Monday, September 28, 2009

The Nexus Series

When I read these pieces, I think about connections -artistic, mechanical/cybernetic, and culture connections. What is lacking is the physical. It is about attempting to communicate or connect with others in this age of virtual time and space. A strange thread runs through these articles in that the more we try to mentally connect to others through new cybernetic social mechanisms, the more we grow physically distant afraid to connect . Maybe it is because we experience this world of fear to connect, be it exclusion, fear of AIDS, or other factors resulting from fear, control, and power.

“institute a less individuated, more communal form of perception similar to that which was attendant upon face-to-face ritual and aura but which is now mediated by anonymous circuitry and the simulation of direct encounter?” pg 26.

The process of virtual media and creating with virtual tools to make virtual productions is ethereal. It (the moment of conceptual) is here, experienced, and then it is gone with little or no trace. Once virtual access is present, the creator can remain physically absent. The concept can be misinterpreted, reinvented and beat into a frenzy by the virtual public. I am probably moving into the realm of sociology here and the demise of social interaction. I guess I am speaking of the demise of the aura… the absences of essence. The age of the replica.

“The authenticity of a thing is the essence of all that is transmissible from its, beginning, ranging from its substantive duration to its testimony to the history which it has experienced.” Walter Benjamin, ‘The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction’, in Illuminations, translated by Harry Zohn, New York, Schocken Books, 1969, p.221.

I think about photographs made from old school cameras using film. At least the photograph had a beginning, the participant's staged or natural state, the actual image on the negative and/or print, and then the remaining record of the historical reference - the aura.

Now we have digital files which can be edited, enhanced, appropriated into a totally different context, and then deleted from existence.

A few of my favorite artists who create(d) in this conceptual manner using time, the aura, and space as their response to culture, the Other, and historical reference include:
Albert Chong
Sophie Calle
and Ana Mendieta

Each of these artists attempted to connect with their environment, deal with their cultural heritage and issues, and link a moment of their existence with acts, installations, temporal constructions and events that connect to their past, present, and, in at least one case – horrific demise. They record the mystical and ritual, remenants, people they had seen which is more about the aura or essence of the person rather than the actual physical being. The physical was not enough, the artist was connecting with the spirit, the soul.

Aura is something that is not tangible but we try to communicate it, recreate it, and transport others through our own skin. Is essence unobtainable? Aura is a substance of what was but no longer is… an afterglow, a memory, a thought. Is aura a precursor to virtual?

Photography, literature, and film attempt to create essence. It is fully cultural, political, and personal. However, the replica always ends up a fabrication of the original. The moment we try to reproduce essence, it no longer remains true to the original. It is just a copy. We try to recreate, inspect, analyze, and reinvent but we fall short.

Dadaist rejected the aura. But in doing so, they made a political statement about “anti” art and created a cult following…which represented the very thing they were rejecting.

We inspect to connect. But in doing so, there is risk that we will repel and are rejected. When one creates something (reproduce if you will), there is always intent to change the focus from what was once perceived to something more dominate. Money becomes a issue.

If you produce/create a work out of a deep desire to communicate, without price attached, you are attempting to express essence or aura of something. When economy becomes attached to it, the work loses its essence and intrigue.

Then if one applies worship to the object, things go astray…We try to own, objectify, and capitalize.

These things are all tied to trying to touch, connect, relate to others, but if there is only one perception…singular in form, then is the attempt always going to fall short? If we do not have to be present (as cybernetics allows) then we do not have to be responsible for the shortcomings of the original – our bare human self - flaws and all. We hide from accountability, vulnerability, and shroud ourselves in the “tissue” of the perfect virtual being.

Remember Blade Runner? We have surpassed this to something else, the social demise of the physical connection with others. We select the virtual over the mortal because it is safe, distant,and virtually obtainable.

“The chip is pure surface, pure simulation of thought. Its material surface is its meaning – without history, without depth, without aura, affect or feeling. The copy reproduces the world, the chip simulates it.” The Work of Culture in the Age of Cybernetic Systems by Bill Nichols. Pg 34.

In the end, a sim is just a sim no matter how visually perfect, mentally collaborative, and intellectual stimulating it may be. A sim is a safe substitute for the risk posed with a flawed original but it is still lacking the aura.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Walter Benjamin - skins, signs, space, essence,

aura...what is authentic and what is a repo? I think of time and space...I think of movies and films that I connect with. I have memories of these. They become a part of who I the time I watched Psycho all night long and couldn't close my eyes when I showered for days...months...years...The shadowy figure appearing, the eyes, the sound of the attack, the blood down the drain. How can anyone shower with their eyes closed ever

Films do have an stills are manipulated by the time and space but I still love the tangible artifact. At least there is a trace for a few hundred years. I love the memories...

Sunday, September 20, 2009


This is really a very interesting book on many levels.

First, I am writing system application training for adults for medical research. I get the ordering, cataloging, and methodology process. This is the way I think. I am an artist, but I am also very systematic. I think people think systematically, orderly - whatever you call it. It is a way to connect. It makes sense. I get it. The book makes you wonder, what if?

Also, about the Bible...I believe the Word is alive and inspired from God. People that read it (whatever translation) and get it, are Spirit filled. God says in His Word that before He returns, all mankind will know who He is - they will recognize Him when He returns. I think that it was no accident or coincidence that the Bible was the first widely published book. I think God is in control. I think humans have the choice to believe or not. It is their choice. The dissemination of the Word was part of the plan.

God is love and peace. He requires respect. Most people do not choose this as they want to be in control of their life. Once you understand His power and acknowledge He is in control, you submit to His will, you are one of His.

Some get it, and some don't. Whether you think it is some code, some conspiracy or some cult...I don't really care. I am Spirit filled. I understand that the WORD is alive. I dig it, understand it, and know I am His.

The book doesn't really make a stand or not. She is a great objective observer. I love how she presents how everything has unfolded. It is part of a bigger plan.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

(R)evolution in the printed word

Instead of writing one piece at 11:59 PM the night it is due, I am evolving... I'll write a bit each night...What a concept! This piece by Elizabeth L. Eisenstein is an easier read and I can relate it to my current circumstance with my job. I am a change agent. My job is to collaborate with others to develop new electronic processes to expedite the review and management of research data to a conclusion. Along the way, we communicate the new processes, make updates, and train the new procedures. (pg xiv)

Research is contingent on data collection, storage, and retrieval of information. By using systems to collect, filter, sort, and retrieve different combination of data, the researcher(s) makes a hypothesis and reaches a conclusion. In addition, by developing communication networks, information is disseminated, and shared to learner make further conclusions...what a concept! Like those stated in the first part of the book.

Isn't that the purpose of the university? To teach, explore, expand knowledge, come to conclusions, tear them apart, then rethink them... isn't this the progress of growth? Yet, universities, and corporations as well, hold fast to old methodologies. I am not saying that tried and true is not good but aren't institutions of learning supposed to be progressive? If so, why are they so resistant to change? Because we all are. This is definitely where I stand this quagmire. But I am an optimist.

But it is untimely to now consider the shift that occurred with the advent of the printing press, where thoughts were first shared orally, then written on paper, printed, and then published to the masses, as discussed in this text. Maybe not in such an organized manner and maybe not succently as this but it was done.

I begin to think about our need to preserve...we write because we want to recall thoughts, save ideas, record possibilities in the form of composed words of text into a stream of thoughts that others build on like art and media. These recordings are living archives, long preserved after we are gone - if they are noteworthy. Maybe this is why it is so important to create and record the word, hand written, twitter, email, printed, audio, video, film or otherwise. Because it will outlive us if what is said is worth of keeping. To be continued...

Monday, September 14, 2009

Thoughts on Remediation

We try to make connections so we can understand and communicate with others. We use different forms of media as our tools to communicate. We take our human perspective and layer it into the things we know, the things we see, the way we understand the world, and how we relate with those around us. We try to create that which has meaning by creating relationships with those around us. Immediacy, hypermediacy, and remediation result from our interaction with media and experience. We are in a world full of others, trying to grow, live and experience life. Our culture, lifestyles, privileges, and sometimes limitations dictate the evolution of our use of media and the way in which we use it. What we do with it seems to continually expand and grow like a living organism. We seek constant stimulation but yet wish to remain at a distance from it.

Immediacy is the “contact point between the medium and what it represents.” (Bolter) It is like the moment when light hits a thunderhead. We see many colors of the storm that remind us of a painting or a photograph. We take this visual image and make a song, video, or photo of it to fulfill something within us.

Hypermediacy is experiencing the moment as it occurs, with as many possible media elements as imaginable. “Hypermediacy like other media since the Renaissance –perspective painting, photography, film, and TV, new digital media oscillate between immediacy and hypermediacy, between transparency and opacity.” (Bolter)
Here is an example of this: Patrick Swayze dies at 57. I see this news flash on the screen as I write this. I am listening to the sound of the TV, reading Facebook messages from friends, checking out Yahoo news…I see it, his picture instantly… he has died, he is gone and the news is now old. I remember him, his movies, moments my personal life with reference to him, and publicized moments in his professional life. It is as if he were a part of our family as we connect that point of reference with him to us. Yet we never really knew him as a man. He was just a person in the media. This is how media can saturate your life. Someone you don’t even know can touch your life, and pass away, leaving a mark in your life.

We are saturated, continually bombarded with media. Moving from moment to moment faster, quicker, with all senses stimulated, connected by the media but at the same time tactilely detached. That is why virtual reality is so appealing. We want the contact without actual commitment. We want the control without the responsibility.

We can participate by watching a movie, cry, become emotionally involved and then instantly remove ourselves. We are part of a disposable age. We consume, become bored and discard. We desire more, bigger, faster, and better. New cameras, new phone, new GPS, to get us where we want to be and stay connected while we are there. The virtual world with digital components allows us to create that which pushes the boundaries of our human capabilities.

We can be immersed in something yet maintain a distance. We can be the object of the gaze, detest it, desire it, or see from the perspective of the viewer (gazer). We assume a point of view through different forms of media, see through the eyes of the protestors of the September 12th march on the Capitol, or hear the viewpoint of a film critique from the Toronto Film Festival in the same day. We can follow a video crew through the Tour de France using twitter or text messages and see photos and video from a phone operated by a friend who is actually there following the race. All of this is possible. We are morphing continually as we find new ways to track, report, capture, and communicate what we see, feel, hear, smell and perceive.

Even music can be composed without instruments. We can download free software (Audacity) with synthesized sounds (Freesound) to create pieces of music without even knowing how to play an instrument. It may not be great but who cares? It is ours and we created it. It is a file that can instantly disposed of.

I guess that is the transparent immediacy of it all. Like a photograph, you are there and connect with the medium. You put yourself into it, but the moment is no longer there. It is gone the moment the image it made. Even TV tonight…the huge production of Michael Jackson’s key moments in music, his dance and his video on the music awards. He was here and now he is gone, the moment is gone, the production is gone. We may talk about it with others tomorrow and remember the event of tonight, but the visual images, sound, and production of the moment is over. We can record the event but he will never be here again. It was a moment, a connection, an illusion and now he is gone.

Finally remediation is not trying to improve on some one thing that was but building on many by merging and combining what was and continuing to create new media forms morphing into something new.

These are all topic discussed in Bolter’s book, Remediation. This is our culture, our life, our living art form.

Monday, September 7, 2009

The Medium is the Message - a personal response to new technology, learning, and ideas on morphing, slavery to and freedom with technology. I will comment on the effects on morphing, learning, and personal connections within the electronic age.
Earlier this year, I was laid off after working for a company for almost two years. It was a contracting company that designed web-based training solutions for large corporations that provided soft skills and technical training. I had previously worked for 9 years for a large corporation and purposely left with hopes to learn new technologies and expand my skill sets. I thought I was blazing new trails (MORPHING) by working from home. I would save travel dollars, be green because I had no commute. I saved money on clothes because I did not have to dress to work. I used multiple lap tops at a time – multi-tasking my days away. I thought I was being progressive. That’s what I thought. HA!
One of my yearly responsibilities at the web training development sweat shop, in addition to my required billable tasks, was to create a presentation for our team that discussed new trends and technologies. My presentation suggested that our current modes of teaching are outdated and that there were many new ideas, free applications, and new learning collaboration options that we could offer our customers to engage learners in schools and the workplace. See link I presented my findings via webinar and did not receive any feedback. (DISCONNECTED) This presentation was very close to the information presented in your YouTube – Did you know? I don’t know if the group was stunned unimpressed or just bored. Then shortly after my presentation I was laid off…my group (training solutions) was downsized. But I feel that my presentation was spot on, insightful and predicted our demise.
I thought I was escaping the corporate machine…but actually I became more of a slave to the corporate production machine – I was just detached. Unfortunately, I ended up working longer hours, had multiple deadlines at any given time, and consequently did not report many additional hours that I worked. I was stressed all the time, isolated, and almost went nutty from social deprivation. This was a real example of some of the growing pains that McLuhan speaks of in his articles when you make sudden and rapid changes as communication and technology morph our world and work.
You see, even with technology, we had a clearly defined quality process that met government standards (automation) but was so cumbersome that it crippled our marketability. As a result, even when using new technology we were restrained by the process and our turnaround time was so long that we essentially eliminated ourselves from winning any new contracts. We became extinct.
I embraced technology by jumping out of the comfortable corporate life, and experienced the pain of failing but learned a great deal about myself in the process. Often embracing new things as Marshal McLuhan suggested does not mean it is easy or without pain as it requires change. Most people do not embrace change. They want to remain as is. They do not think “What if?” and are basically lazy, afraid or both. That is why I believe the artist as McLuhan says, is able to visualize a new different way of seeing, doing, sensing, feeling, and creating possibilities that other are not able to grasp. “The serious artist is the only person able to encounter technology with impunity, just because he is an expert aware of the changes in sense perception.”
As information is more available and shared at an accelerated rate due to alternative modes of communication, we must see that traditional modes of creative teaching must change as well.
Moving on, I MORPH into my new career. Having a Masters degree, I sought to gain accelerated certification as an art and technology teacher. I have ideas of a collaborative learning environment where the teacher is merely a facilitator. The student are given multiple modes and methods of learning and the learning experience is exploratory, experimentally, and investigative. With this said, this idea of creating a challenging environment where student are encouraged to go beyond traditional linear learning paths, is not fully embraced now as it requires hours of planning, experimentation, and research along with creativity. I can image what administrators would think about my ideas. I did pass the tests, get interviews but eventually was hired by UT Southwestern and am working with some of my ideas to deliver technically training in my new role.
Actually this is a better environment for me as this idea and delivery method eliminates the superior/inferior role of the teacher/professor as the keeper of knowledge. This idea of learning collaboratively puts the students and facilitator on the same plans/level which is contradictory to the current hierarchy system found in our education environment. But could it work? Think of place which is more like a think tank where everyone is there to expand their level of thinking, and learn together. Everyone bring information to the table. Everyone contributes and the media is the format for gathering information, transmitting research, and collaborating to come to a conclusion. The teacher provides the facilitation for learning.
What a new way of thinking! I am glad I got laid off. I am free, to create…I am morphing again.
Part 2: The Internet affair. We went to see a friend of ours who recently (around the same time I lost my job) lost his wife as a result of a medical mishap. After 9 months, he is dating again…choosing his next possible mate from selections via eBay style found on the Internet. How glad I am not out there. After careful consideration, he screened his applicants and made selection on one Barbie style blond. We made a delicious meal, and with anticipation, awaited her arrival. She arrived and exceeded the image of this age’s epitome of “the plastic perfection” –long blond hair, long legs, perfectly toned and sculpted body, and beautiful in every way. She had a high sing-song voice and a long list of adventurous experiences that richly added to the less than stupendous meal we had created…We delivered our part, the meal, and the rest is up to the two of them. Will there be the lover and the non-lover?
Yes, the medium is the message.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

So I have a few more words...I forgot to mention seeing Philip Haas' videos at the Kimbell - Butchers, Dragons, Gods & Skeletons. This is yet another form of current communication using a different form of media. The films represented the reaction the artist had with specific classical paintings on exhibit. There was very little dialog yet the installation communicated a deeply personal interpretation of the artist's experience, feeling, and reaction with the paintings. Haas's multi-layered visual dialog shows how current forms of media can expanded the author's voice by demonstrating yet another dimension of human communication that is sometimes void of the written or spoken word.