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Archive by October, 2009

A Visit to the Interactive Institute: Notes on Sweden’s Approach to Art and Exhibitions, by Eduardo Navas

Image: ‘Crisp Bread Turntable’ by Yoshi Akai. Video available below.

As part of my residency at the Swedish Traveling Exhibitions, on October 29 I visited the Interactive Institute, quite a unique research center located in the city of Stockholm.  Its model is unlike any other I have encountered. While the institute has close ties to the arts and the tradition of exhibitions as forms of communication and education, it also focuses on the development of projects that crossover to the commercial sector.  There are actually a few spin-off companies that were started as research collaborations in the Interactive Institute.  But to do justice to their mission, it is best that I quote how they present themselves publicly, from their about page:

The Interactive Institute is a Swedish experimental IT-research institute that combines expertise in art, design and technology to conduct world leading applied research and innovation. We develop new research areas, art concepts, products and services, and provide strategic advice to corporations, the cultural sector and public organisations. Our research results are communicated and exhibited worldwide and brought out to society through commissioned work, license agreements and spin-off companies.

I cite them directly because I find this type of research model to be an increasingly common hybrid: rigorous academic research meets commercial interests.  Yet, the Interactive Institute, seems unique because its creative drive appears to be well balanced, given that it is in the middle of a major corporate technology research sector in Stockholm, located in the neighborhood of Kista. One thing that became certain is that their model is directly informed in part by the always changing aesthetics of networked communication.  In their case, this tendency is found in the concept of “Interactivity;”  such premise is part of their name.

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A Visit to Färgfabriken: Notes on Sweden’s Approach to Art and Exhibitions, by Eduardo Navas

Description by Färgfabriken
Birthday Party, 2000
Birthday Party (1:10) is a reconstruction of the party of the artist?s mother?s 65th birthday on March 16, 2000. Ten cameras documented the party, and the films were later screened in the windows of a wooden model of the suburban villa.

During the months of October and November, I am working for four weeks as a Correspondent in Residence for the Swedish Traveling Exhibitions (STE), a non-profit organization based in Visby, a small town located in the island of Gotland.  The Institution produces exhibits of all types that travel throughout Sweden, and is particularly interested in exploring the possibilities of the exhibition space as a mobile unit in all possible forms.

As part of my residency, I am scheduled to visit a number of institutions mainly in the cities of Stockholm and Goteborg.  My first stop was Stockholm, where on Monday, October 20, I visited Färgfabriken, an artspace located in a former factory sector.  Project Manager Sofia Palmgren generously showed me around the former paint factory, which in 1996 was turned into an artspace that is focused in art as process.  The institution has a very open mission statement, but upon examining their archives, it becomes evident that their interest is to deliver conceptually engaging art installations that are quite sensitive to all the senses.

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After Media (Hot and Cold), by Eduardo Navas

Image capture, July 11, 2009, http://hulu.com

The following text was originally published during the month of August, 2009 as part of Drain‘s Cold issue.  The journal is a refereed online journal published bi-annually.  The text is republished in full on Remix Theory with permission.  Drain’s copyright agreement allows for 25% of the essay to be reblogged or reposted on other sites with proper citation and linkage to the journal at http://www.drainmag.com/.  I ask that their agreement be respected by the online community.

In 1964 Marshal McLuhan published his essay “Media Hot and Cold,” in one of his most influential books, Understanding Media.[1] The essay considers the concepts of hot and cold as metaphors to define how people before and during the sixties related to the ongoing development of media, not only in Canada and the United States but also throughout the world.[2] Since the sixties, the terms hot and cold have become constant points of reference in media studies. However, these principles, as defined by McLuhan, have changed since he first introduced them. What follows is a reflection on such changes during the development of media in 2009.

McLuhan is quick to note that media is defined according to context. His essay begins with a citation of “The Rise of the Waltz” by Curt Sachsk, which he uses to explain the social construction behind hot and cold media. He argues that the Waltz during the eighteenth century was considered hot, and that this fact might be overlooked by people who lived in the century of Jazz (McLuhan’s own time period). Even though McLuhan does not follow up on this observation, his implicit statement is that how hot and cold are perceived in the twentieth century is different from the eighteenth. Because of this implication, his essay is best read historically. This interpretation makes the reader aware of how considering a particular medium as hot or cold is a social act, informed by the politics of culture. McLuhan’s first example demonstrates that, while media may become hot or cold, or be hot at one time and cold at another, according to context, the terms, themselves, are not questioned, but rather taken as monolithic points of reference. To make sense of this point, McLuhan’s concepts must be defined.

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Nick vs. Nic at Transitio MX, by Eduardo Navas

A performative confrontation between hardware and software.  Nick Collins vs. Nick Collins: hardware vs. Software, Old School vs. New School.  One of the hightlights of the concert series organized as part of “Bifurcaciones Sonoras” (Aural Bifurcations) for Transitio MX 03.

I was able to attend most concerts that took place nightly at Fonoteca, during Transitio MX, except for the last night of Thursday the 8th.  While there were many highlights, one that I found worth sharing on my blog is the performance of Nick vs. Nic.  A playful sound hacking performance by Nick Collins (USA) vs. Nick Collins (England).  The younger Collins (English) improvised in code, while the more seasoned Collins proved why he is one of the pioneers in circuit bending.  The sound was appropriately distributed and mixed on left and right sides of the stage, allowing the audience to evaluate how software and hardware hacking can be complementary, thus creating a performative mashup:  a meeting between the old school and the new school of experimental sound could not be better.

Video Selections from “Bifurcaciones Sonoras” (Aural Bifurcations), Transitio_MX 03, by Eduardo Navas

Here are some videos from the selection “Bifurcaciones Sonoras” (Aural Bifurcations), curated by Arcángel Constantini and Rodrigo Sigal for Transitio_MX 03.

Interactive Installation by Gerardo García de la Garza (Mexico), No Materia, 2009.  Sound is produced according to the distance between the visitor and the object.

Peter Vogel (Germany), Circular Structure, 1979

It was quite an experience to finally view interactive works that are historically important.  Vogel developed the objects displayed in the two videos in the late seventies.  Questions on our relation to the object of art were a subject of intense debate during this period.  The work is now a relevant work that demonstrates the clear link between art practice during the mid-second half of the twentieth century, and the early part of the twenty-first.

Peter Vogel (Germany), Self-Stimulating Closed Loop, 1979.

Brief Notes on Days Five, Six, and Seven at Transitio_MX, by Eduardo Navas

“Comeluz,” Installation by Alfredo Borboa (México), 2009.  Two small robots draw circular patterns on paper.  One of the young artists competing for Transitio MX 03‘s National Talent Award.  The winner was “Not Yogurt,” by Gabriela Gordillo Morales.

The last three days I spent at Transitio, I mainly focused on the curatorial conferences. I was also able to attend, very briefly, workshops and lectures on viral networks as well as physical computing conducted by Nova Yang, Sabrina Raaf, and Giselle Beiguelman.  There were other workshops taking place at both Centro Multimedia as well as Fonoteca; as is often the case in major events, it is simply impossible to attend everything one would like.

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Brief Notes on Days Three and Four at Transitio_MX, by Eduardo Navas

Fernando Llanos, a Mexican video artist, on Sunday, October 4, late afternoon, gracefully took a few participants of Transitio to visit Xochimilco (a local popular boat ride center). In the above image  Llanos wears a shirt that displays a DJ turntable with the phrase “Transmisor de buena vibra,” (Transmitter of good vibes).  I share the image as a metaphor of my experience in Transitio_MX.

Transitio MX has been full of events.  Below are some of the main highlights of days three and four.

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Brief Notes on Days One and Two at Transitio_MX, by Eduardo Navas

Buscando El Sol (Searching for the Sun), 2009, by Gilberto Esparza, Mexico.  Part of Machiko Kusahara’s selection under device art.  A small robot moves in a somewhat straight line; when it reaches the edge of the sun spot, it turns around to begin again in another direction.

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The opening for the third biennale of Transitio_MX enjoyed an overwhelming attendance. It took place at the Cenart, where Centro Multimedia is based. About three thousand people were expected, and it seemed that all of them showed up.  For ten days the festival will offer openings of exhibits, workshops, and concerts that take place in different cultural venues throughout the city.

The official opening of the festival featured my co-curation with Machiko Kusahara, titled “non-places and device art.”  Unlike the other four curating duos, we opted to choose work independently that would be placed together in the gallery.  In this way letting our focus on non places (my own) and on device art (Kusahara’s) inform each other.

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