Sunday, July 26, 2015



Weekend Words: Cheat


Georges de la Tour, “Cheater with the Ace of Diamonds” (1635), oil on canvas, 106 x 146 cm. Musée du Louvre, Paris (Image via Web Gallery of Art)

On Wednesday, Reuters reported that hackers have threatened to expose the identities of thousands of users at the adultery website Ashley Madison, whose slogan is “Life is short. Have an affair” — a breach that “could be disastrous for one whose business model is based on complete confidentially.”

Children are the most desirable opponents at Scrabble as they are both easy to beat and fun to cheat.
—Fran Lebowitz
Oh, fraud that cannot cheat the bee,
Almost thy plausibility
Induces my belief,
Till ranks of seeds their witness bear,
And softly through the altered air
Hurries a timid leaf!
—Emily Dickinson, “Indian Summer, XXVII”
Who came up with the term cheating, anyway? A cheater, I imagine. Someone who thought liar was too harsh. Someone who thought devastator was too emotional. The same person who thought, oops, he’d gotten caught with his hand in the cookie jar.
― David Levithan, The Lover’s Dictionary
To cheat a man is nothing; but the woman must have fine parts indeed who cheats a woman!
—John Gay, The Beggar’s Opera
There can never be such a thing as a free market, because it is human nature to cheat, monopolize, and buy off others so as to corner the market.
—Jane Smiley
Does anyone who will listen up
To our victories and dumb defeats
Knows they all take you to the cleaners
If you come between the cheats.
—Amy Winehouse, “Between the Cheats”
Peace, n. In international affairs, a period of cheating between periods of fighting.
—Ambrose Bierce, The Devil’s Dictionary
A face peered. All the grey night
In chaos of vacancy shone;
Nought but vast Sorrow was there–
The sweet cheat gone.
—Walter de la Mare, “The Ghost”
You can’t cheat an honest man; never give a sucker an even break, or smarten up a chump.

—W. C. Fields, You Can’t Cheat an Honest Man

Vimeo Killed the MTV Star

Art Bytes

Vimeo Killed the MTV Star: Cutting-Edge Artists Take On The Music Video

Vimeo Killed the MTV Star: Cutting-Edge Artists Take On The Music Video
Still from Ian Cheng's music video for "Brats," by Liars

Ever since MTV burst onto the pop culture scene in 1981 with the declaration that “Video Killed the Radio Star,” the music video has been a rich and compelling showcase for visual artists. (Björk’s recent show at MoMA, for all its flaws, reminded us just how fruitful and collaborative music videos can be when artists are involved.) The following videos, made by some of the most exciting artists of recent years, represent a new vanguard of music video production uninhibited by the limits of physicality, legibility, and what some would call "good taste."

Jon Rafman is widely regarded as one of today’s leading net artists; his appropriative projects like 9-Eyes (made up of beautiful and bizarre screenshots from Google Maps’s Street View) and Kool-Aid Man in Second Life have been hailed as some of the most important digital works in recent years. He continues to mine the visual detritus of digital culture, albeit in a far darker register, with his video for the American musician Oneohtrix Point Never’s song “Still Life (BETAMALE).” Difficult to watch at times (and definitely NSFW), the video is made up of flashing images of disturbing, grime-caked keyboards, clips from obscure Japanese video games, and the anthropomorphic animals of the “furry” subculture appearing both as cartoons and real people in costume. One recurring image is a photograph of a large man who is pointing two handguns at his head, which is wrapped in pink underwear. This video is one of several produced by contemporary artists for Oneohtrix Point Never’s 2013 album R Plus Seven; other contributors include Takeshi Murata, Nate Boyce, Jacob Ciocci, and John Michael Boling.

Ian Cheng is best known for his digital simulations, 3D compositions of infinite duration in which a set of discrete “rules” coded into the piece dictate the movement of the piece. His video for the Los Angeles-based band Liars is (necessarily) more constrained, but no less ebullient. Like several of his other projects, the video for “Brats” features motion-captured actors, a trick Cheng picked up during his stint at George Lucas’s cutting-edge effects company Industrial Light and Magic. This time, he’s recreated Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd, who gambol around a grey virtual environment. The pair alternate between dancing with one another and engaging in classic Looney Tunes chase scenes, complete with bundles of dynamite and huge yet strangely nondestructive explosions. At one point, they run across digitized versions of the Liars band members, who promptly begin to attack the much-besieged Bugs.
Brenna Murphy is a musician in her own right (check out MSHR, her music/performance/installation collaboration with Birch Cooper, for some serious weirdness); her treatment of the Finnish experimental musician Tomutonttu’s song “Siat nousevat vuorelle” shows off her sensitivity to the subtleties of the track as well as her mastery of psychedelic effects. Note the strobing transition around the 1:30 mark, where alternating shots of an island at sunset and kaleidoscopic close-ups of trees give way to renderings of her signature digital sculptures in a moment of pure relief after nearly unbearable tension. It’s all too easy to make second-to-second jump cuts on the computer, but Murphy, perhaps aided by the music, manages to make them a grounding motif of the piece by using the technique sparingly and to excellent effect.

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