Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Collab in Hong Kong 1

Arrived here on Nov 3, Which makes it 2 weeks since I’ve been here, and in spite of my intention to keep a daily blog, I’ve failed miserably, slamming into bed nightly into a stygian sleep that my body has been demanding as its right.

First things first. “Here” is Hong Kong, where I’m on another artistic residency, six weeks long this time, half the duration of last year’s ISEA gig in Singapore. I’m being hosted by the Hong Kong Art Centre (HKAC for short) in Wanchai, old Suzie Wong territory, and still the place where expats can chat up dancers in the girlie bars (lotta Mainlanders, Pinays, Thais and Indonesian girls) on Lockhart, though as a supposedly kind of raunchy district, it’s pretty tame. Clean, prosperous, good air. Easy to get decent or even really good food cheap even late at night, as is supposedly the case in all girlie districts of the world. Nothing like Binondo or even Geylang Lorong in Singapore. Apparently, the HKAC was the first center for independent art in Hong Kong, when it was put up in the seventies (?). Previous to that, all art spaces were government sponsored. So this was where the Hong Kong independent art scene was born. Indie films, experimental films, performance, etc, you name it. Though as indie spaces go, it’s not only venerable, but spectacularly chichi by the standards of the Philippine art scene. It’s a building, some 20 floors high, has its own accredited art school (named the Hong Kong Art School, what else, and I’ll refer to it as HKAS hereon) that gives out full university degrees in the arts, and rents space out to a raft of clients that include the Goethe Institut , for god’s sake. Rent gives them money, but they’ve attracted some pretty spectacular sponsorship as well. Might just be that corporations here are richer or have more discretion, but I get the impression the arts are a more credible target for funding over here than in the Phil or Singapore. There’s a theater built/donated and named by Agnes B, for example, and labs/workrooms everywhere bearing the names of donors.

Anyway, I’ve been tapped as half of a collaborative partnership. The other half is Tse Ming Chong, a lecturer at the HKAS, one of the pre-eminent photographers here. Founder of Lumenvisum, the first gallery in HK devoted exclusively to photography. He focuses on ideas of history, and how history is generated as narrative, specifically via imagery. He’s the one who wanted to do something that focused on the Philippines, which is a blind spot in the cultural landscape of HK. In spite of their proximity, both countries know very little about each other. Filipinos living in the Philippines see HK as a kind of shopping playground and Hong Kong residents are aware of Filipinos mostly as the Sunday spectacle of DHs thronging the streets of Central. Ming Chong and I are getting along quite raucously these days, now that we’re on the second week of our artistic blind date, although it wasn't too long ago when we were wondering what the hell we were going to do together. I’ve never worked with a photographer, and was not quite sure what to do with still images. Further, the last couple of years I’ve been thinking about machines and robots and how to use machine intelligence, and it seemed an interruption of the investigations on that front to turn back to cultural and historical themes, especially as they have to do with Philippine domestic helpers. It seemed like 70’s Social Realist territory, whiny/strident Leftist NGO photojournalist stuff: musty, littered with cliches and platitudes about Exploitation and the Tribulations of the Philippine Worker.

Lastly, there is the contrast in our artistic approaches. Ming Chong’s approach/sensibility is founded on the reticience of traditional documentary. Although he acknowledges that he frames the photograph in order to express his perceptions about the world, he does not manipulate or stage things for the camera. On the other hand, I’ve come to realize that I reach for the tools of science fiction whenever I deal with cultural/historical/social themes. I thrive on extrapolation, hyperbole and distortion. On using technological devices or conceits to juxtapose disparate realities (eg: SF has used time machines to point up the differences between cultures seperated by time; alien societies as a way to describe surreal aspects of the everyday present, and cloning to explore ideas of individuality, personhood and consciousness)

However, as I said, Ming Chong and I have been getting along like gangbusters the last week. It’s possible my mood has also improved since as a result of designing and building this mobile timelapse lab that runs off a car battery. The photo shows it an intermediate stage, before I'd tidied up the cables and tucked them into convenient corners of the cart. The Hong Kongese are amazingly blase about a guy walking around the city at 4 in the morning with something like this. Making stuff always calms me down. I’ll write more on that in the next update, where I’ll talk more concretely about what I've actually been doing, and how Ming Chong and I took the HKAS students for whose edification we are doing this collaboration, to this Pinoy birthday party on Lantau island.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Sketch for an SF plot occasioned by Ondoy/Ketsana Relief

Would be good if the organizational structures remained even after the Ondoy disaster passes/normalizes, even for things not directly related to typhoons. Government is essentially a structure for routing the goods/resources of a group for the benefit of said group, a task our elected government manifestly sucks at (25 rubber boats between all the armed forces AND the National Disaster Coordinating Council, this 4 years after the object lesson of Hurricane Katrina, in a country crossed by an average of 20 typhoons a year.) The relief operations are a web-enhanced example of group cooperation that is the engine that drives all government. There must be a way to systematize this effort. Lessons, cues to be sifted from a study of Obama's election machinery, it's use of/reliance on/leveraging of pre-existent networks, personal initiative, ad hoc coalitions. Probably also from Gawad Kalinga. The philosopher Manfred Halpern once defined politics as "everything we can and need to do together." Imagine a scenario where social networking becomes advanced enough to leverage the kind of tao-to-tao cooperation that the anarchists dreamed of. Where a central government becomes supplanted by a distributed, decentralized government. A politics of community and initiative. A politics even of bickering and exasperated love. I imagine an SF novel, something like a cross between Heinlein's The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress and LeGuin's The Dispossessed that chronicles the rise of social networking, said networks becoming the ordinary citizen's preferred channel of goods/money/action, with more and more projects being launched and maintained online until the central government withered away and died, either after convulsive and murderous attempts to stay in power, or from a gradual disappearance of its capital, its constituency.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

El Cheapo Soldering Assistant.

Built this out of a plastic tripod I bought in Hong Kong for about PhP120 (I think). Inspired by this instructable. But the instructable uses a bunch of coolant tubes and nozzles-- not easy to find here, and about 10x more expensive. My take on it is cheap, simple and elegant enough to make me want to post it here. Since I basically screwed the tripod plate onto the stand, a single button-press detaches the stand, making it more portable than the original that inspired it. The alligator clips are soldered to banana plugs, which are jacked into banana jacks (called "binding posts" in Alexan) that I jammed into holes that I drilled into the feet of the tripod. This allows the clips to rotate inside said holes. Very handy, very useful, very very easy to make.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

New Work: Agimat ni Captain Latigo

Made Agimat ni Captain Latigo (ie the weirdo electronics in a suitcase and armature thing) for the 40th Anniversary of the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP). It's for We Said Our Piece, an exhibition curated by Don Salubayba and Claro Ramirez for DALOY, a bunch of events commemorating said 40th anniversary. 40 contemporary artists interact with 40 pieces from the CCP's permanent collection. The exhibit should run till around October 18 2009. The work is on the fourth floor.


Agimat interacts with Penitensiya, (the black metal humanoid figure in the back) a steel sculpture by Solomon Saprid. At the heart of it (actually at the tip of the armature) is an electromagnet running household AC (110 volts at 60 Hz ) , cooled by a small fan. The fluctuating magnetic field makes Saprid's statue sing, and you can hear it humming throughout the exhibition space. Basically I wanted my interaction to take place via a physical, scientific link.

Sonically, the electromagnet turns the metal sculpture into a speaker that hums 60Hz and related frequencies. Suspect that the natural resonances of the sculpture might add some inharmonic frequencies. Plus, the waves bounce off nearby walls causing standing waves and interference, so the sound changes as you walk around it...


Agimat translates to "talisman," an object/repository of power. However, as Reynaldo Ileto points out in his book Pasyon at Rebolusyon, the Southeast Asian agimat is not a tool. It's power is not something that anybody can just use, as its function is tied to the righteousness of the owner/recipient. In this sense, an agimat is more like an amplifier, than say, a battery. If the owner of the agimat is not careful to maintain the righteousness that makes him deserving of power, the agimat ceases to function. In this sense, Tolkien's rings of power are not agimat , but simply tools, objects that perform their functions independently of moral intent. Hammers, guns, microscopes are tools: anybody can buy and use one. (Actually, it occurs to me that Tolkien's rings might be described as anti-agimat, as they actively corrupt the spiritual health of the user.)

In Tagalog, penitensiya translates both as "penitent" and "penitence," but specifically denotes the act of physically scourging one's body in order to purify one's spirit. Penitensiya is a rite of purification, in which the mind is turned inward. Basically, I see my piece as adding an extra layer of narrative to the original sculpture. My title recasts Saprid's metal penintent as Captain Latigo, a superhero who presumably fights evil with his whips. I like the fact that the title gives the character of the whip-wielder a side which is oriented outwardly, someone who will use the whips to act upon/purify the world, and not only himself. The humming becomes the sound of Captain Latigo recharging his powers, plugging himself into his electric agimat and whipping himself, and maybe muttering a prayer in Latin ala Green Lantern's oath. Temporal powers intensifying in proportion to Righteousness and Spiritual Purity. Electric Sadomasochistic Superhero Power Charging and Purification...sort of thing.

Anyway, that's what was running through my head. In this case, I began with idea of the technique (vibrating a steel sculpture with an electromagnet) and then tried to think of narratives/symbolic components (purification, recharging, superhero, etc) to go with it. I then controlled the physical appearance of the machine in order to manifest/emphasize those narrative fragments.

This is a break for me as I generally try, when making art-machines, to deal with/expose physical phenomena without giving them social/political/mythical coloration. This would be analogous to the approach of the kinetic sculptors. Just as the kinetic sculptors showcased certain pieces of motion for their own sake and beauty, I try to showcase a certain function for its sake and beauty. So for instance in Quartet, I was dealing with the nature of virtual entities; in Shift Register, I was dealing with surveillance and the nature of the machine gaze. I've begun to think that perhaps it is proper to merge human concerns with the functions though. A sound can resonate in a room and resonate in human sensibility. It is elegant and proper for art to to deal with resonance in both senses. In the case of Agimat, the electromagnet causes the humanoid sculpture to vibrate (induced vibration = mechanical function). It is almost impossible for humans NOT to associate a body vibrating with certain intense psychological states, just as it is impossible for us to not see fire as a kind of living energy, even if fire actually consumes biological functions. Further, we correlate the sound emitted by the sculpture (= energy radiating into/agitating the air) with certain types of human intensity/concentration/charisma. We too are objects. I'm hoping there is a way to relate functions to human concerns without falling into sentimentality/anthopocentricity.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Mechanical Man gig

Funny deja vu moment yesterday at rehearsal for the Mechanical Man gig with Malek, Caliph and PG. At the end of the final chord (and corresponding blackout), we heard clapping in the dark, and then a female voice calling "Bellissima!" (beautiful!). Turned out Emanuela Quartana (the cultural officer of the Italian embassy) and her husband Nino had snuck in while we were playing. Had this weird feeling we were in a scene in some film, the purpose of which was to introduce and establish the character of the Italian Producer. ;-)

The Mechanical Man is an old Italian silent film, an SF thriller with bank robberies. Italian Keystone Kops, mad scientists and two robots. Only 40% of the original footage has been found, which comes to some 30 minutes. It was to be shown as the Italian offering in this year's Silent Film Festival, an event in Manila where the various embassies show a silent film from their country and have it tracked by Filipino musicians. Since the minimum duration of a screening of this type is about an hour, Emmanuela had the idea of letting the band improvise over a re-edit of the film. They got me to do the latter, which I did live, using Resolume (a video sampler) and a program I wrote in Puredata to turn MIDI information from Caliph into editing actions. Each drumbeat caused the playhead in Resolume to jump to a different place in the video sample. This established a steady video layer that cut to the beat. I then layered and effected the video while reacting to the music.

This was the first time any embassy in the Philippines allowed any of their films to be re-edited. Generally the films shown are treated as sacred objects, not to be touched. I've blogged how the addition of music cannot rescue many silent film scenes whose conventions have simply become so dated that they are impossible to watch in the spirit that the director intended (see here ) . It's 2009, nearly a century since Braque and Picasso invented collage, and more than a quarter century since sampling/sonic collage became a tool of popular musical composition. Films CAN be sampled/re-edited! It's as simple as that. Much thanks to the Italian embassy for acknowledging this, and deciding to cross the line. As Emanuela said: "It's a challenge to people."

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Ultrabasic class in Puredata

I will be teaching a hands-on, ultrabasic sound programming workshop (1 1/2 hours lang) for ASEUM09. I will be showing how to manipulate sound using the program called Puredata. Puredata is a freeware program, and all programming is done via a graphic interface, ie by drawing lines between boxes. The workshop is geared to students/people/artists with no previous experience in programming.

The workshop is free, and takes place 2pm-3:30pm on July 22 at the Computer Lab (also referred to as the CPU Lab?) of the Center for Women's Studies (CWS) in UP Diliman. The Center is near Abelardo Hall, ie the UP College of Music.

It's a learn by doing kind of class, so participants should bring their own laptop (best if fully charged, as I don't know how easy it will be to plug in in the classroom . It would be a good idea to preinstall Puredata, which runs on both Windows and Macintosh computers, though this is not absolutely necessary. The Puredata installer can be downloaded here or here. (The second site only has the Windows version. The file's name is Pd-0.40.3-extended.exe)

Since the workshop will focus on making sounds, it would be a good idea to bring headphones if your laptop isn't very loud.

Friday, July 03, 2009

New Work: Twinning Machine

Been playing with Processing (a java-based programming environment) over the last three(?) or so months. Around April, I stumbled on the videobuffer class written by a programmer who goes by the name of Rrrufusss, and started modding it for fun. The Twinning Machine is the first useful tool to be spun off by my experiments. I called it a video delay at first, but I realize now that the ability to select and change the delay time on the fly by changing the position of a virtual tapehead (a function that underlies EVERYTHING that I make the program do in this video) makes it more accurate to describe it as a sampler with a memory that is being constantly updated. Below is most of the performance, titled Is It Time To...Or Do I Have To, choreographed and danced by Rhosam Prudenciado. I apologize to Sam for leaving out a minute or so of the intro where he began offscreen and the video screen was dark, (a choice which I really liked) but this is a capture of what the Twinning Machine saw, and it didn't see him during that intro.

I'd like to thank Paul Morales -- the current artistic director of Ballet Philippines -- for initiating the collaboration and introducing me to Sam, a young dancer who wound up, after a very short period of rehearsal, displaying deep insight into what he and the machine might do for each other. It took me a while to figure this out, as I had been thinking of the program as a video delay, and was looking for a dancer to dance a canon; that is, to use the video delay the way U2 guitarist Edge uses sonic delays. When I gave up looking for this and gave myself permission to start programming functions in the program that would enable me to modify Sam's performance on the fly, the collaboration really took off.

"Collaboration" is a sexy word in Manila these days, but the word is inaccurate in most cases of video+dance, I think. Sound designer Randy Thom points out that for two elements to truly collaborate, both elements have to have the power to effect changes in the other, and in most video+dance "collaborations," video accomodates to the dancer/choreographer while the dancer/choreographer never accomodates to the video. In my more charitable/less vicious moments, I describe video in these instances as acting as window dressing. When Paul asked me if I might do "something technical" with a dancer for Wifi Body (the independent dance festival where the above performance was shown) I told him that I was only willing to do it if the technology would be addressed as a dance problem. In effect, I told him, I wanted to become an obstacle to conventional dancing.

Sam proved to be a quick study, and a very cooperative one. A particular incident comes to mind that illustrates what it means to collaborate and to be a dance obstacle. Sam asked if I could effect a very long delay, so that his image could be active while he basically stood still in the corner. I did as he asked, and we ran the dance through and I noticed that he he had followed it up with an interlude of bobbing up and down in another spot while holding his head. After the runthrough, Sam asked me for my input, and I told him that I was all for him standing in the corner, but that following that with another section where he stayed in one place meant that the video buffer would essentially be filled with static images that did not dramatically differ from one another , and that I couldn't find a way to use those images to counterpoint the bobbing section of the dance. Sam proposed inserting a section of frantic activity in between the sections in order to correct this, and I agreed. This frantic section is seen in 4:35, and it becomes the raw material for the jumpcut sequence that immediately follows.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Xenakis quote

For this purpose the qualification "beautiful" or "ugly" makes no sense for sound, nor for the music that derives from it; the quantity of intelligence carried by the sounds must be the true criterion of the validity of a particular music.

Iannis Xenakis

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Re Alec Baldwin's joke about Filipina Mail-Order Brides

I've posted this as a comment on facebook, but I decided to post it here to go on record as saying that: Alec Baldwin has NOTHING to apologize for. He jokingly made a reference to a real and current state of affairs. The same congressmen who made/are making speeches in the Batasan should apologize to US for perpetuating an economic climate that enables/encourages marrying strange foreigners as an viable/credible  life option. To put it crassly (but quasi-Biblically) they remind me of the dissolute maton who pissed his life and patrimony away at the sabong and pool tables, leaving his daughters to fend for themselves. One day he hears someone making a joke about how his daughters' only job options are as nurses, maids, japayuki, and gets fucking wounded. How dare the drunk dishonor his daughters, and worse, the Family Name! "THIS CALLS FOR AN IMMEDIATE DISCUSSION!" 

Every year or so, there's another Immediate Discussion about some actress or actor or something making some crack on American TV. Kate Winslet. Something about roaches.  That line in Desperate Housewives about our doctors that gave birth to a god-damn petition that got more signatures than one condemning monks, fucking HOLY MEN, getting shot in the streets in Burma. Jesus, can we just get the fuck OVER OURSELVES! 

Speaking of which, we should pause to think about the existential/political commentary that a mail-order bride makes. It's possible to see it as performance art on the samurai level, compressing your life into the blade of a single gesture: "You know what? I'm just gonna go out and marry a old white psycho sheepherder that I met on the internet! It sure beats life here!"
Thousands of these bloody-edged jokes a year, and the government still stands. Jesus.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

The Accidental Cinematographer

Yeah, yeah, another post on the Kho videos. In my defense however, this will not be about their content. The videos' creation and dissemination are so blindingly immoral that it's understandable that no one has focused on its form, but dammit, I couldn't help thinking that some of the stuff actually actually looks good (!) visually and cinematically. Perhaps I should explain that I've always been a fan of low-res media. I like the low-rent neighborhoods of anti-HD: Super-8, Betamax and VHS and the more recent format of 3GP phone video. I'm not exactly sure why. Brian Eno once wrote that once a recording medium is supplanted by another medium, the flaws of the old medium become prized as aesthetic phenomena. Some of it probably has to do with things that we can't see, but which we associate with what we CAN see (eg a certain type of graininess, color, etc), just as we associate ideas of speed and efficiency with, say, chrome. Super8 is associated with rock, Derek Jarman, Jonas Mekas, the 60's, all sorts of romantic rebel imagery. Still, I am entranced by the completely unverifiable idea that we might be perceive the paucity of detail as a kind of minimalism executed on the level of the pixel. We might perceive low resolution as doing something in the photographic realm that Japanese sumi-e does in the realm of painting: as performing a kind of figurative distillation. Nowadays we also have video compression for that extra patina of image degradation, which, serendipitously, also does wonders for modesty. Maybe compression artifacts can't hide Kho's dick, but they do a great job of smearing the details of female genitalia. The girls could be wearing bodysuits for all the detail visible in the videos.

I like what the locked camera captures, particularly the way the subjects' heads fall out of frame as they hold a position, removing explicit detail while still giving the sense that the act is proceeding apace; and like how the absolute absence of music and muffled voices give only fragments of information that we are forced to cobble together. The fragmentary nature of the available information gives the effect of having a substream of jump-cuts in the frame. (Hm! Intra frame information montage? Gotta explore this idea more somewhere else.) I'm not kidding, the shots could be inserted into something French. Dammit, Kho may have just popularized a new way to shoot and frame sex scenes.

Of course, it would have to be justified why the lens gets suddenly wrapped in the digital equivalent of gauze when a couple gets frisky. On the other hand, we've gotten inured to the use of handheld cameras for practically any subject. It might be that we'll learn to see this kind of distressed compressed-for-the-web video imagery as appropriate to the subject matter. I'm thinking of the brief period of time when the Paris Hilton video caused us to perceive a green-tinted closeup shot with a wide-angle lens as a "sex shot." That association evaporated rather quickly, but I suspect that Kho's approach might actually become useful as vocabulary.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Mrs D's party: Uh-Oh

Have to say that the preparations (as documented by Aquiles Zonio of the Mindanao Inquirer) for Pacquiao’s mother’s birthday leave me a little disturbed. The writer writes “No, she is not Imeldific,” meaning that Dionisia Pacquiao is not Imelda Marcos herself, but one can’t escape the feeling that if Mrs. D is not Imeldific (proper noun), the preparations definitely sound imeldific (adjective).

Five different gowns, each costing in the tens of thousands of pesos. Louis Vuitton handbag for P150,000. P15,000 shoes. Excess, display, love of designer labels, the usual imeldific pomp and glitter. Interesting that while Pacman himself seems to be a quiet, humble soul who seems to genuinely believe that it is crucial to his well-being that he remain a simple man at heart, he is surrounded by every sign of a full-bore trapo machine dedicated to impressing to all and sundry that Pacquiao is NOT a simple man, a tao, but a full blown Panginoon. In our semifeudal culture, the landlord is Lord of The Land, the Panginoong May Lupa, a rarefied being whose exotic and excessive tastes are a stamp of his power. You get the idea that somewhere in Camp Pacquiao, some sense that Pacquiao is extraordinary is trying to manifest and express itself, and is doing so in the usual, monstrous, drunken way of nouveau panginoon. The huge entourages. The huge houses. The armed bodyguards: pomp and circumstance, shock and awe. I’m just waiting for somebody to haul out a couple of cases of Petrus, or maybe have Fat Bastard in a Baby Huey costume jump out of a cake like in the Marcos video.

I’m not suggesting Pacquiao or even Mrs D. came up with all the trappings. More likely there are some close friends/confidantes/ hairdressers/backstabbing politicos in the camp who believe with absolute conviction that they could give to Paquiao A House Befitting a Man of His Stature, or to Mrs D. The Greatest Birthday Party General Roxas Has Ever Known, and who have by sheer force of personality managed to corral control of the budget. However, it seems to indicate that at the very least, Pacquiao either believes that his own aesthetics of simplicity are personal preferences that need not apply to anything else/anyone but himself; or that he cannot control or guide Camp Pacquiao. Money and power attract people, and a mass of people jammed/falling/struggling into a space will sort themselves into some kind of structure, negotiating orbits, turf, responsibility, procedure. Who knows what the hell is going on in there, but it doesn’t look like a party.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Fuck The Customs

Occasioned by the fucking book blockade.
Check here and here

William Gibson flash. A pirate book resistance. Pdfs, xerox machines, printers modified with local ink cartridges and a black market flourishing out of suitcases, balikbayan boxes and diplomatic pouches. Descendants of rebel monks-- scribes copying the books of Aristotle for posterity as Europe falls to the Inquisition and the Dark Ages. Bradbury's To The Chicago Abyss. Memory and resistance. De Niro's rebel plumber adapted and updated. Mmm, maybe Ronnie Lazaro as a guerrilla publisher with a modded inkjet-and-laptop running off sunlight and batteries in a kariton with a Millenium Falcon sticker buried amidst graffiti and industrial burloloy. Wearing a scapular with the picture of Antonio Calipjo Go and hunted by a Talibanesque confederacy of murderous dunces. Final crane shot spiraling out of a sucking chest wound as our hero lies dying on a sidewalk in Bangkal, apelike centurions dancing around him, except elsewhere in the city a twelve-year old swears vengeance and continuity over a sheet of carbon paper. Closeup of Lazaro's hand inscribing the opening words of Catcher in The Rye with his blood even as he slips into the dark. Fuck the Customs and know the names responsible: Customs examiner Rene Agulan and Customs Undersecretary Espele Sales.

Monday, April 27, 2009

4 Channels of synchronized HD!

Am setting up the system for the work of Michele Theunissen (A South African artist based in Australia). It's a four-channel video installation using full HD video. She shot it on 16mm, digitized it to full 1920 x 1080p HD. So that's four screens full HD video projections playing in sync. Will be using 4 networked Macintosh Pros to handle the heavy-duty pixel crunching required. Gotta be the first HD video installation in the country. It'll be set up at MCAD, the Museum of Contemporary Art and Design at the ground floor of the College of St Benilde, the weird crystalline building on Vito Cruz. Opens April 30 this coming Thursday. They're showing a Lav Diaz film at 2PM, cocktails at 6 PM.Dunno how many days they can rent a suite of four projectors. Anybody interested in the video installation better come to the opening April 30. ;-)

Thursday, March 19, 2009

First Blood

Might as well say it: Impossible that it's a coincidence that Nicole recants and gets a visa within the week that Obama calls GMA. Sounds like some kind of Hollywood bullshit, I know. Could presidents really horsetrade over the phone? Lissen, end this Junk The VFA grandstanding crap and let's talk. Let our guy go and we'll give the girl a visa. Nicole, VFA, Smith, US Visa. Counters in a game that's ended with Marines in Mindanao, Smith exonerated, Nicole getting a visa, and GMA getting a personal call from the poster boy of America Redeemed. Not as good as a photograph with the man but better than nothing. Everybody happy. Win-win. 'Course Filipinas wind up looking like a bunch of lying, visa-grubbing sluts, but what can you do. De Quiros defends Obama by saying it's not Obama's fault if Filipinos don't look after Philippine interests. It's not Obama's job to look after Philippine interests. Precisely. That's why we can't go jumping into any parades for the man, no matter how cute he and his family look on TV . Yeah, he's the anti-Bush, yeah he's black, yeah he wants to get out of Iraq, but none of that means he wants a new deal for the Philippines. None of that would mean his deal would be a good deal for us anyway. Like I said, Obama is not my President. Obama is not our president. He's still a goddamn American president, the CEO of a globe-spanning, military machine backing imperialist economics.You can't blink when you're dealing with the bastards.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Excerpt from a new video work: Tiempo Real

Tiempo Real = "Real Time".  I made this for Manila Transitio 1945 -- an event held on March 7 2009 to mark the "liberation" and annihilation of Manila. Screened it looping on a wall of the building known as the American Barracks in Fort Santiago. The wall is old, stained, and riddled with bulletholes, which really tied into the themes of the piece . Unsuspecting passersby were doing double takes thinking that they saw ghosts inserting themselves into the images. I was particularly happy to eavesdrop on common city employees discussing the video among themselves, arguing where a given image was taken, how the effect was created (one guy described the crossfade in photographic terms --as a picture "developing" over time) who among their colleagues was the one sweeping by Postigo gate, etc etc.  

Monday, January 26, 2009

Eric Lyon, a teacher and programmer, relates this story:

During an exchange of ideas between Karlheinz Stockhausen and several younger
electronic musicians (Witts 1995) Stockausen observed, ”I
heard the piece Aphex Twin of Richard James carefully: I
think it would be very helpful if he listens to my work Song
Of The Youth, which is electronic music, and a young boy’s
voice singing with himself. Because he would then immediately
stop with all these post-African repetitions, and he
would look for changing tempi and changing rhythms, and
he would not allow to repeat any rhythm if it were varied to
some extent and if it did not have a direction in its sequence
of variations.” Richard D. James responded from a different
perspective, ”I didn’t agree with him. I thought he should
listen to a couple of tracks of mine: ”Didgeridoo”, then he’d
stop making abstract, random patterns you can’t dance to.”
Brilliant exchange. Love the way Richard D. James (ie Aphex Twin, a spectacularly talented electronica composer) makes the point that Stockhausen is judging his (James) music by inappropriate standards by deliberately making a parallel error and judging Stockhausen by techno standards. 

Old man Stockhausen still labors under the impression that the road of musical progress lies along a single historical trajectory mapped out by the serialists. That serious music should  avoid steady time signatures and harmony and look for new forms of serial variation. James refuses to be intimidated, and asserts the right of new musical form and traditions to exist not as primitive or retrograde traditions, but simply as different traditions that may value/focus on/emphasize variation and creativity on different fronts. African drumming may be very poor harmonically, and have no narrative structure to speak of, but it's very complex rhythmically and great to dance to. Classical Indian music is monophonic, but has complex beat cycles, exploits microtones, and boasts a wealth of scales. And so on.