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I've been thinking about interactivity in art lately, which I think is a bit of a divider into two camps of new media artists. Seems like most of the artists I'm into don't use interactivity that much. But there are some artists who always do and almost seem to consider "interactive" and "new media" to be synonymous. But a lot of the interactive stuff I see, I don't totally get why it's interactive. Seems like if it is interactive, there should be some really compelling reason to make it so, and the interface is extremely important. Otherwise it starts to feel like it fits better in the Museum of Science and History than the art museum.
My main question is: where do I look for a history of interactive art? Any particular artists to check out? Surely there was interactive work before computers, and maybe even an early interactive "movement"? Or maybe it is relatively new? --PS
"Interactive" is one of those buzzwords like "multidisciplinary" that grant panels love. I've always been critical of art that feels like it belongs in the Exploratorium. (Until 20 years later, when it becomes great kitsch.) Agreed, some (most?) new media artists require interactivity, no matter how dumb or pointless, for admittance to the Club. One computer gallerist calls me a Modernist because I believe in "stand alone" art. It's not so much a belief system as feeling that certain things are right for certain venues. I'll sit at home and click a mouse surfing for hours but resent it when someone puts a mouse on a ledge in a gallery and expects me to start navigating something to "get" the art. The gallery is better for a "heads up," moving around experience, movies are better for long narratives, and your computer at home is best for "net art." The art should fit the physical environment and the expectations of that environment.
Historically interactivity started in the '60s with kinetic art and holography, and the "anti-object" ideas of conceptualism. Michael Fried's famous essay "Art and Objecthood" was one of the first to identify what he called "theatricality" in art. But there's a big difference between the theatricality of moving around a Minimalist sculpture and thinking about how your body and the room define the experience--which was a good thing to learn--and the obligatory joystick with a sign that says "Join me in 'making' the art according to 7 preset menu choices!" After the '60s, computer science departments started grafting half-baked versions of conceptualist and minimalist concepts onto the emerging net art and robotics art fields. Thus, what we have today. I try to be open about stuff, but always ask "What purpose does this interactivity serve?"
(I dodged the question about specific artists practicing interactivity--any contributions to an etymology of the term would be welcome.)
I've been meaning to ask you about your RSS feed. In my news reader (bloglines) your blog almost always shows new content, even when I've already read the posts. After I read them they show they've been read, then the next hour they show up as new again...I'm wondering whether your RSS feed has some strange autonewness feature, or whether it's just that you go in and change a typo or something and the old post inadvertently gets tagged as a new post.
[N]o big deal either way, but your blog is the only one I monitor that does this. --DR
I rewrite the posts a lot. Sometimes the meaning changes as I rewrite and refine what I originally posted. Sometimes I find egregious, embarrassing typos. I don't always write "updated" at the bottom so it may seem Orwellian to some that the content changes. One person was slightly shocked to learn about this tinkering but said it was "between me and my conscience." Where's the rule book exactly?
Anyway, if the RSS is showing those revisions--or at least flagging that revisions have occurred--that's actually a true reflection of how the page evolves.
If other bloggers don't do this it's entirely possible they never revise their pages. God knows I see a lot of pages that need to be revised. --Tom
Dear DR (followup email),
I have another site--tommoody.us--which is a Word Press blog unaffiliated with the Tree. I just revised a post there as well as on my Tree page. Bloglines showed both as "new posts." So it's not the Tree's /xml feed. I wonder if it's configurable on the bloglines side--that is, if you could tell it not to notify you of updated posts?
Thanks for bringing it to my attention--people are probably irked by my constant revision. I think this proves that no one else is revising their text, that's why you don't see it.
Amazing blog slobs.
Dear DR (second followup),
Just looked more closely at my own bloglines subscription. Under "edit subscription" there is an option "Ignore Updated Items." For mine I had evidently chosen "Updated Items--Display as New" at some point (don't remember doing it). If anyone chose "Ignore" and is getting new post notifications, please let me know.
Onion interview with director Whit Stillman: he's dry, self-effacing, and funny, just like his movies:
AVC: To extend the Citizen Kane analogy, you were nominated for a Best Screenplay Oscar [for Metropolitan] on your first try, just like Welles.Or later:
WS: I like these analogies. [Laughs.] But my idea was that The Last Days Of Disco was going to be the Citizen Kane of romantic comedies. [Laughs.] I like to defend Disco because it got a beating in some corners.
AVC: Why do you think that was? Why didn't people respond to it?
WS: I think I touched the third rail of popular culture, which one should never do. The third rail of cliche. A lot of people had very firm ideas of what disco was. They weren't my ideas, nor what I wanted to show. And then I later found out that many of the people who were so authoritative about how our disco period wasn't "real" disco had no information of their own. They were just going from having seen Saturday Night Fever or something. I imagined these journalists lambasting us for inaccuracy to all be habitues of Studio 54. No, not at all. [Laughs.] They would all preface their comments with, "Well, in that period, I only liked punk music. I hated disco. But this film is not..." Whatever. Anyway. For me, it was exactly as it was in my head.
AVC: Those scenes in The Last Days Of Disco work a lot like the closing scenes in Metropolitan and the closing scenes in Barcelona, in that they all introduce a note of hope into movies that are about a golden era coming to an end.
WS: For me, the present is a golden era that's ending too. That's the greatest golden era. Right now. [Laughs.] I just like pining for lost times. I can pine for this morning.
This lovely bear in the woods image was made with MSPaintbrush--the old one, pre-Paint, the one I use, but never this lyrically. Travis found it in this gallery (I couldn't view it in Firefox, had to switch to IE). He's been digging up some great drawings made with these simple paint programs.
On the opposite end of the Internet art content spectrum, check out Karl Klomp's glitch videos ("It seems much of his glitch output, and very tasteful it is too, comes via repurposing video mixers or even burning DVDís with 'impossible bitrates' for challenged DVD players to read," says dataisnature) and prints.
Meanwhile, back in the real world, looks like the Whitney is rehashing Gordon Matta Clark and the spirit of '68 again, based on this Times review of the 2006 Biennial and other reports. I promise to keep my mouth shut and mind open till I see it, but till then, I'm groovin' on that bear.
A friend has been talking about remixing some of my early tunes done with the Macintosh SE. This gave me a push to re-record some of them from the original cassette tapes. All of the below were posted a couple of years ago, but most of these new (old) recordings sound a bit punchier now. Besides the Mac (which has a very primitive "8-bit" sound) I used a few lock grooves (and um, "found" beats) from vinyl records playing on turntables, saying a short prayer that everything would stay in sync.
1998 - 2004
1. Scratch Ambulance [3.7 MB]
2. Phil's Revenge (TM vs Ectomorph) [2.1 MB] / hi-fi [2.6 MB]
3. Brakin' 1 [1.8 MB]
4. Brakin' 2 [2 MB]
5. Calypsum (TM vs M. Mayer) [3.3 MB]
6. Migrant Song [2.3 MB]
7. Streetsong (TM vs 8BCS) [2.84MB]
8. Eins Zwei Drei (Melody) [mp3 removed]
9. Monster Scales [1 MB]
11. Robot Landscape [3.6 MB]
1. Arpeggiasm [2.6 MB]
2. Dance of the Nematodes [3.3 MB]
3. Lament for a Treefrog [1.8 MB]
4. Life in the Mortuary [1.1 MB]
5. Pass the Amphetamines [1.5 MB]
6. Spring Has Sprang [1.2 MB]
7. The Organist Died [.9 MB]
Speaking of clones, here are some Lawrence Lessig articles on what he's calling the "Read-Only Internet"--for example, the Apple iTunes store--a one way street where the consumer plunks down money and gets a product. Opposed to this concept is what he calls the "Read/Write Internet," a world of collaborative creativity that famously includes mashups, remixes, and MAVs (music with anime visuals), but is in fact closer to the openness of the pre-digital era, before every "reading" became a "copying." The read/write milieu is in increasing danger of disappearing as the money folks tighten their grip.
DRM (so called "digital rights management"--could also be called "don't remix me" or "die, revenant masher-uppers" ) is a related means of slowing creativity to a crawl. The egregious Sony CD "protection" scheme, which actually put crippling, virus-attracting malware on people's computers without their knowledge, has been much discussed. But it's also showing up in little ways that are a drain on time and energy.
I realized this as I was trying to move files between computers--certain .avi files created in a particular program couldn't be dragged directly from Computer A to Computer B without first being deposited in a "Shared Folder" on Computer A. For Windows nerds, you couldn't just make the source folder available to the network by right-clicking it and picking that option in "Sharing and Security," you had to use the preset folder with the word "Shared" in it.
So if you're transferring several hundred (other easily transferrable) files and the transfer hangs up for those .avis, it takes time and detective work to go back and figure out what got moved and what didn't. The culprit appears to be Camtasia Studio--thanks guys, who gives a crap about your .avis? I'm guessing that because it's a capture utility they had to promise the movie industry that clips couldn't be easily shareable. Can't have people out there promoting movies and creating buzz by passing around clips, can we?
Similarly, the movie player Intervideo WinDVD on my 2002 computer has a "frame capture" button, which made it easy to generate stills for the Web and to make animated GIFs. Kiss that one goodbye--it's not on the 2005 WinDVD. Movie folks snapped their fingers, said uh-uh, I'm guessing. "We'll do our own shitty PR, thanks."
I would predict vintage computers and software would have increased value for remixers by virtue of being pre-DRM, but that gear is slower and older formats are also hard to work with because they go out of date. So, unless you have serious cracking skillz, the ownership class will increasingly have us by the short hairs, as they say.
Update: The company that makes Camtasia Studio emailed to say the product has no digital rights management. Still waiting to find out why the .avis it creates aren't easily movable between PCs and why a friend can't open them in iMovie (which imports .avis).
Attack of the Clones
I'm pleased to announce I'll be having a solo show in May at artMovingProjects, in Williamsburg (Brooklyn), NY. Mike Ballou, whose work I've liked since seeing his show of mutated toys on corrugated cardboard ledges at Postmasters a while back, is slated for the Project space. [Update: the Project space assignment is being reshuffled.]
And as if enough personal horn-tooting doesn't go on around here, here's a scan of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram review of my Dallas show with Saskia Jorda, ending this week (yes, I already posted the article, but this is the all-important print edition). As they say, "the best museums in Dallas are in Fort Worth" (the Kimball, etc) and it seems the most conscientious writing on Dallas also comes from there.