Sunday, July 1, 2007

Hot is Cold:
Brian Eno's 77 Million Names of Dumb

(Click on this for full size)

I never get in trouble for being a whore. It is only when I tell some overbearing over inflated ego the truth about how lame their obsession with some modern cult is that I get into trouble. Let me repeat that: the only time you ever get called a whore, is when you aren't being one for someone who was expecting a freebie from you.

This is why I am going to say the obvious about Brian Eno's installation art in SL. It is dull, tired, ugly, unimaginative, lazy, and old old old old. The only people there were would be artists who were talking about how they made things, and wishing that they could attractt attention by putting their name to it.

Brian Eno is a legitimate giant of the old era. There is no question, or should be no question, in any one's mind that he is one of the prodigal figures of the era that used to be known as post-modernism. The analog electical age owes a huge debt to Brian Eno, his working methods, his projects, his way of doing things, and his large large large body of work. Not even an open subject.

However, the collision of everything that the analog electrical age was fascinated by, and our digital today, is made crystal clear by everything about this installation, its failure as art, its failure even as amusement, and its attempt to apply the standards of hot and cold to an age that seeks something else. I've heard it called "live," and with the demand for cam escorting, the quest for live is real. I've also heard it called "touch," which is a harder world to come up with the opposite of, but is also very much in resonance with the needs that come to me.

The world of today isn't about blaring orange colors in swirling ugliness. It's about live. And this is precisely what is wrong with the Eno aesthetic. He comes from an age which is fascinated by the fact that you can get things which have movement, and get people to watch, cat fascinated, but the simple shifting. Eno sticks a light changing script on some ugly pictures, and hopes that the digital age will respond to analog ghosts.

But analog noise, that ghostly life of the universe as it showers down on the elegant inaccuracies of broadcast and recording by wavering needle and whispering wires that hum with electricity - is not the noise of the digital age, which is not Maxwell's demon, but Newton's finger print. It is not the universe which creates digital artifacts in mp3 files and jpgs, but the touch of entropy itself. The ways we compress files are not ghostly particles from deep space sparking and sparkling in static, but instead, the hand of mathematics itself, as it piles up a divergence between the universe and a more compressed expression.

Eno's installation lacks any cognisance of this, the reality that we live in, and instead, as with much of the faux-real movement in SL art, gives us an image of the old as a way of providing comfort to the eyes and mind. The modern grew up rebelling against the nostrums of the 19th century, its domesticity, its pallatives, its platitudes, its syrupy fake naturalism that poured over everything, and has now, returned ot that same state. It might be loud and ugly, but Brian Eno has given us fading floral wallpaper in a different time.

Instead, he has done what lots of other people have done, set up a box with scripts running, and hopes that people come to it. He's no different from the absentee club owners, the hucksters and the entire clutter of the old age. He's merely run up the flag that they all rally around, using the machine to suck the life out of people.

It's passe, not today. "Hot" that standard of what made it in the old era, with its companion sense of "cool" soul, is really of much importance to us now, as what the Victorians called "natural," which was, of course, unnatural.

A complete waste of time, pixels and thought, it is also arrogant int that this art immitating the banalities of second life. We are all machines, and the challenge is not to mechanically flick through possibilities, but to shape them.

The box also points out the sad and almost senile disconnection. Like television, the analog age wanted to enclose you with physical force. Put you in a box, or make you stare at one. The black box design is a clear, and lame, attempt to simply do this in SL. But form follows not only function, but physics. The engulfing of SL is in the mind. We are only dropped in the water, if we willingly interpenetrate, or open ourselves to penetration. We have to want it.

The don't get it sign is flashing loudly and llSetOmega over Brian Eno, and everyone associated with this exhibit.


  1. Ooh. Well. There was an element of "so, am I supposed to be impressed that they change by themselves?" certainly, but I found that both the nature and combination of images, over a reasonable period, was effective and interesting. They were not things which one would stand in front of and study the most minute details of, but not quite fast enough to be just noise. I and those who were around at the time (from what they said) found the sequences relaxing but with enough bite to be stimulating.

    Certainly in SL the concept would not win awards for dynamic and original use of the medium - someone I was with said that they would really like it as a screensaver - but when it was used to create and decorate a space I think it did well. I preferred the last three installations to the first (pillars, in Avignon) for this reason; as said, I don't think the idea holds up very well as something that you stand there and admire, and camera angles were hard to manage. The difference in reaction between that and the "auditoriums" was noticeable.

    If someone were to come around demanding that I hail Brian Eno as the god of SL art, I would say no - this isn't really SL art, it is art transplanted into SL, anyway - but as it is I don't at all feel that I wasted my time.

  2. "This was an ok screen saver."

    If you insist. Personally I find the itunes auto screen whatever it is called more interesting over time than the images Eno came up with.

  3. "The don't get it sign is flashing loudly and llSetOmega over Brian Eno, and everyone associated with this exhibit."

    Beautiful, Lillie. Turning the banal language of scripting into sparkling prose. Wish I had your talent with words.