baby doll and hajj's camera
23 august 2006
Behind every digital picture there are lines of code that organize the bytes into eye-readable images. The above JPEG has some lines of its own code embedded into it as part of the image. You can barely read the code, you can almost make out the half-head, eyes, and scraggly hair of the original photograph - a baby doll resting in a pail of water. The image is highly doctored, pixelated (more apparant in the expanded image). There is a painterly look, created not by using a paint-effect tool but by layering a grid over the image. The result is decidedly abstract, but the code adds a layer of meaning which situates the image on the verge of written langauge.
Unlike the painstaking effort that goes into the manipulation of photographic images (like the work of Jerry Uelsmann), by creating visual work with a computer you can move with ease backward and forward through the digital process. The sense of what you create as a visual object is very different. The object is less precious, more fluid, remixable, and discardable. In short, working with digital tools can be more like play. Editing images becomes more like editing words. Concrete and visual poetry come to mind.
Tangetically related, over at Writing & the Digital Life, author and digital writer Kate Pullinger wrote:
Jess - I feel more and more strongly these days that I don't have access to real information. I don't know what sources to trust, who to believe. The recent scandal involving doctored press photos from Lebanon is a case in point. Who to believe? Kate.
Vicki Goldberg said, When photography was invented it was thought to be an equivalent to truth, it was truth with a capital "T". Jean-Luc Godard went even further, Photography is truth. And cinema is truth twenty-four times a second. John Berger, claimed that the photographer only makes in any one photograph, a single constitutive choice: the choice of the instant to be photographed.
It has been said that the digital image has subverted the traditional notions of truth and authenticity in photography.
But photographers don't tell the truth any more than writers do. If needed, the clouds are always made darker. My guess is that the clouds over Beruit were darker than Adnan Hajj's camera could ever record. Anyway, the photo editor at Reuters should have recognized the obvious use of a cloning-tool. In this age of disinformation, Hajj has been made a scapegoat.
In my younger years I traipsed all over the landscape with my cameras, focusing on both documentary and aesthetic projects. I believed like Jean-Luc Godard that I was capturing the truth. But photographs are as much an interpretation of the world as paintings and drawings (Susan Sontag). My urban projects focused on the margins of society, and my pastoral images were devoid of power lines. In the darkroom, I burned and dodged in order to heighten the contrast and drama of the prints.
It is possible that, instead of subverting the notions of truth and authenticity, the digital age has freed traditional photography to be an artform.
This is probably a good time to lighten the tone of notablog. Thanks to regular readers of this space. Here's the top of my bookshelf:
The twelve hours on the clock constitute the only jury with real authority. LoGoZoA
logozoa, littlepaperboat and brunner's sheep
14 august 2006
The above image shows one of Robert Kendall's Logoazas and the view through the window above my desktop (evening sun in decline and nothing we can do about it). There are intricacies and complications that have to do with the wider world - not the least being people who believe in heaven who are making countless little hells on earth.
Even as the Mid-East ceasefire begins, leaders on both sides swear to continue the battle if anyone makes a false move. Over at littlepaperboat's journal, there are some bittersweet drawings that represent a child's view of life in Beruit during the last couple of weeks. There is also a poll that asks whether the ceasefire will happen in the next 24 hours. But the question might rather be: will the ceasefire last 24 hours? Or a week? Or a month? False moves are as common as dirt.
Viewing the online names of littlepaperboat's friends made me think about the online names of my stepson's friends, and what this comparison says about the two cultures?
- littlepaperboat lives in an environment that has suffered through conflict and war (online friends include: cedarseed, dubhustler, glass_garden, solitairekisses, violentsmile, i_heart_lebanon, eyejar, hooktail, nekosensei, prosecombat, seirenes, summer_jackel).
- My stepson's online name was pisseddrunxs, recently changed to Deathb4disco, and his friends live in an environment that includes violence largely of their own making, and most of them hang out on the beach (online friends include: banana-split, juiceee.xo, gmoney, influence16, mother.fcuk, ox*moonshine, sexaydancer).
look in my heart
a shopping centre
read the news
the spinning top
magic red shoes
a rocking chair
watch the sky
Notes: John Brunner died in 1995 at the Worldcon SF convention in Glasgow. My friend Sue Thomas was staying across the hall in the same hotel. The IF06 documentation is now online.
zurich, multimedia & leibniz's button
05 august 06
My good friend and sometimes collaborator Steve Gibson recently performed at the Digital Art Weeks in Zurich. The JUMP'N'RUN closing performance included some visuals by your's truly. The original animations were developed for Contact (You and I Have an Appointment at the End of the World), and were remixed for the Zurich performance by Stefan Müller Arisona of Corebounce. My thanks to Steve and Stefan for including my animations at the DAW event.
Over at Writing & the Digital Life, we are discussing the nature of multimedia and interactivity in the context of creative writing. Jessica Laccetti, a doctoral student and research assistant at De Montfort, suggested that interaction has to be part of any definition/thinking of multi-media writing. But this is problematic because, unless one considers clicking a link to be interactive, many works of digital writing that employ multiple forms of media are interactive only through modes of navigation. And many others include interactivity for its own sake, which is possibly reason enough to be wary of such a definition.
Christine Wilks, a freelance tutor and digital writer from Leeds, commented:
I've just come back from holiday with my 3 nieces having spent hours on the beach reading pop-up and lift-the-flap books with the youngest. These low-tech interactive books combine the linear with the non-linear - the reader moves through the pages of the book sequentially but each page is read in a largely non-linear way. One could argue that this kind of reading is multimedia in that an important part of the process is not only reading aloud, but also the discussion about what's on the page, which also significantly extends the interactivity.
But this suggests that the act of reading a book is a form of media, and that discussing a work is part of the work itself - very possible with new media tools, but not what Christine is getting at here. I accept that pop-up books can be considered non-linear, but the case for them being multimedia is, to my mind, quite a stretch.
Employing digital tools to create work that fits the definition of multimedia, and falls into the realm of creative writing, often leads to pieces that are difficult to define by using traditional criteria. Such work can even be viewed as a form looking for a name. In regards the term multimedia, it's been used for donkey's years to describe almost any work that incorporates multiple forms of media. The term interactive is somewhat more thorny. When you click or MouseOver a link to activate or read a piece of digital writing, can that work be called interactive? If so, I suspect standing by the side of a busy highway plugging and unplugging your ears means that you are interacting with the traffic. My thinking is that you're not being interactive unless you at least toss a few marshmellows at the passing vehicles.
In his book, Dust or Magic: Secrets of Successful Multimedia Design, Bob Hughes says: “Much (probably all) important art and writing has this “resists categorization” quality; yet older media seem to force it into categories. Put someone into a category and you discount them.”
Debate regarding the true nature of multimedia writing could easily be solved if only Leibniz had completed his work on the language of logical symbols, as intimated by the following quote from Matthew Stewart's book Leibniz, Spinoza, and the Fate of God in the Modern World):
In "The Art of Combination", an academic paper he produced before he turned twenty … [Leibniz] mooted the idea of a universal characteristic - a language of logical symbols so transparent that it would reduce all philosophical disputes to the mechanical manipulation of tokens. With possibly eerie prescience about the future of information technology, he envisioned encoding this logical language in an “arithmetical machine” that could end philosophical debates with the push of a button. In the future, he rhapsodized, philosophers reaching a point of disagreement will joyously shout, “let’s calculate!"
Here are three outtakes from a series of interactive animations developed for the Tunnel series. If you find any media on this site or at my trAce studio that grabs your fancy, feel free to use or remix it. On the off-chance that someone takes me up on this offer, send a link.