From Media Design: Networked & Lens-Based wiki
Revision as of 10:22, 3 January 2020 by Jujube (talk | contribs) (→‎Cinematic experience/cinematography)
(diff) ← Older revision | Latest revision (diff) | Newer revision → (diff)
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Separating from //synopsis//, this is a space for abstracts and less wholistic summaries. Included here are texts of tangential interest, of topics too general to apply to my practice and of short bursts of investigation that no longer seem relevant.


immigration anger

acquired tongues

Criticizing Photographs: An Introduction to Understanding Images

Terry Barrett

The book gives a comprehensive introduction to photography criticism. The author is American and uses a fair share of examples from the era of Cindy Sherman. I find the following worth the read. Including notes of my own stance.

Verbs associated with photography criticism

describe, interpret, contextualize, judge

Facts about artist, title, medium, size, date and place or type of presentation are meaningful descriptive data.

Interpretation based on intentionalism (whether artist achieved what they set out to do) is problematic for a few reasons: a photographer might not have expressed or does not want to express his/her intent - not all photographers engage in both image-making and criticizing - artists working intuitively don't "intend" when making. The interpretive task should be on the viewer. An artist's explanation is not more privileged than other criticism.

From brief section on interpretation and feeling: Feelings provide important clues to learning about the content of an image...What is that I am feeling? Why am I feeling it? Is there a certain subject or form or a particular use of the media that I am reacting to? Being attuned to our feelings when viewing images is a way to get beyond the obvious, to begin to identify the connotations of images. (58)

The community of interpreters: critics, artists, historians, dealers, collectors and viewers — I see this as a rather conservative circle. It rings true, and the significance of each of the roles depend on the artist's operational circumstance.

Types of photography, the interpretive process

4 stylistic trends from Beaumont Newhall, The History of Photography

straight (texture, recorded by camera as is, Ansel Adams), formalistic (form for its own sake, Man Ray), documentary (journalistic), equivalent (inner meaning)

The author added new categories: descriptive, explanatory, interpretive, ethically evaluative, aesthetically evaluative, theoretical. -- I don't find these entirely useful for artists, perhaps more for curators and historians...

The photographer's eye (Nelson Goodman): It selects, rejects, organizes, discriminates, associates, classifies, analyzes, constructs. It does not so much mirror as take and make...

A few of the author's bullet points. It is obvious he criticism is part of larger cultural theories. I don't necessarily agree with these seeming aphorisms — they are his opinions and point of view. But it's worth comparing to how I see an image and deem it meaningful when I see it.


- Interpretations are persuasive arguments.

- Photographs are cultural rather than natural.

- Photographs should be seen as opinions.

- Photographs acquire meanings by how they are read.

- All images are in part about the cultures in which they emerge.

- All images are in part about other images.

- The admissibility of an interpretation is determined by a community of interpreters and the community is self-correcting. <-- this speaks about the wider field of art.

- Good interpretations invite us to see for ourselves and to think on our own.

Adjectives the author uses for good (or not) interpretation

good: plausible, interesting, enlightening, insightful, meaningful, revealing, original

conversely: unreasonable, unlikely, impossible, inappropriate, absurd, far-fetched, strained

"To dismiss a careully thought out opinion with a comment like 'That's just your opinion!' is intellectually irresponsible." (55)

Judging a photograph

A few questions that help me explain images:

- By what criterion does this photograph seem to want to be judged?

- By what criterion will I judge this image?

- How might I help someone else appreciate this photograph?

- Is this photograph better than that photograph?

- Is this a good use of photography?

Theory, photography history

ontology, epistemology, aesthetics, ethics

"Theories can be partial, incomplete, and fragmented. We move through the world with such theories and may not be cognizant of them until questioned about them. Such theories are probably better understood as assumptions rather than theories about reality, life, art, and photography." (178-79)

Crudely speaking, I found myself more interested in the history of photograph before it was accepted as a form of art and associated with art movements and cultural theories(modernism, post-modernism - read: Walter Benjamin, marxist/feminist/multicultural/queer theory, etc). To be engaged with ethics from these angles (especially the more recent networks of theories) seem to be politically correct, but I am not personally motivated by these discourses (that's of course a gross generalization).

- Digital image production grant photographers access to previously inaccessible level of information (silver halides and other material basis).

- Realist theory. e.g. Positivism and the camera grew up together (John Berger, 1982). Camera provides objective data (Allan Sekula, 1986).

- Conventionalist Theory. e.g. Photographs are not natural phenomena, but we came to think of them as such (Joel Snyder)."Styles of representation... are invented by artists and draftsmen in a culture, and then learned by viewers in that culture." (for example, slow shutter speed --> motion blur) (Nelson Goodman)

- "Even given all you can do with changing the photographic image using Photoshop, I still think that there is a directness of refernce to the thing that is photographed. It's less mediated by individual idiosyncratic choices about how to render — all of those things — than other media." (Adrian Piper - realist position)

Barthes, Sontag

Roland Barthes's phenomenological approach to theory. From Camera Lucida:

Each time I am (or let myself be) photographed, I invariably suffer from a sensation of inauthenticity, sometimes of imposture (comparable to certain nightmares).Interms of image-repertoire, the Photograph (the one I intend) represents that very subtle moment when, to tell the truth I am neither subject nor object but a subject who feels he is becoming an object.

Sontag on suffering and spectatorship. From "Looking at War":

To speak of reality becoming a spectacle is a breathtaking provincialism. It universalizes the viewing habits of a small, educated population living in the rich part of the world, where news has been converted into entertainment... It assumes that everyone is a spectator. It suggests, perversely, unseriously, that there is no real suffering in the world. But it is absurd to identify "the world" with those zones in the rich countries where people have the dubious privilege of being spectators, or of declining to be spectators, of other people's pain, just as it is absurd to generalize about the ability to respond to the sufferings of others on the basis of the mind-set of those consumers of news who know nothing at first hand about war and terror. There are hundreds of millions of television watchers who are far from inured to what they see on television. They do not have the luxury of patronizing reality.

Cinematic experience/cinematography

Illuminating Reality: Cinematic Identification Revisited in the Eyes of Buddhist Philosophies

Victor Fan. from the book: The Structures of the Film Experience by Jean-Pierre Meunier: Historical Assessments and Phenomenological Expansions. ed. Julian Hanich, Daniel Fairfax

Jean-Pierre Meunier proposes identification as an intersubjective process. However, his takes the attitude that the "a permanent and individuated subject has been in operation all along." By looking into Madhyamaka (theory of emptiness) and Yogacara (theory of existence) school of Buddhism, the author explains the interrelationships - "the intersubjectivity of [the process of identification] is driven...by a samskara that crries memories from the past, memories from which the divide between the self and other, the spectator and the image, and the past and the future are all initiated." (245)


- Background: Buddhism is not a form of spiritualism, as recognized in Europe and North America. All schools of Buddhism "reject the notion of the spirit" and Buddhism was "developed out of a philosophical, not religious, discourse in ancient South Asia." Chinese film theory developed from 1860's through the Republic period was based on the re-reading of Buddhist logic, along with comparative studies between Budhism and European Philosophy and the Kyoto School of Philosophy.

- nirvana: not meaning the abandonment of self and sense-perception for achievement of sunyata (emptiness), but a release from our unawareness that nidanas and sunyata inter-are. It is the awareness of no coming, no going, no birth and no death.

-"Identification is... a process initiated from an attachment to existence (temporality), and the self." (249) "[I]dentification is an instantiation of attachment, an active ignoring of an assemblage of causalities that gives rise to both the sensory-perceptual body and the image." (250)

- In Yogacara school of Buddhism, the self is initiated when the six consciousnesses are initiated. The "self" is the summation of the six consciousnesses.

- images in Yogacara meditation (250)

  • image (milieu) given form by own attachment (parikalpitah-sabhava)
  • imagination (standalone image)
  • misrecognition (substance-image)
  • image initiated out of own nature (nature-image)

- causalities in Yogacara meditation (251)

  • hetu-pratyaya (immediate and circumstantial causes)
  • samanantara-pratyaya (chronological causes)
  • alambana-pratyaya (encounter between two sense-media)
  • adhipati-pratyaya (assisting causes)

- seeds in Yogacara theory:

  • storehouse consciousness
  • seeds
  • When seeds are actualized, the first six consiousnesses areise interdependently with the self-consciousness. Each actualization of a seed initiates a series of smrtsis (awarenesses), and a sequence of awarenesses constitutes an image that exists in time.
  • Temporality is not made up of a sequence of awarenesses, but a fabric of interdependently related awarenesses, each producing its own cause-and-effect chain (samskara or force-of-life), and together with it, ignorance (avidya).

Is a Museum a Factory?

Hito Steyerl, 2009. Extracts from 'Is a Museum a Factory?' e-flux journal, vol 7 (jun - aug 2009)

"Imagine: Workers leaving the factory. Spectators leaving the cinema - a similar mass, disciplined and controlled in time, assembled and released at regular intervals... [I]magine: Workers leaving the factory. Spectators trickling out of the museum (or even queuing to get in). An entirely different constellation of time and space. This second crowd is not a mass, but a multitude. The museum doesn't organize a coherent crowd of people. People are dispersed in time and space...

This spatial transformation is reflected by the format of many newer cinematic works. [...] While the traditional cinema set0up works from a single central perspective, multi-screen projections create a multifocal space. While cinema is a mass medium, multi-screen installations address a multitude spread out in space, connected only by distraction, separation and difference. [...]"

"Cinema inside the museum thus calls for a multiple gaze, which is no longer collective, but common, which is incomplete, but in process, which is distracted and singular, but can be edited into various sequences and combinations."

Archaic Paradigms of the Screen and Its Images

José Moure, from the book Screens (ed. Dominique Chateau & José Moure)

"My concern here is with the adoption of the screen as a condition of filmic imagery. Neither of the earliest successful moving-image systems had foreseen projection on a screen as the mode of display."

Projection + screen becomes a standard after Lumière's cinematograph.


Phantasmagoria, late 18th century

Lantern-based shows, mid 19th century

broad adoption of screen + projection in beginning 20th century

The essay lists specific developments in material choices and asthetics (eg. beveled) of the screen. The scale and size differed among countries (e.g. UK and US).

Competition with television provoked the development of scale and shape of the auditorium. 3D, immersive experience, and IMAX are some examples of the developments.

The concept of the Mental Screen: The Internalized Screen, the Dream Screen, and the Constructed Screen

Roger Odin

Definitions of the screen: more or less large physical surface where text, still/animated images, interface controls are displayed. Display modes: projection, transparency slide, scanning, contact.

the internalized screen

What is the cinema space now when people think of cinema? an enclosed space with spectators present, a projection in the dark, surround sound. -- Cinema has become a mental screen. The authors used a few abstractions to differentiate the experience that is cinema (and that is not, or somewhere in between).

Discursive introducers: mentally enter the cinema space (seeing a movie on TV)

Pragmatic introducers: devices intending to modify the physical space of the viewing (Dolby sound at home)

Exclusive rigid connector: cinema experience linked to a specific space and not via TV or phone

Inclusive rigid connector: one abstract oneself from the physical context

Flexible connector: home cinema

Open connector: viewers enjoy what they see without thinking too much

the dream screen

"The dream screen would be an operator that one an hold in one's hand, watch as long as one likes, as many times as one likes, alone or with others, a screen that one can carry around, that one can keep with oneself at all times, an operator allowing for exchange and discussion...passed from hand to hand and that would even allow one, like photography, to send moving images to distant family members or friends." Today, it is the phone.

the constructed screen/screen as a frame

frame = a will to communicate

transform the world into an aesthetic space

Digital Cinematography: Evolution of Craft or Revolution in Production?

John Mateer, 2014

Mateer refreshes the two camps on digital cinematography: the evolutionists, who view technology as a natural progression with other technical advancements in cinema, and the revolutionists, who argue technologies changed the nature of cinematic storytelling as well as the view experience.(3)

The cinematographer is knowledge in both the artistic and the technical - some are have more restricted roles (dir. Hitchcock) than others (dir. Woody Allen). The cinematographer also needs to possess the material knowledge: ensure the material and equipment for filmmaking can withstand the conditions of the set and that they can scale for reproduction. "The modern professional cinematographer is part artist, part scientist and part businessperson..." (4)

The evolution of digital motion pictures: in the beginning SD digital video has "too low a resolution (0.4 megapixels), too little latitude (about 6-8 f-stops compared to film's 13/14), and insufficient color depth" to be capable of being a viable medium. With the introduction of charge-coupled devices (CCD) digital videos offered the same resolution as 16mm film stock. HD arrived in 2003.

In the film studios, digital intermediate (DI) process was standard. (Film negatives are scanned into digital form for editing, compositing and finishing.) HDCAM brought complete digital postproduction. Because HD (1980x1080) is similar to 2K (2048x1556), DI process adapted to HD materials. HD systems did "not represent a new paradigm" of existing techniques and did not immediately replace the established 35mm practices. Images produced by CCD did not capture as much information in shadow and highlight areas. Nonlinear distribution of luminance, used in processing these images to resemble film stock, produced artifacts and increased visual noise. (6)

Technology advanced in both image reproduction systems and in computer processing performances. Cinematographically, CMOS (complementary metal-oxide semi-conductor) increased the efficiency of the digital workflow and produced images close to the look of film. New cameras by Arri was capable to utilize a CMOS chip to produce similar result as 35mm.(7)

The start-up Red introduced a new CMOS chip to improve camera performance, disrupting the high cost and technical conservatism in the industry, (8)

production cost comparison

Despite the technological changes, the tasks of cinematography remain similar: lens choice, shot composition, and means of camera movement. Changes occur in operation. With the digital workflow came digital imaging technician (DIT) who keeps data integrity in check and backs up properly. Because new digital cameras now captures much more data than before, the final look of the image has shifted to post-production. (9-10)

The author concludes the digital advancement is more evolutionary than revolutionary: "Systems used in the creation of motion pictures have been emerging and changing...: hand-cranked cameras gave way to motorized systems; film stocks grew in gauge and sensitivity color systems were introduced, developed, and refined, as was sound; wide-screen formats have come and gone..." The role of the cinematographer, "creation of images through the understanding of light, optics and story", remains the same but the skills required for the role have changed. (10-11)

Cinematography: The Creative Use of Reality

This essay is the first one I read where reality is discussed in depth (rather than an inherent property of images captured by the camera). I have since read more elaborate literature and more in-depth discussions about realism. Moving on.

Maya Deren, 1960

  • cinematography v. photography

In this essay photography is a synonym to images captured with a photochemical process (and thus used as a higher category for cinematography).

  • reality

The authority of reality = knowledges and values we attach to direct address (159)

Authority, in a more useful way of framing, would be the potential of evoking empathy because is it so real. I compare it to tragedy ("what the hero is going through could happen to me").

Reality can also be a metaphor. The invented accident "borrows reality from reality". (156)

  • time

slow-motion: undoing of time

  • time form (160)

narrative, poetry (emotions), memory

Haptic aesthetics

Chantal Faust: lead session at Transimage Conference

Plymouth UK 2016

In this lyrical paper, Faust intends to communicate the relationship between haptics and visual arts. She states that haptics pushes the limits of optics, creates a type of non-visual consumption and fuses time ("the touch of an object can travel through time...")

She tries to demonstrate the paradox of haptics in visual arts through examples of artworks. Doubting Thomas by Caravaggio portrays touching and the want to know. Various versions of Noli me tangere show Mary's desire to believe. [1] Piplotti Rist's works depicts touch, skin and pressure. Yet neither the painting nor the photograph is an object meant for touch. between believing and knowing. Although the examples of art pieces evoke a sense of touch, it is the eyes that see the touch, think and try to understand the touch. Faust is aware of the privilege of the sight and writes that art history has "legitimised, certified and ratified" optics. The phrase visual arts indicates the (untouchable) art object.

Even though she claims "the haptic is a kind of bastard uprising against the regime of the visual," as long as she uses visual art examples, it is unclear how haptics create a type of non-visual consumption. Her mention of Duchamp shows the questioning of the (visual) boundary, but she does not go further. And when it comes to the relationship between touch and time, Faust's arguments are even weaker.

She brings up the touch screen as the artifice that reduces the distance between touch and thought. This contradicts her previous paragraphs which argues seeing as the process that represents thinking. With no clear relationship between touching and thinking, the contemplation on touch screen falls hollow. She uses the example of Idris Kahn's Homage to Bernd Becher to illustrate the condensing of images, which, again, has little to do with haptics (at least from what she includes in the paper).

This is a paper with nice quotes, but not enough substance to sustain its own arguments.


Takeaway. Read more Laura U Marks and perhaps Goethe:

"Haptic images do not invite identification with a figure so much as they encourage a bodily relationship between the viewer and the image. Thus it is less appropriate to speak of the object of a haptic look than to speak of a dynamic subjectivity between looker and image."

"The hands want to see, the eyes want to caress" - Goethe

Haptical Cinema

Antonia Lant, 1995

The author looks at early cinema and analyzes the development of the spatial language of the image: "a cinema of frontal presentation to a cinema of articulated depth."

Lant uses egyptian relief as a reference point of somewhat flat space. She also intends to chart the different approaches of spaces through films with Egypt as a subject. "Egyptiana...cue[s] both cinema's actual flatness (the screen and film stock) and the moving human body somehow contained within it." (63)

She includes one analysis on objectivity via Aloïs Riegl. "[H]aptic work could be almost fully understood...through touch, because of its clear outline or boundary...and a separation of the object from the viewer." Visual work relied on "the spectator's recognition of shared realities."

Aesthetics of haptics: an experience approach to haptic interaction design

Wendy Dassen & Miguel Bruns Alonso

Although this paper is written for the discipline of interaction design, the topics mentioned by the researchers are relevant to haptic aesthetics in a broader context.

"Touch is the only sense that is reciprocal. Therefore, haptics has the potential to take full advantage of our perceptual-motor skills and fully enable embodied interaction with the digital domain." (255)

To arrive at the definition of haptic aesthetics, the researchers devised a design process. First, they turn experiential knowledge (how does a wooly blanket feel) into material sketches. Then they abstract the sensations and develop prototypes that mimic the "feeling." In the paper they detail their these sketches (e.g. constant force v. gradual force), but the focus is more on the implication of the method. The researchers state that "it seems impossible to think of aesthetics as an inherent quality of haptics, as experiences emerge in context and in use." (257)

It will be interesting to position this way of thinking along side theoretical framework rooted in phenomenology. When it comes to cinema, the question will be, how to transmit the feeling of wool through the film?

An audio-haptic aesthetic framework influenced by visual theory

Angela Chang and Conor O'Sullivan

Another paper for the design field (interface design), but with useful implications for other contexts.

The paper is motivated by the mapping of information to a vibrotectile interface. The researchers use the Munsell color wheel as an analogy, and develops a matrix that measures different combinations of audio-haptic interfaces.

The paper also takes inspiration from audio-visual theories for cinematography, in particular, Michel Chion's theories about the relation of audio to vision. "Synchronization (when audio happens at the same time as visual event), temporal linearization (using audio to create a sense of time for visual effects), masking (using audio to hide or draw attention away from visual information) and the synchresis (use of sound and vision for suggesting or giving illusion to add value onto the moviegoing experience)" interested the researchers.

The audio-haptic media design process consists of choosing the interface and the vibration frequencies. The interface used in this study are multifunction transducers (MFTs) in the form of a puff or a Motorola A1000 phone; the frequencies are 20Hz-20kHz, aka the audio-haptic spectrum. The researchers chose 75 audio-haptic sounds from available sound libraries but find them difficult to categorize.

After comparing prior frameworks, such as plotting amplitude over duration, and classifying sounds as "warm" or "cool" (based on user's qualitative feedback),the researchers tried to map audio-haptic information to the color wheel. They organised the stimuli with the ADSR (attack-decay-sustain-release) envelope and observed several aesthetic trends:

Amplitude corresponds to saturation. The higher the amplitude, the more noticeable it is.

Attack/decay corresponds to intensity or haptic attention. Faster (sharper) attack.decays are more noticeable than smoother attack/decays.

Longer events, such as rhythmic or sustained stimuli, are also more noticeable (audibly "warmer").

The researchers further inferred two main compositional effects regarding balance and textural variation.


Experimental film/fim in labs

Film and Music in Laboratory Experiments: Emotion Induction, paper by Âse Innes-ker

Visual Responses in Perceptual Cinema, paper by Stephen Salniker

The first paper overviews ways of using film for emotion researchers in a lab environment. The second paper is a detailed deconstruction of an experimental film, written by the filmmaker.

The Empirical psychologist and the Structuralist filmmaker share the same sterile, removed language. While verbs such as "elicit", "induce", "produce" emotion or affect hint at a linear, result-oriented way of thinking/knowledge production in the science community, in the context of a filmmaker's analysis, they sound manipulative.

Contemporary art (writing)

International Art English

article [2] by Alix Rule & David Levine

In International Art English (acronym IAE), the authors present a linguistic study of the anglophone language surrounding contemporary art, and illustrate the discourse development of contemporary art through the adoption of this language. For this purpose, the authors analyze 13 years of e-flux announcements, the most widely-read listserv by an increasingly global contemporary art field through algorithms from Sketch Engine, a linguistic analysis tool.

They investigate the vocabulary, syntax, semantics and genealogy of the text (referred to as the corpus). They suggest that IAE originates from the highbrow criticism journal October from 1976, where editors changed the discourse of art criticism and translated French post-structuralist texts from Barthes, Baudrillard and Deleuze as well as the Germany's Frankfurt School. This editorial bias gave the language lexical peculiarities from French (e.g. the suffixes -ion, -ity, -ality, and -ization) and German (e.g. the prefixes para-, proto-, post-, hyper-).

The authors thus summarize the traits of IAE, such as: the acquisition of alien functions by ordinary words, the emphasis of otherwise redundant pairings and the fondness towards using more words instead of fewer. They thus demonstrate IAE as a distinctive language circulated in contemporary art, proliferated by the spread of biennials and the enabling of the internet.

The authors place the IAE in its own categories similar to that of a technical language (such as that shared among academics or car mechanics). They observe that although old users of the IAE came from academia and formal art criticism, new users are from increasingly diverse origin: notably, gallerists, curators and the artists themselves (for writing press releases, grant proposals and artist statements). These new users perpetuate the language and stylize the discourse with ever-changing trend.

The authors conclude that art criticism is in crisis and the future of IAE will be an implosion.

How to write about contemporary art

Williams, G. (2014)

In this opinionated manual of art-writing, Gilda Williams brings insights to contemporary art. She is well aware of the fallacies of International Art English, and offers readers well-selected examples to illustrate good art-writing.

The advice she offers is based on her argument: that both the viewer and the artwork need the art-words. The viewer needs a "steady framework" to under stand the work while the work is "completed by criticism." (P25) She believes art-writers should establish themselves as trustworthy, not only having impartial views (P26) but also possessing the knowledge about the work (scholarship in art history, ability to appraise artwork, technical knowledge of media, familiarity of the artist, "an instinctive sensibility for quality, code-name 'taste'") and the risk-taking ability to express original ideas . (P26, 33, 165)

She emphasizes the importance of choosing an idea well and communicating it "through unclichéd and thoughtful words,"(68) and advises against interpretation of the artist's psychology through the art work (89).

She distinguishes explaining (museum wall text, catalogue, extended captions) from evaluating (review) texts. While the former calls for concise expression, both explaining and evaluating texts follow a structure of: what are you seeing/what might it mean/why this might matter. The latter, rather than summarizing press releases or the curator's text, regards the art writer's own idea crucial for taking the readers through understanding the artwork (165).

What I find the most relevant are: reminders on vocabulary choices, how to write a brief about a moving image work, and how to write an artist statement.

The vocabularies should be grounded in solid nouns, singular and well-chosen adjectives, precise verbs and free from adverbs. Avoid piling up abstractions, lists, jargons (Ch4, 68) and tired metaphor ("seismic shift" and other geological types (102). To write an explaining brief about a moving image work is not to summarize the whole film but rather find a guiding idea from the work and express it clearly (135). To write an artist statement is to find a way to sincerely say who you are and what your work is. The statements also aids the artist in thinking, so the words must first ring true to the artist who writes it rather than a guess of what the reader wants to see.


Specific advice/exercises on writing artist statements:

- Read statements from notable artists.

- Concreteness and specificity. Create images through words.

- Which decision (whether hard-won, accidental, or bearing unanticipated results) produced the most meaningful outcome, for you?

- Which moments changed everything? What were you really excited about as you worked? Edit out the rest.

- Ontology, epistemology, metaphysics carry specific technical meaning; use sparingly, only if essential.

- Ground your reader in media or images they can see/identify a key theme, idea or principle that holds your art together.

- Imagine you are writing directly to the one person who understands your work best.

Art and Artistic Research

Zürcher Hochschule der Künste (2010)

Throw the stones really hard at your target; or, rest in peace

Efva Lilja

As an artist, professor and vice chancellor, Lilja speaks about her personal strive, pedagogical exchange and visions for an infrastructure that supports curiosity-driven research. She believes artists have the ability to "possess a unique form of knowledge which is communicated through the finished work." A research environment such as a higher education institution provides space, time and resources for reflection and further development of practice, allowing insights to emerge. She criticizes market demands as it curtails artist needs, opting for "productivity" and "effectiveness." (However, she contradicts herself by writing "our graduates can go out and compete for work in a national and international labor market." This shows her struggle to bridge the vision of artistic research as a way of knowledge production and the lack/difficult of it carrying it through because of existing norms.) As a vice-chancellor, she advocates for a cultural infrastructure friendly to the growth of knowledge and ethics toward a democratic society. She is Swedish.

On the difference between artistic research and artistic practice

Germán Toro-Pérez

Toro-Pérez argues that art and research (mostly associated with science) are two ways of appropriating the world, and have respective relationship to truth. Using electroacoustic music practice as an example, the author traces the development of art music from "an aesthetics of expression" to that of "experience." He asks the readers: what makes a psychoacoustic experiment different from the investigations that lead to a specific art composition? Based on Heidegger's definition of research, research directs toward knowing. In the author's view, art practice directs toward experiencing (although done with rigor). Further, Heidegger attributes "character of constant activity" as part of research, marking institutions a necessary environment for it. The same cannot be said about artistic practice where knowledge is dealt with "selectively and methodically but not systemically." Thus, the author answers the question by pointing out that an experiment leads to a proof or disproof of hypothesis, whereas a composition (albeit through investigation) leads to sensory experiences.

The author ends the essay with an observation that while research leads to knowledge, the knowledge can be uncertain; and while art creates specific experiences, the experiences are real, and thus "opens the possibility of experiencing the truth, but does not guarantee it." (In this context, I am not too concerned about making the schematic distinction of reality and truth.)

Whereas I agree with the author that art and research are ontologically different, I think the grey area in his argument is the "investigations" that lead to the production of an art work. If those investigations produce knowledge (and so happen to be done in an institutional environment and distributed for the public good), can the work of art be categorized as a work of research?

Javi's classes

The Glitch Moment(um)

Menkman, R. (2011) The glitch moment(um). Amsterdam: Institute of Network Cultures (Network notebooks, 04).

The Glitch Moment(um): A Void in Techno-Culture (p.29-31)

The author argues that glitch disrupts the flow of the technology which delivers the content (eg. broadcast TV). Glitch reveals the involvement of the machine in front of the user/reader/viewer and raises the question of authorship. It encourages the audience to reflect on the medium/media.

(I question its effectiveness.)

The Glitch Art Genre: Between the Void and Commoditized Form (p.55-56) + The Genre Paradox (p.57-58)

Glitch art represents unstable processes and the associated conceptual thinking. Rather than inventing new terms for artworks that incorporate this representation (which does not differentiate between disruption and commodity) — it clarifies to theorize glitch art as a genre with thematic content, iconography and narrative structure. The genre fulfills the expectations to exploit the medium and question "the use and function of technologies, their conventions and expectations." Under a common genre the materiality of glitch can be studied closely.

The challenge (or paradox) of the genre framework is the difficulty to distinguish a deliberate, considered work involving glitch (and its process) from something that merely appropriates the retro-nostalgic aesthetics. Constant improvements in technology renders previous versions of it obsolete. Because of that, glitch exists anachronistically outside of the serious intention of a genre (eg. "faux vintage" filter on Instagram). It calls for the spectator's knowledge in "media technology texts, aesthetics and machinic processes" to recognize glitch art and the message within.

(See footnotes on p56 for literature on genre.)

The Emancipation of Dissonance Glitch (p.65-66)

Glitch questions authorship and technology used to convey that. It is a critical reflection on the medium and creates awareness among the spectators.

("Gentrified errors" is a good phrase.)

The work of art in the age of digital recombination

De Mul, Jos. “The Work of Art in the Age of Digital Recombination.” Digital Material: Tracing New Media in Everyday Life and Technology, edited by Marianne Van den Boomen et al., Amsterdam University Press, Amsterdam, 2009, pp. 95–106.

appearing on P95 Digital Material: Tracing New Media in Everyday Life and Technology, Amsterdam University Press

Using the text from "The work of art in the age of mechanical reproduction," De Mul argues that digital recombination leads to a return to auratic qualities of objects. He summarizes the changes in the value of the work of art: from cult value to exhibition value (through mechanical reproduction) to manipulation value (through digital recombination.)

Computing and database — used somewhat synonymously in this paper — become the successor of the machine. The relational database (a development from the relational model of data by Edgar F. Codd, dating back to the 1970's) presents a procedure in structuring, re-structuring and partially re-creating information based on each copy of the previous database(s). Like the mechanical (re)production, this (re)production process of recombination and manipulation turns into "material metaphors."

The term "database aesthetics" refers to the user interface and the interactions it enables (or allows?) within the designed structures. De Mul emphasizes that manipulation holds, and creates, value. In this new aesthetics, art is no longer for the worshippers or spectators, but rather for users. The change in this vocabulary is indeed interesting. However, do users gain any agency through the new aesthetics. De Mul only makes clear the manipulation value to the politicians, but not to the users.


This essay leaves a few questions:

  • Benjamin theorizes that the value the work of art derives from its uniqueness and singularity in space and time (cult value.) For the work of art, why is exhibition value valuable? (The example used here is Paris Hilton, "famous for being famous", and the success of politicians such as Reagan.)
  • Although De Mul discusses "political art," he does not clarify the relationship between politics and political art. Along this (lack of) logic, it is hard to justify why manipulation value is relevant for a work of art. Do I assume that manipulation value translates from politics to political art? Or do I abolish the distinction between politics and art all at once?