Monthly Archives: May 2012

Infinitesimal, Inexpressible Internet

There was great reason to begin The Sneezing Pandas Project and it goes beyond animals.

Yes, the panda reference is there in black and white, as mega as the fauna itself and charismatic in every regard. Yet these are Viral Pandas. They are not black and white.

They are energies, existing only in the ether.

We are helped here with some of the words by artist Tullio DeSantis whose latest project transcribes the words “infinitesimal” and “inexpressible”, speaking of energy and existence.

This is where our minds meet.

You see, we are all digital enthusiasts.

The screen we stare at. The networks we cross. The images we see; the words; the pages… we absorb a global web of thoughts and ideas and shared experiences. We touch the lives of others and they touch ours. We find wisdom and kindness; hatred and obscurity, in all corners of the ether. Floating through a real, yet unreal force of digital yet tangible surroundings.

We ‘surf’, we ‘skim’, we ‘browse’.

This fascination for Online was a great reason to start the project and we are thrilled to be joined by others who share our passions. Here, DeSantis has produced with Pery Burge a video about the cosmos, but we agree it is just as easily a representation of the Internet.

Mesmerising in entirety we invite you to lose yourself in the colours, the words and the sounds of the ideas shaping in your mind…

Tullio DeSantis is an artist, writer, and teacher with an exceptional history in artistic collaboration and multimedia. We thank him for letting us share this very current and relevant piece of work. Below are some of the phrases we particularly enjoyed and would like to share. Re-play the video and think again:

Within an inexpressible nothingness … through a timeless duration … an instability arises.
Time … space.
Spawning new possibilities.
Time starts and space expands.

Eons elapse.

Infinitesimal aspects of virtual condiments in to momentary states between existence and non existence.
Space … time.

All energies in motion flowing from randomness.
Creative chaos.
Strange attractions.

Information becoming energy, becoming matter.
What is merely virtual becoming very real.
Movement of nothingness.
Unstoppable flow.

Everywhere and all at once.

Constant states of transformation.
Changing instantaneously from formlessness to form and back again.
Before, between, beyond, the ground of all being.

Persistent, perpetual flow.

Experienced by no-one.

And yet it is.
It is.

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Sound Bites

The power of the Internet has been bringing us in touch with some wonderful artists and critical thinkers, hence we’ve been a little quiet this past week, immersing ourselves in what the ether allows us: to enjoy and savour creative works from around the world and to connect with like minds.

Jan Harrison is one such mind; an American artist whose work has been shown in over one hundred exhibitions, throughout the United States, and in Canada, Australia, and Europe. Harrison creates art having to do with the animal nature, using pastel, charcoal, ink, encaustic, and other materials for paintings, sculpture, and installation art. However, the thing that caught our eye was video footage of her performance art in which she speaks and sings in her own language: Animal Tongues.

What of language? And animal language, at that?

What of sound?

We’ve been looking at barriers and connections, especially in our last post: Worlds Apart or Worlds Together, in which we looked at how close the Internet brings us all, yet how far away we actually are. Harrison, for example, has produced a video that I can watch at any time and from the comfort of my own home. I feel like I am watching the performance, but I am not watching in real time.

The interesting thing about this is, some people played it and their animals heard it. They not only heard it, but they responded too.

Try it and let us know how you get on.

Artist Jimmy Guthrie decorated the back of the eyes of a sculpted fox’s head for this, The Sneezing Pandas Project, which we made in to a short video. Here, we see Harrison create an animal head out of porcelain and beeswax. This is the medium she chooses to speak through in her Animal Tongues.

How do you find it?

It certainly seemed popular amongst other species.

We came across another video this week of a very different kind.

This is a YouTube video that has inspired a fan club for Pancake the cat. Sweetfurx4, who uploaded the footage, describes it as a “meowsic video” for other cats, and like Harrison’s work the sound seems to have genuinely spoken to some of them:

LOL, my cat went from sound asleep to wide awake and full alert when this video started.
– alyxacp

Technology has not only allowed us to see and share animal imagery and video around the world, but animals themselves can be touched by this. Where we can’t communicate with other species, perhaps art finds another way. Perhaps art finds a deeper connection in our own animal selves, as Harrison talks about in her Artist Statement.

Rather than passers by of novelty communications, perhaps sound and technology truly communicates one species with another.

Perhaps we are one of those species.

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Worlds Apart or Worlds Together?

We’ve had a submission from ‘Lateral Zoo’ (thank you!), bringing this video to our attention: “Lion tries to eat baby PART 1.”

Doesn’t sound nice?

Well, they are at a zoo and there is glass between the baby and the lion, but it is this glass that seems to be a bone of contention amongst video viewers – will it or won’t it break? Is its presence more alarming or less alarming to our heart rate?

Embedding has been disabled, but you can watch the video on YouTube.

We watched another video featured alongside this one: “Lioness tries to eat baby at the zoo.” which seems to follow a trend in ‘eat baby’ video titles. As we saw before with the I Hate Balls campaign, comments on more controversial videos can be brazen and often go off-topic:

I was hoping it eat the little bastard !
– victoryou81

F-ing jerks for teasing the Lion……I wish it did eat that baby.
– musakil1

Your grammar and the incessant use of ellipses is worse than your lack of humor. Please kill yourself and avoid having progeny who might turn out to be more stupid than you are.
Signed ~ Jesus
– johnlovestohate

Invisible barriers

There is much distance seen here: the glass between the lion and the baby, the digital barrier between the baby’s experience and the short scene caught on camera, then the geographical distance between the video viewers and their faceless comments, how close are we *actually* to one another?

In these instances do we slip in to an Uncanny Valley, much like the human-like robots we explored before for Viral Pandas?

How close is close if in reality we are worlds apart?

Are we right to have concerns about an alarming separate yet deceptively close connection?

There’s no doubt that the Internet brings many positives to our lives on every level and streams for digital media are improving, changing and enhancing our experience all the time, but will we ever merge our online and offline experiences, not just with Web 3.0 integration, but physically?

We came across another video this week, which represents well the areas we have been interested in. We recently looked at Human and Animal Ink – that is, tattoos and skin. We considered perfection and body modification, also responsibility and transference.

Here’s a video of a man who inserted magnets in to his arm to hold his iPod Nano.

The video does contain some mildly graphic scenes and blood, but it has been edited with taste and not sensationalism.

Food for thought.

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Spider Sex

We’ve moved on to the next phase of our artistic creations with the Viral Pandas talking heads.

Having already papered over the cracks of our He/She Head, we’re now papering up the Wild Man for a closer inspection of skin. We blogged about skin and our interest in this area using examples from Kim Joon and a pig tattooist.

Look closely.

'Wild Man', Skin

‘Wild Man’, Skin

Whereas the He/She Head became synonymous with sculpting ideals and making things more attractive, our Wild Man became more and more grotesque with every layer.

We began to wonder at which point does the grotesque simply turn people away, and at which point does it lure people in.

For example, this week we saw an article from the Guardian go viral: Photographer Natacha Merritt’s best shot: ‘This is a spider’s erection. I boiled it in acid then added extra lighting for a romantic feel‘.

So, what is all the fuss about?

Here is the image, which strays somewhat in to the grotesque.

Or was it the words that caught our attention?

Natacha Merritt's Best Shot

Natacha Merritt’s best shot

Jimmy48 left a comment on the Guardian piece saying:

‘This is a spider’s erection. I boiled it in acid then added extra lighting for a romantic feel’

As a way to get the readers attention, few lines could come close to this.

AlexJones echoed these comments with:

If only there were a prize for Best Standfirst of the Year, this would surely win it. Perhaps someone should inaugurate it.

Exploring ideas around what goes viral around a World Wide Web infested with billions of images all fighting for attention, it’s interesting to see what wins and loses.

Is this about spider sex or is it about us?

We’ll leave you to make your own minds up whether you feel this piece is genuinely of interest to the Media or just a sensationalist stunt, but we certainly think it’s important to read the comment from the artist herself, which puts it in to context. As we considered with the WWF campaign and I Hate Balls campaign, does it leave people talking about the right topics, and those that the artist intended?

My professor was kind enough to let me avoid making an insect collection and instead I made identification to species based on the specimen’s genitals. That’s how I came to photograph spider genitals. I soon realized that of the millions and millions of insect species on this planet, thousands go extinct without ever even having been documented. So, if collecting some specimens helps us now they are there, we are one step closer to possibly protecting their “rights”. FYI as of now only a few species of butterflies have been granted endangered species status with all of its privileges.
The way I see it now, after many semesters of studying environmental issues, is that their needs to be as much attention given to spiders and insects as there is to “cuddlier” species. The fantastic complexity of this erection needs to be shared with the world. This Lycosid is a mascot. I think most viewers will think twice before stepping on a spider. And if you must, at least have a quick look to see if her has an erection.
Cheers!
Natacha Merritt

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The Makers of Sneezing Baby Panda

If like us you thought the original Sneezing Baby Panda clip was taken by someone on holiday or caught quite by chance, you’d be wrong. We were thrilled to hear from the people who took the original footage who found our blog this week. Lesley Hammond of Wild Candy commented on our Contribute. Yes, You! page and we’d like to share her thoughts in full for you to see.

There are many issues here for us to follow up on.

Thanks Lesley!

Hi, we actually own the Sneezing Baby Panda clip. We shot it some years ago whilst we were making a television special on giant panda breeding. It was taken from a broadcast of the programme in Japan without our permission. There is only one site of the hundreds on the net that has our permission to use it. Our position is that if it gives people enjoyment and helps increase awarenss of wild animals and breeding programmes, then it’s okay by us provided the user of the clip isn’t making any money from using it including with paid ads on their site. Our hope is that it might help interest people into looking further into the subject seriously. We’re wildlife filmmakers. We find the one hour slots for wildlife have pretty well gone from television worldwide. Unless it’s big budget programming that can only be done by organizations with resources like the BBC, National Geographic, Discovery, Animal Planet etc. television buyers don’t really want serious subject matter. They certainly don’t want anything they regard as sad with wildlife programming. It’s now hard to get anything up that’s more than consciousness raising/awareness of wild animals in their habitat. Even that’s hard enough. The internet is now pretty much the last bastion. BTW we’re in pre-production of a ‘mockumentary’ for cinema release on the life story of Sneezing Baby Panda including his ancestors. It’s to be tongue-in-cheek. We hope it will contribute to awareness of giant pandas and their habitat albeit in a fictious and humouress way. Good luck with your project!

Cheers,
Lesley Hammond.
Wild Candy Pty. Ltd.,
Brisbane, Australia.

Wild Candy

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The Back of the Eyes

We hope you enjoyed our Lights Out video in response to the artistic creation from Jimmy Guthrie. He was given a fox’s head to decorate in response to Viral Pandas. His creation is beautiful and complex, so we wanted to make sure you got the chance to see what we see up close. Here’s a wobbly film of the inside of the eyes.

Take from it what you will.

We felt that perhaps the inside of the fox’s head represented the digital self, hidden behind the real face. The mirrors and gems are a distraction like smoke and mirrors: a dazzling, glistening, but disorientating view of the world that takes some examination to comprehend and find some truth in.

This reminds us very much of the work of Yayoi Kusama, below.

Yayoi Kusama

Yayoi Kusama

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Lights Out: Video

Thanks to artist, Jimmy Guthrie, for the first artistic response to The Sneezing Pandas Project. We gave him a fox head that Katherine had used in a previous arts project and he could decorate or alter the animal head in any way he might choose to, in response to Viral Pandas. We really like what he came up with and we’ll explain more about what it is, exactly, but for now we simply explored the creation. We had some fun filming it in a way that might digitally capture something significant about our physical response to it.

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Human and Animal Ink

Having previously looked at dermatological disease, Mark Twain, and also influenced by this exquisite work from Kim Joon, we’ve become very interested in skin.

The imagery from Joon that you see below is from an exhibition called Tattoo and Taboo, which isn’t altogether related to what we’re doing with The Sneezing Pandas Project, but the idea of controversy and a desire to stand out very much is.

The sense of *mutual* desire to see and be seen.

A skin is physical or metaphorical.

Viral Pandas | The Sneezing Pandas Project | Kim Joon

From ‘Tattoo and Taboo’, by Kim Joon

Joon has focused on the human body for his tattoo-based art projects, but we also discovered a Belgian artist who tattoos pigs.

Is this exquisite, and taboo?

Viral Pandas | The Sneezing Pandas Project | Wim Delvoye

Art Farm, by Wim Delvoye

Viral Pandas | The Sneezing Pandas Project | Wim Delvoye

Artist, Wim Delvoye, at work

Online breeding grounds for creative visuals, like Pinterest for example, have a strong ‘ink community’ – that is, lovers of tattoos. Delvoye extends this circle to include animal ink. Since the pigs we see here have no opportunity to object or give consent, you have to wonder whether the audience is encouraged to the pig, the craft, or for the artist himself, and why.

In human subjects, these self-made marks on the skin are interesting to us because they are blemishes on a clear-skinned perfection so many people aspire to; be that the physical or the metaphorical skin – a covering; protection, or display. The inked narrative and the meaning of individual tattoos is far more complex than we can go in to here, but the online community that follows and shares this craft is ‘anti’ or ‘other’ to the usual rules.

In effect, they turn this process on its head.

Upside down.

So where are the barriers we cross in what we want to see and what we do not?

What goes viral and what is suffocated?

We’ll continue to use our talking heads to explore such desire. Katherine talks a little here about where The Sneezing Pandas Project is going next.

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Paper Over the Cracks

We’ve been covering our clay heads in paper ready for the next artistic exploration. Covering up the cracks on the He/She Head as we went along the process became really satisfying. Just as the original head was neotenised to represent what is often more attractive to people, we papered over imperfections that often lead to less interest.

Cracks

Cracks

This very basic level of satisfaction that came from something as simple as covering over the dark areas of clay still showing on our domesticated head could be a physical representation of our lives online: papering over the cracks, escaping reality, and projecting something the way in which we want it to be seen.

Purifying. Perfecting. Beautifying?

Sculpting our own ideals.

Do we then take more pleasure from it?

Covered

Covered

With music playing in the background, along came what seemed like an optimal time to video the process. It is in no way meant to have a professional finish or represent anything in particular, it simply documents art in progress and for us a turn in direction with the project, having become quite fond of our talking heads.

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I Hate Thigh Knockers

HumaneSpot.org circulated an article last week called Should You Share This Video?, written by Caryn Ginsberg. It questions whether humour is an effective transmitter for more serious animal causes like neutering and focuses on a viral video campaign featuring actress Katherine Heigl.

The question posed by Ginsberg is timely for our project and its conclusion is that this kind of video, which we’ll show you in a minute if you haven’t yet seen it, is not effective:

“Save the Katherine Heigl video for the folks that you know will enjoy the laugh … and have already had their animals spayed or neutered.”

Caryn Ginsberg, 2012

I Hate Balls video clip

The I Hate Balls video went viral and sparked off many debates in the Funny or Die and YouTube comments. We’re not so interested here in what they’re saying, more in what they’re not saying and also how they say it. Comments are vicious and rarely about neutering.

Are these thoughts from behind the computer screen a valid reflection of real life?

Are these the same words that would be spoken offline?

How does this discharge of candid emotion affect the animal subjects?

We see from viewing figures that humour is an effective tool to encourage sharing, but like the WWF Sneezing Baby Panda video the I Hate Balls campaign doesn’t seem to have spread a serious message. We’ve seen little evidence from the video viewers that they’re talking about neutering and most are more concerned with other arguments around feminism and ball bashing.

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