Excerpts from the book Information Arts: Intersections
of Art, Science, and Technology
Stephen Wilson (Segments focused on information
|Compiled by Stephen Wilson,
Professor, CIA Program ,
Art Dept, San Francisco State University
###Note these links are part of the research for Wilson's
on Arts (MIT Press,2002). Please see the book for more details
about the artists, organizations, and texts listed in these links and for
extended analysis of the relationship of art and research. Feel free
to use these resources but please attribute source. Copyright, 1999-2002
Stephen Wilson, MIT Press
For links to artists, texts, organizations etc see Artists'
Chapter 7.7 Information and Surveillance
Information Management, Visualization, and
One of the main applications of digital technology is
the acquisition, storage, classification, manipulation, and retrieval of
information. Digital systems afford unprecedented speed, efficiency, and
reach in these operations. In benign applications such as research, information
systems allow individuals to be aware of much more potentially relevant
resources than ever before. Information visualization provides new tools
for comprehending complex bodies of information. New sensors allow access
to once unavailable parts of the electromagnetic spectrum. In the darker
vision, information systems open the door to wide spread, panoptical surveillance
and control and manipulation by corporate, governmental, and military agencies.
Some analysts elevate information to the highest
medium of power and control. This era is seen as the information age. More
people are employed in information work than in production of physical
goods. Corporate wealth is determined more by information than real estate.
Scientific method and technological development's main value is seen in
their creation and tracking of information. Intellectual property is more
important than physical property. Some visions propose to use ID technologies
such as bar codes to track products from raw material through consumer
product to ultimate disposal. They also propose to track persons from birth
The analysis of these claims is complex and a full
discussion is beyond the scope of this book. Many sections address elements
of the analysis. Information is a slippery term. For example, almost all
art could be considered information. Some artists, however, explicitly
claim to be addressing issues of surveillance and information systems in
contemporary society. This chapter reviews their work.
The modern multi-national corporation is a prime
exemplar of the institutions created by the information age. Many artists
are exploring the form of these organizations with their convergence of
research, technology, telecommunication, marketing, and media. They are
creating alternative art organizations as comments on the form and as competitors
in mind space. Others are trying to cultivate free access to databases
as information becomes property. This chapter reviews artists who comment
on our culture's focus on information systems.
Databases, Research Processes
Natalie Jeremijenko creates art installations that comment
on the conceptual structures that underlay large databases. She has background
as both artist and engineer. She is concerned about the bases of categorization
and the nature of representation imposed by computer mediated databases
and data acquisition systems. She established the "Bureau of Inverse Technologies"
as a fictional organization which highlights some of these concerns by
initiating information projects.
Fig 7.7.5 Natalie Jeremijenko.
Bureau of Inverse Technologies. Suicide Box project proposes to keep systematic
live action records on suicide attempts at Golden Gate Bridge.
Natalie Jeremijenko- http://www.tech90s.net/nj/index-nj.html
She explains her desire to make visible the not so
obvious meanings implicit in the design of databases and technological
information acquisition systems. She asserts that no systems are neutral
even though rhetoric often promotes that view.
I begin with the assertion that technologies
are tangible social relations. That said, technologies can therefore be
used to make social relations tangible. Technologies create the material
conditions within which we work, and imagine ourselves and our identities.
I am concerned with how technology is developed within a context where
overarching priority is given to formal systems over content, and where
the complicating and politicizing projects of postmodernity are marginalized.
I am interested in the epistemological work of
current technologies. This includes what gets technological attention and
what does not, what gets counted, and what gets left out. What is the political
fabric of the information age? And what interventions can be made in a
place where economics gets equated with politics, where diversity is rendered
in homogeneous database fields, and where consumption forms identity?
In "Slit" she presents an installation in which video
monitors physically are moved to illustrate filmic conventions such as
zoom, pan, and the like. Her intention was to deconstruct the illusions
of film and comment on research projects underway to use these conventions
to characterize video information for database access. The cameras are
mechanically moved to reinact film conventions thus making obvious the
usually invisible manipulations of sight. Visitors "move around and find
the single privileged position from which we are accustomed to viewing
film." She notes "I use this project to introduce the way that cultural
tradition, in this case filmic convention, becomes technical imperative,
and how a tradition of representation becomes operationalized, or commodified
One of the Bureau of Inverse Technology's major projects
is the "Suicide Box". This project is presented in the same language that
would be used to present a serious engineering plan. Data from its trial
run is presented with appropriate statistical aplomb. The box is designed
to count the number of suicides attempted off a bridge such as the Golden
Gate Bridge. by using a motion-detection trigger to capture video of anything
that falls. In deadpan engineering text the report recounts "A recent trial
period activation yielded 17 events in 100 days... a rate equivalent to
0.17 suicides per day. "
Considering the effects of low visibility, the
event rate is 0.68 suicides per day. Data captured by the Suicide Box provide
an increasingly accurate measure of a social phenomena not previously adequately
quantified. Using this data the Bureau has developed a new economic indicator,
the Despondency Index. Dynamically updated to the Down Jones Industrial
at each bridge occurrence, the Despondency Index brings the BIT data in
line with the micro-attention given to market indicators.
Jeremijenko analyzes the Suicide Box project for what
it reveals about the political nature of data abstraction. She warns about
the information conventions taken for granted in technical fields such
as computer science and engineering.
The politics of information is invisible in
its ubiquity, and yet it has radically transformed many diverse areas of
knowledge, considering the transformation effected in and with information.
technology in areas such as genetics, epidemiology, risk analysis, sociology....
Consider the slogan used to advertise a new database
package, "information is power"...Truth of falsity of something is seen
as a property of the information such that power is the distorting lens
of the information camera. Power and information are presumed extrinsic
to each other and somehow independent. Fundamentally, power is not seen
to affect the truth of the information, and power is not seen to contribute
constructively to information.
However the account of power and information which
the Bureau's research demonstrates is one in which power does not simply
impinge on information from without...The very technological attention
to suicide is the critical element in its existence as information -- it
simply did not exist in this form prior to the bureaucratic eye lent to
it by the Bureau.
I created a robotic public art installation called "Crimezyland"
that explored issues in media representations of crime, information visualization,
and public access to complex databases. It won the competition to be placed
in San Francisco Art Commission's Exploration: City Site outdoor public
art space across from San Francisco's City Hall. Crimezyland offered visitors
a large outdoor map (12x 40 meters) of the city of San Francisco in which
the 10 highest crime locations were indicated by tall poles. Kinetic clowns
and toy police car sirens and lights would activate 24 hours a day at those
precise times that the statistical database indicated a crime would be
happening. Visitors could pick the type of crime and hear live police radio
of current police actions. Internet visitors could also control the event,
view current physical viewers, and speak their opinions of crime via a
speech synthesizer. The web site describes the physical event and its conceptual
Fig 7.7.6 Stephen Wilson.
Crimezyland. Public art with kinetic clowns visualizing statistical levels
of crime in real time.
STephen Wilson - http://userwww.sfsu.edu/~swilson
CrimeZyland is an art installation, a "playland
of crime" that transforms the City Site lot into a computer controlled
living "map" that creates light, motion, and sound corresponding to the
minute by minute statistical level of crimes committed in San Francisco
districts, as indicated by the Police Department CABLE crime statistics.
In what appears to be a carnival or theme park, viewers can experience
the crime "pulse" of the city firsthand. Here is its artistic agenda:
1.Crime as Entertainment:: Using the strategy
of absurd extension, this installation asks viewers to question the media
circus created around crime. Are TV crime reports or this humorous "Disneyland
of Crime" appropriate events?
2.Deconstructing Crime: What's a crime? Who defines
it? What are our prejudices about crime? Are street crimes worthy of more
attention than other crimes against the community such as poisoning the
Bay or creation of dangerous products that kill or maim?
3.Information visualization and access: The installation
will use the tools of public sculpture to give viewers intuitive access
to this provocative information about urban life. What is an appropriate
representation of the underlying information?
4.Real vs. Virtual Presence The installation asks
viewers to think about the difference between physical and Internet participation
in public events. Some analysts note that because of crime, urban dwellers
increasingly engage in "cocooning" . This installation offers enhanced
control options to those brave viewers who venture out to be physically
In 1998 Ars Electronica declared "InfoWar" as its main
theme. It identified the international network of technologically mediated
information flow and control as a major feature of contemporary life. It
featured art and theory that commented on the role of information in dominating
commercial and military systems and the technological infrastructure. It
invited contributions from artists working on resistance to this information
The information society - no longer a vague
promise of a better future, but a reality and a central challenge of the
here-and-now - is founded upon the three key technologies of electricity,
telecommunications and computers: Technologies developed for the purposes,
and out of the logic, of war, technologies of simultaneity and coherence,
keeping our civilian society in a state of permanent mobilisation driven
by the battle for markets, resources and spheres of influence. A battle
for supremacy in processes of economic concentration, in which the fronts,
no longer drawn up along national boundaries and between political systems,
are defined by technical standards. A battle in which the power of knowledge
is managed as a profitable monopoly of its distribution and dissemination.
[military attention focuses on] cyberwar, whose
ultimate target is nothing less than the global information infrastructure
itself: annihilation of the enemy's computer and communication systems,
obliteration of his databases, destruction of his command and control systems....These
new forms of post-territorial conflicts, however, have for some time now
ceased to be preserve of governments and their ministers of war. NGOs,
hackers, computer freaks in the service of organised crime, and terrorist
organisations with high-tech expertise are now the chief actors in the
cyberguerilla nightmares of national security services and defence ministries.
In response to this emphasis an independent jury established
the "Information Weapon Contest" to invite artists to develop technologies
that could work against the dominant information systems. The prize was
offered "to the most outstanding information weapon with an accent on it's
functionality, design and successfulness." The organizers claimed to be
interested in the question "what could info weapons look like, if they
are not simply e-mail bombs, spam or regular propaganda and disinformation
campaigns on the 'content' level?"
Eric Paulos, a robotics and surveillance artist,
described his conceptual approach to designing such an "information" weapon
that would corrupt any electronic instruments within a "Technology Free
The rapidly approaching ubiquity of technology
and its inevitable but rarely discussed terroristic use demand for immediate
exploration and development of technology disruption devices. In the ensuing
world dominated by technology and information, the true culmination of
power will rest not with the institution controlling the information but
the organization, group, or individual capable of disabling, altering,
or destroying the underlying support structure of information: electricity,
telecommunications, and computers.
Becker is a "hyperreality researcher" and director of
t0/ Institute for New Culture-Technologies in Austria. He creates media
installations and writes extensively on issues in culture and technology.
One major interest is surveillance and information war. In his essay "Synreal
Systems" he analyzes the power of information systems and his fear for
loss of individual autonomy.
Konrad Becker - http://netbase.t0.or.at/~konrad/
Information can be manipulated or faked at many
levels. It is not only the message itself that can be tampered with. Initially,
the source for an information item may be masked or relabeled; than, the
routing and the placing of channels and media can be subject to manipulation;
and, finally, access of the receiver may be restricted. Data-processing
is the silent weapon in an undeclared war. Social engineering, the analysis
and automatization of society is derived from military operations research,
the methodology of tactics and logistics. The automatization of society
works the same way as the automatization of a meat-factory. The freedom
of the individual disappears as unspectacularly as a popular illusionist
spectacularly made the Statue Of Liberty disappear from the New York harbor:
she is miraculously out of the frame of vision.
His article on Cyberwar provides a provocative set of
references which stretch from philosophers and theorists to research documents
from military research on subjects. Becker believes development of information
warfare technology is not an esoteric subject of interest only to researchers
but rather a central topic in understanding the evolution of culture. It
is an appropriate and crucial concern for the arts. Here is a sample of
info technology articles he references: " A Theory of Information Warfare",
"Eavesdropping On the Electromagnetic Emanations of Digital Equipment",
"Microwave Harassment and Mind-Control Experimentation." His "Infobody"
interventions such as "Linguistic Infiltration Programs" (SLIP), "Telepresent
Contagious Postures" (TCP) ironically comment on real world tendencies.
Other Artists and Projects
Karen O'Rourke and her colleagues organized
the "ArtChivists" web site which reports on artists exploring databases
as art. Judy Malloy created a series of works reflecting on corporate information
and propaganda as art, for example, "OK Research, OK Engineering, Bad Information."
The Museum of Juraissic Technology offers reflections on technoculture
in a ironic commentary on museums. Foresight Exchange sets up a stock market
like exchange of ideas about the future. Marcos Novack's TransArchitecture
(see 6.3) explores ideas that physical and data architectures will merge
into new hybrids in the future. The Scope conferences in Austria such as
"Information vs. Meaning" draws together information researchers and conceptual
artists to "focus on critical changes in how information is accessed and
Karen O'Rourke, Artchivists - http/::www.univ-paris1.fr/CERAPLA/The__ArtChivist/index.html
Judy Malloy, Information Art -
Museum of Jurassic Technology -
Foresight exchange - http://www.ideosphere.com/docs/fx.html#Welcome
Museum of Jurassic Technology -
Marcos Novack - http://www.aud.ucla.edu/~marcos/
Scope "Information vs Meaning "conference
Not all see the new information systems as necessarily
dark forces. Some artists are interested in the new capabilities to collect
and represent information. They believe these new capacities might enhance
life and enrich our understanding of the human and non-human world.
Cox was an artist on a collaborative team of scientists
and artists exploring the possibilities of scientific visualization at
the National Supercomputing Center at the University of Illinois. She has
written many papers analyzing the role of artists in visualizing complex
data sets. The journal Leonardo offered this brief profile in awarding
her an Award for Excellence.
Fig 7.7.7 Donna Cox and Robert
Patterson. Visualization of Internet structure.
Donna Cox - http://www.ncsa.uiuc.edu/People/cox/
[Cox] is the artist contributor to a team exploring
interdisciplinary research through supercomputing. Cox recounts her role
as a member of the "Renaissance Team" discovering visual representations
of multidimensional computations. Supercomputing is particularly valuable
for complex simulations as its speed, vector environment and parallel processing
enable many equations to be solved simultaneously. These experiments are
valuable in distinguishing appropriate new tools to enable scientists to
find correlations in data. Scientific simulations are further evidence
of the shared quest of artists and scientists---to make visible the complex,
yet invisible, structures of the universe.
Strickland, who is a researcher with Interval Research
and one of the collaborators in "Placeholder" (see 7.3), creates a variety
of interactive media installations inspired by the perspectives of anthropology.
One installation called "Portable Effects: An Installation For Interactive
Anthropology " allows visitors to interactively explore what things people
carry with them in their pocketbooks, backpacks, wallets, and pockets.
The installation consists of 3 networked stations allowing for inspection
and documentation of one's materials, sorting, and review of other people's
records. Poeple and that which they are carrying are photographed and weighed.
A game like review station allows visitors to try to guess which sets of
belongings go which persons. Strickland sees this phenomenon as a window
on concepts of portability and everyday design as well as a more general
reflection on contemporary life. Some commentators noted that the installation
also raises questions of surveillance and the danger of technology enabling
every greater intrusions into personal lives. Another called it a "voyeuristic
Fig 7.7.8 Rachel Strickland,
Colin Burns, Jonathan Cohen, Maribeth Back. Portable Effects. Installation
to examine the personal effects that people carry with them every day.
Rachel Strickland - http://web.interval.com/projects/pfx/
Peoples selection and arrangement of the things
they take with them in handbags, pockets, briefcases, backpacks, etc. form
the context of the investigation. Between setting forth in the morning
and returning home at night, each person lives nomadically for several
hours a day. You cant take everything with you neither in your backpack
nor in your head. Identifying essentials, figuring out how to contain,
arrange and keep track of them as you go are instances of design thinking.
Understanding the properties and consequences of portability is a way to
grasp principles that underlie the transferability of knowledge from one
domain to another....
Portable effects uses contemporary technology
to offer new perspectives on the common everyday activity of carrying things
around. The new insights themselves become the focus of the art. The installation
also suggests possible dangers lurking in computer mediated intrusiveness.
Other Artists and Projects
Questioning the "rigid and artificial separation between
information and aesthetics in scientific images", Felice Frankel, in
her role as artist in residence at MIT collaborates with scientists to
visually extract information from scientific research by exploiting visual
potential of research techniques. (see 3.2) Dee Berger investigates
the Scanning Electron Microscope as a tool for making visible the invisible.
Trudy Myrrh Reagan creates collages based on scientific principles,
conundra, and imagery. John Maeda and MIT's Aesthetics of Computing group
in part focuses on integrating concepts of grahics and computation to develop
"systems of visual relations that intuitively reveal qualitative information
of varying degrees of relevance."
Dee Berger - http://ldeo.columbia.edu/micro/index.html
MIT Aesthetics and Computation
Information Organizations and Structures
Knowbotic Research has won many awards for their investigations
of the nature of information in the contemporary technology mediated world.
This collaboration, which includes Christian Hubler, Alexander Tuchacek,
Yvonne Wilhelm, and other scientists and artists, creates installations
and projects which allow participants to enter dataspace to interact in
unprecedented ways . Projects have focused on architecture, sound, urban
experiences, and scientific research enterprises. The seek to understand
the new realities developing from the collision of physical and network
experience. Their "SMDK- SimulationSpaceMosaic of mobile Datasounds" allowed
visitors to navigate a VR world composed of data. In "Non-Locations As
Fields Of Action", they explain that they create media installations as
research about possible configurations for the culture.
Knowboitics Research - http://www.t0.or.at/~krcf/
Knowbotic Research formulates its projects via
the combination of information and knowledge structures with complex spheres
of experience and action. A particular emphasis is placed on the performability
and non-localisation of data and network supported environments. In loose
co-operation with computer scientists, scientists in general and architects,
the heterogeneous qualities of media events are probed and tested and made
accessible within specific public spheres, (e.g. in real data-space installations,
urban experiments etc.
Knowbotics claims that contemporary techno-political
systems do not allow the flexibility of conceptualization and action that
are possible with the new technologies. They call these new structures
"non-locations" and "mem_branes" in which people are not forced to "operate
within hard and fast fields of options", in which technology helps people
to "contnually jump from one system to another", and in which non-locations
fucntion as "zones of difference which generate confrontation and point
beyond the cross-communicated indexical exchange of information."
In "Non-Locations/Event: Under Construction" they
explain that technology creates new possibilities. They are interested
in structures that allow experimentation with those possibilities: confrontations
between what "man deems possible and what machines offer him as makeable",
productive new models such as "non-linearity, multi-dimensionality, acceleration,
compression, multiple layers, poly-perspectives,multi-functionality", and
new attitudes about interfaces which doesn't deal with "negotiating between
realities, but acts in a field of effects where the human and the machinic
can no longer be easily distinguished."
Fig 7.7.11 Knowboics non locations,
membrand annoymous, I
The installation "Annoymous Muttering" presented
visitors with a physical sound and light experience that is a manifestation
of underlying information structures created locally and via net contributions.
Knowbotics provided interfaces that let people inspect and manipulate that
structure. The particular installation can be thought of as an experiential
illustration of their understanding of possible configurations of the larger
culture. It presented events "which are composed of fleeting, initialised
and 'found' singular events. What happens cannot be traced back to references
in real space. "
Knowbotics claims that the new synthesized physical/data
spaces form an almost palpable meshwork that can be bent, folded, and manipulated.
They describe this meshwork as "smoothened heterogeneity" and differentiate
it both from architecture and electronic networks. It is fluid and bendable.
"The value of this networked information lies not in the guarantee of its
traceability, but in its immanent transformatory potential which invites
interventions, like the deletion, addition, encryption or granulation of
Their web based project "IO_Dencies " (See 6.4) attempted
to create network representations and interfaces for understanding the
urban experiences of Sao Paulo and Tokyo. They believed new understandings
and possibilities for action could be stimulated by unorthodox informational
structures. It created a "topological cut through the heterogeneous assemblage
of physical spaces, data environments, urban imaginations, connective agencies
and individual experiences". They sought to create a new forms that "exploit
the technical possibilities of the networks and that allow for new and
creative forms of becoming present, becoming visible, becoming active,
in short, of becoming-public."
In an interview with Andreas Broeckmann for the V2,
Knowbotics explains their idea that contemporary realities are based on
neither physical or electronic space alone. They see common notions of
"networking" as oversimplified. Urban topology is made of elements which
"can be economic, political, technological or tectonic processes, as well
as acts of communication and articulation, or symbolic and expressive acts....the
city features not as a representation, but as an interface which has to
be made and remade all the time"
Fig 7.7.10 Knowbotic Research.
Dialogue with the Knowbotic South. I nvestigation of the nature of simulation
in scientific and artistic research.
In "Dialogue with the Knowbotic South" Knowbotics
investigated the nature of simulation in scientific and artistic research
and the possibilities of communication between the arts and sciences. They
chose research on Antarctica because its compelling presence of physical
nature provided an interesting counterpoint to virtual constructions of
knowledge. The project provided windows into scientific visual and textual
discourse about the Antarctic and ultimately questioned how we know what
we know. In an interview with Paolo Atzori for Ctheory they described their
From an artistic point of view, our project
formalizes the problem of a missing language.... For the first time, scientists
not only prove the laws of nature, they also formulate conditions of possible
systems. In our project we treat an actual state of nature corresponding
to our information culture We want to create a field of discourse freed
from the rules of the specialists' disciplines. It is a field not only
for natural scientists but also for scholars and philosophers who are discussing
current ideas of reality....
Our world view is based on what we see in the
future, a worldwide data space induced by the communication technologies,
filled with tons of information coming from all different disciplines of
knowledge. I think it is very important to create models which focus on
the needs and possibilities of the person who tries to receive this information....Our
work is also a liberation from science. We create an environment where,
initially, we fabricate actual phenomena of scientific thinking. But we
emancipate these phenomena from their reference (science) by a self-organization
As part of the project the artists created knowbots,
semi-autonomous software agents, who could locate, manipulate, and present
information related to Antarctic research. They made the knowbots somewhat
interactive so that viewers' actions could have effects on the information
The main problem for the knowledge robots is
that we are dealing with two bigger entities, the so called reference nature
that is still very powerful in the Antarctic, one of the few almost intact
ecological systems, and the related scientific institutions. The knowbots
act with completely different kinds of inputs, originating a tension so
you can't bring these two worlds really together. This produces an aesthetic
field for artists...
The interesting thing is that we deal with processes
you can't see in reality. Hidden processes, sometimes extremely small or
extremely big, and very complex....Actually, for the scientists it no longer
makes sense to work directly in contact with nature. They need data, intelligent
data for their terminals in the institutes.....sensors are directly connected
to computers. They ex-territorialize their nature in the networks. Maybe
our artistic work is a kind of re-territorialization.
The artists reflect that the world will be inundated
with information. Artists have an important role in decoding this immensity
of data, but they must be willing to enter inside the data structures.
Countervailing against developments such as the ecological destruction
of the Antarctic requires intervention at the realm of information acquisition,
visualization, and communication.
The important point is not to discuss the meaning
of measures, but rather how can we visualize and handle this complexity
of information. That's a problem for the scientists too. There are so many
data: how can we turn it into information and knowledge, how can we handle
this with the knowledge we have?
It is necessary to define a strategy about order
and the generation of new things. With computers we analyze fragments of
the reality and at the same time we build and initiate complex processes.
This is what the work is about.
We are inside a technological system whose direction
and speed are defined by industry and science. Politics and arts have to
follow and it is nearly impossible to do anything without being inside.
It is a confrontation which can't work if you play with the traditional
ways of art.....It's an old artist's strategy to make politics and scientists
aware of the consequences of their concepts of reality.
As part of their strategy Knowbotics set up a research
center called Mem_brane in collaboration with the Academy of Media Arts
in Cologne which attempts to integrate technical and cultural capabilities
and perspectives without commercial pressures.
Mem_brane is a laboratory for artistic oriented
projects which concentrate on network and electronic information systems.
The works that are realized focus upon unconventional development using
the aesthetics of culture and technology, as a critical reflection of digital
communication in and outside of data worlds. The enhanced growth of technological
infrastructure in the present information society, must be evaluated across
its daily applications, where questions are raised with relevance to media
culture, economics and politics.
In reflecting on the work of Knowbotics, theorist Tim
Druckrey notes that the dominant culture tries to colonize cyberspace in
accordance with old models that marginalize deviant and chaotic elements.
Groups like Knowbotics demonstrate critical alternatives.
The traditional humanistic world view is thus
re- conceptualized in the sense of being re-duplicated. In such outlines
uninhabited outer regions are negated, sub- or cybversive forms of existence
are ignored (i.e., ghettoized), microstructures are overlooked, chaotic
behaviour and uncertainty are curbed, etc. These defects reflect a lingering
continuation of an economic and ideological 'missionary' approach, as well
as elements of a colonial attitude. This type of virtual culture draws
its reality-constituting factors from the "use" of prefabricated structures;
the user elements are algorithmized components of our city culture.
Makrolab was developed by a collaboration of Slovenian
artists who are creating a new kind of information organization. Their
organization presents itself both conceptually and physically as an advanced
scientific outpost using the latest technological tools to monitor happenings
and create events contextualized as art. Makrolab artists feel it is essential
to monitor as many channels of information as possible and thus their systems
include radio, GPS, computer, and internet technologies. Metaphorically
they see their activities as an attempt to enter into the "big organism",
the "ur-animal" The makrolab web site explains why it was created and their
activities at Documenta.
Makrolab - http://makrolab.ljudmila.org/
the exhibited object, the makrolab-console represents
the external, fragmentary view on the makrolab - research station, which
is set on the hill lutterberg....makrolab is designed as an autonomous,
modular communications and living environment, which is powered by sustainable
sources of energy (solar and wind power). it is designed for a long existence
in an isolated environment and can withstand extreme natural conditions.
it has it's own research and experience goal.
the station is built as a combination of various scientific and technological
logistics systems. makrolab makes use of scientific and technological tools,
knowledge and systems, but it projects them in the social domain of art.
we, the authors and crew make use of the system of art for the shaping
and representation of an integral empirical and creative experience....the
electromagnetic spectrum is a part of the global socio-political space,
which is invisible and immaterial on one hand but presents a productive
factor of general living and social conditions on the other. it can be
sensed only by the means of suitable interfaces and specialized knowledge.
In a lecture given in connection with its presence at
Documenta, Markrolab presented some its rationale. It attempted to create
a somewhat isolated entity that could reflect on trends in the larger culture
using the tools of technological and cultural research and corporational
activities. Fields of research include "acoustics, atmosphere, communications,
dreams, inner life, linguistics, low energy systems, psycho acoustics,
solar power systems, social evolution systems and strategies, wind power
systems, weather and war strategies".
[ its goals are ] to transform abstract and
intangible qualities and properties present in the world, such as radio
waves, atmospheric events or psychic movements into material, three dimensional
structures, documents, objects through a de-abstractization process or
if you want a process of materialisation....
Makrolab is a declarative position outside of
the spectacle, also outside of society ...The thesis is that individuals
in a restricted, intensive isolation can produce more evolutionary code
than large social movements of great geographical and political extent.
Joel Slayton and C5
Slayton and his collaborators have created a corporation/research
organization dedicated to pursuit of new developments in technology, theory,
and art. C5 presents the full regalia of corporate structure including
financial, governance, marketing, and research elements. Visitors can read
corporate reports, inspect research reports, buy stock, and so on. Slayton
explains the rationale on the C5 website.
C5 - http://c5.sjsu.edu/index.html
Advances resulting from intra-theoretic reductionism
have resulted in the exploration of unique models in which cascading and
parallel considerations of hyper-structuralism and contextuality are significant.
Indeterminate information systems (brains and computers) are impetus for
research and exemplification of fundamental principles which can be used
for tactical surveillance and strategic analysis involving new forms of
knowledge representation. The complex phenomena of self-organization, diffusion,
cues, presence, richness, ambiguity, uncertainty, complexity, evolution,
inferencing and entanglement are common themes for experimentation at C5.
C5 is the corporation of acculturation. The sciences
of the artificial are stimuli redefining the nature of group formations
and operations management resident in technology enterprise. Systems analysis
and information mapping are the contemporary substance of data perception,
of which the artifact is interface. C5 solutions are informed by collaborative
expertise including implementations of artificial intelligence, bio-engineering,
public relations, liquid computing, emergent behavioral systems, bio-metrics,
virtuality, cognitive psychology, semiotics, anthropology, literary criticism,
military studies, library science and art. Theory is product.
C5 includes subsidaries in "Simulation, Heuristics,
Complexity, Identity, and Ubiquity". C5 comments on the linkage between
serious research and new tech corporate economics by offering a presentation
that hovers somewhere between corporate gibberish, theoretical excess,
and cutting edge research.
Specific research projects include "Radio Controlled
Surveillance Probes (RCSP), Mining Research, and Data Mining/Knowledge
Representation". The Data Mining project explains the focus on information.
We believe that a deconstruction of heuristic
and expert strategies forces the conceptual rectification of notions such
as belief networks, adaptive learning and knowledge consensus. In systems
where uncertainty is high and specific goals not defined, new approaches
to emerging knowledge are required.
Fig 7.7.11 J Joel Slayton, C5.
Artist organization exploring the sturcture and forms of corporate information
systems including datamining from movements of toy car event.
C5 is at its best in its trade show presentations.
At Siggraph98 C5 researchers clad in official corporate uniforms had a
booth that demonstrated the latest research in RCSP. Very serious presenters
controlled a fleet of radio controlled radio cars moving in choreographed
movements while a computer systematically collected this important data
and transmitted to a distant server for data analysis, and ultimate display
on the booth's computers.
Etoy is a pseudo corporation created by an artist group.
The undertake actions throughout the world commenting on corporate structures
and worldwide communication and information systems. They are the artistic
version of a multi-national corporation. They have developed "office" modules
(sometimes made out of shipping containers), maintain an active web site,
sell stock, wear distinctive uniforms, and otherwise act like a strange
corporate entity. The Internet has been essential to their operations.
They won the top prize in 1996 Ars Electronica Net competition.
Fig 7.7.12 Etoy. Etoy time
zone screen from artist organization exploring coporate forms.
Etoy - http://www.etoy.com
In one action called "Tme Zone" they declared all
international operations would use their own unique time zone synchronized
to the Internet. The explanation of the project also conveys the corporate
ambiance the group creates.
the etoy.CREW established their own time zone.
All etoy.SERVERS and etoy.TANKS run a virtual time system: etoy.TIMEZONE
is oriented on UNIX seconds ....To save money and time trough more efficient
coordination and parallel working. To offer perfect customer service and
faster R&D. It unifies the etoy.BRANCHES around the world and covers
a minimum spare time for employees.
The etoy website describes some of their operating principles
and their attempt to use artistic methods to study the state of the culture.
etoy operates somewhere between productions
of overdrive communications and a redefinition of content and message in
the electronic age....etoy uses artistic means to demonstrate what happens
when communication is stretched to its outermost limits and emits both
emotional and intellectual impulses.
why? the world is changing radically - one cannot
compare digital structures and procedures with mechanical processes. etoy
explores and programs search engines, global databases, EDP services, automated
processes and virtual environments, all of which are concerned exclusively
and emphatically with themselves....
a production within that super-charged zone between
fake and truth, between showmanship and functionality, between outside
and inside, between content and shape.
Summary: Being Formed by Information
Has the information explosion made the world clearer
or more obscure? Like so many of the fruits of research, there is no simple
answer. Potentially each of us has access to information that would have
been inconceivable a few years ago. Optimists suggest that this access
could usher in higher levels of understanding about the universe and humanity.
For example, Roy Ascott, (see 6.1), suggests that the expansion of information
networks has done much more than just increased the number of factoids
we can consider. Rather it has opened a possibility of transformed consciousness,
the ability to see the big picture including kinds of knowledge outside
of the scientific/technological world view.
Pessimists suggest that the information access is
an illusion. Much of the so called information is based on faulty assumptions
and categories that serve other purposes besides enlightenment. Rather
than enhanced subjects many of us are being turned into data objects, reduced
to data points in the master databases used for control and exploitation.
Some even hold that the information is really mush -- mediated signs without
real referents. It is fitting as information comes to be the cultural and
economic heart of life that artists should enter into the debate.