Seven years after opening its Underground space to experimental, emerging artists, the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts has evolved one step further with its first exhibit in 2012, Transceiver, which continues through Feb. 11.
Transceiver, an exhibition of non-traditional media curated by Lincoln’s Drift Station, is the first of an open series of shows that feature regional artist-run venues or groups that normally operate on DIY, moving gallery basis. Underground curator Joel Damon said this is just the first show of its type to look forward to in the near future.
“Though the schedule is still being worked on,” Damon said, “we have asked others to bring their curated shows to the Underground to increase their review and recognition. Drift Station is doing some of the most advanced and innovative work around here and on practically no budget. This show gives our audience a chance to experience them as well.”
Drift Station, the right brainchild of Lincoln artists Angeles Cossio and Jeff Thompson, has operated out of an auto-body shop since 2010. Since then it has specialized in new media and performance based art that rethink exhibitions as well as their spaces outside the box.
“Think Peerless (Gallery), the Carver Bank Project and the Theaster Gates Project,” Damon added. “Our role is that of a partnership or collaboration. This open series brings a new level of quality and awareness to Pop-Up shows. Drift Station and others like it are the arts movers and shakers in this region. They are an absolute breath of fresh air.”
Anyone who remembers the Underground’s inaugural year in 2005 will find Transceiver somewhat familiar in concept and reality as it reminds this critic of another new media installation, Paramnesia, curated by Echotrope, the ongoing arts project of artists Jody Boyer and Russ Nordman.
Paramnesia was an interactive, video and mixed media installation that combined “reverie and reality…a distortion of memory in which fantasy and objective experiences are confused,” Boyer said at the time. Transceiver, also highly interactive, concentrates less on content or point-of-view and experiments with the multitude of means by which society sends and receives its relentless array of messages and the resulting impact on contemporary culture.
And all by unconventional methods as this exhibit consists of international artists whose work here features Skype, chat, emails, FTP, streaming audio, radio, Twitter, telegram and Bluetooth. Those looking for more conventional art objects (often the byproduct of these transceivers) will be happy to find a generative video, “1920*1080,” from artist Gregory Chatonsky, a video game, “Writing Things We Can No Longer Read” from Alex Myers, 3-D “MakerBot Objects” from Marius Watz, a mixed media installation, “A Rising Tide Lifts All the Boats,” from Anika Schwarzlose and Jonas Lund, and even a “DVD Screensaver Performance” by Constant Dullaart.
Because many of the works in Transceiver integrate their means of transmission into their structure, we also have such esoterica as Matt Kenyon’s “Improvised Empathetic Device,” custom-made software which monitors a website which updates U.S. soldier casualties. That info is extracted and sent wirelessly to hardware installed on an I.E.D. armband. Then there is “The Poetry of Nobody’s Home,” an answering machine and phone featuring the artist Maximillian Goldfarb who for the duration of the exhibit calls and leaves messages while encouraging viewers to answer and respond.
If still not impressed, maybe the fully enclosed bacterial radio with its sample of E. coli might catch your attention. Or perhaps Sophia Brueckner will move you with her “Crying to Dragon Dictate,” a MacOSX screen reader that translated her contrived five-minute crying jag into audio and text. The point is that Transceiver is so experimental and conceptual that opening night viewers hung out more around the art than in their usual clumps of three or four more typical of traditional art exhibits. Drift Station and its ilk counts on this type of reaction and reception which makes it and the Underground a good fit.
Not all of the entries here are that engaging or as experimental. David Beatties’ “Aerial” interactive installation of TV and copper pipe is interesting if you enjoy making static on a monitor, but nothing particularly new to an Underground audience. Nor is Michelle Nagais’ invitation to share in her “Three Walks for a Winter Landscape,” given the lack thereof—which of course is not her fault—but exchanging docs and a postcard map of said walk leave a bit to be desired. And “Pitcher Plant” that transmits a chemical to lure insects is fine if you’ve never tuned into the Discovery or National Geographic channel.
But these are the exceptions in this often fascinating experiment. What really works includes: “A Rising Tide Lifts All Boats,” three separate objects, a photo, a digital image and a repurposed rock crystal (salt lamp) converse on how to create an illusion without competing for attention, each in their own medium; “Crying to Dragon Dictate” stretches both imagination and perception as Dragon Dictate incredibly converts crying into what appears to be gibberish with phrases like “will you who are of will.” Creating an audio pattern that is simultaneously hypnotic and white noise, it “transceives” in a language just waiting for a semiologist to make sense of.
“Writing Things We Can No Longer Read” is Myers’ highly effective and playful Notgame which uses the technology and interface controller of any video game to a dual purpose: first, it’s an interesting comment on games for “mature” gamers with its own imagery of weapons, conflict, uniforms and threatening mayhem; and secondly, his version is an artfully original and more positive version of the above that allows the player to invent as well as intervene without harming one’s psyche.
Another popular entry is “MakerBot Objects” generated via custom-written software and then printed on site via a MakerBot 3-D printer. Knowing that these black figures were created from within rather than molded from solid material like clay makes them appear suspect if not entirely surreal. It’s as if a black hole suddenly appeared in solid form from outer space not unlike these object d’artes formed in cyber space.
Lastly, Transceiver is not without a sense of humor as with the anything but dull art of the “DVD Screensaver Performance.” Jeff Thompson’s dead-pan act in the title role is a hoot as he manually scrolls the signature TV colors of red, yellow and blue across the screen. Intended or not, his performance is a wonderful parody of every new television innovation from color to widescreen to 3-D that has impacted TV viewing habits and adjustments.
Transceiver opens Part Two in Lincoln on February 3 with a low-power FM radio station that operates through the rest of the month along with live projections at Drift Station’s location at 1746 N Street from webcams around the world.
Transceiver, part one continues through Feb. 11 at Bemis Underground, 724 S. 12th St. For details go to bemiscenter.org. Part two opens Feb. 3 at Drift Station at 1746 N Street and continues through the 27th. For more information go to driftstation.org.