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Recurring Concepts in Art Blog

by Guillermo Montecinos, NYU ITP Spring 2019

This document and the contents stored in this repo corresponds to the Recurring Concepts in Art class taught by Georgia Krantz, at NYU ITP during the 2019 Spring term.

Week 2 - Light and Perception

Western culture is a visual culture, there is no scape to that, probably because in the caves age primal human were able to communicate by painting walls before inventing any kind of dialect. That historic event presumably conditioned how our culture was built and how it was spread to all colonized territories. Stroke by stroke and color by color, during a span of approximately 30,000 years a representation of the world was slowly stablished as the way how reality looks –or how we should interpret it– until coming to the present to this "society of the spectacle" as Debord called it.

But, as Turrel raises, the representation of the world we see is not necessary how it looks like because what we see of light is just the colors that are reflected in the objects around us but not the light itself -so we can't catch light's essence. So have we been misled? or at least forced? Well, maybe, but what we know -and it was said by Plato around 2,500 years ago– in terms of perception is that we are in a cave sitting back to reality and the only we can see is the world's light reflected in the cave's wall. No more than that.

And this can be used to understand how western culture has told it's own history and how western technology has been part of the narrative. For example, how television became the most important media device when it was able to show just a small portion of the world. Or how press became the "real truth" and the authorized storyteller of the contemporary societies. Both, together and separately, have been the most important misinformation agents of the last 3 centuries, but society still see the world through their filter. Or nowadays, how internet and smartphones play a significant role in telling and deforming reality by the way we get informed by Google or Facebook, as well as creating new realities by gathering us with unknown people or by using AR applications.

Finally, perception is something we can't scape from. But something interesting to explore is: if perception is a biased understanding of the world, western perception is a biased understanding of a biased understanding of the world. So what happen with other perceptions? For example, what happened with Mapuche people's perception in southern Chile after Spanish came and imposed western catholicism? How that perception can talk with western perception? How perception of African tribes dispute the conceptual territory? I think I can't answer this question right now, but I hope I'll do during the semester.

Week 3 - The Body/Identity

From all the galleries suggested for this class two strongly called my attention: Paul Stephen Benjamin's Pure, Very, New at Marianne Boesky Gallery and Joan Semmel's A Necessary Elaboration at Alexander Gray's. Both talk about the body as social subject that can be valued or rejected by the others but from different perspectives.

Joan Semmel paints the nude body of an old women in different poses using an amazing color palette to configure spaces that highlight the body and it's beauty no matter the age. What mostly called my attention of this series of paintings was the smart use of color.

On the other hand Benjamin's exhibit talks about being a black person in the U.S. The exhibit is opened with an outstanding array of different kind of televisions screening a quote of a Nina Simone's song in which she says "Black is a color". That piece is a dramatization of being black and is a really smart design in terms of space, light and sound that at the same time of criticize white suprematism talks about the medium and how it deforms the colors and shapes in the screen. In this regard is very interesting to acknowledge the role of the artist as the person who draws a line that connect two points, in this case the racism in the U.S. and the bias in technology and how it can build new realities.

Another thing that called my attention was the piece Imagine a world without America by Dread Scott –who has made an incredible work on re-imagining the symbols beneath the U.S. flag– which explicitly reflects how U.S. citizens talk of America as if they were América, forgetting an entire continent to the South. I think a real revolutionary exercise to deconstruct that symbology will be to recognize that América is not the U.S.

Week 4 - Art and technology

From the exhibit Programmed: Rules, Codes, and Choreographies in Art I'd like to highlight some pieces from the right side of the gallery, which corresponded to the older or more historical pieces. These are the more conceptual artworks, mostly focused on the instruction or the list of tasks as an artistic gesture. From them, Dance #4 by Lucinda Childs, Philip Glass, and Sol LeWitt called powerfully my attention, because in that piece the instruction is not just used as a theoretical framework to guide interpreters, but as a physical path that induces dancers to move in the space –since instructions are mapped. This piece dialogues with a movement of instruction-based artworks and evokes me the sound work Pendulum Music by Steve Rich which –using other medium 11 years before– uses instructions as an open and creative element in performance.

Joan Truckenbrod's Coded Algorithmic Drawings and Frederick Hammersley's No Title called my attention as well, because they belong to a wave of coders who started exploring the usage of logic instructions of primitive coding languages to convey creative compositions, as Vera Molnàr and John Whitney, among others. As well as these key historical algorithmic I really loved Casey Reas' pieces, both because they spectacularity and aesthetic –which I really engage with– and because of his preponderance as a Open Source Software activist.

Week 5 - Original/Copy: Reproduction/Re-Production

One thing I usually struggle with when creating is how to be original, or how to be the first that crafted certain idea. That sounds quite impossible when we think of art –or more broadly when we think of human knowledge– as a cumulative process over thousands of years. How to be original? Are we original by repeating the same technique of Tony Martin's Game Room, an interactive installation exhibited 50 years ago that comprises the same elements of any interactive installation we design nowadays at ITP: kinetic sensors displayed in a space measuring people's movement and triggering light and sound responses. So what is the novelty in designing the same interaction over and over again?

Duchamp approached this question more than 100 years ago, when through the gesture of curating an element of everyday life -an industrial and massive production element– he converted it into an art piece. Something similar was done by Warhol 70 years later, when by reproducing countless times a massive element as an advertising he took it away from its original context, transfiguring it into an art piece. All this, interestingly addressed at Buskirk's Original Copies can be an approach to the early question I proposed. The novelty in an art gesture is not in the technical production of the piece, but in the concept that moves the artist to do the gesture. For example, Duchamp's was a subversive gesture to unveil 19th century's art world rigidity.

Hélio per Lucem

Collaboration with Karina Hyland

Hélio per Lucem is an sculptural/interactive piece inspired in the structure, shapes and colors of ‘Metaesquema’ by Hélio Oiticica. Thinking of light as an active element –both as an electromagnetic signal and a deity– this piece attempts to explore the meaning it has, interpret it and translate it into a different medium or a different dimension of human knowledge –as when recoding a visual artwork.

Hélio per Lucem explores the interaction between light and physical bodies in space –through refraction and reflection– and the underlying information attached to this process.

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