Blogs Media Lab Ryohei Ozaki

A classic old soul in love with the analog—calligraphy, handmade pasta, 35mm film—with an addictive curiosity for the digital. Former editor at The Princeton Buffer, currently at Artsy. Serial re-tweeter, aspiring polyglot, mandolin player and Chris Marker enthusiast.

Let Us Now Unpack “Connectivity and Community”

Describing Superscript’s developments, artist William Powhida put it succinctly: To give a little more context: during the second day’s session “Connectivity and Community,” the conversation moved away from the previous day’s forms of criticism as such, and toward criticism in a digital age. That age is mediated by largely historical—sometimes colonial—structures of power, surveillance, economics, marginalization and its counterpart, co-option. The […]

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A global communion of single-colored hands. 

Describing Superscript’s developments, artist William Powhida put it succinctly:

Screen Shot 2015-05-30 at 5.38.19 PM

To give a little more context: during the second day’s session “Connectivity and Community,” the conversation moved away from the previous day’s forms of criticism as such, and toward criticism in a digital age. That age is mediated by largely historical—sometimes colonial—structures of power, surveillance, economics, marginalization and its counterpart, co-option. The faux-academic in me wants to understand a bit more using hand gestures, so let’s do it the way we do best: by unpacking.

1. Why was it SO cold in the Walker Cinema?

Nothing to unpack, should’ve packed more.

2. Can we life-hack in some way beyond Pinterest/tech bros?

‘Disruption,’ a rather aggressive act, is accepted as desirable, necessary, and a sign of progress. By extension, the rise of Silicon Valley brings ‘hacking’ to everything; nothing is inherently unsolvable, you just have to change your mindset and introduce the right technology. But what kind of hacking really matters? Making bananas ripen quicker by putting them in a plastic bag with an apple is sort of useful, but what about lives that need more than hacking in the (well-stocked) kitchen? How does a trans person navigate a hostile, reductive, largely heterosexual (excluding porn) digital space, for example? Where are their start-ups with cutesy ads in the New York subway?

3. Private vs. public

This binary was brought up in terms of social media and other communication platforms (Skype, Google Hangout, but also, I might add, Tinder, Grindr, etc.) that break boundaries between an intimate inner life and a public-facing persona. To me, the idea is especially relevant for the queer community (many of whom are also people of color) who live with that precarious balance, and who must negotiate fear, confidence, defiance, denial, reluctance, and self-hatred every day. How do these ambivalences migrate to web platforms? And how does my sexual identity or relationship status on Facebook affect my employment, right to citizenship, uninhibited travel, and my authority to have an opinion (or, in other words, be a critic)?

4. Marginalization vs. normalization

Social media is not a public, democratic space, but a parading of our free labor, a forum for peep shows. And within that media, normalization isn’t mere access to a platform, but being liked, accepted within that structure. Is a lifestyle legitimate when enough people care about it? And if this is normalization, then what and where is the marginal space on the Internet? An abandoned website, a measly number of likes, antiquated design, complete or partial censorship?

Remind me why we love to unpack? It just makes a mess. I’m left with more questions than when I began.

The Superscript Blog Mentorship program, a partnership with Hyperallergic, is presented as part of

Three Questions for Artist James Richards

On a breezy, sunny day in Minneapolis, I sat down with the artist James Richards, whose newest work, Radio at Night (2015), premiered here at Superscript. The work was created for Walker Moving Image Commissions, an online platform featuring the work of six artists and launching on June 1 with Richards’ Radio at Night and Moyra Davey’s Notes on Blue (2015). Ryohei […]

James Richards, Radio at Night, 2015, video

James Richards, Radio at Night, 2015, video

On a breezy, sunny day in Minneapolis, I sat down with the artist James Richards, whose newest work, Radio at Night (2015), premiered here at Superscript. The work was created for Walker Moving Image Commissions, an online platform featuring the work of six artists and launching on June 1 with Richards’ Radio at Night and Moyra Davey’s Notes on Blue (2015).

Ryohei Ozaki: I’m struck by the central place that music has in your work. How does it play into Radio at Night?

James Richards: The commissioned piece is a continuation of a process that began in spring of last year, when I was making Raking Light (2014). The starting point is sort of technical; I hadn’t really updated my music equipment for about 10 years or something, so I bought a new music application. The program is all-encompassing and contains synthesizers, sequencers, and samplers that allow you to work in many different ways. I spent a lot of time making music independently of visual art while I was on a residency, learning and finding a way of working with this software and trying to find a voice with it. It was about trying to funnel that into a piece and make something unapologetically luscious.

RO: This ties into my next question, about the phrase “digital age,” used in the title of the conference. It’s a bit vague and overused IMHO. But what does it mean for you as an artist working in digital audio and visual media?

JR: If we weren’t in a digital age—well, you can’t really hypothesize this stuff too much—but if I wasn’t in this era, I’m not sure I would be a filmmaker. I’d probably work in collage or something. Digital has an immediacy I like. One can work unprecedentedly in a casual, cheap, and constant way, which is very much the product of recent technological changes, compared with work made earlier. Artists I admire would likely have to go out to special facilities for a very limited time frame, perhaps with a great cost, and so they’d have to plan and organize it in a very different way. Now all one’s tools are on a laptop and you can be generating and manipulating and experimenting. There’s something about that immediate relationship and that way technology makes working like this almost like writing, with a similar level of directness.

RO: What are you most excited to be working on at the moment?

JR: I’m continuing to experiment with the material generated and developed in my last two pieces, Radio at Night and Raking Light. Next year I’m making a large installation of this material, fragmenting it and working with multichannel setups in an exhibition context. I did something similar six years ago, but I’m approaching it with new material and a new attitude. I’m thinking of moving music away from images, working with sound installed in space, which I’m really excited about. This will be at Bergen Kunsthall in Norway and the Kestnergesellschaft in Hannover in a two-part show.

The Superscript Blog Mentorship program, a partnership with Hyperallergic, is presented as part of

Four Haiku on Sustainability, Growth, and Ethics

Because there is too much fucking information out there, let’s stop and learn from the Japanese wisdom of saying more with less. We don’t have to be all-encompassing; we can write haiku. My poetic interpretations of today’s presentations on “Sustainability, Growth and Ethics“:   Veken Gueyikian, Hyperallergic Online art ads suck; Transparent and relevant Are the […]

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Because there is too much fucking information out there, let’s stop and learn from the Japanese wisdom of saying more with less. We don’t have to be all-encompassing; we can write haiku. My poetic interpretations of today’s presentations on “Sustainability, Growth and Ethics“:

 

Veken Gueyikian, Hyperallergic

Online art ads suck;

Transparent and relevant

Are the way to go.

 

Eugenia Bell, Design Observer

Is Lulu Lemon

Antifeminist or not?

Good design question.

 

Carolina Miranda, Los Angeles Times

If you work for free,

At least have a good reason.

1 dollar per word!

 

James McAnally, Temporary Art Review

Anti-profit seems

Like a cool idea at first

But it falls apart.

 

The Superscript Blog Mentorship program, a partnership with Hyperallergic, is presented as part of

Moyra Davey’s Notes on Blue: A Post-Screening Meditation

My first encounter with Moyra Davey’s video work was as an intern in the New Media Department at the Centre Pompidou in 2012. I was instructed to review a collection of video works to make sure they were playing correctly (i.e., intern work). I watched the videos at my computer with headphones on, in imposed […]

Notes on Blue - super8 intro

Moyra Davey, Notes on Blue, 2015, video

My first encounter with Moyra Davey’s video work was as an intern in the New Media Department at the Centre Pompidou in 2012. I was instructed to review a collection of video works to make sure they were playing correctly (i.e., intern work). I watched the videos at my computer with headphones on, in imposed isolation at the office. I started with Les Godesses (2011, video, 61 minutes), which captivated me from its first shot — a black-and-white photograph of a young woman with thick brows and even thicker eyelids lying in grass. The voiceover begins by narrating the life of a young Mary Wollstonecraft — her loves, her disillusionment, her failed suicide attempts. The style intrigued me and brought me back to Chris Marker, a pioneer in the essay-film genre. Marker was, like Davey, a similarly unwieldy combination of photographer-writer-artist-filmmaker, whose films I had been completely immersed in at the time.

Today I found myself watching Davey’s newly commissioned film for the Walker Art Center, one of a series of moving-image works created by six artists that will be viewable ephemerally online, for one month, beginning June 1. Davey’s piece, Notes on Blue (2015, video, 28 minutes) touches on, among many topics and lives, that of Derek Jarman, who released his film Blue (1993) only months before his death from AIDS-related complications. As with Les Godesses, the viewer sees Davey in the process of recording the voiceover, walking to and fro in her New York apartment with headphones in her ears. Her soothing, monotonous voice drew me into a meditative state, after which I hung on to the following thoughts.

Blindness and color. Both Jarman and Davey have experienced blindness, yet they still have vision. For Jarman, vision is International (Yves) Klein Blue; for Davey, it is the opposite, yellow. Art and medicine are essential to life in equal degrees — the imagination urges you to see what you cannot, when you cannot, while knowledge through evidence tells you that sight is light. Without it you are lost. During the screening I closed my eyes, cocooned in sound and bathed in the images flashing before my mind.

Moyra Davey, Notes on Blue, 2015. Video.

Moyra Davey, Notes on Blue, 2015, video

The work is intimate. Davey ambulates through her apartment, feeds her dog, rides the subway. My eyes scanned throughout, trying to connect the dots in her private space — the tousled sheets, the dusty lamp, the peeling walls, the cluttered desk — as the intertwined voices of Jorge Luis Borges, Julia Kristeva, Sylvia Plath, and others that Davey cites to make sense of her inner life receded into the background. The film is full of dream-like episodes shot on Super-8 film, depicting young, lithe women framed by subways and their platforms. Are they apparitions, muses, hallucinations?

“I live in a strange suspension, straddling the analog technologies I used to know but am quickly forgetting, and the digital ones I struggle to learn, imperfectly at best,” Davey repeats after her audio prompt. Jarman’s Blue is punctuated by the Zen bell, sounding time passed in meditation; Davey includes the same tone towards the end of her film. But there is more than merely the sound of Zen here: there is also its insistence on the primacy of change, our powerlessness in its hands, and the acceptance of life as it is shaped before you, in you, upon you. Illness, the struggle of artistic expression, technology — these things grow into you as a tree envelops obstructions into its bark.

Notes on Blue premiered at Superscript: Arts Journalism and Criticism in a Digital Age at the Walker Art Center. It will premiere online on June 1 as part of Walker Moving Image Commissions.

The Superscript Blog Mentorship program, a partnership with Hyperallergic, is presented as part of

Meet the Bloggers: Ryohei Ozaki, New York

I’ve always been “in-between.” I spent my first three and a half years in Tokyo, hardly learning the language before relocating with my family to a peaceful suburb just outside New York. We moved again, a year or so later, to a neighboring town where I made my first American friends, whom I left each […]

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Consider the tomato…

I’ve always been “in-between.” I spent my first three and a half years in Tokyo, hardly learning the language before relocating with my family to a peaceful suburb just outside New York. We moved again, a year or so later, to a neighboring town where I made my first American friends, whom I left each summer for two months to visit relatives in a sweltering, humid Japan. I aspired, as a teenager, first to become an architect (without really knowing why, though I suspect I loved the photography and the books more than the buildings) then a neurosurgeon; my parents simply (confusedly) accepted these fluctuations, neither pushing nor pulling.

After a year of pre-med coursework in college, I spent a slightly absurd summer in between a neuro-oncology lab in New York and a 17th-century château in Brittany, France. I decided, pretty recklessly in hindsight, to leave medicine behind to study French, philosophy, and art history—anyone who was surprised, however, had forgotten about my occasional Camusian Facebook essays. Then, for a year I was in Paris, where I quietly turned 21 with no more ceremony than on any other Parisian night: that is, with plenty of wine. I returned stateside for my final year of college, deep in a world of literature, film, and art—but a conversation with a friend made me think. “There has to be a way for you to reconcile past you and present you, the rational scientist and the creative artist,” she’d said.

What had felt like liberation and self-realization now looked more like compartmentalization: the replacement of one option with another, denying affinities across disciplines, borders, histories, media. In a way, I’d succumbed to the false premise of all the varieties of the same question I had gotten used to by now: “So, are you more American or Japanese?” “Do you think in English or Japanese?” “Are you a science person or a humanities person?” I’d chosen an option instead of asking why one person couldn’t possibly nurture several seemingly conflicting interests or identities. Multiplicity and ambiguity don’t sit well with us—even tomatoes are subject to our obsession with singularity: are they a vegetable, or not? But in the midst of that we lose the point. Does it taste good? But also, if it doesn’t taste good, why not, and how do we make it better?

When thinking about journalism and criticism in the digital age, I constantly feel that we are at the same crossroads. The way we live today, with our phones, social media profiles, blogs, emails, videos, etc. is so new. I didn’t even have a cell phone until I was 14, which itself sounds ridiculous (in 2015) until you see babies in strollers fiddling with their iPads. As a rule of thumb, the new is viewed by many with suspicion, until, of course, it can be marketed and made profitable; artists, on the other hand, are usually novelty pioneers. Many, if not all, newspapers, magazines, journals, and other print media have adopted the language of the Internet to maintain and develop readership. But having a website, mobile app, and Twitter account is merely swapping one outlet for another, not thinking creatively or synthetically.

At the Walker this week, I hope to hear valuable and actionable insights into how we can choose to take a stand in the “in-between,” neither traditional nor avant-garde, neither too narrow nor too wide, neither inaccessible nor superficial, to reconceptualize the way we live with art instead of trying to categorize into preconceived structures of understanding. Because if we’re stuck arguing about writing about art while the art and artists stand by, then, frankly, we’re missing the point. I want to come out of this weekend revived and inspired by the possibilities that are open to us to produce, distribute, and appreciate cultural wealth because of our digital worlds.

The Superscript Blog Mentorship program, a partnership with Hyperallergic, is presented as part of

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