Big Reality

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Eddo Stern, Creative Anachronism, 2004

“From Nethack to play-by-post forums on the WWW,” an Ars Technica blogger wrote in 2009, “the first thing that computer geeks do upon inventing a new medium is play Dungeons and Dragons with it.” With this half-joking riposte to conventional wisdom that new communications media are appropriated first by pornographers, the blogger introduced a roundup of instructions for adding dice rollers to Google Wave to make it a platform for turn-based role-playing games. Of course, links between computing and RPGs predate networked technology. Some of the earliest computer games were made by programmers who played D&D; and saw the connection between dice and digits. Another parallel might be drawn between the do-it-yourself culture around computing in the 1970s and the amateur storytelling demanded by RPGs. Even while computer use leaves less to the imagination today than it did thirty-five years ago, it still shares more characteristics with RPGs than older forms of entertainment do. The creator(s) of a novel, movie, or drama have combined details into a whole by the time it reaches an audience; those media come with spatial and temporal guidelines for consumption. But just as network connections are constant and pervasive, RPGs are open-ended, played with regularity and long-term commitment. Gaming (like, say, tweeting) doesn’t have the same distance between medium and audience as reading or film-going – there is a constant awareness of the self’s participation in a bigger system, and a feeling of contribution to it. RPGs, like internet use, move at the speed of life.

I think this affinity is what has prompted many artists to include allusions to RPGs in their works. Whether they adapt the forking structures or the surface details of fantasy and science fiction, whether those references are direct or oblique, references to the culture around RPGs can be shorthand for reality’s mediation by immaterial systems. Some examples: Brody Condon’s remakes of medieval paintings with game graphics, Eddo Stern’s animation of a gaming-forum flame war, Deb Sokolow’s choose-your-own-adventure drawings, the arcane protests of the Center for Tactical Magic, Sterling Crispin’s scrying devices, and the occult forms behind altar .gifs on dump.fm. These artists a have relationship to fantasy that’s distinctly different from ones who make monster portraits and fantastic battle scenes – a genre that’s also become more visible in contemporary art the last few years. (That trend, I’d say, comes because popular and critical approval for Peter Saul and Tim Burton has emboldened a younger generation of “outsider artists” who grew up with RPGs.) Indie fantasy art, like the illustrations in novels and gaming manuals, that inspire it, is about virtuosic draftsmanship and imagination. It showcases fine renderings of dragon scales and weaponry. The examples I listed above have rough edges where processes of imagination and play visibly collide with other frames of reference. Often, they achieve this by bringing technology to the foreground.

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This and that thought. (2011) - BFFA3AE (Daniel Chew, Micaela Durand, Maximiliano Ferro, Matthew Gaffney)

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This and that thought. takes the form of a narrative. Visually, the project consists of the hex codes of the 216 web safe colors and a colorless box next to each, arranged in a grid. The arrangement is based on the van der Corput seqeunce which orders the colors from black to white through an unintuitive trajectory. The user is invited to click on any hex code which triggers an aural narration based on a fictional narrative of an episodic nature, jumping from subject to subject through connections sometimes obvious, sometimes oblique. Each segment of the narrative is visually associated to one of the colors by a reveal in sync with the narration. Furthermore, attached to each segment is its own unique introduction to the story. Depending on what color is activated, the user experiences a variable story in so far as the introduction and length of the narrative will change. If the user happens to click on black, then the narrative will be “whole” in the sense that the story will utilize all the segments created for the project, whereas any other color incorporates only every color between itself until the end color; white. All other elements remain the same, including the order of the colors and their associated phrase within the narrative.

-- EXCERPT FROM THE PRESS RELEASE FOR This and that thought.

Commissioned by Turbulence.org

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Required Reading: The Immediated Now: Network Culture and the Poetics of Reality by Kazys Varnelis

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Throughout the 1990s, digital computing and network technologies were largely employed in office work, their cultural implications confined to niche realms for enthusiasts. If that decade’s new media art formed a vital artistic subculture, it was mainly isolated and self-referential, in part due to the artists’ fascination with hacking the medium, in part due to its position as the last in a long line of Greenbergian interrogations of the medium, and in part due to its marginalization by established art institutions. Artists like Vuk Cosic, Jodi, Alexei Shulgin, and Heath Bunting replayed early twentieth century avant-garde strategies while emulating the graphic and programming demos of 1980s hacker culture, before computers left the realm of user groups and became broadly useful in society.[1]

Today, in contrast, digital technology is an unmistakable presence in everyday life and is increasingly inextricable from mainstream social needs and conventions. Network culture is a broad sociocultural shift much like postmodernity, not limited to technological developments or to “new media.”[2] Precisely because maturing digital and networking technologies are inseparable from contemporary culture — even more than the spectacle of the television was from postmodernity — they must be read within a larger context. All art, today, is to one extent or another, networked art.

This investigation can’t be limited to online venues, but it also can’t be limited to “art.” Postmodernism called high and low into question (think of Warhol as the quintessential early postmodern artist, or later Barbara Kruger, Cindy Sherman, Jeff Koons, and Richard Prince) by bringing in products of the culture industry into art, but network culture levels that distinction utterly. Art under network culture dismisses the populist projection of the audience’s desires into art for the incorporation of the audience’s desires into art and the blurring of boundaries ...


Little Caesar Magazine

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Snippets below from Little Caesar Magazine, a literary journal/zine produced by Dennis Cooper from 1976 until 1982. Scans and pdfs of the original issues are available through Dennis Cooper's site.


Maybe we're crazy but we think there can be a literary that's loved and powerful. We want a magazine that's read by poetry fans, the rock culture, the Hari Krishnas, the Dodgers. We think it can be done, and that's what we're aiming at.

I have this dream where writers are mobbed everywhere they go, like rock stars and actors. A predilection? You never know. People like Patti Smith are subtly forcing their audiences to become literate, introducing them to Rimbaud, Breton, Burroughs and others. Poetry sales are higher than they've been in fifteen years. In Paris ten year old boys clutching well worn copies of Apollonaire's ALCOOLS put their hands over their mouths in amazement before paintings by Renoir and Monet. Bruce Lee movies close in three days. This could happen here.

Let us introduce ourselves. We're not fifty year old patrons of the arts. We're young punks just like you, and just because Kenneth Rexroth's got a name in some crowds doesn't mean a wink's gonna get his rickety old crap in here. He comes through the back door like everyone else.

- Dennis Cooper, 1978. Excerpt the introduction to Little Caesar #1

Rimbaud Crossword from Little Caesar #5 on Rimbaud

Interview with Andy Warhol by Gerard Malanga from Little Caesar #7

"Variations For Waking" by Jim Carroll from Little Caesar #3

Originally via East of Borneo

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Mark Essen's Games on Adult Swim are Totally Radical

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Screenshot of Pipedreamz

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Screenshot of Turbo Turbo Turbo

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Screenshot of Cream Wolf

Game designer and artist Mark Essen started producing games for Adult Swim, and boy, are they cool. Take Pipedreamz, which features a hungry ghost who must secretly binge on meat in order to advance to the next level, which involves surfing for condiments like ketchup and relish. Or the comically masculine Turbo Turbo Turbo, where you smash into cars, win bar fights, and drink to gain points. Or Cream Wolf, where you play an ice cream truck driver/werewolf who must collect cones, feed kids and avoid cops. Every so often the game slips into a nighttime world, where the aim is to lure customers back to your lair with dreamy music. The games are a testament to Essen's genius and unique sense of humor, so check them out!

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Ulrich Fischer: Walking the Edit: Innovative System to "Walk a Movie" / Interview on VernissageTV

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VernissageTV interviews artist Ulrich Fischer on the occasion of the presentation of Walking the Edit as part of Image-Mouvement at the Centre d’Art Contemporain Genève. More on the project below from VernissageTV:

Conceived by Ulrich Fischer, the system allows the user to create an individual video using already existing images that are connected to a certain place via geotagging. Depending on which route one takes and how fast the user walks, an individual movie is created.

Technically, “Walking the Edit” is based on GPS, geotagging, iPhone app and iPhone. By walking through the streets, the iPhone reveals and collects the audiovisual memory of the place. While walking you hear the movie that you are just editing. Once the movie is finished, you can watch it online on the website and share it with other people.

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YEMENWED EPISODE 3 (2008) - YEMENWED

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Gloria Maximo - Director, Painting
Jonathan Turner - Director, Animation
Shawn Maximo - Architectural Design, Sculpture
Kate Rosko - Musical Director, Piano
Joseph Fraioli - Sound Designer
Megha Barnabas - Movement
Jason Farrer - Movement, Sculpture
Busy Gangnes - Movement
Paul Kopkau - Movement, Sculpture
Heather Kosch - Movement, Sculpture
David Santa Maria - Sculpture
Laura Foxman - Writing
Mary Voorhees - Graphic Design
Black Cracker - Vocal Engineer
Peter Zuspan - Audio Installation
Shannon Funchess - Vocals
Nina Mehta - Recorder
Natalie LeBrecht - Vocals
Mick Barr - Guitar
Abby Portner - Drum Machine
Colin Marston - Guitar
Lev Weinstein - Drums

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Beryl Korot "Text and Commentary" from Art21

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Artist Beryl Korot discusses her 1977 video installation Text and Commentary in this brief clip. Korot's solo exhibition "Beryl Korot: Text/Weave/Line—Video, 1977-2010" is on view at the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum until January 2nd.

Note: We reblogged another Art21 interview with Korot earlier this year, in which she talks about her involvement with the pioneering 1970s video art publication Radical Software.

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A Slow Year (2010) - Ian Bogost

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A Slow Year is a collection of four games, one for each season, about the experience of observing things. These games are neither action nor strategy: each of them requires a different kind of sedate observation and methodical input.

The game attempts to embrace maximum expressive constraint and representational condensation. I want to call them game poems. The set comprises a little collection, a kind of videogame chapbook.

-- FROM THE ARTIST'S STATEMENT

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Required Reading

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Marina Abramović, view of The Artist is Present at the MoMA. Photo: C-Monster.

Inevitably, the fast pace of consumerism is accompanied by the tantalizing promise of slow time—Allen Ginsberg once complained of a heart attack en route to his weekly meditation.

Just as the arts were reinvented in the age of the camera, so too must they be in the age of accelerated time. If the internet and the touch screen represent the apparatuses of our age, then the material and the prolonged have become a niche for the discursive and formal role of the arts. Much like a spa, the arts play host to a malnourished subject eager to experience something nostalgically other. Slow time and tangible bodies become so rare experientially that their aesthetic value finds a home in the cul-de-sac of scarcity that is art.

Since the advent of mechanical production, the arts have been the space in which the hard-to-find seeks refuge. And while the art market has been much discussed, we now find another form of scarcity in forms of experience. At times in tension, at times in collusion with capitalist scarcity, the scarcity of experience encourages forms of art that are not as easily distributed as—and thus more distinguishable from—the mass produced goods of the broader market. Massive installations, sculptures, performance, civic institutions (the museum), time-based relational aesthetics all find value in their experiential distinction from larger markets. Museums offer special opportunities to experience the body in space. In this spasmodic era, we find the arts recalibrated as a temporal, spatial, and bodily escape.

This kind of shifted aesthetic disposition resists not only the pace of the information economy, but, perhaps more importantly, our very ability to consume our experience. If we are frantic, it is only because we need to ...

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