Member 83
49 entries

Xárene Eskandar
Los Angeles, US
Immortal since Apr 4, 2007
Uplinks: 0, Generation 1

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    The human species is rapidly and indisputably moving towards the technological singularity. The cadence of the flow of information and innovation in...

    A series of rambles by SpaceCollective members sharing sudden insights and moments of clarity. Rambling is a time-proven way of thinking out loud,...

    The Total Library
    Text that redefines...

    What happened to nature?
    How to stay in touch with our biological origins in a world devoid of nature? The majestic nature that once inspired poets, painters and...

    Design Media Arts at UCLA
    In the 1970s space colonies were considered to be a viable alternative to a life restricted to planet Earth. The design of cylindrical space...
    Now playing SpaceCollective
    Where forward thinking terrestrials share ideas and information about the state of the species, their planet and the universe, living the lives of science fiction. Introduction
    Featuring Powers of Ten by Charles and Ray Eames, based on an idea by Kees Boeke.
    make something which experiences, reacts to its environment, changes, is non-stable...
    ... make something indeterminate, which always looks different, the shape of which cannot be predicted precisely...
    ... make something which cannot 'perform' without the assistance of its environment...
    ... make something which reacts to light and temperature changes, is subject to air currents and whose function depends on the forces of gravity...
    ... make something which the 'viewer' handles, with which he plays and thus animates...
    ... make something which lives in time and makes the 'viewer' experience time...
    ... articulate something natural...

    Hans Haacke, Cologne, 1965
    Thu, Apr 12, 2007  Permanent link
    Categories: favourite_quotes
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    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:
    • 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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    We look out into space. We look upon space. We look over an expanse of space. In the vastness and boundless space, we find ourselves equally vast. Whereas in place, our gaze shifts to the here and now: what we are doing, who we are with, what surrounds us. Even if the place is a small square meter that we occupy in a vast space, we feel grounded and belonging, as opposed to lost and seeking.

    Place is space in scale and familiarity. Looking into the vastness of Space, it shrinks by identifying and familiarizing ourselves with its parts. And so our distance suddenly shrinks: Pluto which was a bright speck among trillions of bright specks, became a planet, became a high-resolution poster of wonder. It became a place we can imagine and visualize. We see it; we imagine it; we imagine what it's like and so we can imagine both its potentials as well as our own potentials.

    In space we dream. We stare into it and drift off. In place, we realize the dream. We take a piece of that space and make it our own. Space charges us with the excitement of the dreams, place grounds us to live those dreams. Every space is an amalgamation of places not yet realized. As each place holds potential, so does the space as it is the vessel of all the places of potential.

    In an expansive space we walk. Our gaze walks by panning the land, our mind goes along in studying it, and our curiosity walks the land to explore it. Eventually we need rest and seek out ‘a place to rest’—this can be the cool shade of a tree, a smooth boulder warmed by the sun, a mound of plush moss. The act of marking a spot in space by identifying an object, a deformation, or a difference from its surrounding space is an act of demarcating, or measuring—measuring the quality and use of that spot. It gives value to a particular point in space, and therefore makes it a significant place.

    The shade, the rock, or the mound is that interstitial object between free-form space and marked place. By nature of activating the object through our interactions with it—sitting on it, sleeping wrapped in it, resting on its folds—it becomes the place. It shrinks the world to our size: the boundless desert becomes a site.

    Now it’s not that the nomads had no place and drifted. They had many places—many places with attractions that though temporal, were firm. They knew that season after season they could go back to these places: a cool watering hole shared with desert animals, a small grove of doum palms for a desert treat, armed shrubs of acacia for grazing. The nomads didn’t wait in one place for what they needed to be delivered to them; they would take on the adventure of finding what was necessary to their livelihood. It is in that spirit that the modern nomad exists.
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    in-progress / comments welcome.

    1. Architecture as a metaphor for the body

    As a life-long student of Bauhaus architecture and Swiss design, my travels have always fulfilled related aesthetic fascinations and curiosities. In June 2013, however, I did not take a trip to Switzerland to experience architectural monuments, but was on a quest for an experience to sort out my mind and soul in the bourgie tradition of recovering at a spa in the Swiss Alps.

    The work of Swiss architect Peter Zumthor invokes experiences with deep meaning, and so as it happens for my sake in a last-minute escape to a spa, that I find myself at Therme Vals where Zumthor's philosophy of space exceeded my mental and physical needs. Therefore, a long-weekend trip was ensued by three weeks on an unplanned road trip through Switzerland where I find myself closer to an answer concerning the problem of being: How does Los Angeles affect the human condition? How can architecture respond to this problem?

    Zumthor’s architecture is an envelope for experience and perception—every space, surface and procession designed for a ritual towards drawing the maximum from all senses. The body is also an envelope and an interface for experience and perception. How do architecture and the body converge in the perceptual and natural landscapes to heighten our experience of the self? Can the body dissipate into the landscape of the experience?

    Having seen Zumthor in conversation with Michael Govan at LACMA only a couple days prior to my trip, his words were still fresh as I drove through the Canton of Graubünden. "I love big horizons." he had said. Zumthor was specifically referring to Los Angeles, where he has been invited by Govan to design the new LACMA campus. On a road trip through Death Valley, a Swiss friend struck with the awe of the vast landscape commented on the distance of the valleys, that they looked familiar but the scale was different: a Swiss valley can be traversed in quarter of an hour on foot, while an American valley can take hours to drive across. Space in Switzerland is constricted. California is roughly 10 times bigger than Switzerland; Los Angeles County can hold a few cantons; you can drive from Basel to Zurich in less time than it takes to get from West LA to East LA. The massive geographic horizon of Los Angeles, and its expansive urban horizon have no counter point in Switzerland. This is where Zumthor's fascination is rooted.

    2. Landscape as a metaphor for perception

    In deeper thought during my drive through Graubünden, I focused on Zumthor's enthusiastic comment and wondered how the geography of Los Angeles affects me. Are we a perfect match where my restlessness is fed by keeping me going until I calm down, or are we a mismatch where my restlessness is fed and never stops until I break down? When feeling melancholic, I drive to the nearby deserts. I also take advantage of living near the Pacific Ocean and use the drive up the coast and the endless horizon of the Pacific as a time to meditate, think clearly, and solve problems. This time, I felt the grounding draw of these landscapes were exhausted.

    But why am I so reliant on landscape? How does landscape affect us? Does the big horizon of Los Angeles, and Southern California in general, subconsciously lead one to seek answers outside of oneself, in others or other places? Does it make it easy to look elsewhere and use the curiosity of the far beyond to draw one out in search of answers? In contrast, do the horizonless valleys of Switzerland force one to become introspective and find the answer here in space and time, and within? If the gaze is not escaping, are we forced to focus the mind on the moment?

    3. Contextualizing perception

    Zumthor's works is regionally contextualized. It draws from the cultural and geological historic past of the location of his buildings. They are situated in the spatial and temporal moment, but ever-moving forward with the moment while carrying memory for that very reason of localized, historical contextualization.

    Context, whether for words, objects or buildings, builds a significant part of the meaning. Zumthor's work as seen in isolation through images is no doubt beautiful and thoughtful. What the image leaves out is the experience of the context of where Zumthor comes from and where the buildings are sited. Zumthor lives and works in Haldenstein and has a number of modest projects in the canton of Graubünden, and it wasn't until the end of my trip that I decided to go in search of Zumthor's work in the region. Having spent a good week up until this point zig-zagging through the mountains and valleys of Graubünden, Uri, Jura, Lucerne, Bern and many more cantons, I became familiar enough with the materiality and craftsmanship of Swiss vernacular architecture so that when I came upon the Saint Benedict Chapel in Sumtvig, it all made sense; not just Zumthor as an architect, but how to tackle the problem of architecture in Los Angeles. Keeping in mind the social, psychological and perceptual layers of Los Angeles as building material as opposed to solely its geological characteristics, what is the Los Angeles vernacular if we were to work in the manner of Zumthor’s sensibilities in relation to his context? How do we become grounded within Los Angeles through its perceptual landscapes manifested in architecture?

    4. Contextualizing memory

    Context builds memory and vice-versa. Los Angeles is a city with questionable memory: short term memory for native Angelenos, and no memory for transplanted Angelenos. In a city famed for fictitious narratives and characters, a city out-famed by its metonym, a city where one comes to build a new decontextualized narrative, memories come and go as liberally as the latest blockbuster or waiter-actor combo. Again, the technical image that captures the fiction also happens to have captured what would have become real memories if given the chance. We romanticize these alternate histories of Los Angeles through images from USC's archives and in a strange way in movies, where Thom Anderson has a captivating breakdown in Los Angeles Plays Itself. In a city where everyone belongs to elsewhere, a city that everyone loves to hate, what happens to the individual seeking a context for belonging and memory-making? How does this sense of place materialize? Is it this lack of context and belonging that forces me out and into the natural landscapes and vast deserts around Los Angeles? Is it a displacement of context and belonging that fueled my breakdown?

    5. The condition of Los Angeles

    The Swiss have a word for the deep-rooted sense of origin and belonging: Heimat. Socially and experientially, a sense of belonging is attributed to a place—the natural landscape one enjoys, the home one grew up in, the family who still live down the street, and so forth. Its rootedness comes from being able to share memories and common experiences across generations, as well as assigning durational significance to places.

    In many parts of the world we see new building additions built on top of or immediately adjacent to an existing old structure, for example Zumthor's Gugalun House in Versam, or generations living in the same home, while in the United States we see entire landscapes transformed, for example, through mountain top mining where in a couple of decades a mountain disappears, or we demolish older homes in favor of new, homogenized condos. What happens then, when a landscape changes or architecture is razed multiple times before the span of a generation, thus not allowing the formation of shared experiences say between parent and child, let alone grandparent and grandchild, or disappearances of places where one would tell stories of memories within their space? What do the denizens of a city without 'heimat' do to develop in a socially and architecturally healthy way? Do we suffer from a lack of care for a place, or do we learn to become fluid in accepting the whole over the particulars, the inverse of heimat?

    6. Anxious Landscapes

    In Anxious Landscapes, Antoine Picon asks, “How is it that, turning our back on several centuries of tradition that generally associated the contemplation of landscape with the idea of a certain peace of mind, we are so often disconcerted, indeed even anxiety-ridden, by landscapes of this type [referring to Manhattan]?” In response, he positions the technological landscape against the traditional landscape. The technological landscape of not just factories and machinery but cables and digital infrastructure, roads and continuous rest-stops, attached suburbs and over-grown towns, absorb the countryside, blurring the boundaries of where the city stops and where the natural landscape begins. This absence of a delineation of the limit of a city, and our movement in this new landscape being relative to these unclear boundaries are two main characteristics of anxiousness induced by the city.

    The dichotomy of the anxiety is curiously bizarre: it can be positive, in terms of discovering the edge of the boundaries and then their beyond; or be negative which again is the restlessness of constantly moving in and out of, and pushing beyond the boundaries. The psychological term of dissociation further explains this anxiety, where to reduce it one seeks to physically and emotionally detach from the situation, perhaps driving out and away from it. However at some point, does this therapy and meditation of driving away (self-expansion) become a form of temporary escapism (self-suppression)?
    Thu, Feb 12, 2015  Permanent link
    Categories: architecture, landscape
    Sent to project: Epiphanies
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    Staring at the night sky one August, anticipating the Perseids, I realized two things: first, that while facing westward, I was tumbling backward through Space at 860 miles per hour; and second that we have a fundamental existential problem by living under an opaque sky.

    Not long after, a news blip on NPR induced uncontrollable laughs when the reporter read something to the effect of 'the United States positioning itself as the World Leader'. Let's take a moment and think about the absurdity of this position and of these power games, and all games for that matter, from the personal to global. With naked eyes alone one can see the depth of Space and begin to grasp the immensity of its scale. We can immediately understand how inconsequentially small we are, how in the scale of space and time our existence is as insignificantly temporal as a momentary air bubble in the ocean... or a mote of dust.

    What does it mean to be a World Leader on Earth when Earth exists within a Universal scale where it doesn't matter if we implode today or keep on going another billion years? We fight and war and steal and lie and cheat and kill, because we don't realize the real scale of our existence as a direct result of living under the Opaque Blue Ceiling.

    What if, instead of the opaque blue ceiling, under which the majority of humans spend the majority of their waking hours, we lived under the Transparent Night Sky? What if we could see, for most of our waking hours together, that not only are we insignificant in the scale of the Universe, but as far as we know, we are alone and that we only have each other. The view of Space changes our attitude. The awe of this realization is empathic. In the basic familial and social units, we seek each other's company when we feel alone. Seeking company is not a cultural, racial or class thing; it's a human thing. But our World Leaders separate us through differentiation and discrimination—and compared to what? To each other, in this blip of a scale that we occupy in all of Space?

    In Orion Magazine, William L. Fox tackles this question of how we see ourselves and how it affects us from another point of view—losing the view of the whole from Space. Both views teach us about ourselves and while I also mourn the inability to see Earth from space and angry that our Leaders have robbed us of the View, the scale is difficult to grasp and the image has become too familiar. Lying under the ever-changing night sky, the scale envelopes us, becoming cognitively and emotionally accessible. The bare night sky, under-experienced because of light pollution, is under-utilized as a space of learning about humanity and humility, and the basic principle of equality.

    Drop everything and go camping this week. The Perseids are back 11-13 August. Go far away from the city and the light of your smartphone screen. Grab a telescope or just take fresh eyes, and do not use any star-gazing apps. Take a kid, a friend or just yourself, but instead of naming constellations, look for Us within and as the Whole.

    Fri, Aug 9, 2013  Permanent link
    Categories: realization, space, rant, earth
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    In June 2009 I mapped the protests in Iran with fervor and anxiety. It is possibly the largest collection of public video and images tracking the protests almost minute-by-minute. They are all on Hypercities, a mapping platform developed by Dr. Todd Presner and his research group at UCLA Digital Humanities.

    The Arab Spring prompted me to revisit the Hypercities collection and I realized many of the YouTube videos have been removed or accounts hosting them have been closed rendering portions of my narrative mapping obsolete. I noticed the same problem on SpaceCollective. Many of us here believe what we put on the World Wide Web is there for prosperity and forget that some of the media is actually reliant on others who may not see the space of the web as we do.

    Therefore I'd like to propose to the SpaceCollective community to archive the work we post, meaning that we download videos and images we are linking in our posts, to our own servers–better if it is all on the SC servers–so that we don't end up with posts like Spaceweaver's Are We Real?. Of course we are still obligated to keep the content and the reliability/responsibility element is still there, but we are at least on the same page in this community and more likely to keep our media live.

    There are a few sources out there, one that I've used is KeepVid. Feel free to use the comments to suggest alternatives, options and recommendations.
    Mon, Aug 1, 2011  Permanent link

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    I've been teaching non-art/design undergrads for a few years and the one question I get every single year, innocently, is "What is art?" My responses have been philosophical and abstract, probably leaving them as baffled as before they asked the fateful question. In a way, I avoided answering the Question. This year, I've found an answer: Sergei Parajanov's The Color of Pomegranates (1968). The film is sublime. It is the perfection of poetry, composition, form, texture, and color. Most importantly, as a response to the Question, it is tangible because it is sensual, and it is politically contextualized, which makes it profoundly emotional (a bit more difficult for younger generations to grasp, but dramatic nonetheless).

    Parajanov paid for his films with his life. Read this again. Parajanov paid for his films with his life. What is art but that which is lived? Who is an artist but one who commits to his/her vision in face of imprisonment, torture and death? Who is an artist but one who makes the ultimate sacrifice to say and make what needs to be said and made? I am crying. No, weeping. Is it for the loss of artists like Parajanov? Is it that we live in a world that violently, both makes and kills beauty? Maybe it's for myself because if Sayat Nova and its becoming art are what art is, I don't have the guts to make art.

    Comments welcome on how you have responded to this question.
    Wed, Jun 22, 2011  Permanent link
    Categories: rant art Parajanov
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    In-progress–feedback welcomed.

    The Fold
    By using three keywords that Marcos Novak's concept of Transvergence is situated upon—ontology, immanence and allo–I begIn questioning what is to find the response this is. What is being? What is becoming? What is other? I follow this with "What if?". "What if?" is the question of the speculative; it is what transforms the philosopher's "What is?" to the scientist's "This is." This work, therefore, should not be mistaken for a utopia only latent with "What ifs"; it is the process of 'tomorrow' becoming 'now'. In this quest I have honed in on the fold and its potential for developing new possibilities for modes of existence and occupation of space, in the form of architectural organs–origami-like extensions of our body; an actual organ of skin. Where are fold (n.) and folding (v.) positioned as responses to these questions and speculations of change? Why a fold? What is a fold anyway?

    To fold is to hide; to unfold is to reveal; a fold therefore, holds both opposite actions (hiding and revealing) within one dimension of the fold line. Spatially, the area where my interest lies in, the one dimensionality of the line reveals and hides the capability of two-dimensional planes becoming a three-dimensional form. A fold is a multiple of potentials waiting to be realized. Therefore, a fold, a Deleuzian being-as-becoming, the line-as-plane-as-form, exists on a plane of immanence, latent with possibilities. The key to existing on this plane is desire.

 Folding is the act of including and excluding, of containing both the inside and the outside, this and that. One desires to fold and unfold, or in other words, to pursue potentials. Italo Calvino’s city of Chloé best illustrates the desire of the potential, what Rosetta Di Pace-Jordan explains as the “dynamism latent in all matter”, and in Chloé, the dynamism latent in all relationships. Chloé both includes thousands of possible relationships between its inhabitants, as well as excluding them—the well being of the city based on the exclusion, or folding-in and leaving out, rather than un-folding and playing out. 

    A fold, or a ptychosis, as applied in medical English, is the behavior of becoming something other. A single becoming the double, becoming the multiple, exemplified in embryonic folding, where each fold yields another part to the single disk of the organism, multiplying its parts by continually folding over itself. This process is that of a machinic phylum, where folding of heterogeneous parts–ectoderm (outside) and endoderm (inside)–creates a new entity. In Origami, just as in embryonic folding, the combinations of transverse and longitudinal folds arrive at different forms. However, different from embryonic folding, origami has a homogenous base, which through a dynamic process ends in a static form. In Latin, fold (v.) and arrive (v.) are both plico, an active tense. Once a fold arrives at a point, that point should only become a departure point to another form.

    We are continuously experiencing series of arrivals and departures at and from points; our lives are broken into milestones and anniversaries. We are in a constant mode of unfolding and changing, our single body becoming multiples in the compounded unfolding of its future. Our body is therefore analogous to the fold. However, we go through this dynamic process with a static, homogenous base: our body. So the question now shifts from 'what is a fold?', to how can a folded form (our body departing and arriving at various points in space-time) continue embodying the dynamism that initially created it? How can our bodies become a machinic phylum for the realization of architectural organs? What are the heterogeneities that must be synthesized?

    “The machinic phylum is materiality, natural or artificial, and both simultaneously; it is matter in movement, in flux, in variation […]”
    –Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, "A Thousand Plateaus," p. 409.

    Here, the machinic will be the synthesis of the heterogeneities of the organic (human) and inorganic (literally, the machines of industrialization) into a new entity, a new human.

    Industrial Ecology to Social Ecology to Anarchic Ecology
    Through the emergence of machinic phyla, we are on-course for the realization of architectural organs. Over the last 150 years, our relationship with technology has shifted focus from production at any cost, to human-centered design, to environmentally conscious design. The final step is a shift to a fragmented and sustainable, autonomous design, a shift which has already begun.

    Charlie Chaplin's Modern Times is a seminal piece of the folding of the human into technology, the first machinic phylum of modern times. Filmed in 1936, it is the futuristic and extended vision of the events set off a century earlier with the second Industrial Revolution and the introduction of factory modernization to the domestic realm. This is a period when the technology takes precedence over the human, where production came at any cost to the environment; child labor was rampant, and worker rights were unheard of. The deep red sky and smoke stacks of Monet's paintings are not romantic reminiscing of the city, but factual impressions of the coal grime across the landscape and lives of citizens. Like Chaplin's film, Fritz Lange's Metropolis (1927) is created at the height of Scientific Management: The machinic efficiency of the human body, not for the benefit of the human, but for the production of profit–the "economic efficiency" of Taylorism, or better put, the efficient production of an economy of profit at the expense of the human worker. Christine Fredrick's Scientific Management of the Home (1919), by introducing the concept of efficiency for the female worker in her duties of housework, completes the cycle of profit production, with profit consumption.

    There is a contrarian shift within the same time-period, of efficiency becoming more human centered. Frank and Lilian Gilbreth, inspired by Taylor's work, focus on the production of efficiency towards the production of the welfare of the worker: a folding of the human onto technology. In their scenario, the human is still part of the machine, but the process of production is not at the cost of the human. This shift of focus hastens through the mid-century as more human elements are folded onto the technology, arriving at the second machinic phylum and Henry Dreyfus' Designing for Humans (1955) which sets the standards for the study of human factors: the sensibility and attention to the human element of technology, where humans are not the heterogeneous parts of a factory, but as in Marshall McLuhan's terms, the mechanical technology becomes an extension of the human body.

    This folding and re-folding of the human and technology has unfolded itself to a flat sheet of creases, ready to be re-folded with new terms: The environment. Once resolving the relationship of the mechanic modernization with the human, our focus shifted to the well-being of the human environment, Earth. We realize we have enveloped her in the same archaic ways as when we were enveloped by the machines of industrialization. In Ecology and Revolutionary Thought (1965), Murray Bookchin points out that the dysfunctional relationship between human and nature stems from the dysfunctional relationship between humans, “To state this thought more precisely: the imbalances man has produced in the natural world are caused by the imbalances he has produced in the social world."

    The point of view of this essay is completely Western. In China, unfortunately, factory citizens are the inhabitants of corporate cities, perhaps, one can say, true folding of human into machine. Therefore, it is naive to say that our shift in focus to the environment means we have resolved the social imbalances; it only acknowledges them. We exist on two parallel dimensions: one where we still exist within the first machinic phylum, the other where with much struggle we pretend to have moved out of it but in reality we have not, because we consume it.

    As we continue to fold in and out of the creases of the past to find new folds for our future, we have come upon the third machinic phylum, the folding of technology onto the human. Here we are tearing into two separate, yet related paths: the use of mobile technologies as prosthesis, and the expansion of embedded networks, a tethered prosthesis of the human to nature, and a reversal of our embedding into the factory. Whereas a century ago Scientific Management made the human–to its detriment–more efficient for the production of profit, embedded networks, through activating nature, make it more efficient in the production of knowledge for its own sake. Embedded systems also activate architecture by folding in multiple layers of interaction between systems–the systems of the different operators of the space and the bodies occupying it.

    "With every tool man is perfecting his own organs, whether motor or sensory, or is removing the limits to their functioning. Motor power places gigantic forces at his disposal, which, like his muscles, he can employ in any direction… and the dwelling-house was a substitute for the mother's womb, the first lodging, for which in all likelihood man still longs, and in which he was safe and felt at ease. […] Man has, as it were, become a prosthetic god. When he puts on all his auxiliary organs he is truly magnificent; but those organs have not grown onto him and they still give him much trouble at times."
    –Sigmund Frued Civilization and its Discontents, 1930, pp 42-43.

    For sixteen years Freud suffered from the pain of a prosthetic jaw and palate, put in place as a result of cancer. His prosthesis was placed onto him, rather than, as he writes in this self-reflective piece, "grown onto him." At some point, the heterogeneities of human and technology, having switched forces repeatedly over time, eventually find equilibrium. This will be the fourth machinic phylum: the folding of technology and human into each other. This is the point where technology is no longer a prosthetic, where metaphors of architecture as prosthesis for nature or body no longer hold true. This is when, as Arakawa and Gins arrive at, that we become Architectural Bodies, a reconfiguration of the organism-person-surround––an open-ended entity of potentialities of human and technology (or for Arakawa and Gins, human and architecture) possible through full responsibility of one’s being, revision and reinvention.

    We are, however, debilitated through our own hylomorphic history where responsibility of self is systematically stripped. If we are to follow through with Deleuze and Guattari’s concept of the machinic phylum, its potentialities are possible not by outside forces, but by the nature of the heterogeneities of the phylum. To drive this non-holymorphic concept, they devise the artisan theory of metallurgical production, where the blacksmith ‘teases out’ form rather than imposing form on the metal. Similarly blocking us are archaic notions of beauty, narrow views on gender, misconceptions of race, and misunderstandings of philosophies of existence, which are all external forces, usually divine and transcendental, that are forced upon our bodies. These ideas must be re-evaluated through a process of unfolding, meaning that every scenario of the body should be allowed to play out in order to evaluate its effects on our progress: every idea of beauty, every variation on gender; every identification and valuation of self and not others, with reference to an empirical religion.

    Assuming the obstacles have been overcome, that we are in a world where the political body is obsolete, what will become of government, society, urbanism, the body? How do we come to define the concepts of generalities, organizations, striations, and control in order to move towards the obsolete? In an irrational world, should the making and envisioning of a new world be a rational process? Will a purely aesthetic philosophy provide the answer towards a vision?

    The organ is a metaphor. (On how many of our organs do we have control, and how much on those we believe we are in control of?) The Architectural Organ is therefore a thought experiment with intent: What do we keep and what do we relinquish if we wanted to take such evolutionary route?

    [1] Whitelaw, M., Guglielmetti, M., and Innocent, T. 2009. Strange ontologies in digital culture. Comput. Entertain. 7, 1 (Feb. 2009), 1-13. DOI=
    [2] Calvino, Italo. Invisible Cities. Chloé. [1st ed.] ed. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1974. pp.51-52.
    [3] Pace-Jordan, Rosetta Di. “Italo Calvino's Legacy: The Constant and Consistent Vision.” World Literature Today 66, no. 3 (1992): 468-71.
    [4] Folding of the germinal disk and the generation of the abdominal wall. Retrieved 14/07/2009.
    [5] The Folding of the Embryo. Retrieved 14/07/2009  and
    [6] Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, "A Thousand Plateaus," p. 409.
    [7] Sigmund Frued Civilization and its Discontents, 1930, pp 42-43.
    [8] Shusaku Arakawa and Madeline Gins, Architectural Body, 2002.
    [9] Tentative Architectures are clothing that tentatively behave as architecture only when the need arises.
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    I wrote this a while ago for the LandscapeTechne exhibit catalogue at Little Berlin gallery in Philadelphia.

    LandscapeTechne. The crafting of a landscape. It begins with the irreducible landscape of nature. There is a rich history of landscape art, from Romantic paintings to Ansel Adams' photography and Robert Smithson's deformations in dirt, just to name a few that easily come into anyone’s mind when pressed on the topic. In all, and within this exhibit, landscape, among its many identities and roles, is a toolset, a carrier, and a medium. Technology has been crucial for many artists in the process of knowing and crafting the landscape. Its role in the landscape has been one of compression—rail and telegraph compressed days and months worth of landscape to minutes and hours; of extension—still photography or Muybridge's motion experiments; and of abstraction—creating layers upon layers of narrative and reality upon the concrete reality.

    Every landscape is thus a multiple of potentials waiting to be realized. Therefore, a landscape, a being-as-becoming, exists on what Deleuze calls ‘a plane of immanence’, latent with possibilities. The key to existing on this plane and unlocking its potentials is desire. What is the desired knowledge that is guiding these techni? Because, by Aristotle's account, technê is concerned with bringing into existence things that could either exist or not. It appears as a very casual position where being or not being of those things have no effect beyond their own existence. But as artists we appropriate everything at hand, not just landscape and technologies, to bring 'something' into existence, repeatedly.

    Craft-like and practically applied knowledge is called a ‘technê,'. (Wikipedia) Many early accounts of technê in Greek philosophy identify it with acts that are of necessity, such as farming, sowing, and other home and land management skills. Being that most of these skills are no longer a necessity for the general population, what is the necessity that pushes the artist to practical and philosophical technê?

    In modern philosophy, 'need' is also a driving force for creating. In Production of Space, a level-minded expansion of Situationist thought, Henri Lefebvre defines the spatial practice of 'appropriation' where nature is modified to satisfy human needs. "An existing space may outlive its original purpose and the raison d'etre which determines its forms, functions, and structures; it may thus in a sense become vacant, and susceptible of being diverted, re-appropriated and put to a use quite different from its initial one.”

    Lefevbre's space is a space that does not pre-exist us, but is simultaneously created and defined by social, economic and political forces. They are all fake spaces, fake social constructs, and re-appropriation shakes them up, with the goal to create new spaces for action and interaction. In the works presented in the LandscapeTechne exhibit, the space, however, is the pre-existing space of the natural landscape. It is diverted from its initial expanse of timeless space, to measured and coded space-time of each artist’s ideology. As Lefevbre asks, “What is an ideology without a space to which it refers, a space which it describes, whose vocabulary and kinks it makes use of, and whose code it embodies?" The spaces of the works may be the irreducible expanse of the natural landscape, reiterated over and over by each artist into their own unique narrative, but the ideologies coded into each refer back to the constructed spaces of the everyday, which are mostly mediated by technology, from mass media to mobile media.

    The natural landscape is where one goes to in order to hear oneself and to find a balance away from our everyday lives in the urban landscape. In the United States, we have the privilege of massive amounts of space, weighted down with thousands of different time speeds in a phase space, or liberated from time altogether, however you wish to feel it. Isolation—absence of others, lack of sound pollution and no burden from pre-segmented existence in time—gives us a sense of freedom and it is only when we are free, and voluntarily in isolation can we have "the liberty to know oneself.” (Robert Adams) The natural landscape is therefore an amalgamation of other landscapes—for an artist, the landscape of the body and the mind, upon which the they construct yet other landscapes: mythical, emotional, psychological, physical—real and virtual.

    Humans design, craft and make, and the references for making are outside and within our selves. The ultimate crafted landscape, however, is the landscape of the self. Artists first craft themselves and the qualitative measures of who they are as an artist, and this knowledge in turn crafts their work by appropriating acquired and existing toolsets. Though the spaces in LandscapeTechne are not detached from their parallel spaces of here and now, their creators have successfully been able to detach themselves in order to navigate between them and to take us along. Our desire for other spaces is just as strong as their need in delivering it. The need and the desire are one, and inherent within all of us.

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    ... Erin asked. "Yes." I said, without hesitation.

    We each began fantasizing the benefits of having our own second 'me': She would not be second to me, she would be a duplicate 'me', equal in every aspect. I don't want her for her organs—I can grow those individually. I want her for her mind, her abilities, all the things that make me 'me' and which I want more of. She would be in charge of tasks I only trust myself with because she would do and decide as I would. I also trust her to be meticulous in her craft and detailing. Being another me, she obviously has the same interests I do, so I can send her off to read a book which we would download later in the evening, either through physical jacks or more poetically, synching through our dreams. She could work while I party... we just hit a bump here... She's me and I'm her; no one is the boss of anyone. So we both work and party.

    The imaginary relationship works for me, but what happens when my clone learns of her mortality. We don't carry anger from knowing we die, because there is no one to be angry at or to blame. But for my clone, I am her Creator (along with the scientist cohorts who made it possible), so she does have someone to be very mad at for making and bestowing her with human finitude. Is it the same anger harbored by teenagers towards their parents? Will we enter a version of Blade Runner, she and I, duking it out one rainy day? Aside from the problems that may arise between me and her on this one detail, I have a partner who would very likely leave me and me to each other and walk out. So the question shifts to "At what expense would you clone yourself?" How do we confront questions of mortality and morality? Is the second 'me' too close for comfort? Will it be confusing as to who is who and which does what? Will I fall into a self-absorbed, perfect relationship with myself?

    Probably. That's why we need robots, not clones. A clone is the same kind, a twin really, just one delayed in its conception and birth. With robots, on the other hand, we would expect there to be a level of detachment because of the materiality of the robot, as opposed to the flesh and consciousness of our clone. But let me give you a three very real examples how that won't work either.

    Yes, Paro, the healing robot seal. I met Paro in 2005. I was petting him and gently testing his reactions when a group of 9 year-olds came running over and almost immediately began taunting and teasing him. His movements were bewildered, his cries were for help. I was distraught. Paro was not having fun and his responses were so real, that I wanted to scream "Stop!" but didn't and just walked away. I still carry the guilt of not helping Paro...

    Paro's purpose is exactly that, to generate and foster emotions, though not the emotions I had due to the specifically cruel circumstances Paro and I met.

    Aiko, in pop-culture terms, is aspiring to be a 'skin-job'. Aiko's web of sensors beneath a soft skin can be very confusing. The confusion is that we know for a fact that what we are experiencing is not a life-form, yet somewhere between our eyes, our brain and our emotional response to what we are seeing, information gets confused. Or we allow ourselves to be fooled, a momentarily lapse into another reality. Realdolls are also such example. They are realistic looking dolls, and though without any of the sensory interaction as Aiko, here is a testimonial "that says it all":

    January 10, 2010

    The reasons why I decided to buy a doll were various: I was (pretty happy) single, but once I realised this doll could really make a difference to a life of solitude, I started searching the net. I came out by Abyss... I didn't doubt anymore... made my choices and ordered a doll... Then the waiting period...

    When you are fully committed to a purchase like this, it's a long time, but the customer service is no less than perfect.

    The day she arrived I wrote the following passage to Debra and Amanda:

    "She is so much much more beautiful then I expected from the face-picture taken on her birthday. I read testimonials, saw documentaries, etc. but it is really astonishing how this is possible. She's here now for approx. 4 hours and everytime I walk in the room I get a little scare as if someone's really sitting there. Which means she gives me the feeling of company from the first minute , and I could never really believe that that could be possible. Maybe you remember I told you that I was afraid my cat would feel tempted to set his claws into her flesh and you said the cat in your atelier didn't show an ounce of intrest in the dolls. Well, believe it or not, from the moment Lily sat on my couch, my cat came to her and gave her little knob-heads as if she was a real person. That says it all."

    We are some days further now and I can say: it is getting better and better. The things you discover... The things you can or must do: go shopping for her, taking care of her (washing, powdering), dressing her up, moving her,... Kissing her, caressing her, cuddle her, laying next to her, holding her hand, brushing her wig,... too much to mention :-)

    Not to mention her design and her looks. When you see her 'in person', all pictures furfill their expectations. In fact, no picture can capture her beauty and her sweetness. I am so happy to have her with me!

    Thanks to Abyss and to all of its staff... [ed.] Thank you for making this possible!

    In a separate conversation on this topic, soCinematic brought the Uncanny Valley to my attention, the area where extreme likeness to a human, but not a human, is met with repulsion. He supplemented it with this graph as well:

    Erin pointed out that regardless of all the sci-fi narratives of humankind destroyed or enslaved by AI, we are on an inevitable path to developing these very gadgets of our demise. I disagree that we are moving towards developing better AI with any more determination than we are in keeping ourselves in a stagnant place, not moving forward in our emotional development. The problem is when we position highly advanced beings (man-made) across from humans which have really had no significant change in the past 8000+ years, other than getting taller and fatter (though I read somewhere that we're getting shorter again).

    The core issue is our inability to emotionally cope with clones/robots/transhumans/etc and, of course, with questions of mortality. I understand and have argued for human emotion, mainly it's result, empathy. But to close the first Valley, and to jump over the second Valley, we need to advance emotionally, without losing our unique ability to empathize. Our ability to understand and connect with other beings is so important that, for example, the Japanese have a specific word for the sense of connectedness between humans (and only humans): ふれあい (fureai). This kind of specificity in language blocks our emotions from extending to fit future scenarios. Even now, it would be incorrect to use the word fureai in relation to the RealDoll, while the emotions felt by the human opposite a RealDoll can easily be extended to meet emotions expressed to a real human companion, as in the testimonial above.

    The bigger problem, aside from specificity in language and underdeveloped emotions, is that we have questions of morality, ethics and religious beliefs bogging down science and progress. From the above examples I gather that we have the capacity to emotionally advance. I will get to what I mean by emotional advancement and why in our trans/posthuman pursuit it is important to alter and enhance affect, and only by achieving advanced emotional states can we advance morally, ethically and in return evolutionary. By moral and ethical advancement, I mean that moral and ethical questions must lose their grip on our decision-making process. The reason they raise questions, and usually at the start of an uncharted or unconventional process, is because we cannot emotionally handle the very situations they question. We must change ourselves to meet advanced emotional states. And, in order to do so, morality must change. But what are the measures we should go by to advance (or shrink away) morality? I agree that science can answer those questions. (Mr.Harris makes good points but he can sound imperialistic and pretentious.) However, science alone cannot be used; it's objective and morality is subjective.

    Sam Harris: Science can answer moral questions

    Morality is more of a concern now that we know life from synthetic matter is possible, as well as possibly life from dead matter. This debunks any basis for the existence of a God that has us functioning on fate, and in return rewards and punishes based on our decisions.

    But the point I want to get back to is how should we emotionally progress before any new life-forms are introduced to our midst, whether clone, robot, resurrected, or synthetic? How do we deal with human, but human of another kind? With life of another kind, we don't encounter the uncanny valley between two peaks—we start off in an endless valley of the uncanny where a human corpse may be more comforting when faced with the other.

    Beyond physical and cognitive enhancements, as well as genetic enhancements which deal with disease and appearances, the future 'me' must possess objective emotions.

    Now, I began this post end of March 2010 and had the bulk of it written in a day. It is July and I have been stuck in this corner, which I have placed myself in single-handedly: objective emotions. I will try and follow up in a future post on how do we achieve a balance with objective emotions. For now, the moral of this post is: "ditch morality, advance emotionally."

    Fri, Jul 23, 2010  Permanent link

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