Personalised Portraits by replaceface
George Dawe was an English portrait artist who painted 329 portraits of Russian generals active during Napoleon’s invasion of Russia for the Military Gallery of the Winter Palace, Saint Petersburg, Russia. Replaceface is using digital copies of these paintings as a basis for his own work which involves incorporating celebrities into the paintings using photoshop.
I have an epigraph?
"Now, the weakness of a capitalist system of production, based upon the desire to increase the abstract tokens of power and wealth, the fact that the consumption and turnover of goods may be retarded by human weaknesses: affectionate memory and honest workmanship. These weaknesses sometimes increase the life of a product long after the time an abstract economy would have it ticketed for replacement. Such brakes on production are automatically excluded from the army, particularly during the periods of active service: for the army is the ideal consumer, in that it tends to reduce toward zero the gap in time between profitable original production and profitable replacement. The most wanton and luxurious household cannot compete with a battlefield in rapid consumption."
Pause there. Wow. What a well-crafted, powerful sentence.
"A thousand men mowed down by bullets are a demand more or less for a thousand more uniforms, a thousand more guns, a thousand more bayonets: and a thousand shells fired from a cannon cannot be retrieved and used over and over again."
So what does that mean for the surgical units and hospital ships of war? What lessons do they bring home after the war? Personal and professional bonding from the experience, according to Rosemary Stevens, but also a love affair with technology, or as Mumford would call it, the machine.
Thanks, Lewis Mumford, for many such sentences… Technics and Civilization. New York: Harcourt, Brace and company, 1936, 93.
I don’t normally get to watch the Super Bowl, so maybe I have lost track of the way nationalism is used as a form of address for the broad swath of eyeballs collected by the event. But I had to ask, what’s up with all the nationalism? So, prompted by a New Yorker piece on the Coke ad versus the Chrysler ad by Amy Davidson, “Why Bob Dylan Lost the Super Bowl, and Why Coke Won”… I’ll jot down a few more questions.
Aside from the inclusion of Native American languages in the gorgeous Coke ad, why are the tropes largely early 20th century melting pot and general postwar baby boomer? Okay, so we have cell phones being made in Asia. But otherwise, it seems the themes could be straight from the era Lizabeth Cohen describes, or Bush pushed post-911 of Americanism as consumerism. The more things change the more they stay the same? But putting aside the question of why nationalism… does this particular vision of nationalism speak to our moment? Surely the technological lust remains, but now more for glowing rectangles rather than machines that ‘vroom’, as Dylan tells us. Is this in fact nostalgia for a lost glamour of the machine? Why not mention the very American industry of silicon valley? Wrong target audience? Why not tout the advances in automated cars? It doesn’t speak to the freedom / cool ethos we project around the globe? No machismo in having Google drive you around?
The best, if most distracting, sentence might be: “We are now at least psychologically prepared for the sight of Dylan talking to a chair, or to his Swiss watch, at a national political convention.” Is that a simple attempt to remind readers of the author’s democratic allegiances in mocking Eastwood’s performance on behalf of Romney? And if it’s all a big red herring, a fetish in Freudian terms, what is it covering? What is it selling? American anxiety? American vertigo? Perhaps it’s the same story as Hegel’s original comment about how reading the newspaper is the modern man’s daily prayer. It’s simply a construction of solidarity in the face of growing bifurcation between capital and labor at a time when the nod to the men and women working on the line ought to include the robotic arms and machines working to automate our tasks. If we’re facing the end of labor, what does that mean for work? Are we memorializing American coolness and labor at the moment of its disappearance? Why is the city featured for its coolness a Detroit making headlines for its bankruptcy rather than its continuance in the Arsenal of Democracy? Way too much food for thought… Back to reading about Taylorism…
I’ve been looking for better theorizations of technology, in particular ones that might apply to architecture. Joel Howell provides this nicely with his emphasis on including the information required to use a technology as well as the humans and objects that make up the technology’s system.
"How should we think about technology as an object of study per se? … we need to appreciate that "technology" is best understood as being not only a fixed object, an artifact. Technology is also the information needed to use that artifact. In addition, we can conceptualize technology as being a system, an articulated means of arranging people, information, or machines. That system can (and must) encompass a broad swath of human activity."
Joel D. Howell, “Technologies Transforming Health Care” in Friedman, Lester D. Cultural Sutures: Medicine and Media. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 2004.
I can’t help it, I’m a sucker for the recursions. Bourne again shell, wine is not an emulator, pine is not elm. I can’t help it. I don’t like puns but I love these. Why is it so pleasurable to note that bash is not quite like wine in its complete recursion? Why is it so fun to think about graphical algorithm editors and the ways that they are, and are not, doing what they are showing? Like, there is code that runs the GUI, but the GUI is altering code. Which I suppose is the same as any GUI, any window manager, etc. But somehow it feels rather different to watch manipulations of code via graphics… Why? And how long before I can take coding classes with my daughters?
"teenagers represent a fickle demographic with short attention spans — they do not want to read long Facebook timeline stories, but instead want instant sharing and gratification using specialized and visual tools."
Among these tools, tumblr. So this story gives us the thrill of imagining a constituency for whom facebook is an attention span challenge. And that is a long way from the long gossipy walks I took as a teen. But it also gives insight into the reputation machine that facebook is because of the tendency to use your ‘real name’. Teens are apparently moving to sites where they don’t use their real name as means of avoiding their parents but also their peers who bully or those who simply compete for likes. One also has to wonder about the permanence or impression of impermanence that a site like Vine or twitter communicates to its users. Will these small videos be more or less troubling ten years in the future?
The round tables at Starbucks were the result of asking the question how do we want people to feel before considering what do we want them to do.
Form follows feeling.
Of course, the whole list of what architects get that Starbucks doesn’t get was way too easy. But let’s see what she has to say, since a catchy turn of phrase deserves unpacking.
"You have not, it seems, embraced the opportunities that the Internet has given to us. Opportunities like: polling a vast number of people using online tools or modeling the likelihood that a retail space will actually get foot traffic. No one wants an empty row of shops. It makes for a sad neighborhood. You could use and develop tools that help you understand if this will happen. But you don’t."
Right, cause it’s really easy for cities to prevent the departure of retail. And certainly those forces of capital are under the architect’s control. Sure they are. Moving on.
The article is clearly just attacking a straw man. Not only do architects work for Starbucks, as pointed out by a colleague of mine, but many of us architects know that such corporations do focus group research to design spaces. But what needs to be addressed is the value of what is found by those methods. The author uses the example that people sitting alone in coffee shops prefer circular tables so they don’t feel so lonely. Well, gee, I sit alone in a coffee shop a lot and I hate round tables cause they’re hard to use laptops at. No space for your mouse with all that curve. And gee, do people who feel bad about sitting by themselves spend all that much time patronizing coffee shops and sitting down? Seems a bit absurd to me. When ‘facts’ like that are too easy, they’re simply not adequate to describe all of the ‘functions’ that a space like a Starbucks must fulfill. So yes, commercial spaces are the most closely tailored to our alleged psyche. But is it accurate, and is it good? Should the table at the Starbucks try so hard to make me ‘feel’ a certain way?