Sunday, July 09, 2006

The Art Gallery is Closed.

Mark Tansey. The Triumph of the New York School (1984)

Sometime in the 1850’s, with the invention of photography, painting became doomed to obsolescence. In the thousands of years leading up to this technological revolution, one of the main goals of painting was to accurately capture reality. Photography could record reality in a way that no painter, however skilled, could achieve. Although it took 150 years, painting would be dead by the year 2000.

Early black and white photographs couldn’t match either the vibrancy, or the originality of painting. Even so, most painters realized they were in trouble by the early 1900’s. Knowing they would loose the battle for realism, painters concentrated on color and fantastic compositions that photography couldn’t match. We can see this in colorful abstract cubist paintings and surrealism. Painters knew they had to deliver something that photography couldn’t.

Picasso in 1896.

Pablo Picasso, a talented classical painter, turned to abstraction. He knew there was no market for his classical realistic style, so he pushed the edges of his medium in terms of color and abstraction. Other classically trained artists like Salvidor Dali explored the fantastic – dream images that no photograph could ever capture.

Picasso in 1921.

Photography pushed ahead – movies could capture motion and sound in a way that no painter could ever hope to match.

Jackson Polock, Blue Poles. 1952.

By the 1950’s painting was loosing the battle of color to photography and printing. Jackson Pollock vibrantly spattered paint, and Robert Motherwell painted colorful gestures. The classic realistic painters faded away to nothingness. The painting “Triumph of the New York School” by Mark Tansey captures this moment perfectly. To the left, the old school painters like Matisse, Picasso, and Andre Breton prepare to surrender to the modern, represented by Jackson Pollock, Robert Motherwell, Willem de Kooning. The old school artists are dressed elegantly in World War I uniforms, while the modern artists wear the baggy practical GI uniforms of the US Army.

Andy Warhol, 1968.

Although the moderns survived for a few years, painting was dead. “Modern Art” represented the last spasmodic twitches of the painters. Having lost the battle for realism and color, painters counterattacked with more abstraction, and a general “artiness” that the photographers couldn’t match. Artists like Andy Warhol convinced us that being an “artist” was the important thing, not the medium. Warhol made soup cans and bananas into fine art, not because they were good, but because he was a famous artist.

Odd Nerdrum, 1995

A few dogged artists still keep at it, but painting is no longer mainstream. I enjoy a lot of modern painting, but I've got to admit that painting is dead. Still, some of it is pretty good. Odd Nerdrum paints surrealistic scenes which look like works of old masters. Photo realists like Clive Head blur the borders of painting and photography.

With computer games like Myst, something unexpected has happened. Computer animation offers photographic realism and it can do movement and color. Unlike movies, computer animation is interactive. Some movies like “The Lord of the Rings” are as much animation as photography. Soon, animation will be more realistic than live action photography.

Already, digital photography blurs the line between photography and animation. No longer can a photograph be accepted at face value. In fact, most photographs have been digitally modified in some way.

How long can photography last?

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Microsoft's Legal Problems

SEATTLE, WA - In a landmark decision today, U.S. District Court barred Microsoft Corporation from using the name “Windows Genuine Advantage”. The Windows Genuine Advantage (WGA) software is designed to thwart piracy and keep track of the programs and files users install on their computers.

“The program is neither genuine nor and advantage to consumers,” stated U.S District Judge Thomas Greenfield Jackson in a 60 page opinion. Judge Jefferson found that Microsoft’s usage of the name Windows Genuine Advantage was fraudulent. He ordered Microsoft to immediately re-brand the product to use a less misleading name.

Microsoft attorneys responded immediately by appealing the decision. “Considering the $125 million we contributed to the Senate and White House, this opinion is outrageous,” responded Microsoft Attorney John Morgan. “We expected better from the pro-business Republican majority judiciary”. Many experts expected the Reagan appointed Judge Jefferson to be sympathetic to the Seattle based software giant.

In Judge Jefferson’s opinion, he pointed out that the program offers no advantage to the consumer. In fact, the program collects personal information about the customer’s computer, such as software configuration, usage, and web-site preferences and forwards the information to Microsoft. The program warns users if it detects unsanctioned files on the computer, and bars users from downloading software updates.

The program also cannot use the label “Genuine”, because the majority of Microsoft products have been copied from other competing products. For example, Microsoft’s popular Internet Explorer was copied almost wholly from a product called Netscape Navigator. The company’s top selling Excel program is widely recognized as derivative of VisiCalc (1979), and Lotus 1-2-3 (1983).

“In fact, the name ‘Windows Genuine Advantage’ is an oxymoron. This is one of the most egregious excesses of marketing I have ever seen,” said Judge Jefferson. The court has given Microsoft 30 days to propose a new moniker for the product. Among the most popular are “Microsoft Derivative Disadvantage”, “Windows Enforcer”, and “Windows Ethnic Cleanser”.

In a related story, Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) lawyers are reportedly conducting negotiations with Microsoft to tie into the Windows Genuine Advantage program. The RIAA sees the WGA program as an ideal way to reduce piracy of copyrighted materials such as music recordings. Because 95 percent of all computers run on the Microsoft platform, this would offer the RIAA a powerful tool in identifying potential violators. Microsoft executives have reportedly been positive about the alliance, seeing it as a further means to crush the freedom of computer users.
© 2008 Raoul Rubin