Critical Art Ensemble

If the collective of people from the previous post appeared to me not critical enough, this artistic group is using provocation and direct opposition in their work more than enough.

Critical Art Ensemble (CAE) is a collective of five tactical media practitioners of various specializations including computer graphics and web design, film/video, photography, text art, book art, and performance.

Formed in 1987, CAE’s focus has been on the exploration of the intersections between art, critical theory, technology, and political activism. The group has exhibited and performed at diverse venues internationally, ranging from the street, to the museum, to the internet. Museum exhibitions include the Whitney Museum and The New Museum in NYC; The Corcoran Museum in Washington D.C.; The ICA, London; The MCA, Chicago; Schirn Kunsthalle, Frankfurt; Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris; and The London Museum of Natural History.

From the numerous projects, campaigns, videos, installations etc. that the collective produced since the year of their establishment, I am going to share few here out of random choice.

Diseases of Consciousness, 1997 is a human scale web presentation designed as an equivalent to easel painting and opposing the predominant monumental web work. The project constitutes a mini encyclopedia of case histories of the many new afflictions and pathologies that can strike consciousness in the world of global capital.

The International Campaign for Free Alcohol and Tobacco for the Unemployed, Sheffield, 1998
An action designed to create a sense of what public space could be when not dominated by the commodity.

Child as Audience, 2001 is a package, designed primarily for teenage boys, that offers a host of radical software, instructions on how to hack a GameBoy, a hard core CD, and a pamphlet on the oppression of youth.

Immolation, 2008, video installation, 5 minute loop
This video installation addresses the use of incendiary weapons on civilians after the Geneva Convention and the Protocol on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Incendiary Weapons of October 1980. The video chronicles the major war crimes of the United States involving these weapons on a (macro) landscape level, and contrasts it with the damage done to the body on the (micro) cellular level. To accomplish this task, CAE grew human tissue at the SymbioticA Art and Science Collaborative Research Laboratory at the University of Western Australia, and, using high-end microscopy shot the micro footage. In addition to this imagery, CAE uses film footage of present and past wars that have used immolation against civilian targets as a strategic choice for the sole purpose of terrorizing entire populations. The goal is to provide a different way of imaging, viewing, and interpreting the human costs of these war crimes, in contrast to the barrage of media imagery to which we have become so desensitized.

Intelligent Sperm On-line 1999
This performance was designed for universities that have donor scouts looking for “custom” product for their fertility clinics.It performs the aims and methods of the current eugenic meat market. In this action a CAE member functions as a Representative of a fertility clinic (BioCom) . Live on screen via the Internet is a “customer” who is interested in finding a sperm donor. The Representative gives his pitch (using the language of eugenics) as to why the young university students should donate to the clinic and how much money they could make. In the audience is a confederate who volunteers to make a donation. The customer looks him over and gives an OK generally to the horror of the audience. The performance ends as they go off to sign a contract.


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