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Whole Earth Catalogue - Video Selection for the Series 'Playlist' - Neoncampobase - Bologna - Italy - curated by Domenico Quaranta - 27 January 2010 (opening)

There is a sense that the continuities of life are captured, are represented, by moving image works, such as those selected by Domenico Quaranta for his Playlist. But it is more than a playlist as he has effectively curated another online exhibition.

The works he has chosen are all videos, some translated into digital movies, others with a more intimate relationship with the digital culture, but all have a strong awareness of the fluidities and conceits of digital image processing techniques. Conceived under the title 'Whole Earth Catalogue', which was first published in 1968, by Stewart Brand, one of the "counterculture generation" [1], who have had a big influence on the way we live now, and especially in relation to technology and networks, Quaranta sees this exhibition as part of a shared resource, and one that attempts to understand the world.

He claims that the artists "redesign our way to live, to think, to make and enjoy culture, to eat, to sleep, to die. And to think about God." [2] It is this interweaving of appropriated material, in terms of the works by Cory Arcangel, Brody Condon, Petra Cortright, Paul B. Davis, Martijn Hendricks, Martin Kohout, Paul Slocum, Miltos Manetas,and Harm Van den Dorpel, with other works by Aids-3D, Constant Dullart, Jodi, Oliver Laric, Les Liens Invisibles, Pascual Sisto and Damon Zucconi, which interrogate the digital environment itself and question our relationship to it. This is what creates the robustness in this collection, and it is one which addresses the simulational qualities of moving image - at once about life and yet simultaneously discontinuous in its concepts and executions, as discrete packets of data manipulated digitally in order to explore discontinuous realities and perceptions.

In "Drei Klavierstucke op. ||-|" (2009), Cory Arcangel uses found footage of cats padding across piano keyboards, editing the notes they sound and the visual material itself to play Schonberg piano works. Petra Cortright appropriates a found video sequence of a young woman dancing to Kraftwerk. Called "Das Hell(e) Modell" (2009), it uses the simple act of repositioning the data on her website, recontextualising and 'raising the language' of the material, asking us to consider the nature of it.

Italo Calvino has written that "the relationship between literature and religion... has taken its stand under the banner of tragedy." [3] Both Brody Condon, and to a greater extent, Harm Van den Dorpel, explore the fragility of human life, and the similar phenomenon of found material. Brody Condon, in "Without Sun" (2008, online excerpt), which has its humourous side, is a collection of found footage of various people under the influences of drugs. Van den Dorpel meanwhile produces a moving piece from found photographs, in "Resurrections" (2007), where he has ironically 'animated' the comatose figures documented in these images so that they appear to 'rise from the dead', or at least the state they have got themselves into.

In "King Kong After Peter Jackson" (2006), another appropriative work, Miltos Manetas explores the relationship between computer games and contemporary film languages, with figures who stand around breathing quickly in anticipative fear, which presumably is of King Kong. The video cleverly explores how we read denoted fear, in the form of responding to artificial 'characters' who are trapped in difficult situations, behind the computer screen. It is funny, although serious, as well as a comment on the absurdity of computer generated fictions.

All these works which use appropriation, raise issues to do with the nature of the net as a resource, as well as the type of human experiences that reside there.

In "Compression Study #4 (Barney)" (2007), Paul B. Davis combines data from the pop videos of a black performer and a white performer, 'bleeding' and 'data-moshing' the images together so that their blended 'skin' becomes an important referrent to the 'membrane' of the screen.

Quaranta interprets Aids-3D's "Motion Capture Dance" (2008) as 'spiritual', as the performers of the dance, with flourescent markings on their bodies, are captured by the camera in stroboscopic light. This 'faith' in technology, a dialogue of inclusiveness and of a delicacy of interpretation which transforms the data of ordinary humans, is also an exploration of the structures underlying computing itself.

Oliver Laric's video "Aircondition" (2006) is a startling moving image work which traces the dancing movement of a figure backwards in time, unfurling the concatenated image, composed of 'frames', as the character 'retraces' his steps.Damon Zucconi's "Colours Preceding Photographs (Woodshed)" (2008), similarly looks like one process of making an image with computer graphics filters, while in fact it is 'uncovering' over time a photographic image of a woodshed. This resultant image seems curiously less 'realistic' than the computer generated effects themselves.

This online playlist, tangential to Quaranta's exhibition 'Playlist' at LABoral in Gijon, Spain, is an extraordinary collection of video art works made accessible on the net. The religious aspect seems to be in how we use the technology to understand difference and similarity in the world, in our perceptions.

Sarah Thompson 5.2.10



[1]Domenico Quaranta,


[3]Italo Calvino, The Literature Machine, p 46