Speculations

by Joanne McNeil

  • Conceiving the Future: The Prescient Lynn Hershman Leeson

    There’s no question that Lynn Hershman Leeson is a prescient artist and filmmaker. Prescience is even a theme in her work, one she grapples with as a double-edged sword. Impossible to measure except in retrospect, it is a lonely quality to have in the present.  After Leeson rocketed to art stardom following a 2014 career retrospective at the ZKM Museum of Contemporary Art in Karlsruhe, Germany, her success was widely praised as “overdue”—another word that culture’s Cassandras are used to hearing. It seems unwise to disentangle her originality and influence from her tenacity and patience. Her 2019 interactive installation “Shadow…  Read more

    On Mar 17, 2020
    By on Mar 17, 2020Columns
  • Digital Wanderlust: On Wim Wenders’s Until the End of the World

    Two major anniversaries in digital technology happened in 2019. October 29th marked the fiftieth year since the first message was transmitted via ARPANET, an early network of computers developed by the U.S. Department of Defense and hosted at universities including UCLA and Stanford (where the message was, respectively, sent and received)—a relatively pat and mutually agreed upon milestone for the beginning of the internet as we know it. The other anniversary—the thirtieth birthday of the World Wide Web—is much less decisive: You might notice people celebrating the thirtieth year of the internet’s most transformative application well into 2021. A quick…  Read more

    On Dec 10, 2019
    By on Dec 10, 2019Columns
  • Inside Out Planets: NASA’s Influence on Cinema’s Visions of Outer Space

    In 1975, an interdisciplinary group of engineers, artists, physicists, architects and urban planners convened for 10 weeks at Stanford University and the NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California. The group assembled to design complete and convincing systems for sustained life in outer space. Fred Scharmen—author of Space Settlements, a new book that considers the cultural impact of the 1975 Summer Study’s proposals—notes the most “influential outcomes” were the trippy paintings made to illustrate these ideas. These paintings, in watercolor, acrylic and gouache, depict bright bubbles of life and majestic rings—appearing like cornucopias in cutaway view—with tranquil landscapes and…  Read more

    On Sep 4, 2019
    By on Sep 4, 2019Columns
  • Glitches in the Matrix: Adventures in the CGI Wilderness

    “Working with computer graphics, labor becomes so present in your mind because you’re hunched over a computer for such a long time trying to deliver something that looks right,” the artist Alan Warburton told me. What’s “right” tends to be a seamless and effortless look, which means there is a paradox to the trade—all that work, at best, appears as if it never happened at all.  Warburton’s art practice, which mines his commercial work at post-production studios, departs from these objectives. His labor is noticeable, rather than invisible—imperfect and unfinished in projects like his animation series Homo Economicus (2018). That…  Read more

    On Jun 19, 2019
    By on Jun 19, 2019Columns
  • When 2019 Was the Future

    The artist David Levine once staged reenactments of memorable film scenes at their original locations in Central Park. A performer ran laps around the reservoir in a nod to the opening of Marathon Man, while stand-ins for Jack Lemmon and Sandy Dennis acted out the Cracker Jack scene in The Out-of-Towners by the Trefoil Arch. Scenes from The Royal Tenenbaums, Symbiopsychotaxiplasm and Portrait of Jennie, among others, were underway elsewhere in the park. The performances were unmarked, and some were more discernibly theatrical than others. Period clothes or the spectacle of a confrontation played and replayed in intervals could tip…  Read more

    On Mar 14, 2019
    By on Mar 14, 2019Columns
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