[-empyre-] Neuroaesthetics

notnot notnot at xs4all.nl
Mon Sep 8 00:58:23 EST 2008

Hello Alan,
I have a question to the project you desribe:
To me, the works using EVP seem merely to be based on comparison
of images/sounds and not, as has been suggested, on meaningfull or
artistic results. The preprogrammed tracking algorithms for the human face
and speach dictate the system how to analyse the noise input, and the
system isn't learning over time as it continues to do the same thing over
and over again. Wouldn't it be more interesting to conceptualise a more
basic process of perception and interpretation (based on coherence,
pattern and composition etc.) that doesn't necessarily use preprogrammed
recognisable structures like the human face and speach. An open-ended
system that is able to learn by its own in order to create its own visual
audible expressions?

Maria Verstappen

Driessens & Verstappen
visual and generative arts

----- Original Message -----
From: "Alan Dunning" <einsteins-brain-project at shaw.ca>
To: "soft_skinned_space" <empyre at gamera.cofa.unsw.edu.au>
Sent: Wednesday, September 03, 2008 7:51 PM
Subject: [-empyre-] Neuroaesthetics

> Hi Everyone,
> I'll kick this off.
> Both Paul and I work inside an art/science collaboration that has
> been in existence for some  twelve years. The project  develops and
> presents systems and installations using analog or digital interfaces
> to direct the  output of the human body to virtual and sculptural
> environments that are constantly being altered through  feedback from
> a participant's biological body. The core of the Einstein's Brain
> Project is a  discursive space that engages with ideas about the
> resituation of the body in the world and its  digital cybernetic and
> post-human forms.  The project's work is focused on how
> representations of the biological body might be manifest in  the
> world through mediatized spaces and how these representation conflate
> the virtual, symbolic and  imaginary worlds in the the moment to
> moment construction of a self.
> Currently we are working on a series of works that use strategies of
> EVP (Electronic Voice Phenomenon) to look at the development of
> pattern and meaning arising out of random noise.
> These works work use the ideas inherent in EVP to examine ways in
> which we construct the world through pareidolia, (a psychological
> phenomenon involving a vague and random stimulus - often an image or
> sound - being perceived as significant), apophenia (the seeing of
> connections where there are none) and the gestalt effect (the
> recognition of pattern and form). EVP is the recording of errant
> noises or voices that have no explainable or physical source of
> origin. These recordings are made when the recorder is under very
> controlled circumstances. Most often white or pink noise is used as a
> medium that is (it is suggested) acted upon by other electromagnetic
> forces. This electromagnetic medium produces forms that are,
> occasionally, like human speech.
> In Ghosts in the Machine (2008) two projectors project large images
> onto the walls of a room. One projection shows video static overlaid
> with text and the outlines of bounding boxes, the other shows black
> and white images of what appear to be blurry and indistinct images of
> human faces. Ambient noise fills the space. Just at the threshold of
> recognition can be heard what appear to be human speech in different
> languages. A CCD camera is turned on but enclosed in a light tight
> box. Its input is adjusted with maximum gain and brightness to reveal
> the video noise inherent in the system. This noise forms the optical
> equivalent of audio noise and is used in a similar way to provide a
> medium that can be modified by external forces to produce images and
> sounds. The video noise is mapped to audio by sampling pixels in a
> QuickTime matrix and using the values to manipulate a stream of pink
> noise. Voice recognition software parses the modulated noise and
> translates any sufficiently voice-like sounds into its nearest vocal
> equivalent. Face tracking algorithms using a cascade of Haar
> classifiers scan each video frame and look for any combination of
> pixels that form the basic characteristics of a human face. These are
> areas that are loosely characterized as eyes, nose and mouth with a
> sufficient degree of symmetry. When the software finds such a
> combination of pixels and symmetry, the software draws a bounding box
> defining the area and zooms the area to full screen, its contrast and
> brightness is adjusted, blurred and desaturated to clarify the found
> images. The images produced are only occasionally reminiscent of
> human faces. More often than not, the images produced are recognized
> as indeterminate organic forms with volume and space, but fail to
> resolve themselves into anything recognizable. But occasionally,
> images are produced that are astonishingly and strikingly like a
> face, although in actuality containing only the barest possibility of
> being so.
> An audience's response to the sounds and images in Ghosts In The
> Machine is, like all apprehension of works of art, a complex
> interplay of expectation and desire dependent entirely on a
> contextual, located and distributed body. The expanded body/machine
> field - body, brain and world looping back and forth along endless
> recombinant cognitive pathways  - plays an essential role in meaning
> making in the face of the indeterminate. An early incarnation of the
> series was first shown in the Centro Popular de la Memoria in
> Rosario, Argentina. This building contained a former illegal
> detention center that was used by the provincial police between 1976
> and 1979 to hold people without formal charges and torture them,
> under the pretense of fighting radical left-wing political subversion
> and terrorism. It was informally termed El Pozo: The Pit. The Sound
> of Silence was installed in a room directly above The Pit. Naturally
> enough the images and sounds that observers saw and heard in what was
> generated by random noise from the camera related directly to the
> horrors inflicted on those incarcerated in El Pozo. Noise was
> interpreted in the context of the lost and invisible bodies that had
> been incarcerated. Another installation occurred at a mental hospital
> in Trieste, Italy. Here the noise was characterized differently and
> altogether different content was built within the work. Such
> contextual imagining is not unusual - works of art are never
> autonomous, but always part of a contextual continuum. But in these
> works content is so completely dependent on context for the any
> meaning that might be generated, that it is seen as a visualization
> of a momentary and located epistemological unconscious.
> In these installations the computer does the hard work of analyzing a
> complex visual field, but the task of meaning making is left to the
> observer as discovered faces barely meet the requirements of a facial
> arrangement, consisting only of blobs and indeterminate grain.
> Seeing, representation and the interpretation of external phenomena
> has never been a matter of objectivity. Seeing is a complex activity,
> and the perception of visual forms, aesthetic experience and
> cognitive interpretation are more at home with the aleatory, the
> misperceived and the phenomena of indeterminacy than with the notion
> of the world as a fixed reality. It is these that drive the
> installations. The installations are generative, closed systems.
> Noise from a CCD camera is analyzed for patterns. An algorithm looks
> for patterns that match the basic geometry and physiognomy of the
> human face. What it actually finds are pixels on a screen that have
> no indexical relation to a real world face. They are not images of
> people, but another kind of image loaded with meaning, which arises
> accidentally, but irresistibly and inevitably, from the hybrid
> interaction between machine and body and world. To all intents and
> purposes when these patches of pixels look like faces, they are
> images of faces. That such obscure images resolve themselves into
> faces without conscious effort, and that remain even when attending
> closely to them, suggests that it is paradoxically their lack of
> objective meaning that generates their form. It is the very ambiguity
> and intedeterminacy of the images that allows the brain to
> reconfigure them as indexical.
> Alan
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