Thomas Albdorf

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Thomas Albdorf

works from Oh Fail, You Beauty at Fotogalerie Wien

Given the pervasive influence that photography has on our social landscape, it is no surprise that artists have taken the opportunity to fundamentally reconsider those terms by which the medium operates. One of the clearest responses has been a “sculptural” one, that is to say, an examination of material properties and the work of Thomas Albdorf fits comfortably within this rubric, though without being entirely confined to it. Indeed, to assert that this work is concerned with photography is perhaps to define it too narrowly. Although his most immediate subject is undoubtedly photographic, this does not mean that Albdorf is engaged in a debate about what photography can be in and of itself. This is merely where the work begins, not some essential definition of what photography is as a medium, but rather a set of propositions aimed at discerning how photographs act – that is to say, what they do, as photographs. It seems that the most significant concern for Albdorf is to expose the mechanisms of representation by using them in a reflexive or even contradictory manner. His diverse approach is ideally situated to untangle the mesh of possibilities that define photography as a medium – and which, in turn, determine how it is used. This work poses the question of what, if anything, we might find outside the conventional “limits” of the image.

-Words by Darren Campion

 

Colby Bird

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Colby Bird

works from Hope Goes with Man to the Foot of the Gallows

Colby Bird’s most recent photographs are of objects (e.g., a candle, a rose, a statuette in a garden, a knife next to a raw steak) and a woman whose identity is never fully revealed.

The images are enlargements of Polaroid negatives (the component of instant film one peels away from the positive print and typically throws away). After scanning the negative and printing it large-scale, Bird paints each print with layers of wood stain until the paper is saturated. The resulting images have a velvety texture and a rich brown-black tone. Each image is cut in two, each half is framed separately, and the two halves pinch a piece of fruit between them (usually fresh produce, unless it is a likeness Bird carved from a block of wood).

This body of work is closely tied to Bird’s recent move from Brooklyn to upstate New York. Without the distractions of a major city, Bird’s thoughts have turned inward: toward evaluating his self-worth, his personal relationships, and ultimately, his mortality.

A new labor-intensive challenge Bird tackles with this body of work is the framing of his own photographs. His woodworking skills are far from masterful, but perfection is not the goal—Bird wants to establish a measure of economic accountability. Artwork is expensive, and its valuation is abstract and subjective. An example of a more straightforward transaction is paying a craftsman to frame a photograph. By framing his own prints, Bird is aligning his efforts with a profession more widely relatable than art-making and searching for concrete value and meaning in the objects he produces.

Despite the conceptual framework through which Bird filters his imagery—excessive labor, handmade frames, bisected photographs, slowly decaying fruit—at its core, the work is about love, loss, and self-reflection. In Hope Goes with Man to the Foot of the Gallows, Bird pulls back the veil of propriety to hint at his own personal insecurities, feelings of guilt, and pursuit of pleasure.

-Lora Reynolds Gallery, 2015

Michael Mandiberg

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Michael Mandiberg

From Aaaaa! To ZZZap! opening tonight at Denny Gallery.

The Wikipedia entry for “quixoticism” runs only about 255 words. But if anyone could argue for a personal mention, it might be Michael Mandiberg.

For the past three years, he has been fully engaged in a project that might make even the most intrepid digital adventurer blush: transforming the English-language Wikipedia into an old-fashioned print reference set running to 7,600 volumes.

Mr. Mandiberg, an interdisciplinary artist who teaches at the College of Staten Island and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, describes the project as half utilitarian data visualization project, half absurdist poetic gesture.

“When I started, I wondered, ‘What if I took this new thing and made it into that old thing?’ ” he said in a recent interview in his sparse, white-walled studio in Downtown Brooklyn. “ ‘What would it look like?’ ”

On Thursday, he and the rest of the world will find out, when the exhibition “From Aaaaa! To ZZZap!,” based on his larger project “Print Wikipedia,” opens at the Denny Gallery on the Lower East Side. There, Mr. Mandiberg will hit “start” and a computer program will begin uploading the 11 gigabytes of very compressed data from a Mac Mini to the print-on-demand website Lulu.com.

The upload page at Lulu.com will be projected onto one wall of the gallery, which will remain open around the clock through the weekend and then for more regular hours until the upload finishes roughly two weeks later. For the code-literate, the technical operations will be tracked on a monitor in the gallery and online at printwikipedia.com. For the print-minded, the gallery’s other walls will be lined with wallpaper showing the spines of the first 1,980 volumes in the set, supplemented by 106 actual physical volumes, each of which runs to 700 pages.

Everyone knows that Wikipedia is huge, but it takes the physical book — still a “cognitively useful” unit of measure, Mr. Mandiberg said — to grasp just how huge. He will not, however, be printing all 7,600 volumes.

“We don’t need to see the whole thing in order to understand how big it is,” Mr. Mandiberg said. “Even if we just have one bookshelf, our human brains can finish the rest.”

Mr. Mandiberg, a seasoned Wikipedia contributor with nearly 2,000 edits to his name, first started batting around the idea for the project in 2009. In 2012, he pushed the project to the front burner, throwing himself into what he called “a series of unending nontrivial programming tasks” necessary to formatting the data behind Wikipedia — all of which is freely available online — for upload.

He approached Lulu.com last fall. “It was certainly a very interesting inquiry,” said Dan Dillon, vice president for marketing at the company, which provided technical and some financial support to the project. “It’s not every day someone comes to you and says, ‘I’d like to make a printed inventory of the largest storehouse of human knowledge in English, and would like to use your website.’ ”

There have been other efforts to measure Wikipedia in terms of the printed page. But Mr. Mandiberg seems to have taken the most concrete measure yet of its size — at least as of April 7, when he harvested the data. According to estimates provided by the Wikimedia Foundation, there have been some 7.5 million edits since.

Mr. Mandiberg’s project, like the evolving digital encyclopedia itself, is really “a gesture at knowledge,” said Katherine Maher, chief communications officer at Wikimedia, adding, “The reality is that knowledge has transcended our ability to hold it in volumes on a bookshelf.”

The installation at the Denny Gallery may be titled “From Aaaaa! to ZZZap!,” but it takes a while for Mr. Mandiberg’s encyclopedia — the articles are set three columns to a page, mainly using an open-source typeface called Cardo — to get to the letter A.

First comes the 91-volume table of contents listing the nearly 11.5 million articles. Then come more than 500 volumes containing entries beginning with typographical symbols and numbers, starting with “!” (the exclamation point), “!!” (notation for an excellent move in chess) and “!!!” (a dance-punk band from Sacramento whose name is usually pronounced “Chk Chk Chk”).

Mr. Mandiberg said he expected that Wikipedia’s millions of articles would fill 7,600 volumes, like the one above. Credit Mark Kauzlarich/The New York Times
There is also a 36-volume contributors index, listing each of the nearly 7.5 million named users who have made even a single edit since Wikipedia began in 2001 — a statistic that Mr. Mandiberg may be the first to establish.

While Wikimedia now has an analytics team, tracking the size and growth of Wikipedia “is something we’ve had to go back and do retroactively,” Ms. Maher said. Until recently, “the focus has been on making sure the servers run.”

Any volume of Mr. Mandiberg’s encyclopedia can be ordered from Lulu.com for $80. Select volumes will also be on sale at the gallery for $68, including those containing the entries for resonant terms like “aesthetics,” “appropriation,” “entropy” and “time.”

Those volumes carry especially poignant “spine poetry,” as Mr. Mandiberg put it. The article on “history,” for example, falls in Volume 2919, which runs from “Historicity of Jesus” to “History and use of instant run-off voting.” The article for “humanism” appears in a volume titled “Hulk (Aqua Teen Hunger Force) — Humanitarianism in Africa.”

These algorithmically generated word clusters “represent humanism’s failing as an idea, even as Wikipedia itself is an incredible act of humanism,” Mr. Mandiberg said. “It’s really all these contradictions wrapped up in one.”

As each volume finishes uploading, the title will be posted to Twitter at @PrintWikipedia. There will be a party when the entire upload is done, which Mr. Mandiberg estimated will take 11 to 14 days. That moment — and the futile grand gesture it represents — will be celebrated with toasts and a projection of the confirmation page, complete with a “Buy It Now” button offering the whole set for $500,000.

While that price is real, the button is just for show. “The order is so big it breaks the shopping cart,” Mr. Mandiberg said. “But symbolically, I wanted to able to say ‘Buy It Now.’ ” – Jennifer Schuessler for the New York Times.

Travess Smalley

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Travess Smalley

at Foxy Production

Travess Smalley’s inaugural solo exhibition at Foxy Production comprises large-scale print works, a five-volume book of images, and a short story. Blurring distinctions between process and product, and between analog and digital, Smalley confounds viewer’s certainties about optical perception. Smalley creates a web of mediated images that speak to the contemporary dilemma of digital preservation and transfer: to the aesthetics of loss and corrosion.

Each work in the exhibition is a composite image that has undergone a series of actions, including cutting, drawing, photocopying, printing, scanning, Photoshopping, collage, or stenciling. Printing and scanning are central operations to Smalley’s practice: they act as portals between his analog and digital activities. The works’ final realization combines changing perspectives and a vibrant, sensual palette that recall a range of influences, including Internet graphics, Structuralist film, and textile design.

Smalley’s large inkjet prints mounted on aluminum are vividly hued combinations of abstractions and images of flowers. Exhibited either singularly or as diptychs, their high-resolution pulsating colors and forms leave the viewer’s experience of content, texture and perspective in a state of flux. They resemble paintings, silk-screens, photographs, and misaligned scans, and bring to mind a range of art-historical associations, including still life painting, Abstract Expressionism, and Pop Art.

The artist has produced an artist’s book, comprising 1,384 drawings, that acts as a recording of programmed transformations upon images compiled over the last few years. The book, as a data archive, is a testament to the enormous breadth and depth of his creative project.

Smalley’s short story, Bloom, brings together many of the themes of the exhibition. Set in the future, it dramatizes problems with digital storage: with the plethora of images people now collect and the effects of data corruption on a subject’s identity, drawing is seen as a means of data collection.

Inflected Objects #1 Abstraction

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There is no such thing as a confined virtual domain. Computational processes can be traced everywhere and are deeply interwoven into the fabric of everyday routines. This results in a hybrid reality constituted by digital and physical infrastructures alike. As a result, artistic production that deals with questions related to digital culture has increasingly focused on objects, acknowledging the hybrid status of current digital culture and its embeddedness in a world of material things.

At the same time, the digital has become interwoven with the hyper-capitalist fabric of society: vast parts of the contemporary web are presently owned by a few private mega companies, which capitalize on the content and data generated by the users of their platforms. Data exchanged at a rapid pace is gathered, profiled and put to work, so that more products can be sold. Social media profiles have become commodities whose exchange value is measured in likes, social capital and ultimately sold for hard cash. Never have the logics of late capitalism been incorporated so intimately into our daily lives.  

Linking this reality to artistic production, the digital can no longer be approached as a medium with distinct mechanisms and a specific aesthetic. “The digital” as such is hard to pin down. Still, if one wants to tackle the specificity of contemporary digital culture, it is characterized by an exceedingly complex technological and economic infrastructure that achieves high levels of abstraction. As more and more processes are digitized, the world is increasingly permeated by calculative, software-enabled infrastructures running silently in the background. As a result, we increasingly depend on these abstract processes that fly airplanes, switch on traffic lights, and determine the value of the money in bank accounts.

Digitization is based on a binary system, building up information on the basis of two symbols: zeros and ones. These fundamental bits then compose code, software, communication, images and social settings. Abstraction results in movement, dynamic, flow – a current that structures and forms what we see, buy and interact with.

The first exhibition in the series Inflected Objects, titled “Abstraction – Rising Automated Reasoning,” analyzes the relation between the increasingly abstracted technological and economic flows that structure our lives and influence the material objects produced. It investigates how abstracted, computational and economic processes leak in, mingle, underlie and structure physical materiality. 

Inflected Objects #1 Abstraction – Rising Automated Reasoning at Istituto Svizzero curated by Valerio Mannucci & Melanie Bühler and featuring the works of Philippe Decrauzat, Harm van den Dorpel, Katharina Fengler, Femke Herregraven, Lars Holdhus, and Pierre Lumineau

http://www.inflected-objects.com/

Tyler Los-Jones

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Tyler Los-Jones

Work from We, ourselves included at Ditch Projects.

“We, ourselves included is a meditation on landscape photography, representation and inherited assumptions about environments. These works began as typical tourist images taken while visiting Glaciers in-and-around Banff, Jasper, Yoho and Kootenay parks this past summer. The Peyto, Jumbo, Daly and Saskatchewan Glaciers are depicted alongside unnamed ice and snow deposits. These images are printed as long panoramas which are curled and folded in response to the geology of the original photograph. The final folded form is re-photographed in the studio and printed flat.

This process results in an uncanny image which reflects the uncertainty of our current ecological crisis. It is becoming more widely accepted that we are living in the Anthropocene – an epoch where the effects of human activity have registered at geologic scales. Yet in spite of our growing awareness of our embeddedness, our depictions of landscape continue to portray ecosystems as exterior, objective and dramatically disconnected from human activity. The works in We, ourselves included slowly unsettle and complicate our relationship to landscape photography by quietly bringing the unnatural aspects of our conception of nature to the forefront.” – Tyler Los Jones

After Wilderness

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After Wilderness

Work by Ella Görner & Stephen Nachtigall

“The lock upon my garden gate’s a snail, that’s what it is
The lock upon my garden gate’s a snail, that’s what it is
Caterpillar sheds his skin to find a butterfly within
Caterpillar sheds his skin to find a butterfly within

First there is a mountain, then there is no mountain, then there is
First there is a mountain, then there is no mountain, then there is
First there is a mountain, then there is no mountain, then there is”

Donovan Leitch

Nothing we have dreamt so far has been so lost

As our notion of a wild life

Justin Hodges

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Justin Hodges

Work from Summit.

“Summit is an amalgamation of Romantic landscape paintings, miniature golf courses, and Google image searches. In Summit, sculptural interventions work to create an immersive experience addressing the nature and function of photography in contemporary visual culture.

To activate Summit its viewer must become a participant on the stage where summiting occurs. In this way, Summit takes its name, at least partially, in referencing the process of summiting anything with a vista, which is a popular experience for recording. A cursory Google search for “Summit Selfie,” yields approximately one hundred seventy million results, and in a manner of speaking, Summit is a product of all of them. It is their proxy. In this gesture, Summit questions the modes and frequency in which images function in our digitally rich landscape by becoming the physical manifestation of one.” – Justin Hodges

Katleen Vinck

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Katleen Vinck

Work from her oeuvre.

In her work, Katleen Vinck often makes use of scale models in which she relates the characteristics of sculpture, architecture and theatre scenography to one another. Her education in architecture, art and scenography makes such an overarching approach obvious yet challenging at the same time. Vinck focuses on phenomena that occur spontaneously in nature. However, once man has assimilated them, it becomes a matter of ‘staging the natural’‚ which results in new meanings. In terms of content as well as form, the artist ìnvestìgates archetypal structures from nature that can be rediscovered in culture like an echo.

Her interest in the landscape gravitates to forms such as caves‚ cliffs‚ hills, trees… She inquires about their possible function, symbolism and the way in which they are processed by humankind. For instance‚ she interprets the bunker as a sublimated form of shelter that can be typologically reduced to the cave: an archetypal form.

Similar to the contrast (or relationship) between cave and bunker, Vinck develops systems of oppositions and models through which she perceives reality and which form the basis of her artworks. Strict ordering and classifications are usually made difficult by exceptions and intermediate positions. Consequently, Vinck’s attention is drawn to the notion of ‘realia’, a term from library science for things that do not fall within a normal classification system. They hover somewhere between or fit into several categories, leading to a status of indefinability.

Stef Van Bellingen, 2013

Sarah Sze

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Sarah Sze

Work from her ongoing exhibition at Victoria Miro.

“Sarah Sze’s exhibition at Victoria Miro spans all three spaces. This is the artist’s third solo show with the gallery and her first presentation in Europe since representing the United States at the 2013 Venice Biennale.

In the Wharf Road galleries the exhibition comprises three installations – one on each floor – that the artist has conceived as a series of different experiments that explore the construction and measurement of space, mass, time, and volume through the use of materials. Each one turns the viewer’s sense of scale, gravity, and information on its head. Common objects like rocks, newspapers, and furniture mutate from something known, to something foreign, fragile, newly composed, and entirely transformed.

A new series of silkscreen prints also mark a singular moment in time – 1 January 2014 – and are based on newspapers gathered from around the world on that date, with all images replaced by depictions of the midnight sky. Several works from the series are installed at both the Mayfair and Wharf Road galleries in a sequence that follows the rotation of the earth as one year turned into the next.” – Victoria Miro Gallery