Film of Sound, my collaboration with sound artist Roger Dean and poet Hazel Smith will play at the Experimental Film Festival Portland 2013, a small, but enthusiastic fest in my hometown. The screening night is Friday May 24th at the Clinton Street Theater.

Film of Sound

10 minute, single channel video
Artists: Roger Dean, Will Luers and Hazel Smith
an australLYSIS commission

Film of Sound is a semiotic surface, a skin of image and text on the body of sound. Constructed out of collaborative, indeterminate and remix processes, layers and juxtapositions of disparate media hint at a narrative trajectory — a sleeping man, an evening in a hotel room, and a journey across vast and challenging spaces. But the incipient narrative constantly breaks down into disordered memories of violence and repression, undefined threats, splintered subjectivities, analog and digital glitches.

Sebald on the iPad

Many of us know what to do with a web page filled with different media. There is no longer a “web of attractions” where text next to image next to video carries an inherent fascination. What is left of the web’s mystery is just a weary awe at an expanding network of data.

So much time is spent in front screens, it sometimes seems artists might be better off very far away from not-so-new media.

After a week of iPad-frenzy and a bout of shameful techno-lust, I spent Saturday morning easing into the dreamscape of W. G. Sebald. I find his writing difficult. His imagery puzzling. The texture of thought so finely woven, that it demands a very high level of caffeine and concentration. His art is beautiful, mysterious, convulsive. His books are things to pick up, examine and admire. They are stories as well.

Shasei, my iphone blog, is partly inspired by a Sebaldian aesthetic. The weaving of text and photo, the movement through space, the details of everyday life, an amateur’s carefree approach. All very common themes for blogging. Traditional even.

I feel free to think with the iphone. I play with camera apps, shoot spontaneously, type words with a finger and publish instantly. So far I haven’t included much writing or video. Visual fragments seemed more evocative, even friendlier, on their own.

Lately, I am feeling the need to write.

The 19th century haiku poet Masaoka Shiki worked in a practice he called “shasei,” meaning “sketch from life.” Shasei is what I have named this blog for obvious reasons. Haiku as snapshot. Things as they are, objective reality with only an implied observer.

What happens to ideas of “thingness” when thought itself – abstraction, imagination, memory – are increasingly part of things. Like paintings, books, computers, game players, phones, furniture and walls?

How has multimedia screen space already restructured our relationship to things? How has it shaped the sensation, perception, conception and cognition that make up “thingness”?

The iPad is not a new kind of computer. And it is not the device that will “save media.” Far from it. The iPad is a screen made for deep, immersive and interactive experiences. It is the missing technology that, i think, will give birth to a thriving commercial and communal art scene. And like all successful art scenes, it will impact how we “do” everything else: education, journalism, business, government.

My friend Motoya Nakamura is an excellent photo-journalist, who is struggling to keep a career in newspapers.

Saturday night I went to an opening of Motoya’s portraits of Japanese-American WWII veterans. Beautiful large-format photos of the veterans surrounded by their families and the objects of their domestic lives.

These photos were hung in a museum space depicting the internment conditions of the Japanese rounded up by order of President Roosevelt.

After the show, many friends and their kids gathered for pizza and snacks. I spent a lot of time trying to convince Motoya that the new iPad will be good for photojournalists and all photographers. He said his large photos wouldn’t work on a 10′ screen. It’s just not the same. I said that a book of Italian frescoes are the next best thing to visiting Italy for an art tour. An app of the Japanese Veterans would interest a lot of people who couldn’t afford a print.

As beautiful and valuable as the photos are in their “thingness,” they also embody the flow of visual information through a community.

And so on.

The work of web and net artists has so far remained marginal – compared to the established arts – because of commerce, power, access, the materialization of value vs. dematerialization of expression, etc.. The iPad may change that power structure.

There are issues of censorship, percentages of sales, tools, marketing, visibility. But the profit is not in dominating the new medium with professionalism. The profit is in opening the field to mass creativity and in making work that is worthy of attention.

I would never read Sebald on a computer. He provides enough multitasking, thank you very much. Sebald on an iPad, however, would be great. Opening a photo full screen, for example, would encourage a kind oscillation between image and text that the author intended.

The merging of text, image, moving image and interactivity onto the portable screen has been part of an active collective consciousness for about ten years. It’s been part of a dormant unconscious since the beginning of human thought.