The Boston Diaries

The ongoing saga of a programmer who doesn't live in Boston, nor does he even like Boston, but yet named his weblog/journal “The Boston Diaries.”

Go figure.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Yeah, but is it art?

Bunny and I went to the Boca Raton Museum of Art. Bunny was interested in seeing their current exhibitions, “Shock of the Real” and “Duane Hanson: Sculpture and Photographs 1978–1995.

Bunny had initially thought that the “Shock of the Real” was a photography exhibit, but instead it turned out to be a series of photo-realistic paintings by several artists. She was amazed at the level of detail until I told her that most of the paintings were probably done by projecting the image onto the canvas and traced (only a few were described as being done this way, but I suspect most of them were done that way), as many Renaissance artists are suspected of using the camera obscura. This upset her quite a bit.

You see, we'd been having a months long discussion on artistic endeavours, the use of tools and the necessity of talent in artistic expression, and even the actual definition of “art” (one of my art teachers in FAU defined art as “that which is useless for survival”—an apt definition when you think about it). It would be difficult for me to sum up the current state of our debate and our individual stances (Bunny was initially horrified at the very thought of Microsoft's Songsmith, yet I loved the idea, but she understands musical theory and I don't, and she's softening her stance on that particular piece of software; I loathe PHP, but I understand programming, yet PHP allows non-programmers the ability to create dynamic websites, which I think is pretty neat (but I still wouldn't want to work with such code)—told you it was difficult to explain, much less sum up).

She felt at first that the photo-realistic artists were cheating by tracing photographs in oil, acrylic or watercolors (and man, some of them were hard to tell from photographs up close), but I reminded her of my final project in Drawing I at college—a self portrait, I totally cheated. I photocopied my hand (it was on an older photocopier—high contrast black and white). I then smeared powered graphite over drawing paper, then “traced” the photocpy on a light box using an eraser. Not only did I get an “A” on the project, but it was later stolen out of my office at IBM when I worked there (not only did I create “art” but I've had my “art” stolen!). Bunny thought I took a novel approach though, and this, coupled with a few more hours of discussion, began to soften her opinion on the cheating photo-realistic artists.

We both found the Duane Hanson exhibit less controversial, although still very interesting.

MTV's The Real World: “The Responsible Party”

Yes, I'm still watching MTV'sThe Real World.” And there were only two things that stood out in this week's episode: Katelynn and Ryan.

Katelynn, honey, I understand that Scott isn't your father, brother or boyfriend, but still, he is your roommate and it would behoove you to at least clean up your mess in the common areas. You do not come across well here (heck, none of the girls come across well in this episode). I'm just saying …

And second, Ryan. It wasn't Ryan per se, but his film class. I was amazed to hear that the film school was having the students film in 16mm, which I didn't agree with, and lead to a large discussion between Bunny and me (and became an extention of our art discussion).

I felt that the use of 16mm was a stupid choice as it's clear that everything is going digital. Standard commercial photography is pretty much all digital now, leaving Hollywood the primary user of 35mm film. I argued that yes, you still need to concern yourself with f-stops, color balance, composition, story (in the case of film) and editing, why bother with celluloid strips when it's clearly on the way out?

Bunny argued for film—don't you learn more about the craft by learning how it was done? And Hollywood still uses film, so why not learn about how it's currently done? And (to shift the argument away from things artistic) wouldn't learning assembly language, which isn't generally used any more, make one a better programmer?

She had a point. I countered that argument with the fact that assembly language is still there—regardless of the language used, the computer eventually executes machine code (for which assembly is just a thin abstraction) whereas digital filming replaces the celluloid strip for a CCD and a huge bank of memory, yet everything else (lenses, f-stops, focusing, color balance, editing, story) remains the same, so in that case, why learn something that won't be used any more? I don't know how to drive a car with a manual transmission, and in the twenty years I've been driving, it's never been an issue for me.

My point was further made when Ryan was shown editing his film on a computer and presenting a DVD to the instructor. So, obviously, the 16mm film he made was digitally transfered anyway. Bunny then said that the school probably had a ton of 16mm cameras, so why spend the money on digital cameras?

Other than those two points, the episode was there. The girls are slobs. The boys got upset. Furniture was broken. Phones thrown into the water. Angst. Angst. Angst.

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