Final Project reflection

In my original project proposal for dreamspace, I wrote that my intention was for the piece to be an artwork of the subconscious, a contemplative space, and an archive of dream material. Though the final piece varies some from my original proposal, I believe it does successfully accomplish these three goals. It is an artwork of the subconscious because its purpose is aesthetic and experiential rather than “productive” and it utilizes a sampling of my actual dreams collected daily throughout the year 2014. It is a contemplative space with cool, calming colors, slow drifting animation and poetic, liminal writing. It is an archive of my own dream material from one year and while in this current iteration, it is only my dreams, it is a model for a much larger collection.

Based on user testing and feedback, the experience of interacting with the piece is as I had hoped – an invitation to slow down, drift, and engage with material that can be a source of inspiration or meaninglessness, just like dreams. The experience is meant to evoke the experience of dreaming but also the remembering, recalling, telling, writing and interpreting of dreams which varies widely dream to dream, night to night and person to person. This is supported by the aesthetic of the piece. When the user first visits dreamspace, they arrive at a simple page with a heading: “welcome to dreamspace: click for dreams”, a sea foam background color and nothing else on the page. The background gradually fades into a lavender thistle color. When the user clicks, dreams appear in a similar palette making some visible, some difficult to read and some illegible. As multiple dreams are are activated, they often overlap, though the user decides where each dream begins based on the click point. This overlapping creates a collage of words and colors. All of the dreams drift off the page from the click point to the right. Eventually, all are lost.

Technically, the highlights of the dreamspace code are the changing background and the activation of the the dreams. I utilized the p5 library to write the javascript. For the changing background, I used the p5 function lerpColor which interpolates between two color values. I used the amount parameter to control the pace of the fade which I wanted to happen very gradually. I also combined the function with an if statement so that the when the fade completes, it reverses and fades back to the startColor. For the dreams, I created an array and attached them to invisible rectangle objects that are activated by the mousePressed function. I also randomized the color of the dreams by filling them randomly from an array of colors which I selected from the background colors. Lastly, I used the windowResized function to make the page automatically resize relative to the browser size – while the dreams don’t change size, the background maintains the size of the browser.

My process included extensive p5 research. I chose to use p5 because I like the artistic possibility it provides. Daniel Shiffman’s Coding Train tutorials and Allison Parrish’s tutorial articles about text and objects were extremely useful p5 resources. That said, a challenge of using p5 was a lack of documentation outside of the p5 reference. Because of this, I often found myself trying to adapt documentation for other javascript libraries or languages such as processing to my project. Major issues that I had to troubleshoot included getting the fading background to reverse and getting each click to activate a different dream from the array.

Iterating the project throughout the semester and receiving critical feedback from peers was also helpful in the creation of this dreamspace. Earlier versions included Dream Machine v2, which explored visual and animation ideas, Dream Generator, which explored interactivity, and Dream Machine v3, which explored interactivity as well as obfuscation. These sites, in addition to peer feedback, influenced my aesthetic, conceptual and technical decisions. For example, I received feedback that the dates included at the beginning of the dreams on Dream Machine v2 connected the dreams to a specific time and place and that removing the dates created a disconnection that more effectively abstracted the dreams.

Through the process of creating dreamspace and this course, I learned the basics of html, css and javascript as well as the p5 library and perhaps most importantly, how to find, read and utilize documentation and resources, troubleshoot and debug, and think logically and programmatically. I hope to continue working on this project. The next iteration will include a background that continually fades back and forth gradually rather than abruptly jumping back to the newColor once the cycle completes, a larger collection of dreams and randomization of their activation. Future iterations may also include a search interaction where a user could look for a dream based on a keyword and a space for a user to contribute their own dreams to the archive.

Galloway

Alexander Galloway’s chapter gives an interesting introduction to net art in the structure of a “periodization” of internet art into two phases: one that is primarily interested in the network and the other more focused on the uses of commercial software. Both phases are epitomized as net art because both are interested in the protocols of the internet.

Reading this piece, I felt something I often feel reading and looking at net art - a form of distance or even at times, inaccessibility. There is something that seems to be lost in the written descriptions of net art pieces. This made me think of how we use mediums to describe and understand other mediums like text and language to understand visual art, how imperfect the translation is, how something always gets lost. And often net art is indeed about net art.

I liked the idea of Bunting’s performance of failing protocol. I am interested in failure as art, success, acceptance, a way to explore new depths. I am also curious to learn more about internet art performances. This is an area that I could imagine exploring in my own work though I think for me, the net art would serve more as a sort of backdrop or prop rather than a medium or form because my interest is in the real human body, not the protocol of the internet.

I also thought it was Interesting that Andrei Codrescu was mentioned as the manager of the Media Fund by RTMark because I just read a bit of his book, The Posthuman Dada Guide. I like thinking of net art as a new sort of dada space. I could imagine exploring this concept as well in my own work.

For my own creative practice, as I mentioned above, I am interested in performance and the internet as a dada space. I am also interested in the internet as a platform for multiple iterations of projects related to my dream archive because I like the internet as a non-linear space that can mimic the subconscious dream state. I am also interested in this intersection because dreams are so personal and intimate and the internet is so public and populated — combining them seems dangerous and exciting. Additionally, I am interested in thinking about how to take up space on the internet to claim my space as an artist, specifically extending film projects into the internet realm in more creative ways beyond the marketing, branding, networking goal.

Taplin + Mattern + Burrington

Jonathan Taplin’s “Letter to the millennials” does highlight some interesting realities of our current tech-revolution and how that impacts the value of our roles and labor as artists and makers in the face of the Silicon Valley giants and the monopolies they hold. It is indeed scary to see that the status and wealth is highly concentrated among these “digital monopolists”. That said, Taplin’s response is condescending and unaware of his own position of privilege in this conversation. He presents these problems and his “concern” as a call-to-action to our generation , full of generalized critique of millennials (thinking its not a big deal to get music and movies for free, parents spending $40,000 on education not for us to be part of ‘sharing economy’) without any responsibility for the ways in which his generation has contributed to and is affected by this current crisis moment and any support for moving forward collectively to fight the capitalist machine that creates and protects it.

Shannon Mattern’s article was interesting and I appreciated it as a way of thinking about how to decolonize infrastructure and innovation. I was moved by the idea of repair-thinking — maintenance and repair as a way of thinking about our world and the value of its buildings, objects, systems, etc. beyond capitalist value. I understand it as not an alternative to innovation but rather an integral component or rather a way to flip innovation — innovation as an integral part of maintaining. In the face of oversaturation, overstimulation, overpopulation and a waste crisis, this makes sense to me. We must fix what we have and the inventions and innovations that develop from fixing and adapting might be potentially more sustainable ways of making the world better.

Mattern is writes that maintenance does always require labor and about how complex this way of thinking is though in terms of race, gender, ability and economics and she notes that this project cannot happen individually — it must be a “collective project of repair”, one that is a “critical practice” that acknowledges and unravels issues of privilege, power, capitalism and colonialism.

At the beginning, she writes, “To study maintenance is itself an act of maintenance.” I would have liked to see this concept expanded on because I am interested in the role assessment and evaluation play in the process of maintenance and repair — who is doing that labor and how does its implicit bias factor into the complexity of race, ability, gender before the repairs even begin.

I really appreciated all of the art that was included in the piece and I look forward to watching some of the films she mentioned.

Lucinda Childs, Philip Glass, and Sol LeWitt, Dance, 1979 and 2014

I enjoyed the Programmed show at the Whitney and it was interesting to explore this work within the context of what we have been looking at and discussing in class. That said, I personally find much of this work difficult to engage with initially. I often feel that I can’t easily access the intention of the artist and that it doesn’t appeal to me aesthetically. I think I had a better experience this time because I enjoyed talking to classmates about pieces, questioning their processes, motives and designs. It also seems to me that this is still such a new field in terms of mainstream cultural understanding — I am thinking of the disconnect when I talk to film industry and artistic contacts outside of academia.

My favorite piece was Dance by Lucinda Childs, Philip Glass and Sol LeWitt (1979). It was a collaboration between the three artists, each in using their own medium — Childs, dance; Glass, music; LeWitt, film. Each element was precisely created with a specific set of rules. Combined, they create an incredibly beautiful and cohesive piece that is meditative and transcendent. Childs’ drawings are projected on the floor and in colored squares that match the lighting design for each part of the dance, shown in the video.

I am curious why it is called Dance. In some ways, dance is much more descriptive of a wider range of forms than “music” or “film” which have technical and physical requirements in addition to their human makers whereas “dance” is entirely human. This concept is something that the piece plays with as well, where human becomes a set of repeated rules.

I also loved how the piece was curated. I sat on the bench and watched the video for about 15 minutes. I liked the floor projections though I was unable to connect the dance to the grid. Still, I felt the pattern and precision and the combined effect of each component was a lovely experience. I was entranced.

In this video from the Walker Art Center, the Childs and Glass discuss the piece. I love they way they discuss their collaboration, how it they started truly from the beginning and were able to create from a place of deep trust. It’s a beautiful collaboration and I think that is felt in the wholeness of the piece also. They also talk about “overthrowing the narrative” and how story took away from the piece.

In my work, I am also interested in new ways of collaborating and also abandoning narrative structure for something that is more about texture, feel, sense. This piece was inspiring.

Choi

Poetic Computation: Reader is beautiful, as history and poetry, aesthetically and textually. I loved how it was visually designed and the interactivity. For me, this aesthetic provided a certain serene, peaceful space to enter into the text. I found that I was able to focus and read slowly in a way that often doesn’t seem possible reading on the internet, multitasking, clicking through tabs. It encouraged a calm presence. I also see this aesthetic and interactive design as a way to provide more accessibility than a typical internet text. The options to adjust the style and legibility of the text and page open up ways for many different types of readers to engage with the piece, for example, the option to turn on “Dyslexia Mode”. I am curious about how this concept could be further implemented. 

Choi’s words are equally calming and accessible. He writes of poetics - “poetics of code” and “poetic effect of code” and these concepts are multi-layered, as framework to the piece (Choi’s writing off feels like poetry: “How can we communicate the dawn and the dusk? And the seasons between spring and summer? The emotions that we don’t have words for?”) and also as possibilities to interact with computers in a more artistic, thoughtful and even radical and political way.  

In Chapter 1, Choi specifically addresses the latter after providing a history of the computer. His alternative approach was interesting in relation to the other readings we’ve done in class, many of  which have been about rigid visions of a technology that is all-encompassing. I also fear technocracy and Choi’s framing of art and poetry as well as a call for deeper engagement with the ethics of computers as they quickly evolve provided something hopeful for me. It may not be a complete solution but he seems to be asking the right questions. And he asks excellent questions - “What should we do with our brain? How can we create work that challenges the present moment? How can we use technology for subversive purposes?” 

In Chapter 2, Choi discusses memory, both in computer and the human. He examines the labor and cultural prioritization of remembering but argues that forgetting is equally necessary for living, thinking, creating. This brought to mind the book I’m currently reading, The Queer Art of Failure by Jack Halberstam, which is about the idea of failure as an alternative to capitalistic ideas about success. It is about unknowing and unbecoming. Forgetting may be a way of failing. 

I am also excited to know about Taeyoon Choi and his other artwork. I explored some of his other work, his paintings and installations, and it seems to me that what he is doing as an artist/activist and educator is extremely crucial work in our quickly evolving technological world. 

Castells

I found this chapter helpful as a comprehensive history of the development of contemporary network society.

Castells writes, “computers, communication systems, and genetic decoding and programming are all amplifiers and extensions of the human mind” (31). I am interested in the social version of this diffusion and expansion of this revolution. Are workers, makers, and users all increasing at the same rate? Do we get to a place where the lines between those become so blurry? I am thinking of the conversation we touched on last week in class about what it means for a specialized craft or skill to also be widely diffused and how that changes its value.

I was also interested in the way Castells addressed “technological superiority” in the beginning of the chapter and how revolutions have “shifted decisively the location of wealth and power in a planet that became suddenly within the reach of those countries and elite sable to master the new technological system” (34). It reminded me the salvage paradigm which we recently discussed in Microcultural Incidents and I am curious if there is a way that the development of technology also works that way. This also seems related to a later point Castells makes about the “cluster” of this development, especially in the US.

There were several points that also reminded me of the Manovich chapter about the work of Alan Kay and the understanding that the computers, software, and the internet were built as systems of trial and error, meant to be built again and rebuilt, expanded.

I found it interesting the way Castells traces the development of the information age centered around power. It seems that there should be a simultaneous movement to understand our morals and ethics around this development, specifically with America as the leader of this evolution. I don’t feel that our collective understanding is caught up to the fast-paced “revolution” of information technology. I am thinking of something like gene therapy controversy. I have questions about literacy and access being developed simultaneously and for this reason, the non-linear dynamic perspective seemed like a potential alternative way of processing, thinking and creating. At the same time, Castells’ historical record clearly points to “consolidated milieus” in a feedback loop of innovation and investment that keeps the developments isolated in a way.

Manovich

I found the Manovich chapters interesting and useful as a historical context for the evolution of the computer as creative medium and the development of the artistic field we call new media. 

The Interface provided interesting questions about new media as art form and where it can be placed in the interwoven evolution of technology, design, and art. Manovich articulates the way the computer has become a filter for all culture, “with its particular human-computer interface” (64). In Alan Kay’s Universal Media Machine, Manovich expands this idea and describes the intentionality behind of the development of the computer as “metamedium” — “a platform for all expressive artistic media” (65). He goes on to articulate how Alan Kay and other inventors of the new medium intended it not only as this all-encompassing creative tool but also “supporting development of… new ‘not-yet-invented media… the processes of thinking, discovery, decision making, and creative expression” (83). To summarize, the modern computer was intended to be all of the creative tools used in the past, enhanced with new properties, as well as a medium for creating new tools, software, applications and ultimately, methods and techniques of creation and expression. 

I was particularly interested in how Manovich wrote about the collapse of the distinction and separation between the field of work and the field of leisure in the way we now use computers in our life. This is related to the idea I was speaking about in class of multitasking and other ways we navigate our daily interfaces, in a sort of hyper-associative way that seems to be inspired by human patterns but do not exactly replicate them but amplify them to a non-human level. I am curious about the short and long-term psychological, emotional, and even physical impacts of working and thinking this way, how it conflicts or coincides with our human development.

I was also interested in how he discussed how the past paradigms of content/form and content/medium have become content/interface in the computer age. This idea that new media is stuck somewhere between artwork and information design or art and science reminds me of a similar conversation about the documentary film form which seems definitively and throughout history stuck somewhere between cinema art form and science/ethnography. 

In the Alan Kay chapter, I was reminded of Greenberg’s Modernist Painting when Manovich wrote about the combining of mediums into a single computer environment “as though different media are actively trying to reach towards each other, changing properties and letting each other borrow their unique features” (65) and how this is the opposite intention from that of modernist media “which was focused on discovering a unique language for each artistic medium” (70). This is just one way in which Manovich illustrates the computer as entirely a new medium, even though it is based on past mediums. 

I am curious how much newness we can take. It seems there is a clear limit (i.e. GUI imitating the real world to create ease and simplicity for the user).

I can’t help but note that the inventors Manovich reference seem to all be men (and possibly other privileged identities) and I am curious if there is inherent bias in this new media and medium. It seems there is something related in the colonizing language many of them used in imagining and developing their inventions. For example, Kay describes a machine with the “ability to hold all of the user’s information” (61) and Ted Nelson defines his hypertext as “the fullest generalization of documents and literature” (79) (emphasis mine).

I am curious what value the old mediums that are being remediated have as the metamedium developed.

What made me most excited reading the Alan Kay chapter was how he described the inherent experimental/avant-garde  quality of the computer as metamedium — I am interested in thinking of it as such and how that could influence my own and others’ work and art, our methods, approaches and uses of the computer in creative thinking, development, and expression.

Bush + Greenberg + Berners-Lee

All 3 of these articles (As We May Think, Modernist Painting and Long Live the Web), pose interesting questions about the intersection of art and science. Or art and science as poles, the conflict between (which could be a way of describing the internet). All 3 articles, with some urgency, ask and propose ideas about how to move forward.

Bush examines current technology as of 1945 and its capabilities in service of imagining new and improved technologies. The goal of these technologies is to provide a wider record of human knowledge and an easier and faster way to access it.

Berners-Lee seems to be asking for the same thing in many ways, a free and open web, specifically when he writes about linked data. He imagines databases, records, so full of information, so easily accessible that it becomes a way to “cure diseases, foster business value and govern our world more effectively” (Berners-Lee, 85). My immediate question is about privacy and he does address this though without idea of solution.

Of course, it is thrilling to hear the 1945 imaginings of a walnut-sized camera with a “lens of universal focus”, automatic exposure, “full color” and “film… for a hundred exposures” (Bush, 7). It’s interesting to think in this moment in time, what was possible in that perspective to imagine, and what wasn’t. For example, extensions or enhancements of the already familiar mechanics were imaginable but an entirely different set of mechanics (ie digital photography) was not.

I was also struck by the way Bush wrote about association: “With one item in grasp, it snaps instantly to the next that is suggested by the association of thoughts in accordance with some intricate web of trails carried by the cells of the brain” (Bush, 22). Obviously there is an easy connection made to the way the internet functions as well as the way we have come to experience it as it has become woven more deeply into our lives. Yet there is also something about this that makes it human, reminds us that we are in control of it and it is not objective.

Greenberg’s piece was an interesting compliment to the Bush and Berners-Lee readings. It provides a way of thinking, self-criticism as a necessary and inherent part of the evolution of art. Substitute science for art, or technology, or the internet. What came before does not disappear. It is not “a break from the past. It may mean a devolution, an unraveling, of tradition, but it also means its further evolution” (Greenberg, 6). Again, there are ways that we can create better, more equitably, based on where we have come from. Greenberg, like Bush, reminds of us our humanity in this when he writes, “the limiting conditions of art are altogether human conditions” (Greenberg, 6).

Berger + Debord

I’ve seen Ways of Seeing before and I appreciated seeing it again.

I like the idea of “seeing things in the context of our own lives” as a way to inform contemporary practice. I am interested in ways of working with that concept, peeling away layers of process, reflection, and meaning throughout the whole life of a piece of work.

His thoughts about authenticity and preservation that he uses to contextualize the series raise some questions for me, particularly about the time when this was made. How have we come to prioritize authenticity and preservation above all else? Berger clearly unravels these ideas and shows how meaning has been destroyed and recreated with the invention of the camera which makes art “transmittable”. Debord provides more of a context for the political and economic ways in which we have arrived at this moment in history.

As it’s own moment in time, Ways of Seeing, is clear and and makes precise use of the film form (i.e. his idea of the “silent and still” painting vs. the “movement and sound” of film) to illustrate concepts about how that exact form has transformed meaning and art. Or as Debord might say, “Not only is the relation to the commodity visible but it is all one sees: the world one sees is its world” (Debord, 12).

Understanding a Photograph was an interesting complimentary piece to the film. I felt that many of the concepts were very similar, a clear extension of ideas in Ways of Seeing. I was particularly interested in the idea of negation, something I recently learned about in a poetic context. As Berger writes of a photograph, “What it shows invokes what is not shown” (Berger, 3). I think this is a beautiful thing about photography. It poses the form as a question rather than an answer, like poetry.

This idea also appeared in Debord’s writing, relating to what he terms “the spectacle”: If the spectacle is “affirmation of appearance and affirmation of all human life”, it is also "the visible negation of life, as a negation of life which has become visible” (Debord, 3).

Ultimately, Berger makes a strong case that trying to define photography as fine art is simply the wrong way to be thinking about it, that thinking about it as a language of images, frees us from the political and economic restrictions that are inherent in that defined as art.

Society of the Spectacle was challenging but relative. Debord outlined a distinct binary between spectacle and reality and described a contemporary society that is built on the tension between the two.

The idea of “the obvious degradation of being into having” (Debord, 5) and commodity as spectacle/spectacle as commodity expand on Berger’s concept of art being defined as property.

Additionally, there were several quotes I found personal creative ways of relating to in the ways that I experience my identity as an artist and filmmaker in the current digital world, including:

“The spectacle is the nightmare of imprisoned modern society which ultimately expresses nothing more than its desire to sleep.” (6)

“This is why the spectator feels at home nowhere, because the spectacle is everywhere.” (9)