On loops, feedback, and other symbology

A recent article at Aeon magazine proposed that one of the master symbols of twentieth century biology, the double-helix structure of DNA, should be replaced by the symbol of a feedback loop. Jamie Davis provides a quick tour of the ways that understanding DNA has failed to capture or explain the development of organisms. The technology to sequence the genomes of many organisms has only developed in the last two decades and the optimistic hope that once the sequences were completed we would then be able to understand the whole of the organism, the causes of diseases, and much more has been mostly dashed.

Movies that open and close doors

I’ve been watching a lot of television and movies over the past few weeks, mostly as a thought avoidance tactic. But no matter how hard I try there are always some signifying items that cross my view and threaten to expand into lifelong, or at least week-long, thought obsessions. Two recent movies illustrate this contrasting reaction. The first is In the Loop, a biting satire of the politics that led to the Iraq war a scant ten years ago.

The NewAesthetic and the Sound of the Future

Two interesting articles passed the transom recently. Bruce Sterling started it all with a post on the NewAesthetic - a tumblr that has been collecting visual examples of our current age under the non-manifesto title the “New Aesthetic.” Most of these images are inspired by computer imagery, data mining, and new GIS technologies. Part of what they have in common is recording the breakdown of the digital and the unexpected appearence of the digital in the analog world.

Documenting another era in time

I just watched Harvard Beats Yale 29-29, a documentary about the 1968 football Game between Harvard and Yale. The game is one of the more infamous comeback stories from college football, with Harvard tying the score in the final seconds. Yale was heavily favored to win, and led for most of the game but then everything fell apart. “It was as if some spirit came into the stadium and turned everything around,” says one of the players interviewed in the film.

Sending the Elevator Back Down

I just watched a very nice speech by one of my favorite actors, Kevin Spacey, on the importance of public funding for the arts. Spacey was speaking as part of Arts Advocacy day. In the speech he used a metaphor, taught to him by Jack Lemmon, about “sending the elevator back down” to help new people enter your profession, whether it be the arts or anything else. I think that’s a brilliant summation of an attitude that more of us should share.

Time Lapse Photography of the Aurora Borealis

Two recent time lapse videos of the Northern Lights have crossed my path recently. They combine two of my perennial fascinations - time and the sky - so I couldn’t help but be impressed. Both of the videos are produced by Norwegian photographers who have been benefiting from the recent increase in solar activity. Watching the aurora in person is one of the only reason I’d consider moving to such a norther clime.

Guillermo Kuitca at Walker Art Center

A new exhibition of paintings and drawings by Guillermo Kuitca, the Argentinian artist, just opened at the Walker Art Center this weekend. I went in to view the exhibition and see the artist interviewed by Olga Viso and Douglas Dreishpoon, two of the curators for the show. There were a couple of works that caught my attention as I wandered through the gallery before the discussion. In the first gallery there is a smaller canvas that has a large black polyhedra with lighter round ink impressions surrounding.

Art, Despair, and Virginia Woolf

I’ve been reading To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf this summer. It is a wonderful and brilliant piece of art, part of the high modernist literary flowering from the first half of the twentieth century. The style reminds me of Henry James in many places, but with a smoother syntax. The link to James is the focus on internal dialogue, the thoughts that go on inside each of us when we think about our family; Woolf takes that idea and develops it to a fever pitch.

Nina Simon on the Participatory Museum at Walker Art Center

Nina Simon the author of The Participatory Museum and the Museum 2.0 weblog was in the Twin Cities this week to promote her book at an event hosted by the Walker Art Center. I was already at the Walker to give a public tour and decided to stick around and listen to what Nina had to say which was a good decision. Simon spoke for half an hour about her work on encouraging participation by museum goers.

Seven Pounds - Moral or Immoral?

Is there such a thing as an immoral work of art? I attended a panel on this topic last weekend at Diversicon and have been thinking about the question since then. Opinion among the panelists and the audiences was divided, some clearly thought that a movie or a story could be immoral, others were less sure. There is not an obvious intuitive response to this question. The major example on the panel was the film Seven Pounds, starring Will Smith.