In my podcast series Barbara London Calling, I’m hosting conversations with pioneering and up-and-coming artists from around the world. Together we’re exploring what motivates and inspires these artists, what technologies they use in their unusually varied practices, and how they see the world as artists working at the forefront of technology and creativity.
A few of the artists are featured in my book, Video/Art: The First Fifty Years; several are also included in “Seeing Sound,” an exhibition I organized, which tours in 2021 under the auspices of Independent Curators International (ICI), the nonprofit based in Manhattan.
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In each of the first 12 episodes of “Barbara London Calling,” I spoke with artists working at the forefront of technology and creativity. But today, for the 13th and final episode of Season 1, I’m speaking with a curator who is helping to build a space and platform for those artists to continue their exploration.
Today I’m joined by Chrissie Iles, the Anne & Joel Ehrenkranz Curator at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York. As a leading authority on contemporary art and the moving image, Chrissie has curated important exhibitions, including “Into the Light: The Projected Image in American Art, 1964-1977” and “Dreamlands: Immersive Cinema and Art, 1905-2016.”
Chrissie, I’ve been trying to remember when we first met—I believe it was while you were Head of Exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art in Oxford, England. We’ve been wonderful colleagues and friends ever since. Thanks so much for joining me, and welcome to the season finale of “Barbara London Calling.”
Chrissie Iles: Barbara, thank you very much for having me on your podcast. It’s a real honor, and a real pleasure to be talking together.
Today, I’m calling Didem Pekün, a Turkish–British artist, born 1978 and now based in Berlin. Didem’s lyrical video installations interrogate different ideas of identity, displacement and statelessness.
Didem, thanks for joining me.
Didem Pekün: Barbara, thanks so much for having me. Such a pleasure. Thank you.
Today, I’m calling Marina Rosenfeld, a Brooklyn-based composer and sound and visual artist. In 1993, Marina orchestrated a performance artwork called Sheer Frost Orchestra. It was scored for seventeen women each playing an electric guitar using nothing but bottles of nail polish. Sitting in a line, the women were directed to play their guitars in a series of choreographed actions: drop, hop, drone, scratch and “A” for anything.
Marina received a degree in music from Harvard and an MFA in fine arts and music from CalArts. She’s currently an artist in residence at Nokia Bell Labs, where she found inspiration in an experimental prototype for a multi-microphone, nicknamed the Deathstar. Marina, welcome to “Barbara London Calling.” Thank you for joining me.
Marina Rosenfeld: I’m pleased to be here. Thank you for having me.
Today I’m calling Bani Haykal. Born in 1985 and based in Singapore, Bani Haykal straddles the world of language, art and music. As a media artist and teacher, he picks apart the nuances in our technology-fueled lives. In Singapore, he grew up listening to American rap music, eventually finding his way to avant-garde multi-instrumentalist Anthony Braxton, architect and composer Iannis Xenakis, and electronic music pioneer Daphne Oram. Bani’s interactive installation sifrmuversion 5 is featured in “Seeing Sound,” a new exhibition I curated for Independent Curators International. The piece acts as an encrypted translation device, allowing users to explore the power of commonalities across different languages—but also the deeper power of incongruencies across those same languages.
Welcome, Bani. Thank you for joining today from Singapore.
Bani Haykal: Hi, Barbara. Thank you for having me. It’s good to be on the show. I’m really appreciative of being able to come on board and speak to you and speak to a wider audience as well.
Today I’m calling Jonathas de Andrade. Born in 1982, Jonathas lives in Recife, on the northeastern coast of Brazil, where he works across video and photography with an interest in how language can render truths as well as untruths, and how that same language can liberate or marginalize its subjects.
Jonathas, thank you so much for joining me.
Jonathas de Andrade: Hey, Barbara. Thanks a lot. Thanks for the invitation.
Today, I’m calling Jana Winderen. Born in 1965 and based in Oslo, Norway, Jana straddles the fields of art, music and science. Her sound installations encourage us not just to hear, but to listen.
Jana and I first met in Oslo in 2012 when I was researching the sound art community in Scandinavia. I was struck by the intensity of her commitment to discovering the aural dimensions of natural landscapes that tend to be extremely difficult to reach. She travels to the ends of the Earth, often alone, where she records nearly imperceptible sounds using an arsenal of the most sophisticated professional recording gear. She might drop a microphone inside the crevice of a gigantic glacier, or hundreds of feet deep into the frigid Arctic Ocean, or even into Manhattan’s East River, where she heard the sounds of fish communicating.
Our meeting led to the premiere of Jana’s sixteen-channel, twenty-minute Ambisonics work Ultrafield. Her installation premiered in “Soundings: A Contemporary Score,” an exhibition I organized at the Museum of Modern Art in 2013. Visitors entered the darkened installation and stood or sat down on soft cushion seating in the middle of the nineteen-foot square space, surrounded by sixteen inconspicuous ten-inch-high black speakers mounted from floor to ceiling on the four walls. Jana’s composition was based on her recorded sounds, including those made by bulldog bats with echolocation in ultrasound range. Without the visual stimuli usually encountered in a museum, the audience paid close attention to the sounds Ultrafield had to offer, shushing anyone who dared to speak.
Aside from presenting her work in institutional and public spaces, Jana releases her audio compositions through Touch, the experimental British music label. She trained in mathematics, biochemistry, and fish ecology at the University of Oslo before receiving a B.A. in Fine Art from Goldsmiths, London.
Jana, thanks for joining me.
Jana Winderen: Hi, Barbara. It’s great to be here.
Today, I’m calling Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard, two London-based artists and collaborators with a background in installation art and the moving image. Iain and Jane began their fruitful collaboration as students at Goldsmiths in London, where they saw firsthand the good and the bad of the so-called YBA movement of young British artists.
Music has always played an important role in their work, culminating in their 2014 feature film, 20,000 Days on Earth, a musical docudrama starring the iconic singer/songwriter Nick Cave. Iain and Jane’s Requiem for 114 Radios, which features 114 vintage radios simultaneously buzzing and broadcasting, will be featured in “Seeing Sound,” an upcoming exhibition I organized with Independent Curators International (ICI). Iain and Jane, thanks for joining me.
Today I’m calling Brooklyn-based media artist Rachel Rossin.
Born in 1987, Rachel grew up in South Florida, where she lived in the shadow of natural disaster. This sense of anxiety—a kind of dread for nature’s ferocious side—still colors Rachel’s work. By age 8, Rachel was already painting and writing computer code, and she eventually began experimenting with virtual reality and digital art.
Rachel Rossin: Hi, Barbara. Thank you for the introduction.
Today I’m calling Cao Fei, the Beijing-based artist who works across film, digital media, photography, sculpture, installation and performance. She has a keen interest in documenting the social impact of technological developments over the last two decades. Cao Fei is interested in how the virtual world contradicts and coincides with reality, resulting in something ambiguous and complex. Her starting point is China and how people, especially young people, navigate the rapidly changing social and technological landscape. Cao Fei, thank you for joining me.
Today I’m calling Paul Pfeiffer, an American artist well known for utilizing sophisticated digital technologies to scrutinize the role mass media plays in shaping contemporary consciousness. Born in Honolulu in 1966, Paul and his family spent several years in the Philippines before returning to Hawaii. Paul now lives and works in New York, where he investigates the relationship between video, sporting events, racial politics, and what he calls “spectacle and spectatorship.” Paul, thank you for joining me.