Come hang out and chat interdisciplinary collaboration with Carol J Hirschmugl (Professor of Physics) and me at the UWM Library next Wednesday December 6th at 2pm (Digital Humanities Lab, Second Floor)!
This 3-year-old, mainstream “for beginners” type video totally made my morning (though I tend to think of Heidegger as more of a phenomenologist than existentialist). Seriously. Watch it if you haven’t seen it. It’s really good. We should all strive to be more authentic jelly babies.
I hope you all had a great Thanksgiving holiday weekend. I’ve got draft posts on local artists Greg Klassen and Jessica Fenlon in the works for the coming while. Also: my baby son is due shortly (37 weeks!), so there’s that.
Welcome back to another episode of syllabus sharing here at Implicit Art!
This class focuses on interactive technologies and aesthetics in contemporary art. Students will learn basic software development and real-time computational methods. They simultaneously learn and make projects with MIDI sounds or drawings, digital audio, human interface devices (USB game controllers, Bluetooth phones and more), and recorded and live video files for mixing and computer vision (body- and motion-tracking, for example). Assignments include many small projects with varying technical goalposts, as well as a mid-term and final artwork that will be more focused on conceptual-material aesthetic themes.
Most of my students have little or no background in coding, so, like my Electronics and Sculpture class, this syllabus works as an introduction to interactive art. That said, I offer it at the 300-level, so that my digital art students will understand bits and bytes, audio and video, how computers “think,” and my other artists will be able to bring their skills with crafting images or objects (etc) into the mix. I also “stack” it with a 400-level class, so grad students, or advanced students that want to take it a second time, can add another dimension of creativity and criticality.
I teach this in Cycling74’s Max: a visually-based, object oriented programming environment. What does that mean? You build a flow chart for your data (whether that be sensors from a phone, a video feed, sounds, etc), and that input is transcoded and turned into something else. Come again? OK. For example (an example I give on the first day, and that I remade in my PJs while typing this – shown left), plug a microphone object into a meter object to see how loud real-time sound is. Take a video grabber and plug that into a screen (“world”) object to see your live webcam. Use a multiply (“*”) object with each stream on either side, and you get a live video that fades in and out based on how loud your subject speaks into the microphone. (Kitty, from kitchen: What are you yelling about in there? Me: Just blogging! Kitty: ???) It’s relatively easy, super cool, and completely visual. (Processing, which is more direct coding in Java, is actually taught in the music department at UWM, and I often recommend my students take that, too).
I’m gladly sharing last year’s syllabus and calendar online. It is under a CC-by license (Creative Commons Attribution), meaning, you can do whatever you want with it (use, distribute, remix, etc), so long as you credit me and acknowledge the license I used, link back to this page, and do not prohibit anyone else from doing said same.
The semester arc is project-based, and I teach ‘objects” (in the flow chart) and data dynamics (etc) as we go along with make, make, making. This is the order:
A generative “doodle” of software-based sound, which often sounds like R2D2, using MIDI and/or digital signal processes, and any combination of buttons, toggles, metronomes, randomizers, counters, and/or other learned objects.
A small, generative drawing project using jit.lcd or jit.gl.sketch, math, decision trees, gates, switches and/or the keyboard or mouse.
“Vizzie Visualizer and/or BEAP beater”
A generative or interactive project that uses randomness, feeds, and/or live input towards somewhat interesting or provocative ends. Students will be required to use both video (live and/or pre-recorded) and digital audio (live and/or pre-recorded) as part of this project – and pre-made patchers from the Vizzie and BEAP libraries are most welcome.
“Stupid pet trick” (mid-term)
An interactive art work with some form of external input (Human Interface, Computer Vision, Arduino, etc). uses pre-recorded video and/or live or pre-recorded sound along with some other form of input/output. Students will write a brief statement about their work (less than 300 words), and their technical abilities and use of inventive juxtapositioning will be judged against this text’s framing of concept, creativity and both interactive and visual aesthetics.
A large-scale interactive and/or generative and/or networked installation, performance, tool or art object. Again, students will be graded against their artist statements, on technical abilities, conceptual frames, creativity and both interactive and visual aesthetics. Undergraduates will show complete and working software, budget, and sketches for the full installation. Graduate students must set up the full installation somewhere in Kenilworth as part of their final critique.
Of course, as with all my classes, there are consistent discussions around the aesthetics and ethics of our work. The readings for undergrads are:
- “Action, Reaction and Phenomenon,” Rhizome.org (free online) (2008)
- Katherine Hayles: Flesh and Metal: Reconfiguring the Mindbody in Virtual Environments (available via Muse) (2002)
- Philip Galanther: What is generative art? Complexity theory as a context for art theory (available from CiteSeer) (2003)
- Nathaniel Stern: Interactive Art and Embodiment (introduction) (2013), made available by the instructor.
- “The Aesthetics of Play,” from The Aesthetics of Interaction in Digital Art, by Katja Kwastek.
Grad students do additional readings and context-based work, and are additionally required to read (and we discuss):
- Rethinking Curating, MIT Press
- Interactive Art & Embodiment: The Implicit Body as Performance, Gylphi Press (the whole book, not just the intro)
- Screens: Viewing Media Installation Art, U Minn
It is SUCH a fun class, with great work, and a high satisfaction factor as I watch my students learn to think differently: about technology and data, about art and aesthetics, about interaction, relationality, and ethics. AND, while I’m on parental leave, I’m very excited to see what new dimensions Jessica Fenlon can add to the class and program. I’m working on getting her in at UWM – and look out for a feature on her work on this blog in the coming weeks…
Here’s the Interactive and Multimedia Art syllabus, in Word format. Enjoy art, teaching, and learning!
Nine Sages of Images, Harvey Opgenorth
Though I missed the inaugural show at Galerie Kenilworth, I was quite pleased to make it to their second exhibition, The Shape of Things to Come. The gallery itself is a cool story. Amy Brengel owns the building, lives in the flat above, and had Village Bazaar – selling interesting multicultural jewelry and gifts – in the space below for years. But, with the East Side (my neighborhood!) changing, “growing up a bit,” she decided that it might be time to fill it with an exhibition space. And Brengel signed on none other than Jessica Steeber to manage it. A veteran of the art world (who gave me my first ever Milwaukee exhibition!), Jessica was half of the Armoury Gallery / Fine Line Magazine team (with Cassandra Smith) in the late 2000s and early 20-teens, and the main reason I wanted to make it out tonight – and I’m glad I did.
The Shape of Things to Come is a beautiful exploration of, well, matter – and why it matters. It is a minimalist show, to be sure, in that it invokes non-representational shapes (Haas, below), and textures (Ogpenorth, above), and materials (Nelson), asking us to focus in on in how we perceive (and thus act), when there are no recognizable “signs” to “read.” This exhibition has us, rather, think-with process, and relation, and bodies in space (both human and non-human).
But, The Shape of Things to Come is also a more contemporary revisiting of Minimalism, in that it is not only about phenomenology – a human perception or experience. Here, shelves, or concrete, or wood, for example, are themselves uncomfortable. They are twinned yet their own. They are mean or light, funny or jarring; they tell their own stories, whether or not we are listening.
What is that sphere thinking? Why is that shelf holding on? Where are those fibers going? Idle, weird, rhetorical questions, maybe… but also worth asking. What does our world want, and are we doing right by it?
My two favorite pieces on show are both called Untitled (Diptych), and by Keith Nelson. Gray concrete and gray concrete. Natural, shellacked wood and natural, shellacked wood. Each half is, described that way, identical. But even the image above shows how different the twins are. Minor shifts in color and shape, in space and shadow, are… annoyingly jarring. A diptych is always meant to be inherently in tension. I feel this tension more and more, the more time I spend staring at how off-kilter, and unshapely, and simply distracting these “same-things” are in their difference.
What else can concrete and earth, wood and trees, tell us in their sameness and difference? It is worth sincere consideration.
Galerie Kenilworth is at 2201 N Farwell Ave Milwaukee, and open Tuesday – Friday 3 – 7pm, Saturdays 12 – 4pm. The Shape of Things to Come is on show until the new year.
There are no plot spoilers in this review! Only a sprinkling of lines/character development appreciations…
The whole family went to see Thor: Ragnarok on Sunday morning, and it was super fun! Jack and Nonie and I were all always excited for this one, but Kitty mostly only wanted to go because Idris Elba was in it (with a decent sized role, for a change; oh, and Cate Blanchett, too!); and she was very pleasantly surprised (even going so far as to say she now, finally, wants to see the other ensemble cast Marvel films, like The Avengers, with me). It was laugh out loud funny, and there were many “YES! KICK BUTT!” moments to boot.
What was so great about it? Let’s ask our team…
Nonie (11 year old geek girl) says she really appreciated Hulk’s character development. “He was his own character this time, with his own thoughts and feelings, separate from Bruce Banner’s.” Ruffalo’s Hulk, especially when bantering (possibly via improv) with Hemsworth’s Thor, really got a lot across, with minimal words. I always thought that the Banner/Hulk storyline was the best part of the first Avengers film, and this film continues that story, along with others, showing how Banner and Hulk begin to appreciate each other’s complementary parts. And that Wisconsin-born Ruffalo is a fine actor.
Jack (9-year-old boy wolf) says his favorite part is when Blanchett’s character, Hela, challenges Thor to the core (“What are you the god of again?”), and the latter thinks back on his upbringing, his father, his goals and aspirations, what make him Thor (hint: it’s actually not his hammer), and calls up thunder so the good guys (god guys?) win. It’s a nice story, and done well.
From my side (middle-aged art nerd), it was the easy sense of the relationships, the improv, the further development of a lot of already fairly developed characters (22 films or something like that now?). Thor: Ragnarok’s stories and jokes refer to earlier in the film itself (classic improv), but also to the comics, to previous films, to pop culture… but you don’t need to know all the references (or any of them) to enjoy it.
I looked it up, and apparently Hemsworth felt like Thor 2: Dark World tried too hard to be serious, and lost sight of some of what he wanted from the character. He spoke it over with the director, with Marvel, and others, and… they totally went for his ideas, scrapping and re-booting on some level. We used to think of Thor as this long-haired, cape-wearing, hammer-wielding hero, who takes himself pretty seriously. Now? We think of Hemsworth. So… Hemsworth had at him! He tore his cape and tossed it, cut his hair off (hilarious scene, with Stan Lee), lost his hammer, and very often took the piss out of himself. The chemistry between him and Hulk (and separately, Banner), him and Tom Hiddleston’s AMAZINGLY AWESOME (as always) and even more developed Loki, him and Tessa Thompson’s Valkyrie, etc, etc. … It’s just obvious they had so much FUN making this film. And I admit: I was even surprised at the end!
Kitty (most beautiful woman in the universe – inside and out) really appreciated… Loki. We love to hate him, hate to love him. He often does good, but we can never trust him. Also? Idris Elba. Also? Now she likes Chris Hemsworth (I am going to watch the new Ghostbusters with her). Also? We don’t want to give any (more) of the jokes away, but… after you see it, say to yourself…. “we’re not doing get help.” Overall what Kitty really liked was that in addition to this fun and funny super hero film, she was able to engage with her own childhood passions surrounding Norse mythology, which is so rich and complex. Also? The sound track. So eighties!
Thor: Ragnarok’s plot is fun and interesting, there are a lot of awesome tangents and cool-but-throwaway “catch up with the Marvel story” lines – and it all holds together, both from beginning to end, and in relation to MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe).
All four of us recommend this film!
Greg Martens holds a very special place in my heart.
He was a traveling salesman who dropped out of college and married the love of his life with whom he raised three children, eventually becoming a cobbler out in Wauwatosa, WI – where his whole family helped fix shoes in their busy little shop. At the age of 46, Martens was diagnosed with very aggressive bone marrow cancer, and given two years to live. He shut down his store, proclaimed the love his family certainly already felt, said his goodbyes, and prepared for what he was told would surely come. At the 11th hour, he was offered an extremely experimental surgery that “may or may not work,” and figured, “It can’t get any worse.” After several surgeries, transplants, being in and out of the hospital all the time, financial ruin to the point of bankruptcy, and foreclosure… Greg went into remission. He was given, he has told me many times, a new lease on life. Literally.
And then? He went back to school to study visual art.
This is when I met Gregory Martens: as a non-traditional, working class, undergraduate printmaker in his fifties, happy, and making, and chatting almost all the time – dedicated to telling the stories of machinists, cobblers, and his blue collar peers, all performing their livelihood, and finding their place in the New American System. I watched and participated as he finished that degree, and then a Masters, exploring everything from celebratory woodcut portraits of his fellow Milwaukutians (I am told that this is not a word, but I am going to use it because I like it better than Milwaukeean) to photography and storytelling around his own journey with illness. He now teaches printmaking part-time in the Peck School of Arts at UW-Milwaukee, and works in his own Hip Joint Press studio.
“Out From the Darkness,” Greg’s solo exhibition, recently premiered at Grove Gallery – run by current UWM grad student and entrepreneur, Adam Beadel of Team Nerd Press. According to the artist, the “darkness” he is coming out of (and I’ll admit I have some mixed feelings about this) “refers to letting go of the influences and pressures of academic training” (ha!), as he is “just trying to channel the teenaged kid back in the 1970’s who loved drawing for endless hours while listening to rock and roll on the 8-track.”
update! The artist emailed me, re:above
Regarding the theme of my show, “Out from the darkness” using “darkness” to describe academic training and influence does seem a bit counter-intuitive, but ever since I entered the art world as a maker, the brass ring has been the New York market, Art Basel, and Documenta. Global, intellectual, heady ideas shaped into visual brilliance. Work worthy of the attention of Artforum, Art in America, and Hal Foster. Work that demonstrates a fully realized appreciation, mastery, and relevant commentary of art history, art theory, and art criticism. But aspiring (and failing) to reach these heights left me in a dark place. The heart of it all for me is drawing, and upon reflection, my purest experience drawing was as a long-haired “freak” in high school in the mid 1970’s. So, I have tried to recreate that experience in my studio and the results are the work in this exhibition. No strategy, no expectations, no pressure.
In Distractions, above, we see the artist on an accordion, behind a drum set and guitar, a baby (his grandkid?), monsters, and skeletons, and more. He is in front of a library, and beside a poster for a production (his studio, maybe?)… but that studio is on the move, transporting good(s) via truck. Honestly, his distractions and work both sound a lot more fun than my own bureaucratic, academic emailing and paperwork; heck, I’m having more fun writing about his distractions, and I suppose blogging is one of mine.
As is his usual, odd and graphic style, there is a combination of homage and darkness in all the drawings, paintings, prints, and sketchbooks-as-anthologies on show, which depict, he says, “demons, comics, snakes, skeletons, monsters, crying babies, bad boys, and cool cars,” with a sense of often political humor.
Sadly, I only made it out to Martens’ exhibition today, the last day – and there was some confusion about gallery hours… so the above shot is the utterly glorious window, and I was able to view only this and what I could see beyond, as well as what is on the two sites linked to above. But it, along with what I already know, is enough to recommend curators and galleries consider his work, and artists and art appreciators visit his site, or any other upcoming exhibitions (he’s also got a few pieces on permanent view on the ground floor of the Engineering building at UWM – where I helped to arrange some purchases!). And… definitely speak with him (or Adam about his gallery and print shop!) if you get the chance. Greg is an inspirational person and artist!