Digitizing the Visual
John Blatter is a sound artist that creates unique installations for his work. His subject matter usually is about the self and how media has influenced our worlds. He does this by using audio files of people speaking, often combining the sounds with an installation for the gallery. He has also done videos, for example, As Seen on TV is a video piece about marketing himself to an audience like the commercials on television. His work is an interesting commentary on how the media changes our self identity.
Most of Blatter’s works have a lot to do with the inner self and how people connect on a personal level. My favorite out of these is Bored of One… where Blatter set up speakers near each side of a board meeting table. From these, he played audio of himself discussing his future. It was funny to hear something so intimate being talked over and analyzed like a product of a corporation. Blatter has very interesting ideas about things the self… for example, he uses the views of others as his self portrait. I think this is a great take on what most artists do, because not only does our opinion of ourselves come from within, but other people shape our being as well.
I believe John Blatter’s work is an amusing and fascinating approach he takes on our society and character. His installations are amazing, and his messages are universal and reach across a wide spectrum of people. Everyone has seen a billboard before, or an infomercial, or a dressing room… Blatter uses these shared experiences to capture our interest and deliver a message.
Nam June Paik is called the father of video art and is an internationally renowned artist of the digital age. Beginning in the early 1960s, he expressed himself as he put it “without talking” by using moving visuals and audio, a type of work that was never done before. Most of his work involves sporadic, flashing bouts of color and abstract subject matter. Paik’s groundbreaking artistic style influenced all digital artists that follow him. He was a believer in the power of the future and possibilities. He was a very conceptual artist, and by bringing art into the digital age he was providing a great deal of commentary on how society is changing.
His installations are a sight to behold as well. Some are in the shape of playable instruments, while other are towering walls of video monitors or built like a skyscraper. He’s even done television set robots. One of my favorites is TV Garden, in which Paik set up tropically plants and scattered televisions throughout. I appreciate the mix between technology and nature and their surprising similarities. We lose ourselves in watching TV and using technology, just like jungle. As it expands and reaches out across the globe, it takes on a life of its own and grows, just like the wild, leafy jungle.
I really like Paik’s creativity and innovation. His concepts are interesting because they address the media he is using. For example, Especially his installations, those are ingenious and give a new element to the videos he is displaying. He uses the physical television set as a building block, using it to create amazing sets and scenery from the imagination. Paik envisioned an empowered technological age, where information was a “super highway” that connects us to the art world. The best part is, Nam June Paik used his skill with video art to cause just that.
Stephen Vitiello is a sound artist from Richmond, Virginia. He records samples from his surroundings and creates electronic sound mixes. With familiar sound effects, Vitiello audibly captures the beauty of a location, as opposed to a more traditional media. He had started his experimental music career as a punk rock guitarist, making more of his own music as he worked with more visual artists. Vitiello has collaborated with many video artists on different projects, as well as other musicians. He not only spends a great amount of time on the audible aspect of his work, but the visual to support it as well. He develops unique installation environments, made to both hear and experience this music.
His installations are one of the most powerful details of his work. They give the sound a more physical presence. Rather than being in the space, Vitiello’s music “performs to the space…” and produces an interesting interaction between the location and the art. The sounds and sites work together, becoming a new environment. One of the most fascinating of these to me is his audio installation of “The Smallest of Wings.” I love the way the exhibition worked with the public setting. Since the piece was based in nature, Vitiello set up a dome outside. People of all different walks of life could listen and interpret, while escaping from reality.
Vitiello’s soundscapes transport the listener to another world. The sounds are very trance-like and hypnotizing. Ordinary sounds sound completely new within his music. For example, I’m used to the sound of a dog barking… but in one of his pieces, “Dogs – Last Clarinet,” the sound seemed ethereal. Also, Vitiello is definitely an artist that would be far better and inspiring in person at a showing… because his installations are just phenomenal and have become such an important part of his work. They change the entire way you experience the sounds by providing a context behind the work. Simply listening to the music on my laptop is alright, but if I were surrounded by the sounds, it would have much more of an impact. I like this characteristic of the work. That makes hearing it live a real once in a lifetime experience.
Paul Pfeiffer is a relatively diverse artist, and most of his work has to do with pop culture and media’s influence on our society. He often edits films or manipulates photographs to show the viewer a different take on something we usually see as completely normal. One of his video pieces, titled Race Riot, is installed on a camcorder, so the viewer is looking through the camera as if they are recording it. The piece is about media and how the cameramen at sporting events try to show the audience what’s happening, but usually just shoot the back of their heads. Normally, we wouldn’t really pay any attention to this detail. When we’re watching a game on television, you just consider it a close-up. Pfeiffer’s skill is at taking out what we consider normal and presenting it objectively.
My favorite example is Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. In this series, Pfeiffer has edited photos of basketball players at a game. It’s interesting to see how god like we make these players to be – all eyes and spotlights focused on them, the entire audience surrounding them and watching them play… I never noticed how intense it was until I saw this work. It makes a statement about how our culture depends so much on celebrities and we put them on such a high pedestal. Millions of people are watching your every move, and you aren’t supposed to mess up. It’s terrifying to think we do this to people and think of it as normality.
Overall, I really liked Pfeiffer’s work.I love that his pieces eye-catching and he gives the audience an interesting commentary on society.
Bill Viola is a contemporary video artist. Most of his work is about human spirituality and nature. His subject matter is based in emotions and changes that happen within, and he uses video to show us these feelings in motion. Many of his pieces have been reminiscent of paintings from the Renaissance and other great historic painters, but uses video to modernize them. For example, The Raft is an interpretation of the classical painting The Raft of Medusa by Théodore Géricault.
His style seems to use a lot of slow motion, showing the gravity of the actors emotions and actions as they are happening. By slowing them down, we can observe the way people act and react, which is a very important message in his work. A good example of this is Observance, a project in which people are waiting in line to see something, and sadly leaving the front of the line to allow the next person to take the lead. The viewer is never shown what the people are looking at, but we get to watch the reaction. It’s interesting to see how each person expresses their grief.
I think Viola’s work is fascinating because he takes something that happens very quickly and displays it almost step by step. Even his symbolic works give the audience a chance to take in the weight of the situation by slowing the action down a considerable amount. His work is very beautiful to look at and I find it interesting how the works remind me of classical paintings. I’m sure Caravaggio would find it charming to see tenebrism applied in movement.
Jenny Holzer, a projectionist, writer, and concept artist, uses light to display her work on enormous scales. Working mostly with text, she basically casts the literary creation onto a large expanse of surface, allowing viewers to read the message. The material is either original, or excerpted from another writer. The goal behind her work is to inspire and brighten someone’s day with typography taken to the extreme.
I personally like her work a lot. Her messages speak volumes, even though they are silently displayed. The way she exhibits them is amazing. The fact that the “canvas” is above and beyond a normal canvas grabs the attention of the audience, and give them an opportunity to be part of a phenomenal moment in history. How often do you see words stretched across a building? How many times can you say you read a passage off the surface of the ocean?
And not only is her presentation unique, but so is the fact that her work relies so heavily on text. Usually art takes on a more graphic approach, usually finding a way to convey a message without words. Textual art does away with this and takes a literary approach. I like that she’s one of the first typographers we’ve looked at. Compare her work to that of Matt Siber. His photos play on words as well, but not in the same way. His message involved the elimination of text, while Holzer’s work is focused on the inclusion of it. Her canvas is already a work of art… the world around us. Holzer creatively adds in clever and deep messages.
The sheer scale of Holzer’s work is impressive, but one of my favorites of hers is one of her most popular. Instead of huge proportions, Truisms is notable for its variety. In random places, she leaves interesting phrases and ideas that are open for interpretation. Many are fascinating because they’re truths I hadn’t noticed before. For example, “Fear is the greatest incapacitator.” Every letter of the alphabet has its own set of sayings… and every saying is insightful.
Here’s the current full list of Holzer’s Truisms…. and below is a video of one of her installations.