See this show: Oil by Edward Burtynksy

Burtynsky’s work is a powerful indictment of capitalism’s effects on our planet. With striking compositions of mass production, strip-mining and congested highways, taken from a aerial point-of-view, his photographs are both disgusting and aesthetically beautiful.edward-burtynsky-oil

In his TED talk here, he speaks about the tension between the depressing content and the sheet beauty of his work, directing the viewer away from a didactic dialogue about human effect on the planet and instead infiltrating our artistic sensibilities with environmental issues.

The show runs through November 28.
At Hasted Hunt Kraeutler Gallery
537 West 24th Street, New York

Astronauts without a home

As part of the Postgravity Art: Synaptiens event which invites hour-long interventions into a 50-hour performance cycle, I will be enacting a two-person performance: Space Age Love.

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Here, Victoria Scott and myself will be floating in space — in Second Life space — and communicating via chat, while our cameras point at one another and our astronaut avatars perform acrobatics. The two viewpoints will be projected onto the Synaptiens structures at Eyebeam. This is happening today (Nov 12 2009) along with performances at 2:30 by Jamie O’Shea and 4:30 by Rashaad Newsome.

I call this an auto-biographical performance as the two of us are floating between San Francisco and New York, working out opportunities, desires and finances to find a home. The chat will be entirely improvised, discussing these issues in live space at Eyebeam.

OVS & GPL & BSD

This week I’ve been researching what type of open source license to use with the Open Video Sync (OVS) project — one of the many things I’ve got going on at Eyebeam.

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Open Video Sync will do amazing things for video artists (and others), namely the ability to synchronize video playback across multiple cheap video players, such as the iPod touch.

The legal issue is that OVS is an iPhone application and is therefore running on an essentially developer-unfriendly and closed environment. In addition to the numerous restrictions that Apple imposes upon developers, including esoteric developer’s certificates and provisioning profiles, programmers have to pay $99 fee to download their custom programs onto their mobile devices.

After meeting with Fred Benenson today, it became clear to me that iPhone development presents problems with the GPL namely that it is not free software. This means that I will end up deploying the software with a more liberal, BSD-style license.

Why not Google Android — a device that is open? Simply: iPod Touches are cheap, require no service plan and  the iPhone SDK supports inter-phone communication. Some day, I’d like to port Open Video Sync to a more open platform, but not until it is cost-effective for users.

Amateur Book Review

I recently read a wonderful book and decided to write about it. Perhaps Andrew Keen would disapprove of an artist writing a book review, but Claire Pentecost would certainly be on my side.

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“Pieces for the Left Hand: 100 Anecdotes”
by J. Robert Lennon

Reviewed by Scott Kildall

I was hastily packing my bags for a red eye flight from San Francisco to New York and was looking for a new book to read. I found this one on my shelf and have no recollection of purchasing it. Indeed, I had never even seen it before.

My own experience mirrors many described in the 100 very short stories written by Lennon. A seemingly insignificant event (usually in a small town) often changes everything afterwards. His stories simultaneously embrace the ironic and sincere as he reflects on the both the durability and hopelessness of human nature.

The tales begin with simple observations or events. Pleasing white smoke emanates from the neighbor’s chimney, but later turns out to be something else. In another story, a professor spurns the local left-handed society and then loses his right arm in a car accident, but not his essential optimism. Another anecdote recalls a bronze sculpture of a mother breastfeeding, which vanishes from the town square and, to the bafflement of the local police, is mysteriously replaced 9 months later with the same woman bottle-feeding.

The collection causes a rethinking of the impact of small events and what we choose to pay attention to in life. Depicting the subjectivity of memory and the shifty nature of imagination, Lennon dips the reader into different places and times. These fragments of fiction unite to form a collective whole that capture an essential contradiction: that we have the capacity to transform yet are trapped by our own selves.

Video Portraits at Micaela Gallery

Tonight opens the full compilation of my Video Portraits artwork in the video room at Micaela Gallery (San Francisco) as part of the Winter Salon 2009 series.

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The opening reception is (Nov 5th 2009) and the show runs through January. Video Portraits (2006-2008) has been shown internationally including venues in Spain and China as well as more locally in Vancouver, Portland, Chicago and other cities, attracting a global audience and has been featured in one of KQED’s SPARK television segments. I am pleased that Micaela Van Zwoll has chosen to feature this work as one of the video pieces she will be representing.

To make this video, I ask strangers at different events or from specific demographics ranging from Chinese New Year’s Parade to surfers on a beach to taxi drivers in India for a photograph. Without telling them, I switch my digital camera to video mode, capturing them posing for the camera with fixed smiles and uncertain looks. There are 17 “episodes” each lasting for 2-3 minutes.

After the session, I let them in on the trick and to date, everyone has laughed at themselves as they strike a pose that reveals their truer selves. Advancing the notion of portraiture into video form, I draw links in this work to a cultural shift to a documentation-based global world.

Here is one such segment from San Francisco Wondercon convention.