Archive for February, 2010

Saturday, February 27th, 2010

Parisian Love is a television commercial created by Google.

Visually, the entire ad takes place in either the Google search field or in a series of Google search result fields.

One views the protagonist, an anonymous computer user, manipulating a cursor and pointer, searching his way through time – from, for example, “study abroad paris france” to “impress a french girl” to “long distance relationship advice” to “churches in paris” to “how to assemble a crib.”

Underscoring this narrative is a driving piano anthem collaged with sound effects such as an airplane taking off, a “How to Learn French” tape, church bells, and, finally, a baby laughing.

In each search, a dramatic tension rises as the user types in her queries word by word, performing the act of searching.

It begins when the user types in the word “study.”

Before typing in another word, however, Google instantaneously supplies him with a plethora of likely options such as “study island,” “study abroad,” “study Spanish,” “study skills.”

So, study what?

“study abroad”

Again, Google spits out an instantaneous list of “study abroad” options.

We’ve got “study abroad scholarships,” “study abroad programs,” “study abroad italy,” “study abroad australia.”

So, study abroad where?

“study abroad paris france.”

Is this what you were searching for?

It is.

Search it.

Google does so and the user moves his pointer around the first two search results:

1. “Study Abroad in France, Search Study Abroad Programs in France”


2. “Study abroad programs in Paris, France – Study French in France – CEA.”

We cut in close as the protagonist is forced to choose between the two options.

Which will it be?

He’s unconventional, so he goes with the second one instead of the first.

The sound of an airplane taking off appears as the piano changes key and we jump forward in time as the user searches for “cafes near the louve.”

A list of search results appears along with a question posed by Google:

“Did you mean: cafes near the louvre”

And so on and so on and so on and so on and so on until we are faced with a blinking cursor on a blank text field as the user spells out the query:



“assemble a crib”

Google it.

The next thing one views is the slogan – “Search on.” – (an updating of Nike’s “Just Do It”) as it cuts in over the sound of a baby laughing.

On the one hand, the ad shows us that our lives can be marked by Google searches.

But, on the other hand, on a perhaps deeper level, it shows one that life can be marked by endless searching, never doing it, but working towards it and changing it as one grows and learns.

As the user enters search queries, one views less the drama of action (just do it), and more the drama of evolution (search on).

Friday, February 26th, 2010

Untitled (The Birds without the birds) by Martijn Hendriks is an ongoing performance in which Hendriks digitally removes every image of a bird from every frame of the film The Birds.

By taking the birds out of the film, Hendriks suggests that terror is psychological.

Terror is Tippy Hedren – the icy blonde with everything in control – being mercilessly stalked by her own fear of losing this control.

A key to the project is that Hendriks digital elimination of the birds is not seamless, but rather highly present. There are sort of digital scars that foreground the fact that something has been taken out.

Also, he didn’t remove the birds from a single frame of the film (which he could accomplish in a day), but rather performs his removal of the birds from every frame of the film in which a bird appears – a performance he has been continually working through since 2007.

He writes:

[…] I’ve realized that I like this performative dimension best when it introduces a kind of questionable or unproductive element, so that I really need to believe in something to go through with it. Making an art work is also about believing in something enough to follow it through, to stick with it even when that something lacks all credibility or value.


If the work was a one-liner dashed off quickly or with a tool that did it automatically, it would be less meaningful and I wouldn’t want to follow it.

But I do find it an idea worth following because of this performative element and the sheer, absurd labor of it all.

It’s the time implied in the work that makes it beautiful.

Thursday, February 25th, 2010

Painting (with mouse pad) is a sculpture by Harm van den Dorpel consisting of:

1. A framed and matted print of an abstract digital painting (found by Van den Dorpel on the Internet) leaning against a white art gallery wall.

2. A vertically-inverted mouse pad depicting a cliche Chinese landscape painting resting on the top right edge of the painting’s frame.

When combined, the painting and the fan don’t seem to add up to anything. Van den Dorpel has talked about wanting to create images and image combinations that don’t mean anything – that create a certain neutrality. This sounds absurdly simple, but, in fact, it’s difficult. In an image-saturated world, almost every image ends up carrying some clear message or point or symbolic weight. In this work, though, the combination of the images ends up creating a double negative, an unsettling feeling of meaninglessness. The more the viewer tries to create some sort of connection, the more they get trapped in the middle of the work.

Wednesday, February 24th, 2010

From More Than Human (1953) by Theodore Sturgeon:

It was quiet in the glass room.

For a long time the only sound was Gerry’s difficult breathing. Suddenly even this stopped, as something happened, something – spoke.

It came again.


The voice was a silent one. And here, another, silent too, but another for all that. It’s the new one. Welcome child!

Still another: Well, well, well! We thought you’d never make it.

He had to. There hasn’t been a new one for so long…

Gerry clapped his hands to his mouth. His eyes bulged. Through his mind came a hush of welcoming music. There was warmth and laughter and wisdom. There were introductions; for each voice there was a discrete personality, a comprehensible sense of something like stature or rank, and an accurate locus, a sense of physical position. Yet, in terms of amplitude, there was no difference in the voices. They were all here, or, at least, all equally near.

There was happy and fearless communication, fearlessly shared with Gerry – cross-currents of humor, of pleasure, of reciprocal thought and mutual achievement. And through and through, welcome, welcome.

They were young, they were new, all of them, though not as new and as young as Gerry. Their youth was in the drive and resilience of their thinking. Although some gave memories old in human terms, each entity had lived briefly in terms of immortality and they were all immortal.

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2010

The problem with Shutter Island, according to the film critic A.O. Scott, is that it tricks its audience into following a lot of leads and theories about what might be happening on Shutter Island, only to reveal that these leads are false – misdirections on the way to the film’s ultimate reveal – none of it matters – it’s all delusional.

For Scott, this bitter pill is a betrayal on the part of the film’s director, Martin Scorsese, ultimately declaring his vision “closed, airless systems, illuminated with flashes of virtuosity but with no particular heat, conviction or purpose.”

The reveal at the end of the film is, it should be said, very bitter.

There is no discovery of the missing girl.

There never was a missing girl.

Instead, we learn, the entire plot is a series of wacky ravings orchestrated by a man who did a terrible, violent thing and doesn’t want to come to terms with this terrible, violent thing.

He creates an elaborate fantasy in which he’s never been a violent man and if he can just figure out the mystery of the missing girl, he’ll get off of Shutter Island and ride into the sunset – a Hollywood happy ending.

The film, though, is not so much a closed, airless system as it is an open door to a more interesting question regarding the reasons we like the happy endings of Hollywood in the first place.

At the end, the protagonist is sitting on the steps of the hospital ward following a harrowing scene in which he “wakes up,” coming to terms with his own condition.

The doctors are skeptical, though, because he’s had flashes of insight into his violent past before and he always ends up regressing back to the elaborate fantasy world of good guys, bad guys, and happy endings.

This time is no different; the protagonist is right back in the thick of his private narrative.

The doctors are disappointed. But, in a great film moment, the protagonist turns back to his doctor and asks (almost winking):

Would you rather die a good man or live as a monster?


In the tradition of The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, Chinatown and Mulholland Drive, it’s a real question raised by a Hollywood filmmaker about the making of Hollywood movies.

Is it better for Hollywood to die a good place or live as a monstrous one?

Perhaps this question is its own answer.

Saturday, February 20th, 2010

Charles Broskoski paints on a computer.

However, he understands that by employing digitally automated “painterly” tools on a computer, he re-orients the launching-off point for a consideration of these works.

In the current design of Broskoski’s personal website, the artist displays his most recent painting – in this case, a layering of long, wide, generally vertical “brushstrokes” in the airy style of the late de Kooning into the form of a primordial “ball” – a locus of energy, both budding and dying, aggressive and nervous, which calls to mind Philip Guston’s early abstractions (as well as a muddied take on the reds, greens, blues and blacks from Guston’s palette in these abstractions).

The bottom edges of this “ball” seem to “put the brakes on” in an act of inertia, curling in against a threat of pure formlessness.

And, at the top, the brushstrokes seem to be shooting upward (as in transcendence), but – in a reversal of the physics occurring at the bottom – suffer a smooshing down (as in gravity).

The result is a stormy mass of energy simultaneously expanding away from its self and contracting into its self.

It has a kick.

But – as a painting – it also lacks a kick.

The painting is created on a computer with a mouse and a suite of digital “effects” rather than paint and canvas.

Also, it looks really nice, but it’s just one of the thousands of images that hit my eye through the light of a computer screen while I’m online.

So, where does this leave one?

A clue may be found in the caption to the work (the title to the work?) – a sort of clock reading “7 days ago…”

“7 days ago…” refers to the amount of time past since Broskoski uploaded the painting to his site.

Yesterday it read “6 days ago…”

The day before “5 days ago…”

Tomorrow it will read “8 days ago…” or perhaps “1 week ago…”

And so on until Broskoski uploads another work, thus resetting the clock.

What this counter adds to the work is a whole new type of meaning.

Like Josh Smith, Broskoski and artists such as Harm van den Dorpel are re-examining the possibility of a certain sincerity in painterly expression, but doing so not in the individual painting (well, not primarily in the individual painting), but as a performance – in time.

Broskoski is struggling with how to reconcile the tradition of painting with the computer.

As one returns to the site again and again and again and again, watching him upload new work, trying things out, performing his creation, one begins to see it.

It turns out that what the computer shows me is not space, but time; not the digital painting, but digital painting.

Friday, February 19th, 2010

For 400 days, Charles Broskoski diligently worked his way through a downloaded torrent file of 356 .pdf files displaying computer programming books written in a highly technical language.

As he read through the books, Broskoski took daily notes compiled in .txt files, as well as a series of .jpg-compressed photographs depicting a list of the downloaded programming books.

In each photograph, he would cross an entry out every time he successfully completed a book.

This performance art is the bedrock of his work Computer Skills.

In the wake of the performance, there was an exhibition at the Chelsea Art Museum in New York in which Broskoski exhibited two trace elements of his performance:

1. A sculpture.

O’Reilly, the company which publishes the computer programming books read by Broskoski, agreed to send the artist physical copies of 250 of the books which he stacked in a grid of four columns – each column of the grid fit into the cut-out nook of a brick wall.

2. An epic poem.

Broskoski printed out and bound a book consisting of the notes and digital photographs he took during his performance organized chronologically.

Each page of notes in the book is framed by a pair of thin black lines which form a round-cornered box around the body of the text.

This framing allows one the opportunity to view the chronologically organized notes as something not noted, but written.

As the notes develop, the absurdity of his task mounts and the clarity of the notes themselves begins to devolve.

He asks existential questions and begins to view reading the books as laborious. But this labor gives him a thought:

He writes:

Honestly, the thing that resonated with me the most was the amount of times the authors thanked their significant others for letting them spend time on the computer while they were on their honeymoon.

I think what I gained is a heightened sense of how computers operate, and a better idea of the humanity behind all programming languages.


With this is mind, one views the humanity of Broskoski’s performance as well.

Friday, February 19th, 2010

I use the Internet but hardly ever think about the fact that it is all code.

I know the code is there – if you ask me if it exists, I’ll gladly tell you it does – but, it makes me anxious to see it there in front of me, despoiling my fun-land of uploaded pictures for family and friends.

The code is yucky and blunt.

Like a bloody finger, it reminds me of how real things can be.

So, I tolerate code.

I allow it to exist, but only if it stays in its own worlds – away from my

If I see it in my surf, we’ll each acknowledge the other, but anxiously, tolerantly – unknown to the other – each assuming the other’s world is unfortunately, but necessarily incompatible with our own.

We should each get to know the other better.

This is politics.

Wednesday, February 17th, 2010

2001<<<>>>2006 by Guthrie Lonergan is, to begin with, composed of one smaller YouTube player embedded on top of – and, thus, foregrounding – the center of a second, larger YouTube player.

The smaller, foreground video is appropriated material.

It is composed of a rhythmic series of quick zooms into the center of still images – each of which depicts teenage boys mugging for the camera as they mess around with two default image effects.

These image effects are:

1. A “mirror” tool which vertically bisects the video, creating a series of distortions including an effect which allows the teenagers to resemble the doe-eyed, large-foreheaded cliché of the “space alien.”

2. A “swirl” tool which deforms the faces of the teenage boys into swirling spirals.

The soundtrack in this video consists of the Queen song “I Want to Break Free.”

The larger, background video is the scene in 2001: A Space Odyssey in which Dr. David Bowman “breaks free” of the laws of Cartesian space-time as it is visualized in two motifs.

Those motifs are:

1. Traveling at high-speed in-between two vertically (and subsequently horizontally) bisected walls of colored light.

2. Slowly approaching evanescent cloud forms resembling high-powered telescopic imagery of distant galaxies and spiraling supernovas on his way to the dawning of a new evolutionary leap.

The soundtrack in this larger, background video is the film’s original musical score, which is dominated by the heavily atmospheric, collaged strings of Requiem by the composer György Ligeti.

When one plays both videos at once, the rhythmic zooms into the bisected center of the mirrored photos in the video of the teenage boys create a counter-point to the evenly-paced movement towards the horizon of the vertically-bisected walls of light in the larger, background YouTube player.

In addition, the pounding, danceable rhythm of the Queen song creates a counter-point to the experimental sound-scapes of Requiem, and, furthermore, as one continues to view the work, the rhythmic zooms into the swirled faces of the teenage boys counter-point the spiraling inter-galactic imagery of 2001.

These counter-points of imagery and soundtrack in 2001<<<>>>2006 are either a gimmick or a creative leap forward in the way appropriated content is re-contextualized on the Internet.

Perhaps it’s both.

The disturbing thing about that baby at the end of the film is how simultaneously dumb and sublime she is.

Tuesday, February 16th, 2010

A functionality of YouTube is to automatically select as a given video’s thumbnail the frame of the video in the exact middle of its temporal runtime – no matter what the frame’s content or how much relevance it affords the theme of the video.

So there could be a video in which two old men are having a picnic in the park and the thumbnail could be some randomly blurred image of a bunch of grass which happened to be the exact middle of the video.

This convention’s absurdity, which might be described as a Web 2.0 perversion of the movie poster, is regularly exploited by YouTube users who will insert a single frame of a girl in a bikini in the exact middle of a video in order to get more views.

At times, though, the default YouTube thumbnail has a certain unintended power in its own right.

When one uploads a webcam vlog to YouTube, for instance, the thumbnail is often an image of one’s self which one would never think to choose as their personal online representation.

Perhaps one’s eyes are closed or one is in the middle of an expression that distorts one’s facial features in an un-becoming manner. This un-intended, un-becoming-ness might create an anxiety – it shows me what I look like – out of control; not becoming.

It is a portal to see how things look. A post Internet photography.

The light catches a bowl of rice in a living room filled with cigarette smoke; a family unloads a red bike from a station wagon as a blue bike whizzes by; a Scottish teenager’s eyes catch the lens of the camera directly, allowing one to see her.

One of the unspoken dynamics of surfing through YouTube is that, by and large, most all interaction with video online is conducted through these secret messages, these unintended crystallizations, which afford one, not the theme of the video, but a random moment – a glimpse into a world which never agreed to be glimpsed in such a naked way.