Electromagnetica


My old friend Gary Phelan mid-install of his very emotional and poetic piece "Electromagnetica". Yep, that's a streetlamp right there. http://flic.kr/p/vrv8u5
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Software as the key artform of the 21st Century

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Isn’t it time we stopped talking about media and returned to the term artform?

A medium is ultimately physical in our understanding of it, no matter how enhanced or extended it may be.

For me, one of the main achievements of the digital revolution is to have separated creative content from media. Now, no longer bound by the existing hardware models with all their limitations, we are free to explore our various artforms via software, a far more natural environment for creative material.

Technology has always impacted upon cultural development, in particular the arts. All you have to do is look at the Russian avant garde and the impact of the machine on art, or in the explosion of media in particular, from radio on up throughout the 20th century.

The rising tide of digital technology as the end of the 20th century which has matured at the start of this century, given the wide dispersal of computers and the emergence of broadband globally, gave birth to a new internet culture which has impacted hugely on existing media.

We’ve been distracted by how digital technology mimics a medium really well, how it extends them and combines them with other technologies. Those three steps are present in each of the creative fields, most clearly in music. There it took on the genre of music completely, extended the creative options for musicians and spearheaded the new distribution channels for music. These cultural forces, experienced as rapid changes to humanity, are almost alive in how unstoppable and progressive they are.

Not all existing media fare well out of this, television as a medium was in trouble long before digital culture emerged. The structure of television, top down, one to many, rigid control of content, only a few outlets per nation, had been incredibly limiting over the years, and it had ended up myopically examining itself as the last century closed with top ten shows focussed on television’s own inventory. If music had faced similar limitations it would have withered and died.

The net disbands completely these kinds of structure, they have no place there. The recent economic downturn and the shift away from advertising saw those old models crumble alarmingly quickly, it became clear that the boom and advertising were all that was holding up the existing ways of doing business.

This dispersal of content creation opens up the very basics of each artform for questioning. As a creator of course, It matters not whether it’s individuals or groups of individuals, active independent content producers or production companies, all bets are off. And ultimately one major question we all face is that of production finance. Who’ll finance these?

Our focus now, both on creative work and it’s dissemination should be on exploring developing software with a view to creating work and it’s expression and communication. The creators of software whether it’s new services online or applications, are the structuring limitation or future liberators, the new artists in our mix. If Film was the artform of the 20th century. Software is the key artform of the 21st.

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Earlier thoughts on software here and here.
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32A in Cinemas

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We’re finally in the cinemas in Ireiand with our feature, 32A. It’s been a long haul and the final step is one we have to take ourselves.

Independent cinema faces a lot of new challenges. On the one side, there’s competition for audience eyeballs from the internet and computer gaming. And on the other, filmmakers encounter increasing distributor nervousness. The studios are pumping out bigger and bigger tentpole movies, pretty soon you won’t be able to pick out the big movies in the cinema, they’ll all be big. And those smaller films find it harder and harder to get a release. We’ve forged some relationships with exhibitors and are putting the film out in Ireland ourselves. So a risk, but hopefully with a good outcome. We’re going with our gut, hey, it’s got us this far.

As a filmmaker, exhibition is very necessary phase. The film only becomes real when you sit with the audience and you feel and hear them respond. It’s almost physical, the sense of an audience going with a film. I’d say the other side is true also, losing them can be as painful as it gets. We’ve been very fortunate however, and had really great audience response and feedback in screenings at festivals so far. I can’t wait until I pick a random screening and pop in to see how it plays.

Dublin: IFI Cinemas
Booking office: 01.679.5744
Book Online

Carrick on Shannon: Cineplex
Booking office: 071.967.2000
Book Online

Sligo: Gaiety Cinema
Booking office: 071.917.4001






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Ira Glass on storytelling

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This American Life is one of my favourite podcasts. A recent episode, The Giant Pool of Money, outlining the background story to the sub-prime mortgage crisis was a standout. It was almost Wire-like in how it interwove high end financial shenanigans, the systems people have to work within, and the trials of ordinary citizens.

The episodes are free on the feed in iTunes for a period but after a while, you have to pay about a dollar for a show. And just to say it, your broker made a lot more telling you a lot less.

Frankly there isn’t a dud episode in the whole series.

Here Ira gives some pointers on his approach to storytelling, basic but very good. Part One is above, There’s four in the series and well worth checking them all out.

Part Two, Part Three, Part Four




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Whatever happened to Computer Art?

I was asked a while back to give a talk on creative applications on the Mac and it set me off thinking about the early days when I first got into this.

I have to say, it was much to the bafflement of loved ones and friends at the time, about 20 years ago. It’s an interest which has continued to this day, my wife says she has no equivalent to it. I counter, rather lamely, pointing out her yoga and interest in alternative healthcare, but it doesn’t really wash.

Back in the day, 1988 to be a bit more precise, I spent a lot of time debating just exactly what Computer Art might be. I was working in the visual arts, primarly with young and emerging contemporary artists. I was intrigued by the new technology which was arriving. I bought a Commodore Amiga which was definitely the artists platform, launched by Andy Warhol painting Debbie Harry.

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Computer Art is a topic that has by and large disappeared from the landscape. The Wikipedia article on it reads like a genre from the fifties, no sense of any current activity at all.

Artists, like everyone else, use a lot of technology these days, but no one particularly calls it Computer Art any more. They’re either film makers or graphic designers or just plain old artists. How it’s made is neither here nor there.

Of course, most clearly with Photoshop and 3D modellers, it’s easy to see how necessary a computer and set of software was to create the work, but that’s now realised as not all that important really. Photoshop is just a set of digital tools after all, generally used to create images which don’t look processed in any way. And while these digitally created images may form a subset of image making, it’s not in any form, a separate medium.

And that was what people were discussing back in the day, the emergence of a new medium.

For me, coding was always key to that. There were people, like William Latham, who worked within IBM in the UK, used coding in particular to generate work but they didn’t mesh with the art world all that well, the work didn’t speak to people, either the artistic community or the general public, in a way they could relate to, it’s protean and exploratory by it’s very nature.

What was central to them was that the work did completely come from the code. And I think coding is the key to the future of this, but just perhaps we shouldn’t put the limits of the word ‘art’ on it.

Recently I had a small sense of something emerging from quite an unexpected source.

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I, like everyone else, use Google Earth more and more. And yes it’s very useful, any trip or hotel choice is checked out there first and location based services will be more and more prevalent. But that’s not why I look there sometimes.

There’s something in the experience of Google Earth, I have a true sense of wonder there. This experience, unimaginable a century ago, unimaginable in fact to my own Dad who died too young. There’s a flicker in the back of my head more akin to encountering a work which speaks to me, a sense of wonder. Is this is landscape re-invented, is this is a new sublime?

What if software finally emerged as a new creative genre? What if it became, much as film defined the 20th century, the key defining medium of the 21st?

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Alles

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There’s many nice things you can receive in the post from a festival, an acceptance letter, a prize and hey, a cheque is always good.

Last week, we got an envelope at the office we didn’t expect. The Berlinale sent us out an envelope with t-shirts for each of our lead actresses, all wrapped up in festival posters for them, together with a photo for each of them and a lovely one of Marian at the Q&A in Berlin. There was a nice letter from the festival director and a press pack and DVD of still images from the premiere.

But best of all was a whole stack of filled in response sheets to the film. The first to catch my eye was one with only one word on it, they ticked the ‘sehr gut’ box and simply wrote ‘Alles“ for what they liked, really just great to hear. Theirs was the briefest, others had plenty to say. About half of them were in German and the other half in English and I’m definitely going to have someone translate them for me. It was a total kick reading through the english ones and what people’s response to the film was.

It says so much of the festival that they do this, the Festival was two months ago, they are one of the world’s leading film festivals, they really didn’t have to do any of this. And the thought came to me, that perhaps they are one of the best festivals in the world, simply because they do things like this, the little things that make such a difference.

I definitely have my own personal ‘sehr gut’ and ‘Alles’ to the good people working in the Berlinale Office, who were a pleasure to deal with from start to finish.

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Once




Saw 'Once' again.... I love this movie...

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Don't try to be original, just try to be good...



Nothing quite an old geezer who knows his stuff.... Paul Rand discussing his approach to work.


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Look to the music industry for pointers

People often talk about business and it’s quick adoption of the IBM PC.  Depends on the business really, just as the Mac started to invent a whole industry around desktop publishing, one of the more interesting early computer platforms, the Atari ST, was quickly adopted by the burgeoning digital music industry.  CuBase and Logic originated on the platform and small studios were built around them.

People often talk about digital music, but the fact is All Music Is Digital now, from folk through classical and every which way in between.    Music is recorded digitally, created digitally, mixed and produced digitally, distributed and consumed digitally.

Other media have tracked music and it’s steady submergence in the digital realm by a couple of years.   The widespread adoption of the iPod, not the first digital music player, completed the circle.  Video is about to do the same.

We have had a steady progression away from film to ever better video formats, analog to DV and now HD.   Acquisition has made the transition, editing and mixing is already there.  Broadcasting is moving to digital, cinema transmission is too.

When we see video on the web, it is for me, digital production finding its home.

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