Experimental Media Voodoo™


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Teaser section of my little book, "Experimental Media Voodoo™". It's about what I do as a digital media artist, and my approach to understanding digital culture, discussed and explained in micro-essays, case studies, tutorials, and neat charts!

Currently looking for a publisher for the full-color, full-bleed version! More info at : http://www.badmindtime.com/book .

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Experimental Media Voodoo™

  1. 1. EXPERIMENTAL MEDIA VOODOO™AN ARTIST’S BOOK OF SYNCRETIC AND SUBVERSIVE HORIZONSJoey Bargsten,Ph.D.Assistant Professor,Florida Atlantic Universityand Founding Director of
  3. 3. • Synthesis - Subversive Approaches o Subverting Google, Twitter o Search Engine Cinema NDEX o Subverting Urban and Intellectual Property Environments - Distributed Systems (multiple screens, multiple narratives, multiple iPods) o Case Study:The Walkman/iPod/Whatever’s-OVERVIEWS Next EnsembleForward: The Form of This Book - microEssay: The Syncretic MomentIntroduction: Form Equals Vocabularies plus Process IV. CONCLUSIONS, CONTEXTS, AND Case Study : ULTRA MEGA NANO META™ DESIGN DIMENSIONS III. FORM information and Interaction DynamicsI. VOCABULARIES Introduction ControllersIntroducing Vocabularies: New and Emerging • Existing—Meta—Hybrid Forms Design Dimensions: Hanging Out in the World of• Visual Vocabularies - Syncretic Performance Horizons Opposites - DataMosh, o iPod Operatics (ANATOMY OF - Bitmap/Vector Dialectics MELANCHOLY™) Case Study: Persona Jams Case Study: Punk and Emblemata Series o Genre Rehabilitation (BLUE HAMMER) Tutorial: Dystopia Dreams™• Sonic Vocabularies o News Art–Transforming the Journalistic Moment - Digital Artifacts, Autotune, etc. (APPLE DAILY, ALLEGORIES,WONKETTE) Conclusions: Hacking Meaning - Microsampling,Variable Sampling (microsound perspective) SIDEBAR: Digital Texts - Algorithmic Composition o Micronarratives—Case Study: tranzMishunz™ LINKS/ONLINE RESOURCES Case Study: mNotation™ by SkyRon™ • Text Vocabularies o Online Interactive Archive—Case Study: CREDITS/ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS - Digital Cultural Detritus and Flarf BAD MIND TIME™ - Digi-macaronics:Trecartin’s K-Corea INCK APPENDIX microEssay: Convergence INTERMEDIO 1. Modulor Redux (2000):64 divisions of 16:9 space, Performance Design Strategies after Le Corbusier II. PROCESS • Software/Hardware Requirements Intro to Process ª File Formats and Limitations II. Hexagrams of Trichords (1985): 64 Number • Analysis • Modularity, Mixability, and Digital Lacunae Sequences (after Webern, Babbit, and Cage) - Conflating a production technique and a pedagogical •` Personnel and Division of Labor term microEssay: Recipe for Making Digital Media - microEssay:My Backup Singers Clips for VJamming / What Not To Worry About - Timelines • Craft Case Study: meme™ Jr.Videojam Applications for Kids Tutorial: Displacement Distortion Case-Study-Within-a-Case-Study:Video feedback, and Case Study/Tutorial: Dual Site (Pronbient Intervention Objects—Visual Essay Workshop) Tutorial: Destabilizing a Text
  4. 4. visuals. Like a good song, I hope to invite repeated examinations of both text and visual presentation. Vocal Shifts You may notice shifts in writing style between the body of the text (BT), the essays (ES), the case studies(CS) orward: and the tutorials (TU). Additional information, indi- ces, appendices, links, notes, resources, and all otherEvery Beginning is an End marginalia are listed under the (IN) tabs.(and, Ma fin est mon commencement) Most of the language of this text might seem,It seems to me that a book about experimental at times, as stiff, inflexible, and con tempo asdigital media should be informed of the structure of a 19th century celluloid collar. It may seemdigital media (essentially, hypertext), and it should unapologetically romantic in itsalso incorporate the spirit of experiment in its championing of the individualpresentation. avant garde artist with early 20th century manifestosity, notPaper can’t do hypertext, but the electronic version quite informed of inflections afforded race, gender,of a print work can indeed contain links, embedded and the multiple discourses around difference,media, and interactivity. So, what you have before you political power, and declining empires. Yet, thisis the paper manqué of an electronic version. The gives me an authorial perspective and distancelanguage, approach, structure, and style of this book from langue d’iggity-wack, my term for languageis all secondary to my ultimate re-purposing of the and verbal forms used in contemporary digital culture.text into a digital temenos. Hypertext is, of course, The process of writing this text has afforded meuseful as a metaphor for the style of argument in this a unique viewpoint from which to observe abook—there is no argument; topics serve as tabs changing language that is describing a changingof links to your own deeper investigation of your set of disciplines and expressive forms. Ifinterests (and this passage may be a resounding ‘duh’ needed, you may want to refer to ato some readers, an invitation to read beyond text). glossary of contemporary terms and usages, found online, on sites like As a composer writing an art song, one sets Urban Dictionary.com [0]. text to music. With the typography, layout, and design of this book, I’m attempting to set text to
  5. 5. ntroduction Experimental Media: Making the Useful UselessThe technologies of digital media produc- examples of new and emerging elements, forms, alternatives to the laptop/desktop, YouTube videotion, transmission, and interaction have evolved and practices that appear to be generating some of walls, smart-device performance art—and it is timeimmensely over the past few years, blurring lines the most intriguing mashups of digital art, culture, to once again document how the useful has beenbetween previously distinct disciplines and ex- and technology today. made useless.pressive forms. Experimental uses of digital mediarepresent a perfect crucible for mixing both com- Man Ray famously said the purpose of Dada was Since the world of experimental media is vast andmercial and artistic approaches to contemporary to make the useful useless [1]. This dictum has deep, I will focus this text on only the examples thattechnology, and digital media artists worldwide are been applied to experimental digital media since offer an appreciation of making the useful useless.developing their own forums and venues where its inception by such artists as jodi.org [2] and These examples, in addition to timeliness and culturalthese experiments can be developed, produced, absurd.org [3]. The experimental landscape has relevance, possess an echo and resonance with thepresented to the public, and critically examined. grown and evolved in many remarkable ways great works of the past, across genre and geography, thatThroughout this text, I will present a number of since then—augmented reality for mobile apps, have endured, and continue to invite reassessment.
  6. 6. The Map Becomes The Territory Overview of The Chart JOURNALISM ART PERSONA JAM Digital media is a huge, sprawling mess of disci- GENRELESS TEXTS This self-definition serves as the starting-point of SOFTWARE ART SPECULATIVE + DISTRIBUTED plines, approaches, histories, and works.There is no dinner theatre the equation around which the entire book is or- standard definition of what a ‘digital media artist’ ganized: rehab is, or what (s)he does. How does one make sense of this world? I draw charts in various vector-art Forms = Vocabularies + Processes [4] * programs, and then bring them into web-friendly (within the context of some other dimensions). Al- performative forms HYBRID Vocabularies/ interactivity tools so I can move elements around Vocabularies/ ONLINE ARCHIVE (BAD MIND TIME) processes/ ready this is problematic, since vocabularies emerge processes/ VIDEO JAMMING and see if the chart actually does ‘speak’ to me. If live mix/ forms forms from processes, and some processes slip into prac- it seems to, then I’ll write some text to accompany EXPERIMENT tices that are essentially forms (like videojamming), the chart, so it might further make sense to some- and forms, as I define them, produce further new one encountering it for the first time.—this is how vocabularies. One glance at the charts reveal the I wrote this book. It’s an attempt to make sense mutatable quality of all these elements: Forms slid- DIGITAL OPERA out of the vocabularies, processes, and forms of the ing between mainstream and independent status to TEACHING digital media world from my own perspective as craft truly hybrid and outsider regions;Analysis and Craft experimental artist, and thus I have rather shame- leading to Synthesis; and the continual overlapping lessly included my own sonic, visual, and text-based DADA 2.0 and multiple arrangements of Vocabulary elements. projects among the examples. This text is a snap- So, I use Form, as an arrival point, as an end to a shot of my interests and my work, right now. HIStories theories means. But, as we shall surely see, in the experimen- Vocabularies/ Vocabularies/ My personal definition of ‘digital media artist’ is tal media ‘multiverse’, vocabularies and processes processes/ processes/ META SYNCRETIC PRACTICES forms the map of ‘what I do’: 1) existing and established can just as easily be termini. These ideas may wear forms practices such as using digital tools to create films, different masks, and they may present different ap- music, and texts; 2) peripheral or ‘meta’ practices pearances up until the big, final reveal. of writing critical or speculative texts, and distill- SUBVERSIVE ing my practices and techniques in ways that they CRITICAL TEXTS inform my teaching, and 3) hybrid forms, practices, and vocabularies that, at least in my estimation, are experimental.FORMs EQUAL . . . EXISTING DIGITAL CINEMA Vocabularies/ (MICRO)NARRATIVE Vocabularies/ TEXT ART: FICTION processes/ processes/ forms forms FOR FILM/THEATRE SOUND DESIGN * I fully recognize the risk of developing a ‘one VISUAL ART equation fits all’ approach, but I also recognize the CONCERT MUSIC need to sketch digital culture with a ‘large brush’, to enable a meaningful discussion of the nature of contemporary experimental media, especially for the beginning digital media artist.
  8. 8. PLACEHOLDER ART ULTRA M3GA NANO META™ (2010) [5] - Exhibition of conceptual underpinnings of digital An increasingly viable approach to contemporary case study: media and performance, 2nd Avenue Studio, Ft. visual expression, placeholder art borrows from Lauderdale, FL (FAU Campus, Fort Lauderdale), a core digital media production technique to October 20, to October 31, 2010. Open substitute a low-cost or no-cost visual for a ultra m3ga nano meta™ rehearsal/performance by meme™ in the spectacular, unrealized or unrealizable object. conceptual/ gallery, on October 26, 2010. Poochin’ Out (1994) [larger image, Case Study: Punk digital Overview Series], an early, naive vector-art image, functions art exhibit as a placeholder for a magnificent densely woven The digital / conceptual tapestry of fine fabrics, spun gold, silver, palladium, and artist has a number of platinum, as well as only slightly decaying animal parts, challenges, primary and s/m compliant industrial hypoallergenic rubber; among them are misted with a thin layer of Vaseline® petroleum the frustrating and jelly, to fire all the appropriate cultural markers and MICRONARRATIVE ever-present questions of give the work its 1990s-era imprimatur. “What, exactly, do you do?’ Although not a new or hybrid form, micronarratives and “Does what you do even are exerting their presence in the online world (if PLACEHOLDER ART constitute a body of work?”. The not always the literary world). Flash fiction is the exhibit forced me to give physical form umbrella term for contemporary micronarrative, and space over to these questions. and the length of a typical flash fiction work can vary from a few pages to a few paragraphs. Work About The Exhibit under 140 characters, however, enters the realm of Twitter fiction, Tweet fiction, or Twitterature. The exhibit clarified to me the idea that digital art can help articulate and perhaps even realize conceptual Perenniallyunstabledigi-personaSkyRon™[seeCaseStudy: art from the last century and the current one. A body of Persona Jams] contributed his transMishunz™[examples, work indeed emerges: it is the hybrid vocabularies, practices/ TEXT FLARFING Case Study: Micronarratives], a collection of almost 300processes, and forms that result from a fully informed and engaged encounter with the cultural detritus micronarratives, crafted as “verbal storyboards, notof meaning, delicately or forceably molded into digital form. Verbing the noun used to describe the poetry from to be mistaken for prose poetry or anything of an the collective of primarily east-of-the-Hudson enduring literary quality. They are rough-hewn, sketchy,One must first examine the notion of ‘hybrid’. In an expressive context, the ongoing evolution of styles, based poets [fl. 1998 – 2006] who often used the and deliberately in need of the word-surgeon’s knife.”genres, and the technologies that enclose this notion is well-known and well-documented. Our current Google word search engine as a starting point for transMishunz™ were used as voice-over audio forcircumstance requires us to step back and examine a wealth of vocabularies, practices/processes, and multiple videojams by the ensemble meme™. some of their poetry, flarfing now describes anyforms that slip outside the boundaries of convention and expectation, and hence must be corralled number of digital manipulative practices appliedinto that shaky holding-pen of the ‘hybrid’. Conventional forms must include narrative film, concert and to an extant text, with the intension of employingcommercial music, all manner of visual art, and fictive/non-fictive texts. Hybrids (my examples below, but zero-funded cinema the collective imagination of networked and AInot a comprehensive list) arise from a number of syncretic, subversive and ‘meta’ practices, where I include micronarrative -my teaching and the creation of critical texts. software to create a poem less lame.So, ultimately, this exhibit explores how I take digital media and use it to investigate and realize ideas that The two examples in the exhibit take poemsmight usually be called ‘conceptual art’ or ‘experimental art’. I use my own software, as well as commercial crafted by educator and poet Wilkine Brutus andhardware, and networked technologies (from mobile devices to internet-based applications) to produce apply SysTran® language translation software [6]and manipulate digitized text, imagery, and sound, in the context of experimental ideas and performances. to run them through a gamut of languages and backI only attempt to document how existing vocabularies, processes, and forms can be expanded and pushed to English.When the same process is applied to theinto hybrid, uncharted territories. poet’s name, it becomes Nations of wilkine Rome.
  9. 9. ZERO-FUNDED CINEMA to shift slightly out of focus (i.e., “go cross-eyed”) digitally compressed to no more than 5 seconds dozens (or more) sub-producers or contractors until the two images coincide has been known in length (microsongs), plus additional electronic for production. In the visual domain, this is very A growing trans-genre pulse is the zero-funded for thousands of years. While attending the Andy elements. simple: break an image into a matrix, assign each to film, a production for which no major grant, loan, Warhol Retrospective (MOCA Los Angeles, 2002) an individual to print or produce. or budget was incurred. While the definitions DISTRIBUTED VISUAL SYSTEM: [8], the visual and interactive possibilities of this of zero-funding are not universally defined, the CROWDSOURCED VECTOR MOSAIC technique became apparent to this author. spirit of spending as little as necessary to produce contemporary cinema has been adopted by at least While it may induce headaches, eyestrain, and Elements comprising an art object have forever one major festival—the Zero Film Festival (Los discomfort, the short film IXION (2010) presents the had the option of being distributed among multiple Angeles, Brooklyn, London) [7]. authors for production. In the digital era, the idea of Do-It-Yourself quasi-3-Dimensional cinema object can be multipli-subdivided and assigned to without special glasses, projectors, or screens. (detail) Sticky Notes™ (premiered at ZFF-LA, December 2008) is a cinematic to-do list where cryptic drawings SEARCH ENGINE CINEMA (Database Cinema) penned by SkyRon™ transform into abstract and videojam-inspired imagery which is often oblique Using Google, Flickr, and Yahoo image-searches on crowdsourced or irrelevant to the spoken text, but suggesting the words like punk, cromp, iaght, DJ, hiphop, cool, pimp, vague outlines of the micronarrative. playa, party, funk, tatoo, body art, skateboard, and DISTRIBUTED SONIC SYSTEM: THE WALKMAN/ graffiti, Projek Iaght™ (2005) presents over 6,300 IPOD ENSEMBLE [see Case Study:Walkman Ensemble] AUTO-STEREOSCOPIC CINEMA (DIY 3D) individual images, all downloaded from the internet, mosaic In the sonic (i.e., sound, silence, and organized The phenomenon of viewing two adjacent and at 30 images per second for its entire 3 ½ minute structures of both, which is often the beginning- nearly identical images and then allowing one’s eyes length. The soundtrack is a set of pop songs each point of what we may define as music) realm, the distribution of instructions or notations is often overlooked or ignored as an expressive option, in favor of more simple and established ones. If one considers the non-commercial expressive value of networked instructions/notations, a world of possibilities unfolds, including layers of multiple tempi, pitch structures, languages or (if dance orauto-stereoscopi cinema sonic system: hor’s theatre) vocabular spaces. The aut distributed use of the Walkman (and late r the ensemble the por table CD player, and currently, the ipoD back iPod or other .mp3 players) dates to 1983.
  10. 10. INTERVENTION OBJECTS (FOR VIDEOJAM) PRONBIENT MUSIC and perceptions—a larger narrative expanse needs to develop.Thus, the persona, set in a world that can Transparent, translucent, patterned, shiny, and A number of de-contextualizing processes are only optimistically called a dystopia, will surely be an broken objects, as well as culturally resonant easily accessible to artists working in the sonic arena worth observing. figure-based models provide rich raw material domain. One such process is pronbient synthesis, for intervention between camera and screen for where a soundtrack from amateur pornography In the exhibit, an aura of instability and disfunction videojamming [see Case Study: Video Feedback and (the neologism pron is not related to prouns, the pervades the Zero-Funded film Sticky Notes™ in Intervention Objects]. abstract geometric paintings by El Lissitzky), and the form of its protagonist, SkyRon™, The Digital applying multiple digital sonic processes (especially Media Idiot Of Our Age [see Case Study: Persona Jams]. Exhibited plastic models were originally assembled compression, noise removal, normalization, and painted in the mid-to-late 1960’s. They include reverberation filtering, and phase vocodor time- VIDEOJAM Revell models from the Universal Studios Monsters scaling) to completely transform the track. (The Wolfman, The Mummy, The Creature, Dracula, As one navigates the multitude of digitalINTERVENTION Pronbience is used throughout the film Sticky Frankenstein’s Monster, The Hunchback of Notre vocabularies and processes, one is often drawn to Notes™, especially in section #51 and following (“Execute Dame, The Phantom of the Opera); Japanese imports the larger ‘buckets’ within which these elements are a series of rather well-crafted imitations of greatness”).OBJECTS (Godzilla); members of Testors’ WEIRD-OHS Series combined. While common and mainstream forms (Freddy Flameout, Leaky Boat Louie, Endsville Eddy, Any sound source can be substituted for amateur persist, such as linear film, conventional fictive and Daddy The Swingin’ Suburbanite); and Ed Roth’s porn, and as long as there is some degree of narrative, and notation-based music, it is the hybrid Finks Series (Rat Fink, Scuz Fink, Mr. Gasser, Mother’s human vocalization, the results will be similar to forms which will no doubt allow digital materials Worry, Francis the Foul, etc.). Also among this plastic pronbience. The composer used this process in an idiomatic landscape for expansive realization. detritus are the remains of early action-figures of transforming “the world’s oldest audio recording” The Beatles, plus injection-molded rubber cowboys in his score for Leon Johnson and John Schmor’s One of the premier expressive forms to emerge from an earlier era. theatre work Dual Site (2010) [see Case Study/ from the nascent global consciousness of digital Tutorial: ‘Ghosts of Dolls’ from Dual Site]. culture is the videojam (also called, visualism, vidsonics, or scratch cinema). While the practice of live manipulation of digital video and audio usually finds it home in bars and dance clubs, there is a growing presence in galleries and concert venues, #3 as well as in architectural installations. A number of 3 persona Jam: extended media festivals have also blossomed around this confluence of technology, media, and art. SKYRON™ The video,jam for the exhibit mixed these elements:TRANS-SERIAL A/V STRUCTURE • meme™’s post-modern chorus suppliesThose who have been following my work since, a sustained, vocal ambience: this islike, 1985, know it’s mostly based on the Hexagrams what I call a distributed audio system–theof Trichords™ (1985) [see Appendix II], a system THE UNSTABLE PERSONA Walkman/iPod Ensemble. The group is following pitch and click tracks playing on mof non-repeating number sequences based on a s of frohybrid of serial and aleatoric practices. The number Performance and other containers to hold digital their mobile devices, which allows me to materials in a temenos—a sacred, defined space, rd ms 3sequences are used here to create the rhythmic craft dense, atonal, and even microtonal ho a 3 borrowing from the world of theatre—may only ic gr ambackgrounds for the videojams. vocal textures, similar to what you hear tr xa gr achieve a limited impact. To realize the full extent in my online videowall example [see he exa of the instability of our age—its uncertainty, the Distributed Systems]. H dissolution of institutions, certain conceptual and societal ‘givens’ set adrift, ever-shifting standards
  11. 11. performativeVideojam—media The electronic rhythm track is based on the trans-serial number series. • The visual component uses videojam software we developed in my I’m simply translating the number series into a set of rhythmic textures, Advanced Interactive Multimedia course last spring [see Case Study: but the number series also determines when visual elements change meme™ Jr. VideoJam Application]—it employs the process of pointing a on-screen [see Case Study: meme™ Jr.VideoJam Application]. live video camera at its output screen or video feedback, the classic electronic phenomenon first explored by the legendary Nam June Paik • Layered on top of these textures will be solo lines provided by a muted in the 1960s and 1970s. trumpet part, played by a live performer.The performer follows notation that’s being generated live, online, with my mNotation™ software [see • The monster models and broken, shiny CD pieces you see around Case Study: mNotation™]. the gallery will intervene between camera and screen—intervention objects. There will be short Flash animations developed for the videojam software, also layered between camera and screen.