Natural Aesthetics:
Digital Art and Philosophy in
the Era of Technologized
Biomimicry
Melanie Swan
Technology Philosopher
...
What is Digital Art?
2
Probably not what comes to mind!
Digital Art is anything involving
Computers and Art
3
The Legible City: Jeffrey Shaw
4
http://www.medienkunstnetz.de/works/the-legible-city/
Video: http://www.medienkunstnetz.d...
Boundary Functions: Scott Snibbe
Boundary Functions by Scott Snibbe (1998)
http://www.snibbe.com/projects/interactive/boun...
What is Digital Art?
6
Interactivity, Co-Creation, Ephemerality
What is Digital Art?
7
What is Digital Art?
8
What is Digital Art?
9
What is Digital Art?
10
11
What is Digital Art?
Tactical Media, Hactivism, Electronic Civil Disobedience
Graffiti Research Lab and Stiktu
augmente...
What is (early) Digital Art?
12
Hypertext, hypermedia, net.art, web art
What is (regular) Art?
13
Art is whatever the ‘artworld’ (e.g.; art schools, museums, critics,
artists) considers to be ar...
14
Why Digital Art and Philosophy?
Philosophy
Concerned with: Understanding
Art, economics, politics
Concerned with: Exper...
Concepts in Natural Aesthetics
15
• Digital Art and Natural
Aesthetics: anything involving
technology, art, and biology
• ...
16
Is this image of something real? What kind of real?
Real life? Artificial Life? Synthetic Biology?
Computer-generated i...
Distinguishability of Computer Art
17
• Is it “art” or “not art” if we can
tell it was computer-made?
• ‘Repticity’ – repr...
Concepts in Natural Aesthetics
18
• Digital Art and Natural
Aesthetics: anything involving
technology, art, and biology
• ...
What is BioArt?
19
• Artists using biology as an
expressive medium
• Artwork created using live
tissue, bacteria, or other...
Notable BioArtworks
20
• Earmouse (1997)
– Human ear grown on the back of a
mouse (science turned into art)
• GFP (green-f...
The Algae Opera (2012)
Digital Design Weekend, Victoria and Albert Museum, London
21
• Interactive performance and audienc...
Tissue Engineered BioArt
22
• Semi-Living Worry Dolls (Oron Catts & Ionat
Zurr 2002 SymbioticA artistic lab)
• hymNext Des...
23
http://www.siembieda.com/burg.html
Group data project: Human systems (heart, lungs) representation
of commercial buildi...
Concepts in Natural Aesthetics
24
• Digital Art and Natural
Aesthetics: anything involving
technology, art, and biology
• ...
Best Science Pictures of the Year
25
Neuro-synaptic
Computer Chip
3D CT Scan of Clam and
Whelk Shell
MRI of Human Brain
Wh...
26
Aesthetics in Fluorescent-staining
Practices
27
Framsticks (2010)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l9WVF6c8E7c
Tentacular - Evolved Virtual Creatures (2007)
https://www...
Artificial Life (A-Life)
28
Practitioner Intent: Art
What is Generative Art?
29
• Art created with the use of an autonomous system
– Computing or mechanical system employed
– ...
Form and Function:
Macroscale Biomimicry
30
Macroscale Biomimicry
31
Himalayas Water Tower
Winner Evolo 2012 Skyscraper Competition
http://www.evolo.us/competition/hi...
Biomimicry for Natural Dwelling
32
Living Treehouses (Fab Tree Hab) – (Mitchell Joachim 2003)
Tree Circus
Theory of Place: “Building, Dwelling,
Thinking” (Heidegger 1951)
33
• Feeling at home, placeness,
dwelling, belonging
• Ce...
Dwelling: The City
34
• Living in cities:
– Over 50% worldwide population in 2008
– 5 billion in 2030 (estimated)
http://w...
Masdar
Energy City of the Future
35
Reconfiguration of Space: Vertical Farms
36http://www.evolo.us/architecture/vertical-farm-in-san-diego/, http://www.vertic...
37
Reconfiguration of Space: Transportation
38
Reconfiguration of Space: Seasteading
De Novo Production of Space
39
• ‘Home’ trope in technology
• Organizing physical and virtual space
– Physical-world: co-w...
Concepts in Natural Aesthetics
40
• Digital Art and Natural
Aesthetics: anything involving
technology, art, and biology
• ...
41
Synthetic Biology (SynBio)
• Definition: the (re)design and construction of
new biological entities such as enzymes, ge...
42
Current Opinion in Chemical Biology
December 2012
Volume 16
Issues 5–6
Pages 461-622
Mechanisms • Aesthetics • Molecula...
43
Synthetic Aesthetics
How would you design nature?
• Connecting synthetic biology, social
science, and art and design1
–...
Concepts in Natural Aesthetics
44
• Digital Art and Natural
Aesthetics: anything involving
technology, art, and biology
• ...
Quantified Self (QS) Art
45
Quantify Me (Laurie Frick 2013)
Fries by Month (Lauren Manning 2010)
Quantified Creativity (Am...
CrowdArt
46
Eric Whitacre's Virtual Choir 3, 'Water Night' (2012)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V3rRaL-Czxw
Role of Aesthetics in Science/Tech
47
• Level 1
– Beauty, good design, improved
function, interaction design
– Examples: M...
Summary: Philosophical Issues
in Natural Aesthetics
48
• ‘What is real?’ – Reality Multiplicity
• ‘Repticity’ - Representa...
http://www.youtube.com/TechnologyPhilosophe
Participate in
Technology
Philosophy
Video!
Natural Aesthetics:
Digital Art and Philosophy in
the Era of Technologized
Biomimicry
Melanie Swan
Philosopher in Residenc...
51
• Is it all right to interfere with natural
processes?
– Just a better way of ongoing manipulation
buy humans (e.g.; pl...
52
Unprecedented Crowd Access to the
Tools of Creative Production
Printing Press Blogger, Twitter, Flickr
Tumblr, Instagra...
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Natural Aesthetics: Digital Art and Philosophy in the Era of Technologized Biomimicry

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The arts and technology are coming together in exciting ways in contemporary society. New experimental media such as biology, data, and technology are leading artists, scientists, and other individuals to new realms of knowledge discovery and creative expression. Philosophy, concerned with aesthetics and epistemology (the study of knowledge), provides an interesting lens for understanding current activity in a range of contexts where art, technology, and biology are linked. These contexts include GenerativeArt, BioArt, Biomimicry, Synthetic Biology, and CrowdArt.

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Natural Aesthetics: Digital Art and Philosophy in the Era of Technologized Biomimicry

  1. 1. Natural Aesthetics: Digital Art and Philosophy in the Era of Technologized Biomimicry Melanie Swan Technology Philosopher MS Futures Group +1-650-681-9482 m@MelanieSwan.com August 7, 2013 – UC Berkeley Slides: http://slideshare.net/LaBlogga
  2. 2. What is Digital Art? 2 Probably not what comes to mind!
  3. 3. Digital Art is anything involving Computers and Art 3
  4. 4. The Legible City: Jeffrey Shaw 4 http://www.medienkunstnetz.de/works/the-legible-city/ Video: http://www.medienkunstnetz.de/works/the-legible-city/video/1/ The Legible City by Jeffrey Shaw (1988-1991)
  5. 5. Boundary Functions: Scott Snibbe Boundary Functions by Scott Snibbe (1998) http://www.snibbe.com/projects/interactive/boundaryfunctions/ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Ax4pgtHQDg 5
  6. 6. What is Digital Art? 6 Interactivity, Co-Creation, Ephemerality
  7. 7. What is Digital Art? 7
  8. 8. What is Digital Art? 8
  9. 9. What is Digital Art? 9
  10. 10. What is Digital Art? 10
  11. 11. 11 What is Digital Art? Tactical Media, Hactivism, Electronic Civil Disobedience Graffiti Research Lab and Stiktu augmented reality social graffiti app from Layar
  12. 12. What is (early) Digital Art? 12 Hypertext, hypermedia, net.art, web art
  13. 13. What is (regular) Art? 13 Art is whatever the ‘artworld’ (e.g.; art schools, museums, critics, artists) considers to be art – Danto 1964
  14. 14. 14 Why Digital Art and Philosophy? Philosophy Concerned with: Understanding Art, economics, politics Concerned with: Experience Concepts Qualitative Quantitative Science and technology Concerned with: Characterization and Innovation Abstraction Figuration Enumeration Deleuzean Concepts: rhizome, body without organs, molar, molecular, smooth, striated, figural, machinic, faciality, deterritorialization, haecceity, nomadology, the diagram, desiring-production Three disciplines for analyzing reality, "separate melodic lines in constant interplay with one another” – Deleuze, Negotiations 1997
  15. 15. Concepts in Natural Aesthetics 15 • Digital Art and Natural Aesthetics: anything involving technology, art, and biology • Philosophical concepts – Reality and Authenticity – Discipline portability – Form and function – De Novo creation – Individual and Society
  16. 16. 16 Is this image of something real? What kind of real? Real life? Artificial Life? Synthetic Biology? Computer-generated image? Distinguishing ‘What is Real’ Proliferation in the categories of realism What does it mean that it is impossible to tell?
  17. 17. Distinguishability of Computer Art 17 • Is it “art” or “not art” if we can tell it was computer-made? • ‘Repticity’ – representational authenticity
  18. 18. Concepts in Natural Aesthetics 18 • Digital Art and Natural Aesthetics: anything involving technology, art, and biology • Philosophical concepts – Reality and Authenticity – Discipline portability – Form and function – De Novo creation – Individual and Society
  19. 19. What is BioArt? 19 • Artists using biology as an expressive medium • Artwork created using live tissue, bacteria, or other living organisms together with scientific processes – Requires collaboration of artists and biologists • Term coined in 2000 by Eduardo Kac, an American artist born in Brazil Petri Dish Paintings
  20. 20. Notable BioArtworks 20 • Earmouse (1997) – Human ear grown on the back of a mouse (science turned into art) • GFP (green-fluorescent protein) Art – Bunny (2000) – GlowCats (2011) • Lawn Chair sculpture (2002) – Denise King, Carnivorous Contraptions, Chlorophilia show
  21. 21. The Algae Opera (2012) Digital Design Weekend, Victoria and Albert Museum, London 21 • Interactive performance and audience consumption piece • Opera singer produces Co2 to feed algae to feed the audience • BioArt as commentary on agricultural futures (produced by Agri)
  22. 22. Tissue Engineered BioArt 22 • Semi-Living Worry Dolls (Oron Catts & Ionat Zurr 2002 SymbioticA artistic lab) • hymNext Designer Hymen Series (Julia Reodica 2006) • BioArt conceptual issues – Is the commentary strengthened by ‘real biology’ as the medium? – New medium requires new commentary • BioArt exhibition issues – Maintaining wet bioart in-gallery – Technique-sharing with local biologists; collaboration between artists and biologists (e.g; BioArt Initiative RPI) – Living-matter transport (e.g.; UK Human Tissue Authority), compliance (e.g.; Steve Kurtz)
  23. 23. 23 http://www.siembieda.com/burg.html Group data project: Human systems (heart, lungs) representation of commercial building energy consumption (San Jose, CA 2010) B.U.R.G. (Building User Response Gizmos)
  24. 24. Concepts in Natural Aesthetics 24 • Digital Art and Natural Aesthetics: anything involving technology, art, and biology • Philosophical concepts – Reality and Authenticity – Discipline portability – Form and function – De Novo creation – Individual and Society
  25. 25. Best Science Pictures of the Year 25 Neuro-synaptic Computer Chip 3D CT Scan of Clam and Whelk Shell MRI of Human Brain White Matter • National Geographic coverage – 2012 International Science and Engineering Visualization Challenge – 2009 BioScapes Microscope Imaging Contest Water Flea Crown of Thorns
  26. 26. 26 Aesthetics in Fluorescent-staining Practices
  27. 27. 27 Framsticks (2010) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l9WVF6c8E7c Tentacular - Evolved Virtual Creatures (2007) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pm2n_ped-TA Form and Function: Artificial Life (A-Life) • A field of study and an associated art form – Examines systems related to the evolution of life • Art or Science? – Depends on practitioner and intention Practitioner Intent: Science
  28. 28. Artificial Life (A-Life) 28 Practitioner Intent: Art
  29. 29. What is Generative Art? 29 • Art created with the use of an autonomous system – Computing or mechanical system employed – System independently determines features • Minimum conditions for a set of marks to function as an image? Depends on intent Generative Art - Computers, Data, and Humanity | Off Book | PBS (2011) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x0OK1GiI83s Condensation Cube (Hans Haacke 1963) Evolved Noise (Karl Sims 2012) 77 Million Paintings (Brian Eno 2007) AARON, the AI Painter (Harold Cohen, 1995)
  30. 30. Form and Function: Macroscale Biomimicry 30
  31. 31. Macroscale Biomimicry 31 Himalayas Water Tower Winner Evolo 2012 Skyscraper Competition http://www.evolo.us/competition/himalaya-water-tower/
  32. 32. Biomimicry for Natural Dwelling 32 Living Treehouses (Fab Tree Hab) – (Mitchell Joachim 2003) Tree Circus
  33. 33. Theory of Place: “Building, Dwelling, Thinking” (Heidegger 1951) 33 • Feeling at home, placeness, dwelling, belonging • Central theme of dwelling1 – Not conventional shelter or lodging – Human implacement, being ‘in’ place • Dwelling makes becoming possible, instantiates – The placeness of place – Meaningfulness of our being 1Liu F. On Place-ness of Place: ‘Dwelling.’ The Sustainability Collection. http://ijs.cgpublisher.com/product/pub.41/prod.461
  34. 34. Dwelling: The City 34 • Living in cities: – Over 50% worldwide population in 2008 – 5 billion in 2030 (estimated) http://www.unfpa.org/pds/urbanization.htm
  35. 35. Masdar Energy City of the Future 35
  36. 36. Reconfiguration of Space: Vertical Farms 36http://www.evolo.us/architecture/vertical-farm-in-san-diego/, http://www.verticalfarm.com/
  37. 37. 37 Reconfiguration of Space: Transportation
  38. 38. 38 Reconfiguration of Space: Seasteading
  39. 39. De Novo Production of Space 39 • ‘Home’ trope in technology • Organizing physical and virtual space – Physical-world: co-working, co-housing – Online-world: social networks, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram – Virtual-world: video games, ARGs • Virtual placeness – How can we build virtual places for dwelling meaningfully? Dwelling Virtually
  40. 40. Concepts in Natural Aesthetics 40 • Digital Art and Natural Aesthetics: anything involving technology, art, and biology • Philosophical concepts – Reality and Authenticity – Discipline portability – Form and function – De Novo creation – Individual and Society
  41. 41. 41 Synthetic Biology (SynBio) • Definition: the (re)design and construction of new biological entities such as enzymes, genetic circuits, and cells • Goal: deliver function, safety, and beauty • Metaphysical issues (nature of reality) – ‘What is life?’ – DNA change necessary for a ‘different’ organism? – What are living machines, in themselves? – Ontological classification and naming • Ethics – Practice standards: safety, accountability, documenting work – Unintended consequences, dual-use debate • Epistemology – Limits on biological knowledge-seeking? “This century’s transistor” Source: Swan, M. Synbio Revolution: Biology is the Engineering Medium, 6/26/11 http://futurememes.blogspot.com/2011/06/synbio-revolution-biology-is.html Artificial ligase enzyme Mycoplasma laboratorium
  42. 42. 42 Current Opinion in Chemical Biology December 2012 Volume 16 Issues 5–6 Pages 461-622 Mechanisms • Aesthetics • Molecular imaging
  43. 43. 43 Synthetic Aesthetics How would you design nature? • Connecting synthetic biology, social science, and art and design1 – Teams: Bioengineers and Synbio Designers • Molecular design aesthetics – When we make new molecules should they be beautiful? Are naturally occurring molecules beautiful? What is an ugly protein? – Is ‘form follows function’ relevant? Can function be beautiful? – What aesthetic criteria to apply? Aesthetics of chirality 1http://gow.epsrc.ac.uk/NGBOViewGrant.aspx?GrantRef=EP/H01912X/1 and http://www.genomicsnetwork.ac.uk/media/Synthetic%20Aesthetics.pdf
  44. 44. Concepts in Natural Aesthetics 44 • Digital Art and Natural Aesthetics: anything involving technology, art, and biology • Philosophical concepts – Reality and Authenticity – Discipline portability – Form and function – De Novo creation – Individual and Society
  45. 45. Quantified Self (QS) Art 45 Quantify Me (Laurie Frick 2013) Fries by Month (Lauren Manning 2010) Quantified Creativity (Amy Robinson 2013)
  46. 46. CrowdArt 46 Eric Whitacre's Virtual Choir 3, 'Water Night' (2012) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V3rRaL-Czxw
  47. 47. Role of Aesthetics in Science/Tech 47 • Level 1 – Beauty, good design, improved function, interaction design – Examples: Molecular Design Institutes (UCSF, NYU), NJACS Award for Creativity in Molecular Design, "Synthetic Aesthetics” (MIT Press 2014) • Level 2 (Rancière) – Mode of formalization of experience, a human capacity – Emancipation: new experience, building capacity Mary Franck CODAME (Art + Tech)
  48. 48. Summary: Philosophical Issues in Natural Aesthetics 48 • ‘What is real?’ – Reality Multiplicity • ‘Repticity’ - Representational Authenticity – InfoViz: representing the unrepresented – Synbio: creating the unrepresented (de novo creation) • Portability: using another discipline’s medium – Artists -> biology; Scientists and engineers -> biology and art; Artists, Scientists, Laypersons -> data • How to dwell meaningfully in new spaces • Pervasive inseparability – Form and function, individuality and society, technology and aesthetics
  49. 49. http://www.youtube.com/TechnologyPhilosophe Participate in Technology Philosophy Video!
  50. 50. Natural Aesthetics: Digital Art and Philosophy in the Era of Technologized Biomimicry Melanie Swan Philosopher in Residence MS Futures Group +1-650-681-9482 m@MelanieSwan.com June 6, 2013 - Stanford University Slides: http://slideshare.net/LaBlogga Thank you!
  51. 51. 51 • Is it all right to interfere with natural processes? – Just a better way of ongoing manipulation buy humans (e.g.; plant and animal breeding)? – What constitutes a qualitative change? Nodes: crop-breeding, GMO, SynBio – Order of magnitude issue – how can we think of change at the new paradigm level or order of magnitude level (Kuhnian paradigms) • Different set of concerns in de novo generation? Philosophical Issues in Biological Innovation
  52. 52. 52 Unprecedented Crowd Access to the Tools of Creative Production Printing Press Blogger, Twitter, Flickr Tumblr, Instagram, Pinterest Scribe Midi Keyboard Garage Band, SoundcloudOrchestra Computer-generated Imagery (CGI) Spore Creature Creator Animation

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