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Posts from the ‘art’ Category

Gandhi, fixed

January 5, 2015


Gandhi, fixed:

First they ignore you.
Then you write an angry Guardian op-ed about them.
Then you convene an academic conference about them.
Then you turn it into a special issue of a journal.
Then your cool friend from Berlin curates an art show exploring the biopolitical techniques they use to enforce their oppressive power/knowledge.
Then all the foreign art hipsters who live in Berlin come to the show and tell you how amazing it is.
Then you all go and do ketamine off a SpongeBob Squarepants DVD case in somebody’s apartment in Neukölln.
Then they fight you.
Then they win.

The work of art in the age of platformization

September 6, 2014


The most exciting innovation in digital art isn’t the art itself—it’s the platformization of that art.

This is Jason Salavon’s Kids With Santa, created by averaging dozens of photos of children sitting on Santa’s lap:


And this is the platform inspired by it that allows anyone to create their own Salavon-esque “average art”, based on any set of photos:

This is a major contemporary trend of the remix era: a digital artwork pioneers an innovating and striking new technique, and a short time later, a platform arrives that allows anyone to imitate it (sometimes created by others, other times offered by artists themselves).

It’s a bit like Brunelleschi putting the finishing touches on the Duomo — only to discover that every middle class family in Florence had designed and built their own private domed cathedral that was every bit as good as his.


So what’s the result of platformization for the artwork the platform is based on?

As Walter Benjamin observed in his famous essay, in the age of mechanical reproduction of art, the “aura” of the original artwork tends to “wither”.

What happens to that aura in the age of platformization? I think the destruction of the aura is even more violent.

While mechanical reproduction tended to occlude or mystify the process of artistic creation—a postcard of the Eiffel Tower makes it even more dreamlike and symbolic than the real thing, makes it even more difficult to discern how it was ever designed and built—platformization demystifies artistic creation by showing audiences how to make art that is exactly as good as the original.

Thus what Benjamin prophesied would happen to art in the age of mechanical reproduction, but never (in my opinion) really did happen, now actually is happening in the age of platformization.

The problem with crowdfunding

November 14, 2013


Many of my creative peers are turning to crowdfunding to support their work. I continue to be skeptical of the funding model because I think it blurs the lines between cultural patronage and charity dedicated to helping those in serious need. It’s especially problematic when major arts institutions characterize their crowdfunding campaigns as “good causes” (as several high profile ones have done).

I’m much more comfortable when crowdfunding campaigns for arts projects characterize the offering as a purchase rather than a donation. Someone who buys a pop-up book or Star Trek themed game off Indiegogo isn’t cannibalizing their charity budget to pay for it. Someone who supports a theatre or opera company to tour a production they have no intention of seeing, in return for a sticker or postcard, is engaging in charity, and I think there’s a very real risk that the donor may then reduce their spend on traditional charities which tackle critical, life-and-death issues such as global poverty.

I wrote an oped for the Guardian back in August which explores this idea in greater detail. Was pleased to see a couple of other similar articles come out since then which have made the same argument.

The art of the L.D.R.

June 19, 2013


Separation by long distances is a recurring theme in Australian culture. Enduring the hardships of isolation is a familiar trope of our music, literature and art, from the folk song Botany Bay to Henry Lawson’s short story The Drover’s Wife or Russell Drysdale’s painting of the same name. Other iconic works, such as Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri’s epic canvas Warlugulong (1977), or Doris Pilkington Garimara’s Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence and the film based on it, emphasise rather our interconnectedness across the vast continent.

The rise of fast broadband is providing new ways for us to relate to each other and the environment over long distances, collapsing space and time in important ways. What does it mean for the way we think and talk about distance, and how we connect?

Exploring that question is the focus of The Portals, a curated program of telematic art which opened on 8 June at Nan Giese Gallery in Darwin and The Concourse in the Sydney suburb of Chatswood. It is one of the projects supported by the Australia Council’s Broadband Arts Initiative and forms part of ISEA2013, the 19th International Symposium on Electronic Art.

Read the rest of this blog post on the Australia Council’s online magazine, Artery.

Querying the hive mind

May 29, 2013


Over the past few weeks, artist Andrew Burrell and I have been busy finishing our networked art and e-literature collaboration for The Portals program, which will be opening at The Concourse in Sydney and Nane Giese Gallery in Darwin on 8 June.

Entitled Enquire Within Upon Everybody, it’s a real-time question and answer session which gives audiences the chance to query what is sometimes called the Internet’s “hive mind” —  that heterogeneous  assemblage of technologically mediated opinions expressed by various non-representative users of particular platforms — on any subject and receive real-time, generative responses. To make it work from a technical point of view, we’ve needed to define a series of complex (and sometimes simple) algorithms that query online data streams in order to return relevant answers without any intervention from us.

Currently we’re focused on testing the app that drives the artwork by priming it with questions (if you tweet a question now with the hashtag #enquiresydney or #enquiredarwin it will be added to the list). We’ve been finding that the answers given by the digital hive mind offer some glimpses into its emergent personality.

One of the very first questions we began with was simply “How are you feeling today?” We were struck by the downbeat (sometimes acheronian) tone of many of the responses:

… Today I am feeling tired and delicate

… Today I am feeling bruised in soul

… Today I am feeling really bad

… Today I am feeling alone.

The digital hive mind can be mercurial, though, and will perk up if you ask it the right question. We asked it “Am I beautiful?” and we got back:

… You are as beautiful as Cinderella

… You are as beautiful as truth

… You are as beautiful as your thoughts

… You are as beautiful as you were yesterday.

Notice the sting in the tail of that last response. Here’s what happened when we tried asking it “Why did the chicken cross the road?”:

… To get to the other site

… To get to the other side — er, no — to go shopping — no, not that either — damn it.

… To get to the other side and achieve its life goal, what are you doing to achieve yours?

… To get to the other *sigh*.

We’ve also been putting the finishing touches on the interface for the artwork, which outwardly takes the form of an arcade video game from the 1980s. The 8-bit style is particularly suited to visualising the lo-fi data that we’re querying in this work: tweets. They’re in plain text, with no images or sound, and are a maximum of only 560 8-bit bytes (Twitter was built on the 20-year-old technology of SMS).

For more information, visit The Portals Facebook page at