Monday, February 26, 2007

LAURA MARKS COLLOQUIA: "Travels of the Abstract Line: New Media's Debt to Islamic Aesthetics."

On February 23rd, 2007, Laura Marks discussed Islamic Art’s contribution to computer/digital arts. Braving the snowy weather, she opened the forum by outlining her research of Islamic Art on Western thought and paintings. She started with a quote from Paul Klee, declaring that “a line is a dream.” This line, compared to Islamic art, is abstract and infinite. Islamic art, or nomad art, through the Golden Age of the Arabic world (around 9th century to 1492) is abstract, multi-orientation and passes between points, contours, and lines. Usually displayed through flowers, vines or calligraphy reciting verses from the Qu’ran, she discussed how the lines were in a haptic space with no focal point, reflected in a non-orgainc/artifical light. Also, Islamic art represented the spiritual world of Islam. The symmetry of the art work, usually seen in Mosques, textiles, etc, showed that Allah (God) has no attributes, and that the world is infinite. The infinite world, created by God out of nothing, was not an innovation, but a skillful variation depicted through Islamic art work (trying to avoid the risk of being blasphemous).

As the Golden Age of the Arabic World transitioned into the Renaissance, Islamic art became a luxury for the bourgeoisie. In 17th century Dutch painting, as Marks highlighted, rugs would hang in the background, all details fine. The religious, oriental art, in a secular Western European world, would have conspicuous consumption and exotic appeal on the wealthy. Thomas Keyser, for example, in his Portrait of Constantijin Huyghens (1627) had a Persian rug hanging in the background. Blocking the door, the biblical rug, along with globe, indicates to the observer that the subjects are international travelers, bridging geography and intellect communicated through the detailed, Iranian/Caucasian flower forms on a red and black patterns. The floral arabesque is synaptic, connecting the brain to the clear and complex patterns.
As the 19th century welcomed the philosophies of transcendentalism and naturalism, Islamic art still captivated the elite of European society. Riegl (as Marks stated) stated that the abstract art forms a gradual development of lotus to arabesque-textile and ornaments, rejecting conformity to exhibit new form (will to art). Like a trail into the world, the patterns grow a leafy trail, which can symbolize the western chronological order of Europe. The tactile or haptic style can be linked to subjective, embody, unstable art to form a smooth and disentangle subjective perception. Also, Freud, in his office, draped his patient’s sofa with rugs from the orient. Since the oriental world, according to the 19th century, was viewed as primitive and tribal, the rugs tactile reality was hypnotizing, consciously smooth, and unravelling: an abstract wandering and unraveling patient.
Finally, in the dawn of the age of information and computer graphics, Islamic art is a reoccurring art form. In 1982, vector graphs, with abstract line in the middle leaving trail of light, were produced by analogs, which used real time with little data. Arcade games and 3-D animation eventually transitioned to computers, and the repetition of designs through symmetry and patterns show an independent existence, with any quantity having a mobile relationship, constant movement, and non-organic life. Computer art is able to draw out a tactile surface as programs, like MIGRATION, continues to grow without touching another line, preserve itself as long as possible.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

On February 2nd, University of Southern California faculty members Anne Friedberg and Perry Hoberman gave a presentation centered on their overlapping interests entitled, “Critical Parallax: the Binocularity of Theory and Practice.”

Friedberg: The core of her talk was her recently published book, The Virtual Window: From Alberti to Microsoft (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2006). In keeping with form, this was a bifurcated subject. The book exists both in the traditional printed page format and as an interactive website, framed in the windows it explores, recreating the environment of a movie theater lit only by its projector (including obstructive audience members.) Friedberg invoked the “metaphysics of light,” remarking how it has been “harnessed as an entertainment medium.” Friedman explained the print version of the book was more suited to a linear argument, in which a “chronological evolution” of windows/screens may be developed, while the internet version better allowed her to develop a “matrix of concepts” which the user may freely explore . . .

Hoberman: Several of his artworks, mainly interactive installations, were presented or represented. “Out of the Picture,” inspired by H.G. Wells’ The Invisible Man, projected narrative scenes from projectors positioned in such a way that any observer’s shadow would appear on screen with the film.

Friedberg: The 1936 film adaptation of H.G. Wells’ The Shape of Things to Come, positing a future in which architectural windows are replaced by screens rendering visible whatever a user wishes, initially sparked Friedberg’s interest in “windows;” she emphasized situating present societal changes in cultural histories. Friedberg explained that throughout cinematic history, the screen has generally remained singular, but the splitting of the screen by computer software has afforded cinema an easier transition to regularly fracturing its window.

Hoberman: “The Sub-Division of the Electric Light, “ an interactive CD-ROM, was described by its maker as an “elegy for film projection” and allows users to manipulate the various projections of tiny projectors appearing at varying angles out of a black screen. That screen is divided and defined in multiple ways by the projectors, reflecting Hoberman’s attitude of having “no reason to limit the image to a single presentation.” As he explained, this was a metaphor for the divisions of the computer screen. As with Friedberg’s website, this project required Hoberman to digitally recreate projector light, for him, a signal of projection’s death. “Zombiac” was an attempt to “zombify” computers through hollowing them out and replacing the cathode rays of their monitors with spotlights, turning the screens into only physical objects. Through flashing their lights, the computers would attempt to communicate with observers. Hoberman explained that this project would be inconceivable today, as through new technologies (e.g. flat panels, LCD displays) the screen has become more “ethereal.”

The presentation concluded with emphasis on individuality of perception (explored in Friedberg’s “palette of apertures” on “The Virtual Window”) and the specific binocular human perception of space and time (as compared to that of spiders, for example . . .) Hoberman exhibited portions of a collaborative work (with Donald Hoffman) in progress entitled, “Malperception” which simulates or, when possible, allows spectators to actually experience a variety of sight disorders which alter perception in sometimes subtle but important ways.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Spring 2007 Colloquia

Hi everyone:
The Spring 2007 Colloquia got underway yesterday with a model in theory/practice convergence -- a presentation by the installation artist, Perry Hoberman, and the theorist/historian Anne Friedberg, both from USC. It was a dynamic beginning to a very diverse group of presenters this semester. Please check out the line-up, and we hope you can join us. All events are free and open to the public.

February 2, 2-5pm, CRT 175
Perry Hoberman, installation and media artist, Interactive Media, School of Cinematic Arts, USC and Anne Friedberg, Professor of Critical Studies in the School of Cinematic Arts, USC
Title: "Critical Parallax: the Binocularity of Theory and Practice."

February 23, 2-5 pm, CRT 175
Laura Marks, Dena Wosk University Professor, Art and Cultural Studies, School for the Contemporary Arts, Simon Fraser University
Title: "Travels of the Abstract Line: New Media's Debt to Islamic Aesthetics."

March 2, 2-5 pm, CRT 175
Liz Phillips, College of Art & Design, SUNY/Purchase, interactive audio artist and Paula Rabinowitz, Professor of English, American Studies, Cultural Studies, and Women's Studies, University of Minnesota
Title: "Tuning/Interacting/Collaborating."

March 30, 2-5 pm, CRT 175
George Lewis, Edwin H. Case Professor of Music, Columbia University
Title: "Living with Creative Machines"

April 6, 2-5, CRT 175
Susana Ruiz, Interactive Media, School of Cinematic Arts, USC
Title: “Merging Gravity and Play: A Case Study”

April 27, 2-5 pm, CRT 175
Norah Zuniga Shaw, Director, Dance and Technology, Dance Department, The Ohio State University and Luc Vanier, Department of Dance, UWM.
Title: “The Body and Technology in Process: Devising Generative Methods of Exchange”

May 11, 2-5, CRT 175
Toni Dove: Interactive digital video and installation artist
Title: “Spectropia: Haunting the Movie”