Monday, April 7, 2014

It's art!

About a month ago Mike Moffatt, an assistant professor at Ivey business school at Western University, in London, Ontario, discovered an apparently coded note tucked into a book in the university library. Curious as to the meaning, Moffatt offered a hundred dollars to anyone who could solve the riddle.

Today the riddle has been solved. The note found by Moffatt is art. Jordan Himelfarb, a member of the Toronto Star editorial board, followed the clues. They led him to the Western University fine art department and Kelly Jazvac.

Himelfarb traveled from Toronto to London to meet Jazvac at a London coffee shop:

She explained that the Weldon code was an art project that came out of a second-year sculpture and installation class she taught in 2012. The artist, then an undergraduate student, placed 121 letters in the Weldon stacks and moved on with her or his (but probably her) life. Jazvac told me the artist was shocked by the project’s recent fame and wished to remain anonymous lest she be treated unkindly in the media.
The reporter discovered the symbols correspond to capital and lower case letters but the order is random, making the code impossible to crack. For the full story read Himelfarb's interesting story in The Star: I cracked the code at the Western University library.

I'm not surprised at the outcome. Using the Internet and social media I contacted visual artists, writers and poets around the globe. Most of those contacted replied to my inquiry. The majority felt the apparently coded works were art. Some suggested that I google "asemic writing." The local paper, The London Free Press, was onto this art lead but failed to pursue this thread to its logical end.

A Free Press story reported Peter Schwenger of Western had contacted the paper. "I’m pretty sure that these are examples of asemic writing ­— that is, art that looks like writing but is not intended to communicate a meaning, only to represent the feel of writing," he told the paper in an e-mail.

A number of the artists I contacted said the works found in the Western library reminded them of the lettrist movement from the '50s. To my surprise, one artist attacked the concept of asemic writing. The works were lettrist as there is no such thing as asemic writing. "It's a philosophic misnomer," I was told.

As a retired newspaper photographer, an old geezer whose free time is being consumed by trips to the hospital as doctors investigate a genetic-based heart condition, I decided that a trip to the fine art department at Western was the next logical step but I simply didn't have the time. The Toronto Star writer did and I doff my hat to his stick-to-intuitiveness.

The big riddle left unanswered is why did it take a Toronto reporter to track down the answer at Western? The Toronto Star broke the story Saturday. The London Free Press reported the riddle was solved Sunday.

There are a number of online newspapers that essentially ripoff the mainstream media for stories, rewrite them and publish them online as their own. I find this practice disgusting but it is not unique to these online journalistic vultures. The MSM has done this for years, ripping off competing media outlets. It appears that Sunday the online version of The Free Press ripped off the Saturday Star and without so much as a credit in passing.

And here is one last riddle: Why are newspapers failing in this electronic age? Hint: There are clues in the media handling of the strange notes found in the Western library.

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