[iDC] media curating as montage - folk tale samizdat, etc

Christiane Robbins cpr at mindspring.com
Fri Aug 24 17:48:11 UTC 2007

Pulling into focus here ( after extracting myself from a summer  
dalliance in a wildlife refuge! ) and in response to Barbara’s call  
as well as Paul’s recent post, I’d like to contribute some additional  
historical curatorial and programming notes.

As have numerous others, my own practices have been committed to the  
positioning of various cultural trajectories of “identity politics “  
within the larger cultural frame during the past twenty years or so.   
I’ve been fortunate to have had the insight, support and enthusiasm  
of a wide range of artists, intellectuals and colleagues in fostering  
these curatorial and programming initiatives.

A cultural event which may well be of interest to this list is one  
that seemingly has been swept behind the screen of most digital media  
theorists, curators and practitioners.  Shortly after graduate  
school, I unexpectedly found myself as a Co-Director of Icata ’90  
( The International Conference on the Alternative Use of Technology  
for AIDS ) and On-line Against AIDS, a six city international  
computer network – a global cultural event if you will–took place  
between Amsterdam, New York, San Francisco, Rio De Janeiro, Sydney  
and Tokyo.  In Amsterdam, the Seropositive Ball was framed as a  
comprehensive cultural and political manifestation for people with  
and without AIDS which, among many other offerings, allowed access to  
“easy-to-use” Apple Macintosh computers, thus providing information  
regarding health issues and instantaneous international communication  
around the Sixth International Conference on AIDS being held in San  
Francisco in June, 1990.  It was then billed as a “ trans-oceanic  
multi-media communications event . ”  Other co-directors included Lee  
Felsenstein and Mark Graham – both well-known and respected  
technologists and social activists, as well as Arawn Ebilon and Rama  
of Act Now.  Technically speaking, it was Lee and Mark that brought  
this global network together using the program “Red Ryder ” and it’s  
fascinating to look back on the exchange.

The support of cultural institutions throughout the Bay Area was  
remarkable and ranged from “alternative “spaces such as Art Com  
Network, Capp Street Project, New Langton Arts, the San Francisco  
Cinematheque, and Southern Exposure to the San Francisco Art  
Institute to San Francisco General Hospital and the Marriott Hotel.   
The curatorial programming included a searing performance by Diamanda  
Galas at Capp St. Project as well as an exhibition which included  
artists such as Salman Ahmad, Gregg Bordowitz, Gran Fury, Raifka  
Gonzales, Joe Goode, Lyle Ashton Harris, Jenny Holtzer, Barbara  
Krueger, Marcus Nizario, Marlon Riggs, Nino Rodriquez, David  
Wojnarowicz, and Matias Viegner, as well as video programming from  
Video Data Bank curated by John Greyson, for one.

It was a different moment …

This was followed by a number of curatorial and cultural projects   
which ranged from exhibitions such as 1991- “Mass Media, Virtual  
Reality and the Persian Gulf War ( somehow this seems like  
yesterday!) ”- a symposium at the San Francisco Art Institute with  
Frances Dyson, Douglas Kahn, Margaret Morse, Chris Robbins, Avital  
Ronell, and Allucquere Rosanne Stone.  This coincided with an  
exhibition at SFAI , “Telesthesia”, a collaborative audio  
installation by Frances Dyson and Douglas Kahn.

Also in 1991, the SFAI Artist Committee’s Annual Committee curated an  
exhibition “Transactions in the Post-Industrial Era, “ of which I  
programmed the media-based artists.  These included:  Burt Barr,  
Nancy Buchanan, Gran Fury, George LeGrady, Tony Oursler, Martha  
Rosler, Christine Tamblyn, and TVTV.
This is accompanied by a catalog.

1992-  “22 Million very Tired and Very Angry People“ by Carrie Mae  
Weems at which was the Adeline Kent Award Exhibition curated by the  
SFAI Artists Committee of which I was Chair.  This, too, is  
accompanied by a catalog.

As Executive Co-Director of an alternative space in San Francisco,  
New Langton Arts, 1993-95, I had the opportunity to implement a  
number of curatorial and programming directives in Visual Art and  
Media.  Many of these had various supplementary materials ranging  
from catalogs to video to CD-Roms.  These included artsits and  
writers such as : Etel Adnan; Yasmine Bouziane’s  “Inhabited by  
Imaginings We Did Not Choose,” Victor Burgin’s, digital video  
“Venise,” Lyle Ashton Harris and Thomas Harris’s “ Black Gold,” Media  
Based Installation, George Legrady’s, Digital Media /Interactive  
piece“Anthology of the Cold War; “ Gilles Peress, “ Farewell to  
Bosnia;” ”Adrian Piper’s Video Installation “Black Box / White Box;”   
Jayce Salloum’s Media Installation “ There was and there was not; ”   
Connie Samaras’s media-based installation “ A Partial Correction to  
the Representations of Earth Culture Sent Out to Extraterrestrials on  
the United States 1977 Voyager Interstellar Space Probes; ” and  
writer Jalal Toufic – to name but some.  In 1995 artist and  
professor, Larry Andrews and I programmed “ Archve ‘90” for the The  
Living Room Festival on KQED ( a PBS affiliate.)  Works included  
were:  Beth B’s “Amnesia,” Tony Cokes’ “Fade to Black,” John  
dStefano’s ‘ “The Epistemology of Disco; “ and Branda Miller and the  
Kids from Madison High’s “Talk about dropping out,”  The entire  
broadcast included an introduction by the perfomance artist, Rhodessa  

Simultaneous to that, I along with several other media based artists  
and programmers who ranged from Steve Anker, Craig Baldwin, Kathy  
Geritz, Steve Seid, Jeffrey Skoller, Valerie Soe, Scott Stark, and  
Jack Walsh, founded “ X-Factor, A National Coalition of Experimental  
Media Makers.  Not only did this have a material component, these  
efforts resulted in an online conference whose shelf life extended  
from1995-99.  The Panelists for this conference included:  Thyrza  
Goodeve, Bill Horrigan, Laura Marks, Yvonne Rainer, Nino Rodriquez,  
Keith Sanborn, David Sherman, Elisabeth Subrin and Julie Zando.
An excerpt from the X-Factor Manifesto follows:

“  To ignore or devalue the experimental media is nothing new.  
Certainly part of the discipline's growing history is this legacy of  
disregard. However, we find that the present support climate and its  
insistence on utility is particularly threatening to the welfare of  
the medium and its community of artists. This threat and its  
deleterious effects has much to do with the fundamental nature of  
experimental media and its relationship to an audience.

To understand the malign consequences one must have some sense of the  
shape and motive of the concerned works. These works are guided by  
one essential notion, that formal experimentation is an expression of  
resistance. Once this primary notion is recognized, it becomes clear  
that the alternative ideas and perspectives embedded in these works  
commingle in a transfiguration of the medium.  “

I will have this site reposted with the month and send out the url to  
anyone who is interested.

This was followed a few years later by two discreet and major multi- 
year initiatives – “AIM Festival for Time-Based Media” and “The Race  
in Digital Space.” I was among the organizers and curators of Race in  
Digital Space - along with colleagues Anna Everett, Henry Jenkins and  
Tara McPherson, a multi-year project including conferences and art / 
media exhibitions in both April 2001 and Fall 2002 at MIT and USC.  
The initiative was supported by the Annenberg Center for  
Communication and the Ford and Rockefeller Foundations. Our new media  
research focused specifically on issues of convergence, race, and  

The AIM III: Luna Park symposium brings together a diverse sampling  
of artists, theorists, and scholars to reflect upon and debate  
various issues engendered by contemporary visual art and media  
practices, the advance of digital technologies, and systems of  
entertainment. The symposium includes the panels 'Surface Play,'  
looking at the intersections of h/activism and gaming culture;  
'Display Panels, examining the art system's approach to exhibition  
and display context; and 'Body Ploy' probing into issues of  
prosthetic realism via robotics and avatars.  It also hosted the US  
siting of Coco Fusco’s and Ricardo Dominguez’s “Dolores from 10 to  
10” and a  digital video work Natalie’s Bookchin’s “MetaPet” at  
MOCA’s satellite space in the Pacific Design Center, LA.


So … I hope this makes a contribution.  If anyone would like any  
further information, please feel free to contact me.

All best,


On Aug 23, 2007, at 8:15 PM, Barbara Lattanzi wrote:

> Folk Tale Samizdat
> Wladyslaw Starewicz, Frogland (1922)
> Anya Lewin and Lara Odell, Grandma Baba and Little Boris: a Russian  
> Epic
> (2000)
> Tony Cokes, Black Celebration (1988)
> Mike Kelley and Erika Beckman, Blind Country (1989)
> Flesh Work
> Willard Maas, The Mechanics of Love (1955)
> Keith Obadike, Sex Machines (2000)
> Scott Bartlett, OffOn (1968)
> Peggy Ahwesh, The Color of Love (1994)
> Willard Maas, Geography of the Body (1943)
> Stelarc, Alternate Interfaces (1992-2003 performances)
> Valie Export, Syntagma (1984)
> Harun Faroki, I Thought I Was Seeing Convicts (2000)
> Alex Rivera, A Visible Border (2003)
> _______________________________________________
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Christiane Robbins

... the space between zero and one  ...
Walter Benjamin


The present age prefers the sign to the thing signified, the copy to  
the original, fancy to reality, the appearance to the essence for in  
these days illusion only is sacred, truth profane.

Ludwig Feuerbach, 1804-1872,
German Philosopher


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