The Simplon Pass leads to Varzo

In which a man cycles up a big hill and feels a bit confused. He then cycles down the other side of the hill, only to become even more confused.

The top of the Simplon Pass was a strange place. I think it might be partially because it was my first alpine pass. It was always going to feel a bit special. It might also have been because they were doing roadworks. One of the signallers directed me to push my bike on the narrow pavement of a tunnel, which I did for a couple of kilometres. Then I whacked my ankle with my pedal and I made a very loud noise with my mouth.

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Some brief thoughts about professional practice

Ellie Rees’ visit was interesting earlier today. One thing she said that I found useful was that she makes very little of her living through selling her work. Most of it comes from teaching, residencies and so on. I think I’m going to make all of my online work available on creative commons from now on, meaning it won’t really be that sellable, even if there was a significant market for online work.

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Rejigging wordpress themes and other rambling

I just spent the evening trying to get the linoluna wordpress theme to fit in with the rest of the humjam design I’m doing. I’m not sure how that’s going to come out. As it stands, I can’t get it to look right. I can’t see it ever feeling really consistent with the rest of the site. There’s also a most popular post widget on the side that I can’t seem to get rid of. Hmm. Problem. I think at some stage I’m going to have to learn WordPress inside out and make my own theme. That sounds weirdly like fun. One for August and September though, I think. I might also have another bash at linoluna as a stop gap tomorrow.

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Theory is a toy

I woke up in the middle of the night earlier this week and wrote this in my notebook. It’s quite unfinished due to the circumstances of writing but it’s quite a nice start to articulating what I think about theory. I’m going to develop a little on what I originally wrote as I go but there’ll most likely still be a couple of inconsistencies in here. I’ll try to hone it down more at some point. I wouldn’t mind talking about it with someone, too.

handwritten writing

Theory is like a toy. It’s quite plastic. You can reposition it into a configuration that suits. It’s often seen as a very serious thing but there is no need for this attitude. It’s only our servant in understanding art. It’s all too often treated as the master. Let’s not be bullied by it. Let’s invoke it when it suits us and let’s put it back in the cupboard when there’s a danger of tripping over it.

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Bad interactivity

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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Bad computer

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

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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I am learning PHP and my head feels even more like an unhappy badger than usual.

I have been attempting to learn PHP. I could probably substitute the word ‘attempting’ with ‘failing’ and not compromise the truth of that sentence. Here is a paste from an email I sent to a friend who knows PHP well. For me, it sums up some of the frustration of trying to learn something new in programming.

the problem i invariably have with using other poeple’s html or script or whatever is that i don’t really understand it.
i just tried to have a look at html quickform 2 downloaded from pear. i can’t get it to work and now i’m a bit pissed off.
but that’s mainly because i don’t know php. if i knew php i’d be able to diagnose the problem. but the only way to really get a grasp of these things is to use them.
so in that regard i’m better off saying forget html quickform. i’ll use it in a few months when i actually know what’s in it.
by which point it may well be effectively meaningless anyway. in fact it probably will.

i’m also a bit annoyed because there’s no clear demo or read me in there. i’ve no idea what it’s even supposed to look like.

Ach well. I’m sure I’ll get there in the end.

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My head hurts

Okay, so that’s the pgpd out of the way. I loved doing all the reading for mine but am a bit unhappy with the end result. I feel like I’ve learned lots though. And it’s got me wanting to read more theory. I’ve also begun to think that writing this blog is becoming very important in the process of actualising my thoughts and taking them from vague mumblings toward genuine orientation. So, I’ve found myself sitting with the seeds of a few thoughts/questions that I want to write down here, so I can see how they look on paper (sorry, screen) as much as anything. Some might either be obvious or plain wrong, but I want to get a bit more of a grasp of how these things fit together.

Nicholas Bourriaud argues that modernism never died, it just shifted shape and found a new dream. Read this PDF to get a fuller idea. It’s a decent chunk of his very useful, if slightly full of itself book Relational Aesthetics.

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February 4th 2008

the thinking aloud issue

Just had a quick fiddle with flash experimenting with a mini idea I had earlier. i've shape tweened all from times new roman to arial and back again. it works reasonably smoothly. some of the other fonts I tried (a rough looking calligraphy font called gutenberg textura and current flavour of the happy home catalogue, century gothic) I couldn't get to tween so well.
anyway, here it is.

all animated between times new roman and arial

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January 17th 2008

So i’ve been writing my proposal essay. Which has been fun. It’s been a challenge too, in a weird way. in the past i’ve just made stuff. I decided I was going to make something and then thought of things i’d do for it then i did them. I’d kind of plan on an ad hoc basis as i went along but didn’t challenge the process that much. Which is ludicrous, really.

Writing the proposal has helped me realise a few things:

1 – I need to spend some quality time looking at immersive installations. By immersive installations, i mean installations that include the viewer in some way. They spill out of the ordinary framework given to art and make the viewer a part of the creative process, not only by dint of their looking and thinking but also in subtle, or perhaps not so subtle ways, their interaction with the work. An early example of this is the Max Ernst painting of the nightingale featuring two children running away from said bird.

Max Ernst - Two children are threatened by a nightingale

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January 8th 2008

I haven’t blogged for a while again but that doesn’t mean I’ve stopped thinking. Clearly. Had a tutorial with Andy. We agreed that the way to go for the time being was to investigate several of the possible avenues open to me. And there are quite a few.

The more I look at the academic end of this project the more I think I need to have a big element that deals with it in what you might call a more romantic way. I say romantic for want of a better word. The most inspiring things I’ve seen for this have been fairy tales (slightly bizarrely, perhaps) and Anselm Kiefer’s book project, where he has big pages with layered up paint that could be showing everything and nothing. It’s like all meaning has been condensed into this space and turned into mulch. i like that. With this in mind I have been doing similar things of late.

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November 18th 2007

Okay, so this has been far too long in coming. But I have been busy. I feel mildly embarrassed, like I’m letting the course down or something. Anyway, the time is surely nigh to begin writing this blog in earnest and ordering thoughts properly for this project.

At this stage I have many thoughts. They need ordering.

1 – What my project is about

My initial proposal was to make a history of one word. The word I have been favouring most is ‘all’. It’s a simple word; the kind of word you hear every day. It’s short and unpretentious. It’s also loaded with meaning without being too sentimental. Hopefully I’ll uncover all sorts of odd historical details about it. In fact i’m set on all. It’s a good word. I want to make the project in a few media. I think meaning and language have undergone an interesting process (particularly in the past few years) and the more slippery areas of this enquiry will be well served by using a variety of media to mirror the different purposes and forms language can take. Theoretically, though, the whole thing will be well under the shadow of digital media. though I can see it’s going to be interesting to say the least discovering just what that means.

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