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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.

research description

A fairly recently (020221017) updated short description of my research goes as follows:

This research project started as an attempt to deal with a question that Socrates gets asked in his dialogue with Meno: how can we learn something we don't already know ? I have been exploring what I think is one answer, that new things can be learned in interaction with devices outside of us. It is an answer that interests me because what I have been calling a 'dialogue with machines' has been at the heart of my media-art practice for many years. But despite these roots, the aim of this project is not primarily to think about art; the aim is to clarify the concept of a 'dialogue with machines' and expand it to a view of technology that is also relevant outside of the arts. By focusing on the agency of technological artefacts in speculation and creation, I hope to contribute to a reflection on technology as something else than a tool to subjugate our planet and ourselves.

Practical work has focused on the room full of historic and recent analog computers that has been my studio for the past few years. I have been doing artistic experiments in a form of media-archeology serving two purposes that are almost opposites: I seek to illuminate aspects of current practices by going back to their origins, and I looks at the past as a rich and relatively accessible source of difference. The main artistic outcome of this will be the film “Mechanisms Common to Disparate Phenomena; #59”, a feature-lenght abstract animated science fiction film that looks at the experiences shared by humans and electronic circuits. During the cold war, the development of atomic weapons and their associated planetary surveillance systems produced our computing technology as a side effect. During the same period, in 1961, Edward Lorenz and Yoshisuke Ueda independently discovered deterministic chaos through their computing systems. In film #59, humans, aliens and devices vacillate between these poles of machinic chaos and planetary control.

In my reading and writing I am trying to articulate the sources of what can be perceived as an agency of machines and look at how a dialogue with machines can be a form of collaboration in which new representations appear. My approach is to focus on the question of what humans have hoped to learn from building physical, electronic models. My planned thesis will consist of four parts, the first of which is a detailed media-archeological study of the history of analog electronic computing and the history of the philosophical motivations behind the use of electronic and electrical analogies in physics and engineering. The second part enlarges the question of electronic modeling to cybernetics and the practice of making electronic models inspired by living organisms. I approach the role of material agency in such models by giving an overview of historical philosophical discussions around the concepts of function, modularity (related to completeness) and shielding (related to situatedness). Armed with these three concepts I articulate a critique of a number of utopian electro-chemical experiments done by the British cyberneticians Gordon Pask and Stafford Beer around 1961. They tried to tap into physical processes of self-organization in a series of early artificial intelligence experiments that triggered very interesting philosophical, artistic and technical responses. In the conclusion I try to draw conclusions from these utopian experiments by developing a view on materiality, media-archeology and the relation between humans and their technology, centered on the notion of 'liberating the machines'.
For this I am primarily leaning on the work of Isabelle Stengers, Alfred North Whitehead and Gilbert Simondon, with frequent appearances by Katherine Hayles, Georges Canguilhem, Bernard Stiegler and Andrew Pickering. An important element in these reflections is the notion of abstraction as articulated by Whitehead: abstractions are not objects but decisions to focus on certain aspects of a situation and relegate other aspects to the background. This is a view on abstractions as performative, inherently ecological and non-anthropocentric, and the fundament of my thesis will be to look at machines in these terms.

presentations and publications

  • presentation at Alchemy Filmmaker symposium in Hawick, Scottish Borders (March 2017).
  • article about analog computing in Arts.Codes online magazine (May 2017).
  • presentation at the symposium “Arts Filmiques et Expérimentations Optiques Contemporaines” at the ENS Louis-Lumière in Paris (October 2017).
  • premiere of #57 at the International Film Festival Rotterdam (January 2018), and a blogpost about #57.
  • artist's talk at the Moscow International Experimental Film Festival (September 2018).
  • keynote and artist's presentation at the VectorHack Festival in Zagreb and Ljubljana (October 2018).
  • Film programme curated for the Eye Film Institute in Amsterdam (November 2018).
  • artist's talk at the 'Golf' festival, Haarlem (December 2018).
  • artist's talk as part of the 'Memoires Vives' exhibition at the Zebrastraat, Ghent (January 2019).
  • artist's talk at the Digital Media Program of the Hochschule für Künste Bremen (January 2019).
  • exhibition of installation #71.1 during the Sonic Acts festival at the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam (February 2019).
  • artist's talk at Creative Coding Utrecht (May 2019).
  • exhibition of (partially reworked) installation #71.1 at iMal in Brussels. (November 2019)
  • seminar at the Center Leo Apostel (CLEA) of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB). (February 2020)
  • artist's talk at the Design Art Technology department of ArtEZ, Arnhem (May 2021)
  • artist's talk at the Institut für Musik und Medien, Robert Schumann Hochschule Düsseldorf (July 2021)
  • artist's talk at Media Arts Technology, University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB) (October 2021)
  • Lasertalk Brussels at iMal, Brussels (December 2021)
  • artist's talk at the Design Art Technology department of ArtEZ, Arnhem (April 2022)
  • artist's talk at the Collegium Helveticum, Institute for Advanced Studies, Zurich (May 2022)
  • artist's talk at the Vectorhack Festival in Zagreb (October 2022)
  • artist's talk at the Dutch Film Academy in Amsterdam (November 2022)
  • artist's talk at the Digital Media Program of the Hochschule für Künste Bremen (November 2022).

this librarinth

The idea and form of this librarinth are inspired by FoAms libarynth. They 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”.

After five years, 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 are allowed to be fragile. Over time the issue has also arisen that the pages on this site contain the material for several potential articles or other publications, so sharing before writing and publishing those has become a less obvious thing to do. So far, the path of least effort and resistance has been to just keep everything private, but not without regrets. The idea is that parts of this garden will open up and 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.

start.txt · Last modified: 020230109 175137 by joost

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