Art Art Writing and Criticism

On [B]ay [A]rea [N]ow 6 @ the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts

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At dusk, a radiating neon green herbal leaf welcomes visitors to the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. It serves as one of the first installations a visitor sees when entering the Bay Area Now 6 (aka BAN6) visual arts exhibition. The signage was created by, Bay Area artist and San Francisco Art Institute faculty member, Tony Labat. As a play on the words Yerba Buena and the rich history San Francisco brings to the ongoing political and social debate of medicinal marijuana. Historically, Labat’s work examines social and cultural issues within such a milieu of diverging and opposing opinions.

Dualing Pianos: Agape Agape in D Minor by Mauricio Ancalmo was one of the noteworthy pieces in BAN6. Ancalmo fastidiously creates the perfect amount of tension, both figuratively and literally. Various technologies coalesce to re-contextualize and re-imagine concepts such as time, placement, and discord. The large kinetic sculpture pushes the viewer’s understanding of new media and technology based work. In many ways, Ancalmo calls upon his viewer to actually listen as well as experience the cyclical nature of synthesis and antithesis.

Chris Fraser’s light installation, Developing a mutable horizon, plays with the viewer’s sense of space and perception through light refraction and offers an provocative participatory aspect to the spectator. Fraser’s experience as a photographer lends itself well in that the body dictates the light versus the light dictating placement of the body. Another photographer, Sean McFarland, explores the unorthodox nature of darkness within landscape photography and calls into question how the senses grow accustomed to what is not the commonplace. Light plays an incredibly and necessary role in capturing the perfect image. Yet, what happens when that paradigm of photography shifts to capturing that which is shrouded in darkness. How do the eyes see? Do the eyes and the sense of sight truly discern lines and shapes? McFarland challenges our retinal sense by having darkness within the photograph to be what guides the eye and our cognition to comprehending the forms as if there is something more revealing captured in the dark versus in the light.

Another standout piece was Suzanne Husky’s, Sleeper Cell Hotel. The oval pods constructed from raw lumber accompanied by quilted comforters adorning the interior is a trenchant approach at creating the antithesis of what is commonly known as a sleeper cell – clandestine and secret. Husky’s combination of performance art, functionality, and sculptural fabrications take what is private into the public sphere.

The show incorporated artists using traditional methods of art making such as Robert Minervini paintings of cityscapes under construction as well as Ben Venom’s quilts but based within a more conceptual framework. Both artists provide anomalous ways in which old technologies are being used to create advancements in the way art is created and experienced. Yet, even with all of the optimism one can muster about the Bay Area art community, the disappointing aspect of the show was the lack of artists working with newer and cutting edge technologies. Granted, there are many organizations showcasing the new wave of technologically based artists and makers but it’s a bit surprising to not see them as well represented in the BAN6 show. The diversity and range ought to make visible and obvious the ways in which the Bay Area differs from other regions versus exhibiting how we are alike. There is a specific voice here that wasn’t particularly shown. Although the selected BAN6 artists embody the broad range of art within the Bay Area, the diversity in technique and method was a bit lacking.

For more information about BAN6 click here

Originally posted to zer01 blog, please click here to view.

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ZER01 presents Art/Technology: In Conversation with Ken Eklund and Sibley Verbeck

ZER01 Arts/Technology: In Conversation with Ken Eklund and Sibley Verbeck (Photo by: Irving Perez)

He thought, too, about his need for a real animal; within him an actual hatred once more manifested itself toward his electric sheep, which he had to tend, had to care about, as if it lived. The tyranny of an object, he thought. It doesn’t know I exist. Like the androids, it had no ability to appreciate the existence of another. He had never thought of this before, the similarity between an electric animal and an andy. The electric animal, he pondered, could be considered a subform of the other, a kind of vastly inferior robot. Or, conversely, the android could be regarded as a highly developed, evolved version of the ersatz animal. Both viewpoints repelled him.

~ Philip K. Dick, excerpt from his novel, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep

Fortunately, as long as humans exist, there will always be a desire to know the other. Advances in the way we communicate and connect with one another is in large part due to interactive gaming and social networking applications. Last Friday, under the dim lights of the Gray Area Foundation for the Arts (GAFFTA) subterranean level where the Future Canvas 2 exhibition of iPad art was on display and SpacEKraft supplied ambient participatory music; ZER01 presented Art/Technology: In Conversation – Future of Play II with game artist, Ken Eklund, and StreamJam Creator, Sibley Verbeck. The setting was apropos. Engaging the public and facilitating dialogue at the intersection of Arts and Technology is primary objective for both organizations.

Ken Eklund began the evening with a brief yet colorful PowerPoint presentation which informed the audience of his early interests leading to interactive game design. From 16 bit color video games to political science, Eklund’s well known game, World without Oil, demonstrated his desire to affect change in the world by having end users partner and collaborate on pressing issues. Although education within the the Arts and Technology realm is imperative, social networking within virtual spaces has become an increasingly popular mode for interaction. The human imagination has the freedom to create avatars and interface with friends from where ever they choose. With his work in computational research, founder of Electric Sheep Company, Sibley Verbeck displayed screenshots of virtual worlds created predominantly for commercial use to enhance the viewer’s experience with a particular product or immersion into a dramatic television series.

Varying rationales and intention for interactivity and participation helped make the discussion between Eklund and Verbeck dynamic. Two methodologies of using game design and virtual worlds as a place for social networking yet with differing purposes, brought philosophical ideas to the fore.  While Eklund’s purpose lie in social change and education, Verbeck’s ultimate goal was to create worlds where people could socially interact based on a common interest such as music hence the creation of StreamJam. Another topic involved notions of the self. The filtration of a Virtual self vs. a Physical self and whether or not a convergence between the two is possible or whether a virtual self is an abstraction and representation of the physical self. Related to the aforementioned subject, the differentiation between an alternate reality as opposed to a virtual world was discussed. The alternate reality relies on the physical self to find aspects of the game embedded into a particular landscape, which may not be within a virtual environment while virtual reality is situated purely in a simulated environment.

As the speakers wrapped up the presentation and final points were delivered, the question regarding whether there is a distinction between an artist and technologist remained. New media arts is constantly re-defining and defying itself amidst the contemporary creative minds taking new technologies and innovative approaches to serve as a mode of conveyance inevitably bridging and providing various ways of communication in this ever changing and fast moving landscape.

Originally posted to ZER01, please click here to view.

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Click on the image above or here to explore the website! Some of my favorite new media artists (i.e., Scott Kildall, Victoria Scott, Tim Roseborough, and Camille Utterback) showcase via ZER01. Please show your support and learn about this incredible organization.