Erik Sanner Home Visual Other About

fate and frustration

when my painfully expensive and time consuming saga of hard drive failure was nearly over (so i thought), i told judson what had been going on, in an incredulous "can you believe this is really happening?" way, and he responded immediately with "kismet" - when something is so strongly fated to occur, you just have to surrender to it. that doesn't work for me - i want the universe to support us and our art - i mean humans - and artists - and me - so i'm still struggling, perhaps futilely. also trying, though, to learn something from this. i don't know if that's happening yet.

this is going to be wordy and maybe no pics. but it's what's going on in my art and in my life, it's on my mind a lot, and maybe narrating "the hard drive failure wham-wham-wham-wham" will help me find out something positive to take away from this ongoing stressful situation.

ok, i have some pretty good friends. i knew that already.

as long as i'm laying it all out, want to go ahead and lay it all out. so, there were years when i couldn't decide which type of art to pursue (with single-minded focus). was just talking about this the other day so it's still fresh in my old-memory-rewritten-by-recent-retelling-of-old-memory memory. (if you haven't read "the brain that changes itself" by norman doidge (thanks jose) i strongly recommend it.) wanted to be, at times, a writer, a painter, a film director, an avant-garde television creator (no desire to work in tv-as-tv, wanted to create new genres), a composer, a photographer, even a choreographer. as one does, when one is young. gradually, began to weed out the things i had less interest in (choreography? yeah all art is fascinating but it's always been a foreign world to me and i just had never learned enough about dance or exposed myself to it enough to realistically want to spend my life in the dance world). the real dilemma, for years, was film (you can put painting and photography and yes dance into a movie), paint (i love paint), writing (i love reading), or music (i love music). ending up in "visual art" wasn't obvious to me at all, it was a very slow ratcheting-up-of-intensity and during that time the others became neglected until they finally fell by the wayside and i declared myself a painter (using, of course, collage, photography, photo copies, found objects, etc.). (and of course my public showing, three works, included a pure collage, a painted sculpture, and a collage-construction painted only with teas.) because i want to fight against definitions of things? anyway, some of the major factors in the "film vs. paint" argument were "technology" and "money" - film, several centuries (millennia) younger than paint, also involved equipment which was more obviously changing than brushes and pigment. and that equipment, along with other production costs, was drastically more expensive than the finest canvas, brushes, etc. that wasn't the main consideration, but it was a consideration. luckily a student of mine had a friend who let me use his professional video editing studio, and i did some things with multiple vcrs and my camcorder too - so i could do it, was doing it, could head down that path, but ultimately was more excited about paint than pixels.

since that time, a lot has changed in the world and in my life. camcorders are cheap. video is digital, super-easy to edit, and yes cheap. it's possible to manipulate video dynamically using computers so that you end up with a constantly-changing visual - if that was even possible in the early nineties, the equipment would have been bulky and expensive and you would have needed to be a real technician, and likely a real programmer. these days those sorts of capabilities are not only accessible but becoming more available all the time. wes' wife shawn, who has never studied film or video or editing, just made a short documentary without even learning how to use the software - just a point-and-shoot camera and a few hours on a laptop, boom, a dvd.

so what's the deal with fate? what's my problem, that i have to sit here and build up this massive back story, and i keep turning my head and glaring at a machine every few minutes?

the deal is, i feel like it's 1994. i'm happy making visual art. i'm happy combining paint and video and programming to create new media installations. i'm not happy with technology, with some of my choices, with my damn hard drives.

in the early 2000s i started messing around with new media. i was too timid to show anything, but i was making things on computers. still thought "paint" was a different thing and thought maybe the computer stuff would influence or "inform" my paintings. then i gradually began to believe that visual art was visual art - that photography and paint and film and television and computer graphics all came from the same place and can all be used as visual media - an expanded palette for a visual artist. i worried that relying on technology would be too expensive, that machines would break and i'd lose work, that i'd have too much trouble learning the skills (and keeping up with the advances) to really incorporate it into my work - but it was something i realized i really wanted to do. it was a way for me to make something i would be much, much, much more satisfied with as an artist. every project from about 2005 on was inspiring without letup and it felt like i was heading down a path of continual exploration. i could buy the machines, i could learn the software, i could write the code, i could make the things, the art i wanted to explore, it was all possible.

maybe two years ago a hard drive crashed. which hard drive? one which had documents (preceding early new media works) going back to the nineties, plus a good portion of what i'd done since deciding it was ok to start using computers as artmaking devices. i hadn't been backing up because i didn't see how i could do it. a tape backup machine would cost a lot of money right? backup software would cost money too, and just burning things onto dvds didn't work - a single hour of video is about 12gb, a dvd (this is going to sound so dated in a few years i love it! still optimism even during this miserable moment) holds what maybe 7gb - didn't want to split up a movie - naive, irresponsible, ignorant - anyway it was recoverable. recovered. very expensive. realized, maybe the tape backup device was a bargain after all. so did i get one? of course not. given the rapid increase in hard drive capacity and decrease in hard drive price which we can see every few months, i reasoned that i could keep backing up onto duplicate hard drives - it was manageable financially, and will just get cheaper and cheaper and cheaper as we keep moving into our magical future.

end of prologue, bringing us to 2008-feels-like-1994-where-technology-is-a-bugbear-and-it's-kicking-my-sorry-butt.

a month and a half ago, i noticed a hard drive wasn't mounting. maybe dead. no problem, no worries - everything is backed up. two weeks later, i needed something from that hard drive. pulled out the backup. wouldn't mount. maybe dead.


will this be expensive? is it even recoverable? chances pretty good right? two hard drives right? due to anna's hard drive crashing, knew that karah, who is a computer consultant, might be willing to give data recovery a shot at a rate far lower than what tekserve or disksavers would charge. so i ask for the favor and start the month of train rides carrying hard drives. no luck, karah says, after a week of agonizing limbo. the one won't mount and the other one won't mount. the data recovery software says "sorry karah." there's another possibility, she says. if i can get the same model drive as one of them, she can take out the discs and put them into a different enclosure - sometimes that does the trick, it could be a little mechanical thing. well, since that drive is ancient, maybe two years old at this point, that model is no longer sold by the manufacturer. however i happen to have one (score!). another few days pass while karah takes apart the non-functional drive and puts the disks into the still-ok housing, tries to recover again - nope. sometimes it works out, but not this time. karah reassembles the drives into their original configurations and tests the still-ok one to make sure it's still-ok. yes, it's still ok, which is nice.

the dead drive? ok, i call disksavers. get a quote from them. . . what? are they kidding? not quite a downpayment for an apartment but wow, that's really expensive. everyone i tell says "wow." off to tekserve for a second estimate - yeah, it's expensive, but data recovery is expensive, and it's a fraction of the first estimate. so i say "ok, this is my best option, i want to get my art back. let me pay you the money and please give me back my art." then the uplifting part of the story happens. it's a miracle. judson was wrong about "kismet" - i can get back to video editing (in the middle of a few projects). when the guy at tekserve plugs in the hard drive, this is the bad hard drive karah took apart and stuck into the other housing then stuck back into the bad housing, it mounts. he says "there's nothing wrong with this hard drive." shocked and elated, i say "can you transfer everytihng onto this (brand new) (more reliable brand) hard drive?" he says "you want to do a backup? sure. sixty dollars." i dance out of there and start calling and texting people like i got out of the hospital or something. that's the part of the story i like.

today, though, i no longer get the same surge of pleasure when i look back on that friday of two weeks ago. during all that limbo time i was trying to find out about better backup options than getting duplicate hard drives. karah's coworker (thank you everyone at eigerman consulting) showed me a drobo, which is a little box with slots in it. into each slot you stick an internal hard drive, and the drobo distributes your data across those multiple hard drives. if any one of them fails, it's no problem, the drobo's job is to figure out what was on that hard drive, so you just pop in a new one, and you're all set. the odds of four hard drives failing at once are super low, but the drobo also tells you how healthy each hard drive is, constantly monitoring them. i'm excited about the drobo and order two. this is the up-and-down part of the story.

excited to get my new drobos. just want to move everything off of my other hard drives onto the drobos. then i can relax and get back to work. blink, blink, blink, stutter stutter blink, stutter stutter blink blink blink. another hard drive - looks like it's conking out on me. i don't want to think about it. my drobo arrives. it works. not super-easy to set up and get going, but one evening and one morning and it seems fine. start moving stuff over. ok, there's a little problem. the stuff is moving over, but it doesn't all show up the first time. i have to move it again, then it says "hey that stuff is already there!" and then it shows up. so i'm nervous and i contact tech support but since it's working i think that's just a little inconvenience and i'll live with it. the drobo says its four new hard drives are healthy and the data is spread out across all four of them. so the other day, finally, i plug in the blink blink stutter stutter hard drive, turn it on - nothing. put it in the freezer overnight (i forget who told me that can help) and try it again in the morning - nope. won't work. ok i start checking the other backups. guess what? looks like it was also backed up onto the backup which failed (it's a 320gb drive, the backup that failed was a 1tb drive).

worse things have happened. i can still take it to tekserve. in the meantime i'm still copying over data from the other drives onto the drobo.

an hour before i started this post, my drobo gave me an error message. for some reason it couldn't read a file and couldn't copy a bunch of stuff over. fine, i click ok. the drobo doesn't show up on my machine. i restart. it doesn't show up again. i unplug the connecting cable and reinsert it. doesn't mount. so it's just sitting over there with the fan running unplugged while i keep glaring at it as i type this. i think glaring at it might make it perform a little better. drobo tech support never got back to me. i can't decide whether to unplug its power supply or not. i decided to wait an hour or two and then cut off the power (something you're really not supposed to do to hard drives). it has been about two hours, i spent an hour typing out this super-long blog entry, and drobo tech support reopens in about forty hours. i just glared at it again. i might go to tekserve with the 320gb drive this afternoon. i need to do laundry and wash the dishes and maybe eat something but all i can think about is judson and kismet and the gods toying with me, for sport, letting me think i had it all back under control and then showing, again, that it can be taken away in an instant, at any time. when i say "it" i mean anything - your life, your art, your friends, your internet connection . . .

what can i learn from this?

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