TPDR

The One and Three Chairs – Joseph Kosuth – 1965 (but still contemporary)

Posted in (non)sense, Society and Technology, Theory, Transmedia Research by tpdr on March 28, 2010

Never thought I would write a post about a conceptual work of art. Then again, only fools never change their mind, right? So what interests me when talking about Joseph Kosuth’s One and Three Chairs?

First of all what doesn’t interest me as much is what he was trying to say about understanding art, the linguistic nature of an artwork etc. What I like about this work is, what makes it contemporary and still valuable to me, is the multiplication of the chair. Being presented as an object, in a photograph and as a word, it made me think about how we are multiplied and distributed throughout dataspace today. The main question is also, what happens to the Self, when undergoing this phenomenon. To me a similar question is triggered here by the title, ‘One and Three Charis’, suggests that there should be 4, while you only see 3 (object, picture, word). So what is this fourth chair? It is the concept of the chair, the mental image of the chair, … .

Thinking about this, and when applying it to the multiplied and distributed Self, I would say it is not the Self that is distributed, but it is just our image that is distributed. All these distributed images together all lead to imagining (part of) the Self. So how much is the Self then affected by the multiplicationand distribution we are confronted with? Are we creating a problem where there is non, misleaded by ‘reason’? Do we just have to focus on that mental image and use that as our reference, our vantage point? … As usual more questions than answers arise (hopefully some (possible) answers, will be posted on this blog in the future).

Another aspect that interests me is, when thinking about having the feeling we are evolving more towards the tactile (as a reaction to too much focus on the visual)(inspired for example by the thinking of Derrick De Kerckhove, a man I do respect), this work by Kosuth also interests me on this level. There is a difference on the level of tangibility here, that’s clear. But instead of going on believing we do need a more tangible world, I started doubting this again. For example one could ask the question if a return to the tangible is really necessary? Or maybe it is necessary, if only to conclude that we were wrong? Hard to answer at this moment, sure. All also depends on how you define ‘tangibility’. So instead of getting lost in this complicated subject, I will go on posting about this (as it is in some sense my main subject anyway) and try to elaborate this theme step by step. So I will end this one with saying sorry to all those of you adjusted to our ‘instant society’.

I would like to steal Jan De Cock’s Denkmal

Posted in (non)sense, Theory, Transmedia Research by tpdr on March 19, 2010

Am I a fan of Jan De Cock’s work…mmm I would say I am undecided…which should say enough…there are aspects I like about his work…but on the other hand there are things, events, people, … that leave a more significant impression on me. On the other hand I have to admit I don’t feel very inspired by contemporary art in general, so mr. De Cock doesn’t have to take this all too negative, or serious.

Contrary to what the title of this post might suggest, I am not planning any art robbery. What I would like to steal is actually the word ‘Denkmal’, a title that Jan De Cock has been putting on quiet some works of his. … I really love this word ‘Denkmal’… not that I am particulary fond of the german language but personally I find that this word evokes a few interesting thoughts.

First there is the word in its german meaning ‘monument’, ‘memorial’, even ‘creation’. If you would split the word up into ‘Denk mal’…it means something like ‘please think’. Again if split up in dutch it could be interpreted as ‘think-mould'(something close to think tank maybe, but still it has a different ring to it in some way). At this point I have the feeling that the theoretical part of my research is going quiet well. When it comes to my works, they are not bad, there is still something missing because it is not yet clear enough what their precise subject should be. I mean I have not yet been able to pinpoint my subjects well enough at this point. In other words I still need to narrow things down when it comes to making finished works. The reason however why I don’t feel comfortable narrowing down is actually also because of (again) the fact that they help me think further and further on a theoretical level. It is as if my works have become secondary to my theory. In this sense they have become ‘think-moulds’.

Nevertheless, I will need to continue on this path until the balance becomes leveled again. SO I have to reach the point where my output (my works) become more ‘monuments’ or even better ‘memorials’ for my theory (without being mere illustrations) and a bit less ‘thinking-moulds'(which would be more as if they were illustrations). Even though the works help me think, help me with my theory, I think they need to become even more important. I will have to try and reach the point at which the theory really flows out of the works, while now it does feel like it goes maybe a bit more from theory to works (which is also somehow not so abnormal).

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Mirror Sound/Sound Mirroring 3

Posted in Sound Art, Theory, Transmedia Research by tpdr on December 26, 2009

‘Transparent Sound’

As I said before it still seems that ‘transparent sound’ would be ‘silence’. The volume in dB would then be the indicator for the degree of ‘transparency’. Nevertheless this seems a bit too simple?

If we see noise(containing all frequencies) as the most physical sound, containing the most matter, the most filtered noise would be ‘transparent sound’. If compared to a ‘normal physical transparent object’, we say that there is matter present but in a way/material that allows us to see thru it. If a material is completely transparent, like lets say a normal clean glass window without any scratches, there is matter, we know there is glass but we could as well ignore it as we can look thru as if it were not there. Glass, in itself, can be so transparent that we don’t see it anymore (if for example the borders are hidden in a way that they don’t disrupt/interrupt the illusion). Taking this into account and talking about what could be ‘transparent sound’, we would have to say that there should be a source of sound waves but that the sound waves should be (almost) imperceptible. this leads us then to the ultrasonic and infrasound sounds. Transparent sounds would therefore be sounds/frequencies above 20 000 Hz(as we get older this barrier might drop to 15 000 Hz and 10 000 Hz) and below 20 Hz.

Note: Dogs and bats can hear well over 20000 Hz. This range is referred to as ultrasonic. In contrast to this is the infrasound range, which is lower than the bottom of the audible threshold – i.e., between 0 and 20 Hz. This range is perceived by us as rhythm. The infrasound therefore could be more interesting as there is still something perceived even though we don’t define it as sound but rhythm. An interesting thing to think a bit more about.

‘Mirror Sound’

When thinking about ‘mirror sound’, two aspects should be taken into consideration.

1) A reverb could be seen as reflected sound. When talking into a microphone and getting this sound back through monitors (maybe with an almost imperceptible delay) could feel like a ‘mirror’. Working with the panning of the sound this could add to the effect.

2) Simply mirroring a sound sample, inverting it/playing a sound back in reverse, could also be a ‘mirror sound’.

Because if we analyse what happens when looking into a mirror, we see a reflection of our image but this image is also ‘mirrored’/reversed. Therefore the combination of reflecting sound and reversing it at the same time would be ‘mirror sound’.

When taking this further one could add a few parameters such as distance and the shape of the ‘mirror’. For example hollow mirrors enlarge the image you see while rounded mirrors make the reflected image smaller and enlarge the visual range (show more of the environment). Again adding some variety in volume, band width, using low-cut filters, etc. could make this experiment/thinking more interesting.

Hopefully I can do some experiments soon to try out both ways of looking at it, first separately and then try to combine them and afterwards start experimenting with some additional parameters, filters, etc.

Mirror sound/Sound mirror – 2

Posted in quotes and advices, Sound Art, Theory, Transmedia Research by tpdr on December 26, 2009

Reflecting a bit more on this topic and while doing some tutorials learning about music/sound and Pure Data, I had an interesting thought about ‘noise'(well for me it was interesting because thinking about sound is quiet new for me…maybe for the more specialized people when it comes to music this is a quiet dull post…).

Apparently Claude Debussy composed as follows: ‘I take all the chords and leave out those I don’t like…’ You could say that he thus, when we make a parallel with digital sound, he would have taken ‘noise’ and filtered out all the frequencies he didn’t like. This was exactly the way I was thinking about starting to work with sound for 2 reasons.

1) If you take a look at my video of my first experiment with light and sound and the see-thru-mirror foil, it has a sort of filtering aspect.

2) My interest for mapping and cartography take  into account, filtering is something I constantely have to do (even as a ‘regular’ graphic designer). Especially doing mapping and creating any kind of map (even a personal/subjective map) is actually try to filter out all the information/data one doesn’t need in relation to the theme of the map or the needs of the creator (if one is creating his/her own map).

For these two reasons starting from ‘noise’ and try to filter out certain frequencies would make working with sound more intuitive, natural, … especially since I am making a certain shift now coming from a more visually oriented background.

Then again this doesn’t solve my question yet when thinking about the auditive equivalent of mirroring and transparency. If we start again from ‘noise’ we could say as it contains all possible frequencies, it is actually very similar to white light. So if we would take this to the level of transparent objects, these would not change the light so much except maybe for ‘breaking’ the waves up revealing the full spectrum, like a prism. Corresponding to this on a sonic level we could say a transparent object, filter would let all frequencies pass through, resulting in noise in front of and behind the object (an ‘audio prism’ would then be an object that would break up the noise into all frequencies in a way that these are revealed/separated). A ‘transparent object’ when talking about sound wouldn’t necessarily need to be a ‘visually transparent object’. A simple example would be to say that some kind of textile that doens’t let any light/visual data pass could very well let all the noise pass through while a very thick glass window could be visually transparent but block all sounds at the same time. (Here we could also discuss the fact that sounds can auditively connect spaces which are visually separated and certain materials can keep a visual connection between spaces intact while separating them on the auditive level. But that might be all discussed in a following post.).

Similar to this we could say the same thing for reflecting light(visual data) and sounds(audio data). Some surfaces will reflect light, others will reflect sound waves. Some materials will reflect both light and sound, some only one of these two.

Discussing objects to be transparent/reflectors or not on the visual and the sonic level, is interesting and will probably be useful too, but it doesn’t yet help to define ‘transparent sound’ or ‘mirror sound’ in an interesting way yet. Lets keep this for a 3rd post.

Cartography – topography – topology – mapping

Posted in Theory by tpdr on December 19, 2009

While working on my first mapping project 2 years ago I tried to find an explanation to clarify why I preferred the term ‘mapping’ to the word ‘cartography’.

I finally decided that I preferred ‘mapping’ to ‘cartography’ as ‘mapping’ refers more to a process and therefore seemed more appropriate in today’s modern, dynamic, … society. As society and our environment in general is constantly in flux, we also need maps that can keep up with the pace and are kept up to date constantly/in realtime if possible.

Topography and topology never really were part of this discussion. However while I am working on a new project, I felt the need to investigate these two concepts as well, in order to try and re-determine my field of research.

First of all I would like to stress the fact that this mail is just the first in a series, as defining and comparing these four terms. I will start with a modest attempt to define topography and topology first.

Topography: Is a word with a Greek background composed of ‘topos’ and ‘grafein’, which would mean that it can be translated as ‘the act of describing a place’. It is the study of terrain features (not the process of how these features/the terrain/the landscape were/was created) of a region and the representation of the landform on a map. However when studying a place one can also focus on all details that distinguish a place, without just taking into account the physical shape of the surface.

Even though this might still be a very very brief definition, topography to me seems to much occupied with the surface and has no attention for processes (of the landscape). Therefore I wouldn’t really want to use this term and it actually reminds me of why I didn’t really feel much for using the term cartography (as it also seemed to neglect the ‘processes’ constantly going on in our environment). Even though ‘describing’ a place can also be interesting, but I think it would have to mean that it would have to allow it to be a subjective description(being interested in subjective/personal cartography and mapping this doesn’t come as a surprise). Subjective topography would therefore be more interesting to me as it reveals already more of a place/space then a mere ‘so-called’ objective description.

Topology: Is again originally a Greek word combining ‘topos'(place) and ‘logos'(study), so literally the study of a place. In this way it suggests a deeper notion of a place. Based on this ‘analysis’ one wouldn’t maybe suspect that this term is actually a mathematical term concerned with the features of space that are preserved even when under continuous distortion/transformation(the objects may not be torn nor pasted). It doesn’t make use of describing points nor distances, it is interested in describing the way in which a space is constructed, taking into account orientation and coherence.

Even though this definition would need to be more sophisticated, more detailed, it becomes already clear that my tutor was right to point me into the direction of topology. This term really grabs my attention because it suggests processes and a continuous distortion or transformation without breaking the ‘object’. Putting it like this it almost reminds me of how you could see life, but this would take us too far into spiritual or philosophical directions.

Reading a bit about topology, my attention was drawn by the term ‘homeomorphism'(or topological isomorphism or bicontinuous function (from the Greek words homoios = similar and morphe = shape, form. It is a continuous function between two topological spaces that has a continuous inverse function). Next post I will write on this subject I would like to continue on the subject starting from this term as it feels like an interesting subject to think about while working on my project which involves some ‘mirroring’/’transformation’/’distortion’.

Interact To Survive – Arjen Mulder

Posted in MediaArt, Society and Technology, Theory by tpdr on March 2, 2009

This post is based on an interview with Arjen Mulder by Arie Altena, ‘Interageren om te overleven’, Rekto:Verso, published by Rektoverso vzw, nr.33 Jan-Feb 2009, p.5-7.

First of all I think it is interesting to know that Arjen Mulder is actually a biologist. This means that his texts about interactive art, is influenced by biological phenomena. I guess this is the reason why I have the feeling, when reading his articles, essays, they always feel more ‘media ecological’ than other texts (to read more about Media Ecology, check other article on my blog).

ABOUT CONTEMPLATION

First of all Mulder states that all art is mediated, but that it will/must always try to make something happen ‘outside’ of the medium, especially today, in times that we are surrounded/blinded by media. Art has always been ‘interacting’, and these days it seems like it is surviving because of interactivity.

Interaction is a fact, but ‘Interact or Die!’/’Interact to Survive’ gives it some kind of biological aspect. It is of course true that we, as humans, have always been interacting with our environment in order to survive, what is really new are the images that first appaered on the walls of caves and later became paintings, drawings, photographs, etc. These pictures were stable and established a one-way-communication with the audience. They made it possible to contemplate, something which is difficult when it comes to moving images like film. For Mulder it is hard to analyse a movie while watching, and he finds it easier when he just starts thinking based on the first image, which is some sort of archetypical image from the viewer’s point of view. Afterwards you can add other snapshots of important actions in the story of the film to make connections and complete the analysis. You can, in this situation only contemplate if something happens. Mulder further remarks that the new media don’t seem to force themselves on us as much as older media. They also allow more interaction, an exchange of ‘thoughts’. The consequence for the new type of contemplation, is that you don’t hav to look back anymore but are invited to look forward to see where it is going or how to make you think about how to get there. Instead of telling us that life is hopeless, the new media tell us we can achieve something if we put our mind to it, like reaching the next level in a game or how we can work towards an economic system without waste and/or pollution. We will have to learn about what will go wrong or what will work for the future if we do this or that.

ABOUT ART AS EARLY WARNING SYSTEM

An important question related to this is whether art can be an ‘early warning system’ like Marshall McLuhan stated years ago, even if there will be no more autonomous art, like Mulder said in his book ‘Over Mediathorie'(About Mediatheory, 2004). According to Arjen there is no problem since what McLuhan was talking about is that art can make us think about what media do to us, how they change/affect our thinking, feeling, etc. Mulder says media art today will still show what the new media are doing to us. Artists have always been interested in new technologies, trying to find out what they can do, how they can be used and what effects they have on society. What interactive art tells us now is that we are part of a network, not being separate individuals but connected to other spaces, objects, etc. than our own. This does not mean that we are nomads again or become schizofrenic, but we will have to try and think ‘cradle to cradle’. This means we have to learn how to think back from the future to the now. Only then one can see what is realy possible, it is the same methodology used for durable product development.

ABOUT REMIXING

‘Copy-paste’ and ‘mash-ups’ are common actions today, ex. on Youtube, Lev Manovich talks about ‘deep remixability’ but doesn’t feel like there is much innovation happening. Mulder thinks Manovich is making the mistake of just looking at the images, which even though there are a lot of clips online aren’t always as old-fashioned/’classic’ as one might think. The interfaces added to this the ‘activation of the screen’ which is already an innovation on its own. According to Mulder Manovich is one of those people who don’t think of ‘interaction’ as an important change, a ‘revolutionary phenomenon’. He remarks that interaction has had an impact as important as the influence of film has had on the future of photography, with this one important difference, it is not about the images anymore, but about the interaction itself. Mulder would even call it the ‘imageless art’, but it poses even more important questions such as: What makes us move, react and decide and where does this takes us? What are the consequences, how will the world respond and what can we learn from this? Conclusion of Mulder is that art is exploring new terrains

ABOUT YOUTUBE AND THE END OF MASSMEDIA

According to Mulder YouTube is about editing the overload of clips and picking out the most interesting/popular ones. This leads to a new/own kind of evaluation of teh content, in other words ‘from primetime to primeposition’. Now to answer the question of YouTube being the end of massmedia, we have to say it will/has change/changed the older media (re-mediation). First of all we have to remark that Mulder has some problems with the term ‘massmedia’. TV(in the pre-digital TV era) for ex. is not really a massmedium to him as we watch it on our own, or with a limited amount of people and we can’t talk back to it, or interact with it in any way. Therefor to him a politician giving some kind of lecture or a music group doing a pop concert are more ‘massmedia’ to Mulder than TV or other so called massmedia.

ABOUT THE FUTURE OF ART

Art should be unstable, ephemeral, no more heavy pieces that will cause problems in the future in relation to conservation and stockage. For Mulder the beauty of the new media arts is that it lets you experience something new until the exhibition is over and the installation is taken apart, removed, … , it becomes ‘ephemeral’, making it more ‘touching’ than solid forms of art. Even though some people think it is all about big machinery, it is more about what happens to the visitor, how the process of affection/emotion is triggered, not purely technical but also not totally human, it is a mix, it is ‘in between’. Mulder adds that he really likes interactive art the is still ‘a little bit of a mess’, almost like some kind of silly game. To illustrate he rcalls this action during Ars Electronica which asked people living in the neighbourhood to create something in their backyard at a certain time on a certain day. At that time the area would be photographed from a helicopter and he really liked the mix of words, typography, drawings made by the locals in their yards. The good thing also accroding to Arjen is that it could have failed and that this would have been experienced as an enormous desillusion.

ABOUT MEDIA THEORY

As a final remark I would like to add that Mulder is suprised that ‘Media Theory’ is still holding on. Some time ago Arjen stated that he expects media theory to be replaced by software theory, since all media are affected by the computer, and thus by software, as a metamedium. It might not be true today yet, but I certainly hasn’t given up hope.

Media Ecology

Posted in Theory by tpdr on February 12, 2009

This post is based on a text I wrote last year for a seminar called ‘Media Ecology – Beyond Cross Media”, under the inspiring guidance of mr. Willem Van Weelden.

MEDIA WHAT?

‘Media ecology’ (ME) is not easy to define, but still I will make a modest attempt to be as thorough as possible. At the same time I will try to make clear in what way this field of research could still be interesting to me in the future.

Actually I am a real fan of the term ME, because as Matthew Fuller also remarked, both words individually carry a big load. (Matthew Fuller, 2005, Media Ecologies, Materialist Energies in Art and Technoculture. Cambridge Press MIT, p.2) The word ‘media’ refers to a whole domain and ‘chain’ of different media types, including the process of ‘remediation’. Instead of eliminating each other, old and new media help one another to find their (new) place in the media landscape. For example the invention of the Internet did not main the end of television or newspapers, but it did force these media to change their way of functioning. The second word, ‘ecology’, refers to the study of organisms, their structures, their mutual relations, their dynamic behaviour, …, in short the study of the systems related to living organisms.

Neil Postman described the term ME in 1971 as the study of how media influence our perception, feelings, values and our chances of survival. He would also describe it sometimes as the study of media as ‘environments’, linking the term immediatly to the actual study of ecology, but in both cases the most important subjects for him were the structure, the content and the impact of the media. In one way or another people are influenced by their media environment, especially when we talk about their behaviour, feelings and actions since the aspects of the media related to their structure and content determine how and what we can communicate or use the media for in a given situation or context. (Wikipedia (open content), n.d., (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Media_ecology, 20/04/2008)

In the same period Marshall McLuhan also defined ME. To him it was about studying the way we could connect all different media in a way in which they would help each other instead of eliminiating one another. (Wikipedia (open content), n.d., (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Media_ecology, 20/04/2008) When you put it in this way, I am afraid it feels to much like a definition of ‘cross mediality’. This last term also often seems to have become a fancy word, especially used by ‘marketing boys and girls’ trying to impress their client or boss. In this way ‘cross mediality’ just points to much in the direction of ‘trying to get a commercial message to the customer in as many ways as possible’. To me ‘cross mediality’ doesn’t go much further than ‘an excursion along different mediated moments’. ME, in my opinion wants to go beyond this, which is why I prefer a more moralistic and filosophical definition like the one of Postman. At the same time I have to remark that his description needs an update. These days you can hardly separate the structure, content and impact he mentioned, especially with the new technologies we know today. I guess it needed somebody with a more contemporary view, like Matthew Fuller, to redefine this field of research.

According to Neil postman, media also shape the cultural norms and values, the political and social organisation of a certain society. (Jensen Dehaes (jan 2005), ‘Scouting a New Media Ecology’. (http://scout.becoming.be/page.php?label=scriptie, 20/04/2008). In this way he already suggests a certain interdisciplinarity, but it is Fuller who mentions this in a more explicit way by refering, in his book ‘Media Ecologies'(MIT Press, 2005), to thinkers in the domains of literature, cybernetics, filosophy and art. The examples he uses in the same book to underline certain thoughts emphasise this approach by linking ME to phenomena like hacking, revealing the political and social concequences at the same time. As for one of most important remarks, I would have to refer to the connection he makes between ME and the ‘merzbilder’ of Kurt Schwitters. This statement reminds us of the thought that by connecting different components, the outcome of this becomes bigger than the usual outcome of the addition of the components. This phenomenon seems to be the consequence of the poetic potential that can be found within every object, by means of associations or by formal aspects. In this way a ‘conceptual-in-between’, an extra meaning as meta data appears as part of the connections. To Fuller it is there for important to consider the way in which we can become aware of and make use of these new dimension of the objects. (Matthew Fuller, 2005, Media Ecologies, Materialist Energies in Art and Technoculture. Cambridge Press MIT, p.1-4) Because of the links he makes between ME and literature this comes very close to what you could call ‘intertextuality’, again refering to what happens in the ‘in-between’, the ‘inetr’ of two contents or two objects.

I would propose that, taking into account the fact that content, structure and impact are almost completely mixed up, we add the interdisciplinary insights of Fuller to the original definition of Neil Postman. ME should in this way pay more attention to the extra meaning that comes with objects by means of their aesthetic or poetic potential and the meta data of their connections. The suggestion of Fuller to examine what happens when certain connections are made, by studying the effect actually making these connections, seems to me to be an important proposal when it comes to a workable methodology.

WHAT ABOUT THE FUTURE?

I am aware of the fact that even after this attempt to define ME, the term still remains sort of ‘slippery’. Part of this is due to my insufficient knowledge of the theories of certain filosophers, quoted by Fuller. On the other hand the field is still very dynamic, which is a positive thing for me, but it makes it hard to give a clearly defined description.

In another text of Matthew Fuller ‘Towards an Ecology of Media Ecology’ I could conclude that we are moving in the direction of more media ecological projects that try to mix media ecologies with natural ecologies. First of all this would mean that we will try to create works that take the ecological consequences of media into account. Secondly, future projects will try to examine ways in which ecological organisms can create a powerful alliance with certain media.

We can be sure that media will be more and more interwoven with our natural/physical environment, and since all these networks we already know today take care of the global connections, it is not so strange that people will look for a this kind of opportunities. I am looking forward to the future and lets keep an eye on this to make sure we discuss new developments in a thorough way.