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‘Body Practices’ Exhibition Explores Interface between Virtual and Physical Bodies

New Exhibition to Open Nov. 5 in Qualcomm Institute’s gallery@calit2


  • Doug Ramsey

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  • Doug Ramsey

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An upcoming exhibition in the gallery@calit2 at the University of California, San Diego will explore notions of virtual and physical presence. Body Practices opens November 5 , 2014 with a panel discussion at 5pm with artists represented in the exhibition, followed by a 6pm reception. The panel and reception are open to the public and free of charge.


Poster for the Body Practices exhibition

The exhibition will run through January 9, 2015 with a break for the holidays, when the UC San Diego campus is closed. The gallery@calit2 is located on the first floor of Atkinson Hall, which is home to the Qualcomm Institute, the UC San Diego division of the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology (Calit2).

Body Practices features paintings, prints, videos and other works by artists including Ursula Damm, Electronic Disturbance Theater/b.a.n.g. lab, Desirée Holman, Tara Knight, Alex McLean, Bryce Clayton Newell and Victoria Vesna. For the panel discussion that opens the exhibition on November 5, speakers will include EDT/b.a.n.g lab’s Richardo Dominguez and Brett Stalbaum, UC San Diego composer Katharina Rosenberger, and curator Trish Stone.

Stone worked with members of the Qualcomm Institute’s gallery committee to select artists and artworks for the exhibition. Body Practices as a theme resonates in different ways across the disciplines of art, music, theater, media and design. It includes both live performance and remote broadcasting. Bodies are understood as able to be copied, downloaded, projected onto and manipulated. They move through space both real and virtual. Bodies change with time and are encoded with multiple layers of identity. Said Stone: “Exhibitions such as Body Practices provide the community with an opportunity to engage with work being made in the Qualcomm Institute, on the UC San Diego campus, and within the wider network of colleagues in the arts." Stone is an artist and coordinator of the gallery@calit2.

Ursula Damm, a visiting artist at UC San Diego, uses generative video algorithms and body sensors in her videos Transit and I am a Sensor. Electronic Disturbance Theater/b.a.n.g. lab present the Transborder Immigrant Tool (TBT) - EDT 2.0. TBT repurposes used mobile phones with software which aspires to guide tired and dehydrated citizens to water safety sites along the border. The TBT project led by UC San Diego visual arts professor Ricardo Dominguez is also the subject of a film by Bryce Clayton Newell , whose documentary, The Tinaja Trail and the Transborder Immigrant Tool, explores the social issues surrounding the UCSD-based project. In his research at the University of Washington, Newell studies how irregular migrants to the U.S. use technology, obtain information about border crossing, and experience surveillance at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Desirée Holman explores space, aliens, and astrology in her Sophont series, from which two paintings will be on display in the gallery: Aura, Buckminster Fuller, and Aura, Annie Besant. According to a KQED review by Sarah Hotchkiss of Holman’s work displayed in the Bay Area last June, the artist’s Sophont works are “abstract and spacey, but once combined, make perfect sense. Each drawing, painting, sculpture and video shows evidence of the hand, paying homage to ideas of self-actualization and individual innovation, cornerstones (respectively) of New Age culture and technological entrepreneurship.”

On view from Tara Knight is Mikumentary, a series of short films about the phenomenon surrounding Japan’s virtual teen pop star Hatsune Miku. “Miku stood out as an example of something that combines several technologies—projection technologies, musicmaking software and Web 2.0 user-generated content—to create something fundamentally new,” Knight told the Los Angeles Times in 2012. “Many fans I’ve talked to believe Miku doesn’t have one fixed, single self—she’s not just one pop icon like Lady Gaga—but that she can take on the characteristics of the person making her at that moment. Somehow, she is everyone, and thus becomes an icon of the self-expressive qualities of her fans. I think it is her very ephemerality, her lack of a physical existence that allows for a different relationship between audience and performer, between user and creator.”

Alex McLean provides videos of Live Coding, which involves the use of programming languages in improvised musical performance. The in-demand artist has both talks and solo performances over the next few months, including at venues in Ghent (Belgium), London and York in the UK, and Karlsruhe (Germany).

UCLA professor Victoria Vesna displays prints from Bodies INCorporated, an online site established 20 years ago, where members could participate in an institutionalized bureaucracy of virtual identity construction. According to the media artist’s bio, her work “can be defined as experimental creative research that resides between disciplines and technologies.”

The artists represented in the Body Practices exhibition include:

Ursula Damm studied at the Art Academy in Düsseldorf, followed by postgraduate studies at the Academy of Media Arts in Cologne under Valie Export. Her works have been presented internationally in various solo and group exhibitions. Currently she works on an interactive installation at the Metro-Station Schadowstrasse in Düsseldorf/Germany. Since 2008 she is professor for Media Environments at the Bauhaus University in Weimar, where she is also involved in establishing the Digital Bauhaus Lab.

Electronic Disturbance Theater/b.a.n.g. lab artists involved with the Transborder Immigrant Tool project include: Micha Cárdenas, Amy Sara Carroll, Ricardo Dominguez, Elle Mehrmand and Brett Stalbaum. It was started in 2007 with support from Calit2, the Department of Visual Arts UC San Diego Program in American Culture, Latina/o Studies, the UCSD Center for Humanities, and the English Department at University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Additional collaborators on the Transborder Immigrant Tool include: Jason Najarro, Diana Le, Petra Kuppers, Yanoula Althanassakis, Felipe Zúñiga, Jenny Donovan, Gabriela Torres, Lili Hsieh, Zona Yi-Ping Tsou, Tatiana Sizonenko, Brett Stalbaum, Oliver Ting, and Steve Willard.

Desirée Holman is an artist based in Oakland, California. She holds a Master’s degree from the University of California at Berkeley. Earning critical acclaim for her work, Holman was awarded a San Francisco Modern Museum of Art SECA award in 2008 and in 2007 the Artadia: The Fund for Art and Dialogue award. Solo exhibitions of her work include the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles, and the Berkeley Art Museum’s MATRIX program. International exhibitions of Holman’s work include the São Paulo Museum of Modern Art, Hessel Museum, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, Milan’s BnD, and Toronto’s YYZ. Reviews of Holman’s work have appeared in numerous publications including Artforum, Los Angeles Times, NY Arts, Artillery, San Francisco Chronicle and Artweek.

Tara Knight is a filmmaker, animator and projection designer for theater and dance. She is currently directing Mikumentary, a series of short films about the worldwide Hatsune Miku phenomenon. Knight received a BA in Film Theory and Production from Hampshire College, and an MFA in Visual Arts from UC San Diego. Knight worked for three years as the Associate Director for Culture, Art and Technology at UC San Diego's Sixth College, and recently joined the faculty teaching Digital Media in the Theatre and Dance department.

Alex McLean is a research fellow and deputy director of the Interdisciplinary Centre for Scientific Research in Music in Leeds. He lives in Sheffield, UK. McLean is one-third of the live coding band slub, and half each of the spam-pop band Silicone Bake (with Jake Harries), algorave duo Algorithmic Yorkshire (with Ash Sagar), the Hession/McLean Duo (with Paul Hession) and Canute (with Matthew Yee-King). McLean also works with Kate Sicchio on the code+dance project Sound Choreographer <> Body Code. He completed his Ph.D. thesis, “Artist-Programmers and Programming Languages for the Arts” in late 2011, supervised by Geraint Wiggins within the ISMS group in Goldsmiths.

Bryce Clayton Newell is a Ph.D. student at the University of Washington Information School and a Graduate Fellow of the Comparative Law & Society Studies (CLASS) Center. Newell is also an attorney and member of the California State Bar (inactive). He conducts research in the area of information law, policy, and ethics. McLean also has a professional background in television, film, and video production as a producer, cinematographer, editor, and motion graphics artist.

Victoria Vesna, Ph.D, Artist and Professor, UCLA Department of Design Media Arts, Director of the Art|Sci Center at the School of the Arts and California NanoSystems Institute (CNSI). With her collaborative installations she investigates how communication technologies affect collective behavior and perceptions of identity shift in relation to scientific innovation. She has exhibited her artwork in 20+ solo exhibitions, 70+ group shows, published 20+ papers, two edited volumes and gave 100+ invited talks in the last decade.

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