09.21.16 Activity as a Compositional Value for Artists; Complex Systems and Automata:

Why would artists create work algorithmically?

“In the Logicians Voice” by David Berlinski

“The Serial Attitude” by Mel Bochner

“Music as a Gradual Process” by Steve Reich

“The Cut-up Method” of Brion Gysin by William S. Burroughs

 

What is Cybernetics?

“The Emergence of Control” by Kevin Kelly

Excerpt from God and Golum, Inc by Norbert Wiener

An Interview with Hans Haacke by Jeanne Siegel

 

What are generative systems?

“Metacreation” by Michael Whitelaw

“Cellular Automata and Art” by Brian P. Hoke

 

Why would artists create work algorithmically?

“In the Logicians Voice” by David Berlinski

  • An algorithm is…
  • a finite procedure
  • written in a fixed vocabulary
  • governed by precise instructions
  • moving in discrete steps, 1, 2, 3…
  • whose execution requires no insight, cleverness, intuition, intelligence or perspicuity
  • and that sooner or later comes to an end

 

“The Serial Attitude” by Mel Bochner

  • wherever there is order in the universe, there is serial order – Joshua Royce
  • serial order is a method not a style
  • Edward Muybridge, Thomas Eakins, Jasper Johns, Alfred Jensen, Larry Poon, Donald Judd, Sol LeWitt
  • The serial attitude is concerned with how a specific type of order is manifest
  • Many artists work “in series” not what we are talking about
  • 3 basic operating systems of serial work
  • the derivations of the terms or interior divisions of the work is by means of a numerical or otherwise systematically predetermined process (permutation, progression, rotation, reversal)
  • the order takes precedence over the execution
  • the completed work is fundamentally parsimonious and systematically self-exhausting
  • Serial ideas occur in many forms
  • Muybridge photos show time
  • modular units
  • may be simple logic such as 1-9
  • self-exhausting like 3 flags
  • Marcel Duchamp’s “Nude Descending Staircase” divides canvas into time intervals
  • Serial Music, Bach
  • Milton Babbitt Piano Composition
  • practically all systems can be rendered isomorphic
  • “The limits of my language are the limits of my world” Ludwig Wittgenstein
  • perspective is an example of prefabricated system
  • Non-Euclidian Geometry to Projective Geometry
  • serial aspects of mapmaking

 

“Music as a Gradual Process” by Steve Reich

  • not composition
  • pieces of music are gradual processes
  • perceptible processes, hear the process sharpening in the sound of the music
  • content suggests form
  • form suggests content
  • live or electronic is not the important factor
  • tape is interesting if it is an interesting tape
  • musical processes give one direct contact with the impersonal
  • also a kind of complete control
  • John Cage uses processes and accepts their results
  • process is computational and cannot be heard
  • Listening to extremely gradual music process opens ears to the music
  • gradual means so slowly that it is like watching the minute hand on a clock, you can only perceive it if you stay with it a while
  • focusing on the process is meditative. It is liberating. Shifts focus away from self and towards the music

 

“The Cut-up Method” of Brion Gysin by William S. Burroughs

  • Brion Gysin cut newspaper articles into sections and rearranged them at random
  • collage for writers
  • introduces spontaneity to writing.
  • you can’t will spontaneity
  • cut the page into quadrants and reassemble
  • cut up the words and put in a bag, reassemble
  • etc
  • cut up for everyone
  • comes out as coded messages
  • all writing is in fact cut ups
  • scissors render it explicit
  • can be applied to other fields
  • film is essentially cut up moments
  • tapes cut and spliced at random
  • not really random because chosen
  • instinct
  • subconscious influence

 

What is Cybernetics?

“The Emergence of Control” by Kevin Kelly

  • In Ancient Greece the first Artificial Self
  • Autonomous control in china with the always south pointing figure on a cart so people don’t get lost
  • not truly automatic since it relies on humans to follow wits instructions. To be truly automatic it would have to steer the carriage
  • Ktesibios and the flat valve
  • first moving object to self-regulate, self-govern, control
  • it truly was a self
  • thermostat
  • steam engine regulator
  • automatic horsepower was the first phase of the knowledge revolution
  • Maturing of Mechanical Selfhood
  • The thermostat and other regulators have a purpose
  • they sense something and then take action, thus they fulfill their purpose
  • took a while to figure out how to use electricity with a simple electronic feedback loop
  • but when it happened, the telegraph was invented and changed communication
  • phone lines came
  • Black created a negative feedback loop
  • positive/negative electric circuit
  • the first “electrical self” was born
  • WWI Automatic gun fire calculated in tables added to guns
  • WWII airplane fire controlled by servomechanism
  • simultaneously developed by American and Frenchman
  • Personal Note: Interesting concept, simultaneous development of technology. Wrote a paper on it once. See if I still have it. Could have interesting research I have since forgotten
  • hydraulic gun barrels
  • servomechanisms suggest possibility of man/machine symbiosis
  • The Toilet: Archetype of tautology
  • Norbert Weiner, mathematical genius
  • 1948 Book stated that machines can learn
  • coined name “cybernetics”
  • received strong public response
  • Ampere also called “Cybernetics” the Science of governing
  • Weiner’s definition more specific “control and communication in the animal and the machine”
  • result of book – notion of feedback permeates culture
  • miracle of self-control is exactitude and precision from grossness
  • electronic feedback in steel mills allowed uniform thickness of sheet metal
  • cybernetic principle: If all variables are tightly coupled, and you can manipulate one of them in all its freedoms, then you can indirectly control them all
  • system of thought also applies to other systems, economic, biological, etc
  • “automatic self” becomes an ever refining quality machine, improves on human precision
  • not every circuit works, the more you string together the greater the chance for unknown responses
  • example: driving a car and zig zagging while learning to steer
  • Personal Note: The unknown actions in Nate’s Sphere World?
  • if something can be both its own cause and effect then rationality is up for grabs
  • Self-causing agencies
  • compounded logic of stacked loops causes complexity that is almost impenetrable, engineers try to control it but don’t always succeed
  • Where does self come from? Cybernetics says that it comes from itself and cannot emerge any other way
  • Uroborous
  • self-causing agencies
  • Jung, Uroborous, human soul
  • loop of Uroborous obvious symbol of feedback loop
  • snake is linear until it feeds into itself then it becomes the symbol of non-linear thinking
  • the self is not an Ego, it is more like a blank slate from which an ego could form but may not
  • Every self is a tautology: self-regulated, self-referential, self-centered and self-created
  • Gregory Bateson said a vivisystem “was a slowly self-healing tautology”
  • Every self is an argument trying to prove its identity
  • the thermostat has endless internal bickering about whether to raise or lower the heat
  • A system is anything that talks to itself
  • the advent of automatic control has spawned three nearly metaphysical changes in human culture
  • Stage 1: Control of energy (begins with Steam engine)
  • Once controlled energy becomes free
  • technological gain no longer depends on mastery of powerful energy sources
  • instead gains come from amplifying control
  • Stage 2: Control of matter
  • cameras the size of molecules or crystals the size of buildings
  • George Gilder “The central even of the twentieth century is the overthrow of matter”
  • essentially matter is becoming almost “free”
  • Stage 3: Control of Information Self (begins with application of information to coal steam in order to regulate energy output)
  • we generate more information than we can control
  • information is not useful unless harnessed
  • genetic engineering and tools for managing libraries foreshadow the subjugation of information
  • impact begins with business and spreads to individual
  • control of energy conquers nature
  • control of matter brought material wealth
  • what will control of information give us?
  • Personal Note: Think back to extended mind? If we had 100% control of all data and we consider that the tools that organize and preserve that data are accessible to us, and indeed act as an extension of our own minds storage and processing ability, what does it mean for us to have access to virtually unlimited information? Would make an interesting short story
  • Selves are important, without them it wouldn’t matter. These small created selves run factories and computers and… well, everything
  • As fast as our lives allow, we are equipping our constructed world to bootstrap itself into self-governance, self-reproduction, self-consciousness and irrevocable self-hood
  • these second selves are out of our control
  • Giving machines freedom is the only way we have intelligent control
  • Let go with dignity!

 

Excerpt from God and Golum, Inc by Norbert Wiener

  • cybernetics and religion
  • issues that are relevant
  • machines that learn
  • machines that reproduce
  • coordination of machine and man
  • L. Samuels computer plays checkers, computer learns
  • computer eventually defeated him
  • issues associated with religion: learning often attributed exclusively to living systems
  • aspect of man most associated with religion
  • a non-learning entity wouldn’t be involved in religion
  • issues associated with religion: god made man in his own image
  • desire to glorify god makes us want to believe that machines cannot reproduce themselves in their own image
  • creates sharp dichotomy of systems into living and non living
  • but is it true? no. machines can make machines in their own image
  • not a model of actual biological generation
  • not a model of divine creation
  • but throws light on both
  • ontogeny – learning process
  • biological reproduction – phylogeny
  • race learns as individual learns
  • Darwinian natural selection is a kind of radical learning
  • issues associated with religion: relation of machine to the living being
  • so: Learning machines?
  • organized systems transform incoming message into outgoing message according to some set of rules in a way that ultimately improves
  • games
  • perfect theory can always be won ex. tac tac toe
  • John Von Neumann
  • Omniscient being would see chess or checkers like tic tac toe
  • These kind of games are no fun after they are mastered
  • humans have not mastered chess or checkers, too many permutations, people don’t always choose the best move
  • what do games have to do with religion?
  • game between creator and creature
  • theme of the book of Job and Paradise Lost
  • both stories, devil plays game with god
  • Judeo-Christian beliefs that devil is creation of god
  • necessary or duality of Zoroastrianism
  • if the devil is gods creature the game is unequal
  • Personal Note: Of course, this is the supposition of Christianity. It is the evidence used to tell people that they are capable of being good. God is more powerful than the devil because the devil is still a creature of god. Therefore if you put your faith in god you will always come out on top because god is better than the devil blah blah blah
  • the contest only means something we step away from the idea of omnipotence and omniscience so that god could possibly loose
  • can god play a significant game with his own creature?
  • by creating machines that play games, man becomes a limited creator
  • how do the games that win against humans work?
  • they do the same things humans do.
  • They do the best they can. Then they adapt to variables. Each repetition of action creates learning.
  • pick the best choice, do it again until you win
  • if you always do this it’s easy to determine weakness
  • but combining all the plays in memory build sup database of knowledge from which new ideas can be born
  • constant reevaluation of merit
  • machine is constantly a new machine, absorbs playing personality from opponent
  • all this may be built in by programmer but it is not all foreseen by programmer, that is why the machine can win
  • chess machines are hard because so many permutations
  • Personal Note: What about IBMs Deep Blue? (research later, point doesn’t really matter now. concept stays the same)
  • chess machines may kill chess
  • game-playing machines work if there is a clear merit-based objective
  • without clear merit it’s like Alice in Wonderland with everything changing

 

An Interview with Hans Haacke by Jeanne Siegel

  • Are you a naturalist?
  • No
  • The difference in nature and technology is only that the latter is man made
  • functioning of both can be described by the same conceptual models
  • both follow the same rules of operation
  • world is not divided into neat compartments it is a giant system with many subsystems and all affect each other
  • world divided into 4 categories
  • physical, biological, social, behavioral
  • no hierarchy, each interacts
  • when did you become aware of system theory?
  • 65 or 66 when introduced to concept of systems, adapted from cybernetics, analysis etc
  • When did you meet Jack Burnham?
  • 1962, both isolated, Jack introduced to concept of systems analysis
  • what is your definition of a system that is also a work of art?
  • a grouping of elements that is subject to a common plan or purpose
  • joint goal
  • separate and its destroyed
  • term should be reserved for sculptures in which a transfer of energy or materials or information occurs
  • not dependent on perceptual interpretation
  • system refers exclusive to things that are not reliant on perception
  • is there a difference between communication in social systems and biological ones?
  • physical or biological processes do not need external mental involvement
  • even if the artist is physically involved, he is simply part of the art, not adding a mental process
  • social process take place in people’s minds
  • energy of information interests me
  • info at the right time and place can be very powerful
  • artists don’t wield power but they do focus attention
  • Can you describe a social work that is not political?
  • probably all social work is political to some extent
  • example of photographs of homes of gallery viewers plotted in a line
  • info not political but once put together it has political implications about who does and doesn’t visit shows, etc etc etc

 

What are generative systems?

“Metacreation” by Michael Whitelaw

  • Artificial life = a-life
  • interdisciplinary scientific field
  • concerned with the creation and study of artificial systems
  • that mimic or manifest the properties of living systems
  • away from analyzing nature
  • towards synthesis
  • It is interesting because…
  • The art itself is striking
  • evolves, changes
  • offers experiences
  • metaphorical
  • how is it lifelike?
  • god-like creation
  • Personal Note: Yes, that is how I see these things. I like it because I like the idea of joyful creation. At least, I see it as joyful.
  • much of the work asks itself
  • it is autonomous
  • is this an abdication of creative will or its ultimate fulfillment?
  • also important because
  • mapping around of living and technological things is important, current
  • society is changing and encountering new views
  • life is more plastic and changeable
  • stem cells
  • reproduction is less a quality that defines life
  • Personal Note: When I was in elementary school, and even high school, we learned that independent reproduction was one of the qualities of life. meaning things like virus is that need help to reproduce, are not alive. When I was in college, that teaching had changed
  • cloning
  • ethical questions
  • proprietary life forms
  • technoscience increased command of matter
  • life reshaped according to commercial logic
  • and still life refused to be controlled
  • mad cow
  • genetically modified crops
  • Personal Note: Jurassic Park! 🙂
  • tangled up biology and technology
  • computer viruses
  • 2002 Japanese Earth Simulator, powerful super computer
  • advanced weather prediction
  • maintain symbiosis between man and nature’
  • media creates synthetic immersion
  • loss of contact with “real”
  • technology into culture
  • technology as culture
  • abstract life
  • working through implications of concepts
  • testing
  • reworking
  • transforming
  • Personal Note: Artists become scientists, though I think they always have been. It irks me that so many people think it has to be one or the other. Part of the appeal of this program traditional view of art and creativity.
  • turns technical into cultural
  • Artificial life = simulation and synthesis of living things
  • began in 1987 in Los Alamos
  • a-life is unique because it begins with a materialistic concept of life
  • not about soul or spirit
  • Christopher Langton “living organisms are nothing more than complex biochemical machines.”
  • life isn’t spiritual it is just the organization of matter
  • dynamic system
  • bottom-up approach to life
  • no global control of each individual part
  • organism is a large population of simple machines
  • emergence = components interact to produce life-like results
  • agent-based systems apply artificial genetics
  • also applied to robotics
  • Rodney Brooks at the MIT robot lab
  • cellular automata
  • array of logical units (cells) is computed with a set of simple rules for how each cell’s future state is affected by its neighbors.
  • best known = “Game of Life”
  • Spread after 1987 to conceptual artists
  • William Latham and Karl Sims
  • Showed the viability of the conjunction of a-life and art making
  • early work focused on simple processes
  • artificial evolution
  • Later
  • ecosystem simulations
  • cellular automata
  • behavioral robots
  • displayed across range of media styles
  • some artists try for absolute autonomy
  • some try and simulate it
  • some represent it
  • work to draw the audience into it
  • interactive
  • raw sense of potential
  • what the unknown could be
  • defining a-life is hard
  • situated with applied technoscience
  • Stephen Wilson named the area Information Arts
  • robotics etc
  • this book is about work that specifically and deliberately takes up the techniques and processes of a-life science
  • year 0 = 1987
  • but wider view necessary to understand
  • Lev Manovich shows new media are not new but come from past
  • analogy of art as a living organism dates back to Plato and Aristotle
  • Reappears with Van Goethe
  • Urpflance = ur-plants
  • the archetype pr template that underpins all real life plant forms
  • not fixed platonic idea, rather a pattern
  • Van Goethe
  • Klee, Russian avant-garde
  • graphic analysis of plant forms and abstracts them
  • begins in observation of nature and ends in abstraction
  • cybernetics named by Weiner in 1948
  • Nicholas Schoffer Kinetic sculpture
  • able to bring forth results!
  • James Seawright a prominent American cyborg sculpture
  • pieces interact to form a continually varying pattern of independent and collective activity
  • Burnham, Beyond Modern sculpture 1966
  • transition from object to system
  • if both art and technology are negentropic then their common destiny is the creation of life

“Cellular Automata and Art” by Brian P. Hoke

  • 1950s Von Neumann was trying to build a computer that could replicate itself
  • he did it by constructing an array of rectangular cells.
  • Each cell can exist in a finite number of states
  • the rules governing change of state depend on the e neighbors f the cell
  • all cells begin at 0
  • to start the automation
  • change some cells to non zero states
  • the output data could be used to move a mechanical arm
  • the arm could change a nearby grid of cells, all set at 0, so that they produced a copy of the original
  • the cells replicated themselves
  • Published in 1966 (after death) as “Theory of Self-reproducing Automata”
  • simplest mathematical expression is a recursive sequence
  • governed by algorithm
  • defined recursively
  • also possible to make explicit rules
  • each element defined in terms of its place in line
  • recursive gives a starting point and rules to get to the next element
  • explicit gives a means by which any element can be found
  • complex behavior generated by simple rules
  • simplest CA is 1-demensional 2-state
  • horizontal rows