Thursday, December 9, 2010

Redefining Life With a Single Microbe

Science and technology correlate greatly and when the discoveries of science advance technology that inevitably will effect media.

Recently, scientists have found a Arsenic eating bacterium that has ultimately redefined the way we look at the fundamental building blocks of life, and although it's still debatable as to how this will effect technology and media, this discovery has already altered many theories of life on earth, making me almost positive that in the future it will change technology and therefor media.

“The idea of alternative biochemistries for life is common in science fiction,” said Carl Pilcher, director of the NASA Astrobiology Institute. “Until now a life form using arsenic as a building block was only theoretical, but now we know such life exists in Mono Lake.”

We’ve been taught our entire lives that the six most abundant elements of life are Carbon, Hydrogen, Nitrogen, Oxygen, Sulfur and Phosphorus.

However, recently, scientists have been shaken up by one microbe, Arsenic. The same chemical used in weed killers and the toxic chemical found in contaminated groundwater.

NASA scientists have confirmed that they have found a bacterium that grows on a diet of arsenic in place of phosphorus (the backbone of DNA), opening up the possibility that organisms could exists elsewhere in the universe or even here on Earth.

MEDIUM(arsenic)- The bacterium, scraped from the bottom of Mono Lake in California and grown for months in a lab mixture containing arsenic (which shares many of same chemical properties as phosphorus), gradually swapped out atoms of phosphorus in its body for atoms of arsenic.

These results, if confirmed, would expand the notion of what life could be and where it could be.

It also lends weight to the idea that extraterrestrial life could have a fundamentally different chemical makeup from life on Earth.

Gerald Joyce, a chemist and molecular biologist at Sripps Research Institute in La Jolla, Calif. said, “It’s a really nice story about adaptability of our life form. It gives you food for thought about what might be possible in another world.”

The results could impact a space mission to Mars and elsewhere looking for life using new experiments that are designed to eliminate the chemical elements and reactions that have been known to characterize life on earth.

The newly discovered bacterium, also known as GFAJ-1 doesn’t just tolerate arsenic- it can incorporate the poisonous stuff into its DNA and other vital molecules in place of the usual phosphorus, leading to a potential application in the medical field. GFAJ-1 could prospectively be used as an antioxidant to counteract the effects of toxic elements in the body.

GFAJ-1 could also be used to detoxify people with arsenic related diseases such as cancer of the kidney, skin, lung, and bladder.

It’s also been speculated that the use of arsenic in place of phosphorus on earth may date back to the origin of life, which may have occurred in a arsenic-rich hydrothermal vent (a fissure in the planet’s surface from which geothermally heated water issues) environments. This could be the microbe that supports the Iron-sulfur World Theory advanced by a German Chemist, Gunter Wachtershauser.

Something strange: Active hydrothermal vents are believed to exist on Jupiter’s moon, Europa, and ancient hydrothermal vents have been speculated to exist on Mars.

THE PEAK- (finding/GFAJ-1/finding a shadow biosphere/extraterrestrial life)

Also, the possibility of finding a shadow biosphere where life based on alternative chemicals live is much more feasible.

This is huge because it’s commonly assumed that life originated only once on Earth.

Shadow biosphere- a radiation of organisms on Earth with a different origin and evolutionary history than “normal life.

The confirmation of a shadow biosphere would be one of the biggest scientific discoveries of all time. It would suggest that life as we know it is not terribly special, and that it can take root easily. If life originated more than once on Earth, the chances that it took root elsewhere in the universe are increased.

Interface: Because we live in the biosphere with microbes, we don’t really have an organic physical barrier between humans and microorganisms. In that case, the only thing that prevents us from observing microbes are the fact that they are microscopic. Therefore, the microscope is the interface between human and the microbes, because it’s optical lens forms a boundary between two different phases.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Ten Questions to Ask about Technology

Here are Ten Questions (ok there are more, because some questions are kind of nested) to ask about a new technology tool that help us think about it in its wider cultural context. I am working off of, as usual, Cultural Studies founder Stuart Hall's idea of the circuit of culture, in which production, consumption, regulation, representation, and identity are all mutually informing. When we combine this with the historical trajectory perspective I am always harping on--which puts any given cultural text (game, device, app, film, dvd menu, etc) in a lineage of antecedents, looks for its peak if it has had it yet, and then speculates wildly on what might come next--we will always have a lot to talk about when we talk about any new aspect of technology, beyond the thumbs up/thumbs down reaction from which we might start and then come back to at the end, perhaps more thoughtfully.

Ten questions to ask about a new technology:

1) What is its purpose?

2) What was its analog, if there was one? How does a mediated, digital, or networked version of the tool or technique change it?

3) Who uses it? How? When? Where? Why? Does the use change over time? Do different users use it differently?

4) How does a user learn how to use it?

5) Who makes it? Who profits? How?

6) How is it regulated?

7) How does it spread?

8) Does it create or fill a need?

9) What is the interface? Is it also an object? Or a practice? Both? (think cell phone)

10) How does the user change the technology as he or she uses it? (mods and hacks and appropriations) How does the technology change the user? How does it become part of a person's sense of self?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

McCloud's 6 Steps

Here are Scott McCloud's 6 Steps. You can see them better in the second image, but I love the metaphor of the apple, especially the shiny, hollow one that is all surface! Let's come up with some examples of that.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Touchable Holography

I did my project on touchable holography. This is definitely the future of entertainment, not to mention the future of hospitality, gaming, and cleanliness. The technology uses a WiiMote placed above a display rack to track the users hand motion. An airborne ultrasound tactile display is used to create the sensation of touch.

Result: Holographic image that creates tactile feedback, without degrading the image.

This technology is still in its early stages. It was founded and is being developed at the University of Tokyo. This being very new technology, we are only able to manipulate very small holographic projections.

The future of this technology is limitless. This includes uses in video games, 3D CAD (models), hospitals (touch contamination), books, and even adult entertainment.

Holograms could replace the need for making new interfaces for technology, since they could be changed without having to make a new physical product.


Eric Jackowitz

Gestural Computer Interface

Soon enough, we may be searching through data on our computer in the same way Tom Cruise searches through memories/video for evidence of a crime about to be committed in Minority Report. Since the film's 2002 release, many companies have tried to develop similar gestural computer interfaces in the real world. In fact, the science and technology adviser for the film, John Underkoffler, was given a significant amount of money to research the subject for the film, and recently debuted a prototype at TED talks this year. However, such interfaces require an entire room for setup, not to mention expensive screens, gloves and other accessories, rendering them impractical at the moment. Touch screen technology on iPhones and other devices allow for similar zoom and scroll capabilities, but they can be cumbersome and the technology has only been applied to simple apps.

But the future may be closer than we think. This year, at Music Hack Day Boston, a team of hackers created a gestural interface over the course of a weekend that can manipulate MIDI data. The program is called Toscanini, named after an Italian conductor famous for his wild and exuberant gestures. It only requires simple software that can be downloaded for free, and a Texas Instruments watch that sends signals to a receiver that attaches to your computer via USB. This second device only costs $50. While the program is in its alpha stage and has plenty of flaws, it is designed to improved upon and customized by other users. The intended users, in fact, are musicians, dancers, and other artists who will be able to have more intimate and personal control over their work on their computers through movement.

The potential for gestural computer interfaces cannot be overstated. In the next year, a dance troupe wearing the TI watch and Toscanini could create a visual program on the computer that could project a visual display behind them while they dance, responding to their actual movements. Musicians are no longer limited to clicking and dragging, no longer inhibited by the mouse as they work with Logic, ProTools and a myriad of other programs. Later on, it seems that Toscanini and more complex programs like Underkoffler's will meet somewhere in the middle, improving their ability to deal with complex programs while meeting practical needs and budgets in the real world. When that happens, users will be able to organize, render, and view data in the way that is easiest for them, i.e. scanning through photos, videos and music from the visual perspective that they choose -- and there will be an infinite number of ways to choose from. It will make computer use more action, like the Wii has done for video games, and will allow more than one person to work on the same computer at the same time, once they are no longer confined by the mouse. And the gestural computer interface is far from reaching its peak, as it is not widely available. But it is likely the future of human-computer interaction -- if you ask John Underkoffler, all computers will use such interfaces within 5 years.

Minority Report clip:

John Underkoffler @ TED talks:

The Toscanini website:

What Is Watson?

I chose IBM's "BLUE GENE" supercomputer WATSON for my new media example.

WATSON is the world's most advanced "question answering" machine that is due to appear on a special series of Jeopardy! in which it will compete in a computer vs. human contest against the best Jeopardy! players in the world.

Developed by David Ferrucci, IBM's Senior Manager for Semantic Analysis & Integration, WATSON is a three year long project - a computer that has the ability to distinguish exact intended meaning of a question using complex algorithms and search engines to come up with an accurate answer. It's greatest challenge is deciphering meanings of questions that have cultural references or puns. A great example of this was a question actually posed to Watson:

"The name of this hat is elementary, my dear contestant."

Humans readily detect the wordplay here — “elementary, my dear Watson,” is the famous phrase associated with Sherlock Holmes and most would be able to peice together the question to answer what kind of hat the famous detective wore. But for a computer, there's no easy way to identify “elementary, my dear contestant” as wordplay. Matching phrases or different fragments of the sentence, which partly how most modern engines like Google operate these days, isn’t enough. WATSON successfully fills in these gaps in technology and processes human language a step further to produce a correct answer to most any question.

The implications of Watsons capabilities on the future of Artificial Intelligence are limitless. When you consider the idea that what David Ferrucci really developed was a machine capable of thinking for itself, one can assume that if this technology developed further, we might start to see computers that are made with equal intelligence and ability as a human being. A computer could be capable of anything. For hundreds of years great thinkers and writers have speculated on a future world able to be controlled by machines - WATSON is simply a real reminder that for better or worse, this is certainly a possibility!

For more info, you can read the NYTimes article here:

New media Presentation

Hi All,
My medium of my choice: Video Blogging

- How is it done?: Well, simply you can take any digital visual recording device such as your phone, laptop camera, create a video of something you wish to show, upload it on to various websites that post in publicly, or privately. Allowing for the possibility for millions to see and to comment and re-act to your video.

- Interface: Internet streaming via phone, computer, mp3 etc

- It began in early year 2000 blogging was used for informative reasons, youtube was then founded in February 2005 it allowed bloggers to post and administrate their own videos.

- It's still peaking

- An example: A make-up artist applied for a job as a make up consultant in a beauty boutique store like saks fifth ave or sephora and got rejected, she the decided to do her own make-up tutorials on youtube and after an ever increasing fan base she now does video tutorials for Lancome.

- Video blogging will continue to grow, and increasingly become the new way of informing the general public of all sorts of things such as products, news, procedures etc. Just as simple as posting a link you can send a piece of information to millions within minutes.

Radio Stations and television stations are now using video blogging as a way to help interact more with listeners and viewers

Yahoo! Answers

I decided to talk about Yahoo! Answers for my new media presentation. In 2005, a question and answer page was opened by Yahoo!. Users of Yahoo! Answers are able to post their own questions about any subject they want, as well as answer other users' questions. Answering other peoples' questions gets you "points", and your Yahoo! Answers account must have at least 5 points before you can post your own questions. A poster of a question may also review all of the submitted responses to his or her question, and decide which answers is the most helpful, and mark is as "Best Answer". By doing that, when someone else stumbles upon that same question, the chosen "Best Answer" is the answer which is displayed first. Often, you don't even need to post your own question to find out what you need to, because you can just find a page where someone has already asked that same question. Type any question into Google, and the first few search results are guaranteed to include some Yahoo! Answers pages. Users are also able to create avatars for their account. I wouldn't be surprised if at some point in the future, Yahoo! Answers develops the capability to post questions and answers as sound or video as well as text.

Pat Metheny and LEMUR (League of Electronic Musical Urban Robots), recently teamed up to create a robotic orchestra that can be controlled by a single composer. They call it "Orchestrion", and it consists of 40 instruments that can all be controlled remotely from Pat Metheny's guitar. LEMUR used electronically induced coils called solenoids, which can be manipulated easily, to control the machine. Each solenoid corresponds to a MIDI key on ones instrument and there is almost no lag between the time you play your instrument and the time Orchestrion plays. Since Orchestrion uses MIDI it can be used with any of the popular MIDI software such as, abelton live or logic.
Orchestrion, is also a way for Pat Metheny and other composers to experiment with other instruments and see how the work. These robots are also capable of doing certain things that humans are not so it allows Pat Metheny an opportunity to use these instruments differently than ever before.

iPhones (more specifically, apps)

I'm doing my new media presentation on the soaring popularity of iPhones, and "Smart phones" in general. Over the past few years, every viable phone company has released phones with internet capability, and the possibilities have only expanded from there. With the presence of Facebook, Twitter, Myspace, and other social networking sites, phone technology has incorporated these with "apps". Apple's iPhone popularized them, but now almost every phone, like the Motorola Droid and the HTC Incredible, has thousands of apps for users to choose from. The aspect I'm touching on in this blog entry is the accessibility of the apps, and how the technology has developed from being an Apple elitist type of club to being open to everyone. Anyone with the programming skills can develop an app and submit it for review. Many of the most popular iPhone apps were developed by people outside of Apple. I think the more popular apps become, the more people will want to get involved and create their own. I theorize that there will be classes integrated into nearly every college (and possibly high school), teaching students how to do basic programming for such applications. The iPhone has made technology like this accessible to so many people, and more importantly, with the user-friendly Apple interface, a once daunting technology now seems fun and simplistic. I think the sky is the limit when it comes to app development, although I guess only time will tell!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Social Networking

Social networks have been around for a while now. For me the social networking sites that have directly or indirectly affected me have been AIM, purevolume, myspace, livejournal, photobucket, youtube, skype, twitter, proartsconnect, and facebook. Facebook is my focus for this presentation. Facebook has many diverse techniques to the medium, this is partially why it is so popular. On facebook the options that you have are combination of AIM's live chatting with people on the other end, twitters ability to post small "status'" for other people to read or comment on, purevolume or myspaces ability to post your music for others to hear, youtubes ability to post videos of yourself, photobuckets ability to post pictures of yourself, and proartsconnect's ability to network with other artists or people in your field. These are all of the factors that facebook uses in order to maintain a successful social network.

Interface's for social networks are all pretty diverse. Photobucket uses pictures to interact both people on each end, AIM uses live messaging through typing on your keyboard, and Livejournal uses non-live messaging through typing on your keyboard. Facebook's interface is a mesh of all these things and more. Primarily facebook seems to be used for live messaging, non-live messages, and picture sharing.

Facebook was created by a few harvard students. It started by only allowing harvard students to use it, then it expanded to select colleges in Boston, then it added high school students, and finally facebook is used by people all around the world that are of the age 13 and up. However, a more specific development of the medium has been facebooks live chat feature. When i personally started to use facebook, the live chat barely worked. Everything else on my computer would slow down, and when i would type, the letters appearing on the screen would lag. Now, the live chat works just as well as AIM.

I would have to say the peak of facebook has been in the past couple of years. For me personally, one of the best facebook features has been the live chat. It tops off all of the other features by offering the OPTION to have live social interactions. However, one of the most used features of facebook is the status comments. Part of the fun in facebook is reading other peoples status updates (or post your own_ about their opinions, thoughts, and factual statements and then commenting on them. So i would have to say the peak would be somewhere in between the live chat feature and the status posts and comments.

With today's technology the future of facebook is almost limitless as far as online social networks go. One feature that I hope facebook eventually offers could be live video chat. Facebook shares features of most other social networking sites, but doesnt not share the same feature of skype, which is live video chat. so we'll have to wait and see if that happens.

Future Vision

My Media Presentation is going to be about the change of how we watch television and what companies are trying to do to continue selling them. For me I'm still trying to get used to this digital and flat screen stuff. I'm still used to an antenna and constantly adjusting it so I can get a clear picture. It would seem these days, that the computer has taken so much control of everything that eventually much of everything we do if not so already will be done on a computer of some kind. The posts I've put up are just some of the things I found of possible future television ideas.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


For my New Media Presentation, I have chosen to research Peapod, an online delivery service based in Skokie, Illinois. It basically works like a virtual grocery store. You can browse aisles, check out what's on sale, and even see how much you've saved as it calculates your total while you shop. Once you've added enough items to your cart to exceed the limit of $60, you can arrange a time for your order to be delivered. Your groceries are then packed by a personal shopper, if you live in the New England area it is packed at a Stop and Shop. If you live in the DC area, it is packed at a Giant. The groceries can arrive at your home as quickly as within 2 days. Peapod is especially helpful for elderly people who can't go grocery shopping on their own. As far as Peapod's future, it has already gained great success, making the Inc. 500 list of fast-growing privately held U.S. companies, but I personally feel it could gain more success if it lowered its limit of $60 for each customer. Some people don't need that many groceries, yet are incapable of buying them on their own; therefore, Peapod could gain much more business if the limit was even lower. As far as Peapod taking over the entire existence of grocery stores: it will never happen. There will always be a need for grocery stores because we often run into moments in life where we need something "right now" and cannot wait 2 days for it to be delivered. However, I do feel Peapod could take over as the primary method of grocery shopping if more people are informed about its benefits.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Automedon with the Horses of Achilles

After today's class I realized I posted my blog wrong. Hopefully this works now.

Valerie Blaemire

Alexandre-Georges-Henri Regnault
"Automedon with the Horses of Achilles", 1866
Oil on canvas

I found this image fascinating for its impactive action. The painting is of a man reining in two horses with his hands, yet the horses are trying to revolt. The man is looking at the brown horse to his left, and the horses are looking fearfully out into the open space. There is no audience in the image; as the viewer, we are positioned parallel to the action. The majority of the setting is being hidden in this image. The viewer cannot clearly decipher the exact location of the action, the main hint that is given is the water in the background, leading you to see that this moment is taking place on a cliff. The artist obviously wanted to show the overall picture of the image rather than one detailed area. Between realism and abstraction, the image is definitely more realistic. Everything from the waves in the horse's hair to the man's strained muscles are defined. For this reason, I find the painting captivating.

Since the very beginning of Blogging, Blogs have given average shmos like you and I the power to post their opinions on everything and anything hence the invention of the popular “Top Five list.” Really! What better way to express my unqualified even ridiculous opinions in pseudo-journalistic prose than with a list from worst to best? From Top 5 bank Heists to Top 5 Celebrity Douche Bags they're ridiculous, useless, and we love 'em. So in the rich tradition of our Fore-Bloggers I give you A-Bomb165’s Top 5 at the MFA:

5. Butcher Shop- Painted in 1642 by David Teniers II. Though truly an artistic masterpiece what sets this picture apart is its humor. It is a satirical portrayal of what an average day in a butcher shop must be like. I personally find it a refreshing change from the obscure depressed artists we are so typically exposed to (I love you Van Gogh).

4. Forest Scene with Hunters- Painted by Roelandt Jacobz in 1615. This is an enchanting painting one can spend hours analyzing. I felt that every time I looked at I notice a new animal or architectural structure I had not scene before. I felt the painting successfully created a world and story not to shabby Roelandt (or as his friends call him Roe-Dog).

3.Portrait of Fernande Olivier- Painted by Pablo Picasso in 1905. Not much to say about this one except that it’s very aesthetically pleasing. He uses very little colors and paints a woman with a very subtle expression on her face. Very subdued but very beautiful.

2. Postman Joseph Roulin- Painted by Vincent Van Gogh in 1888. A picture of lanky bearded Postman. The features are exaggerated he looks somewhat cartoony. The use of color and lighting is magnificent. The man though funny looking seems to have a quiet confidence I sense great wisdom.

1. Slave Ship- Painted in 1840 by Joseph Mallord William Turner. This painting portrays a major thunderstorm in the ocean and exposes harsh realities of the slave trade. The painting is very chaotic there is a lot of action. The use of colors is very extreme and I found the painting to be instantly shocking. This painting was very effective and I found it touching to see an artist of that time saying something of substance even though it might not have been popular to do that.

There you have it my Top Five hope you enjoyed.

Monday, September 27, 2010

MFA Visit

Whoops, accidentally posted this as a comment first, but I think I've figured it out...

Rachel Amitay

Jacob Jordaens
"Portrait of a Young Married Couple", 1621
Oil on panel

I chose this image because at first glance, it seems to be a typical marriage portrait from the seventeenth century, but upon closer inspection I found it to be more unique. The figures seem connected to each other in their poses, but their faces are not passive as is the case in many marriage portraits. The man has a relaxed, yet serious expression, while the woman seems to have a look of determination and certainty. They are looking at the spectator, and there is an element of "eye contact". The work is highly detailed and realistic, and the pair are both wearing beautiful clothing with intricate lace patterning. The focus is meant to be on the couple, not the background, which is very simple and does not draw the viewer away from the pair. An exact location is not depicted, because the importance lies in the connection between the two people, not in the particular setting.

"Breakfast Still Life with Glass and Metalwork"

When our class visited the MFA, the picture that caught my eye the most was Jan den Uyl's "Breakfast Still Life with Glass and Metalwork." Compared to the ancient art we looked at before this painting, this really seems to be leaps and bounds better.
In terms of light, shadowing, and general aesthetics, this painting almost looks like a photo. The dominant contrast of dark and light is the white tablecloth over the black drape- like cloth on the base of the table. To me, there are three focal points. The bottom left, with it's shiny objects and white cloth, the right half, which is much darker, and the upper left, which is lighter than the right. The image depicts a table with lots of dishes and silverware, letting the observer know that somebody had eaten breakfast. The painting seems to be from the third person perspective, looking at the mess that somebody made.
The painting's title definitely depicts the painting very well. It states exactly what it shows in the painting. This could be a photo and keep the same title. The gaze in the photo is directed towards the table. It's what definitely draws the eye first. As the viewer, we are positioned a little above the table, making it seem like we're standing over the table, observing it. There is not much hidden from the viewer, at least nothing major. Uyl makes this image work because of how realistic it looks. The attention to detail on the shining silverware and the flowing white cloth is tremendous. If we were looking on Scott McClouds' "picture plane," this would be considered extreme realism and resemblance. It really does look like a photo, and it's no wonder this painting caught my eye when we were touring through the Museum of Fine Arts.

Modern Rome, Panini

Picture Gallery with Views of Modern Rome, by Panini, is an incredibly overwhelming piece. It is very realistic and extremely complex. Although there is some contrast between dark and light, it is very scattered and I would not say that it defines the work. The viewer's eye is drawn to the people standing and sitting in the room because they are more vivid, prominent figures, but it is very hard to remain focused on one portion of the image because there are so many small domains of focus throughout the painting. The piece is so cluttered with architecture, sculptures, and real people, that it is difficult to tell what is 'real' and what is just a painting within the painting. In the background of the painting, where the hall opens, the color of the sky matches the sky in many of the small paintings, creating the feeling of a room that is very open, even though it is cluttered. In the bottom left corner of the piece, there are tiny people that look as though they could be 'real', but are extremely out of proportion with the 'real' people because they are part of a smaller painting. This along with the deceptive skies creates a very surreal perspective and place for the viewer, as if the viewer is looking into a room in a dream-world.
This painting really provokes a feeling of magnificent luxury and wealth, but in excess. It is very reminiscent of current-day hoarding, and although beautiful, the painting is too busy and confusing to be a comfortable image to take in.

Savery, "Forest Scene with Hunters"

The major contrast between dark and light in this image is between the earthy, warm, dark colors used in the foreground and the ethereal, cool blue light of the town. It was this contrast that first grabbed me -- the juxtaposition of an almost heavenly depiction of civilization and the brown, vibrant nature scene surrounding it. This contrast seems to be the focus of the painting -- the large tree in the center is the largest and most central figure, but my eyes were drawn to the town beyond rather than to the tree itself. The next thing I noticed was that the hunters on the left seem to be no different than the various animals throughout the scene. Every living being in this painting seems to be going about its daily life, indifferent to the other species around it, the humans included. When you follow their eyes, none of these creatures seem to be looking at or to have noticed one another. It seems that they are on the same plane of consciousness, enveloped by and part of nature, while civilization glows in a ghostly and beautiful light off in the distance. Even the buildings in the upper right, while bathed in more earthy colors, tower high above the nature scene, the goats on the rocks, and even the waterfall, one of nature's most majestic creations. And furthermore, it seems that the viewer is placed on the ground with these creatures, a distance away from the group of humans but also part of this scene, and that the town beyond is something to which the viewer should aspire.

Self Portrait as a warrior By: Oskar Kokoschka

Self Portrait as a warrior
By: Oskar Kokoschka,r:3,s:0

I saw this sculpture on the way out of the museum. Aside from the frightening image of this mans face, I was fascinated with the fact that it was made in 1909, which meant innovation in my mind. As I read on, I found that this image was in fact extremely innovative for 1909. However, as most innovative artists experience, this piece experienced ridicule from many.
Reading the title "Self Portrait as a Warrior", made me think about how this artist could link his personal qualities to this horrific sculpture. When analyzing it, I couldn't help but to consider what the artist looked like, how he felt, and his creative intentions. For me, it gave more depth to the meaning behind the piece.
As far as I understood, most art back then used a lot of graceful linear forms. This sculpture did the exact opposite, focusing on deformity as the concentration of the face. (i.e. the bumpy nose, protruding eyes, and lips) These features made the face into a brutally expressive sculpture.
This piece focused my eye on the physical pain that this man was going through. Although, it was slightly unclear as to what he was going through, whether it was him being burned alive or something else.But after reading the description I understood that it is a man with his skin peeled back to reveal raw nerves and flesh.
The description, in my opinion, adds even more to the sculpture by confirming the details of what this man is going through. In this sculpture the use of the brownish-red color for the flesh mixed with the contrasting bright blue color of the eyes brings the observer in for a more intimate relationship with the piece, especially since the sculpture is something any observer can relate to, which is being human. The normal human qualities such as the general face shape, eyes, nose, mouth, etc. mixed with the abnormal color's and exaggerated wrinkles draws the observer into the piece which is a big part of what creates that feeling of connection.

MFA first Visit Assignment

After our class visit to the MFA I really dug the first thing that we looked at which was the sculpture of King Menkaure and his queen. There was no abstraction to this piece, it looked realistic, the each had 2 arms and 2 legs and everything seemed in portion but yet there was still something unnatural about it and I think it was just mainly the position they were standing in, very straight and forward, very not how people pose these days. Although we are physically placed in the presence of the figure and we can stand in front of it the statue doesn't really look at you it kind of looks above you. I guess if you were a King you would want you statue to be someone authoritative and un-relatable by having a very well built body, very straight and in your face without looking at you. Remind me to do the same when I get my statue made haha.

Max Beckman "Still Life with Three Skulls"

Max Beckman
"Still Life with Three Skulls"
Oil On Canvas

I saw this painting towards the end of our tour and thought it was very striking. For an oil canvas done in the late 40's it seemed a little out of place. I looked up Max Beckman. He was an artist of the post-expressionism era, also known as New Objectivity. This sort of art is characterized by plain, static, sustained and engrossing objects. In the era of the Nazi's, Adolf Hitler considered Beckman's art to be "degenerate", which is why I think this painting is really great. To begin with, it's themes are fairly dark. Pictured on a dresser are three skulls, some playing cards and what appears to be a bottle of booze and a gun. It uses third person perspective to show you these objects just how they should be in the style of New Objectivity: plain, static, parallel and unwaivering. The color is very thin and vague as well. It makes the tone of the painting very dark and edgy, which is certainly appropriate for the objects depicted in the painting. The style of the painting overall reinforces the objects shown. When you think of poker, skulls, guns, an alcohol, you generally think automatically of illegality, death, violence and drugs. Beckman's use of sharp strokes, fixed edges and cold imagery fit perfectly with what is being displayed in this work of art. It is also very appropriate for what we have been reading about comics, as this era of New Objectivity is influenced directly by interest in cartoon-like objects and the painting reflects this.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Welcome to VisCult Fall 2010!

This is the blog for Approaches to Visual Culture at Berklee College of Music, Fall 2010. This is also the required foundations course for the brand new minor in Visual Culture and Interactive Media Studies, an exciting area of the Berklee curriculum that encompasses art history, multimedia, media, film, and gaming studies.