Everyone on Earth is actually your cousin

it's all relative
January 24th, 2016

Via Quartz: "So in this frenzy of procreation we’re all a part of, what’s the deal with our relation to the other people on this Earth today?
The simplest way to think about it is that every stranger in the world is a cousin of yours, and the only question is how distant a cousin they are. The degree of cousin (first, second, etc.) is just a way of referring to how far you have to go back before you get to a common ancestor. For first cousins, you only have to go back two generations to hit your common grandparents. For second cousins, you have to go back three generations to your common great-grandparents. For fifth cousins, you’d have to go back six generations until you arrive at your common pair of great-great-great-great-grandparents."

Filed under: Wunderkammer

End of 2015

Ten out of ten
31st December, 2015

Book I spend a good part of my summer break reading Infinite Jest. The first 300+ pages were tough but once Madame Psychosis was introduced the book had me. I can't remember any other book that made me laughed so hard I cried. It's themes evolve around addiction, entertainment and competition. Critics called it a profound study of the postmodern condition and I consider it a must-read if you want to get a grip on the times we are living in.

Cycling This year I did three day trips on my bike through Cologne with a group of friends. Guided tours by Frank Dommert from the infamous a-musik record store, who showed us parts of the city which I have never heard of. I organized he first one to celebrated my fiftieth birthday. It was the first day of spring, blue skies, and I couldn't have asked for more – including perfect company plus a yellow glowing canola field.

Exercise Looking myself in the eye with all my respect, and saying "My dear" [Meine Gute] did implode my concept of the Other and the Self. Try it.

Film A summer flu opened the opportunity to watch many Ozu Yasujirō films. Amazing grace with just one 50mm lens.

Lake Learned about a secret, forbidden lake and spent many wonderful hours there during this hot summer. To compensate for breaking the law I collected the garbage of other humans.

Law and Order Spent a day at court to experience myself as part of the people when the judge said, "in the name of the people". Totally recommended experience. One judge even asked us if we would have ruled the same way.

Let’s plays Discovered a new addiction and learned that computer games evolved into an inspiring, original and independent genre. For instance, check out Stanley’s parable.

Quote Love is that condition in which the happiness of another person is essential to your own.  –Robert A. Heinlein in Stranger in a Strange Land

Reality check I teached a masterclass, and won’t say where because when I asked the 50+ students none of them had ever heard about John Cage. Whoa. Guess this is telling me in a polite way that I am getting older.

Resource The over 300 talks from the Aruna Ratanagiri Buddhist Monastery in the north of England are an enormous well of deep insides, contemporary pointing, and great humour. Highly recommended for everyday life, and beyond.

So, here we are... And what is next?

Filed under: Wunderkammer

Consciousness or awareness is non-algorithmic

Quantum systems can also rapidly solve perception problems
December 6th, 2015

By James A. Donald: "Animals, including very simple animals, can rapidly and effortlessly perceive objects, whereas computers take nonpolynomial time to do this by all known algorithms [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6]. Our persistent inability to emulate perception gives reason to doubt the current paradigm and to look for an alternative paradigm.

Penrose[7] and many others [8, 9, 10] argue from practical considerations, Godel’s theorem, and on philosophical grounds, that consciousness or awareness is non-algorithmic and so cannot be generated by a system that can be described by classical physics, such as a conventional computer, but could perhaps be generated by a system requiring a quantum (Hilbert space) description. Penrose suspects that aspects of quantum physics not yet understood might be needed to explain consciousness. In this paper we shall see that only known quantum physics is needed to explain perception.

Bialek[11, 12] and Frolich[13] suggested on very different grounds that cells process information using quantum mechanical processes. Frolich suggested a class of mechanisms that might enable them to do this despite the high temperature and large size of biological membranes and macromolecules. Deutch[14] showed that quantum systems can solve some problems that computers cannot solve in polynomial time, but he did not show that quantum systems could solve perception problems. Penrose[7] conjectured that some areas where animals are superior to computers are of this class, but did not find any examples. Bialek[15] argued that perception is inherently non-polynomial if done algorithmically, and therefore neurons must be doing something remarkable, but he did not show that quantum mechanics would enable them to do this.

This paper will show that quantum systems can also rapidly solve perception problems, closing the gap between Bialek’s argument and Deutch’s result, and demonstrating Penrose’s conjecture. This result supports the idea that animals perceive by processing sensory information quantum mechanically in hilbert spaces corresponding to many strongly coupled degrees of freedom."

Filed under: Wunderkammer

Why do we forget names?

by Tom Stafford
December 3rd, 2015

Via Mind Hacks: "First, you should repeat any name said to you. Practice is one of the golden rules of learning: more practice makes stronger memories. In addition, when you use someone’s name you are linking it to yourself, in the physical act of saying it, but also to the current topic of the conversation in your memory (“So, James, just what is it about fishing that makes you love it so much?”).

Second, you should try to link the name you have just learnt to something you already know. It doesn’t matter if the link is completely silly, it is just important that you find some connection to help the name stick in memory. For example, maybe the guy is called James, and your high school buddy was called James, and although this guy is wearing a blue shirt, high school James only ever wore black, so he’d never wear blue. It’s a silly made up association, but it can help you remember.

Finally, you need to try to link their name to something else about them. If it was me I’d grab the first thing to come to mind to bridge between the name and something I’ve learnt about them. For example, James is a sort of biblical name, you get the King James bible after all, and James begins with J, just like Jonah in the bible who was swallowed by the whale, and this James likes fishing, but I bet he prefers catching them to being caught by them.

It doesn’t matter if the links you make are outlandish or weird. You don’t have to tell anyone. In fact, probably it is best if you don’t tell anyone, especially your new friend! But the links will help create a web of association in your memory, and that web will stop their name falling out of your mind when it is time to introduce them to someone else."

Filed under: Wunderkammer

Life is different for people who think in metaphors

A proclivity for metaphors has real consequences
December 1st, 2015

Via British Psychological Society: "Some people are literal minded – they think in black and white whereas others colour their worlds with metaphor. A new paper published recently in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology reports on the first standardised measure of this difference, and it shows that having a proclivity for metaphors has real consequences, affecting how people respond to the world around them and even how they interact with others. [...]

Remember, too, that metaphors are supposed to illuminate, particularly when it comes to abstract concepts that can be hard to pin down, like the subtleties of emotions. In another experiment, Fetterman’s team measured participants’ ability to correctly judge most people’s typical emotional response in different situations, such as when something unpleasant was happening that couldn’t be stopped. In this example, the correct response was distressed. Crucially, people who scored highly in metaphoric thinking style tended to perform better at this task. This suggests their colourful thinking style actually gave them greater insight into emotions."

Filed under: Wunderkammer

Talk @ Goethe Institute

A Perfect Match? On The Alliance Of Sound And Visuals
21st November, 2015

Jörg Süßenbach, head of the music devision at Goethe Institute Germany, invited me to give a talk on on the relationship between sound and visuals on 28 November 2015 for a congregation of international Goethe Institute members in Darmstadt.
The delegation will be in Darmstadt to attend the cresc Biennale 2015 which is focused on the topic of Images of Sound.

Filed under: Talks & Workshops

Talk @ MSD / Münster School of Design

A Perfect Match? On the Alliance of Sound and Visuals
19th November, 2015

On 20 November 2015 I will be giving a presentation at the Münster School of Design of Münster University of Applied Sciences on the historical development of my discipline Visual Music and will be focusing on the significance of the close interrelation between sound and images. I initiated the Visual Music major concentration at the Institute of Music and Media (IMM) of the Robert Schumann School of Music and Media and am also the founder and editor-in-chief of the important Visual Music Archive online forum.
Prof. Nina Juric and Prof. Gregor Kuschmirz are hosting the event, both alumni of the Filmakademie Baden-Württemberg who majored in Motion Design, a concentration I have been responsible for since 1998.

Filed under: Talks & Workshops

The Stanley Parable

Let's play
October 21st, 2015

Game with an amazing narrative, and a great Let's play by SgtRumpel.

Via Wikipedia: "Within two weeks of its release, the modification was downloaded more than 90,000 times. Responses of most players were positive, and Wreden became "an overnight internet sensation among hardcore gamers."
The Stanley Parable modification was praised by journalists as a thought-provoking game, praising it for being a highly experimental game that only took a short amount of time for the player to experience. [...]

Brighting's voice work was considered a strong element, providing the right dry British wit to the complex narration. Alex Aagaard from What Culture believes that The Stanley Parable 'will be regarded as one of the most pioneering games of all time' during videogames' transition from entertainment to a legitimate and respected art form."

Filed under: Wunderkammer

Anger Expression

...increases influence for men, but decreases influence for women
October 20st, 2015

Via American Psychological Association: "We investigated whether expressing anger increases social influence for men, but diminishes social influence for women, during group deliberation. In a deception paradigm, participants believed they were engaged in a computer-mediated mock jury deliberation about a murder case. In actuality, the interaction was scripted. The script included 5 other mock jurors who provided verdicts and comments in support of the verdicts; 4 agreed with the participant and 1 was a “holdout” dissenter. Holdouts expressed their opinions with no emotion, anger, or fear and had either male or female names. Holdouts exerted no influence on participants’ opinions when they expressed no emotion or fear. Participants’ confidence in their own verdict dropped significantly, however, after male holdouts expressed anger. Yet, anger expression undermined female holdouts: Participants became significantly more confident in their original verdicts after female holdouts expressed anger—even though they were expressing the exact same opinion and emotion as the male holdouts. Mediation analyses revealed that participants drew different inferences from male versus female anger, which created a gender gap in influence during group deliberation. The current study has implications for group decisions in general, and jury deliberations in particular, by suggesting that expressing anger might lead men to gain influence, but women to lose influence over others (even when making identical arguments). These diverging consequences might result in women potentially having less influence on societally important decisions than men, such as jury verdicts."

Filed under: Wunderkammer

Workshop @ Peter Behrens School of Arts

Listening attentively
October 12th, 2015

On November 11, as part of the annual Intra Muros week at the Peter Behrens School of Arts in the Architecture department of the Düsseldorf University of Applied Sciences, I will give a lecture on attentive listening. In my workshop I will juxtapose the concept of Silence by John Cage, the piece I am sitting in a room by Alvin Lucier and the graduation commencement speech This is water by David Foster Wallace and together with students practice listening while reserving judgement.
Oliver Kruse, Professor of Perception and Design Theory at the Peter Behrens School of Arts already initiated workshops and presentations on the topic of attentiveness and concentration as part of the Intra Muros week last year. This year he shares responsibility for the program with graduate designer Nicola Richter.

Filed under: Talks & Workshops

What Happens at the End of Infinite Jest?

by Aaron Swartz
October 3rd, 2015

Via Aaron Swartz: "JOI also created DMZ as part of an attempt to undo the effects of Hal’s eating mold as a child (recall: DMZ is a mold that grows on a mold). He left it along with the Entertainment (recall: ETA kids find JOI’s personal effects (670: 'a bulky old doorless microwave…a load of old TP cartridges…mostly unlabelled'); the tapes and the DMZ are delivered together to the FLQ) which is about this goal (it stars a woman named Madame Psychosis (a street name for DMZ) explaining that the thing that killed you in your last life will give birth to you in the next). The DMZ and the Entertainment were meant to go together for Hal. Now that the Entertainment has escaped, he needs to get Hal the DMZ."

Via Wikipedia: "Aaron Hillel Swartz (November 8, 1986 – January 11, 2013) was an American computer programmer, entrepreneur, writer, political organizer and Internet hacktivist who was involved in the development of the web feed format RSS and the Markdown publishing format, the organization Creative Commons, the website framework web.py and the social news site, Reddit, in which he became a partner after its merger with his company, Infogami. He committed suicide while under federal indictment for data-theft, a prosecution that was characterized by his family as being 'the product of a criminal-justice system rife with intimidation and prosecutorial overreach'.

Swartz's work also focused on civic awareness and activism. He helped launch the Progressive Change Campaign Committee in 2009 to learn more about effective online activism. In 2010, he became a research fellow at Harvard University's Safra Research Lab on Institutional Corruption, directed by Lawrence Lessig. He founded the online group Demand Progress, known for its campaign against the Stop Online Piracy Act.

On January 6, 2011, Swartz was arrested by MIT police on state breaking-and-entering charges, after connecting a computer to the MIT network in an unmarked and unlocked closet, and setting it to systematically download academic journal articles from JSTOR using a guest user account issued to him by MIT. Federal prosecutors later charged him with two counts of wire fraud and eleven violations of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, carrying a cumulative maximum penalty of $1 million in fines, 35 years in prison, asset forfeiture, restitution, and supervised realeas. 

Swartz declined a plea bargain under which he would have served six months in federal prison. Two days after the prosecution rejected a counter-offer by Swartz, he was found dead in his Brooklyn apartment, where he had hanged himself.

In June 2013, Swartz was posthumously inducted into the Internet Hall of Fame."

You might also be interested in The Infinite Jest Liveblog (massive spoiler alert !!), Erowid on DMZ, and How to Read Infinite Jest Chronologically.

Filed under: People

Prefrontal cortex

And the self model
September 30th, 2015

Via Wikipedia: "The self-model is the central concept in the theory of consciousness called the self-model theory of subjectivity (SMT). This concept comprises experiences of ownership, of first person perspective, and of a long-term unity of beliefs and attitudes. These features are instantiated in the prefrontal cortex."

The phenomenal self-model (PSM) "is an entity that 'actually exists, not only as a distinct theoretical entity but something that will be empirically discovered in the future- for instance, as a specific stage of the global neural dynamics in the human brain. Involved in the PSM are three phenomenal properties that must occur in order to explain the concept of the self. The first is mineness, a higher order property of particular forms of phenomenal content, or the idea of ownership. The second is perspectivalness, which is a global, structural property of phenomenal space as a whole. More simply, it is what is commonly referred to as the ecological self, the immovable center of perception. The third phenomenal property is selfhood, which is the phenomenal target property or the idea of the self over time. It is the property of phenomenal selfhood that plays the most important role in creating the fictional self and the first person perspective. Metzinger defines the first person perspective as the existence of single coherent and temporally stable model of reality which is representationally centered around or on a single coherent and temporally stable phenomenal subject. The first-person perspective can be non-conceptual and is autonomously active due to the constant reception of perceptual information by the brain. The brain, specifically the brainstem and hypothalamus, processes this information into representational content, namely linguistic reflections. The PSM then uses this representational content to attribute phenomenal states to our perceived objects and ourselves. We are thus what Metzinger calls naïve realists, who believe we are perceiving reality directly when in actuality we are only perceiving representations of reality. The data structures and transport mechanisms of the data are transparent so that we can introspect on our representations of perceptions, but cannot introspect on the data or mechanisms themselves. These systemic representational experiences are then connected by subjective experience to generate the phenomenal property of selfhood. Subjective experience is the result of the Phenomenal Model of Intentionality Relationship (PMIR). The PMIR is a conscious mental model, and its content is an ongoing, episodic subject-object relation. The model is a result of the combination of our unique set of sensory receptors that acquire input, our unique set of experiences that shape connections within the brain, and our unique positions in space that give our perception perspectivalness."

Thanks to Sylke Rene Meyer!

Filed under: Wunderkammer

A Groundbreaking Idea About Why Life Exists

by Jeremy England, a 31-year-old physicist at MIT
September 27th, 2015

Via Business Insider: "At the heart of England’s idea is the second law of thermodynamics, also known as the law of increasing entropy or the arrow of time. Hot things cool down, gas diffuses through air, eggs scramble but never spontaneously unscramble; in short, energy tends to disperse or spread out as time progresses. Entropy is a measure of this tendency, quantifying how dispersed the energy is among the particles in a system, and how diffuse those particles are throughout space. It increases as a simple matter of probability: There are more ways for energy to be spread out than for it to be concentrated.

Thus, as particles in a system move around and interact, they will, through sheer chance, tend to adopt configurations in which the energy is spread out. Eventually, the system arrives at a state of maximum entropy called thermodynamic equilibrium, in which energy is uniformly distributed. A cup of coffee and the room it sits in become the same temperature, for example.
As long as the cup and the room are left alone, this process is irreversible. The coffee never spontaneously heats up again because the odds are overwhelmingly stacked against so much of the room’s energy randomly concentrating in its atoms.

Although entropy must increase over time in an isolated or closed system, an open system can keep its entropy low — that is, divide energy unevenly among its atoms — by greatly increasing the entropy of its surroundings. In his influential 1944 monograph What Is Life? the eminent quantum physicist Erwin Schrödinger argued that this is what living things must do. A plant, for example, absorbs extremely energetic sunlight, uses it to build sugars, and ejects infrared light, a much less concentrated form of energy. The overall entropy of the universe increases during photosynthesis as the sunlight dissipates, even as the plant prevents itself from decaying by maintaining an orderly internal structure.

Life does not violate the second law of thermodynamics, but until recently, physicists were unable to use thermodynamics to explain why it should arise in the first place. In Schrödinger’s day, they could solve the equations of thermodynamics only for closed systems in equilibrium. In the 1960s, the Belgian physicist Ilya Prigogine made progress on predicting the behavior of open systems weakly driven by external energy sources (for which he won the 1977 Nobel Prize in chemistry). But the behavior of systems that are far from equilibrium, which are connected to the outside environment and strongly driven by external sources of energy, could not be predicted.

This situation changed in the late 1990s, due primarily to the work of Chris Jarzynski, now at the University of Maryland, and Gavin Crooks, now at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Jarzynski and Crooks showed that the entropy produced by a thermodynamic process, such as the cooling of a cup of coffee, corresponds to a simple ratio: the probability that the atoms will undergo that process divided by their probability of undergoing the reverse process (that is, spontaneously interacting in such a way that the coffee warms up). As entropy production increases, so does this ratio: A system’s behavior becomes more and more irreversible. The simple yet rigorous formula could in principle be applied to any thermodynamic process, no matter how fast or far from equilibrium. 'Our understanding of far-from-equilibrium statistical mechanics greatly improved,' Grosberg said. England, who is trained in both biochemistry and physics, started his own lab at MIT two years ago and decided to apply the new knowledge of statistical physics to biology."

Filed under: Wunderkammer

Black Mamba

Dominick Fernow and William Bennett: A Conversation
September 20th, 2015

Via Red Bull Academy: "William Bennett: I became very interested in the technology of drama, particularly method acting and building scripts and performance techniques and things like that. I found it fascinating how much could be applied to music.
Dominick Fernow: Like what?
William Bennett: Well, this is very influenced by Stanislavski, but what they call mask work. Where you just work in a mask or you literally go without a mirror for a couple of days – and how that affects you psychologically. Because so much of what we do, whether it’s in the real world or in the music world, is filtered through our illusion of identity. This illusion that we’ve created about how we see ourselves. When people say, I am this kind of person or I don’t do this, it’s really all an illusion because everything in actual fact is affected by what’s around you rather than what’s inside you. And so a lot of these activities I found very interesting for creating music, because you can get past these obstacles and enter a different domain where you can find very unexpected things.
Dominick Fernow: But is it about losing identity?
William Bennett: It’s not about losing – because there is such a thing as your core identity, the way I see it. But that’s very different from the illusion of identity – what we believe we are. The kind of person we think that we are is very different to what we really are. But it’s very difficult to bridge that gap and, artistically, I find that a very interesting place to explore."

Filed under: People


Roland Nebe

Six visual music clips for Grandbrothers

August 25th, 2015


How can artistically shaped worlds of images and the live performance of a band be combined into a music video? The motion picture designers WARPED TYPE, who specialize in Visual Music, explored this question. The group, which includes the two Music and Media graduates Andreas Huck and Roland Nebe, and the Audio and Video alumnus Florian Breuer completed a series of clips for the Grandbrothers duo, who also studied at the IMM.


The track Naive Rider marked its video premiere as a pre-release to the Grandbrothers' debut album Dilation on the website of British music magazine FACT TV. The video for the piece Arctica was presented by the US music magazine XLR8R and  reviewed in the well-known music blog Stereogum and elsewhere. The images prepared for the clips were also used as visuals during the release concert at Düsseldorf's Salon des Amateurs and at the Contre-temps Festival in Strasbourg.


Visual Music major Roland Nebe prepared the series of six visual music clips as his bachelor thesis under my supervision at the Institute For Music And Media.


Filed under: Students

Birth of Music Visualization

The Clavilux by Thomas Wilfred
August 13th, 2015

Via Modern Mechanix: "The Clavilux has three manuals and a triple light chamber, corresponding respectively to the keyboard and wind chest of the pipe organ. Disk keys appear on the manual, moving to and from the operator and playing color and form almost as the pipe organ plays sound.

There are 100 positions for each key, making possible almost infinite combinations of color and form. The music, or notation, is printed in figures upon a five-lined staff, three staves joined, as treble and bass clefs are joined for piano, to provide a clef for each of the three manuals. A color chord is represented by three figures as, for example, 40-35-60; and movement of the prescribed keys to the designated positions on the numbered scale of the keyboard produces the desired figure.

The artist sits at the keyboard with the notation book before him. He releases the light by means of switches. By playing upon the keys he projects it upon the screen, molds it into form, makes the form move and change in rhythm, introduces texture and depth, and finally injects color of perfect purity in any degree of intensity.

The light is concentrated into a beam which is projected through a form-producing device for depth and texture, then filtered through colored screens. And then in a darkened hall, through the three – dimensional projection of the color organ, the light pours from lenses at the back of the instrument and the flat white screen is made a window into space where fluid light-forms are built up in fantastic compositions. The result on seeing it for the first time is the same as if music had never existed and one were suddenly to hear the strains of a violin."

Thanks to Joost Rekvelt!

Filed under: Visual Music

What Did the Lady Forget?

The awesome work of Ozu Yasujirō
August 11th, 2015

A summer flu gave me the opportunity to watch Ozu Yasujirō films.
Via Wikipedia: „Ozu Yasujirō became widely recognized internationally when his films were shown abroad. Influential monographs by Donald Richie, Paul Schrader, and David Bordwell  have ensured a wide appreciation of Ozu's style, aesthetics and themes. Ozu was voted the tenth greatest director of all time in the 2002 British Film Institute's Sight & Sound poll of Critics' top ten directors. [...]

In the Wim Wenders documentary film Tokyo-Ga, the director travels to Japan to explore the world of Ozu, interviewing both Chishū Ryū and Yuharu Atsuta."

Filed under: People

Invinite Jest

by David Foster Wallace
August 9th, 2015

Via Infinite Summer: "There’s no wrong way to read Infinite Jest: front-to-back, upside-down, cut in half, or skipping around. But here are a few tips for the Infinite Jester.

Read the endnotes: Please. They are not boring bibliographic details, but rather an integral part of the text. And the bouncing back-and-forth is a feature, not a bug.

Use bookmarks: Yes bookmarks, plural: one for the main text and one for the endnotes. Doing so will save you hours of searching, and the aggravation of losing your place several times an hour.

Persevere to page 200: There are several popular way stations on the road to abandoning Infinite Jest. The most heavily trafficked by far is The Wardine Section. Where the opening pages of IJ are among the best written in the book, page 37 (and many pages thereafter) are in a tortured, faux-Ebonics type dialect. 'Wardine say her momma ain’t treat her right.' 'Wardine be cry.' Potentially offensive (if one wants to be offended), and generally hard to get through. Hang in there, ignore the regional parlance, and focus on what the characters are doing. Like most things in the book, you’ll need to know this later. Likewise for the other rough patches to be found in the first fifth of the novel.

Trust the author: Around page 50, you’re going to feel a sinking sense of dread, as it dawns on you how much stuff you’ll be asked to keep track of: lots of characters coming and going, subplots upon subplots, page long sentences, and more. You have to believe that what seems at first like a bunch of disconnected vignettes (like The Wardine Section) will in fact come together; that the connections among what seem like radically disparate plot lines really do make themselves apparent in time. But at first, it requires something of a focus on the local plot lines, and a leap of faith in the fact that the global picture will eventually resolve.

Flag, copy, or bookmark page 223: Page 223 of the novel contains some information that you will either need to internalize or refer to frequently to make sense of the narrative. Once you reach it, flag the page with a stickie, dogear the corner, photocopy the material, stick a (third) bookmark there –whatever will ensure that you can find this information when you need it.

Don’t do the thing you’re dying to do right now: Namely, flip to page 223 to see what we’re talking about. David Foster Wallace ordered the book the way he did for a reason, and part of step 4 above is respecting that. In fact, we encourage you to take the fingers-in-the-ears 'LA LA LA LA I CAN’T HEAR YOU' approach to spoilers in general.

Abuse your copy: When you are finished, 223 should be just one of many mutilated pages in your novel. Liberal use of tape flags, post-it notes, highlighting, or your anal-retentive page marking device of choice, as a means of keeping track of key passages you think you might like to come back to (or share with others), is encouraged. (Note: the preceding advice is not recommended for those reading on the Kindle.) If you can’t bring yourself to work over your only copy of Infinite Jest, consider investing in a second.

Keep notes: As if lugging around a book the size of a 2 br. 1¼ bath apartment isn’t enough, you may want to carry a notebook as well. You won’t always have the requisite Oxford English Dictionary within arm’s reach, you know.

Brush up on your Hamlet: It’s no coincidence that the first two words of Hamlet are 'Who’s there?' and the first two words of Infinite Jest are 'I am'. Even the novel’s title was lifted from the play.
As you read, it behooves you keep in mind the relationships between the characters in Shakespeare’s drama (the ghost, poor Yorick, etc.) and the central themes of the play. You can find a brief primer here.

Employ a reader’s guide: There are two companion guides that you may find helpful. One is Stephen Burn’s David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest: A Reader’s Guide. Burn’s guide is rather short (96 pages), but it includes a helpful chronology, as well as sections on the novel’s critical reception and key plot points.
Another guide is Greg Carlisle’s Elegant Complexity: A Study of David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest. [Full disclosure: Bucher is the editor & publisher of the Carlisle book.] Elegant Complexity is different than the Burn guide in that it offers a summary and exegesis on every section of the novel –and that it’s 512 pages long. Also included are chronologies, family trees, thematic discussions, and a map of the tennis academy.

Use online references: There are copious webpages out there that the first-time Jesters will find useful. Here are a a few:

You can find links to more resources at The Howling Fantods.
Obviously many of these sites contain spoilers, so poke a hole in an index card and only view your monitor through that while visiting one."

Filed under: Reading

The Dada Baroness

Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven
August 7th, 2015

Via The MIT Press: "Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven (1874-1927) is considered by many to be the first American dadaist as well as the mother of dada. An innovator in poetic form and an early creator of junk sculpture, the Baroness was best known for her sexually charged, often controversial performances. Some thought her merely crazed, others thought her a genius. The editor Margaret Anderson called her perhaps the only figure of our generation who deserves the epithet extraordinary. Yet despite her great notoriety and influence, until recently her story and work have been little known outside the circle of modernist scholars."

Via Wikipedia: "The Baroness was one of the characters, one of the terrors of the district, wrote her first biographer Djuna Barnes, whose book, however, remained unfinished. In Irrational Modernism: A Neurasthenic History of New York Dada, Amelia Jones provides a revisionist history of New York Dada, expressed through the life and works of The Baroness.
The recent biography, Baroness Elsa: Gender, Dada and Everyday Modernity, by Irene Gammel, makes a case for the Baroness’s artistic brilliance and avant-garde spirit. The book explores the Baroness’s personal and artistic relationships with Djuna Barnes, Berenice Abbott, and Jane Heap, as well as with Duchamp, Man Ray, and William Carlos Williams. It shows the Baroness breaking every erotic boundary, reveling in anarchic performance, but the biography also presents her as Elsa’s friend Emily Coleman saw her, not as a saint or a madwoman, but as a woman of genius, alone in the world, frantic.
In 2013, the artists Lily Benson and Cassandra Guan released The Filmballad of Mamadada, an experimental biopic on the Baroness. The story of The Baroness' life was told through contributions from over fifty artists and filmmakers."

Thanks to Swantje Lichtenstein!

Filed under: People

Typical Dreams

August 4th, 2015

Via TheLucidDreamSite: "One simple yet powerful approach to examining to what extent dream themes vary or are similar across regions, cultures, and time periods is by having sample populations respond to the Typical Dreams Questionnaire (TDQ), a forced-choice list of dream themes. In contrast to Hall and Van de Castle’s (1966) comprehensive dream coding system which scrutinizes complete individual dreams for such criteria as characters, aggression, fortune and misfortune, failures and successes, etc., the TDQ supplies a list of succinct themes which the participant acknowledges as having had or not. Unlike the pain-staking method of coding entire dreams for specific content, the use of TDQ’s in research allows for the rapid acquisition of useful information from many participants. The TDQ can be used to assess the lifetime prevalence of particular dream themes in a population or reveal the frequency for earliest, most personally meaningful, or other types of dreams."

Via Springer Link: "To investigate the dimensional structure of dreams, the Typical Dreams Questionnaire (TDQ) was administered to 1181 first-year University students in three Canadian cities. A profile of themes was found that varied little by age, gender or region; however, differences that were identified could be interpreted as due to developmental milestones, personality attributes or sociocultural factors. Factor analysis produced a solution consisting of 16 coherent factors that were differentially associated with demographic variables and that accounted for 51% of the variance. Women loaded primarily on negative factors (failure, loss of control, snakes-insects), men primarily on positive factors (magic-myth, alien life). Results support the concept of typical dream themes as consistent over time, region and gender and as reflecting the influence of fundamental dream dimensions that may be influenced by sociocultural, personality, cognitive or physiological factors."

Thanks to Stefan Scheer!

Filed under: Wunderkammer

An Autobiographical Statement

by John Cage
July 19th, 2015

Via John Cage: "I determined to give up composition unless I could find a better reason for doing it than communication. I found this answer from Gira Sarabhai, an Indian singer and tabla player: The purpose of music is to sober and quiet the mind, thus making it susceptible to divine influences. I also found in the writings of Ananda K. Coomaraswammy that the responsibility of the artist is to imitate nature in her manner of operation. I became less disturbed and went back to work. [...]

We are living in a period in which many people have changed their mind about what the use of music is or could be for them. Something that doesn't speak or talk like a human being, that doesn't know its definition in the dictionary or its theory in the schools, that expresses itself simply by the fact of its vibrations. People paying attention to vibratory activity, not in reaction to a fixed ideal performance, but each time attentively to how it happens to be this time, not necessarily two times the same. A music that transports the listener to the moment where he is."

Filed under: People


Aaron Jablonski


June 13th, 2015


Faces is an audiovisual room installation based on an Android app for smartphones and tablet PCs. When looking through the tablet PC, four virtual faces appear on a painted wooden cube suspended from a chain. The four faces slowly change their expression and make different sounds which are generated in the device by granulating audio samples. The work investigates the effect emotional expressions of animated faces have on those viewing these faces.


Using face morphing, the faces can assume many different human emotions and expressions and have a disconcerting and sometimes forbidding effect on the beholder due to their size and immaterial quality. The work thus makes reference to the uncanny valley effect, a concept from the psychology of expressive behavior, primarily used in the assessment of animated characters and robots.

The uncanny valley is a hypothesis in the field of aesthetics which holds that when features look and move almost, but not exactly, like natural beings, it causes a response of revulsion among some observers. The valley refers to the dip in a graph of the comfort level of beings as subjects move toward a healthy, natural likeness described in a function of a subject's aesthetic acceptability. In fact, as similarity with humans increases, there is a dip in the level of empathy felt because the observer feels a sense of revulsion. While an observer gauges a subject having a sufficiently realistic likeness to humans based on human standards, if the human likeness no longer fulfills these human standards, the unnatural aspect of this behavior triggers a sense of revulsion.


Supervised Faces in my Visual Music class together with IMM assistant professor Andreas Kolinski at the Institute For Music And Media.


Filed under: Students

How to Write an Artist Statement

Valuable tips
May 14th, 2015

Via Agora Gallery: "As a professional artist, you need to have more than your work to get around in the art world. Along with your portfolio, you should have an artist statement available at a moment’s notice. An artist statement should be considered just as important as your works.

An artist statement is most often the front line of communication between an artist and the public. It will be used when you submit your portfolio to competitions, galleries, and museums. It may sometimes be displayed when people are viewing your works in person or on your website. If it’s online, your artist statement will be read by people from all over the world.
There are many paths to becoming an artist, through school or an apprenticeship, or through inspiration and self-teaching but no matter how you got there, being a professional artist means that you have to have an artist statement. If you have never written a statement before, or aren’t sure that your current statement is up to art world standards, it can be a quite daunting task to compose one. [...]

Here are some valuable tips for writing an artist’s statement."

Filed under: Wunderkammer

The Psychology of Pricing: A Gigantic List of Strategies

by Nick Kolenda
May 12th, 2015

Via Nick Kolenda: "This article is broken up into four parts, with each part containing various strategies and tactics:

Step 1: Determine Your Price
Step 2: Influence Their Perception
Step 3: Motivate Them to Buy
Step 4: Maximize Your Revenue

Filed under: Wunderkammer


Milan Schell


May 9th, 2015


The installation and composition WRESTLING! by Milan Schell is an audiovisual music and fight simulation staged in space. The media lamp (visual) and loudspeaker (audio) represent two opponents who can be heard and seen trying to influence each other while attempting to gain the upper hand. The work is an example of anti-synesthetic composition: as the two audio-visual methods synchronicity and analogy are not used to combine stimuli or intensify them but instead used as a mode of interaction by two equal communication systems. The objective is to create audio-visual polyphony through the individuality and interconnection of both media channels, which could also be referred to as separate audio and visual voices. There are five sections planned for the composition.


The video shows the work-in-progress at the time of the bachelor’s degree thesis.


Supervised WRESTLING! in my Visual Music major together with IMM assistant professor Andreas Kolinski at the Institute For Music And Media.


Filed under: Students

Hand drawn on film and made from cut paper

Listen to early Soviet synthesizer music
April 6th, 2015

Via Dangerous Minds: "Sometime in the early 1920s the Bauhaus artist László Moholy-Nagy suggested that a new form of music writing could be created from the grooves in phonographic records. He believed experimenting with the groves would enable composers, musicians and artists to produce music without recording any instruments. Long before scratching, Moholy-Nagy also believed the phonograph could become an overall instrument… which supersedes all instruments used so far.

With the arrival of synchronized sound in movies, as seen and heard in the first talkie The Jazz Singer in 1927, Moholy-Nagy refined his idea believing a whole new world of abstract sound could be created from experimentation with the optical film sound track. He hoped such experimentation would enrich the sphere of our aural experience, by producing sounds that were entirely unknown.

In 1929, the Russians produced their first talkie, the snappily titled The Five Year Plan for Great Works. The possibility of synchronized sound inspired a trio of pioneers, composer Arseny Avraamov, animator Mikhail Tsihanovsky and engineer Evgeny Sholpo who were fascinated by the curved loops, arcs and waveforms on the optical soundtrack. The patterns made them wonder if synthetic music could be created by drawing directly onto the sound track. Of course, this they did, at first testing out vase-shapes and ellipses then Egyptian hieroglyphs—all with startling results.

In 1930, Avraamov produced (possibly) the first short film with a hand-drawn synthetic soundtrack. [...]

Elsewhere, Nikolai Voinov was developing the idea of cutting paper to create a synthetic soundtrack—a technique that used magnetic tape and an ultra-chromatic 48 tune microtonal system which was produced by drawing on the magnetic tape. Voinov produced very basic short animations using this technique such as Rachmaninov Prelude (1932) and The Dance of the Crow (1933)."

Thanks to Andrew Mottl!

Filed under: Visual Music

The Art of "Interbeing"

Legendary Zen Buddhist Teacher Thich Nhat Hanh
April 5th, 2015

Via Brain Pickings: "Sometimes we feel empty; we feel a vacuum, a great lack of something. We don’t know the cause; it’s very vague, but that feeling of being empty inside is very strong. We expect and hope for something much better so we’ll feel less alone, less empty. The desire to understand ourselves and to understand life is a deep thirst. There’s also the deep thirst to be loved and to love. We are ready to love and be loved. It’s very natural. But because we feel empty, we try to find an object of our love. Sometimes we haven’t had the time to understand ourselves, yet we’ve already found the object of our love. When we realize that all our hopes and expectations of course can’t be fulfilled by that person, we continue to feel empty. You want to find something, but you don’t know what to search for. In everyone there’s a continuous desire and expectation; deep inside, you still expect something better to happen. That is why you check your email many times a day! [...]

The essence of loving kindness is being able to offer happiness. You can be the sunshine for another person. You can’t offer happiness until you have it for yourself. So build a home inside by accepting yourself and learning to love and heal yourself. Learn how to practice mindfulness in such a way that you can create moments of happiness and joy for your own nourishment. Then you have something to offer the other person. [...]

Often, when we say, I love you we focus mostly on the idea of the I who is doing the loving and less on the quality of the love that’s being offered. This is because we are caught by the idea of self. We think we have a self. But there is no such thing as an individual separate self. A flower is made only of non-flower elements, such as chlorophyll, sunlight, and water. If we were to remove all the non-flower elements from the flower, there would be no flower left. A flower cannot be by herself alone. A flower can only inter-be with all of us… Humans are like this too. We can’t exist by ourselves alone. We can only inter-be. I am made only of non-me elements, such as the Earth, the sun, parents, and ancestors. In a relationship, if you can see the nature of interbeing between you and the other person, you can see that his suffering is your own suffering, and your happiness is his own happiness. With this way of seeing, you speak and act differently. This in itself can relieve so much suffering. [...]

The remainder of How to Love explores the simple, profoundly transformative daily practices of love and understanding, which apply not only to romantic relationships but to all forms of “interbeing.” Complement it with John Steinbeck’s exquisite letter of advice on love to his teenage son and Susan Sontag’s lifetime of reflections on the subject, then revisit the great D.T. Suzuki on how Zen can help us cultivate our character."

Filed under: People

Can Synesthesia Be Learned?

Adults Can Be Trained to Acquire Synesthetic Experiences
March 22nd, 2015

Via On Psychology and Neuroscience: "However, participants gained more than these perceptions. Bor et al. (2014) also found that participants who completed training showed an increase in their IQ by an average of 12 points, compared to controls. This suggests that there is something about learning synesthetic links that can result in an enhanced cognitive ability. These results are useful and exciting to explore. It is possible that this training could help individuals at risk for dementia or other diseases that cause cognitive decline."

Filed under: Visual Music

Workshop @ Academy of Art and Design Basel

The Self and the Other
March 21st, 2015

Regine Halter invited me to give the 2-day seminar The Self and the Other on March 30th and 31st at the Academy of Art and Design in Basel for their Conceptional Design Masterstudio students.
Have the great pleasure of co-teaching with Ralf Neubauer.

In the two days of the seminar the students critically reflect, analyze and discuss creating an identity for a client in the broader context of corporate identity projects.

Filed under: Talks & Workshops

Charismatic Psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan Gives Public Lecture (1972)

Dramatic pauses, ironic self-reflection, and storms of emotion
March 20th, 2015

Via Open Culture: "The footage above is from an extremely rare – and unexpectedly entertaining – video of the philosopher and psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan (1901-1981), giving a lecture at The Catholic University of Louvain in 1972. The film is notable for a couple of reasons:

1. In France, Lacan’s rock star status owed much to his popular public seminars. The charismatic iconoclast had been giving free public lectures for decades, and those lectures were usually packed with students, colleagues, skeptics, young radicals … and fans. The video gives you an idea of what the fuss was all about. Even at 70, Lacan still owns the room, and he has the presence of a stage actor, complete with dramatic pauses, ironic self-reflection, and pitch-perfect storms of emotion (see minute 15:07)

2. At minute 21:37, a politically inspired heckler tries to ambush him. It’s a moment right out of a comedy show, if the comedy show were chic and grainy and edited by Jean-Luc Goddard. Note the grace with which Lacan neutralizes the poor guy, lights his cigar and then concludes the lecture, even though the fallout from their encounter is still stuck in his hair.

Lacan’s ideas have fallen a bit out of fashion in the past two decades, particularly in the U.S., where psychoanalysis has been nudged out of the spotlight by neuroscience and post-structuralism has lost ground to post-colonial studies. But Lacan still has his fans, notably the Elvis of Philosophy, Slavoj Zizek, who dominates YouTube the way his predecessor once did salons."

Thanls to Manu Burghart!

Filed under: People

25 Predictions For What Marketing Will Look Like In 2020

March 19th, 2015

Via Fast Company: "Perfect end-to-end attribution (or knowing exactly what messages and actions led someone to buy a product) will remain an industry white whale. We’ve been talking about attribution for at least 80 years in marketing. New technology has given us much better data in some places, for instance, end-to-end attribution in search is a current reality. But for the majority of companies who sell goods in stores will still struggle with end-to-end attribution five years from now. New technologies, especially mobile wallets, offer some compelling possibilities for solving the problem, but at the end of the day, we’re still a long way from being able to tie the billboard exposure in Times Square to the bar of soap being purchased in Target.
Technology moves upstream. If you look at how technology has moved through marketing, it started at the edge (distribution of marketing assets) and has continued to move closer and closer to the actual planning and development of marketing itself. Over the next five years we’ll see technology complete this transition and become a part of the core fabric of marketing itself. [...]

Culture will still be king. People will continue to care more about culture than products, so brands that operate on a cultural level will be the winners of the future as they are of the present. [...]

Creative energy will see a shift away from agencies and towards publishers and platforms. An increasing number of the brightest creative minds will abandon standalone agencies for creative divisions of media companies and tech companies, and in turn, these will become the go-to shops for best-in-class brand services."

Filed under: Wunderkammer


by Zach Blas
March 18, 2015

Via Zach Blas: "Contra-Internet describes the emerging militancies and subversions of the Internet. Comprised of multiple series, Contra-Internet critiques the Internet as a hegemonic descriptor for digital networking and premier arena of political control, as well as documents and speculates upon network alternatives that social movements are developing globally, such as autonomous mesh networks, encryption tactics, and darknets. Inspired by the transgender theorist Beatriz Preciado’s Manifesto contrasexual, Contra-Internet is oriented from a feminist and queer perspective, in an effort to unite such political positions with a hacker ethos. Contra-Internet aims to function as an expansive conceptual, practical, and experimental framework for refusing the neoliberal logic of the Internet while building alternatives to its infrastructure."

Via dis magazine: "The Inversion Practices series is comprised of short, performative videos that utilize various conceptual-technical tactics to abandon and subvert the Internet."

Thanks to Carsten Görtz!

Filed under: People

The loving shrimp

La crevette amoureuse (1967/1975) by Henri Chopin
March 17th, 2015

Via art agenda: "The book is a philosophical parable, consisting of several dialogues between ERnest and MARiette, usually taking place before or after sex. He is characterized as a head of state or head of the world, and peppers his pillow talk with political concerns, the arbitrary laws and decrees of his own domain; his solipsism and arrogance are sometimes spurred on, sometimes discouraged by MARiette. As the book progresses, ERnest’s philosophical boutades appear to be a satire of the intellectualized epistemology of the Descartes-Berkeley-Hume-Kant-Fichte lineage. The text is in fact explicitly dedicated to Kant, whose self-centered brand of skepticism finds an extreme echo in ERnest’s absolutism as a ruler. Increasingly frustrated by the exercise of a power as absolute as it is vacuous (for his theories prevent him from acknowledging the existence of other subjects—both in the philosophical and in the political sense), ERnest ultimately resolves to forsake his name and, thereby, his subjectivity.

This summary, however, does little justice to La crevette amoureuse, which is visual as much as it is textual. Interspersed in its typewritten pages are both abstract and figurative compositions of symbols, reminiscent of Futurist poetry and of typographic art. Even though sometimes illustrative (the book includes portraits of its main characters, as well as geometric patterns), these compositions hardly qualify as illustrations as such, since in a way they are the text itself—they are literally made of the same stuff. The two forms flow into each other with no clear way of separating narration and image; at times Chopin explicitly challenges the meaningfulness of such distinctions, as when he presents a triangular sequence of punctuation marks as the text of one of ERnest’s last decrees. [...]

Chopin’s dactylopoèmes thus appear to be more than witty abstract compositions, or mere (if beautifully crafted) instances of typographic art: in this novel they are legitimate parts of a text. They are not appropriations or misuses of linguistic means to serve a pictorial end: they are extreme instances of their proper use—evolutions, if you like."

Filed under: People

Know your reactions

Aruna Ratanagiri talks
March 2nd, 2015

These over 300 talks from the Aruna Ratanagiri Buddhist Monastery in the north of England are an enormous well of deep insides, contemporary pointing, and great humour. Highly recommended for everyday life, and beyond.

Thanks to Michael Edwards!

Filed under: Wunderkammer

Three professors

Nina Juric, Gregor Kuschmirz and Mareike Ottrand
March 1st, 2015

The first three of my students who emerged from the Motion Design postgraduate program at Germany's leading film school Filmakademie Baden-Württemberg were appointed professor:

Mareike Ottrand is tenured professor for Interactive Illustration and Games at the Hamburg University of Applied Sciences' design department.
Nina Juric and Gregor Kuschmirz are visiting professors for Motion Image at the design department of the University of Applied Scienes in Münster.

Had the great pleasure of working with them during their studies in Motion Design, supervised their final exams, and couldn't be more proud! I have been chairing the Motion Design program since 1998, and we will continue to incubate more excellence in design, and teaching.

Filed under: Students