Thursday, November 25, 2010

I Don't Get It: Continued

Hey all! Here's the rest of my photos from my I Don't Get It series. I'm hoping to continue this project after taking a break for the holidays. I'm headed to Italy on Monday, so maybe I'll soon be able to provide my own photos for the originals of these works. Keep an eye out for pictures from my trip! We'll see if I can improve my photo skills with a little Italian inspiration.

Monday, November 22, 2010

I Don't Get It: Portraiture and Propaganda

A lion skin draped across your shoulders. Wearing a thick curly beard. A naked baby riding a dolphin. Believe it or not, these are all important symbols used in the propaganda of ancient portraiture. Politicians, celebrities, and other public figures have relied on propaganda for centuries. They project a doctored image of themselves that's conducive to their agenda. They tie themselves to particular ideas in order to garner support or fans, and then count on media to spread this idea to the masses. Now, chances are that the common reader won't understand the significance of the aforementioned symbols. What's missing is the knowledge of the image's cultural context.
As an a student of art history, I'm finding it increasingly easy to see the temporary nature of propaganda. When it takes a term-long class to describe the content of statues and coinage, the image loses impact. In a series of photographs, I recreate several ancient portraits replacing significant symbolism with props that have a similar aesthetic, but have no relevance. Here are a few examples of my recreations along with links to explain a bit of the symbolic and historical significance behind the original masterpieces.

My favorite Augustan portrait, produced by an anonymous sculptor in the 1st century C.E., was especially painful to reduce to meaningless visual cues.
Also produced by an anonymous sculptor, this bust of an elite Flavian woman makes a clown-like impression in the 21st century rather than the original message of economic success.
We take nudity in ancient statues for granted. However, this work by Praxiteles was the first nude depiction of a goddess and was quite controversial at the time.

Friday, November 12, 2010

The Webweb, Blagosphere, and Intertubes

Lev Manovich
Of the topics that Lev Manovich discusses in his article "New Media: From Borges to HTML", I found the recognition of the anonymity in regards to software developers of today. Granted there are the front runners with big brand names (Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, and the like), but even they mask the massive teams and heads of real innovators. Since exploring the genesis of technology, I've found myself constant irritated with the general ignorance (my own and the public's) knowledge of the roots of all of these items we take for granted. It is by no accident that Gilles Deleuze compares the advancement of technology to the work of the rhizome. The complexity and interconnectivity on the surface is already complex, but what I feel we fail to make note of is that a real person needed to make that complexity functional. Manovich says that some day the real brains behind all this progress will be praised. That has been the case of many great minds, especially artists. I know it is extremely idealist to want such a thing, but I wish we could recognize the "unsung heroes" that have brought us this far.
Here is a recording of Deleuze giving a lecture on his book One Thousand Plateaus. Unfortunately, the video has yet to be translated, but check back on this link from time to time if this interests you!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Allan Kaprow and the Glitter of Machines

As one of the most influential artists of the 20th century, Allan Kaprow experimented with the concept of art and interaction. Strongly opposed to the traditional museum viewer of art, Kaprow developed the idea of the Happening. Kaprow says of this term (which he coined in the late 1950s), " What is a Happening? A game, an adventure, a number of activities engaged in my participants for the sake of playing." The idea behind his art was to involve the audience to the point of making them active participants with the art. His mantra, "art as life", simplifies this for us. Kaprow believed there should be no lines between what we live and what we create because everything we do is a creative act.

In 1968, with the growing availability of video equipment, Kaprow began his own ventures into this new frontier. While acting as an assistant dean at the California Institute for the Arts, Kaprow encouraged his students to explore the medium of video extensively, despite his own reservations. Kaprow published an essay voicing his own opinion of this "new" medium. Here are two quotes from his essay entitled Video Art: Old Wine, New Bottle:

"Intriguing as they are, they are also discouraging... the constant reliance on the glitter of the machines to carry the fantasy-- strike me as simple-minded and sentimental.
The use of Television as an art medium is generally considered experimental... [S]o far, in my opinion, it is only marginally experimental. The hardware is new, to art at least, but the conceptual framework and aesthetic attitudes around most video as an art are quite tame."
Jam, by Allan Kaprow, involved students licking jam off an old car. Interactive indeed.
Kaprow found that what many artists were producing were very theatrical, especially in the sense that they were recorded events to be viewed at a later date. This was all too cinematic, so he developed a proclivity for closed-circuit installations. This way the viewer became an immediate actor in the piece by seeing their face on a screen or using phones to contact other on-camera locations in real time.

Although he remained fairly critical and disillusioned with the idea of video as a medium, Allan Kaprow's commentary may very well have pushed the video artists of the time to expand their ideas of what this new tool could create.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Developing New Limbs

In his work The Medium is the Message, Marshall McLuhan compares early technology to the advanced tools of our post-industrial society and how their functions affect society. Simple technology (he uses the example of an electric light) include basic tools that can perform either one exclusive or a very limited number of tasks. McLuhan puts it very well when he says that "it is the medium that shapes and controls the scale and form of human association and action." The point stressed by McLuhan is that the most useful technology is that which supplements the human body or mind. Creative tools, tools for moving freight, tools for spreading information. These are all extensions of work able to be done by people, made easier through the association of those people with the technology. We adapt and learn to use these new appendages just like a child learning to walk.
Beyond making basic use of the new developments at our fingertips, I feel that we are obligated to push the boundaries of their utility. As artists (and, even on a more basic level, as humans) we are able to and driven by our abilities to manipulate what we are given. McLuhan touches on this idea by talking about moving "beyond the obvious." It's the difference between an average person and a prima ballerina. Both have mastered the basic operation of the tools at hand, but the latter has pushed the limits of their body in order to express his or herself in a deeper way than is allowed by just walking.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

A Date With The Family

I mentioned in my last blog my dabbling in media remix. I have to say, it was much more of a challenge than I originally anticipated, but I am pleased with the final products of my first attempt. I focused on the idea of intimacy and how technology facilitates interactions even over long distances. I really liked the idea of the "new family dinner", sort of a technologically assisted family reunion. People are able to interact in personal ways without needing the spacial closeness as was needed in the past. Cell phones, Skype, and the like bridge the gap for us and we are able to share and connect like never before. In my series of three videos, I juxtaposed films from the 1950s depicting the very Cleaver-esque family with the modern reality of dependence on digital communication. I seem to center on phone conversations a lot because I believe that there's so much intimacy in being able to just hear another person's voice. I feel that it can transcend physical distance. Take a peek at the fruits of my labor and let me know what you think.