Saturday, August 23, 2008

Oh, why not more Wordle - Obama edition

2004 DNC Keynote Address - the Audacity of Hope

2007 Presidential Campaign Announcement, Springfield, IL

2008 Speech on Race

Wordle - Bush's 2005 Inaugural


I saw on Dave(from Pave)'s blog a post on Wordle. Great stuff.
Above is Bush's 205 Inaugural address.

Below I decided to test out Joe Biden's quote,
"Rudy Giuliani - he's a noun and a verb and 9-11."

"Yes We Can" all make Obama T-Shirts

On August 18th I received an e-mail from Obama for America about a new T-shirt design campaign that they are having. Geez... Shepherd Fairy makes an unsolicited design for your campaign and you think every Tom, Dick and Harry wants to do the same? Well... you're right!

When I received the e-mail on Monday, the list of submissions was two pages deep. A page can hold 30 submissions, and I think there were a total of 37 between the two pages. Today, having learned Joe Biden is the VP, I think it is appropriate to submit today what I designed on Monday... even though the list of submissions is now 17 pages deep.

You can vote on it... if they accept it. There were a list of rules on the Obama site, and they have the right to reject submissions that are deemed offensive. It's all a matter of perspective. When Joe Biden said what he said* - back in, what was it, January or February of 2007?!?! - my only thought was, "exactly! Obama is articulate and bright." Such perspective all stems from a specific speech a certain skinny kid with a funny name gave at the Democratic National Convention in 2004.

As for the t-shirt designs... on the website there are lots of great t-shirts that have been eloquently designed. Frankly, I am hoping to vote at least twice - once for my design and once for a design that is really good. Since Obama is from Chicago, I am hoping that the voting is done Chicago-style: vote early, vote often.

*"I mean, you got the first mainstream African-American, who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy – I mean it's... That's a storybook, man!" - Joe Biden

Friday, August 22, 2008

Blog Bites Back

On Monday I was tickled to hear TXT MSG mentioned on WAMU's Art Beat. Neither my name nor Mark Cameron Boyd's name was mentioned on the radio, but the venue and gist of the work was mentioned.

On line, however, a little more detail was given about the event, including names, and links to our respective blogs!

They chose to link to something I wrote in March about Four Letter Words. In there I make a bad joke about the pronunciation of the word cwms. For those who read this blog regularly, I make a lot of bad jokes. But, what is becoming more apparent to me is the level of responsibility I need to have when writing these epistles. I never know who is going to link back to them, or where they might link.

In the case of where Art Beat linked in my blog, the writing is less revealing about the work, more revealing about the process, and gives strange insights on how I look at dictionaries. But, the writing is carefree, much like the nature of Four Letter Words as a series. The Staff writer at the Washington Post touched on that by commenting on the title, ""Four Letter Words" features more than 200 paintings... of, well, four letter words, though not necessarily the kind you are thinking of." Where neither the Art Beat link nor the Post picked up (nor DCist for that matter in their recent Arts Agenda) is that even a four letter word can posses complexity. Spellings may have truncated or expanded over the years (idyl is an alternative spelling of idyll... or is it the other way around?); they may fall out of the lexicon; they were adopted into the language through colonialism and trade, and have since fallen out of use in some stretches of the globe; or they are phonetically similar to another word and misspelled as a result.

Visually, since an abundance of type faces are available on anyone's personal computer, why not use them? At least once. I take a bit of pride knowing I never repeated a font in this project. Granted, in the process of painting, Times Regular and Times Bold may look similar, but each is a different font from the same family. The relationship between font and word is arbitrary, assigned methodically and randomly throughout the work. This can avoid any stereotyping... like when a greenhorn graphic design student chooses to use Fortune Cookie to design the menu of a Chinese Restaurant. It's a nice bit of variety to impose on a work. Besides, I'm tired of text made from stencils in art works.

But I digressed. This epistle is supposed to be about my responsibility with my blog writing.

If I write what I'd really like to write, will it come back to haunt me? It depends on how I write it, I suppose. Today's discovery on WAMU is a lesson to be mindful of that. I have no knowledge of who reads this. And, after my post about the Chinatown bus, I learned it could be anyone.

What I question more is, if I do carefully craft the commentary I care to publish, and it is done so in a manner that is objective, polite but critical, and with a gear toward insight, is it a path for alienation, a path that pushes discussion and debate, or simply something floating in the abyss like so much flotsam on the Internet?

Thursday, August 21, 2008

In DC? Pick up the Onion.

A couple of weeks ago I received an e-mail from Maura Judkis, freelance writer for The Onion A/V Club (and a whole bunch of other periodicals too), saying she wanted to interview me about my work at Transformer, Moment of Zen. Two weeks later, it is on the newsstands in DC. Unlike the video, the article/interview is light and fun - a good read. It'll be

Monday, August 18, 2008

TXT MSG Podcast

Prior to the opening of TXT MSG, Mark Cameron Boyd and I recorded a podcast with Twig Murray who (essentially*) runs the space. For those interested in taking a listen, this is the URL and link to the podcast:

To address on a couple of things that may shock or surprise people:
I imply that the body of work came about while playing Scrabbulous - the online version of Scrabble that was recently shut down. Specifically, the series related to currency came about from playing Scrabbulous, not the whole body of work (Four Letter Words). The whole body of work came about in part due to...

...the "atrocious" writing of my students. I actually say something to this affect in the podcast; it is a gross generalization intended for a punchline, and as all instructors in post secondary education are aware, a stereotype that exists for a reason: student writing is generally bad. In truth, a lot of writing is generally bad. There are people who get paid to write (copy editors, journalists, etc.) and their writing is filled with mixed modifiers, disagreeing subjects and verbs, disagreeing tenses, and so forth. Most classes I teach are visual classes, yet I spend more time reviewing written work in an effort to curb some of the pitfalls of student writing.

For instance, there are actually high school teachers who claim that "they" and "them" are appropriate pronouns for SINGULAR subjects. (Go back and re-read that with the voice of Lewis Black.) Their students matriculate with the expectation that this is universally understood. For this I have a joke, "What's black and white and red all over?"

I have had some talented writers pass through my courses, as well as many cogent written communicators. However, the scales weigh heavily toward those who have less talent expressing themselves with pen or keyboard. Every professor I know talks about bad student writing. Every professor I know has a story about bad papers, and we talk about them in an effort to out-do the other professor in his/her tale of woe. We console and support each other about the poor writing of students, as though we were members of a 12 step program. Coffee and hugs only adds to the atmosphere.

There are things I didn't talk about in the podcast. Frankly, there is no need to mention Ed Ruscha, Robert Indiana, Joseph Kosuth, or John Baldessari, but these are artists with whom people might quickly associate the work. I have mild interest in each artist. But to associate this work with the work of those artists, simply because they used text and writing, is flawed. No doubt, though, their work gives future artists the permission to use the word as a subject, as a still life, and as a figure.

I was once a graphic designer... but now I am found. I have a love of words and a love of language. I find the cornucopia of font families intriguing. But, I have a strong distaste for working with clients.

After working on this series I began to feel like a scribe. There is a certain amount of patience and diligence that is necessary when making this work. There were times I found myself meditating on each letter (no televisions were harmed in the making of this project). I began to think of those monks who labored over transcriptions of the Bible in the centuries predating Guttenberg's printing press.

*Admittedly I don't recall Twig's title. But, if you want to propose a show at the Athenaeum, she is the person to contact.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Opening at Alexandria's Athenaeum

Yesterday TXT MSG opened at the Athenaeum on Prince Street in Alexandria, VA. The event had fairly good attendance and I was happy to sell 25% of my work. The options are to buy individual squares for $20 each, or to purchase a whole series and get a bit of a discount on the work. For instance, a series of 24 sounds would sell for $400, or a series of 64 homonyms sell for $1100.

The images included are Homonyms (top), Homophones (below), and Uncommon (bottom).The show runs through Sept 21.

And, yes (Pave), some of the Homonyms are heteronyms.

Mark Cameron Boyd's Song for Europe was well interpreted by many. Though hardly anyone could address the Greek board, the Latin and French boards received heavy traffic and his English board is nearly completed!

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

I hate carpeting

Not the actual material, mind you, because it dampens sounds, is soft under foot, and gives off that cozy sensation. Carpeting: v. the act of laying or placing carpet in a room or space.

In the last week the crew I have managed has turned one of the experimental galleries at Arlington Arts Center into a giant black box. Today we took one step closer to completion by laying black carpet. It looks gorgeous, for the most part, and it will look better once vacuumed. Too bad we'll just heap a ton of dirt on top of it on Wednesday or Thursday (literally... one ton of fresh top soil).

In other news, the final touches have been put on the series of 64 homophones and 64 homonyms. For a time, I had a few of my homophones and homonyms mixed up. Granted, most homonyms are homophones by their/there very/vary nature.

Homonyms - words that are spelled alike but have different meanings.
Think pike: It is either a pole with a pointy end, or a fish up in Canada

Homophones - words that sound alike but may be spelled differently.
read and reed. Or read and red.

Until I started working on this project there were some words I was not aware existed, let alone knew they were homonyms or homophones. For instance... I think I was unaware of the word mete. I may have heard someone say "meted out," which would simply be "dividing," but I don't say it; it is not in my lexicon. Outta sight, outta mind... or something like that. For the sake of argument, let's say I didn't know it.

Mete: v. to allot.
Mete: n. boundary.

Where I may or may not have known the first definition (archaic, according to Websters), I certainly didn't know the second. Or, maybe I didn't think I knew it. For all I know, I thought it was meet, which is a verb. If fishing in The Boundary Waters, are they located where Ontario meets (joins) Minnesota, or where Ontario metes Minnesota? Granted, if I am in that situation I'm thinking about catching meat to pair with wild rice.

Seldom is it that this stuff keeps me up at nights (post will be around 1:00 am; this is an exception). But, occasionally I get that student paper where their/there is confused, and I'm haunted into the wee hours/ours wishing I had the hair/hare to pull out.

I'm a dork.