photographs Phone, Mailbox and ATM and installed as fur wrapped around a keyboard on a pedestal in the gallery, the work of Emmanuelle Namont Kouznetsov. This stood out formally but did not engage or appeal to me. “Using rabbit fur, Namont's sculptures invoke the visceral to bring back our corporeal presence and question our oblivious subservience towards technology and the power of the machine.” I am not convinced.

I was excited when I saw Plumb System by Ryan Jones, composed of fifty plumb fixtures suspended from the same ceiling fixture. I immediately thought about multiplicity of centers, lack of a single objective reference, and other postmodern hype. I love interactive art, and with a sweep of my hand, sent them to swing, collide, and tangle, which would play into my preconceived meaning that much more. The gallery attendant stopped me and I disentangled them. It wasn't intended to be interactive after all. Unlike Kouznetsov, who over did it, Jones included no theory or conceptual explanation for his work, I wish he'd said something.

I met Lauren Scime, who had an interactive video piece called Video of the Future, a collaborative effort with Bryan Hewitt. A walled area of the gallery contained a wall of projected video. Viewers were supposed to enter and exit through separate doors and the number of people in the room determined which videos were played. The video content was eclectic: jellyfish, people on the street, plants in the wind.

I am always pleased to meet other interactive video artists and see what they are using. She had sonic range finders in each doorway to count the number of people coming in and going out. A good example of simplifying and controlling events to be able to use minimal sensors for an otherwise complex thing to sense-- the number of people in a room. and was using some free mac programming environment to do low-level video file selecting.

Using pre-recorded video content is something I have been considering; as it is I use only video captured in the installation. It was great to see what someone else has done with this. It has lead me to think (along with the ideas of my friends who do interactivity design for video games and whatnot) that having content that would create meaning and that would relate to the audience and their participation would be more engaging.

Monday, April 6, 2009

La Frontera, A Logo

Borders in the world are often the walls of fortresses, the ramparts by which nations concentrate their wealth and power at the exclusion of others. The U.S.-Mexico border has the most legal and illegal crossings of any border in the world, and the longest separation barrier in the world.

Crossing borders is a dehumanizing process, even for me, a privileged white citizen of the U.S., I am at the mercy of the people in the uniforms and the laws they represent. My friend is also a U.S. citizen, but as a Mexican faces an ordeal of proving her citizenship every time she recrosses the border. My gay friend cannot go home to his family in Venezula because if he leaves he will not be able to come back to his husband here. These anecdotes are among the mild symptoms of an institution that cuts up lives.

In 2008 there were 190 migrant bodies found at the Arizona border, down from 237 Arizona-Mexico border deaths in 2007 (Arizona Daily Star).

Migration into the United States for some is the final phase of a migration through Mexico from Guatemala or El Salvador. Crossing the border from El Salvador to Guatemala, I saw posters advising people planning illegal crossings. The advice that has remained most vivid in my mind: never get into a sealed container.

It is always somewhat absurd to me to see the abstract idea of a national border actualized, like this photo of the wall between Tijuana and San Diego:

The Department of Homeland Security has a logo intended to communicate its legitimacy by connecting it to time-honored national seals. By making a logo instead for the border, or la frontera, I hope to remind people of the human experience of our national policies and institutional practices, and hopefully instill compassion for people subject to the forces of migration we unleash through unfettered globalization.