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waaaay too busy

It feels like I haven't had a breath since last spring. As soon as the spring semester ended I started working on my tenure documentation which had an initial deadline of August 1st. Simultaneously, Patrick and I started work on the Siggraph, Tracing Home exhibition which opened August 7th. It was a wonderful show/experience: hard work but tons of fun. There are a lot of pictures and information about this over on the Open House website (see installation).

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Setup at the Vancouver Convention Center (above)

Since then I've been catching up on everything that was put off in the interim. I'm focusing on "Critical Utopia" this semester in graduate seminar, which I find exciting. We'll be doing projects around/with/in Orlando (Disney World, Celebration, Epcot). I'm also excited to be teaching the Art Games::Game Engines class again this semester.

Hopefully things will begin to slow down a bit, though I'm suspicious it won't. I still have tenure packet work to do and a show coming up in November. I have been working with Anna Callouri-Holcombe putting together a Provost's Digital Fabrication Lab Award that we'll jury in October. Can't wait to see what people submit! So...back to work...

CAA + New Media Showcase

Had a great time in New York at the College Art Association Conference. I hadn't been in a while, so it was great to see some familiar faces. The biggest surprise was walking towards the Christian Marclay show in Chelsea and looking up to see Carol LaFayette (my friend and dissertation advisor)! We had a great time catching up on things and seeing some work. "The Clock" was alright. I want to like it, but my feelings were similar to these. I'm very suspicious of nostalgia, with the way the work was edited, that seemed to be an overly important part of the experience.

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Saved lots of money with this room!

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Richard Hamilton's DIAB DS-101 Computer at MoMA

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Image from the Art of Pranks panel at CAA.

One of the most enjoyable sessions I attended was the Art of Pranks panel. It was practically a Fluxus performance in itself with Beauvais Lyons, Sarah Archino, Albert Godycki, Hannah Higgins, Simon Anderson, Lisa Sayles, Clark Stoeckley (in police uniform) and Andy Bichlbaum from the Yes Men.

Eddie Shanken's panel New Media, Art-Science, and Mainstream Contemporary Art: Toward a Hybrid Discourse? was great as well. Full documentation can be found at his site, HERE. I especially enjoyed Christiane Paul's description of "Relational Aesthetics Syndrome"...a sort of amnesia for work that truly works with communication/dialogism/participation. Her view is that the problem is not with the artworld/art; it is that "art history has a major problem"!

¡SIN! Exhibition

Just got back from Miami where I installed a new piece for the ¡SIN! exhibition at Bakehouse Art Complex. It's a really cool place with studios that reminded me a lot of my days with Purse Building Studios and Houston's warehouse arts district. The new piece is titled Maintaining Appearances. The exhibition is thematically tied to the 7 deadly sins, with works chosen by curators from Florida museums: Bass Museum, Art Center, Museum of Contemporary Art, Miami Art Museum, Frost Art Museum and The Wolfsonian. Maintaining Appearances is a dual channel, synchronized video projection chosen by Silvia Karman Cubiñá of the Bass Museum for the section focusing on GREED.

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I'll post some more images from the opening and better images of the work, later.

The Monitor

The Christian Science Monitor published a print and web article on Open House titled Open house: Foreclosure art meets the whims of the web.

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observing the simulacra

As an artist interested in ideology and how culture is formed and manipulated, the mortgage crisis is an ideal laboratory. Over the last week the "foreclosure crisis" has moved to the top of the national discourse as people begin to realize what is happening....or do they? The issue has been framed in the media as a problem with "paperwork". As is typical, the need to distill complex issues to sound bytes that engage public sentiment for short durations trumps a close analysis of the situation. The financial industry is perfectly happy with this framing, and considering that their advertising dollars pay the network meal-ticket, everyone is happy with this simplification. Politicians, preparing for the upcoming elections are happy, they appear to "support the little guy" while simultaneously diverting the real issue in a way that protects their campaign fund-raising....once again, thank you financial industry.

In an article called Obama Calls the Question on Geithner, Robert Kuttner begins to spell it out. Despite the wishful mantra that the "recession is over", the economic collapse is not complete. We've masked the problem and attempted to protect the financial industry by offloading the costs of their greed and ineptitude onto the middle class (not once via TARP, but now, again, via the land-grab that is the foreclosure crisis). The conservative right, in keeping with their modus to simplify everything to a form that supports their world-view, continues to blame the crisis on "people who bought more than they could afford" and are similarly happy with a scenario that makes the middle class pay. Kuttner gets it right that,

"Most of the underwater homeowners, now almost one in three, are not speculators or people who took out sub-prime loans. They are simply ordinary Americans whose houses are suddenly worth less than the mortgages on them, because of the general collapse in housing prices."

The reality is that the financial industry caused this collapse by cannibalizing itself and our country in order to maximize profits. In Foreclosure Fraud for Dummies, 1: The Chains and the Stakes, Mike Konczai does a good job of illustrating what has happened. Giving the industry the benefit-of-the-doubt, one might say that they engaged in faulty paperwork because they are soooo overwhelmed with foreclosures (this is the message they are portraying via the media). One thing we should have learned, recently, is NOT to give industry that benefit! The reality is that in their rush to securitize mortgages (ie, make additional money with them, over and above the traditional form of profiting from loans through interest), the financial industry ignored law and separated mortgage notes and deeds of trust from the underlying loans. In other words, while gorging at the trough, it was inconvenient (re less profitable) for them to do what the law required, and maintain the original loan documents. Now we are left with a situation where who knows who owes what to whom. Compounding the issue, the securities in which they wrapped these mortgages are now practically worthless because the "cat is out of the bag". Nevertheless, they are intent on retrieving as much of this "investment" as possible by sticking it to homeowners who now own mortgages that are irreparably damaged. No wonder the banks won't work with people to renegotiate their loans or short-sale properties.

So this is a war between the haves and have-nots. Institutions rely on social control mechanisms to enforce their power. One such mechanism is the ethic of debt. We are taught that if we borrow money we should do whatever is possible to pay it back, even if it is to our own personal detriment. Unfortunately, in the US, that ethic is not applied evenly to institutions and individuals. John Courson, CEO of Mortgage Bankers Association chides families for walking away from their homes, while his enterprise does exactly the same thing, defaulting on their new $80 million dollar building in Washington D.C. As this 60 Minutes piece points out, given the current circumstances with banks holding borrowers hostage, it may be smarter to dump it before you are driven to bankruptcy: The Case For Walking Away From Your Mortgage - 60 Minutes

The bottom line is that we have a serious problem, and the cause of that problem isn't the people at the bottom. As we've seen over and over, the problem is at the top, the logical result of deregulated capitalism, and it's high time they pay the price for their actions.

Open House

Myself and Patrick LeMieux have been working on a project called Open House. It involves a "distressed" home (ie, one that is under threat of foreclosure) here in Gainesville. You can read more about it at the website, but the point of the work is to draw a parallel between a virtual representation of reality and "reality" which, it turns out, is equally virtual. The housing market in the US (particularly in places like Florida, California, Nevada, Arizona, etc) is a virtual construct that has real world ramifications. Homes are deemed to have a certain value and people buy them trusting that this value is somewhat based in a logical, trustworthy system of value-determination. The US "housing crisis" illustrates that this system is a sham, that values are created by an elite to support the goals and desires of that elite. Housing prices in areas where people would especially like to live (or needed to live in order to work) were inflated to maximize corporate profits. Realtors, appraisers, mortgage companies, banks, investors, speculators and others drove prices so high that to purchase a modest home in one of these markets families had to commit to huge loans. This created a "bubble", otherwise known as a pyramid scheme, where those at the top profitted immensely as long as no one got wise. Of course, the bubble burst, and families at the bottom (especially those who purchased property in one of these markets in the 2006-2007 time period) were left with mortgages that were two and three times the actual, post-bubble, "value" of their home. If they needed to sell, say for a job change or loss of employment, or simply couldn't make the payments because of the resulting economic collapse, they quickly found that selling was an impossibliity.  The greedy banks, despite receiving trillions in tax-payer bailouts and having profited in the trillions through the securitization of mortgages, refused to adjust mortgages to reflect "real-world" conditions. Instead, the largest transfer of wealth in human history (from the middle-class to the rich) has begun, as they take property and force families into bankruptcy.

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More info HERE

Building on some of our work on Game-Space, the we simulate the physical home in a video game environment and distribute it as a computer application. The virtual representation of the house is overlayed with real-time streaming video of the physical home. To support our concept that "real" and "virtual" are not so distinct, we worked hard to make the virtual environment as photo-real as possible. We also wanted to highlight the idea that the "virtual" can have real-world consequences. Using a series of relays and an Arduino tied to the game engine and a network server, we gave the viewer the ability to open the front door to the home, as well as open the blinds and turn on/off a light. So, those are the basic concepts. I'm really happy with the way it turned out.

What's up?

I'm noticing a pattern. People ask "what's up?" and when I tell them I'm on "research leave" for the semester, they give me this "wow, must be cushy" response; as if I am on vacation, LOL. As you might be able to tell by the lack of activity on my blog, this is hardly the case. Since finishing teaching in May, I don't recall ever having worked harder. I spent much of May working on between[x and y], and June, July and the first half of August were spent working with Patrick on Open House. 14 hour days, 7 days a week gets pretty tiring. I was fortunate to get a grant from UF for myself and an assistant (Patrick) to go to Germany for a "media art tour" during ISEA and Ars Electronica. We wanted to show Open House while we were over there, and despite our best intentions, we ended up spending the first two weeks in Germany looking at it from the window of our hotel in Dusseldorf while engaging in a bit of "extreme programming"! It all worked out, though, and we are extremely happy with the end result. We had a great time showing Open House to people at both conferences as well as the community at-large. Seeing the work, particularly at the Ars Electronica: REPAIR exhibition, rejuvenated my desire to make. After a bit of recovery time and catching up on school-related things (meetings, meetings, meetings), I'm eager to spend the rest of my "break" making new work. It's been a LONG time (10 yrs?) since I've had time, with no impending deadlines, to JUST MAKE WORK.

appleton exhibition

Had a wonderful time at the Florida Installation Biennial at the Appleton Museum in Ocala.  Ruth Grim, a new curator at the museum, organized an excellent event that is a big change from the typical programming they've had in the past.  Many of the visitors had some great questions at the opening.  You can read a bit about it here.  I also posted info/images of my piece, between[x and y], in the artwork section.  The exhibition runs through August 8th.

new setup

Back in 2000 (or so), I purchased an Xserve to support various research projects.  It was a sweet machine that never let me down, but I knew after 10 years I needed to start considering a replacement.  Game-Space in particular was a lot of load for such an old machine.  Fortunately, UF came through and provided funds to replace it with a new XServe that absolutely rocks!  Of course, migrating 10 years worth of custom code and various bits to a new architecture (PPC to Intel) has been time consuming.  Things are just about there, and now I can start thinking about new work!!! 

A victim of the transition is my Moveable Type, jigglingwhisker blog.  I was getting tired of spelling j-i-g-g-l-i-n-g-w-h-i-s-k-e-r for people, and moving from 32bit to 64bit and other issues broke MT, so it seemed like a good time to start with a clean slate.  I wanted to learn drupal, but was afraid I'd loose all my MT content.  Fortunately, that wasn't a problem at all.  I think I'm in good shape now and look forward to using a more powerful tool like drupal.

FDS Pics

I finally got around to uploading imagery from the Futures of Digital Studies conference, co-sponsored by our program, the Media Studies program in English, and the Digital Assembly student group.  The associated exhibition Text Fields was really nice.  Included is some video of Cayley and Howe's Readers Project, and Imposition.

digitalmedia.arts.ufl.edu/gal/misc/fds/

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