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Mintabox.com: A New Interactive Internet Art Project

Well after about six months of tinkering I am finally finished with this project.  This is one of those projects that just grew and grew and I have had to cut myself off, at least for now so that I can launch it.  Please visit:

Mintabox.com

Mintabox.com: An interactive generative web-project designed to investigate the meaning of information storage in the information age.

and add your own box.  mintabox.com is an interactive, generative web-project designed to investigate the meaning of information storage in the information age.  The site is inspired by my paintings and conversely, my paintings have begun to become inspired by the site.  The project is a meld of some of my creative interests including collecting, painting, photography, and web-design as well as a merging of conceptual interests including nostalgia and the effects of digital technologies on our aesthetic and sociological experience.

To use this site, visit the “main array” on the first page at mintabox.com. You may click on any existing box in the main array to “open” the box and see inside it. Inside each box you will see words and images that were submitted by other anonymous contributors. To add your own contribution to the array, select “add a box” from the top menu on any page and follow the instructions on each subsequent screen. Your newer box will cover older boxes. This process will continue indefinitely.

I am hopeful that people will actually take the time to play with the site and possibly even take the time to submit something clever.  I am considering submitting mintabox.com to some internet art databases.

I will be teaching internet art at the University of Cincinnati this fall.  This project is the first of several that I have begun to deeper my understanding and engagement with the medium.

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New Paintings

The show at DAAP was a success.  I will try and find some photos of the reception.  Here are some images of the paintings, as well as installation shots from the exhibition in 840 Gallery at the Department of Art Architecture and Planning at the University of Cincinnati last week.  the paintings look so much smaller in these photos!  maybe the camera adds ten pounds to people but it subtracts a few feet from paintings.

It was so nice to see the paintings in a clean space with good light after living with them in my cramped and often messy studio for months.  I was especially pleased with the way the colors read in this space.  i received a great deal of valuable criticism and praise.  i feel pretty satisfied with this small series; i am considering ways i can expand and push things from here.  i am also working on an internet project that relates to these paintings; i hope to launch that in the next couple weeks.

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The Obsolesence of Boxes

Gray-Blue Steel Box with Art Deco Hinge

Some thoughts about the increasing obsolescence of small physical storage boxes.  I know obsolescence is a strong word, and yes, Ikea probably sells thousands and thousands of these kinds of boxes which are made to look old.  However, there is no question that the majority of photographs and documents in our world have moved into the no-space of the internet.  Our world is less and less physical.  Donna Haraway makes my claims seem pretty humble by suggesting that “even bodies themselves may become irrelevant” (Cyborg Manifesto).

  • boxes are becoming obsolete as our world and our methods of archiving move away from the physical and into the digital realm
  • the increasing obsolescence of these particular kinds of small wooden and metal boxes is curious since photographs, documents, and letters, objects that are strongly associated with feelings of sentimentality and nostalgia, are the most important sociological phenomena of human history, while
  • the functionality of other types of boxes that are associated with more banal expressions of our physical existence (such as the refrigerator for food) endure
  • the internet has usurped small boxes as the new repository of emotional relics
  • perhaps a lack of physical evidence for our emotions creates anxiety and an ever-increasing need to share more
  • an embrace of the box as an expression of opposition to the new simulacra of human experience
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Jukebox Coffin: Box Etymology

it’s a beautiful word, isn’t it?  three perfectly balanced, elegant letters.  the self-contained O literally “boxed in” by the feminine curvature of the B and the masculine dynamism of the X.

box /bäks/

box 1 |bäks|
noun
1 a container with a flat base and sides, typically square or rectangular and having a lid

the sheer amount of definitions, as well as idioms and common expressions that contain the word box is testament to the importance of the idea of a box in American culture and language.  with the great exception of the term box as slang for coffin, most of these phrases are positive.  we see boxes mostly in a positive light–not as restrictive spaces but rather as precious objects, bringing organization and meaning to our world.

I believe even the common idiom “think outside the box”, which at first glance seems to use the word box in a pejorative way, is a popular expression due to the warm feelings the very word “box” evokes in the first place.  the phrase now evokes feelings of creativity and inventiveness rather than restriction and status quo.  maybe that seems like a stretch.  this notion of the near automatic positivity of the word box is reinforced from a quick reading of the etymology of jukebox, another term with highly negative roots but that now evokes extremely positive, nostalgic emotions.  This is from etymonline.com:

Jukebox1937, jook organ, from jook joint “roadhouse” (1935), Black English slang, from juke, joog “wicked, disorderly,” in Gullah (the creolized English of the coastlands of South Carolina, Georgia, and northern Florida), probably from Wolof and Bambara dzug “unsavory.” Said to have originated in central Florida (see “A Note on Juke,” Florida Review, vol. VII, no. 3, spring 1938). The spelling with a -u- might represent a deliberate attempt to put distance between the word and its origins.

For a long time the commercial juke trade resisted the name juke box and even tried to raise a big publicity fund to wage a national campaign against it, but “juke box” turned out to be the biggest advertising term that could ever have been invented for the commercial phonograph and spread to the ends of the world during the war as American soldiers went abroad but remembered the juke boxes back home. [“Billboard,” Sept. 15, 1945]

and if that’s not enough evidence for the greatness of this beautiful three letter word, I’ve just created this list of wonderfully mysterious words simply by pulling words from various definitions of the noun box 1  (bɒks), via the Collins World English Dictionary:

base, baseball, birds, border, casing, central, coal, coffin, collected, compartment, computing, container, contents, cubicle, cut, device, ditches, dividing, enclosing, female, genitals, hinged, hole, horse-drawn, housing, lines, machinery, mail, mechanical, newspaper, original, page, parts, post-office, printed, protective, rectangle, redistributed, removable, sap, section, shelter, space, stable, systems, transporting, tree, wheeled, white

 

as a side-note, maybe Jukebox Coffin would be a good band name.  or a pretty sweet amalgam to actually create as a work of contemporary art.  if only i was a sculptor.

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Boxes: Point of Departure

Tower – Oil on Canvas, 36″ x 36″

I am making paintings of boxes. I have several canvases in my studio at various levels of completion, each with compositions of stacks of jumbled, sometimes anti-gravital configurations of wooden and metal boxes and drawers.  Some areas of the paintings are straightforwardly representational.  In other areas passages of paint become only paint, creating dripping or pixel-like obstructions.  This may or may not sustain my interest as i begin to consider my MFA thesis at the University of Cincinnati.

"Tower" Oil on Canvas - detail

I did not initially understand my compulsion to make these paintings or my attraction to boxes and drawers but I am getting closer.  Throughout the next few weeks and months I hope writing in this blog will help to solidify my understanding of my own psychological interests in compartmentalization and containment, outline a clear course for further exploration of these themes, and perhaps even make a compelling case that something as seemingly banal as an old box can also be endlessly extraordinary and deep.

some initial somewhat random thoughts about boxes and stacks of boxes:

  • a box has two states: open and closed.  Open and closed can be thought of as a metaphor, the yin and yang of our experience of the universe.  people, paths, goals, spaces, personalities, impulses, stores, homes, windows, compositions, melodies, sentences–many many things can be open or closed.
  • a box is containment, means containment.
  • we were born in a contained state.  the womb is a box.
  • containment is safety; containment is also imprisonment.
  • the box is a metaphor for our minds.
  • the mind is often conceived as having compartments for different functions.
  • a pragmatic understanding of the universe is only possible when we shut ourselves off to the reality of interconnectedness, preferring organizational strategies that draw lines around seemingly disparate phenomena, placing these phenomena in imagined compartments and boxes.
  • a box can conceal that which should not be seen. thus,
  • a box holds secrets
  • a lock on a small box is absurd, since the box can simply be stolen.  thus,
  • locks on small boxes (especially decorative locks) are an expression of our cultural reverence for our small treasures and our secrets
  • “all these weird creatures who lock up their spirits…and live for their secrets” -Radiohead (lyrics from “Subterranean Homesick Alien”about potential alien observations on humans)
  • For psychologists, compartmentalization is useful mechanism to hold opposing viewpoints within the same mind.
  • for social scientists compartmentalization may involve the division of labor. the industrial revolution as well as mechanical time and other kinds of new systems that have imposed radical fragmentation and separation of aspects of daily life.
  • fragmentation has become our natural condition
  • “defrag” is to defragment a hard drive–to move components (imagined as cubes) and to pack them tightly into the same area like stacked boxes
  • perhaps defragmentation as a metaphor could be extended
  • maybe my interest in fragmentation is a manifestation of my own feelings of disconnection from myself, having had to adopt sub identities to exist in the worlds of music and art, to meet the expectations of different audiences
  • a painting is a box.  thus,
  • the paintings, as fragmented representations of information storage, are metaphors for themselves–they (hopefully) synthesize several psychological and sociological themes in creating unified artworks
  • a stack of closed boxes expresses inherent tension between separation and unity
  • a box is more contained than a drawer because it can be solitary
  • a single removed drawer should read as lonelier than a single box, since singular is an unnatural condition for a drawer
  • boxes are tiny museums,
  • mummy memories,
  • undead documents, periodically reincarnated
  • “…there will always be more things in a closed, than an open, box.  To verify images kills them, and it is always more enriching to imagine than to experience.”  – Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics of Space

more to follow.

 

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