999borats.com art project by oli goldsmith Press Kit Contact: OLI GOLDSMITH [email protected] P: 416-916-9160 http://www.999borats.com http://www.oligoldsmith.com view the official PRESS RELEASE HERE May 14, 2007 999 Borats an Art Project As Audacious As Its Subject Cross artist Oli Goldsmith’s pop-art sensibilities with a dash of the absurd and “Web 2.0” tech- nology, and out pops: 999 Borats? Best known for his award-winning music-video ‘In Repair’ and album art for Canada’s Our Lady Peace, the prolific and experimental Toronto artist Oli Goldsmith is known for the ease with which he works across the media spectrum. Oli has shown his fine art internationally, recently was an Artist in Residence at the Drake Hotel in Toronto and worked as a Senior Designer for the CBC. Goldsmith describes his artwork as “mixed-media combines”, a nod to one of his key influences, Robert Rauschenberg. From his Artist Statement, “Oli eagerly experiments with a multitude of techniques – combining old with the new; creating unique hybrid forms in the process.” print-resolution sample works available on request. Please get in touch for any specific questions or for information not covered in this document or other special requests. Journalist Betty Ann Jordan writing for Elm Street Magazine described the process of looking at Oli’s canvases “...like taking Zeitgeist 101.” Digital line art, found and sampled photography, iconography and text, invented catch-phrases, original drawings and poetic ramblings layer with expressive painting to create a distinctly rich, colourful and energetic style. Goldsmith’s latest project to create 999 original portraits of the fictional Kazakh journalist, may appear at first glance the bizarre result of an obsessive fan gone off the deep end! (and absurdity is certainly no stranger to his palette), but Oli is quick to explain that there is more to the project and his motivations behind it than first meet the eye. What is 999 Borats? 999 Borats is a project that originally began as a group on Flickr.com; to create, like the title sug- gests, 999 original portraits of Borat. Whereas most groups on Flickr (like the pop-surrealism one I run there) are forums for discussion and group postings, I saw the potential for starting one that served more as an online gallery, one where the audience could follow and comment on the progression of the work as it evolved. “That’s my favourite thing about Flickr and the Web 2.0 stuff in general these days: I can just throw up ideas ... and immediately have an audience for it. I love it, and it’s doing good things for my art and letting me try out ideas I might not have otherwise.” from Torontoist.com Inter- view by Marc Lostracco on 999 Borats. Based on the great response the project was receiving it grew into something a little more ex- pansive and I decided to create a website (www.999borats.com) dedicated to the project. In the spirit of the project’s exploration of using the Internet as a venue for potentially more engaging exhibition of art, I created a unique and freely downloadable screensaver that connects to the website and automatically presents the latest Borat portraits as a video montage. I am also in- troducing features like voting on your favourite portraits and a forum for feedback. I’m interest- ed in the audience being able to become engaged in the creative process rather than passively observe the end result, and I am trying to use technology to make that possible in new ways. I have really begun exploring the Internet’s potential both as an art medium (www.popsurreal- ism.tv, another net-based project of mine which exists purely online and focuses on live experi- mental video has recently been short-listed for a Rhizome.org commission), as well as a venue for showcasing both artwork and the process involved in making it. 999 Borats seemed like an ideal project for me to explore using the net as gallery – a project that in the physical world wouldn’t have been as practical, interactive or fun to do. Though the net provides a means for exhibition, the portraits themselves ARE real one-of-a-kind artworks that will be available for purchase affordably through the 999Borats.com site. Current plans are to price them at $100 each, but some form of bidding process is something I am cur- rently exploring as I’ve already had overlapping interest from people in certain works and want to create a system by which people have an equal chance at purchasing them. The completion of all portraits is set for July 1st, but works will become available for purchase starting June 3rd. Details are outlined later in this document. Like my large scale canvases, the Borat portaits merge traditional techniques (paint, pastel, graphite and india ink, etc) with inventive use of digital output and transfer processes. They are between 8x10 and 12x18 in size on a range of art paper, canvas and other collage and mixed- media surfaces mounted on museum board. Each original is signed, numbered and embossed with an original seal created for the project. I also plan on releasing a book of the full series upon completion and may make limited edition giclée prints available as well. For details stay tuned to the site. Borat #1000 There will indeed be a final Borat #1000 to complete the series. This is something I knew I wanted to do from the start, and knew I wanted to make it something a little outlandish, even ostentatious to top off a project that already seemed a tad over-the-top. This last Borat portrait will be a huge life-sized canvas, executed really slickly with a thickly var- nished top-coat, professionally framed with a thick custom canvas floater. Borat #1000 won’t be for sale however, it can only be won. To be in the running all that is required is signing up with name and email on the site (does NOT require any purchase). Borat #1000 will be unveiled online in early July (after the 999 original ‘for sale’ portraits are all on display. The winner of the huge painting will be announced on the site live July 31st. Why Borat? When I posted a little info about 999Borats.com on Saatchi’s online “Your Gallery Blog” some- one immediately responded essentially that it was a pretty dumb choice, that Borat was just a stupid bit of pop “debris”, that he certainly wasn’t an icon, that I was wasting my time. The response I realized actually (somewhat ironically) really captured key themes I wanted the project to reflect upon. I certainly admit a fondness for Cohen’s controversial character Borat, but I admit the choice at first was somewhat arbitrary – any number of celebrities might have been appropriate candidates - however there are some specific things about Borat that made him a great example of “manufactured celebrity” and the fleeting nature of such – themes I wanted the project to embody. I am drawn to Cohen’s skillful job at crafting a multi-faceted character that is audacious, funny, idiotic and charming, while acting as a vehicle that reveals so much about Western Culture, stereotypes, and how Westerners are ‘taught to act and react’ on ‘social cue’. Cohen (via Borat) acts almost as a comedian and anthropologist at the same time – his broad appeal I think for many is that people relate both to him and the unsuspecting characters he encounters. You feel awkward for them both and it evokes interesting things about human nature that aren’t often so cleverly put on display. As an artist I can also relate to the way Cohen weaves interesting ambiguity into the messages and implications brought about by purposefully allowing uncertainty into Borat’s improvisa- tional interactions. I sense Cohen knows he is stirring up meaning without fully explaining (or even knowing himself) what precisely his message is. In the same vein my work is created in an improvisational and stream-of-consciousness method. On the whole my finished artwork tends to portray what hints at a narrative evolving along with its underlying themes, but I intentionally avoid spelling it out (to myself or the audience), or for that matter worrying about what a work is trying to say while making it. I find the more I step back from the creative act and let it happen of its own accord, the more interesting (and ulti- mately meaningful) the results. Why So Many? (In my art) “...there’s a narrative or a flow, but I don’t completely connect the dots. Having grown up in the digital era, I find this kind of chaos to be a calming kind of white noise.” As quoted from an interview in Elle Canada Magazine by Editor Noreen Flanagan. The excessive nature of the 999 Borats project in its sheer volume of work expresses this theme of mass-media driven chaos, the barrage of imagery and information we are all subjected to - something all of my work touches on to some extent. The projects bold ambition aims to reflect on the excesses of mass consumer culture in part. It is also clearly following an Andy Warhol type of pop-art tradition, but with the distinct difference in that each takes a radically different approach to its form and presentation with each work. This is something that I chose to do (not only to avoid hours of monotony! although having so many portraits certainly allowed a freedom to experiment with form and technique that ap- pealed to me) but also to reflect the trend in mass culture and media towards a strong consumer yearning to express individualism within a cookie cutter society. Whether in the form of custom cell phone skins, a unique shade of veneer on your condo kitchen counter, a clip-art decorated MySpace page or one of the recent corporate attempts to cater to this demand ala mod options on new cars (i.e. “build your own” Mini Cooper), etc. I don’t view this trend as a ‘bad’ thing overall, and the writing is on the wall so to speak with all things “Web 2.0” (something this very project grew out of on Flickr.com) that Alvin Toffler’s predictions from “The Third Wave” about how consumers would soon also be the producers of their content and so-called “Mass Media” would become more about micro-casting to increas- ingly varied niche audiences. In this sense I am all for it, but I find the transitional phenomenon of corporations giving what is essentially the illusion of choice with very narrow parameters in which to carve out an individual image equally fascinating and unnerving. From Torontoist.com interview by Marc Lostracco “My earliest art making focused more defini- tively on topics of Mass Media, Consumerism, etc. It’s my relationship with this subject mat- ter perhaps that make such a project (999 Borats) conceptually something I am interested in. I took media studies in high school and had been highly affected by being exposed to people like Noam Chomsky and Marshall McLuhan. Overall, I feel my work has grown to become a more in- ward reflection of that outer world as a whole: more personally psychological yet still connected to the role media and celebrity play in all of our lives.” How Will The Originals Be Made Available for Purchase? • Works will continue to be updated for viewing on the site in the gallery, via the free screensaver and other means as they are completed. They won’t be listed with their final numbers though. • The originals will be made available through a secure online storefront starting Sunday June 3rd, 2007. They will be rolled out each Sunday, on a weekly basis for 8 consecutive weeks until July 22 (So, June 3, 10, 17, 24 and July 1, 8, 15, 22 will be the various released dates and by the 22nd of July all will be available for purchase. Then on July 31st I will be announcing the winner of the Lifesized Canvas.). • I have decided that, in the spirit of maintaining an element of mystery and surprise, to remove numbering from pieces displayed - any numbers listed in general site areas are not necessarily the final numbering of the works. The final ‘numbers’ and which portraits will be added to each week will only be revealed when the pieces are made available. • Those who have signed up to be members of the site will be given prior instruction and a pass- word to access the site before Sunday of each week and have first dibs on the pieces that are made newly available. The works will then be available to everyone each Monday. • The exact way the sales will work is, starting Sunday July 3rd, 2007, the people who have signed up on the site will be sent ahead of time instructions on where to go and given a password for ac- cess to the first 125 being made available for purchase (at $100us each - despite size or any other factor, all works are between 8”x10” and 13”x19 with the majority being on the largere end). • Each comes mounted on museum board, with a special project sleeve, certificate of authentic- ity (including a special seal I’m having made for the project) and a signed limited edition small (8.5”x11”) 999 Borats poster will come with each purchase (there will be 8 different posters, a dif- ferent one for each week they are released. • Works will be sent out within approx. 1 week of confirmed payment or less (I need to make sure each is archived adequately for reproduction in the project book I will be releasing in August, in most cases this will have already been done and the works will be shipped within 2-3 days). • There will be free shipping via courier to any purchases of 5 or more originals. Purchasers may request to have their work set aside until they have had a chance to see the work each week as the free shipping offer will be available to extend across multiple weeks up until the end if prefered (the 5 or more don’t have to be purchased in one go to be eligible for the free shipping offer). << WWW.POPSURREALISM.TV Oli’s ‘VideoCanvas v1.0’ featuring an expandable array of video content on an lcd display embedded in the painting. Other Current Projects and Directions: I have always been driven by an intrigue in the creative possibilities presented by technology and “new media”. Since my earliest work I have explored ways in which to marry them with tra- ditional forms. Some current technological advances have allowed me to begin exploring things like embedding large LCD video panels right inside my paintings (there are samples on display via my main website, www.oligoldsmith.com) and I have plans to take this much further. From Torontoist.com interview by Marc Lostracco “Another very exciting thing I have been wanting to do for ages is producing canvases with embedded flat panel LCD displays, and the price and technology is now making it feasible. Paint actually edges-up and sometimes over parts of the screen so it is an amazing effect ... I am planning to offer upgradeable content— you’ll be able to buy Flash Memory cards, each with hours of custom video and audio.” Soon I would like to wirelessly have canvases connected to the net so that after someone has purchased a painting I can continue to update it over time! I love the idea that at a random mo- ment your painting will catch you off guard, even speak to you when you least expect it. I am doing something similar online right now with my project popsurrealism.tv. As described in the proposal for Rhizome.org: Popsurrealism.tv is a compelling time-based artwork in the form of a streaming media ‘channel’ distributed in the form of a free screen-saver ... essentially a video and audio mix initiated of video, VR, flash, live streams, etc. The evolving feed will stream from my server straight to user’s desktops where they may passively or actively experience the ever-changing work. I see a field emerging closely related to video games, but more simply an immersive art experi- ence. I would love to allow an audience to engage with the characters in my work, go for an afternoon walk in one of my surreal landscapes, have tea with a ‘virtual Borat’, or maybe all 999 variations at once!. Technology to make all of this possible will be readily available, and sooner than most people may realize. As an artist I’m eagerly and actively along for the ride, and enjoy every step of the way! Artist Statement: Oli’s Goldsmith’s modern-day ‘combines’ merge advanced digital output and transfer processes with paint, ink and other traditional media. He eagerly experiments with varied techniques – often combining old with the new and creating new hybrid forms in the process. Crisp digital line art, found and sampled photography, iconog- raphy and text, invented catch-phrases, drawings and poetic ramblings layer with expressive painting and drawing to create a distinctly rich, colourful and energetic style. Recent Large-Scale (5’x4’) Canvases by Oli Early inspiration came from media studies; his work is a reflection of our information saturated society where media bombard us all constantly and often subconsciously. Interests in language, communication and iconography are significant influences to the scattered fragments of image and text that populate his paintings. These often chaotic compositions have a ‘through the looking-glass’ element of reflecting pat- terns of our media landscape while transporting viewers into an alternate and intensely personal world of the artist. Disparate and often bizarre elements combine and play off one another in surprising, provoca- tive and often humorous ways. How the mind plays into subtext and suggestion – the subliminal elements often explored in surrealism and automatism are directly connected to Oli’s working process. Pieces are generally not planned in any particular manner but are formed through an improvi- sational process, building up layers gradually from ideas in the moment that bounce off one another. The constant surprise of the results is the exhilarating satisfaction from the creative act and is what more than anything else motivates his work. Oli is represented in Vancouver by Gallery Jones WWW.GALLERYJONES.COM In Toronto his work is available through Parts Gallery WWW.PARTSGALLERY.CA and Muse Gallery WWW.MUSEGALLERY.CA Oli also sells both original work and limited edition prints, books, dvds and other art items through his website WWW.OLIGOLDSMITH.COM Oli Goldsmith Bio: Growing up at the dawn of “new media” Oli has always been comfortable crossing between and blending creative fields. In elementary school he began publishing his own independent maga- zines, where he gained early knowledge of desktop publishing and graphic design. As emerging tools were born for creative media authoring on the computer, Oli’s interests expanded to mul- timedia, web design and digital video. While attending the ‘Claude Watson’ art program at Earl Haig Secondary School as a visual arts major, he involved himself in numerous projects to build these skills. There he developed and released Canada’s first CD-Rom ‘yeardisc’ in grade ten, documented his entire school in an elaborate QuickTime VR walkthrough, and created numerous prototypes for CD-Rom projects of his own such as the interactive 3d Children’s title “the Adventures of Parsley Man”. Working freelance on the side he also completed various design projects for companies ranging from Al- liance Communications and Mövenpick Restaurants to Packard Bell NEC. Oli’s interest in Fine Art also blossomed while at Claude Watson, where he found a receptive atmosphere to his explorations in the mixing of digital techniques with more traditional and painterly forms. Oli began building his art career outside of class, exhibiting his fine art in group and solo shows from the age of 16. Early opportunities, such as participation in the SVA’s Digital Salon in New York and Madrid, as well as the TOAE at home, and solo shows at Toronto’s East Queen Gallery helped lead to recognition for his work. In 1998 Oli was awarded the national YTV Achievement Award for visual art, later Oli was recognized through the Toronto Arts Awards protégé honours, and media attention such as a feature spot on TVO’s Studio2 soon followed. Frustrated by the slow pace of York University’s Fine Art Cultural Studies program, and eager to get on with things, Oli left to join Toronto new-media company Bitcasters as Creative Director at age 19, where he helped build a brand recognized for its innovation and quality of work. Through this role he was responsible for the design and development of projects for major clients around the globe such as Miramax, Universal and Sony Music. As always Oli persisted with a range of creative projects of his own such as making electronic music and publishing his first book “the Moral of the Story”. He continued to paint throughout this time, and in 2001 the art director for Sony Music Canada spotted his fine art. Oli landed the job of creating a comprehensive body of original packaging for Canadian recording artist “Our Lady Peace” for their album “Spiritual Machines”. Based on the success of the commission he was asked to create a music video for the track “In Repair”, an experimental animated piece that took the style of the album artwork and brought it to life through animation and stylized live mo- tion. The work’s innovation met with much acclaim, garnering 2 Juno Award nominations (for both the video and packaging) and 6 MuchMusic Video Award nominations - 3 of which it won includ- ing best director, best post production as well at the best video of the year award. It was also screened at SIGGRAPH. The video brought Oli to the attention of Notorious Pictures in New York, who signed him to their roster of innovative broadcast and music video directors. Through his representation with Notorious Oli produced as series of innovative music videos and broadcast design projects, in- cluding Richard X’s track ‘Finest Dreams’ – featuring Kelis – which reached number one in the UK for a week. In the fall of 2005 Oli was offered ‘Artist in Residence’ at the Drake Hotel in Toronto. During that time and on many occasions since he has performed groundbreaking live video-mixing. Team- ing up with Sol Friedman for a performance of collaborative video mixing and Oli’s music during the first ever ‘Nuit Blanche’ at the Drake in Toronto. He continues to “VJ” live and has recently setup a permanent home for his experimental work at his website www.popsurrealism.tv. Oli’s fine art ambitions again came to the forefront in 2006, signing on with Gallery Jones in Vancouver and having several major exhibitions. His body of recent work has received much ac- claim and collectors and critics have noted his advances in style and sophistication. In August 2006 Oli was offered a senior design position at the CBC where he produced innova- tive broadcast design for the national network, but chose to leave the full-time role and continue channelling the bulk of his energy into his painting and other fine art initiatives. 2007 looks to be a groundbreaking year for Oli with an emphasis on bridging his fine art with the latest in technological and Internet advances. His website www.999Borats.com features an on- line exhibition of his latest experiment in pop-art, www.popsurrealism.tv is a project featuring his experimental video in unique ways and is short listed for Rhizome.org new media commis- sioned works and even Oli’s original canvases have begun to include the addition of embedded flat-screen video displays, integrated motion and sound into the paintings. Oli was recently married to Caroline Bacher – an accomplished sculptor and jewellery designer herself. Oli and Caroline live in Toronto with their 4 crazy cats and continue to pursue both com- mercial and personal creative projects in as wide a range of media as ever.