MySpectacle, the Proliferation of Spectacles

MySpectacle

ARTifact Winter 2010 Exhibition

MySpectacle, the Proliferation of Spectacles
February 2nd – March 18th, 2011
UCSD, Pepper Canyon Hall 257
Online Exhibition

Opening reception and conversation with the artists,
Wednesday February 1st, 2011, 2-3pm, light refreshments will be served.

Curatorial Statement

The Culture, Art and Technology (CAT) program at the Sixth College of UCSD is proud to present the new ARTifact gallery exhibition for the Winter 2010 quarter, MySpectacle, curated by Micha Cárdenas, Interim Associate Director of Art and Technology for Sixth College. The ARTifact gallery exists as a physical gallery in the CAT core offices as well as an online exhibition space at the CAT website, cat.ucsd.edu. The gallery acts as an integrated learning laboratory, transforming the working environment of CAT students, staff and faculty into a hybrid space in which contemporary art can be part of the dialog of interdisciplinary undergraduate learning curriculum in Sixth College.

The shift from analog to digital media opens up new opportunities for artistic intervention and analysis, as well as new systems of social control and image manipulation. The works in MySpectacle directly engage with questions of the changing nature of representation, spectatorship and participation in an age of proliferating digital representations. The show serves as a conversation piece and a concrete example of the concepts being discussed in the CAT core curriculum this quarter. Artists in the show include Jeremy Douglass, Jay Mark Johnson, Lev Manovich, Elle Mehrmand, Charles G Miller, Rayyane Tabet and Artie Vierkant.

By looking at the shift in media distribution of major historical events, we can understand the shift from a monolithic spectacle to the proliferation of representations resulting in a broad set of changes to politics, law and entertainment. In the CAT program this quarter, Kelly Gates' CAT 2 course "Capturing the Visual World" considers the shift from analog to digital photography and the ramifications across a broad set of domains. The Software Studies Initiative's images in this show create new tools for cultural analytical practices by utilizing massive databases of images, in this case all the covers of Time magazine from 1923-2009. By allowing the viewer to see such a large number of images simultaneously, a number of historical patterns emerge. Another image from Software Studies looks at the Freakangels manga, sorting the panels horizontally in publication order and vertically according to brightness. The visualization allows viewers to reconsider how comics are read and how illustrated representations can be understood. This work speaks directly to the students of CAT 2 with Emily Roxworthy, whose class "Animation, Simulation and Performance" explores war documentary comics and their ability to create empathy.

War imagery is a significant portion of media spectacle today and such imagery lies directly at the intersections of politics, technology and art. Considering the My Lai massacre in Vietnam, Seymour Hersh covered the execution of large numbers of civilians by U.S. troops and broadcast worldwide by CBS News with a resulting political response that many say helped end the Vietnam war. Today, when images depicting torture of prisoners in the Abu Ghraib prison were released, people saw them not only on CBS news by Hersh again, but also on innumerable websites, through emails viewed on iPhones, shared and debated on Facebook and culture jammed in the iRaq ipod ads by artists Forkscrew Graphics. The next step in this proliferation of war spectacles was the cell phone video of Saddam Hussein, which was leaked not by a journalist, but by a prison guard with a cell phone. The multitude of representations mirrors the complexity of the social and artistic movements responding to these images. The resulting institutional response is just one example of the desire for total information management and perfectly groomed corporate identities in the face of expanding networks of media distribution. Charles G. Miller's work in this show explores the nature of these corporate facades, and the embedded, implicit violence in the local suburban landscape. While the explicit image of these corporations such as General Atomics is one of a clean, spotless high tech corporation, the reality of their scientists' involvement with projects such as the Manhattan Project, resulting in the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, is an implicit level of Miller's imagery and a topic of Roxworthy's course. In addition, Jay Mark Johnson's piece in the show, "Swept Away #2" gives a personal, human scale view of Belgrade, a city which has seen so much war, but records a slice of time so as to refer to any number of possible points in history or the future.

Most recently Wikileaks has been making headlines for releasing data about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but one can understand this shift more broadly than just news. One can see it in the representation of violence shifting from broadcast videos of actual war violence to the commodified violence of first person shooter games, where each player has their own personalized simulation of war violence. Today these games are used as a finely crafted communications tool to train and recruit new soldiers, such as America's Army. Looking to entertainment, one can see the mutation of the spectacle from monolithic films viewed only in theaters, to today's situation where they are seen on DVD, or Bittorrent downloaded to laptops and smart phones. Artie Vierkant's piece "Avatar in 3D" explores the rhetorics of file sharing communities and the ability of artists to use downloaded media as the raw material for their own reinterpretations. Similarly, "Daylight/Twilight", included in the online exhibition uses techniques from cultural analytics to reconfigure these two Hollywood films. Liz Losh's CAT class this quarter provides students with a deep understanding of the specific rhetorics of digital culture. Also, Charles Thorpe's CAT 2 course "Society of the Spectacle" this quarter is looking closely at the changing nature of capitalist spectacle and it's presence in the San Diego environment.

Today we see a move away from the production of spectacle as Hollywood stars give some ground to reality television stars and ultimately to each person producing their own spectacles on YouTube, a MySpectacle for each of us. Elle Mehrmand's project "w3eks." takes the underlying drive of such sites to its logical conclusions, taking a photo of herself every 15 minutes for 3 weeks and creating her own database of lived experience. Gerald Doppelt's class "Technology, Medicine, Ethics" engages with Facebook this quarter as a site of ethical debate, and Mehrmand's use of this format prefigures these debates. The grid format the images are presented in again reference both the large scale nature of such databases, impossible to grasp in a single viewing as well as the ability of sites like Google and Flickr to create grids of images which have become a daily viewing experience for many.

Another common feature of the new networked daily life if Google Maps. Mark Hineline's CAT 2 course "Climate, Technology and Culture" helps students develop critical thinking skills that use maps as tools of analysis to understand large scale human made effects on the environment. The works in this show by Rayyane Tabet and Charles G. Miller both engage with these issues, in Tabet's case looking at a map of Beirut used as a basis for the game commonly known as beer pong, but also known as Beirut due to it's creation during the bombing of the marines barracks in Beirut. Tabet's work opens up the reading of a map to multiple readings including maps as war tools, the militarism of the overhead perspective and the black humor of war.

Works Included in MySpectacle include:

Freakangels Time Curve
Jeremy Douglass with Lev Manovich
2009-2010
Digital print

Like print comics and manga, web comics may run for years with new episodes added daily, weekly, or monthly. How does their visual style change over the duration of publication? Are the temporal patterns gradual or abrupt? How do these patterns relate to development of a narrative? To create this visualization of 342 consecutive pages of the web comic Freakangels that were published over 15 months, we used one of the simplest visual features that can be automatically measured with software – the average of all pixels' grayscale values in an image. These average values were used to position the pages vertically. The horizontal placement of the pages corresponds to the order of publication (left to right). Despite the weekly intervals that separate the episodes of Freakangels, our visualization shows that its visual form is remarkably consist. For the larger part of the publication period, the changes in brightness (the same applies to hue and saturation) follow a smooth curve. Visualization reveals this unexpected pattern and allows us to see the exact shape of the curve.

Timeline
Lev Manovich and Jeremy Douglass
2009
Digital print triptych

Visualizing 4535 Time covers reveals a number of historical periods and patterns. The image makes visible the pre-color printing era on the far left, a cluster of brief early experiments in color printing (with left-margin coloration), and then the gradual shift from black and white to full color covers, with both types coexisting for a number of years. Taking a step back, we can see that brightness and saturation follow a cyclical pattern of rising and falling, with dramatic peaks and valleys only becoming apparent over periods of a decade or more. Standing apart from the overall curve are extreme exceptions: glowing bright images and pale designs that float above or below the cloud of covers typical of an era. Taking another step back, we can compare our present decade to the entire 86 year magazine history. The drop in saturation since the end of the 1990s (end of right panel) echoes a somewhat similar period of unsaturated covers during the mid-1960s (bottom of center panel).

SWEPT AWAY #2
Jay Mark Johnson
Archival Print, Paper, Aluminum 25" (H) X 53" (W)
Framed Edition 3 of 9

In "Swept Away" Johnson focuses on images created in Belgrade in February 2008. The images were taken in freezing conditions with overcast winter skies from roadsides, from scenic overlooks and within a few local flea markets and junk markets, and depict sequences of cars or trams as well as the lone figures of junk or scrap metal collectors and the like. According to Johnson, the title of the show was inspired by the socially critical film by Lina Wertmüller, which examines the gradual reversal of the hierarchical positions between a rich northern Italian lady and a simple southern Italian deck hand when they are stranded on an uninhabited island. But the title is much more multifaceted: it also refers to the obliterated landscapes behind the vehicles and figures, an image maybe of the destruction of nature by the relentless encroachment of industry, as well as to the desolate social isolation of the depicted figures, who move on the fringes of society and are commonly excluded from the collective awareness. Lastly it can also be read, particularly in view of the inclusion of the element of time in Johnson's images, as a compelling visual reflection on the nature of time itself as a destructive maelstrom that washes away all that is but transient.

w3eks.
Elle Mehrmand
2006
performance

A performance where Mehrmand documented herself with a camera every fifteen minutes for a period of three weeks. This simple parameter created an experiment which allowed her to analyze, question and change patterns in her quotidian. Mehrmand externalized the intimacies of private and public space, which inherently extended her art practice into the realms of the everyday.

Hidden in Plain Sight: La Jolla / UTC Annex, An-Edge City
Charles G. Miller

The five images included in MySpectacle have been selected from a database of approximately 1500 of the urban geography immediately adjacent to the UCSD campus--produced during a series of walks therein disguised in corporate drag. The selected images exemplify the most significant industrial anchors in the territory: biotech/pharmaceuticals, defense, high tech and communications technologies. Taken from municipal right-of-ways, i.e. public space, the images gaze across a public/private threshold in order to develop a typology of seemingly innocuous, or cognitively invisible architectural space. The presumed pragmatism of this landscape would eventually seem strategically poised to render the question of public space null, and furthermore to conceal complicity with, as well as globally displace, structural violence.

HOW TO PLAY BEIRUT (NORTH)
Rayyane Tabet
2010
Inkjet Print on Vellum, 54" x 60"

HOW TO PLAY BEIRUT (SOUTH)
Rayyane Tabet
2010
Inkjet Print on Vellum, 54" x 60"

AVATAR IN 3D
Artie Vierkant
2010
HD video
2h34m

The entirety of James Cameron's 2009 film Avatar mapped onto the surface of a slowly rotating sphere. Created in response to the popularity and availability of a pirated copy of Avatar on bittorrent. Re-released on the video's platform of origin- bit torrent file sharing networks.

Daylight / Twilight
Artie Vierkant
2010
HD video diptych
1 hr. 58 min. / 2 hr. 02 min.

The films Daylight (1996) and Twilight (2008) rearranged frame by frame based on each frame's brightness value. Daylight runs brightest to darkest while Twilight runs darkest to brightest.

Artist Bios:

Jeremy Douglass is a postdoctoral researcher in Software Studies at the University of California San Diego, in affiliation with Calit2, the Center for Research in Computing and the Arts, and Visual Arts, with support from the NEH and NSF. His research focuses on approaches to software and code using the methodologies of the humanities and social sciences, as well as approaches to culture using the techniques of software engineering and data mining. One current emphasis is on the art and science of information visualization and its applications to visual culture. Douglass is active in the Software Studies and Critical Code Studies research communities, and is a founding member of Playpower, a MacArthur/HASTAC funded digital media and learning initiative to use ultra-affordable 8-bit game systems as a global education platform. His Ph.D. dissertation "Command Lines: Aesthetics and Technique in Interactive Fiction and New Media" (UCSB 2007) is freely available online.

Artist Jay Mark Johnson produces photographic images that challenge the norms of perception. Throughout his career, in work spanning the disciplines of drawing and painting, filmmaking, performance, architecture, and photography, he has made visible the intersection of human nature and society. At the end of 1991, Johnson returned to Los Angeles, where he is now a cinema director with broad experience in visual effects production, having supervised, directed or otherwise contributed to the computer generated imagery for nearly a dozen major studio films and television series, including The Matrix, Titanic, Moulin Rouge, Tank Girl, Outbreak, White Oleander, and music videos for Michael Jackson, Madonna, the Red Hot Chili Peppers and others. Having discovered the many ways that a limited understanding of human nature can hinder the advancement of progressive causes, he devoted two years to graduate study in Linguistic Anthropology and Biological Anthropology at UCLA. Additional years of study focused on reading in the cognitive sciences. His current SPACETIME photographic series began with rudimentary experiments in 2005. Over the course of this project he increasingly applies the full range of his experiences, from visual arts and cinema to studies in the anthropological and cognitive sciences. Work from this period is in the permanent collections of the Frederick R. Weisman Art Founndation and the Langen Foundation, Hombroich, Germany and Peter Klein, Museum Kunstwerk, Eberdingen, Germany. The artist was born in 1955 in St. Petersburg, Florida, USA. Since 1996 Johnson has resided intermittently in Europe, in Paris, Antwerp, Rome and rural Italy. He currently lives and works in Venice, California.

Lev Manovich is the author of Software Takes Command (released under CC license, 2008), Soft Cinema: Navigating the Database (The MIT Press, 2005), and The Language of New Media (The MIT Press, 2001) which is described as "the most suggestive and broad ranging media history since Marshall McLuhan." Manovich is a Professor in Visual Arts Department, University of California San Diego, a Director of the Software Studies Initiative at California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology (CALIT2), and a Professor at European Graduate School (EGS). He is much in demand to lecture around the world, having delivered 450 lectures, seminars and workshops during the last 10 years.

Elle Mehrmand is a performance/new media artist and musician who uses the body, electronics, video, sound and installation within her work. She is the singer and trombone player of Assembly of Mazes, a music collective who creates dark, electronic, middle eastern, rhythmic jazz rock. Elle is currently an MFA candidate at UCSD, and received her BFA in art photography with a minor in music at CSULB. She has received grants from UCIRA, the Russell Foundation and Fine Arts Affiliates. Elle is a researcher at CRCA at UCSD and is a member of the electronic disturbance theatre 2.0/ b.a.n.g. lab. Her performances have been shown in Los Angeles, Long Beach, San Diego, San Francisco, Durham, Tijuana, Montreal, Dublin, Istanbul and Bogotá. Her work has been discussed in Art21, the LA Times, Juxtapoz Magazine, Networked Performance, Reno News and Review, the LA Weekly, the OC weekly, VICE, and Furtherfield.org.

Charles G Miller is an artist and writer currently based in San Diego. He received his BFA from Maryland Institute College of Art in 2004 and his MFA from University of California, San Diego in 2010. His recent project: Hidden In Plain Sight: La Jolla / UTC Annex, An-Edge City includes a forthcoming film produced with a fellowship from the Center for Global California Studies. A frequent collaborator, he is currently a resident artist, researcher and program developer at the Periscope Project: an arts and architecture cooperative and urban think tank based in downtown San Diego.

Rayyane Tabet's work has been concerned with researching hidden histories that are transformed and retold through objects and installations. He received a Bachelor's in Architecture (BArch) from The Cooper Union and is currently pursuing a Masters in Fine Arts (MFA) at the University of California, San Diego. His work has been featured in NOISE, Sfeir-Semler Gallery (2010), Art Now In Lebanon, Darat al Funun (2008) and has been included in the New Museum's book Younger than Jesus: The Artist Directory, published by Phaidon Press (2009). Artie Vierkant is one of many possible Google Search results. His work concerns the degree to which digital media constitute fully tangible objects, actors which are both pliable and physical, structures to be broken into pieces and reconceived.

Curator:

Micha Cárdenas is an artist/theorist whose transreal work mixes physical and networked spaces in order to explore emerging forms of queer relationality, biopolitics and DIY horizontal knowledge production. She is the Interim Associate Director of Art and Technology for UCSD's Sixth College in the Culture, Art and Technology program. She has been a lecturer in the Visual Arts department and Critical Gender Studies program at UCSD. She is an artist/researcher with the UCSD School of Medicine, CRCA and the b.a.n.g. lab at Calit2. Her recent publications include "I am Transreal", in Gender Outlaws: The Next Generation from Seal Press, Trans Desire/Affective Cyborgs, with Barbara Fornssler, from Atropos Press and "Becoming Dragon: A Transversal Technology Study" in Code Drift from CTheory. She has exhibited and performed in biennials, museums and galleries in cities around the world including Los Angeles, San Diego, Tijuana, New York, San Francisco, Montreal, Egypt, Ecuador, Spain, Switzerland, Ireland and many other places. Her work has been written about in publications including Art21, the Associated Press, the LA Times, CNN, BBC World, Wired and Rolling Stone Italy.

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