Proteoscope » Battle The Blog of Proteus Gowanus Thu, 12 Nov 2015 16:51:13 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Scratching the Surface Wed, 11 Sep 2013 23:07:01 +0000 Katarina Jerinic, Topography of Cobble Hill/Ponkiesberg/Corkscrew Fort, Brooklyn, NY

Katarina Jerinic, Topography of Cobble Hill/Ponkiesberg/Corkscrew Fort, Brooklyn, NY

Does the surface remember? If we run our hands across the ground, does it speak to us? Does history reverberate through the asphalt, telling us of forgotten things? If we walk a mile do we better understand how long it is? If we plant and harvest corn, do we find a lost connection to the land, to ourselves?

Katarina Jerinec and Christina Kelly, both artists who contributed to the Battle Ground exhibit, examine surfaces, touching the ground, feeling their way to a connection between past and present. Jerinic got down on her hands and knees and photographed cracks in the pavement in front of Trader Joe’s at the corner of Atlantic and Court Streets in Brooklyn. Why? Because this was the purported site where George Washington stood, observing the massacre of several hundred Maryland farm boys as they held off the British.

Jerinic laced these delicate photographic cracks into a spiraling “map,” suggesting the path that wound to the top of Fort Ponkiesburg where Washington stood. The Revolutionary fort, now ignominiously replaced by Trader Joes, was leveled by the British soon after the Revolution. The “map” is included in Jerinic’s accordion book. On the book’s reverse side Jerinic added a photograph of the flagpole that tops Trader Joe’s today, a marker that illustrates how high the fort once stood.

Christina Kelly, in her 2010 public art installation at the corner of Smith and Bergen Streets, planted corn grown once grown by the Lenape Indians in this part of Brooklyn. Kelly’s installation, “Conditions on the Ground,” currently on view in our Hall of the Gowanus, is housed in an old filing cabinet given to Proteus Gowanus by the Brooklyn Museum Library.

Christina Kelly, Conditions on the Ground, Detail 1

Christina Kelly, Conditions on the Ground, Detail 1

Gleaned from her readings about the Battle, Kelly divided the historical narrative into descriptive categories, labeling the drawers with the headings: Fog, Tides, Forest, Wilderness, Cultivation, Weather, Peace. In each drawer Kelly placed a small installation. An opened drawer marked “Forest” reveals tiny, plastic wild boars and pinecones, and a description of how the Hessian troops, mercenaries hired by the British, enjoyed hunting wild boar native to the region. A drawer containing a watermelon, watermelon seeds (free for the taking), and a map points to the scene in which the opening shots of the Battle were fought over a watermelon patch.

Kelly has carefully recreated “library cards” including excerpts from a certain Colonel Tallmadge’s memoir of the Battle. She has inserted several of the Brooklyn Museum’s now defunct library cards into a drawer, all conveniently referring to books starting with the word “American.”

Christina Kelly, Conditions on the Ground, Detail 2

Christina Kelly, Conditions on the Ground, Detail 2





Katarina Jerinic’s artist book “Topography of Cobble Hill/Ponkiesberg/Corkscrew Fort, Brooklyn, NY” is currently available for sale ($10) in the Proteus Gowanus Gift Shop.

Christina Kelly’s “Conditions on the Ground” is currently on view in the Hall of the Gowanus at Proteus Gowanus.

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Don’t Miss Secret Wars Artist Nene Humphrey’s Haunting Performance Piece Fri, 19 Apr 2013 16:25:24 +0000 Wednesday, May 1, 7:30pm
Location: Dixon Place, 161a Chrystie Street

A video excerpt of Nene Humphrey’s ongoing project, Circling the Center, was on display during Proteus Gowanus’ recent Secret Wars exhibition. The video is a slow audio-visual dive into the center of the brain, the seat of our deepest emotion.

What began as Nene’s private meditation on loss grew into communal art making with surprising connections between the neuroscience of emotions and the lost art of ritualistic Victorian Mourning Braiding.

The video in Secret Wars was only a sample of the larger art-music-performance piece that will be performed on May 1 only at Dixon Place in Manhattan. Neuroscience meets meditation in this “visceral liturgy of sound, film, and live performance. Nene Humphrey’s work weaves images of animated MRI’s, electronic circuitry, and Victorian mourning braiding with sounds of serenading rats in a lab, metronomes, and chanted pattern instructions. A choir accompanies a cellist, a woman braids shimmering red wire, three performers sing a vocal lament in this expansive infusion of science, art, and spirit.”

Here is a video sample of this moving work.

And here, the full details of the May 1 performance.


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A Roomful of Secrets Fri, 12 Apr 2013 15:27:09 +0000 photo-5 copy


The future history of secret wars has yet to be written:

Atomic priests and millenial vestments…


Bryan M. Wilson

Bryan M. Wilson detail


the cryptomusicology of shortwave espionage… floating signals in unbreakable codes…


Console copy 3


David Goren


the lost lost things…


Anna Livia Löwendahl-Atomic

Anna Livia Löwendahl-Atomic


the shadow world of black ops…


Joy Garnett


[this information has been redacted]


Renée Ridgway


—Tom Miller


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Panopticon poster by Front404 Fri, 08 Mar 2013 16:30:08 +0000 panopticonsposter

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The Eye in the Sky Mon, 04 Mar 2013 17:39:59 +0000 A stealth addition to Secret Wars has just landed at Proteus Gowanus. panoptICONS, birds of surveillance with cameras for heads, are now observing visitors from a perch over the gallery.


This identity scavenger previously appeared over the streets of Amsterdam.

This identity scavenger previously appeared over the streets of Amsterdam.


FRONT404 (also known as the Dutch artists Thomas voor ‘t Hekke and Bas van Oerle) invented the avian robots to draw people’s visual attention up above their heads, where an ever-growing forest of surveillance cameras silently observes the humans gliding through the urban environment. Although they are hardly noticed, security cameras continually record faces in the crowd and can link with facial recognition software to track the identities of strangers. The artists observe that the ubiquitous optical surveillance devices occupy the same ecological niche as scavenging city birds. Perched high in the sky, each consumes the traces we leave behind when we pass by. Hidden cameras harvest our identities as crows swoop down to capture our dropped crumbs and discarded food wrappers. Voor ’t Hekke and van Oerle write that they see panoptICONS as “the logical evolution of these two species,” feeding on privacy and biometric data. The project website includes live video footage of a mother panoptICON feeding the facial profiles of passersby to her hungry chicks.



A lone sentry scanning the crowd at the Dutch Big Brother Awards.
Photo: FRONT404


The winner of a Dutch Big Brother Award, the observing birds were first seen in FRONT404’s home city of Utrecht. Random sightings are now being reported in cities around the world — including Brooklyn. So as you walk around the city, don’t forget to look up at the sky.

You never know who’s watching.


You are being watched.
Photo: Tammy Pittman


The state security apparatus of the Netherlands casts a looming shadow over Secret Wars at Proteus Gowanus. In another installment of Proteoscope we’ll enter the opaque miasma of Holland’s national police files in Renée Ridgway’s Revelation of the Concealed: Politics (in)form, composed of heavily redacted documents acquired through the Dutch Freedom of Information Act known as the WOB.











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Diving into the Maelstrom Sun, 17 Feb 2013 22:57:46 +0000 In Secret Wars, the current exhibition at Proteus Gowanus, artists reveal images of concealed conflict. These hidden battles take place not only in the shadows of the geopolitical map, but also in the dark and obscure corners of our bodies and minds. The silent neuronal firings and synaptic reactions we call fear are internal reactions to external threats. They are conditions of our isolation as biological individuals and our connection as social animals.

Nene Humphrey, the first artist in residence at one of New York University’s neuroscientific laboratories, renders the physiological basis of emotion visible. Her Secret Wars video installation “Circling the Center” animates the hypnotic patterns of activity inside the amygdala, the part of the brain where fear is generated. As electrochemical occurrences in the unconscious, these swirls and spirals trace secrets we keep from ourselves. Amazingly, she draws these accurate representations by hand, based on actual scans of brain activity recorded in the lab, then turns them into seamless sequences of moving pictures.
Nene Humphrey, Circling the Center (detail)Photo: Tom Miller

Nene Humphrey, Circling the Center (detail)
Photo: Tom Miller

Humphrey brought singing neuroscientist Joseph LeDoux from NYU, along with members of his band The Amygdaloids, to a Proteus event during the opening week of Secret Wars. LeDoux views the amnesia of post-traumatic stress disorder less as Freudian repression in the unconscious mind than as a failure of the conscious brain, specifically the hippocampus, to form new memories in response to an overwhelming occurrence. According to his hypothesis, consciousness shuts down rather than permanently register severely damaging events. But the amygdala, an emotional generator, still forms unconscious memories of the trauma. Re-encountering associated stimuli months or years later can trigger intensely visceral yet unconscious reactions, even if the person doesn’t know why. “So you might not remember,” LeDoux explained calmly, “but you can still suffer.”

Nene Humphrey, Circling the Center (detail)Photo: Tom Miller

Nene Humphrey, Circling the Center (detail)
Photo: Tom Miller

“This of course is all rat work,” he added none too reassuringly. People distinguish mild apprehension from abject terror, having different words with which to categorize intensities of feeling. LeDoux reasons that animals, lacking language, probably experience more undifferentiated states. But if the human brain is sufficiently like the rat brain, then our dizzying sensations of fear are correlated with the primal swirls and hidden spirals revealed in the installation.

Antique Memorial Book of Victorian Mourning Hair BraidsPhoto:

Antique Memorial Book of Victorian Mourning Hair Braids

Another of Nene Humphrey’s projects involves Victorian mourning braid patterns, which she has found are similar to the lab images. These intricate memento mori, woven on the body, served as an outward sign of grief and a bulwark against forgetting.

The theme of cryptic signals as artifacts detached from lost or forgotten meanings also runs through the work of several other artists featured in the exhibition, as I will write about in future installments of Proteoscope.



On January 25 the world’s media briefly converged on the corner of Union and Nevins to track the invasion of the Gowanus Canal by a wounded stray dolphin. In its death throes, the injured mammal known as the Gowanus Dolphin struggled in vain to swim to the freedom of the open ocean. Dolphins’ intelligence is more similar to humans’ than that of any other non-primate species. As the sadly doomed creature fought its way through the toxic waters of the canal to its death, I wonder what patterns of fear swirled and whorled through its cetacean brain?

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Secret Wars Tue, 12 Feb 2013 06:01:13 +0000 Dear Readers,

Proteoscope proudly returns to your pixel screens after a monthlong break, with a new topic to go with our new exhibition. I’m Tom Miller, an anthropologist who studies sound, shamanism, and the history of science. Together with Protean creative director Tammy Pittman, I co-curated Secret Wars, the current exhibition at Proteus Gowanus. I’ll be guest blogging for the next two months.

Secret Wars, the second installment of our yearlong Battle series, explores the cryptic ways of warfare waged behind a cloak of invisibility.  Here at Proteoscope we’ll go down the rabbit hole in pursuit of the themes in the exhibition: surveillance, drone warfare, shortwave spy signals, WikiLeaks, redactions, codes, invisible weaponry, cults of secrecy, the persistence of lost things in memory, the neurobiological bases of fear and more. I invite your comments and dialogue as we look at each of our artists’ work, play surrealist conflict games, and reveal the covert world of hidden battle.


Predator 2 by Joy Garnett

Predator 2 by Joy Garnett


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Signing off… Fri, 11 Jan 2013 17:21:13 +0000 With this post I am signing off on War of Words. Thank you Sasha Chavchavadze and Tammy Pittman for letting me play in the Proteus Gowanus sandbox for the last few months. And thank you as well to all of the participating artists and readers of this blog.

Out with the old…in with the new….


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Regrets. On second thought, make that Optimism. Fri, 11 Jan 2013 16:46:34 +0000 Some last words in the War of Words Regrets is the title of Stephanie Brody Lederman’s work that was in the War of Words show. And Regrets is the word I would use to describe the fact that I never got around to sharing all of the work in the show. But that’s about to be remedied with a bit of Optimism (the title of Reed Seifer’s work).

So, I’ll channel a little Optimism here as I squeeze in all of the remaining War of Words works. Why?eeessss!

Here we go (in no particular order)….

Lance Rutledge. Why?eeeeeeesssss! Painting. Lance’s website.

Stephanie Brody Lederman. Regrets.  Drawing/Painting on paper. Stephanie’s website.

Barbara Caruso and bpnichol. H. Artists Book. Presented by Granary Books. Granary’s website.

Reed Seifer. Works from the Optimism Project. Metrocard, Buttons, Print. Optimism website.

Rosaire Appel. They Went Back and Forth Until Dawn. Collage and unique artists book. Rosaire’s site and blog.

Anli Liu. No (Binary) and Yes (Binary). Mounted embroidery. Anli’s website.

Artifact of bookworm-eaten pages from the collection of Sasha Chavchavadze. Sasha’s website.

And last, but not least…

Pure Products USA. Fuck Snow Globe. Pure Products website.


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Reading Report Thu, 10 Jan 2013 18:11:45 +0000

Sasha Chavchavadze reading from “The Poets Duel”  as Wendy Walker, one of the event organizers, looks on.

It might be considered a tradition at this point. It being an evening of readings related to the Proteus Gowanus year-long theme organized by Proteotypes’ publishers/editors (and authors) Tom LaFarge and Wendy Walker.

I asked if they would do such an event during War of Words portion of the Battle year (knowing they couldn’t resist with a title like that). They came up with a great list of texts (see below) and found some wonderful readers very close to home (many who are members of the Writhing Society, the ad hoc literary group that meets most Wednesdays in the gallery to practice various forms of constrained writing).

And so, on very cold and dark December 15th a small group gathered to hear…

William Burroughs, “Word Authority More Habit Forming Than Heroin,” The Burroughs File (read by Angelo Pastormerlo)

Kurban Said (aka Lev Nussinbaum), Chapter 5, “The Poets’ Duel,” Ali and Nino (read by Gallery Founding Director, Sasha Chavchavadze)

Jane Collier, “To Parents,” An Essay on the Art of Ingeniously Tormenting (read by Carrie Cooperider)

Paul Metcalf, “Bash Bish”, Apalache (read by Tom LaFarge)

Ben Marcus, The Flame Alphabet (read by Wendy Walker)

Anonymous, “The wicked who would do me harm,” The Rattle Bag, ed. Seamus Heaney and Ted Hughes (read by Michael Flory)

Thank you Tom, Wendy and readers/performers for an inspiring evening of War of Words word-slinging. Bang!


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