"Mapping the Mediascape: The Politics of Chinese Software Art"
in Locating Emerging Media
Edited by Germaine Halegoua and Bejamin Aslinger
"Seeing without crosshairs: a survey of the first-person non-shooter"
- This project contrasts Feng Mengbo's altered video game performance Q4U (2002) and Cao Fei's sprawling virtual metropolis RMB City (2009) based in Second Life. I contextualize both artists and their works in terms of Arjun Appadurai's "scapes," illustrating how the work of both have elements signifying specific qualities of Chinese identity as well as elements signifying a vast global cultural flow.
"John Cage was a Gamer"
- An inventory of first-person art games that forgo violence and instead propose other uses for the power of sight in virtual spaces.
"The Brechtian, Absurdist, and Poor Video Game: Alternative Theatrical Models of Software-based Experience"
- Cage, a musician, writer, visual artist, and performer, wasn't the obsessive Steam achievement-unlocking type of gamer (especially since he died in 1992) but he had all the traits.
Journal of Games Criticism, Volume 1, Issue 2
"Depth Sensing: The Connotations of Body Data and the Microsoft Kinect"
- Springing from an interview with video game critic Morgan Webb, this essay proposes a set of avant-garde models for video game illusions prioritizing artistic goals that do not necessarily function in terms of the market. These models are derived from the history of 20th Century experimental theatre and transposed to video game practice via the "Computers as Theatre" analogy proposed by Brenda Laurel in 1991.
A response to the MediaCommons survey question: how does digital culture enter physical spaces and situations?
Abstracts for other research projects:
The Hacker as Artist/Critic:
Recovering the Mutability of Virtual Space
Eminent theorists such as Lev Manovich and Donna Harraway describe technology as dynamic and in constant flux, yet commercial software design aims to present itself as an immutable entity in order to maintain the authority of permanence. The conventions of this sedentary software style are constructed by a oligopoly of commercial technologists who do not participate in a dialogue with the culture their products affect. In order to transpose art historical methods of criticism into the emerging field of software studies, this project creates an analogy between the building cuts of Gordon Matta-Clark and the software-altering practices of the hacker. I compare the warehouse space appropriated by Matta-Clark in his famous building cut Day's End
to the virtual spaces of consumer-grade software. In both cases, the space is defined by the needs of the modern industrialist: an inert space designed for work and not lived experience. I align Matta-Clark's cutting gesture, which creates dynamic space through appropriation and alteration, to the practice of hacking, which can alter thesigns of consumer software and expose the code it is based on as mutable and dynamic. This use of hacking to both critique and expose the inherent mutablity of software is highly evident in the work of artist duo Jodi. Their installation MY%DESKTOP
illustrates the practical artistic use of "metaphor shear," a term coined by author Neil Stephenson to describe the moment of anxiety caused by software error which both software designer and user constantly battle against. I argue that the constant presence of metaphor shear is a expression of software's inherent dynamic ability and can be exploited by the software artist, or hacker, to reformulate a large-scale software hegemony which can potentially effect every aspect of human experience. Metaphor shear is the virtual equivalent to the Matta-Clark's hack and can be viewed as an artistic genre dedicated to critique of software and its effect on cultural identity.
Notes Toward a Techne Theory
This project aims to develop a framework for a critical theory that can effectively parse issues that affect the realms of both culture and technology. I compare the call for a "humanistic techne-oriented methodology" made by Chief Scientist of Invention Arts Marc Davis with Edward Shanken's suggestion of a new art, science and technology (AST) centered critical theory in order to show the similarity of interdisciplinary momentum on both sides of the sciences/humanities dichotomy. Using the similarities in the work of both of these figures and Donna Harraway's cyborg theory, I propose the term Techne Theory as a critical yet non-didactic methodology dedicated to the pragmatic application of hybrid art/technology discourse.
The Consumer Princess:
Adorno, Barthes, Althusser and Disney's Enchanted
This project illustrates how three particular concepts of cultural criticism: the culture industry, mythology, and ideological state apparatuses, theorized by Adorno, Barthes and Althusser respectively, enable each other within the Walt Disney film Enchanted
, an effective confluence in contemporary consumerism. Enchanted
is a recent example in a long standing tradition of cultural production, princess films, which are at the center of the equally long standing cycle of consumption around princess goods and merchandise. By analyzing the institution of the princess film in terms of the culture industry, myth and ideological state apparatuses, Enchanted
can be viewed as an evolved device of the princess consumer cycle, rather than another episode in this cultural tradition. The film is designed to expand the efficacy of princess-oriented consumer behavior especially for an audience skeptical of princess mythology and its potential negative effects. As a feature which shrewdly places the princess archetype within a real world context, but in the end represents the real world capitulating to the values of the princess myth, Enchanted
reifies not only the cultural values of the princess model but also ensures the distribution of a consumerist ideology for a new and only briefly critical generation. By transposing the princess myth from themes of femininity to the act of consumption itself (a mythologizing technique referred to by Barthes as "the Innoculation") Enchanted
effectively persuades a generation equipped with tools of feminist and consumer critique to accept the princess narrative and the consumer cycles it supports.
Carnivorous Vulgaris: Chuck Jones, Postwar Animation and Consumer Critique
This essay analyses the critical function of parody found in animated short films made between 1938 and 1958, particularly works directed by Chuck Jones. As marginalized artists in Hollywood, Warner Bros. animators like Jones made films that served as both entertainment and commentary on modern consumerism. Jones' films employ the act of parody to distance the viewer from modern subject matter which allows for scrutiny on consumer trends as well jokes. Shorts such as Dog Gone Modern
, House Hunting Mice
and the "Road Runner" films as well others illustrate a subversive attitude exhibited by postwar animation, where both emerging products and consumer behavior are openly criticized. This is most clearly seen in the depiction of emerging household technology as fallible, and in Jones' famous Coyote character who serves as a metaphor for the desperate and incompetent consumer. The critical parody in the films contributed to a mass-skepticism toward topical modern themes and continued the tradition of subversive short form animation.