One of the first rules of writing is to open with a catchy line, and never with a technical topic. So I’m going to blow that one right out of the water and start by writing about entropy.
Entropy is a theory in thermodynamics (yes, I’m doing it!) that has also crossed over into the fields of astrophysics and philosophy. It is used to describe a sudden change that causes erratic and chaotic events, often leading to the creation of entirely new objects. Entropy always moves forward with time, and creates events that cannot be undone. A good example is the collapse of a star, folding in on itself and becoming (perhaps) a black hole. Stephen Hawking describes the idea of entropy nicely in A Brief History of Time when he refers to how an “intact cup on the table is a state of high order, but a broken cup on the floor is a disordered state.” (p 161) Continue reading “Exquisite Explosions – The fine art of destruction”
In Ancient Greek literature sudden and vast travel occurred regularly. As the nomadic and expansive ideas of the writers of that era sought to understand their world through travel they often created mystical methods of transcontinental journeying. Great waves tore Odysseus and his crew from his homeland, and the wings that Daedalus built helped him soar to freedom from his island prison. Airplane travel in the 20th Century led to unprecedented opportunities for travel and communication that mimic the adventurous nature of these fictional tales. If travel should broaden the mind then broader travel may have stretched the mind even further. The concept of travel has been broached across the arts, culminating in works in the late 20th Century and early this century that create a reality from the myth.
When Shakespeare plays were originally performed, it was not allowed for audience members to bring in paper for fear that they would write down and steal the plays. To counter this, furtive audience members would go to performances and each remember different sections of the plays, then meet later and write down all they could remember. Each section was then stitched together, and the works were stolen regardless.
From the moment we learn to read the English language (presuming you can if you are reading this), we learn to decipher a series of characters twenty-six letters long, give or take. Each character has a sound associated with it, and we hear these sounds as we read. The characters are all symbols, each with its own significance to our understanding. SSSSSSSSSSSS can represent a long, hissing sound, just as KAKAKAKAKA could be a machine gun. We learn this system of graphics, recognising the line across the top of a T as opposed to the one that is missing on an I, and we make sense of the words that are written by scanning these graphic signs and creating words from our understanding of their sounds.
Far before we learn to read and decipher the graphic symbols of this Latin alphabet, we learn another language. This is the language of the visual, and it involves the same method of deciphering what we see into other forms, but it is different as with this language we do not necessarily have a spoken language to go along with it. At our youngest and most naive, we decipher the symbols of the people raising us, seeing their representations as those of family or friends, but we do not recognise any link between these people and language. Instead, we simply categorise and recognise, realising that there is something different about these people to the people that we pass in the street. Continue reading “Seeing Scene Seen – Everything we read is art”
Once upon a time two armies assembled, opposed to one another on a battlefield. The crystal army, led by a foolish king, charged their king’s guard forward without thinking of the consequences. They left their king open to attack…
In “A Course On General Linguistics“(1916) Ferdinand de Saussure made comparisons between chess and language. Saussure was observing some intrinsic relationship between language and games, showing how changes in the design of pieces from ivory to wood make little difference, but changes in the movement or number of pieces distort the “grammar” of a game of chess. In The Medium Is The Massage, theorist Marshall McLuhan put forward a concept that the messages that we receive are not so much in what is said, but in what is used to say it.
There is a saying in school games, “to have pax”. This reminded me of chasing (tag), and something that we used to say as children, “tax” (probably a distortion of “pax”). The origins of the word pax are in Latin – it means peace. We said this in order to take a break, for example when we needed to tie our shoelace. I posed the question to my Facebook community about what was the common term in their school-yards, and received a spate of alternatives from across Ireland, from “boxed”, “tax” and “pox” to, bizarrely, “keys” and, predictably, “f**k off I’m tying my shoe”. There are many variations (my American and Canadian friends suggested “Time-out”) but the rule is the same regardless of where it is played. When you have pax, you are outside the game. Continue reading “Fool’s Mate – Language and storytelling in games”
inter |inˈtər| verb ( -terred , -terring ) [ trans. ] (usu. be interred) place (a corpse) in a grave or tomb, typically with funeral rites
active |ˈaktiv| adjective (of a person) engaging or ready to engage in physically energetic pursuits
(The above definitions are from the Oxford English Dictionary)
A touch of housekeeping again. Just wanted to say a very quick congratulations to Built Dublin, winners of the Best Arts/Culture blog at the 2012 Blog Awards Ireland. Moon Under Water picked up a beautiful certificate for the blog’s listing as a finalist, and I enjoyed a terrific night at the awards ceremony. A new page of recommended blogs is under development – watch this space.
The term ‘interactive’ has become synonymous with technology that allows for user engagement. This includes video games, websites, mobile phone applications and other digitally-based media. However, it is becoming increasingly clear that “interactivity” is perhaps more than it seems (see the definition above), that it is the undead media-manipulated masses of dancing a morose merengue.
Consider for a moment the interactivity of the daily commute. Most people who will be reading this will have used trains, trams, subways and buses as modes of transport in recent times. However, what the average reader may not have noticed is the growing tendency for the undead to meander among them on a daily basis. Every morning coffee-deprived, bleary-eyed commuters board their local public transport contraptions, staring down into their hands at hidden devices that keep them pacified. Continue reading “Inter Active – Zombies in the machine”
It is difficult to deny that Kraftwerk have been an astoundingly influential band since their formation in 1970. Revolutionary at the time, the German quartet incorporated an almost entirely synthesised music in an attempt to foreground the oncoming new media phase. But one of the more interesting quirks about Kraftwerk is not necessarily their music itself, but the idea of time that surrounds their music. With its industrial, drum-machine-driven synth and robotic sound, the music was designed to be “music of the future” in the 70s. However, it has since dated due to the technology that they employed in making it, and has instead placed them irrevocably at a certain point in the past. They are a band that lack a temporal definition, both part of the past and part of the future.
The digital age is popularly seen as an age of infinite information. It is described using terms like “interactivity” and “new media”, and is highlighted as an era that allows for the endless access of customised information at the fingertips of every individual user. The result is often a transient relationship between the user and the information, and as a result the idea of time, and our use of time, is becoming topical in current cultural writing.
“I should like to wake up in a hundred years’ time and to have just a peep out of one eye at what is happening in science.” – protagonist Nicolai Stepanovich in Anton Chekhov’s A Dreary Story
I‘d like to just start with a little piece of housekeeping. I was delighted to learn this weekend that Moon Under Water is a finalist in the Best Arts / Culture category at the Blog Awards Ireland. Thank you to all readers and to the judges of the awards – I will notify through here and through the blog’s social media pages of the final results after the awards ceremony on October 13th. Please click here for a link to all finalists in all categories, and give all the other blogs a look over – there is some terrific stuff in there.
I recently read an article in Art Forum magazine online entitled Digital Divide by Claire Bishop. The in-depth piece deals with the shortcomings of the age of the digital within the world of contemporary art. With sound philosophical and art historical reasoning throughout, the conclusion that Bishop arrives at is rather interesting as it suggests a dichotomy of futures for the world of visual art. Echoing the 1980s doomsday art critics, the piece argues that either the digital age will herald a new dawn in the way art is viewed and produced, or it could mean the end of art altogether.
Something puzzling about the digital age that I often muse over is what trace will be left behind for future historians to mull over. Today our historical record is mostly taken from the artefacts, art, tools and architecture of past generations. It is the little grains of past civilisations that give us some form of understanding of their culture or group identities, as well as their level of technological advancement. Continue reading “Disneyland and Digital Life – What we will leave behind”
One of the most notable visual effects of the international economic crash in 2008 on the western landscape was the sudden closure of hundreds of small and large businesses, and the emergence of idle business premises in urban centres. From factories to fashion boutiques, empty spaces corrupted the urban landscape and spread like a pandemic through cities and towns in Europe and America from 2008 onward.
In town and city centres the effect was most visible as large chain stores began to go into receivership and their commercial outlet units began to shut up shop. Usually located in prime areas, these vacated properties created trails of desolate spaces in urban areas. The result was for these spaces to lie idle, in some cases for the past four years. Continue reading “Filling The Void: Art in disused urban spaces in Ireland”
For any who have ever experienced caving, you will remember unsure footing, tight squeezes and low-hanging rocks and the claustrophobic feeling that can come in the moist earthy air. You will be aware of how extraordinarily dark it can be in the gloomy underground. It can be stifling and unsettling in the depths of a cave, but with light to guide the way, the experience can instead be extremely fulfilling. Continue reading “Illuminating the Grotesque: Crawling into political satire”