Saturday, November 14, 2009

Camille Utterback and Romy Achituv

Text Rain is an interactive installation where participants use their own body to lift letters on a screen "that do not really exist." The participant stands and moves in front of a projection screen. The screen depicts a mirrored black and white video projection of the participant, "combined with a color animation of falling letters. Like rain or snow, the letters appears to land on participants' heads and arms. The letters respond to the participants' motions and can be caught, lifted, and then let fall again. The falling text will 'land' on anything darker than a certain threshold, and 'fall' whenever that obstacle is removed. If a participant accumulates enough letters along their outstretched arms, or along the silhouette of any dark object, they can sometimes catch an entire word, or even a phrase" (Utterback, Achituv 1999).

"The falling letters are not random, but form lines of a poem about bodies and language. 'Reading' the phrases in the Text Rain installation becomes a physical as well as a cerebral hinges the behavior of falling text to the physical movements of human bodies (Utterback, Achituv 1999).On Camille Utterback's website, she provides a statement on her artwork in that she explores the "tension between the abstract realm of ideas and the corporeality in which we live and interact with these attempt to bridge the conceptual and the corporeal" (Utterback). It seems that there is somewhat of a separation between viewer and machine when we think of the digital and virtual realm. I think the artist is trying to find a connection with something that seems abstract from what we physically know in concrete terms. For example, we have a direct connection to something we might paint, since we hold a brush in our hand and physically provide brush strokes on a canvas. There is a direct connection with the artist and the painting. Utterback provides an interesting way to connect us with her artwork in that our physical movement of our body provides a relationship with the falling text and letters to create a poetic illustration in motion. Also, the fact that a participant sees their own body projected on a screen brings the body into the digital realm. It is like an actor seeing their own image on screen digitally since their physical body was recorded by a camera. Utterback provides an example of connecting the physical to digital: "Physical-digital interfaces - ranging from the familiar mouse and keyboard to more unusual sensing systems - provide the connective tissue between our bodies and the codes represented in our machines."

I think the artwork has an elegant, graceful quality that is calming and almost seems natural. I like that a virtual realm can provide a similar atmosphere to that of nature and what we witness in nature. The text resembles snow or rain and we often pull out our hand to catch snowflakes or raindrops. With the letters resembling the movement of rain or snow, there becomes a relationship with letters, poetry, body, and movement. When I look at the pictures of the project, I get a sense that the letters move slowly because I think of a slow snowfall, even if I haven't seen the piece in a video or in person. I wish provided information on the speed of the falling letters and what kind of software she might have used for the project.


Sunday, November 8, 2009

Airan Kang

Airan Kang from Jun Lee on Vimeo.

109 Lighting Books (2009) is "an installation by Airan Kang at the Bryce Wolkowitz Gallery for the group exhibition: 'Textual Landscapes' showcasing books that are made from fiber optics and enclosed in plastic. Though the books don’t contain any actual text, they serve as physical representations of poets and philosophers that have influenced Kang." (

I was drawn to the LED lights and shifting colors portrayed in books on shelves. I think it's possible that Kang wanted to have us hold on and appreciate the origins of a concrete book or anything that is written down, and to see that things are constantly being changed and improved while still holding on to the roots of the original concept, in this case, a book. The bright LED lighting on the books in plastic cases seem to illuminate the significance books have had on her and everyone while at the same time giving a new perspective on the way we think of and look at books. I was also reminded of Pop Art and Andy Warhol. I wish I could've found Kang's statement on her piece or her creative decisions on how she chose to display the books since we see mostly original book covers and spines. There's also a possibility that she wanted to show methods on how books have been displayed, how some book covers are more apparent than other books (showing the book's spine versus the cover), and how some might "judge books by their covers," since the text inside the books are not shown. Then again the books in the piece are Kang's personally chosen books that have influenced and made a significant impact on her. The books are not alphabetically ordered, and I like that it shows her admiration for the books and how anyone and any idea have influenced her. I wish I knew if she had a specific order in placing the books. It would be interesting if the books were chronologically ordered from the time she first read them and how people and ideas have influenced her at various times. Or if the books placed in the middle were one of the most significant books to her or if she wanted to equally show the importance of all of the books. I also like how the gallery website allows me to zoom in and get a closer look (but not close enough) at the piece and a video to show the shifting colors displayed on the books. I think this also gives the artist a way to reveal what has influenced her to viewers without us seeing her or having heard from her in person. Viewers can also connect with the artist's interests since we might have similar interests.

This piece made me think of the way books are being read today. I now have many Blackboard readings and Blackboard journal entries as a part of my assignments for many of my courses. I like that electronic readings saves paper and reduces waste. I also save a lot of money since I don't have to buy the books if they are provided on Blackboard or online. Also, researching on the web is faster and somewhat easier with Google, links for further research, online encyclopedias, and online search catalogs. I find myself reading more and more from my laptop now because I can find many articles and sources online in one setting. I still personally like having a book to read since I think books can also expand on more than what we might see online. I can also physically bookmark or write notes, take a book where ever I go, turn pages, etc. but it is also a little inconvenient to carry and look into several books at a time. I also like searching for books on shelves and physically going to bookstores. When I was on the Metro, I found around half of the people reading from their e-book readers and around half reading from a book. It will be interesting to see if and when more people might buy the e-book readers as the price decreases and if it becomes more popular in demand. From The New Yorker, there was an article online by Nicholson Baker talking about's e-book reader, "Kindle." Baker makes an interesting point in the article: "Maybe the Kindle was the Bowflex of bookishness: something expensive that, when you commit to it, forces you to do more of whatever it is you think you should be doing more of."
I personally would rather have a book in my hands to read (and I don't have an e-book reader), but what happens when books become increasingly read electronically? We even recently experienced the switch from analog to digital television. It seems that we are constantly changing and improving the way we view something.