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the bureau of cybersurreal investigation

f e d

r i e

d e b

a t i v e . o b j e c t s

p r o provocative.objects v o c

lou suSi + David Tamés

ac yb e rSu ea l , int e r dis cip l i n ary a nd i m m er it e ve

ib

siv e e xh

lo u s uS i + nt & D e x

a p v i d erie T am nce é s

13: 978-0-9669022-3-5 ISBN 10: 0-9669022-3-8 ISBN

u


provocative.objects

debriefed

and declassified

1


a cyberSurreal, interdisciplinary and immersive exhibit-event & experience

co-conspirational curation and editing by lou suSi + David TamĂŠs

prepared for the bureau of cybersurreal investigation agents of poetic justice for crimes against creativity

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Š 2012 The Bureau of cyberSurreal Investigation, some rights reserved. No part of this document may be reproduced in any form by any electronic or mechanical means (including photocopying, recording, telekinesis, or information storage or retrieval) without written permission from The Bureau of cyberSurreal Investigation. All of the artists whose works appear in this catalog retain the copyright and moral rights to their works. You may share this work under the guidelines of fair use rights, or other applicable copyright exceptions and limitations. http://provocativeobjects.com http://bureauofcybersurrealinvestigation.com http://davidtames.com/provocative-objects/ ISBN ISBN

13: 978-0-9669022-3-5 10: 0-9669022-3-8


“We rewrite the past, not because we find out more about it, but because we present actions under new descriptions.” — Ian Hacking Rewriting the Soul: Multiple Personality and the Sciences of Memory, Princeton University Press, 1995, p. 243.

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table of contents curators’ introduction

8

special thanks 13 exquisite.interviews

14

Daniel Buckley, Whilst Heuristically Interpolating ( your ) Groom

16

Tania Orstorga, Who’s in on the joke? Talk with a participant provocateur

24

Dwayne Butcher, Remote user testing stereotypes of The South

36

lou suSi, When laughing it up, practice makes perfect

44

Philippe Lejeune, Do you feel connected? That is the question.

50

Laura Amador, Talking on the phone about Face2Face 78

in the gallery 84 Alison Kotin: Dream Sequence

86

Andrew Ellis: Mapkin

88

Chris Basmajian: Can’t Hear the Music

90

Christopher Field: 29 Seconds

92

Courtney Lockemer: Live

94

Daniel DeLuca: Where Are We?

96

Elizabeth Mead: Internal Organs

98

Joseph ‘Puppy’ White: Over There

100

lou suSi: moneyShot Bouquet

102

Philippe Lejeune: Do You Feel Connected? That is the Question

104

Scott Murray: You’re In

106


table of contents on stage and roving performances 108 sara june: excerpts from the Pleo series

110

Stacy Scibelli: Sabotage 112 Laura Amador: Face2Face 114 Daniel Buckley: Whig Me 116 XY: Pink Slip 118

Dwayne Butcher: Partagas 131

Courtney Brown: Volcadas con Silla 120

Leigh Wells: Looking For Lucretia 131

Laugh Foundation: laughStream 3.0 122 Stereo Soul Future: Stripped down rawkin’ 124

Lauren McCarthy: CONVERSACUBE 132 Albert Negredo: SIPIS 132 Larry Caveney: Dancing Dan 133

cinematic.media.objects 126 Ellen Lake: Striptease 128 Mauri Lehtonen: Hollywood Gang Bang 128 Josh Dolby: Hurricane Day

129

Josh Dolby: Re-surch: Never Fall for a White Girl 129

automatic.self.analysis 134 Alison Kotin

136

Christopher Field

142

lou suSi

150

David Tamés

158

colophon

164

Mary Fanning: The Trophy 130

u

Josh Dolby: Social Networking Addiction 130

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curators’ introduction Provocative Objects: the extradition was an interdisciplinary and immersive exhibit/event that took place on the evening of November 12, 2010 in The Patricia Doran Gallery at Massachusetts College of Art and Design. We produced and co-curated the experience bringing together an eclectic group of artists hailing from the faraway, international reaches of San Francisco, Madrid, Brooklyn, Memphis, Oakland, San Diego and Chicago. The participating designers, musicians, artists, and performers came together to create a unique experience full of conversation, participation, and gallery-going fun.1 The crowd out at Provocative Objects buzzed with a delightful mix of people from the MassArt academic community as well as the wider Boston arts and new media scene. Our goal — to orchestrate a world-class event on a shoestring. And based on the generous attendance and level of engagement of all involved — as well as the initial informal qualitative feedback received from attendees — we succeeded and achieved The cyberSurreal state.2 9


curators’ introduction Provocative Objects: the extradition grew out of lou suSi’s investigations in cyberSurrealism,3 and David’s participation in lou’s exhibition, American Cheese: an introspection. American Cheese which provided the first public glimpse into the interdisciplinary, cross-cultural, vision espoused and demanded by The Bureau of cyberSurreal Investigation. Shortly following this now legendary prequel to Provocative Objects, we worked together to plan the exhibit-event that we originally dubbed, Tweet No More.

One of our goals as students in the Dynamic Media Institute has been to read books, organize events, and engage in projects within our areas of intellectual interest that would be difficult to do within the aegis of our respective professional practice, primarily due to their lack of a profitable revenue model. It’s been wonderful to engage in activities driven by intellectual and aesthetic curiosity rather than financial viability. Being a student is a precious time that opens opportunities to pursue these freer curiosities.

Unfortunately ( some would say fortunately ) this concept perished by the roadside ( although lou still holds the online domain presence to this deleted scene left by the wayside ). The seedling concept for Tweet No More riffed off of the critically acclaimed, immersive American Repertory Theater/Punchdrunk production Sleep No More but used a slightly more comedic input from the Hitchcock-Shakespeare refraction filters applied to plot, character and action.

One of the things we appreciate about each other is the scope of our ambitions. As we were planning the show we both wanted to work with the larger arts community, with the idea that by bringing together students in Dynamic Media Institute’s MFA program and working artists from the surrounding community, the interactions would serve to build a richer context for all of the people involved in the show.

Shortly along the initial brainstormings, our cocuratorial consciences felt a strong instinct to push beyond parody and move into an entirely new experiential concept. Seven meetings later 4 — meetings that included a conversation with Sherry Turkle after her Media Tech Tonic lecture 5 — our genetically modified idea evolved into our beloved Provocative Objects.

The keyword context drove home our vital notion of inclusivity — of inviting people ‘inside the box’. None of this ‘outside the box’ thinking that only proliferates a sense of exclusionary tactic toward creativity, no, No! In this case the Patricia Doran Gallery became ‘the box’ — a physical lure to capture the interdisciplinary energies of myriad talents. ‘The box’ also metaphorically represented a wonderfully naïve invitation for gallerygoers to wander through the manifest collective


curators’ introduction subconscious of our gang of ‘provocateurs’. Come inside. See what we see. Experience what we dream and feel. Our call for works as posted to RHIZOME ARTBASE requested: We are looking for pieces that instigate the viewer-participant-gallerygoer or blur the line and leave the audience wondering. Physical traditional art objects — dynamic prototypes — video, performative and conceptual work — we’re looking to collect an eclectic body of work to provoke viewer-participant exploration, thought, discussion and interaction. There will be a vaguely-defined ‘stageSpace’ for certain eventrelated ‘performances’ throughout the evening 6 as well as numerous ‘objects’ or installations.

Between students in the Dynamic Media Institute program and artists from around the world, we received a total of 46 submissions. We ended up with a juried selection of 31 pieces — still quite a wide range of work, which we then assigned to the categories of “In the Gallery,” “On Stage Performance,” “Roving Performance,” and “Video Loop.” The structure of this retrospective catalog supplement to Provocative Objects captures and explores each of these sections by putting the reflections of each artist next to video stills and photographic documentation from the show. The co-curatorial subcommittee of yours truly — acting as primary investigators en persona grata from The Bureau of cyberSurreal Investigation — spent countless hours interviewing the artists,

gallergoers and the innumerable assistants and collaborators that contributed to the bright, humming success of Provocative Objects to capture the peripersonal consciousness surrounding ‘the box’. To memorialize and best harness the energies expressed and experienced ‘inside the box’, we chose to reach out directly to the witnesses and participants of the crime itself. The murder scene — Provocative Objects: the extradition — needs proper collection of all the forensic data for us to fully understand ‘Where we were on the night of the 12th of November of 2010’. The show, as we know it, is dead. We killed it. For he folks in the show and the amazing user-viewer-participant audience in attendance that evening — we metaphorically killed the show with creativity. And now we need to figure out what happened all over again through this cyberSurreal investigation that takes the form of an exhibition catalog. This book is yet another way to invite you ‘inside the box’. Another open vessel for you to explore a time-based ‘exhibit-event’. Another chance for you to see what we saw, experience what we felt and dreamt and did at Provocative Objects. lou suSi and David Tamés December 19, 2011

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curators’ introduction

NOTES 1.

lou suSi, “cyberSurrealism defined + Cybernetic Methodologies,” http://cybersurrealism.com ( accessed February 10, 2011 ).

2. Often over pizza and a variety of libations including Dogfish 60 minute IPA at the Penguin Cafe in Brigham Circle. 3. One of David’s extracurricular activities as a student at Dynamic Media Institute has been to found and organize Media Tech Tonic, a lecture series, http://mediatechtonic. com 4. “Call for Proposals: PROVOCATIVE OBJECTS: THE EXTRADITION,” RHIZOME ARTBASE, http://rhizome. org/announce/opportunities/55978/view/ ( accessed December 12, 2010 ). 5. See the Provocative Objects exhibition web site at: http:// provocativeobjects.com 6. As proclaimed by lou during post-event celebrations out at

The Savant Project on Mission Hill and corroborated by several participants including Philippe Lejeune. 7. A semi-fictional cybernetically augmented extension of the original Surrealist Movement from 1920s Europe and beyond.


special thanks In addition to expressing our deepest appreciation to all of the designers, artists, and performers who participated in Provocative Objects, the curators would like to thank:

The DMI Faculty: Jan Kubasiewicz, Brian Lucid, Gunta Kaza, Joe Quackenbush, Colin Owens, Evan Karatzas, Mara Wagner Daniel Roman for excellent stage management Andrew Ellis for assembling the video loop Carol Susi for feeding the animals Tania Ostorga for everything Alison Kotin for design contributions Caitlin Nesbit for gallery coordination Preparators / Installation Specialists: Alex Wang, Joe Liberty, Yaoming Hao, Fan Xiang Image and video contributors: Andrew Ellis, Kent Millard, Katsumi Take, Alice Apley, James Wight, Philippe Lejeune Inspiration and support: Fred Wolflink, Dana Moser, Sherry Turkle, Mobius and

everyone who attended 13


exquisite.interviews

Daniel Buckley

Whilst Heuristically Interpolating ( your ) Groom

Tania Orstorga

Who’s in on the joke? Talk with a participant provocateur

Dwayne Butcher

Remote user testing stereotypes of The South

lou suSi

When laughing it up, practice makes perfect

Philippe Lejeune

Do you feel connected? That is the question.

Laura Amador

Talking on the phone about Face2Face


exquisite.interviews The Bureau of cyberSurreal investigation conducted several candid interviews over the past year as a means to forensically analyze each piece of evidence and retrospectively look the overall environment out at the Provocative Objects exhibit-event. The following conversations offer up vital perspectives from the participating artists and gallerygoers at the show to help build a broader context for understanding the evening as a happening, as a formal show, and as an exhibit-event experience. 15


exquisite.interviews


an interview with Daniel Buckley Whilst Heuristically Interpolating ( your ) Groom

Exhibit-event agent provocateur lou suSi interviews DMI designer Daniel Buckley to get the lowdown behind his wearable ‘Whig Me’ piece out at the show. Part augmented fashion experience, part mobile audio-installation, part participatory typing and tweeting feedback engine, ‘W.H.I.G.’ aka ‘Whilst Heuristically Interpolating ( your ) Groom’ put most primary users in a strangely disconnected headspace at Provocative Objects while drawing attention from all peripheral secondary users. Gallerygoers in The Doran were simultaneously perplexed and intrigued by the slowmoving wig-wearing participants as they wandered through the gallery.

Here’s what Daniel had to say about W.H.I.G. at Provocative Objects. These excerpts from our conversation on April 12, 2011 capture some of the more important observations and discoveries surrounding this intriguing interactive audio-output, textual-input wearable art object. Note: Daniel was not wearing the wig at the time of the interview. 17


exquisite.interviews lou suSi: Okay, so, now ... now its been months and at Provocative Objects you debuted ‘Whig Me’ — a project that asked people to put a wig on their head and an iPad on their back and they walked around the gallery space listening to audio that was delivered to them through the wig using magical technology from, this had nothing to do with The Perfect Human Institute at all, right? Daniel Buckley: No, this was before. suSi: This was before? Buckley: This is project one in studio class. suSi: Alright, so this was actually part of a studio class? Studio one? Buckley: It was part of the You Are Here project. My objective was to try to ... I identified the concept of You Are Here as sort of like an image compass or a way of having people re-stabilize their understanding of themselves, a sort of wayfinding system for personal identity. suSi: And if I remember right, now did you want the actual experience to transform the participant? Once they put it on, would they become someone else? Or would they suddenly be more aware of their inner voice? To quickly rephrase my quetions here, what was supposed to happen when you put Whig Me on? Buckley: Yeah, I think its weird that you think of it as a transformation because I almost wanted them

to transform back to themselves. Almost as if when they put it on they already were someone else and I was trying to get them back to being them. suSi: You mean after they take it off? Buckley: Yes. The transition back happens while wearing the wig. And then hopefully by the time they’re done with the experience they’re 100 percent them. The original idea was to build speakers into a wig that delivers a conversation happening between what I saw as the 2 sides of the pscyhe, the Id and the Ego. The Id is the raw, unfiltered voice of the brain. But, I have a friend who explained it to me like this: you’re walking by an ice cream parlor and the Id would say, ‘I want ice cream and I’m going to have it right now.’ And then the Ego would come in and say, ‘Well, if I eat that ice cream it’d probably be bad for me so I won’t have it.’ And then there’s this third part, the Superego, which sort of balances it all out and would say, ‘You know, I can have ice cream but I’d have to go for a jog tomorrow or go for a walk.’ It almost negotiates the other 2 pieces. Another part of the idea was that you put on this wig, this afrowig, and it kind of feels silly. And then there’s this conversation happening where the Id would hit on you and say ‘You look so hot. You make me melt like hot fudge on a sundae,’ stuff like that. The Id voice is this raw emotion talking about your appearance. And then the Ego would come in as a female voice and she would say, ‘I don’t know how I feel about this. How rude of you.’ Her voice is


interview with Daniel Buckley definitely more defensive. And so within this conversation I had these 2 voices and I wanted the user to play the part of the Superego, that negotiator. The user would have to filter through this stuff and come up with their own opinion on it. And then the other aspect that you mentioned about the iPad backpack ... I wanted some way for external users to curate the experience. So, there was a prompt at the bottom of the screen that asked for users to type onto the iPad or tweet to the Whig Me account and just say how they thought you looked on that night with the wig on. Its up to them, you know. suSi: Is that Twitter account still live? Buckley: Yes, its @whigme suSi: @whigme? Its While Heuristically ... ? Buckley: While Heuristically Interpolating (your) Groom. suSi: Wow, nice ... Buckley: So, the idea was that while these people were typing in on the iPad you know that they’re talking about you. But you can’t hear or see what they’re saying. This is an occurrence that happens a lot now. You know, I think it was always available in society, that experience, but especially in the digital age with all of these social platforms, the idea that someone could be talking about me right now on Facebook, like even as we’re talking. That’s always, sort of, in the back of my head. You know, its

just like, the fact that you can’t control it or defend against it. You just have to deal with it somehow. With all of these conversation happening within the wig and then with this external piece with not knowing what this person is saying, what I really wanted people to do was fight through all these side conversations and realize that none of this really matters. The only thing that matters is how I feel. And that’s what my self-image should be about is who I am, how I feel and if I’m happy that’s all that matters. suSi: Now how many people do you think tried it out that night? Buckley: It was many more people than I that it was going to be. I’d probably say it was about 25 people experienced it. And the longest timespan or usage — one participant wore it for 15 minutes or more. He was one of the very first users. He wore it for a while. He actually wore it into the box. suSi: Oh, did he? Buckley: Yeah, which was great. It made for a really interesting ... suSi: And I know George wore it. I see pictures of Tania wearing it. And so 25 people, about 15 minutes was the longest. Buckley: I would said the average was about 4 minutes. suSi: So, did you already report this sort of data

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exquisite.interviews back to Jan or the class as a debrief of how it went? Or did that not matter at first? Buckley: It was amazing to actually test the wig in a live environment. I’ve written about it on my website and definitely talked about the results at the end of semester reviews. I had presented it at mid-semester reviews but didn’t have the chance to test it prior to Provocative Objects. suSi: I know that it iteratively evolved, too, over time, right? It was pretty complicated. If I remember right you had to figure out how this wearable art object was going to simultaneously be on someone’s back and head as well as logistically figure out how the sound would work in the wig, right? Buckley: Right, and it actually finally all came together right in the last minutes of prototyping. I had sewn headphones into the wig and then I realized the sound wasn’t loud enough. So, at the last minute I doubled backed and grabbed some new ones and actually just kept the form factor. In the end I just sort of had the headphones hidden by the wig, not as embedded as I originally imagined it. This made for a better overall audio experience. When I first built the iPad into the bag it was just flush with the backpack. By personally testing it out in the lab I realized this setup was really uncomfortable for people to type. I ended up building a little incline to push the iPad out a little, which made for a much easier input experience for the second-

ary user. There’s all sorts of things you learn from building it, but then ultimately the biggest learning experience is seeing it being used in the gallery space. suSi: Did you try it and test it in the DMI Lab Space a lot before bringing it to the gallery? Buckley: To be honest the first full experience of W.H.I.G. happened at Provocative Objects. The first guy that wore it around the gallery was the first time I actually saw the piece being used. suSi: So you built this little ramp or the little tilt at the show, like rapid prototyping. Buckley: Like, the day of. suSi: Woah, that’s cool. So, what did you learn from either direct user feedback or just from seeing it being used that helped you think about either your next project or a similar progression in that project or ... what did you learn, I guess, in general ... like, did anything really unexpected happen that kind of made you go like, ‘Woah, I never thought of that’? Buckley: I think one of the coolest things I learned was how to step back from my design. For the first 5 to 10 people that tried out the wig, when they came over to the podium I set up to showcase W.H.I.G., I would actually help them put it on and walk through how to use it. I put the bag on them and placed the wig on their head. After that initial 10 people, though, I just wanted to see what would


interview with Daniel Buckley

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exquisite.interviews happen if I didn’t participate in it. So I just stood back and watched. And people would go up to it and at some point one person had the bag on and somebody else had the wig on. At another point people were typing onto the thing when the wig and iPad weren’t even on anyone. suSi: Oh, so they needed someone to help them put it on. Buckley: Well, I don’t know. suSi: Was it more interesting to see ... Buckley: It was interesting to see what people would do with it without my assistance. It was a fun experience to just see people use it. I’m trying to think of some of the other surprises. Showing the wig in the gallery generated so many more ideas around what I could do with it. We talk about this concept in reviews — if people are suggesting things then you know you’re onto something. So, at the end of the show when people are saying, ‘I want to be able to hear what people are typing into the iPad’ that validated some of my original thought for the project. Another scenario that came up: well, what happens when people can hear what the person behind them is typing out about them on the iPad? Does the Wig Me Wearer turn around and confront them? Its a really cool situation to take into consideration. And I can obviously always play around with the audio a little bit more to test out different dynamics in the conversation between the

Id and Ego playing in the wig. suSi: The audio was looping, right? Buckley: It was about 2 minutes of looping audio. Which was interesting that people would wear it for up to 15 minutes or listen to it a couple of times all the way through. suSi: Now did you try it out in the space because I know that the space was noisy, it was very reverberant, and I wonder if people listened to it a couple of times to try and catch things they missed as they went around ... or ... I imagine that even without the added external noise, I would want to listen to it twice just to remember some of the lines. Did you get to try it on in there yourself? Buckley: Yeah, I tried it out before we opened the doors to the gallery. Not when the show was at its busiest, though. When I was first there I definitely walked around, that’s a great point. I think with the headphones that I ended up using they were strong enough that I don’t think it would’ve been an issue. I actually had noise cancelling headphones in the wig. But, even that in itself is a cool experience, to be in such a busy space. I included a serene, meditative sound between the spoken Id and Ego lines. Having an experience where your audio sensation is so removed and distant from what is happening in your immediate physical space would be an interesting dynamic to play with more in in the future, too.


o b j e c t s

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T ien a m ce é s

interview with Daniel Buckley

suSi: That must’ve been pretty trippy for most people, I bet. Because it really isolated them from the physical environment they were in, right? Buckley: Exactly.

suSi: And gave them an entirely different experience of what was going on in there. I bet when they took off the iPad and headphones, like you said, they’re back to their real self now, they must feel like they’re in an entirely different place. Like they’ve come back from a trip or something.

Buckley: Yeah, definitely. I have great video of it, too. The footage gives you a sense that the participants are slow-motion-wandering around in the crowd, they seem to be lost in the crowded gallery space filled with so many people — definitely living at a different pace than everyone else there that night.

u

Buckley: It happens to people all the time. They get stuck inside their thoughts. And they do have that experience where they’re almost distant from the space that they’re in — where they overthink things or where they repetitively worry about things. You can be in the same room with other people and not acknowledge them because you’re so wrapped up about what’s in your head. So that was definitely a piece of it. I wanted to separate them and make them focus on the conversations that are happening ( in the wig ).

suSi: They become a provocative object for everyone to go like, ‘What’s up with the dude with the afro?’ You know, or ‘Why’s that guy wearing an iPad on his back?’ or ‘Why’s that woman walking around really slowly right now?’ Did people tend to slow down while listening to the conversation in the wig?

suSi: What’s really interesting about Whig Me, though — the 2 visual components of the project that then make the person wearing it, even though the piece is about the user, it then makes them a very visible object for others to watch in the gallery space. Buckley: Yeah.

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exquisite.interviews


an interview with Tania Ostorga Who’s in on the joke? Talk with a participant provocateur lou and David interviewed Tania Ostorga several months after the show for a deeper dive into the immersive, participatory nature of the Provocative Objects exhibit-event. Our talk with Tania wanders from work to work, from installation to performance to object-based work in the Doran Gallery back in November, 2010.

Here’s what Tania experienced at Provocative Objects. These excerpts from our discussions with Tania provide greater reflection upon the truly subconscious, cyberSurreal atmosphere of the show. Our dialog seamlessly blends into one big description of the overarching gallery experience that evening, and the inclusive, alluring unspoken invitation for all artists, musicians, designers and performers to play and participate.

lou suSi: All right. So, now officially I have to say, not that we intended this, but unfortunately you weren’t actually in the show. Tania Ostorga: Damn it! suSi: Sorry, you weren’t upset, right? And you weren’t officially like one of the provocateurs, like someone helping, necessarily. But you did help that night. David Tamés: But there was nothing official about the show. 25


exquisite.interviews suSi: Yes, there was nothing official about the show. We were hoping to inclusively get as many people in the gallery as possible involved as active participants. Ostorga: Right. suSi: As a matter of fact, we destroyed the Google spreadsheet; all evidence of the show is now up in smoke! There’s only one link. Tamés: How did we do that? Then I don’t have to write about it? suSi: I know. There’s only one link on one website about it. Anyhow, so Tania — what were your original preconceived notions about the show, maybe from the signage and the name of the show and all that? Any ideas going in? What did you think the show would be? Or, you kind of knew what the work was going into Provocative Objects to begin with, right? Ostorga: Yeah, the problem is that I heard pretty much everything about the show. I was here when you met with David to plan here and there. But I do have to say I was very surprised when I saw the flowers. It’s like this whole feminine approach. All of the elements looked very feminine and I was a little surprised because I knew what the show was about. suSi: Just because two guys were doing the show? Ostorga: No. But I quickly though, ‘Oh, this must be part of the joke, right?’ There was just this phrase

Provocative Objects and you see these beautiful black and white flowers. I just couldn’t stop thinking, ‘Well, what is the meaning behind this very feminine approach to the posters, to the postcards?’ I never got it, and I think this is the first time I’m asking you this, but ... suSi: Oh, you want to find out why? Ostorga: Well, now I do, because when you talk about Provocative Objects coming from two guys, and knowing the type of projects that were going to be in the show. Then I see the poster and I couldn’t see the connection, but I knew that it must have been some sort of joke. An inside joke. suSi: Ah, an inside joke. Ostorga: ... that I didn’t get. But then I completely forget to ask you more about it. suSi: Interesting. Yeah, I don’t know how to respond to that actually. I guess there’s a little bit of unintentional, subconscious decision-making in the mix. We knew that the show was going to illicit and show provocative work, but in order to make it more provocative, in order to heighten the dramatic switch, to play with the expectation, to nudge it a bit, or whatever you want to call it, we made it look very pristine. We made it look like a wedding invitation. And then when people come in, they experienced something entirely different. Now I think anyone that was on the list knew what kind of work was going in there. If someone was coming to the show because they knew sara june from Mobius and


interview with Tania Ostorga what her work was about, they probably got an idea that it would be work that was like hers, or at least in the same vein as other experimental Mobius work. If someone was coming to see Puppy’s piece, he previously exhibited at Axiom Gallery, they might expect to see new media art.

suSi: The pee. Oh, You’re In. You’re In, by Scott Murray, yes.

Ostorga: That was another issue. Not another issue, but another question that I had. Mainly because I have seen the postcards for other DMI shows and they look very digital. They have this common digital background with vague lights. So, and as I said before it’s not that I was surprised in a bad way, but I was surprised to see the Provocative Objects postcard design and I thought ‘What is the joke here? What is that?’

Ostorga: But because you use the word provocative.

suSi: You still thought there was a joke behind it? Ostorga: I knew there was something behind it because you’re talking about technology. And, of course, you’re involved. You’re always joking around. But for the show you’re talking about sensors that are going to be applied to objects. And then, the sofa project, if you know ... suSi: Ah, yes, the sofa that makes naughty noises, yeah. Ostorga: Like if I think about Alison’s project, the postcard makes sense. But then thinking about like ... the fart joke, the ... suSi: Whoopee cushion? Ostorga: No, the pee, I’m sorry.

Ostorga: So if you put that project right next to the postcard ... suSi: It doesn’t make sense, right? suSi: It does. Ostorga: But it does, it starts to make sense. I don’t know why it does, but it does. suSi: Yeah, it does. Ostorga: So ... suSi: Yeah, maybe it was a joke. Ostorga: I’m wondering if everybody else sensed the same thing. It’s like, ‘Oh, the show is a joke we’re talking about. A giant metaphor for a joke.’ But at the same time, we’re talking about dynamic media and you have these beautiful flowers there, but the question is why? And I’m wondering if everybody else had that question as well. Tamés: I thought it was completely arbitrary. suSi: Yeah. I think in a weird way, much like when I made up the logo for mediaLuscious, I just made something up quickly, and I said ‘Hey, do you like this?’ Ostorga: See and I didn’t even question that, because I’m like, ‘There must be a joke behind it.’ suSi: You thought there was a joke behind media-

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exquisite.interviews Luscious, too?

sing on the baser pieces.

Ostorga: Yeah.

suSi: Yes, those are the ones that I always jump to first, I know.

Tamés: You’re implying ... you’re trying to find some narrative coherence.

Tamés: What does that say about lou?

Ostorga: Yes.

suSi: It says a lot about me.

suSi: Yeah, yeah. It’s our mind trying to heal the disjointed energies I guess.

Tamés: But in spite of yourself, we got Philippe.

Ostorga: Exactly. And now I would love to know what other people thought. Tamés: And there’s the provocation. suSi: Yeah. Ostorga: And maybe there is a provocation. I don’t know. But anyhow. suSi: Well, what’s weird is when I put the call to work out on different websites, for Provocative Objects, we didn’t get wedding invitation-like artwork for submissions, did we? We got a guy in the back of a pickup truck drinking beer, we got a guy dancing in his underwear, we got Chris’s piece, me screaming inside ... Tamés: You immediately go to like the lowest art that was submitted. There was much more, there was less base work submitted to the show. suSi: Yeah, you’re right. There were more intellectual pieces, too, of course. Like the cubed beats on top of an art book. Tamés: But it’s interesting that you like keep obses-

Ostorga: Who is Philippe? suSi: Philippe is the guy who made the giant wooden box. Ostorga: Oh, yeah. suSi: ... with the glass in between him and the viewer, right? Ostorga: So ... suSi: And then he invited people to come into his side of the box, too. A very interesting piece. We have all this media and can you really communicate clearly with the person on the other side of the glass? And although I didn’t get to go inside myself I heard there was this wonderful reflection between you as the viewer and Philippe. Ostorga: Right, and the other guests. suSi: Whoever was in there, so there’s a lot going on in that piece. And that was the result of a lot of collaboration over ... what was that the course of a year that he did collaborations with dancers and the glass? Tamés: Yep.


interview with Tania Ostorga Ostorga: Do you remember the images that he projected on the wall and on the ceiling while Chris and his band were playing? suSi: Yes. Ostorga: They were very much in tune with the postcard, like these posing ladies from the 50s, remember? suSi: Oh, I thought the projections were of the band, the members of Stereo Soul Future. Ostorga: No, no. Tamés: No, Philippe had a little projector. Ostorga: Yeah. suSi: Oh, I didn’t see Philippe’s projections. I thought you meant the projections above the band when they were playing. Ostorga: Yeah, but those projections were Philippe’s, right?

projecting on peoples’ clothes and on the gallery walls. suSi: Oh, I didn’t know he did that. Sort of like Wodiczko’s public space projections? Ostorga: Yes, but the imagery was very much in tune with the postcard. suSi: Oh, really? Ostorga: Yeah. It was like ladies, you know, posing, but from the 1950s with curly hair. suSi: Interesting. On another note, what did you think about the piece that was called Internal Organs. It was on a shelf, a collection of these whitelooking vague objects, almost like the shells of something. Did that piece seem to fit the postcard more than the other work? Ostorga: Yes. It did. suSi: But what about Andrew’s piece? Mapkin?

Tamés: Above the band was theirs.

Ostorga: No. It was too much, it ...

suSi: No, projections above the band were Chris’, video clips of each member talking, very subtle fades and transitions from one to the other.

suSi: Too hand drawn?

Tamés: But I think Philippe was projecting something else. Ostorga: Exactly. suSi: Was he? Ostorga: Those are the ones that I remember. I don’t remember the other ones. Philippe who was

Ostorga: Well the hand drawing part, yes. But the fact that you were scanning something. There was that element of technology that was too obvious, that you were drawing something and then scanning it in, I don’t know. suSi: So, that kind of thing wouldn’t happen at a wedding? Or maybe it wasn’t as elegant a solution as like maybe Alison’s Dream Sequence, aural dream memories in this very pristine, white space.

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exquisite.interviews Ostorga: It’s just like the way we dream. You move from one area to the other, getting pieces of information floating in the air as you go. The magic of the system remains hidden. suSi: So the mission of the show, I set up a very vague but important mission that it should be interdisciplinary and cyberSurreal. Do you think it accomplished those things? Ostorga: The cyberSurreal? suSi: Like what is that? Ostorga: Like, what the hell is that? suSi: So you still don’t know what that means, right? Ostorga: Yeah. I don’t really. suSi: That’s good. That’s fine. Ostorga: I’m sorry. suSi: No, that’s great. I’m still figuring it out. But then the interdisciplinary part is true, right? That happened, yeah? Ostorga: That definitely happened. suSi: And was there some, I forget if there was some other word that I used. It doesn’t matter though. So the work did seem different than what you expected from the postcard and branding? Ostorga: Yes, definitely. suSi: And then, I’m trying to think of other pieces, like the tickle-torture straightjacket.

Ostorga: I was surprised also with the vegetables, the cut outs from the vegetables. suSi: Oh, on the pedestal? Ostorga: Yeah. suSi: Yeah, yeah. Yeah, people did things he didn’t expect them to do with the vegetables. Ostorga: Yeah, some obscene things. suSi: They made little people. Yeah, yeah, yeah. You saw when he was putting it together, right? He had white cotton gloves on. Ostorga: No, I didn’t. I didn’t see him. suSi: Oh, yeah. It was very interesting to see how Daniel put his stuff together for the show. Ostorga: No, I missed that. What else? suSi: Okay. So, I know that at a certain point, you told me this, that my piece that squirt a lot of water out, moneyShot Bouquet, made a puddle on the floor and there were things there that I set up for me to use later on. I thought, ‘I’m going to need to clean the floor and mop up water.’ and so I put out a bucket, a mop and a sign that said ‘Be careful, wet floor.’ Ostorga: Exactly. suSi: And then, something happened where you felt compelled to help out. I didn’t ask you to help, though, you just did it out of the goodness of your heart, right? Ostorga: Exactly.


interview with Tania Ostorga suSi: Then what happened? Ostorga: So, I saw the puddle was getting out of hand and I was actually running to the other side of the food table and I thought, ‘Well, there’s a mop. There’s a bucket. There’s a big puddle of water. I should do something about this.’ I went and I grabbed the mop and I started mopping, and I was putting all the water inside the bucket. I was so focused on the task that I didn’t notice that Kent was actually filming me mopping the floor. I saw him and I started laughing, and then I looked to my left, and there were all these people, like three or four people looking at me as if they were asking, ‘What is going on?’ But they were looking at Kent, and they kept looking at me, back and forth. suSi: And you don’t know which side started it first, if Kent started videotaping and then they started watching, or if they were watching first? Ostorga: I have no idea. I have no idea about that, because as I said, I wasn’t paying attention. I was focused on the mop and the puddle. But then, I was like, ‘No, no, no, this is not a performance!’ suSi: You told them that? Ostorga: I had to tell them that. And then they laughed. But there was something about me mopping at the event that felt like a performance. suSi: Was that earlier in the night, or later in the night? Ostorga: I think it was probably later in the night,

because I got there a little late. I know that it was probably around 8 or 9. suSi: I wonder if that was before the XY piece. I forget now. Ostorga: What is the XY piece? suSi: The XY piece was the one where they blindfolded you. Ostorga: It was after that. suSi: Oh, okay. So after ... Ostorga: Yes, if I recall correctly. suSi: That piece was called Pink Slip. Ostorga: Yeah. suSi: So what do you think about that? First of all, that you actually helped? I mean, would you normally do that, or was it because you knew us? Let’s say it was somebody else’s show, like if SIM was doing a show, and you were there and you noticed there was a big puddle of water and the mop and bucket were set up there. Ostorga: I would never do it. suSi: You wouldn’t have helped them? Ostorga: No. suSi: Okay. Not because we’re ... Ostorga: Not because I dislike them. No, not at all. suSi: Yeah. Someone else in the crew should help maybe?

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exquisite.interviews Ostorga: It’s just not, it wouldn’t have been my place to do that.

like I was getting ready to do something else.

suSi: Okay. But in this instance you felt motivated.

suSi: Or as if there was some other purpose to what you were doing?

Ostorga: Well, because we’re helping each other anyways.

Ostorga: Yes, exactly. There was definitely something happening in there.

suSi: Exactly.

suSi: I wonder what would have happened if you took it somewhere else.

Ostorga: And we’re a team, so just I thought ‘Well, someone has to clean this.’ And I knew it wasn’t part of your piece, and it was definitely way too much water. suSi: It wasn’t supposed to be that much, true. And that carpet was supposed to absorb some of the water, too. But I don’t think it was enough to really keep that area of the gallery safe. Ostorga: Yeah, the carpet was soaked through. suSi: Yeah, it was full. Ostorga: So, I saw the mop and the bucket and I thought well, someone has to do something. So I did it. And ... suSi: And then when people got confused, when they seemed to think you were performing ... Ostorga: Yes. I think it was funny because they really had this expectation. They had this look on their faces that they really thought I was going to do something else. suSi: Something other than just mopping? Ostorga: Than mopping, yes, but like there I was,

Ostorga: I’m wondering if I had actually decided to do something. Something entirely different, like out of nowhere. suSi: Ah, yes, you could have done anything, right? Ostorga: I could have done anything, but as I said, I didn’t know that I was being filmed by Kent and I didn’t even know about this crowd of people staring at me, so it was kind of weird, I have to say. I do think that those people thought that what I was doing was a performance because Kent was ... suSi: You think it was because of the camera? Ostorga: Yes, because of the camera. suSi: See, I wonder because now that laugh performance I did with my two friends, when I did it in Mobius, nobody could laugh. When I did it at Provocative Objects, when we did it as three people, people laughed. When we did it at an open mike a week or two later, it was an audience of people that personally knew us, they’ve seen all of our other work. When they saw this piece, they couldn’t laugh. We have video footage of them sitting in


interview with Tania Ostorga the audience, kind of politely smiling, nobody laughing. And so it’s not that people knew us in this space, but that the atmosphere, what was happening inside of the Doran Gallery space at Provocative Objects that night was liberating. Ostorga: It was liberating. suSi: I hope. I hope that that’s what it was. Ostorga: And maybe the feeling of the show is what allowed people to think the other ... suSi: This XY piece, Pink Slip? Ostorga: Yeah, if that is the name. Maybe that’s what prepared people mentally to start looking around. suSi: To expect anything? Ostorga: Yeah, to want to see more, you know? suSi: Now that was the only thing like that that happened to you that night, though, right? Ostorga: Yeah, that was it. suSi: I’m trying to think of what else. I know a lot of people helped that night. I know Yaoming helped a lot. Alex obviously helped me a ton with both my piece and with many of the other pieces, right? We had just a ton of people helping. And I hope we have that sort of generous assistance for mediaLuscious, too. That would be nice. Ostorga: I hope so. That would be amazing. suSi: Um, so, Pink Slip was the piece. What did you

think of that? Because I remember seeing you and they definitely, specifically said they don’t want any videotaping, no photographs, no documentation. There was a part of the performance where they were touching people lightly and it seemed to freak you out. Ostorga: Yeah. It really did, even though I had fair warning that they were probably going to touch you

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exquisite.interviews with things. They said if you feel extremely uncomfortable, you just can get up and leave the performance. suSi: And you said ‘No’ at one point? Ostorga: Huh? suSi: I think you verbally said no? Ostorga: Yes. They asked me ... they were putting something on my arm I think, rubbing something on my arm. And then, I guess I was definitely feeling uncomfortable and then the girl asked me ‘Do you want me to stop, does it bother you?’ And I said, ‘No’.

up toy that played music. Was it very low-fi sounding? Ostorga: I never saw anything like that, remember? suSi: I know you didn’t see it, but did it sound nonelectronic, or did it sound like real music coming from a CD player? Because they played some little instrument.

suSi: That’s why you said no?

Ostorga: Not from a CD. Nothing fancy like that. Yes, I did hear it, I think from my right hand side. So I didn’t know if they were calling me to come this way by the playing music. But anyhow, I started turning, because I didn’t know what else to do. And then I heard this weird noise right next to me, but yeah, I had no idea what the hell was going on.

Ostorga: That’s why I said no. And that’s what she whispered in my ear.

suSi: Like what? Did you know at all what happened for the rest of the performance?

suSi: Oh, I thought you said no, like you didn’t want whatever was going to happen to happen.

Ostorga: No, I didn’t.

Ostorga: Oh, no, no. I said no, it doesn’t bother me. That was so weird, such a weird experience, because I kept hearing that bell. suSi: Which wasn’t part of the piece, but it was right next to you. Ostorga: Exactly. So I thought it was part of the piece. And then there was some music also coming from I don’t even know where. So I found myself drawn into the sound of the bell, and then also the music and I didn’t know ... suSi: They had some contraption, like a little wind

suSi: Did you ask anyone, or ... Ostorga: No, I didn’t ask anything. But then Alison said that it was so weird just seeing those two girls making out. And I was like, oh, that’s what the noise was. suSi: Yeah. Ostorga: But, no, just that. suSi: Now did they have more than women up there? I forget. Ostorga: I think there were one, two, three, four women, or three women and one guy, something


interview with Tania Ostorga like that. But, yeah, but that was weird.

suSi: Wow. To capture the show?

suSi: Yeah. I think they were from MEME Gallery in Central Square. I’m not sure. I’m assuming a bit here. Still a shroud of mystery surrounding that piece and the performers. But as soon as they told me what that piece was over the phone, I was like, ‘Wow, it’s like dynamic media with no plugs.’ Definitely very provocative. A very intense concept. Controversial, confrontational and provocative. And you kind of knew it was probably going to end with something like that, where someone sitting down was probably a planted performer, I’m assuming. I mean, it was a little too intense to be real in any way.

Tamés: Yeah, to capture the legal proceedings.

Ostorga: See, I missed it. I missed the whole thing. I shouldn’t have left so early.

suSi: What was that Jackson?

suSi: Well, luckily, I videotaped it against their wishes. You know, it is Provocative Objects we’re talking about here. You only live once. No, seriously, though, of course I respected the artists’ wished, so I did watercolors of the live performance instead. They didn’t say not to capture their performance with watercolors, right? So I thought maybe do it up like a court case.

suSi: That’d be kind of cool.

Ostorga: That would be cool. suSi: Oh. Oh, a drip painting. Like Andy Warhol. Just do them like this. Tamés: Or Jackson Pollock. suSi: Yeah, Jackson Pollock! Tamés: And so when the prosecutor goes dah, dah, dah, the guy goes boom, boom. So you have this ... suSi: You just do gesture paintings of everything. Tamés: Right. Action paintings to cover it. Ostorga: Now, wouldn’t that be cool?

u

Ostorga: That would be kind of cool.

voc at

Tamés: I can see it now. Instead of having a court reporter, or what do you call those people who draw the pictures in the courtroom?

ive. obje c

suSi: The court illustrator, yeah.

Tamés: What if you had a court drip painter?

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exquisite.interviews


an interview with Dwayne Butcher Remote user testing stereotypes of The South Dwayne Butcher contributed the intriguing performance film short Partagas to Provocative Objects. Butcher and I caught up for a quick phone interview to discuss life, love, beer and cigar smoking as a way to get to know each other a little better and talk a little shop off the clock.

Here’s what Dwayne shared with us about his work and the show. Please note: the Bureau of cyberSurreal investigation claims no responsibility for the controversial discourse that follows in this interview. Parental guidance is advised. lou suSi: Your video, Partagas ( 2008, 3:30 ) was in the Provocative Objects video loop. I’m curious to learn more about your background on the rest of your work, perhaps something about how you started and what you are doing today. Dwayne Butcher: I started off as a painter making large, minimal paintings that really did not have much character to them. They were just about the 37


exquisite.interviews color and surface. I got bored with that and wanted to put some personality into my work, but I just didn’t know how to do that. So I started with little quirky titles. I was writing at the time, and I tried to figure out a way to get the title or the text into my work, it was a seemingly seamless transition into the large color-filled painting with thin, little narratives that I’m making now.

suSi: And then the juxtaposition of very intense string music, and then the title of the piece, Partagas, what does that mean?

suSi: And what about your video work?

Butcher: Actually, Partagás is among the oldest existing brands of cigars, originally established in Havana in 1845. Today the name is used by two competing companies, one in Cuba and the other in the Dominican Republic, but that’s neither here nor there.

Butcher: These video pieces are now are cultural comments, you could say they are about my life as a citizen of the South and they usually pick on issues, for example, masculinity and different kinds of stereotypes. There’s like a white, redneck, overweight man and then with the kind of role that he can play. Or what he should be able to play or what he does play, those kind of things. That’s kind of where the work is now. suSi: We would have liked to have given each of the videos their own individual spots, however, with limited gallery space we chose to display the video submission in a loop. We set up a plasma display with two chairs, a coffee table, and two closed-ear headphones that provided reasonable sound isolation from the noisy gallery space, not the optimal way to see your piece, but as soon as I saw your work, I knew it had to be part of this show. It was striking to see someone, I assumed it was you, sitting in the bed of a pickup truck, filled with water, drinking beer, smoking a cigar ... Butcher: Yeah, that was me.

Butcher: Partagás is the name of the cigar that I was smoking. suSi: Really? I thought it was a mythological name associated with Greek myth.

suSi: As far as the music goes, did you specifically hire a string unit to create that music or did you find it somewhere? Butcher: The music came from a music ensemble called Luna Nova and they seek out collaborations with artists with their music. That’s how it came about, I’ve used their music in several of my videos. They’re really great about hosting screenings or having interactive exhibitions where they’ll do live performances with different video screenings or projects around Memphis, so that’s where I got the music. suSi: What encouraged you to submit the work to Provocative Objects? Butcher: The whole thing about “provocative objects” title as a theme, I thought it worked espe-


interview with Dwayne Butcher cially the way that y’all were describing inside and outside of the box, which I think is a great way to think about things. Just because people, especially the kind of constructed character that I’m coming up with, that redneck guy, that he would never—or the people that are associated with him, like his buddies or whatever—go into a white gallery space. Combining the low-brow and high-brow thing into something showing a guy like that, bringing that inside the box, I think that’s an interesting take on thinking about shows. suSi: Many people commented, especially when they knew the kind of work that was going in the show, that the invitation, or the visual brand, was misleading. You know, that it was too much like a wedding invitation in that everything that was going to go on inside the box was going to be really wild. I mean, it wasn’t that wild, like nobody was splashed with blood or anything. But it was ... Butcher: Unexpected. suSi: It was definitely that for a lot of people, some wondered if certain things that weren’t intended to be art were actually art because it was placed in that kind of atmosphere. So I think that between not only the visual, this long still of you in the back of the truck, and then hearing it with the sound, and in a weird way, you in the video become the provocative object itself. Like if anyone seemed to be doing something intentional, sometimes, they were mistaken for a performance ...

Butcher: Yes. And I try to do that with a lot of the work too. It’s like he [the man in the video] is very conscious, just like flipping at the camera and what it represents to the viewer, like really looking into that camera, interacting with the camera, and some of the other pieces where I have text pieces or there’s just spoken word kind of a sound to it, it’s like I’m engaging with the audience or with the viewer. It’s a really kind of being with that relationship too. suSi: And you’re looking directly at the camera, right? Butcher: Yes. So it’s welcoming the voyeuristic thing, I’m very aware that I am being watched, almost forcing myself on whatever, on the screen or to the viewer or however that’s presented. suSi: Right, but also you’re watching the gallery, you know, the people in the gallery ... Butcher: Yeah, that’s right. You know, thinking about like making them uncomfortable, not that I’m trying to be like this imposing force or whatever, or some kind of stereotype. This happens a lot with other videos too, just confronting the viewer with imagery, juxtaposing that with things that are supposed to clash and just kind of see what happens, how people respond to that. And that’s what a lot of the work is, and that’s really what the viewer takes from it. But that’s the work. suSi: You work in Memphis, how was it you found out about our show?

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exquisite.interviews Butcher: My wife went to Museum School and she still has friends in Boston and so we’re talking with people from Boston a lot about shows and schools and things like that. So I’m pretty sure it came up that way, talking about this upcoming exhibition that they were excited about in Boston. suSi: Wow, that’s cool. Butcher: I did some research on it and found the call for submissions on Rhizome.org, that’s how I ended up submitting Partagas to your show. suSi: David and I were pretty excited by the caliber and quantity of works, both in terms of the international and interdisciplinary scope of submissions. Butcher: I imagine you’d get a good selection of works with different viewpoints, with a title like “provocative objects.” suSi: Yeah, I think in retrospect we were vague enough, it got a lot of different responses. But let’s bring this back to you, how are things going with your work? Butcher: I had a pretty good year in 2010 as far as exhibitions of my work. A couple in the Nashville area, then a show in Britain and Berlin, which was pretty cool. I also had a show in Milwaukee, that was pretty exciting. suSi: And what’s coming up? Butcher: I’ve got shows coming up in China this year, as well as a show in Belfast.

suSi: So your work is getting out there, that’s awesome. Butcher: The videos are something sweet man, because you can either send a download link, or you can send a DVD, like $3 to London and there’s no big deal. So that’s pretty easy, as long as they have the equipment to play it or show it or whatever, which most people do, everybody does. Either that or a DVD monitor at the very least. I’ve been pretty lucky with being able to branch out from my region. suSi: I recall you mentioned you started in theater? Butcher: No, no. I started off as a painter, and sculpting, just making the traditional form. And then I found that I couldn’t paint what I wanted to say. I couldn’t mold that out of traditional materials, so video seemed to be the way to create these little social satires. suSi: Any notes you’d like to share on how you put together the videos? I know I saw one piece that was four different screens, it started off with four different individuals and a lot of crowd noise and laughter and it seemed to eventually gravitate more towards four crowds or maybe two crowds and two individuals. Butcher: You’re talking about the video called Binge. I made that in Vermont when I had a residency. The theme of that residency was alcoholism. And so 20 of us, for the most part, we just did a lot of drinking. And then a lot of my videos are like exhibitions, I’ll have social gatherings where I’ll


interview with Dwayne Butcher do a cookout or throw a party and that’s part of the show. So I did that and filmed it. My storyboard, almost OCD-wise, conceived every possible scenario. But then other times, I’ve just got to use what I got, and just make a video out of what I have. I’m always searching for imagery to make a comment on, and always writing, I guess you can call them scripts or poems or something for those pieces. Or thinking about how I can kind of make these narratives, or show these as narratives. suSi: Are there other artists, either historical or contemporary, that you feel akin to or that you feel inspired by? Butcher: You know, it’s weird, I don’t watch a lot of other video artists, because I’m usually bored by it. I mean, that’s not the case for everything, but I have a general sense much of it is way too long, or it’s just way too arty, you know what I’m saying? Like trying to outsmart itself. And I’m just not into that. With my videos, man, it’s like I never make anything longer than four or five minutes, just because I know the attention span of the viewer. That said, I do love looking at things, looking at sculpture and artists. There was an amazing show in New York last week at the Bryce Wolkowitz Gallery, Ben Rubin: Vectors [ January 14 through February 12, 2011 ] and that was pretty nice. He had some really great pieces. Rubin writes, “A vector is an indicator, a hint, a single clue about where we’re headed. If we could somehow understand the mix of vectors that influence our trajectory at a given instant, we would be able to briefly

glimpse the future.” Rubin showed different ways of displaying and showing new media at work and that was really great. And then I saw a group show at Freight + Volume, HAYMAKER [ January 8 - February 12, 2011 ] which included the work of Tatiana Berg, she had these paintings in the show that were like three dimensional tents, those were really nice. I like that kind of work. suSi: So it sounds you’re more inspired by paintings you see as commentary ... Butcher: Yeah, suSi: ... than by other video? Butcher: I think so. Just people who kind of see things differently or kind of respond to their environment or their materials is what I’m interested in. It doesn’t necessarily have to be video, but anybody that’s responding to their environment. suSi: Inspiration can come through any medium, you obviously have a passion and sort of a kindred spirit to those sorts of creators who draw your attention to a certain topic that has something to do with some cause or concept that at least draws awareness to something. Butcher: And it doesn’t necessarily have to be a final product. I’m also interested in the different viewpoints that can come from one of those paintings, or one of these drawing or one of these videos. Everybody in the world is going crazy about The Clock, Christian Marclay’s piece at the Paula Cooper Gallery [ January 21 - February 19, 2011 ], but I think

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exquisite.interviews it’s just because of the event more than the actual work. I get excited about those kind of things being more important than the work, and try to construct a narrative around those things that are interesting to me. suSi: I saw on the blog portion of your site that you also teach? Butcher: Yeah. I teach at Memphis College of Art and the University of Memphis. suSi: Cool, what do you teach? Butcher: I teach sculpture and digital arts. suSi: How long have you been doing that? Butcher: I graduated in 2008 and I’ve been adjuncting since 2008. Nickel and diming, man, until I get a full time job, like everybody else, right? suSi: Yeah, I hear you. I recently starting teaching, I imagine that as you create your work and you talk about how the media works, whichever media you’re teaching at the time, I don’t know, for me, it’s nice to know I can share something and pass it on and see other people’s work and see what they bring to it. Butcher: I think that the most important thing about teaching is that it helps to keep you current. I’ve only been doing it for two and a half years, but that makes me stay on top of things. My students are interested in things, so I’ve got to be interested in those artists and those shows and those essays and reviews and things like that. So that’s a good

thing about it. And plus I can learn as much from my students as they will learn from me. suSi: Yeah, just by having to articulate a certain way about the sort of activity that an artist or a designer goes through is enough of a learning experience right there. Is there anything you’d like to add about your future work? Butcher: Ideally, I’d like to do some lare large projection, wall size. I’m starting to mess around now with three and four channel videos. That way it will force, at least me, to think more three dimensional instead of so cinematic with the one dimensional, two dimensional view. I’m thinking about that and experimenting at this time. I want to create environments in a real space. suSi: Do you see that changing the subject matter of your work? Butcher: I like the way I’m going. I just keep wanting to make social commentaries in whatever form that takes. I’m trying to make these three dimensional objects and project onto them as another way to get off the wall, off the television screen. I’m interested in 3D mapping for the Kinect for Wii or the Xbox, or whatever, I’m interested in playing with that and how you could write code for your movie to sit around a three dimensional object, the computer kind of automatically adjusting around the object. That’s a kind of a nerd thing I’m playing around with and try to incorporate that into my own work.


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interview with Dwayne Butcher

suSi: That’s funny, it sounds like you’re trying to make your more three dimensional within the two dimensional plane of the cinematic surface, rather than simply interactive, right?

Butcher: Yes, because, I’m curating a show at Cheekwood Museum in Nashville called Material Apparatus. I selected six video artists who are thinking about the sculptural possibilities of film and video. It’s something that I’m thinking about. I’m going to see what they do and then try to kind of steal what their ideas are and what they are doing, and then try to incorporate it into my work. But you know, projection on the wall, but also projection on 3D objects that are in a space and how to project around that. So it wouldn’t be interactive. It would just be straight on projection.

actually viewed, there’s no telling. I’m playing with or exploring or experimenting with stereotypes and what is or what is not funny about them. Those boundaries, rather, not necessarily a stereotype, but boundaries. suSi: I’m always glad when what I think the piece is about is - is, you know, it makes me feel smart if I suddenly realize, ‘Oh, no, I was right. Okay. Good. Yeah, I’m glad that I didn’t misinterpret.’ Butcher: Yeah, no. That’s fine. I appreciate any interpretations. You just happen to be on at least what I was thinking anyway.

u

suSi: That’s starts to get more spatial, more architectural? Butcher: Yes, I’m interested in creating environments more so than like a DVD. suSi: Taking this back to Partagas, I assume there was a lot of humor involved in what was happening in this piece. So is humor a big part of your work, or maybe it’s just particular certain pieces? Butcher: I think that it’s like the way that I deal with any of these kind of subjects, always from a humorous standpoint, at least I think it’s funny. My wife tells me all the time, these things aren’t funny at all, or they can be sad. But I think they can be funny. So I want them to be funny, but how they’re

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an interview with lou suSi When laughing it up, practice makes perfect Co-curator lou suSi brought his smallish laugh performance troupe Laugh Foundation out to Provocative Objects. They performed a score for laughter called laughStream 2.0 on the stageSpace and, as revealed in the following conversation, they also took the laughs out to a far more public space in the Artists’ Residence Hall - yet another desparate attempt to see if they could transfer a little happy, laugh energy to an unsuspecting ‘found’ audience.

Here’s what we learned about Laugh Foundation from lou suSi David Tamés: So what is Laugh Foundation? lou suSi: Deb Mascara, John Hindmarsh, and I do performances that are based around laughter yoga, around laughter as a performed action and around the concept of laughter being detached from humor. We do experiments, sometimes in public places and other times in more traditional performance settings. Jon likes our work to be in public, even when we practice. Jon definitely prefers performing in public, so we typically practice in coffee shops. Tamés: Do you just break out laughing in the middle of the café or something? suSi: Sometimes we do. Deb’s a little nervous about that. Tamés: How did this start? suSi: I came up with a score for laughter called laughStream. Deb and I performed it at Mobius about a year ago. We each stood onstage with a music stand in front of us. Pre-recorded laugh tracks played in the background and 45


exquisite.interviews we stood in front of the audience, with no conductor { although originally I thought there might be a conductor } and we laughed from the music sheet composition, loosely interpreting this very Cagean laugh performance score. Tamés: Cagey like a squirrel or cagey like John Cage? suSi ( spoken in a Creole accent ): John Cage, that Cajun, it was a Cajun thing. No, put a little wine in that. Tamés: Tell me about the performance at Mobius. suSi: What was really interesting during our first performance at Mobius is that we were not able to make the audience laugh at all. The fourth wall stood in between us, there was that membrane. It wasn’t necessarily our explicit and only goal to make them laugh, but it still felt like a little bit of a failure. At certain points I moved toward the audience and laughed directly at them. I moved my hands, gesturing to try and get the people in the front row to take the laugh with them, and they couldn’t do it. Tamés: Why do you think the Mobius audience didn’t laugh? Was this an audience that was looking at what you’re doing analytically in the context of performance art? suSi: I kind of think so. There were people in the back of the room, and behind this fence area, or railing, and they laughed. I suspect they felt bad for us. They knew we were trying to make the audience laugh, so they faked it to try and make us feel okay

about the fact that we couldn’t make anyone laugh.         Tamés: So let’s take this now to Provocative Objects, because when you performed laughStream at the exhibition, there was quite a bit of laughter. suSi: Yes, one thing that was different is we added Jon to the group, and another thing is we practiced a lot. Deb likes to have it all down and practiced, and I’m more improv-oriented, and Jon is somewhere in between, and so we practiced a lot with the same score, and the same pre-recorded laugh tracks in the background. We performed pretty much the same thing, but with three people instead of two, and this time I think because the environment was a lot looser, that there was installation and performance art going on all over the space at once, it was chaos but at the same time not so provocative that people would leave, provocative enough for peoples’ minds to open up a little bit. Perhaps some people knew us, and knew that it was supposed to be funny and was supposed to induce laughter. They felt in on the joke. Whereas at Mobius maybe they did’t even understand the joke at all. Tamés: What kinds of questions are you exploring? What do you hope the audience takes away from it? suSi: I’m sure plenty of people were provoked to think, “Well, what is laughter all about?” Maybe not that question, but they probably thought, “This is weird.” That’s the thing that I wanted to explore with my laugh series of projects at DMI, to ask the questions: What’s laughter all about? What’s funny for real? And what’s just funny weird? Does laughter have anything to do with humor at all? Or is it just


interview with lou suSi something that we’re programmed to do, triggered by laugh tracks on TV or from certain permissions we know in society? It’s OK to laugh at the end of a sentence, or it’s OK to laugh because it’s a little awkward right now, I don’t know. There are certain things, systemic rules that we follow or don’t follow, and I want to see what happens when we take and twist the rules. So literally, instead of being a standup comedian on stage trying to make people laugh, I thought, “What if I tried using laughter to make people laugh?” I guess I couldn’t do either one, though. I couldn’t be a successful comedian or a successful laugh researcher, but in a weird way, the success factor is more about discovery. I need to find out about the nuance between humor and laughter in these different environments. At Mobius, where it’s about performance art, people were a lot more serious. They didn’t loosen up enough. But at Provocative Objects, besides the fact that several people were in on the joke, I do think that a lot of other people that might not have seen this type of performance before or even heard about it, laughed due to the context of the performance piece. Tamés: Have you performed laughStream in other venues? suSi: Yes, we did it out at an open mike that I go to in Melrose. And this time it wasn’t in the space the open mike is normally in. This time they held Outloud in an old folks’ home. And people there usually love everything we do, but this time they didn’t get it at all. They had a lot of interesting questions afterwards, but they really didn’t laugh. If you look at the video footage, as an audience, they

really seemed bored or irritated. Sometimes they smiled, that was the most we got out of them. So context and laughter, they go together. Now I wonder what would happen if we took laughStream to a real comedy venue. Could we make people laugh with laughter or would that turn into a strange thing again? I’m not sure. Tamés: Given what you’ve learned so far, how would you describe, or explain, or even define, laughter? suSi: I think laughter is somewhat instinctual. I think that it’s sometimes a reaction to tension. It’s a way to release energy. You can call this tension. Usually a comedian will build up some expectation, and then twist that expectation, to create the punchline. Or there’s something unexpected and that’s what creates the laughter. So it’s a kind of non-verbal reaction, it’s non-language oriented communication, and I’m now aware that I laugh a lot more than I previously noticed, prior to doing these experiments. I tend to laugh in meetings and it usually alleviates tense situations. It lightens the mood when people laugh, and I know that Jon specifically, when we practiced in a coffee shop, he looks around the room to see if people are loosening up or if they look over. He tries to see what their reaction is because he’s interested in this kind of viral energy that happens from laughter. He’s not necessarily looking to see that they start cracking up, but that their mood changes. Tamés: What else can you tell me about laughter? suSi: One interesting thing I’ve noticed about

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laughter is that sometimes there’s a target involved to the laughter. Or the laughter comes out of being targeted. So in a stand up scenario the stand up comedian is targeting and literally trying to kill the audience. “Oh, we literally killed them tonight,” meaning that they made them laugh a lot. If they succeeded in hitting their target, then they get a lot of laughter. I think that laughter can be mean spirited at times, too. I think we know that. I don’t know, it’s pretty interesting. I think laughter also pulls from having your subconscious triggered. Something inside that you might not necessarily ever be able to vocalize or explain with words has been tapped. And what’s funny to you or I might not be totally funny to someone else in the exact same room. Tamés: So it goes back to context?

suSi: In particular, social context. I’ve noticed that certain things are funny or not, depending on the context. For example, I saw Borat with my friend Chris and I thought I was going to die. I laughed for twenty minutes solid. And then I saw it a year later with my wife. I didn’t think it was as funny this time around, both because of the context and because Carol doesn’t appreciate that kind of humor. But perhaps if I watched it again by myself, I might’ve been laughing my ass off again. Tamés: How do you score laughter? What does the score for laughStream look like? suSi: The score was written on typical music staffs, written out in text and said things like, “heh heh heh” and it might then say, “together,” indicating that Deb and I were laughing together. The score


er m

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e nc rie s pe mé ex Ta t& en vid ev itDa ib i+ xh e e suS siv

suSi: Not visually, they were not totally visualized, so it was a little choreographed too, but not tremendously so, there was enough room to improvise. Tamés: How did the addition of a third performer influence the performance? suSi: As a result of including Jon we started to explore other ways of thinking about our laugh performances. So he took the idea of the laugh score, which implies serious or symphonic music, he took that idea and leveraged that for a future laugh song performance metaphor. Jon ran with it, came up with patterns that follow stanza, verse, bridge, stanza, stuff like that. And we’ve practiced these shorter pieces as songs, and also improvised with it. I was glad to see that the metaphor of music for laughter could be something other musicians or performers could start to use for both composition and performance. The concept can evolve and expand now. Tamés: So would you relate this performance more to performance art or as a musical composition? suSi: I thought of it more as performance art, I have to say, but a lot of times I mix the two together. When I do a performance with Deb as Group of 9,

ts jec d e .ob ief r ive b

Tamés: And did you score those gestures as well?

we’re always performing in persona. It’s very rare that I go out and am honestly portraying just me on stage, which might seem a little strange.

de

might indicate we laugh for two lines, meaning one minute. And that this measure was going to be about contagious laughter. So that was a very simple signal for us to practice: I would laugh for a while while Deb wasn’t laughing at all and then I would bump into her shoulder and she would start laughing and I would stop laughing.

im

interview with lou suSi

Tamés: Which persona are you when you perform in laughStream?

suSi: When we do laughStream we’re only laughing, right? There’s no real talking on stage. And at Mobius, I didn’t stay in persona all night, which is what I would normally do. Well, in music performance I guess I don’t do it as much, but sometimes if I do a SiNuS BRaDy thing, I usually stay in persona all night, so that’s a little different. But there was no particular name to the persona in laughStream. Tamés: I noticed in Provocative Objects the name of your piece was laughStream 2.0, so is this a new version? What’s new in laughStream 2.0 that we did not have in 1.0 or whatever the case might me?

suSi: There’s no good answer to that, I think when it was at Mobius it was laughStream 2.0, too. ( just 2.0, not 2.02 ). I might have called it 3.0? No, it was 2.0. Tamés: It was 2.0, but what’s this 2,0? What’s with this 2.0 business? suSi: I like to poke fun of the web, the latest, bleeding edge technology. Tamés: So 2.0 is better than 1.0, sort of like 11 is better than 10? suSi: I’m implying that it’s the smoothest, coolest, thing out there, you know? But I guess it’s not, though. We’re just playing around with that idea. I have a mug that’s for SiNuS BRaDy, and one side says web 2.0 happens, a la shit happens.

u

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an interview with Philippe Lejeune Do you feel connected? That is the question. David and lou stopped by Philippe Lejeune’s studio in March of 2011 for dinner, drinks and some conversation about his piece Do you feel connected? That is the question and the evolution of his work. With every available form of communication ready and available to us today, there still seems to be a lot of questions up in the air. Philippe used installation, performance and media to conduct a live experiment in the middle of the gallery during Provocative Objects. Philippe’s performance work may be seen online at: http://tiil.us/performances/provocative-objects.html https://projeqt.com/tiil#gsi0ci22255q

Philippe Lejeune on images, life, reflection, and his performance within a box David Tamés: Philippe, it seems like you’ve been interested in reflections for a long time. Philippe Lejeune: I started using reflective surfaces as a material in 1991, developed it for several years, first in Connecticut, then over four years in France until 1996 when I decided to come back to live in the states, and abandoned my interest in the medium to move to other ones. It’s only since January 2010 that I decided to revive it and got interested in playing again with the concept of reflective surfaces within space.

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exquisite.interviews Tamés: What made you decide to use this kind of material in the first place?

Lejeune: In the early 90’s I was doing aluminum

sculptures, which were made of 1/2 inch thick cutout aluminum plates that I was polishing to make more reflective. But what is important is that one day I experienced something strange with that material when working in my studio. By luck I had two identical little wooden cubes which were positioned in the symmetry of a sample aluminum plate.

Tamés: What happened? Lejeune: I had the impression that the aluminum

plate was transparent for the first time! That I could see through it and see the wooden cube on the other side.

Tamés: Was it an accident you set up this kind of symmetry?

Lejeune: Yes, it was positioned like that by acci-

dent! I was so touched by it that I decided to play with that effect.

Tamés: What were you feeling? Lejeune: I thought woouah! it’s strange, I am trying to transform the aluminum material and it’s a lot of work--right!? Those two little wooden cubes just being there did a much better job, making the glass look suddenly transparent! Of course the transformation was only an illusion, but I realized that day that a material in a particular setting could be transformed as well, without being touched! Just pure


interview with Philippe Lejeune manipulation. That’s how it started.

experience?

Tamés: You felt the magic?

Lejeune: My work changed drastically, became

Lejeune: Yes! The moment felt magical. The con-

cern that we all have as artists to work hard to transform something was transferred into me. I was the one actually transformed, I was touched and I had done nothing (physically) for that.

Tamés: What kind of work did you do after that

much simpler. I moved away from the aluminum and started to use mirrors instead, or ordinary glass. I was learning to work around the material (not doing anything to the mirror), building a structure around it that would recreate the effect of transparency. The concept was simple, I just needed to position whatever I was constructing in the symmetry of the mirror. I did a lot of them, working first from maquettes to visualize the possibilities. I was also doing some full human scale structures. I even got a commission to install 7 pieces in a school for the town of Stamford, Connecticut.

Tamés: Can you show me some examples of the work you did?

Lejeune: I did a “telephone booth” structure in

wood with a two-sided mirror positioned in the diagonal. The effect was not only working within the built structure but within the space it was posi-

Two maquettes

Entrance of school

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tioned in as well. At the time I was living in Compo Beach in Westport, Connecticut. One day I brought the structure onto the beach and to my surprise the bay which was not perfectly symmetrical still fooled the eyes as you can see in the photo (p. 52). The “real line” of the bay related perfectly with the “reflected line of the bay” within the mirror, which confused the eyes. You can notice that the light is not the same within the mirror because of the position of the sun. It would be similar if it was at noon when the sun is up. I kept the structure on the beach for a

couple of hours and lots of people came, especially kids, to interact with it. It was a great experience for me.

Tamés: What about the school commission? Lejeune: When I applied, I thought that the forms I designed were way too minimalist to attract the interest of the selection committee. I was going to install various forms in different locations within the school. The entrance had a perfect symmetrical setting. I decided to propose something at the en-


interview with Philippe Lejeune trance very similar to the one I showed you on the beach, with glass around, but I proposed the idea that it could be used by the children as a support for drawings.

Tamés: They could draw on it? Lejeune: Yes. They really liked the idea and I got

the commission. What is interesting is that when I spent a few weeks in the school installing everything, I was thinking it could be cool to organize some workshops with kids around one of my forms.

Tamés: Did you get the opportunity? Lejeune: Yes, a few months later I moved back to

France. My younger son who was 3 years old was enrolling to the Maternelle, the equivalent of a preschool, the only difference is that it is already run as a public school in France. I was able to do some workshops around a “magical form” that I designed, which I called “Le Cube,” for a year, once a week in the class where my son was enrolled. I had to come up with a new idea every time. It was a fantastic experience where I learned so much from the chil-

dren’s creative, natural ability.

Tamés: What was it you learned from this? Lejeune: I am going to give you one example which is interesting in regard to education and expression. In the beginning I was focusing on the desire to structure their expression. For example, to ask them to do simple tasks on the glass, like one would draw horizontal lines on the glass , another a vertical lines, etc. Of course in the group there would often be a kid who would not follow the instructions, more often it was a boy, who would simply start scribbling. Every time it happened, another kid would come to me to complain, telling me also that he didn’t like that kid for doing so. After reflection, I realized that any expression was important, and to take some freedom was actually a good thing, especially in art. At the same time more kids were often tempted to do as such. It changed the way I structured the workshops, I let them be looser and every time they all got to end up scribbling, which was much more fun! I saw that they needed to have that liberty of expression. I gave

Two maquettes

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exquisite.interviews up trying to teach anything. We are all so obsessed with the feeling that we have to learn in order to be someone, forgetting that it is just as important to simply be in the moment and having fun doing something easily with no technical concerns. The other thing which surprised me was to see the quality of the scribbles that they could create. Having sometimes 30 kids drawing on Le cube, the energy that they could produce as a group was the element that we often lack when we work alone to try and produce something as beautiful. Plus, the transparency of the glass was adding so much to the aesthetics. You know that every definition you can find in dictionaries (the French ones, especially) about the word “scribble” is negative: a scribble is something badly formed, done out of boredom, with no aesthetic quality, etc.

Tamés: I can see that same intention in the box

you installed for Provocative Objects, to let people be much more loose.

Lejeune: You are totally right! with my installa-

tions, whatever I will end up doing, the public will see the “magical effect,” and will have the desire to play and become more relaxed. Of course, adults are less inclined to do so, and sometime don’t see the tricks at all, and see only something empty...

Tamés: Tell me more about the effects you created. Lejeune: With the mirrors I can create the illusion

that the image reflected is as real as its surrounding, to the point that you believe they are the same. The mirror disappears completely, especially positioned in the diagonal of a cube, like the one I designed for the children’s workshop. I often bump my hand into the glass forgetting it’s there. You know there is

a glass but your mind, being logical, doesn’t want to see it.

Tamés: How so? Lejeune: The mind “reads” there is a cube when

actually you see only a triangular form. The mirror carries a duality-- we only think it reflects, when in reality it also very much acts as a wall hiding what is behind. In my setting, the mirror positioned in the diagonal hides half of the cube, so you can’t see the cube anymore, but because of the symmetry, the image on the surface of the mirror re-creates what is hidden, the brain is fooled and as a result erases the image on the mirror to read only the cube instead of the triangular shape. That’s where the magic comes! The image on the mirror feels “alive,” which is kind of a paradox.

Tamés: Let’s talk about the more recent work. You say you revived your work last year in 2010. How?

Lejeune: The glass reflection approach showed me I could use it for a multitude of related “environments”. Art and Education, but also Architecture,


interview with Philippe Lejeune and Art performances, Design, etc. I even built an aquarium, using the refraction instead of the reflection. Having experimented with my maquettes with all those possibilities, I thought I should re-ignite them and make it a reality... So I chose to start with dance. I didn’t know any dancers in Boston, but I was lucky to see a dance performance last winter at the Mills Gallery. I did some research online and from there I approached a dancer, Liz Roncka, invited her to perform around a simple glass installation (with another dancer she invited, Emily Beattie) creating a unique relationship with one dancer’s reflection being mixed on the surface of the glass with the other dancer’s body positioned on the other side of that glass.

Tamés: What kind of setup did you put together? Lejeune: I don’t have a studio, so I decided to use a

simple small glass from a past installation. My concern was to find the place to practice on a regular basis and to find the proper lighting to create the effect I was looking for. We rehearsed at Brookline Community Access TV and used the professional lighting in their studio. They were very nice and and let us use their space for free. In exchange, I created a 30 minute video from the practices to be aired on their channel. What supports the image is not only the glass, but the viewer as well. The effect ( mixing bodies) was working only from one side, the dancer on the other side was seeing through the glass normally ( with no effects). It was working so well with the proper lighting, but the angle to appreciate the “effect” was limited and for a long time it was a concern that I didn’t really know how to handle. I often find out that the best creative solutions come from resolving what is not working.

Tamés: How’s that? Lejeune: This was what came to you my mind right

away when I started working with reflection. The viewer will see themselves. He/she is becoming the subject or part of the work; it forced me to take this into account, and now I actually consider that the viewer is the subject much more then the form itself. Anything done was intended for the pleasure of the viewer, to experience something more then to look at something. But with a dance performance, you don’t deal with one viewer, but with an audience, which is much more difficult to handle, to position. From that moment on, I became interested in participatory work. And for me, the most important part of the work

Basic setup used in the beginning for two dancers.

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exquisite.interviews was when the viewer started looking at the work, engaging the work, and actually becoming the work, when before, the most important moment was the finished product of the work. In art, there’s lots of kinds of support: financial support, the canvas to support the paint, the wall to support the art work, the gallery, the system (the art market). But for me, the most important support is the viewer. The art starts with the engagement of the public. Going back to the problem of having an audience, instead of one viewer, I came up with the idea to make the viewer even more involved. If you think about it, the best place to experience the mixing effect is where the dancer is. Having in mind that the viewer was part of the “image” created, I had the idea to replace the dancer with someone from the audience. The occasion to experiment with that new setting

came with the invitation to participate for a show at Mobius titled The Prostitution of Art. I decided to enclose Liz Ronka, to make her perform in a box and to let viewers come one by one to sit facing her and to have their body visually mixed with Liz’s through the glass, creating a much more emotional experience for the viewer. The rest of the public behind on one side were able to see the effect from a distance.

Tamés: I see how you evolved. Tell me about the

piece you created for the Provocative Objects show.

The setup for The Prostitution of Art.


interview with Philippe Lejeune Lejeune: The next move for me was: is it possible

to only have the public without performers? My idea was more and more the desire to make the public the subject, to place the viewer in “center Stage” within the reflection. The only problem with the glass is that only one side was fun to experience. To control the light better, I decided also to enclose the glass even more. Provocative Objects was also the perfect occasion to experiment with those notions, to provoke the public and see how they would manage to engage physically. On the other side of the glass the enclosed box was not creating any effect, and I was afraid the public would not want to get in to perform there. That was why I decided to perform there myself for the first time , even if my intention is always to neutralize my action, or separate myself from the work.

I didn’t want to have a dancer for the show, so, against my will, I decided to perform. The work was called Do you feel connected? That is the question! and the description read: I will be an “Agent Provocateur.” Traditionally, an agent provocateur [ plural: agents provocateurs, French for inciting agent(s) ] is a person employed by the police or another entity to act undercover, to entice or to provoke another person to commit an illegal act). More generally, the term may refer to a person or group that seeks to discredit or harm another by provoking them to commit a wrongful or rash action. On second thought, though, I preferred to be an “Angel Provocateur”... I preferred to invite people into my [__|__] and just trigger images into their mind.

Tamés: You came also with some equipment? Lejeune: Yes, I had: laptop, computer screen, 4

speakers, 2 sound amplifiers, microphone, camcorder, cellphone, a small projector, videos, audios, logos, a book, camera, 2 sound amplifiers positioned on both cubes (the one on the side of the viewer was not working during the show).

Tamés: How did you use all this? Lejeune: Before responding specifically to your

question, I would like to say this: Art is always about communication between an art form and the person looking at it. If you get what you are looking at you are in communication, in touch. You are using this moment for your own sake, and you will certainly like the art work for creating that emotional relation. If you don’t sense anything, which by the way happens more often then you think, you feel

The setup for Provocative Objects.

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disconnected, distancing yourself from it, etc. You can also provoke/challenge the viewer, to the point of creating a rejection that will also disturb the viewer’s pleasure or interest, but if the experience feels like something negative, there is still a connection... You could see that in some of the work proposed that evening. Some with discomfort, but Fun at the same time (e.g. lou’s moneyShot bouquet). In my case, not having any past experience for this kind of interaction with the public, not knowing

how successful I would be, and also scared of performing for the first time, I decided to come prepared with some props, like in a theater, also knowing that I would do this a long time-- basically during the entire show. Here, the box, the glass, every physical element I was bringing, had no aesthetic interest (and people are used to judging art in a gallery first by its aesthetics). To provoke them at the same time also carried with it the strong possibility that they would just look and pass by to the next form.


interview with Philippe Lejeune

Here are a few examples of how I implemented these components.

The viewer could see his/her face projected into Marina’s photo on the book’s cover.

The camcorder was positioned behind the viewer so that I could use it at any time to record from the laptop the viewer’s reflection mixed with me, using QuickTime, and to start at any time the video postrecording, projected on the computer screen on the top of the cube for the viewer inside and public outside to watch at the same time and create a sense of time delay from the same thing still continuing to happen in real time (not sure if the public really noticed the delay, etc.). In any case, those recorded videos are a great source of documentation.

It worked well, and if the viewer didn’t know about Marina Abramovic, it didn’t matter. It was still fun to see yourself projected into the book cover. And I was expressing the idea that I am present, but then playing the game to hide myself behind the book.

A camera was inside the box on the floor, that anyone getting into the box could use freely to take pictures. A book of Marina Abramovic’s work. I started to read this in homage to her performance a few months earlier at MoMA , titled The Artist is Present.

Various videos that I could play from my laptop at anytime during my performance that were visible on the screen positioned on the top of the cube facing the viewer inside and for the public outside. One video was from Vito Acconci’s theme song 1973 which relates so well to the notion of connectivity... When I showed it I decided to position myself as Acconci did, laying down. But contrary to Acconci, I was not looking at the viewer, but instead at the video on my laptop, and while Acconci was not really in contact with the viewer, I was “connected” with the viewer on the other side of the glass... I am

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exquisite.interviews not sure the public understood or knew the famous video... it didn’t really matter. The screen on the top of the glass cube was constantly showing what was on the screen of my laptop. Other video references used: G.H. Hovagimyan: Entertain Me / Dan Graham: Audience Mirror / Richard Serra: Boomerang / Bruce Nauman: MMMM / Laurie Anderson: Oh Superman / etc. I’m not sure this was very effective, or very well received by the public, but it was interesting for me to implement all those ideas into my performance and see the impact. In homage to you and lou, the curators of the show, I also played some of your videos that I found on Google. My cell phone with my number was advertised on the cube so that people could call me and the voice of the caller was carried out to the speakers (without my voice). It somehow created a surprise for the caller, especially when outside of the cube-suddenly shifting from a simple viewer to an active participant... it was interesting to play with all these notions of connectivity, especially with the new technology tools we now carry, still useless in a gallery setting, but fun for confusing the physical “real” relation. Text--audio that I recorded in advance played as Flash animations played from the laptop and showed on the screen. See the animations: http://tiil.us/provocative-objects/question.html http://tiil.us/provocative-objects/connect.html Another difficulty I faced during the evening was to coordinate the sounds so that they didn’t interfere


interview with Philippe Lejeune too much with the other performances in the room. I had to lower all my sounds, and I think it was very difficult for the listener to understand where the sounds were coming from, being mixed with other performance sounds. I had to take the confusion into account! Which at the end worked very well. Confusion is good as long as you keep the interest of the public. And it was adding to the feeling of what it is to feel connected. Various logo animations were shown on the screen running very fast, making it difficult to read. The intention was to reflect on the fact that we are engaging with a lot of new forms of communication with the new technology, making things both more practical and more confusing at the same time. See the animation: http://tiil.us/provocative-objects/apps.html A pocket projector that I used to project various internet logos onto people’s bodies when walking around the gallery.

Tamés: You have a way of using forms and tech-

nology in a manner that achieves a state of simplicity, can you tell me more about this?

Lejeune: Yes, I think that’s the way I am. I don’t

really like to build something very fancy or complex -- I never go that way. I think when you do that--to build something technically complex--the viewer will always consider this as part of the feeling he has and might make a judgment in relation to that. I don’t like that. The art work that I collect (which is very little) is always from artists who don’t or didn’t use any “technique” and still were transmitting something very powerful. I studied Etching and

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exquisite.interviews became known and recognized for my technique known as Aquatint etching. I was called a “master engraver” or whatever. I worked with one of the most famous illustrators in Europe, J.M. Folon, in the early 70’s, and collaborated with him to create etchings that were showed in major galleries and museums all over the world. I knew everyone in Paris who was involved in that market (which is a small one). And I remember thinking already: It’s strange but I don’t really like technique in art, it doesn’t fulfill me... It took me some time to get out of it, however, that’s a long story. All of this to say that I think it’s important not to impress the viewer with some kind of technique. Unfortunately, too many people judge the art from that point of view. It’s not that it is bad, of course, but it denies the recognition of expression to people who didn’t master any technique, but can still express very interesting things that are worth considering. Actually, this is true for J.M. Folon’s work, for he was not good at drawing at all when he started. He managed to become one or the most successful and recognized illustrators of his time. Within the limitations of his ability, he learned to simplify his technique to the point that it became pure magic and understood or received by a majority of people, the connoisseurs as well as the general public. He became good enough at drawing, but best at communicating through that language. A lot of people are good at drawing. I’m good too. I used to draw all the time, got the best grades in drawing in art schools. I teach drawing in a college right now and I am good at teaching, but I also know that I can’t express myself through this me-

dium. Those are two different things. To be good at expressing yourself is what counts. That’s why I gave up drawing. Now I draw only for practical reasons. I don’t enjoy drawing to express myself. I guess that’s why I use reflective surfaces now. The image is already formed, happening in real time and I can think and focus on other things, like its context to a space, the culture, etc.

Tamés: What are you showing through this? Lejeune: The visual artist’s concern is to show

something, but I think this show was more about exposing something!

Tamés: What’s the difference? Lejeune: In this show it was more about exposing the public, to subject the audience for an action, a response, an engagement. I was also exposing myself in the real sense by deciding to perform.

Tamés: What were you trying to achieve with your


interview with Philippe Lejeune to do just the opposite, to bring a sense of closeness, of intimacy, into the context of reality. Most images we create are “nature morte,” (still life in English, in french we say “death Nature.”) “Still life” is a very good explanation of the work. It’s still life or about life but it’s not life anymore. That’s a question to ask with reflective surfaces: are they still life? Within my definition of what is an image --the opposite of reality, it’s a provocative dilemma. The object in this construction is the subject, by this I mean the viewer who is becoming an actor.

installation?

Lejeune: That’s the most difficult question to an-

swer, and if you were asking me it at a different time I would have a different answer every time, I guess because my personal interest of the work is to first find pleasure in it , but also very much to help me reflect on my condition in this world, and my struggle to communicate. Picasso’s quote expresses best what we’re searching for with art, “Art is a lie that makes us realize truth.” This is what I feel all the time, that all my expression is in regard to a form of illusion, actually distancing myself from the context of reality, almost living within the illusion. But at the end, I use all of this to become more engaged in reality. I think that this is what Picasso means by “truth”, to get back to the notion of reality. There’s an interesting paradox, that in art you have to distance yourself from life, to use art as a “reflection.” Strangely enough I choose to use a “real reflection”

Art is a construction for the mind. That’s probably why we usually ask the public to act only as a viewer, as a mind limiting all the other senses. It’s a mistake and artists in the Provocative Objects show were all interested in re-introducing those other senses we derive from “physical form,” not only as “observer”. For me, communication is more about failure than success. There are no tools that will resolve our desire for better communication. We will always ask for more, for better, there is no doubt about that. In our struggle to exist, we are all concerned with our existence. What is important is the possibility for the public to engage in an experience, also in something they want to do for their own interest and in a public space.

Tamés: What about the viewer’s point of view? Lejeune: To look at an image is a limited point of view, always. For the viewer, I am hoping first that she will also find pleasure.

I use a quote from Oscar Wilde in my blog: “Illusion is the first of all pleasures.”

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exquisite.interviews Before the show in the new setting I was organizing, I was really not sure the public would play, would find pleasure. Of course everyone is different, but I can say that after “experiencing” the evening, that people had pleasure, at least for the ones who went into the box--for the ones who stayed outside the box, I am not as sure. In regard to the viewer’s own reflection about experiencing the work, this is where I feel I fall short. I just don’t know. I don’t know what the public will get or use for their own introspection. At first this bothered me, to see that the public will play with my installation and move onto something else like it was just a game, or entertainment. There is a superficial connotation when we use the word “game.” The more I play, the more I consider that games are a very serious thing. For me, a game has consequences , very serious ones. But I realize I can’t con-

trol people’s emotions (I do it a little, using the magic reflection coming with a trick), but that’s it, I stop there. I could, but I decided to not go further, and I am not allowed to go further-- it would become too much of a manipulation. It could be interesting for an artist to try to push the idea of manipulation, to exaggerate it to the point where it becomes a real physical disgust, with people vomiting in museums, etc. In art performance there are some examples, but I don’t know of real physical reactions from the public. In any case, everything I do is staged for the viewer’s pleasure. The most important thing is not the form being exhibited, but more the moment when someone engages with the form presented. The other particularity is that it works best when two people engage together. The relation is not toward an object, but toward someone else through that object! It’s much better, in my sense.


interview with Philippe Lejeune tools like the iPhone, the internet, and before that, books and languages, among other things to find a means of being connected. It works, but the feeling of disconnection is still there, even stronger then ever. So in that context, the glass reflection, when you look at it, the glass makes everything transparent, we become transparent.

Tamés: What does it do to our condition on an emotional level?

Lejeune: I am overwhelmed by this image that

It reminds me of Van Gogh’s great quote: “There is nothing more truly artistic than to love people.” I don’t know if I love people by doing so. I really like to see people having a good time when they are “using” my installation.

Tamés: Certainly there’s connection between love and the ecstasy of communication. Can you talk about the notion of transparency?

Lejeune: Nothing is transparent in life outside

of a few materials. We human beings are certainly non transparent, in the sense that we are mysteries! That’s why I can title my work: do you feel connected? That is the question. In my mind one of the most important questions is that we still see each other as “mysteries.” We never know what someone else is thinking, and we invent all those magical

shows me and the object next to me transparent. We should be. I know we see this all the time, considering that there are windows everywhere, but we are not touched anymore by it. I was not touched either by this kind of illusion, this kind of transparency, until I experienced for the first time the illusion to see the aluminum plate becoming also transparent (like we talked about at the start of the interview). The little plus in that experience that triggered everything, that triggered my senses, was also to see the object, in that case, the little wooden cube, to see it again when my mind knew there was one hidden on the other side of the aluminum plate, the other one! For Provocative Objects, it was a different feeling of transparency, because the glass is transparent, but to have our own body becoming transparent is cool but not special. But when somebody else becomes mixed with our own image (identity), in my mind this is overwhelming. In regard to our concern of lacking a sense of communication in everything we do in life, it is a little plus worth considering, worth enjoying. As a result you see most of the people in the box smiling or a little embarrassed. There is

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something genuine and touching to experience the visual connection through the glass reflection.

Tamés: What did you take away from the evening in general?

Lejeune: Visual events (like gallery openings) are not fun for me at all. But you organized a visual event that was really fun. That’s a very important achievement, a challenge of some sort. That is, a provocation in the context of our culture, the way we organize exhibitions.

I had a great time. Of course the artist is center stage and it’s always rewarding and we usually have a good time. But I am talking in general for everyone, you could sense that people had a good time, like they might have in a party. Considering (and here, I talk for myself) that openings in galleries are very boring, you can’t really appreciate the work. You can only relate to people talking to each other, and if you don’t know any one, you put music on and food and everything becomes more pleasant. In Provocative Objects, this was very pleasant, even before the music, even with the constant brouh-haha, it was kind of noisy, but it felt like people were

more alive and engaged. You go to see an exhibit in a museum and there is nothing to touch, no one to talk to or to meet. It’s like everything is organized to disconnect you from reality, creating a distance so that you engage only visually with the art work, and ultimately with your inner thoughts.

Tamés: Are you telling me that you, yourself felt more connected?

Lejeune: For the artist, the connection is mainly

in that context, the feeling to have created a form that people respond to, basically that they like. I feel connected when this happens. When I saw for the first time two people on their own deciding to go into the box on both sides of the glass, playing with the effects, that was the best reward. The box is a connection tool, if you think about it. It mixes your body visually with another body. From there, I realize that I gave a tool that triggers the expression in the audience. A musician plays and the audience wants to dance, everyone finds their expression in pleasure. In a gallery you are asked to shut up. All body expression is only your eyes, you are not allowed to touch, to talk, you can move but only to go to the next image. I want to use this potential of


interview with Philippe Lejeune “play” in the gallery context. This is the provocation you (David & lou), the curators of the show, were looking for I assume.

Tamés: The question is, did the audience feel connected? Were they provoked to think, to make new connections?

Lejeune: Yes, and it’s a very interesting subject

today, especially with the new technology, or new media, or new portable tools coming into our daily lives. In some ways, I was aggregating a lot of them in one box, just for the pleasure to play with them, not really to use them efficiently. People calling me during the show and seeing me at the same time was nonsense, and it was designed to become a joke! If my actions were not created in a very efficient manner, they were at least organized to just create

an “effect,” like some kind of dissonance, hoping, I guess, to affect them. Feeling connected is our main concern in life. Connection brings in us life, when very often that feeling of life is lost. There is no end to what the mind can ask us to do for connectivity. I am not acting to resolve anything. On the contrary, to confuse, or to at least “mediate,” conflicting notions that we carry within us. The subject is too vast for me to try to reflect on it in this interview. That’s not my intention, anyway. My intention is to play with all those notions of connectivity through a real reflective surface for the pleasure of the audience. I would only say that we can read anything into the surface of that glass. It can be only the superficial (to stay at the surface), to consider the reality of the moment experienced with that glass, or

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exquisite.interviews place were we feel we live together.

Tamés: I feel that wraps it up nicely. I’m curious, are there some artists who influenced your work?

Lejeune: Actually artists are not the main influence

at the opposite, the philosophical aspect of it. Pick your subject! Indifference is the only failure for me. I have to accept that someone will pass by without taking notice. The provocation didn’t work then. There was no connection.

in my work. I am sure it is, because you can’t help being influenced by what y ou see or experience, but I always base my work on the simple (again) things that touch me, often from my own work. I actually gave up etching the day I realized that the stencils I used to color a lithograph (I was at the time also doing some lithographs) which needed to be colored by hand (at the request of a publisher), were more beautiful than the actual artwork. I started comparing the lithographic image and the stencils which were just tools, and I thought: the stencils are way more cool and beautiful than the lithograph I was working on. The next day I started working on the idea to do a sculpture out of the stencils. At the same time, I decided not to renew my contract with my publisher. I stopped completely being involved

By the way, I think it’s important to say that if we are very much concerned with connectivity, we paradoxically are, I think, making more efforts to disconnect, especially in public spaces.

Tamés: How so? Lejeune: We keep our connectivity concerns usu-

ally for ourselves when we are alone (we use the internet alone), or for only our close friends or family. For the rest, we create these kind of events we like to go to. We are talking about Culture here. A place to learn, to experience something in order to gain something, or maybe evolve or progress, or least a Lithograph


interview with Philippe Lejeune in printmaking, and to my surprise, became a painter and a sculptor. The same thing happened to me a few years later with the aluminum plates (which were from the cut outs of stencil forms). It’s like I described to you earlier- experiencing the feeling of transparency by luck, and I again shifted my work. The most influencing thing I had was from a little thought I had one day thinking: It’s strange, we always need a support to create an image, the canvas for the painter, etc. However, most of the time the support will be neutralized in favor of the expression done on the support.

was to neutralize myself as much as possible, and to make the support become the subject. The next day, I stopped using complex colors and shapes. I decided to use only white paint in transparency over wood, so that the viewer looking at my work would first see the wood, and only after that, the white paint, with no real shape, playing with the wood (the support). When I made the decision to work with reflective surfaces, I was doing sculptures at the time. Actual-

Then I thought, being a typical French Cartesian (coming from Descartes’ philosophy), if we need the support, it means that it is essential. Why then do we neutralize it? It doesn’t make sense! That brought me that day to reconsider my approach. I decided to play a game and to shift the concern: the game

Stencils

Maquette

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exquisite.interviews ly, the aluminum plates that I was cutting out where flat, were like stencils (the idea coming from looking at stencils). So the quality of my sculptures were already very much about limited points of view. You could read my forms from basically two points of view: the front and the back. And I was painting at the same time, using the stencils to paint from. My game then was to make the paintings look like a sculpture, when my sculptures were done to look flat, like an image.

TamĂŠs: Who are the artists you admire most?

Aluminum Sculpture

Text and wood with white paint

Lejeune: I recently came upon the realization, es-

pecially when working on this visual concept of using reflective surfaces as images and trying to make sense of it (you always have a lot of doubt about your work, often thinking it’s stupid to do such things). I was thinking to reassure myself. The artists I admire started the same way with very simple experiments or concepts.


interview with Philippe Lejeune Like Christo deciding to cover simple objects with fabrics and ropes, looks very strange, and look what he did with this approach later on. Another example is Robert Ryman’s white paintings. To decide to limit your expression to cover a support with white paint with no intention to express anything, looks also very suspicious, especially when you see the paintings for the first time. But look at what it became, one of the most original work-relations between paint and support. By the way, I never understood or even saw his work until I started doing my own experiments with white neutral paint on wood, which was my choice of support after my decision to limit my expression--at that time I opened my eyes to Robert Ryman while looking at old art magazines.

I didn’t understand it at the time, so I did not see them, and it’s only when I understood it that I saw it or actually recognized it!

Christo

Robert Ryman

My favorite artist is Daniel Buren. He is the artist, through his writing, who helped me evolve the most (on my own, I feel it would have taken me way more time to do so). Remember, I come from a traditional background in art. When being trained as a printmaker, I was far away from contemporary issues. Going to art school is dangerous in regard to the influence it can have on you. It took me years to regain my freedom and to see, or be more aware of, what art is about. Anyway, if you don’t know Daniel Buren’s work, he simplified his imagery to vertical lines and focused

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exquisite.interviews on the canvas size measuring 8.7 cm wide and spent his time implementing them in situ, incredible work with such a simplified shape. I recommend reading him. His thinking is very Cartesian. I remember being overwhelmed at first, thinking he over-analyzes everything, but in the end I found out he was right about and so critical of the gallery system, and about the context of the image. Very refreshing when you are looking to educate yourself and develop some kind of awareness. There are three major figures among the French Artists: Yves Klein, Marcel Duchamp and Daniel

Buren, who is still working. I never met him, I have not seen a lot of his work in person. Images from art books can still do as well, sometimes.

Tamés: So what is technique for you? Lejeune: It’s when there are no techniques in-

volved, in the sense that anyone could have done it as well. That ‘s real technique for me. What I mean is that it is also a technique in itself, in my sense much more difficult to master because it’s so simple. In our normal thinking, technique is always something that must be developed and mastered, or whatever, when actually it can just be there, in front of us, to use. While this is my personal approach, I also understand and can appreciate the exact opposite idea. For example, I can appreciate the Greek technical mastering for sculpting the human body. But look at cave drawings! It’s the perfect balance between less technique and perfection of expression, which still overwhelms us. They didn’t have to go to art school to be in expression! Sometimes I feel it’s the necessity for expression that counts more than anything else. More than technique.

Tamés: Tell me more about expression. Lejeune: Expression is an essential necessity for

all of us to feel part of life, to feel in existence, and when I am transformed by this simple effect that I encounter, I feel alive. I’m hoping to do as well for the viewers engaging with my installation, to have them experience a moment of wonder is already something. For the rest, it’s up to them. I can’t do too much. It’s the viewer that does the painting, says Marcel Duchamp. They must be active. That’s the point Daniel Buren


interview with Philippe Lejeune

of Provocative Objects from my perspective. To ask the viewer to engage physically. The only way was to provoke, because the traditional way to relate to art is to see the public only as a viewer of the work, when actually they are much more than that. And what they get out of it is a mystery. We never ask them. You are interviewing the artists, but did you interview the public? It’s of course difficult to do so, but all this is intended for them, and for me. In the end, it’s a dialogue, or at least it should be. The question could be: are we connecting with them? And what they get is so complex and difficult to express. I would like to know more about their experience of Provocative Objects.

Tamés: I guess I could have spent time taking

with the audience after the show, and perhaps that should be the focus next time I curate an exhibition. The catalog can be about the experience of the audience. That’s a really provocative idea! But we’re here now, talking about your work, which turns around images, yet it’s an installation. You have a very considered approach. Can you tell me more about it?

Lejeune: My work is about images, but I don’t re-

ally create those images. They are already there no matter what! But the effect I am interested in is not there, and that’s what I am creating, so to speak. I need to fabricate a space around the glass with the notion of symmetry in my mind (which will bring

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about the intended effects). So I built something like a sculpture, or a construction, but because it involves the viewer getting in, and because it involves the space around that will also be part of the image, I end up naturally working like an architect. At my own level of course, which is very basic--again my intention is not to bring an experience of beauty through that construction. I transform a lot of things, but the important transformation, I would say, is in the viewer’s mind, experiencing the illusion of transparency, and more.

ible if nobody looks at them. It’s not the case with sounds.

Tamés: How does this work out in the way galler-

The image produced is not positioned on a wall anymore, or a part of architecture. It’s always in the middle of a space! And anything in the middle of a space which is flat, becomes a wall in itself, a limit, basically, a window. That’s why now, when I go into a gallery or museum or any space, I look more at the windows than the space. I get more emotion from looking at windows. I am almost embarrassed to share that, and when I explain what kind of images I work on, the idea being so simple and basic, I always think that people will not really get it. It’s only when I started showing the effect in performances,

ies are organized?

Lejeune: You can see a shift in how galleries or

museums are setup. One significant example these days is with visual artists using sounds. You are a good example with Provocative Objects, having a lot of sound artists, and you can see that the gallery is not really prepared for that. You need to create different limits or walls with sounds, because by nature they are everywhere, when images are only in one location and invis-

Tamés: Sound goes through and around walls, it’s

hard to contain. The reflective surfaces of the gallery certainly did not make it easy to incorporate sound works. Do you also need limits in your work?

Lejeune: The notion of limits is becoming a very

important one in my work. To play with the glass as a material is an adventure, something very different from what I was used to working with.


interview with Philippe Lejeune still not sure of the impact, that I saw that most people were like me, reacting emotionally.

the reality of the connection moving from one person’s reality to another, it’s between them.

But to go back to your question, the glass is a physical limit, but not a visual one, and that’s something to play with. So I am seeing the notion that in my work I am creating a space within a space. We could say that the box was setup, like small rooms, almost-one for the performer, and one for the viewer becoming a performer. The space is itself an expression. Limits in our life are essential. We all need our own space to exist. With no limits, there is no life.

Lejeune: Oh, really?

while. The notion of reflections in your work reminds me of a conversation I read about Godard’s film, La Chonoise, in which David Sterritt asks the director why he photographed the clapboard several times during the film, and Goddard replies, Why not? Because the real subject is not La Chinoise. It’s a movie doing itself which is called La Chinoise. It’s not together. The subject is not the actors but the artistic way of showing them. Both together. They are not separate. [in the film] the young painter says, “Art is not the reflection of reality, it is the reality of a reflection.” To me it means something. Art is not only a mirror. There is not only the reality and then the mirror-camera. I mean, I thought it was like that when I made Breathless, but later I discovered you can’t separate them from reality. You can’t distinguish them so clearly. I think the movie is not a thing which is taken by the camera; the movie is the reality of the movie moving from reality to the camera. It’s between them.*

This quote has got me thinking that your box represents, much like Godard’s notion of mirror-camera,

Lejeune: Yeah, that’s what it’s all about.

Tamés: Can you talk about the relation you see between the image created on the glass with the new technology you were using?

Lejeune: Reflected images were, I think, the first

images human beings encountered on earth, like on the water, or in another’s eyes. To associate the old images with the newest ones is interesting. What is more relevant is to see how many similarities you can find. They are both about participation and collaboration. The internet is a read and write culture where you gain information as much as you can give back information, just like the glass that lets you view an image that you create as well. The internet gives you a voice, the glass gives you an image. The new technology lets you communicate in real time, and the glass image is created in real time as well. The internet is all about networking, the box is set up as a networking space that lets you relate to another human being. Everything today is about communication and participation and for the first time we can all use visual tools to communicate.

u

Tamés: That’s going to have me pondering for a

Tamés: Yes. It brings home to me the idea that “Art is the reality of a reflection,” as Godard suggests, updated for our contemporary landscape that includes cyberspace.

* Jean Luc Godard, in David Sterritt, Jean-Luc Godard: Interviews, University Press of Mississippi, 1998, p. 29.

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an interview with Laura Amador Talking on the phone about Face2Face lou set up an interview with BU painting major Laura Amador, the artist behind the roving performance piece Face2Face out at Provocative Objects. At various points throughout the evening Boston-area actress Julia Schonberg approached random gallerygoers and began a conversation that seemed at once friendly yet robotic, familiar yet strange and coldly reserved. Her hilarious live-action impersonation of her very own Facebook profile raised the level of cyberSurreality in The Doran, putting people in an awkward spot as they dealt with this interesting personality sans personality. The results are amusing and playfully confrontational.

Here’s what Laura said about Face2Face and Provocative Objects lou suSi: So, at BU you’re a painting major ... Laura Amador: Yes. suSi: And in your work, if I recall correctly, you wanted to do more and more performance ... or ... I guess it could even be considered architectural installation with performance? Laura Amador: Yes, I had done a piece at school that was an installation in my studio that also involved the same performance we did in the gallery at Provocative Objects. 79


exquisite.interviews suSi: At Provocative Objects, what kind of expectations did you have for the show and your piece? How did it all work out for you? Amador: It worked out well for me. As far as expectations for the show — I wasn’t sure what it was going to be like. Especially because I thought it was going to be a more technology-based show. But the show ended up being a lot more interactive. There were definitely a couple of other pieces that included more random audience participation. And people were really open. There were some people that actually followed the actress. There were other people that we needed to approach. I thought people were very open about that. And I ended up being part of the performance that they needed volunteers for ... the one with the blindfolds. suSi: Oh, that’s right, for the piece Pink Slip? Was that it? Amador: It would’ve been toward the end. suSi: Yes, were there several chairs and there were these noisemakers they used? Amador: Yeah, and we were all blindfolded and she touched you with things. It was good to be part of the show as a participant, too. I got to see what it was like to be part of the audience at the show. suSi: It sounds like you were expecting the show itself to be a lot colder, more electronics-based. Amador: Yes. I thought it would be more traditional, too, in a way that we would just be looking at

things more instead of actively participating in the show. suSi: I know this is your last semester at BU, right? What’s been the main focus of your work since Provocative Objects? Amador: Yes, I’m graduating this May. I think that since this is the last time I’ll be taking a painting class, I’ve really needed to buckle down and just do a lot more painting, but I might go back and start experimenting with performance again once I’ve graduated. suSi: How would you describe your painting? I don’t think we’ve talked about that side of your work. Amador: I’m working with mats right now. They’re fairly abstract, some collage within the mats as well and different presentations we have of those. It would take a while to explain, especially without images. But I’m more exploring right now what to do with those. And I have considered different ways to do performance, but I haven’t developed those ideas out further quite yet. suSi: Are your pieces large-scale or small? Amador: They’re all medium to large. We’re really encouraged to make larger pieces at BU. Plus my style is more conducive to larger compositions. suSi: Did you do any more tests with the actress? Did you take the performance, this idea of personifying a social networking experience, beyond Provocative Objects, maybe out into a live public scenario?


interview with Laura Amador Amador: Provocative Objects was the last definite experiment with Julia. I showed my class the video from the gallery and then they gave me feedback on what they thought, which was helpful. But that was the last performance we did. But I think I got really tired of always being aware of social media presence and wanted to get back to art as well. suSi: We originally started talking about the show when I contacted SCVNGR in the Summer to ask about sponsorship opportunities. Can you tell me a bit about your internship with the company and how it might’ve influenced your work? Amador: So I would go in once a week and I helped out with their Museums department, which was the closest thing I guess to working within a gallery context. But interning with SCVNGR had me thinking about social media that entire semester, which was probably part of the reason I started that Facebook project to begin with. suSi: It sounds like you were really interested in the fact that they have an art outreach program, and you wanted that to be the focus of how you helped them. Its an interesting technology. Amador: Its an interesting technology, but its also hard to get people to use it. And it really needs to be a planned-out event where people know about it in advance. That’s when it seems to work best in an art setting. suSi: Were any colleagues from BU in attendance that night? Did they see your piece outside of the

video footage? Amador: I had a couple of friends come and check it out. They’d never been to a show out at MassArt prior to this show. That was interesting. They really seemed to like the piece with the napkins and the maps. And they definitely liked giving feedback about Face2Face and how it was different when people actually experienced it themselves, when Julia talked with them in the space. It was different than watching the video or seeing her talking with someone else than when it actually happened to you. suSi: So, that’s interesting to me, too. You said that the experience live was a lot different than when you see the video footage, that the experience of being approached by this Facebook persona, live in the space, was a different dynamic than when you see video footage of the interaction. What was the general reaction to the live part of it from the feedback you got from your friends at the show? Amador: They said that it was very strange. And that at some point it felt like they were in a play and they forgot their lines. And they realized half way through, ‘Oh, there isn’t a script’. But it feels like there’s stuff they should be doing. suSi: Yeah, I guess the experience on Facebook and some of these social media sites, well, you mentioned the script, but I guess they’re very templated and you know what to expect. There are some opportunities to break out of the grid a little bit, but for the most part you’re within this system that

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exquisite.interviews encourages you to behave in a certain way. Now, when I got to meet the actress, what was her name again? Amador: Julia Schonberg. suSi: So, when I met her I actually couldn’t keep talking with her after a while. She did a really great job at keeping herself removed and being friendly but impersonal at the same time, and it was really freaking me out. And I think I have a pretty good tolerance for that sort of bizarreness. So, if it freaked me out, I can only imagine ... did you get a lot of people that, I mean, it seemed like you had a lot of people that just seemed to go with it, right? Amador: Some people that had seen it happen already, that had seen her interacting with other people earlier in the night, tried to trick her, to try to get her go out of character. She did a great job of not getting caught with that. suSi: That’s funny, interesting. Did you get to talk with her about what her experience was like from the other side? Amador: She said that from her perspective the experience was strange because on the one hand she had to be the robot but she was still being herself. All of the information she gave was true. It would’ve been like portraying her real profile. So, she said it was like a divide between playing a character and playing herself. suSi: She had to slip back and forth, then?

Amador: She said she couldn’t escape totally into the character. suSi: When people see video footage of the performance, do they see it as funny? Strange? How do they react? Amador: Yeah, I got a lot of feedback on that. Most people found it humorous because its like watching a lot of humor that’s out now with awkward hesitation. suSi: Did anyone give you feedback that compared the performance to somebody else in contemporary art history? Amador: Nobody compared the piece, but I had been inspired by a class in contemporary art I was taking at the time. So, someone like Adrian Piper, I had written a paper on and she definitely confronts people in a more serious way. Are you familiar with her work? suSi: No, what was her name again? Amador: Adrian Piper. She’s an African American artist. She did most of her work in the ‘70s, I believe. She confronts people out in New York City and definitely makes them feel uncomfortable. She has a calling card that says something racist on it. Its a calling card that explains African Americans, although she appears to be white. She goes out and solicits racially prejudiced conversations as well as what we do when we think noone’s around to call us out on it. Like a racist joke is okay when someone of another race isn’t around to hear it. Obviously


interview with Laura Amador

suSi: Now, I don’t think you mentioned ever doing performance art before this piece ... Amador: No, I hadn’t. suSi: So, doing this for the first time, what was your general experience? Was it your research that led you to pursue performance? Or did you have a natural tendency to go in that direction? Amador: I think it was the class. Learning and doing the research brought me to this work. And I wasn’t the actual actor, so I felt more like a director, that type of thing. But my part in it turned into a performance all in itself. And then that’s a totally different experience. However I don’t think that I would’ve done as good a job as Julia because I don’t think I could ever stay in character as well as she did. It was a big advantage to work with her, someone that was actually already skilled in acting, because for me to perform I would need training and would need to take some acting classes.

else, more than performing. suSi: So you were improving the performance as the night went on or at least directing it in a way that would get you different results? Amador: Yeah, it was more experimenting than improvising, I think. Based on different reactions we might get and what bits would work best. Each time she stood out thinking of somebody there was this sort of script in her head and we changed it a few times throughout the night. suSi: Its a little strange, because as you paint something you do the same sort of thing, right? Except you’re the performer and you make these sort of instant decisions as you go and change the composition stroke by stroke along the way. Amador: The piece definitely evolved as the night went on. She started the evening doing ‘Facebook chats’ with people and that was more akin to freestyle improvisation. We refined the interactions depending on the other person involved as a participant in the conversation.

u

that’s a lot more serious than what we were doing with Face2Face, but that was the influence and inspiration for going out and doing a performance that confronts other people.

suSi: And then you were able to observe the interactions from afar ... Amador: I could also tweak it. So, she would go in, do the performance for a bit, for say, like maybe 5 people and then come out. And then I would say, ‘Okay, now this time don’t do that.’ I was more directing and documenting more than anything

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exquisite.interviews in the gallery Alison Kotin

Dream Sequence

Andrew Ellis

Mapkin

Chris Basmajian

Can’t Hear the Music

Christopher Field

29 Seconds

Courtney Lockemer

Live

Daniel Buckley

Whig Me

Daniel DeLuca

Where Are We?

Elizabeth Mead

Internal Organs

Joseph ‘Puppy’ White

Over There

lou suSi

moneyShot Bouquet

Philippe Lejeune

Do You Feel Connected? That is the Question

Scott Murray

You’re In


in the gallery

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Alison Kotin

http://virtualunrealityproject.com

Dream Sequence, 2010 Defective laptop, fancy webcam, borrowed cable, and moving visitors. Dimensions variable.

An interactive soundscape encapsulating my favorite recurring dream, triggered by the movement of visitors who enter and explore.

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Andrew Ellis http://andrewellis.org

Mapkin, 2010 Pen on napkins, Processing

Mapkin is an interactive collection of hand drawn maps on napkins. A participant is given a limited amount of time to draw their perspective of their world memory on a napkin and add it to the slideshow collection as it grows over the course of the evening with each added world memory.

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Chris Basmajian http://basmajian.net

Can’t Hear the Music, 2008 Video camera, light bulb, display, custom software, computer, excerpts from the film Alphaville, directed by Jean-Luc Godard

An interactive video installation that samples a Cold-War era film about the conforming force of a computerized machine-state and it’s destructive effect on society and humanity. By presenting and manipulating the film excerpts with ubiquitous consumer computer components, the piece takes a critical stance towards contemporary digital technologies, and questions the Utopian view many hold of our screen-based media culture.

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Christopher Field http://www.ckfield.com

29 Seconds, 2010 DVD, cardboard, vellum, and vinyl

An unnamed man in a room with a clock.

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Courtney Lockemer http://www.courtneylockemer.net

Live, 2010 Streaming digital video installation

“Next time you think you’ve seen it all on the internet, just remember that there’s a whole world out there waiting to be discovered through the global network of webcams.” — Andrew M. Miller EzineArticles.com Expert Author

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Daniel S. DeLuca http://www.mobius.org/user/40

Where Are We? 2010 30,000 Years of Art, Plaster, Gouache, Beets, Your Conversation and Ordure

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Elizabeth Mead http://elizabethmead.com

Internal Organs, 2010 porcelain

no words+

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Joseph Wight

http://hopefortrash.blogspot.com

Over There, 2010 Brass bell, solenoid, microcontroller, and lots of moxie

A bell rings once every 3 and a half minutes for every person that has lost their life due to the occupation of Iraq. This is an exploration into people’s ability to ignore anything that cannot fit into a easy to digest single serving of freedom pie.

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lou suSi

http://loususi.posterous.com

moneyShot Bouquet, 2010 faux-flowers, floral targeting system + other embedded microelectronics, water, bedpan, passive-aggressive algorithms, a mop + bucket, water-absorbent rug, a beautiful wooden frame and you

Art gone bad. moneyShot Bouquet could be considered an art prank. A beautiful bunch of flowers sits in a frame on the wall. This ‘painting’ — more of a sculptural object, really — lies patiently in waiting. When an unsuspecting gallery-goer approaches the ‘painting’ to get a closer look, the flowers suddenly take random aim and shoot out three huge streams of cold water. Here is a machine that, even in its elegant simplicity, truly attacks the species that invented it. A truly subversive prototype in every way. Mellifluous streams of water quite randomly shooting into the crowd. A sort of safe, yet vicious gesture, nearly reminiscent of something Breton once said: “The purest Surrealist act is walking into a crowd with a loaded gun and firing into it randomly.” As a counterpoint then, perhaps, the purist cyberSurrealist act is to create a device like this to inspire random fits of laughter.

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Philippe Lejeune http://www.tiil.us http://stiil.posterous.com (blog)

Do You Feel Connected? That is the Question wood, glass, light, a laptop, an iphone, a webcam, four speakers, a book, a lot of cables, et moi

I will be an Agent Provocateur: “Traditionally, an agent provocateur ( plural: agents provocateurs, French for ‘inciting agent(s)’ ) is a person employed by the police or other entity to act undercover to entice or provoke another person to commit an illegal act. More generally, the term may refer to a person or group that seeks to discredit or harm another by provoking them to commit a wrong or rash action.” On second thought, I prefer to be an “Angel Provocateur”... I prefer to invite people into my [__|__] and just “trigger” images into their mind.

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Scott Murray http://alignedleft.com

You’re In, 2010 Created with Processing, proprietary crotch-tracking technology, and you. This work incorporates recordings from Freesound (freesound.org) by the following authors: Corsica_S, digifishmusic, fogma, luffy, megamart, and tweeterdj.

Participants play an active role in You’re In, an interactive video installation that simulates a real-life aquatic environment inspired by generations of toilet humor. By integrating computer vision techniques and advanced fluid dynamics, You’re In inspires participants to stand in front of a virtual urinal, which gradually fills up, obscuring the video image reflected in its digital mirror. As the fluid level rises, underwater life forms emerge, only to be flushed away, once the commode is completely filled.

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on stage and roving performances sara june

excerpts from the Pleo series 6:00 p.m.

Bureau of cyberSurreal investigation

opening comments & welcoming statement* 7:00 p.m.

Bureau of cyberSurreal investigation

Field Office* ongoing

Stacy Scibelli

demonstration of Sabotage 7:15 p.m.

Laura Amador

Face2Face ongoing

Daniel Buckley

Whig Me ongoing

Philippe Lejeune

Do You Feel Connected? That is the Question** ongoing

XY

Pink Slip 8:30 p.m.

Courtney Brown

Volcadas con Silla 9:00 p.m.

Laugh Foundation

laughStream 3.0 9:16 p.m.

Stereo Soul Future

stripped down rawkin’ 9:30 p.m.

* does not have a corresponding page in this catalog

** appears on page 96 as part of the in the gallery section


on stage and roving

performances

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sara june

http://www.oceanbody.com

excerpts from

The Pleo Series, 2o1o

performance with Pleo Robot

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Stacy Scibelli http://stacyscibelli.com

Sabotage Leather, cotton, and wool tickle machine.

A two person leather and wool tickle machine. Each participant’s hands are guided into each others’ respective armpits and tickling commences. The gallerygoing audience is encouraged to interact with piece.

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Laura Amador & Julia Schonberg Face2Face Interactive performance piece.

Face2Face relies in some part on the element of surprise, so very little information will be provided prior to the opening. Online identities result in social behaviors and encounters that we would not normally experience in the real world. This piece is about how those two worlds rub up against each other in absurd, awkward, serious and sometimes very funny ways. Most importantly, please feel free to get involved!

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Daniel Buckley

http://web.me.com/danieljbuckley

W.H.I.G Psyche, iPad, Randy Moss Wig, backpack, voice.

“Put on the damn W.H.I.G.”

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XY Pink Slip Fabric, lust, frustration, and skin.

A performance in which the audience is encouraged to experience impolite sensations.

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Courtney Brown http://www.courtney-brown.net

Volcadas con Silla chair robot, wii, laptop, contact microphones, custom electronics & software, body

A performance in which a chair attempts to dance, a live performer attempts to connect with an object, and we both believe impossible things.

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Laugh Foundation http://LaughFoundation.org

laughStream 3.0 revised score for laughter + sound, 3 performers, music stands, stand-up comedy stool, a glass of water

We laugh for many reasons. Laugh Foundation’s new iteration of the mixed-media score for laughter, laughStream 3.0, explores the psychology of laughter through live performance and pre-recorded media accompaniment. Through the volume, timbre, texture and delivery of laughter, performers will emotionally lead the audience through 5 short 2-minute laugh movements. Although we aim to take advantage of the contagious nature of laughter during certain passages, this second installment of laughStream 3.0 focuses mostly on the social dynamics of laughter and how the nature of laughter changes depending on laugh source and target. Laugh Foundation seeks to ultimately free laughter from any harmful direct associations with ‘humor’ and treat the medium as an expressive independent musical-language system.

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Stereo Soul Future http://www.stereosoulfuture.com

Stripped down rawkin’ Good rawkin’, semi-acoustic installment of original songs, ceiling projection accompaniment.

Stereo Soul Future is an American indie rock band. Unlike musical acts that rely on the output of a single songwriter and/or singer, SSF utilizes more of a “collective” approach to their music, drawing creatively from each of its members. Their ten years together ( including a hiatus following the theft of their equipment in 2005 ) have allowed them to fuse and polish their sound and generally become comfortable in their own skin as a band. The result of this experience is that each song is wholly an SSF original — an individual vision expressed by four discrete parts functioning as one.

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cinematic.media.objects Ellen Lake

Striptease

Mauri Lehtonen

Hollywood Gang Bang

Josh Dolby

Hurricane Day

Josh Dolby

Re-surch: Never Fall for a White Girl

Josh Dolby

Social Networking Addiction

Mary Fanning

The Trophy

Dwayne Butcher

Partagas

Leigh Wells

Looking For Lucretia

Lauren McCarthy

CONVERSACUBE

Albert Negredo

SIPIS

Larry Caveney

Dancing Dan


video loop

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cinematic.media.objects

Ellen Lake

Mauri Lehtonen

Striptease, 2009

Hollywood Mutant Gang Bang, 2010

16mm film & cellphone video, 2:14

Super 8, 3:20

Combining a charming striptease from 1942 discovered among my grandmother’s home movies with cell phone shots of a contemporary clothing store — these fluid images comment on movement, memory, and technology.

Abstract structuralism and experimental pop mutations. Hundreds of horribly deformed horny mutants crawl out of the sewers of Los Angeles to rape Hollywood’s rich and famous. Old porn footage has been treated with scratching and permanent markers. Soundtrack consists of distant moanings of pleasure, accompanied by electronic gang bang music.

http://ellenlake.com

http://www.maurilehtonen.com


video loop

Josh Dolby

Josh Dolby

Hurricane Day, 2010

Re-surch: Never Fall for a White Girl, 2010

digital video, 2:46

digital video, 3:16

Subtle sounds and evocative images illustrates a day in a life.

Re-Surch!

http://www.funnyordie.com/caughtyoupickin

http://www.funnyordie.com/caughtyoupickin

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cinematic.media.objects

Josh Dolby

Mary Fanning

Social Networking Addiction, 2010

The Trophy, 2009-2010

digital video, 3:18

digital video, 9:20

Do people in your life have a hard time paying attention to what’s happening right NOW? Does a friend or loved one play with their “device” too much? Call now!

An underwater act of espionage which ebbs and flows between tranquil habitats and dramatic displays of “the hunt.” The viewer becomes the voyeur waiting for the catch... the fish to be ripped out of the water with the hook and line, or the female body to emerge out of abstraction and into a concrete image.

http://www.funnyordie.com/caughtyoupickin

http://maryrachelfanning.com


video loop

Dwayne Butcher

Leigh Wells

Partagas, 2008

Looking For Lucretia, 2010

digital video, 3:30

digital video, 8:40

My work offers a glimpse into the routine of an overweight, heavily accented, beer drinking redneck with a chicken wing and knee-high sock fetish. I have high art aspirations, but do not really know what that means, so I add contemporary classical soundtracks to my work. I think smoking and drinking are cool and I really want to be cool. I am hardly ever considered cool, the beer and the cigars help with that.

Velvet texture maps and whiskey. A look out of a painting into a museum through the eyes and ears of the subject.

http://dwaynebutcher.com

http://www.photoleighflet.com

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cinematic.media.objects

Lauren McCarthy

Albert Negredo

CONVERSACUBE, 2010

SIPIS, 2007

http://lauren-mccarthy.com

digital video, 3:47

Advertisements for an uncomfortable conversation-preventing device, coming soon to a store near you.

digital video, 2:43

Imágenes que muestran una fijación oral en la acción: chupar, lamer, escupir. Curator’s translation: A cinematic provocation expressing a cyberSurreal oral fixation in action: sucking, licking, spitting, sucking, all the way from Barcelona.


video loop

Larry Caveney http://larrycaveney.com

Dancing Dan, 2008 digital video, 4:28

I felt it was time to do this series that reflects the white ( overweight and aging ) male as image/symbol of unsustainable positioning in this pluralistic setting. As a male in the world or art world, we have a tendency to maintain our own position of power or that persona of power or youth, where in reality it’s lost to time and gravity. The piece speaks to that false facade. That’s why I use the idea of “the artist as fool” in most of my work. Basically I poke fun of my own self. As a white male, in this state of culture, I think that’s all I have to work with — that, and humility.

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automatic.self.analysis

Alison Kotin

Dream Sequence

Christopher Field

29 Seconds

lou Susi

Exhibition-event as sociopsychological laboratory

David TamĂŠs

Exhibition-event as a process of critique


automatic.self.analysis The Bureau requested that participating artist engage in some form of cyberSurreal selfanalysis in the form of an interview or short essay to be included in the catalog. Two of the thirty agent provocateurs sent us essays, while others chose the interview format. The following pages offer critical insight into the design, development, and overall experience of two of the project at the show, and reveal the critical thought, original artistic intentions, back story and qualitative evaluation of each piece as reported straight from the creative visionaries behind Alison Kotin’s Dream Sequence and Christopher Field’s 29 Seconds. We are pleased with these essays, and we trust you will be too. We then follow these essays with curatorial reflections. 135


automatic.self.analysis


Dream Sequence Alison Kotin, 2010 Project abstract / overview “You know, seeing a film backward isn’t the same experience as seeing it forward in reverse. It’s a new experience, still happening forward in time. What falls out is all its own. Returning [to Earth] from the moon was not the same as going, played backward.” — Dhalgren, Samuel R. Delany ( 1975 )

In my favorite recurring dream, I am near the sea, hiking towards the water. I know that just ahead is a spot on the beach I have seen before, a place to which I have always wanted to return. I know that it must be around the next bend, at the base of a cliff or over the dunes, but I never make it there before I wake up. I have always wondered whether I never find the place because it is in fact somewhere beyond death and my mind’s ability to imagine, like Valhalla, Elysium, or Tir na Nog. I wake from these dreams consumed by longing to return, and with a sense of déjà vu, of returning to a place I have visited before. Dream Sequence is a room-sized, interactive sound installation, built around the story of a recurring dream. Multiple participants interact with the piece by moving naturally through the space. Visitors’ movements, tracked and processed via

an overhead webcam and blob-tracking software, trigger different parts of my dream narrative, metacommentary on the meaning of the dream, and ambient sounds of the beach. Users experience a non-linear, overlapping web of sounds, details of which emerge as visitors move more slowly or more quickly around the space. Participants are rewarded for longer immersion in the installation by an evolving story, revealed over time.

Project Concept During the second half of my first year at the DMI, I began to realize that my growing interest in “interactive narrative” was not in fact an interest in storytelling per se, but a first articulation of my desire to offer tools of creation to my audience. This shift required me to think differently about my definition of “narrative,” and to give up some of my attachment to linear plot in favor of a more poetic, mysterious, and disorganized content. Dream Sequence, begun in the spring of 2010, retained some characteristics of traditional storytelling, but I intentionally chose and designed its content to be modular and open to many configurations or interpretations. Working with imagery from my dreams allowed me to cast off

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automatic.self.analysis some of my previous assumptions about what makes a “good” story, and refocus my narrative on creating a particular atmosphere, inducing a specific mental and emotional state. While I chose to limit users only to the story I wanted to tell, I did not want Dream Sequence to feel like a limited experience. I desired visitors to the piece to recreate for themselves my experience of a recurring dream. Action and outcome are linked, but the connection is obscure. Repeated, evolving elements of the story offer continuity, but also a sense of strangeness and unpredictable change. To make visitors feel a sense of freedom and discovery despite pre-selected content deeply tied to my own authorial voice, I sought to create an invisible interface accessible through movement. Visitors enter a seemingly empty room, and with every step through the space are able to trigger more and more of my story. There are no rules of interaction to learn, no instructions to follow. Instead, the movement and curiosity that we expect in a gallery setting drive the story’s evolution. As they interact, users become aware that their own bodies are the control panel though which my “interface” flows, allowing them to access, reconfigure, and experience my story. Works like Dream Sequence explore the approach of fostering creativity through strategically limited

options for expression. With Dream Sequence I have a specific story I want to tell, a particular set of experiences I want to evoke. In the gallery I present polished and complete narrative material, but give up control over how and in what order that material reaches its audience. My goal for the installation of this piece was to focus visitors’ attention on testing the limits of my system and experimenting with the effects of their interactions. Dream Sequence was the first piece I created that I considered to be some form of musical instrument. Although I crafted the content of the dream story carefully, and hoped visitors would comprehend the plot, from the beginning I was delighted with the visceral experience of voices and sounds piling up to a cacophonous crescendo as more and more people entered the space. The rising and falling babble of voices that ensued from quick movements and large groups of people struck me as an interesting end in itself, with or without comprehensible words.

In vivo audience interaction Pilot Tests

The first test of Dream Sequence with more than one interactor took place in a relatively small, lowceilinged room. The “active” space captured by


Dream Sequence Alison Kotin the webcam on the ceiling was smaller than optimal, approximately 6 x 6 feet. When two people moved together in this tight space, sounds multiplied quickly, with the entire story triggered in a matter of moments. This confusion and density of sounds diluted the instant interaction/reaction I hoped to achieve, obscuring the connection between visitors’ movements and their sound consequences. Anticipating the first large-scale installation of Dream Sequence ( with a much larger audience ), I modified the piece’s sound library to produce a more nuanced and “legible” sound output. Considering my pre-existing sounds and a map of the project space, I decided to “deepen” the arrays of sound that correspond to each quadrant of the active space. Now each array holds five sound files rather than the original two or three. Of those five sounds, only one or two are spoken words, while the rest are a subtle collection of ambient sounds collected at the beach: waves, footsteps on sand, distant gulls. These sounds overlap gracefully, producing a more nuanced sense of space and movement, while providing needed “breathing space” between narrative sections. Provocative Objects: Doran Gallery, 11.12.10

The first full-scale gallery installation of Dream Sequence took place during Provocative Objects on November 12, 2010 in MassArt’s Doran Gallery. The installation space was an alcove roughly 8 x 10 feet,

enclosed on three sides ( two sides were moveable walls ). I attached the webcam to the ceiling, and was able to rest my laptop on a shelf inside one of the moveable walls. Small speakers were mounted on the wall opposite the entrance. This setup was very close to my vision of a space in which all technology is completely invisible. Visitors entered the space with the illusion that they were stepping into an empty room. This illusion was so powerful that I decided to place the gallery label for the piece below the speakers on the wall opposite the entrance to lure visitors into the installation. Ambient noise from other sound installations during the show interfered with the clarity of sound output from Dream Sequence, but still an estimated 75-100 people entered and played within the work. From observations and conversations with visitors, it seemed that users were able to enjoy the aesthetics of the experience even without catching every word of the story. Some visitors seemed initially unaware of the sonic effects of their movements, while others made an elaborate game of trying to determine which movements would trigger sound. These playful gestures ( at times resembling improvised dance ) did not indicate a particularly deep concentration on the content of Dream Sequence’s narrative, but the spontaneous pleasure of users experimenting

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automatic.self.analysis with movements and sound was nonetheless an important outcome of the installation. The ambient sounds I added to the piece (seagulls, a distant foghorn, footsteps) were easily recognizable all over the gallery, even over the noise of the space. I loved hearing seagulls crying across the room over the sounds of conversation, knowing someone was inside Dream Sequence. One visitor remarked that he was especially struck by the sound of footsteps I included when the recorded steps unexpectedly synched up with his own movements. The alcove where Dream Sequence was installed was one of the only “empty” spaces in the gallery. I noticed that groups of visitors would periodically retreat into the piece to talk quietly, their hand gestures triggering a story fragment from time to time. I don’t know if these participants were fully aware of the piece that was unfolding around them, but I like to imagine the work as offering a place of refuge.

Future plans for modification ( if any ) I see Dream Sequence as a starting point for an ongoing exploration of space, movement, sound, and audience participation. The platform I created in Processing ( relying heavily on the Flob

motion-tracking library developed by André Sierr) can be “filled” with any combination of sounds, and triggered by many kinds of movement. It is my hope to extend this platform in the future to create other kinds of sound environments, experimenting with different stories and non-narrative sounds. I am particularly interested in seeking public or non-gallery spaces for this installation, setting up opportunities for visitors to enter the piece by chance, sparking unscripted interactions. In the spring of 2011 I will install Where I Live ... in the Urbano Project gallery in Jamaica Plain as part of the 2011 Boston CyberArts Festival. The Urbano Project “empowers urban teens, professional artists, and the community to effect social change through participatory works of art and performance.” Where I Live ... is based on the sound and motion platform I created for Dream Sequence, and features the voices of over 30 high school students speaking about their neighborhoods, and the psychic effects of growing up in an urban environment. Filling Urbano’s gallery, Where I Live ... contains fragments of teens’ stories of their neighborhoods as well as ambient city sounds collected by volunteers from sites around Boston. Users experience a nonlinear, overlapping web of sounds, mimicking the complexity and unexpected moments of clarity inherent in a trip through the city. It is my hope that the dynamic sound environment of Where I Live ...


Dream Sequence Alison Kotin will provide the high school students who partner with me a forum in which to speak powerfully together about their diverse experiences of the city of Boston. I hope this piece will be the first of many modifications and recyclings of the platform I created for Dream Sequence.

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Thanks! Jessica DeJesus Evan Karatzas Gunta Kaza

David TamĂŠs Alex Wang Dream Sequence was made possible with support from the Proximity Lab Fund

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lou suSi

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Colin Owens

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Jan Kubasiewicz

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29 Seconds Christopher Field, 2010

One of the nice things about going to graduate school for something like the visual arts is the fact that if you successfully complete whatever program you’re in, you’re most likely going to have a lot of work to put into your portfolio, and, if you’re lucky, that work will be interesting and wonderful and more exciting than the client-related stuff that you would’ve accrued in the same period of time.1 And, along the way, you will have had a framework of assignments to guide you along the process of creating stuff. It’s nice to have assignments, because you can use them as a jumping-off point to explore what you’re interested in, rather than floating in the cosmos of limitless possibilities and directions. In the DMI program, you basically spend your first year doing assignments and developing a direction for your thesis and your second year conjuring up your own projects, ideally in the same conceptual galaxy to which you set off in the previous year. And so when my second year began, I was on my own. One of our assignments in the Spring had been to generate a list of possible projects to work on in the fall, so we wouldn’t be floundering. For some reason, I missed or chose to ignore the part of the assignment that mentioned that these should be thesisrelated projects. My list included everything from an HBO-funded, 50 episode filmed adaptation of IJ to recording a song a day and posting it on my thesis blog.2 In retrospect, I must have seemed out of my mind. But so the point is that I didn’t really have any tangible project ideas heading into my thesis year, which is to say that I didn’t have anything that I could say “right, let’s get down to business” and start working on. That is, until one lazy Friday evening in early September.

1 Of course, if you can hold down a job while in grad school, you can maybe get both. 2 This was officially a “Song a Day” for what amounted to the first day I posted the first song. It subsequently became a “Song a Week” and then a “Song a Month”, and then ... well, I stopped. I ended up doing exclusively covers: “Somethin’ Hot” by the Afghan Whigs, “Some Things Last A Long Time” by Daniel Johnston, “Jane” ( adapted from “James” ) by Camera Obscura and “Under the Boardwalk” by The Drifters, along with unposted/unreleased/ mostly crap versions of “Little Green” by Joni Mitchell, “Toledo” by Elvis Costello and Burt Bacharach and “Runaway” by Del Shannon. Again, trying to figure out how this was related to my thesis is aphasia-inducing. Let’s just move on.

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automatic.self.analysis I was watching Mission:Impossible 3 on one of the HBO channels.4 I hadn’t seen it in years, and it’s one of those action films that will draw you in, even though you remember not quite liking it that much for reasons that seem vague and trivial. One thing that struck me about the film this time around was the amount of sequences that revolved around a timer or countdown to create suspense or tension within the story. When studying screenwriting as an undergraduate, I remember learning that this technique was, at best, sort of cheating, and, at worst, a tired cliché that people would make fun of you for using. But here it was, being used again and again, in the same $80,000,000 movie. Probably the best example of the use in the movie is the semi-iconic scene in which Tom Cruise is being lowered from the ceiling of a white illuminated room that looks something like a cross between the set in the “Beyond Jupiter/Superman/Dinner” sequence in 2001: A Space Odyssey and an IRS workstation. 3 The 1996 adaptation of the 196673 television spy series, featuring a not-yet publicly insane Tom Cruise as the main character, super-spy Ethan Hunt. 4 One of the perks of living where we do is that we get free Direct TV™ with abundant movie channels. 5 Which is supposed to be, and I suppose is to some extent, a classic MacGuffin, in that we, as the audience, never really understand or care what exactly the NOC list is.

Anyway, Cruise is being lowered from the ceiling by his team, which includes Jean Reno as the French muscle and Ving Rhames, still riding the Marcellus Wallace, let’s-cast-this-guy-in-everything wave, as a preternaturally talented and cool computer hacker named ( of course ) Luther. Cruise is trying to steal something called “The NOC list,” 5 and he has only like thirty seconds to get down from the vent in the ceiling and use the station before the schlubby middle-management-looking guy who they’ve slipped a vomit-inducing mickey returns from throwing up in the bathroom. And while there’s a whole bunch of other factors ratcheting up the tension, like the fact that the temperature in the room can’t go above a certain level, and that Cruise is sweating profusely, or that they must remain absolutely quiet, and that he can’t touch the floor, the main thing that creates suspense is the time they have (or don’t have) to get the list and get out of there. Ving Rhames even counts down the time into Cruise’s earpiece. It’s fairly ridiculous. But it’s also


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extremely entertaining. I watched the rest of the movie and found myself strangely unsatisfied, as I had in all previous viewings. The result of this viewing of M:I was that the repetition of the countdown as a narrative device became lodged in my head. While making dinner the next evening, I remember talking about it with my wife. Suddenly an image came into my head: A man in a room with a timer, but with no context to what the timer was counting down: wouldn’t this be great? This image basically came fully formed. The room would be bathed in red light. The man would be addressing the camera. He would be panicking that there was no time, but wouldn’t mention anything specific about why there was no time, what he had to do, why it’s a problem if he runs out of time, why he’s there, etc. Telling my wife about this as it was coming into my head, I immediately, half-jokingly, said, “And the guy needs to be, like, Lou.6 It should be Lou.” We had a laugh about it and moved on to other topics and some more wine and food. Later that evening I had the sort of epiphany that follows an idea; I knew that this countdown/timer vision/idea would be the next project that I’d work on, and that it would be the first project I’d embark on sans assignment, theoretically tailor-made for my thesis. I got in touch with Lou, who agreed to be a part of the project, reserved access to one of the squash courts,7 checked out a theatrical light from the SIM department,8 borrowed the Canon 5D camera from DMI, and set about shooting. I was able to wrangle a red gel for the theatrical light, thus giving me the red environment I had instantaneously decided was vital to the look of the piece. I created a digital clock-looking timer in AfterEffects that counted down from :29 to :00 and flashed when it got to zero. I projected this very large on the wall behind Lou. Basically the idea was to recreate what I had pictured in my head and to create a visually striking environment through minimal set design that could then be captured with the camera. Before we started

6 lou suSi, DMI Class of 2011, founding member of the CyberSurreal movement, thespian, laughter-enthusiast, all-around muse. 7 Bizarre but fairly large white walled, high-ceilinged rooms in the absolute bowels of MassArt that are handy for staging installation work. 8 The SIM (Studio for Interrelated Media) department is basically like the fine arts version of the DMI program, only strangely well-funded, loaded seemingly to the gills with nice equipment, and standoffish to those not in the program. By taking the SIM class Video Sculpture, I had access to SIM equipment and perks, like the squash court.

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automatic.self.analysis shooting, Lou asked, “So is this like a Shatner thing?” I said, “Yes.” That was about all the direction I had to give him. Being the first “official” thesis-related project that I was producing and wanting to set out on the right bearing, I put a lot of thought into the form of the project, and how it might tie in with what I had proposed to do in the spring, which was to investigate9 the emotional response to media, specifically filmed entertainment. So, could this video of Lou, alone in a large room, fully saturated in red light, counting down the time from 29 to 0 and generally freaking out about it, create tension? If not, what kind of emotional response does it engender? And what would be the best way to present the video (and audio) in physical space? I cut the footage into a :29 (or so) piece that could be looped and run ad infinitum, using quick, hard cuts, and repetition of shots to create a rhythm. I added a computer-generated voice to the soundtrack, counting down the numbers. I looped some of Lou’s audio to add an atmosphere of sound collage and discontinuity to the misé-en-scene. The video was done.

9 To an extent. 10 Conceptually, in that if there’s less specific content for the viewer to identify with and make sense of, there’s more distance between the viewer and the work. 11 about eight feet, with the opening being approximately ten inches wide and six inches tall.

I had a lucky coincidence in that one of my weekly assignments for Video Sculpture was to project inside an object. This happened to be the same week that I was editing the Lou footage, so I decided to use the “inside an object” assignment as an obstruction to see if I could make :29 work in that context. I liked the idea that the video was taking this storytelling tool and distancing it both from a tangible narrative and from the viewer.10 It felt right conceptually to make the viewer physically distanced from the piece. I procured a long 11 rectangular cardboard box and fabricated a small screen out of translucent vinyl, cardboard, and gaff tape, onto which I rear-projected the image. Thus, when you peered into the box, you saw basically a tunnel with the glowing red image of the video at the end of it. I decided to have the audio delivered to the viewer via headphones. This also creates a close/faraway contrast, and


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12 Fred Wolflink of the SIM Department, during one of my reviews, basically jumped ugly with me over the fact that the piece was not handicap accessible, he having been assaulted and injured in an absurdly violent and terrible incident, and was thus subsequently unable to experience the piece. I had no response to this, other than to silently note his indignation and remember that I had been to The Art Institute of Chicago twice, each visit occurring about ten years apart, and that both times the wing of the museum with Hopper’s Nighthawks had been closed for renovations. I guess the point is: sometimes the circumstances of life are such that you just don’t get to see stuff, and that’s ok. 13 A group show orchestrated by Lou Susi and DMI Class of 2011 student David Tamés, featuring New Media art and design projects and live performances, loosely curated to the idea of the New Media Object as provocateur.

would serve to keep both the sound and the image contained, making the experience definitively “one person at a time.” I thought about angling the box up off the ground, or hanging it at eye-level, so the viewer could just saunter up to and gaze into it, but decided against it; I liked the idea of the piece being on the floor, and that it required effort on the part of the viewer 12 to experience it. Keeping the image and the sound basically hidden from anyone but the person experiencing the piece creates a level of intrigue and mystery, or, at the very least, curiosity for those who haven’t seen it. Also, in the context of a group show, especially one that features live performance and lasts for more than a couple of hours, which invariably means a lot of standing around, looped video, especially other work with sound, can become like wallpaper. I’ve installed the :29 twice. The first time was at the Provocative Objects 13 exhibition, and the form of the installation was as described above. I provided a carpet under the box and viewing area so people wouldn’t have to lay down on the concrete floor to experience the piece. Some people were drawn to the it and experienced it enthusiastically. Others were skeptical of the vulnerability implicit to experiencing it and stayed away. That’s fine; those people never got to experience the piece. Instead, they had to rely on other people’s descriptions or remembrances of what lay inside the box. Maybe that led them to have a deeper level of interest about the piece. Maybe it confirmed their assumptions that it wouldn’t be worth their discomfort to lay down on the floor to experience it. I installed :29 again as part of my thesis exhibition, Ordinary Human Unhappiness, on March 12, 2011 at the Doran Gallery. This time, it was surrounded by other video installation works that also examined cinematic conventions. In this context, I changed the format of the piece and made


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c t s 14 Interviewed in Art in America, March 1998, pg. 76. (It was a good interview). 15 This is how we’ll refer to Ordinary Human Unhappiness from here on in.

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Bill Viola once said that “the work is just the container for the idea, and the design of the container can change.” 14 Exploring the form in which :29 is presented allows the narrative convention of the timer to be examined from different angles and in distinct physical contexts. It definitely creates tension and anxiety in the “long box” format, but it can be argued that the physicality of the form is as responsible for the tension as the content of the video. In the OHU 15 format, the video content itself is the focus, with the physicality of the image less dominant, allowing you to question whether the timer or countdown, in this context, creates tension or narrative. I know what people told me during and after the show. But if I mentioned it here, it would sort of be like telling someone what’s in the long box on the floor. But if I mentioned it here, it would sort of be like telling someone what’s in the long box on the floor. Some things you just need to see for yourself, provided the gallery is open and the floor is clean and you’ve maybe seen an action movie or two.

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it two-channel. I mounted a large piece of muslin onto two strips of wood and mounted it onto a wall. Onto this canvas I projected a video of Lou that featured an extreme-close up of his face, peering directly into the camera. I took a five-second clip of him breathing heavily and looped it by reversing every other segment, which produced an eerie effect where there’s something slightly “off” about what you’re seeing, but you can’t really pinpoint anything in particular or specific. The other channel was a 27” television which ran the original :29 loop that I had previously created for projection into the long box. Having the large canvas with Lou’s visage mounted on the wall behind the television created an atmosphere somewhere between anxiety, creepiness, and focused intensity. He’s watching you watching him.

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curatorial reflections exhibition-event as sociopsychological laboratory lou suSi, 2012 And with the passage of time we can re-open the mind like a delicate oystershell and mine the lobular cortexes for the remaining little pearls of wit and wisdom. Its been a while now. November 12, 2010 seems like a distant, milky dream to me now. My co-curatorial partner in cyberSurreal investigations David Tamés asks in his earlier passages to this exhibition catalog — and its a bit of a meta-conversation between us now — about the success of Provocative Objects: the extradition as an art exhibition. Anyone that really got to know me through our time and collaborations together at Dynamic Media Institute knows that I pretty much laugh at the very concept of ‘success’. Of course, at this point I’ve been known to laugh at / for just about any reason. But I wanted to take a few minutes to discuss ‘success’ and define for the world: A. what it was we set out to do with Provocative Objects B. what we accomplished by using Doran Gallery as our sociological art laboratory for a subconscious streaming cycle of art shows

By looking back, using these simple criteria, we can certainly transpire well above the coinflip follies of failure and success and really get down to some storytelling artifactual proof that helps the reader better understand the invaluable psychological underpinnings behind the makings of this kind of show. To best understand Provocative Objects — to really know what it was all about — we need to take a quick trip back to my first attempt to put on gallery exhibition. In late Autumn of 2009 I scrambled to e-mail out an invitation to the graduate students here at Massachusetts College of Art and Design. This call for work aimed to get DMI and SIM together, collaborating on a themed show in Doran Gallery — and the show theme I stitched together from my critical research in humor and new media loosely hung on the title concept American Cheese: an introspection and a quote from the famous stand-up comedian, playwright, author and moviestar Steve Martin:

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automatic.self.analysis You know, a lot of people come to me and they say, “Steve, how can you be so fucking funny?” There’s a secret to it, it’s no big deal. Before I go out, I put a slice of bologna in each of my shoes. So when I’m on stage, I feel funny. But seriously, folks — I thought an e-mail alone could be the catalyst, or at least the inspirational nudge, to put on a really amazing show. And more importantly, I think I trusted that this e-mail along with my vague wish to bring SIM and DMI together in the same exhibition space would help build new and amazing social connections between these 2 like-minded but politically dispersed academic schools on campus. I ran around like a circus rodeo jackass for a bit, trying to get all the procedures, policies, rules and regulations down and did all the administrative busywork needed to get the show set up, but with the fast passage of time and very few submissions to the show, my original social purposes fell a bit to the wayside. American Cheese, while successful on many levels regarding general gallery attendance, quality of exhibited work and DMI colleague participation, fell short on my personal goal of creating new social ties to SIM.

In the Summer of 2010 I put out a new call for work. This time, instead of a quaint e-mail to DMI and SIM, I actually made the request for submissions very public, reaching out beyond the MassArt Graduate community pool by placing my first copypaste post out to Rhizome. I think this better set the stage in many ways. Firstly, Rhizome would help provide a far broader context and larger vision for what this next show could become. The organization, based in New York City, garners the attention of artists, designers, performers and technologists from around the world. The Rhizome online community started in 1996 and continues to grow and evolve. As stated on their web site mission page:

Rhizome is dedicated to the creation, presentation, preservation, and critique of emerging artistic practices that engage technology. and this mission seemed perfectly aligned with the kind of future-forward design thinking we see in the project work and research done through Dynamic Media Institute. Then, inspired by the ingenious marketing suggestions of Don Lapre ( http://www. hollywoodmemoir.com/don-lapre ), I took my


curatorial reflections lou suSi post to Rhizome as a ‘tiny classified ad’ and copy-pasted it into several other local ( and not so local ) online community sites. I e-mailed directly to artists I know out at Mobius. Similar personal e-mails went out to anyone and everyone that I thought might be interested participating. This time around, I was determined to put on a show that started with the core group of my colleagues at DMI but branched out to include other work, providing a greater context for all the work at the exhibition. This was going to go beyond the SIM to DMI collaborative concept originally set forth with American Cheese. Forget SIM. With that initial failed attempt under my belt, I wanted to bust out and not even begin to consider MassArt as my little box of crayons. I no longer needed to color inside the lines. And I needed to reach out, outside the box, not with my thinking ( as we’re all so aptly encouraged to do as creative people, through the most sickening set of corporate clichés and hillbilly mantras ) but with my actions. I also wanted to expand the notion of what a new media exhibit can be by including artwork created in any media type, not just on-screen or electronics-based project work. Video, music, performance art, new media and traditional art and design works: why not show it all in the same place? Under one roof? At the same show? Crazy-talk, right? The original call for work to our ‘cyberSurreal, interdisciplinary and immersive exhibit-event & experience’ included the following paragraph:

We are looking for pieces that instigate the viewerparticipant-gallerygoer or blur the line and leave the audience wondering. Physical traditional art objects — dynamic prototypes — video, performative and conceptual work — we’re looking to collect an eclectic body of work to provoke viewer-participant exploration, thought, discussion and interaction. There will be a vaguely-defined ‘stageSpace’ for certain event-related ‘performances’ throughout the evening as well as numerous ‘objects’ or installations. 153


automatic.self.analysis Here we have the beginning collection of measurable criteria for us to properly assess the outcome of the show. Qualitative though they may be, we can see that there were some definite, clear goals in mind. The ulterior motives of building out our creative context and creating new social extensions for DMI were all cleverly hidden in the messaging mix, but the surface setup for Provocative Objects began to elicit proposals almost immediately. I remember talking to David early on, I think it was with the very first batch of e-mail proposals I received. I was baffled by the fact that, unlike American Cheese ( with submissions from colleagues at DMI and me ), this show was beginning to feel a lot more international. Literally.

My first submission came in from Albert Negredo in Barcelona. My second submission came in via mobile phone call while I was out at The Apple Store — this time from Anthony Murray in Brooklyn, New York. I got e-mails from Tokyo, Rome, San Francisco, and Argentina. This show and these submissions really fascinated me and I need to talk to someone about how crazy it was getting. And David, of course, understood the general consequences of my actions and why I might be getting these international submissions, ‘Lou, you put the call for work out on Rhizome,’ he explained with some comedic emphasis, implying that that detail alone stretched my cry for work out to the more global level.


curatorial reflections lou suSi I can’t remember the location of this conversation at this late date, but I am assuming we were in the cozy confines of Penguin Pizza up on Mission Hill. David and I joined forces at that point, making The Penguin our first official ‘office’ and meeting place for the eventual and very fictional Bureau of cyberSurreal investigation. David graciously offered to collaborate on this rapidly expanding exhibit-event, and I humbly accepted this opportunity to work together and build out the show using our mutually-aligned talents and resources. I scheduled the show to take place in November. Luckily this time I had built in adequate time for David and I to really dig in and put on a larger, more inclusive show. With 3+ months we could properly square away all the granular detail and logistics need for Provocative Objects. This was turning out to be a far

more complicated gallery event. We were lucky to enlist the assistance of many of our colleagues at MassArt to help make the night smooth and fun for all the artists involved.

But could it work? Underneath the surface of this exhibit-event — a little below the notion of traditional artwork, performance, music and new media all peaceably living together in sin — was the playful, provocative notion of bringing together the people behind these amazing pieces, all in one space at the same time. Provocative Objects was a social mixing experiment and Doran Gallery became our laboratory.

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automatic.self.analysis The answer, for me, although not truly measurable by any qualitative or quantitative stretch of the imagination, is a resounding yes. It can work, this idea of putting on a cross-disciplinary and inclusive show to end all shows. Provocative Objects now serves the Bureau as a happy and distinct model to follow for future-such showbuilding activities. And the idea of using the show, this ‘exhibit-event’ as we called it, as an interesting excuse to pull together so many disparate but spiritually like-minded creative people and cliques together on one night under one roof, well, that idea proved, to me, to be extremely fruitful and rewarding. We enjoyed a full house of gallery-goers at Doran Gallery on November 12, 2010, ebbing and flowing throughout our time-based evening of interdisciplinary arts, for sure, but nonetheless rather packed with wonderful artists, musicians, performers and participants. The work on display covered the full spectrum of art, the entire continuum of creative expression. And the conversation, the participation, the wandering and exploration of the space, pieces, people and performances, all attest, via personal memories and stories, to the truly provocative night we had out at the show.

Somewhere buried deep inside the thematic grumblings of the show I had this notion about the title and ideas behind Provocative Objects. I had inadvertently stolen the title from Sherry Turkle’s book Evocative Objects — I guess I sort of re-purposed the title of her book as a way to brand a series of my own object-based micro-electronic prototypic experiments at DMI. These objects, my Provocative Objects, were ‘machines gone wild’ — an expression of this truly cartoonish Freudian fear of our technology — whereby I dreamt up and created devices that would aggressively attack the user. I think that we’re only slowly beginning to understand some of the undercurrent negative social ( or unsocial ) side-effects our technologies introduce into our technohumanic ecosystem. Anyhow, this was the original concept behind the name of my project series. The concept and name evolved to become the theme of the show. Somewhere along my thoughtstreams I began to ask myself ‘Which medium is the most dynamic medium?’ A bit of an asinine question to ask, I’m sure, but I really started to wonder about dynamic media and performance art, and to then wonder about this term ‘dynamic’. Can machines be more dynamic than people? Which of the 2 performs in a more dynamic way: people or machines?


curatorial reflections lou suSi Anyhow, I’m going to totally skip over the definition of the word dynamic, not a lot of time here in this essay to redesign the wheel or the brand of an academic program. Its just not my thing. But, I do want to let you in on a little secret, dear reader. The idea of collecting together all of this amazing international artwork for display at Doran Gallery was more about luring the people to the room than about putting on an incredible artshow. The ‘objects’ in the title Provocative Objects are the people, not the art ( vision of Soylent Green come to mind, the final scenes of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, “To Serve Man” (an episode of the television series The Twilight Zone), its a cook book, that sort of science fiction flip of the brain on a skillet ). David and I, as the fictional Bureau of cyberSurreal investigation, put on a wildly successful, highly attended artists’ reception and performance spectacle, indeed — but

we also got to see so many different social circles wonderfully coming together in the fascinating ripples created by our clever little box. Our first person, eye witness report on Provocative Objects proves the indelible value of putting on this kind of show. And the value resides not in the objects on the wall, the sculpture and performance art and installations. These are the subtly-planted cool excuse to get people together — the beautiful seeds, perhaps, planted around room to provoke interesting conversations. The most dynamic medium, I would argue, still resides on the side of the human element. People perform in far less predictable ways than machines. And people, for me, are the Provocative Objects. We create our art and our technology as a way to better understand ourselves as individuals, as a society and as a culture.

We are the Provocative Objects.

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curatorial reflections exhibition-event as a process of critique David Tamés, 2012 Can the objects we make provoke a re-evaluation of the institutions of meaning making?

The Provocative Objects exhibition and production of this exhibition catalog1 provided lou and I with an opportunity to explore the process of conceiving, organizing, running, and documenting an exhibition and event. With Provocative Objects we worked within the constraints of time and budget as well as the limitations of the Doran Gallery, while at the same time evolving a critique of the aesthetics associated with the white cube, as summarized by Brian O’Doherty, A gallery is constructed along laws as rigorous as those for building a medieval church. The outside world must not come in, so windows are usually sealed off. Walls are painted white. The ceiling becomes the source of light. [...] The art is free, as the saying used to go, ‘to take on its own life.’ [...] Modernism’s transposition of perception from life to formal values is complete. This, of course, is one of modernism’s fatal diseases. [...] Unshadowed, white, clean, artificial, the space is devoted to the technology of esthetics. [...] The space offers the thought that while eyes and minds are welcome, space-occupying bodies are not

[...] This Descartian paradox is reinforced by one of the icons of our visual culture: the installation shot, sans figures. Here at last the spectator, oneself, is eliminated You are there without being there...2

Some of our inspiration came from the avantgarde artists of the early-twentieth century, many of whom characterized the museum as a mausoleum. One particularly stinging critique was penned by Filippo Marinetti 3 (1876–1944), an Italian poet and founder of the Futurist movement, who wrote in his Futurist Manifesto that museums were ...cemeteries, public dormitories where one lies forever beside hated or unknown beings [...] absurd abattoirs of painters and sculptors ferociously slaughtering each other with color-blows and line-blows, the length of the fought-over walls [...]Calvaries of crucified dreams, registries of aborted beginnings...4

And while the white cube, a symbol of purity and restraint, continues to dominate the architectural

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automatic.self.analysis template of museum exhibition,5 it also continues to be challenged. Christiane Paul, a curator at the Whitney Museum of American Art, reminds us that museums are in the business of presentation, interpretation, and conservation, observing that “contemporary artistic practice challenges the traditional art world—its customary methods of presentation.” 6 Jon Ippolito, an artist and former curator at the Guggenheim Museum urges that artwork must “keep moving to survive,” and there is no “set it and forget it” approach if you are presenting contemporary work.7 With Provocative Objects we hoped, in our own modest way, to challenge the white cube as a neutral container of objects, treating it more as a site for an ephemeral event consisting of works and performances at odds with the ideology behind the surfaces of the Patricia Doran Gallery’s white walls. Brian O’Doherty describes the classic installation photograph as one without human figures. In contrast, the images in our catalog show participants in the frame. Much as recent documentary has become more transparent about the filmmakers role vis-a-vis the subject role in creating the representation, so we have made more transparent our process in the exhibition catalog by including images from a live event rather than canonical exhibition photographs. We had fun playing with the conventions of the

exhibition catalog but ultimately our hope was to create a useful document and a model for an exhibition catalog created in the changing context of the last days of print. We are influenced by the current trend in which exhibition catalogs have grown in size and scope and are increasingly seen as a comprehensive source of information on a subject area. Thomas Hirschhorn has provided one of the most striking examples illustrating contemporary critical attitudes towards the white cube. For the Whitechapel Gallery’s Protest and Survive exhibition in 2000, Hirschhorn constructed The Bridge, a makeshift construction over the alley between the gallery café and The Freedom Press, an anarchist bookshop and publishing house.8 This work is especially striking given the metaphorical reverberations that result from piercing the establishment of the white cube in order to create a link to an institution that is outside of both the white cube and mainstream culture. Contemporary artists find themselves in a strange position as anachronistic makers of artisanal objects in a global capitalist economy based on mass production of commodities. This is perhaps one factor influencing the choice many artists make to work in public space or create more ephemeral works in the form of performances, interventions, and events.


curatorial reflections David Tamés

The Bridge provides a catalyst for dialog on the relationship between art and politics by making a nostalgic connection to times past when many artists espoused radical manifestos. Julian Stallabrass wrote of Hirschhorn’s work in his review of the Protest and Survive exhibition, It is an unnerving experience to tread on its slightly yielding surface (the bridge appears to be made of cardboard held together with masking tape) but stranger still is the contrast between the two spaces: one white-walled, tasteful, judiciously minimal; the other cluttered, hedged in by noble and unfashionable texts, tobacco-stained and marked by the passage of years. Moving between them reminds you just how corporate the décor of art galleries has become. That the passage between the two—art and politics, that is—should feel provisional and rickety is fitting. It has become a cliché in the contemporary art world to claim that the two cannot mix well, or that their alliance breeds tyranny, or that art can be political only in the continual recitation of contradiction. How has it come about that the bridge, so 9 robust as recently as the 1970s, is now so frail?

Can the objects we make provoke a re-evaluation of the institutions of meaning making? Can we challenge the notion of exhibition in a meaningful way? It is at this intersection of impossible tasks that Provocative Objects was conceived. Could we construct a bridge on our own between the “institution” and the world outside the white cube? Our bridge was metaphorical, our challenge to the notion of exhibition symbolic. Striving not to recreate a “mausoleum,” we limited the event to a single day. Perhaps this had more to do with limitation of resources than ideology. Accordingly, who can argue against the notion that resources play a part in determining ideology? Provocative Objects is now but a distant memory of specters taking over and inhabiting a mausoleum for a night, with echoes of the experience in our documentation, the faint traces of the event captured in this book, a mausoleum in another form, offering an opportunity to reflect on what is preserved, and what is lost, in the traditional form of an exhibition catalog. Did we succeed in what we set out to do? It depends on how you measure success. We did not set forth a detailed set of evaluation metrics. The ultimate metric of success would be what kind of impression the show left on visitors. Did any collaborations occur as a result of artists interacting with each other at the show? Did

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I have always preferred the reflection of the life to life itself. — Francois Truffaut

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What is the curator’s role on the periphery of established institutions? Perhaps the best opportunities to contribute in a meaningful way to our local arts scene is idea-focused exhibitions (especially in the form of a group show) in which something unexpected may occur as a result of the “mixing” of emerging artists and new approaches. This is at the heart of what lou and I were attempting with Provocative Objects. Our biggest challenge was to connect in a meaningful way with one of the relevant discourses in contemporary art. Innovation necessarily starts

c t s

There were two quantitative metrics we considered and calculated: average attendance and attendance during the last hour of the show. Both of these numbers exceeded our expectations. The show was well attended with people from the Dynamic Media Institute, the broader MassArt community, and the Boston community at large. Attendance is one of the important metrics for an exhibition/event.

at the margin, and the margin is not the same as being marginal. All new movements and ideas have their start at the margin, and as time goes on, it either falls out of orbit or it is pulled in by the gravitational pull of the center. In the end, art that finds a place in the art world has to make connections with contemporary discourse in order to participate in the conversation. The influence of Provocative Objects may never be known. 10

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artists discover a new path for their work they may not have seen prior to the show? Did visitors have a good time? Were they provoked in any way? Did we live up to the name, Provocative Objects? We can only reflect on these questions, since we did not conduct extensive qualitative analysis of visitor’s reactions, however, some of the interviews in the catalog touch on this.


curatorial reflections David Tamés Notes 1. This section is derived from “Exhibition: Provocative

Objects,” in David Tamés, “Boundary Crossings { object | exhibition | installation },” MFA thesis document, Dynamic Media Institute, Massachusetts College of Art and Design, December 20, 2011, http://davidtames.com/ boundary-crossings/ (accessed January 12, 2012).

2. Brian O’Doherty, Inside the White Cube: The ideology

of the gallery space, expanded edition, University of California Press,1999, p. 15.

3. Filippo Marinetti was also a fascist ideologue.

Mention of Marinetti does not imply support of his political ideas. Marinetti was one of the first affiliates of the Italian Fascist Party, therefore, we distance ourselves from his support of fascism and restrict our reading and use of Marinetti to his critique of the museum and art institutions. The many contradictions of his politics and character helped make him a fascinating and provocative thinker.

4. Filippo Marinetti, “The Foundation and Manifesto of Futurism,” in Charles Harrison and Paul Wood, Art in Theory, 1900-1990: An anthology of changing ideas, Blackwell, 1993, p. 148.

5. Janet Marstine, Ed., New Museum Theory and Practice:

An Introduction, Wiley-Blackwell, 2005, p. 518.

Models for Digital Art, University of California Press, 2008.

8. The Freedom Press is the oldest publishing house

of its kind in the United Kingdom, and probably the last institution of its kind. It was founded in 1886 by a group of friends including Charlotte Wilson and Peter Kropotkin. Along with books and pamphlets, the press publishes Freedom, a fortnightly newspaper. See: Donald Rooum, “Freedom, Freedom Press and Freedom Bookshop: A short history of Freedom Press,” Information for Social Change 27 (2008), http:// bit.ly/Jbf6db (PDF, accessed November 28, 2011).

9. Julian Stallabrass, “Cashing In,” New Statesman, October 2, 2000, http://www.newstates man. com/200010020037 (accessed October 2, 2011).

10. This is a reference to a statement made by Allan

Kaprow, “Experimental art is art whose status as art may never be known... never be known,” said in a conversation with Paul McCarthy, MOCA Audio, March 27, 2008, http://www.moca.org/audio/ (accessed January 15,, 2011). Photos

6. Christiane Paul, New Media in the White Cube and

1. [ the box ] by Riccardo Romano, Dubai International Airport, http://www.flickr.com/photos/pixx0ne/4522936964/ © Riccardo Romano, released under the terns mf a Creative Commons CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 license.

7. Jon Ippolito, “Death by Wall Label”, in Christiane

2. Thomas Hirschhorn: The Bridge, 2000 Model of installation linking Whitechapel Gallery Café to the Freedom Press bookshop, Protest & Survive, Whitechapel Art Gallery, London, © Whitechapel Gallery Archive.

Beyond: Curatorial Models for Digital Art, University of California Press, 2008. Paul, New Media in the White Cube and Beyond: Curatorial

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This document was set in Sorts Mill Goudy and Zapfino using

and lining figures, superscripts and subscripts, fractions, ligatures, class-based kerning, case-sensitive forms, and capital spacing. The typeface is available from The League of Moveable Type. Zapfino is a calligraphic typeface designed by Hermann Zapf that makes extensive use of ligatures and character variations. It was released in 1998 as a Type 1 font. Apple includes Zapfino with Mac OS X and it’s also available from Linotype. A limited edition of ten books were printed, with one copy submitted to the Dynamic Media Institute, Massachusetts College of Art and Design. The physical books were printed by Edition One Books ( http://www.editiononebooks.com ) on 148 gsm, smooth, acid-free, uncoated bright white paper.

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Barry Schwartz with features including small capitals, oldstyle

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Sorts Mill Goudy is a ‘revival’ of Goudy Oldstyle and Italic by

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13: 978-0-9669022-3-5 ISBN 10: 0-9669022-3-8 ISBN

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provocative.objects: debriefed and declassified  

Provocative Objects: the extradition opened on November 12, 2010 at The Doran Gallery at Massachusetts College of Art and Design. This cyber...

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