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Thursday, 14 February 2013

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Its worth noting that even if this disc does spend millenia in orbit, it isn't the only imagery we are sending into space. Ever since the start of radio broadcasting, about a century ago, much of the radio, TV, and other RF energy is radiated into space, forming an expanding energy sphere, currently about a mere(!) hundred light years in size. If there is an alien civilization out there, capable of reaching Earth, it will probably know much about us even before it leaves its home planet (if it lives on a planet...).

Well, it takes all kinds - etc. I haven't seen the specific photographs that you refer to however I have seen a small exhibition of large prints of Trevor Paglen's work. These were exhibited as part of the (UK) Brighton Photographic Biennial last October. They were the only photos that I saw exhibited there that were of seriously interesting content.

Roy

Well to re-use my comment from yesterday "The sublime and the ridiculous are often so nearly related, that it is difficult to class them separately. One step above the sublime, makes the ridiculous; and one step above the ridiculous, makes the sublime again" [Thomas Paine The Age of Reason]


I'm pretty sure this has nothing to do with aesthetics and a lot to do with politics, art as commodity, the separation of mind and matter, and maybe the uses of technology.

Probably the perversity of these images as removed from context as is humanly possible (geosynchronous orbit!) is intentional, IE if you know nothing about paintings which side would be the interesting side?

"a Union Carbide advertisement entitled "Bringing Science to India," a reference I think might elude many people even now, much less in a billion years."
I think it's about this
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bhopal_disaster

Interesting sounding book, Mike! Also, who's Ed, and why does he keep making parenthetical comments all over the place?

[We can't shut him up. --Mike]

Vanity.. We shouldn't be so full of ourselves. Once we're gone, we're gone. And all the stuff that we care so much about will follow, sooner or later. And this is not even a bad thing.

I kind of wish the by line would appear before the article like in a newspaper, but that's just me.

I'm sorry, but my first impression, from this review and from skimming the Amazon entry and preview, is 1970's pseudo-scientific kooky. I used to eat that stuff up when I was kid.

Speaking of kooky, I have a kooky pet peeve about people using "The Wiki" to mean "Wikipedia". A wiki is a web-based, collaborative database, of which Wikipedia is the best known, but far from only, example. There are many, many wikis, but only one Wikipedia, and I wish people, especially writers, would stop conflating the two.

Here's Wikipedia's entry on "wiki": http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wiki

"Paglen doesn't seem dumb, though he says things that are, in my opinion, dumb, though who doesn't do that occasionally?"

"... Is it really deep? Or is it really bullshit?"

John,

Your remarks squarely strike a nail that I've long held over Paglen's work.

In fairness, I have not seen this book. (There's a lengthy interview with Paglen on e-Flux about this work.) But I am familiar with another of his recent projects, presenting "photographs" of "secret" places such as Area 51...from miles away. (See the New Yorker slide show to get the gist.)

Can I shrug now?

I liked it. It's not an aesthetic thing but rather a thought experiment about what the images say about us and our legacy. Something to be discussed today.

I wrote more about it here.
http://njwv.wordpress.com/2012/10/18/the-last-pictures/

Billions of years? Things is geosync orbit won't stay there for tens of years without a fair bit of help. The satellite business, at least, is a bunch of crap. Billions of years is a hard target in general, I'm not sure than an anvil in deep space would last billions of years. Millions of years is probably doable, if you shoot for deep space, but that's quite a bit trickier than geosync orbit.

Does the choice matter? Is it possible to judge for the future? If it were, original Bach manuscripts would not have been found being used as wrapping paper for meat in a butcher's shop in St. Petersburg. There was a present when Bach's music was considered suitable for wrapping meat, but that is not the view of this current present. In another 200 years?

Probably the only thing that we can bet on if Paglen's collection survives is that there will be several future generations of art historians wondering why we etched our photographs into silicon disks rather than doing something genuinely artistic and radical like printing them on a non-archival surface like paper which would have given us a more aesthetically pleasing result while highlighting the impermanence of things.

"In any case, I've read the book through twice in one day, and I just can't decide: Is it really deep? Or is it really bullshit?"

John, this project is intriguing to me. I might just buy the book when my retirement checks come in if I still feel intrigued. However, I've discovered that just about everything I've been told thus far in my life has eventually proven itself to be bullshit. I doubt Mr Paglen's project will be any different. Since bullshit seems to be the prevalent part of human history, it just might be that the preservation of bullshit is actually a deep subject, worthy of serious pursuit.

FYI, more info about The Last Pictures is available online, including all the photos themselves, at http://creativetime.org/projects/the-last-pictures/the-pictures/

I thought his photos of CIA airfields in the desert was a fascinating project. I feel pretty much the same as John Camp regarding this project. I looked at it last year and decided not to buy the book. It just felt like a grand concept designed to fit in with contemporary art trends (art-science nexus for example) rather than something with realistic intent. This work is meant for people interested in contemporary art, not aliens from the future.

Near as I can tell, this is a classic exercise in post-modern narcissism. Its premise appears to be that an objective/empirical understanding of the universe around us is either unachievable or irrelevant (and it doesn't matter which), and that instead stamping an idiosyncratic and arbitrary manufactured faux-meaning on things is the way to go. At least until the grant runs out.

This reminds me of Skogen by Robert Adams. I read positive things about it but when I thumbed through it a bookstore, I left it in the store. The book itself was beautiful but I would not have chosen any of the photos to put in a book or even shown them to any one.

From the Amazon preview and John's review of THE LAST PICTURES, I wouldn't buy it either.

Paglen's in fairly good company if he believes that mathematics is not a universal language. Von Neumann said something similar (the language of the brain is not the language of mathematics, if memory serves).

"Ever since the start of radio broadcasting, about a century ago, much of the radio, TV, and other RF energy is radiated into space...If there is an alien civilization out there...it will probably know much about us..."

UHF waves go to infinity. If another civilization receives them, they will think we are a planet of Kukla, Fran and Ollies.

It seems that by posting, the author implicitly approves them. Perhaps the moderator has to concur.

[I haven't seen them. But in principle, I think we can discuss pictures we don't like. --Mike]

Some technical corrections;

Rnewman writes "Its worth noting that even if this disc does spend millenia in orbit, it isn't the only imagery we are sending into space. Ever since the start of radio broadcasting, about a century ago, much of the radio, TV, and other RF energy is radiated into space, forming an expanding energy sphere, currently about a mere(!) hundred light years in size."

Though has been made of that sphere... it's really not as impressive as you might think. Pretty much all of it is low energy stuff (on a cosmic scale), and current thinking is that it's only detectable (even to an advanced civilization) only out to a few dozen light years. (If they can separate it out from the radio noise coming from the sun - which is a vastly stronger source.)

Andrew Molitor writes: "Billions of years? Things is geosync orbit won't stay there for tens of years without a fair bit of help."

Not quite... Birds in geosync won't stay in their assigned position in orbit (mostly due to the moon and sun's gravity causing the orbit to precess) without help - but that isn't the same thing as not staying in orbit. NASA's LAGEOS-1 satellite is at 3700 miles (far below geosync's 26000 miles) and is expected to be in orbit over eight *million* years.

What interests me here is not so much the photos chosen as the idea of preservation amd the choice of storage medium (a bit geeky but hey, it's Friday here), yesterday the BBC did a detailed piece about data storage in DNA (and this might solve Ctein's problems too huh?) there's a bit about it from last months here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-21145163 and I immediately got caught up with the idea that organisms could become storage devices...it's a crazy new world!

You miss my point, Mike. In the comment section it says "Comments will not appear until the author approves them." Thus my previous comment that posting implies the author's approval. As moderator, you (or your surrogate) approves them before the appear in the comments for all to see

Misha Marinsky,
So???

Derek L,
I make no assumptions on limits of technology for a species capable of traveling to Earth from another star

"UHF waves go to infinity. If another civilization receives them, they will think we are a planet of Kukla, Fran and Ollies."

UHF has been carrying major commercial networks since the HDTV transition. I'm afraid their opinion of us will be far worse than Kukla, Fran and Ollie.

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