Art is what you can do, not how you do it

Remember that my three offers are still available! I have also created a couple of pieces of new art, The Fine Line Between War and Peace is available now, exclusively from Fine Art America. You can buy it here.

The Fine Line Between War and Peace
M.As latest work - The Fine Line Between War and Peace





I won the lottery last night. Oh, hang on, no I didn’t; it was all a dream. In that dream I had finally got the money to invest in a purpose built home cinema, and I was driving a Tesla Model S, and I owned an Apple Watch. Pretty similar to the dreams I have most nights really, then you wake up to the reality and the hope that emails with the subject header, "NEW ORDER" have magically appeared in the inbox overnight.

Other times my dreams are far less materialistic, and the reality is that when I wake up, it’s a new day and I am lucky to be here. Even if my business case for an Apple Watch was rejected by the wife. Not once, but as many times as I have rewritten it, resubmitted it, and told her that I would, if I had an Apple Watch, be able to set reminders for her hair appointments, so that I could then say how nice it looks when she gets back home.

But the dreams of a purpose built cinema in my home have now been surpassed by the desire to have a Dolby Cinema installed. Dolby have just created their latest high-tech cinema in Hilversum, Holland. Only the second of its kind in Europe, and the very first to launch with the latest Christie Laser Projectors which are an essential part of Dolby Vision.

My local cinema by comparison, is like something that would be found in an Amish community. It’s relatively new, has a decent screen, and also has what I thought was one of the best sound systems I had ever heard. Running THX, the sound that aligns with the THX logo is phenomenal. Or so I thought.

With the Dolby Cinema we are talking a whole new level of wow, and it is all to do with the advanced Dolby Vision projectors rocking the latest high-tech lasers, mixing a wider colour gamut; and displaying a high dynamic range (HDR). These beasts can create contrast levels of 1,000,000:1, which unless you have been to a Dolby Cinema, I can pretty much guarantee you that you have never seen anything quite like it.

Even the most complex projectors in your normal multiplex will only be hitting contrast ratios of around 8000:1, and much more frequently, contrast levels will be at around 2000:1. So as I say, this is a whole new level of wow. But what does that mean in context? It means that you get really deep inky blacks.

Contrast is the most important aspect when delivering images. It plays a key role in how the eyes see the image. The greater the contrast, the better looking the image is. It is sharper, and gives a sense of a much higher resolution, but without necessarily being a higher resolution. Filling the screen with black, results in a completely dark theatre.

That huge contrast ratio is made possible by the creative thinkers nigh geniuses at Dolby Labs. They doubled the height levels available from the industry standard of 14 foot-Lamberts (fL) to around 31 fL with the vision system. This allows film makers to deliver content with brighter highlights, whiter whites, and makes things look more natural and life-like. This new system will deliver things like reflections, halation of light, spectacular highlights, glints from cars, and other everyday things that we see on a daily basis, but never really expect to see on a cinema screen.

Only the second in Europe, and one of seven in the entire world, Dolby executives call the new cinema "the most technologically advanced cinema theatre in the world right now". That is a bold claim, but actually when you see this technology in action, it is not too bold at all. Colour vibrancy and even sound are so rich, you would be hard pressed to find anything quite so life like, in my opinion, even far superior to IMAX.

In terms of the sound, this is something else that is embedded in the new cinema. There are 53 different speakers running over the Dolby Atmos sound system. The cinema theatre itself, also being designed specifically to operate this level of technology, work with the visuals, and the acoustics, and ambient light has been toned down too.

The curved wall to wall screen matches exactly the curved stadium style seating, but all of this comes at a price. A price that would make any lottery winner shudder. Even tickets to the new cinema are 50% higher than a ticket to a regular cinema. When the price of admission is considerably higher than a whole month of Netflix streaming, the price becomes a real issue. Cinema prices especially in the last few years have increased often at higher than inflation rates, add on another 50%, and you will want to make sure that the film you are going to see, is the film you want to see.

Dolby believes the experience will be the selling point. There is no doubt in my mind that once you see a film in this type of theatre, with this type of technology, you will find it difficult to go back to your average multiplex. They certainly have a long way to go before the public sees the true benefit, and they need to build more of these cinemas. This is going to be a classic chicken and egg situation over the next few years. People need to experience it, but with so few of these theatres around, it could take a long time before we see a demand from the public who haven’t managed to experience the experience.

Even the entrances to the theatre are different. Curved walkways are designed to start immersing you into the experience the minute you step foot through the door. The result is exactly what cinema makers wanted you to see, but I cannot begin to even think of how much more expensive film making will become until this technology becomes more mainstream.

Living in the UK, I am conscious that I am unlikely to get anywhere near one of these cinemas anytime soon. If we do see one, my guess is that it will be in London, maybe we will see an upgrade to one of the cinemas in Leicester Square. Dolby is talking to companies about migrating the technology into other cinemas, and not every theatre is compatible with the requirements to deliver this level of specification. It might even need a completely new infrastructure that makes it prohibitive, unless it is designed into a brand new cinema that hasn’t been built as yet. The real problem will be that you not only need this in a big city, you also need the people to want to buy in to it.

For those living in the U.S, you already have five theatres that include this technology. The five in the U.S are delivered through a deal with AMC, and the two in Holland are delivered through JT Cinemas.

Dolby is seeing interest from the big film makers, they love the technology and the experience, some even saying they have been blown away with the quality of the image and sound, and that they can deliver this now. Just not everywhere.

But, by the same token, as high-res music will become the de facto standard for audio, it's just as likely that HDR, wider colour gamut’s and the 31fL laser projectors will form the future of our cinema-going experiences. They just need to convince the people it is what they want. If those people see it, they will know it is what they want.

Dolby Cinema - You'll never want to sit in a multiplex that isn't Dolby!


More news from the social media giant Reddit with its new CEO Steve Huffman having a tough job on his hands to convince the sites angry and betrayed masses that it still has a future, with a new set of community guidelines.

There will be a set on new community guidelines that introduce a set of "additional restrictions on what people can say on Reddit". Or, at least say in Reddit’s public pages anyway. This is apparently "In the spirit of our mission". It’s starting to sound like the Chinese Government took over.

Huffman who was one of the two original co-founders of the platform and one of the first CEO’s at Reddit, laid out six "types of content" that will now effectively be banned sometime very soon. The new laws sorry, guidelines, will be enforced by community moderators and staff or Reddit itself. The following are the six offending content types in question:

Spam – Oh boy, do I agree with this one. I am so tired of being asked if I would like to claim for payment protection on the Viagra I did not order.

Anything illegal, meaning anything that is illegal such as copyright infringement, drug use, but discussing anything illegal won’t be illegal.

Publication of someone’s personal and private information – Clearly people who post their life on Facebook and Twitter will welcome this.

Anything that incites harm or violence against and individual or group of people, but it is ok to say that "I do not like this person", but not ok to say "I want to hit this person on the head with a wet fish".

Anything that harasses, bullies, or abuses an individual or group of people. If only Twitter would do the same for its population of trolls.

Sexually suggestive content featuring minors. That’s a whole world of anime gone out of the window, and I am thankful for this.

And finally, content that violates a "common sense of decency" will have filters applied. In order to see this type of content, users will need to register with the website as well as opt-in via the preferences.

These actually do seem to be sensible categories for once. Unlike other Social Media channels that have a population of trolls who could really do with some form of humane culling exercise. The new guidelines still allow you to have a groan about life in general, but they should also make the Reddit experience much more pleasurable.

Huffman is the media giants fourth CEO who has tried to tackle these issues, previously Ellen Pao, and Yishan Wong, resigned after the community lashed out at non-democratically chosen policy changes.

Now all we need is for Facebook and Twitter (especially Twitter) to shake up their rules a little more. I try to follow everyone on Twitter who follows me back. For a week or so, some act normally, tweeting that they’re bored, sat in a waiting room, are on route to Ibiza, before starting to post pictures of naked women, and demanding a bazillion retweets. The primary reason I do not like this is because they all seem to have about 100,000 followers, compared to my paltry 1,300 or so.


That revered Auction House, and one of my favourite places, Christie’s seems to be doing very well, even in today’s dowdy economic climate. They recently posted that they are experiencing continued growth, as their half year sales achieves a record total of £2.9 Billion.

They have also reported that new buyers grew to 24% as Art Collecting continues to engage global audiences. Curatorial and sales calendar innovation resulted in the highest sales week in history, and they took the market share for major categories, including Impressionist and Modern, Post-War, Contemporary and Asian Art.

At the moment it seems Christie’s are on a roll, and it is one that is currently showing no decline. As I have said before, the arts market is clearly running at a peak towards high end, high value items.

Christie’s Press Centre had this to say;

London / New York / Hong Kong - Christie’s announces today record half year sales of £2.9 billion, up 8% ($4.5 billion, up 0%) on the same period for 2014. Results were underpinned by strong results across numerous categories including Impressionist and Modern, Post-War and Contemporary Art and Asian Art. The company has focused on curatorial innovation and a revised sales calendar to attract collectors at all levels across all geographies, and continues to invest in online platforms as well as traditional salerooms and Private Sales. New clients represented 24% of buyers. The number of middle market buyers grew by 14% and further reflects the continued commitment of Christie’s to offering art and objects across a broad spectrum of collecting areas and price points.

Patricia Barbizet, Christie’s Chief Executive Officer, said: "This season, using thoughtful curatorial innovation, we have worked with our clients to explore different genres, geographies and eras of creativity as the boundaries of their taste and interests expand. During the first half of 2015 Christie’s clients spanned 99 countries, demonstrating how truly international sales activity is at all levels and reflecting the expanse of the art market. We are meeting new demands while continuing to show strength in core categories and maintaining market share. Buyer activity of lots between £100,000 and £1,000,000 continues to grow, with the number of buyers up 14%. Our early investment in online and E-commerce platforms continues to add value across the business. We look forward to more innovative collaboration across categories and regions during the second half and remain fluid as we challenge traditional models of auction for new models of selling art."

So, I am looking forward to a few sales at the house, and I must admit to taking more than a passing interest in their online only auctions which are plentiful at the moment.


Music Law
Music Law Has Changed Again

Making copies of copyrighted music and videos for personal use, is once again illegal in the UK because of a recent High-Court ruling on the 17th July 2015.

The ruling quashes the previous 2014 regulation that made it legal to make personal copies of performances for private use as long as the person doing so had lawfully acquired the content and did not distribute the content to anyone else. The former regulation meant that people were allowed to make back-ups and play songs in different formats, but it did not allow making copies and giving them away to friends, or selling them.

The High-Court ruled that the 2014 regulation had not been enacted properly. The personal use exception wasn’t immediately thrown out because other remedies could have been considered. The July 17th ruling changes the game completely.

"A judge ruled that the government was wrong legally when it decided not to introduce a compensation scheme for songwriters, musicians, and other rights holders who face losses as a result of their copyright being infringed," the BBC reported. The decision came "after a legal challenge from BASCA, the Musicians' Union, and industry representatives UK Music."

It seems highly unlikely if anyone would actually be punished for making copies if the intention is to not distribute them, but it is unclear how and if the new regulation will be policed and enforced. Court action was rare under the previous law and the industry often turned a blind eye to people who made back-ups for personal use. There is now some uncertainty about if this will affect copies made under the previous legislation.

The decision to quash the previous law occurred quickly after the latest ruling because government officials decided not to object. There is a potential to introduce a new exemption for personal use, but its implementation would need to be done differently to survive any court challenge. "Insofar as the Secretary of State has not articulated a present intent to reintroduce an exception and seeks time to think matters over, it would be neither right nor fair to rights holders to deprive them of the fruits of victory in this litigation," the High Court said.

The organisation UK Music that represents the record labels, songwriters, musicians and others, hailed the High Court’s decision for agreeing that Government acted unlawfully when it introduced an exception to copyright for private use without fair compensation. Before losing its case, "The UK government argued that by limiting the new exception to private copies, any harm caused to copyright holders was indeed negligible and therefore did not need to be funded—for example through a levy charged on consumers of blank media (CDs, DVDs, Blu-Ray discs, etc.) and equipment (MP3 players, printers, PCs, etc.), of the kind found in other EU countries with copyright exceptions,"

In the U.S. things are a little different. There is no specific exception for backups and format-shifting, for example the transfer of music from a CD to your iPod, but the Recording Industry Association of America says that the practice "will not usually raise concerns" as long as the user legitimately owns the music and makes a copy for personal use.

Just how online services such as Apple’s iTunes will react, we will have to wait and see. If your music was originally downloaded from a CD to iTunes, would Apple be bold enough to allow you to then keep storing it on iTunes, or will they take steps to only allow music purchased through iTunes to be held on its platform?

I think we might just see a disclaimer being added to iTunes at some point in the UK, whether or not they will deny access to music which has already been transferred remains to be seen.


In the ever increasingly technology-addled world in which we live, the present day trends are proving to be a bit of a turning point. During the last 50-years, we have seen many technological advances forced into retirement. Looking through some 2002 editions of Scientific American, Popular Mechanics, and Popular Science, some of the technology described is already out of our lives. Foam chairs, musical jackets, and the good old NOKIA and Motorola cell phones are all but a dying breed of once great tech.

Cathode Ray Tube TV’s, VHS tapes, and even our computer systems are moving in a completely new direction. In 2002, if someone had told me that I would be able to create art, write a blog, play a few games, and browse the internet from my phone, I would have said that they had been watching too many reruns of Back to the Future. But some of this technology still gets used, and the technicians with the skills to repair it are quite literally a dying breed.

Art is one professional field that is constantly grappling with the preservation of digital and new media material. Back in 1981, I started to create digital art on a Sinclair ZX81. A mono-personal computer with a massive 1 Kilobyte of RAM. Today, that artwork is lost, although eBay is awash with working models, some even boxed, the medium in which the art was originally stored has gone forever, the cassette tape used for storage was overtaken by the CD, the CD by the iPod, VHS went to DVD, and DVD went to Blu-ray. No one under the age of 30 would realise the connection between a HB pencil and a C-60 audio cassette tape.

It’s not just us early digital artists that are struggling to preserve our past efforts, government agencies, libraries, universities, are all seeking ways to preserve their analogue past. Some, even today are forced to use 30-year-old technology to keep the system running. In some cases, it is merely the dust holding it all together.

New Media Conservation is the new buzz word. The method of preserving the past, and transferring it to the so called new media, which by anyone’s estimation given the leaps in technology over the last 13-years, will probably change again tomorrow.

Digital today has a life cycle. Zoos have a life-cycle for living organisms, that life-cycle is well documented, and when the animals are gone, even extinct, you use that research to inform the future of the past. Digital has a life-cycle too. It is all too common for us to throw away yesterday’s technology to make way for todays.

As with the new legislation in the UK for the transfer and backing up of music, digital art too often needs to be transferred to a new home. Institutions are increasingly keen to pre-empt such transitions. This summer, the New Museum offered artists free media-migration services to preserve and archive work made using aging or defunct media formats (think floppy disks, zip disks, CDs, MiniDV’s, and VHS) by uploading them onto the publicly accessible site Titled "XFR STN" (i.e. "Transfer Station") and initiated by artist Alan W. Moore, the project functioned as something of an exhibition as well; after the migration process, the obsolete media went on display.

But how do we start to ensure that digitally stored and created artworks are preserved for as long as a Michelangelo? But what do you do when a piece of digital art worth over a million pounds and reliant on obsolete technology and old codes breaks down?

The ZKM Centre for Art and Media in Karlsruhe Germany is trying to provide an answer. It has the world's largest collection of digital art, with over 500 pieces in its collection. It's also the global centre for digital art conservation. It is a Herculean effort to keep their artworks running in their original form on computers often decades old.

ZKM's staff try to find as much obsolete digital kit as possible. They trawl waste dumps and the auction site eBay in their quest for authenticity. As part of these efforts, they rent a warehouse outside the city where they store over 1,600 cathode ray TV sets, which are now out of production.

It seems at least that someone is preserving todays digital age and that should be applauded. You can find out more about ZKM Centre’s work here.

Art is about what you can do, not how you do it.

Do you ever stop and consider what your Grandchildren will consider to be the defining moment of the early part of the 21st Century? One hundred years ago, in 1913, Schoenberg caused a near riot in Vienna; Marcel Duchamp stuck a bicycle wheel on a plinth; cubism landed, like an alien life form, in New York; and in Paris, Nijinsky and Stravinsky premiered the ballet The Rite of Spring (which Le Figaro called ‘a laborious and puerile barbarity’). It seems a pretty sensational year, to us today, reflecting an extraordinary and tumultuous time.

Yet, today we are also in the transforming era, fuelled by the rise of technology. I doubt anyone, even if they do not own a computer, can go through life without a computer playing at least some part in their daily lives. On stage, in galleries, in literature, the computers lurk at the edges: digital is a tool rather than a medium. I’d like to suggest what might happen when digital becomes the form as well. When an exhibition unfolds around you, wherever you are, or a performance uses the huge quantities of data we generate to choreograph dancers; when dramatists allow their plays to seep off the stage into online social platforms, or poets perform inside video games.

These will become today’s masters, just in the same way that we look at the works of Renoir, Michelangelo, and Da Vinci. To your Grandchild, these will be Duchamp. We still have a way to go with digital art, it hasn’t as yet peaked, and already we see digital art fetch millions of dollars, maybe because it is still currently seen by some as a novelty, but to those of us who work with digital mediums to produce our art, I can tell you that as a former traditional painter, digital art is complex, time consuming, but it produces some stunning results.

This might be (ironically) one of Western culture’s slowest and more ponderous epoch shifts. Why are we still talking about ‘digital art’ (and boxing it up in inverted commas) at all? We don’t talk about photographic art, or amplified theatre. Walk into any major gallery, music hall, theatre or bookshop and you’ll find the conventions of popular culture being transmitted the same way they have been transmitted for the past 100 years.

Even at the very cutting edge of theatre or art, you won’t find shows that take willing audience members, dissect their online profiles and create one-off bespoke monologues. Or that transpose data from their subjects, as a wild example, let's say the sleep data of New York, Basingstoke and a village in Nairobi, into a series of living, eternally updating portraits of those cities. Physical artefacts and analogue culture remain dominant in cultural circles. Unless you count special ‘digital media’ courses, lost between art and architecture in the labyrinthine confusions of academic school structures.

Digital art doesn’t detract or take away from traditional artists, or even the masters. Old is frequently better than new, and theatre, a 600-year old tradition often tells a better story than Twitter. The way we digitise our lives is unlikely to turn back, but the way we interact with digital information might well ultimately mimic nature and change the ways that we traditionally think.

It needs to be acknowledged that digital culture cannot simply be a label for culture made on a computer, because pretty much everything is made on a computer. Digital isn’t a medium. It is not video, or audio, or words that could have existed on videotape or in a book; and it isn’t a distribution channel such as YouTube or Tumblr. Digital is data-led and algorithmic with the potential for every output to be unique.

Digital is generative, it builds upon itself and draws on its own process to create new expressions. Digital is contextual and leads for example, to theatre that builds around you, in a timely and relevant way. And digital is collaborative, using the volume of the world to curate or create together.

But what sets artists apart, is their own ability to look forward. Those artists who become well known among future generations have always used contemporary technology. The sculpture-maker Ryan Trecartin and the video-art pioneer Nam June Paik; or the light artists Dan Flavin and James Turrell, photographer William Eggleston; or even, for that matter, Man Ray, Duchamp and Shakespeare; Leonardo da Vinci, Johannes Gutenburg and Paolo Uccello have all used contemporary technology, designed to make sense to a future audience.

So for all that I hear that "digital art" is an easy medium, not real art, talentless, soulless, we have to ask ourselves a question, are we really comfortable that today’s art that is favoured is still using 19th Century technology? For culture to create a seamless kind of virtual reality, it’s important not to get caught up in the tools we use to create that state of mind where we only see real art as being a traditional 19th Century methodology. We should focus on the effect. Art is what you do to the viewer, and should never be about how you created it.

Do you prefer a Warhol to a Matisse? It would be great to get your views on digital art, if you see it as a passing trend, or if you think it will be the future? It would also be great to hear your views on the preservation of art. Feel free to leave a comment below.



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