Thursday, April 30, 2015

Pete Ashton, Alvin Lucier and the futility of originality

Pete Ashton’s Sitting In Stagram is a digital art project that takes as its starting point the absence of a repost function in Instagram; users have to create a fresh screen capture when they send an image, causing subtle, cumulative deterioration each time. Ashton’s work was also inspired by Alvin Lucier’s sound piece I Am Sitting In A Room, in which the repetition of recorded speech degenerates into incoherent noise.

Of course, repetition doesn’t necessarily always mean a downturn in quality but it’s a pretty good rule of thumb — just look at the trajectory of most movie sequels. And even when a project doesn’t become objectively worse, we seem to lose interest ever more quickly. Think how fast memes die away these days; how soon did the various iterations of the Harlem Shake lose their charm? Inevitably it turns out that Ashton’s idea isn’t a new one, a fact that he readily acknowledges: “There are no original ideas and that is an awesome thing.”

So does Sitting In Stagram become less good as its originality recedes? Does it transcend the process of representation and become the very thing it’s depicting? There’s one thing to be said for it in this age of stunted attention spans, at least by comparison with the Lucier piece — it’s a damn sight shorter.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Lewis Hamilton pops his cork

I’m profoundly uninterested in motor sport, and also very wary of investing too much symbolic significance into silly little moments, but I couldn’t help but feel uncomfortable about Lewis Hamilton’s champagne celebrations following the Chinese Grand Prix. It’s long been pretty obvious what the uncorking and spraying of the fizz represents but we don’t need to delve too deeply into the semiotics of porn tropes to decide that there’s a big difference between a general splurging in the rough direction of the watching fans (who apparently rather like the experience) and firing it into a specific woman’s head (and she clearly didn’t). 

Talking of wankers and cars, apparently the very notion that A WOMAN, not to mention A LESBIAN WOMAN might take the place of Jeremy Clarkson in Top Gear has prompted some of his halfwit catamites into wishing said woman might burn to death. Look, I’m not arguing that a deep and intimate fascination for all things automotive correlates with being a socially inept thug but, yes, well, I am really.

To be fair, though, just to prove that such levels of abject idiocy are not confined to people with penises: Jon Ronson is getting grief for a line about rape in his new book that might be misconstrued — despite the fact he removed it from the published edition, lest it be misconstrued. You know what? I need a drink.