Leonardo, Volume 43, Issue 2

April 2010

Contents

Editorial

Artists' Articles

  • Pherographia: Drawing by Ants
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    This paper addresses the hypothetical relationship of photography and so-called pheromone maps created by an artificial life system that simulates an ant colony and causes its activity to evolve based on the contours of images. Pheromone—used by ants to communicate via the environment—is also simulated, and from the communication and interaction of the swarm with the environment (an image) there results a kind of drawing made with the simulated pheromone. Since ants are able to detect the edges of the image, the outcome is a sketch that resembles the original image, as with old camera obscura drawings. This text explores the observable traits shared by the photographic process and the swarm's pheromone maps. The theme is discussed in the context of the emergent artificial art research field; recent theoretical advances that link swarm intelligence and cognitive sciences are also addressed.

  • The Computer-Aided Design and Manufacture of Specific Objects
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    The author discusses his attempts to exploit computer-aided design and manufacture to extend Donald Judd's sculptural concept of Specific Objects. The paper focuses on the challenges of creating singular forms exhibiting both unity and variation through rapid prototyping. Consideration is also given to the broader consequences of sculpting through virtual CAD software, including outcomes such as kinetic inflatable sculptures and animated sculptures and drawings.

Color Plates

Artist's Note

  • Visual Art as Research: Explorations with Sona Drawings
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    This paper describes the author's personal journey into visual art research involving the exploration, extension and generalization of the traditional sona drawings of the Tchokwe people of Angola and their application to the author's artwork.

General Article

  • The Spectacle of Seismicity: Making Art from Earthquakes
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    Representations of earthquakes in visual art have the potential to function as spectacles (defined as striking or dramatic public displays); this in turn provokes consideration of how viewers construct meaning from such representations. The author examines the work of a number of artists arguably concerned with going beyond spectacular representations in their portrayals of earthquake activity. Particular focus is placed upon performative techniques meant not only to engage audiences with the properties of seismic phenomena but also to stimulate reflection on the complex psychological responses they may trigger, as well as their analogous relationships to conditions of environmental and cultural crisis.

General Note

  • Self-Idiomatic Music: An Introduction
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    The term self-idiomatic music is introduced as a practical tool for discussion of current directions in music that are otherwise termed free improvisation, non-idiomatic music, meta-music and electroacoustic improvisation. The work of self-idiomatic musicians (including the author) is characterized by exploration of the sound possibilities afforded by musical instruments and sounding objects. The author discusses some characteristics of self-idiomatic music, some of its roots in the popularization of consumer audio electronics, and how the music's flexibility and widespread Internet access have facilitated the recent global growth of a self-idiomatic music culture.

Technical Articles

  • Rembrandt's Textural Agency: A Shared Perspective in Visual Art and Science
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    The authors hypothesize that Rembrandt developed new painterly techniques in order to engage and direct the gaze of the observer. Although these methods were not based on scientific evidence at the time, they are nonetheless consistent with a contemporary understanding of human vision. The authors propose that artists in the late early-modern period developed the technique of textural agency—selective variation in image detail—to guide the observer's eye and thereby influence the viewing experience. They conclude with the presentation of laboratory evidence that Rembrandt's techniques indeed guide the modern viewer's eye as proposed.

  • Perception of Space in Piero della Francesca's Annunciation: An Eye-Movement and Art-Historical Study
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    Although Renaissance artworks provide valuable information about the development of artistic depth cues, eye-movement studies of these works are rather scarce. This study examines how naïve viewers explore and perceive space and perspective in the Perugia Annunciation by Piero della Francesca (1467–1469). Seven participants viewed a high-quality image of the painting on a computer screen, while their eye movements were recorded with a video-oculographic device. Following recording, five subjects verbally described the painting, and all seven drew the painting from memory. Based on the sequence of ocular fixations, the authors conclude that the painting stimulates inquisitive spatial eye exploration, resulting in assimilation of complex spatial architectural details, even by naïve observers.

Theoretical Perspective

  • Digital Anthropophagy: Refashioning Words as Image, Sound and Action
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    This paper discusses the incorporation of text within interactive installations as an expression of cultural anthropophagy. This “consumption” is carried out not by displacing the text (i.e. replacing it with images) but by transforming text into image, sound or action, or into a post-alphabetic object (i.e. depriving the text of its linguistic value). As shown in detailed examples, the de-semanticization of text turns words into ornament, while in other cases (where the linguistic value of the text is stressed within the interactive installation or can be “rescued” from it) the literary is still an important subject of attention.

Special Section: ArtScience: The Essential Connection

Special Section: Less Remote

  • Special Section Introduction
  • Developing a Sense of Place with Locative Media: An “Underview Effect”
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    The author explores the potential for locative media to offer a sense of a place. Frank White's “Overview Effect” is cited as a model for perceiving a sense of place in a global context. The paper describes the inherent limitations of Cartesian representations of space in supporting this perception. Finally, the author proposes that the capacity of locative media to connect people offers a path for a creative reconciliation between space and time. The author proposes that this kind of connected model may provide an “Underview Effect” and foster an appreciation of a global sense of place.

  • The Legacy of Columbus
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    By giving the name “Columbus” to the European Space Laboratory the European Space Agency (ESA) has put itself in the tradition of European explorers and erected a historical monument in space. But this monument is incomplete, since it ignores the high price that humanity has paid for European expansion. If space exploration is really about humanity going to space and not only a few technologically developed nations, as representatives of ESA repeatedly declare, then another monument should be added to the European Space Laboratory.

Leonardo Reviews

  • The Seven Beauties of Science Fiction by Istvan Csicsery-Ronay, Wesleyan University Press, Middletown, IL, U.S.A., 2008. 339 pp. Trade. ISBN: 978-0-8195-6889-2
  • The California Deserts: An Ecological Rediscovery by Bruce M. Pavlik. University of California Press, Berkeley, CA, U.S.A., 2008. 384 pp., illus. Hardcover. ISBN: 978-0-520-25140-3
  • The Origin of Humanness in the Biology of Love by Humberto Maturana Romesin and Gerda Verden-Zöller. Imprint Academic, Exeter, U.K., 2008. 227 pp., illus. Paper. ISBN: 978-184540088-0
  • A Small World: Smart Houses and the Dream of the Perfect Day by Davin Heckman. Duke University Press, Durham, NC, U.S.A., 2008. 224 pp., illus. Hardcover, paper. ISBN: 978-0-8223-4134-5; ISBN: 978-0-8223-4158-1
  • The Posthuman Dada Guide: Tzara Lenin Play Chess by Andrei Codrescu. Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ, U.S.A., 2009. 248 pp. Paper. ISBN: 978-0691-13778-0
  • White Heat Cold Logic: British Computer Art 1960-1980 edited by Paul Brown, Charlie Gere, Nicholas Lambert and Catherine Mason. MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, U.S.A., 2009. 568 pp., illus. Hardcover. ISBN: 978-0-262-02653-6
  • Between Earth and Sky: Our Intimate Connections to Trees by Nalini M. Nadkarni. University of California Press, U.S.A., 2009. 336 pp., illus. Hardcover, paper. ISBN: 978-0-5202-4856-4; 978-0-5202-6165-5
  • Racing the Beam: The Atari Video Computer System by Nick Montfort and Ian Bogost. MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, and London. 180 pp. Hardback. ISBN-13: 978-0-262-01257-7. Platform Studies, edited by Nick Montfort and Ian Bogost
  • The Poetics of DNA by Judith Roof. University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, MN, U.S.A., 2007. 245 pp. Paper. ISBN: 978-0-8166-4998-3
  • Leonardo Reviews On-Line

Transactions

  • How Artists Fit into Research Processes
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    The study collects, compares and synthesises existing knowledge from specific sources about artists and creative designers working within research processes. The emphasis is on collaboration, evaluation and reflective practice.

  • Sensory Threads
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    Sensory Threads is a pair of interlinked experiences, which explore the way in which sensing can give us insight into how our bodies are a part of their wider environment. Sensory Threads seeks to investigate what happens when wearables move beyond being technologies designed for individuals and are transformed into tools of ‘collective sensing’. It aims to stimulate participants' behaviours through their own emergent and unpredictable actions in an environment, not by pre-defined choices determined in advance by the project's makers or by ‘interesting’ geographic sites. This article describes the design of this artwork, which is currently in prototype form.

  • Gesture and Embodied Interaction: Capturing Motion/Data/Value
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    Gesture and Embodied Interaction is a five-month practice-led scoping project which explored motion capture development perspectives from artistic, technological and business innovation standpoints. It convened an interdisciplinary community from the arts, sciences and business studies, experienced in practice-driven collaborative research. Effort was focused on two prototyping workshops in Newcastle and Cambridge, bridged by an interim work session to optimize collaboration. A final creative industries seminar in Cambridge allowed debate with a wider stakeholder community. This paper provides an overview of our activities, findings and future directions.

  • Capturing the Dynamics of Co-Production and Collaboration in the Digital Economy
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    In the digital economy, the creative industries revolve around dynamic, innovative and often unorthodox collaborations, whereby numerous large, small and micro-businesses come together for the duration of a project, then disband and form new partnerships for the next project. Research designs must therefore address multiple contexts and levels presenting an analytical challenge to researchers. In this project we extend work that investigates the significance of emergence in theorising entrepreneurship into an exploration of how to articulate the creation and flow of value and effective ontology in a creative landscape.

  • Crafting a Critical Technical Practice
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    In recent years, the category of “practice-based research” has become an essential component of discourse around public funding and evaluation of the arts in British higher education. When included under the umbrella of public policy concerned with “the creative industries”, technology researchers often find themselves collaborating with artists who consider their own participation to be a form of practice-based research. We are conducting a study under the “Creator” Digital Economies project asking whether technologists, themselves, should be considered as engaging in “practice-based” research, whether this occurs in collaborative situations, or even as a component of their own personal research [1].

  • Blending Art and Science to Create Collapse (suddenly falling down)
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    Understanding the collapse of natural and social systems is a key artistic and scientific endeavor. By collaborating on a multimedia dance-theatre production, we contributed individual approaches, techniques, and insights to a performance that captured both cultural and scientific aspects of collapse in an aesthetically meaningful way.

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