December 1, 2012
Presenters 2014

Presenters are listed under their respective sessions / panels.

Mediating Space
Respondent: Kaitlyn A. Kramer (MFA Art Criticism & Writing Student) and Dejan Lukic (SVA Faculty)

Nabeeha Chaudhary || University of Washington, Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies, MA 2013
“This is Where You Belong”– Representations of the Ideal Woman in Pakistani Television Serials from the 1980’s to the Present

A certain realism, and complexity of characterization of women, in earlier Pakistani serials has made way for one-dimensional characters stereotyped along rigid dichotomies and understandings of traditional/Western, conservative/modern, religious/liberal, and good/evil. Limited functions and setting, along with the themes of present day plays, seem to focus on the idea that good women belong in the private sphere (i.e. at home). Themes drawn on include these serials’ definitions of public/private spaces and the boundaries between them, the role of marriage and companionship, and the constant negotiation of tradition with the “modern.” Two broad factors explaining how these themes are tackled are: (i) state-media relations at the basic level of media censorship and liberalization and (ii) the intersection of state-media relations with popular piety culture and broader aspects of mainstream politics. Through the lens of the representation of gender, I view how all these forces interact and how they influence popular culture.
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Jesse Cumming || York University, Communications & Culture, First Year Graduate Student
The Spiderweb over Paris: Space, Narrative, and Degenerate Itineraries in Jacques Rivette’s Le Pont Du Nord

This paper explores the physical and conceptual space of Paris as it is both inhabited and contested by the female protagonists of Jacques Rivette’s Le Pont du Nord (1981). Drawing upon Michel de Certeau’s foundational considerations of spatial narratives the text traces the characters’ efforts to overwrite and challenge the oppressive space of the city. Through the use of maps, games, and their physical presence the duo produce degenerate itineraries at odds with the dominant spatial narratives at work. Released six months after the election of Francois Mitterand over Valery Giscard, Le Pont Du Nord is positioned between two eras, with the built environment and the encounters it engenders reflecting socio-cultural developments of the previous decade, including increased economic liberalism and social exclusion. History, space and surveillance are thus all at play in the film, forcing the figures to adopt new degenerate itineraries in order to rewrite and redefine their engagement with the social and physical landscape of Paris entering the 1980s.
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Divya Gaitonde || Art Center College of Design, Media Design Practices, MFA
Are You Still There? Tools for Interpersonal Negotiation

Wearable technologies sync its users with a networked ecosystem of connected devices. Through these devices, users exist in a web of digital and physical states. This mesh allows for new affordances – a hybridity derived from affordances particular to digital and physical interactions. This shift is supported by (technology induced) instances of synchronous and asynchronous proceedings linked with time and location resulting in a new and evolving understanding and acceptance of what it means to be “present”. This paper examines consequential new expectations around interpersonal norms for social gathering. What are these new expectations and how do they affect social protocols?

I suggest that ‘maybe’ is too clumsy a tool to express the degrees of presence that fall between accepting and declining attendance. Built on an understanding of multimodal existence through modular presence, there is space for expressing the gradient in participation between being present and being absent. Future tools for social negotiation and their implications are discussed.
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Étienne Tremblay-Tardif || Concordia University, Department of Studio Arts, MFA 2013
Signage Matrix for Turcot Interchange Refection

Presented as the focus of a Thesis Defense in Spring 2013, this research/studio project is also part of Biennale de Montréal 2014 L’avenir (looking forward) at the MACM. This corpus of installations, texts, videos and open portfolio (500+ unique double-sided prints) offers a retrospective and prospective look at: 1) the socio-political context surrounding the construction of the Turcot highway exchange in Montreal (Expo ’67 [nationalism and display architecture], October Crisis [state repression of marxist/anti-colonialist movements], CECO and Cliche Commissions [exposed links between criminal, entrepreneurial and political milieus]); 2) the refection plan currently implemented by the Ministry of Transport of Quebec; 3) visual and discursive strategies of critical commemoration as matrix, model and alternative conceptual framework for the new interchange.
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Fragmentation and Trauma
Respondent: Cynthia Cruz (MFA Art Criticism & Writing Student) and Nancy Princenthal (MMFA Art Criticism & Writing Faculty)

Chigbo Arthur Anyaduba || University of Manitoba at Winnipeg, English, Film, and Theatre Department, PhD Candidate
Cinephilia and the Historical Trauma Film: Reanimating the Repressed in McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave and Spielberg’s Schindler’s List

The cinema in the post-literate age was declared dead and with it cinephilia (see Sontag). This declaration came from the assumption that the image has lost its ennobling powers to animate humans. The genre of film most vilified for its potential to distort rather than animate is the historical trauma film. However, I will examine Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave and Steven Spielberg’s Schindler’s List as historical trauma films that animate and ennoble repressed aspects of the past through intricate deployemt of filmic strategies. I will base my analysis on Christian Keathley’s insight over how cinephiliac or epiphanic moments induced by marginal filmic details can ennoble the spectator’s metaphysical connection with the image. Like Keathley, I will argue that it is this ability of film to trigger the ineffable that gives film relevance in a post-literate information age.
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Chigbo Anyaduba will not be participating in the conference to protest the Missouri Grand Jury’s decision not to bring criminal charges against the policeman who shot and killed 18 year old Michael Brown. Chigbo Anyaduba’s withdrawal statement:

I thank the conference organizers for the opportunity given to me to participate in this year’s Critical Information Conference organized by the students of the Art Criticism & Writing graduate program at the School of Visual Arts in New York. I write however to withdraw my presentation from the conference. I feel deeply upset and disenchanted with the American justice system and wish to use my non-participation at the conference (as well as my refusal to visit the United States for the first time) as a protest to the systemic miscarriage of justice and the indiscriminate killing of people of color by the United States’ police. My decision is personal and I do regret and apologize in advance for any inconvenience my decision may cause to the excellent efforts the organizers have put into setting up this conference. I consider my selection to speak at the conference a rare opportunity to interact with scholars whose insight will surely be helpful to my work. It is all my loss and my anger is against the US justice system.

That a country that parades itself as the epitome of democracy and justice in the world could so blatantly and continually permit and tolerate nonsensical police killings of peoples of color and refuse to do anything about it, that America has remained unwilling to reflect upon its primitive systems that are founded on a history of slavery and systemic racial abuse, for me, shows a nation that has arrogantly refused to live up to the principles it claims to possess. I had planned to attend the SVA Conference to discuss Steve McQueen’s film, 12 Years a Slave. I had planned to discuss the film as a reanimation of repressed traumas of black slavery in the United States. I thought that the film’s ending with a family reunion is a message of survival, the audacious refusal of the family and community systems to succumb to the violence of slavery and racism. Those were the themes I had hoped to discuss at the conference.

But to speak of survival and resilience will belie the fact that in the twenty-first century United States policemen shot and killed a black boy of twelve playing in a park because he had a toy gun. To speak of survival will belie the fact that several black youths in the United States have been denied the opportunity to strive to survive. To speak of the resilience of community will belie the fact that the American system is antithetical to the ideals of communal strength. All because America still patronizes an unfair system of injustice and racism. So, I refuse to attend the conference to speak about survival and resilience, for that will belie the reality that the likes of Michael Brown and Trayvon Martin did not survive. It will belie the fact that, like Eric Garner, many folks of color are deliberately being choked out of existence because they are classified as the wretched of the earth. I join numerous other voices to call for not just justice and reform, but also for a deep meditation on what it means for historically oppressed and marginalized groups to survive in America today.

Once again I apologize to the conference organizers and other attendees for my decision not to
attend the conference. May we meet in better times!
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Bebe Nodjomi || Columbia University, School of the Arts – Film Division, MA Candidate
The Film as Essay: Jafar Panahi’s Search for Self in This is Not a Film

This paper will examine the state of Iranian identity through the lens of Jafar Panahi’s documentary, This is Not a Film. I will debate the documentary mode under the state of strained politics with Iran’s 2009 election debacle. I will look at how his house arrest and 20-year ban on filmmaking leads Panahi to create, what I have deemed as a “film essay”. A meditation of self-discovery under the hand of oppression, Panahi’s film essay explores what it means to be a filmmaker if one cannot create films anymore. Awaiting his trial and jail sentence, he roams about the house attempting to “tell a film”. Can Panahi define himself as anything but a filmmaker? This is Not a Film is his essay, “an attempt to tell something”, in response.

Aurore Spiers || Columbia University, School of the Arts – Film Division, MA Candidate
TV Bodies, Media Physicality, and Hyper-Embodiment in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (Mel Stuart, 1971), Poltergeist (Tobe Hooper, 1982), and Benny’s Video (Michael Haneke, 1992)

In Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (Mel Stuart, 1971), Poltergeist (Tob Hooper, 1982), and Benny’s Video (Michael Haneke, 1992), Mike Teevee, Carol Anne, and Benny are avatars of Marshall McLuhan’s “TV child” insofar as they embody his/her “urge toward involvement in depth” as regards the “TV medium” (Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man ). In fact, this paper will go beyond the issue of the viewing experience and the consequences of television on the spectator in order to focus on the TV bodies of the three “TV children” aforementioned, their ambiguity as both dematerialized images and “material” selves. Drawing upon Vivian Sobchack’s definition of “embodiment” as “the lived body” (Carnal Thoughts: Embodiment and Moving Image Culture ), I will argue that Willy Wonka, Poltergeist , and Benny’s Video reveal the persistence of embodiment in the “posthuman.” More specifically, the re-newed physicality of the TV bodies defined by and through media is also a form of hyper-embodiment thanks to which the relation between oneself and the world is intensified. Ultimately, this analysis of the experience of the body in media will seek to refine our understanding of the human (re)mediated in today’s contemporary media landscape.

Respondent: Michael Johnson (MFA Art Criticism & Writing Student) and Debra Bricker Balken (Faculty)

Mor Cohen || Bezalel Academy of Art and Design, Policy & Theory of the Arts Department, MA Candidate
Hacking Borders: Examining Virtual and Physical Borders in Tactical Media

The Internet is perceived as a field that can rise above material issues of territory, race, gender and power control. Especially after hours of exploring, chatting and sharing on the web, we often get the feeling that every notion of time and space completely disappear. This is why for many artists and activists since the mid 90’s, the Internet was used as a tool for tactical actions, which respond to socio-political events. In my study I will focus on tactical media that deal with the subject of borders and movement. The contrast between the simplicity in navigating on-line and the difficulty to do so in real life, especially for asylum-seekers and foreign workers – raises the question about the relations between the virtual and physical space and the efficiency of the Internet (as part of the “symbolic field” or “semiotic regime”) in shaping and promoting an actual change.

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Robin Graham || Concordia University, Department of English, Graduate Student
See Also: Between Print and Image in Indexical Media

We traditionally understand indexes in their bibliographic context: a systemic, organizational structure used to aid the search of literature featured as a compendium at the back of a print object. However, looking at indexes as a form of mediation offers broader perspectives on how reading intersects with processes of information gathering. I want to argue that while the mode of reading generated by indexical linking is textual, it is not necessarily bibliographic, and so may be translated to the visual arts. By developing a robust account of textuality, and drawing on salient historical examples from early modern print culture, I hope to provide a compelling argument that visual art criticism can benefit from an interdisciplinary exchange with literary history, particularly with respect to the differences between reading and information-retrieval elucidated by the study of indexes.
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Zamila R. Karimi || McGill University, School of Architecture, Masters in Architecture 2013
Spaces of Activism: Occupy Montreal

Recent events around the world have witnessed a range of proven strategies being reenacted and appropriated to suit our times. The “space of appearance,” a metaphor of polis by Hannah Arendt took on a new meaning and imagery within the 21st century as manifestations of socio-political shifts. The appropriation of public squares with all the practical accoutrements needed for dwelling reappeared as a form of protest in the wake of the Arab Spring and the Occupy movements. The power of ordinary people to come together against social discrepancies in a physical public space offers new possibilities for change in the public sphere. Using Occupy Montreal, as a case study I explore how urban spaces are transformed into sites of resistance through encampment and other resistance tactics. From technologically savvy social-media to the use of simple ephemeral techniques such as propagandist imagery, architects, urban-planners and design activists today are in a unique position to use multi-disciplinary multi-prong approaches to appropriate public space into a performative mode, thereby creating opportunities for social activism that impact cities phenomenally, socially and politically.
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Rebecca Noone || University of Toronto, PhD Candidate
The Analogue Internet: Mail Art and the Comedy of Futility

The international mail-based art project, The Analogue Internet (2012-present), positions the archive and its acts of preservation as absurd gestures of futility, following Fluxus’ comic trajectory. The Analogue Internet is composed of discarded books and deaccessioned library materials which are salvaged, cut-up, rearranged, and repackaged as an assemblage of decontextualized information, stuffed into airmail envelopes and surrendered to the mercy of the Canadian postal system. Each envelope contains excerpts of printed materials and curios that directly reference the Internet or broadly reflect a rich information landscape. The overwhelming potential for knowledge gleaned from thrown-away how-to guides and outdated reference materials is rendered obsolete by time and incomprehensible by volume: a tongue-in-cheek relief of the digital. The Analogue Internet is self-aware archival iconoclasm reflective of Robert Filliou’s creative “good-for-nothingness”[1]. The act of preservation is rendered humourous as the work memorializes the abandoned, venerates the unsolicited, and entrusts the archaic.
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The Art and Poetics of Technical Production
Respondent: Emmanuel Iduma (MFA Art Criticism & Writing Student) and Jennifer Krasinski (SVA Faculty)

Eileen Isagon Skyers || Pacific Northwest College of Art, Critical Theory and Creative Research, MA Candidate
A Critique of the Interface: Internet Art in the Era of Imperceptibility

In this thesis, I examine the relationship between networked art practices and digital media as an aesthetic critique of our engagement with interface technology. I investigate what such phenomena reveal about the changing nature of subjectivity in relation to hyper-connectivity. Internet Art constructs temporary, physically variable structures that create anachronism and present anti-design, so that actions inherent to networked space are intentionality reconstituted. Such artistic strategy, I argue, functions as a critical interruption of the ruling tendencies and assumptions of screen-based operation, namely, transparency and interactivity. Despite our incessant customization of web content, we are unable to observe the computational processes that make this information manifest. Žižekian interpassivity emerges as a concept that renegotiates the notion of user agency on the web. There is a correlation between the imperceptibility of the interface and the constant call of distraction upon human awareness. I explore the role of Internet Art in the midst of increasingly seamless and, so-called, interactive digital mediation.
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Lauren Palmer || School of Visual Arts, Design Criticism, MFA Candidate
Morphing Magazines: Arts Publishing as Practice/Performance/Experience

The publishing industry is in a state of flux: from print to digital, now digital to experiential. Magazine are now advertising one-night only “issues” – readers must “attend” to learn what has been published. How are arts periodicals incorporating social elements into their process of publishing (practice)? What does an experiential component add to a magazine? Live events, symposia, exhibitions, crowd-sourcing, curatorial, and archival practices – how are these performative/participatory elements creating/transforming contemporary publishing practice? How and why is this relevant to the publishing industry presently? What are the socio-economic factors that are contributing to this trend (or resurgence)?
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Angelica Vergel || The New School, Media Studies, MA 2014
Towards a Digital Corporeality

Through an examination of the crucial relationship between video and the artist’s body, this hybrid project explores how the unique qualities of digital offer possibilities of seeing the body as a discontinuous form, an assemblage that goes through processes of fragmentation. The intent is to inquire how analog and digital video portray different types of bodies. This project discusses the transformation of how the body has been understood from early to contemporary video art, and reevaluates the depiction of the body in contemporary digital practices. I will revisit early video works by analyzing the body’s potential relationship with the medium, as well as investigate examples of digital works that look at the body digitally. The goal of the production component of this project is to experiment with the question of how I could interpret my own body and offer new views of it digitally while embodying digital qualities.
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The Disappearing Identity
Respondent: Amelia Rina Sechman (MFA Art Criticism & Writing Student) and Charles Stein (SVA Faculty)

David Ayala-Alfonso || School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Visual and Critical Studies, MA Candidate
The Suspension of Privilege: Notes on Interfacing

The concept of interface has been largely developed in two disparate fronts: technology, referring to the communication between software and users, and sociology, describing situations that evidence conflicting standpoints or social discontinuities. Building from such ideas, I explore the concept of interface through projects on which the idea of social engagement is either too much or not enough. Interfaces exist as particular arrangements of mediums, contexts and signs that interpellate users, consumers or audiences to interact within the rules implied by the arrangement itself. They provide a way of bridging conflicting worlds, raise awareness over unnoticed issues, or deliver means for communication in contexts on which contact is implicitly refused. Interfaces are forms of resistance, not only as political action, but also against the ideas that preserve the privilege of art and its infrastructures. This paper explores contexts where the normalcy disrupted by the artistic intervention is not a precondition.
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Harsha Biswajit || School of Visual Arts, MFA Computer Art, 2014
In Search of the ‘Anti-Environment’: Breaking the ___________ Distance

This paper seeks to deconstruct the 21st century environment by questioning our most ‘unquestionable presuppositions’- What is nature? How do humans fit within the ecosystem in the age of the anthropocene? Do we need an extended concept of nature to include technology? In doing so it hopes to achieve its main aim, which is to identify the role of art in today’s hyper-technological world, and critique the role of technology in the artwork. Its spirit derives from, what seems to be an ideological problem of perception towards the environment that inhibits us from getting a full grasp of the ecological age we live in today. In seeking an answer, Marshall McLuhan’s concept of ‘anti-environments’ as vessels of perceptual awareness and art as its ideal mirror acts act as the scaffolding throughout the essay for the quest to break this distance. Technological advancements in science have given us the ability to observe the changes in the environment and link them to human action; yet man seems to be in denial. What seems to be clear is that anti-environments cannot be reduced to mere mathematical abstractions, and thus there is a space and need for art to fill this gap. However, has the ecological narrative in art evolved along with advance in technology or stagnated since its reemergence in the mid 20th century? In this regard Hans Haacke’s Condensation Cube, 1965, Olafur Eliasson’s Your Waste of Time, 2006, and Random International’s Rain Room, 2012 are looked at to not only explore the evolution of the narrative over time, but also to look at the role technology plays in these particular pieces. Scratch beyond the surface and there is a tendency that technology rather than revealing, conceals the true nature of the dialogue. The hope then lies on being aware of the illusion of the illusion of technology in the work of art.
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Jesse Chun || The School of Visual Arts, MFA Photography, Video and Other Related Media Department, 2014
On Paper

STATEMENT: My project investigates notions of identity in context of mobility and information, and is correlated to the theme of “Work of Art in the Information Age”. My work examines bureaucratic documents of identification such as passports and immigration forms to question the ways in which our identities are constructed and validated across borders. In this process, I find that these documents do not function merely as records of personal information, but reveal metaphors for our collective experience.

APPROACH: I employ methods of collection, appropriation, digital manipulation, erasure and redaction of text and imagery found on the documents to transform the information into landscapes, wordplay and graphic design.

RESULT: By decontextualizing bureaucratic information from their original functionality and power, I construct a metaphoric interpretation of identity and transit.

CONCLUSION: Works from my “On Paper” series reveal the ideologies, interrogation, displacement and dreams that become a part of who we are.

Border / Media / Bodies
Respondent: Liz Sultzer (MFA Art Criticism & Writing Student) and Susan Bee (SVA Faculty)

Orr Menirom || School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Film Video New Media and Animation, MFA 2014
Limited Speech Holds Endless Misunderstandings, 2013, single channel HD video, 9’55 min.

In 2010, Noam Chomsky, a linguist and political activist, was invited to give a talk in Birzeit University near Ramallah. Identified with the radical left, Chomsky was denied entry to Israel and sent back to Jordan. Shortly after the incident, Dana Weiss from the Israeli Channel 2 met with him at the hotel lobby in Amman for a 40minute interview. During the interview, deep ideological tensions between Chomsky and Weiss surfaced.

In the video, the interview language is cut apart into individual word fragments. This material is then recomposed into a new monologue told by a third, invisible character. The tense tone of the interview clashes with the intimacy of the new text. The repositioning of words allows the invisible character to articulate intimate thoughts that Chomsky and Weiss can’t express.

According to Chomsky’s theory “Universal Grammar”, language enables the pronunciation of endless expressions with a limited amount of words—a vocabulary. Similar to verbal language, the video’s image is a system with an inner grammar. It depicts a deserted landscape, portrayed through a complex of digital fragments. In this landscape, the relations between a limited amount of fragments create endless variations of the image.
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Sierra Rooney || Stony Brook University, Art History, PhD Candidate
Socialibility Giganticus: Rafael Lozano Hemmer’s Open Air and Self-spectacle in Age of Social Media

“This is the sound of a popcorn crunch”; “I’m laying in bed thinking about you”; “Oh my god my knees are killing me!” These and thousands of other recorded voice messages were played over the sky-scape of Philadelphia every night between September 20th and October 14th in 2012, as part of Rafael Lozano-Hemmer’s public art project Open Air. Commissioned by the Association for Public Art, Open Air utilized mobile technology that transformed voice messages into an interactive light show. While the city of Philadelphia heralded the project as a platform for democratic expression, Open Air is perhaps better understood as a visual expression of the dominance of social media. The project mirrors the machinations of social media, conflating the private with the public space of both the web and the urban street. In doing so, Lozano-Hemmer implicates our culture’s need for digital exhibitionism, blowing up the most mundane and the most intimate expression of selfhood to a monumental scale.

Dorothy Santos || California College of the Arts, Visual and Critical Studies, MA 2014
The Narratives of Marginalized Bodies: Exploring Third Space in Contemporary New Media and Digital Art

The disruption of mainstream media such as radio, mobile, and internet technologies provides a unique platform to expose narratives of marginalized bodies on the periphery of the dominant culture. In the works of Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, John Craig Freeman, and Micha Cárdenas, the relationship between the body and interactive new media functions as a conduit for social, historical, and cultural transformation. In Lozano-Hemmer’s interactive, large-scale installation work Frequency and Volume (2003) a museum visitor’s body is transformed into an antenna, which uses the body as an activator for the work. In Freeman’s Border Memorial: Frontera de los Muertos (2012), through a mobile phone application, the viewer accesses images marking sites of border-crossing migrants deaths, which are overlaid onto tangible physical geography. In Cárdenas’s mixed reality performance Becoming Dragon (2008), the body’s relationship to physical and virtual realms becomes the means to materialize an obscured or silenced narrative. Engaging Elizabeth Grosz’s notion of in-between space theorized in relation to Homi K. Bhabha’s idea of third space, this research investigates how Lozano-Hemmer, Freeman, and Cárdenas use the human body to mediate, materialize, and reveal the narratives of marginalized bodies, specifically indigenous, immigrant, and transgender bodies.

Elizabeth Shores || The University of New Mexico, Electronic Art/Art & Ecology, MFA Candidate
The Lomas On-Site Listening Station (LOLS): Infrastructure and Visibility in Public Space

How have FM transmission-based projects developed specifically within cities and how can the appropriation of pre-existing architecture offer an alternative to the development of homogenous municipal landscapes? The authors created the media project Lomas On-site Listening Station (LOLS), a site-specific, solar-powered radio transmission installed within an empty billboard located in Albuquerque, NM. A compressor microphone fastened to the appropriated structure of the abandoned billboard picks up ambient sounds that are broadcast in real time on an FM signal within several thousand feet of the billboard. This work is examined in the context of other radio transmission projects that appropriate or imitate pre-existing architectural forms in order to promote public understanding of locational identity and agency in urban areas.
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