Memory/Frequency is a tightly curated show that explores cognitive dissonances
and synchronicities through the work of three PNCA professors; Carl Diehl, Lennie
Pitkin and Tracey Cockrell. It's a taut, liminally fringed show at Worksound that
is even more mysterious for the fact that its curator has chosen to remain anonymous.
Rest assured though, whomever put these three in one place definitely knows their
Carl Diehl's Puzzling the Ficto-Quizzical (w/Weird Fiction)
digital/electronic video, 2009
photo Jeff Jahn
As shows go, Memory/Frequency is uneasy in character but excellent and it is perversely infused with
too much information, synchronicity and intriguingly large swaths of negated logic.
For example if you were there for the opening only Pitkin's work was intelligible
as the band Weird Fiction (including Diehl, Mack McFarland, Jeff Richardson, Zack
Benfinld and Vihn Manson) took the stage. Despite the interesting crossover, I
enjoyed the show infinitely more than the band.
Installation vie of Lennie Pitkin's Everyday Disasters at Worksound
For example, Pitkin's Everyday Disaster Series consists of prints combining
a satellite image and text. The configuration reminds me a bit of Sophie
. Each image be it; storm, volcano, ice shelf or plankton bloom is
accompanied with a text that weaves disparate stories of human and natural activity.
One of the best ones is Cyclone 06B over Sri Lanka, which consists of a black
and white satellite image of the storm and a text detailing the ethnic strife
between the Tamils and Singhalese in Sri Lanka. It's only when the storm clears
out the area around the Tamil headquarters that the Sri Lankan military launches
a surprise attack killing 8,000 Tamils while loosing 3,800 of their own during
the initial attack and cleanup operations. Other prints describing the Wilkin's
ice shelf or the plight of displaced Darfur refugee's on the slopes of a very
dangerous volcano similarly reveal the inadequate mainstream media coverage
of these events.
It also challenges our own awareness of such synchronicitous events
we buying ice cream or having a pedicure when these events were happening. The
prospects of this information limbs and helps us understand the limits of our
conscious awareness to the constant barrage of bad news in the world. Do we
as Americans choose to follow the plight of Anna Nicole Smith and ignore the
Sri Lankan situation because we are simply wee-minded celeb-utard trackers or
because the truth and extent of human suffering is so vast it is paralyzing?
Clearly some are doing what they can and Pitkin's prints poses a vexing question
will humanitarian efforts ever be "enough" on a planet that both sustains
and destroys us?
Carl Diehl's Derelict Theory Objects
Carl Diehl's Work in Memory/Frequency is a strange dark voyage into a cave
of media overloaded paralysis, paranormal conjecture, schizoid jargon and rank
paranoia. With its trippy convulsions of multiple images the work reminds me
a bit of the very talented and greatly missed Jeremy Blake, only a lot more
paranoid and hyperactive. Carl's most prominent project to date was the Video
Gentleman's collective show that quirkily kicked off the NAAU's Couture Series
and I see a similar lo-fi analog aesthetic confluence here
only a lot
For instance, one Barnes Foundation like wall cluster contains a poster touting
"panopticonciousness" is Derelict Theory Objects
certain amount of alien brain infiltration has occurred and the rather officious
sounding jargon. The end sentence of the frame which contains text suggests
that, "the panopticconscousness objector considers learning how and when
to blink," in the face of constant information bombardment. It sounds totally
schizophrenic, not dissimilar to the sort of things that some very troubled
people shout on Portland streets but there is a grain of truth here
that how one chooses to drop out of the media stream is key to having an identity
and unique point of view. Yet at this point I'm slightly worried about the artist
whom Ive followed for years but only in small doses.
detail of Derelict Theory Objects
Next, I encountered a work station desk outfitted with earphones, some analog
audio equipment, a video screen flashing with imagery, a pad of paper and another
imbedded screen that strobes official looking documents way too quickly for
any human to read. It's called Cracked Memex
. From the derelict theory
object tableau description I surmise this is the same memex described as, "Vannevar
Bush's marvelous memex promised to expand the reach of the human mind, amplifying
associational structures, correlating the contents of the world. Born obsolete,
it never made it past vaporware."
was a real person, in fact he was responsible for the Manhattan Project
and considered a precursor to the internet. In the 30's his idea for the Memex
was a, "device in which an individual stores all his books, records, and
communications, and which is mechanized so that it may be consulted with exceeding
speed and flexibility." Later in life he unsuccessfully tried to develop
one which used microfilm.
Apparently in Diehl's hands a cracked version of the memex did make it beyond
vaporware and the device ready for use here certainly pummels ones psyche with
associations, much like that scene in Kubrick's a clockwork orange
without the eyelids taped open. As information strobed I scribbled a few notes
from the audio about "querty core," the "obliterati" and
some mass "fear of levitation." Once again this is heavy on officious
jargon but it makes some sense. For instance, I'm practically connected to some
sort of querty keyboard every conscious minute of the day (smart phones, computers
etc.) and the relentlessness of the images isn't that weird except for the rate
of information and the jargon associated to it. It isn't any different that
Tokyo or Times Square. Even the whispery voice in the earphones is a computer
generated affair. Overall, it is paranoia and paralysis inducing rather than
detail of Cracked Memex
At this point I became very worried about the artist so I asked a question
on facebook about Diehl's sanity. Do I take this guy seriously or does he need
Answer, he's apparently very sane and quite reliable... so I suspect this multimedia
sculpture or "cracked memex" is an analog for art itself. It expands
the reach of the human mind through associations
sounds like any art with
images or structure to me. In a way it's an update of Nam Jun Paik and it also
resembles the ecclesiastical clusterfucks of Jason Rhoades, only more haunted.
The work isn't quite a immersive or refined as theirs but I suspect Diehl could
pull of a very convincing solo show if he went for greater object saturation
and information overload.
Another 2 channel video piece Puzzling the Ficto-Quizzical (w/Weird Fiction)
digital/electronic video, 2009
plays with the synchronicity between screens.
What appears on the right screen soon appears on the left, sometimes slightly
altered. This creates an anticipatory apophenia
slightly akin to video work
by Laura Fritz but where hers is arch mysterious and full of fascinating space
this work is more tuned to pop phenomena, echoing the way the often vapid actions
of celebrities get echoed around the mainstream gossip hound media. It leaves
one brain feeling like they've been channel surfing for twenty minutes.
Sundown (Landscape Anarchitecture Series)
The final video in back room is Sundown (Landscape Anarchitecture Series)
Though the title references Gordon
Matta Clark's Architecture Serie
s, it's most related to Jeremy
Blake's Winchester House
video. Like Blake's it is a slow, weird and dense
piece and I wonder if it wouldn't be more realized and immersive on a much larger
TV screen? The change of pace in contrast to the rest of Diehl's often rapid
fire work is very effective but I'm not certain the TV on the floor does it
Overall, I get the sense Diehl cleared his closet out for this show
a grouping from the past few years. This house cleaning also suggests he's ready
for a more concentrated solo show perhaps? Hopefully, it will be one where the
individual works could be more immersive and less overlapping in character as
this type of art can become a blur of arcane experiences that reduce each other
rather than amplify. I liked this effort but I suspect something more be right
around the corner. Something weirder and more derelict?
Tracey Cockrell's Noiseless
Of the three artists here Tracey Cockrell's work felt the most academic in nature. Her well
crafted custom typewriters like Noiseless
and Quiet de Luxe
her poemophone series only have certain keys, alluding to their poetic selections
while evoking a nostalgic preoccupation with a keyboard not connected to a microprocessor.
It's definitely not query-core.
The most satisfying work though is her sound installation, Excerpt, Central
Park, NYC, August 8, 2009. A simple corner piled with cedar chips and a park
bench invites visitors to sit and listen, but what clinches its success is the
cedar. As the viewer sits and listens to the sounds of people passing by they
might absent mindedly kick up the fragrant cedar chips. Scent is the sense most
closely tied to memory and the cedar smell quickly brought to mind innumerable
Most of the sounds are simply those of people rushing by but the snippets of
conversations are suggested. Only one regarding someone's "meanness"?
is all that intelligible and the mind races while trying to string together
some coherent narrative, this too is apophenia inducing (Jeremy
and Inigo Manglano-Ovalle
all are arch apophenists). It's also a good set up for February's Disquieted
show at PAM, which features Tom Freidman, Andreas Gurskey, John Baldesari and
Doug Aitken etc.
Overall, the synchronicities between Pitkin, Diehl and Cockrell made for one
of the best curated shows in recent memory (pun intended) and I'm left wondering
why we don't see more tight three-person shows like this?
Show runs through October 30st at Worksound
Gallery Hours : Wednesday - Friday 2pm to 5pm
or by Appointments 415 516-0569
Jeff - I too have often worried about the so-called "sanity" of Carl Diehl, the metaphortean researcher. At times his ability to see beyond the techno-utopic cheerleading of the information-industrial-complex has made me think he may lose himself in a cloud of data smog, or worse yet, be targeted by the Obliterati as a (data)Body non grata.
But I wouldn't worry, he is a faculty (not graduate) of PNCA, and as any good panopticonscientious Objector knows "you can never make enough money to disappear".