Archive for January, 2007

There where I was…

Tuesday, January 30th, 2007

Three lessons from the Chris Marker film, La Jetée [Google video] :

  • technique: text = movement, image = space;
  • material: The film’s media is reduced to image(s) and time (and not Deleuze’s movement-image) as distinct indicators of its narrative unfolding. Time is a malleable substance that takes on interchangeable material and immaterial qualities, depending on the context of the narrative space –ageless redwood trees, “a museum filled with ageless animals…” Time is the metaphyical fabric employed to color the world in which the man finds himself –“Then another wave of Time washes over him. The result of another injection perhaps.”
  • Parallel worlds: in La Jetée, are simultaneous contexts that can be engaged spatially, linked by the movement of a physical body between those worlds or symbolized by inanimate objects in static space. Like immersive virtual worlds, The Man experiences the different blocks one at a time, linked by a persistant memory. Inevitably, “there is no way out of time… (he could not) refuse to (his species) past the means of its survival.”

The title is also a homophone for the French phrase, “Là, j’étais”, or there where I was

“another wave of Time washes over him…”

linked by the movement of a physical body between those worlds

“there is no way out of time…”

Of objects in space or in time

Sunday, January 28th, 2007

Matthew Barney is an artist who most ostensibly uses film as his most visible expressive media, but he considers himself foremost a sculptor. This seems like a rather disproportionate statement given the panoramic scale of his films, in relation to the containment of his sculptural work. Perhaps I’m reacting to an image or memory of the sensation his films leave me with (and I’ve seen all five films from the Cremaster Cycle + Drawing Restraint) but in relation to the broad narrative spaces and profound color fields with which he films, his sculptures don’t have the same force. Nor apparently, were they intended to.

“These three-dimensional works are not cinematic relics or props, but incarnations of the characters and settings. They exist separately from the films, but carry the same content… these stories are a way of creating a narrative out of which sculpture can come… They exist independently from the films, but embody the same content—now expressed in space rather than time.” [Matthew Barney at the Babylon Theatre Transcript]

Image from Matthew Barney’s film “Cremaster 3″ showing the charactor Hiram Abiff (or the Architect) played by sculptor Richard Serra, in his atelier.

Measuring atmosphere

Tuesday, January 23rd, 2007

This project will be based on the invention of tools capable of analyzing a virtual environment in order to reveal its physical and material essence. Devices of evaluation and comparison will be needed to determine a quantity, dimension or capacity based on a coherent system of measurement. Coherence, in this context, will be in relation to the physical and temporal laws of the world that it is measuring. [see: What does “environment” mean in the context of online worlds?]

attempted to measure the World of Warcraft territory of Azeroth. He began by examining its “shape” as determined by a cartographic representation. This was inconclusive due to the lack of a consistent, comparative scale base to measure it against. Then, intelligence kicked-in, and he examines what it actually means to measure something using a standardized unit, in this case, a mile. The choice of a mile proved wise given the context of Wow. The historic, military and ergonomic precedent of mile, “1000 double steps of a marching legion” [How big is Azeroth?] created a seemingly coherent context. Thus, a mile is an agreed upon distance based on x-actions performed by the human body. Although this concept was fine for the military planners of a marauding Roman legion, but is not quite adapted to the multiplicity of races, sizes and gaits of a busy virtual world. “But,” Tobolds continues, “interestingly all races move at the same running speed.” So they chose a relatively unobstructed path, and run he did.

Measurement, thus, becomes a factor of time and distance as determined by the human body. He concluded that Azeroth is, in fact, a pretty small place if measured by this method. This was quite unsatisfying to Tolbold, if for no better reason than it seems like a much bigger place, and this is a very good reason. When comparing the results of this seemingly scientific calculation with the mental map he had drawn of the world, an image based on perception, usage and memory, and all the psychological baggage that comes with our facilities of projecting mental imagery, the two did not match up. Tolbolds concluded that perhaps other factors such as population and quest activity should be included as factors of measurement. Though this would be difficult to rationally quantify, the idea of opening up the factors of measurement to perceptive stimuli and memory is interesting.

Also, as a commenter points out, employing real-world time as the block temporal measurement is inconsistent with the actual in-world physical construct. Good point. Regardless of its precision, Tolbold’s approach, employing a combination of scientific method, with intuitions honed from in-world experience, seemed like the right direction.

From object to project, through “Dead Ringers”

Monday, January 22nd, 2007

Dead Ringers” is a film by David Cronenberg. The story-line follows the self-destruction of identical twin brothers, Bev and Elliot Mantle, renown gynecologists whose professional practice, academic responsibilities and experimental research converge into the nexus of their interchangeable lives. “In Cronenberg’s hands, Elliot and Beverly Mantle are one soul, split into two bodies and two mutually dependent minds at the point of conception.” [Chris Rodley, Dead Ringers]

But there are three aspects of this film that interest me in the context of my Avair project:

  1. the design and fabrication, by one of the doctors, of tools, in this case gynecological surgical instruments, to enable the execution of a specific surgical procedure; and, the direct and integral connection between these instruments and the development, execution and form (or act, in this case) of the project they were developed for; and,
  2. the disruptive event that inspires, and eventually destroys, everything surrounding the doctors and their work, and sets-off the transformation of these objects from utile instruments of alleged precision, to useless artifacts, and eventually into objects or artifice of art that is displayed in a gallery.

Although these points have little to do with the actual story-line of Dead Ringers, and the complex psychological landscape drawn by Cronenberg to represent the idea of “one soul, split into two bodies,” I want to highlight his insights regarding the creative, inventive process and his poignant vision of the relationship between artists, their work, and the tools, media and objects they engage to make art. It is an important concern for Cronenberg and re-emerges in many of his films –from the mutating mass media of “Videodrome,” to the bionic weapons and computational devices of “eXistenZ,” and the body transforming machinery of “Crash”…

The disruptive event in Dead Ringers is Bev’s rejection by his love interest, Claire Niveau, an actress, that provokes his progression from obsession for (a) women to obsessive drug consumption (to alleviate his neurotic symptoms), to induced psychosis, and a growing antipathy for his patients –infertile women to whom he refers to as “mutants.” This event provokes the fatal convergence between his work (treating infertile women), his relationship with his identical twin brother (symbiotic) and his psychosis (delusional) and results in the fabrication of these surgical instruments. Given his condition, it is no surprise that the resulting objects are more suited to a medieval torture chamber (to which they ostensibly refer to) than a hospital’s operating theater. The lethal misogyny symbolized by these tools, and their inevitable failure and to accomplish the task that Bev designed them for, leads him to declare, when interrogated,

“… it’s not the instrument, it’s the body… the women’s body is all wrong.”

All of this points to a new, if not counter-intuitive definition of the relationship between an object and a project engaged by the creative process. The obvious relationship could be defined as a causal one –a tool is employed to produce a specific result, atmosphere or sensation. A pencil forms lines, a brush spreads color fields, a chisel extracts material etc… The saturation of digital media as the dominant production platform, further blurred the lines between media of creation, utilization and diffusion, thus between the media-form (sound, image, sensation, installation…) and the tool(s) capable of synthesizing, energizing and sustaining the work.

This new configuration between a media and a project bares witness to their reversibility –a process capable of assuming or producing either of two statesthat of the media (the tools, instruments and representational techniques) OR that of the project (the objects, spaces and atmospheres). The tool-set necessary to represent an idea, form or action is the same one, or very close (a question of scalability, perhaps) required for its realization. Those tools, the software and the hardware, must be developed for and around its specific conceptual, logical exigences, as well as its material form, a reversible process where ideas emerge through material experimentation to reveal their force and to project their form. Proceeding through a chain of creation –from thought, to sensation, to incorporation, the realization of a project depends on both intuitive inertia, and on meticulous, methodological evaluation and examination of what the intuitive process has brought forth. The continuation of the creative process is the actualization of the project’s force.

projectImgs> Machine+Territory

Friday, January 19th, 2007

Burning Man, Mary Mattingly, Animaris Rhinoceros Transport

Project notes> Instruments of precision

Thursday, January 18th, 2007

1/ The expressive systems of any given cultural context, its graphic and spatial structures of representation of space and time, force and form, continuity and fragmentation, scale and density… emerge from the potentialities inherent to a specific physical and material context. In a virtual world, local context is defined by its geometric, physical and temporal structures that, by definition, determine that world’s materiality. This unfolds within the structure of its unique representational media, a consistent but modulating field of 3-dimensional digital space.

The common, ubiquitous substance of any virtual world is digital space (as defined by a partitioning of that world’s spatial expanse or territory into tangible perceptive blocks of scale, proportion and material).

Partitioning the world is its law… Cosmos, nomos, a distribution of the world’s parts.”

2/ In Greek culture, nomos (law) was a means to divide the land, a pasture or a field, defining its limits and taking possession of the territory. Traditionally, the social conventions of nomos, in the context of polis, the space of the city, was employed to separate and define space, forming where one inhabits. Territory is transformed from a boundless space into an oriented, sustainable Place.

Landscape is made from that which escapes, all landscape is scapeland.” [Jean François Lyotard]

3/ The materials used to partition space are fabricated according to the world’s physical laws –a consistent body of physical and geometrical rules that determine how material bodies act, react and resist. These materials, their specific qualities in terms of texture, transparence, resistance and economy, are determining attributes of a space’s qualities (proportion, scale, articulation, usage…)

4/ Instruments of precision must be invented by, in and for the world in order to measure it, to analyze it, to reveal its physical and material structure. These tools make possible the accumulation and diffusion of the necessary knowledge and know-how to understand those laws, and to enable working and creating within their framework.

5/ Connecting, disconnecting and aligning these instruments creates complex devices, logical machines, from which the world’s technologies are developed.

6/ It is through the development of applied technologies–material, graphic and representational techniques–that the world’s systems, objects and spaces can be invented.

AVAIR Reception

Monday, January 15th, 2007

We had a great reception in the Ars Virtua development space (our undisclosed location). Kliger had a chance to meet some of the neighbors and some of my favorite artists in Second Life.

Thanks to everyone who came out to meet Kliger, and it was especially nice to see some of his preliminary experimentations with self generating architecture. I was personally struck by the qualities of it, very sculptural with a hint of an organic structure to it, it had the compelling qualities of a well drawn line on a blank canvas. There was something gestural about it that doesn’t survive into architecture in general. Beyond that the architecture was purely sculptural as I could not figure out how to get into it.



Monday, January 8th, 2007

Ars Virtua is pleased to announce it’s first Artist in Residence (AVAIR)
Brad Kligerman.

We will be hosting a mixer for the SL arts community and Ars Virtua supporters to welcome Kliger Dinkin and to help connect him up with resources and artists in Second Life.

The mixer will be at 2pm SLT Saturday January 13th in “Greenland” in Chima at

Brad will be documenting his experiences at turbulence.

AVAIR is an extended performance that examines what it is to be a resident in a place that has no location. The residency is 11 weeks long and will culminate in an exhibit in this new medium.

“AVAIR” is a 2006 commission of New Radio and Performing Arts, Inc., (aka Ether-Ore) for its Turbulence web site. It was made possible with funding from the Jerome Foundation.