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.