Thermodynamic Causal Entropic Forces

A recording from the Memorial Day Picnic at 119 Gallery – Mitchel Ahern performing Thermodynamic Causal Entropic Forces on Swamp Thing II, based on a paper Causal Entropic Forces (easier to read article) by By A. D. Wissner-Gross and C. E. Freer. The canvas hanging as a backdrop is Thermodynamic Causal Entropic Forces, 2013, a multiblock typographic linocut monoprint on fabric.

Video by Steve “Rat” Albert.



Welcome to Control – November at Atlantic Works Gallery

Welcome to Control is an Installation of Typographic Monoprints, Mechanical Mind Control and Fiber Performance Art

There is a pervasive international, pan-dimensional organization known as Control responsible for cultural manipulation and management. Although the goals of the organization remain secret, Control has established a visitor center designed by artist Mitchel K Ahern.

Featuring work in large-format typographic prints on fabric, he incorporates them into performance and mechanical devices including the Scrolling Cut-Up Oracle of Control and a working Burroughs/Gysin Dream Machine in the Cone of Silence room created by Sarah Bennett.

  • Mitchel K Ahern, fiber performance artist
  • Show Dates: November 1 thru Nov 24, 2012
  • Opening Reception: Thursday, Nov 1
  • Third Thursday Opening and Performances: Nov 15
  • Additional Performances: Saturdays Nov 3, 10, 17 & 24
  • Atlantic Works Gallery, 80 Border St., East Boston Mass.

Help! Help! We’re being oppressed!

Once upon a time there was a people who felt oppressed.

They were beholding to globe-spanning corporations whose terms and conditions impoverished and restricted them for life. A hereditary oligarchy controlled the military, which was dispatched to do the corporations bidding. A hereditary monarchy managed international relations by trading their sons and daughters with each other through marriage. Religious institutions of state worked to keep the populace docile, and enforce respect for the ruling classes.

There were rebellions. One, in North America, shook off the corporations, oligarchs and monarchs and embarked on a radical experiment; they sought to create a government of the people, by the people, for the people. Religion was respected, but separated from the role of government.

Despite fighting a ruinous civil war to defend a government dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal, this nation has slowly traded away its birthright for money and perceived security. A rising oligarchy has been rewriting the rules to expand their share of the national income, to pass that income on to their heirs, to grant rights to corporations once held only by people, and to rig the election system so that only those with access to enormous sums can run for office. Specific religions have been entwined with the state, benefitting from largess, and providing support in return.

As a result this nation, which still prides itself on being an exceptional nation, which once led the world in the health of its people, in its level of education, in the potential for upward mobility, and in the achievements of its industry, has now so declined as to be behind the developed world in all of these areas. Only its military is still first in the world, and it has become a terror to the nations which once admired it, and a source of limitless corruption.

In the current election there is a candidate who has expressed full support for these changes; who is himself a member of the hereditary oligarchy. Who wishes to roll back civil liberties. Who wishes to roll back health protection. Who wishes to even further expand the military. Who supports expanded integration of religion and government. Should this candidate win it may not be possible to prevent this vision of a people free from unilateral domination by the oligarchy, the military and the religious authorities from perishing.

Meet me at the Multispace for a chai, flash book club and a quick staff meeting.

We used to go to the kind of space where we could sample, think about, consume and purchase media. That space might have been a bookstore, a record store, a library, a news stand, the video rental store or the public library.

But as our media has gone digital, physical browsing spaces have been disappearing. Video rentals are a thing of the past. Bookstores and record stores are declining rapidly. News stands shrink as magazines fail. Libraries are under financial pressure and have cut back hours.

And yet that urge to discuss, review and connect persists; what shall replace the space to do that in?

As goes the record store, so goes the office

There is another trend that may relate to this: the disaggregation of the office. With more people working from home, or working for themselves, there is a need for a place to plug in and drink an uplifting beverage. The sight of people tapping at their laptop, sucking on the wifi, while sipping at a latte is a familiar one.

Coffee shops have dabbled in media, and media stores have dabbled in coffee. Perhaps there could be a new kind of space that encourages and combines these activities and more. Larger than a simple coffee shop, with different pods for different activities: games, music, video, books, working, meeting and beverages.

Maybe it’s like a mall, after all

True, having a space large enough for so many uses would require more overhead than a single business would want to cover. So let’s say that there are lots of businesses, smallish ones, that are embedded in the space. The digital ones might be consumed through screens; there might be clever algorithms based on aggregate user preferences derived from the libraries in visitors’ devices. Come on in and meet with fellow fans, learn new stuff from other people in a comfortable digitally enhanced environment, with the beverage or snack of your choice.

There might be small/local food and drinks kiosks. Immersive game playing rooms. Business meeting rooms. Quiet reading rooms. Quiet working rooms. Assemblies of crafts people, or game rooms. Small businesses might come and go on an hourly basis. Make an appointment and set up your storefront, or showroom or flash gallery. And then take it down.

To me this sounds like a mall, or it might be retrofitted to a declining mall. It sounds flexible and fun. Someplace you can go for an hour or two, sample some music, sit in on a flash book club, play a video game, purchase something, make a call, get a little work done. It’s a fluid community enabled by the technologies that are working against community.

It might even be profitable.

I Don’t Want to Join You – I Only Want to Give You Money

I’m amazed at some of the dumb practices I see in online stores.

Imagine walking into Target and trying to buy a pair of socks. “Sure!” says the cashier, “just fill out this membership application, and we’ll take your money and give you socks.”

“Can’t I just buy the socks?”

“Sorry, no. It’s important to us to really know who you are. Just pick out your special in-store name, no not that one someone else has it. Not that one either, someone else has it too – here you can use this one and we’ll just randomly attach a number – don’t forget it now?”

“Can I buy the socks now?”

“Almost – just pick out a password so you can get back into the store next time you need socks.”

“Can’t I just come back when I need socks?”

“As a service to you we want to remind you when you need socks, so we *need* this relationship with before we an sell you these socks.”

“Finewhatever, here’s my password.”

“No, that one’s too short. Not that one, it’s too simple. Keep guessing, you’re getting warm! Just add a special character – no, not that special. Good.”

“Can I buy the socks?”

“Absolutely!, what color?”

Why does my phone keep asking me who I am?

My phone is one of the smartest devices I ever met.

It beats me at games. It understands me when I talk to it. I can ask it questions, and some of the time it gives me the right answer. It knows where I am; it knows where I’ve been. It guesses what the next thing is I’m going to type and corrects my grammar.

So why does it keep asking me who I am? Doesn’t it know?

Why does it keep asking for alphanumeric codes from my meat brain, as if I’m supposed to remember? As if my fat fingers are going to hit all the numbers. Sometimes it even makes other computers text me with other random codes to type in! Where does it end?

It’s with me all the time, yet I’ll be there in my own house and it asks me again who I am. Why doesn’t it know? It has a camera, and it can even recognize other people; why not me? I can take a picture of a receipt and get reimbursed, why can’t it take a thumbprint, or retinal print, or analyze my DNA?

I want my phone to know who I am, and negotiate with all the other digital entities for me.

Here’s a brand I would buy: Least

I’m sure I read this on the internetworks somewhere: use less laundry detergent. Lots less; less than half, even. And here’s how you can tell. Wash a fluffy hand towel using the regular amount of detergent. Put the towel in the sink and get it really wet and squish it around. You’ll get soap foam, a lot of it. Why? Because you’re using way too much laundry detergent!

And all that stuff goes down the drain, for millions of us.

Now I’m no hippy dippy never washes his clothes or hair type of character, but on the other hand waste for profit sake is just annoying and – wasteful. I think there’s a lot of products like this. You’re instructed to use too much of it. There’s too much packaging. It’s unnecessary.

So here’s a brand I would buy: LEAST. A range of products pledged to the idea of being the least amount of product possible. Less packaging. Minimum portions. No advertising. No added smells. Refillable. Easily recyclable, or better yet compostable.

And LEAST would have a whole range of products they just don’t sell. Scented air fresheners. Fabric softener. Avocado slicers. But they should have little tags in the aisle where those things would go: “Least doesn’t make one of these because you don’t need it.”

On the Radio: Poaches and Autonomic Requests

Every other week (more or less) I co-host (with Andy Cimino) a radio program called Music Under the Moon. We play a shifting mix of musics centered on a sort of prog/experimental theme but going well out to world musics, pop, jazz, classical with a good dose of spoken word, including a regular poetry reading.

We’ve been hosting this show for a few years now, but it’s based on an earlier iteration that ran for almost ten years in the 70′s and 80′s, with Mark Mills co-hosting. The station is WCUW, a community radio station broadcasting and streaming Worcester, MA.

So given the number of years we’ve been doing the show you might think we’d seen it all, and yet in last weeks show we saw two new interesting phenomenon: listeners submitting requests through Facebook posts that included the requested song as a YouTube video, and the other thing was that the DJ (me) was following various Facebook comment threads and if it was about music finding a tune and playing it with a link to the thread.

Autonomic Requests

So in the first case, having listeners pull their own request, there’s a subtle change in the dynamic of a request. In the old days someone would call in a request and someone would have to go back to the record library and pull something approximate. It took time, and rarely yielded the right thing.

More recently we’ve been pulling requests from YouTube (where practically every song ever is attached to some sort of video). This is certainly easier, but even still requires an action on the part of the DJ.

By fetching their own request, listeners are participating nearly as equals to the DJ. After all the DJs are playing their tunes electronically (well I am anyway), so playing a request is little more than opening an email an hitting “PLAY.” By increasing the number of requests  the show could transmogrify into a crowd-sourced activity, rather like APP XXX, but tied to a broadcast/web cast radio station.

Poached “Requests”

The other scenario, involves keeping a laptop open to Facebook and Twitter for the show and personal pages. When I noticed people talking about music (as so many friends and subscribers do) I’d go grab something off of YouTube and queue it up to play. I would then  post a message in the comment thread saying we’d be playing that live and streaming in a few minutes. I don’t know if anyone tuned it, but they certainly responded.

Both of these models break down wall between the listeners and the DJ, and further blur the boundary between broadcast and streaming. I believe they point at a new programming model that is not entirely crowd sourced, but not entirely programmed by the DJ. It combines immediacy, improvisation and intentionality into a new way of engaging with the art form of radio.