August 26, 2011
If flamingos were able to watch the new Hirshhorn “Black Box: Nira Pereg” presentation of the looped video 67 Bows (2006), no doubt they’d warn each other about Israeli digital artist Nira Pereg. In her video, she explores herd response theory when she appears to disrupt the serenity of a German zoo’s flamingo community with the repeated cocking and firing of a gun.
But all is not what it seems.
67 Bows was filmed during a snowstorm over Christmas in a nearly empty Karlsruhe Zoo. Though Pereg had initially desired to shoot a portrait of a flamingo, her project expanded into a study of group behavior utilizing the indoor colony of social birds.
“While visiting and studying the flamingo exhibit, [she] realized when visitors put their hands up, if one bird ducked, they all started to,” explained Hirshhorn curator Kelly Gordon. “This behavior inspired how this work was filmed and “scored.”” After shooting video of the flamingos being flamingos, making flamingo sounds, and then nodding and ducking in unison, the “score” was added.
The “score” in this case, being the repeated threatening sounds of a gun being cocked and then fired that break the silence and appear to shock the pink feathered video stars. Pereg synched her “score” with the pre-existing ducking “choreography” of the flamingos, making it appear as if they were reacting to the gunshots.
The timing of the gun soundtrack provides the illusion that the flamingos are actually responding to the sounds–and doing so in a Pavlovian manner. Initially, they only appear to duck when a shot is fired; however, eventually they cower at the sound of the cocking of the weapon and don’t even wait for the sound of the blast. The sight of flamingos bobbing their heads in unison almost in rhythm with the gun blasts is almost hypnotic. View a clip of the piece here.
Born in Tel Aviv in 1969, Pereg was raised in an environment where the threat of terrorism loomed daily. So was this piece designed to see if a potential threat affects individuals in a community the same way? “I was trying to make them [the flamingos] do a certain move in order to see the ones who don’t move,” Pereg said in a July 2010 Artis Video Series interview. “So 67 Bows is a lot about the ones who don’t bow.”
August 22, 2011
Monday, August 22 Addy’s World
Ever wonder what life was like for young African American girls during the Civil War? Addy Walker, of the popular American Girl doll series and heroine of the book, Meet Addy, is a nine-year old that was born into slavery who escapes to freedom during the Civil War. Trace the events in the story’s narrative using the museum’s downloadable guide, or pick one up free at the information desk. Claim a free gift at the gift shop when you have your guide stamped at each stop on the self-guided tour. Free. Continues through end of August. American History Museum.
Tuesday, August 23 Draw & Discover
Break out of your Tuesday routine by visiting the American Art Museum‘s Luce Foundation Center for American Art. Make your way to the 3rd floor of the West Wing of the museum at 3 p.m. to join a discussion about some of the works that line the walls of the museum. Then put your own spin on the masterpieces as you spend time sketching a few of your favorites. There are more than 3,300 artworks on display in the Luce Foundation Center so branch out and find a new favorite. Bring a small sketchbook and some pencils and enjoy the artwork as you spend an afternoon in the Luce. Free. 3:30 to 4:30 p.m.. American Art Museum
Wednesday, August 24 Civil Rights in America
Hear a renowned author talk about her work and have your copy of the author’s book signed at the National Portrait Gallery. Paula Young Shelton grew up among a host of civil rights activists, including her father Andrew Young and family friend Martin Luther King Jr. Her book, Child of the Civil Rights Movement, is an inspiring look at her childhood in the heavily segregated Deep South and her family’s struggle for civil rights, culminating in the historic march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama. Free. Noon to 1 p.m. National Portrait Gallery.
Thursday, August 25 Fragments in Time and Space
This Thursday evening, join Michael Fried, professor and author of Why Photography Matters as Art as Never Before for a tour of the Hirshhorn’s summer exhibition, “Fragments in Time and Space.” Get an expert’s take on works by Hiroshi Sugimoto, Douglas Gordon, and Tacita Dean while you still have the chance, as the exhibition will close on Sunday. The walk-through begins at 7 p.m. and lasts for about an hour. Free. Hirshhorn Gallery
For a complete listing of Smithsonian events and exhibitions, visit the goSmithsonian Visitors Guide. Additional reporting by Michelle Strange.
August 2, 2011
With temperatures in the hundreds here in Washington, D.C., August is a fine time to seek out the glorious air conditioning of a museum. If you’re in town, take a moment to catch some of these great exhibits while you still can. The Around the Mall team alerts you to the upcoming final days of the following exhibitions. Hurry In.
Closing Sunday, August 7:
By the 1870s, Chinese blue and white porcelain had moved “from palace to parlor,” as one historian put it. The commodity, highly sought after by the Victorian middle classes, was a symbol of high culture and refined taste. Satirically labeled “Chinamania” by media of the time, the china craze was powered in large part the London-based American artist James McNeill Whistler (1834-1903), who became infatuated with blue and white Chinese porcelain in the early 1860s. Whistler’s work from this period is the subject of the Freer Gallery’s new exhibit “Chinamania,” which opened last summer and closes this Sunday. Don’t miss the collection of Whistler ink drawings and paintings inspired by Chinese porcelain.
At times provocative and at times moving, these works run the gamut from a blanket sewn out of thrift store fabrics to a photographic spoof of a Frida Kahlo self-portrait to a video installation projected on a screen of white turkey feathers. the museum’s acquisitions during the past several years. When the National Museum of the American Indian opened its doors on the National Mall in 2004, the museum had already begun to amass a rich collection of contemporary art by Native Americans. The museum’s exhibit, “Vantage Point,” a survey of 25 contemporary artists, opened last September and also closes this Sunday.
Closing Sunday, August 14:
You never knew Alexander Calder (1898-1976) in this way. The acclaimed painter and sculptor is best known for his avant-garde mobiles and stabiles and his colorful, geometric sculptures. Few of which are in this show. Instead, introduce yourself to an often overlooked side of Alexander Calder —that of the prolific portraitist. In March, the National Portrait Gallery’s exhibition of Calder’s drawings, sculptures and caricatures of celebrities like Josephine Baker, Jimmy Durante, Babe Ruth and Charles Lindbergh surprised and delighted visitors. You have less than two weeks to see it all; the show closes on Sunday, August 14.
Closing Sunday August 28:
“Fragments in Time and Space” at Hirshhorn
In a blink of the eye, this show is over before it can even get started. The Hirshhorn’s summer exhibition, on view for just two months, is a terrific presentation of works from the museum’s permanent collection. Thematically the curators have chosen pieces that focus on the interpretation of time and space since the beginning of modernism. Included are works from such artists as Thomas Eakins, Hamish Fulton, Douglas Gordon, Ed Ruscha and Hiroshi Sugimoto. Sunday, August 28, is the last day to see it.
*Image credits: 1) “Arthur Miller 1915-2005″ by Calder, @2010 Calder Foundation, NY/Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY; 2) “Blanket” by James Lavadour (Walla Walla), Museum purchase with funds donated by Robert Jon Grover, 2007; 3) Incense burner, late 17th century, Qing dynasty; 4) “Five Past Eleven” by Ed Ruscha, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden
June 29, 2011
You want camp? You got it! But don’t delay, kids. The final film of the Hirshhorn’s “Summer Camp: Sauceriferous” film series, Earth vs. the Flying Saucers, the 1956 “classic,” will be showing tomorrow night at the Ring Auditorium at 7:00. Plus they’ll be giving out the last of the glow-in-the-dark Sauceriferous Frisbees!!! And yes, I did just use three exclamation points!
So what’s this movie about? Aliens, baby. And misunderstanding. Kind of like an episode of Three’s Company, minus Jack Tripper, but with laser beams. Basically, there’s an initial alien saucer visitation that goes awry–a “meet-cute” of sorts that ends up in death rays and destruction. Then the aliens come back with a bunch of their friends and invade, attacking five of the world’s largest cities. And it’s up to Hugh Marlowe’s character to stop them.
And how did the world feel about the Earth vs. the Flying Saucers back when it was released? It seems as though the film might have been exhibiting camp tendencies back in 1956, too. “If I have to see many more of these idiotic items,” panned the Chicago Tribune movie critic upon the film’s release, “I’m going to be in the market for a handy portable disintegrator myself.” Ahhhh…Camp at first sight.
April 27, 2011
Step into either side of the gallery theatre at the Hirshhorn to see the new exhibition, “Directions: Grazia Toderi,” and one is greeted by the faint aroma of fresh paint that’s indicative of a new installation. Yet the smell is strangely comforting and exciting at the same time. It makes for a perfect environment for the viewer to settle back in the darkness and take in Italian video artist Grazia Toderi’s two looped digital projection pieces, Orbite Rosse and Rossa Babele.
“Toderi’s images suggest glistening, breathing, atmospheres which appear to be both earthly and celestial,” says Hirshhorn curator Kelly Gordon, and this is evident in the mesmerizing, twinkling, rose-colored cityscape of Orbite Rosse. Viewed with a faded binocular pattern projected atop the footage, a nighttime vista is seen from high, while low, rumbling murky noises complete the hypnotic ambience. The distinctive pale rose-colored tint derives from the interaction between the city lights and the vapors in the atmosphere.
Toderi uses computer-aided digital manipulation of video footage and pictures to compose her final creations with, as Gordon says, “painterly finesse.” The projection screens for the second piece, Rossa Bebele are placed next to each other, like opposite pages of an open book. Both screens appear to be half-full of what looks like a sea of magma (one filled from the top, one filled from below), and from each sea, a pyramid of light gradually builds and subsides. Appropriately, a slightly harsher audio component accompanies this piece, with a combination of what sounds like swirling thunderstorm effects and caldera atmospherics filling the chamber.
“Directions: Grazia Toderi” will be at the Hirshhorn through September 5, and ATM’s Jeff Campagna spoke to Toderi last week about her work.
Why did you choose to use this medium for your art?
I chose to use video because it was the medium that has more possibility to communicate everywhere in the world, especially here. It’s a kind of Utopian idea, to just be energy that can be transmitted everywhere. I looked at the moon landing when I was young, and for me it was a very important moment, because every person in the world could see the same important thing. So it has this kind of power… So I’m interested in this kind of relation between personal memory and collective memory.
Orbite Rosse and Rosso Babele seem to be more abstract than your previous works–is there a reason for that?
I think one of the reasons is that something has changed. With some of my previous videos, I was interested in taking something from television and adding this kind of relation with collective memory. Now I think it is different, and I don’t believe in the power of television anymore [laughs]. This is my problem. And I come from a country [Italy] where television was really terrible during the last year. I started to use video in a different kind of way. Because I’m more interested in creating something completely by myself in this moment, I’m not interested in taking something from television. I want to be alone on the other side.
Is there a certain feeling that you’re attempting to convey to the viewer?
I like to leave the viewer completely free. The most important thing to art is that everyone can be free.
How long does it take you to complete an average piece?
Months. Sometimes I start to draw about one idea, and it takes months to focalize, drawing and drawing. And after, when I finish this kind of first step, I’m ready to go around and take photographs of things that I need… It could be one or two months again. It also depends where I need to go. And I start to elaborate and work on all the images and put them in an archive. So I have thousands of images that I put together, and after I start to do the animation in the computer. I do it step-by-step. It is very long.