Wednesday, March 31, 2004


1. I've just been informed (courtesy BBC Four tonight) that the Plinth is, in fact, a Pedestal (comprising a Plinth, a Dado, and a Cornice). So there.

2. Vernal sunshine = cycling to work. Cycling = Pedal, clipless = shoe. Shoe in storage thingy. Try on.

Shoe won't fit. Sock? Investigate ....


Mouse. Mouse!!!??

Something Oscar must have brought in, and which escaped, then hid in a shoe. My shoe. It's hid in my shoe. And weed in it. Thanks mouse.

I try to rescue it, honest I do, but it is too wary; and I'm too clumsy. O~ observes the hapless man and mouse from the top of the stairs. Expression=stand aside I can handle that.

--- = - = - = ---

Later today, reports of "something" on the carpet. We often find little unpalatable, even to cats, somethings. I guess Oscar did eventually get round to finishing his storecupboard side-dish.

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

objects may be closer than they appear

This may sound a little bit like a general studies essay.

The selection of Marc Quinn's sculpture for its sojurn on Trafalgar Square's fourth plinth
has met with the inevitable turbulent media reaction. Opinion has been both anti, and also anti. Obviously there are some in favour, but good news is no news for most media outlets.

The first lot of antis (Daily Express, Evening Standard, etc etc ad nauseam) are most concerned not with the work per se, but with what the work is thought to represent, i.e. modern art, and how it offends their worldview. The usual reasons trotted out are not matters of taste, but contend that there is something intrinsically wrong with the art, that it is not art, because:
  • "It doesn't look much like her!" (nonrepresentational work, or superficial disconnection between the form and the subject)

  • "It's disgusting/pornographic/sexual" (subject relates to bodily functions or body image)

  • "It's just a bit of junk" (form comprises common materials, un-costly substances and/or found objects)

  • "It's not like a proper picture/sculpture/whatever" (work doesn't conform to 19th-century formalisms/conventions)

  • "My six-year-old daughter could have done that" (object doesn't display overt evidence of craft skills/time-consuming processes/manual dexterity on behalf of the artist)

These objections have been around for most of the 20th century, and are getting pretty tired now. None of them seem to apply to the Quinn work (OK it is a nude, but not especially sexual : and the subject matter doesn't seem to mind us staring), so could it be that the work simply makes thought inevitable, and that this is the source of popular discomfort?

The other sort of antis, or at least grudgers, start from an opposite perspective (they want to be thinking hard about art, and to be seen doing so) and yet display equal dissatisfaction (see for example Jonathan Jones in the Guardian, or Siân Ede's unrelated essay on Art/Science interplay from UCL vs CERN vs ART).

Here are the usual arguments, translated back into their original meaning.
  • The work is overtly political in intent. "Don't tell me your opinions on social values, they might conflict with mine."

  • The artist has not asserted their interpretation of the medium/subject/historical context. "It just sits there looking pretty, where's the art in that?"

  • There is no integration/opposition/relationship with existing/prior work/theory, or at least none is offered. This arises from two unrelated thoughts: "such and such has done it before" and "they clearly haven't read my MA thesis".

  • The meaning of the work is superficial/obvious/unambiguous. "My sense of importance is diminished because I don't need to use my MA to read this particular work."

Quinn's sculpture seems to offend both camps. Perhaps the England shirts and bow ties are closer than they appear?

Friday, March 12, 2004

Elitist? Naah mate.

As I was decluttering a bit today, I came across an interview with David Bailey in a 14-month old issue of [nameless PC-oriented magazine]. Quite funny really: one could sense, from the brusqueness, that DB didn't want to be there, as such, but was kind of a trophy interviewee, "With thanks to DB's sponsor, Lexm?rk".

How many megapixels would you recommend as a minimum? I'd be looking at around 10 million pixels, but that's what I'd need for professional work. I haven't really used the lower resolution cameras aimed at amateurs.

How does digital ISO compare with film ISO? There doesn't seem to be much difference between 100 and 800, at least on the high-end. Again, I don't know avout the 'toy' cameras.

And so on. All "I'm serious you oiks are not".
Cheers Dave, thanks a lot, that really helps.

Friday, March 05, 2004


The Grauniad ran this photo (mea scana culpa) of a cute installation the other week, which was just like a concept of symmetries causing irregular-seeming sampling effects (you could say Aliasing, or Moiré effects) in a solar spectrometer I've been working on recently.

When we consider this map and the grid of available ADC coordinate pairs that it represents, we can see that the observed nonuniformities in the position space resemble the optical effect that is seen when driving near a field of regularly spaced plants, military gravestones or other objects. Along certain directions of view, clear corridors seem to open up before us. In other directions we perceive an unbroken mass of objects. The angles along which we see a lower apparent density of objects are those where there is close alignment of our view angle and the symmetry of the grid. These are analogous to the locations of spikes and notches in the spectrum data.

Thursday, March 04, 2004

The art of looking sideways ;-)

ed Alan Fletcher pub Phaidon. A fat treasure trove : X marks the spot.

One jewel: "the purpose of a camera is to learn to see without a camera".

Monday, March 01, 2004

Does anyone else look like me?

There is just time for two sightings. More precisely there is no time whatever but none like the present. I have a terrible thought of all these words pouring out of all these brains. Moreover the flood of words comes with a torrent of pictures. Piling up in this stinking landfill of ideas, uneaten. Still, eager scavengers wheel overhead, thriving.

My bit of junk today can be connected to my views about that bench. More precisely my view of it, as an ambassador between the world of natural things, with their unknowable logic (book: Gleick/Porter : Nature's Chaos), and our purposeful objects. Each tiny mark within its texture is an echo of this interplay. The scratchings on the green cells living upon its once freshly machined surface, and all around other evidence of nature's re-colonisation of it. The brave, yet sinister, circles for the manly bolts. The natural bulge at the far end where a hefty branch once joined the main trunk. The memory of its former life as a simple tree.

Most of this is in the mind of the makers as well. But some marks made by once deliberately made objects are entirely unintentional. Tyre tracks after a crash. The glint of a beer bottle in the verge. Stately domes, chasms, avenues of a city in peeling paint.

Today I found an eddy in that torrent which seems to collect some of this dust. I like Cathy Mullins' images, and the way that they focus on un-attended details. This particular stream (PODart) bravely explores the possibility of new networks for carrying on a 100-year-old quest: freezing the flood of the eye.

Flooding a problem? Try sticking a finger in.

Another sighting, remembered, is Jonathan Miller's exploration of this territory. He is another gazer who has focused on nothing in particular. And with good effect. This interview (search for Nothing in Particular) catches a little of his well-known diversity of thought, but nothing of the intensity of his voice. I gripely suspect that being who he is, doors may open more readily into publishers' and curators' offices. But who am I to grizzle, being a happy seagull with lots of tasty morsels on the tip below me.

Actually I've got a bit of serious pecking to do with Miller. In his otherwise delightful writings On Reflection (see this review and extract ) he focuses on the monocular aspects of vision almost entirely. There is much insight into the paradox of reflection -- the perfect mirror withdrawing from perception -- and its consequent puzzle for the painter. But, a vital quality about seeing is missed.

In exactly the same way that sound is not simply a waveform but a wavefront, having multiplicity of sources each with a particular direction and special characteristic (real sound is surround sound, and here we are in the era of mechanically reproduced such sounds), light, and so vision, is essentially three-dimensional. Our two eyes and many directions of bodily motion (including the many motions of the eye itself) allow us to sample this three-dimensional light pattern. Perspective is almost entirely a single eye task, and hence can be faithfully reproduced on a flat sheet. But our brains rely on many clues to establish the mind's image of its world.

Reflections in particular are characterised not only by their intensity and spatial pattern in the so-called image plane, but also their location in three-dimensional space. This is why photographs can be so wrong (and thereby artful). They are merely 2D projections of a 3D world. The particular glint in a window which any viewer, including the photographer, could have ignored if it was several yards behind the intended subject can appear, maybe as evidence of the photographer's own subjective existence, as the dominant object.

I don't know why, but this particular thought needled me continually during, and for weeks after Miller's 1998 National Gallery exhibition, Mirror Image.