Leonardo 53:5, 2020
On the cover: Valentina Serrati, Avatar 3047, digital image, 2017. (© Valentina Serrati)
ISSN: 
1071-4391

Leonardo, Volume 53, Issue 5

October 2020

Contents

Editorial

Artists' Articles

  • KIMA: The Wheel—Voice Turned into Vision: A Participatory, Immersive Visual Soundscape Installation
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    Over the last five years, KIMA, an art and research project on sound and vision, has investigated visual properties of sound. Previous iterations of KIMA focused on digital representations of cymatics—physical sound patterns—as media for performance. The most recent development incorporated neural networks and machine learning strategies to explore visual expressions of sound in participatory music creation. The project, displayed on a 360-degree canvas at the London Roundhouse, prompted the audience to explore their own voice as intelligent, real-time visual representation. Machine learning algorithms played a key role in meaningful interpretation of sound as visual form. The resulting immersive performance turned the audience into cocreators of the piece.

  • Conceptual Art and Abstraction: Deconstructed Painting
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    This article proposes a new conception of art and presents a form of painting that exemplifies that concept. Considering the developments in twentieth- and 21st-century art, the author notes that art created after the conceptual period has failed so far to take account of the profound transformation that occurred within it in the twentieth century. This change consisted in the identification of art with reality, achieved by incorporating into art all significant spheres/objects of reality. One result has been the dominance of referential art following the conceptualist period. Referential artworks are split into object and reference. This impedes untrammeled creativity, which would otherwise promote the integration of diverse formal elements. This article proposes painting that exemplifies such artistic creation.

  • Portable Projections: Analyzing Cocreated Site-Specific Video Walks
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    The author discusses key findings of a series of video walks developed as part of her practice-based PhD research (2011–2014). Four video walks were produced for handheld projectors and tested in four different public spaces. The first video walks (The Surface Inside, 2011; I-Walk, 2012) were guided, and only one handheld projector was available. The latter (Walk-itch, 2013; (wh)ere land, 2014) were created for multiple handheld projectors, offering participants a cocreative role. Onsite observations revealed a shift in participant engagement between earlier and later video walks. A threefold method for analyzing audiovisual documentation also emerged during the research.

  • Faces of Merseyside: Exploring Cognitive Bias through Facial Averages
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    Faces of Merseyside is a gallery/online exhibition of digitally processed facial averages produced from Merseyside image collections by Face Lab, a research group at Liverpool School of Art & Design. The project seeks to foreground the question of cognitive bias in relation to facial images that claim to represent particular communities, in the context of a resurgence of interest in physiognomic judgments and discrimination. By revisiting Francis Galton’s nineteenth-century composite portraiture, as informed by current craniofacial research, Faces of Merseyside explores the claims advanced in relation to the representation of human diversity and how they both inform and challenge social stereotyping.

  • Biofeedback Painting: Let the Heart Lead the Brush
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    The authors have collaborated on a project visualizing heart rate variability with the assistance of a pen plotter. The authors present artworks produced at the interface between biofeedback techniques and visual art. This biofeedback project created a new process of drawing and painting driven by participants’ heart activity, which itself is influenced by their mental, physical and emotional states.

General Articles

  • Indistinguishable from Magic: Perception, Knowledge, Technology, Art
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    The term magic has long been associated with both technology and art. Whether an illusion performed on stage or the search for the supernatural, magic is concerned with changing either reality itself or our perception of it. Each new technology takes on a magical role by increasing humans’ power to manipulate the world around them. Similarly, magical practices are often labeled arts, and the manipulation of our perceptions by artists often creates quasi-magical experiences. Four approaches to magic in relation to digital art practice---illusionist, alchemist, necromancer and sorcerer---offer a mode of understanding the manipulation of perceptual reality by artists using digital technologies. The framework will then be applied to five such practitioners—Pascal Dombis, Anne-Sarah Le Meur, Antoine Schmitt, Dmitry Morozov and Zaven Paré—who demonstrate the quest for the unknown and the manipulation of knowledge to create a new reality.

  • The Sacred Geometry of Velázquez’s Las Meninas
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    This study reveals the crucial role played by sacred geometry in the spatial structure of Velázquez’s Las Meninas. It further explains how Velázquez, by means of geometric composition, achieved double centrality and why nearly half of those who look at his masterpiece perceive that the point of view is opposite the mirror. The spatial analysis of the floor plan confirms that, according to the law of reflection, the image in the mirror is coming from the large canvas. The correct floor plan follows from the Renaissance perspective system, and its understanding leads to further revelation of its universal use.

  • Metamorphic Leaves
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    This article introduces an algorithm influenced by Goethe’s concept of metamorphosis capable of generating a wide range of parametric leaf forms. Metamorphosis is defined as alternating stages of expansion and contraction that are observable during the development of flowering plants. This principle is extended toward leaf morphology, where two main developmental trajectories are outlined. By formulating simple two-dimensional geometric rules, the author tests the concept of metamorphosis on parametric leaf forms.

  • Reordering the Assemblages of the Digital through Art and Open Prototyping
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    Open prototyping is presented as a conceptual and methodological framework for artistic practice and public participation that bridges the space between technology and society and contributes to city and technology innovation. Such practices can make ideas about the future tangible and realize different configurations of infrastructures, data, situations and people. Many works here are boundary objects, taking place in grey zones between disciplines and sectors. The article may thus deepen understanding at the fault lines between art and innovation and ways in which art can shape the direction of technology development.

  • A Layered, Bounded, Integrated Approach to Research on the Arts across Disciplines
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    Cooperation among arts scholars is thought to be hampered by the division of research on the arts into two cultures, one scientific, one humanistic. This article proposes an alternative model for arts research, wherein multiple levels of explanation focused on well-bounded phenomena integrate research across academic disciplines. Two case studies of research that fit the model are presented.

  • Eye Tracking, Spatial Biases and Normative Spectatorship in Museums
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    This study examines the viewing behavior of museum spectators during three eye-tracking experiments, the participants in which included wheelchair and non–chair users. The study pays particular attention to the spatial biases of spectators, such as the tendency to scan artworks from left to right or top to bottom. These spatial biases, the authors suggest, enhance our understanding of “normative spectatorship,” both by demonstrating how normative ideas about spectators’ bodies shape exhibition display practices and by revealing how display practices contribute to fostering normative viewing behavior.

Theoretical Perspective

  • Resisting Clarity/Highlighting Form: Comparing Vanguard Approaches in Poetry and Programming
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    This article contributes to the study of an esoteric programming language, brainfuck. It proposes a novel view that brainfuck embodies a poetic turn in computer programming, which could be viewed in relationship to Giambattista Vico’s historical concept of ricorso—return to an earlier age that Vico, without derogation, identified as barbaric and characterized by the prevalence of poetic forms. Ricorso presupposes a previous existence of an analogous form of communication, which resurfaces in a transformed but recognizable shape in the current time. This article suggests that this older form of poetics is the Russian Futurists’ Zaum poetry theorized by the Russian formalist, Viktor Shklovsky, among others.

Special Section: Leonardo Abstracts Service: Top-Rated LABS Abstracts 2019

Special Section: Environment 2.0

  • Dialectics of Nature: Metabolic Architectures Meet Intelligent Guerrilla Beehives
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    Between realms of cellular life, city occupation and technology, AnneMarie Maes’s Intelligent Guerrilla Beehive project and Dennis Dollens’s metabolic architectures share a theoretical lineage and form-finding curiosity, subscribing to the view that species’ intelligence and their built environments can contribute to experimental art and architecture. Microbe, plant, animal and machine intelligences then root our research considering bees, microbes and computational simulation as participants in generative design and technological communication, AI and community. The article discusses sculptural, architectural and theoretical logic/design as it draws from nature to hybridize types of intelligences spanning matter, phenomena and life.

Special Section: Pioneers and Pathbreakers

  • Creative Works Exploring Our Information Ecosystem: 1970–1979
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    In the 1970s, Richard Lowenberg embarked upon the first in a series of experimental artworks that were conceptualized as part of a lifelong body of works addressing aspects of our information environment as ecosystem. Creative works during this period were influenced by information theory and cybernetics, the electromagnetic spectrum, the nature of signal, feedback, sensing-communicating, language and emerging media technologies. Artistic milestones included video-audio synthesis, NASA-arts collaborations, interactions with Koko the gorilla, creation of sequences for the Secret Life of Plants film and EEG-EMG-EKG biotelemetric performances (“Bio-Dis-Plays”). Real life offered a number of unexpected opportunities and distractions that enriched this work and helped set a course for development and realization of subsequent projects along an intended ecocultural path.

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