We, the editors of this number, decided to work independently in commissioning texts. In retrospect I can say that I went after artists touched by the hard sciences, although rather unconsciously or at least accidentally. I began my search by asking a Lithuanian friend and artist Gabriele Gervickaite if she knew anyone from Lithuania who could contribute something interesting. She sent me a short list on which I found the name of Julijonas Urbonas, who, as it turned out, had just began his residency at CERN.
When it comes to Art+Technology, the residency program at CERN is one of the first things that come to my mind. Thus, naturally I was very insistent on getting Urbonas to write us about his experience in the belly of the Great Arts for Great Science. His text is awe-inspiring while also providing practical guidelines to fellow artists on how to get the most out of a professional encounter with a scientist. In the end, the text left me wondering whether the methods of artistic research could be the next revolution in physics. What I mean by this I leave for you to decide in the very hope of planting the seeds of that revolution.
Following Gervickaite’s list, I was also in contact with the artist-duo behind PAKUI (http://pakuihardware.org/). Unfortunately they were busy with an upcoming project, but suggested I take contact to Mindaugas Gapševičius. As I searched information about him I became immediately mesmerized by his practice, characterized by what A+T means to many of us: installations with various gadgets, projects based on scientific methods and the language to describe them that’s much closer to technical lingo than your average art-speak.
For this number, Gapševičius provides a chapter from a project titled Introduction to Posthuman Aesthetics, which includes a description of a toolkit enabling collaboration with bacteria for paper production. A lingering theoretical postulation around Gapševičius’ text is the idea of us humans being defined by our symbiotic and/or collaborative relationships with other organisms that live in our bodies. These so-called interspecies dependencies have been conceptualized by Donna Haraway, whose manifesto-like When Species Meet (2008) is also referred to in this number by Essi Kausalainen.
I met Kausalainen in the Spring of this year in Kemiö Island. We were both participants of Mirko Nikolić’s symposium The earth wants to be free – On rights, autonomy and freedom of other-than-humans, made possible by HIAP’s Frontiers in Retreat program. After hearing about Kausalainen’s work with plants, I knew I wanted to know more. In this number, Kausalainen describes her work with the plant collaborators as an intimate and strangely intelligent relationship. Like Urbonas, Kausalainen also provides insight into the benefits of collaborating with scientists, who in her case have been biologists.
We, the editors, also divided writing this editorial intro so that soon you’ll know a lot more about the conceptual background of this number.
Art and technology are inseparable by definition. In Plato´s and Aristotle´s Greece the word “tekhne” (“τέχνη”) meant a skill of applied arts or knowledge. For Plato and Aristotle the aim of tekhne was the imitation of nature. According to Aristotle in some cases art could complete what nature couldn’t finish. (1) Despite that the both words tekhne and logos were used by the both philosophers, the word “technology” didn’t appear until the 17th century. Still in Oxford English Dictionary (1919) the definition of the word technology meant the discourse or treatment of practice or terminology of practical arts. In the 20th century technology got new meanings, relating to technical processes and infrastructures more than tools or machines. (2) For art, the “modernization” of the term happened earlier.
I would like to suggest that protoforms of both art and technology emerged whenever it became possible to express affects and ideas and send information between conscious entities. Perhaps it could even possible to start within the animals, as Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari wrote about the origins of art: “Perhaps art begins within the animal, at least with the animal that carves out a territory and constructs a house (both are correlative, or even one and the same, in what is called a habitat). The territory-house system transforms a number of organic functions – sexuality, procreation, aggression, feeding. But this transformation does not explain the appearance of the territory and the house; rather, it is the other way around: the territory implies the emergence of pure sensory qualities, of sensibilia that cease to be merely functional and become expressive features, making possible a transformation of function.” (3)
Science and philosophy are two other companions when thinking about art and technology. So: A+T+S+P? One of the most challenging texts from philosophy concerning the question of technology is Martin Heidegger´s text Die Frage nach der Technik (The Question Concerning Technology) which is based on the lectures held in 1949 and 1953 (printed in German in 1954; English translation in 1977). Heidegger questions the common views on technology as instrumental and technology as a means to an end and makes a distinction between the essence of modern technology and the essence of technology. According to Heidegger, it is only through artist´s eyes that we can see the truth in technology. (4)
Even though the articles in this issue relate mostly to more recent activities and concepts, the technics of art and technology have a longer history. Recently, Arabic and Chinese inventions from the 1st century have been recognized as important parts of this history. (5) But it´s possible to take the imaginary time-machine and go further back. The traces left by the human hands (“les mains négatives”) in a prehistoric cave surpass the lifespan of an individual, corresponding to the philosopher Bernard Stiegler’s description of the meaning of technology as “the third memory” (6).
As a concept, A+T came into being as an concept in the latter half of the 20th century. Even before that artists, inventors, composers and architects have been interested in the new materials, technics, tools and processes of production in artistic practice. Now their impetus in the societies was also becoming important to scrutinize. Artist-inventors like the sculptor Nicolas Schöffer, video artists Nam June Paik andWoody and Steina Vasulka and composer and inventor Erkki Kurenniemi were among the pioneers of this new branch. Their practices celebrated the possibilities of experimentation, and dialogical relation with machines.
In the 1960´s 70s people like Paik, the theoristsGene Youngblood and Marshall McLuhan wrote and talked about the new roles of technology and the ways how it affects to humanity, science, culture, media and arts. Youngblood quoted Nam Paik saying “the real issue implied in art and technology is not to make another scientific toy, but how to humanize the technology and the electronic medium.” (7) New practices in art and technology included separate and intertwined practices of cybernetic art, video art, sound art, computer art, holographic art, kinetic art and expanded cinema. Predecessors of the practioners could be found among early Russian and East-European avant-garde movements, individuals and groups in the institutions like Bauhaus in Germany, the post-IIWW New Bauhaus in Chicago and The Black Mountain College in USA.
Together with engineers Billy Klüver and Fred Walthauer, The Black Mountain College artist Robert Rauschenberg founded the group EAT (Experiments in Art and Technology). In 1966 EAT, meaning Rauschenberg, composer John Cage, dancer, choreograoher and filmmakerYvonne Rainer, the choreographer Lucinda Childs and many other artists staged and performed together with engineers in the series of happenings “9 Evenings: Theatre and Engineering”. There were as important movements, groups and artists elsewhere, like the intermedia group Jikken Kōbō (Experimental Workshop), in Japan between 1951 – 1957 and The New Tendencies movement during the period 1961 – 1973 in Yugoslavia. (8) Other then-contemporary initiatives were “tradition-free” artists group Zero (founded by Otto Piene and Heinz Mack) and the ambitious cross-disciplinary Center for Advanced Visual Studies (CAVS) at MIT, founded in 1967 by artist György Kepes. The ambitious Art + Technology program in Los Angeles County Museum of Arts (LACMA) happened in 1967 – 1971. (9) By the end of this period of A+T, the still-existing long-term events and institutions like the institute Ars Electronica GmbH in Linz (1979) and the Center for Art and Media Karlsruhe ZKM (Zentrum für Kunst und Medientechnologie) (1989) were established.
In 1961 Pontus Hultén curated the groundbreaking exhibition Rörelse i Konsten (Movement in Art) in Moderna Museet, Stockholm. Among dozens of works of kinetic art, light art and film art there was also Schöffer´s cybernetic sculpture CYSP1 which reacted interactively to color, light intensity and sound intensity. Schöffer got his inspiration from cybernetics, science and engineering, and constructivist art. The same background interests were shared by the Finnish group Dimensio (established 1972), whose members used light, sound, kinetic systems, computers and holograms in their art. The shady landscape between engineering and art was in constant movement. Jack Burnham, who coined the term “Systems Esthetics”, brought together engineers and artists in the exhibition project Software Art – Information Technology: Its New Meaning for Art, held at the Jewish Museum in Brooklyn, New York City and the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. in 1970 and 1971. In Artforum magazine he wrote that in the systems esthetics “scientists and technicians are not converted into ´artists,´ rather the artist becomes a symptom of the schism between art and technics”. (10) During the energy crisis in the seventies many A+T artists and engineers turned their concern also to the ecological systems. This was manifested in example in Moderna Museet´s exhibition and symposium ARARAT (Alternative Research in Architecture, Resources, Art and Technology, 1976) in Stockholm.
VR (Virtual reality) is one of technologies developed in art and experimental laboratories which recently incarnated into another kind of existence as some kind of gimmick. It gained second life as industrial product reigned and resulted by the “the new spirit of capitalism”. (11) The commercial VR-technology shares only some similarity with the 1990s VR-systems. The most impressive immersive and interactive artworks from the 1990s like Osmose (1995) by Char Davies are now almost forgotten.
Towards the turn of the millennium the growth from the grassroots was rapid. The fast development and cheaper prices made it possible to self-learn the tools and methods of computer programs and experimental electronics at home. It was not any more crucial to have access to the most advanced cutting-edge tech laboratories. The new digital technology and open source -ideology made it possible for the artists and activists to work with image, sound and physical systems at home or studio without being at mercy of the systems and programs of the big companies.
The field of A+T changes constantly because there are always new technologies and ideas coming up. The new categories and practices of net.art and BioArt were coined in the 1990s. The pioneers in net.art were such artists as Vuk Ćosić, Olia Lialina, Alexei Shulgin and the group Jodi and in BioArt Eduardo Kac and the group Symbiotica. The aesthetic use of the system via functioning of the smallest components of the medium still prevail in the digital art subgenres such as Teletext Art and GIF Art. In 2015 one of the Finnish pioneers of net.art media artist Juha van Ingen made a 1000 year long gif-animation AS Long As Possible (ASLAP), with the help of sound artist and developper Janne Särkelä. (12) Van Ingen´s work opens up to impossible amount of time, reminding of Stiegler´s “third memory”. Terike Haapoja‘s work is close to the field of the recently founded Finnish Bioart Society. She uses science to awake question of the moments with non-human creatures like in Entropy (2004), which showed an infrared cameraimage of fading of life from the dead body of a horse.
The technics and tools in our use have lots of effect in how we see and frame the world and it´s becomings. In this number of Mustekala Tytti Rantanen’s notion of vertical films imagery as full of plunges, staircases and railways almost recalls film director Fritz Lang’s words in Jean Luc Godard’s Contempt (1963): “Cinemascope is best for snakes and funerals”. Rantanen introduces us to the wide historical and present day ideas and practices of vertical cinema. In his article on the revival of the analog sound synthesis, Janne Vanhanen refers to Gilles Deleuze´s and Félix Guattari´s notion on Immanuel Kant’s concept of synthetic a priori judgment and brings it into discussion with the new revival of analog synthesis. From the other writers of this number, who were invited by my guest-editor colleague Jenna Jauhiainen, we can learn how the plants and even bacteria can be understood as our companions in art and research. We get also an insider´s “rapport” about the experiences in CERN recidency program. Like the poet Paul Valéry wrote in the essay “Notre Destin et Les Lettres” published in 1937 (later notably quoted by Erkki Kurenniemi): “L’avenir est comme le reste: il n’est plus ce qu’il était” (“The future, like everything else, is no longer quite what it used to be.”) (13)
(1)Joachim Schummer reconsiders three theses attributed to Aristotle: “1) Technology imitates nature, such that there is no place for authentic human creativity. 2) Technology in supplementing and completing nature fulfils but the inherent aims of nature. 3) There is an ontological hiatus between natural things and artifacts such that technology cannot reproduce or change natural things.” He points out that at least “the case of genetic engineering shows that current problems are beyond the scope of Aristotelian theory.” (Schummer 2001, 105).
(2) Meijers 2009, 30 – 31, 49, 80.
(3) Deleuze and Guattari 1994, 183.
(4) Gilbert Simondon subverts the dichotomy of nature/culture and technology/culture by way of subversion of the dichotomy of technology/nature in close relation to Heidegger´s critique on the common instrumental anthropological understanding of technology in Du mode d’existence des objets techniques (1958) and L’individuation à la lumière des notions de forme et d’information (2005) (Individuation in the Light of Notions of Form and Information). Both Heidegger´s and Simondon´s texts are referred to in Barthélémy (2015).
(5) Zielinski and Fürlus 2008; 2010: http://variantology.com/?lang=en (accessed 21.12.2016)
(6) According to Stiegler the living creatures can be said to have 1) “genetic memory” which surpasses the generations, 2) epigenetic memory as a neural memory of individual experiences and 3) “epiphylogenetic memory” which is the technological memory that allows a way of distributing and contemplating the skills, methods, experiences and knowledge beyond the biological existence of individuals. (Stiegler 1998, 155; Lindberg 2013, 120, 122)According to a recent book by James Gleick inventing the idea of the time-machine was not possible before the technological changes became so rapid that the change in time was possible to experience in one generation or so. (Gleick, 2016)
(7) Youngblood 1970, McLuhan, 1984.
(8) Medosch 2016, Reichardt 2009.
(9) Tuchman 1971.
(10) Burnham 1968.
(11) With the phrase “The New Spirit of Capitalism” I refer to Luc Boltanski´s and Eve Chiapello´s insightful social study about the developments from the post-war period to the nineties especially in France, but reflecting the situation and development also elsewhere in Europe (Boltanski and Chiapello, 2005). Their book was first published in 1999 in France as Le nouvel esprit du capitalisme.
(12) Voon, 2015. The work is a tribute to John Cage, whose 639-year long composition Organ²/ASLSP (As Slow as Possible) is playing even now, when writing this, in St. Burchardi church in Halberstadt, Germany. It is scheduled to have an ending in 2640. Van Ingen is a founding member of the same moving image artists´ cooperative as the writer of this article.
(13) There is also an earlier use of the saying from the same year, in an article “From a Private Correspondence on Reality” by Laura Riding and Robert Graves, published in a journal called Epilogue: http://quoteinvestigator.com/2012/12/06/future-not-used/ (accessed 28.12.2016)
Barthélémy, Jean-Hugues, Life and Technology: An Inquiry Into and Beyond Simondon. Translated by Barnaby Norman. meson press, Hybrid Publishing Lab, Centre for Digital Cultures, Leuphana University of Lüneburg 2015
Boltanski, Luc and Chiapello, Eve: The New Spirit of Capitalism. Translated by Gregory Elliott. Verso 2005
Burnham, Jack, Systems Esthetics. Artforum, September 1968: http://www.arts.ucsb.edu/faculty/jevbratt/classes_previous/fall_03/arts_22/Burnham_Systems_Esthetics.html (accessed 28.12.2016)
Deleuze, Gilles and Guattari, Félix, What Is Philosophy? Translated by Hugh Tomlinson and Graham Burchell. New York: Columbia University Press 1994
Gleick, James, Time Travel: A History. New York: Pantheon Books 2016
Lindberg, Susanna, Stieglerin tekniikan filosofia. Tiede & Edistys 3/2013: http://www.uta.fi/yky/fil/yhteystiedot/Susanna_Lindberg/StieglerinTekniikanFilosofia.pdf (accessed 21.12.2016)
Medosch, Armin, New Tendencies: Art at the Threshold of the Information Revolution (1961 – 1978). MIT Press 2016
Meijers, Anthonie (ed.), Philosophy of Technology and Engineering Sciences, Volume 9. North Holland 2009
McLuhan, Marshall, Ihmisen uudet ulottuvuudet. Finnish translation by Antero Tiusanen. Translations of poems Kirsi Kunnas and Panu Pekkanen. Introduction by Anto Leikola. WSOY, 1984.
Reichardt, Jasia and Jikken Kōbō (Association), Experimental Workshop: Japan 1951-1958. London: Annely Juda Fine Art, 2009
Tuchman, Maurice, A report on the art and technology program of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1967 – 1971. New York: Viking, 1971: https
Voon, Claire, The 1,000-Year Gif: http://hyperallergic.com/237627/the-1000-year-gif/ (accessed 21.12.2016)
Schummer, Joachim, Aristotle on Technology and Nature. Philosophia Naturalis 38, 2001: https://notendur.hi.is//~lobbi/ut1/a_a/Aristotleogtaekni.pdf (accessed 28.12.2016)
Stiegler, Bernard, Technics and Time I – The Fault of Epimetheus. English translation by Richard Beardsworth and Richard Collins. Stanford University Press, 1998
Zielinski, Siegfried and Fürlus, Eckhard (eds.), Variantology 3 – On Deep Time Relations Of Arts, Sciences and Technologies in China and Elsewhere. Cologne: Verlag der Buchhandlung Walther König, 2008
Zielinski, Siegfried and Fürlus, Eckhard (eds.), Variantology 4 – On Deep Time Relations of Arts, Sciences and Technologies in the Arabic-Islamic World and Beyond. Cologne: Verlag der Buchhandlung Walther König, 2010
Youngblood, Gene, Expanded Cinema. P. Dutton & Co., Inc., New York 1970: http://www.vasulka.org/Kitchen/PDF_ExpandedCinema/book.pdf (accessed 21.12.2016)
Jenna Jauhiainen (1988) is an artist and a writer who used to dream of becoming a P2P server.
Kari Yli-Annala (1965) is an artist, researcher and artistic director (AAVE Alternative AudioVisual Event). He is a doctoral student in AALTO University School of Arts, Design and Architecture and a member of Finnish artists moving image cooperative FixC.