Artist’s Statement: ‘the_proof_of’

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Note:

To view my work, please search the_proof_of on Instagram if you have an account.

If you don’t have an Instagram account, search Instagram on a web browser and sign into the account using the login (username: the_proof_of) (password: Jedmeda102).

My project (entitled the_proof_of) is an interactive, screen-based work that explores the use of Instagram to present information. Similar to Ai Weiwei’s Sunflower Seeds specifically reflecting the Chinese economy through repetitive action, my work exclusively contemplates social media platforms via similar procedural action (albeit on a less grand scale). Created via sixty separate posts, all rotated and posted in the correct order, it features a recurring black “like heart” and spells out a simple, poignant phrase. This arrangement creates an aesthetically interesting sideways configuration that attempts to exist outside the formatted boundaries of Instagram’s standard presentation. Collectively, these implementations allude to and question contemporary cultures obsession with “liking” information and “gaining followers” for self-gratification. Ultimately, I expect my audience to appreciate the underlying truth of my work, and consider how social media mediates their idea of self.

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‘Computer Coding Exercises’: Artist’s Statement

DICHOTOMY

dichotomy2

My sketch (entitled Dichotomy) is an exploration of the contrast between purely aesthetic artworks and those with a defined purpose. It was engendered by my analysis of the work of Bridget Riley, whom I established makes visually attractive works (such as Two Blues) and also pieces that manipulate vision (like Kiss). I have attempted to convey the dichotomy (hence the title) between these two styles of art by forcing them to clash via iteration within one canvas. This canvas features a fluid, bending shape with varied colours and a specified mood of warmth. The comfortable nature of this figure is juxtaposed with the darkness of its frame, which is predominantly curved and works against the pattern featured in the composition. Collectively, these implementations work to excite the viewer with their attractiveness, while also forcibly drawing the eye from this beauty through dim colour and visual illusion. Ultimately, I anticipate that my audience will respond positively to these choices in Dichotomy, appreciating the artwork for its variety. However, I also aspire for my piece to evoke an awareness within them regarding the purpose for which the art they view is constructed.

References:

Kiss – Bridget Riley 1961 Tempera on board 122×122

Two Blues – Bridget Riley, 2003 – Oil on linen 54.5×53

Code:

// Jed Nielsen’s ‘DICHOTOMY’

//this section of code lays out my canvas

void setup() {

size(750, 750);

background(255, 255, 255);

noLoop();

}

// this section of code creates the color palette from which my Bridget Riley inspired background is formed

color [] dichotomy = {

color(254,225,97),

color(255,204,0),

color(254,164,34),

color(254,103,102),

color(255,46,34) };

// the bridget rileycolour background, created via repetition of ellipses of a random colour from the pallette

void draw() {

for (int x = 50; x < 1500; x = x + 10) {

for (int y = -15; y < 1500; y = y + 20){

ellipse( x,y,350,350);

fill( dichotomy[(int)random(0,5)] );

noStroke();

}

}

// the black bottom left shape on the y axis, created via repetition of ellipse

{

{

for (int y = 404; y < 1500; y = y + 5){

ellipse( 0 ,y, 400, 400);

fill( 0, 0, 0);

noStroke();

}

}

}

{

{

for (int y = 404; y < 1500; y = y + 5){

ellipse( 0 ,y, 400, 400);

fill( 0, 0, 0);

noStroke();

}

}

}

// black top left shape on the x axis, created via repetition of ellipse

{

{

for (int x = 0; x < 370; x = x + 5){

ellipse( x ,0,400,400);

fill( 0, 0, 0);

noStroke();

}

}

}

{

{

for (int x = 0; x < 370; x = x + 5){

ellipse( x ,0,400,400);

fill( 0, 0, 0);

noStroke();

}

}

}

// black bottom right shape on the x axis, created via repetition of ellipse

{

{

for (int x = 404; x < 1500; x = x + 5){

ellipse( x ,740,400,400);

fill( 0, 0, 0);

noStroke();

}

}

}

{

{

for (int x = 404; x < -1500; x = x + 5){

ellipse( x ,740,400,400);

fill( 0, 0, 0);

noStroke();

}

}

}

// the black top right shape on the y axis, created via repetition of ellipse

{

{

for (int y = 0; y < 340; y = y + 5){

ellipse( 770 ,y,400,400);

fill( 0, 0, 0);

noStroke();

}

}

}

{

{

for (int y = 0; y < 340; y = y + 5){

ellipse( 770 ,y,400,400);

fill( 0, 0, 0);

noStroke();

}

}

}

// end of code

}

“Poor Martin Scorsese”

Whilst I sat in the BCM111 Global Film lecture, one thought just would not depart my busy mind. It was a strange thought, one you absolutely wouldn’t expect to be there. Before you begin to use your imagination, I’ll tell you…

“Poor Martin Scorsese. Poor, poor Marty Scorsese”.

I’ll admit it’s warranted that you’re completely confused right now. What aspect of a Global Film lecture has me pitying a critically acclaimed American director? Just bare with me…

First, I’ll need to describe who this Martin Scorsese is. In case you aren’t aware, Scorsese is an American director, producer, screenwriter, actor, and film historian who has a career spanning over 45 years. He is widely regarded as one of the most significant and influential filmmakers in the history of cinema and in 2006 he won the Academy Award for Best Director.

With all this in mind, it’s that last point I’d like to focus on. Scorsese finally won his Academy Award for Best Director, after 8 nominations no less, for the 2006 film The Departed.

Now, I can’t deny that The Departed is a great film, with great performances all round and great direction by Scorsese. However, it’s also a great remake.

That’s right, the film Scorsese won that elusive Oscar with was a remake. As we discussed global media and cinema in the lecture, I was immediately reminded of Andrew Lau and Alan Mak’s Infernal Affairs, a classic 2002 film out of Hong Kong. Infernal Affairs also provides the structure from which The Departed would eventually rise. So it’s true that, despite a few changes, Scorsese’s Oscar winning direction was all but laid out for him by a film many consider to be better than it’s remake.

There are two main conclusions that one can draw from the sad story of Martin Scorsese.

Firstly, you’ve got to feel bad for Scorsese don’t you? After so many classic film, the one with which he wins the coveted Best Director truly isn’t his own. The irony almost hurts!

Secondly (and much more seriously) it is clear that, despite their unquestionable quality, western audiences are not as responsive to and engaged with “foreign” films as we should be. Infernal Affairs was a unanimous masterpiece coming out of its native Hong Kong, yet only received a limited and relatively unsuccessful US theatrical release. Hence, it is truly telling that when The Departed was released it made almost $290 million at the box office. A comparison of the success of the two is reflective of the somewhat xenophobic attitude we collectively hold against non-western films. It is clear that we as a western audience are incredibly narrow-minded.

So, all that’s left is your opinion! I don’t need to ask whether you pity Scorsese, how could you not! However, I would like to ask, do you enjoy “foreign” films? Do you feel Western audiences renounce them? Let me know in the comments below!

References:

Where’s our Rodriguez? Where’s our Dylan?

It was only a few months ago that I purchased a new CD, as people my age do in the 21st century. The CD was The Essential Bob Dylan and the reason I picked it up was because it offered around 30 songs for a great discount compared to purchasing them online at iTunes store. While Nasally as ever, Dylan’s music is still enjoyable over 40 years after a lot of it was released.

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However, I did not buy this CD simply for its great price, or for an enjoyable jaunt of easy listening. In truth, I purchased it because I wanted to see whether the lyrics of the “voice of youth” held up in a modern setting… and they do.

Dylan’s music is timeless, and he truly is as described a “master poet” and “caustic social critic”.

So when (in our BCM111 lecture) Searching for Sugar Man (directed by Malik Bendjelloul) discussed the important role music like that of Rodriguez played in the abolishment of apartheid and other such issues in South Africa, I couldn’t help but ponder Bob Dylan and his work. I tend to think of something familiar when contemplating another thing that is new to me, as the work and importance of Sixto Rodriguez was. So I thought of Dylan’s The Times They Are A-Changin’. I thought of how his music provided anthems for the American civil rights and anti-war movements of a similar time.

Both the work of Rodriguez and Dylan indicate the power of music to help drive a collective towards positive political and social change. Their work presents the importance of music for expression in a time where discussion of significant ideas or issues may be discouraged and denounced.

While this may be true and the message of these artists music is still very relevant today, I feel their work is most effective in its original context. It was then I realised that, if this was true, we would need a new “Dylan” or “Rodriguez” to express the social and political issues of the modern era. It doesn’t matter if our issues are different in form and importance than the issues of these artist’s generations, we need a new voice of youth, a new spokesperson of a generation.

Yet, we don’t have one.

I’ve heard politically expressive songs and I’ve heard protest songs. However, I’ve never heard an artist whose music embodies the need for our generation to address its issues like Dylan or Rodriguez’s work did for their own. So, ask yourself, who is the Bob Dylan of the 21st Century? Who is the Rodriguez of the current era? Do you have an answer?

Perhaps I’ve missed an artist who actually does what I am lamenting the absence of. If I have, than by all means comment below, fill me in and relieve my ignorance. However, right now I have Dylan’s Blowin’ in the Wind echoing from my computer. Right now, I wonder if a song and musician of a similar purpose will ever blow my generations’ way.

References:

MEDA102 Assessment 1 (Analogue Coding): Morse Code

Embedded within every technology is a set of transmission and translation capabilities. These capabilities define a technologies ongoing significance in society and dictate how the user employs it (Federman, 2004). This pertains to Morse Code, defined by Merriam Webster as “a system of sending messages that uses long and short sounds, flashes of light, or marks to represent letters and numbers”. The various limitations and affordances of this technology have prompted both its widespread adoption during the late 19th century, though also its disuse in contemporary society as technology rapidly advances (Helft, 2006). In this post I will conduct a critical analysis of Morse Code and its operation in regards to transmission and translation. In doing so, it is necessary to identify the codes historical and cultural context, in conjunction with its making, usage and reception.

Figure 1: Modern International Morse code

Morse Code was created around 1836 after three American men, artist Samuel F.B Morse (after whom it Morse Code takes it name), physicist Joseph Henry and machinist Alfred Vail, conceived an electrical telegraph machine. This machine utilised an electric current to send pulses across wires that controlled an electromagnet at the receiving end of the telegraph system. Morse then developed a code that could transmit human language via the device, utilising the device’s pulses and the silence between them. This code would eventually develop into modern International Morse Code (see figure 1) which was not solely confined to use on a telegraph machine, though could be transmitted using any auditory or visual source them (Burns, 2004, p. 79 – 84) (History.com Staff, 2009). This functionality would eventually prove to be one of primary affordances of the technology, as its local transmission does not necessitate any expensive equipment, only two individuals with knowledge of the code in line of sight and an indicator (such as a light) or sound (see figure 2).

Figure 2: A U.S Navy (where Morse code is still widely used today) signalman employs Morse code using a light.

This development of Morse code came during an era where international communication was effectively limited to time-consuming methods such as the mailing of information. Hence, the most important advancement engendered by Morse code in it’s original context was that, while it was dialogical in nature like mail, it required only two people in its operation and could transmit information long distances far more rapidly. However, transmissions of such magnitude, and even those of a shorter length, were highly immune to communicative noise along the way and most Morse code communication required the installation of costly telegraph lines and cables. Translation is also particularly susceptible to misinterpretation and error to due to the difference between the lengths of signals being minimal, while a single error in transmission could leave the message illegible and difficult to decode. This was demonstrated to me personally in MEDA102 classes when we partook in coding exercises. Using a method of tapping and pulses similar to Morse code, my group found that the minimalistic nature of the technology left it vulnerable to such issues in communication. Despite this, by the late 19th and early 20th century, Morse code was employed in most high-speed international communications via undersea cables and telegraph lines (see figure 3). Morse code was also used extensively in radio communication, before voice transmission was achievable (History.com Staff, 2009).

Figure 3: Depiction of the first transcontinental telegraph for Morse code usage.

As described by Postman, technological change is ecological, not additive. The Morse code medium exemplifies this statement, as it drastically transformed global communication. However, Postman also believed that all technological change is a trade-off and that within every technology is a powerful idea that is often hidden (Postman, 1998). Confirmation of these beliefs is evident once again in that, while Morse code was a most efficient means of overseas communication, it was also a powerful tool in establishing and maintaining the wars of the 19th century (such as the American Civil War) (Poole, n.d.), as is dictated by technological determinism (Chandler, 2014) (see figure 4).

Figure 4: A depiction of telegraph poles for Morse code usage in the American Civil War.

The 20th century saw the growing accessibility and affordability of telephones and, eventually, mobile phones and the Internet (Glover, 2012). As such, the reception of Morse code transformed from widely accepted and employed, to out-dated and unused (Helft, 2006). Ultimately, the final commercial Morse code transmission in Samuel F.B Morse’s country of origin, the United States, was on July 12, 1999 (Dillman, 2015). As is often the case with most once dominant technologies (Federman, 2004), the limitations of Morse code became apparent as superior processes and implements supplanted it. Just as Morse code was more rapid then mail, the speed and efficiency of telephone calls fair outperformed communication by Morse code. Furthermore, it is much simpler to operate a telephone than to learn Morse coding itself and the errors in translation of sound that were prevalent in Morse code usage were virtually non-existent over the phone. Despite this, Morse code is still a practical method of transmitting information in low technology situations or those where radio or other technical communicants are compromised (Reader, 2011). Some codes are also still widely known throughout the public, such as the code and meaning of SOS, a signal for help (Hiskey, 2010) (see figure 5). Finally, Morse code is useful as an assistive technology for disabled people, particularly those with motion disabilities as its transmission requires minimal motor control (Burgstahler, 2015).

Figure 5: Morse coding for SOS, “save our souls”. A distress signal.

Hence, the affordances of Morse code transmission and translation rendered it as important tool around the time of its conception until the mid 20th century. However, its various limitations saw it become mostly unemployed as it was succeeded by technologies that could transmit and translate information and messages far more effectively.

References:

Burgstahler, S 2015, Working Together: People with Disabilities and Computer Technology, Washington.edu, viewed 16th August 2015, <http://www.washington.edu/doit/working-together-people-disabilities-and-computer-technology>

Burns, R W 2004, Communications: an international history of the formative years, Institution of Electrical Engineers, ISBN 0-86341-327-7 p 79 – 84

Chandler, D 2014, Technological or Media Determinism, visual-memory.co.uk, viewed 17th August 2015, <http://visual-memory.co.uk/daniel/Documents/tecdet/tdet02.html&gt;

Dillman, R 2015, The End of Morse – The day the keys in North America fell silent, radiomarine.org, viewed 18th August 2014, < http://radiomarine.org/gallery/show?keyword=eom&panel=pab1_7#pab1_7undefined&gt;

Federman, M 2004, What is the Meaning of the Medium is the Message?, UTORweb, viewed 16th august 2015, <http://individual.utoronto.ca/markfederman/article_mediumisthemessage.htm&gt;

Glover, B 2012, Cable Timeline: 1951-2000, atlantic cable.com, viewed 16th August 2015 <http://atlantic-cable.com//Cables/CableTimeLine/index1951.htm>

Helft, M 2006, Morse Code: A Fading Signal, nytimes.com, viewed 16th August 2015, <http://www.nytimes.com/2006/12/27/business/27morse.html?_r=1&&gt;

Hiskey, D 2010, WHAT THE SOS DISTRESS SIGNAL STANDS FOR, todayifoundout.com, viewed 19th August 2015, <http://www.todayifoundout.com/index.php/2010/12/what-the-sos-distress-signal-stands-for/>

History.com, Staff 2009, Morse Code & the Telegraph, History.com, viewed 18th august 2015, < http://www.history.com/topics/inventions/telegraph>

Merriam Webster 2015, Dictionary Morse Code, Merriam-Webster.com, viewed 15th August 2015, <http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/morse%20code&gt;

Poole, I n.d. , History of the Morse Telegraph, radio-electronics.com, viewed 16th August 2015, <http://www.radio-electronics.com/info/radio_history/morse/morseteleghstry.php>

Postman, N 1998, Five Things We Need to Know About Technological Change, web.cs.ucdavis.edu, viewed 14th August 2015, < http://web.cs.ucdavis.edu/~rogaway/classes/188/materials/postman.pdf&gt;

Reader, P 2011, Visual and Other Low-Tech Messaging, openideo.com, viewed 15th August 2015, <https://openideo.com/challenge/amnesty/concepting/visual-and-other-low-tech-messaging&gt;

Images:

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/8d/Seaman_send_Morse_code_signals.jpg

http://www.sonofthesouth.net/leefoundation/civil-war/1863/january/telegraph.jpg

Cultural (In)appropriation

As we continue to discuss the broad concept of ‘Globalisation’ in BCM111, I have very slowly come to terms with its meaning. I understand that it refers to, as O’Shaughnessy and Stadler described, “an international community influenced by technological development and economic, political, and military interests”.

So with an adequate grasp of Globalisation I have been able to delve deeper into the topic and it’s vast implications. I consider the primary outcome of these studies to be my interest in the concept of ‘cultural appropriation’. ‘Cultural appropriation’ has no concise, accepted definition, however Susan Scafidi (a law professor at New York City’s Fordham University) describes ‘cultural appropriation’ as “taking intellectual property, traditional knowledge, cultural expressions, or artifacts from someone else’s culture without permission”.

So, you might wonder, why am I so interested in this topic particularly? Well as I read more extensively about what it entails, I found that the term should be ‘cultural inappropriation’ or ‘cultural misappropriation’. My reasoning behind this belief is that the actor of ‘cultural appropriation’ rarely has any understanding and appreciation of the spiritual, religious, political or contextual importance or relevance of that which they are borrowing. Therefore, such ‘cultural appropriation’ is insensitive and disrespectful. There are many examples that support this view and I’d like to explore some now.

This cultural misappropriation is evident in Gwen Stefani’s extremely popular (it sold over 300,000 copies in its first week) 2004 album ‘Love. Angel. Music. Baby.’. Stefani themed this album around Japanese culture and fashion, particularly that of Harajuku, a district of Toyko. This included her hiring of four backup dancers to portray her interpretation of the female youth of Harajuku. There are no elements of Japanese music or culture in this particular Gwen Stefani album, well, unless you count the track “Harajuku Girls” where Gwen Stefani mispronounces the word Harajuku itself. Truly, the Harajuku theme is incidental to the music of Stefani’s album and has also been argued to be stereotypical in nature. Hence, this example of ‘cultural appropriation’ is inappropriate.

Then, there is the widely acknowledged instance of the use of Native American headdresses for fashion purposes, an action that has slowly and rightfully been deemed insensitive and disrespectful to Native American people. Individuals are unknowing of the importance of these articles, however they continued to be a popular accessory at events, resulting in their banning like here. Once, again this example of ‘cultural appropriation’ is inappropriate.

Sure, there are two sides to every argument. Perhaps ‘cultural appropriation’ is enacted with respect and knowledge, as it sometimes is, however I am simply reasoning that this is most often not the case.

So what do you think? Is ’cultural appropriation’ inappropriate? Let me know in the comments below!

References:

‘Cine-roman’: Artist’s Statement

The tweet that functioned as a departure point for my Cine-roman film (entitled Five Cent Coins) is presented below: 

After searching extensively throughout William Gibson’s twitter feed (@GreatDismal), I struggled to find any valuable inspiration not pertaining to the film ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’. Hence, I ventured back to the very early days of Gibson’s feed and discovered the term “NSFW Super Mario” (NSFW meaning Not Safe For Work). I pondered how this term might appear if approached as Cine-roman project.

The result is Five Cent Coins, a work that provides a tongue-in-cheek reference to Super Mario’s practice of collecting coins, in conjunction with the intent to make its audience contemplate issues such as addiction and greed.

I aim to fulfill this intent through a harrowing film that reflects the zany nature of the Super Mario video games (though doesn’t soley represent them) and utilizes the skills that I have gained throughout the MEDA101 course to achieve this.

Owing to the dark nature of my subject matter, I felt a horror aesthetic would best suit my purpose. Therefore, I utilized the most menacing sounding ‘authority project’ I could find amongst my classmates work.

http://topmax20.com/2015/03/25/sound-of-authority/

My film is shot entirely in black-and-white, and presents an everyday item in a disturbing way. This was my attempt to convey an understanding of ‘the Uncanny’ within my project, skills which I gained after completing assessment 2. Furthermore, Five Cent Coins offers a diverse, horror-inspired soundscape, an ability I gained during my work on assessment 1.

Ultimately, I am unsure how my audience will respond to these choices in Five Cent Coins, as I feel it is quite polarizing in nature. However, I aspire for my piece to evoke a sense of curiosity within them regarding not only themes like addiction and greed, though also what is engendered if one takes a fictional media franchise and presents it within reality.

References:

Clock ticking sound effect: www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZoH8E9MlB7s

Crowd talking sound effect: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mLld3JVwxew

Water stream sound effect: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TqVqVoFWuQw

Horror high pitch ring sound effect: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nGihdd3UW80

Super Mario Bros Coin sound effect: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RfkcI8dhfsQ

Colleagues authority sounclound: http://topmax20.com/2015/03/25/sound-of-authority/

William Gibson tweet: https://twitter.com/GreatDismal/status/2618865312

Super Mario, owned and published by Nintendo (1985)