Marco Brambilla, RPM, 2012. HD video with custom corian enclosure, mirrored interior.
1:50 minutes, loop. 8.4 x 10.6 x 4.8 inches (21.4 x 27 x 12.4 cm).
World on a Wire
Marco Brambilla, Daniel Canogar, Yael Kanarek,
Tim Knowles, Mark Napier, Casey Reas, Marina Zurkow
June 28–August 3, 2012
bitforms gallery nyc
529 West 20th Street, 2nd Floor
New York NY 10011
Text by Laura Blereau, excerpted from guide:
While the words “World on a Wire” trigger associations of the speed and frenzy of contemporary culture, as well as new modes of artistic production, they also comprise the title of a Rainer Fassbinder film that is set in a cybernetic laboratory. In his 1973 feature, Fassbinder transforms a potentially dry and hokey topic, computerized simulation, into an alluring universe filled with characters that are complicated, smart and glamorous. It is an apt choice for the title of bitforms gallery’s tenth summer exhibition.
Cybernetics is rooted in the handling of behavioral complexity in a system. While the day for considering works of art under this lens has long passed, the scientific field that Norbert Weiner and his colleagues at the Macy Conferences established in the late 1940s parallels the post-war cultural developments of American art history.
Expressionism, kinetic sculpture, conceptual art, and online practice all share a common ground in the way that they suspend time and movement. However abstract this connection may seem, the spaces explored by artworks enabled by new media place emphasis on relationships and behavior. Live elements encompassing sound, image, and even viewer participation, impact the dynamic fields that artists can create.
Some of the pieces in this exhibition play with the notions of simulation and automation. For example, a tree takes the place of a machine (if not the human hand) in Tim Knowles‘s drawing system Himalayan Pine #1. In the Process 18 diptychs by Casey Reas, a decorative and seemingly organic suite of pictures is derived from instructions that handle line and color value. In both, the artists’ final composition is determined in part by chance operations—one based on weather, and the other by computational randomness.
A project begun in 2002, Mark Napier‘s net.flag is a flag for the Internet. It is a public space that contains a constantly changing user-generated symbol of online nationhood. The piece profoundly considers impermanence, globalized online access, and the political transformations it enables. State-defined and linguistic borders also blur in Yael Kanarek‘s blood-red circular assemblage of text in five languages. In looking at these two pieces—and at Daniel Canogar‘s projection Asalto, in which human figures literally scale a wall—what comes to the forefront is collective human behavior, as manifested within a network. As evidenced by the Arab Spring, online access has certainly played a part in negotiating widespread social change during the last ten years.
At the same time, there is a certain madness that accompanies the modern obsession with convenience and accessibility. Marina Zurkow‘s animation, The Thirsty Bird, addresses this paradox, honing in on the tension between natural resource management and energy consumption. Also maddening, but in a completely psychological way, Marco Brambilla‘s RPM targets the controlled intensity of a race car driver. In its mazelike crystalline surface, reminiscent of Fassbinder’s lustrous film, figures dressed in white uniforms merge into an infinite space of the track, spectators and mechanical precision. Reflectively ordering its cinematic imagery, RPM also connects to visual simulation and the German director’s well-documented use of mirrors as a motif.
World on a Wire, Fassbinder’s 1973 film, is beautifully messy and impulsive. Like an art object, the human complexity it captures requires dialog and the physical process of viewership. It is a study in behavior—which is something all seven artists in this exhibition can relate to, albeit from another generation and perspective.
Laura Blereau is a curator and director at bitforms gallery nyc.