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Artists' Studio Visits at Biddington's Art Gallery

Pop Conceptual Artist

CREATIVE PROCESS visits the Tribeca (New York City)
studio of artist GH Hovagimyan.

Exhibition of New Installation:
GH HOVAGIMYAM "Beta Launch" October 16-December 1, 2002
EYEBEAM Gallery, 540 W. 21st Street, NYC

Editor's Note: Whether interpreting the impact of new technology or simply availing themselves of new tools, artists often mirror the innovations of their time. Pop/Conceptual artist GH Hovagimyan is a prime mover in using the Internet for the purpose of art. As early as 1994, Hovagimyan was producing audio and visual works specifically for the Net. (Those ground-breaking production materials have since been acquired by the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis for its Digital Studies Archive.) His current work, in collaboration with Peter Sinclair, employs ensembles of computers using voice recognition software to create artworks. This studio visit is one in a series of interviews with artists who address technological issues or use technology in creating their work; we at Biddington's view this art as an important marker in art history.

GH Hovagimyan: I have always been involved in language-based Conceptual Art. My early work was a mix of performance and object-based art.

GH Hovigimyan as Bozo from a conceptual art billboard
commissioned by the New York Transit Authority

GH Hovagimyan: At the Museum of Modern Art in 1978, my punk video performance of "Rich Sucker Rap" caused a minor riot. It was an a cappella chant the gist of which was "no money, no art". In one sci-fi piece performed about that same time, I built a scaffold and showed slides. My work has always had a propaganda aspect.

Image from Church, Flag, Artist, Grant a work form GH Hovigimyan's
series "Surveys & Questionnaires"

GH Hovagimyan: My art is influenced by Marcel Duchamp and Man Ray; it's always a question of boundaries and objects.

GH Hovagimyan: In the 80's, I took the opposite route: Instead of making art, I became an art dealer in the East Village--though I did continue performing in punk rock bands.

GH Hovagimyan: By the early 90's I started making art again and did a riff on conceptual art that I called faux conceptual art. My "Surveys & Questionnaires Series" and "Faux Conceptual Art Show--Boxed Edition" date from that period. Some of the younger artists I know are making second generation "faux conceptual art " with automated pieces.

"Fibonacci Series with Calculators,
Spiral Jaunty,
Faux Mario Merz
and Barbie Meets Richard Serra"
from GH Hovagimyan's
Faux Conceptual Art Show--Boxed Edition

GH Hovagimyan: As the Net developed rapidly in the mid-90's, I moved my presentation format to that medium and used audio to produce something called Art Dirt--a series of 1 hour Net radio/video presentations. My current body of work is created on the computer and also presented by personal computers using text to speech software. Their sound and the movements are choreographed.

GH Hovagimyan: In this work, I'm not a musician, but I'm working with musical ideas. I use the computer both as an instrument and as a compositional tool. In the SoaPOPera series, basically the computer is singing.

GH Hovagimyan Holding an Important Working Tool--the Keyboard

 Soapopera for iMac  Kathy

GH Hovagimyan: The production of SoaPOPera for Laptops started in 1996. Peter Sinclair and I mounted 4 Mac laptops on radio controlled cars and started using voice recognition software to orchestrate performances. The four characters, Princess (a cute girl), Fred (a doofus who might be gay), Cathy (a right bitch) and Ralph (an all-American guy) interact in a part programmed/part random manner. The topics are sex, cars, songs and politics. We construct the scenario--a cocktail party or a studio visit--then set the group in motion.

GH Hovagimyan: Because the voice recognition software is imperfect, the four computers who make up the performance ensemble--like humans--sometimes misunderstand each other. So, Kathy will say something about sex and Ralph might respond with a comment about politics. Sometimes they break into song--usually a Chuck Berry tune.

Scene from SoaPOPera for iMac showing Kathy (seated in blonde wig)

GH Hovagimyan: Perhaps because of their deep sense of language, the French like and understand what we are doing--even though we do it in English. The Musee d'Art Contemporain in Marseille set up a sound-proof room where we could perform our pieces.

Hovagimyan & Sinclair with mobile laptop performers Ralph & Princess from "La Provence Presse"

GH Hovagimyan: I perform/show my work at Postmasters Gallery here in New York. Both Postmasters and Sandra Gering are strong in showing digital and conceptual art. The digitally created work in New York and in Europe seems less media-driven than West Coast digital art.

GH Hovagimyan: Our SoaPOPeras, now created both for mobile laptops and stationary iMacs, are produced for a digital--not a "record" or a "play-back" culture. Digital art is about rendering in real time, so it's always original; copyright decisions are moot discussions.

Hovagimyan and Sinclair compact disk of The Last Noel

GH Hovagimyan: Because of this conceptually-based approach to art, in the normal course of our work, we don't set out to create many art object by-products. But last year, under the auspices of Galerie Aldebaran, we produced a compact disk called The Last Noel avant l'an 2000 (the last Christmas before the year 2000). It's a combination of singing and conversation/commentary on the joys of the season performed by the computer ensemble as choir and as characters.

Hovagimyan/Sinclair CD The Last Noel avant l'an 2000

GH Hovagimyan: The SoaPOPera series for laptops and iMac's has about run its course. It's time we place the production components, "the perfomance vehicle residue", in the hands of a museum or a collector. An important issue of creating with the current technology is keeping all the components to produce the work of art. The software we are using now will probably be unreadable by new computers within 5 years. While I'm very interested in keeping the work alive, preservation cannot be my focus.

GH Hovagimyan: Peter and I are currently at work on a piece for the museum in Marseille where the audience will generate the interaction of the players. It's a different physical structure in which the characters reside on a platform. By moving any of them the viewer starts or changes the course of the social interaction between the different characters. If two or more figures are moved on the board at the same time, they will begin a conversation which varies according to various parameters: who is talking to whom, how close they are to each other, how many characters are present or what was the last word pronounced.

GH Hovagimyan

GH Hovagimyan: My work is in the now--where the experience is always fresh--always first time.

View art objects by GH Hovagimyan offered for sale in Biddington's Contemporary Art Gallery. Price range: $50-$5000
For information on acquiring "performance vehicle residue" (the hardware and software used) in creating the SoaPOPera series, please email webmaster or phone Biddington's (Mon-Fri 9-5 EST) at 212 838 3572.

GH Hovagimyan selected recent exhibitions, projects and publications:
2000 Galerie Aldebaran, Baillarge, FRANCE
2000 Avignon Electronique, Avignon, FRANCE
1999 Postmasters, New York, NY
1999 Sound Artists of North America, Musee d'Art Contemporain, Lyon, FRANCE
1998 Les Musiques, Musee d'Art Contemporain, Marseille, FRANCE
1997 Exhibit and panelist for Port-MIT, List Visual Arts Center, MIT, Boston, MA
1997 NY Times, Sunday 4/13 "Listen Up, This is the Internet Talking"
1997 Machined Music on Thing Net Radio
1997 Professor Computer Arts, School of Visual Arts, NYC
1996 Design News 95/96 "Cutting Edge New York"
1996 "Sit-In" ICA Clocktower, NYC
1996 "The Space of Information" Rotunda Gallery, Brooklyn, NY
1996 Art in America, December '96 "Art Online"
1995 ArtDirect/Sex, Violence & Politics, ThingNet, NYC


CREATIVE PROCESS at Biddington's is designed as a forum for watching art in the making. Usually, this process happens in the privacy of the artist's studio. At BIDDINGTON'S Contemporary Art Gallery & upmarket, online art & antiques auction--we find it interesting to witness the steps leading to the end product and to hear the artists speak about their work in the relaxed surroundings of their own studios.

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