Session 4: Interviews, Why and Paper Prototyping again

Jayson is going to interview Susan Stepney in Cambridge on Monday 23rd January. He’s interested in her work on Heterotic computing, the idea of combining several different models of computing into a whole.

On her page on Science Fiction she had the following quote:

I never fully understood [the label of ‘escapist’] till my friend Professor Tolkien asked me the very simple question, ‘What class of men would you expect to be most preoccupied with, and most hostile to, the idea of escape?’ and gave the obvious answer: jailers.

C. S. Lewis, “On Science Fiction”

Susan gave a talk at Goldsmiths, but I’ve been unable to find it, here are two other talks that she gave recently:

I referenced Joscha Bach‘s talk at the recent 33c3 conference in Berlin, especially when he spoke about Conway’s Game of Life (at around 13m35s):

His various talks over the past few years can be found here.

We discussed the idea of really specialising, really focusing in, I suggested looking at the Win Without Pitching manifesto. I asked Jayson what he was aiming for, he discussed thinking about a collaboration with Susan, trying to show a series of different methods of computing, all linking together, but leaning towards writing. I said that it had to be something – what about a series of Cellular Automata, but each using a different method of computation? Mostly important was the why. Why was he taking this path? What autobiographical reason was there? What is the story around this work? How are people going to be introduced to it?

I asked Diane and Julianne why they were doing art in the first place? Diane spoke about wanting to share the feeling of discovery that she had at various moments. Julianne said that she wanted to tell stories.

I referenced Pollock’s quote on Clyfford Still:

“Clyfford Still makes the rest of us look academic.”

I discussed the overload that I felt at the recent Abstract Impressionism show at the Royal Academy, but also the relief of going into the Still room.

We then went on to discuss different methods of showing work – I referenced Helen Marten’s assemblages, and her work with other craftspeople to manufacture objects to her specification.

Dianne has been trying to get in contact with Martin Howse, who is interested in the materiality of computing – i.e. the materials that make computers. Dianne referenced the Earth Boot project:

Where Richard builds a probe that allows a computer to attempt to boot from the earth itself:

Earth as operating system(OS).
earthboot boots from the earth.
earthboot returns vampiric technology to the earth.
earthboot enables almost any computer to boot straight from the earth, sidestepping dirty mining actions, and the expensive refining and doping of raw minerals; thus avoiding environmentally wasteful
production techniques for the construction of data bearing devices
such as hard drives or USB memory sticks
Instead, earthboot boots straight from the earth itself, exploring the
being-substrate of contemporary digital technology; the material basis of 21st century computation.

Diane talked about being interested in this unique approach to computation. I again asked why, and referenced the Why Bird Stop from Playdays:

I encouraged everyone to be Why Birds.

Dianne talked about her recent research into bacteria – inspired by Richard’s use of “mucky” scientific processes, outside of the lab. She spoke about her mother’s career as a microbiologist and that she herself had even appeared in text books after her mother conducting tests on her. Jayson referenced Henrietta Lacks‘ immortal cells and I suggested looking at “The Cabaret of Plants” by Richard Mabey that concludes with a chapter on plant networks in the Wood Wide Web.

We then looked at Break Down by Michael Landy, and discussed the story of him stacking individual sheets of toilet paper while he was at Goldsmiths – told in the documentary “The Last Art Film” by Jake Auerbach.

I remembered a quote from his tutor Michael Craig-Martin that, uniquely, he could remember every single one of Michael’s projects whilst he was at college.

I suggested that Dianne needed to zero in on something and focus upon it. Dianne responded by talking about her interested in Homeostasis as a process and being interested in making a virtual gut, as well as the beauty of Phages, which brought up a trio of references from previous work by other artists, Artist’s Shit by Piero Manzoni Cloaca by Wim Delvoye and Still Life by Sam Taylor-Johnson.

Julianne had had a response from Seth Wulsin about an interview, so she’s going to email him asking about why he makes his work as well as enquiring about the transformation from a conceptual idea to something tangible. She felt that transformation is where she struggles most in her process. Recently Julianne has been looking at the subject of Love in technology, and the effect of technology on how people meet, relate and break up. She’s been asking her friends for access to their Tinder records – all their words and exchanges. Many participants talked about their embarrassment at handing over the information. Julianne is looking at how she could use the Microsoft Kinect to as an interface to the anonymised data that she has curated.

I referenced two Instagram users: TinderNightmares and TextsFromYourEx.

In terms of how to think about the presentation of the data set, I referenced two projects, We Feel Fine by Sep Kamvar and Jonathan Harris as well asListening Post by Ben Rubin and Mark Hansen.

We found a great article about the project 10 years on, as well as discussion the idea of movements for the data and how to bring the human aspect back into the work. That sparked a reference to Tender by  Marcello Gomez Maureira:

Jayson referenced Cuddlr, which led to a discussion of ELIZA bots as well as more recent developments. Finally, we discussed Deepmind’s recent advances in voice synthesis.

I set the following two pieces of homework, both due to be presented at Session 5:

  • Exhibit your interview – the journey of your conversation, even if you fail, preferably 30 minutes video or interview
  • Build a paper prototype of your installation – even if it’s just a straw man

Session 3: Parallel Worlds Conference, Golden Eggs and Interviews in 2017

Session 3 was conducted during the lunch break of the Parallel Worlds conference at the Victoria and Albert Museum. The schedule of the day was as follows:

11:00 – 12:35 Session 1 – Brave New Worlds
Simon Parkin (Author and Journalist)
Kareem Ettouney (Media Molecule)
Pol Clarissou and Héloïse Lozano (Klondike)

12:35 – 13:30 Lunch

13:30 – 14:40 Session 2 – Playing With History
Holly Nielsen – Session Chair
Simon Mann (Creative Assembly)
Meg Jayanth (Writer and Game Maker)

14:40 – 15:50 Session 3 – The Realities of Virtual Reality
Kristian Volsing – Session Chair
Laura Dilloway (Guerrilla Games)
Auriea Harvey and Michaël Samyn (Tale of Tales)

15:50 Break

16:15 – 17:30 Session 4 – Augmenting Reality
Marie Foulston – Session Chair
Holly Gramazio (Matheson Marcault)
Keiichi Matsuda (Critical Design)

While all the presentations and discussions were interesting, I personally found Pol Clarissou and Héloïse Lozano (Klondike) and Auriea Harvey and Michaël Samyn (Tale of Tales) work and discussions most interesting. Klondike had an interesting collective approach to their work – allowing individuals to make contributions with no centralised control. The demonstration of Fishbones (about the last moments of the players life while drowning) was both harrowing and beautiful. Tale of Tales were inspirational for their ambition, determination and level of research. I can’t wait to experience Cathedral in the Clouds in person.

Over lunch I had a chance to catch up with Jayson, Julianne and Diane. While no one completed their paper prototyping task, it seemed that everyone had made progress on locating their Golden Eggs as well as their Heroes or Heroines to interview over the holiday break.

Diane delivered her homework from session 1, concentrating on the bill of materials of mobile phones – mainly thinking about what kind of objects could be made from the various different elements that make up a mobile phone, selecting based on arts and crafts that are associated with the country of origin. For example, a Nkondi idol from Congo, but made from Cobalt, a material used in batteries:

Sculpture by unknown artist(s) Public Domain, Link
Sculpture by unknown artist(s) Public Domain, Link

She identified the following three possible heroes:

  1. Ralf Baeker (also one of Jayson’s)
  2. Martin Howse
  3. Jus­si Parik­ka

Luckily she ended up choosing New Ma­te­ri­al­ism and Non-Hu­man­isa­tion, an In­ter­view with Jus­si Parik­ka by Michael Di­eter as her golden egg – i.e. an element from their journey down the rabbit hole of their research that they would like to surface and share with their audience. She stated the following uses of her egg:

It is more of an interview than a paper that has a lot of in depth information which has been extremely useful in guiding further research covering the following key themes:

New Materialism
German Media Theory
The nonhuman
“Dirty Matter”

Jayson sent me the following egg, which he also posted on his blog:

Many-body correlations

At the moment there is a gap between quantum physics which can explain the very small and relativity and classical physics which describe things at a larger scale. The many-body proposition is that the larger effects of physics such as the force of magnetism emerges from the quantum behaviour of particles. We cannot observe quantum behaviour such as entanglement at real world scales but many observable effects such as magnetism are caused by the overall entanglement of particles. One real example of this is that birds use the quantum entanglement of electrons in their eyes so that they can navigate over huge distances during migrations.

Julianne selected a paper by Hans Bjelkhagen and Jill Cook: “Colour holography of the oldest known work of art from Wales“:

The human contact with this is holography’s unique ability to be used in a gallery setting for a purpose other than art. I felt this piece was more relevant because holography can be used in a variety of ways but I thought it was interesting to use it as a way of replicating a piece of art. It’s a bit meta in a way. I thought this contrasted well with its use in art. I feel someone would care because it shows that holography can be a tool as well as art. Almost simultaneously, if we chose to see it that way. I care because it opened my eyes to the many uses to holography and its many uses in a gallery.

I set the following two pieces of homework, both due to be presented at Session 4:

  • Have a good break
  • Try to interview your chosen hero
  • Exhibit your interview – the journey of your conversation, even if you fail, preferably 30 minutes video or interview


Session 2: How to go deeper, A billion dollar budget and hero selection with Jayson and Julianne

We started by reviewing John Cleese on creativity:

Then went through the homework from the last tutorial:

  1. Describe how to go deeper in your chosen area of practise. Beyond the surface. How can you make new human contact in your area?
  2. Make a paper-based mockup of your project if you had $1 Billion in funding.
  3. A person who is alive now who could be your hero/heroine within your chosen area of practise.

Jayson started by describing some of the discussions he’d had with the other associate lecturer on the MFA course, Helen Pritchard, around computing research in the UK:

I referenced Stephen Wolfram and his work on cellular automata, especially in relation to Andy Adamatzky’s work – but also his determination to publish A New Kind of Science himself – using the proceeds from Mathematica to allow him to do that to his specifications.

I also referenced Einstein’s quote, after discussing Rule 30:

It can scarcely be denied that the supreme goal of all theory is to make the irreducible basic elements as simple and as few as possible without having to surrender the adequate representation of a single datum of experience.

Or another way:

Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler.

We discussed the idea of taking a simple thing and then (to paraphrase Ruairi Glynn):

Repeat until beautiful

Which we agreed was unsatisfactory. Finally we discussed the magical Wyvern Bindery as an example of a business using a craft that gets deeper the further you go.

Jayson stated that he thought Deep Learning was interesting, as well as light based computing (on a macro rather than photonic scale). I challenged him to use light based computing to explain Deep Learning techniques visually and interactively. I repeated the challenge was to take a complex idea and make engaging without making it banal – to go down the rabbit hole and bring up a golden egg – i.e. not to stay in the hole!

Julianne stated her area of interest was Holography, and particularly its history. We discussed how commonly Pepper’s Ghost was inaccurately described as a hologram.

She went on to reference two artists:

Even though they weren’t strictly holograms, Julianne spoke about a feeling:

…like a strange intelligence…

When she observed either artists work. I spoke about the potential of computational art is to make feedback loops rather than the observer pattern of other practises. Computational art can be different politically to the capitalist tendency to subsume and devour any new forms of expression and incorporate them into its money making, novelty seeking regime. That resistance is possible via computational work.

I referenced Mark Rothko’s taking back of his commission for the Four Seasons hotel and gifting the some of the work to the Tate Modern in the UK – but specifying the light level for the work’s exhibition. I referenced the light levels to encourage Jayson and Julianne to think about the light levels and level of explanation that they provide for their exhibition at the end of the MFA course – sometimes a dark space can be a feature rather than a bug, but how do they deal with it in the most effective way?

Jayson said that if he had a billion dollar budget for his work, he’d make an orbiting system of lasers – I responded with a why? What function would this make, artistic or otherwise. I referenced using lasers as air pollution meters (or making cheaper alternatives) and also the Greenwich Meridian laser installation.


Julianne spoke about making an improved heart rate monitor, and scaling it’s use to more than 100,000 people. I suggested using a mesh network to make that possible, as more conventional networking would quickly be overcome by that many people in proximity. Julianne also discussed making some large scale suspended Pepper’s Ghost illusions – we reviewed Madonna’s performance from 2006 and noted the smart placement of an artificial crowd of actors to obscure the lower part of the screen and ensure that the real audience didn’t get too close.


I then went on to reference non-contact methods of measuring pulse, especially the work at MIT:

Including sound recovery:

Julianne and Jayson both selected people to be their hero/heroine within your chosen area of practise:


We continued by reviewing Durrell Bishop’s design for an answering machine from the previous session, and concluded by watching Every Frame a Painting‘s documentaries on Chuck Jones and Jackie Chan:

I concluded by issuing the following tasks:

  • Find an egg and present it at lunchtime.
  • What is the human contact with the egg, what’s the use of it?
  • Why would someone care? Why do you care as author?

In the new year:

  • Interview your hero!

Session 1: Meeting Diane, Jayson and Jules, references we discussed and things to work on

Last week I did my first session as part of my new lectureship at Goldsmiths as part of the MFA Computational Arts course. After enrolling at the university with the help of Dr. Rose Hepworth, I sat down with my students: Diane Edwards, Jayson Haebich and Julianne Rahimi to discuss their work and plans for the rest of this year, working towards their final show.

After we introduced ourselves, we started by discussing their individual projects for the recent group show, Metasis:

We began by watching and discussing the following references:


Agnes Martin: “To progress in life you must give up the things you do not like. Give up doing the things that you do not like to do. You must find the things that you do like. The things that are acceptable to your mind.”

That two of the most interesting things about computers were their ability to use (pseudo)randomness and their realtime interaction capability.

Two books by Lawrence Weschler:

CS183, the startup course taught by the (in)famous Peter Thiel at Stanford.

Loren Carpenter‘s interaction experiment at SIGGRAPH ‘91 and the work of Adam Curtis.

The Californian Ideology by Richard Barbrook and Andy Cameron from August 1995.

Things to be worked on:

  1. Describe how to go deeper in your chosen area of practise. Beyond the surface. How can you make new human contact in your area?
  2. Make a paper-based mockup of your project if you had $1 Billion in funding.
  3. A person who is alive now who could be your hero/heroine within your chosen area of practise.

Finally, I showed the following image for what my reaction to their graduating shows should be:

Neil Armstrong immediately post moonwalk.
Neil Armstrong immediately post moonwalk.