Benjamin Rosenthal (b.1984, New York, NY, Lives and Works in Kansas City, Missouri) holds an MFA in Art Studio from the University of California, Davis and a BFA in Art (Electronic Time-Based Media) from Carnegie Mellon University. His work has been exhibited internationally in such venues/festivals as the Stuttgarter Filmwinter (Stuttgart, Germany), High Concept Labs at Mana Contemporary (Chicago, IL), ESPACIO ENTER: Festival International Creatividad, Innovacíon y Cultural Digital (Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain), FILE Electronic Language International Festival (São Paulo, Brazil), Vanity Projects (New York, NY), Locomoción Festival de Animacion (Mexico City, Mexico), Wicked Queer: The Boston LGBT Film Festival (Cambridge, MA), PLUG Projects (Kansas City, Missouri), the LINOLEUM Festival of Contemporary Animation and Media Art (Kyiv, Ukraine), and SIGGRAPH Asia (Bangkok, Thailand), among others. He has been in residence at the Fjúk Arts Centre (Husavík, Iceland), Signal Culture (Owego, New York) and the Ox-Bow School of Art (Saugatuck, Michigan), the Charlotte Street Foundation (Kansas City, Missouri), and is currently in residence at The Studios Inc (Kansas City, Missouri). Rosenthal is Associate Professor of Expanded Media and Director of Graduate Studies in the Department of Visual Art at the University of Kansas where he has been since 2012, and teaches video art, performance art, experimental animation, graduate seminar and interdisciplinary practices.
My core role as an educator is to give students the conceptual and technical tools, and the agency to utilize those tools, to communicate what it is that they are passionate about in their world and the world at large. I am interested in fostering a creative environment in which students are able to push themselves to the boundaries of their limitations, and as such have the possibility to make meaningful progress in their goals as critical thinkers. Tantamount to these immediate and more material goals, I aim to help build a sense of community in the classroom that provides students with an ongoing network of feedback and support outside of the limits of a single course. In this way, I hope to facilitate the total development of a maker—an independently strong creative producer who simultaneously exists as part of a larger intellectual community.
My classroom is an open one, and I welcome the interjection of new possibilities. We are supportive, but we are also extremely rigorous, and that toughness comes from a desire to see all members of the class unit develop to their fullest potential. My own practice is multi-disciplinary, and as such I look for areas of strength in all aspects of a particular student’s creative production. Using methodologies endemic to those individual areas of strength, I aim to help students better identify with the new questions posed in a course by relating those questions to what they already know from their past experience. For example, if a student is strong in sculpture, we would discuss the possibilities of building believable and dynamic space in a media environment—for a painter we might engage with the development of composition over time. I believe that all students are different and as such I teach to the student—not the model.
Class time is structured around technical demonstrations, the presentation of work both historically and thematically, critique, and some in-class work time. The majority of production happens outside of the class, as class time is reserved for engaging more deeply with each other about the topics at hand and I feel students need time without input to immerse themselves in their projects. Assignments are kept as conceptually open as possible in order to allow students the agency to explore ideas important to their own interests. Increasing in intensity and in the amount of time allotted, assignments are designed to get students to dive right in to the material and develop relationships to the form as fast as possible. My expectations are high, and I expect ambition and commitment, but I find that by treating students as professionals their expectations and belief in themselves become even greater and the work ends up speaking for itself.
My creative research examines the strategies of how we perform—the systems of control we set in place, and the way we negotiate our psychological, tangible and virtual positions. I question the greater emphasis placed on physical experiences as a measure of authenticity or intimacy in an age where the boundaries between physical reality and the virtual become nearly indistinguishable. Employing broader themes such as militarism, religion, queer sexuality and technology, I expose and challenge the changing condition of bodies and psyches as they collide against each other within these often dysfunctional atmospheres. While my primary discipline is in video and other new media (including animation, sound, internet-based art [net.art], and other interactive/technology-based work), my practice is interdisciplinary and my work traverses disciplines within the field of visual art—manifesting itself in such other formats as sculpture, installation, performance, and drawing.
At the core of my current research conversation is an exploration of what I theorize as a new kind of queer technosexuality—an identity/experience in which the supremacy of physical body-to-body contact is questioned, and virtual sexualities, and hybrid techno-body sexuality exists along a continuum of experience devoid of traditional hierarchies. This rises to the surface in my most recent finished projects, “from this side of space to the other side of the signal” and "of spectral glances [in] and [of] prophetic tremors, [not touching]", both multi-channel video installations that incorporates virtual erotic situations which ignores the role of genitalia in favor of hand-based penetration via usb ports implanted in skins of 3D modeled characters, or via the strange "stroking" of body-like elements in the screen and physical space. Bodies and environments both “real” and “virtual” contend with this unstable system, and are perpetually interrupted by seemingly meaningless signs and symbols signs that queer the haptic perception of bodies, actions and icons. Likewise the rigidity of modernist frameworks for coding and identifying “form,” “action,” and “body” collapse in favor of a field of conceptual possibilities outside of binary perception.
- Queer art
- Performance art
- Video art
- New media art
- Installation art
- Experimental animation