Posts for July 2009

Lawnmower Lad (2009) - Mitch Trale

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Racing the Beam: The Atari VCS as Platform

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Considering the evolution of video game consoles (seven generations and counting), the cultural significance of the Atari VCS alone would justify another book-length appraisal. However, Nick Montfort and Ian Bogost's collaborative text Racing the Beam, published this past spring by MIT Press, was developed with a broader mandate in mind. The book is the first in a new series dedicated to a "platform-focused" approach to media scholarship. A cultural reading of the Atari VCS would address aesthetics or "reception" to the console and Bogost and Montfort argue that it is possible to drill down from that strata of analysis to interface, then form/function (narratology) through to code. The scholars acknowledge that while code has become a nexus within media scholarship in recent years, it is possible to dig deeper still to platform - "the basic hardware and software systems upon which programming takes place... the foundation for computational expression." The subsequent analysis of the Atari VCS is firmly grounded in the technical capabilities of the system. Under this scrutiny the figure of the console melts away. Racing the Beam surveys six seminal cartridges in relation to key components which include the MOS Technology 6502 microprocessor, the Peripheral Interface Adaptor chip (PIA), memory and the pivotal Television Interface Adaptor (TIA) - the operation of which inspired the moniker of the book. This sounds dry (and at times it is) but the duo do a remarkable job of providing a close, nuanced reading of the design decisions, play and game space of the titles in relation to the assemblage of electronics that underpins the system.

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Computer Composition With Lines (1964) - Michael Noll

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Algorithmic simulation of Mondrian’s painting Composition With Lines created with pseudorandom numbers. When xerographic reproductions of both works were shown to 100 people, the computer-generated picture was preferred to Mondrian by 59.

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Serie Mondrian (1980) - Herbert W. Franke

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Stills, above, from Herbert W. Franke's Serie Mondrian, a software created for the Texas Instruments TI 99/4 home computer. Serie Mondrian produced Mondrian-style images according to user defined parameters. In honor of Franke's 80th birthday and in collaboration with an exhibit covering Franke's career at the Bremer Kunsthalle, in 2006 the Serie Mondrian software was adapted to work on Windows XP.

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PAC MONDRIAN (2002) - Prize Budget for Boys

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myData=myMondrian (2004) - C.J. Yeh

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myData=myMondrian is an interactive computer program in which the personal data provided by viewers is translated into Piet Mondrian-like composition.

-- FROM THE ARTIST'S SITE

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Electric Boogie Woogie (2009) - Rafael Rozendaal

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Logo (2009) - Oliver Jennings

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brain_and_sword(excerpt) (2006) - Nate Boyce

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Basic Structures

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Image: Michael Joaquin Grey, Perpetual ZOOZ (Madonna and Child), 2005-2009 (Stills)

In the twenty years that Michael Joaquin Grey has been exhibiting, critics have often employed phrases like “back to basics” and “building blocks” to describe his interest in the conventions dictating the representation of concepts that form the foundation of human knowledge. An exhibition of Grey’s new and old work currently on view at P.S.1 includes a drawing that distills his approach: an outline of an infant playing with two red blocks is the image of a nascent mind grappling with the concept of one plus one. A larger drawing on an adjacent wall reuses the red squares to demonstrate the meaning of prepositions—above, under, behind, etc.—like a diagram in a grammar textbook. Object as preposition (1988-2007), also uses orange circles, a colored form that appears several times in the gallery. The fruit suggested by an orange round is a favorite symbol for Grey (his web site is www.citroid.com). Perhaps it’s because the tautology of the object’s name and the color that describes it produces a conundrum: a schematic picture of an orange is both an abstraction and a concrete representation. The repetition of the orange (or just orange, with no definite article) forces viewers to struggle with the same problem that Grey does: even at the most fundamental level, our descriptions of the world are frustratingly paradoxical and slippery.

Lean, instructional-pamphlet drawings dominate the first of the show’s two galleries; Perpetual ZOOZ (Madonna and Child) (2005-2009), a video projected in the second, darkened room, looks Baroque by comparison. In Grey’s “computational cinema,” The Wizard of Oz plays on both sides of a square that spins against a yellow field. The characters and scenery of the family classic ...

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