1. Prescriptive Scenario : Observing Chosen Site (Outram Park/Duxton) as a Case Study, studying spaces, behaviours, interactions between Old & New and translating these into tangible & meaningful patterns that can be harnessed or used as springboard for achieving preservation & reconciliation of cultures. Studying Coexistence, Symbiosis & Juxtaposition of both Organic & Inorganic Entities/Phenomena to explore the conceptualisation of a shared common ‘space’ that allows for intersection and interaction of Old & New, Past & Present, Present & Future
2. Fictional World : Imagining a Fictional World where Ageing or its process is homogenous or where ‘Youth’ is immortalised as a feeling despite our physical degeneration. A world where the ‘New’ blends into or springs from the ‘Old’ rather than replacing the ‘Old’. A Cyclic Biosystem that mimics nature rather than a conventional man-made linear process of demolishing or removing traces of the past/old in pursuit of Novelty. A world where they are not treated as polar opposites that diminish the other as either of them grow, but rather a world where their individual growth leads to an exponential flourishing of the ‘whole’. A world where the Old never gets ‘Old’ and the ‘New’ isn’t just a transient novelty but rather one that branches out from the Old. A world where there is no vulgar distinction between the past and present. A World where Spaces flow and weave into one another rather than one where Space is artificially bound or restricted by the man-made walls demarcating it. A Community/Synergy with a Collective Identity/Culture/Modus Operandi rather than a mere Geographical Location with Enclaves of Different Identities that coincidentally happen to reside beside each other.
3. What-Ifs (Speculative) :
What if All Senior Citizens dressed flamboyantly and young people dressed conservatively?
What if we aged backwards?
What if Buildings were protected permanently and could never be demolished/replaced?
What if the concept of ‘private spaces’/walls/doors did not exist and we could cross into any space we wanted?
4. ‘Social Isolation’ :
Live In Areas that are not as accessible or connected to Bars etc.
The number or data of Elderly LGBTQ folks are unknown and this could be attributed to the fact that discrimination towards LGBTQ folks both culturally and socially existed for a long time until recent years. Some were open but many had to live their life discreetly or even ‘ignore’ their sexuality for the sake of pursuing a life of normalcy.
Possible lack of Understanding. Some of these ageing folks might be illiterate or not as well versed with such terms. Thought they may have an inkling or idea of what it is to be ‘Gay’ there is still no deep knowledge on how society has progressed in terms of treating sexuality. This not only perpetuates internalised homophobia but also contributes to the discrimination.
LGBTQ is treated as conflicting with ‘Culture’. One is usually outcast when they come out. It is significant to note that gender fluidity is expressed and manifested through many elements of these rich cultures — Hinduism, Buddhism etc. In the form of their deities. The ornamentations and motifs encapsulated within the spaces of Temples are colourful, decorative and flamboyant. In my chosen site, these spaces co exist side by side with LGBTQ Establishments. Perhaps by drawing parallels and finding superficial similarities between the two cultures, a visual blend could be a starting point.
5. Deliverable : Conceptualising a ‘Bar Space’ for Ageing LGBTQ folks (considering there is no proper safe space to accommodate these folks and most of them choose to be rather reclusive). Taking into account how though most LGBT Millennials are quite liberal, they will eventually end up ageing too, so I got to thinking it could be a call to action to design for the future. Furthermore, inherently intersecting/integrating seemingly contrasting elements from both these entities will allow for breaking of barriers and encourage interaction/dialogue.
This Particular work was curated under the Exhibition Space : Time Passes. The Overarching Theme/Concept for this Space was set up as an ode to the middle chapters of Virginia Wolfe’s novel, ‘To the Lighthouse’. ‘Care’, ‘Connecting Past and Present’, ‘Closing a Loop in Time’, ‘Compromise and Attention’ and ‘Human Intervention’ are certain themes encapsulated in these chapters and the curated works aim tore interpret and appropriate these same themes, in light of the way our interaction between each other, between us and the environment (both organic and inorganic) has been altered by the Covid-19 Pandemic.
‘Passage Moist Beings’
‘Passage Moist Beings’ by Yeyoon Avis Ann, is a personal documentation of the Artist’s habit of caring for snails she comes across in her path, removing them from harm’s way by displacing or shifting them into a safe space. It is an extrapolation of her personal experience an a seemingly normal phenomena, to explore the way humans interact with our environment, from her lens.
1. Initial Thoughts
The work itself is life-sized and is realistic in the way it mimics the natural habitat or environment in which she would possibly have encountered the snails. It’s stripped down, raw and literal representation is powerful considering the space it is set in. When one walks in, they are immediately drawn to the tactfully placed ‘puddles’ of objects on the floor. We are beckoned to take a closer look, and have to kneel or crouch to clearly see the objects embedded in the ‘wax like’ ‘puddles’. This very sudden shift in our space when we kneel instead of stand as we usually would when appreciating an ‘art work’ immediately transfigures us into the artists’s perceptual and conceptual space. We are then momentarily transported away from the psychological space of the bigger exhibition though we are still very physically present within the walls of the gallery. The space between the puddles also allow for the audience to slowly manoeuvre their way through the work. There is a very real fragility attached to the work, further highlighting the idea of Snails being in harm’s way. We then are inherently forced to be careful with the way we approach the work and move through it so as not to touch or damage its elements. By forcing us to be ‘careful’ and ‘mindful’ it emphasises the idea of intervention and care.
2. Treatment of Materials
The artist uses minimal materials to translate her message. The use of soil, gravel, twigs, leaves juxtaposed with traces of human waste — paper, cigarette buds, plastic enforces the idea of intersecting of two very different environments. It shows how human activity and our daily habits have creeped into, pervaded and degraded the natural habitat that occupy our space. Rather than being occupants and being ‘outsiders’ to nature (which we have modified and altered to clear space for our own architectural and infrastructural pursuits), we have come to a point where nature is now the ‘outsider’, forced into crevices due to our presence. The idea of snails being in our path, especially during the rainy weather and our very nonchalant disregard towards their presence, highlights this desensitised and normalised attitude we have adopted towards organisms that share the same space as us. When we do step on a snail (most of the time unintentionally) we simply shriek/wince, clean our shoes and continue walking. It is important to ponder or consider if our act of wincing stems from our ‘pain’ from hurting the snail or rather the ‘disgust’ from having slime all over our shoes. Hence Yeyoon’s work beckons us to internalize and revisit this phenomena. Personally, I too have the habit of picking snails in my path and moving them into bushy or protected areas.
3. Representation of ‘Snail’
The artist documents some of the snails she encountered in the process of this exploration/work and this is displayed in a simple back to back series of videos on IPads, within the set up. They provide a powerful and real context for the objects on the ground. It is significant to note that she did not use any sort of physical representation or models for the snails.
Neither was the damage or the traces of broken shells apparent within any of the ‘puddles’. The only snails are the ones in the video — virtual on screen but albeit real snails. This choice to provide background context while omitting the use of the main subject matter within the other parts of the work allows for us to form our own narrative or thoughts/opinions. Rather than being confrontational about how we destroy or affect the environment around us, her subtle approach eases us into reflecting on that topic intuitively. Personally I found the translucent silicone puddles to be a sort of visual ‘double entendre’ — the first representation being the puddles formed during rainy seasons and the second being the residual slime left behind a snail’s path or left behind when their shell’s are crushed. Whether this was intentional or not, it certainly crossed my mind and the idea of making the remnants of the snail present while maintaining its non existence, enforces the idea of life in transience, while also reminding us that, that very mutable nature of life can leave behind very permanent marks.
4. Concluding Thoughts
When I stood back up and left the work to move on to the next work, my mind was still reflecting on it. The fact that it is relatable and so common, embeds in our minds or subconscious very easily and it is the way the artist engages with the viewers by playing on their intuition and personal experience, that beckons us to ponder about the way we ‘care’ or could care better.
Yeyoon’s works range from interactive digital works to installation art. Her works often involve the juxtaposition of the natural and man-made or organic and inorganic. Her intentional intersecting of ‘spaces’ by displacing objects and creating unexpected experiential spaces, while re creating a familiar scene or set-up, has a subtle yet powerful affect on viewers. By threading on the line between the familiar yet ‘uncanny’ she destabilises our perceptual space and leads us into introspection and wander at the same time.
In the review, Ben Davis explores the phenomena of ‘Social Practice Art’ and its legitimacy, motivations and efficacy. He highlights how much of Social Practice ‘Art’ in some way, is a resistance or revolt against the commodifying and capitalist nature of contemporary art as we know it today — paintings auctioned off for exorbitant prices etc. Works like f’or the love of God’ by Damien Hirst arguably is a grotesquely ideal example of the exclusive, inaccessible and gate keeping characteristic of contemporary art and its associated audience.
With this in mind, one must be careful not to conflate ‘Art’ with ‘Capitalism’ just because of the way it has grown to be propagated or characterised via mainstream channels and popular culture. If we were to do so, then ‘Social Practice Art’ in essence would just be a fixation on capitalism and the politics associated with the system, and stand as a movement rather than an art form per se. ‘Art’ in itself is broad yet, we do not simply confer the term ‘art’ onto anything that is obscure, abstract, or is simply rebellious. Art is some sort of meaningful manifestation of a concept, culture or just personal expression. Its medium is fluid and continues to be increasingly non conforming with the age of technology on the rise — open source art etc. The boundaries that define ‘Art’ continue to expand. Yet there is a certain discipline that governs ‘Art’. And it is important to understand that this ‘discipline’ is not one that requires luxury, privilege or an esteemed fine arts background. Rather — this discipline is rooted in the motivations of the concept, and the approach in which it is executed. Ben Davies states in his review how Nato Thompson calls the gathering by Obama supporters ‘Art’ (“to include the spontaneous eruption of jubilation in Harlem that followed the 2008 election of Barack Obama as a work of street theater.”) The spontaneity of it could be considered as an artistic demonstration — only because there is a pre existing notion or knowledge on what constitutes ‘performance art’ or theatre.
‘Art’ mirrors society — it is not just meaningless or spontaneous events and occurrences (as powerful or controversial as they might be), rather it is the internalising, re interpretation and expression of such events in meaningful ways that reach a wider or targeted audience that makes it art. One does not simply look at a protest or a demonstration and think — this is ‘Social Art’. Rather, only when it is approached, re packaged and then integrated into the circle of ‘Art’ — even through the subtle form of a poster or book, it becomes ‘Art’. This then makes us question the very terminology and legitimacy of ‘Social Practice Art’. However ‘Social Practice Art’ can also be characterised as a probable culture of art and artists who’s intention is to contribute to the ‘betterment’ of society, the critique of social issues, and the integration of the community into Art or rather making the subjects of Art, part of the Art itself. This idea then can also be alluded to Krzysztof Wodiczko’s ‘Poliscar’ in which the ‘Art Work’ in question became a means of communication for the marginalised.
However as in seen in his work, a very tangible ‘product’ or ‘object’ was conceptualised and then used as the vehicle or vessel for the people and the community to be integrated into the work — organically and naturally. To some extent the control is still in the hands of the artist and starts ‘at the table’. It is a top-down process that cascades from artist to art to society — closing the loop back to art, and its inspiration on the other hand is more natural and non linear process — one that requires the Artist himself/herself to very much involved and in touch with social issues they are interested in. To prevent ‘Social Practice Art’ from became a facade — in the way it potentially can become a performative critique of social issues for the sake of appealing to the trends of social justice, there has to be some sort of approach or ‘theory’ to its practice.
The looseness of its term and the lack of any sort of strict criteria — as antithetical as this may sound, will only complicate or jeopardise the idea of contributing back to society. As detailed by the example of the ‘Project Row Houses’ that was intended to decrease homelessness in Houston, but inherently led to increased gentrification, while also having to be supported by huge funds — which essentially are paid by Society through taxes etc, ‘Social Practice’ Art Projects as they are or claim to be, are flawed or rather fallible. Though ‘Art’ should be accessible to all to be practiced, and anyone should be able to ethically engage in some form of project that critiques or highlights an issue they believe deems urgency or awareness, we should not intuitively characterise them by the term ‘Social Practice Art’ due to the very lack of clear definition or efficacy in it as an art form. Any targeted art can be a critique on society but can all ‘Social Practice Art’ (the term as we speak of in this context) Artworks be deemed effective critiques of Society’s Issues?
Galanter in his overarching preface, states that there are some pre requisites for an Artwork to constitute ‘Generative’. On a superficial level, it involves Art created by ‘Non-Human’ Systems as opposed to Art created by Humans. It is important to note that ‘Non-Human Systems’ do not necessarily mean the use of technology but rather some basic underlying algorithm (many of which are numerical and analogue). Rather, Generative Art in its ‘primitive’ beginnings, paved the way for Computers.
The Jacquard Loom Machine can be considered one of the earliest Generative System where loom manufacturing was automated using cards with holes punched in. Islamic Patterns that followed geometric rules and mathematical algorithms were also early explorations of Generativity. The precision in the way a single modular pattern was laid out and then repeated, lead to a wide variation of designs and motifs.
It is emphasised by the author that most contemporary is not to be associated with generative works, as the artist rarely relinquishes control of the work. Galanter then further argues that there are issues that exclusively impact generative art as a practice. And that generative art is a methodology to making art rather than a subset of ‘art’ in itself which he explains is ambiguous due to the many nuances surrounding what constitutes art — for which he raises the provocative question “if it is art, is it ‘good’ art?“
Hence there is a need to come up with a broader schema as to what Generative Art is as a theory rather than prescribing it with a strict and stringent definition. It is important to note however that the fundamental manner in which generative art operates is very strict and has to satisfy the following —
1) there must exist a designed system (within the work) with some sort of functional non-human operating system involved
2) the choices and decisions being made by the system has to be specific.
2. Using Randomness Effectively (‘Disorder’)
When approaching the conception of a Generative Work, one should utilise randomness as a complement but not as the fundamental function/operative. Randomness, Chance produce ‘disorder’ (which is key to achieving ‘effective complexity’ which will be explained in the later portion of this essay,) but are meaningless without any sort of contrasting order or framework for the system in which it is being used.
For example in Noll’s Gaussian Quadratic, horizontal positions are visualised using a quadratic function while the vertical positions are visualised using Gaussian distribution of random numbers. The Gaussian distribution in itself is some sort of skeletal system whose functional output differs depending on its input numbers. The numbers inserted here by randomness is ‘random’ yet when visualised with a highly familiar mathematical graphical function, gives the work some sort of arbitrary visualisation to compare to, allowing viewers to appreciate the deviations from the piece relative to one of normalcy.
‘Normal Gaussian Distribution’
‘Noll’s Gaussian Distribution (taken from PDF)’
A completely random function in contrast would be unintelligible and exist pointlessly — though generative, if the underlying system is one that lacks any sort of cultural, emotional or scientific association we can intuitively relate to or identify with, then the generative results produced by that system will not constitute ‘art’ but rather just gibberish. We hence have to be mindful that ‘Generative Art’ has to satisfy both ‘Generative’ and ‘Art’.
This notion of ‘disorder’ brings us back to Galanter’s argument that the peak complexity occurs when there is a mix of both order & disorder as opposed to Shannon’s notion that there is an indefinite positive correlation between the increase in disorder and complexity. As illustrated by Gallant, in his analogy of pixels which by Shannon’s theory would constitute ‘complex’, according to him are modular and easily identifiable in their discrete elements (making them the opposite of ‘complex). Her theory is one that is empirical and personally I feel when applied to the nuances of human condition and cognition does not apply as ‘accurately’ or intuitively.
While understanding the ‘machine system’ and its unique modus operandi is key, as artists we have to also be highly aware of how this notion of ‘machine intelligence’ is perceived and processed by the human mind — this then beckons me to recall the idea of the ‘Uncanny’ discussed in the previous assignment where ‘peak uncanny’ is at a specific point that is half recognisable yet half foreign. Similarly, peak complexity is achieved when the Generative Piece is ordered enough conceptually/algorithmically to be processed, yet its structure and visualisation can be highly disordered, seducing the mind to put in effort in consuming the work.
We do not associate disorder with complexity if we are able to make sense of break down the disorder in an orderly fashion. Rather the disorder is manifested in some sort of superficial sense — sound, visual. But if we are able to identify and associate this ‘disorder’, that in itself prescribes some sort of psychological order over the work — we know that white noise are just pixels, in contrast to a long strict of characters in sentences that make no sense. We naturally will be inclined due to conditioning to identify some sort of pattern or word formations, requiring innate effort to process- this in itself then makes the process of consuming the work complex. Though letters are simply digits the same way pixels are individual elements.
Hence as an artist we have to be highly aware of the ways in which we as humans perceive and process the entity of the work as a whole rather than just extrapolating its potential effectiveness by just scoping into one aspect of it – it can blindside us from achieving a much more effective complexity.
3. Complex Systems as Framework for Generativity:
A highly complex system that operates as a whole with multiple processes that are able to synergise and function within itself without any external intervention. Non Linear. (Small continuous changes resulting in macro level phase changes)
Complexity Science as a bottom up process instead of top down reductionism — the emergent whole is greater than the simple summation of the same of its parts. This idea of the ‘whole’ being greater than the sum is not exclusive to Generative Art and I personally believe can be seen by both Bodies in the 2D and 3D planes
2D plane — individual elements are placed precisely, relative to each other on a 2D plane, keeping in mind ‘invisible’ yet important concepts of Space and Balance — these are not measured elements that form the summation of the elements yet they are part of the whole.
Coca Cola Poster
3D plane — negative space etc (architectural bodies) cannot be simply deconstructed using the positive elements because the flow of space and the use of negative space is as equally significant in the function of the final body.
Tianjin Ecocity Ecology and Planning Museum
Non Linearity of Chaotic Systems leads to amplification of small differences —’the Butterfly Effect’. A Complex Adaptive System is akin to the process of Evolution and Natural Selection—Adaptation over time in reaction to the environment and other external factors causing certain genetic mutations to be favoured and others to be ‘phased out’ — speciation
Domesticated breeding of Foxes as a Generative System:
When internalising Galanter’s argument that Complexity Science forms a strong foundation for Generative Methodology, I immediately recalled an experiment detailed in one of my favourite writings — Richard Dawkins’ ‘The Greatest Show On Earth’.
This phenomena can be observed in the Experiment Conducted by Russian Geneticist Dimitri Belyaev in the 1950s (detailed in Richard Dawkins’ ‘The Greatest Show On Earth’). This phenomena is one that has both order (external restrictions imposed) and disorder (innate DNA or behaviour of the animal). A process that happened over multiple generations, over time it’s outcome becomes less abstract and more crystallised – the difference/separation in species becomes increasingly apparent and we end up with two or more divergent breeds from 1 ‘System’. Belyaev as the ‘Artist’ of this Generative Process, utilised the Fox’s innate flight or fight response to select Fox’s that were more receptive and calm to the intrusion of his hand. This is an example of how one harnesses the system’s idiosyncracies without directly manipulating it.
Short Video on the Experiment
What is interesting to note here, in Belyaev’s Breeding Process, in terms of unpredictability was that certain behavioural patterns were linked: as one line of his breed became more behaviourally domesticated, they also started to change physically. They were linked (some genetic mutations or some genes were linked and influenced each other) they did not fully occur individually as scientists previously hypothesised :
“These dog-like features were side-effects. Belyaev and his team did not deliberately breed for them, only for tameness. Those other dog-like characteristics seemingly rode on the evolutionary coat-tails of the genes for tameness” — The Greatest Show on Earth, Dawkins.
Breeding not just isolated to Foxes but to that of Dogs for a wide variety of purposes -—Daschunds hunting Badgers, Borzoi for Guarding, Whippets for Racing etc. These were all possible due to the ‘Artists’ (in this context Breeders and Scientists) who observed the system ‘DNA/Genetic Mutation’ and over a period of time favoured certain unpredictabilities to form an ordered production line of the same ‘unpredictabilities’. As this process became more crystallised, other nuanced attributes became increasingly apparent (further inherent mutations that were carried forth by the more ‘major’ mutations’).
Hence observation of the system we are working with is key. We need to make sense of the highly profound Chaos of the Chaotic System and harness it in a way that allows us to establish intuitive order (without forcing it directly). This then utilises the core of the system and makes the operative of the system itself a component of the Artwork.
This to me is ideal in Generative Art, the outcome should not be so far removed from the initial starting point that we see no correlation between the system’s underlying function and it’s output. Rather we want to be able to see a divergent set of outputs that are fascinating yet unique to a specific system.
4. Complexity Science as the trailblazer for Generative Art:
New Models of Complexity science that form the basis for Contemporary Generative Art – Fractals and L systems. These models are somewhat ordered systems that are still able to simulate certain processes in Nature such as the branching of plants.
It is significant to note that nature in itself to some extent is ‘ordered’ in the way the golden ratio or Fibonacci sequence ratios are manifested. Hence order does not correlate to a lack of complexity. We have to be mindful of the type of ordered system that is being implemented and if the ordered system is ‘diverse’ enough to produce different and divergent results depending on the information being applied to it.
The process may undergo a very ordered procedure but if the function produces a unique outcome each time, depending on the type of input, then ‘order’ in this context still constitutes a valid and intelligible generative exploration. Mindless Order that reproduces the same mundane result repeatedly, would be an example of a non generative ordered framework/system.
Galanter discusses many problems involving the methodology and approach of ‘Generative Art’. Amongst which the problem of ‘Authorship’ resonated with my own dilemma when approaching or designing a Generative Work. Is the Production of Meaning to be borne by Artist, Machine or Viewer? Is it truly possible to strictly confer authorship to only one of the entities or is the role of Generative Art as suggested by Galanter, to destabilise the fundamental idea of authorship?
The importance is upholding Ambiguity, as long as there is some sort of shared authorship instead of it being restricted to just one entity, the outcome and interaction with the system automatically becomes non predictable and ambiguous. The control given to the reader to some extent allows the work to be manipulated depending on their choice while at the same time, the readers are limited by the options offered to them by the computer (which ultimately is further limited by the parameters we as designers set for it to function within).
Personally, I would then view authorship as a sort of collective and feedback loop process in itself rather than the structuralist theory put forth by. Authorship is in a constant and non definite feedback loop between all three entities and each entity needs some aspect of authorship autonomy to sustain the whole.
A series of installation stations where participants establish dialogue with each other only via audio. Each station will explore a different aspect of the phenomena of ‘audio’. What type of sounds are evocative or highly sensory? The two participants form a closed loop with each having control of what the other person is hearing in real-time. They do however have control over the choice of response they make in reaction to the input they receive — to adjust the volume, pause, fast forward, skip or choose any specific sound they deem suitable to convey their intended non verbal ‘message’.
Pop Culture — Interaction can be either extremely pleasant or unpleasant, depending on the type of Song Participants choose to play from Spotify. They have access to huge database of genres and can choose from classical all the way up to avant garde.
Using the Fundamental Technicals of ‘Sound’— different frequencies, pitch, beats, rhythm etc.
Unfamiliar/Uncanny Sounds — pushing the interaction to the level of discomfort and unease by playing sounds that are highly triggering in nature yet completely unidentifiable. Psycho-Sexual Aspect of Sounds.
The systems are closed loops as only the two people involved in the interaction are receiving the audio input. It is important to note and remember however that they cannot hear the sounds they choose and as the stations progress, they have less ‘control’.
Station 1: For the music station we simply can choose popular songs with very specific cultural or emotional associations just based off the title. For example the Power of Love by Jennifer Rush or Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen. Such songs are so deeply rooted in pop culture that they have grown to have a shared association amongst the masses. Hence to some extent this allows the users to still be able to choose how they want to ‘influence’ their ‘listener’
Station 2: ‘Peripheral’ Sounds are sounds we hear daily in the ‘background’ and form the soundscape for the world we live in. They are all recognisable yet we rarely hear them in silo. This interaction will heighten our sensory reactions to these audio. For example the sound of Cars Honking or Espresso Machines Crushing Beans. The sounds will be labelled. Though the choosers will not be able to hear the specific sound unlike station 1, they will be choosing based on their own unique interpretation/experience of the sound. For example the sound of chatter might be comforting to someone yet highly irritable to someone else. Hence there is both Inherent vulnerability yet unpredictability in the way this station will operate
Station 3 is to explore sound and the way we perceive audio, down to the very fundamentals. Music is pleasurable or dis pleasurable because of the way different tones, pitch, rhythm are put together. This station will hence be ‘primitive’ in the way we react only via beats, tones, pitch etc. We often do not in our contemporary time and age consume audio in this manner. This station attempts to trigger some sort of possibly inherent evolutionary reaction/perception we might have of certain beats and manifest this very raw interaction between two Humans living in the digital age. Sounds here will be labelled and Participants with background in Music Theory might have a slight advantage when it comes to having ‘control’
Station 4: This level of interaction explores the ‘uncanny’. Sounds that are highly and oddly ‘familiar’ yet completely unidentifiable. For example the sound of a Wet Mop Slapping Against Cold Floor. This sort of sonic notion involving the idea of ‘wetness’ can be naturally very psycho-sexual without it being derived from anything directly or recognisably sexual.
The audience will not be able to hear the songs being played but will however be able to observe the facial and bodily expressions of the users during the span of the interaction and how these differ from pairs and stations.
Exploration of Emotions via Text allows for us to dissect and observe the change in one’s emotional state over a period of days. We do not need to personally know someone but rather just have access to the information on their devices, to have a perception of their intimate self.
Not visually powerful enough. The use of circles signify closure and was not ideal in exploring multiple relationships.
Idea 1: (Sculpture)
2-Dimensional to 3-Dimensional
Web-Like Structure with both Peaks And Valleys.
(Areas of Concentration of both Positive and Negative Emotions)
Centre, Neutral line representing the timeline or days.
Idea 2 : Mixed Media
Simpler but possibly more visually powerful
Creating a Visual Map:
By using Identified Texts —> Assigning Emotion to it —> Looking at Date/Day Text was sent —> Look at Phone Gallery/Social Media to find Image/Tweet saved/liked on Corresponding Date.
To try and visualise if there is any correlation between the intimate interactions we have online vs the more subtle interactions we make with social media in itself. See if there is any pattern in the type of image that is generated or comes up for any particular emotion.
Do the emotions we feel and show via our texts influence the content we interact with on social media or vice versa?
Text: ‘Please keep it to yourself’
Image Saved on Gallery:
Creating a detailed visual database of the relationships we involve in, in the virtual world. Proof of Concept that our Devices provide access to our most intimate and private thoughts/feelings and that these information can be publicly accessed. Archiving information over a period of days, and then connecting the days with similar imagery to see if there is any correlation between emotion and type of social media ‘trace’ within the same day.
Looking through texts and identifying most appropriate text sent by person/user objectively, to best summarise feelings expressed on that day. Reflected in work.
Equidistant Points on Circumference
Colour/Shape assigned to contact
Size of Circle
Distance between Circles
Number of Solid Lines
Number of Dashed Lines
Size of Area formed by Lines
Density of Lines
No connection between third party without intermediary connection through me
There was a flow in emotions expressed by each person/myself through the days. Validated that text messages are indeed intimate and are indicative of what we feel. They’re not just superficial.
Final Outcome can be overwhelming and ‘messy’.
1.Dilemma between adding too many and too little ‘lines’: I did not want to force any sort of connection/correlation upon the viewer and leave it up to themselves to connect it intuitively. I mainly connected the points representing myself to indeed show that there is some sort of consistency in emotions expressed throughout the period. This was to merely guide the viewer in making their own connections between the other elements.
2.Number of Circles Vs Size of Circle: Not too big as to make it obvious. But not too small to make it completely not readable.
Lack of Lines/Negative Space are as important as the presence of Lines/Area.
Hard to predict the outcome as it was not pre meditated.
Digitalise the Data but in a more objective way: using an external computer etc that will analyse it in a way that is different from human objectivity. (we still are to some extent influenced by our emotions). Interesting to see how an isolated machine system makes sense of the words and assigns the links between them.
Possible Expansion: are there also links between ‘vague’ or ‘expressionless’ words? Punctuation? Emojis? Etc.
I will be working with 5 contacts (the few I mainly communicate and have some sort of emotionally intimacy with in this current period). It is significant to note that these dynamics might change over time and completely disappear too — this however will be part of tracking the transient role we play in each other’s life through our phones. If I happen to break communication with 1 out of 5 of the people, the data visualisation representing that respective person will be empty for that period of time. There will not be any additional or new contacts added into the system designed around the initial 5 subjects.
Will take place over a period of 1.5 to 2 weeks so as to have enough diversity in the visualised outcomes yet have some overarching structure/parameter.
Initially I only thought of recording the connections we made between each other based on similar keywords indicative of the same sort of emotion, and the ‘background’ third party connections between the other users themselves make (via me as an intermediary). However I have decided to include the types of emotions within the graphs (categorising of them as either positive or negative feelings and taking note how these map out through the days).
The initial idea was to use discrete/isolated and progressive grids that represented each respective days. However I felt like the structure seemed very rigid and would be counter intuitive to the way they were meant to portray the very organic and salient connections of our digital relationships and intimacy. Hence I will be using circles instead (the centre being Myself, and 5 Equidistant points on the Circumference to represent the contacts).
Instead of organising them in a linear manner, I will be organising the circles themselves as part of a larger circular clock like interface or some sort of spiral — this will allow us to view the entirety of the data as one cohesive pattern/piece that can be taken apart slowly instead of a blatantly broken down grid structure. This improved iteration will require slightly more ‘effort’ from the viewer, increasing engagement and stimulation. Having no discrete start or end in a circular loop also reinforces the concept of transience and fluidity of digital intimacy.
Overarching Thoughts (on GAN , ‘ The Uncanny’ in contemporary society)
In this article, the authors explores how Generative Adversarial Networks (GAN) and Machine Learning have intensified the phenomena of the ‘uncanny’ — described as a certain level of discomfort or unease one feels when a machine mimicking organic human behaviour comes seemingly close to, yet disjointed and ‘faulty’ in its portrayal. It’s the simultaneous humane semblance and recognisability in the machine that plays with our emotional perception, yet our awareness and consciousness that it is a visibly artificial machine-construction that evokes this sensation.
It is provocative, provoking, unsettling and ultimately a unique reflection of our own perception of ourselves. The dysfunction in the machine and its faults are not rationalised in the way we would observe, clinically, the faults of a system like a washing machine or a vehicle (also machines). It is the machine-learned human nuances these machines have and their anthropomorphic form that seduce us into making some sort of ‘involuntary’ psychological and mental connection to them. Their form, appearance and behaviour (though crude, a sufficient enough representation of the human) creates an intuitive intimacy and we project our own feelings, experiences and learned world views onto our observation of this machine. This at the same time is inextricably linked to our obsession, fear and intrigue with technology/artificial intelligence.
It is not just a random discomfort but one that deeply is rooted in some way to our subconscious feelings towards technology’s presence and co-existence in the contemporary world. For example, if a primitive human like a Neanderthal who has no known knowledge or experience with technology sees a work like Ken Feingold’s ‘If, Then’ 2001 , it will probably be shocked and intrigued in a very banal and unintelligent manner.
For us humans who have some preconceived perception and familiar intimacy with technology and are constantly adapting to live with it, as augmentations of our body/mind, a representation like that is even more uncomfortable and uncanny. It plays on this innate, (irrational?) fear (one that has been propagated by novels, movies and media) of artificial intelligence eventually becoming intelligent enough to adopt and appropriate what we hold on to as our ‘humanity’.
Essentially this concept is what we believe distinguishes us from machines. Though crude in its superficial portrayal, any machine that is mildly capable of replicating some sort of human learned behaviour like speech immediately destabilises our position of supremacy, reminding us that the lines between the real and ‘unreal’ is becoming increasingly blurred. It also plays on this fear of automation and artificial intelligence replacing the role of humans.
However this is not something that is insignificant. In fact, I personally feel that this concept in relation to GAN in this context then opens up the possibilities for a very contemporary personification or reflection of the human condition. The outcomes of these GANs mirror the change in perceptions and emotions the amalgamation of technology has had on us. They mirror the fears, attachment and feelings we have grown to possess with the increasing presence of these artificial ‘bodies’. After all, this is an extremely valid, relevant and powerful aspect of the contemporary human condition that cannot be ignored. It is this then, that I believe, plays a significant role in plunging us into the ‘Uncanny Valley’ (first introduced by Masahiro Mori in 1970). It is only when the ‘humanoid’s’ anthropomorphic form is transitioned into being fully indiscernible from that of a normal human that we find ourselves out of this disconcerting state of Uncanny.
This music video by one of my favourite artists, Bjork came to mind with regards to ‘The Uncanny’. Though it is a music video and I am aware that it is graphically modelled and not real, the portrayed interaction of these anthropomorphic humanoids (the way sexual intercourse and ‘love’ is expressed via turning of gears in the figures, the leaking of fuel liquid etc) evokes an uneasy yet seductive feeling. The song being about ‘Love’ — a feeling that is very humane and far from machine, being portrayed by humanoids then makes us for a moment re consider if ‘Love’ is exclusive to us and if the ‘Love’ we feel/know of is just one possible perception limited by the human experience.
FURTHER THOUGHTS (On Being Foiled)
The article describes the Generative Process of the work ‘Being Foiled’, as a Positive Feedback Loop. By using the initialised system that is pre-trained to produced Unreal, Deep Fake Portraits, (based on the dynamics of the generator and discriminator) and then subverting the function by ‘fine tuning’ the system, the machine goes through a 3 Part Process (Divergence, Convergence and Collapse) which leaves an abstract ‘trail’ or track of the deep fake construction and configuration process. The outcome is essentially a gradual and increasingly intense breakdown from imperceptibly realistic portraits to discrete geometric shapes, bold colours and full abstraction.
Source: xCoAx 2020: Proceedings of the Eighth Conference on Computation, Communication, Aesthetics & X
As the portraits breakdown in this feedback loop, we see prominent blue lines marking the face shape, eye contours and silhouette of the hair that intensify and retain giving us some sort of ‘clue’ on how these remaining parameters could possibly be the basis for a Deep Fake face construction. In’Being Foiled’, all the portraits lead up to one identical abstracted image. This suggests that the system in its deep learning process of being fed countless faces, (constant reaction to discriminator by the generator and vice versa), might have determined/learned a standard and arbitrary ‘blueprint’ as a basis to construct convincing Deep Fakes that ‘dupe’ the discriminator into recognising it as a real face.
The unpredictability aspect of the Generative Methodology in the GAN system, is most noticeable in what is described as the ‘peak uncanny’ in the iteration of the early stages of the feedback loop process.
Source: xCoAx 2020: Proceedings of the Eighth Conference on Computation, Communication, Aesthetics & X
In this image, the bold red hue pervades through the face and the background, while thin blue lines exaggerating the contours of the eyes, face and hair are present. The eyes are misaligned, the hair highly regularised and simplified as crosshatch lines and the wrinkles around the eyes unrealistically pronounced.
What the authors’ describe as ‘fault lines’ of the system ‘indicative’ of its generativity, these very perceivable and consistent marks in each iteration points to the relative points of the system where it is at it’s ‘weakest’ (in this context, with regards to which features of the face it faces the most struggle in replicating the organic human face). The word ‘weakness’ is used here relative to system’s objective and prescribed function. In fact, this very weak ‘points’ I describe, are probably the most optimal points from which the unpredictability potential of the system radiates from. In this concentrated areas of ‘fault lines’ where the system breaks down and exposes itself most apparently, there is potential for the designer or artist to then target and expand on propagation in these areas, perhaps by by fine tuning the weights of the generator or by some other relevant manipulation.
However part of generativity and in the GAN system is the lack of control we have over the system. We are able to trigger and adjust the weights of either the generators or the discriminators but the circular loop in which the two entities communication and react to each other, is constant and immutable. The information that is communicated between the two changes depending on how we fine tune the system but the fundamental process remains the same. There is no fixed end state and the systems constantly evolve over the training process.
How generativity is successfully harnessed in this work and exploration is by fundamentally subverting a relevant and powerful machine constructed system (GANs & Deep Fake). Instead of constructing a generative system from scratch, an existing Generative System with an innate objective function is manipulated in such a way that it’s underlying unpredictabilities cause a feedback loop that deconstructs and reverses the Deep Fake Process into Abstraction.
Essentially a system that is trained to produce Images that we are unable to distinguish from real images, is manipulated into accomplishing the exact opposite. What is then significant from this outcome is the fact that a generative system is capable of manifesting itself in this extreme duality — two very different iterations that diverge from a common process. It is then our role as Artists to trigger or explore the divergent and variant outcomes these ‘closed systems’ can produce, by first analysing and then manipulating the interactions between the objects of the system and, our interaction with the system in its design process.
We also need to be conscious in the way the ‘Artistic’ outcomes of these Generative Process are presented: “while initial mesmerising and transfixing, can quickly become banal, monotonous repetitions for the sake of overwhelming the viewer with the “sublime of algorithmic productivity” (Zylinska 2019).”
Though it is argued in the article that this very algorithmic representation is powerful, we have to consider the affect and over saturation these type of repetitive output can have on our audience — we do not want them to be immune or ‘numb’ in their intuitive reaction to the works. Hence it is important to possibly explore how these iterations can be displayed — perhaps via projection or by intersecting the physical and virtual planes. One question we can ask ourselves as Generative Artist is if it possible to enhance the ‘experience’ of the dialogue with a closed system without taking away its essence?
Exploring how our screens and phones have become augmentations of our psyche and emotions. Our phones are vessels that hold all the information about our lives — private and public.
We leave both digital and physical traces on our phones.
Physical: Fingerprints, the pressure, speed and direction in which we text on our phones is relative to our mood and state of mind – when we are arguing we tend to text faster. Some days we barely touch our phones or reply conversations when we’re feeling existential or disassociated from our world.
Digital: Text Messages are often intimate and representative of our state of mind. We engage with different people via text, creating a shared space with each one of them. We also leave traces on Social Media via Text or Visuals.
To create a Visual Map of our emotions by identifying descriptive words associated with emotion in our text messages. While taking note of the emotion expressed by the person we are texting. Our mood constantly changes and is influenced by everyone around us. Two people who are detached from each other can influence each other indirectly if they both communicate via an intermediary entity. For example if person A texts me and I am affected by his emotional state of mind, this then will have an influence on how I respond to person C. This is ever more so apparent in the contemporary world today where we are psychologically connected (voluntarily and involuntarily) due to the veracity of the digital/virtual world.
We are always multitasking and replying or engaging with multiple people at the same time unlike in real life where we do not have the ability to have multiple intimate dialogues simultaneously. Essentially my idea is to attempt to visualise a map that connects specific people via their expressed emotions and at the same time visualise how they play a part in influencing my mental state. Our phones have become augmentations of us and we barely pay attention to the way in which we engage with it and how this engagement has affect on our cognitive and emotional state.
Part of the exploration in this study is to take a step back and attempt to deconstruct the relationships we form in the virtual world (specifically text conversations) and sequence a set of representations that express this complex phenomena in a clearer way. By forming a sequence of simple ‘data graphs’ over a specific period of time, we can then track and process how the people we text play a role in our lives.
Size of Parameter
Positions of Point
Relative distance between Points
Number of lines
Area within Boundary
Number of connections between me and specific person
Number of connections between people
INITIAL Visual Sketch
For each corresponding emotion or word between any two people, a line will be drawn to connect the respective points. The red line represents a connection between two isolated people while the black line represents a connection between a specific person and myself.