Moshe Ladanga

Archive for April 2008

Simplicity: Peter Campus at the Albion Gallery

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The first thing I saw when we entered was an empty reception desk that sort of disappeared into the sheer corporate white of the gallery. The place smelled like old ivory, the dead scent of wealth and esteem. It was the Albion Gallery, housed in a architectural puzzle (a building that aspires to be fat, not tall), and facing the Thames.

It was windy, the cold snap of air still caught in my lungs as we sauntered in. I really wanted to see this, and after the endless whirlwind of the past weeks, we finally got the time to go (April 25, that was the day). At first there were a series of scenes that were playing in screens embedded in two conjoined walls forming a wedge. They were like paintings, done in a forthright manner. Scenes of solace, I think, views from a coast that invited reflection and peaceful ponderance.

His early installations were further in, so we left the videos and marched in.

That’s the thing- the installations work so seamlessly that you stop in your tracks. The first one had a mirror slowly turning in front of a camera, and below, the image captured is replayed on a TV. All you see is a part of your image, being created and being erased, turn after turn.

The second installation was a square stage, with monitors and cameras positioned at each corner. We stepped on to it, and it was a pleasurable surprise to discover a clever play of perception, with each camera positioned to induce a subtle sense of disorientation; you end up not knowing which camera is responsible for which image on each monitor.

The third one was a bit tricky, requiring a bit of patience. It was just a projection on a wall, with a soft spotlight at a particular position on the floor. I stood there for a while, quite frustrated that nothing was happening. But When I returned to it later and discovered the spotlight, I stood there and suddenly my image appeared on the screen, upside-down, then rotating.

The one that moved me the most was the last one, which was actually quite simple. It was another projection on the wall, and there were two cameras right beside the projection. At first, my initial impulse was to walk past it, hoping to trigger it in a way. And I did, my image walking with me on the wall. But then, after 5 seconds, another image of me walked past, quite different, and I was so shocked to see my expression, my countenance.

The second camera, angled precisely to catch a slightly different angle of the viewer, recorded the event and replayed it in a calculated delay, with the first shot slowly dissolving into the other. I figured this one out on the bus home. I also saw that he used a red filter for all the cameras (all of the installations video imagery were in black&white) which made people’s images softer, more refined. But beside all of these technical details, I left the gallery feeling something real, not quite the thing you’d expect from such an imposing and clinical edifice.

Written by mosheladanga

April 29, 2008 at 5:50 PM

Posted in Reflections

Expressive Code

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By another strange stroke of luck, we came across this book in LCC around a month ago. It was big, new and BLUE. Processing, a programming environment built upon Java, was developed by the students of John Maeda, the author of Design by Numbers. Casey Reas and Ben Fry, the authors of the big blue book, set out to write a guide for people like me to learn programming; and more than that, they specifically had visually inclined artists in mind when they wrote the book. It is a revelation.

Casey Reas- Image Derived from MicroImage Software
http://reas.com/iperimage.php?section=works&work=microimage_p&images=5&id=1&bgcolor=FFFFFF

I am completely blown away. There are quite a number of artists (check out Katrin’s blog) who have been creating moving image pieces- films- with pure programming. Heck, here are my favorites:

Flight404’s Solar on Vimeo

Filght404’s Weird Fishes: Arpeggi on Vimeo

Casey Reas’ Process 16

Whitekross’ 2-Redrum

Processing takes the power of the mathematics, or rather, the descriptive ability of functions and algorithms to make images. Some artists are exploring interactivity via data fed in by video, sound, user input, and others, like Ben Fry, use it to visualize data itself. And the results are evocative.

Ben Fry’s All Streets

There are other artists who use Processing to make these incredible moving paintings.

Jared Tarbell’s Intersection Agregate

Jared Tarbell’s Sand Traveller

And also, there is this guy, he is a god in my book- W.Blut- he makes interactive sculptures. Time to put on those knee pads!

rose at lagrange 2

W. Blut’s rose at lagrange 2

I’ve been teaching myself the programming code by reading the book, doing the exercises, and by mainly fooling around with the basic sketches in the libraries. Processing comes with quite a few video capture programs that we’ll be able to use for our project. We’re currently thinking of using the video feeds as the triggers for the interaction between the screens and the viewers themselves.

I wanted to sketch out visually my ideas for the image interference in my screen, so I made a simple revision of a live drawing program in Nodebox (Python language, simpler than Processing). So the program works with the mouse being dragged across the screen to make marks; the resulting paths are traced and interpolated by random functions defined by the values derived from the position of the mouse (x, y). Keep in mind that these are pulsating lines. Here are snapshots:

*Please click on the images

The great thing is that the mouse coordinates can be assigned to brightness spots, motion fields or even color in the VideoCapture programs in Processing. We can definitely play with this thing. More to come…

RA Cezannes and Sol Le Witt

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I’ve been wanting to see this; some of the paintings in the show were cherished favorites held until then only in books. The portraits and landscapes of Cezanne were simply astonishing. Instead of receding into realistic perspective, the planes of arms, of face, chest, rock, tree, mountain and shadow pushed forward, sculpted out of layers of pigment. Each one was different, each one belied a particular mood, a state of mind. One landscape in particular (the jpeg here is pretty bad, photographed under low light- better see the original) was complicated, the planes of autumnal foliage and mountain all in varied angles- it took a while to see the whole picture. But if you stay long enough, you’ll understand what I’m saying.

Landscape at Aix (Mount Sainte-Victoire). 1905. Oil on canvas. 1879-82.

http://www.abcgallery.com/C/cezanne/cezanne87.html

Carrière Bibemus. c. 1895. Oil on canvas. Museum Folkwang, Essen.
http://www.expo-cezanne.com/1_3.cfm?id=-297343045

Bibemus: Le Rocher Rouge. c. 1897. Oil on canvas. Musée du Louvre, Paris.
http://www.expo-cezanne.com/1_3.cfm?id=-1000817656

These ones I found at expo-cezanne.com, a generic site, but with a pretty good selection. The ones are paintings of a particular quarry (Bibemus). If you look at the pictures, it becomes very evident how Cezanne used the medium of paint to bring out a material quality to the act of perception; he made the act of looking active, the picture fragments into forms and brought together by the eye. Yet, as you continue looking, it becomes clear that it is not merely a technique applied to a picture; the picture is immersive, the planes, the tonal cues, all start to come together and bring you to a particular state of mind, a feeling, which becomes more real than the hum and chatter of people around you, and you actually forget you are merely looking.

There is also a portrait there of a woman sitting, in blue (again, the jpeg doesn’t do it justice), and the strokes that make up her body, especially how her posture and weight are depicted, are angled towards the bottom left of the frame. It’s not that evident here, but standing in front of it makes you aware of the weight of her body, the weight of her thoughts.

Paul Cézanne. Lady in Blue. c. 1899. Oil on canvas.

http://www.abcgallery.com/C/cezanne/cezanne79.html

Seeing these made me realize how much other artists have discovered and experimented with how we perceive, and how they have fundamentally turned it on its head; In Cezanne, the way we see becomes tangible as a cognitive act, as a malleable form of making sense of the world. There is an exquisite subtlety and a the profound moment that you experience when you get to that point where the painting holds you still in its language.

Which bring me to So Le Witt.

I’ve seen this last year, room no.5, at the Tate Modern. I once saw an epilogue of him (he died last year) in the web, NY Times. Never really thought much of him, and at that time I lumped all the conceptualists and the minimalists together, didn’t really care about installations that only awakened the mind. But when I first experienced this room with Katrin, I was floored. It was beautiful. The recreation of space, the tension between the lines and their fragility (done with chalk I think), made me feel awake, cleansed, pure. And the simple attenuation, the clarity of it, just brings you into another state of awareness.

There is this thing that some artists share, and it is a push towards an engagement that releases the viewer from preconception. With Cezanne, the picture brings the act of perception into relief, and offers an alternative way of seeing things, of conceiving things. With Sol le Witt, the lines create and at the same time re-invent how we think of things, subverting logic to express the intimations of the invisible, of the divine.