Re: [-empyre-]flaws/dangers of art and technology

The Voices in my Head tell me that on 9/13/04 10:16 AM, at wrote:

> what are the flaws and dangers of working with art and technology......?

Well, this is a bit off topic, but not too much, so please indulge me. I
figure this is another discussions, so I made a new subject header.

I recently had a very similar discussion with a friend about this a few days
ago. We came to different and occasionally opposing conclusions: mine based
more on "the better work deals with content and meaning", he simply
rejecting the argument with the notion that "the best work is being done by
computer programmers". I think he's being unnecessarily reductive, but
that's another discussion...

Firstly, all artists use technology, and while some of it is more or less
paleolithic,  that's a hair-splitting argument, and I hate those.  When my
daughter minces my words, it drives me bats, so I won't go there - suffice
to say: "I know what you're saying" -

Secondly, one of my continuing gripes about working as an artist who uses
electronic technology is that I'm always having to "explain myself" to
people as to my creative process. Look at a painting: do I grind painters
over whether or not they weave their own linen, grind their own pigment from
solid rock or use nails instead of staples to affix the canvas to the
stretcher bars? Did they chop down the tree to make the stretchers?


But every time I demo my performance cinema work, or make some electronic
music or do some digital imaging, it's always

"Well, How In The Hell Did You Do That, Henry?"

I'm at the point now where half the time I simply paint a goofy smile on my
face (something I do easily) and sing something like "oo ooo ooooo IT'S

But then sometimes I'll get dragged into a discussion like

1. "Well, several years ago I wanted audio and video projected on screen
with a tight sync and triggered by a MIDI keyboard with hand operated
crossfades, and at the time, there wasn't anything that would do that and I
wanted a few other things at the same time (insert bla bla bla) so I wrote a
20 page specification for an app, and hired a programmer to write it for me,
and (bla bla bla) bingo - what you see before you...


2. "Well, for an hour I drove around the city like a lunatic in the middle
of the night with my video camera duct taped to the passenger seat's head
rest, and then I brought the footage into Final Cut Pro, and processed the
living  bejeebus out of it, and then brought it into Photoshop for further
processing, and viola: the image you see."


3. "I recorded myself playing some early stuff by Cage, and I ran it through
this program which mulches the sound like a tree chipper mulches vegetation.
Then I gave it a ton of echo, exported it, re-imported it, then I reversed
it and dumped it into a reverb turned up to 11. done."

In each of these conversations, the CONTENT of what I was doing had been
blithely ignored. The DESIGN of the results hadn't been addressed,
basically, NOTHING OF SUBSTANCE had been discussed - and that just drives me

I could have said:

A. "Well, when I found out that my home town was home to an anarchist colony
for a big chunk of the 20th century and since the colony disappeared just
before I was born, I thought that it would be a way to investigate issues of
social amnesia, local and collective suppression of history, and would make
for a really fascinating video performance by using myself and the history
of the colony as a lens of investigating my home town as a microcosmic
analysis of the American Empire."


B. "The city itself is an interesting place, and by using the automobile to
be "in it" but not really IN it, and with the resulting extremely abstracted
and processed images, I felt that was a worthwhile investigation of class
and technology. At the same time, it reduces the city to "image value" and
reifies the existence of those who call it home."


C. "I think Cage's early piano works were very romantic, and by assigning
different timbres to the note data in this particular piece, I'm fulfilling
a dream of making the piano be more than a piano - by taking this fissure
between the note data and timbre implied by the prepared piano into an
evocative and desolate sound scape."

But when I do that, I too often get blank stares - too many people don't
know how to discuss content or sensibility. It's a really irritating

"heheheh - no - really - how did you do that?"

I should say "I don't discuss process" but that's really unfriendly and
harsh, so too often, as I noted, I deflect it with humour or I say what I
think really matters and then deal with the "Deer-In-The-Headlights / What?
/ Huh? / You Didn't answer My Question / You're Out of your freakin' Mind"
look and watch the conversation quickly die.

"hehe - Yyyyaaa - OKAY Henry - right, see ya...."

And I find this repeated, over and over and over and over and over. I'll go
to panel discussions, art and technology forums, dinner parties, quilting
bees - whatever - no one discusses the phenomenal work itself: it's the
technology that's of interest, it's the process that's of interest - that
which is pre or proto-phenomenal to the work. I find those points to be the
LEAST interesting things about a given work, but too often it becomes the
central point, and that's, well, really really disheartening to me.

It shows that something really crucial is missing from our public
understanding of what Art can do for us, and how we, as a society, have
almost no common language for its understanding. Too often it's:

[Picasso's Guernica == War Is Really Bad. (end of discussion)].

I have a book on the Guerrilla Art Action Group from NYC, and one chapter
describes where the GAAG had a "sit in" lecture in front of Guernica at the
MOMA (I think - I'd have to go look at the book - it's upstairs and I'm
feeling lazy today) and the local constabulary showed up post haste and
rousted people out, including a mother and child. If someone did that
demonstration today, they'd be incarcerated as a terrorist.

Guernica / Fascist / Terrorist / Anarchist / Art / Protest / Meaning /
Content /

"Yo - Pablo - how did you do that funny thing with the horse's eye there?"


Someone wrote:

>> but rich content
>> and a new artistic work in terms of methodology and metaphor is often
>> lacking.

I don't even find methodology quite as compelling, as much as I do points of
metaphor and meaning and CONTENT. SAY something!!!! It's OK - we're all
trapped on the same leaf on the vine!

Or is that too much like arguing about religion?

{Descriptions(x) [thoughts about (imaginary friends)] -> useless dissonance}

(sound and fury)


> what does "new" really mean? (semantics/semiotics/etymology/slang
> derivation...)

Those aspects of new are not interesting to me.

In fact the idea of the "new" and the word "new" doesn't interest me. What I
find more compelling / distressing / inspiring / vexing is what New does.
I'd like to get into that, but I've shirked work way long enough for


*any technology that can be differentiated from magic is insufficiently

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