How High is Up?

Like "How far is far?" and "What comes after infinity?", "How High is Up" refers to the complex thought patterns of Fuzzy Logic and beyond to the convolutions of Chaos Theory. The question arises from the multiple visual experiences in today's art world, at a time when massive changes are afoot in technology, geopolitics, and globalization. We point you to several instances of art expanding its vocabulary, or you might call it multiple voices in search of an orchestra.

In 1992 a group of three, now expanded to nine, artists formed an aesthetic around the idea of toys and play. Rejecting the recent emphasis on ego in art, they wrote a manifesto called "Mother" and used as their watchword, "Art is as changeable as the weather". Their style is figurative, colorful and precise, the images like fragments of a fairy tale. The artists use pseudonyms and masks to hide their true identities, all the while continuing to create work under their real names as well. They are identified with nicknames like "Blaak", "Toescat", and "Alfago". Artists who want to join the group are required to visit the Toyism Studio in Emmen, the Netherlands, before they can be accepted. At present, seven Dutch artists and two Americans comprise the group. Since each nickname must begin with a different letter of the alphabet it would appear that twenty-six members will be their limit. You can find more information at

Another jock-inspired scene combines the flea market, the carnival, and Fibber Magee's infamous closet. The gallery or exhibition space is replete with THINGS, almost suffocating in their helter-skelter profusion. Walls, floors, ceilings are covered. Sculpture, paintings, photographs, objects and decoration compete for the viewer's attention, much like a child with a tantrum. Unlike the self-effacement of Toyism, this aesthetic is egocentric, all-encompassing, and tumultuous, what the Village Voice of New York City calls "Clusterfuck Aesthetics". Schizoid hysteria is the effect on the visitor/viewer. A world that is too much with us is its message. You can read one critic's view at,saltz,70649,13.html

One challenge to the viewer as passive recipient is taking place as a treasure hunt. You receive the initial instructions as part of a pack of cards, each card leading you to another location and another clue. You may be sent to a convenience store, a library, a parking lot, etc. It reminds me of a party-game for young children, although in this case the artist is Lee Walton who presents this "Experiential Project" at Art in General in New York.

Finally, we look at Ebon Fisher, one of the few thinkers to envision a world beyond technology and its possibly depressive effect on our species. Fisher presents his "Transformations in the Nervepool" at the University of Northern Iowa Gallery of Art from January 9 to February 3, 2006. His bright new world envisions the merger of biology, technology and humanity. Fisher was a key figure in the Williamsburg Brooklyn art scene of the 1980's and 1990's. His formulation of zoacodes supposes each of us to be a node in a panglobal network rather than a footnote to history. Fisher's work arises from experiments in communal sharing of information and rituals, a universe which he calls, "a planetary ecosystem of nerves and wires". His conceptions have names like "The Weird Thing Zone" (1991) but there is nothing weird about the elegant formularies he has created. Learn more at

c.Corinne Whitaker 2006