Visualizing sound

An excerpt from Sarah Rara’s “ouija moiré”, a video that explores sonic and visual interference. 

A son can bear with equanimity the loss of his father, but the loss of his inheritance may drive him to despair.
~Machiavelli

I feel very frustrated today that as our economy collapses, we strive to recreate it’s former failing self, instead of look at what we could do if we weren’t so worried about having objects of material value to an unknown collective. Why haven’t we, in an age that moves toward the immaterial, embraced knowledge and cultural production? We have more access, but know less.

Wittgenstein portrait
“The limits of my language are the limits of my mind. All I know is what I have words for.”
-Wittgenstein

“Optical simultaneity is replaced by acoustic simultaneity. Through the disappearance of their limits, words have exploded into the objects of a psychological function, through a metamorphosis not unlike the dramatic transmutation of forms…Whether we want it or not, a cosmic romanticism is at our doors.”
-Arthur Petronio

Whitney for Kids page

The Whitney Museum has just launched a brilliant new website (public interface?) The progressive site, designed by Linked by Air, explores the possibilities of dynamic content in a field most known for the preciousness of authenticity and exclusivity of experience. An interesting undertaking, indeed. Juliette Cezzar wrote a great review on AIGA’s Design Envy blog, considering the public’s perception of the avant-garde in different media.

Great quote on non-architectural influences from an interview by Geoff Manaugh of Sam Jacob of FAT:

“I  think, if you say that these things that aren’t quite architecture actually are architecture, then you start to think: Well, how come architects aren’t involved in designing them? How come they don’t call up an architect when they need to build a massive gas pipeline all the way from Wales to central England? There are so many architectural moments that could happen within a project like that. Well, it’s partly because architects, on the whole, don’t want to get involved in that kind of stuff—but it’s also because it’s not perceived as something that you would need an architect for. I suppose you could say: if all of that stuff is architectural, then, as an architect, you should get involved in it, and you should argue why it’s relevant for an architect to be involved. That would mean, from a business point of view, expanding your possible client base so that you could work for all kinds of strange organizations. I suppose that’s not unusual, either—the Eameses were working for the U.S. military and Basil Spence worked in the second World War designing decoy oil refineries so that the Germans would bomb these bits of cardboard rather than the real things.
But I’m also interested in expanding the idea of architecture in terms of thinking about what the term means in a more general way. For instance, working with someone from an advertising background, or working with an artist, or a writer—that gives you an ability to look beyond the confines of what is normally considered architectural. With those sorts of projects you’re not building a building, you’re kind of making a scenario—which, if you think about it in the right way, at the right time of night, after the right amount of wine, is architecture. These are often temporary projects which hijack a moment that already exists, and turn it into a moment where something else could happen. Because, fortunately, architecture is not just about building stuff. You can have a pretty good career as someone involved in architecture, even as an architect, without ever building anything. If, as an architect, you sit there waiting for stuff to happen—it’s inevitable that you’re going to reproduce the status quo. I think that, in whatever way, architects can make stuff happen, whether it’s to do with ideas or to do with buildings.

Once you start to recognize these things as significant moments in the life of a city, or in someone’s experience of the city, then they offer up architectural scenarios.”

Read more from Manaugh’s BLDGBLOG here.

I saw the film “Take Shelter” last night, which includes one of my favorite things in the world: the strange shifting shape of a flock of flying birds. I’ve been told that these patterns come partly from most bird’s ability to see 360º around itself. The other reason must come from some desire to stay tethered to the group, which looks like such an elaborate movement that usually translate into the short distance of moving from one tree to the next.
The film was a beautiful meditation on the senses and what is “seen” versus what is happening. Without trying to give too much away, Curtis’ visions and hallucinations belie his rural Ohio existence but hint at either an apocalyptic shift or a deep retreat into the mind. Perception is always subjective. If seemingly important messages are sent to us via senses or modes not normal culturally, how can we say if we should follow them?  The film used the image of a flock of birds as a metaphor for the uncanny, how this nameless pattern might express a deeper strangeness about the world. Like an augur, we hope to “read” the communications that animals can’t speak explicitly.
On reading more about birds, this may have some value: birds have the largest eyes relative to their size of any mammal, with a flattened shape and ciliary muscles that can change the shape of the lens rapidly. They have four color receptors (most mammals have two), allowing them to see not only the ultraviolet spectrum, but magnetic fields. The ratio of photo receptors to optic nerves is very high, giving them greater visual acuity. Humans have 200,000 receptors per square mm; buzzards have 1,000,000.
Birds can also resolve movement faster than humans, due to their perception of flickering rate. Any movements above 50Hz appears as continuous to humans; for some birds, the threshold is more than 100Hz without seeing this as a blur. Amazingly, birds can also perceive incredibly slow movement that we also do not actively see, such as the passing of the sun through the sky. We tend to project our knowledge of the world on others, with the assumption that there is at least a universal perception of it. The divide in perceptions of the world points to an interesting ontological argument.
I realized I actually posted about this last year, so here is the video again…

From 11.18.2010: Yesterday, I bought some industrial shelves from a woman who runs a sewing and miscellany shop. She had posted them on Craigslist, which I’ve loved for the past year because it is affordable and eliminates the more mysterious aspects of a market economy. I’ve found most of the sellers I’ve dealt with to be kind and interested in someone using their discarded items that they themselves have no further use for. I suppose that plays off of my own sentimentality: that even things discarded are carefully passed on to another specific user instead of thrown out or anonymously donated.
The shelves are great, a much-needed addition to our cluttered workspace. It was somehow comforting to know that they came from a similar situation: of being filled with fabric, old vintage items, miscellany. The woman who sold them to us showed us a wooden box of cards she had found. She had not seen them in a long time, hidden somewhere on the shelves before their dis-assembly. She was collecting playing cards she found on the street, in the hopes that one day she would have a full deck. It was a curious exercise in ordering the chaotic, and also putting faith in the random. It’s beautiful to think that the found cards would not all be the same, that there was an entire deck of mismatched cards laying on streets, waiting for someone to bring them together. Like all curated collections, the order may come from the collector. It is sometimes their role to find the meaning in the accumulation.
After we had loaded up and paid, she said very seriously: “Now remember, take time to set up your shelves and organize. It’s very important to do that.”