Wednesday, July 30, 2008

A question about the Mona Lisa...

So here's one i've been waiting to write for a while.
I may be officially able to die in peace, because i've seen the mona lisa. I didn't have some longing to see it, per se, but it felt like one of the many things that one should do before senility sets in, or at least that's what we've been taught.
Now, to be clear, i really enjoyed seeing it. Really. It was exciting and beautiful, although small, and if i could re-live the experience, i would pick seeing it over not.


But the thing that stuck out to me the most, was the most exciting and horrible and interesting, was the crowd around it. Holy Shit. I can't even do this crowd justice describing it here (which is why i've included pictures). And more than the crowd itself, the feeling, the engineering of the build up of excitement. Interesting. Let me walk you through it.

When you go to the Louvre, you're going to see the Mona Lisa. It's already set in stone. If you're not going to see the Mona Lisa, then you are making a statement about your disinterest in or disregard for the Mona Lisa, and so your visit is still somehow in reference to the Mona Lisa. The Louvre knows this. So the second you walk in, there are signs pointing you towards your assumed destination. The Louvre is massive, packed ceiling to floor with paintings, impossible to see in one day. So no matter what you've planned, there's a sign - a picture sign that anyone can understand, it's important to note - redirecting you toward the x-marks-the-spot of the arguably most famous piece of art in the entire world.
The Mona Lisa is small. Very small, compared to most of the other paintings in the Louvre. It hangs solitary on a large white wall, which stands in the middle of the room, so that when you first enter the room, you must walk around to the other side of the wall to see the painting. As such, the first thing you see isn't the painting itself, but the massive massive crowd.

In front of you, held a good eight feet back from the painting by a moat of velvet ropes, is a noisy josteling crowd so multi-ethnic the united nations would be proud. Everyone wants a piece of this painting. This crowd is impressive, to say the least. All ages of people crane their necks and lift their children, just to get a glimpse of this magnificent illusive woman. People snap pictures and thrust video cameras over and over and over again, looking more through their viewfinders than their eyes. Everyone wants the experience, everyone wants a piece to take home. The irony of madly trying to capture this masterpiece, famous for its illusive and unprocurable nature, on homevideo (to take home and do what with, exactly?) seems to be very much lost on the crowd.

You have to see it to really understand, but i was very struck by watching this crowd. On one hand, here was art - not TV, not "entertainment", but art art getting more attention than i had ever seen or imagined. As someone who feels that the arts are constantly under funded and appreciated, i felt proud. I felt important to be an artist. On the other hand, there was such a gross feeling about how this art had been made into some sort of empty celebrity - a paris hilton or hedi montag - famous because it's famous but that's it. So what was is? How was i supposed to feel about this experience that was simultaneously such a triumph and travesty in my mind? I still don't know.

What i am more clear about is the questions that this experience brought up for me:

1. Is it important that art be important; in other words, does the promise of a small percent of "great art" being valued as highly important, or the idea that art is somehow of great value in our society in some way aid or promote the actual work? What does the end reception have to do with the making?

2. Is it a bad thing that people are so excited to see something, only because they've been told it's important? Is this "empty celebrity"? Is there any use for it?

3. Is there a way (and what are they) that PMD (or any art for that matter) can use the idea of creating some sense of celebrity/excitement/great-art-fame to gain viewers or support in a way that aids the art rather than depletes or overshadows it?

4. Are we better off not having a Mona Lisa of modern dance?

Monday, July 28, 2008

new obsession: slow-motion punch to the face

So i found this on one of the blogs i read religiously - - and i think it's the bees knees. First because it's fight club meets an anatomical movement analysis, second because it's one of my favorite songs (although i like the original more), third because i'm obsessed with slow motion shots right now. If anyone knows some good footage of slow-mo car crashes, let me know.

Oh, and it's originally from Blah blah me making a point about the interesting intersection of "low humor" and "high art" and the practice of groups claiming as their own what was originally thought to be property of the other blah blah blah.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

WAY overdue.

Massive apologies for not getting this one out sooner.

My friend Simon over at (which, if you haven't already spent at least a few minutes exploring - go!) sent me a few items of note a LONG time ago, which i've been remiss on posting.

first, "A Hypermedia Remembering" by Simon Ellis, is an abstract of his hypermedia system, described as "a reflective and painstakingly thorough response to the difficulties and possibilities of presenting and doing practice as research, and as such, is an invaluable resource for performance makers and artists working and researching within or alongside academic contexts."

second, "From Hyperchoreography to Kinaesthediting" by Simon Fildes, is a very thorough abstract to the hyperchoreography project that appears on the site.

You can also check out the "
writing" section of the site for a number of other great articles.
It's really interesting to see how others (both in the spectrum of "Hypermedia/hyperchoreography and outside it but working with similar approaches) are coming at these ideas. Would love to hear any impressions!

Check it out!

This hails all the way from Alaska from A-Byler, all the way again from the ImPulzTanz 2008 in Vienna.

Asking the quesiton "Can film production teach us something about our understanding of dance?", the project seems pretty interesting.
Check it out

For more info about ImPulz Tanz (which looks pretty damn nifty) go

Thanks for the tip Ashley!

Friday, July 11, 2008

From the Land of Digital Natives.

Back (well almost) from the long week of apartment hunting and interviews,
i return with a new wealth of information!

I was lucky enough to get to have lunch with a very special lady, Emily Sharp, who does all of the AOMC's website design and is a general digital goddess, and she gave me a new term/idea to play around with: digital natives and digital immigrants.

Now, i'm new to this idea, so if you want more information check this out instead, but here's a recap: a digital native is anyone who grew up with the massive storm of tech advances (mainly personal ones like computers, mp3 players, i-everythings) that we have today, and a digital immigrant is someone who (regardless of their tech capabilities) did not grow up with these technologies being an everyday part of their lives. So. The cool thing about this is that people are starting to really challenge academic and other learning systems with this divide - are the old systems of learning appropriate for this generation? How can new tech systems (or spin-offs of the technologies that "those damn kids" already use become academic tools? Or, as Emily put it, "Should a school try to be facebook?".

This, as you might imagine, is drawing a bit of controversy. For many technophobic individuals and institutions, reactions to this new questioning borders on what Bennett, Maton & Kervin (2008) in their research identify as moral panic.

So hold on that thought.

The other thing that i've been doing this summer is (ravenously) reading any and everything by Chuck Palahniuk. So far: Rant, Fight Club, and Survivor, which leaves me reading his short story collection "Stranger than Fiction" right now. In his essay "You Are Here" (which i highly recommend) he paints the scene of a hotel-based convention where people fork over money to have their seven minutes to sit in front of a producer or tv exec and pitch their scripts and screenplays. He talks about the new influx of people who are suddenly writing their own screenplays - a new and very big trend - citing five reasons for this "explosion in storytelling".
1. (he argues) free time
2. (he says) technology
3. (he points to) material
4. (he notices) education and
god bless him, 5. disgust.
His overall point being, for the first time, people aren't having experiences that they make into stories to sell, but rather the other way around. He writes:
"Okay, okay, so maybe we're headed down a road toward mindless, self-obsessed lives where every event is reduced to words and camera angles. Every moment imagined through the lens of a cinematographer. Ever funny or sad remark scribbled down for sale at the first opportunity.
A world Socrates couldn't imagine, where people would examine their lives, but only in terms of movie and paperback potential.
Where a story no longer follows as the result of an experience.
Now the experience happens in order to generate a story.
Sort of like when you suggest: 'Let's not but say we did'
The story - the product you can sell - becomes more important than the actual event."
So of course this is a little alarming. And I imagine that some of you, who have been arguing that this is the very problem with hypermedia all along (especially Ilona) are slapping your palms to your forehead and grimacing, as if to say "how can you have heard us say this so many times, and only now be getting it through this thick skull of yours..."
(because there's always a however)

I find these two ideas very much in conversation, and the two of them, of course, chatting with the idea of hypermedia.
For better or for worse, this is the culture that we live in. And regardless of your personal comfort with technology, just as your parents are digital immigrants no matter how good they are at texting you (and no matter how proud they are of it), you (for the most part - i'm not sure who actually reads this) are a digital native.
So yes, spend a minute or three complaining about the situation (with or sans moral panic, your choice) but then realize that it's the society that we live in right now.

My point is this:
YES. hypermedia (and screen writing, and video game design, and novel writing for that matter) all hold the danger that the presented "experience" is valued over or the reality that it was based on, so much so that the reality begins to be less important, less real. But it strikes me as interesting that we now have the opportunity to look at how our work is working within this system and mindset rather than just bitching about how much we dislike it and wish it was the way it used to be. This is the future! Why not play around a little before we condemn?

My point is: hypermedia is just a system that a digital native came up with to deal with the world that they knew as normal.

My point is: hypermedia is in the same vein as a school board considering how to digitize the curriculum because the students no longer have any interest in paying attention to writing on the board.

My point is: it's still so early in this discussion that we shouldn't be throwing anything out, just because of the possible danger that it holds.

My point is: when a caveman wrote the first book, the other cavemen may have thought 'why do we need these words to tell us about hunting a boar? Why don't we just do it ourselves?"

Chuck's point is:
"One positive aspect is, maybe this awareness and recording will lead us to live more interesting lives. Maybe we'll be less likely to make the same mistakes again and again...Controlling the story of your past - recording and exhausting it - that skill might allow us to move into the future and write that story. Instead of letting life just happen, we could outline our own personal plot. We'll learn the craft we need to accept that responsibility. We'll develop our ability to imagine in finer and finer detail. We can more exactly focus on what we want to accomplish, to attain, to become."