Tuesday, December 20, 2011

For my Second Life endeavors I struggled mostly with creating outfits and being able to switch back and forth between them easily. I believe I was saving things wrong or not accessing them the correct way, but I am now more comfortable with it after playing with it during the final. I struggled to get the blending of my neck and chest done well so I eventually put my avatar in a turtle neck to cover the lines. For my imaginary person I was going to create a black and white version of me, which you can see the beginning of in the first photo, but I struggled to make the skin white and black and look good. So I eventually went with making myself a lion. I made my booty very luscious, and played with the physics to make it jiggle every time I moved. I didn't quite realize how tall I made myself until we met in the group and I was standing next to the rest of the people. I wish I would have photoshop'ed my eyes better onto my grid so that I didn't have a double-eye creepy feature going on. I was very frustrated with this project at first, but once we met as a class I found it to be very fun and an enjoyable way to interact with art and classmates, and also a fun way to end the semester! 

Friday, December 16, 2011

The Capacitators

The Capacitators digital media student art exhibit was varied and dynamic for a student show. There were different art pieces vasting the full spectrum of the digital media field of study, exhibiting works in photography, animation, Second Life audio/visual interaction, interactive video receptors and short film collaborations.
I first interacted with Galashton, a World of Warcraft animation character brought into the world of Second Life, brought into the real world in this gallery to interact and chat with the gallery visitors. Galashton was projected on to the wall large enough to make it feel like he was truly right there in front of you. Viewers could speak into a microphone and have a casual conversation with Galashton, the speaking animation, who had witty and intelligent remarks to whatever questions or comments thrown his way. I enjoyed this piece, the ability to carry on a conversation with a projection onto a wall is a remarkable feat, and I must admit, I enjoyed attempting to make Galashton blush by telling him how handsome I thought he looked.
"Videos for Small Viewing" was a collaborative piece of connected short film clips from the Digital Media 345 class. The footage reel ran to a soundtrack of audio that was created by the students from handmade objects. This project reminded me of the project we did earlier this semester in our class, with the animation collaboration to audio, it was very similar except they used video clips and we used animation.
"Displace" was a projection performance, a receptive piece reacting to how people are effected by their location. A girl, dressed in all white, stood in front of a projector with a large projection being shown on the wall behind her of different settings: an aisle in a grocery store, the library, and a gym in the midst of a basketball game. Depending on the movement of the girl, the projection in the background would change. If she was moving in bigger motions, such as stretching, or moving her arms around above her head, the background would change to the gym scene. If she was still and had her head slightly downward, the library setting would come up and it would look like she was reading a book. If she would walk back and forth towards the projector, she would be in the grocery store isle. I thought this project had a really strong idea, but it could have been taken farther. It didn't quite connect all the way for me, but I understood the artist's intention after speaking with him about it, I just think it would have been more successful if there were more scenes, or if the project was more interactive and everyone could participate, and not just the one girl.
"Star Tear: The Gift of the Dream Dragon" was an animation piece created by a student who used an iPad to do majority of his artwork. I found that fascinating when he told me that all but one of the drawings in his video animation was done on the iPad... like Joe said "make it all the way to college just to learn how to finger paint"... but on an iPad. This artist had a nicely published book aside his project to explain his processing and detail behind the project, which was really helpful for the viewer and just interesting to read to see how he went about creating this project.
"Legends of Broadcast" was another interactive projection piece, but this piece reacted to light displayed in certain areas. With a flashlight, you would aim the light beam to photos hung up on the wall, and with a webcam aimed at the wall which was hooked up to a program on a laptop, the pictures on the wall would cause a reaction by the amount of light on the picture. The more light on the photo, the faster the video reel would go of a talk show host talking politics. The less light on the photo, the slower the video would go. I found this the most fascinating of the projects. I had a difficult time trying to follow how it all worked together because I was unfamiliar with the computer program he was using, and how it worked, but I think it was very successful and entertaining as an interactive piece.
In the back of the Holland Project there was a photography piece regarding the issues of "pixels". The meaning and objective behind this piece was that social media sites and outlets have made relationships less meaningful and the usage of the over exaggerated pixel in these enlarged photos of faces were to emphasize the way our generation interacts with one another. I thought it was an interesting piece because the social medias have changed the way people react with one another, and the relationships we understand now are different, and photos are a huge part of that. The pixels are the tiny objects that create the bigger picture of ourselves and that is how we choose to represent ourselves these days. It is a fascinating way to look at this cultural critique.

Lastly, there was our classes "Then Me, Now Me" which was just wonderful. Some people in our class were really successful in their recreations, and others seemed as if they just took two photos of themselves that looked similar and didn't even try. Even on a personal level, I wish I could have recreated mine even more than I had tried to. It was a nice feeling to see our classes work posted in a gallery like that, I just think we all could have put some more effort into perfecting our recreations more than we had.

Overall, The Capacitators was a very successful exhibit and I was surprised at the works I saw. It's inspirational to see students in our program doing such innovative work, I look forward to doing more and one day have a project in an exhibit similar to this.

Artist Lecture- Wafaa Bilal

Wafaa Bilal pushes the limits of the expected as an artist. Many, if not all, of his projects come from a personal conflict, experience, or curiosity that has inflicted his life at some point or time. During his lecture at UNR he touched on some of the platforms in which he bases much of his artwork around. Conflict zone vs. Comfort Zone, Aesthetic pleasure vs. Aesthetic pain, Virtual platform vs. Physical platform, and the body has it's own language which leads to dynamic work. He spoke about how goes through the process of considering each of these "zones" and platforms and how he incorporates all of these in his decision making and thought processing to create dynamic work. In Wafaa's words, "dynamic work is a platform in which all possible end-states are known, this allows participant to narrate some of the work."
Wafaa includes himself in a physical way in many of his pieces. In his project "Dog or Iraqi" he polled people to see if they would rather 'waterboard' a dog or an Iraqi human being, if the results turned out that more people answered with an Iraqi, he would waterboard himself. Eventually PETA shut the project down, but as a result of his poll outcomes, he held to his word and chose to waterboard himself, putting himself in severe danger.
Wafaa's brother and father were both killed in the Iraqi war. Losing both his brother and his father inspired him to create artworks that will raise awareness of the amounts of deaths in the war and how it really effects both Iraqi and American people. In his project ...and Counting Wafaa examines the invisibility of Iraqi deaths and turned his own body into a canvas for a 24-hr live art performance. Each soldier (both American and Iraqi) casualty was represented by one dot on his back in geographical map with the dots placed where they died. The 5,000 dead American soldiers are represented by red dots and the 100,000 dead Iraqi soldiers are represented by white-UV ink. During the 24-hr tattoo performance period, people read off names of the dead aloud.
Wafaa's current project, 3rdi (third eye), involves a camera which has been surgically attached to the back of Wafaa's head. The camera snaps photos spontaneously, one per minute, to capture his daily life. The purpose is to objectively portray the past by use of random photos. By completely removing the necessity of his own choice or preference, ability to capture what he wants by his point of view and finger, these photos are out of his control. The camera is wired to a lightweight laptop which holds a 3G wireless connection so each photo is instantly updated to the 3rdi website.

Domestic Tension is the name of the project that seemed to get Wafaa the most notoriety. He locked himself in an art exhibit in a small enclosed area with a paintball gun, controlled by public's use of a web-game, aimed in his living space giving people the opportunity to shoot at him at all times of the day for a full month. This project was also inspired by the Iraqi war and loss of his brother and father. The objective of this project was to raise awareness of virtual war and privacy, and/or the lack thereof privacy and safety. This project took its toll on Wafaa and was much more difficult than he had assumed. His sense of vulnerability grew more with each shot. He learned that people are much more willing to shoot someone than he had expected, he got little to no sympathy. Wafaa live blogged by recording videos that he uploaded to the same site where the public would access to gain the ability to shoot at him in his gallery space. The paintball gun shot out yellow paint balls, and when a student asked why he chose yellow paint, he said that the yellow seemed like a good color because it was representational of the yellow "support troops" ribbon.

Wafaa is one of the bravest artist's I have come across. He puts himself in the center of his projects, no matter how dangerous they are, he is willing to prove what he believes in by physically making himself vulnerable. He is passionate about the war and troops safety and rights, and I think his work is very representational of his personality. Getting to hear him speak about his work made me realize what risks some people take to do what they love and stand up for what they believe in, and I found him truly inspirational as an artist and as a human being.

Carrie Mae Rose, Tahir Hemphill- Artist Representation

Expressing a message through recognizable objects and familiarity is a common way for artists to channel their message through their artwork. The two artists I chose to study and represent have both been fellows of the Eyebeam artist project within the past two years, and both execute this style of awareness expression through familiarity in their artworks. Carrie Mae Rose and Tahir Hemphill stood out to me for different reasons, they are varied and contrasting as artists, but within their works I was able to pull similarities from their intent in creating their pieces that connect the two artists in a way deeper than their final projects.
The first artist I chose to research and report on is vast and varied in her works. Carrie Mae Rose is a representational artist who likes to express the message of vulnerability throughout her different art pieces. Carrie Mae Rose creates artworks in all different styles and mediums. She is a creator of fine art, digital media pieces including videos and technology based drawing and creation, wearable art, interactive installations and Rose often portrays her work through the style of performance art. 

In her works of "Wearable Weapons", "Agave Armor", and interactive costuming, Rose uses materials and items that are familiar objects to the human eye-- such as scissors, seat belts, and zip-ties, LED lights, and zip-ties-- and uses them to create outfits and accessories in a way that when they are worn they could be harmful and dangerous, putting the person wearing them in a position of vulnerability. “I literally use materials that can create shock and deadly injure, to bring a heightened sense of caution and reverence.” (Rose states in her artist statement on her website www.carriemae.com) 
Using household items—such as scissors--in mass amounts strapped together to create a necklaces and bracelets is obscure and unusual for several reasons: most people do not consider scissors an accessory or art material, but more of a tool or utensil, and because of it's sharp blades it is considered dangerous and not something that would usually come in contact with the human body in this fashion. In Rose's artist statement about her work she says, "My wearable weapons, agave armor and interactive costumes awaken the power of vulnerability. Devastating beauty that could kill. These items push the boundary of fashion to the absolute limit."

            In a live interview from Break Thru Radio, Carrie Mae explains that years ago she had gone to a yard sale in Phoenix and she came across a box of recycled scissors and nail clippers and other metal handhold “weapons” that were confiscated from airports security branches. She found inspiration to create works with these items and eventually continued buying mass amounts of scissors online through airport auctions. 

In previous works of hers, Carrie Mae had worked with the theme of personal safety and was looking for something to carry on off of that them to create her theses while studying at Parsons. These items were all banned by airport security and were later sold in “airport auctions” to the public. This came as a shock to Carrie Mae and instantly inspired her to center her thesis around safety on a societal level and use these banned materials to create her final project at Parson’s “Confiscated Weapons of Mass Destruction.”

Agave plant is natures equivalent to the shape of the scissor, pointy and weapon like, and for years have done artworks with circles, it was when she was working on her thesis at Parsons that she wanted to collaborate these things together.
         Her works are recognizable by the incorporation of circles and scissors. She uses these two tactics to create pieces for clothing, accessories, wall hangings, flat-pieces, and sculptures.
Carrie Mae recently began working on a new style of artwork this past September during her Artist Residincy at Eyebeam Art & Technology Center, which includes technology and electricity along with her Wearable Weapons. She has taken Violet Wands- which are electro medical devices used for the application of low current, high voltage, electricity to the human body, and created wearable collars in which the Violet Wands are placed. These Violet Wands are most popular in use for sexual stimulation toys, healing tools for the body, used to provoke rather than harm, and are sold both to the police department and S&M community. 

Carrie Mae’s artist statement for the incorporation of including Violet Wands into her Wearable Weapons collection explains how and why she chose to do this project. “Wearable Weapons pioneers the use of technology for a serious of interactive collars that are Violet Wands hacked and connected to OS Software to pulse electricity to the beat/pitch of music and can be used for either a sculptural installation or worn by an entertainer.”
The second artist I chose to research is Tahir Hemphill, a fellow from Eyebeam 2009-2010. Tahir is most interested in the studies of hip hop, the music, the history, the artist, and the lifestyle. Unlike Carrie Mae’s many different mediums, Tahir’s main focus is digital media and technological multimedia. He has implemented design solutions for many big brands, including Verizon Wireless, Microsoft, Mercedez Benz and L’Oreal.

Tahir was raised by a musical family and was groomed to be an engineer, having the intelligence and drive to be a scientist, yet decided to take his talent and collaborate it all together in the arts. Tahir’s educational background proves his ability and eagerness to be knowledgeable. He has a Regents Diploma from Brooklyn Technical High School in Electrical Engineering, a B.A degree in Spanish Language and Minor in Mathematics from Morehouse College, and a M.S degree in Communications Design from Pratt Institute. Amidst his studying at the Pratt Institute, Tahir authored and designed the book Visual Alchemy, a work on traditional advertising techniques to promote campaigning in an anti-consumerist or pro-social style.
For the past 4 years, and while working at Eyebeam, Tahir has worked on his biggest digital media and hip-hop integration project yet. This project is called The Hip-Hop Word Count, a rap almanac designed as a searchable database built up of lyrics from over 50,000 hip-hop songs over the past 30 years. The web page is set up in three different browser types: Map View, Graph View, and Song View. In these different views the user can search interesting statistics about the songs, the geographic location for every metaphor, simile, cultural reference, phrase, rhyme style and socio-political idea used in the past 30 years of hip-hop. Not only does this inform users of statistical information of rap songs and lyrics, it is educating people about the history and culture of hip-hop. 

         The Hip-Hop Word Count was featured in the MoMa’s “Talk To Me” exhibition this past summer. The Creators Project also recognized Tahir for the Hip-Hop Word Count. In an interview for The Creators Project, Hemphill spoke about his inspiration for taking on this big project. “I was inspired by a general trend that I observed in modern commercial rap music of an oversimplification of language. I had the suspicion for a while, but then I started hearing this same commentary show up in lyrics of the rappers themselves.” Tahir observed that these days, rapping with lyrical skills of intricate vocabulary and poetical finesse is not what is selling; it just isn’t as “cool”.

         Comparing and contrasting this project to a science or anthropology project is where one has to dig deep to find the artistry in Tahir’s design. The project is interactive and unlike a painting or a sculpture, its life is not terminal, it can be updated and renewed by the input of viewers. The response to this project from the hip-hop community and the general public has been very successful. Tahir has gotten feedback from rap fans, journalists, academics, research institutions and advertising professionals, cultural critics and artists that has been positive and helpful.
         I believe that hip-hop is a big part of today’s modern culture, and a dominant subculture in the United States especially. This project takes the familiar, hip-hop music, and makes the user/viewer search more in depth and from a different angle. To investigate hip-hop deeper, on an educational, geographical, grammatical, and ethnographical level makes the viewer engage through design and art and interact with hip-hop in a new way. Users leave this experience with a new understanding and appreciation for hip-hop music and hip-hop artists and the hip-hop culture on a grand scale.
         Carrie Mae Rose brought attention to familiar items, such as scissors, and brought it to the world of art in many different mediums. Seeing scissors worn as clothes and accessories or sculpted in a gallery raises awareness to the different ways of viewing items, how they can stand for more than just what they are used for, in Carrie Mae’s case these scissors express vulnerability. These two artists are very different in their styles and their specific project types; however, they both strive to bring awareness to society about unfamiliar phenomenon brought about through familiar things.