Writing and Research
My research and writing exists at the intersections of art, philosophy, physics and mathematics. Below are a number of papers, articles and texts that explore these disciplines.
Articles and Essays
Benjamin’s Baudelaire: Time and Timeless Photography
Abstract: Walter Benjamin’s accounts and imaginings of Baudelaire are multiple and extensive. Baudelaire’s method and manner of dealing with the world for Benjamin allows him to reveal the structures and mechanisms that constitute modern society. By linking Baudelaire’s way of working to the process of photography, I explore how Benjamin constructs a relationship between Baudelaire, time and photography, and how these ideas are revealing themselves in modern photography in networked environments.
Eleven Theses for an Initial Degree of Roughness
Co-authoured with Dr. Mattia Paganelli, published in Twice Upon a Time: Magic, Alchemy and the Transubstantiation of the Senses, Zētēsis, Vol. 2 No. 1, 2015, ARTicle Press: 120-127
Abstract: We are uncomfortable with the renewed attention that ontology pays to the absolute. Most importantly, we feel that a straightforward resurrection of substance is not capable or competent to engage with the multiple and simultaneous resonances of the present.
The Eleven Theses for An Initial degree of Roughness put forward instead that processes of knowledge as much as ethical or aesthetic choices operate in a radically material regime; a network generated by fractals and complexity. This demands an entirely new move in order to break away from the traditional binary framework gone before, including its “post,” “neo,” or speculative variations. Listening to the echo of Marx’s “Theses on Feuerbach” – which is to remember that all human activity and the conditions of that activity are sensuous – the theses propose abandoning reductionism, as the essence of ontology, and indicate tools to engage with the un-rescindable determination of givenness (roughness) via a temporal turn, starting both thinking and practice from the complex rather than the simple.
Is There An Object in the Telematic Embrace?
Paper delivered at the “Hybrid Practices in the arts, sciences and technology from the 1960s to today” conference, 10-13 March 2015, Spencer Museum of Art, University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS.
Abstract: One of the key aims of the Experiments in Art and Technology group (Klüver, Whitman et. al) was to foster a relationship between artists and engineers, and to open up each field of discourse/learning to the other. A similar approach was developed by Roy Ascott at the same time through what he termed as “Telematics”. Both sought to give the artist a range of materials (or tools) by which artistic practices could be realised. The paper will address two issues that have now arisen within which these varied and radical ways of working have been ill-defined and categorized under terms such as “digital art” or “new media” which may allow discussion and similarities about artworks and technologies, but fall short of establishing a more thorough experimentation and rigour with the new materials and tools which technology provides. Similarly a move from the speculative realist (Object-oriented) movement re-centres the work of art as “object”. This paper will critique these methods of understanding the artwork, and develop an alternative that furthers artistic, scientific and technological discourses through which the work of art as a “telematic system” (Burnham, Ascott) has a communicability and materiality that can be experimented and developed across disciplines.
Generating the Life Impulse: The Artist’s/Alchemist’s/Artisan’s Task
Paper delivered at the “Twice Upon a Time: Magic, Alchemy and the Transubstantiation of the Senses” conference at the Birmingham School of Art, 2015
Abstract: To change inert matter into living substance has been one of the tasks of alchemists, artists, and artificers in their experiments and constructions throughout history. The “spark” that bestows or creates life is a power that was reserved in early civilisation for priests or the miracle makers, who alone maintained the borders between life and death for millennia, while the artist was charged with carving life into marble and clay; to literally turn the living into stone. The experiments of early alchemists, especially in their creation of automatons, started to bring in experimentation with material and substance to create entities that were not just life-like, but had life of themselves. The Enlightenment materialist Julien de La Mettrie went one step further in his writings to suggest that the human life comes from the complex arrangement of matter, and not from any sort of soul gifted to us by an outside agent. Post-industrial revolution, the works of artists such as Picasso, Duchamp, Trova, and Tinguely brought about a liberation of the artist’s role and a convergence with the task of the alchemist; the gears, drives, levers and crankshafts that set machines into motion were instead being used to create work that generated movement, action and response that anticipated the creation construction of life via non-anthropomorphic means. Now, with attempts to create life reserved for A.I. research in solid state systems (the moving parts of the industrial revolution all replaced by devices only changing at the quantum level), I will argue for re-establishing the link between the alchemists and artists when the materials are digital and less tangible, but the curiosity and experiments are no less ambitious.
Although the use of algorithms is ubiquitous across nearly every facet of contemporary life, it can be difficult to define or understand what defines an algorithm precisely because it can be a part of nearly any process, disappearing underneath the surface of these processes and leaving it difficult to determine what is part of the algorithm and what is not. This paper explores the fundamental aspects of the algorithm that should be considered as part of any definition, and to the different disciplines or people for which the algorithm may mean something completely different. This paper is intended for a general audience unfamiliar with the mathematics of computer science, and attempts to elucidate the core components of the algorithm without the need for the extensive background knowledge computer science may require. Nevertheless, it touches on its foundations while reinforcing them conceptually with philosophy and an exploration of their cultural impact.
The “Thoughts on…” series of writings are not full articles or essays, but more of a series of wanderings around and through specific concepts in an attempt to elucidate various aspects of them, often with the aim of simplifying or clarifying complex concepts of philosophy.