[-empyre-] A open call to our subscribers: Week 1: New Year/New Tools and Technologies

B. Bogart ben at ekran.org
Sun Feb 8 06:51:33 AEDT 2015

Hello all,

I would like to respond to both Jason and William in this message, since
I missed Jason's comments before sending my last messages.

Jason Bernagozzi wrote: "Of course we cannot assume that the process is
objective, but there is not enough talk about the aesthetic objectives
of the artist, who undoubtedly did not want the machine to make anything
that looked “ugly”."

This could lead to interesting directions since I have a strange
relationship to aesthetics. I'm personally more interested in the
process than the outward appearance. The output of the system is
demonstration or documentation, whereas the actual work is the executed
process. Part of the reason for this is that in the production process I
spend more time getting the code to work, and it making sense in the 
context of theory, than evaluating the aesthetics.
I think of the aesthetics as being an emergent result of the process,
and short of selection for documentation, is not the primary site of
artistic validation. This has gotten me into some trouble in 
art-as-inquiry where the process of creating aesthetics objects is 
(sometimes) where the contribution of art lies.

As my graduate studies have largely been in a quantitative /
scientifically oriented program, I've been thinking a lot about the idea
of objectivity/subjectivity in relation to mediation, and the relation
between global/local interpretations and meaning. Is objectivity the
same as a global and unmediated truth? I think that all meaning and
interpretation is context-dependent and mediated, and thus local. Global
meaning and interpretation as unmediated is an illusion. As I spend a
lot of time trying to bridge arts and sciences, it's often difficut to 
get hard objectivists to consider their knowledge as mediated and
imbued with cultural values and biases.

My response to William follows inline:

On 15-02-07 04:08 AM, William Bain wrote:
> But my first question is: Aren't concepts tools? As infants we spend
> lots of times sucking our toes and thumbs, figuring out what things
> like arms and legs can do--forming concepts to put such things to
> work. Maybe I'm leaving out something you put into your long text.

I would agree that concepts are tools. I'm quite interested in
Barsalou's conception that (concrete) concepts are simulations of
sensory information that are generated on the fly to match particular
task demands.

In the context of my question "Is it a question a tools, or a question
of contexts and conceptions?" I'm trying to get at the idea that perhaps
we should be less concerned with tools manifest in physical artifacts,
and more concerned with how those tools augment both behaviour and
cognition. I write about this in another blog post:
http://www.ekran.org/ben/wp/2014/indoctrination-machines/ (I think I
already referred to this in a previous message to empyre). I think the
physical manifestation of tools is the tip of the iceberg and we should
be thinking less about them as tools and more of them as systems that
structure behaviour and cognition. This is an extension of my TEDx talk: 

> Second, you speak of being less interested in using grounds (?) or
> objects from contexts like Flickr due to "lack of constraint": I'd
> like to ask, Wouldn't lack of constraint add to the experimental
> features?

I'm not sure what you mean by "experimental features".

I think what I was getting at is the idea that rather than my work being 
about communication or expression centrally, it's about reflecting on 
the nature of communication and expression. I am interested in grounding 
because the grounding of concepts (in sensory reality) is itself an 
interesting and open question. It's really an issue of embodiment. How 
our complex symbolic world relates to the messiness and uniqueness of 
actual sensory information. Part of this grounding for me entails a 
requirement for a point of view, and thus a system placed in space and 
time which constrains the sensory patterns available to it. There is a 
problem here though, because even in discussions with specialists there 
was always this question of what the task of the system was, and that 
the ill-formed "task" of making sense did not provide detail enough to 
select appropriate algorithms. It could certainly be argued that, as an 
agent, the dreaming machine's lack of motivation (goal directed desires) 
precludes any useful sense of cognition.

If I was to use images from flickr, or images submitted by the public, 
then the unitary point of view of the machine would be lost. The system 
would have a pluralistic point of view and I could think of as 
approaching objectivity and shifting away from locality/subjectivity. I 
suppose I'm interested in exploring the notion of machine subjectivity 
through methods normally contextualized within an objective practice 
(brain and computer science).

In the context of the discussion happening now, it seems the interplay 
between old and new media could then be considered in the interplay 
between old and new conceptual systems, perhaps modernism in relation to 

I'm personally more interested in the idea of living technological works 
that keep getting reinvented in new technical and cultural contexts than 
works being preserved in the sense of painting or sculpture: 

Great discussion; thanks all for engaging.


Thanks for all this very welcome material. It seems to me
> like a great renewal of Empyre's discussions. Best wishes, William
> _______________________________________________ empyre forum
> empyre at lists.artdesign.unsw.edu.au http://empyre.library.cornell.edu

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