Jenny Holzer: Light Stream

Documenting the Neo-Conceptualist's Largest Kinetic Work in Hong Kong

New York artist Jenny Holzer’s LED slogans rise and fall to a John Cage soundtrack in today’s short from director Ringo Tang. Using an aesthetic that mixes Bladerunner’s visions of the postmodern megalopolis with The Matrix’s cascading waterfalls of code, Tang has constructed a video montage of Holzer’s latest polychromatic show Light Stream at Pearl Lam Galleries in Hong Kong. “I want to share the way I feel about her work with more people,” says the filmmaker, “and make them think more deeply about the value of the world.” Holzer first rose to prominence in 1982 when she showed her text works on the massive Spectacolor screen at Times Square, becoming part of a highly influential generation of female artists including Barbara Kruger, Cindy Sherman and Louise Lawler. “Light Stream” is her largest ever LED installation, comprising of three of her own classic texts—Truisms, Survival and Living—which appear in both English and Chinese and dance around her spiraling minimalist sculptures in eight-hour cycles of mechanical writing. “I became addicted to electronics,” says Holzer of her attraction to working with LED. “I just like looking at them, and making them do tricks.”

Why do you like to use such a variety of materials?
Jenny Holzer:
I like to provide different opportunities for people to read. When someone traces text cut in stone with their hand, that’s a very different experience to when one sees something in light flashing by. I might choose stone if it’s a text that’s meant to be immemorial, but if it’s a series of poetry I might want to use projected light. When a poem in light caresses a building, or floats across a river and glides over trees, it can be just right.

How do advances in technology change the way you work?
JH:
First I started with street posters because they were available to me and seemed to make sense for the sentences I was writing. After I did that anonymously for a number of years I had, really almost by accident, a chance to put something up on the big sign at One Times Square. So I had to think about what the change meant when I went from an underground medium, the poster, to an official one, the LED that’s typically used for advertising or the news.

What inspired “Light Stream”?
JH:
I wanted a piece to occupy space. My first electronic signs were very simple ones that would hang flat on the wall and I could program them on my kitchen table. I wanted to make this one more sculptural, to have a physical presence, probably because I was looking back to minimalism and my admiration for Donald Judd. I arranged my sculptures in arrays; some look like the human body, like ribs for example, other times it’s more about geometry. My next installation is the first that will wrap all the way around, so the text can break loose and go crazy. But I haven’t shown it yet; it’s still in the laboratory!

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  • ON REPLAY
    ON REPLAY

    Dust

    A Hyper-Camp Drama for the Digital Era from Casey Spooner, Adam Dugas and Michael Stipe

    “I have a spa fetish, and this scene is based on a honey treatment I did at Liquidrom, an amazing coed naked spa in Berlin,” gushes Casey Spooner of today’s clip of Dust, the feature-length that he wrote and directed with his creative and romantic partner of 13 years, Adam Dugas. Spooner, frontman for electro-pop duo Fischerspooner, and Dugas, co-founder of performance troupe The Citizens Band, envisioned their debut film as a Skype-age re-telling of Chekov’s Three Sisters, with cohabiting dysfunctional siblings colluding and colliding as they wrestle with their individual dramas. The cast includes Ssion’s Cody Critcheloe, artist and photographer Jaimie Warren, and fashion designer Peggy Noland, plus Warhol superstar Holly Woodlawn as the family matriarch. “In the tradition of early John Waters and the films Warhol made at the Factory with Paul Morrissey, Dust defines its own era by reveling in and rolling around in the 21st century’s sadness, audacity and flashpoint laugh-out-loud directness,” says R.E.M.’s Michael Stipe, who produced the tragi-comic collaborative effort. Based in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, where they live with their cats, a Douglas Coupland painting and a Dracula lithograph, Spooner and Dugas have previously helmed documentary portraits for ImagineFashion and contributed to The New York Times’ T Magazine. Premiering at Art Basel Miami 2014 this evening, their feature will be digitally streamed on multiple platforms powered through Dust.VHX.tv.

    How did you come to cast superstar Holly Woodlawn?
    Casey Spooner: I got a message on Facebook from Holly Woodlawn saying, “I love your work, will you be my friend?” Adam was like, “Oh my God, Holly should play the mother!”

    Adam Dugas: She was in her apartment in West Hollywood as we filmed her. She never actually met any of the other actors. We were Skype communicating.

    CS: She’s acting to a blank screen with voices coming out. It’s like Hollywood glamour via new digital technology. The new soft focus is digital break-up.

    How did Michael Stipe get involved in the film?

    CS: We knew the technical side of things but we had no connections to PR, financing, release, legal, distribution. We thought, “Who do we know who knows about the film business?” So we reached out to Michael. He was very discouraging when we first approached him. He was like, “Don’t go into the film business. It’s over, like the music business. Give up. Retreat.” We sent him a rough cut anyway.

    AD: A couple of months later he came back to us saying, “Oh by the way, did I tell you that I finally saw your film? I think it’s amazing.” He said he really wanted to get involved. 

    You recently made the video Subliminal Alchemy for Modern Weekly China with photographer Asger Carlsen in advance of a new Fischerspooner album. You shot with a real snake, right?
    CS: An Albino Burmese python named Banana that was 10 feet long. It was my brilliant idea. Cyril Duval, aka designer and artist Item Idem, asked if I wanted to do a shoot for them. The new album is very erotic and I sent through a bunch of Tumblr images as references, some pornography—basically all about the male form, and a lot of nudity. One of my references had this big snake. Cyril was like, “Let’s do the snake.” I had shot with a snake before for New York magazine and had a great experience. This snake had never been on set before and the handlers were inexperienced. So, I had kind of a grumpy snake experience.

    (Read More)
  • MOST SHARED IN ART
    MOST SHARED IN ART

    Art Basel Miami: Marco Brambilla

    The Artist's F1-Inspired Short Gets Behind Ferrari's Wheel

    Video artist Marco Brambilla shares his densely hypnotic and kaleidoscopic 3D film RPM, commissioned by Ferrari in celebration of their latest auto masterpiece, the 458 Spider, and premiering at Art Basel Miami tonight. Assembling footage shot on location over several months at the Italian Formula One Grand Prix in Monza with imagery from the Scuderia Ferrari archives and the artist’s own recordings, RPM is a visceral, cubist representation of a Formula One driver’s state of mind during a race. “I wanted to make a portrait of speed,” says Brambilla, a life-long F1 fan. “Something as subjective as can be, that explores the connection of man and machine and tests the limits of human endurance.” Featuring Möbius strip racetracks, wind-gritted teeth and a howling soundtrack of throttling engines, RPM accelerates in complexity with every turn of the circuit. “[The film is] always accelerating,” says the artist, “just building, no payoff, no win.” The New York-based Brambilla, who created the digital tableau vivant for Kanye West’s “Power” and the 3D videos Evolution and Civilization, wanted to push the limits of his own aesthetic vocabulary with this project. “This one is a little bit different in that we used 3D as an editing tool,” he says. “As the piece speeds up, the multi-planing—the foreground, mid-ground and background objects—all cycle through each other to create an acceleration in 3D space.”

    Formula One Stats

    An F1 driver loses on average 5 kilograms in weight during a Grand Prix race and burns approximately 600 calories.
     
    Drivers' heart rates reach peaks of 190 beats per minute during a Grand Prix.
     
    A typical F1 car is made up of 80,000 components, in a package weighing less than 550 kg—less than half the weight of a Mini.
     
    When an F1 driver hits the brakes, he experiences deceleration comparable to a regular car driving through a brick wall at 300kmph.
     
    An F1 car can go from 0 to 160 kph and back in 0 to 4 seconds. During the 2004 Italian Grand Prix in Monza, the record top speed for an F1 car was set at over 360 kph.
     
    Top F1 pit crews can refuel and change tires in around 3 seconds.
     
    An F1 car generates enough downforce that it could drive inverted at top speed. In a street course race, this is enough suction to lift manhole covers, which have to be welded down before each race.
     
    Scuderia Ferrari, founded by Enzo Ferrari in 1932, is the oldest and most successful F1 team in history with a record of 15 drivers’ championships and 16 constructors’ championships.

    Today's video is courtesy of Christopher Grimes Gallery.

    (Read More)

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