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Real Time Mobile Art Exhibition Essay

Monday, March 3rd, 2008


Real Time

@ The Dallas Contemporary February 15 - May 10 2008
Curated by Dean Terry with John Pomara

inter.sect art collective
Kirsten Macy
Doreen Maloney
Marisa Olson
Marjorie & Ludwig Schwarz
Leslie Sharpe
Bart Weiss

What kind of art can you make on a mobile phone in 15 seconds?

The art of the mobile phone is the art of the hurried, the time starved, the always on. It is the art of waiting in lines, sitting in traffic, and mind numbing meetings. It is the art of the art of the exhausted, overworked American. Rather than the result of long hours of extended reflection it is the art of the pressured moment.

The mobile phone is the one device we have with us in these moments, and precisely because of its restrictiveness, it is ideally suited as an art machine. It’s products are the 140 character SMS message, the 15 second video, the grainy blur of a 640 x 480 cameraphone image. These are the microexpressions of the metatasker. Microart is about the composite and sequential effect of a large number of small bits that create a stream rather than fewer, individual substantive statements.

The work you will see in this exhibition changes every day, and indeed was probably made just before you arrived at the showing. Rather than placing works in the space that were created beforehand, each artist will generate video from a mobile phone each day and send it to the Dallas Contemporary from wherever they happen to be. The work is sent like a text message or an email with a video attachment from the device. Most entries will take the artist less than a minute to compose and send, and each message is also delivered to an exhibition website at

The result of this mobile art process process will be a series of “micro art” pieces that will constitute, rather than a single work, a continuum of discrete pieces that create a loose narrative or sequence, based around any conceptual frame the artists desires. Each artist has been encouraged to interpret these working conditions differently.

Microart is about accepting and exhibiting (mostly) failure rather than (mostly) success. It is about the composite and sequential effect of a large number of small bits that create a stream rather than fewer, individual substantive statements. And its about honesty and directness of the process. Individual posts may be disposable, like most cultural productions in consumer society, but the goal is that the cumulative effect is not.

The idea behind this exhibition emphasizes process over permanence, transparency over secrecy and opacity, and an open (virtual) studio door with a closed one, where the artist has walked through and escaped out into the world.

Choosing the artists for this project was a difficult and time consuming task. The concern was not necessarily whether they had done mobile work before, but rather in challenging them with the construct. The demands (daily uploads) and limitations (cell phone video) require a certain commitment of the participants: they cannot just send a work to the space, attend the opening, and forget about it. And in most cases the participants are forced to alter their normal practices - especially in terms of time and control over their creative products.

Real Time gives viewers and participants the ability to reinterpret the way they interact with each other via mobile technology, and to examine how it simultaneously connects and disconnects us from each other. More and more the mobile phone will be the mediating device between people and places.

When time is sliced in ever finer increments, and we endure a daily war of attention, what kind of art can be produced in these circumstances? Real Time is an attempt to answer that question, and challenges us to anticipate, participate in, and critique creative practice in emerging mobile culture.

-Dean Terry
February 2008

Follow the show every day through May 10 2008 at

100lies featured on MoBuzzz TV

Friday, December 2nd, 2005

A Spanish show that focuses on mobile culture called MoBuzz TV has done a piece featuring, the web version of my mobile video painting project in the Contemporary. Check it out here!

The host comments that some of the work looks like what a camera phone would do if just left on. The pieces are actually planned, labored over, and reshot, but having them come off seeming casual and random is a plus.

Mobile Video Phone Art Project | mo.vid.1 | video painting

Sunday, October 30th, 2005

is a mobile video project that updates every time a video is sent from my mobile phone to the gallery, often several times a day. The display changes as new videos are sent from the phone, though wireless networks, and to a computer in the gallery. These are micro videos, fifteen seconds long, made wherever I happen to be. They are projected on a large, vertical wall. A second projection high above the first plays previous videos in random order.

The project is centered on the idea of remapping private spaces into public ones, of reversing scale, of inverting and rejecting the consumerist idea of “quality” and its technological expression in ever higher resolutions by exploiting the limits of the devices. (The videos are really pretty poor with all the compression artifacts, and these limitations are exposed by using two Apple Mac G5’s to drive the system and two high resolution projectors to display it)

In addition to the videos updating in the gallery space, they also appear online at

The project also examines what it means to project very private space immediately surrounding the body into meta-space. Many of the videos show objects little more than a few centimeters beyond the tiny lens, often some body part, like hands or forearms that obscure an unknown, overexposed background space. Other pieces are gestural performances, recording the movements required when following a line, or when trying to create shapes by moving the camera in certain ways.

Traditional paintings are often created over a long period. This project is atomistic and performative. The bits (individual 15 second videos) pile up over time, and the composite, the themes, are the paintings - collections of idea streams, are captured in development, in process. This is a real time art piece, and so the themes are being worked out over the course of two months. The next iteration of this project will use different strategies and develop new themes.

At the end of this version I may end up with one or two or three pieces, and some fragments and discards, like sketches. “Pieces” may be collections of 4-12 short videos, which can be recombined in different ways.

How it works
Each video gets sent from the phone to three places: two go to computers in the exhibition space, one goes to

In the gallery are two Apple Macintosh Dual 2.7 gHz G5’s and Two Dell 5100p projectors. All the major equipment was kindly provided as a loan for the exhibition. When a video is made on the mobile phone (a Motorola v710) it is sent to three email addresses. One of them is picked up by an email program (Eudora) and the video is placed into a folder where a folder script, written for this project by Jill Headen and Tim Klein, grabs it and plays it full screen, looping back and forth. It continues to loop until another video is placed in the folder. The second machine drives the upper projector and works in a similar manner, only it plays each video sent to date and plays them randomly once. Finally, the third email sends the video to where it is updated instantly. The site is built with Wordpress by Creative Arena and uses a special Quicktime plugin.

Basically I view all of this as a platform for creating and publishing/exhibiting spontaneous work on a mobile device. The system will grow and change over time. The next major iteration (mo.vid.2) will allow people to subscribe to the video pieces directly so that they arrive on their phones.

Future versions of mo.vid will allow individuals to “subscribe” directly to the mobile videos thereby creating a one-to-many publishing and distribution model. This idea is in line with the trajectory of all content industries which are in the irreversible process of bypassing established institutions and structures and developing the idea of freely distributed personal media: mobile, variable, interactive, automated.

Finally, the idea is to open up the gallery space, to tear down the walls through networks and software. All content industries are struggling with 20th century notions of content control. It’s all about opening these up - allowing outside influence into the whitened sterility of the gallery and museum space, about making things change in there. It’s about exhibiting uncertainty and the stops and starts of process.

I can post anything to the walls of the space. They must trust me.

The piece is part of a show called Moving Pictures at
the Dallas Center for Contemporary Art that opens Friday November 4th 2005. The basic idea is that some video can work in the way that painting works: as an object of intermittent contemplation, rather than media like television and film requiring dedicated, sequential viewing.

John Pomara and I co-curated the show and several of the artists are current or former students. There is a kind of critical mass of “video painters” coming out of UTD and our aim is to introduce this kind of work to the Dallas art community, as we think this is one of the strands that will define the future of art in the region. At the moment, no one is really sure what to do with it - how to exhibit, sell, or even talk about it. This show should help remedy that deficiency.