The press release says the piece "creates the illusion that imaginary residents of a building are all at home watching the same program, with 100 old analog TVs flickering in unison — when if fact the TVs are being controlled by Cooley's father at home in Colorado." But what I like about the work is that, seen in person as you stroll the High Line, it takes a good while to notice that that flickering blue light comes from televisions installed in every room in the building. At first, it seems like formalist light art, in a vaguely James Turrell mode. I'm an anti-TV guy, so seeing them reduced to sculptural light sources gives me pleasure. It's nice to know that TVs aren't always the most potent thing around. (Even if Cooley's father can't seem to leave his alone.)
Remote Nation is a public art installation lining New York City's Highline Park housed in a vacant, newly minted apartment building. Artist Kevin Cooley creates a scenario where inhabitants of an entire high-rise apartment building appear to be watching the same television station simultaneously. Viewing from the outside in, spectators witness the 'collective solitude of a remote, tv-watching nation.'
In the artist's words: Remote Nation evokes a physical manifestation of the abstract concept of a television audience. In deconstructing the process of how information is disseminated electronically, this project suggests a framework for a discussion of how technology can be simultaneously human and impersonal, and how it can bridge the gap of physical distance yet often fail to connect us as individuals.
Cooley's first public art installation, Remote Nation is viewable every night from the new section of the elevated High Line Park north of West 23rd Street, and at street level on West 24th and 25th Streets, just west of 10th Avenue, until October 29, 2011.
When I asked my friend J.Wesley Brown to suggest some night photographers for a power point I was creating, he recommended the work of Kevin Cooley. Kevin has a roster of wonderful projects all worth exploring. nachtfluge is featured below, but I also wanted to highlight his fabulous television-based public installation, REMOTE NATION, that is currently on display in New York (viewable from The High Line Park) through October 29th. There is a video of this piece on his site.
Kevin has installed a public art piece at 245 Tenth Ave, a newly completed Manhattan residential condo in Chelsea. On view nightly from the new section of the elevated High Line Park, the piece opens a dialogue about how modern technology simultaneously expands our connection to the world at large and lulls us into a state of entranced isolation, cutting us off from the people immediately around us. Throughout the building's eleven floors, Cooley has placed 100 reclaimed analog televisions and linked them to a single video feed, creating the illusion that all the residents are home and tuned to the same station. The resulting light is unmistakably electronic, yet it pulses, breathes and changes colors in a manner reminiscent of aurora borealis. Looking from the outside in, the viewer becomes voyeur, witness to the collective solitude of a remote, tv-watching nation.
Inspired by observing his parents watching the same programs, but in separate parts of the house, the pictures flashing across Remote Nation's TV screens arrive in real-time from Cooley's father's own television set in Niwot, Colorado - diverted across the continent with a combination of analog and digital technologies. A single TV set is visible from the High Line, allowing the public to see an abstracted, altered version of the original programming content that more closely resembles a fuzzy over-the-air broadcast from the past than today's hyper real, crisp digital format.
The lights are on, but no one's home at 245 10th Ave.
Technically, the lights are colorful flickers from 100 analog televisions sets within a recently completed condo building that overlooks the High Line between 23rd and 24th streets.
Overlooking the High Line, the 'Remote Nation' art installation and its glowing windows at 245 10th Ave.
The light show, called "Remote Nation," is a public art installation by Williamsburg-based artist Kevin Cooley, 36. Unlike a typical Manhattan building, where windows are often aglow with the lights of different TV programs, the televisions inside the not-yet-occupied apartments are all set to the same feed: a video stream of what Mr. Cooley's father is watching at his home in Niwot, Colo.
"What you see is what he's watching," said Mr. Cooley, whose father keeps the TV on about 20 hours a day. "He needs it to sleep. When he changes the channel, it changes."
Mr. Cooley, a photographer who specializes in night settings, came up with the idea about 10 years ago, but was thwarted by logistics. "I was struggling to find the right spot for it," he said.
That changed when he landed a magazine assignment to shoot the High Line and noticed the building. Mr. Cooley suspected that the management might be art-friendly, given that the building already housed a gallery—Bryce Wolkowitz—at street level. (The Yossi Milo Gallery also has closed on a space in the building.) One of the 100 analog television sets running in the building's empty apartments.
As it turned out, the timing was right. "There is a brief moment when construction isn't so bad, and you don't have units sold and closed yet," said Leonard Steinberg, managing director of Prudential Douglas Elliman, who gave Mr. Cooley a small stipend for the project and was engaged with the concept. "There is something wonderful about looking at TV as just light and color."
Mr. Cooley said "Remote Nation," which can be seen until Sept. 24, is his take on the duality inherent in technology. "I thought about it after watching my parents watch the same television program in different rooms," he said. "Technology can connect you with someone across the world, but when you go out with your friends, you're still sitting around the table on phones. It tends to isolate us, as well as it connects us."
The televisions have been put in different positions within the rooms (most of which are empty). Some are upright, others are on their backs—to project their glows the ceilings.
One of the TVs is facing out onto the High Line, so viewers can see what is on the screen, but the picture is cropped in, creating a close-up of the actual programming. The stream is transferred from Colorado to New York via a computer on the back of the senior Mr. Cooley's television.
Although the lights shift in unison, some of the colors vary; one television projects a slightly green glow. "At first I thought I'd change that, but then I liked it," said the artist, who bought the TVs from the Salvation Army in Hempstead, Long Island.
Every day at about 6 p.m., Mr. Cooley comes to the building to turn on "Remote Nation." A security guard shuts off all the TVs every day at 4 a.m.
Mr. Cooley finds that if his father is watching sports, the lights don't change much.
"He watches a lot of baseball. Now he's watching a lot of the U.S. Open, which is just that big, blue square," Mr. Cooley said.
Spike TV has the most flickering lights, he said: "It was almost too much."
Nearly every city dweller looks in the windows of apartments they stroll past, even if they won't admit it. There's a strange joy that comes from seeing a television tuned to a favorite TV show or movie, creating a bond between total strangers through a random act of voyeurism.
It's that random connection that artist Kevin Cooley hopes to replicate with his latest art installation, Remote Nation, currently running in a building along New York's High Line elevated park in Chelsea. "From the outside looking in, the viewer becomes a voyeur to these individual electronic campfires, as a witness of the collective solitude of a remote, TV-watching nation," the Brooklyn-based artist said in Remote Nation's statement.
To create the installation, Cooley linked 100 analog televisions sitting on 11 floors of the Della Valle Bernheimer building along the High Line's converted train platform at 245 Tenth Ave. The TVs simultaneously play a sole video feed coming from Cooley's father's television in Niwot, Colorado. (The inspiration for the project came from the artist observing his parents watching the same program in different rooms of his family's home.)
Remote Nation is visible along the High Line north of 23rd Street and from street level west of Tenth Avenue on 24th Street every night until Sept. 24.
By Peggy Roalf, August 17, 2011
Artist Kevin Cooley has recently engineered his largest installation to date, filling a new residential building alongside the High Line Park with TVs that receive a live transmission of the evening's line-up of programs his father watches, at his home in Niwot, Colorado.
In Remote Nation, as the installation is titled, he writes, “the inhabitants of an entire high-rise apartment building appear to be watching the same television station simultaneously. Viewers outside of the building are presented with an orchestrated display of the ambient televised light which appears to be organic, pulsing, breathing and changing color reminiscent of aurora borealis. From the outside looking in,” he continues, “the viewer becomes a voyeur to these individual electronic campfires, as a witness of the collective solitude of a remote, TV-watching nation.”
Intrigued, I caught up with Kevin by email to find out more:
Peggy Roalf: In a recent series, Refuge, you photographed individuals finding shelter at night in snowy caves and other remote places, using lighting schemes that enhance the surreal quality of their endeavors. Now with Remote Nation, you evoke the eeriness of being home alone at night, with the TV going. Is there a connection between the two projects?
Kevin Cooley: Absolutely they are connected, they are both about protecting ourselves from the elements. In Refuge, fire represents human control over nature and protection from a cold, harsh world. In Remote Nation, all the individual TVs are essentially electronic campfires which allow us to escape from the chaos of the city environment. Remote Nation could be seen as the urban equivalent of Refuge.
PR: In your statement, you say that the project is inspired by your parents’ habit of watching TV in different rooms of their house in Colorado. Can you tell how their wish for separate experiences influenced the way you developed the project?
KC: It was a pretty powerful moment when I realized what this meant about their relationship. It got me thinking about all human relationships, isolation, technology, and loneliness. This duality where technology both simultaneously connects and separates us is one of the biggest sources of inspiration in all of my work. I wanted this project, my biggest so far, to incorporate a gesture to this pivotal moment in my life. As I was struggling to decide what station to tune into for Remote Nation, it occurred to me that it would be interesting if it could follow the viewing habits of a particular person so the channels could change, instead of having it just watch NBC or HBO. Naturally, I thought of my father who watches hours of television a day, alone in his basement.
PR: The way in which you transmitted the feed from your dad’s lineup of TV programs is fascinating – could you talk a little about why you went for an archaic look for the TV images? For example, is an old non-hiDef image more colorful, does its graininess project a different kind of light field that you find appealing?
KC: Once I new this project was really going to happen, I needed to get a lot of TVs and fast. I ended up getting almost all the TVs from the Salvation Army. They were discarded all analog, CRT sets – some were even black and white. One of them was the same model I remember from my adolescence and I was shocked at the flood of nostalgia that flashed through my mind when I saw it and I wanted to include this into the project somehow. I realized that with a lot of cropping almost anything you play on an old set automatically looks like TV from the 70s and 80s. Also, I was worried a bit because my father watches a ton of football and baseball and I didn't want to run into any copyright issues with any of the networks or the NFL and by severely cropping into the images I figure I've altered the broadcast enough that artistic license comes into play.
PR: When did you hit on the idea that a night photograph with fire or a strong, artificial light, has a special kind of power?
KC: I've been photographing at night for over 10 years now. My first night project was following night time film productions on location in New York and L.A. which obviously use a huge amount of artificial light. Since that series, I've tried to have elements of ambient, natural light as well as artificial light in all of my nighttime photographic work. I've used lights from tourist boats in Paris, plane navigation and landing lights, military and emergency flares, high powered flash light, and televisions. All of these man-made light sources are related to the discovery of fire as a way of separating us from nature.
PR: For a while you were “snagging” light from film crews working at night in the city. What prompted you to use their “leftovers” for your work? Is there something about the colors you can get, or the quality of extremely bright light used at a distance from its source?
KC: "Borrowing" is what I always say, but I like "snagging" too, it sounds a bit more subversive. What got me started following them around is the accidental, surreptitious nature of how everyday city locations seemed to become important with all this bright movie light. It was like they were having their 15 minutes of fame and I thought I should photograph that moment.
PR: I saw that you’ve been awarded an Arctic Circle Art Residency, which starts at the end of September. What project will you be working on for this?
KC: I will continue to work on my Refuge series which I'm putting together with some past work in book called "Take Refuge." The photographs will also be a part of an upcoming exhibition at the Kopeikin Gallery this January in Los Angeles.
Remote Nation by Kevin Cooley can be viewed every night from the new section of the elevated High Line Park north of West 23rd Street, and at street level on West 24th and 25th Streets, just west of 10th Avenue, until September 24th, 2011.