2001-05-26 / Columnists

From The Artists Studio Rockaway Artists Alliance

by Susan Hartenstein

From The Artists Studio
Rockaway Artists Alliance

What a find -- the New York Center for Media Arts. Art Frenzy, the 4-day celebration of the arts designed to expose the public to the myriad artists and art institutions in western Queens, had accomplished its purpose. Just a few blocks away from the weekend’s hub of activity, Court Square Park, sitting in among the many warehouses of Long Island City, is this unmistakable home of new artistic and technological sensibilities. Its exterior dancing with colorful designs, the New York Center for Media Arts is located at 45-12 Davis Street. The primary objective of this institution is to cultivate and promote works which employ multimedia technologies, including computers, video, digital equipment and the Internet. The tools of art are expanding. The realms of technology and art are overlapping, interfacing and exploding. The distinctions between technology and art and between technology and humanity may be less valid than before. The works resulting from these explorations can be exciting, disturbing, pleasing. They can reach into the depths of our 21st century induced nightmares or shoot us to the heights of our media-hyped primal dreams. The Center’s intention is also to explore the social, artistic and cultural implications involved. "Electronic Maple" is this institution’s opening exhibition.

Entering the building is entering a darkened environment invaded by bright lights and woven with sounds that transport to another world. One of the first installations is a mesmerizing poetic tale of robotic romance – a Samsung Digital video creation woven with the music of Bjork, an Icelandic composer. Perhaps the most profoundly pleasing work in this exhibition, and its seeming anchor, is Nam June Paik’s "Laser Cone II." Paik is a pioneer, considered the father of video art. In 2000, his exhibition "The Worlds of Nam June Paik" at the Guggenheim included videos, performances, sculpture and laser works. Experiencing "Laser Cone II" is like a hypersensitive experience at the planetarium. It utilizes mathematical and scientific theories too complex to discuss here and continues Paik’s exploration of laser technology as art form. A laser projector is placed above the huge cotton cone. The cone and the specific laser patterns projected onto it become an environment into which one can enter. Standing at the center of its interior, with the various patterns of colored light above, is an extraordinary visceral experience – visual, emotional, tactile, spine tingling, giddy, profound, primal.

"Nightmaze", an ingenious collaboration of writer Thomas Bolt and composer Sebastian Currier, is another thought-provoking work which expands traditional notions of art and technology. It is a combination of music, narration, text and animation installation. Indeed, "Electronic Maple" includes many such works which will force you, as a critical thinker, to reexamine definitions and, as an artist, to rethink the possibilities. In fact, you may even be so moved as to discard the need for definitions and to give yourself over wholly to the experience.

Green glass monolith pushing to the sky. Classical, jazz, rock, folk. African, Korean, Indian, Greek. Theater, ballet, performance art. Traditional, avant garde. Drumming, strumming, strutting. Old woman in brightly-colored straw hat spontaneously breaking into dance. White haired men standing next to kindergartners -- children of all ages joyously releasing their imaginings as paint onto a long expanse of canvas set up and guided by Geoff Rawling of the Rockaway Artists Alliance. Purple, red, blue shuttles taking off for and running back from wondrous explorations of never before seen artists and art cathedrals of all kinds, expanding the senses and opening realms of possibility. A youngster unable to contain herself, bursting with tales of her voice emerging from Lucy Ricardo’s body at the American Museum of the Moving Image. This was Art Frenzy. Specifically, this was Court Square Park in Long Island City, the weekend hub of Art Frenzy.

Within walking distance of the park -- P.S. 1, New York Center for Media Arts, Holocenter, Celtic Art Gallery and more. All are open even when Art Frenzy is not there. This section of Queens is an art lover’s delight and this 4-day weekend festival made that clear. Executive director Hoong Yee Lee Krakauer and Queens Council on the Arts and Long Island City Business Development Corporation deserve much credit for their vision, their sponsorship and for working so hard to make this event a reality.

RAA congratulates Lauren Dello for being named "Best Children’s Mural Artist" at Art Frenzy. Lauren won four movie tickets. Not only is she a fine artist. She is a fine young person whose help was invaluable to RAA on Sunday.

Next year, Art Frenzy is projected to come to the Rockaways. Let us show off the artistic delights of "our neck of the woods." Here, too, will be discovered a place for art and artists many may not have known existed.


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