MachineMachine /stream - search for physics https://machinemachine.net/stream/feed en-us http://blogs.law.harvard.edu/tech/rss LifePress therourke@gmail.com <![CDATA[Waste-Wilderness: A conversation with Peter L. Galison | FOP]]> https://fopnews.wordpress.com/2011/03/31/galison/

is a historian, writer, award winning filmmaker and the Pellegrino University Professor in History of Science and Physics at Harvard University.  He was appointed a Guggenheim Fellow in 2009, he won the Max Planck Prize in 1999, and was named a MacArthur Foundation Fellow in 1997.

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Tue, 24 Jul 2018 07:40:13 -0700 https://fopnews.wordpress.com/2011/03/31/galison/
<![CDATA[Controversial New Theory Suggests Life Wasn't a Fluke of Biology—It Was Physics | WIRED]]> https://www.wired.com/story/controversial-new-theory-suggests-life-wasnt-a-fluke-of-biologyit-was-physics/

The biophysicist Jeremy England made waves in 2013 with a new theory that cast the origin of life as an inevitable outcome of thermodynamics.

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Sun, 06 Aug 2017 11:35:32 -0700 https://www.wired.com/story/controversial-new-theory-suggests-life-wasnt-a-fluke-of-biologyit-was-physics/
<![CDATA[Transmediale 2017 (events)]]> http://machinemachine.net/text/ideas/transmediale-2017/

I just came back from two jam packed weeks at Transmediale festival, 2017. Morehshin Allahyari and I were involved in a wealth of events, mostly in relation to our #Additivism project. Including: On the Far Side of the Marchlands: an exhibition at Schering Stiftung gallery, featuring work by Catherine Disney, Keeley Haftner, Brittany Ransom, Morehshin and myself.

Photos from the event are gathered here.

The 3D Additivist Cookbook european launch: held at Transmediale on Saturday 4th Feb.

Audio of the event is available here.

Singularities: a panel and discussion conceived and introduced by Morehshin and myself. Featuring Luiza Prado & Pedro Oliveira (A parede), Rasheedah Phillips, and Dorothy R. Santos.

Audio of the entire panel is available here. The introduction to the panel – written by Morehshin and myself – can be found below. Photos from the panel are here.

Alien Matter exhibition: curated by Inke Arns as part of Transmediale 2017. Featuring The 3D Additivist Cookbook and works by Joey Holder, Dov Ganchrow, and Kuang-Yi Ku.

Photos from the exhibition can be found here.

 

Singularities Panel delivered at Transmediale, Sunday 5th February 2017 Introduction by Morehshin Allahyari and Daniel Rourke   Morehshin: In 1979, the Iranian Islamic revolution resulted in the overthrowing of the Pahlavi deen-as-ty and led to the establishment of an Islamic republic. Many different organizations, parties and guerrilla groups were involved in the Iranian Revolution. Some groups were created after the fall of Pahlavi and still survive in Iran; others helped overthrow the Shah but no longer exist. Much of Iranian society was hopeful about the coming revolution. Secular and leftist politicians participated in the movement to gain power in the aftermath, believing that Khomeini would support their voice and allow multiple positions and parties to be active and involved in the shaping of the post-revolution Iran. Like my mother – a Marxist at the time – would always say: The Iranian revolution brought sudden change, death, violence in unforeseen ways. It was a point, a very fast point of collapse and rise. The revolution spun out of control and the country was taken over by Islamists so fast that people weren’t able to react to it; to slow it; or even to understand it. The future was now in the hands of a single party with a single vision that would change the lives of generations of Iranians, including myself, in the years that followed. We were forced and expected to live in one singular reality. A mono authoritarian singularity. In physics, a singularity is a point in space and time of such incredible density that the very nature of reality is brought into question. Associated with elusive black holes and the alien particles that bubble out of the quantum foam at their event horizon, the term ‘singularity’ has also been co-opted by cultural theorists and techno-utopianists to describe moments of profound social, political, ontological or material transformation. The coming-into-being of new worlds that redefine their own origins. For mathematicians and physicists, singularities are often considered as ‘bad behaviour’ in the numbers and calculations. Infinite points may signal weird behaviours existing ‘in’ the physical world: things outside or beyond our ability to comprehend. Or perhaps, more interestingly, a singularity may expose the need for an entirely new physics. Some anomalies can only be made sense of by drafting a radically new model of the physical world to include them. For this panel we consider ‘bad behaviours’ in social, technological and ontological singularities. Moments of profound change triggered by a combination of technological shifts, cultural mutations, or unforeseen political dramas and events. Like the physicists who comprehend singularities in the physical world, we do not know whether the singularities our panelists highlight today tell us something profound about the world itself, or force us to question the model we have of the world or worlds. Daniel: As well as technological or socio-political singularities, this panel will question the ever narcissistic singularities of ‘I’, ‘here’ and ‘now’ – confounding the principles of human universality upon which these suppositions are based. We propose ‘singularities’ as eccentric and elusive figures in need of collective attention. It is no coincidence that ‘Singularity’ is often used as a term to indicate human finitude. Self-same subjects existing at particular points in time, embedded within particular contexts, told through a singular history or single potential future. The metaphor of the transformative Singularity signals not one reality ‘to come’, nor even two realities – one moved from and one towards – but of many, all dependant on who the subject of the singularity is and how much autonomy they are ascribed. The ‘Technological’ Singularity is a myth of the ‘transhumanists’, a group of mainly Western, commonly white, male enthusiasts, who ascribe to the collective belief that technology will help them to become ‘more than human’… ‘possessed of drastically augmented intellects, memories, and physical powers.’ As technological change accelerates, according to prominent Transhumanist Ray Kurzweil, so it pulls us upwards in its wake. Kurzweil argues that as the curve of change reaches an infinite gradient reality itself will be brought into question: like a Black Hole in space-time subjects travelling toward this spike will find it impossible to turn around, to escape its pull. A transformed post-human reality awaits us on the other side of the Technological Singularity. A reality Kurzweil and his ilk believe ‘we’ will inevitably pass into in the coming decades. In a 2007 paper entitled ‘Droppin’ Science Fiction’, Darryl A. Smith explores the metaphor of the singularity through Afro-American and Afrofuturist science fiction. He notes that the metaphor of runaway change positions those subject to it in the place of Sisyphus, the figure of Greek myth condemned to push a stone up a hill forever. For Sisyphus to progress he has to fight gravity as it conspires with the stone to pull him back to the bottom of the slope. The singularity in much science fiction from black and afro-american authors focusses on this potential fall, rather than the ascent:

“Here, in the geometrics of spacetime, the Spike lies not at the highest point on an infinite curve but at the lowest… Far from being the shift into a posthumanity, the Negative Spike is understood… as an infinite collapsing and, thus, negation of reality. Escape from such a region thus requires an opposing infinite movement.”

The image of a collective ‘push’ of the stone of progress up the slope necessarily posits a universal human subject, resisting the pull of gravity back down the slope. A universal human subject who passes victorious to the other side of the event horizon. But as history has shown us, technological, social and political singularities – arriving with little warning – often split the world into those inside and those outside their event horizons. Singularities like the 1979 Iranian revolution left many more on the outside of the Negative Spike, than the inside. Singularities such as the Industrial Revolution, which is retrospectively told in the West as a tale of imperial and technological triumph, rather than as a story of those who were violently abducted from their homelands, and made to toil and die in fields of cotton and sugarcane. The acceleration toward and away from that singularity brought about a Negative Spike so dense, that many millions of people alive today still find their identities subject to its social and ontological mass. In their recent definition of The Anthropocene, the International Commission on Stratigraphy named the Golden Spike after World War II as the official signal of the human-centric geological epoch. A series of converging events marked in the geological record around the same time: the detonation of the first nuclear warhead; the proliferation of synthetic plastic from crude oil constituents; and the introduction of large scale, industrialised farming practices, noted by the appearance of trillions of discarded chicken bones in the geological record. Will the early 21st century be remembered for the 9/11 terrorist event? The introduction of the iPhone, and Twitter? Or for the presidency of Donald J Trump? Or will each of these extraordinary events be considered as part of a single, larger shift in global power and techno-mediated autonomy? If ‘we’ are to rebuild ourselves through stronger unities, and collective actions in the wake of recent political upheavals, will ‘we’ also forego the need to recognise the different subjectivities and distinct realities that bubble out of each singularity’s wake? As the iPhone event sent shockwaves through the socio-technical cultures of the West, so the rare earth minerals required to power those iPhones were pushed skywards in value, forcing more bodies into pits in the ground to mine them. As we gather at Transmediale to consider ai, infrastructural, data, robotic, or cyborgian revolutions, what truly remains ‘elusive’ is a definition of ‘the human’ that does justice to the complex array of subjectivities destined to be impacted – and even crafted anew – by each of these advances. In his recent text on the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster Jean-Luc Nancy proposes instilling “the condition of an ever-renewed present” into the urgent design and creation of new, mobile futures. In this proposition Nancy recognises that each singularity is equal to all others in its finitude; an equivalence he defines as “the essence of community.” To contend with the idea of singularities – plural – of ruptures as such, we must share together that which will forever remain unimaginable alone. Morehshin: This appeal to a plurality of singularities is easily mistaken for the kinds of large scale collective action we have seen in recent years around the world. From the Arab Springs, and Occupy Movement through to the recent Women’s March, which took place not 24 hours after the inauguration of Donald Trump. These events in particular spoke of a universal drive, a collective of people’s united against a single cause. Much has been written about the ‘human microphone’ technique utilized by Occupy protesters to amplify the voice of a speaker when megaphones and loud speakers were banned or unavailable. We wonder whether rather than speak as a single voice we should seek to emphasise the different singularities enabled by different voices, different minds; distinct votes and protestations. We wonder whether black and brown protestors gathered in similar numbers, with similar appeals to their collective unity and identity would have been portrayed very differently by the media. Whether the radical white women and population that united for the march would also show up to the next black lives matter or Muslim ban protests. These are not just some academic questions but an actual personal concern… what is collectivism and for who does the collective function? When we talk about futures and worlds and singularities, whose realities are we talking about? Who is going to go to Mars with Elon Musk? And who will be left? As we put this panel together, in the last weeks, our Manifesto’s apocalyptic vision of a world accelerated to breaking point by technological progress began to seem strangely comforting compared to the delirious political landscape we saw emerging before us. Whether you believe political mele-ee-ze, media delirium, or the inevitable implosion of the neo-liberal project is to blame for the rise of figures like Farage, Trump or – in the Philippines – the outspoken President Rodrigo Duterte, the promises these figures make of an absolute shift in the conditions of power, appear grand precisely because they choose to demonize the discrete differences of minority groups, or attempt to overturn truths that might fragment and disturb their all-encompassing narratives. Daniel: The appeal to inclusivity – in virtue of a shared political identity – often instates those of ‘normal’ body, race, sex, or genome as exclusive harbingers of the-change-which-should – or so we are told, will – come. A process that theorist Rosi Braidotti refers to as a ‘dialectics of otherness’ which subtly disguises difference, in celebration of a collective voice of will or governance. Morehshin: Last week on January 27, as part of a plan to keep out “Islamic terrorists” outside of the United States Trump signed an order, that suspended entry for citizens of seven countries for 90 days. This includes Iran, the country I am a citizen of. I have lived in the U.S. for 9 years and hold a green-card which was included in Trump’s ban and now is being reviewed case by case for each person who enters the U.S.. When the news came out, I was already in Berlin for Transmediale and wasn’t sure whether I had a home to go back to. Although the chaos of Trump’s announcement has now settled, and my own status as a resident of America appears a bit more clear for now, the ripples of emotion and uncertainty from last week have coloured my experience at this festival. As I have sat through panels and talks in the last 3 days, and as I stand here introducing this panel about elusive events, potential futures and the in betweenness of all profound technological singularities… the realities that feel most significant to me are yet to take place in the lives of so many Middle-Easterners and Muslims affected by Trump’s ban. How does one imagine/re-imagine/figure/re-figure the future when there are still so many ‘presents’ existing in conflict? I grew up in Iran for 23 years, where science fiction didn’t really exist as a genre in popular culture. I always think we were discouraged to imagine the future other than how it was ‘imagined’ for us. Science-fiction as a genre flourishes in the West… But I still struggle with the kinds of futures we seem most comfortable imagining. THANKS   We now want to hand over to our fantastic panelists, to highlight their voices, and build harmonies and dissonances with our own. We are extremely honoured to introduce them: Dorothy Santos is a Filipina-American writer, editor, curator, and educator. She has written and spoken on a wide variety of subjects, including art, activism, artificial intelligence, and biotechnology. She is managing editor of Hyphen Magazine, and a Yerba Buena Center for the Arts fellow, where she is researching the concept of citizenship. Her talk today is entitled Machines and Materiality: Speculations of Future Biology and the Human Body. Luiza Prado and Pedro Oliveira are Brazilian design researchers, who very recently wrapped up their PhDs at the University of the Arts Berlin. Under the ‘A Parede’ alias, the duo researches new design methodologies, processes, and pedagogies for an onto-epistemological decolonization of the field. In their joint talk and performance, Luiza and Pedro will explore the tensions around hyperdense gravitational pulls and acts of resistance. With particular focus on the so-called “non-lethal” bombs – teargas and stun grenades – manufactured in Brazil, and exported and deployed all around the world. Rasheedah Phillips is creative director of Afrofuturist Affair: a community formed to celebrate, strengthen, and promote Afrofuturistic and Sci-Fi concepts and culture. In her work with ‘Black Quantum Futurism’, Rasheedah derives facets, tenets, and qualities from quantum physics, futurist traditions, and Black/African cultural traditions to celebrate the ability of African-descended people to see “into,” choose, or create the impending future. In her talk today, Rasheedah will explore the history of linear time constructs, notions of the future, and alternative theories of temporal-spatial consciousness.      

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Thu, 09 Feb 2017 08:50:26 -0800 http://machinemachine.net/text/ideas/transmediale-2017/
<![CDATA[Sync (by Max Hattler)]]> https://vimeo.com/30342276

For information, awards and credits see maxhattler.com/sync For updates join facebook.com/maxhattler **** SYNC. A CIRCULAR LOOPING ANIMATION PROJECTION INSTALLATION BY MAX HATTLER **** NSFW - DON'T OPERATE HEAVY MACHINERY AFTER WATCHING - BEST IN HD FULL-SCREEN WITH SOUND ON HEADPHONES - WITH TIME ON YOUR HANDS - CONTAINS FLICKER! Sync "is based on the idea that there is an underlying unchanging synchronisation at the centre of everything; a sync that was decided at the very beginning of time. Everything follows from it, everything is ruled by it: all time, all physics, all life. And all animation." (Max Hattler, 2011, 'Sync: Circular Adventures in Animation' in Virginie Selavy (ed.) The End: An Electric Sheep Anthology - strangeattractor.co.uk/books/the-end/)Cast: Max HattlerTags: Max Hattler, Sync, John Whitney, Powers of Ten, universe, time, pavlov, abstract, media art, installation, visual music, symmetry, animation, spiritual, mathematics, physics, mandala, geometry, psychedelic and trippy

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Sat, 12 Dec 2015 09:53:08 -0800 https://vimeo.com/30342276
<![CDATA[The Artist Who Speaks to Computers and Their Humans | Broadly]]> https://broadly.vice.com/en_us/article/the-artist-who-speaks-to-computers-and-their-humans

Like much of her work, Ashley Zelinskie eludes a one-dimensional definition. She is a Star Trek-obsessed nerd who studies electrical engineering, theoretical physics, and space in her spare time.

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Sun, 18 Oct 2015 08:10:37 -0700 https://broadly.vice.com/en_us/article/the-artist-who-speaks-to-computers-and-their-humans
<![CDATA[Resolution Disputes: A Conversation Between Rosa Menkman and Daniel Rourke]]> http://www.furtherfield.org/features/interviews/resolution-disputes-conversation-between-rosa-menkman-and-daniel-rourke

In the lead-up to her solo show, institutions of Resolution Disputes [iRD], at Transfer Gallery, Brooklyn, I caught up with Rosa Menkman over two gallons of home-brewed coffee. We talked about what the show might become, discussing a series of alternate resolutions and realities that exist parallel to our daily modes of perception. iRD is open to visitors on Saturdays at Transfer Gallery until April 18th, and will also function as host to my and Morehshin Allahyari’s 3D Additivist Manifesto, on Thursday April 16th. Rosa Menkman: The upcoming exhibition at Transfer is an illustration of my practice based PhD research on resolutions. It will be called ‘institutions of Resolution Disputes’, in short iRD and will be about the liminal, alternative modes of data or information representation, that are obfuscated by technological conventions. The title is a bit wonky as I wish for it to reflect that kind of ambiguity that invokes curiosity. In any case, I always feel that every person, at least once in their grown-up life, wants to start an institution. There are a few of those moments in life, like “Now I am tired of the school system, I want to start my own school!”; and “Now I am ready to become an architect!”, so this is my dream after wanting to become an architect. Daniel Rourke: To establish your own institution?

RM: First of all, I am multiplexing the term institution here. ‘institutions’ and the whole setting of iRD does mimic a (white box) institute, however the iRD does not just stand for a formal organization that you can just walk into. The institutions also revisit a slightly more compound framework that hails from late 1970s, formulated by Joseph Goguen and Rod Burstall, who dealt with the growing complexities at stake when connecting different logical systems (such as databases and programming languages) within computer sciences. A main result of these non-logical institutions is that different logical systems can be ‘glued’ together at the ‘substrata levels’, the illogical frameworks through which computation also takes place. Secondly, while the term ’resolution’ generally simply refers to a standard (measurement) embedded in the technological domain, I believe that a resolution indeed functions as a settlement (solution), but at the same time exists as a space of compromise between different actors (languages, objects, materialities) who dispute their stakes (frame rate, number of pixels and colors, etc.), following rules (protocols) within the ever growing digital territories. So to answer your question; maybe in a way the iRD is sort of an anti-protological institute or institute for anti-utopic, obfuscated or dysfunctional resolutions. DR: It makes me think of Donna Haraway’s Manifesto for Cyborgs, and especially a line that has been echoing around my head recently:

“No objects, spaces, or bodies are sacred in themselves; any component can be interfaced with any other if the proper standard, the proper code, can be constructed for processing signals in a common language.”

By using the terms ‘obfuscation’ and ‘dysfunction’ you are invoking a will – perhaps on your part, but also on the part of the resolutions themselves – to be recognised. I love that gesture. I can hear the objects in iRD speaking out; making themselves heard, perhaps for the first time. In The 3D Additivist Manifesto we set out to imagine what the existence of Haraway’s ‘common language’ might mean for the unrealised, “the powerless to be born.” Can I take it that your institute has a similar aim in mind? A place for the ‘otherwise’ to be empowered, or at least to be recognised?

RM: The iRD indeed kind of functions as a stage for non-protocological resolutions, or radical digital materialism. I always feel like I should say here, that generally, I am not against function or efficiency. These are good qualities, they make the world move forward. On the other hand, I do believe that there is a covert, nepotist cartel of protocols that governs the flows and resolutions of data and information just for the sake of functionality and efficiency. The sole aim of this cartel is to uphold the dogma of modern computation, which is about making actors function together (resonate) as efficiently as possible, tweaking out resources to maximum capacity, without bottlenecks, clicks, hicks or cuts, etc. But this dogma also obfuscates a compromise that we never question. And this is where my problem lies: efficiency and functionality are shaping our objects. Any of these actors could also operate under lower, worse or just different resolutions. Yet we have not been taught to see, think or question any of these resolutions. They are obfuscated and we are blind to them. I want to be able to at least entertain the option of round video (strip video from its interface!), to write inside non-quadrilateral, modular text editors (no more linear reading!) or to listen to (sonify) my rainbows (gradients). Right now, the protocols in place simply do not make this possible, or even worse, they have blocked these functionalities. There is this whole alternate universe of computational objects, ways that our data would look or be used like, if the protocols and their resolutions had been tweaked differently. The iRD reflects on this, and searches, if you will, a computation of many dimensions. DR: Meaning that a desktop document could have its corners folded back, and odd, non standard tessellations would be possible, with overlapping and intersecting work spaces?

RM: Yes! Exactly! Right now in the field of imagery, all compressions are quadrilateral, ecology dependent, standard solutions (compromises) following an equation in which data flows are plotted against actors that deal with the efficiency/functionality duality in storage, processing and transmission. I am interested in creating circles, pentagons and other more organic manifolds! If we would do this, the whole machine would work differently. We could create a modular and syphoning relationships between files, and just as in jon Satroms’ 2011 QTzrk installation, video would have multiple timelines and soundtracks, it could even contain some form of layer-space! DR: So the iRD is also a place for some of those alternate ‘solutions’ that are in dispute? RM: Absolutely. However, while I am not a programmer, I also don’t believe that imagining new resolutions means to absolve of all existing resolutions and their inherent artifacts. History and ecology play a big role in the construction of a resolution, which is why I will also host some of my favorite, classic solutions and their inherent (normally obfuscated) artifacts at the iRD, such as scan lines, DCT blocks, and JPEG2000 wavelets.

The iRD could easily function as a Wunderkammer for artifacts that already exist within our current resolutions. But to me this would be a needles move towards the style of the Evil Media Distribution Center, created by YoHa (Matsuko Yokokoji and Graham Harwood) for the 2013 Transmediale. I love to visit Curiosity Cabinets, but at the same time, these places are kind of dead, celebrating objects that are often shielded behind glass (or plastic). I can imagine the man responsible for such a collection. There he sits, in the corner, smoking a pipe, looking over his conquests. But this kind of collection does not activate anything! Its just ones own private boutique collection of evil! For a dispute to take place we need action! Objects need to have – or be given – a voice! DR: …and the alternate possible resolutions can be played out, can be realised, without solidifying them as symbols of something dead and forgotten. RM: Right! It would be easy and pretty to have those objects in a Wunderkammer type of display. Or as Readymades in a Boîte-en-valise but it just feels so sad. That would not be zombie like but dead-dead. A static capture of hopelessness. DR: The Wunderkammer had a resurgence a few years ago. Lots of artists used the form as a curatorial paradigm, allowing them to enact their practice as artist and curator. A response, perhaps, to the web, the internet, and the archive. Aggregated objects, documents and other forms placed together to create essayistic exhibitions. RM: I feel right now, this could be an easy way out. It would be a great way out, however, as I said, I feel the need to do something else, something more active. I will smoke that cigar some other day.

DR: So you wouldn’t want to consider the whole of Transfer Gallery as a Wunderkammer that you were working inside of? RM: It is one possibility. But it is not my favorite. I would rather make works against the established resolutions, works that are built to break out of a pre-existing mediatic flow. Works that were built to go beyond a specific conventional use. For example, I recently did this exhibition in The Netherlands where I got to install a really big wallpaper, which I think gained me a new, alternative perspectives on digital materiality. I glitched a JPEG and zoomed in on its DCT blocks and it was sooo beautiful, but also so scalable and pokable. It became an alternative level of real to me, somehow. DR: Does it tesselate and repeat, like conventional wallpaper? RM: It does repeat in places. I would do it completely differently if I did it again. Actually, for the iRD I am considering to zoom into the JPEG2000 wavelets. I thought it would be interesting to make a psychedelic installation like this. It’s like somebody vomited onto the wall.

DR: [laughs] It does look organic, like bacteria trying to organise. RM: Yeah. It really feels like something that has its own agency somehow.

DR: That’s the thing about JPEG2000 – and the only reason I know about that format, by the way, is because of your Vernacular of File Formats - the idea that they had to come up with a non-regular block shape for the image format that didn’t contradict with the artifacts in the bones and bodies that were being imaged. It feels more organic because of that. It doesn’t look like what you expect an image format to look like, it looks like what I expect life to look like, close up. RM: It looks like ‘Game of Life’. DR: Yes! Like Game of Life. And I assume that now they don’t need to use JPEG2000 because the imaging resolution is high enough on the machines to supersede bone artifacts. I love that. I love the effect caused when you’ve blown it up here. It looks wonderful. What is the original source for this? RM: I would blow this image [the one from A Vernacular of File Formats] up to hell. Blow it up until there is no pixel anymore. It shouldn’t be too cute. These structures are built to be bigger. Have you seen the Glitch Timond (2014)? The work itself is about glitches that have gained a folkloric meaning over time, these artifact now refer to hackers, ghosts or AI. They are hung in the shape of a diamond. The images themselves are not square, and I can install them on top of the wallpaper somehow, at different depths. Maybe I could expand on that piece, by putting broken shaped photos, and shadows flying around. It could be beautiful like that.

DR: It makes me think of the spatiality of the gallery. So that the audience would feel like they were inside a broken codec or something. Inside the actual coding mechanism of the image, rather than the standardised image at the point of its visual resolution. RM: Oh! And I want to have a smoke machine! There should be something that breaks up vision and then reveals something. DR: I like that as a metaphor for how the gallery functions as well. There are heaps of curatorial standards, like placing works at line of sight, or asking the audience to travel through the space in a particular order and mode of viewing. The gallery space itself is already limited and constructed through a huge, long history of standardisations, by external influences of fashion and tradition, and others enforced by the standards of the printing press, or the screen etc. So how do you make it so that when an audience walks into the gallery they feel as though they are not in a normal, euclidean space anymore? Like they have gone outside normal space? RM: That’s what I want! Disintegrate the architecture. But now I am like, “Yo guys, I want to dream, and I want it to be real in three weeks…” DR: “Hey guys, I want to break your reality!” [laughs] RM: One step is in place, Do you remember Ryan Maguire who is responsible for The Ghost in the MP3? His research is about MP3 compressions and basically what sounds are cut away by this compression algorithm, simply put: it puts shows what sounds the MP3 compression normally cuts out as irrelevant – in a way it inverses the compression and puts the ‘irrelevant’ or deleted data on display. I asked him to rework the soundtrack to ‘Beyond Resolution’, one of the two videowork of the iRD that is accompanied by my remix of professional grin by Knalpot and Ryan said yes! And so it was done! Super exciting.   DR: Yes. I thought that was a fantastic project. I love that as a proposition too… What would the equivalent of that form of ghosting be in terms of these alternate, disputed resolutions? What’s the remainder? I don’t understand technical formats as clearly as you do, so abstract things like ‘the ghost’, ‘the remainder’ are my way into understanding them. An abstract way in to a technical concept. So what is the metaphoric equivalent of that remainder in your work? For instance, I think it depends on what this was originally an image of. I think that is important. RM: The previous image of JPEG2000 does not deal with the question of lost information. I think what you are after is an inversed Alvin Lucier ‘Sitting in a Room’ experiment, one that only shows the “generation loss” (instead of the generation left over, which is what we usually get to see or hear in art projects). I think that would be a reasonable equivalent to Ryan Maguires MP3 compression work. Or maybe Supraconductivity. I can struggle with this for… for at least two more days. In any case I want the iRD to have a soundtrack. Actually, it would like there to be a spatial soundtrack; the ghost soundtrack in the room and the original available only on a wifi access point. DR: I’m really excited by that idea of ghostly presence and absence, you know. In terms of spatiality, scan lines, euclidean space… RM: It’s a whole bundle of things! [laughs] “Come on scan lines, come to the institutions, swim with the ghosts!” DR: It makes me think of cheesy things you get in a children’s museum. Those illusion rooms, that look normal through a little window, but when you go into them they are slanted in a certain way, so that a child can look bigger than an adult through the window frame. You know what I mean? They play with perspective in a really simple way, it’s all about the framing mechanism, the way the audience’s view has been controlled, regulated and perverted. RM: I was almost at a point where I was calling people in New York and asked, “Can you produce a huge stained glass window, in 2 weeks?” I think it would be beautiful if the Institute had its own window. I would take a photo of what you could see out of the real window, and then make the resolution of that photo really crappy, and create a real stained glass window, and install that in the gallery at its original place. If I have time one day I would love to do that, working with real craftspeople on that. I think that in the future the iRD might have a window through which we interface the outside. Every group of people that share the same ideas and perspectives on obfuscation need to have a secret handshake. So that is what I am actually working on right now. Ha, You didn’t see that coming? [Laughs] DR: [Laughs] No… that’s a different angle. RM: I want people to have a patch! A secret patch. You remember Trevor Paglen’s book on the symbology of military patches?

DR: Oh yeah. Where he tries to decode the military patches? Yes, I love that. RM: Yeah, I don’t think the world will ever have enough patches. They are such an icon for secret handshakes. I have been playing around with this DCT image. I want to use it as a key to the institutions, which basically are a manifest to the reasonings behind this whole exhibition, but then encrypted in a macroblock font (I embedded an image of Institution 1 earlier). There was one of Paglen’s patches that really stood out for me; the black on black one. The iRD patch should be inspired by that.

DR: Hito Steyerl’s work How Not to be Seen: A Fucking Didactic Educational .MOV File, centres on the grid used by the military to calibrate their satellites from space. The DCT structure looks a lot like that, but I know the DCT is not about calibration. It contains all the shapes necessary to compose any image? RM: If you look up close at a badly compressed JPEG, you will notice the image consist of macroblocks. A macroblock is a block organizations, usually consisting of 8×8 pixels, that posses color (chrominance) and light (luminance) values embedded via DCT (discrete cosine transform). Basically all JPEGs you have ever seen are build out of this finite set of 64 macroblocks. Considering that JPEGs make up the vast majority of images we encounter on a daily basis, I think it is pretty amazing how simple this part of the JPEG compression really is. But the patch should of course not just be square. Do you know the TV series Battlestar Galactica, where they have the corners cut off all their books? All the paper in that world follows this weird, octagonal shape? Or Borges Library and its crimson hexagon, that holds all knowledge. I love those randomly cryptic geometric forms… DR: It reminds me of a 1987 anime film, Wings of Honneamise, that had a really wonderfully designed world. Everything is different, from paper sizes and shapes, through to their cutlery. Really detailed design from the ground up, all the standards and traditions. RM: Like this Minecraft book too. The Blockpedia. DR: Oh that’s great. I love the Minecraft style and the mythos that has arisen around it. RM: So Minecraft and Borges follow a 6 corner resolution, and Battlestar paper has 8 corners… Discrepancy! I want to reference them all! DR: So these will go into the badges? RM: I want to have a black on black embroidered patch with corners. Don’t you think this would be so pretty? This black on black. I want to drop a reference to 1984, too, Orwell or Apple, the decoder can decide. These kind of secret, underground references, I like those. DR: A crypto exhibition. RM: It’s so hot right now (and with hot I do not mean cool). Since the 90s musicians encrypt or transcode things in their sounds, from Aphex Twin, to Goodiepal and now TCF, who allegedly encrypted an image from the police riots in Athens into one of his songs. However, he is a young Scandinavian musician so that makes me wonder if the crypto design in this case is confusingly non-political. Either way, I want to rebel against this apparent new found hotness of crypto-everything, which is why I made Tacit:Blue.

Tacit:Blue uses a very basic form of encryption. Its archaic, dumb and decommissioned. Every flash shows a next line of my ‘secret message’ encrypted in masonic pigpen. When it flickers it gives a little piece of the message which really is just me ranting about secrecy. So if someone is interested in my opinion, they can decode that.

Actually, the technology behind the video is much more interesting. Do you know The Nova Drone? Its a small AV synthesizer designed by Casper Electronics. The the flickr frequency of this military RGB LED on the top of the board can be altered by turning the RGB oscillators. When I come close to the LED with the lens of my iphone, the frequencies of the LED and the iphone camera do not sync up. What happens is a rolling shutter effect. The camera has to interpret the input and something is gone, lost in translation. In fact, a Resolutional Dispute takes place right there. DR: So the dispute happens because framerate of the camera conflicts with the flicker of the LED? RM: And the sound is the actual sound of the electronics. In Tacit:Blue I do not use the NovaDrone in a ‘clean’ way, I am actually misusing it (if there is such a thing when it comes to a device of dispute). Some of the sounds and disruptions of flow are created in this patch bay, which is where you can patch the LFOs, etc. Anyway, when you disconnect the patch it flickers, but I never take it out fully so it creates this classic, noisy electric effect. What do you think about the text? Do you think this works? I like this masonic pigpen, its a very simple, nostalgic old quiff. DR: It reminds me of the title sequence for Alien. Dave Addey did a close visual, sci-fi etymological, analysis of the typography in Alien. It went viral online recently. Did you see that?

RM: No! DR: It is fantastic. Everything from the title sequence to the buttons on the control panel in the background. Full of amazing insights.

RM: Wow, inspiring!

So with any cypher you also need a key, which is why I named the video Tacit:Blue, a reference to the old Northrop Tacit Blue stealth surveillance aircraft. The aircraft was used to develop techniques against passive radar detection, but has been decommissioned now, just like the masonic pigpen encryption. DR: This reminds me of Eyal Weizman. He has written a lot on the Israeli / Palestinian conflict as a spatial phenomena. So we don’t think about territory merely as a series of lines drawn on a globe anymore, but as a stack, including everything from airspace, all the way down beneath the ground, where waste, gas and water are distributed. The mode by which water is delivered underground often cuts across conflicted territories on the surface. A stacked vision of territory brings into question the very notion of a ‘conflict’ and a ‘resolution’. I recently saw him give a lecture on the Forensic Architecture project, which engages in disputes metered against US Military activities. Military drones are now so advanced that they can target a missile through the roof of a house, and have it plunge several floors before it explodes. It means that individual people can be targeted on a particular floor. The drone strike leaves a mark in the roof which is – and this is Weizman’s terminology - ‘beneath the threshold of detectability’. And that threshold also happens to be the size of a human body: about 1 metre square. Military satellites have a pixel size that effectively translates to 1 metre square at ground level. So to be invisible, or technically undetectable, a strike needs only to fall within a single pixel of a satellite imaging system. These drone strikes are designed to work beneath that threshold. In terms of what you are talking about in Trevor Paglen’s work, and the Northrop Tacit Blue, those technologies were designed to exist beneath, or parallel to, optic thresholds, but now those thresholds are not optic as much as they are about digital standards and resolution densities. So that shares the same space as the codecs and file formats you are interested in. Your patch seems to bring that together, the analogue pixel calibration that Steyerl refers to is also part of that history. So I wonder whether there are images that cannot possibly be resolved out of DCT blocks. You know what I mean? I think your work asks that question. What images, shapes, and objects exist that are not possible to construct out of this grid? What realities are outside of the threshold of these blocks to resolve? It may even be the case that we are not capable of imagining such things, because of course these blocks have been formed in conjunction with the human visual system. The image is always already a compromise between the human perceptual limit and a separately defined technical limit. RM: Yes, well I can imagine vector graphics, or mesh based graphics where the lines are not just a connection between two points, but also a value could be what you are after. But I am not sure. At some point I thought that people entering the iRD could pay a couple of dollars for one of these patches, but if they don’t put the money down, then they would be obliged to go into the exhibition wearing earplugs. DR: [Laughs] So they’d be allowed in, but they’d have one of their senses dampened? RM: Yes, wearing earmuffs, or weird glasses or something like that. [Laughs] DR: Glasses with really fine scan lines on them that conflict with TV images or whatever. RM: [Laughs] And I was thinking, well, there should be a divide between people. To realise that what you see is just one threshold that has been lifted to only a few. There are always thresholds, you know. DR: Ways to invite the audience into the spaces and thresholds that are beneath the zones of resolutional detectability? RM: Or maybe just to show the mechanics behind objects and thresholds. DR: Absolutely. So to go back to your Tacit:Blue video, in regards the font, I like the aesthetic, but I wonder whether you could play with that zone of detectability a little more. You could have the video display at a frequency that is hard for people to concentrate on, for instance, and then put the cryptographic message at a different frequency. Having zones that do not match up, so that different elements of the work cut through different disputed spaces. Much harder to detect. And more subliminal, because video adheres to other sets of standards and processes beyond scan lines, the conflict between those standards opens up another space of possibilities. It makes me think about Takeshi Murata’s Untitled (Pink Dot). I love that work because it uses datamoshing to question more about video codecs than just I and P frames. That’s what sets this work apart, for me, from other datamoshed works. He also plays with layers, and post production in the way the pink dot is realised. As it unfolds you see the pink dot as a layer behind the Rambo footage, and then it gets datamoshed into the footage, and then it is a layer in front of it, and then the datamosh tears into it and the dot become part of the Rambo miasma, and then the dot comes back as a surface again. So all the time he is playing with the layering of the piece, and the framing is not just about one moment to the next, but it also it exposes something about Murata’s super slick production process. He must have datamoshed parts of the video, and then post-produced the dot onto the surface of that, and then exported that and datamoshed that, and then fed it back into the studio again to add more layers. So it is not one video being datamoshed, but a practice unfolding, and the pink dot remains a kind of standard that runs through the whole piece, resonating in the soundtrack, and pushing to all elements of the image. The work is spatialised and temporalised in a really interesting way, because of how Murata uses datamoshing and postproduction to question frames, and layers, by ‘glitching’ between those formal elements. And as a viewer of Pink Dot, your perception is founded by those slips between the spatial surface and the temporal layers. RM: Yeah, wow. I never looked at that work in terms of layers of editing. The vectors of these blocks that smear over the video, the movement of those macroblocks, which is what this video technologically is about, is also about time and editing. So Murata effectively emulates that datamosh technique back into the editing of the work before and after the actual datamosh. That is genius! DR: If it wasn’t for Pink Dot I probably wouldn’t sit here with you now. It’s such an important work for me and my thinking.

Working with Morehshin Allahyari on The 3D Additivist Manifesto has brought a lot of these processes into play for me. The compressed labour behind a work can often get lost, because a final digital video is just a surface, just a set of I and P frames. The way Murata uses datamoshing calls that into play. It brings back some of the temporal depth. Additivism is also about calling those processes and conflicts to account, in the move between digital and material forms. Oil is a compressed form of time, and that time and matter is extruded into plastic, and that plastic has other modes of labour compressed into it, and the layers of time and space are built on top of one another constantly – like the layers of a 3D print. When we rendered our Manifesto video we did it on computers plugged into aging electricity infrastructures that run on burnt coal and oil. Burning off one form of physical compressed time to compress another set of times and labours into a ‘digital work’. RM: But you can feel that there is more to that video than its surface! If I remember correctly you and Morehshin wrote an open invitation to digital artists to send in their left over 3D objects. So every object in that dark gooey ocean in The 3D Additivist Manifesto actually represents a piece of artistic digital garbage. It’s like a digital emulation of the North Pacific Gyre, which you also talked about in your lecture at Goldsmiths, but then solely consisting of Ready-Made art trash.

The actual scale and form of the Gyre is hard to catch, it seems to be unimaginable even to the people devoting their research to it; it’s beyond resolution. Which is why it is still such an under acknowledged topic. We don’t really want to know what the Gyre looks or feels like; it’s just like the clutter inside my desktop folder inside my desktop folder, inside the desktop folder. It represents an amalgamation of histories that moved further away from us over time and we don’t necessarily like to revisit, or realise that we are responsible for. I think The 3D Additivist Manifesto captures that resemblance between the way we handle our digital detritus and our physical garbage in a wonderfully grimm manner. DR: I’m glad you sense the grimness of that image. And yes, as well as sourcing objects from friends and collaborators we also scraped a lot from online 3D object repositories. So the gyre is full of Ready-Mades divorced from their conditions of creation, use, or meaning. Like any discarded plastic bottle floating out in the middle of the pacific ocean. Eventually Additivist technologies could interface all aspects of material reality, from nanoparticles, to proprietary components, all the way through to DNA, bespoke drugs, and forms of life somewhere between the biological and the synthetic. We hope that our call to submit to The 3D Additivist Cookbook will provoke what you term ‘disputes’. Objects, software, texts and blueprints that gesture to the possibility of new political and ontological realities. It sounds far-fetched, but we need that kind of thinking. Alternate possibilities often get lost in a particular moment of resolution. A single moment of reception. But your exhibition points to the things beyond our recognition. Or perhaps more importantly, it points to the things we have refused to recognise. So, from inside the iRD technical ‘literacy’ might be considered as a limit, not a strength. RM: Often the densities of the works we create, in terms of concept, but also collage, technology and source materials move quite far away or even beyond a fold. I suppose that’s why we make our work pretty. To draw in the people that are not technically literate or have no back knowledge. And then perhaps later they wonder about the technical aspects and the meaning behind the composition of the work and want to learn more. To me, the process of creating, but also seeing an interesting digital art work often feels like swimming inside an abyss of increments. DR: What is that? RM: I made that up. An abyss is something that goes on and on and on. Modern lines used to go on, postmodern lines are broken up as they go on. Thats how I feel we work on our computers, its a metaphor for scanlines. DR: In euclidean space two parallel lines will go on forever and not meet. But on the surface of a globe, and other, non-euclidean spaces, those lines can be made to converge or diverge. * RM: I have been trying to read up on my euclidean geometry. DR: And I am thinking now about Flatland again, A Romance in Many Dimensions. RM: Yeah, it’s funny that in the end, it is all about Flatland. That’s where this all started, so thats where it has to end; Flatland seems like an eternal ouroboros inside of digital art. DR: It makes me think too about holographic theory. You can encode on a 2D surface the information necessary to construct a 3D image. And there are theories that suggest that a black hole has holographic properties. The event horizon of a black hole can be thought of as a flat surface, and contains all the information necessary to construct the black hole. And because a black hole is a singularity, and the universe can be considered as a singularity too – in time and space – some theories suggest that the universe is a hologram encoded on its outer surface. So the future state of the universe encodes all the prior states. Or something like that. RM: I once went to a lecture by Raphael Bousso, a professor at Department of Physics, UC Berkeley. He was talking about black holes, it was super intense. I was sitting on the end of my seat and nearly felt like I was riding a dark star right towards my own event horizon. DR: [laughs] Absolutely. I suppose I came to understand art and theory through things I knew before, which is pop science and science fiction. I tend to read everything through those things. Those are my starting points. But yes, holograms are super interesting. RM: I want to be careful not to go into the wunderkammer, because if there are too many things, then each one of them turns into a fetish object; a gimmick. DR: There was a lot of talk a few years ago about holographic storage, because basically all our storage – CDs, DVDs, hard drive platters, SSD drives – are 2D. All the information spinning on your screen right now, all those rich polygons or whatever, it all begins from data stored on a two dimensional surface. But you could have a holographic storage medium with three dimensions. They have built these things in the laboratory. There goes my pop science knowledge again. RM: When I was at Transmediale last year, the Internet Yami-ichi (Internet Black Market) was on. There I sold some custom videos for self cracked LCD screens. DR: Broken on purpose? RM: Yes, and you’d be allowed to touch it so the screen would go multidimensional. Liquid crystals are such a beautiful technology. DR: Yes. And they are a 3D image medium. But they don’t get used much anymore, right? LEDS are the main image format. RM: People miss LCDS! I saw a beautiful recorded talk from the Torque event, Esther Leslie talking about Walter Benjamin who writes about snow flakes resembling white noise. Liquid crystals and flatness and flatland. I want to thank you Dan, just to talk through this stuff has been really helpful. You have no idea. Thank you so much! DR: Putting ideas in words is always helpful. RM: I never do that, in preparation, to talk about things I am still working on, semi-completed. It’s scary to open up the book of possibilities. When you say things out loud you somehow commit to them. Like, Trevor Paglen, Jon Satrom are huge inspirations, I would like to make work inspired by them, that is a scary thing to say out loud. DR: That’s good. We don’t work in a vacuum. Trevor Paglen’s stuff is often about photography as a mode of non-resolved vision. I think that does fit with your work here, but you have the understanding and wherewithal to transform these concerns into work about the digital media. Maybe you need to build a tiny model of the gallery and create it all in miniature. RM: That’s what Alma Alloro said! DR: I think it would be really helpful. You don’t have to do it in meatspace. You could render a version of the gallery space with software. RM: Haha great idea, but that would take too much time. iRD needs to open to the public in 3 weeks! * DR originally stated here that a globe was a euclidean space. This was corrected, with thanks to Matthew Austin.

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Mon, 13 Apr 2015 05:50:53 -0700 http://www.furtherfield.org/features/interviews/resolution-disputes-conversation-between-rosa-menkman-and-daniel-rourke
<![CDATA[transmediale 2014 afterglow -- The Media of the Earth: Geologies of Flesh and the Earth]]> http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cyiX_dlE5e0&feature=youtube_gdata

With Ryan Bishop, Sean Cubitt, Jussi Parikka, Denisa Kera

At Haus der Kulturen der Welt Berlin Sat, 1.2.2014

Afterglow of The Mediatic conference stream

The panel focuses on the effects of electronic and synthetic waste on geological and biological bodies. The tissue and the soil effectively register the residue of scientific and technological processes, acting as inadvertent storage site and archival apparatus for our trash. The panel includes discussions of electronic waste, nuclear fallout as well as the global labour concerning the geology of media: minerals and material sciences. It is in this sense that it aims to address the media of the earth, and the earth as essential to the existence of media: issues which tie organic bodies with the non-organic reality. The speakers represent media and technology studies perspectives to what was often reserved as a territory of the sciences, namely geophysics. A geopolitics that is truly geo-based emerges from these engagements.

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Wed, 10 Sep 2014 12:08:58 -0700 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cyiX_dlE5e0&feature=youtube_gdata
<![CDATA[Meet the Father of Digital Life]]> http://nautil.us/issue/14/mutation/meet-the-father-of-digital-life

n 1953, at the dawn of modern computing, Nils Aall Barricelli played God. Clutching a deck of playing cards in one hand and a stack of punched cards in the other, Barricelli hovered over one of the world’s earliest and most influential computers, the IAS machine, at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey. During the day the computer was used to make weather forecasting calculations; at night it was commandeered by the Los Alamos group to calculate ballistics for nuclear weaponry. Barricelli, a maverick mathematician, part Italian and part Norwegian, had finagled time on the computer to model the origins and evolution of life.

Inside a simple red brick building at the northern corner of the Institute’s wooded wilds, Barricelli ran models of evolution on a digital computer. His artificial universes, which he fed with numbers drawn from shuffled playing cards, teemed with creatures of code—morphing, mutating, melting, maintaining. He created laws that determined, independent of any foreknowledge on his part, which assemblages of binary digits lived, which died, and which adapted. As he put it in a 1961 paper, in which he speculated on the prospects and conditions for life on other planets, “The author has developed numerical organisms, with properties startlingly similar to living organisms, in the memory of a high speed computer.” For these coded critters, Barricelli became a maker of worlds.

Until his death in 1993, Barricelli floated between biological and mathematical sciences, questioning doctrine, not quite fitting in. “He was a brilliant, eccentric genius,” says George Dyson, the historian of technology and author of Darwin Among The Machines and Turing’s Cathedral, which feature Barricelli’s work. “And the thing about geniuses is that they just see things clearly that other people don’t see.”

Barricelli programmed some of the earliest computer algorithms that resemble real-life processes: a subdivision of what we now call “artificial life,” which seeks to simulate living systems—evolution, adaptation, ecology—in computers. Barricelli presented a bold challenge to the standard Darwinian model of evolution by competition by demonstrating that organisms evolved by symbiosis and cooperation.

Pixar cofounder Alvy Ray Smith says Barricelli influenced his earliest thinking about the possibilities for computer animation.

In fact, Barricelli’s projects anticipated many current avenues of research, including cellular automata, computer programs involving grids of numbers paired with local rules that can produce complicated, unpredictable behavior. His models bear striking resemblance to the one-dimensional cellular automata—life-like lattices of numerical patterns—championed by Stephen Wolfram, whose search tool Wolfram Alpha helps power the brain of Siri on the iPhone. Nonconformist biologist Craig Venter, in defending his creation of a cell with a synthetic genome—“the first self-replicating species we’ve had on the planet whose parent is a computer”—echoes Barricelli.

Barricelli’s experiments had an aesthetic side, too. Uncommonly for the time, he converted the digital 1s and 0s of the computer’s stored memory into pictorial images. Those images, and the ideas behind them, would influence computer animators in generations to come. Pixar cofounder Alvy Ray Smith, for instance, says Barricelli stirred his earliest thinking about the possibilities for computer animation, and beyond that, his philosophical muse. “What we’re really talking about here is the notion that living things are computations,” he says. “Look at how the planet works and it sure does look like a computation.”

Despite Barricelli’s pioneering experiments, barely anyone remembers him. “I have not heard of him to tell you the truth,” says Mark Bedau, professor of humanities and philosophy at Reed College and editor of the journal Artificial Life. “I probably know more about the history than most in the field and I’m not aware of him.”

Barricelli was an anomaly, a mutation in the intellectual zeitgeist, an unsung hero who has mostly languished in obscurity for the past half century. “People weren’t ready for him,” Dyson says. That a progenitor has not received much acknowledgment is a failing not unique to science. Visionaries often arrive before their time. Barricelli charted a course for the digital revolution, and history has been catching up ever since.

Barricelli_BREAKER-02 EVOLUTION BY THE NUMBERS: Barricelli converted his computer tallies of 1s and 0s into images. In this 1953 Barricelli print, explains NYU associate professor Alexander Galloway, the chaotic center represents mutation and disorganization. The more symmetrical fields toward the margins depict Barricelli’s evolved numerical organisms.From the Shelby White and Leon Levy Archives Center, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton. Barricelli was born in Rome on Jan. 24, 1912. According to Richard Goodman, a retired microbiologist who met and befriended the mathematician in the 1960s, Barricelli claimed to have invented calculus before his tenth birthday. When the young boy showed the math to his father, he learned that Newton and Leibniz had preempted him by centuries. While a student at the University of Rome, Barricelli studied mathematics and physics under Enrico Fermi, a pioneer of quantum theory and nuclear physics. A couple of years after graduating in 1936, he immigrated to Norway with his recently divorced mother and younger sister.

As World War II raged, Barricelli studied. An uncompromising oddball who teetered between madcap and mastermind, Barricelli had a habit of exclaiming “Absolut!” when he agreed with someone, or “Scandaloos!” when he found something disagreeable. His accent was infused with Scandinavian and Romantic pronunciations, making it occasionally challenging for colleagues to understand him. Goodman recalls one of his colleagues at the University of California, Los Angeles who just happened to be reading Barricelli’s papers “when the mathematician himself barged in and, without ceremony, began rattling off a stream of technical information about his work on phage genetics,” a science that studies gene mutation, replication, and expression through model viruses. Goodman’s colleague understood only fragments of the speech, but realized it pertained to what he had been reading.

“Are you familiar with the work of Nils Barricelli?” he asked.

“Barricelli! That’s me!” the mathematician cried.

Notwithstanding having submitted a 500-page dissertation on the statistical analysis of climate variation in 1946, Barricelli never completed his Ph.D. Recalling the scene in the movie Amadeus in which the Emperor of Austria commends Mozart’s performance, save for there being “too many notes,” Barricelli’s thesis committee directed him to slash the paper to a tenth of the size, or else it would not accept the work. Rather than capitulate, Barricelli forfeited the degree.

Barricelli began modeling biological phenomena on paper, but his calculations were slow and limited. He applied to study in the United States as a Fulbright fellow, where he could work with the IAS machine. As he wrote on his original travel grant submission in 1951, he sought “to perform numerical experiments by means of great calculating machines,” in order to clarify, through mathematics, “the first stages of evolution of a species.” He also wished to mingle with great minds—“to communicate with American statisticians and evolution-theorists.” By then he had published papers on statistics and genetics, and had taught Einstein’s theory of relativity. In his application photo, he sports a pyramidal moustache, hair brushed to the back of his elliptic head, and hooded, downturned eyes. At the time of his application, he was a 39-year-old assistant professor at the University of Oslo.

Although the program initially rejected him due to a visa issue, in early 1953 Barricelli arrived at the Institute for Advanced Study as a visiting member. “I hope that you will be finding Mr. Baricelli [sic] an interesting person to talk with,” wrote Ragnar Frisch, a colleague of Barricelli’s who would later win the first Nobel Prize in Economics, in a letter to John von Neumann, a mathematician at IAS, who helped devise the institute’s groundbreaking computer. “He is not very systematic always in his exposition,” Frisch continued, “but he does have interesting ideas.”

Barricelli_BREAKER_2crop PSYCHEDELIC BARRICELLI: In this recreation of a Barricelli experiment, NYU associate professor Alexander Galloway has added color to show the gene groups more clearly. Each swatch of color signals a different organism. Borders between the color fields represent turbulence as genes bounce off and meld with others, symbolizing Barricelli’s symbiogenesis.Courtesy Alexander Galloway Centered above Barricelli’s first computer logbook entry at the Institute for Advanced Study, in handwritten pencil script dated March 3, 1953, is the title “Symbiogenesis problem.” This was his theory of proto-genes, virus-like organisms that teamed up to become complex organisms: first chromosomes, then cellular organs, onward to cellular organisms and, ultimately, other species. Like parasites seeking a host, these proto-genes joined together, according to Barricelli, and through their mutual aid and dependency, originated life as we know it.

Standard neo-Darwinian doctrine maintained that natural selection was the main means by which species formed. Slight variations and mutations in genes combined with competition led to gradual evolutionary change. But Barricelli disagreed. He pictured nimbler genes acting as a collective, cooperative society working together toward becoming species. Darwin’s theory, he concluded, was inadequate. “This theory does not answer our question,” he wrote in 1954, “it does not say why living organisms exist.”

Barricelli coded his numerical organisms on the IAS machine in order to prove his case. “It is very easy to fabricate or simply define entities with the ability to reproduce themselves, e.g., within the realm of arithmetic,” he wrote.

The early computer looked sort of like a mix between a loom and an internal combustion engine. Lining the middle region were 40 Williams cathode ray tubes, which served as the machine’s memory. Within each tube, a beam of electrons (the cathode ray) bombarded one end, creating a 32-by-32 grid of points, each consisting of a slight variation in electrical charge. There were five kilobytes of memory total stored in the machine. Not much by today’s standards, but back then it was an arsenal.

Barricelli saw his computer organisms as a blueprint of life—on this planet and any others.

Inside the device, Barricelli programmed steadily mutable worlds each with rows of 512 “genes,” represented by integers ranging from negative to positive 18. As the computer cycled through hundreds and thousands of generations, persistent groupings of genes would emerge, which Barricelli deemed organisms. The trick was to tweak his manmade laws of nature—“norms,” as he called them—which governed the universe and its entities just so. He had to maintain these ecosystems on the brink of pandemonium and stasis. Too much chaos and his beasts would unravel into a disorganized shamble; too little and they would homogenize. The sweet spot in the middle, however, sustained life-like processes.

Barricelli’s balancing act was not always easygoing. His first trials were riddled with pests: primitive, often single numeric genes invaded the space and gobbled their neighbors. Typically, he was only able to witness a couple of hereditary changes, or a handful at best, before the world unwound. To create lasting evolutionary processes, he needed to handicap these pests’ ability to rapidly reproduce. By the time he returned to the Institute in 1954 to begin a second round of experiments, Barricelli made some critical changes. First, he capped the proliferation of the pests to once per generation. That constraint allowed his numerical organisms enough leeway to outpace the pests. Second, he began employing different norms to different sections of his universes. That forced his numerical organisms always to adapt.

Even in the earlier universes, Barricelli realized that mutation and natural selection alone were insufficient to account for the genesis of species. In fact, most single mutations were harmful. “The majority of the new varieties which have shown the ability to expand are a result of crossing-phenomena and not of mutations, although mutations (especially injurious mutations) have been much more frequent than hereditary changes by crossing in the experiments performed,” he wrote.

When an organism became maximally fit for an environment, the slightest variation would only weaken it. In such cases, it took at least two modifications, effected by a cross-fertilization, to give the numerical organism any chance of improvement. This indicated to Barricelli that symbioses, gene crossing, and “a primitive form of sexual reproduction,” were essential to the emergence of life.

“Barricelli immediately figured out that random mutation wasn’t the important thing; in his first experiment he figured out that the important thing was recombination and sex,” Dyson says. “He figured out right away what took other people much longer to figure out.” Indeed, Barricelli’s theory of symbiogenesis can be seen as anticipating the work of independent-thinking biologist Lynn Margulis, who in the 1960s showed that it was not necessarily genetic mutations over generations, but symbiosis, notably of bacteria, that produced new cell lineages.

Barricelli saw his computer organisms as a blueprint of life—on this planet and any others. “The question whether one type of symbio-organism is developed in the memory of a digital computer while another type is developed in a chemical laboratory or by a natural process on some planet or satellite does not add anything fundamental to this difference,” he wrote. A month after Barricelli began his experiments on the IAS machine, Crick and Watson announced the shape of DNA as a double helix. But learning about the shape of biological life didn’t put a dent in Barricelli’s conviction that he had captured the mechanics of life on a computer. Let Watson and Crick call DNA a double helix. Barricelli called it “molecule-shaped numbers.”

Barricelli_BREAKER

What buried Barricelli in obscurity is something of a mystery. “Being uncompromising in his opinions and not a team player,” says Dyson, no doubt led to Barricelli’s “isolation from the academic mainstream.” Dyson also suspects Barricelli and the indomitable Hungarian mathematician von Neumann, an influential leader at the Institute of Advanced Study, didn’t hit it off. Von Neumann appears to have ignored Barricelli. “That was sort of fatal because everybody looked to von Neumann as the grandfather of self-replicating machines.”

Ever so slowly, though, Barricelli is gaining recognition. That stems in part from another of Barricelli’s remarkable developments; certainly one of his most beautiful. He didn’t rest with creating a universe of numerical organisms, he converted his organisms into images. His computer tallies of 1s and 0s would then self-organize into visual grids of exquisite variety and texture. According to Alexander Galloway, associate professor in the department of media, culture, and communication at New York University, a finished Barricelli “image yielded a snapshot of evolutionary time.”

When Barricelli printed sections of his digitized universes, they were dazzling. To modern eyes they might look like satellite imagery of an alien geography: chaotic oceans, stratigraphic outcrops, and the contours of a single stream running down the center fold, fanning into a delta at the patchwork’s bottom. “Somebody needs to do a museum show and show this stuff because they’re outrageous,” Galloway says.

Barricelli was an uncompromising oddball who teetered between madcap and mastermind.

Today, Galloway, a member of Barricelli’s small but growing cadre of boosters, has recreated the images. Following methods described by Barricelli in one of his papers, Galloway has coded an applet using the computer language Processing to revive Barricelli’s numerical organisms—with slight variation. While Barricelli encoded his numbers as eight-unit-long proto-pixels, Galloway condensed each to a single color-coded cell. By collapsing each number into a single pixel, Galloway has been able to fit eight times as many generations in the frame. These revitalized mosaics look like psychedelic cross-sections of the fossil record. Each swatch of color represents an organism, and when one color field bumps up against another one, that’s where cross-fertilization takes place.

“You can see these kinds of points of turbulence where the one color meets another color,” Galloway says, showing off the images on a computer in his office. “That’s a point where a number would be—or a gene would be—sort of jumping from one organism to another.” Here, in other words, is artificial life—Barricelli’s symbiogenesis—frozen in amber. And cyan and lavender and teal and lime and fuchsia.

Galloway is not the only one to be struck by the beauty of Barricelli’s computer-generated digital images. As a doctoral student, Pixar cofounder Smith became familiar with Barricelli’s work while researching the history of cellular automata for his dissertation. When he came across Barricelli’s prints he was astonished. “It was remarkable to me that with such crude computing facilities in the early 50s, he was able to be making pictures,” Smith says. “I guess in a sense you can say that Barricelli got me thinking about computer animation before I thought about computer animation. I never thought about it that way, but that’s essentially what it was.”

Cyberspace now swells with Barricelli’s progeny. Self-replicating strings of arithmetic live out their days in the digital wilds, increasingly independent of our tampering. The fittest bits survive and propagate. Researchers continue to model reduced, pared-down versions of life artificially, while the real world bursts with Boolean beings. Scientists like Venter conjure synthetic organisms, assisted by computer design. Swarms of autonomous codes thrive, expire, evolve, and mutate underneath our fingertips daily. “All kinds of self-reproducing codes are out there doing things,” Dyson says. In our digital lives, we are immersed in Barricelli’s world.

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Fri, 20 Jun 2014 06:08:03 -0700 http://nautil.us/issue/14/mutation/meet-the-father-of-digital-life
<![CDATA[Seen and Unseen: Could There Ever Be a “Cinema Without Cuts”? | Cocktail Party Physics, Scientific American Blog Network]]> http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/cocktail-party-physics/2014/04/29/seen-and-unseen-could-there-ever-be-a-cinema-without-cuts/

Astronauts on a routine repair mission for the Hubble Space Telescope find themselves coping with more than they bargained for in the pulse-pounding opening sequence of Alfonso Cuaron’s Oscar-winning film, Gravity. Debris from the destruction of a defunct Russian satellite kills one colleague and detaches Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) from the repair shuttle, sending her tumbling in a freefall through space as veteran astronaut Matt Kowalski (George Clooney) frantically shouts instructions over the comlink. Most astonishing is that Cuaron shot the scene as a seamless whole. The camera zooms in and around the screen, focusing first on one character, and then another, pulling back occasionally to capture the full jaw-dropping panoramic vista of near-earth orbit. “It is visual poetry,” marveled director Scott Derrickson (The Day the Earth Stood Still, Sinister) when we chatted back in December, all the more noteworthy because Cuaron’s technique is in such sharp contrast to the visual style that dominates most blockbuster action movies these days, in which the average shot length is typically less than five seconds. Think Transformers, Battleship, the Bourne trilogy, or Pacific Rim, all of which feature long action sequences comprised of a series of short, rapid cuts – pure sensory stimulus. Yet Gravity’s action sequences run as long as 17 minutes without a single cut, giving the film a very different feel for audiences accustomed to a more frenetic visual pace. Small wonder the Director’s Guild of America awarded Cuaron its top prize for a feature film, and he just snagged the Oscar for Best Director this year. For instance, here’s the opening sequence from Quantum of Solace: Now compare the look and feel of that scene with this extended three-minute sequence from Gravity, without a single cut: Cuaron has flirted with this approach before: he used a method called stitching to create the illusion of seamless shots in key battle scenes in his 2006 film Children of Men; Gravity takes it to the next level, thanks to

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Wed, 07 May 2014 13:28:34 -0700 http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/cocktail-party-physics/2014/04/29/seen-and-unseen-could-there-ever-be-a-cinema-without-cuts/
<![CDATA[Artist Profile: Erica Scourti]]> http://rhizome.org/editorial/2013/oct/8/artist-profile-erica-scourti

The latest in a series of interviews with artists who have developed a significant body of work engaged (in its process, or in the issues it raises) with technology. See the full list of Artist Profiles here.   Daniel Rourke: Your recent work, You Could've Said, is described as "a Google keyword confessional for radio." I've often considered your work as having elements of the confession, partly because of the deeply personal stance you perform—addressing we, the viewer or listener, in a one-on-one confluence, but also through the way your work hijacks and exposes the unseen, often algorithmic, functions of social and network media. You allow Google keywords to parasitize your identity and in turn you apparently "confess" on Google's behalf. Are you in search of redemption for your social-media self? Or is it the soul of the algorithm you wish to save? Erica Scourti: Or maybe the algorithm and social media soul is now so intertwined and interdependent that it makes little sense to even separate the two, in a unlikely fulfillment of Donna Haraway's cyborg? Instead of having machines built into/onto us (Google glasses notwithstanding), the algorithms which parse our email content, Facebook behaviours, Amazon spending habits, and so on, don't just read us, but shape us. I'm interested in where agency resides when our desires, intentions and behaviours are constantly being tracked and manipulated through the media and technology that we inhabit; how can we claim to have any "authentic" desires? Facebook's "About" section actually states, "You can't be on Facebook without being your authentic self," and yet this is a self that must fit into the predetermined format and is mostly defined by its commercial choices (clothing brands, movies, ice cream, whatever). And those choices are increasingly influenced by the algorithms through the ambient, personalized advertising that surrounds us. So in You Could've Said, which is written entirely in an instrumentalised form of language, i.e. Google's AdWords tool, I'm relaying the impossibility of having an authentic feeling, or even a first-hand experience, despite the seemingly subjective, emotional content and tone. Google search stuff is often seen reflective of a kind of cute "collective self" (hey, we all want to kill our boyfriends sometimes!) but perhaps it's producing as much as reflecting us. It's not just that everything's already been said, and can be commodified but that the devices we share so much intimate time with are actively involved in shaping what we consider to be our "selves," our identities. And yet, despite being entirely mediated, my delivery is "sincere" and heartfelt; I'm really interested in the idea of sincere, but not authentic. I think it's the same reason spambots can have such unexpected pathos; they seem to "express" things in a sincere way, which suggests some kind of "soul" at work there, or some kind of agency,  and yet they totally lack interiority, or authenticity. In this and other work of mine (especially Life in AdWords) dissonance is produced by my apparent misrecognition of the algorithmically produced language as my own- mistaking the machine lingo as a true expression of my own subjectivity. Which is not to say that there is some separate, unmediated self that we could access if only we would disconnect our damn gadgets for a second, but the opposite—that autobiography, which my work clearly references, can no longer be seen as a narrative produced by some sort of autonomous subject, inseparable from the technology it interacts with. Also, autobiography often involves a confessional, affective mode, and I'm interested in how this relates to the self-exposure which the attention economy seems to encourage—TMI can secure visibility when there's not enough attention to go round. With the Google confessional, I'm enacting an exposure of my flaws and vulnerabilities and while it's potentially "bad" for me (i.e. my mediated self) since you might think I'm a loser, if you're watching, then it's worth it, since value is produced simply through attention-retention. Affective vitality doesn't so much resist commodification as actively participate within it…

DR: You mention agency. When it comes to the algorithms that drive the current attention economy I tend to think we have very little. Active participation is all well and good, but the opposite—an opting out, rather than a passivity—feels increasingly impossible. I am thinking about those reCaptcha questions we spend all our time filling in. If I want to access my account and check the recommendations it has this week, I'm required to take part in this omnipresent, undeniably clever, piece of crowd-sourcing. Alan Turing's predictions of a world filled with apparently intelligent machines has come true, except, its the machines now deciding whether we are human or not. ES: Except of course—stating the obvious here—it's just carrying out the orders another human instructed it to, a mediated form of gatekeeping that delegates responsibility to the machine, creating a distance from the entirely human, social, political etc structure that has deemed it necessary (a bit like drones then?). I'm very interested also in the notion of participation as compulsory—what Zizek calls the "You must, because you can" moral imperative of consumerism—especially online, not just at the banal level (missing out on events, job opportunities, interesting articles and so on if you're not on Facebook) but because your actions necessarily feed back into the algorithms tracking and parsing our behaviours. And even opting out becomes a choice that positions you within a particular demographic (more likely to be vegetarian, apparently). Also, this question of opting out seems to recur in conversations around art made online, in a way it doesn't for artists working with traditional media—like, if you're being critical of it, why not go make your own Facebook, why not opt out? My reasoning is that I like to work with widely used technology, out of an idea that the proximity of these media to mainstream, domestic and wider social contexts makes the work more able to reflect on its sociopolitical implications, just as some video artists working in the 80s specifically engaged with TV as the main mediator of public consciousness. Of course some say this is interpassiviity, just feebly participating in the platforms without making any real change, and I can understand that criticism. Now that coded spaces and ubiquitous computing are a reality of the world—and power structures—we inhabit, I do appreciate artists who can work with code and software (in a way that I can't) and use their deeper understanding of digital infrastructure to reflect critically on it. DR: You've been engaged in a commision for Colm Cille's Spiral, sending personal video postcards to anyone who makes a request. Your interpretation of the "confessional" mode seems in this piece to become very human-centric again, since the work is addressed specifically at one particular individual. How has this work been disseminated, and what does your approach have to do with "intimacy"? ES: I've always liked Walter Benjamin's take on the ability of mediating technologies to traverse spatial distances, bringing previously inaccessible events within touching distance. With this project, I wanted to heighten this disembodied intimacy by sending unedited videos shot on my iPhone, a device that's physically on me at all times, directly to the recipients' inbox. So it's not just "sharing" but actually "giving" them a unique video file gift, which only they see,  positioning the recipient as a captive audience of one, unlike on social media where you have no idea who is watching or who cares. But also, I asked them to "complete" the video by adding its metadata, which puts them on the spot—they have to respond, instead of having the option to ignore me—and also extracting some labor in return, which is exactly what social media does: extracting our affective and attentive labor, supposedly optionally, in exchange for the gift of the free service. The metadata—tags, title and optionally a caption—became the only viewable part of the exchange, since I used it to annotate a corresponding black, "empty" video on Instagram, also shared on Twitter and Facebook, so the original content remains private. These blank videos record the creative output of the recipient, while acting as proof of the transaction (i.e. that I sent them a video). They also act as performative objects which will continue to operate online due to their tagging, which connects them to other groups of media and renders them visible—i.e. searchable—online, since search bots cannot as yet "see" video content. I wanted to make a work which foregrounds its own connectedness, both to other images via the hashtags but also to the author-recipients through tagging them on social media. So the process of constantly producing and updating oneself within the restrictive and pre-determined formats of social media platforms, i.e. their desired user behaviours, becomes almost the content of the piece. I also like the idea that hashtag searches on all these platforms, for (let's say) Greece, will bring up these blank/ black videos (which by the way, involved a little hack, as Instagram will not allow you to upload pre-recorded content and it's impossible to record a black and silent video...). It's a tiny intervention into the regime of carefully filtered and cropped life-style depictions that Instagram is best known for. It's also a gesture of submitting oneself to the panoptical imperative to share one's experience no matter how private or banal, hence using Instagram for its associations with a certain solipsistic self-display; by willingly enacting the production of mediated self on social media I'm exploring a kind of masochistic humour which has some affinities with what Benjamin Noys identified as an accelerationist attitude of "the worse the better." And yet, by remaining hidden, and not publicly viewable, the public performance of a mediated self is denied.

DR: An accelerationist Social Media artwork would have to be loaded with sincerity, firstly, on the part of the human (artist/performer), but also, in an authentic attempt to utilise the network completely on its terms. Is there something, then, about abundance and saturation in your work? An attempt to overload the panopticon? ES: That's a very interesting way of putting it. I sometimes relate that oversaturation to the horror vacui of art that springs from a self-therapeutic need, which my work addresses, though it's less obsessive scribbles, more endless connection, output and flow and semi-ritualistic and repetitive working processes. And in terms of utilizing the network on its own terms, Geert Lovink's notion of the "natural language hack" (rather than the "deep level" hack) is one I've thought about—where your understanding of the social, rather than technical, operation of online platforms gets your work disseminated. For example my project Woman Nature Alone, where I re-enacted stock video which is freely available on my Youtube channel—some of those videos are high on the Google ranking page, so Google is effectively "marketing" my work without me doing anything.  Whether it overloads the panopticon, or just contributes more to the babble, is a pertinent question (as Jodi Dean's work around communicative capitalism has shown), since if the work is disseminated on commercial platforms like YouTube or Facebook, it operates within a system of value generation which benefits the corporation, involving, as is by now well known, a Faustian pact of personal data in exchange for "free" service. And going back to agency—the mutability of the platforms means that if the work makes use of particular features (suchas YouTube annotations) its existence is contingent on them being continued; since the content and the context are inextricable in situations like this, it would become impossible to display the original work exactly as it was first made and seen. Even then, as with Olia Lialina and Dragan Espenschied's One Terabyte of Kilobyte Age, it would become an archive, which preserves documents from a specific point in the web's history but cannot replicate the original viewing conditions because all the infrastructure around it has changed completely. So if the platforms—the corporations—control the context and viewing conditions, then artists working within them are arguably at their mercy- and keeping the endless flow alive by adding to it. I'm more interested in working within the flows rather than, as some artists prefer, rejecting the dissemination of their work online. Particularly with moving image work,  I'm torn between feeling that artists' insistence on certain very specific, usually high quality, viewing conditions for their work bolsters, as Sven Lütticken has argued, the notion of the rarefied auratic art object whose appreciation requires a kind of hushed awe and reverence, while being aware that the opposite—the image ripped from its original location and circulated in crap-res iPhone pics/ videos—is an example of what David Joselit would call image neoliberalism, which sees images as site-less and like any other commodity, to be traded across borders and contexts with no respect for the artist's intentions. However, I also think that this circulation is becoming an inevitability and no matter how much you insist your video is viewed on zillion lumens projector (or whatever), it will most likely end up being seen by the majority of viewers on YouTube or on a phone screen; I'm interested in how artists (like Hito Steyerl) address, rather than avoid, the fact of this image velocity and spread. DR: Lastly, what have you been working on recently? What's next? ES: I recently did a series of live, improvised performance series called Other People's Problems direct to people's desktops, with Field Broadcast, where I read out streams of tags and captions off Tumblr, Instagram and Facebook, randomly jumping to other tags as I went. I'm fascinated by tags—they're often highly idiosyncratic and personal, as well as acting as connective tissue between dispersed users; but also I liked the improvisation, where something can go wrong and the awkwardness it creates. (I love awkwardness!) Future projects are going to explore some of the ideas this work generated: how to improvise online (when things can always be deleted/ rejigged afterwards), how to embrace the relinquishing of authorial control which I see as integral to the online (or at least social media) experience, and how to work with hashtags/ metadata both as text in its own right and as a tool.   Age: 33 Location: London, Athens when I can manage it How long have you been working creatively with technology? How did you start? 14, 15 maybe, when I started mucking around with Photoshop—I remember scanning a drawing I'd made of a skunk from a Disney tale and making it into a horrendous composition featuring a rasta flag background... I was young. And I've always been obsessed with documenting things; growing up I was usually the one in our gang who had the camera—showing my age here, imagine there being one person with a camera—which has given me plenty of blackmail leverage and a big box of tastefully weathered photos that, despite my general frustration with analogue nostalgia, I know I will be carrying around with me for life. Where did you go to school? What did you study? After doing Physics, Chemistry and Maths at school, I did one year of a Chemistry BA, until I realized I wasn't cut out for lab work (too much like cooking) or what seemed like the black-and-white nature of scientific enquiry. I then did an art and design foundation at a fashion college, followed by one year of Fine Art Textiles BA—a nonsensical course whose only redeeming feature was its grounding in feminist theory—before finally entering the second year of a Fine Art BA. For a while this patchy trajectory through art school made me paranoid, until I realised it probably made me sound more interesting than I am. And in my attempt to alleviate the suspicion that there was some vital piece of information I was missing, I also did loads of philosophy diploma courses, which actually did come in handy when back at Uni last year: I recently finished a Masters of Research in moving image art. What do you do for a living or what occupations have you held previously? Do you think this work relates to your art practice in a significant way? At the moment I'm just about surviving as an artist and I've always been freelance apart from time done in bar, kitchen, shop (Londoners, remember Cyberdog?) cleaning and nightclub jobs, some of which the passage of time has rendered as amusingly risqué rather than borderline exploitative. After my B.A., I set up in business with the Prince's Trust, running projects with what are euphemistically known as hard-to-reach young people, making videos, digital art pieces and music videos until government funding was pulled from the sector. I mostly loved this work and it definitely fed into and reflects my working with members of loose groups, like the meditation community around the Insight Time app, or Freecycle, or Facebook friends. I've also been assisting artist and writer Caroline Bergvall on and off for a few years, which has been very helpful in terms of observing how an artist makes a life/ living. What does your desktop or workspace look like? I'm just settling into a new space at the moment but invariably, a bit of a mess, a cup of tea, piles of books, and both desktop and workspace are are covered in neon post-it notes. Generally I am a paradigmatic post-Fordist flexi worker though: I can and do work pretty much anywhere—to the occasional frustration of friends and family. 

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Tue, 08 Oct 2013 07:30:18 -0700 http://rhizome.org/editorial/2013/oct/8/artist-profile-erica-scourti
<![CDATA[Borges, Paradox and Perception - NYTimes.com]]> http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/04/28/borges-and-the-paradox-of-the-seenk/

The Stone is a forum for contemporary philosophers on issues both timely and timeless. books and literature, Borges, Jorge Luis, Heisenberg, Werner, Hume, David, Philosophy, physics, writing and writers

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Sun, 12 May 2013 15:37:14 -0700 http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/04/28/borges-and-the-paradox-of-the-seenk/
<![CDATA[Has Physics Made Philosophy and Religion Obsolete? - Ross Andersen - The Atlantic]]> http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2012/04/has-physics-made-philosophy-and-religion-obsolete/256203/

Q: Has Physics Made Philosophy and Religion Obsolete? A: No http://t.co/cvaoLLeY2Z #Krauss

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Wed, 17 Apr 2013 04:02:11 -0700 http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2012/04/has-physics-made-philosophy-and-religion-obsolete/256203/
<![CDATA["Our usage of the word ‘objectivity’ (French objectivite; German Objektivitdt) is hopelessly but..."]]> http://tumblr.machinemachine.net/post/34227488785

“Our usage of the word ‘objectivity’ (French objectivite; German Objektivitdt) is hopelessly but revealingly confused. It refers at once to metaphysics, to methods, and to morals. We slide effortlessly from statements about the ‘objective truth’ of a scientific claim, to those about the ‘objective procedures’ that guarantee a finding, to those about the ‘objective manner’ that qualifies a researcher. Current usage allows us to apply the word as an approximate synonym for the empirical (or, more narrowly, the factual); for the scientific, in the sense of public, empirically reliable knowledge; for impartiality-unto-self-effacement and the cold-blooded restraint of the emotions; for the rational, in the sense of compelling assent from all rational minds, be they lodged in human, Martian, or angelic bodies; and for the ‘really real’, that is to say, objects in themselves independent of all minds except, perhaps, that of God. In its thick layering of oddly matched meanings - it is not self evident, for example, what the repression of the emotions has to do with the ontological bedrock - our concept of objectivity betrays signs of a complicated and contingent history, much as the layering of potsherds, marble ruins, and rusted cars would bespeak the same in an archeological site.” - Lorraine Daston (via textbookmaneuver)

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Wed, 24 Oct 2012 05:33:00 -0700 http://tumblr.machinemachine.net/post/34227488785
<![CDATA[Nevolution: Metaphysical Mario]]> http://nevolution.typepad.com/theories/2012/05/metaphysical-mario.html

In which I string together a series of videos, links and text that use Mario as a base for Science. First is Mario and the Many World Interpretation of Quantum Physics

…So what’s this about quantum physics? Oh, right. Well, I kind of identify the branching-paths effect in the video with the Everett-Wheeler “Many Worlds Interpretation” of quantum physics. Quantum physics does this weird thing where instead of things being in one knowable place or one knowable state, something that is quantum (like, say, an electron) exists in sort of this cloud of potentials, where there’s this mathematical object called a wavefunction that describes the probabilities of the places the electron might be at a given moment. Quantum physics is really all about the way this wavefunction behaves. There’s this thing that happens though where when a quantum thing interacts with something else, the wavefunction “collapses” to a single state vector and the (say) electron suddenly goes from being this potential

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Wed, 30 May 2012 01:54:44 -0700 http://nevolution.typepad.com/theories/2012/05/metaphysical-mario.html
<![CDATA[The Arrow of Time (Debategraph)]]> http://debategraph.org/Stream.aspx?nid=100641&iv=09&mac=100641-

The debate about the nature of time and its passage is a long and venerable one. The issues addressed by pre-Socratic philosophers such as Heraclitus and Parmenides about whether time 'flows' or not prefigure present day philosophical arguments. In his talk to the Blackheath Philosophy Forum Huw Price chose as his starting point the views of cosmologist Sir Arthur Eddington - a prominent figure in the first half of the 20th century, but little known today. What made Eddington's view of time interesting is that he was prepared to part company with most physicists - who conceive time as it is revealed in the laws of physics - and give credence to our subjective perceptions about time, particularly our perception that time passes (or 'goes on' in his terms).

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Fri, 11 May 2012 08:12:52 -0700 http://debategraph.org/Stream.aspx?nid=100641&iv=09&mac=100641-
<![CDATA[God and the New Physics by Paul Davies]]> http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2012/mar/16/god-new-physics-paul-davies-review1

This is not a book about God: it is a book about what was in 1983 the new physics , by a distinguished scientist who would go on six years later to edit a massive scholarly work called The New Physics, who would then start getting interested in life on Earth, extraterrestrial life and (right now) the physics or mechanics of cancer.

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Mon, 19 Mar 2012 16:25:08 -0700 http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2012/mar/16/god-new-physics-paul-davies-review1
<![CDATA[The Birth of Physics (Philosophy of science) by Michel Serres]]> http://www.librarything.com/work/book/80688427

Clinamen Press Ltd (2000), Hardcover, 256 pages

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Thu, 08 Dec 2011 07:31:28 -0800 http://www.librarything.com/work/book/80688427
<![CDATA[Noise; Mutation; Autonomy: A Mark on Crusoe’s Island]]> http://machinemachine.net/text/research/a-mark-on-crusoes-island

This mini-paper was given at the Escapologies symposium, at Goldsmiths University, on the 5th of December Daniel Defoe’s 1719 novel Robinson Crusoe centres on the shipwreck and isolation of its protagonist. The life Crusoe knew beyond this shore was fashioned by Ships sent to conquer New Worlds and political wills built on slavery and imperial demands. In writing about his experiences, Crusoe orders his journal, not by the passing of time, but by the objects produced in his labour. A microcosm of the market hierarchies his seclusion removes him from: a tame herd of goats, a musket and gunpowder, sheafs of wheat he fashions into bread, and a shelter carved from rock with all the trappings of a King’s castle. Crusoe structures the tedium of the island by gathering and designing these items that exist solely for their use-value: “In a Word, The Nature and Experience of Things dictated to me upon just Reflection, That all the good Things of this World, are no farther good to us, than they are for our Use…” [1] Although Crusoe’s Kingdom mirrors the imperial British order, its mirroring is more structural than anything else. The objects and social contrivances Crusoe creates have no outside with which to be exchanged. Without an ‘other’ to share your labour there can be no mutual assurance, no exchanges leading to financial agreements, no business partners, no friendships. But most importantly to the mirroring of any Kingdom, without an ‘other’ there can be no disagreements, no coveting of a neighbours ox, no domination, no war: in short, an Empire without an outside might be complete, total, final, but an Empire without an outside has also reached a state of complete inertia. Crusoe’s Empire of one subject, is what I understand as “a closed system”… The 2nd law of thermo dynamics maintains that without an external source of energy, all closed systems will tend towards a condition of inactivity. Eventually, the bacteria in the petri dish will multiply, eating up all the nutrients until a final state of equilibrium is reached, at which point the system will collapse in on itself: entropy cannot be avoided indefinitely. The term ‘negative entropy’ is often applied to living organisms because they seem to be able to ‘beat’ the process of entropy, but this is as much an illusion as the illusion of Crusoe’s Kingdom: negative entropy occurs at small scales, over small periods of time. Entropy is highly probable: the order of living beings is not. Umberto Eco: “Consider, for example, the chaotic effect… of a strong wind on the innumerable grains of sand that compose a beach: amid this confusion, the action of a human foot on the surface of the beach constitutes a complex interaction of events that leads to the statistically very improbable configuration of a footprint.” [2] The footprint in Eco’s example is a negative entropy event: the system of shifting sands is lent a temporary order by the cohesive action of the human foot. In physical terms, the footprint stands as a memory of the foot’s impression. The 2nd law of thermodynamics establishes a relationship between entropy and information: memory remains as long as its mark. Given time, the noisy wind and chaotic waves will cause even the strongest footprint to fade. A footprint is a highly improbable event. Before you read on, watch this scene from Luis Buñuel’s Robinson Crusoe (1954):

The footprint, when it first appears on the island, terrifies Crusoe as a mark of the outsider, but soon, realising what this outsider might mean for the totality of his Kingdom, Robinson begins the process of pulling the mark inside his conceptions: “Sometimes I fancied it must be the Devil; and reason joined in with me upon this supposition. For how should any other thing in human shape come into the place? Where was the vessel that brought them? What marks were there of any other footsteps? And how was it possible a man should come there?” [3] In the novel, it is only on the third day that Crusoe re-visits the site to compare his own foot with the print. The footprint is still there on the beach after all this time, a footprint Crusoe now admits is definitely not his own. This chain of events affords us several allegorical tools: firstly, that of the Devil, Crusoe believes to be the only rational explanation for the print. This land, which has been Crusoe’s own for almost 2 decades, is solid, unchanging and eternal. Nothing comes in nor goes beyond its shores, yet its abundance of riches have served Crusoe perfectly well: seemingly infinite riches for a Kingdom’s only inhabitant. Even the footprint, left for several days, remains upon Crusoe’s return. Like the novel of which it is a part, the reader of the mark may revisit the site of this unlikely incident again and again, each time drawing more meanings from its appearance. Before Crusoe entertains that the footprint might be that of “savages of the mainland” he eagerly believes it to be Satan’s, placed there deliberately to fool him. Crusoe revisits the footprint, in person and then, as it fades, in his own memory. He ‘reads’ the island, attributing meanings to marks he discovers that go far beyond what is apparent. As Susan Stewart has noted: “In allegory the vision of the reader is larger than the vision of the text; the reader dreams to an excess, to an overabundance.” [4] Simon O’Sullivan, following from Deleuze, takes this further, arguing that in his isolation, a world free from ‘others’, Crusoe has merged with, become the island. The footprint is a mark that must be recuperated if Crusoe’s identity, his “power of will”, is to be maintained. An outsider must have caused the footprint, but Crusoe is only capable of reading in the mark something about himself. The evocation of a Demon, then, is Crusoe’s way of re-totalising his Empire, of removing the ‘other’ from his self-subjective identification with the island. So, how does this relate to thermodynamics? To answer that I will need to tell the tale of a second Demon, more playful even than Crusoe’s. In his 1871 essay, Theory of Heat, James Clerk Maxwell designed a thought experiment to test the 2nd law of Thermodynamics. Maxwell imagines a microscopic being able to sort atoms bouncing around a closed system into two categories: fast and slow. If such a creature did exist, it was argued, no work would be required to decrease the entropy of a closed system. By sorting unlikely footprints from the chaotic arrangement of sand particles Maxwell’s Demon, as it would later become known, appeared to contradict the law Maxwell himself had helped to develop. One method of solving the apparent paradox was devised by Charles H. Bennet, who recognised that the Demon would have to remember where he placed the fast and slow particles. Here, once again, the balance between the order and disorder of a system comes down to the balance between memory and information. As the demon decreases the entropy of its environment, so it must increase the entropy of its memory. The information required by the Demon acts like a noise in the system. The laws of physics had stood up under scrutiny, resulting in a new branch of science we now know as ‘Information Theory’. Maxwell’s Demon comes from an old view of the universe, “fashioned by divine intervention, created for man and responsive to his will” [5]. Information Theory represents a threshold, a revelation that the “inhuman force of increasing entropy, [is] indifferent to man and uncontrollable by human will.” [6] Maxwell’s Demon shows that the law of entropy has only a statistical certainty, that nature orders only on small scales and, that despite any will to control, inertia will eventually be reached. Developed at the peak of the British Empire, thermodynamics was sometimes called “the science of imperialism”, as Katherine Hayles has noted: “…to thermodynamicists, entropy represented the tendency of the universe to run down, despite the best efforts of British rectitude to prevent it from doing so… The rhetoric of imperialism confronts the inevitability of failure. In this context, entropy represents an apparently inescapable limit on the human will to control.” [7] Like Maxwell, Crusoe posits a Demon, with faculties similar in kind to his own, to help him quash his “terror of mind”. Crusoe’s fear is not really about outsiders coming in, the terror he feels comes from the realisation that the outsiders may have been here all along, that in all the 20 years of his isolation those “savages of the mainland” may have visited his island time and again. It is not an outside ‘other’ that disturbs and reorganises Crusoe’s Kingdom. A more perverse logic is at work here, and once again Crusoe will have to restructure his imperial order from the inside out. Before you read on, watch another scene from Luis Buñuel’s Robinson Crusoe (1954):

Jacques Rancière prepares for us a parable. A student who is illiterate, after living a fulfilled life without text, one day decides to teach herself to read. Luckily she knows a single poem by heart and procures a copy of that poem, presumably from a trusted source, by which to work. By comparing her memory of the poem, sign by sign, word by word, with the text of the poem she can, Rancière believes, finally piece together a foundational understanding of her written language: “From this ignoramus, spelling out signs, to the scientist who constructs hypotheses, the same intelligence is always at work – an intelligence that translates signs into other signs and proceeds by comparisons and illustrations in order to communicate its intellectual adventures and understand what another intelligence is endeavouring to communicate to it… This poetic labour of translation is at the heart of all learning.” [8] What interests me in Rancière’s example is not so much the act of translation as the possibility of mis-translation. Taken in light of The Ignorant Schoolmaster we can assume that Rancière is aware of the wide gap that exists between knowing something and knowing enough about something for it to be valuable. How does one calculate the value of what is a mistake? The ignoramus has an autonomy, but it is effectively blind to the quality and make-up of the information she parses. If she makes a mistake in her translation of the poem, this mistake can be one of two things: it can be a blind error, or, it can be a mutation. In information theory, the two ways to understand change within a closed system are understood to be the product of ‘noise’. The amount of change contributed by noise is called ‘equivocation’. If noise contributes to the reorganisation of a system in a beneficial way, for instance if a genetic mutation in an organism results in the emergence of an adaptive trait, then the equivocation is said to be ‘autonomy-producing’. Too much noise is equivalent to too much information, a ‘destructive’ equivocation, leading to chaos. This balance is how evolution functions. An ‘autonomy-producing’ mutation will be blindly passed on to an organism’s offspring, catalysing the self-organisation of the larger system (in this case, the species). All complex, what are called ‘autopoietic’ systems, inhabit this fine divide between noise and inertia.  Given just the right balance of noise recuperated by the system, and noise filtered out by the system, a state of productive change can be maintained, and a state of inertia can be avoided, at least, for a limited time. According to Umberto Eco, in ‘The Open Work’: “To be sure, this word information in communication theory relates not so much to what you do say, as to what you could say… In the end… there is no real difference between noise and signal, except in intent.” [9] This rigid delineator of intent is the driving force of our contemporary, communication paradigm. Information networks underpin our economic, political and social interactions: the failure to communicate is to be avoided at all costs. All noise is therefore seen as a problem. These processes, according to W. Daniel Hillis, define, “the essence of digital technology, which restores signal to near perfection at every stage.” [10] To go back to Umberto Eco then, we appear to be living in a world of “do say” rather than “could say”. Maintenance of the network and the routines of error management are our primary economic and political concern: control the networks and the immaterial products will manage themselves. The modern network paradigm acts like a Maxwell Demon, categorising information as either pure signal or pure noise. As Mark Nunes has noted, following the work of Deleuze and Guattari: “This forced binary imposes a kind of violence, one that demands a rationalisation of all singularities of expressions within a totalising system… The violence of information is, then, the violence of silencing or making to speak that which cannot communicate.” [11] To understand the violence of this binary logic, we need go no further than Robinson Crusoe. Friday’s questions are plain spoken, but do not adhere to the “do say” logic of Crusoe’s conception. In the novel, Crusoe’s approach to Friday becomes increasingly one sided, until Friday utters little more than ‘yes’ and ‘no’ answers, “reducing his language to a pure function of immediate context and perpetuating a much larger imperialist tradition of levelling the vox populi.”[12] Any chance in what Friday “could say” has been violently obliterated. The logic of Ranciere’s Ignoramous, and of Crusoe’s levelling of Friday’s speech, are logics of imperialism: reducing the possibility of noise and information to an either/or, inside/outside, relationship. Mark Nunes again: “This balance between total flow and total control parallels Deleuze and Guattari’s discussion of a regime of signs in which anything that resists systematic incorporation is cast out as an asignifying scapegoat “condemned as that which exceeds the signifying regime’s power of deterritorialisation.” [13] In the system of communication these “asignifying” events are not errors, in the common sense of the word. Mutation names a randomness that redraws the territory of complex systems. The footprint is the mark that reorganised the Empire. In Ranciere’s parable, rather than note her intent to decode the poem, we should hail the moment when the Ignoramus fails, as her autonomous moment. In a world where actants “translate signs into other signs and proceed by comparison and illustration” [14] the figures of information and communication are made distinct not by the caprice of those who control the networks, nor the desires of those who send and receive the messages, but by mutation itself. Michel Foucault, remarking on the work of Georges Canguilhem, drew the conclusion that the very possibility of mutation, rather than existing in opposition to our will, was what human autonomy was predicated upon: “In this sense, life – and this is its radical feature – is that which is capable of error… Further, it must be questioned in regard to that singular but hereditary error which explains the fact that, with man, life has led to a living being that is never completely in the right place, that is destined to ‘err’ and to be ‘wrong’.” [15] In his writings on the history of Heredity, The Logic of Life, Francois Jacob lingers on another Demon in the details, fashioned by Rene Descartes in his infamous meditation on human knowledge. François Jacob positions Descartes’ meditation in a period of explosive critical thought focussed on the very ontology of ‘nature’: “For with the arrival of the 17th Century, the very nature of knowledge was transformed. Until then, knowledge had been grafted on God, the soul and the cosmos… What counted [now] was not so much the code used by God for creating nature as that sought by man for understanding it.” [16] The infinite power of God’s will was no longer able to bend nature to any whim. If man were to decipher nature, to reveal its order, Descartes surmised, it was with the assurance that “the grid will not change in the course of the operation”[17]. For Descartes, the evil Demon, is a metaphor for deception espoused on the understanding that underlying that deception, nature had a certainty. God may well have given the world its original impetus, have designed its original make-up, but that make-up could not be changed. The network economy has today become the grid of operations onto which we map the world. Its binary restrictions predicate a logic of minimal error and maximum performance: a regime of control that drives our economic, political and social interdependencies. Trapped within his imperial logic, Robinson Crusoe’s levelling of inside and outside, his ruthless tidying of Friday’s noisy speech into a binary dialectic, disguises a higher order of reorganisation. As readers navigating the narrative we are keen to recognise the social changes Defoe’s novel embodies in its short-sighted central character. Perhaps, though, the most productive way to read this fiction, is to allegorise it as an outside perspective on our own time? Gathering together the fruits of research, I am often struck by the serendipitous quality of so many discoveries. In writing this mini-paper I have found it useful to engage with these marks, that become like demonic footprints, mutations in my thinking. Comparing each side by side, I hope to find, in the words of Michel Foucault: “…a way from the visible mark to that which is being said by it and which, without that mark, would lie like unspoken speech, dormant within things.” [18]    

References & Bibliography [1] Daniel Defoe, Robinson Crusoe, Penguin classics (London: Penguin Books, 2001).

[2] Umberto Eco, The open work (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, n.d.).

[3] Defoe, Robinson Crusoe.

[4] Susan Stewart, On longing: narratives of the miniature, the gigantic, the souvenir, the collection (Duke University Press, 1993).

[5] N. Katherine Hayles, “Maxwell’s Demon and Shannon’s Choice,” in Chaos bound: orderly disorder in contemporary literature and science (Cornell University Press, 1990).

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Jacques Rancière, The emancipated spectator (London: Verso, 2009).

[9] Umberto Eco, The open work (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, n.d.). (My emphasis)

[10] W Hillis, The pattern on the stone?: the simple ideas that make computers work, 1st ed. (New York: Basic Books, 1999).

[11] Mark Nunes, Error: glitch, noise, and jam in new media cultures (Continuum International Publishing Group, 2010).

[12] Susan Stewart, On longing: narratives of the miniature, the gigantic, the souvenir, the collection (Duke University Press, 1993).

[13] Nunes, Error.

[14] Rancière, The emancipated spectator.

[15] Michel Foucault, “Life: Experience and Science,” in Aesthetics, method, and epistemology (The New Press, 1999).

[16] François Jacob, The logic of life: a history of heredity?; the possible and the actual (Penguin, 1989).

[17] Ibid.

[18] Michel Foucault, The order of things?: an archaeology of the human sciences., 2003.

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Wed, 07 Dec 2011 08:50:14 -0800 http://machinemachine.net/text/research/a-mark-on-crusoes-island
<![CDATA[A Labyrinth (No Minotaur)]]> http://www.geiab.org/GEIAB_DEUX/index.php?lang=eng&revue=showit&rn=4&article_id=91#begin

My sprawling review of the Goldsmiths Art MFA Degree Show, 2011 Originally published by Groupe d’Etudes Interdisciplinaires en Arts Britanniques The labyrinth. Turning; coiling. An allegory of improbable human journeys. Physical; mental; spiritual. Beyond; behind; within. But underneath the mythos and symbolism labyrinths are simple structures. The maze is corners, mere corners. Unfurl them all and the labyrinth becomes a cul de sac; a doorless hallway; a vanishing point leading nowhere. Browsing an MFA final show can feel like an endless hall. No matter how many artworks you peruse, how many studio spaces you violate, how many £3 lukewarm beers on which you ruminate there’s always another curtain asking you to draw it back. I don’t mean to begin this review on a downer, indeed, given a few more paragraphs I hope to have you cursing yourself for missing this year’s Goldsmiths Postgraduate Degree Show. What I do want to do is move you away from the grand figure, the thread of Ariadne convincing you with its singular lineage that degree shows tell you something about the institutions that house them. Goldsmiths’ reputation, were I to spend 1,000 words bullying and poking at it, might tell us more in fact about the figure of the labyrinth than it does about the artists who have scrawled its name all over their curriculum vitae.

Consonants and vowels featured highly in this year’s degree show; ‘Nada’ carved in giant, pink wooden lettering marked a studio of ‘Nonsensical objects I made with my neighbours’, with no indication as to the identity of the artist (or the neighbours). The admission “I was going to install a video piece here but I fucked up” is scrawled in black ink on the cupboard of an electrical circuit breaker. Located on its own floor this year, the Art Writing MFA showcased words and sounds in ways the Fine Art show could not manage alone. Behind one particularly black curtain the text “This image has nothing to do with the video that shall begin imminently” overlays a freeze-frame of old age pensioners in a work by Liam Rogers. As the image finally ebbs away droll, haunting bass tones punctuate a narrative milieu: two black cats lounging in digital shadow; an extreme close-up of a flea, trapped between strands of human hair; a strutting chicken and the voice of Ayn Rand “I will not die, it’s the world that will die.” In another recess of the Laurie Grove Bath studios Noam Edry’s politically anarchic sketches and suggestive graffiti were being photographed, constantly and throughout the opening event, by two neutral looking observers. Upon entering the room my bag was searched by a mock custodian. To one side, beside a massage therapist actively working on the spine of a fellow ‘member of the public’, an arrow on the wall labeled “Groovy Little War Mix” pointed to a monitor propped-up on chunks of rubble. On its screen the letters G-O-L-D-S and M exploded in successive puffs of computer enhanced tom-foolery. Clutching university issue headphones to my ears I watched a performer dressed as a giant date taunt one of the MFA’s directors into dancing with her. Before I could move on to the next room (an imaginary ICA show on comedian Andy Kauffman, compiled by the Curating MA) a team of volunteers enthused me into having a Turkish coffee. Titles and scrawlings; etchings and subtitles continued to surround me. “Remember Taj Mahal, India” Johann Arens’ video work implored: “Close your eyes.” Caught between two HD flat-screen televisions (two eyes? two halves of the brain?) Arens’ work ‘Effect Rating’ engineers a confusion between the object and its representation. In this case, the object was the human brain, slowly conveyered into the centre of a donut-shaped MRI machine. The film blurs ‘actual’ footage and foam mock-ups of an MRI scan into a meditation on neuroscience and the art-object. Like the corpus callosum separating my cerebral hemispheres, I longed to be scalpelled in two, each half of me finally free to rove the rest of the show unhindered. In the basement, hidden by shadow, I followed my ears to another series of video works, this time by Jill Vanepps. Horrific flesh-puppet-orifices attempted to penetrate one another with elongated, furry tendrils. Two Davids (Cronenberg and Lynch) seemed to fight for recognition in these dark works meditating on the (dis)order of female puberty. A projector restricted with layers of tape and Vaseline punched me with its flickering half-light: “Witchlike” a woman’s voice said, “of low intelligence.” I listened, “Style…” alone, “comes out of conviction…” until other bodies came to linger with me in the dirge. This was an experience I wasn’t willing to share. Before I moved on to the more official looking Ben Pimlott building, I paused to consider the physics of Hirofumi Isoya’s sculptural works. Like computer generated frames, suspended in real space, Isoya’s works ‘After brick slips’ and ‘Test on a mimic facade of an experimental house’ monumentalise the equal-and-opposite-reaction. Made-up of a bed of smashed tiles with a wire mesh extended in a peak above it, each work isolates the physics of destruction in single, free-standing, art objects. Being a child of the freeze-frame, of time-lapse photography and ultra-high-speed video I had little trouble figuring the events that created these fragmented craters of tile and cement. Had I not the technical grammar I might well have seen in these works the splash of a hailstorm on the surface of a lake, or the arching curvature of a daphodil: each inverted wire trumpet spoke of wrecking-balls and flower petals just the same. Making sure the Goldsmiths brand still adorned its roof (they were CGI explosions weren’t they?) I entered the Ben Pimlott building. Winding its concrete staircase to the 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th floors the second labyrinth of the evening seemed to offer its secrets more readily than the first. Spaces felt more open, corners more isolated, free-standing structures more free to stand. My beer was icy cold. Jie Hye Yeom’s works were the first to grab my attention. Video pieces projected on or nearby a series of awkward objects: a red ball with a 5-foot circumference; a grey plastic sheet quivering in the projector fan; a giant brain made out of builder’s insulation foam. From inside a long metal cylinder ‘The ffond’ coughed and spluttered from its projector, heating up the surrounding air that was then blasted into my face. A synthetic voice with a strong American accent narrates as the artist’s journey through the ffond, an imaginary engineering marvel connecting two distinct points on the Earth’s surface. The words “Where is here?” flash up, written in both Korean and English. A stooping old woman guides her through foreign wreckage, “Can you help me get to Korea?” In another work, ‘Solmier’, partially blinded by headgear made of baguettes, Jie Hye Yeom is guided through an African village by a giggling group of children. At the edge of the forest the artist stops, her mission accomplished. With glee the children gather around to eat her mask. On the floor above a cartoon tapestry welcomes me into a two-tiered space shared by Soheila Sokhanvari and Hans Diernberger. Parodying the work of Jeff Koons a taxidermied pony rests, snug, in a sculptural figure of a beanbag, or perhaps a balloon. As I nervously turned on my heels to leave a well dressed woman urges her children, in hushed tones, to leave the thing’s backside alone. In the centre of Diernberger’s space a rectangular recess sweeps the floor. Within it, prefigured on a video loop, we can see the head of a trampolinist directly from above. Bouncing carefully (presumably so as not to knock the camera mounted above her) she taunts us with a warm-up, the final elastic bound never arriving. On the top floor of the Ben Pimlott building the tone of the show takes a swerve as I reach the Art Writing MFA Postgraduate Show. A text by Tone Gellein asks me to unfold it in 4-dimensions. Sealed in a pretty glass cabinet are a series of etchings, like some blueprint for machines from other, equally improbable worlds. ‘Catalogue for Detecting Mystery Riders’ the wall exclaims, a work by Emily Whitebread. In another darkened video room (perhaps the 20th of the day) I wait for the loop of Jennifer Jarmen’s work to repeat. A dual-screen conversation ensues between Jennifer and a voiceless friend; between a ventriloquist and his dummy. The unmistakable voice of scientist V.S. Ramachandran ponders the role of the mirror in phantom limb patient therapy. As one video interrupts the other I feel the severed halves of my cerebellum stitch back into place once again. As the crowd began to trickle from the studios the night came closing in. On Tuesday morning the deconstruction will begin. Temporary walls will be torn down. A hundred projectors will be taken back to their dusty cupboards to lie forgotten for another season. Fragile sculptures will be dismantled and lugged home, piece by piece, on the number 21 bus. Perhaps amongst everything I’ve seen, every studio I’ve poked my head into or artist-contact-card I’ve stuffed into my wallet, a few works will make it into private galleries, or be mentioned in articles and essays like this one. In the pub someone asks me which works I think they’ll be. I shrug nonchalantly, “That’s up to the market, not you or me.” As I finish speaking a laugh erupts behind me. From my pocket, and trailing along the pub floor, comes a long reel of string. “Silly me,” I say to no-one in particular, as I begin to follow it back out of the pub, back through the grey South London streets, back to the labyrinth of the Goldsmiths’ Postgraduate Degree Show.

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Fri, 26 Aug 2011 12:03:00 -0700 http://www.geiab.org/GEIAB_DEUX/index.php?lang=eng&revue=showit&rn=4&article_id=91#begin
<![CDATA[The Science of Nothing; The Philosophy of Everything]]> http://tumblr.machinemachine.net/post/9037022482

The Physics of Nothing; The Philosophy of Everything

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Wed, 17 Aug 2011 05:34:00 -0700 http://tumblr.machinemachine.net/post/9037022482