Date: Fri, 30 Jul 1999
From: Bruce Gilchrist
Subject: The Kite Project
Just returned from action, packed week on Sanda Island stuffing eeg and atmos data over cellular phone networks and internet. Preparing to fly kites in Cornwall for aug 11th eclipse.
We are having particular problems with some electro rheological (er) fluid that has been pumping round the sculpture that was installed in the ica and receiving the transmitted data from us on Sanda. It has been designed that the er fluid is pumped over an array of electrodes, the fluid increasing it`s viscosity when current is applied to the electrodes. The control voltages for the `trodes are transduced from the transmitted eeg data. I don't think there is much demand for this material, the few people who make it seem to produce it in small batches: 1 lt cost us £900, and it seems the properties vary from batch to batch. Our original test sample reacted predictably at about 1 KV over a 1mm gap in a test rig. The new fluid behaves much more erratically to the extent that it destroyed the pump by causing it to de-prime itself, causing mechanical damage.
Anyway, a couple of weeks to resolve this.....just our luck to run into a stupid material posing as a smart material.
Our experiment on Sanda Island was full of interesting, notable events.
Several weeks ago I was working in Oslo, at the Museum of Contemporary Art, presenting my autostereogram clinic. I met a guy there called Warren Brody who worked with Minsky at MIT. He has just patented the `tactile mouse peripheral`, and is currently developing this with a group of researchers in Oslo.
A project for the future that I hope to develop with a `light sculptor` will involve working with virtual daylight systems, a collaboration with a japanese company. This is another reason to investigate using a combination of eeg and ecg; a tool to tinker with the illusion/emotion relationship? I think this work would certainly interest Alan Watkins, with all the circadian rhythm implications.
....More... Since that mail I have had more encounters with the troublesome electro-rheological fluid, which has thrown up some thoughts which I think are relevant to your forum.
As you may have gathered, the er fluid is a highly specialised material. It has been regarded as a laboratory curiosity for some time, recently finding engineering applications in clutches and Howitzer recoil-dampers. The component that renders the fluid ` smart` is highly volatile, and has a tendency to evaporate when used in an open system (as in our sculpture), unlike the closed system of a clutch for instance.
On the surface it is not an attractive material, it is it's behavioural properties as a hard-core engineering colloid that are seductive; increasing it's viscosity in a high-voltage field. What is especially interesting is that it is designed to work in a hidden realm; to expose it to an open environment, to make it visible, dissipates it's soul and removes the magic. Therefore, maybe one could say that the attempt to turn it into visual `art` is the death of it. But it is not the consuming gaze of the voyeur that irredeemably dissociates it from it's power (the soul and photographic emulsion), but liberation from it's dark incarceration. I find it fascinating that in the struggle to realm-shift this odd substance (as an artist), I am caught questioning my own humanity in it's present state of inertia ;-?
Date: Sat, 31 Jul 1999 16:35:00 -0400
From: Kerry J. Gordon <email@example.com>
Subject: Re: The Kite Project
Dear David and all the ships at sea,
When I read Bruce Gilchrist's message I wondered if it was a mistake, that it was actually a personal message to you, David, that somehow got sent off as part of the discussion. For some reason it seemed entirely irrelevant. It was only later when I was downstairs washing the dishes (the place where I do my real thinking) that it occurred to me that Bruce's message was obviously about the relationship between art and science. And then I thought well no, really he's speaking about art and technology. And then I thought well, art and science, what are we really talking about anyway? Are we talking about how science contributes to the making of art? Are we speaking of the creative process itself as it reveals itself in art and science? Are we talking about the art of science, the science of art? And what about the co-creative relationship of one with the other and the impact they in turn reflect back on the culture itself?
What, after all, is the relationship of Copernicus to Leonardo to the Renaissance, of Einstein to Braque to post modernism, of al Khwarizmi to Islamic arabesque to medieval cosmology?
In a way all this musing was brought on by some comments that Liliane had made concerning, on the one hand, art and science and, on the other, Western art and science. What I took from her comments was that it is simultaneously naive and arrogant to think that the latter is synonymous with the former.
We have a tendency in the West to fall into the trap of seeing ourselves at the top of the food chain, as it were; that our particular cultural aesthetics are somehow the culmination of 10,000 years of effort, indicating that evolution does indeed have an agenda that we alone are actualizing. Of course, its nonsense, we know that, but its easy to become myopic in our perspective. But the Academy, if it is to have any meaning, must be expansive and challenge assumptions, not for the sake of political correctness, but because it must embrace those perspectives that shake us out of a complacent, lazy belief in our own knowledge.
Art and science -- the words themselves, together or apart, are loaded with cultural assumptions that are well worthy of investigation. Can we speak of science before, say, Galileo? What about the theosophical mystics of Sufi and Kabbalah, or the Vajrayana sages. After all, these weren't just a bunch of folks sitting around thinking deep thoughts. They were phenomenologists of the highest order, using yogic and meditative technology to probe the mysteries. Their models of consciousness are based on observation and repeatable experience.
Science? Spirituality? Art?
We refer to art and science with such certainty, as though their meaning is universal. Are we speaking of archetypal concepts, like Plato's forms, the truth of which is slowly revealed through the veils of illusion? Or is art and science only meaningful in the context of a specific time and culture? The old Platonic/Aristotelian dichotomy. No answer but a wonderful dialogue, which I think is meritous and likely to reveal something, if not about art and science, then, at least about ourselves.
I also wonder how spirituality and metaphysics fits into all of this. As I look back at my own musings I can plainly see that's where I'm headed, God forbid! But really, how can we talk about creative processes, art or science, without some reference to the dialectic dance between transcendencel and immanence, mind and body. What is the relationship between the spiritual and the empirical as sources of inspiration and creativity?
We have been told, in the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy that the answer is 42. So I guess its mostly figuring out the question. And I must say that I love Liliane's: What do Allah and the Corporations have in common?
I do have other comments regarding the Future of the Academy which stem from my current interests in post Darwinian models of evolution and the importance of structure to a systems creative evolutionary potential. But I think it best to leave them for another day.
All the best,
PS. Do I like the idea of a meeting of minds in Tuscany? I'm there in a New York minute, where do I sign?
Date: Sat, 31 Jul 99 15:31:50 GMT
From: Inna Semetsky <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Re: The Kite Project
David I find this concept of realm-shift fascinating although don't get a single word of engineering jargon.
Contact F. David Peat