Without thinking about it, I had turned the TV on and settled on the couch. In an attempt to halt my exhausted mind, I was letting the stream of media wash over my brain, when a story about a recent fashion show featured an brief interview with designer, Gareth Pugh, set in motion a cascade of thoughts. He went on about opposites: black/white, male/female, good/evil—binary states. There was no grey area in the way he spoke about the elements he was working with in developing his fashion. My gut feeling is that this obsession with opposites and extremes, although cliche, is perhaps indicative of a general malaise.
Initially I was tempted to ask myself if extremism is merely a coincidence, concurrent with maturing global capitalism, or if it is a consequence of employing digital technologies in the advancement of free markets, but to make it an issue of economy casts the issue in the wrong light altogether. Digital technologies are symbols of speed, communication, efficiency, but also exemplify certain attitudes towards the material nature of reality—attitudes that express little about the spiritual content that define our connection to it.
Does building a culture upon a technological substrate that is based upon systems of discrimination, determinism and absolute binary states have subtle consequences for the formation and development of social behavior? Out of a sufficient number of bits (although each bit embodies an equal possibility of being in one of only two states) any quantity can be expressed in discrete terms. 32 bits is roughly 4.3 billion unique states, but does combinatorics have anything to say about the gray areas of our age? Ethics is replete with gradients; the events resulting from the meeting of cultures whose values and customs precipitate diverse ethics and morals, often times contradictory and incompatible, demand analysis which can reconcile extreme ideals and beliefs in a position between or outside them. Else, it could be reasoned to give both sides the means to eradicate the other.
Is it simply a matter of perspective? We can’t perceive the discrete nature of our digital age (perhaps this is why it slips by undetected), but it reflects a desire in our thinking for absolutism. Deterministic systems can easily be represented in deterministic machines, but what is the necessary fudge factor to introduce indeterminism into these same deterministic systems? Bigger numbers? Better math? Brute force computation? At what point does it matter?
For painting a digital gradient between incompatible color palettes, maybe it is a question of the limitation of our sense organs, but a simulation is a simulation and the world modeled after a complex system of mathematics lacks a certain spirit. Our ability to express becomes limited to the scope of our mathematical equations. Though we may be writing ourselves into the machines in the form of our programs, code, algorithms, the necessary reformulation of an indeterministic experience into discrete language to be executed on a deterministic machine robs its fruits of a certain vitality. Perhaps it’s a simple limitation of or present state of technological development that we have no mediated equivalent of a handshake, and sensual physical encounters are not yet possible over the so called broadband networks spanning the more developed parts of our globe. Perhaps a supplement should never be taken as a replacement for the real thing.
Objects are born from the mind and realized with the almost exclusive use of automated machines, or humans guided by routines optimized by machines. If we program the machine, does that necessarily imbue it with a spirit? What is there to be said about spiritless machines overdetermining the actions of spirited machines? Does this situation diminish or enrich the spirits of those machines who possess them? We are hard pressed to turn up well reasoned answers, and yet we’re removing the hand, which is attached to the spirit, from the making of our world. Curves formed from discrete values, guiding the indeterministic materials of the real world; the mind acting on matter, however mediated—we shape our world but to what extent? Where do our machines begin to exert their crude reduction of our intentions on our own thoughts as a form of deterministic human enabled machine agency? The relationship between human and machine is dynamic and reciprocal and we cannot easily formulate a way of quantifying it. It is difficult, if not impossible, to program that which we do not fully understand, let alone that which refuses to be subjected to discrete forms of classification and analysis.
Perhaps there is something that I fear and I can’t quite express it. There’s sense of a loss, but it’s not the loss itself that troubles me, it’s the general attitude towards that loss: indifference, ignorance, or complete obliviousness. And in the middle of this intuition is a sense of helplessness at the fact that nothing can be done to reverse the trend, only to create an isolated pocket of appreciative practitioners. Not Luddites, no. We will die without our technologies; they are outgrowths of our species and we share a common blood. But a world made by hand is quickly becoming the world made by the hand guided by the machine; its a pointless paranoia and the best I can do is make note of this uneasy feeling, reach for my pills and sleep it off.
Coming up on Saturday October 1st in Long Beach, CA: Soundwalk 2011
“SoundWalk is an ear-oriented art event produced annually by the Long Beach artist group, FLOOD. The evening operates under the concept of a five-hour audioscopic experience as provided by sound art located in various indoor and outdoor spaces situated in Downtown Long Beach. The artwork combines, in multiple ways, a wide range of media as well as other interplayful sensory elements. There are sculptures, environments, installations, both interactive and passive, as well as scheduled performances.” —source: http://soundwalk.org/
For Any Number of Brass Instruments: 2011-2012 (For Radu Malfatti) will be included amongst the 42 different installations and artworks. Scores will be available at the information desk for the event. The composition is text-based, easy to read, and anyone can participate, even if you do not have an instrument. If you do play a brass instrument, please bring it and join in the year-long performance. You may perform this composition wherever you are and whenever you wish, so long as it’s before New Years 2012.
Please show your support by voting for my portfolio in 3rd Ward’s Solo Show Competition by clicking HERE. You can vote once a day. The works are selected images from the DCP Series and are created using various circuit bent Kodak DC series cameras.
Maker Faire 2011 in NYC is chock full of some amazing projects. The sheer quantity and variety of makers showcasing work is staggering. To see everything is definitely more than a two day affair. This year I was invited to present a self-built solar powered music making system for 3rd Ward, where I currently teach the art of making DIY Synthesizers and small scale solar charging systems.
This solar music making station (Protochiptune Project) is powered by a Voltaic Systems 15 Watt panel connected to a 7.5Ah 12V Seal Lead Acid Battery. A 10A solar charge controller does all the power management to drive the music synthesizer’s three 5 Watt amplifiers. The microchips used are from the 4000 series CMOS digital logic family, including such chips as: hex inverting buffer (40106), 12-bit binary counter (4040), 8-to-1 selector switch (4051), quad 2-input AND gate (4081), and divide by n counter (4018). These chips are used together to produce a range of pitches and rhythms that can be sequenced or programmed by moving jumper cables on the breadboard, making a mini patchable modular synth.
At Maker Faire, kids were really attracted to the crazy jams coming out of this thing. Those who were bold enough were allowed to move some of the jumpers around on the board and make up their own musical patterns.
A new collection of long exposure digital photographs taken from moving vehicles. This set, Bulb, was shot from a train heading into NYC. Developing different sets of images from the DCP Series, has inspired me to re-create some of the effects of digital artifacts using different techniques, favoring the manipulation of light and exposure time rather than directly manipulating the circuitry of the digital imaging devices. The next step in for this series will be to switch over to film or direct exposure of photographic paper.
Grayson Bagwell recently inspired me to begin working with prepared scanners. After taking apart an HP F335 all in one printer scanner combo, I got the bright idea to replicate some of my favorite op-art-esque images produced with the Kodak digital cameras in the DCP Series. The image above was created by scanning a CFL bulb that was being controlled by audio signals generated by mixer feedback.