Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Brian Bress


I sometimes get upset for pedantic reasons. One easy way to get such a reaction out of me is to use the word “Surreal” when discussing work (especially in an art school critique.) I could rant for hours on this, and I understand the colloquial usage, but I still feel that in an art context if you mean “bizarre” or even “wacky” you should just say so – Surrealism was a movement every student should be familiar with enough to understand that the content wasn’t purely about a set of aesthetic trappings.

But I’ll never be able to avoid this usage – every other weirdo photomontage and quasi-dreamscape will continue to have the term attached. If I’m lucky, someone might call themselves a neo-surrealist. You know, just so I understand that unlike the original Surrealists, who lived long ago, this working artist is not dead. It’s possible they have also gained all their knowledge by looking at a few Dali posters. Labels tend to be a little stupid anyway – and this introduction is running quite long. Like I said, I tend to get upset about this one word and can rant for some time on it.

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Untitled (Collage Suit), 2006

I bring it up for a reason, though. I want to point out an artist who seems to be working in a surrealist tradition while embracing modern media, social cues, and visual conventions (something that is more in line with the original ground breaking artists of Surrealism – and far from the minds of most current “surreal” painters.) This artist is Brian Bress.

Click to enlarge

Disaster Family, 2007

I was introduced to his work recently by the We Love You So blog, which generally follows stuff to do with the wild things movie. He’s got a show currently on in LA, which I’ll link to again later. I won’t be able to make it out there, so I can only remain curious about his latest work and the longer form video. Like most of you, I’ll have to be satisfied with the intriguing stills posted on the gallery website.

Imposter (The Head)

Status Report (still)

Status Report (still)

In addition, we can satiate ourselves with his extremely odd youtube archive. Some of his videos are funny – really funny. Some are disturbing, pretty much unwatchable… but in a way that makes me feel they aren’t failures as art. Their presentation is important.

In my opinion, these videos are about youtube as much as they are about the psychotic going ons of inside the cranium of Mr. Bress.

Watching a vlog is often like watching a car wreck or similar disaster. Or perhaps it’s like people watching at a teabagger rally. It’s not often that important what the people have to say, but we can’t help being interested in characters. We desire to understand – what is behind this person? Where do they live? What is that odd object in the background.. it’s obviously part of their daily life, they didn’t think it was odd to show it or make an effort to hide it. What can we learn about the life of this person through this small window. When looking at amateur content on the internet, I’m often a lot more interested in what shows through unintentionally.

Bress creates videos on extremely detailed sets, often with a charmingly handcrafted look. Each set seems like the character inside it could have made it. They reference paintings, photographs, artistic stereotypes (French is a classy language, yes?), corporate video aesthetics, etc. It seems like the more I browse around the more small touches I notice.

And it manages to, at first look, seem totally thrown together. I suppose to an extent they might be – these videos might even just be sketches for other work, little side projects. But I think the archive together is extremely interesting. I can’t help looking at the confused comments, feeling somehow satisfied to see most of his videos with low star ratings. If many of them were rated highly, they might have failed, if that makes any sense.

I wish I had more free time to make a longer study of his work. I’ve been keeping a couple tabs open for a few days, thinking I might try to contact him for an interview, but my day jobs are keeping me from having much blogging time lately.

For now, take some time and look around his youtube account, bookmark his website, and try and check out the show if you’re on the west coast.

It’s at Cherry and Martin, 2712 S. La Cienega Boulevard, Los Angeles, until October 24th.

posted by Ian Aleksander Adams at 2:25 am  

Monday, September 28, 2009

OH, REVERIE – A 1/3 MUSICAL by Sean Leonard


This is Sean‘s last video he did at SCAD a while back. I shot the photos used in some scenes as well as the set photography. I also played a mental patient, but I think I ended up off camera in the musical sequences. Ah well, it was still tons of fun.

posted by Ian Aleksander Adams at 9:54 pm  

Monday, September 28, 2009

Joerg Colberg’s JPEG Encoding


Joerg posted a couple images at his secondary outlet, Conscientious Redux. I quite like them.

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From his brief technical statement:

I thought it would be cool to allow the code to do an adaptive compression – basically creating huge blocks in areas with little colour variation and tiny blocks elsewhere.

He mentions that he chose high resolutions images freely available, which probably had a large influence on the subject matter. I also enjoy that they’re pictures of explosive technology, it somehow seems fitting.

posted by Ian Aleksander Adams at 9:26 pm  

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Meryl Truett


Lately I’ve been working as a studio assistant to Meryl Truett, who teaches in the photography department at SCAD. I’m sure I’ll be doing a huge variety of things for her.

My first task has been to install analytics on her website and start tweaking a blog layout to make it fit with the existing design. You can see it here, though I plan on putting a lot more work into it.

I’m really excited about learning more about some of the alternative process work she’s been creating. She’s been gathering decorative antiques from old buildings, mainly off ebay, and they seem to work quite well for inkaid transfers:

Hopefully I’ll get to see the process in action soon. I understand it in theory, but it’s always good to have more first hand experience.

posted by Ian Aleksander Adams at 11:04 pm  

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Extract: Confessions of a Bone-Saw Artist


From an essay by Aric Mayer:

Any serious artist studying the human form must be keenly aware of how the internal structures of the body fill out and influence the figure. A simple and accurate drawing by Rembrandt, for example, depicts the surface features of the body–its skin, hair and so on–but the line accounts also for the location and accuracy of the internal structures as well. Bones, organs, muscle, and fat all combine, each performing their own function, to create the volume of the overall person. Part of what makes the work of the masters so incredible is that we recognize the authenticity of the overall volume of the figures they draw and paint.

Photography quickly allows us to skip this entire body of anatomical knowledge and go straight to mechanized accurate depictions of the body which can be captured in any state of rest or motion, dress or undress, exactly as it appears. No understanding of the body as a whole is required to adequately represent the human body. And generally speaking, the raw photographs start with anatomically accurate information, even if the models being photographed represent a tiny fraction of the body types that make up the human race.

In the retouching though, complete alterations of the figure are routinely practiced, creating an evolving abnormal vision of the body. This results in the ongoing erosion of our visual sense of what is natural. We understand photographs to be depictions of the real, and they are dependent on the real for their source, and yet we are bombarded with images that are retouched in ways that defy nature and establish unachievable visual norms for the human figure.

Professor Jeremy Kees at the Villanova School of Business ran astudy demonstrating how the skewing of body norms increases the effectiveness of advertising. In his study women were presented with images of skinny models in a commercial setting and were then tested as to how they would respond. The women exposed to the images of overly thin models tested as feeling worse about themselves, but tested with more positive attitudes about the products being sold. Women exposed to normal sized models had no diminished sense of self, but tested with less favorable attitudes to the products being sold. See the logic at work here?

This constant beating down has real consequences for many viewers. One of the most remarkable examples of this can be seen in an image from a recent issue of Glamour Magazine that defeats this process. Many of you will have already seen this image, photographed by Walter Chin. On page 194 of the September issue, in a three inch by three inch photograph, 20 year-old model Lizzi Miller sits on an apple crate in a thong. She leans forward slightly, her arm covering her breasts, a confident and radiant smile on her face. There is a small roll on her belly and actual curves on her legs and arms. At size 12, Lizzi is the size of the average American woman.

That little belly roll is pure rebellion in the fashion and beauty industry, and it’s everything as to why this image has had such an incredible effect. Images of Lizzi have been published before, and in each (that I have seen) she is doing what models do, tucking in, tightening, lifting up. Here she appears relaxed and unguarded, and is all the more beautiful for it. Relief and appreciation poured out from readers and can be read in the 1000+ responses postedon Glamour’s website.

Equally significant to the reader response is the extreme rarity of a photograph like this in the context of a fashion magazine. To be clear, this image was intentionally created to have this impact on its viewers. As Glamour Editor in Chief Cindi Leiv says, “We’d commissioned it for a story on feeling comfortable in your skin, and wanted a model who looked like she was.” The image isn’t rare because it can’t be done. It is rare because it is selling something outside of the consumer logic of the fashion and beauty industry.

Read the full piece here.

A lot of this should be familiar to anyone who reads my blog on a regular basis, but repetition lends strength to arguments and it’s always nice to have another insider view. I implore you to check it out.

posted by Ian Aleksander Adams at 5:11 am  

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Finslippy Script


If someone wrote a movie based on how I play with my son. Part 2: Spy movie.

Spy 1, wielding intricate weapon constructed out of many tiny, differently colored parts, confronts Spy 2, who is hunched over what appears to be a computer.
Spy 1: So. We meet again.
Spy 2: What? Oh. Yep.
Spy 1: Heh heh heh.
Spy 2: Hang on.
Spy 1: No, you’re scared. I have a laser blaster poking you right in your head.
Spy 2: No, right, I’m terrified. I am! I’m just…uh…
Spy 1: HEY.
Spy 2: No, I’m trying to crack the code. The code that will, uh, destroy you!
Spy 1: Oh, no!
Spy 2: Oh yes! Hang on… I just have to hit “send”…
Spy 1: Are you sending … is that email?
Spy 2: Uh, yes, but I am sending it to my cohorts, who are coming to get you! Just as soon as I check something else on this, uh, death computer.
Spy 1: That’s not a death computer. There’s no such thing as a death computer.
He laser blasts Spy 2 in the skull.
Spy 1: I just laser blasted you right in the skull.
Spy 2: And yet I live! Hang on. I am trying to crack the, um, the other code.
Spy 1 slams the computer closed.
Spy 2: HEY.
Spy 1: Now I will torture you for hours! No help is coming!
Spy 2, sighing: I will find my cell phone and I will send the Text of Doom.
Spy 1: Too late. I’ve hidden your phone. IN MY LEGO BOX.
Spy 2: Oh, damn it.

Roll credits

via Finslippy

posted by Ian Aleksander Adams at 5:02 am  

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Hey Dana, How Unenforceable Are Photography Bans?


What if that was alive? It would eat us.

“Oh no, I wasn’t taking a picture… I didn’t press x..”

Fuck yeah DLG

posted by Ian Aleksander Adams at 4:39 am  

Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Mega MacGuffin?


Article on I09: In Praise Of MacGuffins.

Nobody can forget that moment in 2001 when Dave looks into the heart of the MacGuffin and says, “My God – it’s full of stars.”

Some cute phrases sort of swayed me over, but I wasn’t too critical in my reading of it.

Skye sets us straight:

That’s a lot of words to say “I don’t know what the definition of a macguffin is.”

A MacGuffin is anything that is totally interchangeable about the plot, if the “MacGuffin” has defining characteristics, if the nature of the “MacGuffin” matters to the story, it probably isn’t a macguffin, it’s a story about the effects of whatever the hell it is on society.

The list of spies, or the necklace, or even the death star plans, are macguffins. The Death Star is not a Macguffin, the Zombie virus is not a Macguffin, the AI space ships that are characters in Iain M. Banks novels are not Macguffins.

The braidy water city in Matter, is not a Macguffin, because it’s not even important to the plot. Now, the World God in Matter is definitely a Macguffin, it doesn’t even matter the nature of the World God, its personality, what it does, whatever the hell, doesn’t matter, all that matters is that it lives in the center of the world and virtually everyone loves it, save the villain.

Same with the AI in his earlier book, Consider Phlebas, it doesn’t matter that the desired item on the planet was an AI, just that there was something highly desirable on the planet for everyone to chase after.

Now, the Monolith? It is a Macguffin for the majority of the story of 2001, until the arrival at Jupiter makes its nature vital to the story Clarke is telling.

posted by Ian Aleksander Adams at 3:52 am  

Sunday, September 27, 2009

It’s Party Time!


Wow, MS, you really set yourself up for this one.

posted by Ian Aleksander Adams at 3:47 am  

Sunday, September 27, 2009

A Sunday Afternoon With We English


A Sunday on La Grande Jatte

We English

One. Two.

posted by Ian Aleksander Adams at 3:24 am  

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