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2012: The Year According to Julian Bleecker

By Julian Bleecker

For a futurist, our request might have been somewhat unwelcome: look back. Thankfully, Julian Bleecker agreed, offering us his top 10 favorite moments from 2012 in a list that ranges from acts of God (Hurricane Sandy) to the completely man-made (Twitter, Instagram, and “computational photography” cameras, to name a few). An artist, researcher at the Advanced Design Studio at Nokia, and cofounder of the Near Future Laboratory, Bleecker has been involved with the Walker since 2003, when he led the development of PDPal, a Walker-comissioned project (a collaboration with Scott Paterson and Marina Zurkow) that used a Palm personal digital assistant to “create a ‘map’ of personal-digital experience” in the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. More recently, he gave a presentation on Design Fiction to the Walker’s Interdisciplinary Work Group in fall 2012.

Bleecker joins photographer Alec Soth in our series, running throughout January, of artist reflections on the year 2012.

1. Crowdfunding

A year ago it may have been an overstatement to say there’s been a renaissance of earnest pleas for funding personal projects, with Kickstarter being the canonical broker of such things. But now that the Securities and Exchange Commission is dabbling with adjusting the rules to effectively legitimize small-scale business investments in bands, crochet, and food trucks, I’d say this is a recognizable achievement for the capitalization of weird ideas. Just don’t be surprised when you don’t get anything for your “investment.” It’s not at all like shopping.

2. LACMA’s Stanley Kubrick retrospective

Kubrick is one of those guys who you could spend a lifetime trying to gain access to the material surrounding his film productions. The fact that LACMA put it all in one place is significant. I feel like this is the last time there’ll be a Kubrick retrospective in my lifetime. So I keep going back.

3. Leica M Monochrom

With all the hoopla about the infinite flexibility of software-based image-making (witness Lytro's “computational photography,” Instagram image effects filters, Photoshop everything) you have to admire the fuck-off creative restriction of a purely digital camera that can only possibly take black-and-white photos. There are lots of reasons to own a Leica M Monochrom, but mostly well-heeled Leica nerds will get one because they can, and because it’s there. Leica has either jumped the shark or they’ve triumphed in creating a product that makes a sublime statement about constraining the runaway possibilities of software. Rather than a digital device that can do everything, this one does one thing exceptionally well. Or so I’m told.

4. Twitter & Instagram sissy fight

Exceptionally boring, but hard to ignore at the same time—the first-world’s photo-sharing problems seem to flame high emotional rage among smartphone owners. And Instagram didn’t help itself by changing its Terms & Conditions for using the service, even though those Terms & Conditions were more to the end-users’ benefit than their corporate owners’. Ironic, isn’t it? In the era of crowdfunding, “Occupy” flash protests, and the like, no one bothered to read the new Instagram T&C closely and just assumed it was worse. #eyeballroll. Turns out, the new T&C wasn’t more Stalinist, but by the time anyone realized, Instagram had “succumbed” to the furor and set it all back to the one where they can use your photos anyway they like. #billiondollarfistbump. So, now don’t get all hands-on-hip-thumbs-forward-y when you see your beautiful, software-vignetted sunrise over Manhattan in an Instagram-sponsored Dos Equis commercial. I’m going back to Flickr.

5. Hurricane Sandy

I’m glad things seem to be back to normal. Maybe it should’ve been called Hurricane Hubris.

6. National Health Service in the Olympics opening pageant

I mean, that’s a triumph, right? To celebrate a social service in a very commercial, very corporate-sponsored game watched all over the world? Anyone?

7. Tom Sachs’ Space Program: Mars

Sachs manages to play in the liminal art space where he gets to teach an audience (sorta) while also playing an epic, adolescent prank. His handmade, outer-space exploration projects (the 2007 Space Program about the Moon landing being the predecessor) are mostly spectacle, with a few boozy jiggers of juvenile playfulness and boys-in-the-backyard cardboard-box-fort treehouse fantasy role-playing. Fantastic stuff.

8. Mitt Romney losing to President Obama

I’m not a big political observer, which is why I miss The West Wing. But I suspect Josh and Toby and President Bartlett and the gang would provide some clever bit of banter-y analysis about chinks in the armor of the old-guard (GHWB, Rumsfeld, Cheney-era) Republican party. I’m curious to see what happens next.

9. Adam “MCA” Yauch's death

I dunno. I grew up in the era of the Beastie Boys. One of the first, proper albums I bought as a kid was the Cookie Puss 12-inch. I heard it on WPRB—the local college station of my youth—and I was baffled enough by the bricolage of crank call meets heavy beats that I picked it up at the local record exchange.

10. Frank Ocean's Channel Orange

This is a bit out there for me, but Channel Orange was a super-unexpected favorite album that I only discovered a few weeks ago through the algorithms of social music services. I’m not a music critic or clever with describing the subtle character of an album, but I thoroughly enjoy this one and Frank Ocean’s story and participation with OFWGKTA makes it all so LA.

Honorable Mention: Scott Forstall getting canned from Apple

Hopefully that’s it for the baroque, gaudy, preposterous skeuomorph design idiom. If I never hear the word skeuomorph again, that’d be just fine. It’s a computer, not a green felt-covered pool table or brass and wood compass. Forchrissake.

Julian Bleecker

Still from Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey

Photo: LACMA

Leica Monochrom M

Toms Sachs, Space Program: Mars, 2010-2012

Photo: Tom Sachs

A tribute to Britain’s National Health Service (NHS) during the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games, London, July 27, 2102

Adam Yauch

Frank Ocean’s Channel Orange, 2012