Dedd Pixel

Art

Polaroid and the Evolution of Photo Sharing

by on Jan.26, 2012, under Art, Tech

Polaroid, the company that popularized instant photo sharing, demoed a smart camera device at the 2012 Consumer Electronics show.  The new 16 megapixel camera based off of the Android operating system, features a 3x optical zoom, wifi and bluetooth connectivity along with one-button sharing to social networking sites such as Twitter, Facebook and Tumbler.  Polaroid’s origins are rooted in photo sharing and, unlike Kodak, they made the transition from film based photography comfortably, so this product seems like a natural extension.

Despite the firm dominance of modern digital photography, consumers are still enamored with the old photographic effects of toy cameras.  Perhaps it’s nostalgia for a simpler time but it’s coupled with an ironic usage of new technology to intentionally create the by-chance effects of old analog cameras.  Instagram offers single-click filters to mimic these old-timey effects over your smartphone snapshots, but people can also create toy camera effects in Photoshop and several apps offer the ability to replicate the Polaroid photograph, from the white frame to the vintage looking images themselves.

For the die-hards, the original, physical Polaroid is the way to go.  Although Polaroid stopped producing the instant film in 2008, a team of former employees created the impossible project and endeavored to preserve Polaroid’s analog photographic art by developing and releasing new forms of the instant film for use in the millions of functioning Polaroid cameras still in use.  They’re keeping the art-form alive and in addition to selling the film, they also host galleries of artistic work created with the cameras that are shared digitally on their website.  It’s more than a digital filter slapped over a snapshot.  It’s intentional art.

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The Forgotten City

by on Oct.01, 2011, under Art, Tech

Geocities, the once thriving community of web citizens was officially shut down in 2009.  A group called the Archive Team created a backup of the data and designer Richard Vijgen created a gorgeous visualization of the data file, which represents Geocities and its individual pages as a virtual city.  Interestingly, the data file was ~650GB and I can’t help but note that I could easily fit that on my harddrive today.

Delightfully, the video of the Deleted City visualization uses a Beck midi as the background music.  Somehow, the thought of the common midi background music of Geocities sites brings back far more pleasant memories for me than the blast of MP3s that was prevalent in MySpace.

 

As a digital city, Geocities is preserved, untouched and ageless.  It does not decay the way physical cities do, such as parts of Detroit.  It may be forgotten, but its form remains the same.

So, what was the path of decline for Geocities?  I created my first website in Geocities when I was in high school.  I started by using their WYSIWYG editors but wanted to know how everything worked so I learned HTML and CSS until I was creating pages by hand.  I learned how to manipulate images and started making more elaborate webpages.   Eventually, I was offered the chance to leave Geocities by Shae, who hosted personal sites as sub-domains.  After a few years, I bought my own domain and hosting, both of which became more affordable and came with the flexibility to create and do what I wanted on my personal domain.

Some say that what  Geocities offered, Facebook and MySpace now does.  I disagree.  I wouldn’t say that I felt any inherent connection with my fellow Geocities denizens; I barely knew of who was ‘living’ around me.  Facebook and MySpace make it far more easy to connect with people around you.  However, what they make up for in interaction, they severely lack in customizability.  While MySpace has convoluted mechanisms to enable users to change background images, colors, etc, Facebook essentially provides a single layout, with the only option of personalization being a ‘cover photo’ and profile picture.  With Geocities though, anyone can find you via a web search.  Despite Facebook’s enhanced ability to foster human connection, people can and do close down access to their pages.  Although these social networking sites have largely replaced the personal webpages of yore, they went from being cities full of artists and enthusiasts, where people can be different, look different and harp upon their interests in graphically interesting ways into a uniform colony of likes and simple image sharing, lacking in personal creativity but with designated pieces of flair where we’re allowed to express ourselves.

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Games as Art: ↑ ↑ ↓ ↓ ← → ← → B A select start

by on Sep.16, 2011, under Art

The debate on whether video games should be considered art is long running and controversial.  The debate has been a hot topic with parents and movie critics and now, even the supreme court.  Notably, the supreme court has decided quicker than the others; perhaps we should have simply asked them in the first place.

The most infamous discussion on the topic would be Ebert’s April 2010 blog post, Video Games Can Never Be Art, where he states that games are games and are not, in any sense, art.  Ebert retracted his statement a few months later with his post Ok Kids, Come Play on My Lawn; where he essentially threw up his arms and admitted that he just doesn’t get it.

Ebert’s issue against video games as art demonstrate his narrow view on what art is and what art can be.  First of all, he references statements from Kellee Santiago, who likens video games to being closer to chicken scratches and cave paintings rather than resembling the Sistine Chapel, a reference to their perceived lack of creative complexity.  Disregarding the fact that every art history survey course begins with cave paintings, who is anyone today to judge the true complexity of an art piece when we have the gift of hindsight?  Those charcoal and berry paintings in a dank cave in France may have taken months to conceive:  from gathering materials, conceptualizing the story and imagery, not to mention the very idea to do it in the first place.  I find Mondrian’s grid paintings to be boring as hell, and as far as I’m concerned Pollack just splattered a ton of paint on things.  However, I’m viewing them from present day, and fully acknowledge that these pieces were revolutionary during their time and paved the way for abstract imagery in art.

What if we created a museum that exhibited art not based on theme or time period but on complexity.  Moreover, arrangements aren’t based on actual complexity but perceived complexity.  That would ruffle some feathers.  Not only would an artist be offended if he spent weeks, months, or even years bringing a piece of art to life that ended up in the ‘so-easy-I-could-paint-this-in-my-sleep-and-I-don’t-even-know-the-color-wheel’ gallery but museum patrons would inherently bring their subjective experiences and inevitably disagree with the curator’s classifications.  Sometimes an artist is just so talented that they can create something seemingly impossibly complex with very little effort, while other artists slave over their craft and only after much hardship does something so simple yet beautiful come to life.  Are they both not artists?

Games also have a complexity to them that is not apparent to people today.  Those 8-bit, pixellated caricatures of the 1970s and 1980s got their start with soldered wires and circuitry; far more complicated than what we can do with the developer kits and high-end software programs we use to make games today.  However, to the untrained mind, it looks simple.  Anybody could replicate Pong or Space Invaders today with PhotoShop and Flash.  The product of which couldn’t compare to the output of fancy modelling software that the big game development companies have.

Point is, complexity isn’t the definitive quality of art anymore than a requirement that art be a 2-dimensional, roughly squarish object that you hang on your wall and stare at (mirrors aside – now that’s a beauty).  With the advent of the internet and the rise of Net Art, art doesn’t even have to physically exist.  It just is.  At its basic level, it is merely 1s and 0s.  It can be interactive because the technology now exists to make it so.   Peruse Rhizome.org to see how far art has come from those square-thing-on-the-wall days.

The argument that games aren’t art because they are interactive is counter intuitive.  First of all, when you view those square wall objects, you are still interacting with it.  You are judging it, examining its texture, wondering how it was made, pondering what the artist meant.  We are always trying to discern what the artist is trying to tell us.  Our conclusion may be far different from the artist’s intent; they may not have even had a concrete point.  Art Museums even have interactive exhibits; places where you not only can touch the artwork but places where you can help create and be a part of the artwork.  Interactive installations actually involve the viewer as a part of the art piece.   Not only can viewers walk into the exhibit but frequently, they are a necessary element of the art.

Games are entirely capable of appealing to our emotions.  Who wasn’t sad when Aerith died in FFVII?  Who wasn’t awestruck by the environments in God of War III?  Who didn’t feel utter catharsis by blindly killing all townsfolk in Baldur’s Gate before the Flaming Fist stepped in (oh the days of save files – how I miss thee).  Games can imitate life as it is, such as human interactions in The Sims, or it can exaggerate it and make it larger than life , like shoulder pads in WoW.  Similarly in traditional art, it can represent life as is (John Audubon’s wildlife paintings) or make it more grandiose (Albert Bierstadt’s paintings of just about anything).

The only knock games have against them is that they were coined as child’s play, and adults are loath to accept that objects of childlike fancy can be taken seriously and address topics relating to real life.   Even the title of Ebert’s retraction post signifies that he sees the matter as an adults vs kids issue.  Scores of parents groups try to ban ‘violent’ games because they see the medium as entertainment for children even though the average age of the modern video gamer is 37 years old.

Thankfully, the supreme court ruling saw through the fire and brimstone claims and announced that video games deserve the same protection as other forms of media and the violence inherent within them are just as present in fairy tales, like Hansel and Gretel, and ancient epic poems like The Odyssey.

More and more, video games are being accepted as a serious medium.  International peer-reviewed journals exist on the topic.  Net artists are using existing game and creating new ones for the sole purpose of their art practice.  Even the Smithsonian is getting in on the action and is planning an exhibition called “The Art of Video Games” in 2012.      I’m game, are you?

 

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Google’s Calder Doodle

by on Jul.22, 2011, under Art

Google has once again pushed the envelope with an interactive Google Doodle commemorating the American sculptor Alexander Calder.  To Google doodle reacts to mouse clicks and drags, but that’s not all.  If you have an accelerator equipped device, you can influence the digital mobile but just moving your laptop.  Major kudos to Google to celebrating art in this highly visible way while also demonstrating the power of HTML5.

 

 

 

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Musical Googles

by on Jun.10, 2011, under Art

The Google homepage today featured a sweet audio logo celebrating the electric guitar pioneer Les Paul.  In addition to spelling out ‘Google’ you could drag your mouse across it and actually play guitar sounding music.  Moreover, google allowed you to record your riff and save it!

My song.

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