CLIMATE AS THE LAST WILDERNESS

3 03 2009

By VÁCLAV CÍLEK

We are nostalgiac when we lose the phenomena we have fought with – open unknown seas, rainy forests, high plateaus or deep caves. We as the mankind we have grown through these fights and we have gradually becomed stronger than most of the sea storms, underground rivers and deep forests. Civilisations are evolving when they fight with nature and shrinking when they start to fight with themselves. The last wilderness that remains is climate. This relationship is far from being friendly or melancholic one. It is a threat of the magnitude of Pacific Ocean in 15th century. We know now that climate is stronger and does not care about consequences. What we should talk about are not only the real impacts of climate change but the archaic processes how we deal with wilderness – fears, awe, conflicts, reconciliations and finally protection. But we are at this moment at the very beginning of a deal with a new God of Climate Change.

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PRIMATE CINEMA: BABOONS AS FRIENDS

1 03 2009

By RACHEL MAYERI

Primate Cinema is a planned series of videos that visualize primate social dramas for human audiences. The first video experiment, Baboons as Friends, juxtaposes footage of baboons taken in the field with a reenactment by human actors, shot in film noir style in a bar in Los Angeles. A tale of lust, jealousy, sex, and violence transpires simultaneously in nonhuman and human worlds. Beastly males, instinctively attracted to a femme fatale, fight to win her, but most are doomed to fail. The story of sexual selection is presented across species, the dark genre of film noir re-mapping the savannah to the urban jungle.

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Baboons as Friends is presented in split screen. One side shows raw field footage of baboons in Kenya, shot by primatologist/cognitive scientist, Deborah Forster. The other side shows a reenactment I scripted and directed with actors in Hollywood. The soundtrack combines actual vocalizations of the baboons with the ambience of a bar. Once the video has ended it is shown a second time along with a commentary by Forster on the behavior of primates. Baboons as Friends can also be presented as a two channel video installation with voiceover narration on headphones.

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TERROR INCOGNITO: STEPS TOWARD AN EXTREMITY OF MIND

1 03 2009

By ROY ASCOTT

Reductionist alert! A health warning to our friends in the reductionist camp: artists will look anywhere, into any discipline, scientific or spiritual, any view of the world, however extreme or esoteric, any culture, immediate or distant in space or time, any technology, ancient or modern, in order to find ideas and processes which allow for untrammelled navigation of mind, and the open-ended exploration of consciousness. We recognise no meta-language or meta-system that places one discipline or world-view automatically above all others. This is why we look in all directions for inspiration and understanding: to the East as well as the West; the left hand path as well as the right; working with both reason and intuition, sense and nonsense, subtlety and sensibility. It is a transdisciplinary syncretism that best informs artistic research, just as it is cyberception that enables our focus on multiple realities, and technoetic instrumentality that supports our self-creation, and our telematic distribution of presence and re-configuration of identity. Fundamentalist Materialists may find some content of this text offensive.

Earlier societies approached unknown lands, the terra incognito of the unmapped planet, with fearful caution. Citizens in many states today view their own cities with similar fearfulness, as a terror incognito, in the face, not only of terrorist threats from unknown quarters but of the very provisions claimed to ensure their civic safety – intensive surveillance, where every public space is monitored by police cameras, arbitrary powers of arrest for reasons unstated and unknown, indefinite imprisonment without trial, state approved torture – signalling the emergence of a political environment that exerts inordinate social control, leading inexorably to the loss of our personal liberty. This cloud of unknowing shrouds us in anxiety and fear. This is the military/industrial complex running wild, using paranoia to control the financial and political will of elected governments. It is a paranoia challenged by the liberating telenoia of the Net, the joy of connectedness that is universally celebrated in cyberspace. None the less, who knows who will strike next, the terrorist or agents of the state? Here indeed is terror incognito.

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THE MORPHOLOGY PROJECT ART-SCIENCE EXPLORATIONS OF BIOLOGICAL SHAPE ANALYSIS AND EVOLUTION

1 03 2009

By ROB O’NEILL

INTRODUCTION

Morphology, within the field of biology, refers to the outward appearance of an organism or taxon and its component parts. As a means of quantifying morphology, morphometrics is the collection of methods used to collect measurements from shapes and perform statistical analysis on the variation. This paper introduces the concepts and history behind morphology and morphometrics as a backdrop to the subsequently described art-science explorations undertaken by the author in the Morphology Project. In particular, “dataFace”, the most recent installment of the Morphology Project is detailed as an example of how a large scientific dataset can be harnessed using custom and existing tools as a means of artistic exploration and scientific inquiry. Morphometrics is an untapped area for the arts. By utilizing these ideas and their accompanying methodologies, artists have the ability to analyze shape mathematically and to wield large biological shape databases as a medium. This interplay has the potential to enhance both the arts and sciences.

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BACTERIA BIOLOGY AND BLOOD

22 02 2009

By KATHLEEN ROGERS

My artistic themes reflect on the limits of life and death in the context of molecular genetics. The installation, Tremor, was produced in April 2007 using video microscopy in the context of developmental biology and zebrafish genomics. Extreme close up evaluations of mutant zebrafish embryos were used capture the essence of the life force as movement, but also show, paradoxically, that making and unmaking the gene requires a pathological trespass into the mystery it seeks to reveal. In microscopic studies of embryonic growth, visual distortions, physical vibrations, shadows, reflections, scratches, and microbial parasites randomly appear. Awkward co-ordination of eye and hand movements, control of the image and the limitations of a fixed viewpoint were used to engage the viewer in a visceral and psychological reading of a mediated life form. I showed how physical contact and looking create tremors and palpitations that are tactile, reactive and deadly because the embryonic organism is sensitve and frequently dies.

k1 Stills, Tremor (2007)

Zebrafish belong to a group of model organisms deliberately bred to study vertebrate development. They are used to search for mutations randomly using classical forward genetics, and then selectively bred. Historically, shared characteristics suggested linear chains with humans as the dominant species, but as the all life is revealed in greater genetic complexity, it sheds new light on human evolution and our interconnection to other species becomes more pervasively subtle. Humans share ancestors with fish but the transgenic application of our molecular self to other species now renders evolutionary comparisons redundant.

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CULTURAL EVOLUTION AND THE INTERNET: A CRITICAL INQUIRY RESPECTING THE CONVERGENCE OF ART & SCIENCE

21 02 2009

By HANS H. DIEBNER

VIRAL DYNAMICS

Memetics is a controversially debated evolutionary theory of culture. The basics have been introduced by the notorious popular scientific writer R. Dawkins (1976) in his book "The Selfish Gene" as an analogy to genetics. In his view, a "meme" corresponds to a "cultural gene" that determines "cultural evolution" through its "cultural fitness." The theory affected people in either a fascinated or an averse way. This is partially because of Dawkins’ rather extreme social Darwinistic thinking and anti-religious attitude: "Religion is an evil virus of the mind." (Dawkins 2006).

Although memetics is widely regarded as an immature theory (Blackmore et al. 2000) – I agree –, it has nevertheless migrated as a fundamental paradigm into what is called "sociophysics" and "econophysics" and, more relevant for the general public, into "viral marketing" (Hermann 2004). The propagation and survival of trends, ideas, opinions, and so on – i.e., of memes – is described within the memetic approach on the basis of epidemiological models. The analogy between the propagation of memes and the spread of viruses motivated the notion of "viral marketing", which is often synonymously used for "Guerilla marketing." Innovative measures that are often related to the networked structure of the internet like the famous "Moorhuhn" video game or YouTube’s "lonlygirl" phenomenon try to brake up traditional marketing design. At a first glance, nothing reminds to advertising. Instead, the activities appear like art or other subversive activities. A gradual dissolution of the borders between art, science, and economics can be observed. Analogously, there exists an increasing community within the arts called "Guerilla art" (e.g. Bielicky 2007), which also explicitly refers to viral dynamics of word-of-mouth.

Innovative measures in marketing and design are accompanied by dynamical models and monitoring systems in order to predict trends and to intervene accordingly. IT and the internet are vital for the viral marketing success. There is no doubt that the internet has the potential to support enlightenment. The reverse of the "medal" is the growing risk for the society to be "designed."

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THE LAW OF DIVERGENCE: MYTHOANALYSIS OF LIMITS

21 02 2009

By HERVÉ FISHER

Darwin’s law of natural selection published some 150 years ago proposed a surprising and evidently fundamental discovery and explanation of the Origin of species and their evolution. But this law for sure cannot explain that the human species, which is the most recent of mammals according to experts, has succeeded to mute so quickly and to outrun all other live species thanks to the development of its brain up to the point which we observe today.

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