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March 27, 2006

The Microsoft Art Collection

Microsoft has a fairly extensive art collection, which is scattered throughout the buildings on campus. If anyone is in Redmond on the last Thursday of the month and is curious about it, we offer tours that are open to the public. Just email artevent (the domain is the main microsoft one).

There's an artist in the collection named Thom Merrick. He has a couple of artworks in a similar style; they look something like this:

That's his 1999 work "Flying Bird". Actually it's not a photo of the painting; it's a homage, my recreation of the original, which took about 10 minutes in Corel Draw. Now, it would be cool if he had hand-painted it to look like it was a computer printout, but if you read the little tag next to the art, the medium is "pigment based ink jet print". In other words, he just printed it out on a printer (a big printer; it's about two feet wide and three feet high).

Personally I think art is what people say it is, and I'm perfectly willing to concede that this is art. He gets credit for thinking of it first, if nothing else. Sometimes you look at a work of abstract art and think "I could do that"--but in this case, I know I could do it.

Posted by AdamBa at March 27, 2006 10:41 PM

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Adam, when engineers can be art critics . . . artists can tell us how our software sucks?

In bldg 40 on the 5th floor (IIRC) there used to be a print of stars and a comet in the night sky. It was mostly black with points (and a SWOOSH) of white. I heard *many* complaints about how simple it was. I explained to several people that it was a print and how the negative was made and how it was probably "cleaned up" to make everything easily visible in the eventual "released" version of the lithotype. Once people heard that they accepted that it wasn't as simple as it at first seemed. Seeming simple is an art in itself. (Think "UI design".)

Sorry to rant. Not trying to call you an jerk; just sayin' that I hear far too many complaints about the art collection from software engineers who don't get it.

I recently said to some dev mgr "If it's that easy why don't YOU write the f'ing (yes - I got slap on wrist about the f-bomb) code?" and I'd like to say something similar about the art collection if I may.

Posted by: Drew at March 28, 2006 01:23 AM

btw: I'd give my left one for just one example of an engineer with *taste*. Just sayin'.

Posted by: Drew at March 28, 2006 01:27 AM

Drew, I think you misunderstood me. As I said I'm perfectly willing to accept this as art. I'll accept a blank canvas as art. My point was that his technique in producing it was fairly trivial. I'm not saying I could have thought of the idea, but having seen it, I could certainly make one just like his.

Actually I think was got me was the addition of the words "pigment based" to "ink jet print". Now THAT'S pretentious.

- adam

Posted by: at March 28, 2006 07:45 AM