Changing Vocabularies of Digital Art

A Cybersemiotic Approach to Technoetic Arts - new vocabularies in transdisciplinary research by Kathrine Elizabeth Anker/ Trajectories, circulation, assemblages by Damien Charrieras/ Sketches of an interdisciplinary practice: essential in-formation for post-digital thinkers by Charles Walker and Kim Newall/ The ephemeral in AV realtime practices by Ana M Carvalho/ Investigating the notion of Art2.0 by Sander Veenhof and Kasia Molga/
Thursday, 15 September, 2011 - 17:00 - 18:40
Chair Person: 
David Cotterrell
Kathrine Anker
Damien Charrieras
Charles Walker
Ana Carvalho
Sander Veenhof
Kasia Molga

A Cybersemiotic Approach to Technoetic Arts - new vocabularies in transdisciplinary research

by Kathrine Elizabeth Anker

Contemporary, technoetic arts (art, technology and consciousness), that oscillate between analogue and digital technologies, often approach a situation, that in many ways resembles transdisciplinary research. It integrates elements from numerous fields of science, technology and philosophy in interactive environments, that can be a challenge to frame within a verbal interpretation. In this paper, I focus upon the relationship between technoetic interfaces and user contemplation. The Cybersemiotic framework is a theoretical approach (2005/English translation, 2008) to semiotics, which is based on a further development of Information Science, Cybernetics, Social Systems Theory, Biosemiotics, phenomenology and Peircian semiotics. Cybersemiotics delivers a range of new terms that can successfully address the multiple, looped, dynamic processes of communication that lie in the interfaces of contemporary technoetic art communications. This gives an opportunity not only to experience interactive arts at the level of embodied presence, but to also intellectualize and name a combination of multisensory and symbolic experiences in ways, that can contribute to the development of adequate vocabularies concerning the integration of art, science, technology and philosophy in general. I will present central terms from the cybersemiotic framework and demonstrate their use in “readings” of contemporary, high quality, technoetic artworks. The aim is to both extract knowledge from the works, as well as to broaden the potential of “self-understanding” that they present to us. The cybersemiotic framework has been developed by Danish Professor of Semiotics, Søren Brier, who is the founder of the Journal “Cybernetics and Human Knowing”, and who has received the Warren McCulloch Award from the American Society for Cybernetics in 2008 in line with Gregory Bateson, Gordon Pask, Francisco Varela, Humberto Maturana and other central developers of the cybernetic paradigm. Artworks will be: Blue Morph (2007) by Artist Victoria Vesna and Nano Scientist James Gimsewski, and the electro-kinetic sculpture, Hylozoic Grove  (2008), by Architect Phillip Beesley.

Trajectories, circulation, assemblages. The heterogeneous modes of endurance of digital arts practice in Montréal

by Damien Charrieras

For five years I have observed a set of technocreative practices in different multimedia sectors in Montreal. My study is based on more than fifty interviews with technocreative workers/artists and on several observations conducted at digital arts centers. I focused my research on the paths and practice of digital artists across different technocreative milieus. Compared to other technocreative workers, digital artists are simultaneously involved in different production sites - companies, universities, digital arts centers. They have plural careers (Bureau, Perrenoud, & Shapiro, 2009) and their digital arts practice appears to be highly hybrid (Gere, 2005; Ross, 2005). Digital arts practice cannot be reduced to the logic of production specific to an art milieu and unfolds itself along varied paths crossing different milieus.

The question of how this complex practice endures (Massumi, 2002; Stengers, 2002; Whitehead, 1979) implies to pay attention to the plurality of elements that informs its perpetual (re)constitution. This requires new ways of theorizing digital artists' paths. We propose a new way of conceptualizing these paths - as trajectories (Massey, 2005) - to highlight the plurality of ways the digital arts practice is articulated along those paths. This practice is thus considered in terms of its co-constitutive mediations (Hennion, 1993, 2007) with different elements – institutions, materialities, discourses, technologies, people - forming successive assemblages (DeLanda, 2006; Latour, 2007; Mar & Anderson, 2010). We will discuss the maintenance of digital arts practice through three main points. The first point covers the technologies involved in digital art practices and a correlated “savoir mineur” (Auray, 2002; Simondon, 1969). The second relates to the montrealese digital arts community and the situated knowledge characteristic of those locales. Finally, I will deal with the relationship between technocreative companies and practice in digital arts. Heterogeneous elements contribute in various ways to the endurance and the singularity of the digital arts practice that in return deploys its effectivities far beyond a circumscribed social space (Grossberg, 1992). Framing the digital arts practice as more than an esoteric practice emanating solely from a specialized art milieu, this research brings out the cultural, technological and material significance of digital arts.

Sketches of an interdisciplinary practice: essential in-formation for post-digital thinkers

by Charles Walker and Kim Newall

This paper presents part of a larger, practice-led research project to develop a new understanding of sketching as a methodology for creative practice in the post-digital age. It will be presented through a reflective critique of the researcher’s own hybrid, interactive, public performance-based practice.

Descriptions of sketching throughout history have emphasized its spontaneous, exploratory, unfinished, indeterminate, contingent and/or disordered qualities; often characterized by loss of control or openness to the unexpected (Petherbridge, 2010). Modern art also focused on aspects of the sketch to isolate, capture or value “the essential” as even more important than the finished work (Stjernfelt, 2007). In design disciplines, sketching is commonly seen as an interim activity; making images to assist in the creation of something more “real”.

This paper draws on recent research in mathematics, physical computing and cognitive science to suggest that sketching shares with these disciplines properties that can externalize cognitive processes or reveal categories of thinking. (Bhattacharya & Petsche 2005, Petherbridge 2010).

New “sketches” will be created for the ISEA conference to illustrate interdisciplinary mixed-reality relationships – neither “real” nor “virtual”, but always “in-formation”. The presentation may also refer to recent work such as ‘Vending Machine’ (Splore festival, New Zealand 2010), where digital designs were sketched and materialized into real attachments for the body, and  ‘Evolutionary Experiments’ (MIC Toi Rerehiko Gallery, Auckland, New Zealand 2010) where creatures developed from ‘sketching’ with software, hardware and cardboard, created and occupied a new space that would not have been possible in either digital or analog form.

Through this linking of sound- and video-based work, computer hacking, modeling, new and archival material, with traditional drawings, the presentation itself takes the form of a real-time, improvised sketch.  The accumulation of such sketches (archived in “sketchbooks”), in turn, in-forms further conversations between differing modes of knowledge and expression.

The paper will thus invite a wide audience to consider the (as yet “sketchy”) internal codes of an as yet un-named territory, rather than the normative external representations normally associated with sketching.  From this, we argue that an original language - with further possibilities for interdisciplinary interaction - is emerging from the authors’ practice. 

The ephemeral in AV realtime practices: an analysis into the possibilities for its documentation

by Ana M Carvalho

The performative moment is a unique narrative, defined as a gathering of multiple elements of varied origins, a point in time, which is no longer past, neither is future yet, which stands between biography and fiction and is mediated by current technological means. We define our subject of study within the collective practices with emphasis on process and consisting of two basic components: audio and video. From this (still loose definition) the text will attempt an approach to the performative moment taking the reader through the work of several thinkers to whom the world is a permanent mutating process. We will look at AV performance as a construction of relationships rather than hierarchies, with emphasis put in the process of becoming rather than in a stagnated state. Following considerations from theoretical analysis, the subject of documentation will come to the surface. The text aims at presenting some considerations and many questions towards the possibilities for documentation of the AV project from the point of view of the construction of memory.

This point where we stand is a location of questioning.

Defined by its uniqueness, the moment is an artistic, collective, momentary manifestation that documentation should not replace. What is, in this context, the document? Which criteria should describe this documentation?

We put forward the possibility that audio and visual data are source material only capable of constituting meaning through the momentary construction of narrative. The bridge between moment and construction of memory is documentation.

The text will examine two documents of AV performance projects: the DVD by Granular Synthesis and a book by Aether9, to analysis into the possibilities for documenting both creative process and performative moment.

Documents constitute ways to extend our thoughts (individually and collectively) in the attempt to expand memory in time. Parallel to the institutionalized frame of the museum, we propose the collective to create its own ways to document activities, using the practice’s tools, technologies and knowledge, in order to leave traces that will allow future memory construction and its study. 

Investigating the notion of Art2.0

by Sander Veenhof and Kasia Molga

In their attempt to find a proper definition of the term Art2.0, the two artists Kasia Molga and Sander Veenhof came to the realization that much of all presumed Art2.0 is hardly any different than what could be labeled as Art1.0. In search for the factors that truly differentiate between art which is basically a reflection on web2.0 technologies and artworks intrinsically structured according to contemporary 2.0 principles, Molga and Veenhof concluded that there is yet another radical shift taking place on the axis of artist and audience dynamics. We live in an era in which users/viewers have become responsible for their own experience by contributing to and customizing the content and that the distinction between artist and audience seems to disappear. The audience has changed from consumers to co-producers. In some remarkable cases of mass worldwide cooperative creativity, the resulting outputs could very well be defined as Art 2.0 according to the criteria specified by Molga and Veenhof, while an artist as an initiator or author could even be absent. That doesn't mean that the concept of 'artist' is fully out of the equation. Artists are resettling at a higher level of abstraction in a new role, not asking their audiences only to contribute to an artwork but giving the entire control over the artwork away. Either by publishing the artwork as a creative tool, or by releasing the artwork as a reusable module to be integrated into a larger framework by means of an API specification of inputs and outputs, in analogy to how the world wide web is currently structured as a mash-up universe.

The investigation of these developments has been carried out through a study of the phenomena uncovered as being Art2.0 and several iconic “2.0” artworks, and by reflecting on a selection of works from their own artistic practice, in which Molga and Veenhof share a similar approach and interest on giving viewers the power of co-creation in various experimental forms, aware of the impact of their projects on their own position as artists in a 2.0 art world.