Perfection, Error, Sublime

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The Nature of Perfection by Kevin Todd/ Error in Audiovisual Apparatus as Aesthetic Value by Alejandro Schianchi/ Pursuing the Unknowable through Transformative Spaces by Maja Petric/ Ambiguity as a Signature of the Sublime in Media Art by Ksenia Fedorova
Wednesday, 14 September, 2011 - 14:45 - 16:05
Chair Person: 
Anna Lena Seiser
Kevin Todd
Alejandro Schianchi
Maja Petrić
Ksenia Fedorova


The Nature of Perfection

by Kevin Todd

The prefix post (as in postmodern) can sometimes suggest the redundancy of ideas that are surprisingly persistent despite the aesthetic changes that come with the new ideology/technology. Looks can be deceiving!

 Precision, perfection and beauty have a persistent presence in art, science and religion and a contemporary presence in digital technology, which carries these attribute/attitudes. Although the desire for and promise of progress can lead to image content that appears to supersede the preceding idiom, digital technology has a metaphysical character that has more in common with a pre-modern sensibility. Indeed, precision and perfection can be thought of as beautiful, much in the same way a scientific theory can be.

 Another characteristic of digital technology is the extent to which the supposed separation of physical form and content actually masks its inherent qualities. Global communication suggests a transcendence of analogue imaging media such as photography and there is a sense that digital images are free or have gone beyond the physical limitations of older media. A photograph has intrinsic visual qualities inherent in the medium whereas a digital image does not; it can look like it wants, even masquerade as a photograph. Measured against the standards of older media digital media can be thought of as trans-media.

 The organizing principle of digitization is mathematical and the appearance or pictorial content of the image is of no consequence to it. Like science, the method can be divorced from the outcome and the medium is indifferent to the consequences of image content. The difference between the aesthetic character of the medium/technology and the aesthetic relating to form/content of the image is a significant element of digital media

 Kevin Todd’s paper will examine the conceptual archaeology of digital imaging technology and how it informs his art practice, exploring concepts such as the quest for perfection in art science and religion. His acknowledgement of a metaphysical character of digital technology suggests it has a longer history and can’t be neatly quarantined from an imperfect past.

Error in Audiovisual Apparatus as Aesthetic Value

by Alejandro Schianchi

An error seems to be that which gets between the ideal being and the real being; the error appears to be a singularity, a Non-being that transforms and distorts the Being. Audiovisual techniques, technologies, devices and media try to suppress errors; however, an ideological and aesthetic possibility hides behind the use of errors. A failure in an apparatus program often sends back a faulty image or a sound which cannot be otherwise conceived. Limits are blurred, and we are faced with the naked truth, without attires or pretenses. We receive data, waves, and exposed information according to an artificial mechanism which constantly defines itself in its errors.
This is what makes an error unique, revolutionary and beautiful, and there lies its value.

A short circuit in an appliance builds a new and unpredictable world that is embraced by the artistic field as one more aesthetic element.

Pursuing the Unknowable through Transformative Spaces

Maja Petric

My work is about changing the perception of space in function of art. Therefore, the subjects of my work are perception, space and, art. To change perception, I study sensation, experience, and phenomenology. To create spatial situations, I practice designing spaces, fabricating structures, manipulating materials, and integrating lighting and audiovisual systems. The core of my artistic research is the pursuit of the unknowable— the sublime.

The sublime has been a subject in philosophy and art since circa 1200 B.C. when the sage Veda Vyasa described it as a mystery in the sacred Hindu scripture Bhagavad-Gita. Since then, the meaning of the term has been vigorously debated, but it remains indefinable. My interest is not to define the sublime. Critical history has proven that the sublime cannot be precisely put into words, just as the meaning of life is inherently unknowable.

Postmodern French philosopher and literary theorist Jean-François Lyotard recognized avant-garde art as a novel opportunity for accessing the sublime. He argued that the nature of avant-garde modern art has the unique potential to manipulate the balance of senses, reason, and emotion in a manner that results in a sensation of pleasurable pain. My further investigation is in practice of art that carefully entices senses, reason, and emotion in a way that results in an experience of the unknowable.

Artists including Anish Kapoor, Mark Rothko, Bill Viola, and James Turrell marked the twentieth century as an age of expanding our sensing apparatus to experience the sublime. Through their abstract but integrated use of materials, space, color, light, and image, they excite our senses and intrigue our minds to the point of reaching the essence of the unknowable. The success of their work is in experimental manipulation of senses through which the space is experienced cognitively and emotionally. Their innovative use of materials that engage sight, hearing, touch, smell, emotion, memory, and imagination transforms the spaces that they work in into places that demonstrate the existence of the unpresentable.

The technological age is allowing for more multisensory engagement. My interest is in elaborating on those technological advancements that can fuse perception of senses and add to the phenomenological experience of my artistic intention of presenting the presence of the unpresentable.


Ambiguity as a Signature of the Sublime in Media Art

Ksenia Fedorova

The concept of the sublime has been widely appropriated within the technological arts and culture: as the computational sublime in relation to autopoeisis in generative art (McCormack, Dorin), in immersive systems, as digital sublime (Mosco), anti-sublime (Manovich). The uncanny feeling of being confronted with the limits of comprehensive abilities, with the unpredictable and the unknown often works as a sort of litmus, testing the “seriousness” of the produced effect, the transformative potential that reveals through nonattachment and groundlessness.

Marge d’indetermination - “margin of indeterminacy” – this point by Gilbert Simondon in description of characteristics of machines (as open and dependable on a human creator) is also an opening towards the problem of (in)determinacy and ambiguity in our own actions as well as towards the broader paradoxes of structural and ontological causality (quantum indeterminacy).

Theories of distributed intelligence, emergence, and complexity present challenges for newer types of representation of reality as a self-organizing flux, with a role of the observer as a measurer of the operations of chance.   

In my paper I will focus on the examples and the effects of media artistic representations of ambiguity and uncertainty in perspective of the classical aesthetic question of presenting the unpresentable and “negative capability”. The examples will include illustrations of conceptual dualism of complimentarity in works that collide the virtual and physical reality (like the work-in-progress by a Russian group “Where the dogs run” “Quantum Mouse” that visualizes the double-slit experiment in a form of interaction between the movements of an alive organism and its virtual doubles). Other examples will address the reactions of anxiety and perplexity in relation to the qualities of equivocality and vagueness like in such natural and social phenomena as (respectively) the immune system, colonial organisms, cellular metabolism, spontaneous order in economic systems, social networks, etc.

The concept of the sublime reveals how representations of indeterminacy and ambiguity in relation to decentralized systems are capable of creating a temporary gap in cognition, a disruption of conventional contexting cues, and thus enhancing the feeling of potentia, opening towards the reality of nonconceptual mind and interconnected being.