Posts from art

Photoblogging: Tour Eiffel

As my extended vacation comes to an end, the question of how I was going to blog during it also comes to an end. For the most part it was the same as usual. There were a few reblogs on the days I didn’t want to blog. And some vacation oriented posts. The photoblogging experiment was largely a failure but I am going to give it one more shot before the vacation is over.

I saw this painting today at the Paris Museum Of Modern Art. It was painted by Robert Delaunay in 1926. It is called Tour Eiffel. I really like it and thought I would share it with all of you. I hope you like it as much as I do.

tour eiffel

Video Of The Week: The Visitors

We visited the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao earlier this week. They were exhibiting a video installation called The Visitors by Ragnar Kjartansson. It’s not easily captured in a YouTube video, but that’s the best I can do for all of you. Basically you walk into a big room and on every wall there is a video playing of a musician and each is playing a part in the song. You walk around and you hear the various musicians playing. It’s awesome. I loved it.

The Kickstarter Film Festival

The fourth annual Kickstarter Film Festival is upon us. Tomorrow night in Fort Greene Park in the fine city of Brooklyn NY from 7-11pm, Kickstarter will be showing films, and featuring musicians and local food purveyors. The festival will be replayed in Los Angeles on Sept 12th, and also in London later this fall.

Here’s a short trailer for the festival:

Here’s the website for the festival. It lists all the films that will be featured. Attendance is free.

And here’s a blog post that talks about how they selected all the films that will be featured. 

It’s going to be a beautiful night in NYC tomorrow night. If you are considering your weekend plans, think hard about spending friday night in Fort Greene Park watching the amazing things that emerging filmmakers are doing right now.

Crazy Glue

When people think of Kickstarter, they tend to think of the Pebble Watch, or Veronica Mars, or Double Fine Adventure. These were all huge projects that raised millions and got a ton of press attention. And yet those projects are the minority of what happens on Kickstarter. The heart and soul and center of gravity of Kickstarter are projects that raise $5,000 to do a book, $10,000 to do public art project, or $15,000 to make a film.

I backed such a project this week. It’s called Crazy Glue and its a film project by a friend of our family Raella Rothman. She is doing a visual treatment of the Etgar Keret short story, Crazy Glue.

Raella has hand drawn all of the scenes in the story and actors will play them out in front of the drawings on a green screen. My daughter Jessica is helping Raella by laying out the camera angles.

She needs $6,000 to make this film and already has $3,200. But she’s running out of time. The project closes on Tuesday. The video is below. If you are so inclined, you can back the project here.

Traces – A Group Show For Young Artists

It always makes me happy to see my daughter Emily send a tweet, my son Josh repost a song on SoundCloud, and my daughter Jessica post something to her Tumblr. They aren’t always so keen to use the services we back at USV, but they do come around to them from time to time.

But I think the biggest kick I got in this area was a few weeks ago when Jessica and three friends launched this Kickstarter.

It was funded quickly, over the course of a weekend, and they don’t need more money so if you are in the giving mood today, you might want to find another project to back.

If you live in NYC, you might want to attend the show. It will be at the Gowanus Loft in Brooklyn on June 6th, 7th, and 8th. The opening will be the evening of the 6th.

Although I have funded many projects on Kickstarter over the years, I have never made one. It was enlightening to watch Jessica and her friends Lenora, Zoe, and Lolita go through the process of defining and explaining their project, making a video, and scoping out the rewards. I gave them some advice here and there, mostly on the rewards which are great btw, and also on setting up Amazon payments. I came away with an appreciation for what a project creator goes through in making a Kickstarter. And of course, I experienced the thrill of pushing it out and the joy of seeing it funded.

I’ve said this many times on this blog, but I will say it again. Kickstarter is an iconic example of what makes the Internet so awesome. I am proud to be an investor and I am equally proud to be the father of a Kickstarter project creator.

Follower Counts

The other day we gave a friend of my son a ride from one side of Park City to the other. While I was driving, my son and his friends were chatting about the state of hip hop in Salt Lake City. Turns out another of my son’s friends met a local hip hop artist in the SLC airport earlier this week. They got to discussing this local hip hop artist. My son’s friend said “he’s very under the radar right now, he only has a couple hundred SoundCloud followers.”

Contrast that with Lorde, who emerged as an “under the radar” artist on SoundCloud a few years ago. Lorde now has almost 2.8mm followers on SoundCloud.

This phenomenon is certainly not limited to SoundCloud. Follower counts on Twitter have been a thing from the earliest days of Twitter. Subscriber counts on YouTube matter to emerging video artists. Follower counts on Wattpad matter to emerging writers.

The comment about the local hip hop artist got me thinking that for emerging artists, follower counts on the platform of choice for their media type might be the most important metric to asses the state of their career. It certainly sounded that way coming out of my son’s friend’s mouth. Under the radar means less than 1000 followers. Emerging means 1000 to 10,000 followers. Breaking out means 50,000 to 100,000 followers. More than 500,000 followers and you have arrived. More than 2.5mm followers and you are a superstar. Something like that.

Maybe follower counts are the new Billboard, Variety, etc of the entertainment and media business. It certainly seems that way.

A Couple Of Trips To The Future

During my year end vacation, I read a few books and saw some films. The two I want to talk about today are Dave Eggers’ The Circle and Spike Jonze’s Her. I am a fan of both artists and have consumed most of their prior work.

Though they are very different works, both take us on a trip to the near future and show us what our lives may be like. And, though I am more than a little bit involved in the industry that is taking us to that place, I came away from both disturbed and a tad bit agitated.

Banksy says that “art should comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable” And in that context both the Circle and Her are great art. If you are disturbed by the ever increasing role of technology in our lives, both works will comfort you. For me, they shook me out of my comfort zone and made me wonder whether all the things I believe in and advocate for are going to work out so well.

In The Circle, a young woman named Mae goes to work for the top tech company in silicon valley which is called The Circle. Eggers creates a company that to my mind is mostly Google with a fair bit of Facebook thrown in. Anyone who has spent any time in Silicon Valley will instantly recognize this company and all the great things about it. But the way Eggers tells the story, the dark side of The Circle is revealed slowly and surely. I don’t want to ruin the story for anyone who is reading it or will read it but I will say that the idea of radical transparency, something that I have advocated for many times on this blog, is taken to an extreme that even I would not be comfortable with.

I kind of hated The Circle. Many times I wanted to put it down. My wife and daughter urged me to finish it. Though I really like Eggers and his writing, I absolutely hated Mae and her story. It made a mockery of an industry that I love. And it made me uncomfortable loving it.

Her is about a man named Theodore who is depressed coming out of a recent divorce. He mopes around all day. He installs a new OS that is “personalized” and all of sudden he is in a relationship with Samantha who is a lot like Siri, his very own personalized operating system. Again, I am not going to describe much more than that in case you want to see it. The thing that made me literally squirm in my seat was the idea that a real person could have such an intimate relationship with a machine. I was completely uncomfortable the entire two hours.

However, I loved Her. It did not mock, but it sure did question. And all I wanted to do coming out of the movie was think about it and talk about it.

I know a lot of people in tech who are excited about the coming of the Singularity. I am not one of them. While I love machines and artificial intelligence/machine learning and all that it can do for us, I love humans and humanity a lot more.

These two works of art are, to my mind, about that human vs machines question and are an attempt to ask society if its happy with the place we are going to and getting there fast. If you work in tech, you should watch Her and read The Circle. Those of us who are building this future ought to subject ourself to this kind of art most of all.

DrawQuest for iPhone

I blogged about DrawQuest for iPad earlier this year. DrawQuest is the creation of our portfolio company Canvas. Since it launched DrawQuest has been featured several times in the iPad app store and has developed a large community of people who draw the daily quests. The quality and creativity of the drawings is really incredible. Here's a feed of the drawings that have made their way to twitter.

So here's the big news. DrawQuest is now available on iPhone. You can now participate in the DrawQuest community via tablet or phone (and iPod touch). And DrawQuest now includes the ability for a user to create a new quest. Until now, all the quests came from the company and they came once a day. There will still be a quest of the day but users can now publish quests as well to their friends. So there's more to draw and more to do.

The new DrawQuest was designed from the ground up for iOS7 and looks and feels great in your hand. So if you like to draw or want to draw more, please download DrawQuest and start drawing and engaging in the community.

Fun Friday: Fall Planning

Panterosa suggested today's fun friday. She sent me this email:

As the 'season' starts here, I wonder how everybody decides which art shows, theater and concerts to attend. It's such a pain to crawl thru event listing in NYC, let alone US or internationally.

I have longed for an art app which can follow artists, galleries, museum, themes and so on, like the Etsy taste map

I have seen a few apps like that but I don't use any of them personally. I do use the Songkick mobile and web apps to keep track of concerts I want to see.

For a broader view of what's going on in NYC, I have long relied on NY Magazine's Fall Preview issue which does a pretty good job of this.

What do all of you do? Let us know in the comments.

Public Sharing vs Private Sharing

Alexis Madrigal has an interesting post up on The Atlantic about "dark social" vs "public social". Alexis makes the point that private sharing via email, IM, and other means drives more traffic around the web than public social services like Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, Pinterest, etc.

Alexis makes the broader point in the piece that the Internet has always been social and that the emergence of these newer social platforms is overblown. I agree with Alexis that "dark social" is a very powerful driver of traffic, but I think Alexis is missing a big point about the power of public sharing.

Public sharing opens up the share to all sorts of interesting engagement that is just not possible in "dark social" systems. 

I will give an example of something that happened yesterday to make my point. I went a walk on the High Line yesterday afternoon. As I was headed north at the 10th Avenue Ampitheater, I came across this huge billboard art installation:


I was smitten with this piece and spent five or ten minutes taking it in. Then I snapped a few photos of it on my phone and posted them to Instagram, Foursquare, and Tumblr. I was curious about the artist and the piece but didn't really do anything to figure out who had created it.

This morning as I was looking through Tumblr, I saw that my post of the art installation on Tumblr had gotten quite a few reactions, including this reblog from Kevin Slavin. Here's what Kevin had to say about it:

I’m so excited to see this wash up in Fred’s feed and to see others responding to it.

It’s not labeled anywhere and there’s no obvious way to know, but this is an old piece by one of my two great early mentors: Thomas Bayrle.

Looking back, I realize I’ve blogged about him frequently in the last few years including Five filmsDocumentaan old piece I helped him witha quick reference in a post by Greg, and his inspiration in an old essay for Brockman.

There are so many things to know that give this piece additional gravity. To know, for example, that this was made by hand, back in the 70s, no computers, and that the distortion of the logo was done by stretching latex with pins and tracing it.

To know that Thomas was a textile designer before he was a full-time artist. To understand the direct connections between Thomas, Peter Roehr and yes, Andy Warhol, who had similar predilections and procedural approaches to repetition, all at the exact same time.

Twenty years ago exactly, I was an artist working in Thomas’ studio in Frankfurt, and it’s no exaggeration to say that he taught me how to see. Like any great artist, Thomas is an astronaut, and he’s brought back images of places we might someday get to.

That this car has arrived some 40 years after he made it… well, that’s because we’re slow. No matter how fast the network gets, no matter how fast the market moves, they’ll never catch up to artists who have all their sensors in play.

How awesome is that? Now we know who the artist is – Thomas Bayrle. And we know when he made this work, we know how he did it, and we know that Kevin studied with him. 

Public sharing of social media made all of that happen. Sharing a picture of the art installation with my wife and/or kids via gmail, sms, kik, or some other form of private sharing could not have and would not have produced this information. And even if it had, it would not have produced it publicly.

So say what you will about "dark social" and private sharing. I'll take brightly lit public social any day.