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Archive by January, 2009

44th Presidential Inauguration Simulacra: Yo Yo Ma Did Not Play Live

Image source: NPR.org

Sources for commentary: NPR and NYTimes

The millions of people that viewed on TV and online Barack Obama’s Presidential Inauguration may be surprised to learn that Yo Yo Ma and his quartet did not play live. They performed to a pre-recorded track. The argument for this maneuver is that the moment had to be perfect. The performance had to live up to the occasion and mistakes could not take place:

The producers of the event (and the musicians themselves) wanted and even needed the moment to be transporting. And they also surely knew that they were set up to fail: The instruments in the quartet weren’t designed to be played outside, let alone in freezing temperatures. The musicians wouldn’t be able to hear each other well, and the open air offers none of the support of fine concert halls, where the acoustics can help lift a melody and let it soar. So, on this special occasion, they opted for control. (They weren’t the only ones with a recording lined up if needed; the U.S. Marine Band also had a backup tape in case temperatures got too low.)

NPR intereviewed Yo Yo Ma, who was indifferent about the fact that he did not play live. He was quite comfortable with make-believe. The NPR correspondent did not question Yo Yo Ma’s performance for its artistic delivery. The discussion was more about the necessity for this type of simulacrum.

I wonder how far we have come since the days of Milli Vanilli, when the pop-duo saw an end to their careers because they lip-synced to pre-recorded tracks. It must be pointed out that Milli Vanilli did not actually sing at all, so in this sense Yo Yo Ma’s situation is quite different because, as he explained during the radio interview, the quartet had performed the composition the day before the Inaugural Ceremony. Regardless, the fact that, both, the New York Times as well as NPR appear to discuss Ma’s simulacrum with some comfort and amusement does expose the awareness by people and the media that recordings may be acceptable to use in special occasions. In the past, prior to the pervasiveness of recordings, rituals were bound to the immediacy of the moment. Now, rituals are bound to the ever more important perfect recording for posterity. It was more important in the name of history for the Inaugural to have a perfect performance, than to have a real performance.

U.S. Presidential Inauguration

Image source: NYTimes

Just a brief entry to mark the Inauguration of the 44th United States President. Already many articles are being written about Bararck Obama and this day. NY Times has written about Europe celebrating:

PARIS — Around the globe, from Hong Kong to London, Barack Obama’s inauguration became a day for millions to fete an event they refused to see as reserved for Americans and insisted was one that touched lives far beyond the United States.

In Iberian America they are also following things with a positive attitude:

Hoy es el gran día para Barack Obama, que esta tarde toma posesión como el 44º presidente de EE UU. Será a las 11.30 de la mañana en Washington (16.30 GMT) cuando comience la tradicional ceremonia que culminará con el juramento del nuevo presidente ante el presidente del Tribunal Supremo, John Roberts. Entre dos y cuatro millones de personas seguirán el juramento desde el National Mall y los alrededores del Capitolio de Washington, una ciudad blindada con miles de policías encargados salvaguardar la seguridad de una jornada histórica.

The new presidency stands for a new phase in the history of the United States as well as the entire world. People are aware that today is a historical day. This will be like other major events when one remembers where one was at the time it took place.

Remix: The Bond of Repetition and Representation, by Eduardo Navas

Image source: Eightronica

The following text was published in December 2008 in Inter/activos II by Espacio Fundacion Telefonica, Buenos Aires. The publication was produced in support of a new media workshop and theory seminar by the same name which took place in 2006, organized by curator and writer Rodrigo Alonzo. The text revisits my definition of Remix that has already been introduced in prior writings, such as Turbulence: Remixes and Bonus Beats. This definition can also be found in the section Remix Defined. “The Bond of Repetition and Representation” links the theory of Noise by Jacques Attali to my overall argument that Remix has its roots in DJ Culture starting in the seventies. In the conclusion it revisits and extends my analysis of Yann Le Guenec’s project Le Catalogue.

Some things have changed since I first wrote this essay in 2006. I did not expect the print publication to take as long as it did, but now that it has finally been published, as opposed to updating the text, I have chosen to release it online as it was originally written. While some cultural trends may be quite different from 2006, the argument proposed is still relevant. This analysis is part of a much larger and extensive project and will be eventually released in its remixed form in the future.

The term remix, today, is used to describe various cultural elements, from mash-up software applications[1] to projective architecture.[2] No matter what form it takes, the remix is always allegorical, meaning that the object of contemplation depends on recognition of a pre-existing cultural code.[3] The audience is always expected to see within the object a trace of history.

To entertain the importance of Remix in culture at large, we must come to terms with it according to its historical development. This will enable us to understand the dialectics at play within Remix, which at the beginning of the twenty-first century is the ideological foundation for remix culture. As it will become clear in this essay, in order for remix culture to come about, certain dynamics had to be in place, and these were first explored in music, around the contention of representation and repetition. This essay will focus on defining remix in relation to these two terms, and then move on to examine its role in media and art.

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Scalable City: Interview with Sheldon Brown, by Eduardo Navas

Image and text source: gallery@calit2

The following interview with Sheldon Brown was commissioned by gallery@calit2 for the exhibition “Scalable City”. Exhibition dates: Thursday, Oct. 23, 2008 – Monday, Dec. 15, 2008

Sheldon Brown is an artist who works in new forms of culture that arise out of developments in computing technology. He is Director of the Center for Research in Computing and the Arts (CRCA) at UC San Diego, where he is a Professor of Visual Arts and an academic participant in the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology (Calit2). During his early career, Brown experimented with emerging technologies to develop works that explore the possible meaning of “virtual reality.” His installations were often designed for immersive audience participation. Many of these works have been developed for the gallery, such as “MetaStasis” (1990), an art installation consisting of a room that visitors enter to experience what appears to be, as Brown himself has called it, a “zoetrope of TV images.” Brown took his interest in mediated reality to the public sphere in installations such as “Video Wind Chimes” (1994), which projects broadcast TV images on the street sidewalk – images selected according to how the wind blows. In both of these projects, as well as many others, Brown emphasizes how metaphysical experience is contingent upon our increasing dependency in immersive media of all forms. Brown’s longstanding interest in mediation is further explored in “Scalable City.” In the following interview, the artist reflects on how Scalable City connects his interests in emerging technologies as well as longstanding traditions of art practice.

[Eduardo Navas] Unlike many artists who claim to be interested primarily in expressing their ideas and not being bound to a specific medium, you have chosen to focus on the development of art that is involved with computing technology. Having said this, the computer makes possible metamedia – meaning it simulates other media, and in this sense it allows artists to focus on idea development. It appears, then, that you share the interest of exploring ideas in the tradition of modern art practice with artists who might play down their preference for a particular medium. With this in mind, could you reflect on the shifts that art practice may be taking based on the increasing role of computers in all aspects of our lives? How do you see your art practice in relation to previous practices which may have downplayed their preference for a particular medium?

[Sheldon Brown] It seems you attribute conflicting claims for my relationship to “medium”, but I don’t see computing as a medium in the 20th century sense. Probably even the idea of it as a meta-medium does not capture its character. It may be more useful to think about computing as creating certain cultural conditions, and I’m doing work which utilizes and responds to those conditions. It might then be more like the interest in speed as a condition for the futurists, but I wouldn’t want to make too much of any analogies to previous art movements and their concerns. The impact of computing on culture comes after the modernist, conceptualist and post-modernist engagements, and just as I have called it a meta-medium, I could also call it a meta-ism – it is able to simulate any and all of these previous attitudes. Not that my interests in this begin and end at simulation of previous forms; this is but one of the gestures possible in this condition, but when it performs any of these simulations, they become rapidly engaged in a new dynamic which doesn’t stop at borders of previous operations.
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Further Reflections on Content and Form in 2009

Image source: Front of Consumer Electronics Show, NYTimes

Just a few days ago I reflected on how networked culture is entering a new stage of consumption in which devices are becoming more than anything multipurposed due to the demand by consumers to access the network at all times. The New York Times on January 11 published the article “To Connect to the Internet, Just Turn on Your TV” by Saul Hansell. An article which entertains how people are becoming more invested in access to information than the devices of delivery. Hansell states:

If the most exciting thing about your phone or truck or TV is the Web sites you go to and the software applications you download, then the device itself is less important.

The article clearly exposes how companies who make televisions are trying to make their products appealing as actual objects, while also knowing that people in the end are becoming more concerned with the actual service the device offers. My observation regarding the article is that in the end TV’s are becoming more like other convergence devices that allow users to access anything from e-mail to games, no matter in what area of consumer goods the devices may be primarily being sold.

Hansell’s observation is an interesting point to consider in relation to my views about multipurpose devices facing the need to crossover constantly to provide services more than anything. As I previously mentioned, this will be a major challenge for media strategists when defining the identity or branding of the product being promoted. This trend of information defining the form appears to be in the air, and is definitely a development that will become pivotal in the evolution of web 3.0.

REBLOG: Could Your Social Networks Spill Your Secrets?, by Tom Simonite

Image and Text: NewScientist

Originally posted on January 7, 2009

Via Netbehaviour.org

In an article at the end of last year we looked at some of the ways data-mining techniques are being used by marketeers and security services to extract sometimes private information by assembling huge amounts of data from web visits, emails, purchases, and more.

Now researchers at Google caution in a paper (pdf) that by becoming entangled in ever more social networks online, people are building up their own piles of revealing data. And as more websites gain social features, even the things users strive to keep private won’t necessarily stay that way, they suggest. (more…)

On Content and Form: 2009 Forecast

Image source NYTimes: Batman, Dark Night, Warner Bros. “Supporters say Blu-ray had a breakout year, crowned by “The Dark Knight,” which sold 600,000 Blu-ray copies in one day.”

Normally, I’m not so concerned with reflections on the old year at the beginning of the new. However, the NY Times article “Blu-ray’s Fuzzy Future” exposed some of the tendencies that developed in 2008, which will become more pronounced in 2009.

The article entertains how Blu-ray, even after displacing HD DVD in the digital video market is currently struggling. Blu-ray’s competitor this time is not another DVD based technology, but rather a networked technology. The Internet is Blu-ray’s next competitor, as the article notes. The preoccupation of Blu-ray developers is that it is very likely that people will be moving towards machines that allow for movie downloads much in the format of On Demand services in cable networks across the United States. So, Blu-ray is introducing in the near future a feature that will allow people to download material from the Internet:

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