links for 2007-05-30


If we assume that artworks are artefacts designed to stimulate aesthetic responses they are effectively artificial stimulation devices for eyes. They are ocular dildos; eyedongs designed to bring about Duchamp’s retinal shudder, the tingle that Goodman disparaged.

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Aesthetic Aura Investigation One

Hypothesis: The aesthetic aura of art as identified by Walter Benjamin will result in anomalous electromagnetic field readings around artworks. This will vary according to the aesthetic quality of the artwork. We base this claim on results from paranormal research. Ghosts, like aesthetic value, are intangible, yet they manifest anomalous electromagnetic field readings during hauntings.Subject: A show of abstract paintings by two painters exhibited in a representative regional museum/gallery space.Equipment: An EMF meter with analogue read-out and separate sensor probe.Notation: A or B are the artist. A-E is the aesthetic quality of the work, where E is low and A is high. The numeric value is the strength of the EMF in Milligauses.Data: Readings at approx. 5cm from the surface of the painting.A1:D/0.05A2:C/0.05A3:D/0.1A4:E/0.05A5:D/0.1A6:D/0.05A7:D/0.05A8:E/0.05A9:E/0.05A10:E/0.05A11:D/0.06A12:D/0.05A13:C/0.1A14:D/0.051:D/0.052:D/0.053:D/0.054:D/0.15: -6:D/0.067:D/0.058:C/0.19:C/0.110:D/0.07511:C/0.112:D/0.0513:C/0.0614: -15:D/0.0516:C/0.217:D/0.0518:E/0.119:D/0.0620:D/0.0521:C/0.0522:E/0.023:C/0.0524:-25:D/0.0526:D/0.075Analysis: The 0.05 reading seems to be the background level.The meter’s other setting (H rather than N) shows a drop when pointed at paintings.The needle wobbles when the probe is moved towards or away from the painting. Is this because the probe is moving through static radial layers of the aesthetic field?There is a broad correlation between higher aesthetic score and a higher EMF. Exceptions to this might be due to the personal subjectivity involved in assigning an aesthetic value to work. This is one good reason why using EMF readings to evaluate a work is desirable.Perhaps readings should be tried at an ideal viewing distance.Should the EMF reading be scaled by the size of the work?Conclusions:There does seem to be some correlation between aesthetic value and EMF field strength.Further research should be undertaken. Anti-aesthetic work (such as readymades) and more highly aesthetic work (such as Old Masters) should especially be examined.

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More Like That

More “Like That”. These ones extend the logic of the two dimensional pieces into three dimensions.

The next pieces will have different motion logic and start introducing symbols.

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Abstract graphics looping on a computer screen will be seen as screensavers. Even relatively sophisticated digital artworks will be seen unproblematically as screensavers if you make them into an Xscreensaver module. Being seen as a screensaver is problematic if what is being seen as one does not wish to engage with what that means.

Screensavers are trivial distractions for the office. They are contemporary cabinet paintings. They are kitsch, mass-distributed industrialized creativity. Some display useful information or perfrom useful tasks, but they are still not being used by the computer’s user to achieve something. They make computing machinery into decoration, and decoration into a mis-use of computing machinery.

“Like That” is abstract, colourful and time-based. It suffers from a strong threat of screensaveriness. Hopefully much of it is too awkward and too referential to high art to succumb entirely to screensaveriness. Hopefully the rest of it will suffer from virtue by association. Any lingering screensaveriness will hopefully be stripped out by appearing windowed on web pages or wall-sized as video projections.

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David Platt

Also at KIAD was David Platt:

David’s an astonishingly good painter and philosopher.

His heptalectical logic is a “supplementary world view”, very ‘pataphysical:

Heptalectical Logic

And he was the first person I met who was big on Adorno:


Take a look.

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Free Culture And Free Software

Free Software as described by Stallman comes from the fact that software is functional, it is basically a machine. A novel, a play, a painting or a concerto are not functional, they are not machines. So we cannot use the same arguments that Stallman advances for software, and the freedoms are not necessarily the same. For cultural artefacts represented as software, Stallman’s freedoms do apply but this is because the work is software. The claims of some artists that blahblahblah do not change this.

For cultural work in general you do actually need very similar freedoms to those that you need for software. This is partly an accident (source code is regarded as literary work for the purposes of copyright) and partly because public culture in an open society must not close off comment, critique, study or succession. This requires that you be free to analyse, copy and modify the work.

The minimal freedom that you need for cultural works is Extended Fair Use (XFU) as described by Negativland. I think that Stallman and Lessig agree on this despite Stallman’s writing about functional, opinion and expressive works (Stallman’s simple “you can copy this essay unmodified” license should make its support for Fair Use explicit). Copyleft is a superset of XFU, it gives you all the freedom of XFU and more, but it frightens the horses economically speaking.

I agree that it does not make sense to try to live on Free Culture alone. Reform is needed in the mainstream, we cannot reproduce the last 70 years of culture in the way that the GNU project has recreated a functional equivalent of UNIX. There is no functional equivalency in culture, and there is no way we can catch up on seventy years worth of work in every medium rather than fifteen years worth of work in a single medium (as UNIX was in 1984). It is very important to lobby for legal reform in the name of Free Culture.

But this does not make alternative licenses useless by any means. We can use Free Software’s tactic of producing a free alternative in order to place pressure on a proprietary project could be effective. The existence of a pool of self-identified freedom can show the need for broader freedom when lobbying. And it may be ethical to produce one’s own work with the freedom that one would wish to enjoy generally.

Via FC-Discuss. Paragraph 2 is a concise statement of a much longer essay I am working on.

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The Aura Of The Aura

Finding The Aura

I have an electromagnetic field meter and there’s a show of abstract art on in town. I’m going looking for the aura of art.

The thinking behind this is simple. Ghosts cannot be recorded by conventional means but paranormal researchers report that hauntings are often accompanied by anomalous electromagnetic field fluctuations. Like ghosts, the aura of art is intangible So if artworks have an aesthetic aura we would expect to see this manifesting in similar electromagnetic phenomena to ghosts. Additionally we would expect the phenomena to be stronger for more aesthetic works and weaker for less aesthetic works.

By grading works aesthetically, recording any change in electromagnetic field strength around them, and then correlating the results we can gather proof for the aura of art. This can then be compared against data collected on works that claim to be non-auratic such as dadaist and conceptual art.

The danger in gathering such data is that it could be used to create a damping field for the aura of art, or even perhaps a “Ghostbusters”-style trap or containment system for the aura. I’m certainly not proposing firing high-energy particle beams at artworks. Unless they’re by Tracey Emin or Gavin Turk.

This project is brought to you by SPAR (the Society for Paranormal Aesthetic Research).

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links for 2007-05-28

Copyright Rose Selavy


Have a look at the base of this Marcel Duchamp readymade from 1920.

I think that the assertion of copyright is being used here to help assert the reality of an imaginary personality, an imaginary author (Duchamp’s alter ego Rose Selavy).

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