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Caught up in an information culture.

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Ira Glass’s Advice for Beginners (2013)

AKA, “Make Bad Work”.

Neil Gaiman’s advice to young artists to “make good art” is useful and supportive, but equally useful and supportive is Ira Glass’s advice that young artists should be prepared to make bad work, and a lot of it.

Creative work is often discussed, even among people who know better, in a romantic language that implicitly contains our cultural myths about genius and inspiration, because that’s the language we have for creativity.  When we talk about a successful artist’s early career, it’s usually in terms of innate talent and voice that’s visible even in their early work.  It’s easy to forget, especially for young artists trying to figure out what’s worth showing and what’s worth finishing, that that’s an interpretation made in hindsight, and often contains more than a little wishful thinking.  There will be a lot of bad work.

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So you’re making your weekend plans in New York, and you can’t decide between taking in some art or going to an open-source hackathon.  Dear reader, I sympathize; we all have these dilemmas.  Art and technology center Eyebeam have teamed up with internet technology giant Mozilla, and they have you covered.  From Eyebeam: “Open(Art) is a joint initiative launched by Eyebeam and Mozilla to support creativity at the intersection of art and the open web.”  Their exhibit runs from July 12 – August 10, 2013, with an opening reception on Friday, July 12 from 6-8pm and workshops on Saturday, July 13 from 12-3pm.  The workshops are free, but registration is required.  (Want more?  There’s a Mozilla Maker Party for teens on July 15th from 10am-3pm.  The Moving <img> Storytelling workshop  will cover stop-motion animation, rotoscoping, pixilation, and several types of animated GIF.)

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Near the Egress (2013)

Still from Antonio Ramirez's Near the Egress

Still from Antonio Ramirez’s Near the Egress

Dreamlike, absolutely stunning.  Antonio Ramirez took 800 dryplate tintype photos of a circus, and combined the still images to make a jerky 5 minute short film, the equivalent of just under 24fps.  Because they’re moving at about the frame rate of modern film, it feels like watching something filmed; because the photos were taken as stills rather than at camera-regulated intervals, there’s a feeling of watching something assembled.  (In fact, it’s a little reminiscent of the feel of watching La Jetée.)  Combined with the 19th century photo process, the film feels disjointed and out of time, entirely surreal. Continue reading

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New York’s Teen Poets Put Words on Walls

Photos by Urban Word NYC

Photos by Urban Word NYC

I’m a sucker for two things in particular: interesting ways of projecting sound and light, and projects that mix scientists and artists, preferably in bizarre and idealistic ways.  (Anyone can make digital art.  It’s making magic happen that’s hard.)

Urban Word NYC is a literacy group bringing poetry to New York City teens.  Ideas City is a festival celebrating the arts and urban creativity.  The Hive Digital Media Learning Fund puts money in the hands of projects that combine scientists, artists, educators, and kids outside the classroom.  Stick them in a blender.  Mix well.  What you get is the Words on Walls project at the Ideas City Festival, where teen poets work with software to project their words onto the walls, steps, and surfaces of the city as they read their work. Continue reading

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Chris Marker and DIY Filmmaking

Part of the mythos of Chris Marker’s La Jetée is that he made a film composed almost entirely of still photos shot on his 35mm camera, because he was unable to rent a movie camera except for a small shoot one afternoon – one of the ultimate statements of DIY filmmaking, a film made from essentially no film footage.  The soundtrack is composed of narration, music and an evocative collage of jet engines, heartbeats, and whispering; very little of it location sound.  La Jetée is an incredibly influential piece of storytelling, a classic of cinema, made with a tape recorder and a still camera in the age of film.  It’s hard to find a clearer demonstration that content can far outweigh technology.

The technical creation of La Jetée poses questions about the medium of film and the idea of what a film is.  Is film the capture mechanism, or just the delivery mechanism? What format is the original work of art and what is the adaptation?  Marker described the story as a photo-roman in the opening credits, simply a photonovella; with La Jetée now available as a book, “not a [book of a film], but a book in its own right — the real ciné-roman announced in the film’s credits,” as well as the original film, it becomes less clear which medium this story was designed for and which is the adaptation.  While the original film is certainly definitive, Marker’s calling the film a book and the book a film is an interesting way of muddying the waters, and the fct that the story is equally at home on film and on the page is an interesting statement on photographs as a bridge between paper pages and celluloid frames.

Chris Marker’s La Jetée (1962) – turn on captions if you’d like English subtitles: