Misha's Blog

Revisiting the Prague Biennale

Posted in Installations, Projects by Misha on December 1, 2013

Biothing: The Invisibles at Prague Biennale

I recently reconnected with my friend Kevin Kane who was my old collaborator on Biothing: The Invisibles Prague Biennale installation in 2003. He is now an architect & founder of Arktura. The Prague installation was quite an adventure, and its interesting to see where the people behind it ended up. Alisa Andrasek is still teaching and now involved in the European Graduate School. Several of the Columbia Architecture students who we worked with started their own firm called We Are Dag.

Biothing.Invisibles. map

This installation used animations produced with the Maya Embedded Language (MEL) and granular synthesis sound displays. The animation and sound would get more or less chaotic based on a digital model of a bacteria colony (using a Cellular Automata algorithm). The bacteria model had an “environmental” variable that could lower or increase environmental impediments to survival. We tied this variable to the count of people in the space using an infrared beam sensor positioned by the entrance. The idea was that people’s presence would help spread the bacteria and boost this invisible ghostly presence in the walls. During the research phase, we tested ultra-directional infrared beam speakers by Holosonics but decided to use conventional speakers so that we could hide them in the walls.

Biothing.Invisibles audience

I learned a lot from the project and loved seeing Prague. I hope to make it back there soon.

Curatorial statement for Uncanny Valleys: Experiments in Computer Graphics

Posted in Curation by Misha on November 10, 2013


[PDF] Los Angeles, (October 28th, 2013) — Marymount California University Department of Arts & Media are proud to present Uncanny Valleys: Critical Discourse Through Computer Graphics a contemporary art exhibition featuring the work of Andy Fedak and Angela Washko opening on November 7th with a reception from 6 to 9pm.  Andy Fedak, hailing from Los Angeles, uses visual effects, video, and animation to deliver sublime reflections with profound allegories and celebrates the fragile yet vital aspects of utopia.  Angela Washko, based in New York City and San Diego, is taking a feminist approach to deconstructing video games by staging interventions inside World of Warcraft and archiving the portrayal of women in the console-based role playing games she grew up playing.  These artists work across media to engage with established critical discourse to reach across generations and suggest these ideas be revealed, renewed, and repossessed.

In her works such as The Council on Gender Sensitivity and Behavioral Awareness in World of Warcraft, Washko appropriates video and sound from her game experiences where she engages other players in discussions of gender while raising sensitivity and awareness to an often hilarious and sometimes disturbing effect. Despite the orcs and elves running around its lush fantasy environment, the social atmosphere inside WoW is incredibly hostile and rooted in discriminatory politics extending from outside the screen.

Angela Washko’s Heroines With Baggage on the 10 TV video wall

Angela Washko’s Heroines with Baggage on the 10 TV video wall

Washko acts as a facilitator of conversations which question this exclusionary and oppressive language the player-base has adopted. In her ongoing project Heroines with Baggage, Washko additionally looks at the ways in which representations of women in role-playing games formed her understanding of being a woman growing up.

A still from Orwell in Catalonia video by Andy Fedak

A still from Orwell in Catalonia video by Andy Fedak

Fedak interweaves evocative historical narratives with video and visual effects to elucidate contemporary implications within Orwell’s writings from the trenches of the Spanish Civil War.  George Orwell—the writer of Animal Farm and 1984—traveled to Catalonia to fight against Franco’s fascist Spain.  After the fall of Spain to fascism, the decades of totalitarian dictatorship that followed, and finally Franco’s death and return of democracy, it seems almost impossible to comprehend this utopian moment in which Orwell found himself.  How could we feel what he felt?

Ice From Catalonia Installation included small medicinal cups for people to access the transformative nature of water

Ice From Catalonia Installation included small medicinal/sacrament cups for imbibing the slowly transforming water

To see this moment in history from his vantage point of believing a socialist utopia was possible?  Orwell in Catalonia is an experimental journey tracing Orwell’s path through the Spanish Civil War, documenting his exact locations, then utilizing contemporary animation and visual effects techniques to try to get back to the zeitgeist of that phantom utopia on the Catalan countryside – a moment which will all too soon turn into myth.  Fedak brought ice back from Catalonia in order to amplify the affect created by the video’s portrayal of water in all of its many states.  We invite the audience to imbibe the slowly melting ice through medical/sacrament cups in order to grok the emotion of collective state change.

People Watching Vieo Wall

My Experimental Fish Live On

Posted in Miscellaneous by Misha on June 10, 2013

I’ve use living plants and animals in my artworks and research. I always worked hard to make sure the fish and plants (and even bacteria) are happy during all these trials. After a year of living in an aquaponics toilet, my tilapia named Beefadou was adopted as a pet into a roomy new fish tank. Today I found out that the pair of Koi I used to bootstrap that system—which I later sold on Craigslist—are alive and well.

So far, I’ve been able to retire all the plants and animals used in all experiments. The fish all went to new homes as pets, and the vegetables got eaten. I would like to continue this in the future. I’m happy to get word that these two Koi, named “Mr. and Mrs” are still together. They always spent every moment with each other, and now are continuing to do the same. Here is an image of them in their new home.

The two koi I'm referring to are the silver guys.

The two koi I’m referring to are the silver guys.

When I was ready to switch to the tilapia, I thought of releasing these Koi into the wild. I’m glad that they became pets because they grew up with humans. Luckily I haven’t done anything weird enough to any of these life forms to preclude safe release into the wild. There is little chance of anything like the terrible frog fungus epidemic spread by laboratory frogs released into the wild happening in my case.

In conclusion am also happy to report that the snail I sold to the same people is reportedly bigger than golf ball now. It is the sole companion of a gruesome looking but congenial fish named Oscar who suffers from hole-in-head disease. I knew the snail would do well. I remember him when he was just a young transplant: a leader and good samaritan even in those days.

Snail Leader

Snail Leader

Video Grow Light Video Update

Posted in Video Grow Light by Misha on March 14, 2013

The grow light is getting close to exhibition-ready state. Here is a short video update with direct sound followed by sound recorded in-situ. The veggies are pretty happy right now so I hope they like the air quality in the galleries. It would be nice if more people came to see them and brought their CO2 excretions! Veggies love that carbon dioxide, Mmm-hmm.

The exhibition will happen in Syracuse and New York City. The Syracuse exhibition will run from April 4 through May 12, 2013 during normal SUArt Galleries hours: Tuesday through Sunday 11:00 – 4:30, and Thursday evenings until 8:00pm. The opening reception will be held on Thursday, April 4th from 5:00 to 7:00pm.

The New York City exhibition will happen at 25CPW Gallery in Manhattan, May 22nd through May 26th between noon and 8pm. The opening reception is Thursday, May 23rd 6-8pm.

Video Grow Light 2

Posted in Video Grow Light by Misha on February 26, 2013

Video Grow Light Experiments #124

People have cultivated plants and have enjoyed plant spectatorship for centuries. From the hanging gardens of Egypt to the potted plants of today: they all required peopleʼs care and management. People continue to get to know plants better: we want to know how plants work and live. Ethnobotany opens the door for us to wrap our minds around the unparalleled influence plants have had on us humans: everything from food, to building material, to medicine is derived from plants.

New evidence shows that plants have evolved a vast array of systems to coexist with mobile creatures: by looking at their adaptations ranging from secretion of poisons to subtle chemical plant-to-plant communication we catch a glimpse of their awareness. Historically, our consciousness has been heavily influenced by plant cultivation and pharmacology.

At this point in our human development however, our impact on plants is so incredibly great that our pollution is a power that rivals the forces of nature. Humans, it turns out, were never really apart from nature but are instead incredibly linked with it through all our activities. What can our culture do for plants in return for all they’ve helped us do? Can we turn cultural waste into fertilizer?

Video Grow Light

Posted in Video Grow Light by Misha on February 25, 2013

Video Grow Light

Iʼve been researching radical ecology design as a strategy for making art. While creating a living ecosystem for my Toiletponics public installation I created a grow light for the vegetables growing in the sculpture.

Other people have created many types of grow lights before. But all the available grow lights are static. Time-lapse photography already showed us that many plants follow the sun across the sky over the course of the day. To make plants happier under ʻunnaturalʼ light, I decided to create dynamic lighting conditions for growing plants. YouTube—with 48 hours of new video uploaded every minute—is a rich source of dynamic visual content organized in a folksonomy held together by cultural links.

I created a software filter that picks YouTube videos with the best color temperatures for plants. I am projecting the algorithmically curated video onto plants to make them grow. The project celebrates the aesthetic nexus of natural and the cultural ecologies. The photo above is of the grow system in action. This work will result in a physical installation and more photos coming soon.

Our Ruby Slippers Take Flight

Posted in Journey Installation, Projects by Misha on January 14, 2013

Ruby Slippers by Misha Rabinovich and Tim Westbrook

For my public installation Journey, the entry point was Toiletponics. Once inside the container, visitors were greeted with a domestic scene of a traveler. There was a set of Ruby Slippers that Tim Westbrook made for me. Now Tim took the idea and ran with it, and created a whole series of shoes! Amazing work, Tim! And you even made the Smithsonian take notice. Since the Smithsonian has the original shoes from the movie, would they let me borrow them for the next installation? Although, I now like the slippers Tim made for me better!

Ruby Slippers by Misha Rabinovich and Tim Westbrook

When Tim and I had our first meeting about this project, it was Spring and we were eating waffles. We were sharing our fascination with the Wizard of Oz. For me, the film has always represented the immigrant story. I read Russian versions of the book as a kid. I was also influenced by Hans Christian Anderson’s story of the little mermaid. She gave up her language to be more like her new human lover. I was thrilled when I finally lay my hands on these slippers: they have that Judy Garland sparkle with a fresh fish scale feel!

In the installation, I displayed the shoes separately and akimbo. The vessel was jostled on the stormy winds and the shoes went flying. But the traveler left the container without taking the shoes. The visitor is here to stay. It was great working with Tim and I look forward to doing so again!

Ruby Slippers USA Chain Study

Ruby Slippers USA Chain Study, Summery 2012

Deerhoof Clacks Across the Web

Posted in Uncategorized by Misha on December 13, 2012

Velidoxi.com Masters From Their Day: Deerhoof

My around-the-block neighbor in Syracuse was Elias Gwinn, but he recently moved away to NYC. When he was here we arranged a barter where I worked on his websites and he recorded some of my songs. I set up his Velidoxi blog, and moved Masters From Their Day project to a new host. He was talking about starting up MFTD again from the city, and going to work with good bands.

I was surprised and psyched when the Deerhoof episode video of Masters from their Day came out. My current neighbor upstairs got the vynil release of this song which was recorded during the episode. I saw on the Velidoxi site that Elias directed the music video for one of the album tracks on the new album, which I missed in September but am now digging on.

I remember seeing Deerhoof live about four years ago. Here is a video of the encore “Basketball” from that show. The recording is not terrible, though that phone was soon stolen from me at gunpoint. Just glad I got that video off of it.

How to Extract the Color at Collar City Film Festival

Posted in Research by Misha on October 29, 2012

I am excited to have a video being shown in Troy on November 3rd (from 7-9pm at 51 3rd street) along other videos by great artists. The video was first shown in Syracuse, and eventually went on a two month display inside the Journey shipping container installation. The idea for the video began as a syphoning study for Toiletponics, but then took on a life of it’s own.

Journey Closing Reception & Beefadou Retirement Ceremony

Posted in Journey Installation by Misha on October 22, 2012

Journey Installation Closing Reception & Beefadou Retirement Ceremony

When: This Tuesday October 23rd from 7:30pm to 8pm followed by a pub crawl.
Where: Shipping container at the Columbus Circle grove of trees (map link here).

You are invited to a lecture performance featuring a ceremony of transformation. Journey is a public art installation in downtown Syracuse. The centerpiece and entry point of the installation is Toiletponics. The chief nutrient source for the food-producing ecosystem is a tilapia fish who’s excrement is recirculated as fertilizer for the vegetables. The fish is named Beefadou and he is ready to retire. Please come to see a short lecture performance by the artist to celebrate the closing of the installation and witness Beefadou’s actual retirement live. A pub crawl through downtown will follow.

Come to commemorate broken and reinvented models of existence, transmutation of waste into value, and ecopoetry. Witness the remarkable story of an artist’s quest to aesthetically package the Nitrogen cycle and one fish’s transformation from lab rat, to livestock, and finally to a pet. The installation will continue to operate until October 27th using another experimental nutrient source.

Short TV News Report video on the project:

Scroll down for the Google Map of the location.