Faculty Travels: Zack in India

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Adjunct Faculty Zack Denfeld is traveling to Bangalore, India during the month of June. He will be blogging his experience, highlighting his interactions with the burgeoning cultural institutions that deal with art, design and creative work. Zack will give updates about his own ongoing projects in India and introduce readers to the work of other interesting people he meets along the way. It is his hope that these dispatches provide supporting evidence for students in his Art & Design in Contemporary Society class that the possibilities for creative practice are more open than ever before.

Zackery Denfeld : Jul 13, 2009

Goodbye Bangalore!

It was a great trip. I finally got South Indian stylee movie posters made. :-)

See you in 6 months.

Zackery Denfeld : Jul 13, 2009

Meet the Manjunauts

After the last signals faded over to the dark side of the moon, the unbearable news of their lost space-craft trickled down to earth, breaking many a teenage heart. You or your uncles might remember the failed, joint NASA-ISRO rescue missions, and those desperate prayers offered at Tirupathi. Armed with some old video MACHINES and VCR tapes rescued from obscurity THE MANJUNAUTS, presumably lost, given up on, have resurfaced. They have recast themselves as an orchestra, when the time comes they will return to their roots as space explorers, but for now they are here to FUNK US OUT. The Manjunaut Trio, like the Jackson Five, the Gundeja Brothers or the Corleone Family are a tight unit. Video Machines, Harmoniums, toy piano’s and customized software are played and tinkered with – recreating those trips to the asteroid belt that your grandfather always talked about.

The show was awesome! Thanks everyone for coming out. Video documentation coming up soon.

Zackery Denfeld : Jul 07, 2009

Announcing: VEGAN ORTOLAN: DECADENCE FOR ALL

I have been cooking up this project over the last few months, inspired by a conversation over breakfast with members of the PDXsoupNIGHT crew, and an awesome talk I saw on Molecular Gastronomy / Food Hacking by Gweeds at the Hackers on Planet Earth conference last summer. (here is an .mp3) I wanted to put a draft of the project here, before it launches in earnest in August. Any feedback on the rules / categories / etc. would be greatly appreciated.

DESCRIPTION

Vegan Ortolan is a migratory festival of open-source cooking competitions. Think Pecha-Kucha, with food. They can be hosted by interested parties in homes, restaurants, street corners or rock clubs. The recipes are shared online and will be compiled into a cookbook at the end of 2010.

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At each VEGAN ORTOLAN event, 1-5 chefs prepare an amuse-bouche and serve them to audience members who eat them while wearing a large white napkin on their head.

The recipes take inspiration from the French dish: Ortolan.

Ortolan is a dish that consists of one small baked bird. During the migration of the Ortolan Bunting from North Africa to Europe the birds are caught with large nets. Then they are placed in dark boxes (or blinded) so that they think it is night time, and gorge themselves. After they have doubled in size the birds are drowned in Armagnac, and cooked for 8-10 minutes. Diners eat the hot bird whole, taking up to 20 minutes to chew through the feathers, meat and bones. Some Ortolan aficionados claim you can taste flavors from each of the lands that the birds have grazed in.

The Ortolan is illegal to sell in the EU, although it can still be caught and prepared by individuals legally.

Traditionally one eats the meal with a white sheet over the head. This ritual is thought to either hide one’s shame from God or keep all the smells and juices from the 15+ minute eating process close to one’s face.

CATEGORIES

There are three styles of preparation that chefs can follow and be judged on: SIMULATION, DECADENCE, LOCALITY

In the SIMULATION category the chef attempts to create a dish that simulates the experience of eating a whole live bird using only vegetarian or vegan ingredients. Ortolan’s are eaten whole (sometimes the head is included, sometimes it is cut off before it is inserted into the mouth). Feathers, bones and organs are eaten. SIMULATION chef’s might attempt to simulate the various body parts, or perhaps try to capture the range and variety of textures present in the ORTOLAN.

In the DECADENCE category the chef uses ingredients, flavors or preparation methods that are far outside the normal patterns of culinary culture. One might use expensive ingredients, utilize labor intensive preparation methods, or create flavors that most eaters have never experienced.

In the LOCALITY category chefs attempt to create a flavor geography with their dish. It has been said by some Ortolan aficionados that one can taste the flavors from each of the lands where the bird migrates. Chefs competing in this category might attempt to make the dish restricting themselves to food grown only within a 10 mile radius, or to serve the dish with a map showing the location of the ingredients and encouraging tasters to savor each landscape as they eat the dish.

Zackery Denfeld : Jul 06, 2009

Underground VJ (Updated)

A slightly more professional cut not shot from a mobile phone, like mine was (below).

Shivajinagar Bus Station: Underground VJ from bling dot bling on Vimeo.

Zackery Denfeld : Jun 30, 2009

First Bangalore CityOneMinute to go Live

First Bangalore CityOneMinutes to go Live!~

Lithographic Printer, Bangalore
by Matt Lee/ Smriti Mehra

Lithographic Printer, Bangalore – Matt Lee/ Smriti Mehra from Matt Lee on Vimeo.

Zackery Denfeld : Jun 30, 2009

Bird Watching in Hampi

After recovering from a rather serious flu, Selby and I went to Hampi for some R&R.

Here is a list of the birds that we positively identified in during our three day stay.:

// Black Headed Munia
// Little Egret
// Purple Heron
// Red Vented Bulbul
// Indian Swiftlet
// Asian Palm Swift
// Large Billed Crow
// Black Capped Kingfisher
// Pied Kingfisher
// Green Bee-Eater
// Eurasian Golden Oriole

Zackery Denfeld : Jun 23, 2009

Selby from Piek! here for Bangalore City One Minutes

Selby, from the ArtGroup Piek!, arrived from the Netherlands, bringing a secret suitcase as a gift. You’ll have to ask me what is inside later…

On Saturday we went to the Museum of Science and Technology.

It is actually a really cool, gritty, hand crafted and hands-on exhibit space for kids and adults.

The trouble is that like most Museum’s of Science & Industry I have ever visited (see: Chicago) it is highly uncritical, particularly when it comes to issues like Biotechnology and…..slavery(?!?).:

Why Scientists Should be Required to take humanities

The graphic design which is maximalist and filter laden:

On Monday Night Selby and I hosted a meeting for the CityOneMinutes that we will be curating here in Bangalore. The Center for Knowledge Societies was nice enough to lend us their space and projector for the organizational meeting, and for Friday’s show.

I am very much looking forward to seeing the videos that the Bangalore artists produce, and to host the CityOneMinutes in Portland, OR in the coming months.

Zackery Denfeld : Jun 20, 2009

Day 5: Computing EN PLEIN AIR and IN SITU

On day 5 we had a lot of fun taking the animations and displaying them in-situ, and sharing the students’ work with some of their parents.

Taking animations and interactive sketches into the field feels much more full and contextual than just keeping them in the white / black cube where they are produced.

With the mobility of the netbooks, and the speed with which the students can now rapidly prototype SCRATCH animations I hope we can do entire sessions in the fields / waterways / alleways of the neighborhood.

Impressionists painted en plein air in part because of new paint technology, and I am glad that this generation of networked eco-technologists can do digital storytelling in the field as well.

Zackery Denfeld : Jun 20, 2009

DAY 4: Massing with Bodies and Computers, Framing Computer Animation

Day 4 continued the two tracks in our group with one group measuring and drawing the whole building with our bodies and using accurate (and somewhat precise) measurements in SKETCHUP.

The other group added interactivity to their SCRATCH animations and made more hand-made paper frames for their Netbooks.

Zackery Denfeld : Jun 20, 2009

Day 3: Computer as Craft Material

n the morning we asked students to take the props and characters and story-lines they had developed yesterday and enact a play on the map. These plays traced some very sophisticated resource and energy flows.

To extend the mapping of flows that emerged from the plays we did some more elaborate and complex network diagrams on the chalk board that followed the flow of material, wealth, water, energy and more, through the community.

For the rest of the day most of the students worked on their SRATCH animations based on the mornings plays, and a small group of four started to make more complex renderings of the Drishya school in Google Sketch Up.

Once the students started to figure out with HOW they were going to display their SCRATH programs we had a breakthrough. It has been hoped for a while that computers could be small enough and designed with intention for use as a craft material. One thinks of Arduino and the physical computing for artists/crafters revolution. However, by using the otherwise useless Nokia N810 running a hacked version of SCRATCH we were able to use these little screens and imbed them right into the map, and create frames that continued the animation into the crafted space. For Jay it was a revelation for a goal he has had for a while: using computers as a craft material.

Computers compliment craft instead of getting in the way of the intuitive and materiality of the handmade, while still allowing the excitement and vision that comes with animation and interactivity. Nice!

Zackery Denfeld : Jun 17, 2009

ATOMIC: Augmented Reality Authoring Tool


Jose David Cuartas Correa is a hacker / technologist from Columbia.

Last night I attended his talk at the Centre for Internet & Society
.
(A pretty awesome group).

He was introducing a new piece of open source Augmented Reality software designed for use in Art, Design and Eduction called Automic.

Before I describe the talk, I should tell you how a Columbian hacker ended up in Bangalore:

Apparently, he wanted to study abroad for a semester, and had heard good things about MIT Media lab. He googled the same, and the 5th hit was our lab: CEMA the Center for Experimental Media Arts. He clicked on that one first and read this line that I had wrote in a moment of giddy optimism when told they can start a graduate program and make it whatever they want: “The Center for Experimental Media Arts (CEMA) is an innovative lab where artists, hackers, engineers, and scientists come together to develop new tools and methodologies for investigating and acting in the world.” Jose never went back to click on the Media Lab link. A few weeks later his ticket was booked and he was in Bangalore.

When Jose tells this story it feels like fate intervened. When you google MIT Media lab, the CEMA link only came up for a few days, and is not there anymore. I am very excited that Jose could join the lab, and made a significant achievement in creating an intuitive Augmented Reality tool, that is open source and will be very useful for Artists and Designers. It sounds like Jose joins the ranks of CEMA artists-out-of-residence. People who may not be there physically but retain the values and keep the network alive, and stop back in at the physical space every year or two.

Now on to the talk.

I was very excited to hear about Jose’s commitment to FLOSS, and particularly his work in Columbia with an NGO (Sologicolibre) that tries to make FLOSS accessible for Art, Design and Entertainment, because too often these tools can be designed primarily by and for engineers. I was heartened to hear that ATOMIC has been written in what an engineer might call “ugly” code. It has very methodical and transparent patterns so that anyone with interest can make modifications to the code without having to unravel twisted, but elegant logic. Also, it was authored in PROCESSING which is the language that is the most used and understood by the artists that I am friends with. Finally, Jose used his time in Bangalore to make the software cross-platform, so now it runs on Linux, Mac and Windows.

The first half of the talk seemed to repeat the some of the same tropes about “revolution” and “utopia” of the VR movement from the early 90s. For example Jose showed a rather silly Discovery Channel short from New Zealand that said that Augmented Reality books are the most revolutionary communications revolution since the printed press.

One of the reasons VR (and AR in its early stages) failed was because it didn’t take into account human participants’ materiality: people got dizzy / sick from wearing headsets, looking out into virtual space. So I was surprised when Jose presented AR technologies with same utopic language that had previously been used with the advent of VR. In particular always having to look through a screen T2 style does not seem very appealing or good for my body.

As humans, our senses have evolved to filter out many types of information, and process or understand some types. No one was thinking about the inner ear when dreaming up VR, Computer graphics was a gravity-less virtual space, but it turns out that our meat bodies still have preferences and restrictions back in the real world. I think second life is uninteresting because it requires me to sit uncomfortably in chair and look through a screen, and not move. I find SMS, GPS and embedded computing because it allows me to be an active participant in the material and social world, while possibly (but only possibly) extending my reach / understanding / ability to connect.

I prefer my Techno Utopic manifesto’s both Fast, Cheap and Out of Control, as well as embedded, sensitive, situated and contextual.

However, unlike some other AR enthusiasts I have seen, Jose seems to realize that AR is most interesting when it disappears into our daily lives. He talked about how in the AR community there is a split between those that see AR as a reality or an interface. He seems to see it more as an interface. Jose used a nice example when saying that anyone with a small digital camera or mobile phone camera is always already using AR technology. I think this is true and a better starting point for a discussion of the potential uses of AR, because these are small, mobile and used intermittently, instead of the headmounted or even desktop AR which is always there and requires constant filtering through machine vision. I like to take my cyborg self in doses. When I think of successful forms of Mixed reality, I think of architecture, and books, and text messaging. It seems to me that more big screens is the last thing that is needed in the world. The ambient and calming potential of putting information in the periphery would seem to require an engagement with the senses of hearing, touch and possibly smell. (More on Srishti undergrads who are making stinky synthetic biology art in a future post).

As Jose’s talk continued he showed more examples of Augmented reality that was designed primarily as an interface. In one case a machine vision program recognized the color red, so when a user wore red gloves they could play air guitar that made sounds, without holding a material artifact. And then there is the use of QRcode in Japan, which is an interesting example of embedded computing.

Again the camera acts as an eye, but the output could be a song, or a link, or point to anything really.

RFID is over there doing it’s thing, and no one quite knows how that will shake out, with issues of privacy being weighed against the Bright Green Future of Bruce Sterling’s Shaping Things.

Finally, the power went out, as often happens in Bangalore. But Jose was quick on his feet, and still performed the demo of his software using his laptop running off batteries, the imageCode that was saved on his cell phone, and webcam. (Clearly this event is a either a metaphor for the robustness of the software, or a demonstration of the folly or relying on always-on electronic environments as a planetary people, when we can not create enough / enough clean energy to power a city).

I have to say: the demo was quite awesome! It’s a drag and drop – plug and play software, that is intuitive and has very cool results.

I look forward to using ATOMIC in future classes at PNCA and CEMA, and I encourage you to check it out:

Zackery Denfeld : Jun 15, 2009

American Hot & Sweet Corn

Zackery Denfeld : Jun 15, 2009

Day 2: Performing Network Flows

Every morning starts with the creating of a Mandala by the students and yoga session. Both activities require concentration and promote relaxation, which I think one of the reasons the students are so focused and ready to learn as the class starts. Today’s mandala was especially beautiful.

Day 2 things really started to take off in terms of making and story telling. Uday had created a hand-drawn map of the neighborhood with students in a previous course, which we enlarged using an overhead projector and markers.

In the afternoon we did Charettes based on random pairings of characters such as: Mosquito vs. Mango Tree and Dog vs. Cow.

It was a lot of fun for the teachers and students to get in character and bark, whimper and sting. It was especially revealing to me to watch Coconut Tree vs. Oxygen & Water. The tree grew from a small sapling, its branches spread out, and the water effected it less.

However the oxygen (here personified as wind) seemed to shake the supple Coconut trunk in the wind. Eventually the tree fell and the water and oxygen hovered over it, mourning its passing.

We concluded the afternoon by creating new props and characters for our map based on the days stories.

Zackery Denfeld : Jun 12, 2009

Day 1 At Drishya

For the next two weeks I am spending my days working at a school in an informal settlement in Bangalore called Drishya Kalika Kendra.

My collaborators are Jay Silver from MIT Media Lab and Uday from Drishya school. Over the two weeks we are teaching 14 young people (12-16) to tell stories through maps, animations and interactive media.

On the first day we wanted to start to imagine the relationships between humans, non-humans and the environment that all are situated in.

First we did an exercise where we measured the class using elements of our bodies such as wingspan, hands and feet.

Jay and I were surprised to find that in our class one student’s wingspan was about the same as 10 palms. Base 10. Perfect! Is this a common / well known proportion? (Teachers always learn more than students ;-)

Next we used these measurements to draw plan and elevation views of the room we were in on the chalkboard.

Finally, we constructed paper models of the room.

This session helped us position our bodies in relationship to the proportion of the classroom, and to start to understand how to define inside / outside space and massing. (Which will help us in later GoogleSketchUp components of the class). Some students got really excited about this project and started adding tons of details to their paper models, such switch boxes, fans and then adding other rooms.

Next we sent students outside of the classroom with Cell Phone cameras donated from Nokia, and asked them to find images in living things in their environment.

This real-time Urban Ecology study was a great success. Students had fun taking photographs, and explaining why they chose them, and we took geocordinates using a GPS unit at each of the sites they identified as important. These images and geodata will come in handy tomorrow when the students will create small plays based on these living non-human actors and start to create a community map.

Finally we spent the afternoon doing a small GeoCache.

((Note: All Drishya photographs mostly by Jay, with some support from Zack and Uday.))

Zackery Denfeld : Jun 08, 2009

A Few Things That Made Me Smile


Rain on MG Road. The Monsoon has really cooled things off here.


Beautiful leaf.


Dubai has its 7 star hotel. Bangalore has its Bling Hospitality.


Nice paint job!

Zackery Denfeld : Jun 07, 2009

GALLERY HOPPING 2: ART IN THE MALL

While walking over to a photography gallery which was closed, we were told by someone on the street that there was an exhibition at the UB Towers Mall.

The mall has opened less than a year ago, and we were interested to see how a gallery would position itself in the space. In this post I will talk about the show itself. In the next post I will tell a bit more about the state of the mall.

The show consisted of a set of paintings on pedestals in three places in the mall.

I met Essmath Khaleezi, a representative from Apparao Galleries. She told me that she was excited bring artwork to the mall because she felt the average person does not get enough of a chance to stand in front of a painting and contemplate it and not feel like they have to buy it.

For her this was a great opportunity to share the ideas of contemporary art with the common man.

(Of course, no “common” man would EVER step foot in THIS mall, or even be allowed to if they tried to enter…but more on that next).

She is a Bangalore native and is happy to come back to the city and do work that involves spreading contemporary art scene. I was told (repeatedly) by guards in the mall that I was not allowed to take photographs at all. However, Essmath understands that that images of this installation will attract attention to her gallery so she gave me permission. Considering I wasn’t given an explanation by the guards as to why photography was banned even though I asked, and that they had no way of enforcing the rule without throwing me out, I took many photographs anyways. Thanks for the info Essmath!

Here is the panel next to the paintings that describes Apparao Galleries


APPARAO GALLERIES

Apparao galleries, originally called ‘The Gallery’ Madras was launched in 1984. With the globalization of art and keen interest in contemporary art its pioneer Sharan Apparao realized that the need to personalize it with a less general name and used her name like other international galleries. APPARAO GALLERIES is now one of the leading contemporary art galleries in India.

APPARAO GALLERIES

Apparao galleries, originally called ‘The Gallery’ Madras was launched in 1984. With the globalization of art and keen interest in contemporary art its pioneer Sharan Apparao realized that the need to personalize it with a less general name and used her name like other international galleries. APPARAO GALLERIES is now one of the leading contemporary art galleries in India.

APPARAO GALLERIS caters to the aesthetic needs of the Indian diaspora and provides a window to the exciting trends that emerging from South India. The gallery stocks a comprehensive range of artists and has the distinction of having promoted some of India’s most renowned names in cities across the world. It also coordinates overseas activities through export concern the ‘Art Route’.

The gallery deals with established artists while building unknown emerging artists into ‘brands’ in the art world. By creating and co-ordinating art events it assists in display presentation of contemporary art through auctions, solo shows, group shows, photo shows and art events. APPARAO GALLERIES’ strength is that of an ‘art incubator’ in the art world. Creating a platform of lectures & workshops for artists to interact with each other. APPARAO GALLERIES promotes young emerging talent to its forte.

APPARAO GALLERIES understand the needs of the collectors and locates exhibition in different venues traveling with them when necessary. It also acts as a consultant to authentication and document all aspects of contemporary art for private and corporate collectors. It advises collectors on maintanence, restoration and up keeping of art.

Zackery Denfeld : Jun 07, 2009

THE MALL WITH NO STORES

The UB City mall was intended to carry primarily international luxury brands.

However, it was completed just as the global economy started its nose dive so much of the mall remains empty although it does contain and Apple Store, Louis Vutton and a few others. It currently exists in an interesting space where Bangalore young and wealthy come to see and be seen.

It provides the branded lifestyle-experience, without nearly enough opportunities for purchase to make sustainable enterprise. Maybe they could just charge a fee at the door, acknowledging the fact that it is a theme park.

A little tacky, sure, but its more honest, and I am sure most wealthy Bangalorians wouldn’t mind.

But there is just not very much shopping to be done, so there is a lot of milling about. Because of the perceived rules of admittance (you must have this much money, be of this caste, be a foreigner and/or be dressed very well) there are just not that many people inside. It has a strange feeling of being a fairly empty but possibly accessible semi-public space. I would love to see an artist arrange a meal / parade in the mall for the 95% of Bangalorians that will never step foot inside. Now that is Art in the Mall I can down with.

The architecture itself is a chintzy pastiche that on first glance might make only a truly cynical post-modernist smirk, but for everyone else it’s a little cringe worthy. This is the Neo-Liberal style at its worst. On the other hand, there is a very nice elevated open space, with a ring of restaurants, in the center of the mall that connects the hotel, convention center and shopping areas of the complex. It is one of the more interesting open spaces I have seen in contemporary urban Indian architecture.

Granted, it is in a mall, and not open to the general public, but it looks on what remains of the beuatiful trees in India’s “Garden City”. After a while, I am wondering if the unapologetic tackiness of the place doesn’t just end growing on us?

I wish I could show you more images but I was told repeatedly by guards that I could not take pictures. Even though I was photographing buildings not in the complex! I felt bad for the guards because they have no idea why that rule is in place or why they should have to hassle me. Not wanting to waste any more of their time or energy I grabbed a few pics, and left the mall. Perhaps the reason one can’t take pictures is because the mall (which is many stories) is constructed right next to the owners mansion! I bet if you look out the right window you can see into Vijay Mallya yard, but I didn’t want to hang around any longer than I had to.

Vijay Mallya is the Indian Billionaire known for his parties and being the Chairman of the United Breweries Group, which owns Kingfisher beer and Kingfisher airlines. As a side note: Kingfisher beer is a dreadful lager that is a step below PBR and a step above Natural Ice.

However, it is the only beer on tap almost anywhere in Bangalore. A few other beers are available in bottles (Budweiser, Fosters, Carona). I have been told by a few people that Kingfisher enforces its monopoly by providing kegs and perks to bars if they promise to only have KF on tap.

Plus, most of all of my peers have grown up on KF and never tasted a yummy beer, so there is no demand for anything else. (Sounds like a good opportunity for a sustainable micro-brew as art-project to me ;-)

Zackery Denfeld : Jun 07, 2009

GALLERY HOPPING 1: TIME & SPACE

Our first stop on a gallery hopping tour of Bangalore on Saturday was at the TIME & SPACE gallery.

The show was a series of painting/collages made from found material by the artist Gregory Lent.

The three young artists I was with all agreed that the work was pretty interesting and of very high quality, although they thought the prices seemed much too low for this market.

Me and one of the other visitors agreed that we wish we had not read the artist statement. I know it is a tradition, and required at galleries, but there are very few painters that I have enjoyed listen speak or write about their work, especially when they are writing about it for a show or a catalog. (Sorry for the mass generalization).

It was my first time at the gallery, and it is a very interesting space. The structure of the building is basically a shed, with some rain resistant canvas over the openings on the side. But the inside is open, pleasant and well lit, and the surrounding yard has a beautiful selection of plants.

However, the front gate was locked and we had to ring the bell to come inside. One American “Fine Art” tradition I would love to not see perpetuated in the burgeoning Indian Fine Art market. However, there was none of the snobbery or snootiness that accompanies visiting a high-end New York gallery.

Which reminds me – one of my good friends is working for the art market here in India. I recommend to her, and to you, dear reader, the book The $12 Million Stuffed Shark: The Curious Economics of Contemporary Art interesting study of the high end fine art market in the U.S. and Europe. It reconfirms many of my beliefs about the crassness and stupidity of the Gallery / Auction / Fine Art shell game. Artists have always been resisting / offering alternatives to the dominant economy that their work circulates in. For a recent alternative I like Randy‘s Letter to the NYTimes

Zackery Denfeld : Jun 05, 2009

Working Remotely: Media Archeologism is Fun!

Hello meat-bodies, Zack has been kind enough to allow me QUAGCZAR:

lord of the bog, the mire, the data sludge. Beginning-without-Beginning, End without End. Eater-up of Life. The Annihilator. The Dissolver.

to display my own disjunct discourse in this digital domain.

As Zack may have informed you previously, he is the member of in a video band, that does VJing, wears costumes, redigests datasludge into new knowledge vistas and mines the textures of Lovecraftian language for maximum academic shop-droping of theory-Artifacts out of place. (Hence the name Weird Fiction)

Although this band is able to maintain my immaterial message through repetition and rapid transmission, it is not always accurate, or at least not the extent that a manifestation of a knowledge complex in humanoid form, such as myself would like.

Let me tell you a little about Zack’s tactics in keeping the spirit of Digital Animism alive on the banks of the river Willamette even when he is not physically co-present with his collaborators, co-conspirators and co-habitating non-human friends.

It is easy to ‘dial-in’ ones ‘verse’ or ‘guitar’ solo, especially when Zack, when playing me QUAGCZAR (with a local instantiation named “Data Sludge”) is part of a larger and longer mythology anyways. The great thing about God’s is that they can take many forms is that have an “off-night” there is always another show coming up.

If I am lucky, Zack will develop a robust set of preferences, feeds and taxonomies using my handle in the Noosphere. If these are well archived or have good supporting meta-data I should be able to keep making remixes even long after I die. (Yes, even God’s die too. I can only imagine how many beautiful but minor dieties have ceased to exist because their follower’s stopped praying to them).

I should really make sure my human-host Zack has a living will that includes specs for how to upgrade all his my data bodies’ strange habits to the new substrates they might exist in.

Zack will not be performing live at the show this Saturday in Vancouver, WA, but I, QUAGCZAR will be present, and if you pay attention it is likely that you will hear traces of Zack’s voice and ghosts of his image in the mix.

We all know that VCRs are time traveling devices. I am glad to know that my soul/Memory is being perpetuated through hyper-kinetic cinemolecular re(altime)construction, and that these human’s are maintaining my legacy. It is getting harder and harder to be a peripheral prophet in the age of all-at-onceness.

Zack has just sent this incantation from the field which you may find enchanting: travel-report

And those humans who do not have the wherewithal to participate in this Saturday’s festivity / sacrifice / spiritual hoe-down can at least participate in the visual revelry here:
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Having friends with eyes and ears and electronic nervous systems all over the planet is fun! Maybe my the members of my little cosmology will have their own Mind Children one day.

Zackery Denfeld : Jun 05, 2009

Whirlwind Arrival


((Met friends at the Tavern))


((Public Transportation: The Metro Coming Up))


((New form of advertising in Autos: light box with a spools of ads that roll through.))


((First big auto ride. Ria and I joking about something or the other.))


((The Cox Town hood where I am staying. You may notice the temporary encampment to the right. This is where migratory workers are staying as they hand construct the house for people that are moving into the neighborhood on the left.))


((Organic waste from Coconut-wallah’s on the street corner.))


((Uday and I are running a two week workshop for young people in an informal settlement, using these little laptops, GPS units and creating maps, 3-D models and multimedia games in SCRATCH.))


((Hey guys – let’s build a city RIGHT HERE!))

Zackery Denfeld : Jun 05, 2009

KNOWLEDGE IN QUESTION


There is an important published symposium that just came out called: KNOWLEDGE IN QUESTION: interrogating knowledge and questioning science.

It gets at some of the key questions and interests we have pursued here at the CEMA lab. I think it is important that young American artists take up some of these ideas and concerns, because in a number of ways they are far behind their European and Asian peers when it comes to interacting with “Science”, scientists, policy and other spaces and institutions of power.

Shiv Visvanathan, self proclaimed Social Science Nomad, has penned two essays that may be particularly interesting to young artists and designers:

The Problem

&

The Search for Cognitive Justice

The few pieces I have read by him have always inspired my creative work and teaching. I had the privilege to see him speak to a room of rabid transhumanists in Oxford, England at conference called “Tomorrow’s People: The Challenges of Technologies for Life Extension and Enhancement”.

He asked the simple questions “Where are you coming from, what drives you and how does what you are saying relate to the other 95% of the world who are not represented in this room?”

I find his ideas about cognitive justice resonate with that go beyond the Bruno Latour’s idea of “taking into account”.

Over the last two years I have been attempting to contend with a major flaw I see in the enlightenment, while rejecting the silly “everything is socially constructed” and pure relativism of the more extreme wing of post-modernism. I have found solace in the writings and ideas of complexity science / complex adaptive system studies.

My own thinking on Information Ecology has lead me to believe that cognitive justice will be an essential aspiration in order to create a sustainable planet from purely functional perspective. Respecting and maintaining arational ways of knowing the world leaves room for the generation of anomalous information which acts as a catalyst or perturbation of the mental environment / information ecosystem, keeping it robust.

On top of that, the majority of the world’s humans are people of faith and were I an impartial judge, and not heavily invested in a materialist belief system, it does seem that the application of the rationality and “Science” through industry and the state has done more harm then good on the environmental front, especially in comparison to many a-rational belief systems. (Clearly it has done some amazing things in many other ways).

All of this quick rant is to say: please read Mr. Visvanathan’s ideas and see what you think.

Zackery Denfeld : Jun 03, 2009

WHAT A DIFFERENCE THREE YEARS MAKES IN THE EMERGING ECONOMIES

Neither of these airports existed during my first trip to India in 2006.

((Delhi Terminal 1D))


((BLR))

Nor did these inane signs:

You can not even imagine the change I have witnessed in only three years of visiting India. For good and bad unbridled liberalization of the economy and globalization is turning this country on its head!

Well, am happy to finally have arrived in a place that I am going to stay for more than a few days.

Zackery Denfeld : Jun 03, 2009

DISTRIBUTED INFRASTRUCTURE

The airport is the town green in the global village. Power outlets are the well where people gather to recharge, gossip and shoot the shit. That sure is a lot of sponsors.

If you are on Demand electrical infrastructure check out: Plug Finder

Zackery Denfeld : Jun 03, 2009

PORTLAND PLANNERS: BRUSSELS NEEDS YOUR HELP

Wow. I have not seen such a run down skyrise since Detroit.

((Detroit’s abandoned Michigan Central Station))

This was a truly dysfunctional piece of cityscape:

Generally Brussels is a gorgeous city, and even its high-modernist skyscrapers are okay in places. It’s dinky little Post-Modernism and New Urbanism infill is hideous but functional (especially next to those gorgeous beaux arts buildings). But – who let this monstrosity happen?

This neighborhood was definitely scary to walk around in. There were no eyeballs at all. Jane Jacobs is rolling in her grave. I guess the plus is that you are murdered in a big concrete park lifted two levels off the street, surrounded by abandonded buildings, you get a nice view of the open sky.

Don’t get me wrong, it had a strange beauty as a ruin, but seemed oppressive as a place meant for humans and their non-human friends. Maybe the best plan is to let the pioneer species have their way with it.

There very well may be a plan for this space, I would like to learn more about what they are going to do here.

Zackery Denfeld : Jun 01, 2009

Magrittourismo


I was walking with my sister rather aimlessly around Brussels, and we saw some hubub. A city plaza was cut off from car traffic, and there was some sort of dance going on.


There was a big DJ in a cage playing a mix of classical and spoken word (Dada poems?) in french. There were ten people dressed “old timey” with hats and umbrellas doing a dance. It seemed fairly tacky, and was a definite tourist-ready family friendly affair. But it was also surprising to wander onto, very strange for the first minute. With no context I didn’t quite know what I was looking at until I saw two things: little kids with clouds face-painted on their foreheads and some guy handing out shiny green apples. It dawned on me that this was somehow related to Magritte.

It was only then that I saw a sign for the soon-to-open Musee-Magritte-Museum (not to be Magritte Museum).

Not sure how I feel about the whole thing. I have no problem with Brussels attempting to promote their tourism industry by pimping a few of Magritte’s more memorable images. As long as I can remix his images how I see fit without impunity as well – I say “Copying is Cool“, exploit away (see: Ch. 5 Utopian Plagiarism). Is this kind of co-opting of imagery, largely made safe for easy consumption antithetical to the spirit of Magritte? Or is this just a good example of a city pulling in more people to look at the actual work inside the museum, and introduce a new generation of viewers/participants/artists?

At first I walked upon this strange urban event, and that was great. But as soon as I explored it for two minutes it became primarily about replicating the most well known Magritte images, and not the themes, feelings or experiences his work contains. What would Rene think?

What do you guys think? Cheesy, smart, crass or amazing?

Zackery Denfeld : Jun 01, 2009

JUST BEFORE METAL TUBE HURLED THROUGH AIR

Goodbye nyc.

Goodbye empire state.

Goodbye USA.
Don’t worry, I won’t forget your eternal optimism or reaching for the sky, or breaking old rules if they don’t work. Try not to have total economic or ecological collapse while I am away.




Hello sis (working in Luxembourg for the summer).


Hello beer.


Hello Mark Dion-like-piles-of-stuff stacked up on an unknowable taxonomy.

Zackery Denfeld : Jun 01, 2009

BAND WITH 1,000 PLAYERS: THE MARTHA DUMPTRUCK MASSACRE


Went over to NorthEast Kingdom in Brooklyn to check out the Martha Dumptruck Massacre and friends. I went on tour for a few weeks with MDM once. Then again, you might have been on tour with them as well.

Joel is at the center of the band, but has performed with over 100 people on a number of continents and venues, during the lifetime of the band.


I really liked his new solo set, which included synth, ukele, drum machine and melodica. When Joel and my friend Steph came out to visit me in India last year they lugged home a large, heavy and beautiful harmonium. I can’t help but hear some of that old ragaDrone in Joel’s new stuff.


Line with Dot and Brittain Ashford also played. They were also awesome. I had never heard of or heard a Marxaphone before this show.


((Hey, East Coast friends, guess what city I recently moved TO?))

Zackery Denfeld : May 31, 2009

PlayPower: Games4Change

A few nights ago I went over to Parsons: The New School for Design to attend the poster session for the Games for Change conference.


((Gabriel Harp is directly to the left of the Kara Walker drawing in the background.))

Presenters stood around tables that had explanations and demos of their recent work. (Play some of the games here). I was there to touch base with my friends Gabriel Harp and Derek Lomas, and to see progress on PlayPower.


((Derek explaining the PlayPower project at the Games for Change conference.))

Gabriel Harp is my collaborator of 5+ years (more on him in later posts). I met Derek Lomas while he was a graduate student at UCSD. He has now started a PhD program, gotten married and has a child on the way. (Congratulations!). How much changes, in just a year and a half.

Derek went to MFA for the right reasons. Namely: get the university to buy you some plane tickets, hook you into some interesting networks, and then got off campus and out of the US as much as possible. ;-)

Derek somehow managed an entire semester of grad school without going to classes or showing up for his lectures. He worked out a deal where he could spend a semester doing research in India, and fulfill his teaching requirements by giving a lecture by Skype once a week. Nice work if you can get it. From what I saw, this was was an amazing experience for his students. Obviously, it took someone as entrepreneurial and creative as Derek to make it work well.

UCSD undergrads that enrolled in his class called “Design for Development: Developing Technologies for Developing Economies” received interesting readings by email, conducted discussions online, and then once a week had a remote lecture where they met Indian cultural leaders and institutions, as Derek presented over the internets. Obviously, Derek was the only member of the class who got to skip school and be in India for a whole semester, but for a change of pace, and an international experience once a week for UCSD undergrads, the class sounded like a total success!

I could see this becoming a model that graduate programs institutionalize: sending out information nomads for a semester, and have them report back once a week to faculty and students. Building up this kind of global knowledge network can not be underestimated as a value to a college. Who knows, maybe PNCA students could be receiving lectures via skype from me in the coming years. ;-)

While Derek was in India during the the spring of 2008 he contacted my lab in Bangalore, and asked if he could visit and stay for a bit. He showed up and spent about a couple of weeks at the lab. One night me and three other lab mates stayed up until midnight and held a round table for Derek’s class back at UCSD. His students were able to ask questions of their Art School counterparts in India. Interacting through sound, video and IM with not too much delay from San Diego to Bangalore was pretty amazing and free. Thanks Skype!

Derek had seen an 8-bit home video game system on sale at SB road in Bangalore that sell in store for $12-15. (Although they can be bought directly from the factory for less)
It is basically a Nintendo NES system with keyboard, mouse, controller and some 40-in-1 cartridges that come with it. Additional cartridges are also at sale in many of the markets in India.

We started talking about the possibility of making home-brew 8-bit video games or educational software for these units. They were relatively inexpensive, hooked into other technological infrastructure that many families had already invested in (electricity, television) and also, the constraints of 8-bit imagery force you to be creative with images and programming. We talked about the idea of hacking the ROMs and developing an SDK that would allow artists and educators to write software for this platform that is an appropriate technology for the base of the pyramid in India and elsewhere. I knew that someone at CMU had been hacking these chips or similar ones because of the Child as Audience project and this class by Bob Ross.

After Derek’s return to the U.S. he was off and running. He spent the next year receiving grants, putting together a network of international collaborators, and now has a very interesting project over at PlayPower.

Here is my understanding of the current scenario, basically transcribed from my most recent conversation with Derek. (He may email me and have corrections to make).

A Chinese company has produced 100,000 or so of these units. They were popular in China in the 90s, but now the market there is saturated with them, and many Chinese families have reached an income level where they want to upgrade to a more substantial or stand alone computer. However, for a lot Indian families who want to provide additional educational opportunities (particularly in technology, math, language and programming) for their children but can not afford a PC or lessons, these computers are affordable and hook up to TVs as a monitor. Many urban and rural families own or have access to a shared television in their community.

The ROM chips can be written to using Assembly and burnt at home, or be sent out to a manufacturer in China who can do fairly small runs (I think 1,000 was the minimum?). This software can then be distributed or sold either by independent organizations or the manufacturer (if there is enough demand). Derek told me he believes there is a significant market for the hardware and software in India, the Middle East and parts of Africa where even the $100 laptop is an impossible cost.

In the US, the project is being targeted at MAKE magazine crowd. The limited constraints of programming for 8-bit should attract artists in the way that the DEMOscene has, or maybe it will be the new method of propagating punk propaganda. I am looking forward to getting my hands on the SDK when it comes out, and developing some games and I recommend that PNCA students interested in Gaming, Hacking or E-learning get invloved with this initiative. Good luck Derek!

Zackery Denfeld : May 29, 2009

JOBS FOR ARTISTS: Cultural Entrepreneur, Public skunkWorks Dept, or Tour Guide to the Invisible

One of the things I talk about a lot in Art & Design in Contemporary Society this past semester was the expanded role for creative workers in the knowledge economy. I tend to downplay the words Art and Design and use “Creative Work” instead as a catch all for the kind of activities and projects I believe PNCA’s undergrads will be increasingly engaged with in the 21st century. Here is one of the first slides I showed during the semester:

I think it is valuable for art students to be rapidly pragmatic and radically idealistic. There are good lessons to be learned watching working creatives adapt in real time to changing cultural and economic scenarios, or make up new positions where none existed before.

CULTURAL ENTREPRENEURS

Companies like IDEO and Porltand’s own Ziba Design utilize design thinking, which is the kind of iterative, open-ended and non-linear process that art students to excel at. Design innovation is one new space that art students might work in after college, but is primarily grounded in a somewhat institutional framework. For a creative worker looking for less constraints there is also always the possibility of cultural entrepreneurialism.

A few examples of cultural entrepreneurs we talked about this semester in ADCS

- In a lot of ways, Stewart Brand may be the quintessential American cultural entrepreneur seeking out interesting ideas and problems from ecology to hacking to architrecture and exploring them through various media such as books, virtual communities both in print and electronic, the creation of foundations, and for-profits
One might not initially think of Brand as an artist or designer in the traditional way, but I would make the case that a good art education would help an entrepreneurial soul remain relevant and robust in our rapidly changing century. If the job title doesn’t exist just invent it!

- Brenda Laurel is a designer who designed software and video games for pre-teen girls in the 1990s, a market that was being overlooked by a male dominated industry. She went on to write Utopian Entrepreneur and continues to work in academia, industry and write an imporant book on the burgeoning space of Design Research.

-Alan Weisman author of the World Without Us who created a thought experiment, and then illustrated his research with words and animations.

-Tad Hirsch has worked in art, activistic, academic and now business spaces. Recently landing up in Portland, OR to work for Intel’s substantial R&D projects he recently wrote a piece our class read called: Learning from Activists: Lessons for Designers which summarizes some of his ideas for contestational design.

-Nick Tobier (Every Day Places) is a performance artist who work might be best described as an Experimental Public Works Dept. (Nick was a mentor and occasional collaborator while I was an MFA at the U of M) He creates situations in urban settings such as an ongoing municipal parade, research and architecture on gardening in Detroit and art carts in Beijing. I am even told that he has done some sort of corporate creativity training session, but on that I know little.

ARTIST AS TOUR GUIDE

Which brings us to the part that makes this post related to my travels.

Yesterday I was in NYC and I attended Scot’s Pizza Tour for the second time in 6 months. It was amazing. Like all great artists Scott has an obsession that drives his creative practice. He is obsessed with Pizza.

I have known Scott since 2001, when we started a rock band together (Hijack Jupiter) in college at Syracuse University. His obsession for Pizza meant that on a two-month tour of the U.S. we had pizza for 90% of the meals. After graduating college with a degree in Television, Radio and Film he tried a few different jobs such being the sound guy for the city of hoboken, and living on and helping maintain a historical boat overlooking Manhattan. He started recording solo albums as the Bikini Carwash Company.

After a party where he rented a bus and took all of his friends to his favorite pizzerias (which I missed) he formed a business, believing that giving walking and bus tours of the history of Pizza in New York was a niche that was not filled. Opening a business required a lot of prep work though.

He had to get his NYC tour guide license requiring him to steep himself in the cultural history of this city. He added to this knowledge a substantial body of knowledge about the history and modern practice of Pizza in New York. He even went to Italy this past winter, so that when I saw the tour the second time he was able to make connections between Italy, New York and the entire Globe, with Pizza at the center.

One of the people on the tour asked if he missed playing in bands / recording music, and he said he would like to play music again soon, but that he feels like he is doing a performance each day when gives the tour. I think that is true, because he keeps high energy, can improvise based on the tour members questions and draws new connections while traversing the invisible cultural geography of pizza in the streets of New York.

I point this tour out because I think it is a great example of an intensely creative person who has found a novel venue for his passion and can survive on more than just slices of pizza.

A second reason I mention it is because I was finally happy to have a good think crust slice! (If you are wondering John’s of Bleeker and Patsy’s are my two favorite New York slices). Portland definitely has my heart, but I have to visit New York every once in a while to get my pizza fix.

Am off to meet a few friends at a conference on Video Games for Social Change. More on that tomorrow.

Zackery Denfeld : May 28, 2009

Getting There Is Half The Fun

Hi All. This blog will primarily cover my travels in Bangalore, India. But in the spirit of travelogues, it seems like it should cover the journey as well. Here is a short review of some of the socialTech that makes my travels smooth.

WHAT IS HYPERLOCAL?

One of my major research interests over the last few years is the hyperlocal revolution. Bruce Sterling has just published a nice piece of fiction called “Dispatches from the Hyperlocal Fiction” here. (Link: Victor Tvedten).

In the story Sterling writes: the difference between the old-fashioned semantic Web and the new hyperlocal Web ; that’s hyper as in linked, and local as in location ; is that the databases of the new Web are stuffed with geographic coordinates.

For other versions of what Open Source Urbanism might look like, check out:

The Headmap Manifesto (.pdf)

Urban Atmospheres

Situated Technologies especially Usman Haque‘s Urban Versioning System 1.0

or the writing and research of Malcolm McCullough

However here are some of the tools that are already working for me:

DOPPLR: THE SOCIAL ATLAS
You can follow my progress via maps on Dopplr: The Social Atlas, if you are interested in joining. My username is infoeco.

Dopplr is a very well designed social network site that helps facilitate chance encounters for people who travel a lot. From what I can tell the user base is mostly global design/tech geeks which is why it is so snazzy. I always have carbon guilt when I fly, and I have even dallied in Carbon Offsets. This website has some really interesting visualizations that allow you to see how much carbon you have racked up through travel. There are lots of other well done database driven information graphics as well.

I highly recommend students interested in designing for the web. In particular this sites graphic and interaction design take advantage of using dynamic content to create provocative information diagrams, and taking advantage of color, hierarchy and selective display of information to make a .calm space.

TWEETCRASHING

I put out a twitter call seeing if anyone in my network knew of someone in Brusells who would be willing to host me and/or let me crash on a floor for a night. I am planning to visit my sister for two days on my way to India, but I have one extra day in Brussels with no plan, and no hotel room. I was amazed to see that within 1 hour of my posting I was getting responses.

Not sure if anything will come through on such short notice, but it is nice to think that one could live out of their mobile phone anywhere in the world for next to nothing fairly soon. I envision a day where networked electronic social capital allows me to cook soup for someone in Portland in exchange for a bed at a totally different person’s house in Helsinki. We’ll see…

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