Of Cryptonomicon, Conflux, And Concrete Crickets

September 13, 2007

I don’t trust art. “High art,” specifically, although I’m willing to cede that it is a fairly ignorant position. (Not ignorant in the sense that all who mistrust what I classify as high art are ignorant, but ignorant in that I don’t really know enough to have a position, but have adopted one anyway.)

Neal Stephenson’s Cryptonomicon contains many discursions, and one of the more memorable even after all these years is his prison-cell lecture by Enoch Root about the difference between the gods of war, Athena and Ares. One meme Root (or rather Stephenson) mentions is the idea of metis, a greek word for “art”, but which is specific in describing art as craft and technology. It was a distinction that I had never heard made so clearly, and is one which stuck with me for some time.

So it is with great pleasure that I have seen the rise of interest in craft over or alongside art. When a magazine like Make is as popular (internet-popular, at least) as it is now, and when Theo Jansen gives a talk at TED, I think its fair to say that craft is cool.

Straddling the line between art and craft is the Conflux Festival. It is back, starting today and going through Sunday. Conflux seems to have enough ties to the academic/artistic theory that so tempers my interest, but more than makes up for this with a heavy dose of projects that can only be described as awesome.

One artist involved this year (by whom I was fortunate enough to see a preview talk at the inestimable DorkBot) is Michael Dory, whose Concrete Crickets will be on display Friday through Sunday. Check his work out if you get a chance.

Hit the schedule of events here.

(Note: It has been several years at best since I’ve read Stephenson’s magnum opus, so its possible my memory of what was in it is completely fabricated. I’m just warning you.)