Changing the artistic landscape through the digital

While readng "Reading Exquisite Code" I kept thinking about how the artistic process is being changed by algorithmic processes beyond intentional projects like Exquisite Code. In particular, I was struck by how social media as a landscape has driven artist's styles to be more similar. In the animation world, there has been a crop of new tv shows with young showrunners who graduated from the notorious CalArts, that often get criticized for having a "CalArts style", and while I think the criticism is lazy—there is a bit of truth behind the notion, I just think it's misdirected at the school itself. 

Instagram as a site has become worse and worse for independent and freelance artists as a marketing tool because of the way the algorithm works. That is to say, I think there's a sort of cannon to online digital art. Scrolling though my own feed while intermittently reading "Reading Exquisite Code"  it really struck me how much influence the algorthim of social media sites influences trends in the art world. I don't' think writing is quite as susceptible to this, since it isn't distributed through such avenues, but for visual arts, your social media can make or break your career. In order to be successful on the machine, you must constantly post to your feed, and thus a lot of artist's spend time creating content simply to post it. The meaning behind the artistic practice has changed. Content is created for the sake of being consumed rather than for the sake of creation. I'm dealing in generalizations here, but the sliced and diced formatting of social media itself, in some ways, is hegemonizing the artist's eyes.

To the Continent

I often teach Flannery O'Connor's Wise Blood to my students. I got my masters at O'Connor's alma mater, which was just about ten minutes away from her mother's ranch, Andalusia. Whenever we read the novel, or watch the movie, I try to assure my students: No, it's not as awful as it seems. This is funny. I promise it's funny. Flannery O'Connor was a very funny person. There is a moment in that novel where Hazel Moates, the approaches a landlord and announces his career as a fledling prophet. She responds by asking. "Is it protestant, or something foreign (European)." Hazel says, "No, ma'am, it's protestant," which reassures the landlord.  

The landlord echoes a sentiment in both Irish and American literature in the early twentieth century, the European continent was a waste of impossible evil and moral corruption, and therefore, well-adjusted citizens of other nations ought to stay away and tend to their own affairs.

Joyce believed the opposite. Dublin was paralyzed. Dublin was death. "The continent" as the Irish called it, was life. That's where things happened. The continent furnished the conditions by which an artist could create and could survive. To a certain degree, the boy in Araby's journey to the bazaar reflects Joyce's own escape from the "blind" corner of artless Dublin.

I put the four places Joyce lived in his life in order to illustrate that his self-imposed exile is nearly a straight line away from Dublin, as if he was contradicting Bloom's won judgement that "The Longest Way Round is the Shortest Way Home."

For Joyce, the shortest way round is the longest way home.

Mapping Araby Post

I chose to map the areas in "Araby" that are vaguely mentioned in the short story and places that the boy may have gone to on a regular bases. It is interesting to note how small the boy's world is and how Joyce portrays his experiences to be that of a simple life that he lives. He spends a lot of time in his home and on Richmond Street playing with the other boys on the block. He goes to school, where he daydreams about his crush. The boy also travels to the marketplace, Buckningham street, where he takes the train to the Bazaar, and finally ends up at the Bazaar. These are places that I pinpointed on my map to convey the world in which the boy lives, moves, and interacts. Here is a link to the map that I created: 

Araby - https://www.google.com/maps/d/viewer?mid=1lMJCVZMKcKShO3xJr7Ka0MU5t-N-JS...

1. While working on the map, what did you notice or understand differently than when you read the story through the first time?

While working on the map, I was able to really visualize this place that the boy experiences in his everyday journey. When I researched the street that the boy lived on and explored different areas through images that I found, I was able to really place myself within this world, enhancing my reading of the short story.

2. What are the invisible barriers that shape space and movement in the story? How did making the map help you to understand that?

Some invisible barriers that I was able to pick up on were the vague descriptions of time and place and the hazy mood and tone that was established from the boy's perspective. I think that because the boy is young and does not necessarily find purpose in having a strong sense of place, this was displayed as we experience this lack of concrete imagery until we reach the Bazaar when the boy becomes especially focused on his surroundings because ther eis now significance.

3. What is a key narrative or poetic element of the story (i.e. imagery, sound, dialogue, or something else)? How does it pertain to the map you’ve made?

A key element that struck me was the hazy tone that made the experience moving throughout the story one that allowed for a cloudy perspective that didn't really provide concrete imagery. A big part of this is because it portrayed the boy as being completely enamored with his crush rather than being intuned with his surroundings. This perspective forced me to research on my own specific areas with concrete names that would help mark his journey.

Ireland and the World According to Joyce's Dubliner Characters

I decided to compare both "Araby" and "Eveline" on Google Maps because I knew that Eveline's world was far larger than Araby's, but the discrepancy was still breathtaking. Although I couldn't nail down the location of the actual bazaar itself, the boy's life is completely encompassed in an area barely one square mile. Eveline thought she was going to 'Buenos Ayres' (a whopping 6,839 miles!!), but even if she traveled with Frank to Liverpool (a mere 134 miles), she still would have traveled orders of magnitude farther than the boy in Araby.

The boy mentions in passing crossing the river during his chivalrous trip, and while Eveline knows that she will "be on the sea with Frank" she can't fathom it in any way other than drowning and it is ultimately what hems in her existence. Even though I really do want to take a cruise someday, when I play on Google Maps and inadvertently zoom too far in on the open ocean, I panic for a split second, so I can almost relate to her sheer terror.

I chose to make my base map the satellite view to try and bring Joyce's imagery closer to reality. It would only be better if the map could show the weather, I think; Joyce's descriptions of place and aura are intensely descriptive.

I think it would be fascinating to load the same data table into both Google Maps and Gephi. Gephi can't show us geographical relationships, but Google Maps can't show us thematic relationships, even though both types (and probably more) are all hidden right there in the data. For my final project, I've thought of doing just this to try and map out the locations and relationships of publishers and their books on my Goodreads lists. Why? Maybe because I feel certain that my books are likely exclusively American or Western European; maybe because it might be interesting to see what books are published where. Maybe it's just because playing with Google Maps is too much fun. 

Araby Street Walking Map

This map is supposed to represent a walking tour in Dublin starting from Araby house that passes famous landmarks that would have been there in the boy from the story's time. I also included the famous Brazen head, which may have been where the Uncle really was while the boy waited for him, and some famous places named after Joyce himself. I also incluced the Arab Irish Chamber of commerace, as the modern day true Araby House. To get a feel for this city you have to really travel around and away from the pinched streets where the boy lived.

 

https://www.google.com/maps/d/u/0/edit?mid=1hkCDspzSEgEgl9yzjW8TGORLAnJZ...

 

Sorry, I am having trouble downloading the map but will share as I can through e-mail.

 

1.Yes, the distances between where the boy lived and Araby house were much shorter than in the story compared to real life. The boy could have walked there easily instead of taking a long trip.

2. There are rivers that wander down by the Bizarre and further south, making the characters more hemmed into their living spaces.

3. The distance between reality and truth are as far from one another as the lines on this map. The church is so close, but the effect on the characters is often time incogruent with the choices they make.

4. There are many things, but to me the most obvious is the coming of age factor that happens again and again when a character is disallusioned by the people around them. When they come to understand the flaws of others, and in themselves, a kind of contempt forms. Not only that this knowledge is paid for at a high price, much like when Adam and Eve ate the apple. These maps also show the reality to the reader and take away some of the glamour as well, as while beautiful, Araby house is now basically on top of an unemployment office and money is tight. The homes are mostly clean but are tightly stuck together with little space except in the parks. Graffitti is found in many places once you stray from the main streets. Looking and seeing are two very different things, and Joyce is a master at lifting the veil about what people finally see the reality of their situation as they mature. 

 

Mapping Araby

https://www.google.com/maps/d/edit?mid=1KfGba-WPyTlaAcevFTECR6XoMc6Zzar8...

In trying to map out the route of the protagonist of "Araby" it becomes clear just how limited his world is. The train ride he takes in the story almost had me thinking the bazaar was miles and miles away from his house, but in reality, it's about a two mile train ride from the station to the bazaar. Not only that—but the boy's route to the subway station is a walk that's about mile and some change. That is to say, the boy walks about a third of his route to the bazaar. 

On this note, what also becomes clear in looking at the map, is the presence of bodies of water at both the boys house, and hemming in the bazaar. While none of the story takes place by the shoreline, the mere presence of water constantly suggests the island status of Ireland. The ocean is between the boy and the world he reads and dreams of, and the River Liffy is between him and the bazaar. 

Mapping Colonialist Control in Joyce's "Eveline"

https://www.google.com/maps/d/edit?mid=1EF3tMWsuv1mPtzBB6ZmYRcdo1KW_23bH...

I created this map to focus on trying to map the colonialist control over Dublin which has a hold on the main character Eveline's life in James Joyce's "Eveline." Because of this, almost all that she hears of the outside world is under colonialist control, and in an effort to escape from this fate, she wishes to flee to Buenos Aires, which is ironically yet another place that was under colonial control. However, despite all of his promises, Frank intends to take her to Liverpool instead, a place in the center of colonist England where she would be without recourse or help and could be easily sold into sex slavery either there, or transported to other ports through the shipping system. I include descriptions of each of the places that are mentioned in the story, and explore how their locations and associations are overt assertions of colonialist control over the people of Dublin and Ireland, and how this encroachment affects Eveline's life and view of the world. I also draw a line showing just how far a ship from Dublin would need to travel in order to reach Buenos Aires, which is in a different hemisphere of the globe altogether.

The star icon is used to indicate Eveline's dream for escape, the place she never gets to reach, Buenos Aires. Circle icons with a small dot in the middle are used to mark locations that represent colonialist control. The home icon is used to show Eveline's home, and where exactly she lived as detailed in the short story. Ordinary icons are used to indicate places that are noteworthy, yet unique in their connotations.

"She was about to explore another life with Frank."

The red icons on the map denote the exotic locales that Frank mentions during his pseudo-courtship of Eveline, while the green icon is placed at the North Wall of the river port in Dublin. Although she imagines exploring wildly distant places, she is ultimately paralysed on the North Wall while she watches Frank depart. 

While working on the map, it was notable that while each of the locations she imagines exploring with Frank involves increasingly significant distances, the actual location of Liverpool (where he is likely actually taking her) fits under the same large green icon as the North Wall when you are zoomed out far enough to see distant Buenos Aires. A key element of the story seems to be the ephemeral or imaginary status of these exotic locations that are associated with the ocean and Frank's occupation as a sailor. Eveline's dissociation at the end of the story leaves these imaginary places as unreal and unexplored, as intangible and fluctuating as the ocean and her theoretical future with Frank.

 

 

 

Graffiti as transgression against the "regimentation" of public space

 In "TXTual Practice" by Rita Raley, one of the examples used to demonstrate the regimentation of public space is the illegal act of graffiti, the creation of which transgressively claims a public space for its artist(s) (Halyes & Pressman 7). This example particularly jumped out to me because of the well-established digital community of graffiti artists, many of whom go only by their tag names to protect their identities, who film themselves roaming cities and abandoned urban spaces and creating stunning pieces of graffiti artwork. This artists must work rapidly to avoid being caught, or if they are in a secure place, to practice the skills of rapid work to hone their craft. One of the most interesting aspects of this community is their sense of obligation to their local cities and towns which leads to them often only wishing to create graffiti on truly abandoned, isolated, and unowned structures. This portion of the graffiti artist community often have programs and mentorships for young or growing graffiti artists and teach them how to seek out spaces that are safe or not illegal or at least not cared about in order to create their works of art. Other portions of the community graffiti more widely and in illegal places, such as on the sides of cargo trains, old warehouses, or under bridges, seeing the illicit nature of their art as an essential part of its substance. For all of these graffiti artists, it appears that the transgressive and rebellious nature of their art, whether they flaunt it or not, is a primary part of its value, and its ability to give a voice to artists whose voices are under-represented in art galleries and display the beauty and skill of their art throughout the urban landscape they call home, speaking out of turn and against all efforts to silence it, is an essential part of its power.

Aside from its inherent statement of power against authority, graffiti also has great textual significance as well, which Raley did not draw upon in her essay but that supports her topic powerfully. Graffiti artists each develop tags for themselves, which can be thought of as symbols and nicknames that identify who they are. There are universal communicatory symbols amongst graffiti artists that are well understood; the crown, for instance, is considered a high honor that only the best of graffiti artists who have not only mastered their craft and "paid their dues," but have also managed to cover their cities in their art so that every other graffiti artist knows their tag and style well, can claim. If anyone who is thought not deserving of the honor of the crown above their tag, their work may be defaced or they may even be hunted by other graffiti artists and punished for stealing the symbol without earning it. There are generally only ever a few kings or queens recognized within a single community at a time, and the honor is guarded by the entire community, and sought after by all. Similarly, one of the highest offenses amongst the graffiti community is to deface or cover up someone else's work, because this is not only a destruction of art that can never be reclaimed, but a silencing of the artist's voice in that location, and is viewed as an action of grave disrespect. There are grave warnings within the community to respect the work of others, as kids and young, inexperienced artists are the ones who most commonly commit this offense, and artists who are angered by this destruction of their work may resort to violence.

Yet another interesting textual aspect to graffiti and the community of graffiti artists is language that is unique to graffiti. Artists become skilled at reading the letters and understanding them, yet to an untrained eye they are often very difficult to decipher due to the extreme stylization of the letters. There are different styles that are constantly evolving, and the ability to read and communicate through these unique letters and symbols is a powerful method of textual control of an environment through art. Though a random bystander may well be able to appreciate the beautiful colors and stylistic lettering used in the graffiti works, other artists and those who know the community are able to recognize not only the tags and signatures of the artists, but also the unique message they are communicating. Many graffiti artists choose not only to communicate a message, but also to represent their group, and there are many examples of collaborative work amongst graffiti artists, where each individual contributes to the work as a whole in a rapid and expertly choreographed dance of spraypaint upon the wall.

A few examples of graffiti artist that share their work and process digitally:

Rake43 painting in an abandoned factory:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J_Z-3SuFYJ8

GhostEA:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IRYaPYFga3w

Can a Coin Have Three Sides?

Rita Raley's thesis of using the scenes of public writing to analyze "the dynamics of ephemerality and vernacularity that are at the heart of the way we read and write now" is intriguing to me. I may feel like a technological 'granny' now, but even when I wasn't, I never gave into the trend of "text speak" no matter how much faster it would be to type with my thumbs. (Okay not strictly true, as I have sparingly given in to 'LOL' a few times, but only ever uppercase; 'lol' as a reply to everything that is funny {and not} just grates on me to no end). Her descriptions of using public text installations to "construct a new public space...situated in between the actual...and the virtual" (p15) as "ephemeral graffiti" (p17) almost seems redundant. One of my favorite concepts is the idea that these public installations of a normally semi-private activity mean that "monologic advertisements instead become bulletin boards and chat spaces" (p18). We, as a public, repurpose spaces in new ways that are far more enjoyable than intended.

Matt Kirschenbaum writing about the discovery of Walt Whitman records at the National Archives highlights basically the opposite of Raley's thesis. Created more than a century ago and packed away in an archive just waiting to be found contrasts nicely with temporary installations of public participation. But because they both deal with the mundane, they're not strictly antithetical, even if it seems like they should be.

Kirschenbaum also wrote that "to archive in the realm of computation originally meant to take something offline" (p58) which is kind of funny because I once thought of archiving as creating digital copies of my physical photos and papers was the best way to achieve LOCKSS. This idea also counters McGann's need to move beyond the codex format when analyzing other codices. Yes, we can keep using them, but we're far more limited by the format and far more likely to miss the connections that digital analysis provides. As he points out, "The elecotronic OEX is a metabook, that is, it has consumed everything that the codex OED provides and reorganized it at a higher level." (p55) 

 

These ideas are all circling around the same broad concept. We need to create ephemeral graffitti together, we need to archive materials offline AND online, and we need the flexibility of digital analysis of bookish materials. Even though it feels like these concepts should be contradictory, they're more of a 3-D coin than diametrically opposed ends of a continuum. 

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