Nicholas Monsour is an artist and film editor born and raised in Los Angeles.

PLAYLIST 07: SUMMER
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Monday
Dec082014

White Male Human Privilege

I just want to say something brief in regards to the use of live animals in art exhibitions, because it has recently re-re-re-emerged as an annoying trend. Most recently I encountered the dog that is living in the gallery at LACMA as part of Pierre Huyge's retrospective. While I personally believe that living beings have no place as part of human economic transactions (which art exhibits usually are in one way or another), I wont try to convince anyone that it is morally wrong, because there is endless far worse exploitation of animals occurring every second of every day all around us. Instead, I'll just say that I find it artistically pathetic. There is almost always in these cases a white male "provocateur" behind it, who clearly believes that including a non-human living being in the art work is in some way novel or edgy - congratulating themselves for provoking an emotional response from a viewer based on concern and empathy which they mock or play with from their meta-human meta-animal perspective. What's pathetic is that they think they are breaking with a tradition when instead all they are doing is cynically exploiting a tradition by breaking only its most superficial of rules. It's still objectification and commodification based on white, male, human privilege. It isn't novel, and it could hardly be a stodgier, more classical idea. Pierre Huyge could simply have rescued the dog and provided a good home for it, but that would hardly provide him and others who think like him with the false sense of provocation they depend upon to escape real ideas. And the monkey used in a video piece shatters at every moment any concept or artistic intent in the piece by clearly being a bored and confused monkey in a room. The crabs, lobsters and fish are almost certainly bred by businesses that exploit animals or captured wild - both of which are in a real and concrete way environmentally destructive, undercutting Huyge's otherwise interesting ecological constructions. The only way to enter into the meaning of the piece is to ignore these facts, and thats the same way of thinking that exists everywhere. It'd be fucking boring if it wasn't vile. Maybe it's just another banality of evil. It's unfortunate because I admire much about Huyge's work - but empathy and real politics are not in vogue in the very elite and lucrative echelons of international conceptual art exhibitions, or for those who aspire to be included in it.

Thursday
Sep042014

✆ EXTINCTION PHONE

Nicholas Monsour
Extinction Phone, 2014

Aluminum, thermoplastic, PVC, plywood, paper, refurbished pay phone, crystal oscillator timer circuit, Arduino control circuit, audio circuit, lead-acid batteries, recordings of extinct species, phone book containing scientific names of extinct species.

The extinction phone rings every time a unique species goes extinct on Earth, which is 73,000 times per year, or 200 times per day, or every 7.2 minutes.

This project is a site-specific, interactive art installation.  The phone is controlled by an Arduino microcontroller, and uses an AdaFruit Waveshield to playback audio.  The phone also includes custom built timer and interaction circuitry.  The recordings of extinct animals were gathered from various libraries and collections around the world.

The directory that hangs from the pay phone contains the most up to date and comprehensive list of identified species believed to be extinct.  The phone book can be purchased here.

Thursday
Jan302014

ANTIQUE MICROSCOPE SLIDES, PART 2

Taken from www.victorianmicroscopeslides.com

 

Arranged Exhibition Slide comprised of Diatoms, Sponge Spicules, and Plates and Anchors of Synapta; Imaged using Darkfield lighting technique.

Arranged mount of Sponge Spicula by A.C. Cole, imaged using Darkfield lighting.

 

Arranged slide, Watson & Sons "Eggs of Butterflies, Etc." shown in detail.

Three arranged slides on opaque backgrounds for incident lighting

Thursday
Oct312013

Antique microscope slides

Found on Ebay.


 

 

 

Tuesday
Oct152013

The Voynich Manuscript

The Voynich manuscript is an illustrated codex hand-written in an unknown writing system. The book has been carbon-dated to the early 15th century (1404–1438), and may have been composed in Northern Italy during the Italian Renaissance. The manuscript is named after Wilfrid Voynich, a book dealer who purchased it in 1912.

The pages of the codex are vellum. Some of the pages are missing, but about 240 remain. The text is written from left to right, and most of the pages have illustrations or diagrams. Many people have speculated that the writing might be nonsense. However, in 2013, Marcelo Montemurro of the University of Manchester and Damian Zanette of the Bariloche Atomic Centre published a paper documenting their identification of a semantic pattern in the writing; this suggests that the Voynich manuscript is a ciphertext with a message.

The Voynich manuscript has been studied by many professional and amateur cryptographers, including American and British codebreakers from both World War I and World War II. No one has yet succeeded in deciphering the text, and it has become a famous case in the history of cryptography. The mystery of the meaning and origin of the manuscript has excited the popular imagination, making the manuscript the subject of novels and speculation. None of the many hypotheses proposed over the last hundred years has yet been independently verified.

The Voynich manuscript was donated by Hans P. Kraus to Yale University's Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library in 1969, where it is catalogued under call number MS 408. A digitized high-resolution copy is also accessible freely at their website. (Wikipedia)

Thursday
Apr252013

Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness

In 2012, a group of neuroscientists attending a conference on "Consciousness in Human and non-Human Animals" at Cambridge University in the UK, signed The Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness.  (Download a copy of the Declaration).

Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness

"The absence of a neocortex does not appear to preclude an organism from experiencing affective states. Convergent evidence indicates that non-human animals have the neuroanatomical, neurochemical, and neurophysiological substrates of conscious states along with the capacity to exhibit intentional behaviors. Consequently, the weight of evidence indicates that humans are not unique in possessing the neurological substrates that generate consciousness. Non-human animals, including all mammals and birds, and many other creatures, including octopuses, also possess these neurological substrates."

Thursday
Apr252013

Méconnaissance

Photographers Anne Marie Hubert-Brierre, Xavier Hubert-Brierre and Michel Guiss Djomo set up a mirror and cameras in the jungles near Nyonié in Gabon to record how the area’s leopards reacted.  More videos are on their youtube channel.

Tuesday
Apr162013

The hummingbird people

Regard Eloigne

"To the Yanomami, each person has an ‘image-essence’, a double called a utupë, to which they are joined until death.  A utupë can present itself in the image of many different living creatures, including a bird, mammal or insect. There are also spirits of trees, waterfalls and wild honey." (Survival International)

One by one the spirits arrived. The toucan spirits arrived with their big ear sticks and bright red loin cloths, describes Davi. The hummingbird people arrived and flew around. The moka frog spirits were there with quivers of arrows on their backs. Then came the peccary spirits, the bat people and the spirits of the waterfall.

My soul began to shine.

All came and slung their hammocks in my chest.


Wednesday
Mar132013

OSPAAL Poster Art

The Organization of Solidarity with the People of Asia, Africa and Latin America (Organización de Solidaridad con los Pueblos de Asia, África y América Latina), abbreviated as OSPAAAL, is a Cuban political movement with the stated purpose of fighting globalisation, imperialism, neoliberalism and defending human rights. It publishes the magazine Tricontinental. The OSPAAAL was founded in Havana in January 1966, after the Tricontinental Conference, a meeting of leftist delegates fromGuinea, the Congo, South Africa, Angola, Vietnam, Syria, North Korea, the Palestine Liberation Organization, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Chile and the Dominican Republic. Mehdi Ben Barka, the Moroccan leader of the Tricontinental Conference, was murdered the year before, allegedly with complicity of the CIA.

One of the main purposes of the organisation is to promote the causes of socialism and communism in the Third World; for example, OSPAAAL strongly supported Hugo Chávez and demands that the Cuban Five be released. Social development, which the organization says is a human right, is a recurring theme in OSPAAAL publications.

From its foundation until the mid 1980s, OSPAAAL produced brightly coloured propaganda posters promoting their cause, however, financial difficulty and ink shortages forced the organization to stop producing these posters. However, in 2000, these posters began to be printed again.  These posters, as they intended to be internationalist, usually had their message written in Spanish, English, French, and Arabic. As opposed to being put up on walls around Cuba, these posters were instead folded up and stapled into copies ofTricontinental, so that they could be distributed internationally. This allowed OSPAAAL to send its message to its subscribers around the world.

All OSPAAAL-Posters from the beginning until 2003 are documented and indexed in the book The Tricontinental Solidarity Poster.

Comprehensive archive of OSPAAAL posters created by librarian/archivist Lincoln Cushing

These are some of my favorites:

Sunday
Feb032013

Biologically Inspired Network Design

1. Tokyo rail network designed by Physarum plasmodium

 

2. Slime Mold Physarum polycephalum networking on a map of the United States

 

3. Physarum Polycephalum solves Traveling Salesman Problem