Archive for January, 2014
Rene Abythe made a video, reposted here, depicting the OptiDisc gif as a portal to time and space, which you can have on the dashboard of your car, along with your connections to Twitter and Facebook. In states where it's illegal to text while driving, you can journey into a wormhole to other universes. At least, your mind can, as your body flies through the windshield and your car mows down innocent pedestrians. No different than what would happen, really, if you were checking your friends' statuses at 60 per.
crashtxt, the twitter account, appears to be mostly the net art legend, jimpunk, but I haven't determined yet how much it's him, how much it's interactive, and what the relationship is between it and his other twitter account, llllll__lllllll
Short review: creative, fairly relentless use of unicode icons as a kind of latter-day ASCII art, veering between chaotic expressionism and tight renderings of cool skulls. On the hacking vs defaults continuum it comes closer to "Being and critiquing The People by using the tools made by The Man" than "Empowering The People by subverting The Man's power." Mostly it's jimpunk being jimpunk, but we're supposed to say it's all about the mix and avoid any suggestion that his art might be, gasp, gag, hermetic.
An article in the gaming journal Kill Screen didn't help much at all: the author started out with the fusty dichotomy of art-in-museums-you-aren't-supposed-to-touch vs wacky contemporary art where YOU are also the artist. She also uses the late '90s term net.art throughout. And apparently never doped out why jimpunk wasn't replying to her emails in complete English sentences similar to her own.
Unlike ASCII, which can be made on a typewriter, unicode depends on how well your operating system, browser, and or appliance can read it, so you may see a lot of posts like this one:
crashtxt also features screenshots of unicode arrangements, as well as screenshots of glitched versions of this and that. The twitpic at the top of this post is a screenshot saved directly from the site -- no idea how it's done or what the back story is, but it's an exquisite, or perhaps exq=.s.te image (despite being fuzzed out).
Addendum: As long as we're name-checking ASCII, let's also mention as precedent, the venerable, annoying "wingdings" or "webdings." On the crashtxt readability issue, here's a screenshot from Jules Laplace, who evidently can't see the unicode at all.
Discussion on the Muff Wiggler modular synth nerd forum (multi-page / single page) of the SID GUTS module for Eurorack, which incorporates a vintage SID (sound interface) chip from an old Commodore 64 computer. The module is designed to port that characteristic lo-fi SID sound into the analog hardware environment and sounds great, but cuts off much of the functionality of the chip if you have the Commodore (and a tracker program, as Nullsleep notes on the forum) or an Elektron Sidstation synth (an amazing device, although Not Truly Hardcore in that a savant in Sweden did much of the programming for you).
The SID chip has 3 oscillators, each of which generates a variety of waveforms. In the Sidstation, and presumably trackers, these can be programmed as wavetable synths, giving rise to the familiar, still very desirable, arpeggiated arcade sound.* SID GUTS uses one oscillator as its main voice, a second oscillator to modulate (only) the triangle wave of the first voice, and ditches the third oscillator. You could buy 3 SID GUTSes to get a chord (as one Wiggler pointed out), but you still wouldn't have access to the wavetables. You can do a few interesting things with control voltage inputs to tweak the SID GUTS' sound, such as using an LFO to toggle back and forth between ring-modulation and "sync" mode, or to switch between waveforms in real time. And of course you're getting the SID chip's analog filter, which some Wigglers think is divine and others a throwaway.
The biggest drawback to the SID GUTS (which possibly had a limited run and may not even be available at this point) is that, unlike the Sidstation, the module doesn't come with a SID chip! The guts, if you will. You have to fish one out of an old Commodore or shop on eBay. There were a few different versions of SID chips made, and again, the Wigglers are divided on which is best. So you could spend $400 for the SID GUTS and still find a bum chip and not get the best use of the thing.
*A "long-time SID programmer" on the forum asserts that the SID chip "these days... can produce extremely sophisticated sounds, you would not believe (way beyond than these blip-blops). Even, there are more ways to trigger a voice and all sounds different (hard restart alone is an important sid-sensation factor). Wave-scanning-tables are also super important."
Contemporary Art Daily's semi-official documentation of Michelle Grabner's show at MOCA Cleveland [hat tip schwarz] has, among other items of interest, a streaming version of her video as a member of CAR, Dale Chihuly Glass Camp for Boys (scroll about halfway down), 2002, which I saw in her then-gallery in NYC and had been looking for reappearances of.
One of the highlights of the Joanne McNeill editorial era at Rhizome.org was this Jack Womack interview.
Have been reading Womack's books and highly recommend them. Most were written in the late '80s/early '90s, when parts of Manhattan were still grungy, so by the dot com era the books' visions of militarily cordoned-off neighborhoods seemed somewhat off the mark. Manhattan has only gotten more fabulous, and Womack didn't foresee the Internet as mass soporific keeping the plebes down, but the books' essential truths about who is really running things have only grown more stark in our present era of "inverted totalitarianism," as political philosopher Sheldon Wolin terms it. Every day in every way, to paraphrase a fellow Womack reader, it's becoming a Dryco world.
A review I wrote for Art Papers when I lived in Texas, never submitted, then reworked for my blog in 2007. When I blogged I thought I didn't have a photo but belatedly realized it was in their 1995 catalog from the Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston, The Art Guys Think Twice. So here is the review again, with the photo I never had from the Dallas Museum, where I viewed the installation in '91 (the inset photo is as it appears in the book, to show what's otherwise difficult to see on the video monitors).
Jets, by The Art Guys
Dallas Museum of Art, November-December 1991
The main concourse of the Dallas Museum of Art ascends in a series of broad, gently sloping ramps, creating spaces reminiscent of airport architecture. Appropriately, that's where the Art Guys placed their installation Jets during the 1991 Dallas Video Festival.
Sixteen TV monitors fanned across the ceiling over the ramps, linked by black cables to a neat bank of VCRs on the wall. Each monitor faced down with its back securely bolted to the ceiling--or so we hoped. The screens glowed pale blue, green, or violet, the ambient colors of footage taped from the sky at different times and places, and intermittently roared to life as an airplane passed across the screen.
The artists phased the tapes so at a given time some screens showed empty sky and others tracked commercial aircraft landing or taking off in wobbly, hand held fields of view. The random distribution of the zooming images along the corridor kept the viewer off guard: as you followed the progress of one jet, another would loom unexpectedly behind you.
The network of cables crawling across the ceiling and down the wall to a controlling ganglion could emblematize the global transportation and communication systems on which we are so dependent, while the fragility of the systems could be felt in the nervous-making Damoclean placement of the monitors. That's one level of interpretation.
Yet sitting beneath them for a few minutes revealed something a hurried passerby might have missed: their curious kinship to natural phenomena. The random lightening and darkening of screens and the antiphonal whining of the jets became paradoxically calming, like stars blinking or insects chittering in the breeze. Thus do our daily threats become reassuring background texture.
Have written about the Art Guys (Michael Galbreth and Jack Massing) a number of times (recently here).
Belated thanks to Paddy Johnson for her plug of my LP release on Bandcamp. She calls it micro-fundraising but my cleverly-worded announcement actually said "If you've been a reader/RSS follower this is a way to support the blog without me having to do annoying fundraisers." Maybe that was disingenuous, but I would love for you to buy the LP so that you can have, as one listener said, "something in heavy rotation on my home server," not because my blog needs financial support. I have no staff (despite occasional use of the editorial we) and hosting fees are cheep. When it's time for this thing to die it will just stop one day.
A curator once told me "your blog is your art." This was irksome because he was making a studio visit and pointedly ignoring the artwork on the walls he'd asked to come look at. (This was before I showed the blog as art, but that was a performance, not a Mary Kelly-style life work.)
All that said, I greatly appreciate everyone who bought the LP (including Paddy) or even tossed in a little extra, whatever the reason.
I'm proud of the music and felt like it kicked up a notch at the end of 2013. I wanted to show my own commitment to it by making it non-free.
Am pretty much ready to go with release #2 but have been debating whether to restrict it to tunes I consider catchy or whether to include some of the art shit.
I kind of feel like if I'm asking you to pay you should have 10 tunes that are somewhat fun to listen to, in the post-8 bit, not quite PC Music mold (more great tunes over there by the way, and free d/ls).
This means either saving up the "art" tunes for a later "difficult" omnibus or continuing to release them piecemeal on the blog, with production notes as I've been doing.
Unlike yours truly, Paddy is having a fundraiser (or just concluded one, with a benefit upcoming) and I recommend you kick in. I wish she hadn't used a quote from Holland Cotter saying that magazine-style online efforts were an improvement over (by implication) those nasty unidimensional (ick) solo blogs. His exact words: "a feisty mix of voices [that is] a welcome alternative to the one-personality blog of yore." Of course he'd say that, as a New York Times journalist who lost much Godlike power in the last decade to those pajama wearing goofballs who can incidentally write circles around boring mainstream journos.
still drawing monsters (a career-killer for any serious artist but you can't make me stop). I think the OptiDisc gif was rooted in these little circles that litter every piece of paper I come in contact with.
Update: A color version:
OK, that's a gross exaggeration, but I keep coming across demonstration music and videos that possibly intrigue more than the products they're designed for, or at least, function quite well as aesthetic entities outside their educational frame. Case in point, tybamm's super-miniwave generator software, intended for creating 8-bit wavetable waves for the Doepfer A-112 sampler module (Eurorack format). I tried using the software but it's only vouched for as a W7/32-bit tool and I'm W7/64 (one reason I don't hold myself out as an 8-bit artiste -- too many bits). REBOL and the software are above my skill level anyway so for the moment I'm resigned to being a voyeur. What's happening in the demo is tybamm is creating sound waves for eventual transport via MIDI dump to the A-112. Once they're loaded, the module (first and foremost a sampler) is played like a wavetable oscillator with sound output that can be filtered, enveloped, etc in the modular hardware.
On a pure design level you gotta love the Russian constructivist-style graphics being created out of blue lines before your eyes. And unlike, say, Soundcloud waves that resemble long turds, there is a compelling relationship here between the sculptural shapes of the waveforms and the music they produce (which you can hear in real time as the wavetables are being prepared).
Screenshot of video frame (detail):
Jules asked, "is this your net art?" Yeah, man, this is postNastyNets art where we condescend to an innocent YouTube uploader sharing a cool glitched zombie from a shooter game. But seriously, the zombie that somehow became surrealistically mingled with a communications tower, so that it stretched far up into the sky, appears strange and beautiful in an environment of tawdry, unrelenting commercial bleakness. As the program notes for this net art explain, "The shooter's POV ascends briefly to determine if this is enemy or architecture."
In the screenshot above, the zombie is visible in the upper left of the frame. In the clip, the "camera" swings around and studies the zombie sculpture from a moving, ground-based position. Very quickly, lest the other zombies catch up and eat the viewer. Then, once around the industrial wasteland, and back for a second view. On the second pass, a bizarre bird-thing can be seen hanging frozen in air next to the sculpture.
Last March, following a Simon Reynolds recommendation, I discussed a popculturecrit blog by Carl Neville called "Holding Out for a Hero." It appears Neville took it down but have not seen this before: when you go to a dead Blogspot link you are prompted to sign into Google, and if it IP-recognizes you, it pre-inserts your login name and offers a box for a password.
(I've bailed on most Google products but they seem eager to have me back.)
The login screen makes it look like the content is still there but "private" -- it doesn't say yea or nay about what you'll see when you (re-)enter the bosom of the Google Family of Fine Products.
I don't particularly want to find out. Of course, as the purchaser of Blogger many years ago, Google has a right to exploit dead links as a snare for new customers but still, it looks Dark Pattern-like to me.