How does tech­nol­ogy re­late to the way we imag­ine our­selves and our re­la­tion­ship with the world?

Rene Descartes: Diagram of the brain and its nerves René Descartes (1596-1650): Diagram of the brain and nerves Wellcome Collection

Perception and the pre­sent

In Decartes, there’s a fun­da­men­tal no­tion of mind-body du­al­ism. What’s the re­la­tion be­tween mind and body (or the sould/​sprit and the body)?. How does this play in the age of AI and ro­bot­ics? We look to the his­tory of phi­los­o­phy and art to an­swer the ques­tion.

Electronic Superhighway: Continental U.S., Alaska, Hawaii Nam Hune Park (1995): Electronic Superhighway: Continental U.S., Alaska, Hawaii. Smithsonian American Art Museum

50 states of the US as video screens with dif­fer­ent themes.

Marshall McLuhan (1964): Understanding me­dia : the ex­ten­sions of man

Our elec­tric ex­ten­sions of our­selves sim­ply by­pass space and time, and cre­ate prob­lems of hu­man in­volve­ment and or­ga­ni­za­tion for which there is no prece­dent.

This ex­tends in the age of so­cial me­dia, AI and vi­sions of the fu­ture.

Stanley Rosen (1980): The Limits of Analysis

The soul, spirit or in­tel­lect is not a math­e­mat­i­cal re­la­tion.. The con­text of analy­sis is a dream, not an an­a­lyt­i­cal dis­course.

When thinkng about com­putu­a­tion in the brain, can you talk about it in the same con­text as com­put­ers? The Hard prob­lem of con­scious­ness: If you built a phys­i­cal replica of the brain, would it be con­scious? How do we use em­prir­i­cal sci­ences to talk about our­selves?

Being and Nothing

Plato: Sophist

Visitor: When we were asked what we should ap­ply the name that which is not to, we be­came com­pletely con­fused. Do you re­mem­ber? Theaetetus: Of course. Visitor: And now aren’t we in just as much con­fu­sion about that which is? Theaetetus: We seem to be in even more con­fu­sion, if that’s pos­si­ble.

This di­a­logue is about talk­ing about noth­ing. These ideas are at the root of post­mod­ern think­ing abut sim­u­la­tion, sim­u­lacra.

The re­la­tion be­tween orig­i­nal and ap­pear­ance is key to un­der­stand­ing art knowl­edge and cul­ture. The preence ot ab­sence of the orig­i­nal de­fines the idea of hu­man­ity and tech­ni­cal knowl­edge

Hegel: Science of Logic

A Being. Being, pure be­ing, with­out any fur­ther de­ter­mi­na­tion. In its in­de­ter­mi­nate im­me­di­acy it is equal only to it­self. It is also not un­equal rel­a­tively to an other; it has no di­ver­sity within it­self nor any with a ref­er­ence out­wards.

Original vs Copy (Benjamin)

Plato cave al­le­gory: this is rel­e­vant now with fake news etc (eh), but also ear­lier with the emer­gence of cin­ema.

Bill Viola (2000): Memoria Bill Viola (2000): Memoria. Art Gallery of New South Wales

A face that seems to just about ex­ist.

Poetical / Mathematical

This is a dis­tinc­tion that al­lows us to work be­tween tech­nol­ogy (empirical sci­ences) and phi­los­o­phy

Stanley Rosen:

[the po­et­i­cal and the math­e­mat­ica] seem to be two dis­con­tin­u­ous lev­els of hu­man spir­i­tual ac­tiv­ity…

Gerhard Richter (1982): Kerze Gerhard Richter (1982): Kerze. Gerhard Richter Catalogue

Photorealistic paint­ings of blurred pho­tographs

Mythical / Technical

Our idea of be­ing tech­ni­cal be­ings has a con­nec­tion to the myth­i­cal. Dis­nchat­ment of Nature in the 19th cen­tury - pos­i­tivism. In sec­u­lar­is­ing the world (away from a spir­i­tual un­der­stand­ing) how do we re­late to our in­ner na­ture?

Leszek Kolakowski (2010): The Presence of Myth

Agnes Martin (1965): Morning. Agnes Martin (1965): Morning. Tate Modern

Pencil on pa­per grid draw­ings. These sym­bo­lis the in­her­ent beauty of na­ture, as it ex­ists in ten­sion with this ra­tio­nal, or­dered space.


This ex­ten­sion of him­self by mir­ror numbed his per­cep­tions un­til he be­came the ser­vo­mech­anism of his own ex­tended or re­peated im­age … adaped to the ex­ten­sion of him­self … [he] had beocme a closed sys­tem.

The Gadget Lover in Understanding Media.

Mary Shelley (1831): Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus

Shelley is very much part of ro­man­ti­cism. Following Kant (in the late 1700s) these thinkers were con­cerned with our re­la­tion­ship to na­ture in light of sci­ence.

Prometheus made hu­mans from clay, but also gave them fire

Metaphors of Being

In the his­tory of sci­ence, tec­nol­ogy has an iso­met­ric re­la­tion­ship with the mind. We’ve imag­ined the brain to be like a tele­graph, a type­writer, a com­puter.

The re­la­tions fo tech­nol­ogy and per­cep­tion are episodes of be­ing. the con­cernn of pre­sent…

Gilbert Ryle (2018): The Concept of Mind crit­i­cises the idea of the ghost in the ma­chine”.

McLuan: Counterblast (1969):

The age ofco-pres­ence of all in­di­vi­su­als is te age of com­mu­ni­caion — the age of in­stant hu­mans. Computer data-banks dis­solve the hu­man im­age.

Gursky Media Markt Andreas Gursky (2016): Media Markt. Andreas Gursky Catalogue

Jaques Tati (1967): Playtime

Tativille BLDGBLOG

Tati had this vast set built out­side paris (Corbusier-type tower blocks)

Film Archtecture

A se­ries of sketches look­ing at var­i­ous ab­sur­di­ties of mod­ern life.

Sherry Turkle (2011): Alone toether: why we ex­pect more from tech­nol­ogy and less from each other This and Tati speak to the same kind of idea - how does techn­l­ogy/​mod­ernism im­pact our ex­pe­ri­ence?


To be­hold, use or per­cieve any ex­ten­sion of our­selves in tech­no­log­i­cal from is nec­es­sar­ily to em­brace it

Blake Newton William Blake (1795–c.1805): Newton. Tate

Blake (Jerusalem)

If per­spec­tive or­gans vary, ob­jects of per­cep­tion seem to vary; is the per­spec­tive or­gans close, their ob­jects seem to close also.

We’ve en­tered a Camera-Civilisation

Obscura Athanasius Kircher (1646): Illustration of portable” cam­era ob­scura in Kircher’s Ars Magna Lucis Et Umbra. Commons

The cam­era ob­scura changes our re­la­tion­ship to our en­vi­ron­ment. Rather than im­i­tat­ing the world, you’re able to re­pro­duce it. Suddenly we’ve en­tered a dif­fer­ent era of look­ing.

Da Vinci (1500) per­spetive di­a­grams

Owen Barfield (1977): The Harp and the Camera in The Rediscovery of Meaning (1977)

An his­tor­i­cal event may be a sym­bol of the his­tor­i­cal process of which it is part. [The cam­era ob­scura is] in­stru­men­tal in­ven­tion in ac­tu­ally bring­ing..

The harp is shown as a po­etic re­la­tion to the world, while the cam­era dis­con­nects us.

Anne Friedberg (2009): The Virtual Window: From Alberti to Microsoft

Dziga Vertov (1929): Man with a movie cam­era

In the cat­e­gory of City Symphony. A dy­namic ex­pres­sion of ur­ban life. In many ways a film about film, the con­structino of the film im­age it­self. We see the edit­ing room in which the film is be­ing made.

Henri Bergson (2008): Creative Evolution

Zeno’s para­doxes on the no­tions o move­ment and rest. Arrow in flight. In cre­ative evo­lu­tion, this is con­nected to cin­ema.

Lev Manovich (2002): The lan­guage of new me­dia

Instagrammism and con­tem­po­rary cul­tural iden­tity

Man with a movia cam­era is per­haps the ost im­por­tant ex­am­ple of a data­base imag­i­na­tion in mod­ern me­dia art

Cameron: Terminator 2 Still from James Cameron (1991): Terminator 2. Vulture

The de­vel­op­ment of CGI in­tro­duces into cin­ema a dif­fer­ent con­cep­tion of be­ing. No longer are im­ages re­lated to some­thing out in the real world, but CGI can cre­ate any kind of il­lu­sion it wants to. Manovich writes in The lan­guage of new me­dia:

a cy­brg who can take on hu­man ap­pear­ance. His true form is that of a fu­tur­ostic al­loy.. While his true body per­fectly re­flects its sur­round­ing re­al­ity, the very natur of these re­flec­tions shows us the fu­ture of hu­man and ma­chine sight.

Ray Kurzweil (2005): The sin­gu­lar­ity is near: When hu­mans tran­scend bi­ol­ogy

He imag­ines a point in 2050 when we reach a sin­gu­lar­ity, when hu­man and ma­chine in­tel­logence are able to co­a­lesce into one thing.

Eternime Collect you thoughts, sto­ries and mem­o­ries to reate an avatar that will live for­ever. Become vir­tu­ally im­mor­tal.

Owen Barfield (1973): Poetic Diction: A Study in Meaning:

Only by imag­i­na­tion there­fore can the world be known. And what is needed is, not only that larger and larger tele­scopes and more an more sen­si­tive calipers should be on­structed, but that the hu­man mind should be­come in­creas­ingly aware of its own cre­ative ac­tiv­ity

Being and Nature

Nihilism (1969)

… age of anx­i­ety, where op­ti­misim is de­fined as the be­lied that man is a ma­chine, and where the spirit ex­ists only in the dread of noth­ing­ness..

Stelarc (2015): Re-Wired/Re-Mixed: Event for dis­mem­bered body

The artists sees a live video from one place, au­dio from some­here else and his arm is be­ing re­motely con­trolled by vis­i­tors.

The artist be­comes op­ti­cally an ac­cousti­cally de-syn­chro­nized and per­forms partly in­vol­un­tar­ily. It is as if the body has been elec­tron­i­cally dis­mem­bered, spa­tially dis­trib­uted and pos­sessed with…

Richard Long Line Richard Long (1967): A line made by walk­ing. Tate

A doc­u­ment of an in­ter­ac­tion with na­ture. A pho­to­graph is able to fix the ephemeral prod­uct of a per­for­mance.

Smiconductor (2016): Earthworks

Vasulka (2000): Mynd

All of these peo­ple are think­ing in dif­fer­ent ways about the con­ver­gence be­tween tech­nol­ogy and na­ture.

Being and the frame

The cam­era, the screen and the frame have be­come the dom­i­nannt ways we see the world. The idea of the frame goes back to Plato’s cave.

Sugomoto (1993): Cinema Dome

Entire film in one im­age

Malevich says: cin­ema only lasts for 100 years from 1895 to 1995, then all cin­ema be­comes an­i­ma­tions

Arrival of a trian

Maxin Gorky (1896)

Last night I was in the Kingdom of Shadows. If you only knew how strange it is to be there. It is a world with­out sound, with­out colour. Every thing there — the earth, the trees, the peo­ple, the wa­ter and the air — is dipped in mo­not­o­nous grey. Grey rays of the sun across the grey sky, grey eyes in grey faces, and the leaves of the trees are ashen grey. It is not life but its shadow. It is not mo­tion but its sound­less spec­tre.

Kodak Micro Kodak: Micrograph of tab­u­lar grain emul­sion. Nitrofilm

Materiality of cel­lu­loid film. The im­age is fun­da­men­tally held on these tiny par­ti­cles. IN the pho­to­graph we see all these gaos be­tween the par­ti­cles.

William Henry (1835): The Oriel Window, South Gallery, Lacock Abbey

Friedberg, The vir­tual widin­dow:

Once the term virtual” is free fro its en­forced as­so­ci­a­tion with the digital”, it can more ac­cu­raely op­er­ate as a marker of an on­to­log­i­cal, not a me­dia-spe­cific, prop­erty.. Virtual im­ages have a ma­te­ri­al­ity and a re­al­ity of a dif­fer­ent kind, a sec­ond-or­der ma­te­ri­alit, lim­i­nally ma­te­r­ial

Frozen Film Paul Sharits: Frozen Film Frame Series (1971-1976). Artforum

All frames from a film sus­pended in a case. This is also the time that Kodak starts to build the first dig­i­tal cam­eras.

David Hall David Hall (1972-2012): 1001 TV Sets (End Piece) University of Westminster

Also: TV in­ter­rup­tions. 1-2 minute films that were broad­cast unann­nounced into the nor­mal TV pro­gram­ming. Tap film is wuite fa­mous. End piece was made to co­in­cide with the turn­ing off of the ana­logue TV sig­nal. All of these were tuned into ana­logue TV sta­tions, then went blank.

Richar McGuire: Here (2014) Speaks to the pres­ence and ab­sence of the frame, and what ex­ists in­side it.

The pres­ence and ab­sence, the myth of the pres­ence is the pixel.