Saturday, May 31, 2008

Looking forward

I see a bit of a situation brewing on the horizon if this coming summer and autumn doesn't rectify it on it's own. I've been feeling it the past couple weeks, and it has been profoundly effecting me emotionally, (just ask C), but it wasn't until I was writing to a friend tonight that it dawned on me what this thing actually was.

In the past, my work has always been based on my life experience. As I get (ever-so-slightly) more mature in my work, it becomes more and more of an influence. Nevertheless, it is there, and without life experience to draw on- to cannibalize- I have nothing worth saying that can't just be hammered out casually like this blog-post, and then just as casually forgotten. I want to contribute more than that. As much as I'd like to see my book sales grow, there's almost no payment better than the few who contact me saying that I've changed their lives in some profound way. People I've never met, may never meet- changed. That's why I write, it's why I produce albums, or make visual art. For that, or even better, the people that I come to know through that work, or collaboration on future projects. To do this the work must be grounded in experience. Inspired from elsewhere, sure. But that ground, that honesty, has to be there.

After about four or five years where, on the whole, the output has been considerably higher than the input. I have "assets" to draw on for the projects I have planned up through the summer, but I really see myself hitting that bottom full on if I don't have more and varied experiences. Hours a day working in front of a computer, a couple hours of light socializing, making dinner, working, and going to sleep do not inform an artistic career. Contrary to popular opinion, that experience needn't be poverty, heartache, and despair, (I've had more than my share of all of those- it really isn't interesting material to draw from. Honest.) But it does have to come from outside the realm of expectation, a series of mental or emotional arrests, which complacent existence doesn't provide. If it doesn't hurt, it has to reach beyond itself, yearn, struggle, consume. My first book was inspired by an adolescent trip to an asylum, and several years obsession with psychedelics, the esoteric, and the occult. The second drew on a host of experiences which completely shattered everything I had thought to be my world, a re-inspired fascination with mythology, being in a band, living on the road. What can happen when you cling on to things too much, and what it can be like when you truly transcend fear and hope. It was a mental excursion into a hypothetical future, an alternate dimension, in every way different and yet at the same time very similar to our own present.

Now what do I have to draw on? What's the next story?

I guess I'm going to have to wait to find out, because these are the kinds of initiations you can't sign up for. Life gives them, or she doesn't. You can make yourself open to it, or not- but if it wants in, it'll damn well bust the door down if you don't open it up politely. And if it doesn't come, no amount of begging or posturing is going to give you that transformative experience that you need. But I've never been any good at waiting.

Visual Creative Process (images) 2008

Yesterday, I posted around some images for a series that I've been putting together loosely based both on the upcoming Y project, and Fallen Nation. A lot of time I find these short intermediary sketch or exploratory projects help unearth inspiration, and help clarify what might otherwise remain opaque, or under the surface. Initially, subQtaneous served as that kind of exploration, as an interlude between Join My Cult! and Fallen Nation, through it kind of got away from itself and became a sprawling studio project that seemed like it might never end. I thought this time it might make sense to instead bring some images together- certainly far less demanding than a concept album.

The question has been raised in a couple forums of what my process has been in building these images- in one case it came up because someone wanted it removed from a "digital art" community because these were "clearly photographs," when, as you'll see, that distinction isn't really quite so clear. It's a difficult process for me to talk about, both because even after a decade working in Photoshop it is still such an experimental process, and that it is so subconscious that I don't generally articulate what I'm doing- I just do it. But I'll give it a shot.

For the series above, the process was fairly uniform. I was hanging out at the Fall studios, and a shoot was going on in the other room with Key, (the model who graces the cover of Fallen Nation, among other things.) I hopped in on the shoot and got some shots. However, those initial shots were pretty simple- I didn't touch the lighting setup that was already in place, and it was all shot to a black cloth backdrop. I take pictures, and look at them as "source material." I don't consider myself a photographer.

I took those into Photoshop, and after cropping and picking the ones that were worth working with, I made a copy of the original and then colorized the image. (Which makes it monochromatic- essentially like black and white except there is a single base color as opposed to black/gray.) The process differed somewhat from here but usually involved picking a background image, and then cropping the entire image out from the black background and placing it in another (scene) photograph. The first step of bringing these together involves blurring it with a paintbrush based on focal distance from an imagined camera, and blending those various layers.

After that's done, there's still a lot of fine tuning involved in bringing the foreground and background together, a lot of which these days I do with paintbrushes and layer blending. Then, the most important and probably time consuming part of the process: creating a layer that is set to color, and colorizing the image by hand so that it is uniform, then creating another layer set to lighten or screen and using that for lighting or atmospherics. Sometimes a more transparent colorize layer with a gradient matched to the general light balance that you're going for can help bring things together a lot, as well. From there it's just a several hour process of bringing in other textures and images, blending, and repeating.

The one image in this series that went above and beyond this process is the one that has the Batailles quote ("...the widow laughs..."). In that image I added a couple layers where I did a "painting by numbers" literally on top of the photograph using a variety of different digital brushes that I've collected and made, and then blended it back into the photograph, color and lighting layers under it.


This earlier image (c. 2004-2005?) was more of a collaboration, which I initially helped bring together when we were doing early concept work for Fas Ferox. It became conceptually relevant to Fallen Nation as well, so I brought it over into there. (It's such a shame that you can't bring full color images into a novel in a cost effective way.)

The photograph came from a shoot done by Jeff Cohn with model Adrianne Anderson. I sat down with Jeff one night and went through his images- he literally has thousands of them- for a couple that I could work into an image. This was one of the ones I picked. At the same time I was working with Jessika Kaos, giving her basic direction on this idea we had of New York being partially submerged, and what that would be like. She modeled the city in 3d studio max, sent me the basic structures, I gave a little input, then she went back and did a digital painting on top of the basic geometry. From that point on it was a process much like with the Key series- bringing the images together, bringing in other elements (like the clouds in the sky, the mist, and so on), and doing color and light matching by hand when necessary. This is really not unlike the process that I've come to take on when moderating any project, whether it's an image, music, or collaborative writing. I prefer collaboration, despite the occasional difficulties that can arise- usually because of poor communication, inability to deal with the benevolent dictatorships that production requires, or when people take disagreement as personal criticism, (or make personal criticism out of a disagreement).

Well, that's a quick run-through of my process. I hope it was in some way useful or insightful. If not, file your complaints with management.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Assistant Editor

I'll go looking outside "the bubble" shortly, but I wanted to let you guys know first: in June we're going to be looking for an assistant editor for (this comes along with an upcoming, substantial re-design and step up across the site.) This person should be under the age of 25- college students are ideal. At first it will be an internship, with the potential to become a salaried position. You will be keeping tabs on emerging trends in media & culture both online and off, and assisting us with other editorial tasks. Knowledge of HTML, design, video editing etc. is helpful but not requisite. Being very familiar with the internet, social media, web 2.0 etc. is necessary, as is being literate and most important of all: reliable. Don't bother contacting us if you're going to be excited for a month and then drop off the planet. (Past experience with this sort of thing is part of why this position only becomes paid when the individual demonstrates results.)

You can be from anywhere so long as you have consistent high speed internet & phone, though it's an extra bonus if you're in the philadelphia PA or troy NY areas, as you'll then be able to occasionally meet in person with the editors.

Contact me at jamescurcio AT gmail DOT com and we can talk a bit about it.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Going to hell

For this mental health Monday, I’d like to help prove the stereotype that all musicians are mentally handicapped. Being a musician myself, I figure this post will only give me a 50% chance of going to hell. Based on my past performance, it’s probably a done deal anyhow. Onward!

Friday, May 23, 2008

Torrent Talk Wrap Up:

"You know, we have entered a brave new world. Chilling Effect doesn’t even begin to describe it. We are in a virtual Ice Age. Trackers, search engines (well, not the big ones) are being sued, not for any money they may have (they don’t) but rather to set precedents and make examples.

I would normally write several paragraphs of flippant commentary peppered with links that punctuate my points through association. Not today. Today I have decided to utilize a method known as The Wall of Shame. Shame to the entertainment industry for being (once again) so myopic, reactionary and greedy in the short term at the expense of the long run. But also, shame upon us for laying back and letting it happen. It’s like the artificial shortages and inflation of costs for energy, food, water, et. al. We just keep paying. That’s a form of support you know. No protest equals permission.

I see the same things happening with the torrent/intellectual property communities at large. Sure, there’s the rebellious organization or person to stand up (and to sometimes take one for the “team”) but by and large, I see and experience first hand a lot passive leecher behavior and not a lot of active participant (seeder) behavior. Shouldn’t we be lined up in front of Shell Oil and Warner Brothers, throwing rotten tomatoes and declaring, “I’m not buying your shit anymore until you wise up!” Shouldn’t we support our right to information? Shouldn’t we do everything we can to set up guerrila operations, that move swiftly and silently in the night, swapping IPs, locating to new countries at a whim, and multiplying in numbers so large that the idiots finally give up through the sheer force of attrition?

Yeah, right."

(See the Wall of Shame.)

Fallen Nation blog

Up and running.

As you were.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

The G-Spot 32: fever dreams & transmedia litany

In this special one hour G-Spot, James Curcio builds a fragmented narrative through excerpts from various shows that he produced / co-produced over the past seven years, wandering through it as if displaced in time, in a fever dream. Also included is an excerpt from Transmedia Litany, with Genesis P. Orridge & Joseph Matheny. All of the music and content that makes up this podcasts is home-grown, recorded in various home & psuedo-professional studios.

Some links you may want to check out after / while you listen: ZenseiderZ, the rough version of the MHB informercial (c2000), the Join My Cult! eBook, Fallen Nation: Babylon Burning eBook, order Fallen Nation on Amazon, Babalon.

LISTEN here. We suggest you listen on headphones. Or while driving late at night. (Though we aren't responsible if you drive off the road.)


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