Interview with artist Albert Figurt

 

Albert Figurt is an Italian musician and video-maker who constantly tries to understand the way we look at things. Albert has been previously involved in Video Vortex taking part of the conferences in Split and Brussels in which he has always combined theory and performance as a way to creatively approach and express his ideas. Indeed, he creates video pieces in the form of video-essays, mixing theory, practice and creativity in order to reflect on the medium through the medium itself. Albert is interested in the very meaning of the frame in our actual context; a setting in which we find ourselves surrounded by an uncontrollable rise of visual information, continuously and obsessively composing  reality in which everything becomes susceptible to be filmed (and thus controlled) by the digital eye-mirror.

In “No dike can dam the streams of consciousness” (2005), one of his early video pieces,  Albert makes a very poetic video-travelogue around Amsterdam in which we can notice some of the main notions  that will be later employed in a bigger project called “Three studies on the hyper-gaze”.  During the last years Albert has developed this series consisted of three video-essays: Quixotic, Notre-Cam de Paris and Video Bacannalia.  ”Quixotic” (2009) is the result of a post-futurist marathon where audiovisual material has to be conceived, filmed, edited, scored & finalized in 48 hours (see Cinema_Solubile ). Profiting from the avantguard approach and setting, Albert came out with some sort of jazz-documentary: the idea behind it is to test an improvisational attitude related to audiovisual practice – as it happened with the jazz revolution in which on-the-spot solos brought music back to its original use as a playful and real-time art form. He considers this piece as a way to reflect on the future of visual communication, when video dialogues will probably become regular and real-time conversational practices, as well as immediate actions, much more subjected to the improvisation and therefore to an instant and spontaneous editing.

In “Notre-Cam de Paris“ (.pdf) (2010) Albert  shows the panorama of a group of tourists filming the interior rose window of Notre Dam in Paris. The spread of  digital cameras have given rise to a compulsive act of framing reality in which everything is now seen through the lens of the screen, turning the reproduction into something more meaningful than the reality itself. In this video Albert composes the rose window of Notre Dam by filming the camera screen of the tourists and thus creating a “centripetal” perspective of a single object. Besides, he looks into how tourists interact with their cameras in order to compose the perfect image that will transform that moment into an everlasting experience, an unforgettable memory that insinuates us to look at these devices as extension of a worldwide connected brain. Finally, in the project “VideoBacchanalia” (2011) -some sort of unusual theatrical backstage- Albert gathers all the mobile phone videos effortlessly realized by student/actors during a trip to Southern Italy in order to incorporate them lately in the architecture of the places while at a time respecting quality and size of the original footage.

In addition to this,  Albert explains in this interview some of his upcoming projects and current ideas in a sophisticated setting midway between analogical and digital and specifically created for this occasion. During the Skype interview, we experienced some video turbulences due to low quality wifi connection and the result it is a low resolution video which somehow tributes the  odyssey we frequently experience with  Skype video-chatting.

 

Cinemagraphs, an animated reality

In this post I want come back to Cinemagraphs and add some more thoughts about this visual phenomenon located halfway between photography, video and animation. Although Cinemagraphs might seem like a very novel visual case they actually have a lot in common with many of the characteristics of early cinema and animation; they both have been created to prove the illusion of motion itself, to cheat the eye and hypnotize the viewer. However, Cinemagraphs are some sort of animated photographs that are between the early hand-made animations of 19th century (the discovery of persistence of vision) and the notion of cinema as a registration of reality. As Lev Manovich notes, animation was put in second place after cinema took the role of documenting and capturing the “reality out there”, emphasizing the film as a registration of reality and thus generally creating audiovisual linear narratives that made us believe that what we saw was real. Nevertheless, with the birth of computer animation, there has been a turnaround to the extent that many of the audiovisual content we find online is more and more based on animation techniques that create cinema from a white canvas, like a painting procedure. Cinemagraphs are in between, they play the role of photographs that mirror “reality” but at the same time they are animated. They are thus an animated “reality” that proves the very nature of image as a representation, as a manipulated object.

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In order to manipulate and animate a digital image (for instance a Cinemagraph) we must divide it into layers and play with them, leaving some of 

picassothe layers static while applying motion to others; just like early animations consisted of a moving object/layer projected on a fixed background. This fact of deconstructing the image into layers has a referent in Cubism, the 20th century art painting movement undertaken by Braque and Picasso. The speed and technological progress of 20th century induced Braque and Picasso to represent the new changing reality in which they were living. They wanted to break with the predominant art conceived as an imitation of reality and promoted the art as a creation itself. The prevailing Renaissance perspective was frozen and fixed on a single point and did not adjust the experience of seeing; Picasso and Braque aimed to depict the process of observing representing both time and space on a single image. Consequently, they deconstructed the planes, portraying different points of view and multiple angles of objects simultaneously; apparently deformed but actually more faithfully represented in its entirety. Indeed, the fragmentation of the body and the space by means of decomposing the plane was an irrefutable influence from cinema.

Cinema created the illusion of a space that exists in time and Cubists portrayed the illusion of time through a physical space. Cinemagraphs have a bit of both, they transport the viewer to a sort of oneiric scenario and at the same time they originate an intense feeling of experiencing time. Just applying some of the cubist principles, deconstructing and animating a specific selection of the photography, the illusion of a eternal moment is created. They are fixed photographs that use a fixed point of view but they are alive because they create the illusion of both time and space. They freeze eternal moments and scenarios by means of fragmenting  a portion of “reality”. Cinemagraphs, like cubist paintings, are a conversation between reality and illusion, between the object of representation and its idea. They contain the realist photography and the animation, the frozen point of view and the motion, the single perspective and its fragmentation; Cinemagraphs are a cocktail of our way of our experiences of seeing, a representation that makes visible the power of its own medium.

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Some notes on Luminous Flux exhibition

 

Luminous Flux is the current exhibition at Arti et Amicitiae (Amsterdam) where you can see the works of seven London based-artists that focus their artistic practice on the interrelation between video, installation and sculpture. The exhibition proposes a linear walk through the pieces which are located in very spacious and individual rooms (except of two pieces) and separated each other with black curtains that create some sort of intimacy and curiosity towards the next room. Luminous Flux proposes new perspectives and uses for the digital image which being a serious responsible of shaping our contemporary reality needs thus to be re-thinked and creatively explored. Some of the artists present single channel videos with a more clear conceptual approach whereas other artists aim to create a space where the moving image is conceived as an integrated object that calls for a more active viewer who no longer follows a linear and passive visual narrative but who understands the moving image as an object itself. The pieces bring fresh insights about the current state of the digital image and deal too metaphorically with our multi-screen life characterized by expanding LCD structures.

Matthias Tharang (Germany) introduces us in the exhibition presenting his video piece “Strength through Joy” , a single channel video that shows several girls with long black hair and in white dresses playing heartily with a red balloon in a Swiss valley. The setting is portrayed as a very naïve scenario with apparently no possible threat around. However, while playing, the characters laugh and shout in an over-enthusiastic, exaggerated and annoying way for the viewer, turning the situation into something really odd. Indeed, the title of the video ‘Strength Through Joy” refers to the German “Kraft durch Freude” , the state-controlled leisure during the NAZI Germany.In the next room, Laura Buckley (Ireland) exhibits “The Magic Know-How”, a piece that combines video and sound with a sort of hypnotic and electric rhythm that rapidly gets into the subconscious of the viewer. Laura combines every day videos of her own life, with popular culture images and abstract compositions. As a result we find a colorful collage of moving images and a splendid soundtrack made in collaboration with musician Andy Spence.

Thomas Yeomans (United Kingdom) presents “A common future”, a single channel video in which both video and sound are created from web-sourced material. “A common future” is a very elegant and fine piece of the widely considered mash-up culture which is certainly dignified in this work. Thomas employs images from a very wide range of sources, from common YouTube home made videos to high quality images from documentaries, films or advertisements, all of them mixed composing a fabulous and quasi hypnotic visual rhythm. Images are displayed together with music and speeches that deal with very existentialist issues that reflect on the meaning of our digitalized life trapping the viewer in a very melancholic way. The capturing quality of this video paradoxically makes the viewer experience the contradictory feeling of sharing as well as rejecting what he/she sees. However, the viewer will most likely enjoy it and consequently assert the crude and tempted nature of our digitally represented life. “Common Future” deals with the apparent feeling of a global future, the technological illusion of having a common life.

Dorine van Meel (The Netherlands) , curator of the exhibition, presents “The Alarmed”: an installation composed of videos in black boxes, projections and sound. We find a very intimate room with a deep atmosphere where electric and moving colours invade us and where street sounds and texts such as “I find the thing you’re telling me extremely alarming”  float in the environment. Dorine establishes the room as the piece itself, a room in which the boundaries between light, video and sound blur. Dorine creates a particular atmosphere and prioritizes the sensorial experience of the visitor who will feel immersed in an absorbing environment. Ninna Bohn Pedersen’s “Milk” (Denmark) installation is made of fabrics that hang out from the ceiling, forming structures on which videos are projected, distorting the projections and creating geometrical shadows on the main composition on the wall. The videos show personal experiences of the artist that together with sound involve the whole space with an intimate feeling. Nina is probably the artist that more faithfully respects the exhibition statement of working between moving image, installation and sculpture. Nina shows moving images no longer held in the traditional rectangular/square screen but presents moving images as sculpture, integrated in the architecture and forming geometrical shapes that insinuate innovative ways of using video. This approach explores the very state of the digital image, which together with our intimate experiences, have all been already trapped by the digital and therefore moved to an hybrid and three dimensional virtual space; in this case, the fabrics hanging somehow suggest the expanding and networked condition of the digital image nowadays

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Ninna Bohn Pedersen’s installation

Finally, in the last room, David Ferrando Giraut (Spain) shows a single channel video titled “Loss”. “Loss” is a video essay that goes in depth to the meaning of the image itself. The video is a very poetic and subtle reflection on human fascination about images, an exploration on the human need to constantly picture our ideas and turn them into ideal entities. David describes the image as a temptation, a suspension in time that surfaces our deepest desires. He constructs a linear narrative using his parents’ super 8 film projector as starting point in order to create an essay full of symbolic referents . Although it keeps a more linear narrative and it is apparently less innovative than the previous works, David’s video is a very beautiful piece that closes the exhibition inviting the viewer to think about many of the concepts described before.

Vertical Cinema at Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam

 

Vertical Cinema comes to Amsterdam. The programme, comprising ten new 35mm films for a vertical Cinemascope screen, will be presented at the Stedelijk Museum over four consecutive nights. The screenings will be accompanied by expanded lectures and a workshop on the Synchronator device. Find full information in verticalcinema.org

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Vertical Cinema at  International Film Festival Rotterdam 2014. Photo by Pieter Kers

VERTICAL CINEMA LECTURES & SCREENINGS AT STEDELIJK MUSEUM AMSTERDAM 20-23 FEBRUARY 2014

Thursday, 20 February
20:00: Lecture by Philippe-Alain Michaud
22:00: Vertical Cinema screening
Philippe-Alain Michaud is film curator at the Musée national d’art moderne, Centre Georges-Pompidou, Paris.

Friday, 21 February
16:00: Lecture by Noam Elcott
18:00: Vertical Cinema screening
Noam M. Elcott (Columbia University, NY) specialises in the history of modern art and media in Europe and North America, with an emphasis on photography and film. He has published essays about James Welling, Man Ray, Moholy-Nagy, the London Film-Makers’ Co-op, and others, and is currently working on a book, provisionally entitled Artificial Darkness: An Art and Media History, 1876-1930.

Saturday, 22 February
16:00: Lecture by Erica Balsom
18:00: Vertical Cinema screening
Erica Balsom lectures in Film Studies and Liberal Arts at the Film Studies Department, King’s College, London, and is the author of Exhibiting Cinema in Contemporary Art (2013).

Sunday, 22 February
16:00: Lecture by TBC
18:00: Vertical Cinema screening

VERTICAL CINEMA SYNCHRONATOR WORKSHOP AT STEIM – 21 FEBRUARY 2014

The Synchronator device converts electronic audio signals into composite video signals. Designed by Bas van Koolwijk and Gert-Jan Prins in 2009, it has seen a steady growth in the number of users since then. During this workshop, we will introduce you to the background, techniques and use of this device for live improvisation and recordings. Each participant is invited to work with the Synchronator devices and television monitors, ask questions, and engage in hands-on experiments.

More information on the workshop and the instructors can be found here: www.sonicacts.com

Luminous Flux

 

Don’t miss this week the upcoming exhibition Luminous Flux at Arti et Amicitiae. The Private View is on Friday 14 February from 8 – 10. They have also organised a symposium on video art, new media and the changing status of the image after the internet on Sunday 16 February from 2 – 5 pm. See the full program of the Symposium below.:

 

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EXHIBITION

Private View Friday 14 February, 8 – 10 pm
After-party DJ Dog till 00.30 am

Exhibition 15 February – 23 March
Open every Tuesday – Sunday from 12 till 6p

 

SYMPOSIUM
Sunday 16 February, 2 – 5 pm, € 3,-

 

RSVP – limited seating

 

ARTIST DAVID FERRANDO GIRAUT: “ANTI-RUIN: CONTEMPORARY ART, DIGITAL IMAGE AND POLITICAL AGENCY”

 What strategies are to be used, from the field of visual arts, in order to effectively give visibility to the often self-obfuscating processes – socio-political, economical, cultural, technological, ecological, etc. – that shape contemporary reality? How can the new possibilities – aesthetic and ontological – offered by digital image be applied to such aim, as a tool for political agency?

David Ferrando Giraut is an artist/filmmaker based in London. He is currently a PhD candidate at Goldsmiths College. His work deals with the interweaving of time and images, of nature and culture; with transversality and the ruin. He graduated from an MFA in Goldsmiths College in 2008 and, more recently, took part in the LUX Associate Artists Programme, London. Among his recent exhibitions and screenings are: “Veraneantes” MARCO, Vigo (2013); “It´s a Place of Force”, part of REMAP4, Athens, (2013); MACO 2013, Mexico City; ARCOmadrid 2013; “Cristalino”, Galería Bacelos, Madrid and Vigo (2012); 41 International Film Festival Rotterdam (2012); “Swollen Jungle”, Union Gallery, London (2012); “The Fanstasist”, MACUF, A Coruña (2011).

 

FILM THEORIST LISA ÅKERWALL: “POST-INTERNET AND PRE-HOTEL: A CRITICAL POST-CINEMATIC AESTHETICS”

 This talk analyses post-cinematic aesthetic strategies such as the multiplication of perspectives and the manifestation of networked selves, as well as caricatured styles of speech, movement, and accelerated montage. Through this analysis Åkervall will show how post-cinematic video installations provide an affective cartography of early twenty-first century experience. The post-cinematic is not exclusively a function of screens or media, but can rather also be registered in changed relations to language, (self-)perception, and social relations incontemporary life. This examination of post-cinematic video installations offers clues for the description and analysis of the space of networks and flows characteristic of neo-liberal societies of control.

Lisa Åkervall is a postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Department of Film Studies at the Free University Berlin and a member of the Collaborative Research Center “Aesthetic Experience and the Dissolution of Artistic Limits.” She defended her dissertation “Becoming Visionary: A Pedagogy of Perception in Cinema” at the Free University Berlin in 2012. Her publications in English include: “Cinema, Affect and Vision” (in: Rhizomes 16. Special Issue: Deleuze and Film, 2008 http://www.rhizomes.net/issue16/akervall.html) and “Character-Witness, Actor- Medium” (in: Acting and Performance in Moving Image Culture. Bodies, Screens, and Renderings, 2012).

CURATOR AND WRITER MIKE SPERLINGER IN CONVERSATION WITH THE ARTISTS NINNA BOHN PEDERSEN, OLVER CASTEL, DORINE VAN MEEL AND THOMAS YEOMANS:

Mike Sperlinger is currently Professor of Writing and Theory at the Oslo Academy of Art. He was formerly the assistant director of LUX (www.lux.org.uk), a London-based agency for artists working with the moving image, where he worked for more than a decade. He has written for publications including Afterall, Art Monthly,Dot Dot Dot, Frieze, Radical Philosophy and Texte zur Kunst, and has edited books on early conceptual art and the idea of artists’ cinema.

(Arti et Amicitiae, Rokin 112, Amsterdam, www.arti.nl)

Memes for contemplation: cinemagraphs

 

Cinemagraphs are ones of those Internet memes that became really popular during 2013, however,  they are a very particular case: cinemagraphs are actually posing questions on the boundaries between photography and video and therefore coming up with a very fresh and needed perspective for digital aesthetics . A cinemagraph is something between photography and video and has GIF format, which means that is looped. Nevertheless, a cinemagraph has a very subtle and almost unnoticed loop that gives us the sense of being eternal, it is like a movement frozen in time but which you can actually perceive it in motion forever. New York City based photographer Jamie Beck and Web Designer Kevin Burg created (or popularized) them for the Fashion Week in New York (2013). Since the very first moment Cinemagraphs gave a very innovative and fresh impression along the Web, turning out thus to be a  big success and  being rapidly spread and appropriated by users in order to create their own ones.

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(Cinemagraph by Jamie Beck and  Kevin Burg)

GIFs and therefore Cinemagraphs can use up to 256 colours (not a very wide range of palette for digital images) meaning that they are normally composed by low saturation colours, resulting on a sort of a melancholic feeling when looking at them. This melancholy effect has at the same time  lot of to do  with the hypnotic effect of the loop, better described in an article written by Daniel Birnbaum about the work of the Dutch artist Marijke van Warmerdam, who employs the loop, thus repetition and lack of narrative as the main principle of her artistic work.

What these film loops offer is a mental state rather than a series of events. They convey a meditative, almost somnambulist, form of pleasure: nothing really happens, yet it’s hard to stop watching… Repetitive techniques have their uses in other fields, such as meditation and prayer, where certain types of monotonous iteration can be soothing and even soporific. Lullabies and hypnotism also follow this principle.

 

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Although he mentions this regarding to Marijke van Warmerdam’s,  this extract can be generally applied to GIFs and especially to Cinemagraphs. Indeed, it is inexplicably captivating the effect they provoke; cinemagraphs trap us and hold us looking at them for a much longer period that we are used to look at a single object in our hyperactive information society, they somehow remind us that we can observe something patiently and clear our mind. Cinemagraphs are about an state of mental silence, about an act of contemplation in our digital age. The hypnotic appearance of their visual repetitive rhythm  have also a lot in common with optical illusions, those mesmeric objects which using geometrical  and repetitive figures fool your mind with the sense of movement; and that’s be basis of animation and therefore cinema. In the following post I will come back deeply to all these notions going back to futurists and animation, meanwhile have a look at this documentary “Animated GIFs: the birth of a medium”  which concisely explains the main ideas of this new booming format; the GIF.

 

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(Optical illusion)

 

Trapped in repetition: reflections on GIFs and Peter Land

 

In the following posts I will focus on the spread of the video loop in our social networks, but in this post specifically I would like to look at one of the digital image formats that have gained a lot of popularity during the last two years;  the GIF.  TheGraphics InterchangeFormat is a bitmap image format created in 1987 which supports up to 8 bits per pixel and which is produced to create animations.  GIFS have been around for 25 years but it is social media that has brought It back to life in all its splendour thanks to its 12portability and compression. GIF  is embedded of a variable number of frames that play automatically one after each other  in order to create a senseof movement. This at the same time is looped, giving the impression of an everlasting  motion.This moving image format has recently given rise to all type of new tendencies among internet users and it has even aroused the curiosity of artists who use  it as an artistic expression itself.  We find one of the main reasons of its current success in Trumblr (a microblogging site) although they circulate in many types of platforms.

 It is in the constant repetition of the same clip (the same action, gesture) where I find some   parallels between GIFS and some of the early works of artist Peter Land. Peter Land is a Danish artist that works in a multidisciplinary range of techniques although I would just like to focus on the first videos he made in the late 90’s. For instance, in Pink Space  (1995) he plays the role of an artist who at the moment of going up on stage and sitting down,  falls down once and again. In the same way, in Staircase (1998), he appears falling down the stairs time after time as a sort of loop.

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As Peter notes during an interview,  the very first ideas behind these videos come from the influence of slapstick comedy in silent cinema, pointing out an example of an scene of Laurel & Hardy in which they had a massive pie fight at the end of the film. Under this premise, he wonders if it had been funny if the entire movie would had consisted of a repetition of the same gag: “And I started thinking… what if the entire  film would had only been about people throwing cakes into each other’s faces?  What about 100 scenes only with that, would it stay funny or would it turn into something else?

Peter Land’s work is also influenced by the Theatre of the Absurd  and the belief that human existence has no specific purpose or meaning. Indeed, one of its characteristics was to use repetitive actions to the point the play became absurd and thus meaningless.

I’m something quite different, a quite different thing, a wordless thing in an empty space, a hard shut dry cold black place, where nothing stirs, nothing speaks, and that I listen, and that I seek, like a caged beast born of caged beasts born of caged beasts born in a cage and dead in a cage, born and then dead, born in a cage and then dead in a cage, in a word like a beast Samuel Beckett , The Unnamable

Peter Land depicts all these ideas by isolating a gag (for instance, falling down the stairs) and then repeating it to the point it turns into something else that has nothing to do with the funny scene of the slapstick comedy. As a consequence, by decontextualizing , repeating and presenting it as a new object,  the action becomes something absurd, meaningless, without purpose and even sad,  as it represents a constant failure; a struggle that is never surpassed, submitted to the endless circle of repetition. It is the very idea of the progress what Peter Land explores in his videos. A man in a vulnerable situation that has to face his repetitive failures and accept the meaningless of his experience. In a great article about the power of the loop Chris Baraniuk writes:

The complete absence of teleology and catharsis within the loop destroys our sense of the self, our idea of progress, our intention to accomplish anything.

Repetition can be understood as an imitation of a gesture with a small variation, as happens with Peter Land’s videos, or as an exact replica of something , like a GIF.  The popularity of GIFs is spreading so widely that we can actually find all type of GIFs taken from a broad range of content:  movie scenes, music videos, YouTube videos etc. Anything now is susceptible to become a GIF: clumsy actions, accidents, violence, embarrassing situations, even the most unnoticed gesture in a movie.  Every clip now can be  looped to the point of absurdity,  banality and nonsense. The loop has the power to trap you, to absorb you, to get into your mind and don’t let you stop watching it, to manipulate its meaning  until it ends with it. Its  hypnotic appearance makes you enter in a sort  of meditation state with which we inexplicably empathize.

One of the blogs related to some of the previous statements and that I personally find hilarious is Whatshouldwecallme,  a blog made on Trumbl that uses GIFs to portray humorous moments of everyday life. GIFs are generally taken from movie scenes, TV series or animals and they go together with some text that  turns them into very funny clips.  Whatshouldwecallme portrays vulnerable situations in life in which we all sometimes find ourselves involved; embarrassment, exaltation of happiness, ridicule, clumsy gestures, exaggeration, anger, sadness, and so on. As happens with Peter Land’s  falls, Whatshouldwecallme represents these personal experiences of daily life in which we feel somehow absurd;  uncontrolled situations that portray human beings as meaningless and with which almost everyone empathize. Whatshouldwecallme is about playing “the loser”,  trapped in the loop of a fragile experience from which you can never get away, until it becomes senseless and then easily appropriated by humour.

“…it becomes about this very human condition of existence…it’s also very much about the loss of control, this feeling that you are not the master of yourself anymore, something from the outside is somehow interfering with you, not in the psychotic way, but more like in a social way that makes it impossible for you to feel that you are directing your own actions”  Peter Land

The border between comedy and tragedy is very thin, so is the line between absurdity and reasonability. The loop is here to question their own limits.

 

WHEN MY FRIEND ARE ALL JUST REALLY EXCITED

TO DO SOMETHING BUT I AM NOT JUST IN THE MOOD

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Interview with artist Ursula Endlicher

 

Ursula Endlicher is a New York based artist that works in the intersection between Internet, performance and multimedia. She is well-known for translating HTML language into movement in the form of choreographies although  she is generally interested in the new and possible ways of interpreting media systems and data. Ursula sees the World Wide Web as a live theatre play opened to the interaction of the audience and understands web interfaces as allegories of code.  Based on this principle Ursula constantly looks for the perfect web allegory with the aim of making link structures and web architecture more physical and as a way to  question the limits between the internet and the physical reality. Indeed, she translates web code into new and more creative experiences for the users and encourage them to get involved in the piece itself by submitting their own interpretations. Apart from carrying out live performances, theatre plays and installations Ursula creates online video archives; movement alphabets opened to the participation of anyone who wants to make grow this diverse reading of the web.

In one of her early pieces,  Singing Website Wallpapers (2007) Ursula  re-interprets the code of the three websites yahoo.com, msn.com and google.com as music an d visualization on printed patterns on wallpaper. The sound component is on real time while the wallpaper shows ¨frozen¨ source code of each website.

In this sense,  she creates the html-movement-library (2007), a library based on the html language <HEAD> <BODY> <TABLE> etc. that forms a physical alphabet of web code.  It consists of a web-based archive of short video clips and images that aim to visualize the architectures and language structures of websites from the user’s perspective. Using the html-library Ursula creates html_butoh (2007), a real time and web driven choreography of the “Global top 500″ websites using an open to participation clip data base. As part of the HTML library series she also creates  Website Impersonations: The Ten Most Visited (2006-2009)  a web driven performance series that enact 10 popular websites such as Yahoo or Google.

InterACTicons (2011)looks into the language of our social networks and its capability to predefine our online actions and determine particular social habits. InterACTicons  focuses on users’ behavior and asks people to rethink some common social networking terms –friend, like, share etc.- and assign them a new value. Users can submit their own “performative internet pictogram” and thus collaborate with the online library of our online activities. Apart from the online archive InterACTicons consisted of a workshop, an installation and a live performance.

Finally, one of her latest works, Dark and Light Networks(2011)  are two online weather data performances during sunrise and sunset in New York City. As Ursula writes in her website the two performances are inspired by the structures of natural networks and and affected by weather and environmental changes. It consists of virtual creatures impersonated  by the artist who performs “data dances” according to environmental data.

We have interviewed Ursula Endlicher through Skype to get a more clear sense of the ideas that move her to carry out such an imaginative work. The interview has been edited following Ursula’s ideas and  is supported with visual content of her libraries and pieces to help in understanding all these abstract notions. If you enjoy it, feel free to enact some tags and collaborate with the growing online library!

Interview with artist Erica Scourti

 

Erica Scourti is a London based artist who creates visual art projects mainly consisting of performative actions and audiovisual pieces that deal with the notion of self-mediation. She  explores the subject’s construction in the networked regime by means of looking into the not visible structures of the World Wide Web.  As a result, she is interested in the patterns that structure language in the Web and their capability to influence the self-determination of the users in a complex context of an individual but networked experience. Indeed, most of her works reflect on  image and text associations that, although seeming natural, have an unaware learning process behind; by submitting herself to this fact, Erica creates pieces with an intimate appearance and  a very subtle humour.

 In this sense  Erica constantly explores the idea of the authentic and the true-self , the self-definition in a massive reproduced and commodified system in which we have largely adopted instinctive branding attitudes.  This notion of authenticity is well examined in her work “Woman Nature Alone”(2010), an online video project in which she performs actions using titles from stock video sites corresponding to the words “woman”, “nature” and  “alone”.  For instance she performs the title “Success- Feel the power of your inner Balance”  in which Erica appears crossing a fallen tree in the nature. She later uploads up to  201 actions of titles to YouTube and  curiously  some of them  are  reused by unknown people to make their own content. What’s more interesting about “Woman Nature Alone” is that  she performs each action described in the title as instructions to the performer, playing with this tension between the computational language, the machine,  and the natural environment, as human, as a sign of the authentic, of the true-self. This work makes visible the influence of conceptual art on her work and specifically of Sol Lewitt‘s instruction art. Indeed, generally Erica’s work deals with his idea of  a machine that makes the art but mixing it with autobiographical content and subjective ideas.

 In  “Life in AdWords” (2012) she writes a daily diary over almost one year to her Gmail account, performing to her webcam the list of suggested keywords of ads.  ”Life in AdWords” makes visible the language algorithms used by Google in order to create ads using personal information.  By facing the camera and enouncing the words suggested,  Erica defines herself and shows an intimacy filtered by technology and market purposes. Another project that looks into these topics is “Modern War Trilogy” (2011) in which  the subtitles for the hard of hearing of three action films about war and conflict in the Middle East are used as starting point for a new search of videos on YouTube. The result is a video mash with all type of content that hardly has any link with the original movies but which  makes again visible some of the automated language processes and text  associations  in which online video is immersed. In one of her last works, Monkey Mind (2013) she makes a meditation Skype video journal with people that belong to Insight Timer app community.  She translates both her partners’ and her own meditation journals into computational voice, edits them and inserts them into the meditation video. The result is a meaningless meditation.

 We have skyped Erica Scourti and asked about all these issues.  Reflecting the nature of her work, in the first part we  carried out a kind of performative interview just proposing to her some of the main words found in her writings. She was not aware of the words before the interview so the result is a spontaneous chat arising from the very first ideas that came to her mind (#Authentic-self, #Language, #Algorithm, #Self-commodification, #Online video) In the second part Erica tells us about new media, her last summer project about Instagram Video and her future projects about Google Hangouts. (Sorry for the unexpected permanent mark in the videos “Call Recorder Demo”  -although considering Erica’s work, t’s an interesting coincidence-)

 

Video Vortex #9: The Hybrid Video Reader is here!

We have the proud to announce that the Hybrid Video Reader,  documenting Video Vortex #9 conference,  is finally completed and available here.

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 ”Available for the first time is an annotated timeline of the conference, which students, scholars and writers can skim through and quote from. The interface attempts to supply the user with as much cultural context and scholarly resources as possible, using embedded footnotes as well as online and offline references, thus creating an amalgam of both digital and analog reading cultures. We hope that in this way the digital presence of the conference will transcend the limits of a mere re-presentation, offering, rather, an augmented time-image of the event.

The hybrid reader grew out of the conference while it happened. InterLace, the platform upon which our reader is based, is an experimental user-interface for navigating, organizing and annotating large quantities of video on the web. Robert Ochshorn, the author of InterLace, presented at Video Vortex 9, inspiring the conference team to take up on his ongoing project and organize the video documentation of the event in one chronological timeline with annotations. We appropriated and further developed this interface together with Robert” (The production and editorial team: Vera Tollmann, Oliver Lerone Schultz, Boaz Levin and Filippo Spreafico)