Michel Houllebecq's novel The Map and the Territory (La carte et le territoire) is a future art history of the French artist Jed Martin. Martin's output is both limited and clinical: he desires, above all, to "give an objective description of the world" (27), and he creates a body of work consisting of four series made throughout his life.
Aside from the drawings produced in his youth, Martin’s first work was the series “Three Hundred Photos of Hardware.” “Avoiding emphasis on the shininess of the metals and the menacing nature of the forms, Jed had used a neutral lighting, with few contrasts, and photographed articles of hardware against a background of mid-gray velvet. Nuts, bolts, and adjusting knobs appeared like so many jewels, gleaming discreetly” (26). The series appears to be an extension of a previous project, undertaken in his high school bedroom with mostly natural light, to create “an exhaustive catalogue of the objects of human manufacturing in the Industrial Age” (20). Martin has difficulty articulating his project, and his artist's statement emphasizes the advanced aluminum engineering responsible for creating most industrial objects. It's the work Andreas Gursky would have made taking pictures of single objects.
While claiming to be done with photography, Martin’s next series returns to his technical facility with the medium. Enthralled by the beauty of Michelin Departments road maps, Martin experiences a mild attack of Stendhal syndrome after unfolding a map of the Creuse and Haute-Vienne: “This map was sublime. Overcome, he began to tremble in front of the food display. Never had he contemplated an object as magnificent, as rich in emotion and meaning” (28). The Michelin series consisted of over eight hundred photographs and was responsible for Martin’s first major show, sponsored by Michelin, titled “THE MAP IS MORE INTERESTING THAN THE TERRITORY.”
Martin’s work fits easily into a certain popular narrative of contemporary art: conceptual enough to make critics giddy, effortless enough to affirm a naysayer’s belief in the overwhelming bullshit of the gallery, and relevant without being topical. Most importantly, it's never outside complex contemporary fiscal systems: art remains a good investment. These are precisely the qualities them so believable as artworks, so easy to imagine. It is what separates the novel so completely from other narratives of faux-artworks, with their gaudy, impossibly transcendent works of beauty.
David Hockney, Mr. and Mrs. Clark Percy (1970)
Martin’s next aesthetic endeavor took him into the world of painting: his collection of sixty-five oil paintings, collectively known as the “Professions” series, depicted the various modes of employ which form a functioning society. Martin creates another taxonomy, this time a human taxonomy: with subjects ranging from Maya Dubois, Remote Maintenance Assistant to Bill Gates and Steve Jobs Discussing the Future of Information Technology (subtitled The Conversation at Palo Alto). The portrait of Gates and Jobs is considered his most essential work: Martin gives “a magical glow to the forests of California pine descending toward the sea” (72). (Eventually, Steve Jobs up bought the painting for $2 million).
The Chinese essayist Wong Fu Xin maintains that Martin’s paintings from this period, which can be broken into the Series of Simple Professions and the Series of Business Compositions, represent the minimum number of professions required to recreate the productive conditions of society: they “give a relational and dialectical image of the functioning of the economy as a whole” (73). When unable to complete the final painting of the series, Damien Hirst and Jeff Koons Dividing Up the Art Market, Martin destroyed it. His final painting is one of Houellebecq, which he presents to the writer as a gift.
From Temkin's series Glitchometry (2011-)
You've described Entropy, an esolang you designed, as "a programming language as immersive art piece," "best experienced by a programmer working alone from home." Do you think there is a gap between new media artists and programmers--do you feel like the audience for the Entropy language is less enthusiastic about it than non-programmers who are interested in new media art? Does work like Entropy bridge this gap at all?
Esolangs, like most code art, require a knowledge of programming to use and understand; so they’ve primarily been for programmers. But the gap between programmers, non-programmers, and new media folks is closing as coding becomes a more common skill. In the Seven on Seven keynote, Douglas Rushkoff called for children to be taught programming at a young age in school, to help them resist becoming passive consumers of electronic media. I love the idea of code art in a 5th grade art class, alongside coil pot mugs.
Programming languages are logic systems, sets of rules that make up a way of thinking a programmer has to internalize to use. Esolangs take advantage of this to provide strange rule sets that play on meaning and nonsense, or otherwise construct a point of view that’s unusual. It’s in using these weird tools to solve ordinary problems that their perspectives are exposed. Brainfuck, probably the best-known esolang, is simple, clear, and functional in its definition, but requires the programmer to construct long rants of gibberish to use. It reminds me of work like Sol LeWitt’s Incomplete Open Cubes (1974), where exploring a rigid, contained system takes us on a ludicrous journey. Because brainfuck refuses to concede to the human thought process, it dramatizes its collision with computer logic.
With my language Entropy, I ...
Noordwijk aan Zee
The English artist Mishka Henner has collected the images of the Dutch government's censorship of aerial images showing economic, political, or military locations. Previously, in 2009, the artist Greg Allen utilized these images as subjects for a series of paintings. While most nations take steps to protect sites of interest from being seen on technologies like Google Earth, the Dutch appear to do it with unique flair. The Dutch interventions deploy strategic pixelated abstractions, presumably to more easily blend into the digitally represented landscape. Though they destroy the presumed object of interest, they also create beautiful new impossible landscapes. Says Henner:
Governments concerned about the sudden visibility of political, economic and military locations exerted considerable influence on suppliers of this imagery to censor sites deemed vital to national security. This form of censorship continues today and techniques vary from country to country with preferred methods generally including use of cloning, blurring, pixelization, and whitening out sites of interest.
Surprisingly, one of the most vociferous of all governments to enforce this form of censorship were the Dutch, hiding hundreds of significant sites including royal palaces, fuel depots and army barracks throughout their relatively small country. The Dutch method of censorship is notable for its stylistic intervention compared to other countries; imposing bold, multi-coloured polygons over sites rather than the subtler and more standard techniques employed in other countries. The result is a landscape occasionally punctuated by sharp aesthetic contrasts between secret sites and the rural and urban environments surrounding them.
The technique is reminiscent of the "micropatterns" on military camouflage, which mimic poor-resolution digital photography. "Micropatterns" are not designed to hide soldiers from direct human eyesight. Instead, they allow soldiers to blend more easily into contemporary surveillance images. Yet the Dutch process of landscape camouglage carries other ...
Former President George W. Bush standing next to a Predator Drone in 2007. White House photo by Eric Draper.
On a monthly basis, the US military collects over 10,000 hours of footage from Predator Drones that needs to be watched an analyzed. The Warholian challenge of sifting through the amassed footage and waiting for a moment of interest to the intelligence community has overburdened the military's viewing capacity. The load is only expected to increase with an over-extended drone program at the US-Mexico broder and the introduction of enormous new surveillance suites in Afghanistan and beyond.
The military turned to stalwart consultant geniuses the RAND Corporation. RAND's final report, The Future of Air Force Motion Imagery Exploitation: Lessons from the Commercial World [PDF], turned to a group of people most familiar with waiting patiently for a payoff: America's reality television producers. RAND consulted with producers from reality TV hits as diverse as Kourtney and Khloe Take Miami and Rock of Love: Charm School. Wired reports that the operations of a reality TV production and military drone footage analysis are not so different:
The volume of footage exploited in a reality TV control room, the report states, “is comparable in scale” to what an Air Force ground station processes. Operations in both scenarios run 24/7, with operators required to “record and report events in near realtime.” And in both settings, footage can be mundane for hours on end — until unusual or important events occur unexpectedly.
“You can’t have someone staring at the empty Jersey Shore living room for 24 hours a day,” Micah Zenko, a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations who did not contribute to the report, tells Danger Room. “But when something crazy happens at 3 a.m., you want to be ...
Jayson Scott Musson as Hennessy Youngman
A few weeks ago, Electronic Arts Intermix hosted an evening with the newest edition to the EAI galaxy of stars, Jayson Scott Musson. Better known as his online persona Hennessy Youngman, host of ART THOUGHTZ, a series of lectures in which he discusses everything from Bruce Nauman to the Sublime. Musson's work—originally availably only through Youtube—will now be archived and distributed by EAI. The move was roundly thought of as bizarre—especially since EAI will begin charging rental and purchase fees for works that have been and will remain visible free of charge on Youtube.
While Youtube may provide an invaluable service for anyone trying to circulate their work, it is important to remember that Youtube plays by its own set of rules. Musson described his frustration when one of his first videos to garner 100,000 views was removed for language violations. He was unable to replace it with a clean version or communicate with anyone at Youtube. Previously, Youtube has censored work by artist Petra Cortright. While Youtube may seem like an online space designed to allow users to share whatever they want, it's really an institution that controls the content it allows online.
Furthermore, though Youtube has incredible archival potential it remains an unreliable archival source. While ART THOUGHTZ is currently on Youtube, there's no guarantee it will remain there in the future. EAI has a function that may involve pulling works from their original contexts, but ultimately ensures not only that artists' work is reliably available, but also that they recieve compensation for that work. No one balks at EAI's preservation and distribution of The Medium is the Medium, a 1969 collaboration between WGBH and emerging video pioneers. Though made for broadcast TV, you ...