Notes from the Immaterials show and the Improving Reality conference, Brighton, Sep 2013.
(Immaterials: Light painting WiFi project by Timo Arnall)
- the show by Timo and Einar Sneve Martinussen, Jørn Knutsen, Jack Schulze and Matt Jones at Lighthouse is put together well - beautiful images and films that make visible the RFID, Wifi, GPS and machine sensor fields we walk through and bathe in.
- The Fischli & Weissy Nearness film with Schulze is delightful. The early Experiments in Field Drawing. (Confession: it's impossible to review something with Timo, Schulze and Jones in it with any objectivity.)
- The faint wobbliness in the light lines in Light Painting WiFi - the experimenter's unreliable hand.
- Tiniest quibble: the stills from Wireless in the World fall slightly short of the rest, by appearing decorative.
- The twitchy object rec algorithms in Robot Readable World.
- The recent Satellite lamp is beautifully sputnik.
- Timo's background to the show.
- [and this is how much I like it!]
Timo's talk at Improving Reality
- Technology: the frictionless and seamless glowing, slidey, textureless glass rectangles. Little of the technology is apprehendable or graspable (think of Heidegger: ready to/present at hand).
- The importance of making the invisible visible (of showing the seams) so that we can understand the tech, the system. The difficulty of the same, because seamlessness is so desirable and seductive.
- And yet in our experience technology can often be a lightning rod for very human concerns (as if an antenna receiving and amplifying). When you deploy a new application on new mobile phones to an organisation, human questions are immediately raised: do we have to use this? Does it track us? Is this why X lost their jobs?
- So the technology might be invisible, but it can also make human concerns visible.
- Light painting - the photographic technique - came from employee time and motion studies
- user Stockholm syndrome (Sterling?) - the act of becoming dazzled by user considerations/needs and forgetting the other parts of the jigsaw, eg materiality
- Julian Oliver et al, Critical Engineering Manifesto.
- Dense talk - a sense that there's some substantial stuff to unpack here, but hard to follow. (Performative exemplification? Or I am stupid.)
- Contemporary architecture's power-ideological bias, cartoons unfolding in time.
- How to un-develop, to subtract architecture?
- "ESC researches global infrastructure as a medium of polity. Some of the most radical changes to the globalising world are being written, not in the language of law and diplomacy, but rather in the language of infrastructure [... infrastructure] generates emergent new constellations of national, international, intergovernmental and transnational administration and generates undeclared forms of polity faster than any even quasi-official forms of governance can legislate it" - from Extrastatesraft.
- Entertaining on the fictions in maps.
- Though of course all maps are fictional to some extent. Though of course so is reality.
The second session, Re-imagining reality, was energetically hosted by Simon Ings. What a shame though that we didn't hear from him directly - his books (The Eye, Dead Water, etc) are excellent.
Paul Graham Raven
- Raven's An Introduction To Infrastructure Fiction.
- Infrastructure fictions, a manifesto rather than a literary mode - explicitly a call to "think about the box", not to write, er, more stories about bridges
- Intent: lightbulbs were invented to sell electricity - source? (related?).
- Resist "flat-pack futures" - Scott Smith.
- A preoccupation with engineering ("how", goal) vs design/art ("why").
- "'patabotanists" was good. "Prehearsal" however sounds like "pretending".
Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg
- Food for astronauts is always constrained to flat, light high energy seaweed and other nutridusts, but what feeds their psyche? 30 tonnes of food needed to sustain a team to Mars and back.
- GM bacteria that change colour - as health diagnostic. Bacteria-tinted shit. "As someone with crohns disease. Shit as an interface would would be super useful".
- Human foot-cheese bacteria cheese (same bacterium as certain cheese so why not make it into real cheese), armpit bacteria cheese.
- Why is it that everything we can separate from or expel from the body revolts us as soon as it is separated? Shit etc obviously, but think of hair and saliva. And even when it is identical to something else - foot-cheese bacteria - it remains no less revolting.
- bacterial-mediated fruit that grow on electricity rather than sunlight
- Is synthetic biology part of/apart from nature?
- Questions about design vs art, science vs culture, science vs non-science
- Get your futurism bingo cards ready!
- "Design can be a political movement [...] technology can be a territory" - now when stuff like this comes from my own keyboard it is a string of shining pearls, but when someone else says it in a talk I just hear reckony air - ah, such is the hypocritical tyranny of the spectator in a hot, dark room. Sorry.
- His 88.7: Stories From The First Transnational Traders was very good.
Tom Armitage/Jeff Noon, The Literary Operator
- Charming story machine by @infovore and @jeffnoon: you stroke a book with its puck and it Burroughs into the text, printing you a voucher.
- Eg this from Chandler's The Big Sleep: "Our breaths met and mingled, our eyes were slaty [...] Canino look like a clock".
Farida Vis, Georgina Voss, Paula Le Dieu, Justin Pickard
- Unfortunately the improving reality of life intervened, and I missed the third part.
There's no reason why Improving Reality cannot simultaneously appeal to realism and attempt to augment/transcend it, but even so I am slightly uncomfortable about the conference's name.