Sunday, June 26, 2016

Currents 2016

Late to the party yet again but we were not in town for most of this show which lasted just 3 weeks.  Every year there is a New Media show with artists from all over the world.  See my Missive from last year.  The most important thing to repeat is that New Media is a 21st century term that translates as where art meets technology.  This means that it is much more interactive than a traditional art exhibition and could not be more different.

The main show is always at El Museo Cultural de Santa Fe known simply as El Museo.  Located in a former warehouse, the organization has a large permanent collection of art from local and international artists which is rotated regularly in a small gallery but the larger space is available for outside fairs.  They also have a black box theater.

Going into the Currents exhibition I find a disorienting experience because you go into a totally black space lighted only by the individual exhibits, which are usually moving and flashing everywhere.  Since I am not as steady on my feet as I once was, I walk very gingerly.  Then like an oasis you encounter an exhibit that intrigues and usually there are chairs or even a couch you can observe from.  If only more traditional museums and exhibitions would learn from this.  Often there are earphones for audio connected to the exhibit which I find sometimes adds and sometimes detracts from what I am watching.

This little Robot roaming around, it seemed within a limited radius suddenly grabbed my leg!
It let go quickly but I was surprised.  In fact I totally forgot to look at the label to identify the artist!   When I returned to the exhibition a few days later the tank shaped robot was not there but I learned it was also the Currents’ mascot and its name was Stanley made by Michael Schipling of Santa Fe.

“Nowhere Near” (2015) by Sarah Choo Jing  from Singapore is a bit easier than some to relate to.  Here are two street scenes where you have to look everywhere in the moving image or you might miss something.  In the first you see some action in two places and in the second part the only action is a woman in a window who I believe is washing her hair in the shower.  There are other scenes as well which force the viewer to concentrate and keep looking at the image in order not to miss something.

A new technology has arrived in the last few years at least commercially speaking and that is Virtual Reality.  With the right goggles and video you can look at a 3D image not only in front of you but also all around as well as above and below by simply moving your head and turning around.   As this develops it will bring us some fascinating material which could scare the hell out of us in a horror movie or help in our understanding of an historical event.  What knowledge you could absorb and observe if you could be in the middle of the second Continental Congress of July 2, 1776 and knowing the Declaration of Independence was going to be issued on July 4, listening to the arguments both pro and con about separating ourselves from the Crown!  There were several virtual reality experiences to be had at Currents.  I watched “Hypnagogic Hympnopompia” (2015) by Reilly Donovan of Seattle, Washington.  At first I thought the title was nonsense syllables, but, thanks to Google, I learned that it had to do with hallucinations during sleep.  This made sense as I as saw objects floating and moving all around me.  You need goggles and earphones to get the full effect but here is a video showing how you could use your hands to move around the scene.

We went with an old friend from New York, a museum designer who has worked at museums around the world, Clifford LaFontaine.  He found many of the entries rather superficial and not original.  I have picked as an example “New Millennium Workout Routine” (2014) by Yaloo from Chicago, a parody on our obsession with exercise.

Clifford’s favorite was by Yang Yongliang “Code and Noise: Rising Mist” courtesy of Duval Contemporary.  The video image is done in the traditional style of Chinese painting and calligraphy.  It is about “the devastating effects of uncontrolled urbanization and Industrialization” but it also resembles a traditional Chinese landscape painting.  In my short video there is not enough time to see how the mist starts to rise eventually enveloping the entire landscape.  You can see, however the 3 waterfalls and at the lower left the cars on the highway and the bridge.  You will probably spot moving images I have missed.

I have always believed that art is a qualitative term and just being able to put paint on canvas or throwing a pot does not make one an artist.  The work has to reach a certain inspirational level.  I am still working on how much of what I saw at Currents qualifies but the search has been enjoyable.  Next year we will have to get to some of the other Currents events all around town.

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