Saturday, October 30, 2010

The Path of the Pony

Based on a found photo from the estimable online magazine of diagrams and literature The Diagram - (my mindless Zombie alterations).

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Muybridge, Pynchon and Zombie 'Pataphysics

Edweard Muybridge opened up (and simultaneously fragmented) movement. The noun becomes verb. Thomas Pynchon, in Gravity's Rainbow, differentiated the V2 rocket's parabola into steps - the obscenity of film pretending to be reality at 24 frames per second, or of diferentiation with respect to time: necessary to 'see' it, but blinding us at the same time. Radical re-integration might work, of course.

In the sequence noun ----> verb ----> what comes next?
And in the sequence static object ----> speed ----> acceleration?
And by some sort of (at the moment rather weak) metaphor, in the sequence
art ----> data ----> metadata?

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Neuchâtel - Imaging the Future

The Zombie-'Pataphysical hotel, overlooking Lake Neuchâtel, the largest lake lying entirely in Switzerland.

All my Swiss stereotypes have been rectified by a few days in the excellent town of Neuchâtel, in francophone Switzerland, the first time Zombie-'Pataphysics was there. I gave a talk/performance on that topic, and showed a short Zombie-'Pataphysical movie of which there is an excerpt below.
I wanted to show that with thoughtless, cheap (indeed free) ad hoc and lo-tech means, one can still make art that is, I hope, quite new.

There was the obligatory Zombification of the audience, and initial fears of people being too cool or too 'Swiss' to put on the Zombie bandages were quickly dispelled. The Swiss, at least the ones I met in the street as well as at the Neuchâtel International Fantasy Film Festival and its colloquium 'Imaging the Future', were some of the most cultured, open and delightful people I've encountered.

In this treated clip from 'Casablanca', details in the movie have been approximated to by ellipses, using medical imaging software designed to show particles. The sound was stripped away, each frame of the film was 'thresholded', that is forced to be just black and white (no greys) then the particle analysis software was applied, the ellipses found by approximating major and minor axes on each 'particle', and the frames combined back into a movie. Finally the sound was restored.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Quote of the Day (click me for trumpets)

"The pataphysical spirit is the nail in the tire."
Jean Baudrillard: Pataphysics.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Zombie-'Pataphysical Steam Punk Concert

'6 notes played for 1 hour',
with J-L. André, J-M. Ponty & B. R. Smith
La Soupe Aux Choux, Bourges, France, 1 June 2010

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Zombie 'Pataphysical animation

Having been invited to speak at a Swiss conference on fantasy film and VFX etc., I thought I'd better actually make an extremely short animation. Using Zombie-'Pataphysically hijacked mechanisms, naturally.

€€€ short interjection :

So - of what seminally famous music festival is this clip an abstraction, where all elements including the circling helicopter have been replaced by ellipses?

a clue:

…and if you have been, thanks for looking.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Zombit - beyond the qubit.

'What is shared, is sharing.'

Zombie consciousness: a paradox? Well, in the most fundamental sense, yes and no.

A bit is the tiniest unit of information, standing for 'binary digit' and representing a distinction between two possibilities, such as yes or no, 0 or 1, true or false, which at this level tend to mean the same thing (I mean 'yes', 'true' and 1, for example).

The word 'bit' also refers to the physical system in which this information is represented, such as the magnetic particles on a hard drive whose north pole can point up or down, or the presence or absence of a tiny pit on a DVD.

Any system having two distinct states can act as a binary system, for example an elementary particle. However, at this scale quantum effects occur and we get the (demonstrable) effect in a quantum bit, or qubit, of bits being 1 and 0 simultaneously. If that looks too mathematically easy, realise also that it also means 'true and false' simultaneously. We know that it is merely technological constraints that presently stop us from building working, useful, quantum computers; but they will come.

What I want to do here, though, is to leapfrog over even that, to the Zombie bit, or zombit.

First, a few words about consciousness. Are we humans really conscious (despite the 'inner Zombie' that primes us to act before we know we want to)? Let's say 'yes, at least I am', for the purposes of this discussion.

Are computers / robots conscious? Let us say 'no'.

But… would you torture a robot? One who would only give up information if you burnt it, hit it, pretended to drown it, and so on? One that entirely realistically screamed and begged for mercy if you did so? I think — I suppose I hope — that we would not act in that way towards such a machine even though we know it has no consciousness and cannot really feel pain, fear and so on: it's just a program making it appear so!

We know it is not conscious. But we ascribe consciousness to it. If at this point you say 'no, we don't, we just don't want to act like that, to seem nasty to others…', then I'd ask why don't we want to act like that? It is hard to think of an argument (apart, perhaps, from neurotic superstition) that does not involve someone, at least, ascribing some sort of consciousness to the machine.

May I suggest that we have no evidence whatever that anyone else is more conscious than that computer or robot, and that this isn't solipsism but, actually, common sense rather than wishful thinking? All I know, or believe, is: I am conscious. You, I don't know about; and guessing or suspecting isn't knowing.
However I CHOOSE TO SHARE MY CONSCIOUSNESS WITH YOU, and hope that you will (whether or not you are 'really' conscious) reciprocate.

So with the machine. Most of us would probably choose to 'share' our 'consciousness' with the machine.

Above, I have been pretending to be a more or less normal human being. But you know that I am not, I am a Zombie. Of course Zombies are indistinguishable from real humans (we're not talking Hollywood here but rather about the p-Zombie, see previous postings) and can argue as I have above. But to be honest, I have no 'real' consciousness, not really. I am in your hands. I am a Zombie. Will you torture me, harm me? As I say, I am in your hands. So are all non conscious entities in our domain of influence or action, from computers to flies, to ones we are not sure about such as cows. Will you torture them, harm them… eat them? Do you? I do. What's your excuse? Whether, and under what circumstances, you choose to share your consciousness with me is surely a social-psychological question. I, the Zombie, am here to help you raise your own consciousness, in sharing it with me. Some choose to share theirs only with a non-existent construct called 'god'. What a selfish waste!
But this text will now return to matters of zombie information theory and the zombit.

A normal bit is 0 or 1. A qubit can be 0 and 1. A zombit? A zombit can only be assigned a state, or undergo a state change, as a result of sharing. Sharing what? Sharing from an entity whose 'conscious state' allows it to share. Yes but sharing what? And what do I mean here by 'conscious state'? A conscious state, in this case, is another Zombit, conscious because of shared consciousness from another zombit. And what is shared is precisely this consciousness. This can be simplified to: 'What is shared, is sharing'. (Circular? Of course it is!) We need some sort of notation for this, but it won't be one of normal distinction.

And if you have been, thanks for looking.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Zombie Pope

1. "It's the media", "Petty gossip", "War between church and world"
2. "It's the Jews"
and now… 3. "It's homosexuals"
(Stop press: 4. "It's all because of TV")

The disgusting Ratzinger gives even Zombies a bad name. Support the issue of an arrest warrant when he visits the UK.

Pope shouldn't decide criminality
By Christopher Hitchens, For The Calgary HeraldApril 13, 2010 10:00 PM
According to New York Times columnist Ross Douthat -- a devout Catholic -- Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger spoke the following words in 2002, to an audience in Spain: "I am personally convinced that the constant presence in the press of the sins of Catholic priests, especially in the United States, is a planned campaign . . . to discredit the church."
On April 9, The New York Times -- the apparent center of this "planned campaign" -- reprinted a copy of a letter personally signed by Ratzinger in 1985. The letter urged lenience in the case of the Rev. Stephen Kiesle, who had tied up and sexually tormented two small boys on church property in California. Kiesle's superiors had written to Ratzinger's office in Rome, beseeching him to remove the criminal from the priesthood. The man who is now his holiness the pope was full of urgent moral advice in response. "The good of the Universal Church," he wrote, should be a consideration. It should be understood that "particularly regarding the young age" of Kiesle, there might be great "detriment" caused "within the community of Christ's faithful" if he were to be removed. The good father was then aged 38. His victims -- not that their tender ages of 11 and 13 seem to have mattered -- were children. In the ensuing decades, Kiesle went on to ruin the lives of several more children and was finally jailed by the secular authorities on a felony molestation charge in 2004. All this might have been avoided if he had been handed over to justice right away and if the Oakland diocese had called the police rather than written to the office in Rome that muffled and suppressed such distressing questions.
Contrast this to the even more appalling case of the school for deaf children in Wisconsin where the Rev. Lawrence Murphy was allowed unhindered access to more than 200 unusually defenceless victims. Again the same pattern: repeated petitions from the local diocese to have the criminal unfrocked (an odd term when you think about it) met with stony indifference from Ratzinger's tightly run bureaucracy. Finally a begging letter to Ratzinger from Murphy himself, complaining of the frailty of his health and begging to be buried with full priestly honours, in his frock. Which he was.
So in one case a child rapist escaped judgment and became an enabled reoffender because he was too young. In the next, a child rapist was sheltered after a career of sex torture of disabled children because he was too old! Such compassion.
It must be noted, also, that all the letters from diocese to Ratzinger, and from Ratzinger to diocese, seemed to be concerned with whether this would hurt the Holy Mother Church. It was as if the children were irrelevant or inconvenient (as with the case of the boys in Ireland forced to sign confidentiality agreements by the man who is still the country's cardinal). Note, next, that there was a written, enforced and consistent policy of avoiding contact with the law. And note, finally, that there was a preconceived program of blaming the press if any of the criminal conduct or obstruction of justice ever became known.
The obscene culmination of this occurred on Good Friday, when the pope sat through a sermon delivered by an underling in which the exposure of his church's crimes was likened to persecution and even -- this was a gorgeous detail -- to the pogroms against the Jews. I have never before been accused of taking part in a pogrom or lynching, let alone joining a mob that is led by deaf, victimized children, but I'm proud to take part in this one.
The keyword is Law. Ever since the church gave refuge to Cardinal Bernard Law of Boston to spare him the inconvenience of answering questions under oath, it has invited the metastasis of this horror. And now the tumour has turned up just where you might have expected -- moving from the bosom to the very head of the church. And by what power or right is the fugitive cardinal shielded? Only by the original agreement between Benito Mussolini and the papacy that created the pseudo-state of Vatican City in the Lateran Treaty of 1929. This would be bad enough, except that it's now possible that Ratzinger himself may be held personally, as well as institutionally, responsible for obstructing justice and protecting and enabling pederasts.
One should not blame only the church here. Where was American law enforcement during the decades when children were prey? Where was international law while the Vatican became a place of asylum and a source of protection for those who licensed or carried out the predation? Page through any of the reports of child-rape and torture from Ireland, Australia, the United States, Germany -- and be aware that there is much worse to come. Where is it written that the Roman Catholic Church is the judge in its own case? Above or beyond the law? Able to use private courts? Allowed to use funds donated by the faithful to make payments to the victims or their families?
There are two choices. We can swallow the shame, roll up the First Amendment and just admit that certain heinous crimes against innocent citizens are private business or are not crimes if they are committed by priests and excused by popes. Or perhaps we can shake off the awful complicity inherent in reporting this ongoing crime as a "problem" for the church and not as an outrage to the victims and to the judicial system. Isn't there one district attorney or state attorney general in the U.S. who can decide to represent the children? Nobody in Eric Holder's vaunted department of no-immunity justice? If not, then other citizens will have to approach the bench. In London, as already reported by The Sunday Times and the Press Association, some experienced human-rights lawyers, at my and scientist Richard Dawkins' behest, will be challenging Ratzinger's right to land in Britain with immunity in September. If he gets away with it, then he gets away with it, and the faithful can be proud of their supreme leader. But this we can promise, now that his own signature has been found on a letter that facilitated Kiesle's further crimes: There will be only one subject of conversation until Ratzinger calls off his visit, and only one subject if he decides to try to go through with it. In either event, he will be remembered for only one thing long after he is dead.
© Copyright (c) The Calgary Herald

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Zombie CCTV Game

The object is to take control of a number of surveillance cameras and direct them to the most boring scene imaginable. Extra points for black roads at night!

Friday, March 12, 2010

43 Dodgy Statements on Computer Art

1. The sadness of most art is that it does not know its future. The sadness of computer art is that it does not know its past.

2. Constraint is liberty; reduce to the maximum.

3. If it looks just like, you know, ‘art’…it probably isn't.

4. Using state-of-the-art technology merely produces state-of-the-technology art.

5. Those who use computers to make art need to understand art as well as computers.

6. Most participative art is deeply authoritarian.

7. The computer is best characterised not as an information processor but as a general-purpose representation processor.

8. Marshall McLuhan, at least as filtered through his sound-bites, was often wrong. The medium is not the message, which is more often determined socially and psychologically by the recipient.

9. If your system costs 10 000 € and mine 30 000 €, it does not follow that my art is thrice as good as yours.

10. In an ideal world, New Media institutions would employ at least one non-technological artist.

11. Are you pushing the frontiers of computational representation, or of contemporary art? Confusion rarely leads to success.

12. 99% of computer art is meretricious nonsense. But then 99% of everything is meretricious nonsense.

13. Self-imposed formal requirements are not inhibitive of expression.

14. Post Modernism has never said that everything is of equal value, just that the contexts in which we identify or attribute value should be open to analysis.

15. You know your amazing new computer art, rich in metaphors and analogies? It's been done. Years ago. Without a computer.

16. We lose dimensions and scale. The computer in art is immediate and almost always, however "global", local. Just as no well-found art school would be complete without computers, so every such institution should have a telescope and a microscope, connected to the computer or not.

17. Making computer art too dangerous to sponsor would be a good way to go.

18. Just as everyone has a novel inside them, many believe they have an artwork. The purpose of a good art school is to seek out these people and stop them.

19. Using a computer merely to access the web is like using a Bugatti Veyron to deliver the papers.

20. Many people think that graphic design is art. Art is undertaken for art-like reasons, graphic design for graphic design-like reasons. There may of course be overlap. There should never be confusion.

21. Making the (arts) information revolution consists not only in enabling the control of the means of computer art production by art workers, but also in being kind, non-gouging and relatively honest. Without the latter, one may doubt commitment to the former.

22. The best interactive art always makes you look at the participants.

23. There is only one thing worse than studying art for the budding computer artist, and that is to study computers. Or vice versa.

24. Art is not craft.

25. What would be pretentious or nonsensical if one said it oneself does not become more worthy when spoken by a computer-generated avatar.

26. Seen in the light of Guy Debord's "The Society of the Spectacle", computer art is very spectacular indeed.

27. Beware of computer art as farce repeating itself as history.

28. There is no "normal" computer art, in the Kuhnian sense. It is in constant revolution, hence constantly evading scrutiny.

29. When the first solitary Metro station was built in Paris, where could people travel to? They just admired the station.

30. Bugs are good; as with fireflies, the fertile ones shed light.

31. The Prix Pierre Gutzman, 100 000 Francs, was offered by the Institut de France in 1906 to the first person who could establish contact with extra-terrestrials; except with Martians, which would be too easy.

32. ‘All that is solid melts into air’ is not a celebration of virtuality, but Marx 'n' Engels' prediction for late capitalism.

33. A half developed Polaroid photo is different to half a digital photo. A half-finished pen-plotter drawing is different to a half-finished inkjet print.

34. When art processes happen near-instantaneously, doing art becomes synonymous with correction and selection, later with celebration; rarely with creativity.

35. Art is visual philosophy. But computer art is not visual computer philosophy.

36. Revolutionary modes of interaction between humans and normative structures do not a revolution make.

37. 'i', the imaginary square root of minus 1, is to the real numbers as the computer is — or should be — to art.

38. The purpose of the computer in art is to render it difficult and problematic, not easy.

39. We do not admire Picasso's Guernica or Goya's The Third of May 1808 solely because of the techniques used, yet we are often invited to admire computer art for just that reason. Art that is deliberately content-free is one thing. Art that is accidentally, lumpenly content-free is another.

40. Computer artist: the unemployable producing the unsaleable for the uninterested.

41. Of course computers and other devices will never fully understand flowing, allusive conversation. But they won't care.

42. Many of the ‘objects’ of computer art are instances, illustrations, of some less tangible, invisible process. But it may be that the waveform should remain uncollapsed, the artwork staying undecideable, problematic, unobjectified. Lucy R. Lippard described the ‘dematerialization of the art object’ nearly 40 years ago.

43. Never throw away any computer or peripheral equipment that is more than 15 years old. You may well come to need it.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Peripheral visions: Zombie-'Pataphysical Prehistory, the Extraordinary Ordinary

Image: Jean Collins

A recent article in New Scientist discusses the 'ephemeral' marks and symbols in cave paintings. They are now being considered as very early manifestations of prehistorical abstract thought. Some 26 symbols have been found, many of them occurring in different parts of the world, in Europe, North America, Africa, Asia and Australasia.
What were previously seen as insignificant might be even more important than the stunning images they accompany.
The current interest in these symbolic utterances parallels the attention given by 'Pataphysics to the outlying, the marginal, the exceptional, the singularity, the 'unimportant'.
This is by no means relativism (of which Post-Modernism is so often wrongly accused). 'Pataphysics is the very science of such peripheral phenomena.
If a 'Pataphysician bought an IKEA chair, it would be the instructions and the left-over bits that seem to fit nowhere upon which he or she would try sitting, with success. Chopin's music might be robbed of all its notes save the accidentals.
Literary analysis of texts by computer programs more often used to detect the central points of interest in legal or government documents tends in novels to highlight the banal, the everyday that the reader scarcely registers. The main themes of a novel might be identified as 'walking' and 'sitting'. And why not? This is presently seen as a failure, but in fact it is a wild success. 'The Road': a novel of walking; 'On the Road': a novel of walking and train journeys; 'The Importance of being Earnest', a play about furniture…
The program will miss multiple layers of meaning. So what? The reader constructs her own, now enhanced or even replaced by new universes of the 'ordinary', which really is quite extraordinary.

This image shows a word-cloud of the International Declaration of Human Rights, which centralised and magnified the central concepts, turned inside out.

Monday, February 22, 2010

The p-Zombie and 'p-Zombie: the Scandal of an Incomplete Survey.

The philosophical or p-Zombie is a thought experiment designed to show that there is a soul, spirit or something which is not material, not just a 'product' of the brain. This is clearly daft.

The 'p-Zombie, or 'Pataphysical Zombie, is an instance of 'Pataphysics devised to show nothing of the sort.

Last year, a huge survey was carried out among 3226 philosophers to determine their attitudes to a number of philosophical questions, amongst which was the question of the p-Zombie.

It is interesting, if not appalling, to note that of the possible boxes to tick, the most important (to 'Pataphysicists) response was absent. One might ask why this was.

Here is the relevant section, with responses as absolute numbers and percentages.

(whether philosophical zombies are conceivable and/or metaphysically possible):

• Accept or lean toward: conceivable but not metaphysically possible 1139 / 3226 (35.3%)
• Accept or lean toward: metaphysically possible 777 / 3226 (24%)
• Accept or lean toward: inconceivable 607 / 3226 (18.8%)
• Insufficiently familiar with the issue 234 / 3226 (7.2%)
• Agnostic/undecided 156 / 3226 (4.8%)
• The question is too unclear to answer 87 / 3226 (2.6%)
• Skip 64 / 3226 (1.9%)
• There is no fact of the matter 58 / 3226 (1.7%)
• Reject all 37 / 3226 (1.1%)
• Other 27 / 3226 (0.8%)
• Accept another alternative 19 / 3226 (0.5%)
• Reject one, undecided between others 11 / 3226 (0.3%)
• Accept an intermediate view 6 / 3226 (0.1%)
• Accept more than one 4 / 3226 (0.1%)

The absent response — and the 'Pataphysically correct one — was of course 'metaphysically possible but not conceivable'.
(This is printed in magenta because the 'colour' magenta doesn't exist either - there is no magenta in the spectrum of visible light. It needs the superimposition of two separate wavelengths of light: red and blue…)

{The magenta in the colour bars in the previous posting comes from a printable colour space, n
ot the spectrum of light. If you don't believe me, have a look at a prism. No magenta.}

Thursday, February 11, 2010

On art, the universe and a weapon of cat destruction

I would follow George Spencer-Brown in seeing the universe as having — wonder of wonders! — split (whether we believe by supernatural intervention or quantum fluctuation doesn’t matter here) into two parts: one of which could, for the first time ever, observe the rest of itself. Yet in doing so, the universe necessarily became blind to part of itself. It was all OK before, just trundling along being a universe; but it couldn’t see. Didn’t need to, you see. Then it could see, a distinction was drawn, but it became tragically estranged from itself. This or something like it is nearly universal in myths of cosmic creation and so on.

What to do? We need, after this action, and don’t forget the common etymology of ‘act’ and ‘agony’, a Truth and Reconciliation Commission. If science is the truth (‘this thing happened’) then art is perhaps the means of reconciliation (‘we can’t really mend it, but this is what it might be like if we could’) — and that’s perhaps why really good art can make you cry.

Science is perhaps socially constructed; art certainly is. Imagine Schrödinger’s Cat in its box not only with a randomly triggered weapon of cat destruction but also with some paints. We don’t know if it’s doing art until we open the box and even then the waveform collapses not into a fact but into questions: has the cat got a gallery? Do the critics notice it? Is it in Art Monthly, Art Presse or Kunstforum? If so, it’s art.
The computer is its own box, cat, paints, experimenter and decaying isotope. It should also contain and examine its own modes of discourse and critique. Use that to make art and we necessarily bring new dimensions into play, we render art and computing ‘difficult’ in a positive sense. The social construction of art itself has thus opened up, allowing us to manipulate it.

We need to open everything up, to make space and time and a new dimension in the work. The best interactive art always makes you look at the participants.

Let’s make a revolution! Let’s turn round slowly, just once, and see everything, everything that was done, and then finish back here again, but everything has changed. Let’s look properly at what has already been done, analyse it and reincorporate all the best bits, but going much further, with a new energy, the energy of the square root of minus one, of crazy ’Pataphysics.
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