This is the public start page of my personal librarinth: an online scrapbook that I am using in the course of the research project 'Dialogues with Machines'. I am undertaking this project as a researcher in the Media Arts Studio of the KASK Conservatorium / University College Ghent, and I am pursuing a doctorate in the arts with it as part of the S:PAM, Studies in Performing Arts and Media research group at the University of Ghent. My promotors are Christel Stalpaert and Edwin Carels.
A recently updated short description of my research goes as follows:
Artists who work with technology often develop their own tools as part of the articulation of an aesthetic language. My research starts from the comparison of this process with the mutual transformations of devices, procedures, concepts and scientists that take place in a scientific lab. I am investigating the mutual construction of tools and artist, as a way to take a conceptual and practical step in my work and position it more explicitly relative to recent developments in the exact sciences. Central to formulating such a position will be to reflect on the dialogue between humans and technology, focusing on the point where concepts and materials interact. By engaging in a dialogue with devices and the cultures they are part of, I want to open a space of alternative technical possibilities. These are musical, poetic as well as utopian, and form a critique of a purely functional approach to technology.
Having technology as the other side in a dialogue implies that it has some degree of autonomy. To articulate my thoughts about this, I am looking into concepts relating to surprises caused by human inventions and artefacts.
Mathematics is perhaps the archetypal example of such surprising 'otherness', when described as the science of unexpected consequences of definitions and rules written down by humans. Many mathematicians have written about the autonomy of mathematical objects (Lochak, Lautman, Zalamea), and there are interesting discussions by mathematicians of the role of notation and material realization in mathematical creativity (Chatelet, Rotman). The chaotic systems that were discovered in the 20th century are dramatic examples of the complex and unpredictable behaviours of simple equations (Abrahams, Ueda).
A second important track for thinking about a dialogue with technology are ideas about the autonomy of technological development; since the Industrial Revolution there have been many analyses of technology as a dominating or liberating force that is not under the control of humans (Ellul, Winner, Simondon, Marx, Shelley).
A third track, relating more directly to practical activities, consists of fairly recent ideas about the agency of materials and devices in science (Pickering, Barad, Rheinberger, Latour). These ideas link to the concept of the posthuman (Stiegler, Hayles, Haraway), non-human semiotics (Uexkull, Hayles, Sebeok, Cariani), studies of encounters and serendipity (Morizot, Merton, van Andel) and implicit types of knowledge (Polanyi, Suchman).
Practical work in this research project has started from the historic technologies of analog computing and electronic modeling. The medium-term goal of this is to build an analog computer optimized for the synthesis of HD video signals (a project of several years that is now nearing completion) and to make a series of moving-image works with it that give a voice to the physicality of the systems that produced them.
The longer-term goal is to use the culture of analog computing and electronic modeling as a vantage point from which to explore the artistic potential of chemistry, nanotechnology and other technologies that deal with matter on the molecular scale. The newest of such technologies tend to be thought as a confluence of nanotechnology, biotechnology and information science, as a form of 'programmed matter', where new material possibilities are opened by controlling individual molecules (Drexler). As a way to formulate an alternative approach, I would like to investigate replacing the concept of 'program' with 'analogy' in these contexts, evoking a way to think accross patterns occuring in multiple situations without an underlying idea of hierarchy or control between those situations. This has clear links with the practice of unconventional computing, as a means to question and undiscipline notions of computation and information.
The idea and form of this librarinth are inspired by the libarynth that has grown as part of the activities of FoAm, who describe it as: “a hybrid between a library and a labyrinth, a maze of pages in various stages of completion. It is a deeply intertwingled collection of documents, notes and randomness”.
For now, there is not much to see here, as I have just started on this research project, and also because I am still navigating the question of how to reconcile my desire for openness and sharing with the need for a walled garden where ideas can safely unfold. Parts of this garden will open up soon and will be listed below, other things will find their way to my blog. Eventually, all that is here will become public. If you are really interested, you can try asking for guest access, which will open this door for you.
You can always contact me here.