In his book La condition inhumaine (flammarion, 2008), Ollivier Dyens explain quitte eloquently that the layers which make up our perception of the world (our vision, our sense of smell, our hearing etc..) are limited and far from being efficient. The five senses only describe a fraction of existence. The capacity within these senses is also limited (perfect vision is only perfect within the human boundaries).If we compare the totality of our capabilities to other species of the world we can see examples of these limitations. We do not have a sonar as bats do, an electromagnetic sense inherent to sharks ortetra chromatic vision, like several species of birds possess. Our brain is centralized, unlike the nine neural “brain” structures of the octopus. Scientific studies and tools (i.e. technology) allow us to discover and walk through these alternate doors of perception. They allow us to see and understand reality in a much more complex way.
Our senses constantly lie to us, and today we rely more and more on our tools to perceive the world and move within it efficiently.
Tools precede humans. Long before our initial evolutionary appearance several species “created” and utilized what we would call ‘elementary’ tools. And someday tools might bury humans by rendering us obsolete.
Up until now our relationship with the tool has been mostly mutual — a sort of co-evolutionary story (the computer as our external “sounding board”). Most of us see machines as external entities but I would argue they are constitutive of humans. What could be more human than a machine? Every activity, action and decision, from our first wail until our last breath, is closely linked to machines. We cannot make do without; they are an essential part of our existence and largely responsible for attaining our goals, be they simple or complex.
Biologically, we have not evolved much over the past 100,000 years, save some fine tuning (for example the brain is 3% – smaller). While metamorphoses, transformations, as well as the reparations and improvements of our many tools, exist now on an exponential and irrepressible curve. Some refer to this as the path to the Singularity.
Most likely the tool will no longer need the human to “replicate” or improve upon itself. In the near future this will happen more and more on its own, from within and by the direction of the tools (or machines if you prefer) themselves. This is radical. From an evolutionary perspective we will be the first species to create a new entity which operates in total autonomy, one that will be more and more able to adapt itself to the universe in ways that far surpass our own abilities.
The pieces included in Nervure’s Pathspeak to this fundamental relationship between the humanity and tools (mainly including the language and its new vehicle, the computer).
The starting point was a project of producing three human scale sculptures representing the offices of three different but inherently related professional paths: the artist, the astrophysicist and the philosopher.
The correlation factor was the idea that all three professions can firmly be against auto-centrism (a somewhat narcissistic axiom which places humans at the center of existence). Albeit to varying degrees, they all require a computer (it might very well be the first and only tool used by everyone, they touch every profession).
This sculpture (the artist’s office) offers a three-dimenonal still life — a screenshot marking the arrival of an (increasingly) immaterial epoch. It includes distinct elements: a table, a chair, a computer, a scanner, etc… The glass cubicle, in this short-circuit proposition, accentuates the impression of anonymity. It’s a sealed micro-world, which uses the mirror to both seal itself in and open itself up. It is intimate and anonymous, highly visible and vulnerable. It’s exposed and insulates. The mirror, of course, is symbolic of self-discovery, humanity’s reflexive identity and the reflections of the world, but it is also a great engine to distort reality and access “the other.” It is from this allegorical place we begin to analyze media, production and tools for storage and the transmission of our cumulative information and knowledge. It is an intellectual, technical or artistic space work to represent it all. In a way, this work wants to expose what thinking means.
Here’s an excerpt from an email sent by a friend, Jennifer Alleyn:
It’s terribly final.
Almost an image of the past.
Of a civilization that was.
Millennium dust. Which allows itself to be inducted, poured like a jewel in its case.
For the eyes that will survive. It’s disturbing to see all these people orbit an empty cage, like visiting a zoo of humankind after extinction. Looking at themselves in this representation of their absence.
The reflection is supposed to operate only inside the box, like an endless or ongoing short-circuit. The viewers, thanks to the spy glasses, are “vampirized” as their own figures are not being reflected by the mirrored objects that are inside the container.
It intends to exclude the gazer from the proposition: to separate the two worlds. I want the viewers to bear witness to a separate field —a closed scene, shut-in on itself, and so I needed to create a space of only mirrored objects that only reflect other mirrored objects, as a tentative to create an infinite reflection exercise.Only the gaze can penetrate this capsule, and once inside, it can’t really escape, as it bounces and ricochets on every single surface, anywhere but back onto the viewer, him or herself.
I wanted to focus on the inherence of nature and data processing. While we understand more and more that matter is made out of information, maybe there is no more difference between a thing and its referent. If nature is understood as a synonym of the Universe, or cosmos, i.e. inclusive of everything, then obviously that must also involve and include informatics, computer science and the tools that come from those pursuits.
This video is a montage – a parallel edit – which oscillates between two front-facing, slow tracking shots:one in a corridor of large server farm and the other in corridor of the forest. It’s more like a pendulum than a harsh juxtaposition.
The soundtrack is also simplistic: the symbolically ‘unnatural’ sounds of things like hard drives and the various sounds machines make poured over images of the symbolically ‘natural world,’ which here are forests (which are themselves vast networks rooted in communication and data storage). Inversely, various sounds traditionally symbolic of ‘nature’ like wind, streams and storms are poured over the symbolically ‘unnatural’ images of servers. Everything is interchangeable. And there’s always a little sonic overflow – and that’s why I have them overlapping a bit too.
The server images and the machine soundtrack are all fabricated, that is, they are drawn and worked, created. But if you think about it, they too are just organized layers of already existing information. While scenes and sounds from forests are video and audio recordings using a camera or a recording device to observe the already existing information. Essentially, what is “natural” is captured, and what is “artificial” is recreated.
Once the 3D drawings were completed, we had to rent the services of a “Render Farm” to be able to “render” the tracking shots themselves. This tautology (the server farm that draws the server farm) also serves my purpose.
At the beginnings of our planet, or even before at the twilight of the Big Bang, all the possibilities of the living, all the technological potentialities, were, in my opinion, inherent. The definition of life, the idea of replication must, it seems, be reviewed in order to adapt it to tools, especially language.
As we are the Universe’s flesh, we allow the Cosmos to dream about itself. Computers, by drastically transforming our perceptions, are pushing farther the boundaries of those dreams.