Art is Art, by any name

These videos by Dvein from 8deagosto for Xcentric, an organisation that promotes experimental cinema in Barcelona, remind me a lot of the BBH Labs-Glue London collaborative work for Google Chrome in Europe. Both feature a short set of films that are very visual and arresting. Dvein’s work is poetic: the videos will serve as headers for different sections of an exhibition of Spanish film being curated by Xcentric, while the BBH Labs’ work seems much more handmade (or maybe that’s just me – one video features knitting, for example), despite being commercial.

I know that the BBH Labs work did not involve any special effects (probably a reason I feel the videos are ‘handmade’ – because they literally are!), whereas the Dvein work I’m pretty sure is a combination of real video and special effects. They’re both awesome.

Here are examples of both (more of Dvein’s work here).

Google Chrome:

Voices amidst the cacophony

I chanced upon the work of Christopher Baker via Computerlove. He’s involved in a range of interesting projects, but my favourite without doubt is Hello World! Or How I Learned To Stop Listening And Love The Noise, a video installation that takes 5000 personal videos from YouTube to create a massive wall where they all play simultaneously. It will show in Gijon, Spain from 23rd October 2009 to 5th April 2010. He explains the concept behind it very well, and I really wish I could see it:

On one hand, new media technologies like YouTube have enabled new speakers at an alarming rate. On the other hand, no new technologies have emerged that allow us to listen to all of these new public speakers. Each video consists of a single lone individual speaking candidly to a (potentially massive) imagined audience from a private space such as a bedroom, kitchen, or dorm room. The multi-channel sound composition glides between individuals and the group, allowing viewers to listen in on unique speakers or become immersed in the cacophony. Viewers are encouraged to dwell in the space.

Here’s a video of the installation. Looks mesmerizing. 

Bit by bit

There is some SERIOUS detail in this piece by Shepard Fairey. It’s easy to think that there isn’t in a lot of modern art, and then I see a video like this and I remember that it’s all in the details. The video is part of Arkitip’s Issue #51, which celebrates Fairey’s work in the light of his famous Obama ‘Hope’ portrait, and his talent at remixing. (As an aside, I didn’t know ‘Hope’ hung in the National Portrait Gallery in the Smithsonian. Neat.) 

Democracy in art

I think it’s a bit weird I chanced upon this image today, the day Bush ceded his post to Barack Obama, America’s 44th President. 

On Lost At E Minor, Shepard Fairey (also coincidentally, the guy behind the famous Obama ‘Hope’ poster – which in turn formed the basis for Obamicon), has highlighted the work of Brooklyn artist Judith Supine. Before any people without a sense of humour go up in arms against the artist or the work itself, the explanation is that Supine has used a latex mask to ‘convert’ Gandhi’s face into George Bush’s. He hasn’t said so himself, but I think one of the comments to the Flickr photo conveys the aim of this particular piece of art: “Babylon will make a leader, but when it gets down to it we know who the real leaders are.”

Clicking further, I wound up at the Constructing Coexistence Flickr group, which is a movement by street artists to create works of art asserting non-participation in systems of oppression with Mahatma Gandhi as the central symbol, because of his historical ties with civil disobedience. I found it fascinating that there is an entire movement dedicated to this. Think about it. 
I have a word of advice though, for these artists, some of whom are really talented, like Supine. If you try this in India, you may have to face a ruckus of the kind the Danish cartoons led to. I’m speaking as someone who’s lived there most of her life. Now argue, if you like. 

The beauty of mystery

Many people ask me what I see in some of the abstract modern artists of today. I am never able to articulate to them what I actually want to say, which in some way, is this:

“My painting is visible images which conceal nothing… they evoke mystery and indeed when one sees one of my pictures, one asks oneself this simple question ‘What does that mean’? It does not mean anything, because mystery means nothing either, it is unknowable.” 

Attributed to René Magritte (1898-1967), whose birthday, Google has informed me, is today. 

The roundel

Lothar Gotz, Vision of a Roundel, 2008

The Roundel, which I just found out is the name of the symbol used to denote the London Underground, celebrates a 100 years of its existence this year, and to recognise that the London Transport Museum has partnered with 100 artists for their interpretation of it as an art subject. Various artists have chosen to interpret the roundel in different forms – words, photos, graphic images, community projects, to name a few. I’ve been noticing some of these displayed in some tube stations over the last few months, and like much modern art, some of it didn’t make sense – like some of Anna Barriball’s short pithy posters, which seem a little more meaningful now that I’ve learnt the rationale behind it. However, the forthcoming exhibition and related talks in Shoreditch, titled ‘100 Years, 100 Artists, 100 Works of Art‘ promise to be genuinely interesting. 

Another piece of information I dug out as I was reading about the roundel is that it was traditionally used by officers of arms and the military to signify nationality. The two most well-known corporates that use the roundel (concentric circles) in their logo are probably the London Underground, and of course Target

Education in art

I spent an educational afternoon at the Houldsworth Gallery in London today, where I went to view an exhibition titled ‘Learned Helplessness’ by the Royal Art Lodge. Each piece of art there is tiny – a small square of 2×2 inches, but has a message that comes out if you take the time to take in all that it is trying to say. I especially liked ones like ‘Kleenex Animism’ and ‘6’1-5’3′ which are among those pictured above (click on it to see a larger version). The latter, which shows a headless man, is a bit gory, but it is well-portrayed, in my opinion. The whole exhibition gives you a lot to think about, in terms of messages. For those who don’t really get it from looking at the images above, you have to BE there.

I was going through a book displayed at the venue that explained the rationale behind the Canadian collective’s art, and was surprised to note that Marshall McLuhan (yes, him again – he seems to be haunting me these days-his words came up in a scene in Mad Men when I was watching it yesterday as well!) and Charles Leadbeater were quoted by writer Guido Bartorelli in his introduction to the group’s work. I can’t find the essay or I would have linked to it (it’s very good), but essentially Guido says that the work of the group can be said to be low-definition art, or ‘cold media’ as defined by McLuhan: “its lexicon is by nature synthetic, stylised or grainy and the viewer is required to make a substantial effort to complete it, to fill in the gaps”.
Of Leadbeater, Bartorelli mentions the former’s work ‘We Think’, a book that was published earlier this year whose first three chapters can be read online and his Pro-Am Revolution theory, (i.e Professionals-Amateurs), which in essence says that today, thanks to the advances of technology, an amateur can pursue his interests to the level of a professional, and add to a body of work – as happens with Wikipedia. So, according to Bartorelli, things like Wikipedia, like the work of the Royal Art Lodge, are a good example of low-definition work, in that they are open to interpretation by pro-ams. (As a side note, I think Wikipedia, relevant as it is, is being used as an example by one too many writers – Clay Shirky also comes to mind, apart from Leadbeater – so much so that it is losing its power as a story-telling element. Familiarity and all that.)
Anyway, the point is that what I planned as a relaxed art viewing turned into a very informative day from a media point of view, and reinforced what I said just a couple of days ago – most meaningful communication these days involves the user.