Artist Profile: Sita Bhaumik

Technology allows us to exchange pictures of our caloric intake with the rest of the world with a few clicks, swipes, and use of a snazzy filter. Specifically, in San Francisco, a cosmopolitan place brimming with an incredibly diverse population, it’s relatively easy to experience food from a seemingly vast array of cultures. Whatever you want, San Francisco probably has a place or a person that could lead your nose and taste buds to something that will satiate you. Art offers a very similar experience. With our collective compulsive nature to share photos of things we can’t even taste or smell speaks to our collective desire to be connected. While food nourishes us, it also activates our creativity. Cooking and eating is a way to let others into the particulars of what we allow into our bodies. What happens when food is used to describe the relationships we have with ourselves, our history, culture, or our ethnicity? What happens when food becomes the medium of an artwork? Or when it goes beyond the sense of sight and envelopes you in a completely multi-sensory experience? Food provides us with a lot of information about who and what we are. Think about an ornately covered wall dusted in nothing but curry. Imagine a room filled with the aromatic smell of cinnamon. Contemplate the use of ice cream and edible inkjet prints. This makes up only a fraction of the artwork created by Bay Area installation artist, Sita Bhaumik.

As an artist, writer, and educator, Bhaumik does an extraordinary job at explaining the intricacies and constructs around weighty topics such as identity, culture, gender, and ethnicity, yet in such a whimsical, dynamic, and sometimes comical way. She manages to showcase her extreme wit and intelligence and makes history, cultural observations, and art digestible (pun intended). As a writer and scholar, Bhaumik re-invents the way in which we react to and contemplate food. She mentions in her writing, “Whether we’re in front of the television or at a museum, we arrive with tummies rumbling, ready to consume. On the one hand, food is a necessity. On the other, food is a luxury, trend, marketing opportunity, movement, and social-justice issue”. As much as food is a necessity, there are varying levels of accessibility and openness to scents and tastes that appear unfamiliar. Cumin, coriander, turmeric, garam masala, and chili powder on paper are only some of the ingredients Bhaumik uses to communicate something deeper about thought processes and perceptions of ourselves and others. Her work investigates and serves as a brilliant metaphor for the way in which we encounter someone outside of ourselves. Not only is her work elegant and meticulously done, it is an ingenious way to have people foster a different relationship with food as well.

With the wide array of fusion foods and cuisines that make up the Bay Area, it certainly is a place for the creative intellectuals to whet the community’s appetite with innovative ways of seeing and experiencing art. Bhaumik’s workis certainly a testament to the creativity and the diverse art practices found in San Francisco. As we enter into the Fall months, Bhaumik already has her schedule filled with events and a residency! She will be participating on a Scholar’s panel entitled, Food in Focus: Asian and Latin American Cross-Cultural Cooking, for the Asian Culinary Forum. As the upcoming Bathroom Resident at 18 Reasons, Bhaumik’s inaugural show for the residency will open in October. Her work is certainly an experience. So, the next time you consider playing with your food, you want to think what Bhaumik may do given those same ingredients.

To learn more about artist Sita Bhaumik, visit her website here

Originally posted to Asterisk SF Magazine + Gallery site, please view here 

Creating strategies around how to deal with technology can become tiresome and futile. Technology is constantly at our fingertips for the majority of our days and, sometimes, nights. When we go to bed and wake up, virtuality and the Internet remain ubiquitously present. We may as well have our mobile devices tucked safely underneath our pillows for fear of being disconnected. If alien life forms were to descend, they may wonder how we obtain and retain our information. How do you describe looking into a backlit rectangular screen for approximately eight hours a day as a way to intellectually and emotionally digest images and contextualize your environment? From the world’s ugliest dog to the political and social upheaval in the Middle east to socializing online has become the way in which we obtain meaning about our environment. The anxiety and anticipation we feel to connect with others further adds to the way we function and re-create ourselves within language. In Christopher Baker’s work, Murmur Study, his installation showcases our collective meanderings through bringing physicality to our digital exchanges.

As a 2012 ZERO1 biennial artist, Baker installed this iteration of Murmur Study in the back of the renovated and large exhibition space known as the ZERO1 Garage located in Downtown San Jose. The mottled, weathered, gray concrete that once served as a car repair shop now welcomes the footsteps of arts and technology patrons as well as curious newcomers. Baker reinvents micro messaging through circuitous wires and re-programmed thermal printers#. Far from reach, the printers are hung high on an exposed beam. Like soldiers at attention, they hold their post through the day and night without rest. Yet, the slow release of printed messages such as “That awkward moment when you’re eating fast food and some show about ‘how unhealthy the world is today’ is on tell…::whoops::?” provoke us to respond. Yet, the installation relies only on observation as the thin receipt paper cascade down and messages eventually reach eye level. On the gallery floor, the paper accumulates resulting in piles that resemble white discarded shoelaces. During the rush of opening night, bodies passed curiously by the work. As visitors passed the installation, the papers slightly billowed and reminded us of their presence.

Baker’s interpretation of our digital life siphoned from social media platforms into tangible form showcase our methods of thinking and communicating. Our thoughts, once untouchable, fall into the form of computation and transmission. The papers serve as remnants of our processing and constructions of everyday life. The work addresses the theme of Seeking Silicon Valley in that much of what we might believe is created in this technological region actually encompasses so much more than the physical location. Murmur Study captures the hashtags of our collective desires and beliefs, sometimes humorous and poignant, other times offensive and didactic. It reminds us that Silicon Valley is rapidly becoming way more of an idea than a tangible place. As one continues to read the papers in Baker’s piece, its easy to notice the stream riddled with vernacular and awaiting interaction. Although rigid, sleek, and so far up from eye level, the viewer is still able to see the thick, tangled wiring and circuitry behind the neatly hung printers. We watch slowly as one the most familiar objects in consumption dispenses information and data on how we might spend our time.

Originally posted to the ZERO1 blog here

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Here are some of the photos I took on my walk through of the Jean Paul Gaultier exhibition at the De Young Museum. I walked away thinking the following: A) I think I would fumble all over my words if I met Jean Paul Gaultier, B) I will never look at fiber optics, wire, actual film strips, ribbon, lace, leather, and vinyl the same way ever again (THIS is a good thing), C) I want to meet the curator and theater company that helped produce the exhibition, D) next time, I will be taking a day off from work to go to a high-profile exhibition, and E) any exhibition at a major museum on a Saturday is like being on a crowded train. Enjoy the photos AND if you checked out the show, please feel free to leave comments and share your experience!! 🙂

Poklong Anading. “Anonymity” (2008-2011) is a series of nine black and white Duratrans prints inlightboxes . © Poklong Anading, 2011; Courtesy of Galerie Zimmermann Kratochwill, Graz, Austria.

“…Phantoms of Asia: Contemporary Awakens the Past explores how Asian cosmologies, view of nature, and religious outlooks are being carried on in the practice of artists “here and now”. Further, it shines a light from “here and now” on the history and traditions of Asia, expanding our imagination into a realm that transcends space and time and awakening the receptivity that enables us to sense the invisible forces that resound to this day like a basso continuo.”

                                                                                                                – Mami Kataoka, Co-curator of Phantoms of Asia

The ethereal and enigmatic serve as inspiration for many of the works currently showing at the Phantoms of Asia: Contemporary Awakens the Past exhibition at the Asian Art Museum (San Francisco, CA). Specifically, this collection of artworks transforms the materiality of objects into explanations of our relationships to Time and the Cosmos. These ideas are certainly at the core of Poklong Anading and Ringo Bunoan’s work. Since a primary objective of art entails illuminating truths that may be dormant in human subconscious or obscured by dominant culture, the artist’s aim is to delve into the past to conjure up truths about the present and possible future.

Works from the exhibition look at how traditional forms, methods, and ancient philosophies inform and serve as the impetus for contemporary works. Cultural nuances and long withstanding beliefs play a tremendous role in Phantoms of Asia. Both Anading and Bunoan aim to capture the complexities surrounding our notions of the intangible. They look at our collective human experience and connection with the earth and the environment, in particular, Anading’s creation of a meditative gaze to the ritualistic gestures as seen in Bunoan’s work. With the flash of a bright light to the image of rolled blankets as sculpture, the two artists use simple gestures as a way to communicate and entice a dialogue with the viewer on our complex existence and mortality.

While wandering through the exhibition, I couldn’t help but reflect on the definition of the word ‘phantom’ and its relationship to the exhibition and its overall meaning to contemporary Asian Art. Naturally, in looking up the definition, I found the following, as defined by the Merriam Webster dictionary:

1 a : something apparent to sense but with no substantial existence : apparition

1 b : something elusive or visionary

1 c : an object of continual dread or abhorrence

2 : something existing in appearance only

3 : a representation of something abstract, ideal, or incorporeal

Although the popular definition is suitable for the show, the last definition was the most striking, “a representation of something abstract, ideal, or incorporeal”. Both Anading and Bunoan examine the corporeality of objects within an environment as well as byproducts of human existence. The subjects contained in the works provoke the viewer to grapple with notions of transcendence, life, and death. As I stepped into the dimly lit gallery, slowly walking through a pair of glass doors, I saw the work of Poklong Anading. At first glance, the unique display of light boxes from his photographic series, Anonymity (2008-2011), gave the light within the photograph even more illumination.

The light against the transparent prints provided a stark contrast to the subject’s environments and accentuated highlights and shadows that would otherwise remain flat. Mirrors reflecting blazing rays of sunlight, seeing bare feet adorned by flip-flops, and the surrounding environments of each subject, Anading does a superb job at making the viewer believe this could in fact be anywhere in the world. The faceless subjects were not only anonymous but where their faces once were became a meditative focal point. These subjects become ethereal beings thus forcing the imagination to wonder and the anonymity becomes a meditation. There is a revealing in the unrevealing. In a visual and figurative sense, Anading removes the subject’s gaze to serve as an interpretation of what transcendence may look like. There is a sense of wonder and mystery to the subjects’ lives as the viewer fixates on the light.

Ringo Bunoan. “Passage”, 2007.

On the opposite end of universals, Bunoan’s work looks at the concept of death and our connection to the past. In her work, Passage: The Blanket Project (2007), the performative and sculptural work was created while Bunoan was living in Pashupati, Nepal. Living with the sick and elderly, she found materiality to be the least of residents’ concerns and worries. Allison Harding, co-curator for the exhibition, reflects on Passage by noting on the object itself, “Once symbols of warmth, comfort, and rest, the blankets in Passage signify the bodies they covered. Partly memento mori and partly the artist’s farewell to Nepal, the documentation of Bunoan’s work from a single afternoon reminds us that after death, traces of us may remain”.

In viewing photographs of the Nepalese residents engaging in performative gesture resulting in a sculptural piece that bears a striking resemblance to a casket, the viewer can easily see that much of Bunoan’s work relies heavily on the senses and community. Each rolled up blanket becomes a composite entity, which seems to be a metaphor for the multi-faceted human being, a community, and the interconnectedness of humankind on a global scale. The ceremonial nature of the work serves to remind the viewer that physical remnants prevent us from being wholly detached from spirituality or one another.

The work of Poklong Anading and Ringo Bunoan fit perfectly in this exhibition in that each set of works extrapolates the enigmatic nature of spirituality, life, and death. Regardless of a viewer’s beliefs, there is something inherent in the pieces that transcend the physical human experience. As humans constantly struggle to understand ourselves, Anading and Bunoan provide us with visual representations of the intangible because the art provides yet more extraordinary explanations to ideas we so desperately try to wrangle and comprehend yet consistently elude us.

Originally posted to PlantingRice.com, please click here to view additional photos of the exhibition

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)

Pretty exciting to blog on the fly! I’m currently at the Get Lucky: The Culture of Chance opening night. Many people and such a great line up of wonderful artists looking at chance while paying homage to art icon, John Cage! More to come… 20120106-182421.jpg

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