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Thursday, February 5, 2009

Encyclopedia Destructica PowerPoints

Posted By on Thu, Feb 5, 2009 at 2:52 PM

It was nice last Saturday to see the Miller Gallery's first-floor lobby in use, and packed besides. Astria Suparak, in her first year as this CMU venue's curator, has plans for the lobby, which over the years has usually seemed like the dead space you pass through to get to the exhibits on the second and third floors. But meantime, local art collective Encyclopedia Destructica -- run by Christopher Kardambikis and Jasdeep Khaira -- brought the lobby to life with an event built around the presentation of its 2008 Flying Destructicate award.

The award, which included a several-month residency, went to local artist Jonathan Brodsky. (The FD is also a little multi-contributor art book, with a DVD, which I'll write about it in a future issue of CP.) But the evening's main attraction were performances drawn from two special events held late last year, when ED invited local artists to put together six-minute PowerPoint presentations on subjects of their choice.

Appropriating a form (or maybe it's a "genre") associated with the dreary cube-farms of postindustrial America for artful and perhaps even subversive use is a pretty great idea. While I hadn't seen the other shows, the sampling offered Feb. 7 didn't disappoint.

T. Foley, for instance, offered "Types and Categories of Pics Attached to Postings Within Men Seeking Women Classified Ads on Chicago's Craigslist." Foley, in semi-mock-academic style, started by breaking the pics into those that depicted the poster and those that didn't, and further from there; her slides consisted of her own simple line-drawing versions of the online images and a sampling of the text. The Craiglist ads, perhaps predictably, ranged from poignant (a trucker promised prospective partners, "I always know where I am going and when I will be back") to the creepy ("Come share my penthouse"). Without the least condescension ("some of my best boyfriends ... came from Craigslist," she acknowledged), Foley brought her background in media-literacy education to bear for a presentation both humorous and insightful.

Another highlight was Laura Miller's faux-naïve piece on Joseph Baker, the illiterate, rabble-rousing anti-immigrant street orator who, in 1850, was elected mayor of Pittsburgh -- while in jail. "He was kind of a horrible man ... but he was our mayor!" enthused Miller.

Brodsky also presented his own PowerPoint, which was fascinating but, involving as it did theories of the origin of all life on Earth; pigeons; Eastern Bloc pneumatic-tube message-delivery systems; and more, was almost too much to absorb in one sitting.

I look forward to checking out some of the other PowerPoints on the ED DVD, including one on Alexander Berkman's attempted assassination of Henry Clay Frick; one on Prince; and Brett Kashmere's intriguingly titled "The Fifth Quarter: A Secret History of Basketball."

Encyclopedia Desctructica, is way cool, and they even had snacks.


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