New Media Projects Showcase - March 17, 2010

The showcase was a culmination of 10 weeks of creative research and discussion by the 13 participants (see sidebar) in the ART 245 - InterArts: New Media Projects course featuring videos, lectures and performances.


7:00 J. Shimon & J. Lindemann, facilitators: Introduction to Program

7:10 Ian Wallace - Love is Madness: Performance, presentation and product affair about the pangs of passion produced by MAD Design.

7:20 Yexue Li - Occident & Orient: An artist talk on her recent photographs about Chinese identities embracing, rejecting then merging with the West.

7:30 Zenabu Abubakari + Lindsey Ahlen - The Missing Link: A critique of Western media portrayals and the perceptions and misconceptions of Africa and America  (9 min. video). 

7:40 Natasha Pugh - China Here/China Now: The sociopolitical landscape of contemporary China explored and exposed to enlighten viewers (7:30 min. video).

7:50 Marvanna Avery-Cash - Trapped Between 2 Paradigms: A compelling journey within the world while one overcomes a battle against themselves and the urban environment, in order to enjoy a peaceful and refreshing adventure (8 min. video).

8:00 Jordan Severson - Raw Shock: A Study of Cultural Conformity: A personal investigation of the effects associated with the phenomenon of reverse culture shock and the experiences of returning  home after extended period of time (6:09 min., video).

8:10 Molly Preston - Wondering Aimlessly: A stroll through your brain while you're dreaming (6 min. video).

8:20 Fariha Ali - PoMoNow Magazine Launch: A release event for a new glossy magazine for the existentially overwhelmed featuring video profiles (6 min. video).


8:40 Zachary Becker - Webinar: The myth of the artist in his studio Skype lecture.

8:50 Wilmer Chan - trans: Back and forth. Black and White. What do I seek? What, Should I seek? (6 min. performance with video).

9:00 Lawton Hall - Drift (a Field): Live video and sound for exploring noise, snowblindness, indeterminacy in nonlinear narrative structures, and the color white (~7 min., live electronic performance).

9:10 Liam O’Brien - Duet: Performance piece for two humans dining with projection (4 min. performance).



Garden of Wandering and the Exodus

"In any case, everything is replanted and grafted." -- NB

In the final section of The Radicant, French curator and art critic Nicolas Bourriaud makes the point that recycling the vast storehouse of forms is what we are left with, that Duchamp's invention of the "readymade" (1913) was a "tipping point in the history of art." Quoting Duchamp he writes:

"When you make an ordinary painting," he explains, "there is always a choice: you choose your colors, you choose your canvas, you choose your subject, you choose everything. There isn't any art: it is a choice, essentially. There [with the readymade],  it's the same thing.It is a choice of object."

Duchamp pointed toward art as rearranging and transporting what already exists. Not to make more.  And Bourriaud envisions an exodus urging the collective to consider "inventing a common world, of realizing, practically and theoretically, a global space of exchange." Whether this exchange will give birth to a monster, a new master narrative or paradise, we can not imagine. Thus chanted The Residents: We are simple, you are simple, life is simple too.


James P. Danky on the Underground Press (Case Study No. 9)

We first heard of Jim Danky in the early 1980s while undergraduates at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Everyone we knew was making films, publishing zines with names like White Noise, Reagan Death and Catholic Guilt, playing in bands at Merlyn's or staging performance art pieces on the State Street Mall. As a librarian at the Wisconsin State Historical Society, he collected DIY photocopied band flyers and zines produced by undergrads like ourselves. We felt validated each time "the guy from the Historical Society" (as Catholic Guilt editor Danny used to refer to him) acquired one of our publications. His collecting/archiving included a range of periodicals ranging from alternative newspapers, underground comix to zines and more. In 1974, he published his first book, Undergrounds: A Union List of Alternative Periodicals in Libraries of the United States and Canada. He subsequently authored and edited numerous books on print culture with titles such as: Women in Print: American Women in the 19th and 20th Century published by University of Wisconsin Press and Reading, Writing and Resistance: African-American Print Culture and The Oppositional Press: A History of the Book in America published by Cambridge University and many more. He is on the faculty of the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he also founded and directed the Center for the History of Print Culture in Modern America. Underground Classics: The Transformation of Comics into Comix, his recent book, provides the first serious survey of underground comix as art, turning the spotlight on these highly influential and largely under appreciated artists. It accompanied a traveling exhibition of the same name that showed at the Chazen Museum of Art in Madison, Wisconsin in summer of 2009. Jim might be considered a "radical librarian" based on the scholarly attention he has paid to periodicals that fall under the radar of most institutions. He makes us pay attention to the things we have been conditioned to ignore.


Progress and a Bright Future

"One might justifiably wonder if the true master narrative of our era -- the presence of which is so blinding, we fail to perceive it -- is actually this: that there is not, and no longer can be, any master narrative." -- NB

Nicolas Bourriaud takes on post-modernism and the end of the master narrative in the beefy middle section of The Radicant. Having elder relatives who lived through the Great Depression in America to contrast with the subsequent generation who believed in progress and the miracle of technology helps us understand Bourriaud is pointing out. We feel lucky to have crossed paths with elder artists whose views presage the AlterModern.


Jodi Sedlock on Bat Catching (Case Study No. 8)

She started out an art student at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, but ended up studying bats as a scientist.  A fateful internship at the Field Museum in Chicago where she was given the charge of drawing a chipmunk penis and rat feet lead Professor Jodi Sedlock to bats as subject matter. As an associate professor of biology at Lawrence University, she believes that "by drawing it, we get to know it." In her biology courses, she often requires students to draw the parts of dissected specimens to learn them. Since 1996, she has traveled to the Philippines to identify the vast number of bat species making the archipelago a "hot spot" of bat species diversity. Her field work mixes photography, drawing, sound recording, and video to create "bat portraits" (see example left) that help humans understand the delicacy of creatures and their habitat.


This is the Modern World

We were thinking about students contemplating the idea of Modernism burning out, turning in on itself (e.g. Post-Modernism), and regrouping. We looked at this phenomenon through the lense of rock performance as demonstrated in the youth subculture movement in Britain that derived its name from Modernism: the Mods. Here in the U.S., we associate this movement with The Who. Their song Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere from 1965--with its lyrics ("Don't follow the lines that been laid before") reflect the prevailing mid-century cultural forces of mass-production, advertising, self-absorption, disregard for sustainability and an emphasis on artistic novelty that are aspects of Modernism. Viewing The Who's performance of Anyway showcases four lads on a path to self-destruction (RIP Keith Moon).

We compared The Who to The Jam, a band that directly referenced The Who's 1965 style.  We see the same attitudes and ideas take a different sahpe as The Jam revive The Mod movement. There is more specificity and self-consciousness in their songs Art School and The Modern World. We'll still do what we want, but with an awareness of contemporary cultural resistance and historical precedent. The rage is focused on the music. Everything about The Jam's version of the Mod seems more contained and streamlined.


It's Work (Advice from Andy)

Andy was a Catholic
the ethic ran through his bones
He lived alone with his mother
collecting gossip and toys

Every Sunday when he went to Church
He'd kneel in his pew and say
"It's work, all that matters is work."

He was a lot of things
what I remember most he'd say
"I've got to bring home the bacon
someone's got to bring home the roast."

He'd get to the factory early
If you'd ask him he'd tell you straight out
It's work

No matter what I did it never seemed enough
he said I was lazy, I said I was young
He said, "How many songs did you write ?"
I'd written zero, I'd lied and said, "Ten."

"You won't be young forever
You should have written fifteen"
It's work

"You ought to make things big
people like it that way
And the songs with the dirty words
make sure your record them that way"

Andy liked to stir up trouble
he was funny that way
He said, "It's just work

Andy sat down to talk one day
he said decide what you want
Do you want to expand your parameters
or play museums like some dilettante

I fired him on the spot
he got red and called me a rat
It was the worst word that he could think of
And I've never seen him like that
It's work, I thought he said it's just work

Andy said a lot of things
I stored them all away in my head
Sometimes when I can't decide what I should do
I think what would Andy have said

He'd probably say you think too much
That's 'cause there's work that you don't want to do
It's work, the most important thing is work
It's work, the most important thing is work


John McKinnon on Warhol (Case Study No. 7)

John McKinnon, the Milwaukee Art Museum assistant curator of modern and contemporary, will give a lecture (in the Lawrence University Wriston Auditorium) on the Andy Warhol: The Last Decade exhibition which closed last month. It is the first U.S. museum exhibition to explore the late work of Andy Warhol with all its Last Supper and Christ-figure imagery. The show is currently touring museums around the nation and was curated by Joe Ketner. John received his master's degrees from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in both arts administration and art history and has a bachelor's degree in studio art from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. While in grad school, he was an intern at the Museum of Contemporary Art and at the Art Institute of Chicago. We worked with him in Madison and later Chicago in the early 2000s while we were showing with the Wendy Cooper Gallery, since closed. As director of the gallery, John maintained our film loop installations, provided information to critics, and helped install our work. He was always over-the-top helpful and we're happy to see him come to Lawrence to talk about the Warhol show. He's also written for slick publications such as Artforum, Time Out Chicago and Flash Art.


John T. Gates vs. Klaus Nomi (Case Study No. 6)

As a bass soloist in Germany, John T. Gates (Lawrence Visiting Assistant Professor of Music) sang more than 1,000 performances over a period of thirteen years. His appearances were often accompanied by multimedia elements ranging from a simple boom box switched on and off to video feedback projections to add a feeling of sensory overload and push the limits of the traditional opera form. His academic research examined communication in modern opera and romantic dualism in Schumann. We worked with him a couple years ago to make a 16 mm black-and-white short film (music video?) of his performance of Franz Schubert's "Fruhlingssehnsucht" juxtaposed with his ruminations on romanticism. Student Wil Herbon had the impulse to dress in a bunny-suit that term so we included him skipping through the freshly fallen snow.  Dish soap suds became a mask and close-ups of John's face conveyed a sense of inner torment that seemed an apropos to the content.

The  Nomi Song: The Klaus Nomi Odyssey (c. 2004, 96 minutes), a documentary by Andrew Horn, reflects on the life and art of the self-taught German performer Klaus Nomi. Using vintage archival footage and interviews with Nomi himself as well as friends and collaborators tries to understand how it all went down. Nomi appeared at a pinnacle cultural moment when new wave was truly new and considered avant-garde and Nomi's "alien persona" resonated with counter-culture types in New York, France and oddly, the Midwest. In interviews featured in the film, Klaus spoke of singing along with Maria Callas records and dreaming of being a singer while a boy in Essen, Germany. Nomi came to New York City in the late 1970s where he took his countertenor voice (which some believe is in the  tradition of the Castrato) into a lower east side night club context. Our friend Stanley Ryan Jones photographed Nomi when he performed in Milwaukee. Stan wrote us in a recent email that: "Klaus was very professional and serious as were the people with him. It was a strange occurrence in a strange time. Jaded jaws did drop when he took the stage at the Starship. Nobody knew what to think. It just didn't fit into any box. There was a party after the show where I got my good shot. I got the impression he would have had more fun at this party if I would have photographed him all night long. Of course he only had that one expression. He seemed like a sweet man in over his head but so was I." Just as Nomi's "alien charisma" was nearing its pinnacle complete with television appearances, a record deal and European concert tours booked, he became increasingly ill. On Wikipedia and elsewhere the following dismal factoid is noted: "Nomi was one of the first celebrities to contract AIDS. He died in 1983 at the age of 39 as a result of complications from the disease." His performing career and life, like those of many artists of the era, was cut short and we are left to contemplate the ways he made something old new wave again.


Abigail Disney Case Study (No. 5)

Don't let the Disney name distract you. Abigail Disney (grandniece of Walt) produced Pray the Devil Back to Hell, a 2008 film directed by Gina Reitcker (whose credits include editing Michael Moore's "Roger and Me" and producing the PBS series WIDE ANGLE) with Kirsten Johnson as Director of Photography (whose cinematography is included in Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11" and other Academy and Emmy-winning documentaries). Disney, an activist and philanthropist, chose to make her first film a documentary about the impact of the non-violent resistance of the women of Liberia.  They camped out praying, chanting with handmade signs calling for peace, printed peace t-shirts and threatened to strip naked in public (a cultural taboo that spoke volumes) to communicate their message of peace through the media and on the ground to leadership and world. Disney has amplified their actions in her film and will deliver a convocation titled Peace is Loud on Thursday, January 28 at 11:10 at Lawrence University Chapel.


Nicolas Bourriaud and The Radicant

"The last continent to be discovered is time" -- NB

The facebook Altermodern Quiz says we're "hanging on to the last Millenium" because our music comes in inches. How could we give up our collection of vintage vinyl in order to be fully 21st century Altermodern? Ananda Shankar's cover of Jumping Jack Flash? Xavier Cugat and his Rumbas or Klaus Nomi singing arias? The Altermodern Manifesto proclaims Post Modernism dead. Thank you. Through these social-networking and branding antics promoting last year's Altermodern exhibition at the Tate, curator Nicolas Bourriaud sought to "share an artistic and theoretic moment" with the artists in the show. He also authored The Radicant as a way to articulate the theory informing the exhibition and to "create a space for dialog" about "inventing this new modernity, which is global from scratch."


Laurie Anderson & Asha Srinivasan Case Study (No. 4)

"Take nothing for granted, nothing" -- LA
Laurie Anderson started out a biology major en route to a pre-med degree at Mills College.  In short order, she decided to head to New York City to study sculpture and art history at Barnard College/Columbia. The dream state induced by art history lectures, with vast projected images, inspired her approach to performance incorporating manipulated voice, projections and high and low technology. According to RoseLee Goldberg in her 2000 book Laurie Anderson, Anderson was "always fearless in the face of technology" inventing "new uses for old equipment by taking apart cheap electronic objects found in second hand shops on Canal Street near her loft, and putting the pieces back together again." By the 1970s, Anderson packed her bags with microphones, projectors, slides and a violin and headed to Europe were she performed in small galleries and alternative spaces. The US was slow to embrace her multimedia performances. When her Big Science LP came out on the Warner Brothers label in 1982, she became a pop crossover sensation. Who'd think we'd be seeing a baby listening to the CD version on YouTube and remixes of O Superman in many languages nearly 30 years later? Anderson, a Buddhist, has remained active inventing, performing, exhibiting for four decades. She has collaborated with Brian Eno, Lou Reed among others. The Paul Tschinkel documentary, Laurie Anderson: On Performance from 2001 provides a point of departure for considering how Anderson has combined electronic tinkering in the spirit of Les Paul with the experimental mania of the Fluxus artists, and the power of the voice in storytelling. She has been dubbed the "high-priestess of performance art/rock" and introduced the popular PBS ART 21 Series 1 on "place" in 2001. More recently, she has been commissioned to produce and perform Delusion for the Vancouver 2010 Olympics in February. Stay tuned.

Asha Srinivasan, a 21st-century Indian-American composer and Assistant Professor of Music (Theory/Composition/Electronic Music) at Lawrence, performs her compositions at festivals such as the Electroacousitic Juke Joint, Spark and the Society for Electro-Acoustic Music. She considers herself a hybrid person, "I am American, but also Indian." She writes for western instruments and has western training but India has increasing been a source of inspiration for her work.  Her compositions mix traditions, artforms, ideas in her compositions that sometimes take on political issues such as capital punishment and historic personages such as Ghandi.  She strives to get away from technology for technology sake and is instead interested in what technology can do for a musical piece. In the post-Laurie Anderson era, she has collaborated on works that incorporate dance, fixed media, live music, performance and projections.


Marcia Bjornerud on Buckminster Fuller Case Study (No. 3)

"I always start with the  Universe" -- RBF

Buckminster Fuller (1895-1983) and his ideas continue to be unpacked by experts and the public. A recent exhibition organized by the Whitney and traveling to the Museum of Contemporary Art re-contextualizes Fuller as a "Philospher. Forecaster. Designer. Poet, Inventor Advocate of alternative energy" and not just the inventor of the Geodesic Dome. Marcia Bjornerud, Lawrence University professor of Geology and Environmental Studies and author of Reading the Rocks, remembers building a cardboard dome as child after visiting the 1967 US Pavilion in Montreal. She can also identify how Fuller essentially anticipated ideas in her field of environmental science (e.g. systems thinking, looking for hidden "architectures" in nature, understanding the unsustainability of the fossil fuel economy) by decades. His ideas about optimization and doing the most with the least seem visionary even today and have replicated in the public consciousness like memes. His vision--that we are all astronauts on Spaceship Earth, not the theme park version at Epcot, makes more sense now than it may have when he began talking about it 1951. The World of Buckminster Fuller, a 1974 eighty-minute film by Robert Synder, documents Fuller's infamous oratory style. Fuller spoke for 10 hours at a time and rarely slept as he travelled around the world giving lectures. According to Elizabeth Kolbert in her New Yorker article, "Dymaxion Man", Fuller's architecture classes at Yale lasted from 9 a.m. to 5 pm. Audiences, she reports, were "enraptured and mystified." In today's Twitter speed world, his lectures might best be considered poetry, performance art or sermons. "Bucky" the Harvard dropout who sometimes referred to himself as Guinea Pig B, thought of his life as an experiment and set out to find out what an individual could do "on behalf of all humanity." The ripples are still being felt.


Martyn Smith on Blogs as a Platform

When our writer friend Jim started telling us about blogs in 1997 and 1998, they required an intimidating level of  expertise and money to design and host. They seemed inaccessible to the majority of artists and scholars--especially those without access to the resources of institutions. Within a few years, the earliest bloggers developed dedicated, almost obsessed, audiences. Keeping their blogs current became their life and they became experts in an emerging and not-fully-comprehended-new-mediascape. Subsequently, blogs proliferated as Internet service improved and social media platforms became easier. What role might blogs play in the 21st century?  Martyn Smith, Assistant Professor of Religious Studies, has been interested in blogs as a research platform and a method of sharing knowledge within academia and in the emerging field of Digital Humanities (although Smith is more interested in Digital Globalism than Digital Humanities). He maintains Old Roads Blog, giving him an online space to publish his "interpretations of places, books, and other texts." The blog platform enables him to share his findings on topics in his field in real time as well as connect with other scholars. Blogs, he believes will be more sustainable inthe future than expensive academic journals, costly conferences or books such as his own Religion, Culture and Sacred Space published in 2008. He envisions scholars increasingly exchanging their findings and opinions on current events through blogs or even group blogs where multiple academics post regularly with all posts being subject to peer review. He is well aware that all of this is not without problems, yet he remains engaged and is throughtful about the possibilities.  Lev Manovich, who writes on digital culture and in 2007 founded the Software Studies initiative at UC San Diego and Calit2, wrote in an essay titled "Art after Web 2.0" (published in The Art of Participation): "In the case of social media, the unprecedented growth in the number of people uploading and viewing one another's media has led to a lot of innovation. Although the typical diary or anime on YouTube may not be that special, enough are. In fact in nearly every medium in which the technologies of production have been democratized (including video, music, animation, and graphic design), I have encountered many projects that not only rival those produced by the best-knwon commercial companies and professional artists, but also often explore new areas not yet touched on by those with more symbolic capital." Are you taking social media seriously and striving to be a good "net citizen"? Here's a video by Dr. Michael Wesch, Kansas State University, called "Web 2.0...the Machine is Us/Ing Us" illustrating ways users shape the web.


Les Paul Case Study (No. 2)

Les Paul left Waukesha, Wisconsin for Chicago in 1934 where he performed on the radio and made 78 rpm records as Rhubarb Red (his so-called hillbilly alterego). He went on to sell millions of records with collaborator Mary Ford. Les Paul pioneered the development of the solid-body electric guitar and invented multi-track recording, reverb and overdubbing. Throughout his career, he found himself propelled ahead by emerging technologies and his obsessive nature. Building on the playing style of Django Reinhardt and endless tinkering with electronics, Les Paul's influence as both a performer and inventor/innovator continues. His legacy is just beginning to be understood in books and films such as the PBS American Masters documentary Les Paul: Chasing Sound! made in 2006 just 3 years before his death at age 94.