Archive for March, 2009

Benjamin and the aura

Sunday, March 29th, 2009

I’ve just read ‘The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction’ by Walter Benjamin and won’t feel like I have done a Digital Arts MA at all if I don’t write a post about it. It says a lot of very interesting things, which have prescience today. I suppose that’s why people quote it all the time. I’m also experimentally putting a drawing on this post because lots of my posts are really long and have no pictures, which looks boring.

Cartoon drawing of Walter Benjamin

The transformation of the superstructure, which takes place far more slowly than that of the substructure, has taken more than half a century to manifest in all areas of culture the change in the conditions of production.” p212

In other words, when crazy technological advances happen, it takes a while for culture to catch up.

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Bad interactivity

Tuesday, March 10th, 2009

Here are some more quotes about interactivity and participatory art. I feel the need to respond to them because they’re relevant to my project and my developing thoughts. As much as anything I think they throw a bit of light on how I see interactivity in the context of my project.

The following three quotes are from ‘Internet Art’ by Julian Stallabrass

Page 61

In an interview with Davis, Tilam Baumgärtel asked whether the sentence (This referring to The world’s first collaborative sentence by Douglas Davis) was truly interactive or was rather just another kind of form filling, common on the Net. That question acutely raised the issue of whether contributors to such works are any more than sociological specimens who supply data for the artist.

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Max Frisch’s questionnaires

Tuesday, March 3rd, 2009

I’ve found a very useful piece of context for my questionnaire. It’s a book by the playwright Max Frisch called
'Sketchbook 1966-1971'. It features a series of questionnaires that pose some quite challenging questions. There are nine or ten of these questionnaires in the book and each one takes on a different theme. These questionnaires were quite highly acclaimed when the book was released. I can’t help but feel a lot of them are quite reductive though. A lot of it seems to be a Socratic form of argument with Frisch bullying people into sharing his beliefs.

Each questionnaire consists of twenty five questions. Here’s a sample of questions from the different questionnaires:

The human condition in general

  • Are you sure you are really interested in the preservation of the human race once you and all the people you know are no longer alive? State briefly why.
  • If you had the power to put into effect things you consider right, would you do so against the wishes of the majority (yes or no) Why not if you think they are right?
  • What in your opinion do others dislike about you, and what do you dislike about yourself? If not the same thing, which do you find it easier to excuse?

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Another good data visualisation project

Tuesday, March 3rd, 2009

I just saw this on Flowing Data. I think this kind of thing might provide a very raw blueprint for my own graphs and charts. I like the page full of bars and percentages thing. I remember at the start of the course I blogged that I was a bit influenced by the way I felt when I looked at picture books as a child.I loved all of the details and joining up the different parts.

Flowing Data's 'State of the World' project for UNData

Anyway, I like this. I wouldn’t mind seeing it get a bit more curated though. For example, what are the likely consequences of the massive disparity of annual births between developing and industrialised countries? Can well presented data begin to suggest answers, or at least inroads in to answers to such questions?

Bad computer

Monday, March 2nd, 2009

I’ve also read a few things about the tendency to get carried away with technology and software rather than take control of it and use it to fully realise a work’s potential. An artist called Jonathan Harris gave this talk at the Flash on the Beach conference last year.

Jonathan Harris at the Flash on the Beach Conference

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Bourriaud, interactivity, changing art

Monday, March 2nd, 2009

I haven’t really said anything about my PGPD in my blog. I learnt a lot from writing it. It would be a shame not to make more out of it in the wider context of my project. The essay was about participatory art in history and the lessons that can be learned from it for online participation in art.

A dot on a line

One of my key sources was Nicholas Bourriaud’s book Relational Aesthetics. At the heart of Bourriaud’s thesis is the idea that art is not to be found in static objects but in lived experiences. A key example of this is the work of Rirkrit Tiravanija, who in the past has presented people with large canisters of thai soup and noodles in the name of art. Here’s a quote from the book:

The contemporary artwork’s form is spreading out from its material form: it is a linking element, a principle of dynamic agglutination*. An artwork is a dot on a line. (Bourriaud, 1998, p20-21)

*agglutination is the adhesion of distinct parts, apparently.

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