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”
IMPORTANT: this post is made like a game, assuming complete interactivity. In order to read properly please use the links (highlighted in orange). Or you could just read straight through and become very confused…enjoy!
A picture tells a thousand words. But there are cases where a dozen words can redefine a picture.
In his 1977 publication Image Music Text critic Roland Barthes observed how text can often become parasitical upon images. This happens both in spaces like galleries and exhibitions, where wall-mounted captions can supersede what the eye observes in an art piece, or in printed photograph captions where a description of an image can often clash with what the image actually shows. Barthes‘ theory proposes that the closer text is to an image the less more incorporated it becomes, so with image captions that sit outside an image more can possibly be inferred than by words trapped inside an image.
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”
“The man who never alters his opinion is like standing water, and breeds reptiles of the mind.” – William Blake
Every living person finds something to believe in. The unique, individual way in which we believe is crucial to our individualism, and to our culture in general. Two Catholics may have two very differing opinions on the meaning of a passage from the New Testament. In the same way, two scientists may conceive two completely separate ideas from a single scientific theory.
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”
In 1990, Bill Bryson’s comprehensive book about the history of the English language, Mother Tongue was published. In it, Bryson analyses the origins and evolutions of the English language from its conception to the date of publication of the book. Throughout the book, he places emphasis on the mixed etymological origins of many words and phrases.
Bryson notes various spelling anomalies in the English language. Some include the use of gh as an f sound, for example in enough, or the use of silent letters, such as the s in aisle. Much of the reason for many of the obscure spellings occur due to archaic spellings from mixed cultural origins, for example debt‘s silent b, with origins in the Latin word debitum, or the French origins of the spelling of debonnaire. Continue reading “Spking fnetics: Bil Brysn’s “Muthr Tung” & txt spk :-o”
In 2010 James Elkins, Art Critic and Historian of the School of the Art Institute, Chicago, wrote a piece entitled How Long Does it Take To Look at a Painting? for The Huffington Post. In this piece the author describes an encounter with an elderly lady who he estimates, over decades of visits to the Art Institute of Chicago, spent at least 3,000 hours looking at Rembrandt’s painting Young Woman at an Open Half-Door (below).
The basic premise of the Daily Mail’s piece was to prove via observation that viewers spend an average of as little as 5 seconds looking at works by important contemporary artists such as Rachel Whiteread or Tracy Emin in the TATE Modern. Their conclusion was that viewers do not like looking at modern art.