Friday, April 10, 2015

Jessica Westbrook

Jessica Westbrook

I work with photography, video, motion, semiotics, language, and information design. My projects explore desire, cues, cultural artifacts, and contradictory sensations that vacillate between perception and truth, trust and suspicion, pleasure and poison, domination and submission, consumption and rejection, seduction and repulsion, comfort and friction, expectation and disappointment, fortune and catastrophe. Increasingly semantic in nature and modular in form, I consider my work a section of visual language culled from a complex matrix of assets, reconfigured and repurposed per space and time.

I was born in Pittsburgh, PA in the 1970’s and grew up immersed in my Dad’s disco and nightclub communities. As an architect, consultant, entrepreneur, and addict, my Dad’s priorities lie in the design and implementation of fantasy, escapism, and social experiences that appealed to the most basic human desires. His business endeavors kept my family in flux, moving up and down the East Coast, until we finally settled in the sprawling suburbs of Orlando, FL in the 1980’s. I spent all of my formative years privy to both the nature and business of adult entertainment, and in contrast, the simulated construct of family entertainment branded complexes like Disney World, Kennedy Space Center, and Universal Studios. Like everyone else I went to public school, watched a lot of cable, took in a lot of advertising, and developed my own habits and hobbies - mine included an intense interest in the facts/figures and life/sex/death cycles presented in nature documentaries like “Our Wild America.”
When I was 9 years old I started making photographs and with my Mom’s encouragement, photography became an element of consistency, structure, and interaction in my life (my own language and social device). I believe the forces experienced early on: familial chaos, desire and social constructs, business and simulation, the mediation of nature, and the exploration of images and visual language; continue to influence my thinking and inform my work.
In college I studied art, and went on to receive an MFA in photography from Tyler. At 24 I entered professional life as a web designer/developer in the Baltimore DC metro area during the height of the dotcom. At 25 I got married. At 26 I had a baby. At 27 I ditched the corporate/government mix (and the layoffs, commutes, cost of living, airplane crashes, anthrax, snipers...) for life in Chattanooga, TN, where art, ideas, education, and community could take precedence.

I currently live and work in Chicago, IL and continue to be interested in the intersection of art, design, anthropology, nature, and systems. My work is increasingly motion based and collaborative. Recent exhibitions have included Ars Combinatoria (Orlando, FL), Eyedrum (Atlanta, GA), Hyde Park Center (Chicago, IL), MGFest08 (Chicago, IL), E32 (New York, NY), Livebox at Looptopia (Chicago, IL), Pierro Gallery (South Orange, NJ) / Newark Public Library (Newark, NJ).

You can see more of her work at:

Noelle Mason

Noelle Mason

In my trans-disciplinary practice I conceptually employ electronics, video, sculpture, installation, painting, photography, and craft to investigate the subtle seductiveness of power facilitated by systems of visual control. I am primarily interested in the artificial means by which we extend our ability to see and the mediating object’s affect on the transmission of images to affirm social and political hierarchies.

Mise-en-Scene appropriates the language of the gallery, video games, scientific experiment, and surveillance to examine how mediation functions both to facilitate acts of violence and to uphold the assertion of boundaries between cultural and political institutions of power. In Mise-en-Scene the viewer is presented with a sealed 8-foot room. Inside the room a woman stands in darkness, surveilled by four closed circuit night vision cameras that feed her real-time infrared image to corresponding monitors imbedded in each of the room’s outer walls. Under each monitor is a large red video game button. When a viewer presses one of the buttons an electric shock is administered to one of the performer’s limbs causing her muscles to seize from the jolt until the button is released. Mise-en-Scene explores the effect of a “social relationship mediated by images” as the desire to see is transformed into a means of painful control over another’s body. The seductive quality of surveillance synthesized with gallery mores and interface transparency makes viewer, institution, and artist equal participants in the creation of the scene.

In LAN Party or “National Take Your Daughter to Work Day” I graft autobiographical narrative onto appropriated images, objects, and contexts in an attempt to negotiate the complexities of power, which reverberate between the interpersonal and institutional. The resulting installation, or local area network (LAN,) implicates the viewer in an act of violence and uses the gallery as a medium to examine the historical precedence that affirms the authority of viewership. In LAN Party a Remington M700 police sniper rifle is poised atop a domestic looking table. A stool and headphone set invite the viewer to position herself behind the rifle, aimed at a small ornately framed monitor across the room. The monitor which, can only be seen and heard when standing in close proximity, shows found footage taken through the lens of an American helicopter sniper as he targets and kills Iraqis on the ground. The video is accompanied by a telephone recording of my father’s voice coolly describing the formal qualities of his own experience with the Remington M700 (weight, material, kickback.) Outfitted with headphones and enabled by the magnifying powers of the rifle’s scope, the viewer across the room receives the sniper footage in concert with the original soundtrack—the voices of gunmen and the booming sound of shots being fired.
Currently my work is informed by the unique socio-political climate of the Southern California border with Mexico and the imaging technologies used to uphold it. Ground Control is a wool Gobelin rug made in Guadalajara, Mexico by José Antonio Flores and Jonathan Samaniego in exchange for the amount of money it would cost a family of four to illegally immigrate to the United States. Ground Control reconstructs an image of the US/Mexico border at Mexicali/Calexico taken by the Terra satellite’s Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer (ASTER.) ASTER is made possible by collateral exertions of energy, economy, research and labor between NASA, Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry (METI) and Japan’s Earth Remote Sensing Data Analysis Center (ERSDAC). Ground Control is an exercise in free monetary/commodity exchange across the U.S./Mexico border in contradistinction to the growing restrictions on human migration. The trans-national means of image collection and production of the work displaces the distinctions of national margins the ASTER photograph depicts, while the electromagnetic abstraction of the border obscures the image’s coded political content.

Amelia Winger Bearskin by Lynn Boland

"Shhhp, shhhp." "Baaaaaa, that'll be the day/Ohhh." "Ahh ahh." These quotations might seem unfamiliar and even a bit strange, but you have heard them before. They are repeated every day on oldies stations across the nation, but we are more familiar with their lyrical counterparts: "Cupid draw back your bow," "Well that'll be the day/When you say goodbye," and "There's nothing I can do to keep from crying when he calls your name, Jolene."[1]

In Backup, videos of Amelia Winger-Bearskin sing the alto voices from three popular songs in order to reveal the hidden support system of our society's cult-of-celebrity. We know the names Sam Cooke, Dolly Parton, and Buddy Holly. They are the artists on the album covers, the ones we search for on iTunes. Maybe you've also heard of The Crickets, but can you name them? I can't. Eight people are credited with backing vocals on the 1957 recording of "That'll Be the Day."[2] Songwriting credits go to Buddy Holly, drummer and vocalist Jerry Allison, and producer Norman Petty. More specific information as to who sang or wrote what is not readily available; there is no general demand for it since backups rarely enter our cultural consciousness.

Winger Bearskin's self-imposed framework of using songs found on oldies stations also draws in other compelling, if unintended, issues simply because of the nature of such formats. She initially selected and recorded eight songs for the series, arranged in sets of three. The sets are determined by the songs' pacing. Here, the visual arrangement of the three songs puts Rock-n-Roll between Rhythm & Blues and Country & Western. The traditional formula for the development of Rock is R&B + C&W = R-n-R.[3] In recent decades, this simple equation has been radically complicated, thus additional issues of underappreciated contributions to popular culture are brought to bear in the work.[4]

Winger-Bearskin's three performances for Backup were each single takes. The intense expression on her face as she struggles to pick out the alto voices contributes to a kind of deadpan humor that gives the viewer immediate entry into the work. Such access is especially useful given the eerie, dissonant nature of the music that is created through the artist's semi-aleatory process. The toe-tapping rhythms and melodic hooks are gone. The alto (literally "high") voice is most often in the middle, a somewhat awkward tonal position, and the three songs' battling keys further the work's tonal complexity.[5] All three songs conform to the pop standard length of under three minutes. Two are in 4/4 time, and one in the equally divisible 2/4; yet despite these metric similarities, each has a different tempo. Had the whole of the songs been reproduced the result would have been cacophonous, but Winger-Bearskin's process creates music that is atonal and ametric, notions unknown to Western music until the twentieth-century and still considered "difficult" in both pop and art music.[6]
Our selective idolization of popular entertainers is central to the musical and visual elements of Winger-Bearskin's videos, from her choice of songs to her performance against a green chroma screen. Beyond the convenience of her own operatic vocal training, the artist performs in all of her work herself to avoid any illusion of objectivity; she is interested solely in subjective truth.[7] Like Brecht, she wants to use "lies" to show "truth."[8]

** see more of Amelia's work:

[1] Sam Cooke, "Cupid" (single) 1961 (RCA); Buddy Holly & The Crickets, "That'll Be the Day," from The 'Chirping' Crickets, 1957 (Brunswick); Dolly Parton, "Jolene" from Jolene, 1974 (RCA).
[2] Jerry Allison, June Clarke, Bob Lapham, Bill Pickering, John Pickering, Niki Sullivan, Gary Tollett, and Buddy Holly himself are all credited with backing vocals on the album (, June 8, 2007).
[3] See Renee Garofalo, Rockin' Out: Popular Music in the U.S.A., fourth edition (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2005) 82-83. I am indebted to UT Professor of Ethnomusicology Stephen Slawek whose class on the history of rock first made me aware of this formula.
[4] For more on this topic, see Philip Ennis, The Seventh Stream: The Emergence of Rocknroll in American Popular Music (Hanover, NH: Wesleyan University Press, 1992).
[5] Cupid is in the key of G; That'll Be the Day is in A; and, Jolene is in C# minor.
[6] For further discussion of the emergence of atonality in Western art music, start with Elliott Antokoletz, Twentieth-Century Music (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1992).
[7] To disclose motivations behind my own subjective reception of this work I will note that of my few published recording credits, most are as accompanying musician, with production credits second. I have only released one song in which I sing lead (see "Lynn Bolan(d).")
[8] Interview with artist, June 7, 2007. See also