Tuesday, May 6, 2014

New Bridging Worlds Article Up At Video Game Tourism



If you were at all interested in my last post about indie video games, the awesome folks at Video Game Tourism just published a lengthy essay of mine. It delves into the way we perceive changes in artistic values, using Impressionism and Indie games as examples. The last post on games here gave a brief overview of some of the fascinating works being made right now, but the essay focuses on what artistic tactics and choices makes these new types of video game experiences possible. Check it out! http://videogametourism.at/node/1975


Sunday, May 4, 2014

Hauschka at the Masonic Temple (Hollywood Forever Cemetery)


I recently was asked by the L.A. art's blog Mouser to photograph the amazing German 
experimental pianist Hauschka at an intimate show held in a former Masonic temple in a cemetery in Hollywood. Hauschka is the performing name of Volker Bertelmann, who modifies pianos ala John Cage and uses electronics to build haunting soundscapes that still retain beautiful melodic compositions. He even hacked a player piano that was in storage at the venue to accompany him for this show. Check out the full set at http://heymouser.com/hauschka-live-hollywood-forever-photos/
“I decided before the show that I wanted to try to work in a way that was similar to the way he uses the piano as a canvas to work with. So rather than any sort of realistic depiction of the event I end up working with doing long form exposure optical compositing – only creating images with the camera body and lens via manipulating a long exposure. That is, these images are what the camera actually captured while I was working with no Photoshop effects or layering!”


Tuesday, April 29, 2014

A List: Video Game Recommendations For People Who Don't Like Video Games

Proteus

I was recently hanging out at a party drinking wine with a bunch of brilliant musicians and writers from L.A. when the topic of video games came up. There was a general consensus among the partygoers that video games weren't really that artistically interesting. I happen to disagree. 

My passion might come from a place of bias though since I write about rather obtuse topics relating to the intersection of art and video games for the wonderful site Video Game Tourism. And let’s be honest, other than the fancy writing stuff, my girlfriend would certainly confirm that I waste plllleennnntyyyy of time playing video games/yelling at my computer screen (I like RTSs and MOBAs). But I started telling the folks at the party, ad wine-lubricated nauseum, about my forthcoming article about Impressionism and Proteus and they quickly perked up at the mention of Ravel being a musical inspiration for the game.  

I ended up having an e-mail conversation where I spent some time recommending video games for people that don’t like video games. Though this might seem weird, with MoMA including of video games in their collection and the National Gallery doing a show about video games, but by and large, I’ve found that most folks in the art world either haven’t played a video game in a couple of decades or actively dislike video games - which curiously includes folks in their 20’s, a demographic which mostly grew up with video games! 

While there isn’t time to go in to my many guess why the art world is a bastion for anti-video-game thinking, I do know there are a slew of amazing changes happening in the video game world which might cause folks to rethink their reticence, particularly amongst what is dubbed “indie” games (even though that term is about as useless as it is in regards to movies and music these days.)

Stanley Parable

Without further rambling, here’s a selection of recent video games which artistically minded folks might enjoy checking out:

If you are indifferent to games but love art, the game that spawned my upcoming article, titled Proteus, should be your first stop. It is an impressionistic meditation of time and loss with a heavy emphasis on music and exploration. It's a truly beautiful experience that might challenge your notion of what constitutes a video game. http://www.visitproteus.com/

Next, if you’re one of those people who really hates games because you've watched your nephew yell curse words at strangers in Call Of Duty, I would highly recommend the much more dada-ist (and hilariously belligerent) "Stanley Parable" which co-opts the language of 3D first person shooter games to speak rather directly about what we do and don't like about games. It's really witty and subversive in the same vein as the film Brazil and worth playing through many times. http://www.stanleyparable.com/

I should note that, lest ye fear loosing your weekend to yon abyss of video games, both of these first two games, along with most of the rest of the list, are games that are fairly quick to play though. You can get through a reading of Proteus in about the same time as a short essay. Forty five minutes to an hour, tops. Same with Stanley Parable. Additionally, these games mostly don't even require that you be "good" at video games to get their full artistic impact.

If you come from a literary background, I’d say your next stop should be to check out Porpetine's work which is sometimes called a game and sometimes called interactive fiction. She predominately is known for her DIY-style work with the freeware program Twine, which is basically a notecard-style editing system. Howling Dogs is a great place to start since it touches on many of the topics of violence and identity that fill her portfolio. http://aliendovecote.com/howling-dogs/ 

Papers, Please is another amazing piece that messes with game conventions, and our desire to master them, to explore what it's like to be a faceless low level Eastern European bureaucrat. http://dukope.com/

Gone Home twists the haunted house exploration genre into a deep exploration of identity and family relationships. http://www.gonehomegame.com/

Cart Life is a phenomenal use of the video game format to look at the banal brutality of living at the edge of poverty. http://www.richardhofmeier.com/cartlife/

Unmanned is a fascinatingly ironic but view-point expanding game where you play through the daily life of a drone operator for the Air Force, complete with a mini-game where you play video games with your son... http://unmanned.molleindustria.org/

All of the above games are available fairly easily if you have a computer, but I would like to recommend two more games which might require hijacking your friend’s/children’s Play Station 3. The first is the sumptuous and melancholy Journey, http://thatgamecompany.com/games/journey/, which pairs two strangers to explore the ruins of their civilization, without any way to communicate with each other. Second, The Unfinished Swan is a look at artistic process and how it creates the world, and is dazzling looking to boot! http://www.giantsparrow.com/games/swan/   

Finally, if your interest has been piqued, and you want to learn more I would say that the community called Critical Distance is probably the most concentrated hub of activity regarding the rise of a critical discourse around games and game culture. They do a weekly roundup of the best stuff that usually has a few real gems. This is the list of their favorite articles from 2013: http://www.critical-distance.com/2013/12/30/this-year-in-video-game-blogging-2013/

If you have recommendations for folks who don’t really like games, but like good art, post them below!


Tuesday, April 22, 2014

CULA Presents: Laura Bahr's Haunt


If you follow my Instragram (http://instagram.com/eron_rauch Warning: Despite being an artist, I like everyone else, do post photos of food, cats and my record collection) you might have seen that I've totally overhauled my studio to start production on work for the next big Creative Underground Los Angeles show. This event, based on Laura Bahr's novel Haunt, is going to be a really interesting event because the project is going to be more rooted in hybrid theater than music. Laura's book is a phenomenal piece of work in the dark and surreal lineage of David Lynch. The reason I got involved is that the book's setting is in a very astutely observed West side of Los Angeles, which has been the subject for a number of my own projects. I'm working on set and installation designs featuring deconstructed architectural themes that will compliment the show. Hope to see you there!

CULA Presents:
Laura Bahr's Haunt
May 31, 2014
Doors at 7:30PM, show at 8:00PM
$15
BYOB

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Public Secrets / Secret Publics CULA March 30th


This Sunday is the official opening on the Public Secrets / Secret Publics show I curated with Alexander Noice for Creative Underground Los Angeles at the blue whale. This project is by far one of the most ambitious we've undertaken since last year's show at the Hammer Museum. Alongside the group art show I'll be debuting a new a new 20+ minute video piece with the Alex's band, and showing the final version of a large-scale stage installation I've been working on over the past few months. I know Sundays are a bit tricky, but I hope to see you there!





Monday, February 24, 2014

The Neo-Japonisme Project: Opening Reception February 27th

Hi all! I just wanted to take a quick break from being buried in the studio to invite you to drop by the opening reception of The Neo-Japonisme Project that will be happening this week. About a year after hanging my previous show, I was asked back to present a reworked and much-expanded version of Neo-Japonisme that delves further in to the underlying physiological space of obsession and media culture. Aside from the heady stuff, yes, there will be beer and ice cream.

Location: Scoops Westside
Date: February 27th, 2014
Time 7PM to 9PM

Hope to see you there!






Tuesday, January 7, 2014

2014 New Years Resolutions!

After my somewhat grumbly post about photo books, I thought I would take a few minutes and do my annual rundown of my New Year's resolutions. The reason I make these public is that it's a way to keep myself accountable and also maybe inspire a few people to take on a project they have been wanting to accomplish. Unlike most folks, I work to make my resolutions as concrete and accomplishable as possible - more like a 12 month to-do list than a flailing grab toward enlightenment.

1) Go to a coffee shop once a week. This isn't because I'm lacking caffeine at home, but rather because my art situation has been growing in complexity and increasingly I get ensnared by menial office tasks and distractions if I'm at my computer. Finding ways and places to unplug is a big goal for the new year.

2) Go to more art shows. I honestly find going out and meandering random galleries in LA a bit of chore. I usually don't find stuff I like very much... Parking is hard... The art world snobs annoy me... I could be in my studio working. etc, etc, etc. They are all just excuses.

3) Cook my own beans. Odd, I know, but I'm a pretty avid home cook and I'm sick of using inevitably bland canned beans in my otherwise resplendent recipes. Time to buckle down and make my own. It's cheaper anyway, and the only tricky part is planning to turn on the stove a few hours ahead.

4) Shoot more of my Ren Faire garbage can images. Damn. I guess I'm going to have to go wander around and drink beer and watch the madness of the Faire unfold in the warm summer sun of California. Clearly the hardest of my resolutions this year.

5) Learn Illustrator and In Design better. I'm using these tools more and more for various reasons and all that's keeping from being comfortable is buying a couple books and spending a few afternoons of shame of being bad at it.

6) Get my art mailing list going. As the social media world fragments & mutates, it seems as though the trusty e-mail list has become the best way to make sure the people most interested in my art get a chance to hear about what I'm doing.

7) Move some of my record budget toward photo books. I love buying records, partially because it's a way I connect with many of my friends. But unfortunately on an artist's budget you have to make choices, and while photo books aren't as much of a shared interest they are critical to my understanding and growth of my art.

8) Redo my art website. As many of my long-term projects come to completion the need for this is getting worse and worse. Especially if I start seriously self-publishing photo books, I'll need a much nicer hub for that.

9) Learn Japanese cooking. A long ways back I found a weird but useful method to expand my cooking repertoire: Get a really awesome cookbook and make a pact with yourself that each week you'll open the book to a random page and make whatever you flip to. Doesn't matter if it's desert, a whole roast fish, a stock or whatever - you do it. A great way to make yourself interact with the fullness of a cuisine and not just cherry pick the comfortable stuff.

10) Play through my backlog of video games. I'm not one of those hoarders that have hundreds of games in their pile of shame, but I've got a solid dozen games, some of them quite manageable (like Stanley Parable) that get pushed aside in my manic rush to complete my League Of Legends art project.

11) Hit my deadlines better for Video Game Tourism. Pretty self explanatory. I don't actually have deadlines, but I've been aiming for one a month. It hasn't exactly ended up working out that way.

12) Try to get other people's art on my walls. I'm sick of seeing my own work in my living room. Want to trade? Let's talk!

13) Make wine vinegar. I've been meaning to learn how to do this because most commercial wine vinegar sucks and is massively overpriced. Also, I've been meaning to make more of my gifts to friends and this is a perfect thing to give out.

14) Create at least one proper book maquette. A big task, but one that I need to do.

15) Publish at least one book on Blurb. Possibly could do this in preparation for the proper maquette. I have tons of medium-sized projects that would work perfectly in this form.

16) Print and send out a cool mailer to galleries that have liked my work in the past. Maybe something like a mini-magazine of new work?


Saturday, January 4, 2014

Apartment Homes Show Jan 4 - 30, 2014

Hey everyone! I have a new show going up to start the New Year. It's a second show of new work from the Apartment Homes project at the Blue Whale. Hanging the thirteen pieces today so drop some one of these nights in the next few weeks to see the show along with some amazing live music. Up until late in January.  
Blue Whale
123 Astronaut E S Onizuka St #301Los Angeles, CA 90012
Open From 8PM every night except Monday. 


Thursday, January 2, 2014

Hoarding Shadows: The Best Photo Books Of 2013


I love the end of the year. There are three main reasons for loving the run-up to January 1: The first, which I'll cover in more detail in my forthcoming 2014 resolutions post, is that I love the mental state of starting over that comes with the dawning of a new year. Second, at the New Year's party I attend, everyone breaks out their reserve stock of rare beers, but you probably don't care about that. Third, I get to read a slew of amazing articles and blog posts in which savvy people talk about their favorite music and books of the year. This is great for me, since, hey, I'm a full time artist and being buried in the studio so much, I miss things. I've already bought a whole bunch of albums and added some interesting books to my reading list. 

Yet, one set of lists is bothering me. I'm a photographer, and I love photo books, so of course I seek out the lists of best photo books. I collect obscure contemporary black metal, experimental and jazz vinyl, so I'm used to dealing with the vagrancies of tracking down self published and import work. But as I clicked through the menagerie of tomes I noticed a disheartening trend. In this article I want to take a look at the 2013 best of list (http://blog.photoeye.com/2013/12/the-best-books-of-2013.html) created by PhotoEye, one of America's premier photo book bookstores. I don't want to call them out specifically, since they are an amazing store filled with smart and dedicated staff but the reason I want to use their list is because it is very representative of which books are showing up on these lists (that is, it's filled with the photo book equivalents of Deafheaven's Sunbather album). 

The first book on the list, Rasen Kaigan/Album by Lieko Shiga had me pulling out my credit card to buy it, but it was not available from their store. There are 6 copies on Amazon going for the low low price of $245.00 to $485.00… Let's just assume that's one of those stupid Amazon bot pricing issues (such a futuristic problem to have!) and move on. Cool, the next book has a couple of copies of the in stock for $75.00, but Amazon is out of stock and already the price is creeping up past $124.00. Book three - out of stock, but there are two used copies floating on Amazon for $80.00. Unless you want a first printing which would run you $240.00. Book four - well, that's not available on Amazon OR at PhotoEye. Next book, only two used copies, going for $373.00 and $445.00 respectively. 

Let's just skip to the chase: This isn't some weird Amazon bot-pricing issue. Additionally, just to be clear that I'm not pitting a mega-corporation against an indie bookseller, PhotoEye partners with Amazon, and co-lists these prices. But more importantly, my concern is availability: Of the 27 books in PhotoEye's best of the year list, only 6 are available to buy new at their store. 5 I could find direct from their respective publishers, mostly in Europe, some of which were possibly unavailable (I had to rely on Google translate to let me know if they were in stock or not). 6 aren't available to buy at either PhotoEye or Amazon. Of the last 10, which are available on the secondary market, their average price for the cheapest copy available is $219.21! 

Let's push aside the secondary market speculation/inflation/bubble issue for a moment (which is still a very valid conversation in this economy where the middle class's presence in fine art is disappearing) and talk about this list, and it's brethren across the internet, just from a perspective of being a fan and wanting to check out the best work that came out in the last 12 months. 

If this were Pitchfork's Top 100 albums of 2013 it would break down as: 22 albums would be available. 19 would be available as imports with all the hassle and fees associated. 37 albums could be found in highly limited supply on the secondary market for two to ten times their initial asking price. The final 22 wouldn't be available anywhere. This isn't a list of "greatest of all time," this is a list of the best stuff since the last college football season ended. Put in to terms of music, hopefully you can begin to see how insanely exclusive, opaque and reclusive the photo book world has become. For reference, of the 100 albums on the Pitchfork list, 100 are available in complete versions, usually in multiple formats; the same is true of the New York Times 2013 notable book list.

Despite the bluster and hype, when you break down this community in to these weird numbers, it begins to speak volumes about the possible unhealthiness of the photo book in its marketplace ecosystem. I'm part of the group that believes that the art of the photo book is experiencing an exciting and fearlessly creative period of maturation. Working in photo book form is crucial for a number of my projects. But I get anxious when I stop and think about what might happen to my art in this hyper-rarified landscape.

If only a tiny, self-selected population of speculators, sycophants and the wealthy ever see these magnificent objects, what does it mean for the possible ability of the art to affect the world? I mean, most artists who aren't already famous (sorry Alec Soth, I actually really like your book reviews) certainly aren't seeing these books. The same can be said for most fans of art, since these books aren't ever displayed in a physical space like a $100,000 painting might appear in a gallery or at least a fair to be gawked at briefly. 

So is the photo book field just a new set of luxury items for the rich?  Are these just objects that will disappear in to the collector-mists (in acid free archival wrap like a body bag) the moment they come in the mail? Are they just fodder for online markets and auctions the way that silly colored vinyl releases from bands like Uncle Acid are used to drive publisher headlines and speculator bankrolls? Are photo books just some cute old-timesy product like a tin photo at an amusement park or a hand-blown glass ornament? Are they just a flashy symbolic gesture of taste for the Vice magazine kids? Basically, as someone deeply invested in making these sorts of objects, I'm thinking out loud if this just a boom based on NOT seeing; a boom based on hoarding shadows? 

I don't have answers to these questions, of course, but I honestly do believe in the amazing work coming from the artists that are making these books. Well, from what I've seen of their work in bits online and various prints at galleries, not of course, from the books themselves.



EDIT:

It was obvious to me when I wrote the article that I wasn't accusing PhotoEye of anything negative but I'm not sure if that came through as well as it should. To be as clear as possible, PhotoEye should be commended if anything. First, they actually had most of this data out in open. I had been thinking of writing this article about a half dozen other, earlier, lists but I couldn't quite get a concrete handle on the topic. Second, and most important, you can really tell this is a list of books they loved. I mean, PhotoEye is a store and they only stock 22% of their recommended titles! They could easily have made a very reasonable editorial decision to fill their list with in-stock titles to bolster their sales.