On View: November 1st – December 7th
Opening Reception: Thursday, November 1st, 6-9 p.m., The Arcade Gallery
Curated by Xiaowen Zhu
Presented by The Arcade Gallery
Artists: Andy Fedak, Derek Larson, Jiankun Xie, Su Hyun Nam, Yoon Chung Han, Yumi Kinoshita
Marymount College Arts & Media Division’s Arcade Gallery is proud to present Renewed Memories – Media Art Created With Personal Retrospective, a group exhibition featuring media artworks that probe the boundary between individual perception and public memory. The selected artworks, created by six artists from four countries, demonstrate an explorative journey from physical and mental experience to metaphysical and philosophical representations with creative visual, acoustic, and interactive languages.
Using sculpture, photography, video, CG animation, custom software, and interactive media design, the artists not only capture events from their observation, but also create a representation of the memory and question the conception of representation. Japanese visual artist Yumi Kinoshita collects found footage of notable events in life, and abstracts recognizable visual elements in the footage to re-create a blurred recognition of happening. Her process reflects how we perceive events and convert them to be part of a collective memory. Chinese photographer Jiankun Xie takes the similar approach in his still photographs of architecture to express his philosophical mind of nothingness on subjects he sees in daily life – ‘This is the world that I see. I stop, press the shutter, and leave.’
American artists Andy Fedak and Derek Larson work with metaphor and imagination. In Orange Country Surreality, Fedak composites 3D animated objects into a video documentation of urban environment. By doing this, the artist questions the territory between real and surreal. Appropriating video footage from a 90s TV show, Larson superimposes yellow measurement scales next to each character’s body parts and thus humorously questions the existence of physical space in relation to the representation and conception of that space.
Though working with different media, Korean artists Su Hyun Nam and Yoon Chung Han are both heavily inspired by nature and its relation to personal space. This exhibition is presenting three pieces from them, coincidently sharing the same element from nature – trees. Metamorphosis is a single-channel video, in which Su Hyun Nam captures multiple videos of a tree from various angles and digitally manipulates them to composite a weaving collage which alters the common perception of a mundane image. For her, the tree serves as a focal point in her meditative process of observation. What she shows is a paradoxical dialogue between the representation of space and the suggestion of a contiguous context. Different from Su Hyun Nam’s metaphysical approach, Yoon Chung Han works directly with the material. In her interactive installation Across the Universe, a tree truck is converted to a musical instrument wherein a set of marbles are placed on top of the tree rings that represent different orbits in space. Putting the marbles in different positions, viewers are able to manipulate and modify the frequencies of pre-recorded sound in real time. Together with the installation, Yoon is also showing Tree Rings, a sculpture piece that explores the organic essence of sound.
Renewed Memories is on view from November 1st to December 7th.
For further information:
Xiaowen Zhu, Gallery Manager, firstname.lastname@example.org
Blue Wade, Arts & Media Division Chair, email@example.com
Jay Yan is an LA-based media artist. I translated an interview with him from new media art blog we-make-money-not-art a few years ago and started following his work. He’s a good storyteller although his work doesn’t really involve much storytelling. While some artists prefer to be elaborative when explaining their intentions behind the art works, Jay Yan seems to be really casual about the whole idea of artist statement, and leaves generous space for individual interpretations.
1. You describe yourself as an artist working in space between art, design and architecture. How did you develop your interests in these fields and what do you think is unique about your work that separates you from other interdisciplinary artists?
I decided to go to design school when I was young because my parents didn’t approve of a relationship I had with this girl at the time and it was a way to get back at them. As for architecture, It’s hard to live in Los Angeles without being interested in it. There’s just so much great architecture around and LA is really a city about SPACE. From the immense freeways to the vast deserts to the expanse of the sprawl. Everything here is massive, monstrous, and monumental. Also, I date a lot of architects.
I make art because I’m not very good at the previous two things. I think what makes me different from other interdisciplinary artists is I don’t use the word interdisciplinary.
2. You like to talk about your identity as a person born in China, raised in America. Is it one of your strategies to attract more attentions? Is your cultural heritage something you always reflect on or are you more influenced/inspired by other matters?
I talk about it because people want to talk to me about it. I get labeled a chinese artist all the time. I think it’s funny because all my influences have been european. I think it says more about what people want from me than who I am.
3. In ‘Sleeping Giant’, a video of your attempting to sleep in a 27-inch box was recorded and then projected filling an architectural facade. It reminds me a bit of Doug Aitken’s ‘Sleepwalkers’, a multi-channel video installation projected on the facade of MOCA in New York. Also, Taiwanese artist Sh-ijie Huang used to project his own eye on the facade of a shopping center in Shanghai. What is your intention of creating this piece? Is it supposed to be a more personal message or are you commenting on some bigger social phenomenon?
Sleeping giant has nothing to do with Doug Aitken’s sleepwalkers other than that they both have the word sleep in it and one was made by an artist and the other not.
With Sleeping Giant, I was thinking about video mapping, augmented reality, large scale projections, the body under constraint, the body in relationship to architecture, the body under constraint while unconscious, video art acknowledging itself, the forth wall, billboard advertisement, illegal immigration, human trafficking, physical endurance, artistic suffering, scale, form, homelessness, and the banking crisis. You can decide what it means.
4. In your installation ‘Whisper’, freshly cut calla lily flowers are presented to whisper into viewer’s ears. This is a very sublime and poetic piece. I know the project was made in 2005, but have you ever considered expanding its scale and form? Like creating a large installation with hundreds of flowers filling an entire room or building?
That sounds nice, someone should make it.
5. For young artists, it’s often a question how they take a good idea further and make it a great idea. I’m curious what your approach is like in terms of taking an idea further (or perhaps you don’t like to take it further).
What criteria do you use to determine what is good and what is great? Based on your previous question, creating a larger installation filling an entire room is to you greater. I, however, find the idea of talking flowers already cartoonish so to do an installation in that scale and form would be so close to Disneyland and furthering the fantasy that it would be kitsch. I find many installation art that goes to the realm of kitsch by trying to create “environment” or ”simulations”. My piece does not try to mimic nature, It’s nine gridded structure speaks to that specifically. It is about how we try to organize nature, our sexuality and our own experiences. Even my own attempts at preventing kitsch ultimately fail because I find the piece kitsch now.
5. ‘We only came out at night’ and ‘TURBULENCE’ are interactive video installations that both feel very musical (though TURBULENCE doesn’t seem to involve music). How is your creativity related to music? Does it play a big role in your life? Where do you get inspiration from?
When I was 16, I wanted to be a rock star. I bought a dark blue electric guitar and a black acoustic guitar. I never learned to play either one.
I get my inspiration from looking at art.
6. I recognized that you just updated your website with a header image saying TO LIVE AND DIE IN LA. How are you immersed in the LA art scene and how do you like it? Have you ever considered moving to a different place, like Shanghai?
I’m glad you recognized it.
I know people who are involved with art. Some people call them the LA art scene, I call them friends. I like it very much because I get to swim in their pools whenever I want.
In a perfect world, I want to wake up in Paris, eat in Shanghai, work in LA, have drinks in New York, and sleep in Venice.
7. Can you share with us what project you are working on currently?
Yes I can.
8. As a young artist, how do you promote yourself? Do you blog, write, or submit your work to exhibitions frequently? Where is your ideal place to show your work? (or with whom?)
I promote myself by making videos of me sleeping and project it 60 ft high on sides of buildings.
In March 2011, at the TED conference in Long Beach, a digital media artist Aaron Koblin concluded his talk with the phrase, “The interface is the message.”1 Koblin was responding to a tweet made by a media theorist Lev Manovich who tweeted, “19th century culture was defined by the novel, 20th century culture by cinema, the culture of the 21st century will be defined by the interface.”2 Although a word “interface” can mean various things in different contexts, in our current digital interactive multimedia environment, an interface, is a defining point of interaction between humans and computers, data and knowledge, and content and message, propagating never-ending threads of communication and expressions.
Artists, by definition, communicate. Artists make a conscious decision to choose a medium in and through which to communicate. This exhibition focuses on the works by artists who utilized multimedia technology as their medium, not only to create hermeneutically-sealed artifacts of their times, but also to expand functions and meanings of mass media technology in social, political and historical contexts.
The exhibition includes, for instance, Surveying the First Decade: Video Art and Alternative Media in the U.S., which is a comprehensive series on the history of experimental and independent video art in the U.S. between 1968 and 1980, works ranging from conceptual, performance-based, feminist, and image-processed works, to documentary and grassroots community-based genres. Canadian artist and writer Tom Sherman’s video piece ISAv (2012) is an artistic survey on the fish flu issue in farmed Atlantic salmon. Hyperventilation (2011), also by Sherman, examines the relationship between body and breath, wherein video serves as an intimate observer of the happening and performance. Another notable example included in the exhibition is Point Line Cloud by Curtis Roads whose compositions feature “granular and pulsar synthesis, methods he developed for synthesizing sound from acoustical particles.”3 Point Line Cloud, published in 2005, is a collection of electronic music pieces composed from 1999 to 2003 by Roads, accompanied by visual renderings of the music by Brian O’Reilly. Using media technology as a catalyst, these examples illustrate how multimedia artists and musicians have questioned and experimented with technology and created their own interpretation and language of the medium.
Koblin’s phrase originates from a statement made by Marshall McLuhan, “The medium is the message” in his 1964 book, Understanding Media: The Extension of Man.4 Digital technology has homogenized physical media formats, transforming them into ubiquitous streams of bits and bytes. On your iPad, there is no longer distinction between television and film, film and video, video and radio. In the age of World Wide Web, millions of webisodes (and counting) exist in the same space as Citizen Kane.5 Mass media has gone virtual, and each type of media has turned into binary numbers amplifying McLuhan’s point—the medium is the message. Its message or meaning is produced through historical and technological context in which the medium exists and is defined by extratextual information that we bring to it.
McLuhan also discusses “a medium without a message” using the electric light as an example. The electric light, he argues, is pure information with an expansive message in the use of the medium.6 The electric light defines and extends human activities, behaviors and interactions, thus becoming the content. We can draw a similar analogy in our relationship with computers and think about what defines our experience as users and producers. What is a point of interaction between us and computers? Human-computer-interface (HCI) is said to be one of the critical components of human-computer experience, enabling us to access and connect with contents existing in local and networked computers. There is no apparent content in the interface—it is rather a function, an equivalent of getting up from a chair and going to a library to pick up a book, instead of clicking a mouse in Google Books.
Just like the electric lights, the interface has enabled us to redefine human activities, providing us with new frameworks for cultural production to take place. In this exhibition, we hope to create a metaphorical interface to the past, present and future of the information age and to provide a glimpse of artwork produced under this condition. In addition, the viewers are encouraged to make themselves comfortable on a couch and enjoy the installation, which showcases a collection of cultural artifacts from various stages of technological development; print, photography, sound recordings and moving image. These seemingly outdated technologies are not only predecessors that have shaped the digital multimedia environment we know today, but also have controlled how human see, experience and make sense out of the world.
The Arcade Gallery, 2012
1 Aaron Koblin, “Artfully visualizing our humanity”, TED: Ideas Worth Spreading, accessed September 19th, 2012, http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/en/aaron_koblin.html.
3 Curtis Roads, Point Line Cloud (San Francisco, Asphodel Ltd., 2005), 9.
4 Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media: Extension of Man. Critical edition. Ed. W. Terrence Gordon. (Corte Madera, CA: Gingko Press, 2003), 19.
5 Orson Welles, Citizen Kane, RKO Radio Pictures, 1941
6 McLuhan, 20.
Exhibition Dates // September 6-25, 2012 / Monday-Saturday 11am-6pm
Opening Reception // Thursday, September 6, 6-9pm
The Arcade Gallery // 479 West 6th Street / San Pedro, CA 90731
Marymount College Arts & Media Division’s Arcade Gallery is proud to present THERE IS NO WHY, the first solo exhibition by Syracuse University Post-MFA Fellow and emerging artist Xiaowen Zhu. The Syracuse University Ginsburg Fellowship is an annual award presented to exceptional young artists, and Xiaowen Zhu is its first ever recipient.
The exhibition features videos spanning five countries and three continents, created over the past four years. The content ranges from performance, highly manipulated abstraction, interpretive narrative, and experimental documentary. In these works Zhu communicates the complicated experience of being an international artist. She asks if the concept of home is possible outside of the geographical context, and wrestles with the notion of a disembodied identity. Zhu accomplishes this by invoking the destabilizing and reality-shifting laws of the internet: a space without time or physicality.
The exhibition includes:
DISTANCE BETWEEN – a 3-channel video ostensibly on the topic of long-distance relationships, which is used as a subject to open a discourse about self-identification, individual perception of home and travel, personal value of family and marriage, ideology of life and understandings of the issues of love and trust
Wearable Urban Routine – a performance gesture designed to transform the routine of urban life into a meditative process of self-discovery via ancient Japanese monk meditation rituals
40+4 Art Is Not Enough! Not Enough! – a collaborative project with Davide Quadrio and Lothar Spree, reflecting on the philosophical and political voice of contemporary Chinese artists
Carousel Travel – a story of global travel and discovering loneliness
Gekochter Schnee / Cooked Snow – how to cook a German egg.
“I believe that in the matrix of worldly phenomenon and personal experience, there exists some fundamental truth that may explain the puzzle if we choose to look at things in an alternative way. Therefore, it is my goal to represent the different angle without actually telling the truth that I think is true.”
Xiaowen Zhu (b.1986, Shanghai, China) is a media artist with a primary focus on video. She uses the medium to explore her interest in the change of personal perception in a global nomadic context. Most of her works deal with the motivation and reflection of going/existing elsewhere and the in-between space of a culturally complex environment. She is described as a visual poet, social critic, and aesthetic researcher. The questions presented are often raised not only from her own experience as an international traveler, but also from her observation and reflection as a critical thinker and an active communicator.
Currently, Xiaowen Zhu teaches for the Division of Arts & Media in Marymount College. She received her MFA in Art Video from Syracuse University, USA and BA in Film, TV & Media Arts from Tongji University, China. During her undergraduate study, she attended an exchange program at the Academy of Art and Design Offenbach in Germany.
Zhu’s works have been shown at Dumbo Arts Center (New York, USA), ZKM | Center for Art and Media (Karlsruhe, Germany), V2_Institute for the Unstable Media (Rotterdam, the Netherlands), ISEA2011 (Istanbul, Turkey), Videonale (Berlin, Germany), Museum of Contemporary Photography (Chicago, USA), Strozzina Art Space (Florence,Italy), Sainsbury Center for Visual Arts (Norwich, UK), Everson Museum of Art (Syracuse, USA), Shanghai eArts Festival(Shanghai, China), Toronto Urban Film Festival (Toronto, Canada), DOK Munich (Munich, Germany), Athens Video Art Festival (Athens, Greece) and more.
For Further Information:
Matthew Ennis // Co-Gallery Manager / firstname.lastname@example.org
Xiaowen Zhu // Co-Gallery Manager / email@example.com
Blue Wade // Chair of Arts & Media Division / firstname.lastname@example.org
The Arcade Gallery is proud to present emerging artist Xiaowen Zhu's first solo exhibition in September, 2012. Originally from Shanghai, China, she is a recent MFA graduate from Syracuse University and recipient of the prestigious Ginsburg Klaus Post-MFA Artist Fellowship, an award presented to exceptional young artists showing on the international plane.
Below is an interview conducted by media artist, theorist and curator Valérie Lamontagne with Xiaowen Zhu in response to her urban performance project created at V2_Institute for the Unstable Media in 2011.
V2_Institute for the Unstable Media hold an annual “Summer Session” in which designers and artists are invited to develop a work under one of the three current research themes at V2_Lab: Wearable Technology; Augmented Reality and Ecology. This summer five projects were developed over a six week period which explore the future of these fields. The Summer Session projects were showcased at the 17th International Symposium on Electronic Art held this year in Istanbul, September 14-21, 2011 during one of V2_’s Test_Lab events.
“Wearable Urban Routine” is a daily two-week long walking performance wherein the artist, wearing a portable camera embedded in an higasa—an elongated rain hat worn by the Marathon Monks during their training—films the same path everyday. The footage is then re-projected via a portable pocket projector onto the ground in front of the artist as she re-ritualizes her daily walk. In this way, Xiaowen is re-confronted both with the sameness of the ritual walk, and the small nuanced differences.
I am extremely interested in the idea of “life as a repetitive journey” within which the pattern of daily happenings reoccurs over and over again.
You describe your project as inspired by: “Marathon Monks in Mt. Hiei in Japan who perform an ascetic training called Kaihōgyō that requires extreme physical endurance in running for seven consecutive years. The Marathon Monks typically run 40-60 km for 17 hours every day following the exact same path with minimum supplies of food, water, and rest. The point of Kaihōgyō is to attain enlightenment by facing death in current life. The repetitive path of their practice reflects on an interesting parallel to people’s passive participation in the mechanical urban routine.” How is your performance different and somehow connected to this practice?
When I describe my project to other people, I would say that it has meditative quality, but it is not meditation. What I am really drawn into by the Marathon Monks’ practice is their psychological endurance in repetition and alternative perception of time rather than the physical challenge they encounter. By nature, my performance is not an ascetic training, in which sense I am not putting my life in danger as the monks do, and it is not part of my commitments to experience the thin line between life and death in this specific project.
However, I am extremely interested in the idea of “life as a repetitive journey” within which the pattern of daily happenings reoccurs over and over again. It used to make me frustrated seeing and experiencing those patterns in cosmopolitan life – Why do we have to go to work every day? Why do we have to wait for the same subway train every morning? Why do we have to turn the same corner every time? Those questions are very basic and fundamental towards the meaning of life, and I choose to represent and investigate them through a method that is inspired by a certain type of Buddhist practice.
Formally, the repetitive quality of my performance and my appearance are the direct connection to Kaihōgyō – I looked like a monk and I was extremely concentrated on the daily walking. The appearance is important because it narrows me down to a certain character or a simpler version of me who is not easily distracted and affected by the surroundings. When I was doing research about the Marathon Monks, the most fascinating part for me was when they talked about hearing sound from falling dust and smelling food from miles away. Those sensations are so basic yet often neglected. We are breathing all the time but we do not really pay attention to it. I want to reform the way I experience my surroundings by relocating my attentions. When it is simpler, it becomes clearer.
I was highly aware of the fact that with the garment and hat that I was wearing and the path that I was walking on every day I was calling for public attention…
On the other hand, by positioning myself in a urban environment, there is always a tension between my action and people’s reaction. City is definitely not the ideal location to conduct such a meditative movement, and that is exactly what makes the performance so interesting. I constantly had to orient myself between a peacefully concentrated mode and an actively alert mode, for instance, when a police car drove slowly beside me, I still had to wonder for a second what if the cop wanted to question what I was doing.
And every day I encountered dozens of curious people who interacted with my performance on different levels, from staring, questioning, laughing, walking with me to physically attacking me. I was highly aware of the fact that with the garment and hat that I was wearing and the path that I was walking on every day I was calling for public attention and I had to build upon that dialogue, not necessarily by reacting onto it, but just by keeping my focus and leaving the questions to the viewers – What is she doing? Why is she doing it? The best is, while I was forming my routine with the daily performance, it also became some people’s routine as they started seeing me every day around the same time, and once I finished the performance, that routine just disappeared.
…it sounds almost redundant to say it but it is actually very difficult to be aware of most of the time, otherwise we would never feel bored.
What did you discover during your experience of performing the work? Did you see the nuances in the day to day differences? Did you attain a state of awareness as sought by the Marathon Monks?
The biggest discovery for me was a new way of experience, more so than what I actually experienced. During the performance, I did not have much expectation of what was supposed to happen, actually I kind of wished that I did not need to deal with many incidents. Of course I experienced many nuances of differences in the daily routine, from the change of street lights to a stuck gate, and they helped me to realize that everything was unique and impossible to repeat—it sounds almost redundant to say it but it is actually very difficult to be aware of most of the time, otherwise we would never feel bored.
One day, a guy was walking towards me and once he saw my projection, he immediately understood the performance and he started walking beside me and imitating my gesture and pace. It was a wonderful moment, the moonlight shed on his feet was beautiful. Then he made a comment to me, “Life is meaningless, only art is meaningful.” After that, he walked away and disappeared in the darkness. For a second I was not sure if that really happened, maybe it was a state of awareness I attained from my performance that projected his presence. But most likely he was just taking a walk and found my walking more interesting than his.
So speaking of the state of awareness, I do not feel that it is something I should be over-thinking. I enjoyed the performance and I felt being a more concentrated person during that process, and I certainly confused many people by my state of concentration. I would like to think of it as a psychological intervention, which did not have much to do with spiritual enlightenment, but it was a perceptually challenging and unique experience.
A big part of the project is also about positioning myself in a culturally foreign environment, sensing this in-between space of a perceptually ambiguous zone…
Your work reminds me of the durational performances of artists such as Tehching Hsieh and Linda Montano who, for example, spent 24 hours a day for one year tied to one another by a length of rope (July 4, 1983-July 3, 1984). As a framework, these performances sought to test the limits of the artist. On the other hand, your work is more of an awareness “device”. How would you consider expanding the work to the magnitude of these seminal performance artists?
I think for this work in particular, it is what it is. It is definitely interesting to think about another possible format of this work such as walking for 5 hours every day for one year. But as I said before, this project is not meant to challenge my physical endurance, it is more a site-specific performance piece whose length and size are decided according to the actual circumstances, such as the duration of my stay in the Netherlands, the outdoor lighting conditions, the size of the memory card and the duration of the battery, and etc.
So I am not interested in creating a longer version of this piece, rather, I am looking forward to doing it in multiple geological locations. A big part of the project is also about positioning myself in a culturally foreign environment, sensing this in-between space of a perceptually ambiguous zone so that I am not completely familiar with the environment but still trying to form a daily routine within that context. The psychological tension within that progress is absolutely fascinating for me.
I am interested in seeing the costume become a personal device for self-discovery for the user.
How does your costume play into the performance? And would a user also wear the costume? Is this part of the experience?
I had my costume custom-made in a fabric market in China. It’s awesome. I really love feeling the weight and texture of the white linen on my body while walking. Rotterdam is a very windy city, sometimes the wind would almost blow me away when I was walking on the bridge, but then the floating form of the hemline of the garment would actually calm me down and I just enjoyed seeing it as the foreground while watching the projection on the ground. I know this sounds very specific but that is what I mean by seeing and being amazed by really small details during full concentration.
The hat is made of bamboo and grass. Again the weight and texture are extremely important because I had to have it on my head for the whole time. During my research it was unclear why the Marathon Monks wore rain hats with the rectangular shape, some people believed that it would help them to keep balance while running in the woods. For me it is symbolic, just like the garment, that helps me to keep focused on my movement and also for the viewers it creates a certain kind of context to relate to.
I am thinking about inviting other people to do the performance with the costume, but therefore they will need to commit to the rules and procedures as well. Maybe they will be asked to sign a contract for that. I am interested in seeing the costume become a personal device for self-discovery for the user.
Istanbul, September 2011
Ann Hirsch is a video and performance artist engaging with the contemporary portrayal of women in media. She often acts as an amateur social scientist, entering into places that form contemporary female visual and cultural representation and investigating the ways women exist in and with popular culture. In The Scandalishious Project she performed as Caroline, a college freshman who uses Youtube as a forum to express her sexuality and unique humor for two years. With over 1.8 million YouTube hits, blog postings on Glamour.com, independent.uk, buzzfeed.com and a video spot on the 2009 Grammy’s on CBS, she gained notoriety as a hipster “cewebrity” (Youtube.com/user/scandalishious and scandalishious.com).
She then took her culture jamming one step further as a contestant on the Vh1 reality dating series Frank the Entertainer…In a Basement Affair. In conjunction with this television performance, she wrote a series of articles about her experiences for Bust magazine and created instructive performance How to Land on Reality TV? which was presented at Flux Factory.
How to Get on Reality TV, an instructive performance given at Flux Factory for Expert Oddities and for Laugh Saturated at 17 Frost (shown here), 2011.
For her, competing on a reality TV dating show is about exploring the process in which female stardom is promised and then denied. Television producers ask for 24/7 visual access to your body and actions in exchange for a promise of fame and potentially fortune. Once given, producers attempt to humiliate female participants for believing in that original promise, by shaming them as “famewhores”.
Her projects have been exhibited at the Video and Digital Arts Festival in Girona, Spain, SKOL in Montreal, Central Utah Artist’s Space, Vogt gallery, Stadium in Chelsea, Flux Factory in Queens, Grace Exhibition Space in Brooklyn, NOMA gallery in San Francisco, Sarah Lawrence College and more.
Interview with Ann Hirsch, by Xiaowen Zhu:
You are known as Caroline, the sexy and humorous ‘cewebrity’ on youtube, Annie, the sweetheart on VH1 reality show ‘Frank the Entertainer’, and Ann Hirsch, the intellectual artist and amateur social scientist dedicated to investigating how women exist with/in pop culture. How do you read yourself as a person and has this view changed through making these projects?
In some ways we have this stable identity, qualities that we believe to be true to ourselves. But in other ways, our identities are fluid. Parts of us can change and evolve over time or simply as we exist within different circumstances. My aim with my projects has been to find out how far I can stretch my sense of self. I enjoy questioning my “stable” identity and shedding the criteria I’ve come to identify myself by. Especially if I view those criteria as being imposed by unnecessary social conditioning. So, for example, I started the Scandalishious project as a way to explore this notion I had that trying to be sexual or sexy was bad or just plain unintelligent.
Your research on women’s role in pop culture seems to be dealing mainly with the stereotype of female representation on the Internet. How do you define the group of “women” that you observe, reflect, and recreate? What draws your attention to the subject originally?
We’re living in an age where surveillance is no longer a bad thing. People want to be watched. Being watched has come to define our existence, helps stabilize our identities, makes us part of communities. Of course, there is a continuum of how much someone wants to be watched. Some people are content with just having a Facebook page. Others want to be on reality television. So the women I watch, am interested in, and imitate, are those who are at the far end of the surveillance spectrum. The ones who are begging for attention. I’m drawn to them because there is the most risk in drawing attention to oneself, but also the most potential for reward. And the line between failure and success is so thin I am fascinated by how these women walk that line and what will pull or push them in one way or the other.
Most of your work are made with video. How did you become interested in the medium? Have you ever considered making a film for one of your characters?
I started off making art as a painter but gradually became interested in making things that were less and less tangible. I found video in college and loved it immediately. It felt like painting but used the aesthetic of narrative. I find my work always materializes somehow as a narrative so I would like to make a movie sometime in the future if it works out that way.
In your essay ‘Woman, Sexuality and the Internet’, you talk about the separation between intellect and sexuality as one of the major issues that prevent women from expressing themselves more genuinely. I find this to be a universal yet very personal statement - one must be smart and sexy or obsessed with being smart and sexy to be so involved in this topic. Can you share with us how is it related to your own experience? In your Scandalishious project, how did you create a character with both qualities? Was it your original goal to present such a character or did the method change over the period of time?
Growing up, I went to a private school where it was very important to be smart. That was the best thing you could be. In middle school, any girl who was sexy, or tried to look sexy, would be socially shunned and not taken seriously. This dichotomy was formed in me then, and I never wanted to be viewed as slutty, even though I always felt like I was a highly sexual person. The Scandalishious Project was about letting that go. Allowing myself to be looked down upon as slutty. And then when I was, and I found it wasn’t the end of the world, that I still loved myself and was a valuable human being, it helped me become an adult.
I don’t know if Caroline would be considered both sexy and smart, but my goal was to at least address this issue through her. I saw two groups of young women performing on YouTube; the faceless ass shaker and the asexual vlogger. Never should the two mix. So I wanted to mix those two genres as a way to start having new examples for possibilities of female representation on the internet.
You are impressively knowledgable about the Internet and pop culture. Have you ever been bored with them and want to switch channel? Where do you get your inspiration from besides mass media? For people who grew up in the Internet era, it’s easy to take what we have for granted. How do you think people, especially the younger generation, can develop a critical way of thinking, being fully immersed in pop culture?
Yes, I would say I am pretty obsessed with pop culture and I’ve been sad because recently I haven’t been enjoying much on television. Many of the same ideas, especially in the reality TV genre, keep getting recycled over and over and it’s been boring for me as an avid reality TV viewer.
Art history and other artists are definitely influential for me. But probably most of all my own lived experiences. I pull mainly from those.
Critical thinking comes from education. I wasn’t born a critical thinker, I was very fortunate to have a great education that allowed me to develop these tools. As our country moves into the future, creating affordable education for everyone will be crucial.
What’s your favorite blog? How do you find yourself related to younger generation bloggers and among your peer artists, whose work do you feel identified with?
My favorite blog is HipsterRunoff. I think he has critiqued internet/music/branding culture in a way no one else has. I consider the blog an art piece, the way he plays with persona, it’s very smart.
I identify with younger artists because I feel like we all “grew up” on the internet. Even though we probably had slightly different experiences. I had AOL chatrooms while others may have been more into LiveJournal or neopets or something, but it all stems from an introversion and the need to connect with others in a way we feel we can’t at a young age, offline.
Among younger artists, there are a few of my peers whose work I enjoy and relate to. I’m really into Angela Washko and her exploration of feminism and World of Warcraft. I think Bunny Rogers has a really unique artistic voice and her work often resonates with me in the way she explores ideas of femininity. She’s really honest and I am also constantly striving for some kind of honesty. Along those same lines, I love Marie Calloway’s writing/internet presence because it touches on some very awkward truths for young women today, who are feeling the effects of a growing culture obsessed with pornography.
What project are you working on currently? What’s the biggest challenge for you to create this piece?
I’m working on a few different projects right now. I’m drawing for the first time since college and have been enjoying that process. I’m also working on a few different performance series. One that addresses how I/we feel about our bodies, a longer narrative piece based on my time on Frank the Entertainer and lastly a piece about pedophilia on the internet.
I like all my work to resonate emotionally somehow with the viewer, so that is where I struggle.
The Work of Being Watched: Performance documentation from Deconstructing the Habit, An Evening of Performance, at Spattered Columns, NYC in June 2012 - an abstract interpretation of the emotions Hirsch went through as a contestant, subjected to surveillance and romance, on Vh1’s reality dating show Frank the Entertainer…In a Basement Affair.
You are extremely good at promoting yourself, not only on the Internet. And that’s not something we would typically learn from art school. How do you do it? Do you think it’s a necessity for web-based artists to learn some marketing strategy? Apparently not all of them know how to do it…
If you are an emerging artist, web based or not, it is extremely important to have an up to date website with your best work. From there it is good to find and become part of a community of artists who you like, or is making work you identify with. Luckily, this doesn’t have to happen in person anymore, but I still do think real life relationships are the best. Be nice to everyone you meet. Always stay true to yourself in your work and don’t stop creating.