Thursday, December 9, 2010

Turning Dolls into Art
Artwork by Kelly Heaton & Ken Feingold
            Kelly Heaton was born in North Carolina in 1972 and graduated from MIT in 2000. She is interested in the conceptual implications of disposable culture, especially in the area where technology is concerned. Heaton uses found objects in many of her sculptures and installations. This work “Live Pelt” exhibited in 2003 is one piece of a two-part project called “Bibiota.”  The other half of this work called “Reflection Loop,” is a “computer-activated wall of “Furby” toys that react to the viewer’s proximity. “Heaton said, “In my conception of Bibiota, Reflection Loop is my cerebral approach to the subject of machine intelligence as a medium, whereas Live Pelt  is my emotional treatment.”
To create this work Heaton collected 64 previously-owned Tickle Me Elmo Dolls and compiled them into a piece of “fashionable” womens clothing. Heaton chose the Elmo dolls because she said they were a “convergence of machine, character, and culture.” The pelt vibrates and giggles when touched or worn. Heaton likens it to “a high-fashion, full-body vibrator.” This piece was inspired by Nam June Paik’s “Live Fish,” in which Paik disemboweled two vintage television sets and filled one with live fish and on the other was as s simultaneous image of the same fish projected in a closed-circuit video. Both Heaton and Paik are exploring the realms of machine intelligence and the American cultures relationship with these machines.
What drew me to Heaton’s work was the incredible process she went through in order to complete the concept; mocking the process of trapping and displaying animals, a popular American pastime. Heaton claims to have “hunted and trapped” all of the Tickle Me Elmo dolls on eBay. She then lined them up on a table and skinned and gutted them. “I find it horrific,” Heaton says, “but it raises a lot of questions – why would skinning an Elmo doll be any more horrific than a mink, for example?” Heaton diligently documented her entire process. She developed work installation work spaces such as “The Alchemist,” which contained a desk where she worked with the component parts of the Elmo doll, a mobile with philosopher stones, a DVD and equipment and “The Sociopath,” in which Heaton had a map on the wall that marked each and every spot where she bought or “trapped” an Elmo doll, a dress from, a master chart and patterns. Heaton also mounted the heads of the Elmo dolls, all of which were to be resold on  eBay, made a class portrait of all the Elmos and created the haunting portrait of herself, wearing the jacket, which she called “The Fashionista.”
Heaton is also playing with the relationship between the human body and that of the Elmo dolls. “The objects are specifically designed to have a lifesoan because of my choice of media,” Heaton said.

Ken Feingold is another artist that uses toys in his art, though he uses dummies. Feingold is a 58-year-old artist who lives in New York. He received his B.F.A. and M.F.A. from the California Institute of the Arts. Feingold’s work has been exhibited internationally. Feingold had this to say about his work, “So these programs and hardware made by an artist are ways in which their ideas and aesthetics cohere and can be carried out within a computer-driven work. They should not be measured against scientific achievements or information systems, communication networks or educational methodologies. Without putting it on a higher level, or valorizing it as in any way more "advanced" than these other forms, it is still important to understand that art has a role in the culture which is different from those things that seek to accomplish some concrete aim.”
He is  interested in the  relation between “the self and the real, as reflected in media images and new technologies. His work “Box of Men” is displayed on a large flat-panel screen within an installation space. The dummy dialogue is synthesized speech, generated by a computer program.
The program assigns each puppet a character. All the characters discuss an unknown crime. The puppets are basically a jury, deciding the fate of a random criminal. Here is a sample conversation:
[in unison] What happened to him could have happened to anyone.
We think that of course he could have done it.
We know precisely what that means.
It is implied that they never could have done it.
[in unison] Let's talk about life and death.
It is so simple.
How could they have not known?
Obviously, they had to have done it.
[in unison] We think that he knew exactly what they meant.
If you don't want to feel guilty don't do anything wrong.
He knew just where he was going.
We say not guilty.
We say 99 years.
How could she be wrong?
Cruel wind and rain.
It seems that he knew exactly where he was going.
They never could have done it.
            Feingold juxtaposes “appropriating broadcast television footage with original material, he constructs non-fiction texts whose meaning and structures emerge as a meta-language of associations in “the spaces between the images, opening up directly into unconsciousness.”’ These visual sequences “become charged systems of signs, evoking the linguistic devices of metaphor and metonymy as condensation and displacement.”
I found this work compelling because it examines how guilt and innocence is decided in such random and arbitrary ways and how a group dynamic has the potential to strongly influence a decision.
            Both these artist create original software in making their art. They are both concerned with machines and the human relationship to them; where heaton is concerned with human interaction with products from consumer culture, Feingold is concerned with the implications of arbritrary randomness within human activity, especially when it comes in play when making extremely important decisions. Heaton and Feingold both create a fictional process in which to display their concept and bring attention to how we as humans react in the real-life process. By doing this, they reel in the viewer and present what seems to be at first a light-hearted, uncomplicated artwork. While Heaton’s works concentrate on humans and their culture connections to disposable goods and their meaning, Feingold challenges the connection between the real self and objectivity versus the cultural otherness that develops out of conforming to a norm.

Links to further information:
Kelly Heaton
Ken Feingold

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Lecture Review-Mark Tribe

Mark Tribe
            Mark Tribe’s lecture on “Performance, Mediation, and the Public Sphere” was a fascinating look into the mind of a creative genius. The lecture began with Tribe discussing how we as humans are essentially “performing animals” and that we come to know ourselves through participating in performance. Tribe discussed the silly, fun work, “Car Park” first to warm up the crowd. The idea behind this work was to change the boring space of a parking lot and make it a place that’s beautiful and interesting, where people would like to go.
Tribe spoke next about “The Port Huron Project,” which involved recreating six Vietnam War protest speeches in public places. Tribe picked speeches that are currently relevant and commented on how he can’t possibly see a speech like this being given today because young people are lackadaisical about the state of the world and no strong, young leaders exist. Tribe focused on bringing the past into the future with this work, creating what he referred to as “historical vertigo.” This project made a brutal point that needs to be heard. The young men and women of the 60’s and 70’s were involved in their world; they knew what was going on in the war, they knew the names of leaders all over the world and they fought for what they believed in. Today, it’s surprising how many young people aren’t aware of much of anything that’s happening in the world or even in the state in which they live. It seems that Tribe is attempting to draw attention to this problem, hoping that it might incite progress.
Next, Tribe presented pieces of his “Dystopia Files” project, a project that deals with the culture of security. Tribe gathered many recordings of protests where police became violent with protesters. As part of an installation, these protests were projected onto frosted glass doors in a gallery. The projection was intended to peak the curiosity of the viewer, causing them to open the doors.  As soon as the viewer enters, the projection will stop and they can begin to view the many file cabinets within the space. The file cabinets are labeled with activist group names and as soon as a viewer tries to open them, they’re immediately disappointed to find them all locked. This project causes the viewer to reflect on the closed information in our society, only available to certain individuals in military and government positions. Also, the protests cause the viewer to reflect upon the fact that authority as we know it isn’t required to follow any rules, even the ones stated in the law, and the contradiction of that idea to the American ideal of freedom.
Lastly Mark Tribe presented the work “Sweet Child Solos.” Essentially, Tribe invited many people to cover the song. The covered versions play against one another with a video installation showing images of coffins returning from Iraq. He came up with the concept one night in his car while listening to a story on NPR about a mother losing a child in the war, while simultaneously a radio station kept cutting in with the song, “Sweet Child of Mine.”
Tribe’s work sends a potent message about the state of our society. He does this indirectly, as not to state any outward opinions, a safe way to spread an idea. The though-provoking, sentimentality in his work reminds one that there are many problems in our world while still managing to present a glimmer of hope for the future.

What kind of reactions have you received from the “Sweet Child Solos?”
Do people take away the right message from the concepts you’ve conceived in your work? If they don’t, do you lose inspiration to keep creating?

Lecture Review-Cory Archangel

Unfortunately my work and school schedules did not allow me to attend the lectures that were required for class so I watched the following lecture on YouTube .
Cory Arcangel
            Cory Archangel’s lecture was a bit confusing for the technologically challenged, but his artwork is light, easy and a little hilarious. Archangel is described as a computer artist concerned with technologies relationship to culture. However he says he not a “hacktivist,” meaning that he doesn’t do his art for any type of political activism, Archangel claims that he “Just doesn’t know anything else” and that he finds significance in pop culture. The first piece he talked about was worked on with his friend, Paul B. Davis, with whom he started Beige Records. They gathered old Atari computers, took them apart and reprogrammed them to make a record. The record was composed of scratch tones; lock grooves (infinite repeating loops), a music track and data. The record was intended for use by DJ’s.
            Archangel spoke next about “Data Diaries” a project inspired by his school days, when he hacked into school computer’s RAM (Random Access Memory), disassembled and reassembled the code to cause computers to crash when students open their emails. “Data Diaries” is made up of 31 QuickTime videos comprised of data from Archangel’s RAM for the period of a month. The videos are basically a series of random sound and imaging complete with crazy glitches from when the computer crashed and/or erased memory. Although Archangel says his work has no real purpose, this could represent the mundane existence of our everyday lives.
            Archangel took the old Nintendo game, Hogan’s Alley and changed it by removing the graphic and program chip and soldering in new ones to create what he calls “I Shot Andy Warhol.” The characters he programmed in are The Pope, Flavor Flav and Coloniel Sanders, along with Andy Warhol of course. He simply does these things to amuse himself and others. The other Nintendo hack he did was with the game Super Mario Bros. Archangel erased the program code, leaving only the clouds to scroll forever on the screen.
            Archangel also had a project involving page scaring from the internet called “Pizza Party.” He scraped code from Dominoes Pizza website, reformatted it and threw it back to the Dominoes server basically making a pizza order online directly to the website.
            Although understanding how Archangel completes his works could be very confusing to some, enjoying them is a task easily accomplished as is making the art, according to the artist.
Does your work have any significant message or are you just having fun, messing around as you say? And if not, are you still considered an artist?
What were the reasons behind choosing the Pope, Flavor Flav and Coloniel sanders for the “I Shot Andy Warhol” game?

Exhibition Review-Paho Mann

Paho Mann-Scatter and Heap
            Paho Mann’s “North Gateway Transfer Station Project” was commissioned by the City of Phoenix through the Phoenix Office of Art and Culture’s Public Art Program. Mann began this project by photographing a sample of recyclables; he then entered the photographs into a database along with keywords in order to make connections in categories such as recyclables, colors, objects and interactions with objects. Mann then made his prints from image groups generated by the database. The result is stunning, but not in a good way.
            All I could think about as I looked at Mann’s exhibit is the incredible amount of waste our society creates by buying all these disposable objects we do not need. There are millions of water bottles, discarded toys and plastic cups. I couldn’t help but thinking about the project from my innovation class for increasing recycling on campus. Recycling doesn’t need to be increased; our society just needs to stop buying all this useless, disposable crap.
            Mann’s intention for the work was not to point out the massive amounts of waste, but to highlight popular consumer choices. We as the viewers get to see where our money goes and what that says about us. The only redeeming factor is the print composed of children’s drawing and homework and the fact that our society is still reading newspapers; at least some people are doing something valuable with their time. Mann’s exhibit is a comment on what makes up our culture. We are consumers, and not much else.


Were you attempting to make a point that something good can come out of this mindless consumerism by producing visually beautiful prints out of all these random recyclable items?

Do you think these prints would hold the same power if they weren’t viewed as a collection, but on their own?

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Final Project!

This project allowed me to feel as if I'm actually an artist. I have little to no artistic talent which has been highlighted for me in the two studio art classes required to complete my art history minor. This allows a person to get the feeling of accomplishment from creating what I consider (mind you my standards for my art aren't high) to be a beautiful piece of art. 

The concept I had in mind was to give Johnny Cash a ghostly presence, seeing as he is no longer with us, and maintain the emotive power of the original frame. Participating in the making of this collaboration was a satisfying and enlightening experience. I spent a lot of time going through other people's frames, seeing where they're from and feeling like I gained a bit of insight into their world as well as developing a type of connection with them while participating.

The "I Wish" Conversation

The next piece of my final project is from the Learning to Love You More website. The assignment was to "write the phone call you wish you could have had." I tweaked this idea a bit to re-write a conversation I would have had face-to-face. My Grandmother Margaret passed away a few years back. When the end was getting close, my Mom asked my brother and I to come visit and say goodbye. The day we left her, she gripped my hand and asked me not to go. This was a powerful request because my Grandma never asked anything of anyone. I told her I had to go, I had school and work, etc., and we left. I never could have known how much I would regret that decision,, letting the mundane crap of everyday life take precedence over my Grandma's last days. To this day I wish I said something else, but mostly, I wish I hadn't left.

Grandma: Don't go, please don't go.

Me: Okay, I won't. I'll stay here by your side and talk to you or stroke your hair or sing you a song or go through old pictures or laugh about times gone by or whatever you want to do. But before all that I want to tell you how much you mean to my life. I never said it nearly enough and I'm not sure if I ever really realized it until now. I guess that's how it goes, you never appreciate what you have until it's too late. I feel so lucky to have had you so close in my life since I was a little baby. I loved coming to have sleepovers when you lived down the street and I loved it even more when you came to live with us. I'm sure it hasn't been easy for you, living with two teenagers and parents who are in the middle of a divorce. Watching your daughter go through that must be awful. But then again you've experienced a great amount of pain in your life with the death of your husband and your son. You never show that pain at all. You are one of the strongest people I know and I find it so amazing how you walk around everyday with a smile on your face willing to help anyone else and never thinking about yourself. I admire you greatly for that. But I wish you had more time for yourself. I wish you would've told me more about you and Grandpa, your life, your dreams, your disappointments, just you. But I couldn't be more thankful for all the times you took care of me, held me when I was upset about Mom and Dad, or Jason making me crazy or something terrible that happened at school. You always provided me with an incredible amount of love and support that's helped make me who I am today. I love you more than anything in the world and I'm going to miss you more that you'll ever know. But we don't have to talk about that now. Right now we can do whatever you want.

Grandma: Thank you for staying.

I recommend  to anyone that has a huge regret to take part in something like this. It may be silly but I believe if you think about it and write it down clearly, the people who you want to hear your thoughts will be able to. At least I hope so.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

You Tube Mixer

This is meant to be a meditative piece. With this project I wanted to show the  eloquent, expressive power that is created from the fusion of music and dance. All the videos contain different aspects of dance including, ballet, interpretive dance, and even hula-hoop. The different music, played together, becomes like an entrancing chant. The third row video was placed alone as I found it to be the most significant. The man is performing emotions onto the wall through dance.


Chindogu Infomercial - Kitty Clean-Up Comb

Chindogu Invention - Kitty Clean-Up Comb
The Kitty Clean-Up comb creation was very silly and a little cruel but a genius idea nonetheless. Collaborating with the group was a good experience, everyone participated, adding personal touches to the project.