Artifacts

5star's picture

Artifacts ... that's what in graphic design is know as those wondering almost rebel pixels of information that somehow manage to stray from the norm in a raster (a.k.a. bitmap) format.

But make no mistake, Artifacts, no matter how much 'freedom' they think they represent/enjoy are still a product of being mathematically generated and are fostered via synthetic means. Still though, they are not quite as, or allow me to say 'obediently consistent', as are all the other family raster members that go on in a more orderly fashion to create a harmonious bitmap composition.

Artifacts.

According to my savvy interwebs searches through various dictionary sites - there are other definitions.

But...

It is my understanding that the freest of free individuals, not only in America but around the world, are those Artifacts that live a daily grind normally associated with the common life cycle of birth-school-work-die ... somehow find brief moments of unattachment from the 'normal' drudgery whilst maintaining a relationship and true association to the whole!! Truth being, if not for the 'whole' there would not a be a single Artifact pixel itself!

Again, please make no mistake, Artifacts are still part of an artificial existence.

As an interesting footnote, the more you squeeze raster / bitmap pixels of information in various formats (a.k.a. file compression), and reduce quality - there seems to be more and more Artifacts.

n.

JamesM's picture

Neil, thanks for the additional info.

I followed your procedure exactly (I'm using Photoshop CS 5) and still got no perceivable artifacts. I wonder if maybe your original background wasn't pure white.

I know this doesn't change your original point, but I'm just wondering if maybe something in your technique is causing artifacts to be more a problem than they should be.

In your everyday work, you're saving your working files as native Photoshop files .psd files aren't you? (Unlike your test procedure, in which you "saved for web" twice to increase degradation; in effect making a Xerox of a Xerox).

Normally you should never save a file in the JPG or GIF formats (which are lossy) until the very final step, and the working file should remain .psd, so if you need to make further changes you can do it to the .psd file so you'll be working with a pristine image.

hrant's picture

Although one can learn to love artifacts (not least because they represent an enabling economy) they still can't be considered good of themselves.

BTW, GIF is not lossy (it's just that dithering kicks in with >256 colors).

as soon as possible!

Uh, the way that works is you're supposed to take your time.

hhp

5star's picture

James, I find that fascinating. Did you zoom in on a corner? And yes I always save my work as .psd files. I've been doing that since back-in-the-day starting with Ps 7. I then burn them to disks. Do you? It's great looking back at some of the old .psd files, my stacks and stacks of layers - lol!! I used to be so afraid of deleting any layer just in case I needed it to retrace a thought process ... :)

hrant, I'm a second gen tortured soul of that I'm sure. Raised up in my father's studio I learnt early on that being driven by the Idea is a 'tao' all in itself.

There doesn't seem to be an off switch.

And if I can, I'll take on several ideas at a time. What a contrast that must be to a type designer who can focus and focus for hours and days on end upon one goal / idea.

For instance, today I got a little pissed off with all the yuppies lounging with their latest ipads over at star bucks. So, I got this idea to rebel in my own way - lol. I searched all around town and finally found a vintage portable typewriter - in great condition too - Royal Companion circa 1960. Went over to staples picked up a pad of paper and some white out - and then headed back over to star bucks . Bought a high octane coffee and sat down right in the middle of no less than five ipad yuppies, plunked down my most awesome Royal Companion, open up the case, fed in some paper and started typing. I had the coffee in one hand and banging on these really difficult keys with the other - only stopping to either get out the white out, or to feed in another sheet of paper.

:)

After a very short while I had everyone's attention including the manager who couldn't stop laughing! Unfortunately though, it only provoked the ipads to search online - vintage stuff and steam punked stuff and begin a communal discussion. Which as I look back now might have been the Idea's goal after all. I finished my coffee, packed up my most awesome companion and left somewhat contented...

I think that is my only - good place - the brief moment(s) after an idea has been successfully brought to live in the light of day.

n.

JamesM's picture

> I then burn them to disks. Do you?

Yep, I always try to archive my layered photoshop files. It can save lots of work if I ever need to rework the image.

The only problem is that if I pull out an old photoshop file with a ton of layers, it may take me a while to figure out why I constructed it that way and what all the layers do. Especially if I was lazy and didn't give the layers meaningful names.

oldnick's picture

Neil,

Your typewriter story provides yet another example of how our preconceptions affect what appears to be reality to us.

I suspect that what rankled your about “all the yuppies lounging with their latest ipads over at star bucks” was that they were, essentially, engaged in Performance Art, based on the premise “Look at me: I am the epitome of the twenty-first century hipster.” Your response was itself Performance Art: fighting fire with fire, if you will. So, your response wasn’t a new idea: it was a variation on a theme with a wry twist.

As such, you deserve points for irony: the badges of “hip” are fungible. The manager obviously got it.

5star's picture

jamesM, I can relate to the no name layers ... lol, sigh. My all time favorite short cut key combo is shift+ctrl+alt+e (sorry, I have no idea what that is on a mac), I use it all the time to check what's what ... and I time/date stamp them ... LOL!! More often than not I'll have a lot of these in one .psd and somehow I understand it all. If it works, don't knock it right?

Nick, thanks for the performance art cred! I'm having the typewriter's steel case chromed ... :)

Isn't reality intangible? Truth too?

n.

dezcom's picture

I wish I could find one of the old telephones that my grandmother had on her kitchen wall. You had to crank it by hand to ring the operator and tell her who you wanted to call. I would love to walk down the street talking to it just to see the looks on the faces of all the cell phone users!

oldnick's picture

Chris,

Don’t foreget the hat to go with it…

dezcom's picture

PERFECT, Nick!

JamesM's picture

I saw this in an office supply store and seriously considered buying one.

HVB's picture

I'm reminded of the old joke whose punchline is "Why don't you wear a wristwatch like everybody else?"

Thomas Phinney's picture

> BTW, GIF is not lossy (it's just that dithering kicks in with >256 colors).

Urm. Well, another way of putting that is “GIF is not lossy... as long as there 256 colors or fewer in the original image.”

T

Té Rowan's picture

"You can do everything you want with GIF. You just have to be careful about your wants." (Granville King, paraphrased beyond all recognition)

And when your wants exceed the GIF's abilities, there's PNG (Portable Network Graphics).

hrant's picture

But one thing you can't want with any lossless format (PNG being one) is a high quality/downloadspeed ratio (relativity notwithstanding).

hhp

oldnick's picture

But one thing you can't want with any lossless format (PNG being one) is a high quality/downloadspeed ratio (relativity notwithstanding).

That all depends on what you want to show. The 600×250 PNGs I currently use for full alphabet displays on my website routinely weigh in under 15kb, and they're as sharp as a tack (or smooth, crisp or strong, depending on my anti-alias setting).

hrant's picture

Oh, I'm a GIF* myrmidon myself (probably because I'm also a type guy). But being able to easily share family photos is nothing to sneeze at either.

* To me isn't PNG different enough to warrant switching.

hhp

Té Rowan's picture

'S OK. I, too, prefer GIFs when possible. After all, not everything needs TrueColor and/or an alpha gradient. Mind, I'd've liked to see MNG get a chance.

5star's picture

So, it seems way back in May '09 the then editor-in-chief of Artforum Mr. Tim Griffin wrote a interesting article entitled Artifacts.

http://artforum.com/inprint/id=22606

The gist of which is beyond me but I did take interest in the last paragraph which I have copied to here:

'Perhaps the problem itself—the feeling of something being lost—is, then, what needs sustaining now. In other words, unlike so many satisfying proclamations of an “end” at previous moments of cultural turmoil—even if only as a rhetorical device where, as Birnbaum says, the end of something like the novel is merely offered as another way forward—an unstable relationship with the past might well be cultivated. Technology, as we have observed, often plays a role in the shaping of perception, and an apt metaphor for our current predicament may be found in the realm of digital imagery and compressed files. Whenever a given picture exceeds the capacity of a system’s data rate, whenever an algorithm inaccurately renders an image—that is, drops necessary information in its attempt to produce a seamless visual representation—pixilation arises and the image disintegrates before one’s eyes. And yet, strangely enough, these imperfections, newly created by an inadequate interpretive model, go by the term artifacts: So it is that we might create similar distortions through our thinking and mistakenly take them as evidence of some historical reality. Worse, perhaps, when we discover our misapprehensions, we quickly move to correct, even to expunge them—precisely when we should be doing our utmost to sustain such images before the mind’s eye, to submit the artifacts to scrutiny, for these mirages of the past will prove a vital part of the picture of our present. '

***

So yeah, phrases such as 'algorithm inaccurately renders' and 'image disintegrates' and 'imperfections' (etcetera), and the human reaction to those I find to be interesting dramatic interpretations!

n.

5star's picture

The above linkage seems to function properly only if logged in to Artforum, here is the article...

May 2009
Artifacts
Tim Griffin

ONE DOESN’T HAVE TO LOOK VERY HARD to find a common thread running through the various texts in the current issue. Regardless of topic, it seems, nearly every contributor gravitates, sooner or later, to the same concern: that we are in the midst of an epochal shift the consequences of which are obviously powerful yet dauntingly unclear. “Something is falling apart right now, and not only in the art world,” says this summer’s Venice Biennale curator, Daniel Birnbaum, speaking to the ways in which our volatile social and economic context risks making any cultural endeavor seem out of tune, if not passé. “I think we’re at a moment in history where we’ve already begun a kind of apocalypse of thought,” director Jim Jarmusch adds, as if in direct reply. “All the models we have been led to believe in are crumbling.” (And so, he says, the structure of his newest film revolves around ideas of the unconscious: After all, if the terms for subjectivity are changing rapidly, we’d better make records of the latter before it becomes entirely unrecognizable to our own eyes.) These sentiments are only confirmed by critic Bruce Hainley in his survey of Larry Johnson’s artwork over the past twenty years. The author returns time and again to the artist’s lingering subtext of perishability, which extends from depictions of yesterday’s technologies to intimations about the arcane tasks of pedagogy and critical writing and, further, to the fashioning of identity itself, which such technologies would shape. The underlying question, and the stakes: As the cultural conditions of the postwar era seem finally on the wane, who is the producer of art today—and for whom is art made? “The ‘I’ is over, elided, deceased, absented,” Hainley surmises. “There’s no thinking ‘eye’ to see or read, no more subject to leave a trace, everything disappeared into nevermore, into névé.”

In truth, our sense of history has been markedly unstable for some years. Immediately before the financial crisis—which undoubtedly provided the spark for much of the consternation above—there was, for instance, the “war on terror,” whose borderless expanse scrambled the coordinates of time for no other reason than that its paradigm was designed never to end. Now, however, it is our relationship to an unsettled past that seems as much a source of disquiet as our increasingly ambiguous future, recent decades suddenly not what they once appeared to be. In fact, our sense of the present seems to hinge on our reconstruction of the previous few years: How else can we reconcile its image of prosperity with our current grasp of what was residing, more abstractly and systemically, everywhere under the surface? And how else might art chart its course without somehow taking stock of the ways in which its basic form—or even its very idea—was enmeshed in a flawed understanding of those earlier cultural conditions? Many lectures and panels have lately been devoted to precisely these questions, reevaluating the recent past, revisiting the precursors of postmodernism and modernism—even seeking out some approximation of an earlier hour’s public sphere—in order to regain some of art’s bearings. (One gets a distinct sense on these occasions of people awkwardly trying to summon some memory—not only of, say, how public discourse and theory are not separate from everyday life but also of how to engage an audience, or of how to be an audience, within such an engaged framework.) But here a note of caution sounded by artist Lorraine O’Grady seems worth considering. Looking back in these pages at an exhibition she organized in the East Village during the early 1980s, she wonders what might have become of certain artists had events unfolded differently—if critics or collectors had, for example, simply given a particular artist’s work more attention. As compelling in her ruminations, however, is a suspicion of the historical impulse, of the very desire to establish set narratives for the past when there will always be worthy alternatives: “There are so many coexisting tendencies in any given time,” she says. “What is lost when the present reduces the past, ties it up with a ribbon so it can move on to the future? Is that result necessary? Is it real?”

Perhaps the problem itself—the feeling of something being lost—is, then, what needs sustaining now. In other words, unlike so many satisfying proclamations of an “end” at previous moments of cultural turmoil—even if only as a rhetorical device where, as Birnbaum says, the end of something like the novel is merely offered as another way forward—an unstable relationship with the past might well be cultivated. Technology, as we have observed, often plays a role in the shaping of perception, and an apt metaphor for our current predicament may be found in the realm of digital imagery and compressed files. Whenever a given picture exceeds the capacity of a system’s data rate, whenever an algorithm inaccurately renders an image—that is, drops necessary information in its attempt to produce a seamless visual representation—pixilation arises and the image disintegrates before one’s eyes. And yet, strangely enough, these imperfections, newly created by an inadequate interpretive model, go by the term artifacts: So it is that we might create similar distortions through our thinking and mistakenly take them as evidence of some historical reality. Worse, perhaps, when we discover our misapprehensions, we quickly move to correct, even to expunge them—precisely when we should be doing our utmost to sustain such images before the mind’s eye, to submit the artifacts to scrutiny, for these mirages of the past will prove a vital part of the picture of our present.

***

n.

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