Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Ducks should be free from persecution

Should you happen to find yourself in Newcastle between the 10th and 13th of May, and you really felt the desire to do so, you could visit Field Gallery - located at 255 King St, Newcastle [if you do this, I would strongly suggest visiting between the hours of 12pm to 5pm; disappointment may ensue otherwise]. Their current exhibition is entitled "The Farmyard Animal Challenge," which required artists to respond to a small farm animal they were sent in the mail in whichever way they chose. I was sent a pony, for the record, but didn't receive it until after the exhibition had opened.

For the show I produced a new work, Ducks Should Be Free From Persecution. Continuing a body of work which is centred around the reworking of footage from video games, this piece contains a sequence from the Nintendo Entertainment System game "Duck Hunt". The game's objective is simple; a duck flies on screen, you shoot it, then you wait for the next one. You receive three shots at each duck, and must shoot [I hesitate to use the word kill, as there's no blood, but I guess that's effectively what you are doing] a certain quota to progress to the next level. If you fail to reach the quota, the game is over. There are options to play the game with two ducks on screen, or even a mode where you shoot clay pidgeons. Very exciting.

Using the option with two ducks [for aesthetic and practical reasons], I recorded about 15 sections of the game where the gun is never fired. In the actual game, missing the ducks results in hound appearing from behind the pictured green bushes and laughing at you. I simply edited this out, and looped the footage [using about 5 of the recorded sections] so that the ducks continuously fly through; uninterrupted, without fear of execution.

There are a number of things going on in this work [most of which occurred to me after its completion], that make it quite different from the other works I have made in this vein. I could ramble about said things, but this most likely isn't of much interest to many in the here and now. Perhaps if I ever get around to a full blown website I could write a big think piece on it then. I quite like this work though, and have really began to feel for the ducks' plight. At the opening of the show, a small child looked at the tv this was playing on, turned to his Dad and asked "Why does it say 'shot' Dad?"

"Because you shoot them son," came his quick reply. It made me quite sad to hear that, and I remember saying to myself "No! That's not the point, at all!" But I guess it is, as that is the the only reason the ducks exist. The importance though is the passive act on the part of the player / viewer. They could be shot, but the choice has been enacted to let them live. I think that's a much nicer way to look at things.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Another fantastic use of public mental space

Apparently they’ve made a film out of The Da Vinci Code. It also appears that Sony Pictures, who have put the money into the Ron Howard directed extravaganza, believe that people need to be told about this. A lot. So much so that Central station in Sydney has been converted into a three dimensional billboard in the areas attracting the most traffic, to the point where in every direction you look you are reminded that your role as citizen could be made that much more complete if you just took the time to see The Da Vinci Code. Of course, it would be nice if you read Dan Brown’s original novel on the way to the cinema, or at the very least listened to the Hans Zimmer composed soundtrack on your music delivery device of choice. It seems to be of genuine importance to the human race that this film is supported, so much so that the marketing doesn’t even begin to touch on this film’s potential to enrich the very fabric of our existence, it simply advises us mere mortals to “Be Part Of The Phenomenon”.

What are you doing still sitting here? Are you not aware they’ve made a film out of The Da Vinci Code?

I’m not so na├»ve as to bemoan the nature of this kind of saturation marketing, but it bothers me when advertising assumes a group of people are that stupid. This thing is going to make money, it’s a given. And how could it fail; the starring line up [which you would be able to see if I took the shot of the banners from the opposite side] contains nothing short of Forest Gump, Amelie, Magneto, Geoffrey Chaucer and Jean Reno! In doing this they seem to have covered almost every possible movie-going demographic, Ian McKellen for your superhero fans, Tom Hanks for… well, pretty much everything else, and with Audrey Tatou and Jean Reno you have TWO token French actors [because, you know, they go to the Louvre, and that’s in France, so they need someone to speak English in a French accent]. I for one am sold. Bring on May the 18th.

I hate that this sort of thing makes me angry, largely because I know it means the ad wins; since I’m spending my time droning on about it. Somewhere, there’s a marketing executive who is sitting in front of google tracking how people are reacting to their campaign, fingers crossed, hoping that someone who reads this may go to themselves “I want to go and see this thing that Daniel’s so upset about, just to see what all the fuss is about”. Don’t try and tell me that this is a ridiculous notion. As far as I’m concerned it’s no more ridiculous than spending millions of marketing dollars to publicise a film that most people are aware of based on a book that even more have read.

Back in the early days of my university degree, I came across the album Dispepsi by Negativland. Basing its content around the much-touted “cola war” of the late 80s to mid 90s, the tracks featured very heavily cut up commercials from two very large soft drink manufacturers, along with telephone conversations and really horrible pop songs [if for some reason you go looking for it, track 8, “All She Called About”, makes for some very eerie listening]. The thing I remember most about the album though, was a leaflet inserted into the liner notes from an organisation called One World Advertising entitled “A Proposal to Coke and Pepsi: Conclusions of the Corporate Cola Strategy Analaysis Project - WITH NON-PROBLEMATIC SOLUTION RECOMMENDATIONS”.

Basically, it suggests that both organisations could eliminate their marketing expenses by simply not marketing a product that almost every man, woman and child is familiar with. It’s a lovely thought. But then what would I have to post about? Content and quite possibly at one with the universe because stupidly receptive brain was free from bombardment of unsolicited data, maybe I could just read a book.

I’ve heard The Da Vinci Code is good.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Current adventures in pop music... 03.05.06

I'm not one to usually jump on the bandwagon of whatever has been declared the saviour of music for the week, but I have taken a particular interest in Gnarls Barkley of late. This collaboration between Danger Mouse and Cee-lo Green has caused all kinds of fuss, most prominently due to the fact that their first single "Crazy" is the first song in UK chart history to achieve number 1 status purely on the sale of legal downloads. This sort of news is being seen as a revival of the single, and needless to say is probably making a slew of record company types [and Steve Jobs... can't forget Steve Jobs] very happy.

But is Gnarls Barkley any good? From what I've heard I think so. It's down the line enough to make indie kids dance, alternative radio can play it without losing cred, and commericial radio can flog it until everyone's sick of it. There's something really interesting about this particular jaunt though, as this clip recorded from top of the pops in the UK shows. This is unashamedly well produced pop, but like the Gorillaz and even Daft Punk before them, this seems to be an excercise in seeing how much they can get away with.

I for one, am quite intrigued. That, and you've just got to love a group of people dressed as pilots and stewardesses for no reason.

Monday, May 01, 2006

I really just don't know.