Len Lye at HKS

This year started with me co-curating together with Anne Szefer Karlsen an exhibition about Len Lye at HKS in Bergen, Norway. Lye has interested me for a while. I discovered him the first time in the eighties when MTV screened his experimental films between music videos (yes, they still showed music videos back then). I then rediscovered Lye through his kinetic sculptures a few years back when I was doing research on motion. I became particular fond of Lye´s “figures of motion”, he described his raw material as not being film or steel, but motion.

HKS, which has never presented the work of a non-living artist before, was eager to do an exhibition on Lye, based on my enthusiasm for his work. We ended up showing six of his films in the gallery, presented one at a time on three screens of different size, thus forcing the audience to move around and relate to his work at different scale. In this way the presentation of his films became a choreography of the movement between the screens. It was great to see his films in high quality digital copies which really brought forward the textures from the paint strokes and scratches in the original film. Presenting Lye´s films by showing restored digital files projected by video-projectors onto custom-built screens obviously influences how the films are perceived (Maybe not even Lye has ever seen them in such a good quality). We were intent on focusing on the relation between colour,texture, movement, rhythm, sound and scale instead of making a historical pristine presentation.

The films we showed in the exhibition were A Colour Box (1935), Trade Tattoo (1937), Swinging the Lambeth Walk (1939), Rhythm (1957), Free Radicals (1958, re-edited 1979) and Particles in Space (1957, finished in 1979). We also had several side programs during the exhibition period, including the lecture The Musicality of Modernism by Per Kvist, a screening of the documentary A flip and two twisters, as well as a live evening, Len Live, where we invited three sound artists, Lasse Marhaug, Maia Urstad and Espen Sommer Eide,  to create three different soundtracks to Lye´s film Tusalava (1929).

For those interested in checking out Lye´s films in a quality better than the pixelated youtube copies circulating I would recommend the DVD release.

As part of the preparation for the exhibition we got the chance to go twice to the IKON gallery in Birmingham which had a Len Lye retrospective from november 2010 to february 2011. This gave me the rare opportunity to see some of Lye´s kinetic sculptures, which I made a small documentation from.

Light on White at Oslo Lux

Last week the symposium Oslo Lux took place at the School of Architecture and Design in Oslo, organized by Anthony Rowe and Ståle Stenslie.

It was a one day event with speakers from art, architecture and design discussing uses of light in different projects. I spoke at the seminar, created a snow projection and gave a 2 days VPT workshop so it was a very intense but interesting week.

The keynote speakers were AntiVJ and UVA. The list of speakers  also included Timo Arnall who had a very interesting talk on light painting, presenting work of people which I felt I should have know about already (Gjon Mili, Michael Weseley, Eric Staller). His second topic about visualizing the RFID and wifi networks range was also interesting. In fact the mix of speakers and topics made the day go by really fast!

I went to a separate event at Atelier Nord earlier in the week where Joanie and Simon from AntiVJ gave a 2 hour enthusiastic talk about their work. They were very excited about real-time software, and it reminded me a bit of the same energy which I experienced ten years ago with realtime video software like Imagine, nato and jitter.

White on Light video:

I was part of the exhibition and decided to do an outdoor snow projection. Unlike my previous attempts on working with snow I decided to not try to build anything with the snow, but instead cut out a piece of snow and work with the top curvy surfaces and the edges. It seems I am unable to make anything but slow meditative pieces nowadays, but the result wasn´t that bad, really.

More images from the projection at flickr.

The two day VPT workshop at Atelier Nord was fun, a very focused and eager-to-learn group, and several of the participants have already started doing their own projects with the software, which is exciting.

REFRAMING REALITY: Glimpses into the Lowave video archive

On November 20th an exhibition opens at Museet for Samtidskunst in Roskilde, Denmark, showing works from the french DVD label Lowave´s archive.

I released my Cityscapes on their label in 2005, which will be part of the exhibition.

From the Museum´s website:

“This exhibition gathers for the first time in Denmark a number of videos from the Lowave’s growing archive and provides an insight into the vibrant world of contemporary artistic creations. From the groundbreaking RESISTANCE (S)-anthologies, which put into perspective thematic video art from the Middle East and North Africa to the urban landscapes where man almost dissolves like in HC Gilje’s CITYSCAPES or videos in the CITY2CITY collection, the exhibition highlights unknown affinities and underlying trends in the way video artists from around the world are still experimenting with the medium.”

The exhibition runs until 27.02.2011.

However, since I currently have a solo exhibition at Galleri 21 (more about that later when I am finished with the documentation. If you are really impatient, you can see a slideshow from one of the installations) in Malmö which runs until December 5th, this is a perfect opportunity to catch both exhibitions, as they are only a short trainride from each other.

Mark and Silke at Lowave have provided many opportunities for screenings of my work at various festivals and venues, for instance at Cinemateque Française and Centre Pompidou in Paris. Currently one of my videos is part of Verticapolis, La Festival Image de Ville in Aix-en-Provence:

“CITY2CITY – VERTICAL EXPERIENCES presents 8 international artists all working on urban subjects and in particular the verticality of architecture in our global cities. These films offer a new way of appreciating the urban aesthetics as they are perceived by today’s cutting edge video artists and experimental filmmakers. Featuring: HC Gilje, Augustin Gimel, Nicolas Provost, Nose Chan, Kentaro Taki, Toby Cornish, Kotaro Tanaka, Franck Dudouet & Aldolph Kaplan.”

U trust blink?

I spent last week in Dortmund, preparing for the Trust exhibition, showing at the new Dortmund U. Trust is an exhibition curated by Andreas Broeckmann and Stefan Riekeles as one of the exhibitions for ISEA2010 which takes place in the Ruhr area later in August.

Dortmund U used to be the Union Brauerei (brewery), and is now turning into a center for different cultural activities.

I am showing a new version of blink, with new sound and a few visual changes as well.

Other participating artists in the exhibition:

Seiko Mikami (jp), Carsten Nicolai (de), knowbotic research (ch/at/de), Milica Tomić (rs), Ariel Guzik (mx), Joan Leandre (es), Joyce Hinterding (au), Julien Maire (de/fr), Naeem Mohaiemen (bd), Sophie Bélair Clément (qc/ca), Konrad Becker (at), Verena Friedrich (de), Antoine Schmitt (fr).

I am happy to be part of this group of interesting artists, and look forward to the catalogue which will be ready for the ISEA conference.

The exhibition is on until September 5th.

VPT 4.1 available

Play Alter Native, originally uploaded by am4ndas.
An updated version of Video Projection Tool is now available.

Version 4.0 had a lot of under the hood changes, which unfortunately introduced some bugs. Hopefully most of them have been taken care of with this update.

There are also a few new features: different blend modes and a global moviesource drop zone.
Read the list of updates on the VPT page.

The image is taken from a project Amanda Steggell is doing for the theatre company Verk, where she is using the new blend mode feature for her beautiful emoticons video design.

signs of life

It´s been awfully quiet from me the last few months, and that´s not because I have not been working, on the contrary.
I spent the summer testing out ideas for my research fellowship exhibition in october, which resulted in the creation of a new lighting system, “dimsun” (more about this in a later post), and a new version of VPT (videoprojectiontools) which will soon be available.

I have also spent some time on writing, I just came back from two weeks at NKD in Dale in Sunnfjord, a fantastic place to be for concentrated work.

A few things coming up:

Tomorrow I will be part of a BUU screening in Köln, where they will screen Shiva.

In the beginning of october I will be part of Experimental 3 in Osaka, where h.k.mark1 will be screened as part of a lowave program.

(both of these videos are on my Cityscapes dvd)

I would also like to recommend Michelle Teran´s project “The city is creative” which is part of flux/s in Eindhoven, september 10th-13th.

The space between my ears

Perceptual meltdown after Granular Synthesis retrospective at the STRP festival in Eindhoven, in the old Philips facilities in the Strijp area.

The festival´s focus this year was a retrospective on maximalists austrian media art group Granular Synthesis. It was a unique opportunity to see a lot of the group´s work as well as newer work by the two members Ulf Langheinrich and Kurt Hentschläger. If you have ever seen any of their work before you would guess that this would be an overkill event, and you are right. The works are intense audiovisual bombardements, they physically attack your senses and that does something with your body and mind.
The Granular Synthesis performance installations POL and modell 5 are large scale multiple projections with a corresponding large sound system, which worked well in their monumental way in the factory space.
The solo works are not that large-scale, but more intense. Ulf Langheinrich showed Hemisphere (which I mentioned earlier from the exhibition “from spark to pixel”) and Drifter. Kurt Hentschläger showed Cluster and Zee, which could be seen as offsprings from his ARS electronica performance Feed in 2007. Zee is basically a room filled with smoke, with stroboscopic images projected into the smoke. You loose all reference to the physical space and experience psychedelic visions.

All their works relate to perception, and it was an interesting coincidence that I was reading The Space between our Ears while I was at the festival.

It was a bit strange to experience Granular Synthesis at STRP, since the audience is mainly a quite young techno crowd, and the difference between a trippy techno party and an installation like Zee is pretty vague.

Apart from the retro media artists there wasn´t so much of interest at the festival, the exhibition was a mix of two trends in the media art scene: The commodification of media art on the one side: beautiful objects in perfect collector size, and the technology fascination on the other side.

The Strijp area contains more than the festival. It is the site of the former Philips research lab Natlab, in the art world probably best known for the creation of le poéme electronique, a collaboration between LeCorbusier, Varese and Xenakis for the World Expo in Brussels in 1958 (I will probably write a bit more about this in a separate post).

The old Natlab is now dead, but last fall Baltan laboratories emerged in another part of the Strijp complex, a media lab with a fantastic space and with interesting artists like Telcosystems and Geert Muul involved. I will give a presentation there in the end of may as part of their monthly public Natlab sessions.

Composing motion

I have known New Zealand artist Len Lye´s films for a long time, but was unaware of his kinetic sculptures until recently. I found the Universe sculpture from 1976 especially interesting. The Len Lye foundation did a remake of it in 1998, completely silent except for the sound made by the steel.

City of Sound did a nice post on Lye some years ago, and I will requote their Lye quote: “One of my art teachers put me onto trying to find my own art theory. After many morning walks an idea hit me that seemed like a complete revelation. It was to compose motion, just as musicians compose sound. [The idea] was to lead me far, far away from wanting to excel in traditional art.”

You can find several of Lye´s films by doing a search on youtube (although the quality isn´t very good), Free Radicals and Swinging the Lambeth Walk are two good examples of his work. What makes them really stand out today is the combination of the experimental nature of the visual side with the soundtracks of african drums and happy jazz.

There are two documentaries made on Lye, Doodlin´: Impressions of Len Lye, and A Flip and Two Twisters.

Addendum: There is also a third documentary about Lye (thanks Pip Chodorov)

Here is a an excerpt from the first one where you can see the Universe sculpture in action:

Roger Horrocks has written a biography on Lye, but it seems to be available only as a collector´s item at the moment. Horrocks has written a new book, Len Lye – ART THAT MOVES – which will be published by Auckland University Press in November 2009.

Here is a website which gives a good overview of the work of Lye.

Re-voir has a collection of Lye´s films on VHS (thanks again to Pip Chodorov).

And check out my quite extensive post on kinetic art.

Machine Music

Currently at Lydgalleriet in Bergen there is an exhibition by young british artist Felix Thorn.

Felix´s machines are music making sculptures, creating acoustic counterparts to electronic music. Check out the interview made in relation to his exhibition at Gasworks.

The installation of instruments reminded me of some very different projects, but the connection is the use of digital control systems to control mechanical instruments, so in principle they could be played with the same sequencer but producing very different results:

In 1998 I saw Matt Heckert´s Mechanical Sound Orchestra at the Ultima festival in Oslo. Heckert has background from Survival Research Laboratories and later moved to making music. In a statement about the Mechanical Sound Orchestra he writes about Machine sound: build machines that are playable, being remote controlled via a computer interface, and the performances consist only of sounds produced by the the machines in real time.

In contrast to Felix´s machines which takes up the corner of a room, Heckert´s gigantic instruments filled up a whole factory space. Here is a documentation I made from the performance in Oslo, called Flying at Sound.

David Byrne Play the Building is another type of machine orchestra, where the machines play the building:

“a sound installation in which the infrastructure, the physical plant of the building, is converted into a giant musical instrument. Devices are attached to the building structure — to the metal beams and pillars, the heating pipes, the water pipes — and are used to make these things produce sound. The activations are of three types: wind, vibration, striking. The devices do not produce sound themselves, but they cause the building elements to vibrate, resonate and oscillate so that the building itself becomes a very large musical instrument.”

The devices are controlled by an organ, which made me think of something Charlemagne Palestine said about the organ as instrument in a presentation a few years ago. The organ, with its many pipes, are built specifically for a particular space and stays there for hundreds of years. So playing the organ is a way of playing a building in itself. It also contrasts to the mobility of laptop instruments, an organ is attached to a building.

Finally, I would like to mention Maywa Denki´s Tsukuba series (eventhough they are not controlled digitally as far as I know).  Maywa Denki is a combination of a company that makes gadgets/toys and produces art: Maywa Denki is a art unit produced by Nobumichi Tosa. Each piece of of Maywa Denki´s work is called “a product” and a live performance or exhibition is held as “a product demonstration”.

The Tsukuba series: musical devices played by physical movement of motors and/or electromagnets at 100V: Machine music materially performed by electric powered musical instrument. Here is the “manual” for the tsukuba in typical maywa denki style:

moving objects

slothclose

(photo:sloth by Lars Brunström)
The last two weeks has been dedicated to moving objects. First, Lawrence Malstaf gave a workshop, and this last week the swedish artist Lars Brunström was in Bergen, partly to teach at the academy, partly to help me with the prototype for an upcoming project.

Brunström gave a lecture about artists working with kinetic sculpture, showing examples from some well known and some lesser known artists.
I have collected some links to some of the artists he talked about, plus some other artists and projects related to kinetic art I have seen the last few years.

This list is by no means exhaustive (and it points in all directions), so if you think there are other artists who should be mentioned, leave a comment.

Alexander Calder (american)

calder-766936
inventor of the mobile (kinetic sculpture constructed to take advantage of the principle of equilibrium)
“There is more of the unpredictable about them than in any other human creation … A general destiny of movement is sketched for them, and then they are left to work it out for themselves.” — Sartre on Calder’s mobiles

calder links
wikipedia on calder
calder foundation

calder circus video filmed by Carlos Vilardebo in 1961
part 1
part 2

Jean Tinguely (Swiss)

tinguely

self destruction machines, imperfect machines
wikipedia on Tinguely
installation at Jean Tingeuely museum Basel

paris, fountain and kinetic sculpture place Igor Stravinsky

P O Ultvedt (swedish)
ultvedt
video of an installation by Ultvedt

Rebecca Horn (german)
knuggdome0

artist´s website
wikipedia on rebecca horn
video with an installation by Horn

Arthur Ganson (american)
ganson-786727
artist´s website
TED presention with Arthur Ganson

Anna Strid (swedish)
oronmaskin2-for-web-large

zoetrope
artist´s website

Peter Flemming (canadian)
manual

artist´s website
video of installation

Jean Pierre Gauthier (canadian)
jean_pierre_gauthier_isopor

main focus on making sound from the kinetic sculptures
artist´s website

lázlo moholy nagy
475974913_e6fabe280e
light space navigator

Bernie Lubell
intimacy_1

interactive wood machines
artist´s website

Gregory Barsamian
barsamian
zoetrope
artist´s website

chinese farmer and inventor Wu Yulu
1457195

article about Wu Yulu
video with Wu Yulu
video with Wu Yulu
Mechinal love: documentary
image_preview
The film portrays people who in different ways enjoy a close relationship with a robot. We meet an old German woman who desperately seeks to keep her memories alive through talking with a baby seal robot called Paro. We also meet Professor Ishiguro who is developing androids, and who, in his current work on his own geminoid, wonders what it takes to be human.

The robot is no longer just a mechanical gadget that sits inside your coffee machine or performs monotonous, mechanical work, but made to provide meaningful presence.
The film´s website

and while we are in the robotics section, here is a link with some great images of contemporary robots.

Theo Jansen (dutch)
jansen-strandbeesten
wikipedia on Jansen
TED presentation with Jansen

Kristoffer Myskja (norwegian)
kristoffer_myskja021
artist´s website

atle selnes nielsen (norwegian)
mekanisk_trett_hets_syndrom_selnes
artist´s website

Lawrence Malstaff (belgian)

website of his gallery with several video examples of his work

Lars Brunström
Last, but not least, check out Lars Brunström´s website with his own work, including the sloth at the top of this post.

Here is a video documentation of his snake

I have added a separate post about Len Lye.

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