Art, Materiality, Space and Time

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A Potential Landscape by Jonas Ranft/ Herding Cats to Infinity by Peter Richardson/ De-phasing Infrastructure: on the Techno – Aesthetic Interval in Gilbert Simondon’s Objet Technique by Patrick Henri Harrop/ Curiosity as an artist's brief by Rudi Knoops/ Delay and Non-Materiality in Telecommunication Art by Raivo Kelomees/ Simulation beyond perspective. The discourse of holography as a tool for imagery, art, media studies and science by Pier Luigi Capucci
Friday, 16 September, 2011 - 14:45 - 16:45
Chair Person: 
M. Luisa Gomez Marti­nez
Jonas Ranft
Peter Richardson
Patrick Harrop
Rudi Knoops
Raivo Kelomees
Pier Luigi Capucci

A Potential Landscape

by Jonas Ranft

Besides natural scenery, which is its foremost and everyday notion, what can be meant by the term “landscape”? Obviously, it involves some notion of space, some spatial configuration, structure. In the sciences, the landscape metaphor is recurrent. Physicists for example speak of “energy landscapes” when they refer to a system’s potential energy as a function of space. This potential energy landscape contains information about the forces that act on the system as it evolves in real space, the forces that ultimately determine the system’s trajectory. 

In this paper, we discuss the idea of an abstract dynamic landscape that represents a fictitious potential accounting for the trajectories of moving “agents”. Not only do the agents move, but also the landscape changes in time.  The agents can be people, moving in public space, or they can be—in a more scientifically inspired setting—laboratory rats chasing each other in a cage. What determines the latter’s course? Thinking of people, is there some hidden force that drives us (the agents) in a certain direction? As the movements continually modify the fictitious potential landscape, the trajectories are inscribed into another level of representation – energetic, mysterious, although constructed in a simple manner by analogy to real physical systems. It appears mysterious because we can not know the forces that determine us, what we see is only one of many possible reconstructions reminding us of uncharted influences on our actions. The visualization of this landscape triggers reflections on our relation to the physical; how we experience our free will as the possibility to escape total determinism; finally, how we relate to each other.

We present an algorithm to extract the potential landscape from trajectory data of moving agents; further research explores possible realizations of the potential landscape as an actual installation using camera tracking and 3D projection.

Herding Cats to Infinity

by Peter Richardson

In this paper I outline the current findings of an on going investigation begun in 2009 at the Visual Effects Research Lab (VERL). The three-year project links the worlds of film, art, technology and computer science. In sharing methodologies and promoting cross, trans and inter disciplinary understanding the project challenges established notions of visual thought and creates new synergies between scientists, artists, and film-makers.  

In 1985 painter David Hockney was invited by Quantel to experience its TV computer graphics system Paintbox. Hockney worked for 8 hours nonstop creating artworks with the ‘tablet’ and ‘pen’ set up. He described the system as like ‘painting with light’. In the spirit of Quantel’s project VERL and Creative Scotland invited Artist to propose fantastical moving image projects un-realizable with incumbent technology. VERL worked with the four selected artists to shoot high resolution (up to 4K) and post-produce in Nuke and Maya a series of innovative film projects for cinematic exhibition.

“The idea of infinity cannot be expressed in words or even described, but it can be apprehended through art, which makes infinity tangible. The absolute is only attainable through faith and in the creative act”.

‘Sculpting In Time’ Andrei Tarkovsky.

The notion of depicting time (the literal translation of Tarkovsky’s book title) and in particular ideas of infinity became the projects prevalent theme. The  artists pushed the labs facilities and team to its limits creating impossible ornithological stunts, buildings rising from burning embers, real and imagined robots and visceral fantasy worlds. Would working with the Lab allow greater flexibility for the artists to create? Would access to this previously unaffordable technology provide more scope to experiment, or, would realising these unique visions be like ‘herding cats’?

VERL is a ground breaking project funded by a €500K European Union grant and consolidates established world-class research at DJCAD in video art, digital film and 3D computer visualisation. VERL provides a well-equipped laboratory environment for invited artists, filmmakers and researchers to create new works. 

De-phasing Infrastructure: on the Techno – Aesthetic Interval in Gilbert Simondon’s Objet Technique

by Patrick Henri Harrop

Among the canon of mid-century thinkers concerned with the question of technology, French philosopher Gilbert Simondon (1924 – 1989) presents a unique body of investigation. His work ruminates through a careful, painstaking, if not obsessive reflection on what he terms as the “technical object”. A broad and complex compilation of the artifacts of technology, that embodies its genealogy of concretization: the moments of clarification or “individuation”, cultural and technical, that allow the object to momentarily define its own world of operation as a unique and authentic artifact. Simondon takes unprecedented care and rigor in unfolding the slow, and often accidental evolution of specific technologies through a philosophical dialogue spoken only through the specific constraints of the corpus of the machine itself. The most notorious is his painstaking and minute description of the material and mechanical transformations in the evolution of the cathode ray tube in his seminal work “Sur la Mode de L’existence de L’object technique”. A radical, technical, hermeneutic, if you will, of the embedded technologies that underpin the infrastructure that surrounds us.   Behind the seemingly disparate collection of highly detailed technical objects that fill the pages of “Sur la Mode de L’existence de L’object Technique”, there is an intentional and profoundly poetic strategy. Each of Simondon’s objects punctuate a dense collective of interconnected technologies, but as well as a specifically targeted philosophical critique of the phenomenological model. The mode of conduct often implies a transformative departure from the discreet physicality of the construct to the energetic flux of the thermal, phasic, electromagnetic, and even the sonic. It is here that Simondon reveals a profound possibility for phenomenological revelation of within the technical domain. To perceive the immaterial, we must introduce an order of technical objects that draw the flux from the perceptual background. The act of distinguishing from the “fond”, and the instruments that allow for this possibility reside in the domain of the techno – aesthetic. A meta static condition where device can be at once a utilitarian tool, or an instrument of creation. Thus opening the possibility of an artistic engagement with the hidden infrastructure that underlies and circumscribes our lived environment. This paper will discuss the phenomenon between Simondon’s technical objects and the opportunity it addresses for both technology and electronic art practices.

Curiosity as an artist's brief

by Rudi Knoops

In this paper I will discuss some of the techniques that I use as an artist to instill curiosity. The criteria for my ‘discourse’ are set out by Stephen Bann in his book “Ways around Modernism” (Stephen Bann, 2006) wherein he formulates an “ambitious brief for the present-day artist in respect to curiosity”.

I will elaborate on this brief with references to my own work, and show how a media-archeological mindset, facilitated by a strong interest in and linkeage between art and science, can be an important source of inspiration for an artist.

Being a media artist, I try to expand the code of the video apparatus by subverting parameters of the medium. One media-archeology based technique that I employ is re-injecting analogue elements into this highly digital apparatus. The technique of anamorphosis is one such analogue form of mediation that I employ in my PhD research: using multiple cathoptrical anamorphoses with multiple optical (analogue) ‘lenses’ as mediators between the digital apparatus and the observer.

This approach touches the core of my PhD research wherein I explore how interventions on a number of parameters of the video apparatus can generate a sense of wonder and curiosity with the observer, in search of a contemporary iteration of the concept ‘cinema of attractions’ (Tom Gunning, 1990).

‘Cinema of attractions’ being an everpresent undercurrent surging to the surface whenever the fascination for and the explicitation of the medium takes the lead.

It is clear that this stress on curiosity as part of an artist’s brief also has an impact on research methodologies being used: research through design could in this context easily be rephrased as research through curiosity.

Finally I will take this discourse one step further: if the artist succeeds in passing through (part of) his own deeply personal mode of curiosity to his audience, only then can curiosity start to offer the building blocks for a new epistemology for the present day (Madeleine Grynsztejn, 2007).

Delay and Non-Materiality in Telecommunication Art

by Raivo Kelomees

We can describe art as an asynchronous delivering of messages over physical or time distance. It maintains presence from the past and from far away, distant presence. Masters have been making artworks which are perceived by audience hundreds and thousands years later. It could be, that the sender of the artistic message has not been in existence for millennia (like authors of cave paintings). In this case, interaction between sender and recipient is not possible, but still, the act of delivery exists as there is a receiver.

We could create an imaginary axis of re­ception divisions, based on delay, where there are works of art on one side, whose ‘transmission’ to the receiver has lasted for millennia; and artworks sent and re­ceived in real time on the other side. Although this kind of formulation points to the vocabulary of infor­mation theory and though this viewpoint has been considered, art in this presentation has not been dealt with in this way.

Delays between performative acts and non-materiality in participative works are substantial attributes in new media art, but there are many examples in earlier art practice and art of the 20th century, which belong to the rich history of non-material art.

My interest in delay concerns its ability to be part of the concept, when delay between sequences of creation, elements of time-based artwork, exposition and reaction or feedback becomes an integral part of the interaction with the artwork and inseparable from it. Naturally, we can distinguish other episodes of delay, like one which is happening between creative intention of the artist and creative execution of the artwork.

I am discussing following works: “Telephone Paintings” by  László Moholy-Nagy, collaborative “Refresh project”, "FragMental Storm 02" by Exonemo, "Nothing Happens" by Nurit Bar-Shai and others.

Simulation beyond perspective. The discourse of holography as a tool for imagery, art, media studies and science


by Pier Luigi Capucci

The 50th anniversary of the L.A.S.E.R. invention fell in 2010, while in 2011 is the 40th anniversary of the Nobel Prize awarded to Dennis Gabor, the Hungarian scientist who invented holography. Holography can create an accurate visual simulation, with total parallax: a replica made of light which has the visual properties of the real object but is immaterial, intangible.

A well-known visual simulation technique is the Renaissance perspective, which represents the three-dimensional physical space onto a bi-dimensional one. Although the perspective was invented in the XV Century we are still immersed in (and influenced by) this way of representing and interpreting the world. In fact the perspective was inherited by photography, cinema, video, computer photorealistic images, virtual reality, 3D videogames, the metaverses... We live in a perspective-based culture. But, although the perspective is presented as an “objective” visualization technique, its objectivity is theoretically and technically based on the “point of view”, that is on the most subjective and personal element of the discourse production.

Holography gives more freedom to the observer: he can choose the viewpoint, his spatial position and he can successfully change his own visual perspective, like in front of a real, material, object and scene.

The media can produce, reproduce and transmit bi-dimensional images on flat supports. The media system has a high coherence degree and the images share similar morphostructural rules, so they can be transferred from one medium to another without any fundamental information loss: bi-dimensionality and image-support coincidence appear to be at the basis of this high level of translatability. Conversely holograms can’t be displayed through the usual media without loosing their peculiarity: they require new displays, new visual media, new genres of communication, even if they hybridize with the existing media.

In a near future holography-based techniques will open up new possibilities in the visualization domain, allowing new visual worlds. In the meantime holography can be a useful technical and theoretical tool for reflecting on how our everyday mediascape works.