Cut Up Magazine (2012)

When faced with a choice of unknowns, often the question we ask ourselves is “who’s opinion do we trust to help guide our aesthetic choices?”. Sometimes we listen to our friends, sometimes we listen to professional critics. In a world increasingly mediated by online exchanges of opinion these roles have become blurred and we are often less certain about who to trust.

In many ways, questions about the trustworthiness of a critic’s opinion mirror questions about authenticity – we want the critics to be as ‘true to themselves’ as the artists they critique, and nowhere is this more important than when appraising a novel piece of art for which we have no references of our own.

Much of my work deals with notions of authenticity, both real and manufactured, and this piece investigates whether, under certain conditions, it is possible to create plausibly authentic opinions in an automatic, generative manner, and to see whether these can be successfully passed off, or even appropriated by people in need of critical guidance.

As with many of the greatest of ideas, this one started in the pub – I was perusing a flyer for a forthcoming band, and noticed the particular prose used to describe musical acts. It’s a concise mix of expressive verbiage and references to genres or to other more established bands. It struck me that this would be an interesting domain of language to use in a generative system – would it be possible to auto-generate opinions about bands?

Normally these kinds of ideas get drowned out by the next pint, however this one stuck. I began experimenting with cut-up techniques on existing music reviews harvested from the net and found that indeed, there is a distinct consistency in the language used, and in many cases the reviews have juicy meta-data associated with them, giving me some sense of whether the review is positive or negative.

The system evolved from there, harvesting more information from the API to maintain internal consistency with the bands and songs mentioned in the reviews. I now had a machine which would write plausible looking reviews for any band that had a few scrobbles on

I was keen to take this system into the physical world, as printed artefacts rather than some pointless online experiment, and the perfect opportunity presents itself in the form of The Great Escape Festival, a showcase of 300+ bands that very few people have heard of. What better place to introduce some manufactured opinion?

The work takes the form of a free fanzine, and great care was taken to present it in a lo-fi manner, making mistakes in the text more forgivable. Each copy of the magazine contains 16 auto-generated previews for bands playing the festival. In addition, each individual copy of the magazine is different, with unique opinions about the bands which have been chosen.

The 128 copies of the magazine contain 2048 unique reviews in total. The magazines will be distributed by hand at the festival, starting tomorrow.

Further discussion of the project can be heard in the following radio interview:

In addition, I have created a twitter account @cutupmusic which will be live-reviewing every single performance, simultaneously…

Below are some sample reviews:

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shardcore on the radio

Here I am talking about CutUp magazine with Jeff Hemmings on Radio Reverb

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shardcore in Dutch University Philosophy Textbook

One of the more bizarre places to find myself published, but pleasing none-the-less. The Dutch Open University have kindly chosen to feature my painting of Schopenhauer and Hegel in their latest textbook.

I don’t speak Dutch, so I can’t tell you what’s been written beneath it…

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Aphorisms al fresco

I had the distinct pleasure of meeting the late great Ivor Cutler on a couple of occassions. At one of these meetings he gave me some of his stickers, and always vowed to create some of my own. (I kept the stickers in my wallet for years, until I lost them when being held up at gun-point in LA.)

So, inspired by Cutler, I created some images of pertinent philosophical aphorisms and sent them off to moo to be printed.

At the moment they’re mostly going up in places of contemplation, such as urinals and condom machines.

“There are no facts, only interpretations” – Friedrich Nietzsche

"Pardon me, my friends, I have ventured to paint my happiness on the wall" - Friedrich Nietzsche
“Pardon me, my friends, I have ventured to paint my happiness on the wall” – Friedrich Nietzsche

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Ashes to Ashes (2007)

digital print and invisible ink on paper 297mm x 420mm x 3

I’ve long had an interest in alchemy – the bastard brother of chemistry. Something about the dogged pursuit of an unattainable goal via arcane ritual and experimentation reminds me of the process of making art. My alchemy here, is quite simple -I’ve been playing with invisible ink. This particular type of ink has been in use for hundreds of years as a method of passing secret information.

The ink is clear as water and invisible when dry. The markings only revealed when the paper is held to a flame.

Obviously working with invisible ink poses a problem, one is never quite able to see quite what one has painted, none-the-less I’m quite pleased with the way this first aesthetic alchemical experiment has turned out. I particularly like the juxtaposition of the crisp digital print with the splattery charred ink.

As you can see, the first skeleton caught alight and has a hole in the side. I’m sure I’ve been warned before about playing with fire…

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