Friday, September 29, 2006

A Very Artsy Week

Though we have done many different things so far this week, they have centered mostly around the arts, which has been amazing, as my main interests in this program rest with art and film. On Tuesday afternoon we were dispersed in the gallery district that is Chelsea. There are literally galleries on each side of the street, each as white-walled and minimalistic as the last, sometimes even more so than the last. My favorite (conceptual) piece from the galleries would have to be Yoko Ono's OnoCord, which consists of flashing a flashlight in a one-two-three pattern to represent the phrase "I love you." The accompanying video included her on stage at a concert, flashing her light at the crowd, who happily flashed the pattern back at her. I think Ono's exuberance at her own genius and simple idea was partly the reason for my captured interest, but I also just like the idea; I mean, if we were all a bit kinder to each other, the world would most likely be a better place.

On Wednesday we went to the Museum of the Moving Image in Queens. This was our first outing to Queens, and we were pretty amazed at the difference in the buildings; they were much shorter and the sidewalks were wider. The Museum itself was an interesting visit. It has all sorts of film, television, and video game artifacts, such as very old camers, film props, original video game consoles, etc. The Museum's core collection is also interactive in the fact that it has animation, sound, and film stations at which you can create, isolate, and thus better understand the different processes. I particularily liked the sound stations; we had the opportunity to re-record a portion of the movie "Babe," and also to isolate the different sound tracks in a scene of "Titanic." It was incredibly interesting to hear each track alone, combine them in different ways, and then re-listen to them all together. Our tour guide mentioned that a film can have up to about 99 different tracks; we only listened to 4 so I can hardly imagine what 99 would sound like.

Thursday included a visit to the Whitney Museum of American Art and a guided tour of the new exhibit about Picasso's influence on such American artists as Jasper Johns, Arshile Gorky, Willem de Kooning, Jackson Pollock, and Andy Warhol, amongst others. The exhibit is incredibly well done, and features an extensive amount of paintings. The tour also provided a vast amount of insight; I was able to understand the manner in which the artists were subtly and directly influenced by Picasso, and it was interesting to see the actual effects on the paintings in front of me.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Come Out N Play (yo)

(Photo: Our Cruel 2 B Kind team "steak out" in a courtyard.)

This weekend (technically ending today), we participated in the Come Out And Play Urban Games Festival. Our participation included everything from playing games to listening to gamer theory to blowing up balloons (for the opening ceremony). The headquarters for this festival was located at Eyebeam , a design, research, education, technology/art lab. It is an interesting place, and is definitely one at which I could see myself working because of the many interesting projects going on, and their focus on making art and technology accessible to the general public, not simply the elite.

Personally, I played one game, volunteered at another, and helped with festival breakdown at Eyebeam. The game I played on Saturday was called Cruel 2 B Kind, and basically consisted of different teams trying to "kill" the others with compliments. The game location was restricted to Broadway, between 48th and 58th streets, meaning that the teams had to loop around this 10 block area while determining who to assassinate with compliments. Sorry to say, but as soon as my team (Rachel, Susan, Julia, and I) arrived on site we were killed. I would, however, like to claim that it wasn't technically our fault, as we had just received the text message containing the phrases that were our weapon (have a fabulous day) and weakness (well done). We were supposed to use the phrase "have a fabulous day" to "kill" other teams and gain points, but before we even knew what was happening, a couple with a map asked us to help them find Rockefeller Center. After we told them, they said "well done," and we were extremely confused; wait a minute, are you playing Cruel 2 B Kind? Are we dead? We were incredulous. We hadn't even thought of using trickery, or as we later saw, disguises in order to kill others with kindness.

There were a couple of pretty funny things about this game. The first was that when a team was "killed" they had to join the team that "killed" them, so as we played our group turned into this enormous mob whose weapon was the phrase "Can we help you?" This lead to the second funny thing, which was that our team and the other massive teams were shouting biazrre compliments at each other down the streets and across the streets at random intervals. And as we played, that particular stretch of Broadway became incredibly full of tourists and people going to plays and musicals. So there we were, asking random people if we could help them. As response, we mostly received confused looks and smiles, with a few wise guy remarks, which I can actually understand; I'm not so sure how comfortable I'd be with a huge group yelling a somewhat sarcastic sounding remark at me.

Incase you're wondering how the Urban Games Festival relates to New Media, there is a simple explanation: most of the games relied on the mobile technology of cell phones, computers, or projectors in order to function (exchange information, record points, etc). Some of the games even included the theme of psychogeography, in that they mapped different locations over Manhattan (such as Baghdad). I think the main point of the festival was summed up by what one of the speakers said, which was that we all just want to be a bit happier in life, and that games help us fulfill that desire. The people that I saw certainly seemed to be enjoying themselves, so I guess that's true.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Anthology Film Archive

Here's a link to our group blog

(Photo: John Miripiri and Karina at Anthology.)

Yesterday we went to Anthology Film Archives, which is exactly that, an archive for Avant-Garde and independant films. Anthology has approximately 20,000 films, all preserved on film; no video. The center specializes in Avant-Garde viewings for public and special private purposes, catalogs of A-G films, and on top of that, the incredibly small team of 5 employees serves as a database of information for anyone with questions. Archive has two theaters, one of which is named after visionary filmmaker Maya Deren, a library, and a film storage area, which I thought somewhat resembled a small-scale version of the warehouse at the end of the first Indiana Jones movie. And, one of the founders of Anthology is Jonas Mekas, who is regarded by many in the A-G community to be the father of the medium.

We watched about 5 short films, my favorite of which was very short, had no sound, but treated light and color in such a soft, beautiful way that is was extremely moving. The movie seemed to take place in a greenhouse, and featured close-ups of two people, their surrounding environment, and winding plants. The fast motion of the images also contributed to its emotive power.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Conflux Festival - Saturday

This was a great day for Conflux: it was sunny, warm, and there were lots of intereresting events going on. The most interesting one I participated in was a walking tour of Williamsburg that focused on graffiti and street art. There were tons of poeple along for the tour, and we ended up looking like a parade streaming down and around the streets. The leaders fo the tour rode bikes, had a megaphone, and blasted rap music as they rode along; quite amusing. The tour lasted approx. 2 hours, and covered a pretty large area. Apparently graffiti is the thing to do here. The tour leaders knew or at least knew of all the artists who had created pretty sizable works. Though they talked a little bit about the different styles of graffiti, the loud music, large crowd, and passing street traffic made it difficult to hear them sometimes. So, I didn't really learn about the differences in styles.

I did, though, learn from a different Conflux event that there is a diference between graffiti and street art. Graffiti is more of the "tagging" (spray painted words) variety, and street art can be defined as anything from spray painted drawings to paper cutouts to reworked iron structures, etc.

Though I really enjoyed the tour, one thing that I think it lacked was a clear explanation of the motivation behind creating graffiti and street art. I think the tour guides just assumed that we all knew what the motivition was, but because these art forms get such a reputation of simply being illegal activity, I think it would be good to explain what it's really about. As far as I could gather, and I guess this makes sense considering the emotive nature of art, the motivation/"point" of these types of art is to bring it to the people and put it out there. A huge tag or drawing on the side of a building is really difficult not to notice. I would also guess that they're a form of protestation against "the man" or "the powers that be," but I'm not sure how much "the man" would care about street art on a run down building in a run down area. Although, the cops seem to.

Conflux Festival - Thursday

When I arrived at the McCaig and Welles Gallery in Williamsburg, Brooklyn for the opening of the 2006 Conflux Festival for contemporary psychogeography, I saw groups of artsy looking people gathered in two places; near the bagels and coffee, and near the door. As those by the door looked nervous and there was a police car outside, I assumed that somthing had been stolen, or that the gallery had been broken into. I spoke to the festival producers, and apparently the lock to the gallery had been glued over, preventing their entrance for some time. Eventually the lock was chisleled off, replaced, and the procucers gave a report to the police. We wondered if the crime was done by an angry artist who had been turned away from the festival or something.

After all of this excitement, I intorduced myself to the artist I was to interview, Sue Huang, and then discussed her project of street cut-ups. For the project, she walks around a neighborhood and cuts words out of posters and advertisements, then glues the words together to make a new, random message. The point of this is to make a statement towards the advertisers, saying that the practice of sending messages to consumers is a two way street, and that we have the right to use the words too.

As the morning turned into early afternoon and the number of people in the gallery dropped dramatically due to the rain, one of the producers asked me to document two people that were going to walk around the neightborhood and pick up garbage and other wayside materials in order to construct a "Brooklyn Desk." Though it was raining pretty steadily at that time, I said sure! because I had both my umbrella and rain jacket; I don't like being rained on. So, we wandered around the industrial and run down areas of Williamsburg, them picking up interesting things and discussing how they might bit together, me taking pictures and marveling at how lucky I was to be wandering around New York city in the first place. The area where we were was also incredibly interesting due to all the graffiti in amazingly bold colors and styles on the dilapadated buildings.

This project was a good thing for me to be involved with, because I got to see two sort of new age artists in the actual process of creating and conceptualizing, which I had not previously experienced. I think their project fits into the overarching festival theme of psychogeography because the motivation for building the desk came from wanting to be out in the neighborhood and get a feel for it; to see what occurs there, who lives there, and to make contact with all of it. Though a good idea, the raind prevented a lot of human interaction as there were not really any humans outside at that time.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

5 days encounting

It's been a long while since I've posted, and I guess a lot's happened since then. I returned home from Evanston, IL (and being a nerd all summer at Northwestern U), went to Eau Claire, WI twice with my bestest friends, and am now preparing for a new adventure in NYC and Europe. I am so excited for New York; never been there. I thought Minneapolis was a big city, but aparently not as it was really hard for me to comprehend the size of downtown Chicago. Now I'm wondering about New York... I think I'll probably be having a spaz attack every time I look up at the never ending buildings.

I wonder if the city's a lot like it's always portrayed in movies, or if it's different once you're actually living there. I guess I should say "living," because although we'll be there for 3 weeks (which is a lot longer than I could afford on my own), I'm sure I'll only make a tiny dent in the very surface of all that there is to see and do. They don't call it the Big Apple for nothin! I am sure, though, that there is a lot more to NY than what the superficial tourists typically see. Don't get me wrong, I'm sure I'll want to see the Statue of Liberty & Co., but I think it'll also be amazing to just walk around the city and feel the incredible energy that must be there. Wandering around Chicago has taught me that. You usually wander onto something that you had no idea existed, and just think, you could be the only person in the whole world who has thought about it in the specific way you did. (Forgive me, this is unusually optimistic writing for me. I guess I'm just that excited + a city girl at heart. Sorry suburbs.)

It's hot. I'm going to go turn the fan on. Laters.