In the early eighties, I began my practice as a critic rather than as a visual artist. Trained at the Columbia University School of Architecture which had a strongly theoretic position during that era of paper architecture, I finished my studies and immediately began writing about what was then termed the “cross-over” between architecture and art. My first jobs, post-graduate-school, were editorial, first at a magazine that was eventually renamed ID: the Magazine of International Design, and then at Artforum. During my last days at ID, I began to produce art works inspired by the utopian architecture of the 18th century.

After practicing art for several years, a practice that included writing reviews for the various art magazines as well as curating exhibitions for a variety of not-for-profit institutions and writing artist’s catalogs, in the mid-nineties, I began to produce the illustrated books that resulted in my publishing A Child’s Machiavelli and Dr. Faustie’s Guide to Real Estate Development for the “trade.” My critical practice at that time ceased.

In 2004, Claudia Herbst, a colleague from Pratt Institute, invited me to write a paper with her for the 2005 College Art Association conference. What resulted was a re-vivifying of my critical practice. Listed below is a survey of this recent work.

Writings

The Aesthetics of the Fake: an exhibition, conference and on-line catalog organized by Rachel Clarke, Claudia Hart and Michael Rees

Sacramento's University Library Gallery
California State University, March 31-June 4, 2011

The Power Center
William Paterson University, Winter 2012

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The Digital Any-Space-Whatever: Screening Program for College Art Association, 99th Annual Conference,
February 9-12, 2011, New York, NY

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The Simulationists: An exhibition, a panel and an evening of performance curated by Claudia Hart, Mark Jeffery and Judd Morrissey

The Simulationists: An exhibition with cris cheek, Ursula Endlicher, Kurt Hentschlager, Second Front, Alan Sondheim and Student Artists
February 1 - March 23, 2011; Rymer Gallery, School of the Art Institute of Chicago

The Simulationists: An Evening of Mixed Reality Performance with cris cheek, Ursula Endlicher and Kurt Hentschlager
February 18, 2011; Performance Space, 280 S. Columbus Drive, Room 012, School of the Art Institute of Chicago

Mixed-Reality Performance Symposium: with Ghislaine Boddlington, Christopher Salter and performing artists
February 18, 2011; Performance Space, 280 S. Columbus Drive, Room 012, School of the Art Institute of Chicago

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Babydoll Paper for: The Question of the Girl, Part II

panel chaired by Jillian St. Jacques
National Womens' Studies Conference, Denver 2010

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Theory: Under Fire: 3D Animation Pedagogy and Industry Complicity in New Media Education

Panel for 2010 Chicago College Art Association Conference

Co-Chairs:
Claudia Hart, School of the Art Institute, Chicago, IL
Rachel Clarke, California State University, Sacramento, CA

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Theory: Goodbye Privacy - Ars Electronica

Kurt Hentschlaeger: KARMA / cell

Essay by Claudia Hart
Goodbye Privacy: Ars Electronica 2007

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Theory: Can Geeks be Humanists?

Presentation for Can Geeks be Humanists?
Chair: Marcia Tannor, panel for 95th Annual College Art Association Panel,
New York, February 22–25, 2007

Paper, "On Can Geeks be Humanists,"
for Art in the Age of Technological Seduction,
New Media Caucus Journal, January 2007

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Theory: Can We Fall in Love With a Machine?

Session Chair of
Can We Fall in Love With a Machine?
Panel for Artspace Section of 94th Annual Conference in Boston,
February 22–25, 2006

Speakers:
Michael Century, Dr. Beth Coleman, Lynn Hershman Leeson, Ellen Levy, Dr. Judith Rodenbeck, Dr. James H. Rubin, Dr. Sherry Turkle, Dr. Mari Velonaki

CAA 94th Annual Conference Boston

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Theory: Can We Fall in Love With a Machine?

Curator and Book Editor of
Can We Fall in Love With a Machine?

Exhibited at and book published by:
The Wood Street Galleries
601 Wood Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15222
Jan 27- April 1, 2006

Exhibition participants:
Jean Dubois, Jose Carlos Casado, Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries, Claudia Hart and Michael Ferraro, Lynn Hershman Leeson, Lynn Hughes and Simon Laroche, Catherine Ikam / Louis Fléri, Thecla Schiphorst, Mary Ellen Strom

Book contributors:
Essays by Claudia Hart and Andrea Ackerman, with papers by Michael Century, Dr. Beth Coleman, Lynn Hershman Leeson, Ellen Levy, Dr. Judith Rodenbeck, Dr. James H. Rubin, Dr. Sherry Turkle, Dr. Mari Velonaki

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Theory: Virtual Sex: The Female Body in Digital Art

Paper in Collaboration with Associate Professor Claudia Herbst, Pratt Institute
Virtual Sex: The Female Body in Digital Art
For “From Feminism to Formalism,” panel for 93th Annual College Art Association Conference in Atlanta,
February 18-22, 2005




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Experimental 3D

I exhibited in the contemporary art context for fifteen years before I turned to 3D animation. Between 1998 - 2000, I took classes at New York University's Center for Advanced Digital Applications to learn Maya 3D animation software.

In 2000, I began teaching Maya classes. At that time I was not familiar with media-production oriented vocational training, the context where 3D animation teaching first developed. To my surprise, I found that standardized 3D curriculum, oriented towards students intended for commercial production, was deadening to their ability to think actively and inductively.

The 3D problem is the result of pedagogical structures borrowed from a specific style of industry pipeline created to produce corporate effects films. These are films that are assembly-line in their manufacturing style. Skills are taught with an eye towards narrow specialization. As a result, students are literally taught to resist big picture thinking, which means to resist thinking conceptually, holistically and along with that, creatively.

When I arrived at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in the fall of 2007, I was encouraged by Tiffany Holmes, then chair of my former department - Art and Technology Studies - to write curriculum for a new kind of 3D animation studio class. Each one utilized virtual imaging and 3D animation, techniques capable of simulating sculpture, painting, architecture, photography and film or video, depending on the approach taken. My concept was that 3D animation and imaging software could be deployed along divergent paths, each building upon different art histories and therefore different contextual and theoretical trajectories.

My classes bundle conceptually and formally related skills. Digital Bodies uses experimental dance films as the artistic inspiration for teaching character animation. Virtual Installation is a course in which computer models could be "installed" in non-sites, meaning imaginatively integrated into photographs and video. Atmospheric Animation is a class in which fluid environments evoke atmospheres, to create a stage for enacting physics simulations. Painting in the Virtual Environment is a course that emphasizes the possibilities of the pictorial and of surface structure in 3D forms. Introduction to Experimental 3D is the core class, modeled after Johannes Itten’s Bauhaus Basic Course.

The potential of 3D animation within contemporary art practice is not yet fully realized. I believe this is because of the industry-oriented style of training. Typically, students are offered classes with titles like: Modeling, Rigging, Character Animation, Rendering, Texturing, etc. These are classes named for specific technologies rather than their creative potentials. Educational one-line tutorials and the exploding DVD tutorial business offer a plethora of exercises as homework assignments: "Make a cartoon walk cycle," model a grisly humanoid monster, or create a highly lacquered sports car. This is an infrastructure that reflects an assembly-line consciousness that is microcosmic and lends itself to cog-like thinking.These educational tools also result in the production of an unacknowledged "company style." They teach not just skills but the aesthetics conveying the values and ethos of a certain corner of the media industry: the culture of shooter games, splatter films and Disney cartoons.

The Experimental 3D curricular track at SAIC is the first of its kind. It has opened the medium up to a different kind of student. These are not just students with aspirations to practice contemporary art, of which there are many, but also those who want to be independent film directors and high-end art directors. The proof of the pudding, however, is in the eating. When I first arrived in Chicago, my class registration was low. After three years, my classes are fully booked shortly after they open for registration.


Intro to Experimental 3D
This class recreates Johannes Itten's basic course developed at the Weimar Bauhaus School, but here using Maya 3D software. Students solve a series of formal problems, at increasing levels of complexity. Moving from 2-dimensions to 3-dimensions to 4-dimensions (time), students evolve their abilities to utilize aspects of light and dark, form, rhythm, color, proportion and volume at the same time as being introduced to this complex software interface.


Painting in the Virtual Environment
Using Maya 3D animation software, students create virtual still life paintings. Each contributes organic, industrial and digital objects and works in a team to compose allegorical still lives first recorded as a photograph to serve as the basis of a 3D computer model. Digital sculpting, painting, and photo-realistic lighting simulation are taught. Significant class time is spent on historical precedents from Cezanne to contemporary set-up photographers like Thomas Demand and Sam Taylor Wood.


Atmospheric Animation
This class teaches particle effects using Maya. Students create an underwater environment as a case study, both to learn Maya dynamics in particular, and generally, how to approach making an elaborate special effects scene. The class evolved from my piece, Ophelia. In creating it, I developed techniques and composed a 50- page "recipe," serving as the class text book. The atmospheric animations of British artist Saskia Wolbers are also analysed.


Digital Bodies
In this class, students choreograph virtual performances using Maya 3D animation software. Adopting default bodies, students learn the Full-Body IK System, the most advanced animation technique available to animate their characters. Class orientation is towards virtual performance in terms of the visual possibilities of cinematic language and the potential of digital bodies to move in both natural and unnatural ways. Formal inspiration comes from avant-garde dance films, from Maya Deren to Yvonne Rainer and Charles Atlas.


Virtual Installation
Using 3D animation software, students create simulated site-specific installations using found digital objects. The techniques of cinematic special effects are taught to create virtual assemblages for real sites. The course strategy will be to combine and manipulate 3D models found on the Internet, to be integrated into photographed sites using match lighting and global illumination lighting simulations. Class time also spent viewing the work of contemporary installation artists from Gordon Matta-Clark and James Turrell to Krzysztof Wodiczko.