Film doesn’t feel

One of the limitations of photography — especially that which eschews unrealistic post-processing — is that it provides limited means for expressing emotions. There is no link between the feelings in your mind and the data your sensor collects, unlike the stroke of a pen in forming a word of brush in making a drawing.

Nonetheless, photography is art-by-doing. An unaltered photo is a credible statement: I was at this place, these things were around me (Exif data can make it especially intimate). In that spirit, I tried to take a walk to express grief and pain photographically. When you’re sick with these feelings — when your brain feels like it’s being pulled apart — one answer is to travel somewhere strange and remote. To listen to the night wind blowing across something enormous and cold.

I’m working on practicing non-self-destructive ways of handling overpowering emotions.

Canada’s National Gallery

During my Christmas visit to Ottawa, I visited the National Gallery with Myshka’s mother and sister.

It was a rapid tour where I focused on statuary. The concrete aggregate work by Ugo Rondione (“We run through a desert on burning feet. All of us are glowing. Our faces look twisted.”) near the group entrance reminds me a bit of one of Bathsheba’s commissions. The dépanneur installation was odd, though it’s easy to read it as about surveillance as the convex mirrors and digital cameras reflect back the visitors exploring it. It also seemed notable to me that so much of the purpose of the shop was dedicated to alcohol (the European painting area has a most unflattering portrayal of drunken excess).

It’s neat to see statues made with such a variety of materials, from marble to plastic patio chairs to some kind of simulated camel hide.

The gallery has an unusually permissive photography policy, with everything in the permanent collection available to be freely photographed. The one time I got shut down was trying to photograph a Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux marble from a private collection, where the guard tried to stop me from even photographing the ‘no photography’ sign.

genre experiments

For two years I have been working on an art project.

I’m not sure whether the concept predated when I first heard James Allard’s lecture on Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, but the lecture is a great demonstration of how labeling does interpretive work when it comes to art.

Presented with a digital file, we may struggle to decide what it is in both a technical and artistic sense.

Perhaps it’s an HTML file with embedded image files being displayed in a web browser, or the raw data from the sensor of a digital camera. In either case, it’s also an object within a software and operating system-defined architecture and also bits physically written to some data storage medium.

From an artistic perspective, it may be a line from a play quoted in a piece of art which has been photographed and posted online (or a screenshot of a cell phone app displaying a tweet of a digital photo posted online of a print of a photograph taken illicitly in an art gallery, on display in that art gallery).

The multiple presentations of the same data are the idea of interest: like all the exposure and white balance modifications that can be applied to a raw file from a digital camera, meaning that every photograph arising from that process is an interpretation.

These experiments are also intriguing insofar as they concern cybernetic relationships between individuals, organizations that archive data (like search engines), algorithms nobody fully understands, and governments. The location of a data file on the internet does everything to establish its visibility and significance.

The idea of the project is that every distinct work within it is presented to the viewer with multiple possible modes of interpretation, whether they are based on data architecture, metadata, or the cultural and political content of the human-readable image.

Major Apple purchases

It’s crazy how demanding web browsers have become.

Both my main computers are somewhat old, but they can run modern 3D games at low graphics settings and perform computationally-intensive tasks like converting RAW files to JPG. Nonetheless, I find both my iMac and my MacBook Pro routinely struggling to run GMail in Safari, Firefox, or Chrome.

If I wasn’t a PhD student, I would probably have replaced both computers years ago.

Tracking back through my archives, I have some records of major Apple purchases:

  • My 20 GB 4th gen iPod was $389 in 2004;
  • my 14″ 1.33 GHz G4 iBook was $1990 in 2005 (that was the computer I brought to England and used exclusively in Oxford);
  • my top-of-the-line 24″ iMac was $2,249 in 2008 (a gift to self for being gainfully employed, and the computer I am typing on now);
  • In May 2010 I paid $35 for Mac OS X 10.6.3 Snow Leopard!
  • I got one of many 160 GB iPod Classics for $279 in 2010 (still the best MP3 player ever; I need to replace the hard drive in my current one); and
  • I got my 13″ MacBook Pro for $1649 in 2011

I am pretty tied into the OS X universe. That’s how all my projects (academic, photographic, activist) are organized, including encrypted archives and backups.

I would love to get a Mac Pro (though apparently those available now are outdated and expensive) or an iMac Pro (not out yet, first-of-a-kind Apple products tend to have big problems, and crazy expensive at $5000+).

All told, I would prefer to avoid the all-in-one design. My current iMac has a great screen, but inadequate processing power for current applications. It cannot be used as a display for a faster computer.