The Next Generation
Combing the MFA shows for up and coming tech artistsGlen Helfand, SFGate, 02/06/2004
The strongest work with a technological bent I've seen is here, too. BULL.MILITEC is a collaboration between Synne Bull and Dragan Miletic (from Norway and Yugoslavia respectively) that question the ways reality is perceived through media. At Fort Mason, they show "You Are Here," a two-channel video sculpture made in 2001.
It's an elegantly minimal work in which a large monitor set on the floor displays footage of a dry lake bed in Death Valley. The terrain is pocked but exceedingly flat, and it's explored from a ground perspective. The sound of the radio-controlled robotic device the artists used to shoot the footage is amplified to industrial scale, while a small monitor that stands in front, displaying scrolling text in an artist-designed font, comments on the landscape: "The level surface of this parched basin provides the backdrop for one of Death Valley's most intriguing geological puzzles." The artists are essentially creating mediated versions of nature as seen through the eye of a robotic camera.
The elusive, haunting piece is displayed with a brochure that enumerates the artists' equipment and sources, which are fairly standard. "By investigating the nuances between presentation and representation, we want to temporarily displace the viewer and facilitate his or her awareness of the interplay of medium and subject," they write on their Web site.
And they are quite aware of the interplay between artist and current technology. "Living in today's world requires certain artistic stock in trade, like having a laptop fitted with specific tools," says Miletic. "But those tools are evolving in a natural way. We came to school to explore during the dot-com boom. That was one of the appeals to be here, to explore it as an artistic venue." They don't make Web projects these days, but their work is gaining a national and international reputation. They're working at Headlands Center for the Arts and their work can be seen this summer at Catherine Clark Gallery, a solo show in Montreal this fall and a lengthy 2004 residency in Berlin. A next generation, indeed.