tom moody

Archive for the ‘general’ Category

as go the quotes, so goes the GIF theory

A few more thoughts on Paddy Johnson's essay for Artnet: Will Galleries and Museums Ever Embrace Animated GIF Art?.

As noted in an update to the previous post, Johnson didn't do well to rely so heavily on quotes from Andrew Benson, a GIF maker coming out of the film community (as opposed to the art community). His statements such as "I feel like there’s not a good way to view [GIFs] in the gallery setting” and that a web browser is “a pretty terrible art viewing context” are highly debatable. Johnson knows that Aron Namenwirth, Marcin Ramocki, Paul Slocum, Sally McKay, Lorna Mills, and yours truly were all involved with gallery GIF display going back many years. How much did Benson know about this art-centric dialogue? Johnson described me as an "early adopter" and for the record, Rhizome's San Francisco gallery show "The GIF Show" (which I was in) and my Brooklyn gallery solo show "Room Sized Animated GIFs" took place 8 years ago. Where was Benson during all this?

As for Johnson's statement that GIF culture "lives or dies" at the behest of social media platforms, again she relies on Benson and he is dead wrong about the following statement:

"We’ve come to rely on these consumer-grade solutions because that’s what’s available, but it was never the intention of the makers. It was never the intention of Google+ to be the platform for sharing animated GIFs,” Benson said.

Just under three years ago Tom Anderson, the famous "Tom of Myspace," wrote this statement of pure PR flackery on Google+:

I was planning to write a semi-long post on the "Power of the .GIF" But this photo says it all. We allowed .GIFs at MySpace and it added so much personality to profile photos, comments, shares and everything else. I knew FB was the anti-MySpace and didn't want that kind of Tomfoolery on the network, but I'm glad to see them back here at G+. I think G+ has a nice balance of the serious and the whimsical, and .GIFs are your friend :) Wonder if Twitter will be allowing more rich media inline, or will they hold down the 140 character fort?

Around the same time, Lorna Mills and a handful of others interested in the GIF as art seconded Tom by moving their production over to G+. This was not an impromptu or guerrilla action, it was more like a scenario where artists take advantage of cheap space offered by a real estate developer hoping to attract attention to a new building. And now they're all bored with it. GIF activity may "live or die" depending on the platform but in this case it wasn't from any lack of interest on the part of the platform itself.

What I told Johnson in my phone interview for the article was this: Eight years ago when I did the "Room Sized Animated GIFs" show we couldn't get any traditional art critics (Times, Time Out, etc) to focus on the show. My feeling at the time was they didn't know what a GIF was, or if they did, they didn't feel comfortable evaluating it. If we did the same show today, every one of them would know what a GIF is, but the show would come with the burden of widespread familiarity with "reaction GIFs," YouTube screencaps, and other popular uses of GIFs. It would still be hard to get a serious review of say, an abstract GIF, or whether a GIF is still a GIF if you show it on a TV, or what enlarged scale does to a GIF, or the browser-oriented nature of the GIF, etc. That's because we haven't had enough shows or criticism in the intervening eight years that would address these questions.

Addendum: I questioned how effective Google+'s GIF commitment would be in a couple of posts back when G+ started. Prior to G+, Google had been indifferent to GIFs and seemed to be wanting to phase them out in favor of HTML5 magic but about that time GIFs became a "thing" and they got on board with "Tom."

Addendum 2: Via email Johnson asked if I really thought Benson, Mills et al were bored with Google. When she interviewed them, she said, they "complained that Google kept changing what you could do on the platform and the environment became less conducive to posting and sharing." All right, perhaps "bored with dealing with Google" might be a better way to say it. I can't have much sympathy for their gripes since I thought GIFs (and their discussion) looked bad on that platform from Day One. It's Google, what did they expect would happen? My point was to fact check Benson's statement that Google never intended for G+ to be a GIF sharing platform. They did. It was encouraged. GIFs are going strong all over the web (tumblr, Dump, blogs, online magazines, pretty much everywhere but Facebook, and possibly mobile) regardless of one group's expectations or misunderstandings regarding one particular platform.

- tom moody

April 23rd, 2014 at 9:43 am

Posted in general

addendum to sara ludy post

Have been massaging this paragraph on the non-romantic new romantic Sara Ludy -- it's a bit clearer now:

Ludy describes Pan GIFs as "a series of animated gifs displayed as tiled backgrounds. Each gif is composed of two photographs that alternate with a linear transition, creating a repetition which both embraces and attempts to break the mundanity of everyday landscapes and architectures." By means of a simple, sweeping left-to-right pan one photo gradually eclipses a second, different-angle view of the same subject (a forest, a wall with cast shadow, a plant in a planter). While the scan is occurring a clear reading of both images breaks down. Because the GIF is "tiled" the scanning movement repeats across the entire screen, providing a view rather like an insect's compound eye. This causes a single predominant color or texture momentarily to colonize the screen. The lurch into a de-familiarizing zone of pure form is a classical technique, even though the underlying images may be romantic ones of gardens and hillsides. But even the disrupted tropes aren't that romantic: they seem to have been chosen for a vibe of sterile alienation.

- tom moody

April 22nd, 2014 at 7:36 am

Posted in general

from brand-brand to art-brand (more on michael manning)

Thanks to Michael Manning for the shout and Lindsay Howard for noting my (doomed) attempt to give context to his paintings -- the occasion is this Rhizome interview of the former by the latter, published yesterday.

In January last year I wrote this about Manning:

[His] recent images consist of touchscreen paintings with menu-selected brushes, textures and hues; am guessing these are "augmented finger paintings" and not done with a stylus. He has made them on the iPad as well as with Windows 8 demo screens inside the Microsoft Store [alien country for the Apple-brainwashed creative elite -- obligatory dig --ed.]. The buildup of color, washes, and calligraphic line in digital gesture painting can be seductive but let's remember the original AbEx artists also employed cinematic scale, gloppy physical media, and the athleticism of pushing the glop around with long-handled brushes. They would have laughed to see people making micro-movements on a TV screen and then saving them as jpegs and PNGs. The "action painting" model has been pretty thoroughly discredited but those are the reasons it's in museums, at any rate. Am possibly more interested in Manning's steady output of tiny de Kooningesque and Twomblyesque color-spasms as performance-cum-notation having to do with "available technology" and the instant masterpieces "apps" promise to deliver than some electronic de-reification of the earnest Real of gestural abstraction, although both motivations might be present. Also they are pretty, and it's always good to annoy the Marxist art-as-hair-shirt crowd.

The next day Brian Droitcour covered the same work for Rhizome but couched it more in terms of brands and corporate colonization of the web. Essentially he said that Manning is post-brand in not restricting his work to a single "silo." Yet both of us mentioned the Microsoft Store -- Rhizome even ran a photo of a store exterior. That's a hook and refers to a brand even if it's an ironic joke. I ventured that the "Store" paintings were actually better than the iPad paintings and Droitcour accused me on twitter of loving Microsoft. Now Manning says we're both nitpicking because "I don't really care about brands or the branded part of any of it, I just look at them all like toys lol." (Then why did you call them... oh, never mind.) None of this matters in the slightest to the art dealers who are currently selling printed-out versions of the paintings -- all the collector wants to know is that it's being written about in the right venues. More power to Manning for leveraging the critical vacuum to his advantage, I guess. His own stated reasons for doing the paintings are perfectly valid.

- tom moody

April 17th, 2014 at 9:59 am

Posted in general

twitter convo re: ADDAC wav player module

Tom Moody: ADDAC Systems damn your temperamental wav player and its proper wav order and naming syntax all to hell (much as i like this module)

Zachary Michels: I've written a Matlab script that converts WAV's and file names to put on an SD card. Let me know if you want it...

Tom Moody: Thanks - saving & naming wavs "by hand" makes me think about them more - was commenting mainly on the ADDAC player's quirks

Zachary Michels: I hear ya. I've also enjoyed surprises that come from being able to quickly and mindlessly populate an SD card with new WAV's. :)

Tom Moody: "Surprises from being able to quickly and mindlessly populate an SD card with new wavs" OK sold -- now i need to learn Matlab

- tom moody

April 14th, 2014 at 8:48 am

Posted in general

a sad boo-hoo to the google plus GIF clique

Thanks to Paddy Johnson for some recent coverage: a GIF of the Day and some quotes in her artnet article, "Will Galleries and Museums Ever Embrace Animated GIF Art?"

Threaded through these plugs are my gripes about the light weight of concepts such as GIFs of the Day, so you can't say Johnson turns a hearing-impaired ear to her critics.

The short answer to the title of the artnet piece is, "No, not if you say GIFs peaked two years ago."

I don't agree at all that "the popularity of was just beginning to fade" in 2012 -- the site is going strong even if Johnson isn't visiting -- or with most of this paragraph:

And while that mentality seems very much behind the rise of the art GIF party, sustained growth at the level seen in 2012 seems almost impossible. The community has shrunk over the years, and nobody I spoke to uses Google+ anymore. “I really do think of that first summer with Google+ as a beautiful era for GIFs,” [Anthony] Antonellis recalled. “It did something more than could,” he said, referring to the extended time users had to respond to posts. Google+ acted more like a blog than Dump’s chat room.

Antonellis belongs to the moribund Google+ GIF posse (where GIFs never looked good at all) and in his maudlin lament for the demise of that one-off proposition attempts to drag down with him. Sadly, Johnson goes along with this false narrative. It doesn't need to be stated that the GIFs of the day, week, year and decade that post like clockwork on mostly originate with, not Google+, and that the quality and energy is unabated, no matter what sad-sacks who trusted a big company to host their social experience around GIFs might say.

Update: Another G+ moaner in the article is Andrew Benson. Apparently he comes to GIFs from the film world, so you can pretty much discount what he says about art GIFs, including his statements such as "I feel like there’s not a good way to view [GIFs] in the gallery setting” and that a web browser is “a pretty terrible art viewing context.” According to who else? Benson also chimed in helpfully on Nicholas O'Brien's post about NEW INC, the art incubator: "I feel like we are in need of more experiments in survival, going outside the existing structures, and challenging assumed cultural barriers." Meaning it's OK to develop art like a product, with a venture capitalist's expectation of return on investment.

- tom moody

April 12th, 2014 at 8:11 am

Posted in general

only paypal when absolutely necessary

Wolf Richter actually read Paypal's new privacy policy and the message in the fine print is Beware.

When you get on a PayPal site or use its services, it collects “information sent to us by your computer, mobile phone or other access device.” This “includes but is not limited to” (so these are just examples): “data about the pages you access, computer IP address, device ID or unique identifier, device type, geo-location information, computer and connection information, mobile network information, statistics on page views, traffic to and from the sites, referral URL, ad data, and standard web log data and other information.”

You read correctly: “and other information” – anything it can get.

PayPal also collects personal data by putting cookies, web beacons (“to identify our users and user behavior”), and “similar technologies” on your device so that you can be tracked 24/7 even if you’re not using PayPal’s services, and even if you’re not on any of its sites.

Wait, “similar technologies?” By clicking on another link, you find out that they include pernicious “flash cookies,” newfangled “HTML 5 cookies,” and undefined “other web application software methods.” Unlike cookies, they “can operate across all of your browsers.” And you can’t get rid of these spy technologies or block them through your browser the way you get rid of or block cookies. You have to jump through hoops to deal with them, if they can be dealt with at all.

In addition, PayPal sweeps up any information “from or about you in other ways,” such as when you contact customer support and tell them stuff, or when you respond to a survey (Just Say No), or when you interact “with members of the eBay Inc. corporate family or other companies.” Yup, it sweeps up information even when you interact with other companies!

It may also “obtain information about you from third parties such as credit bureaus and identity verification services.” And it may “evaluate your computer, mobile phone or other access device to identify any malicious software or activity.” So they’re snooping around your devices.

And when you download or use PayPal’s apps to your smartphone, or access its “mobile optimized sites,” it collects location data along with a host of other data on your mobile device, including the unique identifier that ties it to you personally in order to manipulate search results and swamp you with location-based advertising “and other personalized content,” or whatever.

After vacuuming up all this information “from or about you,” PayPal will then “combine your information with information we collect from other companies” and create a voluminous, constantly growing dossier on you that you will never be able to check into.

Who all gets your personal information that PayPal collects? You guessed it.

This is dire.

- tom moody

April 9th, 2014 at 8:57 am

Posted in general

eat my windows

With Microsoft you get the nerd in the blazer and with Apple you get the annoying hipster but they're both horrible.
A few words on Microsoft's ending of security updates for Windows XP yesterday.
Microsoft loves to say XP's a twelve year old operating system, as if that's a persuasive reason to stop supporting it.
Ars Technica estimates it's on the devices of "28 percent of the Web-using public." Cutting this percentage loose will increase malware and botnets.
Also, consider this scenario:
A person buys a PC in April 2009 for professional audio production. His Windows options are XP and Vista. Vista is buggy for audio production so the sales staff recommends XP.
Five years later, Microsoft cuts off support for XP and recommends, as an alternative, buying a newer PC.
This is planned obsolescence, supposedly a bad thing honest companies don't do.

- tom moody

April 9th, 2014 at 8:43 am

Posted in general

a kickstarter sucker born every minute

Barry Ritholtz on the Facebook purchase of Oculus VR (maker of virtual reality headsets or something equally '90s-retro stupid):

What did the KickStarter funders of Oculus get? Note I use "funder" and not "investor," because investors have a potential for an investment return. These funders, who backed the company three months after the JOBS Act passed, did not. As the Journal noted, they were promised “a sincere thank you from the Oculus team.” And, for $25, a T-shirt. For $300, the dangle of “an early developer kit” including a prototype headset. Total money raised: $2.4 million from 9,500 contributors.

Talking people out of $2.4 million dollars in exchange for zero percent equity is a perfectly legal scam. Then selling the company for $2 billion dollars is simply how this particular crowdfunding works.

- tom moody

March 26th, 2014 at 8:08 pm

Posted in general

unexamined GIF of the day

This Anthony Antonellis GIF was Art F City's "GIF of the Day," but why? It's kind of the standard blitzkrieg of data: approximately 50 GIFs, represented by only a few frames each, that move in space as well as time. But the spatial movement isn't particularly noteworthy -- it goes diagonally down, straight up, diagonally down, and straight up. An uninspiring zigzag gesture, filling up space as it goes. The frames go too fast for the mind to absorb, even on repeat viewings, but we see some obvious net-ish signifiers: Britney, QR code, alien head, a Francoise Gamma (?) gif. What are we left with? More noise, more useless information, dazzling but ultimately joyless.

Some have declared GIFs "over" and yet, this trend never got much of an intelligent airing. There were a few essays, and the show Art F City did where some yelling occurred after one of its premises was churlishly questioned by a participating artist. The point was to have some critical traction for these slippery modern ephemera. Not sure if "GIF of the Day" or ladder competitions do that.

- tom moody

March 25th, 2014 at 9:27 am

Posted in general

rhizome telethon notes

Corinna Kirsch and Paddy Johnson liveblogged yesterday's portions of the fundraising telethon (which is still in progress overnight) and Kirsch raised a question about my segment, specifically regarding an artist's use of Google. Just for clarification, here's a link to the text I was reading aloud (the slightly smoother blog version) about a Javier Morales post on Nasty Nets. Petra Cortright showed this Morales post when we did the Net Aesthetics 2.0 panel in 2008. Thanks to Kirsch for her notes and commentary. At 12:38 pm EST she wrote, about my reading of my Rhizome comments aloud: "Funny that comments originally thought of as vitriolic seem tame when read aloud from a binder. I’d like to see all these comments in a book." She also noted: "Rhizome’s Zachary Kaplan asks if reading the old comments brings up old emotions at the time. Tom says it actually does come back in a 'horrible rush.'" Kaplan also asked if I workshopped the comments before posting them -- if only.
Rhizome's editor Michael Connor preceded me as a telethon presenter and wrote this post, while the camera was rolling, during his hour of screen time. Once I got home and had a chance to read it, I replied in the comments to his thoughts about comments. Both he and Kirsch note the sad passing of the comment torch from blogs and/or listServs to "social" (meaning Facebook and Twitter).
As of this writing, Rhizome is only about $700 short of its $20,000 fundraising goal -- you could still kick in.

Twitter feedback:

@tommoody is holding a bounded media object live on #rhizome (let's unpack that joke: UmThatsMyLuggag connected someone's phrase from that 2008 panel to this binder):

new daytime drinking game, everytime @tommoody sez "blogger" take a drink (Nicholas O'Brien -- wish I could have)

Update: Kirsch also noted that the sound was intermittent -- I watched some of the YouTube later and confirmed. In case you were following and my voice cut out just as several carefully developed lines of argument were coming together into a piquant punchline, the comments can all be read here.

- tom moody

March 20th, 2014 at 5:42 am

Posted in general