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robertogreco : decomposition   5 / Arrangement Collage
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"In 2015, Frank Chimero wrote on the “Grain” of the Web, focusing on a web-native media that doesn’t try to fight the inherently rectangle-based HTML Document Object Model (DOM)—also shared with XML and XHTML. This remains true: any site that does not look rectilinear is usually just fooling you; strip the CSS and it’s just a pile of blocks. Perhaps tilted and stretched, or with the corners shaved off, but just a pile of blocks.

As McLuhan would have anticipated, this blocky model has substantial effects toward what web-native media looks like. Chimero documents this well. I’d like to add a psychological component, though, in that as an online culture, we’ve grown accustomed to block-based interfaces. We joke at Web 2.0’s desire to round over corners and balk at clunky Flash plugins; nonlinear, non-blocky interfaces are either salient or sore thumbs.

Native internet users consume media through HTML interfaces at an astounding pace; simple rectangles frame a continuous deluge of multimedia updates. In an age of both physical and digital abundance in the Western world, creation of new media from scratch requires ample justification. Acts of synthesis, archiving, compression, and remix are valuable tools for leveraging information otherwise lost to the unsorted heap. These verbs are ways to construct something new from pre-existing media objects, or at least finding some narrative or meaning within them.

A curator, classically, acts as composer and manager of (typically static) objects so as to convey narrative to a willing audience. The internet audience, however, expects more autonomy in the dynamic content they see. Self-selected content is simply a necessary tactic for navigating nearly limitless information. An explosion of digital “curation” caters to the desire, whether by user directly, tuned algorithms, or third-party human. This manifests when you select topics of interest on Quora and construct a twitter feed of only exactly the people you want. Going to a curated museum is now a relinquishing of control compared to typical digital art consumption, which comes mashed-up through various media platforms.

Even with stream moderation, the modern media viewer is accustomed to lack of coherence between adjacent content blocks. In your tumblr dashboard, a peer-reviewed journal article can sit immediately above an anonymously submitted shitpost. We don’t blink. In an arrangement of DOM blocks, each bit of media similarly carries its own context, history, and qualia. I posit we can effectively navigate our feeds not because we can rapidly jump between the context captured by each DOM block, but rather because we interpolate narrative and construct cohesion. Adjacency implies connection and synthesis, or, in the words of John Berger:
[An image reproduction] becomes itself the reference point for other images. The meaning of an image is changed according to what one sees immediately beside it or what comes immediately after it. (Ways Of Seeing)

Marius Watz, in a response on the New Aesthetic, writes on tumblr image culture: “Its art is juxtaposition: If we put this next to that and this other thing, surely a new understanding will emerge.” To be fair, there are uncountably many combinations that may be devoid of meaning—all I mean to point out is that a diptych is a third object, beyond the original two, with the possibility of value. Some find artistic practice in the form of a relentless stream of rectangles. People go nuts over releases of image dumps from Moodmail and JJJJound, and the Lost Image Desk is making professional practice of it.

(A scan of contemporary sculpture demonstrates that selection and arrangement of objects—often found or folk objects—is an ongoing trend. The viewer is trusted with finding meaning in the arrangement, selection, formal qualities, cultural context, and more in a relational tradition.)

HTML is perfectly built for image adjacency—a blank and infinite canvas, empowered by right-click “Copy Image Address.” Our expansive tumblrs and pinterest boards act as collected and performed narratives, collages of found digital media.
[Traditional] collages, […] were probably laid out carefully, aided by facsimiles, white-out, and tape, existed alongside the book, rather than being subsumed or created through the process of publishing and distribution, as is often the case with internet ‘collage’. Computers conceal distance; their collage move consists of juxtaposing elements that might be stored hundreds or thousands of miles apart, giving an illusion of spatial continuity. (Seth Price, Teen Image)

Traditional art collage used the intrigue and power in composing elements pulled from diverse sources. Meaning constructed by selection, editing, and combination. The HTML collage, however, is copy-pasted. What is the HTML-native collage?

I call it the “Arrangement Collage”—rectangular, transcontextual compositions of, ostensibly, found media. The arrangement collage does less work for the viewer than traditional collage: elements are kept fully intact rather than trimmed for blended. The composition often mitigates interaction between elements and instead celebrates raw adjacency.
When the historical avant-garde used valorized cultural objects such as the Mona Lisa or a violin, it profaned, overpowered, and destroyed them before going on to aestheticize them. In contrast, contemporary art uses mass-cultural things virtually intact. (Boris Groys, On The New)

The arrangement collage, while easy to construct in print, is truly native to the web, in which all objects are, by default, level rectangles, context-switching is the norm, and media to compose with is bountiful.

Our feeds, plentiful in the digital landscape, help populate the arrangement collage. Tumblr, ostensibly a micro-blogging site, is largely used for image collection; FFFFound is legendary for its contextless stream of collected imagery (and as birthing the name for JJJJound, when Justin Saunders couldn’t get an account); and Buzzfeed publishes “articles” that are frankly just stacks of image macros. A proliferation of mindless image consumption concerns Bob Gill.
There’s nothing original. ‘The Culture’ is the great mass of images and ideas which bombard us every day, and therefore shape the way we think visually. Only by recognising The Culture’s presence and its power, can designers move away from the clichés it promotes.

Irrefutably, the images we consume affect how we think, and what we can imagine. Gill’s words should be considered, and the internet-native should stay aware of “the clichés” promoted. Gill encourages “first-hand” research, but this points at a cultural gap—there is no line between reality and the internet; “first-hand” research takes place on the social web. In-person discussion and close examination of physical objects can be romanticized, but it should not detract from the fact that meaningful discussion and critical consumption can happen in a digital landscape as well.

Of deeper concern is the stripping of value from imagery in overabundance. Edition MK’s 2010 DDDDoomed (the name, I assume, another reference to FFFFound) gets at the kernel of this problem: Image Aggregators (“IAs”—such as JJJJound and other blogs), which typically present images contextless alongside hundreds of others, can strip imagery of its power. IAs do work that is weaker, semiotically, than traditional collage, and less organized than archiving (which is often a process of attaching or generating metadata, whereas IAs frequently remove it). Images that find political power within a context are reduced to purely aesthetic objects in the stream. If you are a tumblr fiend, this very likely rings true: the multitude of streams filled with gorgeous scenery, motivational quotes, and supermodel women quickly reduce this imagery to banality and objectification.
We [distance ourselves] from our critical faculties as we slide into models of passive spectatorship that reinforce our passivity by promoting a one-way mode of cultural consumption. […] Continuous over-stimulation leads to desensitisation. (Peter Buwert, “Defamiliarization, Brecht and Criticality in Graphic Design” in Modes of Criticism 2: Critique of Method)

The arrangement collage might serve as a tool in this battle against desensitization. In Buwert’s essay, referenced above, he describes how Brecht’s famous defamiliarization of the theater encouraged “a condition of active critical spectatorship within the audience.” DDDDoomed is lamenting the supposed death of this critical spectator, replaced with the numb and passive viewer. Buwert is less concerned with context/lessness than Edition MK, and instead focuses on familiarity.

There are valiant efforts towards an inclusion of context and metadata with online imagery, but it is not built into the structure of the internet. Flickr and twitter use image covers to dissuade copy-pasting (circumnavigable by screen-shotting) and Mediachain attempts to inextricably tie media to metadata using blockchain methods. As of writing, however, the JPG is not going anywhere, and the ease of downloading and re-uploading an image far surpasses digging to find its source. Entropy is not on our side, and Google’s reverse image search will never be quite fast or comprehensive enough to keep up.

Walter Benjamin might lament the loss of contextual sensitivity, as it comes intertwined with a loss of “aura.” The authenticity that drives Benjamin’s aura is dependent on the idea of an original—which, in internet ecosystems, simply isn’t a relevant concept, as the original and reproduction can be… [more]
lukaswinklerprins  2016  frankchimero  arrangementcollage  web  online  feeds  juxtaposition  canon  curation  collections  tumblr  html  webdev  form  imagery  images  webnative  decomposition  composition  peterbuwert  aggregation  ffffound  justinsaunders  bobgill  sethprice  moodmail  lostimagedesk  waysofseeing  johnberger  dom  xml  xhtml  marshallmcluhan 
february 2019 by robertogreco
The Fantastically Strange Origin of Most Coal on Earth – Phenomena: Curiously Krulwich
"This is a story about trees—very, very strange looking trees—and some microbes that failed to show up on time. Their non-appearance happened more than 300 million years ago, and what they didn’t do, or rather what happened because they weren’t there, shapes your life and mine.

All you have to do is walk the streets of Beijing or New Delhi or Mexico City: If there’s a smog-laden sky (and there usually is), all that dust blotting out the sun is there because of this story I’m going to tell.

It begins, appropriately enough, in an ancient forest …"

[See also:
"How Fungi Saved the World"

"This was the one and only time in the last 300 million years that the wood-rotting ability evolved. All the fungi today that can digest wood (and a few that can't) are the descendants of that enterprising fungus. Its strategy may have been inelegant, but wood decay played a crucial role in reversing the loss of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and bringing about the end of the Carboniferous period.

What would have happened if white rot fungi had never evolved? We can only speculate, but it's possible the world of today would look a lot like the world at the end of the Carboniferous period – cooler, high in oxygen, and with a denser atmosphere. Dragonflies with foot-and-a-half wingspans might still roam the forests, but the plant life might still be primeval, stifled by the lower carbon dioxide concentrations. Many a homeowner may disagree, but we're lucky wood-rotting fungi evolved. "]


"For 40 million years, trees were not biodegradable.
430 million years before present, the first vascular plants emerged from early tide pools. In order to stay upright, these plants employed cellulose, a chain of simple sugars ... it was easy to make and offered rigid yet flexible support

This is from How Fungi Saved the World.

90 million years later, heralding the Carboniferous period,
plants developed a new kind of support material, called lignin. Lignin was an improvement development over cellulose in several ways: it was harder, more rigid, and, being more complex, almost impossible to digest, which made it ideal for protecting cellulose. With lignin, plants could make wood, and it lead to the first treelike growth form.

But lignin made the lycopod trees a little too successful. Because their leaves were lofted above many herbivores and their trunks were made inedible by lignin, lycopods were virtually impervious to harm.

Dead trees piled up without decomposing. Compacted by weight, they turned to peat and then to coal. 90% of all today's coal is from this period.

Wood pollution lasted 40 million years.
Finally, however, a fungus belonging to the class Agaricomycetes - making it a distant cousin of button mushrooms - did find a crude way to break down lignin. Rather than devise an enzyme to unstitch the lignin molecule, however, it was forced to adapt a more direct strategy. Using a class of enyzmes called peroxidases, the fungus bombarded the wood with highly reactive oxygen molecules, in much the same way one might untie a knot using a flamethrower. This strategy reduced the wood to a carbohydrate-rich slurry from which the fungus could slurp up the edible cellulose.

Which leads me to think:

There's a ton of plastic in the ocean. Why not engineer a fungus to rot it? Having this magical material that lasts forever is absurd. This is a controversial idea I admit. But although I agree that we need to reduce plastic pollution (via social change and by regulatory intervention), cybernetics tells me that's a fragile solution. Homeostasis is to be found in a ecosystem of checks and balances: instead of eternal plastic, we need plastic plus a plastic-rotting fungus plus an effective-but-hard-to-apply fungicide. Then balance can be found."
2016  coal  plants  trees  fungi  science  evolution  classideas  naturalhistory  decomposition  srg  plastic 
january 2018 by robertogreco
AC2015 - Chair's plenary: Feral geographies: life in capitalist ruins
"Two questions guide this talk. First, how have industrial processes changed earth ecologies—even far from industrial centers? Second, given that Anthropocene ecologies have moved outside human design, how shall we understand their geographies as simultaneously global and local? Using invasive fungal pathogens, parasites, and decomposers as my entry point, I will examine histories of invasion that clarify overlapping human and nonhuman world-making, as this leads to feral geographies. On the one hand, such histories illustrate unintentional design, that is, landscapes made by many living things. On the other hand, they suggest that something new—and beyond human control—has emerged in our times, challenging the livable ecologies of earlier landscape dynamics. Indeed, newly deadly more-than-human capacities, with their feral geographies, give substance to the concept of the Anthropocene. Mapping them allows Anthropocene to do crucial work: drawing together a transdisciplinary discussion of industrial effects. The talk thus addresses the possibility of opening disciplinary and conceptual borders, not just for the critique of dichotomies between nature and culture, but also, more urgently, for the making of forms of knowledge, which, while not universal, know what travel is and how to chance it. This is a challenge, then, for both theory and description. Might joining the discussion called “Anthropocene” require humanistic social scientists to rethink our knowledge practices? Meanwhile, the talk is a renewed endorsement of the importance of arts of noticing—and critical description—for our unsettled times."
geography  feralgeographies  feral  anthropocene  capitalism  via:anne  2015  jamielorimer  sarahwhatmore  annatsing  stephenhinchliffe  gaildavies  charylmcewan  noticing  landscape  nonhuman  multispecies  human  design  geoengineering  parasites  pathogens  decomposers  decomposition  annalowenhaupttsing 
may 2015 by robertogreco
After I die (22 Apr., 2012, at Interconnected)
"When I imagine the dead me, I imagine a body with a brain which is thinking really, really slowly. As my body and my brain decompose, these are simply changes in the structure—so decomposition would feel like learning and developing, in some sort of way. And as adjacent neurons break down and affect one-another, or as a worm burrows its way through my dead brain, maybe these would feel like occasional thoughts.

And so, during this time, the pattern which is my consciousness becomes absorbed into the pattern which is the world, & mingles w/ structures already there, new connections are made & others broken, just as thinking already is, & the changing me-pattern I experience as slow thoughts and slow developments of the self, & I become part of a wide, slow, thinking earth.

That's option one, to be buried and to decompose gently.

Option two:

I would like to be cremated, my ashes made into bread, and the bread shared out and eaten by all my friends. I think that would be wonderful."
brain  thinking  longnow  slow  consciousness  cremation  decomposition  2012  mattwebb  death 
april 2012 by robertogreco
Norman Brosterman - Inventing Kindergarten: Seedbed of Modern Art | Video on PBS & NPR Forum Network
"Norman Brosterman discusses the history of kindergarten and its influence on such modernist giants as Frank Lloyd Wright, Wassily Kandinsky, Piet Mondrian, Le Corbusier and the Bauhaus school.
In his book Inventing Kindergarten, Brosterman argues that within this lost world of women and children we can locate the seedbed of modern art. With its emphasis on abstract decomposition and building up from elemental forms, the original kindergarten system of the mid-nineteenth century created an education and design revolution that profoundly affected the course of modern art and architecture, as well as physics, music, psychology and the modern mind itself."
decomposition  design  education  music  physics  psychology  architecture  art  modernism  inventingkindergarten  bauhaus  lecorbusier  pietmondrian  wassilykandinsky  franklloydwright  normanbrosterman  2005 
february 2012 by robertogreco

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