Tiff Talk Tomorrow

Note: This entry was written Thursday, September 29th, two days before the talk. I didn’t have a chance to edit and post the entry until the day after the talk.

I have a talk coming up at SoOnCon this Saturday. Brad and I will be standing on a stage in the Tiff Bell Lightbox giving a 30 minute presentation about the problems we see with the art world.

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What I’ve got going on: Blue-Chip Show, TEDx, SoOnCon

Last year at this time, I was frantically working to get “Take a Picture” finished in time for it’s big debut at Nuit Blanche. Brad and I were spending an average of 18 hours a day hand-etching circuit boards, inserting components, soldering, and assembling. Between the two of us, we made just over one thousand boards.

When I wasn’t building, I was typing. I tried to get in as many blog updates as I could. The idea was to plant some digital seeds by writing about the issues that Take a Picture was attempting to tackle. That way, I would be mentally prepared for the questions that would undoubtedly arise throughout the course of the evening. These posts would also serve as a landing pad for interested spectators. If people really like the project, we owe it to them to ensure that there is more content available for them to look up later. Never launch an idea or project without first building the infrastructure to support it. This way, on the off-chance that the idea made it big, I’d be prepared for it.

During the event itself, it was decided that we would not be participating in Nuit Blanche in 2011. It’s not because we had a bad experience or anything like that; we just missed seeing Nuit Blanche ourselves. We were stuck in front of our project the entire night, unable to see any other work. We didn’t want to become disconnected from the experience of participating in Nuit Blanche as art fans.

In the days that followed, the reviews were harsh; too many projects were artists responding to other artists, there was little for non-insiders to enjoy. I fear that if I spend all my time presenting art, I will lose that powerful and direct “This is what I want to see, damnit!” attitude and start producing empty fluff. I don’t want to produce empty art fluff, I want to keep on making cool stuff. I hope this doesn’t sound conceted or egotistical, but I like to make art that I would like to see. So this year the plan was to do nothing. I’d Sit back, relax, enjoy some free time leading up to Nuit Blanche, and hit the sites in ‘art spectator mode’, I’m not going to have to do anything.

That was the plan. The next several paragraphs deal with with why that isn’t going to happen.

Continue reading What I’ve got going on: Blue-Chip Show, TEDx, SoOnCon

October Studio Update

Nuit Blanche turned out to be far more work than I had planned for, but that extra work is now paying off. Over these past few days, Brad and I have been reworking ‘Take a Picture’, creating a new series of invisible images for people to look at. As far as the technical aspects go, we definitely over-engineered our design. That decision is making “Take a Picture: Phase II” go a lot faster than Round 1. In the past two days, we’ve managed to accomplish what took us one month last time around.
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My Nuit Blanche Adventure: Aftermath

My Nuit Blanche Adventure: Part 4: Aftermath

It is October 3rd. For the first time in weeks, I wake up feeling well-rested. It is 4:00 Sunday afternoon. Normally I would feel awful for sleeping in this late, but after last night, 4:00pm is a good time to be up. I’ve got absolutely nothing planned for the day. At last, I’ve got some free time; but what should I do with it? Well, I guess it’s time for some much-needed website maintenance, and I should probably catch up on my email, which has been sorely neglected these past few months. A lazy catch-up day sounds about right.

Of course, within 5 minutes of turning on my laptop, I forget all about the website and email, and I find myself surfing the web, looking for reviews of this year’s Nuit Blanche, hoping that someone has said something nice about Take a Picture. I find some discussions about Nuit Blanche, but every time I hit ‘refresh’ more comments have come in. Maybe I should wait on this for a bit.

I make a cup of tea and go over the memories from last night. I ask myself, “What did I experience last night that is truly blog-worthy?”
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My Nuit Blanche Adventure: Show Time

During Scotiabank Nuit Blanche 2010, I was making random notes to capture my thoughts and experiences. Although these entries are typed up and posted after the event took place, they are based on notes made in the heat of the moment.

My Nuit Blanche Adventure: Part 3: Show Time

Inside the venue, the five of us are going over the procedures one last time. The three volunteers get a crash course in the concepts behind this series. Each volunteer was equipped with a digital camera. In case a viewer arrived without a camera of their own, our volunteers would be able to show them the effect. It is important not to exclude members of out audience. We went over some logistics.
“Expect a film crew to come in and document the work, expect an organizer to come around and confirm some things, expect these people to do this, watch out for that”, etc.
When all that is settled, Brad and I exchange some silly banter. I’m terrible with small talk, but I’m going to be doing a lot of it this evening, so it’s a good idea to get warmed up, and Brad’s quick wit is a big help. It forces me to start thinking in words, then gets me doing it faster.

I have a terrible fear that something should be going horribly wrong at any moment. I can’t think of anything that we missed, but the whole set up process just seemed too easy. Nothing is ever this easy. Brad assures me that when you plan everything out ahead of time, this is how things should go; it all just works.

Show time arrives, and it’s time to begin our Nuit Blanche adventure. The doors are opened, and no one rushes in.
In my planning, I had been so worried about accommodating a massive crowd, I never thought about the possibility that no one would show up. I guess we are a bit off the beaten path, and the sign is kinda hard to see, but no one? No one at all? Not one single person waiting to get in? This is really depress…..oh, wow, people!
Continue reading My Nuit Blanche Adventure: Show Time

My Nuit Blanche Adventure: The Storm before the Storm

In the days leading up to Scotiabank Nuit Blanche 2010, and during the day of the event itself, I was making random notes to capture my thoughts and experiences during the lead up to, the actual event, and the aftermath of Nuit Blanche. Although these entries are are going to be typed up and posted after the event took place, they are based on notes made in the heat of the moment.

My Nuit Blanche Adventure: Part 2: The Storm Before the Storm.

I had been asleep for about 20 minutes when the phone rang. It looks like I’m going to be a little late getting to the venue for the final touches of our set up. It’s a good thing I did most of my packing the night before. Breakfast consists of an apple that is starting to go soft from sitting too long, and a cup of what I call a ‘triple instant’. A triple instant is 3 cups of instant coffee in one cup. It’s far from tasty, but very much needed this morning.

The brisk walk isn’t enough to jump start my body, but I do manage to arrive in a reasonable amount of time, 5 minutes faster than expected. We get to work. The wires are being cut to size, and I have Brad replace every single one of them with speaker wire. it is a needless cosmetic change, but I think it’s one of those subtle extras that will make a difference. Brad doesn’t put up much of an argument, and in the end, he agrees with me. Usually, I’m the one saying “it’s good enough” while Brad is demanding more unnecessary cosmetic changes. I guess he realized that if I’m the one saying it needs to be changed to look good, then it must really need to be changed to look good. So, Brad starts doing his thing, and it’s time for me to start doing mine…only my exhausted mind never thought to pack my tools last night. All those tools are still at home, on the table by the door. So, less than an hour after walking to the venue, I have to walk the 2.4km back to my house, pick up my tools, then walk another 2.4km back to the venue, and get to work.
Continue reading My Nuit Blanche Adventure: The Storm before the Storm

My Nuit Blanche Adventure: The Calm Before the Storm

In the days leading up to Scotiabank Nuit Blanche 2010, and during the day of the event itself, I was making random notes to capture my thoughts and experiences during the lead up to, the actual event, and the aftermath of Nuit Blanche. Although these entries are are going to be typed up and posted after the event took place, they are based on notes made in the heat of the moment.

Part One: The Calm Before The Storm

October 2nd, 2010

(Yea, I know that is a clichéd expression, but I’m a painter, not a poet, and that phrase captures the mood I’m in, so it stays.)

The lead up to this day has been intense. Weeks of steady 14-hour workdays have given way to a roller coaster oscillating between periods of insane last-minute busyness, followed by hours of empty free time.
In the mad rush to get everything done, there was little time for anxiety, for nervousness, anticipation, or for excitement. My attention was so focused on the work in front of me that I didn’t have room to worry about anything else. The small windows of free time that have opened up during these past few days have allowed all those previously ignored emotions to flood my senses. Throughly unhelpful worries and worst-case-scenario situations have overtaken my mind.
Continue reading My Nuit Blanche Adventure: The Calm Before the Storm

Take a Picture: Promo

Scotiabank Nuit Blanche 2010 is coming up in less than a week now, and it’s getting harder for me to contain my excitement.

If you haven’t been to the Take a Picture video page, you might have missed the two promo videos Brad and I have released for the Take a Picture project. Not to worry, I’m not going to send you on an internet scavenger hunt. I have included both of the videos with this post!
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Expanding on ‘Take a Picture’

In the last entry, I introduced you to the reason for my recent focus on taking pictures of art: My next art project is about this very topic. These are the ideas that have been dominating my thoughts lately. It’s what I’ve been thinking about; it’s what I’ve been talking about; therefore, it’s what I’ve been writing about.

When I’m working on something, I like to completely immerse myself in ideas surrounding the topic I’m dealing with in the artwork. I usually start with a very clear and focused thought that I want to develop. I work out the basics, and create a rough sketch or guide to work with. That rough plan must be very flexible, because I find that the ideas I develop throughout production are far more interesting than the initial thought that started the whole thing. I’ve got to anticipate some unexpected turns on my journey to completion. Countless little choices pop up during the process of actually making a finished piece, and I believe that having the right ideas floating around in my head can inform the decisions that I make, and the result is a much stronger finished product.
Well, that’s the idea at least.

The final paragraph of the last entry listed some of the points I wish to raise with “Take a Picture”, but I didn’t actually talk about how I was approaching those issues.

In this entry, I will break down that final paragraph, and expand on each of those points.
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Take a Picture

From reading my entries so far, it may seem that I have a one-track mind: my only interest is photographing art. There is a reason for this singular focus up to this point. Over the past several months, I have been working on a project that is specifically about photographing art. The issues of art, photography, copyright, digital technologies, and social media have been dominating my thoughts and conversations for a very long time now. It seems only natural that those ideas would spill into this blog as well.

This project has grown out of my interest in free culture. This interest began with an angry museum guard yelling at me for taking some pictures. It grew as I began teaching myself some basic computer programming, where I quickly discovered how wonderful it is to have access to a body of free knowledge, ideas, and materials. Working with electronics, and having a constant need for datasheets and schematics only strengthened this opinion. But, it was Windows Vista that finally provided me with that final push to fully embrace the world of open source. What I found was a world where just about any small tool was freely available with just a few keystrokes (provided I could get the damn wireless connection to work) As a user, the benefits of this mindset, this ecosystem of permissive sharing is very appealing. But I’m not just a content consumer, I’m also an artist; I am a content creator. It’s only fair that as a producer, I should try to pass on the same benefits that I enjoy as a consumer.

The art world that I learned about back in art school was one that prides itself on being part of the cultural avant garde. My experience in the art business leaves me thinking that the culture surrounding free software is several decades ahead of the culture surrounding the arts.

The prohibition of museum photography is something that I believe turns art from a shared cultural artifact into a private commodity. This restriction turns a painting into an object where permission must be sought to do what comes naturally to myself and many of my peers: taking pictures of the cool things we see, and sharing the details online. Realizing that these private commodities live in publicly-funded museums only adds insult to injury. I can’t photograph what I paid for? The objects that are said to represent culture are locked out of the shared attitudes and practices that actually characterize our culture.

I am interested in culture, not commodities. Preventing images from being shared removes them from our shared cultural experience. To quote Cory Doctorow, “It’s not culture if you’re not allowed to talk about it.” Sending pictures back and forth and posting them online is how my generation talks about things.
Continue reading Take a Picture