Saturday, July 25, 2009

recent works...

here are some vidcaps of my recent work in processing. the actual programs are randomized so each time it is run it will look different.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Mr. Vandelay

As I return to blogging, I want to post about Art. I hope this post doesn't seem to pretentious. Of course, given the few people that read me, it doesn't really matter all that much.

First of all, in an attempt to mitigate some of the pretension, let me say that I am not an artist. To paraphrase what was said about Dan Quayle vis a vis John Kennedy, “I know artists. Mike Zellers is no artist.” However, I do feel that I create art. Albeit perhaps crappy art. I never found discussions such as “Are videogames art? Is Mary Halvorson a jazz guitarist?” to be interesting. Categorizing something cannot enhance my experience and may even detract from it. Halvorson is awesome regardless. Additionally, I feel that art is too important to leave to artists (and politics too important to leave to politicians, religion to religious leaders, technology to technologists – etc) . By this, I certainly don't mean we don't need artists. We do. I simply mean that art – specifically creating art, can be part of anyone's life. So as such, let's for the sake of argument say I am a nonartist that makes art (I know, Eno said something similar first – never claimed to be especially original)

I got into art in a very convoluted way. As a senior in high school, I was touring Washington DC and got hit with the flu. I didn't feel like walking much. One of the things I did was sit in the National Gallery of Art and stare at paintings. This was probably the first time I ever “looked” at art. I was always the math/science geek type. Told by countless teachers my art work sucked. Thinking art wasn't for me. The DC trip made me interested in viewing art.

I begin admiring artists and especially musicians – creative types. After all, I got technical stuff; it was no mystery to me. But creativity was a quality that seemed foreign and mysterious. I felt, given enough time I could write any computer program that anyone else could write, however, give me an eternity and I could never write a song, or create a work of art. Because of this, artists intrigued me.

At various times in my life, I began playing around – sketching and even making little figures out of clay. Purely for fun. When unemployed/and or depressed (depression – another good topic for a future essay), sketching was an activity I could lose myself in. By no means I am good, but it kept me outta trouble, as they say.

Fast forward a bunch of years. I started teaching Web Development and to enhance my teaching started playing with digital cameras. At some point, I started having fun playing around taking pics. I was surprised with how much I liked the results, and more so even the process. Given it was so different than my normal inclnation and career (technology), I enjoyed the experience, and working using intuition rather than logic.

I was at a metro park and saw a display and thought, well, my stuff is at least as good as this, so emailed the parks and displayed my work at one. I have since displayed my stuff at other places – not often – but with some regularity. Have even sold a few. I have no illusion of making money or becoming famous. I do like however when people see what I have done – the whole “if a tree falls and no one hears it....” business. The viewer completes the work. I sometimes get frustrated I am not seen more or sell more. But I always come back to why I do this in the first place – to scratch an itch – to fulfill the part of me that usually takes the backseat. I also realize I have been very fortunate with what I have done re:displaying and selling given I am non-artist.

I mainly have taken pictures of nature. There are a bunch of reasons for this – some good, some flimsy. I think it was the Greeks that talked about nature being true beauty and art must reflect the beauty of nature. Perhaps some of my photos are cliched, but pictures of nature in its various aspects is what most often thrills me. I have started taking other sorts of pictures as well – trying to stretch my creativity further and find similar beauty in other environments that I do in a natural environment. Speaking of beauty, I know not all art needs to be beautiful. But, for the most part, I want most of what I create to have beauty. Its a shame that it seems sometimes that beauty in art is quaint or passe.

I have periodically, and again recently, played with generative art – using computer programs to manipulate and create images – especially, dynamic multi-exposures. I've always viewed artists as playing “God” - creating their own universes in which one can immerse. If anything, generative art is closer to my view of artist as playing “God” - that is, one does not control the creation, but controls the rules by which the creation is made – and then let the creation unfold. Of course, as an agnostic/atheist non-artist, what do I know. To paraphrase Bones, “I'm a programmer not an artist.”

Of course, I stack the deck. By selecting the pictures and by fiddling with the algorithms, I exert some control over the end product. It's a delight because while I have a sense at what an algorithm will produce, sometimes there are happy accidents, and the randomness ensures some surprises. Of course, just as it is not a coincidence that the laws of physics are such that intelligence life exists (if they weren't, there'd be no one here to complain about it – the anthropomorphic principle), if a particular generative experiment yields nothing of value, it disappears (the artthropomorpic principle – lol). The ones that are left that I post to either my processing page on my site, or on flickr, are the ones that I feel yield the best results.

I like including my nature photos in these – sorta closes the loop for one. Secondly, nature got it right – I guess I agree with the Greeks here. The form/shading/color etc... When I manipulate the images, I hope some of nature can still be seen in them. I also like the blending of "natural" and technological elements. I love it in music – see Jon Hassell, etc... Maybe by manipulating the pictures with technology, I destroy the natural aspects. Or maybe I mutate it in a way that is positive. But I think it speaks of where we are now as humanity in the 21st century. And of course, this sparks a whole debate about what natural is - aren't humans part of "nature" - but I won't get into that here - you all know what I mean by contrasting natural w/technological.

I have no idea how to “present” this sort of stuff to the world, or to sell it. But I love to create it. I love the process and am frequently delighted by the results. And I want others to see. I think I can honestly say not merely to massage my ego.

Well, to the few, the brave that made it through this whole post. I sincerely thank you. I hope I was neither too boring nor too pretentious. Please don't hesitate to comment/criticize. Really. Be honest.

*small change posted approx 12:45PM*

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

desert island record...

i recall many years ago reading a book called stranded, where a number of rock critics picked the one album they would take on a desert island with them. Taking the hypothetical situation literally, and not altering the question to pick the best album, or my favorite album, currently i would go to MUSIC FOR AIRPORTS. however, i would select BANG ON A CAN'S version. For those of you that don't know, brian eno virtually invented a genre of music - ambient - with this record. his ambient manifesto makes great reading, though i am too lazy to link to it - or indeed post any links today. essentially, eno's goal was to create music one could either pay close attention to, or simply have on in the background. he succeeded with this goal. MUSIC FOR AIRPORTS is perfect music to accompany the day's activities, yet still holds up to close listening. In addition, it sounds either heart breakingly sad, or totally calm and peaceful. all taken together, makes it perfect album to sit with on a desert island... could accompany mundanes tasks, deep contemplation and times of despair - activities, which i suspect, would take up most of my time on a desert island, as opposed to parties, etc... come to think of it, it what i spend most of my time on anyhow even though not on a desert island. BANG ON A CAN'S version with "real" instruments is a rare case of me favoring a remake to the original. The sound is richer in my humble opinion, so would give the slight nod to it over the original...

Saturday, July 18, 2009


h6 - latest effort in processing

Monday, July 13, 2009


IMG_3360, originally uploaded by Louise Denham.

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