Saturday, March 16, 2013

We had two incredible guests visit my Digital Studies Symposium in the past two weeks, and I'm combining posts about them because they both do drastically different, and yet somehow exactly the same things.

First was Andy Huang who did the most recent Björk video [for her song "Mutual Core"].

The most interesting aspect of his presentation for me, aside from the gorgeous videos he's made, was the way he talked about his process. I notice people all the time at readings and talks asking artists about their process, and usually it really annoys me, as if you could just internalize someone else's process and then produce like they do. But sometimes I do find myself latching on to bits and pieces of what other artists say, and sometimes I try and piece those things together to get a picture that helps me better investigate their art. So Andy was talking about drawing and texture and inspiration. One thing he mentioned is that when he needed ideas for the Björk video, he googled "nature textures." He also talked about how he uses Tumblr as a place for both accumulating inspiration, but also sharing inspiration. If you look at his work or watch his videos, you'll notice a drastic, beautiful collage element to almost everything he's put out in the past few years, and if you follow his self-reflections on his process, you'll realize that his process, too, is collaged. Yes, almost all artists draw inspiration from many different people and places, but Andy particularly drew our attention to the ways in which he'll see a photograph or a scrap of something and the essence or texture or color of it will become part of whatever he's creating. His mind seems to collect, to collage, and even though the exact things he collects don't end up in the collage that is much of his art, the art, too, is a collage. The process matches the final product in a really coherent way that makes me truly believe in and connect to him and his vision as an artist.

Just a couple other notes from his presentation that really resonated with me:

The lava that Björk spits out in the video is a mix of cake batter and ketchup. Materials are all around us all the time, folks. Innovation is everything.

Andy: "Your eye is something you can refine." I have always felt this way, and continue to strive to refine my eye every day, even if it's while doing something cliched like taking an instagram photo or doing something bizarre like trying to identify the typeface on a storefront. It's the reason my apartment looks the way it does, it's the reason I dress the way I do, it's the reason I attempt to always put myself in the most aesthetically fascinating places so I can reflect on those aesthetics and incorporate them into myself. That's how the desert became a part of me.

Also, watch one of Andy's other videos, "Solipsist:"

And, yes, he is completely aware of his influences, so don't freak out.


Our most recent presenter was John Carpenter. John is one of those wonderful types of people who did science first, then transitioned to art. Except we all know that the linearity implied in that sentence is false, because if you have art in you, even if you do science "first," you're doing it through the eye of an artist, and your doing art through the eye of a scientist, and you can therefore make some of the most beautiful, but also most brilliant things. I won't get into what John is working on right now, mostly because if I tried to explain it, I would get something wrong and I don't want to misrepresent anyone here. But you can find out that info on this massive interwubs if you're so inclined. Just know he's working with people who are making this incredible thing from Minority Report a reality:

No, he's not making Tom Cruise, he's making that badass interface. I actually got this photo from a 2010 article on Tested that discusses the company John works with, and they seem to suggest that this isn't possible, but we all know haters never win. 

John does a hella lot of things, but I'm going to focus on a piece he showed us in class that appeared in a gallery in Los Angeles. The first is called Dandelion. John's website describes the project like this: "dandelion clock is an interactive immersive installation that explores the spatial and temporal qualities of dandelion seeds in flight. In this work, dandelion achene (a single seed carried by the white hairs of the pappus/parachute), float through space interacting with the viewer and each other." What John likes to do is create immaterial spaces that evoke feeling. In this piece, the viewer/user is the wind. Your movements blow the dandelion achene about, allowing you to have a physical connection to something virtual. Here's a video of the piece:

I love that idea of physical connection to something virtual. I've obsessed so many times on this blog about how the digital/analog binary isn't a binary at all, how the digital can be physical and how the physical can function in a digital nature. Typically I'm addressing this in relation to literature and writing, but John demonstrates how it is also applicable to art and design. What I strive for in the things I create, and what I search for out in the world, is a marriage of seemingly different things. A cohesion of dichotomous subjects that overcomes problematic divisions that disallow further investigation, innovation, or lines of thought/experiment.

My other favorite piece John showed us is a sculpture he made based on 4d modeling he did of a leaf falling through a space. The title of the project is Peripeteia, which is a fucking fantastic word [excuse my language, but the word is so exciting] that means, "a sudden reversal of fortune or change in circumstances, esp. in reference to fictional narrative." 

If you click on the link in the above paragraph, you can read the description of his process, but here I'm just showing you the images, borrowed from his website:

The leaf traces a path as it falls. John captures the full image of that entire path, all the swishes and sways of the lilting leaf, and then builds a sculpture based on the result. What you get is something aesthetically interesting and attractive that looks entirely unrelated to the initial subject: the leaf [&/or empty space]. This is why I paired him with Andy Huang. They both pull inspiration, shape, texture, and concepts out of the air they breathe, out of the surroundings they occupy, out of the world they inhabit, and they transform our conception of what it means to create collage or to fall through space or to inhabit an environment. They see art in extraordinary places, and their art then teaches us to see what's all around us but what's hardly ever in our line of vision. They turn the seemingly mundane into the outrageously stunning, and they transform normal life into an event, an aesthetic experience, a collection of concepts that force us to rethink not only their art, but everything we encounter every day. That's how you refine your eye. You learn from masters like these guys. 

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