I am in an exhibit at The NEW Jack Hanley Gallery in NYC.
The show is up from Friday, April 5 until May 5, 2013.
New York, NY 10002 646-918-6824
jackhanley.com hours: Wednesday – Sunday, 11am- 6pm subways: J train to Bowery / B&D trains to Grand Street /
6 train to Spring Street
327 Broome Street between Chrystie and Bowery
The Exhibit is called Weird Science.
I helped curate the show a little. Putting in V. Vale and Matt Heckert.
Overview of the show:
Video Of Hunter Thompson Firing Matt Heckert’s Flamegun:
Abstract Laser and Video Images:
Also in the show: BJORN COPELAND, DAVE HARDY, MATT HECKERT, AJAY KURIAN, DARIA MARTIN, JESSICA RATH, ALEX SCHWEDER, SLAVS AND TATARS, KAL SPELLETICH, JEFF WILLIAMS.
PRESS ON THE SHOW:
Come on by and I will serve you some laser activated Quinine with gin in it. It’s phosphors turn UV light into visible light making it glow blue. Phosphors are special substances that emit light (luminescence) when excited by radiation. You can also peruse my Time Monitor and Space Measurers.
TITLE: Time Monitor/Space Measurers
Kal Spelletich provides two machines and photographs having to do with measuring the speed of light and metaphysics. He uses robotics, wood, lasers, alcohol, flowers, surveillance, interferometry and sensors.
It is an attempt to measure, understand and dismantle the fundamental principles of the universe; the ontological and cosmological. Measuring space, time and light waves with a little smoke and mirrors.
Arcus coelestis tempore potest convertere significat temporis spatium.
The title is taken from the lyrics of the punk band the Minutemen.
Refraction, bending light.
Slowing the speed of light
Experimenting, hacking and measuring the speed of light
Recreating the original speed of light tests
Light as a portal to enlightenment.
Here is the full Essay by V. Vale;
TECHNOLOGY CHANGES THE FUTURE, INCLUDING ART (“WEIRD SCIENCE”)
Kal Spelletich, Matthew Heckert, V. Vale at Jack Hanley Gallery, New York City.
Because of the lack of a stifling hierarchical, authoritarian, tradition-bound institutional hegemony, California’s Wild West engendered a climate of unprecedented imaginative creativity (the freedom to play, take risks, take chances, and be wild and free) which has almost singlehandedly created the start-up culture of the 21st Century, typified by Apple Computers, Google, FaceBook, YouTube, Twitter, the GoPro videocamera, Burning Man, and other inventions both real and virtual. Silicon Valley and Hollywood created the last fifty years of most of the world’s technological and cultural innovation. (There are a few exceptions, like “Gangnam Style,” but they remain minor. Most of the “Designing of the Future” has sprung from the West Coast.)
Forty years ago the British futurist-visionary J.G. Ballard wrote, “Sex times technology equals the future.” (1972) However, it can be argued that technology in itself changes the future. And that includes the future of all culture, including “art.”
In the last hundred years, the definition of art has expanded almost infinitely. Marcel Duchamp said, “Anything is art if an artist says it is.” Duchamp invented the concept of the “readymade,” which included industrially-manufactured objects such as a urinal, a bicycle wheel and a stool. Simply by titling and autographing them, he made them museum-worthy and valued at probably $1,000,000 or more in today’s dollars. He also helped invent conceptual and performance art: he gave himself a haircut with a star emblazed on top (anticipating ’90s hip-hop stars) and also played chess in public with a naked woman (that was called art, too). His last grand meisterwerk was an installation which could only be viewed through a peephole in a door (thus rendering the viewer a Peeping Tom or Tomasina) featuring a naked woman, legs spread, holding aloft a lantern in one hand, with a fake stream of water nearby (Freudian symbolism?).
Duchamp came to the West Coast (otherwise known as the Best Coast, the Left Coast, the Free Coast) and quickly adapted to the Wild West pioneering mentality where social pedigrees, privilege, and titular wealth were largely ignored. But much earlier, foreseeing the influence of technology on the future, in 1915 he had begun engineering his precarious “Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even”—a kind of perpetual-motion masterpiece of “useless” technology. Duchamp’s detailed drawings reveal him to be a kind of “weird scientist” decidedly uninterested in anything but the metaphoric, the impractical, the conceptual. Four hundred years earlier, Leonardo da Vinci was producing the same kind of highly detailed “schematic” drawings hinting at a science of poetic alterity, much like Duchamp adumbrated.
Duchamp is now considered the Godfather of 20th Century Conceptual Art and has long been part of the Pantheon of Blue Chip Artists. But most people forget that it was not until 1963, in California, that he was given his very first museum show, by the prescient uber-curator Walter Hopps, at the Pasadena Art Museum.
Walter Hopps almost single-handedly catalyzed the West Coast School of Art which included Ed Kienholz, the first Californian artist to make art out of that singularly American invention, the automobile. Predating Ballard’s “Crash,” Kienholz created an installation titled “‘Back Seat Dodge ’38″ which showed a woman in the backseat of the car in some unidentified stage of sexual intercourse. This once-shocking tableau has now been permanently enshrined as a classic work of bona fide art at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Again, technology creates the future.
Of course, technology was used in Europe to change the world and bring innovation into culture—think of Gutenberg’s printing press, circa 1436. At the beginning of the 20th century, the Italian Futurists (particularly one Luigi Russolo) created a strange orchestra of music-and-noise-producing machines to honor the industrial age’s contribution to changing the world’s soundtrack by increasing ambient noise decibel levels. The Swiss artist Jean Tinguely began collecting abandoned rusty machinery and fashioning machinery which drew, painted, produced sound and sometimes self-destructed. Some of the machines were grouped into installations which school children could activate. Today there is a Tinguely Museum in Basel, Switzerland.
Flash forward ahead several decades to the birth of the Industrial Culture Movement, most prominently spearheaded by an art company calling itself “Survival Research Laboratories” in context of the beginning of the Seventies Punk Rock Cultural Revolution. Principals Mark Pauline, Eric Werner and Matt Heckert were the mainstay of the anarchic gathering of wayward talents. During this decade, San Francisco had begun its deleterious shift from a manufacturing economy to a service, design and marketing economy, as labor began to be exported overseas by unpatriotic corporations and CEOs. The result was that literally dozens of light machine shops and small factories were abandoned almost overnight, their contents left to attract dust and rust. Sensing that this machinery could be used to make art, the can-do young American mechanical engineers in SRL began breaking in and carting off this detritus. One of them was San Francisco Art Institute student Matthew Heckert, who taught himself welding “outside of class.” Quickly he began fabricating large-scale performance art machines for deployment in city-block-wide outdoor performances accompanied by high-volume weird-musical-collages, which he curated.
A San Francisco Punk Rock publisher named V. Vale (disclosure: that would be me) began publicizing the work and theory of SRL beginning in the last issue of “Search & Destroy” magazine (1979), the first three tabloid issues of “RE/Search,” the “Industrial Culture Handbook,” and two books titled “Pranks” (Volume One and Volume Two). RE/Search also published an early SRL video titled “Menacing Machine Mayhem.” These books reached artists and rebels worldwide. This video, and other videos of these “industrial art machine” performances, began inspiring other artist-engineers all over the world, as well as attracting new talent to pilgrimage to San Francisco and join SRL.
One such innovative artist compelled to join Survival Research Laboratories was Kal Spelletich from Iowa. Mr. Spelletich had managed to find the RE/Search “Pranks” issue and had been so impressed by what he read that he raised money, sold off his possessions, and drove to San Francisco straight to the SRL shop to join the crew.
SRL’s unique artistic start-up environment of self-financing, hunter-gatherer-foraging-for-abandoned-art-materials, self-tutoring, self-apprenticeship, and empirical trial-and-error engineering investigations was not without excitement. Sadly, one ill-fated experiment resulted in SRL founder Mark Pauline’s right hand being blown apart—it was Matt Heckert who rushed him to the genius S.F. General Hospital microsurgery unit two blocks away. After various toes were grafted on, the bloody stump was restored to a level of usability.
Years passed. More and more art machines were designed, engineered and deployed in huge live art performances and installations. Robotics and drone-guidance technology became incorporated. SRL began giving shows all over the world. More and more SRL individuals developed their talents, skills, and then broke off to create their own opuses of work. Matt Heckert had created dozens of very strange musical soundtracks from the myriad records he discovered in his travels. Heckert, a musician in the Punk band Pink Section (and other bands), began to fuse his talent for engineering with his love for music. Subsequently he invented a number of interactive music-and-noise generating art-machines, to be used in installations, exhibitions, and also in live performances of his mechanical orchestra.
Kal Spelletich, in his voyages all over the world (one of his favorite experiences was visiting Africa, as well as India), has created a number of interactive machine-art installations, performances, exhibits, and even food-and-art machines (many grateful art lovers have eaten his delicious sausages worldwide; sometimes experiencing intense art makes one very hungry). Some of his interactive art machines have been used to educate and inspire young audiences composed of grade school and high school students. Adults have been enlivened by his cocktail-making robotics (shaken, not stirred).
As for New York, it has long been known that for an artist to “make it,” that artist must have a showing in New York. And the avant-garde gallerist Jack Hanley has stuck his neck out to provide a Manhattan home base for this “Weird Science” art exhibition, showcasing two quiet-but-in-it-for-the-long-term technological-artistic innovators living in the Bay Area: Matt Heckert and Kal Spelletich. Both are iconcolastic spirits who have harnessed their rebellious impulses in the service of transgressive yet illuminating creativity: inventing art machines and installations which radiate rhizomatic puzzlement, suggest unexpected affinities, and activate (hopefully) reverberating radicalization.
Both Matt Heckert and Kal Spelletich have used technology to suggest futures which will not be circumscribed by fascistic functionality. Both are engaged in the great project of imagining into existence new modes of interactivity, new modes of being, new modes of transcending a future imprisoned by banal borderlines of conceptuality. Their machine fusions of art with technology are creating new anthropological-mythological enigmas to be decoded by future generations of art historians. So, enjoy them now!
—V. Vale, RE/Search founder-writer-curator-musician, www.researchpubs.com
ANOTHER ESSAY by Kara Kazanoff:
Many of the investigations activate different and hidden modes of a familiar material or space. Dave Hardy uses everyday building supplies – foam, cement, glass – in massive conglomerates that play on perception of gravity. Ajay Kurian melts gummy bears, microwaves bars of Ivory soap to reveal the billowy insides, and textures paintings with crystallized sodium borate. Each of these elements has an anecdote. For instance, the preservative in the gelatin of a gummy bear keeps it from ever fully solidifying or breaking down. While interested in our ideas of the organic and synthetic, Kurian also has a nice way of leveling the playing field between the two. After all, “the things we tend to also tend to us”, and to forget this is to fall into an overly deterministic pattern of thinking. Similarly, for Alex Schweder, the way in which one interacts with one’s living space, the “non-I that protects the I”, will help to define its parameters. In fact, a playful or inventive change in behavior is as profound on the home as an addition to it. As part of his one-week performance for the show, Schweder will be offering free architectural advice on how to renovate the home through the addition of a prescribed performance, some of which he has acted out in a series of accompanying photographs.
Conversely, our concepts and awareness of time and space are often inseparable from an immediate material reality. Before becoming part of a greater linguistic dialogue, Benjamin Whorf found time to be “patterned on the outer world”. Time is imagined in numbers, and the tongue “makes no distinction between numbers counted on entities and numbers that are simply ‘counting itself’”. It is quantified in “lumps, chunks, blocks”, substance and matter. Jeff Williams’ works operate on two different but related time scales: a real-time change during the course of an exhibition, and an implied long-term transformation that is only glimpsed at during the show. Conservation Fountain sprays water onto fossilized plant mineral dug from the ancient tide-pools of the San Antonio hill country. This traditional method of cleaning rids the specimen of dirt, while also speeding up natural erosion and decay, the same process that had given it its original form. A sense of inevitable annihilation or mutation of material seems to run throughout his work, but it is often tempered by poetically selected moments of stasis, bringing to mind a line from Plato’s Timaeus comes to mind: time is “a moving image of eternity”. A similar idea factors into Kurian’s nuclear ‘rocks’, a hardened plastic that contains traces of nuclear waste, short-circuiting the thousands of years it would take for the waste to decompose on its own. For both of these artists, time is something that is shortened, lengthened, made consumable, jerked from underneath you or felt to be expansive, all through slight and subtle manipulations of a material thing.
Jessica Rath’s porcelain sculptures are based on one of the oldest species of edible apples still existing. This particular set references the politicized nature of food production, shaped by human desire, and its sometimes devastating effects to a local ecology. Slavs and Tatars investigate the hybridized language and politics of Eurasia, the geographic area east of the previous Berlin Wall and west of the Wall of China. The group offers a variation of collapsing time, in that a whole history of cultural interchange and interpretation can be embodied in a single, sleight-of-hand work. Spoonerisms, religious goofs, sociolinguistic slips of the tongue, all bring to light both information and mis-information in a collective cultural make-up. A version of this can be read in When in Rome, a puzzle of hi- and low-brow references with a gesture to the mis-remembered gypsy culture. This is not unlike Bjorn Copeland’s modified “Associated Grocery” posters. Copeland makes a very simple modification to the signs, but the result is a twisted visual-linguistic gestalt that solicits a little investigation from the viewer. Throwing confusion into the mix can be a helpful tactic for artist and scientist alike – “Nothing whets the intelligence more than a passionate suspicion, and nothing develops all the faculties of an immature mind more than a trail running away into the dark”.
Attempting to understand the fundamental principles of the universe is a very human thing, and it needs a sense of play. Kal Spelletich does it with “a little smoke and mirrors” and the help of machine inventions. These maquettes are activated either by blowing into a breathalyzer, which requires a small amount of alcohol on the breath, or a sign of bodily stress tested through a lie-detector. Spelletich inadvertently points out that these tools have been held for years as accurate, but they may be no less of a pseudoscience than his time and light-wave measuring machines. Sharing in a similar imaginative low-tech approach, Matt Heckert’s flamethrower is a do-it-yourself creation from the annals of RE/Search magazine by V. Vale. Heckert likes to create responsiveness in a simple machine, rather than through a super-powerful microchip. Daria Martin’s Soft Materials is also structured around the research of ‘embodied artificial intelligence’: AI that is programmed to function through sensory experience (touching, bumping into things) rather than through a ‘computer brain’. Man and woman engage in a sensual mimetic dance with their mechanical counterparts, studying the kinesthesis of their own bodies through that of another.
Martin may distance her film quite far from the experiment, which was shot on site at a lab at the University of Zurich, but the ghost of the idea remains: the work operates with a leakage between the laboratory, the dance, and the film. For Martin, the way in which one sense triggers another is somehow related to the challenge of trying to translate one medium into an unrelated one. Quoting this idea again in her latest work, Martin starts with a real-life experiment of mirror-touch synesthesia, a neurological condition that causes a patient to experience the feeling of being touched when an outside object is stimulated. The single stimulus activates two distinct and unrelated cortical areas of the brain – the sense of sight, and the sense of touch. Although speculative, it isn’t too far off to imagine that both the experience of art and science are somehow equally ‘sensed’.
The goal of our endeavor is to explore this affective crossover. Like early interpretations of quantum mechanics, it is near impossible to grasp at any grounding notions of what matter, light, and time-space is – just as it is difficult to define contemporary ‘positions’ in art – unless through the measurement of small and brief interactions. But even then, it depends on the observer.
Be it at KALTEK University raining Majorie cameron or William Burroughs, we are down.