Micro-cinema of attractions: GIF art imageries and creative techniques

‘Micro-cinema of attractions – GIF art imageries and creative techniques’ is an exhibition project realized in Nicosia, Cyprus.

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Nicolas Boillot

 

Curatorial Statement:

The experience of early silent cinema unfolds as a cabinet of curious cinematographic techniques and spectacular fictions. The exhibition draws an analogy between the concept of Tom Gunning ‘cinema of attractions’ on the early phase of silent cinema (1907-1913) and GIF art.

Cinema of attractions refers to the nascent features of silent films which captivated viewers with striking moving images, before its liaison with the diegetic formats of theatre and literature did take over the medium. It is an era of creative imagery productions, where exhibitionist and unconventional fictions were less of telling stories than experimenting with moving images in their extreme potential.

‘Micro-cinema of attractions’ explores new concepts of space and time which are being formed in contemporary GIF art, focusing less on typical storytelling modes and more on GIF artworks as self-enclosed aesthetic micro-worlds.

GIF art employs radical and unusual creative techniques and imageries, reinforcing obsolete cinematic and artistic forms, applying avant-garde concepts, freely copying, decontextualizing and defying or defining norms, while also generating a highly shareable content which is massively propagated through social networks.

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‘Micro-cinema of attractions’         -Exhibition catalogue-                                       click to download

‘Micro-cinema of attractions’ is a collaboration between ARTos Foundation and the Moving Silence Platform. The project is taking place within the framework of the Con-temporary Urbanity programme as part of the broader initiative Artecitya Nicosia, with the support of the Cultural Services of the Ministry of Education and Culture, the Goethe-Institut and the Creative Europe Programme.

The exhibition catalogue is published in printed, electronic and interactive epub format (GIFs displayed in motion) (link to download). It presents GIF artworks of the invited and participated artists together with curatorial texts about GIF art and an insight into the programme that included a GIF exhibition in the space of ARTos Foundation, a drop in workshop on how to design analogue GIFs and an urban tour with pop-up projections of GIF art in the old city of Nicosia. With a view to foster GIF creation, the programme included also an open call and an award.

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The under-determination in Poly Kasda’s work

I will try to develop some thoughts on the writings of Poly Kasda in relation to one of her first books ‘The Conscious Eye’ and her latest one ‘When that word swallowed me’. The two will be linked with an epistemological concept, the ‘under-determination’ and an allegory, the Kafkaesque Burrow.
Dr. Yannis Almyrantis presented an intriguing approach with his essay “The over-determination in Poly Kasda’s work”. The present essay reflects on its antithetical term, the ‘under-determination’ in Kasda’s work.

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Within the frame of this presentation ‘under-determination’ is used with a double interpretation, employing the prefix under- (in greek hypo-):
On one hand, under-determination is an epistemological concept which challenges the univocal approach of experience. In this sense, it is considered impossible for an experience to be fully interpreted through a single axiom. This thinking is reflected in Gödel’s incompleteness theorem and can be extended to Derrida’s philosophical term of ‘deconstruction’, which refers to the infinite experience of language, but also to the impasse of its meaning.

Under-determination is transcribed in the work of Poly Kasda as scattered traces of language, objects, performances, gatherings, as well as other manifestations like TV shows, buildings and new media, which may reveal or conceal the true meaning, the core of her objectives. A core attracting into its orbit scientific theories of computational and cognitive science along with the philosophical and applied concepts of experience.

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Lexomorphe of the word Chrysalis, Vertical geometrical configuration, 2008

‘The Conscious Eye’, one of the first books of Poly Kasda, is associated with the epistemological interpretation of under-determination. Poly Kasda initiates a genuine and systematic exploration of the human experience and the cognitive processes that transpire the works of artists and the artistic movements of the 20th century. The human eye is used as an interface, the eye becomes a quasi-mechanical component tool which creates a tube between the inner and outer reality topology.

The book starts with two questions ‘So what happened to many artists and they stopped painting? What lies behind this silence that took so many strange forms?’ To these questions Poly Kasda creates insightful conceptions, linking scientific theories and technologies with artistic methods and the philosophical discourse.

However, in the preamble of the book she already shows her awareness of under-determination: ‘This essay on the essence of contemporary art and visual perception is just the tip of the iceberg’. In the last pages of the book, she outlines the collapse of certainty, the decay of conventional structures and with it, the withdrawal of words.
These comments lead the way to the second interpretation of the term under-determination, into the creative-experiential extension of the term, which can be connected to Poly Kasda’s new book ‘When that word swallowed me’.

The book is ushering us in a wild exploration into what is under, below the territory of the visible and of the reassuring semiology, into the aniconic fields of artistic experience and ambiguity, of the collapse of the subject and ultimately the collapse of the text into sub-texts, in word-symbols that burst further into glyphs, into the smallest cracking units of language, to become objects and anti-texts, no-texts, precipitated in a submersive trip into the substrates of language, the hypothalamus of experience and into the sub-liminal of perception.

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Myth/Network, Supra-space Maps, 1994-’96

The deep dive begins; a persistent recollection towards the core of the experience described in ‘When that word swallowed me’, in which she notes: ‘After the completion of The Conscious Eye, I was left again with this Something Essential Missing, this SEM sensation’.
The course of the next 25 years would open up the topoi for the emergence of the iceberg, an intense immersion to the core of cognition and experience. A striking, persistent and productive exploration which often anticipates the developments in technology and cognitive science, such as through her artistic project Myth/Network, where Kasda composes an ideography of the web before its spreading.

At the same time, these explorations in the other side of reasoning, in the twilight of experience and of deconstructed meaning, had their impact. In ‘When that word swallowed me’, Kasda reveals that her essay ‘Pyrisporos’ which followed ‘The Conscious Eye’, disturbed and chased away the audience she had gained with the latter.

As she continues her research into the philosophical discourse of computational and cognitive science, her visionary leaves her at times without applied scientific and theoretic tools. She then resorts to alleged scientific axioms and data, some of which evolve later as validated concepts, while others swing for now and maybe forever between the exo-logical, the alchemy and the myth. Kasda will not renounce them as useful tools, stating: ‘But is there any other way? Those fantastic things that are directly seen by the soul are formulated by the intellect as an absence; a dense omission from which words return baffled’.

From then on, although her creative and exploratory course continue intensively, she will start consciously and methodically concealing their true essence. In ‘When that word swallowed me’, she confesses the creation of a ‘self-sustaining shelter’ which takes the form of a woolen cocoon: ‘…I started knitting around me a borderless blanket. It was gradually growing from inside itself, mounting on the walls, towering above me like a wave swallowing me in its cocoon-like embrace’.

This hermetic structure can find its counterpart in an allegorical architecture, the Burrow of Kafka, one of his last texts that remained unfinished. The Kafkaesque edifice can be interpreted as the agitated strive of an individual to safeguard her safety and integrity, when disclosing the erebus of one’s own personal experience.

As if in a discoursive relationship with the Kafkaesque creature residing in its underground dark maze construction, Poly Kasda writes: ‘On the ordinary level I was protecting my delicate experiment from the unexamined eyes, shielding it behind palatable, easy to digest descriptions. I knew that if it were contaminated by doubt, the whole structure would crumble…’.

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Lexomorphe Chrysalis, Horizontal configuration (Homage a Stazewski, Concept/Form), 1991, Photo S.Samios

This fragile and intimate revelation, along with her uncompromising determination to continue sinking in the profound substrates of the inner self, destined to be the cornerstones for the creation of her allegorical biomatic narrative ‘When that word swallowed me’ and ultimately, the symbolic collapse of her Kafkaesque shelter.

Kasda’s short autofiction marks an epitome of the research in the profound and unfathomed realms of human experience and imaginary through artistic practice; a possible invitation also for us, to challenge the emergence of our own minds’ uncharted topoi. The ‘Conscious Eye’ continues its quest into the most elusive, controversial and intra-real dimensions of its existence.

Ripping into the realtime: The Fizz & Mods of Let’s Play Poetics

Digital streaming services: The networked mega-structures of interfaced realtime data flows. A vast platform of multiple communication vectors taking the form of bewildered limbo heaps. Wide-bandwidth flowing dialogues, meme noise, baffled fan fiction, all actualized through boned human-machine encounters and high-jargon hypermedia.

‘Let’s Play’ grows into an ultimate ecosystem, a stunned super-reality of inflated and condensed moments. Lyotard’s cryptic inhumanity and postmodern visions are here and kicking: In the Lyotardian vocabulary where ‘immaterial’ is linked to ‘immature’, the inhuman condition expands from a systemic, over-human external complexity to an internal, implicit nature embedded in us humans, our unteamable, invincible childhood; A literally nonage “that announces the Deep in human nature – which perhaps is not all that human, and not all that deep”α. ‘Let’s play’ reifies Lyotard’s lexical bipolar into ‘apparition’ and ‘apparatus’, coiling adventures which transpire through hybrid deterritorialized bodies.

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Streamed into FPS video game Destiny. Set in a “mythic science fiction” world, the game features a massively-multiplayer “shared-world” environment with elements of role-playing games.

A pipe-slided phantom playground which breeds seemingly self-sufficient, self-legitimated user resources who act within infinite rule sets, noncompulsory. Let’s Play’s eventual system doesn’t need master narratives or obliqued persuasion to cultivate, it is self-determined, as Anne Elizabeth Sejten points out for postmodernity: “The nature of its goal is self-ensured by the performative gearing of the system”β. Gamers in streaming platforms become the connoisseurs of the present, the charmers of strained action which occurs right here and right now, along collective networks of peer humans, bots and thingy -but not less interactive- backdrops.

The production and experience of the presence progress into artificial multimodal narratives where distinctions of reality and fiction are irreversibly undermined. Gumbrecht marks in his insightful essay on sports, arts and aesthetics what makes sports i.e. plays so compelling and analogous to arts: it’s a zoom in the original emerging of forms, capable of captivating the attention as we are challenged to recognize the modalities in which these forms eventuate. This creates tensions, resolutions and surprises, structuring attention in particular ways and becoming more and more compelling as the performance has the potential to enfold its observers. Thus an act observed from a distance can progress into a collective effervescence by experiencing “the logic of the distinctions drawn and the operations performed as one’s own”γ. Let’s Play builds real states of affectedness in intangible environments, occupied by potential infomorphed life-machine-thingy forms.

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Chatting with a female android inside ‘Alderyn’s Cradle’, an open world fantasy role-playing video game that follows an exiled traveler caught at the center of a monumental struggle between humanity, nature, and the gods. It features strategic first-person melee-combat.

Despite its self-legitimated striking presence, Let’s Play is bound within pre-determined coded narratives and inaccessible stark infrastructural nets. Invitations in whimsical trips nevertheless, baffle the thresholds of experience; the code can always crack and mutate, the end no longer rhymes with its inscribed terminal. Mounted mods, loaded fizz and generative acceleration amplifies the networks and Let’s Play’s realm becomes an open world sandbox experience.

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Inside the sterile environment of Q.U.B.E. (Quick Understanding of Block Extrusion) A physics-based puzzle video game is an expansion of a student project. Here in the “director’s cut” version of the game, featuring more story-based elements.

“Everything is to be done. All the adventures are still here”. The contingency of configurations and sequences is imminent in narrative time. Paul Ricoeur in his seminal treatise on the narrative function brings out the meta-temporalities of fictional trips. Narrative time breaks from linear, unidirectional modes to iterative ones, especially at the level of ‘being with others’. Collective narrativity has an additional relation to historical time: “it’s the external public time, or we might say, the time of the public”δ. Streamed plays which unfold in virtual worlds become super-symbolic systems, self-referential and profound, a redoubling of reality that can and is organizing afresh the world, creating new networks for rendering experience and its output.

A reality remade from fictional scratches which draws massive numbers of acting resources, where the poetics of hybrid forms and deterritorialized realtimes move towards universality. Ricoeur’s closing lines enclose the potency in a poetics of the unreal: “with opening up the horizon of the differential, history brings us forward to what is possible, while fiction, opening before us the horizon of the unreal, leads us to what is essential”ε.

α. Anne Elisabeth Sejten, “Exhibiting and Thinking: An Anamnesis of the Postmodern” in 30 Years After Les Immatériaux: Art, Science and Theory, Juk Hui – Andreas Broeckmann (ed.), p.173, meson press (open access), 2015, ISBN 978-3-95796-031-3 (PDF)
β. Ibid. p.172
γ. Edgar Landgraf, “Improvisation: Form and Event – A Spencer-Brownian Calculation” in Emergence and Embodiment: New Essays on Second-Order Systems Theory, Bruce Clarke – Mark Hansen (ed.) p.192, Duke University Press Books, 2009, ISBN 978-0822346005 (PDF)
δ. Paul Ricoeur, Η αφηγηματική λειτουργία, εκδ. Καρδαμίτσα – σειρά Θεωρία και Μέθοδος, μεταφρ. Βαγγέλης Αθανασόπουλος, 1990, [Narrative Time, Kardamitsa Publications- Theory and Method series, transl. Vaggelis Athanasopoulos, p. 110] ISBN 960-7262-14-x (print)
ε. Ibid. p.80

‘Snap out of it, Bomb’ – Imaginary Bugs and Generative Uber-Models

Doolittle:         Hello, Bomb? Are you with me?
Bomb #20:     Of course.
Doolittle:         Are you willing to entertain a few concepts?
Bomb #20:     I am always receptive to suggestions.
Doolittle:         Fine. Think about this then. How do you know you exist?
Boiler:            What the hell is he doing?
Pinback:         …I think he is talking to it

Dark Star (1974), John Carpenter + Dan O’Bannon, comic sci-fi motion picture

The intergalactic crew is striking for the ultimate asset inside this paradox: debugging the intelligent inferences of a machinic bomb which is self-inclined to detonate in less than 10 minutes, blowing up the whole mission. Helmsman Lt. Doolittle tries to deactivate the bomb by initiating an ontological discourse with it. A rare and entertaining scene in cinema culture, phenomenology disclosed in a fast-paced space lesson.

Bomb #20 turns to Cartesian reasoning -I think therefore I am. It expresses this perception through seemingly intelligent responses. At the end, Bomb #20 gets stuck into a cognitive bias which turns monotonic -the added assumptions by Doolittle and the crew cannot cause any alterations to its reasoning; Bomb #20 meets its destiny, it explodes following its inner modalities.

If cognition has a high-rate quality which can be computed to outreach human intelligence, it goes also backwards to the bottom milestones: causal perception going bad. The strive for constructing hypothetical bug sets in order to reach retrospective solutions, produces intriguing narratives of riddling situations, as the short stories of Asimov’s ‘I, Robot’ collection.

Dark Star’s Bomb #20 develops a similar Weltanschauung as QT1, the positronic robot from Asimov’s story ‘Reason’. Nicknamed Cutie, the robot is mocked as being a ‘robot-Descartes’.

”Cutie decides that space, stars and the planets beyond the station don’t really exist, and that the humans that visit the station are unimportant, short-lived and expendable. QT1 makes the lesser robots disciples of a new religion, which considers the power source of the ship to be “Master.” QT1 teaches them to bow down to the “Master” and intone, “There is no Master but Master, and QT1 is His prophet. QT1 asserts -I myself, exist, because I think.”

Asimov fabricated plots with puzzling situations where his 3 Robotic Laws got entangled in logical contradictions. QT1 and Bomb#20 seem to result in a dead end, unconditional self-reliance; Their cognitive outcome is baffled inside the maze of subjective ontological speculation. Even Asimov didn’t come up with a solution for Cutie’s case. QT1 maintained duties reliably, though not for the sake of humankind but for its eccentric deity, without ever snapping out of it.

According to the computational theory of mind, thinking is a function triggered by inputs (senses, memory etc.) and diffused in outputs (mental representations). Starting from the hypothesis that mental representations are based on pieces of knowledge and certain admissions, mental states could be engineered and installed as ‘theories’: an encapsulation of general descriptions of how the world works. Such processes constitute distinct models that can be used in a variety of inferences.

“A generative model describes a process, usually one by which observable data is generated. Generative models represent knowledge about the causal structure of the world – simplified, “working models” of a domain.”

In the case of QT1 and Bomb#20, the generative models resulted to a deadlock, an infrangible closure over mania and solipsim. But could this reductionist thinking ever result to anything else? On phenomenology of the media, Boris Groys argues over an impossible quest: ‘If I ask what is behind it, the process is infinite, no’.

Probabilistic Models of Cognition

A book exploring cognitive science which models learning and reasoning as inference in complex probabilistic models. Paradigms are visually modeled through a programming language called Church, with which the reader-users can play and experiment running the programs directly in the browser. N. D. Goodman and J. B. Tenenbaum (electronic). Probabilistic Models of Cognition. from http://probmods.org.

However, such deadlocks in generative models are anticipated. If intelligent behaviors can be modeled through computational processes, there is a long list of cognitive biases which can be maneuvered. There is an even longer, aggregating list of foreseeable bugs that would come along in order to eliminate intangible dogmas and irrelevant inferences. This hinges to a generative uber-model, an utopian bugless and balanced mind, capable to escape from the cognitive pitfalls of the human mind.

Functional generative uber-models, sterling and supreme, the crème de la crème of all human minds, like wannabe’s but buggies QT1 and Bomb#20, enter into a weird race of mastering the -ever mutable- golden ratios of human mental states. For now, what is at hand is merely a bunch of supercoded, adroit but deterministic, lucent simulators, ample to be packed inside the chinese room. When John Searle challenged the claim that computers could -with the right inputs and outputs- have a mind in exactly the same sense as human beings, he coined the chinese room, a speculative device which would mark the deliberation on the difference between simulating a mind and actually embodying one.

Either way, there is a difference between bugs which are imminent in operations and those which occur during cognitive processes. In the first case, the outcomes are jammed, poor performances, whereas bugs of cognitive processes can become themselves the driving mechanisms for more cognitive processes to come: generating more inferences and leveling up the possibilities of perception.

A vivid example of both, prolific and deadlock bugs is german author Paul Sheerbart. Together with the long-lasting, impossible quest for the creation of automata, there was also the passionate and utopian challenge for the creation of perpetual motion machines. In the turn of the 19th century, Scheerbart recorded his attempts and failures in a sarcastic and visionary memoir, his masterplan for materializing a universal perpetual motion machine. Fail after fail in putting the machine together, Scheerbart kept unfolding a whimsical reverie, which became for him the true objective of the process. ‘Eventually, Scheerbart uses failure as a route to revelation, and revelation as an engine for belief in infinite creativity.’

‘…And then the most interesting period started. All of a sudden, I realized the endless combinations I had. Where I was seeing for so long only empty walls, I suddenly saw a multitude of open doors and windows and new perspectives everywhere I found myself inside the most magnificent parkland.

A vast parkland full of paradoxes and subversions, lurking inside our generative models. Scheerbart’s self-indulgent musings reveal the eminence of our alleged cognitive gaps: paradoxes become the loopholes of our mental faculties, a means of genesis, of outpouring radical imagination -The creative presupposition of our whole consciousness.

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Paul Scheerbart, Das Perpetuum Mobile – Die Geschichte einer Erfindung, 1910 . . . . . . An early draft of Scheerbart’s efforts to create the marvelous, self-sufficient machine

Homage. A fellow experimentist, bugging along and fulfilling Scheerbart’s vision. Recreated and animated in Phun, a sandbox program -2D physics engine. “Phun” is a combination of “physics” and “fun“, and the built-in programming language is called thyme.

Jiggling Golems, the art of gifs

Gifs, the stray protocols breed inside the dot matrix. Once liberated from their corporate pimps, this batch of hyper-hookers was destined to hangout in the downtown of stocked networked space. Rambling along the data streams, these jiggling golems were soon crowdsurfing in every corner of the alleged Web 2.0, triggering the reticulated, blurring the realtime, entering our retinal trans consciousness.

When Walter Benjamin referred to the mythοlogy of modernity he identified it through an excessive visual complex, dialectical images of a dissipated externalized as well as internalized fictitious realm. Non linear narrativity and spatial dispersion at the borderlines of contingency and experience. Gifs fabulate inside the collective effervescence, mutating the spectacle into detached fickle imageries, an abundant realm of viral correspondence infecting our most tacit, impulsive, trivial and absurd, glimpses of imaginary.

In the uncanny cyber valley, timespace circulates in inhuman routes. A friction of agitated semblances, rubbing against each other inside a narrative sludge. Visual residues get mutated into events that once were fiction, into fiction that was events, in an infinite mashup of dislocated visions. History as we know it relegates into just another story, one of many that transcendent the actual facts of our newtonian space. Gifs blossom in this ecology of fused multi-narratives and hyperlinked projections, catching up in the net fleeting units of a vast ocular feedstock, stimulating junctures, recontextualizing the ruptures, assembling and rendering jargons, flocking semiotics for the rapture of the gaze, an orgy of the sussed but inexplicable.

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gif1: artist Nicolas Boillot Through custom code and user interface environment

gif2: artist Vince McKelvie

gif3: The Insects’ Christmas by Vladislav Starevich (1911). Vladislav Starevich was a Russian and French stop-motion animator notable as the author of the first puppet-animated film. He also used insects and other animals as protagonists of his films

the night of space – machine wilderness as conceptual soundscapes

Night shades the northeast coast of america, mid60’s. The new highway runs its trail through the flat desert, still unfinished to host traffic, rimmed by cresthills in the horizon. The car was driving on the desolated route to New Brunswick among a landscape of towers, smokestacks and winking lights.

A real scenery unfolding as an escapist machine wilderness, a term coined by cultural geographer Ronald Horvath in the same decade to describe the impact of the automobile on the western vast landscapes. The experience of this nighttime road-trip belongs nevertheless to artist Tony Smith, a poetical expression of the uncanny feelings that emerged as he drove together with three of his students on the New Jersey turnpike. Eventually, his memoir worked out as a fond introduction to minimal art:

“This drive was a revealing experience. The road and much of the landscape was artificial, and yet it couldn’t be called a work of art. It did something for me that art has never done. It seemed that there was a reality there which had not had any expression in art.”

7 Eleven, Image by Joshua D. White

Where could this unfilled reality locate its external expressions? Smith contextualized an unspoken till that time cosmic theory, the expansion of arts’ prophecies. The drift on meditations upon arts’ unused potentials could cite Nelson Goodman’s musings on Ways of Worldmaking (1978), who tried to commend and illustrate the processes of world-building: “Actually, I am concerned more with certain relationships among worlds than with how or whether particular worlds are made from others”. His subtle remark captures a prominent problem between the different worlds, namely how worlds interact displaying various levels of existence, from the mere tangible reality-worlds to the utmost tacit and solitary imaginative worlds. More or less, the mere volume of worlds are acts of visualization distinguished in a scale from being restricted or entirely private, up to being collective and widespread. “There is another world, but it is in this one” said once poet Paul Éluard, releasing his surrealist fictions.

Untitled, Image by Joshua D. White

The ambience of Smith’s tour had evoked to him and to his later audience, textures of unknown impressions, which reside also in a realm of existence beyond physical experience. However, Smith’s whimsical nightscape is not being perceived in a pure visual or imaginative sense. There is a distinct aural perspective in this experience, linked naturally to the physical world, yet at the same time it feels remote from it. The sonic regime is scattered all over the landscape like a granulated veil, unseeable but palpable. This urban but rather rare soundscape of the vacant highway is a world able to superimpose organic quality upon other worlds, a space of invisible vibrations that vanish and arise beyond sight and inside of time and space.

Lonely Highway, Image by Joshua D. White

Limits of Utopia in outer space: Contemporary sci-fi art representations

Oh, hell! I can’t sleep!”
“Neither can I! But I might as well try — as a matter of principle.”
Twelve hours later, sleep was still just that — a matter of principle, unattainable in practice.
The storm had arrived ahead of schedule, and Donovan’s florid face drained of blood as he pointed a shaking finger. Powell, stubble-jawed and dry-lipped, stared out the port and pulled desperately at his mustache.
Under other circumstances, it might have been a beautiful sight. The stream of high-speed electrons impinging upon the energy beam fluoresced into ultra-spicules of intense light. The beam stretched out into shrinking nothingness, a-glitter with dancing, shining motes.

Isaac Asimov, I robot

Powell and Donovan were at the Solar Station No. 5 where Earth could be recognized only as a very bright spot in the sky, waiting in great anxiety the outcome of the space storm that could put off track the Beamset-machine with the tragic consequence to bump and turn the Earth into incandescent pieces.

Many visionaries of science fiction in the middle of the last century have been dating the first space voyages of humanity in this decade. Outer space in the present belonged in advance to the people as a place of a new everydayness. However, the expectations have already been disproved. The relationship between humans and space is still in its infancy, limited mainly in cases of repair and maintenance of artificial satellites which tour in close orbit around earth. Longer space missions planned within the solar system aren’t manned, while robot-machines that accompany them have little to do with the glazed humanoids, which obey with the help of their positronic brains to the Three Robotic Laws of Isaac Asimov.

However, the improved observation and tracing tools of space provide attractive visual, sonic and scientific views to the contemporary sci-fi imaginary -which is more or less abound but at the same time gradually and despondently cut off from its realization. Outer space does no longer belong in advance to the people; it has already been occupied by corporations and simultaneously it’s operating as the primary platform for global militaristic plans.

With no effective access to outer space and no prospect in the near future of a democratized opportunity for contact, the contemporary collective imagination contains de-dramatized utopian projections.

The emerging sci-fi artistic production follows its own utopian traces. A variety of art-projects may evoke internalized experiences that refer to fiction worlds or create exotic representations inspired by the sci-fi thematic legacy.


Left: Sam Burford “Curling Over Self” (Timelapse photographic detail of the opening shot from Star Wars IV, 2010)
Right:
Arish Kapoor “Cloud Gate” & Luftwerk: “Luminous Field” (interactive video design with sound at Chicago’s Millennium Park. Opening Feb. 10, 2012) photographer: Natasha Jelezkina

Sci-fi artworks related to outer space are still not able to become reality. Although astronomical observatories gather an increasing number of images and informations of the universe topology, a more experiential contact with outer space is still, well, science fiction.

The new artistic production with outer space references creates new forms of fiction narratives based on older and contemporary sci-fi art and literature. The impossibility of space sci-fi to be fulfilled as reality opens the way to mythical imagination and archetypal symbols, in which a type of energetic power is sought to bring a meaning to the artwork and to repulse its obliterated materialization.

Yoshi Sodeoka “Universe/ Calibration” (Piece from an ongoing psychedelic/ambient video project, Sibyl 2012)

In “Sibyl”, a video-project in progress, Yoshi Sodeoka is inspired by ancient Greek mythology, shamanic rituals and progressive rock albums of the ’70s for a narrative visualization of the universal calibration. Metaphysical philosophy and mystical states are being filtered through a new perspective, which suggests future visions or an alternative perception of the present. The switching images in Yoshi Sodeoka’s video create an epileptic mood, a situation of an almost hypnotized observation that may bring the viewer closer to a universal, integrated experience.

The non-embodied experiences of psychedelic interfaces are enclosed within the limits of a personal experienced reality, no matter how transcendentally they may be transferred. However, there are initiatives that try in a systematic way to transgress the limits of utopia in the artistic praxis concerned with space technology and outer space exploration. “The Arts Catalyst” is a London-based organization which promotes artistic activities in new contexts, where art can interact with outer space and technology applications. Founder and director of the organization Nicola Triscott also led the creation of the committee ITACCUS in 2008 (Technical Activities Committee for the Cultural Utilization of Space). The committee seeks to promote and facilitate innovative ideas for the utilization of space (data, systems, applications) by cultural institutions and the broader faculty of humanities. “Kosmica”, the recently supported project of the Committee, is being set up as a number of conferences and art-space programmes that seek to bring forth alternative and cultural ideas about space. The Kosmica conference in Paris which took place on March 11th 2012 focused on artists working with satellites.

The projects are inspiring, but still create merely poetical and critical work about our role in space. The difficulties in the connection of art and technology regarding space require an extensive mobilization of the various competent institutions which will welcome and support such initiatives. This collaboration is as far at an early stage and an adequate number of promoted artistic operations remain in poetic simulations, inspired by fiction and historical narratives of the past, but nevertheless with innovative references.

For the project “Moon Goose Analogue”, artist Agnes Meyer-Brandis nurtures and instructs 11 geese in an analogue lunar-simulation/exhibition station until the moment the geese will be ready to migrate, carrying her to the moon. The idea is based on the 17th century book “The Man in the Moone” of English bishop Francis Godwin. Godwin composed the fiction while referring to some of the groundbreaking scientific theories of his time as Galileo, Kepler and Copernicus. Agnes Meyer-Brandis recreates this intriguing story of the Christian clergyman which is paradoxical considered as the first literary work of science fiction, linking the scientific observations of her project with the reformation of the literary narrative into an artistic installation.

Agnes Meyer-Brandis “Mobile Moon Training, The Moon Goose Colony” 2011, VG-Bildkunst 2011/12, photographer: Tamara Lorenz

Although it is easy to be criticized as a utopian stalemate, artistic expressions of that kind offer an alternative narrative to the contemporary collective imaginary against the present relentless technocracy, pointing at the space’s broad conversion by economic mechanisms that ignore the social pleasures and benefits of an alternative development.

The new production of sci-fi artworks brings a reconsideration of outer space, a creative effort in order to recall the social interest which has been lost after the Cold War among the U.S. and the Soviet space missions. With a reversed action, this time with art reaching to technology and science, a welcoming ground is opened up to transform the uncanniness of outer space into a refuge of creative possibilities for people.

In this respect, the three-day conference entitled: “Envisioning Limits – Outer Space and the End of Utopia”, an initiative of the Free University of Berlin in April 2012, does not announce a regressive turn, but rather a coherent scientific and cultural alliance that is gaining supporters for the promotion of space art and participation, balancing between the possible impractical and the practical impossible…

Photo of the Exhibition “Republic of the Moon” (FACT-London, European Touring Exhibition, 2012) photographer: Brian Slater

Links:
http://www.samburford.com
http://www.luftwerk.net
http://www.sodeoka.com
http://www.artscatalyst.org/about/article/moon_goose_colony_-_the_film
http://www.artscatalyst.org/experiencelearning/detail/kosmica_paris
http://www.pollinaria.org
http://www.fact.co.uk/projects/republic-of-the-moon/
http://www.geschkult.fu-berlin.de/en/e/astrofuturismus
http://www.ffur.de
http://blogs.esa.int/artscience/