About Daniel Temkin

Born 25 January 1874, died 16 December 1965


Most of the work from my thesis show “dfghfhg” can be seen online:

  1. Sears presents dfghfhg
  2. Dither Studies
  3. Unichar
  4. r8j4lf
  5. Containment
  6. Meanwhile, in NYC…
  7. The Alphabet in Alphabetical Order
  8. Mutator 1
  9. Internet Directory
  10. Chatter
  11. YouTube Limericks
  12. Light Pattern: Hello, World
  13. A Choice
  14. Glitchometry
  15. Drunk Eliza
  16. Unicode Frenzy

More photos from the event:

It was possibly the last speed show at 90 Bowery, as they’re expected to sell that side room.

me with Cory Arcangel and JODI. Love the Moiré on my shirt.

Jeff Koons Must Die!!!

In this first person shooter, you roam around a museum late at night, bringing Koons’s pieces to satisfyingly fiery annihilation. If you make it to the end, you’re suffocated under a mob of curators, lawyers, and museum guards — there is no way to “win,” only more destruction to be had. The artist stated he chose Koons because of the polarizing nature of his work.

Check it out at http://hunterjonakin.com/koons.php

(found via Nina Wenhart)

esolang interview

I recently interviewed ais523 as part of a series of interviews that explore esolangs (esoteric programming languages). I’ve conducted these interviews in preparation for a paper I’m writing that address esolangs from an art perspective. Although some esolang developers (such as ais523) don’t see themselves as artists, their concerns are familiar to artists. What is valued in esolangs is a unity of aesthetics and concept, a point ais523 makes a number of times in the interview:

…to me languages are a lot more valuable if they require thought, rather than being just another synonym for simple imperative structures that programmers know so well already. Languages can be an interesting diversion if they just provide a weird set of primitives that can be mapped onto more “standard” ways of doing things with some thought; but it’s much more interesting if the point of view of the language is one that you can think in independently.

In other words, a language that offers a new system of thought that’s unique is far more interesting than one where the pure aesthetics (for esolangs, this means the source code) is the only thing that’s fresh about it. The example he gives of a less uninteresting but popular language is LOLcode, which has amusing commands taken from the LOLCAT meme (“O HAI,” “K THX BYE,” etc). He calls these “theme languages.”

Then there are languages like Fractran, which have a point of view that is a challenge to the programmer. Fractran uses properties of prime numbers to carry out processes, not as a mapping, but building on qualities of numbers themselves. This is a language created by a mathematician, and it takes a while to understand — but those without a programming or math background can certainly understand it (a number of esolang developers are hobbyists with no background in programming). Fractran is slow to learn, even for those who are programmers, but that slowness is essential — the language exposes an elegance of mathematics that takes time to come to terms with.

The full interview can be read here.

Why I Make Images, Software, and Other Stuff

I have an impatience with using things the way they were designed to be used. When I see a system, I think “what are its limits?” “how can I break it to make it do something else?”. This is my way of understanding it, shaping it, making it mine.

I don’t feel there’s anything special in how artists do their work — many others have the same creative instincts and do almost the very same things. What makes artists different is only in that we do it with self-expression as the goal — when there is a goal that can be articulated. I love the freedom that affords, of doing things out of curiosity without thinking in practical terms, the exhilaration of discovery and reinvention. It was something I was doing for a long time without recognizing it as art-making.

Photography and computer art became my media really pretty accidentally. I had wanted to be a novelist or screenwriter since I was young, but after working at screenwriting in college and for years after, I never got to the point that I felt I had something special to offer. I found writing frustrating in that, being unable to see the whole of a screenplay at one time, I would lose the sense of flow within it. Meanwhile, I was traveling often and would use photography as a way of understanding the character of places I’d visit. After a while, I had built up a visual catalogue of odd moments and visual mysteries from places that interested me. For my day job, I’d been working as a programmer. I would come up with experiments of my own — often with narrative or visual components — to lean computer skills, without thinking of them as art. When I took my first continuing education class at ICP years ago, these interests and habits first coalesced into a conscious art practice. I was introduced to photographers unfamiliar to me whose work I felt affinity for. Aspects of art history that had previously seemed opaque were opened up, and I suddenly had a context in which to think of my own work. I connected with other artists, both through classes and online, and started to feel part of a community.

Why do I do it? I’m not entirely sure. I love my job and find it satisfying on a day-to-day basis — but in the long term, I don’t identify with what I’ve accomplished there. I know someone else in my place would have done the same things I did, and the differences between my work and theirs are not personal. I remember the moment I first realized I was more proud of a series of images I’d created than anything I’d done professionally. The images were flawed but they unquestionably carried the mark of my thinking. It was then that I decided this was what I wanted to do.

a reaction to A Film Unfinished

A Film Unfinished shows how the Nazis tried to create a propaganda film (called “The Ghetto”) presenting a false image of life in the Warsaw Ghetto. What makes this such an interesting example of the manipulation of truth in documentary filmmaking is the extreme disparity between what the Nazis attempted to stage and the reality of Ghetto life. When we see the outtakes, and even much of the included material, images of suffering are revealed that seem too powerful to have their sympathy reduced by contextualization or framing devices. It’s hard to understand how, even with all the most moving images edited away, and the staged scenes of rich Jews in the Ghetto added (the “outer” film suggests this is done so that the poverty of the poorest Jews would be blamed on the richer ones), the audience for such a film could walk away without a feeling of deep sympathy for the victims. Is this why the film was ultimately abandoned? Although A Film Unfinished is about the power of documentarians to falsify and control their subject matter, in a sense, it’s a testament to the power that raw images can have, and their resilience against this manipulation.

Walking into the film, I had thought that perhaps, after seeing images of the Holocaust that came from the camps, we’d be somewhat inured to the imagery, and that the Warsaw footage would be less potent than those from the camps. But this wasn’t the case — there were many scenes that were very hard to watch, and a few that are amongst the most moving I’ve seen in a Holocaust film. A few explanations for the power of these images struck me. First, these are images we’ve never seen before, taken in a very different setting from the camps, so there’s a rawness to them as we experience them for the first time. Second, the context is more relatable — these are scenes from a story that begins with human beings living rather ordinary city life and ending up in the camps. These scenes come late in that story, but when the Jews are still living in a somewhat ordinary-looking neighborhood, which seems to hold some shadow of life from before the Holocaust began. It’s easier to imagine ourselves in the ghetto than it is to imagine arriving at a concentration camp. In fact, the most disturbing moments in the film were the ones where people were forced to act out scenes meant to show how well they were living. The Bris scene sticks with me the most: these people were forced to act out a ritual — ordinarily a joyous celebration of life — on a baby who was unlikely to survive the next few days. This bringing together of the ordinary and the monstrous seemed to make the horror of it feel more real.

Of course, this scene relies on us knowing the greater story to see the tragic irony of it. And watching the film now, we know how it ends, that the Ghetto will not last much longer, and its inhabitants are headed for Treblinka. However, I believe some of the imagery in the film is powerful even without this knowledge. The haunted expressions of starving beggars on the street hold a palpable hopelessness, and I think it’s impossible for these images to not invite sympathy. In fact, there are very few images of the poor in this film that do not have this quality. This is what makes wonder if the film was simply a failure, and that’s why it was left unfinished — that it was too difficult to shape the material to convincingly blame the richer Jews for the fate of the poorer ones, and to do it in a way that wouldn’t make the audience (presumably made up of people who were already very anti-Jewish) feel *more* sympathy for the Jews than they had at the beginning.