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Archives: 2013-05

A Dove In The Bell Jar

Next month at the Greenwich Gallery, my significant other Julia has a solo exhibition of her photomicrography practice. With a laboratory-grade microscope and digital SLR camera, she explores the hidden microworlds of cellular biology, crystallography, and more.

Alongside a whole series of aluminium-mounted prints, she will be in the gallery on Saturdays and Sundays with the microscope, projecting a live video feed of microscopic specimens onto a plasma display.

You want something teeny looking at? Bring it down.

A Dove In The Bell Jar
Greenwich Gallery
London, SE10 8RS
21 June 3 July 2013

For much more, check out the eponymous blog: A Dove In The Bell Jar

The Extended Composer

I have recently contributed a chapter to a Springer textbook on Computers and Creativity. Edited by Jon McCormack and Mark d'Inverno, it's a great collection of essays which emerged from a Dagstuhl seminar on computational creativity and the surrounding issues: can algorithmic systems be said to be creative? What systems can we use to evaluate creative practice - or is a "fitness function" even possible for aesthetic values? How are computing and simulation altering our philosophies of creativity?

My contribution, co-authored with Mark d'Inverno and Andrew R. Brown, sidesteps ideas of autonomous creative systems to instead focus on how we can extend our own innate creative practice using generative algorithms, particularly in the domain of music making. It attempts to delineate several ways in which we can use algorithmic tools to alter or reroute innate creativity - by suggesting new routes, enforcing constraints, or imposing new aesthetic directions.

The chapter builds extensively on Clark and Chalmers' concept of the Extended Mind, which proposes that cognitive processes can take place outside of our physical brains; for example, when we are writing notes to remember later, or shuffling tiles on a Scrabble board to jog ideas of words to play.

In homage to Clark and Chalmers, it is titled The Extended Composer.

This chapter focuses on interactive tools for musical composition which, through computational means, have some degree of autonomy in the creative process. This can engender two distinct benefits: extending our practice through new capabilities or trajectories, and reflecting our existing behaviour, thereby disrupting habits or tropes that are acquired over time. We examine these human-computer partnerships from a number of perspectives, providing a series of taxonomies based on a systems behavioural properties, and discuss the benefits and risks that such creative interactions can provoke.

It's sadly an expensive publication and only viable to most through a University library subscription.

For general readers, available here is a pre-print PDF of the The Extended Composer. Please note that this document is intended for research purposes only.

Infinite Slice

My good friend Josh Pollen is one-third of food design studio Blanch and Shock, who meld sustainable, local and seasonal food with an exotic array of chemical practices.

He has just returned from the Nordic Food Lab, the sea-faring research adjunct of Noma, at which he has been developing culinary techniques that make of insects: cockroaches, locusts, woodlice, and more. The resulting dishes were served at the Wellcome Collection Pestival event, with some beautiful results.

In more relaxed surroundings, I was surprised to find that unadorned black ants make a tangy and remarkably moreish accompaniment to a beer.

Josh documents his food work on Infinite Slice, a tumblr that is as visually rich as it is hunger-inducing. There is a satisfying tension between the overgrowth of wild meat and foliage, and the clean lines and labelled zip-lock bags of the preparation process, reflecting the order that we impose in striving to understand the teeming world around us.

Infinite Slice: Rhubarb

Infinite Slice: Pickle

Infinite Slice: Honeycomb

More: Infinite Slice