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
London, SE10 8RS
21 June – 3 July 2013
For much more, check out the eponymous blog: A Dove In The Bell Jar
Stitch is a not-for-profit organisation set up by a group of young artists, scientists and environmentalists with the aim of raising environmental awareness through art.
They are holding an art auction tonight in the amazing surrounds of the Old Dairy (WC1N), with all proceeds contributing towards environmental causes. I have a framed photograph in the show, Untitled (Isle of Grain).
I have written a short piece of text explaining the background to the image.
The Isle of Grain is a region of marshland in the north of Kent, at the mouthway of the River Thames. In virtue of its astounding biodiversity and variety of habitats, it is classified by ecologists as an "open mosaic" environment, home to a rich tapestry of wildlife. Thirteen of its native species are endangered with extinction, with a further 34 classified as nationally scarce. It is home to Britain's rarest species of native bee.
Its sparse populous, coastal location and proximity to London also make the Isle of Grain a target for industrial development. Formerly home to a BP oil refinery, it is now occupied by the Thamesport container seaport, an oil-burning power station, a Liquefied Natural Gas import facility, and the landing point of the BritNed high-voltage submarine power cable, linking Kent with Maasklakte, Holland. A further gas-fired power station is planned by the National Grid, who own over 700 acres of the surrounding land.
In November 2011, Lord Norman Foster presented a proposal to develop Grain as the radial point of a new high-tech transport system, the "Thames Hub". This would include a four-runway airport with twice the capacity of Heathrow, a Trade Spine to link utility pipes and cables to the north of England, and a high-speed rail station, forecast to become the UK's busiest.
The auction also includes works by the like of Vivienne Westwood, Richard Long, Marc Quinn and Richard Wentworth. The event runs from 6pm.
Entitled "Maelstrom", it is a multichannel sound installation that uses real-time YouTube uploads as its raw material, using them to resynthesize morphing banks of chord sequences. These are then spun rapidly around the listener by a multichannel system of repurposed speakers, creating a tornado of audio data.
From the press blurb:
Over 48 hours of user-created audio is uploaded to the internet every minute, a figure that is increasing exponentially. Maelstrom is a sound installation that draws on this material in real time, constructing shifting walls of sound from thousands of audio fragments.
By organising these fragments based on their tonal attributes, they collectively form a vast instrument, whose properties are affected by global internet activity. A score composed specifically for this instrument voices an endless series of chord variations, dynamically generated by an array of live processes.
Maelstrom builds a tornado of tonal cluster chords around its spiral speaker system, engulfing the listener in the swirling mass of information that is now an integral part of our day-to-day lives.
Off Modern Late is on Thursday 24th November, in various spaces around the Barbican Centre, from 6.30pm onwards. Entry is free.
Yes, another one. For those around East London over the coming weeks, I have a digital print in the exhibition Cats and Kittens, opening at Barden's (N16) on 14th July.
Untitled (Digital Photographs, 2002-2011) compresses 11,000 digital photos taken over 10 years into a single poster-sized image, incorporating a line of pixels from each in sequence.
It's not reproducible online due to its large scale and detail, but can be seen from late next week (details on poster below).
In the culmination of a busy few weeks, I have another new digital installation opening this Friday. Horizontal Transmission is a semi-interactive sonic ecosystem based on bacterial dynamics, somewhere between a VR game and in silico systems biology simulation. It's an extension of research that I've recently been involved with in conjunction with the pioneering Division of Mathematical Biology at the National Institute for Medical Research.
It's a part of A Theory of Everything, at Deptford's Core Gallery from 24 June to 10 July, alongside a number of other works based on physical patterns and the empirical search for unifying scientific laws.
More on the piece:
Bacterial organisms exhibit a trait that is unique within the living world. As well as inheriting genetic properties from parent to child, bacteria are able to exchange genetic information with their neighbours, via packets of DNA known as 'plasmids'. This enables bacteria to temporarily adopt characteristics which may give them a competitive advantage in a hostile environment. Plasmids can be seen as semi-beneficial parasites which hop from bacterial host to host, giving rise to complex evolutionary patterns.
"Horizontal Transmission" (2011) simulates these dynamics in a 3D space, representing populations of cells both visually and sonically. When sound is detected from the gallery space by the attached microphone, it is transformed into a plasmid and deposited in the virtual space. This can then be assimilated by the bacterial population, who then mimic these sounds in their inter-cellular communications. The bacterial world can be explored using a 3D control interface, with which an observer can navigate through the population, observing cellular dynamics and communication patterns.
There are subsequently a number of informal salons featuring the artists and scientists involved. Find out more on the A Theory of Everything blog.
Ordering #1 (Sans/Soleil) is a reworking of Chris Marker’s "Sans Soleil" (1983) in which the film’s frames are sorted in order of luminosity and projected as a loop. It cycles from the black frames of its opening to those of maximal brightness, and again in reverse.
More information: M∴M∴M∴
Imperial's Complexity and Networks group are hosting a day-long meeting on music, beauty perception and neuroscience this coming May (Wednesday 19th). With a focus on the neural correlates of creative and aesthetic processes, and the complex dynamics thereof, it's one not to miss for art-and-emergence junkies.
See the attached list of talks (PDF) for more info.
Written as part of Ada Lovelace Day 2009.
Jane Prophet is a UK-based artist whose practice explores contemporary technological processes while retaining distinctly classical referents. Loosely speaking, she could be described as a sculptor, though one whose investigative drive and spectrum of interests leads her through radically fresh terrain with each new project. Working with cutting-edge materials and practices — from CD-ROM and early net art in the 90s, through to recent explorations of fractal-based machine fabrication and stem cell dynamics — the process through which her work is produced is often equally as rich as the end product.
One of her most widely-known pieces is the pioneering online environment TechnoSphere (1995), an immersive, real-time 3D virtual world which was amongst the first major net-based artificial life simulations. Developed by her and a small team of programmers, this world constituted 16 km2 of fractal-based terrain, populated by creatures designed and constructed by visitors to the website. The result was a stunningly complex ecosystem, in which the creatures could grow, eat, fight and mate, with digital DNA giving rise to a degree of evolutionary potential. Over the project's lifespan, more than 3m distinct creatures were created by over 100,000 visitors.
More recently, she has been working with a research group here at Goldsmiths, University of London on the ongoing Net Work (2005-), which takes simple models of stem cell behaviour and translates them into cellular automata: grid-like structures which portray the interactions of discrete cells. These behaviours are translated into a 100m2 web of illumated fishing buoys and floated in a river or lake to create a simple but compelling public artwork, whose intention is to accessibly highlight processes of self-organisation to a wider audience.
(Trans)Plant (2008) is another large-scale public sculpture, duplicating the fractal structures of cow parsely (akin to Lindenmayer systems) in a dynamic installation which expands and contracts in the same manner as the familiar childhood push-button collapsible animals. This, like Net Work, is the product of an interdisciplinary team of designers, biomimeticists and engineers, which serves not just as a work in itself but as a document of a process.
Her adoption of new technologies is far from a case of techno-evangelism, however. Works such as The Internal Organs of a Cyborg (1995) pose questions about identity and the limits of humanity via bodily augmentation, and the potential that this has for fracturing our ideas of selfhood (see Lacan's "fragmented body"). Likewise, Decoy (2002) explores notions of beauty and artifice via synthetic landscape images, referencing the Arcadian dreams of English nature painters and the modern-day drive for atmospheric perfection via regeneration and landscaping.
In a 1998 interview, she discusses her ambivalent relationships with technology.
I'm really drawn to the technology because of the debates that it threw me into, I think, and the questions that I had to ask about what it meant in terms of authenticity of images, what it meant in terms of the physicality or the reality of an image or of a body of work.
But primarily, when I think about the work I make with new media technology I see very little difference between it (other than hopefully it's more mature) and the work I made when I worked in installation and performance when I was a student and the reason for that is that for me at the center of any piece is the idea, is the concept.
As one with an avid (and vested) interest in current tech trends, I'm always keen to explore the latest Vimeo images of bleeding-edge whizz-bang triple-mip-mapped developments. Arguably more crucial, however, as computational advancement continues to accelerate, is a critical engagement and reflection on the meaning and consequences of these technologies. This is perhaps why I find Jane Prophet's work so consistently compelling.
The Lovelace Connection
This piece was written as part of Ada Lovelace Day 2009, a drive to highlight the work of women in technology. I imagine that, even in the age of computational ultra-saturation, Lady Lovelace would be particularly thrilled at the work of Prophet and her peers in the sphere of media art: one of her most imaginative yet accurate foresights was the prediction that computers would not be restricted to the boundaries of logico-arithmetic computation, but could be used to generate new sound and images, reaching out into the realm of creative practice.
I was fortunate enough to catch the very tail-end of George Maciunas: The Dream Of Fluxus at the Baltic, Gateshead, a couple of weekends ago. It did a great job of putting Fluxus in its context, revealing a number of things that I had previously had no idea about — George Maciunas' colourblindness, for example, which perhaps goes some way to explain Fluxus' monochromatic aesthetic, and his key role in establishing the New York loft space co-ops which clearly leave their SoHo legacy to this day.
The other floors of this stunning building featured a Yoko Ono retrospective and an instance of Miranda July's unerringly sweet and genuine Learning To Love You More project. Both of these I was aware of previously; they also served to complement each other nicely. I hadn't heard, however, of A Spoken Word Exhibition, taking place at the same time. This group show was startling in its content and delivery: short textual pieces by the likes of Douglas Coupland, Lawrence Weiner, Yoko Ono herself and others, read on request by the gallery attendants dotted around the building.
It was a charming way to access a piece of work, inevitably involving an encounter with the attendant and the side-stories that this entails (one told me of the tourists incessantly photographing her as she sang one of the pieces). I enjoyed the reading of Vito Acconci's tale of conceptual Antarctic architecture, "Halley II Research Station: First Impressions & the Beginnings of a Conceptual Approach", neurotically revising plans for a structure of light.
The first reading I requested, however, was a date-specific piece by the world's favourite tender pervert Momus. He's perhaps my most-read blogger right now, so I was naturally curious to see what he'd written. I didn't expect to be greeted by just a pair of numbers: "2015 and 2058". Years, I presumed, but couldn't make any further connections.
Later investigation revealed that this was the title of an earlier blog post of his, in which he sketches predictions for the near future of 2015. Representing the dislocated title in this way serves to further fragment pieces of this digital fabric, hurling them out into the real world of flesh and speech without an obvious referrent -- a mischievous way to induce koan-like contemplation of naked morphemes.
This whole process reminded me of three things relating to Momus that I have intended to write about but failed.
1. As a festival bestowal just before Christmas, he collated and re-released his 6 early LPs on Creation Records, all free of charge in mp3 format (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6). There are some gems on their - particularly some of the nostalgic jungle-influenced sounds from Timelord.
Incidentally, there's a handful of gigs forthcoming at The Dream Machine, Dulwich, featuring other early Creation artists...
2. The below film, a narrated slideshow of boring book sleeves, is one of the funniest things he has produced. Hints of Peter Greenaway and Popper/Serafinowicz.
3. Having spotted some intriguing makeshift-looking storage solutions in a couple of photos of his apartment, I have shamelessly lifted his excellent postmodern storage solution of stacked Ikea Trissa boxes. It's the storage equivalent of lego. I hope this doesn't make me a cyberstalker.