Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Vacant Yet Transformative Spaces

[“Untitled,” (2008), Siebren Versteeg, internet connected computer program with touch screen. “Jet Hiatus,” (2004), U-Ram Choe, stainless steel, acrylic circuits, synthetic resins, CPU, motor, LED board.]

Conceived as a meeting point between art and the economic crisis, No Longer Empty seeks to provide challenging platforms to artists and revitalize empty commercial spaces by creating more traffic and showing sites filled with positive energy instead of being just more empty urban storefronts. It also attempts to support local business communities through the increased visitor flow brought about by these exhibitions. This yet-to-be-leased retail space of The Caledonia under the recently opened High Line is the second project of No Longer Empty—a not-for-profit group that places edgy and contemporary installations in vacated Manhattan storefronts. Such numerous, vacated storefronts and offices—indicative of economic trauma to the national psyche—have the potential to respond to this pandemonium.

Engaging fanciful dialogs of aesthetics and machinery, U-Ram Choe’s work explores themes of biological transformation, flight, and movement. Large-scale metal and plastic automata emerge with such delicacy and weightlessness that his recent work seems to take on the shapes and silhouettes of organic life forms. Motors, heat, and light sensitive materials accentuate the intricacy of Choe's kinetic sculptures. First observed at an airplane scrap site in the Mojave Desert Choe’s offering in this installation, “Jet Hiatus” is regarded as an inorganic creature mutated from the microscopic machine living in a gas turbine engine.

By Choe’s incorporating scientific nomenclature into artwork titling systems, walking into this installation space can be compared to touring a prehistoric exhibit at a natural science or history museum. Certain elements are recognized instantly: mechanical diagrams, text descriptions of habitats, and visible evidence of fins evolving into wings. Warm biologic livelihoods of machine-creatures are evident in Choe's work. Such dynamic forms with inherent emotion, have anthropological roots despite their streamlined metallic sheen. Choe’s narratives complement his three-dimensional designs and drawings. With his United States debut in the fall of 2006, Choe has also exhibited his work at the Shanghai Biennale, Seoul Museum of Art, Art Basel, Galleria d’Arte Moderna (Bologna), and the Crow Collection of Asian Art (Dallas).

Often writing a code, multimedia artist Siebren Versteeg goes to bed, and wakes in the morning to see what his computer created overnight in randomly choosing images. Exploring ideas of connectivity in our global culture, his works’ tautological nature of material and immaterial information conveys human spiritual conditions in relation to technological advancement. Versteeg co-opts online media and commercial databases to create hi-tech works that critique the very sources he usurps. Versteeg’s work cleverly demonstrated that reality is not so real and that the global village is really just another subdivision in capitalism's ever-growing sprawl.

Requiring no introduction, conceptual and Fluxus artist Yoko Ono presents a work from her series of space transformations which, as the artist has said, work mainly as an internal invocation of construction. The installation being presented in this exhibition will consist of security barriers that delineate specific sites in the space chosen for transformation together with the sign "Space Transformer Is Being Built.” Her installation will be accompanied by take-away cards, continuing the concept as one goes through the city with the invocation to be a “Space Transformer.”

Creating works in a variety of media—from large-scale installations to digital photography—Alyson Shotz focuses on making palpable the shape of space and inhabits a tradition of seeing our culture through the perception of nature. Presenting a large-scale, light reflecting wall drawing that consists of computer renderings of virtual space transformed into a two-dimensional drawing made out of needles and threads, Schotz’s final work constitutes reformulation of volume into a two-dimensional work. Her reflective pieces shift viewer apprehension of space and architecture, changing constantly in response to light, movement, and viewer presence. "Light Beam at 7 AM" is Sean Slemon’s site-specific installation showing the viewer—in material form—what potential sunlight could be in the Caledonia space (that is, if the sun was not blocked by tall buildings across the street.) This light-beam installation, constructed from construction plywood, converts industrial material into a “natural phenomenon.” The plywood beam has four edges open by a half inch, allowing bright light to flow out of them as they run from window to floor. Eight fluorescent lights light up the 20-foot length of the beam.

Cao Fei, aka China Tracy, has made one of the more worthwhile visual creations to come out of the popular virtual reality website, Second Life. Her practice focuses on developing relationships and technical possibilities of film, animation, and the internet to depict swift and radical cultural changes fostered and permitted by such technology. Cao Fei has developed a unique pictorial language superimposing reality and fiction. Stephanie Rothenberg uses performance, video, and net-based media to create interactive situations questioning relationships between individuals and socially constructed identities, lifestyles, and public spaces. Referencing corporate models and their infrastructures, Rothenberg merges popular forms of advertising and market research with participatory experiences involving role-play and fantasy. With its minimalist aesthetic at once meditative and transformative, Suzanne Song’s painting melds notions of space and volume on the canvas surface. Architectural space and depth are suggested by subtle applications of paint. As Song states, “I am interested in the principles of illusion—its contradictions and paradoxes—and how illusion can be replicated to reveal a multifaceted dimension.”

Reflecting revitalization of the historic Meatpacking area in general and the High Line in particular, this innovative installation—curated by Manon Slome, Asher Remy-Toledo, and Julia Draganovic—reflects urban regeneration through selected art works on the theme of transformation and involves artists interested in exploring new paradigms for making and presenting art. This paradigm finds itself in the public domain rather than gallery or museum settings, allowing video works, sculpture, photography, painting, sound art, and performance to thrive in sustainable installations. Especially reflected are innovative works with a minimalist aesthetic that a tabula rasa of new development can afford.

“Reflecting Transformation”

Through September 26, 2009

@ No Longer Empty, The Caledonia, 447 West 16th Street, NYC 10011

1 comment:

cargonyc said...

Thanks for this article on "transforming spaces". I'm exited that this non-profit is doing something constructive and inspiring with these empty spaces.