Silencing the Conscious: The Representation of the API Body in Ex Machina // published in Hyphen

ex_machina

The plot line dictates, culturally and historically, a dominant narrative told many times in film and media. I wish it were different. With the myriad of racial, cultural, and social stories flooding the media, visibility of API bodies is still so very far behind in the mainstream culture even when it is inserted into film as an aside.

From two teenage boys creating a women in the 1980s film Weird Science to a robotics scientist creating a Voice Input Child Identicant (VICI) in cult classic sitcom Small Wonder, the impact of robotics and artificial intelligence on the human condition isn’t anything new. The profound interest in artificial intelligence has gained popularity with surrealist images of Google’s AI perceiving images in nature to self-driving cars. The rapid development in the realms of science enhance existing technologies to make our lives convenient. But the dominant narratives persist in popular culture as seen in the Alex Garland’s directorial film debut in Ex Machina. Since the release of the film, critics laud the triumph of soft spoken and seemingly delicate feminine robot Ava. As she speaks to Turing tester, Caleb, a programmer for Bluebook (Google-esque technology company), we realize she is well aware of the surroundings and has even developed qualities of human behavior that mimic her ability to think of ways to escape her captor-maker.

However, the film seemed to backfire as an interpretation of the battle between the sexes. Nathan, maker of Ava, created a female AI based on Caleb’s pornographic preferences, which reminds us that Nathan himself knew to use one of his own employees as a ploy in confirming his abilities and deftness in using programming and coding to materialize his fantasies and desires. The creation of Ava is also a way for Nathan to assert his control over Caleb.

Read the rest of the piece here

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

From Scottsdale: This is a Present from a Small Distant World Shotgun Review in Art Practical’s 4.1 Shotgun Issue

New Catalogue + Judd Greenstein. This is a Present from a Small Distant World, 2012; installation view. Courtesy of the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, Scottsdale. Photo: Dorothy Santos.

The New Catalogue artist collective, composed of Mary Voorhees Meehan, Neil Donnelly, Jonathan Sadler, and Luke Batten, collaborated with composer Judd Greenstein to explore humanity, history, memory, space, and the unknown in their exhibition This is a Present from a Small Distant World: New Catalogue + Judd Greenstein, at the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art. When viewers first enter the exhibition space, the large-scale installation is enclosed by two parallel white walls covered with friendly messages written in black bold sans serif type. Multicolored light boxes illuminate printed words such as “coffee,” “vinyl cutter,” “advice from a family member,” “string cheese,” and “twenty books.” These are only a small fraction of the humorous, endearing, and poignant answers to questions about communication with extraterrestrial beings.

Walking through the red carpeted interior of the makeshift corridor, flat-screen monitors pose questions to the public. Classical music permeates the space. Between the exposed, unpainted, raw wooden beams, questions on newsprint paper invite viewers to participate in an analog discussion. Some of the questions include “What are ten things aliens would need to see/taste/touch/experience to understand life on earth?“; “Which five songs would you bring to space so alien life could understand us?”; and “What do you imagine aliens are like?” Answers to that last question included “Lady Gaga,” “Nikki Minaj,” and “Michael Jackson,” suggesting that some of the most colorful human beings in the public eye are the most foreign and otherworldly.

These human observations ask us to consider what would happen if we could transmit and receive communication with alien life. Based on the posted responses, possibilities range from humankind’s greatest accomplishments in the arts and sciences to the sharing of radical and pointed views about our political and social state. The responses also speak to something deeper and more existential. New Catalogue and Greenstein have created a work that reminds viewers of the qualities philosophers and scientists have posited separate humans from other species: the ability to introspect, activate memory, and create awareness.

Originally posted to Shotgun Reviews on Art Practical, please click here to view.

Movement in Many Parts Shotgun Review in Art Practical’s 4.1 Shotgun Issue

Noritaka Minami, A706 (Wall I), 2011; archival pigment print mounted on aluminum; 30 x 38 in. Courtesy of the Artist and the Kearny Street Workshop, San Francisco.

Humans are resilient. Our anatomy is extraordinary and highly complex. We build, construct, destroy, and synthesize. But human nature involves understanding the biology and mechanisms that provoke us to move and accelerate. In Movement in Many Parts, an exhibition curated by Lucy Seena K. Lin and Weston Teruya, artists investigate human evolution through nature and industry. Their ruminations are shown through organic forms, moving image, photography, drawing, and painting. Each work reminds us of the adage that the totality of many things in concert is far greater than one single part of the whole.

In A1007 (Wall II) (2011), Noritaka Minami asks us to peer into the modular housing built within the Japanese urban landscape. At the start of the series, a viewer is let into a small room with a single, large round window that looks out onto the city and other pods. There is no returning gaze; a viewer sees only the disheveled room of a seemingly busy city dweller. The room could very well be a viewer’s; the window is the only way to see outside and to observe other living things. Stagnancy is apparent through the dull colors of bed sheets and the aging, disintegrating papers on the wall. Even the dated typography of the numbers on the clock suggests a thick layer of dust has settled over things untouched. The scene gives the sense that the busyness of city life has depleted the weary soul that inhabits this space. Minami’sTower (Facade 1) (2011) includes a segment of the exterior architecture that gives a viewer not only a sense of scale but also of how nature has weathered the building’s exterior. The erosion suggests that the original design is obsolete in this fast-paced environment.

While Minami’s photographs depict an environment, Kim Anno’s photographs ponder the effects of climate change and demonstrate how humans may adapt to and work with rising sea levels. Men and Women in Water Cities (2011) shows individuals fully clothed in suits and corporate attire turning their bodies toward a viewer, as though caught in mid-action. The picture plane presents something absurd. Yet, is it as absurd as we think? Anno proposes peculiar but perhaps ingenious ways we might survive despite nature’s disposition, showing what humans may be driven to do when it is necessary to endure. It is this human tendency toward movement that forces resiliency.

Originally posted to Shotgun Reviews on Art Practical, please click here to view.

Question & Answer with Tyrone Davies, Co-founder of the Free Form Film Festival (FFFF)

Click on the image above to donate to their Kickstarter campaign!

 

Film, especially documentary films, have always captivated my attention. Over the years, I’ve seen some amazing experimental film and video art works that had me wanting to support this particular art form at every opportunity. When I learned about the Free Form Film Festival (FFFF) and viewed some of the works from previous years, I was impressed with the caliber and the quality of the concepts. Co-founders, Tyrone Davies and Ryan Wylie have been running the FFFF)for over 10 years! I had the opportunity to catch up with Tyrone for some Q & A. Check out what he had to say and learn more about the festival!!

 

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What was the impetus for the Free Form Film Festival (FFFF)?

FFFF came out of a desire to screen films that most festivals do not screen. Ryan and I were realizing how few venues there were for genre-defying work. It seems like every fest has a box hey want to put you in. If you don’t fit, you don’t get shown. We thought there should be more festivals (I still can’t think of one) that were truly open to all forms, genres, lengths etc.

How did you get the name Free Form Film Festival (FFFF)?

The name Free Form Film Festival comes directly from our mission – to curate works challenging standard “form” or are even free of preconceptions about form and genre.

What is the difference between FFFF and other film festivals? Since FFFF has been happening for over the past 10 years, what was the motivation for you and Ryan to expand and start fundraising at this point? 

Since we are often considered to be an experimental film festival, we don’t seem to get as many narratives or documentaries submitted to us. But our aim is to show anything we consider to be innovative. We aim to be as eclectic as possible. We value the cross-pollination of ideas as well. I feel this is pretty unique. As time goes on, our concept of what a film is has expanded. There’s a lot of video art and other media art that is repetitive or has no real “end” so that work is hard to show to an audience. But we have made adjustments in some cases with multiple screens, or curating segments from larger works. Even though we can’t do all the things a gallery can do, we try to adjust for exciting content regardless of the form it takes.

As for the fundraising, we have a lot of reasons. The biggest financial concern entails hosting the visiting filmmakers who show their work and lecture. We want to elevate the festival by bringing in known makers. This year, I was able to secure funds to bring Bay Area makers, Mike Kuchar, Craig Baldwin, Jennifer Kroot, and Jamie Meltzer to Denver to show and discuss their films in person! This was a one-time thing that only affected Denver, but it was great. The Kickstater funding can do this in San Francisco and Salt Lake City. The other big thing is that some (not all) of our shows are free. The films with a modest fee still accrue production costs. We could use the flexibility. Also, we are working on some web development for our site but that is minimal. The main reason for the money is visiting lecturers in the three cities – San Francisco, Salt Lake City, and Denver!!

What are you hoping will happen with FFFF? Do you want this to travel to other cities? Will FFFF have a base city? 

After all the travel we have already done, we want to put down some roots. Right now, it seems like Denver, San Francisco, and Salt Lake City are the best choices. In the long run, we will definitely stay in San Francisco. We will always do some shows in less likely locations too but we don’t intend to keep traveling the way we once did. It’s just too difficult to do this and you can’t build audiences as easily. Again, this is why we are fundraising. We want to help bring artists to meet the community.

For those interested in submitting work for consideration to FFFF, what are you and Ryan looking for during the submission and deliberation process?

For submissions, we want people to send us work that is thoughtful and innovative. We don’t care if it’s a narrative, a documentary, an experimental film, video art, or anything else. We look for work that is conceptually strong.

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Below, is Brian Dewan’s, King of Instrument short film was featured in the past at the Free Form Film Festival (FFFF)

 

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

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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.