Arts & Culture » Visual Art

You Can Kiss This Art

Exhibit's open-source ideology encourages mashups and remixes.

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This month, Berkeley Art Museum presents a postmodernist conceptual orgy, inspired in equal parts by open-source software (think Linux and Wikipedia.org) and hip-hop aesthetics. The idea is to completely overturn traditional, canonical views of the inviolable "art object" — that $2 million Cy Twombly painting that you're not allowed to kiss — by hurling such objects right in the public domain. RIP.MIX.BURN.BAM.PFA was the brainchild of Berkeley Art Museum digital art curator Rick Rinehart, who wanted to apply the spirit and values of open-source software — "generosity, trust, access, and participation," in his words — to a fine-art context. Rinehart started off with two digital pieces from the museum's permanent collection, Ken Goldberg's Ouija 2000 and Valery Grancher's 24h00. He invited four artists — Jonathon Keats, Alison Sant, Michael Joaquin Grey, and Nathaniel Wojtalik — to come "remix" them, meaning the artists could either access the pieces' source code and data files, or simply take the concept of the piece and use it as a launch pad to create something new.

Of the six works in RIP.MIX.BURN.BAM.PFA, two are physical gallery installations, and four are housed on the Internet, meaning you can access them anywhere. One of the installations is Keats' topical Ouija 2000 spin-off, Ouija Vote 2008, which sets a Ouija board in a voting booth. It seems to say something about the arbitrary nature of voting, though one can never tell — to apply a definitive meaning to any of these pieces would be disingenuous, considering the exhibit's "open-source," postmodern thrust. Rinehart put the source materials (computer code, flash files, video images, sounds, etc.) and data files of all six works — the two originals and the four remixes — on the museum's web site, so anyone can download them and make his or her own mashup. Thus, the form and methodology remain in lockstep with the social dimensions of the exhibit. "So," the curator assured, "it really is open, public, push it out there, make it open-source." Given the openness of this exhibition, RIP.MIX.BURN.BAM.PFA will only take place in the museum's free spaces. It runs through March 2, 2008. BAMPFA.berkeley.edu

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