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”
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”
Travel broadens the mind, or so they say. One of the modern characteristics of travel is how it is most often arranged completely through the internet. Plane ticket bookings, accommodation, travel within a country, maps and tourist guides are all available online, and often very easy to access at the click of a mouse.
Probably the most ground-breaking and inventive system of travel that I have discovered through the internet is Couchsurfing. This ingenious system of accommodation was conceived by Casey Fenton in 1999 while trying to find a cheap place to stay in Iceland. Fenton decided to e-mail 1,500 students from the University of Iceland asking for a place to sleep, and received over 50 positive responses.
Each year coyotes, somehow, make their way through the sprawling mass of the five burroughs and find their way into Central Park on the island of Manhattan. Island or not, dangerous or not, life seems to find a way to squeeze through the gaps to insulated sanctuaries even in the most unpredictable circumstances.
Islands have an impenetrable feel to them. They are locked away from access except by sea or by sky, and yet there always seems to be a travelling presence of something. There are uncountable records of remote islands ceding to populations from insect, animal, bird and even human. And as unlikely as it seems, and no matter how remote the destination, somehow life finds a way to expand and populate.
Poster and billboard advertising is an acute way of judging the difference between two places. In the undecorated steel and glass of airports there can be few indicators to remind a traveller who has just arrived that they have even left their original location. One of the common and decisive indicators is a change in language or tone in the advertisements that are on display.
I remember landing in London for the first time and getting the tube into the city. At the first station three escalator journeys awaited, and on the tiled wall during the slow ascent there passed identical framed advertisements spaced a little apart from one another the whole way up. This deluge of small posters is not a rare sight in the London Underground, but it seemed unusual to me initially as it did not mirror any other metro or untergrundbahn that I had previously encountered. Continue reading “This Is Your God: Orienteering by advertisements”
At the end of last year I wrote a piece called Nostalgia for New York, which essentially looked at the idea of nostalgia that I was able to associate with a place that I had never been to. While writing that piece I was unaware that I would be in New York four months afterward, but circumstance and chance conspired and I found myself spending some time in the grand metropolis of the east coast of the USA recently, and this gave me the opportunity to rethink some of the topics I had originally looked at regarding New York.
It’s not that I had tried to write about New York specifically when writing the original piece – I was more tinkering with a popular culture model of the city; looking at how New York was portrayed and how this portrayal changed as I grew up. So one of the striking things I then found about actually hitting New York City was recognising all of these places that I had seen before in movies, TV shows or video games. Everything seemed bizarrely familiar – it wasn’t quite deja-vu, but more like borrowing another person’s memory to make sense of something that I was seeing Continue reading “Nostalgia for New York 2: Referencing reality”
I am currently attending a residency in Vermont Studio Center, Vermont USA. The residency invites up to 75 writers and artists to participate in their own studio practice for a predetermined amount of time in the company of other creative practitioners. During the first week, we, the aforementioned practitioners, have engaged in introductory conversations around the dinner tables etc, spouting the usual introductory dinner-table questions, e.g. “What’s your name?”, Where are you from?” etc. One recurring question has caused me an abundance of consternation time and again. That question is “What are you?” Continue reading “What Are You? – Society’s categories and labels”
Apologies to readers for the 2-week hiatus – I have been mid-adventure and things have been too hectic to write. This piece and the next few will follow up on this. Posts will be back to regularity from this week.
In Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, the protagonist Bernard Marx finds himself on a holiday visiting a rural reservation. The visit is an insightful event showing a strange community that live outside of the “social norm” of this urban-centred world. This journey marks a decisive moment in the novel, where Bernard’s story is turned on its head by the people that he encounters and the adventure that he has with the “savages” in the wilderness.
This separation of urban and rural in Brave New World was part of Huxley’s tongue-in-cheek mockery of the society that he believed he was watching develop. The greatest threat brandished to citizens in Huxley’s dystopia is being forced to move to Iceland – a desolate and unpopulated island. This relocation was the deepest fear for Bernard, who was pleasantly settled in the urban landscape of central London.
Last Thursday (March 8, 2012) Occupy Dame Street, Dublin, was removed at 3.30 a.m. by the Guarda Síochána in an operation involving more than 100 people so that the plaza that they had occupied outside the central bank could be cleared for St. Patrick’s Day festivities. The de-occupation mimicked the late-night move made by police on Wall Street last November, but was met with far less public outcry despite the overkill of 100+ police removing approximately 15 protestors.