New York City-based media artist Shu Lea Cheang's Bowling Alley, a new cybernetic installation developed in collaboration with a group of Twin Cities artists, will be presented at the Walker Art Center November 19, 1995-February 4, 1996. Commissioned by the Walker, Bowling Alley links the Walker's Gallery 7, the community bowling alley Bryant-Lake Bowl, and the World Wide Web through cutting-edge communications technology and the act of bowling. Through this installation, Cheang challenges the barriers between inside and outside, the personal and the public, and popular art and fine art to ultimately create what she calls "our intertwined narratives."
Related events in conjunction with the exhibition include an opening-day discussion with Cheang and the local participating artists, an artists reading, and a panel discussion exploring issues pertaining to the Internet. (A complete listing follows.)
Based on Cheang's e-mail communications with 10 multidisciplinary artists from Minneapolis and St. Paul, Bowling Alley incorporates the artists' textual and visual reflections on power, access, and desire. Notes Cheang, "The bowling lane is a concept for an old communal space where locals meet face to face for a night out. Stretching the concept, taking my imagery of the bowling lane as my imagery of the super-hyper highway, I am trying to construct a new form of community in cyberspace."
The Walker's Gallery 7 becomes a bowling alley intruding into cyberspace. A bowling ball travels back and forth continuously on a bowling lane made of stainless steel. At the end of the lane, a video monitor displays actual bowling games transmitted live via a hidden video camera behind Bryant-Lake Bowl's Lane 5. On top of a vintage bowler's scoring desk sits a state-of-the-art PowerBook displaying the Bowling Alley page on the World Wide Web (WWW). On the gallery wall, 20-foot-wide-by-15-foot-high video portraits of the collaborating artists are projected by laser-disk. All elements are activated by the game played on the designated lane at Bryant-Lake Bowl or when gallery visitors and offsite WWW users interact with the hypertext on specially designed web pages.
Bowlers at Bryant-Lake will cause the laser-disk-projected video portraits to move forward to display Quicktime movie vignettes of the 10 artists in Gallery 7. These movie vignettes and artist portraits are overlayed with phrases lifted out of context from the artists' e-mailed text, creating a clash between word and image. To "bowl" online, a PowerBook user inside the gallery or an outside online user can activate the artist hypertext or type in their own text. The hypertexts are internally pre-coded as hidden strikes or spares. A "strike" command displays randomly selected artists' texts while "spare" causes words to tumble down like the random movement of fallen bowling pins, mixing with other artists' words as well as with those typed in by gallery visitors and by outside online users. Actual strikes and spares on Lane 5 at Bryant-Lake will also cause the same random effects on the online texts.
The visual and textual collage of social, sexual, and cultural issues is randomly generated by a specially designed web program. The randomness of the display reflects the fluidity of individual identities as well as public and private spaces on the net. As Curator Marlina Gonzalez-Tamrong writes in an essay for the exhibition brochure, ". . . time, distance, space, and identity can have no meaning in cyberspace. Defying all physical laws, it can contain all those dimensions within itself at once." Due to the potentially limitless participation in this installation from cyberspace, some of the material it incorporates may be inappropriate for younger viewers.
Shu Lea Cheang has emerged in the past decade as one of the most significant new voices in media arts through her distinctive embrace of art and technology, her commitment to viewer interaction, and to collaborative modes of production. Having moved from grass-roots single-channel video verité and cable-access productions to gallery-based video installations and recently to 35mm feature filmmaking, Cheang has created a singular niche for herself as an artist who mixes her own vision with that of others. Her ongoing interest in working with artists from various disciplines and the participatory, cross-cultural nature of her installations have developed new audiences across disciplines, gender, and cultural orientations. Finally, her commentaries on mass media, technology, and the arts reflect an engagement with artistic and social concerns of the 21st century.
Cheang's first multimedia installation, Making News/Making History, Live from Tiananmen Square (1989), was commissioned by the American Film Institute (AFI) Video Festival and presented at the AFI in Los Angeles and at the International Center of Photography, New York. Consisting of three "shouting TV" rooms, the installation illustrated the ways in which different TV cultures (state-controlled, alternative, and multinational) helped to shape world opinion about the June 1989 Chinese uprising. In Color Schemes (1990), a participatory work incorporating video monitors installed in coin-operated washing machines that was presented at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, Cheang used high-tech humor to analyze the history of American race representation "in four wash cycles."
Cheang's The Airwaves Project (1991), shown at the Capp Street Project, San Francisco, is a seven-channel sculptural-mechanical-electronic installation that sets up parallels between the circulation of garbage and the flow of information from the First World to the Third World. Her most recent exhibited piece, Those Fluttering Objects of Desire (1992), presented at Exit Art, New York, and included in the 1993 Whitney Biennial, is a participatory, tongue-in-cheek look at sex and voyeurism that was made in collaboration with 30 female visual, media, and performance artists. Her first feature film, Fresh Kill (1994), had its world premiere at the 1994 Berlin International Film Festival. It portrays a video-oriented, channel-switching world of the future in which racial barriers have been broken, pollution is uncontrolled, and the mass media are tightly controlled. Her single-channel videos, Fingers and Kisses, Sex Bowl, Sex Fis, and Coming Home were recently screened as part of the Vulva Riot Cabaret at the Sabathani Center, Minneapolis. Cheang has received numerous government and foundation grants for her work, including a 1994 National Endowment for the Arts Visual Arts fellowship and two Rockefeller Foundation Intercultural Media Arts fellowships.
The Participating Artists
The 10 participating artists are film, video, and installation artist and writer Me-K Ando (formerly known as Karen Me Kyung Muckenhirn), solo performance artist Heidi Arneson, multidisciplinary artist Steve Grandell, actress-playwright-director Kim Hines, playwright Dan McMullin, solo and ensemble performance artist Juliana Pegues, visual artist Karen Platt, writer Marcie Rendon, writer-performance artist Elaine Shelly, and poet Felicia Washington.
Special installation assistance was provided by Tim Desley, installation cybernetic architect. The Bowling Alley website was programmed and designed by Kevin Sawad Brooks, Beth Stryker, and Christa Erickson. The Bowling Alley website is housed by Minnesota Regional Network.
Major support for Walker Art Center programs is provided by the Minnesota State Arts Board through an appropriation by the Minnesota State Legislature, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Lila Wallace-Reader's Digest Fund, The Bush Foundation, The McKnight Foundation, Target Stores, Dayton's, and Mervyn's by the Dayton Hudson Foundation, the Northwest Area Foundation, the General Mills Foundation, the Institute of Museum Services, Burnet Realty, the American Express Minnesota Philanthropic Program, the Honeywell Foundation, Northwest Airlines, Inc., The Regis Foundation, The St. Paul Companies, Inc., the 3M Foundation, and the members of the Walker Art Center.
Note: Due to the potentially limitless participation in this installation from cyberspace, some of the material may incorporate mature subject matter. Discretion is advised.
The Bowling Team: Shu Lea Cheang and Friends
Sunday, November 19, 3 pm $5 ($4)
A reception follows in Gallery 8 Restaurant
Shu Lea Cheang joins local media artists, performers, writers, and visual artists who participated in Bowling Alley. Their discussion of the creative process that unfolded in the installation's development may include, via the World Wide Web, global cyberbowlers - artists in other geographic locations who contributed to the project.
Sunday, November 26, 9 pm $5 ($4)
Bryant-Lake Bowl, 810 West Lake Street, Minneapolis
Local artists featured in Bowling Alley read and perform short original pieces.
Art and the Internet: Power, Access, and Desire
Thursday, December 7, 7:30 pm
Call the Walker box office after October 31 for ticket prices and more details.
This panel discussion explores artistic expression, community access, and other issues pertaining to the Internet.
The Walker Art Center is located one block off Highway I-94 at the corner of Lyndale Avenue South and Vineland Place in Minneapolis. For public information, call (612) 375-7622; TDD: 375-7585. Gallery hours: Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, 10 am - 5 pm; Thursday, 10 am - 8 pm; Sunday, 11 am - 5 pm; closed Monday. Gallery admission is $4 adults; $3 young adults 12 - 18, students with I.D., seniors, groups of 10 or more. Free to Walker members, children under 12, AFDC cardholders. Free to all every Thursday and the first Saturday of each month. (Free First Saturdays are made possible by Burnet Realty.)
Bryant-Lake Bowl is located at 810 West Lake Street, west of Lyndale Avenue in Minneapolis.
The Bowling Alley World Wide Web address is http://bowlingalley.walkerart.org NOTE: Four to eight MG free RAM space is required to run the Bowling Alley web pages.