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Medium AND Message: In Woodstock

By Peggy Roalf   Tuesday July 26, 2011

Jimi Billingsley, a Brooklyn-based photographer who also directs the contemporary art gallery in Lower Manhattan called Pablo's Birthday, wrote to let me know that he had curated an exhibition opening this weekend in Woodstock, N.Y. called “The Medium and The Message.”

The announcement included a statement that reads, “Marshall McLuhan observed, ‘It is the framework which changes with each new technology and not just the picture within the frame.’ The exhibition The Medium and the Message is conceived with the idea that to have an understanding of the new framework we must look to the ‘pictures’.” I emailed Jimi to aks how he came to do a show on digital art timed to the centennial of Marshall McLuhan’s birth, and here’s what he wrote:

Having grown up in Woodstock, being an art photographer, and directing a contemporary art gallery, I have felt for some time that it would be exciting to me to foster an artistic dialogue between Woodstock, which has this great artistic lineage, and New York City. So this exhibition represents my first effort in this regard.

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Left: Alex McLeod, The Previous Greenhouse, 2010. Right: Carla Gannis, Nature Story, 2006. Copyright the artists, courtesy Pablo’s Birthday.

I have had a familiarity with Marshal McLuhan since my days as a film and communications student, and feel his ideas concerning the cyclical relationship between media and consciousness, the broad and definitive effect new media have in defining our world, and the roles of technology and art in our society, are relevant to, and even amplified in, the conversations many artists are having today. So I chose the title for the show as a starting point, a lattice on which to structure my ideas, and as a tribute to McLuhan on this, the centennial of his birth.

Today’s digital artist is no longer the stereotypical techie navel gazer with a stronger interest in the wizardry of the tools then in the expression of the art, but rather an informed practitioner, versed in the history of artistic endeavor, and harnessing the tools of his or her time. I am excited by the prospects of these pioneers, who, while ultimately connected to those who came before them, are thinking in new ways connected to the times, and doing new art that could only be done in this age.

Given Woodstock's specific utopian history as an arts colony, and then later as a back-to-the-land, Rock'n Roll/folk music oasis that ultimately got branded and sold back to us in the form of Cadillac commercials playing Jimi Hendrix’s Star Spangled Banner, I think Woodstock is the perfect place to show works expressed in relatively new digital media forms such as CGI prints, Rapid prototyped sculptures, video games, etc., that are all still in a nascent stage of their expression and participation in the contemporary art discourse. – Jimi Billingsley

There is an opening reception for The Medium andThe Message this Saturday, July 30, from 4 to 6 pm. The exhibition runs through September 4, 2011 at Byrdcliffe/Kleinert James Arts Center, 34 Tinker Street, Woodstock, NY. Gallery hours: Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, noon to 6pm. Artists represented: Jeremy Blake, Claudia Hart, Carla Gannis, Michael Rees, Thomas Ruff, Alexander Reyna, Mary Ann Strandell, Kim Joon, Peter Patchen, Alex McLeod, Mary Mattingly, Ruud Van Empel, and Jasper De Beijer.

Save the date for a panel discussion on August 13, 6pm.

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