Wading into the shallows of media coverage of a recent Shia LaBeouf performance art piece, Kenneth Goldsmith makes a clever pastiche of the cliched writing in an authorless, Kathy Acker-style mock-review for Rhizome.org, with links back to the original sentences Goldsmith cobbled together. Can airheaded writing about airheaded work be redeemed as "surf art"? Probably not. Will this earnest reply to "Kenneth" refocus our values? Probably not:
Your report gives few details about this performance so I had to resort to USA Today:
The exhibit is a collaborative project between LaBeouf, Finnish performance artist Nastja Säde Rönkkö and British artist Luke Turner, according to a press release sent to Time.
It took place at The Cohen Gallery, which USA informs us is "is across the street from BuzzFeed's L.A. offices," adding parenthetically, "Probably just a coincidence, right?"
Like you, the Daily Beast's Andrew Romano was oddly moved by the whole spectacle. "I actually felt something real. Something strange and complex. Something like sympathy. ..."
This is probably more of a USA Today-type story, and USA Today-type performance art, but it's always interesting to see what you're interested in.
Personally I'd like more sociology on how porous the gallery world and the film biz are in LA. I got messages yesterday that Parker Ito had sold a painting at auction for $93,000 USD, which is pretty good for a n00b, and one of the reasons for the high price tag is that film director Harmony Korine is a collector of his art. Maybe as a cross-NY-LA correspondent and assiduous documenter of the avant garde through ubuweb, WFMU, etc, you can help us understand the interrelationship of art and pure promo hype in the tinseltown art scene.
I confess when I wrote the above I just skimmed the Goldsmith and thought, instead of "this isn't worth your time," that he had simply lost his mind. This will teach me not to skim and troll (or at least, mouse-over), but would still like to see the convo diverted to more new-media-relevant topics, such as the role of LA collectors in market-making for YIBA (or YIBI) art.
two FAUXreal-posted GIFs overlayed
Andrew Leonard mulled over Facebook's insanely expensive purchase of WhatsApp ($16 billion) in his Salon column yesterday. Leonard believes it's another Instagram move where Zuck buys a service all the kids are using because the kids aren't using Facebook. WhatsApp provides "a way to send text messages over the Internet without paying SMS charges to the phone companies," says Leonard. Now users will pay those charges to Facebook by staying within the clutch of its eager advertisers. The Salon headline writer calls this business decision "scary bold desperation," possibly one of the greatest fudge-phrases ever written. Scary for investors, certainly.
How many times can Facebook keep buying the loyalty of younger users? Till it blows up. It would be ideal if this happens before Facebook becomes permanently institutionalized in the sense of "indispensable for employers and law enforcement" (and artists, and the net art community) which is the direction it's been heading at the same time the younger demographic is bailing.
Update: Other theories about the WhatsApp sale include beefed-up access to the European market and lower income users, and, possibly related to any of the above reasons (youth, Euro, and/or income), "whatsapp has a client that runs on shitty nokia phones" (hat tip Ryz). We're happy with whatever prompts the juggernaut to wild spending sprees -- the "youth angle" is the funniest.
Update 2: According to Sarah Lacy at Pando Daily, it's all about photos: "According to the company’s own numbers [always highly suspect if we're talking about Facebook's numbers --TM], WhatsApp is processing 500 million images per day, compared to 400 million Snapchat ('snaps') per day, which could include photos or videos. For its part, Facebook processes a comparatively paltry 350 million photos a day, with an additional 55 million per day from Instagram." The near-Turing-complete user who's been finding places to park photos online for over a decade without crawling to "social" has to laugh at the economics of all this.
Update 3: The WhatsApp sale has become a Rorschach blot for commenters. Lambert of Corrente sees it as: "Here's what's special about WhatsApp and mobile -- as opposed to browser-based -- apps generally [quoting an NBC article]: 'The messaging app offers its users unlimited messaging on mobile devices for 99 cents a year after a one-year free trial. ... When you download the app, WhatsApp automatically scans through your address book and connects you with those who have WhatsApp installed on their phones.' That's the value of the deal; mining that address book data," Lambert continues. "It's even better than an email address book, because a messaging app is more intimate; more likely to be friends and family."
Above is a painting by Sally Ross, who shows in New York City, as recently as a 2010 Gallery Lelong group show, which featured the top image (found on a blog via Google images). I met the artist briefly in the 1990s and have seen and admired her work here in the NY metro area. She specializes in carefully-painted surrealistic still lifes, often where the subject is cartoonishly thickened, such as the above flowers. Her stroke and sensibility is similar to that of her brother in real life, Alexander Ross, painter of intricate green biomorphic blobscapes.
Christie's sold the smaller image above and apparently misidentifies New York's Sally Ross as a different Sally Ross, from Melbourne, Australia, who has won the Google Images battle decisively. It wouldn't be an understatement to say that the Melbourne Ross annihilates the New York Ross on Google, to such a degree that Christie's uses the tag "Australia" to identify the New York Sally Ross's painting. Yet the provenance for the Christie's image was Feature Gallery, NYC, and there are no New York shows on the Melbourne Sally Ross's resume. Also, 1969, the birthdate Christie's gives the New York Ross, is on the Melbourne Ross's resume. 'twould be an amazing coincidence if both artists had the same birth year.
Apropos of this post on recommendation engine-uity, it's what happens when you let Silicon Valley's bots make cultural determinations -- the better artist can be eclipsed even in the tastemakers' auction spaces.
this started out as a GIF of the MIT dot edu persuasion (hat tip blingscience) - I modified it
This is kind of a funny moment. Just as kids and certain superhumanly brave intellectuals are abandoning Facebook, businesses who decided it was "the internet" in terms of their business model are dealing with minor tectonic shifts of the company's own policies. Alex Pareene has an amusing article about Zuck's decision to algorithmically downgrade clickfarm headline aggregators such as "Upworthy" and "ViralNova" in people's FB news feeds, while preserving Buzzfeed as a legitimate news source, possibly because of some insider shenanigans.
A near-Turing-complete user who gathers her own news via RSS can only sneer at all the Facebook-spoonfed infants being dependent on these crappy services for information. But it's a make-or-break thing for some businesses, apparently, both on the aggregator side as well as the aggregated.
A similar edge of desperation runs through this George Packer New Yorker story about the dependency of East Coast publishing elites on the culturally braindead algorithm-writers of Amazon.com.
Which is worse, Bonesmen deciding what you read or robots? Seems to be the choice we're offered.
Am pleased to humbly announce two LPs on Bandcamp: Squeaky Arpeggio and 40 Yards from the Machine.
It's 20 songs, split into two groups (apologies to previous buyers for double emails). "Squeaky" is sort of pleasant song hooks; "40 Yards" is more spiky and digital.
"40 Yards" has more previously-unpublished songs than "Squeaky" but the older tunes on both LPs got tweaked to make the LPs consistent overall.
Notes for the 40 Yards from the Machine LP on Bandcamp. These are mostly tech jottings so I remember what I did. Any thoughts, questions, etc on the music itself are welcome at the email address on this about page.
1. Cave Man Sample Dump 03:07
After owning Elektron's Sidstation for a few years, am finally buckling down to programming patches in it instead of merely tweaking presets. When I first acquired the thing the LED menus just seemed too obscure and daunting. I think a couple of years working with modular hardware has helped me understand what I want to program in the SID, which gives me the incentive to get in there and dig around in all those nested subcommands (on a tiny green screen). Having said all that, this is not sophisticated tunesmithing, owing more to the Troggs than Les Paul. As for the vocal samples, processed with Doepfer's A-112 sampler module for Eurorack, it's kind of a first for me to be doing this Art of Noise thing that was beaten to death in the '80s, e.g., using the "duh" in "dump" as a repeated percussion hit. Suddenly, now, I want to hear this again.
2. Bitter Incumbent 02:44
Reaktor's OKI Computer 2, a chiptune-esque wavetable synth, sequenced with the Monoliner virtual sequencer and overtracked, spins out the opening and closing segments. Sandwiched in between is a bazooka blast of arpeggiation emanating from the Sidstation, using two of its oscillators as the alto and the soprano and kind of shamelessly transposing away. Shameless because it's so easy to do -- but I love those harmonies. The basic note-on patterns are coming from the Octatrack.
3. Have Gear Will Geer 02:30
Used the Expert Sleepers ES-4 module to trigger and LFO-sculpt various modular patches. At the end I had a collection of patterns that were too diverse to beatmatch or melodymatch into a proper song, so I made a "suite." The title has nothing whatsoever to do with Will Geer's amazing performance as an evil Colonel Sanders-cum-Dick Cheney CEO in John Frankenheimer's film Seconds.
4. Lapdance Landscape 03:47
This started out as an industrial throbber done live with the modular synth (making use of various oscillator-type modules and assorted envelopes), but then a wistful tune was added. The latter is the Massive (wavetable) softsynth, starting from a blank preset and building up a chord (0-2-7 -- what is that?) with some modulation and effects. The only canned sounds were some hihats but even those got effects.
5. Your Toy Army 01:34
Pure Sidstation sounds, driven by MIDI notes from the Octatrack. The opening is the preset "Chordmemry," with jiggered LFOs. Other sounds are patches I made from scratch, including the noisy wavetable one that sounds like an ancient computer game -- which one I couldn't say.
6. Texas Sawtooth Massacre 02:33
Sounds from the computer_controlled_rack (the name I gave my modular on the Modular Grid gear fetish website), MIDI-triggered, sampled, and arranged in the Octatrack. The main excitement here is a gritty wavetable sample originating in the WMD Gamma Wave Source module, sampled by the Doepfer A-112 in wavetable mode (with CV-sweeping of the table at my barbaric skill level), played as a MIDI controlled synth (with hi, lo and notch filters), sampled in the Octatrack, then "sliced" and rearranged to make 10 or so patterns. There is also a bass line and the reappearance of the most famous beat in the history of electronic music. This is kind of rough going at the outset but gets better as it progresses IMHO.
Note: after the above was written I remixed this, with a hand-crafted substitute breakbeat (before and after the redo, it's slowed down about 30 bpm for this song) and also EQ'd to removed some high pitched spikes that were drilling through my eardrum.
7. House Dwellers 02:40
All-Octatrack-and-Eurorack rendition of a House-like tune. This is pretty crunchy, what with all the low-bit-depth and low-sample-rate sampling going on. Am happy with the way this came together, using the Octatrack to MIDI-trigger and sample 1- to 4-bar motifs that are layered and arranged. One modular synth riff was borrowed from an earlier track, "Soul Fusion Disassembly."
8. The Enveloping Shape 02:37
Long chains of random percussion sounds were edited down to discrete loops and layered. The idea was to find musicality in noise. The percussion originated with some Reaktor beats individually manicured and played in the computer_controlled_rack's two lo-fi sampler modules, the Doepfer A-112 and the ADDAC wav player. LFOs were used to scramble wav order, sample start time, loop size, sample rate, etc -- all the classic tricks you can do with these units -- and the output went to modular filters and delays that were further LFO'd. Seductive as the output was, it was further wrangled to make blocklike patterns that could be assembled in Cubase into a composition. Am thinking more of music these days as a process like filmmaking, where you do all your shooting and then retire to the editing room to make the film. The title comes from a plugin I used to reduce certain transients from explosive, speaker-rending pops to something more listenable (Steinberg's "envelope shaper").
9. 40 Yards from the Machine 03:09
Spoken word sample ("some forty yards from the machine," randomly read aloud from Charles Fort's book Wild Talents) recorded in the Doepfer A-112 sampler module in "wavetable record" mode with the Expert Sleepers Silent Way LFO (20HZ Sine Wave) modulating the CV at the input stage. Despite the manual's promise of "drastic" effects resulting from this, so far all it seems to do is add a crackle to the recorded wav. Am probably doing it wrong but in wavetable mode it doesn't really matter what the sample "sounds like" because it's just repeating small snippets of the waveforms. On playback, Silent Way LFOs set to various speeds, waveforms, and ranges modulate the wavetable output, yielding mangled vocals and staccato pulses that resolve into pitched buzzes and hums. This raw output is then snipped and rearranged in Cubase to make musical patterns and severely damaged-sounding robotic vocalese.
10. Ambigious Anthem 00:41
NI Massive synth preset "Ambiguous" played over Sidstation beats from a Battery kit I made a while back. Some sampler module texture near the end of the track.