Ricardo Miranda Zúñiga

Structural Patterns

Reflections on Art, Technology and Society

Archive for the ‘uncritical perspectives’ Category

“Hansel & Gretel” at Park Avenue Armory – Save Your Money

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Hansel & Gretel at Park Avenue Armory

The “Hansel & Gretel” curatorial statement describes the installation as a space that brings together Jacques Herzog, Pierre de Meuron and Ai Weiwei combined interests in

the psychological impact of architecture and the politics of public space; creating a playful, strange, and eventually eerie environment with different layers of reality revealed to the visitor… Hansel & Gretel is a dystopian forest of projected light where the floor rises up, as if lifted by an invisible force, and visitors are tracked by infrared cameras and surveyed by overhead drones as they systematically capture the parkgoers’ data and movements…

Unfortunately, the only portion of this description that resonates is the playfulness. Indeed Herzog, de Meuron and Weiwei have created a dark environment in which visitors may skip around and play with light traces of their image. However, the installation lacks strangeness, eeriness, politics or any psychological reverberation.

Other than the initial moment of discovery that one’s image is being projected on to the ground after it is periodically taken due to on one’s movement in the space, the installation presents very little that is interesting. The drones may have been a neat prop had they not been tethered.

The second part of the installation is a didactic revelation of what the installation is trying to allude to – that we are objects of surveillance. As far as a critical art installation regarding surveillance, there was much more interesting work done 15+ years ago. Perhaps the theme of surveillance has been so overly investigated and picked apart by art previously and by entertainment today (“Black Mirror” for example) that such an installation seems trite and naive. There is so much of our data being captured today, that building an installation that merely plays upon facial recognition and motion sensors is just kind of dumb, but it is playful. So if $16 is worth the cost of running around a huge dark open space and playing with light projection, check it out.

Hansel & Gretel at Park Avenue Armory

A second perspective: Playtime at the Armory
Once again discovering what this city has to offer, there I was with Ricardo walking into a venue called the Armory near Hunter College, a place I had never been before to see a new art installation called “Hansel & Gretel”. He had been keen to check this out for a few weeks, and like the curious creature I am, I followed along.

We received a quick intro and were instructed to read a phase on the wall before entering -which i forgot- and then allowed to enter. We walked into black nothingness. My immediate reaction was to scramble for Ricardo’s hand. I didn’t realize the massiveness of this place until my eyes adjusted from the summer sunlight to the darkness inside of the Armory. It was only eerie the first few minutes because I had no idea where the hell I was walking. There were a few cameras far above us hanging from the ceiling and lights that would follow us. As we continued to walk, our movement was detected, grid lines would appear and cameras would be activated to capture our moves. Suddenly, it was playtime! It was fun to pose in different positions to watch the resulting snap shot of yourself illuminated on the black floor. At one point my sweater and shoes came off and I really got into it.

Ricardo noticed two drones hovering on one side of the space living poor unfulfilled lives- tied onto leashes without free movement. It would have been more interesting if they were chasing people around. After exhausting our ideas for poses, the novelty wore off and we were ready to enter part deux of the installation. For that, we had to exit this part of the Armory and enter from another entrance on the other side of the street.

After pausing in front of a camera you were allowed inside. There were many ipads on long tables with apps. You could elect to have your face identified and then search the cameras for your photo which was taken in the first part of the installation. That was cool. You could read about the history of surveillance, or access cameras to spy on others walking into the exhibits. The Armory itself was impressive, the installation not as much. It was a new, interesting experience- a fun activity for kids, I would say. I didn’t leave with the feeling that I had witnessed an impressive statement against today’s constant scrutiny and monitoring that we are all under. I didn’t feel intruded upon. There wasn’t anything menacing or fantastical as is described in the program leaflet. It was just pretty cool and fun.

Perhaps the work behind the installation was complicated, but with my lack of technical know-how, I failed to appreciate the amount of effort involved. To have truly made an impact, more could have been done to confuse or play with the audience with the intention of throwing them off or perhaps even scaring them. Coupling that with the sound of Russian men having conversations in the background (that felt clandestine in nature), and I would have possibly left quite feeling differently.

Hansel & Gretel at Park Avenue Armory

Tech Excursions in the Bay Area

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Touring Pixar

Although I travel to San Francisco at least once I year, I don’t get to see many friends as I’m in the City to spend time with family. However, this time, I made a point of getting in touch with Amera Rizk an old Carnegie Mellon University friend who is an editor at Pixar. This past Wednesday, Amera gave us the royal treatment as we got to tour the Steve Jobs Pixar building, pose with the Incredibles and even get a sound wave and microphone lesson in the Pixar sound recording studio. It was a huge treat for Iggy to learn about the steps that it take to produce a Pixar animation from initial concept sketches to creating models of the characters, story development, storyboarding, environment design, 3D movements… Amera took us through the elaborate animator studios and much more. I was amazed by the outdoor lap pool, it would be nice to work at a place that provides amazing exercise facilities. Unfortunately we couldn’t take pictures or see much of the Brooklyn building as that’s where the current projects are in production.

Touring Pixar

This past Friday, we made two San Francisco tech excursions. First was lunch with Brooke’s cousin Jimmy Singer at Google’s San Francisco building. At Pixar, Amera treated us to lunch, at Google, lunch was on Google as meals are provided! I only wish I had skipped breakfast. As we were not at the Google campus, the Google visit was not nearly as exciting as Pixar… It wasn’t a creative’s playground. But we did enjoy a beautiful view of the Bay Bridge along with a delicious meal with Jimmy’s company. Here’s Iggy’s cousin, Joaquin Zuniga making an around the world call in Google’s 4th Floor reception office.

Visiting Google

From Google we headed to the California Academy of Science to enjoy the rain forest environments and then to the Otherlab to have beer and pizza with Brooke’s old collaborator Jamie Schulte and his family. Saul Griffith the founder of Otherlab likes to throw the garage door open, blow up the jumpy castle and have a party on Friday afternoons. It took me a while to get Iggy out of the jumpy castle in order to head upstairs and box by controlling the pnuematic robots. Once the boys were up there trying to knock the head off the opponent’s robot, they forgot all about the jumpy castle. It was great to get a peak at all the interesting work going on at Otherlab.


I don’t know what this project is all about, but I love the concept:

Personal Energy Tracker

There’s so much amazing work being done in such a tiny area of land that is the Bay Area!

Written by ricardo

August 16th, 2015 at 11:48 pm

“Juan de los muertos” on YouTube

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For the last couple days, I’ve been living above FiNNCON2013 at the Cable Factory in Helsinki. I searched through their program and discovered a few interesting things, amongst them the movie I watched last night on YouTube – “Juan de los muertos” (Juan of the Dead). There are now several zombie movies that I like and all of them for their socio-political commentary or perhaps more accurately – overtly political satire and comedy:

“Zombie Strippers,” “Shuan of the Dead,” “Stake Land,” and now “Juan of the Dead.” (“Stake Land” may be more so vampire than zombie, I don’t recall clearly, the title imagines vampire, but I think that they were zombie vampires, either way, it’s a surprisingly good horror movie but not so funny.)

“Juan de los muertos” is of course low budget and campy, but it’s Cuban which means clever, over the top and funny. It at once satirizes Cuba, Fidel, the Revolution, Marxism, Socialism, Capitalism, the United States of America, Hollywood and Horror. However the characters are endearing and there are surprising scenes. Best of all, it’s freely available on YouTube:

Written by ricardo

July 7th, 2013 at 1:50 pm

Carl Prine – Think Like a Fear Monger

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A friend asked me to watch PBS’s Expose program and the program actually made me very angry.  Prine strikes me as an uncritical, ultra-conservative, obsessive individual .  Rather than questioning the terror based fear machine that the Bush administration has engendered since 9/11 leading to an illegal war, he’s the fear machine’s head publicist in the gateway to the mid-West, Pittsburgh.  The work is great if it leads to getting rid of unnecessary  chemicals and hazards, but that isn’t his agenda.  He is searching for more elements that will stir fear and concern amongst people.  Fear that has already allowed massive death through an illegal and misguided war.

He wasn’t satisfied with fermenting fear in the US middle states, so then he goes off to participate in a ridiculous war and he thinks he’s helping to bring down al qaeda when he’s probably just fanning the anger and hatred toward the US from poor people with little recourse.  It’s as if this man has been brain washed by every ultra-conservative perspective that clear thinking people have finally begun to question.  Now he’s apparently returned to the US with self-righteousness over having participated in an ill conceived war that had nothing to do with 9/11 to find a new vehicle of fear – the trains!  Carl Prine reflects the sort of ignorance that I would expect PBS to not support.

Written by ricardo

June 20th, 2007 at 8:12 pm