Tag Archive - Signs of Our Time

The Mirror Paintings of William Betts

willBettsWilliam Betts returns to the Jennifer Kostuik gallery this week with a new series of paintings that explore our notions of privacy in the digital age. Whereas his last exhibit dealt with the passive mediating agent of the surveillance/CCTV camera, this series shifts towards the theme of voyeurism depicting beach and swimming pool scenes that reflect our paparazzi/Facebook-fueled fetish for consuming personal moments within the public space.

The paintings are created using a technique that involves drilling small holes in the back of acrylic mirrors and filling these holes with paint. When viewed from the front, the holes appear as tiny colored spheres. The images are composed of sub-pixels (similar to a television screen) arranged in a triangle arrangement, each providing different color intensity to complete the image.

Opening night is the 16th, with Betts delivering a talk at 6pm. Not to be missed.

Here’s to more true mystery

“Lately, I’ve been wondering if sitting quietly in a café, pretending to read a newspaper, and not writing is the most earnest expression in our age: no echoes of language, nothing to reblog, just pure unmitigated self sitting with self. I might, after a time of blank staring, find myself constructing sentences in my head, maybe a paragraph, simply letting the words roll around in my mind. I will not. I repeat. I will not write them down. They are my secret sentences, not yours.”

Andrew Simone (via Amanda Mooney)

Not doing enough of this as of late…

A New Take on the Mash Up

Star Wars Adidas Mashup
This struck me as very fresh. A mashup is, more often than not, the sampling of pre-existing media — music, movies, even sport intervews– to create something new. And yet in the case of the Adidas Originals Star Wars ad, the media being used here is entirely new footage shot specifically for the ad itself. What has been mashed up are the cultural narratives of these two iconic pop entities.

Conceived of by the boundary-defying minds over at Sid Lee and directed by new favorite director Nima Nourizadeh, the celebrity house party that has become an infamous element of Adidas’ promotional materials is once again gettin’ busy but this time with X-wing fighters buzzing the rooftops above.

Chris Ware’s Halloween Cover for New Yorker

Chris Ware's Halloween Cover for New Yorker
This link is blazing across the internets like wild fire but thought it worth posting here: yet another timely and beautiful New Yorker cover by Chris Ware.

A Weird Random Thing


The calls start coming in on Thursday. Wrong numbers — or so it seems at first. All of them are from the United States. All of them looking for the same person: Tony Johnson. Upon answering the 3rd or 4th call, from Rhode Island, the voice on the other end is that of a frail and elderly woman and I ask her what specifically she is calling about. She reveals that she has received a letter in the mail from Citiwide Bank in Nevada with an enclosed cheque for $3853.00. In order to authorize the cheque, she was instructed to call the bank’s claim manager Tony Johnson at the phone number provided.

“And that phone number once again is…” I ask, already knowing what she is going to say. She repeats back my own phone number.

“I’m sorry, but not only were you given the wrong number but I think that letter is a scam.”

“I think you are right.” She replies and we hang up.

And so it has continued. Around 6AM Pacific Time, my phone will start buzzing every 20 minutes or so for the rest of the day. 19 missed calls this morning from across the States: Arizona, California, Connecticut, New Jersey, Alabama, Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, New York. I check my voicemail every few hours. It is always the same story repeated one after the other. I feel strangely voyeuristic, as though given a brief audio snapshot into the lives of people with whom I would otherwise never have crossed paths. I can only guess that I am connecting with America’s most naive, perhaps her most desperate. Lots of older people; plenty of thick smalltown drawls; a man who asks for assistance “cuz I can’t read so good”; another man who just keeps yelling “HELLO?” into my message box. I picture these people sitting in their homes, in their trailers perhaps, ubiquitous cliches of the American lower class inevitably flashing through my head as they cradle their phones against their shoulders, holding their cheques up in front of them like beacons of hope, convincing themselves that it is a sign from God, that in these desperate and trying times this is the break that they have been looking for.

At the same time, I picture “Tony Johnson”, who to his credit must have put a fair amount of time and perhaps even a significant startup investment into this scam — creating convincingly branded bank letterhead, envelopes and cheques; copywriting for all of the documents; acquisition of some form of database; and then the actual trans-American mail out — I picture him sitting in his apartment, staring at his phone and wondering why the hell it hasn’t started ringing. I wonder when he will discover the typo. I wonder if he has a boss.

Meanwhile, I am randomly caught in the middle of these two worlds. I call the police, mainly to assure that my connection to this mail fraud case is not going to result in swat teams smashing through my living room window. The officer assures me that she thinks I am safe. The phone company informs me that they are not able to block calls from the US. In fact, my only options are to block all calls or to get a new phone number, neither of which are all that appealing. So I decide to ride it out for a few more days in the hopes that the initial surge will die down. Afterall, how many dupes can there be in America?

The New York Times’ River of News

The New York Times' River of News
In adapting new mediums, there is always a period where the shape of the old form is mirrored in the new form’s space. For example, an early television ad looked like this. Radio had simply repositioned itself in front of a camera. It took years for advertisers to fully realize what could be achieved on the small screen. Nearly half a century later, the highly polished 30 second spot that those early sponsor announcements had evolved into would make the jump online with little change –aside from a taking advantage of more lenient regulations– when internet video came of age. Even today, the “best” viral ads still follow the tried and true format.

In a similar pattern, the online newspaper has always adapted the traditional layout of its printed cousin. The better rags have introduced interactive components and with the onset of blogging, there has been, for better or worse , the ability for reader comments. But the overall structure has remained intact. Meanwhile, sites such as Facebook, Friend Feed, Twitter and, of course, the all-powerful RSS feed have turned our mode of consuming information from categorized columns into a constantly updating flow.

Today, the New York Times, in what is being heralded by the likes of Jay Rosen (@jayrosen_nyu) and Dave Winer (@davewiner) as a watershed moment, introduces the Times Wire, an at-a-glance view of the paper’s latest content, in reverse chronological order without any other weighting or sorting. As Winer states, “They’re now presenting their news flow as a flow. Gone is the pretense that news on the Internet works like news on paper. Welcome to the NY Times river of news”.

RSS has been with us for 10 years now. And unlike a number of other trends and technologies, it has survived and thrived and essentially become the backbone for the current information revolution. After a decade, one might ask of the NY Times shift in format “So what?” or “Why did it take so long?”. Or, to the more discerning observer, it is a moment to make note: of both the validation of the new form and the prevailing relevance of one of the older forms’ greatest champions.

Then and now…the CCTV Building in Beijing

CCTV Building Fire
“…the headquarters of CCTV, the Chinese television network, by Rem Koolhaas and Ole Scheeren, of the Office for Metropolitan Architecture—a building which I had thought was going to be a pretentious piece of structural exhibitionism—turned out to be a compelling and exciting piece of structural exhibitionism.”

–Paul Goldberger, The New Yorker

CCTV Building Fire
“Word has it that the building is close to explosion. Whole thing pretty much toast, all in all.”

–@DavidFeng

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