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In 1999, the artists Pierre Huyghe and Philippe Parreno bought a manga character from “K” works, a Japanese firm that develops Manga figures. Huyghe and Parreno decided to ‘free the image from the animation market’, named ‘her’ Annlee, made their own initial works and invited other artists to use Annlee for new art projects, free of charge. Annlee was given a voice, history and an identity and she popped up in animation videos, paintings, objects, installations, posters and a magazine, soundworks and a book.

I saw parts of their Annlee project in the Van Abbe Museum in Eindhoven some years ago. In the end 28 “Annlee works” were produced by 18 different artists. The project was finalized in 2002 with the artists definitively killing her off and liberating her from the realm of representation -as they described it- by signing over the copyrights of the image to Annlee herself. But is this really the end? Is Annlee dead, truly free, or both?

A decade after the Annlee project came to an end, artists are invited to respond to the Annlee project ‘unofficially’ hoping to open up the character to new art pieces. As Philippe Parreno suggested: “the project doesn’t stop in the absence of Annlee, it can always produce more authors.” We look forward to your input, ideas and brand new artworks! Art can be uploaded freely onto a blog provided by NIMK dedicated to this ‘Annlee Blog project’.

I will visit the Dutch Electronic Art Festival 2012 in Rotterdam this weekend, mainly the exhibition part. DEAF 2012 has official and “off site” exhibitions, both starting on May, 17.

According to the DEAF 2012 web site “the DEAF 2012 thematic exhibition will explore The Power of Things with numerous high-impact artworks from artists and designers from around the world. The DEAF 2012 exhibition features art works that are ‘relationally’ designed and works in which interaction, in whatever form, serves as the starting point for bringing art into being. The pieces are sometimes biological in nature, sometimes technological, and often a mix of the two”.

By this “Power of Things” mentioned above is meant:

In our daily lives, nonliving matter plays a crucial role in nearly everything we do, often beyond our immediate control. For example, the food we eat influences our mood and behavior; the technologies we use shape our social interactions; and climate impacts on our daily rhythms. On a more global level, modern material science, recent natural disasters and the current state of the global environment also indicate that the causal power of nonliving matter can no longer be denied. Acknowledging this ‘Power of Things’ not only provides new insights into many phenomena, but also changes the way we relate to the world, as we step away from our contemporary, arguably hazardous, human centered worldview. With The Power of Things as its theme, this edition of the Dutch Electronic Art Festival explores a radically different worldview: one that breaks down the categorical distinction between the living and the nonliving and attributes a vital force to both.

The theory that there is a vital force within nonliving matter has appeared at various points in history, but the idea that matter has causality and agency seems to be becoming more widespread than ever at present. “Vitalist” philosophies and materialist approaches are flourishing in philosophy and science. But art is the field where material causality exerts its strongest force. As every artist knows, the outcome of an artistic process is largely determined by the materials used. While scientific experimentation predominantly aims for a better understanding of what matter is, art explores what matter does. Knowing what matter does contributes to a greater knowledge of how things – whether foodstuffs, commodities or something else – act and what their particular propensities or tendencies are. Recognizing the power of things could even reveal how seemingly passive things have crucial impacts on social issues, political affairs and environmental problems. By embodying it in tangible works, art helps us to acknowledge this power.

It sounds promising. As usual WORM is also involved too, this year by providing a live DEAF 2012 hackspace. Check it out if you are interested in ground breaking electronic media art.

Some 20 years ago I bought an obscure Philips/Harlekijn LP containing the famous Ballet Mecanique by George Antheil.  In 1924 Antheil worked with Fernand Leger on a DaDa inspired abstract film called “Ballet Mecanique”. The music for this film was to come from electric bells, tree airplane propellers, a siren and piano rolls in 16 player pianos linked to a central control panel. However, the technology to realize this “central control panel” to synchronize all these player pianos was yet not available in 1924, so Legers film and Antheil’s score went their separate ways. The Ballet Mecanique score was technologically so ahead of its time, that it could not be performed in the way it was conceived in the 1920’s.

To resolve this issue, Antheil prepared a new reduced version of the piece for eight pianos, one player piano, four xylophones, percussion and two airplane propellers. This drastically simplified score was presented to audiences in 1926 and 1927 in Paris and New York. The work was never published in its original form. In 1953 a heavily cut version of Ballet Mecanique was published by George Antheil which featured only four pianos. This is the score of which a live version played during the 1976 Holland Festival was recorded for the above mentioned Harlekijn LP.

Bad Boy Made Good DVD

Last year I stumbled across a DVD called “Bad Boy made Good. The Revival of George Antheil’s 1924 Ballet Mecanique” on the antheil.org web site. The DVD documents a revival of the original orchestration of Antheil’s magnus opus using the 16 player pianos for which the piece was originally intended. Using MIDI technology to control the 16 player pianos (for which now Yamaha Disklaviers were used), it was now possible to synchronize the pianos in the way Antheil originally intended in 1924. The DVD documents the preparation and the world premiere of this original version of the Ballet Mecanique in the Concert Hall of the University of Massachusetts in Lowell on November 18, 1999. It also contains the Léger film with the newly realized 16-player-piano version of Antheil’s score.

World premiere by UMass Lowell Percussion Ensemble

The MIDI controlled piece was subsequently performed in many concert halls in the USA and Europe, a complete list of performances and DVD ordering info can be found on the informative Ballet Mecanique page/antheil.org web site which accompanies the DVD. Check it out if you are interested in the early history of  “noise music”.

Currently MU gallery in Eindhoven is exhibiting “funware” or “software dealing with this Fun-factor in software development”. Seventeen projects of funware artists are shown in which playing with software is the starting point, are being brought together in MU.

The exhibition includes the “Naked on Pluto” work by Marlous de Valk, one of the most well-known Dutch funware artists IMO.
She is part of GOTO10, an international collective of artists and programmers working in the field of digital art and Open Source Software. She is also the editor of the FLOSS+Art ebook, which “critically reflects on the growing relationship between Free Software ideology, open content and digital art. It provides a view onto the social, political and economic myths and realities linked to this phenomenon”. Worthwhile to check out the links and free e-book if you are interested in software-as-as-an-art.


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