IM2: Guest Lecture Reflection (Automated Utopia)

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The most interesting part of the guest lecture was when he showed us a snippet of the Korean film “Doomsday Book – The Heavenly Creature”. I found the concept of a robot god very interesting. In the film, the robot claims that it is Buddhist and have reached enlightenment, and suspected that it is broken, a robot repairman was dispatched to the monastery to “fix” it, but to no avail. I think this film depicts the relationship between us humans and robots well; it shows how we are reliant on technology, but as we progress, we are actually afraid that the advancements in technology will overwhelm us. Not just regular programmed robots, AI-powered ones are the ones who “pose a threat” to our existence. In “Robots, Rights and Religion”, a scholarly paper written by James F. McGrath, he said that:

“Because if machines could think, if they could be persons, then they would quickly evolve to be so far superior to biological organisms in intelligence and strength that they would take over. It is not surprising that some have breathed a sigh of relief in response to the failure of real artificial intelligence to materialize as predicted in so much science fiction.”

This statement suggests that we can coexist with “thoughtless” machines, but machines added with the “self-thinking feature”, we are scared of allowing it to evolve beyond us. Ironic how we humans are the ones who created them, yet we are afraid of our own creation.

However, some Japanese thought otherwise, and are so accepting of the idea of incorporating AI into religion that they built a robot priest to bless worshippers.

Mindar, the new android priest at Kodaiji temple in  Japan

The robot priest, Mindar, is currently not AI-powered yet, but the creators said that they do intend to give it machine-learning capabilities in the future. The temple’s chief steward, Tensho Goto said, “This robot will never die; it will just keep updating itself and evolving. With AI, we hope it will grow in wisdom to help people overcome even the most difficult troubles. It’s changing Buddhism.” This sparked a thought, if religion is the belief in a superhuman being, does AI have the capacity to become this superhuman being?It is technically immortal compared to us humans, all it needs is maintenance. If AI can even take over the role of a god, then where is our place on Earth when AI becomes the norm? A utopia is an imagined community or society that possesses highly desirable or nearly perfect qualities for its citizens. But with AI threatening our existence, could it really be considered a utopia?

 

References:

https://www.vox.com/future-perfect/2019/9/9/20851753/ai-religion-robot-priest-mindar-buddhism-christianity

https://digitalcommons.butler.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1198&context=facsch_papers

IM2: Reading Assignment

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A Companion to Digital Art by Christine Paul – Aesthetics of Digital Art

From this reading, I realised that the aesthetics of digital art is different from just aesthetics itself. Aesthetics, by the definition from the Oxford Dictionary, is the branch of philosophy that studies the principles of beauty, especially in art. However, aesthetics in digital art is way more than just beauty. “Aesthetics” in the context of digital art becomes more of a theory rather than a concept because of the several mathematical approaches that it takes (take for instance, numerical aesthetics, which talks about using several variables to form relationships/formulas that can determine the aesthetics).

One chapter in the book talks about “Computational Aesthetics”. The authors M. Beatrice Fazi and Matthew Fuller stated that:

Digital art, however, builds upon and works through the computational, sharing its limits and potentials while also inheriting conceptual histories and contexts of practice. For this reason, we contend that an aesthetics of digital art is, at a fundamental level, a computational aesthetics.

I agree with their thesis. As technology is being incorporated into art, aesthetics becomes more than just about the visual elements, as compared to fine arts where you can only judge based on the visual elements because that’s the purpose of fine art pieces such as paintings or sculptures. When deciding whether a digital art piece is aesthetic, I think it is  important to look at the process and the method of how the digital artwork is being made to determine its aesthetic value. For digital art, I think it is essential that the role of the computer is recognised as part of the work’s meaning. Paul Crowther more or less agrees with the same view as he mentioned in his paper ‘The Aesthetics of Digital Art’ that, “The aesthetics of electronic or digital artwork hinges, to a large extent, on non-visual aspects such as narrativity, processuality, performativity, generativity, interactivity, or machinic qualities.”

Similar to how Dieter Rams came up with 10 principles to determine a “good design”, Fazi and Fuller proposed 10 aspects of “computation aesthetics”, which can be used as general benchmarks to determine if the computational structure used in a digital artwork is aesthetic. It is stated that “If aesthetics can be understood as a theory of how experience is constructed, then this list attempts to account for some of the modalities of the computational that partake in such constructions.” The 10 aspects are as follow:

  1. Abstraction and concreteness
  2. Universality
  3. Discreteness
  4. Axiomatics
  5. Numbers
  6. Limits
  7. Speeds
  8. Scale
  9. Logical Equilvalence
  10. Memory

I think that by having these criteria is useful in evaluating aesthetic value of digital art. These ensure that there is an objective standard to the way digital artworks are perceived.

I also particularly like this definition of digital art in the book:

Digital art, however, is potentially time‐based, dynamic, and non‐linear: even if a project is not interactive in the sense that it requires direct engagement, the viewer may look at a visualization driven by real‐time data flow from the Internet that will never repeat itself, or a database‐driven project that continuously reconfigures itself over time. A viewer who spends only a minute or two with a digital artwork might see only one configuration of an essentially non‐linear project. The context and logic of a particular sequence may remain unclear.

I think this is an important aspect to digital art, particularly interactive art. The possibility of various outcomes from a single art piece is fascinating, and this makes it “aesthetic”.

Books for reference:

http://about.mouchette.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/Christiane_Paul_A_Companion_to_Digital_Artb-ok.org_.pdf

https://www.academia.edu/37948527/The_Aesthetics_of_Digital_Art.pdf

 

IM2: Inspiring Example of Interactive Art + Reflection

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THE UNILEVER SERIES: CARSTEN HÖLLER

This series of slides is done by Carsten Höller, a scientist turned artist. A lot of his works are inspired by human relationships and the social context.

Carsten Höller - The Slide at ArcelorMittal Orbit Tower, 2016 London

(This slide goes around the structure 12 times, offering panoramic views of London’s cityscape.)

‘A slide is a sculptural work with a pragmatic aspect, a sculpture that you can travel inside. However, it would be a mistake to think that you have to use the slide to make sense of it. looking at the work from the outside is a different but equally valid experience, just as one might contemplate the endless column by Constantin Brancusi from 1938. From an architectural and practical perspective, the slides are one of the building’s means of transporting people, equivalent to the escalators, elevators or stairs. slides deliver people quickly, safely and elegantly to their destinations, they’re inexpensive to construct and energy-efficient. They’re also a device for experiencing an emotional state that is a unique condition somewhere between delight and madness.” – Carsten Höller

 

Pictures of various other slides at the different locations:

Carsten Höller - Isomeric Slides, 2015, Hayward Gallery, London

(Isomeric Slides, 2015, Hayward Gallery, London)

Carsten Höller – Test Site, 2006, Turbine Hall, Tate Modern, London

(Test Site, 2006, Turbine Hall, Tate Modern, London)

Carsten Höller - Vitra Slide Tower, Weil am Rhein, Germany, photo Wladyslaw Sojka

(Vitra Slide Tower, Weil am Rhein, Germany
Photo: Wladyslaw Sojka/archdaily.com)

 

My thoughts:

Fun. The first word that comes to mind when I see his works. However, that’s not what it’s all about. I really like this series because despite it’s simplicity, the artist made various connections to how slides may affect human relationships, emotions and experience as they slide down. The artist’s first thought about how slides could be used as an amazing mode of transportation, but yet it is unusual for it to be used as such, which then inspired him to challenge the use of the slide. He mentioned that his favorite quote for describing a slide is from a French writer by the name of Roger Caillois: He speaks of vertigo as being “a kind of voluptuous panic upon an otherwise lucid mind.” I agree that this statement really captures the essence of the slide because with a slide, you can see how it curves and goes all around, and though you know exactly how the journey would go, you will still get a sense of excitement as you go down the slide. I also like how the faces of the people can be captured at the end of the ride, and from most of the pictures and videos, you can clearly see genuine smiles on the users’ faces, which is what I found the most valuable about this series; which is that it can trigger the emotion of happiness, as short-lived as it may be. The slide allows users to let go and forget about their troubles, albeit for a brief moment. This work taught me how an artwork doesn’t have to be really fanciful for it to be considered art, and that for interactive art, the main point is for the users to enjoy the experience, more than anything else.

 

References:

https://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-modern/exhibition/unilever-series/unilever-series-carsten-holler-test-site

https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2015/may/17/carsten-holler-travel-down-a-slide-without-smiling-decision

https://gagosian.com/quarterly/2016/07/08/carsten-hollers-arcelormittal-orbit-slide/

https://gagosian.com/artists/carsten-holler/

https://www.newmuseum.org/exhibitions/view/carsten-hoeller-experience

History of Design Lecture 5 (Overall Reflection)

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History of Design was an interesting module. I learnt a lot about how visual communications came about, and I found it especially interesting to know how the fonts that we usually use were designed and created. (I prefer Sans Serif for its cleaner and sleek looks.) Some of the artists also had intriguing backgrounds, and learning about their different styles gave a lot of insights, and even though I’m not a visual communications student, I think that the concepts can be applied to product design and interactive media as well, because I believe all of the art forms work hand in hand. I also enjoyed the format of the teachings, where we are always given a list of key words. This helps a lot with the learning process as it is easy to link the words one after another. The quizzes also helped with registering the bulk of the information into our head. I also enjoyed the reviewing of the answers after the quizzes because it reminds me how bad I am at quizzes. (Oops) Overall it was fun and I thoroughly enjoyed myself, thanks for teaching us Desmond 🙂

History of Design Lecture 4 (Reflection 3)

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Beat the Whites with the Red Wedge, El Lissitzky, 1919

This is an art piece done by El Lissitzky representing the Russian Civil War. The red wedge represents the Bolsheviks penetrating the White movement, as represented by the white space. I like this piece because of its ability to convey its strong and straightforward message despite its simplicity. The exceptional placement and use of shapes, colours and spaces makes it a very easy-to-understand piece that is considered to be symbolic in Western publications. This piece’s significance is evident in the things it has influenced in the modern context, and one example is the use of the simplified version in a Australian-American television series, Farscape.

 

Proun, El Lissitzky

Proun is El Lissitzky’s attempt to integrate painting and architecture together. The word “proun” has no apparent meaning, and is an acronym of the Russian words “PROyect Utverzhdenia Novogo” (Project for the Affirmation of the New). Proun was Lissitzky’s exploration of the visual language of suprematism with spatial elements, axes (lines) and perspectives; which I realise, all of which are now considered basic elements of design. Proun works were three-dimensional environments in which two-dimensional shapes could exist in direct contrast to the space they inhabited. I think this is interesting because this idea of drawing 3D objects on 2D planes is how a lot of us are taught to do to give our works more depth and realism, and I think this concept has come a long way.

Also, really small trivia while researching; El Lissitzky has the same birthday as me. (Maybe that’s why I felt like researching about his works ¯\_(ツ)_/¯)

History of Design Lecture 3 (Reflection 2)

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Johnston’s Railway Type, Edward Johnston, 1916

Edward Johnston was a British calligrapher who played a large part in influencing 20th century typography and calligraphy, mainly in England and Germany (together with Rudolf Koch, a German Type Designer). He was commissioned by The London Underground Railway in 1915 to create a new alphabet, and he completed the design in 1916. This design is considered the first modern sans serif type based on the proportions of Classical Roman capitals.

I like this typeface because of its clean and sleek look. I think it is amazing that Johnston could design such a modern-looking typeface ahead of his time, allowing it to last through the years, and eventually fast forward 100 years later, the typeface was revamped into Johnston100. The Johnston100 is catered to the technological mediums of today’s world, in other words, more suitable for the digital screen.

Johnston100 Typeface:

For reference:

https://www.wired.com/2016/06/londons-underground-gets-new-typeface-digital-age/

https://www.monotype.com/resources/case-studies/introducing-johnston100-the-language-of-london/

History of Design Lecture 2 (Reflection 1)

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Woodblock Playing Card, Jack of Diamonds, c. 1400

These early renaissance playing cards actually originated from China in the 9th century, and was brought to Europe in the 14th century. These cards were initially considered to be for the rich only, since they were very expensive to get due to each of the cards being individually hand-painted. However, with the rise of woodblock painting, these cards became easily accessible to people of all financial statuses, since woodblock printing made it a lot easier to mass produce the cards.

I like this piece because of the concept of woodblock printing, and also the idea of tabletop games. Not only do these cards provide entertainment for the community, they also showcase the talents and skills of the people who were capable of carving the wood with such intricacy. Following that, I feel that the evolution of playing cards made it such that more focus is place on the design aspect of it, rather than the process of making it, since everything is mass produced. Playing cards is a good outlet for designers to showcase their original concepts of the various suits and numbers.

Modern playing cards: