Shoes by Barry Rosenthal
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Trash has given us an appetite for art.
Item one is from "Found in Nature," a series of photographs by New York artist Barry Rosenthal. One man’s eyesore is another man’s fine art. Although his main interests are photographing plants and other natural objects, he began collecting "colorful stuff" he found washed up on beaches. According to Slate:
Rosenthal said by arranging individual pieces of garbage into intricate collages, he’s able to give common objects more value. And though he said there are obvious associations to be made between his series and environmental issues of waste and pollution, it’s not necessarily his mission to bring these concerns to viewers’ attention.
Item two are scattered quotes lifted from Present Shock by Douglass Rushkoff. The author argues we have moved far beyond "future shock," the title of Alvin Toffler’s seminal 1970 book that dissected a world where people were no longer able to keep up with the pace of ever rapid change. Present shock, in contrast, is the result of that change — a world drowning in a digital tsunami of the always-on "now." The Berkman Center for Internet and Culture at Harvard University asserts that "present shock"
has altered our relationship to culture, media, news, politics, economics, and power. We are living in a digital temporal landscape, but instead of exploiting its asynchronous biases, we are misguidedly attempting to extend the time-is-money agenda of the Industrial Age into the current era. The result is a disorienting and dehumanizing mess, where the zombie apocalypse is more comforting to imagine than more of the same.
Again, OT readers will be especially drawn to a chapter entitled "Fractalnoia" — a term Rushkoff uses to describe how people try to process present shock where everything is connected and reflects something or reminds us of something else. The world is a "holographic" universe where each separate piece represents the whole. Here is a key passage:
There is a dual nature to fractals. They orient us while at the same time challenging our sense of scale and appropriateness. They offer us access to the underlying patterns of complex systems while at the same time tempting us to look for patterns where none exist. This makes them a terrific icon for the sort of pattern recognition associated with present shock — a syndrome we’ll call "fractalnoia." Like the robots on "Mystery Science Theater 3000," we engage by relating one thing to another, even when the relationship is forced or imagined.
What I’ve done here, and just for fun, is to rip excepts specifically pertaining to fractals from Rushkoff’s book and place them reconstituted into an artistic rather cultural/political context. And why not? According to Rushkoff: "We can’t create context in time, so we create it through links." So, I link this to that. The result? Present-shocked self-similar trash.
Green Containers by Barry Rosenthal
Plastic Puzzle by Barry Rosenthal
Ocean Blue by Barry Rosenthal
"The repeating patterns in fractals also seem to convey a logic or at least a pattern underlying the chaos. On the other hand, once you zoom into a fractal, you have no way of knowing which level you are on. The details of one level of magnification may be the same as on any other. Once you dive in a few levels, you are forever lost. Like a dream within a dream within a dream (as in the movie ‘Inception’), figuring out which level you are on can be a challenge, or even futile."
–Douglas Rushkoff, "Present Shock," pp. 200-201.
Tiparillos by Barry Rosenthal
Straws by Barry Rosenthal
Toy Soldiers by Barry Rosenthal
"Since fractals were successfully applied by IBM’s Benoit Mandelbrot to the problem of seemingly random, intermittent interference on phone lines, fractals have been used to identify underlying patterns in weather systems, computer files, and bacteria cultures. Sometimes fractal enthusiasts go a bit too far, however, using these nonlinear equations to mine for patterns in systems where none exist. Applied to the stock market or consumer behavior, fractals may tell us less about those systems than about the people searching for patterns within them."
–Douglas Rushkoff, "Present Shock," p. 201.
Brown and Clear Glass Bottles and Jars by Barry Rosenthal
Forks Knives Spoons by Barry Rosenthal
Clear Glass Jars and Bottles by Barry Rosenthal
"You know that feeling when you’re holding a microphone and the speakers suddenly screech, and you don’t know which way to move to make it stop?…Deep inside that screech is the equivalent of one of the cyclical, seemingly repetitive Philip Glass orchestral compositions. We just don’t have the faculties to hear it. Computers, on the other hand, work fast enough that they have time to parse and iterate the equation. Like a kid drawing seemingly random circles with a Spirograph, computers track the subtle differences between each feedback loop as it comes around, until they have rendered the utterly beautiful tapestries that evoke coral reefs, forest floors, or sand dunes, which are themselves the products of cyclical iterations in the natural world. The fractal is the beautiful, reassuring face of this otherwise terrifying beast of instantaneous feedback."
–Douglas Ruskoff, "Present Tense," p. 206.
Shotgun Shells, Redlands by Barry Rosenthal
Disposable Lighters by Barry Rosenthal
Shotgun Shells, Pinelands by Barry Rosenthal
"The fractal is less threatening when its shapes are coming from the inside out. Instead of futilely trying to recognize and keep up with the patterns within the screech — which usually only leads to paranoia — the best organizations create the patterns and enjoy the ripples. Think of Apple or Google as innovators…Of Lady Gaga or Christopher Nolen as generating pop culture memes. They generate the shapes we begin to see everywhere."
–Douglas Rushkoff, "Present Shock," p. 218.
Balls by Barry Rosenthal
Bailing Wire by Barry Rosenthal
No Vanishing Point by Barry Rosenthal
"The fractal acts like a truth serum: the only one who never has to worry about being caught is the one who never lied to begin with."
–Douglas Rushkoff, "Present Shock," p. 219.
To see some larger renditions of Rosenthal’s work, surf to this page on Slate.