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”
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.
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.
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.
every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.
– John Donne, Meditations XVII
In Georges Perec’s novel “Life: A User’s Manual“, the author describes a sect that one of the book’s characters is involved in. This fictional group, named “The Three Free Men” and formed in 1960, began with three members. In the following three years from the group’s formation, each of the three members recruited three more members, making twelve by 1963. The nine new members initiated a further three members each (twenty-seven members) in the following three years, and so on until 1975, when there were seven hundred and twenty-nine members. Continue reading “The One, The Few, The Many – Social network bridges”
I come from a nation that spends quite a large proportion of its time running from its visual history. Irish people often disregard the “Celtic” roots, the patterns and spirals and the ancient mythic tales of wars, magic and nature as fodder for American tourists. There is an unspoken desire to “move forward”, to reflect Ireland as the technological centre of western Europe, to emphasise how we have “caught up” and become part of the modern world. “We’re not pagan bog people anymore!” we shout emphatically at anyone who will listen, “We’ve built motorways and tall buildings so Intel and Facebook and Google would come!”
There is sometimes a lack of pride in the magic and runes of the ancient history and folklore in our country. Contemporary Irish art and design often analyse global themes and use global methods. Our current artists take pride in being well-travelled and educated in the artwork of Europe and America. Irish film is polished and masked with an international professionalism. Yet regardless of our motivation the island itself has trapped our ancient culture within, and the influence of the visual arts of our country is inescapable.
Culture is endlessly intertwined with place and history. While watching modern English cinema I often think of JMW Turner and his use of muted colours and sprawling compositions. Turner’s paintings are fastidious in the foreground, containing detail and narrative. These foregrounds are often overshadowed by bleak and near-colourless skies and background imagery that consume most of the space on the canvas.
Imagine taking the last known copy of a precious book, ripping it to pieces, spitting on it and throwing it on the floor, then reading the bits that you can see. That is what rehashed, “long-awaited” Hollywood sequels do to the artistic process.
Artistic ideas are fantastic because they are original. They can be chopped and shaped to the will of the imagination of the artist. In movies characters can be formed and situations developed, all to the specifications of one or a few creative individuals. So when, in the interest of nothing other than profit, companies vie to pump out sequel after sequel of half-baked hogswash just to vacuum up the pretty green it gets frustrating. It kills the unique idea that went before, and hurls any beauty of the original predecessor into the dank and murky mires of forgotten film.
More and more frequently I seem to become engulfed in a debate about whether or not a photographic image is “authentic”. I recently had it out with a friend who works as a photographer and designer, who argued that photographic images that are manipulated by Photoshop are not as good as process-based photographs created in the field using only the camera. Personally I can’t see the difference. Continue reading “Nice Photo, If It Wasn’t Photoshopped – Authentic photography”
“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.