Tags filed under ‘Austin’

UT Law on the Go: New iPhone Web App

Screenshots of the UT Law iPhone app

Trying to keep up with the proverbial Joneses, today we launched an iPhone / iPod Touch mobile web app for the University of Texas School of Law. If you want to check it out on your iPhone right away, fire up the following link in Safari: http://www.utexas.edu/law/m/

I built it from the ground up with PHP, JavaScript, and a bit of elbow grease, pulling data from a handful of existing sources both on-campus and off. It makes use of the iUI JavaScript framework, which is a great resource for getting up and running quickly (but which also has some drawbacks — I’ll likely switch to pure jQuery for the next major version, but I’m also keeping an eye on the jQTouch project). A quick rundown of the features of the web app:

  • Directory Search — if you’re affiliated with UT Law School you can search our internal phone and email directory by name or department, using the native iPhone apps to place calls and send emails directly,
  • Event listings and Notices pulled from our existing calendar and Law Mail announcement systems,
  • RSS feed view of our press releases,
  • Recent Twitter posts from our Communications office (this will make more sense when/if we have more than one Twitter account posting official news, and can combine them into one stream here),
  • Maps: detailed building maps, Google maps that use the iPhone location services to guide you to our building, KML-based maps of public parking, nearby hotels, and restaurants,
  • and a psuedo-iPhone style photo gallery that’s pulled from our existing mini-gallery on the regular website, adding the ability to flick through the images (did you know that Mobile Safari adds nifty JavaScript events for multi-touch gesture support? I didn’t until this project…)

There are a lot of things already in the works for the next iteration. The number one goal is to support other popular devices, to live up to the ideal of “one web, any browser”. As a developer who has wrestled against the wide range of inconsistent desktop browsers and all of their HTML and CSS inconsistencies over the years, though, it was really, really, nice to work with a single browser that already supports HTML5 and CSS3 presentation out of the box. Now I’m spoiled.

Austin artists, know your candidates

Paramount Theater Ceiling

As reported already by many other local sources, the Paramount theater will host our latest and greatest mayoral and city council candidates for a public forum to discuss their positions on art and culture in Austin. The event is this Wednesday (April 1), at 7p.m. With politicos slashing budgets left and right to stem the economic crisis (or at least give that appearance) arts funding often gets kicked to the curb, despite the considerable income the creative community generates for the city and state. Robert Faires of the Austin Chronicle says it best:

“But when money gets tight, if anything gets cut faster than library hours, it’s arts and culture. And part of the reason is we don’t show up. Let’s not make that mistake this time. A packed Paramount would send a pretty powerful message to City Hall.”

Might be worth getting to know the folks who are lining up to be Austin’s next mayor (I’ve included their Twitter @name where applicable as it’s hopefully a good way to have a conversation with them directly or at least with their campaign):

and city council candidates:

That about sums up what I know of the candidates. I’m a bit of a local politics neophyte, so can anyone elaborate for me on what to be looking out for at the forum this Wednesday? For the candidates that already have a local or state-wide history, what do we know about their support for the arts?

(photo via shadowstorm)

Mixed Bag


Another fairly straightforward WordPress theme built from the ground up. This time it’s for Marsha Riti’s secondary blog, MIXED BAG, which collects her project instructions, recipes, and Craigslist finds from around Austin (are you obsessed with midcentury modern furniture and weird old junk, too?).

Richer Responses

From Millennium Park in Chicago

Every urban population believes in having its own collective psychology. One can ridicule this belief, but it has produced a lot of poetry, music and cinema that we are accustomed to valuing. The volume of poems about Parisian air or St. Petersburg’s weather is a sufficient justification for their architecture. However, if we don’t speak about art that is stimulated by a city but about art in the public space, then one should be very careful. The chance that any really good artwork can go through all possible channels that evaluate it is minimal. And, in general, art that is exhibited outside of arts institutions has to additionally identify itself as art. That makes art shown in the public space even more conservative than art shown within the framework of institutions.
—Boris Groys, excerpted from “6 Questions for Boris Groys”, Art Lies no. 58, p. 19

It is not important at all to me that you or anyone else should have this or that knowledge of anything written or recorded about my pictures of anyone else’s. It’s about experiencing the pictures, not understanding them. People now tend to think their experience of art is based in understanding the art, whereas in the past people in general understood the art and were maybe more freely able to absorb it intuitively. They understood it because it hadn’t yet separated itself off from the mainstream of culture the way modern art had to do. So I guess it is not surprising that, since that separation has occurred, people try to bridge it through understanding the oddness of the various new art forms. Cinema seems more of less still in the mainstream, as if it never had a ‘secession’ of modern or modernist artists against that mainstream. So people don’t tend to be so emphatic about understanding films, they tend to enjoy them and evaluate them: great, good, not so good, two thumbs up, etc. Although that can be perfunctory and dull, it may be a better form of response. Experience and evaluation — judgment — are richer responses than gestures of understanding or interpretations.
— Jeff Wall, excerpted from ‘An email exchange between Jeff Wall and Mike Figgis’, Contemporary, no. 65, 2005

There’s been plenty of talk lately in the news about the role of public art as Olafur Eliasson’s quartet of waterfalls were turned on last week. Some see the display as a way for the public to newly experience their urban surrounding (Mr. Eliasson has said that his intention was to draw fresh attention to the NYC’s waterways more than to himself or the art). Others questions the price tag: a bit over $15 million of privately-donated funds, although the money generated for the city by the tourism could well exceed that amount according to some sources.

As someone who doesn’t know very much about the critical discourse on public art (heck, I barely claim to understand “institutional” art), I find it useful to gauge the art by how the people who live around it interact with it. My first visit to Chicago coincided with the opening of Millennium Park, and I was engrossed by the sculptures, even if they are more “conservative” than the works shown in the nearby Art Institute. Perhaps not because of any transcendent message or societal insight, but because the crowd that had gathered there both day and night were having such a good time enjoying the works on display. Seeing kids laughing and playing around the Crown Fountain, adults smooshing their faces up against Anish Kapoor’s still partly-under-wraps Cloud Gate, it was all very fun and engaging. Not like other sculpture gardens I had been to! (Check out this relevant 37Signals article to see what I mean…) Another good example is Richard Serra’s Vortex at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth: it’s beautiful visually, but step inside and the sculpture takes on a totally different level of interactivity, with museum-goers quickly discovering the loud reverberations they can make by clapping, jumping, shouting, screaming.

Public art seems to draw suspicion from both the citizens that pay for it and live around it as well as the art critics — is that suspicion unfounded? Does public art suffer from those who regard it too highly (the “don’t touch!” signs at the Seattle garden) or from those who feel that art has to be understood rather than experienced? I’m glad that we have the AIPP here in Austin, and it’s good to see their map dotted with “in progress” works, I just hope they don’t turn out like the ill-fated and much-maligned Moments project.

I like this quote from Sports Illustrated writer Peter King that S.C. Squibb brought up on the ArtCal Zine blog:

Saw The Gates… Nice. Unusual. Great to see Central Park so packed with people and transformed into a pretty sight in the middle of a harsh winter. An enjoyable experience. But art? I don’t see it.

Photography, the fogged mirror

Photograph by Hiroshi Sugimoto: Canton Palace, Ohio (1980)

Even though the fogged photograph is not in itself pure absence, but rather the eclipsing of an image, we know that what we are seeing is a representation that has been spoilt, a calamity that no technology can ever repair. The image is there, but hidden, ‘fogged’, concealed forever by a curtain of shadow, which no one is capable of raising.
A Short History of the Shadow by Victor Stoichita, in reference to an 1839 cartoon by Cham (Amédée de Noé) from the book L’Histoire de Monsieur Jobard

Segueing nicely from their book on Gothic literature and art, I’ve been plowing through another great edition from Whitechapel’s Documents of Contemporary Art series: The Cinematic. The editor has assembled critical essays on photography, its relation to cinema and video, to temporality, to narrative, to contemporary art practices — all with a fluid sense of motion conducive to making connections across the gamut of the 20th Century art world. Many of the essays touch on photography’s nature as a perverse mirror capable only of capturing what was, the inherent implications about death and impermanence corresponding to much of the Western catalog of art from the past couple hundred years. Other essays deal with the conflict and interaction between still photography and the re-playable, less-bounded world arising from Sergei Eisenstein and his early modernist contemporaries. In short, it’s right up my alley, and I hope the library here gets more from this series soon.

With these thoughts in mind, I was pleased last weekend to find the theater series of photographs by Hiroshi Sugimoto sitting quietly by themselves on a side wall in the otherwise colorful LEWITT×2 show at the Austin Museum of Art. These photographs, seemingly simple shots of the interiors of old American movie palaces, speak volumes about these issues of time, death, photography, cinema, and reflection. The burning white oblivion central to the frame, created by setting up a large format camera with its shutter open through the duration of a feature film, softly illuminates the space surrounding it, highlighting the emptiness as though time itself has run its course. The blur of human motion on the screen over time adds up to a brilliant nothingness, irretrievable. Somewhere on the boundary between conceptualism and zen meditation, these were easily my favorite pieces in the show.

See also:

Photo above: “Canton Palace, Ohio (1980)” by Hiroshi Sugimoto. From the Hirshhorn Museum collection.


Flipping through the New York Times the day after I posted this, I was very surprised to see this photo from Fred R. Conrad’s Geometry series. Spooky!

Odic Force Magazine

Odic Force Issue 1

A couple of weeks ago I found a new local arts magazine sitting on the freebie shelf at Flightpath, featuring the William Hundley photo taken in front of the Daniel Johnston “Hi How Are You” frog seen above — surely a cover designed to catch my eye! The newly launched magazine is called Odic Force Magazine, evidently named after the founder poked through his thesaurus and came across the Victorian-era term. At first I was worried that it was going to be another slickly-produced-but-light-on-actual-content local “arts and culture” magazine (I’m looking at you, Tribeza and Rare), but there are some good writers involved (Steve Wilson, Rachel Koper of Gallery Lombardi, et al.) and artists profiled (fun to see the workspaces of folks like ceramacist Ryan McKerley and painter Jennifer Chenoweth). It touches on the local art, music, architecture, writing, and fashion scenes without being too unbalanced or terse. It’s not yet ART LIES but it’s an impressive first issue, and it is attempting to cover far more than just the visual arts.

Odic Force’s first issue is generously available online using one of those crazy sorta-works Flash viewers (I couldn’t get it to spit out the PDF so I could read it offline, your mileage may vary).

PS: On a related note, I’m very glad to report that Cantanker’s website is back from the dead. Their domain lapsed, and I worried that they had succumbed to the fate of most good art magazines. Looking forward to their issue #5!

In with the old, out with the new?

Museums: AMOA’s new building, the National Gallery, and the Guggenheim

I know little to nothing about curatorial practice. After reading about the Austin Museum of Art’s new building, I started thinking about the number and type of shows that they put on each year, how many have been retrospectives of well-established artists or “blockbuster” shows designed to lure in the art-timid. That’s probably overly cynical, and I really appreciate their ongoing “20 to Watch / New Art in Austin” triennial series, but we’ve definitely had a healthy dose of traveling Warhols, Lichtensteins, Christo + Jean-Claudes, etc. Who can blame them? With only four shows a year in a rather tiny space, a self-described “modest” permanent collection, and a need to draw visitors from a state where art isn’t exactly on the forefront of civic spending, I’m glad that they feature less-known and local artists at all. Hopefully their new permanent space, smaller than proposed a few years back but still more than double their current size, will help them put on more challenging shows.

An article on Bloomberg.com celebrates the recent resignation of the Guggenheim’s director, Thomas Krens. Under his watch, the museum expanded into “franchises” around the world, from the well-received Guggenheim Bilbao in Spain to the less-appreciated Guggenheim Las Vegas. It sounds like the spreading of their collection worldwide is what did him in, with members of the foundation decrying the lack of attention being paid to New York and their collection there (not to mention the building’s crumbling façade). Also contentious were the party-like exhibits being thrown, and commercial-heavy shows like “The Art of the Motorcycle”. Will toning down the hype help focus on curating good contemporary art? I didn’t get the impression that the other peripheral museums will be closing down, and the one slated for the UAE is still forthcoming, so how will they beef up a collection that’s spread amongst so many campuses?

Over in London, the new director of the National Gallery had this to say: “The responsibility of a major gallery is to show people something they haven’t seen before … A major national institution should be one that proves a constant attraction to the public. What is important is encouraging historical and visual curiosity in the general public.” This approach brings up some interesting issues about a museum or gallery’s role in modern life. What’s the right balance of crowd-pleasing and crowd-challenging? There’s an interesting quote from the director in this article in the Times in which he says that 20 years ago people expected to be introduced to new art by an exhibition. How widely spread is that sentiment today, and has it been stymied by these big blockbuster shows, or is contemporary art too alien (unpleasant?) for the public, or is something else at play?

UT Law homepage, newly refreshed

UT Law 2008 Homepage Redux

Today sees a new homepage for the University of Texas School of Law. This iteration is more of a realign than a redesign as the decision was made to keep our interior pages intact while we continue a long-term look at our branding and online presence. The biggest design challenge was creating something cleaner and more useful for our visitors while retaining most of the same content and enough of the previous design to tie it in comfortably with our current site’s look-and-feel.


The new version emphasizes our communication pieces, changing the rotating banner graphic into something more dynamic: the accompanying text is now HTML-based and will link to richer features similar to our Clinical Education stories. Our previous 75×75 pixel highlight buttons (which themselves were reduced from the intricate 200×140 highlight graphics of two years ago) have been folded into our general News list to help simplify the page. The navigational links were dramatically reorganized to make the hierarchy clearer and more contextual. Everything’s still there, it’s just been reshuffled.

Make it pretty

The goal aesthetically was to reduce the homepage’s clutter and to make the information presented more visually balanced. I designed the old homepage, so I’m to blame! To accommodate the larger banner graphic I increased the width of the site to 840 pixels, and then subdivided that width into a five-column layout. The typography is much more consistent, and care was taken to align the text vertically on a baseline grid. The colors are lifted from the previous version but greatly toned down — far less orange, no more crazy orange-stripe-gradient thing, and a nice white background with some subtle color at the top. Still feels like UT, but doesn’t scream it, and the new design continues to match our internal pages.

UT Law 2006 - 2008 Before and After

Behind the scenes

I’ve shifted the site from Transitional to XHTML 1.0 Strict and have made greater use of XML for the maintenance of the feature stories and news items. The layout and typography are all still handled with plain CSS: if you strip away the stylesheet, you’ll find that the homepage is semantic, streamlined, and very navigable with screenreaders or other assistive technologies. Text can be adjusted in the browser to just about any size without breaking the layout. We’re also sporting a bit of hCard markup so that folks can easily scrape our contact and location info into more useful formats.

Hopefully the refresh is just what we need to help carry us along until the sitewide redesign. I think the updated technology and cleaner look will do a lot for us, and it should help increase our visibility as one of the top-ranked law schools. If you have any comments about the design or about site refreshes, I’d love to hear them.

Opening @ CRL

Saccade - Installation

Just a reminder that the Multiples show is opening tonight at the CRL, 2832 MLK Jr., from 6pm–9pm. I haven’t seen it yet, but the show sounds like a good mix of faculty, staff, alumni, and others scattered across the community, a curatorial approach that I’m seeing more of under Jade Walker’s direction. The faculty show that opened the season there at CRL even included people from the art history and design departments, a welcome addition to the fine arts mix. It’ll be up through November 10, with an artists’ talk scheduled for the 6th.

The piece that Marsha and I made for the show consists of 63 close-cropped drawings of eyes arranged in a grid, all focused on an imaginary center point. I’ve been reading lately about vision research, and this drawing was mostly inspired by the book The Moving Tablet of the Eye. The piece’s title, Saccade and Fixation, is a term that describes the short, rapid motions that our eyes make constantly when surveying a scene. The motion is almost imperceptible, and we don’t notice our own eyes making these movements as our brain compensates for them. Researchers and philosophers have been studying their effects on vision and perception for thousands of years: Aristotle, Ptolemy, and Victorian scientists all wrote on the phenomenon, and they play an important role in modern-day vision research, computer imaging, and artificial vision. This theme of one scene comprised of many discrete images seemed like an appropriate place to start for this Multiples show, and so we set to drawing. It also ties in a bit with some ideas I’ve had about surveillance and the gaze (so very Philosophy 101!). Two weeks later, the piece is hanging at the gallery, so come out and see it while it’s up!

few, some, several, many, more…

Marsha and I will be in the upcoming show at the Creative Research Lab. The opening reception is on October 13, so come out and enjoy some art + people + wine. More details about our project will be coming soon to a blog post near you.