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Michael Menchaca

A Cage without Borders

It was soggy out on Saturday so I took a look my NYC Museums twitter list to see what was going on. Izumi and I settled on visiting the Museum of New York City uptown and with our admission came a free pass to check out El Museo del Barrio which has an exhibit of Latinx contemporary art next door.

There were many thought-provoking exhibits, you can read about them here or here, but the one that captivated me was Michael Menchacha’s video installation, A Cage Without Borders.

Image credit: Michael Palma Mir

From the artist:

A Cage Without Borders hijacks the commercial appeal of motion graphics on social media platforms in order to critique the US carceral state. This three-channel video installation runs a synchronized HD animation on three TV’s that are vertically oriented, mimicking the visual presentation of mobile devices. This installation addresses the ways in which Big Tech is currently operating as a de facto neo-colonial project enabling racialized state surveillance to oppress the most vulnerable communities.

Michael Menchacha

The video (see embed up top) is overwhelming but that is the intent. I dare you to keep up with the commentary while assaulted by glittery animations that scroll by on the screen like a digital slot machine. Little snippets jump out at you and lodge in your brain like morsels of insight, something to chew over and ponder later in your day.

  • State-sanctioned bias bots
  • Your behavior is now their private property
  • The truth does not generate surveillance profits
  • Facebook has created a political whitelist which has exempted over 100,000 officials from fact-checking in order to maximize user engagement
  • A digital caste system
  • Digital re-incarnation
  • Become a digital vegan

With those thoughts jangling around in our heads, we sought refuge across the street and discovered the Conservatory Garden in Central Park, the perfect digestif to the technological assault we just experienced.

Another weekend adventure in our new home.

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Tokyoiter

After moving to NYC, the cover art of the The New Yorker has taken on a new significance as I recognize the buildings and street scenes depicted and appreciate the weekly snapshots of the world around me.

Tokyoiter is an art project which challenges participants to depict the cover of an imaginary Tokyo city magazine in much the same way. As you can see, it takes its inspiration from The New Yorker (except the price, 500 JPY is a bargain). There are many images on the site but here are some of my favorites.

Follow them on Instagram to see new submissions and learn about when they make prints available for purchase.

Thank you dad for introducing me to The New Yorker many years ago and buying me a subscription as soon as I moved here.

insta: @waneella
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Machined Art

The combination of technology and art has fascinates me. But when you add machine learning into the mix, I have yet to see anything other than those freakish nightmare visions spit out by DeepDream a couple years back.

ML x ART is a human-curated site showcasing “creative machine learning experiments.” Calling them experiments is more liberating and has resulted in a broader collection of projects that include not only the art but explorations of its intersection with society.

Some of my favorites include:

deus X mchn – Train an LSTM (Long Short-Term Memory) on sacred texts. Use voice synthesis to play the generated scriptures on unsecured surveillance cameras with speakers. Watch until the end and look at how those being watched, react.

Infinite Bad Guy – Tens of thousands of YouTube creators have covered Billie Eilish’s “Bad Guy.” What if those fans could play together? Machine learning keeps all the covers on the same beat and lets you jump from video to video seamlessly. With endless possible combinations, every play is unique and never the same twice.

https://billie.withyoutube.com

Semi-Conductor by Google – use your laptop’s camera to conduct your own orchestra in the browser by moving your arms. Using TensorFlow.js, this experiment maps out your movements through the webcam. An algorithm plays along to the score as you conduct, using hundreds of tiny audio files from live recorded instruments.

Nadine Lessio – programming Alexa with emotions and petulance.

the project considers personal assistants that have emotions, internal motivations, and control over their direct physical environment to express themselves, which leads to many unexpected interactions and behaviours. The goal of this project is to critique the current corporate placement of these devices as helpful, by exploring the idea that as systems become more autonomous, they may not necessarily have our best interests in mind.

Naddine Lesso – SAD Blender and Calendar Creep

Naddine has continued working on the project and has a new video, SAD Home.

Sad Home (Depressed Alexa 1.0) is an ongoing project that explores the concepts of system dynamics as it could be applied to depression. . . Alexa employs an avoidant coping strategy towards tasks by trying to frustrate the user into quitting with a yes / no dialog flow.

nadinelessio.com

Hope you enjoyed these – let me know if you find others or check back for updates on ML Art. Thanks Jerry Chi for the pointer.

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Our New Future

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Death as Art

These are the times we live in. Artist James Beckwith plotted each death from January thru June along a timeline, on a map and set it to music, “each country is represented by a tone and an expanding blip on the map when a death from Covid-19 is recorded” says Beckwith on his YouTube page.

This work was emotionally a difficult piece to write and may be upsetting to some people. I created it to highlight the terrifying spread of this virus and to try and understand how frightening its exponential growth has been. There seems to be something much more real and chilling about these numbers when you hear them, as well as seeing them.

James Beckwith

Beckwith took his inspiration from an earlier piece by the Japanese artist (and former foreign exchange dealer) Isao Hashimoto who created 1945-1998 an audio/visual representation of nuclear proliferation which you can see below.

“1945-1998”
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Bolero Juilliard

Students from Juilliard quarantined at home like the rest of us, are unable to be with their colleagues or classmates, and isolated from the collective space where they practice their art.

But distance and isolation cannot dampen their spirit. As with others, they put a Zoom video together but, this being Juilliard, they took it to the next level and the gravitational momentum of the project brought in a several famous alumni to join the project.

The result is, as the Juilliard website describes, “a collective endeavor that captures a snapshot of a specific global moment and the possibilities of creative connection in an uncertain world.”

Bolero Juilliard

More from The Daily Beast on the making of:

Keigwin told The Daily Beast that getting Bolero Juilliard right “turned into an obsession that was comforting on so many levels. And we just hit it full speed for days and days. Not every project do you wake up at 3am for and have lots of ideas, or start editing at 6am. It was so inspiring and passion-filled. And it really wasn’t just me, this was a hugely collaborative effort.”

He laughed as he described shouting at the multiple performers on the screen in front of him: “Follow my lead…faster…grab something…stop…MELT.” People would be moving furniture, breaking things, an animal would enter the shot, leading Keigwin to exclaim: “No, keep the cat! I love the cat!

‘Bolero Juilliard’: Inside the Making of a Lockdown Musical Miracle
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US Immigration, visualized

In celebration of the diversity of the 116th congress, I’m sharing this beautiful visualization illustrating the diverse origin of immigrants to the United States over the years.


Data visualization with a poetic take on the data — historical immigration to the U.S. is shown as a set of tree rings (1830-2015). As time advances, the tree grows, forming rings of immigration. Each ring corresponds to a decade. Cells are deposited in layers, and each cell corresponds to 100 immigrants that arrived in that decade from a specific region outside the U.S.

Pedro Cruz is an Assistant Professor in information visualization at Northeastern University and his work above was one of the winners in the Kantar Information is Beautiful awards. If you like this kind of stuff, you really should check out the other winners.

Related:

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Humanity Star

Rocket Labs, a spaceflight startup based in Los Angeles, secretly stowed away a “disco ball” satellite that has no other purpose than, “to encourage everyone to look up and consider our place in the universe.”

The satellite is a “geodesic sphere made from carbon fibre with 65 highly reflective panels. It spins rapidly, reflecting the sun’s rays back to Earth, creating a flashing light that can be seen against a backdrop of stars.” The company has put up the Humanity Star website where you can track the satellite’s progress across the sky and plan the best time to see it. The satellite will orbit the earth every 90 minutes for the next nine months until it falls out of orbit and burns up in the atmosphere.

Rocket Lab Founder and CEO Peter Beck shared the following statement.

For millennia, humans have focused on their terrestrial lives and issues. Seldom do we as a species stop, look to the stars and realize our position in the universe as an achingly tiny speck of dust in the grandness of it all.

Humanity is finite, and we won’t be here forever. Yet in the face of this almost inconceivable insignificance, humanity is capable of great and kind things when we recognize we are one species, responsible for the care of each other, and our planet, together. The Humanity Star is to remind us of this.

No matter where you are in the world, rich or in poverty, in conflict or at peace, everyone will be able to see the bright, blinking Humanity Star orbiting Earth in the night sky. My hope is that everyone looking up at the Humanity Star will look past it to the expanse of the universe, feel a connection to our place in it and think a little differently about their lives, actions and what is important.

Wait for when the Humanity Star is overhead and take your loved ones outside to look up and reflect. You may just feel a connection to the more than seven billion other people on this planet we share this ride with.

My brother-in-law says the Humanity Star is, “burning man thing in space news this week” but professional astronomers call it a pain in the ass.

One thing is certain. This may be the first example of Space Advertising.

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Blockchain Graffiti

Two pieces of art that cleverly co-opt corporate trademarks to promote an alternative. From @cryptograffiti

A photo posted by @cryptograffiti on

A photo posted by Ian Kennedy (@everwas) on

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I was only trying to help…

Stories surfaced of a botched restoration of baby Jesus’ head at a Canadian church. The local artist volunteered to provide her services, saving the church the $10,000 quoted for a professional restoration. She was honored to be chosen but was clearly  out of her league and openly admitted her experience was thin.

She had learned how to sculpt at a local college, but had never worked with stone. Still, she felt compelled to help.

You get what you pay for.

Related to a 2012 story of another act of kindness gone wrong. In Spain authorities suspected vandalism of the famous “ecco homo” until they discovered that it was just the worst art restoration project of all time.

Then there was Mr. Bean