Attention Excess Disorder.


That was my one-man show at the New Gallery of the University of Miami, in 2001, when I was 40.  It was the only time I really focused on a body of work and refined my wobble up to that level.  The internet attention performance art that I have been doing in the meantime is much more immediate.  Paintings take time and a seriously concerted effort, while blogging and message boards are much more click-and-get.

Either way, there is now a certain amount of human awareness energy connected to my stuff.  When I was fooling around with quantum mechanics with my buddy Nick Herbert, we talked about a fascinating idea for an experiment: Take two identical artworks.  Infuse one of them with an excess of attention; get a lot of people to look at it a long time.  Then display both the “pre-seen” piece and the “unseen” piece, while measuring the “popularity” of the two by recording the amount of time the visitors spend looking at each one.  The hypothesis predicts a longer attention total for the piece that was “pre-seen”.

We never devised the specifics thoroughly enough to test it.  Any suggestions?


Filed under Art I live with., Rambles

6 responses to “Attention Excess Disorder.

  1. I personally am of the belief that it will not matter, although having never done the experiment, I could not tell you.

    Wow. You are simply amazing. From what I can see of what you have there, I am impressed! I have never been able to paint well, and while I draw, these are just really well done. Congratulations on having a one-man show!

  2. Thanks, it was mad fun. I miss those days. Painting is the best meditation in the world for me. Eventually I will go back to pouring myself into the liquid and hardening on the canvas. My art tends to flow through different media in phases. Painting will possess me again… someday.

  3. daemyann

    We know that the movement of quantum particles doesn’t bow to will… but they do require explanation, and I like this attempt.

    Test it by using click pictures and categories, similar to how the tests used to identify racial predispositions… of which I can’t find the link.


    Anyway, the test presented words and pictures, and asked the subjects (in your case, audience) to sort them into suitable or unsuitable categories. The time taken to identify object 1 as part of a group versus the time taken to identify object 2 as part of the same (or another) group determined the outcome of the test. ie… If you associated Native pictures with the category “American” more quickly, and with less errors, than you did Caucasians with the same category, your prejudice was apparent.

    I’ll try to find the link again.

  4. I know what you are talking about, once I saw something like that on the “Science of Beauty” with clicks on faces according to whether the viewer considered the person attractive.

    Our basic system, if it were developed for an actual museum setting, would be based on time spent in front of the painting. There would need to be some sort of blind randomization to keep people from choosing the right over the left. If we could give the “pre-seen” and the “unseen” pieces equal exposure in a gallery setting, then we could measure the amount of “standing” attention with a camera or a trip laser or a sensitive floor pad.

    Your idea about taking it to the internet is interesting. The original idea was an attempt to show that human attention is “absorbed” into a specific piece of matter. Putting the experiment online would force it to stretch pretty far in another direction.

    If it were possible to identify the “pre-seen” and the “unseen”, and then present them equally on the screen, the audience could click on the one they prefer. If the two pieces were randomly shuffled left and right, or before and after, but the “pre-seen” still got more votes, then we would have some evidence to support the theory.

    But that would open a whole new can of worms. Let’s say we randomize it and people click on their “favorite” between two equal images. The images would be photographs of two paintings, one of them “charged” with human attention. If the “pre-seen” piece wins every time, then the human attention is not only shown to be deposited in the painting… but somehow it survives the translation from physical matter to digital information.

    That would be a great experiment.

  5. Daemyann...

    On second thought, your method sticks much closer to the original idea.

    I would do this: (expanded version of your idea)

    Create two large groups of paintings. The more similar they are in style, and the more of them there are, the better. (The idea is to overwhelm the audience with so many paintings that they are less likely to realize they have already seen one of them.)

    Have a large test group divided into two. Have half observe art selection A first, followed by art selection B. Have the other half observe the paintings in reverse (in order to account for and thus negate influence of sequence). Have one painting repeated in both groups, “camouflaged” so to speak in groups of similar painting.

    Then you could use a measure akin to the ones you’ve mentioned (camera, floor sensor, eye movement etc.) to do the rest…

    As you can see, your idea is pretty enticing…
    let me know if you ever work out a way of doing it. 😉

  6. It’s one of those things that rattles around my head every once in a while. Someday it will happen.

    We were thinking about it last night, it would be the simplest logistically to just use two identical prints. Take one everywhere for a week, showing it to people wherever you are. You could tell them what the experiment is, and give them a card with the website. Then post two images, one a photo of the “pre-seen” and one of the “unseen”. Describe the experiment on the site, and have some sort of randomizer to equally display the two left and right or up and down. You could then take the prints themselves to the mall or something and harass people to pick one for some “in person” data, to compare against the online version.

    It’s very do-able, it would just take the effort.


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