"Prehystories of New Media" class at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC), Fall 2008 + 2009, instructor: Nina Wenhart

“Our fine arts were developed, their types and uses were established, in times very different from the present, by men whose power of action upon things was insignificant in comparison with ours. But the amazing growth of our techniques, the adaptability and precision they have attained, the ideas and habits they are creating, make it a certainty that profound changes are impending in the ancient craft of the Beautiful. In all the arts there is a physical component which can no longer be considered or treated as it used to be, which cannot remain unaffected by our modern knowledge and power. For the last twenty years neither matter nor space nor time has been what it was from time immemorial. We must expect great innovations to transform the entire technique of the arts, thereby affecting artistic invention itself and perhaps even bringing about an amazing change in our very notion of art.”
Paul Valéry, Pièces sur L’Art, 1931
Le Conquete de l’ubiquite

>> students' research papers, Fall 2008

class .09

high/low cultures - the creation of life
nov 11th 2009

#00: some final notes on 9evenings and notions of openness in art
- Clarisse Bardiot, "Diverting/Adapting Technologies"

- Umberto Eco, Open Work
----- In „Opera Aperta“ („Open Work“, 1962), Umberto Eco defines a work of art as open, when it allows for various ways of „reading“ and interpreting it, when it embraces things that cannot be fully planned or foreseen, when the author/creator includes and welcomes chance, pluralism, complexity, multiplicity of meaning, unprecictability, ... It results in a willing loss of complete control on the side of the author. Eco especially puts the term openness in the contemporary-historical context of the early 60s. The computer and new scienctific developments challenge the arts + their means of expression: „The old forms were developed for representing an ordered, hierarchal and mappable reality. Inheriting a set of univocal conventions, the artist breaks or subverts the formal language to create work which allows varied interpretations, reflective of a contemporary worldview which is less hierarchal and more pluralistic.“ (http://distributedcreativity.typepad.com/reading_group/2005/10/post...)

- Roland Barthes, "Death of the Author", 1967
------ excerpt, please understand "text", "author", "reader" in a very broad sense:
"Thus is revealed the total existence of writing: a text is made of multiple writings, drawn from many cultures and entering into mutual relations of dialogue, parody, contestation, but there is one place where this multiplicity is focused and that place is the reader, not, as was hitherto said, the author. The reader is the space on which all the quotations that make up a writing are inscribed without any of them being lost; a text’s unity lies not in its origin but in its destination. Yet this destination cannot any longer be personal: the reader is without history, biography, psychology; he is simply that someone who holds together in a single field all the traces by which the written text is constituted. Which is why it is derisory to condemn the new writing in the name of a humanism hypocritically turned champion of the reader’s rights. Classic criticism has never paid any attention to the reader; for it, the writer is the only person in literature. We are now beginning to let ourselves be fooled no longer by the arrogant antiphrastical recriminations of good society in favor of the very thing it sets aside, ignores, smothers or destroys; we know that to give writing its future, it is necessary to overthrow the myth: the birth of the reader must be at the cost of the death of the Author."
----- openness of the text, infinitely unfinished, each reader is co-authoring

#01: macro level - Robots vs Cyborgs

#01a: background
- robots: constructed from inanimate matter
- cyborgs: combination of cybernetics and organism

- for artist including the computer in sculpture/performance means to
----- give up (part of their) control
----- reflection on the human condition
- topos: life made from inanimate matter
----- definition of a topos: archetype, an idea that resurfaces over time, though changing in appearance it stays the same
----- golem, homunculus; from Frankenstein to Rocky Horror Picture Show
video: the golem, 1920: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5zag79w8eIQ
----- alchemy, science, magic + what happens when you mess around
----- out of the lab, out of control --> the sourcerer's apprentice, Dr. Faust
----- creation of life as a scientific as well as artistic goal
----- Hans Moravec, "Serious attempts to build thinking machines began after the second world war. One line of research, called Cybernetics, used simple electronic circuitry to mimic small nervous systems, and produced machines that could learn to recognize simple patterns, and turtle-like robots that found their way to lighted recharging hutches." (http://www.aec.at/en/archives/festival_archive/festival_catalogs/festival_artikel.asp?iProjectID=8899)

#01b: examples

- Chico McMurtrie/Rick Sayre, "The Tumbling Man", 1991
----- pneumatic robot, animated sculpture
----- lims controlled by two players, computer choses which limbs correspond with each of the participants, shifts over time;
----- "the ability for the sculpture to make decisions has opened up new boundaries"
----- questions power and control, letting go of control, and the power of collaboration
----- earlier work as a puppeteer --> computer has led to the freedom of his sculptures
----- http://www.aec.at/en/archives/prix_archive/prix_projekt.asp?iProjectID=2474

- Time's Up (artist collective from Linz, including Tim Boykett, Tina Auer et al)
----- "Sensory Circus", 2004:
---------- http://www.aec.at/en/archives/festival_archive/festival_catalogs/festival_artikel.asp?iProjectID=12973
---------- http://timesup.org/sc/index.html
----- "Body Spin", 2000:
---------- http://www.aec.at/en/archives/festival_archive/festival_catalogs/festival_artikel.asp?iProjectID=8287
---------- http://www.timesup.org/spin/

- Stelarc
----- body becomes obsolete, parts can be exchanged or modified --> just like in machines
----- machines to enhance the body
----- body as an object, not a subject
----- "redesigning the body / redefining what is human"
----- http://www.aec.at/en/archives/festival_archive/festival_catalogs/festival_artikel.asp?iProjectID=8882
----- blogpost-title: "Stelarc"
----- "Third Hand", 1992:
---------- http://www.stelarc.va.com.au/third/third.html
---------- http://www.aec.at/en/archives/festival_archive/festival_catalogs/festival_artikel.asp?iProjectID=8882
----- "Parasite Visions", 1997:
---------- http://www.stelarc.va.com.au/parasite/index.htm
---------- http://www.aec.at/en/archives/festival_archive/festival_catalogs/festival_artikel.asp?iProjectID=8472
----- http://prehysteries.blogspot.com/2008/07/stelarc.html + discussion + reading
----- "technologies also become obsolete": but can be replaced by always better + newer ones, the body becomes a constant site of construction
----- "stelarc's body of work"
----- the subject and the object, being a body and having a body

- Donna Haraway, "A Cyborg Manifesto", 1985
----- "Simians, Cyborgs and Women", includes the Manifesto (chapter 8, p89 ff): http://a.aaaarg.org/text/3254/simians-cyborgs-and-women

- The Squames, "Cumulus", 1991

#02: interlude: virtual reality
- http://prehysteries.blogspot.com/2008/10/virtual-reality-vr.html

#03: micro level - life from the labs

- SymbioticA:
----- biological art
----- Australian based laboratory, where artists and scientists collaborate
----- "artistic inquiry into new knowledge and technology with a strong interest in the life sciences"
----- "this research is speculative in nature"
----- "SymbioticA strives to support non utilitarian, curiosity based, and philosophically motivated research"
----- "new means of artistic inquiry, one in which artists actively use the tools and technologies of science, not just to comment about them, but also to explore their possibilities."
----- blogpost-title: "SymbioticA"
----- http://www.symbiotica.uwa.edu.au/
----- video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HOEJ92JNlgU

- Joe Davis, artistic molecules (sincethe mid 80ies)
----- some artistic molecules: "Microvenus", "Milkyway", "Riddle of Life"
----- blogpost-title: "Joe Davis, Microvenus": http://prehysteries.blogspot.com/2008/07/joe-davis-microvenus.html
----- www.thegatesofparadise.com/joe_davis.htm
----- http://www.aec.at/festival2000/texte/artistic_molecules_2_e.htm
----- "art as a form of life"
----- artistic graphics translated into genetic code and implemented into bacteria, replicated, sent to space
----- works at MIT's Rich Lab for about 10 years now, unpaid
----- video seen: "Gone Fishing", report on ABC

No comments:

>> recommended books

  • Richard Barbrook - Imaginary Futures: From Thinking Machines to the Global Village
  • Fred Turner - From Counterculture to Cyberculture: Stewart Brand, the Whole Earth Network and the Rise of Digital Utopianism
  • Howard Rheingold, Tools for Thought, MIT Press, 2000 or online: http://rheingold.com/texts/tft/index.html
  • Oliver Grau - MediaArtHistories
  • Oliver Grau - Virtual Art: From Illusion to Immersion
  • Neil Spiller, Cyber Reader: Critical Writings for the Digital Era. Phaidon Press, 2002
  • Stephen Wilson - Information Arts: Intersections of Art, Science, and Technology: Intersections of Art, Science and Technology
  • Gene Youngblood - Expanded Cinema
  • Ruth Leavitt - Artist and Computer
  • Jasia Reichardt - The Computer in Art
  • Jasia Reichardt - Robots. Fact, Fiction and Prediction
  • Herbert Franke - Computer Graphics, Computer Art
  • Frieder Nake - Ästhetik als Informationsverarbeitung: Grundlagen und Anwendungen der Informatik im Bereich ästhetischer Produktion und Kritik (Hardcover)
  • Norbert Wiener - Cybernetics
  • Claus Pias - Cybernetics - Kybernetik 2. The Macy-Conferences 1946-1953
  • Jasia Reichardt, Cybernetic serendipity: The computer and the arts, 1968
  • Catherine Morris, 9 Evenings Reconsidered, 2007
  • John Cage, Variations VII by John Cage: E.A.T. - 9 Evenings: Theatre & Engineering (1966) - DVD
  • Robert Rauschenberg: E.A.T. and ARTPIX: Open Score by Robert Rauschenberg (1966) - DVD
  • Noah Wardrip-Fruin - From Wagner to Multimedia
  • Erik Davis - TechGnosis: Myth, Magic + Mysticism in the Age of Information
  • Wendy Hui Kyong Chun - New Media, Old Media: A History and Theory Reader
  • R.L.Rutsky - High Techné: Art and Technology from the Machine Aesthetic to the Posthuman
  • Lev Manovich - The Language of New Media
  • Lev Manovich - Soft Cinema: Navigating the Database
  • Siegfried Zielinski - Variantology. On Deep Time. Relations of Arts, Sciences and Technologies: On Deep Time Relations of Arts, Sciences and Technologies
  • Siegfried Zielinski - Deep Time of New Media
  • Timothy Druckrey - Facing the Future. 20 years of Ars Electronica


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... is a Media Art historian and independent researcher. She is currently writing on "speculative archiving && experimental preservation of Media Art" and graduated from Prof. Oliver Grau's Media Art Histories program at the Danube University in Krems, Austria with a Master Thesis on Descriptive Metadata for Media Arts. For many years, she has been working in the field of archiving/documenting Media Art, recently at the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Media.Art.Research and before as the head of the Ars Electronica Futurelab's videostudio, where she created their archives and primarily worked with the archival material. She was teaching the Prehystories of New Media Class at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) and in the Media Art Histories program at the Danube University Krems.