"One thing that a-life and generative art can do in setting up these
"aquaria" (exactly), is play with complex dynamic systems in miniature,
and perhaps discover or intuit some of their properties. Australian
a-life artist Rod Berry talks about trying to encourage an "aesthetic
of systems" rather than one of "images" with his work. Of course
there's Jack Burnham's 1968 "Systems Aesthetics."
Which brings us right to the sublime, the unrepresentable vastness of
nature/culture/global capital. I agree with Jon and Alan's analysis.
Also speaking of sublime and Manovich, there's his paper "The
Anti-Sublime Ideal in Data Art" -
Worth noting in passing is Lisa Jevbratt's objection to Lev's using her work
as an example of the anti-sublime ideal in new media art. Lev wrote:
> ³If Romantic artists thought of certain phenomena and effects as
> un-representable, as something which goes beyond the limits of human senses
> and reason, data visualization artists target the exact opposite: to map such
> phenomena into a representation whose scale is comparable to the scales of
> human perception and cognition. For instance, Jevbratt¹s 1:1 reduces the
> cyberspace usually imagined as vast and maybe even infinite to a single
> image that fits within the browser frame.²
Lisa found this troubling:
> The reasoning is very clear and it troubled me because I instinctively knew
> that it was wrong both in making the case that data visualization by
> definition is anti-sublime and that my project 1:1 would be a good example of
> this case.
> How then can data visualizations utilize the (or be) sublime? Why should they
> aim to?
She goes on to explore the aesthetics of big data as sublime in an article
(see url ref below) recently edited and published as part of a series on Big
Data for SCALE (www.scale.ucsd.edu), edited by =empyrean= Brett Stalbaum.
In the context Mitchell's recall of Jack Burnham, it's compelling to read
Lisa develop an argument for perhaps not a miniature aesthetics, but rather
a process whereby people might be 'mobilized to make intuitive
understandings of the data.' Read on:
> In the article ³Systems Esthetics² Jack Burnham wrote about the new complex
> process or systems oriented society, culture and economics he saw emerging: a
> new era in which systems analysis would be the most relevant method for making
> understandings in any discourse. Burnham argues that because we can¹t grasp
> all the details of our highly complex systems (economic, cultural, technical,
> etc), we cannot make ³rational² decisions within them or understand them by
> analyzing the systems or their parts. The way to make decisions within them
> and to understand them is by making more intuitive, ³esthetic decisions², a
> concept he borrows from the economist J. K. Galbraith.
> This idea has an intriguing parallel in the philosopher Emmanuel Kant¹s
> reasoning about the mobilizing effect the sublime has on our organizing
> abilities. He claims that in experiencing the sublime, by facing large amounts
> of information, huge distances and ungraspable quantities, our senses and our
> organizing abilities are mobilized. Contrary to what might be believed, we
> feel empowered, able to make decisions, and capable to act.
> Many strategies for aiding people in the task of turning any large set of data
> into knowledge assumes that they should be presented less information and
> fewer options in order to be able to make sense out of the data.
> However, humans are capable of sorting through enormous amounts of visual
> information and make sensible and complex decisions in a split second, (the
> ability of driving a car is one example). Supported by Kant¹s idea I propose
> that under the right circumstances, drawing on sensations of the sublime,
> people can, when faced with huge quantities of data, be mobilized to make
> intuitive understandings of the data. Many information visualizations and
> displays are a result of the mistake of compressing the information too much
> and decreasing the amount of information through calculations that embody
> assumptions that are never explained. The most common mistake in data
> visualizations, artistic or scientific, is not too much information but too
> little, their ³images² of the data landscape are not high resolution enough
> for an esthetic decision to be made.
This suite of articles on Big Data, including the one from which this
excerpt quotes, by Lisa Jevbratt, together with essays by Andrea Polli,
Brett Stalbaum, and myself, was originally published last summer on the
SCALE site (www.scale.ucsd.edu)
At present it seems to be missing, so I have just posted it on my site. If
you are interested in reading Lisa's piece, just go to the main page and
click on "SUBLIME and BIG DATA: articles from SCALE.." for a pdf download.
Our part, BIG DATA, is in section 17 of the magazine.
Mitchell, I like comparing your comments in your essay "Abstract Organism"
about a-life as imitation of nature, or better, as you put it, how it
"begins to take on, in various ways, the abstract dynamics of nature." You
continue by developing a link to Goethe's suggestion that the artist aspire
"...not only to something light and superficially effective, but, as the
rival of nature, something spiritually organic...to a content and a form by
which it appears both natural and beyond nature" . How might this
spiritually organic art, both natural and beyond nature, cast a gloss on
Jevbratt's desire for a creative work that will instigates "intuitive
understandings of the data", while still instantiating your own interest in
abstraction and miniaturization: big data in a petri dish? Interested in
your further musings.
soundart performance videoinstallation multimedia painting theory
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