"The fairest thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science" Albert Einstein
Souls&Machines (“Máquinas&Almas”), as an exhibition, explores the fact that, at the beginning of the 21st century, art and science move along parallel paths. And it does this through the work of a group of artists chosen for their ability to combine art, technology, mystery, emotion and beauty.
It’s first presentation was at the Reina Sofia Museum in Madrid in the summer of 2008. Future presentations will take the exhibition to Brazil, Japan and other countries.
The crucial element in the new technological discontinuity is our humanity. Without it, everything else lacks meaning. Computers do not think; they replicate our thoughts. They do not feel; they replicate our emotions. As Sherry Turkle described them, they are the psychological mirror we gaze into.
“Souls&Machines” maps the main conceptual strategies and routes crisscrossing the vast, interdisciplinary territory of new media. Through disciplines like robotics, software art and social tools for the web, information visualization or biotechnologies, we encounter issues like the new dimensions of identity, privacy and control on the internet, the transformation of the concepts of property and collaboration, or the fascination for reproducing the mechanisms of life and intelligence.
The names featured in the exhibition stand at a very specific crossroads. In a way, they represent a generation of creators -not only artists- who have defined the limits of the discourse of new media, taking them beyond their speculative beginnings and constructing their strategic and linguistic bases. Their voices have grown in parallel to the expansion of the hybrid, fascinating space they inhabit.
26 June - 12 October 2008
Curators: Montxo Algora and José Luis de Vicente / ArtFutura
Space Design: Pocaa
Since 1990 Theo Jansen is working on a new nature. By doing this he hopes to fathom real nature. His nature exists of skeletons made of yellow electricity tubes. They walk by the wind, so they don't have to eat. In the end Theo Jansen wants to set out his animals (Animari) in herds on the beaches so they can live their own lives. During the years the animals were due to evolution; they become better and better. In the future they will survive the storms and the tides.
Links: Strandbeest . Art+Thought
Protrude, Flow 2008 / Breathing Chaos / Sculpture Garden
The extraordinary techniques that Sachiko Kodama uses in her projects have no precedent in contemporary art practices, either within or outside the realm of digital art. Her work illustrates how scientific research can expand the expressive vocabulary of artists today.
Links: Kodama . Protrude Flow . Sakamaki
BEN RUBIN / MARK HANSEN
In their joint projects, New York artist Ben Rubin and scientist Mark Hansen, a statistics professor at UCLA and an expert in environmental sensor networks, explore the creation of systems to visualise the processes and dynamics underpinning the net society. In so doing, they reveal information architectures which, through the ubiquitous presence of computer codes at all levels of society, literally keep the world up and running.
Links: Ben Rubin - Ear Studio . Mark Hansen UCLA
DAVID BYRNE / DAVID HANSON
Song for Julio
Although New Yorker David Byrne is best known for his musical career as the principal member of the legendary new wave band Talking Heads, over the last two decades he has also pursued a prolific career as a photographer, film director and visual and sound artist. From this multidisciplinary position, Byrne has explored how media technologies (software and digital image editing processes in particular) are used to construct the aesthetics that identify political and economic power.
David Hanson is the founder of Hanson Robotics, an innovative company that creates anthropomorphic robots capable of reproducing human facial expressions and understanding oral language.
Links: David Byrne . Hanson Robotics
CHICO MACMURTRIE / AMORPHIC ROBOT WORKS
Inflatable Architectural Body
For over 15 years, the New York group Amorphic Robot Works, founded by Chico MacMurtrie, an artist from New Mexico, has been creating anthropomorphic and animal-like robotic sculptures for use in its installations and performances to express the dilemmas and conflicts of the human condition through the sculptures’ movements. In its most recent productions, Amorphic Robot Works has embarked on a new line of research, abandoning metal as the base material for its creations and building new robots from much lighter materials and inflatable structures.
The Enigma of Light / Spinors / Wave Function / Timeless Universe
Paul Friedlander has spent more than two decades researching all kinds of technologies and systems in an attempt to turn light into a malleable, flexible material capable of taking on any form and volume. His “kinetic light sculptures” are clearly influenced by the work of other great figures who have preceded him in the art of light or moving structures, from László Moholy-Nagy to Flavin and Turrell.
The titles of Friedlander's kinetic light sculptures are usually references to different aspects of modern science, from quantum physics to string theory. However, both their aesthetic constructs and the way they are received by viewers inevitably contain something of the spiritual and magical.
Link: Paul Friedlander
Circle Mirror / Weave Mirror / Trash Mirror
Daniel Rozin creates interactive installations and sculptures that have the unique ability to change and respond to the presence of a viewer. Although computers are often used in his work they are seldom visible. Mirrors and mediated perception of the self are central themes in Rozin’s work. In most of his pieces the viewer takes part, actively and creatively, in the performance of his art.
For more than a decade Rozin’s art has employed a wide range of materials including chrome spheres, flat wood panels, and city trash from the streets of New York. Software art that links screen-based performance with real-time video processing has been another focus of Rozin’s efforts since the mid-1990s. Rozin’s work has been featured in solo exhibitions at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, John Michael Kohler Art Center in Wisconsin, and bitforms gallery in New York and Seoul.
Link: Daniel Rozin
Daniel Canogar’s work sits midway between the scientific and the humanist in that it explores the way in which our senses adapt to the new space/time coordinates of the electronic revolution. His work transcends photography. Light plays a fundamental role, as does the figurative representation of the body, both elements placing him in a fairly equidistant position between photography and painting.
His most recent works introduce new defining elements, such as architecture and, in a wider way, the sense of spectacle. This project, which is radically innovative from the technological point of view, inevitably recalls those pioneering spectacles of cinematography and the amazing cameras that projected images of the early photographs
Link: Daniel Canogar
Micrófonos, Subescultura 10
As an electronic artist, Rafael Lozano-Hemmer emerged producing large-scale interactive installations in public spaces, usually deploying new technologies and custom-made physical interfaces. Using robotics, projections, sound, internet and cell-phone links, sensors and other devices, his installations aim to provide “temporary anti-monuments for alien agency”. His work in kinetic sculpture, responsive environments, video installation and photography has been shown in two dozen countries.
Link: Rafael Lozano-Hemmer
History of Art for the Intelligence Community
The Serbian artist Vuk Ä†osiÄ‡ was one of the first artists to use the net and the person who coined the term net.art. He is best known for his work involving the ASCII code, a medium he has used in numerous projects to explore the low-tech aesthetic, the ecology and archaeology of the media, and the intersections between the language of text and the computer code.
Following his participation in the Slovenian Pavilion at the Venice Biennial in 2001, where he collaborated with numerous other net.artists, Ä†osiÄ‡ has assumed the role of a “retired net.artist”.
Link: Vuk Cosic
During the last two decades, the Japanese-American artist, designer and educator John Maeda has been one of the most important figures to explore the artistic and visual potential of the computer as a tool and computer code as working material. From his position as founder of the fundamental Aesthetics and Computation Group of the MIT Media Lab (1996-2003), Maeda has promoted a humanistic approach to technology that reconsiders our relationship with the digital media.
Link: John Maeda
Evru (born Alberto Porta, known as Zush from 1968 and later Evru from 2001) has followed a decidedly personal career path in which all other concepts are subordinate to his determination to depict a reality that he himself has conceptualised in the Evrugo Mental State. Few artists can boast their own state, complete with a flag, postal stamps and paper currency, yet this is true of Evru and his Evrugo Mental State.
Evru was introduced to the art world at an early age by the gallerist René Metras, and he is currently working on an interactive project of the Audiovisual Institute of the Pompeu Fabra University called Arte para Curarte (Art to Cure You). Evru, who works with both traditional media and computer technology, has also cultivated his musical and performance facets. A good example was his participation in the first edition of ArtFutura (Barcelona, 1990).
One Million Kingdoms
"No Ghost Just a Shell" was initiated by Philippe Parreno and Pierre Huyghe in 1999. They acquired the copyright for a figure called 'Annlee' and her original image from the Japanese agency "Kworks", which develops figures (almost actors) for cartoons, comic strips, advertising and video games of the booming Japanese Manga industry. The project was intended to go on for a number of years. It offered 'Annlee' free of charge to a series of artists, 'commissioned' by the initiators, to be used for their 'own' stories. Each of the projects realized with 'Annlee' is a "chapter in the history of a sign", and has a 'life' in the context of the individual artists' activities and within the joint project.
The Lleida-born artist Antoni Abad has spent his extensive career exploring the artistic possibilities of the interactive media and communication networks. In 2003 he began his project Zexe.net, which focuses on the creation of digital communities by using mobile telephones equipped with built-in cameras.
On Translation: Social Networks
Antoni Muntadas is one of the most important names in Spanish art of the last four decades. His work investigates issues revolving around communication in the social and political arena and examines the way in which channels of information are used to promote or censure ideas. Over the course of his career, Muntadas has explored multiple media and languages, including the digital format. Projects such as The File Room were pioneering attempts at approaching the Net as a space for intervention. In 1995 he began his long-term project On Translation, which addresses the ways in which the processes of information transmission modify original meanings.
In his documentaries, films and video installations, the German filmmaker and artist Harun Farocki explores the ways in which film and other image technologies affect and modify our understanding of the world. His works address themes such as consumerism, war and the politics of the image, including the way in which different audiovisual technologies become established as instruments of control linked to power structures.
Souls&Machines - Videos at YouTube
Souls&Machines - Text by curator Montxo Algora
Souls&Machines - Text by curator José Luis de Vicente