Monday, March 12, 2007

Anker: Autopoiesis and Genetic Algorithms (Moura et Walby et al)

From: Suzanne Anker
Date: Mon, 12 Mar 2007 11:07:46 -0500

Catherine Walby referred to the term "autopoiesis" in her last posting. Leonel Moura cited the term "genetic algorithm" in relation to his image-making robots. How can these "systems" concepts be integrated into our discussion? What vernacular language can be employed to demystify these terms? How do they relate to signification and embodied knowledge?

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1 comment:

vangelico said...

In response to Suzanne Anker’s post on autopoeisis:

As an architect, I am wondering how Francisco Varela’s and Humberto Maturana’s research on autopoeisis, cognitive science and neurophenomenology could intervene in current art discourse?

Currently, some architects are beginning to pierce the static Vitruvian model of space. If we expand the notion of space within a systematic framework, space takes on a very different meaning. Francisco Varela’s book "Embodied Mind” describes some astonishing experiments. The experiment Varela’s describes in his book clarifies his concept of what he called “enactive knowledge.” After many years of research, he discovered that there was a certain type of information gained through “perception-action interaction in the environment.” In many aspects the “enactive knowledge” is more natural than other forms, both in terms of the learning process and in the way it is applied in the world. “Such knowledge is inherently multimodal because it requires the coordination of the various senses,” he wrote. Analogously, in addressing the complacent pluralism in the production craze towards representation, concern with “what” we represent instead of “how” we represent, are we reliying too much on our visual perception? Varela infers that this is the point of departure in how we relate to others and the world --perceptions combined with movement in time. And this can only occur when we can have a sense of a distance to be moved through, not of a distance separating us from time where the social merges with the existential. Modern physics has forged a wide-spread understanding of the interdependency of time and space. Space is not a given but is created in time by the movement of bodies and sound waves, many scientists have affirmed. Space is an unstable, time-based concept that has to be established by our perceptual and cognitive apparatus through continuous looking, listening, and moving. Thus we construct our spatial environment through perception (especially seeing and listening) and proprioception (the intuitive spatial 'knowledge' of our body, for instance in eye-hand-coordination). This also means the relation between space, movement and body has always been misunderstood, or at least, been related in the wrong order. There is no movement apart from image, no image apart from movement. Spaces are no longer made of walls but of images. As Walter Benjamin noted, speed became the defining characteristic of the city and its inhabitants. There can be space in time, but not the other way round. This point of the dissolution of inside/outside– time and space merge into one. Or as Gaston Bachelard’s metaphysical criticism of the separation of the interior and exterior where he suggests,
” All really inhabited space bears the essence of the notion of home... the sheltered being gives perceptible limits to his shelter. He experiences the house in its reality and in its virtuality, by means of thought and dreams.
Some architects work exclusively with the notion that the space must be conceived from the perspective of the moving body. Movement and architecture are opposing forces, although the instinctive pull towards creating timeless works of art also defies the concept we have of time. Do we need to rethink the relationship between our built spaces and the way we move in space within a framework of an elucidation of space-time that is fluid and temporal and as a continuum of optical and haptic experiences? Space is not a given but is created in time by the movement of bodies and sound waves.
Merleau-Ponty refers to our sense of place as “the area of possible actions,” the place where “there are things to be done,” and from which “spatial meanings develop.” According to him small spaces can be depressing because these spaces are confining and prevent body movement. So the “lack of invitations to movement destroys my sense of being in place and at home in my world” he wrote.
Currently, we can see the representation of some of these transformations as digital artists and designers are developing interfaces which serve to extend the human body into its virtual environment, allowing the body to manipulate the surrounding space and its perception. The work of the architects Elizabeth Diller and Richard Scofidio, with their 2002 Blur Building in Neufchatel in Switzerland demonstrate this new way of interacting with the surroundings. A grid of computerized nozzles supported on scaffolding and emitting puffs of mist, evoked an ethereal cloud. The exhibition is a suspended platform shrouded in a perpetual cloud of man-made fog. The so called 'blur pavilion' is visible many miles away as fog cloud. The building consists of a 60 x 100 x 20 - meter metal construction that sprays innumerable tiny drops of lake water from 31400 jets. The high-pressure spraying technology ensures that the fleeting sculpture will be visible in all weathers, rain or shine. Jets with tiny apertures force water with high pressure forming little water droplets. The droplets are so small that most of them remain suspended in the air. If sufficient jets are installed in a specific volume, they saturate the air with moisture and create the effect of mist or, in this case, the effect known as the blur. Walking down the long ramp, visitors arrive on a large open - air platform at the center of the fog mass where the only sound to be heard is the white noise of pulsing water nozzles. Computers are adjusting everything from the strength of the spray according to the different climactic conditions of temperature, humidity, and wind speed and direction as the fog mass changes from minute to minute. The blur building expands and produces long fog trails in high winds, rolls outward at cooler temperatures, and moves up or down depending on air temperatures. The really interesting aspect of this interactive project is that every visitor had to wear a coat with wireless technology embedded into it called “brain coats.” Visitors’ “brain coats” will react to each other, indicating either positive or negative affinity between visitors through color changes and sound. It created a powerful visual effect instigating us to inquiry into the significance of the object as we experience the de-materialization of the object as we know and the immersion of the body in affecting the outside environment. Truly, an interactive occurrence when outside and inside collapse into one, altering our perception of the world and ourselves.

Vera Angelico, AIA, NCARB, LEED AP