Monday, February 16, 2009

Organic, natural design and cyberculture. Three stages of trance states.

I do just about everything on the internet now; some days I forget to leave the house, so engrossed I get in what I'm doing. But I do come from a tree hugging, Earth Mother type background, despite the Protestant work ethic my family tried to beat into my skull. The interest in human nature and relations with the natural world remain strong. In fact, some days I represent myself on the innerwebs as a puma, whom I describe as my Power Animal, or Totem.

Be it supernatural in origin or a quirk of random evolution, mankind goes through three stages of hallucination when the appropriate conditions occur. In some people, this occurs spontaneously, in others it takes chemical ingestion or periods of physical exhaustion through extreme exercise (trance dancing) or fasting. Stage one is generally geometric patterns appearing before the eyes. The second, the patterns evolve into more organic shapes, the mind making some sort of sense or interpretations of the abstract shapes. The third, the organics fade and the mind enters a more peaceful resting state that fades back into consciousness (or sleep).

Cave paintings all throughout the world, though still heavily debated, have me convinced that the ancient artists were trancing before or during their painting, and that the state of trancing, and attributing meaning to symbols became the foundation of our written languages and our religions, and possibly our intelligence as we understand it. It's a wild guess that this might be the case, and worth study, the study of human nature always is.

Modern architecture, from the Gothic to the present, reduced to impressions appears in my eyes to be similar to this first stage of trancing, patterns, and more patterns. Step from the urban areas into a natural surrounding, the second stage appears, with spirits lurking behind every tree, and even the trees look back at you. Each rock looks up at you and reminds you that it is they who live forever, not you. Clear your way through the woods to the side of a lake, and you've traveled from busy angular imagery, through the wild natural, and to the serene for reflection upon what you've experienced.

This is what I miss on those days I forget to leave the house. And those forget to leave the house days often are the least productive of all.

So regardless what the modern law says about hallucination, it is a capacity of the human mind to traverse through those stages. And given that it strongly appears to me that these stages led to the human capacity to interpret symbols into meanings, to utterly divorce ourselves from the biological into the machine would be the end of humanity, not an evolutionary step at all. An extinction. Whether or not this is a good thing is open to debate.

Chinese gardens balance these elements well, thoughtfully laid out, and moving form section to section is like moving from world to world, the ordered, to the wild, to the serene. Looking backward at these designs is important in looking forward. Studying the works of the most ancient artisans and designers of our species tells us about how we became. Looking at our designs now tell us who we are. None of this is outdated, or outmoded, or ever will be. Design tells our story.

Postmodernism, the kinder, gentler Futurism.

  • “The oldest among us are not yet thirty years old: we have therefore at least ten years to accomplish our task. When we are forty let younger and stronger men than we throw us in the waste paper basket like useless manuscripts!” -Futurist manifesto – F. T. Marinetti, 1909
  • “From an architecture conceived in this way no formal or linear habit can grow, since the fundamental characteristics of Futurist architecture will be its impermanence and transience. Things will endure less than us. Every generation must build its own city.” - Manifesto of Futurist Architecture - Antonio Sant’Elia
To the postmodernist, truths are transient, and by who we are, when we are and where we are.
The Futurists wanted to throw out the old and bring in the new, rinse, repeat.

I wonder what John Lennon would have been like if he'd been borne 50 years earlier. Would he have adopted the Let It Be of postmodernism, possibly even made many of the great initial thoughts on it, or turned into the kind of fascist the futurists morphed into?

Wednesday, February 4, 2009


Ubiquitous – Adjective

existing or being everywhere, esp. at the same time; omnipresent: ubiquitous fog; ubiquitous little ants.

I think I understand why I'm finding some of these design school readings readings miserably difficult to follow, it took until mention of Neuromancer for my interest to perk up. Well, perk up in the 'well no kidding' sense. I work daily in virtual worlds, developing and marketing products. Little nothings, sometimes things from the real world I attempt to simulate by using the tools available, often it requires a little programming genius mixed with other skills I don't have and am forced to learn in a hurry.

In developing a skill set with programming, animation, sound engineering, texture artistry, geometry, mathematics and being ept enough to put it all together, I've come into a variety or weird situations. Particularly interpersonal.

I've forgotten how to do small talk. An innocent “How are you?” can reduce me to Rain Man puzzling the meaning of life with a dredging of my mind for a way to sum up the entirety of life's experience. Bored people question, “How are you?” Or needing something and engaging in ancient introduction forms. I'm not bored, I'm just boring.

As for the meaning of life, I'm convinced that it's nothing more than having a reason to smile. :)

People asking to commission me for work. I quote my rate of $30/hour and it runs into a range of shrieks of horror to a tirade of laughter. “But it's not REAL!” The expected rate of pay the would be customer seems to expect to pay, on average, is less than what a child labourer is paid in a south Asian sweat shop. I don't know about them, but all them heartbeats I'd be expending on work for them feel very real to me.

The unreal as real is becoming ubiquitous. Those who struggle with the notion are gradually being urged from society the same way the scribal class was. Death. And it's still going to take some time. Am I not working alongside an American computer modeler and texture artist? They respond to my questions, I respond to theirs. We joke. We make an unreal thing that does stuff in its unreal world. We market it. People buy it. It will never see the light of physical form. The two of us may never meet in the flesh. Are we real? My heartbeats say yes, I am.

Life Is Like A Herd Of Cats

I think I just figured out how Desmond runs things. LINK

"Here's a plot of land, pay the rent and at least keep things arguably close to 19th C style." Or, about half right. "My Victorian is not your Victorian."

Or in my case, my Victorian is Futurist c. 1909... which really makes me more Edwardian.

You be the judge, but I still think I'm half right. :)