Pneu. Ma. Tique.

Thus uttered Antoine Doinel in Truffaut’s film “Stolen Kisses” as a farewell letter to Madame Tabard is shussh-ered off through the Parisian pneumatic tube postal system..

Just enjoyed a coffee and reading Molly Steenson‘s article called Interfacing with the Subterranean on pneumatic tubes infrastructures in Issue 41 of the lovely, always diversely curious Cabinet Magazine. A nice little read on a system we’d now look on as antique, baroque and not just a little bit steampunk-y. That’s her up top sharing with me some of the very intriguing primary research she’s unearthed as she drops-gear and toe-and-heels the turn into the final lap of her dissertation Grand Prix race.

Aside from being still perplexed at how this proto-type internetwork of connected *tubes actually was able to route things hither-and-yon over cities and all such — I find it fascinating that versions of the hardware stack continue to exist in various ways. There are intranets within buildings still. The intriguing aspect of this is the material form that is rhymed (not perhaps on purpose or by design) by the networks electronic of today. Those guys standing around in the rooms receiving and continuing the little chariots of messages are little routers and TCP/IP compliant protocol handlers, one could think.

Why do I blog this? To capture a small historical scrapnote on the always constantly prototyping mechanics of communication that humans perform. This was likely perceived as wondrous, high-technology in its day. I’m surrounded this week by the hubris of high-technology prototyping, creation and thinking. Not all of it wondrous. Some of it down-right silly. Words like “engine” and context and gobble-dee-gook engineerig-y semantics make a hash of what the utterer may think of as perfectly reasonable sentence structure and syntax. I can’t tell verbs from nouns when I hear about context engines deciding that I’m in a meeting and little “agents” squirreled away on the chipset in my hand decide to book lunch but not before my chipmunk agent grabs an auctioneers gavel and let my local restaurants bid for he pleasure of my ordering a sandwich. I don’t believe this is an interesting future. There are others. More whimsical. More fun. More pneumatic.
Continue reading Pneu. Ma. Tique.

What Mike Said

Sunday November 14 13:06

In the lead-up to Kicker Studio’s Device Design Day coming up on August 5th 2011 in San Francisco, the Kicker Studioites asked Mike Kruzeniksi, who’s giving a talk there, their Six Questions..

Kicker Studio: What is the most cherished product in your life? Why?

Mike Kruzeniski: This is one of those questions that you feel like you’re supposed to have an answer to, but nothing comes strongly to mind. Maybe I’m stuck on the word “cherished.” I do have a lot of products that I really like. Some that I might even say I love, in that way the word love gets thrown around design. I love my Prius. I love watches, Alessi and Nixon in particular. I have a lot of shoes…but love my Converse All-Stars and John Fluevog’s the most. I have a pair of classic Tom Ford sunglasses that I love. I love my Eames furniture. I have a large collection of mobile phones, and as far as products go, I spend more time with my phone and PC than anything (and maybe anyone) else. I just bought a new camera and so far that relationship is off to a very good start. But, I don’t think of any of these things as “cherished.” The emotional connection with them isn’t strong enough to deserve that. Maybe that’s being too literal with the question, but all of these things can be replaced. They will be replaced, eventually.

When I think about the objects in my life that I do actually feel a sense of “cherishing” for, there are two, but they aren’t really products. The first is a painting that my wife and I bought together on our first vacation, in Bangkok. We met the artist and ended up drinking all night with him and his friends, despite neither us being able to speak Thai, or them English. The second is the ring that I proposed to my wife with, which I folded out of paper. Yes, paper. Both of these objects have great stories surrounding them and make me happy just thinking about them—and always will. Both are fragile, by their nature won’t last, and are the only things in my apartment that I would actually feel a strong sense of loss for if they were damaged or lost. Both represent a lot more to me than just what they physically are. There is no newer or better version of those objects. And unlike a lot of other things their impermanence only increases their value, at least to me.

As a product designer though, that sort of sentimentalism and interest in stories often finds its way in to my approach toward design. I’ve always been interested in experiences where meaning unfolds, and products that aren’t “done” but leave opportunities for a relationship and a story to take place. I’m still not sure it’s something that can really be designed in, but it’s worth trying.

What’s the one product you wished you designed?

The Nokia 3310 and Twitter. What I like about both of them is that they reduced emerging trends of their time (mobile communication and social networking) to an almost absolute clarity and simplicity.

Though the 3310 wasn’t actually my first mobile phone, I tend to remember it that way. At least it was my first mobile phone that really felt right. Like all technologies in their early stages, mobile phones had mainly been comprised of complicated experiences and were sold on feature specs. But the 3310 was an impressively clear expression of what a mobile product should and could be. It was the kind of product that was so pleasant to use that you form some emotional attachment to it. It was one of the best selling phones ever, it was inexpensive, and was very early in the mobile market, so it was the first mobile phone for A LOT of people. I imagine that most of them probably look back on that product with a smile as well.

Similarly, Twitter took existing communication, interaction and networking concepts and reduced them to a very clear and simple experience. I respect their focus and how they’ve confidently avoided layering on extra features over the years. I really admire how they’ve grown around the the behaviors of their users but also elegantly guided users where they’ve evolved the experience. I love their approach to openness and how they’ve built Twitter to feel more like a platform than a product. I think that Twitter has become the most important evolution of communication since the mobile phone.

And their brand is just fun.

Both products are/were simple, focused, meaningful, have a sense of humor, well-made, beautifully designed and accessible. These are all attributes that admire and hope to bring to my own work.

What excites you about being a designer? Why do you keep doing it?

From the very beginning when I was just learning what design was, I’ve always liked the way design influenced my way of looking at and understanding the world. Once you learn it, you can’t turn it off. Everything is at once a problem and an opportunity. I like the always optimistic mindset that design provides when approaching problems. I like the constant questioning and I like the attitude that most designers have of wanting to make everything around them better. I like the opportunities that design continues to bring: I feel like every project I find myself working on is more exciting than the last. As I grow, the opportunities for influence and impact in my work increases. And as a discipline, I feel like design is continually finding its way in to more interesting industries and settings. Our collective influence and impact is increasing. Of course design itself can’t fix everything, but I do think that there is a role for designers in any of the hardest societal and industrial problems. The boundaries of what design is and does is always expanding. That’s exciting.

When do you first remember thinking of yourself as a designer.

I took to the idea of being “a designer” very quickly in school. Design wasn’t a profession that I had ever heard of growing up, but I went to Emily Carr University (an Art and Design school in Vancouver) right after high chool. My love for painting, sculpture and drawing led me there. But as much as I loved art, I didn’t believe that I’d ever make a profession out of it. I didn’t really know what I was going to do at Emily Carr. In the second semester of my first year though, I stumbled upon an introduction to Industrial Design class. I had to beg my way into the class since I had missed the sign-up date. When that didn’t work, I showed up to the class anyway and eventually the Prof let me stay. As a kid, I was never very fond of math, but I always loved physics. So, the combination of applied problem solving, making and aesthetic discourse in design struck a chord immediately. At the same time came this almost painfully naive realization that EVERYTHING around me had—in varying degrees of success—been designed by someone somewhere. It was fun to explain that to friends and family, and even more fun learning to see that there were opportunities to improve and invent things everywhere. I think that’s what eventually led me to the Interaction Design space. For products at the time, it seemed to me like the biggest problem that needed solving.

What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned, and who taught it to you?

I first studied industrial design, then went to Umeå in Sweden to study interaction design. In between my two years at Umeå I took an internship at Microsoft. My first love for design came very firmly through the perspective of industrial design and products. Though I was really excited about interaction design, as a design discipline it still wasn’t really clear what it was and I definitely had some trouble with the idea of not being an industrial designer anymore. During that summer at Microsoft I was really starting to struggle with what direction to take as a designer: Basically, was I an industrial designer or an interaction designer? Microsoft arranges mentors for their interns, and mine happened to be Horace Luke, who is now the Chief Innovation Officer at HTC. I remember explaining my career dilemma to Horace one day, and him asking me very simply: “What’s wrong with just being a designer?” At first it was hard to believe that it could be that simple, but soon after, it melted down all mental blocks I had that defined or separated those disciplines. Discussions around concretely defining design disciplines started to seem like a waste of time. It’s pretty clear that most great designers don’t care about those divisions, and are happy to play in any space that catches their interest. That idea has guided my outlook on most things since then—first in trying to bridge interaction and industrial design, then graphic design. And more recently, working for Albert Shum at Windows Phone, we spend a lot of time thinking about Design in close relation to business and engineering. I’ve been very lucky to have a few managers now that are very open minded about what design is, and are always looking for ways to expand what we do. In a few years, I’m not sure that I will really even define myself as a designer anymore.

What are the 5 things all designers should know?

1. How to tell a great story
2. How to influence, inspire, and lead others
3. How to manage projects
4. How to critique, ask questions, and brainstorm
5. The basics: form, shape, composition, hierarchy, grids, color, type…

Why do I blog this? I like Mike. He’s smart and he has porcupine hairstyles. And enormous, medievally-large wrist watches. And he makes stuff, too. And besides that, I really like his answer to the one about what kind of designer one might be — and the response from his mentor that, can just be a designer and the specialization and all that seems besides the point. Disciplines suck. They’re for the feint of heart, the nervous barrier minders and those who enjoy knowing they are in..while all the others are out. Good stuff. Thanks Mike.

((For my record, this is what I said last year:

1. What is the most cherished product in your life? Why?

My most cherished product right now is my Nikon camera — or my modest Nikon camera collection. It’s what’s on my mind quite a bit these days as I spend more and more time with learning a new kind of photography. It’s easy to obsess over the gear and accessorize your accessories’ accessories and all that, which isn’t necessarily a quality I cherish — that’s a functional obsession, like being a functional drunk or something.

But, I appreciate the clarity that’s expressed in the design of a well-built camera. The camera is also something that’s been around for enough generations to comprehend what is is and where it’s going. You can also see these changes in behaviors surrounding photo-taking machines and then the camera becomes a useful prop for talking about the ways objects talk to us and inform us and shape our behaviors and expectations. I’ve been spending lots of time in skateparks near home here and sometimes I bring a crap SLR with me and give it to one of the teenage skaters to take some photos. Often enough they try to look “through” the LCD on the back of the camera, not really getting this idea of looking through a glass viewfinder. They’ll hold the whole thing at arms length and try to sort it all out, and then I’ll show them how this old-fashioned sort of photography works. They get it of course, but as a signal of evolving practices and so on, these sorts of generation-gap things reminds me that things are always changing and change is good because it means things can be otherwise.

I also cherish my bicycle. It’s one of the last USA built Cannondale’s — a black anodized Bad Boy. The other day its voice just dropped: it became a single-speed.

2. What’s the one product you wish you’d designed, and why?

One day, someone had the imagination and clarity to put wheels on luggage. I’m sure there’s a business case study somewhere on that one. I prefer that it be told like a designer’s fairy tale because the path to that simple stroke of insight seems so simple, but then materializing that idea and making it part of the world is magical.

Sadly, good ideas can be stymied by the misalignment of goals and aspirations. The misalignment happens in-between design sensibilities to do good in the world and business priorities to make business. Together, those two things make up a maelstrom of entanglements that is often referred to, in polite company, as product design.

For me, “wheels-on-luggage” has become like an incantation to raise the spirit of design clarity in the studio. It’s a signal of a kind of perfection in design: one thing done exceptionally well that makes the world a little bit better than it used to be. Wheels on luggage is also a simple idea that somehow took 50,000 years to materialize in a widespread fashion. It’s simple, but not this capital-s “Simplicity” thing, which somehow needed a book to remind people of the idea, which ironically makes the idea more complex. The wheels on luggage thing is a wonderful marker that stands for a kind of design that makes the everyday quotidian things a little better, rather than obsessing over deeply complex, baroque mishegoss that makes things so barnacled that they just tips over and sink the whole design. So, generally speaking? When I see a product of someone’s imagination that materializes this “wheels-on-luggage” simplicity, I get a collegial, healthy jealousy and wish I had made that.

3. What excites you about being a designer? Why do you keep doing it?

I’m excited by the expectation that a designer should reflect on his practice and redesign the way the design is done. This seems to happen with quite good energy and spirit and commitment in the studio I’m in, which makes it a great place to get your design-on. That sort of self-reflection is something I learned more about studying scientists and engineers in grad school when I was learning how scientists make knowledge. The tricky thing there is that scientists and engineers couldn’t really be reflexive about what they were doing or they’d get in trouble with the knowledge cops. They couldn’t look at themselves and do the Bill and Ted thing of stopping suddenly and saying, “Dude. We’re, like..making science that’s going to change the way people understand the world. How fucked up is that?” Unlike science, Design can question itself routinely — asking about itself, questioning its assumptions and practices and redesigning itself in the midst of the design work.

The other thing that makes me excited is that one makes-to-think and thinks-to-make. There’s no hard line between wondering about something and making that thing in the machine shop. The two go together without a hard distinction between thinking it up and making it up. In a design studio — or, I should say, the one I’m in because it’s the only one I’ve been in — the making is also the thinking. We don’t figure everything out and then just build it. Both of these materialization rituals are the same and interweave in a simple, clarifying way. It seems impossible to just divorce design from either thinking or making and that translates nicely into a ruthless commitment to simultaneously do, for example, UI design at precisely the same moment as the industrial/object design. I love that sort of stuff. It tickles the generalist in me and teaches me everyday about the craft of design.

4. When do you first remember thinking of yourself as a designer?

It couldn’t have been more than a year ago — a colleague here told me to stop excusing myself for not being a properly trained designer. And he’s a designer’s designer so I did as I was told. I never went to design school and never had those sensibilities schooled into me in a formal way. I’m an engineer with a doctorate in history of ideas — with that it almost seems like I could only but be a designer, if I think about it. That or a rueful, contemplative barfly.

5. What is the most important lesson you’ve learned and who taught it to you?

Follow your curiosity, even if the weather smells like rapture, everyone around you is loosing their heads and the creek is rising pretty quick. Instinct rules out over any sense of rationality or attempts at an objective view on things. I learned this from my dad. He never said that directly — that’s a translation of decades of a good father-son relationship. But — doing what you know in your gut is right by you? That kind of sensibility and clarity is something I continue to learn from, even in the mistakes.

6. What are 5 things all designers should know?

1) Humility.
2) Listening skills.
3) How to find 3 positive, thoughtful observations about something that you dislike.
4) Designers should be more adamantine about saying “no” to PowerPoint.
5) You’re not the only one to have thought that up, ever.
Continue reading What Mike Said

The Mind & Consciousness User Interface: SXSW Proposal?

A visit to the Psyleron facility in Princeton New Jersey

A couple of years ago — 2009, I believe — my brother and I went to visit the facilities of Psyleron, a very curious research and engineering company in Princeton, a few miles from Princeton University. He piqued my curiosity about the operation, which was extending the research of the PEAR lab at Princeton — Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research. The PEAR lab has been in operation for decades and Psyleron is a kind of way of commercializing the insights and theories and all that.

They developed a random event generator and software to allow the at-home enthusiast practice their brain control skillz. It’s called the REG. You can buy one. Adam Curry at Psyleron was kind enough to loan me one. The object needs some industrial design help, which would be fun to work on.

Why is this interesting?

* It’s atemporal, I think. There’s a twist of the Cold War paranoia about mind-controlling Russkies arranged in a phalanx on the ground, specially trained to shoot brain waves to make enemy fighter pilots shove their sticks forward and crater their jets. It’s 50’s era thinking infused into something that is still futuristic. I like the history. The story of the Princeton Engineering Anaomolies (PEAR) laboratory start comes from that history — a chance encounter at a weird proto-DoD sponsored workshop on the role of consciousness in hot-shot right-stuff-y fighter jocks in the 50s who were better able to tame the barely stable faster-than-sound aircraft than other pilots. Were they more synergistically coupled to the planes, all other things being equal? It was a real question, and a contingent of the defense apparatus wanted to know and thus funded the PEAR studies.

* People are going to tire of their fascination with “gestural” interfaces. That term already sounds antique. Even thinking about it makes my mind groan and roll its eyeballs. What’s next? I’m not saying that brain control *is next — it is a logical, automatic extension to go from contact to contactless interaction, sort of like ranges of massage and body work — from the brutalist Swedish deep tissue stuff to the hands-off, chimes-and-insense Reki flavor.

* This guy Dr. Jahn who co-founded the PEAR lab lived nearby when I was growing up. That’s kinda cool to have this weird return to early days. He was squirreling away on this research in the basement of a building I used to sneak into during those easy, trouble-free adolescent years in breezy, leafy Princeton.

Cabinet Magazine has an good short article on Dr. Jahn and the background of his research.

There’s all sorts of curious artefacts and media and materials in and around the proto-Psyleron PEAR laboratory research experiments. The PEAR Proposition DVD is an epic, 3 DVD collection of lab tours, lectures, lecture notes about the project. Margins of Reality is the reading equivalent. Good “research” materials.

Psyleron also has a number of devices to activate the principles and propositions of mind-control/consciousness control and influence. An assortment of stand-alone probes and dongles — keychains, glowing lamps and that sort of thing. A robot is forthcoming!

The most curious to me — because it produces information that can be studied, allowing one to conduct experiments and because it could probably be DIY-ified — is their REG or random event generator. The REG in general stands at the center of the research as I understand it. Having a “pure” REG that is not influenced by shaking, bumping or jostling of any sort allows one to have a sort of “white noise” norm for measuring any external effects. The best way I can understand this is one needs to remove any bias on the system except for the influence of consciousness/es. A great REG is purely random data — white noise. Supposedly the white-noise randomness of this device is superlative. Who knows? It may be, or may have been before some innovation or whatever. I think there’s some quantum tunneling mojo going on in there beneath that bit of metallic shielding.

Why do I blog this? I’m *way behind on any project related to the work at Pear and my own personal affiliation with the research itself — Dr. Jahn lived in the neighborhood when I was growing up and the kids in the neighborhood all played together in the streets and yards of the neighborhood, including his daughter. I’m also thinking about writing a talk or panel proposal for SxSW 2012 on the topic, perhaps with Mike, who’s interested in looking into brain control interfaces.

I think there’s a nice continuity between the *macro interface of many minds/bodies of the Psyleron work and the more local, *micro interface of one mind with the likes of this stuff from this operation called emotiv. I like the continuity from consciousness and action-at-a-distance to the more directly coupled, sitting-on-the-head-stuff. Making a continuum from levers, knobs, switches, lights; punchcards keypads, teletype rigs; typewriter keyboards and CRTs; mice and keyboards and CRTs; 3D mice and all that up to “gestural” interfaces and touch and then into the mind could be quite and interesting graphic. A more complex graphic or an additional vector within that one could also look at the particular semantics and syntax of thought that is required to operate the devices — the ordering of knowledge necessary to frame a task or problem and then explicate it for the specific set of interface elements one is afforded by the device. Command-line interfaces, as we well-know, allow/disallow specific tasks; menuing systems are beards for what happens on the command-line — making the framing of the task more amenable to more people (?) and certainly less terse. It’s a translation effectively of what might normally go on the command line.

One possible approach to understanding this stuff is, of course — to start using it.
Continue reading The Mind & Consciousness User Interface: SXSW Proposal?

Step Seven of Nine

Step one – write problem in a search engine, see if somebody else has solved it already. Step two – write problem in my blog; study the commentory cross-linked to other guys. Step three – write my problem in Twitter in a hundred and forty characters. See if I can get it that small. See if it gets retweeted. Step four – open source the problem; supply some instructables to get me as far as I’ve been able to get, see if the community takes it any further. Step five – start a Ning social network about my problem, name the network after my problem, see if anybody accumulates around my problem. Step six – make a video of my problem. Youtube my video, see if it spreads virally, see if any media convergence accumulates around my problem. Step seven – create a design fiction that pretends that my problem has already been solved. Create some gadget or application or product that has some relevance to my problem and see if anybody builds it. Step eight – exacerbate or intensify my problem with a work of interventionist tactical media. And step nine – find some kind of pretty illustrations from the Flickr ‘Looking into the Past’ photo pool.’

via @bruces Atemporality for the Creative Artist.

Continue reading Step Seven of Nine

Design Fiction Chronicles: The Future Issue of The Book and iPad

The Future Issue

In a project we’re currently undertaking that has allowed us to work through and figure out the future of the photo book I was compelled to read through this book called “The Most Beautiful Swiss Books” and the 2009 edition is called “The Future Issue.”

I like the play on words there and didn’t see it until just now.

The Future Issue.’s the issue from 2009, because this is an annual. But, the future is an issue to consider. Get it? Well..I didn’t until my coffee took hold.

There are a few relevant passages in here on design, the future of reading and publishing and that sort of thing.

* Everyone seems to be considering the iPad. This book was published after the iPad was announced but before it was made available. There should be a follow on to the points made in there. Maybe I’ll do that. Follow up with the critics and ask them. There is the usual bulwark, which is to say that there is something about the tangibility and materiality of the book that is precious, seminal and defines book. Something that people would still want.

Other points related to iPad-mania were to indicate the distinction between book-dedicated readers like Kindle and platforms like iPad in that there is always something available with the iPad to do other than read, which can pose distractions like..*shrug..why not check email now?

There was some excitement about the evolution of book design in the pad-electronic form. What compliments and extends paper, pages, binding and all that.

* And then there was the wonderful canonical reference to 2001 – A Space Odyssey which made me very happy. I had never noticed in the movie poster that there is an iPad, which was referred to as a Newspad in the book upon which the film was based. Bonus design fiction future issues!

There's an iPad in the 2001: A Space Odyssey movie poster

* Mention was made to Wim Wenders seeking opinion on the extinction of movies in the context of the intrusion of television. Would books suffer the same fate as movies did when television appeared?

* Perhaps the most vibrant short essay questioned the phrase The future of. Something called “Experimental Jetset” — a collective of Graphic Designers in Amsterdam wrote that they dislike the three words “The future of..” saying they find “something about the phrase that completely puts us off.”

What bothers us most is the suggestion that the future is an unchangeable entity, something that develops completely independent of ourselves. A pre-determined path, to which we should adapt ourselves, whether we like it or not..

‘Our future’, is something that is manageable, shapeable, changeable, buildable, doable. ‘A future’ sounds pretty decent as well. A plural ‘the futures’? Why not? Just as long as we can get rid of the idea of the future as something that governs us, like some kind of pre-modern deity. Let us be reckless about it: we govern the future, not the other way around.

Perhaps this is the most encouraging perspective in the essays of the book, tucked neatly in near obscurity amongst the two other possible opinions: (1) veiled conceit for the iPad/nostalgic death-grip on the smell of leather, the artisinal bookbinders craft, &c.; (2) curious exuberance for this evolution in the rituals of reading.

Why do I blog this? Notes on opinions about the evolution of book writing, making and the cultural evolutions of reading and publishing practices. Plus the bonus design fiction chronicle on the iPad in 2001!
Continue reading Design Fiction Chronicles: The Future Issue of The Book and iPad

Cory Arcangel Show At The Whitney As Evidence That Retro Is As Dead As Disco

So, I’ve admired Cory Arcangel’s work, more or less. Maybe I just really enjoy the seduction of Super Mario Clouds. I had prints once. And I have the little blue artist’s book somewhere. The one with the embossed blue clouds. I didn’t know about the show at The Whitney Museum until I was back home and happened across mention of it in an issue of New York Magazine laying around the house. I was determined to see it before I left, which would be complicated by obligations and promises to myself and other things. But — I’d do it. That and the ICP’s Elliot Erwitt exhibition.

ICP first, then uptown and over east to The Whitney. $18 USD and I was in. I just went straight to the 4th where Arcangel had the entire floor. They allowed photography by special dispensation, so that’s always exciting. I never really understood — in this day and age — the no-photography thing in museums. I guess it’s so people don’t stand around taking photographs of art instead of just looking at it. In any case, you could take photographs at Arcangel’s exhibition.

First thing, you’re inundated with the cacocophony of a bunch of retro bowling games projected ginormously against a wall. Okay. Seems Arcangel-y. The 8-bit video game thing. Seen this stuff. I guess most of America has not. I watched and *shrugged and figured I needed to get warmed up. Around the corner so fuck-off big C-Prints of Photoshop gradients and the like. I was told I should appreciate these cause it’s, like..I dunno..something anyone can do? And it’s digital? And now,’s a C-Print that’ll last longer than something-or-another..time? Or, like..who knows? Maybe it’ll be important cause it’s a C-Print of something art-y in an ironic, Williamsburg-y sorta painting a painting on a painting canvas that’s all white? Or maybe black or whatever happened back then.


Then there was the pitch of astroturf and a golfing game. And a couple of chairs and a guy listening to something about the show I guess and taking an iPhone photo of one of the C-Prints.

Oh. That’s why they don’t want people taking photos in museums? So, don’t sit there taking photos of things in museums while just sitting there?

*Whatev. Still not feeling it.

Next room. A bunch of unopened boxes of big commodity flat screens with lots of trandemark technology logos like Bluetooth and crap all over them. This is when I started reading the wall text of the pieces of art. That were, like..the art exhibition wall text equivalent of those business books with the long titles that basically explain what you’re supposed to know about by the time you’ve finished reading the book. In this case, the wall text was so didactic and explanatory — that I got the sinking feeling that, had this been a movie? It would’ve been a movie in which the ushers would be waiting to explain to you what you just saw, with the assumption that you’d have no idea otherwise.

*That’s sad.

There was a tape loop of Seinfeld episodes — the one’s in which Kramer invites the coffee table coffee book. More wall text explaining why the hell this is art (besides the fact that an artist made it). It was sad wall text. Like..wall text for the shake weight that explains why you should be buying it to help you “get fit” in case you thought it was an erotic massage toy. What I saw? What I saw was an assembly of Seinfeld out-takes that I might expect to see when Ken Burns does the epic documentary of late 20th century American comedy television. It’s just outtakes. You laugh only because you remember laughing while you were watching it for real on your own sofa (if you laughed) but you certainly forget you’re standing around in The Whitney.

*Feeling anxious about the $18.

Then there was a screening room with a barely tolerable assemblage of YouTube excerpts of guys rocking the guitar with each clip containing a note or passage from a Paganini riff that metal-y guitarist use to exhibit their prowess on the guitar. I get it. It’s a coherent collage of lots of YouTube videos of lots of YouTubers doing the same thing only they’re all different dudes with different guitars in different bedrooms, with..&c.


And that’s it. I expected something else. The retro thing feels well played out, I have to say. 8-bit is as exciting as those hipsters shooting with film cameras or using typewriters. Video of 90’s sitcoms is just video of 90’s sitcoms. Like being a dude with no cable at home but now you’re sitting in a Hampton’s Inn with jetlag, flipping the channels and you come across the 90’s channel. That’s not fun. And boxes of commodity television sets? I mean..Not sure what to do with that.

I feel like I lost a twenty dollar bill. I’m glad I didn’t rush the ICP. It was well-worth the time dawdling over the lovely photography, even if I had to rush The Whitney.

Why do I blog this? Cause I went there and it made me think about work that I had a thing for but now it seems that 10 years later it’s not the same thing and it’s more tiresome on my brainball. I like the idea of canning stuff from 10, 15, 20 years ago and then pointing to the can and saying what the contents says about “today” or how it’s a little timecapsule of yesteryear and we have a connection to those moments. But it’s more our connection than an artists/artistic translation of those things. And the other thing is? The other thing is that institutional art struggles and will continue to struggle with giving the network’s toys and the industrialists’ toys a place to live in a white-walled space. Youtube in a museum viewing closet all big like that? It’s something else and it’s not quite what is sold on the wall text, which hyperintellectualizes the medium. Same thing with 8-bit bowling games (and just watching 8-bit bowling games). It’s excruciating in a way to not be able to fiddle with it. And to see them on 16 foot walls.

Continue reading Cory Arcangel Show At The Whitney As Evidence That Retro Is As Dead As Disco

18 Miles Per Hour


The diversified curiosities of creative people indicates that there is more to the world than things that run on batteries and connect to the Internet and San Franciscoans fuss over in front of bearded baristas. I celebrate this diversity by announcing that there is now a lovely series of climb category cycling stickers by my friend Rhys and Co. from their project. For a short time, you can get a set for free in exchange for liking ’em on Facebook and sending a message or email with your address.

Worth it, if you ask me. And way better than getting twiddly trying to justify to your own brain the $700 you dropped on your iPad.

I stuck this one on last evening’s trundle around the Marina. When done, I put one on the other side of the street there which counts, officially — as The Finish. (Parenthetically, I don’t seem to have use of climb category being a flat-ground spinner. *shrug)


Continue reading 18 Miles Per Hour


Super Structure

A view from the bottom while transiting through Newark International Airport last week..or two weeks ago. Fuzzy on that. A visit home and then to see some friends and do some touring around Massachusetts and New Hampshire, which reminds me that the American North East can be lovely to visit. Um..take my word for it even if I just share an architectural photograph of the airport..
Continue reading Superstructures