"Embodied Praxis - Real Life 2.0"
Many years ago, as our children were sitting around the diner table - each one in turn recounting their day at school and the different comings and goings of their friends and classmates - our teenage son recounted an interesting story about a boy who had got himself embroiled in some complicated stuff. As I hadn't heard this boy's name mentioned before, I asked him whether his family was from the neighbourhood. He laughed and explained (with great patience) that he was from Dawson's Creek (http://www.dawsonscreek.com <http://www.dawsonscreek.com/> ). I was stunned at the blurring of his realities, but I also had to admit that I had been, just as avidly embroiled my own sitcom narratives; often tracking 'friends' and 'acquaintances' for many weeks, as their series ran like clockwork, in prime time in my own life.
Several generations have now grown up with the reality of television seamlessly woven into the complex fabric of Real Life - after all, until you see it on the evening news it hasn't really happened. This generation is made of a different cloth, and is growing up with all kinds of prosthetic devices that bind us via the Internet Protocol and keep us under the spell of the network. The projects featured in this year's exhibition all highlight the different ways we are bound to the reflexive net of the post Web 2.0 era. These kinds of activities don't merely comment on life, but essentially constitute and define the social self. This is a generation that is using the net - not as the subtext of daily life - as mere footnotes and quotations of day to day living - but in a myriad of different net-bound activities that now author and constitute the main text of life.
FERALTRADE - an artist-run grocery business established in Bristol, 2003 - is a public experiment in trading goods over social networks. Products are passed by hand and run along social routes, now easily facilitated by Web 2.0 interfaces. In this way, other artists or curators are called upon to act as mules to move surplus goods from place to place, and in doing so, are able to avoid the official channels of distribution. According to the artists' statement - "'feral' describes a process that is deliberately wild, as in pigeon, as opposed to nature wild (wolf). Feral Trade freight operates largely outside commercial channels, using the surplus potential of social, cultural and data networks for the distribution of goods." Feral Trade is supported by an impressive body of contributors and sponsors, http://www.feraltrade.org/logo/ <http://www.feraltrade.org/logo/> ; including not only art funding bodies and higher educational institutions, but a whole spectrum of small, and no so small businesses, highlighting the hybrid nature of artistic; social and commercial process that have come together to make Feral Trade possible.
The artist behind the project, Kate Rich, describes herself as an Australian-born artist & trader, and has been publicly presenting her experiment since its inception. Feral Trade, a the net-based project, essentially facilitates the movement of coffee from El Salvador, sweets from Iran and St. John's Wort from Bulgaria, and has been selected as this year's prize winner. This is a reflection, not only of Richs' enterprising and pragmatic solution - that enables the public trading of goods across alternate distribution channels - but also as an artistic gesture that resourcefully and creatively exploits the fabric of social networks now made possible over the net.
DATENFORM - In which form does the network data world manifest itself in our everyday life? What comes back from cyberspace into physical space? How do digital innovations influence our everyday actions? These are all excellent questions, and the Berlin-based media artist Aram Bartholl has responded to these critical issues concerning a post modern society. His responses are essentially embedded both within his series of projects that enact net substances and processes in real life, as well as in the performance of the digital-self on his own homepage.
Bartholl's website gathers together the numerous parts of his fragmented self that is scattered over his blog narratives; his flickr and youtube micro-content, and his del.icio.us bookmarks. We can also track his travels on plazes, share (with others) his micro-updates on twitter, or see what he is currently up to, in almost real time on jaiku or dopplr. One may question how on earth any individual can possible maintain so much of their selves online, but, perhaps we should be asking is why we would want to track someone else so intently - almost to the point of obsession. When that someone, however, is a self proclaimed artist, the performance of distributed self offers a very close reading of another person, which, in itself becomes the artist palette. The performance of self in different media is hardly new, but Bartholl's new iteration of the artist body is reflected in his choice of location. Shifting the performance medium from the painterly horizon or the marble form already has a long history that reaches back to the Dadaists and the Fluxus group. In Datenform the performance platform of self has moved along this artistic continuum to the digital stage; as it not only is reflected in but also has become the very substance of the net.
This sense of living life through the net is reinforced by Bartholls' enactment of his digital self through highly formalised, physical activity. He has relocated the Second Life Sandbox, 2007 as a platform of experimentation and play from the virtual world to a deserted area that was formerly part of the Berlin Wall, in the Mitte district in Berlin. For three days, participants were welcome to take up the physical tools and materials in a playful moment of individual creativity and collaboration - just like in Second Life.
His Speech Bubble, 2007 transformed the digital speech bubble that is so familiar from the world of comics, online games and instant messaging into an analogue speech bubble that hangs above the speaker and lights up the conversations that are taking place in real time. Drawing attention to these kinds of attributes from the digital self and introducing them into a physical interaction in social spaces serves to answer, in some way, those critical questions the artist himself poses. The rest is up to us. Bartholls offers us some interesting tools that enable us to come to terms, to a certain extent, with living our lives on the net. If we should wish to do so, we can take up his tools for ourselves and learn to use them to integrate all those different parts of our fragmented selves back into a cohesive whole.
WATCH WORLD(S) is a Machinima movie that draws on the haunting lyrics and music of Don McLean's "Starry Night". The poetic quality of the Second Life animation by Rob Wright, better known by his Second Life alter-ego as Robbie Dingo, shows the 3-D re-creation of Vincent Van Gogh's "Starry Night" in Second Life (duration 4'17"). There are currently different-sized versions to download on the net that now have a life of their own beyond the reach of the virtual world.
Robbie Dingo is a well known figure in Second Life, where his famous Hyper-Flute sells for 3,000 Linden Dollars and allows the owner's avatar to play the eerie sounding instrument in-world from their keyboard. Robbie Dingo, the filmmaker, has created his machinima movie completely from in-world tools; the uploaded, Van Gogh textures; the 3D units of construction available to all avatars as they sign on to Second Life, and the creative process itself of creating an entire in-world landscape.
Wright actually decided to remove the Starry Night "build" from Second Life after he was done, leaving only the trace behind - the film:
"Ever looked at your favorite painting and wished you could wander inside, to look at it from different perspectives? Spend a single day in one of mine, from early sunrise on a new day, to dusk when lights come on in cozy homes; through a peaceful night, till morning.
Shot on location in Second Life, then post-produced, this was an idea I had a while ago. The Sim in this work was on temporary loan so it's all been swept away now, leaving only the film behind. It was always intended, however, that the video would be the end product, not the build."
Even for those not yet familiar with the way that Second Life worlds are born and evolve, the short clip amplifies not only the magnificence of Van Gogh's oeuvre and the soulfulness of Don McLean's memorable song, but also the magic that artists, such as Robbie Dingo can create with a simple toolbox and a little inspiration.
REAL COSTS - flying has never been more depressing. Waiting in the long queue at the check in counter, the relentless security screenings, and the dreary airline food that offers the only distraction from the endless hours cooped up in tiny space allotted to each flyer. All this misery, only to be rounded off with the thrill of watching the last suitcase going round the carousel - and suddenly realizing that it is not yours. And now we are being constantly reminded how much damage we are doing to the only real home we have - our planet. As if we hadn't realized before, we are quickly learning how, with each flight we make, we are personally contributing to the pollution of our atmosphere. In previous decades we were blissfully unaware of our carbon footprint - today we are reminded at every turn how much CO2 emissions we are actually churning out into the air we breathe. Making this even easier to follow, the Real Costs offers us a Firefox plug-in to download, instantly inserting emissions data from e-commerce websites onto our personal screen. The next time you plan to make a long trip, you would be well advised to check online to see if taking the train, or finding a suitable carpool would indeed reduce your own carbon footprint. Of course, it inevitably does!
The self-described goal of the team behind Real Costs; Michael Mandiberg, Concept, Programming, Aesthetics, Sweat Equity, P. Timon McPhearson Ph.D., Ecological Advisor, Earth Institute, Columbia University, Carlo Montagnino, Junior Programmer, and Evan Moran, Designer is to create an impact on the viewer, and, to some extent, at least, to transform each and every one of us from passive consumer to engaged citizen. And what a better place to start? This interface can't dig itself any deeper in your personal space. It sits innocently on your very own computer, and just before you press the buy and fly now button online, let the Real Costs calculate the distance to be traveled, and point out the real cost of the emissions you would be about to generate!
THE CALL - instead of the predictable, linear, time-lapse photographic documentation of a building under construction, Isabelle Jenniches has developed a rich composite panorama of the Vancouver Convention Center expansion project as it is being built. Blurring the divisions of time and space, the site is constantly in flux, yet it is never really going anywhere. The past is fixed; the future never happens and all the building takes place in the unrelenting present. The low tech encapsulating of the close-ups is shot with a simple webcam, and space too is telescoped from the distance to the foreground; all within the same gestalt vision. Strangely voyeuristic, and vaguely disquieting, this compelling panorama keeps us fixed in time and place yet allows the story, never the less to unfold before our very eyes.
15x15. ORG - Perhaps the saddest reflection on where we are going - and how we got there - would have Warhol splitting his sides in his grave. 15x15 generates a tableau of 15 videos, each one lasting 15 seconds submitted from all over the world from: the UK, Ireland, USA, France, Finland, Turkey, Netherlands, Israel, Sweden, Argentina, Korea, Russia, Japan and many more countries. In homage to Any Warhol's now seminal quote - "In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes" 15x15.org invites anyone with a camera phone, or a video camera to send in a mini-clip via MMS or e-mail. The result is a bizarre peek into the everyday life of very everyday people. This sounds like the result would be pretty mundane. It isn't! Richard Vickers, Oliver Dore and Greg Brant's composite video keeps us bedazzled, as the mini-vignettes leapfrog one over the next in an endless stream of human behaviour; quirky, out of the ordinary and often very, very ordinary. Perhaps the magic lies in the fleeting opportunity to glimpse into other people's lives, knowing that there will never again be a second opportunity to watch this individual belly dance in the tiny frame, present a silent soliloquy, or jump out of a building into who knows where.
This intriguing project offers a glimpse, not so much into the lives of others, rather into what it means to be human and living in a post modern society that allots each and every one of us a simple 15 seconds to tell the world who are, what we want, and why we are here.
WOMEN IN HER 50'S ANATOMY On-LINE - the place for interactive and educational views of the woman in her 50s' body highlights how we alternative between our onscreen/off-screen personas and considers whether our [real] feet are redundant or not in a world where the avatar rules. This rather depressing work deliberately reminds us that while our avatar is out there gallivanting until the wee hours of the morning on our behalf, we can't really forget where it was that we left our body behind. Those liver enzymes, with the poetic names - those gamma glutamyl transpeptidases and alkaline phosphatases - keep on flowing and, sending in our digital, alter-ego to keep fit on our behalf, simply wont work! Regina Pinto's work includes a book of 14 plates where she worked with photos and movies of her own body, and presents them here in an all too fleeting online narrative.