Published in conjunction with the exhibition at Climate Theater, San Francisco (2008)
As we approach the US presidential election, the artists in this one-night exhibition and performance event interrogate the line between the random and predetermined through video projection, interactive sculpture, multi-media performance and visual art.
Chance as a structural operation in art spans a renowned modernist history including the Surrealists' passion for the 'chance encounter of an umbrella and sewing machine on a dissection table' and love of randomly generated works such as the exquisite corpse and automatic writing, Dada linguistic games, Marcel Duchamp's found objects, John Cage's sound compositions and the postmodern dances of Merce Cunningham and Yvonne Rainer. The Chance Operations exhibition injected a technological update into this history by creating a space and time for 21st century work to unfold in the intersecting arenas of digital video, live human movement, social interaction, cell phone divination, live capture video loop, and other innovative permutations of human-technological chance encounters. The fact that the event only one time intensifies the ephemeral and unrepeatable nature of the projects and social interactions. An atmosphere of excitement and chance interaction permeates the various rooms of the Climate Theater and adjoining Gallery Nine spaces.
Chance Operations artists' raw materials spans from the low-tech stuff of daily life -- recycled paper, social rituals, physical interactions, card games -- to the high-tech -- multimedia digital processing and manipulation using the latest in digital technology. From Luis Delgado's loteria card performance and Double Vision's randomly generated dance to Victor Cartagena's interactive video and Lynne Marie Kirby's chance-spurred "Meltdown," the artists in the show play with elements of chance, probability, or divination
Double Vision's "Veritable Vicissitude" performance uses chance elements to enable the audience to create a dance work in real time. One performer lead a game of Connect Four for attendees. By playing the game, attendees are given a winning card to apply to the dancers. Audience members with winning cards were be able to move individual dancers to a certain cell (i.e. A3) and then present them with a game card marked with a symbol for the phrase the dancer then performed. In this way, audience members collaboratively or independently create new choreographic works by directing location and phrasing of all the dancers. Both the audience and the dancers thus engage in chance operations.
Similarly engaging visitors as active participants in the creation of experience, Kathleen Quillian and Gilbert Guerrero's "Open Composition for an Indeterminate Social Ensemble" imbue an element of chance into the social ritual of drinking wine at art gallery events. Prior to the event, the artists placed stickers containing one word each from an undisclosed body of text onto the plastic beverage cups used to serve wine at the Chance Operations event. Throughout the night, as beverages are served and people moved around the galleries, the words on the cups took on new linguistic and social meanings in response to the random configuration of the words and the changing contexts of the word possessors.
In Tim Thompson's "Captured Accidents," a handheld security camera is attached to a game controller, which let the artist start and stop the recording of video and allowed the overlay of up to four video loops, which are processed and projected live. Moving among the Double Vision dancers and audience members, Thompson captured, overlaid, and digitally processed video of chance images and movements. The video post-processing is affected in random ways by pressing buttons on the game controller, resulting in a live interactive fusion of chance and choice. Marguerite Harris and Louis Rawlins' immersive video environment, installed in the stairway where visitors entered the space, pivoted on a time-lapse delay between video input and output, allowing a playful interaction with the technology and chance immersion in the resulting projection.
Mary Franck's "Anomaly" is an interactive adaptive sculpture/installation that acts as a sound generator and controller. The sculptural component is large tree made of welded and bolted scrap bicycle parts and pipe. Bike wheels in the horizontal plane, suggesting branches, are fitted with magnets and sensors, allowing them to act as the giant knobs of a huge electronic instrument. The sensors on the wheels connect to a MIDI controller, which connects to a computer. Max/MSP patches manipulate sounds entirely sampled live at the event, responding to the aural texture of the sampled environment and controlled in a complex way by individuals' voices and physical manipulation of the bike wheel 'branches'.
Kirkman Amyx explores the mathematical dichotomy between chance and predictability in "10,000 Dice Rolls." The artist photographed the outcome of 10,000 individual rolls of a single dice. Each dice was allowed to fall from a predetermined height, landing randomly. Utilizing the 10,000 resulting digital images as data, Amyx compiles various photographic composites and a 6-minute video as visual manifestations of the experiment. The result is an engaged metaphorical inquiry into chance and probability in all aspects of life, from the prosaic to the cosmic. Working with the chance elements and interruptions of the sleep cycle, Valerie Mendoza's photographic installation "Insomnia: 279 Days" presents flat bed scans of the artist's face and body parts, reenacting sleepless nights. Each image is numbered sequentially, as if imposing a numerical order and control on an otherwise disordered system of logic. Besides each number appears a word or phrase from the artist's journal.
Alan Disparte's "Stenograft" sculptural/video installation with sound documented the motion of a three-dimensional wire armature holding a stick of graphite and driven by a series of sounds to create a two-dimensional drawing. As the sounds deepen, the resulting drawn line becomes symmetrically replicated. The evolution of image and sound create visual and auditory complexity, referencing cell division and time compression.
In the recycled paper installation "the air we breathe.. a prelude to FREE " Niki Shapiro invoked chance through strict parameters following string theory model to transform pages of colorful consumer catalogs into airy abstract sculptural forms. The resulting cluster of air balls and wall of paper shapes appears biomorphic at a distance, but reveals traces of the source media on closer inspection. In addition, Shapiro made and distributed recycled catalog-page flower boutonnieres, functioning as time capsules and fortunetellers at once. Beth Lilly's "Oracle @ Wifi" (the title is a pun on the ancient Greek Oracle at Delphi) intersects fortunetelling with the ubiquity of cell phone cameras. Lilly has created a system of visual divination using her cell phone to create images in response to anyone who calls in and requests a reading for a particular question on the seventh day of every month. Instead of shuffling a deck of Tarot cards, chance imagery is created by the artist's constant shifting of location. Callers keep their question secret until after the artist takes three photographs and emails them to the asker, who then reveals their question.
- Liena Vayzman