There is an empty canvas.

You may place a tile upon it, but you must wait to place another.

Individually you can create something.

Together you can create something more.

-r/place Reddit Announcement [1]

r/place (pronounced “ar slash place” or simply just “place”) is a collaborative art project created by the community of the website Reddit.com in April of 2017. r/place was a grid of one million pixels (1000×1000) that was initially completely white. Anyone with a reddit account could visit http://www.reddit.com/r/place between the first and third of April of 2017. Once there, users could pick a color, and place a single pixel of the chosen color anywhere on the grid, including pixels that other users had already filled in. Users were allowed to place additional pixels five to twenty minutes after each pixel they placed. r/place was hosted at http://www.reddit.com/r/place, and while the page still exists, users can no longer participate in the project and instead the subreddit is now dedicated to people simply talking about r/place.

r/place was created by the admins and moderators of Reddit as their yearly april fools joke. These april fools jokes are usually social experiments that involve as much of the Reddit community as possible, one of the most notible before r/place was r/thebutton in which there was a page with a button and a countdown timer, if any user pushed the button, the countdown would reset and that user would recieve a flair next to their username that showed how much time was left on the timer when they pushed the button. Nobody knew what would happen when the countdown reached 0, all that was known was that everyone could push the button once and doing so would reset the countdown for literally everyone. The result of this was that communities formed around the button, some people took pride in never pushing the button, whereas others took pride in pushing the button when the countdown was as close to as 0 as possible.

r/place also resulted in communities forming within the project as well, but to a much more notible degree than r/the button. This is because of the fact that in order to create an image on r/place an entire community was completely necessary. Since each user could only place one2-3.jpg pixel every five to twenty minutes, most of the individual images on r/place were contributed to by hundreds of users, not to mention the fact that many images had to be redrawn or “defended” since users could place their pixels over pixels that others had already placed. Many of the largest images in place were created by existing communities on reddit, for example the big red box with black text in the center-top of the canvas is a Star Wars quote created by r/PrequelMemes, a community dedicated to making memes of the star wars prequel trilogy. Some communities also formed with the sole purpose of creating something on r/place, such as r/MonaLisaClan who wanted a recreation of the Mona Lisa in r/place and /rTheBlueCorner, a community dedicated to making the bottom right corner of the canvas as blue as possible.

The final image is a chaotic, detailed, and intriguing work of net art, but I think part of what made r/place so unique was that it was constantly changing, as there are tons of images that made their way onto r/place that did not end up in the final state of the canvas. Thankfully, there are plenty of timelapses showing exactly how this jumbled chaotic image emerged from giving over a million people the ability to add to a single canvas one pixel at a time.

The work has historical precedents in Roy Ascott’s La Plissure du Texte (1988) and Andy Deck’s Glyphiti (2001).


[1] https://www.reddit.com/r/announcements/duplicates/62mesr/place/

Eyeborg (Neil Harbisson’s Cyborg Antenna)


Neil Harbisson is a cyborg artist based in New York City. He is described as a cyborg artist because his artwork his artwork is concerned with the concept of cyborgism but also because he himself is technically a cyborg. 

The word cyborg is a combination of the words "cybernetic" and "organism" and describes a being with both biological and mechanical parts. Neil Harbisson is technically considered a cyborg because of his antenna implant, which he calls "the Eyeborg." This device is implanted in his skull and was designed to extend the limitations of human color perception, specifically, it allows him to see colors even though he was born completely color blind, and he can even see infrared and ultraviolet colors. It does this using a camera on the end of the antenna, the camera detects both hue and saturation, and then the antenna sends that information to his brain as an audio signal through the process of bone conduction. [1] Essentially, it allows him to "hear" colors, including colors that humans would normally be unable to see. Before the implant, he was actually completely colorblind, and while he still technically sees everything in greyscale, he is able to percieve more colors than the average person thanks to his implant. [2] Since its initial creation the antenna can do much more than just allow him to percieve colors, it is also bluetooth enabled, allowing him to connect to other devices or the internet. He can also apparently "hear colors that other people are seeing." [3]

Harbisson describes the sensation of "hearing" colors as completely normal to him at this point. He claims that while at first he struggled with learning the names of the different colors he was hearing, but eventually it became a sense to him as intuitive as his others. He claims that now he has favorite colors and is even able to dream in color. He says that  starting to dream in color is when he truly started to feel like a cyborg, because in a dream it would be his brain creating the electronic sounds of the color, not the actual device, so he claims that is when the software of his device and his brain were united. [4]

1172736.jpgHarbisson says that the implant feels like a body part, he said “If you touch the camera or the antenna it’s like touching a tooth or a nail—I feel it, basically, which is weird, because I didn’t feel that before.” [5] Since it is surgically implanted into his skull, he also sleeps and showers with the antenna on. In 2004, Harbisson's british passport renewal was rejected because he was not allowed to appear in his passport photo with an electronic device on his head. Harbisson wrote back claiming that he self identified as a cyborg, and that the device should not be treated as an external electronic device, but rather a part of his body. His passport application was later accepted, making him technically the first cyborg to be recognized by a government.

Harbisson dosn't just see his implant as a functional tool, he describes it as a work of art. When asked about this, he said:

I see this as cyborg art: the art of creating new senses and the art of creating your own body parts. The problem is that it is impossible to share it. It happens in the mind of the artist, so I am both the artist and the only one in the audience because it happens exclusively in my head. The only way to share it is if you also have an antenna implanted in your brain. That is the main issue. [6]


[1], [3], [5] https://motherboard.vice.com/en_us/article/9akbaa/the-cyborg-who-can-hear-what-other-people-are-looking-at

[2] https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2014/may/06/neil-harbisson-worlds-first-cyborg-artist

[4] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ygRNoieAnzI

[6] https://metalmagazine.eu/en/post/interview/neil-harbisson-the-reality-of-a-cyborg

Point Cloud

Point Cloud redefines art by introducing weather as a form of artistic expression.

“Point Cloud emerges as a sculptural form defined by a thin wire mesh, driven asynchronously by 8 individual servos controlled via Arduino. As whiteness of the hanging structure begins to disappear into the background, the viewer is treated to a constantly morphing swarm of black points dancing through midair.”

This was created by to turn digital data back into a natural pattern of movement. It interprets actual data from weather, and instead of creating changes between wet and dry weather it creates movement. The Point Cloud simulates changes in “stability and turbulence, expansion and contraction . . .[it]“creates a visceral experience in our interactions with weather.”

I think this is a beautiful art form because it gives dimension to nature and allows us to better understand and appreciate it. In some way I think this piece can be considered artificial life, because it is using technology to give movement and life to inanimate objects. This correlates with the reading from AEM because of the advancements made that highlight and emphasize the beauty of nature and biology and what digitalization can do it change it.


Shanken, Edward A. Art and Electronic Media (Phaidon, 2009) AEM


Natural History of the Enigma


(Source. Collection Weisman Art Museum. Photo: Rik Sferra.)

“Natural History of the Enigma” is a series of works that presents the transgenic petunia flower “Edunia”, which has part of the artist Eduardo Kac’s genetic sequence inserted into it. Aside from the plant itself, the series comprises of limited edition seed packs of the plant, a set of lithographs called “Edunia Seed Pack Studies”, the public sculpture “Singularis”, watercolor paintings “Mysterium Magnum I-VIII”, and photographs of the plant “Plantimal I-VI”. The project was developed by Eduardo Kac in collaboration with scientists from University of Minnesota between 2003 and 2008, and was initially exhibited at the Weisman Art Museum in Minneapolis [1].

The “Edunia” is originally a petunia, a type of annual flowering plant, has been genetically engineered to carry a portion of Kac’s gene that encodes an antibody, and express it in the flower’s veins. The DNA sequence was obtained from part of Kac’s antibody called IgG, inserted into a bacteria, which acts as a vehicle to deliver the gene into the plant. The gene is inserted in such a way that it is present in all cells of the plant, but it is pre-pended with a flag so that it is only expressed in the veins of the plant. Additionally, the gene is appended with a plant protein, which can be used to detect the expression of the artist’s gene.



The petunia flower was chosen so that its pink color is reminiscent of the human blood vessels. And the gene was chosen because of its function as part of an antibody, which recognizes foreign substances that invades the body. The artist’s intention was to have “precisely that which identifies and rejects the other [that I] integrate into the other, thus creating a new kind of self that is partially flower and partially human.” In doing so, he reflects on the relatedness of all life, and “bring forth the reality of the contiguity of life between different species” [1].


(Kac watering Edunia. Source)

Continuing on his theme about life, Kac notes that compared to other creatures such as dogs, cats, or apes, which can communicate directly with people, plants have much greater difficulty in evoking the same level of connection. This is even when a great many analogies between “anthropomorphic and botanical forms” can be formed in the studies of philosophers and scientists. Therefore, in forming Edunia, Kac wishes to “instill in the public a sense of wonder about this most amazing of phenomena we call ‘life'”. [1]


(Kac holding an Edunia. Source)

To accompany Edunia, Kac have produced the following works:


(Lithographs of “Edunia Seed Pack Studies”. Collection Weisman Art Museum, Minneapolis. Source)


(Six limited edition Edunia Seed Packs. Each is made with paper and held closed with magnets. These are hand-made by Kac, and contain description on how to cultivate the flower. Source)


(The metal and fiberglass sculpture “Singularis” in St. Paul, Minnesota. It is a composite structure of a human protein and a plant protein [1]. Source)


(A series of watercolor paintings “Mysterium Magnum I-VIII”. Collection Margit Eigl, Linz, Austria. The paintings explore the link between life and communication, the “watercolors oscillate between evoking biomorphic patterns and sign systems” [1]. Source)


(The photographs “Plantimal I-VI”, which are pictures of clones of Edunia. Despite of that, the difference between the flowers highlight the fundamental fact: “All life is singular” [1]. Source)

In light of the explosion of biotechnology in recent years, Kac’s works are particularly relevant. A Brazillian-born artist, he is known for his cutting-edge works in telepresence and bio art, and was the recipient of the Golden Nica Award in 2009 [2]. His interest lies in “the philosophical and political dimensions of communication processes”, which manifests in the tendency of his work to “encourage[s] dialogical interaction and confronts complex issues concerning identity, agency, responsibility, and the very possibility of communication” [2]. In particular, two of his works points in roughly the same conceptual direction as “Natural History of Enigma”, namely: Genesis (1999) and Alba (2000), which is also known as “GFP bunny”.


(Genesis. Collection Instituto Valenciano de Arte Moderno (IVAM), Valencia, Spain. Source)

In “Genesis”, a verse in the Bible is translated into a DNA sequence, which is then inserted into a bacteria and displayed in a gallery. Viewers of the work are given the ability to shine ultraviolet light upon the bacteria, which increases the rate at which the bacteria mutate, and thus changing the encoded phrase when it is translated back into English. In the description of this project in Art and Electronic Media, Edward Shanken points out that “Genesis raises questions about the shared responsibility of individuals to care for other living beings – in this case, to control environmental factors that are known to cause genetic mutations” [3].


(Alba. Source)

In “Alba”, the green fluorescent protein, originally found in jellyfish, is inserted into an albino rabbit, which causes the rabbit to emit a green glow when placed under UW light. In this piece, the work of art is not only the rabbit itself, but encompasses the whole process of how the rabbit is created, the conversation surrounding it, and the reaction which it generates in the viewer. In his essay “GFP Bunny”, Eduardo Kac says that “what is important is the completely integrated process of creating the bunny, bringing her to society at large, and providing her with a loving, caring, and nurturing environment… it places genetic engineering in a social context in which the relationship between the private and the public spheres are negotiated” [4].

In speaking of his works, which may be called “transgenic art”, Kac emphasized that “[T]ransgenic art…offers a concept of aesthetics that emphasizes the social rather than the formal aspects of life and biodiversity, that challenges notions of genetic purity, that incorporates precise work at the genomic level, and that reveals the fluidity of the concept of species in an ever increasingly transgenic social context” [4]. At times when the biotechnology field’s capacity to manipulate and control living organisms is advancing at an incredulous pace, it is necessary that society engage in a conversation about what is acceptable, and what ought to be acceptable. The conception of species, the sanctity of living things, and even the notion of human as steward over other species, are all based upon a belief system of time past. Regardless of whether these ideas are true or not, one must at the very least consider the position of such ideas in the contemporary social context. Society changes, and norms of a previous times may be completely and wildly inapplicable in the present time. When the change that is and will be coming concerns the nature of life, the questions are profound ones. As in “Genesis”, if one has control over other species, what should one do? As in “Alba”, a transgenic organism is a living organism, with all its associated physical and emotional belonging, what ought we to do with it? And as in “Natural History of Enigma”, if another species can take on some properties of a human, then where does human stand in this?

The conversations initiated by these works may be regarded as revolving about philosophical and ethical questions, but they are also nevertheless conversations about social and cultural values. When Marcel.lí Antúnez Roca allowed the audience to control his body in Epizoo (1995), or when Stelarc grafts onto himself a robotic arm in Third Hand (1981), it is about fundamentally the same question as Edunia: what are we, as a society, to do when technology transcends the pre-existing ego, body, and species.


Weisman Art Museum, Minneapolis, April 17 to June 21, 2009.


[1] Eduardo Kac. “Natural History of the Enigma”.

[2] KAC BIO – 600 words.

[3] Edward Shaken. Art and Electronic Media. Page 42

[4] Eduardo Kac. GFP Bunny.


The Painting Fool


The Painting Fool is a computer program and artwork developed originally in 2001 by Simon Colton and researchers at the Computational Creativity Research Group at Imperial College, London. Colton’s ultimate goal for The Painting Fool was to create a piece that is seen as purely creative, what he refers to as “Computational Creativity”; he believed that to achieve this The Painting Fool was required to have behaviors that are skillful, appreciative, and imaginative.

Skillful behaviors deal with the mechanical physical process of painting. The Painting Fool is able to take a scan of a photograph and determine the individual colors used within the composition, grouping them together in similar palettes. In addition The Painting Fool records the different pastel, pencil, and brush strokes as well as an analysis of the animation of strokes. The Painting Fool is able to utilize this data to make full replications of paintings but also takes what it’s learned about the way brushstrokes rotate and blend on a page and implements its new knowledge when making new creative pieces. [1]


The Painting Fool’s appreciative aspect encompasses reading human emotion and finding a way to translate that on to a canvas. Utilizing facial recognition software from the Department of Computing at Imperial College, The Painting Fool is able to detect facial features that correspond with certain human emotions. Using this data, The Painting Fool then picks materials such as medium, colors, intensity that most clearly objectify the human emotion. For example when a user exposed feelings of disgust to the camera, the program would use bleak gray colors and techniques that distorted and elongated skulls and other facial features. See above. [2]

Imaginative behavior was the third element that Colton saw as key to making The Painting Fool a computationally creative artist. Colton’s third stage is always evolving and encompasses techniques of Artificial Intelligence from multiple sources and engineers. Utilizing generative techniques such as an evolutionary process of recognizing repeated elements, The Painting Fool is able to create unique objects that don’t exist in reality. For example when creating landscape scenes The Painting Fool uses an addition of contextfree software, a program that autonomously draws unique shapes (such as trees) in proportion to how they relate to other objects. [3] 


Colton’s ultimate goal for The Painting Fool is that he is able to capture the essence of human creativity in a program that individually creates unique pieces of apparently human art. In their 1997 article on Robotic Art Kac and Antunez Roca  state “Robots… are themselves capable of perceiving the public, responding accordingly to the possibilities of their sensors… Robots are capable of inventing new behaviors”. [4] The Painting Fool is just a series of computer code, but is also a Robotic Artist according to Kac and Roca because of its ability to not only perceiving the public, but its ability to use that data in order to create new behaviors, in the form of painting, that models that data. They go on to further comment on the human factor: “The interplay that occurs between all involved in a given piece (robots, humans, etc.)  defines the specific qualities of that piece.” In 1997 Kac and Roca claimed that the human-robotic interaction is key to developing specific aesthetic qualities of an artwork, an aspect which is essential to The Painting Fool when determining how to represent emotion through painting.

Another artist that is working at the boundaries of robotic art is Harold Cohen, with over 40 years of work on his autonomous drawing machine AARON. AARON, like The Painting Fool follows a set of very simple rules to begin a drawing, and then from experience decides the next best step to making a unique composition. AARON’s system of self-organization is akin to The Painting Fool’s three key behaviors in the sense that they both learn to adapt from past decisions and observations to make a piece even more unique. Cohen and Colton both have the same goal of idealizing human creativity in their autonomous artists; their hope is that by giving the program choices of what to do, but not clarifying what the decision should be that the robot itself is able to capture the creativity of human aesthetics.


[1]: http://www.thepaintingfool.com/index.html

[2]: http://www.thepaintingfool.com/papers/colton_dimea08.pdf

[3]: http://www.thepaintingfool.com/about/index.html

[4]: Edward A. Shanken, Art and Electronic Media,p.246

* All images courtesy of http://www.thepaintingfool.com/

Sound Bites City

Sound%20Bites%20City%202.jpgSound Bites City is a collection of sound art from 19 sound artists from around the world at the RMIT University in Australia.  Exhibited at the RMIT University Gallery, the sound art is played through speakers that are scattered around a round physical structure that culminates with a raised, faux, grassy knoll.  This space is called the Torus.   RMIT University describes the Torus as “an exciting circular structure that has been specially designed by architects, engineers and sound designers based in RMIT’s SIAL unit to provide the best way to exhibit sound.” (RMIT link) the Torus is constructed of overlapping red cedar boughs that form a canopy over a thin fabric skin.  It is intended to be “an airy shell, a sonic tunnel, a pioneering spacio-acoustic marvel” (RMIT). 

Sound%20Bites%20City.jpg The space of sound art is designed to be interactive, in a subtle way.  The viewer/listener can wander around the exhibit, finding different spaces in which to listen to the sound or pick up headphones and have a personal experience.  Viewers can also watch the the composition of the work in progress on screens if they choose.  The work transitions from the passive act of hearing, something our brain does automatically, to listening, an act that requires thought, concentration, and interaction. 

While some have said “Visuality overwhelms aurality in the cultural balance of the senses” (Kahn) this exhibit uses the visual, three dimensional space, to accompany and aid the viewer in experiencing the sound art.  RMIT Gallery director Suzanne Davies, who co curated the exhibit, has stressed the importance of the visual component in Sound Bites City, especially as sound art displayed in a gallery space.  Davies says the Tarus is “An invitation to slow down and listen-up is rare, which is what the Torus encourages us to do – sit, listen and play with our sonic imaginations”  the space is as important as the sound art pieces it contains.

Some of the sound art pieces exhibited at Sound Bites City include Sonia Leber and David Chesworths 5000 Calls and Bill Fontana’s Kirribilli Wharf (shown below)

Sound art is a vibrant form of new media, and a controversial one.  In John Cages, 4’33, also known as the silent piece, a player  “sits at the piano and marks off the time in three movements, all the while making no sound” (Kahn) To an unsuspecting audience member this seems ridiculous, how can one have sound art with no sound? Sound art plays with our perception of sound beyond music, incorporating silence and noise to encourage listeners to think.

Resources Consulted

RMIT University, Sound Bites City

Kahn, D., “John Cage: Silence and Silencing” in Noise, Water, Meat (2001)

Mechanical Parts


Mechanical Parts is a series of illustrations drawn by a robot programmed by artist Matthias Dörfelt. His machine, named ‘Robo Fabers,’ rolls across the paper and creates drawings autonomously, while adhering to a set of… interesting guidelines Dörfelt programmed it with. As he told Gizmodo, “basically [Robo Fabers] is doodling connectors—think of it as robot genitalia—as a first step of planing reproduction.” The machine randomly arranges various permutations of components as specified by Dörfelt. Most noticeably, shapes clearly resembling hairy and shorn testicles, phalluses, sperm, holes, and eggs are are visible in the drawings pictured above.

The drawings are at once both familiar and alien to us, as most of us are quite familiar with juvenile drawings of private parts from bathroom graffiti or our middle school days, but always of the same human parts we have to work with. This new, random, creative element of the work allows it to break out of the traditional conception of reproductive parts by employing many elements of the third stage of cybernetic art as outlined by Robert Mallary:

Stage three requires that the computer, within limits sharply defined by the programmer, make not only routine discriminations but decide alternative courses of action governing the whole system. But these decisions are made within guidelines sharply defined by the programme. The instructions given the computer might be something on this order: if A, do B, but only if C has not first been determined by D, and then only if a certain quantity of E exceeds that of F by such-and-such a proportion, and so on. For this kind of programming the programmer must know precisely what the computer has to do; either it is instructed exactly as to how it is to go about the job with no false starts, fumblings or blind alleys allowed, or a situation must be set up which enables the computer to make sound decisions over the long pull on a statistical basis, while leaving to the sculptor the final decision as to which of the computer’s productions have merit and are usable. (Shanken, 204)

By allowing the robot to make its own decisions within his guidelines, Dörfelt has created a machine with outlines new possibilities for reproductive parts that are outside of the traditional human conception. Like a physical embodiment of certain parts of his thoughts, the robot is able to create new artwork, of which Dörfelt is the only human creator, effectively extending his artistic lifespan beyond his physical lifespan. Of this, Dörfelt says, “My artistic practice will change over the years; Robo Faber’s way of drawing won’t. In a way, it is an offspring of my creative thinking and practice, frozen in time.” Interestingly enough, relationship is again very close to what is outlined in the fourth stage of cybernetic art by Mallary:

At stage four the computers’ heuristic capabilities enable it to remember the crucial form decisions and preferences of the sculptor, while checking these against his previous performances or against more objective ‘consensus’ (i.e., collectively arrived at) criteria filed away in the stored programme. A heuristic programme of this sort can be thought of as embodying the sculptor’s long- term preferences, style and personality, or at least his personality as an artist, and opens up the possibility of the posthumous production of art – i.e., after the sculptor’s death, the computer, loaded with a lifetime of accumulated programming, at the flick of a switch churns out works ‘in the manner of.’ (Shanken 204)

This simultaneous occurrence and mixing of elements of cybernetic stages was anticipated by Mallary himself, and his predictions for the relationship between human artist and computerized creator has turned out to be surprisingly accurate, seeing as he outlined it in 1969.

The relationship between Mechanical Parts and Thijs Rijkers’ Suicide Machine Sand is a fairly inverse one, as the nameless machine in Sand is designed to unquestioningly carry out the job of ceasing its own function, whereas Robo Faber in Parts is tasked with imagining myriad ways in which mechanical creations could feasibly reproduce. Interestingly enough though, both pieces make the viewer empathize with mechanical objects that are not in fact alive, wether it be the facing the bleakness of an existence that must by design come to an end in Sand, or by identifying with the determination of Robo Faber to find a way to reproduce. Both artists have created a sense of life and emotion where there is none, and in this way both are using art to push their viewers’ thoughts toward the possibilities of robotic life in the 21st century.



Shanken, Edward A. “Documents: Robert Mallary: Computer Sculpture: Six

Levels of Cybernetics.”  Art and Electronic Media. London: Phaidon, 2009. 209. Print.

Machine with Concrete

Arthur Ganson's Machine with Concrete stands out because it breaks the unwritten creed of machines. Almost all machines we build are created to make things go faster. In factories, machines build products with precision much faster than human workers could. In our pockets, our cell phones convey messages from person to person over vast distances in the blink of an eye and our airplanes can cary us distances that would have before taken months to traverse in a matter of hours. As Eduardo Kac noted in 1993:

…we see the continuity of real time overcoming the contiguity of real space. We experience this new condition daily, when we are in the office or studio and activate by remote control our answering machine at home to retrieve recorded messages or when we withdraw money from an automatic teller machine that communicates with a remote computer. The impact of fiber optics, monitors, and video cameras on our vision and our surroundings will go beyond that of electricity in the nineteenth century: ‘In order to see,’ Virilio observes, ‘we will no longer be satisfied in dissipating the night, the exterior darkness. We will also dissipate time lapses and distances, the exterior itself. (Shanken 234)

This immediacy of machines making space and time irrelevant by serving us with what we want with unmatched immediacy can be observed in almost every aspect of modern life. Machine with Concrete, interestingly enough, also invites the user to question the relevancy of real space and object permanence by performing the reverse of the basic function of most machines: by taking a relatively fast and immediate action and converting it into an inconceivably slow one. Using a series of twelve pairs of worms and worm gears, it slows down the rotation of a motor spinning at 200 revolutions per minute by 1/50th with each gear pair, resulting in the last gear turning at a speed of 1 revolution every 2.3 trillion years. This is a speed that is far beyond imperceptible, it is so slow that it is for all intensive purposes a non-factor within our temporal frame of reference. A clear demonstration of how slowly it is turning, the last gear is embedded in a concrete block so as to be completely immobile, and yet the main motor still turns at its brisk 200 rpm. To give an idea of the amount of time it would take for any sort of measurable rotation of the last gear to occur, it would take approximately 6.4 billion years of continuous operation of the motor for the last gear to turn by one degree. Given that the sun itself will die and destroy all life on earth as we know it within 4-5 billion years , it is safe to say that the machine itself will be destroyed by either planetary annihilation or simple decay of its own materials over time before the motion at one end came into conflict with the solid concrete at the other.

By extending the quick motion of a small, relatable object over such a massive time frame, the machine extends our thoughts to a galactic timescale. The linear physical construction of the machine also aids in this by providing a visual metaphor, each new gear pair is an exponential slowdown of motion, and our minds attempt to keep up with the ever more subtle speeds the gears turn at as our eyes travel from motor to cinderblock.

This work has an odd relationship with Thijs Rijkers' Suicide Machine Sand, as both works engage in a motion that in theory will lead to the ceasing of that motion, and yet Sand results in a conceptual temporal self containment, a machine that will end itself and cease its own existence in this world, and Concrete points to the exact opposite: a motion that is naturally conceived of as a single unit (one rotation) which forces us to consider the insane amount of time which it would take to complete. Even though both pieces focus on unsustainable motion, one calls the viewer to view its life as relatively small and feel sympathy for it, and the other inspires feelings of awe and personal insignificance in the face of such a monumental task being undertaken by such a physically small and immediately present device.


Shanken, Edward A. "Documents: Eduardo Kac: Telepresence Art" Art and Electronic Media. London: Phaidon, 2009. 234. Print.

“The Animal, Vegetable, Mineralness of Everything” by Ken Feingold

(A short description of this piece has been posted here on AEM-OC.)

"The Animal, Vegetable, Mineralness of Everything" by Ken Feingold is an animatronic sculpture that consists of three talking heads surrounding a bulbous object. Each head has a distinct "personality", and they make conversations between themselves and about the object at the center. The piece was on view from September 10 through October 23, 2004, at the Grossman Gallery of the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Massachusetts [1].

In the piece, all three of the heads have very similar external appearances, but each of them was assigned a certain set of vocabulary, habits, so as to give the impression of distinct "personalities". As per the title of the piece, the heads are called "animal", "vegetable", or "mineral" mind, while the black sculpture in the center is simply referred to as "that thing". The conversations between the heads revolve around their fear of each other, the nature of violence and the sculpture in front of them. They would seem to hear and respond to each other, carrying the conversation forward in a jaggedly manner, but over time, each head would revert back to its own particular set of interests. The responses of each head are generated in real-time by a computer program using a predefined set of rules, which also take into account the "personality" of each head. As a result, every time the heads talk, the dialog will be different, but the speaking style will be consistent for each head.

Ken Feingold is an American artist whose works examines "the relation between the self and the real, as reflected in media images and new technologies". His recent works consists of "a series of complex interactive installations that merge advanced interactive computer applications with theoretical strategies" [2]. Speaking of his approach to art, Feingold stated:

"My approach to A.I. questions has more to do with the nature of human communication and personality, and thinking about our behaviors that, in some ways, involve no thought at all – especially the interior psychological dimensions, and the mechanisms of the unconscious mind.  I am interested in the gaps that open when communication fails, when words have no meanings but only associative values, when memory has only a few moments duration, when we are 'on automatic'."[3]

Then speaking specifically about "The Aminal, Vegetable, Mineralness of Everything", Feingold identified his inspiration as coming from ventriloquism, in which he is quite taken with the "ability to project a personality into something…the psychoanalytic notion of projection where you take something and put it into somebody else". The heads were deliberately constructed so that they are realistic enough for people to relate to them, while remaining patently artificial so as to take on a certain "uncanniness": they look like they might be human, but then there is no human that could look like that. The experience of a viewer being in the space of this work is one of active interpretation and projection: "You are projecting your mind into the scene somewhere" [4].


The piece does not only converse with itself, but it also forms a mental dialog with the viewer, in which it acts as "behavioral trigger" that activates in the viewers "responses of a polemical or social kind encouraging in the audience changes in individual or group behaviour by questioning preconceptions, destroying illusions by means of the shock of unfamiliar, absurd or incongruous imagery" [5]. Humankind has the tendency to ascribe the particular features of our own thoughts onto other objects, or in other words, anthropomorphize other entities. The conversation between the talking heads in this piece is no more than algorithmically generated snippets of data, but a viewer might not even hesitate to project onto the heads certain internal mental processes that may or may not be present in the electronics of the piece.

In fact, this very question of consciousness has been formalized as a test for artificial intelligence, known as the Turing test. In this test, a panel of judge will interact with a human subject, and then a computer program, through a text interface. The task of the judges is then to determine which is the human, and which is the computer program. A computer program is said to have passed the Turing test when the judges cannot distinguish it from a real human, that is, the judges' choices are no better than a random pick. Evidently, this is a test about communications, what it tells us about the party that it is being conversed with, as well as the party that initiated the conversation.

Having mentioned the Turing test, there is a difference between the work here and the ability of computers as examined in the Turing test. A comparison with another of Ken Feingold's work might illuminate this divergence of ideas. In 1999, under the commission of the Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art in Helsinski, Feingold created a piece called "Head". This piece is essentially a realistic human head that can engage in conversations with visitors, and whose neuroses (the piece), or conversational flaws, were used to great effect in instilling a certain "personality" to the isolated head [3].


(Head. Photo: Pirje Mykkanen, The Central Art Archives, Finland)

In the piece just described, the visitors can be compared to a judge in a quasi-Turing test, in which the identity of the other conversationalist is revealed to be a computer program, but it still attempts (and very well succeed) to inspire the viewer to anthropomorphize the piece. In "The Animal, Vegetable, Mineralness of Everything", the actual conversation happens between different parts of the piece while the viewer plays the part of a bemused onlooker, who nonetheless is somewhat unsettled in recognizing his/her tendency to project a psychological dimension to the objects. The fact that the heads engage in empty conversations based simply on context-less rules and non-sequiturs might matter less than that they are communicating.

[1] BIG RED. Ken Feingold @ SMFA. Big Red and Shiny. Web. November 4th 2013.
[2] Ken Feingold Bio. Art and Electronic Media.
[3] Ken Feingold. The Subject of Artificial Intelligence. October 2002.
[4] Matthew Gamber. A conversation with Ken Feingold. Big Red and Shiny. Web. November 4th 2013.
[5] Roy Ascott. The Cybernetic Stance: My process and purpose. Leonardo. Vol 1. Pg 105-112. 1968.

Suicide Machine Sand

Suicide Machine Sand is a work from artist Thijs Rijkers which explores the concept of self destruction in in a maner that is both thought provoking and highly unsettling. Its function is to slowly tilt a small plate on which rests a pile of sand. The sand pours into its own gearbox, wearing down and ultimately destroying the same gears that cause the plate to be slowly tilted downward.


The work both embodies and exceedes Laszlo Moholy-Nagy’s description of the new role of sculpture in his 1928 work, The New Vision, where he proposes:

[…] Examples of […] sculpture, which do not depend on […] an illusion are, for the present, difficult to find. Such sculpture must effectively be kinetic as well, since only through the action of opposed forces can it be brought to balanced rest, to equipoise. […] An actual realization of equipoised sculpture can be made through the application of magnetic forces, or with electric remote control. […] To the three dimensions of volume, a fourth – movement – (in other words, time is added). […] In sculpture: from mass to motion. (Shanken 193-4)

Suicide Machine Sand fits Moholy-Nagy’s description of a transition in sculpture away from implicit motion created by static visual cues, an illusion as he calls it, and toward actual motion that works with the other components of the piece to create the sculpture's aesthetic. Suicide Machine Sand is as the title states, a machine, a word which implies a mechanical object built with purpose, one that's identity is inextricably tied to functionality. Because of this functional identity, its action, the motion with which it caries out its purpose becomes its defining component. When viewing most any machine the purpose it serves causes the viewer to think of its creator, and why and how they built it, and consider how the object in front of them reflects the mind that brought it into being. Because Suicide Machine Sand's sole purpose is to unmake its own making, it is stripped of a practical use: if its goal is to destroy itself, wouldn't it have been more efficient had it never existed at all? Attention is drawn to the machine rather than the creator, and the viewer is more likely to empathize with the former than the latter. We do not innately understand what would drive someone to build something that serves only to destroy itself, but we are very familiar with issues related to purposelessness, questioning the meaning of ones own existence, and self destruction. We identify more with the machine than its human creator, something that is relatively uncommon in non-anthropomorphic mechanical art. Perhaps more heart rending is Rijkers' Suicide Machine Saw, which has the same purpose of self destruction as Sand but much more violently turns a crank which pulls a saw over its own motor. While Saw is more direct and immediately affecting, some may find that Sand hits closer to home, as we as humans do not often violently and immediately destroy ourselves, but Sand's slow and incremental death can be viewed as a metaphor for the human condition itself.

Again, since its only purpose is to destroy itself, Suicide Machine Sand's entire being is a part of the action of its own destruction. The entire point to every piece of the machine is to bring an end to its own operation, an idea that blurs the boundaries between spatial and temporal self containment. The sculpture, like many artworks, is self contained within a particular space, and its only action is upon itself. It exists independent of the rest of the world, save a power source. It stands out from the majority of kinetic sculpture however, in that its own actions bring themselves to a close, meaning it in a way turns itself off in the most jaring way possible. It brings thought to the human condition, as we ourselves are born with a built in expiration date with our shortening telomeres and weakening bones, as well as the greater structure of human society, which may would call self destructive (a sentiment particularly popular during the cold war era). In this respect it is not unlike Jean Tinguely’s Homage to New York, a machine that operated so vigorously it tore itself apart. Suicide Machine Sand however, is more direct, as instead of ensuring its own demise as a by product of its operation, its function is to create its own demise. Humanity has long been plagued by visions of bringing itself to ruin, and we are resultingly morbidly fascinated with the concept of self destruction, particularly at the hands of our own creations. Perhaps this work can be viewed as an alternative to that future, maybe it asks of us if it would not be better to have our machines destroy themselves rather than be the death of us.


Shanken, Edward A. "Documents: Laszlo Moholy-Nagy: The New Vision" Art and Electronic Media. London: Phaidon, 2009. 193-4. Print.

Systems Burn-Off X Residual Software

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Les Levine’s Systems Burn-Off X Residual Software was also intended to be fully interactive:

The original installation at the Phyllis Kind Gallery in Chicago was comprised of 1000 copies of each of 31 photographs taken by Levine at the March, 1969 opening of the highly publicized ‘Earthworks’ exhibition in Ithaca, New York … Most of the 31,000 photographs, which documented the media event, were [according to the catalogue] ‘randomly distributed on the floor and covered with jello; some were stuck to the wall with chewing gum; the rest were for sale’ … Levine conceived of the 31,000 individual photos as the residual effects or ‘burn-off’ of the information system he created – as the material manifestation of software.

Source : http://systemsart.org/halsall_paper.html

Grand Theft Avatar

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Watch a film clip of Grand Theft Avatar here : http://www.secondfront.org/Performances/Grand_Theft_Avatar.html

Second Front robs the Linden Treasury acting as the “currency liberation army.” In a live performance at the San Francisco Art Institute as part of the “From Cinema to Machinima” panel, we impersonated the members of the panel, walked in on Patty Hearst, the receptionist, grabbed the loot and freed it. In a final act of desperation, we rode H-bombs, Slim Pickens style into the sunset.





Last Riot 2 : The Bridge

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Enthusiastically received at this year’s Venice Biennale (Russian Pavilion), Last Riot 2 presents the viewer with a world of fantasy landscape mutated and frozen in time. Inspired by the work of Baroque masters such as Caravaggio, AES+F explore contemporary heroism in an era when everything, including war, is sanitized. The heroes of the “Last Riot” are androgynous teenagers; existing in an animated virtual world where they are devoid of judgment and ideology.

In this new world, even real war appears to work as a video game; paradisiacal and cataclysmic images exist as one, no difference can be discerned between victim and aggressor; no pain or blood is evident. In a landscape that varies from arctic to desert to mountainous, scattered with everything from pagodas and chalets to Ferris wheels and palm trees, AES+F’s Heroes rumble with knives, swords and clubs, battering and cutting each other but never actually making contact. Behind them all eras collide: 1930s aircraft, futuristic monorails and tanks from World War I create a perverse Modernist fantasia.

Formed in 1987 as AES, the group originally consisted of the three members Tatiana Arzamasova, Lev Evzovich, and Evgeny Svyatsky. They were joined in 1995 by Vladimir Fridkes, transforming into AES+F. The faceless, corporate styling of the group’s moniker and the collaborative efforts that subsume individual concerns into a group identity have created an environment in which a project can avoid issues of personal history and focus on a critical engagement with contemporary society.


Text source : http://www.artnet.de/galleries/exhibitions.asp?gid=185075&cid=127446


Last Riot 1 on Art and Electronic Media : http://artelectronicmedia.com/artwork/last-riot


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“Genesis” (1998/99) is a transgenic artwork that explores the intricate relationship between biology, belief systems, information technology, dialogical interaction, ethics, and the Internet. The key element of the work is an “artist’s gene”, i.e., a synthetic gene that I invented and that does not exist in nature. This gene was created by translating a sentence from the biblical book of Genesis into Morse Code, and converting the Morse Code into DNA base pairs according to a conversion principle specially developed for this work. The sentence reads: “Let man have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.” This sentence was chosen for its implications regarding the dubious notion of (divinely sanctioned) humanity’s supremacy over nature. Morse Code was chosen because, as first employed in radiotelegraphy, it represents the dawn of the information age — the genesis of global communications.


The initial process in this work is the cloning of the synthetic gene into plasmids and their subsequent transformation into bacteria. A new protein molecule is produced by the gene. Two kinds of bacteria are employed in the work: bacteria that have incorporated a plasmid containing ECFP (Enhanced Cyan Fluorescent Protein) and bacteria that have incorporated a plasmid containing EYFP (Enhanced Yellow Fluorescent Protein). ECFP and EYFP are GFP (Green Fluorescent Protein) mutants with altered spectral properties. The ECFP bacteria contain the synthetic gene, while the EYFP bacteria do not. These fluorescent bacteria emit cyan and yellow light when exposed to UV radiation (302 nm). As they grow in number mutations naturally occur in the plasmids. As they make contact with each other plasmid conjugal transfer takes place and we start to see color combinations, possibly giving rise to green bacteria. Transgenic bacterial communication evolves as a combination of three visible scenarios: 1 – ECFP bacteria donate their plasmid to EYFP bacteria (and vice-versa), generating green bacteria; 2 – No donation takes place (individual colors are preserved); 3 – Bacteria loose their plasmid altogether (become pale, ochre colored).


Source : http://www.ekac.org/geninfo.html


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Developing the real-time version of TechnoSphere gave us the opportunity to show the creatures in their context. Providing a graphic window onto the TechnoSphere virtual world is a first step towards highlighting the importance of environment in shaping the life forms that inhabit it.

In April 1999 we installed the first of our real-time 3D systems at the National Museum of Photography, Film & Television at Bradford, UK. Wired Worlds is a new gallery at the recently refurbished Museum and showcases a number of interactive digital art works, with the aim of using them to highlight recent technological developments. The installation at Bradford enables the visitor to see in real-time that which has been hidden behind closed doors.

Our remit for re-working TechnoSphere for the Museum was to make it highly visual, fast, fun and easily accessible. In this version the users create a creature, from an extended palette of textured body components, which they can then see in real-time, interacting with other creatures and the environment.

The system uses networked PCs to enable users to design creatures using a touchscreen interface and to view the Alife populated world simultaneously on large projection screens. The touchscreens are used to design creatures and to select which creature to view and subsequently to control the virtual camera (to pan, tilt and zoom in on the selected creature or to navigate a free flight through the world).

Source : http://www.janeprophet.com/old-website/technosphere.html


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The surface inspiration for n-Cha(n)t was a strong and somewhat inexplicable desire to hear a community of computers speaking together: chattering amongst themselves, musing, intoning chants… It is probably significant that my father is a retired Anglican minister, and that I spent many Sundays in my youth fascinated by the subtle shiftings of voices speaking in unison… the sudden sibilance of shared s’s… the slight variations with words forgotten or older versions preferred.


So n-cha(n)t is a community of “Givers of Names” linked by a network. They intercommunicate, and through doing so, ‘synchronize’ their individual internal ‘states of mind’. When left uninterrupted to communicate amongth themselves, they eventually fall into chanting, a shared stream of verbal association. This consensus unfolds very organically. The systems feel their way towards each other, finding resonance in synonyms and similar sounding words, working through different formulations of similar statements until finally achieving unison.

Each entity is equipped with a highly focussed microphone and voice recognition software. When a gallery visitor speaks into one of the microphones, these words from the outside “distract” that system, stimulating a shift in that entity’s ‘state of mind’. As a result, that individual falls away from the chant. As it begins communicating this new input to its nearest neighbours, the community chanting loses its coherence, with the chanting veering towards a party-like chaos of voices. In the absence of further disruptions, the intercommunications reinforce the similarities and draw the community back to the chant.

Source : http://www.davidrokeby.com/nchant.html



Colloquy of Mobiles

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The English cyberneticist Gordon Pask conceived the Colloquy of Mobiles for the 1968 exhibition Cybernetic Serendipity held at the ICA in London. It was a reactive, educable, computer-based system composed of five mobiles. By way of light and sound, the rotating elements suspended from the ceiling communicated with each other, independent of external influences. Using flashlights and mirrors, the people at the exhibition could nevertheless take part in the conversation between the machines. With this installation, Pask brought to a conclusion his idea for an «aesthetic potential environment».

To give significance to the communication between the machines, Park designed the «Colloquy of Mobiles» as a social system. At the same time, the form of communication that he conceived referred unmistakably to a sexual analogy: hung from the ceiling were two «males» and three «females». After a phase of inactivity, the females (made of fiberglass) began to glow more intensely and the three males emitted a ray of light. When the ray of light struck the mirror inside the female mobile’s structure, by way of rotating the mirror, she tried deflecting the ray back at the free-hanging light sensors above and below the male’s aluminum body. The goal of communicating was to achieve this moment of satisfaction, and the mobiles learned to optimize their behavior to the point where this state could be reached with the least possible use of energy. With the help of flashlights and mirrors, the exhibition visitors could assume the roles of the mobiles and influence the learning process.

article by Margit Rosen on http://www.medienkunstnetz.de/works/colloquy-of-mobiles/



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The art of Norman White incorporates many hybrid features. His background in science and electronics, his intense curiosity and deep interest in innovation and logic-based machines are all reflected in his work. Menage represents a Canadian benchmark in kinetic electronics and it is White’s first robot. According to White “Menage was inspired by the work of W. Grey Walter, a neuroscientist who studied the effects of brain damage to soldiers returning from battle during WWII… trying to find links between the parts of the brain that were damaged and the effect it had on behavior. He was one of the first researchers to employ EEG-like technologies. I first came upon Walter’s work in a 50’s issue of Scientific American, where he demonstrated surprisingly complex emergent behavior among simple robots (he called “tortoises even managed to simulate conditioned reflexes. Walter’s robots exhibited a complex attraction/repulsion behaviour.” In Menage, White adopted similarly complex configurations. The four robots are moving back and forth on ceiling tracks and are programmed to recognize and respond to light sources on other robots including a fifth robot placed on the floor – with unpredictable dynamic results.


Source : http://www.ninaczegledy.net/?id=13

Increasing the Latent Period in a System of Remote Destructability

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Starting with Increasing the Latent Period in a System of Remote Destructability show in Japan, Survival Research Labs is among the first civilians to develop and operate a multi-user, teleoperated firing system using free software deployed over the web.

The idea for a show where users could operate a machine remotely was first conceived 3 years ago by Mark Pauline and Eric Paulos with Karen Marcelo implementing the server and client components in a way that provides for concurrent, anonymous remote destruction, making SRL the first to offer the public remote control over potentially lethal devices over the web. A proposed event for 1995 was to have the air launcher set up at Blasthaus and operated over the web by anonymous users.

“We are definetly going to set up the launcher here at SRL.” and “construct a 28 ft. dia. target ring for the future air launcher Internet hookup.”

          -from communications dated September 1995

More on Art and Electronic Media : http://www.artelectronicmedia.com/artwork/flying-false-colors

Rhythm 0

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Marina Abramović is best known for her performance pieces, in which she tries to explore what is possible for an artist to do in the name of art.  Her best known piece was the recent “The Artist Is Present,” in which she sat motionless for 736.5 hours over the course of three months, inviting visitors to sit opposite her and make eye contact for as long as they wanted.  So many people began spontaneously crying across from her that blogs and Facebook groups were set up for those people.


This performance showed just how easy it is to dehumanize a person who doesn’t fight back, and is particularly powerful because it defies what we think we know about ourselves.  I’m certain that no one reading this believes the people around him/her capable of doing such things to another human being, but this performance proves otherwise.

Source : http://andrewfishman.tumblr.com/post/37878716069/marina-abramovic-rhythm-0-1974-marina


MARINA ABRAMOVIĆ: In the performances, I create a structure in which I can go far into the physical limits that a body can take. I don’t want to die. That is not the purpose. I want to experience the edge and how much I can take to this edge. There was one performance when the public took all the responsibility. This was the piece Rhythm 0, in which the control was not in my hands anymore. The other possibility is with the borderline between the public and the performer. When the public is participating, there are all kinds of possibilities for them to intervene and change the flow of the performance and change the meaning of the performance. But in my case, I don’t want to give the public that much freedom. There was one piece with Ulay in which a person from the public attacked me with a karate jump during the performance. We arranged this just to provoke that question: what is the borderline between the public and the performance?

Source : http://www.museomagazine.com/MARINA-ABRAMOVIC

Cut Piece

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This piece was performed in Kyoto, Tokyo, New York and London. It is usually performed by Yoko Ono coming on the stage and in a sitting position, placing a pair of scissors in

front of her and asking the audience to come up on the stage, one by one, and cut a portion of her clothing (anywhere they like) and take it. The performer, however, does not have to be a woman.



People went on cutting the parts they do not like of me finally there was only the stone remained of me that was in me but they were still not satisfied and wanted to know what it’s like in the stone.


P.S. If the butterflies in your stomach die, send yellow death announcements to your friends.


Source : http://onoverse.com/2013/02/cut-piece-1964/

Third Hand

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A mechanical human-like hand that is attached to my right arm as an additional hand. It is made to the dimensions of my real right hand.
Cosmetic Cover

Cast in latex from my right hand. It was thought necessary to protect the sensors and to provide adequate friction for gripping. It was never permanently worn over the mechanism because for performance purposes only the visual motion and operation was important.

Aluminium, stainless steel, acrylic, latex electronics, electrodes, cables and battery pack.

Pinch-release, grasp-release, 290 degrees wrist rotation (clockwise and counter-clockwise), and a tactile feedback system for a sense of touch.
Control System

The motions of the hand are controlled by the electrical signals of the muscles (EMG), typically from the abdominal and leg muscles for independent movements of the three hands. Simply, signals from muscle contractions are picked up, pre-amplified, rectified and sent to the switching system.

Source : http://stelarc.org/?catID=20265


11th Street Suspension

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Most of these performances occurred in private gallery spaces or remote locations, with no audience except the group assisting the artist- such as Sitting / Swaying: Event for Rock Suspension and Seaside Suspension. The two most public performances which attracted large audiences were the Street Suspension in NY over E. 11th street and the City Suspension in Copenhagen. After being hosted up 30 metres all that could be heard was the whooshing of the wind, the whirring of the crane motors and the creaking of the skin.

Source : http://stelarc.org/?catID=20316

Graphic Method Bicycle

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The Graphic Method Bicycle is a performance with the features of an installation. A nude man sitting on a bicycle is pulled forwards extremely slowly by a motorized winch and steel cable at a speed of a fifth of an inch per second on a track some thirty feet long. As he moves, the cyclist is lifted up off the saddle by one of the pedals extremely slowly. This forces him to make a normal dismounting movement. At the same extremely slow speed, he must swing his leg over the saddle without touching it or leaning on it. In fact, slow-motion movement of the kind usually seen only on film or video is here executed in real life.

As a research project, The Graphic Method Bicycle aims to record exactly what happens when one tries to bring back to life a photographically recorded movement – in this case, a man getting off a bicycle (as if, through a reversal of time, an insect trapped in amber is suddenly released). This objective is exactly the opposite of what Etienne-Jules Marey sought to attain in 1885 when he dissected flowing movements into sequences of snapshots and fanned them out onto a single photographic plate, a so-called plaque fixe. This method – which Marey called “chronophotographic” – enabled the researcher to analyze the procession of frozen moments of motion at his leisure. He could now literally lay his hands on a two-dimensional replica of formerly three-dimensional, spatial movement wherever and whenever he pleased.



Source : http://v2.nl/archive/works/the-graphic-method-bicycle

Hands Writing (Evolution)

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Stelarc : I think it’s also a result of my being found wanting between the realm of my production on the one hand and trying to articulate my ideas on the other. If you’re doing performances simply to illustrate your ideas, that doesn’t work! And if you’re trying to justify your actions through a prosthesis of textual analysis, that doesn’t work either. But there is sometimes an uncomfortable feedback loop when your performances start generating ideas, so it’s not always easy to resolve or to evaluate what’s affecting what. Unfortunately, what often happens is that people are critiquing your work more from what you’ve written than what you’re doing. Often they haven’t actually seen a performance. Then you’ve got other issues like ‘art and the audience’, and ‘art and entertainment’. Doing the performance with three hands writing EVOLUTION at the Maki Gallery in 1982 was very tedious for the people who saw that, if we evaluate it as an entertaining action. The idea was that one can simultaneously write with three hands, each hand writing a separate letter at the same time. Not being ambidextrous, this was quite a feat for me. Sometimes one image can encapsulate a whole performance – and that’s what happens with the EVOLUTION event. But that was probably not entertaining for the audience. On the other hand, there’s EXOSKELETON,  the six-legged walking machine. This is a 600 kilogram robot that walks on six legs. It walks backward, forward, sideways, it squats, it lifts, it turns. This performance can’t be captured by one image alone. People are often unamazed because you can see much faster and fancier robots done with digital animation. But what’s interesting for me is not simply going more and more virtual but rather exploring the interface between the actual and the virtual. I’m trying to investigate whether a physical body can function in a virtual immersive environment and whether an intelligent avatar might be able to perform in the real world by possessing a physical body. They are the sorts of issues that are more interesting – rather than moving increasingly into artificial intelligence and virtual reality.


Read the full interview here : http://www.joannazylinska.net/probings-interview-with-stelar/ 

Life Squared

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Watch a video on this piece at : http://lib.stanford.edu/women-art-revolution/life-squared


Life Squared (L2) was a project carried out under the auspices of the Stanford Humanities Laboratory, with Lynn Hershman Leeson. It began as part of the “Presence Project” under the direction of Prof. Michael Shanks, in association with the Metamedia Lab in the Stanford Archaeology Center and with the How They Got Game Project, under the direction of Dr. Henry Lowood. The project was partially funded by a grant from the Daniel Langlois Foundation. The goal of the project was to re-animate the existing archive of Lynn Hershman Leeson, housed in the Department of Special Collections in the Stanford University Libraries. The work was substantially completed in early 2007 under the direction of Henrik Bennetsen, who worked closely with Hershman Leeson to build the elements of Life Squared in the virtual world, Second Life. The project “island” was called NEware. The completed project integrated selected elements from the Hershman archive in a re-created virtual site based on Hershman Leeson’s first site-specific art work set in the Dante Hotel in San Francisco in 1972.

Source : http://lib.stanford.edu/women-art-revolution/life-squared


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CyberRoberta was conceived simultaneously with “Tillie, the Telerobotic Doll”. When they are exhibited together, each is programmed to pirate the others’ information, blurring their identities.

“Tillie, The Telerobotic Doll” and “CyberRoberta” are constructed so that cameras replace the dolls’ eyes: a video camera in the left eye, a web cam in the right eye. By clicking on the “eye con” on the right of each doll’s internet image, users can telerobtically turn that doll’s head 180 degrees, allowing visitors to her web site to survey the room she is in. Viewers in the physical space of the gallery can see themselves captured on the small monitor in Tillie’s environment via a mirror places in front of her. They also have the capability to send images back through the internet to the web page.

The color video camera in the left eye records exactly what is in front of the doll. By looking at the world through the eyes of Tillie, viewers become not only voyeurs but also virtual cyborgs, because they use her eyes as a vehicle for their own remote and extended vision. Tillie’s recorded mirror images the face and becomes a mask for multiple expressions of identity capable only through global connectivity.

“A few months after the first cloned sheep named Dolly was announced to the public, I created two telerobotic dolls. “The Dollie Clones” refers to these two identically programmed ‘sisters’. Tillie was the older sibling. Her birth was slow and painful. However, the brain could be duplicated into a family of humanoids that could be fleshed out through the Net.” – Lynn Hershman Leeson


Source : http://www.lynnhershman.com/tillie-and-cyberroberta/

More on Art and Electronic Media Online: http://artelectronicmedia.com/artwork/roberta-breitmore

Micro Macro Music Massage

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“My personal favorite artistic offering to public experience is the reinsertion of fun for fun’s sake into the social. I know that sounds simple and naïve. It is. Vibrating chairs are titillating. The idea of helping strangers in public liven each other’s bodily experience shamelessly in a temporary suspension of moral standards is my call to duty. It’s something to do while waiting for the AIDS vaccine. At the same time, the conjoining of the microcosm and the human body, so often forgotten in the workaday world, will be emphasized. A simple assay should prove growth of cells due to vibration, which can be extrapolated to human tickling and vibro-erotism in general. This sensual experience could abstract our importance as self-centered entities by focusing on bounce as a form of transient existence. In other words this is art and tech lite, public hedonism and unashamedly so.”


This is an excerpt from Adam Zaretsky’s project proposal to the Daniel Langlois Foundation, January 31, 2001, cited with permission of the artist, n.p.n at http://www.fondation-langlois.org/html/e/page.php?NumPage=263




Opera Sextronique

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Yalkut’s film is the only record of Nam June Paik’s legendary 1967 performance Opera Sextronique in New York, which was interrupted by the arrest of cellist Charlotte Moorman, who was performing topless. The incident led to Moorman’s subsequent notoriety as the “Topless Cellist.” This restaging of the first two movements of Opera Sextronique, performed by Moorman and filmed by Yalkut in a studio, was shot immediately after the arrest incident to present at Moorman’s trial. (The judge did not permit it to be shown in court.)

Source: http://www.eai.org/title.htm?id=14359

Ajna Spine

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Ajna Spine 222

Michael Rees


Michael is a an artist who has harnessed the power of digital tools to create a wide range of sculptures, installations, animations and interactive pieces. Michael has exhibited in a range of venues domestically and internationally including the Whitney Museum of American Art, The Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art, The Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art.

Source : http://spalterdigitalartcollection.blogspot.com/2011/05/michael-rees-sculpture-digital-master.html

Ajs222.gifSculptor Michael Rees (b. 1958) uses rapid prototyping to create objects that borrow from medical anatomy for an exploration of what he refers to as ‘spiritual/psychological anatomy’. In Rees’s Anja Spine series, anatomical elements and organic forms, such as a spine with ears protruding from it, are woven into complex sculptural structures, which raise questions about the scientific validation of a sensuality that transcends the known structure of the body. Rees uses science and its imagery as a way of weaving systems, both analytical and intuitive. ‘Anja’ is the Hindu term for the sixth of the Chakras, energy centers that are openings for life energy and vitalize the physical body to bring about the development of our self-consciousness. The word ‘Anja’ means ‘command’, in the sense of spiritual guidance and, while still part of embodied existence, is associated with the most subtle elements.

Source : http://newmedia.opinionware.net/docs/114text_PaulCh1.pdf

The Giver of Names


David Rokeby’s ongoing work The Giver of Names, found on page 79 of Art and Electronic Media, examines our language and the subconscious associations our brain makes when identifying an object. The computer captures an image of an object that has been placed on a pedestal in the gallery space by a visitor. The computer then analyzes the photograph using preprogrammed or previously “learned” metaphors to describe it and make associations that may or may not make sense to us. The computer then creates a sentence to describe the object and a word cloud of all of the associated words. Rokeby states that this project “highlight[s] the tight conspiracy between perception and language, bringing into focus the assumptions that make perception viable, but also biased and fallible, and the way language inhibits (or alternately enhances) our ability to see" [2]. This same system is used in Rokeby’s later work n-Cha(n)t to drive an entire community of robots [1].


[1] Edward A. Shanken, Art and Electronic Media, 2009.
[2] www.personal.psu.edu

Kelly Heaton : Reflection Loop

Kelly Heaton : Reflection Loop (1972)



Software designer Steve Gray and artist Kelly Heaton created a very unique experience with children’s old toys, called the Reflection Loop: The pool. [1] Heaton became very familiar with analog electrical engineering in the late 90’s, which ignited the spark to creating the remainder of her work. The way it works is simple, but the ideas behind her work have great meaning. The basis of this work is the collection of hundreds of the 1998 world famous toy, Furby, and created an interesting, interactive work of art. These Furbys are disassembled and striped down to the basic circuit board and the face of the toy. All that truly remains from the original toy form was the eyes, mouth, and inner workings of the face. 


[2] The faces are placed in a custom cut wall, assembled together with a unit of multiple sensors, motors, and audio triggering. The Furbys' faces are not all turned the same way. They are scattered equally across the wall, and presented with multiple holes for sensors to pick up the users movement. As the user interacts with the wall of Furbys, or know as the Reflective Loop, the sensors command the Furbys to follow the path of the user and interacts with them using sound, and visuals. If you wave your hand across the face of a Furby, The eyes will open, and some sounds may occur.


This notion of having an immersive, interactive experience with the view was exactly what Heaton had in mind for her work of art. [3] Taking the users/viewers attention and allowing them, not only to interact with the piece, but also be apart of the art form. Without the user’s interacting with the Furby covered wall, there would be no motion or change to the piece. It would simply be a static structure. Most of Heaton’s other work shares this same theory. She also is seen using a lot of other children’s toys implemented into her work.





[4] For example, some of her other famous works, The Surrogate and the N-Trophy employment (seen above) the famous Elmo and allows the audience to interact with motion, and human forms. The Reflection Loop reminds me of works by Marita Steina. Her work, Allvision, produced in 1976, created this closed circuit video captures that allowed viewers to feel encapsulated under surveillance. [5] The entry, which includes Steina’s work, can be seen HERE.

Linked Furby Audio:

Audio 1Audio 2Audio 3Audio 4Audio 5 / Audio 6


[1] Edward Shanken, ARt and Electronic Media (Themes & Movement), (New Yourk: Phaidon Press, 2009) p. 31

[2] Reflection Loop Diagram LINKED HERE

[3] Reflection Loop LINKED HERE

[4] Kelly Heaten Extended work: LINKED HERE

[5] Steina's Allvision (entry on AEM): LINKED HERE

Rearming the Spineless Opuntia

2340_jones_beap.jpgAmy Youngs offers a critique of the way we treat our natural resources with her piece Rearming the Spineless Opuntia found on page 39 in Art and Electronic Media [2]. In this piece, while critiquing the careless genetic alteration of the naturally occuring environment, she attempts to create a solution for it as well. She says that “because humans find it to be an economically valuable plant, we will cultivate it and protect it, however, [she] began to imagine what might happen if humans abandoned the Spineless Opuntia and it were left to fend for itself” [1]. Her solution, in this case, is to develop a surrogate protective body for this plant that, if left alone, could not defend itself anymore. The surrogate body consists of “an armor that will close when people approach and open up again when people move away from it” [1]. Combining motion sensors and robotic mechanisms, Youngs provides a defense against “would-be predators,” utilizing the ideas and technologies behind works like Senster and SAM in a defensive way rather than a directly interactive way [2].



[1] https://archive.org/details/rearmingTheSpinelessOpuntiaRoboticCactusSculpture

[2] Edward A. Shanken, Art and Electronic Media, 2009.

30 Days of Running in Place

th?id=JN.r%2bdutxcnZzFvg28k%2b%http://www.artpractical.com/uploads/reviews/_1246_1246/AhmedBasiony.jpg2bcT%2bw&Ahmed Basiony‘s 30 Days of Running in Place was first presented at the Why Not exhibition in Cairo in 2010. Basiony performed daily for 30 days in a room enclosed in transparent plastic outside the Cairo Opera House and Palace of Arts – The artist jogged around the room wearing a plastic suit fitted with digital sensors that gathered and wirelessly transmitted data on his movements and physiological parameters – This information was in turn processed and projected on a large screen as an ever-changing visual and aesthetic reflection of the artist’s physical state.

The work was shown again posthumously as a five-channel installation in Egyptian Pavilion at the Venice Biennale 2011. Here, 30 Days was juxtaposed with videos recorded by Basiony during his participation in the January revolution, until he was killed by gunshot wounds inflicted by Egyptian Police snipers on January 28, 2011. The videos intermingled, creating a poignant counterpoint between aristic performance and political action.

According to Egyptian Pavilion curator Aida Eltorei, the project “marks a specific time when the artist ran in place in anticipation of countering [and recording] a digital reaction; the aim was to observe how through the act of running in place – with sensors installed in the soles of his shoes and on his body [to read levels of body heat] – a visual diagram of codes could be extracted, and to visually witness the movement of energy and physical consumption be born in an image.”2

Eltorei underlined that the choice of Basiony for this year’s Venice Biennale was not motivated by the fact that he is a martyr of the January 25 Revolution. “The Biennale honours artists who create something new in the contemporary fine arts field; artists who have original artistic propositions and sustain activity in their visions and projects,” Eltorei asserted.2

Pavilion executive curator Shady El Noshokaty considers 30 Days “one of the greatest creative concepts presented by Basiony – by him and about him – during the last period of his life.  It certainly marks its significance as a critically acclaimed work, and the first of its kind in new media arts in the Middle East.”2

1. http://artculture.com/contemporary-art/venice-biennale-2011/ahmed-basiony-egyptian-art

2. http://english.ahram.org.eg/NewsContent/5/25/13655/Arts–Culture/Visual-Art/Venice-Biennale-exhibits-Egyptian-artist,-Ahmed-Ba.aspx

See also http://www.ahmedbasiony.com/

Artist’s biography:  http://artelectronicmedia.com/biography/ahmed-basiony-biography




Polaroid is a short silent video piece by Susan Mendes Silva which deals with the concepts of void, detachment and disembodiment. The piece consists of a photograph of Silva slowly fading into view, reminiscent of a photo being developed. There is an inability to associate with the photo as Silva is depicted against colorless walls while wearing colorless clothes and keeping her eyes shut, which forces us away from any sort of inferring of meaning or message via color or expression. What it leaves the audience to interpret from is simply the process of emerging from a white void and the notion of disembodiment and existence; the audience is left with a vague impression of when Silva actually comes into “existence”, be it when she is first observable, when she has fully appeared or if she ever is actually brought into true existence; as there is nothing to define or associate her with other than her perceivable form. The video itself can be viewed on Silva’s official webpage, posted below.

[1]: Official artist statement

A Bedtime Story

A Bedtime Story

A Bedtime Story is a performance piece by Susan Mendes Silva that utilizes a digital medium to create an artificial set of intimacy. As the title of the piece suggests, the piece involves a Silva herself reading a bedtime story, the interesting part being that this is done over Skype. Silva instructs that the audience (whoever requests the performance) to contact her via email or phone to specify a specific time, date and story to be read to them. It is also asked that stories be listened to comfortably in a dark room. The interesting take away from this artwork is the personal atmosphere that it inevitably takes on, as Silva takes on a role that would normally only be associated with a parental figure. It is entirely possible that the audience member(s) may fall asleep during the performance (which has a maximum runtime of 30 minutes), which would implicitly show a sense of trust between these two strangers. Audience members do reserve the ability to halt the story at any time if they begin to feel uncomfortable, which allows for an interesting dynamic potential for outcomes, reactions and scenarios.

[1]: Official artist statement

[2]: Blog post with additional details of work

zero@wavefunction: nano dreams and nightmares

Victoria Vesna is a new media artist, professor at the University of California, Los Angelos, and co-director of the Design | Media Arts department in the School of the Arts. James Gimzewski is a nanoscientist, and professor at UCLA. The two are working on interdisciplinary research, combining art and science to create work that makes nanoscience more comprehensible to the public.

Zero@wavefunction is a collaborative project that manifests in several forms: installation projections, typographic art, and live streaming webcams installed in a nanotech lab in UCLA. The installations (illustrated above) are interactive video projections of indiviual molecules called buckeyballs floating around a screen that can be manipulated by casting shadows onto the screen.  Motion sensors detect the movement, and so the buckeyballs respond. The imagery is meant to respresent the relationship between scientist and the molecule. The typograpgic art consists of words typically associated with nanotech, found in newspapers and publications. Some include Haikus, and are meant to demonstrate how little people really know about this science. The webcams allow viewers to enter the world of a nanotechnology lab, to quite literally invite people into the science sphere. 

The couple are interested in promoting the developement of a more involved relationship between science and art. 

Artist’s Site: http://victoriavesna.com/index.php?p=projects&item=9

UCLA Art|Sci Center: http://artsci.ucla.edu/?q=about



Karl Sims is well known for his artificial life computer animations. Karl Sims is the creator of GenArts, a software solutions and visual effects company for advertising agencies and media companies. Karl Sims work titled Galapagos is an interactive piece that simulates evolution of virtual organisms. In this work computers simulate abstract organisms. Viewers select the organisms they find most appealing and these organisms survive, and grow, mutate, and reproduce. As the evolutionary process goes on new and interesting organisms are created. This work is interesting because viewers act as the evolutionary pressure that dictates which organisms are allowed to survive and pass on their genetics.

Dictating the genetics of  an organism is becoming increasingly common place and while controlling the genetic makeup of an organism may seem unrealistic, this ability is becoming a reality. The abstract organisms are shown here: http://www.karlsims.com/galapagos/galapagos-images.html.





Metropolis II

Metropolis II – Chris Burden

Scaled version of a future LA. 1,100 miniature vehicles and 18 roads, buildings etc. 

In Chris Burden’s Metropolis II, a future LA transportation system is imagined. Cars zooming at scaled speeds of 240mph through the streets of LA. According to Burden, “the cars won’t have drivers in them, just passengers.” This 3d model of LA poses interesting potential which may or may not be the case in the near future. It’s no doubt true that transportation in this way would be much quicker, but how much do we really want a computer to be doing for us? Is driving our car too much? 

Google has been working on a driverless car for the last few years which has impressed people worldwide. Nevada has recently added a state law which allows autonomous cars throughout the state. Will this be reality or just fantasy?  



Google Driverless Car





Experiments In Touching Color

Jim Campbell Site

Jim Campbell had started out in film, software engineering, and in the tech world, but now his artistic projects has geared him to incorporate a lot of sound, light, and LED installations.  His art works are described to “toy with the human brain,” of perception, time and memory.(1)  Much of his influence comes from his own fascination with the mind and behavior in a primitive realm of hunting and survival.  His body of works ponder over the resolution of digital images and how organisms, like us, are able to interpret them as something real or recognizable and the inverse effect.  His most current works include Glimpse 2007, Broken Window 2010,  Exploded View 2010- 2011 and many others that are showcased in prolific museums and site-specific installations.

Using tools such as a video camera, projector, and electronic sensors, Experiments in Touching Color is a part of “Memory Works,” which are a series of Campbell’s body of works from the later 1990’s.  This piece, in particular, stands on a small pedestal that is placed in a dark room, with a glass screen covering the pedestal.  A video projector is embedded in the interior and an image is projected onto the glass rear screen from below.  Viewers are invited to place their hands on the glass screen, which allows them to interact and see the dynamic changes of the fading of an image into a color and the volume increase of sound.  The color change is determined where the participants hand is placed on the image or pixel location.  When participants choose to move their hands along the glass screen, the colors coorespondingly change as well.  The incorporation of sound signifies the movement and direction of the hands and what and how the image is changing.  This installation piece seems to develop a new sense of color perception or “imagine that they have developed a new sense.  One that involves the hand and the eye.” (2)  This project was concerned with rhythms and colors, which are fundamental elements in perception and comprehension.  However, it was not about the isolated abstract rhythms, or abstract color fields, instead, it focuses on the association we make between a sequence of colors, images, and events. (3) 



Hannes, Leopoldseder and Schopf, Christine. Cyber Arts 2000: International Compendium ARS Electronica: 2000.1967.