Archive for September, 2009

Music by numbers

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2009

I’ve linked to Nick Carr’s blog Rough Type a number of times, this time I’m liking his comparison of the Beatles Rock Band game with the 50′s painting by numbers fad. Read it here in “Paul is dead”

I’ve tried shooting kids playing Rock Band before, but this post has inspired me to try again.

Incidentally, here’s a related story about how the Beatles could outsell Eminem as the highest selling act of the decade.

Framingham Heart Study

Wednesday, September 16th, 2009


Both the New York Times Magazine (Is Happiness Catching?) and Wired (The Buddy System: How Medical Data Revealed Secret to Health and Happiness) have reported on the work of Nicholas Christakis and James Fowler on the Framingham Heart Study; suggesting that behaviors are “contagious”. The New York Times piece includes some thoughtful discussion on the usefulness and limitations of social network analysis;

Social-network science ultimately offers a new perspective on an age-old question: to what extent are we autonomous individuals? “If someone does a good thing merely because they’re copying others, or they do something bad merely because they’re copying others, what credit do they deserve, or what blame do they deserve?” Christakis asks. “If I quit smoking because everyone around me quits smoking, what credit do I get for demonstrating self-control?” If you’re one of the people who are partly driven by his DNA to hang out on the periphery of society, well, that’s also where the smokers are, which means you are also more likely to pick up their habit.

To look at society as a social network — instead of a collection of individuals — can lead to some thorny conclusions. In a column published last fall in The British Medical Journal, Christakis wrote that a strictly utilitarian point of view would suggest we should give better medical care to well-connected individuals, because they’re the ones more likely to pass on the benefits contagiously to others. “This conclusion,” Christakis wrote, “makes me uneasy.”

Reminds me of the Oscar Wilde quote; “Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone else’s opinions, their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation”. Although the idea that we can pick up internal states like happiness, through mirror neurons, essentially mimicking those around us seems a little less dark.

Helmut Stallaerts

Wednesday, September 9th, 2009



I’m guessing that Helmut Stallaerts is a fan of Haruki Murakami. Or If he hasn’t read “Dance Dance Dance” or “A Wild Sheep Chase”, then clearly he’s been possessed by the spirit of the Sheep Man. These images seem like depictions of the strange figure that appears in both books. Besides, the title of these images is “Es Spukt”, which I think translates as “Haunted” and the Sheep Man is a ghost. Anyway, here’s the beginning of Dance Dance Dance, for those of you who haven’t read it, or had forgotten the brilliant opening para;

I often dream about the Dolphin Hotel. In these dreams, I’m there, implicated in some kind of ongoing circumstance. All indications are that I belong to this dream continuity. The Dolphin Hotel is distorted, much too narrow. It seems more like a long, covered bridge. A bridge stretching endlessly through time. And there I am, in the middle of it. Someone else is there too, crying.

The hotel envelops me. I can feel its pulse, its heat. In dreams, I am part of the hotel.

USAF ads

Sunday, September 6th, 2009

Salon reports on a new USAF ad campaign in “War Is Not A Video Game”. The ad, above, looks exactly like it should be one of the fake ads in “Starship Troopers”, except without the irony, the intelligence, or the bugs.

Related posts;

“Cast Lead” Report in Haaretz

Israeli Military YouTube Channel

A Real Hero

Allan McCollum

Tuesday, September 1st, 2009





In the last of a four part post about repetition in art, 3 Quarks Daily links to Allan McCollum’s site, which has some interesting texts about his work. In one of his projects, for example, he is playing with the idea of generating 31 billion shapes- as many distinctive shapes as the world population’s expected peak in 2050. Some of the ones that he’s created are displayed in different ways; as laminated wood plywood objects, as black on white digital “monoprints” and in production ledgers contained in ring binders. He also envisions these shapes being produced as “gifts, awards, identity markers, emblems, insignia, logos, toys, souvenirs, education tools and so forth.”

In a piece published in Art in America in 2007 Nancy Princenthal writes;

But the Shapes Project is closest, visually at least, to McCollum’s Drawings (1989-93). For these pencil-on-paper images McCollum designed five curves, a set of matrices, and a numerical system to prevent duplication, and then produced every possible combination. “It was about the desire to produce social stability through identification, hence the reference to heraldry,”2 he said to Thomas Lawson about these drawings, citing a sign system (medieval heraldry) that is clearly relevant to the Shapes Project as well, as are the highly formalized social protocols to which the courtly imagery belongs.

McCollum’s work presents a wealth of conceptual treats that tend to conceal surprising nuggets of melancholy. Writing about the cast-plaster Surrogate Paintings in these pages in 1983, Craig Owens discussed the work as a critique of consumerism, quoting Baudrillard to the effect that in the marketplace of the 20th century, “difference itself becomes apparent: to carefully engineer and control the production of difference in our society.” It was a description thoroughly consistent with McCollum’s motivation at the time. But Owens began and ended in a different register, quoting Deleuze first on repetition as a means to “make a sport of death,” and then on seriality as “liberating the forces needed to destroy this world.”3 Several years later McCollum told Lynne Cooke, “It is probably evident in my work that I suffer some preoccupation with absence, and with death.”4 And soon after, in 1992, he told Thomas Lawson, “To the degree to which we’re enmeshed in relationships with our own copies in the world, we are constantly in a state of banishment from the imaginary ‘source’ of things. . . . So copies are always about something that’s absent, and in that way they carry a sense of mourning, death, or loss.”