Infinite Monkey

Instructions. Procedure. Chance. Patterns. Chaos. Order. appropriation. subversion… I absolutely loved all the discussions we had in the Art Strategies class, and I tried making a final prototype that addresses as many topics as it can. I created following infinite monkey simulation using p5.js:

As a response to final prototype, my proposal was this script running on *ALL* the display screens at Times Square, NYC. It is a crowded tourist attraction in New York which I didn’t quite like: almost all the displays have only advertisements. The site with magnificent canvas and large audience will be a perfect resource to subvert for artistic purposes!

Following the presentation, I received some great feedback from the class:replies01

Response to Walid Raad’s artworks at MoMA

I find the concept of multiverse interesting and problematic at the same time. Interesting because it opens a whole new set of possibilities (and impossibilities alike!), and problematic because it hits me hard every single time when I wind up the contemplation and go back to real life. Stepping outside into crowded streets of Manhattan was therefore a really difficult transition after experiencing Walid Raad’s “Scratching on things I could disavow” at MoMA.

The first floor showcased a series of miniature versions of his artworks, one after the other. The entire exhibition on this floor was wrapped in a mysterious, vague aura as it gradually incepted doubts: whether the addressed events actually happened or not. The last few pieces were based on clearly unreal events( for example ‘artists from the future communicating with Walid Raad via telepathy’) but the gradual change in tone of the descriptive text made it compelling enough. Environment of the art gallery also had a share in it since the place was quiet and viewers didn’t intend or dare to publicly express their disbelief. This was my first visit to MoMA and it worked really well- I wasn’t sure about the regulations followed in here such as the use of photography and general acceptable volume level of smalltalks. These factors induced another layer of mystery.

On the next floor there were actual artworks in form of notes, photographs, video recordings and paintings. The walkthrough began with a set of artifact pieces that the artist ‘received in a deformed condition’, juxtaposed with reimagined forms and supporting text.

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These works appeared legit and real in the beginning. Later the artist himself visited the floor and explained the stories. He mentioned that the artworks ‘lost their shadows and I had to reimagine and create them back’. It was certainly obscure with some misplaced sense of reality as we know it. However there was a strong conviction with which he confidently narrated the whole story with a serious tone, as though it was real. It was a spectacular performance.

Next there were photographs of shells and rockets. These images appeared completely real. I particularly found the arrangement of artworks very effective: First there were close-ups of the shells and bullets. Next there was a wall full of simple frames, each showing just a tiny explosion in the center of the canvas. Do these dangerous weapons make a very little impact in a greater scheme of things?

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I liked the narration when he described horses in a race and attempts to capture the winning horse reaching the finish line. In addition to the fact that horse is a powerful symbol that connects to so many representations such as speed, time, strength, discipline, and power, I found the photographs of horse and the rider together as a much interesting component of artwork.

Prototype: Cultural Jamming

I know four languages (I plan to learn more!), and it is fascinating to see that sometimes the phonetics and words used to describe an object are surprisingly similar, even though the languages are spoken in entirely different geographical regions. When I listen to a language that I don’t understand, I tend to associate some sort of a meaning with the words. It is usually based on how hard or soft a word sounds, and the process is mostly involuntary. Another observation is that I have an almost different personality based on what language I speak.

I have a rather complex proposal for a prototype that tries to merge two worlds speaking two different languages. A dishonest dictionary (fundamentally any system that maps two languages) that translates sentences from one language into another with grammatically correct form, but perhaps incorrect meaning. The user would not know if the translation is correct or not. It might lead to a realization that a language is much like a culture than a plain, impersonal set of syntactical rules and grammatical arrangements.

BUGA-UP : Subvertising artistic movement

Billboard Utilising Graffitists Against Unhealthy Promotions (BUGA-UP) started in 1979 in Australia. The movement aims at modifying billboard advertisement that promote unhealthy products. Mostly alcoholic beverages and tobacco product billboards were targeted and modified with graffiti.

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It is interesting to see how their messages are buit on top of existing ones. The original advertisements were perhaps the results of thoughtful design process and marketing strategies, but the graffiti mocks the efforts and talks about the other side of the story. The use of spray cans add an element of covert human activity and therefore further contrasts with the original layout.

BUGA-UP website also has a how to page that provides instructions for creating custom tools and provides guidelines and suggestions on how to go ahead with graffiti. This has an appearance of procedural art practice.

“Shooting Into The Corner” by Anish Kapoor

Somehow I am much attracted to social performance artworks that address the space and time exploring the metaphysical self of the objects and viewers involved, rather than the works that address social issues such as gender equality or racism.

Anish Kapoor is an influential British-Indian artist whose upcoming artworks always make me curious. His finished works and performances make me rethink and refine my own understanding and definition of art. In last couple of weeks we looked at performance and social practices in arts. Technically Anish Kapoor does not produce works in these genres— his works are more into to the post-minimalist league of architectural sculptures, much similar to Vito Acconci’s. However, this particular work, “Shooting into the corner”, demonstrates a major performance.

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The performance involved a technician shooting forty pound wax blobs into a corner of a room with a nine feet long canon. It was performed at various museums such as Royal Academy of Arts, Guggenheim Bilbao etc. from 2009 to 2013. The artist describes the resulting trace as a ‘giant gunshot wound’.

The result indeed looks ‘carnivore’ in a sense that it develops with each gunshot, and makes the viewer think of factors such as what might have caused this wound, who is directly or indirectly responsible for this event, and what is going to happen next. Another way to look at the performance is why the technician is shooting the blobs in the first place, what is it that he is targeting, and when does he decides to fire the next blob.

Guggenheim states that the performance portrays Kapoor’s interest in the idea of the ‘auto-generated’—entities that emerge and take shape without the artist triggering the creation. Looking at Kapoor’s works and ideas and responses to recent happenings in the world of art, I would argue that the notion of auto-generation entities applies only to the formal appearance of this performance. I strongly feel this performance connects to Kapoor’s iconic methodology of evoking the void. His sculptures generally present meticulously crafted, highly finished yet strange and alien-looking forms. “In the end, I’m talking about myself and thinking about making nothing, which I see as a void. But then that’s something, even though it really is nothing”, he says. In this performance the strategy involves a trigger from the artist (or the technician in a very superficial interpretation) as he happens to be the one who changes the empty space into high-contrast visuals that are open to interpretations on many levels.

A Response to Hans Haacke’s Condensation Cube

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Condensation is a change of state of water from its gaseous form to liquid. It occurs in Haacke’s cube as a result of the interior temperature exceeding the exterior temperature. Water evaporates in the interiors of the cube and condenses on the walls as there is low temperature on the outside. It is interesting to see a commonly occurring phenomenon presented as a work of art, as it opens doors to so many intellectual interpretations.

Haacke emphasized the invisible relations and forces behind the change of state in a system, by comparing the micro-climate factors to the invisible structure by which a society functions. While on one hand the artwork shows how a system goes on without external intervention and demotes a viewer to the role of just an observer, it also involves minute changes that take place because of the viewers. Viewers, by virtue of physical presence in the art gallery, impact the micro-climate around the cube, therefore varying the dew points and temperature differences on the inside and outside of the cube. The artwork thus challenges the typical, cynical notion that an individual’s efforts will never lead to a great social change.

The artwork corresponds to some significant socio-cultural factors from the 60s, such as cybernetics[1]. Self-regulated systems maintaining a steady loop or homeostasis, and on next level considering observer as an implicit part of the system, were discussed to great lengths in the 60s. Algorithms allowed artists and scientists to come up with tangible manifestations of these discussions. Other technologies such as the television set and personalized documentation devices (e.g. Sony Portapak in 1967) allowed curious minds to capture, share and view these experiences. Significant developments took place in architecture too, such as popularization of concept of Megastructures— encapsulation of a city in a single building or a few interconnected buildings. It made a great impact on science fiction writings and movies (e.g. 2001- A space odyssey, 1968).

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I can relate Haacke’s works (many other systems artworks including the condensation cube) to the simple system diagram above. It is not a finite cause-effect narration that starts from point A and ends at point B; but it is a continual derivation of next states from current factors in the system. Alan Turing in 1948 described his machine as an unlimited memory capacity obtained in the form of an infinite tape marked out into squares, on each of which a symbol could be printed. At any moment there is one symbol in the machine; it is called the scanned symbol. The machine can alter the scanned symbol, and its behavior is in part determined by that symbol, but the symbols on the tape elsewhere do not affect the behavior of the machine. However, the tape can be moved back and forth through the machine, this being one of the elementary operations of the machine. Any symbol on the tape may therefore eventually have an innings[2]. Haacke’s works revolve around the ideas of natural, social systems and their interrelation; and I guess Turing machine provides the base for constructing artificial representations of these systems. In condensation cube the current state of the cube can be thought of as the current symbol on the infinite tape. It eventually determines the next state, or the next symbol on the tape; and hypothetically the system would go on forever.

 


References

  1. Hans Haacke, in conversation with Jeanne Siegel, 1971
  2. Turing Machine

An Artistic, Strategic Response to Sol LeWitt’s Instructions and Dada manifesto

I took three approaches to work on the strategy prototype and finally wrote instructions for the last one:

1
Choices shape our lives as we grow, from simple ones such as what all toppings to have on a pizza to substantial ones like deciding a major for master’s degree. This could set a platform to write instructions for a prototype that is generated based on the choices a user makes. It will be an attempt to consequently produce a piece of art that addresses:
1. Why a person appreciates a certain type(s) of Art,
2. What makes one ‘lose interest’ in certain types of art, assuming that as kids we are open to try out all genres and mediums to produce and appreciate art?
Maybe I will work on this concept throughout this semester.

2
Moving to New York City from an altogether different culture made me spot a number of interesting differences in daily lifestyle of the people. It will be worth a try to write instructions to create a piece of art that highlights the cross-cultural differences that arise as different cultures have different takes on consumption and production of daily goods.

3
As a response to Dada manifesto and Sol LeWitt’s instructions I thought of creating a strategy prototype that involves art production with repetitive mechanical steps. I am also interested in looking into the results when the final piece of art completely lacks any skilful inputs and relies completely on instructions that could be followed even by a person without any taste of aesthetics. The final artwork, taking inspiration from parts of Dada manifesto, might even look ‘meaningless’ by virtue of the formal attributes alone, and its value would be in the intellectual interpretation.

Instructions
1. Get a new sketchbook and a pencil.
2. On page 1, draw a free hand circle with any radius.
3. Draw another free hand circle outside the earlier one, and make sure the two circles touch each other.
4. Keep on drawing circles till the page is full.
5. Repeat steps 2 to 4 for all the next pages of the book.
6. Gift it to a close friend of yours on their birthday.

The Fountain (1917)

I found the idea disgusting when I learnt about Duchamp’s fountain for the first time- and paradoxically it therefore appealed to me as a piece of art that strongly portrays beliefs from its manifesto. All art classes I attended as a school-going kid were based on an undertone that practicing and developing skills is a mandatory factor in creating art. Dadaism completely rips it apart with a bold presence of ‘anti-artworks’.

The artist attempted to shift the focus from skillful creation of an artifact to its interpretation, by presenting a mass-produced object that sends a clear message: Art is worthless spam. And as Stephen Hicks quotes, it is something you piss on.

The fountain was exhibited in 1917, and so much has changed in last hundred years with advent of technology. What fascinates me more than the rebellious Dada manifesto is the fact that art critics and societies had to take note of the fountain; it did not just go unnoticed. It appeared on several then-available platforms that successfully mediated the artist’s message. The interpretations of the fountain mostly seem to be based on Duchamp’s communications with fellow Dada artists and art collectors via the letters they exchanged, the journals that published anti-art, and the geographical and production details of the original urinal that was photographed. In this sense, it appears quite fascinating to compare and study the strategies Sol LeWitt might have used to make sure that the procedural and instruction-based art reaches to the masses that would eventually create artworks.