Playful Visualizations at Work, Working Visualizations at Play

Posts tagged ‘Computer Art’

l’art pour l’art

As I move toward the part of the experiment/project where I will try to create a visually appealing -something- I am thinking a lot about my manual art. In my spare time when I have enough money for supplies, I make big paintings that use printed text as borders or incorporate the text within the image itself. Unfortunately, I’ve been struggling to photograph the work in a way that makes the text visible or gives a good idea of what the art looks like or what my style is if I have one. These two images are from one 5′ by 7′ painting and they will have to do for now.


These pictures were taken of an unfinished painting that currently hangs in my living room. The text is the Julio Cortázar story  La autopista del sur (Spanish text here, English text isn’t readily available online but some very interesting reading notes are here ). The text winds itself around the cars/buildings/rectangles on the painting and is a visual analysis of the structure and thematic content of the story. I left the painting unfinished (to finish would mean finding another copy of the text, cutting it into lines, and buying some epoxy) but may return to it at some point. Other texts I’ve painted include some Baudelaire poems and Gide’s L’Immoraliste but these paintings are hard to photograph in a way that would show you anything about them.

Revisiting an idea I’ve already mentioned in other posts, I’m fascinated by Ramsay’s discussion of how DHers can blur the lines between art and critical analysis. I would argue, as of 5 PM today, that this painting does just that. However, for our current project, I will begin the critical and artistic process from my laptop. The reason I started thinking about these ideas/questions at 5 pm (about ninety minutes before that, in fact) is a meeting I had with Harry Reese, who shared many invaluable books, ideas, and information about his current projects with me. It was one of those meetings that left me giddy, and extremely grateful for the incredibly talented faculty within my reach at UCSB. We all need to get out and talk to people more! Among the many things we discussed, Harry showed me a very interesting project done by Ann Hamilton. The project is called Stylus, and within the project is a section called Concordances. Here is the introductory link, it’s a beautiful, tricky, labyrinthine site that is worth exploring. Hamilton used newspapers (current during the 2010-2011 run of the exhibit) and within them generated concordances between the text and a given group of words within the text. On the website, users can create their own concordances within her corpus, mine is below using the words ‘abstain,’ ‘journalist,’ and ‘many.’

The “spine” words within the text create an interesting visual that seems to relate to other aspects of her project (duh) in which she explores all kinds of things including sound.

Reese and I also spent a lot of time talking about publishing and the organization of text on the page, as he is a publisher who is working on some incredible projects (including one that uses Calvino’s Invisible Cities as a point of departure and really blew me away). We flipped through some beautiful books (including Edward Tufte’s Visual Explanations, wow this is an amazing book) and Avital Ronell’s Telephone Book. Our conversation helped me distill some of my questions that I want to address in the next phases of my project on DFW’s The Pale King.  Whatever I create will in some ways remain part of the narrative being constructed by this blog. That said, I want to create something that will also be able to stand alone, in the same way that the art on my walls does not explain itself, nor do I stand next to it and explain my process to everyone who walks by (let’s face it, we don’t entertain very often). Within this facet of my project, intentionality is becoming more persistent than it was within my Excel play. As I am more comfortable with a canvas than a spreadsheet, I have more purpose, and I have a solid process that I have evolved over a long period of time. While the initial experiments within the class, which are most likely what will be turned in for the project, are going to be created on the computer using Gimp and Pixelmator, these images will be starting points for large, messy, manual art projects. I will do my best to share them with you when I finish them this summer. For now, here is an image that was initially a Word document screenshot of a descriptive passage of The Pale King. It became something else within Pixelmator. I will only say that it is an image of the information that any informed DFW reader enters the text knowing, combined with the text, combined with important literal “background” information, superimposed critical opinions, and some color for good measure. While this type of process would involve lots of layers of epoxy in a real project, here the layers are simply different files piled on top of one another. It’s a start.