Paul (2003) stated in his book ‘Digital Art’ that:
“The use of digital technologies in almost evert arena of daily life has vastly increased during the past decades, leading to speculations that all forms of artistic media will eventually absorbed in to the digital medium, either through digitization or through the use of computers in a specific aspect of processing or production. (Paul 2003, p.27)”
According to Paul (2003), the number of artists who are working with digital technologies as tool for creating their artworks will only increase in the future and also entirely new form of digital techniques and media will be added and adopted as well. As she pointed out, there are many new medias have been introduced as a tool for creation of artworks such as net art, virtual reality, software art, and so on. The artwork components outline an essential feature of our association with technology and its developments.
Rhapsody Spray 1 (2000)
London-born artist Carl Fudge uses digital technology to creates geometric patterns composed of lines and planes of vibrant colours in silkscreen prints. According to Colombia Edu (2016), Fudge uses images from Japanese animation as drawing sources in much of his recent works. Then he digitally manipulates them for series of screen prints. The rendering turns the images into an abstract form as it is shown in Figure 1. The Rhapsody spray 1 was created based on the Japanese cartoon character Sailor Moon. Paul (2003) pointed out that even though the actual physical form of his prints remains in a traditional way, the interesting composition of shapes and colours gives a distinctive digital feel to viewers. These pop cultural Japanese animation has been widely used for other digital artists as well (Paul, 2003, p.55).
Figure 1. Rhapsody Spray 1 (2000) Carl Fudge
Irrational Geometrics (2014)
Pascal Dombi is a French digital artist who has spent time working with computers and algorithms in creating simple repetitive forms including designs. Nechvatal (2014) described his work as it entails the use of inconsistent coexistence in shaping the destructing structures by building up illogical environments and later project them to different surfaces which include wall paintings and other screens (Nechvatal, 2014). In his interview with Chiang in 2016, he explained how his prints were employed experimentally by trying different variations of inking levels on the same plates several times then print them on various materials. Figure 2 is one of his famous series created in year 2014 and Dombi said it doesn’t contain binary meanings but the multiple viewpoint deals more with perspectivism (Chiang, 2016).
Maurice Benayoun is known to be one of experienced digital media artists in France. In 1987, he founded Studio Z-A which became the first example of professional studio equipped with computer-made images. Benayoun’s work shown in Figure 3, tunnel under the Atlantic, was created in year 1995. According to the Asquare Network Research (2012). It is a televirtual art installation, established a link between Montreal and Paris, where two towns physically distant by thousands of miles. The Tunnel enabled hundreds of people from both sides to meet like a virtual bridge (Asquare Network Research, 2012). He created this televirtual event by using digital screens, cameras, and audio systems.
Figure 3. The tunnel under the Atalantic (1995) Maurice Benayoun
As Patti (2011, p.79) mentioned, twenty years ago, the work environment was very different, and people used big computer screens installed by experienced technicians and meet people one on one during the performances while nowadays technology has improved due to the availability of laptops which can perform both simple and complex works. Through advanced media technology, the number of people who can access particular media artist content at a time has much increased (Koltay, 2011, p215).
From the the original Sketchbook of 1963 to the latest version of Zbrush 4R7, digital content creation has undergone a radical transformation from rudimentary lines and pixels and into the highest levels of media art.
But never before has it ever undergone a more radical change than when it has been recently adapted for the world of Virtual Reality.
With the release of the new HTC VIVE headsets this year, many people (myself included) were excited and thrilled about the idea of being able to finally interact and play within a virtual space.
Though created for commercial purposes, three different virtual worlds in particular have caught my attention, not just for their entertainment, but also because their value as interesting interactive experiences.
Lightblade VR is a fan-made virtual reality training simulation with as (you’ve probably guessed from the video above) Lightsabres.
Yes it truly is a dream come true for all Star Wars fans.
With a controller in each hand, you have full control over a pair of plasma swords in a virtual training room as you block a series of phaser bolts fired from a small round robot that hovers in front of you. As you progress in the levels, the training bot begins to move in 360 degree motion around the room, forcing you to interact more in the space around you and utilize not just your arms but your whole body at various angles and positions.
The room itself is quite large and utilizes simple but nonetheless quality UV maps which respond well to the lighting cast out of a fake sky through a large window. There is also a training mode set in the desert at night where light is minimal.
However what really cements this virtual world is the sense of touch and feel. Though the glowing plasma sword is merely another element of the VR, the motion controller will vibrate in realistic fashion as a phaser bolt makes contact with your block.
In addition to touch, sound (generated from your speakers or plug in headphones) remains one of your more reliable senses in the game with the acoustics of the virtual space responding to your physical movement.
Though a game in its intentions, Lightblade VR Still makes for an interesting and a surprisingly physically demanding virtual reality experience.
The Night Cafe
Unlike LightBlade VR, The Night Cafe from Borrowed Light Studios is a true Virtual Reality experience.
In homage to the Artist Vincint Van Gogh, a virtual space in the form of a 1930’s Parisian cafe with two rooms and a corridor has been created in the artists style, utilizing elements from his own works as well as other artworks from the Impressionist movement of the late 19th Century.
Some of the artworks referenced include his famous self portrait as well as his sunflowers. And if one travels towards one of the windows with the controllers, and bends down to look up through them, they can see Van Gogh’s TheStarry Night (1889), moving and swirling above the city rooftops.
“It’s been an interesting process in using reference material from Van Gogh and other impressionist painters but also imagining what might have been there, just off the edges of the canvas.” – Borrowed Light Studios
This Virtual Reality, though composed of flat textures and colours over simple polygons, has created a unique and enchanting visual experience, one which both artists and normal viewers can appreciate as they are drawn into what is not so much a virtual room, but rather the artist [Van Gogh’s] personal head space.
Universe Sandbox ² is a physics-based space simulator in which the viewer can interact with the various celestial bodies of space.
With it you can spin, destroy, offset and change physics and then watch the simulated effects those decisions might theoretically have on the actual universe.
Universe Sandbox also simulates climate, material composition, temperature and even creates detailed collisions between both planets and stars and even black holes.
If there is one fault that could be found in this interactive experience it is perhap not as refined nor as detailed as the above two virtual realities.
Otherwise the physics engine is interesting to manipulate and handle, even if some of the results can be rather explosive.
Burdea Grigore, C. and Philippe, C., 2003. Virtual reality technology.Vancouver
Biocca, F. and Delaney, B., 1995. Immersive virtual reality technology. Communication in the age of virtual reality, pp.57-124.
van Veen, H.A., Distler, H.K., Braun, S.J. and Biilthoff, H.H., 1998. Navigating through a virtual city: Using virtual reality technology to study human action and perception. Future Generation Computer Systems, 14, pp.231-242.
The idea of reality and the ways it can be changed within in the art world, augmented reality has come into focus this year with the release of Pokemon GO, and virtual reality has been in play for the las couple of years with the release of the first Oculus Rift back in 2012 but now has also come back into focus this year with a lot of other companies bring forth their own versions, such as the HTC Vive and the PlayStation VR systems.
Pokemon GO has taken the world by storm and has changed the way people are viewing and playing games on the go, the augmentation of reality is taken from when trying to find and catch pokemon in the real world. This is done by using when finding a pokemon and through your camera you can find and capture, and its getting a lot more people into it than expected. People who didn’t even grow up with the series are getting into it and it’s a great way to bring augmented reality and bring it to the attention of more and more people and its mixes the real with the virtual.
Another way in which even film and TV have shown the effects that of augmenting reality in different ways. This can be seen in the Netflix original show Black Mirror that shows a lot of different ways in which the world can be augmented in the future. In its latest season their first episode to air is called “Nosedive” and it takes the world of social media and its rating system to a whole new level of extreme. In this episode, your life is almost controlled by your rating in life and how it effects how you are seen in your society, it also shows how popularity can control your life and how it effects your self-worth.
In another episode, known as Playtest it takes Virtual reality to a whole new extreme, it plays around with the aspect of getting lost in a virtual world and how a simple “haunted” mansion can turn into a nightmare and while it feels like you have been in the world for hours, for the people surrounding you time has only passed for a mere second. It brings the horror elements of gaming to a whole new high and makes it seem even more horrifying, taking your real life experiences and turning them into your worst nightmare.
Robotics is a form of media art that utilizes innovative automated technology and machinery, combined with computer expertise to suspend the art form into movement and in its final form. Robotics in media art is generally interwoven with the notion of kinetics, which too is an art form that utilizes machinery and electricity to function (Art Radar 2016). The only difference between the forms of robotics and kinetics is that kinetics does not need computer software to be powered, which is an essential aspect to the suspension of robotic art. Robotics has become a very popular medium for art expression with contemporary media artists, as our society is essentially based around ever evolving innovative technology and media (Art Radar 2016). The use of Robotics in media arts is a clear representation of technology and electronic media’s influence on all aspects of our society. The very first Robotic artworks were created in the 1960’s, and have thus only continued to become more prevalent in modern media art today (Art Radar 2016).
The first media artist that I will be discussing in this post is Ken Rinaldo, who is a media artist and professor who specializes in teaching interactive robotics. Rinaldo is a prime example of a media artist assisting in the development of Robotics in the current media art scope, as he blurs the periphery between the ‘organic’ and ‘inorganic’ fields within Robotic Art (Ken Rinaldo 2015). Rinaldo’s most famous Robotic exhibition is titled ‘Autotelematic Spider Bots’, released in 2006 (Ken Rinaldo 2015). Also created by matt Howard, Rinaldo brings a robotics instillation to life comprising of 10 insect/spider creatures that directly interact with the audience, their surroundings and environment and also have their own food source. This exhibition was actually a robotics experiment that saw how robots could react to energy autonomy by being able to search for and find its designated recharge stations. This exhibition and robots themselves essentially redefined the modern morphology of robotics, as they interacted in such an innovative manner (Ken Rinaldo 2015). The spider robotics have installed LED lights as eyes, that light up when they see and connect with human eyes, highlighting that they are aware of another presence around them. The robots are able to communicate with each other through the form of Bluetooth, which one pivotal robot had complete control of in the exhibition (Ken Rinaldo 2015). The Automatic Spider Bots exhibition gave the audience/humans an insight into how they are seen by insects, and allowed them to see the conscious state of insects.
Furthermore, Canadian media artist Bill Vorn created an interactive robotics art instillation, titled ‘Hysterical Machines’, that too mimics the work of Rinaldo and robotics (Bill Vorn 2015). Vorn’s instillation is titled ‘Hysterical Machines’, and formed part of a research program on artificial behaviors in media arts, that was inspired by work conducted on robotics in the late 1990’s titled ‘Misery of the Machines’ (Bill Vorn 2015). This exhibition of robotics was heavily influenced by context, that being ideas and feelings of deconstruction, dysfunction, fear, peculiarity and incongruity – all expressed and displayed through a functioning robot. The robotic itself runs on a method that is ‘dual-leveled’, which represents the contradicting nature of artificial intelligence and life (Bill Vorn 2015). The robotic comprises of a circular body that has 8 arms, and a sensing and motor system that plays the role of an autonomous central nervous system. Similar to the work of Rinaldo, the robotics in Vorn’s instillation has pyroelectric sensors that permit the robotics to sense the presence of viewers in the room (Bill Vorn 2015).
Moreover, British media roboticist and scrap artist Giles Walker has also made significant developments in the Robotic media art scope through his confrontational robotic instillations that often obtains criticism from reviews. Walker’s instillation ‘Peepshow’ comprises of two robotics that a pole dancing with a DJ (Makezine 2016). Walker constructed this from scrap pieces of windscreen wipers from cars, which are directed by wizard boards. Contextual framework heavily influenced Walker’s objective – that being the issue of surveillance cameras and people being watched by “peeping toms” (Makezine 2016). Walker wanted to see the reaction from his audience against the provocative peeping robotics. Walker utilised security cameras as heads for the pole dancers to highlight his contextual notions of being watched and how people react to the idea of voyeurism – that being the audience. Most of Walker’s work is based upon social commentary, thus the pieces of ‘scrap’ that he uses to form his robotics is pivotal in expressing his messages to the audience as they visually depict social problems – i.e. the issue of surveillance and utlising security cameras as heads for his pole dancers in ‘Peepshow’ (Makezine 2016).
To conclude, Robotics has become a vastly emerging form of media art to communicate social commentary, contextual concerns and challenge the ideas of artificial intelligence in our society. Since its emergence in the 1960’s, Robotics has become a popular vessel in exhibiting ones form of media art, and continues to evolve due to the fast pacing developments of technology in our modern world.
Follow on from the logic I proposed in Post 1, I further elaborate my views on how media artists examine life as we know of.
The bio-art project shocks me the most so far is CellF 2015-current by Guy Ben-Ary. It amazes me with what science can do and how far artists are willing to go in the sake of art. Ben-Ary basically created an external brain that fulfils his dream of being a musician. My responsible mother instinct immediately kicks in: is it just a bunch of nerve cells carrying out a tech-induced task? Or is it more than just an ‘it’? An external brain, as Ben-Ary calls it himself, is a thinking organ right? So is it more like a brain-child (literally) or a partial mini-me to Ben-Ary (if one considers it a cloned brain)? My second thought is that is this brain thinking or even feeling something, particularly about this circus- (not a misspelt ‘circuit’) setup? What about the ‘noisy performance’ it is responsible for? Is he (presumably same sex as Ben-Ary’s) well and happy, performing or not? Further thought goes to his funeral – if there is one at his eventual death by natural causes or otherwise (will he be killed off right after the show is over?!).
Ben-Ary’s tone is one of those caring parent’s (or pet-owner’s at least): ‘… Due to the negligence of the shipping company, 10 million of my precious cells, bits and pieces of me, were destroyed…’ for example (guybenary.com, accessed 26 October 2016).
The ownership of body parts, deceased persons, live or still-born babies, by natural/assisted pregnancy or surrogacy, with genetic materials from known or unknown donor(s), with birth rights of different sovereignties, foetus of different stages in the womb, embryonic stem cells, pluripotent stem cells, cord blood etc etc are highly problematic and controversial enough by their very own natures. The responsibility of keeping life forms alive, usage and disposal of biological matters will surely add more layers of ethicality, legality and religility over the already complicated issues. Even animal cruelty legislations might apply (to any live forms being harmed or killed for entertainment purposes). What drive scientists/artists to do these stunts?
The words of a biological artist George Gessert sums up our current position neatly:
“Do artists cross a line when they breed plants or animals, or use the tools of biotechnology? Scientists routinely cross the line. So do farmers, businesspeople, military men, and doctors. Only artists and certain religious people hesitate. Of course, one of the great human dilemmas is that we do not know the extent of our powers. We invent outrageously and as casually as we breathe, but we have no idea where our inventions will take us. Extinction? Slavery? 1000 years in Disneyland? Even if the Holocaust had never happened, we would have good reason to worry about where knowledge of genetics and DNA will take us. We will need all the awareness we can master to engage evolution. To the extent that art favours awareness, the more artists who cross the line the better.” (Gessert, 2003)
The leading biological research safeguard in Australia and New Zealand is SymboitcA, which actively engages in life-manipulating projects drive by ethical considerations, forcing the artists and viewers to take active role in the life-death cycle of biological matters, and thus acts as a life-matter research safeguard for non-utilitarian purposes via exploring contestable possibilities that technology is heading (Catts, 2002). It appears that Ben-Ary’s little brain son is being well looked after under the current establishment (see endorsements in his official website).
I would still like to hear about the funeral announcement if it happens…
Biology Reasons to Make Art
Contemporary bio-artists heavily involve biological materials/life, scientific tool and protocols, and even themselves in these transgressive practices (Zurr & Catts 2004). Stellac’s life works are well-known exemplary of this new phenomenon. Further down along this line is being investigated in MONA’s upcoming exhibition On the Origin of Art 2016-2017: how human evolution and art intertwine from a biology determinism point of view.
Ben-Ary is right in this regards: there are artist genes lying somewhere in our bodies awaiting to express their potentials. As MONA’s owner David Walsh- Charles Darwin fan and lifelong lover of chance and the random in life- believes “we [extending to our art making practices] are fundamentally shaped by primitive impulses rooted in the Pleistocene soup of our beginnings” (Verghis, 2016). Walsh will present this biological imperative argument for art in On the Origin of Art exhibition which will showcase four competing views on the evolution of art: art is a form of cognitive play (in particular with pattern) that translates to practical benefits and thus vital survival skills; art evolves through sexual selection as a signal of mate value or ‘fitness marker’; art is a by-product of other adaptations including obtaining status and as a ‘pleasure technology’ for our senses; and art harnesses nature – the process wherein aspects of our nature-mimicking culture develops new purpose using our ancient brain mechanisms (More details on: https://mona.net.au, accessed 28 October 2016).
The cognitivity theory (proposed by Professor of literature Brian Boyd) and ‘headspinning’ concept (instigated by evolutionary neurobiologist Mark Changizi) explain a lot the digitised taste of our recently developed and accepted audio and visual art forms (pop culture). Digital/media art is therefore a by-product of our adaptation to pure technology according to the nature-harnessing theory- make the best out of the otherwise cold and boring endeavour!
Linguist and cognitive scientist Steven Pinker’s art as sensor pleasing device, signs of status/leisure, and also theory of biophilia, address our primal taste for enriched, elaborate visuals like flowers, fruits etc. on top of the common desires for fertility, control and resourcefulness. Combining the fact that art having an adaptive function (look at history of media art within digitalization for example), it is to expect that VR-gardening becomes part of our foreseeable future and as a matter of fact, a retired successful art project.
Ken Goldberg and Joseph Santarromana envisioned this in their Robotic Telegarden installation 1995-2004. It was a fusion between old technology (agriculture) and new (the internet) based on the concept that “media technology generally facilities the suspension of disbelief” stressed Goldberg (Telegarden Description, YouTube accessed 28 October 2016). The 9,000+ online members 100,000 physical visitors created a self-governing social network in the virtual space, with interactive users became protective of plants even territorial at times during its 7 years of running online.
The issue of legitimacy, i.e. how do media users know for sure that the garden actually exists, and that any of their remote controls really matter, leads to many theoretical investigations into the concepts of telepresence and presence with hidden mediation (Steuer, 1992) (Lombard & Ditton, 1997). Imagine if there were watering/fertilizing/add sunlight command buttons available for the Ever Blossoming‘s viewers to press at the beginning of each show cycle, wouldn’t it make the button pressor feel like he/she grew the beautiful plant? Does the button pressor know for sure if any of the commands dummy or not? Would the button pressor feel even better knowing that ill-fate is not written into the algorithm. There is of course no Ctrl z function built-in for this sort of VR farming artwork… or is there?
Psychology of Being a VR Farmer
“… TeleGarden offers a search for the [soul] of gardening… Though drained of sensory cues, planting that distant seed still stirs anticipation, protectiveness, and nurturing. The unmistakable vibration of the garden pulses and pulls, even through a modem.” – Warren Schultz, Garden Design, Dec/Jan 1996.
Gardening also manifests other human behavioural traces like control of the environment (therefore food supply) and dominance (best chance of survival), reward for hard work and the creating personal utopia (a small piece of personalized heaven on earth- literally). Besides creating beauty, scent, edible and usable produces, gardening is a form of ritual with physio and psychological benefits. Most importantly it allows for an accessible way of reconnecting with our life-giving impulses in a less resources/ time/ space/ emotions/ judgements sensitive options (Stuart-Smith, 2016).
There is also illusion at play: Paediatrician and psychoanalyst Donald Winnicott explains ‘when a baby wants something enough to conjure it up in the imagination, and when this coincides with what happens in reality, the illusion for the baby is of having made it happen.’ Psychologically claiming the causation in similar ways is nonetheless illusion that fosters a sense of self-belief (and related benefits that follow) even for adults. This kind of green-fingers illusion acts as a psychological success factor and helps counteracting any senses of impotence in other part of life (Stuart-Smith 2016) – good enough a reason to resort to VR (illusion) living at times!
Perhaps this is what video gamers are feeling when playing games involve growing or building something on screen with results that are directly proportionate to their inputs (time, efforts, talents, money etc). Worse comes to worse, there is always a ‘game over play again’ option.
Illusions in real life of course can work in detrimental ways as well. Perhaps simulations would be a safer option as a rehearsal of worst case scenarios. Examples of media practices that demonstrate possible reasons and effects of living a VR life will be addressed in Post 3.
Catts, O., Biofeel Curator Statement, BEAP 2000 Catalogue John Curtin Gallery, Western Australia, ISBN 1-740667-157-0 (August 2002)
Catts, O., Zurr, I., “The ethical claims of bio-art: Killing the other or self-cannibalism”, Australian and New Zealand Journal of Art, 2004 – Taylor & Francis
Gessert, G., “Notes on the Art of Plant Breeding,” L’art Biotech Catalogue, le lieu unique France ISBN 2-914381-52-2 (March 2003): 47.
Lombard, M., Ditton, T., “At the Heart of It All: The Concept of Presence”, Department of Broadcasting, Telecommunications & Mass Media, Temple University, JCMC 3 (2) September 1997
Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) are both complex combinations of computer technology, virtual reality hardware and artistic vision. Virtual reality is an artificial and digital recreation of a real life environment or situation. It immerses the user by making them feel like they are experiencing the simulated reality firsthand, primarily by stimulating their vision and hearing, replacing the real environment. On the other hand, Augmented reality (AR) is a technology that overlays computer-generated enhancements into the real world, enhancing the real environment with virtual elements. As technology is rapidly advancing in the world, people become more confused and lost between the different realities, having trouble differentiating between them. Media artists have implemented these ideas within their work, showing the mixture between the realities and how they are coming together.
Lossy – Rachel Rossin
Lossy, a series of paintings and virtual reality installations explore the relationship between the physical and the digital, examining the principles of loss and entropy. “Lossy”, according to the language of computers, refer to compression techniques that reduce a file’s size by shedding unnecessary information, permanently altering the file’s content. Within this series, Rossin has created a complex world of landscapes, abstracted figures and still lives, which blend together as if they were imploding in space. In order to highlight the relationship between virtual reality and painting, she creates context for both, playing with physical space. Rossin explores this idea by questioning what happens when the barrier between what we consider virtual and physical reality begin to come together. With the two realities blurred, the audience sees a new dimension as she furthers the complex ideas of relationships with technology, taking on the issue of mixed realities that the current world is lost in. She states that as ‘an artist’, it is her job ‘to explore the blurry gradient of virtual reality’ that we are already living in.
Pokémon Go (produced by John Hanke (the CEO) and Artist, Dennis Hwang) is a game that consists of an augmented reality using a mobile phones’ GPS to locate Pokémon’s on the screen within the real world. Delivering a real life Pokémon experience, players are able to capture Pokémon in the real world. Although the game allowed people to go outside, exercise and socialize, it became a big problem as it took over daily schedules and caused incidents within the real world. As people hunted for Pokémon, they were temporarily lost within an augmented reality.
Shezad Dawood’s exhibition at Timothy Taylor gallery consists of screen-printed statues and a central virtual reality experience that inserts visitors to various worlds of experience. His work functions as a hyperspace in which the visitor’s subjectivity succumbs to its surroundings. The visitors are to organize their immediate surroundings perceptually and cognitively, to map their position in a mappable external world. The inability to fully position themselves within the confines of the building’s maze mirrors the inability to comprehend the global economic and social networks that define contemporary society. Thus, putting the audience in a virtual reality based on real life issues, the artist brings the two realities together.
A recent digital artwork captures my eyes and imagination immensely.
This is a first-timer in terms of creating a sense of one-chance-only-ness out of its programming stage. Ever Blossoming Life II – A whole year per hour, Gold, by Tokyo-based ‘ultra-technologists’ teamLab, employs incredibly advanced technology to reflect the tastes of the Edo period at the utmost contemporary edge. This concept is highly relevant to contemporary form where traditional ideas and the natural world often reach their audiences via screens. Deployment of VR/telepresence in this case also permits idealised visions, or literally anything imaginable as a matter of fact, to be felt and/or shared in time-space restricted living conditions in these days and age.
It is a collection of digital paintings (not video) that depicts the lifespan of cherry flowers, with an algorithm for the work that is ‘constantly recreating itself’ ‘in real time, composing new compositions for each individual viewer’ says curator Russell Kelty (Llewellyn, 2016). The transience of blossoming is resonated by the uniqueness of each visual, which conceptually also notoriously removes the repeatability of media artworks as they are commonly perceived. Kelty also says that you see something that is authentic and unique as the computer places things in such a way that a composition will never happen again, and it’s the kind of vision of how we look at the world and our relationship to nature (Watson, 2016).
Such uniqueness and authenticity only apply to the computer program itself, not the outputs though: according to Lev Manovich who explains how new media objects already allow for automation and variability due to their numerical representations and modularity principles (Manovich 2001). The never-seen-again quality of Ever Blossoming is simply following a specific algorithmic manipulation command. The ‘uniqueness’ that viewers expect to enjoy are limited to each of the individual ‘tailored’ viewing experiences, just as each personalised experiences media users are having referred to by Manovich.
Randomness and uniqueness are what one expects to see in our natural world, over which humans have very limited control. Scientific laws that govern how the universe works are definitely not random, just too complicated to be understood (details out of the scope of this discussions). Science and technology at the moment are not providing complete understandings nor processing powers to calculate all the results humans want or need, therefore leaving most of us living with unknowns and uncertainties, subsequently feeling powerless and fearful and inducing humanly responses (be they nil, negative or positive) that we are familiar with. Random applied in my logic here therefore only refers to human perceptions.
The true randomness from growth of life forms to humans (for the time being at least) comes from this formula:
Fixed genes (corresponding to point 1 below) x Random environmental factors x Controlled human interceptions (point 2 below) = Random development of a life form.
My blogs will explore this logic from a few different angles in the context of media art as follows:
New ways to interpret the body created by fixed genes via interactive-bio-art
Change our physical environment to line up with all our desires
If point 2 is improbable or impossible, change the perception of the environment via experience (re)construction i.e. interactivity – resulting in possible illusion in short term and converting to a new religion if long-term
If 3 is achieved, “our bodies as experiential apparatus” would change accordingly (like the case in Transforming Mirrors proposed by David Rokeby 1998) and can be considered as part of the natural human evolutionary process.
Roles of Artists in Science of Life
Like the Renaissance artists demonstrated the new objectivising gaze of the scientists, media artists envision complicated subjects like DNAs, cells functions, emotive/affective existence/presence and even life itself. Regardless how much and well scientists present research results, it is still artists like da Vinci, Michelangelo and Vasalius in the past, and many media/graphic artists today who do the work of illustrations – for fellow artists, medical practitioners, general public and any other interested parties. It is still the media artists who do the best illustrative works in all cases for they remain the most effective and articulate way of conveying the message/concepts (Zurr and Catts 2004).
One of the difficulties faced by practitioners who cross art with science is making aesthetic choices when combining the rigours objectivity and precision with distracting moodiness, lighting and sound effects etc. Contradicting concepts like immediacy-hypermediacy, disruptions of continuity, glitch, deterioration, and practical and ethical considerations in dealing with decay and even death must all be carefully juggled to achieve successful results. Here are two other examples how contemporary media artists depict life with high success.
Paul Thomas in collaboration with Kevin Raxworthy aims to examine life at a sub-cellular level through their Nanoessene project 2010. Demonstrated by the endless cloning of a single human cell, comparisons between life and death and thus what constitutes living are now quantified by nanotechnology and romanticised by media art. The most exciting part is when viewers can interface with the the visual and sonic presentation using one’s own breath, linking a biblical inception of life on the conceptual and metaphorical levels to any members of our society.
George Khut uses bio-sensing technologies to examine human emotive levels by re-framing experiences of embodiment, health and subjectivity. In particular, his Behind your Eyes, Between your Ears (2015, 2016) collection of intimate video portraits generates interactive soundscape and visuals that trace the dynamics of one’s attention between thinking and being.
Media artists have new responsibilities these day. As interactive artist David Rokeby descripts how he constructs experiences for the participants of his interactive designs, human-computer interface becomes the content by gradually educating and reinforcing the sensing/perceptual/conceptual systems of human bodies in direct response to the new conditions; and that learning via bio-feedback looping process is pushing human-computer relationship to a more intimate and inter-dependent level (Rokeby, 1998). Rokeby also causally predicts that new generations “are adapting from birth to the language of synthetic interfaces [such that] common virtual sense will be widespread” (Rokeby, 1998).
To extend on the common analogy that if ‘ nature loads the gun, nurture pulls the trigger’, media artist is re-designing the viewfinder of this bio-gun as we speak – even changing the mode of finding targets at times (using infra-red sensors, adding target tracking devices or just ask siri for examples). The gun (media users) might even need to be modified or upgraded or physically aided by the designer (like the diver in the picture) to suit the new external condition (the confronting alien green water).
Catts, O., Zurr, I., “The ethical claims of bio-art: Killing the other or self-cannibalism”, Australian and New Zealand Journal of Art, 2004 – Taylor & Francis