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> >
EMERGING ARTISTIC PRACTICES
by Dominique Moulon [ May 2010 ]
Abraham Moles was among the first, right at the beginning of the 1960’s, to theorise on what he was already calling computer art. Many others followed who tried to define an art confronting technology, new technology, digital media as well as networks and new media. Today we speak of “emerging artistic practices” when we try to bring together a few contemporary trends that are interesting to feature and place in relation to one another.

spacerArtistic Robots

Limit Telephotography



Michael Sellam,
“One Flat Thing”,
2005.
spacerThere are indeed artists that conceive robots. Michaël Sellam is at the fore of those who divert them from their industrial or household functions, so during the Panorama 5 exhibition at the National Studio for Contemporary Art, he “freed” a vacuum robot on the Fresnoy premises. The machine then meandered about during the summer of 2005, among the multitude of visitors by day and among the few guardians at night. It is autonomous, but the artist added a few extra functions that enabled it to generate media. It ceaselessly captures images of its environment that are magnified through video projection. These images, which are sometimes reinterpreted in real time, are similar to the reconstruction of the exploration of distant landscapes. But the robot is not lost in space and is comfortable here, though it must frequently return to its base to be recharged. It is then that it broadcasts scenes of collective joy that are comparable to those that have marked the conquest of space. But the little vacuum cleaner, with its slightly pathetic aspect, assimilates them into what the artist calls, not without a certain cynicism, the “micro-victories” of the professional world.

spacerClosed circuits

Limit Telephotography



Mathieu Briand,
“A Space Perspective”,
2007.
spacer“Before us there is only space; whether it is flat or deep, we don’t know”, wrote Mathieu Briand in 2007 when he took over the Maisonneuve Gallery for an entire year with a series of exhibitions entitled “UBÏQ: A mental Odyssey”. The second chapter of this odyssey is presented in the form of an installation entitled “A Space Perspective” that shows a lunar landscape filmed by a camera skimming overhead. We hear Gregory Ligeti’s music that was used in “2001: A Space Odyssey” that accompanies the appearance of the monolith. So we are indeed talking about the moon here. But the camera is in fact immobile in the room that adjoins the projection room and it is the mountains and craters that are passing in front of the lens. The film décor that is playing out just next door is comprised of a plateau turning round in circles that is covered with a layer of “lunar” plaster. The space, which seems infinite in the image, is in fact repeating itself in a video loop. The technique of a closed circuit initiated in the 1970’s by, among others, Nam June Paik, Dan Graham and Peter Campus, has never ceased to fascinate artists. But one must recognise that nowadays it is more often in the service of the imaginary.

spacerLow technologies

Limit Telephotography



Aram Bartholl,
“Random Screen”,
2005.
spacerAfter having symbolised a certain modernity in the 1980’s, pixels and other polygons were literally erased with the technology blaze of the 1990’s before re-emerging more recently in works that are sometimes referred to as “Low Tech”. The twenty giant pixels of Aram Bartholl’s screen, conceived in 2005, light up alternately for various durations. Called the “Random Screen”, the installation is relaxing for those who look at it. Its inventor defines it as “a mechanical thermo dynamic display, which does not rely on any electricity”. The German artist gives a complete description of it on his web site entitled “datenform.de”. We discover cut beer cans behind this random screen that the heat from candles causes to rotate. So the light illuminates the zone or the pixel in which it finds itself, or not. This work, which is clearly inspired by digital display technologies, participates in what Maurice Benayoun calls on his blog entitled “the-dump.net”, “Art after technology”.

spacerSocial issues

Last Riot



Calvacréation,
“Lago Negro”,
2007.
spacerArtists and collectives are frequently inspired by the social or environmental issues of their times. This was the case with Sabrina Montiel-Soto and Fabrice Croizé, the founders of Calvacréation, when they together conceived the installation “Lago Negro” to remind us that: “Lake Maracaibo is one of the largest drinking water lakes in the world and is also an underground palace of black gold”. So the copper container holds extracted oil and tips gently back and forth creating a wave. Perfectly smooth and brilliant, it rolls slowly back and forth in the container, carrying with it a video image that partially covers it. But it is on the ceiling, where the image is reflected that it takes on its full dimension. We see the shoreline and port of Lake Maracaibo. The image is inexorably affected by the wave’s movements, a metaphor for the transformation of the Venezuelan lake, of the slow degradation of the quality of its water because of the exploitation of the oil that is located underneath it.

spacerCorrespondences

Tantalum Memorial



Evelina Domnitch
& Dmitry Gelfand,
“Camera Lucida”, 2004.
spacerEvelina Domnitch’s and Dmitry Gelfand’s research is situated between art and science because their works generally express themselves around physical or chemical phenomenon. The two artists collaborated with research laboratories to conceive the installation “Camera Lucida” that they present like a sonochemical observatory. It is sonoluminescence that is at play here, a phenomena that was discovered in the 1930’s that can be observed when ultra-sound passes through a liquid generating minuscule air bubbles whose implosion generates light. Spectators must first become adjusted to the light before approaching the device Evelina Domnitch controls. The show begins when sound becomes visible and the waves light up. All kinds of white filament shapes form and deform, disappearing as stealthily as they appeared in the three-dimensional space that define the spherical surfaces of this “observatory”, revealing to us a mysterious force or energy, momentarily extirpated from the invisible.

spacerData Bases

Limit Telephotography



George Legrady,
“Pockets Full of Memories”,
2001.
spacerIt would be difficult to imagine the world in which we live without the multitude of databases that manage our lives. So it is quite natural that some of them should be “art oriented”. This is precisely the case of that which is central to the installation, “Pockets Full of Memories” by the American artist George Legrady, which exists in two versions. It was exhibited at the Pompidou Centre in 2001 in its first version, before going on a world tour between 2003 and 2006. All of the boxes of the projected video matrix are empty at the beginning of the exhibition. But they fill up gradually as visitors scan whatever they have in their hands or in their pockets. An interface then allows them to consult this artistic database while an algorithm organises the collected objects. However, even though there is a form of classification here that excludes the idea of accumulation, we can still speak of collection even if there isn’t a collector. Unless one thinks of the machine, which has relative autonomy, as the essential actor of this collective experience.

spacerHackings

Last Riot


RYbN,
“Anti Data Mining”,
2007-2009.
spacer“Anti Data Mining” is a series of installations and performances conceived by the French collective RYbN who aim to make visible what ordinarily remains invisible to the general public by hijacking software programmes that are normally used for extracting data from the Internet. The collective is operating in reverse by using the tools and data bases of large companies that those large companies use to know more about the behaviour of their clients, against them. The complex cartographies that are obtained in real time according to a procedure that is called Data Visualization remain difficult to interpret for a non-specialist, but the idea that this information and the inter-company relationships are extracted from the opacity inherent to the world of finance is interesting. It is all the more interesting in this period of financial crisis we are going through that in an artistic context, it is artists who are casting light on the economic state of companies with shady business practices, such as relocations and other investments.

spacerGenerativity

Limit Telephotography



Antoine Schmitt,
“Le grand Générique”,
2009.
spacer“It is important that everyone is named”, wrote Antoine Schmitt on the information page that documents his online generative artwork , accessible at the address “thegrandcredits.info”. It is the “The Grand Credits of all Human Beings” that slowly, evenly, unfolds before our eyes. The data base that is essential to it is enriched daily with first names and family names of ordinary people that it gleans from the Internet, that it borrows from other data bases on different servers. These credits are unique, because they are the longest, because they are without hierarchy or order of any sort and because they are infinite. They don’t seem to begin or end anything whatsoever. They simply unfold before the eyes of those who observe them, waiting for that brief moment of celebrity promised by Andy Warhol; before the eyes of those who are finally accorded a short moment of existence by appearing in their browser. It is an exchange of good network processes between humans and machines, initiated by an artist programmer.

Written by Dominique Moulon for "Images Magazine" and translated by Geoffrey Finch for "newmediaart.eu", this article is also available in French on "nouveauxmedias.net".