Sunday, September 06, 2015

Art Comments Interview with James Fuentes

written and edited by Jeff Grunthaner and Peter Duhon in New York

If the sense of beauty has anything to offer us, then we have to bracket the kind of moralism that reduces pleasure to utility, considering instead the utopian potentials delineated by works of art as intimations of new societal relationsIt’s both paradoxical and frustrating that most galleries are shells. 

Your typical art-intoxicated night out resembles nothing less than ghostling swarms of embryos darting in and out of galleries, as though to incarnate themselves by inhabiting somemomentary carapacebecoming a kind of hybrid species physically branded by the sites they’ve visitedEconomics play a heavy hand in this. 

Whatever aspirations artists and curators come to NY with, they inevitably get caught on the pneumatic grid of money, which confines their ambitions like an ether, inverting their interest in art into to that form of interest reserved for fiscal concernsBut if works of art are externalizations of desire, dominated by the pleasure principlethere should be a way to use what’s best in the aesthetic experience (fun) to create a corresponding threshold that allows art to thrive in aatmosphere conformable to the most receptive experience possible.


I think James Fuente’s gallery is accomplishing this, however asymptotically. Fuentes’s gallery is superfluid. It’s not so much the quality of the works that exhibit there, as the variations that obtain from show to show which interest me the most. I’ve seen shows composed of gutted walls of exposed electrical wiring, video pieces that focused on the healing powers of the abject, and group show that felt weirdly compelling despite the sprawling dissimilarity of the art objects on exhibit

A vaguely assuming exterior of green brick opens onto a long hallway, which to your right gives way to the large main gallery. There’s a back room, also, which for the moment functions as a public viewing space (Fuentes often has two shows exhibiting simultaneously), but which will by and by be reserved for private viewings only.


There are no windows in the gallery, which permits the construction of light to become characteristic of the works on display. The walls are white; but one can imagine them painted black or green or any other color, as though to foster a more variegated sense of the architecture itself. I feel there’s a relational quality born from all this, from the space itself: a myriad substance that can be predicated in a multitude of different ways. 

There’s the sensation that accompanies you as you’re leaving Fuentes’s space, which is less like entering into another world than into the geographic specificity of the LES itself. The way the space manages to capture a kind of regionalism in its exhibitions of art objects and performances, while not condescending to a DIY or historicized aesthetic, is genuinely contemporary. I think it’s this sense of the genuine that I’m trying to describe here. Isn’t this what art is designed to achieve?


How do you conceive of your programming in relation to the environing neighborhood?


The gallery program is very much its own organism. However, a characteristic of what we try to do is hold a mirror to what’s immediately outside of the gallery, and this can tap into a current or historic narrative. This is an effort to situate the physical gallery in its immediate geography and be mindful of its location, street, neighborhood, and community. 


Is there any way the structure of your gallery reflects its organization? For example, are different people allotted different areas to work in?


​There are only three full time staff members right now so we all work together on everything.


Describe the transformation that has undergone in your space over the past two years. What motivated this? Do you think your current space gives artists exhibition opportunities they might lack elsewhere?


​We were on Delancey Street for five years, in a space that we were starting to outgrow. The space next door became available, so we recently expanded into there.  We underwent a gut renovation so have a brand new facility, so to speak. Stephanie Goto was the architect. The expanded gallery offers much more to the artists. For the first year in our new space we have intermittently been programming our viewing room and calling that zone Allen & Eldridge. It was important for me to be able to introduce new artists and points of view to the gallery in the first year, and this was a good way to do that.


As a curator, what is the ideal exhibition you would personally aspire to?


Aspirations in that regard change all the time.


At what moment, or during what incident or exhibition, did you notice that you were starting to outgrow the former space?


What prompted my expansion was not outgrowing the old space so much as realizing that I needed to take action on an opportunity that presented itself when the space next door to the gallery became available, the location and space really suited us as it was and the idea of more than doubling the space without having to move was exciting.


In your opinion, how does art relate to life? Do you think the walls of a gallery prevent art from entering into daily life?


Ultimately, the walls of the gallery give us a good barrier to push against or operate within to aspire to make compelling exhibitions/environments. We now all have access to seeing art in daily life. I am not saying it’s the same thing, but I no doubt see more artworks on Instagram than in galleries. I think that invisible barrier between art and everyday life—let's face it, that "barrier" is education—continues to erode the more information is accessible through these means. Galleries are free and open to everyone. In fact, we should probably put a sign up out front and see if that welcomes more people to come in!

The next solo exhibition at James Fuentes LLC will feature work by John Mcallister. It opens on November 13th.  

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Interview with AudioVisualVenue

Interview by Benton C Bainbridge in New York

AudioVisualVenue (AVV) is a collective of Chinese media artists who jointly exhibit their work. AVV's goal is to redefine relationships between audiences and content within traditional theater and gallery environments. AudioVisualVenue presented the work of artists Song Yunling (Tracy), Cao Yuxi (James) and Raven Kwok from July 29 to August 6, 2015, at Made in NY Media Center's theater and Digital Media Arts Gallery in DUMBO, Brooklyn. Benton C Bainbridge interviewed the artists about their work.

BCB: Please introduce yourselves.

RK: I’m Raven Kwok. I’m a visual artist / animator / creative programmer. My research and art mainly focuses on generative visual aesthetics using customized processes and algorithms in computer programming.

YS: I'm Yunling "Tracy" Song. I'm interested in audiovisual live performance. I'm also a generative artist doing programming, modulating video with sound.

CY: My name is Cao Yuxi aka James. I am a contemporary visual artist constructing with computers and digital video.

BCB: Describe AudioVisualVenue and how you three came to work together.

RK: I’m not an official member of AVV. James and Tracy invited me as a guest to present my recent project Build the Cities.

YS: James and I cofounded AudioVisualVenue as a collective for artists working with generative art and programming. We organize exhibitions in different locations to show our artworks, exploring different themes for each event.

CY: We started 2 years ago in China, back in Hangzhuo. We were inspired by festivals like Mapping Festival and Mutek. I realized there was no collective brand for Chinese artists; if you group together you become stronger.


BCB: Do AVV artists collaboratively create artworks or just collectively show your individual works?

YS: AVV presents solo artworks by the individual members.

CY: For now, it's individual; in the future, we plan live streaming events to connect artists in separate locations in the U.S. and China for realtime collaborative performances.

BCB: What are the esthetics of the AVV collective and its guests?

YS: This exhibition's theme is Tweak. We're not all professional programmers, however we create with code.

RK: We share similar working procedures and production pipelines, using code to blend art and technology with parametric and generative nature.

CY: We all use different tools but we share a process.

RK: I'm obsessed with form and shape - it's a pure love.

BCB: That pure love comes through in all of your work. You each have a process that you adhere to. How important is realtime? Raven, you showed a recorded video and then demonstrated the realtime systems used to make it. Yunling, you played entirely live. James, you mixed live and fixed media. Realtime responsive seems essential to the work you all presented.

Tracy: Realtime directly involves me in the project. If I'm not doing anything... if I stop, the work disappears. When I only have one chance to perform, everything connects through me: my emotions and mind.

CY: Currently, video and broadcast media are dominant formats around the world. We are looking a little ahead. Applications inject interactivity into broadcasting media. Back in China, I animated by keyframing - we set parameters, tested, then rendered. This is a low-efficiency way to work. Now, working with open source applications and game engines, we have more responsive tools.

RK: “Real-time” in my works is impromptu of the system itself. Albeit carefully designed, the system exhibits randomness depending on the set of seeds feeding in. An artist has absolute control over the system, yet passively watches while the system produces outcomes.

BCB: You each set up systems with rules and behaviors and then seed them. Tracy, you seed with geometric shapes and music. Raven, you seed with 3D shapes which recur based on certain rules. James seeds with data. These interactions are life-like processes.

RK: Instead of simply simulating and re-creating life-processes, I’m more interested in altering them to my will and seeing how the agents develop and organize themselves based on designated rules, like Christopher Langton said in his book Artificial Life: An Overview, “explore nature as it could have been.”

I create a system, then feed it - the source data is like nutrition for the system.

CY: We like to see what our systems shit out after they eat.

Like Raven said, I use data from the real world as nutrition for my system. People don't read raw data so well, but I create a pipeline to render real world data in an audiovisual form. I mutate the data, so people reconsider the information - to offer a different view of the world. At MINY I showed Macrocosm, which uses Beijing air pollution data to distort a Chinese painting, as a visual metaphor.

YS: I'm doing research about sound visualization and meanings of formal qualities. Some say blue represents cool, and yellow and red represents MacDonald's. I think Black and White can represent highs and lows and the dynamics of music, as in the work of Ryoji Ikeda.

RK: We're generating with a set of rules, instead of conventional animation or Visual FX.

Pioneering digital artists like Lillian F. Schwartz, Larry Cuba and Ken Knowlton created artworks through programming in the 1960s and 1970s. Code is not a new medium for artists, but it has become much more approachable in recent decades with the growth of the creative coding community. However, computational generative art is still emerging within the contemporary art world, due to its “discipline- and medium-independent” methodology and lack of philosophical standpoint.

CY: A lot of content I am using is like ready-mades. I didn't make the data.

BCB: You've stated that this is an unprecedented time for media artmaking tools; do you think the art world itself is changing? Is this more significant than the transition from oils to acrylics?

RK: All our resources are open - fans can get hands-on experience of the code. There's no invisible barrier to the working pipeline.

CY: I think it's time that artists came out of their ivory tower to touch the control tower. Now's a time when people can learn on their own, submit questions, follow online tutorials...

YS: The artist doesn't need to control everything. I can write my own programs, building from Raven's code. I don't think we should completely protect our artworks; it's good to share and get feedback from others.

CY: Right now it's hard to define the originality of any artwork. You don't make anything you grab - but the impact of the work you make with it is yours.