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Here are a collection of observations about design and aesthetics.


The Semiotics of (Critical) Viewership

story © Michael Betancourt | published September 30, 2017 | permalink | TwitThis Digg Facebook StumbleUpon  |  Print


Historical cinema has a specific concept of its audience as passive, challenged by semiotics and postcinema. The semiotic view of audiences proposes an idealized, hypothetical typical viewer who employs established lexical expertise to follow and embrace the established conventions of encoding/decoding. This viewer is precisely the complicit or passive audience assumed in historical cinema and critiqued by politically engaged theories of media. These traditional viewers accept and employ, rather than challenge or interrogate, their use of established conventions. Although these conventions are historically concerned/used for the presentation and elaboration of narrative forms, these typical viewers employ them to engage any media work that might invoke or suggest them, either through their formal organizationas in the still photographs of Cindy Sherman, or through the use of a familiar kinetic medium such as video, or the animated GIFs used on webpages.

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Cliche Interests, An Artistic Statement

story © Michael Betancourt | published June 29, 2017 | permalink | TwitThis Digg Facebook StumbleUpon  |  Print


The artist's statement is an exercise focused on a variety of basic ideas, all concerned with the tactical manipulation of their reader's later engagement with the artist's productions. They're about shaping iinterpretations. These statements are an essential part of how an artist creates a context for their work and creates a meaningful relationship to work of the past. These statements are part PR and part polemics. Producing a statement to accompany individual works is an essential part of the exhibition process. Artists use these statements for several overlapping, but discrete purposes:

  • Context: how they want to be seen in relation to current trends
  • Stage Setting for specific ways they want to be interpreted
  • Distinguish their work from similar or related works
  • Claim a specific history their work might not be related to otherwise
  • The production of ambiguity and the production of meaning are essentially exclusive procedures: to create a meaningful statement requires a discursive structure where ambiguity is radically reduced; in contrast, while definite meaning emerges from limitations upon ambiguity, the meaningful statements of art are (paradoxically) those where the ambiguity (or, more accurately, multivalence) plays the strongest role. It is through the production of multivalent formsworks where several potential meanings simultaneously emerge in a work, sometimes at differing levels of interpretationwhere ambuiguity enables an instability of interpretation that require more careful consideration and demand critical insight for their coherence.

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    Notes on Marginality

    story © Michael Betancourt | published December 26, 2015 | permalink | TwitThis Digg Facebook StumbleUpon  |  Print


    The issue is basic survival and continued possibilities for carrying on with what one does. Marginal is thus about displaced actions that continue with neither recognition nor official sanction.

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    Watson on the Aesthetics of Avant-Garde Film

    story © Michael Betancourt | published February 26, 2015 | permalink | TwitThis Digg Facebook StumbleUpon  |  Print

    Interesting early article on the aesthetics of avant-garde film versus commercial cinema from 1929: "The Amateur Takes Leadership" by J.S. Watson, on his film Fall of the House of Usher, in Movie Makers, January 1929.


    Mongrel Materialisms

    story © Michael Betancourt | published June 15, 2011 | permalink | TwitThis Digg Facebook StumbleUpon  |  Print


    The connection of formalism to specific technological particulars of a specific historical moment has killed it. (Greenbergian formalism is a dead end.)

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    Cognitive Dissonance = Design Fail

    story © Michael Betancourt | published May 24, 2011 | permalink | TwitThis Digg Facebook StumbleUpon  |  Print


    Here is an example of pure cognitive dissonance: you push the lock button up to lock and down to unlock.

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    Smilies and Typography

    story © Michael Betancourt | published March 17, 2011 | permalink | TwitThis Digg Facebook StumbleUpon  |  Print


    Increasingly the conversion of smilies into cute little graphics by various software programs is looking juvenile, like an incorrect solution to what is clearly a problem based in punctuation. Consider the way that punctuation is essential to the creation of meaning in this singular statement:

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    Discolored Computing?

    story © Michael Betancourt | published March 21, 2009 | permalink | TwitThis Digg Facebook StumbleUpon  |  Print


    Has your older computer equipment turned an ugly beige? (Assuming that it hasn't always been beige.) Then the Retr0Bright project might be for you. It's a way to de-discolor older plastics that have turned yellow from UV radiation. The results are impressive.


    Thought Forms Illustrations

    story © Michael Betancourt | published May 8, 2007 | permalink | TwitThis Digg Facebook StumbleUpon  |  Print


    Thought Forms illustrations scanned and put on-line for your information. Besant's book may have been influential on early abstraction, especially both Kandinski and (possibly) Fischinger. Note the illustration that looks a lot like Fischinger's work.


    Frank Lloyd Wright at Disney

    story © Michael Betancourt | published December 17, 2006 | permalink | TwitThis Digg Facebook StumbleUpon  |  Print


    Disney History blog has posted several pages of transcript of FLW talking to Disney animators about their use of music. From what they're talking about it sounds like this discussion may relate to the origins/development of Fantasia since the use of music FLW talks about it closer to Fischinger's work than to Disney's other films.

    via Cartoon Brew