tom moody

Archive for February, 2015

7 tips on breaking animated gifs


A friend sent me a link promising "7 tips for designing awesome animated GIFs." The tip-offering design firm has a home page in the obnoxious new style that every dotcom 2.0 startup seems to be using. Instead of a neatly-organized page giving you basic information about the company (who we are, what we do, portfolio), you get a screen-filling explosion of video and graphics that seems more about obfuscating than informing.
Lots of elegantly greyed-out video clips of happy corporate workers with coffee cups next to laptops, conferencing in converted loft spaces with chalkboards. As you scroll down, testimonials from happy customers.


The homepage is optimized for a 1920 pixel wide screen -- when you shrink the width of the window you get the mess above. But it's not much better at the desired width. The designers' philosophy seems to be "entertainment before information," and projecting various class signifiers and logos to show what kinds of clients they expect to have. Ironically the product is some kind of "workflow" thing.

Their GIF tips aren't surprising -- use a pricy video editor, export to Photoshop, then employ various optimization tricks. The tippers brag that they "opted to use GIFs on our home page instead of fancy code-based animations." This is kind of funny because a few years ago some of Paddy Johnson's "tech" commenters were razzing me for suggesting that GIFs were a perfectly adequate alternative to fancy code-based animations.

Anyway, here are the tips on breaking animated GIFs:
1. Choose your targets wisely. Would this look more funny/stupid if broken?
2. Find an online image editor. Start messing around with the settings.
3. Does your broken GIF look too much like "glitch art" or "datamoshing"? Back to the drawing board. Avoid "art" cliches.
4. What is your purpose behind breaking the GIF? Are you making a philosophical point about entropy or is this just for "lulz"?
5. Who is your intended audience? Is it an art audience or a "funny junk" bulletin board? (Related to No. 4 above.)
6. Does the GIF really look broken or just badly made? (Think about that, too.)
7. Always pad listicles out to odd numbers.

- tom moody

February 28th, 2015 at 10:28 am

Knob Twiddlers (new Bandcamp release)

Am pleased to announce a new Bandcamp release titled Knob Twiddlers.

Some LP notes:

Between Christmas and New Year's I made a cassette tape of tunes using my modular synth's "Quad ADSR" module as an LFO/clock/trigger for various gear. The resulting polyrhythmic or at least slightly eccentrically rhythmic tracks undergird the songs with ADSR in the title (in this and the previous release, Discreet Mutations). Otherwise I am continuing a program of self-bricolage where I take older tunes, chop them up, speed them up, combine them with other songs, or write new passages that serve as bridges and fills among dangling motifs. Am continuing to rely heavily on Native Instruments' Massive synth for ear candy to sweeten up these tracks, but there is also a fair amount of live, analog material plopped in here.

A new Bandcamp front page has thumbnail covers for the 12 releases so far.
Your support in the form of buying the LPs or songs is very encouraging, but all the material can be streamed. Cassettes are available for certain releases; eventually I hope to have the entire catalog available on cassette and probably CD-R as well.

[embedded player removed]

- tom moody

February 26th, 2015 at 7:55 am

Posted in music - tm

we don't need no stinking bruce nauman

Let's give that phrase "our Bruce Nauman" a bit more unpacking.

Ed Halter's use of it in his Artforum cover story on Guthrie Lonergan was essentially lazy.

He didn't do the hard critical work of explaining (i) what Bruce Nauman represents as an artist or (ii) what it means for a new media artist to "be a Bruce Nauman." There is one throw-away line: "If Nauman asserted that anything that happens in an artist’s studio can be art, Lonergan updated this claim for an age in which the artist’s studio had become a laptop."

Early in the last century, Dadaist Tristan Tzara said "everything the artist spits is art" -- why couldn't Lonergan be our Tzara, spewing art from his laptop? Rather than fleshing out the Nauman reference with examples, Halter practiced a kind of laying-on-of-hands where sacerdotal energy is conveyed from an established (living) master to a newbie through the medium of an almost-established master.

Halter quotes Cory Arcangel, a somewhat well-known "computer artist" operating in both the new media and gallery worlds, saying that Guthrie Lonergan, a "computer artist" who is mainly known in new media circles, is "our Bruce Nauman." The magic energy circuit is completed and authentication juice flows from Nauman into Lonergan. And the writer avoids having to translate new media concepts to a gallery-based art world. This was so effective that when ARTnews later did a feature on Lonergan (in the form of an artist's diary) they used the same trick:

Guthrie Lonergan is an elusive and influential internet artist whom Cory Arcangel once called “our Bruce Nauman.” Along with a corresponding essay by Ed Halter, an image from his 2005 series “Lonely Los Angeles” was chosen as the cover of the November 2014 issue of Artforum.

Here are some Bruce Nauman tags: eclectic, outsider, anti-art, inventive, post-studio. A California-based artist of the '60s who did video, sound art, installation, and neon, and was late being grouped with any movement (hence the outsider part). By the '90s, however, he was art world royalty, embraced by almost every critic and institution. An artist's artist who became everyone's artist.

Lonergan is inventive, eclectic, and somehow avoided the "post-internet" dragnet. After 2010 or so he may or may not have stopped working, but certainly wasn't being included in that many "new media" shows. His ARTnews diary shows that he is working and thinking -- yet the projects aren't coming to fruition as gallery-packageable products.

If he is "our" Bruce Nauman, who is the "our"? Besides Cory Arcangel. If the "we" refers to "we new media and computer artists," do "we" need a Bruce Nauman? Aren't "we" already all post-studio, eclectic, inventive, anti-art outsiders? Does it help "our" standing in the gallery world to be seen as the latest iterations of Bruce Nauman, rather than something unique and difficult to define in the terms of "their" critical sphere?

- tom moody

February 25th, 2015 at 9:31 am

Posted in general

we'll know an artistic nude when we see one

Re: Google's draconian plan to determine what's a dirty picture and what isn't on Blogger, and block public access to the blogs its staffers determine are nasty.
What's going on here? An uneducated guess is that once the offending sites are tucked away, Google will incorporate Blogger blogs into Google+, its struggling Facebook clone, so it can have an advertising-palooza with all those new family members.
Google bought Blogger in 2003. If I'd been a Blogger user, I would have left then, rather than wait 12 years for Google to start doing horrible stuff to me.

Update: According to Lauren Weinstein, Google is "completely rescinding" its Blogger nude suppression policy, a move Weinstein calls "gutsy." Am not sure if the mere reversal of a gutless policy merits that adjective.

- tom moody

February 25th, 2015 at 8:59 am

Posted in general

livin' lonergan

Guthrie Lonergan's take on life, art, and the web always bears investigation whether or not he is your Bruce Nauman.*
ARTnews recently published a diary of Lonergan's typical work week, as he moves back and forth between day job and art job (denoted by lighting and unlighting an "art candle" in his home work space).
The main point for me is that he is not on Facebook and provides a blueprint for how to be an engaged "computer" or "new media" artist while living outside of the current Silicon Valley-asserted lifestyle (that is, being on your phone all day checking out "social").

Things Lonergan mentioned that I knew about and/or find interesting:
Richard Stallman
Hacker News
YouTube Guitar Center customers video
Critique of JACK FM
using bluetooth external keyboard to type on phone

Things I could care less about:
humidified guitar cabinets
Perfect Boomer CD Collection pt. 1 (1985-1995)
late-career Joni Mitchell
contemporary Bro-Country playlist

Things I'm not interested in that Lonergan made sound interesting:
Super Bowl halftime show lineups
Bing Streetside van (I almost typed "streetwise")
History of MTV Unplugged

*As quoted in Artforum, Cory Arcangel pompously called Lonergan "our Bruce Nauman" -- a use of first-person plural further ingratiating Arcangel into a gallery-based art world that continues to revere Nauman as a conceptualist living legend, all out of proportion to his actual artwork. [Update -- more on this "our Bruce Nauman" business.]

- tom moody

February 24th, 2015 at 10:09 am

Posted in general

from the vault: interdimensional space rock


as seen on (originally posted half-sized but it has reverted to its true dimensions)

- tom moody

February 21st, 2015 at 3:50 pm

break on thru


i made this

- tom moody

February 21st, 2015 at 3:42 pm

satirical ad copy


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That's why we made a new memory stick, optimized for sound, which we think you will agree caters to the highest audiophile standards.
With the cheaper chips, sensitive ears can detect an unpleasant whine as data moves from storage to the playing device. Our premium chip buffers the data and bathes it in a soothing shimmer of Prion Filtration™, a patented algorithm that mimics protein receptors in the inner ear. This isn't just elimination of unwanted frequencies but a complete remapping of the way we hear.
Speakers, amps and preamps are important but soundwise, they don't mean a thing if you have bad data. As manufacturers, we recognize the importance of data-handling in the sound chain and we think you'll hear the difference. Next time you shop for music, make sure it's on Premium Sound.

hat tip Reneabythe and Techhive

- tom moody

February 21st, 2015 at 9:16 am

Posted in art as criticism



- tom moody

February 17th, 2015 at 11:22 am

Posted in art - others, art - tm

vvorked again recently archived Vvork, a blog of contemporary art documentation (installation shots, mainly), based in Europe, that ran from 2006-2011. Occasionally there were witty runs of similar shots where the Vvork bloggers would implicitly make fun of how redundant certain types of conceptual art ideas are. But mostly Vvork was just relentless, averaging around 900 posts per annum. After the first year of it, real despair started to set in among a handful of artist types about where the project was going.
Michael Connor, in his generally upbeat and pro-Vvork post, links to a thread on my old blog with some of this lamentation. He brushes off the criticism, arguing for a superior overarching point of view on the part of Vvork (which somehow the artists missed?) justifying its preservation.
On the thread,* Sally McKay describes Vvork's stock in trade as "elegant sculptural installations crafted well from non-precious materials with interesting but tidy content and an unquestioning relationship to art institutions." That's a rather strong indictment, but Connor thinks it sounds "very similar to some of the stylistic descriptions offered up for postinternet art today" (a type of art he supports, whatever postinternet means).
Another dig from the thread Connor mischaracterizes, and dismisses as mere "fretting":

Some fretted that [Vvork's] emphasis on similarity undercut the artists' individuality. Artist and Rhizome friend Guthrie Lonergan took this view; he argued that "VVORK makes 'clever' very unappealing, like some disease that art catches when it gets on the Internet." The similarities and patterns made it seem as if artistic production was "algorithmic to the extreme."

No one said that Vvork "undercut artist individuality." The complaint was that by showing groups of similar artworks from around the world, each seemingly unaware of the other, Vvork was revealing a superficial cleverness without taking any critical position. Was Vvork a critique of art or a critique of documentation? Was it a critique at all or just an unusually elegant spam blog?

The confusion persists in Connor's interview with the Vvork bloggers. On the one hand they criticize artists "who seem to cultivate the image of the isolated genius, detached from any outside influence." Yet at the same time they were a "go to" place for people with special talents to be fed into the gallery system:

After the first month or so we noticed an increase in mails by artists sending us their works. After a year or so, it became more common to hear about its effects away from the keyboard, mostly from artists who had received invitations to shows after being posted.

Vvork attempted something "responsible" websites such as Contemporary Art Daily don't do, which is treat the art world as a stream of "meta" information. Occasionally this was done with discernment, for example, offering several posts in sequence of "mazes as art" or "artists releasing colored dyes into rivers as art." Mostly it was just a mishmash of stuff happening all over that chanced to catch the bloggers' eyes.

*McKay's sentence came from an earlier thread, which I was quoting. In the thread Connor links to she softens the criticism with "VVORK is popular because they show lots and lots of pictures of art from around the world without a bunch of commentary. I love that! It's kind of weird how rare it is." Despite this sounding like a movie pull quote Connor gives it stronger play in his article than the initial criticism.

- tom moody

February 17th, 2015 at 11:22 am

Posted in general