Category: kinetic


Visual Language (Encyclopedia Pictura)

October 26th, 2011 — 05:18 pm

In my thesis, I state:

“I think visual language evolution is on a trajectory toward becoming a real-world object. The shape of these letterform objects might correspond to embodied structures: visual analogs of mathematics that arise from the acoustic resonance inside our bodies. It can be argued that much of proportional aesthetics (theories of golden mean symettry etc.) arises from embodiment, evolutionary activity over millennia etching patterns in physiognomy.

What I am suggesting is that innate shapes (geometry or topology in Thom’s terms) already exist for letterforms. They implicitly underlie our oral audible language, they are subconscious sculptures intuited from the shape of diaphragm, larynx, mouth, lips and tongue. They have been etched there by speaking. Some shapes are personal, some shapes are cross-cultural. Yet it is these shapes and vibrational presences that are being given birth and dimensional form within 3D animation, ads, and digital poetry.”

Computation provides us with unprecedented tools to implement such a vision. Perhaps the most fundamental agreement with my viewpoint comes from an unusual source: Encyclopedia Pictura are a trio of motion-graphic artists who have made extraordinary music videos for artists such as Bjork and clients like Spore.

Near the bottom of their website menu is a discrete link to a page devoted to visual language: a set of drawings and eventually doodles which outline their vision for an augmented reality application which utilizes morphological text that is relationally appropriate to the sound of the voice of the speakers.

In other words they propose precisely what I have advocated in my thesis and worked towards with works like Human–Mind–Machine. Except they have actually gone farther, providing one-to-one relationships between sounds and candidate shapes. Continue reading »

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2009 : David Clark’s 88 Constellations for Wittgenstein

April 15th, 2011 — 05:34 pm

As a meta-monument, a monolith, to the confluence of philosophy and poetry, and an extended meditation on the convergence of thought in multimedia, David Clark’s 88 Constellations for Wittgenstein is a rapturous virtuosic sprawling labyrinth that confounds, nourishes and provokes. It is (in my view) a consummate example of hybrid interactivity, future cinema, net-art and scholarship. It is in effect a poem. Written, directed and animated by Clark with a team of collaborative assistance, 88 Constellations establishes learning as an aesthetic act, philosophy as path-based, and trivia as profound.

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Each of the 88 constellation lines is a micro film woven around ricochet facts. Parts of a possible path : Wittgenstein didn’t talk until he was 4 years old, gave away a fortune, went into exile, read pulp novels, published one thin book. Thus simple things become thick with synchronicity.

Why 88? Here’s a morsel of the voice-over: “Constellations and piano keys, two upright infinities, two fat ladies, 1, 8, 8, 9, Chaplin Hitler and Wittgenstein,  star-crossed sons of fate, born to love and born to hate, one would last to 88, ….” Chaplin, Wittgenstein, Hitler were all born around the same day in 1889. Somehow these lives become vectors that hurtle through modernist architecture into the Twin  Towers.

From 2001: A Space Odyssey to Sept. 11th 2001, science fiction pervades pop culture until the antagonism between high and low thought itself pops and there in the rubble is genuine revelation. Stockhausen refers to the twin towers’ collapse as the greatest act of art. Repetition and intentionality colliding with the sturdy architecture of our beliefs even as it constructs lies and legends. Art for ark’s sake. Form follows functionlessness.

In my view, Clark is constructing epic poems. Just as the ancient oral poets regurgitated the news of their time in convulsive memorable writhing heaps of meaning, Clark investigates coincidences until we “connect the dots”. Probing the paradox of superstition’s roots in fact, parables growing out of perturbed patterns. Each viewer becomes witness to Wittgenstein’s profound yet often incomprehensible speaking to himself. For Clark thought occurs inside and outside us in conversations with culture. King Kong’s 1976 finale on the Twin Towers sits side by side with an elliptical morsel on the Petronia Towers: “Two tall twins side by side, 88 lights, a ghost in the sky, 88 floors, 88 floors, 88 floors in Kuala Lumpur, the world’s tallest building has 88 floors, 2 Islamic stars, 8 sides a door.” The Tribute of Light created on the site of the Twin Towers is created by 88 lights; it all echoes Albert Speer’s cathedral of light for Hitler’s Nuremberg rally. Homosexuals, gypsies and jews all gassed. In Clark’s words, these lights look outside ourselves to look in, in an act of reverse astronomy. Culture becomes a catastrophe, a mutating shape we impose meanings upon.

As virtuosic as it is sinuous, in 88 Constellations enigmas sprout from collisions and connections erupt from hidden symmetries. “Infinity is the number 8 lying down”. Goddard making a film about cities and woman. To get laid; to lie; to lie down. Language too lies down, and lies and gives up at its limit which is love. As lovers discuss Wittgenstein and Derrida in a cafe, concepts become corporal and eventually confound, we become the cream in their coffee, harvesting the crushed whirling suctional effervescent force of spoons.

Wittgenstein wrote: “Our words will only express facts.” Wittgenstein also said “Nothing is hidden.” Yet here in the 88 Constellations everything through surplus seems obscure, making less sense as it makes more. Loos: “Design purged of ornamentation” in the style of the Tractatus, effortless computation.

Moving sideways through such a ripe evanescent turmoil of excess facticity, Clark repeats certain themes like fugue motifs (repetition, logic, 88, repressions, twins), weaving toward an idiosyncratic reservoir where innate ideas absorb and integrate their opposites. Similarly the sound-scape (designed by Clark) operates contrapuntally, as a generative modular entity: sparse, elegant and effective. Appropriate for an architecture of “more is less.” Closure refused; the question remains a quest: “Who is Ludwig Wittgenstein?”

And the question for us is: “What is David Clark?” A poet? Animator? Musician? Scholar? Philosopher? Culture junkie? Provocateur? Pulp mediast?

Wittgenstein loved mystery novels. I love 88 Constellations for Wittgenstein.

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2000 – ? : Dreaming Methods

February 13th, 2011 — 09:12 pm

Like the tentacles or root system of a macabre plant, Dreaming Methods (a website developed by programmer-poet Andy Campbell often with primary collaborator/partner videographer Judi Alston) distributes audacious and sensual digital fiction thru multiple media: browsers, apps and pdfs. Its vision is disturbing yet never horrific: conspiracy theories, incest, suicides, rape, dreams, runaways, amnesiacs. Brooding soundscapes. Destabilizing (often impeccable) interactivity. Dreaming Methods provokes a gliding psychotic trance.

Info dribbles thru the stale air of decaying flats, the polluted breezes of derelict rail-lands, infected with casual malice, ripe with stories. Each work sutures vignettes of eerie tranquility with implied violence, trauma scenes. Its like being paralyzed and a bit stoned. There is always a story about someone who might have`done something, but no one is ever seen. No faces appear. Time shatters into melancholic shards. Psychosis is just off-screen.

Words seep out of furniture. Their meanings as fragmentary and ephemeral as dust. Chapter readings often require fulfillment of goals. Readers become players as they are played (sustained and engaged, drawn in and drawn upon). Scale shifts frequently: rooms zoom into details. The edge of a decaying mattress. An old calculator. Text is swimming everywhere. Memories saturate space, as if molecules were tongues. The system is permeated with stories all the way down. Yet even proximity cannot resolve the palpable abiding sense of alienation.

Dreaming Methods is a creepy excursion into the hypnagogic trenches: part waking, part wonder, part abyss. It is also an exercise in sustained stylistic grace and a profound engagement with digital literature. Over a decades`work, Andy Campbell has succeeded in developing a signature that combines sophisticated coding, narrative torque and aesthetic fastidiousness. It has a bit of the glitch of hi-res.net during their donnie darko days before they got totally branded. On Dreaming Methods, the work aims not to sell or to shock but to shelter in homage, lost memories, latent dreams, bits and bandwidth, esoteric audio-visuals and intricate code. Swaying between being lost and feeling loss, it iterates (and exits) loops both computationally and emotionally.

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1926 Marcel Duchamp – Anemic Cinema

February 5th, 2011 — 02:28 pm

The spinning wheel[1] is fundamental to both hard-drives and to Marcel Duchamp’s 1926 film Anemic Cinema, an early example of animated text. In Anemic Cinema[2] phrases painted in spirals onto a flat disk  rotate at constant speed. The reader reads inward from the edge to the phrase’s end near the spinning centre. This process evokes algorithmic alchemists with circular charts and simultaneously anticipates the mobility and motility of digitally animated text pulled along curved paths and extruded on MTV. In Duchamp’s film the eye slips in or out along a serpentine labyrinth. Vinyl LP grooves existent in phonograph recordings (viewed when drunk) may have been the inspiration. Certainly the vortices of Hitchcock emulators and Brio Gysin’s Dream Machine are descendants. Reader flexibility is necessary: the poetic line is not flat, it is curved and on the move. Semantic impact emerges in spasms as legibility unravels like a snake.

Anemic Cinema is an engine that derives visual energy from mechanical rotation. This echoes the origin of malleable language: the clay potter’s wheel spinning so that fingers dragged from the centre to the edge form patterns. In Anemic Cinema, patterns function as visual punctuation between each of the text segments. They also provide time for the text’s complex puns and aphorisms to be digested.

The over-exposure strobes of the early film-stock date it to contemporary eyes as an antiquarian project; yet, this is a project that for its era must have required the use of technically advanced equipment combined with idiosyncratic vision. In this sense, it is close in practice to digital poets who extend software and work with new media: it leverages the edge of tech. Anemic Cinema places Duchamp[3] at the origin of animated text and visual poetry in high art and forms a useful link between ancient clay glyphs, potter’s wheels and petroglyphs, and current motion graphics and spinning digital media: disk drive, laser disk, CD-ROM, DVD.


[1] The spinning wheel is a motif that travels through technology in ways that connect to the activity of reading: from potter’s wheel, alchemists charts, phonographs, vinyl LPs, disk drives, cd-roms and dvds. Reading migrates from finger to ear to eye to laser.

[2] The title Anemic Cinema foreshadows a central credibility dilemma for visual animated poems. Seemingly lacking in the enriched healthy visual stimulus of imagery, visual poems are the anemic stunted cousins of real poems and real cinema.. Duchamp’s sardonic title diagnosed this credibility gap early.

[3] The work is signed by a pseudonym of Duchamp: Rrose Selavy

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