Tuesday, 31 May 2011

All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace: Part 2, "The Use and Abuse of Vegetational Concepts".

This episode continues to explore the idea that humans are being colonised by machines. Our modern idea of nature as a self-regulating ecosystem is a machine fantasy. It has very little to do with the realities of nature.  This cybernetic idea of nature emerged in the 1950s. Human beings, the rest of life and everything else on the planet are mere components of that eco-system.

These ideas of a self-regulating ecosystem have it is argued become the model for utopian ideas of human ‘self organising networks’. These networks would bypass the traditional needs of government or leaders of a society. The Facebook and Twitter revolutions, the Arab Spring in Syria and Egypt among a number of Middle Eastern countries and the protests for change in Iran gives proof to the idea of global vision of connectivity that would bring about social and political change. Global visions of connectivity fuse with Gaia Theory. One also thinks of Ted Nelson’s description of computers as “liberation machines”.

Buckminster Fuller Witchita House, Kansas 1946

In an earlier blog or two I spoke of the counter culture as an influencing factor in cyber evangelism. This model for connectivity and freedom was developed in the 1960s communes of America. Buckminster Fuller’s designs provided this fantasy with its architecture. Such communes include Drop City in Arizona in 1966. It was the counterculture scientists that would go on to help formulate the global computer networks.

Drop City, Arizona 1966.

As we began to believe in an idea of an ecosystem, ecologists were quietly proving that a self regulating ecosystem did not exist. Nature constantly changed and was rather unstable. However this idea of a self-organizing network had captured our imagination and it had offered us an alternative to political ideologies. 

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace: Part 1, "Love and Power".

A story about the rise of the machines and fusion of ideologies: Ayn Rand's objectivism and "virtue of selfishness", free market capitalism and the Californian sun drenched individualism and utopian dreams that seem to be the basis of so much that came out of the sixties. These ideas came to influence many in Silicon Valley with some citing Rands Atlas Shrugged (1957) as a key influence on their lives.

This film proposes that humans have been colonised by the machines they have built and shows us how we have let this happen. Since this has happened technology has dangerously started to shape how we view the world.

This series tells the story of the dream of the information revolution that was going to create a stable world and bring about a new kind of global capitalism and democracy. It meant the abolishment of hierarchies as represented in computer networks such as the World Wide Web. We are, it proposes, just mechanisms in a larger cybernetic system.

A small group of disciples gathered around Ayn Rand in the 1950s. They imagined a future society where everyone could follow their own selfish desires. The idea of a global utopia was also being developed in Silicon Valley. Many of these entrepreneurs were disciples of Rand and her philosophy. They saw the new computer as their salvation and the computer networks would create a new society where it would be possible to follow one’s own desires. Alan Greenspan was one of Rand’s disciples became convinced in the 1990s that computers were creating a new kind of capitalism that would move us away from decades of boom and bust economies. Yet, it was human desires for love and for power that would tear apart this dream of stability.

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

New Synths

When the Photosynth is exported as a jpeg it renders a three dimensional space as a flat image. Here the image recalls collage or montage, cubist art or expressionism where distortion is expected.

Photosynth: Obama Inauguration - The Moment

Photosynth: Obama Inauguration - "The Moment" CNN.

Boulevard du Temple, taken by Louis Daguerre in late 1838 or early 1839

Uricchio in “The Algorithmic turn: photosynth, augmented reality and changing implications of the Image” (2011) notes the distortions seen in the imagery produced by the program and the photographs that could be rejected because they were taken at different times of the day. Then, Uricchio asks, “what about the "transient, the contingent‟ that Baudelaire ascribes to the modern” (Uricchio, W., 2011, p.29)? The most widely seen example that “addresses this problem” was CNN‟s "The Moment‟: “a synth of 628 user-submitted photographs of the moment that President Obama took his oath of office” (Uricchio, W., 2011, p.29). Uricchio suggests that „The Moment‟ “reveals a lot of temporal slippage- changes in bodily position, different configurations of the flags in the wind and so on. The constants, the point clouds, seem grounded in architectural detail and the configuration of the podium more than anything else” (Uricchio, W., 2011, p.29). Yet, the more “one examines close shots of the crowd, Uricchio argues, the more one is reminded of early-nineteenth-century, where long time exposure often resulted in ghost figures” (Uricchio, W., 2011, p.29). The photographic images: “these fugitive images emerged from the gaze locked within three-perspective and subject to early photochemical emulsions” (Uricchio, W., 2011, p.29).Within Photosynth, “there is a different mechanism is at play: tolerances of algorithmic reassembly; but the ephemeral, nevertheless, seem to pose a very real challenge to the system” (Uricchio, W., 2011, p.29). Uricchio points to the work of Canaletto‟s Piazza San Marco with its Basilica 1730 as an example of an image where the “subject-object relationship is fixed” (Uricchio, W., 2011, p.30). In Photosynth‟s “dynamic assemblage” “the relationship is unstable” and “subject to the whims of the user and the capacities of the algorithm” (Uricchio, W., 2011, p.30). What project 3 iis concerned with is Photosynth‟s “radical disjunctures” and the “unstable nature of the composite” and as in cubism, many points of view are called upon (Uricchio, W., 2011, p.30).


"The Moment" final version - Photosynth:  http://photosynth.net/view.aspx?cid=05dc1585-dc53-4f2c-bfb1-4da8d5915256

Uricchio, W., (2011) “The Algorithmic Turn: Photosynth, Augmented Reality and the Changing Implications of the Image” Visual Studies vol 26 Issue 1pp. 25- 35

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Tim Head

Tim Head (1946-) is a British artist who according to Nikos Stangos (1994) studied with Richard Hamilton at the University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne (1965-9). I have a friend who may have known him then. Head went on to teach on the advance sculpture course run by Barry Flanagan at St Martin’s School (1969-70). In his work he employs a variety of media and forms. In his installations he uses mirrors and light, projections and painted serial imagery and patterned pictures.

Tim Head  “devised several installations in which photographs were projected on to those same objects and spaces” (Walker, J., 1992: 543). The series works that he is famous for is called Displacements (1975-6).  Displacements are installations which was first constructed and exhibited at the Rowan Gallery in January and February 1975. According to the Tate Gallery The Tate Gallery 1976-8: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions, “the title Displacements is used to indicate that in each case the projected images are a displacement of the view originally photographed, i.e. the projected image has been moved in a particular direction away from the original position in which it was photographed” (1979).


Stangos, N & Read, H., (1994) The Thames and Hudson Dictionary of Art and Artists London: Thames and Hudson

Tate Gallery, (1979) The Tate Gallery 1976-8: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions, London

Walker, J. A. (1992) Glossary of Art, Architecture & Design Since 1945, Boston, Massachusetts: G. K. Hall & Co.

Friday, 6 May 2011

Johannes Kahrs

 Finally Accept Fate (2002)

In the catalogue for the exhibition "The Movement of Images" (2006) it states that Johanne's Kahr's I Finally Accept Fate "is a work emblematic  of the temporal space in which the works" of the artist "are situated" (Racine et.al, p.125).

Kahrs "favours drawings (even though he also makes videos) to amplify, using editing effects, the emotive and narrative charge of photographic images and film sceneshe has selected (p.125). In the above image "Kahr has used charcoal drawing to focus on the hands glimpsed in images of American political life. Suspended on a black back ground and placed outside of any context, their gestures form an ambiguous drama with mystical overtones" (Racine et.al, p.125).

Racine et.al (2006) The Movement of Images Paris: Pompidou Centre

Thursday, 5 May 2011

David Hockney

 Don and Christopher, Los Angeles, 6th March 1982

David Hockney’s work shows an infatuation with the Polaroid, which led him to “re-explore the riches of the space-time equation investigated by Braque and Picasso in Analytical Cubism” (Wheeler, 1991 p. 159).

     Photographing Annie Leibovitz While She Is Photographing Me, 1982
photographic collage, 25 7/8 x 61 3/4 in.

In a conversation between David Hockney and Paul Joyce they explore the way in which technology influences the way we see:

Paul Joyce: So called reality accords with a programmed way of looking which goes back to what you were saying earlier, that the photograph has influenced the way we look. If we are presented with a photograph we say: well, that’s life. But it may not only be still photog4raphers that are responsible for that. Movies have influenced our way of seeing as well, but they are not life at all. They show a world confected, glamorized, changed.

Still Life Blue Guitar, 1982  composite polaroid, 24 1/2 x30 in.

Mother, Bradford Yorkshire 1982, composite polaroid, 56x23 1/2

David Hockney: I do think it’s true that all depictions must be stylized, what we call stylized. There is no way they can’t be. After all, they are not really reality. They are put on a flat surface as stylizations of some kind.

Listen to this [quotes from Leo Steinberg*]

Surveying Picasso’s lifelong commitment to women as solid reality - a commitment relaxed only during the cubist episode – one arrives at a disturbing conclusion. That Picasso, the great flattener of the Twentieth Century painting has had to cope within himself with the most uncompromising three dimensional; imagination that ever possessed a great painter. And that he flattened the language of painting in the years just before World War I because the traditional means of 3D rendering inherited from the past were for him too one-sided , too lamely content with the exclusive aspect in other words- not 3-D enough.
Amazing, isn’t it! Picasso shows you both front and back, and this must be about memory because…

PJ: You must retain one when you are looking at the other. Of course, when we walk around in an object, such as a jacket that’s on a peg, we are also dealing with what we expect it to be like. We have seen a jacket before and our imagination and our memory are stimulated by something already seen and known.

*Other Criteria by Leo Sternberg (Oxford University Press, 1975).


Joyce, P., (1988) Hockney on Photography London: Jonathan Cape
Wheeler, D., (1991) Art Since Mid-Century London: Thames and Hudson

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Jan Dibbets

Panorama Dutch Mountain 12 x 15° Sea II A  1971

Jan Dibbets is a conceptual artist associated with earth art or environmental art, that “broad-based movement of artists who shared two key concerns of the sixties: the rejection of commercialisation of art and the support of the emerging ecological movement” (Atkins, 1990 p.71).

Dibbets uses a “series of aligned colour photographs to depict landscape by ‘correcting’ or modifying the way humans, the camera and nature itself interact and thus “challenge the ‘reality’ of the photograph and that of seeing with the naked eye” (Stangos, N., et al, 1994 p.111). As well as dealing with the facts of the natural world”, his work engages with the conceptual aspects of perception” (Wheeler, D., 1991 p.265). This reference to perception recalls cubisms visual shuttling and depictions of fleeting events. “The world”, through the eyes of the Cubists “is set forth as a field of shifting relationships that includes the onlooker” (Hughes, 1991 p.32).

Jan Dibbets is “heir to a terrain” that is “constricted” and from a culture “rich in traditional landscape painting” (Wheeler, 1991 p.265). Like earlier Dutch artists Dibbets “deals with the natural world as well as the conceptual aspects of perception, all of which makes him a son not only of Rembrandt and Ruysdael, but also Saenredam (Holland’s 17th Century proto-abstract painter of church interiors) and the great Mondrian” (Wheeler, 1991 p. 265).

The flatness of the Dutch landscape would prove problematic to landscape painters who went on to resolve this “by filling the sky with mountainous clouds” (Wheeler, 1991 p.265). Dibbets found his solution in the camera and so “photographed the native polder serially by mounting his camera on a tripod and rotating it 30 degrees for each twelve shots, all the while progressively tilting the instrument” (Wheeler, 1991 p.265).

The result, “when aligned side by side the sequential color images represented the platitudinous Dutch horizon as a show wave curve or extended mound.” Thus Dibbets, “reshaped the Lowlands and created mountains, at least in the metaphorical manner possible with conceptual documentation” (Wheeler, 1991 p.265).


Atkins, R., (1990) Artspeak: a guide to contemporary ideas, movements, and buzzwords New York: Abbeville Press Publishers

Hughes, R., (1991) Shock of the New London: Thames and Hudson

Stangos, N., (1994) The Thames and Hudson dictionary of art and artists  London: Thames and Hudson

Wheeler, D., (1991) Art since Mid Century London: Thames and Hudson

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Gordon Matta-Clark

Gordon Matta-Clark
Bronx Floors: Threshole 1972
2 black and white photographs
Each 356 x 508 mm

Gordon Matta-Clark was a key member of the New York avant-garde from the late sixties to his death in 1978. Matta-Clark’s work was formed “outside of the parameters of gallery presentation” (The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2011). Matta-Clark’s work does not concern itself with form (Fineberg, J., 1995, p.382). Instead “his work involved a sense of place” not with “constructing a site”, but with the attack on “the structural integrity existing buildings, cutting gapping holes through the walls, ceilings, and floors” (Fineberg, J., 1995, p.382).  Matta-Clark’s “subversive activities were rooted in a critique of bourgeois American culture” (The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2011). How is his work subversive and how is it an attack on “bourgeois American culture”? For many the work either symbolized a “violation of domesticity” in its attack on the family home, while others saw the work as “a commentary on the depredations of real estate development and urban renewal” (Joselit, 2003 p.147). 

Gordon Matta-Clark
Bronx Floors: Threshole 1972
2 black and white photographs
Each 356 x 508 mm

It is interesting to note that Matta-Clark trained as an architect. As an architect he was “well aware of what he called the “containerization of usable space” as both an economic and social form of regulation” (Joselit, 2003 p.147). Works like Splitting 1974 allude “to these urban realities through the use of procedures of inscription and displacement” (Joselit, 2003 p.147) and of course the process of dislocation.

 Splitting, 1974
Chromogenic prints mounted on board

 Splitting, 1974 Colour Photograph 680 x 990 mm

Matta-Clark was compelled to focus his attention on modernism anti-humanism. Matta-Clark attacked standardization and the rationalized structures of modernist architecture. This practice of splitting and incision is called “anarchitecture”- a play on words, fusing anarchy and architecture” (Fineberg, 1995 p.383).This was a deliberate form of political expression. “By undoing a building”, he said “there are many   aspects of social conditions against which I am gesturing”  (Simon, 1976 p.13). Matta-Clark “saw the housing of the New York Ghettos as akin to prison cellblocks and the isolation of the suburban ‘box’ as scarcely better” (Fineberg, 1995 p. 386). Matta-Clark’s “anarchitecture” was meant to “destroy the barriers between people, literally and figuratively” (Fineberg, 1995 p.386).

Window Blowout 1976 Photography Mounted on board 406 x 559 mm


Fineberg, (1995) Art Since 1940: Strategies of Being London: Lawrence King

Joselit, (2003) American Art Since 1945 London: Thames and Hudson
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, (2011 ) Splitting, 1974 http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/works-of-art/1992.5067
Simon, (1976)"Gordon Matta-Clark 1943-1978" Art in America (November/December 1978).