Trent Reznor, of Nine Inch Nails, was fed up. He did not want his creative expression to be controlled by his record company any more. And so, after fufilling his contract with Interscope records, he split off to record on his own. The first project he undertook, called Ghosts, was 10 weeks of exploration into creating sound tracks to the environment and world around him. He, and several collaborators, would start with some sort of visual reference, whether it be a place, setting, or situation, and then translate it into ambient music. The pieces were created using improvisation and experimentation. For several songs, a guest drummer used a makeshift drum kit of a few 50 gallon drums and a cookie sheet to create his rhythums. Some are upbeat and quick, some slow and heavy, and some are eerie. Each piece flows into the next, for a long, coherent two-disk experience.

Each piece was also accompinied by a photograph from a visual artist (like the one above). By looking at the picture while listening to the music, one is forced to interpret the world in an abstract audial sense. There is no one singing over these pieces to tell you what to think or feel; they instead create an environment to exist in.

This is a big switch for an artist who, until then, was under a record label that made him conform to their profitable standards. The first part of this album was released for free, and their was no limit on his creative freedom. He was able to unpack the world around him, taking it from the literal, visual existence that we usually only experience, into a more abstract aural experience.

Furthermore, Nine Inch Nails held a fan film festival where it actually encouraged its fans to use the songs to create their own music videos. This might have been a cop out so that they didn't have to spend the money to create their own, but there was some create work submitted. The fans were forced to interpret music not through the lyrics that were being shouted (as is usual), but instead through the images the beats provoked. Below is a fan video to one of my favorite songs.

Mary Miss

 Mary Miss is an environmental based artist who often uses her sculptures for landscape design and installation art.  She does work with the City As A Living Laboratory project.  Mary Miss spearheads this art project in collaboration with the EcoArts Director Marda Kim.  Basically her work with this is trying to innovate ways to create cities that help redefine the way people interact in their daily lives.  They create projects where there are interactive activities and events.  These activities are meant to be collaborations among communities and different people and neighborhoods all working towards a common goal.  Mary Miss is an innovative artist because she is using her talent and passion to educate, inspire, and encourage change around her.   Artists can work in collaboration with scientists, researchers, economists, and urban planners to create works of art that make these new changes to our lives enjoyable to be around.  Many people have trouble with change, but art can be a useful way to help the transition into something new.  Mary Miss’s work is using art as a way to move into the changing of our lives and work in order to deal with environmental, social, and economic problems our society faces. 

            In order to make large-scale changes, we need to start on a small scale.  The change needs to come about in small cities and towns through the use of art as a way to put an idea in motion; to allow a community to learn about a new initiative. These news projects Mary Miss is working on will allow the communities of people to also participate in the change, and this is useful because everyone can help the change and help to maintain the change.  Interactive projects are often the most successful. Mary Miss is very interested in using art as a way to get people involved.  I know personally when I can participate, I am more apt to appreciate the initiative and help it again in the future.  Art, and Mary Miss, have a way of fast tracking certain practices by making them an immediate presence in cities and the lives of the citizens in communities all over.  Long term projects can take years upon years to carry out, but the use of art makes it so the ideas are not forgotten.  We are reminded all the time about what it is we are trying to do.  

Natalie Jeremijenko

Artist Natalie Jeremijenko does not produce art in the same fashion as most would describe it. None of her well-known works are paintings of maidens, sculptures of burnished warriors or operettas. Instead, her work focuses much more on how humans interact with their world. One of her exhibits were the OOZ: technological interfaces placed around the animal exhibits of zoos. They functioned primarily as animal enrichment, and secondarily as human enrichment. A specific example is of the robotic duck that visitors are able to control around the pond. This robot can record and/or play back different quacks, and attempt to translate those that it hears for its human controller. Through the use of this robotic technology, humans are able to not only help enrich the zoo animal's lives but also experience some part of what it is like to be a duck. 

Another of her projects was much less lighthearted, however. She collected suicide data from 1996-2000 about who had jumped off of the Golden Gate Bridge, and when. For the presentation of her work, she superimposed it with the Dow Jones Industrial average that was current at the time of the suicides. Again, she is exploring how humans relate to their world. Instead of seeing how a duck experiences life through a robot, she forced the exhibition-goers to see how somebody who is suicidal experiences life through the stock market. 

A third was the idea of the Amphibious Architecture sculptures to allow humans to become better acquainted with aqueous environments. Her concept was for membraneous tubes to be placed underwater in order to allow for humans to not only see the aquatic life, but also experience the tides and shifts of the water they were in. Overall, her art is a fascinating dialogue on how we, as humanity, perceive ourselves in relation to both the natural and artificial world. 

John Brickels



 Sculptor John Brickels is best known for intricate clay barns and buildings. The buildings are falling apart and whimsically twisted, typical dilapidated Vermont barns taken to the next level. Brickels’ glorification of buildings in disrepair challenges people’s negative associations with such decay. As his website states, “His falling barn sculptures, tittering urban row houses and collapsed rust belt factories celebrate the hidden beauty of entropy” ( The barns and other buildings are the castoffs of the modern economy. The urban buildings are reminiscent of those in the rust belt (Brickels grew up in Akron, Ohio before moving to Vermont). The barns, meanwhile, are similar to those found across Vermont. Many of those barns are also castoffs, either from the late 1800s or early 1900s as subsistence farming in Vermont declined, or later as the farming industry in Vermont underwent consolidation. Ironically, the castoff barns especially serve well as symbols of Vermont’s identity. As Blake Harrison writes in The View from Vermont: Tourism and the Making of an American Rural Landscape, Vermont has “an enduring reputation defined, above all else, by its associations with rural land and life” (Harrison 1). Vermont today has an economy extensively dependent on tourism, along with a large number of remaining farms. Brickels’ sculptures both acknowledge the decline in family farms over the past century and celebrates Vermont’s rural image in which aesthetics takes precedence over practicality.

My family has one of Brickels’ clay barns in our house, and the detailing is incredible. Clay tractors, automobile parts and junk inside the house add to the image of old technology falling apart in a picturesque way. Brickels has largely shifted his efforts to producing clay humanoid robots today, which certainly also comments on practicality and modern technology. His barns, though, have a deeply rooted sense of place.


Harrison, B. 2006. The View from Vermont: Tourism and the Making of an American Rural Landscape. University of Vermont Press, Lebanon, NH.  

Hiroshi Sugimoto

The artist that stood out to me the most was Hiroshi Sugimoto. At first glance, it looked like many of his images were of wild animals. There was a polar bear and a pack of vultures devouring a meal. This made me think that he had traveled to such exotic locations like the Arctic Circle and Africa. However, as I read on, I found out that all these animals were fakes. As part of his Diorama series from 1976, Sugimoto took pictures of animal scenes from natural history museums. His goal was to tackle the cultural assumption that everything we see in pictures is real. At first, his animal pictures look real, but upon closer inspection, it is pretty easy to see that they are simply stuffed, dead creatures from museums. I think this demonstrates our naivety and dependency when it comes to certain technologies. We assume that certain technologies will always work and provide us with the desired results, without ever questioning their validity. In this case, we believe his photos are capturing an event that actually occurred, and our natural reaction is not to be suspicious of this since they were shot by real cameras. Therefore, Sugimoto’s work forces viewers to pay extremely close attention to the subject and its surroundings in order to notice any potential flaws. This notion can be extended to other aspects of life by encouraging a different way of seeing.

Globalization and the Enormity That Accompanies It

I chose to do my blog this week on Andreas Gursky’s photography.  I chose him because many of his photographs I looked deal with the globalization of the world.  What I mean by this is that he photographs high rise building, or a construction site, or a grocery store, yet he does so in a way that indicates the excessive nature of much of the world today, the pure massive size and volume that much of the world utilizes.  He enhances the scope of the scenes and objects he is photographing to the point that they no longer look real, to the point that they do not seem to be just photographs.  I did a little research and nowadays he uses the computer to increase this effect, but even in his earlier works where he was s imply using a camera, I get this sense of “too big to be true” from his photographs.  This idea was intriguing to me and tied back into some of the themes we had been talking about in class, specifically with the animals.  When I was looking at some of his photos I could not help but think about the short film we saw in class on food.  To me a connection between Gursky’s photo of a construction site, and that short film was clear.  Both of these were highlighting the enormous magnitude that the world runs on today.  In the case of the food, the film showed the mass production of everything that we eat.  People work inside this system like robots and we as consumers promote it with the way we consume food.  The film showed us the aspects of the food production system that we do not know about, or if we do know about them we choose to ignore them.  As long as our chicken is in the grocery store when we want it to be what does it matter how it got there?  I got a similar theme from the Gursky photos.  As long as we get to live comfortably and our standards of living keep rising, what does it matter the scope upon which this is accomplished?  More is better in the world we live in and as long as we do not directly experience the negative effects of this way of thought we can choose to ignore them; we can choose the positive outcomes we experience over the negative effects to others.  Andreas Gursky I think captures the scope in which our world works by expanding it to the point that makes the way things work now seem excessive.

Sol LeWitt


When thinking about an artist whose works point to a different way of seeing and being, I can’t help but think of Sol LeWitt –specifically his wall drawings. LeWitt (1928-2007) was one of the foremost American Minimalist and Conceptual artists.   His work emphasizes the conception and execution of the art rather than the final piece, and for his wall drawings a basic set of instruction and/or diagram holds as much importance as the final outcome. By putting the importance of the art on the ideas and acts of creation, LeWitt “unconceals” the processes behind artwork, which I think offers some commentary on the world we live in. People today have the tendency to be almost completely obsessed with final products or outcomes. In our everyday life we tend not to care how we get from our home to school (work, store, a cafe), how our car (bike, phone, coffee) was made, or how we can talk to/see someone hundreds of miles away anytime on our telephone or computer. We are much more preoccupied with the final outcomes than the manner that these outcomes were achieved.   LeWitt’s work deemphasizes the notion of the final product in favor of the processes that make the outcome possible.

All that being said, I would also add that I think that LeWitt’s wall drawings themselves, the final artwork to be viewed, also re-conceptualize space and inspire a new way to view what would otherwise be an ordinary wall. In this respect LeWitt’s artwork transforms both the notion of product and the use of ordinary space.

Diane Thater

Diane Thater was born in the early sixties, and currently lives and works in Los Angeles, California. She uses new media such as LCD screens, video projectors and DVD players in order to create abstracted scenes of nature on existing architectural structures. In doing so, she emphasizes the intersection between time and space, or between her videos and the architecture they are projected on to. She does not, however, allow the architecture to constrain her vision. She displays her work internationally, from Johannesburg to Sydney. Thater provides a different way of seeing and knowing nature through her installations, which surround and encompass their viewers. In this way, she reminds us that nature is all around us. Furthermore, she reminds us that the natural world is bigger than us, despite our belief that we can control nature. Additionally, she reveals the freedom inherent in this view of the world, because of the anonymity is provides. She combines new media with nature in order to make this view accessible in our modern, and technology driven world. Her work “unconceals” nature in a way that is different than through the quantification of science and industry, and therefore, allows viewers to think about nature in new ways.

             I am particularly intrigued by her work titled “gorillagorillagorilla” which she premiered in the Kunsthaus Gras. In this work, she attempted to recreate Cameroon’s rainforests, in both the plant life and animal movements. Using 10 video projectors, two video walls, 12 DVD players, and color filters in addition to the existing architecture, Thater constructed a movement filled installation that swirled around viewers. It engaged the air in the room as well as the wall space, floor and ceilings. In doing so, she attempted to disorient the viewer, and push them to rethink their conception of their place in the world. Thater’s work is truly amazing, I recommend that everyone check out more of her work at the link posted below.


Technology as Actants

The first thing that struck me when beginning to read my groups blog posts for the week was the seemingly difference between all of them.  From texting, which seems like it would effect our lives in drastic way, to clothes, a technology that has become to serve much more than a functional purpose.  But as I red that first blog posted I realized they do all have one common theme and that is the technology discussed, electricity.  I would agree that this technology probably poses the most drastic changes if removed from our world.  Most drastically, w would not have all of the other technologies.  We would not have glasses, or the refrigerator, or clothes, or shoes, or speakers, or texting.  As each member of the group points out that each of these individual technologies would change our world in its own drastic way, so what would happen if we didn’t have any of them?


Another theme that runs through the particular technologies of my group is the way in which all of the technologies act on humans and humans change their world because of the implementation of these technologies.  Take the texting example and the way in which it affects the English language.  How many abbreviations does our generation in particular use in casual conversation because of their beginnings with texting?  Or with the refrigerator how do we alter the things that we buy, the quantities we buy them in, and our overall diets?  The appearance of the refrigerator influences our decisions on food and diets, which then affects our health.  As with all technologies there is a relationship between humans and technology, where both parties have some influence on the others.  But as many of the technologies of our group are very central to our way of life, their influence on humans is larger and has more of an impact on us.  With this larger influence comes more drastic if these technologies were ever taken away from society.


Then there is one more theme with few of the technologies that I found interesting, in particular, the shoes, clothes and glasses.  I feel that all of the problems that these technologies try to fix are made worse by their existence.  Glasses represent a good example of this.  As a glasses and contacts wearer, I can attest to my eyes getting worse every checkup while I was a little kid.  While glasses helped me see better, they also weakened my eyes as I became more dependent upon them.  Similar things happen with our feet as we wear better and stronger shoes to protect our feet and our feet become weaker.  Therefore, I feel that doing away with these technologies as is hinted in the blog posts would change peoples’ world a lot.  But this change would be short term I believe.  Eventually our bodies could develop and adapt to their absence.  We might not be able to do everything without them that we are capable of with them, but the absence of these technologies would be minor on the long run at best.  This idea follows the theme of technologies acting on us as do all the other technologies, but in the instance of technologies like shoes, glasses, and clothes the influence is directly weakening to us physically and this weakening could be reversed by removing these technologies.  This idea that the effects of technology could be reversed is unique only to certain types of technology.

Speakers Speaking

Speakers come in many forms. They're large and hanging from the ceiling in the Annex. They're tiny and in my ear when connected to my iPod. We all own a set of speakers in some gadget, whether it's a computer, a phone, or a car. I'm usually carrying a few with me at all times. Speakers allow is to not only amplify sound in a moment's notice, but also play back previously recorded music, tones, and words.

Speakers are both an individual and a group thing, both bringing people together and removing them from the world. Silent Disco is a weird combination of both. People all gather together to listen to the same playlist individually. Everyone has their own headphones, their own personal set of speakers. This event could not happen without them. While at Silent Disco, it is a very surreal experience to take your headphones out. It doesn't feel right. You forget that you are actually in your own little world.

Without speakers, we could only listen to live, acoustic music. You would not be able to have a crowd the size that silent disco had because not every one would be able to hear. It would not be the novelty that it is: everyone silently dancing together.

This year even went beyond the usual gig. There were two separate playlists being distributed (which kind of defeats the purpose). Hundreds of people were all able to be in the same place, having a communal experience, and yet were able to individually listen to what they chose.

On a different level, without speakers we wouldn’t be able to have such large collections of digital music wince we would have no way in which to play it back. Speakers have allowed us to preserve old music, play music that couldn't be performed live, and have collections of thousands of songs. It has allowed people to explore music in a way that was not previously possible. Without speakers, there would only be live, acoustic, current music.

I wouldn't want to live that way.


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