Sunday, August 30, 2015

Up Periscope

by Drew Martin
A couple years ago I looked into the url availability of periscope for a cartoon I did about a submarine but is used by a creative agency. My favorite social media app now is Periscope at, which uses the .tv domain country code of Tuvalu that the company dotTV operates and is 20% owned by the country.

Periscope, if you have not been on it, is a live video streaming app purchased by Twitter for $100ish million in March 2015. 
Ironically, despite the big purchase @periscope is still the Twitter handle for the agency, with @periscopetv for the app.

My first encounter with Periscope was last week at an app meetup party on the rooftop Monarch in Midtown Manhattan for The Vane fashion/weather app and the TWIP like-minded peple travel app. I was there as the UX/UI designer for another app that is being developed. Covering the scene was Vicki Winters (@MyBigFatMouth), a youthful 68-year-old scoper with unbound energy who never missed a beat.

Later that night I stripped the replay video of us from Periscope and checked out the app. The possibilities and functionality of Periscope make other apps such as Snapchat look like old typewriters. At any moment you can scan the world for who is broadcasting and you can text-comment on the live video and tap the screen of your phone to send hearts to the scoper, which appear in the color of an overlay on your profile picture during the broadcast. There are never more than a couple dozen broadcasts going on from each continent at any one time so it is pretty easy to manage the world view. Additionally, the zoom function is pretty smart by how it shows the number of broadcasts in a region but then splits up into more specific places as you zoom in.

You can follow a scoper, and are alerted when they start their broadcast. The US and Brazil have the most live broadcasts from the Americas (Canada is almost nonexistent) and several countries in Europe are using it. Surprisingly, there is a big turnout in Russia, Turkey and the Arabian Peninsula.

Unfortunately most of the broadcasts from the farther flung regions are just a person, typically a young woman, staring at the screen while men swarm in, like spermatozoa around an unfertilized egg. They text lewd things, the most innocent of which is the hilariously bad English command, open boobs, in hopes that the lady with flash the phone camera. The goodnight broadcasts of young women get the most ogling eyes. One I saw last night of a naked-ish Swedish woman under her duvet saw viewers go from 0 to 1.6K + in a matter of seconds. That being said, n
o matter how mindless a broadcast, seeing someone's kitchen or bedroom in Baku or Astana is still fascinating.

After watching a lot of crap, I realized that Vicki Winters was really on it and I am glad she introduced me to Periscope. Perhaps the app will wallow in the more senseless broadcasts but there are a few that I watched that caught my eye. One of the more casual broadcasts that I really liked was by Christian Tido, a college student out of Cameroon, who claims the broadcast I tuned in to was the first Periscope feed out of Africa. He and his friend, a cool young lady, fielded questions and endured silly comments as they looked out over his balcony to a nice neighborhood, and gave a brief tour of his house (upon my request). 

Periscope, because it is owned by Twitter, uses your Twitter ID. Christian's profile @tidochrys has the tagline "Hey, let's just all share the same eye!" followed by a little, Africa-prominent world emoji.

By far the scoper that I absolutely love the most and think is the best one out there in terms of the give and take is an early 30's American woman, Lauren, from Scottsdale, Arizona who has been living in Japan for the past 11 years as a high school English teacher. She shares a small flat in Yokohama with her Japanese husband Ryuji, two dogs and a cat. Lauren (JPUS Lauren USJP @starkodama) has been broadcasting regularly for the past month. Sometimes she gives Japanese lessons (her Japanese is excellent) or she might just spend the time talking about a subject such as HULU in Japan. There are also shorter broadcasts where she will take a walk around her neighborhood or let us join her as she walks to meet Ryuji after work. My favorite broadcasts (I have only seen two of this type - the first of which got me hooked) is where Ryuji sits off to the side with a dry erase board while Lauren fields requests from the viewers of what he should draw. Their chemistry is great, and the drawings are laugh-out-loud funny.

Aside from the topics and personality of Lauren's broadcasts, what I like most is her dexterity with the medium and the new talent it requires, which is all about covering her theme while constantly and cheerfully greeting the viewers as they join, and commenting on the rapid-fire texts that pop up. She is a pro at engaging the viewer and diffusing any erotic comments with her quick wit that turns the poke into a joke. That being said, she has the most respectful group of followers I have ever seen. 

On one broadcast Lauren calls Jiro (of Jiro Dreams of Sushian asshat for misogynistic comments he has made (like he does not hire women because their hands are too hot and also they cannot properly taste sushi when they are menstruating - which Lauren jokes that her hands are always cold, and that Jiro's own taste must be affected by his heavy smoking). A minute later she complains that she wants to take off her sweater but that her tank top underneath is too boobiliscous. With a viewer's suggestion, she titles the following broadcast #boobiliscousasshat.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

In the Moog for Electronic Music

by Drew Martin
Earlier today, in a little more than an hour and a half, I got caught up on four decades of electronic music and the history of the modular synthesizer by watching the documentary I Dream of Wires. As a story of differing East Coast vs West Coast approaches to a topic, this is as good as it gets.

The modular synthesizer was born in the sixties on both sides of the United States, and was quickly divided between the East Coast Philosophy and the West Coast Philosophy. The East Coast synthesizer, developed by Bob Moog uses a traditional keyboard, which appealed to the music industry 
because it was familiar, stabile, and could play Western scale notes

The West Coast synthesizer, developed by Don Buchla, was keyboardless and sought to redefine how music was approached and performed. It was based on metric loops in sequence, potentially forever. This experimental approach to music had a broader social context because "nonconformism and music go together" and it sought to avoid "the rules and suits and ties of the East coast." But those rules "listened to the client base of professional musicians and was ultimately able to deliver a relatively reliable product to the marketplace."

This next passage is acoustically over my head, but it sounds great...and maybe that's because the early Buchla has a red panel that was allegedly dipped in LSD so the person using it could lick it to get some inspiration:

With an East Coast Philosophy system you find rich waveforms, like saw, square, pulse, noise - harmonic rich waveforms to start with and then a big fat four pole filter to get rid of harmonics and sweep the resonance around to create the temporal shifts, to make the sounds more interesting.

In a Buchla you find oscillators that have waveshapers, but very simple filters after them. In most patches in a West Coast synthesizer, there isn't even really filtering going on. If you want to create the harmonic interest in the sound, you have to use the waveshaper. You have a sine wave that's been folded over on top of itself a bunch of times to create something really dense. It's like a completely different way at looking at synthesis. It's not subtractive synthesis in the traditional sense. There's a certain sound quality it gets that is totally unique, and it's just not possible to do it on any other system.

The documentary is about the success of the Moog system over the Buchla system, the abandonment of the modular synthesizers due to the introduction/competition of smaller, lighter, cheaper synthesizers with presets, and then the eventual return of these analog electronic systems through Acid House music and continuation in this era of "an explosion of ideas."

The return of the modular synthesizer is met with great optimism as one of the interviewed subjects explains...

I think as human beings we have a lot more fun than we'd like to acknowledge. It is fun. It's fun to make cities, automobiles, musical instruments, and huge sound systems. And we do a lot of things just for the pure pleasure of it. When generations listen to previous generations' manifestions, they want to get involved too. They want to dance with it, use it. And I think every generation ought be be absolutely ruthless about stealing the best of everything from previous generations. It's their duty, they have to do it.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

The Knew Museum

by Drew Martin
If the museums you once knew as unhurried and contemplative spaces now feel overrun by shows for mass appeal and back-to-back events vying for social media attention, then I have a suggestion for how to slow down time and recapture the reflective mood from a bygone era.

When you go to a museum, bring along a drawing pad, some pencils and an eraser, and perhaps pens and markers. Find a work of art on which you would like to fixate, which is not in a high traffic area. Then tune out everyone around you as well as the other works and draw until your heart is content. Not only will this expand your time, but you will get to know the work much more intimately by having to interpret it on your two dimensional white page.

My daughter recently asked that we go to the American Museum of Natural History in New York so she could draw a skeleton of a small bird. While she was busy doing that (actually it was a snake skeleton), I went down to a corner of the South America exhibit and drew designs from the pre-Columbian/pre-Incan Chimu people of the Moche Valley, which is now in Peru. One of the designs, shown here with some added text, is pinned to my sons' bedroom wall and awaits their arrival from a month-long trip abroad.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

The Art of Peace Versus the Art of Conflict

by Drew Martin
After painting a mural on an outside wall of my house last night, an act which included me toppling off my makeshift scaffolding several times (once with a quart of bright blue paint comically falling down on top of me after I landed on my bum) I washed up and looked for good documentary to watch while I did some ironing.

A movie about murals naturally caught my eye: The Art of Conflict: The Murals of Northern Ireland. It is an excellent documentary, and surprisingly by Vince Vaughn and his sister Valeri Vaughn. I loved this film for its eye-opening look at a conflict I grew up hearing about, which the Vaughns guide us through by taking an upclose look at dozens of murals painted by both protestant unionists/loyalists (to England) and the Irish catholic nationalists/republicans. The endless clashes such as "Bloody Sunday" and "Bloody Friday" embroiled British troops, loyalist paramilitary groups, the Irish nationalist IRA, and many civilians. In total, more than 3,500 people were killed in shootings and bombings.

The republican murals more often than not work as a form of journalism that document their own sufferings through the events (even though they took more lives in Northern Ireland and in England then the combined toll of the British troops and loyalist paramilitary groups), while the loyalists painted their murals as memorials to their own who died as a result of the clashes, or as an aggressive show of force such as the one displayed here that reads, Prepared for Peace, Ready for War.

Whether or not you like the content and style of the artwork, you have to marvel at the ubiquity of the murals, the attention-grabbing colors and themes, and the sheer effort: these are not simply tagged walls with a few cans of spray paint, but well-planned and well-supplied efforts, complete with the proper construction scaffolding I could have used yesterday.

One thing that was really surprising was the detail of internment of the republicans and the arrest and imprisonment of both republicans and loyalists. While the side-by-side communities rarely mixed and kept their ways separate through segregation of schools and all other social functions, those arrested for crimes on both sides were integrated behind bars. This recipe for disaster is actually what led to peace talks.

The imprisonment of IRA-associated republicans led to the "Blanket Protest" and the "Dirty Protest." The Blanket Protest was when the new inmates refused to put on the prison uniform because they claimed they were not criminals but rather political prisoners so they walked around naked, and then started wearing blankets for clothing. This was followed by the Dirty Protest, which is when they smeared the walls of their cells with their own feces. Shown below are two inmates wearing blankets surrounded by such walls.

One of the recurring themes in the loyalist murals is the Red Hand of Ulster, as pictured second from top. It is less-commonly referred to as the Red Hand of O'Neill. More often, it is treated more stylistically as a blood-red, palm-facing-forward open right hand but this example is more telling of the story: back in pagan times the Kingdom of Ulster had no rightful heir so a boat race would determine the next ruler. The first "hand" to touch Ireland would be king. One of the losing contestants decided to cut off his hand and throw it ashore to beat out the leader. It is a myth the loyalist hold dear to in order to stake their claim of the region.

The movie ends on a very interesting note: what to do with the inflammatory images? While they were never meant to be lasting, since even during the conflict they were constantly changing. A final montage shows the before and after shots of the sides of buildings used for the murals with the conflict-based images, painted over with new, benign themes.

A Long Haul for Andy Warhol

by Drew Martin
The Warhol in Pittsburgh is a great collection of paintings, drawings, film and video, and sculpture (Brillo boxes and floating, silver rectangular clouds) by America’s most iconic artist, Andy Warhol. It’s worth the trip; in my case – a three-day, 800-mile road trip through the Appalachian Mountains, which cradle this scenic stretch of Route 80. 

My daughter, Olympia, and I visited The Warhol the weekend before his birthday. I had not given much thought to what the museum building might look like; perhaps a giant tomato soup can, or a big silver factory. It is, in fact, in a semi-ornate Beaux Arts edifice built in 1911 for the Frick and Lindsay Company, which dealt in oil well, mill and mine supplies. 

The kitty-corner parking lot attendant’s booth is more of what I had in mind: decorated in the style of a Brillo box. The seven stories of galleries in the museum house some of Warhol’s largest works but the enormous canvases are nicely balanced by much more intimate drawings. 

The museum and the trip made me think less specifically about pop/modern/contemporary art, and more broadly about the distances we travel to fulfill our cultural needs. It is essential to travel to museums and other countries in order to take in what they have to offer, and as an artist, it is important to make your own life and surroundings a cultural oasis.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Platinum Records, Polished Silver, and Polident

by Drew Martin
If you are a reader of this blog, you may have come to realize that I like to make bizarre connections between remote entities. This one here is perhaps the greatest stretch: the success of at least three music entertainers and the failed marriage of my aunt in the early 1970s represented here by a silver champagne cup from her wedding in 1969, inscribed with her ex-husband's n

Somehow the pariah's silver cup from the wedding got into my hands since no one else wanted it. I had it out on my art wall for years and then I thought the boyfriend of a coworker (who I hired five years ago) might like it since he is a graphic artist in the music industry.

I brought it inside in its blackened state and made a few attempts to clean it up with household substances: shaving cream, baking soda, and white toothpaste. These things helped but they did not remarkably transform it. But then I tried Polident (for dentures), which my wife had mistakenly bought instead of toothpaste years ago. It was amazing; took the tarnish off immediately.

After cleaning up the cup I hand-drew a diagram, similar to the one here, which shows the connection: My deadbeat uncle abandons his family when my cousins are toddlers. The girl cousin grows up and marries a cop. The boy grows up and befriends Nelly before he goes platinum and helps him get established. Together they start Apple Bottom Jeans, which inspires the hit Low by Flo Rida, featuring T-Pain. This advances Flo Rida's career and thereby puts Ke$ha on the map when she sings backup for his next hit Right Round, the remake of Dead or Alive's You Spin Me Round from 1985.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Face Time at the Storm King Art Center

by Drew Martin
I visited Storm King Art Center on the Sunday of this past Fourth of July weekend with my wife and youngest son, who just turned eight years old. I have been to this amazing, peaceful place several times before and so I was prepared to write again about what a great location it is to see art; in nature - unbound by the walls of galleries, and too expansive to ever feel crowded. But something peculiar and totally unexpected happened on this trip: I got trapped on a tram (pictured here, top) next to a couple that was making out inches from my face and rubbing up against me, and so my entire experience was adulterated by an excessive amount of PDA. It wasn't sexy or cool. It was awkward for all the families and retired couples on the tour.

My initial reaction was to tell them to get a room, which I didn't. I even envisioned shifting my weight a little on some of the turns so I could watch them tumble off into the nettles. Instead, I decided to document what it is like to look at work by artists such as Mark di Suvero and Alexander Calder with two people sucking on each others' faces, which blocks your view.

We initially walked around the grounds and looked at the temporary exhibit of work by Lynda Benglis but then my son wanted to ride the tram, which loops around the grounds. I would have preferred to walk but it was also fun to have the ride. On one side was my wife and son, and on my other side was an empty seat. Halfway through the ride the tram stopped to let off visitors and pick up the weary. Most groups did not consider the extra seat next to me because they wanted to sit together. But then a young hipster couple ran over to it. The guy threw their two, huge bags of picnic trash on the tram floor and sat down. His girlfriend jumped on his lap and they immediately started making out while leaning up against me. I felt like a loose headboard in an hourly hotel.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Words and Pictures

by Drew Martin
Yesterday I watched Words and Pictures, a romantic comedy set in a private high school in Maine in which a disheveled, middle-aged English teacher declares war on a demanding, middle-aged Art Honors teacher. Conceptually, the war is between words and pictures, and which has more impact. The battleground is the works of the two teachers and their students but it affects the whole school and it energizes the complacent kids to dig a little deeper in their minds and hearts. Unfortunately, the movie itself doesn't get very far beneath the surface of the topic because it is too general, safe, and obvious. At times it seems like it is trying to be Dead Poets Society; some references are blatant. None-the-less, I thoroughly enjoyed it as a summer watch and appreciated the attempt.

Both of the teachers are past their prime. The English teacher, played by Clive Owen, is a "drunken, art-wrecking bastard" according to the Art Honors teacher, played by Juliette Binoche, who he calls an "ice-cold bitch." His belligerency and inability to write a decent poem again is paired with her disabilities from rheumatoid arthritis.

One nice aspect of the film is that Binoche does more than just dabble at the easel. In one of the more dramatic painting scenes she lays her belly on a swivel chair and paints with the swing of the rotating seat. In another moment she uses a huge brush that hangs from a boom and has a counter weight. The setup is after a painter friend: Fabienne Verdier but all the work in the film is by Binoche.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Embedded Memories at the Hudson Park Branch of the New York Public Library

by Drew Martin
I have a new show up at the New York Public Library from June 29 - July 31, 2015.

Here is my blurb:

Embedded Memories is a show by the artist Drew Martin (b. 1969) about childhood dreams in the most literal sense. The work consists of three 4’x8’ panels of vintage sheets and pillowcases from his childhood with prints of Walt Disney characters, the Peanuts gang, Star Wars, Raggedy Ann and Andy, and the Bernard Kliban tabby cat with red sneakers. 
A fourth panel displays a Thomas the Tank Engine sheet and pillowcase from the early childhood of his own kids.

From a graphics point of view Martin has always appreciated the scale, imagery and daily exposure of these linen prints. Psychologically, he likes how they are part of our culture’s “sweet dreams” send off each night for little kids separated from their families by the dark solitude of the night.

Embedded Memories is Drew Martin’s third show in five years at the Hudson Park branch of the New York Public Library. The first show, TogetherAlone, in 2010, included 40 of his small, black line drawings, some of which were made in the library and referenced the people around him. For the second show, Under the Hood, in 2011, he displayed 250 black and white photographs he took of people who live and work in the neighborhood. The photographs were hung on clotheslines that were stretched across the room.

For this Embedded Memories show Martin first started by thinking about the optimistic energy of the colorful Keith Haring mural just outside the museum above the public pool, and tried to maintain that spirit with these wall hangings.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

What is Pussy Riot?

by Drew Martin
Yesterday I watched Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer on Netflix, which focuses on the crash show of the collective punk band Pussy Riot at the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour on the bank of the Moscow River in 2012, in which they shocked the members of the church with their performance and lyrics that included, Shit! Shit! It's God's shit!

This church, in particular, has a lot to be sensitive about. It was built from coins scraped together by peasants in 1812. After the 1917 Bolshevik revolution and their anti-religious policy it fell into disrepair, was defaced and finally it was imploded in 1931. A public swimming pool was built in its place but after the collapse of the Soviet Union the cathedral was rebuilt.

Even though Russia is a secular state, the Christian Orthodox Church has a great pull on many of the citizens and the 
Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, which Putin attends, is criticized by the band as a place where the church and state has been fused together.

So Pussy Riot, which was born out of the disruptive performing arts group Voina (War), saw it as a place fit for their intervention. They barely got started when they were dragged out by security. Three members were caught and charged with hooliganism.

Two of those members, 
Nadezhda "Nadia" Tolokonnikova and Maria "Masha" Alyokhina received two year terms at separate penal colonies. While a third member, Yekaterina "Katia" Samutsevich, was released after seven months, which is when the film is wrapped up.

Tolokonnikova, pictured left (top), kissing the female policewoman below that, nude in the center of the third picture down, on the left in the trial cage, and bottom - left in the still from House of Cards (season 3, episode 3) was the leader of the group, and part of Voina, as was Samutsevich, pictured far right in the trial cage.

Two of the previous performances by Voina covered in the film (to give some background of some of Pussy Riot's key members) were Kissing a Cop, in which women from the group aggressively threw themselves at female Russian policewomen and smooched them. The act, they said was to sexually liberate the militant officers.

The other performance was the flash romp in 2008 where members stripped down and had sex in the Moscow Biological Museum. The eight-month pregnant 
Tolokonnikova participated with her husband and father of that child, Pyotr Verzilov. Verzilov, who speaks English quite well, became an international voice for Pussy Riot while his wife and other members were detained for their trial and eventual imprisonment.

The still from the House of Cards episode here shows 
Tolokonnikova, Verzilov, and Alyokhina, (who is also sitting next to Tolokonnikova in the trial cage). This kind of popular fame seems like a hollow, plastic consolation prize for their original revolutionary cause, and raises the question if the kind of attention they seek is more of a desperate cry to be noticed, especially by Tolokonnikova who grew up in a broken home, than a true protest. Although they took political aim against Putin's totalitarian regime, they ended up as marketing propaganda for Madonna, and a stylized punk-feminist facade.

Watch the trailer: 

Tuesday, June 16, 2015


by Drew Martin
I am most proud to be American when I am watching Eurovision, the annual music competition between countries (mainly European) in the European Broadcasting Union. It's always mesmerizing how cheesy it gets, and surprising the larger and richer the country, the worse the entry.

I wrote about 2014 Eurovision last year and a lot has changed since then. Poland, by biggest contrast, rebounded from the most provocative showing last year to something much more tasteful. This year's song In The Name of Love was not very good but it was classy. Monika Kuszyńska belts it out from the floor in a white dress, not because she is that casual: she was paralyzed from the waist down from an automobile accident in 2006.

I seem to have a Slovenian fetish because I keep finding things I love about that culture. I liked this year's pop song Here for You by the husband and wife duo, Maraaya. The name is a truncation of their names 
Marjetka and Aleš "Raay" Vovk. It also means - she has Raaya. Their song is poppy but Marjetka seems to bundle Amy Winehouse and Barbra Streisand with a Slavic twist.

The biggest surprise and hands down the best performance was by the Finnish punk band whose members are either autistic or have Down Syndrome: 
PKN (PERTTI KURIKAN NIMIPÄIVÄT) with their song Aina mun pitää (I always have to...)

Here are the lyrics:

I always have to clean...
I always have to do the dishes
I always have to work
I always have to go to the doctor
I am not allowed to go to the computer
I am not allowed to watch television
I am not allowed to see my friends
I always have to be at home
I always have to do chores
I always have to eat well
I always have to drink well
I can't eat candy, drink soda
I can't even drink alcohol
I always have to rest
I always have to sleep
I always have to wake up
I always have to shower

The fact that they did not qualify for the finals of 2015 Eurovision is totally outrageous.

The winning entry was a safe song by Sweden's Måns Zelmerlöw called Heroes with the main lyric "We are the heroes of our time..." It's typical mindless pop that puts a nail in the coffin of the overuse and misuse of the word hero.

The most disappointing thing about Eurovision is the overall blandness of it, with little effort to take chances. In one way, Eurovision is a guide to Europe (and the other countries that enter the event). I use it to think about which countries I would want to visit/revisit. From this approach I would have written off Sweden (and I have been before) but fortunately some Swedes captured my attention again through the film We Are the Best!, which like PKM, keeps punk alive. From a site about the film:

We Are the Best! is a story of three young misfit girls growing up in the early ‘80s Stockholm. Pixieish, mohawk-sporting Klara and her best friend Bobo are 13-year-old rebels looking for a cause. Despite having no instruments—or discernible musical talent—the two put all their energy into forming an all-girl punk band, recruiting their shy, classical guitar-playing schoolmate Hedwig as a third wheel. With tender affection for its young characters, We Are the Best! paints a joyous and sharply observant portrait of the rebellious spirit of youth and growing up different. 

Watch the 2015 Eurovision song entry recap:

Watch PKM perform I Always Have To with English subtitles:

Have a look at this interview with PKM on Consequence of Sound:

Watch the trailer for We Are the Best!:

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

The Bad Side of Good People and the Good Side of Bad People

by Drew Martin
I watched two documentary films in the past month that explore violence from completely different angles: Dawg Fight by Billy Corben and Into the Abyss by Werner Herzog.

Dawg Fight, which takes place in a poor neighborhood of Miami-Dade County, Florida, harnesses the organized violence of backyard ring, bare-fist fighting as a way out of the random violence of poverty. The star of the film and hero of the community is the hulking Dhafir “Dada 5000” Harris who arranges the events, pep-talks the fighters, and makes sure the fight is fair so that the best man wins.

The other film, Into the Abyss, is less brutal but much more disturbing. Herzog's closeup look at two young Texans in prison for a triple-murder. One of the men is on death row, and executed by the conclusion of the film. Herzog interviews him days before this. He also interviews a partner in crime who is serving a life sentence. As always, Herzog is tasteful and contemplative. You see this with the respect his subjects grant him even though they could rebuff - this is none of your business. 

When I watched both of these films, I thought about the guileless foreigner who would be shocked by the state of the communities and the degree of violence shown in each of these documentaries, but the truth is I cannot think of bigger-picture portrayals of America that could be more honest than the microcosms of these two documentaries.


Full movie;

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Art Everywhere

by Drew Martin
I took a walk at lunch today to check out the bitforms gallery on Allen Street in the Lower East Side. I had seen a picture online of stuffed, robotic penguins being set up for an exhibit and that naturally caught my attention. They are part of Descent with Modification by Daniel Rozin. Here is an extreme truncation of their press release:

The exhibition features six installations that are shaped by Darwin’s breakthrough writings on evolutionary biology, particularly “On The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection” from 1859. Marked by a new visual emphasis on the mechanism of descent with modification, Rozin’s works are algorithmically based on the randomness of genetic drift.

Central to the exhibit are four software art installations that Rozin developed over a period of five years. In these works, programmed “evolutionary pressure” pushes the artworks to resemble the viewer’s mirrored image.

The largest work in the exhibition, Penguins Mirror is an installation scattered on the floor and comprised of 450 motorized stuffed performs an absurdly homogeneous system of movement...each penguin turns from side to side and responds to the presence of an audience. As they perform, the penguins’ collective intelligence is puzzling, yet somehow familiar, as the plush toys enact a precise choreography rooted in geometry.

PomPom Mirror...features a synchronized array of 928 spherical faux fur puffs. Organized into a three-dimensional grid of beige and black, the sculpture is controlled by hundreds of motors that build silhouettes of viewers using computer-vision. Along its surface, figures appear as fluffy animal-like representations within the picture the motorized composition hums in unified movement, seemingly alive and breathing as a body of its own.

The picture of the book with the butterflies and the eggs is a projected illustration of the Origin of Species, which digitally flips through its pages. This work is certainly an obvious overlapping of science and art, both of which are matters of keen observation. One thing that Darwin's expedition helped establish is that life is everywhere, and it expresses itself in a multitude of possibilities. I think the same can be said for art. On the way to and back from the gallery I was pleasantly overwhelmed by the sights and sounds of the Lower East Side, which included this art installation Uplift by Jarrod Beck in the Sara D. Roosevelt Park...

...this dapper dandy hipster in a colorful waxprint suit....

...this swath of fresh concrete (still being worked on at the far end)...

...and a serendipitous visit to this pop-up art space by the Berlin-based Circle Culture Gallery with these leather works by the Austrian conceptual artist Anneliese Schrenk.

Left To Our Own Devices

by Drew Martin
There is a great space on Varick Street a block from my work that I have somehow missed for more than a year. GEARY, which is owned and run by Dolly and Jack Geary is literally a few steps up from neighboring galleries. It is on the corner of Varick and King Street in SoHo, but this former deli space is raised several steps above the hubub without disconnecting you from it. When I noticed GEARY yesterday, I thought it was closed since the lights were not on - the artist on view wants it that way; natural light only.

The current show of David Goodman, Apparatus, is a combination of colorful, shredded paper "paintings", a number of curious wooden objects he calls devices and a backroom projection collage of colors and objects fastened to the wall.

I like most the intimacy of the projection room and the devices. Some of them are constructed to a point of teetering. As a departure from Calder's stabiles (his counterpart to mobiles), these works could be labeled unstabiles

I like how Goodman creates them as apparatuses for connecting one to art. For me they are between a shaman object (without an element of worship) and what Clarke attempts with his monoliths in 2001, which are placed on Earth and beyond to educate/advance apes, then humans to a higher level of being.