Archive for July, 2010
The audience for magic was small during Gysin’s lifetime. But young artists skeptical of scientific rationalism — or whatever brand of theory they’ve been offered at art school — are finding Gysin’s approach alluring. Which is why, in a bout of art historical conjuration, his reputation as an “unsuccessful artist” is being overturned.
As a refudiation (thank you, Sarah Palin!) of Ben Davis's smug materialism this appeals but as noted earlier, Gysin "is not in need of debunking any more than he is in need of posthumous inflation." It doesn't matter whether the artists interested in Gysin are "young" or not, they only need be younger than Gysin (that is, alive) for his continuing influence to be noted.
The rather handsome photo of Brion Gysin's Dreamachine installation (as installed at the New Museum) by Naho Kabuta deserves a reality check in the form of this photo from the Internet of an earlier incarnation (in Bristol, England):
The New Museum tends to confer instant fabulousness on everything inside it but let's remember that the Dreamachine is something you experienced with eyes closed, so you could put it on top of an old tablecloth and it would still take you higher.
More coming on what some of what those younger-than-Gysin artists are doing with his imagery floating around the Net.
cartoon by timb posted to dump.fm
Clearly Google didn't consult Edward Tufte when it redesigned Google Images. Instead of the clean, spare search page Google is famous for the user must now navigate an image-crammed media adventure with more data than the brain can absorb, with involuntary popups that leap at you when you mouse over (unnecessary, distracting, and eye-fatiguing, with gratuitous drop shadows--it's the Apple-ization of all computing). Instead of less steps to click there are more. You have to toggle to see picture sizes--the default is "dimensions in popups only." When you get to the source page the background is greyed out and you have to click again to remove this design-heavy feature. There was nothing wrong with paging back through results--most people will stop at page 3 anyway. You don't need a giant, continuously loading page for every simple search.
And you still can't search for animated GIFs: you can select "GIF" but you have to type in the word "animated," making your search more cumbersome--why? (Don't know who at Google said they hadn't seen an animated GIF in ages (see above)--assuming it's true--but my guess is they'd like to phase out animated GIFs in favor of some hot new spec they favor--the way they are converting YouTubes over to the Steve Jobs video standard. People with the Chrome browser say it doesn't handle animated GIFs well.)
The image search has always been the most inept and random part of the Google search family. It relies too much on text descriptions posted on a page that hyperlinks to an image, without bothering to verify if the image has anything to do with the text. It seems to ignore whatever metadata or self-description the image itself has. In other words, Google gives priority to a page that has the word "Rotweiler" on it that links to an image of yours of a parakeet, even though you labeled the image "parakeet" and even though the "Rotweiler" page is talking about Rotweilers. Your self-labeling will be buried deep in search results assuming your image is picked up at all.
Instead of rethinking the functionality of the image search Google did what every big corporation does--made cosmetic changes to the package design and called it new and improved.
Three years ago the artist Marcin Ramocki did a series of portraits of individual bloggers based on their first 100 Google image results. They are mostly incoherent composites (or maybe we're just incoherent individuals--just kidding!). Ironically he stripped away the formatting and showed the images as a single long cluster of random adjacent tiles, which is exactly how the "new and improved" Google images displays images.
by stage using animated screencaps of deluxepaint 2
deluxepaint 2 is a 20-year old paint program originally intended for Amiga computers. You can run it on a current PC using DOSbox (so I'm told--not sure I will have this level of dedication). Something I've been discussing with other artists since the time of the Infinite Fill show is the idea of older paint programs being aesthetically interesting, as opposed to just nostalgic. The people I was having that discussion with have all moved on to Photoshop but several people at dump.fm are interested in these issues.
another work space screen shot (link corrected)
...from linguistics to identity politics to a simple "fuck you" in 45 years. (Top to bottom: Joseph Kosuth, Glenn Ligon, Michael Phelan) (hat tip Jesse for the first two)
GIF by Noisia.
Don't quote me but I think the "introducing man" was first dumped by 0bvious. [Correction: It was unicorngirl - of course]
Frankhats has him introducing his motionless self and broccoli.
A YouTube scholar has edited Philip K. Dick's speech at the Metz science fiction convention in 1977 to ask if Dick "disclosed the existance [sic] of the Matrix."
Right, it's not even possible that The Matrix was a movie made in 1999 by two people who possibly had read a lot of Philip K. Dick's writing. Nevertheless it's interesting to see Dick on camera--I have read several accounts of that speech but never seen the actual thing. Would be nice to watch it without all the ominous cuts--someday I'll poke around and look for it. Or maybe someone will foresee me seeing it and tell me about it.
In his review of the New Museum's Brion Gysin exhibit, Artnet critic Ben Davis begrudgingly acknowledges that Gysin has influenced some contemporary artists. But then he works himself into a snit because the museum claims that Gysin isn't just an inspiration but a role model for artists. Attacking the hype is always kind of a greasy strategy when the work is right in front of you. Seizing on the phrase "role model" allows Davis to downplay discussion of what's on display in favor of a lengthy stroll through the artist's life, which Davis finds unsavory for rather priggish-sounding moral reasons, considering that we're talking about a figure who straddled surrealism and the Beats. Davis scolds Gysin in the grave for being overly fond of boys, admiring black people, and showing insufficient commitment to smashing the fascist state in the name of international socialism.
Davis mentions that Gysin's cut-up technique was employed in three William Burroughs books but neglects to mention that they are Burroughs' most important: Naked Lunch, Soft Machine, and The Ticket That Exploded. Pursuing his thesis that Gysin is a lousy role model because his artistic rationales have become quaint, Davis has a good laugh at some ideas of Gysin and/or Burroughs:
--that the "Cut-Up Method" could "free human creativity from what he and Burroughs both called 'Control'-- the soulless rationality of the modern world, the evil specter of normalcy that they saw as their enemy."
--"the Surrealist fascination with madness and altered states of all kinds, and, most problematically, the belief that one could find in an exoticized Primitivism an antidote to suffocating Western middle-class life."
--"the underlying... notion that living a free-spirited bohemian lifestyle is in itself an unthinkable rebellion against the entire system."
Davis presumes to speak for artists in suggesting that none of these motivations matter now. Most don't sound so bad to me, even as snidely phrased by Davis. Davis assumes all artists have reached the same conclusions he has in other writings: that the endless contradictions of reconciling Marxist thought and a market-driven economy have beached everyone in the art world on the same shoals of boredom, paralysis, and repetition of post-post-postmodern ideas.
Well, I have no idea if painter Carl Fudge, whose work is depicted above, considers Brion Gysin a role model but he seems taken enough with the cut-up method to have made a small career out of it, and even made it, dare I say, exciting. Any artist who is using a gridded system to break apart, re-connect, and defamiliarize an image is a Gysin heir, whether the means be scissors and tape or photoshop and jape. There are many of them and my guess is that on some level most of them see art as a valid alternative to the soulless rationality of the modern world.
After my post yesterday bemoaning Davis's dismissive review, Duncan Alexander, aka Hypothete, made some digital cutups of Gysin's cutups that rev the work up to Internet speed. These animated GIFs fuse the strobo-kinesis of the Dream Machine with the slice and dice of the still imagery. Whether the result is a mystical experience or just a seizure is left to the viewer. One complex and seductive take on Gysin filmstrips seems dangerously free-spirited and I hope Davis doesn't find out that artists are doing such things now. It's much more important that we all be whining about "the market" and moaning that there's nothing left to do.
Dear reader, I would like to ask you a favor. Can you please repost one or both images above on your social media vehicle of choice? They are collaborative artworks by Brion Gysin and William Burroughs, published on the occasion of a Gysin exhibit currently on view at the New Museum in NYC. Marxist scold critic Ben Davis believes these images belong to a vanished world--and I don't agree. (cf. Sigmar Polke, Nasty Nets, Photoshop, newmoticons, jimpunk, etc.) If you don't either, could you please help me circulate them via that most un-vanished of media, the Internet? Thanks.
As I've noted at Paddy's, solo Gysin may not be as influential as Gysin/Burroughs but the man is not in need of debunking any more than he is in need of posthumous inflation. Davis's critical method consists of a prolonged character assassination of Gysin the person, judging him by standards of political correctness that didn't exist in Gysin's day. And a few incidental descriptions of artworks, which should have been the meat of the review, since that's what's on display.
More on the vanished world--Davis somehow maintains that while Gysin's images, maybe, possibly, could be influential today, the thinking behind them is not.
Update: Corrected post to note that above images are Gysin/Burroughs, not Gysin solo.
Someone likened dump.fm to a hive mind or consciousness expansion experiment and there's some truth to it but it has its downside. In Philip K. Dick's book Ubik the cryogenically preserved, still-thinking brains were very susceptible to the thoughts of aggressive, disturbed individuals, such as the young adolescent "Jory." I have met great people on dump from all over the globe but the chat room has some serious recurring knucklehead freaks working out their "issues" by inflicting a steady series of shock images on the gentle hivers. The imagery isn't truly shocking but it is an irritant and must be processed. Am not sure there's any value to that whatsoever. Sometimes it is just frat town in there despite the participation of many interesting and intelligent women. Only the very youngest users seem willing to say, in block capitals, "stop posting this crap."
PS Don't mean to be mysterious but would rather not mention any Jorys by name. If you are reading this blog there's a 100% chance it's not you.
PPS Jorys don't necessarily only dominate with images. There are also obnoxioius "chat Jorys."
vvork + unicorngirl