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Archive by April, 2008

Marie Sester Interview: Access, Transparency and Visibility in “Exposure”, by Eduardo Navas

Still from second video sequence.

Image and text source: gallery.calit2.net

The following is an interview published for the exhibition “Exposure” A Video Installation, Pre-9/11, at gallery@calit2.net, on view from April 10 to June 6, 2008. In this interview Sester’s views on Surveillance expose how elements of appropriation vital to Remix are at play in culture publicly, and which since 2001, have redefined privacy for the average person. This interview was originally published in conjunction with the text “Exposure” Pre-9/11.

Marie Sester is an artist born in France, currently living in Los Angeles. She was trained as an architect, but soon after receiving her degree realized that her real interest was in understanding the role of architecture as discourse in culture and politics. She found art an ideal space to develop her interdisciplinary projects. Sester sees her art practice as an ongoing process partly defined by a person’s desire to visualize certain things, while making others invisible. Throughout the 1990s, Sester explored how surveillance redefined our understanding of reality. In the following interview Marie Sester generously shares the story behind her three-channel installation, “Exposure,” explaining how her role as an artist allowed her access to information which she could not obtain today due to the security measures put in place after 9/11.

[Eduardo Navas]: You explain that you are interested in the concepts of transparency, visibility and access. Can you explain how these came to shape your project “Exposure” and your interest in surveillance?

[Marie Sester]: The situation that became a reality in the U.S. after 9/11 had been developing in Europe for some time. Bombing attacks were part of my reality in France, hijacking planes and taking passengers as hostages was something we lived with day to day. This was often done to ask for money, or demand for political prisoners to be released. Such unfortunate events were not part of U.S. reality.

Terrorism was already present in Europe. There were many individuals from small groups using what today we call terrorist strategies; it was at this time that surveillance devices were introduced. I was intrigued by this shift, which was a bit disturbing. As surveillance technology started to be introduced at the airport, it became normal to have one’s luggage X-ray scanned. It became common to find scanners at the airport, as well as government buildings like City Hall. The unexpected beauty of surveillance technology fascinated me.

Suddenly, there was a new form of presence and reality defined by these new devices. And I wanted to work with the images they produced. I had already been working with pre-made objects and images for some time. At that time I forged and assembled the notions of transparency, visibility and access and they are still the basis of my work.

“Exposure” A Video Installation, by Marie Sester, Text by Eduardo Navas

Text: “Exposure” Pre-9/11

Text source: gallery@calit2.net

This text was written for the exhibition “Exposure” A Video installation About Surveillance Pre-9/11 by Marie Sester. Sester’s work exposes how elements of appropriation vital to Remix are at play in surveillance, an area of culture which since 2001 has played a pivotal role in redefining privacy for the average person.

The awareness of a work of art’s historical context is closely linked to aesthetics. While viewers could, first and foremost, approach a work with the sole aim of exploring its formal qualities, at some point they must acknowledge when, how and why the work was produced, which means that the work’s history becomes an inherent part of its meaning. “Exposure,” a three-channel video installation by Marie Sester, on view at gallery@calit2 from April 10 to June 6, 2008, is a prime example of this development.

The work consists of images of x-rayed vehicles juxtaposed with architecture. Sester’s investment in exploring the aesthetics of x-ray surveillance became an obsession that initially led her to embark on the pursuit of detailed images of airport luggage, which she considered extensions of the human body. Her research eventually resulted in the x-ray images of trucks taken at Orly Airport in Paris, juxtaposed with a house located in the East Bay Hills of Northern California, now part of “Exposure.”

The installation was first exhibited as part of the exhibition “Blind Vision: Video and Limits of Perception” at the San Jose Museum of Art from August 4 through November 14, 2001. Coincidentally, the tragic events of 9/11 took place while the exhibition was on view, and the meaning of “Exposure” changed at that moment, when the concept of surveillance became directly linked to terrorist preemption. Surveillance in the past did not have such specific overtones.


Youtube Video: DJ Spooky – That Subliminal Kid -Remix Culture

Still from Youtube upload: Spooky lectures on Remix Culture and Sampling

Looking for material on Remix Culture, I recently ran into this two hour lecture by DJ Spooky at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Spooky beat juggles history to argue his position on sampling. From the Phonograph to the Jamaican Sound System, one gets a good sense of the potential creativity that Spooky and other promoters of Remix Culture believe in. Some of the questions at the end are quite interesting, and challenging. Definitely worth the 100 minutes of your time.

Various Remix Videos and Mashups

Image source: still of Dave Chapelle impersonating Rick James from “Mashup Video with Jackson, Britney & Rick

The following is a set of links I prepared for one of my classes on film and video language. I repost them here for later use, and to share with the online community. The list is not by any means exhaustive, and is not linear in any way. The top links are mashups and the bottom links are early hip hop and rock videos. They were chosen in part because of the different approaches to video making, this was necessary for the class, because the students need to understand how music video language evolved throughout the eighties and nineties on to today.

Some of the videos also show early traces of sampling, for example, Trans Europe Express was sampled by Afrika Bambaataa for Planet Rock. Also, the remix of Tour de France juxtaposed with the early version shows how electronic music has evolved while acknowledging the important paradigms set by early electrofunk compositions. The now well known mashups of Christina Aguilera and the Strokes, Madonna and the Sex Pistols, as well as Michael Jackson, Britney Spears the White Stripes and Rick James are some of the most successful remixes in this genre. Part of me admittedly rejects them for their popularity, but the creativity that has gone into the audio remix as well as the video editing have to be noted, because they have at this point set a standard in Remix Culture.

Christina Aguilera and the Strokes, Mashup:

Madonna/Sex Pistols Mashup:
Madonna Eurithmics Mashup:
Madonna/Depeche Mode:

Michael Jackson/ Britney Spears and Rick James”

Oasis, “Wonderwall”

Greenday, “Boulevard of Broken Dreams”

Early Version:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=akGR

Greenday/Oasis with Travis Mashup with Eminem:
Yet another twist on the mashup:

Talking Head’s “Burning Down the House”
Talking Head’s “Wild Wild Life”

The Cars, “Magic”
The Cars, “Shake it Up”

Sex Pistols, “God Save the Queen”

Ramones, “Rock and Roll High School”

Malcom Mc Claren, “Buffalo Gals”

Sugar Hill Gang’s Rapper’s Delight:
In Scrubs:

Soul Sonic Force’s “Planet Rock”
Grandmaster Flash’s “The Message”

Kraftwerk, “Tour De France” Original Version:
Kraftwerk, “Tour De France,” 2003
Kraftwerk, “The Robots”
Kraftwerk, “Trans Europe Express”

Notes on Planet B-Boy, by Eduardo Navas

Image source: Youtube, still from Planet B-Boy Excerpt

Planet B-Boy website: http://planetbboy.com

I just saw Planet B-Boy, directed by Benson Lee at Ken Cinema, in San Diego. I was hoping to get more of a historical overview about B-Boying, similarly to how Scratch, by Doug Pray, took a historical survey of turntablism but this was not the case. The film does provide a brief history of B-Boying in the United States, then quickly shows how it became a global movement. The cooption of Breakdancing by the media is briefly mentioned, to then move to 1991, when an annual B-Boy competition was started in Germany which today is globally recognized. The actual investment of the film, however, is not in B-Boying globally, but B-Boying in South Korea. They’re the best, as far as I can tell–something I knew before I saw the film–and this film was made to prove just that.

Anyone who views Planet B-Boy on the big screen will not be disappointed. All the crews, even those from Latvia, and Greece, make brief but impressive appearances. But in the end, I was left with the desire for a film that is truly sensitive to the global power of Breakdancing. What Planet B-Boy does show is that hip hop is no longer U.S. centric; today, it is owned by the world, just like soccer. A concise historical film about Breakdancing as a global movement is yet to be made. Planet B-Boy does not come close to that, but it will have to do for now.

Following some B-Boy moments from Youtube:

Landmark Shots from Around the World:

Excerpt from the film focusing on Korea:

Planet B-Boy, France:

Knucklehead Zoo:

Early Battle:

Current Projects






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