ORIGINAL POST: Monday, August 30, 2004

BY: Eduardo Navas

Report on Centro + Media, Mexico City: second installment in a series of five.

Centro+Media was a special event organized to inaugurate Centro, a brand new art and design center in Mexico City, focusing on Design, TV and film. The curators of the event were Arcangel Constantini and Ivan Abreu. The exhibition was up for August 19 - 22. It included online and offline installations, graphic prints presented on elegant lightboxes throughout three floors of the building, experimental videos that were screened continually on eight LCD screens, live sound performances, and an online webpage battle. For a full list of artists, please look at the first installment published on Tuesday, August 24, 2004, as I will not be able to comment on much of the material, this way at least you will learn who participated in the exhibition.

The opening of the event happened on Thursday the 19th. The Press covered the opening of the Design school really well. On Wednesday (the day before) there was a press conference where journalists had the opportunity to ask specific questions to the curators and administrators. The journalists also looked at the installations that were already up, and asked the artists a few questions about their art projects. During the opening on Thursday, there were TV cameras going around filming art projects and interviewing the organizers and artists; and on Saturday there was a review in the Universal, one of the major newspapers in Mexico City. There were two other events that happened in conjunction with the Centro+Media exhibition, one at Centro de Arte Alameda and the other at the Rufino Tamayo Museum. I will write about these events in the days to come. This time I will focus on the opening event.

Some of the online and offline installations included works by Santiago Ortiz, Ricardo Rendon, Christian Oyarzun, Gustavo Romano, Brian Mackern, Tlaolli Arguello and me (Eduardo Navas).

Ortiz presented Cropofalia, an installation of a virtual stomach which digested texts typed by the audience. These were also combined with literary works considered important in Latin America. The stomach expanded as it consumed more and more words and eventually it would shrink to start all over. Rendon presented Espacio Critico, a flash interface of the world map. The user could create hyperlinks reminscing airline routes. Once the user finalized her set of travel, the interface took over providing a quick overview of the top pages in Google that were related to the cities of travel. The pages loaded and unloaded very fast in a set of random frames, leaving the user with an overall visual idea of how one could travel the web at high speed from country to country. Oyarzun projected CRC/CW a graphic that was dependent on sensors placed inside and outside the gallery space to create an abstract animation, consisting of an RGB color wheel rotating rapidly or slowly according to the number of visitors. Gustavo Romano presented Cyberzoo, along with a photo installation consisting of the ground of a public street installed at the entrance of the building. Cyberzoo is a website where it is safe to play with viruses. Here the users can learn about computer viruses and also "create" one themselves without worrying about contaminating their own computers. Brian Mackern presented Cultiviuum, an installation where users can create their own combinations of virtual cells that can be recombined by other users on an ongoing basis. Mackern also exhibited his online project Net Art Latino.Taolli Aguello presented IO AMO MI CI U _DA, a game interface to be played when sitting in a sports car seat. One is able to navigate or "drive" through a map and parking lot as well as other metaphorical interventions on gaming. And I presented Net Art World 1.0 which is an online project combining flags and maps of the world along with images related to globalization and online projects by net artists.

The performance during the opening at Centro consisted of sound/visual performances and an Infomera duel between Subculture and Muserna. The audio-visual artists included VJs and noise/sound performers, who are called "Ruidistas" (noise-makers). Some of the performers I saw were Ricardo Rendon, Antonio Dominguez, Ivan Abreu, Brian Mackern, and Jorge Castro. There were other performers that unfortunately I missed (including Constantini's) because I also had to oversee my own installation (Net Art World 1.0).

The sounds and visuals by Rendon and Dominguez and their partners were abstract, delivered through layers of beats and graphic interfaces that did not always follow a consistent pattern--sometimes an actual beat was absent, and "melodic noise" became the closest way of describing the sound. The graphics also followed this aesthetic. (Rendon and Dominguez did not perform together; the comment is on their overall performance).

In General, the sound compositions were dependent on loops so complex in their patterns that the audience was pushed to listen carefully and create relationships with the visual material, which for the most part was abstract, or if figurative, very open-ended for interpretation. It was more like digital noise, although the performances by Ivan Abreau and Brian Mackern referenced electronic dub and post-trip-hop sounds respectively. Abreu's performance was the most transparent of all because he showed his Max interface as he improvised his rhythms. The audience saw his real-time manipulation of sound. Mackern played a few short pieces that were quite soothing for the eyes and ears while strategically relying on noise to disrupt what at times could have been considered straight ahead ambient image and sound. Jorge Castro closed the evening with a short set of minimal compositions that were carefully complemented with visual material. He controlled sound and image simultaneously, and unlike much of the work throughout the night, which was mainly improvisational sessions between two or more performers, Castro presented music and visuals that had a predetermined relationship, yet he was able to improvise and flow with the reaction of the crowd. Unfortunately his set was too short, and the audience was left craving for more. No worries on this as he would have a chance to present his work once more at Laboratorio Arte Alameda, the evening after.

The “Mano a Mano” between Subculture and Muserna took place in a special room, where they battled inside a boxing ring especially built for the event. There were three screens, the two on the sides presented subculture and Muserna's personal websites while the one in the middle showed the updates made to the Infomera website. Here, the heavyweights in web art went at it for over four hours, both uploading to the Infomera website. Every few minutes a new page was uploaded in reaction to the previous one, often appropriating the visuals and/or aesthetics of the opponent. The performance started out with playful comments that towards the end turned into bold statements of grandiosity and supremacy of web art by both parties, while also keeping great respect toward the opponent. Both Muserna and Subculture seemed to have enjoyed the process of making ephemeral webpages, which the online community could also enjoy by visiting the Infomera site. To this day, people who saw the event are debating who won, and Subculture playfully claims that he won! Following the spirits of an actual boxing match.

The creative juices ran high during the opening. The artists were very happy at the end of the night, which ended at a really great casual restaurant called the Kaliman. This energy would once again find its way to two more important events at Centro de Arte Alameda and Rufino Tamayo Museum.

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