Art and Technology Masquerading as Life
If you look at the characteristics of fiction and the representational arts, you will find that they can be described in terms of a handful of elements. First, and most fundamentally, art and fiction, like everything else, is embodied in various kinds of physical and sensory objects. Its basic stuff is material; it is made up of actors, costumes, props and stage sets; of the rich palette of colors produced by paint on canvas; and the pattern of words on paper.
When we examine television advertising we once again find art and technology being used to create simulations that tell stories in an effort to evoke desired reactions from audiences. But in advertising we see a strange new cultural creation: the 20-second “cinematic” production full of dancing, singing and joke-telling characters playing physicians, housewives, and used car salesmen, with ultra-abbreviated plots and quick resolutions of conflict in which the characters overcome obstacles and fulfill their desires in record time with the help of the product. Continue reading
The suicide of Guy Debord on 30 November has led to the former Situationist being caught up in a number of discourses that he may, at one time, have viewed as distasteful. In the ‘Guardian Weekend 1994: Review of the Year’ (Guardian 31/12/94), Debord was name checked in the ‘Those We Have Lost’ column alongside two other suicides, rock singer Kurt Cobain and Great Train Robber Buster Edwards (other deaths noted included those of Derek Jarman, Richard Nixon, John Smith, Jackie Onassis, Dennis Potter, Kim Il Sung, Peter Cushing, Karl Popper and Keith Joseph). Clearly, Debord’s timing was good because if he’d killed himself at the beginning of the year, the mainstream media may well have forgotten his suicide by its end.
Messages placed on the internet about the suicide included one from Edward A. Shanken who wrote: ‘Guy Debord did not kill himself. He was murdered by the thoughtlessness and selfishness of so-called scholars (primarily trendy lit-criters) who colonized his brilliant ideas and transformed his radical politics into an academic status symbol not worth the pulp it’s printed on…’ This generated a few angry responses, the import of which was that Debord was not another Jim Morrison, Ian Curtis or Kurt Cobain who ‘died for our sins.’ Shanken didn’t address the fact that Debord was utterly obsessed with the notion of ‘recuperation,’ and that as a consequence, he was to some degree responsible for all the uses made of his work. Debord’s version of the Situationist International deposited a good deal of material with archives and museums precisely because it did not want to be forgotten by academia.
John Young used the Net as a soapbox from which to claim that Debord had worked for Mossad: ‘this dazzling and humbling association with real world power beyond the soft-minded literary and philosophical worlds totally mesmerized Debord… The elixitrate mix of sacred and profane literally made Guy drunk with intellectual stimulation and shared worldly risk… the intrigue and daring bond of high mind and base reality was an alchemic transformation of mental to physical like no head-wrought book could come near.’ Unfortunately, the intertextual origins of this thesis were plainly evident in Young’s claim that he’d learnt of Debord’s spook activities from Philip Roth. Young even went as far as asserting that Debord had provided the model for the central character in Philip Roth’s novel Operation Shylock: A Confession.
Meanwhile, Malcolm Imrie’s obituary in the Guardian of 5 December 1994 absurdly claimed that ‘with consummate irony, he (Debord) allowed his work to be republished by Gallimard, entering the pantheon of French literature, just as the pantheon was collapsing.’ In the world the Situationists wished to create, such a panegyric would be viewed as supremely ironic. Suicide was an occupational hazard for the Dadaists and Surrealists, perhaps Debord hoped to realise and suppress this tradition by using death as a method of reintegrating himself into the avant-garde. In the meantime, death remains the ultimate commodity, a handy gimmick to help sell works of ‘revolutionary theory’ in an already over saturated market.
Reasons to be thankful: it seems we’re at the beginning of an explosion of projected digital imagery as medium, with the best yet to come. And some of the most compelling work right now deals with the most elemental qualities of this medium, how light and space interact.
Take the work of hc gilje. He shares some of his most recent projects, which include the elegant-looking theatrical projections at top:
I was invited by Trøndelag Teater to do a combined physical set design with video projections. It was an adaptation of the Norwegian literary classic “Fuglane” (“The Birds”) by Tarjei Vesaas, with Harry Guttormsen as director. I created an organic physical form, which combined with the videoprojection became a very dynamic landscape.
Cool as tech like Microsoft’s Kinect are, I find myself drawn to work that focuses on the sparest elements, visual etudes in form and composition. I’m particularly interested in this having been following the writing of John Maeda, whose thinking helped inspire Processing (and, by extension, OpenFrameworks and lots of other stuff).
The other work hc gilje shares to me fits some of that work. How much can you do, in rhythm and space, using only a single line?
A straight line moves slowly through the three rooms of the gallery space, cutting the space into different sections (snitt). The movement of the line, “attacking” the space from different angles, focus the attention of the viewer on the physical qualities of the space.
The physical properties of the galllery space (the walls, ceiling,floor, door openings, light fixtures etc) modulates/breaks up the straight line into a continuously evolving pattern of line fragments, depending on the position of the viewer and the angle of the line in relation to the architecture.
The solo show explores the concept of “line-space” — a fascinating proposition, that the one-dimensional line can define a three-dimensional volume. More in his blog post:
If you do happen to live in a town like Malmö, Sweden, or Oslo, I imagine you’ll have quite a lot of time this season for quiet reflection, and cause to do some projecting of light – the sun spending very little of the day getting in your way. Let us know what thoughts you have, and what light you project.
The Archigram Archival Project makes the work of the seminal architectural group Archigram available free online for public viewing and academic study. The project was run by EXP, an architectural research group at the University of Westminster. Archigram Began Life as a Magazine produced at home by the members of the group, showing experimental work to a growing, global audience. Nine (and a half) seminal, individually designed, hugely influential, and now very rare magazines were produced between 1961 and 1974. The last ‘half’ was an update on the group’s office work rather than a ‘full’ Archigram magazine. The Six Members of Archigram are Peter Cook, David Greene, Mike Webb, Ron Herron, Warren Chalk and Dennis Crompton. Cook, Greene and Webb met in 1961, collaborated on the first Archigram magazine, later inviting Herron, Chalk and Crompton to join them, and the magazine name stuck to them as a group.
More Than 200 Projects are included in the Archigram Archival Project. The AAP uses the group’s mainly chronological numbering system and includes everything given an Archigram project number. This comprises projects done by members before they met, the Archigram magazines (grouped together at no. 100), the projects done by Archigram as a group between 1961 and 1974, and some later projects.