Leonardo 52:1, 2019
On the cover: boredomresearch, underwater plastic waste robot, 2017. (© boredomresearch)
ISSN: 
1071-4391

Leonardo, Volume 52, Issue 1

February 2019

Contents

Editorial

Artist's Article

  • Instinct Extinct: The Great Pacific Flyway
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    This article, or artist’s inquiry, was written in concert with the exhibition Instinct Extinct: The Great Pacific Flyway. Beginning with introductions to bird migration, the concept of global flyways and the history of conservation, the text considers the poetics of art-making relative to academic research. Areas of artistic exploration include a map depicting California’s changing waterscape, video portraits of people of the flyway and assemblages of invented and found avian artifacts. The article concludes with a review of current environmental conditions affecting migratory birds and some reflective passages.

General Articles

  • Zero Gravity, Anti-Mimesis and the Abolition of the Horizon: On Cosmokinetic Cabinet Noordung’s “Postgravity Art”
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    This article presents the work of the retro-utopian Slovenian performance and theater collective Cosmokinetic Cabinet Noordung and its effort to abolish mimetic art in zero gravity (“postgravity art”). It describes the origin of a space station rotating around its own axis (designed in 1928 by Hermann Potocˇnik Noordung in The Problem of Space Travel); questions the relationship between zero gravity and the historical avantgarde (especially Suprematism) as postulated by theater director Dragan Živadinov; and sketches the past, present and future of the collective’s 50-year project Noordung 1995–2045.

  • Systems Perspectivation as a General Basis for Computer Simulations
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    The author proposes a theoretical framework for better understanding the scope of expression of interactive computer simulations. As programmed processes, simulations embody the logic of systems as conceived by systems theory. Here, this basis is seen as a kind of pre-forming perspectivation on a general level, leading to certain characteristics of simulated dynamics (differing from other modes of conceptualizing processes). It is crucial for epistemological questions as well as simulation practices to recognize the specificity of the kind of processes producible by simulations and to be conscious that there is no “natural” relationship between the simulation dynamics and their iconization.

  • Visual Narratives: A History of Art at CERN
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    This article examines the history of art inspired by the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) in the twentieth and 21st centuries. The article argues that artists can show us radically different narratives about this space than those that are told by the mainstream media, by scientists and by CERN’s own public relations structure.

Historical Perspectives

  • Digital Critics: The Early History of Online Art Criticism
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    Art critic Jerry Saltz is regarded as a pioneer of online art criticism by the mainstream press, yet the Internet has been used as a platform for art discussion for over 30 years. There have been studies of independent print-based arts publishing, online art production and electronic literature, but there have been no histories of online art criticism. In this article, the author provides an account of the first wave of online art criticism (1980–1995) to document this history and prepare the way for thorough evaluations of the changing form of art criticism after the Internet.

  • The Twilight of Presence: Pictorialized Illumination in Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper
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    This essay explores the relationship between pictures and the lighting conditions in which they were originally viewed. The theoretical interrelationship between brightness, illumination and depiction is explored in a case study of Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper mural at the refectory of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan. Advanced rendering software allows for the reconstruction of the refectory as it stood when Leonardo painted The Last Supper and demonstrates the complex interaction between light and space in the mural. This analysis illustrates how digital humanities might bridge traditional art-historical methods and forensic visualization.

  • The Art of Computing as Frieder Nake’s Response to the Problem of “Mechanized Mental Labor”: The Early Debates Revisited
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    This paper discusses the process of recognition of early computer art not as iconic but as a purely intellectual or conceptual form as it took place during a debate on the pages of PAGE, initiated by Frieder Nake’s “Statement for PAGE” and his seminal text “There Should Be No Computer Art.”

Statements

  • Nicolas Schoffer’s SCAM: An Aesthetic Perturbation in the Urban Field
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    In 1973 cybernetic artist Nicolas Schöffer drove his SCAM through the streets of Paris, passing by the Arc de Triomphe and the Eiffel Tower, creating a curious urban spectacle and highlighting the confrontation between different concepts of urban monumentality that had been at stake in post-World War II European society. Part sculpture, part automobile, the SCAM utilized the cybernetic technique of feedback and Schöffer’s application of it in the aesthetic concept of perturbation, in which light, sound and movement effects were orchestrated to interrupt the increasingly rapid cycles of perceptual saturation that Schöffer associated with modern urban life. The following analysis considers Schöffer’s SCAM in relation to the development of the “space-time” concept in the arts and how the technology of cybernetics suggested a new kind of temporality that complicated the role of art and architecture in defining the urban realm. It also considers the appearance of the SCAM idea in Schöffer’s entry to the Plateau Beaubourg architectural competition and its significance as a counterpoint to the “new monumentality” of the completed Centre Pompidou.

  • The Electronic Vesalius: Embodying Anatomy Atlases
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    A multidisciplinary team at Rice University transformed the Texas Medical Center (TMC) Library’s collection of rare anatomy atlases into a physical-digital, human-sized atlas-of-atlases. The Electronic Vesalius installation gives these old books new life, informed by contemporary media theory and the centuries of medical and aesthetic criticism provoked by these multimedia image-texts.

Special Section: FEAT

  • Truth Emerging from Leading-Edge Art/Science/Technology Interaction
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    The FEAT initiative organized and studied residencies of leading international artists in European Future and Emerging Technology projects. During the residencies, the artists closely collaborated with engineers and scientists on fundamental research in visionary areas of novel technologies, not solely as an artistic endeavor, but also to investigate effects of artistic engagement on technoscience. Effects of the collaboration are visible on many levels, including addressing fundamental questions about the technoscientific project objectives, ethical aspects and the aesthetics of scientific experiments. Interactions also resulted in long-term collaborations and opportunities for scientists to engage with artists in a shared effort to uncover truth.

  • Make Do and Mend: Exploring Gene Regulation and Crispr Through a FEAT (Future Emerging Art and Technology) Residency with the MRG-Grammar Project
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    This article documents the artistic research the author undertook for FEAT (Future Emerging Art and Technology) residency. It describes her collaboration with the MRG-Grammar consortium and the creation of an artwork that involved editing the genome of a bacterium using CRISPR to reflect on issues related to antimicrobial resistance, biohacking and control. The article explores the author’s methodology and describes the benefits of long-term embedded residencies to create artworks that are deeply engaged with emerging technologies with a view to enable the public to access the concepts and implications of cutting-edge technologies and scientific research through an artistic lens.

  • Trapping the Objectless
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    Through the epistemological lenses of quantum theory and phenomenological art, the authors describe their collaborative development of several artworks exploring electrodynamic levitation. Comprising diverse ion traps that enable naked-eye observation of charged matter interactions, these artworks question the murky boundaries of perceptibility and objectification.

  • Nubis et Nuclei: A Study on Noise and Precision
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    This study sets out to explore the perception of noise, as well as the relation toward meaning or information that it might contain, in arts, science and daily life. It is realized as an installation based on a suspended cloud of nitinol drums that create a sonic environment evolving in time and space. Digital random noise drives the instruments. Roaming freely and listening, visitors become part of an ecology of noise. As visitors explore differing regions in time and space, what appears to be noise can shift to a “meaningful” signal. This process of discovering a clear signal in a noisy background holds strong analogies to the scientific search for a nuclear resonance performed in the nuClock project.

  • Simulated Despondency for Robots in Distress
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    It is widely accepted that increased human interaction with natural systems is responsible for complex environmental issues, with most current thinking centered on the provision of advanced technological solutions. One response emerging from current bioinspired robotics research proposes artificial neural networks (ANNs) enhanced with artificial hormones for increased performance and efficiency. Here the authors discuss their artistic project concept, developed in col-laboration with a bioinspired artificial life lab, considering the affordance of emotional robotics to develop despondency in the field.

  • Becoming.A(Thing): An Artists’ Perspective on High-Performance Computing
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    This article summarizes the process and outcome of the Future Emerging Art and Technology residency during which new media artists Špela Petrič and Miha Turšič undertook the challenge of understanding and manifesting the artistic potential of high-performance computing (HPC). As a result of the collaboration with FET HPC the artists developed a concept liberated from complex computational technicity to underscore the (un)intentional construction of meaning by algorithmic agencies. The performance presents a congress of actors sensing, interrogating and interrupting each other, thereby producing an excess of relation, interpretation and translation. The heterogeneous congress performs an expulsion of imposed (anthropogenic) meaning, substituted by authentic, autogenic sense and non-sense.

Special Section: Pioneers and Pathbreakers

  • Hiroshi Kawano (1925–2012): Japan’s Pioneer of Computer Arts
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    Hiroshi Kawano was one of the earliest pioneers of the use of computers in the arts in Japan, and indeed the world, publishing his first ideas about aesthetics and computing in 1962 and computer-generated images in 1964. This paper provides an introductory overview to Kawano’s work and influences from his earliest studies in aesthetics and his interest in the work of Max Bense in the 1950s, to his change of approach in the 1970s through his developing interest in artificial intelligence, until his final exhibition, a retrospective of his work held at the ZKM | Zentrum für Kunst und Medientechnologie in 2011. This paper utilizes previously unused sources including interviews conducted by the author with Kawano in 2009 and subsequent correspondence, as well as Kawano’s rich archive that was donated to ZKM in 2010.

  • The iEAR Studios Startup: Curriculum and Values in Electronic Arts Education
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    When the MFA in Integrated Electronic Arts at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (iEAR) enrolled its first class in 1991, it was, as far as the author is aware, the first graduate program in the United States to focus on the electronic arts as a unified interdisciplinary field. This article recounts the process used to design an academic curriculum to help students develop the skills and the breadth of artistic vision needed to pursue careers as artists using electronic media. The article also describes the climate and culture of the iEAR Studios in the 1990s and argues that the values embodied in the studio culture played a large part in fostering the creative and experimental use of electronic media and developing artists whose work disregards traditional disciplinary boundaries.

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