Monday, April 21, 2008

quality open source threatens existing elites

sorry to harp on just a litle more. but last week there was some kind of media coverage in the netherlands on wikipedia. the strange thing was that it was largely negative publicity, allegedly stemming from questionable quality, as determined by `experts'.

i'm actually quite in favour of recognizing expertise. as a visual artist, i'm confronted an awful lot with people who do not recognize even the occasional need for expertise - let alone the expertise itself.

however, ever since i discovered wikipedia, i have been very enthusiastic about it (notwithstanding that in certain (limited!)areas of my own knowledge i can see it does leave room for improvement, but this is the case for any subject that one knows more than the superficial about).

one can look up all the arts and their artists - even contemporary-animals, history, science, well, actually it is staggering what wikipedia contains and it is MUCH more effective than the paper encyclopedias in terms of spreading of knowledge. it is open source, rendered freely by individuals who like to contribute to this spreading of knowledge.

in most (99%) cases i find the quality of the articles very very high. especially considering that anyone can change articles, so `vandalism' also has to be corrected. it proves to me that this community-like building does really work. rather than saying that therefore we don't need experts anylonger, i would think: experts, please join the effort and share your knowledge on wikipedia.

this can be difficult at times however, since how to recognize the expertise of the one and the non-expertise of the other? (this is a problem in all the sciences as well - usually resolved by peer reviews (of articles), which also mostly are anonymous, also for obvious reasons but since the authors of articles are not anonymous, this can give strange effects.)

so wikipedia struggles with the same problem that google struggles with, and the arts, and the sciences: quality. i remember from long ago that i was absolutely charmed by robert m pirsigs book zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance. (please read these linked articles from .... wikipedia. isn't it absolutely marvelous that i can immediately refer you to a good source describing what i mean? i read the book three times, and reading the wikipedia article i see that it doesn't cover the book as well as it could, but it doesn't do it injustice either.)

robert m. pirsig, philosopher of quality

zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance
robert m. pirsig, zen & the art of motorcycle maintenance

however, i also remember finding pirsigs concept of quality ... vague in its definition. but the very fact that he devoted his thinking to its importance was what touched me and still touches me. stuff for the next post.

Monday, April 14, 2008

art & generalized open source (2)

king (1982-2001), wood, iron, plastic - dreamer, thinker, chesspieceking, 1982-2001

just having written about images being publicly available, i was contacted by an image research studio, working for a major educational publisher. they want to use a picture of the above sculpture in a textbook on art for secondary school, in a paragraph where chess-pieces-as-works-of-art are examined.

so this touches immediately on the current discussion. however, (especially since the sculpture has not yet been sold) i think few will disagree that in order for artists to pay their bills, they should ask for some (pecuniary) recompensation for the use of their art work, at least for commercial use.

still, wouldn't one want to give everybody the opportunity to see any (worthwile) work of art, even be it only a reproduction? a less elegant solution is to make available freely (and still restricted by copyright- the necessity of which i will comment on later) only low-res images. this is widely practiced, see most artists websites. better in my eyes would be to have generalized open source: high quality images available freely to the non-commercial public. but then the artists would somehow need to be assured of income in some other sense.

actually, a similar situation occurs in university science - or does it? well, at least university scientists generally are employed by government(-funded institution). their income therefore is mostly reasonably assured. and in this way much of science is paid for out of the public's pocket. but nonetheless, most current science results are not really freely accessible. scientific publishers like kluwer, springer, elsevier etc. charge quite highly for access to scientific articles. but they don't pay scientific authors a dime (really). scientists are supposed to be happy when their article is accepted for publication, since this gives (peer) ranking. as anyone who follows the news can gather, the profits of these companies are often staggering. universities pay heavily to have subscriptions (both for their libraries and for electronic access for individual researchers). the general public wishing to access scientific results which it already paid for, is left with a significant financial barrier.

the moral of this to me seems that closed source gives power to a small number of people (in this sense usually some sort of elite) who are naturally extremely reluctant to `open up'.

and, letting some art cat out of my bag as promised: this seems to describe to me extremely well the situation with modern art and its curators, be it museal or gallerial or institutional.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

is generalized open source the future?

can one envisage a world society in which generalized open source is standard practice?

perhaps i should first explain what i mean with generalized open source. it's a (suitably vague) generalization of the open source approach in software, the interpretation of which is already disputed...;-) . (recognize the tower of babel theme from my starting posts?)

to me `generalized open source' means that knowledge (broadly interpreted) is shared freely. this means that the (knowledge) source of things/products/... is open to all. so in a world with total generalized open source, music is freely downloadable just as art, books, videos, plays, performances, dance, all science, technical designs, software, etc. etc.

time for a long list of objections to such a world? yes probably, but ... does not the idea merit some consideration? how many objections are really insurmountable?

but let me turn to art first -in my next post- , otherwise one might feel cheated in having been attracted to an art blog only to find it's just another philosophy rag... ;-)

open source & images & david hockney

just to not forget that i want to write about `open source' as a way of bringing humanity further.

i as reminded of my thoughts on this because i encountered david hockney's official website. i do not link to it for this reason: on its home page one is asked to agree by clicking a button that no images on the site are to be used anywhere without prior permission.

well, this is taking mistrust a bit far i feel. besides, i hardly think that people wanting to misuse the images are going to be stopped by this button. but it does raise an interesting question about author's rights and copyrights where living artists or recently living artists are concerned.

but i will stop for now, having too little time to write enough, i will come back to this shortly.

Friday, April 4, 2008

art & communication

as an example of modern art issues in relation to communication, i give what i came across just now: the experimental art foundation.

The Experimental Art Foundation was established in 1974 as an initiative by Adelaide artists and theorists to encourage new approaches to the visual arts, promoting the idea of art as 'radical and only incidentally aesthetic'.


To assist, promote and develop, through production, exhibition, distribution and the encouragement of debate, art and art practices that are analytical, critical and experimental, which challenge established thinking and expand cultural languages and discussion.

The EAF's current OBJECTIVES are

To actively assist, develop and promote new and investigative art practices; To promote discussion, understanding and appreciation of contemporary arts issues and to provide a forum for critical debate; To encourage and support the production and the exchange of ideas by South Australian, Australian and International artists through production, exhibition and dissemination; To respond to artists and arts community initiatives; To develop new and informed audiences through advocacy, education and information strategies; To support emerging artists; To foster strategic partnerships; To maintain a high profile city location; To practise access and equity principles; To maintain sound financial and organisational management

behold above one of the reasons that i consider myself to be a very old-fashioned artist. i don't think of art as radical and only incidentally aesthetic, i don't see art's primacy/duty/charge to lie in societal communication of `new' ideas. new newer newest: the world of advertising and fashion is encroaching on the world of art, if one can even tell a fundamental difference at all.

to me a lot of modern visual art becomes entertainment / performance / advertisement / fashion. however, who am i to say that this is an unwanted development? i can only state how art `works' for me: strongly when quiet. when universal themes (humanity, nature, (non)beauty, patterns, life, death) are explored in a profound way, which can be as varied as light itself.

still, i think the experimental art foundation is a good thing. and probably a lot of things coming about from its endeavors i will consider quite interesting and worthwile. it's just not really my way of communicating, like i said i feel more traditionalist by simply painting, drawing, sculpture.

shelter from the storm, 2008

suddenly i turned around and she was standing there / with silver bracelets on her wrists and flowers in her hair/ she walked up to me so gracefully and took my crown of thorns/ come in she said i'll give you...shelter from the storm from bob dylan: shelter from the storm

Thursday, April 3, 2008

art about life, life about art?

what drives human beings to communication? what is communication anyway? (coming back to the tower of babel theme) what happens when i communicate something to you? who are `you' anyway, who&what am `i'?

so much about communication seems to me taken for granted, where in closer look the above questions might help us understand better why so many troubles arise out of communication.

but even if restricted to art, what drives an artist to make art? what drives others to look at it and try to `get' whatever is `in' the artwork? for me about my own work, a few things are clear.

first of all, making art is a way to communicate with myself, comparable on some level to making music. second, its communication is on a semi-conscious level and nonverbal. third, i most often strive to make the communication broader than just for me. some part of me wants to share with others, for this i try to make things visible in such a way that at some point i get the feeling: yes, an interested `listener' can hear/feel somewhat what it emanates.

so then what are these communications about? to me art is about life, but also about beauty/nonbeauty/patterns/nonpatterns (i don't know how to put it into words really sharply, this is makeshift). and strangely enough, i feel life is about art too, in the sense that to live one's life in a spiritual way to me seems like working on a painting, step by step, correcting errors & superficial patches etc., in order to arrive at more depth, luminosity, compassion.

but the dark sides of life then? are they to be ignored or what? what to depict? holocaust images or soulful serenity? or both? human folly & debauchery, human misery, some of it selfchosen...or hollywood happiness and clichés and beautiful landscapes and harmonious abstracts...or just anything looking `cool' that hasn't been done before for the sake of artistic originality?

enough questions here to merit one of my favourite gauguins:

gauguin, where do we come from? what are we? where are we going?paul gauguin, where do we come from? what are we? where are we going?

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

st francis

st francis at night, 2008

i've been drawing st francis a number of times in the past years. my reason for this is not religious - to me spirituality (human compassion, kindness, love) needs no religion and is often confined by it. i'm specifically touched by the idea that st francis loved animals so much, that they came unto him soft of heart and without fear.

to me the science fiction idea of `gaia' - a world where all living beings are one, and also (on some level) aware of this oneness - appeals as high ideal for which we could strive on earth.

but is it so high as to be a tower of babel? this seems very likely, especially considering what people are willing to do to animals not even out of misunderstanding or malice, but simply out of economic gain. i believe that anything we do to animals is something we will also be willing to do to humans if the circumstances are just a little tight.

i'm not saying that we are automatically responsible for solving the moral problems that nature faces us with once we start looking at animals as fellow creatures(cruelty, survivalist savagery, etc.). but i think we can lift ourselves to a level where at least the heartless human exploitation of animals which are obviously a lot like us in feeling and even understanding is abandoned.

responsibility for the innate cruelty of nature...this is where i think human understanding is vastly too limited. this is where i can understand people needing a concept of things which are way over their head. too bad these concepts to me often look as if turned into a fairytale. but perhaps we all need fairytales to make our lives meaningful.

st francisst francis, 2003