Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Solstice post: Out with the Old; In with the New.

Transcript of second part (from 06:02):

'Anyway , that was older work.

In the past year, I have been commissioned by The Arts Council of Ireland to create new work using my typical approaches, for an exhibition which will open in September 2022, and may tour, and most likely there will be peripheral events and dissemination taking place beyond the institutional spaces.

The relationship between landscape and technology interests me. During residencies and periods in West Cork, I have been looking at the increasing, and dramatic presence of wind turbines, existing networks such as the road system, transportation, as well as the giving over of space for the purposes of sport for instance. For me technology incorporates not only the much talked about software, code, algorithms and apps, nor the ubiquitous new devices and computational network, but also the older and heavier, perhaps mundane machineries, and not only that, but also analogous bureaucratic codes and systems. All these are linked to each other, but some are the subject of critical conversations, whilst others are ignored and taken for granted.

One aspect of the new work I have been doing arises from the thought experiment, or entrepreneurial idea, if you like, that golf courses could be turned into, wind farms. The suggestion is that the changes would not only fit with environmental imperatives, but would make the game more interesting. Already there are traditional obstacles such as rough and bunkers; most courses will either have penalty areas, trees, bushes, or sometimes water, that present a challenge to the player. And, let us not forget, that in many countries there exists the sport of crazy golf.

I have been posting this proposal on TripAdvisor sites for golf courses, golf links and resorts around the world, together with mock-up images, to give an artist’s impression of what the new and improved game would look like.

Sometimes these proposals are removed, and in other cases they stick. Human gate keepers are clearly involved and perhaps algorithmic policing is a factor too. Google translate is useful for converting the text into the local language. Trump International Golf Course in Dubai, wrote back to me in Arabic thanking me for my visit and inviting me to come again soon. I’d been clear that the visit was a virtual and not real one - I’d looked at images of the course online and through maps - but perhaps that counts nowadays. I found another resort in the Amazon rainforest, or in what was once part of the Amazon rain forest, and posted the TurboGolf proposal there successfully, in Portuguese.

This is work in process, and as I say, just one aspect of the observations, interventions and interferences connected with technology in the landscape, in preparation for the exhibition at the West Cork Art Centre, or Uillinn, in 2022.

Links – and please excuse that pun - could be made with nineteenth century romantic-art concerns, and notions of the picturesque. Garden, park, and golf course design, employs methods such as prospect-refuge-theory which emerged then, and design principles such as Savannah-preference are relevant, as they were in the very successful children’s TV series, Teletubbies. Perhaps Golf is Teletubbies for adults, but I’d like to stress that in no way am I interested in mocking those who play the sport. The elitist connotations of golf may still be a factor, but women and working class people made claims on the game long ago, and the situation is different now. I see no reason why wind turbines, one on every green perhaps, would not make golf a more stimulating experience.'

Sunday, October 10, 2021

Brussels Trade-offs

Well they need to be seen, the IWTs. (Email me if you want to find out what the acronym means.) I had already visited David Shrigley's suppliers in Essex, 'U'K. Today's in Brussels were also impressive, and the time given me to look at and experiment with them was appreciated. I have two or three concerns, a minor one about transporting these beauties, another about the costs, and so it will be important to do some more thinking, working out and discussing with critical friends.

Whilst on the return trip, for obvious reasons but ones I will not go into here, I was pondering on the subject of 'trade-offs'. So many problems are presented in this way. Environmental imperatives inevitably mean that people must make individual sacrifices. The bailing-out and money granted during the year or more of pandemic will have to be paid back apparently: there will be negative consequences, and for everyone. Such arguments miss important points though. The idea that money is a tangible thing for example, that is one underlying presumption. The facts that the rich and powerful have not the slightest intention of paying for the Covid-19 crisis themselves, and that government parties representing them will be voicing nothing of the sort, are overlooked. For some reason the majority should pay: jobs will be lost, 'stagflation' is on the cards and austerity is being mooted again. Climate catastrophe is presented as connected with individual morality and to do with widespread human selfishness. The systemic nature of the climate emergency and the impossible relationship between business motives and environmentalism are conveniently ignored.  

When teaching the ABCs of photography to people it makes sense to point out the various trade-offs in operation there. In order to expose an image adequately, the shutter may be held open for longer, or aperture increased, but the former can result in motion blur, and the latter will reduce depth-of-field. Increasing ISO results in poorer image quality (noticeable film grain in the past and compression artefacts now).  In the extreme there my be no way to deal with unforgiving lighting situations. On the other hand photography (and sight) also demonstrates an opposite, seemingly miraculous, phenomenon. Photography works on the principle that if a small hole is permitted to penetrate one wall in an otherwise blacked-out 'room' (the Latin for which is camera) and it is bright enough outside, then a highly detailed, inverted, image will appear on the wall opposite that aperture. Camera Obscura and pinhole cameras never cease to enchant - please experience one if you have not before - and it is all the more impressive when you think about the logic involved. The effect is counterintuitive, a real example of getting more from less. Human vision and photography are based on this, taken for granted, conundrum. Restricted aperture may reduce the absolute quantity of light coming through but it results in more information being provided about the world outside.

So not everything is about miserable trade-offs: perhaps there is a need to escape the accountant-mindset more often. Energy is not hard to generate as it happens and even the language here is problematic. In fact, energy is not generated at all but, as the first law of thermodynamics asserts,  but is merely converted from one form to another (except in the case of nuclear reactions, our sun's modus operandi, and some argue about the prospects for a safe functioning fusion reactor, but these are subjects for another day: let us not digress). 'We' could be more imaginative. There is such a thing as a free lunch. Burning fossil fuels is just one mechanism for obtaining energy but also, it should be possible to think beyond the currently limited range of, undoubtedly still too crude and unproven, green energy solutions. And, certainly we should not, in my opinion, complacently treat the issue as being purely to do with personal ethics either: that habit is probably due to a combination of lingering old religious attitudes and overly transactional ideologies.

Friday, July 30, 2021

Residency 2, Day 30: 'If you can't give me poetry, can't you give me poetical science?' - Ada Lovelace

Nearly finished this Residency 2 now. Got loads of businessie things to sort out by phone, email, video-call, to do with IWTs, motorcars, the costs of road-bowling balls and more. In terms of the work everything is progressing fine. I need to avoid being side-tracked and going down the wrong holes as some new lines of inquiry have opened up. The process of 'resolving' work in art contexts, whether exhibitions or individual pieces, is similar to how solution-finding iterative-methods in mathematics do their business. These algorithms converge in on a solution, having initially cast the net wide, or made a rough stab at it, and that feels familiar. Numerical methods often result in solutions which are not necessarily optimal but do satisfy certain criteria. Artist as walking algorithm, oh yes...

As an example of the potential problems, camping on golf courses is all well and good but what does that initiative have to do with the main emphasis here, of ramming together 1. golf, 2. wind farming, and 3. road networks? The answer to this question will reveal itself in the months ahead me-hopes.
Whilst walking to the studio this morning, real early, from the camping location, I began wondering about the widely accepted idea that artists are specialists who concern themselves with aesthetics. But in my view, the aesthetics must emerge from pursuing questions and from the means of that pursuit. It would be naff to to design and then make an image, say, which has certain preconceived effects or affects in mind, or obeys apparently universal principles.

Other thoughts, not expanded upon:

'We human beings are gregarious, we're not programmed for solitude, but to give and receive.' Isabel Allende. True or false or not enough of a thing to say?

I have not seen my daughters for over a month now. They have not seen me either. But I have seen my mother and sister and sister's family and many friends. People have been kind to me here, interested, and interesting. Much appreciated.

Thursday, July 29, 2021

Residency 2, Day 29: '[Our] Strategy?' ‘It isn’t too complex really, just A to B as fast as you can go.' - O'Donovan brothers Skibbereen

Completed this today:
An Olympic special if you like. In keeping with the Now Man work of the past. Thanks to Gavin Buckley for assistance with the stills photography earlier.

And this one here is from yesterday really, just an experiment, not necessarily a masterpiece like the job above:

Later I sent this letter in the post to Kevin Systrom, Instagram, 181 Fremont Street, San Francisco, California, 94105-2207, USA. Let's see if a response comes:


Uillinn/ West Cork Arts Centre
Co. Cork
P81 VW984
Republic of Ireland
29th July 2021

Dear Kevin

Following my letters to you in May (sent from a different address) I'm afraid I have some further sad news to share with you. Though the problem I reported was solved back then, mysteriously in fact, I am now experiencing new ones. This began yesterday. I cannot access your lovely creation, Instagram, properly, and am expected instead to interact with dialogue boxes, containing meaningless or confusing messages. I pasted a sample of these into a blog post for 28th July:,https://uillinn-mocksim.blogspot.com, and please find them also attached below. I look forward to your reply.


Dr Micheál O'Connell
Email mocksim@gmail.com
Cell +** **** *** ***
Works mocksim.ie


And that seemed to work. Instagram is back on for me, already (writing later). But the letter was sent by real mail, as in land post. The AI is getting better!