Saturday, April 29, 2006

My Two Cents.

Much has made here of late of how the viewing public is consistently confusing television and shopping mall simulacrum for capital-A Art. I would argue that the fusion of consumer culture and art institutions presented as a possible future is already a reality, and not just because of a lack of interest and education on the part of the public. The "intelligentsia" (curators, collectors, dealers, critics, many professors and professional artists, and cynics in general we may assume) are embracing this phenomenon whole-heartedly and all it takes to demonstrate that is a look at the recent remodelling of most of the modern/contemporary art museums in major cities throughout Europe and North America and all the praise that is lauded on such building projects.

These institutions more and more are being redesigned to look suspiciously like shopping malls, complete with sweeping, colourful, and eye-catching modernist architectural curves; giving the most prominence to gift shops that flash at you near the entry and gourmet food courts somewhere near the back of the building. I begin to question the role of these institutions and their central position as patrons. Do they exist to safeguard treasured cultural items for consultation by professionals and intellectuals as a national library does; or is it to draw in ticket sales, drive the sales up of refrigerator magnets and glossy calendars, and in general promote the growing phenomenon of urban tourism by presenting another “must see” institution for the typical trip? The first role is somewhat contradictory as we are talking about contemporary cultural contributions which are hard to judge as lasting “treasures,” and the second role diminishes the quality of the whole institution by focusing on merchandising and marketing.

We may have witnessed first hand the birth of the blockbuster museum exhibition in 1995 with the Monet retrospective at the Art Institute of Chicago and I personally have viewed very few art museums the world over looking back since then. Attendance of museums is higher than ever as a result of tourism, and the desire to entertain all the new guests makes the carnival atmosphere ever more alluring. When I was at the new MOMA at the beginning of the year, the premiere show was celebrating the history of Pixar, while a variety of recent Apple Computer products were given the most prominent display in the permanent 20th century design exhibit. So instead of focusing on Robert Rauchenburg I was principally reminded in a variety of ways how the products Steve Jobs sells are worthy of my adoration. Product placement apparently became a reality of viewing art in Manhattan since my last visit.

I doubt the presidents and directors of artistic institutions care whether people are finding contemporary art relevant to their lives as long as the public are patronizing their organization in greater numbers. That includes art museums, international art fairs, and art schools among all the other kinds of cultural institutions one finds in a thriving city such as theatre companies, concert halls, and dance troupes. Growing revenue is what counts, and it is the only available benchmark for success to present to donors. Just because your company has a Not-For-Profit tax bracket in no way implies you are not beholden to the bottom line of the accounting books while managing it, and that inevitably affects decisions about what goes on stage or into exhibition halls. Artistic integrity always loses hands down when compared to the prospect of lines of people waiting to get into the building. Musicals based on disco, Christmas stories written in the 19th century as cutting edge contemporary theatre, dancing mascots at the philharmonic, mass produced consumer products as visual art in the museums, visual art as mass produced consumer products at the mall, increasingly large and slick souvenir/gift shops, and lacklustre arts education are becoming regular occurrences in an institutional cultural mindset that answers only to market pressures – how many paying customers can we bring in and how much can we charge them for the experience offered?

I find it difficult to lay any blame on Bob Ross, Mark Kistler, and their innoffensive PBS shows for the prevalence of an illiterate art viewing public in such a context. The divisions have already been blurred by cultural institutions needy of funding and the alternatives to cultish shopping mall decoration (Thomas Kinkade) and saccharin melodramatic mega-productions (Andrew Lloyd Webber) are scarcely being presented with the same kind of conviction to the viewing public.

Here is a game. Compare the following photographs and decide which correspond to a prestigious European modern art museum and which are of a popular American shopping mall. Both have been heavily remodelled and expanded recently.

Then stop by the web pages of the MOMAstore and nearby Sak's Fifth Avenue to see the similarities and maybe buy something for Mother's Day.

All signs pointing to capital-A Art!

Friday, April 28, 2006


Pictures from a library book.
Two products of Haus-Rucker-Co, on the left the Flyhead and on the right The Mind Expander. The stone age of virtual reality; Even then it blurred certain things: Are those hipsters playing doctor or plotting against the establishment?
A suspendended, inflatable, motorized pavilion entitled Kinetic Roof by Event Structures Research Group.
This was a concept for "psychological environments for in-flight astronauts" the Himmelblau Cooperative from Vienna submitted to NASA.
Battleship(upper-left) and Yellow Heart(left) are two works by Haus-Rucker-Co that are overtly for, or about, screwing. The battleship contraption is used by each person pushing buttons on the matress to light-up the panel above, somehow this constitutes a game. The Yellow Heart is two nested tubes which ungulate independently, compressing like a heart-beat.

Burns, Jim. Arthropods: New Design Futures. New York: Praeger Publishers, 1972.
Link to an online copy of the text, though it lacks many of the catalogue images. be needin' the new updates me hardys!

It's too bad we can't play this weekend. I was looking forward to it. I have just as much fun running around fighting in the same places and same monsters, like its cool when new areas are built out, but I don't mind running the same areas when changing characters keeps things fresh enough! Sort of wanted to try out a new character, especially after seeing the new patch.

I found out the new patch has a bunch of free tiles from the Pirates of the Sword Coast expansion pack. Arrrr....I be lookin' fer mere buried treasure by ye Shield Lands. Rest asssur'd Pete!

- Added 13 varieties of new creatures to the game from Pirates of the Sword Coast: Sharks (Goblin, Mako, Hammerhead), Gray Ooze, Ochre Jelly (Large, Medium, Small), Sahuagin (regular, Cleric, Leader), Parrot, Seagull (flying, walking).

- Added 79 new placeable objects to game resources:
Arrow (Penants & Signs) - 8 variety of colors, Flag (Penants & Signs) - Pirate and Umberlee, X (Penants & Signs) - Pirate X mark, Bubbles (Visual Effects) - 3 different heights, Candle (Misc. Interior) - 2 types of 2 versions - 1 set with ambient light, 1 without, Chest (Containers & Switches) - 1 buried, 1 sunken - sunken one has a bubbles effect when opened, Driftwood (Parks & Nature) - 4 types, Bed & Bench & Table & Chair, Dwarven (Misc. Interior), School of Fish (Parks & Nature) - 3 types, Footprints (Misc.) - left and right, Fungus (Parks & Nature), Hanging Dwarf Skeleton (Misc. Interior), Kelp (Parks & Nature) - 3 sizes of 3 types, Mushrooms (Parks & Nature) - 4 types, Net (Misc.), Palm Tree (Parks & Nature) - 2 types, Parrot (Misc.), Portal (Visual Effects), Puddle (Misc.) - 2 types, Raft (Misc.) - 1 normal, 1 broken, Rocks (Parks & Nature) - 5 types, Rope Coils (Misc.) - 2 types, Sea Chair (Misc. Interior), Sea Idol (Misc.), Sea Obelisk (Misc.), Sea Table (Misc. Interior), Seashell (Parks & Nature) - 3 types, Shrine of Umberlee (Misc. Interior) - 1 with ambient light, 1 without, Starfish (Parks & Nature),Trog Bed (Misc. Interior), Trog Egg (Misc. Interior), Trog Nest (Misc. Interior), Trog Shrine (Misc. Interior), Trog Throne (Misc. Interior).

Thursday, April 27, 2006

No game this week.

I have too much school work to do over the weekend.
The game will return on May the 7th.
Edit: I think last session was a good test of the replayability of the whole thing. I'd kept last Saturday clear for building, but when it came, I was unproductive because I was tired and grumpy. Before the game I was panicking and looking for public boards we could sign into. I'm glad we didn't.
I'd like to hear how I might smooth over the rough edges of the game.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Speaking of art...

“A-David Michael Lee"

Get'em, Ryan.
I agree with you, no surprise and I see it every day. I have been teaching intro to painting for 5 years, at a State University. 90% of students are pantie waste, in the beginning. But here is this opportunity to change that. I don't teach, I show, I profess, I get it out there as a language not just pictures. I stress the power of an image and how it can change the world, First day PBS "Entarte Kunst".

Much for the same reason that there is racism, it is just that people hate what they don’t understand. Kinkade, people like him because they can understand, on the other hand people don’t understand. In College most everyone takes an art history class or two. It is very rare that a non-art major will take a contemporary class though. So here it is, a college-educated business major that took two art history classes Stone Age – Gothic and Renaissance to Impressionism, feels that they have an understanding for art. It is not their fault they only know to Impressionism.

I propose we go backwards, start from now and trace every movement to the movement before and so on.

If we were to create a timeline of the planet and draw it out from LA to NY, humans have been here for 40 yards, the Renaissance to now is about ½ in, your lifetime is thinner the linen canvas the painting your talking about is on. Where am I going with this? At this point we should teach art history alphabetically.

So I will be changing my name to “A-David Michael Lee”

Why Bob Ross is not an artist and Art Education is so important.

...For the same reason that Thomas Kincaid is a businessman and not an artist, Shaquille O'neill is a basketball player and not a real actor (or a rapper for that matter). These people are in the entertainment industry and do not enter into an art historical context or any other legitimate art context.... No more than a t.v. weatherman, a politician, or a sports personality would. Kincaid and Ross may be touchstones in people's minds because of what they represent, but that does not make what they do of any significance to art in a broader sense. They are on T.V. They are in the malls of America. The exchange value of Art is not equal to entertainment. The exchange value of Art is not equal to shopping.

What do the episodes of "Joy of Painting", a videogame about those t.v. episodes or a new line of products by Thomas Kincaid Co. symbolize? Where do they lie in our minds and the minds of the public?

They represent a failure to explain, to teach, or otherwise "clue in" the public about the importance of art. It's up to School and Museum educators to do their job of explaining the principles of Art that are being supported by their contemporaries; that is the curators, critics, artists, and historians in the field of the Arts (which includes Contemporary Art!) or students will be left in the dark without a clue and will be thinking that Bob and Thomas are the real deal and not the souless capitalists they (and the agents they employ) really are. Don't laugh! These guys actually have confused a lot of people into thinking that what they do is making art. It is NOT. It is selling a product wrapped in the sugar plummed fairy art land that never was.

People have the wrong idea about what art is and have not been educated to think that art is anything more than just pretty pictures. That's why they don't except, understand or feel accountable for comprehending the Art that is being presented to them in Museums, Galleries, and Biennales all over the world today.

"That's not art, my kid could do that." or "what is it?" and "I don't get it" are not acceptable responses to art. Students could be better prepared to understand and be equipped to respond to the works they experience in a museum. Teachers can make that happen.

In today's increasingly visually centered world, a lack of visual and "seeing-the-big-picture" education is bad. And can have serious consequences for the educated public (and for future artists too!) Educators play an important role in schools because they introduce students to new concepts and standards that are widely excepted and used by the public. Mathematics, Earth Sciences, the Native Language, History, etc. The problem is that they don't teach Art as a class to analyze, interpret, and "decode" visual signs.

It is important to be able to understand what images mean.
It is important to learn how to interpret images that are presented to you.
It is important to recognize that images are telling you something (usually a few things).
It is important to know how images are used to make you think a certain way.

If the students don't understand what they see they lack skills in communcation and end up looking like fucking assholes.

Sure its okay to say "I don't like Modern Art", but do you know why you don't like it? Do you understand what Modern Art is trying to tell you? If you had a better understanding of it do you think that you might learn something about other people? about yourself?

I realize I'm sort of preaching to the choir, but... oh yeah I almost forgot! What I meant before in my reply to Pete's last post about "someone" else missing their mark. I meant artists. Artists need to address the institutions directly, be critical of their motivations and other artists that ignore their role as the eyes and ears of the culture. We are aware of things going on in the culture which deserve wider attention by these institutions, and this blog supports a very healthy dialog about these issues (Gooooooo... Astromen!). I would make an argument that if there is an intelligensia or an avant-garde today, that they exist in forums like ours!

O.K. with that, I'll get off my soap box and let others have a turn.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

The Grimoire

Should I add this to our game?

Joy of Painting: The Video Game

I'm not sure this is an official sign that the-end-is-near, but the foundation in charge of the late Bob Ross's intellectual property has announced that they plan to make a video game out of the master's teachings. Such a product could only represent the beginning, or end, of capital-A art.
Link via Joe Picioni's Nintendo Friend Club.
A quote from one of the developers follows:
"I grew up watching Bob Ross on PBS and was always in awe of how quickly and smoothly he made these beautiful paintings, which helped inspire my creativity. There are generations that know Bob Ross and his painting techniques, and I want to share his talent with future generations in a new medium. The Bob Ross game will utilize the unique inputs that the Nintendo DS and Nintendo Revolution have that can truly immerse the players while they learn to paint like Bob Ross and can play the addictive and fun games that we have planned for the title. I believe that Bob Ross Inc's and AGFRAG Entertainment Group's similar beliefs in independence, creativity, and teaching others will benefit how the game is developed and how the players of all ages will be able to enjoy this game. I want the community to share with us their favorite Bob Ross shows, painting techniques, and what they’d like to see in the NDS and Revolution games. We want to keep the brush going."

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

9/11 Synthetic Terror: Made in USA & other Myths...

I heard an interesting lecture by Webster Griffin Tarpley on Sunday. I had kind sort of a hard time connectinge again though to their streaming archive. Mabe you guys will have better luck than I.
The lecture 9/11 Synthetic Terror: Made in USA (which is about wargames, running drills, then switching it live to undertake a coup) is about an hour and a half. The show after that was good too.
if you have the time and (can get it to work) then its worth a listen.

Sun, Apr. 16, 2006
6:30am Webster Griffin Tarpley 9/11 Synthetic Terror: Made in USA Community Forum

David Ray Griffin 9/11: The Myth and the Reality

Err.... i couldn't link it right to the streaming archive for some reason (sorry guys) but you can look up te show given the information: Sunday April 16, 2006 6:30 am (programming timeslot: Mind over Matters)

Friday, April 14, 2006

Penn Jillette on NPR

World on Fire?

I must say that I have been a bit out of touch with news from the North American land mass of late. After taking a spin through some major European and American news sources (BBC, New York Times, San Franciso Chronicle, Seattle Times, El Pais, Der Spiegel) I got a bit confused and concerned. Aside from the riots in Katmandu to finally reign the king in, and new election chaos in Rome (none of which surprising), it would appear that our administration is starting to beat the war drum again, and quite loudly at that.
That the implications of this for America, the Middle East, and the current world status quo make me reel is something of an understatement. Can they seriously be trying to draw support for an unprovoked nuclear first strike?

After a hiatus from writing, Billmon is back and I find his commentary poignant:
Mutually Assured Dementia.
Why People Think the Economy Sucks.
Deja Vu Times Three.
Eye of Newt.
Also from left blogostan is this interesting anecdote at DailyKOS (by SusanG.)
America 2006: Importing Cheap Labour, Exporting Researchers.

Let me know if any of you ASTROMEN! out there are starting to seriously consider asylum as an option.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Insider White House info via Something Awful...

"Democracy as a government relies upon the ability of factions to compromise on divisive issues through rational debate instead of violence. The current political power brokers have figured out how to short circuit this process by focusing national attention on issues which are based on differences of non-negotiable, irrational moral sentiment, and are thus not subject to resolution through rational reconciliation. They've broken democracy."

"Asking whether a politician genuinely supports or cares about an interest is like asking whether a stockbroker supports and cares for Coca Cola. There has to be professional detachment. It depends on the market, and if he actually cares and acts according to some sort of sentimental feeling about Coca Cola which isn't totally a function of market conditions, he's a bad stock broker, cut from the herd, and eaten by bears. There has to be an emotional separation. "The Religious Right" is actually just a voting bloc, a collection of issues, influential people, and interested voters, so you can't care about it. You use it, like a hammer or a microphone."

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Tomorrow's game

Link to the files needed to play in tomorrow's game.
I just posted one today. The game will start at 2pm EST.
UPDATE: A screenshot from near the end of last night's session; in the Briarton sewers.
UPDATE: It is not possible to play next weekend because of people demanding my presence in Baltimore for a dinner or something. Play will resume the week after, on the 23rd of April. Also, a clearer version of the screenshot:
Click for full size.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

A gallery of mathematical objects

Ryan, note the random walk sections.

The King

Chad and I spotted him in Philadelphia last fall.
He was apparently having a pant malfunction.
Photo credit: Chad.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Sunday, April 02, 2006

My shiny new operating system.

Last week I was once again tinkering with my computer (fondly referred to in the Astromen! community as "built from used Ukrainian missile silo parts") and once again I broke my Windows installation. Not surprising considering the programming that goes into that system developed in my home town, and the operations I was performing (trying to hack my cell phone to be open to all networks and downloading pirated video games -- the Pirate Bay AYE!) After some research I have started over and made the switch to Linux, specifically the Ubuntu distribution with a GNOME visual interface. Though a bit difficult at first to get used to, I am very pleased so far. It is immensely more solid programming, completely customizable, every bit of software is free, and has a number of features that make me wonder why I ever was a slave to the dreadful installation wizards or longed for an overpriced hip-kid deck. If I am confused, Linux geeks the world over have posted massive amounts of documentation to be searched through or they will answer your questions within moments. I have not had this much fun with a computer since setting up my Commodore 64. In the last year or so they have improved the cross platform aspects (you can port just about anything now given the right software) and I still have a small Windoze partition for those fun, but buggy Frankenstein programs like Visual Pinball and the fully updated Neverwinter Nights.
Super-User, the command line calls to you _