[-empyre-] Week 3 on empyre: Paul Vanouse, Amanda McDonald Crowley, Claire Penacost, and Heidi Kumao

Paul Vanouse vanouse at buffalo.edu
Mon Feb 18 03:57:36 EST 2013

Thanks Renate for inviting me to think out loud here about Beatriz, her work and her friendship.

What occurs to me as I reflect back over fifteen years of our friendship are some of the big transitions in her art and life that she shared with me.  I suppose this is the appropriate place to share some a few of these moments.  I hope others find it helpful too.

Around 2002 Beatriz and I traded videotapes of our work for teaching resources.  At that time I was most familiar with her autonomous audio sculpture, the “Cello” project.  (Thanks Antoinette for such nuanced musing about this project last week!)  I'd seen it at a show at the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts in 99.  I think it appealed to me particularly at that time because much experimental audio at the time was computer-generated and thus the mechanisms were often hidden. But seeing her tape I was excited to learn more of her more tactical work, like the “Swipe” project collaboration with Preemptive Media and the “GenTerra” project with Critical Art Ensemble.  I can’t even recall where we were—Pittsburgh? Buffalo?  Seattle?  Nagoya?--but I certainly recall the conversation.  Beatriz realized that in the tactical, political projects she had been fortunate to connect so symbiotically with collaborators.  It was obvious that the projects not only had a social relevance, but also an undeniable urgency.  Those collaborations would become defining points in her life’s work.  Yet at that point, she was still personally drawn to more open, metaphorical interactive work as well.  Beatriz was keenly aware that her work was at a juncture at which it was complicated to present the obligatory singular focus required for professionalization as an artist or to be most effective as an activist.  It is an interesting point in a life in the arts, typically at a dynamic and inspired moment, where one realizes the possible directions one’s activities might take.  One senses the possibilities, but also the limitations. 

Shortly afterward in 2004 we would find ourselves enmeshed in the Department of Justice’s speculative indictment of Steve Kurtz and Robert Ferrell.  She, I, and eight others including Claire (who will probably discuss more this week) were independently approached by FBI agents a day after Kurtz’s now infamous detainment in Buffalo, N.Y., and subpoenaed shortly afterward.  The subpoenas demanded our testimony before the grand jury as “subjects” of the investigation, so positioned that we might implicate ourselves and our friends in a distinctly Orwellian / KafkAshcroft-esqe scenario.  We refused by invoking our Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.  The case dragged on for several more years, but the familiar DoJ tactic of isolating friends backfired and our trust deepened.  Beatriz showed great resilience; she was living in California far from the epicenter of the investigation, but also far from the support networks forming around Buffalo.

It was in the shadow of this case that Beatriz and I organized the “Wetware Hackers” biotech workshops at ISEA 2006 in San Jose.  In hindsight it is also apparent that this is a moment for Beatriz at which she was again at an artistic juncture, geographically isolated from former CAE as well as current Preemptive Media collaborators she ventured back into independent projects using biosensors.  She was surprised and not altogether happy with the press generated by her “Pigeon Blog” project at that time, which she thought was missing some of the most important political points about pollution control and citizen science, while it was overfixated on technical and animal-rights questions (subsequently in projects like “dying for the other”, she would explore this area on her own terms).  As others have mentioned, Beatriz was critical of her own work and wasn’t satisfied if her work was simply lauded by the press.


On Feb 16, 2013, at 12:45 PM, Renate Ferro wrote:

> ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
> Just caught this. Sorry to Claire Pentecost for the misspelling her
> name.  My apologies.  Renate
> On Sat, Feb 16, 2013 at 11:54 AM, Renate Ferro <rtf9 at cornell.edu> wrote:
>> Thanks to Antoinette and Brooke for being our guest this week on empyre.
>> Antoinette your last post on some of the historical precedents
>> involving women and cellos was interesting.  I am also reminded of the
>> various collaborations that cellist Charlotte Moorman accomplished
>> with Nam June Paik. A quick image search of the two artists brought up
>> a number of images.
>> Thanks so much for the post.
>> This week on empyre we welcome Paul Vanouse, Amanda McDonald Crowley,
>> Claire Penacost, and Heidi Kumao. Their biographies are posted below
>> and welcome them warmly to -empyre soft-skinned space. I am hoping
>> that all of our guests from other weeks will feel free to post as
>> their schedules permit and that any -empyre subscriber that is lurking
>> in on our conversation who knew Beatriz or was inspired by her work to
>> please post.  For anyone missing the discussion thus far, the entire
>> conversation can be accessed in our archive at:
>> http://lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au/pipermail/empyre/2013-February/date.html
>> Best to all of you. Renate Ferro
>> Biographies
>> Week 3
>> Paul Vanouse is a Professor of Visual Studies at the University at
>> Buffalo. and has worked in emerging technological media forms since
>> 1990.  His biological experiments, electronic cinema, and interactive
>> installations have exhibited in over 20 countries and across the US.
>> His recent projects, “Latent Figure Protocol”, “Ocular Revision” and
>> “Suspect Inversion Center” use molecular biology techniques to
>> challenge “genome-hype” and to confront issues surrounding DNA
>> fingerprinting.
>> Paul and Beatriz began their friendship at Carnegie Mellon in the late
>> Nineties, while Paul was a  Fellow at the Studio for Creative Inquiry
>> and Beatriz was finishing her degree. They taught together at the
>> University at Buffalo, exhibited alongside one another in group
>> exhibitions, and organized panels and workshops together, including
>> Wetware Hackers workshop for ISEA 2006 in San Jose.  Paul and Beatriz
>> have dialoged and collaborated for over fifteen years and she will be
>> dearly missed.
>> Amanda McDonald Crowley is a cultural worker, curator, and facilitator
>> who creates media and contemporary art programs that encourage
>> cross-disciplinary practice, collaboration and exchange. Recent
>> curatorial efforts include Our Haus, the 10th Anniversary exhibition
>> for the Austrian Cultural Forum, NY. In late 2012 she did a residency
>> as a Bogliasco Fellow, working on curatorial research at the
>> intersection between art, food, and technology. Amanda is also
>> currently a Board member of the National Alliance for Media Art +
>> Culture (NAMAC) in the USA. She has been Director of the Australian
>> Network for Art and Technology (ANAT) where she made significant links
>> with science and industry by developing a range of residencies for
>> artists in settings such as science organizations, contemporary art
>> spaces and virtual residencies online. She was Associate Director of
>> the Adelaide Festival 2002 in Australia, and also co-chair of the
>> working group that organized the exhibition and symposium ‘conVerge:
>> where art and science meet’. Critical Art Ensemble were to present
>> their collaboration with Beatriz at that Festival. Alas, the Festival
>> wasn't able to support the performance. While Executive Producer at
>> ISEA2004 (the International Symposium for Electronic Arts 2004) held
>> in Tallinn,  Estonia and Helsinki, Finland, and on a cruiser ferry in
>> the Baltic sea, she finally met Beatriz who suggested that she
>> consider professional options in the USA post ISEA. Amanda told
>> Beatriz she would never move to the USA. 18 months later, when she
>> became  Executive Director of Eyebeam Art and Technology Center in New
>> York City, Beatriz commented "never is not a very long time in your
>> language it seems". When Amanda first arrived at Eyebeam in late 2005,
>> Beatriz, with Preemptive Media, were commissioned to develop Area's
>> Immediate Reading. Beatriz was also a member of the last residency
>> program cohort Amanda oversaw at Eyebeam in 2011, where Beatriz was
>> researching and developing her final projects Dying for the Other and
>> Anti-Cancer Survival Kit.
>> Claire Penacost: Claire Pentecost’s work engages diverse
>> strategies—collaboration, research, teaching, field work, writing,
>> lecturing, drawing, installation and photography—in an ongoing
>> interrogation of the institutional structures that order knowledge.
>> Her work has long addressed the contested boundary between natural and
>> artificial, focusing the last fourteen years on food, agriculture and
>> bio-engineering. Pentecost was a presenting artist at dOCUMENTA(13) in
>> Kassel, Germany, and is represented by Higher Pictures in New York.
>> She is a Professor in the Department of Photography at the School of
>> the Art Institute of Chicago and often collaborates with Compass in
>> the Midwest Radical Cultural Corridor.
>> Heidi Kumao:  Emerging from the intersection of sculpture, theater and
>> engineering, Heidi Kumao’s installations, experimental films, and
>> machine art works generate artistic spectacle in order to explore the
>> psychological underpinnings of everyday situations.  Each work
>> restages simple behaviors (e.g. gardening, writing, standing upright,
>> reading) within a larger cultural construct (such as a prison,
>> family/home or traditional gender roles) through projection, kinetic
>> elements or electronics. Through these performative tableaus and
>> hybrid art forms, Kumao demonstrates how small gestures, even the most
>> private and poetic, can become acts of defiance.
>> She has exhibited her work in solo and group exhibitions in the USA,
>> Brazil, Argentina, Spain and Canada including solo shows at the Museu
>> da Imagem e do Som (São Paulo), Museu de Arte Moderne (Buenos Aires)
>> and Fundació Joan Miró in Barcelona. Group exhibitions include
>> SIGGRAPH 2011 (Vancouver), Wing Luke Asian Art Museum (Seattle), and
>> Usina do Gasômetro Cultural Center (Porto Alegre, Brazil).  She has
>> been awarded numerous national fellowships, grants, residencies and
>> awards including: a Guggenheim Fellowship, an AAUW Post-doctoral
>> Fellowship, a Creative Capital Grant in Emerging Fields/Robotics, and
>> fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the New York
>> Foundation for the Arts, and Art Matters (NYC).
>> Heidi Kumao is an Associate Professor in the Stamps School of Art &
>> Design at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, where she teaches a
>> range of classes in media, time-based art forms, and conceptual art
>> practice.
>> --
>> Renate Ferro
>> Visiting Assistant Professor of Art
>> Cornell University
>> Department of Art, Tjaden Hall Office #420
>> Ithaca, NY  14853
>> Email:   <rtf9 at cornell.edu>
>> URL:  http://www.renateferro.net
>>      http://www.privatesecretspubliclies.net
>> Lab:  http://www.tinkerfactory.net
>> Managing Co-moderator of -empyre- soft skinned space
>> http://empyre.library.cornell.edu/
>> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Empyre
> -- 
> Renate Ferro
> Visiting Assistant Professor of Art
> Cornell University
> Department of Art, Tjaden Hall Office #420
> Ithaca, NY  14853
> Email:   <rtf9 at cornell.edu>
> URL:  http://www.renateferro.net
>      http://www.privatesecretspubliclies.net
> Lab:  http://www.tinkerfactory.net
> Managing Co-moderator of -empyre- soft skinned space
> http://empyre.library.cornell.edu/
> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Empyre
> _______________________________________________
> empyre forum
> empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
> http://www.subtle.net/empyre

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