Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Not a hermit

I've not been blogging much last week, as you might have noticed. Spent most my time behind my computer. Animating is fun, specially when you see what you created come to life. But working on it, refining movements, figuring out why the heck the software screwed up part of your work, finding out it wasn't the software that caused the problem, all that can be tedious at times. And not much to blog about.

Did get a Renderman implementation to work on my laptop :)

Somehow this blogging makes me think of the Monthy Python sketch where a hermit, asked why he became a hermit by one of the many other hermits living on the same hillside, replies: "Oh you know, the usual - people, chat, gossip, you know."

Monday, January 22, 2007

Organic Growth

Next to my usual stop in Chelsea described in the previous post, I also visited Foxy Production last Friday to check out the Networked Nature exhibition that is co-organized by RHIZOME, and will be on display until February 18.

The video installation "Creep" by Gail Wight displays fascinating grow patters that look extremely organic and I could not quite figure out what kind of algorithm or software was used to create the beautiful flowing patterns. Which in hindsight makes sense, since imagery is not computer generated. According to the catalog it is time lapse photography of Physarum polycephalum, a slime mold. Nice!

One thing bothered me about the installation, something that is often distracting: the cables! Those wiggly cables coming down from the monitors, leading to transformers lying on the floor. Couldn't they come up with a way to hide it? I know some artists think displaying the technology used to show work is conceptually important, and it can be. But in this case, as is often the case, it just looks messy.

Whereas with the creature dominating the room, the plastic bags octopus or the rotating blowing spider, the fact that all technology is exposed is part of its appeal. The thing is only technology, and plastic bags. Air is blown into the bags, moving them, by big computer fans. The stuff is new, but I can imagine the artist roaming scrapyards in search for material to tinker with. The body is a messy bit of technology, but the arms move almost gracefully. It is called "Din-Don" or "EX-S-S-TW" and was created by Shih-Chieh Huang.

Mechanical Creatures

When I walked in, the shiny metallic creature suspended just above the floor turned to look at me. Which was kind of eerie, since I am pretty sure the thing moves in a pre-programmed way, driven by a little circuit board near the head. I saw no potentially motion tracking cameras hidden on the ceiling.

Not that it needs to be interactive. The beautifully crafted futuristic creates by Korean artist U-Ram Choe that were on display at the Bitforms gallery are a delight just to look at. But if the lamppost creature in the middle of the room had been actually reacting to people in the room, that might have been quite scary. I'm happy I caught the show just before it closed.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Grahame Weinbren

Last Friday I went into the city to attend a lecture by experimental filmmaker Grahame Weinbren at the School of Visual Arts. I found it very interesting to hear the views of an artist who no longer feels need to prove anything.

Weinbren showed his latest work: Letters. He created a number of one minute films, working towards at least one per letter. He had the audience select a few letters, and the corresponding clips were then shown. I'm not sure if it worked as an interactive piece for me (on his website he refers to it as being "interactive in the dumbest sense"). Since the clip were so different I found it hard to think of it as one piece, though there are definitely sets of clips in the work. I happened to find the one I picked myself the most beautiful: the one for Q. It is a time lapse recording of fruit that rots away while plants start to grow from it. A flower suddenly explodes right towards the camera. Impossible to get if you wanted, great that he caught it.

Now that I think about it: the work is a bit like a scrap book. Not all the pieces are connected but something greater than the parts emerges. Maybe it is a portrait of the artist. But this thought might be slightly influenced by the fact that he was there as explicator, adding anecdotal information to the clips.

The work was shown in uncompressed Hight Definition, which in this case means 1400 by 1050 pixels (the resolution of the projector). The time lapse sequences were recorded with a digital still camera have impressive image detail. Unfortunately there is no affordable Hi Def camera yet that records video at 24 or 30 frames a second and stores the images with minimum compression. But still, most clips looked really good. I love it when a video artist pays such attention to image quality. But then again: he is an experimental filmmaker who as an editor working with film has been used to uncompressed Hi Def images: 35mm film.

Before going to this lecture I visited some galleries in Chelsea. I already put some pictures on my flickr page. Maybe I'll write a little about that tomorrow. I had a very inspirational day.

Monday, January 15, 2007

A visit to Amsterdam

I joined Second Life recently, to see if I can get lost in a virtual world. The most fun I had so far was parking myself on top of the monument on the Dam in Amsterdam. You may still see me standing there. I hope to find more exciting stuff to do.

I lived in that city for over ten years and it was fun seeing some things virtually recreated, like the "stadsmeublilair" from the Rokin: the lampposts, benches and the like.

Saturday, January 13, 2007


Due to the unseasonally warm weather, there are a lot of squirrels around

Thursday, January 11, 2007

A new hybrid?

PBS is promoting the electric car. They have now aired two of their three possible new science programs, and both had items on it. W|I|R|E|D science reported on Tesla, the electric car company of PayPal founder Elon Musk. The Science Investigators were driving at high speed with the all electric race car X1

With all electric vehicles the problem is that you have to recharge the batteries. So why not create an electric car in which the driver can recharge the car by pushing around a set of pedals. A Human-Electro Hybrid! HEH!

Agreed, the power generated by pedaling away will not be enough to keep the car running. But it can extend the battery life. One can keep on pedaling when stuck in a traffic jam. It will be great exercise, so next to helping the environment, the HEH-car will also help fight obesity!

And you know what? It exists! Well, sort of. But what kind of a name is TWIKE?

Monday, January 8, 2007

Weltkunst [world art]

Milan Kundera wrote an essay titled "Die Weltliteratur", which was published in todays issue of The New Yorker (the article is not available on-line at their site). I found it very interesting.

To people familiar with his literary critisism the essay might not be that "new". He talks about how people from different countries, people with different nationalities, have a different view of literature. Art can be viewed in the small context of the history of its nation or in the large context of the supranational history of its art. His essay takes a very European perpective, and I wonder how these concepts translate to visual art (the field I work in) and the U.S.A (where I now reside)

I noticed I almost wrote "America" in stead of "U.S.A.". That might be an indication of the context problem here. America includes two continents (North and South America) but when people talk about America they usually mean "The States". When I was a graduate student at Ohio State, a fellow student from South America would always correct people who refer to the U.S.A. as "America".

Since this country is huge and a dominant player in the world, the context here tends to be small, that is: national. Which in this case is rather large. Visual art radically differs from literature in that is not bound to language. But it is rooted in tradition that might be national. As Kundera points out, music is usually seen in the large context. It seems to me visual art can also be supranational. Still, there are quite a few museums for "American Art" by which is meant "National Art": the small context. Kind of peculiar for a country this influential to feel the need to protect "American Art" as different from art in general. The Whitney does show work by non-US artist in their biennial though.

Another thing that came to mind while reading the essay: what is the meaning of small and large context on the internet? The large context is probably a global context. But the small? The digital communities one is a member of? The fragmentation of the internet into micro-worlds makes it possible for people to live in a very small context. Which is kind of scary: if the unkown grows in proportion to the known, if people retreat to a small island with like minded individuals, the unknown cannot but become a thing to fear. And unfounded fear leads to no good.

Enough musings, back to animating in the small context of my study

Sunday, January 7, 2007

Still no winter

Okay, so I started this blog. Now I need to find things to talk about. Since I'm Dutch I thought I'd start with... the weather.

Yesterday we had lunch outside in the sun, no coats required. The high was 72F / 22C, setting a new record for the day (the record for the month is 74, set on january 26, 1950, according to Accu Weather). This soon after Christmas, can we just blame the child?

Unlike Denver, CO, we had no snow yet this winter. Another record, the last record for first snow of the season was January 4. Last December was almost as warm as the warmest on record. You don't hear many people complaining but....

We clearly need more pirates!

Certainly now that the sky is falling

Saturday, January 6, 2007

A new year, a new Blog

Just in time to post this image / card.

I'm busy creating an animation in that same style, with the (working) title Seeing Red

Wobblology: The wobbly table's tale

To start this one of, here a silly link my sister sent me:

Check out Anat Tales, the blog of the culprit who got me in to the time sink called blogging.