Are you there, Lord Baltimore?
About Are you there, Lord Baltimore? I was invited to participate in the Baltimore from Many Perspectives exhibition at the D Center in the heart of the Station North Arts and Entertainment District. I decided to use this exhibition as opportunity to research, write, and create a new work to sift through my thoughts on the development of the Station North Arts & Entertainment District. After interviews, reading, digging through data, attending meetings and reflection, I wrote an essay. Five friends helped me hand-letter the 1000 word essay on a wall in the exhibition at the D Center. You are welcome to download the full essay.
In March 2013, Robinson transformed Grizzly Grizzly into immersive environment uniting the metaphysics of hand, word, and technology in "Concatenation". Robinson's exhibition features two related bodies of work. Alchemy & Mediations is a series of electronic textile wall pieces, each emitting light based on interconnectedness. The second series, Context Posters, consists of over one hundred hand-drawn text works that explore patterns in language using a process of concatenation, an operation - in both formal language theory and computer programming - of joining two or more separate items end-to-end, in "strings".
Alchemy & Meditations is a polyptych consisting of thirteen electronic textile pieces. Each piece is a functioning circuit – a pattern of copper fabric connects hundreds of light emitting diodes. As electricity runs through the artwork, the LEDs glow. The connection in this work is literal – it is the fact of their connectedness that causes the work to emit light.
The connections in Context Posters are found within the pattern of language. In creating these pieces, Robinson culled phrases from a vast database of printed language from 1890 to 1910. Using the database, she created sets of three words, grouped according to their most common co-existence in written popular texts from that era. After removing common words, such as "the" and "a", Robinson found these concatenations to have mysterious poetic weight. For example, the two words that appeared most often with the word "bread" were "priest" and "rainbow" – hence the Context Poster that reads "PRIEST BREAD RAINBOW".
Olivia Robinson & Jesse Stiles, 2013
Site-specific installation for the Ancient Roman Stadium in Plovdiv, Bulgaria.
Commissioned by the Open Arts Foundation & The U.S. Embassy in Sofia, Bulgaria.
Wood, plaster, LEDs, control electronics, video monitors, multi-channel sound.
The Roman Stadium of Philippopolis was built in the 2nd century AD during the reign of Emperor Hadrian. The competitions in the stadium were dedicated to the Emperor's "favorite man," Antinous. In the year 130 Antinous was sacrificed by drowning in the Nile River. Following his death, the Emperor deified Antinous, resulting in one of the most popular cults of worship in ancient times.
In 2013, Olivia Robinson and Jesse Stiles were commissioned to create a site-specific installation in the ancient stadium, located in the modern-day city of Plovdiv, Bulgaria. The resulting installation work, Modern Lovers, depicts Hadrian and Antinous as hermaphroditic lover-twins, their bodies adorned in sound and light. Video monitors in the base of the sculpture present a "Battle of the Gods" using Hollywood action movie stars in place of Roman deities.
Concatenation | Exhibition at Grizzly Grizzly in Philadelphia
During March 1-30, 2013 I will have an exhibition called Concatenation at Grizzly Grizzly Gallery in Philadelphia, PA. The opening is Friday, March 1, 6-10pm. I will be creating an immersive space within the gallery with my Context Posters and the Alchemy & Meditations series. Grizzly Grizzly is at 319 N. 11th St, 2nd Floor, Philadelphia, PA, 19107.
Olivia Robinson: 1899-1902
This exhibition examines a period of time now known as the “Technological Revolution.” Also known as the “Second Industrial Revolution,” this time period brought forth the internal combustion engine, new materials and substances (including alloys and chemicals), new communication technologies such as the telegraph and radio, and major advances in the use of electricity. The socioeconomic effects of these innovations would result in a radical shifting of social power structures that had been in place for centuries.
The work presented here spans a variety of media – painting, sculpture, photography, video, and electronic textiles. In the windows of the Stamp Gallery a series of 192 paintings deconstruct the language of the 19th century, grouping together words according to their most common coexistence in printed materials. A fully functional sales cart for peddling human sweat sits opposite a video of a woman demonstrating an unusual capacity for producing salt. A pew invites viewers to look upon a dramatic polyptych of thirteen electronic textile pieces. In all of these works, the time period of the Technological Revolution is used as a framework to explore issues of power, both scientific and social, and to reflect on how those issues continue to exist and evolve today.
The exhibition, Olivia Robinson: 1899-1902, was made up three bodies of work: Alchemy & Meditations, Nabat: Looking Back, and Context Posters. Information about these individual works are listed below.
Alchemy & Meditations
The thirteen Alchemy & Meditations pieces are made from conductive and non-conductive textiles and LED lights. The imagery is based upon 19th century ideas about alchemy and electrical energy, combined with 21st century ideas of meditation. A series of batteries made using sweat, sit near the pieces as if powering the electronic textiles.
Nabat: Looking Back
This ever-so-slowly changing video is a record of a woman creating salt. Salt accumulates on the surface of her skin as she sits over a period of 16 minutes. Ultimately she is completely covered in rock salt. Salt is electrolyte used in the sweat batteries that power the Alchemy & Meditations piece. The video is projected into a physical frame on the wall. In the installation a fully functional sales cart for peddling human sweat sits opposite the projected video.
The one hundred and ninety-two Context Posters were derived from using a linguistic research database that allowed me to selectively search for words within popular texts published between the years 1890 and 1910. Within the database, I would look up a specific word, such as “Work”, and then ask the database to list for me the most used words written on either side of the word “Work” within those popular texts. From this list, I derived the three word concatenated poems that I hand-painted on each poster. Twelve words were searched: Power, Share, Work, Progress, Listen, Science, Labor, Sweat, Salt, Exchange, Health, and Waste.
The Deathworks of May Elizabeth Kramner
The Deathworks of May Elizabeth Kramner is a mixed media installation by The Poyais Group (Jesse Ball, Thordis Bjornsdottir, Olivia Robinson, & Jesse Stiles). They provide the following account of the work:
May Elizabeth Kramner (1867-1977) was a recluse and an artist of the type now dubbed 'outsider.' Her life work consisted of a model of the town in which she lived. Each house was represented by a tent and on each tent was sewn the manner of death of a person (or persons) who lived in that house at some time during her life.
May Elizabeth's work was witnessed by no person outside of her immediate family during her lifetime. After her passing, the Deathworks were discovered by Charles and Dorothy Winright, the acclaimed anthropologists, but were destroyed in a fire shortly thereafter.
In 2011, The Poyais Group recreated the artworks based upon Dorothy Winwright's notes from her initial survey of May Elizabeth's tents and pavilions.
"We hope that the brilliant striving of this hermit may prove inspirational to others in this complicated time. We hope too that our tent-city will delight and astonish." - The Poyais Group, March 2011
Spectres of Liberty
The Ghost of the Liberty Street Church
Spectres of Liberty (a collaboration of Dara Greenwald, Josh MacPhee, and Olivia Robinson) is an on-going public, hybrid media project about the history of the movement to abolish slavery in the United States. Through this project we explore the following questions: How do we make visible histories of people and movements which resisted a status quo of oppression? What are the best forms to manifest submerged and complex collective memories? How do artists interact with a public in meaningful ways to animate the history of specific locations?
Our first iteration of this project took place in May 2008 and was entitled The Ghost of the Liberty Street Church. Built in 1840 in Troy, New York, the Liberty Street Church was an important meeting place for organizers of the Underground Railroad. The Church’s first Reverend, Henry Highland Garnet, was internationally known for his militant orations and publications calling on people to actively participate in the fight to end slavery. From old photos of the site provided by the Rensselaer Historical Society, we created an inflatable 1:1 scale model of the church and installed it at its former location, which is currently a parking lot. We animated this ghost church through video projections, sound, and digital animations representing Henry Highland Garnet and his words. The church provided a theatre in which to hold a cultural event that brought community members to think more deeply about the space, its history, and its relevancy for today.
The second iteration of Spectres of Liberty was in Syracuse, New York. It is titled The Great Central Depot in the Open City, based on Syracuse's reputation as an important stop on the Underground Railroad. UGRR Station Master Reverend Jermain Loguen called Syracuse an "Open City", a safe place for those escaping slavery. Created in May-June 2010, this multi-phased creative endeavor asked the question: Is Syracuse an Open City today? Through research and collaboration, we developed a project that highlighted Syracuse's anti-slavery history and its contemporary issues. The project took the form of a month-long storefront Open City Workshop with public programs, a public cultural event with a large-scale media installation, and an on-line radio station.
Spectres of Liberty is a project by Dara Greenwald, Josh MacPhee, and Olivia Robinson. Our hybrid work emerges from a practice that combines expanded cinema, relational aesthetics, situated and community practices, as well as media such as digital animation, video, inflatable sculpture, web, text, and print.
The Grand Central Depot in the Open City
Waste to Work
A collaborative project by Daniela Kostova and Olivia Robinson.
Waste to Work explores the transformation of labor into electric power, using sweat as the link. Sweat is the perfect medium: it is an electrolyte that can be used to make galvanic batteries - "waste" that can be harvested from our labors - and remains an extremely personal commodity that holds our scent, essential salts, fats, pheromones. This project has multiple phases: building sweat batteries and sweat harvesting suits.
The first edition of Wast to Work was a site specific installation at the Schenectady Museum of Science and Art. Inspired by the history and significance of General Electric to the local Schenectady community, this installation focused on visualizing global electrical power and physical labor. The installation was in a triptych format: a display of sweat batteries, a video of the process of collecting sweat, and an electrified map. We videotaped while collecting sweat from individuals living in New York state during our tee shirt exchange effort, and then we used the sweat and recycled containers to create 250 batteries. A system of wires (much like arteries and veins) connects these "organic" batteries to an illuminated LED world map based on the NASA satellite photo of the Earth at night. At the opening, the map was illuminated by the artists and audience as together they "charged" the batteries by adding the collected human sweat to the display of recycled bottles and creating electricity.
A collaborative project by Daniela Kostova and Olivia Robinson.
Negotiations is a project that explores cross-cultural communication and interpretation. Over a period of two years Daniela Kostova and Olivia Robinson developed an interactive system that utilizes blue screen video techniques as a tool for manipulating human bodies moving through unknown environments. The system has been performed in three distinct public environments: Sardinia, Italy, New York City, USA and Sofia, Bulgaria. The first public performance of Negotiations took place in Sardinia, where a prototype of the system was deployed. Through the extended performances in New York and Sofia we further developed the system and used it to reveal more layers within the construct of the mythological “other” by examining graffiti culture.
As both a conspicuous costume and virtual assimilation act, each performance has fostered the development of a site-specific story. Recurring themes that emerged from the performances include: estrangement and integration; cultural economics of “authority”; placidity of legality, territory and ownership; and mediation of experience. The hand-held monitor which displays the “negotiated” video in real-time becomes the focal point, allowing relationships to form during performances and highlighting the double-consciousness of cross-cultural communication. The Negotiations system uses readily available computer and surveillance technology to create the real-time video. Two characters embody the system, an Alien (in blue) and an Authority (in black). Each has a video camera which is linked to a computer embedded in the Authority's costume. Custom software composites the two video streams to create a negotiated final video. The resulting imagery is solely from the Authority's point of view wherein the Alien has been replaced with her or his own point of view. The Alien carries a small monitor where s/he and passers-by can view the final video as it is being created. The Authority rarely takes her camera off of the Alien, the surveilled subject.
Electronic Manifesto was conceived in a dream - in the dream a "text" was created using an electrical network. Upon waking, the first four lines of this wordless manifesto were remembered and are called "the first code of law"; in English they are an electrified mantra of equity. The text that follows the first code are lines written while awake and these lines discuss, explain and expand upon what was remembered. This textile and electronic reproduction of the document in the dream works - it is passing energy through the drawn lines and components, ready to be activated if a button were pressed.
The manifesto is framed in a black box, with a six inch depth and without glass. The frame is designed this way to provide shade for the lights and also to invite people to press the buttons, but also to suggest a barrier because the manifesto is delicate.
The Thing That Happened
A short science fiction film telling the story of a mysterious group in search of their lost Father, and the disastrous metaphysical experiment that ensues. Directed by Olivia Robinson and Jesse Stiles, written with Thordis Bjornsdottir and Jesse Ball, The Thing That Happened is a story of dreams, desperation, and the unknown lessons of nature.
Runtime: 7 minutes
Format: HD Video
A naked man is sleeping on this table. As you touch the soft surface of the table, the man reacts physically. He wiggles, leans or rolls over in response to your pokes, prods, caresses, tickles and slaps. In response to the intensity and frequency of your touch, as if shrinking from this unbidden intimacy, his image fades away. Oblivious touches on issues of power, vulnerability, potential for abuse or intimacy, as well as our level of comfort with a naked male body.
The image of the man fades in the areas that have been touched the most. Over time, as more and more people interact with him, those areas will become rubbed or "touched" away. His evolving body becomes a record of people's hands and where they have chosen to touch him. At the beginning of an exhibition he will be completely opaque, present and oblivious of your existence; over time he will change in accordance with the collective interaction.
The photos above include images from the final piece and electronics from all three generations of Oblivious. The video is of Oblvious in action. Ben Potsaid programmed the pic microcontroller for the final version and helped design the electronic schematics. James Murphy helped with the second version by working with me to construct the electronic field sensor electronics. For the first prototype of the electronics, I worked alone.
Imbalanced Ambivalence By turning the crank on Imbalanced Ambivalence, you will see a video. It is housed within an antique box – similar to a jewelry box for the fragile video held inside. The video is a vignette of a woman (me) dressing as a nurse. She is seen through peculiar angles captured by a tiny wireless camera. Coupled with the nurse is her patient perpetually asking, when will the nurse be ready to take care? As you turn the crank, you choose the pace at which you want to see the story.
I Rodentia is a collaboration with Daniela Kostova and is a project inspired by the music composition "Albany Rhythms" by Moravec. The video offers an unusual perspective of our capital city seen from an animal's point of view. It is produced with the help of a wireless spy camera attached to the nose of a giant remote control rat. Through the "cyber-rat," the high tech of digital video meets the low tech of analogue machines. Borrowing the aesthetics from early silent films such as Chaplin's "Modern Times," this movie depicts our modern time moving to the circular and sometimes frenetic rhythms in Moravec's work.
Letter is just that, a letter. As a kid, when I held a FisherPrice ViewMaster to my eyes, the small half inch slides became mountain-sized three dimensional worlds that I alone fell into. In Letter, I hoped to capture the same vastness, intimacy and delight I found in the ViewMaster images as a child. Not originally meant as an art piece, I created a letter for a long distance friend. Through experimenting with facial expressions and stereoscopic self portraits, my 3D mail invites playful participation within the intimate world enveloped by a hand held toy.
Inside & Out is an object to be shaken. The ball is shaped and sized like a magic eight ball, a child's toy used for answering questions about the future. The images in this magic ball are memories rather than future predictions. As the video plays on the small embedded screen, you can help write or rewrite the outcomes of the story, perhaps play-acting new decisions that could be made in the future.
Little Big Bang (LBB)
Little Big Bang (LBB) was a Baltimore based performance troupe lasting from 1997-2002. Members included: Ben Luzzatto, Sally Chang, Severine d'Albis, Sue Frame, Mygi Harris, Flo McGarrell, Olivia Robinson, and Brian Stansbury. The images and video are only a few examples of work that LBB created over the five years of its existance.
In 1999 we published the first and only edition of the Daily Truth newspaper. In it we wrote: "Little Big Bang was formed in 1997 by six young artists who had met and worked with each other for three years at the Maryland Institute College of Art. Since then the core has grown to seven artists, but the number of participants and loyal friends in each project usually numbers twenty. LBB is dedicated to public art, usually performative, but always sculptural and interactive. From organizing neighborhood festivals to creating outdoor happenings or theatrical performances, LBB is committed to artwork that invites passers-by to participate on many different levels. LBB has perfromed and exhibited on the streets of Baltimore, DC and Vermont, and at large art places such as the Baltimore Museum of Art, the Washington Project for the Arts, the Whole Gallery and Artscape."
The Deathworks of May Elizabeth Kramner at MICA
The Deathworks of May Elizabeth Kramner will be on view at the Meyerhoff Gallery at the Maryland Institute College of Art from Oct. 26 - November 18, 2012. The Deathworks are part of the exhibition entitled "It...", curated by Melissa Ho.
Olivia Robinson: 1899-1902 | Exhibition at Stamp Gallery
I hope you can join me this Friday for the opening of my new exhibition, Olivia Robinson: 1899 - 1902. We just finished the installation, and I am very excited. It opens at the Stamp Gallery at the University of Maryland Friday, September 7 (5-8PM), and it will up until October 20th.
The exhibition is a collection of work that I (theoretically) created 113 years ago, at the height of the Technological Revolution. Olivia Robinson: 1899 - 1902 includes new electronic fiber works (a collection of thirteen printed textile circuits), sculpture (a fully functional sales cart for peddling human sweat), video (a woman becoming slowly covered in salt), photography, and a series of 188 hand-painted signs. In these works, the time period of the Technological Revolution is used as a framework to explore issues of power, both scientific and social, and to reflect on how those issues continue to exist and evolve today.
Residency at Sculpture Space in Utica, NY
June & July 2011
During June and July I will be in Utica, NY, at a residency at Sculpture Space. Here I will be developing a project called S. W. Eat's Salted Products, previously called The Salt Market. More on this under the work section once it is complete.
Spectres of Liberty at the Open Engagement Conference
I will present Spectres of Liberty work at the Open Engagement Conference on a panel entitled "Interventions in Public Amnesia" along with Dara Greenwald, Josh MacPhee, Valeska Populoh, Joanna Spitzner and Fereshteh Toosi.
The Deathworks of May Elizabeth Kramner at UW-O
The Deathworks of May Elizabeth Kramner was exhibited at the University of Wisconsin at Oshkosh this Spring. Opening reception April 7, 2011.
Textiles and Social Sculpture panelist at CAA
February 12, 2011
I will be presenting on the Textiles and Social Sculpture panel at the annual College Art Association conference in NYC. I will present two Spectres of Liberty projects: "The Ghost of the Liberty Street Church" and "The Great Central Depot in the Open City".
Waste to Work at Pratt Manhattan Gallery
Daniela Kostova and I will be exhibiting the Waste to Work project at the Pratt Manhattan Gallery in the You Are Here exhibition, curated by Kitty Harmon. Waste to Work will be on display September 23 - November 6, 2010, with the opening reception on September 23.
Spectres of Liberty at the Rochester Contemporary Art Center
Spectres of Liberty in collaboration with The Art School in the Art School will be presenting The Great Central Depot in the Open City at the Rochester Contemporary Art Center. The exhibition State of the City will be on view from August 6 - September 19, 2010. Opening reception August 6. We will create an installation with the zoetropes, animations, prints and interviews from the month long Open City Workshop held in May in Syracuse.
Spectres of Liberty at PSi 16 Conference
Dara Greenwald and I presented the two Spectres of Liberty projects at the PSi 16 Conference (Performing Publics), June 2010. Fereshteh Toosi and Joanna Spitzner also presented projects on the same panel entitled, Interventions in Public Amnesia.
Spectres of Liberty: The Great Central Depot in the Open City
Dara Greenwald, Josh MacPhee and I will be presenting the most recent Spectres of Liberty project in Syracuse, New York. More information on this soon.
Workshop at Carnegie Mellon University
Giving a Wearable Technology/Soft Circuit workshop to the Tactical Media class at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh.
Visiting Critic at University of the Arts
December 6, 2009
Making a stop in Philadelphia as a visiting critic for a Wearable Technology class at the University of the Arts.
ACC Panel at SCAD
November 6, 2009
Presenting at the Savannah College of Art and Design as part of the American Craft Council's "Making Meaning in the Marketplace" symposium.
Spectres of Liberty at Accidental Publics Symposium
Spectres of Liberty at Conflux Festival
Olivia Robinson is a multimedia fiber artist whose work spans performance, installation, research, and community engagement. Robinson’s diverse body of work, which ranges in scale from hand-built textile circuits to architectural-scale inflatable structures, investigates issues of justice, identity, community, and transformation. She has received awards and honors from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Franklin Furnace Fund, the New York Foundation for the Arts, Sculpture Space, and the Center for Land Use Interpretation. Her work has been presented at internationally recognized venues including SIGGRAPH, Boston CyberArts Festival, and the American Land Museum and has been recognized in numerous books, journals, and CD/DVD releases.
Olivia received her BFA from the Maryland Institute College of Art, where she majored in Fiber Art with a focus on inflatable sculpture, experimental costuming, and performance. She co-founded the performance troupe Little Big Bang which performed at the American Visionary Art Museum, the Baltimore Museum of Art, the Mermaid Parade, and the WPA/Corcoran Museum. She also worked in the Community Arts Partnerships office during its first four years. Robinson holds an MFA in Electronic Art from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, where she studied under legendary composer/performer Pauline Oliveros, for whom she currently serves as board member for the Deep Listening Institute.
Olivia has led lectures, conferences, workshops, and college-level courses at universities and colleges including Carnegie Melon University, York University, School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Savannah College of Art and Design, New York University, University of the Arts, Philadelphia, Syracuse University, and the Maryland Institute College of Art. The innovative artworks resulting from her classes have been featured in museum exhibitions and acclaimed by the New York Times.
Robinson lives in Baltimore, Maryland, and teaches at the Maryland Institute College of Art.
Click here to download my cv.