Thursday, January 31, 2008

WWF's semi-guerilla art

That's the World Wildlife Federation, not the World Wrestling Federation!

My initial reaction to this to think it's a nice little bit of semi-guerrilla art... but then it occurred to me that it's a bit off. The rain forest isn't being chopped down for paper, it's being chopped down for grazing & crop land. Does misleading people about the problem really help?

More interesting (and perhaps more on-target) is their "ocean-levels rising" billboard:

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Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Appropriate appropriation

One is not like the other... can you spot which of the three artworks (above & to the right) is different?

Two of the images are conceptual art by Christine Bailey, who mimicked artist Cara Ober's style for a recent show in the T. Rowe Price lobby in Baltimore. The top image is Ober's and the two bottom images are Bailey's.

Ober, not surprisingly, was upset. She was quoted in a Baltimore Sun article:
The best analogy is this: How would you feel if someone stole something from you that you loved and cared for?" said Ober, 33, who lives in Charles Village and teaches art classes at the Maryland Institute College of Art. "It's a bitter pill to swallow."
Bailey explained the show's motivation in an (after-the-fact) email to Ober:
For me, this was very much a project about how or if I could steal someone's artistic identity and what that would look like. Could I be the Old Navy to Cara Ober's The Gap?
A Washington Post article connects the appropriation show (which was called "New Work by Christine Bailey") to Bailey's earlier work of "curating" shows of imaginary artists based on virtual online personalities (a Second Life character, the Ikea online assistant, etc.):
...She's adopted someone else's manner specifically as a way to move away from the standard issues of taste and the cliches of personal identity and expression that still tend to govern art, especially in more conservative scenes such as Baltimore's. "I'm really interested in the idea of anonymity, and not having a brand -- moving from style to style. . . . I really enjoyed making these paintings, because I didn't have to bring anything personal to it."
On a side note, the Post article (by Blake Gopnik, who discloses that his wife is a colleague of Bailey's) is markedly dismissive of Ober's work:

Bailey's paintings capture all of Ober's telltale tricks and tics. Nostalgic imagery is pulled from older sources. Bird books, old encyclopedias, decorative wallpapers? Check. Tender, pastel colors -- soft washes of pale yellows, blues and pinks -- with brooding splashes of black on top? Check. Scraps of dictionary definitions, presented in old-timey fonts? Check. An overriding sense of capital-P Poetry, without ever making clear quite what that poetry's about? Check.


Whether one considers Ober's art interesting or not is parenthetical to the larger issue... and to take pot shots at it seems mean-spirited in this context.

Irene Hoffman, the director of Baltimore's Contemporary Museum, suggests that an audience's knowledge of the appropriation is key:
On the one hand, the success of any act of appropriation requires a knowledge of the source. Was the appropriation evident to the audience? If so, it's a very similar gesture to those of other, more famous artists, where the audience recognizes the source.
I think Hoffman speaks to the heart of the matter. Bailey's show certainly explores interesting issues... artists spend years building up a style & body of work. In comparison, mimicking an artistic style is quite easy. To take the mimicking short-cut questions what is the value of the pioneering effort (& sincerity) of the original artist... and whether the artist matters at all.

Circling back to Hoffman's comment about the audience recognizing the appropriation, it strikes me that Bailey's show could be more effective if it included the original artist's involvement (which would also settle any ethical questions about plagiarism). Much more interesting than a show that silently copies the work of some artist whose work I'm not familiar with, would be a show in which an example of the original artist's work is paired with Bailey's style appropriation. And why limit it to one artist, the show could consist a dozen such side-by-side comparisons.

Update: I was looking at Cara Ober's blog and noticed this post, where she gave Bailey's space to explain the thinking behind the appropriation exhibition.

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Monday, January 28, 2008

Homeless Lamp, the Juice Sucker

This comes by way of Greg Cook's excellent The New England Journal of Aesthetic Research blog. The description of the work from the Saatchi Gallery.
Echoing the minimalist works of Dan Flavin, Ivan Navarro's light sculptures subvert the cool detachment of florescent bulbs with their arrangement into recognisable objects. In Homeless Lamp, the Juice Sucker Navarro builds a grocery cart from electric tubing. Featured in a video of a 5 hour performance, Navarro has activated the sculpture on the streets of New York's Chelsea District. In the video, two men break into a municipal power outlet, hi-jacking city energy to feed the power-sucking shopping trolley. Edited to 4 minutes, the action is set to a Mexican revolutionary song from 1905 titled Juan The Landless. As an icon of both consumerism and vagrancy, Homeless Lamp, the Juice Sucker sets a stage where the dichotomies between wealth and poverty convene as a literal and allegorical emblem of power, waste, transience, and opportunistic survival. Basking in an artificial glow, Navarro's Homeless Lamp, the Juice Sucker exudes a religious aura based in consumption, corruption, and errancy.
In case you didn't know, George Foreman Grills connected to light post outlets can serve as makeshift cookers for homeless people. NPR had a piece on this a while back:
...many immigrants, homeless people and others of limited means living in single-room occupancies (SROs) have no kitchens, no legal or official place to cook. To get a hot meal, or eat traditional foods from the countries they've left behind, they have to sneak a kind of kitchen into their places. Crock pots, hot plates, microwaves and toaster ovens hidden under the bed. And now, the latest and safest appliance, the appliance that comes in so many colors it looks like a modern piece of furniture: the George Foreman Grill. It is, quite literally, a hidden kitchen...

...Jeffry learned to cook from his grandmother. He feels an urge to cook, especially for other people -- under the overpass on Chicago's Wacker Drive; on a George Foreman Grill plugged into a power pole; with a hot clothing iron to toast a grilled cheese sandwich.
I haven't seen Navarro’s video or the sculpture in-person, but I do like the idea of the cart being lit up in the city streets and passerbys unexpectedly coming upon it.

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Thursday, January 24, 2008

Coffee, knitting, rice and data visualization

I hope I write a coherent post this morning... just now I almost spooned the cat's breakfast into my coffee pot. Oh well, I'm sure I'll wake up once I have a nice hot cup of Iams.

The photo above shows the News Knitter project by artists Ebru Kurbak and Mahir M. Yavuz (it comes via Turbulence's Networked Performance blog). Kurbak & Yavuz write:
News Knitter converts information gathered from the daily political news into clothing. Live news feed from the Internet that is broadcasted within 24 hours or a particular period is analyzed, filtered and converted into a unique visual pattern for a knitted sweater. The system consists of two different types of software: whereas one receives the content from live feeds the other converts it into visual patterns, and a fully computerized flat knitting machine produces the final output. Each product, sweater of News Knitter is an evidence/result of a specific day or period.
My sweetie is learning to knit, so I've been thinking about knitting based art recently (I missed it, but about a year ago the Museum of Art & Design had a Radical Lace & Subversive Knitting show). When I read about the News Knitter I wanted to find the work compelling, but honestly I don't. I think it runs into some common problems in technology-based art:

Data visualization. This is one of the more common approaches for making Internet art. The Internet gives access to tons of information and it makes sense that artworks using the medium want to investigate its particularities. However, since this well has been dipped into so many times, one needs to think twice before having data visualization be the center of an artwork. At the very least, the result should have some point beyond "jeez, isn't this a neat looking graphic?"

Novelty art. I'm still trying to come up with the most pithy description of this problem. Novelty art is the best one I've come up with, but I had been thinking about demo-art as well. Essentially this is art which is most compelling in how it shows off a cool new technology. The way I put this in my "Teaching Philosophy" essay is:
Working with technology, particularly new technology, has the danger of resulting in art that is more focused on demonstrating the potential of the medium than on transcending it.
I worry about this alot in my own art because I think it's an easy trap to fall into. But the result is empty calories... you get a confection which might taste sweet for a moment, but ultimately isn't satisfying. Plus, once that technology is more wide-spread, the novelty-artwork loses all appeal. It's great to explore new technology, but the resulting artwork needs to be able to stand on its own... the fact that computerized knitting machines are nifty isn't really good enough.

Another data visualization/manifestation project is the eRiceCooker. Here's what it does:

eRiceCooker tracks Internet news about genetically modified rice. Whenever there is a new report about GM rice, a quarter cup of rice is dispensed into the cooker. When the cooker has enough rice for a meal, water is added automatically to the rice and the cooker is switched on. When the rice is done, an email is sent out to inviting people to eat the rice.

The more news reports appear, the more rice is cooked, the more often invitations are sent out. The project is designed to create awareness to issues surrounding genetically modified organisms by producing excessive amounts of cooked rice and attempting to feed people with it.

Currently, eRiceCooker is doing the following google news searches: GMO Rice, Gen-reis, GMO.


The eRiceCooker was made by Annina Rüst at MIT, and as student work it is very nice. But there's some aspect of it which prevents me from fully enjoying it. Here's what I think it is:

Why? In the case of the News Knitter, why tie it to the news? Is there some resonance at work there? There doesn't appear to be... it seems a random connection. News about genetically modified rice and the rice cooker is better connected, but still not fully satisfying to me. Towards the end of this post, I'll more fully explain why.

I bet you thought the coffee in the title of this posting was about my problems making it this morning. Nope! The third artwork I'd like to discuss is Benjamin Brown's News Brews.

News Brews is Brown's 2007 thesis project at the Interactive Telecommunication Program at New York University.
The News Brews device is an exploration of the possibility of creating a beverage which provides information about the daily news. News Brews connects to internet news feeds and parses them to determine the relative frequency at which different coffee growing regions are mentioned. It then brews a cup of coffee from freshly ground whole beans which contains relative proportions of beans grown in the regions in that day's news.
On a side note, the project does have a design flaw: the coffee simply pours out as the news arrives. If there isn't a cup there, or if it is filled, you get a mess. This is a nice--though unintended--metaphor for being overwhelmed with news saturation.

News Brews is basically the same concept as the eRiceCooker, perhaps to a fault... Brown looked a bit chagrined when I gently mentioned the similarity. Setting aside the issue of originality, there is something about News Brews that works better for me than the eRiceCooker. I've been mulling over why I prefer News Brews. Here's what I have come up with:

News and coffee seem to go together... I read the news while drinking coffee in the morning. While "news about rice" is, of course, tied to rice... news in general doesn't seem to relate. So why GM rice? Why the news? My suspicion is that eRiceCooker began with the idea of automating cooking rice and that the genetically modified issue was grafted on later. Adding to this is the problem is that the eRiceCooker is political art, and (in my opinion) political art really needs to be perfect--there's not the room for looseness that might be acceptable in other works of art.

The eRiceCooker is ostensibly about GM foods... so what exactly is the connection between news reports about GM rice and eating (presumably) non-GM rice? The artist's description above seems to tie an abundance of news articles/cooked-rice to GM crops producing larger yields. She refers to "excessive" amounts of rice, which seems a bit off-message. Larger crop yields is a good thing, but presumably the artist feels GM crops are not. Perhaps a tighter conceptualization would be to borrow News Brews's idea of a news blend. The cooker could mix rice (representing articles about rice in-general) with some bittering agent such as quinine (representing the GM news articles)... so that the people eating the rice are eating a representation of how GM foods are corrupting our food supply.

Thoughts (i.e., comments) on the matter are certainly welcomed!

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Tuesday, January 22, 2008

artist watch list

The New York Times had an article on Sunday about Ramak Fazel, an artist who was placed on the FBI watch list. From the article:

[Fazel] set out on a photographic and philatelic odyssey from his mother’s home in Fort Wayne, Ind. His mission was to photograph each of the nation’s 50 state capitol buildings and dispatch a postcard from each city, using postage stamps from a childhood collection. Each postcard would be mailed to the next state on his journey, where he would pick it up, continuing until he had gone full circle back to Indiana.

But there was a problem. On a flight from Sacramento, Calif., to Honolulu, Mr. Fazel described his project to a fellow passenger. He later discovered that she had reported him as suspicious — perhaps to the pilot or the Transportation Security Administration — and taken a picture of him as he slept.

Maybe it was because he was vaguely foreign looking, he reasoned, and his photographic endeavor seemed menacing in a post-9/11 landscape. He also had a three-day growth of beard, he recalled. And, although Mr. Fazel grew up mostly in the United States and is an American citizen, there was his Iranian name.

And it wasn't just a problem boarding planes. While in Jackson, Mississippi, a loudspeaker order Fazel (by name) to come out of his van with his hands up. After being handcuffed, face down on the concrete he was allowed to get back in his van and go. In Atlanta Fazel was prevented from entering the capitol building. In Columbia, South Carolina he was questioned by police officers who somehow knew Fazel lived in Italy. At the Maryland capitol he was was asked to wait and then:

Suddenly, Mr. Fazel said, he was handcuffed and rushed through corridors into a police station, where a man he later learned was a member of the Maryland Joint Terrorism Task Force with the F.B.I. started speaking to him in Farsi.

As Mr. Fazel related it, the experience went as follows:

“I’m American,” Mr. Fazel said. “I speak English.”

Another officer asked, “Where are you really from?” Mr. Fazel produced his Indiana driver’s license.

“I can tell by looking at you that you’re not from Fort Wayne,” the officer replied.

After a four-hour encounter in which he was asked about a recent trip to Iran for an Italian design magazine and about who was financing his trip to state capitols, he was released without being charged.
Ramak Fazel's has an art show about this (called 49 State Capitols) that opens tonight at the Storefront for Art and Architecture and runs through March 8th.

Hasan Elahi, an artist and professor at Rutgers, has taken this sort of Kafka-esque experience and has turned it into an on-going performance. From a Wired Magazine article about him:

Elahi's site is the perfect alibi. Or an audacious art project. Or both. The Bangladeshi-born American says the US government mistakenly listed him on its terrorist watch list — and once you're on, it's hard to get off. To convince the Feds of his innocence, Elahi has made his life an open book. Whenever they want, officials can go to his site and see where he is and what he's doing. Indeed, his server logs show hits from the Pentagon, the Secretary of Defense, and the Executive Office of the President, among others.

The globe-hopping prof says his overexposed life began in 2002, when he stepped off a flight from the Netherlands and was detained at the Detroit airport. He says FBI agents later told him they'd been tipped off that he was hoarding explosives in a Florida storage unit; subsequent lie detector tests convinced them he wasn't their man. But with his frequent travel — Elahi logs more than 70,000 air miles a year exhibiting his art work and attending conferences — he figured it was only a matter of time before he got hauled in again. He might even be shipped off to Gitmo before anyone realized their mistake. The FBI agents had given him their phone number, so he decided to call before each trip; that way, they could alert the field offices. He hasn't been detained since.

So it dawned on him: If being candid about his flights could clear his name, why not be open about everything? "I've discovered that the best way to protect your privacy is to give it away," he says, grinning as he sips his venti Black Eye. Elahi relishes upending the received wisdom about surveillance. The government monitors your movements, but it gets things wrong. You can monitor yourself much more accurately. Plus, no ambitious agent is going to score a big intelligence triumph by snooping into your movements when there's a Web page broadcasting the Big Mac you ate four minutes ago in Boise, Idaho. "It's economics," he says. "I flood the market."

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Monday, January 21, 2008

Golan Levin & Andrea Boykowycz's "unfunny" finger puppets

Golan Levin has some very funny Dutch masterwork recreations on his site. Even funnier is what he has to say about trying to show them at a Dutch art show:

My partner Andrea made all of the costumes and spent a long time crouched underneath a cardboard box while I carefully positioned her fingers. It was a new experience for me when the show's curator refused to exhibit the work he had commissioned, even though it was already listed in the catalogue. The explanation he provided was that the photos "weren't funny". About a week later I received an even more puzzling request to exhibit the project in a Taiwanese digital art festival.

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Thursday, January 17, 2008


I just posted my proposal for this year's Rhizome commission (which I posted about earlier). Here's the proposal.


Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Theo Jansen's incredible machines

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

A couple of opportunities

Yesterday Rhizome started accepting applications to their commissions program. I received a commission from them in 2006 for Email Erosion, but didn't apply last year (it seemed a bit grabby to apply again the very next year). I am applying again this year, though... and am very happy to see that they've opened up the commissions to encompass new media in general, and not just internet-based art. They'll accept:
projects that creatively engage new and networked technologies to works that reflect on the impact of these tools and media in a variety of forms. With this expanded format, commissioned works can take the final form of online works, performance, video, installation or sound art. Projects can be made for the context of the gallery, the public, the web or networked devices.
See details here

Also of interest is the "Networked" show at the Gallery Aferro in Newark. There call is for:
This is an open call for art work which can be described as networked. Whether it is connected on the net, or by physical connectors - I am looking for networked art.
More details here

Monday, January 14, 2008


More than once I have been at an electronics surplus store and paused at a pile of computer cooling fans and thought, "hmm... what could I do with those?" Here's an artist who had an answer for that. Very cool stuff!

See the video on the artist's website.

Reblogged via (who reblogged it from
Flow 5.0 is an interactive art installation consisting of hundreds of ventilators, each being controlled individually by various sensors.

Microphones and other sensors control the direction and speed of the fans as visitors pass through a corridor. The fans form the walls of the corridor, and they remain off until a visitor moves in front of them.

Daan Roosegaarde, the creator of Flow 5.0, describes it as an interactive landscape made out of hundreds of ventilators which reacts on your sound and motion. By walking and interacting the visitors creates an illusive landscape of transparencies and artificial wind.

Visit Studio Roosegaarde's website.


Thursday, January 10, 2008

Desk Set

Back in the early 90s I saw Desk Set, a Spencer Tracy/Katherine Hepburn movie, on TV. The story is about a computer expert (Tracy) who is setting up a system for storing a TV network's research department's archives. I thought the representation of computers was ridiculous.

I happened to see the movie on TV again last year, and immediately began thinking (or perhaps, just simply replaying my earlier thoughts) about the unrealism of the movie's computers. The idea that people could simply type an English phrase (e.g., "What is the annual rainfall in the Sahara?") into a computer and get an answer is just crazy! While watching the movie I brought up the IMDB to look up facts about the movie... and I did a Wikipedia search on ENIAC (the computer that the movie's EMERAC seems to be spoofing).

And suddenly I realized that technology has caught up to the movie's speculative fiction... today we can simply type a question into our computer and have it bring up the answer. (And, incidentally, the annual rainfall in the Sahara is below 25mm). The movie suddenly seemed to have a fairly sophisticated idea of computers: garbage in/garbage out (i.e., if given faulty data, the computer will return faulty data), programming bugs, poorly worded questions giving undesired answers, etc.

I remember wondering about all sorts of things as a kid and knowing that I'd never know the answer--the barrier to researching the information was simply to great for matters of idle and passing curiosity. The internet has changed that, and these days I consult the Wikipedia at the slightest impetus.

In the early world wide web days (perhaps 1995?), there was a guy who kept a log of what he ate for lunch every day... it was the first thing I saw that resembled a blog and seemed quite striking (for it mundaneness & humanity) at the time.

In the spirit of that lunch diary, here is what I looked up on Wikipedia in the last seven days (a fair percentage of these entries represent the research for the book chapter I'm writing on randomness, and not idle curiosity):

Bitter Sweet Symphony
Cryptographically secure pseudorandom number generator
Democratic Party, United States presidential primaries
Arsenio Hall
The Arsenio Hall Show
Talk show
Dick Cavett
Radioactive decay
Random seed
Hardware random number generator
Pseudo random number generator
Jackson Pollack
A Year with Swollen Appendices
Meret Oppenheim
Linear congruential generator
Pseudorandom number generator
Random number generator
Zinc toxity
Omega-3 fatty acid

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Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Blindly sculpting Lionel Ritchie

The Hello Experiment has blindfolded sculpture students modeling busts of Lionel Ritchie while listening to his 1984 hit "Hello." Surprising good results!

See the video

(via Make blog)


Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Your thoughts on randomness

I'm contributing a chapter about randomness, chance, & art to a handbook on computation and art. At this point I'm gathering my thoughts and writing paragraphs on the subject without worrying too much about the chapter's overall structure.

Most recently I was thinking about how using random variables in art does not necessarily mean a random result. The randomness of the result is completely dependent on how the artist structures the use of stochastic stimuli.

In the written thesis for my MFA exhibit I quoted Golan Levin:
His flower collages were good, but they were all equally good — and he failed to see that this made them all equally bad as well. It's one thing to endorse the beauty of unexpected outcomes, but we must confront the fact that our algorithms are capable of coldness and ugliness, too, or we will never learn anything.
Levin seems to be taking an aesthetic position that real beauty comes from a mixture of ugliness and prettiness. Or perhaps the real objection is that the outcomes aren't all the unexpected; that the algorithm for the flower generation had a narrow range of variety, so as to ensure a consistently beautiful outcome. In effect, the randomness of the flower generation is a bit of a cheat--the artist is using loaded dice.

It strikes me that there may be a sweet spot in framing how randomness manifests itself in art. If the result is too random, it is just noise. If the randomness is too constrained, it no longer is really an element of the artwork.

I've tried to come up with three simple examples of "too much variety," "not enough variety," and "just right!" The "too much variety" example is an algorithm that creates a grid of squares, each of which has an equal chance to be any one of 16,777,216 different colors. The "too little variety" example fills each square with one of three shades of blue. The "just right" algorithm fills the first square with a random color and then for each following square shifts the color by up to 0.00006% (I think I did my math right in calculating that percent... I take the current RGB hex value and add up to plus-or-minus 5).

I'm wondering, though, if my examples are stacking the deck... is this an intellectually honest analysis? I'm particularly suspicious of my "not enough variety" example. Is there a better algorithm to demonstrate that? See the three images below:

Too much variety

No enough variety

Just right!

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Cup of fur

Q. How many surrealists does it take to screw in a light bulb?
A. Cup of fur

I was thinking about my last posting and the visual pun of an everyday object being transferred into another material. It's a compelling (though perhaps obvious) motif and one I have done myself in the past (see the cast iron & cocobola wood sculpture to the right).

What's the earliest work-of-art that you can think of that takes this approach? Sculptures done in traditional materials (bronze, ceramic, wood, stone) don't really count unless the sculpture is really playing against the material (i.e., a hatchet head out of wood).

The earliest example I can think of is Meret Oppenheim's Object (Le Déjenuere en fourrure) from 1936 (aka cup of fur). The commentary I have (briefly) read about the piece has its intention as absurdist, intending to provoke disgust & rejection, and having sexual connotations. I've always seen it as a social commentary... a cup is an exceedingly utilitarian object that can be made into a luxury item in porcelain. Oppenheim has taken the luxury further by covering the tea cup in fur, with the result being an unusable utensil (i.e., an object). What I take from Object is a statement about waste and conspicuous consumption.

Anyway, I'm sure that are earlier works that use this kind of material transposition. Let me know if you can think of one! I'm wondering if we can come up with a sculpture from before Modernism--did the use of non-traditional materials and the challenging of convention simply not exist before Modernism?

Friday, January 4, 2008

Derivations redux

Here's another interesting artistic originality situation (I wrote an earlier posting on the subject). BoingBoing posted Lei Xue's porcelain beer cans. I commented on how similar the art looks to Charles Krafft's work and ended up taking part in the following discussion with J. Black:

Looks like Charles Krafft's work... or, if not, someone being very derivative of his art.

#3 posted by Author Profile Page, January 2, 2008 10:20 AM
Meh. I don't think it's right in saying Lie Xue's work is derivative of Krafft's. The medium might be similar, but the message I'm reading from them is totally different.

Krafft's use of Dutch Delft style porcelain paired with modern weaponry oozes suggestions of warfare in Europe as a timeless-yet-current situation which is both fragile and something that we keep with us as a cultural heirloom.

Lie Xue on the other hand, produces ultra iconic Ming (maybe a Kangxi hybrid!) presentation style porcelain. Traditionally used for, well, being presented to diplomats or other 'official' uses, Xue's assimilation of the techniques to produce crushed soda/beer cans is much more subversive than Krafft's in-your-face statement of fragile war. It's much more about what 'officials' do with gifts given to them in good will, or how we treat disposable/precious objects.

#4 posted by Ethan Author Profile Page, January 2, 2008 10:42 AM Appropriation/influence/originality/etc. is certainly an issue that have to continually grapple with... we all run into situations where one of our works is evocative (perhaps overly evocative) of something someone else has done.

Generally I put myself into the position of the artist doing the more recent work (Lie Xue, in this case) and ask myself would I be comfortable with the similarity... in this case I wouldn't. Perhaps the contextual avenues these two artists are exploring are different, but the roads have ended up in the same place: works that are most striking in their ostranenie niftiness. Look at it this way, there's many, many different ways Lie Xue could explore the issues you mention--why choose one which is formally so similar to someone else's work (especially given that the work ends up being a visual pun)?

Here's a recent blog post I did on a similar situation (i.e., one work of art being, perhaps, overly similar to another).

#6 posted by Author Profile Page, January 2, 2008 1:21 PM
Ethan, I still think it is important to look at the styles of pottery which each artist is using to de-familiarise the respected physical objects themselves - because each style has it's own unique subtext. They're both blue glazes, certainly, but mock-Delft does not equal mock-Ming (Kangxi?) and vice versa. The significance of each glazes historical weight makes these two pieces extremely different - as does the violent object (weapondry) vs the pleasurable-sustinance object (refreshing drink vessel). Because of that I think it's wrong to say that Lie Xue's work is formally similar to Krafft's and thus derivative. They are simply artists using ceramics with traditional style glazes. If all works who use traditional ceramic techniques but with a ostranenie twist, does that mean Shary Boyle is derivative too?

#7 posted by Ethan Author Profile Page, January 2, 2008 2:08 PM
Well, I think it's clear that Boyle visual style is distinct from Krafft, whereas Lie Xue's isn't.

You seem to be suggesting that the visual similarity doesn't matter much because the presumed conceptual intention is so very different. Again, if Lie Xue is working from such a different set of concepts, why not use a more original formal way of expressing it? If the formal manifestation is so unimportant, then why use a visual gimmick that is so closely associated with another artist? What you suggest as the conceptual underpinnings of Lie Xue's work seem much more profound than the resulting image (which, again, is a bit of a visual pun).

If I decided to create laptops, iPhones, & other bits of computer technology in ceramic with English willow patterns, would I be comfortable? I'm using a different ceramic pattern and it isn't weapons or drinking vessels and I'm sure I could explain why my concept is different. Again, perhaps you or others would feel differently, but I would think that it is a case of being too derivative and would scrap the idea (even if I made the artwork before being aware of Krafft).

It may seem like I'm advocating unbridled originality, but I generally think originality is over-rated... anything worth doing is worth doing more than once. If an idea is so fragile it loses its specialness upon being explored more than once, then it really is just a shallow novelty. I think Krafft's Delft work falls in this category--that's not to say it isn't worthwhile, just that it's limited in how often it can be repeated and still be interesting.


Thursday, January 3, 2008

[citation needed]

Citation needed is a link added to Wikipedia articles when someone thinks a particular statement needs a third party source to back it up (or someone just wants to imply a statement is false).

Matt at created citation needed stickers to add to posters that make dubious claims. Read about it here.

Update: PO8 pointed out that this idea was borrowed from xkcd

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Tuesday, January 1, 2008


I always resented connect-the-dot games... as a kid I thought they insulted our intelligent... the pattern of the dots was always clearly a turkey (or santa or a bunny or whatever). So when I was asked to do an illustration for damali ayo's I Can Fix It I decided to take the opportunity to crate a connect-the-dots that's worthwhile.

Unfortunately damali ended up having her booklet (which is a list of 10 things we can do to create healthier racial interactions) use clip art. Coordinating the artist-contributors was taking too much time (and, I suspect, a number of the contributors were only half-heartedly into the project). Anyway, I don't want to waste the connect-the-dots, so here it is (minus its original caption of "Hi, I'm white!").

Click on the image for the connect-the-dots picture. Print it out and follow these directions (it works a little differently than standard connect the dots, so you do need the directions).