12 June 2005

Heat, Blogs, and Art (?)

Hi -

I'm left to my own devices for a week and a half because "J-Fav" is away on a cross-country trip. This is Night 4. [Intense action, relatively speaking: Eddie is meowing at small bug crawling up yellow dining room wall.] On Friday night, I visited my folks in Connecticut, including a tour of the amazing work they've done in the garden. On Saturday afternoon I returned to home base and, after (insert boring, precious-only-to-me story about Eddie acting weird in the heat), B. and I went out to Kripsy Kreme. They are open until 3am tonight. Who are the people going to Krispy Kreme at 3am?

It's hot. Really hot. People in Arlington, in Cambridge, in Somerville, everywhere: they're out in the streets, wandering, having ice cream cones, drinking ice coffees, filling up the Diesel Cafe. I thought maybe they'd hide in air-conditioning with WiFi updating their blogs, but it looks like blogdom is slow today.

I had a random and incompletely-considered idea about art appreciation. Coming from an electrical engineer, this will sound as ill-informed as you can get.

For the purposes of this paragraph, successful means "resulting in an emotional response." An aspect of "successful" art implicitly communicates information about the limitations of its medium to the viewer/reader, listener, or user in a way that results in heightening the effect of the art. For example, one reason I like the pixelized art of eBoy is because I am impressed with the kind of pictures they can impose on a strict grid. One (necessary but not sufficient?) reason i like the art of Jenny Holzer is that I know she limits herself to brief phrases. One reason I like graphic design - and a lot of the work of John Maeda - is because of the limited collection of visual objects (text, lines, colors) the artist has at his/her disposal. Maybe that's why I like some of the "retro" watches from Diesel.

Link from Zakros.com

Link from Diesel.com

In contrast, I don't like most art which has a strong "Photoshop" feel to it, since Photoshop has a multitude of artistic software tools associated with it, and it is unclear which part of the expression is due to the artist's technical skill, and which was served up by a menu item gone awry.

There's an associated observation here, which is that early compositions using new musical instruments seem to rely more on rhythmic than tonal composition - for example, I'm a drummer, and when someone hands me a guitar I'm more comfortable slapping my palm on the guitar than playing a tune. I think some of today's electronica (IDM) is still "too" rhythmic, that is, software packages offer so many thousands of options to the user that although expressiveness is not limited, I think the communication of expression is limited because it is unclear to the listener what the boundaries of the electronic "instrument" are.

You could argue that I'm only arguing that the observer's knowledge of a medium's easy and difficult points allows the observer to have a greater (or lesser?) appreciation of what an artist does in that medium. The observer's emotional response shouldn't change at all. So maybe it's a weak argument. Ah, well.

Here's to tomorrow not being so freakishly hot. Looking forward to reading more Stuart Kauffman at the Deisel with B. and "Professor B".


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