Attack of the Clones, Part 4

Steven Read - Please Wait

Steven Read, Please Wait, 2005 (via VVork)

Cory Arcangel - Screen Burn

Cory Arcangelís Panasonic TH42PV60EH Plasma Screen Burn, 2007 (also via VVork)

Bonus: Nominee for Worst Theoretical Justification for an Artwork in 2007

from T.Whid:
Arcangelís "Panasonic TH42PV60EH Plasma Screen Burn" is brash and bold, it says "fuck you, Iím fucking up this expensive piece of equipment. Why? Because Iím motherfucking Cory Arcangel thatís why!" Steven Read's piece is nitpicky and fussy. His piece says ďlook! I wrote a program to destroy an obsolete piece of hardware. Why? Because Iím a geek." Arcangelís piece is about fucking with consumer dreams. Read's piece is aboutÖ time and phosphors?
I would personally like to see Arcangel going back to destroying obsolete pieces of hardware instead of acting like a jaded rock star. I know some artists who could do some cool things with that plasma screen. (Also, we're taking it on faith that the screen is actually destroyed--in any case, if the gallery sells it, it's contractually tied up as an expensive name plate, which is practically the same thing.)

Previous clone attacks

- tom moody 3-28-2007 8:39 pm

smashing guitar 399 hits

- bill 3-28-2007 9:09 pm

Now that's a trope!
- tom moody 3-28-2007 9:22 pm

wiki info

- bill 3-28-2007 9:26 pm

I don't think I really got into any theory there...

Anyway, Read's piece seems meek and geeky. Cory's is confident and funny. Cory wins, hands down.
- twhid (guest) 3-28-2007 9:53 pm

how much do i have to give someone to smash a guitar through plasma screen burn? (i will supply the guitar!)
- dave 3-28-2007 9:57 pm

Personally, I'm partial to art about time and phosphors.
- sally mckay 3-28-2007 10:24 pm

Dave, that's very generous for a nihilistic gesture!

"Theory" in the current art world means any explanation for a piece beyond "cool, check it out."
- tom moody 3-28-2007 10:27 pm

Who would have guessed that I'm a theorist?

Haha :-)
- twhid (guest) 3-28-2007 10:36 pm

It's an awesome responsibility that anyone beyond the "cool check it out" stage holds.
- tom moody 3-28-2007 10:38 pm

at the risk of having an honorary doctorate of art history foisted upon me...

I'm not buying the guitar smashing analogy. TV sets, especially plasma TVs, hold a special place in western consumer consciousness that is nothing like the guitar's place in western pop culture consciousness.

New media artists simply don't wield flat screens like rock stars wield guitars.
- twhid (guest) 3-28-2007 10:49 pm

media burn
- bill 3-28-2007 11:25 pm

not generous. if you heard me play guitar youd realize it was a mercy killing.

meanwhile, there are children in africa starving for tv....
- dave 3-28-2007 11:34 pm

The keyword here was not guitar. The keywords were

waste jaded rockstar plasma destroy phosphor time cory

- tom moody 3-29-2007 2:36 am

So, how is Cory acting like a jaded rockstar, exactly ? Sounds like a quite an insult to throw down.
- anonymous (guest) 3-29-2007 2:49 am

For those just joining us, T.Whid, on his blog, said that Arcangel burned his name into an expensive plasma screen, thus ruining it, and this was a "brash and bold" way of saying "fuck you, Iím fucking up this expensive piece of equipment. Why? Because Iím motherfucking Cory Arcangel thatís why!"

It does seem like a quite an insult to throw down.
- tom moody 3-29-2007 3:06 am

I understand what twhid said on his blog. I would like to know how you came to the conclusion, through this piece, that Cory is acting like a jaded rock star. I might be wrong, but I donít think that is what twhid is implying. I am trying to find a connection. Perhaps you can elaborate ?
- anonymous (guest) 3-29-2007 7:51 am

I don't understand why this connection is such a mystery. What is the difference between destroying an expensive guitar, and an expensive computer? The value of the two acts is basically equivalent - hence the conclusion.
- Paddy Johnson 3-29-2007 9:14 am

Stupid low key use of irony to comment on branding, not worth overthinking.

- anonymous (guest) 3-29-2007 9:42 am

I didn't know something could be "basically equivalent ".

I didn't find the connection between destroying an expensive guitar, and an expensive computer mysterious. The problem I have is the words jaded rockstar.

So, destroying ( if that is what you want to classify the work as doing ) something obsolete is OK, but destroying something new makes one jaded ?

As funny as I find the original post by twhid, I doubt that was the actual motivation for the work. Just a hunch.
- anonymous (guest) 3-29-2007 10:00 am

Well, I'll let Tom field the question of "jaded rockstar" - though I didn't read the connection as being anything more complex than a reference to seventies punk.

I think the title of the post "attack of the clones" suggests that Moody's thoughts are a little less binary than the distillation "destroying something obsolete is okay, destroying something new makes you jaded." We're talking about parallels here are we not?

In any case, I'm curious on what your take on the motivation of the work is...
- Paddy Johnson 3-29-2007 10:30 am

More interpretation of T.Whid: "Iím motherfucking Cory Arcangel thatís why!"

implies big ego, big status (rock star)

"Iím fucking up this expensive piece of equipment"

implies pointless destruction of something a "less big" artist would gladly use (jaded)

I hope this has been helpful.
- tom moody 3-29-2007 10:39 am

it's not rockstar. at least rockstars have some sense of sex, and death to them. these works rehash pop art, without even the politics involved in the original pop art movement. all that remains is an american, privileged, 10 year old boy, mentality towards commodity and comedy.
- macaulay culkin (guest) 3-29-2007 11:11 am

they do share one other commonality... they will both be something i forget by the time i wake up tomorrow. But, i guess that's art nowadays. I mean really... there wasn't something more interesting that could be done with this idea?

- anonymous (guest) 3-29-2007 1:30 pm

About the Plasma TV being an "expensive piece of equipment": It might be until this year ends, then the new models will be introduced on the next trade fair.

Consumer electronics have such an incredible short value span, that screen will probably be considered last season's trash before any burn-in occurred.

Actually i am glad that no "artists who could do some cool things with that plasma screen" got their hands on it, because i doubt they would do cool things if there is such an attitude of "respect" required towards expensive devices.

No opportunity has been taken away from anyone. In the contrary, every Plasma Screen sold makes the next one cheaper.
- drx (guest) 3-29-2007 5:38 pm

I just meant cooler than burning the artist's name into it as a gallery wall label.

"there wasn't something more interesting that could be done with this idea?"


Paddy is correct--the discussion went off on perceived insults having to do with the value of the commodity. But it's an old idea and an obvious idea. I'm guessing there are others besides Steven Read who have done "screen burns."

The purpose of the "clone series," if I need to spell it out, is that repetitions of a "conceptual art idea" can show the weakness or "one liner" nature of an idea, not its enduring strength.

So I don't sound like a total mean insulting bastard, I think the keystoning piece Cory did in that same show looks nice and I think it's a safe bet no one's done it before.
- tom moody 3-29-2007 5:50 pm

thats a good myth. too bad after all these years of big screen plasma tvs on the market neither myself nor any artist friends i know can afford them. its like competition amongst cable companies forcing the subscription cost down. still waiting...
- bill 3-29-2007 5:56 pm

Or CDs...
- tom moody 3-29-2007 5:57 pm

Speaking generally, the crit of Cory being derivative doesn't really hold up IMHO. I'm generally hostile to the idea of originality anyway, it's highly overrated (see MTAA's updates series).

There are lots of ideas just floating about and people will use them. It's highly likely and most probable that Cory wasn't aware of Read's piece until now.

If we are going to cut out everything other than the physical act of 'burning in' as being the only aspect of these works worth talking about, then the discussion is going to be pretty thin.

Other than the burn in, these pieces are completely different. IMHO, one is much more successful because it mashes together a couple different things: the contemporary consumer ostentation that these TVs currently represent with the historical ostentation that art collecting represents. It's a small gesture, not his best piece, but exhibits his humor and wit very well.
- twhid (guest) 3-29-2007 6:22 pm


- bill 3-29-2007 6:40 pm

I think once an artist starts making work about his own place in the commodity chain it's all over.

I liked Cory's art about games, net trash, geek subculture, rave techno, bad TV shows, etc.

I hate art about art history and the "business of art."

It's kind of like that Stephen King book Misery--the subject is the author's popularity. Or Woody Allen's Stardust Memories. It has its moments, but it's not as good as Sleeper.
- tom moody 3-29-2007 6:47 pm

Agreed. I really don't want to be discussing the connection between Damien Hirst's skull o' diamond's and Cory's work (yes, I know one is about creating the most expensive work of art ever, and the other is about destroying a costly piece of equipment, but they both address the issue Tom raises of making work about their place in the commodity chain.) It's a little depressing.

As far as the discussion about the work being derivative goes I think it's much more valuable to simply consider whether it's an interesting idea or not. My answer to that is no.

That said, I really like the Keystoning piece too. It's a simple elegant gesture.
- Paddy Johnson 3-29-2007 7:42 pm

...and here I was thinking it had something in common with Kundera's Immortality.

- Robert Huffmann (guest) 3-29-2007 9:35 pm

I suppose our interpretations relate most to what we expect from an experience of art. We can ask does this work excite the "free play of my imagination?" Do I think it's fucking hilarious? Or (as was suggested above) does it deaden interpretation by relating a cliche? One challenge to artists working right now (that has been well explored on this page) is to take a position to an audience or viewer that assumes an equality between maker and looker. Here is where the work falls short for me and moves into the territory of hypotheticals--booooooooring.
- waldo parrish (guest) 3-29-2007 9:57 pm

Yes, I'm a geek. But I thought the whole geeks-rockstar thing was settled a long time ago by the movie Revenge of the Nerds? Oh well, I guess the rock stars with the money and power will always win in America. I tend to work with issues of efficiency, and as such enjoy creating efficient processes. Which in a way is like what happens when most people write code. Fewest number of operations to get the job done. I tend to use free or cheap materials in my work. I try to spend as little as money as possible when doing a new piece. The apple hardware in the Screen Burn piece was obtained free from Craigslist. I saved that hardware from going to the dump - some labs at CU in Boulder were going to toss it all out. I saved it. I recycled. I am trying to avoid burdensome, consumerist practices. Not that I'm against projects doing the opposite, I'm just doing what I'm doing.

I don't have alot of money for projectors either. So I tend to find other cheap ways to 'project'. Another Apple II piece I did a year ago (8 bit contemplation piece), was where I projected nothing but the inherent rectangular light of 2 apple monochrome display devices. The light quality was just the pure light from the hardware, projected onto the wall (actually a blank canvas) and into the space as well. Sort of Flavin-style I guess. I didn't keystone it, but the rectangular light was just pure legacy hardware green. Mmmmmmmmmm. Actually, in code the HCOLOR was set to white, but of course the monitors only emit shades of green. So, even though there is an inescapable retro aesthetic to this old hardware, I'm more interested in the fact that it is free hardware that is otherwise going to a dump.

Both of these pieces of mine were recently presented in the December-February Vague Terrain online magazine about Digital Minimalism. Patrick Lichty was also in the issue, with writings related to Cory and other awesome digital artists. Am I actually accusing Cory of plagiarism? Hell no. Am I saying that I think he saw these recent, strangely similar pieces of mine? Yes. Am I saying mine are better? No. His are better? No. Mine more original or inventive? No. His? No. Am I influenced by Cory's work? Yes. Did I do a 'screen burn' piece years ago and coin it as such? Yes. Have I seen evidence yet of anything like that prior? No. In the grand scheme of things, does this kind of stuff really matter that much? No.

I love Cory's art and his 2 new pieces for sure! The Plasma Screen Burn is super nice, I love the fact that he is destroying the $2000 hardware. In fact he didn't destroy anything. He moved the decimal point to the right on that one. The keystone projector piece is awesome too. Its safe to say, by using new equipment, and not old, he removes the retro factor from the work, making the pieces more conceptually lean and clean.

Another other reason I did a 'screen burn' years ago, was for archival experimentation, not for the shock and spectacle. I think collectors are struggling with this issue. I wanted to find a way to freeze the Apple software into an object, like what happened with Han Solo. In fact, the only reason I burn my generative software art onto DVD videos, the only reason I deal with DVDs at all, is because I'm trying to freeze my software into something more culturally stable. The more culturally predominant the technology medium, the more archival it will be, I posit. Also, the fewer dependencies, the more archival. DVD technology is 1 entity. My PC and underlying software are 100,000 entities. Years from now, it will be much easier to find DVD compatible hardware/firmware, than it will be to find a platform to run software in real-time, which has dependencies on a huge framework of crap (windows os, .net runtimes, gdi libs, services, intel, etc). Yes, I know that most out there think windows and pcs are indeed crap. Using game system hardware, like Cory's Nintendo pieces, is another great example of that advantage. Its one entity. I think its as archival as DVD, if not more, because there will always be hardcore gamers out there to keep the platform alive. Us neurotic gamers will never let that shit die.

Anyways, more people will probably always like punch-line conceptual art, it will always be the most popular. But I purposely 'fuzz' the conceptual deductions. I am bored with the easy thought routes. I have often joking called this approach 'fuzzy conceptualism'. Ok, now I'm really rambling Brownianly...I'm out!

- stevie (guest) 3-29-2007 10:16 pm

Thanks for the self-defense and may you have the same success moving decimal points to the right (just please don't make art about it). Many of the issues you discuss are very familiar to readers of this blog, FYI. One thing's for sure, your rationale for the work is not a one liner.
- tom moody 3-29-2007 11:02 pm

Just an FYI - I know Cory did not see your ( Stevie ) works before he made his. I can say this for sure. It makes it even more bizarre, I know ! But I can say this with complete confidence.

He was doing the best he could with the situation and life circumstances at hand. I am biased, but like both pieces ( Cory and Steven ), but who isn't in this world to some degree ?

- anonymous (guest) 3-29-2007 11:54 pm

Please Wait is a clever play on a found object. The backstory about seeking persistence in the face of transient technology makes it more interesting.

Plasma Screen Burn doesn't do much for me. While I can agree that it's wasteful, Bling My Pimp Ride (or whatever MTV calls it) wastes more plasmas in just one episode. Ultimately, Burn seems to be fetishism rather than critique of fetishism.
- mark 3-30-2007 2:32 am

[Quick caveat for me and some others. We're critting jpegs and text--most of us haven't seen these pieces. OK, with that out of the way...]

Agreed that the backstory about seeking persistence in the face of transient technology adds to the work. Problem is it may not be entirely true in this case:

(from my VVork link above): Steven Read wrote a software program in Apple II Integer Basic that displays an image on the monitorís screen. Then he ran the program continuously for about 6 months. The software image was eventually burned into the screen because the internal phosphor compounds which emit light lost their luminosity and left behind a ghostly trace. The 'please wait' text is actually an image which took over 1000 lines of software code to create. The old Apple II operating systems (DOS 3.x, ProDOS, etc.) did not come with any font facilities, if you wanted a font you had to code it from scratch.
So the software artifact being preserved (Apple II fonts) is not actually something anyone used on a regular basis, it had to be custom crafted for this piece. See my earlier post on "reenacting the unenacted."

I'm continuing to be a pill, but I think I have a point here.
- tom moody 3-30-2007 2:53 am

and a good one, imo.

But I am wondering if their is a conceptual similarity or if similar vehicles were used to express two different concepts?

- Robert Huffmann (guest) 3-30-2007 4:38 am

re: screen burns, some of my students at goldsmiths were making installations last year using "found screen burns" on old cctv monitors picked up from flea markets...the monitors were for security cameras so obviously only had one image ever displayed or sometimes cut between a few images and over the years even good monitors will succumb to burning. one of them was mentioning another artist,cant remember the name, who was doing screen burns years ago [maybe steve??] altho i got the impression it was in the 80s.
- p.d. (guest) 3-30-2007 6:10 am

there are these.

but there was also a really interesting screen burn piece that was destroyed. From a post I wrote a while back about a message I got from Brady Leo:

"I hear what you're saying about 'I should have thought of that' with the burned picture tubes! Here's a funny little related story:

My dad is a chemical process engineer for small company that produces picture tubes for proprietary monitors and such. One of their big customers is the US Army. About 6 months or so before this whole Iraq war thing started, when there was no talk of this Iraq war thinger, they got in a bunch of monitors from the army for warranty service. Guess what image was burned on every screen--yep, a map of Iraq. He didn't mention if he saw any WMDs on those bitches, though."Ě
- paul (guest) 3-30-2007 7:27 am

Thanks to p.d. and paul for helping to flesh out the "screen burn universe." If enough of them surface it becomes a genre and then some of this authorship anxiety goes out the window. Unless there's a Chris Burden who clearly owns it!
- tom moody 3-30-2007 8:02 am

oh yeah, one more thing about the Apple IIe monitor... it has composite input, so you could hook up any source to it, like a DVD that just displays text. You can also plug an Apple IIe directly into that plasma monitor.

The 1000 lines of Apple IIe code is more punk rock than making a DVD. But the fact that Cory didn't pre-burn the monitor is a little more interesting to me. I like the idea of putting that process in the gallery. It's actually a pretty substantial difference in my opinion.

And if the monitor is always shown running that DVD, viewers won't ever know for sure if it's burned or not.
- paul (guest) 3-30-2007 8:23 am

Viewers may not know if it's burned or not, but the gallery is posting photo evidence of bona fide screen damage (scroll down).

I didn't know this when I made my earlier comment that "we're taking it on faith that the screen is actually destroyed." Of course the photo could be faked. Just kidding!!!!!!!

Anyway, good points, thanks for helping to parse this.
- tom moody 3-30-2007 8:37 am

I remember when I was writing the program to draw the 'please wait' picture, the operating system ran out of memory just after the 'a' in 'wait'. I was like, "oh shit, what now"? If I were a more careful programmer, I guess I would have known that or would have managed my memory better. But then after hacking around, I figured out with a couple tricks that I could write 2 separate programs and display them on the screen both at the same time, so the second program only writes the letters 'it' without overwriting the output of the first program. That's pretty sad.

Paul, that TV tube burn is damn sweet. Thanks for posting it. I started mine in early 2005 but it took 6-8 months, those apple monochrome monitors are resilient little bastards. Based on this cartoon burn, new shit has come to light, and now the US patent office might reject my application. I'm doing another burn with a legacy IBM 5151, those were crap and burn more easily I've discovered.

On the monochromes, I can uniformly burn exactly the 'pixels' that I want, very crisp edges. Looks like the TV tube might be that way too. Looking at the plasma photo of Cory's, looks like the burn happens in a very different way. I'm not really a hardware expert, so I couldn't say as to why, but there is a residual diffused glow around the edges of the image. Interesting. Post-burn, that makes the font much fatter, and the typography snobs I know would say something like "oh gawd the kerning and line height need adjustments".
- stephe (guest) 3-30-2007 10:28 am

I suspect that in that gallery image, you aren't actually seeing the burn -- it's just the image retention that will fade after it's off for a couple of days or after playing static on the TV for a bit. Info about Plasma burning here.

also related (the video's missing, but I just emailed mbs about it)

- paul (guest) 3-30-2007 11:29 am

all these comments about cory's piece make it a lot more important, the fact that it generates debate makes it better than 99% of the work out there in which there nothing to think about. The beauty of simplicity.
- aron namenwirth (guest) 3-30-2007 6:43 pm

im afraid thats another myth.
- bill 3-30-2007 6:59 pm

Aron, following the logic of your argument, Christo's The Gates is an even more important piece because it generated 105 comments on this thread (read 'em--that thread's a hoot).

Paul, based on your research I propose that Cory's piece be retitled:

Panasonic TH42PV60EH Plasma Screen Burn (Image Retention Will Fade After A Couple of Days or After Playing Static on the TV for a Bit So You Have to Play the DVD for a Really Long Time), 2007

I assume the monitor doesn't have ZeroBurn and that the piece is not a hoax, of course.
- tom moody 3-30-2007 8:27 pm

I think any plasma screen will permanently have the image burned in after playing it long enough. Any software to combat burn-in assumes normal use -- not intentionally putting an unchanging black and white image for weeks/months. And I've read that Panasonic screens are bad about burn-in.
- paul (guest) 3-30-2007 8:57 pm

It's awkward--the gallery is using an image that "gets the idea of burn across" but does not actually evidence permanent burn. That's really nitpicky, though--my main gripe is that "exposing the process and mechanisms behind high-end gallery display" with a "permanent artist's wall label" is just too art world insidery. There has been a subgenre of this ever since Yves Klein's empty gallery and Pierre Manzoni's can of artist's shit, and Cory is taking that discourse into the Plasma screen age. But something like Super Mario Movie--actual new content from a trash game with the source code posted on the gallery wall--is something more important being injected into the art world from outsider culture(s). I believe in the latter and find it hard to get excited about the former. That's why I'm dissenting here.

- tom moody 3-30-2007 9:24 pm

Myfanwy Ashmore created her first Super Mario work back in 2000.
- L.M. 3-30-2007 9:35 pm

Same year as the first Beige Atari and Commodore hacks. I'm not saying Cory was the first to "do Mario," just so it's clear. I'm contrasting psychedelified-Mario-with-source-code and "art about the art business."
- tom moody 3-30-2007 9:50 pm

Point taken, but what clicked for me in your last comment was the word outsider, it's not just a cultural description in the art world, it also does refer to geography.
- L.M. 3-30-2007 10:12 pm

If Myfanwy's work adds to the "art of screenburning" topic let's hear about it!
- tom moody 3-30-2007 10:34 pm

Ha, I hadn't seen Bell-Smith's "Video Created to Fix Stuck Pixels in Computer Monitors Recast (with Soundtrack and Sunset) as Video to Fix Your Stuck Mind" before. It's working now, and great.
- tom moody 3-30-2007 11:36 pm

I was just reading through my posts, and I realized I didn't make it very clear that I really like plasma burn. I like it that viewers don't know if it's burned or not.

I totally understand the art about the art world criticism, but it really doesn't bother me here. I guess to me, what's on the screen is not that important. There just had to be something on the screen, and to me, putting the gallery info on the screen _says_ that the text isn't important. That could just be my own reading.
- paul (guest) 3-31-2007 12:07 am

"There just had to be something on the screen" isn't a very convincing rationale. PLEASE WAIT is actually a lot funnier, as far as things getting burned into screens go.
- tom moody 3-31-2007 1:17 am

"Art" is the ultimate sucker. Too bad, yet there's still hope, or at least some believe so. I have an affection for artists who use computers and a real disdain for computer people who use art. It's not only pitiful, it's boring. As a viewer, if you have half a brain, it's fairly evident, and this is coming from someone with at least 3/8 of a brain.

Technology is only content in consumerism.
- anonymous (guest) 3-31-2007 7:48 am

- p.d. (guest) 4-01-2007 11:56 pm

Not to be obtuse, but what does 60 mean in reference to all this?
- Paddy Johnson 4-02-2007 7:13 am

thats how many licks it takes to get to the center of a tootsie roll pop. or it was the # of comments in this thread until you had to go and get all roger maris on it.
- dave 4-02-2007 7:21 am

haha yeah thats what it was, but i think it meant that 59 totally killed the thread and i still wanted to say something :)

- p.d. (guest) 4-02-2007 7:48 am

got it:)
- Paddy Johnson 4-02-2007 9:49 am


- bill 4-10-2007 5:07 pm

That piece is surprisingly popular. I liked the performance when I saw it in a gallery because it was an obnoxious anti-crowd pleaser but the idea is thin and somewhat overly complicated (a record of glockenspiel parts that weren't on the album meant to be played during the songs that didn't have glockenspiel because we're supposed to imagine a glockenspiel fan that didn't think there was enough glockenspiel on a record that most people don't know even had glockenspiel--this lacks elegance). Also, I can't get past having to listen to Springsteen again.
- tom moody 4-10-2007 5:57 pm

Sorry, I have to close this thread, at least until it drops off the spammer hot list.
- tom moody 4-12-2007 12:04 am

bill added, post thread closing:

this is what that cory arcangel piece reminded me of.

- tom moody 4-12-2007 2:47 am