Bombay Beach Biennale has come to the Salton Sea. Photo by Jennifer Swann.
FROM THIS EPISODE
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is being grilled by Congress Tuesday and Wednesday about political consulting group Cambridge Analytica and its harvesting of the data of tens of millions of unwitting Facebook users.
The social network has already been in trouble for allowing fake news to spread on its pages.
Now Facebook has made some tweaks to its design to give users clearer control over their information.
But can these changes help the social media giant become “friends” again with its users?
Jaron Lanier, author of the forthcoming book “Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now,” says that while a lot of “what goes on in social media is beautiful,” Facebook’s business model -- and that of related apps like Instagram and WhatsApp -- has led to “behavior modification empires” that are “absolutely not survivable,” that had been “foreseen in science fiction but never existed before.”
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Photo credit: Anthony Quintano.
Jaron Lanier, Computer systems expert and author of "You Are Not a Gadget : A Manifesto and Who Owns the Future?"
Back in the purer, simpler days of computer science, an artist named Alison Knowles teamed up with an electronic composer named James Tenney and together they created an early example of a computer-generated poem.
Both were based in New York and part of the experimental art movement in the 1960s and 70s called Fluxus.
The poem was created in 1967 with a Siemens System 4004 computer, using a programming language called Fortran. They gave a programmer at Brooklyn Polytechnic lists of four qualities that could be assigned to a house: material, location, lighting source, and inhabitants.
The program randomly assembled them into thousands of permutations in a long series of quatrains, that a dot-matrix printer then printed on perforated tractor-feed green and white lined paper.
That poem inspired a house -- taken from one quatrain from this poem:
A HOUSE OF DUST
ON OPEN GROUND
LIT BY NATURAL LIGHT
INHABITED BY FRIENDS AND ENEMIES
Knowles worked with an architect named William Breger to interpret these spare phrases. The house was made of fiberglass, covered with a thin layer of plaster. It consisted of two curving, bulbous shapes with tiny entrances you had to crawl to enter.
It was briefly installed on the lawn of a housing co-op in Chelsea. Then, when Knowles was asked to join the faculty of the newly formed Calarts, she insisted the House of Dust come with her.
Fifty years later, CalArts students have recreated the project, as House of Glass, inspired by a different stanza of the original poem.
DnA producer Avishay Artsy talks with CalArts critical studies professor Janet Sarbanes and Art By Translation’s Sébastien Pluot about the origins of the House of Dust, how it was emblematic of the school’s radical educational approach and “an exercise in architectural rebellion,” and why the new iteration is “a backward looking project, but it's also very much a forward looking project, but it's also mostly about activating the present.”
Alison Knowles, House of Dust, 1967-70. Installation, mixed media. Image courtesy of Alison Knowles.
You’ve probably heard of the Venice Biennale. How about the Bombay Beach Biennale?
This is offbeat art festival that just took place on the banks of the Salton Sea, the polluted artificial lake south of Palm Springs.
It is in its third year and it brings a mix of established artists and art world dabblers and partiers for a long weekend of all-night parties in abandoned houses.
The art consists mostly of installations in the spirit of Bombay Beach itself: lots of found materials, otherworldly creations that evoke the desert or even outer space, and what some might call "junk art." Some of the artists are also buying up property in Bombay Beach, sending up the prices.
So is all this a blessing or a curse for the local residents, whose median household income is less than $15,000?
Reporter Jennifer Swann visited the Biennale and talked with artists and Bombay Beach residents.
She found that some, like Louise Jones, felt “we have enough freaks in this town. We don't need any more.”
But Bombay Beach Biennale co-founder Stefan Ashkenazi says that “eight years ago you couldn't give a building away here.” He adds that the artists “are breathing life into a town that was was and still is literally dying.”
Acrobats posing near the shore of the Salton Sea. Photo credit: Jennifer Swann.
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