Thursday, January 19, 2006

Iconic internet art?

Ever since I saw this article and the corresponding caption "An iconic image of internet art?" next to a snapshot of Alex Tew's web page I have been wondering about the emergence of an artistic landscape on the internet. If the internet is a city - or at least its streets and byways and pedestrian walkways, then perhaps it is something like Martin Scorsese's depiction of New York avenues at night.

Or maybe I'm getting carried away. Although I hope someone will get that far ...

I looked up some of the other web pages since Alex's is currently down, to see if the images continue to appear interesting. Here are two - one from Million Penny Home Page and another from Million Pixel Page.

Million Penny Home Page

Million Pixel Page

Is it possible for art to exist in an image that was not created by an artist, and if so what does that say about art - that the beauty of it lies in the eye of the beholder or in the vision of the creator?

But at the same time it is reminiscent of Tristan Tzara's dada advice on writing a poem:

"To Make a Dadaist Poem:

Take a newspaper.
Take a pair of scissors.
Choose an article as long as you are planning to make your poem.
Then cut out each of the words that make up this article and put them in a bag.
Shake it gently.
Then take out the scraps one after the other in the order in which they left the bag.
Copy conscientiously.
The poem will be like you.
And here you are a writer, infinitely original and endowed with a sensibility that is charming though beyond the understanding of the vulgar.

Tristan Tzara"

Is there a better metaphor? Perhaps this iconic image is not so novel after all, and digital Dada has finally hit the mainstream.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Resolution! dance performances

Went to see three dance pieces as part of Resolution! at The Place on Friday (6 January). As a relative newcomer to the contemporary dance scene I am still finding my way but in the company of the much more experienced Sabrina and Matthew I got to place my perceptions in better perspectives.

Resolution! is an annual launch pad (this the 17th one) for new choreographic talent and although there is an application process the criteria for admission appears to be in the region of the experimental and interesting and therefore one shouldn't be too sure what to expect. Resolution! is to dance what resonancefm is to music radio (yes, do check it out!).

Of the evening's performances the second by Lunacy Nicked was probably the most accomplished, but each had its own distinctive flavour and personally I enjoyed all of them.

The first, For Better, For Worse by Helix Dance had as its theme the relationship between a man and a woman in their twenties - focusing specifically on the emotional turmoil they experience while in relationship. At the start two cut-out cardboard figures are apparent on the centre-stage, holding hands. These are the silhouettes of a man and a woman and generally show where the relationship is at emotionally - together or not, or trying to move closer or apart.

From the beginning the tension is apparent as the guy tries to move his figure away and the girl indicates "no, here!" forcing him to bring it back next to her. During the first part we become acquainted with them as they relate, in words, some of their experiences to the audience - the descriptions are often comic. This self-reflective aspect of the piece - talking to the audience - becomes even more apparent later as they continue to stop each other with "is it my part now? what was I supposed to say?". The device is not original but it is probably more interesting than a straight delivery. I will soon mention one moment that made it worthwhile to use this device.

The second scene focuses on the relationship and the dance intensifies - they are dancing in tandem with one another but the cut-out figures are no longer together and it is therefore clear that they are slightly at odds while they manoeuver around the stage. It is during the second scene that the girl suddenly falls away from the guy and says something like: "I know that we said that this is forever and that I want to be with you always but now I ...". She stops. The typical emotional subtext is that she is afraid to say the worst, namely what she is thinking, but she could also be provoking his emotions, putting him onto a different but otherwise expected script within their emotional relationship context. Here the dance is therefore a bit like a script - something that could be open-ended, but somehow has to work within confined boundaries, known boundaries. The dancers communicate to each other according to what they know and respond - prefer to respond - in ways familiar to them; much like the dancers also have to communicate to the audience in a way that is at least somewhat familiar to them - but with some openendedness to leave room for imagination and innovation.

The guy's response is "you want to throttle me then". But he could just as well have kept quiet - and she could then have said: "But I want to try new things now, I feel we have come to the end." His response puts them at odds again, they are having an argument, but the intensity is something they experience together - it is still an attempt to draw closer.

In the third scene they have drawn apart in order to search and experience their own emotions and inner life. Their dances are no longer in tandem with one another, instead they are dancing by themselves - experiencing individual intensities and reactions, but connected to the other (as is apparent by frequent glances to the partner).

The third scene ends when, after the guy has placed his cut-out figure in front, left of the stage, the girl eventually joins him there with her figure after her own inner searching. They are back together again. However the very last action is that they hug and kiss in the middle of the stage and then become aware of themselves as dancers again and request a "fade to black". The directorial awareness is therefore an important part of the piece - however it is not explored in great depth or to really good effect.

The second piece, Lunacy Nicked by Ear Me In, was the most accomplished - the 3 dancers were all excellent and what distinguished this piece from the other two was its ability to project to the audience. The viewer never felt cut off from the presence of the dancers. M noted that the dancers have a theater background in addition to a dance background, and that certainly explains a lot.

There are basicaly three girls in 3 different situations throughout the performance. At the last they are apparently quite drunk in some bar. The main aspects that seemed exploratory to me was the constant use of familiar gestures in that environment (drinking, giggling, acting stupid and drunk) and secondly the use of an audio voice-over that sounded a lot like TV sports commentary ("and here we have Nikki, doing a cartwheel!" "and now Lucy leaves the spotlight ..."). M explained that they are connected to Integrated Dance Company and therefore it is partly to engage an audience who may be visually impaired - but I also felt it is an interesting blurring of media boundaries. Nevertheless, in the last instance, I missed something to stir the emotions - which I found in the first piece where music was used to very good effect.

The last piece, Grain by SLAPDASH, was definitely the least audience-friendly - a real exploratory piece. There were two dancers and two musicians (playing what looked like a violin and a cello respectively). They started at different corners of the stage and then the musicians tried to cue the dancers (in a very slow start - they restarted about 5 times and it just seemed to lose the audience's interest eventually) as if to get them to dance in sync.

The reality is that, apart from some visual symmetry in their positions their actual movements and music were not synchronised with one another at all - intentionally. Furthermore the dances were neither symbolic nor gestural - to me personally they seemed abstract albeit flowing. The same can be said for the music - the players played in time to each other and the dancers, but their was no sense of melody at all. The music was not recognisable in any sort of way. If the ending reminded me of a rapid neo-flamenco finale with its rising intensity that was probably just to give the piece a sense of reaching a relative destination.

Nevertheless, as with all the other pieces, the audience clapped a lot at the end. And I was left with a good feeling that dancers and choreographers are encouraged so enthusiastically to continue exploring and experimenting - even though not all of it is audience friendly or even highly successful.

The lasting impression about Grain is that it tries to communicate on an ideas level and does so in part by distancing itself completely from familiar meanings in the individual movements and sounds. It may well be that someone else could have deciphered more but this much was apparent to me. Taking it for what it is I was interested, but felt that they too suffered from the first piece's lack of projection to the audience. To communicate properly to your audience your presence should be unmistakable in the viewer's mind. They seemed rather tentative to me at first, and only gradually shone with more confidence and freedom.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

The controversy surrounding AllPeers

There has been something of a storm over the new hyped peer-to-peer software over at And it hasn't even been released yet, it's still in beta.

From what I can gather so far it is:

1. P2P using a BitTorrent client
2. fully integrated with Firefox
3. media file oriented, so you get to share all your media files with selected peers
4. open source
5. and free "as in beer"

I find it hard to believe the authors' contention that no legal issues can be raised, especially since their discussion of the issues do not make much reference to technical legal details. At any rate at this moment it remains controversial.

You can also read more over at their blog.

Monday, January 02, 2006

And since I've been studying current developments in psychology

As much as I enjoyed 33 x Around The Sun I am, in the last instance, discouraged by the looney atmosphere of the mental hospital. At the risk of sounding like a member of the PC entertainment police it seems a bit stereotyped to put a bunch of people in this setup without considering the advances that have been made in the field of mental health. It does not really harm the exploration of consciousness though because the institutional framework is merely a backdrop for the main themes. At most it would have been refreshing to see a more progressive milieu.