Liat Berdugo

“Why is this piece funny?” I asked my students. I had taught them to program microcontrollers to make interactive art, and this was our first critique. One of them had just brought in a half-microwaved hot dog embedded with electrodes. He demonstrated its use: you touch the hot dog, and the computer shouts, “Smells like hot dog!” The student poked it over and over. We were laughing at a hot dog.

Sleight of Hand

Clement Valla

Questions concerning the artist’s hand and the outcome of mechanical or computer processes always lead to questions concerning authorship. I once witnessed a notable university professor become rather upset at a poetry generator written by Nick Monfort. This particular program would generate an endless stream of poetry.

The professor dismissed this offhand—if waves on a shore somehow carved the same words as in one of Wordsworth’s poems into the sand, could we consider it poetry, he asked? If there is no human agency to be detected, are we in the presence of art? Is there art without an artist? Of course, the artistry of Monfort’s poem was in the code—the instructions for the computer. And these are a tour de force; the entire program consists of only 256 characters, but can generate endless poetry that sounds and looks exactly like English.1

1 Montfort, Nick “ppg256 (Perl Poetry Generator in 256 characters).” Artist’s website. Nick Montfort. http://nickm.com/poems/ppg256.html.
Original Copies

Benjamin Kennedy

Exchange Values

ARTIST:
Hello and welcome to my critique. I have made a sculpture, “Exchange Values,” which I will be presenting today for our discussion. But before we begin, I’d like to introduce you to Anthony, who is a nationally certified massage therapist—and now, he will read a prepared statement.

(massage therapist introduces the critique)

MASSAGE THERAPIST:
Welcome to the final critique of the day. Before we begin this process, I’d like to introduce myself and say a little bit about why I am here. My name is Anthony and I am a nationally certified massage therapist. I graduated from the Muscular Therapy Institute, completing a 900 hour intensive program and have had over 6 years of experience in professional massage. I offer Swedish, deep tissue work, sports massage, hot stone, and cranio-sacral therapy. During my free time, I am also an artist, like most of you. I primarily work with paint and canvas. Benjamin asked me to participate in this situation today by providing cranio-sacral massage to whoever is speaking in the space at a given moment.

(laughter)

In light of this information, I kindly ask you to allow me ample time to get around the room to whoever is going to speak next. Basically what I’m going to do is move behind you and gently massage you. Before speaking, please indicate you wish to do so by raising your hand and I will get around to you. For those of you who don’t know, cranio-sacral massage is a gentle, hands-on method of evaluating and enhancing the function of the cranio-sacral system. It’s a very gentle approach which helps realign your spine and neurotransmitters at the same time.

(laughter)

This form of massage deals with the bones of the head, spinal column, sacrum and the underlying structures. It employs a very light touch and uses specifically designed techniques to release restrictions and compression in these areas. Ok? So, please take a few minutes and we’ll begin the critique.

(gallery door opens and critics/students walk in)
(5 minutes lapse)

ARTIST:
I would like you all to feel free to comment on the massage therapist who is present with us today but I want to say that I have nothing to say of the massage therapist other than the gesture is not an artwork, and it only exists as one of the many affective presences in the gallery during the ritual of critique today.

CRITIC #1:
I have a question. In a commercial gallery setting, is the massage therapist always there?

(massage therapist approaches Critic #1 and provides massage: laughter)

If so, my first experience is that the work rubs me the right way.

(laughter)

This is very interesting…I’m wondering if there are any topics that lead the massage therapist to other parts of the body?

(laughter)

STUDENT #1:
I see this event as competing with this sculptural work. And so, for me…the initial…

(massage therapist approaches her and provides massage)

(laughter)

…event is a work in itself and I’m not sure how to read it in relation to the sculpture or the video piece. As I look around, I realize that very few people are paying attention to the sculpture and the video. The relationship between the installation and the massage event is confusing to me.

CRITIC #1:
But what a relationship!

STUDENT #2:
Perhaps the massage is a clue to understanding…

(massage therapist approaches Student #2 and provides massage—Student #2 turns to the massage therapist)

Please get away from me.

(laughter)

(a few critics sit in Director’s Chair with the word “Pervert” embroidered on it, at different times)

No, I’m only teasing. As I was saying, maybe the massage I’m receiving is a clue to understanding the relationship between the different objects in the room. I’m curious about the boxing glove on the plunger. For instance, I wouldn’t imagine a boxer cleaning a toilet while he’s wearing his fighting glove. And then there’s a bust sitting at the head of the table, and the table has some strange, glossed over finish. The title of the installation is “Exchange Values” and there’s money dropping from the hand of the subject in the video. All the while I’m getting a free massage…I’m definitely happy.

Benjamin Kennedy: Exchange Values Benjamin Kennedy: Exchange Values

Joseph Hocking

Interactivity is a core element of the relationship between people and knowledge.

Chris Crawford pointed out the basic object-action duality of our experience with reality, and he even facetiously coined the term “interobjective” in order to contrast this with the term “interactive.”1 He decried the tendency for English speakers to communicate, and therefore think, mostly in terms of nouns and states of being (ie. objects.) For the sake of more accurately depicting living knowledge, Crawford argued for a primacy of verbs, and thus action, in discourse about thought processes.

Mirroring this idea, my work must be interactive in order to truly reflect the active nature of knowledge and reality.

1 http://www.erasmatazz.com/library/JCGD_Volume_9/Why_so_Hard.html
I Think You Know That I Know That You Think: Epistemology and Interactive Digital Art

Mark Cetilia

The natural world is indeed a noisy place, and it is my intent to create a physical presence for both keynotes and sound signals in my environments. My intent is neither to create a system in which we feel the natural world slipping away as technology overtakes it, nor to create a neo-Futurist work that insists upon the dominance of the machine. Rather, I am interested in bringing an awareness to the use of the hertzian space by creating an environment for contemplation of our surroundings. Giving my viewers time, mental and physical space to process the relationship between the natural and the manmade is pivotal to my work. If the “Ursound” is the “primary sound” (or the “Big Bang” . . .) from which all other sounds have rippled, then it may be found in all sounds, whether we perceive them as noise or as sounds of great beauty.

EFFECTIVE DOSE: CREATING PHYSIOLOGICAL RESPONSES TO INVISIBLE NETWORKS

Eva Sutton

I taught the Continuum Studio which was the intro studio for incoming grad students in the fall of the first semester. And it was really interesting designing that because we wanted to create an environment for both people that had a deep technical background, so people coming in with lots of programming experience or engineering experience, and then people who didn’t have a lot of technical experience but had a deep fine arts background, people that were painters but not programmers, for example.

This was the difficulty in teaching that course. We cast our net really widely in terms of admitting people, deliberately so. The quandary was how do you challenge all of these different kinds of students appropriately? And so what we learned early on was that a lot of collaboration was really beneficial for everyone.

Jane Long

It’s interesting to think that scientists may think theater to be fiction while artists think fiction to be truer than truth. Yet we are all just performers on a stage.

Screenshot 2016-02-19 13.58.44

On Everything and Nothing

Laura Alesci

TLC

Laura Alesci: TLC

The cyborg subject, a hybridization of “the human and the machine,” has the potential to create a new contract between two elements. Like a cyborg subject, my project TLC involves the joining of two agents. One agent, a class of molecules known as capsaicinoids, is the active chemical agent of pepper spray.

The parent compound in this group is capsaicin A, which chili peppers naturally produce. The second agent, CS, is a non-naturally occurring molecule, and the active component of tear gas. Ben Corson and Roger Stoughton first synthesized CS gas at Middlebury College in 1928; the title of the compound refers to the chemists’ surnames.

For my research with TLC, I worked with a chemist at Brown University to study the chemical properties of the two agents. Soon after, I learned the basic process of using lab equipment to run reactions and test for products. Thin layer chromatography (TLC) is used to monitor and visualize reactions. The name TLC comes from the plates that are used for these tests. The plates indicate if the reaction has occurred and if the product is useful.

In TLC, I continued to investigate the institutional or­dering of protection and security to control crowds and individuals. I researched the chemical properties of tear gas and pepper spray because both are agents of security used to divide and control individuals.

 

 

 

Ebe Odonkor

For the initial thesis project, I have decided to collect personal stories from Ghanaian WWII veterans because I had been told snippets of my great-uncle’s WWII experience when I was a child, and thought they were heroic and interesting.

Moreover, WWII vets played a major role in the struggle that lead to Ghana’s independence from the British Empire. Not many Ghanaians know this fact. I thought their accounts of socio-political life during and after colonialism would be of great interest.

Armed with this bit of information and conviction, I traveled to Accra, the capital of Ghana, and started my search for WWII veterans. I have to confess that I was a little skeptical of finding any veterans to interview, considering the life expectancy of the region is 56.

I hit a bit of luck when I was informed that the previous government, under President Jerry John Rawlings, had housed most WWII vets at Amasaman, a suburb of Accra. After an hour’s drive through heavy traffic and on the newly constructed highway to Kumasi, my assistant and I arrived at the Legion Village, armed with sound recording devices and two camcorders.

We came unannounced, so we had to knock on a few doors and make our intentions known before settling down for an interview with the five remaining WWII veterans living in the village; most of them were living with their grandchildren. The first day (it took us three days to get every veteran on tape) of interviews seemed more rehearsed than the freestyle, ignore-the-recording-devices environment I had envisioned. But, by the second and third day we were comfortable enough with each other to let go and just converse.

UNFAMILIAR VOICES Social Collaboration as Collective Performance

Benjamin Kennedy

If the age of film transmuted objects out of the material realm and into that of the magical, the contemporary networked model of digital exchange infuses yet more ‘magic’ into the object by means of a hyper-circulation of image-objects. Ever the subjects of their time, objects have once again spiritedly asserted themselves as actors amidst a profusion of communication technologies, digital algorithms, and networks of circulation.

Immobile Mobility