Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Reader Response: “Distracted Reception,” Peter Osborne; "Artifacts" by Daniel Rourke

This reading focused upon the perceived connection between distraction, and the perceptions of contemporary art within our technology-driven world by Peter Osborne.  Osborne argues that distraction, although usually viewed in a negative light, is actually crucial to the perception and creation of art as a differentiation from everyday life.  However, this assertion is inherently dependent upon the assumption of the exact definition of the word “distraction” and I often found myself unsure in which context Osborne meant to apply the word.  The OED defines distraction as a forcible “splitting” of attention, which is often perceived or received in a negative manner, where Osborne seems to portray it as a selective and deliberate shift in attention.  This is a much more positive portrayal of distraction and its often unproductive function (or lack thereof) in our daily lives.  The fact that in this article he seems to be arguing that it functions within art as not only a positive force, but a crucial one, was surprising to say the least.     

In the article “Artifacts,” much of the phenomena Rourke describes are the technical processes of the gradual loss of data—the inevitable decay of digital files throughout travel, reproduction, or changes in format.  He argues that this is prevalent in most forms of communication, and in all forms of digital production, as files of any sort will be “forced to change and reformat within different states of matter.”  However, although this is an interesting point, I fail to see how uses of non-digital mediums, such as analog film, are “ludicrous” and based upon “nostalgia.”  These mediums may be used to portray differing ideas or perspectives that a digital format may not be able to accomplish with a same effect—perhaps an artist desires their work to remain in its original form, without the warping or gradual degradation over time.  It may be argued that works will change over time inevitably, no matter their medium, but this effect is undoubtedly sped up and amplified by publishing in a digital form. 

The link for the online article "Artifacts" can be found here  

Monday, February 24, 2014

Self-Assessment, Project 1: "beach window"

Self-Assessment, Project 1: beach window

Identify the central theme of your work. What drove you to create this image?
The central themes of my work beach window are the perspectives of the place, or a location, and the way by which they may shift, or remain static.  There’s always a certain aura to a location, and in this project, I wanted to capture the mood of a place.  Adding an extra dimension, I wished to explore the way in which associations will shift and change over time, although the landscape physically may not—essentially, a shifting of perspectives, or a lack thereof.  The inspiration for this particular theme is rooted in my own exploration of St. Mary’s College, and the landscapes surrounding.  Although this particular landscape has physically changed very little, my perception of them has made them, in my eyes, shift drastically.  This project deals essentially with time and memory, inspired in part by my impending graduation, but specifically memories and associations that may be triggered by a certain place, and affected by the duration of time that has occurred since the last memorable event happened.  These “happenings” are mostly personal within this particular project, although in future works I may want to focus upon events that have affected others, not only myself, and may be more politically-charged in nature.

Talk about how the process unfolded.
The actual process of the work itself was a long one, and for the most part, quite sporadic.  A good part of the project was spent simply learning the technical skills needed in order to accomplish slow motion and time-warping video, which were two techniques I knew I wanted to feature within my first project.  However, the process behind the idea of the project was much more abstract, and involved quite a bit of soul-searching and travel.  Initially, I wanted to pick up from a previous project that I had done as an assignment for ART105, in which I strived to portray a “portrait” of time, through the capture of a GIF image.  This image, or “portrait of a moment,” would represent a small snippet of a passed moment within time.  I was interested in the concept of time and memory, and how the two may interact with one another in order to create a series of “portraits” of a place. 
My first actual shoots that went towards the project took place in Washington D.C. with a few friends of mine, as I experimented with slow motion video, specifically the ways in which rising smoke could be captured on slow motion video.  Although I managed to compile decent material, the idea behind them was not fully realized, so the shots that I took have been placed aside for the time being.  I learned a valuable lesson regarding lighting however, as the light requirements for high-speed shooting is much greater than slower exposure times, and if not armed with decent lighting, doing a high-speed shoot at night is virtually impossible, even with a fast lens.  My next shoot, after this venture, took place at Point Lookout State Park, about 18 miles from the college.  The weather was cold, stormy, and snowy, but I was determined to capture footage of the snow and high winds beating against the waves and the grass, as I thought that the overall effect would be mesmerizing in slow motion.  With a friend to help carry my tripod, and a few paper towels to dry my camera from the driving sleet, we went out on the rocks, capturing a few angles before I finally found the angle that allowed a satisfactory view of both the ocean waves breaking on the rocks, and the waving grass along the shoreline, being beaten by the driving sleet.  Using the tripod to create continuity between the alteration between still photography and video shots, and attempt to prevent excessive shaking of the camera from the high winds, I captured a few shots of 60 fps video, each spanning slightly over a minute, and accompanying still shots of the same scene.  My original intention was to layer not two videos on one another, but a still image of a wave breaking, and a separate layer of video featuring the grass waving incessantly, the whole piece a looping video with selective motion, similar to a GIF image.  When I started editing the video, however, I realized that in addition to further portraying my intended theme of memory and time associated with place, the video may more dramatically communicate this to the viewer by reversing the flow of the waves, in direct conflict with the slow forwards-motion of the waving grass.                        

Examine your process. What were your work habits? Were they effective?
My editing process started admittedly quite late into the assignment, as I had little time throughout the week to do shooting specific to the project, and I was also waiting for the desired conditions—I had decided that a high-wind situation would be most visually striking in a slow motion format.  The shoot was finished successfully by Saturday afternoon, but editing still lay ahead.  It did not take me too long to acquire the needed skills and knowledge of Final Cut Pro X in order to complete the multi-layering and time-warping aspects of the project (after watching many, many tutorials) but due to rendering issues with my laptop, it took me hours to export the completed video.  Even while editing, the laptop would crash after running the program for longer than half an hour.  This stretched the time needed to edit the project significantly, and I spent all of Sunday and some of Monday simply attempting to prevent my machine from crashing.  It would take several minutes for the computer to acknowledge even simple tasks.  Since this occurrence, I’ve learned to certainly not wait until the last moment for large assignments such as these, since although I managed to export at least a piece of the completed work, I was still under massive stress having my laptop malfunction on such a frighteningly steady basis.  When dealing with new terrain in terms of software updates and new techniques, it is definitely best to get the shooting done as quickly as possible, leaving plenty of time for the final edit.   

Address the finished product.
            Although I was hard-pressed to complete the project due to computer processing and software troubles, I am immensely satisfied with the final product.  Not only did it allow me to explore previously untouched territory in film editing, but it also conveyed the intended idea in our classes’ crit session.  The end product is visually thought-provoking, in the sense that the slow-moving waves and grass both compliment and contrast one another—one travels forward in time, while the other travels back.  The colors are natural, yet dark—the tones suggest a darker, underlying meaning behind the relatively innocent subject matter.  The relationship between the moving grass and moving water is important, and is highlighted by their manipulated timespan.  On first glance, the viewer may not perceive anything out the ordinary, but rather a simple glimpse into a normal beach scene.  However, upon further examination, it’s apparent that there’s something out of the ordinary—the complete silence builds tension, and the water moving backwards against the tide creates a dreamlike scene.  The rope, although subtle, draws the viewer’s eye around the work.  Although the work is a video, the static camera treats the frame much as still photograph would, allowing a strategic revealing and veiling of elements inside and out of the frame.  The viewer is forced to focus upon this scene, contemplating it, with their associations and perceptions changing the longer they view the piece.     

Lastly, give yourself a grade for this project.
            I would give myself an A on this project.  I spent a good deal of time on it, both conceptually and in practice, and I tried out many ideas before finally settling on one that I thought fit my intention the best.  I was plagued by computer troubles, but learned from it, and was ultimately able to churn out a successful piece.  It seems to me an advancement in the right direction from the work that inspired it, and certainly leaves room for further improvement and refinement. 

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Reading Response: "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction," Walter Benjamin, 1936

I found this reading interesting, particularly section 15, in which Benjamin arrives to the crux of his argument of the changing aspects of art in modern times, the "age of mechanical reproduction."  In this section, Benjamin argues that the arts (in particular, film) may be perceived absent-mindedly without losing their power and value.  He draws comparisons between film and architecture, stating that architecture functions similarly to film, as it is less pondered upon than it is experienced, through sight and touch, absent-mindedly and by "habit" but still perceived nonetheless.

Even though this essay is dated 1936, I found the issues discussed eerily relevant to today's discourse upon contemporary art, especially the rise of the Internet, and video games.  These two new mediums for art are rapidly growing in use and expression, and their perception echoes that of the film and architecture, a perception grounded in "habit."  I sincerely wonder what Benjamin would have to say about the state of arts in today's world, and if it would appear similar to that of his views back in 1936.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Reading Response: "New Culture of Learning," Chap. 2-3

As someone interested in the application and future direction of education in today's world, I found this reading, A New Culture of Learning by Douglas Thomas and John Seely Brown, immensely interesting.  It addresses many issues within modern-day learning that I find compelling, and not only raises the issues at hand within the education system of the rapidly changing world in which we live, but also how to fix problems within the way society passes down knowledge.

Throughout chapters 2 and 3 of the article, the author introduces the reader to the numerous issues facing the education system, through the window of technology and change, most notably, the advent of the Internet.  Learning and education, first off, are immensely important to our society, and civilization would arguably not exist as we know it today if learning and education was not prevalent and valued within society.  I've often made the argument that without learning, mankind would become extinct, based upon the fact that we are not instinctive creatures, we rely upon the learned knowledge of our forefathers in order to continue building and innovating.

Within this article, the author posits that in order to continue building and innovating in the same way we have in the past, we must adopt a newer, less outdated perspective upon education, one that embraces change, rather than shirking away from it.  An example I found tremendously helpful when discussing his argument was the comparison between Wikipedia and the Encyclopedia Brittanica--a study found that despite popular belief, both sources are similar in informational accuracy.  However, the way in which they build their databases are inherently different.  Wikipedia, a web-based source that is updated many, many times a day, is able to shift and essentially "re-publish" information quickly, in accordance to newly-realized theories and practices, whereas Encyclopedia Brittanica, a paper-bound publication, must sort through all manner of contemporary discoveries and theories, decide upon one, and publish it until the next series the following year.  

Wikipedia and Encyclopedia Brittanica are both sources of information, but based upon differing methods of collecting information, and can represent two differing methods of learning--one community-based, and another more centralized, standards-based.  The argument the authors posit is that in order to keep up with a rapidly changing, digitally-based world, the education system must adapt and change as well, blending environment with structure.    

Artwork Post

Ravenswood, 2013