I'm wrapping up this blog to start a new one on my own domain, hypothete.com. Thanks for reading!
I was in Vancouver, BC September 28-30. I had been invited to participate in the Speed Show called Ping!, hosted by Aaron Chan, Maggie McGee and Aureliano Segundo. Since several of my close Internet friends live in Vancouver (Maggie, Chris Shier, Stage Baker) and I had never been to Canada before, I decided to go and see what I could learn.
Maggie and Aureliano did an excellent job coordinating the setup for Ping!. The Nicola Cafe is a venue that caters more to gaming than email, so all of the computers had large screens and decent graphics cards. Western Front (more on them in a minute) provided ample funds for nameplates and free booze. It was a very good Speed Show.
|crappy photo - I really didn't get many good photos, sorry.|
|Thanks to ohahalicia and Lindsey for their arms|
|Some of us tried to go to lunch here. they didn't serve us.|
I've talked a little bit before about how digital images are composed of pixels, and the limitations of various file types. Today I want to expand more upon another quality of digital images, that of resolution. Resolution defines the size of an image, but not quite in a physical sense. I especially want to talk about the scale of an image in regards to its resolution, as we are living in an interesting time technologically with regards to how we view images.
There are two reasons as to why resolution is on my mind. First, I recently completed some freelance banner ad work for a theater company. The file requirements for the newsletter they were advertising in were miniscule - a resolution of 728x96, but a file size of under 40 kilobytes! It later turned out that the newsletter's representatives weren't sticklers for the file size rule, so we ended up going with a GIF of about 125 kb in size - very modest.
The other reason I'm thinking about resolution is in preparation for a Speed Show I'm participating in later this month. I've only seen one Speed Show in person before, and it is a difficult format to develop for. Most net art is meant to be viewed while surfing on your personal computer, so when you are faced with a room full of computers, the work needs some serious allure that reads from far away to draw you in. BYOBs solve this problem by blowing up images with projection - the images take up the same viewing area in your vision as if you were sitting at a screen. More on that later.
Most digital images are made of a file that stores pixel values in some way. All computer files have a file size, which means how much data it takes to represent that image on the computer. When I wrote about the formal qualities of file types, I mentioned how one way to reduce file size (and make a file faster to access) is to reduce the number of colors used in the image. Another method used mostly for photographs is what's called compression. A third way to alter file size is by limiting the resolution of an image. Think of it this way: if a digital image is essentially a grid of colors, the grid has a certain length and width before the picture ends. This however does not imply a physical size, it just says how many values we are storing. The capacity for values is what resolution is: the size of the grid.
|This image has a resolution of 600x575 pixels. That's pretty large for a GIF.|
Computer displays have resolution, too. According to a recent poll, the most common resolutions of monitors online are 1366x768 pixels (HD), followed by 1024x768 (XGA). Screen resolution has increased significantly since the 1980s, when your average screen had a resolution of 320x240. Most old (read: tube) TVs had approximately this resolution as well, but since they used analog signals instead of digital signals, the pixel edges weren't apparent.
One important distinction to make between the displays of the 1980s and today is that physical screen size has not increased by 4x across the board. Today, we use screens of many more sizes, however the resolutions are typically much higher. We can think of resolution as a measure of detail in a display: that is, the more pixels that one can display in an area of fixed size, the higher the resolution. There's a unit of measurement for this: pixels per inch, or ppi.
You might have seen a similar term before: dots per inch, or dpi. Dots refer to the CMYK printing process, where tiny cyan, yellow, magenta, and black dots overlap to blend into other colors and make a picture. The dots are artifacts of modern printing techniques, including ink-jet printing (a computerized head squirts tiny dots in a pattern to make a picture) and screen printing (more complicated). Dots per inch and pixels per inch are similar measurements, but they are not quite analogous.
|example of the cmyk printing process - note the bleed of colors on sharp edges|
Printed images are typically produced at a standard resolution of 300 dpi. At 300 dpi, a photograph held at about a foot away from your eye appears to have no artifacts of the printing process - "real enough." Computer resolutions are all over the place, however. 72 - 96 ppi used to be the standard in the 1990s for computer screens. Since then, we've seen ppi drop in order to produce big, cheap LCD TVs with "good enough" resolution, and we've seen ppi grow in handheld devices, most notably due to pressure from the iPhone, which boasts a 300 ppi screen. The human eye can perceive up to 400 ppi at one foot in ideal conditions, however we interact with computers at less than half that resolution regularly.
This variation in level of detail has an interesting effect on digital image files, since they have no native physical size: they appear larger or smaller, depending on the screen. There is no way that I could develop an image of a postage stamp that would appear postage-stamp-sized on every display it met. This means that people who make images have to constantly consider problems of scale and legibility. For instance, photographers tend to prefer working with very high resolution images, so that regardless of screen size a sufficient level of detail can be observed.
Not everyone has the luxury at working in high resolutions, because the larger the resolution, the larger the file size. This is why most early computer graphics and many websites still use low resolution images. Many people enjoy the mosaic look of low resolution images, such as the pixel art community. In order to better highlight this, pixel art is often displayed at larger than its native resolution, in order to heighten the sensation of interplay between the colors' edges.
|dithering in the "dog hood" image|
It's not entirely clear how much say people other than software developers have when it comes to how images are displayed online. In the late 90s, Apple introduced a method of displaying fonts that used anti-aliasing, which just means smoothing edges at the sub-pixel level. The way it works is the computer blows up an image, treats each pixel as a number of "sub-pixels," and then applies a smoothing algorithm. This pixel is then scaled back down by treating each pixel as the average color of its sub-pixels.
Software developers were hugely supportive of the legibility that font smoothing brought to screen and print applications, since fonts have to be legible at many, many sizes. Later on, similar methods began to be adopted by browsers for displaying images on the web - the assumption being that most images online are photographs, which look good when smoothed. I've included an example of a low-resolution image that's being stretched up to a high resolution. As you can see, the smoothing effect can useful, but is not always ideal, especially for low resolution drawings or pixel art.
|original size - 34x38|
|smoothed scaling - 357x400|
|"nearest-neighbor" (pixel-based) scaling|
Your average web user does not tend to consider how a browser treats the images they see, but so far web designers and artists online have had to adapt to a pretty arbitrary group of scaling rules. The pro in this situation are that there are multiple methods to displaying digital images that we would not be able to use otherwise. The con is that there is no long-term reliability with display like there is with a physical object. Add to that the changing monitor ppi over the past 30 years, and you can see how hard it is for digital images to remain accessible and predictable.
Leaving the screen
Generally speaking, people are attracted to physical objects. A good number of people experiment with methods of transferring "volatile" digital images to more stable physical configurations. This often involves printing. Remember though that standard dpi for print is around 300, where most modern computer screens are a little over 100 ppi. This has the effect of making images look smaller than on screen when they print.
|300 dpi print vs. 100 ppi image on screen|
Computers can also display animations and vector images (images that can scale to any resolution), neither of which can be sufficiently recreated as physical objects other than on screens, though I would not be the first to admit to making the attempt. Another method of displaying digital images in physical space is to use a projector. Projectors have resolutions, just like screens, but they also have focal lengths - limits on how big or small one can make an image before it becomes blurry. With a decent sized room and a good projector, it would not be hard to display an image with a resolution (on the wall) of less than 1 ppi.
|17 ppi projection. Since focus becomes an issue, pixels are not as visible.|
I'm concluding this with a bit of speculation, and anyone that has an idea to chip in should do so. One method of measurement that we have not discussed is the apparent width of an image in your vision. The average human has a 180 degree field of view horizontally, and 135 degrees vertically. (Jeremy Bailey, if you will make a video with a giant CG lime wedge extending from your field of vision, you will be my hero.) The closer you are to an object, the more of your field of view it inhabits. Your pinky, held at arm's length, is about 1 degree wide. I sit about 3 feet from my computer screen, so the display takes up about 30 degrees of my vision. Most people hold their 6" wide smartphones 10-12" away from their faces - that's comparable, 24 degrees. I would be interested to know the average size of paintings and other images by time period, and also learn more about how viewing habits change. Everyone knows that big paintings have more "presence," where small paintings tend to be more personal and intricate - this relates to viewing distance. I want to know where the computer viewing experience fits in, since it is not quite the same thing as looking at small or big static objects.
Here's what's up: last year my good friend Joel tried to organize a Google Hangout viewing party of the ABC Family movie "Cyberbully" (spelled Cyberbu//y), but it fell through. I finally had the chance to watch the movie last night, and it was abysmal in the way that I can enjoy a movie. I notified Joel of my viewing:
I clicked the link:
The producer of this film goes by the name LiberalTom. I checked out his profile and found this:
Whenever I'm presented with something this silly and/or heartwarming, I post it to dump. As a mod, I can directly autoplay the video to mess with people. I got a few favs, which didn't count towards my score (mod hacks don't factor in), but most thought provoking was the response from dumper erikhaspresence, who responded
Which was true, since dump was having a hivemind moment with a "Tom Moody" meme, like so:
- What makes for a good hivemind?
- How many more Tom Moody memes do we need on dump?
- Is there a Brooklyn-based band called "Unfair Meme Disruption" forming right now?
- Can a video disrupt an image-pair meme?
- What's stronger in terms of remix value, an image or a video?
Technical notes: I'm using the "continuous shutter" setting on my camera to take pictures about a half a second apart each. I then either stabilize them by hand in Photoshop (the tilt ones especially need this) or I use the Warp Stabilizer plugin in After Effects. I then export them as GIFs, trying to keep the filesize as low as possible while maintaining color depth. Depending on the image, this can be easy or hard - for instance, the full shot of the falls (4 images up) uses only 32 colors!
"#2 - Ghost-modernist" for James McKain
(I actually made another image initially, but I like this better)
"#5 - brush for actual artist that I hardly ever use" for Samuel Howe
"#4 only - but you know this" for Tom Moody
Just arrived in Portland, OR after a very long excursion! My lease in Minneapolis ran out on the 31st, but the new place here wasn't available until June 10, so my girlfriend and I took our time on the way and visited everything we could find in between. (BTW, she's the one with the job here - I don't uproot without a purpose.)
Anyway, I had some time to make a few GIFs as we hit up Yellowstone, Crater Lake, and the beaches of Oregon. Some of them are quite big files (I tried my best) , so I'm just going to link out:
Objects in mirror
Caustics - seen above
I am taking an informal poll on drawing program effects. As someone who's worked with drawing programs for most of my life, I suspect that I have certain biases towards effects. I'm interested to learn what qualities most people perceive in marks like those above, and what associations they form.
If you would like to participate, please comment on this post with your general thoughts on each numbered mark. Responses can be as short as a word, and as long as you like. Anyone who responds will receive a custom artwork based on their responses.
Thank you for your help!
I just started working with Adobe Creative Suite 6, which is proving to be a challenge after 3 years of using only the GIMP and Inkscape. My reaction:
Mostly it amazes me how often people treat simple layer effects like "Bevel and Emboss" (the 3D brushmarks up there) as edgy and painterly gestures. Come on, that's like getting excited about "Sharpen." Here are two attempts where I was trying to use the filter "incorrectly":
|taken from dump - photo credit Erik Stinson|
One thing Photoshop does better than the GIMP is distortions. I will not miss "iWarp", the open source version of "Liquefy." Don't get me started on "Puppet Warp", though...
Some IRL drawings and paintings:
That last one is called "Uncle Jesse Majestic" - the gentleman holding up the painting is a friend of mine who approached me in January with the idea of collaborating on a painting. He had never painted before, so we worked together on the canvas from underpainting to the final glow-in-the-dark layer. Oh yeah.
Agh, I meant to post these much, much sooner. "Battle Royale" was an exhibition of Pokémon fan art I attended on April 20th at Light Grey Art Lab, a new art space just down the street from MCAD. In these first few pictures, I want to point out how absolutely packed this tiny place was - there were easily 300 people there during the hour I spent at the show. The curators were standing on benches hocking prints, and all the attendees wanted to do was was buy, buy, buy! Crazy.
|Team Rocket by Daniel Krall|
|A totally creepy portrait of gym leader Misty by Andres Guzman|
|Clefable by Katie C. Turner|
|Drowzee by Kali Ciesmier|
|Cloyster by Sabrina Paralin. I don't know if you can tell, but this print was made from a cross-stitch.|
|Hitmonlee by Dustin Harbin (1/2)|
|Hitmonchan by Nathan Bulmer (2/2)|
|Hardware from Cory Arcangel's Masters, 2011|
|Jaques Henri Lartigue, Grand Prix of the Automobile Club of France, 1912|
|Davis doing his stuff in Drive-in Movie Tennis|
I haven't talked much about "cinemagraphs" on the blog. They're GIFs similar to what most people think of when they think of GIFs: appearing to stem from a film or TV show. The "high art" cinemagraph, however, does one other thing specifically (for some reason) that most GIFs do not: the cinemagraph reduces movement in a scene down to a few localized areas, such as a person's eyes, hair, or a scarf blowing in the breeze. It thinks very much of itself.
Stage (we are familiar) has produced, in retaliation, a series of faux-cinemagraphs that reverse the localized movement: twitchy, wobbly eyes and uncanny jaw movements turn what appear to be normal humans into uncanny-valley monsters. Watch and enjoy.
LINK to AFC comment thread where I lose my shit - who is behind this? Why? What do collectors in Dubai want with net art? Why is Constant Dullaart the representative of the community? How did the audience respond? Why does everyone think that archiving a website or web content is akin to videotaping or photographing a performance? Isn't it the perception that matters over the material? If you can replicate the perception exactly, why worry?
In the debate, Marius Watz hedges with the common complaint about net art/artists being undefinable. I can't speak for Watz, but generally the complaints I see like his are all on Mr. Moody's 14 definitions of WTF a net artist is. (here's #14) I disagree with Tom and Marius because I think that by proposing a definition you can establish methods of evaluation. Here's my stab at a broad definition of the genre:
Net art is either artwork produced for web-based consumption with an implicit awareness of the culture and power structures that govern its dissemination, or physical artwork produced with a more explicit awareness of the same in mind, or a combination thereof.It seems to me that intentionality is key here - self-awareness, awareness of the qualities of the Internet. Anything implying a lack of understanding while billing itself as art is untrustworthy and patronizing. If it's not intended to be net art, it's outsider art or just a really funny website. If you feel otherwise, comment here and I'll duke it out with you, but be prepared to provide examples.
One last link before I go to keep this on-task: The Idiocrats by Alexander Provan, a gentleman mentioned in the panel as arguing against non-Internet-aware net art. I'm not familiar with Triple Canopy yet, so if you know more please chime in.
Notes from March:
- QR CODES ARE ADVERTISEMENTS
- Movie of people saying their screennames
- "concept" Facebook albums - cats, cropped
- Website that's just a timer
- Website that gets louder with more people on it
Stupid meme idea and some stuff I"ll never make:
- Saw Lifelike at the Walker Art Center. Quite a well-curated show, layout-wise - totally destroyed the John Waters one that began its run in June. Too bad that their website is overdeveloped (and the bees are
just annoyingnetart), I'd link out to more works. Related: Is Frank Gaard a Stuckist? And how can he out-compete the dolphin?
- Drafted some "voxel studies." I need to get away from cubes - these turned into a painting that I ended up knifing out of hatred.
- Added a few thoughts on the Great GIF Fiasco of 2012
- Ended up watching a bunch of French New Wave film, just because Francois Truffaut was the scientist guy in Close Encounters of the Third Kind. The 400 Blows was very memorable - really bold tracking shot at the end.
I know this totally looks like I'm ripping off Tom's post from a few minutes ago on the same subject, but I swear this has been on my to-dos for today since last night. I'm on a small mailing list of net art aficionados (...................yeah, it is what it is), and recently we were discussing Nicholas O'Brien's latest article, "Observations on the Proliferation of Online Galleries." One of the more interesting points made (that for some reason didn't show up in the thread?) is the similarity between how O'Brien discusses these online galleries and his analysis of R. Gerald Nelson's (tumblr and 4chan have killed the image <_<) Image Aggregators (IAs) in an older article. O'Brien is in on the list, so I responded to him with a few questions, hoping others would chime in as well. No one has responded yet - I'm pretty sure I'm a thread killer by nature :( - but I thought that it might be a good thing to blog about to open up the discussion a little more, just in case. The points below are slightly reworked versions of my original questions.
O'Brien speaks initially about an overlap of artists between online galleries. I wonder if it's a question of who is seeking "real" institutional representation that determines this crowd. This kind of goes against what he says later about the "willingness [of galleries] to support the programming and curation of an underrepresented scene."
O'Brien also mentions that these artists are engaged in "long-term processes... exploring their craft and culture," and that the online galleries' programming fosters this by encouraging the creative process over a period of time. This creates a certain closeness between artists and gallery, resulting in a tightly knit audience. This seems circular to me - I'm reminded immediately of tumblr communities with endless reblogging/permutations of posts - Image Aggregator feedback loops. I wonder if that is what we're seeing here, albeit in a more delayed (temporally), professional-looking skin.
If this is the case, the online gallery then could be considered to function more as an IA with a greater degree of transparency in intent than a brick-and-mortar gallery, but a greater degree of restraint as well in content than your average IA might provide. This answers the "framing" question (Why put net art on a webpage other than its own?) - the work of one artist in the loop of the gallery requires a peer context. This also seems to suggest the (general) failure of the standalone webpage. [I've been thinking this over and I now disagree, what we see is that these select artists prefer the context an online gallery provides.] Net artists trade autonomy of intent to be part of a collective aesthetic - a network, rather than addressing the totality of the web directly. The online gallery, then, breeds less spontaneity, a clearer message, and a limited audience focused on a specific aesthetic-based form of discourse.
Extra credit: Where does Tight Artists fit in?
Though I no longer frequent dump, the mods continue to use and add to this document today - kudos to them for their work and expertise. I announced my plans in November to turn the hax file into a website that allows for working with the code in realtime, and as of this morning I figured out a way to do so. Yes, it's a bit of a hack in some ways, like the current iframe setup, but I think it's better to share than not, and isn't that the point anyway?
|One of my contributions to the SOLO JAZZ CUP madness sweeping the Internet|
Following up my recent post on Jennifer Chan's essay, Tom Moody and I hashed out some potential issues with the group ("net artists") identified in the paper, as well as shared our opinions on how to discuss commodifying and therefore money in an art context. I'm still working out my feelings on the matter. I think that any conversion of a digital object into a physical one is going to bring up the issue of money, and as a young artist who works an unrelated day job it's not hard to feel the pull of "commodifying at any cost." Historically, artists besmirched by institutions would host their own exhibitions in alternative spaces (like today's BYOBs), but now I'm wondering if giving a net art object physical form is caving to societal pressure in the first place. Hmm. See Hennesy Youngman for more on institutional critique.
Create your own art movement - drumroll - was a flop! View the delightful 3 responses here. Kudos to the contributors for their bravery. I might work something up for the hell of it.
To end on a lighter note, I ordered myself a custom mug a few weeks ago after getting fed up with my current work mug. This video is for art historians and 20th century mug slogan aficionados; everyone else should just roll their eyes.
I'm reading and re-reading Jennifer Chan's recent essay "The Commodification of Net Art" (PDF download) right now, and I'd love to discuss it with anyone interested. Chan makes some incredibly lucid points about what happens to net art when "commodified," i.e. turned into a physical object. So far, the two main insights I've taken away from the article are:
- Web-based artwork has a "digital aura," a quality which informs the viewer of its origin. This aura is easily lost outside of the context of the browser because display methods (such as a screen or a sheet of paper) ultimately complicate the reading of the work in a designated physical space.
- "Non-discursive" art blogs encourage insular image critique, marginalizing the artwork as "hipster capital." Chan gives the example of Sterling Crispin's Greek New Media Shit tumblr as a site which demonstrates how in-jokes can reduce actual critique to shorthand aesthetic conventions. Hipster capital in this case refers to the trading of images and references within a scene, only comprehensible by those in the know.
Chan's insight on in-scene feedback loops is probably the most astonishing part of the article in my opinion; online aesthetic shorthand, " Internet memes," are often discussed as inevitably ballooning in popularity like a fad. However - and I know this sounds dubious - from personal experience, for every LOLcat that makes it big there are 100 images that are just as [useful/shareable/funny] that remain in-scene as modes of "discourse." Of course, as Chan points out, is a readymade meme a useful form of discourse after all, or does it actually restrict your audience, not to mention your thoughts?