Tag Archives: internet art

Visualizing Ideas: New York City in Pastiche

PSFK introduced me to something rather interesting. The project itself can be found at Christian Marc Schmidt’s website. It is described as a collective composition of New York City which visually combines the geographic neighborhoods of New York with the digitally communicated ideas floating around in the blogosphere. This piece culminates with the virtual/verbal representation of New York organized by its many neighborhoods.

Pastiche—A Collective Composition of New York City, by Ivan Safrin & Christian Marc Schmidt from Christian Marc Schmidt on Vimeo.

My first thought when stumbling on this piece was a flash back to good old Jay Gould and his Oral History of the World. But the difference here is this piece is fundamentally written by the world and does actually exist. It most certainly is art of the communal and experiential kind, harking back to the days of the Dadas who, through those questionable Cadavre Exquise, formed works of art not centered on the talents of any one person but existing through the collaboration of the group. That is the heart of this project and though it has its creators: Ivan Safrin and Christian Marc Schmidt, it can only exist through the contributions of the blogosphere.
thoughts and reactions…


The Eco Zoo: Printed digitally

if:book posted on a rather interesting animation project called The Eco Zoo. The site is built using Papervision, which simulates a two dimensional design in a three dimensional space. The Eco Zoo has used this flash based program to create an environmental message through a series of pop-up books all presented in this point and click world. As if:books commented, the site suggests a comparison or even competition between print and digital forms of pop-up books. After visiting the site and reading through the different eco friendly stories told I must say its a beautiful site and the message is a good one. But the real question posed by if:books and the one I’d like to discuss here is what are the implications of such creations on the realm of printed works? Or to take from the great Edward Said, what does a site like this tell us about how the internet perceives its own artwork?

This site is a perfect example of the internet imitating the book, each pop-book individually asks the user to turn the page by pressing next, at which point it animates a page turn to reveal the next two-dimensional display. What can be said also about this form of presentation is its connection with the intent of the material. The moral of the site is to take better care of our environment. Therefore to better present that, the site masks itself in a “physical” looking environment to help establish the connection between the text and the subject.

I encourage our readers to take a look at this site as well as if:books post on it and ask the question about what this suggests in regards to how the internet looks at itself. I personally believe that a digital representation of a pop-up book can never replace the real thing, just like a digital representation of a painting does not detract viewers from seeing the original. There is something tangible and real about a physical object, an aura (Walter Benjamin) that cannot be replicated. The internet will become critically and artistically equivalent to text when it discovers its own forms of representation.

To the Eco Zoo! and remember to recycle,


Newspaper Comics and their Enemies

The comic strip as a medium has produced some genuinely great art, but for every Calvin & Hobbes or Krazy Kat there are a dozen bland strips that have seemingly been on autopilot since time immemorial. While the Web has opened up avenues for some great comics that are too cerebral, too crude, too dark or too Dada for the mainstream press, for the most part the comics page of the newspaper has been coasting steadily downhill for more than a decade.

But the bland safety of the modern newspaper comic, combined with the ready availability of image editing software, has opened up another avenue for comic strip expression: messing with boring people’s work.

Garfield has been a particularly popular target lately. As “Sticherbeast” writes on Metafilter, the strip was intentionally designed to serve as a marketing vehicle, and in its blandness it doesn’t radiate the sense of innocence that can give one a twinge of guilt for upsetting a fictional world’s order. A message board thread started the trend by testing the strip’s nominal assumption that Jon (the human) cannot hear the animals’ dialogue, deleting it from every panel. This led to things like Garfield Minus Garfield, which takes the strip’s loser bachelor humor down to a Waiting for Godot level. For the most part, the parodies are rather lazily done, not attempting to match the strip’s style when they do involve new drawings, and some are even generated mechanically – a newcomer, Garkov, uses Markov chains (a method for generating random text) to create new and sometimes improved Garfield dialogue. But some people put quite a lot of effort into the project. Lasagna Cat, a completely bizarre video “tribute” to the strip which goes uncomfortably far in deconstructing, if you will, the finer points of Jim Davis’s work, must take a lot longer to produce than the strips themselves. This is the best one, by the way.

I’m not sure what the first comic to be hacked like this was (of course it was going on before computers, though it required more work back then), but messing with the Family Circus (a comic that is both very coy and very conservative, making it a particularly ripe target for this sort of thing) has a particularly long tradition. The classic seems to be The Dysfunctional Family Circus, which doesn’t push the right buttons for me (it reminds me of Crazy Magazine’s tasteless parody of Casper the Friendly Ghost), but there’s also The Nietzsche Family Circus, which is wonderful:

Of course, as that Crazy Magazine feature shows, this sort of thing can easily end up being too mean-spirited in attempting to “subvert” the source material, or at least too blunt in its mean-spiritedness. Fatal Farm, the group that did Lasagna Cat, also did a series of hacked sitcom title-sequences most of which end up guilty of this crime. As an art form, the subversion of someone else’s art is limited in scope, and it can never avoid being about the original, if it’s going to have anything to say at all. Even the most Beckettian of the Garfield parodies wouldn’t stand on their feet without the reference to their model – an original comic about a lonely man talking to himself would be held to higher standards. Its comment is ultimately directed at Garfield, and that comment is almost unavoidably critical. That’s why it’s no surprise that best subversions go for baffling instead of blunt. The funniest title-sequence parodies are the ones for The Golden Girls and Designing Women – rather than just splicing disturbing images into the Baywatch credits, which is stupid, they almost manage to pass for genuine attempts to improve the titles. Especially in the Designing Women one, I’m laughing at an imaginary director who thinks that the titles he’s come up with are perfectly good, not at the show itself. I’m guessing the people who really made the video don’t think too highly of the show. (I have no opinion myself – I barely remember it.) Perhaps there’s always some maliciousness to things like deconstruction, some ill will towards the target, but it’s not maliciousness that drives the video, it’s goofiness. Goofiness is easy to like.


Time you think you don’t have

Grant Text Auto has introduced me, based on the time I had to read the post and click the link, to the No Time Machine.

Take the time and observe what we are saying about time that we don’t have. As far as this project and its artistic qualities are concerned. It is art of the masses, because without us talking about time, there wouldn’t be substance for this creatively engineered project. So take the time and observe how time is being interpreted by those who believe they haven’t it.

Time out,


A quick note on blogging as it relates to the Comparative Blogging Foundation

Part of my focus as this Foundation develops will be to explore the blog as a medium of art. I have just successfully finished a thesis looking at critical approaches to the blog as a new medium. By new medium I mean to suggest that the blog is not a new form of literature and text but rather it represents a whole new form of art, something entirely separate. Thus once the final version is ready I will begin putting it up here to engage those interested in how the medium of the blog will interact with the world of art.

The basic idea is that the blog is, as is the internet at large, a multimodal communicative art form that can engage the creators and observers in a completely new way, one that makes them lose the uniqueness of their role in this equation, that as the creator or as the observer. But it may do much more than that; it can also connect all forms of art easily and fluidly. However, without any form of an authoritative principle to define this critically, it is hard to filter the genius from the everyday. But perhaps that requirement itself is outdated.

All of this will be engaged and explored. That is one of the tasks the Comparative Blogging Foundation will seek to investigate: Where is the art in this world?