Tuesday, August 4, 2009

partial migration

Hi folks!
Since I am trying to consolidate many of my disparate activities around the distribution of my new book, I started a new blog here:

where I will be spending most of my blogging hours until further notice!
see you there!

Monday, November 24, 2008

4-d portraits at Sangsang Madang, Seoul

flatness study : achim at Sangsang Madang, Seoul, Korea
October 18th- November 2nd, 2008

Many of us are frustrated with the paucity of depth of the media simulacra. 3-d computer animation has become an extremely effective and popular means of avoiding this problem.

Much of our most vital information today, however, comes to us in the form of photographic and videographic documents. Compared to computer-generated ones, these documents are far more ungainly to work with in attempts to engender a more dimensional documentary media work.
The documents are ungainly with the richness of information about the world they contain, thus the question of resolution includes the question of discoursive priorities.

The question of the point of view of the documentary gaze, of course has been much discussed.

Photo- videographic documents represent a view through a lens, light reflecting off the subject and into the receptor near the documentarist.
We get a slice of life, light-thin and glowing. What it lacks in depth, me make up for with our imagination, this is the double bind of today's media.

McLuhan's cool media is lacking a lot of detail and thus allows us to be more active making up for the missing part. This is the fascination and the frustration with new media.

In Flatness Studies I am trying to warm up cool media by presenting a video document, almost a portrait of a person in a moment of their life, but from several vantage points at once.
In a way, the process hearkens back to the early days of photography where the subject had to remain still for a long time.

The young man in this portrait is about to join the army to do his compulsory service. I asked him what he feared and hoped most will have changed in him once he has completed his service.

Here, making the most of the capacity of video to give at least the depth of time, the moment of portraiture can be expanded. In the case of this work, the moment is between 4/5ths of a second and 6 seconds.

The result is a kind of sculptural modeling of the long moment using flat media. The interesting thing for me is the 'déclenche' (what is released) as the temporal fact of each particular document begins to meld, since, of course each vantage point of the 'same' expression must have taken place at a different historical time. We have an insight into the nature of the most important activity for the creation of meaning in the age of information overflow, that of editing.

In 2009, I was invited to Banff New Media Institute to further develop the Flatness Studies series into the 4-D Photo Studio.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Saturday, June 14, 2008

The Obsolescence of the Flesh

The Obsolescence of the Flesh, part 1
The Flattening of the World
By Baruch Gottlieb

“Only open wide your eyes, only disregard what you cannot understand, and you will see that the ploughman whose intelligence and ideas extend no further than the bounds of his furrow, does not differ essentially from the greatest genius.”(1)

At issue is the tissue of digital media, it’s materiality, it’s substance.

The contemporary citizen of the media-sphere, a-swath in information of every kind, may experience a depletion of meaning with the increasing ease of access to an ever-wider array of contents of various types. Do these contents individually somehow thus lose meaning? And, if so, how does the experience of the world lose meaning as a result of technological saturation? I will attempt to approach these questions in the lines that follow. My aim is, furthermore, to suggest a radical approach to counter this trend, a simple intellectual exercise which, when practiced, may reveal unexpectedly vast mines of meaning hidden in the surfaces of the technologies right before our eyes.

The explosive creative potential of digital media comes with homogeneity. This homogeneity begins with a flattening. Just as photographic printing allowed for Dada collages of all kinds of heretofore incongruous imagery with text breaking down the hegemonies of established meaning and cracking open the white light of pure electrical expression. All the things of world, flattened photographically into print, became interchangeable, and thus infinitely juxtaposable, at once unleashing enormous creative potential , and destabilizing old systems of meaning. Flattening meant equally, that the high-budget glamour shot of famous actresses could be on the same page as the humble writing of an unknown poet, Mainstream culture was appropriated into art through collage long before Warhol made it central.

With this leveling of content, this flattening, however, no new meanings were created, in fact, artistic discourse became polarized between a conservativism which relies on creating luxury products for collectors and, a new form of pure art which valued the un-commodified gesture of the artist, above all. Fluxus, the anti-art-capital-art movement par excellence, fittingly embodies this dilemma...

George Maciunas and his amorphous ‘group’ explored a new form of interventionist social experimentation, they called art. Fluxus works were purposely incomplete, and often made up of conflicting and incongruous contents. The agenda was the liberation of the creative and emancipatory potential of the mundane.

With digital technology we achieve the next stage of homogenization of contents. Now, not only images and text, but also sounds and moving images, in fact computer records of any kind, credit, medical travel, are interchangeably made of the same stuff, the homogeneous atoms of electronic information known as 'bits'. As such, they can be treated with refreshing equanimity by the computers we need to view digital content.

The equanimity of computers wears off on us. The computer does not know the difference between a photo of a pile of human corpses and a recipe for cheesecake, or the recording of a baby’s first words. The creative potential of the digital revolution of flattening is even more exponential that that of simple physical flattening. It is claimed the possibilities are literally endless.

One thing we can say for sure, with seemingly endless possibilities it becomes ever more difficult to make a choice. Meaning always involves a choice, of priorities, one thing must be more important than another, for there to be meaning.

Lets look at the materiality of an item of digital media. We can trace it back in two ways, it’s direct empirical materiality and the materiality of its origin.  Given that all digital contents are made of homogeneous bits, how did this particular smidgen of bits take the form of a photo or of a pop song, what is the historicity of this package of bits, this media item?

Following the direct empirical materiality we can only say that the media item has one fundamental ingredient: energy, or electricity. Electrical switches still provide the basis for all computation today. The switch is on or off, the dimensionality of digital media is one.

Human beings communicate today with increasing alacrity due to the flattening of representational forms. However, to make the process even more efficient, human beings are adapting to the machine circumstances of their intercourse and affecting a form of flattening on themselves. The satisfaction of social networking, for example, increases with the amount and the currency of the actual information one ‘shares’ with others using the service. 

In order to ‘share’, one must translate one’s gravity-bound three- (or multi-) dimensional humanity into digital forms, which are apparently two-dimensional and weightless on the display, and in fact part of the one-dimensional global ocean of digital media. The process of the ‘flattening’ of real-time human experience has begun. By all reports, they day is not far off where citizens will voluntarily implant themselves with digital technology in order to share with more spontaneity and versatility. This means, for humanity, three-dimensionality is acquiring nostalgia, as it acquires obsolescence.

The relationship between one-dimensional electrical data and the obsolescing human three-dimensionality is stands for is both cultural and physical.

The cultural relationship includes, of course, the economic value of the media contents, the meanings of which are largely allusion, like any language, an adaptable system of semantic prompts intended to motivate the subject the satisfaction of social needs i.e. Truth.

The homogeneity of digital media offers us a new lingua franca which is not only used for semantic contents but also as the apparatus of their conveyance. As Manovich described, program and contents are made of the same stuff, therefore instead of 2+2=4, in digital media the content and the 'functionality' is made of the same stuff , therefore, for the computer, 2=+, two equals plus.
"New media may look like media, but this is only the surface" (2)
With no differentiation between content and conveyance, we are bound to the implicit electrical agenda of our technology, which is to be explored through its materiality.

“Perhaps for the first time in Western Culture, we find revealed the absolutely open dimension of a language no longer able to halt itself, because, never being enclosed in a definitive statement, it can express truth only in some future discourse” (3)

One might argue whether it is the bit of electrical current or of monetary currency which has become the true lingua franca of today’s quest for truth. One may postulate that money represents the fading sign of mass in flattening human relations.

The physical relationship between one-dimensional digital media and the human organism comes from their shared electrical functionality. It is long known that the ‘high functions’ of the human organism employ electricity inside the body, first intimated by Descartes and de la Mettrie, and finally formalized by JW Ritter(4) . Now we can begin to see how the destiny of the human organism is to increasingly shed its cumbersome physical form and merge electrically with the unceasing data flows of augmented post-human intercourse.

In the second part of this article I will discuss in detail the material historicity (the materiality of the origin) of the digital media object and explore a strategy to establish a useful paradigm of cultural meaning in the circumstance of humanity merging with it’s data in a one-dimensional ur-reality.

(1) de La Mettrie, Julien Offray, Man a Machine, 1748 (trans. CM Shalizi 1995), http://www.cscs.umich.edu/~crshalizi/LaMettrie/Machine/, accessed 15-06-2008
(2) Manovich, Lev “Language of New Media” MIT Press Cambridge 2001 (p. 47)
(3) Foucault, Jacques “The Order of Things” Routledge, London, 2007, p.45
(4) Ritter, J. W.: Das electrische System der Körper. Ein Versuch. Leipzig: Reclam 1805 (review in Allgemeine Literatur-zeitung No. 31 Jan. 29 1808)

The Obsolescence of the Flesh, Part 2
The Historical-Material Facts of the Origin of the Digital Document
by Baruch Gottlieb

In the first part of this article I mentioned two approaches towards describing a materiality of the digital media item. First, I described the 'direct' materiality, which is essentially electric. The second materiality is historical.

I am preparing to publish this in book form, so, for the time being, I have taken the second part off line. If you want to read it, please contact me through this site.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

images from Habeas Corpus

I finally got some images from the Seoul Marginal Theater Festival people of the live version of Habeas Corpus. Habeas Corpus enterprises a 'syntax of human form' which, derived in part from dance and mime, in an encyclopedic pretension to tell the human stories inside all the technologies we use every day.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Revisiting the Moran Museum Show

The "5 colours, I" show is going on at Moran Museum until the end of March, so I thought I'd swing by and make sure everything is still working properly before I take off back home for a couple of weeks.

I took the opportunity to replace some of the video clips in the interactive display with some new ones I had been working on before the Songdo project jumped up and swallowed me last week.

New in these clips are musical sounds and more complex and delicate time layering. As I was working and reworking the same footage from the construction of the wall, I started to explore the limits of the documentary ability of the data. Without adding new material, how could I give more depth to the representation of labour in the 2-d of the display? The object , as before, was to represent the video emanation, it's luminescence in the Museum space, directly to the labour required for it to exist.

I tried a couple of things in the music, but mainly slowing sounds down until they became harmonic drones, which adds a nice 'choral' touch in the reverberant space.

Lots of students around, so I got to see them fiddling around doing a lot of shadow play trying to get the results they wanted from the rudimentary interface. It seems the best way to navigate the database in this work is to dance through projection space, that fits just right!