Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Improvisations With Marc Ribot, Evan Parker and Han Bennink (June 2009)

This is a pretty funny clip of three of the great contemporary jazz players. Evan Parker on sax, Han Bennink of Clusone Trio fame on uhmm drums?, and Marc Ribot on guitar (if  you are at all familiar with Tom Waits, Marc Ribot is the studio guitarist on all of his work since the mid-1980's)

Psychedelic drugs return as potential treatments for mental illness

From The Guardian
Posted by Moheb Costandi September 2010
Moheb Costandi writes the Neurophilosophy blog 

New research confirms that psychedelic drugs are promising treatments for depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and schizophrenia

Long before hippie poster boy Timothy Leary invited the world to "Turn on, tune in and drop out", a group of pioneering psychiatrists working in Canada began to treat alcoholics with lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), and reported unprecedented recovery rates.
Far from being at the fringes of medical research, their work was fully supported and funded by the Canadian government, and became a promising new area of research that played a role in modernising the field of psychiatry. But despite the encouraging results, studies of LSD therapy ended abruptly in the late 1960s, and did not resume again until some 40 years later.

Monday, March 28, 2011

ICP Orchestra in Austin

These guys are playing in Austin next Thursday. I would love to drive to Austin and see the show but sadly I'm teaching that evening. This is a great recent video of theirs.

The band is kind of an all star Dutch avant garde jazz band. Here is the lineup: Michael Moore, alto saxophone + clarinet; Ab Baars, tenor saxophone + clarinet; Tobias Delius, tenor saxophone + clarinet; Thomas Heberer, trumpet; Woller Wierbos, trombone; Misha Mengelberg, piano; Mary Oliver, violin; Tristan Honsinger, cello; Ernst Glerum, bass; Han Bennink, drums.  And here is the show information if you are in the area.  Thursday, April 78:00 PM (doors at 7:30) Austin Art + Music Partnership (AAMP)411 Monroe St. West
Austin, TX 78704

Brian Eno - By This River

Friday, March 25, 2011

Bending Plexiglass

I have been envisioning creating some sculptural work similar to the pin pieces I've been making in the past, but on a much larger scale. Instead of using the thin Lexan and insect-collecting pins I normally use with the small work, I would use plexiglass and steel rods. My problem is that I would need to get the plexiglass to bend so that the work could have the same nice curves that the smaller pieces have. I've tried a heat gun and that didn't work well at all, so I decided to consult the YouTube. Ask and you shall receive.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

My Other Job- College Art Teacher

I realized that in the entire time I've been writing this blog with all of the various subjects I've discussed, I have never talked about my alternative profession aside from that of a professional artist. I teach art. While not nearly as romantic in the minds of those who are not professional artists*, teaching art in college is only as exciting as your creativity and openness to change can make it.
(*Try spending 200 hours in the studio alone working on a single piece and see how romantic it is.)

Creating assignments for a class is very much like open-source software code. We're usually happy to share assignments and take assignments from other teachers, then try out changes to the assignment, experiment with it and make it your own, and then pass it along. That way the assignments are always dynamic and changing with the times and, in turn, they keep the students interested and learning.

When I first started college, 2D Design was always the boring entry level class everyone was required to take, and then in graduate school it was the boring class to teach as a student teacher... But it doesn't have to be that way. You are only trying to get across a few simple ideas as far as how to arrange a visual composition using line, shape, value, color and texture.

But how you get across those basic ideas can certainly change with the times. Those design ideas began in the 1920's with the Bauhaus school, and the assignments from that age seemed to become the new paradigm for teaching design. These geometric abstract projects certainly persisted when I was a student and I still see them in lots and lots of design classes today. I'm not saying that students can't still learn from those assignments, I am just saying that what was avant garde 80 years ago is antique today.

Let me show some student projects that I and other teachers have taken part in shaping some new ideas for a 2D-Design class.

(Note: I am keeping the identities of the students anonymous under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act)

Here are two assignments that were inspired by the artist Chuck Close.  Both are about pixelating a portrait down to a ten-step value (shade) scale, but the first focuses on line and value, and the second on value and choosing a color scheme. Thanks to John Pomara for the idea on those two great projects.
Ten Step Value Scale- Pixilated Portrait
Ink on Illustration Board

Ten Step Color Scheme- Hole Punch Portrait
Acrylic on Bristol pasted onto B&W Photo
The third project is the Three Panel Zoom Progression. Here they find a photograph and then use the "posterize" filter in Photoshop in order to break the image down into areas of solid color like the delineated areas on a topographic map. Then they crop the image twice, zooming into a smaller area each time. The third in the progression should be an abstract image if seen on its own. They then trace the images onto three canvases and paint them as faithfully to the chosen color scheme as possible. Thanks again to John Pomara for the idea for this one.
 Three Panel Zoom Progression
Acrylic on Canvas
Approximately 20"x52"
 The next is a project I call the Text as Image assignment. It incorporates what the students learned from the the previous assignments, but has them apply those ideas to the incorporation of text and font design into a visual composition. This student took the letters to a very abstract level, you almost can't see them until you look closely.

Text as Image Project
Acrylic on Illustration Board
Approx. 20"x30"
Detail Image Approx. 9"x12 of whole image

I often throw the design students for a loop when I introduce them to the crazy cubist world of Picasso and Braque, but then show them that it's not at all crazy when seen in the context of the photocollages of David Hockney. The visual world that your eyes are seeing right now seems like a simple two-dimensional picture plane in which straight lines look straight, but when you take a number of small photos from the larger space in which you are standing, you realize that the visual space you thought you were seeing is not as simple as you thought. Here are a few images of student works based on those cubist collages.

 David Hockney Influenced Photocollage Assignment
Individual Photos Mounted on Foam Board
Each Collage Approximately 30" Wide 

The final project goes back to basics and prepares them for classes such as Beginning Painting in a not so traditional way. It is influenced by the pop artist, James Rosenquist, who made paintings that were realistic but were duplicating collages made from found magazine photos.

I have the students cut out five images from magazines and four of those images must satisfy these requirements: #1 a reflective object, #2 a smooth blend from light to dark such as a sunrise, #3 an example of pattern on a curved surface such as a patterned shirt, #4 an example of texture such as tree bark or hair, and #5 is their choice.

The first four of those requirements were chosen because they are difficult things to learn to paint realistically and I can help them learn the techniques and tricks of how to paint them.

I have them create a collage from the chosen magazine images and then project that collage image onto a canvas using an opaque or a digital projector, tracing it with a pencil, and then afterward reproducing the colors and textures as closely as possible using acrylic paint. You would not believe the results I get from people who have never painted before.
Duplicate Collage Project
Acrylic on Canvas
Aproximately 24"x30"

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The birth of a word: Deb Roy on TED.com

One of the best TED Talks I have ever seen.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

God and Disaster

A great article by A.C. Grayling posted to the Richard Dawkins website.

One thinks with sorrow of the hundreds of thousands whose lives have been horrendously lost or affected by the great Japanese earthquake and tsunami, which will put a black mark against this year 2011 in the annals, coming so soon after the earthquake that hit Christchurch in New Zealand. The events are almost certainly linked tectonically, reminding us of the vast forces of nature that are normal for the planet itself but inimical to human life, especially when lived dangerously close to the jigsaw cracks of the earth’s surface.

Someone told me that there were to be special prayers in their local church for the people of Japan. This well-intentioned and fundamentally kindly proceeding nevertheless shows how absurd, in the literal sense of this term, are religious belief and practice. When I saw the television footage of people going to church in Christchurch after the tragic quake there, the following thoughts pressed.

It would be very unkind to think that the churchgoers were going to give thanks that they personally escaped; one would not wish to impute selfishness and personal relief in the midst of a disaster in which many people arbitrarily and suddenly lost their lives through ‘an act of God’. If they were going to pray for their god to look after the souls of those who had died, why would they think he would do so since he had just caused, or allowed, their bodies to be suddenly and violently crushed or drowned?

Indeed, were they praising and supplicating a deity who designed a world that causes such arbitrary and
sudden mass killings? An omniscient being would know all the implications of what it does, so it would know it was arranging matters with these awful outcomes. Were they praising the planner of their sufferings for their sufferings, and also begging his help to escape what he had planned?

Perhaps they think that their god was not responsible for the earthquake. If they believe that their god designed a world in which such things happen but left the world alone thereafter and does not intervene when it turns lethal on his creatures, then they implicitly question his moral character. If he is not powerful enough to do something about the world’s periodic murderous indifference to human beings, then in what sense is he a god? Instead he seems to be a big helpless ghost, useless to pray to and unworthy of praise.

For if he is not competent to stop an earthquake or save its victims, he is definitely not competent to create a world. And if he is powerful enough to do both, but created a dangerous world that inflicts violent and agonizing sufferings arbitrarily on sentient creatures, then he is vile. Either way, what are people thinking who believe in such a being, and who go to church to praise and worship it? How, in the face of events which human kindness and concern registers as tragic and in need of help – help which human beings proceed to give to their fellows: no angels appear from the sky to do it – can they believe such an incoherent fiction as the idea of a deity? This is a perennial puzzle.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Japan's 8.9 magnitude quake triggers tsunami on 11th March,2011 - video

Mr. Deity and the Signs

Slow dust devil lifts plastic sheets off of a strawberry field

 I have an almost obsessive love for visual examples of fluid dynamics and weather patterns. This video shows both beautifully on a small scale.
Thanks to Boing Boing for the link.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

BILL MOYERS JOURNAL: Interview With David Simon Part 1 of 2- PBS

I don't own a television, so I've seen very little of the television series, The Wire, but I was floored by this interview. It is good to see someone with firsthand knowledge of how things really are telling it like it really is.

From crime beat reporter for the BALTIMORE SUN to award-winning screenwriter of HBOs critically-acclaimed The Wire, David Simon talks with Bill Moyers about inner-city crime and politics, storytelling and the future of journalism today.This show aired April 17, 2009.
Bill Moyers Journal: Interview With David Simon- Part 2 of 2

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Michael Hansmeyer- Computational Architecture: Columns

Michael Hansmeyer's artwork brings together two of my favorite topics: Architecture and fractal geometry.
From the website:
Subdivided Columns - A New Order (2010)

This project involves the conception and design of a new column order based on subdivision processes. It explores how subdivision can define and embellish this column order with an elaborate system of ornament.
An abstracted doric column is used as an input form to the subdivision processes. Unlike the minimal input of the Platonic Solids project, the abstracted column conveys a significant topographical and topological information about the form to be generated. The input form contains data about the proportions of the the column's shaft, capital, and supplemental base. It also contains information about its fluting and entasis.
The input form is tagged to allow the subdivision process to distinguish between individual components. This allows a heterogeneous application of the process, with distinct local parameters settings. In addition to distinguishing among tagged components, the process parameters can be set to vary according to the input form's topography as well as its topology. Finally, an environmental specification of parameters is possible to allow regional phenomena to occur.
The result is a series of columns that exhibit both highly specific local conditions as well as an overall coherency and continuity. The ornament is in a continuous flow, yet it consists of very distinct local formations. The complexity of column contrasts with the simplicity of its generative process.

Subdivided Columns - Fabrication

A full-scale, 2.7-meter high variant of the columns is fabricated as a layered model using 1mm sheet. Each sheet is individually cut using a mill or laser. Sheets are stacked and held together by poles that run through a common core.
The calculation of the cutting path for each sheet takes place in several steps. First, the six million faces of the 3D model are intersected with a plane representing the sheet. This step generates a series of individual line segments that are tested for self-intersection and subsequently combined to form polygons. Next, a polygon-in-polygon test deletes interior polygons. A series of filters then ensures that convex polygons with peninsulas maintain a mininimum isthmus width. In a final step, an interior offset is calculated with the aim of hollowing out the slice to reduce weight.
While the mean diameter of the column is 50cm, the circumference as measured by the cutting path can reach up to 8 meters due to jaggedness and frequent reversals of curvature. The initial prototype uses 1mm grey board. Tests using ABS, wood, as well as metal are under way.

Fabrication of the column prototype was carried out at ETH's CAAD group using the university's RapLab. Fabrication assistance was provided by Manuela Koller, Thomas Raoseta, and Edyta Augustinowicz.
Thanks to Erin for the link.

Whatever Happened To The Audiophile?

This was a wonderful article on NPR today.
From NPR by Lynton Weeks

You may remember the type: Laid-back in an easy chair, soaking in Rachmaninoff, Reinhardt or the Rolling Stones, enveloped by the very best, primo, top-of-the-line stereo equipment an aficionado could afford.
In robot-like, 1980s cadence, the audiophile could rattle off favorite components, which might include an all-tube Premier One power amp by conrad-johnson, a Sota Sapphire turntable, an Ortofon MC-2000 cartridge and a pair of Magneplanar speakers.

Geeky? Mos def.

But the audiophile was a symbol of the Golden Age of Audiophonics, a time when certain people worshiped at the altar of expensive high-fidelity, two-channel stereo equipment. They were knights errant on an eternal quest for audio perfection — the exact replication of an original performance.

Here is the way one New York Times writer described a Holy Grail system in 1980: "There is a greater transparency of orchestral textures, giving each instrument an almost tactile presence." The theological debates pitted vacuum-tube amplification advocates against those preferring solid state, or transistorized, amplification. The sacred texts were magazines such as Stereo Review and High Fidelity. Stereo stores were the holy shrines.

Then came the barbaric revolution. The boombox, the Walkman and other hand-held devices made music more portable. Digital sound enabled listeners to store scads of compressed, easy-to-download music files — first on computers, then on miniature devices and cell phones. Quality in recordings was sacrificed for speed and convenience. Loudness became more important than clarity. The richness and warmth of a recording was replaced by tinniness and splash.

Now it's 2011. And amid all the earbudded iPods, smart phones and MP3 players, one can't help but wonder: Whatever happened to the audiophile?

Friday, March 4, 2011

Ray Wylie Hubbard "Screw You, We're From Texas"

Zorlac is a skateboard company from Dallas in the early 1980's who came up with the phrase "Fuck You, We're From Texas". They printed it on the backs of their t-shirts in giant block letters in defiance to the ubiquity of the skateboard industry in California... It's a pretty cool twist to see how Ray Wylie Hubbard in 2010 is influenced by an eighties punk skateboard company who was most likely influenced by the early seventies defiance of country punk artists like Ray Wylie Hubbard.

Thanks to Sara for the link.

Daily Show: Crisis in Dairyland - For Richer and Poorer - Teachers and Wall Street

If you want teachers who are more professional, you have to pay teachers more like professionals.