Sunday, September 12, 2010

5953 Investigation

This time, I asked the students to pick an artwork from Digital Art chapter 1, "Digital Technologies as Tool," and find a relationship with three non-digital artworks (one contemporary, one 20th century, one pre-20th century) through a concept, form, aesthetic, etc.

So, again, I'll participate in the investigation myself...

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I have become sensitive to internal energetic states of the body throughout my two decades of practicing yoga, t'ai chi, and other body disciplines.  Seeing the intangible territories of inner space explicitly represented in two- and three- dimensional form is fascinating to me.

Michael Rees
Anja Spine (1998)

I am intrigued by the depiction of the chakra system in this Michael Rees sculpture created with rapid prototyping technology.  The visceral and physical presence of this form is powerful and full of information that I can easily map onto my own body.  Rees exploration of self-termed "spiritual/psychological anatomy" reminds me of Alex Grey's contemporary Sacred Mirror series.

Alex Grey
Chapel of Sacred Mirrors (1986)
21 oil on linen, 84"x46" (frames are polyester resin, fiberglass, wood, illuminated stained glass, 126"x60")

Like the Rees sculpture, Alex Grey's series of 21 paintings serve as a map of various systems of the body, the chakras being one of them.  It is my understanding that Grey's intention was for the viewer to stand in front of each life-sized figure and "download" the visual information onto their own body.  Systems depicted include muscle, nerve, viscera, lymph, cardiovascular, chakra (as seen above), psychic energy, spiritual energy, universal mind lattice, and others.

Juan Li
Ovarian Kung Fu (c.1980?)

This 20th century artwork by Juan Li is a diagram of the esoteric Taoist alchemical practice of refining female sexual energy for health purposes. Li is an artist and senior instructor in the Universal Healing Tao Center established by Master Mantak Chia.  Like the Rees sculpture and many of Grey's paintings, this image makes visible an invisible system within the body.  Despite the lack of concrete physical attributes, these systems are experienced on an energetic or mental level and can have a profound relationship with the physical systems of the body.

Neijing Tu (Illustration of the Inner Circulation) (1886)
ink rubbing
52" x 22"

This Taoist image was pulled as an ink rubbing from a carved wooden tablet created during the Qing dynasty.  The "inner circulation" here refers to one of the major pathways through which internal energy, or "chi," flows.  On one level, it communicates the classical eastern medical philosophy that the body functions organically, like a garden, with complex interrelationships between the various systems (as opposed to the western school of thinking that the body is more like a machine, with separate parts to be swapped out like parts of a car engine).  This ancient practice of inner alchemy is still alive today, and can be traced through contemporary Chinese medicine and internal martial arts practice.

Monday, August 30, 2010

5953 Digital Tools - Online/Fall 2010

First set of questions posed to my graduate students this term:
What is your relationship to digital tools?
What do you hope to get out of the Digital Tools class?
What specific skill or tool do you plan to master this term?

So I thought it a good exercise to answer the questions myself.

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Apprehensive though curious, I set out to explore digital tools in my art making practice when, in 1996, the high school students I was teaching showed me that our world was becoming a very different place. As a young artist I felt the imperative to engage these developments, and at the same time felt trepidation about grappling with technology. With a full scholarship to the University of Michigan School of Art and Design, I went off to study under Michael Rodemer in his New Genre program. It was my extreme good fortune to be introduced to digital at an institution that had so fully embraced technology on so many fronts.

My aim had been to get my feet wet in digital, then return to a physically based studio practice to see what would remain relevant; what would change; how would things integrate; what would fall by the wayside? Instead, after completing my MFA, I was invited to teach digital media at the U of M SOA&D. Teaching digital has kept me on a constant learning curve as I've evolved as both teacher and artist, constantly grappling with this super-fluid organically morphing and evolving medium called digital.

This term, I look forward to engaging my students in the exploration of another facet of the digital paradigm-- distance learning. While I have some ideas about leading my students in a meaningful direction, exercising and experiencing the living question is what excites me. What has me most energized is implementing the structure that will support the investigation of relationships between the new digital art and the hundreds/thousands of years old history and dialogue of art. Our text, Digital Art by Christiane Paul, necessarily focuses on its namesake, viewing it from several angles, classifying and sorting in order to find meaning and pattern within the discipline... but because art is always evolving, usurping any new tool in order to engage, explore, and be relevant to its particular zeitgeist, it is important to step back from the medium itself, to take in the whole picture, to see the continuum.

As for digital tools/skills mastery these next several months, a recent Potter-Belmar Labs commission has allowed us to purchase MAX/MSP Jitter, and we are currently shifting our activity in live cinema performance into this new programming environment. Lately, I have been bumping up against the limitations of my current video mixing system fairly often, and the need for a forward step has outweighed my trepidation at overcoming yet another technological hurdle.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

PBL field trip to the ITC

Here's our assistant Leticia Rocha-Zivadinovic and me flanking a photo from the Small Town Texas exhibit at the Institute of Texan Cultures, featuring photos by UTSA president Ricardo Romo. This is the one shot in the show representing Marfa, and also happens to be, coincidentally, the site that PBL has worked out for the fall 2010 presentation of our Panorama Marfa project, for which we were awarded the Idea Fund grant.

The Church is the studios, home, and exhibition space of web designer Buck Johnston and sculptor Camp Bosworth-- an energetic, down-to-earth couple who allegedly bought the property fairly spontaneously about 5 years ago while on an excursion to Chinati Hotsprings, and moved to Marfa from Dallas.  I really appreciated their straightforward and unpretentious demeanor, and am excited that we will be showing our project at their place.

Anyhow, back to San Antonio and the ITC. Potter-Belmar was on a scouting outing last week, taking in the exhibitions in consideration of an RFP that Jason is currently responding to.  The Institute is a functioning historical relic built for the 1968 Hemisfair international exhibition as a showcase of the cultures of Texas. It happens to also contain a period multimedia dome, one of the only still in existence, showing the original "Faces and Places of Texas" multi-screen film and slideshow from 40+ years ago.  Sounds like all of this is up to be refurbished in the near future to better reflect a contemporary outlook on culture and race.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

West Coast: PBL plays Hollywood!

Here's a shot that Adam Hyman took of us just before our Los Angeles Filmforum gig at the Egyptian Theater on Hollywood Boulevard.  We played the Spielberg Theater on the lower level for a lovely audience and were honored to have present some members from the pioneering live cinema artist group Single Wing Turquoise Bird, known for their liquid light shows in the mid 60's-early 70's.  We performed from the front row, with our gear set up on the narrow ledge that divided us from the pit.  Our set felt solid, and we concluded with a lively round of discussion.

Another important thing I want to mention is the fantastic tech assistance we had at the Egyptian!  We came prepared with our gear & extra cables, but were treated to expert in-house support. Adam can remind me of our guru's name-- he exuded confidence when we decided to set up in front, and had a long run of ethernet cable(!) that we ran the video signal through.  Nice to be introduced to new solutions!  Let's hear it for the well-adjusted, fully capable, friendly variety of tech support people!  YAY!

Saturday, May 29, 2010

West Coast

The Academy was PACKED to the gills, it being raining and a Monday (when other museums are typically closed).  Though I felt oppressed by the crowds, the dioramas were definitely worth it.

This is me sitting in a bronze replica of the chair from the famous photograph of Huey Newton where he is holding a shotgun in one hand and a tribal spear in the other.  The piece is called "Monument to Huey Newton for the Alamada County Courthouse."

With its integration of art, natural and cultural history, and innovative "interactive" elements, the Oakland Museum has the freshest take on exhibitions that I've seen in a loooong while.  

PBL and Craig Baldwin outside Pakwan

It's always such a treat to see Craig!  Just prior to our outing for a Pakistani meal in the Mission, Craig entertained us in his basement lair with an amazing clip from a 16mm film about avant-garde art from the late 60's-- one of many new reels in his collection rescued from an educational library in the process of decessioning its celluloid.

The excerpt we watched was of Len Lye showing off his sound sculptures!  I had no idea that he was making anything like that. The reel looked to be a good 40 minutes... I wonder what other gems lie therein.  This one is destined for Craig's special "pink trunk" which contains the few films in his collection to be spared from the editing room. 

Jay with Chris Kubick on top of his strange studio building

After many many months of envisioning this place in my mind's eye, we finally visited with Chris at his studio, housed in a nearly vacant research facility that has been undergoing a long process of dissolution.  Hallway after hallway of empty laboratories and offices with rooftop greenhouses devoid of life envelop the creative vital force contained within Chris' studio.

Tiebe and Anne

Our trip featured lots of family action, with many new babies making the scene alongside reconnections with old friends who have been building families for a few years now.

Jenna, Oliver, and Jay at an M&A project on the LACMA grounds

After a night of gallery hopping in Culver City, we ended up at the La Brea Tar Pits and were treated to a visit with this recent Materials & Applications project, Promiscuous Production:  Breeding is Bittersweet. With bitter melon set to grow up on one side of the structure and sweet melon on the other, the two fruits have been set-up for interbreeding.

Gerry Fialka and me

My friend Vera Burner-Sung shot this one.  We drove out to Venice to visit with Gerry and had a great talk about the Ann Arbor Film Festival, the making of art, and the creative impulse.  He made us a fruit salad for lunch.  Hanging out with Gerry is consistently gratifying, and invariably built around heartfelt, intelligent debate.

Thursday, April 15, 2010


We went to H-Town for "Co-Existing & Co-Llaborating," an Aurora Picture Show screening featuring the video work of six collaborating couples, and to follow up on Media Archeology biz (we have been invited by Aurora to take part in the 2010 festival, coming up in mid-September).  It became apparent that a return trip within the next week or two was going to be inevitable, so heres a mini-report on these goings-on.

Aurora Picture Show director Mary Magsaman introduces the screening to a full house.  We had a fun couple days with the McCoys, another collaborating couple with work in the screening, who were there from NYC with their 2 kids.... all of us presenting in Mary's Interdisciplinary Art class at U of H, doing an interview for the KUHF, a lively Q/A session after the screening, and just generally hanging out.

Getting to stay at the Aurora office is always a treat because of the video library!  The screening room doubles as a guest room, so we can watch video art projected on the wall across from the bed-- here is the menu screen from a LowVid DVD.

The site we selected for our Media Archeology project is the Heights Theater which was built in 1928 and has some interesting history to it. Functioning as an art gallery nowadays, we worked on securing it as the location for our new piece which will riff off some of that fascinating history-- namely that it was burnt down in the late 60's because it was showing "I am Curious: Yellow."  

Here is Jason with Heights Theater owner Gus Kopriva in a storage room at his Redbud Gallery.  He is showing us the 35mm film print which looks to be in great condition.  For whatever reason, the print was never returned to the distributor and we got to open the cases for he first time since they were closed up over 40 years ago!

The credit goes to our good pal Dr. Tish Stringer for introducing us to the Heights Theater when she took us around Houston months ago on a field trip of potential sites for our project.  This picture shows me, Jay, Iris, Tish, and Herb just after a ritual Saturday morning dim-sum session.  YUM.  Houston has a large Asian population, resulting in awesome dim-sum.

On our way home to San Antonio, we dropped by the Forbidden Gardens, a somewhat forlorn roadside attraction sporting a 1/3 size fiberglass replica of the Xi'an tomb site of Qin Shi Huang-di (along with a few full sized warriors) complete with a park employee in the tedious process of cleaning it; a miniature dilapidated model of the Forbidden City; a rather dusty exhibit of an imperial dinner table complete with imitation foodstuffs; and a room full of traditional weaponry, mostly bolted down to discourage visitors from getting overly interactive.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Chicago again!

We flew to Detroit to spend a couple days visiting family, then hopped the Amtrak Wolverine for a 6-hour ride to Chicago.  After dropping our bags in my colleague Paul Catanese's office in the Interdisciplinary Arts Department of Columbia College, we walked to the south end of Millenium Park where I sat by Lake Michigan next to the observatory on the most beautiful spring day while Jay checked out the Planetarium.


Before we gave our presentation in Paul's graduate sound art class, he did a 1-hour lecture on programming Max/MSP for moving sound through a multiple speaker set-up.  He was really excited to use the Pythagorean Theorem to work out the distance from signal to speakers.

The next day was also gorgeous, and we walked to Chicago Filmmakers from our digs in Edgewater, stopping for bagels at a Jewish deli along the way.  The bike puppet theater was under full swing, attracting a surprisingly huge plethora of kids who were out and about with adult supervision that morning.  This was right next to Alamo Shoes (for all of y'all back home in San Antonio).

The day of our gig, I woke up to snow!!  Oh yes, to be treated to the midwestern spring tease was a real joy!  It was frigid out there, as we discovered when we trekked 2 blocks to the Ethiopian restaurant for lunch with the chill blowing right down into the bones.  I didn't have the foresight to bring any long underwear, but did have a pair of wool socks, a knit hat and a scarf.  It won't be long before the wall of 100 degree days hits south Texas, so I relished the cold to its fullest extent.

When I was at school for a little while in Chicago in the late 80's/early 90's I spent many many hours in darkened theaters watching film of all kinds-- in class at school, at the Music Box, at Randolph Street Gallery when the Experimental Film Coalition was active, etc.  I saw my first Craig Baldwin film at Chicago Filmmakers, so it was an extra-special treat for me get to perform there.

Despite the nasty weather, we had a big audience that included several old friends and acquaintances from the different pasts of out lives, such as Jay's wild days in Kalamazoo and my time adjunct teaching at University of Michigan.  An old pal from my stint in Chicago was joining us on his birthday, conjuring up some curious magic for the PBL DVD door prize give-away.  The first DVD went to Sean's wife Michelle, and though I mixed up those ticket stubs like a good air mix lottery machine would, the second went to Sean himself, who turned it down and picked the next winner.  Strangely, it turned out he was sitting next to a guy who was also celebrating his birthday that night!

We carried a solid performance and it felt great to spin our craft before this crowd of artists, poets, filmmakers, neighbors, and some who were simply out with friends not knowing what they were getting into.  Post-performance Q & A drifted down the street to the bar, as a warm front moved into the area.  

Todd Lillethun (programmer at Filmmakers) and his partner Brandon (on a Philosophy of Physics fellowship at U of Chicago) were consummate hosts-- we can't thank them enough for their hospitality, which coalesced with a very early Sunday morning ride downtown to Union Station to catch our train back to Detroit.

We spent a little more time with family, including watching the heath care vote with my folks.  On one of the huge monitors at the Detroit Metro Airport, we caught the historic moment of Obama signing the bill just before we got on the plane back to San Antonio.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

98th Annual College Art Association Conference, Chicago

It was a real treat to have a week of good old winter up in Chicago.  Over the years, the conference seems more accessible as my interests have become further defined, and my alliance with the New Media Caucus increasingly rewarding as my relationships strengthen therein.

The New Media Caucus, an official affiliate of the College Art Association, was formed in 2003 as a means for people teaching "new media" at the university-level to form connection.  I found the caucus at the 2006 CAA conference, just after my arrival at UTSA where I had landed to begin a New Media Program in the Department of Art & Art History.  At that time I was trying to name the program... "digital?"  "intermedia?"  "new genre?"  "transmedia?"  ... so I was grateful to have that choice practically made for me by deciding to join forces with the caucus.

This year brought a distinct sense that the New Media Caucus is gaining momentum.  Our president Paul Cantanese teaches at Columbia College Chicago, has a lot of energy and vision, and was on the ground in the conference city, which simplified the planning and execution of all our events.  In addition to the 1-2 panels we have in the official conference every year, we plan a few at an off-site location as well as an exhibition of some kind.

I really went to town this time around in executing my duties as the chair of the NMC exhibition committee with my brainchild:  the Live Cinema Summit.  This one night only event featured nine back-to-back realtime demos of A/V performance, with lots of discussion and q/a.  The lineup featured Barbara Lattanzi, Sabine Gruffat and Bill Brown, Robert Martin, Potter-Belmar Labs, jonCates, DataIRJ, Jon Satrom, Alessandro Imperato, and Noisefold.

Link to Alessandro Imperato's review in Media-N.

A link to Nicholas Sagan's blog posting on the official CAA conference blog.

Other events that I presented during are the NMC Colloquium Meet and Greet, and the New Media Curriculum Development roundtable discussion, chaired by Mike Salamond.