I finally sat down with this, after it being in my to-read pile for ages. It was entirely worth it. I particularly liked the parts about the natures of silence, and about animal sentience, and about maintenance and regeneration as a natural state. It is worth every minute of however long it takes you to read it, be it the 44 minutes Medium estimate, or a bit more, or a bit less.
Nice interview with Tom Phillips. (That sounds so trite, but that's what I have to say; he's great, his work is great, this is a nice interview).
07 June 2017
Along with hip-hop, sitcoms, and the economy, screen savers flourished during the Clinton years…
Zack Hatfield’s article from the Paris Review on screensavers turns out to be quite wonderful. I like passing that quotation from it around to introduce it, because it made me laugh, but the whole thing is thoughtful, and wonderful. And it made me think:
You can’t consume a screen saver in an instant. You can’t fast-forward or rewind one. The genre, its own kind of endurance art, shuns immediacy. Fugitives from time, screen savers possess no real beginning or end. Their ouroboric nature is perhaps why preservations on YouTube, whether ten minutes or twelve hours long, tend to evoke disenchantment.
Screensavers are anti-images.
Susan Sontag, in On Photography, remarked that a photograph describes “a neat slice of time, not a flow.” But if you take Hatfield’s point – that the screensaver only makes sense in its infinite form, summoned unbid, and existing until it is dismissed… then a screensaver is only ever flow. The act of quoting a screensaver is inadequate, almost impossible. Which takes me back to Sontag, who goes on to describe a photograph as a quotation: “a photograph could be described as a quotation, which makes a book of photographs like a book of quotations“.
A screensaver cannot be meaningfully sliced; it cannot ever become quotation. A photograph is a choice of a single moment of time, and thus, implicitly, a rejection of surrounding moments. But Hatfield describes screensavers as if they only ever are surrounding moments, each a moment leading to another. And they resist comparison to film, to: they are elliptical, not structured, not ongoing. There is art film that probably stands comparison best: for instance, Christian Marclay’s The Clock functions as an ongoing, 24-hour loop, and precisely works because it has no formal beginning and end. (It feels a little trite to describe The Clock as a screensaver, and yet it would make the most wonderful screensaver – a little world running in parallel that only emerges when you step away from a screen).
And: I liked his description of screensavers invoking “rapture and reverie, and stillness“; how appropriate that something designed to be continuously, but unobtrusively, changing, should be a meditation upon stillness.
When you put it like that: screensavers are our only functional perpetual motion machines.
Finally got around to finishing this, and so glad I did. Thoughtful, gentle prose from the excellent Helen Macdonald.
Somewhat annoying website. But: really impressive new Markdown app – its view/hide source mode is in some ways nicer than Macdown/Mou, and it has detailed support of the Markdown 'spec'. Going to keep trying this whilst it's in beta.
I've loved Alan Warburton's work for a while, but this is superb: a talk, and a film, and it made me laugh and it's really on-point and just this, yes.
[this is good]. I particularly liked "one damn thing after another", because yes, that's how I tend to think about these things, wrestling an essay into something that makes sense as a told narrative.
A detailed and thoughtful analysis of an old wargame – and, specifically, how it focuses on simulating actual possibilities, rather than improbable fantasies; the asymmetry of the design (and the things it strips out). Sounds great. I also like the notes on computer-aided boardgaming.
"Stealth Cell Tower is an antagonistic GSM base station in the form of an innocuous office printer. It brings the covert design practice of disguising cellular infrastructure as other things – like trees and lamp-posts – indoors, while mimicking technology used by police and intelligence agencies to surveil mobile phone users." Very good, Julian Oliver.
On the optical similarities between UV maps and Rayographs; rendering process and machine-techniques as cultural products.
"Innovation doesn’t come from the profit motive.
Innovation comes from those who are happy to embark on a course of action without quite knowing where it will lead, without doing a feasibility study, without fear of failure or too much hope of reward. The engine of innovation is reckless generosity"
I couldn't quite pick a single line to quote, but I think I'll choose this. I've been listening to a lot of FCB this weekend, and it's all rung true for me. But especially: the value of serendipity on culture, of one thing informing another months or years later, of the value of pleasure and the imagination to all walks of life. So much here.
"I came back to writing as a way of thinking and of thinking through, of occupying the space between things, and opening them up again."
Writing is thinking is writing.