I can’t upload my mix currently. However, Courtney Mitchell and I worked through our video and sound project for a while. First we tried to go to the park and record sounds of footsteps, wind, and more. However, we found ourselves constrained by our field recorder that would not pick up the delicateness of these sounds.
We then progressed to music… and found ourselves a bit frustrated by trying to create “the perfect mix.”
We were trying to work with the idea of a political messaging system and how that messaging is affected by the music that can be run with it. We added music that seemed to be in tune with the speaker’s ideas of imagination, yet still provocative in that the speaker works for right wing conservatives and is speaking on the Fox News channel.
Conversation is “the most commonly experienced form of interactivity,” according to Chris Crawford (p. 5, The Art of Interactive Design.” In which case, of course, the exhibit’s title of “Talk to Me” is wonderfully concise.
Many of the pieces in “Talk to Me” can talk to you. And you can talk to them. The result is a conversation, for not only are you talking to the objects, screens, displays, but also they react to your speech, and their reaction shows a conversation.
Some of the pieces are more thought-provoking than conversation-starting— and yet in provoking your thoughts they then encourage your conversation— perhaps with the person standing next to you.
For example, the analog clock demonstrates an artist interacting with time, and you inherently interact with time, and you see the clock that the artist creates, but you do not participate in his work, nor can you talk to it and change it. It is a video that has been created for you to see.
Just as printed books can’t listen or think but can only speak, videos and movies (as Crawford writes) speak to audiences— and often “do that very, very well” (p. 10).
Some of the particularly notable projects at Talk to Me were those that turned inanimate objects into objects that do hold two dimensional conversations… or rather, reactions. Crawford writes, “A stronger and stronger reaction does not transcend its nature and become an interaction.” For example, the books that allow you to touch and understand the words better: “Touch Hear.” I strolled up to the recently opened de Kooning exhibit and wished that I could speak with the creator of the works, that I could converse with him about the context of his prolific paintings— from the 1920s and onward through decades of war and change.
Happily, the curators of the exhibit play a role between our questions and the creators of the objects. It was interesting to go to “Talk to Me”s website and appreciate again how the curators organized the wealth of content: categorizing the projects into objects, bodies, life, city, worlds and double entendre. Some projects are particularly tagged with the label of “interactive.” Crawford brings up the idea of having different scales of interactivity: high, moderate, low or zero. Listening, thinking and speaking must be part of the conversation… and often the projects might have skipped one component, making them perhaps more of a commentary than an interactive item.
The two seven year olds wandering around the exhibit the first time I went were good indicators as to how interactive a project was. In fact, they took the word and made it their own. “Mom, nothing’s interactive here, I can’t touch anything,” they whined. There is something inherently non-interactive about most museums. One ought to look, sit, walk, but not touch, listen, converse.
Good physical interaction? Involves as many of the senses as possible: my first reaction. (Head, shoulders knees and toes… eyes and ears and mouth and nose! Head, shoulders knees and toes). But yes, physical interaction is getting physical in at least a few capacities: moving, touching, smelling, rather than only seeing, or only listening.
Many of the objects had headphones that allowed me to experience the way the objects would be used. My favorite project that highlights the possibility of making music interactive was the “Interlude” project that gave certain objects sounds that were activated in different ways depending on how the objects were used. People could truly play music though they might not know how to play a specific instrument: simply by throwing and catching a ball at different heights and at different speeds.
This project, and several others, combined with Crawford’s book, changed my understanding of how many dimensions an interaction can have. It is not only about reaction, as he says. For that would be a one-way street. Instead, it is more delicate, more of a playful, lighter touch that still holds us tight. As he writes, “Interactivity wraps its tentacles around our minds and doesn’t let go. Active, direct involvement always demands greater attention than passive observation. As the Chinese proverb says, ‘I hear and I forget; I see and I remember; I do and I understand’” (p. 16).
Firstly, several quotations I found particularly useful from ”Ecstasy of Influence” by Jonathan Lethem.
"Walter Benjamin drew a comparison between the photographic apparatus and Freud’s psychoanalytic methods. Just as Freud’s theories ‘isolated and made analyzable things which had heretofore floated along unnoticed in the broad stream of perception,’ the photographic apparatus focuses on ‘hidden details of familiar objects,’ revealing ‘entirely new structural formations of the subject’" (p. 4, Harper’s, February, 2007).
"He who receives an idea from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at mine, receives light without darkening me" (p. 6, Harper’s, February 2007).
Ideas of authenticity and interaction:
When we take something over, we make it our own and in turn, it becomes unique rather than just another thing in this material world.
"In the book The Velveteen Rabbit, the old Skin Horse offers the [Velveteen Rabbit] a lecture on the value of a new toy: it lies not in its material qualities… but rather in how the toy is used. ‘When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real” (p. 6, Harper’s, February 2007).
"But if it is true that in the essential commerce of art a gift is carried by the work from the artist to his audience, if I am right to say that where there is no gift there is no art, then it may be possible to destroy a work of art by converting it into a pure commodity" (p. 8, Harper’s, February 2007).
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I found the articles from the Week 1 assignment thought provoking and perplexing.
I first read “On the Rights of Molotov Man” by Joy Garnett and Susan Meiselas. I felt strongly that Garnett had treated Meiselas’ work and point of view unfairly.
Given that both of the individuals are artists who spent time, money, intellectual and physical effort on creating their works, one might say that neither work is above the other.
At the same time, the chronology of the story leads me to a new conclusion that is beyond comparing one work with another. Meiselas made the point that Garnett ought to consider the characters he includes in his artwork as individuals— individuals who have historical context, whom he ought show respect by contextualizing their struggles rather than throwing them together haphazardly.
If the Molotov Man threw the molotov cocktail in the joyous spirit of revolution and victory over a regime, this spirit is distinct from that of a flat riot. While Meiselas’ photograph takes this into consideration, Garnett’s pick of one man out of a group, a city, a country, a region and a time, makes this case of “copyright” about much more than the law.
With my strong response to the article, I ought to add that Susan is my aunt, and I traveled to Nicaragua with her for the 25th anniversary of the revolution. Her images are especially important to the older Nicaraguans who lived through the Somoza regime: they capture moments that the children never saw, moments that the grandparents can only recreate with collective memories and stories. I traveled with Susan as she mounted enormous, weather-resistant reproductions of the photographs in the same locations where they had first been taken 25 years before. The pedestrians and bicyclers stopped, discussed, took time to consider how and whether things had changed. There is so much more to the photographs than an icon, a man throwing a molotov cocktail.
However, the article, “Ecstasy of Influence” by Jonathan Lethem made me think more broadly about the theory behind an artistic community— and the challenges of plagiarism that it faces. Above are several quotations that stood out as moments that challenged my understanding of plagiarism after reading both the Garnett - Meiselas article and the New York Times article, “Record Industry Braces for Artists’ Battle Over Song Rights.” The first quotation I typed up from Lethem’s article seems to support Garnett’s work in that Garnett brought detailed attention to a man who otherwise would have “floated along unnoticed in the broad stream of perception”— he would have been just one of a crowd— thought it still does not justify the lack of context or incorrect “Riot” category.
Nevertheless, the quotation from Thomas Jefferson does help me understand these questions of copyright in a new perspective: “He who receives an idea from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at mine, receives light without darkening me” (Lethem, Jonathan. “Ecstasy of Influence,” p. 6, Harper’s, February 2007). In my opinion, as long as there is learning in these debates between artists, as long as songmakers consider how they have learned from their peers or their forefathers, then “copyright” is far less important. After all, most artists want to be acknowledged for their work, their process, the care they show toward their subjects. If one artist shows respect for the other’s work, and even discusses it, they collaborate, and their collaboration is a “longcut” that makes copyright citations unnecessary.
To bring the debate to an even wider perspective, the philosopher Clifford Geertz:
"There is an Indian story – at least I heard it as an Indian story – about an
Englishman who, having been told that the world rested on a platform which
rested on the back of an elephant which rested in turn on the back of a turtle,
asked (perhaps he was an ethnographer; it is the way they behave), what did the
turtle rest on? Another turtle. And that turtle? “Ah, Sahib, after that it is turtles
all the way down.”
(Geertz, Clifford. The Interpretation of Cultures: Selected Essays. Basic Books: New York. 1973. P. 29).