Monday, April 14, 2014
In the construction of two-dimensional imagery there are two basic figure-ground strategies that visual artists have at their disposal. The first strategy is referred to by its namesake as a figure-ground image, which refers to certain objects, points or spaces that are emphasized and easily distinguished from the rest of the image. The rest of the image is then a supporting visual element, and a viewer perceives a separate figure within the ground of the image. The second strategy, known as a field image, refers to the opposite visual effect, in that each part of the image is just as important as every other part. No object, point, or space is emphasized or dominates perception, so viewers perceive the image as a whole: figure enmeshed and intertwined within the ground of the environment itself.
But here's something to make all that come undone. The aforementioned definitions are based on the idea that all humans see the exact same way, but the fact is, we don't. The sequence in which one perceives figure & ground is clearly dependent upon the cultural and economic structures a person was raised in. Comparing specifically, far-eastern cultures to western-european cultures, University of Michigan social psychologists [Hannah-Faye Chua & Richard Nisbett] have done years of research to reveal this phenomenon. Here's a hyper-abridged version of their research, which is extracted from a newspaper article I found in 2005 that conveys the essence of their work.
When shown a photograph, North American students of European background paid more attention to the object in the foreground of a scene, while students from China spent more time studying the background and taking in the whole scene. Nisbett illustrated this with a test asking Japanese and Americans to look at pictures of underwater scenes and report what they saw. The Americans would go straight for the brightest or most rapidly moving object, he said, such as three trout swimming. The Japanese were more likely to say they saw a stream, the water was green, there were rocks on the bottom and then mention the fish. [View the entire 2005 Associated Press article].
Reading about this research by means of the article I've quoted arrested me, and it has ever since served as a reminder that the worst thing one can do is assume that the person next to you is seeing the same thing you are.
Monday, April 7, 2014
Originally inspired and constructed to illustrate the post I made in December 2013 about interdisciplinary skills, I re-titled and re-contextualized this quatrain here, and then inserted a new image in that post because it's simply a better fit here in the larger scheme of things. The intention is to bring the idea front and center that images have tremendous agility to change meaning and metaphor based on their respective viewing context, and that sometimes they simply offer stronger visual impact when they are viewed in a specific order or sequence.
Each quatrain has syzygy, and for certain some more so than others, like this one, but the project as a whole offers the viewer syzygy, too. Perhaps a better term to describe some of the connective tissue of the project is syncopation, which more commonly defines how music sometimes uses irregularities to make all or part of a composition unified. The placement of irregular notes, beats, or rhythms [visual threads or accents] are critical components that help tie the whole thing together. My intent here is to overlay the concept because it functions very similarly with visual art.
Take a closer look at how not only this assembly fits into the continuum, but how they visually flow from start to finish thus far, and you might see what I mean. One of the intriguing aspects of this process is that the "project's score" just keeps moving forward to wander, wonder, and find the common, the unusual, and the unexpected confluence of language, visual flow and unification.
Monday, March 31, 2014
Almost Canadian. Writing about the essence of being Canadian wouldn't be complete without the bilingual, English translation.
Anyway... that's me, so I learned, sitting around a table with my siblings and some extended family one evening over the holidays. When I was too young to remember, my family came incredibly close to moving to Canada. I mean, I'm talking just being a few centimeters shy. Had only one circumstance been different, had one person been thinking differently, it would've happened.
The concept of it momentarily unnerved me, and although it has been weeks and weeks since that discussion it continues to fill me with wonder — what course would my life had taken had it been launched from a different geographic point, culture, political system, measurement system, language dynamics, friends, schools, jobs, and so many other facets of growing up? To be certain, all the unknown is mysteriously more intriguing that what is known.
Monday, March 24, 2014
Even at night the sun was out full force, and the moon levitated over a horizon's gutter.
Limited sight in this snowy desert promised more to see over an edge.
I found that it's all connected, never understanding how or why.
Monday, March 17, 2014
Nevertheless, what inspires the quatrain is a visceral sense of rawness, exposure to the elements, and the things we do sometimes to seek adequate shelter and protection to endure life's rough edges. Regardless of what form the protection [coping mechanism] takes, what the experience looks like to the outside world can be rather confusing, mysterious, and strange. Sometimes just being agile and adaptable, shifting into survival mode, taking cover, and letting function overshadow form is all one can do. These layers of protection are typically temporary, but sometimes they need to be built for the long term to enable growth and the act of moving forward. I mean, everyone has a security blanket, right? What's yours?
Monday, March 10, 2014
Although the phrase slash and burn refers to a controlled burning technique in forest management, one could just as easily apply the concept to a disaster like this. An unfathomable amount of healing and recovery from this event will take years and probably even generations to achieve a state of normalcy. Let's hope that authorities can expedite the region's recovery process with the best of intentions to benefit the impacted inhabitants.
Monday, March 3, 2014
I found this curious for a couple reasons. One being that the movement's manifesto defines some of the same experiences of producing the photographs for these quatrains. The second being that as I've been watching, listening, and reading about events unfolding in Ukraine over the past several weeks, I've noticed a strangely coincidental and synchronous presentation of news headlines and quatrain theme/titles. Just to clarify… I don't claim to be psychic, I just like to wonder about mysterious and intriguingly unexplainable things, like synchronicity.
Many weeks before #22, Dots & Dashes, we were hearing about the intensity of the protests in Kiev. I like to think that the morse code visually represents thousands of voices, which are impossible to record individually, but collectively shouting for real change. Around the release of #23, Vacancy Signs, the President had been ousted — some would argue in a coup d'etat — leaving a power vacuum in its wake. With the good news of change in favor of Western democratic ideals #24, Murmurations, brought rumors of Russian intervention. Most recently, Russia invaded and took over territory known as the Crimea, bringing a new phase of storm and stress to the region.
Besides the magnitude of all that, life in general has its fair share of storm & stress, but regardless we tend to carry it with such calm and tranquility. Get real and revolt. Don't just think, shout outloud, I'm stressed! You'll feel better.
Monday, February 24, 2014
It was an easy expression to recall, which as a kid, simply made the experience of crossing the roads on the way to school safer. The expression became sort of a chant, and it resonated in my mind like a good friend who was continuously reminding me in a calm, low, indistinct voice; some might call it a murmuration.
What's kind of funny about this is that the practice to stop, look, and listen never seemed to disappear as I grew into being a photographer. The experience of safely crossing roads became habit, and yet the practice of these simple acts turned up to define the essence of seeing and creating images. On the flip side of this, as a viewer, consider how images inform your other sensory experiences. I mean, upon viewing this quatrain, can you hear leaves falling, or the wind blowing… an airplane engine droning high up above… the shrill of a flock of starlings swooping in the sky, and synchronous to one another's every movement… a low rumble of distant thunder? If not, so be it… I can.
But what about the fish form, and where on Earth did that come from? How is this even possible? How can a flock of birds strike a collective pose as a fish? I believe that it can partially be explained with a quote by Louis Pasteur that I like to murmur from time to time, "chance favors the prepared mind."
Monday, February 17, 2014
Monday, February 10, 2014
Originally this post was only in Morse Code to convey its idea. In July 1999, the language was officially discontinued from being used as a form of international communication, and replaced by new technologies. So, just in case there's another time that someone sends you a cryptic message that looks like this, just copy and paste it HERE.
Translation of the post:
Photography is the supreme form of visual communication on the planet, and the comprehension of its various forms is integral to surviving in this culture. Although it may sound arrogant the idea is not new. The democratization of the medium was fully anticipated by some in the golden age of morse code, and long before the dawn of digital technologies. Here's one of my favorite quotes to emphasize the point. "The illiterate of the future will be the person ignorant of the use of the camera as well as the pen." Lazlo Maholy-Nagy
Artist, photographer, filmmaker, designer, and teacher. Hungarian 1895-1946
The quote is from the German book Bilder der Photograpie Ein Album Photographischer Metaphern
Monday, February 3, 2014
Monday, January 27, 2014
Although visually complicated, labyrinths are not mazes because they typically have one point of entry and one path that leads to the center. The way out of a labyrinth is the same path in, and the basic design of its geometry is divided into fours [hey… like a quatrain!]. The intention of this posting is to affirm the act of producing photographs on a daily basis for the sake of the longer term. I think that producing images of only the "great stuff" encountered can limit potential and the extended range of vision. Producing images of even the most mundane fragments of subject matter too, over an extended period of time, can provide an intriguingly deep trail of salt while walking the day-to-day journey in. Because when editing on the way out what's rewarding is mysteriously found visual patterns, interactivity and continuity. When intuition whispers, photograph that, don't stop to question why... just do it!
Monday, January 20, 2014
I first learned of mandalas while studying the works of Carl Jung and Joseph Campbell, circa 1990. Many years later while pursuing my graduate degree, I revisited the semiotics of these visual forms and produced interpretations of them. Upon completion of that body of work, I thought that it was the last time that I'd spend such a measurable period of time investigating and visually distilling their potential meaning, but this is simply not the case.
The moment these four parts coalesced into a whole I began searching again, just to make sure that I understood what a mandala is. Here's a straight-up definition that raised my eyebrows when holding it up to the visual, and from which a connection can be realized. The alignment of linear visual elements gave me several minutes of pause and appreciation of how the subconscious finds ways of presenting itself.
Monday, January 13, 2014
I made a post a few weeks ago about change and the idea of it being such a normal aspect of our day-to-day, high-technology existence. That was a professional rant, but this one is from a more personal place. Let's face it. Change can be highly charged with the idea of unfamiliarity, and straight-up fear of the unknown depending on the situation. Having said that, it makes me reflect on how I've seen others deal with change, and then even, how I deal with it. Somehow, I have this naïve idea that most people simply accept change and move forward without hesitation or disruption to their life flow. They are liberated by change. Then there are others that I've known, who grew up through the [1st] Great Depression for instance, that would become practically immobilized by change, because change caused them such great stress, anxiety, and hardship. That, by the way, is called misoneism — a hatred or dislike of what is new or represents change.
Everything in moderation, I guess.
Monday, January 6, 2014
January has proven to be the coldest and snowiest in recorded history around here. Interesting to see the timeliness of this posting, because of its inherent subject matter mostly, and because this was the type of weather statement frequently encountered via weather services. Maybe this can offer your sense of temperature some connection to the visuals, maybe not...
... WIND CHILL WARNING REMAINS IN EFFECT UNTIL NOON EST WEDNESDAY...
* TEMPERATURES WILL REMAIN IN THE SINGLE DIGITS TODAY... FALLING QUICKLY BELOW ZERO THIS EVENING.
* THE COLD TEMPERATURES COMBINED WITH A STEADY WIND OF 10 TO 15 MPH WILL CREATE WIND CHILL CONDITIONS OF 10 TO 20 BELOW ZERO THIS AFTERNOON.
* WIND CHILLS WILL DROP TO AS LOW AS 25 TO 35 DEGREES BELOW ZERO TONIGHT. THESE LOW WIND CHILL READINGS WILL CONTINUE INTO THE LATE MORNING ON TUESDAY.
* TEMPERATURES WILL STRUGGLE TO CLIMB INTO THE POSITIVE DIGITS TUESDAY AFTERNOON. DANGEROUSLY COLD CONDITIONS WILL PERSIST TUESDAY AFTERNOON AND TUESDAY NIGHT WITH WIND CHILL VALUES REMAINING 15 TO 30 DEGREES BELOW ZERO.