Friday, December 21, 2012

21 Shelters for the Apocalypse That Never Comes

Begin by reading Giovanni Tiso's piece here, and then choose how you wish to envy the dead:

Und die musik

Monday, October 22, 2012

Lei Cox's Being There: Digital's Hidden Dimension

The importance of the transition from analogue to digital in the realm of video art cannot be overestimated; new understandings of the status of the digital video image were seized with a mixture of enthusiasm and anxiety by artists seeking to explore the seemingly endless transformative and malleable qualities of the digital image – its capacity to be altered, its capacity to be transmitted telematically and its capacity (or lack thereof) for representation.

These are some of the issues to which video artist Lei Cox addresses in his work. A recent (partial) retrospective of his career, Twenty-Six Years Later (a journey to fiction and back),  presented a selection of Cox's work from 1985 to the present and included a variety of Cox's single-channel and installation video work. However, the centrepiece of the exhibition was a triptych entitled Being There, itself a composite of three separately produced but related video works Catching Sight of Sputnik 2009/11, Race 2010/11 and Auto Race 2010. This triptych took up the major part at the end of the gallery, its centrality signalled by the relative size of the projections (each segment taking up an entire wall) compared to the other works which were mounted at a distance from the central installation on much smaller screens with headphones in order that they not interfere with the sound of the larger works. The implication here is that the triptych serves as a kind of summation of Cox's work to date. The question then becomes what is this summation is being offered here, and to what future does it point?

To begin, descriptions of each of the separate videos. Catch Sight of Sputnik 2009/11 is a characteristically mordant exploration of space-travel conspiracy theories (e.g. the moon-landing was staged by Stanley Kubrick etc.) In this video, Cox performs a series of dance-like manoeuvres – literally, one small step followed by one giant leap over and over again – in an apparently lunar landscape under a fantastic star-filled sky at one point traversed by a retro-futuristic rocket ship. Gradually, an important transformation occurs: the lunar landscape gradually reveals itself to be a terrestrial desert, with an all-too terrestrial blue sky above it. Throughout this revealed fakery, Cox continues his Neil Armstrong dance.

Race 2010 continues the retro-futurist demystifications of Catching Sight of Sputnik in a more deflationary manner. A single, diminutive toy robot struggles to navigate its way across a desert landscape (as with Sputnik, shot along the Salt Lake Flats in Utah). The robot, ill-suited to movement against so uneven a terrain, frequently falls and must be restored to verticality by Cox until the robot-toy finally exits the frame. Such slow, jerky movement is contrasted by the last video in the triptych – Auto Race 2010. In this video, Cox drives at speed in a pick-up truck in the same desert as the other two works. He described, during his artist talk at the Gurevich Gallery opening, his activities as a sort of large-scale tracery – with the movement of the truck scoring patterns on the earth that followed the patterns of celestial events.

In all three of these videos, Cox explores the malleability of digital and “real” space by emphasizing scale: whether the quotidian scale of a truck driving helter skelter through a desert plain, through to the pathos-ridden miniscule scale of a toy robot, to the astronomic scale of the faked moon-landing of the Sputnik video. As in all of his work, Cox places himself in each of these videos, but in different relations to the framing space: he is unseen in the truck tracing patterns that are only visible from an air-born view-point (significantly not shown in the Auto Race work); he is the giant figure picking up the toy robot (such that only Cox's arm and leg are seen); he is the miniscule figure leaping around a deserted planetary surface, gradually increasing in size as the extra-terrestrial reveals its terrestrial reality until he almost takes up the entire space of the screen.

What is the function of these changes of scale? I would suggest that two things are happening here. On the one hand, the human body – specifically Cox's body – is digitally endowed with certain extensions of its ability to manipulate its environment by means of its malleability, thereby giving an unprecedentedly inventive analogy to Marshal McLuhan's well-known theorization of the essentially prosthetic nature of technology. On the other hand, there is a significant extension of the the nature of the digital image itself. The alterations of scale do not occur only at the figural level (the artist's image) but also occur at the level of the ground against which the figure impresses himself. While it is generally held that the flatness of the digital image enables its malleability – as Flusser suggests in his book Into the Universe of the Technical Image – Cox, by telescoping both figure and ground, striates the smoothness of the digital image by compelling it to reveal, in a suitably sci-fi formulation, its hidden dimension

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Fourteen Fossils

AKA the sex appeal of the inorganic.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

The New Ennui Dictionary of Quotes

I depend on the stars
and the places of night

That is what it is

intent space, and
the speed which is light, growing
past any shape

the half-door or the door
slightly open

        this is what happens when I move
        (or I see motion, all of it

                I'm in it

       the world depopulated
       those configurations of spirits

       scattered and gone

       so to disappear

       this side of the road


              I want room

Larry Eigner, "For Sleep"

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Database as Cultural Dominant

"Computer assisted technologies have allowed us to look deeper into matter and out into space, to elicit or construct meaningful patterns, rhythms, cycles, correspondences, interrelationships and dependencies at all levels."

 "Computational systems have led us to an understanding of how the design and construction of our world could constitute an emergent process, replacing the old top-down approach with a bottom-up methodology. Nano science has been particularly suggestive in this, as well as other, even more challenging respects."

"Telematic systems have enabled is to distribute ourselves over multiple locations, to diversify our identity, to extend our reach over formidable distances with formidable speed."

"After the novel, and subsequently cinema privileged narrative as he key form of cultural expression of the modern age, the computer age introduces its correlate - database. Many new media objects do not tell stories; they don't have a beginning or end; in fact, they don't have any development, thematically, formally or otherwise which would organize their elements into a sequence. Instead, they are collections of individual items, where every item has the same significance as any other."

"The data stored in a database is organized for fast search and retrieval by a computer and therefore it is anything but a simple collection of items. Different types of databases - hierarchical, network, relational and object oriented - use different models to organize data."

"New media objects may or may not employ these highly structured database models; however, from the point of view of user's experience a large proportion of them are databases in a more basic sense. They appear as collections of items on which the user can perform various operations: view, navigate, search."

"Following art historian Ervin Panofsky's analysis of linear perspective as a 'symbolic form' of the modern age, we may even call the database a new symbolic form of a computer age..., a new way to structure our experience of ourselves and the world. Indeed, after the death of God (Nietzsche), the end of grand narratives of Enlightenment (Lyotard) and the arrival of the Web (Tim Berners-Lee), the world appears to us as an endless and unstructured collection of images, texts and other data records, it is only appropriate that we will be moved to model it as a database."

"The world is reduced to two kinds of software objects which are complementary to each other: data structures and algorithms. Any process or task is reduced to an algorithm, a final sequence of simple operations which a computer can execute to accomplish a given task. Any any object in the world - be it the population of a city, or the weather over the course of a century, a chair, a human brain - is modeled as a data structure, i.e. data organized in a particular way for efficient search and retrieval."

"Algorithms and data structures have a symbiotic relationship. The complex the data structure of a computer program, the simpler the algorithm needs to be, and vice versa. Together, data structures and algorithms are two halves of the ontology of the world according to a computer."


Texts by Roy Ascott's "Introduction", Engineering Nature: Art and Consciousness in the Post-Biological Era and Lev Manovich, The Language of New Media.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Images Workbook

This blog isn't becoming a found images blog, I can promise you. These are just some hopefully inspirational images for what I'm working on that will help me come up with this. So it may not make a lot of sense to casual readers, but trust me, I know what I'm doing. (Ha!)