Bill Viola | Video Installation Artist

A pioneer in the medium of video art, Bill Viola’s work explores the spiritual and perceptual side of human experience. Since 1970 he has created videotapes, architectural video installations, sound environments, electronic music performances and pieces for television. Works include Hatsu Yume (First Dream), The Passing, and installations Room for St. John of the Cross, The Messenger and The Quintet of the Astonished, recently shown at the National Gallery, London in “Encounters, New Art from Old”. A 25-year survey exhibition of his work organized by The Whitney Museum of American Art recently traveled to 6 institutions in the USA and Europe. MacArthur Fellow.

Nikola Tesla | The Forgotten Father of Today

One of the greatest minds in history, Nikola Tesla. But unfortunately his name was discredited by Thomas Edison who had power, money, and many followers. Edison did not invent the lightbulb. In fact, many of “his” inventions were actually invented by the scientists that he employed. Edison was a genius, but also a ruthless cold hearted man that thankfully also made way for great progression in the electronic age.

“Nikola  Tesla developed and used florescent bulbs in his lab some 40 years before industry “invented” them. At the World’s Fair, Tesla took glass tubes and bent them into famous scientists’ names- the first neon signs. Tesla also designed the world’s first hydroelectric plant at Niagara Falls in 1895. Tesla also patented the first speedometer for cars in 1916. In fact, Tesla invented all of the things that are listed at the beginning of the paper.

But Edison soon had too much money invested into his DC system, and he tried his best to discredit Tesla by showing that AC was more dangerous than DC. Edison paid local children 25 cents for each stray dog they could bring him. Then he would hold press conferences and electrocute the dogs at public gatherings to frighten people. He claimed that DC could not kill, but in fact, it could.

Tesla was one of the world’s most original and greatest inventors and thinkers, but because he was so original and out of his time, his genius was mistaken for insanity and science fiction. Maybe next time, the world will recognize a true genius when it comes around.”

This excerpt is from an article entitled “Tesla versus Edison.” [here].

Engaging Deviancy

I remember my mother yelling at me for using foul language around my brother when he was younger, “stop using such language around your brother! I don’t want him to speak this way, it’s not nice” my mother would say, to which I’d reply “but dad says it!” Which was true, sadly I did learn this “improper” language from my father.

In this chapter “bad language” was the least of learned behavior to be frowned upon. In the islands of Micronesia there was an overwhelmingly large number of suicides being documented and on a large scale increasing dramatically in a short period of time. The act of committing suicide had tipped. Those that accounted for most of the tipping were young boys that weren’t suicidal by any noticeable means and had some form of negative confrontation with a family member, I thought this to be somewhat peculiar. However when I took a moment to realize the setting that these individuals were in I began to understand.

If I’d had an altercation with my mother or father, I’d shrug it off and bury myself in a video game or listen to some extremely loud obnoxious music to help me forget, I had a coping system. These individuals were actually committing what most if us would think of as the unthinkable, suicide. I believe it was for the simple fact there was no outlet or coping system available. Family in that western culture was and is everything, having the respect of your parent or elders is a golden and vital part of who you are and where you stand in society.

When this respect has been lost (from a lover as well, or even a friend), it’s damaging on a large scale. So much so that some just want to escape, and relieve themselves of such displeasure indefinitely… Sadly, through media and other forms of communication, suicide has a persuasive whisper to those susceptible to it’s promise of no more pain. And thus they blindly commit the act, blind because in reality, these people are undeniably foolish and completely misguided.

Case Study

When Airwalk came onto the scene in the late 80’s, there were no shoe company that was solely dedicated to the skater generation. They had originally intended to make the brand known for being sporty, by developing gear that  would “enhance” some form of athletic activity. They did just that for a short while, but soon after there was a window of opportunity when it was realized that the full potential of the brand was not being met with their “small” goal of becoming a top athletic footwear company. They ran with the idea of becoming mainstream, and did so very seriously by designing and developing footwear for the every day activity,t and it couldn’t fall short in any aspect, it couldn’t because they were to compete with Nike, Adidas, and the many top selling footwear manufacturers to date. As you know, fashion and retail is extremely competitive. Airwalk did make it to the tipping point, and it’s evident that they had a clear goal set, which was to reach for the sky… they had no limit set, leaving no limitation.

They pretty much had to be ruthless and conniving with their sales approach if they wanted to be noticed in the industry. “WOM” (word of mouth) definitely played a part in their success, that and their cool advertisements that incised the idea that owning a pair of Airwalks made you some how unique and super awesome. The visuals appealed to the younger crowd, it was random, and fun… and let the “tipping” begin. Airwalk’s yearly gross in sales range well over the $200 million (that was estimated in 1995).

The Power of Context (pt. 2)

When Rebecca Wells, a playwright and occasional actress had released her novel the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, the expectations in number of sales weren’t on a super grand scale, her previous novel had only sold around a respectable 15,000 hardcover copies, setting the projected outcome for this next release. Amazingly and just as unexpectedly as the crime in the New York subways came to an abrupt halt, something happened, it tipped.

Though the first few months showed signs of previous “normalcy,” the months to follow thereafter were astonishingly spectacular, the sales of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood quickly grew in sales and surpassed any expectation that Wells and her publisher could have ever imagined. This is what Gladwell refers to as “the power of context.” There were a few key factors that played a part into the tipping of this book. Well’s was a story teller, and an actress… she didn’t tour the country, stopping in every city to hold public readings and publicize her name in works, but when she did read publicly, it was a performance from the heart and captured her viewers, her first public reading only had around 7 viewers. Months later, she’d be reading to thousands.

Another key ingredient that had left a window of tipping opportunity, was the pure nature of the novel, it was “sticky,” a heartwarming tale between a mother and daughter, people connected with it and lived it. It was a topic starter, and was a book clubs dream novel, people were living the story and formed their own “sisterhoods” that portrayed the one in the story. The Ya-Ya Sisterhood tipped, not just because it was a beautifully written piece of work, but because it was a beautifully written piece of work that brought people together. The Ya-Ya Sisterhood had sold over 2.5 million copies.

Further in the chapter, Gladwell starts onto a journey of cognitive psychology. We learn of why humans, and some primates possess a larger neocortex of all the mammals. A man by the name of Bill Gore concluded that it was the size of the groups in which they live (we) live; and not just the diet of the animal. He came to this conclusion after a study in the group size and took into account of the cognitive ability of the animal.

It is apparently so, group size can and does determine the intelligence factor. It takes a certain amount of brain power in order to live and function in a group, we’d need to keep track of each groups member, and their relationships with each other member. In observation of this portion of the chapter, I conclude that maybe the most socially developed of creatures are the most intelligent.

I think of how we as humans have the ability to bond and build emotionally driven relationships, and think of how sometimes you get so overwhelmed with everything that you think your head will explode, but it doesn’t. Than I think wow, my brain is awesome, even though it gets a little funky. Which brings me to the limitations of the brain, the human brain. It has been researched that as awesome as our cognitive abilities are, there’s a limit of 7 and 150. We can keep track of 7 instances of a memory at one time, anymore and you are just guessing. We will also learn we have group limitations, it has been proven that when in a group, we can successfully keep track of 150 group members, if that number is surpassed… you’d begin to notice a negative effect in relationship quality.

The Ya-Ya Sisterhood “tipped” because of the groups that built relationships upon the context within the novel and it’s purpose, it connected groups upon groups to eventually spread like a cool breeze on a summers day, it was an enjoyable stimuli that fed onto the desire and need for us to connect. I think I might just go out and buy the book, just to see what all the hubbub is about.

The magic number 150.

When Rebecca wells, a playright and occassional actress released her
novel the  ya ya sister hood, the expectations weren't on a grand
scale, her previous novel had only sold around 10,000 hardcover
copies. So that was about the number that was projected for this
release. but as unexpecdedly as the crime in the new York subways came
to an abrupt haul, something amazing happened, though the first few
months showed signs of normalcy, the months to follow after were
astonishingly spectacular, the sales of the ya ya sisterhood quickly
surpaced what Wells a d her publisher could have ever imagined. This
is what Gladwell reffers to as "the power of context." While the first
public reading of the book

Broken Windows Theory

The theory is that a “broken window” (which can either be literal or metaphorical) gives the appearance that it and its surrounding area is vacant and free territory, free from surveillance and law. This current chapter (the power of context part 1) is about the tipping point of crime. Those criminal minded individuals that see this vacancy in a “broken window,” see it as an opportunity to express themselves freely and disgustingly in their insincere ways to others and their community.

When crime tips, it’s different than other tipping points that I’ve read about and have blogged about. I’ve learned that when crime is at it’s tipping point, there are many key factors that play a role in its abscess of tipping. From what would seemingly be the smallest of a crime could just be the underlying beast in disguise. Gladwell also takes into consideration to note of how crime will effect the most average of person, turning them into a person submittable  to committing crime.

I didn’t think it at all strange when he suggested that people would almost always commit some sort of crime if they knew a majority of others are getting away with it, because it’s within human nature to take advantage of a “good” thing even if its not fare or right.

The simple and constant act of just cleaning graffiti from trains and subway areas for a short period of time helped play a part to tip the crime level to substantially low level in the 1980’s, within a mere 6 years, the subways were safe and cleaner than ever before. Many had thought graffiti to be the least of crime troubles, after studies and observation done by a select few it (graffiti) actually turned out to be it’s igniter fluid. Which sucks, I love looking at graffiti, it’s art!

The Shiny Gold Box

…also known as “The Stickiness Factor.”

After the completion of this chapter, I wouldn’t say that I see television in a so much of a different manor as it just certainly brought to light things that I wouldn’t have noticed or contemplate over normally, for the most part. Most of which this chapter was really referring to the “tipping” of knowledge through television and media, especially shows geared for a younger generation, Sesame Street, and Blues Clues were of the top mentions.

The idea is that information needs to be like a “hook” in order to be interesting, compiled in a form that catches our attention, and furthermore, that hook has to be baited with something tasty. This way, you inevitably want more and stay attentive to the information that you are receiving. Not only will you be more attentive, but studies suggest and have proved that you will retain the information over an extended period of time.

When Sesame Street was introduced in the 60’s, it quickly presented promise in creating an actual “learning environment”  in what many had thought to be impossible. Many spectated that television, while being just a “talking box” was not a probable medium for teaching, teaching was thought to be at it’s optimal form while some basis of interaction is involved… for which the television was not very interactive… yet. The inner workings of a child’s mind is unsurprisingly different than an adults. The maker’s of Sesame Street saw this a “light bulb” moment and noticed how the current programing wasn’t sensitive to this fact.

While the main focus was to bring an affordable and “sticking” learning environment to children of lower class families who are less privileged to be in pre-school or to be provided a well rounded learning environment, with parents that are supportive of such an idea. Sesame Street was a huge success. I myself can remember watching Sesame Street, learning, and loving it. I loved Oscar, maybe that’s why I can be such a grouch sometimes. When the maker’s of Blues Clues came along, they built their show upon Sesame Street’s structure, but simply revamped it, and improved the interactive quality, making it even more “learner” friendly, and of course added more understanding and sensitivity to the viewers interests.

OK, I’ll admit it, I’ve watched Blue’s Clues… but only because my little brother had full control of the remote; (umm) I swear. No, I don’t know who Magenta is! …and don’t think HE’S broke-back, he’s probably Blue’s boy toy or something rather, who knows.

Connectors, Mavens, and Salesmen

It’s always been apparent to me that we are all equally  unique and have a certain aura about us. While reading this next chapter, Gladwell touched on a concept of “Connectors, Mavens, & Salesmen.” It made it possible to see the overall importance of these individuals and how they play a part in these “tipping” points (epidemics). I found it very entertaining to learn of his views on the communication and transferring information by “word of mouth,” and how it was and will always by an important means of communication.

When Paul Revere  set out on his mission armed with the historical message of  “the British are coming.” He road horseback for 13 miles, from Charleston to Menotomy. He used his voice and told his listener’s to use theirs. Within a matter of hours the British had begun their (what they had thought to be an) “undetected” invasion, they than came face to face with the Colonial Militia, and ultimately lost the fight. Gladwell explained that Revere was acting out as a Connector, he brought the people together, and his unique drive to “connect” and pass along the urgent message allowed the information to branch and torrent throughout the region as quickly as it did.

The comic that you see to your left is depicting a Maven confronting a Connector. Maven’s have the ability to interpret the qualities of people, place’s, or things in a different manor than the way most of us do. For example: You would say, “This coffee is too weak.” The Maven on the other hand might say “The coffee is a little delicate.” They have a knack for being pretty much neutral with all things. I think it be awesome if more people were this way.

Who do you listen to and ask for advice? If you know someone that knows what is seemingly everything about anything you might want to know about, and they are always somehow persuading you to take on a new hobbie, a purchase, maybe even a new favorite place to hangout. These individuals would be what Gladwell refers to as the “Salesman.” He points out that we still, in this day and age really do rely on our connection to people. The persuasion people have through  “wom” (word of mouth), despite all of these ingenious technologically advanced methods of advertising they’re usually overpowered by “wom,” because human beings like to believe that what they are being told is truth, really is in fact that, the truth. It’s easier to believe when the facts are being conveyed in a more “human” like fashion, like say a conversation between a friend. You’ll more than likely accept your friends opinion of a restaurant, over any commercial no matter how enticing it may be.