Tag Archives: SciArt

ArtSci Salon hosts Basic Necessities—connectivity and cultural creativity in Cuba, a talk on Oct 3, 4:30-6:00 pm ET at York University

It’s like the flood gates have opened and I am being inundated with event notices. The latest is from Toronto’s (Canada) ArtSci Salon (again). From a September 21, 2022 notice (received via email),

Basic Necessities
Connectivity and cultural creativity in Cuba

A public lecture by Nestor Siré
With online participation by Steffen Köhn

Join me in welcoming Nestor Siré.
Nestor Siré is a multimedia artist based in Cuba. His projects and collaborations explore unofficial methods for circulating information and goods, such as alternative forms of economic production, and phenomena resulting from social creativity and recycling, piracy, as well as a-legal activities benefitting from loopholes. Siré will discuss some of his recent creative works in the Cuban context.
His “Paquete Semanal” is an offline digital media circulation system based on in person file sharing to provide a solution to connectivity and infrastructure failure in Cuba. “Basic Necessities”, a recent collaboration with Steffen Köhln, portraits the dynamics of the informal economy in Cuba as it unfolds in Telegram groups and analyses the eclectic and creative uses of product photography within this digital context.
Köhln will join him in conversation via zoom.

October 3, 2022
4:30-6:00 pm [ET]
Room YH 245
Glendon Campus [York University]
2275 Bayview Ave
North York,
ON M4N 3M6
Directions

Nestor Siré
(*1988), lives and works in Havana, Cuba.
www.nestorsire.com
Nestor Siré’s artistic practice intervenes directly in social contexts in order to analyze specific cultural phenomena, often engaging with the particular idiosyncrasies of digital culture in the Cuban context.
His works have been shown in the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes (Havana), Queens Museum (New York), Rhizome (New York), New Museum (New York), Hong-Gah Museum (Taipei), Museo de Arte Contemporáneo (Mexico City), Museo de Arte Contemporáneo, Santa Fe (Argentina), The Photographers’ Gallery (London), among other places. He has participated in events such as the Manifesta 13 Biennial (France), Gwangju Biennale (South Korea), Curitiba Biennial (Brazil), the Havana Biennial (Cuba) and the Asunción International Biennale (Paraguay), the Festival of New Latin American Cinema in Cuba and the Oberhausen International Festival of Short Film (Germany).

Steffen Köhn
(*1980), lives and works in Berlin.
www.steffenkoehn.com

Steffen Köhn is a filmmaker, anthropologist and video artist who uses ethnography to understand contemporary sociotechnical landscapes. For his video and installation works he engages in local collaborations with gig workers, software developers, or science fiction writers to explore viable alternatives to current distributions of technological access and arrangements of power.
His works have been shown at the Academy of the Arts Berlin, Kunsthaus Graz, Vienna Art Week, Hong Gah Museum Taipei, Lulea Biennial, The Photographers’ Gallery and the ethnographic museums of Copenhagen and Dresden. His films have been screened (among others) at the Berlinale, Rotterdam International Film Festival, and the Word Film Festival Montreal.

I tried to find out if this event will be webcast or streamed but was unsuccessful. You can check the ArtSci Salon website, perhaps they’ll post something closer to the event date.

Two art/sci exhibitions, one name: Sensoria from Sept. 16 – Oct. 30, 2022 in Gdansk, Poland and in Toronto, Canada

I got a notice (via email) from Toronto’s ArtSci Salon about Sensoria: The Art and Science of Our Senses 2022. This looks interesting and it is confusing as to which site is hosting which installations/art pieces. It starts nice and easy and then … Here’s more from the notice,

Sensoria: the Art & Science of Our Senses is a multi-site exhibition and symposium that bridges LAZNIA Centre for Contemporary Art (LCCA) in Gdansk, Poland and Sensorium: Centre for Digital Arts & Technology at York University in Toronto, Canada.

Held simultaneously in both locations, the exhibition and symposium will engage multi-sensory research that revitalizes our sensory connections to our surroundings, through and despite technological tools, networks and latencies.

The exhibition component is co-curated by distinguished curator Nina Czegledy (Agents for Change: Facing the Anthropocene, 2020 & Leonardo/ ISAST 50th Celebrations, 2018) and Sensorium director Joel Ong.  Czegledy brings together an international network of artists and scholars who explore the intersection of art, science and the senses. Sited concurrently in both Poland and Toronto, the exhibition will explore the dissociative potential of contemporary technologies on the senses, treating it not only as a social crisis but also an opportunity for creative play and experimentation. It aims to engage a conversation about the senses from the perspective of art, but also science, incorporating artists that straddle the boundaries of knowledge production in a variety of ways.

The event will be complemented by a workshop by Csenge Kolozsvari.

Kolozsvari brings together somatic practices (crawling side by side, drawing, moving with bags full of water, walking backwards, playing with breath, touching textures, voicing etc.) with the concept of the schiz, cut, or interval, following philosophers Deleuze and Guattari in their book Anti-Oedipus. The aim is to build practices that do not presuppose where bodies begin and end, and to agitate the habitual narratives of bodily borders and edges as solid and knowable.

The symposium leverages the exhibition content as the starting point for more in-depth conversation about the connective aesthetics of everyday sensing and the knowledge-creation potential of artists and scientists collaborating in innovative ways. The socio-political turbulences we have experienced worldwide during the last decade have created unprecedented social and personal strife. While connections are sustained now amongst virtual networks that straddle vast spaces, how might we consider the sharing of intimate senses through smell, touch, and bodily movement as a form of mutual support? The symposium explores questions such as these with keynote presentations by Ryszard Khuszcynski [I believe this is the correct spellling: Ryszard Kluszczyński], Chris Salter and David Howse, as well as roundtables between artists and scientists, and performances by Csenge Kolozsvari and York University’s DisPerSions Lab (led by Doug Van Nort). All aspects of the symposium will be presented with virtual components, so as to allow both in-person engagement in Toronto and virtual presence in Gdansk and elsewhere.

Now for details about the Gdansk portion, from the LAZNIA Centre for Contemporary Art (LCCA) event page, (Note 1: This is quite lengthy. Note 2: If you follow the link to the LCCA event page, you may need to click the English language option [upper right hand corner of the screen] and, then, scroll down to click MORE at the bottom of the left text column.)

Dates of the exhibition: 16 September–30 October 2022
Location: CCA Laznia 1 oraz CCA Laznia 2
Curator: Nina Czegledy

Exhibition: September 16-October 30, 2022
Places: Laznia 1 ( Jaskółcza 1) and Laznia 2 (Strajku Dokerów 5), Gdańsk

Opening: September 16, 2022
– time. 19.00 (Laznia 1, Dolne Miasto)
– time. 20.30 (Laznia 2, Nowy Port)

During the vernissage, we provide transport by bus from Łaźnia 1 to Łaźnia 2 and back.

Artists:
Guy van Belle | Karolina Hałatek | Csenge Kolozsvari | Hilda Kozari | Agnes Meyer-Brandis | Gayil Nalls | Raewyn Turner and Brian Harris | Artur Żmijewski

Sensoria, The Art & Science of Our Senses

Curatorial Statement

Nina Czegledy

Introduction

Sensoria, The Art & Science of Our Senses a multi-site project is focused on multisensory perception in the arts and the sciences. The cross-disciplinary initiative explores our sensory world through scientific, social, cultural and scholastic interpretations. The exhibitions, performances and the symposium link LAZNIA Centre for Contemporary Art (LCCA) in Gdansk, Poland (1) and Sensorium: Centre for Digital Art and Technology at York University, Toronto, Canada (2) in a cross-institutional and inter-cultural collaboration. The participation of international artists in the exhibition and symposium span the globe from New Zealand to Finland to the Czech Republic and reflect on the effects of recent ecological and socio-cultural alterations on sensory organisms in humans and other species.

We perceive the world through our senses, yet for a long time the senses were treated as independent perceptual modules. Contemporary research confirmed that our senses are fundamentally interrelated and interact with each other (3). Moreover, our perception of visual, auditory or tactile events change as a result of information exchange between receptors (4). The impact of radical changes such as the constraints of the COVID 19 Pandemic caused extensive psycho-emotional stress and has affected every aspect of our life from geopolitics to economies to the arts and sciences including sensory awareness (5). Considering implications of COVID-19 for the human senses Derek Victor Byrne noted that initial work has shown short- and likely longer-term negative effects on the human senses (6). Curatorial reflection of these issues presented in the last years became essential.

The way that we perceive our environment via our sensory systems has been frequently a source of controversy concerning one of the basic characteristics of our existence. (7).

As David Howes observed ”The perceptual is cultural and political, and not simply (as psychologists and neuroscientists would have it) a matter of cognitive processes or neurological mechanisms located in the individual subject” (8)

With the changing notions of the constitution of sentient beings a revision of knowledge – led to a closer engagement with the traditional experience by indigenous peoples. The benefits of Nature on our sensorial being are well known, however it is important to remember that our attitude to, and representation of Nature is always closely linked to political, religious, environmental and social considerations. In investigating sensory awareness the impact of the geographical, cultural and social context on individual sensory perception cannot be underestimated (9).

Curatorial research and development of the Sensoria project since 2019 was aimed to present the theme in an unconventional way. International artist residencies, workshops, presentations and thematically related round table discussions in collaboration with local Polish academic and corporate research institutions were offered before the Pandemic in 2019 and 2020. Strategically, the exhibitions now focus on a “return” to the sensory capacity of the body after the last two and a half years of telematic and virtual modes of communication that have biased the audio-visual spectrums of sensory experience.

While the estrangement of the senses have been exacerbated by technologies in the way media elements have contributed to the dissociation of the senses from one another and a subsequent bias of audio-visual content in our digital and virtual environments, the SENSORIA exhibition adapt what Caroline Jones (10) has described as the “creatively dissociated self”. In her landmark exhibition “Sensorium” of 2006 , she considers the dissociative potential of contemporary technologies on the senses as an invitation to engage in creative play and experimentations around this prospect. In this way, SENSORIA builds on the unique interests of the artists curated around the olfactory, tactile and sonic senses; and explores the tensions of telematic/virtual co-presence over two geographically separate galleries.

The exhibition’s primary goal is to create a broad visibility for the wide variety of art project concerning sensory perception. It aims to engage a conversation about the senses from the perspective of art, but also science, incorporating artists that straddle the boundaries of knowledge production in a variety of ways. In Poland, the exhibition linked established European artists with local Polish ones; the Toronto hub similarly links international artists in the main hubs with local artists. In this way, the exhibition forges networks across continents and ideas, bringing a range of different perspectives together to explore how our globalized world has both linked and disconnected us from one another. In addition, being situated simultaneously in both sites, Sensoria also builds on the unique interests of the artists curated around the olfactory, tactile and sonic senses; and explores the tensions of telematic/virtual co-presence over two geographically separate galleries. Sensoria artists, curated through a collaborative process with the project’s lead curators and team members, have been invited to considered site-specific adaptations of their internationally renowned artworks. In this way, the goal of the project is to revitalize our sensory connections to our immediate surroundings, through and despite technological tools, networks and latencies; and to share in a collective experience and discussion of them. In addition, the symposium component hosted by Sensorium at York University focuses on a “return” to the sensory capacity of the body after the last two and a half years of telematic and virtual modes of communication that have biased the audio-visual spectrums of sensory experience. The constraints of the Pandemic have precipitated our current estrangement from our sensuous surroundings, and with the gradual and tentative reopening of regulations in North America, Europe and the world this Spring, we expect a resurgence in a desire for people to engage once again with the multi-sensory sensorium, prioritizing the senses of smell, touch and taste that have broadly been neglected in collective experience. The Sensoria symposium will feature artists, curators and theorists through a series of keynote lectures, performances and artist panels.

Sincere thanks to the LAZNIA Team, especially Lila Bosowska and Aleksandra Ksiezopolska for our curatorial collaboration in the difficult times of the last three years. Sincere thanks to Ryszard Kluszczyński for advising the Sensoria project.

Respectful acknowledgements to Jadwiga Charzynska Director of Laznia.

Last but not least deepest thanks to Prof. Yu-Zhi Joel Ong for his role in expanding Sensoria into an international cross-institutional collaboration.

Reference

1 LAZNIA Centre for Contemporary Art (LCCA) in Gdansk, Poland

2 Sensorium: Centre for Digital Art and Technology at York University (Sensorium) Toronto, Canada. https://sensorium.ampd.yorku.ca/

3 Burston, D and Cohen J. 2015 Perceptual Integration, Modularity, and Cognitive Penetration In: Cognitive Influences on Perception: Implications for Philosophy of Mind, Epistemology, and Philosophy of Action (pp.123-143). Oxford University Press

4 Masrour F, Nirshberg, G, Schon Nm Leardi J and Barrett Emily Revisiting the empirical case against perceptual modularity Front Psychol. 2015; 6: 1676. Published online 2015 Nov 4. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2015.01676

5. Tasha R Stanton, T,R and Spence Charles. The Influence of Auditory Cues on Bodily and Movement Perception. Front. Psychol., 17 January 2020 Sec. Perception Science https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2019.03001

6. Byrne, V Effects and Implications of COVID-19 for the Human Senses, Consumer Preferences, Appetite and Eating Behaviour: Volume I Foods. 2022 Jun; 11(12): 1738. Published online 2022 Jun 14. doi: 10.3390/foods11121738

7. Mc Cann, H. Our sensory experience of the pandemic https://pursuit.unimelb.edu.au/

8 Howes, D Architecture of the Senses. https://www.david-howes.com/DH-research-sampler-arch-senses.htm

9 D B Rose Val Plumwood’s Philosophical Animism: Attentive Inter-actions in the Sentient World Environmental Humanities 3(1):93-19

10 Jones C. The Mediated Sensorium. https://citythroughthebody.files.wordpress.com/2013/08/sensorium.pdf

Descriptions of the artworks presented at Sensoria:

Agnes Meyer Brandis Berlin based artist contributes One Tree ID and Have a tea with a Tree“ to the Sensoria exhibition. One Tree ID is a biochemical and Biopoetic Odour Communication Installation The project One Tree ID transforms the ID of a specific tree into a perfume that can then be applied to the human body. By applying it, a person can invisibly wear not just characteristics of the tree he/she is standing next to, but also use parts of its communication system and potentially have a conversation that – although invisible and inaudible by nature – might still take place on the biochemical level plants use for information exchange. VOC and Have a tea with a Tree provides a booking link to a personal video conference with up to 16 trees. The trees will participate in real time. Address for conference booking: www.teawithatree.com. The internet protocol is secured.

Polish artist Karolina Hałatek will present “Ascent” – a large-scale site-specific light installation that embodies a variety of archetypical and physical associations – from microscopic observations, electromagnetic wave dynamics, and atmospheric phenomena of a whirlwind to a spiritual epiphany. Most importantly, Ascent offers a unique immersive experience, that invites the viewer to become its central point, and transforms the perception of the viewer on a sensual level. The light and the fog create a monumental dynamic space that is participatory, the space that opens up a new dimension and directs the attention toward the bodily sensations in the explicit environment. The viewer is free to approach the work according to its own sensual response, but direct interaction can offer the potential to evoke a new perceptual imagination.

Bodylandscapes by Csenge Kolozsvari is a single channel video piece feeling-with the fascial planes (connective tissues) of bodies; thinking them beyond human scales and temporalities, as constantly emerging fields. The camera is a listening device for the softness of skin-talk; a composition of detailed skin-textures and close-ups of body parts that are imperceptibly transitioning into one another, following creases and swellings, creating landscapes in-the-making. The video is a proposition for remembering the ecological ways of our belonging, of other ways of knowing, connecting into the vastness that surrounds us and moves across us, of becoming-environment once again.

Artur Zmijewski a Polish artist asked a group of visually impaired people to paint the world as they see it. The result is compiled in Blindly a video with sound. Some of the volunteers were congenitally disabled; others became blind in their lifetime. In the film they draw self-portraits and landscapes, occasionally asking the artist for instructions or giving verbal explanation for their decisions. Their paintings are clumsy and abstract. It is however not the resulting works but the process of making them that is at the core of the film.

Hilda Kozari leads a 3 hour-long memory workshop with visually impaired participants and Emilia Leszkowicz a local neuroscientist coordinated with the Education Department of LAZNIA. The workshop is focused on, triggering smell memories and discussions of the scents and the memories triggered by them. Tactility is also a theme of this workshop for the visually impaired participants which is conveyed via felt discs in various sizes. From the different sizes of the discs it is possible to form the Braille verbs and messages.

The findings and results of the workshop material to be transferred on the Sensoria exhibition walls. The multisensory installation is accessible for visually impaired visitors during the exhibition. For other visitors for rethinking perception, enjoying the smell and touch of the installation and seeing the Braille signs as spatial, visually fascinating structure. It is hoped that this is an opportunity recognising the visually impaired as active members of the community.

Gayil Nalls from New York city brings her World Sensorium project to Sensoria World Sensorium which was officially part of New York City’s millennium event “Times Square 2000: The Global Celebration at the Crossroads of the World,” where for 24 hours around New Year’s Eve, the peoples and cultures of nations around the world were celebrated through sight, sound, and—with World Sensorium— scent. World Sensorium is a large-scale, transdisciplinary, olfactory artwork comprised of botanical substances formulated by country population percentages into a single global essence. The phytoconstituents are those most valued by humanity since ancient times, plants established through ethnobotanical research and a global survey process with world governments. Discussion of the World Sensorium link between psychology and olfaction, and the phenomena of odor-evoked memory follows. Individuals attending are invited to participate in ‘Experience World Sensorium:Poland “ and have a chance to dive beneath the insightful a fragmentary memoir of their own experience at a future date.

Raewyn Turner & Brian Harris, New Zealand based artists present Read Reed at Sensoria. Read Reed proceeds from the mythological story of the discretion of Midas’s hairdresser who, feeling that he may betray Midas’s trust, dug a hole in the earth and spoke into it whereby he laid his secret, only to have the secret broadcast to the world via the whispering reeds which grew over the hole. ReedRead relates to data misinterpretation, hidden secrets and the desire for vast wealth. The artists are using the story of secrets whispered into a hole in the earth and the inevitable leakage and exposure of secrets as a starting point. Data from any source including reeds swishing in the wind may be formed into letters and words that relate to digital capitalism and the obscuring of knowledge through the unknowns of ambiguity, uncertainty and risk. Both the clandestine nature of pervasive monitoring and the authorization for increasing the scope and breadth of collected information originates with NSA’s aspiration to sniff it all, know it all, exploit it all etc., and is part of creating the conditions for digital capitalism.

Guy Van Belle in collaboration with Krzysztof Topolski and the Gdansk University Choir present Fanfara Gdansk performance using a simple and open setup for the participatory visitors/performers. For centuries the arts were rather interested in the non-human expressions around or communication and phenomena that we faintly or hardly understand. To quote Paul Demarinis “Music is sound to my ears”. The sound score gives an indication of discrete and continuous time, pitches and amplitudes, complexities and silences, some combinatory ideas, etc. in the form of sounds you can listen to, sing/play along with it or counter, imitate and enrich it… The expressivity and performativity aims at providing a real time interpretation of the sound score.

The Fanfara Gdansk performance consists of a backtrack with recorded and computer generated birdsongs, which is transmitted over local FM, and received by the musicians on headsets from their phones, tables, portable radio receivers. All musicians are ‘singing’ along with the birdsongs, but they can also bring additional small handheld objects that produce sound: battery operated electronics; resonating objects, … some megaphones and small amplifiers will be available, but all wearable.
The singers from the choir move slowly in formation together with the additional musicians and participatory audience, towards the entrance of the exhibition. Any single movement from the musicians and the audience influences the position of the others.

There’s more about the Toronto portion of the exhibitions, etc. on York University’s Sensorium Centre for Digital Arts and Technologies’ events page, Note: This is where it gets a little confusing as it seems that some of these artists are displaying the same pieces in two different cities at the same time: World Sensorium has a version in Poland and a version in Toronto; Read Reed is in Poland and ReedRead is in Toronto; I’m not sure about One Tree ID, which seems to be in two places at once,

Courtesy: York University

SENSORIA: the Art & Science of Our Senses is a multi-site exhibition and symposium that bridges LAZNIA Centre for Contemporary Art (LCCA) in Gdansk, Poland and Sensorium: Centre for Digital Arts & Technology at York University in Toronto, Canada. Held simultaneously in both locations, the exhibition and symposium will engage multi-sensory research that revitalizes our sensory connections to our surroundings, through and despite technological tools, networks and latencies.

Register for the symposium Oct. 4–5, 2022: https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/symposium-sensoria-the-art-and-science-of-our-senses-tickets-418241681127.   

The symposium will also feature 2 keynote performances from 12:45pm EST each day:  The Power of the Spill by Csenge Kolozsvari Oct. 4, 2022, and Doug Van Nort Electro-Acoustic Orchestra Oct. 5, 2022. 

EXHIBITION

September 26 – October 14, 2022
Gales Gallery, York University
105 Accolade West Building,
86 Fine Arts Road, Toronto, ON 

Held at the Gales Gallery, the Sensoria exhibition will feature the works:

One Tree ID.  Agnes Meyer-Brandis,
SunEaters.  Grace Grothaus,
World Sensorium.  Gayil Nalls,
Emergent: A Mobile Gallery featuring “The Connection”, Michaela Pňaček,  Roberta Buiani, Lorella Di Cintio and Kavi
ReedRead.  Raewyn Turner/ Brian Harris 
Kinetic Shadows.  Hrysovalanti Maheras 
Marching Choir Guy Van Belle  

The exhibition is also open during Nuit Blanche as part of the AGYU’s Streams” project.

In addition, Csenge Kolozsvari will be leading the Schizo-Somatic Workshop on Oct. 3, 2022. Please click on the hyperlinks for separate registration. 

SYMPOSIUM

SENSORIA: The Art and Science of Our Senses symposium presents keynote lectures, discussions and performances around the connective aesthetics of everyday sensing and the knowledge-creation potential of artists and scientists collaborations. Registration link : https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/symposium-sensoria-the-art-and-science-of-our-senses-tickets-418241681127

Running from Oct. 4–5 (9am – 12noon EST), The symposium will feature keynote lectures by Ryszard Kluszcynski , Chris Salter and David Howse; roundtable discussions by the artists/theorists/scientists Agnes Meyer-Brandis, Gayil Nalls, Rasa Smite, Katarzyna Pastuszak, Grace Grothaus, Katarzyna Sloboda, Raewyn Turner/Brian Harris, Hilda Kosari [a web search suggests that Kozari is a more correct spelling] and Agnieszka Sorokowska.

The symposium will also feature 2 keynote performances from 12:45pm EST each day:  The Power of the Spill by Csenge Kolozsvari Oct. 4, 2022, and Doug Van Nort Electro-Acoustic Orchestra Oct. 5, 2022. 

In addition, Csenge Kolozsvari will be leading the Schizo-Somatic Workshop on Oct. 3, 2022. Please click on the hyperlinks for separate registration. 

Symposium Schedule:

Tuesday, Oct. 4: 9am – 130pm EST
9:00 : Introductions and land acknowledgement (Joel Ong)
9:05 : Introduction from Sensoria Curator (Nina Czegledy)
9:10 : Introduction from LAZNIA (Jadwiga Charzynska, Director)
9:30 : Keynote 1 —Professor Ryszard Kluszcynski
10:30 : Sensoria Panel 1 — Agnes Meyer-Brandis, Gayil Nalls, Rasa Smite, Katarzyna Pastuszak, Grace Grothaus (Discussant)
12:00 :  Lunch Break
12:30 : Keynote Performance 1 — Csenge Kolozsvari [Sensorium Flex Space] + Q&A
1:30 : End

Wednesday Oct 5th 9am – 130pm EST

9:00 : Introductions and land acknowledgement
9:10 : Curatorial presentation  (Toronto curatorial team)
9:30 : Keynote 2 — Professors Chris Salter and David Howse
10:30 :  Sensoria Panel 2 — Katarzyna Sloboda, Raewyn Turner/Brian Harris, Hilda Kosari, Agnieszka Sorokowska, Hrysovalanti Maheras (Discussant)
12:00 : Lunch Break
12:30 : Keynote Performance 2 — Doug Van Nort Telematic Orchestra  [DisPerSions Lab] + Q&A
1:30 : Ending Notes

Description: 

SENSORIA: the Art & Science of Our Senses is a multi-site exhibition and symposium that bridges LAZNIA Centre for Contemporary Art (LCCA) in Gdansk, Poland and Sensorium: Centre for Digital Arts & Technology at York University in Toronto, Canada. Held simultaneously in both locations, the exhibition and symposium will engage multi-sensory research that revitalizes our sensory connections to our surroundings, through and despite technological tools, networks and latencies.

The exhibition is co-curated by distinguished curator Nina Czegledy (Agents for Change: Facing the Anthropocene, 2020 & Leonardo/ISAST 50th Celebrations, 2018) and Sensorium director Joel Ong, with the support of assistant curators Eva Lu and Cleo Sallis-Parchet. Sensoria explores the intersection of art, science and the senses, bringing together an international network of artists: Guy van Belle, Roberta Buiani, Lorella Di Cintio, Grace Grothaus, Kavi, Hrysovalanti Maheras, Agnes Meyer-Brandis, Gayil Nalls, Michael Palumbo, Michaela Pnacekova, Raewyn Turner and Brian Harris. Sited concurrently in both Poland and Toronto, the exhibition will explore the dissociative potential of contemporary technologies on the senses, treating it not only as a social crisis but also an opportunity for creative play and experimentation. It aims to engage a conversation about the senses from the perspective of art, but also science, incorporating artists that straddle the boundaries of knowledge production in a variety of ways.

The symposium leverages the exhibition content as the starting point for more in-depth conversation about the connective aesthetics of everyday sensing and the knowledge-creation potential of artists and scientists collaborating in innovative ways. The socio-political turbulences we have experienced worldwide during the last decade have created unprecedented social and personal strife. While connections are sustained now amongst virtual networks that straddle vast spaces, how might we consider the sharing of intimate senses through smell, touch, and bodily movement as a form of mutual support? The symposium explores questions such as these with keynote presentations by Ryszard Khuszcynsk [Kluszcynski]i, Chris Salter and David Howse, as well as roundtables between artists and scientists: Agnes Meyer-Brandis, Gayil Nalls, Rasa Smite, Katarzyna Pastuszak, Grace Grothaus, Katarzyna Sloboda, Hilda Kosari [Kozari], Agnieszka Sorokowska, Hrysovalanti Maheras, Raewyn Turner and Brian Harris. All aspects of the symposium will be presented with virtual components, so as to allow both in-person engagement in Toronto and virtual presence in Gdansk and elsewhere. 

The event will be complemented by a workshop byCsenge Kolozsvari.  Kolozsvari’s Schizo-Somatic Session brings together somatic practices (crawling side by side, drawing, moving with bags full of water, walking backwards, playing with breath, touching textures, voicing etc.) with the concept of the schiz, cut, or interval, following philosophers Deleuze and Guattari in their book Anti-Oedipus. The aim is to build practices that do not presuppose where bodies begin and end, and to agitate the habitual narratives of bodily borders and edges as solid and knowable. 

Csenge Kolozsvari’s performance The Power of the Spill is a multidisciplinary live performance working at the intersection of digital and imaginary technologies. It uses live video feedback, algorithmic processes of image (Hydra), sound as well as a movement-choreography informed by somatic practices. This project is a study on visual perception and how it affects our ways of making sense of the world, aiming to create an alternative lens that acknowledges the vitality of objects, a topology that is cross-species, the ways seemingly separate entities are in constant exchange, towards a more ecological way of being. The performance is in collaboration with Kieran Maraj, with original live coding by Rodrigo Velasco. Performance will be followed by a Q&A with the artist. 

Doug Van Nort’s performance The Telematic Orchestra  

The sense of touch (or tactility) is not highlighted in the image for the poster but there are some workshops which incorporate that sense.

I apologize for the redundancies and for not correcting or noting the errors in the various texts and with people’s names.

One final note, York University’s Sensorium Centre for Digital Arts and Technologies was last mentioned here in an October 26, 2020 posting about an ArtSci Salon event.

Mad, bad, and dangerous to know? Artificial Intelligence at the Vancouver (Canada) Art Gallery (2 of 2): Meditations

Dear friend,

I thought it best to break this up a bit. There are a couple of ‘objects’ still to be discussed but this is mostly the commentary part of this letter to you. (Here’s a link for anyone who stumbled here but missed Part 1.)

Ethics, the natural world, social justice, eeek, and AI

Dorothy Woodend in her March 10, 2022 review for The Tyee) suggests some ethical issues in her critique of the ‘bee/AI collaboration’ and she’s not the only one with concerns. UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) has produced global recommendations for ethical AI (see my March 18, 2022 posting). More recently, there’s “Racist and sexist robots have flawed AI,” a June 23, 2022 posting, where researchers prepared a conference presentation and paper about deeply flawed AI still being used in robots.

Ultimately, the focus is always on humans and Woodend has extended the ethical AI conversation to include insects and the natural world. In short, something less human-centric.

My friend, this reference to the de Young exhibit may seem off topic but I promise it isn’t in more ways than one. The de Young Museum in San Francisco (February 22, 2020 – June 27, 2021) also held and AI and art show called, “Uncanny Valley: Being Human in the Age of AI”), from the exhibitions page,

In today’s AI-driven world, increasingly organized and shaped by algorithms that track, collect, and evaluate our data, the question of what it means to be human [emphasis mine] has shifted. Uncanny Valley is the first major exhibition to unpack this question through a lens of contemporary art and propose new ways of thinking about intelligence, nature, and artifice. [emphasis mine]

Courtesy: de Young Museum [downloaded from https://deyoung.famsf.org/exhibitions/uncanny-valley]

As you can see, it hinted (perhaps?) at an attempt to see beyond human-centric AI. (BTW, I featured this ‘Uncanny Valley’ show in my February 25, 2020 posting where I mentioned Stephanie Dinkins [featured below] and other artists.)

Social justice

While the VAG show doesn’t see much past humans and AI, it does touch on social justice. In particular there’s Pod 15 featuring the Algorithmic Justice League (AJL). The group “combine[s] art and research to illuminate the social implications and harms of AI” as per their website’s homepage.

In Pod 9, Stephanie Dinkins’ video work with a robot (Bina48), which was also part of the de Young Museum ‘Uncanny Valley’ show, addresses some of the same issues.

Still of Stephanie Dinkins, “Conversations with Bina48,” 2014–present. Courtesy of the artist [downloaded from https://deyoung.famsf.org/stephanie-dinkins-conversations-bina48-0]

From the the de Young Museum’s Stephanie Dinkins “Conversations with Bina48” April 23, 2020 article by Janna Keegan (Dinkins submitted the same work you see at the VAG show), Note: Links have been removed,

Transdisciplinary artist and educator Stephanie Dinkins is concerned with fostering AI literacy. The central thesis of her social practice is that AI, the internet, and other data-based technologies disproportionately impact people of color, LGBTQ+ people, women, and disabled and economically disadvantaged communities—groups rarely given a voice in tech’s creation. Dinkins strives to forge a more equitable techno-future by generating AI that includes the voices of multiple constituencies …

The artist’s ongoing Conversations with Bina48 takes the form of a series of interactions with the social robot Bina48 (Breakthrough Intelligence via Neural Architecture, 48 exaflops per second). The machine is the brainchild of Martine Rothblatt, an entrepreneur in the field of biopharmaceuticals who, with her wife, Bina, cofounded the Terasem Movement, an organization that seeks to extend human life through cybernetic means. In 2007 Martine commissioned Hanson Robotics to create a robot whose appearance and consciousness simulate Bina’s. The robot was released in 2010, and Dinkins began her work with it in 2014.

Part psychoanalytical discourse, part Turing test, Conversations with Bina48 also participates in a larger dialogue regarding bias and representation in technology. Although Bina Rothblatt is a Black woman, Bina48 was not programmed with an understanding of its Black female identity or with knowledge of Black history. Dinkins’s work situates this omission amid the larger tech industry’s lack of diversity, drawing attention to the problems that arise when a roughly homogenous population creates technologies deployed globally. When this occurs, writes art critic Tess Thackara, “the unconscious biases of white developers proliferate on the internet, mapping our social structures and behaviors onto code and repeating imbalances and injustices that exist in the real world.” One of the most appalling and public of these instances occurred when a Google Photos image-recognition algorithm mislabeled the faces of Black people as “gorillas.”

Eeek

You will find as you go through the ‘imitation game’ a pod with a screen showing your movements through the rooms in realtime on a screen. The installation is called “Creepers” (2021-22). The student team from Vancouver’s Centre for Digital Media (CDM) describes their project this way, from the CDM’s AI-driven Installation Piece for the Vancouver Art Gallery webpage,

Project Description

Kaleidoscope [team name] is designing an installation piece that harnesses AI to collect and visualize exhibit visitor behaviours, and interactions with art, in an impactful and thought-provoking way.

There’s no warning that you’re being tracked and you can see they’ve used facial recognition software to track your movements through the show. It’s claimed on the pod’s signage that they are deleting the data once you’ve left.

‘Creepers’ is an interesting approach to the ethics of AI. The name suggests that even the student designers were aware it was problematic.

For the curious, there’s a description of the other VAG ‘imitation game’ installations provided by CDM students on the ‘Master of Digital Media Students Develop Revolutionary Installations for Vancouver Art Gallery AI Exhibition‘ webpage.

In recovery from an existential crisis (meditations)

There’s something greatly ambitious about “The Imitation Game: Visual Culture in the Age of Artificial Intelligence” and walking up the VAG’s grand staircase affirms that ambition. Bravo to the two curators, Grenville and Entis for an exhibition.that presents a survey (or overview) of artificial intelligence, and its use in and impact on creative visual culture.

I’ve already enthused over the history (specifically Turing, Lovelace, Ovid), admitted to being mesmerized by Scott Eaton’s sculpture/AI videos, and confessed to a fascination (and mild repulsion) regarding Oxman’s honeycombs.

It’s hard to remember all of the ‘objects’ as the curators have offered a jumble of work, almost all of them on screens. Already noted, there’s Norbert Wiener’s The Moth (1949) and there are also a number of other computer-based artworks from the 1960s and 1970s. Plus, you’ll find works utilizing a GAN (generative adversarial network), an AI agent that is explained in the exhibit.

It’s worth going more than once to the show as there is so much to experience.

Why did they do that?

Dear friend, I’ve already commented on the poor flow through the show and It’s hard to tell if the curators intended the experience to be disorienting but this is to the point of chaos, especially when the exhibition is crowded.

I’ve seen Grenville’s shows before. In particular there was “MashUp: The Birth of Modern Culture, a massive survey documenting the emergence of a mode of creativity that materialized in the late 1800s and has grown to become the dominant model of cultural production in the 21st century” and there was “KRAZY! The Delirious World of Anime + Manga + Video Games + Art.” As you can see from the description, he pulls together disparate works and ideas into a show for you to ‘make sense’ of them.

One of the differences between those shows and the “imitation Game: …” is that most of us have some familiarity, whether we like it or not, with modern art/culture and anime/manga/etc. and can try to ‘make sense’ of it.

By contrast, artificial intelligence (which even experts have difficulty defining) occupies an entirely different set of categories; all of them associated with science/technology. This makes for a different kind of show so the curators cannot rely on the audience’s understanding of basics. It’s effectively an art/sci or art/tech show and, I believe, the first of its kind at the Vancouver Art Gallery. Unfortunately, the curators don’t seem to have changed their approach to accommodate that difference.

AI is also at the centre of a current panic over job loss, loss of personal agency, automated racism and sexism, etc. which makes the experience of viewing the show a little tense. In this context, their decision to commission and use ‘Creepers’ seems odd.

Where were Ai-Da and Dall-E-2 and the others?

Oh friend, I was hoping for a robot. Those roomba paintbots didn’t do much for me. All they did was lie there on the floor

To be blunt I wanted some fun and perhaps a bit of wonder and maybe a little vitality. I wasn’t necessarily expecting Ai-Da, an artisitic robot, but something three dimensional and fun in this very flat, screen-oriented show would have been nice.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is image-asset.jpeg
Ai-Da was at the Glastonbury Festival in the U from 23-26th June 2022. Here’s Ai-Da and her Billie Eilish (one of the Glastonbury 2022 headliners) portrait. [downloaded from https://www.ai-darobot.com/exhibition]

Ai-Da was first featured here in a December 17, 2021 posting about performing poetry that she had written in honour of the 700th anniversary of poet Dante Alighieri’s death.

Named in honour of Ada Lovelace, Ai-Da visited the 2022 Venice Biennale as Leah Henrickson and Simone Natale describe in their May 12, 2022 article for Fast Company (Note: Links have been removed),

Ai-Da sits behind a desk, paintbrush in hand. She looks up at the person posing for her, and then back down as she dabs another blob of paint onto the canvas. A lifelike portrait is taking shape. If you didn’t know a robot produced it, this portrait could pass as the work of a human artist.

Ai-Da is touted as the “first robot to paint like an artist,” and an exhibition of her work, called Leaping into the Metaverse, opened at the Venice Biennale.

Ai-Da produces portraits of sitting subjects using a robotic hand attached to her lifelike feminine figure. She’s also able to talk, giving detailed answers to questions about her artistic process and attitudes toward technology. She even gave a TEDx talk about “The Intersection of Art and AI” in Oxford a few years ago. While the words she speaks are programmed, Ai-Da’s creators have also been experimenting with having her write and perform her own poetry.

She has her own website.

If not Ai-Da, what about Dall-E-2? Aaron Hertzmann’s June 20, 2022 commentary, “Give this AI a few words of description and it produces a stunning image – but is it art?” investigates for Salon (Note: Links have been removed),

DALL-E 2 is a new neural network [AI] algorithm that creates a picture from a short phrase or sentence that you provide. The program, which was announced by the artificial intelligence research laboratory OpenAI in April 2022, hasn’t been released to the public. But a small and growing number of people – myself included – have been given access to experiment with it.

As a researcher studying the nexus of technology and art, I was keen to see how well the program worked. After hours of experimentation, it’s clear that DALL-E – while not without shortcomings – is leaps and bounds ahead of existing image generation technology. It raises immediate questions about how these technologies will change how art is made and consumed. It also raises questions about what it means to be creative when DALL-E 2 seems to automate so much of the creative process itself.

A July 4, 2022 article “DALL-E, Make Me Another Picasso, Please” by Laura Lane for The New Yorker has a rebuttal to Ada Lovelace’s contention that creativity is uniquely human (Note: A link has been removed),

“There was this belief that creativity is this deeply special, only-human thing,” Sam Altman, OpenAI’s C.E.O., explained the other day. Maybe not so true anymore, he said. Altman, who wore a gray sweater and had tousled brown hair, was videoconferencing from the company’s headquarters, in San Francisco. DALL-E is still in a testing phase. So far, OpenAI has granted access to a select group of people—researchers, artists, developers—who have used it to produce a wide array of images: photorealistic animals, bizarre mashups, punny collages. Asked by a user to generate “a plate of various alien fruits from another planet photograph,” DALL-E returned something kind of like rambutans. “The rest of mona lisa” is, according to DALL-E, mostly just one big cliff. Altman described DALL-E as “an extension of your own creativity.”

There are other AI artists, in my August 16, 2019 posting, I had this,

AI artists first hit my radar in August 2018 when Christie’s Auction House advertised an art auction of a ‘painting’ by an algorithm (artificial intelligence). There’s more in my August 31, 2018 posting but, briefly, a French art collective, Obvious, submitted a painting, “Portrait of Edmond de Belamy,” that was created by an artificial intelligence agent to be sold for an estimated to $7000 – $10,000. They weren’t even close. According to Ian Bogost’s March 6, 2019 article for The Atlantic, the painting sold for $432,500 In October 2018.

That posting also included AI artist, AICAN. Both artist-AI agents (Obvious and AICAN) are based on GANs (generative adversarial networks) for learning and eventual output. Both artist-AI agents work independently or with human collaborators on art works that are available for purchase.

As might be expected not everyone is excited about AI and visual art. Sonja Drimmer, Professor of Medieval Art, University of Massachusetts at Amherst, provides another perspective on AI, visual art, and, her specialty, art history in her November 1, 2021 essay for The Conversation (Note: Links have been removed),

Over the past year alone, I’ve come across articles highlighting how artificial intelligence recovered a “secret” painting of a “lost lover” of Italian painter Modigliani, “brought to life” a “hidden Picasso nude”, “resurrected” Austrian painter Gustav Klimt’s destroyed works and “restored” portions of Rembrandt’s 1642 painting “The Night Watch.” The list goes on.

As an art historian, I’ve become increasingly concerned about the coverage and circulation of these projects.

They have not, in actuality, revealed one secret or solved a single mystery.

What they have done is generate feel-good stories about AI.

Take the reports about the Modigliani and Picasso paintings.

These were projects executed by the same company, Oxia Palus, which was founded not by art historians but by doctoral students in machine learning.

In both cases, Oxia Palus relied upon traditional X-rays, X-ray fluorescence and infrared imaging that had already been carried out and published years prior – work that had revealed preliminary paintings beneath the visible layer on the artists’ canvases.

The company edited these X-rays and reconstituted them as new works of art by applying a technique called “neural style transfer.” This is a sophisticated-sounding term for a program that breaks works of art down into extremely small units, extrapolates a style from them and then promises to recreate images of other content in that same style.

As you can ‘see’ my friend, the topic of AI and visual art is a juicy one. In fact, I have another example in my June 27, 2022 posting, which is titled, “Art appraised by algorithm.” So, Grenville’s and Entis’ decision to focus on AI and its impact on visual culture is quite timely.

Visual culture: seeing into the future

The VAG Imitation Game webpage lists these categories of visual culture “animation, architecture, art, fashion, graphic design, urban design and video games …” as being represented in the show. Movies and visual art, not mentioned in the write up, are represented while theatre and other performing arts are not mentioned or represented. That’ s not a surprise.

In addition to an area of science/technology that’s not well understood even by experts, the curators took on the truly amorphous (and overwhelming) topic of visual culture. Given that even writing this commentary has been a challenge, I imagine pulling the show together was quite the task.

Grenville often grounds his shows in a history of the subject and, this time, it seems especially striking. You’re in a building that is effectively a 19th century construct and in galleries that reflect a 20th century ‘white cube’ aesthetic, while looking for clues into the 21st century future of visual culture employing technology that has its roots in the 19th century and, to some extent, began to flower in the mid-20th century.

Chung’s collaboration is one of the only ‘optimistic’ notes about the future and, as noted earlier, it bears a resemblance to Wiener’s 1949 ‘Moth’

Overall, it seems we are being cautioned about the future. For example, Oxman’s work seems bleak (bees with no flowers to pollinate and living in an eternal spring). Adding in ‘Creepers’ and surveillance along with issues of bias and social injustice reflects hesitation and concern about what we will see, who sees it, and how it will be represented visually.

Learning about robots, automatons, artificial intelligence, and more

I wish the Vancouver Art Gallery (and Vancouver’s other art galleries) would invest a little more in audience education. A couple of tours, by someone who may or may not know what they’re talking, about during the week do not suffice. The extra material about Stephanie Dinkins and her work (“Conversations with Bina48,” 2014–present) came from the de Young Museum’s website. In my July 26, 2021 commentary on North Vancouver’s Polygon Gallery 2021 show “Interior Infinite,” I found background information for artist Zanele Muholi on the Tate Modern’s website. There is nothing on the VAG website that helps you to gain some perspective on the artists’ works.

It seems to me that if the VAG wants to be considered world class, it should conduct itself accordingly and beefing up its website with background information about their current shows would be a good place to start.

Robots, automata, and artificial intelligence

Prior to 1921, robots were known exclusively as automatons. These days, the word ‘automaton’ (or ‘automata’ in the plural) seems to be used to describe purely mechanical representations of humans from over 100 years ago whereas the word ‘robot’ can be either ‘humanlike’ or purely machine, e.g. a mechanical arm that performs the same function over and over. I have a good February 24, 2017 essay on automatons by Miguel Barral for OpenMind BBVA*, which provides some insight into the matter,

The concept of robot is relatively recent. The idea was introduced in 1921 by the Czech writer Karel Capek in his work R.U.R to designate a machine that performs tasks in place of man. But their predecessors, the automatons (from the Greek automata, or “mechanical device that works by itself”), have been the object of desire and fascination since antiquity. Some of the greatest inventors in history, such as Leonardo Da Vinci, have contributed to our fascination with these fabulous creations:

The Al-Jazari automatons

The earliest examples of known automatons appeared in the Islamic world in the 12th and 13th centuries. In 1206, the Arab polymath Al-Jazari, whose creations were known for their sophistication, described some of his most notable automatons: an automatic wine dispenser, a soap and towels dispenser and an orchestra-automaton that operated by the force of water. This latter invention was meant to liven up parties and banquets with music while floating on a pond, lake or fountain.

As the water flowed, it started a rotating drum with pegs that, in turn, moved levers whose movement produced different sounds and movements. As the pegs responsible for the musical notes could be exchanged for different ones in order to interpret another melody, it is considered one of the first programmable machines in history.

If you’re curious about automata, my friend, I found this Sept. 26, 2016 ABC news radio news item about singer Roger Daltrey’s and his wife, Heather’s auction of their collection of 19th century French automata (there’s an embedded video showcasing these extraordinary works of art). For more about automata, robots, and androids, there’s an excellent May 4, 2022 article by James Vincent, ‘A visit to the human factory; How to build the world’s most realistic robot‘ for The Verge; Vincent’s article is about Engineered Arts, the UK-based company that built Ai-Da.

AI is often used interchangeably with ‘robot’ but they aren’t the same. Not all robots have AI integrated into their processes. At its simplest AI is an algorithm or set of algorithms, which may ‘live’ in a CPU and be effectively invisible or ‘live’ in or make use of some kind of machine and/or humanlike body. As the experts have noted, the concept of artificial intelligence is a slippery concept.

*OpenMind BBVA is a Spanish multinational financial services company, Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria (BBVA), which runs the non-profit project, OpenMind (About us page) to disseminate information on robotics and so much more.*

You can’t always get what you want

My friend,

I expect many of the show’s shortcomings (as perceived by me) are due to money and/or scheduling issues. For example, Ai-Da was at the Venice Biennale and if there was a choice between the VAG and Biennale, I know where I’d be.

Even with those caveats in mind, It is a bit surprising that there were no examples of wearable technology. For example, Toronto’s Tapestry Opera recently performed R.U.R. A Torrent of Light (based on the word ‘robot’ from Karel Čapek’s play, R.U.R., ‘Rossumovi Univerzální Roboti’), from my May 24, 2022 posting,

I have more about tickets prices, dates, and location later in this post but first, here’s more about the opera and the people who’ve created it from the Tapestry Opera’s ‘R.U.R. A Torrent of Light’ performance webpage,

“This stunning new opera combines dance, beautiful multimedia design, a chamber orchestra including 100 instruments creating a unique electronica-classical sound, and wearable technology [emphasis mine] created with OCAD University’s Social Body Lab, to create an immersive and unforgettable science-fiction experience.”

And, from later in my posting,

“Despite current stereotypes, opera was historically a launchpad for all kinds of applied design technologies. [emphasis mine] Having the opportunity to collaborate with OCAD U faculty is an invigorating way to reconnect to that tradition and foster connections between art, music and design, [emphasis mine]” comments the production’s Director Michael Hidetoshi Mori, who is also Tapestry Opera’s Artistic Director. 

That last quote brings me back to the my comment about theatre and performing arts not being part of the show. Of course, the curators couldn’t do it all but a website with my hoped for background and additional information could have helped to solve the problem.

The absence of the theatrical and performing arts in the VAG’s ‘Imitation Game’ is a bit surprising as the Council of Canadian Academies (CCA) in their third assessment, “Competing in a Global Innovation Economy: The Current State of R&D in Canada” released in 2018 noted this (from my April 12, 2018 posting),

Canada, relative to the world, specializes in subjects generally referred to as the
humanities and social sciences (plus health and the environment), and does
not specialize as much as others in areas traditionally referred to as the physical
sciences and engineering. Specifically, Canada has comparatively high levels
of research output in Psychology and Cognitive Sciences, Public Health and
Health Services, Philosophy and Theology, Earth and Environmental Sciences,
and Visual and Performing Arts. [emphasis mine] It accounts for more than 5% of world research in these fields. Conversely, Canada has lower research output than expected in Chemistry, Physics and Astronomy, Enabling and Strategic Technologies,
Engineering, and Mathematics and Statistics. The comparatively low research
output in core areas of the natural sciences and engineering is concerning,
and could impair the flexibility of Canada’s research base, preventing research
institutions and researchers from being able to pivot to tomorrow’s emerging
research areas. [p. xix Print; p. 21 PDF]

US-centric

My friend,

I was a little surprised that the show was so centered on work from the US given that Grenville has curated ate least one show where there was significant input from artists based in Asia. Both Japan and Korea are very active with regard to artificial intelligence and it’s hard to believe that their artists haven’t kept pace. (I’m not as familiar with China and its AI efforts, other than in the field of facial recognition, but it’s hard to believe their artists aren’t experimenting.)

The Americans, of course, are very important developers in the field of AI but they are not alone and it would have been nice to have seen something from Asia and/or Africa and/or something from one of the other Americas. In fact, anything which takes us out of the same old, same old. (Luba Elliott wrote this (2019/2020/2021?) essay, “Artificial Intelligence Art from Africa and Black Communities Worldwide” on Aya Data if you want to get a sense of some of the activity on the African continent. Elliott does seem to conflate Africa and Black Communities, for some clarity you may want to check out the Wikipedia entry on Africanfuturism, which contrasts with this August 12, 2020 essay by Donald Maloba, “What is Afrofuturism? A Beginner’s Guide.” Maloba also conflates the two.)

As it turns out, Luba Elliott presented at the 2019 Montréal Digital Spring event, which brings me to Canada’s artificial intelligence and arts scene.

I promise I haven’t turned into a flag waving zealot, my friend. It’s just odd there isn’t a bit more given that machine learning was pioneered at the University of Toronto. Here’s more about that (from Wikipedia entry for Geoffrey Hinston),

Geoffrey Everest HintonCCFRSFRSC[11] (born 6 December 1947) is a British-Canadian cognitive psychologist and computer scientist, most noted for his work on artificial neural networks.

Hinton received the 2018 Turing Award, together with Yoshua Bengio [Canadian scientist] and Yann LeCun, for their work on deep learning.[24] They are sometimes referred to as the “Godfathers of AI” and “Godfathers of Deep Learning“,[25][26] and have continued to give public talks together.[27][28]

Some of Hinton’s work was started in the US but since 1987, he has pursued his interests at the University of Toronto. He wasn’t proven right until 2012. Katrina Onstad’s February 29, 2018 article (Mr. Robot) for Toronto Life is a gripping read about Hinton and his work on neural networks. BTW, Yoshua Bengio (co-Godfather) is a Canadian scientist at the Université de Montréal and Yann LeCun (co-Godfather) is a French scientist at New York University.

Then, there’s another contribution, our government was the first in the world to develop a national artificial intelligence strategy. Adding those developments to the CCA ‘State of Science’ report findings about visual arts and performing arts, is there another word besides ‘odd’ to describe the lack of Canadian voices?

You’re going to point out the installation by Ben Bogart (a member of Simon Fraser University’s Metacreation Lab for Creative AI and instructor at the Emily Carr University of Art + Design (ECU)) but it’s based on the iconic US scifi film, 2001: A Space Odyssey. As for the other Canadian, Sougwen Chung, she left Canada pretty quickly to get her undergraduate degree in the US and has since moved to the UK. (You could describe hers as the quintessential success story, i.e., moving from Canada only to get noticed here after success elsewhere.)

Of course, there are the CDM student projects but the projects seem less like an exploration of visual culture than an exploration of technology and industry requirements, from the ‘Master of Digital Media Students Develop Revolutionary Installations for Vancouver Art Gallery AI Exhibition‘ webpage, Note: A link has been removed,

In 2019, Bruce Grenville, Senior Curator at Vancouver Art Gallery, approached [the] Centre for Digital Media to collaborate on several industry projects for the forthcoming exhibition. Four student teams tackled the project briefs over the course of the next two years and produced award-winning installations that are on display until October 23 [2022].

Basically, my friend, it would have been nice to see other voices or, at the least, an attempt at representing other voices and visual cultures informed by AI. As for Canadian contributions, maybe put something on the VAG website?

Playing well with others

it’s always a mystery to me why the Vancouver cultural scene seems comprised of a set of silos or closely guarded kingdoms. Reaching out to the public library and other institutions such as Science World might have cost time but could have enhanced the show

For example, one of the branches of the New York Public Library ran a programme called, “We are AI” in March 2022 (see my March 23, 2022 posting about the five-week course, which was run as a learning circle). The course materials are available for free (We are AI webpage) and I imagine that adding a ‘visual culture module’ wouldn’t be that difficult.

There is one (rare) example of some Vancouver cultural institutions getting together to offer an art/science programme and that was in 2017 when the Morris and Helen Belkin Gallery (at the University of British Columbia; UBC) hosted an exhibition of Santiago Ramon y Cajal’s work (see my Sept. 11, 2017 posting about the gallery show) along with that show was an ancillary event held by the folks at Café Scientifique at Science World and featuring a panel of professionals from UBC’s Faculty of Medicine and Dept. of Psychology, discussing Cajal’s work.

In fact, where were the science and technology communities for this show?

On a related note, the 2022 ACM SIGGRAPH conference (August 7 – 11, 2022) is being held in Vancouver. (ACM is the Association for Computing Machinery; SIGGRAPH is for Special Interest Group on Computer Graphics and Interactive Techniques.) SIGGRAPH has been holding conferences in Vancouver every few years since at least 2011.

At this year’s conference, they have at least two sessions that indicate interests similar to the VAG’s. First, there’s Immersive Visualization for Research, Science and Art which includes AI and machine learning along with other related topics. There’s also, Frontiers Talk: Art in the Age of AI: Can Computers Create Art?

This is both an international conference and an exhibition (of art) and the whole thing seems to have kicked off on July 25, 2022. If you’re interested, the programme can be found here and registration here.

Last time SIGGRAPH was here the organizers seemed interested in outreach and they offered some free events.

In the end

It was good to see the show. The curators brought together some exciting material. As is always the case, there were some missed opportunities and a few blind spots. But all is not lost.

July 27, 2022, the VAG held a virtual event with an artist,

Gwenyth Chao to learn more about what happened to the honeybees and hives in Oxman’s Synthetic Apiary project. As a transdisciplinary artist herself, Chao will also discuss the relationship between art, science, technology and design. She will then guide participants to create a space (of any scale, from insect to human) inspired by patterns found in nature.

Hopefully there will be more more events inspired by specific ‘objects’. Meanwhile, August 12, 2022, the VAG is hosting,

… in partnership with the Canadian Music Centre BC, New Music at the Gallery is a live concert series hosted by the Vancouver Art Gallery that features an array of musicians and composers who draw on contemporary art themes.

Highlighting a selection of twentieth- and twenty-first-century music compositions, this second concert, inspired by the exhibition The Imitation Game: Visual Culture in the Age of Artificial Intelligence, will spotlight The Iliac Suite (1957), the first piece ever written using only a computer, and Kaija Saariaho’s Terra Memoria (2006), which is in a large part dependent on a computer-generated musical process.

It would be lovely if they could include an Ada Lovelace Day event. This is an international celebration held on October 11, 2022.

Do go. Do enjoy, my friend.

Mad, bad, and dangerous to know? Artificial Intelligence at the Vancouver (Canada) Art Gallery (1 of 2): The Objects

To my imaginary AI friend

Dear friend,

I thought you might be amused by these Roomba-like* paintbots at the Vancouver Art Gallery’s (VAG) latest exhibition, “The Imitation Game: Visual Culture in the Age of Artificial Intelligence” (March 5, 2022 – October 23, 2022).

Sougwen Chung, Omnia per Omnia, 2018, video (excerpt), Courtesy of the Artist

*A Roomba is a robot vacuum cleaner produced and sold by iRobot.

As far as I know, this is the Vancouver Art Gallery’s first art/science or art/technology exhibit and it is an alternately fascinating, exciting, and frustrating take on artificial intelligence and its impact on the visual arts. Curated by Bruce Grenville, VAG Senior Curator, and Glenn Entis, Guest Curator, the show features 20 ‘objects’ designed to both introduce viewers to the ‘imitation game’ and to challenge them. From the VAG Imitation Game webpage,

The Imitation Game surveys the extraordinary uses (and abuses) of artificial intelligence (AI) in the production of modern and contemporary visual culture around the world. The exhibition follows a chronological narrative that first examines the development of artificial intelligence, from the 1950s to the present [emphasis mine], through a precise historical lens. Building on this foundation, it emphasizes the explosive growth of AI across disciplines, including animation, architecture, art, fashion, graphic design, urban design and video games, over the past decade. Revolving around the important roles of machine learning and computer vision in AI research and experimentation, The Imitation Game reveals the complex nature of this new tool and demonstrates its importance for cultural production.

And now …

As you’ve probably guessed, my friend, you’ll find a combination of both background information and commentary on the show.

I’ve initially focused on two people (a scientist and a mathematician) who were seminal thinkers about machines, intelligence, creativity, and humanity. I’ve also provided some information about the curators, which hopefully gives you some insight into the show.

As for the show itself, you’ll find a few of the ‘objects’ highlighted with one of them being investigated at more length. The curators devoted some of the show to ethical and social justice issues, accordingly, the Vancouver Art Gallery hosted the University of British Columbia’s “Speculative Futures: Artificial Intelligence Symposium” on April 7, 2022,

Presented in conjunction with the exhibition The Imitation Game: Visual Culture in the Age of Artificial Intelligence, the Speculative Futures Symposium examines artificial intelligence and the specific uses of technology in its multifarious dimensions. Across four different panel conversations, leading thinkers of today will explore the ethical implications of technology and discuss how they are working to address these issues in cultural production.”

So, you’ll find more on these topics here too.

And for anyone else reading this (not you, my friend who is ‘strong’ AI and not similar to the ‘weak’ AI found in this show), there is a description of ‘weak’ and ‘strong’ AI on the avtsim.com/weak-ai-strong-ai webpage, Note: A link has been removed,

There are two types of AI: weak AI and strong AI.

Weak, sometimes called narrow, AI is less intelligent as it cannot work without human interaction and focuses on a more narrow, specific, or niched purpose. …

Strong AI on the other hand is in fact comparable to the fictitious AIs we see in media like the terminator. The theoretical Strong AI would be equivalent or greater to human intelligence.

….

My dear friend, I hope you will enjoy.

The Imitation Game and ‘mad, bad, and dangerous to know’

In some circles, it’s better known as ‘The Turing Test;” the Vancouver Art Gallery’s ‘Imitation Game’ hosts a copy of Alan Turing’s foundational paper for establishing whether artificial intelligence is possible (I thought this was pretty exciting).

Here’s more from The Turing Test essay by Graham Oppy and David Dowe for the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy,

The phrase “The Turing Test” is most properly used to refer to a proposal made by Turing (1950) as a way of dealing with the question whether machines can think. According to Turing, the question whether machines can think is itself “too meaningless” to deserve discussion (442). However, if we consider the more precise—and somehow related—question whether a digital computer can do well in a certain kind of game that Turing describes (“The Imitation Game”), then—at least in Turing’s eyes—we do have a question that admits of precise discussion. Moreover, as we shall see, Turing himself thought that it would not be too long before we did have digital computers that could “do well” in the Imitation Game.

The phrase “The Turing Test” is sometimes used more generally to refer to some kinds of behavioural tests for the presence of mind, or thought, or intelligence in putatively minded entities. …

Next to the display holding Turing’s paper, is another display with an excerpt of an explanation from Turing about how he believed Ada Lovelace would have responded to the idea that machines could think based on a copy of some of her writing (also on display). She proposed that creativity, not thinking, is what set people apart from machines. (See the April 17, 2020 article “Thinking Machines? Has the Lovelace Test Been Passed?’ on mindmatters.ai.)

It’s like a dialogue between two seminal thinkers who lived about 100 years apart; Lovelace, born in 1815 and dead in 1852, and Turing, born in 1912 and dead in 1954. Both have fascinating back stories (more about those later) and both played roles in how computers and artificial intelligence are viewed.

Adding some interest to this walk down memory lane is a 3rd display, an illustration of the ‘Mechanical Turk‘, a chess playing machine that made the rounds in Europe from 1770 until it was destroyed in 1854. A hoax that fooled people for quite a while it is a reminder that we’ve been interested in intelligent machines for centuries. (Friend, Turing and Lovelace and the Mechanical Turk are found in Pod 1.)

Back story: Turing and the apple

Turing is credited with being instrumental in breaking the German ENIGMA code during World War II and helping to end the war. I find it odd that he ended up at the University of Manchester in the post-war years. One would expect him to have been at Oxford or Cambridge. At any rate, he died in 1954 of cyanide poisoning two years after he was arrested for being homosexual and convicted of indecency. Given the choice of incarceration or chemical castration, he chose the latter. There is, to this day, debate about whether or not it was suicide. Here’s how his death is described in this Wikipedia entry (Note: Links have been removed),

On 8 June 1954, at his house at 43 Adlington Road, Wilmslow,[150] Turing’s housekeeper found him dead. He had died the previous day at the age of 41. Cyanide poisoning was established as the cause of death.[151] When his body was discovered, an apple lay half-eaten beside his bed, and although the apple was not tested for cyanide,[152] it was speculated that this was the means by which Turing had consumed a fatal dose. An inquest determined that he had committed suicide. Andrew Hodges and another biographer, David Leavitt, have both speculated that Turing was re-enacting a scene from the Walt Disney film Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937), his favourite fairy tale. Both men noted that (in Leavitt’s words) he took “an especially keen pleasure in the scene where the Wicked Queen immerses her apple in the poisonous brew”.[153] Turing’s remains were cremated at Woking Crematorium on 12 June 1954,[154] and his ashes were scattered in the gardens of the crematorium, just as his father’s had been.[155]

Philosopher Jack Copeland has questioned various aspects of the coroner’s historical verdict. He suggested an alternative explanation for the cause of Turing’s death: the accidental inhalation of cyanide fumes from an apparatus used to electroplate gold onto spoons. The potassium cyanide was used to dissolve the gold. Turing had such an apparatus set up in his tiny spare room. Copeland noted that the autopsy findings were more consistent with inhalation than with ingestion of the poison. Turing also habitually ate an apple before going to bed, and it was not unusual for the apple to be discarded half-eaten.[156] Furthermore, Turing had reportedly borne his legal setbacks and hormone treatment (which had been discontinued a year previously) “with good humour” and had shown no sign of despondency prior to his death. He even set down a list of tasks that he intended to complete upon returning to his office after the holiday weekend.[156] Turing’s mother believed that the ingestion was accidental, resulting from her son’s careless storage of laboratory chemicals.[157] Biographer Andrew Hodges theorised that Turing arranged the delivery of the equipment to deliberately allow his mother plausible deniability with regard to any suicide claims.[158]

The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) also has an entry for Alan Turing dated April 10, 2015 it’s titled, The Enigma of Alan Turing.

Back story: Ada Byron Lovelace, the 2nd generation of ‘mad, bad, and dangerous to know’

A mathematician and genius in her own right, Ada Lovelace’s father George Gordon Byron, better known as the poet Lord Byron, was notoriously described as ‘mad, bad, and dangerous to know’.

Lovelace too could have been been ‘mad, bad, …’ but she is described less memorably as “… manipulative and aggressive, a drug addict, a gambler and an adulteress, …” as mentioned in my October 13, 20215 posting. It marked the 200th anniversary of her birth, which was celebrated with a British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) documentary and an exhibit at the Science Museum in London, UK.

She belongs in the Vancouver Art Gallery’s show along with Alan Turing due to her prediction that computers could be made to create music. She also published the first computer program. Her feat is astonishing when you know only one working model {1/7th of the proposed final size) of a computer was ever produced. (The machine invented by Charles Babbage was known as a difference engine. You can find out more about the Difference engine on Wikipedia and about Babbage’s proposed second invention, the Analytical engine.)

(Byron had almost nothing to do with his daughter although his reputation seems to have dogged her. You can find out more about Lord Byron here.)

AI and visual culture at the VAG: the curators

As mentioned earlier, the VAG’s “The Imitation Game: Visual Culture in the Age of Artificial Intelligence” show runs from March 5, 2022 – October 23, 2022. Twice now, I have been to this weirdly exciting and frustrating show.

Bruce Grenville, VAG Chief/Senior Curator, seems to specialize in pulling together diverse materials to illustrate ‘big’ topics. His profile for Emily Carr University of Art + Design (where Grenville teaches) mentions these shows ,

… He has organized many thematic group exhibitions including, MashUp: The Birth of Modern Culture [emphasis mine], a massive survey documenting the emergence of a mode of creativity that materialized in the late 1800s and has grown to become the dominant model of cultural production in the 21st century; KRAZY! The Delirious World [emphasis mine] of Anime + Manga + Video Games + Art, a timely and important survey of modern and contemporary visual culture from around the world; Home and Away: Crossing Cultures on the Pacific Rim [emphasis mine] a look at the work of six artists from Vancouver, Beijing, Ho Chi Minh City, Seoul and Los Angeles, who share a history of emigration and diaspora. …

Glenn Entis, Guest Curator and founding faculty member of Vancouver’s Centre for Digital Media (CDM) is Grenville’s co-curator, from Entis’ CDM profile,

“… an Academy Award-winning animation pioneer and games industry veteran. The former CEO of Dreamworks Interactive, Glenn worked with Steven Spielberg and Jeffrey Katzenberg on a number of video games …,”

Steve Newton in his March 4, 2022 preview does a good job of describing the show although I strongly disagree with the title of his article which proclaims “The Vancouver Art Gallery takes a deep dive into artificial intelligence with The Imitation Game.” I think it’s more of a shallow dive meant to cover more distance than depth,

… The exhibition kicks off with an interactive introduction inviting visitors to actively identify diverse areas of cultural production influenced by AI.

“That was actually one of the pieces that we produced in collaboration with the Centre for Digital Media,” Grenville notes, “so we worked with some graduate-student teams that had actually helped us to design that software. It was the beginning of COVID when we started to design this, so we actually wanted a no-touch interactive. So, really, the idea was to say, ‘Okay, this is the very entrance to the exhibition, and artificial intelligence, this is something I’ve heard about, but I’m not really sure how it’s utilized in ways. But maybe I know something about architecture; maybe I know something about video games; maybe I know something about the history of film.

“So you point to these 10 categories of visual culture [emphasis mine]–video games, architecture, fashion design, graphic design, industrial design, urban design–so you point to one of those, and you might point to ‘film’, and then when you point at it that opens up into five different examples of what’s in the show, so it could be 2001: A Space Odyssey, or Bladerunner, or World on a Wire.”

After the exhibition’s introduction—which Grenville equates to “opening the door to your curiosity” about artificial intelligence–visitors encounter one of its main categories, Objects of Wonder, which speaks to the history of AI and the critical advances the technology has made over the years.

“So there are 20 Objects of Wonder [emphasis mine],” Grenville says, “which go from 1949 to 2022, and they kind of plot out the history of artificial intelligence over that period of time, focusing on a specific object. Like [mathematician and philosopher] Norbert Wiener made this cybernetic creature, he called it a ‘Moth’, in 1949. So there’s a section that looks at this idea of kind of using animals–well, machine animals–and thinking about cybernetics, this idea of communication as feedback, early thinking around neuroscience and how neuroscience starts to imagine this idea of a thinking machine.

And there’s this from Newton’s March 4, 2022 preview,

“It’s interesting,” Grenville ponders, “artificial intelligence is virtually unregulated. [emphasis mine] You know, if you think about the regulatory bodies that govern TV or radio or all the types of telecommunications, there’s no equivalent for artificial intelligence, which really doesn’t make any sense. And so what happens is, sometimes with the best intentions [emphasis mine]—sometimes not with the best intentions—choices are made about how artificial intelligence develops. So one of the big ones is facial-recognition software [emphasis mine], and any body-detection software that’s being utilized.

In addition to it being the best overview of the show I’ve seen so far, this is the only one where you get a little insight into what the curators were thinking when they were developing it.

A deep dive into AI?

it was only while searching for a little information before the show that I realized I don’t have any definitions for artificial intelligence! What is AI? Sadly, there are no definitions of AI in the exhibit.

It seems even experts don’t have a good definition. Take a look at this,

The definition of AI is fluid [emphasis mine] and reflects a constantly shifting landscape marked by technological advancements and growing areas of application. Indeed, it has frequently been observed that once AI becomes capable of solving a particular problem or accomplishing a certain task, it is often no longer considered to be “real” intelligence [emphasis mine] (Haenlein & Kaplan, 2019). A firm definition was not applied for this report [emphasis mine], given the variety of implementations described above. However, for the purposes of deliberation, the Panel chose to interpret AI as a collection of statistical and software techniques, as well as the associated data and the social context in which they evolve — this allows for a broader and more inclusive interpretation of AI technologies and forms of agency. The Panel uses the term AI interchangeably to describe various implementations of machine-assisted design and discovery, including those based on machine learning, deep learning, and reinforcement learning, except for specific examples where the choice of implementation is salient. [p. 6 print version; p. 34 PDF version]

The above is from the Leaps and Boundaries report released May 10, 2022 by the Council of Canadian Academies’ Expert Panel on Artificial Intelligence for Science and Engineering.

Sometimes a show will take you in an unexpected direction. I feel a lot better ‘not knowing’. Still, I wish the curators had acknowledged somewhere in the show that artificial intelligence is a slippery concept. Especially when you add in robots and automatons. (more about them later)

21st century technology in a 19th/20th century building

Void stairs inside the building. Completed in 1906, the building was later designated as a National Historic Site in 1980 [downloaded from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vancouver_Art_Gallery#cite_note-canen-7]

Just barely making it into the 20th century, the building where the Vancouver Art Gallery currently resides was for many years the provincial courthouse (1911 – 1978). In some ways, it’s a disconcerting setting for this show.

They’ve done their best to make the upstairs where the exhibit is displayed look like today’s galleries with their ‘white cube aesthetic’ and strong resemblance to the scientific laboratories seen in movies.

(For more about the dominance, since the 1930s, of the ‘white cube aesthetic’ in art galleries around the world, see my July 26, 2021 posting; scroll down about 50% of the way.)

It makes for an interesting tension, the contrast between the grand staircase, the cupola, and other architectural elements and the sterile, ‘laboratory’ environment of the modern art gallery.

20 Objects of Wonder and the flow of the show

It was flummoxing. Where are the 20 objects? Why does it feel like a maze in a laboratory? Loved the bees, but why? Eeeek Creepers! What is visual culture anyway? Where am I?

The objects of the show

It turns out that the curators have a more refined concept for ‘object’ than I do. There weren’t 20 material objects, there were 20 numbered ‘pods’ with perhaps a screen or a couple of screens or a screen and a material object or two illustrating the pod’s topic.

Looking up a definition for the word (accessed from a June 9, 2022 duckduckgo.com search). yielded this, (the second one seems à propos),

objectŏb′jĭkt, -jĕkt″

noun

1. Something perceptible by one or more of the senses, especially by vision or touch; a material thing.

2. A focus of attention, feeling, thought, or action.

3. A limiting factor that must be considered.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

Each pod = a focus of attention.

The show’s flow is a maze. Am I a rat?

The pods are defined by a number and by temporary walls. So if you look up, you’ll see a number and a space partly enclosed by a temporary wall or two.

It’s a very choppy experience. For example, one minute you can be in pod 1 and, when you turn the corner, you’re in pod 4 or 5 or ? There are pods I’ve not seen, despite my two visits, because I kept losing my way. This led to an existential crisis on my second visit. “Had I missed the greater meaning of this show? Was there some sort of logic to how it was organized? Was there meaning to my life? Was I a rat being nudged around in a maze?” I didn’t know.

Thankfully, I have since recovered. But, I will return to my existential crisis later, with a special mention for “Creepers.”

The fascinating

My friend, you know I appreciated the history and in addition to Alan Turing, Ada Lovelace and the Mechanical Turk, at the beginning of the show, they included a reference to Ovid (or Pūblius Ovidius Nāsō), a Roman poet who lived from 43 BCE – 17/18 CE in one of the double digit (17? or 10? or …) in one of the pods featuring a robot on screen. As to why Ovid might be included, this excerpt from a February 12, 2018 posting on the cosmolocal.org website provides a clue (Note. Links have been removed),

The University of King’s College [Halifax, Nova Scotia] presents Automatons! From Ovid to AI, a nine-lecture series examining the history, issues and relationships between humans, robots, and artificial intelligence [emphasis mine]. The series runs from January 10 to April 4 [2018], and features leading scholars, performers and critics from Canada, the US and Britain.

“Drawing from theatre, literature, art, science and philosophy, our 2018 King’s College Lecture Series features leading international authorities exploring our intimate relationships with machines,” says Dr. Gordon McOuat, professor in the King’s History of Science and Technology (HOST) and Contemporary Studies Programs.

“From the myths of Ovid [emphasis mine] and the automatons [emphasis mine] of the early modern period to the rise of robots, cyborgs, AI and artificial living things in the modern world, the 2018 King’s College Lecture Series examines the historical, cultural, scientific and philosophical place of automatons in our lives—and our future,” adds McOuat.

I loved the way the curators managed to integrate the historical roots for artificial intelligence and, by extension, the world of automatons, robots, cyborgs, and androids. Yes, starting the show with Alan Turing and Ada Lovelace could be expected but Norbert Wiener’s Moth (1949) acts as a sort of preview for Sougwen Chung’s “Omnia per Omnia, 2018” (GIF seen at the beginning of this post). Take a look for yourself (from the cyberneticzoo.com September 19, 2009 posting by cyberne1. Do you see the similarity or am I the only one?

[sourced from Google images, Source:life) & downloaded from https://cyberneticzoo.com/cyberneticanimals/1949-wieners-moth-wiener-wiesner-singleton/]

Sculpture

This is the first time I’ve come across an AI/sculpture project. The VAG show features Scott Eaton’s sculptures on screens in a room devoted to his work.

Scott Eaton: Entangled II, 2019 4k video (still) Courtesy of the Artist [downloaded from https://www.vanartgallery.bc.ca/exhibitions/the-imitation-game]

This looks like an image of a piece of ginger root and It’s fascinating to watch the process as the AI agent ‘evolves’ Eaton’s drawings into onscreen sculptures. It would have enhanced the experience if at least one of Eaton’s ‘evolved’ and physically realized sculptures had been present in the room but perhaps there were financial and/or logistical reasons for the absence.

Both Chung and Eaton are collaborating with an AI agent. In Chung’s case the AI is integrated into the paintbots with which she interacts and paints alongside and in Eaton’s case, it’s via a computer screen. In both cases, the work is mildly hypnotizing in a way that reminds me of lava lamps.

One last note about Chung and her work. She was one of the artists invited to present new work at an invite-only April 22, 2022 Embodied Futures workshop at the “What will life become?” event held by the Berrgruen Institute and the University of Southern California (USC),

Embodied Futures invites participants to imagine novel forms of life, mind, and being through artistic and intellectual provocations on April 22 [2022].

Beginning at 1 p.m., together we will experience the launch of five artworks commissioned by the Berggruen Institute. We asked these artists: How does your work inflect how we think about “the human” in relation to alternative “embodiments” such as machines, AIs, plants, animals, the planet, and possible alien life forms in the cosmos? [emphases mine]  Later in the afternoon, we will take provocations generated by the morning’s panels and the art premieres in small breakout groups that will sketch futures worlds, and lively entities that might dwell there, in 2049.

This leads to (and my friend, while I too am taking a shallow dive, for this bit I’m going a little deeper):

Bees and architecture

Neri Oxman’s contribution (Golden Bee Cube, Synthetic Apiary II [2020]) is an exhibit featuring three honeycomb structures and a video featuring the bees in her synthetic apiary.

Neri Oxman and the MIT Mediated Matter Group, Golden Bee Cube, Synthetic Apiary II, 2020, beeswax, acrylic, gold particles, gold powder Courtesy of Neri Oxman and the MIT Mediated Matter Group

Neri Oxman (then a faculty member of the Mediated Matter Group at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology) described the basis for the first and all other iterations of her synthetic apiary in Patrick Lynch’s October 5, 2016 article for ‘ArchDaily; Broadcasting Architecture Worldwide’, Note: Links have been removed,

Designer and architect Neri Oxman and the Mediated Matter group have announced their latest design project: the Synthetic Apiary. Aimed at combating the massive bee colony losses that have occurred in recent years, the Synthetic Apiary explores the possibility of constructing controlled, indoor environments that would allow honeybee populations to thrive year-round.

“It is time that the inclusion of apiaries—natural or synthetic—for this “keystone species” be considered a basic requirement of any sustainability program,” says Oxman.

In developing the Synthetic Apiary, Mediated Matter studied the habits and needs of honeybees, determining the precise amounts of light, humidity and temperature required to simulate a perpetual spring environment. [emphasis mine] They then engineered an undisturbed space where bees are provided with synthetic pollen and sugared water and could be evaluated regularly for health.

In the initial experiment, the honeybees’ natural cycle proved to adapt to the new environment, as the Queen was able to successfully lay eggs in the apiary. The bees showed the ability to function normally in the environment, suggesting that natural cultivation in artificial spaces may be possible across scales, “from organism- to building-scale.”

“At the core of this project is the creation of an entirely synthetic environment enabling controlled, large-scale investigations of hives,” explain the designers.

Mediated Matter chose to research into honeybees not just because of their recent loss of habitat, but also because of their ability to work together to create their own architecture, [emphasis mine] a topic the group has explored in their ongoing research on biologically augmented digital fabrication, including employing silkworms to create objects and environments at product, architectural, and possibly urban, scales.

“The Synthetic Apiary bridges the organism- and building-scale by exploring a “keystone species”: bees. Many insect communities present collective behavior known as “swarming,” prioritizing group over individual survival, while constantly working to achieve common goals. Often, groups of these eusocial organisms leverage collaborative behavior for relatively large-scale construction. For example, ants create extremely complex networks by tunneling, wasps generate intricate paper nests with materials sourced from local areas, and bees deposit wax to build intricate hive structures.”

This January 19, 2022 article by Crown Honey for its eponymous blog updates Oxman’s work (Note 1: All emphases are mine; Note 2: A link has been removed),

Synthetic Apiary II investigates co-fabrication between humans and honey bees through the use of designed environments in which Apis mellifera colonies construct comb. These designed environments serve as a means by which to convey information to the colony. The comb that the bees construct within these environments comprises their response to the input information, enabling a form of communication through which we can begin to understand the hive’s collective actions from their perspective.

Some environments are embedded with chemical cues created through a novel pheromone 3D-printing process, while others generate magnetic fields of varying strength and direction. Others still contain geometries of varying complexity or designs that alter their form over time.

When offered wax augmented with synthetic biomarkers, bees appear to readily incorporate it into their construction process, likely due to the high energy cost of producing fresh wax. This suggests that comb construction is a responsive and dynamic process involving complex adaptations to perturbations from environmental stimuli, not merely a set of predefined behaviors building toward specific constructed forms. Each environment therefore acts as a signal that can be sent to the colony to initiate a process of co-fabrication.

Characterization of constructed comb morphology generally involves visual observation and physical measurements of structural features—methods which are limited in scale of analysis and blind to internal architecture. In contrast, the wax structures built by the colonies in Synthetic Apiary II are analyzed through high-throughput X-ray computed tomography (CT) scans that enable a more holistic digital reconstruction of the hive’s structure.

Geometric analysis of these forms provides information about the hive’s design process, preferences, and limitations when tied to the inputs, and thereby yields insights into the invisible mediations between bees and their environment.
Developing computational tools to learn from bees can facilitate the very beginnings of a dialogue with them. Refined by evolution over hundreds of thousands of years, their comb-building behaviors and social organizations may reveal new forms and methods of formation that can be applied across our human endeavors in architecture, design, engineering, and culture.

Further, with a basic understanding and language established, methods of co-fabrication together with bees may be developed, enabling the use of new biocompatible materials and the creation of more efficient structural geometries that modern technology alone cannot achieve.

In this way, we also move our built environment toward a more synergistic embodiment, able to be more seamlessly integrated into natural environments through material and form, even providing habitats of benefit to both humans and nonhumans. It is essential to our mutual survival for us to not only protect but moreover to empower these critical pollinators – whose intrinsic behaviors and ecosystems we have altered through our industrial processes and practices of human-centric design – to thrive without human intervention once again.

In order to design our way out of the environmental crisis that we ourselves created, we must first learn to speak nature’s language. …

The three (natural, gold nanoparticle, and silver nanoparticle) honeycombs in the exhibit are among the few physical objects (the others being the historical documents and the paintbots with their canvasses) in the show and it’s almost a relief after the parade of screens. It’s the accompanying video that’s eerie. Everything is in white, as befits a science laboratory, in this synthetic apiary where bees are fed sugar water and fooled into a spring that is eternal.

Courtesy: Massachusetts Institute of Technology Copyright: Mediated Matter [downloaded from https://www.media.mit.edu/projects/synthetic-apiary/overview/]

(You may want to check out Lynch’s October 5, 2016 article or Crown Honey’s January 19, 2022 article as both have embedded images and the Lynch article includes a Synthetic Apiary video. The image above is a still from the video.)

As I asked a friend, where are the flowers? Ron Miksha, a bee ecologist working at the University of Calgary, details some of the problems with Oxman’s Synthetic Apiary this way in his October 7, 2016 posting on his Bad Beekeeping Blog,

In a practical sense, the synthetic apiary fails on many fronts: Bees will survive a few months on concoctions of sugar syrup and substitute pollen, but they need a natural variety of amino acids and minerals to actually thrive. They need propolis and floral pollen. They need a ceiling 100 metres high and a 2-kilometre hallway if drone and queen will mate, or they’ll die after the old queen dies. They need an artificial sun that travels across the sky, otherwise, the bees will be attracted to artificial lights and won’t return to their hive. They need flowery meadows, fresh water, open skies. [emphasis mine] They need a better holodeck.

Dorothy Woodend’s March 10, 2022 review of the VAG show for The Tyee poses other issues with the bees and the honeycombs,

When AI messes about with other species, there is something even more unsettling about the process. American-Israeli artist Neri Oxman’s Golden Bee Cube, Synthetic Apiary II, 2020 uses real bees who are proffered silver and gold [nanoparticles] to create their comb structures. While the resulting hives are indeed beautiful, rendered in shades of burnished metal, there is a quality of unease imbued in them. Is the piece akin to apiary torture chambers? I wonder how the bees feel about this collaboration and whether they’d like to renegotiate the deal.

There’s no question the honeycombs are fascinating and disturbing but I don’t understand how artificial intelligence was a key factor in either version of Oxman’s synthetic apiary. In the 2022 article by Crown Honey, there’s this “Developing computational tools to learn from bees can facilitate the very beginnings of a dialogue with them [honeybees].” It’s probable that the computational tools being referenced include AI and the Crown Honey article seems to suggest those computational tools are being used to analyze the bees behaviour after the fact.

Yes, I can imagine a future where ‘strong’ AI (such as you, my friend) is in ‘dialogue’ with the bees and making suggestions and running the experiments but it’s not clear that this is the case currently. The Oxman exhibit contribution would seem to be about the future and its possibilities whereas many of the other ‘objects’ concern the past and/or the present.

Friend, let’s take a break, shall we? Part 2 is coming up.

Art/Sci exhibit in Toronto, Canada: “These are a Few of Our Favourite Bees” June 22 – July 16, 2022

A “These are a few of Our Favourite Bees” upcoming exhibitions notice on the Campbell House Museum website (also received via email as a June 4, 2022 ArtSci Salon announcement) features a month long exhibit being co-presented with the Canadian Music Centre in Toronto,

Exhibition
Campbell House Museum
June 22 – July 16, 2022
160 Queen Street W.

Opening event
Campbell House,
Saturday July 2,
2 – 4 p.m. [ET]

Artists’ Talk & Webcast
The Canadian Music Centre,
20 St. Joseph Street Toronto
Thursday, July 7
7:30 – 9 p.m. [ET]
(doors open 7 pm)

These are a Few of Our Favourite Bees investigates wild, native bees and their ecology through playful dioramas, video, audio, relief print and poetry. Inspired by lambe lambe – South American miniature puppet stages for a single viewer – four distinct dioramas convey surreal yet enlightening worlds where bees lounge in cozy environs, animals watch educational films [emphasis mine] and ethereal sounds animate bowls of berries (having been pollinated by their diverse bee visitors). Displays reminiscent of natural history museums invite close inspection, revealing minutiae of these tiny, diverse animals, our native bees. From thumb-sized to extremely tiny, fuzzy to hairless, black, yellow, red or emerald green, each native bee tells a story while her actions create the fruits of pollination, reflecting the perpetual dance of animals, plants and planet. With a special appearance by Toronto’s official bee, the jewelled green sweat bee, Agapostemon virescens!

These are a Few of Our Favourite Bees Collective are: Sarah Peebles, Ele Willoughby, Rob Cruickshank & Stephen Humphrey

 The Works

These are a Few of Our Favourite Bees

Sarah Peebles, Ele Willoughby, Rob Cruickshank & Stephen Humphrey

Single-viewer box theatres, dioramas, sculpture, textile art, macro video, audio transducers, poetry, insect specimens, relief print, objects, electronics, colour-coded DNA barcodes.

Bees represented: rusty-patched bumble bee (Bombus affinis); jewelled green sweat bee (Agapostemon virescens); masked sweat bee (Hylaeus annulatus); leafcutter bee (Megachile relativa)

In the Landscape

Ele Willoughby & Sarah Peebles

paper, relief print, video projection, audio, audio cable, mixed media

Bee specimens & bee barcodes generously provided by Laurence Packer – Packer Lab, York University; Scott MacIvor – BUGS Lab, U-T [University of Toronto] Scarborough; Sam Droege – USGS [US Geological Survey]; Barcode of Life Data Systems; Antonia Guidotti, Department of Natural History, Royal Ontario Museum

In addition to watching television, animals have been known to interact with touchscreen computers as mentioned in my June 24, 2016 posting, “Animal technology: a touchscreen for your dog, sonar lunch orders for dolphins, and more.”

The “These are a few of Our Favourite Bees” upcoming exhibitions notice features this artist statement for a third piece, “Without A Bee, It Would Not Be” by Tracey Lawko,

In May, my crabapple tree blooms. In August, I pick the ripe crabapples. In September, I make jelly. Then I have breakfast. This would not be without a bee.

It could not be without a bee. The fruit and vegetables I enjoy eating, as well as the roses I admire as centrepieces, all depend on pollination.

Our native pollinators and their habitat are threatened.  Insect populations are declining due to habitat loss, pesticide use, disease and climate change. 75% of flowering plants rely on pollinators to set seed and we humans get one-third of our food from flowering plants.

I invite you to enter this beautiful dining room and consider the importance of pollinators to the enjoyment of your next meal.

Bio

Tracey Lawko employs contemporary textile techniques to showcase changes in our environment. Building on a base of traditional hand-embroidery, free-motion longarm stitching and a love of drawing, her representational work is detailed and “drawn with thread”. Her nature studies draw attention to our native pollinators as she observes them around her studio in the Niagara Escarpment. Many are stitched using a centuries-old, three-dimensional technique called “Stumpwork”.

Tracey’s extensive exhibition history includes solo exhibitions at leading commercial galleries and public museums. Her work has been selected for major North American and International exhibitions, including the Concours International des Mini-Textiles, Musée Jean Lurçat, France, and is held in the permanent collection of the US National Quilt Museum and in private collections in North America and Europe.

Bzzz!

Art in the Age of Planetary Consciousness; an April 22, 2022 talk in Venice (Italy) and online (+ an April 21/22, 2022 art/sci event)

The Biennale Arte (also known as the Venice Biennale) 2022: The Milk of Dreams runs from April 23 -November 27, 2022 with pre-openings on April 20, 21, and 22.

As part of the Biennale’s pre-opening, the ArtReview (international contemporary art magazine) and the Berggruen Institute (think tank with headquarters in Los Angeles, California) are presenting a talk on April 22, 2022, from the Talk on Art in the Age of Planetary Consciousness on the artreview.com website (Note: I cannot find an online portal so I’m guessing this is in person only),

Join the artists and ArtReview’s Mark Rappolt for this panel discussion – the first in a new series of talks in collaboration with Berggruen Arts – on 22 April 2022 at Casa dei Tre Oci, Venice

We live in an age in which we increasingly recognise and acknowledge that the human-made world and non-human worlds overlap and interact. In which actions cause reactions in a system that is increasingly planetary in scale while being susceptible to change by the actions of individual and collective agents. How does this change the way in which we think about art? And the ways in which we think about making art? Does it exist apart or as a part of this new consciousness and world view? Does art reflect such systems or participate within them? Or both?

This discussion between artists Shubigi Rao and Wu Tsang,who will both be showing new works at the 59th Venice Biennale, is the first in a new programme of events in which ArtReview is partnering with the Berggruen Institute to explore the intersections of philosophy, science and culture [emphasis mine] – as well as celebrating Casa dei Tre Oci in Venice as a gathering place for artists, curators, artlovers and thinkers. The conversation is chaired by ArtReview editor-in-chief Mark Rappolt.

Venue: Casa dei Tre Oci, Venice

Date: 22 April [2022]

Time: Entry from 4.30pm, talk to commence 5pm [Central European Summer Time, for PT subtract 9 hours]

Moderator: Mark Rappolt, Editor-in-Chief ArtReview & ArtReview Asia

Speakers: Shubigi Rao, Wu Tsang

RSVP: rsvp@artreview.com

About the artists:

Artist and writer Shubigi Rao’s interests include libraries, archival systems, histories and lies, literature and violence, ecologies, and natural history. Her art, texts, films, and photographs look at current and historical flashpoints as perspectival shifts to examining contemporary crises of displacement, whether of people, languages, cultures, or knowledge bodies. Her current decade-long project, Pulp: A Short Biography of the Banished Book is about the history of book destruction and the future of knowledge. In 2020, the second book from the project won the Singapore Literature Prize (non-fiction), while the first volume was shortlisted in 2018. Both books have won numerous awards, including AIGA (New York)’s 50 best books of 2016, and D&AD Pencil for design. The first exhibition of the project, Written in the Margins, won the APB Signature Prize 2018 Juror’s Choice Award. She is currently the Curator for the upcoming Kochi-Muziris Biennale. She will be representing Singapore at the 59th Venice Biennale.

Wu Tsang is an award-winning filmmaker and visual artist. Tsang’s work crosses genres and disciplines, from narrative and documentary films to live performance and video installations. Tsang is a MacArthur ‘Genius’ Fellow, and her projects have been presented at museums, biennials, and film festivals internationally. Awards include 2016 Guggenheim Fellow (Film/Video), 2018 Hugo Boss Prize Nominee, Creative Capital, Rockefeller Foundation, Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation, and Warhol Foundation. Tsang received her BFA (2004) from the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) and an MFA (2010) from University of California Los Angeles (UCLA). Currently Tsang works in residence at Schauspielhaus Zurich, as a director of theatre with the collective Moved by the Motion. Her work is included in the 59th Venice Biennale’s central exhibition The Milk of Dreams, curated by Cecilia Alemani. On 20 April, TBA21–Academy in collaboration with The Hartwig Art Foundation presents the Italian premiere of Moby Dick; or, The Whale, the Wu Tsang-directed feature-length silent film with a live symphony orchestra, at Venice’s Teatro Goldoni.

I’m not sure how this talk will “explore the intersections of philosophy, science and culture.” I can make a case for philosophy and culture but not science. At any rate, the it serves as an introduction to the Berggruen Institute’s new activities in Europe, from the Talk on Art in the Age of Planetary Consciousness on the artreview.com website,

The Berggruen Institute – headquartered in Los Angeles – was established in 2010 to develop foundational ideas about how to reshape political and social institutions in a time of great global change. It recently acquired Casa dei Tre Oci in Venice as a new base for its European activities. The neo-gothic building, originally designed as a home and studio by the artist Mario de Maria, will serve as a space for global dialogue and new ideas, via a range of workshops, symposia and exhibitions in the visual arts and architecture.

In a further expansion of activity, the initiative Berggruen Arts & Culture has been launched with the acquisition of the historic Palazzo Diedo in Venice’s Cannaregio district. The site will host exhibitions as well as a residency programme (with Sterling Ruby named as the inaugural artist-in-residence). Curator Mario Codognato has been appointed artistic director of the initiative; the architect Silvio Fassi will oversee the palazzo’s renovation, which is scheduled to open in 2024.

Having been most interested in the Berggruen Institute (founded by Nicolas Berggruen) and its events, I’ve missed the arts and culture aspect of the Berggruen enterprise. Mark Westall’s March 15, 2022 article for FAD magazine gives some insight into Berggruen’s Venice arts and culture adventure,

In the most recent of his initiatives to encourage the work of today’s artists, deepen the connection between contemporary art and the past, and make art more widely accessible to the public, philanthropist Nicolas Berggruen today [March 15, 2022] announced the creation of Berggruen Arts & Culture and the acquisition of the historic Palazzo Diedo by the Nicolas Berggruen Charitable Trust in Venice’s Cannaregio district, which is being restored and renovated to serve as a base for this multi-faceted, international program and its activities in Venice and around the world.

At Palazzo Diedo, Berggruen Arts & Culture will host an array of exhibitions—some drawn from Nicolas Berggruen’s personal collection—as well as installations, symposia, and an artist-in-residence program that will foster the creation of art in Venice. To bring the palazzo to life during the renovation phase and make its new role visible to the public, Berggruen Arts & Culture has named Sterling Ruby as its inaugural artist-in-residence. Ruby will create A Project in Four Acts, a multi-year installation at Palazzo Diedo, with the first element debuting on April 20, 2022, and on view through the duration of the 59th Biennale Arte.

Internationally renowned contemporary art curator Mario Codognato, who has served as chief curator of MADRE in Naples and director of the Anish Kapoor Foundation in Venice [I have more on Anish Kapoor later], has been named the artistic director of Berggruen Arts & Culture. Venetian architect Silvio Fassi is overseeing the renovation of the palazzo, which will open officially in 2024, concurrent with the Biennale di Venezia.

Nicolas Berggruen’s initiatives in the visual arts and culture have spanned the traditional and the experimental. As a representative of a family that is legendary in the field of 20th-century European art, he has been instrumental in expanding the programming and curatorial autonomy of the Museum Berggruen, which has been a component of the Nationalgalerie in Berlin since 2000. As founder of the Berggruen Institute, he has spearheaded the expansion of the Institute with a presence in Los Angeles, Beijing, and Venice. He has supported Institute-led projects pairing leading contemporary artists including Anicka Yi, Ian Cheng, Rob Reynolds, Agnieszka Kurant, Pierre Huyghe, and Nancy Baker Cahill with researchers in artificial intelligence and biology, to create works exploring our changing ideas of what it means to be human.

Palazzo Diedo is the second historic building that the Nicolas Berggruen Charitable Trust has acquired in Venice, following the purchase of Casa dei Tre Oci on the Giudecca as the principal European base for the Berggruen Institute. In April and June 2022, Berggruen Arts & Culture will present a series of artist conversations in partnership with ArtReview at Casa dei Tre Oci. Berggruen Arts & Culture will also undertake activities such as exhibitions, discussions, lectures, and residencies at sites beyond Palazzo Diedo and Casa dei Tre Oci, such as Museum Berggruen in Berlin and the Berggruen Institute in Los Angeles.

For those of us not lucky enough to be in Venice for the opening of the 59th Biennale Arte, there’s this amusing story about Anish Kapoor and an artistic feud over the blackest black (a coating material made of carbon nanotubes) in my February 21, 2019 posting.

Art/sci and the Berggruen Institute

While the April 22, 2022 talk doesn’t directly address science issues vis-à-vis arts and culture, this upcoming Berggruen Institute/University of Southern California (USC) event does,

What Will Life Become?

Thursday, April 21 [2022] @ USC // Friday, April 22 [2022] @ Berggruen Institute // #WWLB

About

Biotechnologies that push the limits of life, artificial intelligences that can be trained to learn, and endeavors that envision life beyond Earth are among recent and anticipated technoscientific futures. Such projects unsettle theories and material realities of body, mind, species, and the planet. They prompt us to ask: How will we conjure positive human futures and future humans?

On Thursday, April 21 [2022] and Friday, April 22 [2022], the Berggruen Institute and the USC Dornsife Center on Science, Technology, and Public, together with philosophers, scientists, and artists, collaboratively and critically inquire:

What Will Life Become?

KEYNOTE CONVERSATION
“Speculative Worldbuilding”

PUBLIC FORUM
“What Will Life Become?”

PANELS
“Futures of Life”
“Futures of Mind”
“Futures in Outer Space”

WORKSHOP
“Embodied Futures”

VISION

The search for extraterrestrial biosignatures, human/machine cyborgian mashups, and dreams to facilitate reproduction beyond Earth are future-facing technologies. They complicate the purported thresholds, conditions, and boundaries of “the human,” “life,” and “the mind” — as if such categories have ever been stable. 

In concert with the Berggruen Institute’s newly launched Future Humans Program, What Will Life Become? invites philosophers, scientists, and artists to design and co-shape the human and more-than-human futures of life, the mind, and the planet.

Day 1 at USC Michelson Center for Convergent Bioscience 101 features a Keynote with director and speculative architect Liam Young who will discuss world-building through narrative and film with Nils Gilman; a Public Forum with leading scholars K Allado-McDowell, Neda Atanasoski, Lisa Ruth Rand, Tiffany Vora, moderated by Claire Isabel Webb, who will consider the question, “what will life become?” Reception to follow.

Day 2 at the Berggruen Institute features a three-part Salon: “Futures of Life,” “Futures of Mind,” and “Futures in Outer Space.” Conceptual artists Sougwen Chung*, Nancy Baker Cahill, REEPS100, Brian Cantrell, and ARSWAIN will unveil world premieres. “Embodied Futures” invites participants to imagine novel forms of life, mind, and being through artistic and intellectual provocations.

I have some details about how you can attend the programme in person or online,

DAY 1: USC

To participate in the Keynote Conversation and Public Forum on April 21, join us in person at USC Michelson Hall 101 or over YouTube beginning at 1:00 p.m [PT]. We’ll also send you the findings of the Workshop. Please register here.

DAY 2: BERGGRUEN INSTITUTE

This invite-only [mephasis mine] workshop at the Berggruen Institute Headquarters features a day of creating Embodied Futures. A three-panel salon, followed by the world premieres of art commissioned by the Institute, will provide provocations for the Possible Worlds exercises. Participants will imagine and design Future Relics and write letters to 2049. WWLB [What Will Life Become?] findings will be available online following the workshop.

*I will have more about Sougwen Chung and her work when I post my commentary on the exhibition running from March 5 – October 23, 2022 at the Vancouver Art Gallery, “The Imitation Game: Visual Culture in the Age of Artificial Intelligence.”

Singapore contributes to art/science gallery on the International Space Station (ISS)

A March 15, 2022 Nanyang Technological University press release (also on EurekAlert) announces Singapore’s contribution to an art gallery in space,

Two Singapore-designed artefacts are now orbiting around the Earth on the International Space Station (ISS), as part of Moon Gallery.

These artworks were successfully launched into space recently as part of a test flight by the Moon Gallery and will come back to Earth after 10 months.

Currently consisting of 64 artworks made by artists all around the world, the Moon gallery will eventually consist of 100 artworks, which will then be placed on the moon by 2025. Out of these 64 art pieces on the ISS, only two are Singaporean artworks.

Here’s Singapore’s contribution,

Caption: NTU [Nanyang Technological University] Singapore Assistant Professor Matteo Seita (left), who is holding the Cube of Interaction, and Ms Lakshmi Mohanbabu (right), who designed both cubes. The Structure & Reflectance cube in the foreground was 3D printed at NTU Singapore.. Credit: NTU Singapore

A December 8, 2021 news item on phys.org describes the project,

The Moon Gallery Foundation is developing an art gallery to be sent to the Moon, contributing to the establishment of the first lunar outpost and permanent museum on Earth’s only natural satellite. The international initiative will see one hundred artworks from artists around the world integrated into a 10 cm x 10 cm x 1 cm grid tray, which will fly to the Moon by 2025. The Moon Gallery aims to expand humanity’s cultural dialog beyond Earth. The gallery will meet the cosmos for the first time in low Earth orbit in 2022 in a test flight.

The test flight is in collaboration with Nanoracks, a private in-space service provider. The gallery is set to fly to the International Space Station (ISS) aboard the NG-17 rocket as part of a Northrop Grumman Cygnus resupply mission in February of 2022. The art projects featured in the gallery will reach the final frontier of human habitat in space, and mark the historical meeting point of the Moon Gallery and the cosmos. Reaching low Earth orbit on the way to the Moon is a pivotal first step in extending our cultural dialog to space.

On its return flight, the Moon Gallery will become a part of the NanoLab technical payload, a module for space research experiments. The character of the gallery will offer a diverse range of materials and behaviors for camera observations and performance tests with NanoLab.

In return, Moon Gallery artists will get a chance to learn about the performance of their artworks in space. The result of these observations will serve as a solid basis for the subsequent Moon Gallery missions and a source of a valuable learning experience for future space artists. The test flight to the ISS is a precursor mission, contributing to the understanding of future possibilities for art in space and strengthening collaboration between the art and space sectors.

A December 8, 2021 NYU press release on EurekAlert, which originated the news item, provides more detail about the art from Singapore,

STRUCTURE & REFLECTANCE CUBE

Our every perception, analysis, and thought reflect the influences from our surroundings and the Universe in a world of collaboration, communication and interaction, making it possible to explore the real, the imagined and the unknown. The ‘Structure and Reflectance’ cube, a marriage of Art and Technology, is one of the hundred artworks selected by the Moon Gallery, with a unifying message of an integrated world, making it a quintessential signature of humankind on the Moon.

Ms Lakshmi Mohanbabu, a Singaporean architect and designer, is the first and only local artist to have her artwork selected for the Moon Gallery. Coined the ‘Structure and Reflectance’ cube, Lakshmi’s art is a marriage of Art and Technology and is one of the hundred artworks selected by the Moon Gallery. The cube signifies a unifying message of an integrated world, making it a quintessential signature of humankind on the Moon.

The early-stage prototyping and design iterations of the ‘Structure and Reflectance’ cube were performed with Additive Manufacturing, otherwise known as 3D printing, at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore’s (NTU Singapore)Singapore Centre for 3D Printing (SC3DP). This was part of a collaborative project supported by the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Cluster (NAMIC), a national programme office which accelerates the adoption and commercialisation of additive manufacturing technologies. Previously, the NTU Singapore team at SC3DP produced a few iterations of Moon-Cube using metal 3D printing in various materials such as Inconel and Stainless Steel to evaluate the best suited material.

The newest iteration of the cube comprises crystals—ingrained in the cube via additive manufacturing technology— revealed to the naked eye by the microscopic differences in their surface roughness, which reflect light along different directions.

“Additive Manufacturing is suitable for enabling this level of control over the crystal structure of solids. More specifically, the work was created using ‘laser powder bed fusion technology’ a metal additive manufacturing process which allows us to control the surface roughness through varying the laser parameter,” said Dr Matteo Seita, Nanyang Assistant Professor, NTU Singapore, is the Principal Investigator overseeing the project for the current cube design.  

Dr Seita shared the meaning behind the materials used, “Like people, materials have a complex ‘structure’ resulting from their history—the sequence of processes that have shaped their constituent parts—which underpins their differences. Masked by an exterior façade, this structure often reveals little of the underlying quality in materials or people. The cube is a material representation of a human’s complex structure embodied in a block of metal consisting of two crystals with distinct reflectivity and complementary shape.”

Ms Lakshmi added, “The optical contrast on the cube surface from the crystals generates an intricate geometry which signifies the duality of man: the complexity of hidden thought and expressed emotion. This duality is reflected by the surface of the Moon where one side remains in plain sight, while the other has remained hidden to humankind for centuries; until space travel finally allowed humanity to gaze upon it. The bright portion of the visible side of the Moon is dependent on the Moon’s position relative to the Earth and the Sun. Thus, what we see is a function of our viewpoint.”

The hidden structure of materials, people, and the Moon are visualized as reflections of light through art and science in this cube. Expressed in the Structure & Reflectance cube is the concept of human’s duality—represented by two crystals with different reflectance—which appears to the observer as a function of their perspective.

Dr Ho Chaw Sing, Co-Founder and Managing Director of NAMIC said, “Space is humanity’s next frontier. Being the only Singaporean – among a selected few from the global community – Lakshmi’s 3D printed cube presents a unique perspective through the fusion of art and technology. We are proud to have played a small role supporting her in this ‘moon-shot’ initiative.”

Lakshmi views each artwork as a portrayal of humanity’s quests to discover the secrets of the Universe and—fused into a single cube—embody the unity of humankind, which transcends our differences in culture, religion, and social status.

The first cube face, the Primary, is divided into two triangles and depicts the two faces of the Moon, one visible to us from the earth and the other hidden from our view.

The second cube face, the Windmill, has two spiralling windmill forms, one clockwise and the other counter-clockwise, representing our existence, energy, and time.

The third cube face, the Dromenon, is a labyrinth form of nested squares, which represents the layers that we—as space explorers—are unravelling to discover the enigma of the Universe. 

The fourth cube face, the Nautilus, reflects the spiralling form of our DNA that makes each of us unique, a shape reflected in the form of our galaxy.

Not having heard of the Moon Gallery or the Moon Gallery Foundation, I did a little research. There’s a LinkedIn profile for the Moon Gallery Foundation (both the foundation and the gallery are located in Holland [Netherlands]),

Moon Gallery is where art and space meet. We aim to set up the first permanent museum on the Moon and develop a culture for future interplanetary society.

Moon Gallery will launch 100 artefacts to the Moon within the compact format of 10 x 10 x 1cm plate on a lunar lander exterior panelling no later than 2025. We suggest bringing this collection of ideas as the seeds of a new culture. We believe that culture makes a distinction between mere survival and life. Moon Gallery is a symbolic gesture that has a real influence – a way to reboot culture, rethink our values for better living on Earth planet.

The Moon Gallery has its own website, where I found more information about events, artists, and partners such as Nanoracks,

Nanoracks is dedicated to using our unique expertise to solve key problems both in space and on the Earth – all while lowering the barriers to entry of space exploration. Nanoracks’s main office is in Houston, Texas. The business development office is in Washington, D.C., and additional offices are located in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Turin, Italy. Nanoracks provides tools, hardware and services that allow other companies, organizations and governments to conduct research and other projects in space. Some of Nanoracks customers include Student Spaceflight Experiments Program (SSEP), the European Space Agency (ESA), the German Space Agency (DLR), NASA, Planet Labs, Space Florida, Virgin Galactic, Adidas, Aerospace Corporation, National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), UAE Space Agency, Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC), and the Beijing Institute of Technology.

You can find the Nanoracks website here.

Data Meditation and three roundtables: a collection of Who Cares? March 2022 events

You can find out more about Toronto’s Art/Sci Salon’s Who Cares? speaker series in my February 9, 2022 posting. For this posting, I’m focusing on the upcoming March 2022 events, which are being offered online. From a March 7, 2022 Art/Sci Salon announcement (received via email),

We’re pleased to announce our next two events from our “Who Cares?” Speaker Series

Nous sommes heureux d’annoncer notre deuxième événement de notre “Who Cares?” Série de conferences

March 10 [2022], 2:00-3:00 pm [ET]

Data Meditation: Salvatore Iaconesi and Oriana Persico

HER – She Loves Data 

Nuovo Abitare

Join us for a discussion about questions like: 

Why does data have to be an extractive process?

What can we learn about ourselves through the data we generate everyday?

How can we use them as an expressive form to represent ourselves?

Data Meditations is the first ritual designed with the new approach of HER: She Loves Data, which addresses data as existential and cultural phenomena, and the need of creating experience (contemporary rituals) that allow societies and individuals to come together around data generating meaning, new forms of solidarity, empathy, interconnection and knowledge.

Rejoignez-nous pour une discussion basée sur des questions telles que : 

Pourquoi les données doivent-elles être un processus d’extraction ?

Que pouvons-nous apprendre par rapport à nous, grâce aux données que nous générons chaque jour ?

Comment pouvons-nous les utiliser comme une forme expressive pour nous représenter ?

Data Méditations est le premier rituel conçu avec la nouvelle approche de HER [elle] : She loves Data , qui parle des données en tant que phénomènes existentiels et culturels , mais également , la nécessité de créer des expériences [ rituels contemporains ] qui permettent aux sociétés et aux individus de se réunir autour de données générant du sens , de nouvelles formes de solidarité , empathie ,  d’interconnexion et de connaissance. 

Register HERE/Inscrivez-vous ici

[Beyond triage and data culture roundtable]

March 11, 5:00-7:00 pm [ET]

Maria Antonia Gonzalez-Valerio,
Professor of Philosophy and Literature, UNAM, Mexico City.
Sharmistha Mishra,
Infectious Disease Physician and Mathematical Modeller, St Michael’s Hospital
Madhur Anand,
Ecologist, School of Environmental Sciences, University of Guelph
Salvatore Iaconesi and Oriana Persico,
Independent Artists, HER, She Loves Data

One lesson we have learnt in the past two years is that the pandemic has not single-handedly created a global health crisis, but has exacerbated and made visible one that was already in progress. The roots of this crisis are as cultural as they are economic and environmental.  Among the factors contributing to the crisis is a dominant orientation towards healthcare that privileges a narrow focus on data-centered technological fixes and praises the potentials of technological delegation. An unsustainable system has culminated in the passive acceptance and even the cold justification of triage as an inevitable evil in a time of crisis and scarcity.

What transdisciplinary practices can help ameliorate the atomizing pitfalls of turning the patient into data?
How can discriminatory practices such as triage, exclusion based on race, gender, and class, vaccine hoarding etc.. be addressed and reversed?
What strategies can we devise to foster genuine transdisciplinary approaches and move beyond the silo effects of specialization, address current uncritical trends towards technological delegation, and restore the centrality of human relations in healthcare delivery?

L’une des leçons que nous avons apprises au cours des deux dernières années est que la pandémie n’a pas créé à elle seule une crise sanitaire mondiale, mais qu’elle en a exacerbé et rendu visible une qui était déjà en cours. Les racines de cette crise sont aussi bien culturelles qu’économiques et environnementales. Parmi les facteurs qui contribuent à la crise figure une orientation dominante en matière de soins de santé, qui privilégie une vision étroite des solutions technologiques centrées sur les données et fait l’éloge du potentiel de la délégation technologique. Un système non durable a abouti à l’acceptation passive et même à la justification froide du triage comme un mal inévitable en temps de crise et de pénurie.

Quelles pratiques transdisciplinaires peuvent contribuer à améliorer les pièges de l’atomisation qui consiste à transformer le patient en données ?
Comment les pratiques discriminatoires telles que le triage, l’exclusion fondée sur la race, le sexe et la classe sociale, la thésaurisation des vaccins, etc. peuvent-elles être abordées et inversées ?
Quelles stratégies pouvons-nous concevoir pour favoriser de véritables approches transdisciplinaires et dépasser les effets de silo de la spécialisation, pour faire face aux tendances actuelles non critiques à la délégation technologique, et pour restaurer la centralité des relations humaines dans la prestation des soins de santé ?

Register HERE/Inscrivez-vous ici

We wish to thank/ nous [sic] the generous support of the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada, New College at the University of Toronto and The Faculty of Liberal Arts and Professional Studies at York University; the Centre for Feminist Research, Sensorium Centre for Digital Arts and Technology, The Canadian Language Museum, the Departments of English and the School of Gender and Women’s Studies at York University; the D.G. Ivey Library and the Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology at the University of Toronto; We also wish to thank the support of The Fields Institute for Research in Mathematical Sciences

There are two more online March 2022 roundtable discussions, from the Who Cares? events webpage,

2. Friday, March 18 – 6:00 to 8:00 pm [ET]
Critical care and sustainable care

Suvendrini Lena, MD, Playwright and Neurologist at CAMH and Centre for Headache, Women’s College Hospital, Toronto
Adriana Ieraci, Roboticist and PhD candidate in Computer Science, Ryerson University
Lucia Gagliese – Pain Aging Lab, York University

(online)

3. Friday, March 25 – 5:00 to 7:00 pm [ET]
Building communities and technologies of care

Camille Baker, University for the Creative Arts, School of Film media and Performing Arts
Alanna Kibbe, independent artist, Toronto

(online)

There will also be some events in April 2022 and there are two ongoing exhibitions, which you can see here.