Monthly Archives: October 2007

Prayer 2.0

I’ve never prayed. Not really. I remember sometimes thinking about whether it would be a good idea to pray, whilst walking to school. I always hit the brick wall though that I was only praying just in case God existed. Then I figured out that if he did exist then he should know my prayers already. Either way I couldn’t figure out a good reason to do it, so I never did.

While working with my spam/art concept, it occurred to me that a parallel could be drawn somehow between user-generated spam and the act of a prayer. The reasoning goes like this; one definition of Prayer (from Wikipedia) is this;

Prayer is a mental exercise and type of meditation in which the participant (the prayer) in many but not all forms of prayer attempts to loose mental connection with Earth and transport their mind to another person not on Earth. In most prayer this person is God or another deity. …

This definition is fairly non-specific, but it can be taken that when someone Prays they are trying to communicate or to impart their emotions or thoughts to another person or being – normally God.

In my model the mental exercise becomes the physical one of consolidating ones thoughts to computer-based textual information and the deity is replaced by an amorphous group of other internet users.

Prayer 2.0

I have no aversion to Prayer, but unfortunately I do find it entirely inaccessible, mainly because I’m lumbered with disbelief in God. Prayer 2.0 is an attempt at reflecting upon that and engaging others to do the same, regardless of their point of view. Maybe we can all help each other.

I’ve spent the last couple of weeks writing the code, and now Prayer 2.0 lives at prayer2.net.

Paul Eachus, Thoughts & Notes on Photoworks

I went to Paul Eachus’s Cornerhouse lecture. From the Cornerhouse website;

London-based artist Paul Eachus’ photoworks and display pieces present an irrational ordering of things, an excess of visual and referential material that refuses to be pinned down within known systems of categorization. His large-scale works are fragmentary, decentred and seemingly out-of-control.

As defined by Eachus, a “Photowork” is not just photographic documentation of his physical work, despite that being how it appears. I think his argument for the the photo work (as a concept) is to do with the abstract quality that photography can bring to his pieces; it gives him the ability to force people to look at his (otherwise) physical work one degree removed from where the work actually exists. It was also argued that the framing of his photo works is integral. Deliberately depriving the audience of being able to view the work in its totality.

A Photowork

An example of a Photowork, image taken from the Cornerhouse website.

According to the artist, these two actions are extremely important in translating his artistic intentions to the audience. Despite concentrating on his explanations and reasoning for over an hour’s worth of lecture; I never completely understood why a “photo work” was necessary. As a three dimensional physical piece, I think I would have appreciated his creations far more; I felt very much like I was being coerced into seeing things from the artists point of view. I certainly would not have arrived at his point of view if left to my own devices!

The works, I thought, were impressive examples of installation and sculpture; they were emotive, instantly creating an uneasy edge on sight and with complexity till the cows come home. Intricate and meticulous. Why, in that case, does the artist insist that his work is made to be viewed in the once-removed form of a photograph? (All-be-it a very lovely, well lit, medium format photograph – but still a photograph!) The strangest thing I found was that there was one exception. He showed us documentary photos (not photo works) of one piece that was designed to be an installation rather than to be photographed and then exhibited; in conceptual terms it seemed to be identical to the photo works.

What is the photo work about? I couldn’t quite figure it out. For me; it definately didn’t add to my enjoyment of the artwork. Maybe forcing the context by using photography is a gimmick, maybe it is a master stroke that I completely missed. Possibly it gives the artist an excuse to talk at length about its implications in order to “sucker” the audience with it. Maybe it is a good career move, photographs are much easier to reproduce than a large installation! Who knows?

For me, two key points are in the forefront of my mind; Delivery of his presentation or lecture was unpleasant. He simply read a prepared document (which came across as an entry in an encyclopedia) was not engaging. Secondly, managing to talk and write about his work in such a complex fashion seemed to be more important than the work itself. Is that a good thing or bad? This guy is obviously successful, to some extent, is it just because he is painting an idealogical picture or because of the merit of his work. A balance between the two must always be drawn.

Spy Phone

I recently purchased a modified Nokia phone, that lets you set it into a “spy mode” – whereby the phone appears to be off but will actually automatically answer any incoming phone calls; without any visible signs. Its designed for un-trusting types to spy on their friends, employers or loved ones. Fortunately, I’m in a position where this is not by primary intention!

I thought it would be cool to do some kind of interactive art work with it. When my University tutors asked me to look at the Urban Legends stories, I thought it’d be fun to create an Urban legend of my own. It would start, in lavish style, in a toilet. Graffiti on the walls tells the story, and concludes with a “real world” factor – a phone number. If anyone is inclined to phone the telephone number, they would be connected to my subversive spy phone – which resides in an undisclosed location. What the caller is listening to is…… in the eye of the beholder. I guess.

Urban Myths at URBIS

I took part in ‘Urban Myths Retold’ at the Urbis museum, in Manchester. The project was off the back of a literature competition that Urbis had already run, asking writers to create short stories either re-telling or creating brand new urban legends. 10 performance-based installations took place at different sites around Urbis, that visitors viewed as part of a 1-hour-long guided tour.

The work that I took part in was based on the story “Three feet from Leroy” – about a man who becomes obsessed with what appears to be an imaginary rat; his fear lead by the legend that, in a City, you are never more than three feet away from a rat. My friend Bryn Lloyd-Evans had created a sculpture, reflecting on some of the themes running through the story.

To augment the physical sculpture, we created a word-based (using the prose) sound scape, that I performed using Ableton Live. In addition my girlfriend, Caiti Berry, “VJ’d” a video performance (using OpenTZT; cool software)that was projected over the sculpture and in a stair-well of the space we were in. The space itself was a claustrophobic service stairway, in the guts of the building; perfect for this performance but it turned out to be rather unpleasant to spend several hours in.

This is a photo-merged picture of our setup (click for a larger version);

Three feet from Leroy, performance setup at Urbis

A video of all of the installations is being produced, so hopefully I’ll be able to post that on here once it arrives.

Bryn is interested in doing some live performances of poetry, using similar techniques, so that is something to think about. Not sure if its right up my street or not.

This is the story;

Three feet from Leroy by Peter Canning

He knew that in the city you are never more that three feet away from a rat. he moved there anyway, but fatefully for him it would be the same rat. Its name was Leroy and it trailed him everywhere- his bedroom, the loo, his office, parks parachute jumps, lifts, buses and even romantic dinners.

Leroy, despite being a magnificent rat with dark fur and bright eyes, didn’t impress neighbours, colleagues or girlfriends. Soon the office was a distant memory and the only dinners he ate were for one. He grew to hate the vermin and laid poison, but Leroy was too clever.

The years passed. Leroy continued to stalk him down the bust streets and lonely alleyways, screeching mockingly at him whenever they were alone. Eventually, his rat-inspired loneliness drove him away from the city. As he left for his home town he saw in his mirror Leroy loitering irritably at the city limits and thanked his lucky starts that he’d soon have a life again.

But he began to miss those quiet nights when, like soldiers at Christmas 1916, he and Leroy agreed a truce of sorts, watching TV together and sharing a burger.

But his pride was too great for him to return to the city, to be reunited with his rodent friend. Until one day the local council won their fight to reclassify the town as a city. And as if by magic, he heard a screeching from under the floorboards.