Media Transformations

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Week 6: February 18 – 24 (Adobe Connect)

A history of décollage, detournment, deconstruction, hactivism, and the remix brought up to present day digital media methodologies and real-time manipulation in live performance. This history includes the manipulation of the popular image as a critique of the “spectacle” of popular culture, through the appropriation of news, magazines, advertising, and current forms of mass media including the Internet.  We will review a broad range of works and genres from print to video to the Net involving viewer-participation. There will be an emphasis on contemporary forms of VJ/DJ culture, laptop performance, glitch, visual music, desktop performance, etc., and how these real-time media alterations blur the line between high and low cultures through their performance in venues ranging from clubs to museums to online platforms such as Skype and Livestream.

Schedule / Assignments

  • Tuesday, 2/18: Class meeting (8:00 PM – 11:00 PM, Adobe Connect)
    • Twitter usernames for Micro-theater project
    • Bi-weekly assessment reports / project feedback
    • Update WordPress linkback widget, bios and personal Website info, permalinks
    • Using the research posts to track and shape influences in the Project Hyperessay
    • Review project presentations for next week
    • Organize Skype sessions to discuss Project Hyperessay
    • Join and login to Livestream to access the The Post Reality Show / Media & Performance Lecture page
    • Presentation / discussion of Week 6: Media Transformations (including Livestream presentation)
  • Complete Part 3 of the Project Hyperessay: Role of the Viewer (see Project Assignments) (due February 25)
  • Prepare 5 minute presentation of final project idea for class: 3 illustrative images, video (optional): email media links to me: media due February 24, 10:00 AM, presentation due for class on February 25

Week 6: Hyperlecture

This is a glimpse of a video landscape of tomorrow, when you will be able to switch to any TV station on the earth, and TV Guides will be as fat as the Manhattan telephone phone book. – Nam June Paik

Historical background on appropriation, collage and the remix of popular media throughout the 20th century has played an important role in the history of the avant-garde. Beginning with Dada, through the movements of Surrealism, Situationism, and Pop Art, the mixed-media collage has been a vehicle for transforming painting, drawing, sculpture, photography, print, and other genres. The incorporation of newsprint, magazines, film, and later video and the Web, has been a source of inspiration for artists. And not just visual artists, but the history of contemporary music has been impacted through sampling and other audio collage forms through the appropriation of popular music and recorded sound. More recent popular music trends, such as hip-hop, dub, techno, ambient, etc., have relied heavily on appropriated sounds, and in turn, has influenced the styles and techniques of so-called serious music. Of particular interest in the context of net-based theory, is the appropriation of networked media, proliferating explosively,  from broadcast media to the Internet.

Robert Rauschenberg (1928-2008), Retroactive I (1964)

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While there are numerous examples of pre-electronic forms of collage in 20th century contemporary art, Robert Rauschenberg’s epic work of pop art, Retroactive I, is one of the classic collage works. In this work, Rauschenberg uses appropriated “found” images from newsprint (and television), focusing on silk screen as a medium for integrating mass media with painting.

Here is a description from the Wadsworth Atheneum:

Retroactive I  is widely considered one of the finest of Rauschenberg’s silkscreen paintings. Central to the work is an iconic portrait of President John F. Kennedy, a symbol of progress and promise. Ironically, Rauschenberg ordered the silkscreen of this image during the summer preceding the president’s assassination. He overcame his initial reluctance to use it following the trauma of November 1963, in part because he was committed theoretically to a non-hierarchical interest in all phenomena in the world around him. Nothing, however, can separate the power of this image from its emblematic reading as the embodiment of a national tragedy.

Note Rauschenberg use of the photograph of Kennedy, along with an astronaut associated with the space mission that the President famously supported during his presidency. The photographs are appropriated from newsprint, and inserted into the painting, layered with a more traditional, painterly gestural application. The combination of popular media and paint was highly influential at the time, a technique borrowed by many artists to this day as a way of injecting social and political issues and commentary into their work. Rauschenberg believed in the close relationship between art and everyday life, and through the collage of mass media with more traditional forms of art, he found a way of creating this connection.

Nam June Paik, Global Groove (1973)

Not long after Rauschenberg began experimenting with appropriated forms in his painting, Korean artist Nam June Paik took the lead from the pop art movement and incorporated many of its techniques and sensibilities into the emerging electronic art of the 1960s. Paik, who is considered the father of video art, used imagery from popular media as part of his own form of collage and appropriation.

One of Paik’s best known works created with the Paik-Abe synthesizer, which he invented along with the engineer Shuya Abe, is Global Groove from 1973. The video synthesizer was the first of its kind, used to generate collage effects through techniques of chroma-key, strobe, superimposition, color remapping, and other forms of synthetic manipulation of the electronic image. This work was Intended as a new kind of avant-garde television broadcast: Global Groove combined layers of synthesized material, Charlotte Moorman’s cello performance, and forms of music and dance from around the world. This was Nam June Paik’s realization of Marshall McLuhan’s prediction of the global village, the world united by electronic media.

In this excerpt from the work, video of two dancers is manipulated with 1960s pop music, simulating the aura of the popular dance programs of the era, such as American Bandstand:

Like Rauschenberg, Paik was also concerned with the blurring of art and everyday life, so-called high and low culture, avant-garde and popular forms, through the use of video. The 1960s and 70s saw the emergence of a global media culture through the expansion of television, and Nam June Paik captured this trend through his work. In many ways, Global Groove pre-dates MTV, which was to arrive about 10 years later, by defining the form of the music video. Paik pioneered the combination of past-paced editing, video manipulation, and rock music, with its high energy pacing, as a new artistic form.

The following is a documentary about Nam June Paik, which chronicles his later work, which would take form as large installations and video sculpture. This documentary features John Hanhardt, a Senior Curator at the Smithsonian American Art in Washington, DC, who is the foremost authority on the work and life of Nam June Paik.

Dara Birnbaum, Technology/Transformation: Wonder Woman (1978)

In the late 1970s, artists began to challenge broadcast television to create satirical works constructed with high-production values. Dara Birnbaum used video to challenge women’s issues in the male-dominated world of popular media. In Technology / Transformation Wonderwoman from 1978, she counters the depiction of women in the popular 70s television show Wonder Woman. Birnbaum parodies the show with her own image, as well as appropriated footage to undermine the intent of the program. Manipulating action footage in the form of looping repetition, the artist portrays a kind of spinning Wonder Woman doll, rendering absurd the action-narrative of the original show.

From the Website of Electronic Art Intermix:

Birnbaum has stated that she wanted to “define the language of video art in relation to the institution of television.” In her radical media critiques of the late 1970s, including the seminal Technology/Transformation: Wonder Woman (1978-79), she used rigorous tactics of deconstruction and appropriation to dismantle television’s codes of representation. Among the first artists to apply these strategies to subvert the language of television texts, she turned its vocabulary back on itself in a powerful critique.

Analyzing TV’s idiomatic grammar (reverse shot, cross-cut, inserts) and genres (game shows, sitcoms, crime dramas), she recontextualized pop cultural icons through fragmentation and repetition. She writes: “By dislocating the visuals and altering the syntax, these images were cut from the narrative flow and countered with musical texts, plunging the viewer headlong into the very experience of TV — unveiling TV’s stereotypical gestures of power and submission, of self-presentation and concealment, of male and female egos.” These ground-breaking works often focus on the representation of women.

The transformative quality of this video stems from the blur between the original and the manipulation. From the juxtaposed images of Dara Birnbaum to the appropriated Wonder Woman; as well as the mocking credits and post-show theme music, which has also been appropriated and manipulated, it becomes difficult to know for sure what is the original show and what is Birnbaum’s own manipulated version. The resulting work is the combination of the two, with the original exaggerated, re-exploited, and re-contextualized to become a parody of itself and an expression on the satirized feminist identity as portrayed in popular television culture.

Joan Heemskerk and Dirk Paesmans, jodi.org (1995 – present)

“We are honored to be in somebody’s computer” boast art collective Jodi.org in 1995, who early on in the age of the Web, instantly became the medium’s most celebrated and notorious artists. Their aim was to deconstruct the interface of the Web and reveal the code hidden beneath the surface. Their work essentially functioned as a viral entity that virtually embedded itself into the viewer’s own computer system, as the artists described: “We explore the computer from inside, and mirror this on the net. When a viewer looks at our work, we are inside his computer.’”

From my essay: net art as theater of the senses:

“We are honored to be in somebody’s computer” boast the Jodi authors Joan Heemskerk and Dirk Paesmans (hence the Jodi title), who have not only gone beyond the interface, they have abolished it. Jodi pages flash and burn, scrolling and displaying uncontrollable computer code, fragmented shards of interface elements (menus, buttons, etc…), code stripped bare of its functionality, a once symbolic language now transformed into a surreal magic theater of the absurd.

If you dare transform your Web browser into a theater of the unexpected, click on the any of the links above and you will discover a networked world in which the underlying code behind the html interface surfaces as an aesthetic abstraction of the code’s former functionality. The Jodi artists used the emerging medium to shock viewers: you will find on YouTube endless remixes of Jodi.org code created by those who have no idea what this new form of art represents. Jodi appropriated and remixed the code for their own artistic purposes, without reason other than to invent a new visual form, in which the syntax is made up of the symbols that form the language of the Web.

But this language is a powerful representation of the world of symbols that constitutes the fabric of our time. The following video excerpts were appropriated by myself from Jodi.org, which demonstrate the sheer beauty and visual power of their work.

Mark Amerika, Remix the Book (2010)

Mark Amerika (pseudonym) is one of the pioneering digital artists of our time. His classic work Grammatron was one of the first examples of hyper-fiction, and has influenced a generation of artists exploring non-linear forms of Web-based narrative. Originally an author of fiction books, Amerika’s interdisciplinary approach is firmly rooted in the written word, so it comes as no surprise that he would eventually publish Remix the Book. The hybrid publication, bridging print, Web, and other forms of multimedia, is an autobiographical testament to writing in the digital age, as well as a survey of the genre of the remix. Online there is a curated exhibition of digital remixes, from sound to word to video, which represent the leading edge of today’s remix culture and theory. Amerika has also published an online course, with a rich assortment of references to VJ / DJ culture, mass media appropriation, literary cut-ups (such as William Burroughs), hactivism, collage film, etc.

From remixthebook.com Website:

remixthebook is the online hub for the digital remixes of many of the theories generated in the print book and features the work of artists, creative writers and scholars for whom the practice and theory of remix art is central to their research interests. remixthebook author Mark Amerika, along with co-curator and artist Rick Silva, has invited over 25 contributing international artists, poets, and critical theorists, all of them interdisciplinary in their own practice-based research, to sample from remixthebook and manipulate the selected source material through their own artistic and theoretical filters. Go to the remixes—>

The following three projects are some of the highlights from Remix the Book:

(1) Yoshi Sodeoka, An Artist Yapping About Some Art Stuff X4:

In this single-channel video art work, New York-based artist Yoshi Sodeoka remixes Mark Amerika’s remixthebook. Says Sodeoka: “Commissioned to make a video art piece to accompany Mark Amerika’s upcoming remixthebook, I received a half hour of green screen footage of the author speaking about remix culture. I was too impatient to sit through it and understand what Mark Amerika had to say. In fact, I’m not sure what this whole thing is even really about since I didn’t watch the whole thing. I’m not trying to say that the footage of Amerika’s speech is dull. I’m just lazy and have a short attention span. In fact, I probably won’t even read the remixthebook. So, really, this video piece is about me slacking.”

(2) Will Leurs, A Pixel and Glitch Hotel Room:

In this work of experimental video remix art, Portland-based artist Will Luers remixes Mark Amerika’s remixthebook. Luers writes: “I was in a hotel room, switching channels, thinking these thoughts when I picked up my camera and began recording the surface of the TV.  Pixel and glitch aesthetics weaken the spell of the digital image, but open so many unexplored possibilities of language/image construction. This is exactly the space where Mark Amerika works. Post-production is a decomposition and re-compostion, in my case through a randomly generated grid, until a concept, a pattern or design finds its form.”

(3) Craig Saper, Saper’sFluxedPaikinAmerika: A remix of remixthebook

Jon Cates, Institute for the Animated Glitch (very recent)

From the Artist’s Website:

Jon Cates, a new media artist, has been collecting and making animated GIFs since 1996, and he’s gearing up to open his Institvte for the Animated GIF. Cates conceives of this private collection as beyond an archive; it is also an institution that will hold workshops and educate about GIFs through exhibits and interviews with makers. Cates, like Fleischauer and Lazarus, is interested in situating animated GIFs among early advancements in cinema and, more broadly, amid the entire digital revolution.

Jon Cates has invented his own glitch-activated world of what he calls “dirty new media.” Unlike the slick interfaces and narratives that tend to cross our screens on a daily basis, to enter Cates’ world is to plunge into a sea of pixels, swirling and animating endlessly and seemingly needlessly. But not at all, for here is the Dada artist of the digital age. Nonsensical, but powerfully directed art that excavates the world we live in but never have time to investigate as thoroughly and obsessively as Cates. To go through Cates’ sites is like entering a basement of endless stuff. Once you lose your fear of getting lost amidst the rummage, it becomes a playland of endless possibilities, a magic theater of strange spinning things, raw code, jumbled up texts, and wild, wacky, wondrous world of digital nothingness. About as nothing as nothing could be until you realize its all part of something so grand and wonderful you have to just stop and absorb it all.

Website (Tumblr)

A collection of animated gifs from the artist’s Websites:

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LIVE DESKTOP PERFORMANCE IN THE THIRD SPACE

And lastly, a real-time monologue by Jon Cates, a glitchy, cut-up, improvised, live desktop performance of media moving across his online path, performed via Skype to remote audiences (perhaps the artist was remote as well?) in the third space.

BOLD3RRR… Realtime: Reflections and Render-times – jonCates (2012): jonCates reflects on Realtime across international timezones. Rendering Time in fragments, errors and overlaps, jonCates plays with recursivities. These feedback loops merge personal data and swim in associations from Chicago to Taipei to Boulder and back again. Realtime: Reflections and Render-times by jonCates (2012) was performed live via Skype for MediaLive 2012 at Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art, July 14, 2012

Randall Packer, The Post Reality Show (2011- )

We will further explore the idea of “live desktop performance in the third space” with a demonstration of techniques I am using for The Post Reality Show, a project that has been in development for over three years. In this project, I have transformed my studio into a stage set for live Internet broadcasting, much like a television or radio “studio,” conceived as a space for live performance. It is a prototype of what I consider a future trend in media performance, where artists will perform directly from their studios, giving audiences a direct view or conduit into the creative process. Drawing from live television, clips of video and music, Web pages, social media feeds, multiple live cameras, etc., the work explores our saturation in media consumption that ultimately blurs the distinction between what is real and what is not: hence, the post reality.

To begin this session, we will switch from Adobe Connect to Livestream. “New Livestream” is a platform that simplifies the configuration of encoding and broadcasting live HD video at 720p to a Web interface. The broadcast is located at this location on the Livestream site and is viewable in a window on The Post Reality Show Livestream page. Everyone will need to do the following to view the remainder of the lecture:

  • We will switch from Adobe Connect to Livestream when I launch the page for the Media & Performance Lecture via Livestream
  • Join Livestream by clicking on the green “Join” button, where you can sign-in through your Facebook account
  • Once you have joined, click on the follow button of The Post Reality Show
  • Type into the chat window to let me know if you are receiving the broadcast (you may have to wait for about 10 seconds)
  • If you are having bandwidth problems, if the video doesn’t start, exit Adobe Connect
  • You should now be ready to watch the live HD broadcast from my studio, which should be playing on the Media & Performance Lecture page
  • You can continue to chat while I am broadcasting in the Livestream chat window
  • If you want to make the video window larger in order to see better, in the lower right hand corner there is a menu with three icons, click the one in the middle to expand the image
  • The right icon is a popup window, which I don’t recommend using
  • If you are having technical problems with Livestream, type in the chat, or go back to Adobe Connect and type a message in that chat window. I will be monitoring both.
  • The image below is similar to what you will be seeing during the Livestream broadcast:

Livestream_Screenshot 2014-02-15 17.05.06

Once you are viewing the broadcast in Livestream, I will take you on a tour of my studio, configured for Internet live performance. You will first see me at what I call the “writing desk,” where I face the camera, deliver monologues, and operate the main switching of cameras and desktops via software and wireless controllers. Here are the controls I operate at the “writing desk”:

  • The Blackmagic ATEM Software control (Blackmagic information)
  • Switch between screen and main / side cameras, as well as live cable television
  • Switch to my desktop at the writing desk
  • Still images for program identification
  • Virtual audio mixer in Digital Performer (Digital Performer information)
  • Switch to the desktop at the mixing desk.

P1010450

The next image is the “mixing desk,” where video and audio is produced and performed with a variety of MIDI controllers. On the two screens are software applications for video (Resolume Avenue) and audio (Ableton Live) manipulation and mixing. I have since replaced Resolume Avenue with VDMX, video / VJ software we are using this semester. On the large projection screen is the live imagery broadcast via Livestream. Here is what I will discuss at the “mixing desk”:

  • Switch between mixing desk overhead cam and other visuals
  • Overview of the controllers on the mix desk: APC20, APC40 (Akai APC40 information)
  • Native Instruments Maschine drum machine (Maschine information)
  • Dual computers, monitors, keyboards

Studio_P1010520_full

The Live Desktop Stage / VDMX

At the mixing desk, VDMX is used to create a live desktop background image, in which an overhead cam tracks my movements. On top of this perspective of the artist working, various types of visual material are overlayed, mixed and manipulated on the desktop for real-time manipulation of video, graphics, audio, and textual material. A few topics regarding VDMX:

VMDX & Time

With VDMX, I can apply rhythmic controls to the manipulations, timed to a beat, a measure, an LFO (Low Frequency Oscillator), a step sequencer, or an audio analysis of incoming sound. These techniques integrate the visual composition with musical time in order to coordinate the visual media with the music. Other types of control include MIDI controllers such as the APC20 or wireless control using the Lemur app for iPad. The use of VDMX for controlling media in time:

Ableton Live

I am demonstrating Ableton Live as a tool for remixing audio sounds. For this session, I am using Stelarc’s diabolic sounding laugh as the material. What is of particular interest about Ableton, is the ability to work with audio, manipulate its content, organize it compositionally, all while working in real-time. We saw this in Jon Cates’ performance, in which he was creating a sound piece in Ableton Live while he was giving the performance of creating the sound piece. Ableton is designed specifically for this purposes, in which the playback of the material is integral to the compositional process: the two take place simultaneously without having to pause. A few techniques for manipulating audio in Ableton Live:

  • load audio file into ableton
  • cropping audio
  • warping and time stretching
  • follow actions for generative music
  • slice to new MIDI track
  • looping and setting time markers
  • simple and filter delays
  • the compressor

Here are a few Ableton Live Getting Started Tutorials for further study:

Finished Work

Exit Livestream by closing the browser tab and return to Adobe Connect. We will close this session by viewing a short piece I created that demonstrates a finished work that was created using Resolume Avenue and Ableton Live without any post-production. The work, entitled Happy Immersion, was performed, manipulated, and recorded in real-time.

Following this presentation via Livestream of my studio process, we will begin a series of sessions covering these tools. I will continue this presentation next week. If you have specific interests in VDMX and Ableton Live, please send me suggestions for the next presentation. I will cover many of the same techniques in more detail. This presentation was intended as an overview. I will provide a recording of today’s Livestream session so you can review the techniques and concepts I covered.

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