John Bucklin’s piece at ChaCha, a hat covered with a map of California
As most galleries have roll-over shows tonight’s art walk looks set to be somewhat lacking in openings.
It seems that the focus tonight will be mainly on Spinello Gallery which opens Agustina Woodgate’s Letting Down (special performance from 8-10pm), Locust Projects which open their tenth anniversary exhibition—a group show curated by Director Claire Breukel and Gene Moreno in which past contributors to Locust who were each asked by the non-profit to suggest talent—and for once Diet Gallery who have muscled their way into my conscious with a somewhat relentless e-mail blast campaign featuring their opening of Brian Burkhart’s bi(h)ome, a cluttered geodesic dome filled with bogus biological experiments. Apart from these shows and something at Castillo I have heard of little else of note other than ‘ChaCha’ at Twenty Twenty Projects.
Having taken the decision to remain closed last month in honor of last month’s SCHADENFREUDE, we are well within our rights to expect something spectacular. Thankfully, owner Scott Murray despite following the format of ‘traditional exhibition’ decided that this time he wanted to have some fun. The concept for the new exhibition is based around the idea of using ChaCha, a new version of the web’s www.ask.com (formally Ask Jeeves), to curate the show.
ChaCha logo from www.chacha.com
ChaCha, which also offers a text service, provides helpful if not basic answers to practical questions such as directions or event information, but Murray decided that it would be interesting to use this resource for a different purpose: to curate and co-ordinate an exhibition.
Texting the question “What Miami based artist’s work would be good in an art exhibition titled ChaCha?” Murray began to receive answers. Here is a sample of the transcript showing the first five questions and responses:
Sample of transcript from Scott Murray’s ChaCha account
He stated: “Initially I had thought it would be a cool idea to let ChaCha decide everything right down to what drinks we had for the opening but at a certain point that idea became extraneous. As my approach to using ChaCha evolved I decided to actually impose curative will over the show but with interesting elements concerned with the idea of ChaCha. Visually I imagined a show that was really handmade, clumsy and human. And that became my intention, to create the antithesis of the machine or to exemplify the beauty of human flaws. Its kind of a crappy science fiction theme despite the fact the exhibition has absolutely nothing to do with science fiction.”
Speaking briefly about the works Murray described a giant 7 x 10 foot map of the world on canvas, by Justin Long. Painted onto raw canvas with black paint, the map of is drawn entirely from memory and so naturally many of the countries are missing and those that are there are invariably misspelled.
Jay Hines’ copper pipe piece for ChaCha
Jay Hines’ contribution comes in the form of a piece of copper piping that the artist had acquired whilst on a job some point in the very recent past. Initially Hines had intended to scrap the copper for an estimated $40 but decided eventually to include it in the show and sell it as art instead for the same price making it the cheapest work that has ever been available from the gallery. The twist here is that it can never be sold or re-sold for more than the copper is worth; a contract stipulating this accompanies the work. Each day the artist will use the ChaCha service to calculate the current value of the copper. Tying this piece to ChaCha in this respect works well; however, it’s such a novel idea that it would still be an awesome piece without it.
Ambrosino’s Raul Mendez will contribute an audio video sculpture thing. Composed of an incompatible arrangement of electronics and objet trouvé like a fan on top a book of theories. The piece is poetically powered by a big tub of spent matches blowing on the skull of a squirrel which is attached to an antennae which feeds into a television in a little tin can. From the can comes an audio track of phone messages which accompany a video of the Gulf of Mexico as viewed from a plane. It’s a really calm scene, the ground below goes by so slow that you can’t even tell that it’s moving.
Daniel Newman, HALLOWEEN (CHACHA), 2008
For the past few months artist Daniel Newman has been busy capturing video footage and countless images on his Motorola RAZR. His contribution to ChaCha is an image taken at a recent Halloween party (with the cell phone) which has been enlarged to 40 x 50 inches. The image shows a group of people in costume posing for a photograph. As is often the case when photographing large crowds at parties, the attention of the group was actually directed to another camera at the point that Newman snapped the picture.
The result of pushing the image beyond the reasonable limits of its pixel capacity combined with the harsh lighting, cacophonic garbs and unconventional composition allows for a very weird feeling. It’s a really cool image like a diverse super American hip group of people and seems to summarize the ambiguous socio-political of climate of October 2008.
San Francisco based artist John Bucklin sent a hat covered with a map of California (pictured above). Bucklin’s art often takes its departure from his passion for gold prospecting and discovery. In this instance, the artist imbued an already functional object with a dual function—that of direction—drawing comparisons between ChaCha’s service and its use of the cell phone.
Finally, two videos by Robert Chambers and Alyse Edmur complete the line up. Chamber’s video, although yet to be decided could likely be a dramatic sequence involving a chain link of hay bails being thrown onto a truck and Edmur’s is a fly on the wall scene documenting the entirety of a reunion at an Italian American club. The piece is inevitably long as it’s the whole thing but includes a lot of variety including old Italians dancing and the giving and receiving of awards. Like most of her work it’s not eventful, more spectator. Admittedly her piece Show and Tell was eventful but for this piece she very much takes the part of an invisible spectator.
Murray comments: “Sadly, owing to the spirit of Schadenfruede, which broke the projector, or rather Newman who in my opinion has the opposite of the Midas touch when it comes to technology, Alyse’s video is going to have to be screened on a TV. It’s a shame but I really like it so I wanted to include it. It may be in the back though so don’t forget to seek it out.”
The initial idea to do a show that relies 100% on an information service is novel and the notion of having to acquire a ton of Britto works and go through the whole process of relinquishing control is definitely something which Murray is considering for the future (perhaps ChaCha 2). For this show, however, the extent of ChaCha was that it started the ball rolling.
Regardless of whether you approach the service like a person or like a machine the response is ultimately generated by a machine. The spirit of ChaCha then resides entirely on how they do their research; especially when it comes to opinion based questions. Those that did the obvious and suggested Britto were of little help (probably they are paid by the question) but the initial person—who in actuality had the most open-ended question—that went and found Nicolas Lobo deserves credit as despite Lobo’s increasing popularity it is clear that they put at least some time and effort into their research.
The first piece Murray thought of after ChaCha suggested Lobo was a map he had drawn from memory of the Unites States, but Lobo did not wish to show this piece because it was old and because Justin Long had recently done the whole world from memory. Initially Murray had wanted to juxtapose the two maps to convey a theme that people had been thinking about—like a collective unconscious type of thing—but when John Bucklin’s hat came into play he decided that the show was getting to ‘mappy’ and took the ironic decision to exclude Lobo from the exhibition.
Speaking about the process Murray said: “It just kind of evolved. Nicolas was the first name mentioned and his map piece was the first thing that I thought of . I guess the reason that I thought of his piece was because of the relationship between him trying to do something from memory and ChaCha being this device or service that can remember things for you or function in that way. The clumsiness of the map juxtaposed with the idea that it– even an exact satellite replica –could be generated very easily nowadays using a machine. That really was the starting point for the idea of how I wanted the show to feel. Its not that I don’t think that running 100% with ChaCha’s advise it’s the wrong thing to do, it could be a really cool show but at a certain point… there’s just lots of ways that a thing like this could evolve.”
After receiving the answer “Romero Britto” four or five times consecutively, Murray realized that he would have to be a little more specific in his questioning. In that sense he began to impose his curative will over the final outcome of the questions and so the exhibition drifted inexorably away from the notion of using ChaCha exclusively.
But ultimately Murray’s taking control over the show is precisely the way in which the service is supposed to function. In everyday life ChaCha presents a strong direction right off the bat and individuals then have to follow that in their own way: you get the information and then you take it from there; you physically go to that place, eat in that restaurant, curate that show. Most people use it for practical things but there is an undeniably strong temptation to burden the service with heady philosophical questions. Using ChaCha like Murray did–as a sort of like a lucky 8 ball–is the romantic way to do it, however, the majority of questions are no doubt by comparison quite mundane– directions and such.
It seems reasonable to assume that if even you persisted with the same philosophical question that you receive a different answer each time as queries are undoubtedly routed randomly. The first answer Murray received was perhaps the most considered and despite the fact that they got the artists medium wrong it would seem to ARTLURKER that ChaCha has at least one person on their team who knows where to go for the info: Note the similarity between ChaCha’s answer “Nicolas Lobo is a Miami based artist with both high profile exhibitions and small showings. He could paint for Cha Cha!” and this sentence taken from the article Miami Industry of Luxury which was written by ARTLURKER for Whitehot Magazine of Contemporary Art in August “Nicolas Lobo is a Miami based artist. Like many artists in Miami today he mediates between high profile exhibitions and small group projects.” (Not to mention ChaCha’s response “Miami artist John Peck begins summer residency at Cooper Union”)
In light of the apparent credence ARTLURKER has with ChaCha we thought we might have some fun ourselves. The results, however, were disappointingly indecisive:
ChaCha can be texted on 242242 or called on 1800 0 242242. You can ask it, I am a vegetarian living on South beach, what should I eat today for lunch? And it will send you an answer. You can also visit www.chacha.com
The service is free as it probably pays for itself by inputting the questions people ask it into some form of information gathering machine for market research—pretty fucking scary, but convenient[.]
For more information about this exhibition please visit: www.twentytwentyprojects.com
UPDATE: In the hour since this article was published it has come to light that HALLOWEEN (CHACHA) by Daniel Newman will not be included in the exhibition. The company charged with the responsibility of printing the piece has demonstrated a regrettable lack of dexterity in regard to the artists intentions. As a perfect result at this late stage cannot be achieved, the decision has been taken to omit the piece from the show.