Like sun on a rainy day, new media for the NW.

Archive for April, 2013

Goshka Macuga: Contemporary Polish Installation Artist

I am covering Goshka Macuga in my installation series because she was the featured artist at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) in Chicago when I was there in March. I went there in the morning, raced through, took photos, and then went to a a series of intense afternoon meetings at the school where I am planning to go for my MFA – Columbia College Chicago. So when I saw Macuga’s exhibit, I was very wound up, excited about grad school, wanting to drink in what the MCA had to offer.

Much of Macuga’s work has political overtones. In the interview below, I took notice of how she spoke of history and her work in the present:

I was impressed with how she viewed history as something fluid that can be manipulated, and also by how she wanted to use whatever media and opportunities that are available to her in contrast to what she experienced under communist rule. Her work encompasses 2d & 3D (I’m trying to remember if I saw any 4D…) artworks. I really enjoyed her wall-sized photo montages that put many different elements together.


She also had a long wall of postings from Polish news of the Maurizio Cattelan’s sculpture of Pope John Paul II being crushed by a meteorite “Notice Board.” Macuga uses art and research together to create her own version of history and events, which I find fascinating.



What was perhaps the most unusual work of the exhibition was the creation of a a meeting table as par of the exhibit. The table can be reserved for meetings by anyone. From MCA’s website:

“Macuga’s installation The Nature of the Beast (2009) integrates the complicated histories of Pablo Picasso’s painting Guernica and the geopolitical maneuvers that led to the United States’ 2003 military strike against Iraq. The meeting table at the center of the installation doubles as an archival display that recounts these tangled stories.

Macuga invites the public to make use of the installation as a meeting room—during days and times specified by the museum—with the only requirement that participants document the meeting in some form. In this way, Macuga renounces control over the work’s shifting meaning as it acquires its own archive independent of her original artistic intent.”



All in all, I appreciated her intellectual, research-based approach to art, her willingness to put political and historical concepts out to be contemplated, and her wide variety of media.

Below is a link to her US gallery representation (Andrew Krepps Gallery in NY):

“Exposition Internationale du Surréalisme” – 1938

Don’t we feel french and hip? The 1938 International Surrealism Exhibiton in Paris was another seminal moment in installation art history. First of all, in light of my last post about “Womanhouse,” I would like to point out that I cannot find record of a single female artist who was shown at the 1938 surrealism exhibition, even though there were plenty of women surrealist artists active during this period. Don’t get me started.

The exhibition was organized by french authors Andre Breton and Paul Eluard. Marcel Duchamp curated. The technical crew included Salvador Dali, Max Ernst, Man Ray, and Wolfgang Paalen.

Up until then art had been shown primarily in white-walled rooms. Breton and Eluard wanted to up the ante and make the rooms reflect the paintings. They created an exhibit with three main rooms: the entryway, which had an installtion by Salvador Dali, “Rainy Taxi.”  The ivy-laced car had a mannequin inside and was sprayed with water throughout the exhibition:


The next room was a large hallway, “The most beautiful streets in Paris,” filled with more mannequins and street signs:



The last room, designed by Duchamp, had hundreds of coal bags, filled with newspaper, hung from the ceiling. On the opening night of the exhibit, the lighting failed and they handed out flashlights to the patrons to view the art on the walls.


The opening was attended by a large contingent of high-society art hangers-on from all over the continent and the United States.  Another element that the 1938 Surrealist Exhibition pioneered was the use of performance at an exhibition. Dali was responsible for actor Helene Vanel’s naked mud puddle performance.

This exhibit marked a turning point in the presentation of contemporary art. Nowadays any artist worth their weight in salt gives much thought to how and when their artwork is presented. Furthermore, installation art grew out of the thought behind this exhibition. The artist may create works for sale for a patron to take home, but an artist also can create a site-based sensory experience that cannot be recreated exactly the same way in a different location. Though an installation may travel from location to location, the artist must be present at each venue to install it.

Furthermore, adding an element of performance to the exhibition was way ahead of its time. After attending many, many art openings, I can say that adding an element of performance and surprise is always welcome to the rather one-note feel of a typical exhibition.

The 1938 Surrealist Exhibition paved the way for the performance and installation art the was so prevalent in the 1960s. We still are feeling its pulse in the interactive installations we are creating at WNMU using recently developed technology such as the arduino and IDEs such as Processing and PD. Art is no longer a framed object on a wall, or a sculpture on a pedestal, but a holistic experience.



Installation: “Womanhouse” (1972)

Instead of writing about an individual installation artist, this time I am going to write about a seminal installation event: “Womanhouse,” which was exhibited in Los Angeles, California, in 1972. Below is a photo of the artists.


I’ve heard this installation referred to as “the first feminist exhibit,” which I am not going to research to see if this is indeed true, but it was a major feminist exhibition for its time. It was organized by Judy Chicago and Miriam Shapiro, who together founded  the CalArts Feminist Art Program. Judy Chicago would later become well known for her most famous installation, “Dinner Party,” which is worth looking up on its own.

However, I chose to write about this piece because of its collaborative nature and its location. The artists chose a dilapidated house in LA destined for demolition and took it over for the installation. Twenty-one women each chose one room to take over for her individual work.

womanhouse closet


The installation was clearly wrapped in very tightly with the location; it would have required a lot of adjustments to do it somewhere else. There were also performances as part of its monthlong exhibition.

The idea behind this installation – that women have been tied domestically to the home for thousands of years and this bears illumination – is one that still resonates. Most women I know still do the bulk of housework and care for domestic matters way more than their male partners, if they have one. Even single women I know base their identity somewhat on the domestic abilities. Clearly, the artists involved in this exhibit understood that very well.

The exhibition of this installation was open to women only on the first day. I wish I could have been there. It hadn’t occurred to me to make any exhibition of my own work available to a selection of the population, and the idea of doing that fits well conceptually with installation work, which bucks by definition the traditional hanging on a white wall with gazing passersby type of exhibition. Installations draw in the viewer to the interior, to a total experience, and often the viewer’s participation changes the particulars or the tenor of the exhibit.

There is a documentary about this exhibit, and I would really like to see it.  Johanna  Demetrakas is the filmmaker, it came out in 1974, and is simply called, “Womanhouse.”

KMA – British Interactive Light Installation Artists

First, watch the video…

Are you done? All right then. These guys are totally rad. They are two British Artists, Kit Monkman and Tom Wexler. I found them on page 240 of this fabulous book I ordered from Amazon, “A Touch of Code: Interactive Installations and Experiences,” published in 2011.

These wild KMA cats are all over the place doing immersive light installations designed to bring about public interaction and break down social barriers. The above video, shot in London and and Shanghai, is from their installation “Congregation.” They collaborated  with a Portland-based sound artist, Peter Broderick. The installation is based around the concept that a dance can be choreographed for the pedestrian walking by who can follow the light and sound cues to participate.

From KMA’s Blog: “Over seventeen nights in Shanghai, Bournemouth, and London, the work lived up to its name, gathering over twenty thousand participants. We were blessed with great weather (apart from one ghastly, torrential night in London), and even greater participants. Our Shanghai dates – all clear, dry, still, balmy evenings – were sandwiched between Typhoons, so the scale of our good fortune cannot be overestimated.”

Another interactive work called “Great Street Games” involves public, real time, life-size , gaming in the street. I am not much of gamer but this looks like a blast!


Also from their blog: “Projected light and thermal-imaging technology were used to create jaw-dropping interactive playing arenas in which human movement triggered spectacular light effects. The games took place simultaneously in three North East UK locations; Gateshead, Sunderland and Middlesbrough. Each area competed against the others in this world-first event. The games were set out of doors, in large urban spaces, with no pre-prepared participants.”

I wonder what the thermal imaging technology was. One thing that is kind of cool about these guys is they do not seem to be on the academic art circuit. I couldn’t find a resume anywhere for Kit Monkman or Tom Wexler. Their company seems to survive and thrive through getting fabulous commissions of their work to be installed all over the world. They seem almost cagey , unwilling to reveal too much about themselves. Their work seems to focus more on the people enjoying participating in their installations than  garnering a bunch of press about themselves, their process, etc etc.

What they are doing is on the cutting edge of installation art, and looks like a lot of fun.  For more about them:




Sarah Sze: Contemporary American Installation Artist

I’m trying to remember how I found out about Sarah Sze. I’m pretty sure it was from my Women in Art History class last semester. I did a search for “women installation artists”  and was like, whoa, how come I hadn’t heard about her already? Likely answer: I’m a newbie art undergrad. She’s pretty famous.

Sarah Sze is an American artist, born in 1969, works and lives in New York, has a BA from Yale in 1991 and an MFA from the School of the Visual Arts (1997). Her resume reads like an artist’s fantasy. She shows internationally constantly and has her work in many galleries and museums all over the place (see bottom of article). Probably one of the most unique locations is on the High Line in New York City, which Anna, Peter & I had the pleasure of visiting last year. The photo below, though, is from an exhibit in Brazil.

SarahSze-0191_09Photo: Sarah Sze “Everything In the Right Place” 2002, Brazil Bienal

Her work is fun, whimsical, and uses everyday objects, plants, fans… she runs the gamut in her materials. Her works seem to stretch through the spaces where they are installed, with many points of interest and activity. I really like her use of line, shape, and color. Her work makes me feel like I am at a birthday party – it is happy, exuberant, and pulling together many elements of life.  In the Art in America Magazine article linked below, she says, “I’m interested in painting, sculpture, photography, architecture—bleeding them together in a practice that’s inextricable for me.” It’s always interesting to read interviews with artists, rather than read articles written about them. Art criticism is rarely done well (read: boring), and as I look through different articles, it’s clear they often rip each other off trying to come up with something to say that doesn’t venture too far from the norm.

Soooo – with that in mind, I may vote to shut up now and let you look at her work for yourself and read an article where she is interviewed.


Museum Collections:
Museum of Modern Art, New York
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York
Guggenheim Museum, New York
The New Museum, New York
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, CA
Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, CA
Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego, San Diego, CA
Detroit Institute of Art, Detroit, MI
Albright Knox Gallery, Buffalo, NY
Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN
National Gallery of Victoria, Australia
Cartier Foundation, Paris, France
21st Century Museum of Art, Kanazawa, Japan
Boston Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA
Fogg Museum of Art, Boston, MA
Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, Chicago, IL
National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa

U Ram Choe: Kinetic Sculptural Installation Artist

U Ram Choe’s work just blew me right away when I first saw it. I came upon it by chance when I bought a book, “Contemporary Korean Artists” (edited by Miki Wik Kim), at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles. The book was published in 2012 and since I had recently begun to use current technology (electronics, programming, interactive) in my art via the tutelage of Suk Jun Kim, my professor from Korea, I picked up the book and brought it home to Silver City.

The book contains many outstanding artists. I just ate it up. But when I came to U Ram Choe, I gasped. His work is described as kinetic metal sculpture, animatronics, and many other ways, but basically, it is metal sculpture that moves. Media he often uses are “metallic material, motor, LED, CPU board, machinery…” etc.

I work in steel, starting in the Fall of 2011. I also started working with electronics in 2012. U Ram Choe is Picasso; I’ve just started to draw squares. I stand in awe.

His work is delicate and intricate. The parts are clearly machined. One of my favorite pieces, “Custos Cavum,”  (2011. Steel, stainless steel, brass, aluminum, resin, CPUs, and motors) took seven months to make with seven assistants. U Ram Choe has an entire mythology built around the piece. “Custos Cavum” means “Guardian of the Hole” in latin. This creature is the bridge between two worlds. This kind of mythology built around his work is a regular motif.

Custos Cavum, 2010 by U-Ram Choe from U-Ram Choe on Vimeo.

U Ram Choe was born in Korea in 1970, and received a BFA in 1992 and an MFA in 1999 from Chungang University in Seoul. Though he has had exhibitions and opportunities all over the world (and I mean everywhere – Turkey, Switzerland, New York, you name it), he now is a professor at Korea National University of Arts. I respect that. I have no idea about his personal life, but I kind of get tired of hearing of everyone running off to New York or some major European capital city as soon as they become famous.  But that’s my personal beef with the art world. And the internet is making it easier to create your work where you want to.

Below are links to familiarize yourself with this amazing artist (watch the videos to the the full effect of this kinetic artwork):