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The blog of author Dennis Cooper

Thanks to the tinkering of integrated information theorists

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‘Our culture is experiencing a profound radiation of new species of media. The centralized, dinosaurian one-to-many media that roared and trampled through the 20th century are poorly adapted to the postmodern technological environment. The new media environment is aswarm with lumbering toothy digital mammals. It’s all lynxes here, and gophers there, plus big fat venomous webcrawlers, appearing in Pleistocene profusion.

‘Nothing gives me greater pleasure as a professional garage futurist than to ponder some weird new mutant medium and wonder how this squawking little monster is going to wriggle its way into the interstices between human beings. Still, there’s a difference between this pleasurable contemplation of the technological sublime and an actual coherent understanding of the life and death of media. We have no idea in hell what we are doing to ourselves with these new media technologies, and no consistent way even to discuss the subject. Something constructive ought to be done about this situation.

‘Plenty of wild wired promises are already being made for all the infant media. What we need is a somber, thoughtful, thorough, hype-free, even lugubrious book that honors the dead and resuscitates the spiritual ancestors of today’s mediated frenzy. A book to give its readership a deeper, paleontological perspective right in the dizzy midst of the digital revolution. We need a book about the failures of media, the collapses of media, the supercessions of media, the strangulations of media, a book detailing all the freakish and hideous media mistakes that we should know enough now not to repeat, a book about media that have died on the barbed wire of technological advance, media that didn’t make it, martyred media, dead media.

‘It’s a rather rare phenomenon for an established medium to die. If media make it past their Golden Vaporware stage, they usually expand wildly in their early days and then shrink back to some protective niche as they are challenged by later and more highly evolved competitors. Radio didn’t kill newspapers, TV didn’t kill radio or movies, video and cable didn’t kill broadcast network TV; they just all jostled around seeking a more perfect app.

‘But some media do, in fact, perish. Such as: the teleharmonium. The Edison wax cylinder. The stereopticon. The Panorama. Early 20th century electric searchlight spectacles. Morton Heilig’s early virtual reality. Telefon Hirmondo. The various species of magic lantern. The pneumatic transfer tubes that once riddled the underground of Chicago. Was the Antikythera Device a medium? Or take the zoetrope.’ — Bruce Sterling

 

 

‘The earliest zoetrope was created in China around 180 AD by the inventor Ting Huan. Ting Huan’s device, driven by convection, hung over a lamp and was called chao hua chich kuan (the pipe which makes fantasies appear). The rising air turned vanes at the top, from which translucent paper or mica panels hung. When the device was spun at the right speed, pictures painted on the panels would appear to move.

‘The modern zoetrope was invented in 1833 by British mathematician William George Horner. He called it the “daedalum”, most likely as a reference to the Greek myth of Daedalus, though it was popularly referred to as “the wheel of the devil”. The daedalum failed to become popular until the 1860s, when it was patented by both English and American makers, including Milton Bradley. The American developer William F. Lincoln named his toy the “zoetrope”, meaning “wheel of life.” Almost simultaneously, similar inventions were made independently in Belgium by Joseph Antoine Ferdinand Plateau (the phenakistoscope) and in Austria by Simon von Stampfer (the stroboscope).

‘The zoetrope worked on the same principles as the phenakistiscope, but the pictures were drawn on a strip which could be set around the bottom third of a metal drum, with the slits now cut in the upper section of the drum.The drum was mounted on a spindle and spun; viewers looking through the slits would see the cartoon strip form a moving image. The faster the drum was spun, the smoother the animation appeared.’ — André Gaudreault

 

 

Mat Collishaw

‘Mat Collishaw’s interest in the Victorians is no coincidence: 19th century Britain viewed itself in the light of scientific progress and empirical soberness. An age inhabited by educated and prosaic people. In retrospect however, child prostitution, poverty, perversion and a collective blood-lust ran parallel to what was deemed an enlightened age. Collishaw references the Victorian period by simulating its elaborately decorative, romantic style, but he indirectly conjures up that society’s dark side, the corrupt underbelly so pertinent to the present day. He drags our darkest urges into the light – illustrating that humans will never overcome their baser instincts, regardless of aesthetic or scientific advancement.’ — Blain/Southern

 

Retchy

‘Retchy (aka Graeme Hawkins) is an animator, vj and sound designer based in Dundee, Scotland. He has worked on feature films (Sylvain Chomet’s Oscar nominated ‘The Illusionist’) and nationally broadcast TV adverts, and is now going freelance with his idiosyncratic, experimental approach to animation. He likes playing about with animation techniques, and is especially interested in the combination of old and new technologies and ideas, like hand drawn projection mapping and 3D Zoetropes.’ — retch.com

 

Aston Coles

‘Aston Coles is part of the independent art production body known as Planet Goatsucker, creators of art, film, and noise events. He plays an instrument called The Swamp Badger in the noise band Deaf Squab. “I am making machines which delineate movement in space. Specifically by animating my sculpture-making process. The machines are working models of the themselves. I find that mirrors are tools which propagate images of other things. Shadows are useful in the same way for looking at sculpture. These things are vision multipliers. My aim is to expand the parameters of the known world by the addition of new features.”‘ — Aston Coles

 

Jim Le Fevre

‘For a few years I have been playing around with a nice little technique using a record player and a camera to create a different kind of Zoetrope. It is one of those things that is more pleasurable watching in real-life however Malcolm Goldie has edited some of the footage from our night at the last ever Heavy Pencil at the ICA in May. Although the evening went well, it really was a testing ground for some of Malcolm and I’s thoughts and it threw up promise and mistakes in equal measure. Malcolm has re-cut a track for this edit and in typical inspired fashion used only (mostly) a box of old 45s he got handed from a retiring wedding DJ for the samples.’ — Jim Le Fevre

 

John Edmark

‘Blooms are 3-D printed sculptures designed to animate when spun under a strobe light. Unlike a 3D zoetrope, which animates a sequence of small changes to objects, a bloom animates as a single self-contained sculpture. The bloom’s animation effect is achieved by progressive rotations of the golden ratio, phi (ϕ), the same ratio that nature employs to generate the spiral patterns we see in pinecones and sunflowers. The rotational speed and strobe rate of the bloom are synchronized so that one flash occurs every time the bloom turns 137.5º (the angular version of phi).* Each bloom’s particular form and behavior is determined by a unique parametric seed I call a phi-nome (/fī nōm/).’ — John Edmark

 

Gregory Barsamian

‘A dream world often remains left to the realm of the unconscious, a separate world of its own. But Gregory Barsamian’s animated zoetrope sculptures bring this dream world into our waking perceptions. Rationality is left behind and we descend into a world of uncertainty. We enter the shadows, perceiving the fine line between real and imaginary. This dream world of Barsamian finds its inspiration from theories of the unconscious and its outlet in kinetic sculpture.’ — Kinetic Art Fair

 

Ernest Zacharevic

Ernest Zacharevic: For me animation as well as kinetic art is a media, which is capable of evoking the dialogue and interaction with its viewer and environment. The art of motion allows me to explore the shifting correlation of time and space. I try to redefine the boundaries between still and motion in my work. I intend to take animation out of its traditional dimensions and bring into confrontation with our everyday experience. The agency of my work comes from the combination of post-socialist upbringing in Lithuania and orthodox use of media mixed with ironic interpretations of the ongoing conflict between an individual and society. I never intend to represent the reality in my work; instead I attempt to absorb the surrounding I am living in and to express my personal relationship in the images I create.

 

Elliot Schultz

‘Inspired by the work of Alexandre Alexeieff and Claire Parker, I aimed to guide my production process indirectly through the limitations afforded by alternative media. Their invention, the pin screen, was used as the sole medium in the production of six short films, and shaped the outcome of their work. In response, I have designed and embroidered animated sequences onto discs, similar to the Phenakistokope, Zoopraxiscope and Stamfer Disc layouts. This repurposing of media introduced strict parameters, namely spatial, tonal and temporal, and has greatly informed all stages of my process.’ — Elliot Schultz

 

Dan Hayhurst

‘Dan Hayhurst plays digital media devices, reel to reel tape recorder, sampler, effectron and walkman. Reuben Sutherland plays video zoetrope record deck. Psychophonotropic picture discs printed with intricate visual patterns animate when videoed, beaming looping fragments of surreal, luridly coloured imagery into eyeballs and brains at 25 frames per second – Victorian mechanical imaging technology combined with digital video.’ — tape box.co.uk

 

ACMI

‘ACMI’s zoetrope, tucked away in Screen World’s ‘Sensation’ area, is deceptively dull when it is still. It looks like a bizarre wedding cake, with hundreds of creatures and objects suspended on a circular, tiered structure. But when the music kicks in, the carousel starts to revolve and the strobe lights flash furiously. The magic begins! In a spectacular 3D optical illusion, the characters appear to come alive.’ — acme

 

Woohun Lee, Jinha Seong

‘The authors have turned the Zoetrope, initially an optical toy from the pre-cinema era, into a three-dimensional (3D) animation display. “Crystal Zoetrope” is a new visual medium involving a glass disc with numerous engraved objects that displays a sophisticated 3D animation. It can be built in small sizes and even be embedded in everyday objects or environments. Using this new visual medium, the authors produced the 3D animation “Sea of Stars” that portrays the life cycle of planets in the universe.’ — Leonardo Journal

 

Alexandre Dubosc

‘French animator Alexandre Dubosc specializes in ‘caketropes’ or 3D zoetropes, spinning animation machines, that look like chocolate cakes. Freequences, his July 2019 creation, explores the repetition of sound waves, vibrations, patterns, and musical instruments.’ — The Kid Should See This

 

Eric Dyer

‘Eric Dyer is an artist, experimental animator, and educator whose work has shown at such events as the Sundance Film Festival, exhibited at the Smithsonian National Gallery of Art and the Venice Biennale. He currently uses spinning sculptures to create films and installations. He’s had music videos play on MTV, MTV Europe, The Box, and B.E.T. and animations aired on PBS, the Discovery Channel, and Fox International. “Copenhagen Cycles” is a fantastical, collaged bicycle tour through a zoetropic rendition of Denmarks capital. He uses sculptures, paper cut outs, and live footage to animate the hypnotizing ride.”‘ — barrabinfc

 

Fallon

‘Advertising agency Fallon built an enormous zoetrope in Venaria, a town near Turin in northern Italy. The zoetrope presents a series of still images of the footballer Kaká, which when rotated (at speeds up to 50km per hour) and viewed through small slits on the outside of the zoetrope, give the illusion of being animated. The purpose of the Bravia-drome is to show off Sony’s new Motionflow technology. MotionFlow allows BRAVIA televisions to insert transitional images into action sequences in order to increase smoothness at 240Hz that might otherwise be choppy.’ — Creative Review

 

Ghibli/Pixar

‘In 2005-ish Pixar created their own Toy Story-themed version of the famous Studio Ghibli Zoetrope in in the Ghibli Museum in Mitaka, Tokyo. It toured many science museums and galleries around the world.’ — Zoetrope Development

 

Jackson Holmes

‘Jet Engine/Zoetrope by Jackson Holmes. University of Brighton, 66-68 Grand Parade, Brighton, BN2 0JY. SHOW DATES: Friday 3rd June – Private View (tickets only), Saturday 4th June – 12 noon – 8pm, Sunday 5th June – 12 noon – 6pm, Monday 6th to Wednesday 8th June – 10am – 8pm, Thursday 9th June – 10am – 4pm’ — jacksonholmes.tumblr

 

Troika

‘DIGITAL ZOETROPE is an installation which Troika created for onedotzero when commissioned to design a custom installation and visual identity around the theme of the festival ‘Citystates’. Opting to make an installation and identity that integrate into each other, Troika created a modern DIGITAL ZOETROPE as the cornerstone of the identity, which celebrates both the heritage of motion arts as well as its digital present.’ — troikalondon

 

Peter Hudson

‘In 2002, Peter Hudson and the crew of Hudzo Design, LLC created a large scale, 3D zoetrope that uses a strobe light to animate human figures swimming on a large rotating disk. This stroboscopic human powered zoetrope was originally unveiled at the arts and culture event, Burning Man. Peter created four more large scale stroboscopic zoetropes from 2004 to 2011, most recently “Charon”, which is built to resemble and rotate in the same kinetic fashion as a ferris wheel. The Charon zoetrope stands at 32 feet high, weighs 8 tons and features twenty rowing skeleton figures representing the mythological character, Charon, who carries souls of the newly deceased across the river Styx. Peter Hudson’s zoetropes (sometimes called Hudzoetrope) are exhibited at various festivals and special events internationally throughout the year.’ — Wikipedia

 

Akinori Goto

‘In 2015, a young media artist named Akinori Goto created a fascinating device called toki, meaning “time” in Japanese. Goto explained that it was “a media installation born from a combination of modern technologies:” the age-old zoetrope meets 3D printing technology. Goto captured the movement of a person walking and translated it into a data series, which was then turned into a repeating loop. The result was then fed into a 3D printer. That object was then placed on a rotating turntable and a light was projected onto it to isolate the different movements and….you know what, better to just watch the videos.’ — Spoon & Tamago

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p.s. Hey. ** Quinn R, Hi, Quinn. Thanks a lot. You’re in Key West, aren’t you, or were? I saw a pic. Enjoy if you’re there, or wherever you are. ** Tosh Berman, Hi, T! Thank you, sir! ** James, Thanks, James. It was Friday, yes. Love from here to there/you. ** Dominik, Hi, Dominik!!! Thanks a lot, pal. Yeah, my novel has a French publisher, and my agent says it has a German publisher. Happy stuff. Ideally, this will be the last weekend of work on the TV script for a least a while, ideally quite a while. Can not wait. The gallery meeting was good. Green light. It’s just down to whether they’ll show three or two of the gif works. But, yeah, that should be fun. Cooking seems like a cool art form to practice. I’m a microwave-only, fast as possible cook, which doesn’t really count. You know, I’ve never seen ‘Skins’ for no good reason except that I almost never watch TV. Keep your eyes on the prize of maxing out your giant talent and amazing us all. That’s my advice. Love from me! ** Montse, Hi, Montse! Thank you, thank you. I did have a pastry, how did you guess, ha ha? Have a wonderful weekend. Love, me. ** Juan, Hi, Juan. Thank you so much for coming in here. Wow, thank you about your thesis. I’m really honored. If I can help, answer questions or anything, let me know. Take care! ** David Ehrenstein, Thank you for the wishes and your fave song. I’ll cue it up in just a bit. Yes, the Carax film is shot and in the editing room. So great he managed to get it made. It was very touch and go there for a while. ** Daniel, Hey, Daniel! Always a treasure when you grace this humble abode. Thank you so much! I hope you’re doing great! ** Sypha, Thank you, James. ** Carles, Hi, Carles. Very nice to meet you assuming this is our first meeting. Hopefully my new novel will be published in Spain, but we will see. Take good care. ** Corey Heiferman, Thank you, Corey. I’d take 50 more years if my body cooperates. Trashy Israeli pop! The perfect gifts. I will indulge in a short while. Nice weekend to you. ** Brendan, Thank you kindly, B! My fave Fugazi album too. Here’s hoping your lurking is volcanic. Love, me. ** _Black_Acrylic, Ha ha. I like your jokes. I hadn’t heard them before. I only know, like, four jokes, and I’ve told them to practically everyone in the world at least one too many times, so I’ll spare you. ** Nicki Smith, Whoa, Nicki! Hey, hey, hey! Thank you so much! It’s really awesome to see you! And big congrats on your book. It’s so exciting. Love, Dennis. ** schlix, Thanks, Uli! May we both have the ultimate year ahead. ** generator5, Hi! Oh, wow, sleepyj! It’s so cool to se you. It’s been yonks, as I think the British say or used to. How are you? What’s going on? Please catch me up, if you feel like it. ** Paul Curran, Thank you, Paul! Btw, Tokyo/Japan now likely to happen in March or early April. Well, more than likely, just not as quick as originally intended. Much love from strike-torn Paris! ** Steve Erickson, I did not eat cold sesame noodle, sadly. I did eat Hard Rock nachos, which were delish, but I’ve been vegan for months, and my digestive system did not like my rash eating decision one little bit, so they were a mixed blessing. ‘Criticise’ is a lost, total 80s gem. No surprise, I’m sure, that Scott Walker loved ‘Je Suis Malade’. One of the things I love about that song is that it’s impossible to translate the lyrics into English without destroying the ennui-laden internal workings of the song. A song entirely dependent one how the French language works. ** KK, Thanks a lot, man! Ha ha, I wish it was like that party. Sort of. My plans are to finish the ARTE shit by Monday and then start living (for a while) without its dark cloud drifting about in my consciousness. ** Armando, Aw, thanks a lot, Armando! I really appreciate it! I hope you’re doing really good. Love and wishes back. ** Bernard, Yes, I guess you now know for real that I am not you. Or David Ehrenstein. Yes, you’ve been through birthdays with me, and me with you, since we were spryer twigs of creatures. It’s true that one must now look ahead to summer in Paris with fear. I don’t know about that meeting, but I know who Olivier Brossard is. No, those guys apparently really don’t like me for some reason. They never invite me to anything and, when I go to their things, they look at me askance. I hope you can do that. I’ll go maybe in disguise. No, no, you’re the man. ** Damien Ark, Thank you, Damien! Really nice to see you, pal! You good? ** Misanthrope, Thank you very much, George. Whoop on the laptop. Scrunched fingers for Monday. ** Okay. I’ve put together a very fun and dare I say kind of cool and fascinating post for you this weekend, and I hope you’ll indulge in it lustily. See you on Monday.

11 Comments

  1. Hey Dennis,

    Happy belated birthday! Hope you had a good one!
    Just started reading Raymond Roussel this week, so this post seems particularly relevant in a way. Some of these are just amazing.
    Anyways, sorry to hear about the TV show, such a crazy thing that this has become such a dinosaur of a time consumer. And it sucks that things seem relatively pretty stressful and I hope it all comes together smoothly in the next few months! Sending the most tightly crossed of fingers yr way.
    My week has been good! I started an internship at fence magazine, so it’s been a lot of feeling out that (very exciting) internship. I’ll be sure to keep you updated on that when updates prove necessary.
    Have a great week!

  2. Zoetropes prove that the Past may be The Future.

    I trust you got “My Favorite Songs Day” I sent you. It’s quite long o you might be advised to cut it in two.

    Great about the Carax.Have you ever met him Dennis? He’s a “Terrible Sweetie” (as Julie Christie was wont to say in “Darling.”)

  3. Bless you – thanks Dennis! I hope you had a fab birthday and that all is good with you and yours! Lots of love xx

  4. No, you are seriously the man, as all the world knows. I freaking miss Paris plus as I have thought for a while, if there’s any aspect of poetry I could deal with talking and reading about in detail, it’s New York School. But you know, time, money . . . I think I might like to be in Paree during winter for once . . .
    I know the Poets and Critics people do in fact want to sit at your feet and bask in your wisdom because they have asked me to put in a word for them with you re: July 1 event and whatever else. nwonthenys@gmail.com is the contact email for the event, which is described at https://www.poetscritics.org/2019/10/01/call-for-papers-for-the-inaugural-meeting-of-the-new-york-school-studies-association-nyssa-1-july-2020-universite-paris-est-marne-la-vallee/ but as you may not have time or inclination to write them a note, I think I will send them your email address (which you share here often so hope that’s ok) and also say the quickest way to get in touch with you may be just to comment on the latest post whatever day they next look at DC’s. Ball is then in their court, if I understand what that means; you know I’m awkward with sports metaphors.
    BTW I’m three months older than you, of course, and I think this was the year I finally started to feel like I Don’t Know What is Up with These Gays; I mean, I don’t get it. Generally. Except they still keep following me down the street, mumbling about “Serious daddy energy.” Whatever.
    I love Today’s Day, of course. Did you know I used to teach Birth of Cinema, 1895-1927? (It started with a great Muybridge show we did at the museum.) You may have seen a great documentary called Film Before Film, just a video record of everything in one German guy’s “archaic” or “proto-” cinema collection. I put a short excerpt up at YouTube for my class, which is still up at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r4B3FHHt_k8&t
    I will catch up on your news soon, esp anything you’ve said about the new novel. Also movies you’ve seen, if you’ve discussed them. I have been doing a lot of conference preparation stuff; I’m going to Oregon to talk about A Midsummer Night’s Dream, which is the kind of the thing I’m at my very nerdiest about. xo

  5. Hey Dennis. Wow, these zoetropes are right up my alley. I am mesmerized. I love this kinda stuff. Things are pretty good. I am still in Los Angeles. I have been enjoying the 2020 energy so far. I think exciting things are in store, even amidst global problems. I hope your birthday was really fun. 🙂

  6. Happy bday Coop! A bit late, sorry. I just created a spotify playlist of those 60+ songs to play in your honor. I hope you had cake galore and also used your ‘it’s my birthday, I get to do whatever I want’ card. In my world that card lasts for one week and is valid for any unusual requests, unwise meal choices, winning any argument and would also work for telling certain television execs that I’m right, they’re wrong, and so it goes.
    How was your weekend? We trekked down to White Cube to see Kiefer, whom I do like a lot even though I get the feeling it’s not cool to like him but as you know me and cool aren’t really in speaking terms so there you go. It was unsurprisingly super-scaled and surprisingly packed. I also bought some Bramley apples with the intention of turning them into a crumble but I now realize I cannot be arsed to cook it and could not be arsed to eat it if I did. New 2020 resolution: must try harder not to predict self and must remember that only consistent aspect of self is: ‘lazy’. Today is a day of nothingness and brain-death and not being able to properly wake up from disturbing dreams, but luckily it’s also Sunday where those things are acceptable and/or pass by unnoticed. I’m off to put on your playlist. Much love!

  7. Hey ! Thank you, Dennis, for the Vera Chytilova post. I’ve spent a wonderful evening watching Daisies. It’s so good. (And so much GIF material in it.) When and where your GIF novels will be shown ? I can’t find any information about it. Have a great week ! (+ looking forward to watching Patric Chiha’s film about Crowd)

  8. It’s always interesting to see what Mat Collishaw is up to. He was part of the very first wave of 90s YBAs but unlike his contemporaries he’s carved out his own singular path in the years since.

    I was at the magic lantern this morning to see Uncut Gems as part of the DCA Cine Sunday deal, where you get a cinema ticket, coffee and a breakfast roll for 9 quid, a very good deal I reckon. The film is excellent and distinctly Cassavetes-informed. So visceral, watching it was a genuinely stressful experience.

  9. I now realize how much of my recent anxiety and depression stemmed from uncertainty about my declining eyesight and what to do about it. Now that I am on a path to fix it, I feel much better.

    Late last night, I made a list of the Iranian films which are available to stream for free with English subtitles on YouTube and rarefilmm.com. It’s up here: https://letterboxd.com/steevee/list/iranian-cinema-available-to-stream-for-free/

  10. Dennis, So the new novel needs an American publisher then. Weird that one of the “foreign” ones can’t just publish the English version and sell it here. I’m naive about all of it, of course, so I assume it doesn’t work that way. Or hell, publish it in English there and let us Americans order it and pay the outrageous shipping. But of course, all that would be way too easy.

    Hmm, maybe I need to start my own publishing company and just do shit the way I think it should be done. Finagle that shit like crazy. 😛

    A good, fruitless weekend for me. It’s going to be mostly all novel from here on out. Got to get that shit done…and then spend years trying to sell it. Yikes. That’ll be fun. I’ll learn a lot. Just hope it isn’t “Btw, this is shit, boy.” 😮

    I’ll see you on the other side of Sunday.

  11. Zoetropes are some of my favorite things. I’ve savored that gato/gateau confluence before, so happy it’s now a zoetrope.

    Started reading Jonathan Weinberg’s Pier Groups, about art and sex on the NY piers from the 70s and 80s. You’re in the David Wojnarowicz chapter. Really enjoyable so far.

    I have a working laptop again, and most of my backups. Losing 4 weeks of work is not fun, but survivable. I have to say, spending a few days without the weight of archives, bookmarks etc, is kind of refreshing. More later.

    Bill

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