Tuesday, 19 February 2019

New Faults , old computers, old operating systems.

I've been researching old versions of Ubuntu lately, specifically 9.11 and 10.04, and running through a series of programs that I've begun to expect to produce interesting errors in video. 9.11 is interesting because as I've talked about before newer versions of ogv will play in Gnome-mplayer but produce some delicious faults.

More interesting though is one I've discovered involving Cavs and Vlc on 10.04. I'd recently been given an old pentium D dual core by a friend ( thanks Ryan) and decided to recap it as there were a lot of dodgy caps on it, my first time to do this and I used a donor board for the new caps , so I didn't have High hopes that it would work as my soldering skills are not great. But lo and behold I fired it up and away it went , wonderful  but what to run on it? Of course in my quest for error it had to be 10.04 ( I'd recently learnt that all the old archives are still up - thanks Canonical so software wouldn't be a problem after a quick adjustment to /etc/apt/sources.list ) . Anyways, I have a list of file types to run through these days which may or may not produce error , and one of them is cavs and lo and behold Ubuntu 10.04 exhibits both the ogv error I'd found in other pre 3 kernels plus a new and more excellent error .


( This is how the video actually plays in Vlc, captured using gtk-recordmydesktop, though I did add the sound on top - the source video is a 50's govt information film found on the internet archive called 'They must be told' ) 


Wednesday, 10 October 2018

Games within games - the role of the macabre and the surreal in art - part one

This is an artists talk that I gave recently to coincide with the group exhibition ' A painted otherworld ' held at the Dunamaise Gallery in Portlaois, Co.Laois curated by Rebecca Deegan ( you can find her work here https://rebeccadeegan.com/ - and more information on the exhibition here http://www.dunamaise.ie/exhibitions/previous-exhibitions/275-a-painted-otherworld.html 

 Games within games - the role of the macabre and the surreal in art

This is a skull.

This is a skull but in real life it is a child's toy designed for educational purposes , a collectible part work magazine which built week after week into a complete skeleton. Any object taken out of context becomes mysterious and open to meaning.
Pyramid of skulls - Paul Cezanne c 1900

This is a painting of skulls by Paul Cezanne, cue unease at viewing painting – common responses being – isn't that creepy, are you obsessed by death, I wouldn't hang that on my wall etc etc.

These are real skulls from the killing fields in Cambodia .

None and all of these things are real – art relies on this paradox to function. The role of the artist is to engage you in such a way as to draw you in and suspend your disbelief – to communicate the reality of the idea separate to the artifice of the medium by assigning contrary values to the framework you already hold.

Art has always dealt with the macabre or the surreal , either for religious reasons – to warn of the existence of hell and damnation, especially in times of famine and war such as this painting ' The triumph of death' from 1562 by Peter Bruegel the elder.

Or the disturbing  sensuality and eroticism  of this image by Franz Von Stuck 'The sin' :
On the surface, it's a reference to the story of Eve and the snake in the garden of Eden , but below that surface hints at possession, wisdom, desire and knowingness and lack of shame in opposition to how the story of Genesis is traditionally read.

 Saturn devouring his children - Peter Paul Rubens .

As an artist I have always been drawn to darker subject matters . I first came across this painting by Rubens on a student study trip to Madrid sometime in 1989, hung over and drifting around the Prado , it became an internal symbol of my relationship with my father at the time , (and later the image of the child worked its way into some of my later box paintings via the baby but I had also watched my own daughter playing with her own toy baby born , (so my usage is both quote and in-quote) we put so much energy and personification into our childhood toys that they take on a life of their own ).

Falling Apart ver5 - 2009
Rubens painting also influenced Goya's work on the same theme. What is so compelling about these paintings ? What draws us as artists to the macabre? Part of my answer to this question is psychology , art allows us to draw out our darkest fears or desires and through empathy we can involve the viewer in that conversation – Saturn fears his power being usurped by his children therefore he must destroy them , if the father of modern psychology, Freud is to be believed, as children we compete with our fathers for the affection of our mothers.

Saturn devouring one of his children - Goya

This is one of the so called black paintings (1819-1823) that Goya created towards the end of his life, some attribute the darkness of these to him ingesting the lead from his paint via chewing his paintbrushes , they were never really meant for public consumption but became known later , previous to this from 1810 to 1820 he had secretly created a series of prints entitled ‘ the disasters of war a visual protest against the violence of the 1808 Dos de Mayo Uprising, and the subsequent Peninsular War of 1808–14 of which this is a good example:

The disasters of war no.37 ‘A heroic feat! With dead men!’ - Goya (1812-15)

Which was later riffed on by Jake and Dinos Chapman 

Jake and Dinos Chapman – (After Goya) An heroic feat with dead men (1993)
Meaning is dependent on observation, setting and inference, personal circumstances lead to emotional expression of stress within art, the macabre activates a part of our minds that relates to the imagination and dreams , it shifts us out of rational space into the non rational world of nightmares and dreams. It works through a similar mechanism to that of theatre or fiction – the willing suspension of disbelief.  In times of stress and war doubly so , as in this painting by Marc Gertler:

Marc Gertler – Merry go round (1916)

based on a roundabout at a fair on Hampstead heath in the winter of 1914-15 ( the fair itself was apparently held on behalf of wounded soldiers) , right at the beginning of the first world war , the figures on the roundabout are almost grotesque , trapped – the ultimate fairground ride gone wrong, a fair held for wounded soldiers who upon recovery might very well have to return to the front , from one merry go round to another.

The circus and the carnival have a long history of representation in art, often in relation to horror or the macabre think of Stephen Kings story It and its character Penny wise the clown :

Pennywise the clown.
 Or this assemblage by the artist Kris Kuski:

'The deadly sins' - Kris Kuski.

Which refers back to Bruegel and Bosch’s carnival paintings , especially the fight between carnival and lent – 

Peter Bruegel - the fight between carnival and lent.

But Kuskis' work also refers to the practice of decorating ossaries and reliquaries such as the monumental ossuary of the former Sedlec abbey in the Czech republic which is estimated to contain the bones of between 40 to 70 thousand people arranged artistically in a small chapel .

Sedlac Ossuary

View of the chandelier - Sedlac Ossuary.

Clowns themselves evoking feelings of terror and horror in many people, and from the clown we find the mask :
James Ensor .
In masks we find a face as unknowable as those we find in crowds. As our cities and our lives become ever more crowded we lose ourselves amongst strangers , walking down a street becomes an exercise in surrealism – surrealism being a way of looking at reality which relies on the irrational part of our mind which holds the imagination , the emotions , dreams, desires, fears and nightmares. 

Heath Ledger as The Joker.

The macabre and the surreal allow us to look into reality and expose it , to question it in ways not possible using traditional representation or abstraction . In paintings such as Paul Delvaux s the village of the sirens – Delvauxs work is at first seen as realism but on closer inspection becomes dreamlike and threatening – what is this village – will these women call us to our deaths as the sirens did in ancient mythology ?

The Village of sirens - Paul Delvaux 1942

Or this painting by Dorothea Tanning ‘ Birthday’ where do the doors lead too , why is she dressed with seaweed, what is that strange creature on the floor. 
Dorothea Tanning - Birthday 1942.
Which leads me to the next question, what is a painting ? Which I'll talk about in the next post .

Monday, 8 October 2018

In search of error.

(Oh yea, I'm still here). So A lot of what I do is about finding new ways to break things or discovering exploitable flaws in playback software that create error . Ive also recently got into rebuilding a lot of my old desktop computers so I can research older software and operating systems ( after discovering the flaw in the computer I call the beast). I wanted to recreate  the kind of desktop computer I had circa 2005/2006 but in doing so I found something unexpected ( well actually two unexpecteds but I'd like to keep the exact nature of those to myself for now ) . Clues ? Okay well in those days my desktop was an Amd socket A and a nice ATI graphics card ( I've found more error with those than any other brand - failing Nvidia cards just don't count - failure must be continuous and reproducible ) so I rebuilt the old machine with parts I had which were similar to what I had then , loaded up the os I was using then ( any body remember Mandriva ?) and started to play back video , just for nostalgias sake and then this happened !

But Of course I'm more interested in video than stills and I did manage to haphazardly record this, with a web-cam which doesn't do justice to what I'm seeing on the screen. So Ive tried the s-video out on the video card to a seperate computer with capture card but that isn't working max resolution works out at 640x480 and no definition , so back to the web-cam for now - but if I can capture what I'm seeing I will be very very happy .

This is just to show what might be possible .( But for now if you imagine the stills above made into continuous video like below this is what I'm trying to capture).

Thursday, 14 June 2018

The horrors, magic and ZMBV

Sometimes I fall into the horrors, where is the new thing? What shall I make next? What if I can't find anything to make? Why do I keep switching the computer on and off ?

And then I notice something I haven't spotted in ffmpegs list of codecs  as I've been experimenting with swapping to Devuan 2 and then from there to Linuxmint19 beta in a desperate attempt to keep my old machines working after the debacle of the meltdown patch stealing my cpu cycles and overheating my processor ( Devuan gives me a decrease of 10% in cpu heat and an increase in compiling speed on my old penryn 2.3ghz dual core) , these are things which make a difference if you're penniless. But back to linuxmint19 beta on the newest Toshiba (c850d-19z) given to me by a friend and since rebuilt, because there are things I need which come with the newer kernel . So where are we going with this ramble - ah yes.

One of the things of being a part of an online community like Glitch artists collective is the sharing of ideas and discoveries, in the pit of despair at ever making anything new again I stumbled across a conversation between a friend Enad Yenrac and a few others ( look for Enads work on line - you wont regret it; here https://www.facebook.com/Letsglitchit )   about a codec called zmbv , and lo and behold a way out of my dilemma , not only does it hexedit beautifully it also datamoshs ( more info here https://wiki.multimedia.cx/index.php?title=DosBox_Capture_Codec )
leading to this - my favourite thing so far this year : 

There is something very beautiful in the way the pixels slide and break ( the source video is again from the internet archive - an old copy of Pandoras' box starring Louise Brooks - my continuing obsession with old silent films - I like the contradiction of using modern technology with an old tech source  plus black and white breaks in a very pure way conjuring colour from other places).  The only disadvantage I've found with Zmbv is speed of transcoding - a whole day on my gear to transcode a 45 minute movie, ah well the results are worth it.

And this time I also made stills :

And then of course there is magicyuv , an experimental codec in ffmpeg which is unlike any other I have used so far , all the advantages of raw video but will transcode back to mpeg4 without loss of brokenness . I've yet to try it properly in audacity but I have high hopes for it , and the sound artifacts are an extra bonus 

Tuesday, 29 May 2018

Yeah, I made a new thing .

So after all the excitement of the Digital transformations conference , my first time going anywhere on my own for  along time I had to get back to making new things . 

I've been working for a while on a longer length video based on a copy of Johnny Mnemonic I bought a while back from a charity shop, its Ntsc coded , but as I have a few vhs players stashed for emergencies and nostalgia that play NTSC that wasn't a problem. Why this particular film and why this particular tape ? 

Well I saw it when it first came out and later read the William Gibson short story its based on , Johnny Mnemonic fits in with a lot of the Glitch art and Vaporwave work that I follow online, especially the clunky ( though good for its day ) computer graphics and definitely the depiction of virtual reality and all seeing all powerful corporations that have the cures ( and cause) for diseases that they will not release for reasons of profitability. Also the tape was damaged so creating a lot of nice artifacts and noise. Its a nice piece of futurism and early fictional hacker culture , ah the future never seemed so grimy .

So the process goes something like this ; transfer tape to DVD via DVD recorder in real time, play back DVD onto mini TV screen , capture that playback using a circuit bent web cam that I'd recently finished . Edit film , add music . Then came the conference and I'd started to get into rewriting some of the codecs you find in Ffmpeg , so I put it aside until after . When I got back from the conference I'd changed my mind about what I wanted to do with the film , rather than it just being a straight glitching of the whole film I wanted to incorporate more sound and other sources , so I recorded a few more films through the previous method and started to edit at points where the circuit bent copy had dropped out too much to be readable , I want something to be broken , but not so far beyond broken that it becomes unreadable . There was the moment I realised Id have to go back and redo everything because too much light was shining between the screen and the camera , so I had to put a box over the camera and screen otherwise the camera would keep adjusting the white balance - and that black and white worked way better than colour films even though id replaced the infrared adjusted lens with a standard lens, these things matter .

The sound was sourced through the internet archive - old jazz sounds from the twenties slowed down and chopped up in Audacity - I tried LMMS ( Linux multimedia studio) but couldn't get my head round it quickly enough and also 1 other source which was a text file converted to speech using gespeaker , a great text to speech engine , must play around with those more . I wanted to add more sound as I've been told a couple of times that sound would improve the reception of what I'm making .

Anyway In the end the film ended up like this, I quite like the mix of retro hi-tech and old black and white films that I ended up with - all edited on Linuxmint LMDE2 ( due to the debacle of the meltdown and spectre patches messing up render speeds and compiling I had to switch back to pre-patch kernels, huge difference in speed and heat on the cpus under load )  .

Monday, 14 May 2018

What is Glitch art ( Digital Transformations part 9 - copy it right seizure warning )

Glitch art works through the confounding of expectations , we expect to see a face , but then the face disintegrates or turns and leaves a trail of pixeldust , a familiar film disintegrates into chaos , narrative lost as characters melt and blur into one another and suddenly a horse bursts through the centre of a chest , eyes melt , sound squeals and breaks into electronica or voices heard from behind the refrigerator , muffled and high pitched like aliens communicating through a radiator - it relies on a familiarity with what we see on old media and internet memes , images from popular culture , or the screen pixelates into randomness and vhs noise , only to hover back with a half glimpse of an eye , or a horse or a train or an asemic text describing who knows what . If our sources come from the environment in which we move , still life equals the advert I just saw or the half downloaded video from pirate bay or a broken video on youtube. If everything is downloadable everything is usable. For instance Enad Yenracs reworking of the lion King as ' Electronic Divinity' : ( Im issuing a seizure warning before you watch this as its fairly flashy and flickery )

The material we work with naturally includes that which is copyrighted , we access it either through torrent or screen capture , or ripping , or rarer feedback loops created through arcane systems of mirrors and old crts ( cracked ray tube ) taking this raw material is neutral , using this raw material renders it into something new , a lot of its base material or porn , which asks questions ( what of , exploitation , re-exploitation ) just because of the amount of movement and skin tone possibly , but in the re making it becomes something else - almost un-porn , though erotic glitch is a sub-genre . The internet and other media is all seen as raw material - to make into something new is fine but to take someone else's re- rendered work and call it your own is not okay , as is work which skirts close to being indistinguishable from the raw material .

But then I share a lot of my work under the creative commons license , share and share alike , as long as you grant the next in line who uses it the same rights as you grant originally - a cornerstone of remix culture . and as all source material is available to everyone some things get repeated - see the North Korean parades and the work of Thomas Collet  https://vimeo.com/206455322- a natural source we are drawn to like moths to flames - seeking out more obscure sources becomes an obsession in which for me the internet archive holds the key.

The politics of glitch art and open source. ( no mac book required)

Glitch art is a process , that process can be used to describe what is and what isn’t glitch art. To make work in this way it's not enough to have a good brand name expensive computer, often that can be a hindrance leading to a laziness of production, an app can make something which looks like glitch , a glitch alike , but it will have appearance only , the sub culture I find myself in values exploration and discovery , the smooth interface does not lend itself to an inquiry into error , as some of the greatest works of art come out of a restriction of resources so many works of glitch art are made with cheap and broken second hand equipment , it's not the fastest or shiniest device which wins , its novelty , uniqueness, and inquiry , maybe similar to traditional art , what is different though is audience , reception and the gallery of the screen , a painting or sculpture might exist within a gallery as a thing to be seen by a specific audience , they are static , as is film received through cinema or television ,or satellite , what glitch art does that is different is declare here is what we make here are the tools, make something ,it is not received passively it encourages making.

Much of the software and a lot of the methods we use the simple act of tampering with a codec , or even something as simple as playing a medium such as a dvd with an open source video player including libdvdcss, could in some jurisdictions be considered illegal , in fact much of the content in this presentation has been accessed or referenced in ways which could be considered illegal , ie screen capturing , downloading and reuse of images without consent , in an age when ideas of legality fly in the face of the sheer volume of content and ease of reproduction and manipulation copyright is surely dead . Just like Glitch art itself.