techno_buddha1.JPG    technobuddha

globalencoder.JPG  Global Encoder

All images by Nam June Paik appropriated without permission

alien.jpgbug alien 2005 David Opie

In wondering what an ‘enlightenment machine’ might look like, neurophilosopher suggested Persinger’s Shakti Coil.  Further explorations revealed that this coil was demonstrated by Todd Murphy at Art and Mind’s Religion, Art and the Brain Festival in Winchester last year, and was reviewed in The Times.

That article answered some of the questions that I posed about this subject in Mechanical Enlightenment, particularly the fact that the British arch-atheist Professor Richard Dawkins tried it and he experienced nothing, whereas
“What others have experienced  depended on their cultural or religious beliefs. Some saw Jesus, the Virgin Mary, Muhammad, or the Sky Spirit. Others, with more than a passing faith in UFOs, tell of something that sounds more like a standard alien-abduction story.”

hmm, doesn’t sound very universal to me, but I am still curious!

Sublime

August 31, 2006

turner_shields.jpg JMW Turner
Shields, on the River Tyne
(1823)

In thinking about the posts and comments from yesterday, and how that might relate to art production, I was reminded of ideas of the sublime. I had a rather fuzzy idea that it was associated with the Romantics during the 1800s, and was based on the idea that humans feel awe and insignificance when confronted by “nature red in tooth and claw” (Tennyson).

According to the article in Wikipedia, “In aesthetics, the sublime (from the Latin sublimis (exalted)) is the quality of transcendent greatness, whether physical, moral, intellectual or artistic. The term especially refers to a greatness with which nothing else can be compared and which is beyond all possibility of calculation, measurement or imitation. This greatness is often used when referring to nature and its vastness.”

The Tate glossary refers to the sublime as ” Theory of art put forward by Edmund Burke in A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful published in 1757. He defined the Sublime as an artistic effect productive of the strongest emotion the mind is capable of feeling and wrote ‘whatever is in any sort terrible or is conversant about terrible objects or operates in a manner analogous to terror, is a source of the Sublime’. In landscape the Sublime is exemplified by Turner’s sea storms and mountain scenes. The notion that a legitimate function of art can be to produce upsetting or disturbing effects was an important element in Romantic art and remains fundamental to art today. ”

I find the Tate definition quite funny, because romanticism and the sublime fell out of fashion quite dramatically during the modernist period, and ideas of transcendance and awe are considered a bit quaint in this post-post everything age, whereas being upsetting and disturbing (or just sensationalistic) is still very ‘avant-garde’.

Fast forward two hundred years, to the technological sublime, a term coined by Perry Miller, referring to feelings of awe inspired by large-scale applications of technological prowess and examined in American Technological Sublime by David Nye. More reading needed!

Neuroesthetics

August 30, 2006

innerviscov.jpg

After being inspired by neurotheology earlier today, and neurotechnology last week, I started wondering if there is such a thing as neuroesthetics.
I am happy to report that there is, and in fact Semir Zeki
has founded the Institute of Neuroesthetics, based in Berkely and UCL in 1994. This is very exciting to me, because the Slade is part of UCL too!

Expect more thoughts about this soon.

The Mind Expander

August 30, 2006

mindexpander.jpg

This 1967 structure from Haus-Rucker-Co is quite wierd, although there aren’t really any indications that it does indeed expand the mind.  From the description, it sounds like sitting in a giant hairdryer-kaleidascope.

For a more contemporary design which makes no claims for mind expansion but does for musical stimulation, see the beautiful prototype for Acconci Studio’s Sound Shell.

Mechanical Enlightenment

August 30, 2006

mori-mariko-pureland-1996-3900026.jpg Pureland 1996, Mariko Mori
The search for enlightenment has traditionally been an arduous path, involving all sorts of discipline: years of prayer, meditation and mantras, solitary mountaintops, fasting, perhaps the odd bit of flagellation, doing good deeds, undergoing purification and spending lifetimes on the karmic wheel.

But now perhaps enlightenment is just a short, sharp shock to the temporal lobe away.  The inimitable neurophilosopher describes recent findings in neurotheology

the cognitive neuroscience of religious experience and spirituality.  I have a few questions about these findings though: would such stimulation provide self-declared atheists with a spiritual experience?  Would these experiences be completely different for different people, or would certain commonalities occur?  How would one’s cultural background shape one’s experience?  And lastly, what would the enlightenment machine look like?

For an possible iteration, see Mariko Mori’s Wave UFO installation that she did for the 2005  Venice Biennale. Although the artist was using EEG monitoring, she wasn’t actually administering shocks to the viewers …

grasp.jpg Grasp 1969

There is a fascinating interview with Vito Acconci, New York poet, conceptual artist and architect on designboom. The interviewer describes Acconci as the ‘godfather‘ of transgression.

While this strikes me as art/designspeak that tries to rescuscitate the tatty corpse of the avant garde with a good pinch of sexualised sensationalism thrown in for good measure and extra ratings, Acconci’s own words are very inspiring.

In particular, I feel inspired by the way he describes the evolution of his work, and his fluid movement from writing to performance to architecture and design:

“can you describe an evolution in your work from your first projects to the present day?
there is a line but it has been through so many forms.
as a writer I became very conscious of the space on a page,
I started to get obsessed with questions such as
– what makes you move from left margin to right margin?
– from top of the page to bottom of the page?
in other words, I saw the page as a field over which I as
a writer could move and you as the viewer could move too.
I then figured that if I was so concerned with space why
was I limiting myself to a piece of paper when there is a
floor or a street to work with.
so things then went to an art context.
I started off the process by thinking how do I move in real space
and what makes me move.
I began by using my own person. I realized that I had to focus
on myself – it became ‘I’ and ‘me’…
but there are other people in the world.
so later I focused on how do I concentrate on him/her,
or how do I concentrate on you while you concentrate on me?
I think that it all began with that notion of movement.
in that you move through the page, you move within yourself,
you move within a space and back and fourth.
gradually it becomes clear that you /the people are in a space.
the question then is how to react to a space.
the great thing about architecture and design is that people
are aware of it even if they think that they aren’t.
everyone has passed through a doorway,
sometimes you may not even notice the doorway but sometimes
you might, be it because the doorway is a little to narrow or a little
to low. it’s great that we get to experience these things everyday. ”

Perhaps this neatness of being able to see how one thing led to the next is something that comes with the perfection of hindsight, of looking backwards to find the unifying thread of moving through space?

I really do relate strongly to this description though, because too often I feel that we are expected to be just one thing: only an artist, or a banker, or a dancer, or that we have to undergo radical retraining to be something different when maybe it is more important to just go and do that thing. Perhaps that is the most radical transgression.

For a feast of acconci studio design, visit www.acconci.com although be warned the flash design is a bit odd.