Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Blogs Pt. 2: Endless Art

While experiencing the Act/React exhibit at the Milwaukee Art Museum, I felt two different motivations to interact: creation and performance. The works of Camille Utterback, Liz Phillips, Janet Cadiff, and Brian Knep all compelled me to use my physical motions to create new experiences. The works of Scott Snibbe and Daniel Rozin were like strange mirrors that in which I could view skewed visions of my movements. I was performing for myself. It was these two, broad categories that really divided my experience at Act/React.

Of the first category of artists, Camille Utterback’s pieces had me most engaged. Untitled 6 looks different than all the other works in the exhibit. As you approach it from across the hall, you might see blue, green and red lines and shapes that don’t truly resemble anything at all upon a screen. In the middle of that last sentence, I truly could find no words for the images cultivated in this piece of work. Are the shapes tears? Veins? Designs? I can’t say, they’re just there. The platform in front of the screen invites you to stand atop it, so you do and the screen before you begins to change. The images before you shrink, spread, appear and disappear with your movements and your very presence before it. A wave of the hand might make a squiggly red line and a spin might create some sharp, white lines. There doesn’t really appear to be any method to the madness, but the fundamental rule remains apparent; movement creates images. So, I stood in front of this screen testing the different movements I was comfortable with, trying to create something new. This work allows for audience action to elicit artistic reaction. I suppose the closest art one could compare it to would be flinging paint at a canvas, except images can be moved and removed from the product, but the same feeling is still there. The movements of the artist holding the brush greatly influence what manifests itself on the canvas, just as the spectator’s movements influence what shows up on Utterback’s screen.

Daniel Rozin’s two pieces both had me performing in front of them. In front of Snow Mirrows I tested the camera’s capacity to reproduce me on screen in the image of “snow”. I jumped from place to place and across the room, switching spaces with another audience member. Our images swept away calmly and reappeared in our new space each time. Upon entering the dark room of Snow Mirrors, you are quick to see that you are being reproduced on the screen in the form of flaky white images that resemble drifting snow. Once I got over the initial “that’s me!” reaction, I wanted to test whether the camera could maintain the mirror image of me in this new format. My perception of Rozin’s work was that his goal was physical reproduction through artistic means. It was my goal to assess the degree of this. After seeing how my image and movements were captured, (both side-to-side, forward-and-back) I could detect no flaw in the method, so I was left to just stare at my image in the alternate reality created. This piece brought to mind digital video in that it also used a camera to capture/display images of reality. Video accomplishes similar representation, though it is more akin to a mirror, showing life as it is, while Rozin’s representation of reality is more abstract.

In his article on Act/React, George Fifield mentioned, when discussing a work called Wipe Cycle that, “the art you were seeing could exist only with you in it, at that moment” (14). This notion certainly seems to fit into mine concerning much of the work at Act/React. Spectator interaction with the artists’ work makes them endless art. Each person and their experience with each piece is different, garnering different results and perceptions continuously throughout each works existence. Never twice will it be the same; the variations are infinite. However, this leaves me to ponder the question: are the results of interactive pieces the “art”, or are the mechanisms and pieces themselves the “art”? What is truly on display? The work of the audience, or the potential of the device? I couldn’t say myself. It’s probably both, but it is something I’m left wondering.

1 comment:

R. Nugent said...


This is an exemplary Field Report; well done.

Your descriptions are thoughtful, and the comparisons you draw go beyond the physical involvement with the works, but also incorporate conceptual concerns for the types of engagement solicited by the work.

So, what is the "art", then (in reference to the question you pose in the final paragraph)?

R. Nugent