Friday, November 12, 2004

The Last Supper or Liberty's Consumption

Last Supper

The idea of icons is one that particularly interests me. For a long time I wanted to work with the Statue of Liberty because it's such a provacative image, meaning there is for a lot of people a very large gap in what it supposedly represents and and the evolving nature of America in the eyes of the world.
“The Last Supper” is a contemporary take on the age old Christian iconic image of the last supper of Jesus-Christ involving the controversial icon of the Statue of Liberty. This version though takes more of it’s inspiration from Buñuel’s 1961 film “Viridiana”. The dinner in this case joins an unlikely cast of characters invited primarily for their roles in the erosion of civil liberties, whether it be through outright political or military demagoguery, or cultural, or economic imperialism. The five people involved in the project will be filmed as the twelve guests and shown gorging on what is already the body in repose of Miss Liberty. This installation is a reflection of the precarious state of post-September 11 civil liberties and how world wide events have created an environment where increasingly conservative governments place more restrictions on their civilian populations.

To See A delightful Video of the project made by Fabrice Amzel go to this Link:
  • The Last Supper, 23 December 2003 AD, Galeria La Santa

  • Or...

    Work created in collaboration with Thomas Charveriat
    Sound Design by Denis Menard
    Costume Design by Eric Obino
    Video Realization and Edition by Fabrice Amzel

    Saturday, July 03, 2004

    F2T ? Free to Talk ? Mobile hip hopping madness...

    CCCB (Centro de Cultura Contemporánea de Barcelona), "Los Miedos", BAC IV - 12/2003

    Ok F2T is probably the most ambitious artistic project I've ever been involved in. What started out as a "What if..." conversation, you know the ones, they begin "What if we could go to the moon?", "What if we could rebuild the Eiffel Tower with toilet paper rolls?", you know the ones. F2T is the answer to the question "What if we could build an interactive hip hop installation that worked with your mobile telephone?"


    In January 2003, Forrester Consultants, calculated that about 25 billion SMS messages were sent around the world in 2002. New technologies impose their language. Now, a flood of letters and signs, a hieroglyphic argot at the middle of the road between telegram and stenography dominates the virtual world. The “ :`-( “ (“I am crying and I am sad” ), “atb” (“All the best”), “cu @” (“see you around”), “thx” (“Thanks”) arrive with power. F2T, a creation by artists Thomas Charveriat(France) and Frank Plant(United States), combines sculpture, robotics, hip hop, and SMS messaging to explore the ways technology shapes the development of language, particularly new forms of slang. Viewers interact directly with the artwork by sending it a short text message from their mobile. Once received, the SMS is scanned for frequently used words and, when a match is found, the four elements are activated. The main piece, "Rapper" begins to twist and wave his hand while mouthing a rap based on the message sent, the new lyrics culled from more than 150 different hip hop phrases written by Amsterdam-based lyricist and composer Jim Barnard. The rest of the piece is simultaneously set into motion: "Boom Box" starts flashing and blasting out the song while "Joy Ride" a bouncing low-rider, and "Shake Ass" (looks like it sounds) begins to move, triggered by ambient sound sensors. When the song is finished, a thermal printer spits out a souvenir with the original SMS and the words of the "Rapper".

    Well that's it in a nutshell but if your interested in the story behind the story hang around, if you would like to go directly to a video created by Fabrice Amzel about F2T? click the below link.

  • F2T?, The Movie

  • Or you can youtube it right here!

    Get Poor or die tryin': The story behind F2T?

    At first F2T? existed solely as a central figure that we figured we would hook up to a portable stereo or soundsystem. We started out fooling around and I took or had taken rather a couple images of me in full on MC mode. The image to the far left served to banish any doubts anyone had about my childhood in the ghetto. These other images though thank god never made it out of the box and now I just use them to blackmail their subjects.

    DJ Whitebread AKA Dennis Menard, the sound designer, for F2T

    Thomas "Tommy Gun" Charveriat, reigning technophile and co-author of the project. This guy just oozes hood...

    The principal image of the rapper/MC initially was just a trial but somehow it stuck, minus my face that is which we replaced with the first rapper/vocalist that we enlisted to record the database of hip hop phrases that we used in the project.Yes we did tend to focus on the bling side of things which doesn't necessarily mean we were tipping our hat to that part of the community, it just boils down to the fact I fuckin' love the song and video "Country Grammar" sung by Nelly and directed by Marc Klasfeld.

    Low Rider

    Now the idea of F2T came before I saw the video but the video did serve to embellish the project quite a bit. Cars and women figure prominently in the video and my mind started to wander a bit. Thomas and I agreed that perhaps it would be better to add a couple elements, flesh out the project a bit. The first thing that we thought of was to create one of those muscle cars on hydraulic pistons which seemed easy enough. We just had to figure out a way to animate the thing so it jumped up and down.

    The solution lay in electro-magnetic pistons which was a new discovery for me but not for Thomas. When an electrical current is applied the magnet creates a force which pulls the piston into the socket. With the late night help of Jan van Ommen, official problem solver and go to guy on this project as well as many others, we developed four springs that we could hook up to an ambient sound sensor (we also hooked up led's in the resin headlights) so that the car would bounce depending on the quantity of ambient sound the sensor received.

    Shake Ass

    The next element required quite a bit of research on the Internet. Let me tell you what a wonderful tool the internet is, I had to find images of a fairly large ass to make a dynamic piece of sculpture that actually shook her ass in the way that is so popular in rap videos today. There is no shortage of images of all types and sizes of asses on the internet and I spent one of the more pleasant periods of the development of F2T? doing this research. Alas sometimes what your looking for happens to be right under your nose and in this instance it happened to be the case. My lovely girlfriend happened to be willing to compromise herself in the name of art and I came up with this image.
    Now for a lot of people this derrier would be considered quite remarkable, but sadly this is the type of ass where they laugh you off the set at the video shoot. So what was left for me to do but to savagely attack it in Photoshop and while I was at touch up those thighs a bit as well. The lengths we will go to acheive reality. The results you see below.

    The sculpture actually has two asses, one mounted on top of the other. The top one is connected to a motor by a pin that passes through the bottom at more or less the position of the base of the spine. It is also hooked up to an ambient sound sensor and reacts by shaking her ass to the sounds that happen to be in the surrounding area. The sensitivity can also be regulated, just like in real life!

    F2T, The Music

    Whilst we are busy in Barcelona developing the project up in cold Amsterdam Jim Barnard, our recruit to take care of the heavy heavy job of composing and writing rap phrases that correspond to the words that we have in our database is hard at work. Our database consists of the 150 most popular words used in sms's. This it turns out is a shitload of work, much, much, more than any one anticipated... Later these will be loaded onto a chip that through techno wizardry ala' Thomas Charveriat will be triggered by incoming sms's.

    Our man in the 'dam, Strawberry Ize AKA Jim Barnard, One bad Mudda

    Jim is busy at it, with a list in alphabetical order that looks something like this, here you have an excerpt from the r's and s's that he wrote:

    Read - Catch my flow, bro, if you need to understand
    it, helps to read, this how I planned it.

    Real - Fuck keepin' it real, my deal is to fake it,
    make it up, I'll give it you take it.

    Record - Put the needle on the record, come on over get
    nekid, grab a pill and fuckin' neck it.

    Room - Take

    Safe - It's safe to see me, it ain't safe to be me, my
    style is to rock for you, to short sharp shock for you.

    Sea - Nice an' slow coastin', fry roastin', try
    toastin' like a raggamuffin, chuffin' on a sticky stink

    In the end due to time pressures we start to do some of the recording in Barcelona with a fella named Tairo Nimaga that you see here in the studio at Placeta Montcada 5. In the end I think we used maybe five different vocalists with both Jim and Dennis pitching in hours upon hours of fine tuning to make sure we were up to spice.

    Other Things.....

    One of the cooler things that we did with this project that Thomas came up with all on his own was to put a thermal printer into a tube of pvc and program it to spit out a receipt that gave the number of the person that sent the message, the message they sent, the reply given and artists credits. This was a great foresight and a really important part of the piece. The public would send their messages but the raps would go by so quickly that in the absence of the printer they would have no way of ascertaining which reponse was directed at them and what the hell they were saying anyway. In any event it was also a great souvenir for our adoring public.

    We also had a small light box with more or less instructions on how the project worked and of course the number that you had to send the sms to, as well as artists credits. We discovered you can never give yourself enough credit.

    Last but certainly not least is the bangin' boom box with a car stereo, a 150 watt amplifier and four car speakers installed in it that we used to broadcast the whole proceedings. Also installed are LED's beneath the "buttons" that are filled with resin. These are also hooked up to an ambient sound sensor and blink according to the volume and frequencies that they receive.

    F2T? inaugurated in the CCCB (Centro de Cultura Contemporanea de Barcelona) for the first time in November of 2003 and has since been exhibited in Observatori 2004, Museo de las Ciencias Príncipe Felipe, Valencia, Spain, Customize04, Covento de Sant Agusti, Barcelona, Spain and the Ram Foundation, Rotterdam, Den Hague

    Article in El Pais

    Saturday, June 05, 2004

    Potty Art No.2

    There comes a time in the development of every artist that he or she has to come to terms with certain aspects of their heritage. This point came to me when collaborating with the French artist/Gallerist and all round poof Thomas Charveriat. We were pondering over a juried show that we were thinking of submitting a piece to where the theme was Water. Water somehow had to be addressed in the works for this show. So we sat and thought and after much discussion decided that we were both ready to try and add our names to the pantheon of great artists that had dared to go against convention and create some potty art. Potty art is by definition a work of art that somehow addresses the human functions of urinating and or defecating, that's peeing and pooping to all you phillistines. Thomas had suggested we do a crucifix with blood pouring out of the scars, which would've addressed the water criteria, but then we both decided no, now was the time to become apart of that illustrious movement, Potty art.

    First we needed an assistant, or co-conspirator rather, well ok a victim and it came in the form of the beautiful Danish national who also has the misfortune of being my girlfriend, Jona Borrut. I remember it like it was yesterday, a beautiful sunday morning and I role over and say to Jona, "Honey... I have an idea.". She should've ran then, but she didn't and hence she has become the muse of all muses in Potty art. We went up to the studio and I explained in a calm soothing voice eeerrrrmmm..... uuuughhh... exactly what was necessary. Which was basically for her to pose as if she was taking a leak on the sidewalk in some urban environment, she took it like a champ and we had our source material for the next great step in Potty art.

    This photo was censored for all the sad perves that kept googling it for kicks, use your imagination.

    The next step was to take that material and transform it into a two dimensional drawing in steel where every place that skin was exposed you had a plate of PVC cut to the exact dimensions of said exposed skin and mounted on to the scaffolding that is formed by the drawing in steel.

    We then mounted two servi motors and a speaker on to the back of the head. The speaker carries the uncertain voice of Ms. Borrut who beseeches the viewer to inform her the moment anyone comes into view. The motors control the eyes, which dart furtively back and forth and the mouth or lower jaw rather which is synchronized to move in tandem with the recording to give the impression that the statue is actually speaking. Downstairs, the supposed genitalia, we hooked up the windshield wiper pump from my 1982 Volkswagen Golf which on command releases a very realistic stream of water with a touch of yellow dye added.

    The base is a large wooden box that is covered by asphalt to give the impression of being on the street, in the middle of the box we have installed a drain, a proper drain that one might find on any street corner. When the statue urinates the water falls into the drain and goes into a reservoir that we have parked in the base and then the water is pumped back up a small transparent tube which is wired to the backside of the leg of the statue.

    When a button on the front right corner of the box is pushed it sets into motion a sequence that lasts about 45 seconds which involves the lovely Ms. Borrut's beseeching voice, darting eyes, wagging jaw and and the windshield wiper pumping yellow water all working in unison to give the impression of a lovely young woman caught in the somewhat vulnerable act of having through desperation to urinate on the street. In the Background we have created a lightbox one meter eighty high and one meter thirty five across with a duratrans image of a street scene illuminated from behind to further the idea. A very entertaining video of this project can be seen here.
  • Awkward Moment No.2
  • It was filmed by Fabrice Amzel who did a lot of work with Thomas and I and we will forever be indebted to him.

    Or you can view it on youtube.

    A lovely little box created by young doctor Thomas "Frankenstein" Charveriat that orchestrates and controls the movements and sound of "Awkward Moment No.2"

    Professed rabid supporters, the wife of former president of the Generalitat Jordi Pujol and the former Minister of Culture of Catalunya

    A technical rider of the piece.

    Thursday, March 04, 2004

    Fingerprints! Who are we?? What's going on here?

    I couldn't have put it better myself...
    "His most recent work, "Fingerprints", is a series of large intricate steel reproductions of individual's fingerprints. This series invites the viewer to appreciate the wonderfully complex nature of the fingerprint's organic form which is all too easily lost in its everyday meaning as the quintessential representation of individuality."
    Zack Booth Simpson writing about the fingerprints in steel of Frank Plant, Austin, Texas, 2001

    I kinda remember when it hit me, vaguely... I had already been working with the drawings in steel for a couple of years and was mostly concerned with the replication of everyday objects, coffe cups, corkscrews and the like. I was definitely in Barcelona in the studio. I went downstairs and began to look up fingerprints on google. In some dark alley of the internet I stumbled across a reasonably good image of a scan of an arrest record of Malcolm X with his fingerprints, I downloaded it and I still rue the day.

    Back in the day before I went completely techno I would print out a copy of the fingerprint do a graph over the top and then transfer that times ten in chalk onto the floor of my studio, very laborious. Now I just print the whole thing out on A4's and cut and tape them together. Equally laborious but perhaps a smidge less tedious. I was on to something...

    Wow, organic forms, beautiful I really liked the result and not only that I got great responses from the posse that would normally come around the studio and gawk, drink beers and generally get up to things disreputable.
    I continued to ruminate on the subject and it took me to all sorts of strange places, a little bit like a labyrinth.... Yes a labyrinth! And yes a portrait, a hyper realistic portrait. Just a bit of a twisted angle on the age old idea of portraiture. Like always I like the graphic quality of the bars of steel and with the fingerprint they meld together to make a very bold portrait. the vast majority of these that i did are about one meter to one meter twenty wide and one meter fifty to one meter sixty high.

    Big suckers using twelve millimeter round steel bar. Up until this point these were the first works that I did that I really had problems to get around the studio, they weigh a ton. After the first couple though you realize the creative work is done and it's really just about fabrication and a lot of fabrication at that. Cutting, bending, grinding, cutting, bending, grinding.... and on and on forever and ever.
    The figerprints have treated me well and I have exhibited them far and wide across the land and I even branched out into what I consider the collective fingerprint of human communities, maps. The photo below was taken at Sala Can Felipa from a juried show called "Dades Essencials" from the 9th of December 2003 until the 10th of January 2004.

    The map shown here is that of Paris. I have always liked maps and with creating this one I wanted to try and strip it of it's normal meaning as a tool for orientation and navigation and give people an oppurtunity to look at it as only a complex formation found in nature, not unlike the fingerprints. Maps as design, as semi calculated evolving grids and networks with their own inherent aesthetics.

    Monday, January 05, 2004

    Chuck Taylor's (Converse All Stars)... And Other Icons

    In early 2003 I was contacted by Paul Collier, an American architect based in Paris who had seen some of my work through a mutual contact. He asked permission to maybe use some of my work in proposals he did for clients. Personally I prefer architects to gallerists so I readily agreed. About six months later he got in contact again and said that he had spoken with a client about a yet to be developed piece of mine for the entrance of an office building that they had recently rennovated. So we began to throw some ideas back and forth. He mentioned that the building was home to various design businesses and photographers if I remember correctly. The space it needed to fill was about three meters fifty by about two and a half meters of usable space high. I also remember him saying that something with a sense of humor would be good.

    "Chuck Taylors", Steel, 356x98cm, 2004

    Hence after about five or six ideas that fell by the wayside we settled on a drawing of a photo I had taken of... yep you guessed it, my Converse All Star sneakers. Or Chuck Taylor's or just simply and affectionately "Chucks".

    "Chuck Taylors" (Detail), Steel, 2004

    Now I've been wearing these shoes, not this particular pair mind you, for the better part of twenty five years. I remember my first pair and how I proudly strode into the YMCA thinking that they were actually going to make me a better basketball player, they didn't.... But it was like being introduced to a club of people in the know. I wore black chucks all through high school and college where they became billboards for my favorite political staements and musical tastes and even now I have a beat up pair lying around, yea the ones in the picture up top.

    Sending the chucks off to Paris

    Also working with images that are in some ways icons or have some sort of social weight is something that I'm interested in. Taking images that first and foremost attract me compositionally with the added weight of whatever social or cultural imagery they represent. such as the images below

    Brain, Steel, 140x140, 2001
    The consummate image for intelligence and or human awareness (or stupidity for that matter).

    Boombox, Steel, 150x118, 2002

    Cultural icon of black america c.1975, revisited and embraced by white middle class suburban america early 1990's until present. This piece got sucked into a larger Installation called F2T? or Free to Talk?

    Pistol, Steel, 202x152, 1999

    I got very strong reactions to the pistol, I don't know if something can be quietly violent but if it can it's this image. The pistol obviously is a fairly good icon for violence, for me I'm really attracted to the composition as well. It has to be said that a gun is a tool, whether for shooting beer cans in your backyard or more nefarious uses. I also like most things that represent the evolution of a design and hence could be considered the sum of our knowledge at the point of their fabrication, in a form follows function sense. Regardless it's a potent image and now lives in Brussels.

    Heart (Various), Steel, 160x120, 1999

    Human Compassion, Love, Life... etc....

    Headphones, Steel, 128x117, 2001

    Image for everything DJ, electronic culture, and so on.... as is the below image

    Tone Arm, Steel, 157x58, 2004