Lecturer, School of the Art Institute of Chicago
Organizing Committee: Darren Douglas Floyd (chair), Sid Branca, Lydia Grey, and Mat Rappaport
Participating Artists: Nathan Halverson, Hello Velocity, Laura Nova, belit sağ, Sanaz Sohrabi, and Marc Tasman
As the theme for the CAA conference in 2016 was VISIBLE/INVISIBLE, the New Media Caucus programming in the Media Lounge aimed to foster a dialog centered on emerging artistic sensibilities that mix art and a politics of representation amid a transforming sociopolitical landscape. For Intersections: Cinema, Performance, Networked Media, and Politics, the committee put out a public call to artists for presentations on projects considering the impact networked media, interactivity, and digital culture have had on artistic practices related to cinema and performance, with an interest in ways in which new uses of technology facilitate political communication. Some of the potential areas of focus mentioned in the call included “expanded or exploded cinemas that incorporate crowd-sourced and networked footage,” “performance of racial and gender identities in the age of virtual bodies,” and “fictive documentary as a means for constructing truth.” From submissions in response to this prompt, the committee selected six artists or collaborative groups to present on their work.
The session began with a presentation by Laura Nova on her project Moving Stories, a senior-led walking tour of New York’s Lower East Side. In a neighborhood designated a “naturally occurring retirement community,” Nova works with senior citizens through a combination of live storytelling, movement, and video. She discussed the process, showed samples of the stories, and described her plan for the project’s future, including interactive versions of Moving Stories for web browsers and smartphones.
Nathan Halverson gave a presentation entitled “The Visible Invisible: Technology, Landscape, Representation,” featuring three of his projects using appropriated media in a political context. Border Landscape Remix, Renditions, and Deep Water Event Horizon make use of border patrol surveillance footage, the popular songs used in “enhanced interrogation” techniques, and underwater footage of the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Each of these works use these appropriated materials to engage with ideas of the seen and the unseen.
Presenting via Skype, belit sağ spoke about her piece and the image gazes back, a video essay exploring violence and visual culture, and the media literacy shown in the contemporary political landscapes. She compares the cinematic techniques of ISIS beheading videos with the visual language of Hollywood blockbusters, and examines images from television station occupations decades apart. The first photograph of a human form, Al Pacino in Dog Day Afternoon, and the Twitter account of a nineteen year-old ISIS fighter make an appearance alongside sağ’s voiceover.
The experimental marketing group Hello Velocity, founded by Lukas Bentel, JS Tan, and Kevin Wiesner, shared three of their recent projects. Hello Velocity uses digital marketing materials as an artistic medium, commenting on contemporary culture through a slick style of “viral absurdism.” Bitelabs offered the opportunity to “eat celebrity meat,” the McMass Project (until receiving a Cease and Desist) aimed to open a McDonald’s franchise in a church, and Genecoin promises immortality in the form of archiving one’s genetic code in Bitcoin’s block chain. These projects all make use of the spread of networked imagery, and the authority given to corporate and start-up aesthetics in those networks.
Sanaz Sohrabi joined us via Skype. As we screened a video presentation she made specifically for the panel, she spoke about her research. This overlapping of her live narration and video demonstrated one of her preferred artistic processes: sifting through and collecting images of political violence, as mediated through internet search engines with algorithms that determine what is visible at a particular time. She discussed an interest in looking through photographs of an event, trying to find one image’s photographer in other images, mapping scattered narratives, and providing poignant voiceover to reflect on these connections. We then screened her work Disposables, a narration describing the experiences of a conflict zone with statuesque alongside abstracted movement taken from Sohrabi’s photographic research.
The final presentation was by Marc Tasman with Proposal for the New American Flag: Representing a New Constellation. While some of the output of this project takes the physical, analog form of poster displays, flags, and installation in addition to its video and interactive components, this satirical proposal for a post-9/11 American flag is deeply entrenched in the visual culture of a paranoid internet. The 99-star flag was reached by multiplying 9 and 11, and Tasman’s tongue-in-cheek presentation cites as inspiration both the history of the flag and statements issued by President George W. Bush on September 11. Tasman’s presentation finished with a rousing a cappella rendition of the National Anthem.
The event ended with audience questions for the artists and a group discussion of the topics raised by the presentations.
Sid Branca is an artist, writer, and performer based in Chicago and Los Angeles. They use video, performance, sound, text, and new media to blend contemporary pop culture, classical tragedy, and speculative autobiography. In addition to current projects across the United States, they are currently in residence at the Arteles Creative Center in Haukijärvi, Finland. Branca is a Lecturer in Film, Video, New Media, and Animation at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and a contributing writer for Video Video Zine and Bad at Sports, for which she has published interviews and articles on programming by the College Art Association Conference, EXPO Chicago, and Illinois Humanities, among others. Branca holds degrees from the University of Chicago and Columbia College Chicago, and is a member of the New Media Caucus, the College Art Association, and First Floor Theater.