Tuesday, November 18, 2008

campaign to replace the dial-tone with OM

back in 1997, i produced an edition of letterpress posters reading "CENTER for the OBVIOUS CAMPAIGN to REPLACE the DIAL-TONE with OM". i guess one day i just picked up the phone, and started humming along with the dial tone, and all of a sudden, it turned into a sort of meditation. "replacing the dial-tone with OM" is really just requires a mental shift - it's a matter of perception.

later i learned that laurie anderson used to tune her violin to the dial tone - turns out that the dial tone is almost a perfect A 440. whereas, from what i can gather, the syllable OM is traditionally considered to be a C# (554.37 Hz).

since nearly all of the original posters have been sold or given away, i've decided to do an inexpensive reprinting in high-quality 11"x 17" color xerox on heavy stock, currently available at the PHILOSOPROP SHOP.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

a vital discipline

Way back in 1996, I lived in a factory building loft space in Providence, RI. By day I was working as a research assistant at the University of Rhode Island, and at night I was attending graduate classes in scientific illustration at RI School of Design – I felt overwhelmingly compelled to make art about the great mysteries of science – but I was feeling a little like an impostor in both worlds. My coworkers thought of me as an artist who happened to have a day gig at the lab, and at RISD I felt like the other students could tell that I was really a scientist. In the end, it was, of course, all in my (bi-hemispherical) head.

At some point during the summer of 1996, the information that was to become “Evolution of an Artist” began to emerge. It began with “A Vital Discipline”, an insight I’d had regarding the creative process, letterpress printed onto a cocktail napkin. I later came to realize that “A Vital Discipline” was really just a paraphrase of something I’d heard Allen Ginsberg say at a reading years earlier: “When the Muse calls, answer”.

The other parts of “How to Become a Successful Artist” (later titled “Evolution of an Artist”) formed all at once over the course of a few weeks while I was peering for hours a day through a microscope. Of course I knew next to nothing about becoming a successful artist. The information just seemed to arrive, and it was my job to turn it into some sort of booklet. I was just following Mr. Ginsberg’s advice, answering the Muse when it called.

I decided to write Mr. Ginsberg a letter of thanks for his inspiration. I sent him a copy of the first incarnation of the completed booklet, including a live lottery ticket with another chapter, “ODDS”, rubber stamped on the back. I’d purchased two Powerball tickets with the same number, figuring that if the number came up, we’d have to split the prize. This in itself would get me a little closer to becoming a successful artist...

Copies of “Evolution of an Artist” in its current incarnation are available thru supermarket.

Monday, October 6, 2008

homeopathic remedies for the 5 ills of society

the idea to create these remedies occurred to me shortly after 9/11/2001. it began with "violence" - based on the notion that "like cures like" (similia similibus curentur), i felt that perhaps an antidote could be concocted by making a tincture by soaking a bullet in distilled water.

VIOLENCE: dilution made from bullet soaked in distilled water.
CONSUMERISM: diluted bottled water from wal-mart.
DETACHMENT: miniscule dose of superglue.
ALIENATION: empty. CAUTION: extremely potent!
GREED: dilution made from coins soaked in distilled water.

with all the news of late, it seems that these remedies are needed now more than ever.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

art studios = particle accelerators = cathedrals

i made this piece (letterpress and litho, 15"x 11", ed. of 4) way back in 2000. with all the excitement around the firing-up of the new CERN particle accelerator (there's a nice article on it in the ny times by brian greene), i dug it out of the archives.

we humans feel compelled to delve into the deepest mysteries of the universe in so many different ways.

i'm not sure if it will be science, art, philosophy, spirituality, or a combination of all of these, that will provide definitive proof that we're all made out of the same ONE THING...

but i do believe that a discovery of this magnitude has the capacity to transform humanity in much the same way that the wielding of fire transformed it millennia ago...it will provide us with a tool, a key to connecting with the intangible...it will enable us to interact and communicate more efficiently with the mysterious thing within us and without us from whence our thoughts, passions, and inspirations emerge.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

haeckel's dream

several years ago during an artists' residency at acadia national park in maine, i took a walk each day to an island that could only be accessed at low tide. at the time, i was obsessively sketching jellyfish, though i had few live specimens to work from. one afternoon as i began my walk i noticed a dead lion's mane jellyfish stranded on the rocks. just as i was contemplating how best to transport the beautiful yet slightly decaying blob of gelatinous, stinging goo, i noticed several others. the more i looked, the more appeared. i gazed out into the outgoing tide. there were twenty or more jellyfish all poised for a similar fate: planktonic creatures, unable to maneuver with directional intention, the strangely elegant, garnet-colored cnidarians were trapped. the wind was driving them onto the rocks as the water was being sucked out from under them.

i was moved by this tragic situation which, to me, seemed to be the perfect metaphor for life in general, and for my "CHOOSE DETERMINISM" philosophy: at sea, the jellyfish has the sensation of free will...it floats and drifts without awareness of the edges of the container in which it exists...until the wind and tide together create conditions which washes it ashore.

i ran back to my cabin to grab my super 8 film camera, and ran back to document this rare and bizarre phenomenon.

a few months later, i visited the texan high desert near big bend national park for the first time. the landscape reminded me of the sea floor...in fact, it IS the sea floor, several million years after the water receded. i thought of the jellyfish, and when i edited the film, i decided to create a soundtrack that evoked both water and desert earth and star-filled night sky at the same time.

haeckel's dream is available on dvd in an edition of 50. please contact me if you would like to acquire a high resolution copy.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008


$1.00 for 2, plus .50 shipping for up to 10 stickers.
please email me for details, or order here.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

determinist survey

are you unsure if you believe in free will, determinism, or a little of both?
perhaps our on-line survey (containing many of the same questions as the booklet) can help you decide.

Sunday, May 11, 2008


My dad was a philosophy major in college. When I was a kid, we used to have lengthy discussions about free will versus determinism. For a long time I considered myself an existentialist…I surmised that we are condemned to be free, that we are each individually responsible for every detail of the unfolding of our lives. But as I got older, more and more seemed inherently out of my control. I began to sense that free will and determinism must be operating simultaneously, but my father insisted that you can’t have intermittent free will…it’s either all clockwork or all chaos, but not a little of each.

Then I learned about quantum physics, and about how the particles of everything around us are ultimately made up of mostly empty space held together by mysterious forces…forces that do not abide by the physical laws that govern large things. For all intents and purposes, quantum physics and classical physics cannot coexist…and yet they do. In fact, physicists are working around the clock to come up with a “grand unification theory”, a way to reconcile them.

To me, the free will/determinism dilemma is identical: determinism = classical physics, things abiding by predictable laws, and free will = renegade waves and particles appearing in two places at once, having non-local relationships, and otherwise working behind the scenes to make our reality appear to be made of something solid.

For me, “CHOOSE DETERMINISM” is a sort of grand unification theory for philosophy. Maybe we can have a little of both. Maybe we have no choice…

The "philosoprop" I have developed to demonstrate these principles is a pair of dice that have three dots embossed on all sides. The roller has the sensation of free will, but the number will always come up on two 3's. There's also an accompanying small propaganda-style booklet/questionnaire entitled "Are You a DETERMINIST? YOU DECIDE!"

Please contact me for details if you'd like a set (booklet + 2 dice) of your own.