Concept: Randomized Panels.
April 7th, 2009 by Lex

Cross-posted from the abstract comics blog. This project sits on SokolinDesign and was a first exploration of randomization and the sequential art form.

There are different ways to connect visual content to the “comic” medium: visual content, form, narrative. I am still trying to figure out how many recognizable ties we can remove and still hold on to a legitimate story, or how foreign we can make our visual imagery and still connect with the reader, or how differently we can structure the page and still have continuous flow.

To that end, randomization provides a good proxy test for releasing control of specific elements. In the project below, I take one cohesive piece and pull it apart into panels, and then randomize their location. Additionally, there is a bit of interactivity with the work.

This the digital version: an early test of concept that eventually brought me to the piece in the anthology.

The Meaning Of.
February 9th, 2009 by Lex

An amazing passage from Salon’s Cary Tennis shone through the other day. Prompted by a writer’s fear of irrelevance, Tennis crafts a message worth passing on. As artists, we struggle constantly with questions of purpose. The meaning of life is not enough–we need the meaning of process. The meaning of urges and desires that must be pursued and fulfilled. We definitionally grapple with the irrational, left brain demanding its spotlight. Why?  

Will what we say here ever really be unearthed and used? Will there be a need for it? Are we just playing out the old fantasy of immortality, dreaming that our words will live on? And, as you say, does it matter?

I do not know, but you and I and all the rest of us go on dreaming, trying to see the order in chaos, to glimpse the perfection at the edge of madness, look for the souls of trees and hear the voices of clouds and see in each occluded heart some echo of divinity. I know that we keep on talking and writing and it goes somewhere. Perhaps in that universe that even now is spinning backward from our own, our words are coming back out of the spring air and into our mouths and back into our brains where they will lie dormant, as if never spoken, until the pre-universe universe contracts sufficiently to cause another Big Bang, and it will start all over again, and after millions of years fish will climb the rocks and grow lungs again and apes will pick up tools and invent language all over again, and again as they speak and speak they will begin to wonder, Will this ever be heard again? Will future generations benefit from all our thoughts and visions? Does any of this really matter? And again the apes will go to psychiatrists and lie on couches and fill the air with doubt and uncertainty.

So it goes. Our uncertainty and doubt extend to the infinite sky and throughout time, shrouding perfection, blurring truth, undermining what feeble faith we can muster, reminding us that we are both divine and mortal, that we live both inside time and outside time, that we are creatures of many worlds, and that we will always wonder, and always try to cheat death, and always listen for the echoes of our words in every strange town, on every strange mountain, in every strange dream that comes to us in the night.

Creativity Without Purpose.
October 21st, 2008 by Lex

Funding for technology and media start-ups is severely drying up, as the main available business model (advertising) is taking a nosedive with the rest of the economy. This will, hopefully, raise the bar. What happens though to all the unspent creativity? What do people who are marginal losers in this situation do instead?

Perhaps it goes into some pool of reserves energy, to be brought out next cycle. Or maybe people give up their dreams of color and font, and become accountants. It must be aesthetically satisfying to practice such an act of self-denial: the economy has got me down, and I have no choice but to abandon my freedom.

They must practice it in small ways. Sneaking in synchronized excel formatting. Switching up the paper for their PowerPoint presentations. Wearing a green tie to work.

Or maybe, and this is a hopeful maybe, we can divorce the practice of creativity from actual “practice”. We abstract it, and make it its own pursuit. Goals, results, etc etc, are by-products; and if they are that much harder to reach in this environment, why not indulge in pure and meaningless art?

April 10th, 2008 by Lex

Question. Is Destruction a creative process? Let’s sidestep the nuances of the question (inherently creative, specifically creative, occasionally creative) for now.

Answer. No, destruction is never a creative process.

Definitionally, destruction is the opposite of creation. It is a process of undoing, of taking away what was there, breaking down something into nothing. It is the logical negation of the creative process, which places something where there is nothing.  You build the sand castle. I knock the sand castle down. I did not “create” a sandy pile from a castle; rather I took your effort and negated it.

We see destruction in daily life among many disciplines. We are numb to it, because it is often an “exercise” that we have to go through. For example, the recent layoffs across the US economy, particularly in the financial and housing sectors. We are offered platitudes, and other trite commentary often taken for wisdom. How helpful is “what does not kill you makes you stronger” or the concept of “creative destruction”? Mostly, not very helpful. We try to ascribe to destruction positive aspects so that we can cope with it. The metaphor of the immune system comes up often. Dealing with an immediate challenge today and the destruction of some aspect we like will in the long run be meaningful, and will also put us in a superior position relative to that of today.

Look, the immune system is a concrete real thing. It is not an overarching karmic balancer that turns a destructive vector into creative one. While we may choose to respond in a way that strengthens, the receipt of a destructive action is a negative event. It undoes some part of you. Why celebrate it? Why is death necessary for rebirth? A sober re-imagining will do.

In the visual arts and other creative disciplines, destruction is often isolated and appreciated on its own merits. For example, a performance artist may build a structure and then painstakingly annihilate it. She will destroy the object, and the traces of that object’s creation, making a statement about the creative process. Or perhaps a statement about time, and impermanence. Does this mean that destruction is creative? Again, not at all. At most, such a gesture is crude. It mocks others who take joy in creating, and in their commitment to building. Surely one can show what it means to be good by an example of evil. Darkness implies light. But that does not mean that there is light in darkness. Similarly, destruction on its own is devoid of the possibility of creation. The fact that it touches on something aesthetic by mere logic does not grant it intrinsic value.

Nonetheless, destruction is a tool, just as creation is a tool. Either can be used to affect things in a desirable way. For example, through exercise we destroy fat on our bodies to create a healthier lifestyle. Thus the action of exercise yield a process of destroying something negative and creating something positive. One can imagine destroying something positive and creating something negative, or any combination of the two. Therefore destruction is not inherently good nor bad. Rather, it is simply never creative.