Scientific Cosmology

According to an article in the fall issue of the Queen’s Quarterly, the diameter of a proton or neutron is considered to be 10-13cm. For context, the author of this article, Lisa Randall, also mentioned that the accepted diameter of the visible universe is 10+28cm. This is the use of physics to delineate accurate parameters for a contemporary scientific cosmology. Effectively, this author off-handedly placed bookends at either end of the spectrum of space. What she is saying is that everything we know has a spatial dimension of X such that [10-13cm ≤ X ≤ 10+28cm].

In addition to these cosmological parameters, I would like to add:

- The width of my thumb - _______________10+0.3979cm

- The length of my foot print - _____________10+1.1449cm

- My height - _________________________10+2.4472cm

- The linear distance between London Ontario and
Toronto- __________________________10+7.2214cm

- The diameter of the Earth - _____________ 10+9.1057cm

- The distance that light travels in one second - _10+10.4768cm

- The distance between the earth and the sun - _10+13.1749cm

Now, here is a similar structure for time:

- Period of radiation in a caesium-133 atomic clock -10-11.7416min

- Period of a contraction of a hummingbird’s heart - 10-3.0792min

- Period of a contraction of a human human heart - 10-1.8573min

- Amount of time it takes me to drop a bouncy ball
from my shoulder height - _________________10-1.6021min

- Period of a contraction of a Grey Wale’s heart - _10-0.9542min

- My age - ____________________________10+7.1069min

- The age of Canada - ____________________10+7.8652min

- The age of the Earth - __________________10+15.3806min

- The age of the Universe (According to NASA’s
WMAP) - __________________________10+16.9366min


We Are The Cyborgs Amongst Us

The theme of cybernetics is becoming increasingly prominent for me: the integration of the human body and psyche with human-designed mechanical and electronic technology. It seems that this phenomenon, previously consigned to the imaginations of either the notably technophilic or notably technophobic, is becoming a reality.

When I ride on public transit, here in Toronto, I observe about a quarter of the people around me have their ears connected to some sort of electronic device, feeding them with signals designed to stimulate emotional and intellectual responses unrelated to their immediate surroundings. Another quarter at least of these fellow passengers find respite from the tediums of tangibility in the disembodied world of cell phones, PDA’s and other forms of personal electronics.

I find this phenomenon, in which humanity thus becomes simultaneously disengaged from the environment and people around them and engaged with a realm both more personal and more universal, to be extremely disquieting. Through the media of these increasingly omnipresent technologies, people both retreat within, and escape to an apparently larger reality. Technologies like Bluetooth microphones, permanently latched onto people’s heads, and ear buds permanently installed in people’s ears, in conjunction with mechanical prosthetics, are finally making good on the century old prophecies of science fiction – we are indeed becoming cyborgs.

The images included here are three photographs of a small sculpture I made to start to address this theme. Cybernetics is really interesting to me as a concept. I have a number of projects on the go dealing with our increasingly bodily connection with technology.



The rhythms of the economy frame your body as you pass through the aisle of the dollarama

over and over and over and over, like a monkey with a miniature cymbal . . . the love of repetition really is in you . . . - Hot Chip: http://www.myspace.com/hotchip


Apples v2

I edited some of the apple photos that I posted on Dec. 8, 06. I figured I'd post the edited versions. Click on them to see them larger.



The Don Valley can be a strange place. Most joggers and bicyclists wear earphones. The soundscape that they are missing consists of trickling water and a few twittering birds, but mainly the unstopping, incessant swoosh of traffic all around.

The Voice

This is a sculpture I recently completed entitled, The Voice. It is modeled after the voice of a jazz singer I have come to admire. The representation here doesn't really do it justice as the lighting really wasn't the best. But you get the idea.

The animated version is available at http://www.geocities.com/duncpatt


The Architectural Profession

The following meditation I originally wrote in correspondence with a friend. I found the exercise helped me clarify my position, so I have edited it and now post it here with the hope that others might also find it useful.

I completed an undergraduate degree in Architecture in August of this year. At that time I was filled with discontent with the Profession as well as with the Study of Architecture. Since then, busy not working in architecture, I have allowed my mind to clear a bit on the subject, my thoughts aggregating into more distinct forms.

In the past five years of study and practice, I can’t help but feel that Architecture has failed me on an intellectual level. Perhaps, to put it more fairly, my pursuit of architecture has failed me. This pursuit somehow took my intellectual eagerness and sapped all of the life out of it. I don’t want to say that architecture can’t be intelligently made or studied, by any means. This is not to say that it doesn't take intelligence to be a good architect! Absolutely, a good architect has to be intelligent. They also have to be creative, sensitive, observant, vigilant, and also very, very good at compromising - without losing sight of their values. Some would also add insane to this list.

My problem is not with the intelligence, but with the expression of this intelligence. For me there is too much straight ‘design’ involved in the production of architecture. Too much lining up mullions, deciding which curve you like better - picking between colours. Design has a lot to do with making decisions and knowing how to make decisions, but very little to do with really asking yourself, on a fundamental level, WHY you make those decisions. That is just too difficult, takes too long, and hardly even pertinent. A good designer makes the right decisions. A combination of training and genius allows a good designer to make stunning decisions of great intellectual value without having to break it down into its basic philosophic, political, or social implications. These implications are ‘built-in’ to the design process.

To ME, the WHY is the most important question, not the WHAT or the HOW, which are the questions that architects tend to focus upon. In school this hindered me a great deal because I always concentrated on the wrong things, spending all of my time conjouring semantics, trying to design architectural stories and polemics – losing sight of firmness, economy, and delight.

In September and October I worked as an assistant to a contractor. I really, really enjoyed the physicality and the tangibility of the building. I basked in the lucidity and immediacy of the decisions. My initial impulses have always been abstract and academic, ethical and philosophical. When I was young, far too young to accurately surmise these things, I found the social studies to be too wrapped up in themselves and convoluted - not nearly engaged enough with their immediate surroundings. Rather, I found the humanities focusing on dense tangles of ideas apparently unrelated to the world outside my window.

Architecture seemed to me a great chance to bridge the gap between the abstract and the 'real world', a chance to make philosophy manifest! But it hasn’t been this way for me. It's caught in the middle: the ‘paperspace’ between the idea and the building. Architects make pictures of buildings, not buildings.

I had felt repelled by the ‘deconstructive’ tendencies I sensed in philosophy, literature, and art theory, and attracted to the opposite pole of explicit, physical construction. Architecture had had the soothing appearance to me of a great dialectical synthesis, the wholesome union that would allow me a happy middle way. Rather than satisfying both my inclination towards really deeply considering things, as well as my need for tangible engagement, architecture satisfied neither!

Rather than a ‘middle way’, I found in architecture a disconnected ‘third way’.

The Tiber in Rome

The river idles
Contained in the city

Separated from the temporary
City of churches
And of office buildings,
An impotent reminder of
All time,
A forgotten hint of the eternal

No past
Or present -
An Eternal Now.

Sometimes I am struck
With doubt and fear
As if some suppressed sin
Lay deep within the river,
Staring up at me
From the grimy depths

The river makes
Me uneasy.

To Yet Find Sweetness Hence

A young man, upset with an unrequited love, decides rashly that he will destroy all of the yellow flowers in the field infront of his house. Anger coursing in his veins, he toils all day, clipping the heads off of the lovely yellow flowers, hoarding them in a pail at his side. As the sun begins to lower in the sky, and the horizon begins to ready itself to accept it, an old man, who has been watching all this time from the window of a neighbouring house, approaches.

"You are upset about an unrequited love?" he asks, his bristled brow furrowing knowingly. "Here, come with me; I have something to show you."

"What can it be?" the youth asks, as he rises from his contorted crouch.

"I see you have collected all these flowers." the old man says, gesturing to the pail. “You must learn to make dandelion wine!”

Bringing his pail along with him, the young man follows his guide home. The sun forms a drawn-out slit of ruddy gold against the horizon.

The Icon Is Broken

In a globalized world saturated with electronic and print media, image gains a considerable prominence in the process of communication. The image, however, is primarily connotative, rather than denotative. Images have primarily been able to signify through iconography. They now must primarily depend upon indexical signification, and therefore be reduced to denotation. The icon is broken. Indeed, many icons are made and broken each day -- they have no holding power, an authority that used to depend upon a stable, continuous, cultural backdrop. One of the instrinsic differences between the citizen and the tourist used to be their ability to 'read' their environment, understand the many invisible signifiers by which they are constantly surrounded. Now we are all becoming tourists in our own environs -- there is indeed, as Odo Marquand put it, a feeling of “strangeness before the world”.

Some Culinary Poems

Take one of those Jamaican Ginger Patty-Loafs,
dark brown;
slice half-wise,
to produce two discs.
Toast these discs until crispy and for
a minute or two, melt on their rough faces
some well aged cheddar cheese.
Top with a delicate spoonful
of strawberries that have been soaked
in whiskey,
and sugar,
since last February

An avocado, not too ripe,
cubed like travel-dice,
tossed with a handful
of nasturtium flowers
in a light misting
of red-wine vinegar

Fingers of potato,
Fingers of plantain,
Tossed with herbs & olive oil -
singed in a pan -
then baked for half an hour

Apples chopped quite thin and
then soaked in coconut milk,
combined with graham crackers,
a touch of cinnamon,
drowned with ground-beef,
should be slopped together and
moulded into hacki-sacks.
Grill on a bbq,
with hickory on the coals

Rose Petals
in the Spring,
rising from a Spinach and
Pine-Nut Pesto,
amid Boulders of
Mild Goats' Cheese!

A Future of Constellated Power

Imagine a world opened almost entirely to competitive capitalist principles. In this future, only the basic laws protecting the universal declaration of human rights are enforced by government and the legal structure. People unable to make substantial yields, in such a system, would sink to the bottom without public assistance, dependent only upon the charity of other individuals or groups of individuals. In this world, art, culture, special interest groups are no longer sacred, but entirely incidental. If art is pleasing enough to be profitable, it is, otherwise it is relegated to the marginal world of hobbyists. Education, health care, transport, the postal system, and other institutions that are currently funded by the government are all privately funded and operated. In this world, wealth breeds wealth, fortune breeds fortune, misfortune breeds misfortune. Streets are in-between areas sandwiched between private structures. Streets become truly interstitial zones, patrolled but not owned by the government.

In this future, the government shrinks and as it shrinks, the power of individual people grows. Also, private institutes such as the Rotary Club and Big Oil grow to fill the gaps. If an association of the fortunate decide that a street needs fixing, it gets fixed, otherwise, it falls through the cracks. In this world of constellated power, few things are arbitrary. There are no arbitrary street grids, there is no arbitrary social assistance, there are no arbitrary borders - everything is defined by two things, a set of ethics lain down and enforced by a lean representative body, and the primal principles of the free market.

Beneath The Walls

The walls of the maze are alive tonight
as the pressure,
this aromatic silliness,
of humanity closes in upon my neck.
Stinking confusion can blind
my eyes
easily if I let it;
but only if I let it?

The problem is not
cool concrete anymore,
but thriving with humanity:
legs and arms, noses
and feet aplenty
sticking out awkwardly from
under blankets of
dirty magazines and
piles of bejeweled handbags.

But we should walk free tonight
hands in hands
across the moon-washed field
that lies beneath the mess.
The mess will take care of itself.
Raise my eyes and the
maze fades away
leaving us all
alone together,

a bewildered constellation,
on the cool face of this earth.



These are some photographs I took. Officially they are supposed to deal with the "fetishization of the commodity" as derived from Marx. I think they look pretty nice.


Please be warned that this weblog is an extraordinarily ego-centric and possibly narcissistic endeavour! For those easily offended by such material I would advise you to tread carefully.

To delve more deeply: This is a project. I am a project. This is the project of Duncan Patterson, Artist. A project which by no means has any certainty of success! Perhaps it shall be followed closely up by the project of Duncan Patterson, Lawyer. Or Duncan Patterson, Mountaineer.

I have been thinking a great deal recently about these questions of art and life. I finished my first degree, in architecture, in August, and have since been wondering what to do with myself. I spent the months of September and October in relative seclusion working on a construction project on a peninsula in Georgian Bay. While I was doing this I read a great deal, thought a great deal, and wrote a bit too. One thing I thought about, is that I would like to be an artist. An artist seems to me a wonderful occupation, allowing one to keep informed about the problems and delights of the world, while engaging in a therapeutic form of interpretation of them. That's a great conception of the artist, Therapist Of The World. I think this conception really brings to life the work of some of my favourite artists: Duchamp, Magritte, Escher, Borges, Kafka, Beckett, Dylan, Warhol . . .

I have spent much of my short life producing art of various sorts, but I am never sure if any of it is worthwhile. Most of it just remains scribbles in a notebook. The question arises: When do random jottings become Art? Where does the line between Jot and Art lie? When did TS Elliot, or Kafka, or Van Gogh decide that they were 'artists'? It seems certain to me that its not training that makes an artist . . . but what is it?

In this day and age, these sorts of distinctions seem even less clear. Essentially, it used to be you were a Writer if you were published. Someone else, a clever person in a position of power, would take your work, deem it worthy of the effort, and publish it! I think of the factory that was the Library at Alexandria - scribes carefully copying out the classic texts over and over again and distributing them around the known world: now THESE were important texts! In a time of practically no physical dissemination of ideas whatsoever, talk about validation! With the invention of paper and then the Gutenberg press, the standards for texts must have decreased, as far less effort and resources were required to replicate them. Then as this process became more and more refined, and then with the advent of electronic media - come the 1960s, just about anybody with a mind to it could publish texts. With the internet, we can publish anything we want with unprecedented ease - without having to answer to anyone with regard to quality or content. The internet provides the artist with the capacity to reach a much larger population than 'print media', however this very ease eliminates most any filter for quality.

This in-between zone, 'liminal' zone if you're an architect, attracts me right now. I am interested in pursuing this zone between the true validation (and risk) of publishing, and the absolutely unvalidated and possibly futile zone of jotting in a notebook. But again the question becomes, where do you draw the line? Now that we've eliminated the 'authentication' of print publishing (or gallery showing for visual artists), even this 'semi-authentication' zone of internet publishing still requires some serious decision making regarding quality. When should a random jot remain a random jot? This is going to be something that I hope to pursue with this weblog, which I am going to try and use as a means for disseminating my art, possibly in conjunction with my website at http://www.geocities.com/duncpatt .

If you've read this far, I know what you're thinking - man, this guy needs to lighten up! Well, compare this to Baudrillard, whose Cool Memories I'm reading right now: "Anyway we are condemned to social coma, political coma, historical coma. We are condemned to an anaesthetised disappearance, to a fading away under anaesthesia." So really, my constructive attitude, even if slightly confused, is indicative of a far more positive outlook than HIS!


First posting

I'm really not conviced as to how useful this is going to be.