Pushing aside the black curtain to the Project Space, I entered a gallery with illuminating imagery on all four walls. As my eyes adjusted to the low lighting in the space, I first noticed the various types of audio visual technology that exhibited the Broadcasting: EAI at ICA exhibition at the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA), University of Pennsylvania. This variety of media such as video projection, flat screens and old style televisions, displayed the historical range of visual culture that is roughly from the 1970’s to present day. The curation of this media art exhibition is drawn from Electronic Arts Intermix (EAI) archive of moving image. EAI is a New York based nonprofit arts organization that was founded in 1971 to foster the creation of media arts and as an international resource for media art and artists.
These works from the EAI archive encompass the theme broadcast with the circulation of communication technology that considers the democratic platform of public access television to social media. Trevor Shimizu and JODI are two artists who explore the current communication of personal computers and social media. Both are derived from an individual perspective, while the visual presentation offers a broader view to the current digital social and cultural trends. My Desktop OS X 10.4.7 is a projected video of an animated version of the artist’s personal desktop. The work is created by a collective of two artists, Joan Heemskerk and Dirk Paesmans, that are known as JODI. As I stood in front of the projected desktop with several folder icons opening simultaneously and the mouse key arbitrarily selecting from the desktop menu bar options, I quickly sensed a visual choreography. Within that same brief moment, I thought of the redundancy of the click and open movement. This movement reminded me that a desktop can be perceived as an individual space, but the operating system is structured as a precoded space of visual icons and software. From JODI’s private desktop the digital social movements of clicking and opening are the very foundations to some of our current individual broadcasting capabilities.
Trevor Shimizu’s semi-autobiographic perspectives of current digital broadcasting methods are quite opposite of JODI’s. Shimizu’s From The Lonely Loser Trilogy: Skater Videos documents his lengthy browsing sessions within his private living space. Not having much of a life is what the title of the artwork implies. One video from the trilogy is framed in such a way that Shimizu’s digital device is pretty much the center of focus. My viewpoint is from the individual perspective of watching the social media content on the digital device with the physical space of a pitifully furnished living room spilling over the outskirts of the video’s frame . I can tell this is the normal lounge spot, because there is a cat sleeping in a chair on the left hand side. While the physical space of the living room is somber, there is an action packed skateboarding video that is playing on the digital screen. Shimizu does take some momentary bathroom and coffee breaks. This is where I am able to see more of his living space. Shimizu reminds us with his visual framing of an intimate moment and the slight glimpse of his reflection in the screen that the other side of observing the broadcast is living vicariously through others. From viewing Shimizu and JODI’s videos on opposite sides of the Project Space, I felt a sense of tension between active and passive individual participation.
Artist, Kristen Lucas engages the audience with a public service announcement platform that is meant to raise awareness of the longterm exposure of electromagnetic fields, especially the kind of fields from high frequency radio waves that transmit information, such as TV antennas. Lucas’ Cable Xcess is exhibited on an older style television, which represents the visual culture and specific style of media that did broadcast public service announcements that interrupted a regularly scheduled program. Her announcement is similar in format and interrupts TV commercials in the beginning of her video. During the sequencing of the video there are moments of visual static and the transmission of her images are momentarily abstracted.
Lucas informs the viewers by performing the role of the spokesperson and also as the case study who has been exposed to the electromagnetic fields. She educates viewers about the warning signs, while distributing alternative methods of coping with the exposure. A few of her examples are abstinence and taking vitamins to boost her immune system. During her commentary there are flashes of other imagery related to her announcement and the disruption by other TV programming. At the end of Cable Xcess, Lucas does not take the victim or advocate stance instead she views the powers from this exposure in another form as a “super-power.” As Lucas proclaims her new super-power there are glimpses of the 1984 Supergirl movie clips with actress Helen Slater flying through the sky. Lucas reminds me what humor can manifest and that is the irony in a situation. She has destabilized the topic with her own satirical public service announcement to draw the viewer in to that time-periods cultural commentary on cable broadcasting.
The evolution of media contains a mass of social and cultural adaptability and transformations with the everyday encounters of visuals and language. The significance of the Broadcasting: EAI at ICA exhibition is the opportunity to view an estimated 45 year time-period of media art, but it is the Broadcasting programming that maintains media arts status of actively changing the traditional fine arts methods and theories. The Project Space is not curated as a formal video projection and viewing environment. The preset-up for the exhibition programming is included within the gallery space as well as extending beyond the physical walls of the ICA’s gallery.
On the one side of the Project Space is a platform with an arrangement of four chairs and a coffee table that resembles a studio set-up for a talk show. The broadcast concept is utilized to the fullest extent by local and regional collaborations and by the gallery space doubling as an event space for public discussion. This programming is not just broadcasting beyond the physical walls of the gallery. It is also acknowledging how artists and other cultural institutions use multimedia technologies as a means of circulation and social change. While these concepts can be dated back even to the Fluxus movement of the 1960’s, current investigations are still practiced today to demonstrate an open environment of public accessibility and production of contemporary diverse ideas.
If you are not located in the Philadelphia region to attend the upcoming Broadcasting events, check back on the ICA website and ICA Facebook Page to find out where the events listed below will be recorded live for broadcast.
Upcoming Philadelphia Broadcasting Events:
February 28th 7:00PM Broadcasting: Variety Show Special
Lightbox Film Center Philadelphia, PA
March 2nd 7:00PM Broadcasting: Alternative Television
PhillyCAM Studios Philadelphia, PA
March 18th 12:30PM Community Visions Retrospective
Scribe Video Center Philadelphia, PA
March 21st. 6:30PM Broadcasting: Transmission
ICA Galleries, University of Pennsylvania Philadelphia, PA
Upcoming New York Broadcasting Events:
February 16th 7:30PM On the Air: Artist Television
Anthology Film Archives New York, New York
March 22nd 7:00PM Ulysses Jenkins: Artist Talk and Screening
Electronic Arts Intermix (EAI) New York, New York
March 26th 7:00PM Ulysses Jenkins
EMPAC 110 8th St. Troy, NY
By: Carrie Ida Edinger
Carrie’s interest with new media is in interdisciplinary methods and the use of the Internet as a presentation site for evolving contemporary projects.