Like Death Warmed Over

Crossing the railroad tracks has always been an event sanctioned with caution, fear, and possibly even sublimity. As a child, you are told to stay away from the railway and were lead by your parent’s hand across the beams of metal when it was safe. When the train approaches, there is no stopping its great momentum. The brutal will it has to continue through whatever is in its path may be viewed with awe. Even the superhuman and otherworldly strength of Superman is compared to the marvel of engineering superiority as “more powerful than a locomotive.” Those descriptions were years ago. The greatness of the locomotive has come to be viewed as commonplace over the years since its invention. We do not think of it in the same way. With bombs, humans are actually destroying the mighty train. Now, there exists only partial moments when we actually flirt with the same death on the railway.

The fact still remains that a train could easily kill the passengers and driver of a car if both impacted. That is a fact of greatness supported by years of news reports about cars trapped and smashed by incoming trains that could not slow down in time. You must look at the photographs in my series long enough to realize that the subjects in the cars are really in a potentially dangerous situation. Yet, at first you do not realize that fact; some people have their lazy hands on the wheel, while others hang theirs out the window. When I took the picture of these automotives crossing the railroad tracks, it was at the moment of potential impact, “Death can occur here, but maybe not just at this moment.” The railroad is not a place that you want to be stalled in a car. They would not be prepared to face the fear of that situation if it did occur. After you see picture of car after car in the same position, you should develop a strengthening feeling of precariousness the longer you look at the photographs.

We only hear about the bitter end of a match between a car and train in the newspapers, and not the many successful crossings of railroads. This reinforces our fear of the area where track and road meet. That area is laden with associations of the worst happening. People are often afraid of dying. This feeling is intensified when doing the dangerous happens slower and last longer. Even though a train might not be in sight, we cannot cross the tracks fast enough until feeling safe again on the other side. It gives us a momentary thrill and satisfaction of living across a deathly threshold. But, we also must be careful to not trip or stall, so we slow down on the tracks to make it at all.

Andy Warhol made a series of prints about the consequences of cars not “making it to the other side of the tracks.” His Death and Disaster series of serigraphs, based on grainy, black and white tabloid images of race riots, suicide, fatal accident scenes were in the back of my mind when photographing Like Death Warmed Over. I stopped the cars in the dangerous place for a long time, “framing” them to die. It is much like a comic situation, originated from the 1914 film The Perils of Pauline, where Pauline is tied against her will to the railroad tracks. She squirms to no avail; all the while the viewer becomes tenser because each fleeting moment Pauline is on the track means the closer coming of her demise. This, of course, brilliantly defines “macabre” because the film’s subject is not taboo, but still deals with the involvement of death and injury.

My series of photographs suggests macabre in a satirical manner. There are no ties from the rails to the cars. No people are looking at the camera as though they see death. The photographs provide a view the disembodiment of everyday life as a way to rationalize what we fear. Is it rational to be more fearful of train bombings half way across the world than of crossing a local train crossing? Perhaps it is not. But, from time to time, we must give some thought about the possibilities of not being able to make it to the other side of the train tracks.

View the Like Death Warmed Over photography series @ musicanator flickr


The Narrowing of Meaning

It is a daunting task to travel from drawing and painting experience to handling a camera. Although I have taken photographs before, a series of 120 photographs around a theme necessitates a completely different mechanical and artistic mindset. That is, to say, I am used to mediums that can need my own hand to dictate composition, line, lighting, etc. With the camera, the functions are automated and dependent on situation. It is much quicker to take a picture (exposing the film to light from the opening and shutting of the lens). A drawing or painting may take months to years to capture all the information that a camera may record in a fraction of a second.

There are many similarities between the mediums as well. I think that I will like the digital editing process of the images best. In Photoshop and Illustrator, I will be able to do what a drawer and painter does. That is use my hand to manipulate the image (considering the image similar to a paper or canvas) to adjust composition, line, lighting. I am hoping to combine typography with photographed images on Illustrator. By placing letters on the image a grid and structure is applied to what might be a circular composition. Along with the consequences of changing the meaning of the image that appears to be in the background, typography on image will provide another layer of meaning. Which, as I am fond of satire, becomes very appealing.


MAD Design expands into music and marketing with New Media

With the Musicanator I wanted to combine music and graphic design in some way. Musicanator was created to extend my reach into the artistic medium of music, sound experimentation, and performance. My co-host on the show is the Governator. I use audio clips from audio samples from a variety of media and features songs that are usually remixed or seldom heard (“b-sides”). The Musicanator plays b-sides and electronic music. The philosophy of the program is, “There is so much music out there that you just haven’t heard it all. We will expose you to new music, so stop whining!” No song is played more than once and popular songs are avoided, unless there is a remixed version. Inside the studio the Musicanator advertises MAD Design’s services as a graphic designer. Outside of the studio, I create posters for each Musicanator show, acknowledging MAD Design on each poster as the designer. This method creates a circulating motion of self-promotion.

MAD Design is a freelance operation, founded in September 2009 on campus. After working for Lawrence University’s Communications Department for a year and becoming depressed by the all the rules of graphic design: the Lawrence swoosh, using pre-made fonts, depending on “tracing” where the computer does the drawing for you, and being perfect in general. I came upon a revelation! Everything is relative. Things that we use and art that we see is all created by people. I could do it myself, so I adapted a DIY aesthetic (“do-it-yourself”). I could design whatever he wanted and began to advertise and offer design services to students: posters, logos, and other signage.

Even fine art.

That designed drawing will be showing the Warch Campus Center in the art exhibition, “Figure.”

Unlike the other students of Interarts, my final project has happened during midterm. During the week before Valentine’s Day, I showcased the presentation and product affair about the pangs of passion. Love Is MADness combined all sorts of media. There was an exhibition of graphic design artwork, a special Musicanator playlist of promiscuous songs (among them songs such as “Take A Walk On the Wild Side,” by Lou Reed, “Just A Gigolo,” by Louis Prima, and “Big Pimpin’ [feat. UGK]” by Jay-Z to set the mood), and a performance by Dr. Love who treated walk-in to his table and delivered his merchandise. One thing is for sure, the Communication’s Department would not publish these post cards and stickers.

They are too cool.

I sold those art works outside of the cinema at intermission and after the end of the showcase and continue to sell them at outside sources Avenue Art Gallery and Etsy.


1 Million Dollar Comic

The study of all types of artwork, including comix, should be taken into account when comprising a history of art from the 1960 through 1970, according to James Danky. He argues, “Artists and writers who worked in the mainstream comic book industry of the day were typically older men who rarely communicated with their younger audiences. Their output was largely contrived from the market. Underground cartoonists were directly connected with their readership and shared organizational lines…largely focused on addressing the burning issues of the day.” An example of mainstream art connected with underground art may be drawn from Little Annie Fannie from the July 1970 issue of Playboy.

In those pictures, Annie’s sometime boyfriend Ralphie Towzer is editing The East Village Mother, based on New York’s East Village Other, one of many underground newspapers flourishing a the time. The “Angelfood McSpade” and “Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers” cartoons were created especially for this sequence by underground cartoonists Robert Crumb and Gilbert Shelton.

The transgressant art that comixs represent was both a means for expressing the precariousness of the underground industry towards the end of the 1970s and for their accuracy accounting history. Danky says, “Comic books are not trash. Garish, sometimes tasteless or violent frequently non-comic book, yet they can also be needle sharp, provocative and brimming with fresh language of new ideas.” However, apart from popular art, the insecurity is not held in explosive quality, even though subjects broached were often full of violence, sex, and rock n’ roll. The worlds created are attached to reality, and not fictionalized such as in a Superman comic.

“Jackson Pollock’s drippings constitute a pure form of this iconography of the explosion, which we meet again win the imagery of Pop Art, for which—even more than Roy Lichtenstein’s literal references to comic strip explosions—enlargements (“blow ups”) and multiplication represent pictorial equivalents of detonation…it is the image of a world that is infinitely decomposable by nuclear fission.” (Bourriaud, 178)

The world of Superman seems to always be on the brink of collapse. The original Action comics #1 issue that rake in one million dollars cost only 10 cents when first printed.


Altermodern: Mixtape

There is so much music out there that you just have not heard it all. This is the view I promoted to WLFM to describe the intentions of Musicanator. The same song will not be played more than once unless it has been “remixed” by another artist. I am fascinated by this reuse of artistic material. There are an unending amount of possibilities to present one song. “Another hypothesis: could it be that what has been called ‘art of appropriation’ operates not to seize but to abolish ownership of forms? The DJ is the concrete popular embodiment of this collectivism, a practitioner for whom the work-with-its-signature-affixed is merely one point in a long and winding line of retreatments, bootlegs, and improvised variations. Borrowed from the vocabulary of the DJ or programmer, ‘playlist’ generally designates the list of pieces ‘to be played.’ It is a cartography of cultural data but also an open order, a path that can be borrowed (and infinitely modified) by others.” (Bourriaud, 161) Any appropriated or recorded sound that can be translated into radio waves may be used, in combination with any other sound. This is shown by albums entirely made from remixes, such as with Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix’s album “Listzomania,” remixed by a multitude of other artists.

“A matter of organizing an encounter between two or more objects, mixing is an art practiced under the ‘cultural rain,’ an art of deviation, of capturing flows and arranging them through singular structures.” (Bourriaud, 155)

By assimilating different sounds that have already been produced, mixing is a mainly secondary art. Yet original artists may be part of the cloud that precipitates “cultural rain.” As in postmodernism, it is all very difficult to distinguish what is an “original” song nowadays, if inspiration of historical musicians and formal music structures are taken into account for song creation. Remixes may be seen as original works if perceived as different enough from what it is being mixed from. However, from this point of view, “to practice citation is to appeal to an authority: in measuring him- or herself against the master the artist claims a place in a historical lineage and thereby legitimates first of all his or her own position, but also, tacitly, a vision of culture in which signs unequivocally ‘belong’ to an author, to whom the present work refers, ironically, aggressively, or admiringly.” (Bourriaud, 166) I believe that a remix can be unrelated enough to its original that it becomes “owned” by the remixer. If you are familiar with “Love Like A Sunset,” then my example is Animal Collective’s remix of that song (coupled with the slideshow of psychedelic sunsets, instruments, and new vocals). The song has a whole new aura of originality.

“Today, music continues to provide a procedural model. When a musician uses a sample, when a DJ mixes discs, they know that their own work may in turn be taken up and serve as material for new operations…The work of contemporary art is no longer defined as the endpoint of the creative process but rather as an interface, a generator of activities.” (Bourriaud, 172)

Through a creative process of organizing playlists for Musicanator on Garageband I am in effect translating the songs by inserting audio clips from cultural references in movies, other songs, and live recording, “…the meaning of the resulting work is entirely different from that of the original.” If songs may be considered having their own essential “color,” similarly to color relationships (any color is perceived differently when placed side by side with another color) when the order of songs is altered a song following or followed by another song will be perceived differently. The original song can be perceived in innumerous ways according to the listener. “‘It is the viewers who make the paintings,’ Duchamp once said, an incomprehensible remark unless we connect it to his keen sense of an emerging culture of use, in which meaning is born of collaboration and negotiation between the artist and the one who comes to view the work. Why wouldn’t the meaning of a work have as much to do with the use one makes of it as with the artists intentions for it?’ Such is the meaning of what he might venture to call a formal collectivism.” (Bourriaud, 161)


Altermodern: Mixtape

I didn't research this, found out about this mixtape by accident.
Bouriaud organized a music exhibition at the Tate Museum. Altermodern: Mixtape.
Learn more at:
Listen to mixed tape by DJ Mixmaster Morris at:
The songs are pretty good.


Verbal Pauses

Why do we feel the need to create and, if we are not creating, we feel a negative sense of unaccomplishment and stillness? Time stops and we feel uncomfortable with the silence. With our hands we fidget, or, within speech, pauses are filled with verbal utterances, completing the gap between language, thought, and experience. Stuttering and verbal pauses are examples of what the Poststructionalist philosopher Lyotard describes as “extralinguistic experiences.”

Art will speak for us and will be a product of experience and the journey taken. What is seen will be able to translate what cannot be described in words. “…Language does not account for everything, ‘A gap between language and experience that language cannot cover; this extralinguistic experience, in the form of the aesthetic, is crucial.’”

My purpose of a radio station is to rely on memory. Sounds that people recall in their memories (which is silent) connect with my posters when they see “Musicanator”. I do not feel the need to explicitly link image and sound into movie or film. My “movie” is more consequential and postmodern because it is precarious and relies on the immaterial of the mind.

Watch the clip from Pulp Fiction to notice how background sound (ambiance, music, and silence) is “acting” (John Cage's relationship with sound) while the actors are being still.

“The purpose of postmodern art is to disorient the viewer, to blur the boundaries of discourse, and to challenge the normative by the singularity of a work of art.”

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Ian Wallace.

Mentor - Pieter Janssen a.k.a. Piet Parra

Here are a few things that I think Parra gets inspiration from:

William Copley

Picasso's Satyr and Minotaur Rape Scenes

Spy vs. Spy

Goya's La Maja Desnuda

Stewie's Pointed Head

Rather than write down what I've already told you in my Powerpoint, if you like Parra and would like to find out more about him, here are some hyperlinks that I used for my presentation to click on and forge your own journey through space and time. "With the practice of web surfing and reading by following hypertext links, the web has produced specific practices that affect our modes of thought and representation. It is a mode of visuality distinguished by the simultaneous presence of heterogeneous surfaces, which the user links by charting a course or by random exploration." (Bourriaud, 114)

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