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

Reinterpretations, remakes, and contemporary works are strategically placed throughout God Only Knows Who the Audience IsPerformance, Video, and Television Through the Lens of La Mamelle, engaging viewers in what is almost an infinite loop of observation that changes with every go-around. Douglas Davis’s The Last Nine Minutes (1977) welcomes viewers to the second floor of the exhibition. The video piece involves Davis walking around a space that simulates a dark cave. Viewers’ anticipation bubbles to the surface as they wait for him to acknowledge his audience. Within the uncharted territory of television as a means of engagement with a spectator, Davis’s gestures and acting serve as a metaphor and barrier between the artist and viewer. The onus falls on the viewer to acknowledge the artist.

In Mario Garcia Torres’s All That Color is Making Me Blind(2008), a lone black screen with scrolling green type reminiscent of a teleprompter provides context for the grid of televisions displayed across from it. The scrolling text imparts the language associated with the visual information received by the grid. The multiscreen artwork displays television spots artists have bought to disseminate art to the masses—a startling reminder of television’s osmotic effect on its viewers. Both Davis’s and Torres’s works require a curious and engaged audience. Yet, as the name of the exhibition suggests, the nature of questioning and understanding in performative and video-based art is inherently cyclical.

Pitch-black walls on the second level simulate a hermetic box, in which videos playing performative acts are the only stimulation. The works both insulate and isolate: much like the onscreen subjects, viewers become inaccessible once they are enveloped by the onscreen work. Although each artwork has been set up to replicate a living space, creating an atoll of viewing islets, there is an unrelenting cacophony from the other televisions. With the multitude of sounds and experiences working in tandem, viewers are forced to play close attention and actively search for understanding or resonance. As a result, they concentrate on particular aspects of the video performances that might otherwise go unnoticed.


 

Mario Garcia Torres. All The Color Is Making Me Blind (Notes on the Beginning of the End of Video Art), 2008; nine-channel video installation. Courtesy of the CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts. Photo: Dorothy Santos.

Active watching and viewer engagement are paramount in the works of the art collective La Mamelle/ART COM. The act of watching as a primary mode of experiencing the exhibition serves as the foundation for dialogue and conversation, which is imperative in the discussion of how arts and technology work together to explore the role of spectator. The work inGod Only Knows Who the Audience Is demonstrates the creative and investigative processes of performance, video, and television, and the ways contemporaneous study is imperative in examining the evolution of performance art and spectatorship.

GOD ONLY KNOWS WHO THE AUDIENCE IS: PERFORMANCE, VIDEO, AND TELEVISION THROUGH THE LENS OF LA MAMELLE IS ON VIEW AT THE CCA WATTIS INSTITUTE FOR CONTEMPORARY ARTS, IN SAN FRANCISCO, THROUGH JULY 2, 2011.

Originally posted to Shotgun Reviews, please click here to view

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A few photos from Southern Exposure of Kenneth Lo’s exhibition, every stone tethered to sleep/every presence wedded to stone