A quote from Life After God by Douglas Coupland

I found this in my documents folder just now. It feels relevant somehow to things I want to move toward making.

“My mind then wandered. I thought of this: I thought of how every day each of us experiences a few little moments that have just a bit more resonance than other moments—we hear a word that sticks in our mind—or maybe we have a small experience that pulls us out of ourselves, if only briefly—we share a hotel elevator with a bride in her veils, say, or a stranger gives us a piece of bread to feed to the mallard ducks in the lagoon; a small child starts a conversation with us in a Dairy Queen—or we have an episode like the one I had with the M&M cars back at the Husky station.

And if we were to collect these small moments in a notebook and save them over a period of months we would see certain trends emerge from our collection—certain voices would emerge that have been trying to speak through us. We would realize that we have been having another life altogether; one we didn’t even know was going on inside us. And maybe this other life is more important than the one we think of as being real—this clunky day-to-day world of furniture and noise and metal. So just maybe it is these small silent moments which are the true story-making events of our lives.”

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Anselm Kiefer’s materials

Before Christmas I went to see the Anselm Kiefer show at the Royal Academy. It was fantastic. It reminded me of how much I love seeing art.

I was wondering a little today about the reasons why I enjoyed the show so much, and why the content of it resonated with me as much as it did. Quite a lot of it is very nebulous really. It’s difficult to put your finger on what’s going on some of the time for the simple reason that it’s about things which are by nature hard to define.

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Things to be learnt from remix memes

One thing to think about with the Splatterbound project is the current Remix culture. The whole project is rooted in that. One of the most obvious examples of this is the meme for remixing Hitler’s rant as he realises his bunker is surrounded in the film Downfall. This was a relatively little known but nonetheless culturally significant film when it was released in (I think) 2004. It was beautifully filmed and performed, which is part of the reason why it lends itself so well to being remixed. Somehow this gives a strong basis for people to add their own pet hates. Suddenly Hitler is talking about the iPad, Rebecca Black, Comic Sans, Windows Vista. And what’s more, we can often feel his pain. At least I can.

Crucial to the success of this meme is the fact that there are key points in the excerpt. The bit where he sends most of his officers out of the room. The weeping of the two women outside the door. The part where he sits silently, brooding for some thirty seconds. When the remix is a good one I find myself anticipating these parts of the film, wondering what way this version will treat those parts of the clip. I love that anticipation and it’s only possible because I’ve watched so many of these remixes before. The first time I watched it, I laughed. But subsequently, the meme has become more and more of a familiar friend. When I laugh, it has a well worn texture. How great is that? I think it’s pretty great.

So how is this relevant to Splatterbound? One thing both Annie and I have thought is that it could be quite difficult to add to something someone else has already done. I sent her a collection of pages to draw on and she’s been having a hard time thinking of what to draw on them. I’d looked at the scans of what I sent her a few months after I sent them and had had a similar thought. ‘What would I draw on those?’, I’d thought. When I sent them to her I commented that she should feel free to cover them in tar and feathers if she wanted. There was no need to stand on ceremony or be overly respectful of what I had done. The problem is that tar and feathers don’t really progress the existing drawing, they destroy it. Here’s the rub. A really good Splatterbound drawing or page will have something in it that makes it easy to expand upon and/or rework a familiar theme.

The question then is one of how to make the site’s proposed mission familiar, or immediately digestible. This is tricky because part of the idea of the site is a lack of familiarity. It’s about making something new. Thinking about it, most really good contemporary art tends to have a certain clarity of intention about it. Formally, good work is often very simple but has an element that draws in a second look somehow. That’s the simplicity that Splatterbound needs.

Hmm… I think the key here might be suggesting five or six approaches and then alpha testing them, shifting the focus each time. It could also do with a strap line that tells people what it’s for very quickly.

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Bill Viola – Ocean Without a Shore

Wow.

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Clay Shirky talking man

This kind of thing is exactly what I’m talking about when I say I’m excited about the possibilities of my humjam website. I want to draw links between what this guy’s talking about and things happening in art and beyond.

I don’t want to talk about it in too much depth here as I’d need thousands of words and this is not the time for that. In brief, he’s talking about the power of social media and the way it’s dog-gone blowing everything we know and hold dear to small pieces.

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Week :& – Drawings of time

I like this website.
www.icastic.com
I am tempted to ask people to submit drawings for my questionnaire as well.
Maybe my show space will have a little area with crayons. That would be fun. I like the sense that people can get involved with the work in a more direct way. That’s part of the idea in the first place, after all.

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Benjamin and the aura

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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Max Frisch’s questionnaires

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

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?

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Data Visualisation

I haven’t blogged for ages. In fact I’ve barely blogged so far this unit. This is because I found myself having fun down the rabbit hole we call the internet. I set up an RSS reader for the first time and have been reading design blogs and other interesting things. So, I have things to write about.

I think we still don’t really understand what the internet is. It’s seen almost as a magazine or newspaper. The design of most web pages doesn’t really take in to account the changing sense of space online. The information visualisation potential of a web page moving from one state to another is incredible. I’m often slightly bemused by the fact that this isn’t explored further. I guess these things take time, money, research and are a nightmare to bring into standards compliance.

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Participation

I haven’t really blogged about my PGPD in any direct way yet. It feels kind of rude not sticking up a link about it though. So here you go. Regardless of any dissatisfaction I may feel with it, it did help me think through a lot of things, and I’m finding I’m taking a few things more seriously as a result of it. I’ve already said that haven’t I? I’ve also already said that it’s left me with more questions than answers. But such is the way of these things.

I think one of the key reasons I’ve been getting interested in participatory art leading up to writing my PGPD is remembering an exhibition we had at the house gallery years ago, back when it was still just a gallery and not a gallery and cafe. The exhibition was called the Library of Unpublished Books by a woman called Caroline Jupp. I thought it was rather wonderful, not least because my friend Ben and I contributed a book to the project, which in itself was brilliant fun. My memories of the show are that it had a lovely feeling about it. It was very open. And I felt truly privileged to have been asked to take part, even though Caroline obviously just wanted to get as many books as she could. It was quite liberating creatively to do something for sake of it. We ended up binding the finished book together with old socks.

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Tony Oursler at the Lisson Gallery

Andy asked us all to go to see the Tony Oursler exhbition at the Lisson Gallery. I wasn’t that impressed by the show, but it did deal with a crucial thing regarding digital art, namely taking something that exists as digital bits on a disc and turning that into a real, viewable artwork in real space. Oursler does this by projecting looped film on to sculpted objects, like ears, or patchwork dolls.

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Reconstruction

I’m still interested by this reconstruction thing. I’m interested by the idea of there having been an event, a moment, something, and someone taking whatever traces of that which there may be and assembling them in a manner offering us a fresh (also dead?) angle on it. I’m reminded, funnily enough, of Damien Hirst saying we have to kill something and put it in a tank in order to look at it. By that point, of course, it’s long since ceased to be the thing that really interested us.

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Things of old and also of yore

I went to the British Museum a while back and took some pictures. I was looking for Anglo-Saxon and Old Norse artifacts to give me a feel for the way people were living

old norse prow

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Void #13 by Anish Kapoor

I was going to put this picture in the big bang post I wrote earlier but it looked weird and out of place so I’m giving it its own post. The picture below is of Void #13 by Anish Kapoor. Here’s a link explaining a thing or two about it: Queensland Art Gallery

void13 by anish kapoor

I’m very fond of Anish Kapoor. I love the way he uses materials to create a sense of either weight or lightness. He also manages to make things look like light is being sucked in to them. That’s a bit of an achievement in my book. His work makes me look again, and inexplicably. It’s very meditative. This is a good way of representing that void I’ve been on about. As good as any other I’ve seen anyway.

Hmm, I Wonder if there are any zen koans or poems about the void.
A quick web search throws up the old tradition of death poems, when a zen master would express his insights into the process of dying to his disciple. I just remembered this one, which I’ve loved for years:

Magnificent! Magnificent!
The Ocean bed’s aflame,
Out of the void leap wooden lambs

I may well end up buying this very interesting looking book about zen poetry: Triumph of the Sparrow.

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Four letter words: Processing diagram

Moshe sent me this a couple of months ago and I liked it then but I’m increasingly wondering if I shouldn’t bear it in mind for how my finished piece may or may not pan out. This is partially because of all of these scientific diagrams I’ve been looking at. They seem to offer a framework which things can be dropped into. One, potentially, to experiment with.

Four letter words diagram

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Immersion

I’ve been reading Hamlet on the Holodeck by Janet Murray. She talks a lot about immersion in films and stories. She describes immersion as a trance and the primary key to creating this trance is understanding the existence of the ‘fourth wall’ between audience and performer. She describes watching Peter Pan as a child and clapping Tinkerbell back to life. She was utterly enraptured by the whole thing and was desperate to see Tinkerbell resurrected. The spell was broken the next time she watched it when her parents sat behind her laughing at her innocent wonderment. The fourth wall was broken. She was reminded that this was ‘just a film’. I think immersion is an emotional invitation, perhaps before it’s an intellectual one.

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Unit 2, Week 6 – More from the Edda

So I said I’d write a separate post about the Prose Edda, concerning its ambiguities and its interesting journey from myths and stories told by Norse poets to its status as an important document of northern European history.

The first thing that really grabbed me about the Prose Edda was the ambiguity of it. It was written by an Icelandic chieftain, Snorri Sturluson, who seems to have been a pretty Machiavellian guy. His life was defined by his desire to be the most powerful man in Iceland. To this end, he got cosy with King Hakon of Norway. Some scholars have suggested that this was in order to bring Iceland under Norwegian rule. His failure in this was eventually the death of him. He was murdered by his son-in-law at the order of King Hakon.

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Cynthia Beth Rubin amid other things. Mainly written 14/04/2008

Cornwall

I took some photographs in Cornwall over Easter. Here is one such picture:

A hillside

Regular readers, (Hi Andy) may notice my fondness for bleak hillsides. It was very nice to get out to take some pictures. At times I could have almost swooned with pleasure. I know this sounds daft. This is a really important part of making anything for me.

Cynthia Beth Rubin

She came and gave us a talk today. She made me realise how much I’ve missed by not attending lectures here. I’ll have to force time into my schedule. She spoke of layering techniques, putting one heavily manipulated image on top of another less manipulated image, then erasing lots of the manipulated one so that parts of the other becomes visible. She was kind enough to give me some slides from her powerpoint presentation that demonstrate this. This layering thing is clearly very relevant to my own thoughts about layering my moments (I’ve so got to find a better word for that).

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March 3rd 2008

I’ve been chewing over what folks said at the group crit. One thing Andy said was that I should think about the opposite of all. Many people would say that would be none. I’ve talked about this a little bit in my first post for this blog, when talking about Derrida and the concept of the trace. You could easily say that none is included in all, because all is all. As none or nothing is an idea, it exists, and is part of all. That absence, that nothingness, is an entity of sorts, perhaps even without referring to its being an idea.

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