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"Rolling Victory" declared in Iraq
From today's Washington Post: "During early preparations for war, one official said, some U.S. thinkers 'operated on the assumption that it was going to be a relatively clean break, that the end of the regime would be clear for all to see. That may not be the case. I think we're seeing a rolling end.'"
What a great concept! Now when your boss asks if a job is finished, you can say "Yes, it's kind of a rolling finish." All-your half-completed household chores, too, can be characterized as "in a rolling state." And so on. It's always exciting to hear a new phrase enter the language--I expect this one is going to be BIG!
Above is a screen capture from Cory Arcangel's "Data Diaries," a series of Quicktime videos based on the raw memory lurking in his--and for all intents and purposes, everybody's--computer. Alex Galloway's text, excerpted below, describes the project eloquently:
Every so often an artist makes a work of art by doing almost nothing. No hours of torturous labor, no deep emotional expression, just a simple discovery and out it pops. What did Cory Arcangel do in this piece? Next to nothing. The computer did the work, and he just gave it a form. His discovery was this: take a huge data file--in this case his computer's memory file--and fool Quicktime into thinking it's a video file. Then press play. Your computer's memory is now video art. Quicktime plays right through, not knowing that the squiggles and shards on the screen are actually the bits and bytes of the computer's own brain. The data was always right in front of your nose. Now you can watch it.
Lots of artists talk about memory. But for artists working with computers, memory has a very specific technical definition. If ever computers had a subconscious, this is it. Cory describes it as "watching your computer suffocate and yell at the same time." They look like digital dreams--the pure shapes and tones of real computer memory. Each video documents a new day, and each day the computer offers us a new set of memories.
Looking at Arcangel's videos it's hard not to think of Jeremy Blake's better-publicized animations (thumbnail below right). The former is early House to the latter's late Synthpop--doing it more economically, energetically, and without all the gear. To continue the analogy, picture poor Blake, hunched over his screen plugging one color at a time into his designer grid, then giving it a tasteful blurry wash; when along comes the artist equivalent of Larry "Mr. Fingers" Heard, plugs in the visual equivalent of a cheap synth and drum machine, and rocks the house! Someone else doing it the hard way is Xose Salgado, an artist from Spain (?) I found surfing the net--his work looks similar to Arcangel's but is apparently carefully crafted from combinations of images viewed at low res.
The four-color map problem also comes to mind here. This was one of the great unsolved problems in mathematics, eventually cracked in the '70s with a "brute force" solution of letting a computer crunch numbers for days, as opposed to an elegant Occam's-razor theorem, which still doesn't exist. Paradoxically, Blake's way of working corresponds to the brute, time-intensive method, while Arcangel has invented a new technique that is both a means and an end: a kind of binary frottage that neatly bypasses off-the-shelf programming and shows us the beauty in a simple core dump.
From the press release for "Icon," a two person exhibit at homeroom, Munich, Germany:
homeroom presents new “object paintings” by Munich-based artist Tom Früchtl and a selection of C-prints from the photographic series, Electric Mind, by Los Angeles-based Jennifer Stratford. The work of both artists deals with symbols of late-1970s and early 1980s youth culture—namely, amplifiers and video games whose iconic status derived from their association with play and leisure time, independence and power.
For the exhibition, Früchtl, who is both an artist and musician, has created two life-size, cardboard amplifiers which he calls Pappstar 1, Marshall and Pappstar 3, Orange, word plays on the German term for cardboard (Pappe), the English term “pop,” and the names given to the machines by their commercial manufacturers. Even as stand-ins for the originals, Früchtl’s “loudspeakers” carry nostalgic emotional content and weight (Marshall was virtually synonymous with the “wall of sound” music and stage shows of bands such as Judas Priest and AC/DC). But in their reincarnation as open-backed doubles, Früchtl’s amps are more walls of surface that deliver new content on borrowed style and question what the role of painting can or should be.
By contrast, Jennifer Stratford’s 20 x 30 inch C-prints chronicle every aspect of video game culture from darkened parlors to entranced players, boxy machines to low-tech graphics. The photos are part of an ongoing project Stratford began two years ago after seeing a cast-off Asteroids machine on the back of a pick-up truck on a California freeway. She was struck by “how American it was to waste a big hulking giant that once gave us the feeling of outer space.” Her search to understand and perhaps reclaim that liberation has produced a body of work that, by turns, abstracts the games into visually pleasing patterns and records the banal and introverted dimensions of play, where feelings of pleasure, excitement, and involvement are closely linked to states of pathological immersion and escape. A limited edition CD, We're All Players, a collection of music inspired by video games and compiled by Stratford is available for €10.
The show runs from 22 March - 16 May 2003; for information contact Courtenay Smith at email@example.com
Noam Chomsky is one of the few people who bucked the conventional wisdom that bombing Afghanistan was good--before and after we "won." He also opposed the Kosovo war back in Clinton time, earning him the scorn of liberals who support humanitarian intervention. The MIT prof is the subject of a passive-aggressive hatchet piece in the New Yorker this week. It's one of those mini-biographies, where a staff writer talks about Chomsky's academic battles as a linguist, his current schedule of intensive travel and speechifying, his wife, his grooming--while subtly reinforcing the official line that he's a bad egg. For example:
Chomsky is not a pacifist on principle, but when it comes to the United States he has never supported an intervention. The country's record is just too damning, he says: to expect better in the future is to indulge in willful self-delusion. States, he believes, can never be moral actors. But when asked to suggest a better way--an alternative to intervention in, say, Bosnia or Kosovo or Rwanda, to stop massacres currently taking place--he has no ideas to offer. Those are, he says, difficult cases. He does not know how to think about them.I recommend perusing Chomsky's writing archive at znet to see whether he "doesn't know how to think" about Kosovo, in particular. He points out that there was no "flood of refugees" there before the start of the war, as interventionists claimed, and attacks the double standard of the US arming the Turks against their own Kurdish population at the same time as we were "protecting" the Kosovars. He argues that Milosevic would have been toppled eventually through his own political blunders, and that the US bombing was an unnecessary aggravation. In general, he thinks it's better for countries to remove their own bad leaders a la Ceausescu than suffer the indignity of having it done for them. Whether one agrees with any of this or not, it's kind of deceitful to say it's not a position.
Wireframe Aesthetics (Part 1)
Escape from New York, 1981. John Carpenter couldn't afford wireframe computer simulation for his low budget film, so a model of New York City was constructed for the sole purpose of being photographed and rendered as a negative image. Escape from New York. Image as it appears in cockpit of Snake Plissken's glider. Still from Tron, 1982 (flipped vertically). Steven Lisberger's entirely computer-generated landscape set the standard for wireframe aesthetics. Critics often refer to this film with tongues in cheeks, but they do refer to it. Stephen Hendee, Inertial Field, 1998. Sculptor Hendee makes Tron-like walk-in environments with foamcore, electrician's tape, and backlighting, thus bringing the idea full circle, to a Carpenter-esque simulation of a simulation.
Escape from New York. Image as it appears in cockpit of Snake Plissken's glider.
Still from Tron, 1982 (flipped vertically). Steven Lisberger's entirely computer-generated landscape set the standard for wireframe aesthetics. Critics often refer to this film with tongues in cheeks, but they do refer to it.
Stephen Hendee, Inertial Field, 1998. Sculptor Hendee makes Tron-like walk-in environments with foamcore, electrician's tape, and backlighting, thus bringing the idea full circle, to a Carpenter-esque simulation of a simulation.
Paul Berman, the "liberal hawk" who I posted about earlier, just published a NY Times magazine piece on Sayyid Qutb, an obscure (to us) Islamic philosopher, who apparently is the key to Berman's "Islamic fascism" hypothesis. We've been discussing it over here. In so many words, Berman says that Qutb's brand of militant religious fundamentalism has the potential to unite secular and spiritualist Arab factions that have traditionally been opposed (and still are, judging from Osama bin Laden's recent condemnation of Saddam Hussein).
Ellen Willis reviews Berman's book in Salon today, and says he's wrongheaded to support Bush's war--she calls him "naive." Berman treats Bush as a mere instrument to bring Enlightenment (i.e. liberal democracy) to spiritually mature but politically ignorant Arabs, but Willis reminds us that Bush has a fundamentalist agenda of his own. I'd say Berman is doing Bush's intellectual spadework: in his research and exegesis on Qutb, he's trying to forge a link between Iraq and al-Qaeda that Bush has so far been unable to prove.
Berman says the antiwar movement makes fascism abroad possible, but by giving Bush philosophical legitimacy, he's abetting its spread here at home. The "reluctant hawk" argument (espoused by the likes of Joshua Marshall, who rah-rahed the war 'till a few days before it started) is "We need to take out Saddam, I just don't think George Bush is doing it the right way." This seems totally unrealistic and hypothetical to me. For all the center/left's blather, the only plan on the table is Bush's. And the left's first priority should be removal of that right wing nutjob by 2004 at the latest. Supporting his war helps keep him in power.
I've been a bit shy about putting pictures of myself on this site, but every once in a while someone takes a photo of me that causes me to say, "People gotta see this." So here it is. Please don't clog the comment board with praise or jealous jeers--I want to be appreciated for my ideas, not just how I look on cam.