Friday, July 4, 2008

Steamroller Punk

Men's Vogue Online had a great post about artist Chris Burden.
The fact that in 1971 a gallery Santa Ana, California featured a performance artist who had himself shot in the arm with a rifle astounds the mind. It was during the Vietnam war, but how could a groundbreaking (and skin breaking) piece be happening in that bed of right-wing paranoia, Orange County? Burden attended UC Irvine, one of the new UCs at the time that set their sites on experimentation. Tamara Fites is an alumna. Even today, homocore steampunker Tom Jennings works there a technician in the Arts Computation Engineering graduate program. Tom's own creations do not go back quite to the Victorian age, but the early days of real computing. One of his creations is a voice synthesizer using paper telex tape. Various "taped" stories can be loaded into the machine which speaks in an early artificial computer voice (resembling the train annoucments in BART stations). One tells the story of mathematician Alan Turing who broke the Nazi code, but was later arrested by the Brits for being a homosexual. Jennings is obsessed with codes and invented the early bulletin board file exchange protocol, fidonet. Speaking of computer voices, there is always HAL. Bryce is nostalgic now because it's been so long since he's sent a cable or a telex. That was text messaging! No happy faces. One of the keys rang a bell on the other end. Photo by Twylo That key combination is Cntrl+G.
We can rewrite Poe's poem:
Hear the sledges with the ctrl+Gs -
Silver ctrl-Gs!
What a world of merriment their melody foretells!
How they tinkle, tinkle, tinkle,
In the icy air of night!

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