Souls and Machines
“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”
Souls and Machines
The exhibition Souls and Machines 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 and beauty.
Its first presentation at the Reina Sofia Museum of Modern Art in Madrid drew more than 451.000 visitors, making it, probably, the most visited exhibition of Digital Art. It was exhibited during four months in the summer of 2008.
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 and Machines” also 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 visualisation 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.
Souls and Machines
Curators: Montxo Algora and José Luis de Vicente
Souls and Machines – ARTISTS
Since 1990 Theo Jansen is working on a new nature. All those who observe for the fist time the beauty of one of his creatures understand immediately that the work of this engineer, scientist and artist is something special. They were born inside a computer as an algorithm, but they do not require engines, sensors or any other type of advanced technology in order to walk.They move thanks to the force of the wind they find in their habitat of the Dutch coast.
Protrude, Flow / 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. Kodama’s projects are based on the study and manipulation of specific substances, ferrofluids, whose visual properties seem almost magical.
BEN RUBIN / MARK HANSEN
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, revealing information architectures which literally keep the world up and running.
DAVID BYRNE / DAVID HANSON
Song for Julio
Although David Byrne is best known for his musical career as the principal member of the legendary 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 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.
CHICO MACMURTRIE / AMORPHIC ROBOT WORKS
Inflatable Architectural Body
For over 15 years, the 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.
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.
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.
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.
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”.
History of Art for the Intelligence Community
The Serbian artist Vuk Ćosić 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.
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.
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.
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 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.
Urban Space Station
Natalie Jeremijenko, engineer, artist and designer, explores different strategies to claim the use of technology as a tool for political and social intervention. The UrbanSpaceStation (USS) is a device designed to sequester the carbon dioxide emissions from buildings and return oxygen-enriched air to the building.
In his documentaries, films and video installations, the German filmmaker and artist Harun Farocki explore 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.
Souls and Machines by Montxo Algora
Art must flow constantly to maintain its strength. And when the media through which it is expressed do not expand, almost by art of magic, it finds new channels that take it to a higher level.