r _Web.log

Archives: 2009-02

via Momus: morphemes, recreation, storage, and boring books

Total Art matches I was fortunate enough to catch the very tail-end of George Maciunas: The Dream Of Fluxus at the Baltic, Gateshead, a couple of weekends ago. It did a great job of putting Fluxus in its context, revealing a number of things that I had previously had no idea about — George Maciunas' colourblindness, for example, which perhaps goes some way to explain Fluxus' monochromatic aesthetic, and his key role in establishing the New York loft space co-ops which clearly leave their SoHo legacy to this day.

The other floors of this stunning building featured a Yoko Ono retrospective and an instance of Miranda July's unerringly sweet and genuine Learning To Love You More project. Both of these I was aware of previously; they also served to complement each other nicely. I hadn't heard, however, of A Spoken Word Exhibition, taking place at the same time. This group show was startling in its content and delivery: short textual pieces by the likes of Douglas Coupland, Lawrence Weiner, Yoko Ono herself and others, read on request by the gallery attendants dotted around the building.

The Baltic, Gateshead

It was a charming way to access a piece of work, inevitably involving an encounter with the attendant and the side-stories that this entails (one told me of the tourists incessantly photographing her as she sang one of the pieces). I enjoyed the reading of Vito Acconci's tale of conceptual Antarctic architecture, "Halley II Research Station: First Impressions & the Beginnings of a Conceptual Approach", neurotically revising plans for a structure of light.

The first reading I requested, however, was a date-specific piece by the world's favourite tender pervert Momus. He's perhaps my most-read blogger right now, so I was naturally curious to see what he'd written. I didn't expect to be greeted by just a pair of numbers: "2015 and 2058". Years, I presumed, but couldn't make any further connections.

Later investigation revealed that this was the title of an earlier blog post of his, in which he sketches predictions for the near future of 2015. Representing the dislocated title in this way serves to further fragment pieces of this digital fabric, hurling them out into the real world of flesh and speech without an obvious referrent -- a mischievous way to induce koan-like contemplation of naked morphemes.

This whole process reminded me of three things relating to Momus that I have intended to write about but failed.

1. As a festival bestowal just before Christmas, he collated and re-released his 6 early LPs on Creation Records, all free of charge in mp3 format (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6). There are some gems on their - particularly some of the nostalgic jungle-influenced sounds from Timelord.

Incidentally, there's a handful of gigs forthcoming at The Dream Machine, Dulwich, featuring other early Creation artists...

2. The below film, a narrated slideshow of boring book sleeves, is one of the funniest things he has produced. Hints of Peter Greenaway and Popper/Serafinowicz.

3. Having spotted some intriguing makeshift-looking storage solutions in a couple of photos of his apartment, I have shamelessly lifted his excellent postmodern storage solution of stacked Ikea Trissa boxes. It's the storage equivalent of lego. I hope this doesn't make me a cyberstalker.

Ikea Trissa units in action

Le Mundaneum

As an addendum to my earlier post following an IHT article, here's another thing they picked up from AP last year: The Web That Time Forgot, a report on Belgian taxonomist Paul Otlet and his early sketches towards a global information network - from the early 1930s, anticipating the internet by almost half a century.

In 1934, Otlet sketched out plans for a global network of computers (or "electric telescopes," as he called them) that would allow people to search and browse through millions of interlinked documents, images, audio and video files. He described how people would use the devices to send messages to one another, share files and even congregate in online social networks. He called the whole thing a "réseau," which might be translated as "network" — or arguably, "web."

The article quotes technojournalist Kevin Kelly, part of his research for a forthcoming book on the future of technology. Kelly has previously written about Otlet in relation to a documentary film about his life and his "Mundaneum" informative archive, which included such mind-boggling features as a primitive search engine (with submissions submitted to its archivist team by post).

There's also a free documentary on Otlet available on archive.org.

Such impressive technical foresight recalls the 17th century (!) writings of Francis Bacon, who describes, in New Atlantis, a future utopia:

We represent and imitate all articulate sounds and letters, and the voices and notes of beasts and birds. We have certain helps which, set to the ear, do further the hearing greatly; we have also divers strange and artificial echoes, reflecting the voice many times, and, as it were, tossing it; and some that give back the voice louder than it came, some shriller and some deeper; yea, some rendering the voice, differing in the letters or articulate sound from that they receive. We have all means to convey sounds in trunks and pipes, in strange lines and distances."

— Francis Bacon, New Atlantis (1626)

Bird migrations tracked over 5,000mi with 1.5g sensors

Read a couple of weeks ago but forgotten until now: the IHT reports on a Science article [subscription required] in which Toronto researchers track the migration patterns of birds over thousands of miles, using tiny backpacks that are light enough for songbirds to carry but still accurate enough to track movement remotely within a few miles.

One of their key novel findings is the distance that such birds can travel in one day: up to 370 miles, much larger than previously thought.

One boggles at the potential future uses of such technologies.

'In C' as learning process

What They Could Do, They Did are performing Terry Riley's "In C" tomorrow afternoon at the Roundhouse, Camden, as part of the 24 Fragments performance marathon to mark the closure of The Fragmented Orchestra.

Note the last-minute change of venue due to an administrative mixup. It'll be located in the building's beautiful foyer, and our performance will be accompanied by an acoustic set from The Verve's Simon Tong plus students and staff from the Roundhouse's award winning community projects.

After this, Professor Mark d'Inverno — my PhD supervisor, and one of the progenitors of interdisciplinary.co.uk — will be lecturing on self-organization in human stem cell dynamics. I'll then be following on from that by discussing the relationships between this type of system and that seen within The Fragmented Orchestra.

Hackster Runoff

K http://www.hipsterrunoff.com/2009/02/2553.html

For those interested in internet and meme culture, there's a strangely enjoyable minidrama playing out at Hipster Runoff, triggered by a purported hack of the site. It's now spawned a hilarious video post responding to the comments of the hacker's critics. Whether it is genuine or not is debatable — surely this is another Hipster Runoff heteronym? — but, either way, the video is something to behold. It reads like a painfully accurate take on anti-cultural pop-philosophical nihilism, referencing the likes of Fight Club and soundtracked by Linkin Park's "In The End".

From the comments:

"are hackers gunna be the new thing of 2k9??
Maybe they are more relevant than we knew."

— wut

What They Could Do, They Did... this week

Not one, but three What They Could Do, They Did-related events this week for your delectation, all with free entry as usual...

The Pictures (Barden's Boudier, Wednesday 18 Feb)
The latest installment of London's most entrenched underground film club, curated by Garry Sykes. This month featuring "Silver Jew" (exclusive UK screening), live music from Trace Fluids and The Super Shirani Nitemare Band, plus Boring Girls DJs, bingo, free popcorn...

icon: flyer A+B=C
Escape, Herne Hill, Thursday 19 Feb)

All bases are manned with our thrilling collaboration with Brighton's Beatabet collective (beatabet.net) for this month's Escape, featuring AK/DK, The Beatabet Band, The Capsized Smiles and so very much more.

icon: flyer "In C"
The Rochelle School, Arnold Circus, Saturday 21 Feb, 3pm

As part of the "24 Fragments" event (thefragmentedorchestra.com), we're performing Terry Riley's classic piece of unpredictable modern minimalism "In C" using a homebrewed ensemble specially trained for the purpose. Also accompanied by a talk by the Stroke Assocation.