Jacob Schuman

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Jacob Schuman

Update Project

"pi to one billion digits" (2007) by Jacob Schuman

The original: "Vertical Earth Kilometer" (1977) by Walter De Maria 

The reinterpretation: "pi to one billion digits"

"pi to one billion digits" is a new media reinterpretation of "Vertical Earth Kilometer" (1977) by Walter De Maria.  "Vertical Earth Kilometer" is a kilometer-long brass rod completely sunk into the earth in Kassel, Germany, so that only the very top of the pole - level with the ground - is visible.  All the viewer can see is a two-inch brass circle, while the enormity of the rest of the work exists only in the mind.  The work also addresses the question of "trust" in the relationship between the artist and the audience - for all the viewer knows, there is no real brass rod at all.

The Process 

            For my new media re-interpretation, I used the program "PiFast" to calculate the number pi to one billion digits. It took my new laptop, with a 2ghz dual core processor, two gigabytes of RAM, and a 7200 rpm high speed hard drive more than nine hours to complete the calculations. The result was a 1.32 gigabyte text file containing pi.  Initially, I had planned to make the font of the entire text white, and thus unreadable. However, I discovered after trying to open the file that Microsoft Word could not open documents larger than 512 megabytes, that the file was so large that it froze NotePad, and that, though WordPad could open the file (it took all night to load the entire document), manipulating the text in any way, including just scrolling up and down, took so much processing that it ran prohibitively slow.  I then burned the file onto a mini DVD.

The Medium 

            I chose pi as a substitute for the brass rod in De Maria's work because I felt that the number's natural elegance and simplicity made it a good parallel for a kilometer long metal cylinder.  One billion digits seemed a natural place to cut off the calculations at, and another way to parallel De Maria's choice to make the rod one kilometer long.  Though nine hours of computer processing may seem less of a feat than burying a one kilometer brass rod in the ground, pi calculated to one billion digits is still inconceivably huge.  There is almost a 100% chance of finding one's phone number (not counting the area code) in the first 100 million digits of pi.  For every centimeter of brass rod in De Maria's work, there are 10,000 digits of pi in mine.  Also, this size allowed the .txt file to just barely fit on the mini DVD (which had a storage capacity of 1.4 gigabytes).  I presented the work on a mini DVD in order to reference the small brass circle that is the only visible feature of "Vertical Earth Kilometer."  The work is displayed on a piece of computer paper with the title in a typewriter font in order to parallel De Maria's presentation but also to emphasize this work's new media nature.

The Message 

            As a new media re-interpretation of "Vertical Earth Kilometer," "pi to one billion digits" addresses similar but also new issues. As in De Maria's work, the entirety of the piece exists only in the viewer's mind - the DVD is on display, not an image of the numbers or even of the file.  The work also addresses the fact that vast amounts of information in the contemporary world - Wikipedia, government documents, even just the complete academic and personal works of most university students - exist entirely in digital forms.  Though I was unable to make the text of the document on the disk white - which I wanted to do in order to double the physical inaccessibility of the information - the fact that the file cannot be opened with most word processors and, in fact, is difficult to view and manipulate at all, still fits into that plan nicely.  While "Vertical Earth Kilometer" presents an impossibly huge yet invisible object, "pi to one billion digits" is an impossibly huge yet invisible digital object, demonstrating the extent to which modern new media technology has allowed contemporary society to shrink distances, create limitless virtual spaces, and, ironically, almost infinitely expand accessibility.

"Four Pamelas"

 The original: Four Marilyns (1962) by Andy Warhol


The re-interpretation: Four Pamelas (2007) by Jacob Schuman 


Four Pamelas

            "Four Pamelas" is a new media reinterpretation of "Four Marilyns" (1962) by Andy Warhol.

The Medium

            One thing in particular that struck me about "Four Marilyns" is that Warhol produced it using silk-screening, which at the time was considered a commercial medium and not an artistic one.  Thus, for my reinterpretation, I also sought to appropriate a commercial medium for artistic representation, this time in new media format. CafePress.com is a website that allows anyone to set-up an online store, upload images they've created, and then sell products ranging from coffee mugs to bumper stickers decorated with their design. CafePress.com takes a majority of the profits but also offers successful sellers a share of their earnings. Displaying the image of the four Pamelas as for safe on CafePress.com also fits in to another unique aspect of Warhol's work - the fact that it was mass produced.  While traditionally, each piece of art was considered unique and authenticity required the touch of the artist, "Four Marilyns" could be mechanically reproduced and sold on a large scale.  In the same way, "Four Pamelas" exists an infinite number of times - any user who logs onto the proper web address could hypothetically see the image and own a valid copy (though I took down the item after a few days to avoid any possible copyright troubles of selling Pamela Anderson's image). Link: CafePress.com

The Subject

            Instead of using Marilyn Monroe again, I updated Warhol's subject by choosing to present the image of Pamela Anderson. There are many fitting parallels between the lives and roles of Pamela Anderson and Marilyn Monroe - both were models, actresses, Playboy playmates, sex symbols of their respective eras, had several highly publicized marriages, and pushed the erotic boundaries and social norms of their days.  I also chose Pamela Anderson in order to highlight the differences between her and Marilyn Monroe, and thus, the differences between the 1950s and the contemporary era.  Ms. Anderson's roles in works such as Baywatchand Barb Wire stand in stark contrast to the more celebrated films of Ms. Monroe - Some Like It Hot and The Seven Year Itch- and suggest the shifting values of popular culture and the changes in the portrayal of women.  While Monroe's sex scandals - the famous "Happy Birthday Mr. President" incident - were discussed, Anderson's were broadcast through the leak and widespread dissemination of her infamous sex tape with former husband Tommy Lee.  The fact that the two stars were romantically involved with the celebrities of their days - President John F. Kennedy and author Arthur Miller for Monroe and drummer Tommy Lee and rap-rocker Kid Rock for Anderson - demonstrates the changing nature of fame over the past fifth years. Both stand as symbols of their era's ideals of beauty - Monroe elegant, refined, human, and tragic, and Anderson exaggerated, stylized, surgically enhanced, and utterly exposed.

The Presentation

            I was very deliberate in the set up of the screen shot I captured in order not to confuse or distract from the message of the piece.  It was important to me that the work be presented as a screen-shot of the four Pamelas for sale on CafePress.com, in order to emphasize that the entire image was the work - not just the fact that I was selling the four Pamelas online. The work includesCafePress.com because the concept that the website represents is an integral part of the piece.  I chose to display the four Pamelas on a t-shirt in order to hearken back to the fact that Warhol's work was also silk-screened on fabric, and that this piece too could be digitally purchased and physically materialized as an image on textile.  I chose the fit of the shirt, the color of the shirt, and the selected size with "averageness" in mind, in order to maintain a completely ambivalent attitude towards the presentation, just as PopArt did not directly comment on its subject matter.  Finally, I named the store "Four Pamelas" and made the web address end in "jschumanmc75" so that I could have both the title and my signature integrated into the work without distracting from the image.

Curatorial Project

What If We Played a War and Nobody Won?: Critical Approaches to War in Videogame Art

This project is an exhibition of new media videogame art works which critically investigate war and other forms of international violence - whereas videogames have historically glamorized and celebrated warfare, these pieces mark a new, bold movement of anti-war videogame art. 

See review on Furtherfield.org 

Open Project

Red, Green, and Blue 



"Red, Green, and Blue" is a digital, animated painting.  It is meant to be viewed without sound, played on repeat so that it continuously loops.  It can be found on YouTube here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dl8Qd9ALBjw

The Medium

"Red, Green, and Blue" consists of computer animation clips taken from the popular FoxNews television shows "The Big Story with John Gibson," "The O'Reilly Factor," and "Hannity's America," and also from advertisements for the FoxNews cable channel itself.  Each clip was distorted using the kaleidoscope video filter on Final Cut Pro.  The settings for each clip's distortion were determined based on the ratings that program received for the day (April 20th, 2007 for all of the shows except for "Hannity's America," which aired on April 22nd, 2007), as reported by Nielsen Media Research.  The data can be found here: http://www.mediabistro.com/tvnewser/ratings/the_scoreboard_friday_april_20_57666.aspand here: http://www.mediabistro.com/tvnewser/ratings/the_scoreboard_sunday_april_22_57668.asp. 

The Message

"Red, Green, and Blue" is a visual commentary on the FoxNews channel.  FoxNews's representatives, like Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hannity, routinely attack what they perceive as a liberal, anti-American bias in the mainstream media, while watchdog groups like MediaMatters and liberal commentators condemn the channel's alleged conservative, pro-administration agenda.  "Red, Green, and Blue" distorts FoxNews's animated cut-scenes - which are always bathed in the red, white, and blue of the American flag - based on the ratings its programs draw in order to demonstrate that the controversy ultimately comes down to economics.  Although the channel wraps itself in patriotic red, white, and blue, underneath the surface, the entire operation is driven by ratings and desire for the green of money.  "Red, Green, and Blue" is a digital painting, without sound, depth, or substance, because the patriotism of the FoxNews channel is similarly only surface - projected via the red, green, and blue of the television screen, FoxNews seeks merely to best its competitors in order to accumulate wealth.  The only substance or driving force beneath the swirling red, white, and blue its commentators pretend to embrace is ratings.  Furthermore, "Red, Green, and Blue" uses the visual distortions it creates in order to defamiliarize the imagery employed by the FoxNews channel, and to expose the ways in which it manipulates American symbols like the flag, the statue of liberty, and the bald eagle for its own ends.

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