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Term used in an art-historical context to describe art forms that include a variety of media, often unconventional. It is used mainly where a complete description of media would be too lengthy. Multimedia may also comprise live or Performance art, Happenings, Environmental art, Video art and Installation. The origins of multimedia may be traced to Dada, especially the activity in 1916 in Zurich of the Cabaret Voltaire. The concept was developed further by artists associated with Surrealism, for example at the Exposition Internationale du Surréalisme (1938) at the Galerie des Beaux-Arts, Paris: works were exhibited in a series of ‘environments’, such as the display of Salvador Dalí’s Rainy Taxi, which was positioned under a localized rainstorm and contained a female dummy and live, crawling snails; in another room Marcel Duchamp hung 1200 coal-sacks from the ceiling, covered the floor with dead leaves and moss and installed a lily pond surrounded by firs and reeds. Duchamp in particular opened the way for artists to explore new art forms and combinations of multimedia. In the second half of the 20th century groups or movements that advanced the concept of multimedia included the ...

Article

Kimberly Bobier

(b El Nuhud, 1951).

Sudanese multimedia and performance artist, art critic, and art historian, active in France. Musa graduated from the College of Fine and Applied Art, Khartoum Polytechnic, in 1974. After moving to Italy from Sudan, Musa relocated to France and matriculated at Montpellier University, earning ah Doctorate in Art History in 1989 and a teaching diploma in Fine Arts from Montpellier University in 1995. Subsequently, Musa created artist’s books and illustrated tomes of Sudanese folktales and taught calligraphy. His work critiques European imperialism by parodying the authoritative spectacles of Western museum displays, popular icons, and artistic masterpieces such as Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa (c. 1500–07; Paris, Louvre) and Gustave Courbet’s the Origin of the World (1866; Paris, Mus. Orsay), both referenced in Musa’s The Origin of Art (1998). Musa’s artwork has frequently addressed stereotypes of Africans and Arabs.

From the late 1980s Musa’s ongoing performance series ‘Graphic Ceremonies’ engaged public audiences in exploring the intersection between the art exhibition and ritual. In a performance at the ...

Article

Ronald D. Rarick

Although created primarily for the production of sound, many musical instruments are equally valued for their visual appeal. Considered from a musicological point of view, the study of instruments is usually based on categorization by structure and/or method of sound production. This article, however, is mainly concerned with the visual aspects of musical instruments and the inherent implications for those who design or decorate them. Instruments are, of course, usually conceived as functional objects: they are made to be played. Their design must satisfy demands external to visual considerations, which may both significantly restrict and create opportunities for the designer. Undecorated instruments may have an undeniable beauty derived from their materials and acoustically determined shapes, but these are beyond the scope of this article, as are ornamental non-functional instruments, such as a violin made of Delft faience (?17th century; Amsterdam, Rijksmus.).

While relatively few Western instruments survive from any period before the Renaissance, those that do, as well as descriptions and representations, provide ample evidence that the decorative aspect could be significant. Even crude prehistoric clay ...

Article

Christine Robinson

[Ingrid Mwangi Robert Hutter]

(b Nairobi, 1975).

Kenyan and German performance artist, installation artist, photographer, and video artist. Mwangi’s work addresses notions of cultural difference, social conventions, racial categories, and national identity, primarily through an autobiographical lens. She has often utilized her body as a subject and engaged with questions related to her own African-European heritage. In 2005 Mwangi shifted from a mostly solo practice to a collaborative partnership with her husband, German artist Robert Hutter (b 1964). From that time, the pair has worked and exhibited exclusively under the name IngridMwangiRobertHutter. Together they have explored larger human experiences and universal issues of stereotypes, fear and negotiations between different cultures, genders, nationalities, and religions through multimedia works that have produced cross-cultural dialogues.

Mwangi was raised in Nairobi by a German mother and a Kenyan father. In 1990, as a teenager, she moved with her family to Germany and studied at the Hochschule der Bildenden Künste Saar in Saarbrücken from ...

Article

Deborah A. Middleton

(b Fort Wayne, IN, Dec 6, 1941).

American conceptual artist. Recognized as one of the most influential, innovative, and provocative 20th century American artists, Nauman extended the media of sculpture, film, video, photography, and sound with performance and spatial explorations. Nauman attended the University of Wisconsin–Madison from 1960 to 1964, with early studies in mathematics and physics, which broadened to the study of art under Italo Scanga (1932–2001). He received a master’s degree in Fine Art from the University of California, Davis in 1966 under William T. Wiley, Robert Arneson, Frank Owen (b 1939), and Stephen Kaltenbach (b 1940) and honorary degrees from the San Francisco Art Institute (1989) and California Institute of Art (2000). In 1966 he began to teach at the San Francisco Art Institute.

Nauman’s interactive artworks and performances explore the syntactical nuances of language, text, and figurative gesture to create material culture and in-between places, which often result in a heightened sense of physical and emotional awareness. Nauman’s artistic explorations of spatial perception, bodily consciousness, physical and mental activity, and linguistic manipulation were demonstrated in interactive spatial compositions that accentuated various relationships between the human body and built environments. Early works included body castings and holographic self-images with subsequent works situating the viewer within their own mental and bodily perceptions. In ...

Article

Francis Summers

(b Qazvin, Iran, March 26, 1957).

American photographer and video artist of Iranian birth. She studied at the University of California, Berkeley, where she was awarded a BFA in 1979 and an MFA in 1982. She became involved in the Storefront for Art and Architecture in New York when she was unable to return to Iran for political reasons. Years later, having settled in New York, she began making art in response to the situation she found after a visit to the post-Shah religious state. Using the Islamic veil, or chador, she made photographs that examined stereotypes of Muslim women as oppressed by the veil but also empowered by their refusal of the Western colonial gaze, as in Women of Allah (1993–7) and Rebellious Silence (1994; see 2000 exh. cat., p. 61). In these works Neshat is often posed with a gun, her image overlaid in Islamic script, as a way of confronting the Western view of Islam as both incomprehensible and dangerous. In ...

Article

Denise Carvalho

[Saboia de Albuquerque ]

(b Rio de Janeiro, July 2, 1964).

Brazilian sculptor, multimedia and installation artist. Neto attended the School of Visual Art of Parque Lage and the Museum of Modern Art, both in Rio de Janeiro. His large-scale installations not only appeal to our visual and tactile senses, but also to our sense of smell, filling rooms with aromatic spices. Pastel, biomorphic forms create fairy tale, nurturing landscapes, inviting the child in every visitor to explore.

Neto has used stretchable, transparent fabric, from which he created hanging tubes, weighed down by sand or spices, such as turmeric, cloves, saffron or cumin. Leviathan Thot (2006; see image page for more views), a site-specific installation of polyamide created for the Paris Festival d’Automne, which was located at the central nave of the Panthéon, where his organic shapes played against the building’s Neo-classical architecture. The Creature, Malmö Experience (2006), at the Malmö Konsthall, in Sweden, was a labyrinthine landscape of organic shapes and scents. In this topological arena of lights and passageways, viewers’ perceptions were purposely disrupted as they traversed a space of biomorphic structures. For ...

Article

Denise Carvalho

(b Belo Horizonte, Nov 12, 1967).

Brazilian painter, interventionist, installation, conceptual and video artist. She studied at the Federal University of Minas Gerais, Brazil, and at the Royal College of Art in London. Some of her works invite comparisons with an earlier artist from the same city, Lygia Clark, as well as with fellow Brazilian artist Hélio Oiticica.

Central themes in Neuenschwander’s work include relationships and communication—or lack thereof—and the role of chance and uncertainty. Gallery visitors were often welcome to participate in her works. In I Wish Your Wish (2003; exhibited at the Carnegie International in 2008; see image page for more views), hundreds of participants were asked about their wishes, which were then silkscreened on colourful ribbons and exhibited in the gallery. Visitors then tied ribbons on their wrists, leaving a wish behind; the wish would come true only when the worn ribbon fell off, an idea based on a popular tradition of votive exchange. In ...

Article

John-Paul Stonard

(b Beaumont, TX, 9 Aug, 1939; d Maratea, Feb 3, 2009).

American sound artist. After graduating from the Manhattan School of Music (1957–62), Neuhaus worked as a professional percussionist, touring America and Europe with Pierre Boulez (1962–3) and Karlheinz Stockhausen (1963–4). He experimented with electro-acoustic sound, and in 1968 recorded a solo album, Electronics and Percussion: Five Realisations by Max Neuhaus for Columbia Masterworks. By this time he had already moved from event-based performance to environmental and socially-based works. This shift began in 1966 with a series of guided walks through New York city, highlighting the natural urban sound environment. The placement of sounds within a prescribed time, typical of musical performance, was exchanged for a placement of sounds in space with no defined beginning or end. In the same year he made the first of a series of works known as Public Supply (I–IV, 1966–73), in which he remixed and redistributed sounds drawn from New York’s WBAI radio phone-in audience. In his subsequent work he developed this reconsideration of the relation between artist and audience, his effort to locate artistic activity beyond institutional walls chiming with an increasing enthusiasm for public art....

Article

Gayatri Sinha

Since the mid-1990s, video and new media practice in India has dealt with issues of identity, critiques of violence, narrative and performance, and other subjects that come under the umbrella of third world issues. Video art has grown to mimic not only the older model of documentary cinema, but also the internet, interactive toys and video games, digital imaging and performance art. Its content is often politically insistent and responsive to many of the social issues debated within the subcontinent. Interest in new media emerges as much from artists’ training and residencies abroad and the initiatives of foreign curators as it does from artists’ concerns with the politics of identity. The new media experience in India has little synergy with India’s great software boom, or its widespread receptiveness to technological communication, a fact borne out since the 1850s with the successful use of photography, cinema, radio and television even in remote pockets of the country. From ...

Article

Reena Jana

(b Tokyo, Feb 10, 1968).

Vietnamese video artist of Japanese birth, active also in the USA. Nguyen-Hatsushiba was born in Japan to a Japanese mother and a Vietnamese father. He moved to the USA to study at the Art Institute of Chicago and then at the Maryland Institute College of Art, Baltimore. His work concentrates on the issues of Vietnam’s national identity and history, particularly in the context of the Vietnam War (1955–75). A recurring theme is the experience of Vietnamese refugees, known as ‘boat people’, who were displaced by the war and sought to escape from their native Vietnam after the conflict ceased in hand-made boats.

To evoke Vietnam’s long coastline, as well as South-east Asia’s numerous river basins, Nguyen-Hatsushiba filmed his non-linear narratives underwater. His video productions are accompanied by dynamic soundtracks, often composed by Nguyen-Hatsushiba in conjunction with musicians, such as the Vietnamese pop star Quoc Bao. Nguyen-Hatsushiba is best known for his three-part series, ...

Article

Catherine M. Grant

(b Tokyo, Oct 8, 1955).

Japanese painter and multimedia artist. He studied at the Musadhino Art University in Tokyo, graduating in 1980. During the 1980s he worked in Tokyo, making large-scale paintings using appropriated imagery and collage. In 1986 he made the bookwork London/Honcon 1980, a collection of images created in response to trips to London and Hong Kong. This work incorporated found material such as printed matter, rubbish and photographs, combined with sketches and paintings made during his visits. The project signalled Ohtake’s enduring interest in the book as a flexible and appropriate form for his idiosyncratic mixtures of collage and sketches. In 1988 Ohtake moved to the rural area of Shikoku, a change of environment reflected in a shift in subject matter in his work to imagery inspired by the natural landscape and the seaside. In the same year Ohtake completed his bookwork Dreams, a diary of his dreams between 1984 and 1988...

Article

Kevin Concannon

(b Tokyo, Feb 18, 1933).

Japanese multimedia artist, composer, and musician, active also in the USA and the UK. Born into a prominent Japanese banking family, Ono spent her childhood living in both America and Japan following her father’s banking career. She became the first female student to enter the philosophy course at Gakushiun University in Tokyo in 1952. At the end of the year, the family moved to Scarsdale, NY, and Ono enrolled at Sarah Lawrence College. In 1955, she eloped with composer Toshi Ichiyanagi (b 1933), dropping out of her course and moving to Manhattan, where she became involved with avant-garde art and music communities. From December 1960 through to June 1961, she hosted a series of performances organized with La Monte Young at her downtown loft. A one-person exhibition at Fluxus founder George Maciunas’s AG Gallery and a major solo concert at Carnegie Recital Hall followed in 1961. An original participant in ...

Article

Orlan  

Catherine M. Grant

(b St Etienne, Loire, May 30, 1947).

French performance artist, video artist, installation artist and digital artist. When she was 18 she improvised her first street performances in her home town. During the events of May 1968, Orlan was involved in radical actions and feminist protest. Her performances of the 1970s were influenced by this political upheaval, but they also reflected her disenchantment with the Marxist and separatist politics of the time. Her work always courted controversy; for example, in a performance outside the International Contemporary Art Fair (FIAC), Paris, in 1977, she created a scandal with The Artist’s Kiss, inviting viewers to pay five francs for a kiss. In 1971 she had also begun to take on the persona of Saint Orlan, making performances, photographs and installations with this character until around 1984; the photograph The Assumption of the White Madonna (1984; see P. Adams and others, p. 25) typifies this group of works. With this persona she sought to upset the patriarchal beliefs inherent to the Judeo-Christian tradition, creating a female saint that was both ‘Madonna’ and ‘whore’. In ...

Article

John-Paul Stonard

(b Jalapa, Veracruz, April 27, 1962).

Mexican sculptor, photographer and video artist. He studied at the Escuela Nacional de Artes Plásticas of the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México in Mexico City (1981–4) and at the Círculo de Bellas Artes in Madrid (1986–7). In 1995 he worked in Berlin on a Deutsche Akademische Austauschdienst (DAAD) grant. On his arrival in Berlin, Orozco bought a yellow Schwalbe (Swallow) motor scooter. This featured in a series of 40 Cibachrome photographs, Until You Find Another Yellow Schwalbe (1995; London, Tate), each of which shows this scooter paired with the identical models he came across in Berlin. The Schwalbe appears as a symbol of the recently defunct East Germany, where it had been produced, but also as a more general symbol of obsolescence. The strategy of reframing found objects (often as banal as pieces of fruit) is central to Orozco’s work, providing a connection between public and private spheres. This reframing is usually based on formal alignment or coincidence, for instance with ...

Article

Francis Summers

(b Cologne, 1933).

German multimedia artist. Working with technology media, Paeffgen generates understated installations of quiet humour. His Moon Over Billions (1973; see Flash Art, May/June 1989, p. 118) or Moons" (1987; see Artforum, Jan 1988, p. 130) show how he takes a symbol and with a childlike simplicity re-invests it with poetic references by transforming the same shape into drawings, bronze casts, or plaster reliefs. His Nine to Zero series (1985; see Artforum, April 1985, p. 122) is an installation that makes a play between conceptual ideas, such as numbers, and pictorial abstraction. As well as using symbols like moons and question marks, Paeffgen also worked with pre-existing physical objects, such as photographs which he paints over, or objects which he wraps in lengths of wire, as in Messer (1991; see World Soup, 1993). He has worked extensively with wooden slatted grocery boxes, painting them in bright colours and hanging them in configurations that refer to geometric abstraction as well as the use of the ready-made. Some of his pieces, such as ...

Article

Mick Hartney

(b Seoul, July 20, 1932; d Miami, Jan 29, 2006).

South Korean video artist, performance artist, musician, sculptor, film maker, writer, and teacher, active in Germany and the USA (see fig.). From 1952 to 1956 he studied music and aesthetics at the University of Tokyo. In 1956 he moved to the Federal Republic of Germany: he studied music at the Ludwig-Maximilians Universität, Munich, and worked with the composer Karlheinz Stockhausen at Darmstadt, before joining Fluxus, with whom he made performance art, experimental music, and ‘anti-films’ (e.g. the imageless Zen for Film, 1962). His Neo-Dada performances in Cologne during this period included a celebrated encounter with John Cage, during which he formed a lasting friendship with the avant-garde composer by cutting off his tie. Inspired by Cage’s ‘prepared piano’, in which the timbre of each note was altered by inserting various objects between the strings, Paik’s experiments from 1959 with television sets, in which the broadcast image was modified by magnets, culminated in his seminal exhibition ...

Article

Catherine M. Grant

(b Nottingham, Sept 18, 1957).

English film maker and video artist. She trained as a sculptor at Canterbury College of Art (1977–80), and then studied in the Experimental Media Department at the Slade School of Art, London, graduating in 1982. It was at the Slade that she began to concentrate on making films and short animations. In these early films she used friends as actors and worked through motifs of water and surreal domestic scenes. These themes were developed in longer films such as K. (1989; see 1996 exh. cat., pp. 66–7). Here Parker used herself as the subject, first showing herself pulling out what look like entrails from her mouth, which she then knits with her hands and uses to cover her naked body. In the second half of the film Parker repeatedly dives into a swimming pool, looking more and more distressed as she does so. These concerns with the body and physical endurance are also present in the ...

Article

Britta Erickson

(b Hangzhou, Nov 6, 1957).

Chinese painter, performance, installation and video artist . Zhang studied in the oil painting department of the Zhejiang Academy of Fine Arts, Hangzhou from 1981 to 1984, graduating with a bachelor's degree. With other recent graduates he formed the Youth Creative Society (1984), which organized the New Space ’85 exhibition of avant-garde art in Hangzhou (1985). In May 1986, with other Youth Creative Society members, Zhang Peili, Geng Jianyi (b 1962), Wang Qiang, Song Ling and Bao Jianfei formed the Pool Society, which created two of the earliest post-Cultural Revolution outdoor installation and performance works (Work No. 1—Yang’s Taiji Series (1986) and Work No. 2—Walkers in a Green Space (1986)).

Zhang’s paintings of the mid-1980s are coolly analytical works, rendered with a limited palette. Emotionally detached, they represent musical instruments; (figures posed in the artificially frozen steps of such activities as playing an instrument); or surgical gloves, a motif introduced following a hepatitis epidemic ...

Article

H. Alexander Rich

(b Honolulu, HI, 1966).

American video artist and sculptor. Pfeiffer exploited the latest in computer and video technology to examine the overwhelming power of mass media. He received his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in printmaking from the San Francisco Art Institute (1987) and his Master of Fine Arts from Hunter College in New York (1994). He participated in the Whitney Museum of American Art Independent Study Program (1997–8) and, among his many prizes and fellowships, was awarded the Whitney Museum’s Bucksbaum Award (2000).

Pfeiffer was born in Honolulu and grew up primarily in the Philippines but moved to the continental United States to pursue a career as an artist. Although he began producing his art in New York City in 1990, it was not until his breakthrough showing at the 2000 Whitney Museum Biennial that Pfeiffer was officially “discovered” by the art world. Even in his earliest works, he demonstrated a keen eye for the contradictions inherent in a world both dominated by celebrity culture and in which images define the ways people look at and interact with each other. Although photography, video and computers ostensibly connect people and transmit information as directly as possible, Pfeiffer dedicated his art to upturning these faulty assumptions about the veracity of what we see. Again and again, His work reveals his fascination with the ways in which the human image can be conveyed, distorted and fetishized through the mass media....