Study for Frozen Film Frame of "Frame Study 15" (1975)
Though experimental filmmaker Paul Sharits' incredibly detailed film scores depict plans for possible films, they have a manic beauty all their own. Some of his most fascinating studies, like the one above, served as plans for his Frozen Film Frame series, in which colored film strips are sandwiched between plexiglass and hung from the ceiling, allowing natural light to illuminte their multicolored frames.
From Frozen Film Frame series (1971-6)
Another example, below, was a study for his Specimen series.
Frame Study 15: Study for “Specimen II,” 1975
Undeniably alluring, Sharits' plans, which don't necessarily synchronize with a finished product, point towards his desire to bring cinema into a non-theatric mode of presentation. Viewed today, the images have endless, striking associations with pixels and glitches. Sharits' emphasis on the object of film in the Specimen and Frozen Film Frame series presages the materiality of blocky low-res aesthetic visibile in much contemporary electronic art.
Camouflage by Andy Warhol (1986)
Camouflage is indeed a form of magic --it encompasses misdirection, illusion, the interrogation of issues of completion or incompletion of the object; but beyond these matters (that form the infrastructural support of magic), camouflage also asks us to participate in the psychology of the hunter and the hunted, to examine the structures of control and influence that pin down the prey, that show the hunted how being fascinated can renegotiate the system of authority from the posture of the unarmed. — Tony Conrad
Conrad has a personal connection to camouflage technology, as his father was involved in the design of the U.S. Navy’s dazzle camouflage technique. His point, to a certain extent, is that camouflage determines a relationship within the world: it creates a form of perception as much as it seeks to abolish the very possibility of perception. If camouflage is designed as a facilitator of invisibility, it also retains a contradictory status as something admirable, recognizable, and even bold. Far from generic or free of association, camouflage is loud, communicates multitudes, and is frequently invoked in discussions of art ranging from Cubism to Warhol.
Still, camouflage is best known as a military technology of concealment, and it’s an effective one. From what or whom, though, does camouflage conceal? Hide and Seek: Camouflage, Photography, and the Media of Reconnaissance, Hanna Rose Shell’s recent book concerning the history of camouflage, traces the development of this recognizable form of hiding and reveals the expanse of impulses behind its development. As opposed to the social-psychological relationships created by camouflage, Shell focuses on camouflage’s relationship to popular and military technologies of reconnaissance and detection in the 20th century. While countless studies proliferate concerning the ontology of filmic and photographic images, Shell’s follows the specific thread of camouflage in tandem to those developments. Rather than focus only on camouflage as an attempt to blend into a physical environment, Shell emphasizes camouflage’s consciousness of visual technology since its emergence in World War I, when aircrafts were first widely used as reconnaissance tools and eventually refined as bombing machines. Previous wars had utilized human eyes to scout enemy positions, but as soldiers on the ground saw planes with affixed cameras flying overhead, camouflage became a nifty form of concealment within the frame of the photograph.
Embedded in this discussion is photography’s transformation of society’s understanding of temporality. Abbott Thayer, an early and controversial analyst of concealment strategies utilized by birds and other animals, focused his thinking on the crucial moment of hiding. Natural camouflage techniques, Thayer suggested, were not designed to keep animals constantly hidden, but rather allowed environmental blending during moments when an animal needed to be made invisible. Former President Teddy Roosevelt pointed to the flaws in Thayer’s thinking by suggesting that no Zebra stood still by their watering hole waiting to be unseen. While Thayer’s attitude towards the momentous may have been shortsighted for a discussion of the animal kingdom, it was undoubtedly prophetic for the development of military camouflage and it’s relationship to photographic technology, as illustrated by the similarity between Thayer’s crucial moment of concealment and Henri-Cartier Bresson’s influential photographic theory of the decisive moment.
Author Hanna Rose Shell in camouflage (source)
In World War Two, as photography took its rightful place as the ultimate intelligence-gathering tool, film was becoming increasingly popular as a means of training personnel, and the cinematic model of spectatorship itself became a training ground for pure, invisible perceptive practice.
Michael Snow with the machine used for filming La Région Centrale
In 1971, Michael Snow spent five days atop a lonely mountain in North Quebec. He was making a film, or supervising a film that was being made by his robotic companion, depending on how you think about it. The film that robot made is called La Région Centrale: over the course of three hours, the machine runs through all its programmed motions, capturing every possible view of the barren mountain. Certainly, at least some of the images would have been overlooked by a human filmmaker.
Despite its lack of human warmth, Snow's film retains a mystical slant: the film is somehow purer for being supposedly unpolluted by the artist's direct physical control over the camera, and the machine bears witness to a primal landscape with nearly cosmic objectivity. The saintliness of La Région Centrale was possible not only because it played off of the machine's lack of learned perception (the machine couldn't find beauty in a landscape or respectably frame a shot), but also because the machine couldn't process the landscape as information.
Snow's sketch of the machine
Timo Arnall's short film Robot Readable World investigates the exact opposite: how robot-eyes gather information from the cityscapes, mediascapes, and people. On display in the video are the brightly colored squares, rectangles, circles, and lines that recognize cars, faces, doors and everything else that robots see. In our contemporary security-obsessed climate, robots and computer vision are tasked with growing responsibilities to survey urban and rural environments. Instead of following Matt Jones' suggestion that "instead of designing computers and robots that relate to what we can see, we meet them half-way–covering our environment with markers, codes and RFIDs, making a robot-readable world,” these machines read a world without man-made markers permitting robo-legibility....
In 1853, Karl Marx sent a dispatch from London to be published in the New York Daily Tribune. Reflecting on the role of the British in India, Marx decreed that “England has to fulfill a double mission in India: one destructive, the other regenerating the annihilation of old Asiatic society, and the laying the material foundations of Western society in Asia.” The pain of those material foundations, of course, merely sets the stage for the new world’s worker’s utopia. A similarly gargantuan task could describe the e-books released by Badlands Unlimited. Badlands describes itself as making “books in an expanded field,” a tall order in today’s milieu of nostalgic preservation for the printed book’s 20th century form.
The press’ latest release, How to Download a Boyfriend, features image-based contributions from 50 artists strung together by a tongue-in-cheek interactive quiz about love in the digital age. Ian Cheng offers a peek at Duchamp’s Étant donnés through a BlackBerry camera, while Sarah Chow’s tantalizing cotton candy colored, textured rock face hints at a pleasure of touch that remains unfulfilled by the flat smoothness of tablet technology. Other artists include vanguard stalwards Tony Conrad and Peggy Ahwesh, new media stars Cory Archangel and Petra Cortright, alongside Billy Rennekamp, Josh Kline, Travess Smalley, and other artists that have been previously featured on Rhizome. While the HTDLAB engages with the practice of reading and being an e-book, it's also site refreshingly free of reverence and infused with a spirit of exploration and experimentation.
Questions range from the practical (Can I use your Netflix account if we break up?) to the absurd (“What names do you scream into a car crusted pillow with OK Cupid howling on a laptop nearby?”). The interactive answering of questions to which any ...
Michel Houllebecq's novel The Map and the Territory (La carte et le territoire) is a future art history of the French artist Jed Martin. Martin's output is both limited and clinical: he desires, above all, to "give an objective description of the world" (27), and he creates a body of work consisting of four series made throughout his life.
Aside from the drawings produced in his youth, Martin’s first work was the series “Three Hundred Photos of Hardware.” “Avoiding emphasis on the shininess of the metals and the menacing nature of the forms, Jed had used a neutral lighting, with few contrasts, and photographed articles of hardware against a background of mid-gray velvet. Nuts, bolts, and adjusting knobs appeared like so many jewels, gleaming discreetly” (26). The series appears to be an extension of a previous project, undertaken in his high school bedroom with mostly natural light, to create “an exhaustive catalogue of the objects of human manufacturing in the Industrial Age” (20). Martin has difficulty articulating his project, and his artist's statement emphasizes the advanced aluminum engineering responsible for creating most industrial objects. It's the work Andreas Gursky would have made taking pictures of single objects.
While claiming to be done with photography, Martin’s next series returns to his technical facility with the medium. Enthralled by the beauty of Michelin Departments road maps, Martin experiences a mild attack of Stendhal syndrome after unfolding a map of the Creuse and Haute-Vienne: “This map was sublime. Overcome, he began to tremble in front of the food display. Never had he contemplated an object as magnificent, as rich in emotion and meaning” (28). The Michelin series consisted of over eight hundred photographs and was responsible for Martin’s first major show, sponsored by Michelin, titled “THE MAP IS MORE INTERESTING THAN THE TERRITORY.”
Martin’s work fits easily into a certain popular narrative of contemporary art: conceptual enough to make critics giddy, effortless enough to affirm a naysayer’s belief in the overwhelming bullshit of the gallery, and relevant without being topical. Most importantly, it's never outside complex contemporary fiscal systems: art remains a good investment. These are precisely the qualities them so believable as artworks, so easy to imagine. It is what separates the novel so completely from other narratives of faux-artworks, with their gaudy, impossibly transcendent works of beauty.
David Hockney, Mr. and Mrs. Clark Percy (1970)
Martin’s next aesthetic endeavor took him into the world of painting: his collection of sixty-five oil paintings, collectively known as the “Professions” series, depicted the various modes of employ which form a functioning society. Martin creates another taxonomy, this time a human taxonomy: with subjects ranging from Maya Dubois, Remote Maintenance Assistant to Bill Gates and Steve Jobs Discussing the Future of Information Technology (subtitled The Conversation at Palo Alto). The portrait of Gates and Jobs is considered his most essential work: Martin gives “a magical glow to the forests of California pine descending toward the sea” (72). (Eventually, Steve Jobs up bought the painting for $2 million).
The Chinese essayist Wong Fu Xin maintains that Martin’s paintings from this period, which can be broken into the Series of Simple Professions and the Series of Business Compositions, represent the minimum number of professions required to recreate the productive conditions of society: they “give a relational and dialectical image of the functioning of the economy as a whole” (73). When unable to complete the final painting of the series, Damien Hirst and Jeff Koons Dividing Up the Art Market, Martin destroyed it. His final painting is one of Houellebecq, which he presents to the writer as a gift.