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I created the database in 2000 and moved a few hundred art ideas into it from paper.  Every so often I would rearrange, add, edit or delete items.  In 2010 I deleted maybe 1/8th of the worst entries, but it's still full of impossible ideas (too big or too vague), opaque ideas (with references only I get, unless I add yet more stuff), and just plain stupid ideas.

The idea was to organize items and get a sense of how they add up; it turns out that was a silly idea.  But I tried, and here it is, in category-tree form...


Click idea titles for description (or link; links open in another tab).


Human
  • Constructions
    • Culture
      • Babel Tower vs. Aztec Temple
      • Become vs. propitiate a god? Compare the purpose and appearance of the Tower of Babel and Meso-American temples. With the tower (in myth) man tried to ascend to heavens and become a god; I believe the Aztecs tried to propitiate gods with sacrifices. Show the towers side by side, with people walking up around Babel ziggurat, then getting kicked down the stairs of the temple?
      • Bad Words Go Limp
      • Graph the original use, then the new use. E.g., "sucks," must come from something like "suck dick." "Bitch" was a personal insult, then was heavily used in a few ways by rappers. And epithets have been co-opted by target groups: "nigga," queer, dyke, etc.
      • Brain Freeze Victims
      • I wanted to do some pictures of people (usually heroin addicts, I believe) whose brains have "frozen" in the middle of the sidewalk as traffic flows around them, like pebbles in a stream.  It's amazing how well they can balance in paralysis, and how people "ignore" them.

        But not only would I be exploiting them like they're wildlife -- they are hard to capture.

        Then this guy was in Washington Square Park, functioning normally, when he locked up right in front of where I was sitting.  He stood, balanced but seeming asleep, for a long, long time.

        I thought "Why should I act like I didn't see this?"  Still, you'll notice his face is not shown.

      • Nerdiness Sells - Wrox
      •    – See the idea
      • Rap Video Meets Bollywood Video
      • Combine rap video and Bollywood music video, for mix of hip-hop's wary posturing and Indian song & dance -- especially the hand gestures from both.
      • Reality TV's Purpose
      • As we turn digital, people recognize that their survival depends on being recorded, and it doesn't matter to them how it happens -- on Cops or at the Nobel Prize ceremony.
      • Starbucks Inside McDonalds
      •    – See the idea
      • Thoughts Powerless Until Communicated
      • How an individual's thoughts are powerless until they're communicated. This is good in the case of negative thoughts, e.g., racism, but bad in the case of wishing you could do something as the world around you crumbles. Contrast lack of harm/good done by silent person vs. that done by someone who's heard. (How?)
      • Architecture
        • Architecture 101
        •    – See the idea
        • Building with Less Surface Detail per Floor
        • The first two floors of facade have N types of overlaid detail, N being the number of floors in the building. One element is removed per rising floor, so the top floor is naked. Detail is thick as a cuckoo clock. This could also be reversed, with the top crusted in detail and the base naked; call this the Palm Tree version. (Have I seen a building like this in Manhattan?)
        • Bury Buildings to Roof
        • Photos of tops of buildings -- like around Central Park -- lined up as though at ground level. Could also bury the buildings in earth so just their tops are exposed, making it similar to "Shift Top Halves of Trees." Bury highrise offices -- the people inside are supposed to be working, not looking out the window.
        • Flop Ceiling and Front Wall
        • To cut out noise, flop the ceiling and front wall so the windows become skylights. Must be a drawing, unless I can get a fish eye lens. Goes with cut hole in roof.
        • Lego-Like Global Chain Stores
        • Since they cover the world and there are only a few local variations, build global chain stores like Legos for quick assembly.
        • Mystery Wall
        •    – See the idea
        • Self-Standing Door
        •    – See the idea
        • Sheetrock Shelves
        • Recreate sheetrock shelves from Third St. with foam core and balsa wood. Do drawing for this.
        • Sidewalk Contstruction Detour
        • Video of rolling fast through zigzagging sidewalk detours under construction sites, so the result is like going through a dangerous amusement tunnel. Need steady-cam.
        • Sinking Line of Self-Standing Doors
        • A line of sheetrock (or thick recyclable cardboard) self-standing doors, a few feet apart, get progressively shorter, as if sinking into the ground. Or could simulate animation frames, of a door falling over. Show desert videos on both sides of this.
      • Art
      • Art World
      • Cultural Evolution
        • Coronado to Kid Frost
        • From cliff face to cliff dwellers to Coronado to ghosts to Kid Frost street-flow idyll, suggesting the survival of a submerged native culture. And let hip-hop demonstrate the beauty -- the humanity -- that can come out the end of all that struggle.
      • Everything Idea
        • Every Garbage Pile in NYC
        • Walk around Manhattan for a day and take pictures of the biggest piles of garbage. Re the everything craze, and the stunning amount of garbage this city puts out.
        • Everyone Who Ever Lived
        • Photo of everyone who ever lived. Superimpose or overlap photos of a Times Square sidewalk taken in different eras.
        • Everyone's Thoughts at Once
        • Six billion lines (translated to English) - the substance of the thoughts and dreams of everyone on earth at dd/mm/yyyy hh:mm:ss GMT. Does a time-slice of web activity, tracked on servers, nearly represent this now?
        • The Everything Craze
        •    – See the idea
      • Maps
      • Media
      • Rap
        • Rap - Bittersweet
        • Demonstrate the bittersweet character of a lot of hip-hop. Play the instrumental, then display the vicious lyrics. Use Dr. Dre 2000 instrumental, or something using an Isley Brothers melody.
        • Rap - Reverse Radio Version
        • Reverse edited, radio versions, like E40's "isht" fest (from Loyalty & Betrayal?).
        • Rap Lyric Diagrams
        • Sentence diagrams with parallel paths for different ways of saying the same thing (e.g. to kill), merging for the next part of the phrase.
        • Rap Lyric Face Shots
        • Rap lyrics over face ads. E.g., over closeup of IBM exec: "Keep the space between [others] & me even" (Broke Niggazs, Luniz), or "It's the ice cream truck, [girl], can't you hear the music?" (Luniz, Ice Cream Man), or "Keep my name out your mouth" (LBC Crew).
        • Rap Lyrics vs. Sample Lyrics
        • Compare original lyrics of sampled music (over photo) and rap lyrics of sampled songs: Isley Brothers' "Footsteps in the Dark" and Ice Cube's "It Was a Good Day." Not just bittersweet; e.g., Isley lyrics were pretty idiotic, redeemed by melody in the same way rap can be.
    • Technology
  • Insight
    • Graphs Over Images
      • Draw Bands from Earth's Core to Space
      • Draw bands of activity circling earth. From the center out: tectonic currents, underground infrastructure, pollution plumes, ground-level infrastructure, traffic, cellphone & wireless traffic, air pollution, air traffic, clouds and wind currents, radiation and cosmic rays, orbiting satellites, magnetic fields, solar wind, the moon.
    • Idea Database
    • Perspective
      • Land of Lakes - Reflective Surface of Painting
      •    – See the idea
      • New York Underground
      •    – See the idea
      • Views of Scene from Different Vision Systems
      • We see according to our needs, the way we're built. Grid of (4?) visual interpretations of the same scene, from viewers with different vision systems or perspectives. Subject is a 3D model of clear blobs on an open plain, something new to the viewers? Viewers are e.g., insect, mammal, human, a Mars rover. Views differ by layout, zoom/focus, color/spectrum, etc., depending on the needs of the viewer. The best demonstration could be a scene where the target object's parts are color-coded for their visibility in each vision system, so viewer sees just parts in colors visible to them.
    • Reality?
      • Google Earth Flight - Earth Becomes an Idea
      •    – See the idea
      • Information Continuum from Physical to Abstract Being
      • From the first picture drawn in the dirt, to the first spoken phrase, to now, when everyone on earth expresses themselves all the time and most of the world is pictured and described. The medium is what matters, all the way across, from being bound to earth, to a grid of flickering images conveying abstract information (re data visualization). Convey the character of our involvement with physical being vs. our involvement with information media. (How?!)
      • Layered Prints - Gray Seas
      •    – See the idea
      • Live Satellite Scan of Painting
      • Put a terrain-like painting on the darkest wall in a dark room. Mount a light-sensitive camera on a track -- like for a dot-matrix printer -- that crawls over the painting. Or use a web cam that can be aimed to follow a grid in the same way. The camera output is projected onto the opposite wall, or on a monitor pointed away from the painting. Have night-light markers to keep people from stumbling into the painting. The image should look like the surface of a planet.
      • What Is Photo Presence?
      • Find cases of things with photographic "presence" and demonstrate what triggers it. It must have to do with: the viewer (and archetypes); the camera perspective, the suggestive atmospherics or "effects" of the picture. Re Uta Barth's slight shifts of perspective that reveal the mind behind the camera, and David Lynch's quick surreal asides that suggest what you see is not all there is to a situation.
      • Data Visualization
      • Immaterial
        • All I Can Be - Terra Cotta Army
        • A grid of bags hanging from a lattice of string hanging over a large shallow hole, like a dug up terra cotta army. Clear plastic bags full of dirt / paper effigies? How to create above ground? See diagram.
        • All I Can Be - Wading Pool Water
        • Re All I Can Be - Terra Cotta Army and Water Ghosts Clear plastic pouches of water suspended from string grid in wading pool. Re nuclear fuel rods. See diagram.
        • Ghost Show of Lost and Test Paintings
        • Large photos of lost/test paintings. Could do straight reproduction of BQ show in 1994, with the few survivors and notes on formula and titles.
        • Land of Lakes - Water on Tarp
        • Translucent plastic tarp draped over objects with puddles of water on top; I noticed a stack of lumber with the effect, like mountain lakes at dawn. Do it in a dark room, with horizontal lights at the side bouncing off the water. Could do a video from a model in a box for better lighting control.
        • Lit Water in Grid Suspended from Ceiling
        • Suspend a grid of clear plastic bulbs (just bunched 5 mil. sheeting tied off with string), half-filled with water, in midair (above or below "eye level?"). The surface of water in the bulbs must be on the same plane (level) throughout. Then try to bounce one light off the top of the water, or pass multiple lights through rows of bulbs. Should get effect that lights grid. (First crude test did not work.)
        • Room of Alternating Pictures and Voices
        • Spotlight on picture (or projected picture) is replaced by 3D voice projected at same spot.
        • Room of Swirling Ghosts
        • A dark room with synchronized 3D sound and projected images circling around the walls, like inside a top loading washing machine. One projector per wall playing sections of single animation.
        • Water Ghost
        •    – See the idea
      • Juxtaposition
      • Shadows
        • Arm Sticking out of Surface, Throwing a Shadow
        • Real-world space made obvious by the "L" of an arm or tree limb sticking out of a surface, throwing its shadow. Is it the minimum indicator of presence in the world?
        • Clouds as Transition
        • Clouds as the transition from empty space to matter, given form by light. Like shadows. And clouds throw shadows.
        • Faux 3D Elevation from Shadow
        • E.g., 3D model of the gutter formed by the shadow thrown by a fence post. For simple shape-from-shading, dark is translated to lower elevations and highlights into peaks.
        • Headlights of Passing Car on the Ceiling
        • Video of car headlights crossing the ceiling of the front room here when it's dark.
        • Shadow as Transition to Other Dimension
        • Photos of shadows as connector / transition to other (physical or psychological) dimensions, where matter and energy (light) meet. E.g., (1) a shack fills the screen; (2) move the camera slowly back or to the side to show its place in the world; (3) descend into the shadow the shack throws. Or link multiple prints, with strings connecting shadows.
      • Undercurrent
        • Foam Chip Mountain Covering Light
        • Make a Devil's Tower (Close Encounters of the Third Kind) of foam chips, sticking out from the wall. Can use a globe lamp inside, or big light box.
        • Impale Milk Cartons on Black Spike Fence
        • Impale three cartons or paper cups of milk on the fence spikes at McCarren Park. Do it at the "pigeon airport" to attract cats? Use spokes-model dressed in long black dress to do the impaling.
        • Whispered Soundtrack Added to Quiet Video
        • Add whispered soundtrack (and captions?) to videos of quiet places: golf, funeral service, wedding, watching wildlife from a blind, surveillance. Record some golf from TV and try it. Added soundtrack is subtext, subterranean.
      • Virtual Reality
        • Are We Inside a Virtual Reality Box?
        • Are we inside a virtual reality box? Where scenes are not built until looked at, and they need just enough detail to fool the eye? Spread a bubble of pixels (dome of dots that spread at center) on a real-world photo to reveal the digital units and empty space beyond.
        • Wireless World
        • Connect cellphone users, with arcs through air, in pedestrian traffic in Times Square, and turn those not on phones black & white.
  • Traits
    • Association
      • Tree of Possible Phrases
      • Show a root phrase, then a branch for each possible association. Do it with well known lyrics? Do not have to branch only from ends.
    • Emotion
      • Anticipation Is 90% of Pleasure or Pain
      • Anticipation is 90% of the experience. A two-panel cartoon with someone about to have sex and someone about to get their head chopped off. Or one person anticipating both at once.
      • Blow Away Foam Chip Forms
      • Video. Build two mountain ranges or bodies out of foam chips on the floor. Turn on fan(s) and blow the foam away. Could run the video backwards and forwards.
      • Faith
        • Anonymous Jesus Test
        • Text next to crucifixion scene: Would you suffer a long and painful death to save the world, even if no one would ever know what you'd done? Would you trade your life for Hitler's before WWII if given the chance? Related question: would you want someone to die for all your sins without asking you beforehand?
        • Core Sample - Layers from Sacred Places
        • Faux sacred core samples from religious sites, the more conflicted (Temple Mount / Dome of the Rock) the better. Stack layers by date of associated myth, separated by burn marks from miracle / ascent.
        • God as Luck
        • Replace "God" with "luck" or "chance" in text. E.g., from Genesis, or from statements that thank God for an outcome, like rescued coal miners. Re the idea that everything happens for a reason, and that prayers can directly affect reality.
        • Jesus as Virtual Reality Avatar
        • Depict Jesus as an avatar sent from the world outside this virtual reality box.
        • Stores to Churches
        •    – See the idea
        • Ugly Jesus Test
        •    – See the idea
        • Faith vs. Knowledge
          • Faith vs. Knowledge
          • Demonstrate the certainty of a fundamentalist whose faith provides a narrow "knowledge" that allows them to feel in control. Picture fundamentalists using the products of science, that their world could not produce, to destroy the culture that produced them. Picture monks with solar panels and ask "How long would they have to meditate to produce this?" Also, believers are willing to walk into bullets, convinced they're invincible or headed to paradise. They're willing to blow up the world, believing it's evil or an illusion. Fundamentalists hate secular knowledge, but have no problem using the products of technology to blow up the world.
      • Nostalgia
        • City Block Built from Every Building I've Lived In
        • Pictures of the front of every place I've lived in, stitched together. Describe each place in text along the bottom. Note that on each move, the same crappy TV shows greeted me everywhere, reminding me I was still in the same place, on Earth.
      • Paranoia
    • Relationships
      • Dating Website Eyes and Dogs
      • (Just) The eyes of women on dating sites who "definitely" want to have children, vs. the rest. They seem more intense. Also collect pictures of dogs, with nervous eyes bulging, while their owner squeezes them.
Nature
  • Warped Spacetime
  • Use bungee cords to demonstrate spacetime warped by gravity. Whiffle ball at center, with bungees pulling thick clear plastic container inward from open barrel. See diagram.
  • Elemental Phenomena
    • Fresnel-Edge Rainbow
    • Shine horizontal light past the edge of a board through a Fresnel lens; the board is between the lens and light source. Aim the light at a slight downward angle towards the board and lens. (Don't remember if this made a photo strong enough to come across.)
    • Chance
      • Babble
      •    – See the idea
      • Birth as Lottery - Person vs. Culture
      • Where and when a person is born, as a lottery.
      • God and Gambling - Give Structure to Chance
      • I'm not sure this even qualifies as an idea, since I can't think of a good way to illustrate it.

        Both God and gambling give structure to Chance, and the universe pretty much runs on Chance, with random decisions and actions built into the way we think and move, the way things grow and flow, and on and on.

        The idea of God lets accidents and bad luck happen "for a reason."  Gamblers pray for luck at the ultimate altar of Chance, the slot machine, which stands in for nature's supreme indifference to feelings, merit or "a reason."

        God is omniscient.  Casinos have surveillance everywhere, from cameras behind mirrored ceilings to the smart slot machine debit cards that track you through the casino.  All the slots are wired into central computers that can change their odds, and their appearance and sound to suit gamblers' tastes.

        Our pathetic governments look to both God and casinos for easy answers.  Don't want fiscal responsibility?  License casinos and lotteries, then skim the profits.  Don't want social responsibility?  Turn it over to religious groups.

      • The Necessity of Chance
      • Demonstrate the necessity of using chance and intuition. With the huge number of possible choices we face all day every day -- e.g., where to put each foot and how to move around objects and people as we walk down the street -- we need to guess and make arbitrary decisions. Our brains are built to do that -- to make a choice, and if it doesn't work, to back out and try another route -- just like "backtracking" solutions in computer science.
    • Flow
      • Flocking or Flow Over Subway Rush Hour
      • Video. Overlay and synchronize a flocking simulation with a subway crowd (from above) or another real-life moving crowd, like a flock of birds.
      • Now That I Can Dance
      • Born shy, bottled up for a lifetime; the only thing I miss about drinking is dancing. So prove I can dance when relaxed. Video from back with what I'm listening to.
      • Subway Station Rush Hour Video
      • Video at chest height as I weave quickly through a rush hour crowd changing trains at the Union Square 4/5/6 line. Would need help with low-light steady-cam camera.
  • Landscape
    • California Suburb Pictures
    • From suburb photos. A ridge-line six photos-wide, gleaming roofs below, repeated refineries. Misty dawn to daylight in same picture. How all this stuff is tied together: roads, suburbs and freedom to travel made possible by the refinery.
    • Hood Fades to Landscape
    • Re Anasazi. A panorama with houses on one side of a rundown neighborhood street, then the other side of the street is the beach, a desert or an orchard. Suggest the long continuum from the landscape we came from to the world we live in today, and the possibility of re-connecting. I guess it would be the light that connects the two. This may be just another thing I'm not able to get across. But if I can make something I respond to, others may too.
    • Shift Top Halves of Orchard
    • Take a neat-grid orchard of trees in a 3D program (Bryce?), cut trees at a horizontal plane halfway up, then shift the top half so its trunk sections are a foot away from the bottom halves. What about a real-world picture of a flooded forest? Or an HO model landscape embedded in Lucite, then cut into shifted planes? Doing it virtually might be harder than doing it physically. See diagram. Update: real-world example.
  • Life
    • Nature Climbing Up Through City Cracks
    • Demonstrate nature trying to retake the city, with soil, water and vegetation breaking through, reaching for the sun or the river, sometimes wrecking the infrastructure.
    • Release Termites on a Painting
    • Sic termites on a painting on wood panel, in a sealed vitrine.
    • Things In Between
    • Say, in Times Square, in between two overdone attractions, a weed growing out of sidewalk, struck by light on a gray day. A video that takes in the whole noisy, flashy scene, then slowly zooms in and goes quiet until it's filled with that simple beauty?
    • Evolution
      • Evolutionary Value of Individual vs. Collective
      • Compare species and societies where individualism is allowed (U.S.) vs. not (N. Korea, hive, ant colony) and what it means for ultimate survival of a culture or species. Re mono-specie ant colony that extends all the way up the California coast. The emergence and extension of knowledge is more powerful than disciplined units acting in the interest of the whole? Individual freedom creates more opportunity for unexpected discoveries, but collective action does more to ensure the survival of a species or culture. (Have no idea how I thought I might demonstrate this...)
      • Nervous Caveman in Bouncing Lowrider
      • Video of an anxious caveman, thrown around by bouncing hydraulics, from the door of a low-rider. Title it Inya Dome.
      • Terrain to Tower of Babel Sequence
      • A satellite shot of craters straight down (my painting), then a cliff face (Babel cliff face picture), then Van Eyck's Babel. From the ground to gods.
Stupid(er)
  • Barking Dog Web Cam
  • If you have inconsiderate jerks living nearby with a barking dog, set up a bark-activated web cam, upload the video clips to a website, and share your joy with the world.
  • Bleecker and Bleecker
  •    – See the idea
  • Burka Dance Video
  • To Morocco Songs (ululating); to Snoop's "Serial Killa"; to Country Western; to Prince Markie Dee's "Trippin' Out"
  • Cellphone Cursing Excuse
  • If you are prone to curse at cellphone users, get one of those ear-clip cellphone things. Then when you unleash a string of obscenities and they challenge you, say "I'm on the phone with my mom... do you mind?"
  • Custom Carved Soap
  •    – See the idea
  • Drive-Through Things
  • I wanted to do a series of pictures of drive-through things.

    America is built on gas guzzling vehicles, and roads through some National Parks were designed to let visitors see the park from their car (or the living room of their moving RV), so they never have to actually walk across a few feet of nature.

    When I was a kid I rode in a car through more than one redwood in California.  Then there's drive-through banks, liquor stores, fast-food outlets, etc.

    Interesting drive-through buildings here in New York include the Manhattan Municipal Building downtown (the roadway underneath now blocked off against terrorists), and the tunnels at the foot of Park Ave. proper that travel under, around and through the buildings at Grand Central.
  • Dumpster Home Sign
  • Photo of sign on dumpster that says: If you lived here you'd be home by now.
  • Instant Karma Machine
  • This one really is a stupid idea.  I guess because we see so little evidence that people get what they "deserve," I thought a "karma machine" might help solve the problem.

    My saved description: "Detects wrongdoing and retaliates immediately."  Considering the level of evil coming out of Washington, DC for the past six years, where better to place the machine than the top of the Washington Monument?

    Of course ceding "justice" to an extra-worldly overlord/device, after all the myriad ways we've seen the idea of God abused lately, is a bad idea.  But since the alternative is permanent vigilance on our part -- work -- the idea is appealing.
  • Manhole Cover Art
  • I saw this manhole cover and was reminded of an idea I had and forgot long ago: you could probably make money if you went out and made molds of distinctive manhole covers, then cast them in a lightweight material so buyers could hang them on the wall.

    This is exactly the sort of thing a real entrepreneur -- or real artist for that matter, since most of the commercially successful artists I've met run what amounts to a small business -- would just go ahead and do.

    I have cast things before, and I'm sure a reliable technique for casting-in-place could be developed.  You would need an art intern to assist you, of course -- to direct traffic around you while you're working in the middle of the street.

  • Newtown Creek Garbage Disposal
  • Load garbage onto disposable barges, then float them upstream through locks to water so nasty it dissolves everything. Rare earth recovered from the toxic juice will finance the process.
  • Remix Cover-Art Photos
  •    – See the idea
  • Suicide Bomber Video Portrait Franchise
  • Like old photo portrait franchises, but for suicide bombers' final videos. Do "final statement," but always chicken out -- "I felt better after eating lunch." Mix of humor, crazy and dead serious. Taxi Driver video in background.
  • Waiting Video
  • Grid of "waiting at the altar" in Las Vegas wedding videos, plus of "psychics are waiting for your call" video.

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