25 July 2005

Shout Out: Margaret Tedesco

I went down to Yerba Buena, today, to revisit Bay Area Now before writing my review. I got there just in time to catch a performance by Margaret Tedesco. In a slight disguise, she sits and narrates films whose sound has been turned down and are projected into a corner. (She narrates for the whole 2 hours!) The only seating option is on immovable benches set up so that it's easier to watch her than the film she faces. Today she narrated The Conversation, and she did a great job. The film is one of my all-time faves but I hadn't seen it in about five years and I've had lots of deep, personal revelations about surveillance and word/sound/image relationships since then--especially as I lived in surveillance-heavy London for a year in-between. (Ironically, I had fallen asleep watching Enemy of the State, a pseudo-coda to The Conversation, also starring Gene Hackman, last night--I know, I live an exciting life!) Anyway, there were many great "conversations" between Margaret's performance and the film, mostly along the lines of putting spectatorship on display, questioning one's memory of a photographic document or sound recording (ie Margaret's of the film, or mine), and general questions about truth, horror, and sound. The other interesting connection was that the eponymous conversation was recorded less than a mile from the gallery. Anyway, I could go on and on about what a great performance it was. It really made me think about a number of interesting things. It even inspired me to fine-tune some of the details I've been mulling over, re: my upcoming 21 Grand performance. Incidentally, for those who don't know, Margaret is a sort of performance art institution in the Bay Area. She's not only a long-time performing artist but also an active curator who's helped to shape and cultivate the local arts community. Whenever I'm at an art event with her, I feel like I'm with a royal figure, as everyone's waving at her and she's always waving right back. There are no pix of her YBCA performance, so the one above is from a show I curated at White Columns, last summer, where she did an opening-night performance that entailed standing in front of a strong fan (lucky girl--hot opening!) and constantly trying to draw a line in her hair, with a comb... It was a hit!

23 July 2005

under review

I just went to see the Scott Williams and Chris Ballantyne exhibits at the SF Art Institute. I'm reviewing them for Artweek. The shows are really awards shows. Williams (whose show is much larger) won the 2005 Adaline Kent Award and Ballantyne won the Tournesol Award, sponsored by the Headlands Center for the Arts. Both showed quite interesting work. Lately I find myself thinking a lot about the potential relationship between SF's "Mission school" painting movement and the "dirt style" art work popular primarily on the East Coast. (In a way, this is like asking where graffiti tags and html tags rendezous!) Scott Williams's Mission work, then, really drove the point home--especially a painting, on a bulletin board, that sort of reflected the screen of an early BBS.

20 July 2005

see & hear me send & receive

I'll be performing at Oakland's 21 Grand, on Saturday, July 30th, in an evening packed with talent, in conjunction with the Bay Area Performance Biennial and the show at the Oakland Art Gallery (see below). My performance is based on the same "Sending & Receiving" premise described below, but in this case you'll see me singing into a pair of headphones mounted over my face and tricked into acting like a mic. It should be great fun! My performance is called "I, U, We" and I drew this lil flyer to illustrate what it's all about. But do not think I'm the star of the show... I'm just the self-made star of this self-made sketch. Details at the 21 Grand link.

Form/Reform at the Oakland Art Gallery

The fabulous Margaret Tedesco included me in a show she's guest-curated at the Oakland Art Gallery, as part of the Bay Area Performance Biennial (a.k.a. "Bayenalle"!). There are a number of cool people in this one, doing performances and installations. I've made a performative installation called "Performed Listening." Here's the longish description of that one:

This installation is the newest in a series of meditations on the nature of listening, vis a vis sending & receiving electrical impulses. All of my work is fueled by a mutual fascination with popular music and the cultural history of technology. The Sending & Receiving series springs from the admission that much of the work that I make (and particularly the singing I do) is truly a form of listening. While gallery-goers are, in a sense, watching or hearing me “listen” to other music, their own listening is often “performed,” in the sense that they are making explicit choices about the manner and duration of their consumption.

In “Performed Listening,” gallery-goers and I will perform a sort of duet, in which we both perform “listening” in our own ways. In a small space in the gallery, viewers will see a hanging stage curtain; a small, soapbox-sized “stage” (with room for only one) and a microphone aimed toward the stage. The microphone will have been tricked into acting as a speaker and will constantly play a looped recording of me singing a song whose lyrics reflect on the intimacy of our exchange, the nature and history of duets, the nature of listening, and the absence of one of the performers: “Cruisin,” the song made famous when Huey Lewis and Gwynyth Paltrow sang it as a semi-incestuous duet, in the aptly titled
Duets, a movie about karaoke. The volume at which I sing will be so low that the viewer will have to step onto the tiny stage (the ramshackleness of which mirrors my potential lack of talent in both the singing and construction departments) and place their ear up to the surface of the microphone in order to hear it, thus performing the act of listening.

This separation between sending and receiving, performing and listening, also harkens to the historic role of recording technologies (the gramophone, the microphone. the transistor radio, etc.) in separating producers and consumers, rulers and the ruled. One can look more closely at the way in which these technologies have become a channel for sexual politics, where transmission has become a metaphor for viral infection, and electronic components are marked “male” or “female” in a further extension of the ruling class’ alignment with patriarchal power and production—aka “sending.” In the song I sing for my duet with my listeners, not only does the title, “Cruisin,” refer to a common slang term for same-sex coquetry (not exactly transmission between male & female parts) but the song itself typifies promiscuous mass consumption, in its index of karaoke and its Hollywood packaging, via the film.

It is also, incidentally, the first karaoke song I ever performed live. This paradox underscores much of my work, which tends to walk a fine line between parody and participation, nostalgia and critique…

Shout Out: Marc Horowitz

My good friend, frequent collaborator, and former bandmate Marc Horowitz is going to be a special guest on Craig Ferguson's Late Late Show tonight (after Letterman). I just had to send out a congrats to Marc, as I'm always excited when artists receive pop culture attention for their interventions--though I suspect they'll discuss Marc's recent inclusion in People's 50 Hottest Bachelors issue more than they will his current grand-scale National Dinner Tour social sculpture project... Still, it's a big accomplishment. Yay for social sculpture! :)

16 July 2005

the envelope, please...

I just finished filing my official nominations for the Rockefeller's Media Arts Fellowships. I was honored to be invited to do so, but it was hard to nominate only three candidates. This is one of the few grants going directly to individual artists, these days, and one of even fewer going to media artists. I actually tried to nominate extremely deserving emerging artists who might not get nominated by quite as many of the other nominators but whose work deserves attention. I hope they all win!

Bay Area Now IV

One of the bigger art happenings in this town is the triennial exhibition Bay Area Now, at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. Last night the fourth iteration of that show opened and it was such a to-do that even people with prepaid tickets were given refunds due to the high turnout. It's an interesting show which happens to include many of my more talented pals (including my good friend Marisa Jahn--people are always confusing us with each other outside of the Bay Area) and the curators included some unusual collectives, like Hamburger Eyes and Stretcher, with whom I am an occasional collaborator. I previewed the show in my column on San Francisco for Art Review (July 2005) and I'll be reviewing it for Artweek. Three years ago, in my review of Bay Area Now 3, for Artweek, I said that the show either indulged-- or at least confirmed--a tendency of many Bay Area artists to privilege context over content. Little did I imagine that such a small review would spark such controversy! (Ironically, my Artweek editor at the time was Berin Golonu, who is now an Assistant Curator at Yerba Buena and who helped organize the show.) I usually try not to read reviews of shows before I write about them, but I happened to catch some tidbits, this morning, over breakfast. It seems some of the curatorial decisions made in the show were done to make it more "real" and "street level." Now I've got to mull that over...

Me @ the New Museum of Contemporary Art

I'm currently in a show called Rhizome Artbase 101, at the New Museum of Contemporary Art. They've included my American Idol Audition Training Blog and a translated version of it on a custom iPod (a.k.a. moPod!). The show is up through Sept 10. Here's an excerpt from the press release:

Rhizome ArtBase 101 surveys salient themes in Internet-based art making, a practice that has flourished in the past ten years. [….] The 40 works selected for the New Museum exhibition are outstanding examples culled from the [Rhizome] ArtBase and grouped by ten unifying themes: Dirt Style, Net Cinema, Games, E-Commerce, Data Visualization and Databases, Online Celebrity, Public Space, Software Art, Cyberfeminism and Early Net.Art. Rhizome ArtBase 101 includes seminal pieces by early practitioners such as Alexei Shulgin’s Desktop Is (1997) and Heath Bunting’s _readme (1998), as well as projects by some of the most pioneering emerging talents working in the field today, such as Marisa Olson, Cory Arcangel and Paper Rad.

what am i doing with my life?

I'm so glad you asked! Actually, I've been asked this quite a bit since I quit my job at SF Camerawork, last year. Let me fill you in on the exciting details... I'm working hard in the Rhetoric/Film dept at UC Berkeley; I'm making lots of art; I'm recording lots of music; I'm freelance writing and curating; I'm starting a nonprofit record label (Art Star Records) that will distribute artists' sound and music recordings and a cassette-based zine called "DubDubDub;" and I'm finishing that novel many of my friends know was destroyed, two years ago; among other fun projects... I don't expect this blog to be a regularly-updated periodical, but rather a place to keep all the stray details about my various activities wrangled. Come back to find show announcements, articles filed, calls for entry for projects, and occasional shout-outs regarding other people's projects.

As for fun stuff on the horizon, well, here are some of the things about which I'm excited... I'm working on a net art blog/performance project, with Abe Linkoln, for which the Whitney has commissioned a gatepage; I'm curating an unusual show at Artists Space, as part of the Performa performance art biennial; I'm teaching an art history class, this fall at Berkeley, on New Media; I'm helping to organize ISEA 2006, in San Jose; I'm producing an album and music video series called "Genre Studies" which has songs written and recorded by me that typify "genres" (the Summer Single, the Country Classic, the Song Named After a Woman, etc...), and in-between I'm working on a number of "smaller" art/music/curatorial projects, performances, and writings. Stay tuned for more details...