On Group Formation: Impakt Online Exhibition 2013

Erick Beltrán


Where the early 2000s were often characterized as the ‘Age of Individualism’, today we see the return of the group. Or, more specifically, the return of group formation and network organization, as theorized by scholars such as anthropologist and philosopher of science Bruno Latour, who stresses that there are no such things as groups, only instances of group formation. Media theorist Ned Rossiter and internet critic Geert Lovink have developed the notion of ‘organized networks’ as an important and productive collaborative constellation of our day and age, enabled by digital media. And recently, Dutch cultural thinkers and consultants Michiel Schwarz and Diana Krabbendam have declared this the age of  ‘Sustainism’, the era of collaboration, sharing and ‘doing more with less’, as a sustainable and social antidote to the modernist adagium ‘less is more’. These present-day collaborative networks dynamically organize and reorganize themselves around social issues, political actions and events, to fully disassemble and reassemble around tastes, fashion styles, crafts or cuisines.

The artists in this edition of Impakt Online regard these concerns from nearly contrary yet complementary angles, presenting social and theoretical approaches in surprising epistemological formats. The exhibition consists of two newly commissioned networked works of art in an online exhibition, which are also presented on-site during Impakt festival 2013.

Commissioned artists: Warren Sack and Erick Beltrán.

Warren Sack – ‘Things the mind already knows: In May 2013 the US imported more crude oil from Canada than from any other country in the world (over 2.3 million barrels per day)’

The first part of the title of the proposed work is a quote from the painter Jasper Johns who said, “It all began with my painting a picture of an American flag. Using this design took care of a great deal for me because I didn’t have to design it. So I went on to similar things like the targets things the mind already knows. That gave me room to work on other levels” (“His heart belong to DADA,” Time 73, 4 May, 1959: 58; as cited in Jasper Johns, Writings, sketchbook Notes, Interviews, ed. Kirk Varnedoe, MOMA, New York, 1996, p. 82). The second part of the title is a statistic gathered by the US Energy Information Administration (http://www.eia.gov/petroleum/imports/companylevel/). The statistic surprises many who think the US gets most of its oil from countries in the Middle East, but, in fact, most of oil imported in to the US comes from North and South America: “The top five sources of US crude oil imports for May [2013] were Canada (2,329 thousand barrels per day), Saudi Arabia (1,440 thousand barrels per day), Mexico (777 thousand barrels per day), Venezuela (674 thousand barrels per day) and Colombia (373 thousand barrels per day).” By tracing the networks (e.g., energy) that connect different parts of the globe, things that we think we already know (e.g., flags and countries of the Americas) can be surprisingly unknown.

The work is constructed in a manner inspired by the collage and encaustic techniques employed by Jasper Johns in his famous paintings of flags and targets. It comprises three alternating screens. First a Canadian flag will render; the second sequence is a “target,” black and petroleum blue in color (a grayish blue color tinted with green, not to be confused with Pantone 348C, the green BP uses in its logo and has tried to trademark); and lastly an American flag in the same style as the Canadian. All the images are rendered in JavaScript.

Warren Sack is a software designer and media theorist whose work explores theories and designs for online public space and public discussion. He is Professor of Film and Digital Media at the University of California, Santa Cruz and earned a B.A. from Yale College and an S.M. and Ph.D. from the MIT Media Laboratory. Warren’s writings on new media and computer science have been published widely and his art work has been shown at the ZKM|Center for Art and Media, Karlsruhe, Germany; the New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York; the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; the artport of the Whitney Museum of American Art; and, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

Erick Beltrán – Apparition of Units

A series of animations and collections of images that study the space the concept of “unit” has in contemporary culture. A proposal in chapters ranging from the creation of units to the creation of values in social psyche. Modernity thought us to displace different kind of units in favor of a single one: the self. Therefore the impossibility of reading scales and the reduction of multiplicity into a signal referential point: me.

1. Platforms of visibility
A diagram describing how scenes are needed in order to create units. Unit as methodological particle.

2. Diffuse Capitalism
Progress versus process. How does modernity place the self as unit, creating a myriad of self assuring concepts: class, comfort, nation, excess, etc.

3. Self confirmation and territory
The Unit is conceived as property. Territory considered as natural space of the self.

4. Self-horizon / Horizon-self
Different access to a circumstance gives out completely different scenarios: Either the world is a storage for matter (to own and transform) or the world is a constant negotiation of forces visible in conflicting nodes.

5. Rate exchange
Contemporary society nourishes value from simultaneous contradictory origins. Ex. Detritus – uniqueness – holiness.

Erick Beltrán (México D.F., 1974) studied visual arts at Universidad Nacional Autonoma de México (ENAP-UNAM). Artist in residency at ENSAD, París (2000-2001) y Rijksakademie, Amsterdam(2002-2004). Recent work has been exhibited at MACBA (Barcelona), Qalandia International (Palestine), Taipei Biennial 2012 (Taipei), CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts (San Francisco), The Tropenmuseum (Amsterdam), Museo Tamayo (Mexico City), Manifesta 8 (Murcia), among others.

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  1. [...] contextualized, often in the form of presentations by the artists themselves. This year we launch On Group Formation by Warren Sack and Erick Beltrán as a part of Impakt Net Art and next to this curator Cher Potter [...]