Category: Cultural Theorists

Double Walker

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“Doppelganger” is German for “double walker”, a shadow self that is thought to accompany every person.

“Of all the prostheses that mark the history of the body, the double is doubtless the oldest. But the double is precisely not a prosthesis: it is an imaginary figure, which just like the soul, the shadow, the mirror image, haunts the subject like his other, which makes it so that the subject is simultaneously itself and never resembles itself again…”

Jean Baudrillard: “Simulacra and Simulation (1981)”

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Alternatively in psychotherapy terms.

“The shadow only becomes hostile when he is ignored or misunderstood.”

Carl Jung: ‘Man & His Symbols’.

Catastrophe

Samuel Beckett is well known for such famous plays as ‘Waiting for Godot’ and ‘Krapp’s last tape’, but some of his lesser known pieces or short theatrical sketches are just as powerful.

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Catastrophe isn’t well known, but it always struck me as one of his most powerful pieces for stage. It’s his most political and also supposedly his most optimistic.

Its a short work consisting of one scene, in which a director and his assistant discuss a mute figure they are preparing for a performance: he is a dehumanised character, like a tailor’s dummy, at the mercy of their direction; his only gesture of independence is to raise his head at the end of the play – an act of resistance in the face of oppression. Its dedicated to then (1982) imprisoned Czech playwright Vaclav Havel.

“There’s our Catastrophe, in the bag!”

Harold Pinter: ‘Catastrophe’.

Note to Self:

  • Man as Mannequin/Object.
  • Person unfurled.

Girls who are Beuys, Who like Beuys to be girls, Who do Beuys…

On the Sunday of the Low residency I met up with an old friend and we went to the Tate Modern, a monumental building probably not best utilised to show as much work as possible, but still good to see such great work. After a week of mostly digital work it was different and refreshing to see some more physical work.

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Joseph Beuys the brillant German conceptual artist had some work in the Tate, and I remembered how much I liked his work and the ideas behind them. I remember laughing at his fabricated self creation myth, that whilst serving as a Stuka dive bomber in the German Army in the second World War he was shot down on the Russian front and rescued by a nomadic Tatar tribe, that wrapped his broken body in animal fat and felt and nursed him back to health. Army records show he was in fact re-cooperating in a German field hospital. But what of it, he understood that Human Beings want a larger story…myth and legend.

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“It is not inconsistent with Beuys’ work that his biography would have been subject to his own reinterpretation;this particular story has served as a powerful myth of origins for Beuys’s artistic identity, as well as providing an initial interpretive key to his use of unconventional materials, amongst which felt and fat were central.” [1]

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I started to understand ‘Beuys as shaman’ when I read about the first time he visited The United States and immediatedly performed an action;

“…The action actually began at Kennedy Airport, where friends wrapped him in felt and transported him to the gallery in an ambulance. Beuys then spent several days in a room with only a felt blanket, a flashlight, a cane that looked like a shepherd’s staff, copies of the Wall Street Journal (which were delivered daily), and a live coyote. His choice of employing a coyote was perhaps an acknowledgment of an animal that holds great spiritual significance for Native Americans, or a commentary on a country that through its Western expansion had become “lost” America.”

…and I didn’t even mention the dead hare.

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Note to Self:

  • Whittle down the rationale of your artistic practice, it sometimes comes across as muddled.
  • Finish off one or two Arduino projects that have been lying around and then quickly move on to more visual screen orientated work.

The Leckeys run out again

There was a recent lecture at UAL by Scouse provocateur Mark Leckey which I unfortunatly missed as I don’t live in Londinium. I don’t know what was discussed at the lecture but his name being mentioned got me thinking. An interesting guy Leckey, looking like some kind of swashbuckling amalgamation of Paul Calf and the Scarlet Pimpernel, a younger generation seem to have latched onto a lot of his ideas, which is great. I remember his piece ‘Fiorucci made me Hardcore’;

Which at first glance seems like some kind of clumsily edited found footage documentary of 70’s Soul Boys, 80’s football casuals, ravers, Northern English scallies and a seemingly random assortment of partying ‘Ne’er-do-Wells’. On repeated viewings this video reveals a kind of brutal nostalgic beauty, a yearning for times past and youth culture as mysticism.

A cultural magpie, he talks of ‘possessing the computer generated image’ or ‘apprehending the object’. There was another later piece at the TATE where he aimed a speaker stack at and sonically blasted one of its best known sculptures, Jacon Epsteins ‘Jacob and the Angel’;

“Leckey told me that it was about trying to apprehend the object, trying to relate to it, but having to do so indirectly, almost tacking towards it, because of the sheer impossibility of grasping it directly. Of course he understood the history of modernist sculpture, intellectually; but on another level the Epstein, completed in 1941, was also as distant to him and as bewildering as, say, an Egyptian artefact. His performance was a way of wooing it, goading it, to speak to him. “I wanted to elicit from it its meaning and intention.” [1]

This brings me in a roundabout way to the IoT, which I am investigating, and a later performance work of his, GreenScreenRefrigeratorAction (2010);

The Fridge stood on a green screen infinity cyc while ‘he coaxed it into revealing its thoughts and actions’. It shows a shiny black Samsung smart fridge pondering its existence and mingling with like objects. In a scientifically-charged description that concerns its inner workings, the fridge’s anguished, robotic first person voiceover renders audible its inner life and its potential dreams. As we create increasingly smarter objects, Leckey predicts a world in which things become sentient, start communicating, and alter our environment into new digital ecosystems.

“Now, instead of wanting to seduce an object into offering up its meaning, Leckey seemed to want the object to consume him. The work began with his inhaling the gases used as coolant for a Samsung fridge: a kind of shamanistic ritual in which, in order to understand the fridge, he took on some of its characteristics. The fridge sang back a kind of mournful plainchant: “See, see, see we assemble. See we assemble. See we assemble; Samsung, Viking, Gaggenau and Whirlpool …” The work, Leckey said, is a kind of fantasy: that he could bring himself into “a state outside of myself, fridge-like, less-human, feeling like an image”. As if he wanted to dissolve into pixels.

You could see the work as nodding to the notion of the internet of things – the technology through which objects, especially consumer appliances, will be connected online (such that a fridge might text you when you are short of milk; or suggest recipes from the ingredients within it). You could see it, more broadly, as a reaction to the fact that technology is triggering strange, disruptive new relationships between humans, objects and images; people, animals and machines.” [2]

Note to Self:

  • Cultural Theorists: In this blog post I have ticked as one of the categories for it to be assigned to is ‘Cultural Theorists’. I wonder if Leckey would like that? 🙂
  • Wonder if anyone has recorded that lecture he gave recently? would be good to see what the scallywag is up to.

Bookish

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Jean Baudrillard – Xerox & Infinity

Some reading. I Keep going back to this pamphlet;

“If men create intelligent machines, or fantasise about them, it is because they secretly despair of their own intelligence…”

I always liked Baudrillard as he was never fully accepted by French academia, destined forever to be on the outside. An interesting essay on Artifical intelligence, screens and ‘Telecomputer Man.’

“We lived once in a world where the realm of the imaginary was governed by the mirror, by dividing one into two, by theatre, by otherness and alienation. Today that realm is the realm of the screen, of interfaces and duplication, of contiguity and networks. All our machines are screens, and the interactivity of humans has been replaced by the interactivity of screens.”

This essay was originally published as part of Jean Baudrillard’s “La transparence du mal: Essai sur les phénomènes extrèmes” (1990), translated into English in 1993 as “The Transparency of Evil: Essays on Extreme Phenomena”.

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Lev Manovich – Database as a Symbolic form

I have been enjoying reading Lee Manovich’s – ‘The language of New Media’, interesting thoughts and stories of his time in the former Soviet Union and present day USA, how his 1st foray into computer programming ended in failure as he inputted the letter O instead of 0 (zero)!
I might also pick up a copy of his ‘Software takes command’ if funds allow.

I came across this old essay of his called ‘Database as a Symbolic Form’.

“Vertov is able to achieve something which new media designers still have to learn – how to merge database and narrative into a new form.”

Note to Self:

  • Social media: I have followed Lev Manovich’s page on Facebook, some good stuff posted. He is quite scathing of various people, institutions etc though, but in a refreshing/fair way. One of his favourites put downs in relation to any (dare I say it?)… ‘Digital Art’ is “That’s very 90s” or “That was done in the 00’s”. Funny.

Lives driven by Data

Media theorist ‘Lev Manovich’ said:

“19th Century culture was defined by the novel,
20th Century culture by Cinema,
The culture of the 21st century will be defined by the interface.”

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His media visualisation techniques compress massive amounts of data into ‘smaller observable media landscapes. Rather than searching through metadata, we’re then able to find relevant information in a way that’s more compatible with the way humans process information. This is particularly valuable in giving us the ability to observe where patterns of structure and colour may exist.

A lot of digital works for me in general are conceptually sound, but the arrived at outcome is not always aesthetically pleasing.

Artist Aaron Koblin expands on this, he takes vast amounts of data — and at times vast numbers of people — and weaves them into interesting visualizations. From elegant lines tracing airline flights to landscapes of cell phone data, his works explore how modern technology can make us more human.

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We can set parameters and choose what to pull out of the data glut. Below is a visualisation of data from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration processed to create animations of flight traffic patterns and density. The outcome is Colour coded by type: Altitude, make and model.

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Note to Self:

  • I Will continue my reading/research into the representation of information gathered, and how best to present it once captured.