[-empyre-] Animating Google: or Dragging a Fridge Across the Kitchen Floor

christopher sullivan csulli at saic.edu
Mon Feb 22 07:19:53 EST 2010

Hi Richard great to hear your thoughts. here Is part of a post from week 1

 "And for that matter the frame by frame process does break down time  
 and lead to different ways of looking at the world. But I am questioning  
starting with formal notions of Code, or digital culture as subjects. I guess
 gets back to notions of modernist painting, which is about putting color on a
flat surface. All of the great works that I am attracted to in animation, have 
 something inherently frame by frame about them, but there is an underlying  
content that  is being negotiated.As far as New Media, or digital Media, if
that is your subject matter, I am really not interested, I have never been a
formalist, and I will not start now.
 Pixels are boring, so are cell paints. I want to see animations about Love,
Hate, Sex, Death, And yes childhood memoirs fall under that list.  I believe in
teaching animation from the perspective of writer director, and have all of my
students create their own original works, those students fair far better in the
commercial world as well. 
            I believe that Technology is a tool, not a subject,  work that
to address globalism, technology, greenness, or ideas about media saturation,
seams obvious to me, and to my colleagues and students. Animation is the
medium, The content, comes from the human experience. 
      When I teach my students Rotoscoping, I show Dennis Topicoff’s His
Voice, when the lights come on we talk about the film as they all dry their
eyes, then they are interested in the possibilities of rotoscope.
      another amazing thing, ten years ago my students could not draw, now they
are all very good drafts people, thank graphic novels I guess. 
      what do others think, and turn me onto some great work you have seen
lately. Chris."


I also am having trouble with new Media, or what is considered new media, at my
school the narrow focus is making it difficult to integrate these ideas into a
wider conversation with art making. to me it is similair to material based
Clay, and sculpture which I encountered in the late 70s early eighties that
drove me away from those mediums. what is it about? what are the questions? and
space, form, material, where just not enough. perhaps one of my most hopefull
ideas in new media, is like performance, there is the notion that the work is
temporal, and I find that very exciting. temporality leaves things open, allows
interesting kinds of unfinished work. but most importantly is work in dialogue
with an audience. that does not mean the audience has to interact, but
experience it as a passing moment. 

and yes, oh yes on overemphasis on networking, almost tio the point that many
artist don't seam to care what they are actually doing, as long as it is on
skipe. to the point of people drinking beer while there video codes break up
into increasingly predictible images. I also do not consider open sourse as
being nearly as political as new media practitioners do. for instance Martin
makes very good guitars, and I do not feel I have to make my own. 
   I just want to see good work, I don't care what it is called. Chris.

Quoting Richard Wright <futurenatural at blueyonder.co.uk>:

> Yello everybody,
> here’s my opening gambit for the empyre

> For several years I worked as a “new media artist”, which I  
> originally  thought would be a logical progression after some having  
> spend some time making computer animation, digital film and video.  
> Things went reasonably well and I ended up working in one way or  
> another as a full time artist. But a couple of years ago I finally  
> gave it up after coming to the gradual realisation that “new media”  
> is an unsympathetic environment for the moving image and if I  
> continued working in this field I would drift further and further  
> away from forms of animation and moving image which I regard as my  
> “core practice”.
> The reasons for my disillusionment are connected with the way that  
> “new media” has come to be dominated by ideas of the network as its  
> overarching model. And as opposed to time based media, the network  
> has developed (so far) as a spatialising mode of expression. By this  
> I mean that in this concept of the network, everything is treated as  
> happening simultaneously across the entire system. Messages travel  
> from one desktop to another but we are only interested in them when  
> they arrive or the pattern of their interactions, not the  
> “travelling” itself. You can see the effects of this everyday, when  
> you use Google for instance. Google is supposed to be a search  
> engine, but the one thing you never see is any “searching”. You just  
> type in a keyword, press the button and results instantly appear (or  
> so we tell ourselves). The actual processing involved (which is what  
> computers are really about, their transformations, exchanges,  
> collisions) are compressed until they recede from human scale, out of  
> sight. The only form of duration that is admitted is latency – the  
> “dead time” of waiting for a request to complete, staring at the  
> little disk or hourglass spinning in some kind of suspended trance,  
> unable to continue with our work or understand the path of a progress  
> bar which habitually gets stick at 95%.
> This perhaps gives some idea of why I would argue that “new media”,  
> digital media, networked media, has developed as a distinctly  
> spatialising media. Along with this, in the new media art world,  
> conceptualism has been adopted as the aesthetic and critical  
> framework of choice. This would make sense, because a concept is an  
> essentially static object (unlike an “idea”). The temporality  
> produced by an artwork such as when simply watching a film, the sense  
> of an articulated structure of time which unfolds around you, seems  
> to have no place here. It is not even really understood (Note 1).  
> Digital artists make artworks about time but not in time. In the  
> online world things are constantly updating but not moving. Film  
> brings you to the world but the internet brings the world to you (who  
> said that?).
> There is a struggle to find (to construct) a temporality for the  
> machine, algorithm, the information society. Even in Lev’s famous  
> book the only temporal structure in new media he admits is the loop.  
> Something that I think you might agree has a very specific kind of  
> structure (perhaps more akin to music?). Now I’m not claiming I am  
> the first person to notice this. Recently I saw David Rodowick, the  
> film theorist, quoting artist Babette Mangolte saying “why is it  
> difficult for the digital image to communicate duration?” I remember  
> Sean Cubitt has commented about this (note 2). There is also some  
> connection with the arguments of Kittler, for whom the ascent of  
> writing has imposed a spatialisation on other media, reaching its  
> pinnacle with computer code which digitises and erases all other  
> forms. But perhaps writing, like music, is a different case

> So for the last year or two I have been experimenting with ways of  
> using software technologies, especially those most often associated  
> with networks, to construct my idea of what a time based new media  
> might look like. What would it look like, for instance, if Google was  
> redesigned as an animation? My first attempt used a large database of  
> images from random Google searches that I compiled for a previous  
> project (my Mimeticon “baroque search engine” - a work that will  
> probably be my last ever new media piece: http:// 
> www.futurenatural.net/projects.html#mimeticon). The result was  
> “10,000 Copyrighted Images”, a flicker film made by rendering 10,000  
> random images, one image for every frame. I called it “crime at the  
> limits of human perception”. It has a certain hypnotic, rhythmic  
> quality to it. And I like the fact that if you pause the playback the  
> image you see is completely unpredictable. But for me it’s only a  
> token first step. (I’ll add a link to this soon)
> At the moment many search engine companies are developing image  
> recognition engines to provide the ability to search by visual  
> similarity instead of entering keywords (in fact The Mimeticon  
> project above used a simple open source image recognition engine). I  
> want to see if I can use this technology, which is being aimed at  
> organising databases and searching networks, to elucidate a quality  
> of time. I am currently processing a film called “Psycho Similar”  
> which reedits Gus Van Sant’s remake of Alfred Hitchcock’s film of  
> Robert Bloch’s book based on serial killer Ed Gein who couldn’t  
> separate himself from his mother. The word “reedit” doesn’t really  
> capture what is going on as my software will resort or reorder every  
> frame on the film according to their visual similarity (all 148,000  
> of them).
> Of course I could plot out these 148,000 columns of similarities  
> spatially in an enormous rectangle, about one and a half kilometres  
> wide, and it might be quite an attractive example of data  
> visualisation (or ‘data mining’ or ‘cultural analytics’). But the  
> project is to reconstruct a new sense of continuity or development,  
> using visual similarity to rethread the film, perhaps against the  
> algorithm’s own static logic. So far the results are curious (l’ll  
> try and upload an excerpt some time). Because of Hitchcock’s use of  
> long takes (and Van Sant’s copying) many of the shots are retained  
> intact although sometimes reversed and with a constant nervous  
> twitching as frames are substituted. But otherwise I believe the film  
> looks as though it is being held back, straining to move on against  
> the force of the similarities that try to keep each subsequent image  
> as close to the preceding one as possible. Like pushing a heavy  
> fridge across the kitchen floor that keeps getting caught on a  
> protruding tile just when you think you’ve built up enough momentum  
> (perhaps also a good metaphor for animators trying to work with new  
> media
> Richard
> Notes (desperate attempt to cut down the length of this post):
> 1. What has happened to film as a time based medium in the age of the  
> network is not the same as what has happened to music and (to a  
> lesser extent) sound art. Music typically employs a different form of  
> periodicity than film. Music is a much more repetitive artform -  
> those beats, choruses, tunes, undulations. Sometimes I think there  
> should be a general moratorium on music in film until we figure out a  
> better way of how to use it.
> 2. I have come across a few attempts by other artists to address the  
> network through the moving image. One strategy is to concentrate on  
> the traffic of material across the network or the linkages between  
> nodes as though we are taking a journey through it, transposing the  
> “journey” structure of a film. Michelle Teran made a work called  
> “Looking for Mr Goodbar” that just won this years transmediale.10  
> award. She used Youtube to find all the videos made by people from a  
> certain town in Spain. Then she organised a coach journey for the  
> “audience” that travelled through the town, visiting each of the  
> amateur video makers in turn. People would watch the next video on  
> the coach monitor as they travelled like a mobile cinema across this  
> actualised network.

Christopher Sullivan
Dept. of Film/Video/New Media
School of the Art Institute of Chicago
112 so michigan
Chicago Ill 60603
csulli at saic.edu

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