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Xárene Eskandar
Los Angeles, US
Immortal since Apr 4, 2007
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    Human Document Project_Reflections
    Project: Polytopia
    Between 30 June - 2 July 2010, a group of researchers, scientists, scholars and an artist met at the Korea Institute of Technology in Saarbruchen, Germany for the Human Document Project. The three day event, organized by Dr. Andreas Manz, was an intensive programme of presentations, brain-storming sessions and more presentations (followed by good food and drink).

    The two main questions of the three-day session were 1. How to preserve a document on humankind for one million years? 2. What would that document contain? Each presenter came in with ideas which were then re-hashed into new ideas by the collective.

    My presentation was titled Utopian Phase Space. I'll skip the intro part on my background and work—which can be found here on SC and on my website—and give you a transcription of the rest of my talk and proposal.

    (sub title: design_story)... My work, like most art and design tells stories. Art and design have been carriers of much of our history through thousands of years as paintings, pottery, poetry and so on. A well-designed object, either carries a unique story, or completes an existing story, or allows the viewer/user to generate their own fantastical narrative. Art and design create an experience of a certain quality that resonates with our beliefs, interests, and experiences. What is the story we tell our future and what qualities does that story invoke in our future readers? My “challenge”, especially for myself, is what temporal human qualities (ie non-verbal communication) do we preserve, and how do we document and preserve them, so that they can be re-lived in a million years? (And I have some ideas for different ways of "re-living")

    (sub title: goal_resurrection) Most important: How do we convince our Future Founders, that humans are worth resurrecting to share those experiences? With the latest scientific developments such as animating E-coli bacteria with tens of thousands of years-old mammoth RNA—in effect resurrecting dead matter—or computing life into bacteria from computer generated and synthetic DNA, the question of resurrection will be a common dilemma, if not an everyday decision, in the future of intelligent, sentient beings. So what can we do today to design a plan for becoming highly desirable Gods, so that Future Founders will want and resurrect us of their own free will? Kind of sinister.

    (sub title: future founders) But before we think about what we leave behind and how we preserve it, we have to think of who will be experiencing it. Who are our Future Founders? What state of civilization will they be in? In one million years, we can have whole civilizations from stone-age to space-age, one thousand times over and over again!

    I think this question is the most important question for all of us here to answer. It will determine what we say, and how we say it.

    Now with my background in architecture, design and media; my interest in Utopias; and my influences by science fiction, what plan of action can I devise?

    (sub title: brain) I am going to focus on designing, and I am using art and design somewhat interchangeable right now. In his upcoming book on Art and the Conscious Brain, leading neuro-scientist, Antonio Damasio, places art as a necessary function of the brain. He positions art in line of brain’s functions: the first is homeostasis; the second is the mind-making, third is the making of consciousness, fourth production of the self and finally is culture art, as a side effect of cognitive capacity, and a necessity which creates socio-cultural homeostasis. Humans create. That’s what we do.

    One of my favorite philosophers, Vilem Flusser, has written that, "Design is the joining together of great ideas to escape (or design) our way out of unwanted circumstances and to instead live artfully and beautifully."

    And every time we design—basically create culture—we also create an obstacle in someone else’s path—and Flusser masterfully makes an etymological connection between design and trickery.

    What I am proposing is designing a desirable culture that begs to be re-lived.

    In the Xenogenesis series, by McArthur and Nebula award winning author, Octavia Butler, the last remaining humans are saved and preserved in an organic suspended animation, by a race of interstellar travelers, the Oankali. The Oankali have three genders: female, male and ooloi (who are actually a gender-less third-party which accommodate mating between the Oankali genders and the human race.The Oankali are gene-traders. Their ooloi act as a repository of genetic information of all the species they come into contact with. They refine stronger genes and eliminate the weaker ones as well as genetic diseases. The ooloi also control human reproduction, basically by eliminating it, unless mediated by an ooloi, to avoid genetic diseases that occur in human-to-human mating. The other reason for the ooloi preventing human reproduction is to fix what they call the “great contradiction”: intelligence in the service of hierarchy; basically our hierarchical behaviour over-riding our intelligence and compromising our species well-being.The ooloi have the ability to read the qualitative aspect of humans. Not quality in terms of eye colour and body type, but cognitive and emotional qualities. Qualities that are accumulated over time, qualities which are influenced by culture—as well as making culture—qualities one gains from life experiences, as well as qualities which are inherent in humankind. But the ooloi have human specimens that assist them in their reading and understanding of humans.The problem that lead to the ooloi maintaining humans but not allowing them to reproduce, is because they were aware of humans through the human’s unaltered history, and the immediate and unmediated experience of the human’s existence among them.

    This is a science fiction story, but opens up many discussions.

    As we are, quite frankly and in my humble opinion, we won’t leave a great impression on other sentient and intelligent beings. We have many great achievements that leave me in tears and awe, but they are too few in the grand scheme of things.

    I admit that my idealism and Utopian ideas, are rooted in my flaw—like many other Utopians—it stem from a negative point of view.

    Therefore the first problem I see is us, humans.

    However, what we have going for this situation, is that one million years from now, there probably will not be any human specimen—as human is defined now—for any Future Founder to judge and analyze and test and decide what to do with. And there could be humans or humanoids and I can go on many speculative routes, but will leave it for later….

    The second problem is the history we have created thus far, and the speculation of the kind of history we will most likely have in the future. History has been a linear progression, documented during its current time and before our eyes, analyzed in hindsight and ignored all together only to be repeated in the future. It has also been an organic progression, behaving as a networked organism where each system (each country, each regime, etc) has affected other systems, resulting in unexpected outcomes. History is also made of individual stories, many that overlap, many that are repeated and quite often forgotten or bundled together, and many that are unique, stories that through conjunction with other strong, individual stories have changed culture and the course of civilization.

    (sub title: history_utopias) We should take this chance of extended time—this time to pre-analyze—to construct a new story. We will build this new story in the same manner our current history is being built, by building it up with individual stories. But these individual stories should all be the unrealized Utopias. We take advantage of the enormous amount of time from now until then, to make our Utopias from the current “nowheres”, to a quite possible network of “somewheres”. This grand fabrication is a phase space where all possible Utopias are represented as existing alongside each other. But we will provide no conclusion. The story is open ended, with multiple possibilities, all exciting in their hope and visionary. But which possibility actually came to pass? We won't tell. And the anticipation of wanting to know, is an old tactic… (Bible, Quran)

    (sub title BwO_cyborg organs) I see all of the upcoming brainstorming and discussion as an opportunity to devise a plan to live our posthuman lives as cyborg organs, and as what N. Katherine Hayles describes as “an amalgam, a collection of heterogeneous components, a material-informational entity whose boundaries undergo continuous construction and reconstruction”… what Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari call, a body without organs. What I will change in Kate’s position is “material” to “immaterial”…. an immaterial entity…



    After the presentation, I led a group assigned with brainstorming the documentation and preservation of the arts and the ephemeral. (To speed up the brainstorming process and to get results, we unanimously decided on a few givens.)

    Our considerations were:
    Who will be addressed?
    Increased intelligent humans
    Advanced culture and society
    Better technical means of interpretation
    At minimum, more or less like us

    How much can be stored?
    Assume considerable data storage space
    Evolving document

    For 'Arts' we discussed:
    Accessibility:
    • Facilitate understanding

    • Style and comprehensiveness

    • Instructions
      Keys and Legend (ie visual library, iconography)
      Language level

    ... and Content Scenario (What is the content and how can it be it selected):
    • Wiki-like

    • Spectrum of examples

    • High-brow (Michelangleo)
      Low-brow (Backstreets of Rome)

    • Voting system

    • Public on-line voting

    • One example per technology

    • pottery, painting, textile

    • Digital art object

    • Abstract text description, devoid of artist’s ego

    For 'Ephemerals' we discussed how to:
    • Document Emotions

    • Scientific studies, ie on facial expressions; psychological, anthropological, neurological, etc.
      Art, poetry, plays, documentary

    • Induce Emotions

    • Psychopharmaca

    • Experience Emotions

    • Augmented reality
      Multi-media and multi-sensory experiences
      Embedded systems

    Our general recommendation for Art was "broad but not deep representation" so as to not taint perceptions of future founders of these works; and for Feelings, "deep through background stories"

    ... and ultimately, the final proposed document for Art and Feelings is an Epic Narrative presented as a multi-media and multi sensory experience, documented in text for reproduction purposes. This recommendation was guided by the works of Sol Lewitt and Allan Kaprow as precedents, specifically projects which are text-based instructions for replication of their work by anyone, at any given time.

    We put forward this idea of abstract, text-based work which is devoid of artist ego. It is simply a description of, for example, what a paintbrush is and how it was used. No artist names, no styles names, no affiliations. 1,000,000 years from now, who cares who Matisse was; we fear we'd be creating fake gods all over again.

    To learn about other presenters and solutions, you can visit the HuDoP site.

    For the future session, tentatively set to be sometime in 2012 at Stanford University, I strongly urge artists, poets, philosophers and futurists of the SpaceCollective community to participate. Of the many artists that Dr. Manz had invited to create a balanced mix of participants, I was the only one to respond and attend. It is very important for our group to set an imaginative and out-there standard to be achieved. I thoroughly enjoyed the sessions, but felt in the end that the solutions were too pragmatic as I want to be resurrected as a cyborg organ.

    Thu, Jun 8, 2017  Permanent link
    Categories: utopian, BwO, human_document_project, cyborg_organ
    Sent to project: Polytopia
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