PUBLIC ADDRESS ART
Some time last year I was handed a conspicuously pink sticker bearing the legend "Soon you will be sitting on top of the world", with the veryrealtime URL printed below. Eventually the website became available, and it was apparent this project was intent on flipping a traditionalist worldview on its head by focusing on non-gallery and non-object art. Instead of dry, detached work, the projects of veryrealtime specifically engaged with the location of Cape Town and its socio-historical contexts.
veryrealtime, top of the world or not, was a one month (September 2003) residency in Cape Town for seven local and overseas artists: Bridget Baker, James Beckett, Michael Blum, Thembinkosi Goniwe, Cinthia Marcelle, Jo O'Connor, and Gregg Smith. Highlights include Michael Blum's 17 Aandbloem Street, an investigation of Blum's place of residence while in the country, its history, gossip and narrative of occupation. Thembinkosi Goniwe took up the art of partying (and lecturing), evoking the disparate social contexts of Nyanga, Gugulethu, Langa, Observatory, Woodstock and Cape Town City.
Another intervention of interest is Bridget Baker's Extras Soles, involving extras on a film set equipped with special embossings on the soles of their shoes. Transient but encouraging messages such as "only you can" were left on the ground after the extras stepped in dirty water. Baker maintains that the simultaneously absurd and mythic connotations of these messages appearing on the pavements (as though subliminal) is a central irony underlying the meaning we inevitably construct out of our daily meanderings.
In fact, this conjunction of the absurd and profound runs through most of the projects. Gregg Smith's bizarre account of the manner in which he and his wife try to rediscover each other through the tango is both comic and touching. James Beckett's nearly incomprehensible fictive creation of Larson Keys (b. February 15, 1966) dissolves into a strange obsession with the skin rash known as Polymorphous Light Eruption... Of course, seeing that the projects are all ephemeral and short-lived, it fits that the internet, itself, inhabiting a complex relation to time and space, provides a home for the work.
Ricardo Miranda Zuniga
This New York based artist, brought up (in his own words) between Nicaragua and San Francisco, stubbornly and anarchically raises issues of the United States' international policies and uncritical media. He does this through a variety of public art projects and exhibitions, a remarkable example of which is the Nexum ATM.
The Nexum parodies bank teller machines, but instead of money, the viewer is bombarded with streams of opinions from pedestrians in New York City's Union Square who were asked the question "where do you stand on the United States' International Situation?" The responses reflect the growing anxiety around the global position of the US and the so-called "war on terrorism". The ATM, itself an interactive video sculpture in an elaborate casing, was exhibited at the Bronx Museum in 2003. The interface of the sculpture is available online (http://www.nexumatm.us/clients.html).
Zuniga's preference for found audio material can be seen from his other projects, such as Audioscope (1999), a six channel audio sculpture, Vagamundo (2002) an online and mobile cart project for street display, and Public Broadcast Cart A (2003), a mobile microphone and speaker system that people could use to say whatever came to mind - at a substantial volume. Consistently, Zuniga returns to examine his own status as an in-between citizen through issues of immigration and democratic access to the media. Significantly, all his works utilise public space, from street, to museum, to internet, for public voices.
His most recent (December 2003) exhibition is a gatepage for the Whitney Museum, an online resource for net art, which is so useful it deserves a mention of its own.
Net art has long been hailed as a potentially powerful medium for democratic and liberal expression. While this makes sense in theory, much so-called net art has been techno-geek oriented, and it has become tricky to find work that utilises the internet as a public sphere in meaningful ways. The Artport section of the Whitney Museum of American Art website, however, provides a valuable portal for both technically advanced and socially engaged net art.
The Gate Pages (http://www.whitney.org/artport/gatepages) are of special interest, as it has been featuring the work of one major net-based artist every month since March 2001. Featured artists include Joshua Davis (www.praystation.com and www.once-upon-a-forest.com) and Keith and Mendi Obadike, (discussed in a previous ArtThrob project entry).
An online Exhibitions section (http://www.whitney.org/artport/exhibitions/index.shtml), functions as a gallery for net art, and currently hosts CODeDOC - a collection of executable codes, each less than 8k, produced by 12 artists.
Artport has also commissioned some projects, including the Idea Line (http://www.whitney.org/artport/commissions/idealine.shtml) by Martin Wattenberg. The Idea Line provides a timeline of net based art from serious avant-garde to games. It has an organic and intuitive interface logic by which one can launch the hundreds of net art projects. Perhaps the best thing about the Idea Line is that anyone can submit work for this collection simply by emailing details to email@example.com.