Archive for the ‘Conceptual’ Category

Visual Metaphor Maker

Friday, April 24th, 2009

There are a few metaphor generators out there that exploit the fact that one form of metaphor can be abstracted to:

the [adjective] [concrete noun] of [abstract noun]

It’s a trivial matter to drop in lists of words of each type and then randomize them for fun and profit. I was thinking yesterday how fun it would be to convert the words to images, or visual properties, and instead of making an exquisite corpse sort of generator, make an animated image that fuses (or layer flattens) all the elements into one complete image.

Peripheral Vision Highway Advertising

Tuesday, April 14th, 2009

Tollroads could be subsidized by selling advertising space on the center concrete barriers if the advertisements were optimized for 65mph peripheral vision either:

by being streeeeetched to the proper distortion amount


it might work to make flip book style animation frames

Not that I want more advertising in my peripheral vision, but, hey, the ideas come and the genie can’t be put back in the bottle.

Form Meets Function

Monday, March 9th, 2009

Last night I thought of a cool book form that would be perfect for a long manscript of poems that ranged from the very short to the very long (gee, think I’m reading a mansuscript like that right now?). The book would have a custom trim such that the cover and beginning pages were small, even tiny, and it would gradually flare out (a diagonal cut rather than a vertical cut) until reaching full-size.

Side view of a normal book looks like this: |_|

Side vie of this book would look like this: /_\

So, from a top view, instead of being a rectangulare cube, it would be closer to a flat topped pyramid.

Group Show Series

Monday, January 19th, 2009

A series of art pieces specifically designed to be submitted (and hung) in group shows. The pieces would perform, as purely as possible, nothing but to recontextualize the pieces hung on either side of it. For example:

Two swoopy arrows, one that ends up pointing left, one that ends up pointing right, the title of the piece (or perhaps incorporated right into the piece) is: the one to the left is awesome, the one to the right, not so great.

An image of a person making a disgusted face. Title of the piece (or incorporated into the piece) is: eew, why do I have to be across from that piece?

Other phrases possible (I’ll leave the working out of the accompanying image as an exercise for the reader):

  • Definitely the best piece in this room.
  • Some of us may be upside down, I’m not naming any names, but, look at the one on my right.
  • The jury was really sleeping on that one three over, don’t you think?
  • What’s a nice piece of art like me doing in a place like this?
  • They only put me here because the artist left of this can’t stand the artist right of this. And vice versa. Oddly enough, they both like me.
  • The first piece in the show is always the best. The last piece is always the one that makes the least sense.

A Different Kind of Webzine, closed but open, open but closed

Wednesday, January 7th, 2009

Excepted from an email from 2006 inviting collaborative help from someone who was not interested.

Here’s what it is:

Mortimer J. Adler created this thing he calls the Synopticon, it’s basically the 102 “Great Ideas”. He contends that every idea there is can be situated cleanly within one of these 102, without there being a compelling need to add a 103rd.

Which is kind of neat, but the real meat (for this project) is this list of 102 ideas, because they’re all abstract nouns, or abstract concepts, anyway, which makes them ripe for interpretation, which to poets means making metaphors.

I’m hooked up with a great bunch of visual poets now (through a range of activitities) so I was thinking it would be a wicked cool, long term, project to put out a call for submissions, maybe monthly or bi-monthly, for work that fits the concept of idea N (where N is one of these 102 Great Ideas).

And work through them all.

So it’d end up with these galleries (102 total/only) of visual poets’ take on each of these concepts. Or visual artists. Or poets, too, it’d be an open type call, but the key determining factor in inclusion would be that the submission be a) good and b) that it fit the exact format restriction (I’m thinking along the lines of a 400×400 px .jpg or something like that–but, it could also be anything that can be dropped into Flash, I suppose–a movie even). I want them all to be exactly the same “frame” so that the design and upkeep can be simple, simple. I want to be able to review the submissions and just drop them in a directory and push a button or two and have them be up. Which is to say, I want to have one look, a shell of a design, that is the same for every idea/issue/call, so that there’s continuity throughout the time it takes to work through them all.

There will probably also be limited bio information too, as in: title, author, author email, author website URL, that kind of thing.

It’s really basically like making a themed monthly magazine that isn’t designed to run forever, it’s designed to run for exactly 102 issues. Period. Ever.

And submissions for any given issue will never really close (until some point a while beyond the last one) on any given issue–if a year from now someone wants to submit to the first issue, they could. And would even be encouraged to do so. It really circumvents a lot of traditional notions of publishing, which I like.

So what I’m looking for is a design that will scale to allow maybe as few as 2 and as many as, oh, gosh, maybe 50(??) pieces per issue, and have navigation that grows as the number of issues grows. I want to release the “great ideas” one at a time, over the course of 102 months or 102 bi-months, rather than list them all as forthcoming. So that aspect of the navigation will need to scale a bit too.

I think I want to call it “Respond” but I’m not sold on that 100%. I don’t want to call it Synopticon, I don’t think, but I may want to reference the history of it somewhere. Ideally, though, I’d want that information to be known as a kind of spoiler–if people want to know, I guess I have to say the ideas aren’t my own, but I don’t want people looking ahead to see what’s coming if I can avoid it. I want it to be a regular and ongoing process of prompt and response–because the whole Big Point is artists responding to these abstract
concepts–which is a) what artists are really good at and b) what other humans turn to artists FOR.

I’d need the design in advance of the first call for submissions, because I need to decide on what the exact file specifications are going to be, and I don’t want to compromise the design decisions by making up some random set of specs that have to be designed around. I have the ability (and I want to exercise this ability for ease of administration) to dictate file type and size in absolute uncompromising terms, but have no particular prior preference for any given size or aspect ratio or anything like that. I’m guessing a thumbnails and pop-up full-sized images is a workable concept, but if there’s some other schema that makes more sense I’m totally open to anything that looks good and is easy to admin once it’s built.

Does this sound like something you’d be interested in? What I’m proposing is that if you can design it and host it, I’ll do all the editorial and promotion work and the upkeep. Once the design and interface are in place, it should be a really low-impact project for us both, relatively speaking–a lot of bang for the effort-buck.

I genuinely believe this can be a hugely successful project. Like, cover story international coverage successful. It is calling vispo to do what it does best, and calling on all kinds of artists to give
people what people want from them–help in understanding these great abstract ideas. And the web is the perfect place for it. And the publishing innovation of every issue remaining open keeps it from
getting stale, and will allow momentum to grow in really exciting ways.

Problems of “Previously Published” as it Pertains to Poetry, Plus a Possible Panacea

Friday, November 14th, 2008

The following will describe a portion of the current state of matters related to “previously published” within the poetry community, point out a profound flaw that is a contributing factor to a host of other problems, put forth a theory of how it happened, and suggest a simple and effective fix that could change the face of poetry publishing.

Today, the overwhelming majority of poetry publishers will not even consider for publication work which has been previously published. Why is this? I have spoken personally with many publishers and have heard a wide range of reasons, but they all generally fit into several identifiable categories of answer.

The first, and most compelling if you follow news of copyright law and litigation, is that the small publisher is at real (and increasing) risk of being destroyed by copyright litigation. Poetry publishers, by and large, lack the money to even apply for bankruptcy, so the prospect of defending themselves against any claim (valid or not) from someone in Big Publishing is unthinkable. The only possible defense available to most small presses would be to shrivel up and blow away.

Another is that the administrative cost (in time, effort, and actual monies) associated with securing reprint permissions is prohibitively high. Since most small presses are made up of, at most, a few people responsible for wearing a large number of hats (typically simultaneously) and may not keep regular business hours, this is certainly a valid concern.

There are also several variations on the theme of prestige/pride. If a publisher is going to invest the time and money to publish a poem, the publisher is justified in wanting to eat a fresh meal, and not get stuck with leftovers. Reprinting is seen as something somehow less than first printing. Despite the fact that being “widely anthologized” is seen as a good thing.

This all seems reasonable on the surface, and makes a certain kind of sense, in isolation. But by looking at what comes before (goals) and what comes after (unintended consequences) this middle point it becomes clear that “no previously published” is a less than ideal solution. It is, in fact, so badly suited to the realities of the situation that these suggested reasons begin to read like justifications after the fact of acceptance of the terminology. When people are hypnotized and told to do something silly, such as hop on one foot, and are then asked to explain why they did it they consistently fabricate similarly plausible reasons: “My foot itched” or “It just feels good” or “I do this all the time.”

The primary goal of a publisher of poetry does not need to be “avoid prosecution”, “spend your resources on reprint rights”, or “disqualify based on previous success.” The primary goal of a publisher of poetry needs be “to publish the best possible poetry.” The trouble here is how the problem has been defined. Small presses have mistakenly adopted terminology from, and subsequently the practices of, Big Publishing which simply do not apply.

There are exceptions, of course, but in broad general terms, Big Publishing buys–practically by default–”all rights”. Small Publishing, on the other hand, more often than not, buys “first time rights,” and after publication the remaining rights revert back to the author. This is the crucial distinction.

In a world where the rights holder for any given previously published piece is almost certainly Sony or AOL/Time-Warner or Microsoft Press (and aggressively enforced by their lawyers with the support of current copyright laws) a policy of “no previously published” makes total sense. It’s the prudent business decision to make in that world.

However, in a world where the rights holder for any given previously published piece is almost certainly the author themselves, “no previously published” ceases to make the same kind of sense. The ramifications of this ill-suited policy are subtle but far-reaching.

The flipside of the “no previously published” coin is “one shot, goodbye.” Poets recognize, when submitting, that this poem has only one shot at being published. It doesn’t take a rocket surgeon to figure out that if a poet only has one chance at having a poem published they’re going to tend towards submitting to the markets with the most perceived value. This is the upward/downward spiral of the blockbuster mentality which currently drives Hollywood and mainstream publishing, and runs counter to the notion of publishing the best possible poetry. As a trend, it tends towards publishing the most likely to succeed, which puts the emphasis on conservative sameness rather than on quality alone.

“No previously published” also results in an imbalance of submissions, such that publications like The New Yorker and Poetry are the only markets attractive to both new and established poets–because regardless of where you are on the ladder the motivational thrust of “one shot, goodbye” is away from reaching an ever wider range of markets, and towards consolidating into fewer and fewer markets. Instead of researching markets for a match of material to mission, poets will research as far as circulation numbers and stop there.

“No previously published” leads (logically) to “no simultaneous submissions” which ends up being untenable when you have writers submitting to publishers who are, after all, human and taking care in their reading of submissions, and thus have slow turnaround times. It is not uncommon, at all, to wait over a year for a reply from a publisher of poetry.

The sum total of these factors is an economy that is inherently conservative, rewards quantity more effectively than quality, and jerks good poems out of circulation faster than necessary.

A good poem should have the chance to be widely circulated–in fact, this can be one of several metrics for quality judgment. The more widely published a poem is, the more literary journals who’ve seen value in publishing it, the better it is.

Instead of asking “is it previously published?” we need to be asking “is it any good? what rights is the author able to offer?”

If the poem is good, AND the author owns the rights to have it printed again, all of the problems that have been argued as reasons for “no previously published” evaporate. There is no copyright being infringed, no additional resources need to be expended to secure rights, and the publisher has the pride of publishing the best possible poems, instead of settling for the best of whatever’s left after everyone else is done removing their slices from the pie.

The Friday Night Club

Wednesday, November 12th, 2008

An informal group of people based within any suitable specific geographical area who all agree to attend the same small arts event. There was a one-off event by some positive pranksters that got me started on this idea. The way the story goes, the group of improv actors attended an unknown band’s first-ever gig and packed the audience with (pretend) superfans. There was a mosh pit, they made band t-shirts, and no matter how the band played the crowd went wild. The band figured it out, early on, but said they didn’t care, it was the best night of their lives.

And I got to thinking about how there’s arts events in our area every Friday night that could stand to have a big crowd turn out to support them. Much of the time, the difference between a lame night and a great night is a half a dozen to a dozen people. I know this is the case anywhere in the world.

So the idea is have one person be The Decider, and have an email list of participants. Participants can suggest venues, certainly, but one person is The Decider (some groups may want the role of Decider to change in some fashion, maybe it’s required that everyone do it for a month, or, maybe if you make a suggestion that gets acted on you become the next decider, or whatever). Every Friday morning The Decider sends out the event details, and as many people on the list as are able to do so show up at the event. The crucial point is that the events chosen NOT be the big event, the popular thing, that the events chosen be events that are not likely to draw much (if any) crowd.

It commits a group of people to attending and supporting arts events in their area on a regular basis, and, it occasionally consolidates several small groupings into event-changing groupings, thus making for regularly successful art events. The world needs more of that.

The Interconnected Web of Meaning-Making

Monday, October 13th, 2008

This is an email from a while back where I was proposing a collaborative project to someone. The project never bloomed between us.

A long while ago I told you I was thinking about a project that required as much conceptual design help as coding help (though it needs both). I’ve been occasionally making notes towards explaining that concept ever since. Here’s what I’ve got so far. Read through when you have a chance and let me know any thoughts or questions you might have. This is not a small project, and has no deadline.

It’s like a blog, only it isn’t.

It’s comprised of an ongoing aggregation of new material, but it isn’t sorted chronologically, and it isn’t sorted by category, and it isn’t unsorted.

It isn’t random.

It’s isn’t about a zeitgiest sort of gathering together of the random, either (which is what I think Jim’s [that’s Jim Andrews] dbCinema does).

It is about connections between things, and thus its shape should help identify those connections, but, without pre-determining those connections.

It’s like a Poincare map of what I know.

Content granules could be text, images, links, images, code, embedded video, just about anything. I can format them however the coded presentation needs, but I should be able to just drop them in a directory somewhere and have them be assimilated into the whole.

I want each visit to the place to be a unique presentation of the material, but, not a random presentation of the material. It should dance. It can compile nightly rather than change per load.

Much of it will be zen or aphoristic in nature–like for example, near my house they recently tore down a McDonald’s restaurant, and built a new one right next door to where it used to be. I don’t know what this
means. But I hope that it adds up to something when placed alongside, within, among, other points of observations this-myself has made/will make.

I don’t really want people to be able to direct their own way through the material, but, they should be able to control their pace of ingestion.

Things can overlap. Things should overlap. Things do overlap. Blend. Mix. Misinform each other.

Carolyn Forche has said that as a species, we may be losing the ability for sustained contemplation. For a long time that bothered me and I worked against it, trying to find ways to hold attentions long enough to initiate and sustain contemplation. Now I think that it’s a given, and there’s no need to fear it, instead, as an artist, I want to embrace it and see where it goes–because it IS the current and future reality. There is no putting the genie back in the bottle. So, what happens if we say things are moving too fast for contemplation, what does that mean for cognition? Cognition doesn’t stop, it adapts, it improvises, it overcomes. Meaning-making doesn’t cease because contemplation has become impossible. Meaning-making continues in new ways. I want to explore the limits of those ways, and I do not believe it is the readers job to make all the meaning.

What I love about your snow pieces recently is that they say, by consistent method of transformation, something about vision and atmosphere by using letterforms. I want the structure of this project to say something about how the meaning I take from the world translates into the meaning made from it by others. It’s not random, it’s not specified by me, it’s a transaction between more than just reader and writer, it’s an ongoing and fluid complex and variously-weighted interaction between us all.

I don’t know how these things I want to put in here are connected, but they are, and the way is not arbitrary. In a way it feels like I’m asking you to help find the meaning in my life’s observations. In a
way, I am. What I want to do is what a lot of artists want to do, I want to find a way to make the particulars of my experience function as metaphor for the experiences of others.

Maybe a thousand different random methods of organization–a random of randomness against which the pattern of experience could differentiate itself from the random. I don’t know. And that’s sort of the point.

This is really philosophical as much as programmatical.

How do you make meaning in your life? This is what a content presentation schema should emulate.

I don’t want people to be able to comment directly, like with the current blog paradigm, but, I would like for there to be a way that what’s built can be used by others in a way that is connective but a way that fosters creative connection rather than vapidity. You can comment by participating in a meaningful fashion only. By adding to the overall ball of meaning.

I’m picturing what one artist creates as a sphere that is expanding outward with each added data point. Another artist might wish to take something within that sphere as a departure point or connective tissue
to their own expanding sphere. The interface should allow this kind of appropriation, but, also require that they take more than they bargained for, more than they asked for, more than they wanted. To take any given unit of information, they should have to also take hunks of connective tissues and the units of information most immediately connected. Because information is like that. There are no facts in isolation, there are no meanings in isolation, there is always context, and we don’t control all of the context of the words we use. Thus, a user browsing their own sphere will come in contact with material they themselves may not have seen.

The world can be both non-random and meaningless.

I don’t intend for this to “work” with other existing blogging paradigms. In fact, I’d like for it to specifically NOT work with existing blogging paradigms. I would like for links TO it to be redirected away from it if they’re not OF it, not from others within the “closed” system. But, others should be able to freely and easily set up their own ball of interconnected data points.

Usernames are assigned numbers. Passwords are assigned, unbreakably huge and impossible to remember. I want to avoid the ability to personalize on any level OUTSIDE the actual content.

All for now, more as it develops inside my head.


Iced Tea with Cream

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2008

We drink hot coffee with cream. We drink hot tea with cream. We drink iced coffee with cream. Why don’t we drink iced tea with cream? I’m trying it out the next time I can remember to order my iced tea without lemon.

Campaign Sign Obviousness

Monday, September 22nd, 2008

A local candidate for office here is running with signs that have his first name HUGE instead of his last name, like usual. Because his name is LOU it makes it pretty simple to imagine an uppercase Helvitica T that one could simply staple to the right hand edge of the sign, making it LOUT.