Wednesday, April 29, 2009

fluoxetine gets nicknamed 'fluffy' by museum staff

i happen to be in Ohio at this moment, (it is a long story... there might be a job opp here). right before i flew out i decided to see what was the date for the opening of Molecules That Matter exhibition at the College of Wooster Art Museum. Unfortunately they had been closed when I could make a call. today i was able to make that call and fluoxetine is 'standing' tall and proud. the curator's have taken a shine to the piece and it is affectionately known as 'fluffy' at the museum. the show runs through May 10 if you happen to be in the neighborhood. to the left there is a shot from the gallery.

Friday, April 24, 2009

CADRE tshirts 3.0

I have posted this so we can vote web style on the next gen of our shirts.
This is Vera's design and we are looking for a tagline. Below is the list of the tagline options, please vote for your favorite tagline by 5pm, Wednesday, April 29.

Submit your envelope with a T-shirt request to Bruce Gardner by 5pm,
Wednesday, April 29. Cost per shirt - $10. Please include your name, phone #, quantity and size. You can slip the envelope under the door, if Bruce is not in his office. Thanks!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

the big gallery week

the show is installed at SJSU and i have added to my former comments in statement below. i was replacing the statement printout when i found this on the outside of my gallery.

planar array antennae paintings
thomas asmuth March 2009

This project is an exploration of non-optimal aesthetic design theory as proposed by Anthony Dunne1. I have used a fractal/self-similar formula known as the 'dragon curve' to draw the formal linear element and a planar antennae. These elements are packaged in the form of a painting, a merged idea of aesthetic and communicative value. The linear element in each painting utilizes gold leaf for it's symbolic and conductive properties. The length of each segment is 'tuned' to a quarter wavelength of a particular channel of the 802.11 standard and allows the work to merge with the local network and become part of the delivery of the network.

There are multiple points of view to situate this project into a historiography of art practice. First, through the implicit connection between circuit design and drawing, we can develop a rubric for formal analysis of the object. Drawing and the linear form is integral in this work and in any circuit trace. The process for making a Printed Circuit Board(PCB) traditionally utilizes the method of etching; indistinguishable from the techniques used to make a printmaking plate. Etching is also reductive process of removing material to reveal something else largely akin to carving as a sculptural process. The technique in these pieces is a direct (additive method) application of the conductive material to establish the mark or drawing.

Antennas are transducers; that is, a class of

"...devices by which variations in one physical quantity (e.g. pressure, brightness) are quantitatively converted into variations in another."2

The term coined in the 1920's by the telecommunication industry is derived from Latin for 'to lead across, transfer’. The connections to art are multitudinous but, I have drawn parallels between antennae and liturgical or icon painting for their ability to facilitate lines of communication. in icon painting gold leaf is prized for its ability to shine as if it is lit from within as a demonstration of the light of God. Today along with the exceptional spectral reflectance in wavelengths above one micrometer, gold is also particularly important as an excellent conductor and thus gold is a very effective media to build a transducer. Thus by use of the gold leaf for these works I am paying homage to historic and exploring contemporary methods of communication.

The theme of communication ties this work to Conceptual Art. Multiple layers of systems are embodied in the work. The linear element in each is the result of a rule set which calls for a mark of one length followed by another mark of one length made perpendicular to the first. The final complexity of the form is dependent on the number of iterations in which this rule set is executed. Each object is symbol and agent in establishing a site for communication analogous to Beuys' Rose für direkte Demokratie (Rose for Direct Democracy). In the 'Organization for Direct Democracy through Peoples Referendum', 1972 Beuys used the rose in a graduated cylinder to consecrate sites of discursive contact and as an institutional critique of the gallery/museum complex. Symbolically these paintings stand as objet d'art or sites for aesthetic or scopophilic discourse and gateways to the discourse of the network. This conflation is a purposeful attempt to make these two aspects converse echoing the spirit of Bauhaus or Droog design.

The multiple references and aspects of this project create a complexity that needs to be reconciled. It is a sort of transgenic genealogy that comes with penalties producing morphologically challenged entities. The visual structure yields nothing immediately identifiable as icon painting nor engineering design project. This is not a hybrid; the notion of hibridity suggests a confluence of form that is somehow compatible.

These objects reflect the ‘monstrous’ ritually assembled from widely variant materials such as industrial paint products, electron microscopy supplies, Medieval painting technique, late 20th century romanticism, and the piety of gilding as a symbol and messenger of light. Like a discussion between the three heads of the Chimera of
Arezzo,3 these forms are the assemblage of products, techniques, and which can be seen as a reflection of desire to facilitate a multilateral discourse.

The efficiency of the product in engineering value is murky as well. These objects give over to “How design can improve the quality of our everyday lives by engaging the invisible electromagnetic environment in which we live.”4 Circuit design and engineering are fields concerned with formally optimized spatial and electrical relationships. The pictorial space of these planar antennae are less concerned with optimization of the engineered space than the aesthetic experience through image plane, self similarity algorithms and in the transmission of the network. Certainly, there are specifications that are peculiar to the design which must be maintained in order to serve some functionality (such as the segment length/channel ratio) but, this design is decidedly non-engineered as to the optimal utility of the spectrum. These device-object-tool-fetishes seek an optimization of aesthetics while maintaining reasonable functionality in engineering.

1. Dunne, Anthony. "The Electronic as Post-Optimal Object." Hertzian Tales: Electronic Products, Aesthetic Experience and Critical Design. Cambridge: MIT, 2007. 1-20.

2. "Transducer." Oxford English Dictionary. 16 Mar. 2009 .

3. "Chimera of Arezzo." Scholars Resource. .

4. Dunne, Anthony. "The Electronic as Post-Optimal Object." Hertzian Tales: Electronic Products, Aesthetic Experience and Critical Design. Cambridge: MIT, 2007. 1-20.

Monday, March 02, 2009

the fundamentlism in futurism or how those who didn't become robots turned into grey goo

a review of two analyses of the seemingly unavoidable cybernetic revolution

The apocalyptic analysis of Bill Joy's "Why the future doesn't need us." is an interesting explanation of all things futurist and pessimistic or as he put it, "...Murphy's law - "Anything that can go wrong, will." (Actually, this is Finagle's law, which in itself shows that Finagle was right.)" Murphy's purportedly exact statement "If there are two or more ways to do something and one of those results in a catastrophe, then someone will do it that way" is not nearly as dire as Finagle's interpretation. Murphy is pointing at good design as the ability to make a standard which cannot be misused or incorrectly installed. Joy's transmission of this translation bungle actually opens a stress fracture in his logic's fuselage that will eventually cause it to fail.

Joy's statements are based in a priori of Moore's Law as well as assumptions that the all systems can be modeled via computation. Although computing statistically can give us a good range of answers and sophisticated computing can narrow the tolerances of the range it is still a ideal reading versus an actual result.

I see the loss of skepticism as the fuel of Joy's pessimism. Jaron Lanier supports this idea in his article "One Half a Manifesto" written six months after the aforementioned Joy article. Lanier labels the aficionados of Moore's Law, artificial intelligence, and evolutionary psychology as "cybernetic totalists". The disconnect for me and Lanier is ideological adherence to an idealist misinterpretation of theory. A dogma that purports theory as reality and as the path that the future will certainly unfold. It is a real irony that these ideals that are the results of studies such as complexity theory but, they have have become dogma and stultifyingly singular. It displays (learned) ignorance of the body of practical observation of diversity, character, processes, and form in the universe. Lanier concurs:
"In nature, evolution appears to be brilliant at optimizing, but stupid at strategizing. (The mathematical image that expresses this idea is that "blind" evolution has enourmous trouble getting unstuck from a local minima in an energy landscape.) The classic question would be: How could evolution have made such marvelous feet, claws, fins, and paws, but have missed the wheel?"

Both quote Moravec's "Robot: Mere Machine to Transcendent Mind" (which I highly recommend, no, you don't have to be a computer scientist to read it). In the treatise he optimistically imagines a day of decision in our lifetime or the next generation's lifetime where it will be highly possible to transplant our consciousness into a synthetic body. Moravec is projecting a future where technology has become completely transparent and where to the best and worst of our empathetic and fuzzy logic and semantic reasoning which define humanity can instantaneously merge with high-powered computational calculation. A time where mental note becomes discrete and retrievable. And a time where when I stand up I am not plagued with arthritic pain in my back and knees.

How outrageous? No. It is a simply an extension of the practices of today's life. As I write this document the laptop marks my mistyped words with better than fair recognition and my iCal reminders pop up just before my phone jitters with the aide-mémoire for the same appointment. My dentist has installed many permanent prosthetic devices and a colleague this summer is replacing her coxal articulation (hip joint) with a ball and socket made from titanium and polyethylene. If I can replace my knees so I can walk on the surface of Mars or Pluto (or further), I do believe I will get in that line.

Moravec and others suggest a potentially exciting and pivotal fold in history of humankind. To confuse any futurist prediction as the road to perdition though, seems to ignore the fundamental aspects of good scientific practice about objectivity. Quoting Lanier again: "In general, I find that technologists, rather than natural scientists, have tended to be vocal about the possibility of a near-term criticality. I have no idea, however, what figures like Richard Dawkins or Daniel Dennett make of it. Somehow I can't imagine these elegant theorists speculating about whether nanorobots might take over the planet in twenty years."

Do any of us really know about the consequences of this transformation we think we see in the near future? Of course not but, I am highly contentious about the medieval attitude that some things are too scary to intellectually know. Once again, I find myself at the crossroads of the dilemma and my analysis is that some people are lacking in empathy and have a horrifying character; the tools they decide(d) to use were merely tools. I believe the human spirit is not necessarily diluted by these transformations; changed yes, weakened no.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

802.11 planar antennae paintings

is a project in non-optimal aesthetic design. the straightforward premise is to use fractal/self-similar lines as a formal pictorial element and as a planar antennae packaged as the form of a painting. the 'dragon curve' is the drawing element that represents this merged idea. each segment is tuned to a quarter wavelength of a particular channel of the 802.11 standard and allows the work to merge with the local network and become part of the delivery of the network.

i continue to make new associations between all the concepts of this project. the latest are the implicit connection between circuit design and drawing. the linear form is integral in this and an any circuit trace. the trace could be directly thought of as an art making process. such as etching; leaving a trace or to make a printmaking plate. etching is also reductive process of removing material to reveal something else largely akin to carving as a sculptural process. the technique in these pieces is a direct (additive method) application of the conductive material to establish mark-making or a drawing.

circuit design is a field concerned with optimization spatial and electrical relationships of the formal plane. the pictorial space of these planar antennae paintings is less concerned with optimization of the engineered space and is an attempt to create an aesthetic experience through self similarity algorithms and in the transmission of the network. certainly, there are specifications that are peculiar to the design which must be maintained in order to serve some functionality (such as the segment length/channel ratio) but, this design in decidedly non-engineered as to the optimal utility of the spectrum. these device-object-tool-fetishes seek an optimization of aesthetics and functionality in engineering.

i maintain a ustream channel in which you may see me constructing these devices. there is documentary footage available for 'off-air' periods. please follow this link to the channel.


/hug |sla sh·həg|
noun [treated as sing. or pl. ]

/hug is the latest interventionist act of Third Faction, a non-factional guild/performance World of Warcraft group. /hug (prounounced: slash hug) is a Non Governemental Organization modeled after Red Cross/Crescent. /hug provides comfort and aid to all entities of the endlessly war torn world of Azeroth regardless of faction, allegiance, species, or creed.

/hug will be presenting a project space at the Laguna Museum of Art for the exhibition named: WOW: Emergent Media Phenomena, June 14 – October 4, 2009. the exhibition space will two parts. First is a theatre showing documentary and training machinima and the second section is a field work station where new recruits can immediately begin humanitarian aid missions in world.

/hug is a wordplay and represents a non-factional communication form that all players of WoW and all of humanity can understand, the hug.

Third Faction is a project-collaboration founded on Valentine's Day 2008 by members of the Ars Virtua, the acclaimed virtual worlds critical practice.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

one amateur's opinion on Curatorial Practice

The week after next, I will be meeting Preston Poe at our weekly seminar. Preston Poe is a video sculptor/sound artist, professor, and director/curator of The Electronic Gallery at Salisbury University. After reading three articles (1, 2, 3) from Steve Dietz, Christiane Paul, and Rudolf Frieling I had this musing on curatorial practice in new media:

Curatorial practice is enormously important at the present time. Ignorance of this form of representation by some of my contemporaries always strikes me as very queer and unfortunate because it is a near impossible practice to avoid. Professionally speaking the requirement of an artist to maintain a web presence is no longer a point of debate. Even as an amateur act: uploading video to a You-Service, writing an entry in a blog, or simply hosting a html page with a documentary image is the act of curation. Thus naivety towards the profession of curation is a political choice of ignorance to the social order of my world.

Derrida discusses the relation of the archivist (please read curator for this opinion) brilliantly unfolds the socio-political history of the archivist in Archive Fever.

"We will not commence with the commencement, if I have your consent, nor even with the archive. But rather with the word *archive* and with the archive of so familiar a word. Arkhé, as you know, names at once the commencement and the commandment. We have here, apparently, two principles in one: the principle according to nature or history, where things commence (physical, historical or ontological principle), but also the principle according to the law, where command, authority, social order are exercised, the place from which order is given (nomological principle)."

Thus the archive is a institution of the authority assembled by the keepers of the pearly gates of culture. The fate of the selected work is sealed; a sort of death of the object by extraction from it's native habitat(see Derrida again).

This is not a claim that (all) curators are malfeasant manipulators hell-bent for leather—indeed if you follow my first point that would condemn me as well—trying to set the record for all eternity. The cultural attitudes toward curatorial practice comes with this unfortunate baggage urging us even more to understand the role of the vocation.

Is it possible to have a critical practice without making a selection, that is to say curate? Steve Dietz points out that it is unavoidable to classify:

"The desire to understand--to ratify what one has seen through naming, classifying, formalizing--is not limited to "professionals," of course. It is human nature."

It is the nature of the beast to rationalize the world. Which is, why at the moment of our euphoria—to eliminate the confines and authorial control of the museum-gallery complex by exploitation of telematic ubiquity—the authority of curation still holds sway. Just one tension formed around curation is the reality of telematics. The system is in fact a database and whether it is used as simply a documentary tool or as a purely aesthetic form(not just a symbolic one), it is a form that can be automated and again begs the legitimacy of the archive/archivist.

Despite some overwhelming neo-Marxist utopian sensations, I believe curatorial practice deserves a large measure of respect. It is crucial to have centers of significance such as the museum, where one can immerse in the very best of humanity and nature even though the collection is an authoritarian act. It is the responsibility of the consumer to validate the collection's merit and start a better example if they possess the wit.

The tensions (perhaps dangers) in curatorial practice of the media arts make it a compelling place of experience. These forms referred to as 'new media, distributed, experimental' are a constant institutional critique because of their nature to live outside the curatorial domain of the traditional archive/classification. The curator is riding a fine line of developing platforms to allow these overwhelmingly temporal and ephemeral works to shine fulfilling the role as Arkhé without becoming the graveyard attendant. Indeed, many of us are riding this line as well.