Jun 27 2011

Bookmark: Romy Achituv

by Contributing Artist

For Bookmark, ArtAsiaPacific invites an artist to spotlight some of their online sources of inspiration. This week we asked Romy Achituv.

Romy Achituv is an interdisciplinary artist whose work engages issues of representation, language, time and memory. Underlying his practice is an ongoing interest in the semantics of visual representation and the dynamics of spectatorship and interaction. In recent years he has developed a particular interest in projects that explore the application of digitally inspired paradigms in physical environments. He lives and works in Israel, the US and South Korea, where he is currently a WCU professor of new media at Hongik University, Seoul.

1. Man in the Rain

The odd and beautiful image by Bresson, of a coat enveloping the dislodged head of an elderly man huddling across a rainy Parisian street, is my Mona Lisa. What would I see if I didn’t know it was Alberto Giacometti in the photo?

3. Silbo Gomero: the Whistling Language of La Gomera, Canary Islands

Across the deep ravines and narrow valleys that define the landscape of the tiny volcanic island of La Gomera, the locals once communicated through a sophisticated whistled language called El Silbo (“the whistle”). The whistles, which traveled kilometers, broke through the rugged topography by riding the air currents over the gullies. It seems fitting that in a landscape dominated by extremes, the whistle returns language to the wild, joining in the chorus of the rare birds that inhabit the island.

5. I Met the Walrus

Josh Raskin’s “I Met the Walrus” is perhaps as close as you can get to a cross-modal homophony: each word is “pronounced” visually in strict unison with the audio recording. This tight literal visualization creates an experience of mutual amplification, as each visual and its corresponding auditory snippet seem to bounce off of each other like two metal balls in a two-ball Newton Cradle. But why do I experience them as constantly colliding and rebounding rather than flowing together? Perhaps because each image, while seemingly predictable, is totally surprising. The whimsical, trippy, Monty-Pythonesque, “Yellow Submarine”-like, animation style illustrates the obvious yet always intriguing fact that while seeing may depend upon language, language can never determine the look of things.

2. Jacques Brel: Ne Me Quitte Pas

This clip of Jacques Brel counters every possible characterization of present-day “coolness."  As foreign a bird as can inhabit the YouTube cage, Brel communicates an untainted pathos and vulnerability from another time and another set of dramatic norms.

4. Lil Buck and Yo-Yo Ma

This wondrous duet has me meditating on the meaning of “classical,” on harmony, composition and counterpoint, on the connection between the ear and the eye, on representation and abstraction, on “the chance meeting on a dissecting table of a sewing machine and an umbrella,” and on the mystery of the seemingly incommensurable that have come together for this performance, in such perfect contrapuntal union.

6. Song for When You’re Overwhelmed: Ze Frank

Ze Frank is something of an online alchemist whose projects often transform the profoundly silly into the profoundly inspirational. Here, he coalesces small and discrete acts of generosity into a whole that overwhelms the sum of its parts (if you’re impatient to sit through the talk, jump to 13:39). To me, the playful and touching last exercise encapsulates the revolutionary collaborative potential of contemporary communication technologies.