[-empyre-] "(E)MOTION FREQUENCY - rpm" --- killing me softly

sergio basbaum sbasbaum at gmail.com
Wed Oct 26 12:19:29 EST 2011

Dear Gordana, Johannes and friends,

Thank you Gordana -- indeed, Castells seemed to me much alike that
other person you described, which took Google as an utopian tool! And
I know some of these people here, as also. Mostly, they are happy
because they are in the market, where there's now a lot of money going
on. They are well adapted; I don't believe much in adapt me that much,
I feel like I've already gone quite far: I'd rather try to adapt the
world for us, at least a little bit.

Since my week in this debate  is gone, I'll just send some messages
replying the conversations I was into last week. Couldn't do it
before, since we've been engaged in a surprise exhibition, in a house
to be demolished here, with some performance groups and some other
artists. A lot of changes are going on the city here, because of all
the money that's going on in Brazil. As result of the devastating
power of money interests, architectural and urban memories are just
being destroyed, regardless of the meaning of those places and spaces
and people's life and history related. Myself, I presented two simple
works: a poem dealing with the question of commodities  (and ourselves
as commodities); and a work I've done with my wife, taking advantage
of a 4mts deep small hole which the engeneering company has made to
test the ground -- since they will raise a building there. So we've
put there a reel which people had to roll, and by the end of the line
a small acrylic piece brough two short sentences: "art is something
deep", and "art is prospection". People were interested, they played
it and they laughed. It was really nice. And some really nice
performance works of young  collectives also took place there in the

As usual, one notices that to make "participatory" or "interactive"
artworks, one doesn't necessarily needs to deal with digital

Gordana has posted a big question: how can one engage scientists in
the problems, or at least in the way, artists deal with reality.
There's been a lot of talking in Brazil in the last decade about this
supposed meeting between art and science. So, one will hear that
science and art are both "creative enterprises", which depend on "
insight and experimentation" etc... In the Barcelona McLuhan meeting,
Cristina Miranda (who I like a lot) also stated more or less this idea
-- that one could at least benefit from the methods of the other.
However -- and told her this, then --  the way I see it, it's not that
easy to bring these practices together, since they may share
strategies, but certainly not the goals. Science looks for control
over its objects, to develop models that allow to forecast these
objects' behaviour; it faces phenomena as things to be explained --
I'm interested not in explaination but in understanding. So, the main
reason why scientists do what they do is to have power over things --
of course, there may be some idealist scientists which still believe
they are working "for the development of mankind", but most of them
depend on complex and expensive equipment and financial resources, so
they are linked to other interests, most not so nice.

In the world in which we live, we cannot do without science anymore,
of course; but neither -- and this is the main point -- we can live
with positive science practices empowered as to ocupy the role of the
main referees of what "truth is". That is: for common sense, nowadays,
"truth" means "scientific truth".

So you will see, for example, in Brazil, Miguel Nicolellis -- the
brilliant neuroscientist -- giving nonsense explanations about the
notion of "God", and trying to formulate all kinds of opinions about
philosophy and everything, and you read that and think: "OMG, this is
so naive...please keep this man in the lab...". And his enormous ego
wants to open the World Cup in Brazil with a paraplegic walking thanks
to his findings -- isn't that an amazing sense of propaganda?
Recently, I found out there's a book written by Paul Ricouer and
Jean-Pierre Changeux  precisely ont this debate between science and
philosophy, and since this vision of mine is much influenced by
Phenomenology criticism of Science, I would like to read their debate.

However, if one can define very easily the goals of science, the goals
of art practices are not that easy, as art is not be understood
functionally -- rather, it must implode functionality! And certainly,
it must not serve the interests of power. One of my favorite examples
is the following: when Eisenstein presented the world with his
"Potemkin", it is said that Joseph Goebbels enjoyed it so much, that
he wanted a similar movie to promote their Reich project; well, one
cannot imagine Stalin taking a Duchamp's readymade and telling soviet
artists: "We need one of these"! That is, art works, when they are
really succesfull, cannot be used as symbols of power. One cannot tell
what an artwork must be, but certainly the pressures for them to be
functional and legitimate or serve scientific practices of power are
very strong in the contemporary context.

One must be a really interesting and cultivated scientist to
understand and love what art is about today. When I made my book on
synesthesia, I concluded that neuroscientists didn't help to interpret
artworks, since they know nothing about art. However philosophers do,
and I think artworks benefit much more from dialogue with philosophy
from that with science. Mostly, in my oiwn work at the classroom I'm
interested in provoking thinking and showing that there's no use in
world dominated by an unique form of truth: we'd rather keep the world
plural and meanigfull, by combining different ways of making meaning
of our lives. I like to believe students leave my classes at least
with a broader understanding of such questions.

That was a lot,

Good vibes from rainy Sao Paulo


On Wed, Oct 19, 2011 at 7:37 PM, Gordana Novakovic
<gordana.novakovic at gmail.com> wrote:
> Sergio,
> Your comment on Castells - strangely resonates with what this young
> computer wizard told me: Google wants you to be happy! What? But what
> if I want to be sad? Amuse ourselves to death? (to use a brilliant
> title of a book)
> Read your exposition with real delight - I can fully agree with it to
> the last bit which so accurately summarises the current landscape:
>> Contemporary artists, working or not with technological means,
> have,thus to  deal with this new sensibility. It doesn't matter what
> strategies they choose, they are addressing a public whose perception
> is being shaped in an environment saturated with digial devices, and
> it it thus not simple to make of them "spectators"  in the terms
> envisioned by artistic propositions.<
> Yes, and for me one of the key issues in our work, I agree, is to
> understand these changes (like them or not). But the more I ponder
> into science, philosophy and other practitioners' work in search for
> the answers - the more concerned I am. I was actually mortified when I
> read this article in Wired because it almost describes the methods and
> dream-technology that I'd like to use my own work (obviously for
> entirely opposite reasons). And suddenly all our discussion got
> strangely different colour. And I will end with the last slide from my
> short presentation at ISEA2011 panel where I presented my second
> manifesto for neuroplastic arts:
> Is it possible, and if yes – how can we engage the broad scientific
> community to generate serious in-depth transdisciplinary investigation
> around questions arising from our apparently unnecessary, but very
> important research?
> warm greetings from frosty London
> Gordana
> On 19 October 2011 14:13, sergio basbaum <sbasbaum at gmail.com> wrote:
>> Gordana,
>> Thank for for your lovely (although frightening) message. Those who
>> were at the McLuhan congress in Barcelona can testify that Manoel
>> Castells seemed like an Apple propaganda boy: maybe we should adapt
>> the Beatles fantastic song (God, I love Lennon's voice in that
>> song...) and sing "Happiness is an IPhone"... to be attached to an
>> IPhone seems today the closest place to happiness in our compulsive
>> technocomodities culture!
>> I'll forward you message for my student´s list.
>> good vibes from Brazil
>> s
>> On Wed, Oct 19, 2011 at 10:07 AM, Gordana Novakovic
>> <gordana.novakovic at gmail.com> wrote:
>>> Ah, Michele, thank you so much for your poetic and wise reflections.
>>> Thanks to you had a wonderful dancing hour...  Lennon / McCartney's
>>> Happiness..  then Killing me softly.. until I hit the  (Pink Floyd)
>>> Wall
>>> Apologies for not being clear. Had no intentions to criticise Rist's
>>> work, it was intended to be more of a question rather than statement.
>>> I  found Johannes remarks as a good start to share with you all my own
>>> doubts and questions around spectacle and how do we relate our own
>>> practice to it. Is there escape from the Baudrillard's simulacrum? and
>>> so on...
>>> .Maybe because it was empty like a body without organs did it open up
>>> new vista/old suppressed vista... I didn't expect this and yet, it was
>>> rather a beautiful afternoon, which left me feeling quite light, and
>>> as though I had recaptured something from my (earlier) youth.
>>> Yes, this is what I remember when I saw her work few years ago. Have
>>> to see Hayward one.
>>> But I'd like to respond to Sergio's brilliant observations and share
>>> with you my concerns about the mind control, and also I think quite
>>> related to the above.
>>>> Honestly, it seems theoretically possible to both leave yourself to
>>> the current and try to enjoy it, as creatively as possible, or to try
>>> to find what one could name "the eye of the hurricane", a moving
>>> center of calmness from which one could think abouit what's going on.
>>> I think, however, that the first choice is too uncritical of the new
>>> forms of power and the new forms of consciousness which are being
>>> favored by technological omnipresence; and the second simply do not
>>> exist, or is precisely the confortable product labs where powerfull
>>> corporations are developing the next techno-commoditties to keep
>>> culture hipnotized with so-called interactivity.
>>> Thus, It may be necessary (maybe more maybe less than I expect,
>>> anyway), to ask if the discourses for interactive arts and web 2.0 are
>>> entangled with this logic of perpetual acting and producing, as
>>> opposed to (usually presented as deepply negative) contemplation and
>>> thinking.
>>> I'm not a heavy Deleuze reader, but yesterday, loosely reading his
>>> "Conversations"(pg 162, in the Brazilian edition), by chance I came
>>> across the following passage:
>>> "?(...) Repressive forces do not prevent people from expressing
>>> themselves; on the contrary, they force them to express themselves.
>>> The smoothness of having nothing to say, the right to have nothing to
>>> say; thus is the condition for something exquisite or rare to emerge,
>>> which deserves to be said. One dies nowadays not from interferences,
>>> but from propositions which are absolutely devoid of interest (...)".
>>> This is a surprising quote in the context of the present social
>>> movements, the way new media is beeing related to them, and all the
>>> hopes they are raising.
>>> Last night I had a heated discussion with a bright young star in
>>> computer science who passionately tried to convince me that Google is
>>> softly building a new wonderful world (ended up without bloodshed).
>>> What caught my attention this morning was a text in Wired titled:
>>> Darpa Wants to Master the Science of Propaganda (full text
>>> http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2011/10/darpa-science-propaganda/)
>>> (for those not familiar - The Defense Advanced Research Projects
>>> Agency (DARPA) is an agency of the United States Department of Defense
>>> responsible for the development of new technology for use by the
>>> military. DARPA has been responsible for funding the development of
>>> many technologies which have had a major effect on the world,
>>> including computer networking, as well as NLS, which was both the
>>> first hypertext system, and an important precursor to the contemporary
>>> ubiquitous graphical user interface.)
>>> " Darpa is asking scientists to “take narratives and make them
>>> quantitatively analyzable in a rigorous, transparent and repeatable
>>> fashion.” (....) In the first 18-month phase of the program, the
>>> Pentagon wants researchers to study how stories infiltrate social
>>> networks and alter our brain circuits. One of the stipulated research
>>> goals: to “explore the function narratives serve in the process of
>>> political radicalization and how they can influence a person or
>>> group’s choice of means (such as indiscriminant violence) to achieve
>>> political ends.”
>>> Once scientists have perfected the science of how stories affect our
>>> neurochemistry, they will develop tools to “detect narrative
>>> influence.” These tools will enable “prevention of negative behavioral
>>> outcomes … and generation of positive behavioral outcomes, such as
>>> building trust.” In other words, the tools will be used to detect
>>> who’s been controlled by subversive ideologies, better allowing the
>>> military to drown out that message and win people onto their side.
>>> “The government is already trying to control the message, so why not
>>> have the science to do it in a systematic way?” said the researcher
>>> familiar with the project.
>>> When the project enters into a second 18-month phase, it’ll use the
>>> research gathered to build “optimized prototype technologies in the
>>> form of documents, software, hardware and devices.” What will these
>>> be? Existing technology can carry out micro-facial feature analysis,
>>> and measure the dilation of blood vessels and eye pupils. MRI machines
>>> can determine which parts of your brain is lighting up when it
>>> responds to stories. Darpa wants to do even better.
>>> In fact, it’s calling for devices that detect the influence of stories
>>> in unseen ways. “Efforts that rely solely on
>>> standoff/non-invasive/non-detectable sensors are highly encouraged,”
>>> the solicitation reads.
>>> Forget lie detectors; invisible propaganda-detectors are the future."
>>> So - we who are 'in bed' with neuroscience, cognitive sciences and
>>> technology - how do we relate ourselves to the true nature of the
>>> fascinating scientific findings and super-futuristic technology that
>>> we are, or wish to incorporate in our own research? I feel that we
>>> might be faced with the same set of ethical questions that confronts
>>> roboticists whose work has been heavily funded and exploited for
>>> military purposes? (attended last night panel addressing ethics in
>>> robotics at Imperial College. And robotic experts expressed their deep
>>> concerns)
>>> Perhaps, we could help people re-occupy their body/mind (while still
>>> not illegal)?
>>> In spite of all - hope you are having a soft, lovely day
>>> Gordana
>>> _______________________________________________
>>> empyre forum
>>> empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
>>> http://www.subtle.net/empyre
>> --
>> -- Prof. Dr. Sérgio Roclaw Basbaum
>> -- Vice-coord. Tecnologia e Mídias Digitais
>> -- Pós-Graduação Tec.da Inteligência e Design Digital - TIDD (PUC-SP)
>> _______________________________________________
>> empyre forum
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>> http://www.subtle.net/empyre
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-- Prof. Dr. Sérgio Roclaw Basbaum
-- Vice-coord. Tecnologia e Mídias Digitais
-- Pós-Graduação Tec.da Inteligência e Design Digital - TIDD (PUC-SP)

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