Friday October 16, 7:30pm
Idiomorphs: Barbara Lattanzi, Selected Works
curated by Laura McGough
Barbara Lattanzi and Laura McGough in attendance


Still from “School of the Woods” (Barbara Lattanzi, 1985/2014) – image courtesy of the artist

We are extremely pleased to welcome seminal artist Barbara Lattanzi – whose pioneering work delves into the gray areas in between the mediums of film, analog and digital video, net art, and coding – along with curator Laura McGough to present “Idiomorphs: Barbara Lattanzi, Selected Works”, a program of historical and new works by Lattanzi.

“Over the course of her career, Lattanzi has created a broad and influential body of screen-based work that spans across mediums – film, video, installation, and interactive and generative software. She uses the term “idiomorph” to characterize the diverse but interconnected projects that populate her work. Derived from the Greek idio-morphos, the word alludes to a characteristic shape or individual form, enacting what Lattanzi notes is “both a position to be sought out and a process of recursively moving towards.”

In Lattanzi’s hands, filmic surface, software and pixel activate an ongoing investigation into the materiality of the mediated image, while a cast of vampires, bishops, politicians and teapots actively interrogate a range of aesthetic, art historical and political relations. Idiomorphs presents key works from Lattanzi’s career including early films, public access programming, and generative and interactive software projects—work that is at once challenging, humorous, and visually stunning.” – Laura McGough

A version of this program titled “Idiomorphs: Barbara Lattanzi, Selected Works 1974-2014” was presented at Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center in Buffalo, New York, on February 17, 2015, as part of Hallwalls’ 40th anniversary.

$8 – general admission
$6 – students 29 & under and seniors 65 & over w/ valid ID

BARBARA LATTANZI’s films, videos, Internet art, and generative software works have been screened and exhibited widely, including venues such as the Ann Arbor Film Festival, Harvestworks-NYC, the European Media Art Festival, The New Museum, Squeaky Wheel-Buffalo, FILE Festival-Sao Paulo Brazil, Albright-Knox Art Gallery, and Museum of Modern Art. Her experimental software, “C-SPAN Karaoke”, received an Honorary Mention at Transmediale, the Berlin-based international media art festival. Her early “net art” work is represented in “Artbase” collection,, Computer Fine Arts collection, the Moscow on-line software archive “”, and a gatepage for the “Artport” website of the Whitney Museum of American Art. Writings about Lattanzi’s work have appeared in Millennium Film Journal, Neural magazine, Cinema Video Internet: Tecnologie e avanguardia in Italia dal Futurismo alla edited by Cosetta Saba, and Internet Art by Rachel Greene, among others. She has received grants for her work from the New York State Council on the Arts, the New York Foundation for the Arts, and the Experimental Television Center. She received a BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and an MAH from the Center for Media Study of SUNY at Buffalo. Barbara Lattanzi currently teaches in the Expanded Media Division of the School of Art and Design, Alfred University, Alfred, New York.

LAURA MCGOUGH has had a diverse career as an educator, curator, critic and grants administrator, working at organizations ranging from Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center to the National Endowment for the Arts. Along the way, she organized exhibitions, screenings, Webcasts, and performances for arts organizations in the U.S., Australia, Canada, and Europe; published critical writing on the visual arts, media arts and new media; participated in numerous local, regional, and national grants panels; and received funding from the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities, the New York State Council on the Arts, the Canada Council, and the British Council to support varied curatorial initiatives. Laura McGough is the Critical Studies Fellow at the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield, Michigan and is completing a PhD in the Department of Media Study at the University at Buffalo.



Skins (1972-1976)
“Skins” was shot on 8mm film in 1972 and finished it in 1976 as a 16mm film. The surface of motion picture film is organic matter, made from skin and hooves of cattle. This surface structure is exploited in “Skins”, through a slow process of soaking in water until dye layers (first yellow, then magenta, and last cyan) that constitute the images, lift off the film substrate and rearrange themselves in curtains of wrinkled matter. The effect is to reanimate the original subject matter of the film recording, taxidermy animals in a natural history museum diorama. Another effect is to unleash the organic matter of emulsion first animated by a living creature.

Music For Voices (1979 / 2009)
“Music For Voices” first came into being as a 16mm film made in 1979-80. An opportunity to screen this film thirty years later (2009) as a digital video made it possible to revise the work with a soundtrack. The voice of “Music For Voices” is from an audio recording of an improvisation done in the 1980s, (but unrelated to this film), by the artist-performer Tony Billoni. The visuals were produced in a handmade process, by chemically soaking multiple strands of 16mm raw-stock.

Soma (1988)
The video, “Soma”, was made in 1988 on a Chyron text generator, a hybrid analog/digital device commonly used at that time in television studios and public access cable facilities. “Soma” was originally to be one of a series based on 19th-century medical symptomatology, but this is the only one that was completed. This digital version was made from a VHS dub, so it is dense with the noisy grain of analog video.

School of the Woods (1985 / 2014)
“School of the Woods” is based on 16mm film material shot while Lattanzi was a visiting artist, in 1985, at the Department of Film, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. The footage, created with a group of students has spawned installations (“Unarmed Target”) and large-scale photographic works (“Vantage: the White-Tail Deer Hunter”, “Lampshade”), exhibited in many galleries. The current re-edit brings together the original soundtrack produced for the film and visual material recorded on black & white
16mm film transferred to digital video.

Emma and Ben’s Secret Language (1995)
“Emma and Ben’s Secret Language” was created in 1995 using a hybrid film/video/digital system. First phase was an 8mm video recording of flickering light from an old 16mm film cartoon reel being dragged back and forth with rewinds through a Moviscope viewer. In the next phase, a Commodore Amiga genlock system was used to overlay scrolling and crawling texts over the video footage. The video was simultaneously rescanned with the video camera, using a simple physical mirror arrangement to double it. These video elements, both live and recorded, were put through a video switcher with wipe capability (using a static keying arrangement) for the final mix. The audio track combines the scraping sounds of the cartoon reel being turned with film rewinds plus a manipulated excerpt from the orchestral soundtrack by Hans Erdmann composed for F.W. Murnau’s 1923 film, ‘Nosferatu.’


“C-SPAN Karaoke” software demo (Blueberry Hill, 2004)
Shortly after the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, Lattanzi developed a video annotation software app, “The Interrupting Annotator,” to voice collective alarm at the stream of criminal lies emanating from the George W. Bush Administration and its congressional collaborators. The result was a series of freely available and downloadable software works, “C-SPAN x 4” (comprised of The Interrupting Annotator, C-SPAN Karaoke, C-SPAN Alphaville, Standing On Yer Head) that harnessed the low-resolution, streaming videos of C-SPAN television. By downloading “C-SPAN Karaoke”, viewers could select which C-SPAN video they wanted to stream from the website, and then a song that they would like to sing at it, or over it – to drown it out or, at least, to interrupt it, both visually and sonically during the realtime stream. Because of technical upgrades to the way C-SPAN streams its videos, the software no longer functions.

“Unwriting” software demo / performance (“Howl” 2009)
“Howl” is performed using Lattanzi’s freely available software, “Unwriting”. This recording is one of a series of improvised riffs, remediating the 1936 film, Blood on Wolf Mountain.

Optical De-dramatization Engine (O.D.E.) applied in 40-hour cycles to Thomas Ince’s ‘The Invaders’, 1912 (2012)
This excerpt is from a long-duration work titled, “Optical De-dramatization Engine (O.D.E.) applied in 40-hour cycles to Thomas Ince’s film The Invaders (1912).” The O.D.E. software independently and dynamically modulates frames from each minute of an early 20th-century silent film (an early example of the Hollywood Western genre). The O.D.E. software launches using an algorithmically-determined point in the film that is consistent across dates and time-zones.

HF Critical Mass, Version 2 (2015)
The software “HF Critical Mass” was originally produced in 2002 and is now recoded in a new version produced 2015. Based on Hollis Frampton’s 1971 film, “Critical Mass”, the software emerged out of a problem posed by the relative difficulty (circa 2002) of seeing and studying Frampton’s films. What seemed simple enough – but wasn’t – was to distill the algorithm of “Critical Mass” and to open-source that. Whatever the technical limitations, the process opened up more interesting problems. One of the problems is like humble pie: the 16mm film, “Critical Mass” is much more complicated in its conception and details than any algorithmic model of it, so what does the algorithm represent? Another problem is alchemical – what other kinds of films resonate with the precise, metronymic rhythms that (when these occur in Frampton’s film) make such a glorious, turbulent mess out of chronology and causality?

indirect (2015)
Can turbulent processes be used to affect the stability of video’s digital frame? Feedback applied to analog video can affect the perimeter of the image raster (its “frame”) and collapse it in an elaborate display of morphological change. However, with digital video, the destabilizing (and deterritorializing) of the frame is more indirect. This video uses a dataset of changing wind intensities, mapping the wind’s chaotic order onto the perimeter of fields of color.

Drawing Organ (2015)
Drawings have behaviors, as this performance demonstrates. Graphite lines, when combined with simple low-voltage circuitry and the human body’s largest organ (flesh), can be synesthetic and can express surprising sound textures.


Still from “Emma and Ben’s Secret Language” (Barbara Lattanzi, 1995) – image courtesy of the artist

Underwriting support provided by the Robert D. Bielecki Foundation

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