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1st year Design & Communication student at University of Ulster Magee

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Laws of simplicity

The worlds leading designer, John Maeda, created a template for simplicity.

Law 1 - Reduce
"Less is more" The less stuff there is, means the more impact you'll have. This is true, if you have a white page with a black dot on it, you will notice the black dot, but if you have a white page with loads of dots on it you're unlikely to notice that one original dot. It's just less eye catching.

Law 2 - Organise
If you can get everything organised, your work rate and quality will improve tenfold. For me i find writing lists helps... I love being able to tick things of when they're done.

Law 3 - Time
CBI who are the biggest employer in the UK have said that students who came to work after they graduated lack, Time management, are illiterate and have no manners. I know i'm quite bad with time, i leave things to the last minute thinking it wont take as long as it will.

Law 4 - Learn
The majority of what you learn at university and will keep with you, is learnt informally, from peers.
In the art industry collaboration is key, find your strengths and then surround yourself with other people who can do different things which you can then incorporate to strengthen both partys work.
Don't be afraid. Make time to play with stuff, ideas and finding out how things work. Try and soak up as much information from as many different places as you can.

Law 5 - Differences
"Simplicity comes out of complexity"

Law 6 - Context
This is about what you say, how you say it. You could have a good idea but have it in the wrong context, it wont make a big impact, possibly because it was aimed at the wrong audience or your background knowledge is wrong. You just have to be careful when you're doing your research that you know what he best context is for your purpose.

Law 7 - Emotion
72% of people in the UK are afraid of emotion. Males tend to be worse at showing emotion than females. In art, the best pieces are autobiographical and emotional. If you are passionate about what you are doing you can get away with more stuff. If you care about the work or theme, it should be able to hold enough emotion to make a connection with an audience.

Law 8 - Trust
Trust yourself and your judgement. Have confidence that if you think its right then it is. Make sure you believe in it.

Law 9 - Failure
Games theory suggests that games are created to make you fail. That its part of the thrill. You don't give up if you fail on a level.. you try again, learning from your mistakes and trying to make yourself better.
Experimentation is key... Most things need 4 or 5 proto types to work out faults and make them better.

Law 10 - The one
When its right, you'll have that gut feeling and you'll just know.

"Forget about the past - The futures all that matters"

Thursday, 15 December 2011


Vjing is very collaborative it uses a seemless mix of abilities to create the final product. It peaked in the naughties but it had been around for a long time before that. Artists used to stick slides together then add coloured oils to it. When the projector was on the oils would then move about. I love the idea of doing the work like this rather than having it all computer generated, it just adds another dimension to it. Its like a visual journal, where every page uses a mixture of techniques and it just makes it feel quirky and unique. I love the use of different media and also having the audience interaction, where they can be a part of it and control it is so interesting.

I found this wee video which gives a bit of an overview of VJing. And how the creative process works.

Vjing is made up of 3 elements

1 Sound

The majority of VJs create the visual aspect and then make sound that fits in with it. 

2 Up to date technology

VJs use a variety of technology, VJ hardware can be split into categoriesSource, Playback, Mixing, Effects and Output. 
Source hardware generates a video picture for example, video camera and video synthesizers the VJ can then manipulate this.
Playback hardware plays back an existing video stream, this could come from VHS and DVD players.
Mixing hardware allows all these streams to be combined. This is a video mixer or special VJ software.
Effects hardware allows you to add special effects to the stream.
Output hardware, is how the final product is displayed, this could be via video projector, LED display or a plasma screen

3 Artistic understanding of visual space
VJs create a visual sound. Which has psychological aspects. It mixes the senses because you are able to view the sound. VJing often takes place at events such as concerts, nightclubs, and music festivals. In these spaces/events people sometimes take mind altering substances. The VJ sets can then add to this.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Internet art

We use the internet as an everyday object, and it’s amazing to think that it is still growing and that we don’t actually know how much more progress will be made on it. The internet is both a personal and public place, this makes it very hard to display art in it because nothing is truly private. The internet is a free floating signifier, which means that if you find something, you don’t know what the context is and you as a viewer can decide what the context is.

Definition of internet art
1 The computer has become a new media (a new set of media format)
2 To design a digital artifact is to design an experience. Digital design should not try to be invisible.

One of the main aspects of internet art is about being personal. The internet allows us to put our personal behaviour out in the public, for example on networking sites such as facebook or on blogs, where we can write our own opinions. This information usually isn't edited, making it more personal and therefore more provoking if it is hard hitting. Our whole relationship with internet has changed, we now live in the web as well as in real life, it's part of our identity.With the likes of social networking sites, we feel that it is necessary to constantly be sharing and viewing each others information.

Stelarc (an Australian performance artist) brought performance art into the web he embraced the personal element and being able to create a relationship between himself and the audience. For one of his pieces, called ping body, his whole body was wired. Small electric currents were sent into his nerves system via the wires. These currants were created by the net. Data from around 30 internet domains was used and the variation of the ping values controlled the motion of the body. which made him create involuntary movements. He danced for 24 hours. People talk about how someday computers will take over. This was a computer takeover. Here the net determines what happens to the person rather than what the person determining what happens on the net. The machinery completely created the choreography of the body. The body became a "controllable machine".

Another one of Stelarcs pieces was to implant an ear onto his arm. After creating a "virtual arm" which was controlled using sensor gloves, Stelarc wanted to create a third ear. It's a surgical construction of a full sized ear, which can transmit the sound that it hears. I think it is so strange, Stelarcs work really is provoking. It blurs the boundaries, between art and science research and makes you ask questions. Personally I wouldn't want an ear on my arm because its not what your used to seeing. Although i would like to see how it feels and how it works to have 3 ears, and be able to hear sound from a different level.


Thursday, 1 December 2011

Three things to remember...

When creating a piece of art, there are three main things to remember... It doesn’t need a narrative, it should be aesthetically beautiful and it should be emotionally crippling.

Moving image doesn’t need to have a straight narrative. The story doesn’t need to be obvious. Although it can have a meaning behind it. An audience should have to work hard to understand what is happening. Some say that the author is dead. And that the audience should be left to create the story and be involved in it. Overall the final piece will interpreted differently by every person, so why not present it in a way that they will find more enjoyable? People like to feel like they are a part of something and belong.

The work should be aesthetically beautiful. This can take shape in different forms and sometimes the “beauty” can be horrible but be aesthetically grounding. A piece art should provoke you, it should make you think about what you see and how you see it, it should make you look at an object and wonder how it works and why it works and all the pieces that come together to make it do that, and why we use it in the ways which we do. Good art should make you question everyday things it should be presented in a way which makes the known unknown.

The piece should be emotionally crippling. It should stop you in your tracks and just hold you there for that split second, it should provoke an emotion, whether it be anger or sadness or whatever. Art should make us question our position in the world.

Christian Markley is a sound artist who uses the excess sounds that people don’t want. He uses turn tables and assembles the music together. Markley is also a film maker and sculptor. The main theme of his work always stays the same, and it’s about music. One of his films was of a guitar being dragged along roads in America on the back of an old pickup truck. This piece caused outrage and was even discussed in the Whitehouse. After seeing it I didn’t understand why people would be outraged but after hearing what it was representing, I understood better. Markleys work provoked outrage and it made people think “Have we progressed?” “How can a guitar being destroyed cause more anger than a black person being killed? And what does this show about us as a society? How could an object have more worth than a human?”

Bill Viola is video artist. In class we seen clips from one of his films "the passing" in which he filmed the birth of his child and the death of his mother. i can't really understand how he could film the death of his own mum. I'm wondering did he do the editing straight away or did he wait until he had come to terms with the death? or maybe because they knew she was going to die they had come to terms with it before it happened? I don't know whether to think Viola is a genius, or heartless. I know the film does have the balance of life and death because it has the child being born, but i just feel that because its real footage of a woman actually dying its horrible. Because we can relate to the themes in the work it is hard to detach yourself from the it. In Hollywood films, there are births and deaths, but they are acting,  its not real and you know its not real so you can detach yourself to a certain extent. 

Willie Doherty is a video artist. His work is similar to Violas because he uses similar techniques such as slowing the timing, having a constant focus, and the theme of his work, which is being on a journey. I seen one of his films “Ghost town” in the Ulster Museum in Belfast. It was strange. The room the screen was in was pitch black and the screen was huge. I remember we stood and watched the whole thing, waiting for something to happen, or for something to appear on the road. It was hard to leave the room because the piece almost stopped you. It kept you there, waiting to see what happened. I can’t explain it but the piece did leave me feeling a bit funny, probably a combination of the quiet dark room and the huge screen, with the loud, single voice doing the narration in a type of drone. When I came out of the room everything just felt far away.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Sound theory

Hearing is the first sense in the womb and the last sense to go before death. But yet with a lot of animation or moving image sound is left to the last and not much attention is paid to it.

Each sound has 3 elements:
Context (medium)
Changes in pressure

Each sound has 3 phases, which make up the sound envelope:
The attack

Sound has the following qualities:
It’s immersive
It can’t be shut out
It contains depth
It has no directionality
It can’t be frozen

Sound and perspective
Figure – most important sound
Ground- the listeners’ social world
Field – the physical world around the listener
Dance music changes the perspective – makes it repetitive and hypnotic

Sound and distance
All sound has forms of distance – (as you go down the list it gets further in distance)
Personal – conversation
Public – no interaction – hardest
Sound and memory
We use sounds/songs to conjure up associations of the past. A certain sound or song can bring us back to a memory. I've also found that sometimes I like a song better  if I have a memory to go along with it. 

Sound as event
Northern Ireland is one of the only places that give sectarian meaning to sound. For example there are specific catholic and protestant drums which are the boron and lam-beg drum.

There is also a difference in speech. Protestants speech is harsher – this comes from the Anglo sax-ans, the language is more guttural. All our swear words came from the Anglo sax-ans, which is why they sound so harsh. Catholics speech is softer because it comes from the Gaelic language which seems lyrical. It was interesting to hear about the spelling test to distinguish what religion a person is. You could clearly hear the difference in the letter “h” but you wouldn't pick up on it in everyday life.

I was in integrated education since I was four and I wouldn’t take much notice about religious differences. My mum says that in primary school (when you were in contact with the same teacher everyday) every year our speech would change slightly depending on what religion the teacher was.

In class the issue was discussed that, would your accent not make a difference to the way you pronounce it, rather than your religious background? I was thinking about this and most people live in an area that is either one way or the other, there aren’t many places that are integrated. Therefore you would be able to know where a person was from, because of their accent, and if you know the area you would probably know what religion the area is. Although obviously there is always exceptions.

Everything should be provocation
John cage 4.33 (created around 1947-48) Was a turning point and the birth of conceptual art. It made artists realize that it wasn't so much about the art itself, but the idea behind it.

Personally I can’t see how this piece was taken so seriously and how people actually spent hundreds of pounds on tickets to watch four and a half minutes of silence. I can understand that each silence is different and that the piece was meant to provoke a reaction from people, but how could they take it so seriously. It made me feel uncomfortable. Up until the clock came on I sat waiting for something to happen and then at that point I realised that it was going to be silent the whole way through.
“All sound is music, music is all sound" - John Cage
After hearing the John Cage piece, i started thinking about any pieces of music that i liked that didn't have vocals and i thought of a band called "The XX" and they have a song called "Intro" which has no lyrics, i watched the video on you tube and found out that Rihanna sampled it and added lyrics to it, for one of the songs on her new album. So i clicked on the link and listened to it. Its horrible. I think she ruined it (and I'm a Rihanna fan). It was such a nice piece of music that it doesn't need lyrics because you can almost imagine your own. Also I think that because I had heard it before and had sort of imagined the style of vocals that would work with the music. Now that she added vocals I don’t think they work, they just sound too different from the style of the original song. Sometimes less is more. And i think that this piece shouldn't have lyrics. I've put videos for both songs below:

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Has life became secondary to simulation?

Simulacra suggests that the line between reality and simulation is blurred. And that we live our lives through simulations of real life rather than real life. And that for some people things aren’t real until they’re put on facebook. I don’t agree, there’s things that happen that don’t be put on facebook but that doesn’t mean that they haven’t happened or aren’t real. I know they happened and the people that were with me know they happened and just because it’s not put online doesn’t make them any less real. Maybe they just don’t need the online approval? Is there a certain age which we feel like we need approval? Weather we admit it or not everyone has the need for validation with everything they do, to make sure were doing the right thing, from a young age this approval comes from family but as we get older it comes from external sources such as friends, and social networking sites. 
"Technology is the knack of so arranging the world that we don't have to experience it" - Max Frisch
Magazines can provide simulation. I don’t really buy any magazines but I would sit and flick through one if it was there. I would look at the pictures and think “oh that’s nice” but I wouldn't go out and buy the clothes that are in it just because some celebrity is seen wearing it.

Gaming is changing how publishers think. Most games don’t have a story they let the gamer decide what to do and how to create the story (getting them more involved). Gamers like to be challenged. In an interview with Jane McGonigal she was asked how was gaming positively affecting the world, this was part of her reply:

“There is the positive impact of traditional games, and then there's this second, newer category of games that are engaging gamers to solve real problems. One of my favourite examples is the Foldit game, created by researchers at the University of Washington. This is a 3D game, a kind of really complicated Tetris, that teaches you how to fold proteins and folding proteins is a way to investigate the causes of diseases like cancer or Alzheimer's. Recently, more than 50,000 players of this online game, Foldit, were credited as co-authors in a scientific article in the journal Nature about the steps involved with curing cancer. These gamers had actually outperformed the most advanced supercomputer algorithm that scientists had been using to try to fold proteins. And these were, according to the researchers, almost exclusively people who were untrained in biochemistry, gamers who used their creativity, their problem-solving stamina, their resilience, and their collaborative skill.

I found this so interesting that games were providing the collaboration between people with different skills to help push research forward. The full interview is here.

Technology has changed how we behave, and how accessible we are. Everything is now constant.  Its only beginning now and it can only progress further. Is this a good or bad thing? If you didn’t like your job you wouldn’t want it to be 24/7 but if you did you wouldn’t mind it being constant. This then makes me wonder should jobs be better tested before we do a degree. Because some people go into their subjects without knowing what it would be like, for example criminal forensics where there isn’t an A-level for it. How can someone know at age 18 that they’re going to enjoy the course and future job without any experience of it?

Everything is mobile now; the iPod started this but the iPad is the absolute game changer, it has more technology available in it than the worldwide technology in 1985, and it’s completely mobile. The only catch? Prices start at £399, (for an iPad 2) then you have to pay for most of the apps you want to download or access. But with the likes of this technology will this eradicate Phones, laptops, cameras, TVs, and magazines? You can design and personalise it to suit you and your lifestyle, there are thousands of apps for everything, there’s even apps for making apps. And it’s all more interactive and interesting – this would keep kids more focused and get them to explore and ask questions more. Plus you have the touch screen element, which lets people feel more involved. If all you need is the initial purchase of the iPad and then you pay less for all your apps that you would for say a hard copy of a magazine or a TV license, it could be worth it. I’ve roughly calculated how much some of the things that the iPad could do that other hardware could do - phone £170, laptop £310, Camera £90, TV £100, Total - £670 which is £271 more than the iPad, And could you carry all these round at the same time, with the same amount of effort as the iPad? But I suppose the real question is would you want to? Is it really necessary to have that much technology with you at all times? And are we becoming too dependent on it?

Thursday, 10 November 2011

How many friends do you have?

It’s crazy to think that the year I was born was the first year that a text was sent. I couldn’t imagine a world where everyone didn’t have phones and couldn’t be contacted both instantly and constantly. But is it healthy to have a world where we can’t get away from technology?

“In a media blackout 79% of students feel distress, confusion and isolation” (link).

I would feel completely isolated if I couldn’t have my phone. You don’t just use it to keep in touch with other people but I would use mine for the time because I don’t wear a watch. I feel like I have a fear of missing out. I could do without emails or TV but not my phone or face book.

It’s interesting how we spend a lot of time on the internet and social networking sites and ringing and texting less but even though face book was only created in 2004 there are now other social networking sites which are becoming bigger.

 “You have five friends, and the rest is landscape” - Portuguese saying

Apparently on average every person has 6.4 friends. And everyone else is an acquaintance. I researched a bit about this and found this wee description “a friend is someone who will drop what they’re doing and come and help you, if you need it.” I counted and I have 7 friends that I could call close and if I picked up the phone I know would do anything for me. One of these friends doesn’t have face book and I have to admit that I don’t talk to him as much because it’s not as easy.. When you’re on face book you can leave a wall post or a message and then you can log out and leave your computer, then when they go on they can reply when it suits them. Whereas if you’re ringing someone for a catch-up you have to make sure that you both have an hour or two free to actually have a proper conversation with them. Although it is nice if you haven’t been talking to them in a while and they haven’t seen your face book and know every detail about what you’ve been doing, you can actually have a proper conversation and you don’t find them saying “seen that on face book”

Social Networking does just reinforce social interaction for the friends that you are close to and will talk to but it diminishes it at the same time for the people you aren’t close to. If you just think of someone that you haven’t talked to in a while, instead of phoning them and asking what they’ve been up to all you need to do is go on face book and look at they’re page. It saves a lot of time and effort, than having to make conversation that you don’t have time for. But this in turn is destroying the art of conversation.

Although this poses a question “do we put too much online?” If any of your acquaintances can just go onto your page and find out what you were doing after just a few clicks. Sometimes some of your acquaintances just don’t need to know what you’re doing... Especially family, there are just some things they don’t need to know. And if employers check your online presence you really need to watch what you say because they make the decision on face value.

Heres a short video i found on the statistics of Facebook for 2011. The part about how much happens in 20 minutes is quite interesting and relates to the question "do we put too much online?"

I recently heard a discussion on the radio that the presenters mum followed him on twitter so she could find out what he was doing in his daily life. It wasn’t because she was being nosy or anything but because maybe she wouldn’t hear from him in a while and when she did, he would have forgotten about things that she might like to hear about.