Saturday, June 28, 2008

Taking it slow...

About to head out on vacation for a week, and the theme is SLOW... I want to take ISO 100 shots @ f/16. I've packed my tripod and my neutral density filters, along with my polarizer. Put as much crap between the light and my lens as I can to slow it down...

We'll see where it takes me.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Generative Art

Bruce Sterling, over at Wired, commenting on Marius Watz, who writes
Do you think that generative practices should be necessarily placed within the system of art? Or could they be described more generally as a cultural phenomenon, regarding strategies like the visualisation of information, design, games etc.?

Whether a generative work should be understood as art or not obviously depends on the intention of its creator. The explosion in activity around generative systems is only to a certain extent due to their use in artistic practices, it stems just as much from technical experimentation or applications in architecture and design. Also, many media art projects may have generative aspects even if the intention of the work is not to be understood as part of the generative canon.

I would restrict the term "Generative Art" to describe works that deal explicitly with the creation of aesthetic output through semi-autonomous system. In many ways, the current use of the phrase to describe any aesthetic system based on computation is too broad, and does not examine what the core interest of the artist is. The current generation of Generative artists are united.

An interesting special case is the practice of information visualization, which has been hugely popular with audiences and theorists alike. On the surface visualizations are intended as designed objects with a utilitarian value, but in reality most viewers perceive them primarily as aesthetic objects. As a result, Ben Fry's visualization work has been shown at the Whitney Biennial, despite his constant refusal to describe his work as art. It seems that information visualizations in this way is recontextualized almost as a form of "outsider art".

The aesthetics of your own work is mostly organic, sometimes mechanic. Is this fact based on your personal vision of a synthetic utopia of a "better world" and is there a political demand in what you are doing?

My work is abstract in nature, and as such does not explicitly address anything outside itself. But my reference points when I started working as an artist were Cyberculture and the excesses of early electronic music, with its deeply indivualistic focus on physical experience mediated through technology. These influences can still be found in my work, hinting at techno-optimism and a belief in progressive hedonism. But I would stop short of articulating a truly utopian vision, the world is a much darker place today than it was in 1993.

On a personal level I am trying to communicate a sense of form as process, shaped by rules that are simultaneously organic and mechanical. I would like the viewer to experience the spaces I construct on a physical rather than intellectual level, so that there is always a duality between the classic perception of a 2-dimensional image and the promise of a "real" space. My current work with digital fabrication, 3D printing etc. is an attempt to break through the screen and present my structures in physical formats, with tactile and architectural qualities.

What is an algorithm for you - the broadest way you can think about it?

In the broadest sense, an algorithm can be a description of any kind of process, whether natural or artificial, scientifically rigid or posessing the "fuzzy logic" of everyday human decision-making. In this sense Fluxus instruction works like La Monte Young's "Draw a line and follow it" or William S. Burroughs' cut-up techniques qualify as algorithms, despite having no technological component.

My first experience of wanting to articulate a complex algorithm came when I stood as a child under a street light in heavy snowfall. Looking up at the constantly shifting spirals formed by the snow falling, I had the sense that it must be possible to describe the forces causing those chaotic yet recognizable forms. That sensation of being just on the verge of understanding is always there when I try to create new work....

Monday, April 28, 2008

Are We Soup Yet?

Hmmm... semester is almost done. Where am I that I wasn't 5 months ago? I've shown at MFA-H and FotoFest as part of SWAMP; I've got two pieces hanging at ArtStorm in a show opening this Saturday. I've met the heads of Aurora Picture Show and Mitchell Center at a handful of events. I've witnessed the FotoFest Meeting Place. I've generated new work (and strangely, the most recent stuff doesn't involve photography at all.)

Suppose that's a good semester wrap-up.

Already thinking towards the future... considering what generative software can do to music and visuals. Max/MSP Jitter... Do I get a MIDI StickBass? Perhaps. Or build my own custom switches and triggers. What will it tie to the visual realm? Tethered shooting triggered by computer? Live video feeds from camcorders and webcams with filtered manipulations based on sound? Probably.

Already starting to consider an MFA in Interdisciplinary Arts. The program should be online by Fall 2009, fingers crossed...

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

What I’m Not

Added to the infinite list of things that I am not: “C Programmer”.

That said, my innate groking ability and experience with other programming languages allows me to recognize, interpret, manipulate and manifest some degree of minor proficiency.

Friday, April 18, 2008


This week I had a good talk with a FotoFest curator about locations for my senior show. Also talked with the heads of the Mitchell Center and Aurora Picture Show. Both organizations, I think, would benefit from some of my skills/ideas. May be good job leads once I graduate, and good contacts to have regardless.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

A Really Big Shoe

Getting busy. Getting jiggy with it. Friday night I turned in an application for the annual Houston Center For Photography Member Show. Saturday night I had a screening of one of my videos at the Museum of Fine Arts-Houston. Sunday afternoon I went to a board meeting at ArtStorm, where some of my pinhole photographs have been chosen to be part of a show opening the first Saturday in May.

Things is happening.

And my recent cutup work is starting to take me in interesting artistic directions, not necessarily photographically. On one hand, I don't know how I feel about that, but on the other, I've never been one to limit myself to one pigeonhole. So it's exciting to see where this might be going.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Two Strategies

Initially I thought to get shown in a gallery you had to create LOTS of work in a series... 30+ prints that could be edited down by the curator to make a show.

Now I'm starting to think that an alternative would be to create fewer, but bigger works. Same amount of effort; perhaps easier because you don't have to see how far you can take your concept. May be another format of the "If you can't make it good, make it big" philosophy of R.L. Jones.

Worth considering. (And not to say you can't work in both methods...)

Tuesday, March 11, 2008


Yeah, I had that experience after I started doing DVD QC for THX — I'd find blocking errors in the sky a lot while driving.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Creator or Createe?

This week some of my work was compared to the kids who re-made Raiders of the Lost Ark shot for shot—at once paying homage to a movie they loved while creating an entirely new piece of art on a different level... Meta pop culture? Be Kind, Rewind apparently works in this same milieu. There are those who create new work, and those who love old work so much that their own new creations are undeniably linked. Is this where I find myself going?

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Vide Oh’s—A healthy part of your daily breakfast

Working on two simultaneous video projects at the moment dealing with our perception of digital quality:

Hamster Dance: Special Edition is a reconstruction of the original hamster dance animated gifs, with big, enlarged pixels, hand looped on the stage of Final Cut Pro, and presented on DVD with a "Digitally Mastered" bumper trailer from that company with the note which is deep.

Binaryqatsi might be the first of my re-interpreted ‘qatsi Trilogy... Ch 1 of the Koyaanisqatsi (1982) DVD, rendered as ASCII with a low-bit audio filter. If it seems worth pursuing, I may take a chapter of Powaqqatsi (1988) and run it through Cinepak compression. Granted Cinepak came out in 1992, but I like the idea of doing the first film in 80's tech, the 2nd in 90's CD-ROM movie compression, and perhaps the third, Naqoyqatsi (2002) with an even later codec, maybe with a YouTube slug in the lower corner.

It's a bit of a challenge getting my ASCII rendition to look decent in DV/NTSC... My first video-to-ascii filter didn't export movies at all, so I used SnapzPro to screen-cap the whole playback, then tried to scale it into the proper format. Came out pretty ugly. Currently trying Quartz Composer, exporting that, and dropping it into FCP to add the re-filtered audio (currently done with the Bitshredder filters in Garage Band). In neither filter can I set the frame rate... they both run much faster than 30fps, so conforming to NTSC is probably also introducing blur or averaging, which further hinders legibility.

Even on a 2x2.8 GHz Quad-Core Intel Xeon Mac Pro, the muxing of this stuff takes a long time. I can only imagine trying it on my old 2x1 GHz G4 MDD.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

As seen on teh interwebz

Plan A: go and get steak and beer.
Plan B: hit someone until they bring me steak and beer.
—Warren Ellis on Twitter.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Context is Key

by Chuck Ivy

When reviewing or criticizing art, the most important thing is context.
  1. Does the piece have any cultural cues, or studium, which are likely to be recognized by the general target audience? If the artists’ culture is different than the viewers’, is there a recognizable universal component that might resonate, transcending the cultural boundaries? If a studium exists, describe it. What is it about the piece that makes you immediately say “Oh, I see what they’re referencing here!” Or if no such cues are in the piece, does the work confuse you with its lack of reference? Can you still get a “read”?
  2. If the piece is being displayed as part of a series by the artist, is the series consistent? Within the medium of photography there are many variables that the artist might use. Just a few include, but are not limited to:
    1. Big Picture
      1. Concept
      2. Subject Matter
    2. Shooting Variables
      1. Film Choice
      2. Shutter Speed
      3. Aperture
      4. Perspective
        1. Camera Angle
        2. Focal Length
      5. Composition
      6. Color Palette
      7. Light Quality
      8. Light Direction
      9. Light Ratio
      10. Film Format/Size
      11. Subject Size
      12. Location/Backgrounds
    3. Printing Variables
      1. Contrast
      2. Density
      3. Tone/Color
      4. Paper Surface
      5. Print Size
      6. Borders

    A successful photographer strives to be consistent in as many variables as possible for any given series, deviating where the opportunity for creative or emotional impact outweighs the need for consistency. Similar criteria may be applied to other mediums. Is the artist consistent? Does the series feel cohesive? Or is it too scattered? By looking at the series, do you feel the artist has a distinctive voice that is successfully conveyed by the mastery of his craft? Or if the consistency is in concept and content rather than technique and process, is the artist’s message recognizably similar?
  3. How does the individual piece relate to the artists’ entire body of work? Beyond the context of the work shown, but in the larger sense of the artist’s life’s achievement. Does it show progression? Regression? Is it part of a movement or period specific to that artist? Are you even familiar enough with the artist’s history to make this judgement fairly?
  4. How does the piece, or the artists’ entire body of work relate to the trends in the medium contemporary to the artist? Are there trends at work in the art world, either in the context of the show, the local art scene or globally, that the piece plays against or within? Where does the piece belong in the larger context of art as a whole?

(download article as pdf, x-posted @ UH Photo/Digital Blog)

Monday, February 11, 2008


  • Last night Jamie Zawinski posted my “Basic Wire & Cable” video to his blog. Nice to get a little exposure, and a few comments. Guessing he found it on YouTube, searching for “Conet.” Either there, or where I posted it over in White Chapel.
  • Thinking of submitting that, along with my collaboration video that I did with Victor & Nathan, to the S.W.A.M.P. video call-for-entries for FotoFest, under the Transformation category. Need to burn DVDs of both...

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Not-so-instant any more

The New York Times posts that Polaroid is abandoning instant photography. They’re shutting down the factories, and will only have enough stock to last into 2009. Still, I’ll quickly miss the Type 55 P/N film that I’ve grown to love. Not having to muck with developing sheet film; having an ISO 25 or 50 large format B&W neg film; and being able to solarize my negs right out of the camera… This will indeed suck mightily.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Crunch #1

First round of deliverables due this week.
  • Triptych 2008_01: Mind Control Device I & II have been printed. Still working on III.
  • Did some location shooting for Mind Control Device III today. Considering doing post-processing with a borrowed Wacom tablet.
  • Identity project website coming along nicely. May not fill out the 5x5 grid entirely. OK with that.
  • Straight jacket came in the mail today. New prop for upcoming shoots. Have already contacted first model for possible work this weekend.
Writing a list of critique criteria due in a few weeks. Thinking of applying separate points for individual piece vs body of work. Singles include punctum / studium, due to the limited context of the piece, while series would apply the uniformity codes previously discussed.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Context is Key... in viewing, too!

I wandered into the Blaffer Gallery today to check out the Chantal Akerman show, Moving Through Time and Space. I think I was more interested in the presentation, the transformation of space, and the technical aspects of the installation, rather than the actual content of the video pieces themselves. I don't know if it's specific to these works, or if, in general, I have less patience for video art. When I watch a movie, I sit down and prepare myself to spend a lot of time with it. When I walk past a video monitor, coming in at any point in the timeline, it's harder for me to enter the experience.

[more later?]

Monday, January 28, 2008

Life Cycle of a Blog Post

As a follow-up to my post from last night, I offer Wired’s “Life Cycle of a Blog Post” which shows just some of the ways that these words take on a life of their own after hitting the Publish button.

In my case, Google Reader had aggregated Chuy’s message from the RSS feed. Just a reminder than things deleted off the internet are seldom gone for good.

Taken away in the night...

Chuy posted over at the UH Photo/Digital Blog
This Blog is Dead, Just Like Photography
I could be wrong, but for me it is very difficult to have to sort through all the “Photography is Dead” reviews in order to find the other photo news, which is why this Blog was started. Isn’t there a simpler, less cluttered way of presenting these Junior Block review assignments? Another page?
The post was made at 11pm. By 2am, it was gone. I wonder where it went?

[Edit: Chuy, on afterthought, decided to take his post down. Nothing nefarious. Really.]

Monday, January 21, 2008

Sequence: Order in the Court

I'd previously suggested a triptych composed of thesis, antithesis and synthesis. My first within that structure is coming along nicely. I'm particularly happy with my synthesis—blending a child's toy with one of Tesla's patent diagrams. I've envisioned the 3rd shot, which I haven't taken yet, and it's the antithesis pic... my daughter holding the toy. The final conceptual challenge to the piece is deciding what order I want to show the images in. I'd originally thought T-A-S, but now wonder if T-S-A might have more impact... show what the blend is before giving the context as toy.

This will all make more sense when I post the pics, but I won't do that until I've shot the 3rd one.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

I think I’ll go for a walk.

Peter Plagens, in his Newsweek article “Is Photography Dead?” suggests that the ubiquity of digital tools such as Photoshop has destroyed any notion of truth in photography. Truth, however, is a tenuous term. From what I can divine, Plagens considers as his sole definition of truth the supposition that photons, projected or reflected, have struck and left their imprint upon a light-sensitive medium, be it a chemical emulsion or a digital chip. This interpretation allows for staged shots, manipulated events, and even “lies” derived from tricks of lighting, time, focus, or perspective, to name a few commonly used photographic techniques. His estimation is that a photograph is true because something was within view of the lens for whatever duration of time the shutter was open.

Interestingly enough, I’m OK with that definition, for the most part. In my own photographic explorations I have created many images that challenge our perception of reality, through distortions of time and space, meaning or light.

New York Church DoorThis is a pinhole photograph created at around 5 PM on a typical work day in Manhattan. The camera was about one foot off the ground on a tripod; the nature of a pinhole camera’s tiny aperture leads to a near infinite depth of field; the film format and shallow focal length of the camera in question do an amazing foreshortening of the foreground (in this case, a steam grate on the sidewalk); and the exposure was two minutes long, with more than a hundred pedestrians walking between the camera and the doorway while the shutter was open.

By Plagens’ definition, this photograph is truthful. I agree, but with a caveat: you could go your whole life without seeing the world like this, even if you passed that spot every day on your own commute. The distortions of time, by the long exposure, and space, by the mechanics of the camera involved, create an image that is alien to the human experience.

So truth is truth with a grain of salt. Let’s move on to the core of Plagens’ argument: that digital editing has made photography today less truthful than it has been in the past, particularly pre-1970. Why did he pick the 70’s? Perhaps because Jerry Uelsmann’s sandwiched negative and multiple enlarger techniques were getting recognition then. But in the article Plagens even mentions the Pictorialist movement that was popular from 1885 until around 1914. Pictorialists scratched and painted on their negatives to achieve personal artistic expression. Reflet du soleil, Océan n°23 by Gustave Le Gray And Gustave Le Gray in the 1860’s and 1870’s would regularly combine the sky from one photograph with the horizon and foreground from one or more others. Either approach, it would seem, dismisses any claims Plagens might make that these fabrications are a recent occurrence—he accuses digital work as being no more than painting, which is, in fact what the Pictorialists wished to achieve; and the sandwiching of negatives allowed the combination of two or more elements that need not be present at the same space at the same time. This is nothing new to the history of photography. Perhaps it is more democratic today, as the tools become more accessible, but in that regard it merely follows other instances where photographic techniques have been made available to the masses—the French government giving the Daguerreotype process to the people; or the introduction of the Kodak Brownie as an inexpensive way for anyone to own a camera.

No, I say that photography is no more true or false than it has always been. The medium has not lost its soul. Times, techniques and tastes may change, but it’s always been about capturing the image desired using the tools available, and nothing more. Plagens has missed the point: for every documentarian, there is a dreamer, and both are free to use whatever they have at their disposal to create the images that they think are important to share. The dreamer often wants to create their own “fictive” world in which to place their creations. Digital manipulation is merely another tool to achieve that goal. Likewise, if Plagens maintains that only the documentarian is truthful, such a role as photographer has not died either. There’s nothing stopping a straight photographer from releasing their image to the world unmanipulated.

—Chuck Ivy

ZTD 30-Day Challenge - Day 1

Minimalist ZTD
  1. Collect
  2. Process
  3. Plan
  4. Do

  • Write Truth in Photography Paper done
  • Write Pre-image Paper
  • Edit first Triptych done, perhaps. If I make 1 triptych for Assignment #1, instead of 3. First 2 images are edited, at least...

S-S-S-Saturday Ni-ight!

Went to see Ashley Maclean & Traci Mattock @ DeSantos Gallery tonight. Really enjoyed the fact that they were showing and selling the original Polaroids rather than reproductions and larger editions. Ran into Wendy Watriss and broached the subject of the photo class of 2009 having their senior show at the FotoFest building. She seemed open to the idea, but suggested I talk to her about it after FotoFest proper has finished and she has some time. I'd emailed Jennifer Ward with similar thoughts yesterday, so at least the suggestion has been made...

And now for your reading pleasure, William Labov's analysis of the parts of the anecdote:
  1. abstract: a short summary of the story, encapsulating the point of the story and alerting the listener that a narrative is about to begin.
  2. orientation: identifies the time, place, persons, and their activity or situation, occurring immediately before the first narrative clause.
  3. complicating action: a temporal sequencing between narrative clauses involving the core of the story.
  4. evaluation: interruptions in the story that reaffirm the tellability of the narrative or assess the situation, either in the form of an external commentary, or by statements embedded in the story itself.
  5. resolution: the conclusion of the narrative.
  6. coda: closes the sequences of complicating actions, completing the story such that everything has been accounted for.
from Teletheory: Grammatology in the Age of Video by Gregory Ulmer.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

And I Quote...

“Make no little plans. They have no magic to stir men’s blood and probably themselves will not be realized. Make big plans, aim high in hope and work, remembering that a noble, logical diagram once recorded will never die, but long after we are gone will be a living thing, asserting itself with ever-growing insistency. Remember that our sons and grandsons are going to do things that would stagger us. Let your watchword be order and your beacon beauty. Think big.”

Links to Check Out




Today our Digital 2 (This Time It's Personal) class went to see AES+F at Station Museum of Contemporary Art. The bodies of work presented were: Last Riot, Defile, and Suspects. Five of us (a third of the class!) ate breakfast from The Breakfast Klub on the hood of Greg's car. Stephan might even have photographic evidence of such.

Baudrillard on Barbara Kruger

Like utopia, all the utopias of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, by becoming real, have driven reality from reality, leaving us in a hyper-reality devoid of meaning because meaning and the finality of reality have become absorbed and digested. The only residue of reality is a surface without depth, but with an intense superficial energy that sufices to propel the fragments of reality into a different orbit. No one knows what mysterious gravitational pull still links the scattered fragments of reality. Perhaps technology alone preserves a constellation of meaning and reality. By the same token, irony has passed into things. It is no longer a critical function, a mirror reflecting the uncertainty, the probable absurdity, of the world. Today, irony is inherent in things, it has become an objective irony. The instant things become man-made products, artifacts, signs, commodities, they perform an artificial and ironic function by their very existence, whose origin is transparent. We no longer have to project irony into a natural world; we no longer need an external mirror that offers the world the image of its double. Our universe has swallowed its double. It has therefore become spectral, transparent. And the irony of this embodied double bursts out continually, in every parcel of our signs, in every detail of our models. We no longer have to do what the surrealists did: juxtapose objects with the absurdity of their functions, in a poetic unreality. Objects now take it upon themselves to become clear ironically, all by themselves. Things discard their meaning effortlessly. We no longer have to underscore artifice or nonsense; they are part of the very depiction of things, part of their visibility.

Today, all things are doomed to appearance. Having no origin and deriving from a few general modes, things have no secret. They are condemned to publicity, to making themselves believable, to being seen and promoted. Our modern world is one of publicity in its very essence (or rather in its transparency). One would think it was invented solely to be publicized in a different world. We should not believe that publicity came after commodities. In the very heart of merchandise (and, by extension, in the very heart of our entire universe of signs), there is an evil genius of advertising, a trickster who has integrated the buffoonery of merchandise with its mise-en-scène, its staging. An ingenious scriptwriter (perhaps capital itself ) has pulled the world into a phantasmagoria, and we are all its spellbound victims. Today, all things want to be manifested. Technological, industrial, and media objects, indeed, all sorts of artefacts, even natural objects, wish to signify, to be seen, read, recorded, photographed. You only think you are photographing a scene or a landscape. In fact, the scene or landscape wishes to be photographed. It determines you; you are merely a supernumerary in its staging, secretly moved by the selfpublicizing perversion of the surrounding world. That is the irony — I might almost be tempted to say the pataphysical irony — of the situation. Metaphysics is actually swept away by this reversal of the situation: the subject is no longer at the origin of the process; it is merely the agent of the objective irony of the world. Barbara Kruger might offer I’LL NOT BE YOUR MIRROR as the epitaph for this veritable subversion of the traditional universe, for this new order, or ironic disorder, of things. WE WILL NO LONGER BE YOUR FAVOURITE DISAPPEARING ACT. A defensive statement, I would personally rather shift into offensive terms: YOU WILL BE OUR FAVOURITE DISAPPEARING ACT! YOU WILL BE OUR MIRROR. This would illustrate the ironic and triumphant revenge of the object rather than the unfortunate revolt of the subject.

But this is only a manner of speaking. The message conveyed by these images is never a true message. Luckily for us, I might add. For if the weight of the words were to be added to the shock of the photos, the totality would be a semantically unbearable redundancy. Hence, text and photo designate one another ironically. Behind these images there are overtones of Magritte’s formula: ‘Ceci n’est pas une pipe’ (This is not a pipe). The text says ‘This photo is not a photo’, but at the same time the photo says ‘This text is not a message’. This means what it means, but this (the political, feminist, ideological message) cannot be made to speak unless it is isolated from the whole, and that would be unfair and dishonest. For we would then have nothing but naïve prophecies or banal stereotypes. The singularity of these images is that the text (which we seize upon first, in accordance with an old mental tradition of reading) is instantly short-circuited by the image, which, for its part, cannot help ceasing to impose itself as total visual evidence or as truth because it is intercepted and diverted by the text. Neither is the key to the other. The text and the photo function together in order to produce a real image — not by mutual reinforcement but by annulling and foiling one another. It is the internal irony, the subtle contradiction slipping in among the elements of the montage, that makes the montage aesthetically readable. And it is the disaccumulation, not the accumulation, of meaning that makes us accomplices of the image. Incidentally, this irony is sharpened by the almost surrealistic exorbitance of the montage.

In all these images, the photo and the message are exaggerated, making the images seem like scholarly or medical panels designed to explain the physiology or pathology of a society to the children, the handicapped, or the deaf-mutes of ideology. They are almost tactile images for the blind. No doubt this reveals that we have truly become societies with a weak ideological sensibility, a weak capacity of reading — societies diminished in meaning and in the perception of meaning, handicapped with regard to meaning. Hence, we can alert minds not with subtle hieroglyphs but with Mad[ ison] Ave hieroglyphs, whose overblown nature exposes our situation. Likewise, the continual admonishment by means of the YOU, the WE, the I, the categorical imperative of the personal pronoun, exposes a society with a weak identity. The YOU, the I, the WE, are designated only by an antiphrasis, which in itself is violently ironic because it addresses authorities that are now disappearing. I do not believe that these images create a collective mobilization or awareness. If they have such a political goal, they would be naïve (as naïve as advertising when it believes it is delivering a message, whereas nowadays any text whatsoever is read as an image). These images create not an ideological depth but an ironic depth, by means of the injunction of the YOU and its repetition, which actually emphasize the absence of the other, of the interlocutor — or at least his problematical presence. This is the litany of a society of communication which does not itself communicate, in which the medium exists, all media exist, but not a single message can be deciphered collectively. Or rather, all messages exist, fully available, but there is no one at the other end of the sign. A society in which one desperately tries to speak to someone — but who?

That is how I would interpret this vehement feminine addressing of the masculine, or vehement interpellation of power, all powers that be: I AM YOUR IMMACULATE CONCEPTION. WE ARE YOUR CIRCUMSTANTIAL EVIDENCE. For does something masculine still exist to answer, does any power still exist to reply? Is there still enough of a sexual difference for antagonistic communication to exist? And what good can it do to make the masculine admit — when it no longer has the strength — that it is the masculine? The masculine can respond only by vanishing, which it has already done. And then what? By the same token, is there still such a thing as a power relationship, a political contradiction strong enough to produce a radical and antagonistic challenge to power? And what advantage could there be in forcing power to admit that it is power at the very moment when it no longer has the means or political energy?

Thus the virtue of these images resides, no doubt, not in political demystification or provocation but in designating the absence of either the virtual antagonist or the masses and thereby underlining the unreality of our state of things. By exaggerating the recipient’s goal, these images reXect the unconsummated marriage of communication, the blank writing of a politics of the image. That is why the medium decomposes into a montage; the medium itself no longer believes in the true coherence of its own message. This does not make it lose all its power. It maintains its superior power of irony, and it bears witness to its rage to signify even when there is nothing left to say. THE MEDIUM IS BEAUTIFUL.

Another thing I like about these images (images?) is their virtual relationship to the surrounding space. One can imagine them in just about any size: miniaturized as decals or stencils or graffiti (they could even be turned into postcards), or blown up as posters or enormous billboards in the heart of a city or sky writing on a screen of clouds. Or, of course, one can imagine them in a gallery or museum. But even in such an exhibition they would denote all other sizes. They are actually mobile orbital images meant to describe space (including interior space) rather than to occupy the fixed space of conventional art. They no longer have the constraints of the (aesthetic) proscenium; instead, they have the new freedom of the movie screen. They cannot be isolated from one another; they form a chain reaction. They are like a continuous orbit of reXecting panels that mirror our ‘exorbitant’ modern condition. They disengage themselves from a frame line, from any rigorous localizing, as well as from the determined mode of vision that is part of the aesthetic definition of art (which still exercises great control over our present-day depictions). Now, at last, they regain something of the strength and immediacy of forms before, or after, the aestheticization of our culture. One can see them either as advertising, pure and simple, as advertising images that are almost superficial and stereotypical, or as quasi-primitive masks that, beyond their aesthetic quality (which is only attributed to them subsequently, or which they never attain), live from the intensity of the phantasms or exorcisms they induce. Just like masks, these images perform a kind of exorcism on our society. Like masks, which absorb the identities of actors, dancers, and spectators, and whose function is thereby to provoke something like a thaumaturgic (traumaturgic) vertigo, I believe that these images have a force and function to absorb the interlocutor (YOU) and send him reeling, rather than to communicate. Somewhat like those fascinating faces for which the written text would be their eyes and gaze — absorption and rejection, exactly as in exorcistic and paroxysmal forms. Kruger’s images thus completely reXect the society we live in — a society of paroxysm and exorcism, that is, a society in which we have absorbed our own reality and our own identity to a dizzying degree and now try to reject them forcefully, a society in which all reality has absorbed its double to a dizzying degree and now tries to expel it in all its forms.

Translated by Joachim Neugroschel
Originally published as “Untitled”, in Barbara Kruger, New York: Mary Boone and
Michael Werner, 1987, no page numbers. This essay was written on the occasion of a
Kruger exhibition in May 1987.

Genosko, Gary. Uncollected Baudrillard.
London, , GBR: Sage Publications Ltd, 2001. p 137.

Readings of Interest


Returning to the library today:
  • Of Grammatology by Jacques Derrida
  • Applied Grammatology: Post(e)-Pedagogy from Jacques Derrida to Joseph Beuys by Gregory L. Ulmer
  • Teletheory: Grammatology in the Age of Video by Gregory Ulmer
  • Postmodernism and Performance by Nick Kaye
Didn't make it through as much of those over winter break as I would have liked...
Yvonne Rainer's Three Levels of Performance Reality:
  1. Primary: Performing original material in a personal style.
  2. Secondary: Performing someone else's material in a style approximating the original, or working in a known style or 'genre'.
  3. Tertiary: Performing someone else's material in a style completely different from, and/or inappropriate to, the original.
Kaye, Postmodernism and Performance, p. 114

Solo to be performed in any way by anyone

For Yoko Ono and Toshi Ichiyanagi
Tokyo, Oct. 24, 1962
John Cage

In a situation provided with maximum amplification (no feedback), perform a disciplined action.
  • with any interruptions.
  • fulfilling in whole or part an obligation to others.
  • no two performances to be of the same action, nor may that action be the performance of a "musical" composition.
  • no attention to be given the situation (electronic, musical, theatrical).
  • The first performance was the writing of this manuscript (first margination only).
This is 4'33" (No. 2) and also Pt. 3 of a work of which Atlas Eclipticalis is Pt. 1

Ibid., p. 96

Perhaps more scraps later today...

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The Variables of Photography

Three years ago, I noted the following:
There are many variables in photography, just a few include, but are not limited to:
  1. Big Picture
    1. Concept
    2. Subject Matter
  2. Shooting Variables
    1. Film Choice
    2. Shutter Speed
    3. Aperture
    4. Perspective
      1. Camera Angle
      2. Focal Length
    5. Composition
    6. Color Palette
    7. Light Quality
    8. Light Direction
    9. Light Ratio
    10. Film Format/Size
    11. Subject Size
    12. Location/Backgrounds
  3. Printing Variables
    1. Contrast
    2. Density
    3. Tone/Color
    4. Paper Surface
    5. Print Size
    6. Borders
A successful photographer strives to be consistent in as many variables as possible for any given series, deviating where the opportunity for creative or emotional impact outweighs the need for consistency.
While this assessment still holds true, I now believe I need to expand the conceptual categorizations, much as the technical has been enumerated. I'm not abandoning Alexander's Pattern Language concepts, but considering how they can be applied to subject as well as physical units.

Wooden Trichotomies

Photographic triptych where each photo represents one of:
  • Thesis
  • Antithesis
  • Synthesis
First take? Tesla's patents; Lillian's toys; Merging of toys and engine imagery.

Further Reading: