Europeana – ideas, inspiration, culture is a collaboration between universities, research institutes and content providers. It was launched this year as a beta, and is scheduled to be available as a release in 2010.

The site includes a link to a prototype of the Europeana semantic search, as well as a functional beta Timeline navigator, communities and more.

Europeana links you to 4 million digital items including images, texts, sounds and videos from museums and galleries, archives, libraries and audio-visual collections. The list of organizations contributing content includes the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, the British Library in London and the Louvre in Paris.

[Edited from Photomedia Forum post by T.Neugebauer from Aug 07, 2009]

Krzysztof Wodiczko spoke about the Canada Council in 1983

In 1984, Krzysztof Wodiczko published an essay in Parallelogramme based on his lecture, “The Bureaucratization of the Avante-Garde” given at Rivoli Cafe in Toronto a year earlier. He warns against the dangers of integration with “the present central bureaucratic process of political, social, or cultural incapacitation and moral capitulation of the entire artistic culture”. He sketches out a comparative analysis between the artistic climate of the Warsaw coffee shop and the Toronto bar.

My own and my friends’ lives in my native Poland of the sixties and seventies consisted to a large extent of conducting, as a daily routine, a continuous critique of the cultural policy of the central bureaucracy. The main place of the exercise of our opposition was, of course, the coffee shop, an important cultural site of intellectual and artistic discourse in Poland. […] The more liberal and flexible in their strategies the “state ideological apparatuses” were (the coffee shop is one of them), the more difficult it was for us to see to what degree our sharp, restless, and detailed critique was adopting the enemy’s linguistics and subjecting us deeper and deeper to its seductive site, to its mastery at indoctrinating our souls, and awakening our unconscious drive for collaboration, and desire for bureaucratic habits, style, language, aesthetics, philosophy, and power.

The statements and complaints made in the coffee shop were appropriated by the Polish state (through monitoring, recording and informants) “as an illusion of its liberalizing process, to reinforce their operational capabilities, and, in the end, to serve the mechanisms of bureaucratic legitimation.” The contrast between the authoritarian one-party system and that of a ‘liberal’ stoic democratic organization becomes increasingly blurred as we focus on the similarity of the ‘artistic’ atmosphere and ‘cultural climate’ in Poland and that of the Canada Council, a country within Canada.

One learns that within the capitalist-liberal state of Canada, this bar belongs to another state (a state within the state), that is, to the aristocratic “state” of the Canada council. The Toronto site of the romantic dialectics of capitalist madness! This is a Canada Council bar, in which the trapped spirit of a middle-class artist is tossing between a desire for democratic egalitarian capitalism and that of a postcolonial bureaucratic aristocratism. 

Institutions and bureaucracies inevitably try to perfect the mechanisms that will perpetuate themselves through information control and ‘feedback’, acting superficially in a self-controlled way, in ‘opposition’ to themselves.

The Canada Council, as in Poland and in every authoritarian machine, must neurotically produce its own “coffee shops,” alternative publications, and spaces, in order to control its own position and direction and to serve itself as a medium of critical discourse on its own future.

The ultimate victory of the Canada Council lies in a perfect camouflage of its main cultural effect: “a total bureaucratic pacification of the intellectual creative power of the artistic intelligentsia and artistic culture”. The language and gestures of the artists and bureaucrats becomes indistinguishable

Looking closer, one will be able to disclose a horrifying phenomenon: what was for Warsaw a nightmare or an imminent danger (not yet reality) received its total three-dimensional realization in Toronto. Finally everyone appears to be both the artist and the bureaucrat. In the happy and comfortable atmosphere of life in this state-hi-cultural-bureaucratic musak, in the climate of final reunion of old enemies, artistic (antibourgeois) and modern state (bourgeois) avant-gardes, in the aura of communion of the bureaucratized artist and the aesthetisized bureaucrat, the Toronto artist intelligentsia elevates itself to a much higher level of collaboration than artists in Poland. It approaches the conscious level, the level which I shall call cultural corruption!

The Canada Council contributes and supports the existing political balance by remaining politically silent and still. “By not saying anything, on the one hand, the Canada Council reinforces the modern liberal state, and on the other hand, by overstating the romantic notion of ‘creativity’ it degenerates art to cathartic kitsch and separates it from any political, social, or philosophical sense.” The cultural bureaucracy functions as a modern aristocracy and high priest that “protects, coordinates, steers, governs and understands for everyone” the climate of spirituality that is necessary for democracy. Changing the Canada Council from an oligarchic system into a democratically elected one would only serve to further assimilate the left avante-garde into the existing democratic corporate/capitalist system, resulting in a completely balanced one, a

“back-and-forth movement of two terms” (“artistocrats” versus “cultural workers”), a permanent spectacle which will not be the spectacle for us – we will be the spectacle.
Once again (as if nothing ever happened in the 60s), we are living the time of a corporate/commercial and bureaucratic incapacitation of art. This time it manifests itself culturally in various forms of dissolution or capitulation of the artistic intelligentsia and takes the form of a decadent revival of pseudocritical, anti-intellectual “expression” in art and the ornamental, skating irresponsibly on the surfaces of history – “postmodern” design manipulation.

Wodiczko concludes with a clear recommendation for “the formulation of self-governing artist’ economic organizations and agencies, the gradual detachment of the artistic cultural community from the centralized state bureaucracy, and the organization of nonbureaucratic, small and flexible ‘Intelligence”-like working institutes and other, yet to be defined, artistic-educational institutions”. Contrary to the state bureaucratic, these organizations are always ready to dissolve themselves, and could actually help “to rescue and revive our stolen souls from bureaucratic protection, annexation, assimilation, and appropriation; to return to collective or individual constructive critical knowledge, independent and systematic artistic research, and a sense of social place.”

Interestingly, the NFB produced a film about Wodiczko’s projections.

Wodiczko quotes are taken from: Critical Vehicles: Writings, Projects, Interviews. MIT Press, 1999

Critical vehicles: writings, projects, interviews, For the Incapacitation of the Avante Garde in Canada (1983), p32-34
full-text at Google Books

[Edited from Photomedia Forum post by T.Neugebauer from Feb 24, 2007]

Secret Life of Plants

When I was introduced to the The Secret Life of Plants (1974) by Peter Tompkins & Christopher Bird a few years ago now, I read it if only because I happen to own a copy of the Stevie Wonder’s Journey Through the Secret Life of Plants (1979) on vinyl and I wanted to understand the relationship between these. It turns out that the liner notes of the Stevie Wonder album acknowledge that

The Secret Life of Plants is an Infinite Enterprises Film. Produced by Michael Braun. From the book “The Secret Life of Plants” by Peter Tomkins and Christopher Bird

The sense of synchronicity of having picked up, quite randomly, the Stevie Wonder album many years ago, and now having a friend show me this book was enough of a motivation to read on. I have not seen the film yet, and I echo the only user comment on that IMDB page: “Does anyone know how I can borrow or rent a copy?”

I received a press release yesterday from the non-profit public art group in New York, Creative Time about their Strange Powers exhibitions. Specifically what caught my attention was this ESP Plant Workshop by the Center for Tactical Magic, advertised as a free event Thu/Fri 4-7pm, Sat/Sun noon-7pm on 64 East 4th Street. The research into the idea of communication between plants and people is described in detail in Tompkins and Bird’s book. Yes, this type of research was carried out by many scientists and engineers not so long ago.

“Everybody believes that art can be a spiritual vehicle” says Laura Hoptman, of the exhibition’s two curators

from the press coverage section, Creative Time’s newest art spectacle takes a journey into the paranormal by Barbara Pollack, Time Out New York

The Secret Life of Plants describes the work of many scientists and engineers that seemed to believe science also to be a spiritual vehicle.

[Photomedia Forum post by T.Neugebauer from Aug 26, 2006  ]

Kandinsky’s synaesthesia

Kandinsky (1866-1944) used painting to explore his synaesthesia, in his case, the ability to both see and hear colour.


Hearing tones and chords as he painted, Kandinsky theorized that, for examples, yellow is the color of middle-C on a piano, a brassy trumpet blast; black is the color of closure and the ends of things; and that combinations and associations of colors produce vibrational frequencies akin to chords played on a piano. Kandinsky also developed an intricate theory of geometric figures and their relationships, claiming, for example, that the circle is the most peaceful shape and represents the human soul.

source: Wikipedia – Kandinsky


Kandinsky abandoned a potential career in teaching law and economics to enrol in art school and devote his life to painting and art. Kandinsky’s inspiration for his theories on the Spiritual in Art include theosophy; he considered the artist to create out of an internal necessity to communicate and the artist’s original impulse to be evoked in the viewer by means of the artwork. Kandinsky was inspired and corresponded with the composer Arnold Schoenberg. He also taught basic design at the Bauhaus school.


The name Der Blaue Reiter derived from Marc’s enthusiasm for horses, and from Kandinsky’s love of the colour blue. For Kandinsky, blue is the colour of spirituality—the darker the blue, the more it awakens human desire for the eternal (see his 1911 book On the Spiritual in Art). Kandinsky had also titled a painting Der Blaue Reiter (see illustration) in 1903.

source: Wikipedia – Der Blaue Reiter


[Photomedia Forum post by T.Neugebauer from  Aug 07, 2006   ]

Optical Art and Mathematics

The connection between mathematics and art has always been of interest to me, perhaps because I see a lot of potential in this mix that has only been explored on a surface-level with movements such as Optical Art

The department of mathematics at the National University of Singapore has an interesting page from a course called, Mathematics in Art and Architecture

Michael Bach has this collection of optical illusions & visual phenomena.

In discussions of the intersection of mathematics and art, fractal art will inevitably come up. A fractal in mathematics is defined as a geometric shape with a Hausdorff dimension (1) greater than its Lebesgue covering dimension (2).


A fractal is an object or quantity that displays self-similarity, in a somewhat technical sense, on all scales. The object need not exhibit exactly the same structure at all scales, but the same “type” of structures must appear on all scales. A plot of the quantity on a log-log graph versus scale then gives a straight line, whose slope is said to be the fractal dimension. The prototypical example for a fractal is the length of a coastline measured with different length rulers. The shorter the ruler, the longer the length measured, a paradox known as the coastline paradox.

source:(Mathworld – Fractal)

Examples of visual representations of fractals are plentiful, see for example, Jack Cooper’s Fractal Recursions gallery

[Edited from Photomedia Forum post by T.Neugebauer from 2005-2006  ]

‘Opałka, One Life, One Oeuvre’ at the International Festival of Films on Art in Montreal

The 30th International Festival of Films on Art (FIFA) is an opportunity for Montreal audiences to see some great documentary films. The film about the famous photographer/sculptor/architect Ai Weiwei (Without Fear or Favour) focuses on the story of his life, his difficulties with the Chinese authorities, and the 2010 exhibition consisting of 100 million hand-made porcelain sunflower seeds spread out on the floor of Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall in London. Since I am particularly interested in photography, it is unsurprising that I enjoyed the revealing look at the controversial pioneer of photography in The Weird World of Eadweard Muybridge. What did surprise me is the extent to which I found the film on Roman Opałka to be thought provoking.

More than half a dozen documentaries featured Opałka in the 1990s. This 2010 film by Andrzej Sapija, Opałka, jedno życie, jedno dzieło [Opałka, One Life, One Oeuvre], is the most recent documentary on Opałka, produced just one year before the artist’s death. Opałka has been using his skills in lithography and painting by manifesting the passing of time through counting up from 1 to infinity using a brush no.1 and white paint since 1965. His work is evidence of the extraordinary dedication to an idea that he had while waiting for someone in a cafe more than 45 years ago. At that time, he was already an accomplished lithographer, but since then, he has worked almost exclusively on the “Opałka 1965 1 – ∞” project. He calls the many paintings that he has produced as a part of this project ‘details’, each continues on from where the last one ended. The numbers painted on the canvas seem to fade since he uses a single brush dip into paint to complete each number; his first work was painted white on a black canvas, following some experimentation with red, he decided to go from dark grey to white, increasing the lightness of the grey background in each successive “Detail”. “Life as an hourglass, that was the idea”, says Opałka, “I was convinced that [art] history needs such an example”.

Sapija’s opening sequence stitches together beautiful cinematography that seems to echo Opałka’s aesthetic, falling raindrops and a figure walking along a path of rolling hills punctuated by rows of fence posts. Opałka began recording himself reciting the numbers in Polish as he paints them, and this forms the audio background to much of the film. Sapija’s film includes fascinating interviews with the artist who generously tells the story of his life, work and philosophy while the film also shows archival photographs of the people and places from his past.

Sapija’s film includes detailed scenes showing Opałka’s work and installation: the setup includes the painting, tape recorder and a camera used to take a self-portrait after every session.

“This program, the calculating or counting of steps”, says Opalka “is a visualization of time.” “When I paint I don’t think about numbers, as one doesn’t think about steps, I think about everything and nothing at the same time…it is only an area for the meeting of interesting questions, it is finding oneself in a state such that the questions arrive by themselves…I have the unique luxury or comfort of the situation such that I can ask myself questions so free as in no other profession or situation… I remember being often told that this is no longer painting, and I would respond, this is painting at last…it is meditation.” Towards the end of the film, Opałka speaks about his dedication to the idea and his existential doubts, “Why do we exist? Why something rather than nothing? Why I? What am I here for? In that,there is of course the drama of existence, there is almost rebellion[…]existence is a misunderstanding[…]can anyone answer me, what is life?”

Opałka died on August 6, 2011, a picture of the final number that he painted, 5607249, can be seen on his web site. Opałka’s works form a part of the permanent collection of many galleries, such as Centre Pompidou in Paris and New York’s Museum of Modern Art. Galleries that represent him feature images of his works online: Galeria Boss in Lódz, Galerie Yvon Lambert in Paris, and Galleria Melesi in Lecco.

[Photomedia Forum post by T.Neugebauer from Mar 20, 2012 ]

“Poet on the Stone” at the 29th International Festival of Films on Art

Another festival of films on art (FIFA) starts this week and goes on until March 27th in Montreal, with screenings throughout the city, including the CCA, Cinémathèque québécoise, Geothe Institute, Grande Bibliothèque, Contemporary and Fine Arts Museums, Place des Arts and Concordia University.

Still from “Poet on the Stone”, a film directed by Kenji Hayashi, playing at FIFA

I was looking forward to seeing the only entry at the festival from Japan, Kenji Hayashi’s “Poet on the Stone”, about the natural stone sculptor, son of four generations of stone masons, Masatoshi Izumi. He worked closely with his mentor, Isamu Noguchi, succeeding his unfinished projects and creating his own masterpieces.

The film is beautifully shot, and the sounds of nature are soothing as well, as the camera follows the sculptor’s quests for finding stones to use in his public art pieces from the natural environment. Masatoshi Izumi has been commissioned to produce work for places such as Marugame Genichiro-Inokuma Museum of Contemporary Art, the Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo, Kyoto Concert Hall, Garden of Great Fall at Kyoto State Guest House and the roof garden of the Canadian Embassy in Tokyo. He remarks at one point in the film, that the clouds always look so interesting when he finds himself on location. In addition to showing much of his work, the film features the story of the commission for the National Palace Museum in Taipei, including picking out the stones and a glimpse into the technique of cutting.

Still from “Poet on the Stone”, showing Masatoshi Izumi at work

Masatoshi Izumi speaks with humility and knowledge. He is motivated by the desire to continue to improve his understanding of nature through the stonework. He often speaks of clouds and the sky reflected in the stones. The clouds reflected in his stone sculpture in the film are calm and beautiful, which is such a contrast to the scenes in the media of the recent natural disaster in Japan.

I was able to get in touch with the director, Kenji Hayashi, over email, and asked him if the sculptor could comment on the recent earthquake and tsunami in his country. As a philosopher and an artist who works so closely with nature, I thought that it is likely that he could share some insight that we are unlikely to get in the mainstream media. The thoughtful response from Masatoshi Izumi seems to reflect the beauty of nature, like the clouds are reflected in his sculptures:


Within the time and cycles of nature and space, this unprecedented catastrophe is a small matter.

Stones and water are the beginning of creatures and cannot be controlled by the human power. The men of today were forced to realize the terror of it. We must be humble about living.

When Japan was in the middle of the most shameful disaster of the war, my mentor, Isamu Noguchi encouraged people who were devastated, by designing bridges and domes with abstract forms, and lamps of traditional Japanese folk handicraft.

What I think now is that the nature is a beautiful thing. Stones, water and trees, all resonate and are beautiful. They do not begin to compare with artificial things for beauty.

What is beauty that supports spirit?

Mountains and rivers are eternal and forever young. When you turn around from the devastation and look over, there you can see mountains clad in deep greenery and rivers, too.


Still from “Poet on the Stone”

I saw the film last Friday, at the Musée d’art contemporain. There is another screening on Sunday, March 27 at 18h30, at Place des Arts – Cinquième Salle.

[Photomedia Forum post by T.Neugebauer from Mar 20, 2011 ]

Bomb the system, with graffiti

Bomb the System is the title of a film that tells a story about graffiti artists in New York, and in doing so manages to show graffiti as a genuine and impermanent art form of the street. I have always wondered about the stories behind graffiti when I see them, but graffiti is also seen as vandalism by many, including the New York police squads that are in charge of ‘cleaning up’ the city. Thus, graffiti artists are also considered ‘vandals’ by the city, and their work removed as a part of the routine of ‘the system’, while the culture of graffiti recognizes itself as being inherently outside and in opposition to that system.

 Bomb the System is the first feature in over 20 years to delve into the world of graffiti art. The film, shot entirely on the streets of New York City, is the feature debut of 23-year-old writer/director Adam Bhala Lough.

[…] a cinematic poem dedicated to the art of graffiti, and to the city where it all began more than two decades ago […]

source: Bomb the System Official Website
see also: Art Crimes – The Writing on the Wall

I really liked the raw cinematography of New York, and I was genuinely touched by the story. El-P is the underground hip hop producer and rapper from New York that is responsible for the music in the film.

[Photomedia Forum post by T.Neugebauer from Jul 21, 2015]

Art and Architecture Thesaurus now available as Linked Open Data

It was informally announced during the 2013 LODLAM Summit in Montreal last year, and the official announcement was made today by Jim Cuno, the President and CEO of the Getty –

Getty Vocabularies, the Art and Architecture Thesaurus (AAT), is now available as Linked Open Data. The dataset is available at under an Open Data Commons Attribution License (ODC BY 1.0).

The SPQRQL endpoint and the documentation is found here:

Over the next 18 months, The Research Institute’s other three Getty Vocabularies – The Getty Thesaurus of Geographic Names (TGN)®, The Union List of Artist Names®, and The Cultural Objects Name Authority (CONA)® will all become available as Linked Open Data.

For general information about our Linked Open Data project see

The open availability of these valuable data sets is great news for developers working with cultural data.

[Photomedia Forum post by T.Neugebauer from Feb 23, 2014 ]

Timeline Visualization: Photography Exhibition Catalogues in e-Artexte

I’ve been working with Artexte on the development of e-artexte, a unique open access digital repository for documents in the visual arts in Canada. It is a new on-line service that caters to the needs of museums, galleries, artist-run centres and other publishers/authors in the visual arts community who are looking for ways to make their publications more widely accessible via the Internet.

The open source EPrints platform that powers e-Artexte is highly interoperable. In choosing open source technology that is capable of export of its contents using semantic web standards, a necessary condition for innovation around that content is met. E-Artexte enables researchers to leverage the open metadata exporting capabilities of the EPrints software to create customized visualizations.

As an example of such visualization, I ran an advanced search for all exhibition catalogues with the keyword “photography” or “photographie” (for those items catalogued in French language only). I then exported this result from e-Artexte using the JSON export and customized the Timeline libraries so that they will be able to display this data.

This is the result:
Timeline Visualization: Photography Exhibition Catalogues in Artexte Collection (1960-)

The interface allows for the browsing of hundreds of photography-related exhibition catalogue metadata through an interface that organizes the display by time. You can move the timeline by using one of two bands: year, and decade. Clicking on an individual title brings up a more detailed view with an abstract, and clicking on the title in that bubble opens a new window/tab with the relevant e-Artexte record. The visualization updates the latest photography exhibition information from e-artexte every 30 days.


Source Code:

[Photomedia Forum post by T.Neugebauer from Jan 18, 2013 ]