Papers

SESSION I: PROCESS, COMMUNICATION, PRODUCT

No method, no object: The Irwin/Wortz Art and Technology collaboration In 1968, under the aegis of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s Art and Technology program, artist Robert Irwin was paired with Ed Wortz, a behavioral psychologist studying the disorientations of astronautic flight. For both, what began as a positivist examination of visual perception evolved into a lifelong phenomenological inquiry into the nature of being and subjectivity. Each abdicated his position as specialist in order to explore the “tacit dimension” (Polanyi, 1967), knowledge that is unaccounted for by modernist disciplines and their methods. Irwin’s career transitioned from one of making paintings to one of “conditioning” space, while Wortz went from observing the behavior of others to learning and mastering Buddhist meditative techniques. The collaboration—which for a time also included artist James Turrell—involved the use of sensory deprivation methods such as extreme noise reduction (anechoic chamber) and light dissemination (Ganzfeld sphere). But their experiments were not subject to the rigors and protocols of the scientific method, nor did they produce any art objects or performances. Neither functioning as science nor recognizable as art, the experiments were hybrid technologies of experience that on a fundamental level call into question what it means to be a perceiving subject.

Managing the Creative Image: Entrepreneurial Attitudes in the Collaboration between Sonia Sheridan and the Corporation 3M This paper will be developed with extensive research at the Daniel Langlois Foundation Archives in Montreal, Canada. It will present a comparative investigation of Sonia Sheridan’s development of the Generative Systems program in partnership with Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company (3M) at the School of Art Institute of Chicago, and Billy Klüver’s role in partnering engineers with artists in Experiments in Art and Technology. Both of these initiatives were conceptualized around the same time in the 1960s and were extremely beneficial in providing artists with access to early communications technology and expertise, in order to produce innovative work and also to grapple with the social and cultural implications of the development of this technology. This paper seeks to examine the impetus and rhetoric used to develop the technical and engineering partnerships, centering particularly on creativity becoming a highly lucrative asset. It will tie this to the beginning shifts that were happening around this time from a more industrial economy in the United States, to a more information- and knowledge-based economy where creativity became an essential tool, particularly in relation to communications technology, where information and intellectual property became a key component.

Fallout and spinoffs: Commercializing the art-technology nexus A common theme in the hybrid practices of the 1960s-era art and technology movement is practitioners’ engagement with industry and the marketplace. This paper, part of a longer book-length project, explores facets of this interaction. One focus is the issue of intellectual property—what E.A.T. co-founder Billy Klüver called “technical fallout.” In the 1960s, engineers and artists sometimes pursued legal protection for their collaboration-based productions, techniques, and methods. Examples to consider include Billy Klüver’s stated rationales for E.A.T, the framework Maurice Tuchman established for LACMA’s Art and Technology program, and the activities of Frank J. Malina, who founded the journal Leonardo in 1968. Another area of activity was—in the language used by Apollo-era NASA—“spinoffs,” or commercial ventures catalyzed by artist-engineer collaborations. Ultimately, my goal is to place these 1960s-era engagements with the market into conversation with the expectations artists, engineers, and industry had for these hybrid practices.

SESSION II: SOCIAL AND SYSTEMIC IMPLICATIONS

Contagious Creativity: Networked Participation in the "Magic Theater" Exhibition (1968) As collaborations between artists and engineers proliferated in the second half of the 1960s, formal concerns about the art object gradually gave way to an interest in networked modes of art reception that often escaped both artistic intent and curatorial control. In this paper, I explore the social dimension of participatory responses to The Magic Theater exhibition organized by Ralph T. Coe at the Nelson Gallery of Art (Kansas City) in 1968. Drawing inspiration from the interdisciplinary collaborations of Experiments in Art and Technology and enlisting the help of local manufacturers and volunteers, Coe aimed to facilitate the production of technology-based artworks that could trigger “psychic” modes of engagement. He hoped that the exhibition would slow down art viewers and provide an alternative to psychedelic sensorial experiences. Yet, the responses to The Magic Theater partly contradicted his expectations. Many environments in the exhibition catalyzed convivial interaction between visitors, interfering with the more private, introspective experience originally envisioned by the curator. Relying on archival exhibition documentation and Daniel Stern’s theory of affective attunement, I will examine how the environments designed by Howard Jones, Boyd Mefferd, Terry Riley, and James Seawright for The Magic Theater elicited emotional responses, imitative behavior, and group creativity. While art and technology projects have been generally considered complicit with the society of the spectacle, I argue that many of them interfered with its norms by provoking unsettling sensorial effects and generating spontaneous collaborations between art participants.

The aesthetic of open systems and feminist revolution Intended to overcome overspecialization among the disciplines, the scientific theory of open systems offered women artists in the late 1960s a new paradigm of social and political liberation emphasizing inherently hybrid networks of social collaboration. Artists Alice Aycock and Martha Rosler used open systems in multimedia works made to reconceive social and environmental relationships and undermine a hierarchical and patriarchal social structure. Articulated by biologist Ludwig von Bertalanffy and propagated by curator Jack Burnham in the early 1970s, open systems regarded living organisms not as discrete entities, but in systemic relationship with one another and the physical environment, constantly undergoing processes of organized growth through energy and information exchange. Artists pitted open systems against the closed, Cold War technological society whose hermeneutic strictures delimited art to Greenbergian formalism. In contrast, open systems offered a feminist reconception of artistic principles of collaboration, kineticism and “psycho-physical” connection between body and mind, all hallmarks of 1950s and ’60s art and technology movements. Open systems provided scientific validation for the developing theoretical priorities of second-wave feminism, including the elimination of hierarchies and causal relationships in favor of process, a focus on the body as a site of social and political contestation, and consideration of the body as integral to the mind. For Aycock and Rosler, open systems provided an important conceptual bridge uniting science, technology, and art with nascent feminism.

The artist’s toolkit: Is there an object in the telematic embrace? One of the key aims of the Experiments in Art and Technology group (Klüver, Whitman, et al.) was to foster a relationship between artists and engineers and to open up each field of discourse/learning to the other. A similar approach was developed by Roy Ascott at the same time through what he termed “telematics.” Both sought to give the artist a range of materials (or tools) by which artistic practices could be realized. This paper will address two issues that have now arisen within the sphere of hybrid art and technology practices: First, many varied and radical ways of working have been ill-defined and categorized under terms such as “digital art” or “new media”, which may allow discussion and comparisons around artworks and technologies, but they fall short of establishing a more thorough mode of experimentation and rigor for the new materials and tools which technology provides. Similarly, a move from the speculative realist (object-oriented) movement re-centers the work of art as “object.” This paper will critique these methods of understanding the artwork and develop an alternative that furthers artistic, scientific, and technological discourses through which the work of art as a “telematic system” (Burnham, Ascott) has a communicability and materiality that can be investigated and developed across disciplines.

SESSION III: LANGUAGE, IDENTITY, COMPUTATION

Poetics of machine translation errors applied to artistic practices Early investigations in machine translation, especially those made by North American programmers and computer experts in the 1950s, gave birth to a new discipline called computational linguistics. At the same time, another applied branch was being developed under the name of translation studies. Although they are close not only in space and time, but also in subject matter, paradoxically even nowadays each field still ignores the way the other approaches the issue of translation. This paper reviews the various concepts these two disciplines have in common in order to discern a way they could enter into dialogue with each other. In order to accomplish this objective, the research spans various disciplines including computational linguistics, translation studies, and the twentieth-century European experimental literature. It is also based on the study of two contemporary artworks that deal with the poetics of machine translation errors: El 27 (2014), by Eugenio Tisselli (Mexico), and Automatic Voice-over (2013), by Jan Monsalvatje (Spain). In the context of this investigation, art is seen as a link that reflects the relations between these fields and the poetic potential of machine translation errors.

Staging behavior and Stanley Milgram’s hybrid practice This proposal is twofold and approaches the conference brief via Stanley Milgram’s well-discussed obedience studies (1961–1963). My research concerns Milgram’s predilection for dramaturgical devices (technical and rhetorical) and expository visual documentation, which receives little critical attention. In so doing, my work draws extensively on Milgram’s archive at Yale to make an interdisciplinary contribution to the identity of the hybrid practitioner. Milgram upheld the social psychologist “as a person who creates scenes of revelatory power and brings participants into them,” which requires “a keen directorial sense” (Milgram Papers III/21/327). Using developmental sketches of his instrument props, procedural scripts, photographs, his documentary film Obedience (actually a staged re-enactment) and unpublished notes, I suggest Milgram used vocabularies and structures of laboratory investigation to project empirical truth claims upon a carefully designed, deftly managed public performance piece. With this argument established, I will present my ongoing, archival-informed design fiction project that explores Milgram’s work using his own dramaturgical strategies. The results are plausible imagined scenarios, objects, and graphics that challenge how we view Milgram, his experiment, and methods of inquiry that cross exposition with empirical claims and dramaturgy with truth.

The artist’s toolkit: Is there an object in the telematic embrace? Computer-generated compositions by John Cage—beginning in the late 1960s and ending with his last composition for museum, Rolywholyover A Circus (LaMOCA, 1993)—will be construed in this paper as prototypes of big data analysis in curation. Attempts to incorporate cybernetics in experimental art of the 1960s opened perspectives for a computational curatorial of the future. This supposition of an automated curatorial will be aligned with dematerialization of an art object and its reconstitution as information, manifest in exhibition as event. Case studies addressed in this paper will proceed from Cage’s collaboration with Bell Labs engineers realized during 9 Evenings (1966) toward the major multimedia event HPSCHRD in 1969 (programmed with composer-scientist Lejaren Hiller). They will focus on Cage’s late compositions for museum, arranged according to the software-generated scores (programmed by composer Andrew Culver). Historically, these collaborative projects underscore the role of electronic music as conduit in the mediatized reconstitution of visual art as information. Theoretically, the study interrogates potentialities and pitfalls of deauthorization in automated processing of art information. It will consider Branden W. Joseph’s social critique of Cage’s computer-aided compositions and will extend its methodology toward current media theory, such as Lev Manovich’s analysis of big data visualization.

SESSION IV: BODY

PITH (Process of Incorporating a Transplanted Heart) project Since the first heart transplant in 1967, the technical aspects of the operation have been streamlined, and heart transplantation has become the accepted therapy for end-stage heart failure. Yet we understand very little about the emotional and psychological implications of literally incorporating someone else’s heart. Since 2007 an international interdisciplinary collaboration, based at Toronto General Hospital and led by Canadian cardiologist Dr. Heather Ross and British philosopher Dr Margrit Shildrick, has explored aspects of this complex phenomenon, including intercorporeality, community, mythology, and symbolism around the heart. The interdisciplinary team includes four artists: Ingrid Bachmann (Canada); Catherine Richards (Canada); Andrew Carnie (UK), and Alexa Wright (UK). Each artist has developed his or her own individual response to the compelling subject of heart transplant. The project is highly innovative in that the artistic research has been undertaken not only in response to, but in parallel and in conversation with the scientific research. The artists and scientists have been in dialogue throughout the process, which has also been opened up to heart transplant patients, their friends and families. This paper will discuss our working processes and the artworks that have been created as a result of the PITH project.

The (hyper-)reality effect: Bruce Nauman’s holograms Bruce Nauman’s holograms of 1968–69 lend self-portraiture a heightened reality effect, conjuring three-dimensional heft from light shot through a pane of glass. The viewer who approaches the holographic portal finds an image of Nauman crouching in wait, all six feet of him improbably threaded through the glass’s narrow aperture. The holographic device was a recent invention, and Nauman’s collaboration with a pioneering lab marked the first artistic use of the medium. This ad hoc alliance between art and technology was brokered without institutional backing; the L.A. County Museum’s “Art and Technology” unit had rejected Nauman’s proposal, deeming holograms an “uninteresting, too-literal approach to a technique which, by its very novelty and exoticism, presented pitfalls.” The prospect of a holographic likeness may have failed to garner A&T’s enthusiasm, but in practice these life-sized, virtual bodies stage some of the most unsettling encounters in postwar art. This paper traces Nauman’s grappling with the aesthetics of the hologram—its potential and its “pitfalls.” Holography’s seductive illusionism prompted him to invent wrenching, knotted poses, using the painful contortion of his limbs to offset the format’s spectacular effects. Ultimately, I posit the hologram as a hybrid not only of discipline but of medium, combining photography’s exacting description with sculpture’s projection into space.

Bodily static and the politics of visibility during the Vietnam War Carolee Schneemann’s multimedia anti-war performance Snows was the first work produced in collaboration with Experiments in Art and Technology (E.A.T.), founded by Billy Klüver and Robert Rauschenberg upon the completion of the performance series 9 Evenings in 1966. With E.A.T.’s assistance, Schneemann used contact microphones to create a cybernetic biofeedback system that incorporated the responses of her audience into the work in real time. Snows extended and implicitly challenged the use of similar technologies in 9 Evenings, for example in Robert Rauschenberg’s performance Open Score. This paper interrogates the social dimensions of sound and audio amplification in Snows, asking how the circuit of exchange it establishes between audience and performer transgresses the divide between public and private dimensions of bodily experience. Given the heightened visibility of the body in the context of protest against the Vietnam War, the engineering of sound in Snows opened up new means for negotiating the fraught political significance of militarized and mediated vision at this moment. Snows—a work that took shape around a set of visual and technological materials that Schneemann collected from a variety of sources—calls to be read as an early instance of an emerging hybrid aesthetic practice employing innovative engineering and research toward a social critique of technology.

SESSION V: POLITICS

Infinite diamonds and aviation: Domingo Alvarez and the Venezuelan nation This research focuses on the overlooked work of Venezuelan urban planner and visual artist Domingo Alvarez, most active during the 1960s and ’70s. Credited with introducing the first multimedia performances and environments to Venezuelan art, Alvarez was part of an array of projects in which he collaborated with national scientific and urban planning departments, as well as other artist-architect groups which organized city-wide exhibitions. My research focuses on the exhibition Minas y Petroleo (Mines and Petroleum) and the Monument to Venezuelan Aviation as exemplary of the mobilization of these forces. The former was a multimedia installation hall created for the Ministry of Mines and Hydrocarbons, in which Alvarez constructed both didactic and conceptual room environments. From the use of real petroleum in a hall of mirrors to the construction of the immersive environment “La Sala del Diamante”(Hall of the Diamond), the project exposed the history of Venezuelan mining and petroleum in hopes of mobilizing national sentiment. In the same vein, the Monument to Venezuelan Aviation (partially exhibited at the Center for Inter-American Relations in New York City, now the Americas Society) demonstrates Alvarez’s collaboration with a national industry embedded in the military and scientific advancement of the Venezuelan nation. The research methodology aims to bridge the ways in which Alvarez educated the public on the dialectic between labor and use of the land—particularly its energy—for the production of a healthy national state. This study of scientific support for and visualization of Venezuelan economic and social development for the public is one that intends to re-map Alvarez and the hybrid discourse of Venezuela’s mid-century rise to modernity.

The body as landscape—Yangtze River Walk by Chen Zhiyuan This paper examines Yangtze River Walk (2007) by Beijing-based artist Chen Zhiyuan. The performance and related installation recount Chen’s 21-day journey along the course of the Yangtze River from Shanghai westward toward its headwaters in Qinghai province. The Yangtze River has for centuries been a source of artistic inspiration for generations of Chinese poets and artists. It snakes through the scenic mountainous terrain known as the Three Gorges, now the site of the controversial Three Gorges Dam. Despite its cultural significance to Chinese art and culture, as one of the most polluted rivers in the world, the Yangtze is now a casualty of China’s economic growth. In his performative engagement with the river, Chen utilizes physiognomy and systematized documentation to demonstrate how he “inscribed the river” onto his body.

The Social Sensibility R&D Department The Social Sensibility R&D Department is an experimental unit created by Alessandro Rolandi in collaboration with Bernard Controls China. Active in Beijing since 2011 and in France since 2014, this department brings contemporary artists, researchers, and theorists from China and elsewhere in direct contact with the company’s employees for periods lasting from one to two weeks to several months, in order to develop multimedia, research, and performative projects in the field of social practice. Conceived as a long-term, integrated unit, the SSR&D aims at developing people’s sensibility in order to explore and foster new relational models. Through its uncommon approach to personal development and critical thinking, the SSR&D addresses fundamental research issues such as the notions of “reward” and “value” and the meaning of emancipation in 21st century society. After having been introduced in several independent spaces in Beijing and having received the attention of art writers, magazines, and documentary films, the SSR&D has been presented recently in the form of video documentation at the OCAT Museum in Xian. A panel discussion curated by Rolandi, researcher and OCAT board member Mia Yu, and OCAT Artistic Director Karen Smith, was held with the participation of several artists who joined the project, as well as the CEO of Bernard Controls, Guillaume Bernard.

SESSION VI: INSTITUTIONS

Programming and reprogramming the institution Photoelectric Viewer-Programmed Coordinate System (1968) is a site-specific installation by the German-American artist Hans Haacke. The “hardware” of the installation consisted of 28 evenly spaced light bulbs, photoelectric cells, and infrared beams; spectators; and, finally, the interior of the Howard Wise Gallery. Providing constant haptic feedback, when viewers’ bodies intercept the corresponding invisible beams, bulbs illuminate the gallery, making its contents—particularly the beholders—visible. The lights continually reflecting their presence, users perform together, creating constantly shifting group portraits on the walls of the white cube. Haacke’s project was already a collaboration before the spectators ever arrived: between the “enlightened” gallerist Howard Wise and Haacke, in which expensive real estate (on Manhattan’s 57th Street) was provided over time, without any sales; between Haacke and Wise and Standard Instruments Corp., New York, the firm that provided the hardware; and even between the aforementioned parties and Garson Bergman, the engineer who actually built the installation. I hold that Photoelectric exceeds taxonomies in a productive fashion. The installation Photoelectric parallels then-contemporary dance and radical politics, forms in which process (as well as participation) was increasingly valued over final product. I historically contextualize Haacke’s provocative, multivalent environmental artwork, exploring its relation to ludic activity, cybernetics, systems theory, and newly emerging artistic and performative forms. Finally, I consider Photoelectric to be at the crux of technological determinism and determined technology: users both program the work and are programmed themselves.

Land-grant hybrids: Transdisciplinarity, identity, and mission-based arts research This study explores the evolving identities of art-tech practitioners by investigating the dramatic growth in institutional art-technology collaborations at public universities across the United States. From E.A.T. to the MIT Media Lab, such collaboration has long been viewed as a creative collision between an artistic avant-garde and a technological elite. However, in the midst of a national arts research boom (Wisnioski and Zacharias, 2014), numerous public universities (in locations such as Ames, IA, Tempe, AZ, and Blacksburg, VA) and new coordinating organizations (e.g. the Alliance for the Arts in Research Universities) are investing hundreds of millions of dollars into arts research. These institutions combine commitment to cutting-edge research with new perspectives on the purpose of transdisciplinary work. Using archival research, interviews, and ethnographic observation, we investigate the aspirations of these land-grant hybrids with respect to the history of art-technology collaboration and the political economy of higher education. We argue that transdisciplinary researchers are both constrained and inspired by their institutions’ historical focus on practical knowledge, service, and outreach. Researchers use multiple narratives to balance tensions between institutional procedures and artistic freedom, and between collaborative advocacy efforts and the need to articulate a unique vision. These intersecting discourses and practices shape what counts as successful collaboration and what it means to be a researcher of the “practical arts.”

Software as an artist-run space: The intersection of open source software and self-organized arts spaces Art and technology are often mischaracterized as separate, oppositional concepts, and yet many cultural and ideological parallels can be traced between them. Contemporary open source and free software movements, in particular, invite comparisons to the phenomenon of artist­run spaces as we view their history over the past half-century. In the 1970s and 1980s, artist-run galleries like Artist’s Space (New York), Randolph Street Gallery (Chicago), LACE (Los Angeles), and many others around the globe established themselves to circumvent commercial demands and limitations on art making and exhibition. This paper explores these correlations between open source software and artist-run spaces, focusing on their similar historical motivations to liberate the proprietary landscapes of commercial software and art exhibition. Furthermore, it highlights contemporary intersections between software and art by drawing on interviews with various artists, including the creators of Processing, Paper.js, drawingcircuits.org, and openFrameworks, who use open software development as a way of extending artist-run place-making into digital environments. These conversations reveal the ongoing struggle to advance art and technology as practices rooted in collaboration, transparency, and mutual benefit, while linking the most contemporary open source software to the ongoing legacy of self-organized artist-run spaces.

Practice-led Projects

human, next is a collaborative multimedia performance, video, art, and sound work currently under development by choreographer James Moreno and artist Benjamin Rosenthal. It uses dancers, mobile monitors, and video projections to perform the convergences and differences between virtual and physical bodies, offering new perspectives on our 21st-century hybrid condition. Virtual bodies appear on three wireless video monitors, a cyclorama, and the bodies of the dancers. The dancers move, obstruct, and reconfigure the monitors as they compete with the digital bodies for control of the performance space. This shifting struggle for control reveals the complexity of designating the “human.” Phase I of human, next made its New York City premiere in March 2014 at CURRENT SESSIONS, and Phase II premiered November 2014 at the Lied Center of Kansas. A video adaptation has been presented in film festivals and exhibitions in Athens, Greece; Weimar, Germany; Holon, Israel; Venice, Italy; and New York City. human, next is funded in part by a Collaborative Seed Grant from the Hall Center for the Humanities, University of Kansas.

The UCLA Arcade Backpack was originally created to infiltrate public space. The cabinet frame is constructed of laser cut plywood and assembled to house a laptop, arcade style controls, and an LED Marquee powered by a drill battery. The entire cabinet is holstered onto a military grade back frame and can be adjusted to fit comfortably on any unsuspecting UCLA Game Lab pack mule. The UCLA Arcade Backpack has been featured in many exhibitions at museums and festivals in the United States, Canada and Europe. Recent venues include the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art, Amber Festival, Istanbul, Turkey; Indiecade, Culver City, California; Hammer Art Museum, Los Angeles; Game Developers Conference, San Francisco; and Vector Game + Art Convergence Festival, Toronto, Canada;

This project explores the implications of replication and plagiarism when copied works cannot be perceived by the human senses. Here, nanoscale replications of famous works of art are scribed onto the surface of a silicon crystal using a focused ion beam. The features in the replica are five hundred times smaller than the eye can resolve and five times smaller than the wavelength of light. When a work of art is copied, framed, and hung on a wall for public display but is not visible and cannot be interpreted, has something been taken from the original artist? Reproducing works of art at the nanoscale is accomplished by accelerating charged ions to high speeds and focusing them to a point on the substrate material. By scanning the ion beam in a defined pattern, the nanoscale world can be sculpted and etched with near-infinite variety. The material used in this project is high-purity crystalline silicon with an atomically smooth, flat surface. To take a piece of art, copy it, and share it with the world without the original artists’ permission is traditionally viewed as wrong and, in most cases, violates copyright laws. Such laws are intended to protect an artist’s financial interests and provide incentive to create. However, in a digital era where information is encrypted and stored in the atomic bits of nanoscale devices, answers to philosophical, moral, and legal questions surrounding copyright become muddled. This project focuses on tangible nanoscale art, not stored as bits, but rather existing as a directly interpretable image. Its representation is not digitized or encrypted. Its form is the same as the original, but too small to be perceived.