Panel Discussion of Evie Leder’s The Objects at A Simple Collective

I will be participating on a panel discussion scheduled for  Tuesday, June 17th from 6:30-8:00 pm to discuss the work of Bay Area artist Evie Leder. Her current body (no pun intended, maybe) is currently on view at A Simple Collective (San Francisco, CA). Here’s an excerpt from the shows press release,

Evie Leder’s The Objects is a meditation on the male body consisting of approximately thirty videos, along with a series of detail photographs and video stills. Over a filming period of ten days, fourteen men—a diverse group of performers and artists in the San Francisco queer scene—visited the artist’s studio one by one. Creating an intimate space and relationship between artist and subject, Leder gave simple, but deliberate instruction: stand quietly, breathe, stretch, open and close eyes, turn…In Leder’s series, the men are objects, but specific, very human objects, with presence.

For more information, please visit the event link here

Question Bridge: Black Males Exhibition at the Oakland Museum of California

Chris Johnson and Hank Willis Thomas. Question Bridge (still), 2011; video installation. Courtesy of Oakland Museum of California, Oakland. – Photo Caption

The opening of Question Bridge: Black Males (2011), a new-media work by Chris Johnson and Hank Willis, is a timely response to events like Trayvon Martin’s death and the Oscar Grant case. By mimicking a roundtable discussion, Question Bridge excavates and delves into issues around the notion of the African American male, forcing participants and viewers across the spectrum of human experience to witness a thought-provoking exchange.

Originally, Johnson began the Question Bridge project in 1996 in order to address concerns regarding divisions within the San Diego African American community.1 Close to a decade later, Willis approached Johnson about collaborating, which resulted in interviews gathered from black men in different cities across the United States.2 The work consists of one hundred fifty videotaped black males from a diverse range of demographics (age, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and sexual orientation, to name a few), answering questions about violence, health, intelligence, masculinity, education, fears, lifestyles, and sexuality. The installation speaks directly to the collective consciousness, for although there’s never an easy time or place to discuss race relations, posing questions around the topics of race, gender, and cultural amnesia feels especially urgent.

Johnson and Willis asked participants to provide questions as well as answer questions from other participants. In response to a vehement question about the code of the streets, the answers vacillate between the prevalent street mentality that silence is the ultimate code to anger and frustration that young black men perpetuate the cycle of violence. For some of the younger participants, respecting the unspoken commandment of the streets—in the belief that “the streets will take care of that” with “that” being the violence inflicted or received from an assailant—is common and strictly observed.3

Yet, as others noted, the code of the streets is a mere “set of playground rules” that some may or may not grow out of to deal with the complexities of violence and power struggles found within a disenfranchised community. All of the men speak of solidarity but are unaware of how to bridge the differences that exist between them.

The editing of the video footage makes it appear as though men on separate screens are looking at one another as they pose and answer questions. Each of the speakers seems to express genuine and sincere interest in listening to and addressing the questions of his interlocutors. The illusion that these men are in discussion together, in the same physical space, makes the artwork less of a physical object and more of a glimpse into the experiences of African American males and the issues and concerns often obscured by the media, silenced by culture, or cloaked by hyper-masculinity.

The nearly pitch-black installation space and editing of the videos also implicate us as witnesses as we listen to these conversations between men. As we wait for a question and answer, our heads might slowly turn from screen to screen, as if watching the trajectory of a ball in mid-flight. These gestures echo the connecting of complex ideas and thoughts between and among the participants.

Despite the power and effectiveness of the work, it would nonetheless be advantageous to expand the scope of the Question Bridge project. Participants identifying themselves as gay or queer were certainly incorporated into the discussion and, understandably, the work focuses on African American male experiences. However, the absence of African American transgendered men suggests another aspect of the male experience that remains concealed from the public. This lack of representation certainly does not make the work deficient, but it  raises the question of how American culture defines the male experience.

Indeed, what happens in the space between the participants serves to remind the viewer that the archetypal black male is nonexistent. One participant’s question, “What is common to all of us?” provokes a flurry of answers. Though the participants’ commonalities overlap time, space, sex, gender, color, beliefs, and much more, a more significant commonality emerges from their responses. These men are willing and ready for engagement. All that they needed was for someone to ask the question.

QUESTION BRIDGE: BLACK MALES IS ON VIEW AT THE OAKLAND MUSEUM OF CALIFORNIA THROUGH JULY 8.

Originally posted to Art Practical, please click here

________
NOTES:

1. “About Question Bridge,” Question Bridge website,http://questionbridge.com/index.php/about.

2. Ibid.

3. Unless otherwise indicated, all quotations are from the interviewees in the artwork.

Photos of SOMArts Cultural Center Event, Night Light: Multi-Media Garden Party

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I went to the Night Light: Multi-Media Garden Party at the SOMArts Cultural Center. It was great seeing friends and meeting some wonderful artists. Below, you’ll find some footage I shot of Radka Pulliam‘s piece, Up and Down the Street. It’s quite clever in that the viewer must “look in” the building to “look out” at the street view. The placement was spot on since it was in a relatively inconspicuous place towards the front of the entrance. I noticed people stopped when they noticed someone looking down and ponder the location of the projection.

One of the memorable performances of the evening was the Spanish Contemporary dance routine of Elias Aguirre and Alvaro Esteban. They are amazing. The isolations and articulation of their bodies is best seen in person. If you were at Night Light, you would know exactly what I’m talking about. Fortunately, there is a video of this phenomenal Spanish Contemporary Dance duo.

Photos of my Studio Visit with Allison Holt

There is SO much going on BUT I had to take the time to share a few photos I took during my studio visit with new media artist, Allison Holt. I’m looking forward to settling down and writing a piece about my conversation and visit with Holt. Her re-telling and artworks of the different energies and hybrid realities through her Fulbright research of Javanese culture is not only fascinating but yet another example of how artists can impact a community and engage in dialogue and discourse across cultures. Again, looking forward to posting parts of my interview with Holt as well as some reflection on her work.

I previously posted videos of the Hypercubes here. They’re extremely meditative, which I will get into during my write-up. For now, enjoy the studio visit photos and videos! If you have any burning questions and/or comments, please feel free to share and comment below. 🙂

In Conversation with Eric Slatkin

My Facebook Experience - Image Source: Eric Slatkin, Artist

Last weekend, Eric Slatkin, founder of High Beam Media and co-founder of the Disposable Film Festival, sat down with me to discuss his current projects and technology’s effect on our culture. Below, you will find our conversation. Please share your on thoughts on the subject, check out Heart 2 Heart (and consider submitting your conversation, and, most importantly, enjoy! 🙂

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Dorothy Santos (DS): Regarding the Heart 2 Heart project, what did notice in the video submissions? Specifically, what did you notice in people’s’ speech?

Eric Slatkin (ES): For one thing, it’s hard for people to say ‘you’. The project aims to anthropomorphize our phones, though calling it out directly, is a challenge for people. To give something that credence, there needs to be an interaction, a back and forth. But we often just think of the one-sided nature of our phones, and that keeps us from thinking of the idea of a relationship. But once we admit that there is a discourse there, it opens up some interesting ideas, like what we, ourselves,  give back to them.

DS: We give back to them?

ES: I’m talking on the lowest level. Touching it. Talking into it. Stroking it. Looking at it. Thinking about it. All of those things, when applied to some sentient being, that would equal a relationship.  And sure, it’s just an object, so we don’t think to attribute any emotions to it. But the sophistication of what we do with it, what it does for us is constantly being built upon, and with Siri, it shows that when then you can have a conversation with it, we have to take into consideration the idea of it ascending to some sort sentient level. I think a lot of people think it’s crazy that we might have a relationship as meaningful with a friend as we do with our phones – but I think it’s coming. And I think it’s important to have conversations about how we  relate to it, vice versa, and what kind of understanding we can come to.  As Kevin Kelley says, technology are introduced, and we are guinea pigs, making mistakes, learning from them.  We saw that with Facebook privacy issues, as people lost their jobs, got divorced, didn’t get into colleges, all because they didn’t understand the implications of who they were sharing their social graph with.

And so Heart 2 Heart is a project in some senses about negotiating our relationships with our devices.

Heart 2 Heart - Image Source: Eric Slatkin, Artist

DS: Do you think technology is a right or an enabler?

ES: Saying that it’s our right I feel, begets the idea that somehow, it has a theological grounding. That it’s a part of the constructs of how we’re evolving. I don’t believe that though.  It just enables people to do things. It’s impartial, and what we do with it determines it’s opinions.

DS: With Augmented Reality, John Craig Freeman pointed to technology being a prosthesis. What do you think of technology (i.e., mobile devices) as an extension of ourselves?

ES: With all technology, there is a quantity over quality argument. Technology solves problems and makes things easier so it opens us up to do other things.  But that kind of logic is easier to stomach when it’s a machine that makes car parts, rather than when it compromises our need to do something like memory recall. But eventually (and we already see it coming) it will just make more sense not to remember anything because the phone /device will do it for us.  I’m a little upset about that idea but it’s one of those things, where the jury’s out on whether in social evolution of things, it will still be thought of as integral in the future.  If we don’t have to limit ourselves to 8 bits of memory/information, then we can obviously accomplish a lot more.  But before any of this happens, with Heart 2 Heart and my other projects, I’m trying to elicit the conversation of the implications of that kind of transition.

DS: What kind of sacrifices have you made for technology?

ES: There are tons. They’re no different from anyone else’s though. I miss writing with a pen. Writing with a pen is intimate to me, closer to what I’m really thinking than when it appears on a screen – not to mention the different kind of real-time editing you do by backspacing – deleting and replacing, than with a simple strike through with a pen.

DS: It’s organic.

ES: It’s what you’re creating. You’re creating what shows up on the page. There’s this whole other system when you’re on a laptop such as spell/grammar check and it fixes it for you. You feel less involved in the process. I write poetry and it’s all by hand, at first because if it’s on the computer, it feels further along in the process, when all I’m trying to do is get my thoughts down.  But I always edit them on my computer – there’s no way, I’d write multiple drafts by hand.

DS: Since you discussed converging with technology and seeing it as a form of mutualism, I’m curious what you mean by that?

ES: I add a level of sentience behind these devices already. We give to it. It gives to us. In any kind of relationship. In our gut, there’s a world of bacteria, mostly helping us.  And many people, like Ray Kurzweil, believe that our mutualism with technology will eventually get deep enough, so that it actually becomes part of us, just like bacteria (think Google searches right from our brain or turning house lights on and off just by thinking about it).

Caption Here - Image Source: Eric Slatkin, Artist

DS: What do you think about accessibility to technology? There is a lot of the world that is not hard-wired in the way people are within a city or urban landscape. It definitely separates people.

ES: It’s a socio-economic privilege. If, one day, there is an implanted chip in someone’s head, they’re gonna probably have a better chance at getting a job than someone who cannot afford. Even within our smaller cultural spheres, there are going to be those discrepancies. I don’t think it’s distinct than the historically having access to an education or books versus growing up without those abilities.  I think that technology does a great job of helping to bridge the gap and  democratizing knowledge – but I don’t think it will create a perfect society where everyone is on the same level – some will still have access to certain technologies, while others will not.

DS: Do you want everyone to be connected?

ES: I don’t know.

DS: Does it matter?

ES: It’s hard to say – you either don’t know, or if you do, base all your other experiences on it. It feels like why Thoreau left Walden – because he knew what was on the other side … I waffle between technophobia and technophilia, but ultimately I want to be, just like I assume other people want to be, part of society – and to do that, now, means to be connected.

DS: Should everyone be connected?

ES: It seems a little self-righteous to say yes, they should, or no, I want to think that there are people still living in the wilderness.  It’s a choice that EVERYONE should make themselves.

DS: Most of your projects, you seem to want the viewer/participant to use technology in moderation. Would you say that’s true?

ES: I think the purpose of all these projects,  is to make people take a step back. Think about your relationship with technology, so that we can have a conversation about their implications.  And to ultimately, find a balance.

To learn more about Eric, please click here

#arthacksf Weekend | The Creators Project and Gray Area Foundation for the Arts Collaboration

GAFFTA Hack Projects for #arthacksf | The Creators Project + GAFFTA

Over the weekend, I volunteered at the Art Hack SF Weekend held at Gray Area Foundation for the Arts. There were artists, programmers, art directors, designers, musicians, and other creative types. How àpropos that Soundquake was one of the winners for the weekend (with the 5:33 am 4.0 magnitude morning shaker)! Below, are short impressions while I was sitting in on the presentations. Overall, it was a great group of mega intelligent folks working together to meet at the intersections of art and technology. Great weekend, awesome food, brilliant people, and phenomenal ideas coming to fruition. Please check out The Creators Project and Gray Area Foundation for the Arts to learn more about the collaborative event and upcoming Creators Project exhibition at Fort Mason mid-March!!

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* Please note: The list is organized by order presentation. 

Soundquake – From different vantage points, Soundquake enables the viewer to experience an earthquake through sound and visualization. The project team used about 900 different data points, mapped, and overlaid on a 3D plane.   For each earthquake, the team took into consideration the magnitude and epicenter. Currently, a banjo plays music at varying speeds. As the project team explained during the presentation, the concept entailed looking at something terrifying (Note: SQ created by transplants) and turn the experience into something beautiful with audiovisual effects. Being both a literal and abstract representation of earthquakes, both natives (I fall into this category) and transplants alike will appreciate something beyond themselves. This is a visualization and representation of nature. The 8-bit graphics, banjo recordings (done over the weekend!!) along with low-fi elements that combined cutting-edge technology were impressive. (WINNER) and (Dorothy Santos Favorite)

Letter Spacing – With the varying skill sets of designers and artists in the group, the team based their project on their collective interests, both aesthetically and personally. The series of letters rendered in WebGL and ‘spirit lines’ projected and animated based on orientation of shapes also relies on the a displacement map. The interactive component allows the end-user to interact with the piece through an exploration of the alphabet through a webcam feedback functionality that changes the texture of the letter and lines. Someone in the audience commented that it would be great for children learning the alphabet and language. I agree. It would be great to see where this project goes.

Spinny Video – For anyone learning WebGL, this was a unique project. Spinny Video, although vertiginous, shows the viewer a virtual world where they can move 360 degrees in a virtual space. We’re not talking video game play but in a space that is photo realistic and represents real world images. Imagine being in a snowglobe coupled with audio (within a cube or sphere). Cool, right? At the moment, the open format video is available for download and makes a great break from the lackluster workday.

Gabulous – The Gabulous team created an immersive and massive multi-player game based on Twitter. The objective is to allow the user to navigate a 3D virtual world where friends have the ability to walk through a Twitter virtual world accompanied by music and sounds. This team was definitely organized in their approach and accomplished a great deal of work during the weekend. From technical art to 3D modeling to programming, this team used their time well.

Flying Toasters – This group took a nostalgic look at the early 90s screen saver – the Flying Toasters. The project was an “homage to screen savers of yesteryear”. The premise of encouraging non-interactivity caught my attention. In a world glut with constant activity, Flying Toasters was a pleasant surprise at an art hack. Most, if not all projects, incorporate interactivity, which is great. However, I’m also a big fan of taking breaks and meditating, which many people cannot imagine in a highly connected world. Yet, this project reminded me that it’s OK to sit back, relax, and enjoy home appliances in flight!! (Dorothy Santos Favorite)

Jordan and Jeff – Jordan and Jeff worked with graffiti markup language, GML, that could also be plugged into other software. The visualization is available on GitHub as a series of blocks. The audio/visual web-based music experience has a lot of promise. The original composition was memorable and I’m looking forward to accessing the piece at a later date to view further developments.

Audio Shader – Essentially, Audio Shader is a music visualizer with specific parameters the user can change. Now, before you go thinking, “Doesn’t iTunes visualizer do this?” The answer: No. This is different. Very different. The varying source coding for the shader is the greatest aspect of this project. With a visual artist as part of the group, the code he produced for his visualization was reminiscent of light-based artworks found at new media arts gallery!! The group’s desire to explore how visuals can accompany a DJ’s music set or an artist’s visual work was definitely a commendable effort. Looking forward to seeing the fully developed project at The Creators Project exhibition! (WINNER)

Falling Leaves – What an interesting concept! This team decided they wanted to look at simulation and movement of a population. However, Falling Leaves is based on an interest of dead organisms. As one watches the falling leaves, the viewer is able to see a figure walking through the application. The data (or falling leaves) fall helping to form a figure. Conceptually, a strong project because it can be used to look how history (through historical data and events) effects the figure.

Partyline – The presenter said it best, “…some of the best art is transgressive”. I absolutely agree with this statement. Partyline certainly delivered on the concept of the arts and technology hybrid. Essentially, Partyline is based on true hacking. As multiple phone numbers are dialed before the audience, an increasing cacophony of sound forming a cloud of noise is produced. Partlyline easily made my favorites list. It was a crowd favorite, actually. This piece would make an (insanely) phenomenal performance piece. Aesthetically and conceptually, it’s was one of the brilliant projects at #arthacksf because it looked at the human voice, sound, the post modern audio landscape, and how communication has changed (significantly). I spoke with one of the team members (Casey Rodarmor) and discussed looking at other regions (then again, international numbers would be difficult to dial, logistical nightmare, actually). Fantastic art hack!! Also, this project served as a great reminder of the following: Don’t go leaving your phone number on Craigslist! (HONORABLE MENTION) and (Dorothy Santos Favorite)

Graffiti Jam – Graffiti Jam (GJ) was created to serve as a browser plug-in allowing Kinect to come through. The fractal patterns based on hand movements was intriguing. Similar to Audio Shader, it is an interactive music visualizer but the browser for Graffiti Jam is through the Microsoft Kinect. Out of all the projects, Graffiti Jam seems like a great opportunity to build and develop an actual game. Since the GJ responds to the user’s movement, I’d like to see where this particular project goes. Great start and potentially something worth exploring further!

Lone Wolf – LSD (Layer Synthesis Device) – Video DJ + live performances = Awesome but Team Lone Wolf took it a step further. With one of his current jobs as a video artist creating projections for bands, Lone Wolf used the weekend to develop video and audience participation-based application. He was interested in how the audience is affected by music and how they can integrate their own videos onto live projections as a part of the overall music experience. Mr. Wolf even had a QR code available for collaboration but this is still in the works since he was unable to beta test the application with multiple users. The fact that he created a collaborative video experience piqued my interest and fascination. Definitely a favorite. (Dorothy Santos Favorite)

Shared Cinema – Activating and enabling public space is something we’ve all seen before (i.e., The Great Wall of Oakland or the SMS Slingshot – both extraordinary projects). But Shared Cinema will serve as a video jukebox available in public space. Ideally, people use their mobile device thus producing a video queue where users could vote on videos they would like to view. The mobile app is in development and really wanting to see the final product. Theoretically, this is something I would love to see (literally). Click here to see the inspiration behind Shared Cinema. ANY hack project that ties back into the arts has my vote!! (Dorothy Santos Favorite)