(This is me, burning social capital.)
This is how my mind works.
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(This is me, burning social capital.)
L. Paul Bremmer III
Nude with Matisse Colors (2009)
…You may remember L. Paul Bremer III as the administrator of the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) immediately following the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. Astute readers may also recall that he presided over such decisions as the dismantling of the Iraqi army, the “de-Baathification" of Iraq’s government, some questionable financial decisions involving hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of Iraqi money, and the scandal over prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib.
But the real question is, what’s he up to now?
…Unbearably fucking spooky, considering its creator.
Somebody fucked up. Maybe it was me.
The filmmaker Chris Marker died on Monday, at the age of 91. He started making movies in the 50’s, a very particular kind of stop-motion science fiction. He made documentaries, short films, he had a Youtube channel and created an enclave in Second Life. He was obsessed with time and identity and was, apparently, respected tremendously by people I respect tremendously. Eulogizing came from William Gibson, Kevin Slavin, Justin Lincoln, Simon Sellars, Sacha Frere-Jones, Seth Colter Walls, etc., praise for his work coupled with a sort of surprise at talking about him.
Usually, at a time like this, I can congratulate myself for being able to say I know his work. I’m not especially cultured, nobody ever taught me how to be. My world is small and not very interesting, but I’ve been lucky to know some fascinating people and, at least, have the desire to seek out novel things. I keep up, maybe, or I lag nearer behind than most.
…But I had never heard of Chris Marker, not a mention of his name. If I ever came across a reference, it was lost. I went back and searched. Tumblr and Twitter’s search features are worthless, so I checked Google Reader. I’ve followed a few hundred blogs for a few years: 17 references to Marker since 2006. Here’s Enrique Ramirez at this is a456, in 2009: “An Experiment in Description”
Film Forum, 57 Watts Street, Manhattan (ca. 1983)
How to describe attendance. Local fire code (N.Y.C.F.C. §§ 108-12 et seq.) maintains a maximum occupancy of 222. Even at 75% occupancy, the theater seems crowded. Gross box office numbers (see, for example, Alfred Candlemaker’s exhaustive “Ut Pictura Poesis”: Excavating Gulf+Western Annual Reports, 1966-1984) describe attendance on a per-capita basis. Literally. Each moviegoer represents a certain percentage of moviehouse receipts. The National Association of Theater Owners (NATO) shows that the average price of a ticket in 1983 was $3.15. At full occupancy, Film Forum will make $699.30 per showing. At 75% occupancy, Film Forum will make $524.48 per showing. A week-length run of Sans Soleil in 1983 ran to an average of $350 per screening – a little over 50% occupancy per night.
In the Times, Carla Chocano calles platforms like Tumblr and Pinterest “longing machine[s],” saying of them what my old philosophy professor said about porn, that we desire desire, not whatever it mimics, that we gather images and quotes because we like feeling the absent-real better than the real-itself. The NY Observer chronicles a rogues gallery of “curators,” similarly sullen about blogging:
Asserting that she believes there is a “problem” with “applying the word ‘curation’ to every Tumblr,” Ms. Popova called it a “real leap of logic” to equate “one person’s individual Tumblr” with, by convenient example, the Lapham’s Quarterly Tumblr, which she described as “astounding,” “really thoughtful” and “layered.”
Mr. Geffen came somewhat closer to explaining a distinction between individual and institutional curation. “We could easily create seasons that would sell out,” he said, speaking of the Carnegie Hall concert programmers. “We’d essentially be presenting familiar works, works you know are going to be enjoyed by the audience.”
“But that’s not the role of Carnegie Hall. That’s not the role of a cultural institution that’s invested in the future of the art form,” Mr. Geffen argued, adding, “You always have to be one step ahead of your audience.”
Ms. Hoffmann suggested that the relationship between curator and audience is becoming increasingly difficult to navigate. Speaking somewhat condescendingly of tourists who are primarily interested in seeing Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” at the MoMA, she expressed concerns regarding the effects of uninformed public opinion in shaping art.
Catch that? Individuals and their blogs just give you what you already want. Institutions tell you what you’re going to want. Or something. Worse, individuals and their blogs risk forcing institutions to “curate” our taste.
Just, nobody was born wanting to see “Starry Night.” It was shown to them, to you. Taste doesn’t spring fully formed from your head, or from anyone else’s. It accumulates, aggregates.
What does this have to do with Chris Marker?
If only by volume, Tumblr is where I’m exposed to the most information. Institutions, insofar as they’re dedicate to opposing what they see as plebeian blogging, don’t break into my world very often. The gravity of great cultural institutions drops off outside major cities and the upper income brackets. Yes, much of Tumblr is repetitive, cyclical even, but I don’t mind seeing, say, a flood of Richard Avedon portraits if they’re posted by fans, better by obsessives. Ideally, this curation (or whatever it is) is done in the service of love, evangelical rather than anesthetic. From the Observer, again:
An audience member at the panel spoke up, questioning the difference between curation and aggregation. “There’s a really thin line between them,” he asserted, suggesting that this line was perhaps blurring and even disappearing.
“I don’t think the line is actually that thin at all,” Ms. Popova responded sharply. Curation, she said, is more about “editing and subtraction” and reflects “a point of view,” whereas she defined aggregation as more of a compilation driven by curiosity.
Love and evangelism are points of view. Subtraction is the problem, at least it’s my problem, why I spent my life never seeing Sans Soleil till now.
Certainly, I’m guilty of overlooking those 17 mentions of Marker. There were likely many more than that, equally overlooked, but why wasn’t he being passed around on Tumblr like Richard Brautigan or Klimt?
…Of course, I don’t actually blame anybody else for my ignorance, but I do think this is an object lesson, an opportunity for me to advocate a sort of maximalist-blogging. Show people the things you love, in their fullness. Don’t just collect images or words to collage, present them as if you were laying them out on a table, offering them up to the sight of someone you care about. And show them all, more catalog than gallery. That’s the only way people like me can learn, same as the only way anyone can learn, by being shown something.
I am, perhaps, a bad yardstick, but I can’t be alone.
"…He was prepared to meet Dr. Frakenstein, the Mad Scientist. Instead, he met a reasonable man who explained calmly that the human race was doomed. Space was off-limits. The only hope for survival lay in Time. A loophole in Time, and then maybe it would be possible to reach food, medicine, sources of energy. This was the aim of the experiments: to send emissaries into Time, to summon Past and Future to the aid of the Present…"
— RIP Chris Marker
How is it that I never heard of Chris Marker till the day he died?
(Turn the Closed Captioning on.)
hood greenscreen. newports w/ feedback
Of all the things I’ve learned, there are only two things I’m really sure of. One is that “the future doesn’t have to be like the past.” The other is that “there is no new thing under the sun.” Make of the paradox what you will.
"…[D]ip a wire frame in soapy water, and the soap bubble surfaces immediately conform to the conformation that minimizes their surface energy. Solve the equations governing surface energy minimization for a complex wire geometry, and the same process takes hours, or massive computational resources – along with lots of electrical energy. If this behavior of nature could be harnessed, it could be used to create a computer that requires no power and performs calculations instantaneously.
To use a simpler analogy, if you had two tanks of fluid, each at a different temperature, and you mixed the two fluids at a specified rate, this would perform a fixed averaging calculation. By changing the flowrates, the temperatures, and so on, you could change the specifics of the solution being found, but the idea is to harness natural systems and their natural behavior to perform lono computing.
This can quickly grow in scale to immense conceptual computers like the atmosphere, or tiny systems like diffusing molecules or proteins. With inverse lono computers, the primary limitation is no longer computational speed, but input/output (I/O) and boundary/initial conditions. Instrumentation would be needed to measure the responses of different systems (for example, the temperature of a mixed fluid, or the particular surface geometry of soap bubbles in a complex wire frame), and this instrumentation becomes the main limitation.”
If a physical system does something effortlessly, why bother simulating it?
The nearly infinite possibilities of digital systems drew us in, years ago, and kept us dreaming up ever more complex and corespondent simulations. Digital is great, but the possibilities still unrealized in analog (that is, physical) systems shouldn’t be overlooked. It’s a subject I keep coming back to, as in my essay for Paleofuture Magazine. An excerpt:
I. Antique Hyperreality
The pinnacle of analog arrival/departure board technology was the Solari “split flap” board. Built through the mid-1990’s by the Italian company Solari di Udine, the they were iconic, hanging above train stations and airports from New York to Kolkata, click-click-clicking through stacks of names and numbers in quick time. Being iconic, however, doesn’t spare a technology from change. These days, only a few analog Solari boards remain in operation (in Providence, Philadelphia, London, not many more), having been replaced by quicker, more flexible digital boards. Such change isn’t unreasonable, though it hurts the nostalgic among us.
Boston’s South Station replaced its Solari board in 2006. The interior of South Station is cavernous, a wide open concourse with lacing metal beams across the ceiling, The new, LED board is proportional to the space, tall and wide and silently cycling through the names of New England towns I’ve spent my life passing through.
There was a catch, though. The space and its bustle make announcements hard to understand. The silent board can tell you where you’re going and when, but only if you’re paying attention. That unmistakable, analog clicking of a Solari board was a subtle reminder to check for your train and the sound was directional, drawing your gaze where it needed to be. Not merely formless nostalgia, the lack of analog noise from the slick digital board meant that people were missing trains. So, the MBTA did the common sense thing; they started piping mechanical clicks through the sound system whenever the LED schedule updates, mimicking the analog technology. So often “progress” is synonymous with “efficiency,” we risk forgetting what both mean.
We’re bad at predicting the future, but you already knew that. We’re in flux, constantly remembering and forgetting our limited capacity to imagine what the world will look like. Still, our predictions have the power to change things, for a time, in limited ways, either by sheer force of will, or some larger cultural shift. Thus, we live in a world of unintended consequences. Accidental convergences and externalities become foundational. Things we think vital are often disposable, things we’ve never given a second though to are often all too necessary. Thus, a modern digital display mimics the mechanical churn of its predecessor, which is petty but telling. The world is full of these missteps and they congregate closest where the old stands beside the new.
The term for Reid’s proposal, above, (and the title of the essay it comes from) is “Solarpunk.” I’m not sure it represents any real revolutionary shift, nothing of a movement yet, but it does provide a valuable new perspective, a paradigm and a vocabulary through which to describe one possible future. Consider it the flip side of steampunk, looking forward instead of back; still seemingly anachronistic, but free from nostalgia. We’re bad at predicting the future, but our predictions still have the power to change things.
…’How do we see black now?’ Shah interjects. ‘As a dynamic color?’ There is excited chatter. Black has shed its cultural baggage as a negative color. The Italians ‘did a big statement’ about black. The big Yohji Yamamoto retrospective down the road at the V&A. The noncolor that is all colors. Exciting new materials that help black transcend its blackness.
So the new black is … black? Leatrice Eiseman, a color consultant and the sole American at the meeting, (the sole ‘pragmatic American,’ as she describes herself), speaks for the first time. ‘What I fear about making a general sweeping statement about black is that we know we’ve been there—who doesn’t know about black? What’s new about it?’ Animated conversation ensues.
Twice a year, in some European capital, in a room purposely chosen to be drab and sparse—so as not to influence the color mood—Shah gathers a stable of colorists, each of whom works with his or her own country’s national color groups (who traditionally have worked with textile companies and others to set color standards), as well as consulting with companies ranging from Airbus to Zara to Union Carbide. Where the rest of us see black, these are people who talk about the ‘family of black.’ Over two days, they will each pitch a palette concept, organized roughly around a theme that has been chosen in advance (this time, it’s ‘unity’), that they believe will be dominant in Spring/Summer 2013. The results are published in Pantone View, a $750 publication that is purchased by companies across a broad consumer landscape, from fashion designers to supermarket chains to the floral industry. (‘Everybody’s into white flowers at the moment,’ Shah tells me, ‘there are definitely movements, even in flowers.’)
The meeting is a high-concept show-and-tell fused with a cultural anthropology seminar, with Shah alternately playing the role of interlocutor and air traffic controller. Like novelist William Gibson’s trend-hunter Cayce Pollard, Shah can unleash a torrent of cultural memes on command. Expounding in one instance on the ‘unity’ theme, he riffs: ‘We’re talking a lot about community, neighborliness, moving from macro to micro economy. The whole ‘rurban’ thing—local food, local chocolate. At the same time, the simplification of things, reducing complications. Don’t make any instruction manuals—things should be intuitive. Computers that will think for you, read your gestures, actually tell you when to go shopping. You go into Gap, it starts suggesting products for you, connecting your friend’s taste to your taste. It’s all about choosing together.’ He pauses, a quick intake of breath, before firing: ‘How many people use Twitter here?’ ‘Oh, God,’ retorts the Frenchwoman.”
Tom Vanderbilt, Pantone color forecasts: Are they accurate? - Slate Magazine
Vanderbilt describes a hush-hush meeting of color mavens, convened every summer by Pantone, to decide what will be the colors of the following season.
The paragraph about David Shah’s stream-of-consciousness cultural dissection made my head hurt, but in a familiar way.
This is the proof that getting deep into any niche of culture means that you have to get more connected to everything that niche touches.
…And when you get deep enough, you find that everything is connected to more or less everything else, if only as a detail in next year’s $750 color catalog.
…Is there an overall concept to “/SYS”?
I was thinking about it as a stoner pirate webcast from the future. Overall though, I worked on “/SYS” from an intuitive place. I think the music video is a great medium to try things that might not necessarily work for a single-channel video piece, but really take off when they are in a new context.
Turns out that, more than just being a fan of Theo’s work, I’m a fan of “sci-fi R&B.”
…stoner pirate webcast from the future.
Commuters walk through a thunderstorm in Manhattan, New York.
On Twitter, you could watch the storm roll through New England, to New York and down as an assemblage of photos and exclamations. Frank Chimero’s tweets might be the most instructive, a narrative within the meta-narrative. Just like this image. The story is there. The trick is seeing it.
(Eternal gratitude to Kevin Slavin for finding glitchnews.)
Sentences are made wonderfully one at a time. Who makes them. Nobody can make them because nobody can what ever they do see.
All this makes sentences so clear I know how I like them.
What is a sentence mostly what is a sentence. With them a sentence is with us about us all about us we will be willing with what a sentence is. A sentence is that they cannot be carefully there is a doubt about it.
The great question is can you think a sentence. What is a sentence. He thought a sentence. Who calls him to come which he did.
…What is a sentence. A sentence is a duplicate. An exact duplicate is depreciated. Why is a duplicated sentence not depreciated. Because it is a witness. No witnesses are without value.”
— Gertrude Stein, from “Sentences and Paragraphs.” (via ecantwell)
Talk page on this page including itself: “This is an encyclopedia, not a computer science problem”
…When pressed, I describe what I write about as “the Hofstadter beat.”
Also, you should probably follow my old friend Jamison.
Oase Nr. 7, a personal oasis with a diameter of 8 metres protruded from the façade of the Museum Fridericianums during the 1972 Documenta.
The exhibition, titled Inner World / Innen Welt: The Projects of Haus-Rucker-Co., 1967-1992, shows archival drawings and collages, photographs, models and original ephemera spanning Haus-Rucker-Co.’s 25-year collaboration. The show marks the 20-year anniversary of Haus-Rucker-Co.’s dissolution. Haus-Rucker-Co. was founded in 1967 by Laurids Ortner, Günther Zamp Kelp and Klaus Pinter, later joined by Manfred Ortner. Already working together as Ortner & Ortner on major building commissions from the mid-1980s, Manfred and Laurids Ortner went on to develop an extensive portfolio of built projects, propelling the preoccupations of Haus-Rucker-Co. into a new realm.
(via we make money not art)