In our last class, we did an exercise where we cut out letters and mounted them on a white or black background. The purpose was using white space and how much we could show the letter. Coincidentally, I got “W”.
On June 23rd, I attended The Art of VR event, held at Sotheby’s. It was billed as “A 2 day curated VR exhibition featuring: Studio premieres, theatrical & brand case studies, studio exhibitions, hands-on demonstrations.” I signed up through Eventbrite.
Virtual reality has certainly advanced from Second Life. Now there are headsets and immersive devices. The tickets were somewhat expensive but I went to the event, anyway, because I didn’t have that much experience with virtual reality; I thought it would be a good way to jump in. I spent time trying out VR at the different booths, then spent time listening to the talks, which were pretty good.
Many works were commercial, intended to demonstrate the graphics capabilities of a type of computer, to promote a film, or for some other commercial purpose. In my opinion, VR for entertainment purposes automatically comes across as a bit insincere, unless the provenance of the work — where it comes from, how it was produced, who produced it and why — is known because it can help the audience get over their skepticism.
There were also a number of artworks, and so far I think it works best for art experiences. The mechanics of the experience are incredibly intimate, yet it remains very public – which describes how art is experienced, as well. But, trying VR can be an intimidating activity. You have to get over feeling embarrassed for looking stupid with these giant geeky goggles on your face while other people are watching. And, as a panelist later mentioned, VR can be clunky and clumsy, even in an artistic setting.
Despite my initial embarrassment, I participated as much as I could. I enjoyed the experience and learning about VR.
I’ll admit that I initially wasn’t compelled to visit the floor where the discussion panels were being held. But once, I did I was very impressed. The president of the VR Society led at least 2 panels I listened to; he’s a very good moderator. The two discussions that impressed me most were a discussion on medical uses of VR and a discussion about a cinematic experience, called “Lincoln in the Bardo”.
One of the discussion panels was about medical uses of VR. Overall, this was the most impressive topic discussed or demonstrated for me.
Anyway, the medical talk was very innovative and I’m glad to see this new technology being used in such important ways.
In this immersive narrative short, President Lincoln pays a nighttime visit to the haunted cemetery in which his beloved son has just been laid to rest. Based on “Lincoln in the Bardo,” the new novel by George Saunders.
Somewhat related to the VR event, Sotheby’s also had a pop-up gallery, called BUNKER, “which since 2014 has featured artists who collaborate with technology to create code-driven sculpture, augmented reality and virtual installation”. I took some time to check it out. There weren’t that many projects, but here are few projects I especially liked.
One that was really clever used the cassette frames and an audio output. Since it was using headphones, a video would have only caught half of it. So, I didn’t capture it at all.
The installation will be at Sotheby’s until July 20, 2017.
In February, I watched a EuroNews report about a South African artist named William Kentridge, whose work is being shown in Copenhagen, Denmark. Here’s the article video.
I was very interested in learning more about the artist after seeing that he uses a combination of video installations, animation, and live action. As seen in clips in the article, he’s also not afraid to explore the difficult history of his country. As MoMA puts it, “Dealing with subjects as sobering as apartheid, colonialism, and totalitarianism, his work is often imbued with dreamy, lyrical undertones or comedic bits of self-deprecation that render his powerful messages both alluring and ambivalent.”
This can be seen in the following video, which is embedded in the text of the article. It’s like a New Orleans marching band, set in a lyrically dystopian world.
— cityartnow (@cityartnow) February 16, 2017
When I looked up more about the artist, I was surprised to find that he was not ethnically African, because as the video shows he is using black subjects in the artwork. In my experience, it’s not that common to find an artist using the experience of another ethnicity in their artwork, although it does occur in decorative arts, photography, and performing arts.
I suppose performing artists do this because music, dance, and theater are somewhat universally accessible for all people. Photography is a little different, in that the photographer has to take a documentarian or voyeuristic point of view, as opposed to being part of the art. Wikipedia explains that Kentridge is Jewish, with attorney parents that fought against apartheid. Perhaps he felt like both an outsider, voyeur-documentarian and part of the struggle in South Africa.
What I find revealing is how well Kentridge’s use of African subjects shows his strong empathy and understanding of apartheid and this difficult period of South African history. He says, in Pain & Suffering, shown on art:21, that artists use the pain and suffering of others for their work.
Wikipedia explains one of his animation methods:
“in all of his animated works do the concepts of time and change comprise a major theme. He conveys it through his erasure technique, which contrasts with conventional cel-shaded animation, whose seamlessness de-emphasizes the fact that it is actually a succession of hand-drawn images. This he implements by drawing a key frame, erasing certain areas of it, re-drawing them and thus creating the next frame. He is able in this way to create as many frames as he wants based on the original key frame simply by erasing small sections. Traces of what has been erased are still visible to the viewer; as the films unfold, a sense of fading memory or the passing of time and the traces it leaves behind are portrayed.”
The video above doesn’t show one of this animation style very well, but his style can be seen in other clips. He also uses stop-motion.
Aside from animation, he uses live video and different masking and editing effects in his work. Here’s a video of him, from the Danish museum, the Louisiana, interviewing himself:
I won’t be in Copenhagen anytime soon. But if you’re interested in learning more about William Kentridge, there are examples of his work online.
Of course, there is the Louisiana Museum that is currently holding a William Kentridge exhibition. It looks like an interesting exhibit. The site is in Danish, but Google should be able to translate.
art:21 has the most examples of him working and explaining his process. There are several clips of some of his video/media pieces.
Wikipedia also has plenty of information about Kentridge, from his bio, to listing his films and many exhibitions around the world. There are also external links, if you’re interested even more information about this artist.
In August 2017, Artsy.net reached out to me to inform me of their web page on William Kentridge.
Our William Kentridge page provides visitors with Kentridge‘s bio, over 350 of his works, exclusive articles, and up-to-date Kentridge exhibition listings. The page also includes related artists and categories, allowing viewers to discover art beyond our Kentridge page.
I took a look and it does have a lot of great information about this artist, including many images. So if you are looking for additional info, take a look!