Green paint and gold gilt flake from ornamented porticos that overlook the stained floor and darkened stage of Thalia Hall – a century-old Czech Theater in the Pilsen neighborhood of Chicago. Largely abandoned for the past two decades, this past weekend it was the site of an IRL, "in real life," experiment. DINCA Vision Quest 2012, according to the program, sought to “translate the dinca.org blog experience into an amalgamated IRL experience.” Dinca.org presents itself as a simple blog roll, curated by Andrew Rosinski. It has become a beacon to the Chicago film, video and new media scenes and is one of the premier online galleries representing experimental media arts from Chicago.
Neil Ira Needleman, Loud Video, 2011, video, silent, 6 min.; Courtesy DINCA.org.
New Media and experimental film have long had an uncomfortable relationship with the gallery as site. (Do you really stand in front of wall monitors, donning used headphones for the duration of a moving image work? Does it still touch you or just make your ears itch?) New media specifically, as it is often incubated and birthed on the blog roll, can experience decontextualization sickness when making the transition to IRL. However, there most definitely is something to be gained from the experience: community. Rosinski states it clearly, "What is gained from the transition from the web to the IRL experience is more attention focused on the projected works and performances. There's far more energy, more spirit, more magic. There's a shared experience."
E.A.T. organizer and host of the weekend’s festivities, Amelia St. Peter-Blair shared Rosinski's conclusion, stating that “experimental cinema is the most appropriate venue for new media work.” This very well may have been the case, as the programming on Friday night, Scintilating Trips’ recontextualization of a wide variety of new media moving image work, had positive results, provoking laughter and reflection — the proper cinematic experience of a distanced, relaxed and reflexive spectatorship. This aspect alone is achieved through the format of the exhibition. A screening. Rosinski noted that they "wanted to take these films from the interstices of the internet and bring them to light — project them on the big screen in a cinematic setting. When light and sound is beamed and boomed that bright and loud in a space, there's no clicking away."
There is an element of curiosity-inducing relevance to this work that makes this transition possible as well. It calls to the other half of our collective experience in “NRL.” Increasingly, the distinction implied by IRL seems faded, blurred, porous. Perhaps this is the wrong line of metaphors to use; perhaps it’s more akin to an immaculate (re)performance amongst the similar. A distinction created as visual technologies near the line of indistinguishability, the border between IRL and NRL falls to the mechanism of simulacra. Cacophony and distorted visual realities, often through psychedelic and mandala-like representations of the visual as noted by Friday’s screening, Scintilating Trips, are the points where it becomes noticeable that new media operates in a different field, one that calls for not only a surrender of self to the technological (for even a painting begs surrender with its silence), but a becoming with the technological.
Shana Moulton, Decorations of the Mind II, 2011, video, sound, 12 min.; Courtesy DINCA.org.
Shana Moulton’s Decorations of the Mind II, an amazing work, ends with the artist entering into a Magic Eye poster under the mandate “Look beyond the image.” Her body bends and turns and she too is transformed not only by the trick of the eye but the ability to enter into what had been external before. She is joined in Magic Eye-land by silver visages of recently extinct animals before fading away into the patterened background. This piece also contains a fantastic appropriation of “Itsy Bitsy Spider” that shouldn’t be missed.
Phenomenologically, as in the experiential mode of relating to reality, new media work is a medium with potential limited only by technological advancement. Crucial to its practice and relevance, it is defined by an ever-expanding field. Making it, perhaps, the perfect medium for contemporary art that is forever seeking the new. It also lends itself easily to societal concerns and new modes of subject-representation. Bobby Abate’s Party with Sex and Sadness, for instance, is a video ode to unrequited love and explores queer identity and psychological projection through play in hopes of relating faithfully the real experiences of the artist. Using video footage, animation and digital editing tools, Abate successfully communicates an ancient theme common to Western literature in the most contemporary of formats.
DINCA Vision Quest 2012 successfully depicted the undeniable ability for new media work to find its way to IRL. The recontextualization may even provide just what the work needed, a little distance and some rapt attention.
(Image on top: Sabrina Ratte, Activated Memory 1, 2012, 7 min | color | sound; Courtesy DINCA.org)