Session 13: Final discussions before show

In my final tutorial with Julianne we made a new layout for her p5.js visualisation as well as re-organising the code so that different messages could be displayed in different colours. She agreed to redo the voice synthesis code after she’d completed her dissertation. She ordered the Apple Trackpad that we selected together at our last session.

In my final remote tutorial with Diane we discussed her other teaching as well as future curating work. We talked about how she could make a slow panning film of a bitter melon that she found:

As she says on her blog:

Images taken of bitter melon, which for me gives the visual effect of bodily internal landscapes, such as the gut. I will do a slow panning video of this weird fruit, with added agar, gel etc…

I will then do some post production, altering colours etc, and then hope to created a generated mesh work which would appear as a layer on top of the vide. This mesh would connect brightest pixels, or certain pixel values that give the best effect. I found an example of this in ofBook, However they are dealing with a static image.

We decided on three objects for her show piece:

  1. A slow panning film of the above fruit
  2. Agar bags of microbiome bacterial content
  3. A poster of her process and thoughts – possible in digital form

 

In my final remote tutorial with Jayson we discussed the editing of the video he has created to detail the Crystal Punk mythology he has written, intercutting news content with various crystal growth macro photography.

Session 12: Posters, Ikea and a Trackpad

Jules, Diane and Jayson were all in attendance.

On Wednesday 19th July people started picking spaces for the group show.

We started with Diane’s homework from her previous session:

  1. Think about the narrative of the show – what does she need to make?
  2. Send the poster for the show she is curating
  3. What objects or scenarios are you going to explore in the show? Inpill/outpoo? Could people encode information in DNA as a secure backup? What happens when people die with this information inside them? What happens when they kiss or have sex? Could these be future secure methods of data exchange?
  4. Continue working on dissertation
  5. Create diagrams for explanations using p5.js.

She’s been working to a final draft of her dissertation this coming Sunday.

I N N E R  O T H E R is the title of the show that’s she’s been working on  as a curator. The image is a macro shot of an Indian squash:

The above image for the show is the style that she wants to follow for her final show at Goldsmiths. She’s interested in making it using p5.js – and using screens in a portrait format. I commented that this changes them into portals. She’s thinking about what colours she’s going to use and getting to an Alien look. I said it was fine to use animated gifs in her p5.js code – being pragmatic with her programming is fine. We talked about how the special effects team on Stargate ended up using a side shot of a stirred bucked of water:

We then discussed the narrative of her show – what new things does she have to make?

Think about the narrative of the show – what does she need to make? Diane referenced the capacitive sensing technology she used in her previous Cross Talk project. She discussed using capacitance to sense a touch and using that touch to create a generative visual – distorting the screen – even using a VGA cable to display the image generated when you play a sound through it. – Making a reference to the idea of collaboration between human and bacteria being perceived as similarly “wrong”.

I suggested using a triptych of three 16:9 forms – lots of art history around the triptych – the human, the bacterial, the blend or thesis, antithesis and synthesis.  Is the synthesis the visualisation of sound? The simulation aspects of the research she’s doing are referred to as “in silico” instead of “in vitro”. She’s considering casting silicon for the final show.

We then moved onto a discussion of what scenarios she wants to explore in the final show. She hasn’t factored in the previously discussed DNA encoding into her dissertation. She referenced the recent story about Madonna blocking the sale of her hairbrush because of concerns about her DNA being extracted. I suggested a show structure of:

  1. Autobiographical
  2. Dissertation
  3. Example objects or scenarios

She’s been looking at plinths to display things on, I said think about three minutes of time at each station, a three minute loop at each.

I said less kebab, more autopsy!

We discussed the display of three objects:

  1. Her science poster
  2. A live bacterial object
  3. Still macro images from the Indian squash she discovered

I referenced the IDEO business card project from 2001 – a deep dive into thinking about person identity in the future that resulted in a series of speculative designs in the form of business cards. I also suggested that she think about narrating some or all of the show.

I set the following homework:

  1. Full narrative for show
  2. First pass on content for each of the three
  3. Kit list of what things are going to be
  4. Think about the handout
  5. Think about sound/narration

Next was Jayson’s homework from the previous session:

  1. Get one Ikea object and attempt assembly
  2. Keep going on final kit list – especially around screens and printed output
  3. Experiment with splash screens and proxy injection on crystal wifi
  4. Continue working on timeline and map content
  5. Consider audio – what does crystallisation sound like?
  6. Think about selfies – how do you put visitors in a crystal world? How do they become Crystal Punks?

He got all the Ikea objects! Two Vittsjö’s and two Vittsjö desk parks too. He’s assembled them without the letter draw in each case. The tables are pretty long and narrow – he’s been experimenting with vinyl cutting to make text too. Ikea have stopped making them so he’s had to shop around.

In terms of the final kit list, he’s decided to use his own screens to fit into the book cases – it’s easier than using college stock, which is limited as it has to be shared between all students. The list is currently as follows:

  • Two bookcases
  • Two tables
  • Crystal Memory stick
  • Crystal Cable
  • Crystal Bluetooth earpiece
  • Crystal Hard drive
  • Crystal CD
  • Crystal Router (with faked his own wifi unit instead as he doesn’t have password for the original hardware)

He’s given up on captive portal on the Crystal Wifi (proper name for splash screen) which are generally built into routers. Instead hee’s made a little Processing server to serve up pages, he thinks it should work. I suggested that he’ll have to make a DNS server to do it properly. I also suggested  a plan b of a browser set up that crystallises content, we found the following links together:

He’s continued working a crystalisation timeline and map – he demonstrated a crystal map in Processing. He’s currently working on an animation or slideshow using the narrative we discussed previously.

I suggested the idea of using a series of fake news broadcasts, referencing the above title sequence for Romeo and Juliet from 1996. I also referenced two recent shorts from Neil Blokamp’s Oats Studios:

He decided not to add sound to the experience or selfies – he thinks the space is going to be dense enough already. We finished by discussing possible things for the audience to take away – we decided that crystals were too poisonous, but business cards from the future might be interesting.

I set the following homework:

  1. Full narrative for show
  2. Full kit list
  3. Think about a takeaway/handout

We finished by going through Jules’ homework:

  1. Continue working on speech interaction.
  2. Firm up projector and tablet models.
  3. Work on getting swipe interaction working via OSC using HammerJS and p5js-osc.
  4. Finalise kit list.

We started by looking at the swipe interaction and re-factored her code. I suggested using the Magic Trackpad from Apple instead of messing around with a separate Android tablet and having to connect that to another device.

I set the following homework:

  1. Try Apple trackpad
  2. Complete kitlist
  3. Try splitting into four quadrants
  4. Try different colours
  5. Reorganise the content
  6. Have the text read it out when you swipe

Session 11: Crystal Wifi, John Dee and Vittsjö

Previous to the session in Goldsmiths I checked in with Jules via Skype as she’s currently out of the country. She’s currently pushing on her dissertation before moving onto Hammer.js and OSC integration. I emphasised that it’s critical to get all technical connectivity issues out of the way as soon as possible. We found the following links which she’s agreed to take a look at before our next session in two weeks.

https://github.com/colinbdclark/osc.js/
https://www.jroehm.com/2015/10/a-simple-guide-to-use-osc-in-the-browser/
https://github.com/genekogan/p5js-osc

Unfortunately, Diane was unable to attend, so Jayson and I got down to discussing his homework from the previous session:

  1. Re-approach Theo about computational relevancy
  2. Continue with crystal growing around the computer case
  3. Get kit list worked out for show and consider the layout
  4. Ask the technician team about the availability of vitrines and plinths to display objects within
  5. Do some investigations about how light is cast through his crystals
  6. Continue to work on text based Game of Life simulation and how it can be incorporated into his show
  7. Look at museum displays for ideas on how to label his project and individual pieces

Jayson emailed Theo about the computational relevancy of his work – he got confirmation that he’s taking a good approach overall – he’s planning on having at least one screen at the exhibition display the experimentation he’s been doing around Game of Life style simulations. He’s very interested in the idea of petrified or crystallised data.

Jayson is planning on crystallising a Wifi router for the show, and we had a discussion about how he could have a customised splash screen that would display when people connect to it. I referenced the Star Wars ASCII Telnet project, but we realised that it would be technically too challenging to expect people to Telnet in a gallery context. We went on to discuss the possibility of doing a JS injection on every web page browsed through the Crystal Wifi, a legal man in the middle attack. It looks like Jayson will have to set up a proxy server, running locally.

The attempt to grow a crystals around a large computer case was a failure – he’d need a far larger container to grow in – with gallons of boiling liquid safely contained. He did have an interesting failure with an attempted crystallisation of an old mobile phone:

Jayson visited the Science Museum archive to view John Dee’s crystal amulet – something that took months of arrangement. He’s going to return next week in order to view some accompanying documents. He feels he could do a whole project on John Dee alone!

Quoting from the British Museum website:

John Dee (1527-1609) was an English mathematician and astrologer interested in divination using crystals and mirrors. This purple crystal was used for curing disease and predicting the future by looking for symbols or the ‘ghosts’ of people in the stone. Dee claimed that this crystal was given to him by the angel Uriel in November 1582, and that Uriel had instructed Dee and his assistant Edward Kelley (1555-1597/8) on how to make the Philosopher’s Stone – one of the goals of alchemy. The crystal was entrusted to Dee’s son, Arthur (1597-1651) who passed it on to Nicholas Culpeper (1616-1654) as a reward for curing his liver complaints. Culpeper was a physician and alchemist who used the crystal to try and cure illness, until 1651, when he believed a demonic ghost burst out from it.

Jayson has viewed the available display equipment (vitrines and plinths) from the Goldsmiths stores and has decided to attempt to customise a series of Vittsjö stands to make his own custom display for the graduating show. He did consider aluminium extrusions and 3D printed connections, but decided that he liked the look of the Ikea designs, especially with their glass inserts.

Reference for the installation look Jayson is aiming for.

In terms of content, he’s planning on displaying the following things:

  1. Four crystal objects: ethernet cable, bluetooth headset, router and hard drive.
  2. A map of the world with timeline of crystallisation narrative – he’s currently working out if these should be printed or displayed on a screen for maximum edit-ability up to show time.
  3. The game of life crystallisation visualisation
  4. I suggested a crystal mirror or display of his crystal mask in some way – something selfie-able. I referenced the seaside mask cut out displays that are endemic to English resorts. He is going to research something realtime, possibly using machine learning. I said that something full length – even only analogue would be great.
A previous installation of Jayson’s work.

He’s been trying different coloured lighting through his crystals – it turns out that white light is the only one that works – a specific colour tends to produce poor results. We discussed the possibility of making a crystallised disco ball – something that could effect the whole space. I set the following homework:

  1. Get one Ikea object and attempt assembly
  2. Keep going on final kit list – especially around screens and printed output
  3. Experiment with splash screens and proxy injection on crystal wifi
  4. Continue working on timeline and map content
  5. Consider audio – what does crystallisation sound like?
  6. Think about selfies – how do you put visitors in a crystal world? How do they become Crystal Punks?

Session 10: More Crystal Growing, Digestion as Computation and Speech Synthesis

We began the tutorial with Jayson’s homework from the last session:

  1. Continue to experiment with Experiment with LEDs in the crystal growth structures and computer case – wax protection? Clingfilm?
  2. Send dissertation proposal and bibliography
  3. Send over the narrative of the space
  4. Speak to Theo about your concerns about computation relevancy

Since the last tutorial, Jayson sent the following images of his experiments:

He’s been experimenting with different chemicals: copper sulphate, magnesium sulphate and aluminium sulphate. Magnesium sulphate aka epsom salt tends to grow in a fairly “clumpy” fashion, see his mask experiment from the previous tutorial. Copper sulphate is is preferred choice. He feels like he’s got to a good level of knowledge now of what works and doesn’t. Both vaseline and cling film didn’t work as a method of keeping the crystals away from certain area of his sculptural objects, as the crystal solution needs to be hot initially.

Dianne suggested trying to use latex after Jayson’s further experiments with taping failed. He has a variety of scalpels that he’s been working with, but it’s a very delicate operation. Another problem he has encountered is that most of his objects float – he’s been having to use a combination of plastic forks and tape to hold things in the baths of solution that he has been preparing.

Jayson has purchased a container of de-ionised water to prepare his solutions with – the first he ordered sprang a leak in the post unfortunately. Tap water has lots of calcium in it which ruins the growth of other crystals. His next growing attempt will be using the PC case that he showed in the previous session. He’s going to document the process thoroughly.

Jayson spoke to Theo in general about his work, but I suggested that he needs to be specific about his final project and his concerns about computational relevancy.

In between sessions I found the upcoming event featuring Yesenia Thibualt-Picazo’s work on Craft in the Anthropocene. Jayson responded by stating that he isn’t so concerned about materiality – he’s keen for the crystals to appear mysterious and alien. He wants the exhibition to make people feel like they witnessing an intelligence of some kind emerge – that super saturation of information gives birth to crystals, in the same way that super saturation of chemicals does.

Jayson sent me his draft essay on Crystal Media Archeology, which has the following opening paragraph:

This essay discusses the process of crystal growth in relation to the development of computers, technology and network culture and how the process of crystallisation is inherent across all kinds of complex systems. Using a hybrid approach of looking at these developments through the methodologies of Variantology (Zielinski, 2006) and Media Archaeology (Parikka 2010), I will discuss a different way of looking at the history and evolution of computers and computational systems. I propose that computers and computational systems are a type of crystallisation that has continued throughout history, this global crystallisation process started with the coalescing of atoms and particles to create complex forms of matter in deep time has continued throughout the history of the universe and is apparent now in the rapid growth and increased density of technology and data.

He also sent me his notes on his Crystal Punk mythology:

In the early part of the 21st century the endless digitisation and quantification of information led to a supersaturation of data. At this point in history there was around 44 zettabytes of data which was stored on enormous data centres and cloud computing servers that stretched all over the world. In the same way that the supersaturation of matter in a liquid causes the crystallisation of that matter the huge amount of density of information caused the crystallisation of data into physical forms. What began in a cloud server farm in china and spread throughout the infrastructure of the cloud and all its connected technology, in the same way a computer virus spreads throughout the internet this crystallisation spread throughout the internet and crystals emerged on cloud servers, hard drives, personal computers, laptops and even memory sticks throughout the world.

Both are shaping up well. He’s going to go on a trip to China soon and was keen to gather more photographic content there – his narrative is that Chinese server farms is where these new crystal first emerge.

We moved on to discuss what he is planning to exhibit in his show:

  1. A screen playing a video of an explanation of his crystal punk mythology – i.e. crystals have emerged, why?
  2. A series of artefacts with crystals growing from them – a phone, a computer and USB memory sticks. I asked how they would be presented? Jayson said that he was going to research vitrines to protect the delicate crystal forms.
  3. A display of crystalmancy tools – drawing on the Hopi practise of using crystals to see the future. He demonstrated a text based game of life simulation, I suggested that this might be a good way of showing how people start to incorporate these crystals into their every day life and customs.

I set the following homework:

  1. Re-approach Theo about computational relevancy
  2. Continue with crystal growing around the computer case
  3. Get kit list worked out for show and consider the layout
  4. Ask the technician team about the availability of vitrines and plinths to display objects within
  5. Do some investigations about how light is cast through his crystals
  6. Continue to work on text based Game of Life simulation and how it can be incorporated into his show
  7. Look at museum displays for ideas on how to label his project and individual pieces

We then moved on to Dianne’s work, beginning with her homework from the previous previous tutorial:

  1. Continue to work on dissertation with Helen Pritchard
  2. Research Markov Chain’s specifically for use within her exhibition
  3. Send me her proposal for her dissertation and the bibliography for it

Since the last but one tutorial, Dianne sent me her dissertation proposal, which has the following title:

HUMANn2: Making Kin with the Aliens Inside

or

Disembodied Data: Decoding our Inner Ecologies

with the following description:

Using the human micro-biome as a lens I aim to question our understanding, coding and decoding of the complexity of life be it computational or biological, questioning what are the definitions of life that would apply to the human or a digital entity. Investigating the ever-expanding organic digital interface, referencing DNA data storage, slime mold logic circuits, synthetic biology, etc.

Dianne related her research on Hidden Markov Model‘s (HMM’s) – that they are used within bioinformatics to attempt to extract gene and pathway information from huge amounts of short DNA/RNA chains, which is what is produced from an attempt to sequence a metagenome (genetic material recovered from environmental samples). Researchers are attempting to make in-silico DNA to make a model of how the human gut works based on this research. All of her research on this research is going into her dissertation. Her proposition for the show is to re-imagine contemporary science practise (specifically molecular biology) around the micro-biome.

We discussed that aliens from another world might see humans as mere carriers or husks for our gut biome. Dianne referenced the ENCODE (Encyclopaedia of DNA Elements) project, and pointed out that they are using computational systems to understand life, which means that our explanations for life will be computationally based. Just like computers, genes have loops within loops, subroutines all within a bigger operating system (the body). Life is computation and computation is life. This brought up a discussion about her previous research into slime computing and the like.

We then moved onto a discussion of what her show would comprise of:

  1. A biographical introduction – starting with her mothers work as a microbiologist.
  2. A biological introduction to the gut biome
  3. Explanation of computational techniques for understanding the biome
  4. Explanation around computational aspects of DNA
  5. Exploration of the future of computation – that it will be biological. Could this comprise of artefacts? Might people eat something to compute it in the future and then poo out the results? Dianne has an idea about using silicon tubes to make a sculpture, but also echo’ing the look and feel of scientific conference posters – she’s recently made one for an art show she’s curating. I referenced the bone gun from Existenz:

I set the following homework:

  1. Think about the narrative of the show – what does she need to make?
  2. Send the poster for the show she is curating
  3. What objects or scenarios are you going to explore in the show? Inpill/outpoo? Could people encode information in DNA as a secure backup? What happens when people die with this information inside them? What happens when they kiss or have sex? Could these be future secure methods of data exchange?
  4. Continue working on dissertation
  5. Create diagrams for explanations using p5.js.

We then went onto Jules’ homework:

  1. Get going in speech
  2. Send me dissertation proposal and bibliography, as well as project proposal
  3. Get going in matter.js (less important)
  4. Keep chasing the technical team for projector resolution and borrow Android tablet
  5. Work on getting swipe interaction working via OSC using HammerJS and p5js-osc.
  6. Make a kit list for the exhibition

Previous to the tutorial, Jules and I spent some time refactoring her code to allow her to track down why her speech synthesis work with p5.speech wasn’t functioning. The refactor was successful, and by the end of the tutorial proper we had her software reading out parts of the conversations between people that she’s collected up to now.

We then discussed her dissertation proposal, entitled:

The Age of Technological Love

She’s going to start writing the dissertation in earnest immediately. We decided that working with matter.js wasn’t necessary for this project and so re-prioritised work on getting swipe interaction working with the Android tablet she’s been given by the technician team. She’s going to get tablet after this tutorial and begin working with it. She’s also made progress on the projector selection, but hasn’t finalised it yet. We went through a possible kit list for her exhibition:

  • Projector
  • Plinth for tablet
  • Mount for tablet
  • Computer for projection
  • Speakers
  • Signal interconnect for all devices
  • Power for all devices

I reminded her not to forget any necessary adaptors – especially for projector/computer connection.

I set the following homework:

  1. Continue working on speech interaction.
  2. Firm up projector and tablet models.
  3. Work on getting swipe interaction working via OSC using HammerJS and p5js-osc.
  4. Finalise kit list.

Session 9: More Markov Chains, Speech Synthesis and Crystal Punk

Unfortunately, Diane was unable to make the session, but she did send updates on what she’s been working on recently. She’s been concentrating on writing her dissertation but also finding out more information about Markov Chains. She’s also been looking into Rebecca Febrink‘s Wekinator project. She’s hoping to use some of the data sets from the Human Microbiome project and using those to train Wekinator to turn out endless streams of Biome sequences – so that then never repeat. She’s going to explore possible outputs and bring them to the next tutorial.

Jayson, Jules and I had a discussion about how planning for the end of year show is going. Jayson went to a show discussion meeting with Atau Tanaka. This year they have both ground first floors of the exhibition space, but positioning within the spaces will be decided at the next meeting. Jules is keen to have a large dark space to show her projection. Jayson described how last year everyone drew onto a large floor plan diagram of the space, and then revisions were made. I suggested that it would be great if they could all be close to each other – that this would be better than all having disparate separate rooms.

As Jules was absent from the last tutorial, we started with her homework from the previous tutorial:

  1. Gather more content, dependent on Tumblr responses.
  2. Make a prototype with:
    1. p5.js
    2. Data files in json for conversations
    3. Physics based chains of conversations, similar to this Matter.js example.
    4. Voice synthesis with p5.js-speech.
    5. iPad swipes via osc using HammerJS and p5js-osc.
  3. Keep chasing the technical team for projector resolution
  4. Set up your own GitHub.

She’s still trying to get more content from other people, but is happy with working with her own content for now. We went through the setup of Git, Github source hosting and Github webpage hosting via Github pages. I pointed her in the direction of various tutorials on Github setup and Git in general. She’s successfully pushed to GitHub.

We took a look at saving her text content in external JSON files, but realised it was faster for her to save the data directly in the source code of her p5.js project for now.

Jules is still going through the setup of Matter.js and p5.js-speech. She’s been in Japan recently and noted that they have a very different form of online intimacy there – it feels faster there, whereas in the West people build slower. She found people using Tinder and Grindr depending on their preference, but the Pairs dating app was also popular.

In terms of her dissertation she’s been reading “Control and Freedom” by Wendy Chun again, which was her original inspiration for this project. She’s fascinated by the idea of aura from Walter Benjamin’s The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction. She stated that Tinder or other social dating networks diminish the aura of relationships – they aren’t your waking, walking life. The only way to get to aura is by sitting down with people in the real world and communicating with them.

Moving on to the coding of her project, I suggested prioritising speech synthesis first, then physics simulation and then finally interaction with a tablet computer to allow for the familiar swipe gesture to be used to navigate her curated dataset.

I suggested drawing out all the text to an image and then redrawing that every frame, rather than laboriously redrawing the entire ellipse of text on every frame. We went through the p5.js-speech library, which seemed straightforward, although she did follow up with me later stating that she’d been having some problems. We are going to have a separate coding only meeting before the next tutorial.

Finally we moved on to securing the Android tablet computer that she’s going to be leant for the exhibition. We found a suitable device to secure it. Finally we discussed how much explanation is going to be visible at the exhibition, something which still needs to be resolved. Is she going to be there to talk it through with visitors for the duration?

I set the following homework:

  1. Get going in speech
  2. Send me dissertation proposal and bibliography, as well as project proposal
  3. Get going in matter.js (less important)
  4. Keep chasing the technical team for projector resolution and borrow Android tablet
  5. Work on getting swipe interaction working via OSC using HammerJS and p5js-osc.
  6. Make a kit list for the exhibition

We then moved onto Jayson’s homework from the previous tutorial:

  1. Experiment with lasers, LEDs and other electronics in the crystal growth structures.
  2. Read the Curious Lore Of Precious Stones.
  3. Think more about the overall look of the exhibition.
  4. Send me his proposal for her dissertation and the bibliography for it

In between this tutorial and the previous one I had sent Jayson an article from the Washington Post on how human activity has caused a whole new layer of minerals to form around the world.

Jayson showed some of his experiments with trying to grow crystals around electronics components:

I suggested covering the contacts of the electronics with wax and then removing it using a hair dryer after the crystals have grown. He’s going to continue experimenting.

He ran out of copper sulphate, so he bought a 25 kg bag! It seems that it’s used in the sheep farming business. He’s also been thinking about covering an entire PC case in crystal, so has also bought one of those:

He’s also been experimenting with growing crystals on lasers, but has been having similar problems to those that occurred around LED’s. I suggested trying wrapping the components in clingfilm and then carefully removing afterwards if the previously suggested wax technique was ineffective.

We moved on to his thoughts on “The Curious Lore of Precious Stones“. Jayson has been steadily working his way through the 500 odd pages of fairly dense writings on crystal lore. He discovered an amazing image of what appears to be a magnetically powered spaceship:

As he was reading the book, the idea of “Crystal Punk” came to him – similar to Steam Punk, but mineral related. He imagined crystals growing out of technology and being utilised by people. He referenced Tiberium in the Command and Conquer series of games. I referenced the idea of the Cargo cult after an apocalypse or collapse – people not understanding how computers worked, but remembering the protocols around them.

I challenged Jayson on what his narrative was – is the idea that post collapse people are trying to cargo cult computers to make them work? Or do crystals become a commodity? Jayson stated that JG Ballard’s “The Crystal World” was his starting reference. The idea of post apocalyptic societies worshiping crystals.

I challenged Jayson on how the installation would love? Is he a Crystal Punk? Is he a future shaman? Is he going to make a performance? Is he going to look through crystals to see the future? Grow a crystal garden?

Jayson stated that he’s worried the project isn’t computational enough. That crystal lore is the thing that fascinates him. I suggested that the over saturation of computing resources could give rise to spontaneous crystal growth as an unexpected side effect. Or perhaps that a future AI grows crystals in order to create a physical form for itself – Conway’s Game of Life gone amok – cellular automata as a method for growing into the real world.

We then went online to search for other Crystal Punk references:

I suggested that he reach out to his course leader, Theo Papatheodorou to discuss the relevancy of his project.

We discussed what he would exhibit in his final show, and came up with the following elements (in no particular order):

  • A game of life simulation
  • Crystal punk artefacts
  • The narrative idea of computing waste getting to a critical point and an AI emerging at a certain point in time when cloud computing got to a certain density
  • A cargo cult of humans trying to understand what is going on? crystal lore?
  • Perhaps a space like an obsessive room of the man that realises that it’s going to happen – maps of all the data centres in the world and game of life of them spreading
  • A timeline of events

I referenced a cut scene from ET, where Elliot draws the circuit diagram of the customised Speak and Spell machine on the walls of the school nurse’s office:

Jayson talked about using a crystal to gaze into the future and seeing crystals everywhere. He found an amazing film from the 50’s that showed crystals growing everywhere: “The Monolith Monsters“:

I referenced Mark Lombardi’s work on networks of people and that he could use a similar visual style to show the progression of his work. Jayson admitted that he’s been dreaming of crystals! I suggested making a crystal mask to express that feeling. I also referenced Francis Bacon’s studio being relocated to Ireland from London after his death.

After the session, Jayson sent me an image of the beginning of his work on the crystal mask:

I set the following homework:

  1. Continue to experiment with Experiment with LEDs in the crystal growth structures and computer case – wax protection? Clingfilm?
  2. Send dissertation proposal and bibliography
  3. Send over the narrative of the space
  4. Speak to Theo about your concerns about computation relevancy

Session 8: Fleming, Markov Chains, Lore and 3D Printing

We started by going through Dianne’s homework:

  1. Keep thinking on question for dissertation
  2. What is the installation? Bioinformatics of the Biome?
  3. Speak to the Wellcome trust collection what do they have on the biome? What apparatus? Even just the glassware collection.
  4. Contact the Science Museum – about their work on the Biome.
  5. Meet with William Latham and Frederic Laymarie at Goldsmiths.
  6. Make contact with the Bioinformatics team at Imperial.

During the break, I’d sent Dianne the following image, taken from Rod Judkin‘s book, “The Art of Creative Thinking“:

Specifically, that Alexander Fleming‘s discovery of penicillin was the result of his desire to make paintings with bacteria.

I suggested that the the idea of scientific discovery enabled by artistic desire would be an interesting one for her dissertation. She said that she’d already been looking at the career of Joe Davis and I suggested she look at both Robert Rauchenberg‘s founding of Experiments in Art and Technology, as well as Robert Irwin‘s work with LACMA’s Art and Technology group. I also suggested she speak to the other Computational Art’s MFA tutor, Helen Pritchard, to see if she had more reference and thoughts around this area.

We then started discussing how the human biome is data related – how to “disembody” data, pun intended! Dianne referenced Donna Haraway’s work – specifically her idea of “making kin with the aliens inside”. We talked about how life has been understood through science, and how our understanding of life is seen through a scientific viewpoint, specifically referencing the Human Microbiome project. Dianne is interested in the computing around the project,
even the language used between bioscience and computing, the relation between life and computation and looking at it all from a materialist standpoint. The idea of a human being an assemblage of fractured stuff.

Dianne went on to reference Samantha Frost and her book Biocultural Creatures and the relation between matter and energy. Jayson suggested looking at the book Decoding Reality by Vlatko Vedral. I was particularly interested in the idea of Destruction ab Toto or Nothing from Something:

The information basis for creation ex nihilo. According to John von Neumann, starting trivially from an empty set of numbers an infinite sequence of numbers can bootstrap their way out. An empty set creates the number 1 by observing an empty set within itself which is enough of a basis for distinguishability. It creates the number 2 by observing an empty set within the second empty set and the number 1, and so on. Vedral sees this not as creation but as data compression, as every event of a reality breaks the symmetry of the pre-existing formlessness. Science is the process of describing a large amount of observed phenomena in a compressed programmatic way to predict future outcomes, and in this process of data compression science creates new information by eliminating all contrary possibilities to explain those phenomena.

Dianne had also been looking at DNA as a way of storing data, I said that it was important to situate her work within the body and with scientists.

Dianne stated that she wanted her installation to be about applying scientific methods to make art. For example, the Shotgun sequencing technique for DNA. I related this to cut up technique – but she stated that she’d been researching Markov Chains, which are widely used in many applications.

I suggested to focus on one method and concentrate on that, and where it could be applied. Dianne stated that she didn’t want to make a feitished set of scientific apparatus, more something relating to a data centric approach to bioinformatics and the digital/organic mix of that. I repeated that it was still important to relate this all to the body.

This meant that her previous research on glassware was no longer relevant, but she did reference the human genome books at the Wellcome Collection.

She hadn’t found anything more on the biome at the Science Museum, or had any further contact with William Latham.

Dianne attended a workshop with the artist Anna Dumitriu at Imperial and met a few scientists there. They were working on the medicine side of things, though she did make contact with a postdoc at Glasgow university who is interested in dialogue.

I set the following homework:

  1. Continue to work on dissertation with Helen Pritchard
  2. Research Markov Chain’s specifically for use within her exhibition
  3. Send me her proposal for her dissertation and the bibliography for it

We then moved on to Jayson’s homework from the previous session:

  1. Make a crystal radio.
  2. Research Germanium.
  3. Consider your new mythology – around undersea wrecks? Flooded dumps? Mining in the future?
  4. 3D print a support structure to grow crystals on.
  5. Meet a crystal healer / do an esoteric walking tour
  6. Think again about the analogue/digital mix of your installation. Situate your practise in your own life history and memories.

Unfortunately, he didn’t manage to get his crystal radio kit working, I suggested an alternative kit from Amazon.

It turned out that Germanium has many different uses. He couldn’t grow it in the way that he had for other chemicals, it is formed geologically and also used in dubious “Health Bracelets“. Quackery!

In the break he went on an esoteric walking tour of Covent Garden. Watkins was super new agey, but the Atlantis bookshop was much better. He visited the basement exhibition of tools, silver bullets and even a mermaid skeleton! The shopkeeper was dismissive of crystal healing, but suggested looking at astro archeology. He found two books of interest:

  1. A Little History of Astro-Archaeology
  2. The Curious Lore of Precious Stones

We went on to talk about his new mythology. Jayson has been spending alot of his time writing and is almost at a first draft of his dissertation. He’s using the approach of “Insect Media” by Jussi Parikka as a basis for his writing around the development of development of computers in relation to crystals.

His mythology is based around the idea that crystals are spreading everywhere (inspired by the “The Crystal World” by JG Ballard). I suggested the idea of future AI’s using people as structures for growing crystals or the idea of data creation as crystal growth. Jayson also referenced the classic nanomachine trope of Grey Goo.

Jayson found a page relating to gemstone myth and folklore. He’s trying to find someone with a research background in the area. He’s very interested in crystal gazing, Mayan crystalmancy, magic in Europe and also found this dissertation on “Cunning Folk and Wizards“.

Next Jayson showed his experiments with 3D printing support structures to grow crystals on:

This took about a day to grow. He’s going to experiment with adding lighting, LED’s and lasers to the structures. I suggested growing a 3D disco ball! Interestingly, they can be dissolved and regrown at will.

Next we talked about the analogue/digital mix of the final installation – he’s very excited about the use of the 3D printed lattice but needs to work on the mythology more. Are these made by future AI’s? Do they emerge from electronic dumps? I also suggested having a live tank so people could see the crystals growing.

I set the following homework:

  1. Experiment with lasers, LEDs and other electronics in the crystal growth structures.
  2. Read the Curious Lore Of Precious Stones.
  3. Think more about the overall look of the exhibition.
  4. Send me his proposal for her dissertation and the bibliography for it

Unfortunately, Jules was unable to make it, but she updated me on her Javascript work, especially around matter.js and voice synthesis.

 

Session 7: Stop Motion, More Crystals and Gut Flora

We started the session with Jullianne’s homework from the previous session:

  1. Set up a Twitter account for the project
  2. Keep pushing on gathering content
  3. Speak to the technical support team about likely projector for her final show
  4. Make video/static documentation of code as it is
  5. Draw out the interface as she sees it – paper prototype it!

She created a Twitter account for the project: @sharemodernlove. On the content side of things she reached out to Tinder Nightmares and LastMessageRecieved, and posted on her blog about it. She emailed the technical support team, but I suggested meeting them in person as they are so busy. She posted some documentation of her code in its current state:

We discussed building the installation on the web in p5.js rather than in openFrameworks, which has quite a steep learning curve.

I found a series of tutorials from the amazing Coding Train on physics simulation in p5.js:

In addition I suggested using .json files to store conversations and use this tutorial to load it into p5.js.

I set the following homework:

  1. Gather more content, dependent on Tumblr responses.
  2. Make a prototype with:
    1. p5.js
    2. Data files in json for conversations
    3. Physics based chains of conversations, similar to this Matter.js example.
    4. Voice synthesis with p5.js-speech.
    5. iPad swipes via osc using HammerJS and p5js-osc.
  3. Keep chasing the technical team for projector resolution
  4. Set up your own GitHub.

Jayson was next in the session and we started by reviewing his homework from the previous session:

  1. Watch Silent Running
  2. Reach out to Mike Rumsey
  3. What computing problems can crystals solve?
  4. Speak to theo about computing people
  5. Take a crystal healing session
  6. Reach out to Andy Lomas

He watched Silent Running, but didn’t cry! He emailed Mike Rumsey, who was predictably very busy – but Jayson is trying to set up a time to meet with him. This conversation brought up the subject of crystals formed as a result of human activity. Jayson referenced Drexciya:

Drexciya, which eschewed media attention and its attendant focus on personality, developed an afrofuturist myth. The group revealed in the sleeve notes to their 1997 album The Quest that “Drexciya” was an underwater country populated by the unborn children of pregnant African women who were thrown off of slave ships; the babies had adapted to breathe underwater in their mothers’ wombs.

We seized upon this idea of creating ones own myths – the idea of minerals forming around a shipwreck – like a stomach bug eating the dead body of it’s host. Jayson referenced Hopi Native Americans and their use of crystals during ceremonies – to be able to see new things and also to deflect light. I said to not be afraid of making a beautiful space – imagine a network of reflected beams. Jayson decided to write about it – I suggested making a map of his myth.

The main computing application of crystals was to use as oscillators to allow for timing within the computer. He showed two very dry Department of Defense videos on the subject. I suggested some more research into the applications of oscillators – what is the computational relationship?

Jayson spoke to Theo, and unfortunately he didn’t have any further contacts for him. I suggested looking at crystal radios, as a reference to something that I had done in my youth. I then remembered the image of the first transistor:

Which used a crystal of Germanium – a perfect computational reference!

We moved on to a discussion of the previous article around the Anthropocene, particularly around the forming of crystals on the great barrier reef – in the future could sea level rises cause electronic dumps to be flooded to form new crystal structures? Jayson stated that he’s going to print some 3D shapes as forms to grow crystals on.

Jayson hasn’t been for his crystal healing session as yet, he is going to do the walking tour. He posted on several forums for a lower cost alternative to a full crystal healing session. He’s going to wait to reach out to Andy Lomas until he’s surer of what his installation is going to be. I discovered a link about crystals being used to enable quantum computing.

I set the following homework:

  1. Make a crystal radio.
  2. Research Germanium.
  3. Consider your new mythology – around undersea wrecks? Flooded dumps? Mining in the future?
  4. 3D print a support structure to grow crystals on.
  5. Meet a crystal healer / do an esoteric walking tour
  6. Think again about the analogue/digital mix of your installation. Situate your practise in your own life history and memories.

Dianne was last to have her work discussed in the session. Her homework from the previous session was as follows:

  1. Ask mum best place in London for research
  2. Biohacking lab, can they help with construction
  3. Make contact with the best place – what would they advise
  4. Plan exhibition more – micro / macro / explanation
  5. Speak to the Wellcome trust
  6. Get glassware catalogues from mum – or the websites for gear
  7. Speak to William Latham at Goldsmiths
  8. Speak to other researchers at Goldsmiths
  9. Research biome simulation

After speaking to her mum, she was recommended Imperial College and Kings College as places in London doing Microbiome research. Jeremy Nicholson was one person that she highlit, as well as Tim Spector at Kings.

Further away from London we found the Oxford Interdisciplinary Microbiome Project, unfortunately she missed their recent meeting, but it looked to be a good resource. Her mother also suggested Glen Gibson who know’s her personally – his work is more around diet and nutrition, but he is well connected.

The Biohack lab will help with advice but it’s much more of a do it yourself kind of place.

She felt she needed to develop her core questions further before approaching people. Quorum sensing was an area that looked interesting – how bacteria communicate with each other by forming a biofilm.

Dianne is focusing on her dissertation at the moment – as she will be marked on it. This written work will form the core of the question(s) and theme(s) she wants to explore in her exhibition – which she will not be marked on.

She has visited them, but she needs a larger group of people to get funding – I suggested using them as a resource for glassware and other historical artefacts.

She found this source for Agar, which would have to be ordered through a lab – but she could make dyed Agar with regular nutrient Agar and food colourings. Her mother suggested experimenting with various dyes – certain bacteria will tend to certain colours.

She reached out to William Latham, after finding two of his papers that were relevant:

He suggested meeting after the end of term and also suggested bringing Frederic Laymarie into the conversation too. He linked to his Mutator VR project.

Some recent projects from Frederic:

  • FoldSynth: An interactive platform for the study of proteins and other molecular strands (joint work with Imperial College/Bioinformatics)
  • Eco-a-Life: Ecosystems in Virtual Worlds (joint work with Portuguese artist/programmer Rui Antunes)

It looks like he could be a good contact for an introduction to the Bioinformatics team at Imperial – who state on their website that they are keen to:

Develop new collaborative projects within and outside Imperial, particularly those that are multi-disciplinary.

Dianne said she’s also interested in bioinformatics – computation is the lens through which we view the biome.

She emailed Lisa Blackman, she replied with the following:

I just edited a special issue of Body and Society called The New Biologies exploring some of these issues. I would recommend Hannah Landecker‘s work who contributes to the issue. You might also find the work of Samantha Frost of interest and particularly her new book Biocultural Creatures.

Dianne ordered the book and found some great resources from looking at Hannah Landecker.

We then moved on to her research around simulation.

Pink Bacteria Dance by kynd.

Wanderers: Living Mushtari by The Mediated Matter group at MIT.

RGB Petri by Jeremy Awon.

AADRL Spyropoulos Design Lab research.

We also found some good biohacking  resources:

We returned to the central question of her work – what is it? Dianne said she was exploring what it means to be human. We came back to the thought of alien life seeing humans as hosts for the biome. If you take two humans their DNA will be 99.9% identical, but their biomes will be wildly different. In terms of DNA, humans are 98% pig and 80% banana! We also discussed brain/biome interaction and what the Bioinformatics team is researching in that area.

Dianne referenced Simon Sublime, an anonymous Artist/Scientist, particularly his methods of exhibiting his work.

Finally I suggested looking at the simulation of mitosis on the fantastic Coding Train.

Perhaps Dianne could simulate all Gut Flora?

Diane Homework:

  1. Keep thinking on question for dissertation
  2. What is the installation? Bioinformatics of the Biome?
  3. Speak to the Wellcome trust collection what do they have on the biome? What apparatus? Even just the glassware collection.
  4. Contact the Science Museum – about their work on the Biome.
  5. Meet with William Latham and Frederic Laymarie at Goldsmiths.
  6. Make contact with the Bioinformatics team at Imperial.

Session 6: Insights into the Gut Biome, Modern Love Tales and Crystals

We started the session by going over Dianne’s homework:

  1. Her top ten insights into the gut biome
  2. Can she source Agar in large quantities?
  3. What existing microscopy equipment can she get access to at Goldsmiths?

She supplied the following insights:

  1. “Recent studies demonstrate that gut microbes directly alter neurotransmitter levels, which may enable them to communicate with neurons.”
  2. Scientists have observes that the gut microbiota interact with the central nervous system…mental health and  even neurological development might be shaped by the composition and behaviour of these bacteria.
  3. The human gut microbiome is made up of organisms belonging to over 30 different genera and as many as 500 separate bacterial species or phenotypes, most being from the Firmicutes and the Bacteroides.
  4. Bacteria are our ancestors, “every living thing that exists now, or has ever lived is bacterial.”
  5. The human is a walking ecosystem.
  6. There are ten times as many bacterial cells as human cells in the body.
  7. It is impossible to study the entire gut microbiome as when extracted from the body as lot of the bacterial species die.
  8. 95% of the body’s serotonin is produced in the digestive tract.
  9. Fecal transplantation is being researched and developed to treat disease and obesity etc.
  10. Bacteria invented all the basic metabolic processes, including photosynthesis and chemical conversion that every other life form remains utterly dependent on.
  11. The wide adoption of antibiotics, rigorous hygiene and processed diets id thought to have cut down the genetic diversity of micro biomes in the developed world.

We then moved on to discussing how much agar she could source. After some research she realised that it’s not possible to use agar if you want to do microscopy – as you need to use a slide in order for that to work – and under-light the sample.

I asked what the speed/lifespan was normally – she’s done previous experiments which had a lifespan of 24/48 hours, especially if she avoids copper lined dishes, which is a natural anti-bacterial.

The conversation then moved onto organ on a chip discussions – could she find a gut on a chip? She referenced the Wyss Institute at Havard. I said it reminded me of Tobie Kerridge’s BioJewellery project.

We discussed her sourcing glassware to contain her gut biome – she suggested speaking to the BioHackingLab to find where they source from – I also suggested speaking to her mum (who is a micro-biologist) to find out the best places to collaborate with in London – there must be people in London working on gut biome / brain interaction. We did a quick search on the Goldsmiths site via Google, which yielded some promising results.

Finally she raised concerns that there isn’t enough computing in her project – I said to keep it in mind, but there is plenty of work around biological simulation on computers – from Conway’s Game of Life to more recent Microbiome Simulations.

I set the following homework:

  1. Ask mum best place in London for research
  2. Biohacking lab, can they help with construction
  3. Make contact with the best place – what would they advise
  4. Plan exhibition more – micro / macro / explanation
  5. Speak to the Wellcome trust
  6. Get glassware catalogues from mum – or the websites for gear
  7. Speak to William Latham at Goldsmiths
  8. Speak to other researchers at Goldsmiths
  9. Research biome simulation

Next it was Julianne’s turn. Her homework from the last session was as follows:

  1. What is the screen resolution for your projection? So we can think about text scale and spacing.
  2. Investigate voice synthesis
  3. Think about the flower metaphor for conversations – beautiful at first, but terrifying conversations
  4. Interface – draw it out create a stop motion animation
  5. Think about how to campaign for more content

Since our last session she created a Tumblr for the project, as well as an email address for submissions. I advised her to set up a Twitter account in addition. She’s going to create a poster for the project as soon as everything is in place – I emphasised how important it was to keep up the momentum on the project. She doesn’t know the screen resolution of her projection as yet, I advised her to talk to the technical team at Goldsmiths to find out which projector she’s likely to be able to access – it’s essential to allow her to think about her text resolution which will impact readability dramatically.

Julianne shared Romantimatic, an app that reminds you to be romantic, we then moved on to a discussion about using voice synthesis to speak the content that she is collecting – she said she’s not opposed to it, just unsure of how to implement – I demonstrated the voice synthesiser in OSX, and how to get it to read any piece of text.

We then moved on to a discussion about the flower metaphor – she thought about it but was more envisioning a bubble effect, with multiple camera angles and using the flower idea for connections between conversations. She’s keen not to create just a long chain of conversations.

I shared ofxBox2D for openFrameworks by Todd Vanderlin, a 2D Newtonian physics simulator:

I showed ofxAddons.com, a repository of addons for openFrameworks. Together we picked out several addons that might be useful for her project:

I said the most important thing was to get to a technically complete prototype as soon as possible – and to document those early prototypes, but the most important thing being the creation of a paper prototype. I advised her to sketch it out as soon as possible – using Keynote from Apple with simple stop motion animation via photographs.

I set the following homework:

  1. Set up a Twitter account for the project
  2. Keep pushing on gathering content
  3. Speak to the technical support team about likely projector for her final show
  4. Make video/static documentation of code as it is
  5. Draw out the interface as she sees it – paper prototype it!

The last person in the session was Jayson, who had the following homework:

  1. Watch Silent Running
  2. What is the personal aspect of this installation? How is it unique to you? Why could have it only have been made by you?
  3. Why does it exist?

Unfortunately, he hadn’t managed to watch Silent Running, so we moved on to the personal aspect of the work. He suggested having a screen to explain the piece – I suggested just making a normal poster so that he could concentrate his setup time on the installation itself. We talked about making crystal growth interactive, using electricity, hydrochloric acid and tin, which can be done in real time:

Jayson felt it didn’t look enough like what people think of as a crystal, so we searched for other crystal growing methods. He shared an aluminium sulphate crystal that he had already grown at home.

Borax:

Alum:

Bizmuth:

I suggested trying to find a mineralogist, gemologist or chemist. We found Mike Rumsey at the Natural History Museum. Jayson said that he’s going to experiment with a moving microscope that he’s found at Goldsmiths Digital Fabrication lab.

We moved on to a discussion of computation and how it relates to this project – I thought simulating crystal growth digitally was an interesting area – how does this relate to Cybernetics? What problems could be solved by this simulation? Computing the shortest route in a maze? How else can they be used for computation?

We found a paper on Crystal Voronoi Diagrams, which led me to reference Scott Snibbe’s Boundary Functions installation:

I advised Jayson to speak to Theo Papatheodorou about other people working in this area at Goldsmiths, or in London. We discussed crystal formation as a kind of non conscious self organisation.

Jayson demonstrated a crystal renderer based on a shader that he found on ShaderToy, as well as an additive growth demo. We found a demonstration of a slime mold that can solve mazes:

We discussed doing a 3D print of crystal growth with a real time simulation alongside. In terms of real life activities we found a shop that could give him a crystal healing session, a spiritual shop walking tour of London and a statement from the British Museum on their crystal skull.

I set the following homework:

  1. Watch Silent Running
  2. Reach out to Mike Rumsey
  3. What computing problems can crystals solve?
  4. Speak to theo about computing people
  5. Take a crystal healing session
  6. Reach out to Andy Lomas

Session 5: Paper prototypes, Interviews and Individual Tasks

We started by discussing Jayson’s recent work. Since the last tutorial, he’d been to visit Susan Stepney in Cambridge. He was particularly interested in her because of her academic work around Non-Standard Computation, as well as her interest in Science Fiction:

Reality is a crutch for those who can’t cope with Science Fiction

They had a wide ranging discussion about the Computational Arts from Jayson’s point of view – using computing and computational thinking to inspire, reflect and challenge art. Susan was particularly interested in how artists could visualise complexity and emergence in new ways. They discussed her recent work – particularly around allowing people to control a feedback loop and see it in action. She supplied a series of complexity theory links for him to research – mainly around Jim Crutchfield’s work.

Seizure by Roger Hiorns

This thinking on complexity led Jayson back to cellular automata, emergence and crystals – as an an example of an emergent structure. Following up on these areas, Jayson visited the Natural History Museum crystal and gem aka Mineralogy collection. After buying ten kilograms of Magnesium Sulphate, he started investigating growing his own crystals, and thinking about 3D printing a lattice to support it. I referenced Roger Hiorn’s “Seizure” .

Jayson’s paper mockup

Jayson presented the paper mockup of his graduating show. From right, a glass tank for growing crystals, the largest crystal in the central spot and on the left a computer to display a digital screen simulation of crystal growth.

Andy Lomas, Aggregation 9

I referenced Andy Lomas’s work around digital Aggregation, as well as Kimchi and Chips Line Segments Space and Lit Tree projects. The Lit Tree project produced discussions around blending the analogue and the digital – especially users being able to change the growth of the tree by highlighting different parts of the plant with their hands in real time.

Could people “mine” for digital rocks when they visit Jayson’s installation? We discussed how we could make the installation more autobiographical – which prompted Jayson to relate a memory of growing up in Australia – playing in the back garden and digging up Copper there. We talked about using a microscope to allow visitors to view the analogue (grown) crystal in real time.

Jayson discussed “The Crystal World” by J.G. Ballard:

The novel tells the story of a physician trying to make his way deep into the jungle to a secluded leprosy treatment facility. While trying to make it to his destination, his chaotic path leads him to try to come to terms with an apocalyptic phenomenon in the jungle that crystallises everything it touches.

We discussed him making a self portrait – but with crystals replacing his eyes. How can he accelerate the process? We talked about seeing crystals as computation – or as a metaphor for computation.

I referenced the MONIAC liquid simulator of the British Economy:

As well as Arcologies (self contained environments), which led to me screening the trailer for Silent Running by Douglas Trumbull:

I set Jayson the homework of watching Silent Running as well considering the why of his installation.

Moving onto Julianne’s work, we began by discussing the various people that she has reached out to on the project – Alison Wade responded, but unfortunately she’s currently in India. Julianne posted her questions for Alison on her blog:

  • Why paintings as opposed to other mediums?
  • How were you able to turn your heartache into art?
  • How did you go about picking these phrases instead of other parts of the messages?
  • What is your take on the way technology is affecting love?
  • Have you ever been ghosted? If so, how can that be portrayed through art in a way that these messages have been portrayed?
  • Was it hard to look over these messages? Did that affect your ability to create your work? Did it drive you?
  • Did you meet any of these ex’s online?
  • Do you think the nature of these messages would have changed if you had?
  • Was creating this series therapeutic?
  • What was your thought process/process for this piece?
  • Why do you think people gravitated towards this series? It seems as it it cultivated a lot of press.
  • The cult: the beginning of this project came after, she hadn’t been contacted
  • What advice would you give modern love with regard to what you’ve discovered about modern relationships?
  • What advice would you give artists today that are interested in your same subject?
  • Breakups can be quite debilitating. How would you advise young artists that are feeling crippled by their own heartache?

Next Julianne shared her cardboard mockup of her exhibition:

I.e. a central projection of the conversations that she’s been gathering from friends from social networks (Tinder and Bumble) – with a computer on the right to allow people to add their own content. She’s been getting screen grabs and then transcribing the content manually. I advised against her allowing people to add content live at the installation – it’s a minefield of people either trolling or a time sink in terms of coding to live functionality.

We discussed the moment that she was most interested in the relationships – the inflection point when people decide to get closer or fall apart – I asked if the installation was a kind of Memento mori – i.e. reminding people that everything ends.

We talked about the projected text itself breaking up at the point of breaking up. I posed the question of what the interface would allow people to navigate her curated dataset in a natural way – we quickly moved away from Kinect or computer vision based gestural interfaces and zero’d in on using a version of the Tinder swipe left or right as a way of selecting – a fitting echo.

I referenced Listening Post again – especially the voice synthesis as a way of communicating text content in a multimedia fashion:

I went on to reference the visualisation methods used for several projects from Andreas Muller – Wind, SwimmingMessageSystem and Hana:

Finally, we discussed 40 Days of Dating from Sagmeister and Walsh as a good reference for visualising the history of a relationship.

We focussed on the flower metaphor for a relationship – growing and branching and either blooming or decaying away. I set the following homework for Julianne:

  1. What is the screen resolution of your projection going to be? This will impact on your type sizing dramatically, as well as the relative scale of other parts of your interface.
  2. Investigate voice synthesis
  3. Explore the flower metaphor
  4. Paper prototype your projection interface, make a stop motion animation of it
  5. Plan your campaign to get more content

Finally, we moved onto Diane’s work. We started by discussing her trip to Transmediale 2017, where amongst other things she managed to have a conversation with Martin Howse. One of the most interesting parts for Diane was how he positions himself – he’s not making art about science but rather how you artistically interface with these scientific things.  How far you go into it, how you can shift it, you are not the scientist. He looks at medieval alchemy to investigate digital technology, trying to redo ancient experiments – it’s not important for them to “work”. He’s looking at the chemicals used in modern computer:

…you take these materials that are used in modern computing and then try to process them through these alchemical techniques. Critical connections start to emerge…

For example, cyanide is used to process gold, cyanide killed Turing. He is interested in the toxicity of things and where software executes. I mentioned that it sounds like he is on a Quixotic quest – it’s a way of investigating modern technology in ancient ways – pre scientific method almost. Diane said that he had no formal scientific training, did a lot of work with computing, was at Goldsmiths at the beginning of his career. Diane stated that life seemed to be more about death in old times, now future is shiny and heavenly – this brought
up Howes’s most recent bacterial work – he’s been investigating a gold mine and the run off feeding bacteria. Finally Diane discussed his practise in general – Howse likes the process of making the exhibition about the studio experiments, re making it for the gallery – for example working with poetry generating worms and then hiding them in the gallery. His method of translating from studio to gallery context.

We then moved on to discuss Diane’s proposed exhibition, which can be seen above. She intends it to be an intimate, enclosed space, darkly lit.  The large bean like object on the table at the rear is a large scale glass vessel containing her own gut bacteria in culture (aka an anaerobic fermentation cell), with a large strip light adjacent – strobing randomly. She aims to monitor the fermentation cell in some real time method, and have that output to a screen on the floor – which can be seen at the bottom right of the maquette. As the gut cells are anerobic, they must be sealed against our atmosphere. Diane went on to discuss how she’d keep the cells alive – it would smell awful and have to be “fed” constantly. I said it reminded me of a terrarium.

Diane has been looking at the latest research on the gut biome – particularly around biome/brain communication. I said I thought this was a very rich area to communicate – but what will she be able to actually measure? pH? What is the output going to be? How will this screen on the floor function? Diane said that she was interested in the idea of symobiosis – and also that visiting aliens might view us as merely mosts for our gut bacteria – rather than an independent organism. I challenged her on the idea of her being the host for her bacteria – could the exhibition be about that? Her gut as her partner? Her brain affecting her gut and her gut affecting her brain? Could we measure the activity of the bacteria and use that to generate a story? I referenced Memo Atken’s recent work around generation of texts using neural networks. Could the gut be generating her thoughts? Diane stated quickly that she doesn’t want it to be a self portrait – I asked if it could be autobiographical – about her relationship with her mother and her mother’s relationship with her and her gut bacteria. She’s very keen to allow people to interface with the biome in real time – and educate people that we don’t actually eat food, we eat the byproducts of food. I asked her if she could be the mother, and the biome her baby? I referenced the following project:

Would it be possible to do a similar scale installation with her own gut bacteria? Could we allow visitors to “fly” around the landscape using a mounted microscope?

I left Diane with the following three questions:

  1. Her top ten insights into the gut biome
  2. Can she source Agar in large quantities?
  3. What existing microscopy equipment can she get access to at Goldsmiths?

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