Pixelhead masks that make you look like a pixellated German Secretary of the Interior

Martin Backes is selling a limited edition of 333 "Pixelhead" anonymity masks, which allow you to replace your face with the pixellated likeness of German Secretary of the Interior Hans-Peter Friedrich. Masks are made to order and to measure, take 4-6 weeks for delivery, and cost €158 with shipping.

The full face mask Pixelhead acts as media camouflage, completely shielding the head to ensure that your face is not recognizable on photographs taken in public places without securing permission. A simple piece of fabric creates a little piece of anonymity for the Internet age. The material used is elastic fabric for beach fashion and sports gear with a fashionable Pixel-style print of German Secretary of the Interior Hans-Peter Friedrich. The mask has holes for your eyes and mouth, so you can see and breathe comfortably while wearing the mask, secure in the knowledge that your image won’t be showing up anywhere you don’t want it to.

Pixelhead Limited Edition

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Bruce Sterling on Alan Turing, gender, AI, and art criticism

Bruce Sterling gave a speech at the North American Summer School in Logic, Language, and Information (NASSLLI) on the eve of the Alan Turing Centenary, and delivered a provocative, witty and important talk on the Turing Test, gender and machine intelligence, Turing's life and death, and art criticism.

If you study his biography, the emotional vacuum in the guy’s life was quite frightening. His parents are absent on another continent, he’s in boarding schools, in academia, in the intelligence services, in the closet of the mid-20th-century gay life. Although Turing was a bright, physically strong guy capable of tremendous hard work, he never got much credit for his efforts during his lifetime.

How strange was Alan Turing? Was Alan Turing a weird, scary guy? Let’s try a thought experiment, because I’m a science fiction writer and we’re into those counterfactual approaches.

So let’s just suppose that Alan Turing is just the same personally: he’s a mathematician, an early computer scientist, a metaphysician, a war hero — but he’s German. He’s not British. Instead of being the Bletchley Park code breaker, he’s the German code maker. He’s Alan Turingstein, and he realizes the Enigma Machine has a flaw. So, he imagines, designs and builds a digital communication code system for the Nazis. He defeats the British code breakers. In fact, he’s so brilliant that he breaks some of the British codes instead. Therefore, the second World War lasts until the Americans drop their nuclear bomb on Europe.

I think you’ll agree this counter-history is plausible, because so many of Turing’s science problems were German — the famous “ending problem” of computability was German.

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Bruce Sterling interviewed about the New Aesthetic

David Cox interviews Bruce Sterling about the significance, lifecycle and future of the New Aesthetic movement:

First to the issue of “is the New Aesthetic really new?” I’d say those images are “new’” pretty much by definition. Aesthetics obviously is very old. James Bridle doing a project called the “New Aesthetic Tumblr” is over, and receding into the past. But machine-generated imagery that is unlike previous forms of imagery is all over the place. So, yes it is new, for any reasonable definition of novelty.

As for whether James Bridle’s image collection had any analytical rigor, I’m inclined to think he had more analysis going on there than he liked to let on; but I rather think James prefers writing, journalism and publishing to the trying role of a public New Aesthetic visionary. When you have a breakout viral hit on the Net nowadays, the opportunity-cost can be pretty stiff.

On the issue as to what a New Aesthetic ought to do, what the “strategy” is, well, that’s unsettled, but I think that James’s year-long intervention there has raised the morale of tech-art people quite a lot. It’s legitimated their practice in their own eyes, and helped to free them from their traditional hangups on specific pieces of hardware. At least it’s possible to imagine a strategy now — instead of merely saying, I’m an artist, but I do digital electronics, you can re-frame your efforts as something like “a new aesthetic of processual vital beauty,” and you’re not so handcuffed to the soldering irons.

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New Aesthetic eruption

A New Aesthetic eruption I caught yesterday off Brick Lane in east London: this LCD adverscreen displaying rotating, chiding public safety messages beneath a CCTV camera, nestled among the graffiti-daubed old buildings above the cobbled and thronged street.

CCTV and LCD adverscreen with anti-booze PSA, a New Aesthetic Eruption, Brick Lane, Hackney, London, UK.jpg Read the rest

Making New Aesthetic theory slightly more concrete

Bruce Sterling responds to Marius Watz's take on Sterling's manifesto about the "New Aesthetic" movement. Sterling is enthusiastic about Watz's views, and begins to move the discussion of "New Aesthetics" from total abstractions to slightly more concrete abstractions. If Sterling's earlier, dense missive left you somewhat mystified, this one might help you unpack things somewhat.

So let’s consider “bad tech-art.” What does it look like? Well, it is, commonly, some poorly-designed, haywire, deeply private, almost chaotic device and/or installation — accompanied by a long, vague exegesis about its huge significance. This artwork barely fun ctions, communicates badly to people, is opaque to interpretation, breaks down frequently, and is generally accompanied by a tortured justification direct from the artist himself.

That is the melancholy spectacle of an art-hacker isolated by his hardware. He has never been able to mentally place his artwork within a context of similar creative activity. He or she is a one-person artistic Long-Tail.

His artwork has failed to get social traction, because, although it’s plenty weird, this creative is poorly-socialized. He’s a pioneer, not a native. He’s a Robinson Crusoe in goatskins, and despite the fact that his IQ is high enough to boil lead, he’s easily classifiable as a weirdly ingenious derelict marooned on some tiny island.

That island that consist of his hard-won private expertise in, for instance, building drawing-machines out of British ex-military gunsights. This hacker-artist-crackpot-inventor is hung-up on the bit-twiddling hack minutiae — most of which he had to invent, all by himself, in a splendid isolation.

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Bruce Sterling's critique and love note to "the New Aesthetic"

Bruce Sterling's "An Essay on the New Aesthetic," is a dense, difficult, exciting critical look at the New Aesthetic, a kind of art movement centered in my neighbourhood in east London ("If you wanted a creative movement whose logo is a Predator supported by glossy, multicolored toy balloons, London would be its natural launchpad."). Sterling was set afire by a panel at SXSW this year, and hammered out this essay in response. It's part critique, part mash-note, and makes larger points about our relationship to machines and the aesthetics of their output ("an eruption of the digital into the physical").

Look at those images objectively. Scarcely one of the real things in there would have made any sense to anyone in 1982, or even in 1992. People of those times would not have known what they were seeing with those New Aesthetic images. It’s the news, and it’s the truth.

Next, the New Aesthetic is culturally agnostic. Most anybody with a net connection ought to be able to see the New Aesthetic transpiring in real time. It is British in origin (more specifically, it’s part and parcel of region of London seething with creative atelier “tech houses”). However, it exists wherever there is satellite surveillance, locative mapping, smartphone photos, wifi coverage and Photoshop.

The New Aesthetic is comprehensible. It’s easier to perceive than, for instance, the “surrealism” of a fur-covered teacup. Your Mom could get it. It’s funny. It’s pop. It’s transgressive and punk. Parts of it are cute.

It’s also deep.

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