Posts Tagged 'Truth: 24 frames per second'

Some Truths on Time-Based Media

Truth: 24 frames per second is the DMA’s first exhibition dedicated to time-based media and showcases many works from the Museum’s growing collection. But what is time-based media and why is it relevant? How do we experience it (and don’t forget you can experience it for free for the final week! The exhibition is on view through January 28)?

Time-Based Media (TBM) refers to works of art that have a fourth-dimension: time. Any artwork that changes meaningfully over a period of time can be considered TBM. Typically, TBM works are made using video, sound, film or slide-based installations, or computer technologies. As a viewer, a key aspect of experiencing TBM is observing it over time.

Nam June Paik, Music Box Based on Piano Piece Composed in Tokyo in 1954, 1994, Vintage TV cabinet, Panasonic 10 TV model 1050R, Panasonic mini video camera, incandescent light bulb and 144-note music box mechanism, Dallas Museum of Art, bequest of Dorace M. Fichtenbaum 2015.48.113

Beginning in the 1960s with the invention of the portapak (the first portable video equipment), artists who were losing interest in material objects turned to video and sound. Experimental artists like Nam June Paik, Wolf Vostell, and Joan Jonas were attracted to the transitory, immaterial qualities of sound and the moving image and the medium quickly spread.

TBM was viewed as an egalitarian art form, due to the medium’s relative affordability as well as its unchartered nature. Because TBM was not initially considered by art historians to be a valid art form, artists considered it a “founding father free zone,” where there was no canon against which to be measured. Video art, in particular, was used by many artists involved in social movements. Through its capability for wide distribution, video art offered opportunities for raising consciousness through documenting injustices and representing communities previously under or misrepresented. In Truth: 24 frames per second, Arthur Jafa’s work, Love Is the Message, the Message is Death, speaks poignantly to the role of media and representation in contemporary society.

Arthur Jafa, Love Is the Message, the Message Is Death, 2016, HD video, color and black and white, sound, 7:30 min., Courtesy of the artist and Gavin Brown’s enterprise, NY

Unsurprisingly, over the following decades TBM works have evolved in step with technology. Contemporary artists produce TBM works with everything from cellphone footage to crowd sourced YouTube clips. One example of the influence of technological advance on TBM is Western Flag (Spindletop, Texas), a work by John Gerrard in the exhibition. Though it presents as a video, Gerrard’s work is actually an eternally generating digital portrait coded to change in response to the time of day and year in Spindletop, Texas. As the sun sets and rises in Spindletop, Gerrard’s software mimics the change of light in on the screen.

Because of its reliance on technology, TBM presents unique challenges to museums who collect it. Most works are allographic in nature, meaning they only exist when installed and functioning, and each time they are installed can be considered an iteration of the work. As a result, there are conceptual considerations as to where, how, and with what technology individual works can be realized. TBM also presents complex challenges to conservators, who are tasked with considering and combating issues such as technological obsolescence, digital preservation, and even broken hyperlinks.

John Gerrard, Western Flag (Spindletop Texas), 2017, 2017, simulation, Courtesy the artist and Simon Preston Gallery, New York & Thomas Dane Gallery, London

TBM works can be intimidating to engage with, but one important thing to realize is that you don’t need to be present for the duration of the work to experience it. If a work catches your attention, stick around for it to restart and watch it in entirety. Wall labels include a run time, noting how frequently each work repeats. The ideal way to experience an exhibition like Truth: 24 frames per second is to see it multiple times in order to engage with the works at different moments. But hurry in, because the exhibition closes this Sunday, January 28.

Elise Armani is the McDermott Intern for Contemporary Art at the DMA

Building on Truth

As visitors go through Truth: 24 frames per second, they will notice some truly unique environments that were created just for this exhibition. Some of these works have very specific requirements for how the artist wanted them to be installed; although the film or video is its own type of “world,” the artists are very sensitive to how it is experienced in space. The exhibitions team worked directly with some of the artists to realize very specific visions of built environments.

Ben Rivers drew inspiration from Jake, the subject of his film, who had corrugated metal sheets in various colors on his roof and siding of his “hut.” This shelter in the forest is shown in the film, but as it is black and white, the physical structure in the exhibition brings the playful character of this shelter to life. It has the added benefit of creating a more intimate place to view this voyeuristic narrative. Rivers first provided us with a hand sketch, which I drew up to scale, and we determined that we needed to adjust the size to make it more accessible to all of our visitors. The team built the internal structure out of two by fours, and scouted for used corrugated metal. During the process, the artist decided to mimic the colors of Jake’s roof instead of the patina on the metal, so we ended up buying corrugated metal sheets and painting them. Seeing the finished piece draw in visitors with its curious color palette and flicker film inside has been a wonderful reward for our hard work on this piece, and Ben Rivers was very pleased with this iteration of his work as well.

Creating an environment around John Gerrard’s Western Flag followed a somewhat similar process, although he has a very involved working studio. They provided us with detailed and precise fabrication specs  to emulate and adapt to our space. The result is a beautifully seamless surface, projected from inside of a cube. The cube appears to float ever so slightly off the floor, which adds to the perfect otherworldliness of the computer-generated reality portrayed in Western Flag.

Discover more about Gerrard’s work from the artist himself during State of the Arts: New Media and the Future of Art on Thursday, January 25, when the artist joins KERA’s Jerome Weeks in conversation with SMU Assistant Professor of Media Arts Amber Bemak.

Skye Malish-Olson is an Exhibition Designer at the DMA.

The Art of Installing Media

Truth: 24 frames per second took a team of DMA staff to create and Lance Lander, Manager of Gallery Technology & Innovation, shared the nuts-and-bolts logistics of putting together  the challenging installation with Uncrated.

What are some past media installations you’ve mounted and how were they special or different from Truth?
The first large scale installation that I did was Fast Forward in 2006. I had fourteen media based works of art to install and maintain. One of the works was “I like it here better than in Westphalia,” El Dorado 1968-1976 by Lothar Baumgarten which is three slide projectors and sound. The piece is a beautiful work of art that uses technology to convey the beauty found in nature. There is a soundtrack that controls the advancement of the slide projectors. So you have the sounds and visuals of nature and the sounds and visuals of the mechanical slide projectors. The projectors require a lot of maintenance and I spent many hours keeping that thing going. In retrospect, working so hard on that piece made me fall in love with the job.

Other large scale installations I’ve done include Phil Collins’ the world won’t listen, and the exhibitions Private Universe and Mirror Stage.

What were some of the major time consuming tasks that you had to complete before installing the works of art?
For a typical video installation like the Rachel Rose, Omer Fast, or Steve McQueen, where you have a single channel video with sound, I like to have 5 days for installation. For this exhibition with 24 works of art we had a mere three weeks. We worked late nights and weekends all the way up to the opening. Because the exhibition is in two galleries at opposite ends of the building I was walking eight miles a day!

From 16mm projectors to 12-feet-tall LED screens, Truth encompasses a range of diverse technologies. Were there any works especially challenging to install? Do you have a favorite?
I really love the historical connection we made in the Bruce Conner REPORT space. Our Exhibition Designer, Skye Olson, was able to procure 6 original seats from the Texas Theater which is where Lee Harvey Oswald was captured.  But the most difficult piece, and my favorite, is Western Flag by John Gerrard. It is also the only piece in the exhibition that is not a film or video. It’s a software based simulation of a landscape. Essentially, it’s a non-interactive video game. Mr. Gerrard sent very precise drawings and stated that if it was even 2 millimeters off we would need to rebuild it. Our carpenter, Josh Harstrom, built the walls of the cube and Tom McKerrow and Brian Cahill built the frame of the projection screen. The preparators stretched and stapled the screen. When Mr. Gerrard arrived he was impressed with all the work we had done.

This exhibition was truly a cross-departmental collaboration that has involved every branch of the Museum. Can you call out some MVPs who helped you knock it out?
Mike Hill was the Head Preparator for this show and he did, as always, an incredible job. He took over the Anne Tallentire Drift and Dara Birnbaum Tiananmen Square installations. He also installed all of the acoustical material and covered them with fabric in the James Coleman space. Doug Velek has assisted me on everything I’ve installed since I started working here. I couldn’t have done it without him. All of the preparators stepped up to make the exhibition happen. John Lendvay, Mary Nicolette, Sean Cairns, Erik Baker, Ellia Maturino, Marta Lopez, and Russell Sublett all served a vital role. Registrar Melissa Omholt was so great to work with. She kept the flow of information going and kept me on track. There was also the design that Jessica and Skye came up with. Some of these pieces require specific room dimensions and I am amazed they were able to make it all fit and have all of the artists agree to it. I would be remiss to not mention Joni and her equable style of managing complex exhibitions with aplomb.

But I really can’t stress enough the indelible impact that Sue MacDarmid had on the exhibition. I first met Sue in 2007 when she came to install the world won’t listen. She represents and installs for Willie Doherty, Phil Collins, Steve McQueen, and others. When we started discussing an all media show I knew that she would be an integral part. I was able to reach her early enough to schedule her for three weeks. She is one the best media installers and she inspires me. I have so much trust in her that whenever she had an idea I would make it happen.

Chelsea Pierce is the Curatorial Administrative Assistant, Contemporary Art at the DMA

Testing for Truth

The Center for Creative Connections has an area designated as the Testing Zone. The space consists of two walls, each with a chalkboard, a large table with stools, and three wires from which items can be suspended for display. The Testing Zone debuted in 2012 as a vehicle for education staff to evaluate the ways visitors engage with various types of art, experiment with potential in-gallery activities, and enable visitors to share their preferences on what objects and interpretative materials are provided in permanent collection galleries.

Prior to the opening of Truth: 24 frames per second, we decided to use the Testing Zone to post a series of open-ended questions and gauge visitors’ interest in a range of topics inspired by works in the exhibition. Unlike most Testing Zone activities, the Truth experiment was challenging because participants did not have the benefit of seeing the works beforehand, nor could we summarize the full scope of the exhibition in the limited amount of space. Additionally, the exhibition resists traditional notions of fine art and consciously avoids a singular narrative, lesson, or point of view.

After reading the series of prompts clipped to the Testing Zone’s three display wires, visitors selected one or more slips of paper to share their thoughts. Each slip contained a single prompt followed by five potential responses that would indicate their level of interest in the topic, whether the prompt was easily understood, and whether the question was something they wanted to encounter at the Museum or discuss in a community forum. The back of each piece of paper was left available for people to write additional thoughts.

Much to my surprise, nearly 350 visitors shared their feedback over two weeks. The responses allowed me to rephrase some of the questions and set others aside. In the end, the prompts became part of the exhibition’s visitor guide and the conversation continues via Twitter (#DMATruth) and written responses which provide the source material for a scrolling LED sign hanging near the exhibition’s entrance.

Emily Schiller is the Head of Interpretation at the DMA


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