Sunday, May 31, 2009

Clickability, Part 2

I found out last night from Penumbra, the artist who made the wondrous "So Much Depends" installation I discussed below, that the clickability quotient I so admired was added by the marvelous Mab MacMoragh.  This is her second interactive intervention that I know of, and I suspect there are many more.  What a good thing to be doing--adding pose balls to pieces that bring the avatar INTO the piece, because: why not??  This is one of the things we can do in Second Life, just smash the hell out of the usual don't touch, don't cross the rope, oh damn I set off the sensor again but I was just leaning over to get a better look experience of museums and galleries.  In my spiel to my students when we go to the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, I include the caveat: Don't lean against the walls.  Every now and then, there is a sittable piece of furniture with the welcoming tag of Please Sit Here, but of course that is the exception.  

Why wouldn't there be a place in every installation for the avatar?  It raises such interesting possibilities for point of view, and guides the spectator/participant's gaze to what the artist might want to show.  AM Radio is really strong at this, and others experiment with it as well.  Maya Paris is working on some new clickables at her Bluestocking Gallery, and Misprint Thursday's prize-winning gossamer tree (not its actual name) is even better because of her clever poseball.  

So, nice intervention, Mab.  I like that the poseball is called "wonder"--its ambiguity fits with Penumbra's piece and I was happy to hang out there, in wonder and wondering, getting a good look at the sprightly sperms wriggling single-mindedly onward towards their goal over my head.

Friday, May 29, 2009

So Much Depends

At BIW (Brooklyn Is Watching), there is an installation by Penumbra Carter that interprets William Carlos Williams' 1923 poem:

so much depends
a red wheel

glazed with rain

beside the white

The installation is interesting. It goes against a literal image of the wheelbarrow, the way I picture it, on a farm, rustic, Hopper-esque or Scheeler-ific. Definitely realism. I have taught this poem a long time now and, like the things I teach again and again, revisit it twice a year, sometimes with much to say about it and sometimes, despite all the discussions and lectures, as if I have never seen it before. There is a lot there, and there is nothing there.

What does he mean "so much?" Those are the only words that are extra, and the first two lines are the only ones that are not pure imagist; they give it context, theme, and position us as readers. The wheelbarrow is important; it is the crux of the farm. And for modernism, the thing itself, not the idea of the thing, to misquote the Wallace Stevens poem I always think of as the companion to Williams':


Wallace Stevens

At the earliest ending of winter,
In March, a scrawny cry from outside
Seemed like a sound in his mind.
He knew that he heard it,
A bird's cry, at daylight or before,
In the early March wind.

The sun was rising at six,
No longer a battered panache above snow...
It would have been outside.

It was not from the vast ventriloquism
Of sleep's faded papier-mache...
The sun was coming from the outside.

That scrawny cry--It was
A chorister whose c preceded the choir.
It was part of the colossal sun,

Surrounded by its choral rings,
Still far away. It was like
A new knowledge of reality.

Modernism hoped for a "new knowledge of reality" with its turn to the thing instead of the idea of the thing, but of course it could not escape the idea of the thing, was enamored with the idea of the thing even as it tried to get past it to the thing itself. That is why Williams puts in those first two lines. Nevertheless, the imagist impulse in Williams' poem--by 1923 an old trick perhaps in need of those first two lines--demonstrates, among other things, the possibilities of interartistic discourse, of when poetry becomes more visual, and, in Penumbra's installation, when a virtual art becomes poetic.

The content of Penumbra's piece can't go without discussion. It was a positive virtual art experience. I saw the notecard giver box outside the mysterious big box with the window, I read the poem on the notecard--hello, old friend! I cammed in, not realizing until later the walls were transparent, which made for a nice exploratory point of view excursion. And then, NOT the farm images I expected, but, well, SPERMY shapes!! Glorious, striving, glowing, wriggling spermlike figures reaching up and out the window, maybe to an egg, maybe to Comet's unreachable mountains. Oh, but sperm nonetheless. There was a nice couch and poseball to click on, and so I can check off the clickability box on my list of virtual art criteria, and when I slipped into mouselook, the sperm pov was good.

And the wheelbarrow? It was at the other end of the room, and there were no chickens, unless the sperm were proto-chickens, but the golden seminal fluid emanates from the red wheelbarrow, and indeed, everything does seem to depend on it, or at least "so much."

There are strong compositional elements as well, nice framing of windows within windows, boxes within boxes, very much in keeping with the modernist painters and photographers who were Williams' contemporaries in the early 1920s. I think of some of the modernist paintings in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, like Hopper's Drug Store, from 1927 or his Room in Brooklyn (1932), or Charles Sheeler's Spring Interior from the same year, or his 1931 View of New York, of those strong verticals and horizontals, the right angles, the boxes within boxes that make up those buildings and trapped their inhabitants, so often hidden from view.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Brooklyn Is Watching's Monet Destiny Interviewed on SL TV Show

This is interesting in a few ways: you can find out all about Brooklyn Is Watching (one of the most interesting art projects in SL), listen to Jay Van Buren talk (always compelling), and see a very well-done "tv" show made in Second Life. Click here for the May 17 "Tonight Live with Paisley Beebe"

Wednesday, May 13, 2009


OK, this is more about my first life, or maybe Life 1.5, online and digitized if not in SL, but still . . . . these posters (made by Mike Carrera in the CTMI) for my Reboot Summer Institute on Teaching with Digital Media are fab. 

Here is the info, but the Institute is only for Berklee faculty.

Teaching with Digital Media

Designed and taught by Lori Landay with support 
from Mike Carrera and Madeleine Toh

Click here to apply.

Tired of hauling bags of videotapes, overheads, audiocassettes, and CDs to class? Ready to move into the twenty-first century and use digital images, audio, video in your teaching?  Interested in making PowerPoint presentations, putting material online, or developing multimedia project assignments for your students?  The Reboot Institute on Teaching with Digital Media will provide a framework in which you can acquire new skills and complete a project that will complement your teaching.   

In this introductory level institute, participants will learn the basics of the different types of digital media (still images, digital audio, and digital video), the best ways to manipulate them, and what forms they can take in your teaching.  During the workshop sessions, participants will learn about digital media, and get a hands-on introduction to software including iLife (iPhoto, iMovie, iTunes, iWeb, and iDVD), PowerPoint, Audacity, and Adobe Photoshop Elements applications. You’ll work with a mentor and the CTMI to create “learning objects” that make the most of the digital technologies available to us. The Institute is open to all faculty, regardless of prior experience with digital audio, images, and video.

To help develop the skills you’ll need to successfully complete the project, you’ll attend the kick-off dinner/planning session, a minimum of three workshops, and a project showcase at the end of the summer.  In the first three workshops, you’ll find out about the kinds of media that will comprise your project, whether it results in a multimedia DVD or an aesthetic and interesting PowerPoint presentation.   The fourth and fifth workshops branch out to cover resources at Berklee and to embrace forms of  “user-generated” digital media associated with “Web 2.0” such as podcasts, blogs, and virtual worlds; we’ll also explore some ideas for developing digital media assignments for your students.  You’ll work with a mentor (who will guide you through your project), resources (books and online resources), and the fine folks at the CTMI (who will help you acquire the skills you need to realize your project). We’ll conclude with a showcase of participants’ projects and a discussion of ways of enriching teaching with digital media.  

As a gift, participants will receive a USB Flash Drive, a training book, and a 3-month subscription to to support their projects. is an award-winning provider of educational materials, including an online training library. Faculty will have access to video tutorials and online courses on a variety of software and design topics, such as Photoshop, Web Design, Logic Pro, Garageband and many others. 

Dinner session: 
Overview and Project Planning
Wednesday, May 27, 2009

6:00–8:00 p.m.
The Loft, 921 Boylston
Dinner provided
Lunch provided

Workshop 1: Still Images
Thursday, May 28, 2009

10:00 a.m.–1:00 p.m.
Room 204/205,186 Mass. Ave.
Lunch provided

Workshop 2: Digital Audio
Thursday, June 4, 2009

10:00 a.m.–1:00 p.m.
Room 204/205,186 Mass. Ave.
Lunch provided

Workshop 3: Digital Video
Thursday, June 11, 2009

10:00 a.m.–1:00 p.m.
Room 204/205,186 Mass. Ave.
Lunch provided

Workshop 4: Teaching with Digital Media

Thursday, June 18, 2009
10:00 a.m.–1:00 p.m.
Room 204/205,186 Mass. Ave.
Lunch provided

Workshop 5: Moving Forward with Your Project
Thursday, June 25, 2009

10:00 a.m.–1:00 p.m.
Room 204/205,186 Mass. Ave.
Lunch provided

Project Showcase
Tuesday, August 4, 2009

6:00–8:00 p.m.
The Loft, 921 Boylston 
Dinner provided

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

NMC Virtual Art Exhibition: EXPERIENCE ART

The NMC, which does an excellent job in everything it does, has a new show at @ Ars Simulacra on the NMC Campus, curated by Tayzia Abattoir.  It brings together some of the best SL artists, including Misprint Thursday, Oberon Onmura, Glyph Graves, and Alizarin Goldflake.  Above, pics of Misprint's and Oberon's installations.  Here is the slurl.

Monday, May 4, 2009

I Click Therefore I Am

What does it mean to click?  

Steven Johnson’s assertion that the hyperlink is the “first significant new form of punctuation to emerge in centuries” is an intriguing one for thinking about the connections possible in hypermedia. (Interface Culture: How New Technology Transforms the Way We Create and Communicate (San Francisco: HarperEdge, 1997), 110-11.)  To think about a hyperlink as punctuation, as a connection, in hypertext and new media leads us to one way of thinking about interactivity.

In Second Life, clicking is even more than that, though, it is action and agency itself.  Sometimes you know what is going to happen, and sometimes you don't.  I have been thinking about this since I accidentally overstimulated Oberon Onmura's compelling piece "Awareness."  I am often "near-sighted" in SL, cammed in on something and unaware of my wider surroundings.  I was looking intently at Oberon's installation, at a glowing stick, and thought it was cleverly, ironically, saying in local chat: "Don't click this," not realizing it was the actual artist Oberon standing behind me telling me not to click it, because doing so would make more obelisk generators appear.  Oh, well.  You can watch the debacle unfold in the Brooklyn Is Watching podcast # 56  at around minute 25.  
Brooklyn Is Watching Episode 56
We podcasters really liked Oberon's piece.  Recently he showed me another, related piece that is installed at the NMC sim, where the avatar walks through the stationary obelisks and turns them a specific color instead of the obelisks moving around the space.  His work explores how data moves through virtual space, and leaves traces; the pieces I have seen demonstrate a remarkable restraint and elegant minimalism in a medium and environment that too often invites excess.

If SL is more than a little like Wonderland, and when we see "Click Me," we do, it is with an exploratory perspective, and with the expectation that no real harm can come to us.  In the same way that the kids today expect that toys will DO something and not just sit there quietly like a block, I am disappointed if there is nothing for me to click on.  I want everything to DO something, want it to be interactive.  I want to be able to get into an installation, and look for a pose ball or some other way to be a part of it.  It all has a big "click me" sign as far as I am concerned.  These days, I am sitting on everything if I can't find anything more interesting to do!

And that something would tell me, "Don't click this"--or someone, as it turned out--is a directive I interpreted immediately as ironic, as a challenge.  Maybe that says more about me, or about L1 these days, than SL, but I think it speaks to an expectation--or hope--of what SL, and in particular SL art, can be.   I want to have a playful, ludic interaction with my virtual environment and the objects within it.  I want it to trick me.  I want to be through the looking glass and be dazzled by Wonderland and its inhabitants.  I want to be shown something new, and to have that be an immersive experience that grabs me, or at least my avatar, in the surprising ways that an avatar can be grabbed.  When Oberon was showing me his piece at the new  NMC exhibition (which also houses Misprint Thursday's bridge MAY,  a must-see piece),  he told me about AM Radio's Death of Marat piece, also fantastic, at NMC, and a click that does not disappoint.  

The Ars Simulacra show at NMC opens on Friday, May 8, and I'll post the slurl then.