Archive for “art”
One of my favorite performances at TEDxUSC this year was by the actress and writer Dinah Lenney, who explored the connections between life and art. I can’t help but think that her training as an actress has made her a bit more sensitive than the average writer is about the “reality” of fiction and the visceral connections it forges between representation and material existence. Through a series of poignant and funny tales, Lenney explains why it is that she is more awestruck by a painting of a tree than the tree itself. To her, it’s the human intervention, the longing to capture in art something that simply occurs in nature, that gives her a sense of awe.
I was reminded of Jean Baudrillard‘s infamous formulation of the simulacrum: he argued that a really compelling representation of something (a picture of a sunset, for instance) may all too easily become the primary referent for the real thing (e.g., the actual sunset). Whenever you find yourself saying, “Hey! That looks just like a postcard!” then you have become subject to the allure of the simulacrum. But while Baudrillard bemoans the dehumanizing aspects of this displacement — this re-placement, as it were — Lenney celebrates it. She sees how important the witnessing of that sunset actually is: a human tried to tell us about it through a postcard, and the message was received.
Viva la simulacra!
I’m really excited to be a judge for the Core77 Design Awards this year. The marvelous Mariana Amatullo, Co-Founder and Vice President of Designmatters at Art Center College of Design, is our jury chair for the Educational Initiatives category. The deadline is April 10, 2012: so submit now!
This year’s program presents 17 categories of entry, providing designers, researchers and writers a unique opportunity to communicate the intent, rigor and passion behind their efforts. The top professional and student entries receive the Awards trophy and the opportunity to attend a celebration in New York City, and all honorees will be published in the Awards Gallery, across the Core77 online network and in the awards publication. Early registrants receive a limited-edition 2012 poster designed by Studio Lin.
When Juliet Webster, a professor at the Open University of Catalunya, shared this cartoon with me, I couldn’t get over how well it captures the calculated, seductive power of the Internet. Like the most effective femme fatale, the Internet is increasingly optimized to give us what we want . . . even when we didn’t know we wanted it.
Oh what I’d give for an essay by Lacan on desire and recommendation engines . . .
When I think about mash-ups, I can’t help but think about Julia Kristeva and her notion of intertextuality.
The term has been used in many, many different ways since she first coined it, but, quite generally, she was using it to talk about literature and the way that it exists within not only a network of language but a network of texts. Every text, even something you wrote on a sticky note, is in dialogue with the entire linguistic system – you’ve just selected a few words from that system. Those words, of course, are weighted with meaning: they have a long history of being used by lots of other people, for lots of different purposes – both constructive and nefarious.
Now a literary text – something that’s trying to assert or achieve the status of a cultural object that deserves a reader’s consideration (something more refined than your sticky note) – is part of a network of language and also a network of previous texts. Kristeva was very interested in how it is that the meaning of a piece of literature is produced in the mind of a reader, who cannot help but situate their understanding of that text in a larger context, one that includes what they’ve read before and what the writer is both self-consciously and unconsciously referencing.
If you think about it, the process of writing anything could be described as the process of sampling. Read the rest of this entry »
I’m certainly not the first to point out the similarities between haute couture – rarefied apparel that no normal person would have an occasion to wear – and haute cuisine – exquisitely prepared food that costs a fortune and simply disappears by evening’s end. This last July, the French Ministry of Culture sponsored a posh event at the Palais Royale that celebrated two of France’s most respected exports: in justifying the dual focus, organizers argued that
Though the raw materials may be different, artisans in both trades must master techniques, a “savoir-faire“
and possess a vision to reach the height of their craft . . .
But most foodies and fashionistas don’t realize that there’s an even more elemental connection between cuisine and fashion: neither have a great deal of copyright protection.
In my research on the role that copyright plays in the fashion industry, I came across a few articles mentioning the similarity between recipes – which cannot be copyrighted – and fashion designs, which don’t qualify either. I thought it was fascinating that such creative industries managed to innovate and stay fresh even though fashion designers and chefs have no control over the appropriation of their work by others. The same cannot be said of painters, sculptors, photographers, graphic designers, musicians or writers.
So, as a foodie and a fashion lover, I was delighted to be invited to a unique conference in Barcelona, co-sponsored by Telefónica, Spain’s most prominent telecommunications company, and the El Bulli Foundation, Ferran Adrià’s effort to perform cutting edge research about food and innovation. Gastronomy & Technology Days (check out the Twitter hashtag #gastrotechdays) brought together an incredibly diverse international group of writers, researchers, software engineers and hard-core food bloggers to discuss the intersection of food and technology.
The talks were occasionally mind-bending (e.g., “Hacking the Food Genome”) and participant Rachael McCormack tweeted that the conference was “like TED but with better coffee.” Video will be available soon I’m told, but until then, I thought I’d lay out some of the key points from my keynote speech about the similarities between fashion and food. Read the rest of this entry »
I can’t wait for Pacific Standard Time, the massive art-fest extravaganza, to begin to take over 60 art venues in Southern California beginning October 1. I love the fact that they’ve harnessed the youth-skewing rock star appeal of Red Hot Chili Peppers’ frontman Anthony Kiedis to jump-start their marketing effort. In this charming little video, Kiedis drives Pop Art superstar Ed Ruscha around LA, the city they mutually adore. Their discussion about making art out of words as they drive through the texty corridors of Los Angeles is a perfect introduction to the sprawling art scenes of SoCal.
In April of this year, I attended Fractal’11, a truly unique conference in Medellin, Colombia, that explored the convergence of fiction, art, science and technology. The event was the perfect forum for me to talk about my winding career path, which began in an English PhD program, meandered through a Web start-up and an international multimedia company and deposited me, quite happily at the Norman Lear Center.
One of the many fascinating themes of the conference (I explored several others here) was the appeal of infotainment, material that serves two seemingly unrelated purposes: to occupy attention agreeably (as the Oxford English Dictionary defines “entertainment”) and to transmit practical information that may just contribute to your survival.
My talk about Entertainment as Virtual Reality focused on the ways in which entertainment – catchy pop songs, video games, movies, opera, toys, etc. – could be understood as simulations, little virtual reality machines that allow us to test our ideas about the world in safe, artificial spaces. Regardless of how distracting a cultural object may be, it is also a powerful transmitter of information about our world, and it can have a surprisingly profound impact on our lives well outside the movie theater, concert hall or American Girls store. Read the rest of this entry »
I was very excited to attend the Free Culture Forum in Barcelona last October: the event was quite unique in its effort to bring together a broad range of scholars and activists from all around the world to work together to develop guidelines for sustainable models for creativity in the digital age. There were some pretty noisy fights, let me tell you, but at long last, we’ve produced a great brief which, so far, has been endorsed by 69 organizations and key players in the field. Please take a look at the document and be sure to watch this fun video about the Forum and its annual entertainment showcase called the oXcars.
I’d venture to say appropriation and inspiration are always in fashion. Especially in the fashion industry — where there are far fewer legal barriers to design appropriation. But these dynamics are apparent in every artistic discipline, and there’s something particularly pleasurable about stories of artists who succeed in taking an aesthetic idea from one realm and applying it to another.
That’s why it was really fun to read a recent Wall Street Journal piece (thanks to Marissa Gluck for sending it my way) about Narciso Rodriguez’s effort to capture in his latest fashion collection the elegant layering of flora and fauna in a video installation piece. Jennifer Steinkamp’s “Orbit 5″ features seething images of transforming trees and flowers. Rodriguez says he was intrigued not just by the imagery, which is not uncommon in textiles, but by the layering that makes it visible. He wanted to capture the relationship between a projected image and its screen.
Like everyone else who appreciates irony, I’ve been following the latest story about Jeff Koons’ effort to claim copyright protection for his “Balloon Dog” sculptures. Koons made a fortune appropriating images from popular culture and so it’s decidedly rich that he’s attacking a wee company selling bookends shaped like balloon dogs.
As far as I can tell, Koons will probably lose: the pricepoint for the bookends ($60 for two) is so low that no one in their right mind would be mislead into believing they were made by an artist of Koons’ standing, and the bookends don’t share key features that might distinguish Koons’ version from those blown by anyVenice boardwalk clown.
I was struck by a passage in a recent New York Times piece about this. The reporter Kate Taylor describes William M. Landes, emeritus professor of Law at the University of Chicago, as sharing “the blogosphere’s view that the business with the bookends made Mr. Koons look a little silly.” Anyone with any familiarity with said “blogosphere” (you’re in it now) knows just how many divergent voices and opinions are aired here, and so it’s a little disingenuous to suggest that all us bloggers agree about this.
But I do think it’s true that participating in the blogosphere makes you much more aware of the appropriative nature of discourse and meaning-making. Conversations we used to have in person are happening in a persistent text-based world where copying and pasting is second nature: it’s not just that we quote one another all the time, we also embed within our commentary links to other comments, articles and digital artifacts that quite literally become part of our contribution to the conversation.
Koons, of course, was clever enough to realize that the act of appropriation and reframing could be meaningful (and lucrative). For him to suggest that there should be stricter limits placed upon the circulation of broadly recognized images not only runs counter to his own artistic practice but also to the act of crafting and communication that makes the blogosphere so vibrant.
UPDATE : The New York Times reported on February 3, 2011 that Koons has given up his suit. Now “clowns everywhere can breathe easier.”