Morehshin Allahyari is an Iranian artist who moved to the US ten years ago, and produces work across Internet art, video and installation, sculpture, writing, and other forms, all of which explore, she says, the political, social, and cultural contradictions we face every day.
Two of Allahyari’s recent and most well-known works are The 3D Additivist Cookbook (with Daniel Rourke), and Material Speculation: ISIS. The former is a book of 3d .obj and .stl files, critical and fictional texts, templates, recipes, (im)practical designs and methodologies from over 100 world-leading artists, activists and theorists.
Material Speculation is a reconstruction of 12 selected (original) artifacts (statues from the Roman period city of Hatra and Assyrian artifacts from Nineveh) that were destroyed by ISIS in 2015. Allahyari 3D modeled and 3D printed these forms, creating, in the artists words “a practical and political possibility for artifact archival, while also proposing 3D printing technology as a tool both for resistance and documentation. It intends to use 3D printing as a process for repairing history and memory.” She includes a flash drive and a memory card inside the body of each 3D printed object, making each a kind of time capsule with images, maps, pdf files, and videos gathered on the artifacts and sites that were destroyed.
She is also a friend: generous and fun, smart and friendly, I highly recommend you try to make it to her talk this week, September 27, 2017 here in Milwaukee.
Artists Now! lectures take place every Wednesday at 7:30 pm in the Arts Center Lecture Hall on the UWM campus. They are always free and open to the public.
N. Katherine Hayles’ How We Became Posthuman: Virtual Bodies in Cybernetics, Literature, and Informatics was hugely influential on my dissertation and thinking, and I still cite her regularly in my classes and texts. Here her ironically titled book re-members (that is, embodies again) how humans (and data) both “lost their materiality” in our minds, and then she shows us that this is dead wrong, and that there are major stakes in that misperception. Her 2017 Unthought: The Power of the Cognitive Nonconscious differentiates between a thinking that describes “thoughts and capabilities associated with higher consciousness such as rationality, the ability to formulate and manipulate abstract concepts, linguistic competencies, and so on,” and “cognition” (2), which is the nonconscious capacity for processing information, the latter gained through biological sensation or perception, or technological sensors, mechanical feedback, or data received from external sources, among other things. Cognition, in other words, is a “much broader faculty” extant on some level “in all biological life-forms and many technical systems” (14).
Hayles wants to have the humanities engage with and better understand “the specificities of human-technical cognitive assemblages and their power to transform life on the planet” through a more coherent “ethical inquiry” (3-4). She wants us to look more closely at what and how those systems act, cognize, and think, what we do with and as them, and why. Hers is an important premise and fascinating study of the “supporting environments” humans are “embedded and immersed in,” which “function as distributed cognitive systems” (2).
I found myself alternatively nodding and shaking my head while reading. I agree that we must pay more attention to the things that think and cognize, and the ethical questions at play; though I also believe the distinctions more blurred and subtle (and sometimes non-existent) than laid out by those Hayles cites (book forthcoming – though mine is entirely about art!). Still, this is precisely because it is such an interesting topic, with too much to debate. And Hayles’ her bringing these ideas into the humanities is unmistakably important, and her modes of storytelling around them are as funny and smart as ever. If you haven’t yet read How We Became Posthuman: Virtual Bodies in Cybernetics, Literature, and Informatics, I would start there – not because you need it to understand Unthought, but because the first is her strongest manuscript, by far. If you enjoyed that, or have more interest in the later/recent book, I do recommend it. It’s not as easy of a read, but it is more than worthwhile, and may yet prove to be the game-changer the first was.
This term sees my first time teaching a full semester of Arduino in the Department of Art and Design at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Most geeks will know that the Arduino is an open source microcontroller for physical computing projects. Easy break down: whereas multimedia and code art classes (in Processing or Max or openFrameworks, for example) might have students make generative or interactive work that utilizes anything which already communicates with your computer via USB or bluetooth or the internet (a kinect for body tracking, a Wii for dancing, web cams, mics, or data streaming from sources online for input; printers, projectors, speakers or screens for output), the Arduino (and things like it) allows for non-standard, analog interfaces: flex sensors, light cells, or sonar for input, for example, motors, lights, fans, or solenoids (to control water or air) for output.
Most of my students have little or no background in coding, and even fewer have any experience with electronics when they sign up… meaning, this syllabus will work as an introduction. That said, I offer it at the 300-level, so that my digital art students will understand bits and bytes, audio and video, how computers “think,” and my other artists will be able to bring their skills with crafting images or objects (etc) into the mix. I also “stack” it with a 400-level class, so grad students, or advanced students that want to take it a second time, can add another dimension of creativity and criticality.
If you can’t tell, I’m excited about it.
I’m sharing three documents with the inter-webs. One is the core syllabus; another is the advanced syllabus; and the last is the calendar. They are all under a CC-by license (Creative Commons Attribution), meaning, you can do whatever you want with them (use, distribute, remix, etc), so long as you credit me and acknowledge the license I used, link back to this page, and do not prohibit anyone else from doing said same.
understand electricity and make a creative project with a simple circuit
make digital inputs and digital outputs with Arduino (and produce another creative tech project)
find inspirational work, while learning coding and prototyping
construct analog ins and outs as part of artistic endeavors
sketching and inspiration, writing and thinking, aesthetics and ethics, with digital and electronic media
sensors and actuators (and not fetishizing them – oh my)
transistors and relays, serial communication and integrated circuits, PCBs (printed circuit boards)
and finally, lots of studio critique and makey makeys towards a final object or installation
I also require documentation of everything in photo and video and text as part of the class, so you can expect to see some of that at the end of the term. This got us started last week (and you can follow when I assign readings in the syllabus/schedule):
There are also some recommended (read: not required) books for them, which you should definitely get for your classroom, in the attached documents.
Here are the 300-level and 400-level syllabi, and my schedule for the term (meets twice a week for 2.5 hours), in RTF format (open in Word if you have it – they’ll look better / have the images), as I first conceptualized them at the start of the term. I’ll upload any major changes if/when they happen, and note that here. Please let me know (via comments, or email if comments are closed) if you find this helpful; it’s always good to hear from folks. Speaking of, I’m also happy to share how I spent my lab fee dollars, or specific lecture notes, if someone needs/asks; but that’d take a bit more organization, so I’ll only do it on request (but then I’ll post it and credit the asker).
Conversely, I’m yet to decide on the more conceptual readings for my students, if you have ideas! In my Interactive and Generative Art class, we read a bit by me, Katja Kwastek, Kate Hayles, Kate Mondloch, and Philip Galanter. But I’ve not found something that punctures the right images for me in the kinetic/physical computing realm. Perhaps I won’t find it in the standard places… Should we look at Minimalist sculpture writings? Or perhaps Brian Massumi on Stelarc? I have time, and will post when I decide, but I would welcome suggestions, again in the comments or via email if comments are closed…
With the pending release of my new book (Ecological Aesthetics: artful tactics for humans, nature, and politics) in June or July of next year, and all the goings-on of the last couple of years in my life / the world, I’ve decided it might be time to reboot the blog I began back in Johannesburg circa 2002, and which teetered off and eventually died after two continental moves. Whereas that site began with my writings on art and politics, moved into regional discussions of aesthetics and culture and back again, here…. um, well… yeh, it will similarly be on whatever I feel like posting about, that I think is interesting.
For now, the new tagline is “art and ecology, fiction and geek stuff, culture and philosophy, parenting and life, etc”.
Forthcoming: a bit on my new book, some interesting tidbits from students in the classes I am teaching this semester (two Digital Studio courses, and one in Mechanical Engineering, plus some extra-curriculars), and thoughts on some great new art and books I’ve seen and read this Summer. You can expect to hear from me about once per week from now.
For now, a briefiew (yeh, I just made that up, a “brief review” portmanteau. Tho I’m sure someone else has used it before, and it may not have gone down well. I decided against googling it, and ruining it for myself….) on Mo Gawdat’s Solve for Happy.
There are some lovely, and funny, and sad moments in this book, about a Google engineer’s quest for contentment, where he found and lost and found happiness before and after the death of his son. Gawdat hopes to share, simply, how to live with ourselves, and others, in the moment. He has an actual equation and formula, with numbers and lists and drawings (I’m actually listening to the audiobook, so I just imagine them, tho it comes with a PDF; his voice is very soothing). Honestly, Gawdat’s outlook mostly feels like a contemporary (and geeky) take on Eckhart Tolle’s Power of Now (which my mom likes way more than I do).
In the end, overall, it’s worth your time (even if, like me, there are few self-help books you are into – non-fiction is, of course, much broader than this!). The author is likable, his stories moving, his personality generous and relatable. And I’d like to share my favorite bit, which more or less goes as follows: the voice in your head is not you.
That person, who you think is you, who criticizes the way you eat, or move, or work out? The one who replays conversations in your head (or in my case, out loud), or wonders why that person at work is being that way towards you? That voice, which questions you, or the world, or the ones you care about? Overall, your inner monologue… That person is not you. That’s a construct of a person, the one who got praise or punishment from parents and teachers, and followed suit; he or she is the one who performs for others. That is not the real you. YOU are the one observing that criticizer. And you do not have to listen to the voice.
I’ve named the voice in my head Ferdinand. He is a bit of a dick, and I like to roll my eyes at, and make fun of, him. It has seriously changed things around here. So… thanks for that, Mo Gawdat’s Solve for Happy.
Jessica Meuninck-Ganger and I are trying to raise money for our next collaborative solo exhibition at GALLERY AOP in Johannesburg, South Africa, in January 2013, through crowd-funding site US Artists. Some of this work will also be shown in Milwaukee as part of SGCI next March. Please consider donating even the smallest amount to help us cover costs of materials and catalog printing (with an essay by renowned media theorist Richard Grusin)! Every little bit helps, it’s tax deductible, and donations at various levels will get limited edition art works to boot. Contributions can be made through Amazon payments. We’ve made a video explaining the work and what your money will go towards online with the campaign at: http://www.usaprojects.org/project/matter_mediate_material
Note: If your credit card is issued from a non-US bank, or you prefer not to use Amazon payments, please consider either making a donation through GALLERY AOP via Alet Vorster in South Africa <firstname.lastname@example.org>, or by printing and mailing or faxing this donation form.
In our ongoing series of collaborations, a traditional printmaker (Jessica Meuninck-Ganger) and digital artist (Nathaniel Stern) merge practices to create new forms. Matter Mediate Material is an upcoming solo exhibition in Johannesburg, South Africa (January 2013), where we will permanently mount translucent prints and drawings directly on top of video screens, to make “moving images on paper.” Several of these exciting new works will also be shown as part of Southern Graphics Conference International (March 2013, Milwaukee).
We really appreciate your patronage and support. Matter Mediate Material will combine hand craftsmanship with high tech, and so requires LCD screens and media players, hours of shooting, animating and drawing, paper, ink, silk screens, wood, copper plates, frames, glass, and so much more. Your funding will assist with materials and production for the new work, as well as catalog printing. Remember that we must reach our minimum goal to get funding (it’s all or nothing!), but any moneys over and above that goal will help further: towards shipping costs, framing, travel, design, PR and public programming. Every bit helps – so please donate, and tell your friends, too. Thank you for your help!
Thanks in advance for your support! Best,
nathaniel and jessica
Bi-weekly updates, and a small, signed, letterpress print
Bi-weekly updates, a signed letterpress print, and a signed catalog
Updates, signed letterpress print and catalog, and a signed silk screen print
Everything above, and a very limited edition signed digital print
Everything above and a signed, very limited edition, 2-layer digital and traditional print
Everything above and a signed, limited edition print+video piece -this includes a video screen + media player to make “moving images on paper”
Printing Time is a suite of 18 performative prints, each an edition of 5. It was produced for a solo exhibition of the same name at Art at Wharepuke in New Zealand, run by Mark Graver – author of Non-toxic Printmaking. In this ongoing series, I strap a desktop scanner, laptop and custom-made battery pack to my body, and perform images into existence. I might scan in straight, long lines across tables, tie the scanner around my neck and swing over flowers, do pogo-like gestures over bricks, or just follow the wind over water lilies in a pond. The dynamism of my relationship to the landscape is transformed into beautiful and quirky renderings, which are re-stretched and colored on my laptop, then produced as archival art objects. This series follows the trajectory of Impressionist painting, through Surrealism to Postmodernism, but rather than citing crises of representation, reality or simulation, my focus is on performing all three in relation to each other.