Paddy Johnson interviews Cory Arcangel:

FANZINE: In fact it was a friend, Yael Kanarek, that organized your first talk in 2001 at Eyebeam. I remember this talk because you said some rather nasty things about Flash––the crux of your argument being that you should understand how a program is built if you are going to use it, and that Flash makes everything look the same. I saw your lecture at Columbia University in 2004 online, where you appear to have changed your opinion a little. Though you don't speak specifically about Flash, you do mention that you now believe that as long as you understand software imposes an aesthetic then it is fine to work with it. What was it that made you change your mind?

CORY ARCANGEL: Well in 2001, I was still a punk basically, and just thought it was my way or the highway. This was inherited from the BEIGE days, where we kinda rolled as a computer gang, and pretty much hated anything that wasn’t exactly like what we were doing. But I guess as we grew older we started seeing all this work that we loved that wasn’t necessarily 100% craft aware. In fact it was the opposite. I mean look at the Internet? How many amazing crappy Flash animations are there? And those are amazing!! Also, I began to see bad Photoshop art where the artist knew it was bad and was therefore OK. So I needed to find a way to accommodate this perspective.....otherwise I would be ruling out a lot of great self aware media art that is made these days. I had to have a way to deal with that in my own set of rules...

- tom moody 3-31-2006 12:35 am

Flash is just a tool, a great one I think, you can make things interactive, incorporate audio, video, animation, numbered sequenced images, pure data programming, all kinds of stuff.
Hooray Flash! I hope Adobe doesn't screw it up.
- Thor Johnson (guest) 3-31-2006 2:20 am [add a comment]

I miss out on a lot of cool things because I refuse to load flash. There are too many flash ads. Hate it. But ... there's a flash blocker plug-in for FireFox. When I get around to loading that, I can control my Flash destiny.
- mark 3-31-2006 2:50 am [add a comment]

Flash has creative uses, the thing that's bad is it's so anti-open source.
Thor, when you first posted your State Fair photos, I couldn't save them without using a screen shot utility.
For a blogger it's nice to be able to make your own "press kit" from others' work, in terms of choosing the photos, details, or sounds. Flash makes it hard to do that.
With an HTML page, every part of your work can be copied, saved, distributed, mashed up... I like that aspect of it.
What Cory is talking about is knowing the creative limitations of Flash and if not flouting them, at least being aware that someone else designed the program a certain way and is only giving you creative wiggle room within the parameters of the program.
I prefer the GIFs, limited as they are, because they're savable and tweakable and no special software is required to view them.
Not to say I dislike work done in Flash, lots of people are doing great things with it.
- tom moody 3-31-2006 3:01 am [add a comment]

GIF has actually had its own anti-open source issues:
- paul (guest) 3-31-2006 7:32 am [add a comment]

Why, if there are so many interesting things in this interview and also this excerpt, the discussion will always start with "I like Flash", "Flash ain't bad", "I like Flash", "it is a tool" etc?? ... i have seen this with 98% of all articles where Flash is mentioned.

Strangely, Photoshop is still out of this circle. Photoshop is also mentioned here, but never anybody jumps in and says it sucks or it is gr8 or just a tool or whatever. Actually Photoshop is mentioned everywhere and never such strong opinions as about Flash pop up.

Let's change that! Who will start?
- drx (guest) 3-31-2006 11:15 am [add a comment]

Allow me to say as strongly as I think you'd like to hear, I hate Photoshop. I hate its characteristic '70s airbrushed look, I hate the "bicubic mush" from resizing (your term, drx, and it's great--I'm thankful Paul Slocum told me about "nearest neighbor" resizing or I'd be screwed with these pixeled bitmaps I do), I hate all those "artistic" paintbrushes, I hate the instantly recognizable effects ("mezzotint," "craquelure"), I hate the lazy "surrealist collages" people make with Photoshop, I hate working with layers, I hate the un-intuitive interface, I hate Adobe, which has criminalized the gray area of intellectual property disputes, I hate the constant upgrades that add features no one needs (I'm still using a version of 5 that came bundled with a scanner)--I mainly use Photoshop for cropping and maybe tweaking the contrast of a photo for the blog. I hate making art with it.

- tom moody 3-31-2006 11:40 am [add a comment]

I use GIMP.

Is the percentage of sickening Flash or Photoshop or Jitter artistic output really any higher than the percentage of unbearable artistic output from say, oil paints or guitars?
- paul (guest) 3-31-2006 11:13 pm [add a comment]

i think they are saying they're prone to problematics. like, bagpipes and ukuleles. not impossible, just prone.
- bill 3-31-2006 11:56 pm [add a comment]

I love Photoshop, use it all the time, Illustrator too.
- steve 4-01-2006 12:41 am [add a comment]

I think this is a really good discussion. Anytime this sort of thing comes up, however, I'm torn between throwing my two cents (or more in this case) in and thinking we (digital artists, people who might care about this kind of thing) should be over this stuff by now.

From a reception standpoint, I think Paul's analogy with guitars shines a lot of light on things. We're not likely to to value someone playing the same "louie louie" riff we've all heard before, in the same way we might not value someone applying a "mezzotint" filter to a photo and calling it art.

We might, however, (emphasis on might) appreciate guitar playing that (a) acknowledges it's primitiveness and highlights, spins, or critiques it (ramones, vu, etc.) (b) reaches a certain level of virtuosity (yngwie malmsteen, steve vai, etc.) (c) pushes the boundaries of what a guitar is supposed to do (hendrix in his time, post rock, etc.) or (d) just sounds "good" to us (i happen to really like the guitar on the first television album). (We could definitely add more approaches to this list too)

I think the same holds true for photoshop or flash art. What complicates things, is that for so long there has been so much bad photoshop and flash going around that we end up blaming the tools and not the work or the system that values it. I think this is definitely changing, however - i can't remember the last time I saw someone get away with the "craquelure" filter.

(This of course says nothing about the program's interfaces, or their company's politics, both of which can definitely be a bummer).

- mbs (guest) 4-01-2006 12:46 am [add a comment]

My fault, but this discussion has split into another thread on the exact same topic. I recommend reading both.
I admit invoking the dreaded "craquelure" filter was a low blow.
My response on the other thread was "energy level can overcome programming limitations" (e.g., funk carioca with cheap samplers) to which I would add, you can't go wrong mixing up a bunch of programs, as opposed to doing everything in one environment, proprietary or otherwise. Well, you can go wrong, but it's a start.

- tom moody 4-01-2006 1:39 am [add a comment]

Receptors - Craquelure

- tom moody 4-01-2006 1:42 am [add a comment]

Whoa, dude, how'd you get that effect?

(I guess I should have known better than to make a long involved guitar analogy on the website of a known guitar hater)
- mbs (guest) 4-01-2006 4:08 am [add a comment]

I read it with appreciation for the craft of the argument--and the point you were making--while swallowing my avowed desire to see us "move on" from that instrument.

(I haven't thrown away my guitar records, BTW)

Also, re: Paul's comment about "unbearable artistic output from say, oil paints or guitars" I was thinking that, yes, indeed, there's lots of bad work in every category. And special ironic cults devoted to all that bad stuff. Like John Currin doing pallette knife painting a while back.

I think the difference is the bamboozlement factor. It's easier to snow people with tech stuff because no one knows how it works. This makes it more dangerous and in need of discussion. I mean, I know I hate the craquelure filter but I've never actually read anyone say they hate the craquelure filter.

Back when I spent more time at magazine racks than I do now, I used to enjoy comparing specialty mags like American Airbrush (or whatever) and those digital art magazines where they swap notes about how to make realistic flames. It's all bad, but none of these people are talking across the gap between their cult media of choice.

Not sure what my point was, just wanted to mention that and it's slow right now at you-know-where.

- tom moody 4-01-2006 4:23 am [add a comment]

Just a quick note before I close this thread due to spam: the GIF ownership issues have been resolved (patents expired, etc) and it no longer has "open source issues."
- tom moody 9-03-2010 7:04 pm [ comments]