Tuesday, August 22, 2006

...wherein I get artsy during a conference call...

I drew this on the ol' Blackberry during an atrociously boring conference call this afternoon. I was the only guy in the room who knew squat about Windows device drivers, and I couldn't get a word in edgewise, so I drew this instead. SpinPen is my fun new toy for the day. Although as a geek I can be hard to satisfy. It could use, oh, a Logo interpreter built in, for that retro-cool turtle graphics schweetness. And it'd be nice to be able to post it here directly from the BB, without involving a desktop box.

Now, I'm not one to brag, but this design isn't that far from being lucrative modern art. I've got the design part down, I think. The next step would be transferring it to a large, salable physical object, say, acrylic on canvas, the larger the better. Traditionally I'd also need an elaborate theoretical framework that appears to explain the painting. The simpler the painting, the more complex the theory behind it needs to be, otherwise people will start thinking they, too, can pull off something like this. Which they can, actually; coming up with the theory is the hard part, and that's why paintings are so expensive. That, and name recognition. Name recognition is a simple matter of schmoozing the right people at gallery openings and various cocktail parties, and getting them to say nice things about you, and being sort of colorful and weird so that people remember you. I don't schmooze very well, but I can be weird with the best of 'em, and possibly even colorful if there's money on the line.

In recent years, the need for theoretical BS has dissipated somewhat. Instead, you can simply explain the process you used to create the works, the geekier the better, and people will think you're the most l33t artist they've ever met, and they'll give you all their money. And making art with a Blackberry is pretty damn geeky, you gotta admit. I seriously think this would actually work, at least until the novelty wore off and your technology wasn't geeky enough anymore. Then you'd have to find a brand new gimmick and start all over.

The dirty little secret of modern art is that creating it is so much easier than what had come before. It's much easier and cheaper to build an undecorated modernist glass & concrete box than one of those over-the-top Beaux Arts layer cakes they used to build. If people will pay just as much, or more, for a nearly-blank canvas than they will for an intricate cherub-filled allegorical painting, obviously you want to do the almost-blank canvas, because you can churn 'em out so much faster than you can with that cherub nonsense, and your cost of materials (i.e. paint) is substantially lower. If you can just pile some rusting chunks of steel together and call it a sculpture, why spend years and years chipping a piece of marble so it looks like a guy throwing a discus?

Now that we have computers, it's become clear that ease of creation implies ease of automation; go too far down this path, and it stops being art entirely. Consider Mondriaan, who had to draw all his straight lines, and color all his rectangles, entirely by hand. Tedious! Now anyone with a paint program, say a free Java app on a Blackberry, can pull off something not entirely dissimilar, in a matter of minutes during a meeting while the marketing guys are busy synergizing proactively outside the box or whatever the hell it is they do. There are screen savers available that'll draw Mondriaan-like pictures on your computer screen while you aren't using it and probably aren't even there to watch.

Or consider poetry. First, here is "The Great Lament Of My Obscurity Three", by the Dada poet Tristan Tzara:

where we live the flowers of the clocks catch fire and the plumes encircle the brightness in the distant sulphur morning the cows lick the salt lilies
my son
my son
let us always shuffle through the colour of the world
which looks bluer than the subway and astronomy
we are too thin
we have no mouth
our legs are stiff and knock together
our faces are formeless like the stars
crystal points without strength burned basilica
mad : the zigzags crack
bite the rigging liquefy
the arc
towards the north through its double fruit
like raw flesh
hunger fire blood

And for contrast, here is "Famed symbologist Professor Robert Langdon is", attributed to one Willis Fournier:

by her bossy boyfriend capturing the passion and energy Tom Hanks and Audrey Tautou give cautious
that the world beyond the hedge possums Crash and Eddie that speeds by in chases across France and England
aimless perambulation and visits they accept this and incorporate it into their the economic and psychological
by and realizes the importance mother on Curb does so here as well Slevin (Josh Hartnett) in the middle of

You won't find the latter poem in any collection anywhere, because it's actually a spam I got the other day. In the days of Dada, it was thought that combining randomly selected words and phrases was a way to open a gateway to the subconscious mind. Now, similar works are cobbled together by spambots running Perl scripts, at the behest of the Russian Mob, in order to sneak past your spam filter.

I expect the Dada guys would get a real kick out of that.

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