Tag Archives: 2009

World of World (artist’s book)

WOW softcoverWorld of World (hardback)

Left: World of World (paperback); open edition, 20 pages, 8 x10 inches: $50

Right: World of World (hardback); signed, numbered edition of 10 on satin paper with a black linen hardcover, 20 pages, 8.5×11 inches: $500SORRY OUT OF PRINT AND OUT OF STOCK


"World of World" book, p. 5When I created “World of World: The Adventures of Malbec and Player” in 2009, I also made a limited edition artist’s book of the project. At 2×12-feet, that piece was so large I wanted a version that was more portable and that also favored reading over looking. The text in the piece was a crucial part of the project, but it’s the element that gets the least attention in an exhibition setting.

For the book, I wanted to keep the borderless look of the original, that sense of expansiveness and layering, so I took a very simple approach: I divided the piece into 16 roughly equal-sized sections, and each section became a full page in the book, reading from left to right. I had to make some adjustments along the way, mainly to ensure that the text areas didn’t get broken up, so the final book includes about nine-tenths of the original. Fragmenting the piece into book form gave it an explosive quality I hadn’t expected—the images really push the confines of their pages. And as I hoped, the text became a much more central and dominant element.

"World of World" book, p. 10"World of World", 2009 (book)I researched the then-current state of on-demand book printing and made some comparison tests to decide which service created the highest quality books. This edition is printed by Shutterfly, which has excellent printing quality and also gives artists an exceptional amount of control over the final book design (including such matters as whether the company’s logo appears—it does not in this edition). I have also found them very helpful to deal with and responsive to user questions.(I know my full-spread image is not very good, but I wanted to get something up at least temporarily until I can shoot it properly.)

More information about the entire project, as well as the print editions of “World of World”, is over on this page.


“World of World” is also available as:

Posted in 2010, books | Also tagged , , |

World of World (small)

 

WorldOfWorld-5flat-web

“World of World: The Adventures of Malbec and Player”: the full print, 10×40″, on a single piece of archival paper stock, open edition, signed by the artist: $285


For other editions, see foot of page.


WorldOfWorld-5A-medI created this work at the end of 2008 and the beginning of 2009. “World of World: The Adventures of Malbec and Player” is a four-panel (modular) digital print totaling 2 feet by 12 feet and it’s one for which I have a special fondness.

I’m a longtime player in RPGs, starting with Gemstone II back in the 1990s and continuing through Lineage to World of Warcraft. The idea behind the piece was to explore the complicated relationship that develops between players in RPGs and their avatars, but from the avatar’s point of view.

So it begins with how the avatar views the player and the player’s artificial (from the avatar’s point of view) world, as if the avatar were the protagonist and the player were the toon. That’s why you initially see the avatar, Malbec, from behind, examining the Player through his WOW interface. At the same time it acknowledges that the two—in this case, a female Death Knight and a male gamer—are one, existing as a kind of functional temporary split personality.WorldOfWorld-5B-med

Malbec is one of my ‘alts’ in World of Warcraft, which I’ve been playing for about four years now. I created her to reflect as clearly as possible the gendered fantasies embedded in WOW programming. She has the tall, large-breasted, lithe-verging-on-anorexic body build of the socially controlled female, but with tail and faun-like lower limbs that inevitably suggest an innate and ‘naturally’ uncontrollable bestiality. She dresses in skimpy costumes—who needs armor?—but, as a warrior, swings an absurdly large and jag-toothed sword.

WorldOfWorld-5C-medFor the purposes of this piece, her Player is postulated as male, since that is still the largest category of WOW gamers, and those whose desires are most clearly reflected in the programming of WOW’s various avatar types. And of course many of them role-play as females, a tendency much commented on in the RPG literature. And not least, the piece was in part an expression of my own frustrations with the horrible misogyny, homophobia, racism, and xenophobia that infect a subset of players and which they feel completely free to express in the chat areas. They may indeed represent only a small percentage of the WOW player base, but for me a primary issue is that their sense of entitlement points to a much larger problem of silent acquiescence among the other players.WorldOfWorld-5D-med

Researching and shooting this project was a lot of fun. I worked with director Robert Allen, and he found just the right actor to be the Player—the terrific Peter Uribe—and Pete in turn found us our shooting location: the gaming den in someone’s apartment. I knew I wanted to use it the second that I saw the fake-brick wall and the photomural of Manhattan taking up another entire wall. I shot all the Player’s ‘scenes’ using a webcam because I love how the low-rez quality of webcams creates an artificial reality of its own for its users, one that I see as a kind of inverted mirror of the high-rez artifice of WOW itself.

excerpt from the text overlay of "World of World"

excerpt from the text overlay of “World of World”

I collected a small library of webcam shots to help me think about look and feel, color, texture, and so on, and in the course of doing so I noticed that certain kinds of expressive enactments crop up over and over on webcams. Dancing, making funny faces, kissing the camera, cuddling stuffed animals, and holding up cellphones to show off pictures of your honey are among the most popular moves. Some of these got integrated into the final narrative arc of the piece, which moves loosely (left to right) from day to night, play to aggression, sociability to solitude.

raw image from the Player photo shoot

raw image from the Player photo shoot

In addition, the work includes an overlay of running text in the form of an internal monologue structured as an antagonistic but codependent dialogue between Malbec and Player. Malbec’s remarks are in roman type, and the Player’s are in italics. I have this kind of running argument with myself a lot of the time I’m playing WOW, generated in part by the tension between my intense involvement in the game and my aversion to so much of its cultural coding. I play it  for fun and a sense of mastery but my experience of these is constantly tainted with the shame and humiliation that come of voluntarily participating in a misogynistic environment. And at the same time, I’m attracted to it precisely because I cannot be oblivious in my enjoyment; it’s complicated and hence always interesting.

“World of World” was created for the 2009 Laguna Museum exhibition “WOW: Emergent Media Phenomenon,” curated by Grace Kook-Anderson.


“World of World” is also available as:


Posted in 2010, prints | Also tagged , , |

World of World (large)

WorldOfWorld-5flat-web

12 ft x 2 ft, archival print face-mounted to plexiglass in four contiguous sections.

Edition of 10 signed and numbered by the artist, $9000. A few still available; email me if interested.

 


opening of "WOW: Emergent Media Phenomenon"

opening of “WOW: Emergent Media Phenomenon” (photo courtesy of Eric Stoner)

“World of World” was originally created in a special limited edition of 10 signed, numbered, and mounted digital prints for the 2009 Laguna Museum show “WOW: Emergent Media Phenomenon” curated by Grace Kook-Anderson. (More information about this project and its open editions can be found on this page.)

World of World (panel A)

World of World (panel A)

Each work in this edition consists of four 2×3-foot panels printed on Fujicolor Crystal Archive paper and face-mounted to plexiglass on a backing of acid-free Sintra. When these panels are hung contiguously, the images flow together to make up a single, seamless 2×12-foot work.

The modular design means that the panels can also be hung individually instead.


“World of World” is also available as:

Posted in 2010, prints | Also tagged , , , , |

out with the filler pix

For the last decade or so, slate.com has been one of my semi-regular news sources, largely because I am a fan of Dahlia Lithwick and Emily Bazelon’s excellent Supreme Court coverage. Awhile back the site went through a major redesign that aligned it with what a lot of other news-commentary sites are also doing: it shifted from being dominated by text links, blurbs, and small images to being a ‘big-blocks’ construct of interlocking large images with headlines. If you adhere to a standard modernist aesthetic—a minimal number of elements organized in rectangles along invisible gridlines—the visual aspect of the design is arguably an improvement. But from the point of view of information access and readability, it’s a step backwards. Worse, in its attempt at self-improvement it migrated towards what I consider the current scourge of the internet: the filler pic. Also known as a  ‘stock photograph’, a term I dislike because it has been so normalized that I believe we are insufficiently critical of the role such images play in news websites.

slate-4-27-14-loHere is an example of my issue with filler pix: In the screenshot at left—which is just the top half of the Slate home page for April 27, 2014— there are just six large photographic images visible. Of these, five are completely pointless in information terms, and two of them are duplicates of each other (the desert scene). Make the experiment yourself: replace any of these images with a black box, and you won’t be missing any information you didn’t already have. What Slate reader hasn’t already seen a million pictures of deserts, coffee cups, and Vladimir Putin, not to mention some version of the ubiquitous Chandos portrait that might be Shakespeare? The sole exception is the image accompanying the item on the Spider-Man movie: as a still from a movie then in the theaters, it is probably something many readers had not yet seen.

These photos, in other words, are serving mainly as designer filler. But though they don’t add anything informational to the story, they do tend to reify cultural stereotypes of various kinds, as other critics have observed, including writers at Slate itself. There are the obvious ones: ‘attractive’ women being posed in ways that are supposed to signify broadly about womanhood, or jobs, or family; or a national leader posing as authoritative and commanding. And there are the less obvious ones: the spread of highly styled food photos, for instance, which convey messages about what the food should look like that ‘we’ are supposed to be interested in. There is an overrepresentation of middle-class aspirational values: cleanliness, neatness, good design, unspoiled landscapes, tasteful art, well-furnished interiors. By the hundredth time you see a certain type of image, you stop noticing it consciously, but it continues as a kind of subliminal cultural advertising—what was long ago termed “the new heraldry“—reassuring you that nothing you think really needs to change, no matter what the text says.slate-3-4-09b

And then there are the structural problems these kinds of images create or exacerbate. For one thing, their sheer size banishes a great deal of actual information from the home screen. The comparison screenshot at right from 2009 shows the difference quite clearly. In the 2009 design, there are actually more photos (9 instead of 6, not counting the banner ad), but they are so much smaller that they take up substantially less screen real estate, leaving room for many more items: a complete top menu, two side menus, a central listing of stories, and a most-read/most-emailed section. And all of this is ‘above the fold’, meaning it is visible on a laptop screen without any scrolling. The difference in available choices is stark: 10 or so stories and a couple of links in 2014 versus 18 or so stories and a dozen general links in 2009. As someone who likes to visually skim a collection of stories before deciding what to read, the new Slate is maddeningly skimpy.

slate-hamburgerHere’s what I do when I go to the new Slate: I ignore the entire front page and immediately click on the tiny ‘hamburger’ dropdown menu at upper right, because that is now the only way in to the realm of text links that I value because they can be assessed at high speed. Yes, as far as I am concerned, the only item of importance on the entire Slate front page is an icon taking up—what?—a hundredth of the available screen real estate?

The mobile version of Slate is slightly better because it converts the tiled front page into a stacked list of stories, which is much faster and simpler to navigate. But here, too, I usually only glance at the top three stories before moving over to the hamburger menu for further navigation. slate-4-27-14eAnd the mobile version has its own problem related to filler pix: when you do click over to a story, there is usually a significant pause while the image at the head of the story loads. You can scroll down to pick up the text and start reading, but if you do, you will often get popped back to the top of the screen a time or two as the image loads and lose your place in the story as a result. Waiting for a pointless image to load is pretty much my definition of a complete waste of time.

Here’s a suggestion for all these over-image-laden sites (I’m looking at you, too, Atlantic and New Yorker): banish your stock photos. You could replace them with simple color rectangles. Heck, if you want to get fancy, make yourself a bunch of faux Albers squares. Free mockup at right. You’re welcome.

Or better yet take a long, hard look at longform.org.

Posted in 2014, latest | Also tagged , , , |

Denver canal

 

 

Denver Canal, 2009

Denver Canal, 5.5×30″ open-edition digital print on archival paper, signed by the artist: $225


Denver Canal, 2009 (left end detail)

Denver Canal, 2009 (left end detail)

This is another piece from my “Western Waters” series of panoramic photographs of those unspectacular waterways that support urban and agricultural life in the transmontane west. Back in 2002, I took a trip through parts of the Southwest—mainly California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Colorado—to photograph bodies of water for a project I was then working on. That project never materialized in the form envisioned, but I have slowly been working on the panoramas in the years since. Another in the series is the Blythe irrigation canal print.

Denver Canal, 2009 (middle section detail)

Denver Canal, 2009 (middle section detail)

Like the others, the Denver canal panorama was stitched together from multiple images, resulting in a good deal of distortion compared to the typical landscape view restricted to the scope of a 35 mm or 50mm lens. As I was working on it, I decided to leave a few of the ‘seams’ between the component images as visible lines—you can see one of these in the top center area of the detail photo at right.

Denver Canal, 2009 (right end detail)

Denver Canal, 2009 (right end detail)

The problem with a unified landscape is that it’s easy to accept whole, in a way that stifles reflection, especially when the subject is something as banal as a green-brown ditch with sunburnt weedy banks. Both the ruptures and the digital over-painting are designed to stop the eye for a second look. If you enlarge one of the detail photos you’ll see what I mean.

I’ve also worked on the final image to place it squarely between painting and photography. This, again, was done with the intention of removing it from the realm of the ‘pre-known’—and also to emphasize the particularity of the experience. A thousand minute compositions—individual weeds, a pattern in the water—hide in plain sight within a scene that seems utterly unphotogenic. The detail photos show this better than the full  panorama, which is so reduced here on the web (from 30 inches down to a few hundred pixels) that most detail is lost.


Posted in 2011, prints | Also tagged , , , , |

Blythe irrigation canal

Blythe irrigation canal, 2009

Blythe irrigation canal, 2009

Blythe irrigation canal, 2009, 5×19″ open-edition digital print on archival paper, signed by the artist: $175

Please inquire if interested in a larger, custom size, up to 36 inches wide.


detail of Blythe irrigation canal, 2002

detail, Blythe irrigation canal, 2009

In 2002, I took a trip through parts of the Southwest—mainly California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Colorado—to photograph bodies of water for a project I was then working on. I was mostly interested in unglamorous water like ditches, small reservoirs, and irrigation canals, as well as creeks and rivers where they passed through urban areas. Almost the entire western part of the United States depends on these unobtrusive waterways, as well as the even less visible systems of pipes and pumps that move fantastic amounts of water from the mountains to the cities.

detail of Blythe irrigation canal, 2002

detail, Blythe irrigation canal, 2009

I photographed every site with the expectation of later stitching the series of images made on that spot into a panorama. I was not interested in creating something seamless and spectacular, so I paid minimal attention to the technology of panoramic photography (the camera’s axis, exposure balance, etc.). I was shooting with an early digital camera so that I could work with my image bank as I went along.

The project I started out on never materialized, but I have slowly been working on the “Western Waters” panoramas in the years since.

detail of Blythe irrigation canal, 2002

detail, Blythe irrigation canal, 2009

As its title suggests, the panorama above was made in the small city of Blythe, which sits on the border of California and Arizona, straddling the Colorado River. It was one of those hot, dry summer days when all life seems to have been sucked away except for a few sparse weeds. While I was photographing this site, I began to feel as if it could never change, and that I too might be there forever, gradually slowing down until I turned to concrete myself.

detail of Blythe irrigation canal, 2002

detail, Blythe irrigation canal, 2009

This panorama was composed of half a dozen individual images, with the black-line dividers placed to punctuate the visual rhythm of the piece and create five smaller images. I colorized and abstracted it as a visual analog of the mental effort I had to make to imagine the site as otherwise than it was then, a composition of austere mauve-browns, gray-greens, and muddy blues. What might it look like at sunset, at dawn, in the winter, under the influence of a fever or some other altered mental state?

This is the first of the panoramas to be completed, and hopefully not the last. I’m also offering, as a self-contained print, the second and third sections of this panorama. You can find the information about that print on its own page.


Posted in 2010, prints | Also tagged , , , , , |

Blythe canal diptych

Blythe canal diptych, 2009

Blythe canal diptych, 2009

Blythe canal diptych, 2009, 13×19″ open-edition digital print on archival paper, signed by the artist: $150


Blythe irrigation canal, 2009

Blythe irrigation canal, 2009

This diptych is the lefthand section of a larger panoramic print entitled Blythe irrigation canal— the details about this project are on another page that you might want to check out. I took the original photos in the late morning, and the diptych projects forwards in time to evening, and backwards in time to early morning.

Blythe-canal-panel2-detail1

Detail of the diptych.


Posted in 2010, prints | Also tagged , , , , , |

Chronovacuum (print)

 

Chronovacuum 2009 (print)

Chronovacuum 2009 (print)

13×19″ open-edition digital print on matte-finish fine art paper, signed by the artist: $175

17×22″ open-edition digital print on matte-finish fine art paper, signed by the artist: $225


This print stems from a 2009 video project of the same title. The print features highlights of a group of webcam images that I collected over three years from servers all over the world. I am fascinated by the fact that although there are now huge numbers of these webcams, their images are mostly auto-archived and rarely ever viewed by humans. Installed in mundane places, looking but not seeing, recording without witnessing, they typify the new datascape. Here is a world of ignored, instantly lost, accidental beauty—haunting traces of all that has been sucked into the vacuum of time.

Chronovacuum 2009

screen shot from the 2009  Chronovacuum video

The original Chronovacuum project was a short single-channel video designed to be viewed on a small monitor or as a small wall projection. Subtitled “a project in involuntary archiving,” Chronovacuum was a slideshow-style montage of dozens of these webcam images

Chronovacuum was accompanied by a digital soundtrack I created that reflects what I imagine is the sound of my connection to the live webcam, distorted by time and distance—the net equivalent of that “open line” sound you used to get on long-distance telephone calls. Play Chronovacuum video (2:28).

Chronovacuum (the video) was included in the 2009 “Out of School” exhibition at the Brea Art Gallery, Brea, California.

 


Posted in 2010, prints | Also tagged , , |