Computational Arts

Session 4: Interviews, Why and Paper Prototyping again

Jayson is going to interview Susan Stepney in Cambridge on Monday 23rd January. He’s interested in her work on Heterotic computing, the idea of combining several different models of computing into a whole.

On her page on Science Fiction she had the following quote:

I never fully understood [the label of ‘escapist’] till my friend Professor Tolkien asked me the very simple question, ‘What class of men would you expect to be most preoccupied with, and most hostile to, the idea of escape?’ and gave the obvious answer: jailers.

C. S. Lewis, “On Science Fiction”

Susan gave a talk at Goldsmiths, but I’ve been unable to find it, here are two other talks that she gave recently:

I referenced Joscha Bach‘s talk at the recent 33c3 conference in Berlin, especially when he spoke about Conway’s Game of Life (at around 13m35s):

His various talks over the past few years can be found here.

We discussed the idea of really specialising, really focusing in, I suggested looking at the Win Without Pitching manifesto. I asked Jayson what he was aiming for, he discussed thinking about a collaboration with Susan, trying to show a series of different methods of computing, all linking together, but leaning towards writing. I said that it had to be something – what about a series of Cellular Automata, but each using a different method of computation? Mostly important was the why. Why was he taking this path? What autobiographical reason was there? What is the story around this work? How are people going to be introduced to it?

I asked Diane and Julianne why they were doing art in the first place? Diane spoke about wanting to share the feeling of discovery that she had at various moments. Julianne said that she wanted to tell stories.

I referenced Pollock’s quote on Clyfford Still:

“Clyfford Still makes the rest of us look academic.”

I discussed the overload that I felt at the recent Abstract Impressionism show at the Royal Academy, but also the relief of going into the Still room.

We then went on to discuss different methods of showing work – I referenced Helen Marten’s assemblages, and her work with other craftspeople to manufacture objects to her specification.

Dianne has been trying to get in contact with Martin Howse, who is interested in the materiality of computing – i.e. the materials that make computers. Dianne referenced the Earth Boot project:

Where Richard builds a probe that allows a computer to attempt to boot from the earth itself:

Earth as operating system(OS).
earthboot boots from the earth.
earthboot returns vampiric technology to the earth.
earthboot enables almost any computer to boot straight from the earth, sidestepping dirty mining actions, and the expensive refining and doping of raw minerals; thus avoiding environmentally wasteful
production techniques for the construction of data bearing devices
such as hard drives or USB memory sticks
Instead, earthboot boots straight from the earth itself, exploring the
being-substrate of contemporary digital technology; the material basis of 21st century computation.

Diane talked about being interested in this unique approach to computation. I again asked why, and referenced the Why Bird Stop from Playdays:

I encouraged everyone to be Why Birds.

Dianne talked about her recent research into bacteria – inspired by Richard’s use of “mucky” scientific processes, outside of the lab. She spoke about her mother’s career as a microbiologist and that she herself had even appeared in text books after her mother conducting tests on her. Jayson referenced Henrietta Lacks‘ immortal cells and I suggested looking at “The Cabaret of Plants” by Richard Mabey that concludes with a chapter on plant networks in the Wood Wide Web.

We then looked at Break Down by Michael Landy, and discussed the story of him stacking individual sheets of toilet paper while he was at Goldsmiths – told in the documentary “The Last Art Film” by Jake Auerbach.

I remembered a quote from his tutor Michael Craig-Martin that, uniquely, he could remember every single one of Michael’s projects whilst he was at college.

I suggested that Dianne needed to zero in on something and focus upon it. Dianne responded by talking about her interested in Homeostasis as a process and being interested in making a virtual gut, as well as the beauty of Phages, which brought up a trio of references from previous work by other artists, Artist’s Shit by Piero Manzoni Cloaca by Wim Delvoye and Still Life by Sam Taylor-Johnson.

Julianne had had a response from Seth Wulsin about an interview, so she’s going to email him asking about why he makes his work as well as enquiring about the transformation from a conceptual idea to something tangible. She felt that transformation is where she struggles most in her process. Recently Julianne has been looking at the subject of Love in technology, and the effect of technology on how people meet, relate and break up. She’s been asking her friends for access to their Tinder records – all their words and exchanges. Many participants talked about their embarrassment at handing over the information. Julianne is looking at how she could use the Microsoft Kinect to as an interface to the anonymised data that she has curated.

I referenced two Instagram users: TinderNightmares and TextsFromYourEx.

In terms of how to think about the presentation of the data set, I referenced two projects, We Feel Fine by Sep Kamvar and Jonathan Harris as well asListening Post by Ben Rubin and Mark Hansen.

We found a great article about the project 10 years on, as well as discussion the idea of movements for the data and how to bring the human aspect back into the work. That sparked a reference to Tender by  Marcello Gomez Maureira:

Jayson referenced Cuddlr, which led to a discussion of ELIZA bots as well as more recent developments. Finally, we discussed Deepmind’s recent advances in voice synthesis.

I set the following two pieces of homework, both due to be presented at Session 5:

  • Exhibit your interview – the journey of your conversation, even if you fail, preferably 30 minutes video or interview
  • Build a paper prototype of your installation – even if it’s just a straw man