tom moody

Archive for the ‘general’ Category

pedantic reminder about freedom

A local park had a "Freedom & Fireworks Festival" on July 4. Many food trucks were allowed to park on the grass. Near the bandshell a portable LED sign announced in blinking capitals:
The Fourth Amendment to the US Constitution says that:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Missing is the part about cops being able to rifle through your cooler whenever they feel like it. The July 4th event should have been called "Police State & Fireworks Festival." So I celebrated freedom (the part that includes the Fourth Amendment) -- elsewhere.

- tom moody

July 6th, 2015 at 9:34 am

Posted in general

from print to app (but where's the love?)

Orit Gat has an essay on art criticism written from a parallel universe to the one blog readers inhabit.
In the Gat universe (simplifying the argument greatly) you have two main types of opinion-dispensers: print critics, who may or may not have special, professionalized wisdom and perception but who do, probably, deserve to be paid, and the great unwashed of tweeters and YouTube commenters out there typing first, thinking later, and likely not deserving to be paid. What's missing is the middle ground of nerdy amateurs writing in depth, mostly out of love, without being beholden to editorial guidance from for-profit gatekeepers. This nerd group flourished in the blogosphere (2000 - 2007) and still exists in force on the internet, with sites that are "visited," found via search, or aggregated in RSS readers. Gat doesn't mention them, in fact doesn't use the word "blog" once in her essay. Again, the simplified version of her argument is "you paid for criticism in the print era and you better be prepared to pay again in the app era, and we'll all be better for it." Am not sure why Rhizome keeps publishing these anti-democratic articles. Perhaps it's all the VC sponsorship.

- tom moody

June 18th, 2015 at 10:10 am

Posted in general

Control Panel exhibition

I have some work in a show opening this Friday, at Honey Ramka gallery in Brooklyn. Here is the press announcement:

Honey Ramka is pleased to present Control Panel, an exhibition featuring work by James Clark, Linda Francis, Micah Ganske, Ben Garthus, Tom Moody, and Yael Rechter. Control Panel opens Friday, June 19th from 6-9pm, and runs through Sunday, August 2nd.

Formally diverse, Control Panel highlights works that channel a distinctive machine aesthetic, and are also iterations of various technological types, processes, and modes. Together, they stage the gallery as an anxious chamber quickened by patterns, programs, and other visual/aural tics, rhythms, and effects.

Also opening in the project space is Salman Toor: Drawings from 'The Electrician'. Illustrated by Toor and co-written by Toor and Alexandra Atiya, The Electrician is an in-progress graphic novel that, while steeped in the strangeness of the supernatural, highlights themes and social conflicts of contemporary Pakistani life. Following the life of one family, The Electrician explores the vulnerabilities of aesthetic minds within a corrupt tyranny. A sensitive register of lived experience, Toor’s drawings address the toll of anxiety and the need for fantasy in a collapsing world.

Honey Ramka is located at 56 Bogart Street (1st floor), in Bushwick, Brooklyn, NY. Hours are 1-6pm on Fri-Sun and by appointment.

- tom moody

June 16th, 2015 at 6:20 am

Posted in general

treat the pusher, not the addict

It's amusing in an Invasion of the Body Snatchers kind of way to watch hundreds of New Yorkers walking around on sidewalks holding their phones, checking them constantly. A few years ago everyone was toting water bottles -- you see less of those now because people need their phone hands.
Facebook + Phone has proven to be amazing catnip for humans. An unbeatable combination that took screen addiction out of the office and home and into the streets.
This phenomenon has hit Europe hard as well. The magazine tried to get theorist Evgeny Morozov to talk about "internet addiction" but he was more interested in who is specifically benefiting from this phone crack:

I have little problem with the "addicts" part; it's the "internet" in "internet addicts" that I find troubling. A major part of my own critique of contemporary digital discourse is the way in which it barely registers any alternatives to the way in which Facebook, Google, Twitter and others have colonised our lives, presenting themselves as the only game in town when it comes to connectivity. They are also tied to a particular business model – advertising – and it's this model which results in these sites being as addictive as they are. If they don't get you hooked and you visit them rarely, you are a money-losing unit for them. So when I speak critically of "internet addiction," I am simply cautioning people not to medicalise a socio-economic problem. The right answer here clearly is not to develop more drugs to fix our addiction, but to question how we should run our communication services – perhaps, disconnecting them from the current advertising model altogether.

There is chicken-egg problem, though: if everyone has a phone and checks it constantly, who is going to agitate for change?

- tom moody

June 15th, 2015 at 5:31 am

Posted in general

the pit wants what it wants

Recommended indie horror film: Jug Face, 2013, which deviates from the usual maniac-torturing-people-in-a-cabin formula to explore themes of rural patriarchy, fatalism, and the meaning of community bonds. Elements of Shirley Jackson's lottery, Lovecraft's color out of space, and Dickey's deliverance can be found here but it's an original work.
Wisdom in this unnamed Appalachian enclave is dispensed by The Pit, an actual, literal hole in the ground, which can either heal or kill you. As explained by the moonshine-seller who is the town's unofficial mayor (played by Larry Fessenden), "The Pit wants what it wants." It has been healing the villagers since the days of "the pox" and they take its dictates seriously. Formally it communicates its wishes to a local potter who makes a ceramic "jug face" likeness of a person in the community who will be bloodily sacrificed. Villagers submit reluctantly but willingly. Lest we think the mayor and the potter are cooking all this up themselves, we see several examples where protocols aren't followed and The Pit takes matters into its own hands, or tentacles (this is left to our imagination) -- it butchers several people to communicate its displeasure. The film centers on the efforts of a determined young woman to flee The Pit and its servitors, after receiving some mixed signals about whether she's supposed to be breeding or dying to sustain the community.
Reviews of the film have mostly discussed the lead actress (who is excellent) and the mood of tension in this backwoods pressure cooker. Most interesting, though, is The Pit as a metaphor of the yawning hole of chaos that this town, and by logical extension, the rest of the world relies on as an organizing structure. Why did we invade Iraq when agents provocateurs funded by another country launched a domestic attack? The Pit wanted it. Why did Obama promise to close Guantanamo and then renege? Ask The Pit. Who decided, in the thick of congressional discussion of a bad trade bill, to focus the attention of the country on a popular sports figure's gender change? A capital idea from The Pit. Etcetera. Reptilians have been adduced as an explanation for all the incomprehensible evil things that happen but they've got nothing on The Pit.

- tom moody

June 9th, 2015 at 7:16 am

Posted in general

feedback on frame grab gif post

Got some good feedback on the GIF theory, but mostly concerning frame-grab GIFs post. (Let me know if you want attribution for these):

comment 1 There are a lot of artists on Tumblr or wherever else (u dont have to call em artists if u dont want) that are doing original animation GIFs either from drawings made in the computer or entirely created on their own 3D/more photoshop illustrator work. I think there is a whole category of ppl who r making GIFs between what u call an art gif and 'they' call art gifs. It's basically ppl who are just animators, they have tools to animate images and instead of using found imagery they are making their own and animating it, it may not be gritty or low res but it's not remix culture or just some grab of someone elses video.
Also, I've decided i like cinemagraphs, not as art objects or anything but just for their technical proficiency. It is an interesting technique and format, ppl are just using it horribly wrong and discussing it in awful ways and calling them dumb names instead of just GIFs lol.

reply: I had to put down a territorial marker for "my" notion of an art GIF -- likely the more high-res work you're describing would be mentioned, too, if we could first wrestle Rhizome and the other theorists away from "GIF = frame grab GIF."
I think cinemagraphs are fine for comedy -- I haven't seen a non-silly use of it because the whole premise is still a "beautiful" photo with a moving element.

comment 2: i don't think your analogy works, popularity and fetishism are two different things - gifs have always been part of the popular online fabric but now they're fetishized by complete hacks as a marketing/advertorial touchpoint

reply: my musician neighbor across the street said "you were really ahead of this gif thing" -- pink floyd before and after Dark Side is a GREAT analogy. GIFs are fetishized by hacks as a marketing/advertorial touchpoint because they are perceived to be popular, whereas five years ago those same hacks didn't know from GIFs.

comment 3: maybe I need to read more about GIF cause idgi or maybe should just retire lol

reply: GIFs with celebrities and movie references are easier for theorists as well as consumers

- tom moody

June 1st, 2015 at 9:52 am

Posted in general

GIF theory, but mostly concerning frame-grab GIFs

Ryder Ripps hopes that GIF fetishization will end this year -- well and good but as a GIF appreciator a few years ago, he's a bit like the 1973 Pink Floyd fan whose favorite psych group suddenly went platinum with Dark Side of the Moon -- nothing is ever as cool once it's popular.
Meanwhile theory is struggling to catch up with what "GIF culture" even means. Three essays from the 2011 - 2013 period (which I only just focused on) fixate almost entirely on "remix" or "frame grab" GIFs, interpreting clips from movies and TV shows; none considers the GIF type I'm probably most intrigued by, which is frame-by-frame animation of original drawings. Daniel Rourke defines "art gifs" as fancier frame grab GIFs that use high resolution. To me an "art gif" is a low res abstraction or cartoon graphic that has almost no reference to, or is actively against, video and photography.

Morgan Quaintance's 2013 Frieze article, A Brief History of the Gif, considers the issue of taste and defines GIF culture as an exercise in camp a la Susan Sontag's "Notes on Camp" essay:

...As Susan Sontag wrote: ‘the lover of camp appreciates vulgarity […] sniffs the stink and prides himself on his strong nerves.’ This line is from a key section in Sontag’s famous 1964 essay ‘Notes on Camp’, in which she argues that the ‘lover of camp in the age of mass culture’ is the modern incarnation of the dandy. While the dandy sought rarefied experience as a remedy for boredom, the lover of camp appreciates ‘the coarsest, commonest pleasures, in the arts of the masses’. If, as I’m suggesting, camp is the dominant sensibility of the web, then GIF appreciation – as an ennui suppressant accessed through exposure to the coarsest, most common produce of mass culture – might be the answer to this question: how to be a dandy in the information age?

My Psychotronic GIFs essay for Art F City in 2008 also considered bad taste as an oppositional or distancing device but I used only one or two "frame grab" examples; I was mostly interested in drawing (computer drawing in particular).

Quaintance cites two essays, Giampaolo Bianconi's GIFABILITY (Rhizome, 2012) and Rourke's The Doctrine of the Similar (GIF GIF GIF) (MachineMachine, 2011). Again, both of these are focused on GIFs as sampling or appropriation, although Rourke gives a few examples of original animation (mostly in what he calls the "classic" category). It's unfortunate that for all these writers GIFs came of age only when they were able to imitate video!

- tom moody

May 31st, 2015 at 7:22 am

Posted in general

so very post analog

Back in the '90s yrs truly curated a show in Dallas called "Analogues of Modernism," containing modernist-style painting, sculpture and craft. The essay included some defensive nods to the fact that digital was taking over and painting was somehow holding the line against this "multiple choice exam"; however, I also meant "analogue" in the sense of being a facsimile of something. Such a show wouldn't be interesting now (if it even was then); by the turn of the millennium it was obvious that painting had little left but defensive arguments, formal trickery, and, well, centuries of historical continuity. Paradoxically, the scintilla of new content keeping painting alive in the face of insurgent, continuity-upsetting digital pathways was painters feeling they needed in some way to respond to that, by imitating or parodying "the digital."
Whatever conclusions I came to personally, the art market is still driven by painting, so here we are 20 years after "Analogues of Modernism" with a show in the Lower East Side of NYC called "Post Analog Painting." Wait, you mean digital is ascendant now and yet... and yet... artists are still painting? And taking "the digital" as content? What an idea.
The scuttlebutt on that show is that some women artists, riled by the Art F City smear job on Ryder Ripps, rebelled when the gallery wanted to include his work. Then some principled new age males became concerned that they not be seen as supporting misogyny (even though Ripps isn't a misogynist) so the solution to the whole mess was to dis-invite Ripps from the show. So courageous. So very post analog.
In a way, this example of horizontal censorship gives the game away: one reason "internet artist" Ripps was considered was because he made a body of work on canvas, which is a lottery ticket artists can purchase to be considered serious in the art world. Often this means using outside fabricators (as Ripps did). He did everything the other "post analog" artists are doing in order to be players, including "commenting on the digital" by having his work be hand-painted from iPhone images of an Instagram model. Yet the form and content of his painting is so obnoxious and revolting that other artists don't want their work seen with it! (As one artist told me, "then the whole show would be about Ryder.") Better to do a safe version of postmodern abstraction if you're going to be exploring stale ideas.
(As an aside, what is "post analog" about Jeanette Hayes' trite pairings of Sailor Moon and De Kooning women? It's a straightforward juxtaposition of one analog medium [oil on canvas] with another [cel animation]. No one is ever going to be so upset with Hayes' work that it would be banned from a show. It's pleasant to look at and literally superimposes the heroic female over the dominant male's twisted libido. The triumph of the simplistic!)

- tom moody

May 14th, 2015 at 9:44 am

Posted in general

End Seven on Seven, please

Rhizome just completed another Seven on Seven presentation ("pair[ing] up seven artists and seven technologists and giv[ing] them a simple assignment: make something in twenty-four hours, and present the results the following day in a public conference"). It's a popular event but the idea should have retired with the previous administration for two reasons:

1. It artificially splits Olia Lialina's Turing Complete User into two types of humans: artists and "technologists," a term Rhizome continues to use unapologetically. Lialina has written:

Alienation of users from their computers started in XEROX PARC with secretaries, as well as artists and musicians. And it never stopped. Users were seen and marketed as people who’s real jobs, feelings, thoughts, interests, talents — everything what matters — lie outside of their interaction with personal computers.

For instance, in 2007, when Adobe, the software company who’s products are dominating the so called “creative industries”, introduced version 3 of Creative Suite, they filmed graphic artists, video makers and others talking about the advantages of this new software package. In particular interesting was one video of a web designer (or an actress in the role of a web designer): she enthusiastically demonstrated what her new Dream Weaver could do, and that in the end “I have more time to do what I like most — being creative”. The message from Adobe is clear. The less you think about source code, scripts, links and the web itself, the more creative you are as a web designer. What a lie. I liked to show it to fresh design students as an example of misunderstanding the core of the profession.

The core assumption of Seven on Seven is that artists need technical assistance so they can concentrate on their real jobs. This year's "technologists" included a Microsoft researcher, a statistician, a software engineer, a web developer, and some programmers. The "artists" may or may not have technological abilities -- the reasons for the pairings are never discussed at great length. A certain amount of celebrity appeal goes into picking the names (Ai Weiwei, Nate Silver, "the co-founder of Instagram," etc), which in itself transcends the art-tech divide.

2. It assumes art can be done in 24 hours. So the awkwardly paired collaborators must meet, agree on what art is, agree on a project, and produce the project in an artficially-time-constrained situation that few artists would ever have to contend with if they were working solo. What is the point of this? Tech art as poetry slam? Only someone who had never been an artist, or even talked to artists much, would conceive of an idea like this. Sometimes art comes fast, sometimes it takes years.

Artists keep agreeing to do "Seven on Sevens" and people keep coming to watch the trainwreck but that doesn't mean it can't be re-thought or scrapped.

Addendum: Matt Taibbi, after the collapse of his journalist venture with ebay founder Pierre Omidyar, cracked wise about Omidyar's constant reference to himself as a technologist:

Ronan O'Donnabhain writes: Hi Matt! I realize this is a little inside baseball, but would love to hear your version of your departure from 1st look/Omidyar?
Liam O'Brien writes: How much would it take to snitch on ‪@The_Intercept? "I signed an NDA [non-disclosure agreement --ed]" also a valid answer.

[Taibbi]: Maybe someday I'll get into it, but it's not the right time. By the way, the fact that I'm keeping quiet has nothing to do with any NDA. It's just that it's a bad situation that I think can only be made worse by more talk.

It's too bad, too, because a lot went on that wasn't ugly and was just flat-out funny/bizarre. I know there are many [First Look Media] vets who are already mourning the Liar's Poker-type comic tell-all book that will probably never be written. If someone does write it, I really hope the Farrelly Brothers make the movie. For instance, I'm imagining a scene where just before an all-company meeting, a dozen journalists lay action on how long it will take their CEO to use the phrase, "As you know, I'm a technologist." The winning bet? A minute and forty-five seconds.

- tom moody

May 8th, 2015 at 7:47 am

Posted in general

two fun smackdowns

1. Noam Chomsky vs a "popular atheist and torture-supporter".

2. Jon Stewart vs NY Times reporter who facilitated Bush's "fall product rollout" (prepping America for an elective war in '02) with an alarming story about nuclear tubes. Part 1 / Part 2

Smackee #1 just isn't very smart and posted his email exchange thinking he'd gotten the better of Chomsky. Smackee #2 was riding high during the days of Bush war fever but now claims not to have known she was part of a promotional push that was glaringly obvious outside her circle of consensus.

- tom moody

May 6th, 2015 at 8:41 am

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