Snapshot of the "High Scores" screen at the end of the night.

Competitive Breathalyzer

Video documentation of the Benefit Pary (Breathalyzer at 1:13) (via Machine Project).

I made this project for the Machine Project annual member benefit. The theme of the benefit was DMV: After Dark and featured a variety of offbeat DMV, Car and Driving Test-inspired activities and performances. My contribution was a game whose primary mechanic revolved around the guests Blood Alcohol Content (BAC).

I build a simple, DIY breathalyzer using Sparkfun’s MQ-3 gas-alcohol sensor. From there, I made a correlation between the output voltage and some standard ratings for BAC (considering weight, age, number of standard drinks/hour). For technical mumb-jumb, see below. The idea was for people to get their BAC as close as possible to a very specific amount: 0.0314 (PI!). The final screen of the game listed the top 10 scores of people who where the closes to 0.0314.

SPECULATIVE Panel Discussion @ LACE Gallery

Join us this Thursday, July 28, at 7pm for a panel discussion about the Speculative exhibit, it’s individual artists, and the larger curatorial goals for the show.

The panel will feature three wonderful guests: Jordan Crandall, Jack Halberstam and Rita Raley. Three artists from the show will also be on the panel including myself, Jeff Cain and Micha Cardenas.

Panel will be moderated by the curators, Zach Blas and Chris O’Leary.

Speaking @ The New Museum, NYC

I will be speaking on a panel at the New Museum on July 15, with 3 other Rhizome Commission winners from the 2010 cycle.

My presentation will focus on Measure Of Discontent, which was generously funded by Rhizome. I’ll be showing documentation of the three pieces involved, and speaking about the inspiration for the piece.

If you’re in the New York area, come on by!

Molecule

SPECULATIVE @ LACE Gallery

I will be showing a new piece, Water Rites, at the forthcoming exhibit, SPECULATIVE at Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions in Hollywood, CA. Read the curatorial statement here!
http://www.welcometolace.org/exhibitions/view/speculative/

The show is curated by Zach Blas and Christopher O’Leary and features work from 10 artists working in a variety of media.

Speculative will focus on new modes of art making and of presentation with an emphasis on the experiential, subversive, and tactical potentials for art in the 21st century. The projects included in this exhibition engage wildly diverse mediums from critical software, art-science, social practices, experimental video, wearable architecture, performance works and much more.

Read On…

Impractically, Practical

I am exhibiting the Sigh Collector and the Foot Tap Amplifier at “Impractically, Practical”, an exhibit in downtown Los Angeles, curated by Matt Manos.

The show runs from 9 June to 14 July, 2011. 860 S. Broadway, Los Angeles CA 90014

SPECULATIVE: Curatorial Statement

Written by Zach Blas and Chris O’Leary:

Today, we see the world we live in as an inviable world, and yet a world poised for radical reconfiguration.

From global economic crises to pandemic panics to burgeoning forms of hatred and control to the ravaging of our earth, new borders and quarantines haunt and terrorize the world at stochastic levels of the global, nation-state, informatics, and the biological. Indeed, our world presents to us the seemingly complete commodification of life, culture, the body, the planet.

Yet, we find within these very inviabilities the kernels of potential to enact and push forward new ways, worlds, and lives.

In fact, we see many up-risings emerging everywhere: from the calls to action of militant groups like The Invisible Committee to the UC student protests to the insurrections of the Middle East to the digital activisims of WikiLeaks and Anonymous.

These all point toward living and existing in the world another way.

We see the SPECULATIVE as the uniting force in our artwork that conjures forth the potential of the world we want, in political, cultural, social, sexual, technological, biological, economic, and ecological dimensions.

The SPECULATIVE is that imaginative, aesthetic work done by the artist to create new possibilities, inspire change, gesture toward a livable future, and generate new tactics and methodologies.

The SPECULATIVE  asks us to use our imagination politically.

The SPECULATIVE allows us to subvert reality; practice new types of activism; work with the impossible as a political framework; rediscover the magic of our materials; question what a body and collective is capable of; locate new sexualities and perversities; reconfigure capitalism, design, and branding; create new worlds, peoples, species, and ecologies; find embodiments and other productive actions that emerge from war, apocalypses, disasters, and death; and build our dream utopias.

Measuring Water Flow

Came across this project while researching different approaching to monitoring water. I like the clean, sleek method they employ — right out of the sink, over the air, and into a visualization. Also I like the open-source aspect of it — that they listed their materials and detailed their process. I’m intrigued by the flow sensor they reference. Buying one now, to play with.

Putting a human face to water conservation

I’ve been doing some research lately about the politics of water. Being a resident of Los Angeles and a fan of LA-specific dystopian scenarios (had a blast watching “Battle: LA”), I’ve been considering a new piece about the future of water. More specifically, I’ve been looking at ways to put a human face to the issue, and suggest (but not be totally didactic about) how terrified I am about the impending resource wars of the near future…

Anyway, I was looking up DIY techniques for desalinating ocean water, and I came across this wonderful short film. It put a big smile on my face. “Mi abuela María” directed by David Valero for the Spanish eco-short-films festival La Luciernaga fundida.

Critical Potential

Today, I gave a talk to some art students in a class at Pomona College (Claremont, CA).

I like giving talks about my work because it forces me to spend some extra time thinking about how to best contextualize it for a new audience. Here’s a little bit of a review of how I introduced my work today:

I began by discussing the strategies in science fiction, particularly in a more recognizable situation like the ‘space opera’ of the Roddenberry University (Star Trek). In these types of shows, we often see the civilization of the future, cruising the galaxy and encountering cultures or civilizations that remind us of 20th or 21st century earth, and some common problem from that century (race, gender discrimination, pollution, etc..). From the enlightened perspective of the future, the crew of the Enterprise would alway help them take steps towards overcoming these issues. This is a common strategy in Science Fiction — Use of an enlightened, future vantage point in order to critique or suggest solutions for contemporary debacles.

I then move on to introduce the idea of “atemporality”, vis-a-vis Bruce Sterling.

Here’s a description from an earlier blog post. But to more quickly introduce the idea of atemporality, I referenced this H.G. Wells book from 1933, “The Shape of Things To Come”, in which Wells describes a history textbook published in the year 2106, and the various events therein that shaped humanity. A similar critical strategy, but plays with time-scales a little bit more.

I wanted to show another example of good socially bent sci-fi that wasn’t a “space opera” like Star Trek or Star Wars, so I referenced the 2006 film “Children Of Men” (Alfonso Cuaron) to discuss the idea of a “near future” or alternate present, even, as a critical strategy. What really interests me about the world design in C.O.M. is the fact that the future is only slightly advanced (different car and computer designs) but instead of the usual slick veneer we’re used to seeing in scifi, the technology is all slightly dilapidated and antiqued. I’m interested in the antiquing of non-existent technologies. It’s a clever way of introducing the context of the film, which is a not-too-distant future with some advancement — but one that is ultimately still flawed.

At this point, I introduced Critical Design as emerging from some of these strategies, but not referencing them directly. The of Dunne & Raby and students/colleagues of there’s at RCA (Noam Toran, James Auger, Jimmy Loizeau, etc.) represent a conflation of industrial design, critical theory and even a touch of anthropology. Without claiming to know a great amount about anthropology, It still seems to me that a critical, investigatory, research oriented practice (like the work of these designer) mimics, in many ways, the strategies of anthropology. The discourse is centered around objects and their documentation, however, and not publica

tions. This was a good moment to pull up my usual favorite quote from Dunne’s book “Hertzian Tales” about the critical potential of seeing a work, seeing a case study, and imagining yourself using it (or even further, the potential future/alt-present context in which one might use it). I also introduced them to the work of Maywa Denki and mentioned the tradition of Japanese “Device Art”.

Referencing Jack Kevorkian’s suicide machines, after all this, offers an alternative way of thinking about critical design, that is outside of the art and design community…

Finally, to review it all, I showed a slide from Scott McCloud’s book “Understanding Comics”. There is a chapter called Blood In the Gutter, in which McCloud explains how in sequential media (comics, in this example), audiences can complete a whole idea by perceiving various, fragmented parts. The imagination is the glue that makes the necessary connections. This is called closure, and it is the grammar in sequential media, with the visual eleme

nts being the vocabulary. To illustrate this idea, McCloud talks about the white space in between panels of comics: it is called the “gutter”. In a subject-to-subject transition like the one below, the actual axe-fall takes place in the gutter. It’s really up to your imagination to determine how horrible the death is. McCloud writes,

To kill a man between panels it to condemn him to a thousand deaths.

Meaning that there is an important distinction to make between how much to show vs. not show, as an artist, and an necessary awareness of how much the audience will “read in” on their own.

It was fun to recap everything we had just looked at, with the concepts of closure and the gutter in mind. It reinforces the idea introduced by Anthony Dunne, that the conceptual power of speculative art and design is in the balance between seeing the work physically and imagining using it. I would refer to this as the work’s “critical potential”.

It was a this point, I went into showing my own projects, having contextualized them in some of these ideas/strategies.
I found the talks today invigorating, and inspiring. The students had some good questions about the nature of documentation and different distribution strategies for work like this. We ended up having a pretty good dialogue about the growing need to investigate the appropriate context for showing your work, and how the context in which it’s seen can radically change its meaning.

I’ll be back in the studio soon, working on some new pieces, so stay tuned. It’s been a long gestation period but I have a few ideas on the backburner. And the third piece in the Measure of Discontent series is underway for a March deadline at Rhizome.

m.

Speaking at IxDA

I’ll be giving a talk about my work at a Los Angeles node of the IxDA Conference (Interaction Design Association)
If you live in LA, try to come by!